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Savary: Memoirs of the Duke of Rovigo
Volume 2, Part 2, Chapter 14
The Emperor goes in search of the wounded—His expressions at beholding a colonel killed on the preceding day—The quarter-master of the regiment of carbineers—Words addressed by the Emperor to Macdonald—Bernadotte— Secret order of the day issued by the Emperor in respect to that Marshal— Schwartzenburg proposes an armistice—The Emperor accepts it

ON the following day, the 7th of July, the Emperor rode over the field of battle according to his usual practice, to see if the hospital department had caused all the wounded to be removed: as this was harvest time, the corn was very high, and it was impossible to see the soldiers lying stretched upon the ground. Many of those unfortunate wounded had placed their handkerchiefs at the end of their muskets, and held them up as a signal for assistance. The Emperor repaired in person to every spot where he perceived such signals: he addressed words of consolation to the wounded, and would not move forward until the last of them had been carried off the field. He kept no one to attend him, and ordered Marshal Duroc to have all the men picked up, and to see that the movable hospitals did not slacken their exertions. General Duroc was known for his precision and severity; the Emperor therefore often selected him for commissions of that nature.

As he was going over the field of battle, he stopped on the ground which had been occupied by Macdonald's two divisions; it exhibited the picture of a loss fully commensurate with the valour they had displayed. The Emperor recognised amongst the slain a colonel who had given him some cause for displeasure. That officer, who had made the campaign of Egypt, had misbehaved after the departure of General Bonaparte, and proved ungrateful towards his benefactor, in hopes, no doubt, of insinuating himself in the good graces of the general who had succeeded him. On the return of the army of Egypt to France the Emperor, who had shown him many marks of kindness during the war in Italy, gave no signs of resentment, but granted him none of those favours which he heaped upon all those who had been in Egypt. The Emperor now said, on seeing him stretched upon the field of battle, " I regret not having been able to speak to him before the battle, in order to tell him that I had long forgotten every thing."

A few steps farther on, he discovered a young quartermaster of the regiment of carbineers still alive, although a shot had gone through his head ; but the heat and dust had almost immediately congealed the blood, so that the brains could not be affected by the air. The Emperor dismounted, felt his pulse, and, with his handkerchief, endeavoured to clear the nostrils, which were filled with earth. He then applied a little brandy to his lips ; whereupon the wounded -man opened his eyes, though he appeared at first to be quite insensible to the act of humanity exercised towards him ; but having again opened them, and fixed them on the Emperor, whom he now recognised, they immediately filled with tears, and he would have sobbed, had not his strength forsaken him. The wretched man could not escape death, according to the opinion of the surgeons who were called to his assistance.

After having gone over the ground where the army had fought, the Emperor went to place himself in the midst of the troops, which were beginning to move for the purpose of following the retreating enemy. On passing by Macdonald, he stopped, and held out his hand to him, saying, " Shake hands, Macdonald ! no more animosity between us: we must henceforward be friends ; and, as a pledge of my sincerity, I will send you your marshal's staff, which you so gloriously earned in yesterday's battle." Macdonald had been in a kind of disgrace for many years: it would be difficult to assign any reason for it, except the intrigue and jealousy to which an elevated mind is always exposed. Malevolence had succeeded in prevailing upon the Emperor to remove him from his presence ; and his innate pride of heart had prevented his taking any step to be reconciled to a sovereign who did not treat him with that kindness to which he felt he had a claim.

Years of glory were passing by, and Macdonald took no share in what was going forward, when the declaration of war of 1809 decided the Emperor to give him the command of a corps under the orders of the Viceroy of Italy. Fortune crowned his constancy, and victory reinstated him in a rank which he proved himself worthy to hold at a moment when so many others appeared to do every thing to degrade it, and accordingly fell in the esteem of their countrymen.

The army took the two roads from Vienna to Znaim, and from Vienna to Brunn ; the Emperor followed the latter as far as Wolkersdorf, and from thence took the cross road leading to Znaim.

He stopped at Wolkersdorf on the 7th, and wrote from thence again to the Emperor of Russia.

On the 8th he stopped in the rear of the position occupied by his troops which had already reached Znaim, where they had come up with the Austrian rear-guard.

Early in the morning of the 9th, after dispatching orders in various directions, he was taken rather seriously ill, in consequence of all his fatigues and exertions. This circumstance, compelled him to indulge in a little rest whilst the troops were advancing.

Marshal Bernadotte came at that time to see the Emperor, who had left orders that no one should disturb him until he called ; I therefore refused to introduce the marshal, the object of whose visit was wholly unknown to me. I had witnessed the lukewarmness which his troops had evinced in the battle: ever since the opening of the campaign, he had been incessantly complaining of want of ardour in his troops, of their inexperience, and of the want of confidence in their leaders. I should therefore have exhausted every supposition before I could have imagined that contradicting on a sudden the unfavourable opinion he had given of their courage, he could ever dream that those troops had decided the victory we had just obtained. The Emperor was soon made acquainted with that unaccountable order of the day ; he sent for the self-conceited marshal, and removed him from the command of his troops. This lesson was ineffectual; Bernadotte, who persisted in maintaining the justice of the ridiculous congratulations he had addressed to the Saxons, caused them to be inserted in the public papers. The Emperor was indignant at this conduct; being at all times inflexibly severe against every impropriety of conduct and every act of falsehood; though he was unwilling, at the same time, to wound the feelings of men who had exposed their lives in his service. The insult, however, was such, that he felt it impossible to pass it by. He issued an order of the day, which he directed the major-general not to circulate, either amongst the army at large, or the Saxon troops, of which he had given the command to General Regnier. The following are the terms in which the letter transmitting the order to the major-general was couched:


" You will find annexed an order of the day, which you will distribute amongst the several marshals, apprising them at the same time that it is for their private information: you will not send it to General Regnier: you will forward it to the two ministers of war, and also to the King of Westphalia.

" Whereupon, &c.,,


" From our Imperial Camp at Schonbrunn, the 11th of July, 1809.

" His Majesty expresses to Marshal the Prince of Ponte-Corvo his displeasure at the order of the day from the latter, bearing date Leopoldau, the 7th of July, which has been simultaneously inserted in almost all the newspapers, and is of the following tenor:—


" ' In the battle of the 5th of July, seven or eight thousand men of your nation pierced through the centre of the enemy's army, and penetrated as far as Deutsch-Wagram, notwithstanding the opposition of forty thousand men, supported by fifty pieces of cannon: you fought until midnight, and bivouacked in the heart of the Austrian lines. On the 6th, at daybreak, the battle recommenced on your part with the same obstinacy ; and in the midst of the havoc created by the hostile artillery your living columns remained as firm as brass. The great Napoleon witnessed your devoted valour ; he reckons you as being amongst the number of his gallant soldiers. Saxons ! the soldier's fortune consists in fulfilling his duties ; you have worthily performed those that devolved upon you.

" ' Bivouac of Leopoldau, the 7th of July, 1809.

" ' The Marshal in command of the 9th corps,


" Independently of the circumstance that his Majesty commands his army in person, it belongs to him alone to assign to each one the share of glory to which he may be entitled. His Majesty is indebted to the French troops, and not to any foreign soldiers, for the success of his arms. The order of the day of the Prince of Ponte-Corvo, which has a tendency to give false pretensions to troops of a secondary description, to say the least of them, is opposed to truth, to policy, and to the national honour. The success of the battle of the 5th is due to the corps of Marshals the Duke of Rivoli and Oudinot, who pierced through the enemy's centre whilst the corps of the Duke of Auerstadt was turning their left. The village of Deutsch-Wagram was not in our possession on the 5th ; that village was certainly carried, but not until the 6th at noon by the corps of Marshal Oudinot. The corps of the Prince of Ponte-Corvo did not remain as firm as brass; it was the first to give way. His Majesty was obliged to have it protected by the corps of the Viceroy, by Broussier and Lamarque's divisions, commanded by Marshal Macdonald, by the division of heavy cavalry under the orders of General Nansouty, and by part of the cavalry of the guards. To that marshal and to his troops belongs the praise which the Prince of Ponte-Corvo claims for himself. His Majesty desires that this expression of his displeasure may serve as an example, and prevent any marshal from attributing to himself the glory that belongs to others. His Majesty, however, directs that this order of the day, which might be painful to the Saxon army, shall be kept secret, although its soldiers are well aware that they have no title to the praises bestowed upon them ; and he further directs that it shall merely be transmitted to the marshals commanding the several corps.


After a few hours' rest, the Emperor recovered from the indisposition which had compelled him to stop, and he immediately proceeded in the direction of Znaim, where, from the reports of the guns, he found that a sharp firing was going on.

We arrived there by cutting through the high road of communication from Znaim to Brunn, and stopped on reaching the corps of Marshal Marmont, which was engaged with the enemy's rear-guard. A storm came on, which separated for a moment the two contending parties, and broke up the roads to such a degree, that we could no longer make the artillery advance through the fat lands of Moravia.

The Emperor, who had suffered the whole night from a fever brought on by fatigue, had again all this rain upon his shoulders, it being impossible to find a single house where he might get under shelter.

Marmont had received in the morning a flag of truce from the Prince of Schwartzenburg, who covered the retreat of the Austrians, and who proposed an armistice to him. Having no authority to conclude it, Marmont could only reply that he would refer the proposal to the Emperor, but that in the meanwhile he would still follow up his operations.

The Emperor had received this intelligence previously to quitting his head-quarters, and would not give any answer until he had personally seen the state of our affairs, and whether fortune held out the prospect of any operation likely to be attended with success.

When he arrived on the ground he discovered that the Austrians were already retreating, and that he would thenceforward be compelled to enter upon a system of complicated manoeuvres, in order to compel them to fight another battle : or, in other words, that he would have to commence a fresh calculation of probable events, of chances pro and con, and again embark upon a problematical and hazardous course.

It is my firm conviction that if he could have relied upon the assistance of the Russian army, he would not have hesitated to seek a fresh opportunity of forcing the Austrians into another engagement ; but the Russians paid him in fine assurances, unaccompanied by acts; and the Emperor had grounds for apprehending that if any engagement with the Austrians should turn to his disadvantage, as he was unprovided with any corps of reserve, the Russians would join them in order to complete his destruction

A variety of considerations made him determine to conclude a war in which, very reluctantly on his part, he had been involved. It has been the fashion to represent him as a man who could not exist without going to war; and yet, throughout his career, he has ever been the first to make pacific overtures ; and I have often and often seen indications of the deep regret he felt whenever he had to embark in a new contest. Previously to the first and really unexampled aggression, of which he was the object in 1805, he strongly relied upon the faith plighted to him, and could never have suspected any monarch capable of an attempt to acquire glory by such means as those which were resorted to: on that occasion. He held a treaty to be inviolable so long as its conditions were strictly fulfilled ; and it was not until he became convinced, on three different occasions, that crowned heads acknowledged no bounds when their power afforded them the means of overstepping them, that he was driven to the necessity of wielding his own power against them.

I have said that he came to the determination of bringing the war to an end. With this object in view, he availed himself of the pretext of sending a reply to the Prince of Schwartzenburg's flag of truce.

He sent me with an order for General Marmont to dispatch one of his aides-de-camp to the Prince of Schwartzenburg, and to acquaint the Prince that the Emperor had just authorised him to conclude the armistice which was the subject of his communication of the same morning, provided he still had that intention, which he begged to be made acquainted with, in order that he might make his arrangements in consequence, and report to the Emperor his proceedings.

The troops were still in presence of each other when the flag of truce of General Marmont came up to the Austrians; and the Prince of Schwartzenburg, who happened to be on the spot, replied immediately that he accepted the armistice, and named commissioners to regulate the limits of the country which both armies would have to occupy: the armistice was signed the same night in the Emperor's camp, by the Prince of Neufchatel and the Austrian commissioners. Our army took up the identical position it had occupied after the battle of Austerlitz; and on the very next day each corps of troops took its departure for some cantonment, so rapid was the transition from a state of desperate warfare to profound calm.

The Emperor named that very night three marshals of the empire; these were Generals Macdonald, Marmont, and Oudinot ; not a question was raised respecting the first of these nominations. The Emperor quitted the camp above Znaim, and re-established his head-quarters at the palace of Schonbrunn, where he arrived on the 10th or 11th at night ; he had quitted it on the 1st or 2nd, and had led a very harassing life during the eight or nine intervening days. Notwithstanding the heavy occupations which the affairs of the army entailed upon him, he was not inattentive to the dispatches from Paris, or to the intelligence conveyed in private letters to his officers.

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