Arrival at GratzAdvance to
RaabBattle of RaabBefore Komorn.
SHORTLY before my arrival at Gratz, I met a Russian
officer, who told me of the sad results of the Battle of Essling. Our successes
were such a poor compensation for such an unhappy event, that our joy was
naturally turned into sorrowful regret. I found General Grouchy, who had
preceded me by a few hours, at Gratz, whence he withdrew his troops to give
place to mine.
The Archduke John, who had retired into Hungary, had not
thought it necessary to defend the town, notwithstanding a well-bastioned
rampart and the river Muhr, which was not easy to cross without pontoons.
Grouchy had just concluded an agreement whereby the elevated fort that
dominated Gratz was not to be attacked from the town, so as to preserve the
latter from all harm. By this means, too, the bridge over the Muhr was given
up. I therefore contented myself with investing the fort externally, and with
preparing means to obtain possession of it either by a coup-de-main or by
We were not even permitted to take the rest we all needed,
after so much labour and so many forced marches.
I received orders to march into Hungary and to cause the
fort to be observed, and even attacked if I saw fit. My route lay by Kermund,
the Lake of Neusiedel and Papa; we were then on the tracks of the Archduke's
Austrian army, which was retreating to the camp at Raab. The Viceroy followed
it. His cavalry had a sharp brush with the enemy, owing to their having too
lightly engaged with an inferior force. One of our divisions lost its way and
missed the rendezvous.
Although the Viceroy had sent me orders to take up my
position at Papa, while awaiting fresh instructions, I did not think in his
interest and in that of the army that I should obey. I was right, and he
afterwards thanked me cordially, for he had much compromised the troops that he
was leading to Raab by a serious and very imprudent engagement. I had started
on my march, following the cavalry, who preceded us. The distance from Papa to
the place where the engagement was being fought was, if I remember rightly,
seven or eight leagues. When I had advanced about two-thirds of the distance, I
met an officer from the Prince, bearing orders to raise my camp and join him.
When the officer had left the Viceroy they were only skirmishing.
I made the utmost speed, but it was impossible to arrive in
time to take part in the attack: but at least we should have been able to
assist the retreat, if such had unfortunately been necessary. The
Commander-in-chief was actively engaged, and had already been repulsed several
times when I came up ; but as I turned the corner of a wood and of the heights,
the battle-field was disclosed to my view. Several regiments were retreating in
disorder; efforts were being made to rally them. I galloped up and presented
myself to the Viceroy, who expressed delighted surprise at seeing me so
' I was very sorry,' he said, ' to leave you at Papa; you
would have been very useful to me in this critical situation.'
'You have made a greater mistake than that,' I answered; '
that of giving and risking a battle with only a portion of your army, when you
have that of the Archduke in front of you, in what seems to me a fairly strong
position. But take comfort, here is my corps d'armie.'
' Where ?' he asked quickly.
' Look behind you ; here it is just debouching.'
' How grateful I am to you for your foresight !' said the
Prince, affectionately pressing my hand.
' Now then,' I said, ' one more attempt. Here is help ; I am
going to send up my troops.'
' No,' he replied ; ' let them rest. We will call upon them
General Grenier, who commanded the right, succeeded at
length in routing the enemy and crowning the heights. We joined him. The sight
of my men had revived the spirits of his. We ought to have taken advantage of
this and pressed the enemy; but he refused, thinking that he had done enough,
and saying that his men were too tired and needed rest. I tried to induce the
Viceroy to give his orders, but recent events held made him very cautious. The
enemy's infantry, however, were in disorder; we sent out some horse,
unfortunately without any support, and the enemy were allowed to retreat
No notice was taken of my energetic protests, or of my
saying that we should have to fight these same troops again next day, and
perhaps at a disadvantage; that the Emperor's first question, on hearing of our
victory, would be :
' Where are the resultsthe prisoners, guns, baggage ?'
' You are too enterprising,' said the Viceroy.
' But,' I remonstrated, ' here, as at the Piave, you have
only to stoop to pick up everything.'
He replied that he feared a sortie from the garrison at Raab
if he followed in pursuit. I pointed out that if the sortie were going to take
place it would have been during the action, and not when the troops were in
full flight; that the very fact that no sortie had been made was a proof of the
weakness of the garrison, which perhaps was doing its best with very inadequate
forces, but which could not fail to be disheartened by what had just passed
beneath their eyes. All was in vain, and the Prince gave orders for the camp to
He took me to supper with him, and on the way confirmed to
me what he had already written more than once, the tokens of pleasure that the
Emperor had given over my services and the rapid and surprising successes of my
Next day I followed the enemy, who were much in advance of
us. They were making for Komorn, a very strong place on the right bank of the
Danube. We learned that the disorder into which they had been thrown at Raab
had not yet been repaired. We spent some time in observation upon the river,
vainly trying to break the bridge between the fortress and the left bank by
floating down the stream against it some large boats laden with stones, which
the enemy had not had time to sink. They had destroyed many others laden with
grain of all kinds. There were nothing but water-mills there, and their
destruction was a great injury to us ; but the French soldier, always ingenious
and industrious, found some smooth stones with which to grind his corn. Without
this discovery there would have been no bread amid the abundance of grain.
The Grand Army at Vienna and the inhabitants suffered
terribly from scarcity, chiefly of meat. Hungary, a country rich in crops,
wine, cattle, etc., where also many horses are bred, offered us boundless
resources. I immediately sent large convoys of wheat and oats, as well as
10,000 oxen, to the Emperor's headquarters. We also levied a large number of
horses to remount our hussars and chasseurs, the breed being specially well
adapted to light troops. Except the serfs, all the men wore hussar costume, and
it is from them that it has been so universally copied. During the first days
of our entrance into the kingdom we took them for irregular troops; happily we
found them very peaceable.