Imágenes de páginas
PDF

the darkness would have been intense, but for the thousand watchfires which on either side tracked to the practised eye the exact lines of the hostile armies, and marked, as with a barrier of flame, heightened in effect by the state of the atmosphere, which presented as it were a magnificent reflection in the air, their extended boundaries, insensibly spreading farther on the eye as their lines were lengthened by the arrival of fresh columns. Beyond these, all seemed darkness and solitude, with nothing to intimate to the ear or eye that aught living was near, save by a low monotonous hum, which came heavily as from a distance, and a few figures which, like ghosts, flitted past in front in perfect relief. It might be that, to a novice such as I was, the stupendous preparations around might have been conveyed to my mind through the most extravagant medium; or that imagination, fully licensed by being baffled in its own resources, had determined to avenge itself upon my judgment by a complete disarrangement of its powers. From whatever cause it might have arisen, never, I am certain, can my mind be again capable of the same comprehensive grasp, or be filled with the like intensity of feeling and deep thought, which, as apart from reason as might well be, made me yet to myself something akin to sublime. I was unconscious of reality, as reality, and yet nervously alive to its slight est impressions. A heavy dew was falling, and, while a slight shudder passed over me from head to foot, I recollect opening my cloak, and feeling its cooling influence with perfect delight, for my skin burned as if in a fever, when all at once my dreams were broke in upon by the distinct discharges of three cannon, which boomed ominously upon the ear; the usual signal given by the enemy that his dispositions were settled for the night, which was immediately answered by our own bugles, shrill or distant, as they sounded simultaneously from the different posts of the line.

The intervening hours before dawn I passed as comfortably as I could, wrapped up in my cloak; but sleep had deserted me, and with its earliest streaks we were under arms and preparing for some decisive stroke. The morning of the 16th of October broke lazily and clouded, so that day was as yet only betokened by the continuous black expanse of the sky being changed in the east into a dull leaden hue, when the different squadrons stood formed, awaiting their orders. But our activity was destined to be overmatched. A roar of artillery which, by its unexpectedness, made the horses rear and reel in all directions, came with the most destructive precision among our ranks, and told us, that if surprise had been the foundation of our scheme of attack, we were disappointed. At this moment a voice was heard in our front, which the French soldier knew from experience both to fear and appreciate; andiramediatelyafterwards the proud martial figure of Murat dashed past, while the word Charge; put at once in rapid motion at least ten thousand horse. So thick was the mist, that until within a hundred yards of the enemy we had not the slightest view of their line, and I believe the first intimation they had of our approach was from the thundering noise which shook the solid earth as we advanced. It seemed that no power could have withstood the shock; and, at the first tremendous concussion, the centre of their line wavered and broke; but the breach was soon repaired, and ere we could form again for a second attack, a more solid breast-work of steel bade defiance to our efforts. The charge was again made with the most determined fury, and again the enemy was borne down by its force; but the lines closed with the same intrepidity as before, and a confused noise from their rear, mingling with a tumultuous cheering along the lines, told us that something more formidable lay in our way to be overcome. Meanwhile, one continued fire of musketry ran along both armies, while the hollow rumble of the artillery drowned every lesser noise in its roar. Their object had been to get possession of two fortified buildings which covered the front of our centre, little witting of the tremendous preparations which a similar stroke for something decisive had drawn on the same point; and perhaps the mutual rage of both commanders, at having been thus unexpectedly forestalled, lent not the least powerful impulse to this indomitable spirit of determination, which made this part of the field, for several hours, the scene of the most destructive havoc. A third charge was now resolved upon, and the reserve was ordered up to support the attack, which was made in the teeth of a tremendous discharge of artillery, led by the guards, and headed by Murat in person. A third time the enemy gave way: with enthusiastic shouts, their lines were pierced on all sides, and victory at length seemed again about to crown our arms, when, in our turn, we were charged by a strong body of Austrian cuirassiers, who had been rapidly brought up, and who served at this critical moment, to turn the fate of the day. Broad day now exposed to each what both had laboured to accomplish by darkness, and the contemplated coup de main was thwarted by being on both sides promptly provided against and repelled. vail among them, that a scene of more destructive havoc it had never been their .ot to witness. Whole columns disappeared at once before the play of two as extensive fields of artillery as were ever brought in opposition; and it is but mere justice to say that both armies stood as firm to be battered down as if they had been built to the ground. To describe with any thing approaching to reality the appearance of the field, before our being ordered about mid-day to the extreme, left I would much rather be excused from attempting. Let the reader imagine for himself 450,000 men, congregated within a space not exceeding three German miles, under circumstances I feel I have so poorly described, and a picture must be before the imagination, which the-most blood-thirsty lover of horrors may fill up for himself, without running the smallest risk of equalling the original.

About ten, the mists having cleared away, every flash of the cannon towards Konnewitz became visible, and the battle was general on every part of the field. Immense bodies of jagers and marksmen rattled away on all sides, so that the pauses of the musketry being thus filled up, and the cannonade continuing as furiously as ever, for upwards of three hours one continuous roar seemed to make the very earth vibrate beneath us. I have since spoken with many veteran officers of this day's fight, and but one opinion seemed to pre

It has been frequently repeated in the records of the four eventful days which this sanguinary affair occupied, that Napoleon was almost incessantly in the field, and that, during this day as well as on the morning of the 19th, his head-quarters were at a Dutch windmill to the right of Stotteritz. All that I can say on this point is, that it might be so; but the only wind-mill I could see in the neighbourhood of Stotteritz, I had occasion to pass twice in- obedience to orders, and during the heat of the engagement, and no Napoleon was there. The emperor I did see afterwards, when the struggle was well nigh over. It was in Leipsic, on the forenoon of the 19th, when several hundred pieces of cannon were playing upon the city, and balls and shells frequently fell in the centre square where the palace is situated, and when I was myself fit for little else than to be an idle gazer for wonders. Amid the general confusion of the retreat, and with the streets strewed with wounded and wrecks of every kind, in conversation with the kings of Saxony and Naples, Napoleon stood, the only cool possessor of himself that my eye could catch He had on (for such things have interest) the same shabby grey surcoat that had been with him through many fields—his sword suspended from a plain black belt—and a cocked hat with the feather depending behind. He seemed urging with the utmost earnestness something important on the king of Saxony, and frequently pointed in the direction from which the cannonade proceeded. At length, descending the steps of the palace, on which this last interview took place, he mounted his horse along with the king of Naples, and departed with the utmost speed.

To return to my post on the field, from which I have been rather unwarrantably absent without leave—after quitting our station on the centre, we were in the afternoon opposed on the left to a strong body of cavalry under Meerveldt, which had carried destruction among our infantry, who were found inadequate to resist them. At the first charge made upon us this brave man fell into our hands; he had led it personally with the most determined gallantry, and was left in our lines in consequence of his charger being disabled.

I was here witness to as determined fighting as my whole military experience presents. The Austrian cuirassiers, after having been doomed in turn to sustain our repeated and disastrous charges, were, after being nearly annihilated, forced to abandon their post, leaving their infantry entirely without protection. These consisted principally of several corps belonging to the Polo-Russian army under Bennigsen, which, throwing themselves immediately into squares, sustained for upwards of two hours a conflict as unequal as it was sanguinary. My heart bled for these gallant men, thus heroically proving themselves superior to the most trying duty, and doing honour to the name of soldiers. Our assaults were beyond measure severe and disastrous, but it was only from the slaughter made that the slightest advantage resulted. Again and again the murderous game was played with exactly the same effects. The word Charge was given, and the chasseurs dashed forward, determined to conquer; and were met with the same regular shower of balls—the same blinding curtain of smoke—the same steady huzza—the same bristling bayonets: the men were superior to death, and, I am not sorry to add, they remained—unconquered. Night again came upon us, yet the cannon from Lindenau thundered as uninterruptedly as ever: the armies remained upon exactly the same ground which they had occupied the preceding night; and, as the darkness deepened, the fire only slackened, because to continue it was only a waste of means and a work of random. A heavy mist again came on with the night, and, except by the flashes of guns, every object became indistinct and shapeless. The men, however, formed for one last effort, and as the reports had died away into mere dropping shots, the chasseurs again rattled forward upon their brave opponents: the reception was warm as usual, but to me more unfortunate; the steady volley once more met our course, and my horse, having been struck in the counter by a ball not twenty yards from the muzzle, sprang wildly with a sharp cry, into the air, and fell like a stone upon his forehead. I was pitched right on my temple with a force that deprived me of all feeling, and here the curtain of oblivion falls upon my recollection of the battle of Leipsic. Thanks to my comrades in arms, whose care and kindness I shall ever gratefully remember, for being enabled thus far to record them!

Family Magazine.

A SCENE IN CAFFERLAND.

BT THOMAS PRINGLE.

A Augged mountain, round whose summit proud
The eagle sailed, or heaved the thunder cloud,
Poured from its cloven breast a gushing brook,
Which down the grassy glades its journey took;
Oft bending round to lave the bowery pride
Of groves of evergreens on either side.
Fast by this stream where yet its course was young,
And, stooping from the heights, the forest flung
A grateful shadow o'er the narrow dell,
An emigrant had built his hermit cell.
Woven of wattled boughs, and thatched with leaves,
The sweet wild jessamine clustering to its eaves,
It stood, with its small casement gleaming through
Between two ancient cedars. Round it grew
Clumps of acacias and young orange bowers,
Pomegranate hedges flushed with scarlet flowers,
And pale-stemmed fig-trees with their fruit yet green,
And apple blossoms waving light between.
All musical it seemed with humming bees;
And bright-plumed sugar-birds among the trees
Fluttered like living blossoms.

In the shade
Of a dark rock, that midst the leafy glade
Stood like a giant sentinel, we found
The habitant of this fair spot of ground—
A plain tall Scottish man, of thoughtful mein,
Grave but not gloomy. By his side was seen
An ancient Chief ofAmakosa's race,
With javelin arm'd for conflict or the chace.
And seated at their feet upon the sod,
A youth was reading from the Word of God,
Of Him who came for sinful men to die,
Of every race and tongue beneath the sky.

Unnoticed to the rock we softly stept:
The white man's eyes were shut; the warrior wept,
Leaning upon his hand; the youth read on;
And then we knew the group: the Chieftain's son
Training to be his Country's Christian guide—
And Baowni.ee and Old Zatzoe side by side.

VIEW FROM A HALTING PLACE.*

A Staetch of bleak December heath,
And one lone being o'er it wending * From ' Picture! of the Past,' by Thomas Brydson, Glasgow, I832.

« AnteriorContinuar »