« PreviousContinue »
• To trace the history of the pay and allowances of the French is a matter of some complexity, since various alterations were made at different epochs of war and peace. At present, the daily pay and food of the foot-soldier may be thus stated :
making 7d. per day, or 11l. sterling a-year. When in the field, IĮd. of the daily pay is kept back, and half a pound of butcher's meat, with vegetables, and an additional portion of bread, are given in lieu. Half a pound of meat has been allowed to French soldiers when in the field ever since the year 1690, and deducted from their pay, at the rate of 1 d. a day, which was the ordinary contract-price. · Small as these allowances appear, the difference in the price of commodities makes them fully equal to double the sum in this country; and when we take into account the simple diet of Frenchmen, we shall find that, of the two establishments, the balance of comfort is on their side. A French dragoan's páy being nearly sd. a day, besides allowances of food, his annual cost to the government is 131. sterling, exclusive of his horse.
The civil war in la Vendée is represented in this work as extremely sanguinary, and as having cost the lives of more than one hundred thousand republicans. The insurgents were accustomed to assemble by signal from the wind-mills, and to disperse and resume their agricultural labours after the accomplishment of an expedition ; so that any calculation of their numbers was a matter of great difficulty. The focus of insurrection was in a territory of three hundred square leagues, peopled by nearly three hundred thousand inhabitants; and the villages in which the first disorders broke out are still men, tioned, with the names of the individuals (chiefly smugglers and game-keepers) who distinguished themselves as leaders, Extending afterward along the whole traçt from Nantes to Rochelle, the insurrection prevailed over a coụntry of which the frontier, assuming a semi-circular shape, occupied nearly a hundred leagues.' The whole of this frontier became, from a very erroneous policy, the object of the attacks of the republicans; who, though they were able to gain ground on particular points, were incompetent to occupy the whole line, and generally found it necessary to evacuate in the course of a few days the territory which they had invaded. Moreover, being inexperi
enced in war, and under the guidance of fanatic deputies of the Convention, the whole scene was one of hideous and unavailing bloodshed. Even the fields of battle, if the name of battle can be applied to such desultory encounters, are now in a great measure unknown: but with one remarkable exception, that of the “four roads,” or the spot where the road from Rochelle to Nantes is intersected by that which leads from Angers to the Sables d'Olonne. This point, situated in the middle of la Vendée, and calculated by its position for a speedy assemblage of insurgents from all quarters, proved fatal to various corps of Tepublicans, who ventured to advance to it, and were successively assailed by surprize. — The original causes of the sanguinary insurrections of la Vendée are to be sought in the ignorance of the inhabitants. Protestants in religion, and wholly 'occupied in tillage and pasturage, they knew the revolution only by report, and were open to the influence of any rumours which the noblesse or the clergy chose to spread among them. Amid a population so disposed, the levies ordered by the Convention were not likely to be favourably received ; and, as in that season of violence the least resistance to arbitrary power drew down the hand of vindictive tyranny, the Vendéans were soon exposed to scenes of oppression which roused their utinost indignation. The contest which then took place might truly be called a war of extermination ; neither age nor sex being spared ; castles, cottages, forests, cattle, furniture, all were subjected to indiscriminate devastation; and a finish was given to these sanguinary horrors with the drowning of multitudes in the Loire, by order of the infamous Carrier. Ill prepared as the Vendéans were for hostility, and inadequately as they were supported by England, the hatred inspired by these massacres kept alive the flame of insurrection for years, and the republicans became successful only when they had on the one hand learned to make their attacks with concentrated force, and were willing, on the other, to hold out the olive branch of peace. It is of importance to distinguish the Vendéans from the Chouans, who inhabited the country to the north of the Loire, and were posterior in their rising ; the first insurrection of the latter having been subsequent to the levy by requisition in the
autumn of 1793. " · Turning from this shocking scene of intestine massacre,and directing our attention to the detail of the war on the frontier, we find several very interesting remarks on the conduct of the or erations and the character of the chiefs, When the allies entered the French territory in 1792, and the flight of La Fayette' left his army in disorder, the government was greatly at a loss for a fit commander in chief. Luckner, the only one of their oslicers who had commanded large bodies of men, was superannuated; Montesquiou's fidelity to the republican cause was doubtful; Biron was brave and zealous, but of very limited experience ; Kellermann was already charged with a command; and Custine, though an ardent republican, was so full of schemes as to inspire great distrust of his judgment. Dumouriez, therefore, appeared the only suitable person, and to him also serious objections might be made. His intriguing and faithless chasacter, his boundless ambition, and his want of solid thought, all concurred to make the executive council pause, and offer the important charge, in the first place, to the Count de Grimcard. They knew this distinguished officer to be a confirmed royalist, but his honour and patriotism placed him above all suspicion. Grimoard, however, declined the command, but consented to prepare a plan of campaign, which was approved by the government, and formed the basis of their instructions to Dumouriez. A few weeks after this circumstance, the Prussian army found it necessary to evacuate the barren plains of Champagne ; a retreat which has been attributed to mysterious causes, but which the writer of this work very properly ascribes to no other than the failure of provisions. At the same time, he admits that the Prussians were not pursued with activity ; a forbearance probably originating in the hope of detaching Frederic William from his alliance with Austria.
The project of making the Austrian Netherlands the seat of war had been a favourite idea with Dumouriez for some time;
and the reputation acquired by him in Champagne induced the · government to accord with him in his views. This led speedily to the celebrated engagement of Jemappes ; in which the Austrian force, amounting to somewhat more than 20,000 men, was commanded by the Duke of Saxe Teschen, and intrenched amid woods on the slope of a hill. Their artillery had thus a commanding position : but the French army was double in. number, a superiority which enabled Dumouriez to make his attack along the whole line. Stationing himself in the centre, he intrusted the command of the right wing to Beurnonville, and that of the left to Ferrand, afterward well known for his defence of Valenciennes. It was mid-day (6th November) before the columns began to march. Passing, with inconsiderable loss, the open ground in front of the Austrian position, they encountered a vigorous resistance on approaching the wood. The fire of the enemy's artillery, of their soldiers in ambush, and a charge of some squadrons of cavalry issuing from the road through the wood, all concurred to shake the courage of the French : but their numbers, and the gallantry of their officers, eventually overcame every obstacle. After some hours of
at that the entre : - in thground. Sud
doubtful conflict, they pushed on in columns, and succeeded in forcing the enemy's intrenchments on the high ground. Such was the course of things in the centre : - in the right wing it was nearly similar, except that the Austrian cavalry had greater scope for action : but it was not numerous, and the French in. fantry had now 'seen enough of service to keep tolerably steady under a charge. The left wing, meanwhile, without succeed ing in carrying the flank of the Austrian position, had marched round and got behind it; so that the Austrians were forced to retreat in all directions, and to seek refuge in Mons. Their loss consisted in thirteen pieces of cannon, and between 3 and 4000 men ; while that of the French was, in all probability, considerably greater.-Such an attack was suited to the ardent impetuosity of the French, and, with their numerical superiority, could scarcely fail of success : but the judiciousness of the plan may well be questioned. Instead of alarming the enemy on one side, and making the real attack with an overpowering mass of force in another, the whole of the position was indiscriminately encountered. It is likewise tolerably clear that the Austrians might have been compelled to evacuate their position by maneuvring at a distance on their flanks: but this cautious course was not suited to the temper either of the French or of their leader.
If we are doubtful of Dumouriez's judgment on an occasion which formed the basis of his renown, much more may we be allowed to question it in the attempt on Holland, and in the management of the battle of Neerwinden. In France, where tactics are very little considered except by professional men, the loss of that battle is generally ascribed to the defeat of the left wing under General Miranda : but the author of this work states the matter very differently. For several days, a coolness had subsisted between Dumouriez and Miranda ; and the latter received, (Vol. ii. p. 260.) at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, an order to lead on his wing (the left) to an attack of which no previous communication had been made to him. Surprized at the mtimation, Miranda asked his commander whether he was av re of the enemy's strength. “ I reckon them,” says Dumouri_%,“ to be 52,000 strong, and we are 35,000.” “ And do you expect,” replied Miranda, “ to succeed in dislodging them from such a position ?" To this no answer was given, and Miranda proceeded to execute his orders, in which he at first obtained a partial success, but he found it impracticable to drive the enemy from their ground. Retreat was then indispensable, and the present writer bestows considerable encomiums on the manner in which Miranda conducted it.
We We were not a little curious to know in what style this author was disposed to speak of the Duke of York's generalship. He explains very clearly (Vol. ii. p.309.) the grand error of the allies in losing much precious time in the siege of fortifications, and particularly in dividing their force to attack Dunkirk, where the French had made an assemblage of troops, and possessed considerable means of defence. His Royal Highness, having under him the English, Dutch, Hanoverians, and Hessians, was the commander of a force of 50,000 men ; superior, had it been kept together, to that of the French under Houchard, and capable, in all probability, of taking Dunkirk by storm :but this force was divided, one part carrying on the siege under the Duke, while the other formed, at Hondschoote, a corps of observation under General Freytag. Though Houchard was no General, he could have very little hesitation in regard to the plan of operation, - it was merely to attack first the one part of the allied force, and then the other. He accordingly bore down (6th September 1793) on General Freytag's division, and continued his attacks, straight forwards, for three days. On the first day, he obtained considerable success; on the second, his troops, fatigued and exhausted from want of provisions, made no progress : but on the third, having recruited their strength, and received a reinforcement, they finally drove the allies from Hondschoote. All this while, Freytag's division had received no assistance from our larger corps stationed before Dunia kirk, who allowed themselves to be amused by attacks from the garrison Hondschoote being abandoned, and Furnes, in the Duke of York's rear, being threatened, retreat became unavoidable; and it is said to have been conducted with as much precipitation as if a superior army had been at our heels, fifty pieces of cannon and a large quantity of baggage being left behind.
The battle of Fleurus (26th June 1794) has been very differently characterized in France by men of different parties. Having happened when the Jacobins were in the zenith of their power, and having been fought by an army under the controul of St. Just and Lebas, it was extolled beyond all bounds ; especially as Jourdan, the commander, was too weak a character to become an object of jealousy, whatever reputation might be conferred on him. The fact was that the force, known by the name of the army of the Sambre and Meuse, haying passed the former river on the 12th June, sat down before Charleroi: but the allies, under the Prince of Orange, laying attacked them on the 16th, the French army gave way, with the exception of the left wing commanded by Kleber. On thiş as on other occasions, Kleber's talents were counteracted by the