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He Art. II.-Memoirs of Marshal Ney, published by his Family.
Illustrated with a Portrait, Maps and Plans. 2 vols. 8vo. . London: Bull and Churton. 1833. In consequence of an omission of the publishers, we had perused this publication up very nearly to the close of the second volume before we discovered that it constituted a very small portion only of the series of tomes into which the biography of the renowned Marshal, it seems, is about to be expanded. We own that we were disappointed at the information, and we felt that we should have been better pleased than we are, or than the public will be, had the real extent of the two volumes been previously specified. At present any individual who takes up the publication will be led to conclude that he is securing for his study the complete history of Marshal Ney; but the public should have been apprised of the fact, that the biography of this great warrior is in these volumes brought down to a period no later than 1805, and some indication should have been added as to the number of volumes to which the account of his life would extend.
The whole bearing of the innate evidence contained in these volumes seems to us to sanction the belief of their being a genuine emanation, as they profess to be, from the surviving family of the hero himself. It would be almost impossible we should think for foreigners, and particularly for any of those who bear the designation of Englishmen, to counterfeit the feelings, the prejudices, and the jealousies which mark almost every page of this work, and which so peculiarly and so graphically represent the French mind. We scarcely pass the very first page of the memoirs when we are met with one of those manifestations of Gallic arrogance which, from their multiplicity of late, no longer provoke our indignation. The authors (for so we are taught to call them), in speaking of the triumphant era in France, which succeeded the first revolution of that country, inform us that she gallantly subdued every nation of Europe save only Great Britain, and that she alone was excepted from the victories of French invincibility, because protected by her navies and her insular position. But was it alone by her navies, and the advantages of being surrounded by the sea, that Great Britain succeeded in repelling the French victor, and in wresting the sword, in the first place, of victory, and, finally, of power, from his grasp? Was it by her ships of war-was it in her capacity of à protected island that she cleared every foot of ground on the peninsula of Portugal and Spain, and scouted the chivalry of France over the Pyrenees? Was it by broadsides at sea, or by Martello towers on her beach, that England gained the glorious battle of Waterloo? Great Britain, forsooth, not conquered by France because of her navies and her insular security! Great Britain, we reply, was not one of the European slaves of France, because she could not bear the yoke of a tyrant; she was not conquered by the universal despot, because she had the spirit and the right arm to defy the power of her enemy; she was not conquered, because she pitted herself in single combat with that enemy, and by her moral energy, as well as by her physical bravery, worsted him in the mortal encounter. No, no; let Frenchmen not imagine that posterity will accept these fraudulent generalities as the oracles of history, and that the successful vindication of her own independence by Great Britain is to be referred to one branch of her service, or to her circumstances as an island. She would have been the same impregnable power that she has proved herself within the last thirty years, were it upon the wilds of Siberia that Providence had cast the fortunes of her people.
We may as well allude in this place to another instance of the tendency to deteriorate other countries which we have imputed to the writers of France. The following anecdote given, of course, as authentic, at once displays the force of their credulity as well as the influence of their prejudices. The scene took place, we are told, whilst Ney was with the army of the North. A squadron of English cavalry appeared; he attacked and dispersed it, and eagerly pursued an English general officer whom it was escorting. The latter, surprised at this determined pursuit, made no attempt to defend himself, but preferred treating : “Here," said he," is a purse full of gold; take it and let me go.” The French captain smiled at the proposal, and this encouraged the English general to press his offer.-“You are surrounded by our forces," be continued," and you must be taken prisoner. Do better; remain with us, and your fortune shall be made; your promotion shall be rapid, and you will serve your own princes.”
Really, this is going too far," Ney replied with indignation, placing his sword upon the other's breast; "You offer me money, and propose that I should desert my colours. Now, you shall desert, and that too in the
your own army. You must charge with me through your own ranks, and if you attempt to escape, that moment shall be your last. Follow me, my lads," ' addressing his huzzars; “Forward!" So saying he gave his horse the spur, overthrew every one who opposed him, and passed once more through the English ranks, thunderstruck at seeing one of their own officers charging side by side with the French captain. Ney brought his prisoner in triumph to the head-quarters of the French army; the latter quite confounded at his silly adventure. “Keep your money,” said Ney to him; “I might perhaps be justified in taking it from you, but you will want it more than I shall. Another time, however, be more circumspect when you attempt to parley."
A few moments' consideration, directed to the assertions of the authors; first, as to the purse full of gold being in possession of a British officer on the field of battle; secondly, as to Ney's refusing the gold, will be quite sufficient to satisfy, even every reasonable Frenchman, that there is not one word of truth in the whole story. But the biography demands our attention.
Ney, himself, appears to have been so proud of his obscure descent as to have established a sympathy of feeling with him in this respect amongst his surviving relations. They seem to have no difficulty in avowing that he was the son of a cooper at a place called Sarrelouis, in France, and that he began life as an adventurer. At school young Ney exhibited a turbulence of disposition, and an energy of character, which distinguished him from his associates. His early military disposition is traceable to the conversations of his father, who served for some years in the army, and was in the habit, in his advanced age, of " fighting his battles over again," in the company of his son. The latter, however, was first put to the law, having been sent to a notary's office: 'and in his fifteenth year, disliking the tedious employment to which he was devoted, he gladly accepted an appointment to the duty of superintending some mines then working in France. But the destiny of Ney was already predetermined, and he must needs yield to its influence. His love for a soldier's life haunted him night and day, and at length it impelled him to a step which at once decided the character of his life. On the 1st of February, 1787, then in his eighteenth year, Ney enlisted in the regiment de Colonel-Général, which, subsequently, was called the 4th Hussars. It is scarcely necessary to say, that Ney quickly distinguished himself in the ranks by his conduct and valour.:1 22.567 3.
In consequence of a very ill-chosen principle of arrangement adopted in this work, we are under the necessity of committing, with our biographical guides, a sort of practical anachronism; for it happens that a description of the hero, his person, habits, and manners, and his general character, is given in the early part of the first volume, instead ef being placed in its natural position at the conclusion of the work. Great pains are taken by the writers to satisfy us that the Marshal was indifferent to danger. He had a high respect also for courage, and was ever the friend of those who shewed that they possessed it, as is proved by the number of promotions which were effected through his disinterested interference. Jomini, a Swiss, and author of a famous work on Militory Operations, owes all his fame to the exertions of Ney, who not only caressed him and introduced bim, under proper auspices, to the world, but made him an officer. Yet, it is stated by the writers of this biography, that Jomina, who, during the lifetime of Ney, very abundantly and warmly expressed his obligations to the Marshal, was still guilty of an act of the basest posthumous ingratitude, such as only a man divested of all principle could perpetrate. This, however, was not the only instance in which Ney's generosity was unworthily returned. There was a Colonel C*** in the army, who had, in Ney's opinion, been unjustly deprived of his commission, and the former having made unusual exertions to procure the restoration of the Colonel, he was astonished that he could not succeed. At last the Marshal made it his business to apply directly to the First Consul. Surprised at his request being coldly received, he urged it with some warmth. The First Consul listened to him with surprise, but refused to give him an answer. Such conduct only rendered Ney more pressing, “ There, read that paper,” said at length General Buonapate, and
you will then know what kind of man you have admitted to your confidence.” The paper was a denunciation by C * * * against Ney. It gave an account of the private conversations of the latter, perverting every sentence he had uttered in confiden. tial intercourse, and
accusing him of being an enemy to the First Consul, a dangerous man, and one whose actions ought to be carefully watched. The treacherous C*** was disgracefully exposed; but the circumstances dwelt long upon Ney's mind, who became more reserved, and altered those habits of confidence which harmonised so well with his noble character and goodness of heart.
To this statement the writers of the biography add the following very natural counterpart of the history of the same C * * *
* In 1815, when Marshal Ney was arrested, C***, who was likewise à prisoner, requested to see the Procureur du Roi, having, as he stated, an important revelation to make. The object of this request was to offer evidence against his former benefactor, and he aetually made a deposition to this effect. Will it be believed that this very individual applied, a few years since, to Ney's family for pecuniary assistance upon the strength of the Marshal's former regard for him? We withhold the name of this wretch for the sake of a member of his family, who has done great and brilliant services to his country.'
A vast amount of credit is claimed in this work for Marshal Ney, on the score of his virtue, as it was displayed in the severity of his discipline, particularly in sieges, and in the forcible capture of cities and towns. Thus, after a skirmish at Darmstadt; the Austrians who had been repulsed, formed again near Zwingemberg, where they were a second time routed by the French. The action had been warm, and the French troops, excited by the resistance of their opponents, forcibly entered and pillaged some houses. Although circumstances might have excused this, it was considered an act of oppression, and an abuse of victory. By it the unfortunate peasants had been forced to pay for the acts of the sovereign. Ney was not satisfied with inflicting military punishment upon the delinquents; he had an estimate made of the damage, and an adequate indemnity given to the victims of this spoliation; and in order that the estimate might be a just one, he directed that it should be made by the landgrave himself,
“I am grieved to learn,” he wrote to that prince, “ that excesses have been committed at Zwingemberg by some of the troops under my command. The village was carried by main
force, a circumstance which no doubt led to the disasters which its inhabitants have experienced. Nevertheless, I neither will, nor ought I to tolerate such excesses. My soldiers have disobeyed the orders which they received; the unfortunate villagers have had their cottages plundered ; and it behoves me, not only to punish the perpetrators of this outrage, but to repair the dar mage they have caused. Let the village magistrate draw up an estimate of the losses incurred, and I will take measures for its amount being paid."
+ The only other portion of the remarks on the character of the Marshal, which we shall notice, is the description of his person, which is as follows:
Marshal Ney was tall, athletic, well made, and broad-chested. Each attitude and motion denoted health and strength of muscle. A soul of fire seemed contained in a frame of iron. His somewhat pale complexion, his large forehead, his under lip and chin rather prominent; and his strongly marked, though not harsh features, gave a manly and severe character to a countenance strongly depicting the workings of his mind, and the rapid impressions it received. The play of his features expressed strongly the feelings by which he was excited. The fatigues of his profession during the last years of his life had made him almost bald. His hair, of a fiery auburn, had caused the soldiers to give him the nicknames of Peter the Red, and the Red Lion, as they gave the Emperor that of the Little Corporal. And when from afar off they heard the thunder of his cannon, they would exclaim among themselves, Courage ! the Red Lion is roaring ;-All will soon be right, for Peter the Red is coming."
In pursuing the account of the life of Marshal Ney, in chronological order through its details, we find, that after having passed some time as a private soldier, he became, first, a sub-lieutenant, then a lieutenant, and next was placed on the staff of General Lamarche, under whom he served in the earliest of his campaigns in Belgium. He was next transferred to the staff of Kleber, and was employed by that General in various duties of an important and delicate nature. Some further proofs afforded by him of valour and conduct, in the early wars of the Revolution, caused Ney to be promoted to the rank of chef-de-brigade. Descriptions follow of the part which he took in the battle of Roer, the capture of Dusseldorf, in the affair of Neuss, and the siege of Maestricht. Next succeed accounts of the passage of the Rhine, and a long series of actions in which Ney deservedly acquired fresh and large additions to his reputation. It was at the battle of Neuwied, between the Austrians and the Republican army, that Ney was taken prisoner by the former and conveyed to Giessen. At that place the report of the approach of a captive so important excited the greatest interest, and multitudes assembled to catch a sight of him. The women, more particularly, could not imagine how he had dared to resist a whole squadron, and, for a time, with some appearance of success. As they were taking him to head-quarters,