H́nh ảnh trang
PDF
ePub

Colli was directed to apply to him for that purpofe, and propofed a fufpenfion of armis, while the peace was negociating. But he refufed to fufpend his operations, unless the king delivered two ftrong towns into his hands, as pledges of the fincerity of his intentions, and immediately difpatched commiffioners to Paris.

The king's fituation was fo critical, that he was obliged to comply with this requifition, and the French were put in poffeffion of Cava, Coni, and Tortona. The Auftrians, thus deprived of their ally, were obliged to fall back on the Milanefe. In their march they attempted to fieze the town of Aleffandria, belonging to the king of Sardinia, but the commandant prevented the execution of this defign, and Beaulieu haftened to cross the Po, in order to cover himself and the country to the north of that river.

In the mean time, negociations for peace were carried on at Paris, between the king of Sardinia, and the French republic, which impofed fevere conditions on this unfortunate prince. He was conftrained to yield up Savoy, the patrimony of his ancestors for many ages, tegether with the city and territory of Nice, and a tract of land, which the conquerors entitled the Department of the Maritime Alps. A new arrangement was made of the frontors on each fide, highly advantageous to France. He confented to flop and put an end to all profecutions against any of his fubjects for their political opinions, to withdraw bimfelf from the coalition, and to apologife for his condu&t towards the republic. Such were the principal terms of the treaty.

[ocr errors]

completely humbled, who had long been confidered as the moft fecure of any, by his pofition, against the inroads of the French: his predeceffors, though frequently hard preffed by them, had never been reduced to fuch extremities, and never experienced fuch difgrace. By this treaty he was defpoiled of all power and confequence; and though he retained the title of the king, he remained no more than the nominal fovereign of his dominions.

The reduction of the king of Sardinia was an event that changed at once the whole face of. Italy. That prince was no longer mafter of the barriers that nature has fixed between that country and France, and from which he derived his principal importance. They were now in the hands of the French, and the Italian powers, deprived of this rampart of their dominions, faw themfelves at the mercy of a people, who had, for many centuries, endeavoured to obtain a footing among them, with the manifeft design of fubjefting them to their influence.

Thefe aftonishing fucceffes could not fail to infpire the French armies, that had obtained them, with the highest degree of exultation: nor did their commander forget to improve the fentiments of felf applause and confidence, manifefted by them, into that difpofition of mind which would lead them on to thofe farther exploits he had in contemplation. He lived an addrefs to them on the twenty-fixth of April, three days after the application for peace from the Sardinian monarch, wherein he recapitulated, in a truly claffical and energetic ftyle, the glory they had acquired, and reprefented that which lay till before

In this manner was the prince-them.

1

་་

σε You

You have precipitated your felves, like a torrent, from the heights of the Appennines. You have routed and difperfed all who have oppofed your progrefs. Piedmont, delivered from Auftrian ty ranny, difplays its natural fentiments of peace and friendship for France. Milan is ours, and the republican flag flies over all Lombardy. The dukes of Parma and Modena owe their political existence to your generofity. The army, which with fo much pride threatened you, has no barrier of protection against your courage; the Po, the Teffin, and the Adda, have been unable to ftop you a fingle day; thofe beafted bulwarks of Italy have been infufficient to delay your progrefs; you have furmounted them as ra pidly as you paffed the Appennines. So much fuccefs has carried you to the bofont of your country: your reprefentatives have ordained a fete, dedicated to your victories, which will be celebrated in all the communes of the republic. Your fathers," your mothers, your wives, your ifters, your lovers, will enjoy your fuccefs, and boaft with pride, that they belong to you. Yes, foldiers, you have done much; but does there remain nothing more to be done? Though we have known how to vanquish, we have not known how to profit of our victories. Pofterity will reproach us with having terminated our courfe in Lombardy: but already I fee you run to arms; a flothful repole fatigues you. Let us depart! we have yet forced marches to make, enemies to fubdue, laurels to gather, injuries to revenge. Let thofe tremble who have whetted the poignards of civil war in France, who have bafely affaffinated our minifters, and burned

our fhips at Toulon: the hour of vengeance and retribution is now at hand. But let the people remain tranquil; we are friends to all the people, and more particularly the defcendants of Brutus, of Scipio, and the great men whom we have taken for our models. Re-eftablish the capitol, and place there with honor the ftatues of the heroes that rendered it celebrated; awaken the Roman people, debafed by many centuries of flavery. Such will be the fruit of your victories; they will form an epoch for pofterity; you will have the immortal glory of changing the face of the firit country in Europe. The free French people, refpected by the whole world, will give to Europe a glorious peace, which will indemnify them for the facrifices they have made during fix years; you will then return to your homes, and your fellow citizens will fay, thewing you, this man was of the army of Italy."

Such were the ideas which the French general exerted himself to imprefs upon the public, as well as on his own people. His private converfations were of the fame tendency, and be omitted no oppertunity of reprefenting the expedition of the French into Italy, as tended to lay the foundajion of a total deliverance of the inhabitants from the government of firangers, and the tyranny of domeʻtic rulers.

Sentiments of this defcription were not unacceptable to multitudes in every part of Italy. The majority of the natives could not, but perceive the humiliation of being fubject to princes born and bred in foreign countries: they could not, from that circumftance alone, feel that attachment for them which

They

they might have done for native princes.

To the praifes beftowed by Buonaparte on his army, the directory added its acknowledgments to him, and those of his officers who had fignalized themfelves in the late actions. It wrote to them separately, fpecifying, in the moft gracious and fatisfactory manner, the particular motives for which the thanks of the public were due to them.

This homage paid to their merit, in the name of the nation, by those who were invested with its fupreme authority, was received, by the French officers, as the highest honour that could be conferred upon them, to be confidered as deferving of it was now become the fummit of their wifhes; fo effectually had the republican notions of patriotifm taken poffeffion of their minds. The moment after the fufpenfion of arms between the French and the king of Sardinia had been figned, Buonaparte loft no time in availing himfelf of it to the utmoft. He inftantly put his army in motion from all quarters, in order to cross the Po, and to render it doubtful to the enemy, by his various movements, at what place he would attempt the pafiage over that river. The Auftrian general did not doubt but the Freach would endeavour to pafs it at the town of Valenza, which they had ftipulated with the Sardinian miniftry, fhould be ceded to them for that purpofe. For this reafon, he made every difpofition neceffary to obftruct their paflage at this place: but Buonapare deceived. him; and, by rapid marches, reached the banks of the Po, oppofite to the city of Placenza. A body of horfe prepared to oppofe him; but a choten corps of French infantry,

having feized a number of boats, rowed to the other fide, protected by fo heavy a difcharge of mufketry, that the enemy was obliged to retire, and leave them to land, which they did in the compacteft order. This was effected on the feventh of May. As foon as Beaulieu was apprifed of it, equally aftonished at an event he had to little expected, and anxious to repair the miftake he had committed, he selected the best of his troops, with whom he advanced on the French, in hope of coming upon them before a fufficient numher could have crofled to fecure the paffage of the reft: but they were not only on his fide of the river, but marching towards him. On receiving this intelligence, he intrenched himself at Fombio, a village advantageously fituated, expecting the arrival of reinforce ments: but he was immediately attacked on every fide by the French, who forced him to break up his camp in the utmot diforder, and with the lofs of a large quan tity of horfes and baggage, as well as of men.

Another body of Auftrians was, in the mean time, haftening to his aid, and came up with the French early the next morning: but general Laharpe, an officer of great merit and intrepidity, charged them with fuch vigour, that they were inftantly defeated, and put to flight. The lofs of this officer, who fell on this occafion, was more than a counterpoife to the fuccefs of the French. He was a Swifs by birth; and, being driven from his country, on account of his republican principles, he took refuge in France, and entered into the fervice of the republic, where his military talents railed him to the rank of a general.

He

He was high in the esteem of Buonaparte, who had formed the greateft expectations from him, and grievoufly lamented his fall.

The duke of Parma, in whofe fight, as it were, the French had croffed the Po, and defeated the Auftrians twice in one day, did not dare to prolong the conteft on his part, with fo irrefiftable a foe. He requested an armiftice from Buonaparte, and obtained it on condition of paying a large contribution in money, horfes, and provifions, of delivering into the poffeffion of the French, twenty capital paintings to be chofen by them, and of fending without delay commiffaries to Paris, to conclude a peace with the republic on thefe terms the duke procured a neutrality for his dominions, which was concluded on the ninth of May.

[ocr errors]

The uninterrupted fuccefles of the French had now ftruck their enemies with univerfal confternation: Beaulieu himself, though an expert and intrepid warrior, thought it more prudent to act on the defenfive, than to attack them with troops continually defeated The bravery of the Auftrians, though undeniable, had not been proof againft their impetuous valour and unyielding enthufiafm. They feemed to have reverfed the character formerly attributed to them, of impatience and unfieadiness, and to have affumed that of firmnefs and constancy.'

Their exploits had now opened to them the road to Milan, the capture of which would give them the pofleflion of Lombardy, and effect the expultion of the Auftrians from Italy. This was the project of Buonaparte, whofe glory would be completed by fhich an atchievement;

and whofe thirft of fame would thereby be gratified to the utmost extent of his wifhes.

Between him and that capital of Auftrian Italy lay the remains of the Imperial forces, determined to rifk another battle for its prefervation. They were pofted on the other fide of the Adda, over which ftood a long bridge, which Beaulieu had intended to break down, but was prevented from doing by the quick" approach of the French general. It was protected, however, by fo numerous an artillery, that the Auftrians did not imagine the French would be able to force a paffage

over it.

On the tenth of May, the French army arrived in fight of this bridge, before which flood the town of Lodi, filled with the Imperial troops, which were alfo pofted in every place around it in the most advantageous order of battle that the fituation of the town and its environs would admit. Beaulieu had,' on this occation, difplayed uncommon fkill, confcious that, on the iflue of this day, the fate of Auftria in Italy wholely depended, and that, were he defeated, all future refiftance would be vain.

The battle began at nine in the morning. The approaches to Lodi were vigouroufly attacked by the French, who, after an obitinate difpute, drove the Auftrians into that town; where a refolute fight enfued: but the French had again the advantage, and forced them to retreat acrofs the bridge to their main body, which was drawn up in order of battle, with formidable batteries on their right and left to guard the paffage of the bridge. A battery was planted on the oppofite fide by the French, and a violent can

nonade

[ocr errors]

nonade was kept up, on both fides, during great part of the day.

would have been much greater. I was owing to the approach of night, that the French defifted from the purfuit. Favoured by darknefs, Beaulieu withdrew from the field of battle, after lofing upwards of two thousand men, killed, wounded, and taken, and twenty pieces of cannon.

The lofs of the French was confiderable: the croffing of the bridge alone coft them near a thoufand of their boldeft men, who were deftroyed by the batteries pointed on it from the Austrian fide of the river.

But the French general was convinced, that unless he fucceeded in effecting a pallage over the bridge, his failure would be conftrued into a defeat, and the reputation of the French arms would fufler in the opinion of the public. Fall of this idea, which was certainly well founded, he determined to try every effort, and to encounter every perfonal rifk, in order to carry a point on which fo much appeared at iffue. Forming together the felecteft bodies of his army, he led them in This defeat of the Imperial army perfon to the attack of the bridge, appeared fo decifive to marshal in the midft of a moft tremendous Beaulieu that he durft not venture fire. The intrepidity he displayed to ftop the progrefs of the victors was neceffary to confirm the cou- towards Milan. Collecting the rage of his men, whom the great wrecks of his army, he made a nefs of the danger feemed to ftag- fpeedy retreat towards Mantua, purger: but his prefence, and that of fued by a large body of the French all the chief officers in the French who, in their way, feized on Pizarmy, animated the foldiers to fuch zighitona and Cremona, two places a degree, that they rufhed forward of note. The main body under with an impetuofity which nothing Buonaparte proceeded to Milan, afwas able to withstand. They crofter taking Pavia, where all the Aufed the bridge and affailed the whole trian magazines fell into the hands line of the Auftrian artillery, which of the French. was inftantly broken. They fell with equal fury on the troops that advanced to charge them, who were thrown into diforder, and put to flight on every fide. The victory was complete. Had it not been for the excellive fatigue undergone by the French, a great proportion of whom had marched ten leagues that day to join the army, the lofs of the imperialifts though great

Buonaparte entered Milan the filteenth of May, five days after the battle of Lodi, which, conforma bly to his opinion and that of his rival, Beaulieu, proved wholly decifive of the fate of Lombardy. Here the French general thought it neceflary to allow his people fome days of repofe, after the unceafing toils of a whole month, marked by uninterrupted victories.

CHAP

« TrướcTiếp tục »