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Title: Napoleon's Campaign in Russia, Anno 1812; Medico-Historical
Author: Rose, Achilles
Language: English
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                         NAPOLEON'S CAMPAIGN IN RUSSIA

                                   ANNO 1812



                                 DR. A. ROSE


There is no campaign in the history of the world which has left such a deep
impression upon the heart of the people than that of Napoleon in Russia,
Anno 1812.

Of the soldiers of other wars who had not come home it was reported where
they had ended on the field of honor. Of the great majority of the 600
thousand who had crossed the Niemen in the month of June Anno 1812, there
was recorded in the list of their regiments, in the archives "_Disappeared
during the Retreat_" and nothing else.

When the few who had come home, those hollow eyed specters with their
frozen hands, were asked about these comrades who had disappeared during
the retreat, they could give no information, but they would speak of
endless, of never-heard-of sufferings in the icy deserts of the north, of
the cruelty of the Cossacks, of the atrocious acts of the Moushiks and the
peasants of Lithuania, and, worst of all, of the infernal acts of the
people of Wilna. And it would break the heart of those who listened to

There is a medical history of the hundreds of thousands who have perished
Anno 1812 in Russia from cold, hunger, fatigue or misery.

Such medical history cannot be intelligible without some details of the
history of events causing and surrounding the deaths from cold and hunger
and fatigue. And such a history I have attempted to write.

Casting a glance on the map on which the battle fields on the march to and
from Moscow are marked, we notice that it was not a deep thrust which the
attack of the French army had made into the colossus of Russia. From the
Niemen to Mohilew, Ostrowno, Polotsk, Krasnoi, the first time, Smolensk,
Walutina, Borodino, Conflagration of Moscow, and on the retreat the battles
of Winkonow, Jaroslawetz, Wiasma, Vop, Krasnoi, the second time, Beresina,
Wilna, Kowno; this is not a great distance, says Paul Holzhausen in his
book "Die Deutschen in Russland 1812" but a great piece of history.

Holzhausen, whose book has furnished the most valuable material of which I
could avail myself besides the dissertation of von Scherer, the book of
Beaupré and the report of Krantz, and numerous monographs, has brought to
light valuable papers of soldiers who had returned and had left their
remembrances of life of the soldiers during the Russian campaign to their
descendants and relatives who had kept these papers a sacred inheritance
during one hundred years.

The picture in the foreground of all histories of the Russian campaign is
the shadow of the great warrior who led the troops, in whose invincibility
all men who followed him Anno 1812 believed and by whom they stood in their
soldier's honor, with a constancy without equal, a steadfastness which
merits our admiration.

Three fourths of the whole army belonged to nations whose real interests
were in direct opposition to the war against Russia. Notwithstanding that
many were aware of this fact, they fought as brave in battle as if their
own highest interests were at stake. All wanted to uphold their own honor
as men and the honor of their nations. And no matter how the individual
soldier was thinking of Napoleon, whether he loved or hated him, there was
not a single one in the whole army who did not have implicit confidence in
his talent. Wherever the Emperor showed himself the soldiers believed in
victory, where he appeared thousands of men shouted from the depth of their
heart and with all the power of their voices Vive l'Empereur!

A wild martial spirit reigned in all lands, the bloody sword did not ask
why and against whom it was drawn. To win glory for the own army, the own
colors and standards was the parole of the day. All the masses of different
nations felt as belonging to one great whole and were determined to act as

And all this has to be considered in a medical history of the campaign Anno

Throughout Germany, Napoleon is the favorite hero. In the homes of the
common people, in the huts of the peasants, there are pictures ornamenting
the walls, engravings which have turned yellow from age, the frames of
which are worm eaten. These pictures represent a variety of subjects, but
rarely are there pictures missing of scenes of the life of Napoleon.
Generally they are divided into fields, and in the larger middle field you
see the hero of small stature, on a white horse, from his fallow face the
cold calculating eyes looking into a throng of bayonets, lances, bearskin
caps, helmets, and proud eagles. The graceful mouth, in contrast to the
strong projecting chin, modifies somewhat the severity of this face, a face
of marble of which it has been said that it gave the impression of a field
of death, and the man with this face is accustomed to conquer, to reign, to
destroy. He is the inexorable God of war himself, not in glittering armour,
but in a plain uniform ornamented with one single order for personal
bravery. The tuft of hair on his high and broad forehead is like a sign of
everlasting scorn. A gloomy, dreadfully attractive figure. In some of the
pictures we see him in his plain gray overcoat and well-known hat,
surrounded by marshals in splendid dress parade, forming a contrast to the
simplicity of their master, on some elevation from which he looks into
burning cities; again we see him unmoved by dreadful surroundings, riding
through battle scenes of horror.

Over my desk hangs such an old steel engraving, given to me by an old
German lady who told me that her father had thought a great deal of it. On
Saturdays he would wash the glass over the other pictures with water, but
for washing the Napoleon picture he would use alcohol.

Before this man kings have trembled, innumerable thousands have cheerfully
given their blood, their lives; this man has been adored like a God and
cursed like a devil. He has been the fate of the world until his hour
struck. Many say providence had selected him to castigate the universe and
its enslaved peoples. A great German historian, Gervinus, has said: "He was
the greatest benefactor of Germany who removed the gloriole from the heads
crowned by the grace of God." He accomplished great things because he had
great power, he committed great faults because he was so powerful. Without
his unrestricted power he could not have accomplished one nor committed the

History is logic. Whenever great wrongs prevail, some mighty men appear and
arouse the people, and these extraordinary men are like the storm in winter
which shatters and breaks what is rotten, preparing for spring.

The German school boy, when he learns of the greatest warriors and
conquerors, of Alexander the Great, of Julius Caesar, is most fascinated
when he hears the history of the greatest of all the warriors of the world,
the history of Napoleon, and he is spellbound reading the awfully beautiful
histories concerning his unheard of deeds, his rise without example, and
his sudden downfall.

And he, the great man, the soldier-emperor, he rides on his white horse in
the boy's dreams, just as depicted on the engravings upon which the boys
look with a kind of holy awe.

The son of a Corsican lawyer, becoming in early manhood the master of the
world, what could inflame youthful fiction more than this wonderful career?

All great conquerors come to a barrier. Alexander, when he planned to
subdue India, found the barrier at the Indus. Caesar found it at the Thames
and at the Rhine. Our hero's fate was to be fulfilled at Moscow. His
insatiable thirst to rule had led him into Russia. He stood at the height
of his power and glory. Holland, Italy, a part of Germany, were French, and
Germany especially groaned under the heel of severe xenocraty. The old
German Empire had broken down, nothing of it was left but a ridiculous
name, "_Römisches Reich deutscher Nation_." The crowned heads of Germany
held their thrones merely by the grace of Napoleon. Only Spain, united with
England, dared him yet. Since Napoleon could not attack the English
directly, on account of their power at sea, he tried to hit them where they
were most sensitive, at their pocket. He instituted the continental blocus.
Russia with the other lands of Continental Europe had to close her ports
and markets against England, but Russia soon became tired of this pressure
and preferred a new war with Napoleon to French domination.

In giving this sketch of the popularity of Napoleon's memory in Germany, I
have availed myself of a German calendar for the year 1913, called Der
Lahrer hinkende Bote.

Except the English translation of Beaupré's book I have taken from French
and German writings only.

I desire to thank Mr. S. Simonis, of New York, who has revised the entire
manuscript and read the proofs; next to him I am under obligations to
Reichs Archiv Rat Dr. Striedinger, of Munich, and Mr. Franz Herrmann, of
New York, who have loaned me most valuable books and pointed out important
literature, and finally to Miss F. de Cerkez, who has aided me in the
translation of some of the chapters.


Transportation of Cannon under Difficulties

Attack of Cossacks

"And Never Saw Daylight Again,"


Gate of Wilna

In the Streets of Wilna

Retreat Across the Niemen

"No Fear, We Shall Soon Follow You"

In Prison


On May 10th., 1812, the Moniteur published the following note: "The emperor
has left to-day to inspect the Grand Army united at the Vistula." In
France, in all parts of the Empire, the lassitude was extreme and the
misery increasing, there was no commerce, with dearth pronounced in twenty
provinces, sedition of the hungry had broken out in Normandy, the gendarmes
pursuing the "refractories" everywhere, and blood was shed in all thirty

There was the complaint of exhausted population, and loudest was the
complaint of mothers whose sons had been killed in the war.

Napoleon was aware of these evils and understood well their gravity, but he
counted on his usual remedy, new victories; saying to himself that a great
blow dealt in the north, throwing Russia and indirectly England at his
feet, would again be the salvation of the situation.

Caulaincourt, his ambassador to the Tzar, had told him in several
conversations, one of which had lasted seven hours, that he would find more
terrible disaster in Russia than in Spain, that his army would be destroyed
in the vastness of the country by the iron climate, that the Tzar would
retire to the farthest Asiatic provinces rather than accept a dishonorable
peace, that the Russians would retreat but never cede.

Napoleon listened attentively to these prophetic words, showing surprise
and emotion; then he fell into a profound reflection, but at the end of his
revery, having enumerated once more his armies, all his people, he said:
"Bah! a good battle will bring to reason the good determination of your
friend Alexander."

And in his entourage there were many who shared his optimism. The brilliant
youth of that new aristocracy which had begun to fill his staff was anxious
to equal the old soldiers of the revolution, the plebeian heroes.

They prepared for war in a luxurious way and ordered sumptuous outfits and
equipages which later on encumbered the roads of Germany, just as the
carriages of the Prussian army had done in 1806.

These French officers spoke of the Russian campaign as a six months'
hunting party.

Napoleon had calculated not to occupy the country between the Vistula and
the Niemen before the end of May, when the late spring of those regions
would have covered the fields with green, so that the 100 thousand horses
marching with the army could find feed.

He traversed Germany between a double lane of kings, and princes bowed in
an attitude of adoration.

He found them at Mainz, at Wuerzburg, at Bamberg, and his advance might be
compared to the royal progress of an Asiatic potentate.

Whole populations were turned out to salute him, and during the night the
route over which the imperial carriages passed was illuminated by lighted
piles of wood--an extensive line of fire in his honor.

At Dresden he had the attendance of an emperor (that of Austria) and of
kings and reigning princes, who were present at his levees, together with
their prime ministers (the better to catch, to report, the words he said,
however insignificant) while high German dignitaries waited on him at the

The Emperor and the Empress of Austria had come at their own desire to
salute their daughter and their son-in-law and to present their good wishes
for the success of the great expedition.

Twelve days in succession he had at dinner the Emperor and Empress of
Austria, the King and Queen of Saxony, the Saxon princes, the Prince
Primate of the Confederation of the Rhine--even the King of Prussia was
present; he offered his son for adjutant, which offer, however, Napoleon
was tactful enough not to accept.

All the kings and reigning princes from the other States of Germany
presented their best wishes and pledged faithfulness to Napoleon in his war
against Russia.

Around the French emperor and empress at Dresden there was a court the like
of which Europe had never seen and never will see again.

A Te Deum was sung to thank heaven for his arrival; there was a magnificent
display of fireworks, but the climax of all was a great concert with an
apotheosis showing, as the principal figure, the sun with the inscription:
"Less great and less beautiful than He." "It appears that these people take
me for very stupid," said Napoleon to this, shrugging his shoulders.

In speaking to one of his intimates he called the King of Prussia a
sergeant instructor, _une bête_, but openly he treated him with great

He made rich presents: gold and enameled boxes, jewelry and portraits of
himself enriched with costly stones. During the happy days of Dresden he
enjoyed for once an intimate family life.

On one occasion he held a long conversation with his father-in-law, during
which he developed his plans of the Russian campaign, with minute and
endless military details of which the emperor of Austria, being no
strategist at all, understood nothing and said afterward: "My son-in-law is
alright here," pointing to the heart, "but here"--pointing to the
forehead--he made a significant gesture.

This criticism of Napoleon by the Emperor of Austria became popular and has
been accepted by many writers. All reproaches about Cesarian insanity which
were cast at the great man and his whole life date from that time. Some
have said that he wanted to conquer England and Russia because these two he
considered the arch enemies of Europe, that he foresaw the threatening
growth of these two countries as dangerous, and if he did not take
advantage of the good opportunity the future of Europe would be at the
mercy of Russia and England.

The conquest of Russia was the keynote of his universal policy.

The much calumniated blocus, say other writers, would finally have been the
greatest blessing for continental Europe; its aim had already been attained
in so far as many London houses failed, and famine reigned on the British
islands in consequence of the high cost of living.

And these writers say Napoleon had by no means become insane, but, on the
contrary, frightfully clear. Another explanation given was that he worried
about his dynasty, his child, entertaining fear that his empire might fall
to pieces after his death, like the empire of Charles the Great.

Although he was enjoying good health, he had been warned by his physician,
_Corvisart_, of cancer of the stomach, from which Napoleon's father had
died. Some suspicious black specks had been observed in the vomit.
Therefore no time was to be lost, all had to be done in haste.

The rupture originated with Russia, for at the end of the year 1810 the
Tzar annulled the blocus and even excluded French goods or placed an
inordinate duty on them--this was, in fact, a declaration of war. Russia
wanted war while the Spanish campaign was taxing France's military forces.

The only reliable report of Napoleon's communications at St. Helena has
been given by General de Gourgaudin the diary which he kept while with the
Emperor from 1815 to 1818, and which has been published in the year 1898.
Here is what Napoleon said on this subject:

On June 13th., 1816, he remarked in conversation with _Gourgaud_, "I did
not want the war with Russia, but _Kurakin_ presented me a threatening
note on account of _Davout's_ troops at Hamburg. _Bassano_ and
Champagny_ were mediocre ministers, they did not comprehend the intention
which had dictated that note. I myself could not argue with _Kurakin_. They
persuaded me that it meant declaration of war. Russia had taken off several
divisions from Moldavia and would take the initiative with an attack on
Warsaw. _Kurakin_ threatened and asked for his passports. I myself believed
finally they wanted war. I mobilized! I sent _Lauriston_ to Alexander,
but he was not even received. From Dresden I sent _Narbonne_, everything
convinced me that Russia wanted war. I crossed the Niemen near Wilna.

"Alexander sent a General to me to assure me that he did not wish war; I
treated this ambassador very well, he dined with me, but I believed his
mission was a trick to prevent the cutting off of _Bagratian_. I
therefore continued the march.

"I did not wish to declare war against Russia, but I had the impression
that Russia wanted to break with me. I knew very well the difficulties of
such a campaign."

_Gourgaud_ wrote in his diary a conversation which he had with Montholon on
July 9th., 1817. "What was the real motive of the Russian campaign? I know
nothing about it, and perhaps the Emperor himself did not know it. Did he
intend to go to India after having dethroned the Moscowitic dynasty? The
preparations, the tents which he took along, seem to suggest this

Montholon answered: "According to the instructions which I, as ambassador,
received I believe that His Majesty wanted to become Emperor of Germany,
that he aimed to be crowned as '_Emperor of the West_'. The Rhenish
Confederation was made to understand this idea. In Erfurt it was already a
foregone conclusion, but Alexander demanded Constantinople, and this
Napoleon would not concede."

At another conversation Napoleon admitted "I have been too hasty. I should
have remained a whole year at the Niemen and in Prussia, in order to give
my troops the much needed rest, to reorganize the army and also to eat up

All these details, Napoleon's admission included, show that nobody knew and
nobody knows why this gigantic expedition was undertaken. Certain is,
however, that England had a hand in the break between Napoleon and

When Napoleon called on the generals to lead them into this expedition they
all had become settled to some extent, some in Paris, others on their
possessions or as governors and commanders all over Europe, which at that
time meant France; in consequence there existed a certain displeasure among
these officers, especially among the older ones and those of high rank.

The high positions which he had created for them and the rich incomes which
they enjoyed had developed their and their wives' taste for a luxurious and
brilliant mode of living. Besides, most of them, as well as their master,
had attained the age between forty and fifty, their ambition gradually had
relented, they had enough; and the family with which they had been together
for very brief periods only between two campaigns, clung to them now and
held them tightly.

Notwithstanding these conditions, they all came when the Emperor called;
after they had shaken off wife and children and had mounted in the saddle,
while the old veterans and the young impatient soldiers were jubilant
around them, they regained their good humor and went on to new victories,
the brave men they always had been.

Especially at first when, at the head of their magnificent regiments, they
marched eastward through the conquered lands, from city to city, from
castle to castle, like masters of the world, when in Dresden they met their
comrades in war and their friends, and when they saw how all the crowned
heads of Europe bowed before their Emperor, then the Grand Army was in its

As we know from history the Grand Army had contingents from twenty
nationalities: Frenchmen, Germans, Italians, Austrians, Swiss, Spaniards,
Portuguese, Poles, Illyrians, etc., and numbered over half a million men,
with 100 thousand horses, 1,000 cannon.

According to Bleibtreu (Die grosse Armee, Stuttgart, 1908), and Kielland
(Rings um Napoleon, Leipzig, 1907) the Grand Army was made up as follows:

_First Corps_--Davout, six divisions of the best troops under the command
of Morand, Friant, Gudin. In this corps were, besides French, Badensian,
Dutch, and Polish regiments. Davout commanded also 17 thousand Prussian
soldiers under General Grawert. Among the generals were Compans and Pajol,
the engineer Haxo, and the handsome General Friederich 67,000

_Second Corps_--Oudinot with the divisions of Generals Merle, Legrand,
Maison, Lannes' and Massena's veterans 40,000

_Third Corps_--Ney with two divisions of veterans of Lannes; to this corps
belonged the Wuerttembergians who had served under Ney before 49,000

_Fourth Corps_--Prince Eugene with Junot as second commander, and the
Generals Grouchy, Broussier, the two brothers Delzon. In this corps were
the best soldiers of the Italian army 45,000

_Fifth Corps_--Prince Poniatowski. Soldiers of all arms, mostly Poles
26,000 Sixth Corps--General St Cyr. Mostly foreigners who had served in
the French army since 1809 25,000

_The Sixth Corps_--General St Cyr. Mostly foreigners who had served in the
French army since 1809 25,000

_The Seventh Corps_--General Reynier. Mostly Saxons and Poles 17,000

_The Eighth Corps_--King Jerome. Westphalians and Hessians 18,000

Besides, there were four corps of reserve cavalry distributed among the
corps of Davout, Oudinot, and Ney; the rest, excellent horsemen, marched
with the Imperial Guard 15,000

_The Imperial Guards_ were commanded by the Marshals Mortier and Lefebvre
and were divided into two corps, the old guard and the young guard 47,000

There was the engineer park, composed of sappers, miners, pontooneers and
military mechanicians of all descriptions, the artillery park, and train of
wagons with attendants and horses. To these two trains alone belonged 18
thousand horses.

In the active army which marched toward Russia there were 423 thousand well
drilled soldiers; namely, 300 thousand infantry, 70 thousand cavalry and 30
thousand artillery with 1 thousand cannon, 6 pontoon trains, ambulances,
and also provisions for one month.

As reserve, the ninth corps--Marshal Victor--and the tenth
corps--Augereau--were stationed near Magdeburg, ready to complete the army

The whole army which marched to Russia consisted of 620 thousand men.

The question of subsistence for this immense body occupied Napoleon
chiefly. He felt the extraordinary difficulty and great danger, he knew
that at the moment of coming in contact with the enemy all the corps would
be out of supplies in twenty or twenty-five days if there were no great
reserves of bread, biscuit, rice, etc., closely following the army.

His system was that of requisition. To secure the needed supplies the
commanders of the corps were ordered to seize in the country all the grain
which could be found and at once to convert it into flour, with methodic

Napoleon himself superintended and hastened the work. At twenty different
places along the Vistula he had the grinding done unceasingly, distributing
the flour thus obtained among the corps and expediting its transport by
every possible means. He even invented new measures for this purpose, among
which the well-known formation of battalions of cattle, an immense rolling
stock destined to follow the columns to serve twofold: for transportation
of provisions, and finally as food.

With the beginning of June these supreme preparations had been made or
seemed to have been made. In the lands through which the troops were to
march before they reached the Niemen, the spring had done its work; there
was abundance of forage.

Napoleon had impatiently awaited this time during ten months of secret

It was the hope of Russia and the fear of those Frenchmen who understood
the Russian climate that the campaign would drag into the winter.

Russians already told of the village blacksmith who laughed when he was
shown a French horseshoe which had been found on the road, and said: "Not
one of these horses will leave Russia if the army remains till frost sets
in!" The French horseshoes had neither pins nor barbed hooks, and it would
be impossible for horses thus shod to draw cannons and heavy wagons up and
down hill over frozen and slippery roads.

The annihilation of the Grand Army is not to be attributed to the cold and
the fearful conditions on the retreat from Moscow alone, the army was in
reality annihilated before it reached Russia, as we shall see by the
following description which I have taken from a Latin dissertation
(translated also into German) of the surgeon of a Wuerttembergian regiment,
Ch. Io. von Scherer, who had served through the whole campaign and in the
year 1820 had submitted this dissertation, "Historia Morborum, qui in
Expeditione Contra Russiam Anno 1812 Facta Legiones Wuerttembergicas
invaserunt, praesertim eorum qui frigore orti sunt," to the Medical
Faculty, presided over by F. G. Gmelin, to obtain the degree of doctor of

The diseases which befell the soldiers in Russia extended over the whole
army. Von Scherer, however, gives his own observations only, which he had
made while serving in the Wuerttembergian corps of fourteen to fifteen
thousand men.

The expedition into Russia in the year 1812 was divided into ten divisions,
each of these numbering fifty to sixty thousand men, all healthy, robust,
most of them hardened in war. The Wuerttembergians were commanded by
General Count von Scheeler and the French General Marchand; the highest
commander was Marshal Ney.

In the beginning of May, 1812, the great army of Napoleon arrived at the
frontier of Poland, whence it proceeded by forced and most tiresome marches
to the river Niemen, which forms the boundary between Lithuania and Poland,
arriving at the borders of the river in the middle of June.

An immense body of soldiers (500,000) met near the city of Kowno, crossed
the Niemen on pontoons, and formed, under the eyes of the Emperor, in
endless battle line on the other side.

The forced march continued day and night over the sandy soil of Poland. The
tropical heat during the day and the low temperature at night, the frequent
rainstorms from the north, the camping on bare and often wet ground, the
ever increasing want of pure water and fresh provisions, the immense masses
of dust, which, cloudlike, hung over the marching columns--all these
difficulties put together had sapped the strength of the soldiers already
at the beginning of the campaign. Many were taken sick before they reached
the Niemen.

The march through Lithuania was hastened as much as the march through
Poland. Provisions became scarcer all the time, meat from cattle that had
suffered from starvation and exhaustion was for a long time the soldiers'
only food. The great heat, and the inhalation of sand and dust, dried the
tissues of the body, and the thirsty soldiers longed in vain for a drink of
water. Often there was no other opportunity to quench the thirst than the
water afforded by the swamps. The officers were powerless to prevent the
soldiers from kneeling down at stagnant pools and drinking the foul water
without stint.

Thus the army, tired to the utmost from overexertion and privation, and
disposed to sickness, entered the land of the enemy. The forced marches
were continued during the day, through sand and dust, until stormy weather
set in with rain, followed by cold winds.

With the appearance of bad weather, dysentery, which had already been
observed at the time of the crossing of the Niemen, showed itself with
greater severity. The route the army had taken from camp to camp was marked
by offensive evacuations. The number of the sick became so great that they
could not all be attended to, and medical treatment became illusory when
the supply of medicaments was exhausted.

The greater part of the army fought in vain, however courageously, against
the extending evil. As everything was wanting of which the sick were in
need, there was no barrier against the spread of the disease, while at the
same time the privations and hardships which had caused it continued and
reached their climax.

Some of these soldiers would march, equipped with knapsack and arms,
apparently in good spirits, but suddenly would succumb and die. Others,
especially those of strong constitution, would become melancholy and commit
suicide. The number of deaths increased from day to day.

Marvelous was the effect of emotion on the disease. Surgeon-General von
Kohlreuter, during and after the battle of Smolensk, witnessed this
influence. Of four thousand Wuerttembergians who took part in that battle,
there were few quite free from dysentery.

Tired and depressed, the army dragged along; but as soon as the soldiers
heard the cannon in the distance, telling them the battle was beginning,
they emerged at once from their lethargy; the expression of their faces,
which had been one of sadness, changed to one of joy and hilarity. Joyfully
and with great bravery they went into action. During the four days that the
battle lasted, and for some days afterward, dysentery disappeared as if
banished by magic. When the battle was over and the privations were the
same again as they had been, the disease returned with the same severity as
before--nay, even worse, and the soldiers fell into complete lethargy.

The necropsy of those who had died from dysentery revealed derangement of
the digestive organs; the stomach, the large intestine, mostly the rectum,
were inflamed; the intima of stomach and duodenum, sometime the whole
intestine, were atonic. In some cases there were small ulcers, with jagged
margins, in the stomach, especially in its fundus, and in the rectum; in
other cases dysentery had proceeded to such an extent that pretty large
ulcers had developed, extending from the stomach into the small and from
there into the large intestine, into the rectum. These ulcers were of sizes
varying from that of a lentil to the size of a walnut. Where the disease
had been progressive the intima, the mucosa and submucosa--very seldom,
however, the serosa--were perforated by ulcers; in many cases there were
gangraenous patches in the fundus of the stomach and along the intestinal
tract. The gastric juice smelled highly acid, frequently the liver was
discolored and contained a bluish liquid, its lower part in most cases
hardened and bluish; the gall bladder, as a rule, was empty or contained
only a small amount of bile; the mesenteric glands were mostly inflamed,
sometimes purulent; the mesenteric and visceral vessels appeared often as
if studded with blood. Such patients had suffered sometimes from gastralgy,
had had a great craving for food, especially vegetables, but were during
that time entirely free from fever.

Remarkably sudden disaster followed the immoderate use of alcohol. Some
Wuerttembergian soldiers, who during the first days of July had been sent
on requisition, had discovered large quantities of brandy in a nobleman's
mansion, and had indulged in its immoderate use and died, like all
dysentery patients who took too much alcohol.

The number of Wuerttembergians afflicted with dysentery, while on the march
from the Niemen to the Dwina, amounted to three thousand, at least this
many were left behind in the hospitals of Malaty, Wilna, Disna, Strizzowan
and Witepsk. The number of deaths in the hospitals increased as the disease
proceeded, from day to day, and the number of those who died on the march
was not small. Exact hospital statistics cannot be given except of
Strizzowan, which was the only hospital from which lists had been
preserved; and here von Scherer did duty during six weeks. Out of 902
patients 301 died during the first three weeks; during the other three
weeks when the patients had better care only 36 died.

In the hospitals established on the march, in haste, in poor villages,
medicaments were either wanting entirely or could be had only in
insufficient quantity. All medical plants which grew on the soil in that
climate were utilized by the surgeons, as, for instance in the hospital of
Witepsk, huckleberries and the root of tormentilla. Establishing the
hospital in Strizzowan von Scherer placed some of his patients in the
castle, others in a barn and the rest in stables. Not without great
difficulties and under dangers he procured provisions from the
neighborhood. As medicaments he used, and sometimes with really good
results, the following plants which were found in abundance in the
vicinity: 1. Cochlearia armoracia; 2. Acorus calamus; 3. Allium sativum; 4.
Raphanus sativus; 5. Menyanthes trifoliata; 6. Salvia officinalis.

In the course of the following three weeks General Count von Scheeler
handed him several thousand florins to be used for the alleviation of the
sufferings of the soldiers under his care, and von Scherer procured from
great distances, namely, from the Polish cities Mohilew, Minsk and Wilna,
suitable medicines and provisions. The proper diet which could now be
secured, together with best medicines, had an excellent effect. This is
seen at a glance when perusing the statistics of the first three and the
last three weeks. In some cases in which the patients had been on the way
to recovery, insignificant causes would bring relapse. Potatoes grew in
abundance in the vicinity of the hospital, and patients would clandestinely
help themselves and eat them in excessive quantities, with fatal result.

In some the intestinal tract remained very weak for a long time. Emaciation
of the convalescents improved only very slowly. Remarkable was a certain
mental depression or indolence which remained in many patients. Even in
officers who von Scherer had known as energetic and good-humored men there
was seen for a long time a morose condition and very noticeable dulness.
Whatever they undertook was done slowly and imperfectly. Sometimes, even
with a kind of wickedness, they showed an inclination to steal or do
something forbidden. Sometimes it was difficult to induce them to take
exercise. Von Scherer, in order to cheer up the convalescents, ordered
daily walks under guard, and this was the more necessary as oedemata
developed on the extremities in those who remained motionless on their

How injurious the immoderate use of alcoholic beverages proved to be was
demonstrated in three cases of convalescents, who were still somewhat weak.
They had secretly procured some bottles of brandy from the cellar of the
hospital, and with the idea of having a good time had drunk all of it in
one sitting. Very soon they had dangerous symptoms: abdominal pain, nausea
and vomiting followed by lachrymation from the protruding and inflamed
eyes. They fell down senseless, had liquid and highly offensive evacuations
and died, in spite of all medical aid, in six hours. On the abdomen, the
neck, the chest and especially on the feet of the corpses of these men
there were gangraenous spots of different sizes, a plain proof that the
acute inflammation, gangraene and putrefaction had been caused by the
excessive irritation of the extremely weak body. Circumstances forbade
necropsy in these cases.

Among different publications on the medical history of Napoleon's campaign
in 1812, which I happened to find, was a dissertation of Marin Bunoust,
"Considerations générales sur la congelation pendant l'ivresse observée en
Russie en 1812." Paris, 1817 (published, therefore, three years before
publication of von Scherer's dissertation), in which the author wishes to
show that the physiological effect of drunkenness on the organism is
identical with that of extreme cold.

Von Scherer, after the hospital of Strizzowan had been evacuated, again
joined his regiment. The French army in forced marches pursued the enemy on
the road to Moscow over Ostrowno, Witepsk and Smolensk. Dysentery did not
abate. In the hospitals of Smolensk, Wiasma and Ghiat, von Scherer found,
besides the wounded from the battles of Krasnoe, Smolensk and Borodino, a
great number of dysentery patients; many died on the march. The whole
presented a pitiful sight, and the soldiers' contempt of life excited

We shall return to von Scherer's dissertation when describing the retreat
from Moscow.

While the dissertation of von Scherer treats on the fate of the
Wuerttembergian corps of Napoleon's grand army, a memoir of First
Lieutenant von Borcke who served as adjutant of General von Ochs in the
Westphalian corps relates the fate of the Westphalians in the grand army of

The Westphalians, 23,747 men strong, left Cassel in the month of March,
1812, to unite with the French army. One of the regiments was sent later
and joined the corps while the army was on the retreat from Moscow at
Moshaisk. This regiment, like another, which followed still later and
joined the army on the retreat at Wilna, was annihilated. Of the 23,747 men
a few hundred finally returned. On March 24th., the Westphalians crossed
the Elbe, von Borcke (it is a common error in American literature to spell
the predicate of nobility _von_ with a capital V when at the beginning of a
period, while neither von nor the corresponding French de as predicate of
nobility should ever be spelled with a capital) at that time suffered from
intermittent fever, but was cured by the use of calisaya bark. I mention
this to call attention to the fact that quinine was not known in the year
1812. When the corps marched into Poland the abundance of provisions which
the soldiers had enjoyed, came to an end.

There were no magazines from which rations could have been distributed, and
the poor Polish peasants, upon whom requisitions should have been made, had
nothing for the soldiers. Disorder among the troops who thus far
distinguished themselves by strictest discipline, made its appearance. How
the army was harassed by the plague of dysentery, how the soldiers were
marching during great heat, insufficiently supplied in every way, and how
they suffered from manifold hardships, has been described in von Scherer's
dissertation. The Westphalian corps was in as precarious a condition as the
Wuerttembergian, as in fact the whole army and the Westphalian battalions
were already reduced to one-half their former number. Many soldiers had
remained behind on account of sickness or exhaustion, and officers were
sent back to bring them to the ranks again.

The whole army would have dissolved if the march had not been interrupted.
Napoleon ordered a stay. An order from him called for a rally of the
troops, for the completion of war material, ammunition, and horses and
provisions; but where to take all these things from? The war had not yet
begun, and the troops were already in danger of starvation. Only with
sadness and fear could the soldiers, under these circumstances, look into
the future.

In what way, says Ebstein, can this great want, this insufficient supply of
provisions, which made itself felt even at the beginning of the campaign,
be explained? It has been shown how Napoleon exerted himself to meet the
extraordinary difficulty of supplying the grand army of half a million of
men and 100,000 horses with provisions, how well he was aware of the great
danger in this regard, how he superintended and hastened the work of
providing for men and horses by every possible means, that he understood
all the circumstances surrounding the march of the grand army through a
vast country populated by few, and these mostly serfs who had barely
sufficient food for themselves and no means to replenish their stock in
case it should have been exhausted by Napoleon's system of requisition, not
to speak of the marauding to which the French soldiers were soon forced to
resort. Ebstein says that the cause of the sad, the wretched condition
concerning supplies was due to the fact that incompetent officers had been
appointed as commissaries of the army; they held high military rank, were
independent and could not be easily reached for their faults. It happened
that soldiers were starving near well filled magazines, such magazines at
Kowno, Wilna, Minsk, Orcha being not only well, but over, filled, while the
passing troops were in dire need. We shall later on come to frightful
details of this kind.

The miserable maintenance had from the beginning a demoralizing effect on
the men, manifested by desertion, insubordination, marauding, vandalism.
General Sir Robert Wilson, British commissioner with the headquarters of
the Russian army, quoted by Ebstein, says: "The French army, from its very
entrance into the Russian territory (and this cannot be repeated too often
to lend the proper weight to the consequences resulting therefrom),
notwithstanding order on order and some exemplary punishments, had been
incorrigibly guilty of every excess. It had not only seized with violence
all that its wants demanded, but destroyed in mere wantonness what did not
tempt its cupidity. No vandal ferocity was ever more destructive. Those
crimes, however, were not committed with impunity. Want, sickness, and an
enraged peasantry, inflicted terrible reprisals, and caused daily a fearful
reduction of numbers."

But this description of the Englishman will apply to every army in which
there are such difficulties in obtaining the necessary supplies as they
existed here on the forced marches.

Further, he does not speak of the severe punishments meted out to the
culprits. By order of Napoleon entire squads of marauders were shot. Von
Roos, chief physician of a Wuerttembergian regiment, has seen that before
their execution they had to dig their own graves.

In Wilna already Davout ordered the execution of 70, and in Minsk of 13

A Westphalian officer, von Lossberg, commander of a battalion, wrote in his
letters to his wife--which are of great value to the history of the
campaign--from Toloschin on July 25: "On our march we met a detachment of
Davout's corps; they shot before our eyes a commissary of the army who had
been condemned to death for fraud. He had sold for 200 dollars provisions
which had been intended for the soldiers."

Napoleon had stayed several days at Thorn, inspecting the departing troops,
visiting the magazines, bestowing a last glance upon everything. Before the
guards left their cantonments he wanted to see the different corps and hold
a great review. He loved to see again the manly figures of the soldiers,
their chests of iron, these braves who stood before him, immovable in
parade, irresistible in fight. Their bearing and their expression gave him
pleasure. Notwithstanding the fatigues and the privations of the march,
enthusiasm shone on all the faces, in the brightening of all the eyes. He
wanted to give with his own mouth the order "forward march" to the
regiments of the guard, and he saw the endless defile of these proud
uniforms, heard the uninterrupted beating of the drums, the sound of the
trumpets, the acclamation "Vive l'Empereur" of the beautiful troops, the
departure of the officers, every one of whom had orders to set in motion or
to halt human masses. All this great movement around him, by his will, at
his word, animated and excited him. Now, the lot having irrevocably been
cast, he surrenders himself completely to his instincts as warrior, he
feels himself only soldier, the greatest and most ardent who has existed,
he dreams of nothing but victories and conquests. At night, after having
given orders all day long, he slept only at intervals, passing part of the
night walking up and down. One night those on duty, who slept near his
room, were surprised hearing him sing with plain voice a popular song of
the soldiers of the republic.

On June 6th., Napoleon left Thorn while all the army was marching. At
Danzig he saw Murat, whom he had called directly from Naples. He did not
wish him near except for the fight where he would be an ornament in battle
and set a magnificent example. Otherwise he considered his presence useless
and hurtful. He had taken special pains to keep him away from Dresden, from
the assembly of sovereigns, from contact with dynasties of the _ancien
régime_, especially of the house of Austria, because of his being a king of
recent origin. He feared the indiscretion of the newly made kings when
brought together with the sovereigns by the grace of God. He did not wish
that any intimacy should develop between them.

The meeting of the two brothers-in-law was at first cold and painful. Each
had a grievance against the other and did not restrain himself at all to
pronounce it. Murat complained, as he had done before, that he, as King of
Naples, was an instrument of domination and tyranny, and added that he
could find a way to extricate himself from such an intolerable exigency.
Napoleon reproached Murat of his more and more marked inclination to
disobey, of his digression in language and conduct, and of his suspicious
actions. He looked at him with a severe mien, spoke harsh words, and
treated him altogether with severity. But then, suddenly changing his tone,
he spoke to him in a language of friendship, of wounded and misunderstood
friendship, became emotional, complained of ingratitude, and recalled the
memory of their long affection, their military comradery. The king who was
easily moved, was thinking of all the generosity he had enjoyed, and could
not resist the appeal, he became emotional in his turn, almost shed tears,
forgot all grief for a while, and was conquered.

And in the evening before his intimates the emperor lauded himself for
having played excellent comedy to regain Murat, that he had by turns and
very successfully enacted anger and sentimentality with this Italian
_pantaleone_, but, added he, Murat has a good heart.

Ahead of the emperor, between Danzig and Koenigsberg, traversing East
Prussia and some districts of Poland, marched the army--under what
difficulties has been described. At the same time, through the Baltic and
the Frische Haff, came the more ponderous war material, the
pontoons and the heaviest artillery, the siege guns. To complete the supply
of provisions before entering upon the campaign the troops exhausted the
land by making extensive requisitions. The emperor had wished that all
should go on regularly and that everything taken from the inhabitants
should be paid for, but this the soldiers did not consider. They took and
emptied the granaries, tore down the straw from the roofs of the peasants'
houses, barns, and stables to make litter for their horses, and treated the
inhabitants not as friends, but as if they were people of a conquered land.
The cavalry which passed first helped themselves for their horses to all
the hay and all the grass, the artillery and the train were obliged to take
from the fields the green barley and oats, and the army altogether ruined
the population where it passed. The men obliged to disperse during a part
of the day as foragers, got into the habit of disbanding and of looseness
of discipline, and the impossibility manifested itself to keep in order and
in ranks the multitude of different races, different in languages, who with
their many vehicles represented a regular migration.

Everything became monotonous--the country, the absence of an enemy. They
found Prussia and especially Poland, ugly, dirty, miserable, all the houses
were full of dirt and vermin, domestic animals of all kinds were the
intimate syntrophoi of the peasants in their living rooms. The soldiers
bore badly the inconvenience of the lodging, the coolness of the night
following the burning heat of the day, the fogs in the mornings. But they
consoled themselves with illusions, painting the future in rosy colors,
hoping to find across the Niemen a better soil, a different people, more
favorable to the soldier, and longed for Russia as for the promised land.

The Grand Army had arrived at the Niemen. It was on June 24th., the sun
rose radiant and lightened with his fire a magnificent scene. To the troops
was read a short and energetic proclamation. Napoleon came out of his tent,
surrounded by his officers, and contemplated with his field glass the sight
of this prodigious force; hundreds of thousands of soldiers united in one
place! One could not find anything comparable to the enthusiasm which the
presence of Napoleon inspired on that day. The right bank of the river was
covered with these magnificent troops; they descended from the heights and
spread out in long files over the three bridges, resembling three currents;
the rays of the sun glittered on the bayonets and helmets, and the cry
_Vive l'Empereur_! was heard incessantly.

If I were to give a full description to do justice to the magnificent
spectacle I would have to quote from the journals of that epoch, and if I
were a painter I could not find a greater subject for my art.


Arrived in Russia the French were soon disappointed; gloomy forests and
sterile soil met the eye, all was sad and silent. After the army had passed
the Niemen and entered into Poland the misery, instead of diminishing,
increased, the hour had struck for these unfortunates. The enemy destroyed
everything on retreating, the cattle were taken to distant provinces; the
French saw the destruction of the fields, the villages were deserted, the
peasants fled upon the appearance of the French army, all inhabitants had
left except the Jews. When the army came to Lithuania everything seemed to
be in league against the French. It was a rainy season, the soldiers
marched through vast and gloomy forests, and all was melancholy. One could
have imagined himself to be in a desert if it had not been for the
vehicles, the cursing of the drivers, discontented on account of hunger and
fatigue, the imprecations of the soldiers on every occasion; bad humor, due
to privations, prevailed everywhere. It would seem as if the furies of hell
were marching at the heels of the army. The roads were in a terrible
condition, almost unpassable on account of the rain which had been
continuous since the crossing of the Niemen; the artillery wagons
especially gave great trouble in passing marshes, and, on account of the
extreme exhaustion of the horses, a great many of these vehicles had to be
abandoned. The horses receiving no nourishment but green herbs could resist
even less than the men and they fell by the hundred.

The improper feeding of the animals caused gastric disturbances,
alternately diarrhoea and constipation, enormous tympanitis, peritonitis.
It is touching to read of the devotion of German cavalrymen to their poor
horses. They would introduce the whole arm into the bowel to relieve the
suffering creatures of the accumulated fecal masses.

As the army advanced over these roads the extreme want of provisions was
bitterly felt. The warriors already reduced to such an excess of misery
were exposed to rain without being able to dry themselves; to nourish
themselves they were forced to resort to the most horrible marauding, and
sometimes they had nothing to eat for twenty-four hours or even longer.
They ran through the land in all directions, disregarding all dangers,
sometimes many miles away from the route, to find provisions. Wherever they
came they went through the houses from the foundation to the roof, and when
they found animals they took them away; no attention was paid to the
feeling of the poor peasants and nothing was considered as being too harsh
for them; in most instances the latter had run away for fear of
maltreatment. Nothing is so afflicting as to see the rapacity of pillaging
soldiers, stealing and destroying everything coming under their hands. They
took to excess vodka found in the magazines which the enemy had not
destroyed, or in the castles off the main route. In consequence of this
abuse of alcohol while in their feeble condition many perished. The enemy
retreated behind the Dwina and fortified himself in camp. It was thought
that he would give battle, and all enjoyed this prospect.

On July 20, at a time when the conditions of the army were already
terrible, the heat became excessive. The rains ceased; there were no rainy
days, except an occasional storm, until September 17. The poor infantrymen
were to be pitied; they had to carry their arms, their effects, their
cartridges, harassed by continuous fatigue, overpowered by hunger and a
thousand sorrows, and were obliged to march 10, 12, 15, and sometimes even
16 and 17 miles a day over dusty roads under a burning sun, all the time
tormented by a cruel thirst. But all this has been fully described in an
earlier chapter.

On July 23 the Prince of Eckmuehl (Davout) had a very hot engagement with
the Russian army corps under Prince _Bagratian_ before Mohilew; on
July 25, a bloody battle was fought near Ostrowno. The houses and other
buildings of Ostrowno were filled with wounded, the battlefield covered
with corpses of men and horses, and the hot weather caused quick
putrefaction. Kerckhove visited the battlefield on June 28 and says: "I
have no words to describe the horror of seeing the unburied cadavers,
infesting the air, and among the dead many helpless wounded without a
drop of water, exposed to the hot sun, crying in rage and despair."

Napoleon made preparations to attack on July 28, but the enemy had
retreated. At Witepsk, hospitals were established for the wounded from
Ostrowno, among them 800 Russians. However, the designation "hospital" is
hardly applicable, for everything was wanting; the patients in infected
air, crowded, and surrounded by uncleanliness, without food or medicines.
These hospitals were in reality death-houses. The physicians did what they
could. On August 18, the French army entered Smolensk which had been
destroyed by projectiles and by fire; ruins filled with the dead and dying;
and in the midst of this desolation the terror-stricken inhabitants running
everywhere, looking for members of their families--many of whom had been
killed by bullets or by flames--or sitting before their still smoking
homes, tearing their hair, a picture of distress truly heartrending. The
soldiers who were the first to enter Smolensk found flour, brandy and wine,
but these things were devoured in an instant. There were 10 thousand
wounded in the so-called hospitals, and among these unfortunates typhus and
hospital gangraene developed rapidly; the sick lying on the floor without
even straw.

Holzhausen gives the following description:

After Smolensk had been evacuated by the Russians, most houses had been
burnt out; the retreating Russians had destroyed everything that could be
of any use. Corpses everywhere. Nobody had time to remove them, and the
cannons, the freight wagons, the horses, and the infantry passed over them.
On August 17th and 18th, was the battle of Polotsk in which the Bavarians
distinguished themselves. There were no medicines for the wounded, not even
drinking water, no bread, no salt. Of the many unhealthy places in Russia
this is the worst, it swarms with insects. Nostalgia was prevailing. They
had a so-called dying chamber in the hospital for which the soldiers were
longing, to rest there on straw, never to rise again.

Awaiting their last the pious Bavarians repeated aloud their rosary, took
refuge with the Jesuits, who had a convent at Polotsk, to receive the
consolation of their religion.

Some thought Napoleon would rest here to establish the Polish kingdom. But
this reasonable idea, if he had ever entertained it, he discarded. By
giving his troops winter quarters, establishing magazines and hospitals he
would have succeeded in subduing Russia by reinforcing his army; instead of
all this he went on to Moscow without provisions, without magazines.

On August 30, the army reached Wiasma, a city of 8 thousand or 9 thousand
inhabitants which had been set on fire upon the approach of the French. All
the inhabitants had left. The soldiers fought the flames and saved some
houses into which they brought those of their wounded and sick who could
not drag themselves any farther. Cases of typhus were numerous. From Wiasma
the army marched to Ghiat, a city of 6 thousand or 7 thousand inhabitants;
at this place Napoleon gave a two days' rest in order that the army could
rally, clean their arms and prepare for battle (the battle of Borodino on
September 7. This battle is known under three names: the Russians have
called it after the village of Borodino, of 200 inhabitants, near the
battlefield and have now erected a monument there, a collonade crowned with
a cross; some historians have called it the battle of Moshaisk, after a
nearby town of 4 thousand inhabitants, and Napoleon has named it the battle
of the Moskwa, after a river near the battlefield.) Napoleon had only 120
thousand to 130 thousand under arms, about as many as the Russians. It was
6:30 a.m., a beautiful sunrise. Napoleon called it the sun of Austerlitz.
The Russian generals made their soldiers say their prayers. A French cannon
gave the signal to attack, and at once the French batteries opened the
battle with a discharge of more than 100 cannon. Writing this medical
history of the Russian campaign I feel tempted to give a description of
this most frightful, most cruel of all battles in the history of the world
in which about 1,200 cannon without interruption dealt destruction and
death; fracas and tumult of arms of all kinds, the harangue, the shouts of
the commanders, the cries of rage, the lamentations of the wounded, all
blended into one terrible din. Both armies charged with all the force that
terror could develop. French and Russian soldiers not only fought like
furious lions rivaling each other in ardor and courage, but they fought
with wild joy, devoid of all human feeling, like maniacs; they threw
themselves on the enemy where he was most numerous, in a manner which
manifested the highest degree of despair. The French had to gain the
victory or succumb to misery; victory or death was their only thought. The
Russians felt themselves humiliated by the approach of the French to their
capital, and unshaken as a rock they resisted, defending themselves with
grim determination. The battle, Napoleon promised, would be followed by
peace and good winter quarters, but he was not as good a prophet as he was
a good general.

During the day the Westphalian corps was reduced to 1500 men. Napoleon
ordered these to do guard-duty on the battlefield, transport the immense
number of wounded to the hospitals, bury the dead and to remain while the
army marched and stayed at Moscow. What the Westphalians could do for the
wounded was very little, for everything was wanting. The hospital system
was incomplete, miserable. It is true, the surgeons dressed, operated,
amputated, during the battle and during the days following, a great many
wounded, but their number and their assistance was inadequate for the
enormous task; thousands remained without proper attendance and died.

About one thousand Wuerttembergians were wounded in the battle of Borodino,
and on many of these surgical operations had to be performed. Strange to
say, the greatest operations on enfeebled wounded were more successful, a
great many more were saved, than was generally the case under more
favorable circumstances. Thus Surgeon General von Kohlreuter observed that
in the Russian campaign amputation of an arm, for instance, gave much
better chances, more recoveries, than in the Saxon and French campaigns,
during which latter the soldiers were still robust, well nourished and
well, even in abundance, supplied with everything.

Means of transportation were lacking, for no wagons could be found in the
deserted villages, and for this reason many whose wounds had been dressed
had to be left to their fate--to die. Those but slightly wounded and those
even who could crawl in some manner followed the troops, or went back at
random to find their death in some miserable hut. Many sought refuge in
nearby villages, sometimes miles away from the battle-field, there to fall
into the hands of the Cossacks.

The Westphalians remained on the battle-field surrounded by corpses and
dying men, and they were forced to change position from time to time on
account of the stench. The scenes of suffering and distress which the
battle-field presented everywhere surpassed all description; the groans of
the mutilated and dying followed the men on guard even at a distance, and
especially was this terrible during the night; it filled the heart with
horror, von Borcke said that soldiers, at the request of some of the
wounded in extreme agony, shot them dead and turned the face away while
shooting. And soon they considered this an act of pity. The officers even
induced them to look for those who could not be saved, in order to relieve
them from their suffering. When von Borcke was riding on horseback over the
battle-field on the 5th. day after the battle he saw wounded soldiers lying
alongside the cadaver of a horse, gnawing at its flesh. During the night
flames could be seen here and there on this field of death; these were
fires built by wounded soldiers who had crawled together to protect
themselves from the cold of the night and to roast a piece of horseflesh.
On September 12th. the Westphalians moved to Moshaisk, which was deserted
by all inhabitants, plundered, and half in ashes. While the battle raged
several thousand wounded Russians had taken refuge there, who now, some
alive and some dead, filled all the houses of the town. Burnt bodies were
lying in the ruins of the houses which had been burnt, the entrance of
these places being almost blockaded by cadavers. The only church, which
stood on the public square in the middle of the town, contained several
hundred wounded and as many corpses of men dead for a number of days. One
glance into this infected church, a regular pest-house, made the blood
curdle. Surgeons went inside and had the dead piled up on the square around
the church; those still alive and suffering received the first aid, order
was established and gradually a hospital arranged. Soldiers, Westphalians
as well as Russian prisoners, were ordered to remove the corpses from the
houses and the streets, and then a recleansing of the whole town was
necessary before it could be occupied by the troops. Although there was
only one stone building--and a hundred wooden ones--it gave quarters to
the whole Westphalian corps. Two regiments, one of Hussars, the other of
the light Horse Guards, both together numbering not more than 300 men,
had taken possession of a monastery in the neighborhood. Two regiments
of cuirassiers had marched with the French to Moscow.

In the quarters of Moshaisk the Westphalians enjoyed a time of rest, while
the events in Moscow took place. The fate of those who had remained in
Moshaisk was not enviable, but what had been left of the town offered at
least shelter during the cold nights of the approaching winter. This was a
good deal after the fearful hardships, and it contributed much toward the
recuperation of the soldiers. Convalescents arrived daily, also such as had
remained in the rear; a number of the slightly wounded were able for duty
again, and in this manner the number of men increased to 4,500. Life in
Moshaisk was a constant struggle for sustenance. There were no inhabitants,
not even a single dog or any other living animal which the inhabitants had
left behind. Some provisions found in houses or hidden somewhere benefitted
only those who had discovered them. The place upon the whole was a desert
for the hungry. Small detachments had to be sent out for supplies. At first
this system proved satisfactory, and with what had been brought in from the
vicinity regular rations could be distributed. But the instinct of
self-preservation had become so predominating that every one thought only
of himself. Officers would send men clandestinely for their own sake, and
when this was discovered it ended in a fight and murder. Everyone was
anxious to provide for himself individually, to be prepared for the coming
winter. Sutlers and speculators went to Moscow to take advantage of the
general pillage, to procure luxuries, like coffee, sugar, tea, wine,
delicacies of all description. Notwithstanding the great conflagration at
Moscow immense stores of all these things had come into the hands of the
French, and this had an influence on Moshaisk, forty miles away from the
metropolis, von Borke was fortunate enough to secure a supply of coffee,
tea, and sugar, sufficient not only for himself, but also for some friends,
and lasting even for some weeks on the retreat. But the supply of meat, and
especially bread, was inadequate for the mass of soldiers. Ten days had
elapsed when the situation of those in Moshaisk became grave again, namely,
when communication with Moscow was cut off. Orderlies did not arrive, no
more convalescents came, news could not be had, details of soldiers sent
out for supplies were killed or taken prisoner by Cossacks. The retreat of
the French army, the last act of the great drama, commenced.

While the Westphalians guarded the battle-field the army marched to Moscow,
exhausted, starving, finding new sufferings every day. On the road from
Moshaisk to Moscow they encountered frightful conditions in the villages
which were filled with wounded Russians. These unfortunates, abandoned to
cruel privations, dying as much from starvation as from their wounds,
excited pity. The water even was scarce, and when a source was discovered
it was generally polluted, soiled with all sorts of filth, infected by
cadavers; but all this did not prevent the soldiers from drinking it with
great avidity, and they fought among themselves to approach it. All these
details have to be known before studying typhus in the grand army.

       *       *       *       *       *

The description of diseases given by the physicians who lived a century ago
is for us unsatisfactory; we cannot understand what they meant by their
vague designating of hepatitis, fibrous enteritis, diarrhoea and dysentery,
peripneumonia, remittent and intermittent gastric fever, protracted nervous
fever, typhus and synochus; there is no distinction made in any of the
writings of that period between abdominal and exanthematic typhus.

However, before long physicians will discard much from our present medical
onomatology that is ridiculous, absurd, incorrect, in short, unscientific,
as, for instance, the designation typhoid fever.

Ebstein has pointed out all that is obscure to us in the reports of the
physicians of the Russian campaign; for instance, that we cannot
distinguish what is meant by the different forms of fever. According to the
views of those times fever was itself a disease _per se_; when reaction was
predominating it was called synocha, typhus when weakness was the feature,
and in case of a combination of synocha and typhus it was called synochus,
a form in which there was at first an inflammatory and later on a typhoid
stage, but which form could not be distinguished exactly from typhus. From
all the descriptions in the reports of the Russian campaign it can be
deduced that many of the cases enumerated were of exanthematic typhus,
notwithstanding that the symptomatology given is very incomplete, not to
speak of the pathological anatomy. The only writer who has described
necropsies is von Scherer. Some of the physicians speak only of the sick
and the diseases, as Bourgeois, who says that on the march to Russia during
the sultry weather the many cadavers of horses putrefied rapidly, filling
the air with miasms, and that this caused much disease; further, in
describing the retreat he only says that the army was daily reduced in
consequence of the constant fighting, the privations and diseases,
without enumerating which diseases were prevailing; only in a note
attached to his booklet he mentions that the most frequent of the
ravaging diseases of that time and during the Russian campaign in general
was typhus, and there can be no doubt it was petechial or exanthematic
typhus, for which the English literature has the vague name typhus fever.

Very interesting are the historical data given by Ebstein: "As is well
known, the fourth and most severe typhus period of the eighteenth century
began with the wars of the French revolution and ended only during the
second decade of the nineteenth century with the downfall of the Napoleonic
empire and the restoration of peace in Germany." During the Russian
campaign the conditions for spreading the disease were certainly the most
favorable imaginable.

Krantz, whom I shall quote later on, has described the ophthalmy prevailing
in York's corps as being of a mild character.

Quite different forms reigned among the soldiers on their retreat from

The description of the death from frost given by von Scherer is similar to
that given by Bourgeois. The men staggered as if drunk, their faces were
red and swollen, it looked as if all their blood had risen into their head.
Powerless they dropped, as if paralyzed, the arms were hanging down, the
musket fell out of their hands. The moment they lost their strength tears
came to their eyes, repeatedly they arose, apparently deprived of their
senses, and stared shy and terror-stricken at their surroundings. The
physiognomy, the spasmodic contractions of the muscles of the face,
manifested the cruel agony which they suffered. The eyes were very
red, and drops of blood trickled from the conjunctiva. Without
exaggeration it could be said of these unfortunates that they shed bloody
tears. These severe forms of ophthalmy caused by extreme cold would have
ended in gangraene of the affected parts if death had not relieved the
misery of these unfortunates.

But Bourgeois describes another very severe form of ophthalmy among the
soldiers which caused total blindness. It appeared when the army on its
retreat was in the vicinity of Orscha, attacked many soldiers and resembled
the ophthalmy which was prevailing in Egypt; there it was caused by the
heated sand reflecting powerfully the rays of the sun; here, by the glaring
white snow likewise reflecting the rays of the sun. Bourgeois considers as
predisposing moments the smoke of the camp-fires, the want of sleep, the
marching during the night, and describes the affection as follows: The
conjunctiva became dark red, swelled together with the eyelids; there was a
greatly exaggerated lachrymal secretion associated with severe pain; the
eyes were constantly wet, the photophobia reached such a degree that the
men became totally blind, suffered most excruciating pain and fell on the

Ebstein availed himself of the publications of J. L. R. de Kerckhove, Réné
Bourgeois, J. Lemazurier, and Joh. von Scherer, and the manuscript of
Harnier from which writings he collected all that refers to the diseases
of the grand army. It may not be out of place to quote the interesting
writings of de Kerckhove concerning the army physicians and Napoleon and
his soldiers:

De Kerckhove left Mayence on March 6th., 1812, attached to the headquarters
of the 3rd. corps, commanded by Ney; at Thorn he joined those braves with
whom he entered Moscow on September 14th. and with whom he left on October
19th. When he returned to Berlin in the beginning of February, 1813, the
3rd. corps was discharged. He writes: The army was not only the most
beautiful, but there was none which included so many brave warriors, more
heroes. How many parents have cried over the loss of their children
tenderly raised by them, how many sons, the only hope and support of their
father and mother, have perished, how many bonds of friendship have been
severed, how many couples have been separated forever, how many unfortunate
ones drawn into misery? An army extinguished by hunger and cold!

Giving credit to the physicians and surgeons who took part in that
unfortunate expedition he says: With what noble zeal they tried to do their
duties. The horror of the privations, the severity of the climate and
fatigues and the want of eatables and medicines which characterized the
hospitals and ambulances in Russia, have not discouraged the physicians so
far as to become indifferent to the terrible fate reserved for the sick. On
the contrary, far from allowing themselves to relax, they have doubled
their activity to ameliorate sufferings. We have seen physicians
in the midst of the carnage and the terror of the battles extend their care
and bring consolation; we have seen them sacrificing day and night in
hospital service, succumbing to murderous epidemics; in one word, despising
all danger when it was a question of relieving the sufferings of the
warriors, immaterial whether Russian or French. We can speak of many sick
or wounded left in ambulances or hospitals in want of food and medicines,
many of such unfortunates deprived of everything, dragging themselves under
the ruins of cities or villages, who found help from honest physicians.


Three fifths of the houses and one half of the churches were destroyed. The
citizens had burned their capital. Before this catastrophe of 1812 Moscow
was an aristocratic city. According to old usage, the Russian nobility
spent the winter there, they came from their country seats with hundreds of
slaves and servants and many horses; their palaces in the city were
surrounded by parks and lakes, and many buildings were erected on the
grounds, as lodgings for the servants and slaves, stables, magazines. The
number of servants was great, many of them serving for no other purpose
than to increase the number, and this calling was part of the luxury of the
noblemen. The house of the seigneur was sometimes of brick, rarely of
stone, generally of wood, all were covered with copper plates or with iron,
painted red or green. The magazines were mostly stone buildings, on account
of the danger of fire. At that time the Russian nobility had not yet
accustomed itself to consider St. Petersburg the capital, they were
obstinate in the determination to come every winter to hold court in the
mother of Russian cities. The conflagration of 1812 broke this tradition.
The nobility, not willing or not being able to rebuild their houses, rented
the ground to citizens, and industry, prodigiously developing since then,
has taken possession of Moscow. This is how the city has lost its floating
population of noblemen and serfs, which amounted to 100 thousand souls,
and how the aristocratic city has become an industrial one. It is a new
city, but the fire of 1812, from the ashes of which it has risen, has
left impressions on the monuments. Step by step in the Kremlin and in
the city proper are found souvenirs of the patriotic war. You enter the
Kremlin which Napoleon tried to explode, and which has been restored,
you visit there the church of the Annunciation, and you will be told
that the French soldiers had stabled their horses on the pavement
of agate; you visit the church of the Assumption and you will be shown the
treasures which, on the approach of the French, had been taken to places of
safety; you raise your eye to the summit of the tower of Ivan and you learn
that the cross had been removed by the invaders and found in the baggage of
the Grand Army. The door of St. Nicholas has an inscription recalling the
miracle by which this door was saved in 1812. The tower surmounting it was
split by an explosion from above downward, but the fissure ended at the
very point where the icon is found; the explosion of 500 pounds of powder
did not break even the glass which covers the image or the crystal of the
lamp which burns before it. Along the walls of the arsenal are the cannon
taken from the enemy, and in the arsenal are other trophies, including the
camp-bed of Napoleon.

Russian accounts from eye-witnesses of the conflagration are few--in fact,
there exists none in writing. People who witnessed the catastrophe could
not write. What we possess are collections from verbal accounts given by
servants, serfs, who had told the events to their masters. Nobody of
distinction had remained in Moscow, none of the nobility, the clergy, the
merchants. The persons from whom the following accounts are given were the
nun Antonine, a former slave of the Syraxine family, the little peddler
Andreas Alexieef, a woman, Alexandra Alexievna Nazarot, an old slave of the
family Soimonof by the name of Basilli Ermolaevitch, the wife of a pope,
Maria Stepanova, the wife of another pope, Helene Alexievna. A Russian
lady has collected what she had learned from these humble people,
the eye-witnesses of the catastrophe, and published it, pseudonym,
in some Russian journal. All these people had minutely narrated their
experiences to her at great length, not omitting any detail which
concerned themselves or circumstances which caused their surprise, and
they all gave the dates, the hours which they had tenaciously kept in
their memory for sixty years, for it was in the year 1872 when the
Russian lady interrogated them. Some had retained from those days of
terror such vivid impressions that a conflagration or the sight of a
soldier's casque would cause them palpitation of the heart. There is
much repetition in their narrations, for all had seen the same: the
invasion, the enemy, the fire kindled by their own people, the misery,
the dearth, the pillage. There exist documents of the events in Moscow of
1812, the souvenirs of Count de Toll, the apology of Rostopchine, which we
shall come to in another chapter, the recitals of Domerque, of Wolzogen, of
Ségur, but these reminiscences of people in Moscow are the only ones from
persons who actually suffered by the catastrophe, and they are in their way
as valuable as the writings of our two writers, von Scherer and von Borcke.
These plain people know nothing of the days of Erfurt, nothing of the
continental blocus, nothing of the withdrawal of Alexander from the
French Alliance; the bearers of the toulloupes (sheepskin furs) in the
streets of Moscow of the beginning of 1812 knew nothing of the
confederation of the Rhine; all they knew of Bonaparte was that he had
often beaten the Germans, and that on his account they had to pay more for
sugar and coffee. To them the great comet of 1811 was the first
announcement of coming great events. Let us see the reflections which the
comet inspired in the abbess of the Devitchi convent and the nun Antonine,
and this will give us an idea of the mental condition of the latter, one of
the narrators. "One evening," she relates, "we were at service in St.
John's church, when all of a sudden I noticed on the horizon a gerbe of
resplendent flames. I cried out and dropped my lantern. Mother abbess came
to me to learn what had caused my fright, and when she also had seen the
meteor she contemplated a long time. I asked, Matouchka, what star is this?
She answered this is no star, this is a comet. I asked again what is a
comet? I never had heard that word. The mother then explained to me that
this was a sign from heaven which God had sent to foretell great
misfortune. Every evening this comet was seen, and we asked ourselves what
calamity this one might bring us. In the cells of the convent, in the shops
of the city, the news, traveling as the crow flies, was heard that
Bonaparte was leading against Russia an immense army, the like of which the
world had never seen. Only the veterans of the battles of Austerlitz,
Eylau, and Friedland could give some information, some details of the
character of the invader. The direction which Napoleon took on his march
left no doubt to any one that he would appear in Moscow. In order to raise
the courage which was sinking they had the miraculous image of the Virgin
conductrice brought from Smolensk, which place was to be visited by the
French. This icon was exposed in the cathedral of St. Michael the
Archangel, for veneration by the people. The abbess of our convent, who was
from Smolensk, had a special devotion for this image, she went with all the
nuns to salute the Protatrix. At St. Michael the Archangel there was a
great crowd so that one hardly could stand, especially were there many
women, all crying. When we, the nuns, began to push, to get near the image,
one after the other in a line endlessly long, they looked upon us with
impatience. One woman said: 'These soutanes should make room for us, it is
not their husbands, it is our husbands', our sons' heads, which will be
exposed to the guns.'"

Rostopchine tried his best to keep the population at peace by his original
proclamations, which were pasted on all the walls and distributed
broadcast. After Borodino he urged the people to take up arms, and he
promised to be at the head of the men to fight a supreme battle on the
Three Mountains. Meanwhile he worked to save the treasures of the church,
the archives, the collections of precious objects in the government
palaces. From the arsenal he armed the people. A tribune was erected from
which the metropolitan addressed the multitude and made them kneel down to
receive his blessing. Rostopchine stood behind the metropolitan and came
forward after the priest had finished his ellocution, saying that he had
come to announce a great favor of his majesty. As a proof that they should
not be delivered unarmed to the enemy, his majesty permitted them to
pillage the arsenal, and the people shouted: "Thanks, may God give to the
Tzar many years to live!" This was a very wise idea of Rostopchine to have
the arsenal emptied, a feat which he could not have accomplished in time in
any other way. The pillage lasted several days and went on in good order.

       *       *       *       *       *

The French had entered Moscow. The first word of Napoleon to Mortier, whom
he had named governor of Moscow, was "no pillage!" But this point of honor
had to be abandoned. The 100 thousand men who had entered were troops of
the élite, but they came starving at the end of their adventurous
expedition. During the first days they walked the streets in search of a
piece of bread and a little wine. But little had been left in the cellars
of the abandoned houses and in the basements of the little shops, and with
the conflagration there was almost nothing to be found. The Grand Army was
starving as much almost as on the march. Dogs which had returned in
considerable numbers to lament on the ruins of the houses of their masters
were looked upon as precious venison. The uniforms were already in rags,
and the Russian climate made itself felt. These poor soldiers, poorly clad,
dying from starvation, were begging for a piece of bread, for linen or
sheepskin, and, above all, for shoes. There was no arrangement for the
distribution of rations; they had to take from wherever they could, or

Napoleon established himself in the Kremlin, the generals in the mansions
of the noblemen, the soldiers in the taverns or private houses until the
fire dislodged them. Napoleon, with a part of his staff, was obliged to
seek refuge in the park Petrovski, the commanders took quarters wherever
they could, the soldiers dispersed themselves among the ruins.
Supervision had become an impossibility. The men, left to
themselves, naturally lost all discipline under these circumstances of
deception and under so many provocations among a hostile population.
Notwithstanding all these conditions, they behaved well in general and to a
great extent showed self-control and humanity toward the conquered. The
example of pillage had been set by the Russians themselves. Koutouzof had
commanded the destruction of the mansions. The slaves burned the palaces of
their masters.

All eye-witnesses speak of the extreme destitution of the soldiers in
regard to clothing after one month's stay in Moscow. Already at this time,
even before the most terrible and final trials of the retreat which awaited
them, one had to consider them lost. When they first took to woman's
clothes or shoes or hats it was considered an amusement, a joke, but very
soon a mantilla, a soutane, a veil became a precious object and nobody
laughed at it when frozen members were wrapped in these garments. The
greatest calamity was the want of shoes. Some soldiers followed women
simply for the purpose of taking their shoes from them. A special chapter
of horrors could be written on the sufferings of the soldiers on the
retreat over ice and snow fields on account of the miserable supply of

At first Napoleon reviewed the regiments near the ponds of the Kremlin, and
at the first reviews the troops marched proudly, briskly, with firm step,
but soon they began to fail with astonishing rapidity. They answered the
roll of the drums calling them together, clad in dirty rags and with torn
shoes, in fast diminishing numbers. During the last weeks of their stay in
Moscow many had reached the last stage of misery, after having wandered
through the streets looking for a little bit of nourishment, dressed up as
for a carnival, but without desire to dance, as one remarked in grim humor.

These were the men whose destination had brought them many hundreds of
miles from home to the semi-Asiatic capital of the Ivans, who had been
drinking in the glory and the joy of warriors, and who now died from hunger
and cold, with their laurels still intact. Thanks to the authorized
military requisitions and the excesses of the stragglers of the Grand Army,
a desert had been made of the city before Napoleon had begun his retreat.
No more cattle, no provisions, and the inhabitants gone, camping with wife
and children in the deepest parts of the forests. Those who had remained or
returned to the villages, organized against marauders whom they received
with pitchforks or rifles, and these peasants gave no quarter.

"The enemy appeared nearly every day in our village (Bogorodsic)," says
Maria Stepanova, the wife of a pope, "and as soon as they were perceived
all men took up arms; our cossacks charged them with their long sabers or
shot them with their pistols, and behind the cossacks were running the
peasants, some with axes, some with pitchforks. After every excursion they
brought ten or more prisoners which they drowned in the Protka which runs
near the village, or they fusilladed them on the prairie. The unfortunates
passed our windows, my mother and I did not know where to hide ourselves in
order not to hear their cries and the report of the firearms. My poor
husband, Ivan Demitovitch, became quite pale, the fever took him,
his teeth chattered, he was so compassionate! One day the cossacks brought
some prisoners and locked them up in a cart-house built of stone. They are
too few, they said, it is not worth while to take any trouble about them
now; with the next lot which we shall take we will shoot or drown them
together. This cart-house had a window with bars. Peasants came to look at
the prisoners and gave them bread and boiled eggs; they did not want to see
them starving while awaiting death. One day when I brought them eatables I
saw at the window a young soldier--so young! His forehead was pressed
against the bars, tears in his eyes, and tears running down his cheeks. I
myself began to cry, and even to-day my heart aches when I think of him. I
passed lepecheks through the bars and went away without looking behind me.
At that time came an order from the government that no more prisoners
should be killed but sent to Kalouga. How we were contented!"

Many savageries have been committed by the low class of Russians who had
remained in Moscow. This is not surprising because these were of the most
depraved of the population, including especially many criminals who had
been set free to pillage and burn the city. "A little while before the
French entered," tells the serf Soimonof, "the order had been given to
empty all the vodka (whiskey) from the distilleries of the crown into the
street; the liquor was running in rivulets, and the rabble drank until they
were senselessly drunk, they had even licked the stones and the wooden
pavement. Shouting and fighting naturally followed."

The really good people of Moscow had given proofs of high moral qualities,
worthy of admiration, under the sad circumstances. Poor moujiks who had
learned of the defeat of the Russians at Borodino said their place was no
longer in a city which was to be desecrated by the presence of the enemy,
and, leaving their huts to be burned down, their miserable belongings to be
pillaged, they went on the highways at the mercy of God, disposed to march
as long as their eyes could see before them. Others, running before the
flames, carried their aged and sick on their shoulders, showing but one
sentiment in their complete ruin, namely, absolute resignation to the will
of God.

Some readers may say that the foregoing chapter does not give the medical
history of the campaign. To these I wish to reply that it is impossible to
understand the medical history without knowing the general conditions of
the Grand Army, which were the cause of the death of hundreds of thousands
of soldiers from cold and starvation.


The conflagration of Moscow in 1812 and the fall of the French empire are
two facts which cannot be separated, but to the name of Moscow is attached
another name, that of Rostopchine. Count Fedor Wassiljavitch Rostopchine is
connected with one of the greatest events in universal history. He caused a
crisis which decided the fate of Russia and arrested the march of ascending
France by giving the death blow to Napoleon. The latter, in admitting that
Rostopchine was the author of his ruin, meant him when he said, "one man
less, and I would have been master of the world."

Until the year 1876 there existed a mystery around this man and his deed, a
mystery which was deepened by Rostopchine himself when he published in 1823
a pamphlet entitled "The Truth about the Conflagration of Moscow," which
did not give the truth but was a mystification.

Alexander Popof, a Russian Counselor of State, who made a special study of
the history of the Russian campaign of Napoleon, has explored the archives
of St. Petersburg, and his researches, the result of which he published in
Russian in the year 1876, have brought to light all diplomacy had concealed
about the events which led to the destruction of the Russian capital.

What document, one might ask, could be more precious than the memoirs of
Rostopchine, the governor of Moscow in 1812? What good fortune for the
historian! In 1872 Count Anatole de Ségur, grandson of Rostopchine, the
author of a biography of the latter, wrote, concerning these memoirs, that
they were seized, together with all the papers of his grand-father, by
order of the Emperor Nicholas, immediately after Rostopchine's death in the
year 1826, and were locked up in the archives of the Imperial Chancellor
where they would remain, perhaps forever. Fortunately, one of the daughters
of Count Rostopchine had taken a copy of some passages of this precious
manuscript. These passages were published in 1864 by a son of Rostopchine,
Count Alexis R., in a book entitled "Materiaux en grande partie inédits,
pour la biographie future du Comte Rostopchine," which is of a rare
bibliographic value, for only twelve copies were printed. These same
fragments, three in number, were reproduced by Count Anatole de Ségur in
the biography of his ancestor, of which we have spoken. Aside from these
extracts nothing was known of Rostopchine's memoirs until Popof had made
his researches. To verify the memoirs Popof quotes long passages which he
compares carefully with other documents of that epoch. This book on the
whole is a continuous commentary upon the memoirs of Rostopchine.

Rostopchine, having been made governor of Moscow in March, 1812, wrote to
the Tzar: "Your empire has two strongholds, its immensity and its climate.
It has these 16,000,000 men who profess the same creed, speak the same
language, and whose chin has never been touched by a razor. The long beards
are the power of Russia, and the blood of your soldiers will be a seed of
heroes. If unfortunate circumstances should force you to retreat before the
invader, the Russian emperor will always be terrible in Moscow, formidable
in Kazan, invincible at Tobolsk." This letter was dated June 11/23, 1812.

At that time Rostopchine was 47 years of age, in perfect health and had
developed a most extraordinary activity, something which was not known of
his predecessors; the governors of Moscow before his time had been old and
decrepit. He understood the character of the Russian people and made
himself popular at once, and adored, because he made himself accessible to
everybody. He himself describes how he went to work: "I announced that every
day from 11 to noon everybody had access to me, and those who had something
important to communicate would be received at any hour during the day. On
the day of my taking charge I had prayers said and candles lighted before
such miraculous pictures as enjoyed the highest popular veneration. I
studied to show an extraordinary politeness to all who had dealings with
me; I courted the old women, the babblers and the pious, especially the
latter. I resorted to all means to make myself agreeable; I had the coffins
raised which served as signs to the undertakers and the inscriptions pasted
on the church doors. It took me two days to pull the wool over their eyes
(_pour jeter la poudre aux yeux_) and to persuade the greater part of the
inhabitants that I was indefatigable and that I was everywhere. I succeeded
in giving this idea by appearing on the same morning at different places,
far apart from each other, leaving traces everywhere of my justice and
severity; thus on the first day I had arrested an officer of the
military hospital whose duty it was to oversee the distribution of the
soup, but who had not been present when it was time for dinner. I rendered
justice to a peasant who had bought 30 pounds of salt but received only 25;
I gave the order to imprison an employee who had not done his duty; I went
everywhere, spoke to everyone and learned many things which afterward were
useful to me. After having tired to death two pairs of horses I came home
at 8 o'clock, changed my civilian costume for the military uniform and made
myself ready to commence my official work." Thus Rostopchine took the
Moscovitians by their foibles, played the rôle of Haroun-al-Raschid, played
comedy; he even employed agents to carry the news of the town to him, to
canvass war news and to excite enthusiasm in the cafés and in all kinds of
resorts of the common people.

When the emperor notified him one day of his coming visit to the capital
and transmitted a proclamation in which he announced to his people the
danger of the country, Rostopchine developed great activity. "I went to
work," he writes in his memoirs, "was on my feet day and night, held
meetings, saw many people, had printed along with the imperial proclamation
a bulletin worded after my own fashion, and the next morning the people of
Moscow on rising learned of the coming of the sovereign. The nobility felt
flattered on account of the confidence which the emperor placed in them,
and became inspired with a noble zeal, the merchants were ready to give
money, only the common people apparently remained indifferent, because they
did not believe it possible that the enemy could enter Moscow." The
longbeards repeated incessantly:

"Napoleon cannot conquer us, he would have to exterminate us all."

But the streets became crowded with people, the stores were closed, every
one went first to the churches to pray for the Tzar, and from there to the
gate of Dragomilof to salute the imperial procession upon its arrival. The
enthusiasm ran so high that the idea was conceived to unhitch the horses
from his coach and carry him in his carriage. This, as Rostopchine tells
us, was the intention not only of the common people but of many
distinguished ones also, even of such as wore decorations. The emperor, to
avoid such exaggerated manifestations, was obliged to arrange for his entry
during the night. On the next morning when the Tzar, according to the old
custom, showed himself to his people on the red stairs, the hurrahs, the
shouts of the multitude drowned the sounds of the bells of the forty times
forty churches which were ringing in the city. At every step, thousands of
hands tried to touch the limbs of the sovereign or the flap of his uniform
which they kissed and wet with their tears.

"I learned during the night," writes Rostopchine, "and it was confirmed in
the morning, that there were some persons who had united to ask the emperor
how many troops we had, how many the enemy, and what were the means of
defense. This would have been a bold and, under the present circumstances,
a dangerous undertaking, although I hardly feared that these people would
venture to do so, because they were of those who are brave in private and
poltroons in public.

"At any rate, I had said repeatedly and before everybody that I hoped to
offer the emperor the spectacle of an assembly of a faithful and respectful
nobility, and that I should be in despair if some malevolent person should
permit himself to create disorder and forget the presence of the
sovereign. I promised that any one who would do this might be sure of being
taken in hand and sent on a long journey before he would have finished his

"To give more weight to my words I had stationed, not far from the palace,
two telegues (two-wheeled carts) hitched up with mail horses and two police
officers in road uniform promenading before them. If some curious person
should ask them for whom these telegues were ready, they had orders to
answer, 'for those who will be sent to Siberia.'

"These answers and the news of the telegues soon spread among the assembly;
the bawlers understood and behaved."

The nobility of Riazen had sent a deputation to the emperor to offer him 60
thousand men, armed and equipped. Balachef, the minister of police,
received this deputation scornfully and ordered them to leave Moscow at

There were other offers which were not surprising at that period when the
mass of the people consisted of serfs, but which appear strange to us.
"Many of my acquaintances," writes Kamarovski, "said that they would give
their musicians, others the actors of their theaters, others their hunters,
as it was easier to make soldiers of them than of their peasants."

The Russian noblemen in their love for liberty sacrificed their slaves.
Rostopchine, together with many aristocrats, was not entirely at ease. It
was something anomalous to call to arms for the sake of liberty a nation of
serfs who vividly felt the injustice of their situation; besides, it had
been heard that some moujiks said, "Bonaparte comes to bring us liberty, we
do not want any more seigneurs."

The Russian people in their generality, however, did not justify the fears
of the aristocrats. Their religious fanaticism, nourished by the priests,
their passionate devotion to the Tzar, made them forget their own, just

In Moscow business was at a standstill, the ordinary course of things was
likewise suspended, the population lived in the streets, forming a nervous
crowd, subject to excitement and terror. The question was to keep them in

Here Rostopchine's inborn talent as tribune and publicist, as comedian and
tragedian, showed itself to perfection. He gave a free rein to his
imagination in his placards, in which he affected the proverbial language
of the moujik, made himself a peasant, more than a peasant, in his
eccentric style, to excite patriotism. He published pamphlets against the
French, and the coarser his language the more effect it had on the masses.

"At this time," he writes, "I understood the necessity of acting on the
mind of the people to arouse them so that they should prepare themselves
for all the sacrifices, for the sake of the country. Every day I
disseminated stories and caricatures, which represented the French as
dwarfs in rags, poorly armed, not heavier than a gerbe which one could lift
with a pitchfork."

For curiosity's sake, as an example of his style of fiction by which he
fascinated the Russian peasantry may serve the translation of one of the
stories: "Korniouchka Tchikhirine, an inhabitant of Moscow, a veteran,
having been drinking a little more than usual, hears that Bonaparte
is coming to Moscow, he becomes angry, scolds in coarse terms all
Frenchmen, comes out of the liquor store and under the eagle with
the two heads (the sign that the place is the crown's) he shouts:
What, he will come to us! But you are welcome! For Christmas or
carnival you are invited. The girls await you with knots in their
handkerchiefs, your head will swell. You will do well to dress as the
devil; we shall say a prayer, and you will disappear when the cock crows.
Do better, remain at home, play hide and seek or blind man's buff. Enough
of such farces! don't you see that your soldiers are cripples, dandies?
They have no touloupes, no mittens, no onoutchi (wrappings around the legs
in place of stockings). How will they adapt themselves to Russian habits?
The cabbage will make them bloated, the gruel will make them sick, and
those who survive the winter will perish by the frost at Epiphany. So it
is, yes. At our house doors they will shiver, in the vestibule they will
stand with chattering teeth; in the room they will suffocate, on the stove
they will be roasted. But what is the use of speaking? As often as the
pitcher goes to the well, as often their head will be broken. Charles of
Sweden was another imprudent one like you, of pure royal blood, he has gone
to Poltava, he has not returned. Other rabbits than you Frenchmen were the
Poles, the Tartars, the Swedes; our forefathers, however, have dealt with
them so that one can yet see the tomb-hills around Moscow, as numerous as
mushrooms, and under these mushrooms rest their bones. Ah! our holy mother
Moscow, it is not a city, it is an empire. You have left at home only the
blind and the lame, the old women and the little children. Your size is not
big enough to match the Germans; they will at the first blow throw you on
your back (this remark is wonderfully prophetic). And Russia, do you know
what that is, you cracked head? Six hundred thousand longbeards have been
enlisted, besides 300 thousand soldiers with bare chins, and 200 thousand
veterans. All these are heroes; they believe in one God, obey one Tzar,
make the sign with one cross, these are all brethren. And if it pleases our
father and Tzar, Alexander Pavlovitch, he has to say only one word: To arms,
Christians! And you will see them rising. And even if you should beat the
vanguard? Take your ease! the others will give you such a chase that the
memory of it will remain in all eternity. To come to us! well then! Not
only the tower of Ivan the Great, but also the hill of Prosternations will
remain invisible to you even in your dream. We shall rely on white Russia
and we shall bury you in Poland. As one makes his bed so one sleeps. On
this account reflect, do not proceed, do not start the dance. Turn about
face, go home, and from generation to generation remember what it is, the
Russian nation. Having said all, Tchikhirine went on, briskly singing, and
the people who saw him go said wherever he came, that is well spoken, it is
the truth!"

Rostopchine knew very well how to make Tchikhirine speak when he had been
drinking more than usual, he knew how to make the saints speak, he invented
pious legends which were not guaranteed by the Holy Synod and not found in
the Lives of the Saints.

"After the battle of Borodino," said he in his memoirs, "I ceased to have
recourse to little means to distract the people and occupy their attention.
It required an extraordinary effort of the imagination to invent something
that would excite the people. The most ingenious attempts do not always
succeed, while the clumsy ones take a surprising effect. Among those of the
latter kind there was a story after my fashion of which 5 thousand copies
at one kopek a copy were sold in one day."

The population of Moscow was in a peculiar moral condition. They were most
superstitious, believed the most improbable reports and saw signs from
heaven of the downfall of Napoleon.

"In the city," writes Rostopchine, "rumors were current of visions, of
voices which had been heard in the graveyards. Passages from the
Apocalypsis were quoted referring to Napoleon's fall."

But Rostopchine himself, was he free from credulity? A German by the name
of Leppich constructed, secretly, in one of the gardens of Moscow, a
balloon by means of which the French army should be covered with fire, and
some historians say that Rostopchine was one of the most enthusiastic
admirers of Leppich.

As it may be interesting to learn how he was ahead of his time in regard to
ideas about military balloons let us give the full statement of Popof on
this matter.

In 1812 in Moscow it was exactly as in 1870 in Paris; everybody built hopes
on the military airship, and expected that by means of a Greek fire from a
balloon the whole army of the enemy would be annihilated. Rostopchine, in a
letter dated May 7/19, 1812, gave an account to Emperor Alexander of the
precautions he had taken that the wonderful secret of the construction of
the airship by Leppich should not be revealed. He took the precaution not
to employ any workmen from Moscow. He had already given Leppich 120
thousand rubles to buy material.

"To-morrow," he writes, "under the pretext of dining with some one living
in his vicinity I shall go to Leppich and shall remain with him for a long
time; it will be a feast to me to become more closely connected with a man
whose invention will render military art superfluous, free mankind of its
internal destroyer, make of you the arbiter of kings and empires and the
benefactor of mankind."

In another letter to the emperor, dated June 11/23, 1812, he writes, "I
have seen Leppich; he is a very able man and an excellent mechanician. He
has removed all my doubts in regard to the contrivances which set the wings
of his machine in motion (indeed an infernal construction) and which
consequently might do still more harm to humanity than Napoleon himself.
I am in doubt about one point which I submit to the judgment of your
majesty: when the machine will be ready Leppich proposes to embark on it to
fly as far as Wilna. Can we trust him so completely as not to think of
treason on his part?" Three weeks later he wrote to the emperor "I am fully
convinced of success. I have taken quite a liking to Leppich who is also
very much attached to me; his machine I love like my own child. Leppich
suggests that I should make an air voyage with him, but I cannot decide
about this without the authorization of your majesty."

On September 11th., four days before the evacuation, the fate of Moscow was
decided. On that day at 10 o'clock in the forenoon the following
conversation took place in the house of Rostopchine between him and Glinka.

"Your excellency," said Glinka, "I have sent my family away."

"I have already done the same," answered the count, and tears were in his

"Now," added he, "Serge Nicholaevitch, let us speak like two true friends
of our country. In your opinion, what will happen if Moscow is abandoned?"

"Your excellency knows what I have dared to say on the 15/27 July in the
assembly of the nobility; but tell me in all frankness, count, how shall
Moscow be delivered, with blood, or without blood (s kroviou ili bez

"Bez krovi (without blood)," laconically answered the count.

His word to prince Eugene had been: Burn the capital rather than deliver it
to the enemy; to Ermilof: I do not see why you take so much pains to defend
Moscow at any price; if the enemy occupies the city he will find nothing
that could serve him.

The treasures which belong to the crown and all that is of some value have
already been removed; also, with few exceptions, the treasures of the
churches, the ornaments of gold and silver, the most important archives of
the state, all have been taken to a place of safety. Many of the well-to-do
have already taken away what is precious. There remain in Moscow only 50
thousand persons in the most miserable conditions who have no other asylum.

This was what he said on September 13, and on the same day he wrote to the
emperor that all had been sent away.

But this was not true; there still remained 10 thousand wounded--of whom
the majority would perish in case of a conflagration; there remained an
immense stock of provisions, flour and alcoholic liquor, which would fall
into the hands of the enemy; there was still the arsenal in the Kremlin
containing 150 cannon, 60 thousand rifles, 160 thousand cartridges and a
great deal of sulphur and saltpeter.

During the night from the 14th. to the 15th. Rostopchine developed a great
activity, though he could save only some miraculous images left in the
churches, and destroy some magazines.

The inhabitants suddenly aroused from their security went to the barriers
of the city and obstructed the streets with vehicles; to remove what still
remained in Moscow the means of transportation and the time allowed for
this purpose were insufficient.

Those who remained had nothing to lose and were glad to take revenge on the
rich by burning and pillaging their mansions.

On the 14th. the criminals in the prisons, with one-half of their heads
shaved, were set at liberty that they might participate in the burning and

Before leaving Moscow Rostopchine uncovered his head and said to his son,
"Salute Moscow for the last time; in half an hour it will be on fire."

Quite a literature has developed on the question: who has burned Moscow?
The documents which Popof has examined leave no doubt concerning
Rostopchine's part in regard to its conflagration. But, after all, it was
caused by those who had a right to do it, those who, beginning at
Smolensk, burned their villages, their hamlets, even their ripening or
ripened harvest, after the Russian army had passed and the enemy came in
sight. Who? The Russian people of all classes, of all conditions without
exception, men even invested with public power, and among them Rostopchine.


During the night from October 18th. to October 19th., all soldiers were
busy loading vehicles with provisions and baggage. On October 19th., the
first day of the retreat, forever memorable on account of the misfortune
and heroism which characterized it, the grand army presented a strange
spectacle. The soldiers were in a fair condition, the horses lean and
exhausted. But, above all, the masses following the army were
extraordinary. After an immense train of artillery of 600 cannon, with all
its supplies, came a train of baggage the like of which had never been seen
since the centuries of migration when whole barbarous nations went in
search of new territories for settlement.

The fear that they might run short of rations had caused every regiment,
every battalion, to carry on country wagons all they had been able to
procure of bread and flour; but these wagons carrying provisions were not
the heaviest loaded, not loaded as much as those which were packed with
booty from the conflagration of Moscow; in addition, many soldiers
overtaxing their strength and endurance had filled their knapsacks with
provisions and booty. Most officers had secured light Russian country
wagons to carry provisions and warm clothing. The French, Italian,
and German families, who lived in Moscow and now feared the returning
Russians when again entering their capital, had asked to accompany the
retreating army and formed a kind of a colony among the soldiers; with
these families were also theatrical people and unfortunate women who had
lived in Moscow on prostitution.

The almost endless number, the peculiarity of vehicles of all description,
drawn by miserable horses, loaded with sacks of flour, clothing and
furniture, with sick women and children, constituted a great danger, for
the question was, how could the army maneuvre with such an impediment and,
above all, defend itself against the Cossacks?

Napoleon, surprised and almost alarmed, thought at first to establish
order, but, after some reflection, came to the conclusion that the
accidents of the road would soon reduce the quantity of this baggage, that
it would be useless to be severe with the poor creatures, that, after all,
the wagons would serve to transport the wounded. He consented therefore to
let all go along the best they could, he only gave orders that the column
of these people with their baggage should keep at a distance from the
column of the soldiers in order that the army would be able to maneuvre.

On October 24th. was the battle of Jaroslawetz in which the Russians,
numbering 24 thousand, fought furiously against 10 thousand or 11 thousand
French, to cut off the latter from Kalouga, and the French, on their part,
fought with despair.

The center of the battle was the burning city taken and retaken seven
times; many of the wounded perished in the flames, their cadavers
incinerated, and 10 thousand dead covered the battlefield.

Many of the wounded, who could not be transported had to be left to their
fate at the theater of their glorious devotion, to the great sorrow of
everybody, and many who had been taken along on the march during the first
days after the battle had also to be abandoned for want of means of
transportation. The road was already covered with wagons for which there
were no horses.

The cries of the wounded left on the road were heartrending, in vain did
they implore their comrades not to let them die on the way, deprived of all
aid, at the mercy of the Cossacks.

The artillery was rapidly declining on account of the exhausted condition
of the horses. Notwithstanding all cursing and whipping, the jaded animals
were not able to drag the heavy pieces. Cavalry horses were taken to
overcome the difficulty and this caused a reduction of the strength of the
cavalry regiments without being of much service to the artillery. The
riders parted with their horses, they had tears in their eyes looking for
the last time on their animals, but they did not utter a word.

Cavalrymen, with admirable perseverance and superhuman efforts, dragged the
cannon as far as Krasnoe. All men had dismounted and aided the exhausted
animals only two of which were attached to each piece.

Notwithstanding all the misery of a three-days-march to Moshaisk all were
hopeful. The distance from Moshaisk to Smolensk was covered in seven or
eight days; the weather, although cold during the night, was good during
the day, and the soldiers gladly anticipated to find, after some more
hardship, rest, abundance, and warm winter quarters in Smolensk.


On the march the army camped on the battlefield of Borodino when they saw
50 thousand cadavers lying still unburied, broken wagons, demolished
cannons, helmets, cuirasses, guns spread all over--a horrid sight! Wherever
the victims had fallen in large numbers one could see clouds of birds of
prey rending the air with their sinister cries. The reflections which this
sight excited were profoundly painful. How many victims, and what result!
The army had marched from Wilna to Witebsk, from Witebsk to Smolensk,
hoping for a decisive battle, seeking this battle at Wiasma, then at Ghjat,
and had found it at last at Borodino, a bloody, terrible battle. The army
had marched to Moscow in order to earn the fruit of all that sacrifice, and
at this place nothing had been found but an immense conflagration. The army
returned without magazines, reduced to a comparatively small number, with
the prospect of a severe winter in Poland, and with a far away prospect of
peace,--for peace could not be the price of a forced retreat,--and for such
a result the field of Borodino was covered with 50 thousand dead. Here, as
we have learned, were found the Westphalians, not more than 3 thousand, the
remainder of 10 thousand at Smolensk, of 23 thousand who crossed the

Napoleon gave orders to take the wounded at Borodino into the baggage
wagons and forced every officer, every refugee from Moscow who had a
vehicle, to take the wounded as the most precious load.

The rear guard under Davout left the fearful place on October 31st., and
camped over night half-way to the little town of Ghjat. The night was
bitter cold, and the soldiers began to suffer very much from the low

From this time on, every day made the retreat more difficult, for the cold
became more and more severe from day to day, and the enemy more pressing.

The Russian general, Kutusof, might now have marched ahead of Napoleon's
army, which was retarded by so many impediments, and annihilated it by a
decisive battle, but he did not take this risk, preferring a certain and
safe tactic, by constantly harassing the French, surprising one or the
other of the rear columns by a sudden attack. He had a strong force of
cavalry and artillery, and, above all, good horses, while the rearguard of
the French, for want of horses, consisted of infantry; there was, for
instance, nothing left of General Grouchy's cavalry. The infantry of
Marshal Davout, who commanded the rearguard, had to do the service of all
arms, often being compelled to face the artillery of the enemy which had
good horses, while their own was dragged along by exhausted animals
scarcely able to move.

Davout's men fought the Russians with the bayonet and took cannons from
them, but being without horses they were compelled to leave them on the
road, content rearguarding themselves to remain undisturbed for some hours.

Gradually the French had to part with their own cannons and ammunition;
sinister explosions told the soldiers of increasing distress.

As it is in all great calamities of great masses: increasing misery also
increases egotism and heroism. Miserable drivers of wagons to whom the
wounded had been entrusted took advantage of the night and threw the
helpless wounded on the road where the rearguard found them dead or dying.
The guilty drivers, when discovered, were punished; but it was difficult to
detect them, with the general confusion of the retreat making its first

Wounded soldiers who had been abandoned could be seen at every step. The
tail of the army, composed of stragglers, of tired, discouraged or sick
soldiers, all marching without arms and without discipline, continually
increased in number, to the mortification of the rearguard which had to
deal with these men who would not subordinate their own selves to the
welfare of the whole.

It is tempting to describe the terrible engagements, the almost superhuman,
admirable bravery of Napoleon's soldiers, who often, after having had the
hardest task imaginable and constantly in danger of being annihilated, were
forced to pass the bitter cold nights without eating, without rest, and
although all details bear on the medical history I am obliged to confine
myself to a few sketches between the description of purely medical matters.

       *       *       *       *       *

I happened to find in the surgeon-general's library a rare book: Moricheau
Beaupré, A Treatise on the Effects and Properties of Cold, with a Sketch,
Historical and Medical, of the Russian Campaign. Translated by John
Clendining, with appendix, xviii, 375 pp. 8vo., Edinburgh, Maclachnan and
Stewart, 1826.

This most valuable book is not mentioned in any of the numerous
publications on the medical history of the Russian campaign of Napoleon
which I examined, and I shall now give an extract of what Beaupré writes on
the Effects of Cold in General:

Distant expeditions, immaterial whether in cold or warm countries, with
extremes of temperature, are always disadvantageous and must cause great
sacrifice of life, not only on account of the untried influence of extreme
temperatures on individuals born in other climates, but also on account of
the fatigues inseparable from traversing long distances, of an irregular
life, of a multiplicity of events and circumstances impossible to foresee,
or which at least had not been foreseen, and which operate very
unfavorably, morally and physically, on military persons. The expedition of
the French army into Russia offers a sad proof of this truth, but history
has recorded similar experiences. The army of Alexander the Great suffered
frightfully from cold on two occasions: first, when that ambitious
conqueror involved himself amid snows, in savage and barbarous regions of
northern Asia before reaching the Caucasus; the second time, when, after
having crossed these mountains, he passed the Tanais to subdue the
Scythians, and the soldiers were oppressed with thirst, hunger, fatigue,
and despair, so that a great number died on the road, or lost their feet
from congelation; the cold seizing them, it benumbed their hands, and they
fell at full length on the snow to rise no more. The best means they knew,
says Q. Curtius, to escape that mortal numbness, was not to stop, but to
force themselves to keep marching, or else to light great fires at
intervals. Charles XII, a great warrior alike rash and unreflecting, in
1707 penetrated into Russia and persisted in his determination of marching
to Moscow despite the wise advice given him to retire into Poland. The
winter was so severe and the cold so intense that the Swedes and Russians
could scarcely hold their arms. He saw part of his army perish before his
eyes, of cold, hunger, and misery, amid the desert and icy steppes of the
Ukraine. If he had reached Moscow, it is probable that the Russians would
have set him at bay, and that his army, forced to retire, would have
experienced the same fate as the French.

In the retreat of Prague in 1742 the French army, commanded
by Marshal Belle-Isle, little accustomed to a winter campaign,
was forced to traverse impracticable defiles across mountains and ravines
covered with snow. In ten days 4 thousand men perished of cold and misery;
food and clothing were deficient, the soldiers died in anguish and despair,
and a great many of the officers and soldiers had their noses, feet and
hands frozen. The Russians regard the winter of 1812 as one of the most
rigorous of which they have any record; it was intensely felt through all
Russia, even in the most southerly parts. As a proof of this fact the
Tartars of the Crimea mentioned to Beaupré the behavior of the great and
little bustard, which annually at that season of the year quit the plain
for protection against the cold and migrate to the southern part of that
peninsula toward the coasts. But during that winter they were benumbed by
the cold and dropped on the snow, so that a great many of them were caught.
In the low hills, in the spring of 1813, the ground in some places was
covered with the remains of those birds entire.

Of the effects of cold in general Beaupré says that soldiers who are rarely
provided with certain articles of dress suitable for winter, whose caps do
not entirely protect the lateral and superior parts of the head, and who
often suffer from cold in bivouacs, are very liable to have ears and
fingers seized on by asphyxia and mortification. Troopers who remain
several days without taking off their boots, and whose usual posture on
horseback contributes to benumb the extremities, often have their toes and
feet frozen without suspecting it.

Cold produces fatal effects above as well as below the freezing point. A
continued moderate cold has the same consequences as a severe cold of short
duration. When very intense, as in the north, it sometimes acts on the
organism so briskly as to depress and destroy its powers with astonishing
rapidity. As the action of cold is most frequently slow and death does not
take place until after several hours' exposure, the contraction that
diminishes the caliber of the vessels more and more deeply, repels the
blood toward the cavities of the head, chest, and abdomen; it causes, in
the circulation of the lungs, and in that of the venous system of the head,
an embarrassment that disturbs the function of the brain and concurs to
produce somnolence. The probability of this explanation is strengthened by
the flowing of the blood from the nose to the ears, spontaneous
haemoptysis, also by preternatural redness of the viscera, engorgements of
the cerebral vessel, and bloody effusion, all of which conditions have been
found after death.

It is certain that in spite of every possible means of congestion or
effusion within the cranium, constant and forced motion is necessary for
the foot soldier to save him from surprise. The horseman must dismount as
quickly as possible and constrain himself to walk. Commanders of divisions
should not order halts in winter, and they should take care that the men do
not lag behind on the march. Necessary above all are gaiety, courage, and
perseverance of the mind; these qualities are the surest means of escaping
danger. He who has the misfortune of being alone, inevitably perishes.

In Siberia, the Russian soldiers, to protect themselves from the action of
the cold, cover their noses and ears with greased paper. Fatty matters seem
to have the power of protecting from cold, or at least of greatly
diminishing its action. The Laplander and the Samoiede anoint their skin
with rancid fish oil, and thus expose themselves in the mountains to a
temperature of -36 deg. Reaumur, or 50 deg. below zero Fahrenheit.
Xenophon, during the retreat of the 10 thousand, ordered all his soldiers
to grease those parts that were exposed to the air. If this remedy could
have been employed, says Beaupré, on the retreat from Moscow, it is
probable that it would have prevented more than one accident.

Most of those who escaped the danger of the cold ultimately fell sick. In
1813 a number of soldiers, more or less seriously injured by cold, filled
the hospitals of Poland, Prussia, and other parts of Germany. From the
shores of the Niemen to the banks of the Rhine it was easy to recognize
those persons who constituted the remainder of an army immolated by cold
and misery the most appalling. Many, not yet arrived at the limit of their
sufferings, distributed themselves in the hospitals on this side of the
Rhine, and even as far as the south of France, where they came to undergo
various extirpations, incisions, and amputations, necessitated by the
physical disorder so often inseparable from profound gangraene.

Mutilation of hands and feet, loss of the nose, of an ear, weakness of
sight, deafness, complete or incomplete, neuralgy, rheumatism, palsies,
chronic diarrhoea, pectoral affections, recall still more strongly the
horrors of this campaign to those who bear such painful mementos.

       *       *       *       *       *

But now let us return to the dissertation of von Scherer which gives the
most graphic and complete description of the effect of cold.

After the battle of Borodino, on September 5th. and 7th., the army marched
to Moscow and arrived there on September 11th., exhausted to the highest
degree from hunger and misery. The number of Wuerttembergians suffering
from dysentery was very large. A hospital was organized for them in a sugar
refinery outside of Moscow. Many died here, but the greater number was left
to its fate during the retreat of the army.

The quarters at Moscow until October 19th. improved the condition of the
army very little. Devoured by hunger, in want of all necessities, the army
had arrived. The terrible fire of the immense city had greatly reduced the
hope for comfortable winter quarters. Although the eatables which had been
saved from the fire were distributed among the soldiers who, during the
weeks of their sojourn, had wine, tea, coffee, meat, and bread, all
wholesome and plentiful, yet dysentery continued and in most patients had
assumed a typhoid character. [Footnote: The word typhoid means "resembling
typhus," and in Europe this term is correctly employed to designate a
somnolent or other general condition in all kinds of feverish diseases
which remind one of typhus symptoms. What English and American physicians
call typhus or typhus fever is known to European physicians under the name
of exanthematic or petechial typhus, indicating a symptom by which it is
distinguished from abdominal typhus.]

Besides, real typhus had now made its appearance in the army and, spreading
rapidly through infection, caused great loss of life and brought the misery
to a climax. The great number of the sick, crowded together in unfit
quarters; the stench of the innumerable unburied and putrefying cadavers of
men and animals in the streets of Moscow, among them the corpses of several
thousand Russians who had been taken prisoners and then massacred, not to
speak of the putrefying cadavers on the battlefields and roads over which
the army had marched, all this had finally developed into a pest-like

After the retreat from Moscow had been decided upon, many thousands of the
sick were sent ahead on wagons under strong guards. These wagons took the
shortest road to Borodino, while the army took the road to Kaluga. Several
thousand typhus patients were left in Moscow, all of whom died, with the
exception of a few, according to later information. Many of those who,
although suffering from typhus, had retained strength enough to have
themselves transported on the wagons, recovered on the way, later to become
victims of the cold.

Weakened in body and mind, the army left Moscow on October 18th. and 19th.
The weather was clear, the nights were cold, when they proceeded in forced
marches on the road to Kaluga. Near Maloijorolawez the enemy attempted to
bar the way, and an obstinate engagement developed during which the French
cavalry suffered severely.

It is true, the Russian battle line was broken, and the way was open, but
the French army had received its death-blow.

The order which thus far had kept the army was shaken, and disorder of all
kinds commenced.

The retreat now continued in the direction of Borodino, Ghjat, and Wiasma,
the same road which had been followed on the march toward Moscow, a road
which was laid waste and entirely deserted.

The soldiers, in view of the helplessness which manifested itself, gave up
all hope and with dismay looked into a terrible future.

Everywhere surrounded by the enemy who attacked vehemently, the soldiers
were forced to remain in their ranks on the highway; whoever straggled was
lost--either killed or made prisoner of war.

On the immense tract of land extending from Moscow to Wilna during a march
of several days, not a single inhabitant, not a head of cattle, was to be
seen, only cities and villages burnt and in ruins. The misery increased
from day to day. What little of provisions had been taken along from Moscow
was lost, together with the wagons, on the flight after the engagement of
Maloijorolawez, and this happened, as we have seen, before the army reached
Borodino; the rations which the individual soldier had with him were
consumed during the first few days, and thus a complete want made itself
felt. The horses, receiving no food, fell in great numbers from exhaustion
and starvation; cannon and innumerable wagons, for want of means to
transport them, had to be destroyed and left behind.

From the last days of October until mid-December, at which time the army
arrived at Wilna, horse meat was the only food of the soldiers; many could
not obtain even this, and they died from starvation before the intense cold
weather set in. The meat which the soldiers ate was either that of
exhausted and sick horses which had not been able to walk any further, or
of such as had been lying dead on the road for some time. With the greatest
greed and a beastly rage the men threw themselves on the dead animals; they
fought without distinction of rank and with a disregard of all military
discipline--officers and privates alike--for the possession of the best
liked parts of the dead animal--the brain, the heart, and the liver. The
weakest had to be contented with any part. Many devoured the meat raw,
others pierced it with the bayonet, roasted it at the camp fire and ate it
without anything else, often with great relish.

Such was the sad condition when the setting in of extreme cold weather
brought the misery--the horrors--to a climax.

During the last days of October, when the army had scarcely reached
Borodino, cold winds blew from the North.

The first snowfall was on October 26th., and the snow made the march of the
enfeebled army difficult in the extreme.

From that date on the cold increased daily, and the camping over night was
terrible; the extremities of those who had no chance to protect themselves
with clothes nor to come near the campfire became frozen.

During the first days of November the thermometer had fallen to -12 Reaumur
(+4 Fahrenheit).

Derangements of mind were the first pernicious effects of the low
temperature that were noticed.

The first effect on the brain in the strong and healthy ones, as well as in
the others, was loss of memory.

Von Scherer noticed that, with the beginning of the cold weather, many
could not remember the names of the best known, the everyday things, not
even the eagerly longed for eatables could they name, or name correctly;
many forgot their own names and were no longer able to recognize their
nearest comrades and friends. Others had become completely feebleminded,
their whole expression was that of stupidity. And those of a stronger
constitution, who had resisted the effects of cold on body and mind, became
deeply horrified on observing, in addition to their own sufferings, how the
mental faculties of the best men, hitherto of strong will power, had become
impaired, and how these unfortunates sooner or later, yet gradually, with
lucid intervals of a few moments' duration, invariably became completely

The intense cold enfeebled, first of all, the brain of those whose health
had already suffered, especially of those who had had dysentery, but soon,
while the cold increased daily, its pernicious effect was noticed in all.

The internal vessels, especially those of the brain and the lungs, in many
became congested to such a degree that all vital activity was paralyzed.

On necropsy, these vessels of the brain and lungs and the right heart were
found to be bloated and stretched; in one case the different vessels of the
brain were torn and quite an amount of blood was effused between the
meninges and the brain, in most cases more or less serum had collected in
the cavities.

The corpses were white as snow, while the central organs in every case were

At the beginning, while the cold was still tolerable, the effect of the
humors from the surface of the body to the central organs had caused only a
slight derangement of the functions of these organs, like dyspnoea, mental
weakness, in some more or less indifference, a disregard of their
surroundings; in short, all those symptoms of what was called at that time
"Russian simpleton."

Now all actions of the afflicted manifested mental paralysis and the
highest degree of apathy.

This condition resembles that of extreme old age, when mind and body return
to the state of childhood.

The bodies of those suffering from intense cold were shriveled and
wrinkled. Men formerly models of bodily and mental strength, hardened in
war, now staggered along, leaning on a stick, wailing and lamenting
childlike, begging for a piece of bread, and if something to eat was given
to them they burst out in really childish joy, not seldom shedding tears.

The faces of these unfortunates were deadly pale, the features strangely
distorted. Lads resembled men of 80 years of age and presented a
cretin-like appearance; the lips were bluish, the eyes dull, without
luster, and constantly lachrymal; the veins very small, scarcely visible;
the extremities cold; the pulse could not be felt, neither at the radius
nor at the temple bone, somnolency was general.

Often it happened that the moment they sank to the ground the lower
extremities became paralyzed; soon after that, a few drops of blood from
the nose indicated the moribund condition.

Severed were all bonds of brotherly love, extinguished all human feeling
toward those who, from exhaustion, had fallen on the road.

Many men, among them his former best comrades and even relatives, would
fall upon such an unfortunate one to divest him of his clothing and other
belongings, to leave him naked on the snow, inevitably to die.

The impulse of self-preservation overmastered everything in them.

During the second half of November, and more so during the first days of
December, especially on the 8th., 9th., and 10th., when the army arrived at
Wilna, the cold had reached the lowest degree; during the night from
December 9th. to December 10th. the thermometer showed -32 R (-40 F.). The
cold air caused severe pain in the eyes, resembling that of strong
pressure. The eyes, weakened by the constant sight of snow, suffered
greatly under these circumstances.

Many were blinded to such an extent that they could not see one step
forward, could recognize nothing and had to find their way, like the blind
in general, with the aid of a stick. Many of these fell during the march
and became stiffened at once.

During this period von Scherer noticed that those who had been suffering
very much from cold would die quickly when they had fallen to the frozen,
ice-covered ground; the shaking due to the fall probably causing injury to
the spinal cord, resulting in sudden general paralysis of the lower
extremities, the bladder and the intestinal tract being affected to the
extent of an involuntary voiding of urine and feces.

Surgeon-major von Keller stated to von Scherer the following case: "I was
lying near Wilna, it was during the first days of December, during one of
the coldest nights, together with several German officers, on the road
close to a camp fire, when a military servant approached us asking
permission to bring his master, a French officer of the guards, to our

"This permission was willingly granted, and two soldiers of the guard
brought a tall and strong man of about thirty years of age whom they placed
on the ground between themselves.

"When the Frenchman learned of the presence of a surgeon he narrated that
something quite extraordinary had happened to him.

"Notwithstanding the great general misery, he had thus far been cheerful and
well, but half an hour previous his feet had stiffened and he had been
unable to walk, and now he had no longer any sensation from the toes up the

"I examined him and found that his feet were completely stiff, white like
marble, and ice cold.

"The officer was well dressed and, notwithstanding his pitiful condition,
more cheerful than myself and my comrades.

"Soon he felt a strong desire to urinate, but was unable to do so.

"With great relish he ate a large piece of horse flesh which had been
roasted at the fire, but soon complained of great illness.

"His cheerfulness changed suddenly to a sensation of great distress.
Ischuria persisted for several hours and caused him great pain; later on
during the night, he involuntarily voided feces and a large amount of
urine. He slept a great deal, the breathing was free, but at dawn he fell
into a helpless condition, and, at daybreak, before we had left the fire,
this strong man, who eight to ten hours before had been in good health,

Most excellent and ingenious men in the prime of manhood all suffered more
or less from the cold; with the exception of a few cases, the senses of all
were, if not entirely deranged, at least weakened. The longest and
sometimes complete resistance to the cold was offered by those who had
always been of a cheerful disposition, especially those who had not become
discouraged by the great privations and hardships, who ate horse flesh with
relish and who in general had adapted themselves to circumstances.

One of the Wuerttembergian officers, a man of considerable military
knowledge and experience, was attacked, a few days before reaching Wilna,
with so pronounced a loss of sensation that he only vegetated, moving along
in the column like a machine.

He had no bodily sickness, no fever, was fairly well in strength, had never
or rarely been in want, but his whole sensory system was seriously affected
by the cold.

Von Scherer saw him, after he arrived at an inn in Wilna, somewhat
recovered by warmth and food, but acting childishly.

While he ate the food placed before him he would make terrible grimaces,
crying or laughing for minutes at a time.

His constitution badly shaken, but gradually improving, he returned home,
and it took a long time before he recovered completely.

All traces of his sickness disappeared finally, and as active as ever he
attended his former duties.

Another officer, with whom von Scherer traveled a few days between Krasnoe
and Orscha, had not until then suffered any real want.

He rode in a well-closed carriage drawn by strong horses, had two soldiers
as servants, was well dressed and suffered, therefore, much less than
others. Especially was he well protected from the cold, yet this had a
severe effect on him. His mind became deranged, he did not recognize von
Scherer with whom he had been on intimate terms for years, nor could he
call either of his servants by name; he would constantly run alongside the
carriage, insisting that it belonged to the French emperor and that he was
entrusted to guard his majesty.

Only when he had fallen asleep, or by force, was von Scherer able, with the
aid of the two servants, to place him in the carriage.

His mental condition became worse every day; von Scherer had to leave him.

This officer reached Wilna, where he was made a prisoner and soon died in

Many more cases resembling these two were observed by von Scherer, and
other army surgeons reported instances of the like effect of cold.

Surgeon General von Schmetter had remained with the Crown Prince of
Wuerttemberg in Wilna, while the army marched to Moscow.

He reported many cases of unfortunates whom he had received in the hospital
in Wilna, who by cold and misery of all kinds had been reduced to a pitiful
state--men formerly of a vigorous constitution presented a puerile
appearance and had become demented.

A cavalryman of the regiment Duke Louis, who, during February, 1813, had
been admitted into the hospital of Wilna, suffering from quiet mania
without being feverish, was constantly searching for something.

Hands and feet had been frozen. He became ill with typhus and was more or
less delirious for two weeks.

After the severity of the sickness had abated he again began to search
anxiously for something, and after the fever had left him he explained that
thirty thousand florins, which he had brought with him to the hospital, had
been taken away.

It was learned that this cavalryman had been sent, together with other
comrades, with dispatches to Murat; that these men had defended Murat with
great bravery when he was in danger in the battle of Borodino.

Murat, in recognition of their bravery, which had saved him, had given them
a wagon with gold, which they were to divide among themselves.

The share of each of these cavalrymen amounted to over thirty thousand
florins, and the gold was transported on four horses, but these horses, for
want of food, had broken down under the load, and the gold had fallen into
the hands of the Cossacks.

The patient became quite ecstatic when, during his convalescence, he was
told that he had brought no gold with him into the hospital; only gradually
could he be made to understand that he had been mistaken.


He said, however, that he could not recollect having been robbed during the
retreat, although this fact had been testified to by two witnesses.

Two years after he had left the hospital and quitted the military service,
when he was perfectly well and vigorous again, he recollected that on a
very cold day he had been taken prisoner by Cossacks, who had left him,
naked and unconscious, in the snow.

He could not remember how and when he had come into the hospital.
Notwithstanding all these later recollections, he still imagined from time
to time that he had brought the gold with him into the hospital.

Surgeon General von Schmetter reported further the case of a cavalryman of
the King's regiment who, like many others, had returned from Russia in an
imbecile condition.

He spoke alternately, or mixed up, Polish, Russian, and German; he had to
be fed like a child, could not remember his name or the name of his native
place, and died from exhaustion eight days after admittance into the

On necropsy of the quite wrinkled body, the cerebral vessels were found
full of blood, the ventricles full of serum. On the surface of the brain
between the latter and the meninges were found several larger and smaller
sacs filled with lymph, the spinal canal full of serum; in the spinal cord
plain traces of inflammation. In the lungs there was much dark coagulated
blood, and likewise in the vena cava; in the stomach and intestines, many
cicatrices; the mesenteric glands and pancreas were much degenerated and
filled with pus; the rectum showed many cicatrices and several ulcers.

In the hospital of Mergentheim eight necropsies were held on corpses of
soldiers who had returned mentally affected in consequence of exposure to
extreme cold. Similar conditions had presented themselves in all these

Surgeon General von Kohlreuter attended an infantry officer who had arrived
at Inorawlow, in Poland, where the remainder of the Wuerttembergian corps
had rallied. He showed no special sickness, had no fever, but fell into
complete apathy. For a long time he had great weakness of mind, but
recovered completely in the end.

Of another patient of this kind, an officer of the general staff, who had
been treated after that fatal retreat from Moscow, von Kohlreuter reports
that later on he recovered completely from the mental derangement, but died
on his return, near the borders of Saxony, from exhaustion.

An infantry officer became mentally deranged sometime after he had returned
to his home; it took a long time, but finally he recovered without special
medical aid.

Recovery of such cases was accomplished by time, a mild climate, by social
intercourse, and good nourishment; many of them, on the way through Germany
and before they reached their own home, had completely regained their
mental faculties, and only in a small number of cases did it take a long
period of time and medication before recovery was assured.

The effect of intense cold on wounds was very severe: Violent inflammation,
enormous swelling, gangraene--the latter often due to the impossibility of
proper care. Larger wounds sometimes could not be dressed on the retreat,
and while the cold weather lasted gangraene and death followed in quick
succession. The effect of cold was noticed also on wounds which had healed
and cicatrized.

Von Happrecht, an officer of the regiment Duke Louis, had been wounded in
the foot by a cannon ball in the battle of Borodino on September 7th., and
Surgeon-General von Kohlreuter had amputated it. Fairly strong and
cheerful, this officer arrived safely at the Beresina. The passage over
this river was, as is well known, very dangerous, and von Happrecht had to
wait, exposed to cold, for some time before he could cross. Soon after
traversing on horseback he felt as if he had lost the stump; he had no
sensation in the leg the foot of which had been amputated. Unfortunately,
he approached a fire to warm himself and felt a severe pain in the stump;
extensive inflammation, with swelling, set in; gangraene followed and,
notwithstanding most skillful attendance, he died soon after his arrival at

So far von Scherer. Beaupré, speaking of his own observations of the
effects of extreme cold, gives the following account:

Soldiers unable to go further fell and resigned themselves to death, in
that frightful state of despair which is caused by the total loss of moral
and physical force, which was aggravated to the utmost by the sight of
their comrades stretched lifeless on the snow. During a retreat so
precipitate and fatal, in a country deprived of its resources, amid
disorder and confusion, the sad physician was forced to remain an
astonished spectator of evils he could not arrest, to which he could apply
no remedy. The state of matters remarkably affected the moral powers. The
consternation was general. Fear of not escaping the danger was very
naturally allied with the desperate idea of seeing one's country no more.
None could flatter himself that his courage and strength would suffice so
that he would be able to withstand privations and sufferings beyond human
endurance. Italians, Portuguese, Spaniards, those from the temperate and
southern parts of France, obliged to brave an austere climate unknown to
them, directed their thoughts toward their country and with good reasons
regretted the beauty of the heaven, the softness of the air of the
regions of their birth.

Nostalgia was common.... The army was but three days from Smolensk when the
heavens became dark, and snow began to fall in great flakes, in such a
quantity that the air was obscured. The cold was then felt with extreme
severity; the northern wind blew impetuously into the faces of the soldiers
and incommoded many who were no longer able to see. They strayed, fell into
the snow--above all, when night surprised them--and thus miserably

Disbanded regiments were reduced to almost nothing by the loss of men
continually left behind either on the roads or in the bivouacs.

Of the days of Smolensk he writes: In the streets one met with none but
sick and wounded men asking for hospitals, soldiers of every sort, of every
nation, going and coming, some of them trying to find a place where
provisions were sold or distributed; others taciturn, incapable of any
effort, absorbed by grief, half dead with cold, awaiting their last hour.
On all sides there were complaints and groans, dead and dying soldiers, all
of which presented a picture that was still further darkened by the ruinous
aspect of the city.... At Smolensk Beaupré himself had a narrow escape from
freezing to death; he narrates: During the frightful night when we left
Smolensk I felt much harassed; toward 5 in the morning, a feeling of
lassitude impelled me to stop and rest. I sat down on the trunk of a birch,
beside eight frozen corpses, and soon experienced an inclination to sleep,
to which I yielded the more willingly as at that moment it seemed
delicious. Fortunately I was aroused from that incipient somnolency--which
infallibly would have brought on torpor--by the cries and oaths of two
soldiers who were violently striking a poor exhausted horse that had fallen

I emerged from that state with a sort of shock.

The sight of what was beside me strongly recalled to my mind the danger to
which I exposed myself; I took a little brandy and started to run to remove
the numbness of my legs, the coldness and insensibility of which were as if
they had been immersed in an iced bath.

He then describes his experience in similar cases: It happened three or
four times that I assisted some of those unfortunates who had just fallen
and began to doze, to rise again and endeavored to keep them in motion
after having given them a little sweetened brandy.

It was in vain; they could neither advance nor support themselves, and they
fell again in the same place, where of necessity they had to be abandoned
to their unhappy lot. Their pulse was small and imperceptible. Respiration,
infrequent and scarcely sensible in some, was attended in others by
complaints and groans. Sometimes the eyes were open, fixed, dull, wild, and
the brain was seized by a quiet delirium; in other instances the eyes were
red and manifested a transient excitement of the brain; there was marked
delirium in these cases. Some stammered incoherent words, others had a
reserved and convulsive cough. In some blood flowed from the nose and ears;
they agitated their limbs as if groping. (This description of Beaupré
complements the account given by von Scherer.)

Many had their hands, feet, and ears frozen. A great many were mortally
stricken when obliged to stop to relieve nature; the arrival of that
dreaded moment was in fact very embarrassing, on account of the danger of
exposing oneself to the air as well as owing to the numbness of the fingers
which rendered them unable to readjust the clothes....

And they traveled day and night, often without knowing where they were.

Ultimately they were obliged to stop, and, complaining, shivering, forced
to lie down in the woods, on the roads, in ditches, at the bottom of
ravines, often without fire, because they had no wood at hand, nor strength
enough to go and cut some in the vicinity; if they succeeded in lighting
one, they warmed themselves as they could, and fell asleep without delay.

The first hours of sleep were delightful, but, alas! they were merely the
deceitful precursor of death that was waiting for them.

The fire at length became extinct for want of attention or owing to the
great blast. Instead of finding safety in the sweets of sleep, they were
seized and benumbed by cold, and never saw daylight again....

I have seen them sad, pale, despairing, without arms, staggering, scarce
able to sustain themselves, their heads hanging to the right or left, their
extremities contracted, setting their feet on the coals, lying down on hot
cinders, or falling into the fire, which they sought mechanically, as if by

Others apparently less feeble, and resolved not to allow themselves to be
depressed by misfortune, rallied their powers to avoid sinking; but often
they quitted one place only to perish in another.

Along the road, in the adjacent ditches and fields, were perceived human
carcasses, heaped up and lying at random in fives, tens, fifteens and
twenties, of such as had perished during the night, which was always more
murderous than the day.

When no longer able to continue walking, having neither strength nor will
power, they fell on their knees.

The muscles of the trunk were the last to lose the power of contraction.

[Illustration: "And never saw daylight again."]

Many of those unfortunates remained for some time in that posture
contending with death.

Once fallen it was impossible for them, even with their utmost efforts, to
rise again. The danger of stopping had been universally observed; but,
alas! presence of mind and firm determination did not always suffice to
ward off mortal attacks made from all directions upon one miserable life!


About a mile and a half from Wiasma the enemy appeared to the left of the
road, and his fire happened to strike the midst of the tail of the army,
composed of disbanded soldiers without arms, with wounded and sick among
them, and women and children. Every artillery discharge of the Russians
caused frightful cries and a frightful commotion in the helpless mass.

And the rear guard, in trying to make them advance, ill-treated them, the
soldiers who had clung to the flag assumed the right to despise those who,
either voluntarily or under compulsion, had abandoned it.

Of the old generals of Davout some had been killed, Friant was so severely
wounded that he could not be about, Compans had been wounded in the arm,
Moraud in the head, but these two, the former with one arm in a sling, the
other with a bandaged head, were on horseback, surrounding the marshal
commanding the first corps which had been reduced to 15 thousand from 20
thousand at Moshaisk, from 28 thousand in Moscow, and from 72 thousand
crossing the Niemen. The remaining 15 thousand were all old warriors whose
iron constitution had triumphed.

The battle of Wiasma took place on the 2d. of November. The Russians under
Miloradovitch had 100 cannon, whereas the French under Ney, Davout,
and the wounded generals named above, had only 40. This day cost the French
1,500 to 1,800 men in killed and wounded, and, as mentioned, these were of
the oldest and best; the loss of the Russians was twice that number, but
their wounded were not lost, while it was impossible to save a single one
of the French, for the latter had no attendance at all; the cold being very
severe it killed them, and those who did not perish by the frost were put
to death by the cruel, ferocious Russian peasants.

Entering Wiasma at night, nothing in the way of provisions was found; the
guard and the corps which had been there before the battle had devoured
everything. No provisions were left of those taken along from Moscow. The
army passed a sombre and bitter cold night in a forest; great fires were
lighted, horse meat was roasted, and the soldiers of Prince Eugene and of
Marshal Davout, especially the latter who had been on their feet for three
days, slept profoundly around great camp-fires. During two weeks they had
been on duty to cover the retreat and during this time had lost more than
one half of their number.

Napoleon arrived at Dorogobouge on November 5th., the Prince Eugene on the
6th., the other corps on the 7th. and 8th.

Until then the frost had been severe but not yet fatal. All of a sudden, on
the 9th., the weather changed, and there was a terrible snow-storm.

On their way to Moscow the regiments had traversed Poland during a
suffocating heat and had left their warm clothing in the magazines.

Some soldiers had taken furs with them from Moscow, but had sold them to
their officers.

Well nourished, they could have stood the frost, but living on a little
flour diluted with water, on horse meat roasted at the camp fire, sleeping
on the ground without shelter, they suffered frightfully. We shall later
on speak more in detail of the miserable clothing.

The first snow which had been falling after they had left Dorogobouge had
seriously increased the general misery. Except among the soldiers of the
rear guard which had been commanded with inflexible firmness by Davout, and
which was now led by Ney, the sense of duty began to be lost by almost all

As we have learned, all the wounded had to be left to their fate, and
soldiers who had been charged to escort Russian prisoners relieved
themselves of their charge by shooting these prisoners dead.

The horses had not been shod in Russian fashion for traveling on the ice.
The army had come during the summer without any idea of returning during
the winter; the horses slipped on the ice, those of the artillery were too
feeble to draw cannon even of small calibre, they were beaten unmercifully
until they perished; not only cannons and ammunition had to be left, but
the number of vehicles carrying necessities of life diminished from day to
day. The soldiers lived on the fallen horses; when night came the dead
animals were cut to pieces by means of the sabre, huge portions were
roasted at immense fires, the men devoured them and went to sleep around
the fires. If the Cossacks did not disturb their dearly bought sleep the
men would awake; some half burnt, others finding themselves lying in the
mud which had formed around them, and many would not rise any more. General
von Kerner, of the Wuerttembergian troops had slept in a barn during the
night from November 7th. to November 8th. Coming out at daybreak he saw his
men in the plain as they had lain down around a fire the evening before,
frozen and dead. The survivors would depart, hardly glancing at the
unfortunates who had died or were dying, and for whom they could do

The snow would soon cover them, and small eminences marked the places where
these brave soldiers had been sacrificed for a foolish enterprise.

It was under these circumstances that Ney, the man of the greatest energy
and of a courage which could not be shaken by any kind of suffering, took
command of the rear guard, relieving Davout whose inflexible firmness and
sense of honor and duty were not less admirable than the excellent
qualities of Ney. The bravest of the brave, as Napoleon had called Ney, had
an iron constitution, he never seemed to be tired nor suffering from any
ailment; he passed the night without shelter, slept or did not sleep, ate
or did not eat, without ever being discouraged; most of the time he was on
his feet in the midst of his soldiers; he did not find it beneath the
dignity of a Marshal of France, when necessary, to gather 50 or 100 men
about him and lead them, like a simple captain of infantry, against the
enemy under fire of musketry, calm, serene, believing himself invulnerable
and being apparently so indeed; he did not find it incompatible with his
rank to take up the musket of a soldier who had fallen and to fire at the
enemy like a private. There is a great painting in the gallery of
Versailles representing him in such an action. He had never been wounded in
battle. And this great hero was executed in the morning of December 7th.,
1815, in the garden of the Luxembourg.

Louis XVIII, this miserable and insignificant man of legitimate royal blood
who had never rendered any service to France, wanted revenge--Ney was
arrested and condemned by the Chamber of Peers after the marshals had
refused to condemn him. His wife pleaded in vain for his life, the king
remained inflexible. Ney was simply shot by 12 poor soldiers commanded for
the execution. After the marshal had sunk down, an Englishman suddenly rode
up at a gallop and leaped over the fallen hero, to express the triumph of
the victors. It was in as bad taste as everything that England contrived
against Napoleon and his men. [Footnote: Brave men were condemned to
deportation or were executed; derision and mocking of Napoleon's generals
was the order of the day.]

Among the spectators there was also a Russian general in full uniform and
on horseback. Tzar Alexander expelled him from the army after he had heard
of it.

The Bourbons commenced a tromocraty which was called, in contrast to the
terrorisms of the revolution, the white terror.

Much has been written about the fantastic costume of Murat, but I do not
recollect having read the true explanation of it. All writers agree that he
was the bravest, the greatest cavalry general. As such he meant to be
distinguished from far and near in the midst of the battle where danger was
greatest, so that the sight of his person, his exposure to the enemy,
should encourage and inspire his soldiers. He rode a very noble white horse
and wore a Polish kurtka of light blue velvet which reached down to the
knees, embroidered with golden lace, dark red mameluke pantaloons with
golden galloons, white gauntlets and a three-cornered general's hat with
white plumes; the saddle was of red velvet and a caparison of the same
stuff, all embroidered with gold. The neck of the king was bare, a large
white scalloped collar fell over the collar of the kurtka. A strong black
full beard gave a martial expression to his face with the fiery eyes and
regular features. Sometimes he wore a biretta with a diamond agraffe and a
high plume of heron feathers. Very seldom he appeared in the uniform of a

And this other great hero, who, like Ney, had never been wounded in battle,
was executed by order of the court of Naples on October 13th., 1815, in the
hall of castle Pizzo.


In order to give an idea of the great difficulties the soldiers had to
face, and examples of their heroic behavior under trying circumstances, let
us relate the disaster of Vop.

While Napoleon, with the imperial guard, the corps of Marshal Davout and a
mass of stragglers, all escorted by Marshal Ney, was marching on the road
to Smolensk, Prince Eugene had taken the road to Doukhowtchina. The prince
had with him 6 or 7 thousand men under arms, including the Italian guard,
some Bavarian cavalry which still had their horses and their artillery
mounted, and also many stragglers, with these a number of families who had
been following the Italian division.

At the end of the first day's journey--it was on November 8th.--near the
castle Zazale, they hoped to find at this castle some provisions and an
abode for the night. A great cold had set in, and when they came to a hill
the road was so slippery that it was almost impossible to negotiate the
elevation with even the lightest load. Detaching horses from the pieces in
order to double and treble the teams they succeeded in scaling the height
with cannons of small calibre, but they were forced to abandon the larger

The men being exhausted as well as the horses they felt humiliated at being
obliged to leave their best pieces. While they had exerted themselves with
such sad results, Platow had followed them with his Cossacks and light
cannons mounted on sleighs and incessantly fired into the French. The
commander of the Italian artillery, General Anthouard, was severely wounded
and was compelled to give up his command.

A gloomy night was passed at the castle Zazale.

On the morning of the 9th. they left at an early hour to cross the Vop, a
little rivulet during the summer but now quite a river, at least four feet
deep and full of mud and ice.

The pontooneers of Prince Eugene had gone ahead, working during the night
to construct a bridge, but frozen and hungry they had suspended their work
for a few hours, to finish it after a short rest.

At daybreak those most anxious to cross went on the unfinished bridge which
they thought was completed.

A heavy mist prevented them from recognizing their error until the first
ones fell into the icy water emitting piercing cries. Finally horses and
men waded through the water--some succeeded, other succumbed.

It would lead too far to give here a full description of the distressing
scenes, the difficulty of passing with artillery and the mostly vain
attempts to bring over the baggage wagons. But, to cap the climax, there
arrived 3 or 4 thousand Cossacks shouting savagely. With the greatest
difficulty only was the rear guard able to keep them at a distance so that
they could not come near enough to make use of their lances. Their
artillery, however, caused veritable desolation.

Among the poor fugitives from Moscow there were a number of Italian and
French women; these unfortunates stood at the border of the river, crying
and embracing their children, but not daring to wade through it. Brave
soldiers, full of humanity, took the little ones in their arms and passed
with them, some repeating this two and three times, in order to bring all
the children safely over. These desolate families, not being able to save
their vehicles, lost with them the means of subsistence brought from
Moscow. All the baggage, the entire artillery with the exception of seven
or eight pieces, had been lost, and a thousand men had been killed by the
fire of the Cossacks.

This dreadful event on the retreat from Moscow is called the disaster of
Vop and was the precursor of another disaster of the same nature, but a
hundred times more frightful, the disaster of the Beresina.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was another cause of death of which we have not spoken yet: this was
the action of the heat at the campfires. Anxious to warm themselves, most
of the soldiers hastened to bring their limbs near the flame; but this
sudden exposure to extreme heat, after having suffered from the other
extreme--cold--was acting on the feeble circulation in the tissues and
produced gangraene of the feet, the hands, even of the face, causing
paralysis either partial, of the extremities, or general, of the whole

Only those were saved who had been able to keep up their circulation by
means of hot drinks or other stimulants and who, noticing numbness, had
rubbed the affected parts with snow. Those who did not or could not resort
to these precautions found themselves paralyzed, or stricken with sudden
gangraene, in the morning when the camp broke up.

The hospitals of Koenigsberg admitted about 10 thousand soldiers of
Napoleon's army, only a small number of whom had been wounded, most of
them with frozen extremities, who had, as the physicians of that time
called it, a pest, the fever of congelation which was terribly contagious.

The heroic Larrey although exhausted from fatigue had come to these
hospitals to take care of the sick, but he became infected with the
contagion himself and was taken sick.

A great calamity was the want of shoes; we have seen that this was already
felt in Moscow, before they set out on the endless march over ice and snow.

The soldiers had their feet wrapped in rags, pieces of felt or leather, and
when a man had fallen on the road some of his comrades would cut off his
feet and carry them to the next camp fire to remover the rags--for their
own use.

But the general appearance of the emaciated soldiers with long beards, and
faces blackened by the smoke of camp-fires, the body wrapped in dirty rags
of wearing apparel brought from Moscow, was such that it was difficult to
recognize them as soldiers.

And the vermin! Carpon, a surgeon-major of the grand army, in describing
the days of Wilna which were almost as frightful as the disaster of the
Beresina, speaks on this subject. It is revolting. Strange to say, it is
hardly ever mentioned in the medical history of wars, although every one
who has been in the field is quite familiar with it.

At last I have found--in Holzhausen's book--a description of the most
revolting lice plague (phtheiriasis) from which, according to his valet,
Constant, even the emperor was not exempted. As a matter of course under
the circumstances--impossibility of bodily cleanliness--this vermin
developed in a way which baffles description. Suckow, a Wuerttembergian
first lieutenant, speaks of it as causing intolerable distress, disturbing
the sleep at the campfire. Johann von Borcke became alarmed when he
discovered that his whole body was eaten up by these insects. A French
colonel relates that in scratching himself he tore a piece of flesh from
the neck, but that the pain caused by this wound produced a sensation of


All the corps marched to Smolensk where they expected to reach the end of
all their misery and to find repose, food, shelter; in fact, all they were
longing for.

Napoleon entered the city with his guards and kept the rest of the army,
including the stragglers, out of doors until arrangements could have been
made for the regular distribution of rations and quarters. But together
with the stragglers the mass of the army became unmanageable and resorted
to violence.

Seeing that the guards were given the preference they broke out in revolt,
entered by force and pillaged the magazines. "The magazines are pillaged!"
was the general cry of terror and despair. Every one was running to grasp
something to eat.

Finally, something like order was established to save some of the
provisions for the corps of Prince Eugene and Marshal Ney who arrived after
fighting constantly to protect the city from the troops of the enemy. They
received in their turn eatables and a little rest, not under shelter but in
the streets, where they were protected, not from the frost, but from the

There were no longer any illusions. The army having hoped to find shelter
and protection, subsistence, clothes and, above all, shoes, at Smolensk,
they found nothing of all this and learned that they had to leave, perhaps
the next day, to recommence the interminable march without abode for the
night, without bread to eat and constantly righting while exhausted, with
the cruel certainty that if wounded they would be the prey of wolves and

This prospect made them all desperate; they saw the abyss, and still the
worst was yet in store for them: Beresina and Wilna!

Napoleon left Smolensk on November 14th. The cold had become more
intense--21 deg. Reaumur (16 deg. below zero Fahrenheit)--this is the
observation of Larrey who had a thermometer attached to his coat; he was
the only one who kept a record of the temperature.

The cold killed a great many, and the road became covered with dead
soldiers resting under the snow.

To the eternal honor of the most glorious of all armies be it said that it
was only at the time when the misery had surpassed all boundaries, when the
soldiers had to camp on the icy ground with an empty stomach, their limbs
paralyzed in mortal rigor, that the dissolution began.

It was even after the heroic battle of Wiasma that they fought day for day.

It was not the cold which caused the proud army to disband, but hunger.

Provisions could nowhere be found; all horses perished, and with them the
possibility of transporting food and ammunition.

And it is one thing to suffer cold and hunger, traveling under ordinary
circumstances, and another to suffer thus and at the same time being
followed by the enemy.


In order to understand the disaster of the Beresina it is necessary to cast
a glance at the condition of Napoleon's army at that time.

After the battle at Krasnoe, Napoleon at Orscha, on November 19th., happy
to have found a place of safety at last, with well furnished magazines,
made a new attempt to rally the army by means of a regular distribution of
rations. A detachment of excellent gendarmes had come from France and was
employed to do police duty, to engage everybody, either by persuasion or by
force, to join his corps. These brave men, accustomed to suppress disorder
in the rear of the army, had never witnessed anything like the condition
with which they were obliged to deal at this time. They were dismayed. All
their efforts were in vain. Threats, promises of rations if the soldiers
would fall in line, were of no avail whatever. The men, whether armed or
not, thought it more convenient, above all more safe, to care for
themselves instead of again taking up the yoke of honor, thereby taking the
risk of being killed, or wounded,--which amounted to the same thing--they
would not think of sacrificing their individual self for the sake of the
whole. Some of the disbanded soldiers had retained their arms, but only to
defend themselves against the Cossacks and to be better able to maraud.
They lived from pillaging, taking advantage of the escort of the army,
without rendering any service. [Illustration] In order to warm themselves
they would put fire to houses occupied by wounded soldiers, many of whom
perished in the flames in consequence. They had become real ferocious
beasts. Among these marauders were only very few old soldiers, for most of
the veterans remained with the flag until death.

Napoleon addressed the guards, appealing to their sense of duty, saying
that they were the last to uphold military honor, that they, above all, had
to set the example to save the remainder of the army which was in danger of
complete dissolution; that if they, the guards, would become guilty, they
would be more guilty than any of the other corps, because they had no
excuse to complain of neglect, for what few supplies had been at the
disposal of the army, their wants had always been considered ahead of the
rest of the army, that he could resort to punishments, could have shot the
first of the old grenadiers who would leave the ranks, but that he
preferred to rely on their virtue as warriors to assure their devotedness.
The grenadiers expressed their assent and gave promises of good conduct.
All surviving old grenadiers remained in the ranks, not one of them had
disbanded. Of the 6 thousand who had crossed the Niemen, about 3,500
survived, the others had succumbed to fatigue or frost, very few had fallen
in battle.

The disbanded soldiers of the rest of the army, having in view another long
march, with great sufferings to endure, were not disposed to change their
ways. They now needed a long rest, safety, and abundance, to make them
recognize military discipline again. The order to distribute rations among
those who had rallied around the flag could not be kept up for more than a
few hours. The magazines were pillaged, as they had been pillaged at
Smolensk. The forty-eight hours' stay at Orscha was utilized for rest and
to nourish a few men and the horses.

In these days Napoleon was as indefatigable as he ever had been as young
Bonaparte. His proclamation of the 19th. did not remain quite unheeded even
among the disbanded, but, on the march again, the nearer they came to the
Beresina the more pronounced became the lack of discipline. In the
following description I avail myself of the classical work of Thiers'
"Histoire du Consulat et de I'Empire."

The only bridge over the Beresina, at Borisow, had been burned by the
Russians. It was as by miracle that General Corbineau met a Polish peasant
who indicated a place--near the village Studianka--where the Beresina could
be forded by horses. Napoleon, informed of this fact on November 28th., at
once ordered General Eblé to construct the bridge and on November 25th., at
1 o'clock in the morning, he issued orders to Oudinot to have his corps
ready for crossing the river. The moment had arrived when the great
engineer, the venerable General Eblé, was to crown his career by an
immortal service.

He had saved six cases containing tools, nails, clamps, and all kinds of
iron pieces needed for the construction of trestle bridges. In his profound
foresight he had also taken along two wagon-loads of charcoal, and he had
under his command 400 excellent pontooneers upon whom he could reply

General Eblé has been described as the model of an officer, on account of
his imposing figure and his character.

Eblé and Larrey were the two men whom the whole army never ceased to
respect and to obey, even when they demanded things which were almost
impossible. General Eblé then with his 400 men departed in the evening of
November 24th. for Borisow, followed by the clever General Chasseloup who
had some sappers with him, but without their tools. General Chasseloup was
a worthy associate of the illustrious chief of the pontooneers. They
marched all night, arriving at Borisow on the 25th., at 5 o'clock in the
morning. There they left some soldiers in order to deceive the Russians by
making them believe that the bridge was to be constructed below Borisow.
Eblé with his pontooneers, however, marched through swamps and woods along
the river as far as Studianka, arriving there during the afternoon of the
25th. Napoleon in his impatience wanted the bridges finished on that day,
an absolute impossibility; it could not be done until the 26th., by working
all night, and not to rest until this was accomplished was the firm
resolution of these men who by that time had marched two days and two
nights. General Eblé spoke to his pontooneers, telling them that the fate
of the army was in their hands. He inspired them with noble sentiments and
received the promise of the most absolute devotedness. They had to work in
the bitter cold weather--severe frost having suddenly set in--all night and
during the next day, in the water, in the midst of floating ice, probably
under fire of the enemy, without rest, almost without time to swallow some
boiled meat; they had not even bread or salt or brandy. This was the price
at which the army could be saved. Each and every one of the pontooneers
pledged himself to their general, and we shall see how they kept their

Not having time to fell trees and to cut them into planks, they demolished
the houses of the unfortunate village Studianka and took all the wood which
could serve for the construction of bridges; they forged the iron needed to
fasten the planks and in this way they made the trestles. At daybreak of
the 26th. they plunged these trestles into the Beresina. Napoleon, together
with some of his generals, Murat, Berthier, Eugene, Caulaincourt, Duroc,
and others, had hastened to Studianka on this morning to witness the
progress of Eblé's work. Their faces expressed the greatest anxiety, for at
this moment the question was whether or not the master of the world would
be taken prisoner by the Russians. He watched the men working, exerting all
their might in strength and intelligence. But it was by no means sufficient
to plunge bravely into the icy water and to fasten the trestles, the almost
superhuman work had to be accomplished in spite of the enemy whose outposts
were visible on the other side of the river. Were there merely some
Cossacks, or was there a whole army corps? This was an important question
to solve. One of the officers, Jacqueminot, who was as brave as he was
intelligent, rode into the water, traversed the Beresina, the horse
swimming part of the way, and reached the other shore. On account of the
ice the landing was very difficult. In a little wood he found some
Cossacks, but altogether only very few enemies could be seen. Jacqueminot
then turned back to bring the good news to the emperor. As it was of the
greatest importance to secure a prisoner to obtain exact information about
what was to be feared or to be hoped, the brave Jacqueminot once more
crossed the Beresina, this time accompanied by some determined cavalry men.
They overpowered a Russian outpost, the men sitting around a fire, took a
corporal with them, and brought this prisoner before Napoleon
who learned to his great satisfaction that Tchitchakoff with his main force
was before Borisow to prevent the passage of the French, and that at
Studianka there was only a small detachment of light troops.

It was necessary to take advantage of these fortunate circumstances. But
the bridges were not ready. The brave General Corbineau with his cavalry
brigade crossed the river under the above-described difficulties, and
established himself in the woods. Napoleon mounted a battery of 40 cannons
on the left shore, and now the French could flatter themselves to be
masters of the right shore while the bridges were made, and that their
whole army would be able to cross. Napoleon's star seemed to brighten
again, the officers grouped around him, saluting with expressions of joy,
such as they had not shown for a long time.

All was now depending on the completion of the bridges, for there were two
to be constructed, each 600 feet in length; one on the left for wagons, the
other, on the right, for infantry and cavalry. A hundred pontooneers had
gone into the water and with the aid of little floats built for this
purpose, had commenced the fixation of the trestles. The water was freezing
and formed ice crusts around their shoulders, arms, and legs, ice crusts
which adhered to the flesh and caused great pain. They suffered without
complaining, without appearing to be affected, so great was their ardor.
The river at that point was 300 feet wide and with 23 trestles for each
bridge the two shores could be united. In order to transport first the
troops, all efforts were concentrated on the construction of the bridge to
the right--that is, the one for infantry and cavalry--and at 1 o'clock in
the afternoon it was ready.

About 9 thousand men of the corps of Marshal Oudinot passed over the first
bridge and under great precautions took two cannons along. Arrived on the
other side, Oudinot faced some troops of infantry which General Tschaplitz,
the commander of the advance guard of Tchitchakoff, had brought there. The
engagement was very lively but of short duration. The French killed 200 men
of the enemy and were able to establish themselves in a good position, from
where they could cover the passage. Time was given now for the passage of
enough troops to meet Tchitchakoff, during the rest of the day, the 26th.
and the succeeding night. Concerning many details I have to refer to
Thiers' description.

At 4 o'clock in the afternoon the second bridge was completed. Napoleon, on
the Studianka side, yet supervised everything; he wanted to remain among
the last to cross the bridge. General Eblé, without himself taking a moment
of rest, had one-half the number of his pontooneers rest on straw while the
other half took up the painful task of guarding the bridges, of doing
police duty, and of making repairs in case of accidents, until they were
relieved by the others. On this day the infantry guards and what remained
of cavalry guards marched over the bridge, followed by the artillery train.

Unfortunately, the left bridge, intended for vehicles, shook too much under
the enormous weight of wagons following one another without interruption.
Pressed as they were, the pontooneers had not had time to shape the timber
forming the path, they had to use wood as they found it, and in order to
deaden the rumbling of the wagons they had put moss, hemp, straw--in fact,
everything they could gather in Studianka--into the crevices. But the
horses removed this kind of litter with their feet, rendering the surface
of the path very rough, so that it had formed undulations, and at
8 o'clock in the evening three trestles gave way and fell, together with
the wagons which they carried, into the Beresina. The heroic pontooneers
went to work again, going into the water which was so cold that ice
immediately formed anew where it had been broken. With their axes they had
to cut holes into the ice to place new trestles six, seven and even eight
feet deep into the river were the bridge had given way. At 11 o'clock the
bridge was secure again.

General Eblé, who had always one relief at work while the other was asleep,
took no rest himself. He had extra trestles made in case of another
accident. At 2 o'clock in the morning three trestles of the left bridge,
that is the one for the vehicles, gave way, unfortunately in the middle of
the current, where the water had a depth of seven or eight feet. This time
the pontooneers had to accomplish their difficult task in the darkness. The
men, shaking from cold and starving, could not work any more. The venerable
General Eblé, who was not young as they were and had not taken rest as they
had, suffered more than they did, but he had the moral superiority and
spoke to them, appealing to their devotedness, told them of the certain
disaster which would annihilate the whole army if they did not repair the
bridges; and his address made a deep impression. With supreme self-denial
they went to work again. General Lauriston, who had been sent by the
emperor to learn the cause of the new accident, pressed Eblé's hand and,
shedding tears, said to him: For God's sake, hasten! Without showing
impatience, Eblé, who generally had the roughness of a strong and
proud soul, answered with kindness: You see what we are doing, and he
turned to his men to encourage, to direct them, and notwithstanding his
age--he was 54 years old--he plunged into that icy water, which those young
men were hardly able to endure (and this fact is stated by all the
historians whose works I have read). At 6 o'clock in the morning (November
27th.) this second accident had been repaired, the artillery train could
pass again.

The bridge to the right--for infantry--did not have to endure the same kind
of shaking up as the other bridge, and did not for one moment get out of
order. If the stragglers and fugitives had obeyed all could have crossed
during the night from November 26th. to November 27th. But the attraction
of some barns, some straw to lie on, some eatables found at Studianka, had
retained a good many on this side of the river. The swamps surrounding the
Beresina were frozen, which was a great advantage, enabling the people to
walk over them. On these frozen swamps had been lighted thousands of fires,
and 10 thousand or 15 thousand individuals had established themselves
around them and did not want to leave. Soon they should bitterly regret the
loss of a precious opportunity.

In the morning, on November 27th., Napoleon crossed the Beresina, together
with all who were attached to his headquarters, and selected for his new
headquarters the little village Zawnicky, on the other side of the
Beresina. In front of him was the corps of Oudinot. All day long he was on
horseback personally to hasten the passage of detachments of the army,
somewhat over 5 thousand men under arms. Toward the end of the day the
first corps arrived, under Davout, who since Krasnoe had again commanded
the rear guard. This was the only corps which still had some military

The day of November 27th. was occupied to cross the Beresina and to prepare
for a desperate resistance, for the Russians could no longer be deceived as
to the location of the bridges. At 2 o'clock in the afternoon a third
accident happened, again on the bridge to the left. It was soon repaired,
but the vehicles arrived in great numbers, and all were pressing forward in
such a way that the gendarmes had extraordinary difficulties to enforce
some order.

The 9th. corps, that of Marshal Victor, had taken a position between
Borisow and Studianka, in order to protect the army at the latter place. It
had been foreseen that the crossing would be little interfered with during
the first two days, the 26th. and 27th., because Tchitchakoff was as yet
ignorant of the real points elected for the bridges, expecting to find the
French army below Borisow on the other side of the Beresina. Wittgenstein
and Kutusoff had not yet had time to unite and did not sufficiently press
the French.

Napoleon had good reasons to expect that the 28th. would be the decisive
day. He was resolved to save the army or to perish with it. Taking the
greatest pains to deceive Tchitchakoff as long as possible he ordered
Marchal Victor to leave the division Partouneaux, which had been reduced by
marches and fights from 12 thousand to 4 thousand combatants, at Borisow.
Victor with 9 thousand men and 700 to 800 horses was to cover Studianka.

These 9 thousand were the survivors of 24 thousand with whom Victor had
left Smolensk to join Oudinot on the Oula. During one month's marching and
in various engagements 10 thousand to 11 thousand had been lost. The
bearing, however, of those who survived was excellent, and seeing what was
left of the grand army, the glory of which had, not long ago, been the
object of their jealousy, in its present condition, they were stricken with
pity and asked their oppressed comrades who had almost lost their pride as
a result of the misery, what calamity could have befallen them? You will
soon be the same as we are, sadly answered the victors of Smolensk and

The hour of the supreme crisis had come. The enemy, having now learned the
truth, came to attack the French when many of them had not yet crossed the
Beresina and were divided between the two sides of the river. Wittgenstein,
who with 3 thousand men had followed the corps of Victor, was behind the
latter between Borisow and Studianka, and ready with all his might to throw
Victor into the Beresina. Altogether, including the forces of Tchitchakoff,
there were about 72 thousand Russians, without counting 30 thousand men of
Kutusoff in the rear, ready to fall on Victor's 12 thousand to 13 thousand
and Oudinot's 7 thousand or 8 thousand of the guards; 28 thousand to
30 thousand French were divided between the two shores of the Beresina
hampered by 40 thousand stragglers, to fight, during the difficult
operation of crossing the Beresina, with 72 thousand partly in front,
partly in the rear.

This terrible struggle began in the evening of the 27th. The unfortunate
French division of Partouneaux, the best of the three of Victor's corps,
had received orders from Napoleon to remain before Borisow during the
27th., in order to deceive, as long as possible, and to detain
Tchitchakoff. In this position Partouneaux was separated from his corps
which, as we have seen, was concentrated around Studianka, by three
miles of wood and swamps. As could be easily foreseen, Partouneaux was
cut off by the arrival of the troops of Platow, Miloradovitch, and
Yermaloff, who had followed the French on the road from Orscha to
Borisow. In the evening of the 27th. Partouneaux recognized his desperate
position. With the immense dangers threatening him were combined the
hideous embarrassment of several thousand stragglers who, believing in
the passage below Borisow, had massed at that point, with their baggage,
awaiting the construction of the bridge. The better to deceive the
enemy they had been left in their error, and now they were destined
to be sacrificed, together with the division of Partouneaux, on account
of the terrible necessity to deceive Tchitchakoff.

When the bullets came from all sides, the confusion soon reached the
climax; the three little brigades of Partouneaux forming for defense found
themselves entangled with several thousand stragglers and fugitives who
clamorously threw themselves into their ranks; the women of the mass, with
baggage, especially with their frightful, piercing cries, characterized
this scene of desolation. General Partouneaux decided to extricate himself,
to open a way or to perish. He was with a thousand men against 40 thousand.
Several challenges to surrender he refused, and kept on fighting. The
enemy, likewise exhausted, suspended firing toward midnight, being certain
to take the last of this handful of braves who resisted so heroically in
the morning. With daybreak the Russian generals again challenged General
Partouneaux, who was standing upright in the snow with the 400 or 500 of
his brigade, remonstrating with him, and he, with desperation in his soul,
surrendered. The other two brigades of his division that had been separated
from him also laid down their arms. The Russians took about 2 thousand
prisoners, that is, the survivors of Partouneaux's division of 4 thousand,
only one battalion of 300 men had succeeded, during the darkness of the
night, in making its escape and reaching Studianka.

The army at Studianka had heard, during this cruel night, the sound of the
cannonade and fusillade from the direction of Borisow. Napoleon and Victor
were in great anxiety; the latter thought that the measure taken, i.e., the
sacrifice of his best division, of 4 thousand men who would have been of
great value, had been unjustifiable, because after the crossing had begun
on the 26th. it was no longer possible to deceive the enemy.

The night was passed in cruel suspense, but being the prey of sorrows of so
many kinds the French could hardly pay due attention to the many new ones
which presented themselves at every moment. The silence which reigned on
the morning of the 28th. indicated the catastrophe of the division

The firing now began on the two sides of the Beresina, on the right shore
against the troops that had crossed, on the left against those covering the
passage of the rear of the army. From this moment on nothing was thought of
but fight. The cannonade and fusillade soon became extremely violent, and
Napoleon, on horseback, incessantly riding from one point to another,
assumed that Oudinot resisted Tchitchakoff while Eblé continued to care for
the bridges, and that Victor, who was fighting Wittgenstein, was not thrown
into the icy floods of the Beresina together with the masses which had not
yet crossed.

Although the firing was terrible on all sides and thousands were killed on
this lugubrious field; the French resisted on both banks of the river.

For the description of this battle I desire to refer to Thiers' great work.
Taking all circumstances into consideration, it did the greatest honor to
Napoleon's guns, to the valor of his generals and of his soldiers.

The confusion was frightful among the masses that had neglected to cross in
time, and those who had arrived too late for the opportunity. Many,
ignoring that the first bridge was reserved for pedestrians and horsemen,
the second for wagons, crowded with delirious impatience upon the second
bridge. The pontooneers on guard at the entrance of the bridge to the right
were ordering the vehicles to the one on the left, which was 600 feet
farther down. This precaution was an absolute necessity, because the bridge
to the right could not endure the weight of the wagons. Those who were
directed by the pontooneers to go to the other bridge had the greatest
difficulty to pass through the compact masses pressing and pushing to enter
the structure. A terrible struggle! Opposing currents of people paralyzed
all progress. The bullets of the enemy, striking into this dense crowd,
produced fearful furrows and cries of terror from the fugitives; women with
children, many on wagons, added to the horror. All pressed, all pushed; the
stronger ones trampled on those who had lost their foothold, and killed
many of the latter. Men on horseback were crushed, together with their
horses, many of the animals becoming unmanageable, shot forward, kicked,
reared, turned into the crowd and gained a little space by throwing people
down into the river; but soon the space filled up again, and the mass of
people was as dense as before.

This pressing forward and backward, the cries, the bullets striking into
the helpless crowd, presented an atrocious scene--the climax of that
forever odious and senseless expedition of Napoleon.

The excellent General Eblé, whose heart broke at this spectacle, tried in
vain to establish a little order. Placing himself at the head of the bridge
he addressed the multitude; but it was only by means of the bayonet that at
last some improvement was brought about, and some women, children, and
wounded were saved. Some historians have stated that the French themselves
fired cannon shots into the crowd, but this is not mentioned by Thiers.
This panic was the cause that more than half the number of those perished
who otherwise could have crossed. Many threw themselves, or were pushed,
into the water and drowned. And this terrible conflict among the masses
having lasted all day, far from diminishing, it became more horrible with
the progress of the battle between Victor and Wittgenstein. The description
of this battle I omit, referring again to Thiers, confining myself to give
some figures. Of 700 to 800 men of General Fournier's cavalry hardly 300
survived; of Marshal Victor's infantry, hardy 5 thousand. Of all these
brave men, mostly Dutchmen, Germans, and Polanders, who had been sacrificed
there was quite a number of wounded who might have been saved, but who had
perished for want of all means of transportation. The Russians lost 10
thousand to 11 thousand.

This double battle on the two shores of the Beresina is one of the most
glorious in the history of France; 28 thousand against 72 thousand
Russians. These 28 thousand could have been taken or annihilated to the
last man, and it was almost a miracle that even a part of the army escaped
this disaster.

With nightfall some calm came over this place of carnage and confusion.

On the next morning Napoleon had to recommence, this time not to retreat,
but to flee; he had to wrest from the enemy the 5 thousand men of Marshal
Victor's corps, Victor's artillery and as many as possible of those
unfortunates who had not employed the two days by crossing. Napoleon
ordered Marshal Victor to cross during the night with his corps and with
all his artillery, and to take with him as many as possible of the
disbanded and of the refugees who were still on that other side of the

Here we now learn of a singular flux and reflux of the frightened masses.
While the cannon had roared, every one wanted to cross but could not, now
when with nightfall the firing had ceased they did not think any more of
the danger of hesitation, not of the cruel lesson which they had learned
during the day. They only wanted to keep away from the scene of horror
which the crossing of the bridge had presented. It was a great task to
force these unfortunates to cross the bridges before they were set on fire,
a measure which was an absolute necessity and which was to be executed on
the next morning.

The first work for Eblé's pontooneers was now to clear the avenues of the
bridges from the mass of the dead, men and horses, of demolished wagons,
and of all sorts of impediments. This task could be accomplished only in
part; the mass of cadavers was too great for the time given for the removal
of all of them, and those who crossed had to walk over flesh and blood.

In the night, from 9 o'clock to midnight, Marshal Victor crossed the
Beresina, thereby exposing himself to the enemy, who, however, was too
tired to think of fighting. He brought his artillery over the left bridge,
his infantry over the right one, and with the exception of the wounded and
two pieces of artillery, all his men and all his material safely reached
the other side. The crossing accomplished, he erected a battery to hold the
Russians in check and to prevent them from crossing the bridges.

There remained several thousand stragglers and fugitives on this side of
the Beresina who could have crossed during the night but had refused to do
so. Napoleon had given orders to destroy the bridges at daybreak and had
sent word to General Eblé and Marshal Victor to employ all means in order
to hasten the passage of those unfortunates. General Eblé, accompanied by
some officers, himself went to their bivouacs and implored them to flee,
emphasizing that he was going to destroy the bridges. But it was in vain;
lying comfortably on straw or branches around great fires, devouring horse
meat, they were afraid of the crowding on the bridge during the night, they
hesitated to give up a sure bivouac for an uncertain one, they feared that
the frost, which was very severe, would kill them in their enfeebled

Napoleon's orders to General Eblé was to destroy the bridges at 7 o'clock
in the morning of November 29th., but this noble man, as humane as he was
brave, hesitated. He had been awake that night, the sixth of these vigils
in succession, incessantly trying to accelerate the passing of the bridge;
with daybreak, however, there was no need any more to stimulate the
unfortunates, they all were only too anxious now. They all ran when the
enemy became visible on the heights.

Eblé had waited till 8 o'clock when the order for the destruction of the
bridges was repeated to him, and in sight of the approaching enemy it was
his duty not to lose one moment. However, trusting to the artillery of
Victor, he still tried to save some people. His soul suffered cruelly
during this time of hesitation to execute an order the necessity of which
he knew only too well. Finally, having waited until almost 9 o'clock when
the enemy approached on the double quick, he decided with broken heart,
turning his eyes away from the frightful scene, to set fire to the
structures. Those unfortunates who were on the bridges threw themselves
into the water, every one made a supreme effort to escape the Cossacks or
captivity, which latter they feared more than death.

The Cossacks came up galloping, thrusting their lances into the midst of
the crowd; they killed some, gathered the others, and drove them forward,
like a herd of sheep, toward the Russian army. It is not exactly known if
there were 6 thousand, 7 thousand or 8 thousand individuals, men, women,
and children, who were taken by the Cossacks.

The army was profoundly affected by this spectacle and nobody more so than
General Eblé who, in devoting himself to the salvation of all, could well
say that he was the savior of all who had not perished or been taken
prisoner in the days of the Beresina. Of the 50 thousand, armed or unarmed,
who had crossed there was not a single one who did not owe his life and
liberty to him and his pontooneers. But the 400 pontooneers who had worked
in the water, paid with their lives for this noblest deed in the history
of wars; they all died within a short time. General Eblé survived his act
of bravery only three weeks; he died in Koenigsberg on the 21st. day of
December, 1812.

This is an incomplete sketch of the immortal event of the Beresina, full of
psychological interest and therefore fit to be inserted in the medical
history of Napoleon's campaign in Russia.

To a miraculous accident, the arrival of Corbineau, the noble devotedness
of Eblé, the desperate resistance of Victor and his soldiers, to the energy
of Oudinot, Ney, Legrand, Maison, Zayonchek, Doumerc, and, finally, to his
own sure and profound decision, his recognition of the true steps to be
taken, Napoleon owed the possibility that he could escape after a bloody
scene, the most humiliating, the most crushing disaster.


Surgeon Huber of the Wuerttembergians, writes to his friend, Surgeon Henri
de Roos, who settled in Russia after the campaign of 1812, how he crossed
the Beresina, and in this connection he describes the following dreadful

"A young woman of twenty-five, the wife of a French colonel killed a few
days before in one of the engagements, was near me, within a short distance
of the bridge we were to cross. Oblivious of all that went on about her,
she seemed wholly engrossed in her daughter, a beautiful child of four,
that she held in the saddle before her. She made several unsuccessful
attempts to cross the bridge and was driven back every time, at which she
seemed overwhelmed with blank despair. She did not weep; she would gaze
heavenward, then fix her eyes upon her daughter, and once I heard her say:
'O God, how wretched I am, I cannot even pray!' Almost at the same moment a
bullet struck her horse and another one penetrated her left thigh above the
knee. With the deliberation of mute despair she took up the child that was
crying, kissed it again and again; then, using the blood-stained garter
removed from her fractured limb, she strangled the poor little thing and
sat down with it, wrapped in her arms and hugged close to her bosom, beside
her fallen horse. Thus she awaited her end, without uttering a single word,
and before long she was trampled down by the riders making for the bridge."

The great surgeon Larrey tells how he nearly perished at the crossing of
the Beresina, how he went over the bridge twice to save his equipment and
surgical instruments, and how he was vainly attempting to break through the
crowd on the third trip, when, at the mention of his name, every one
proffered assistance, and he was carried along by soldier after soldier to
the end of the bridge.

He has related the incident in a letter to his wife, dated from Leipzig,
March 11th., 1813. "Ribes," says he--Ribes was one of Napoleon's
physicians--"was right when he said that in the midst of the army, and
especially of the Imperial guard, I could not lose my life. Indeed, I owe
my life to the soldiers. Some of them flew to my rescue when the Cossacks
surrounded me and would have killed or taken me prisoner. Others hastened
to lift me and help me on when I sank in the snow from physical exhaustion.
Others, again, seeing me suffer from hunger, gave me such provisions as
they had; while as soon as I joined their bivouac they would all make room
and cover me with straw or with their own clothes."

At Larrey's name, all the soldiers would rise and cheer with a friendly

"Any one else in my place," writes Larrey further, "would have perished on
the bridge of the Beresina, crossing it as I was doing, for the third time
and at the most dangerous moment. But no sooner did they recognize me than
they grasped me with a vigorous hold, and sent me along from hand to hand,
like a bundle of clothes, to the end of the bridge."


The threatening barrier had been surmounted, and on went the march to
Wilna, without any possibility of a day's rest, because the miserable
remainder of the French army was still followed by light Russian troops.

During the first days after the crossing of the Beresina the supply of food
had improved, it was better indeed than at any time during the retreat.
They passed through villages which had not suffered from the war, in which
the barns were well filled with grain and with feed for the horses, and
there lived rich Jews who could sell whatever the soldiers needed.
Unfortunately, however, this improved condition lasted only a few days,
from November 30th. to December 4th., and before Wilna was reached the want
was felt again and made itself felt the more on account of the most intense
cold which had set in.

During the few good days the soldiers had eaten roast pork, and all kinds
of vegetables, in consequence their weakened digestive tract had been
overtaxed so that diarrhoea became prevalent, a most frightful condition
during a march on the road, with a temperature of 25 deg. below zero,
Reaumur (about 25 deg. below zero, Fahrenheit).

The 6th. of December was a frightful day, although the cold had not yet
reached its climax which happened on the 7th. and 8th. of December, namely
28 deg. below zero, Reaumur (31 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit).

[Illustration: "The Gate of Wilna."]

Holzhausen gives a graphic description of the supernatural silence which
reigned and which reminded of the silence in the arctic regions. There was
not the slightest breeze, the snowflakes fell vertically, crystal-clear,
the snow blinded the eyes, the sun appeared like a red hot ball with a
halo, the sign of greatest cold.

The details of the descriptions which Holzhausen has collected from old
papers surpass by far all we have learned from von Scherer's and Beaupré's
writings. And all that Holzhausen relates is verified by names of absolute
reliability; it verifies the accounts of the two authors named.

General von Roeder, one of the noblest of the German officers in Napoleon's
army--a facsimile of one of his letters is given in Holzhausen's book--says
about the murderous 7th. of December: "Pilgrims of the Grand Army, who had
withstood many a severe frost indeed, dropped like flies, and of those who
were well nourished, well clothed--many of these being of the reserve corps
having but recently come from Wilna to join the retreating army,--countless
numbers fell exactly like the old exhausted warriors who had dragged
themselves from Moscow to this place."

The reserve troops of which Roeder speaks were the division Loison, the
last great body of men that had followed the army. They had been in
Koenigsberg and had marched from there to Wilna during the month of
November, had remained in the latter place until December 4th., when they
were sent to protect the retreating soldiers and the Emperor himself, on
leaving the wreck of his once grand army at Smorgoni on December 5th.

These troops who thus far had not sustained any hardships, came directly
from the warm quarters of Wilna into the terrible cold.

It was quite frightful, says Roeder, to see these men, who a moment before
had been talking quite lively, drop dead as if struck by lightning.

D. Geissler, a Weimaranian surgeon, renders a similar report and adds that
in some cases these victims suffered untold agonies before they died.

Lieutenant Jacobs states that some said good bye to their comrades and laid
down along the road to die, that others acted like maniacs, cursed their
fate, fell down, rose again, and fell down once more, never to rise again.
Cases like the latter have been described also by First Lieutenant von

Under these circumstances, says Holzhausen, it appears almost
incomprehensible that there were men who withstood a misery which surpassed
all human dimensions. And still there were such; who by manfully bearing
these sufferings, set to others a good example; there were whole troops
who, to protect others in pertinacious rear guard fights, opposed the
on-pressing enemy.

Wonderful examples of courage and self-denial gave some women, the wife of
a Sergeant-Major Martens, who had followed the army, and a Mrs. Basler, who
was always active, preparing some food while her husband with others was
lying exhausted at the camp fire, and who seldom spoke, never complained.
This poor woman lost a son, a drummer boy, who had been wounded at
Smolensk. She as well as her husband perished in Wilna.

Sergeant Toenges dragged a blind comrade along--I shall not leave him, he
said. Grenadiers, sitting around a fire, had pity on him and tried to
relieve his sufferings. Many such examples are enumerated in Holzhausen's

Our highest admiration is due to the conduct of the brave troops of the
rear guard who fought the Russians, who sacrificed themselves for the sake
of the whole, and, like at Krasnoe and at the Beresina, for their disbanded

The rearguard was at first commanded by Ney, then, after the 3rd. of
December, by Marshal Victor; after the dissolution of Victor's corps at
Smorgoni and Krapowna, by Loison and, finally, near Wilna, by Wrede with
his Bavarians.

Count Hochberg has given a classical description of the life in the rear
guard; it is the most elevating description of greatness, of human
magnanimity, and it fills us with admiration for the noble, the brave

Interesting is the engagement at Malodeszno. A certain spell hangs over
this fight; here perished two Saxon regiments that had gloriously fought at
the Beresina.

The scene was a romantic park with the castle of Count Oginsky where
Napoleon had had his headquarters on the preceding day, and from where he
dated his for ever memorable 29th. bulletin in which he told the world the
ruin of his army.

Toward 2 o'clock in the afternoon the enemy attacked the division of Girard
who was supported by Count Hochberg. Then the Russians attacked the park
itself. The situation was very serious, because the Badensian troops under
Hochberg had only a few cartridges and could not properly answer the fire
of the enemy. Night came, and the darkness, writes a Badensian sergeant,
was of great advantage to us, for the Russians stood against a very small
number, the proportion being one battalion to 100 men. Count Hochberg led
his brigade, attacking with the bayonet, and nearly became a victim of his
courage. The Badensian troops drove the enemy away, but they themselves
received the death blow. Count Hochberg said he had no soldiers left whom
he could command.

And now it was the division Loison which formed the rear guard.

On the 5th. of December this division had come to Smorgoni where Napoleon
took leave from his marshals and from his army, after he had entrusted
Murat with the command.

The division Loison, during the eventful night from December 5th. to 6th.,
had rendered great services. Without the presence of Loison's soldiers
Napoleon would have fallen into the hands of his enemies, and the wheel of
the history of the world would have taken a different turn.

Dr. Geissler describes Napoleon, whom he saw at a few paces' distance on
the day of his departure, and he writes "the personality of this
extraordinary man, his physiognomy with the stamp of supreme originality,
the remembrance of his powerful deeds by which he moved the world during
his time, carried us away in involuntary admiration. Was not the voice
which we heard the same which resounded all over Europe, which declared
wars, decided battles, regulated the fate of empires, elevated or
extinguished the glory of so many."

It may appear strange that in a medical history I record these details, but
I give them because they show how the personality of Napoleon had retained
its magic influence even in that critical moment.

The soldiers wanted to salute him with their _Vive l'Empereur_! but, in
consideration of the assumed incognito of the Imperator without an army, it
was interdicted.

Up to this day Napoleon has been blamed for his step, to leave the army. At
the Beresina he had refused with pride the offer of some Poles to take him
over the river and to bring him safely to Wilna. Now there was nothing more
to save of the army, and other duties called him peremptorily away. If we
study well the situation, the complications which had arisen from the
catastrophe and which were to arise in the following year, we must in
justice to him admit that he was obliged to go in order to create another

It is not a complete history which I am writing; otherwise it would be my
duty to speak of the deep impression, the dramatic effect, which Napoleon's
departure had made on his soldiers. In presenting somewhat extensively some
details of those days I simply wished to show who they were and how many
brave men there were who had been spared for the atrocities of Wilna.

If I were to do justice to the voluminous material before me of the bravery
of the soldiers on their march from the Beresina to Wilna I would have to
write a whole book on this part of the history alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

Once more the hope of the unfortunates should be disappointed in a most
cruel way. They knew of fresh troops and of rich magazines in Wilna. But
only 2 thousand men were left of the Loison division, not enough to defend
the place against the enemy whose coming was to be expected.

The provisions, however, were stored in the magazines, and there were,
according to French accounts, forty day rations of bread, flour and
crackers for 100 thousand men, cattle for 36 days, 9 million rations of
wine and brandy; in addition, vegetables and food for horses, as well as
clothing in abundance.

Unfortunately, the governor of Wilna, the Duke of Bassano, was only a
diplomat, entirely incompetent to handle the situation, which required
military talent.

Unfortunate had also been Napoleon's choice of Murat. On August 31st, 1817,
he said in conversation with _Gourgaud, "I have made a great mistake in
entrusting Murat with the highest command of the army, because he was the
most incompetent man to act successfully under such circumstances."

No preparations were made for the entering troops, no quarters had been
assigned for them when they came.

And they came on the 9th; most horrible details have been recorded of this
day when the disbanded mass crowded the gate.

Wilna was not only not in ruins, but it was the only large city which had
not been abandoned by its inhabitants. But these inhabitants shut their
doors before the entering soldiers. Only some officers and some Germans,
the latter among the families of German mechanics, found an abode in the
houses. Some Poles were hospitable, also some Lithuanians, and even the

All writers complain of the avidity and cruelty of the latter; they mixed
among the soldiers to obtain whatever they had saved from the pillage of
Moscow. These Jews had everything the soldier was in need of, bread and
brandy, delicacies and even horses and sleighs; in their restaurants all
who had money or valuables could be accommodated. And these places were
crowded with soldiers who feasted at the well supplied tables, and even
hilarity developed among these men saved from the ice fields of Russia.
During the night every space was occupied as a resting place.

While those who could afford it enjoyed all the good things of which they
had been deprived so long, the poor soldiers in the streets were in great
misery. The doors being shut, they entered the houses by force and
illtreated the inhabitants who on the next day took a bitter revenge.

Even the rich magazines had remained closed, tedious formalities had to be
observed, the carrying out of which was an impossibility since the whole
army was disbanded. No regiment had kept together, no detachment could be
selected to present vouchers for receiving rations.

Lieutenant Jacobs gives an illustration of the condition: "Orders had been
given to receive rations for four days. Colonel von Egloffstein in the
evening of the 9th sent Lieutenant Jacobs with 100 men to the bread
magazine to secure as much as possible, and as this magazine was at some
distance, and as Cossacks had already entered the city, he ordered 25 armed
men to accompany the hundred, who, naturally enough, were not armed. The
commissary of the magazine refused to hand out bread without a written
order of the commissaire-ordonateur; the lieutenant therefore notified him
that he would take by force what he needed for his regiment. And with his
25 carabiniers he had to fight for the bread."

Finally the pressing need led to violence. During the night of the 10th.
the desperate soldiers, aided by inhabitants, broke into the magazines, at
first into those containing clothing, then they opened the provision
stores, throwing flour bags and loaves of bread into the street where the
masses fought for these missiles. And when the liquor depots were broken
into, the crowd forced its way in with howls. They broke the barrels, and
wild orgies took place until the building took fire and many of the
revelers became the victims of the flames.

While this pillaging went on the market place of Wilna was the scene of
events not less frightful. A detachment of Loison's division, obedient to
their duty, had congregated there, stacked arms and, in order to warm
themselves to the best of their ability--the temperature was 30 deg. below
zero R. (37 deg. below zero F.)--and to thaw the frozen bread, had lighted
a fire. I cannot describe the fight among these soldiers for single pieces
of bread; they were too horrid.

This night ended, and in the morning the cannon was heard again.

An early attack had been expected, and perspicacious officers had taken
advantage of the few hours of rest to urge their men to prepare for the
last march to the near frontier. Count Hochberg implored his officers to
follow this advice, but the fatigues and sickness they had undergone, their
frozen limbs and the threat of greater misery, made most of them refuse to
heed his entreaties. Thus Hochberg lost 74 of his best and most useful
officers who remained in Wilna and died there. Similar attempts were made
in other quarters. Many of those addressed laughed sneeringly. This
sneering I shall never forget, says Lieutenant von Hailbronner, who escaped
while the enemy was entering. Death on the road to Kowno was easier, after
all, than dying slowly in the hospitals of Wilna.

On the 10th., in the morning, the Russians entered, and the Cossacks ran
their lances through every one in their way.

There were fights in the streets, the troops of the division Loison fought
the Russians.


Old Sergeant Picart, of the old guard, on hearing the drum, struck his
comrade Bourgogne, the writer of some memoirs of the campaign, on the
shoulder, saying: "Forward, comrade, we are of the old guard, we must be
the first under arms." And Bourgogne went along, although sick and wounded.

German and French bravery vied with each other on the 10th. of December.
Ney and Loison along with Wrede. The latter, on the day previous, had come
to the house of the marshal to offer him a small escort of cavalry if he
would leave Wilna. Ney pointing to the mass of soldiers who had to be
protected, answered: "All the Cossacks in the world shall not bring me out
of this city to-night."

Ney and Wrede left with their troops.

Woe to those who had remained, their number was about 10 thousand, besides
5 thousand sick in the hospitals.

According to Roeder, 500 were murdered in the streets on this day, partly
by Cossacks, partly by Jews, the latter revenging themselves for ill

All reports, and they are numerous, of Germans, French and also Russians,
speak of the cruelty of the Jews of Wilna. We must not forget, however, the
provocations under which they had to suffer, nor how they, in supplying
soldiers with eatables and clothing, saved many who otherwise would have

Von Lossberg says that Christian people of Wilna have also taken part in
the massacre, and only the Poles did not participate.

The Cossacks began their bloody work early in the morning.

Awful cries of the tortured were heard in the Wuerttembergian hospital,
telling the sick who were lying there what they themselves had to expect
from the entering enemies.

Those who had remained in Smolensk and Moscow after the armed soldiers had
departed were at once massacred. In Wilna likewise many were murdered, but
the greater number--many thousands--(other circumstances did not permit to
do away with all these prisoners in the same way) perished after days or
weeks of sickness and privations of all kind.

Wilna's convents could tell of it if their walls could speak.

Dr. Geissler narrates that the prisoners in the Basilius monastery into
which soldiers of all nationalities had been driven, during 13 days
received only a little hardtack, but neither wood nor a drop of water; they
had to quench their thirst with the snow which covered the corpses in the

The Englishman Wilson, of whom I have spoken already, who had come to Wilna
with Kutusow's army, says: "The Basilius monastery, transformed into
a prison, offered a terrible sight--7,500 corpses were piled up in the
corridors, and corpses were also in other parts of the building, the broken
windows and the holes in the walls were plugged with feet, legs, hands,
heads, trunks, just as they would fit in the openings to keep out the cold
air. The putrefying flesh spread a terrible stench."

(Carpon, a French Surgeon-Major who was with the army in Wilna, has
described the events in a paper "_Les Morts de Wilna_". I cannot quote from
his writings because he gives impossible statistics and contradicts himself
in his narrations.)

Yelin speaks of a hospital in which all the inmates had been murdered by
the Cossacks. He himself was in a Wuerttembergian hospital and describes
his experience: "Terrible was the moment when the door was burst open. The
monsters came in and distributed themselves all over the house. We gave
them all we had and implored them on our knees to have pity, but all in
vain. 'Schelma Franzuski,' they answered, at the same time they beat us
with their kantchous, kicked us unmercifully with their feet, and as new
Cossacks came in all the time, we were finally deprived of all our clothing
and beaten like dogs. Even the bandages of the poor wounded were torn off
in search of hidden money or valuables. Lieutenant Kuhn (a piece of his
cranium had been torn away at Borodino) was searched; he fell down like
dead and it took a long time and much pain to bring him to life again."

Lieutenant von Soden was beaten with hellish cruelty on his sore feet and
gangraenous toes so that they bled. When nothing more could be found on the
sick and wounded they were left lying on the stone floor.

There was no idea of medicine.

The cold in the rooms was so great that hands and feet of many were frozen.

Sometimes prisoners shaking with frost would sneak out at night to find a
little wood. Some Westphalians who had tried this were beaten to death.

Some of the prisoners were literally eaten up by lice.

Those who did not die of their wounds, of filth, and of misery, were
carried away by petechial typhus which had developed into a violent
epidemic in Wilna, and several thousand of the citizens, among them many
Jews, succumbed to the ravages of this disease.

One witness writes: "Little ceremony was observed in disposing of the dead;
every morning I heard how those who had died during the night were thrown
down the stairs or over the balcony into the yard, and by counting these
sinister sounds of falling bodies we knew how many had died during the

The brutality of the guards was beyond description. First Lieutenant von
Grolman, one of the most highly educated officers of the Badensian
contingent, was thrown down the stairway because this (seriously wounded)
officer had disturbed the inspector during the latter's leisure hour.

Beating with the kantchou was nothing unusual.

A Weimaranian musician, Theuss, has described some guileful tortures
practiced on the prisoners, which are so revolting that I dare not write
them. They are given in Holzhausen's book.

In their despair the prisoners, especially the officers among them, sent
petitions to Duke Alexander of Wuerttemberg, to the Tzar, to the Grand Duke
Constantine, and to the Ladies of the Russian Court. The Tzar and his
brother Constantine came and visited the hospitals. They were struck by
what they saw, and ordered relief. Officers were permitted to walk about
the city, and many obtained quarters in private houses. Those who could not
yet leave the gloomy wards of the hospitals were better cared for.

It is touching to read Yelin's narration how the emaciated arms of those in
the hospitals were stretched out when their comrades, returning from a
promenade in the city, brought them a few apples.

As they were no longer guarded as closely as before, many succeeded in
escaping. Captain Roeder was one of them; Yelin was offered aid to flee,
but he remained because he had given his word of honor to remain.

But most of these favors came too late, only one tenth were left that could
be saved, the others had succumbed to their sufferings or died from typhus.

A pestilential odor filled Wilna. Heaps of cadavers were burnt and when
this was found to be too expensive, thrown into the Wilia. Few of the
higher officers were laid at rest in the cemetery, among them General von
Roeder who as long as he was able had tried everything in his power to
ameliorate the condition of his soldiers. Holzhausen brings the facsimile
of a letter of his, dated Wilna, December 30th., to the King of
Wuerttemberg which proves his care for his soldiers. He died on January
6th., 1813.


While the prisoners of Wilna were suffering these nameless cruelties, the
unfortunate army marched to reach the border of Russia at Kowno, the same
Kowno where the Grand Army six months before had been seen in all its
military splendor, crossing the Niemen.

They had now to march 75 miles, a three days' march to arrive there.

The conditions were about the same as those on the march from the Beresina
to Wilna. Still the same misery, frost, and hunger, scenes of murder, fire.
The description of the details would in general be a repetition, with
little variation.

The following is an account of the last days of the retreat taken from a
letter of Berthier to the Emperor.

When the army entered Wilna on December 8th., almost all the men were
chilled by cold, and despite the commands of Murat and Berthier, despite
the fact that the Russians were at the gates, both officers and soldiers
kept to their quarters and refused to march.

However, on the 10th, the march upon Kowno was begun. But the extreme cold
and the excess of snow completed the rout of the army. The final disbanding
occurred on the 10th, and 11th., only a struggling column remained,
extending along the road, strewn with corpses, setting out at daybreak to
halt at night in utter confusion. In fact, there was no army left. How
could it have subsisted with 25 degrees of cold? The onslaught, alas, was
not of the foe, but of the harshest and severest of seasons fraught with
crippling effect and untold suffering.

Berthier, as well as Murat, would have wished to remain in Kowno through
the 12th., but the disorder was extreme. Houses were pillaged and sacked,
half the town was burned down, the Niemen was being crossed at all points,
and it was impossible to stem the tide of fugitives. An escort was barely
available for the protection of the King of Naples, the generals, and the
Imperial eagles. And all amidst the cold, the intense cold, stupefying and

Four fifths of the army--or what bore the name of such, though reduced to a
mere conglomeration and bereft of fighting men--had frozen limbs; and when
Koenigsberg was reached, in a state of complete disorganisation, the
surgeons were constantly employed in amputating fingers and toes.

Dr. W. Zelle, a German military surgeon, in his book "1812" describes the
last days of the army. Kowno was occupied by a considerable force of
artillery, with two German battalions, and it contained also very large
supplies, a great deal of ammunition, provisions, clothing, and arms of
various kinds. About an hour's march from Wilna the retreating masses
encountered the hill and defile of Ponary and it was at this point where
the imperial treasure, so far conscientiously guarded by German troops from
Baden and Wuerttemberg, was lost. When the leaders of the treasure became
convinced of the impossibility to save it, the jaded horses not being able
after 15 hours' effort to climb the ice covered hill, they had the wagons
opened, the money chests broken, and the coin surrendered to the soldiers.

The sight of the gold brought new life even to the half frozen ones; they
threw away their arms and were so greedy in loading themselves down with
the mammon that many of them did not notice the approaching Cossacks until
it was too late. Friend and foe, Frenchmen and Russians pillaged the
wagons. Honor, money, and what little had remained of discipline, all was
lost at this point.

However, side by side with these outrages, noble deeds could also be
recorded. Numerous wagons with wounded officers had to be abandoned, the
horses being too weak to take another step, and many of the soldiers
disregarded everything to save these unfortunates, carrying them away on
their shoulders. An adjutant of the emperor, Count Turenne, distributed the
private treasure of the emperor among the soldiers of the Old Guard, and
not one of these faithful men kept any of the money for himself. All was
honestly returned later on, and more than 6 millions of francs reached
Danzig safely.

The retreat during these scenes and the following days, when the terrible
cold caused more victims from hour to hour, was still covered by Ney whose
iron constitution defied all hardships. From five until ten at night he
personally checked the advance of the enemy, during the night he marched,
driving all stragglers before him. From seven in the morning until ten the
rear guard rested, after which time they continued the daily fight.

His Bavarians numbered 260 on December 11th., 150 on the 17th. and on the
13th. the last 20 were taken prisoners. The corps had disappeared. The
remainder of Loison's division and the garrison of Wilna diminished in the
same manner until, finally, the rear guard consisted of only 60 men.


What was left of the army reached Kowno on the 12th, after a long, tedious
march, dying of cold and hunger. In Kowno there was an abundance of
clothes, flour, and spirits. But the unrestrained soldiers broke the
barrels, so that the spilled liquor formed a lake in the market place. The
soldiers threw themselves down and by the hundreds drank until they were
intoxicated. More than 1200 drunken men reeled through the streets, dropped
drowsily upon the icy stones or into the snow, their sleep soon passing
into death. Of the entire corps of Eugene there remained only eight or ten
officers with the prince. Only one day more (the 13th.) was the powerful
Ney able, with the two German battalions of the garrison, to check the
Cossacks, vigorously supported by the indefatigable generals, Gerard and
Wrede. Not until the 14th., at 9 o'clock at night, did he begin to retreat,
with the last of the men, after having destroyed the bridges over the Wilia
and the Niemen. Always fighting, receding but not fleeing, his person
formed the rear guard of this Grand Army which five months previous crossed
the river at this very point, now, on the 14th, consisting of only 500
foot guards, 600 horse guards, and nine cannon.

It is nobody but Ney who still represents the Grand Army, who fires the
last shot before he, the last Frenchman, crosses the bridge over the
Niemen, which is blown up behind him. If we look upon the knightly conduct
of Ney during the entire campaign we cannot but think how much greater he
was than the heroes of Homer.

This man has demonstrated to the world upon this most terrible of all
retreats that even fate is not able to subdue an imperturbable courage,
that even the greatest adversity redounds to the glory of a hero.

More than a thousand times did Ney earn in Russia the epithet, "the bravest
of the brave," and the legend which French tradition has woven around his
person is quite justified. No mortal has ever performed such deeds of
indomitable moral courage; all other heroes and exploits vanish in

Here, at the Niemen, the pursuit by the Russians came to an end for the
time being. They, too, had suffered enormously.

Not less than 18 thousand Russians were sick in Wilna; Kutusoff's army was
reduced to 35 thousand men, that of Wittgenstein from 50 thousand to 15
thousand. The entire Russian army, including the garrison of Riga, numbered
not more than 100 thousand. The winter, this terrible ally of the Russians,
exacted a high price for the assistance it had rendered them; of 10
thousand men who left the interior, well provided with all necessities,
only 1700 reached Wilna; the troops of cavalry did not number more than 20

In all the literature which I have examined I did not find a better
description of the life and the struggle of the soldiers on the retreat
than that given by General Heinrich von Brandt of his march from Zembin to
Wilna. It is a vivid picture of many details from which we derive a full
understanding of the great misery on the retreat in general.

I shall give an extensive extract in his own words:

"We arrived late at Zembin, where we found many bivouac fires. It was very
cold. Here and there around the fires were lying dead soldiers.

"After a short rest, which had given us some new strength, we continued the
march. If the stragglers arrive, we said to ourselves, we shall be lost;
therefore, let us hurry and keep ahead of them. Our little column kept well
together, but at every halt some men were missing. Toward daybreak the cold
became more severe. While it was dark yet, we met a file of gunpowder carts
carrying wounded; from a number of these vehicles we heard heart-rending
clamors of some of the wounded asking us to give them death.

"At every moment we encountered dead or dying comrades, officers and
soldiers, who were sitting on the road, exhausted from fatigue, awaiting
their end. The sun rose blood-red; the cold was frightful. We stopped near
a village where bivouac fires were burning. Around these fires were grouped
living and dead soldiers. We lodged ourselves as well as we could and took
from those who had retired from the scene of life--apparently during their
sleep--anything that could be of service to us. I for my part helped myself
to a pot in which I melted snow to make a soup from some bread crusts which
I had in my pocket. We all relished this soup.

"After an hour's rest we resumed our march and about 30 hours after our
departure we reached Plechtchenissi. During this time we had made 25 miles.
At Plechtchenissi we found, at a kind of farm, sick, wounded and dead, all
lying pell-mell. There was no room for us in the house; we were obliged to
camp outside, but great fires compensated us for the want of shelter.

"We decided to rest during part of the night. While some of the soldiers
roasted slices of horse meat and others prepared oatmeal cakes from oats
which they had found in the village, we tried to sleep. But the frightful
scenes through which we had passed kept us excited, and sleep would not

"Toward 1 o'clock in the morning we left for Molodetchno. The cold was
frightful. Our way was marked by the light of the bivouac fires which were
seen at intervals and by cadavers of men and horses lying everywhere, and
as the moon and the stars were out we could see them well. Our column
became smaller all the while, officers and men disappeared without our
noticing their departure, without our knowing where they had fallen behind;
and the cold increased constantly. When we stopped at some bivouac fire it
seemed to us as if we were among the dead; nobody stirred, only
occasionally would one or the other of those sitting around raise his head,
look upon us with glassy eyes, rest again, probably never to rise again.
What made the march during that night especially disagreeable was the icy
wind whipping our faces. Toward 8 o'clock in the morning we perceived a
church tower. That is Molodetchno, we all cried with one voice. But to our
disappointment we learned on our arrival that it was only Iliya, and that
we were only half-way to Molodetchno.

"Iliya was not completely deserted by the inhabitants, but the troops that
had passed through it before us had left almost nothing eatable in the
place. We found abode in some houses and for a while were protected from
the cold which was by no means abating. In the farm of which we took
possession we found a warm room and a good litter, which we owed to our

"It was strange that none of us could sleep; we all were in a state of
feverish excitement, and I attribute this to an indistinct fear; once
asleep we might perhaps not awake again, as we had seen it happen a
thousand times.

"The longer we remained at Iliya the more comfortable we felt, and we
decided to stay there all day and wait for news. Soup of buckwheat, a large
pot of boiled corn, some slices of roast horse meat, although all without
salt, formed a meal which we thought delicious."

Von Brandt describes how they took off their garments, or their wrappings
which served as garments, to clean and repair them; how some of his men
found leather with which they enveloped their feet. The day and the night
passed, and all had some sleep. But they had to leave.

"Some of the men refused to go; one of them when urged to come along said:
'Captain, let me die here; we all are to perish, a few days sooner or later
is of no consequence.' He was wounded, but not seriously, a bullet had
passed through his arm; it was a kind of apathy which had come over him,
and he could not be persuaded. He remained and probably died.

"We left; the cold was almost unbearable. Along the road we found bivouacs,
at which one detachment relieved the other; the succeeding surpassing the
preceding one in misery and distress. Everywhere, on the road and in the
bivouacs, the dead were lying, most of them stripped of their clothes.

"It was imperative to keep moving, for remaining too long at the bivouac
fires meant death, and dangerous was it also to remain behind, separated
from the troop. (The danger of being alone under such circumstances as
existed here has been pointed out by Beaupré.)

"We marched to Molodetchno where the great road commences and where we
expected some amelioration, and, indeed, we found it. The everlasting cold
was now the principal cause of our sufferings.

"In the village there was some kind of order; we saw many soldiers bearing
arms and of a general good appearance. The houses were not all deserted,
neither were they as overcrowded as in other places through which we had
passed. We established ourselves in some of them situated on the road to
Smorgoni, and we had reason to be satisfied with our choice. We bought
bread at an enormous price, made soup of it which tasted very good to us,
and we had plenty for all of us.

"At Molodetchno men of our division joined us and brought us the news of
the crossing of the Beresina."

von Brandt gives the description of the events at the Beresina and tells of
the historical significance of Molodetchno as the place where Napoleon
sojourned 18 hours and from where he dated the 29th. bulletin.

"We left the village on the following morning at an early hour and
continued our march on the road to Smorgoni.

"A description of this march," writes von Brandt, "would only be a
repetition of what had been said of scenes of preceding days. We were
overtaken by a snowstorm the violence of which surpassed all imagination,
fortunately this violence lasted only some hours, but on account of it our
little column became dispersed.

"One bivouac left an impression of horror to last for all my lifetime. In a
village crowded with soldiers we came to a fire which was burning quite
lively, around it were lying some dead. We were tired; it was late, and we
decided to rest there. We removed the corpses to make room for the living
and arranged ourselves the best way we could. A fence against which the
snow had drifted protected us from the north wind. Many who passed by
envied us this good place. Some stopped for a while, others tried to
establish themselves near us. Gradually the fatigue brought sleep to some
of us; the stronger ones brought wood to keep up the fire. But it snowed
constantly; after one had warmed one side of the body an effort was made to
warm the other; after one foot had been warmed the other was brought near
the flame; a complete rest was impossible. At daybreak we prepared to
depart. Thirteen men of our troop, all wounded, did not answer the roll
call. My heart pained.

[Illustration: "No fear, we soon shall follow you."]

"We had to pass in front of the fence which had given us protection against
the wind during the night. Imagine our surprise when we saw that what we
had taken for a fence was a pile of corpses which our predecessors had
heaped one upon the other. These dead were men of all countries, Frenchmen,
Swiss, Italians, Poles, Germans, as we could distinguish by their uniforms.
Most of them had their arms extended as if they had been stretching
themselves. 'Look, Captain,' said one of the soldiers, 'they stretch their
hands out to us; ah, no fear, we soon shall follow you.'

"We were soon to have another horrid sight. In a village, many houses of
which had been burnt, there were the ghastly remains of burnt corpses, and
in one building, especially, there was a large number of such infesting the
air with their stench. A repetition of scenes I had seen at Saragossa and
at Smolensk."

"At sunset we arrived at Smorgoni, and here we enjoyed great comfort. It
was the first place where we could obtain something for money. From an old
Jewess we bought bread, rice, and also a little coffee, all at reasonable
prices. It was the first cup of coffee I had had for months, and it
invigorated me very much."

"We were young, and our good humor had soon been restored to us; it made us
forget, for the time being at least, how much we had suffered, and at this
moment we did not think of the suffering yet in store for us."

"We left for Ochmiana; our march was tedious. Again we encountered a great
many dead strewn on the road; many of them had died from cold; some still
had their arms, young men, well dressed, their cloaks, shoes, and socks,
however, were taken from them. Half way to Ochmiana we took a rest at a
bivouac which had been evacuated quite recently."

"The night we passed here was fearful. I had an inflamed foot, and felt a
burning pain under the arms which caused me great difficulty in the use of
my crutches. Fortunately I found a place on which a fire had been burning,
and I was not obliged to sleep on the snow. The soldiers kept up a fire all
night, and I had a good and invigorating sleep, in consequence of which I
could take up the march on the following day, with new courage and zeal."

"Toward 11 o'clock we arrived, together with a mass of fugitives, at
Ochmiana. Before entering the city we encountered a convoy of provisions,
escorted by a young Mecklenburg officer, Lieutenant Rudloff, who some years
later served as a Prussian general. He made an attempt to defend his
sleighs, but in vain. The crowd surrounded him and his convoy and pushed in
such a manner that neither he nor his men were able to stir. The sleighs,
carrying excellent biscuits, were pillaged. I myself gathered some in the
snow, and I can well say that they saved my life until we reached Wilna."

"Arrived at Ochmiana we at once continued our march upon Miednicki."

"The city was occupied by a crowd of disbanded soldiers--marauders who had
established themselves everywhere. It was only with difficulty that we
found some sort of lodging in a kind of pavilion which was icy and had no
chimneys. However, we managed to heat it and arranged litter for 20 men.
With bread and biscuit brought from Ochmiana we prepared a good meal."

"When we crossed the Goina we numbered 50; this number had increased so
that we were at one time 70, but now our number had decreased to 29."

"We left at an early hour on the next morning. It was frightfully cold.
Half way to Miednicki we had to stop at a bivouac. On the road we saw many
cadavers." Von Brandt here describes the fatal effects of cold and his
description, though less complete, corresponds with the descriptions given
by Beaupré, von Scherer, and others. Especially revolting, he says, was the
sight of the toes of the cadavers; often there were no more soft parts. The
soldiers, first of all, took the shoes from their dead comrades, next the
cloaks; they would wear two or three or cut one to cover their feet and
their head with the pieces.

The last part of the march to Miedniki was most painful for von Brandt, on
account of the inflammation of his left foot.

He describes his stay at that place in which there were many stragglers. He
bivouaked in a garden; they had straw enough and a good fire, also biscuits
from Ochmiana, and they suffered only from the cold, 30 deg. below zero R.
(36 deg. below zero Fahrenheit.) On this occasion von Brandt speaks of the
pains, the sufferings, the condition of his comrades. One of them,
Zelinski, had not uttered a word since their departure from Smorgoni; he
had no tobacco, and this troubled him more than physical pain; another one,
Karpisz, crushed by sorrow and sufferings, was in a delirious state; in the
same condition were some of the wounded. But after all, in the midst of
their sad reflections, some of them fell asleep. Those who were well enough
took up reliefs on night watch. Every one of the group had to bear some
special great misery, and upon the whole their trials were beyond
endurance: In the open air at 30 deg. R. below zero, without sufficient
clothing, without provisions, full of vermin, exposed at any moment to the
attacks of the enemy, surrounded by a rapacious rabble, deprived of aid,
wounded, they were hardly in a condition to drag themselves along.

"Still an 8 hours' march to Wilna," I said to Zelinski; "Will we reach
there?" He shook his head in doubt.

One of the men, Wasilenka, a sergeant, the most courageous, the firmest of
the little column, of a robust constitution, had found at Ochmiana some
brandy and some potatoes. He said if one had not lost his head entirely,
one could have many things, but nothing can be done with the French any
more; they are not the Frenchmen of former times, a Cossack's casque upsets
them; it is a shame! And he told the great news of Napoleon's departure
from the army of which the others of von Brandt's column had yet not been
informed. Interesting as was the conversation on this event, I have to omit

The extreme cold did not allow much sleep; long before daylight they were
on their feet. It was a morning of desolation, as always.

von Brandt now describes the characteristic phenomena of the landscape; the
words are almost identical with the description Beaupré has given of the
Russian landscape in the winter of 1812.

"I could not march, the pain under my shoulders was very great. I felt as
if all at this region of my body would tear off. But I marched all the
same. Many were already on the road, all in haste to reach the supposed end
of their sufferings. They seemed to be in a race, and the cold, the
incredible cold, drove them also to march quickly. On this day there
perished more men than usual, and we passed these unfortunates without a
sign of pity, as if all human feeling had been extinguished in the souls of
us, the surviving. We marched in silence, hardly any one uttered a word;
if, however, some one spoke, it was to say how is it that I am not in your
place; besides this nothing was heard but the sighing and the groans of the

"It was perhaps 9 o'clock when we had covered half of the way and took a
short rest, after which we resumed our march and arrived before Wilna
toward 3 o'clock, having marched ten hours, exhausted beyond description.
The cold was intolerable; as I learned afterward it had reached 29 deg.
below zero Reaumur (36 deg. below zero Fahrenheit.) But imagine our
surprise when armed guards forbade us to enter the city. The order had been
given to admit only regular troops. The commanders had thought of the
excesses of Smolensk and Orscha and here at least they intended to save the
magazines from pillage. Our little column remained at the gate for a while;
we saw that whoever risked to mix with the crowd could not extricate
himself again and could neither advance nor return. It came near sunset,
the cold by no means abated but, on the contrary, augmented. Every minute
the crowd increased in number, the dying and dead mixed up with the living.
We decided to go around the city, to try to enter at some other part; after
half an hour's march we succeeded and found ourselves in the streets. They
were full of baggage, soldiers, and inhabitants. But where to turn? Where
to seek aid? By good luck we remembered that our officers passing Wilna on
their way during the spring had been well received by Mr. Malczewski, a
friend of our colonel. Nothing more natural than to go to him and ask for
asylum. But imagine our joy, our delight, when at our arrival at the house
we found our colonel himself, the quartermaster and many officers known by
us, who all were the guests of Mr. Malczewski. Even Lieutenant Gordon who
commanded our depot at Thorn was there; he had come after he had had the
news of the battle of Borodino.

"My faithful servant Maciejowski and the brave Wasilenka carried me up the
stairs and placed me in bed. I was half dead, hardly master of my senses.
Gordon gave me a shirt, my servant took charge of my garments to free them
from vermin, and after I had had some cups of hot beer with ginger in it
and was under a warm blanket, I recovered strength enough to understand
what I was told and to do what I was asked to do."

"A Jewish physician examined and dressed my wounds. He found my shoulders
very much inflamed and prescribed an ointment which had an excellent
effect. I fell into a profound sleep which was interrupted by the most
bizarre imaginary scenes; there was not one of the hideous episodes of the
last fortnight which did not pass in some form or another before my mind."

"Washed, cleaned, passably invigorated, refreshed especially by some cups
of hot beer, I was able to rise on the following morning and to assist at
the council which the colonel had called together."

Von Brandt now describes how the mass of fugitives came and pillaged the
magazines. The colonel saved a great many, supplied them with shoes,
cloaks, caps, woolen socks, and provisions, von Brandt describes the scenes
of Wilna from the time the Cossacks had entered.

"The colonel prepared to depart; at first he hesitated to take us, the
wounded, along, asking if we could stand the voyage. I said to remain would
be certain death, and with confidence I set out on the march with my men,
the number of whom was now twenty. We had sleighs and good horses.

"The night was superb. It was light like day. The stars shone more
radiantly than ever upon our misery. The cold was still severe beyond
description and more sensible to us who had nearly lost the habit to feel
it during forty-eight hours of relief.

"We had to make our way through an indescribable tangle of carriages and
wagons to reach the gate, and the road as far as we could see was also
covered with vehicles, wagons, sleighs, cannons, all mixed up. We had great
difficulties to remain together.

"After an hour's march all came to a halt; we found ourselves before a
veritable sea of men. The wagons could not be drawn over a hill on account
of the ice, and the road became hopelessly blockaded. Here it was where the
military treasure of 12 million francs was given to the soldiers."

Von Brandt describes his most wonderful adventures on the way to Kowno
which, although most interesting, add nothing to what has already been
described. I gave this foregoing part of von Brandt's narration because it
gives a most vivid picture of the life of the soldiers during the supreme
moments of the retreat from Moscow.


Beaupré was taken prisoner at the passage of the Beresina and remained in
captivity for some time. His lot as a prisoner of war was an exceptionally
good one. He tells us that prisoners when they were out of such parts of
the country as had been ravaged by the armies, received regular rations of
a very good quality, and were lodged by eight, ten, and twelve, with the
peasants. In the provincial capitals, they received furs of sheep skin, fur
bonnets, gloves, and coarse woolen stockings, a sort of dress that appeared
to them grotesque as well as novel, but which was very precious as a
protection against the cold during the winter. When arrived at the places
in which they were to pass the time of their captivity they found their lot
ameliorated, and the reception accorded to them demanded a grateful eulogy
of the hospitality exercised by the Russians.

Quite different was the experience of a very young German, Karl Schehl, a
private whose memoirs have been kept in his family, and were recently
published by one of his grand-nephews. After a battle on the retreat from
Moscow he, with many others, was taken prisoner by Cossacks, who at once
plundered the captives. Schehl was deprived of his uniform, his breeches,
his boots. He had a gold ring on his ring finger, and one of the Cossacks,
thinking it too much trouble to remove the ring in the natural way, had
already drawn his sabre to cut off the prisoner's left hand, when an
officer saw this and gave the brutal Cossack a terrible blow in the face;
he then removed the ring without hurting the boy and kept it for himself.
Another officer took Schehl's gold watch. Schehl stood then with no other
garment but a shirt, and barefoot, in the bitter cold, not daring to
approach the bivouac fire.


The Cossacks (on examining the garments of Schehl), found in one of the
pockets a B clarinette. This discovery gave them great pleasure; they
induced their captive to play for them, and he played, chilled to the bone
in his scanty costume. But now the Cossacks came to offer him garments, a
regular outfit for the Russian winter. They gave him food to eat and did
all they could to show their appreciation of the music. What a rapid change
of fortune within two hours, writes Schehl. Toward noon, riding a good
horse, with considerable money in Russian bank notes and a valuable gold
watch in his possession, all brought from Moscow, at 1 p.m. he stood
dressed in a shirt only, with his bare feet on the frozen ground, and at 2
p. m. he was admired as an artist by a large audience that gave him warm
clothes, which meant protection against the danger of freezing to death,
and a place near the fire.

During that afternoon and the following night more French soldiers of all
arms, mostly emaciated and miserable, were escorted to the camp by Russian
militia, peasants, armed with long, sharp lances. It was the night from
October 30th. to 31st., at the time of the first snowfall, with a
temperature of -12 deg. Reaumur (about 5 degrees above zero Fahrenheit). Of
the 700 prisoners, many of them deprived of their clothing, as Schehl had
been deprived, who had to camp without a fire, quite a number did not see
the next morning, and the already described snow hills indicated where
these unfortunates had reached the end of their sufferings. The commanding
officer of the Cossacks ordered the surviving prisoners to fall in line for
the march back to Moscow. The escort consisted of two Cossacks and several
hundred peasant-soldiers. Within sixteen hours the 700 had been reduced to
500. And they had to march back over the road which they had come yesterday
as companions of their emperor. The march was slow, they were hardly an
hour on the road when here and there one of the poor, half naked, starving
men fell into the snow; immediately was he pierced with the lance of one of
the peasant soldiers who shouted stopai sukinsin (forward you dog), but as
a rule the one who had fallen was no longer able to obey the brutal
command. Two Russian peasant soldiers would then take hold, one at each
leg, and drag the dying man with the head over snow and stones until he was
dead, then leave the corpse in the middle of the road. In the woods they
would practice the same cruelties as the North American Indians, tie those
who could not rise to a tree and amuse themselves by torturing the victim
to death with their lances. And, says Schehl, I could narrate still other
savageries, but they are too revolting, they are worse than those of the
savage Indians. Fortunately, Schehl himself was protected from all
molestations by the peasants by the two Cossacks of the escort. He was even
taken into the provision wagon where he could ride between bundles of hay
and straw. On the evening of the first day's march the troops camped in a
birch forest. Russian people are fond of melancholy music; Schehl played
for them adagios on his clarinette, and the Cossacks gave him the best they
had to eat. His comrades, now reduced to 400 in number, received no food
and were so terror-stricken or so feeble that only from time to time they
emitted sounds of clamor. Some would crawl into the snow and perish, while
those who kept on moving were able to prolong their miserable lives. The
second night took away 100 more, so that the number of prisoners was
reduced to less than 300 on the morning of October 31st. During the night
from October 31st. to November 1st. more than one-half of the prisoners who
had come into the camp had perished, and there were only about 100 men left
to begin the march. This mortality was frightful. Schehl thinks that the
peasants killed many during the night in order to be relieved of their
guard duty. For the Cossacks would send the superfluous guardsmen away and
retain only as many as one for every four prisoners. They saw that the
completely exhausted Frenchmen could be driven forward like a herd of sick
sheep, and hardly needed any guard. In the morning we passed a village,
writes Schehl, in which stood some houses which had not been burned. The
returned inhabitants were busy clearing away the rubbish and had built some
provisional straw huts. I sat as harmless as possible on my wagon when
suddenly a girl in one of the straw huts screamed loud Matuschka!
Matuschka! Franzusi! Franzusi Niewolni! (Mother! mother! Frenchmen! French
prisoners!), and now sprang forward a large woman, armed with a thick club
and struck me such a powerful blow on the head that I became unconscious.
When I opened my eyes again the woman struck me once more, this time on my
left shoulder and so violently that I screamed. My arm was paralyzed from
the stroke. Fortunately, one of the Cossacks came to my rescue, scolded the
woman, and chased her away.

On the evening of November 1st., the troops came to a village through which
no soldiers had passed, which had not been disturbed by the war. Of the
prisoners only 60 remained alive, and these were lodged in the houses.

Schehl describes the interior of the houses of Russian peasants as well as
the customs of the Russian peasants, which description is highly
interesting, and I shall give a brief abstract of it.

The houses are all frame buildings with a thatched roof, erected upon a
foundation of large unhewn stones, the interstices of which are filled with
clay, and built in an oblong shape, of strong, round pine logs placed one
on top of the other. Each layer is stuffed with moss, and the ends of the
logs are interlocking. The buildings consist of one story only, with a very
small, unvaulted cellar.

Usually there are only two rooms in these houses, and wealthy peasants use
both of them for their personal requirements; the poorer classes, on the
other hand, use only one of the rooms for themselves, and the other for
their horses, cows, and pigs.

The most prominent part of the interior arrangement of these rooms is the
oven, covering about six feet square, with a brick chimney in the houses of
the wealthy, but without chimney in those of the poor, so that the smoke
must pass through the door giving a varnished appearance to the entire
ceiling over the door.

There are no chairs in the rooms; during the day broad benches along the
walls and oven are used instead. At night, the members of the household lie
down to sleep on these benches, using any convenient piece of clothing for
a pillow. It seems the Russian peasant of one hundred years ago considered
beds a luxury.

Every one of these houses, those of the rich as well as those of the poor,
contains in the easterly corner of the sitting room a cabinet with more or
less costly sacred images.

On entering the room the newcomer immediately turns his face toward the
cabinet, crossing himself three times in the Greek fashion, simultaneously
inclining his head, and not until this act of devotion has been performed
does he address individually every one present. In greeting, the family
name is never mentioned, only the first name, to which is added: Son of so
and so (likewise the first name only), but the inclination of the
head--pagoda like--is never omitted.

All the members of the household say their very simple prayers in front of
the cabinet; at least, I never heard them say anything else but _Gospodin
pomilui_ (O Lord, have mercy upon us); but such a prayer is very fatiguing
for old and feeble persons because _Gospodin pomilui_ is repeated at least
24 times, and every repetition is accompanied with a genuflection and a
prostration, naturally entailing a great deal of hardship owing to the
continued exertion of the entire body.

In addition to the sacred cabinet, the oven, and the benches, every one of
the rooms contains another loose bench about six feet long, a table of the
same length, and the kvass barrel which is indispensable to every Russian.

This cask is a wooden vat of about 50 to 60 gallons capacity, standing
upright, the bottom of which is covered with a little rye flour and wheat
bran--the poor use chaff of rye--upon which hot water is poured. The water
becomes acidulated in about 24 hours and tastes like water mixed with
vinegar. A little clean rye straw is placed inside of the vat, in front of
the bunghole, allowing the kvass to run fairly clear into the wooden cup.
When the vat is three-quarters empty more water is added; this must be done
very often, as the kvass barrel with its single drinking cup--placed always
on top of the barrel--is regarded as common property. Every member of the
household and every stranger draws and drinks from it to their heart's
content, without ever asking permission of the owner of the house. Kvass
is a very refreshing summer drink, especially in the houses of wealthy
peasants who need not be particular with their rye flour and who frequently
renew the original ingredients of the concoction.

The peasant soldiers took the most comfortable places; for Schehl and his
nine comrades, who were lodged with him in one of the houses, straw was
given to make a bed on the floor, but most of the nine syntrophoi were so
sick and feeble that they could not make their couch, and six could not
even eat the pound of bread which every one had received; they hid the
remaining bread under the rags which represented their garments. Schehl,
although he could not raise his left arm, helped the sick, notwithstanding
the pain he suffered, to spread the straw on the floor. On the morning of
the 2d. of November the sick, who had not been able to eat all their bread,
were dead. Schehl, while the surviving ones were still asleep, took the
bread which he found on the corpses, to hide it in his sheepskin coat. This
inheritance was to be the means of saving his life; without it he would
have starved to death while a prisoner in Moscow.

They left this village with now only 29 prisoners and arrived on
the same evening, reduced to 11 in number, in Moscow, where they
were locked up in one of the houses, together with many other prisoners. Of
the 700 fellow prisoners of Schehl 689 had died during the four days and
four nights of hunger, cold, and most barbaric cruelties. If the prisoners
had hoped to be saved from further cruelties while in Moscow they were
bitterly disappointed. First of all, their guards took from them all they
themselves could use, and on this occasion Schehl lost his clarinette which
he considered as his life saver. Fortunately, they did not take from him
the six pieces of bread. After having been searched the prisoners were
driven into a room which was already filled with sick or dying, lying on
the floor with very little and bad straw under them. The newcomers had
difficulties to find room for themselves among these other unfortunates.
The guards brought a pail of fresh water but nothing to eat. In a room with
two windows, which faced the inner court-yard, were locked up over 30
prisoners, and all the other rooms in the building were filled in the same
way. During the night from November 2d. to November 3d. several of Schehl's
companions died and were thrown through the window into the court yard,
after the jailors had taken from the corpses whatever they could use.
Similar acts were performed in the other rooms, and it gave the survivors a
little more room to stretch their limbs. This frightful condition lasted
six days and six nights, during which time no food was given to them. The
corpses in the yard were piled up so high that the pile reached up to the
windows. It was 48 hours since Schehl had eaten the last of the six pieces
of bread, and he was so tortured by hunger that he lost all courage, when
at 10 o'clock in the forenoon a Russian officer entered and in German
ordered the prisoners to get ready within an hour for roll call in the
court yard, because the interimistic commanding officer of Moscow, Colonel
Orlowski, was to review them. Immediately before this took place, the
prisoners had held a counsel among themselves whether it would be wise to
offer themselves for Russian military service in order to escape the
imminent danger of starving to death. When that officer so unexpectedly had
entered, Schehl, although the youngest--he was only 15 years of age--but
relatively the strongest, because he was the last of them who had had a
little to eat, rose with difficulty from his straw bed and made the offer,
saying that they were at present very weak and sick from hunger, but that
they would soon regain their strength if they were given something to eat.
The officer in a sarcastic and rough manner replied: "His Majesty our
glorious Emperor, Alexander, has soldiers enough and does not need you
dogs." He turned and left the room, leaving the unfortunates in a state of
despair. Toward 11 o'clock he returned, ordering the prisoners to descend
the stairs and fall in line in the court yard. All crawled from their
rooms, 80 in number, and stood at attention before the colonel, who was a
very handsome and strong man, six foot tall, with expressive and benevolent
features. The youth of Schehl made an impression on him, and he asked in
German: "My little fellow, are you already a soldier?"

S. At your service, colonel.

C. How old are you?

S. Fifteen years, colonel.

C. How is it possible that you at your young age came into service?

S. Only my passion for horses induced me to volunteer my services in the
most beautiful regiment of France, as trumpeter.

C. Can you ride horseback and take care of horses?

S. At your service, colonel!

C. Where are the many prisoners who have been brought here, according to
reports there should be 800.

S. What you see here, colonel, is the sad remainder of those 800 men. The
others have died.

C. Is there an epidemic disease in this house?

S. Pardon me, colonel, but those comrades of mine have all died from
starvation; for during the six days we are here we received no food.

C. What you say, little fellow, cannot be true, for I have ordered to give
you the prescribed rations of bread, meat, and brandy, the same as are
given to the Russian soldiers, and this has been the will of the Czar.

S. Excuse me, colonel, I have told the truth, and if you will take the
pains to walk into the rear yard you will see the corpses.

The colonel went and convinced himself of the correctness of my statement.
He returned in the greatest anger, addressed some officer in Russian, gave
some orders and went along the front to hear Schehl's report confirmed by
several other prisoners. The officer who had received orders returned,
accompanied by six Uhlans, each of the latter with hazelnut sticks. Now the
jailors were called and had to deliver everything which they had taken from
their prisoners; unfortunately, Schehl's clarinette was not among the
articles that were returned. And now Schehl witnessed the most severe
punishment executed on the jailors. They had to remove their coats and were
whipped with such cannibal cruelty that bloody pieces of flesh were torn
off their backs, and some had to be carried from the place. They deserved
severe punishment, for they had sold all the food which during six days had
been delivered to them for 800 men.

The surviving prisoners were now treated well, the colonel took Schehl with
him to do service in his castle.

The case of Karl Schehl is a typical one.

Holzhausen has collected a great many similar ones from family papers,
which never before had been published. All the writers of these papers
speak, exactly like Schehl, in plain, truthful language, and the best
proof of their veracity is that all, independent of each other, tell the
same story of savage cruelty and of robbery. All, in narrating their
experiences, do not omit any detail, all give dates and localities which
they had retained exactly from those fearful days which had left the most
vivid impressions. There is much repetition in these narrations, for all
had experienced the same.

All tell that the Cossacks were the first to rob the prisoners. These
irregular soldiers received no pay and considered it their right to
compensate themselves for the hardships of the campaign by means of

Besides the tales collected by Holzhausen I can refer to many other
writers, Frenchmen, the Englishman Wilson, and even Russians among them,
but the material is so voluminous that I shall confine myself to select
only what concerned physicians who were taken prisoners.

The Bavarian Sanitary Corps, captured at Polotsk, after having been
mercilessly robbed by Cossacks, was brought before a Russian General,
who did not even take notice of them. It was only after Russian
physicians interfered in their behalf that they obtained a hearing of
their grievances.

Prisoners tell touching stories how they were saved by German physicians,
in most instances from typhus. In almost all larger Russian cities there
were German physicians, and this was a blessing to many of the prisoners.
Holzhausen gives the names of several of the sick and the names of the
physicians who spared no pains in attending to the sufferers.

In the course of time and with the change of circumstances the lot of the
prisoners in general was ameliorated, and in many instances their life
became comfortable. Many found employment as farm hands or at some trade,
as teachers of languages, but the principal occupation at which they
succeeded was the practice of medicine. Whether they were competent
physicians or only dilettantes they all gained the confidence of the
Russian peasantry. In a land in which physicians are scarce the followers
of Aesculap are highly appreciated.

When a Russian peasant had overloaded his stomach and some harmless mixture
or decoction given him by some of the pseudo physicians had had a good
effect--post hoc ergo propter hoc--the medicine man who had come from far
away was highly praised and highly recommended.

Lieutenant Furtenbach treated with so-called sympathetic remedies and had a
success which surprised nobody more than himself.

Real physicians were appreciated by the educated and influential Russians
and secured a more lucrative practice within weeks than they had been able
to secure after years at home. Dr. Roos, of whom I have already spoken,
having been taken prisoner near the Beresina, became physician to the
hospitals of Borisow and Schitzkow and soon had the greatest private
practice of any physician in the vicinity; he afterward was called to the
large hospitals in St. Petersburg, and was awarded highest honors by the
Russian government.

More remarkable was the career of Adjutant Braun which has been told by his
friend, Lieutenant Peppler, who acted as his assistant.

Braun had studied medicine for a while, but exchanged sound and lancet for
the musket. As prisoner of war, at the urgent request of his friend
Peppler, he utilized his unfinished studies. Venaesection was very popular
in Russia, he secured a lancet, a German tailor made rollers for him, and
soon he shed much Russian blood. The greatest triumph, however, of the two
Aesculapians was Braun's successful operation for cataract which he
performed on a police officer, his instrument being a rusty needle. The
description of the operating scene during which the assistant Peppler
trembled from excitement is highly dramatic. Braun became the favorite of
the populace and everybody regretted that he left when he was free.


Among the old publications referring to the medical history of Napoleon's
campaign in Russia I found one of a Prussian army physician, Dr. Krantz,
published in the year 1817 with the following title: Bemerkungen ueber den
Gang der Krankheiten welche in der königlich preussischen Armee vom
Ausbruch des Krieges im Jahre 1812 bis zu Ende des Waffenstillstandes (im
Aug.) 1813 geherrscht haben. (Remarks on the course of the Diseases which
have reigned in the Royal Prussian Army from the Beginning of the War in
the Year 1812 until the End of the Armistice [in August] 1813). From this
I shall give the following extract:

It is well known that the soldiers constituting the wreck of the Grand Army
wherever they passed on their way from Russia through Germany spread ruin;
their presence brought death to thousands of peaceful citizens. Even those
who were apparently well carried the germs of disease with them, for we
found whole families, says Krantz, in whose dwelling soldiers, showing no
signs of disease, had stayed over night, stricken down with typhus. The
Prussian soldiers of York's corps had not been with the Grand Army in
Moscow, and there was no typhus among them until they followed the French
on their road of retreat from Russia. From this moment on, however, the
disease spread with the greatest rapidity in the whole Prussian army corps,
and this spreading took place with a certain uniformity among the different
divisions. On account of the overflowing of the rivers, the men had to
march closely together on the road, at least until they passed the Vistula
near Dirschau, Moeve, and Marienwerder. Of the rapid extent of the
infection we can form an idea when we learn the following facts: In the
first East Prussian regiment of infantry, when it came to the Vistula,
there was not a single case of typhus, while after a march of 14 miles on
the highway which the French had passed before them there were 15 to 20 men
sick in every company, every tenth or even every seventh man. In those
divisions which had been exposed to infection while in former cantonments,
the cases were much more numerous, 20 to 30 in every company.

Simultaneously with typhus there appeared the first cases of an epidemic
ophthalmy. Although the eye affection was not as general as the typhus--it
occurred only in some of the divisions, and then at the outset not so
severely as later on--both evils were evidently related to each other by a
common causal nexus. They appeared simultaneously under similar
circumstances, but never attacked simultaneously the same individual.
Whoever had ophthalmy was immune against typhus and vice versa, and this
immunity furnished by one against the other evil lasted a long period of
time. Both diseases were very often cured on the march. We found confirmed,
says Krantz, what had been asserted a long time before by experienced
physicians, that cold air had the most beneficial effect during the
inflammatory stage of contagious typhus. For this reason the soldiers who
presented the first well-known symptoms of typhus infection: headache,
nausea, vertigo, etc., were separated from their healthy comrades and
entrusted to medical care, and this consisted, except in the case of
extraordinarily grave symptoms, in dressing the patient with warm clothing
and placing him for the march on a wagon where he was covered all over with
straw. The wagon was driven fast, to follow the corps, but halted
frequently on the way at houses where tea (Infusum Chamomillae, species
aromaticarum, etc.) with or without wine or spiritus sulphuricus aetherius
were prepared; of this drink the patient was given a few cupfuls to warm
him. As a precaution against frost, which proved to be a very wise one,
hands and feet were wrapped in rags soaked in spiritus vini camphoratus.
For quarters at night isolated houses were selected for their reception--a
precaution taught by sad experience--and surgeons or couriers who had come
there in advance had made the best preparations possible. All the hospitals
between the Vistula and Berlin, constantly overfilled, were thoroughly
infected, and thus transformed into regular pest-houses exhaling perdition
to every one who entered, the physicians and attendants included. On the
other hand, most of the patients who were treated on the march recovered.
Of 31 cases of typhus of the 2d. battalion of the infantry guards
transported from Tilsit to Tuchel, only one died, while the remaining 30
regained their health completely, a statistical result as favorable as has
hardly ever happened in the best regulated hospital and which is the more
surprising on account of the severe form of the disease at that time. An
equally favorable result was obtained in the first East Prussian regiment
of infantry on the march from the Vistula to the Spree.

There was not a single death on the march; of 330 patients 300 recovered,
30 were sent into hospitals of Elbing, Maerkisch Friedland, Conitz, and
Berlin, and the same excellent results were reported from other divisions
of the corps where the same method had been followed.

A most remarkable observation among the immense number of patients was that
they seldom presented a stage of convalescence. Three days after they had
been free from fever for 24 hours they were fit, without baggage, for a
half or even a whole day's march. If the recovery had not been such a
speedy one, says Krantz, how could all the wagons have been secured in that
part of the country devastated by war for the transportation of the many
hundreds of sick.

At the beginning of the sickness a vomitium of ipecacuanha and tartarus
stibiatus was administered (though on the march no real medical treatment
was attempted); later on aether vitrioli with tinctura valerianae, tinctura
aromatica and finally tinctura chinae composita aurantiorum with good wine,
etc., were given. It is interesting to read Krantz's statement of how much
some physicians were surprised who had been accustomed to treat their
patients in hospitals according to the principles of that period, which
consisted in the exclusion of fresh air and the hourly administration of
medicine. The mortality of those treated on the march in the manner
described was never more than 2 to 3 per cent.

As already mentioned, an epidemic ophthalmy spread simultaneously with
typhus among a large number of the troops returning from Courland,
especially among those who formed the rear guard, in which was the first
East Prussian regiment to which Krantz was attached.

In a far greater proportion the men of the two Prussian cavalry regiments
and artillery batteries which Napoleon had taken with him to Moscow, that
is into ruin, succumbed to the morbid potencies which acted upon them from
all sides.

On March 17th., 1813, York's corps entered Berlin, and from this time on
contagious typhus disappeared almost completely in this army division. It
is true that occasionally a soldier was attacked, but the number of these
was insignificant, and the character of the sickness was mild. Other
internal diseases were also infrequent among these troops during that time.
Epidemic ophthalmy, however, was very prevalent in the East Prussian
regiment of infantry. From February, 1813, until the day of the battle of
Leipzig, 700 men were treated for this disease. The character of this
ophthalmy was mild, and under treatment the patients completely recovered
within a few days (nine days at most) without any destructive lesion
remaining. Quite different from this form was a severe ophthalmy which
appeared in the army toward the end of the year 1813, and also during the
years 1814 and 1815.


Out of the enemy's country, on their way home, the soldiers had by no means
reached the limit of their sufferings. Instead of being able now to take
the much longed for and so much needed rest they were compelled to keep on
marching in order to reach the meeting places designated to them, the
principal one of which was Koenigsberg.

Before entering Prussia they had to pass through a district which was
inhabited by Lithuanians who had suffered very much from the army passing
on the march to Moscow, and who now took revenge on the retreating

Most happy were the Germans of the army breathing again the air of their
native country, and they could not restrain their feelings when they found
themselves in clean dwellings.

Their first occupation was to restore themselves in regard to cleanliness,
to free their faces from a thick covering of dirt intensified by smoke
which could be compared with a mask. All these unfortunate men wore this
mask, but, as they said while in Moscow, without any desire to dance.
Especially the better educated ones among them felt ashamed to present
themselves in this condition in which they had dragged themselves through
Russia and Poland.

On December 16th, von Borcke and his General, von Ochs, came to Schirwind,
for the first time again in a Prussian city. Quarters were assigned to them
in one of the best houses, the house of the widow of a Prussian officer.
The lady, on seeing the two entering the house, was astonished to learn
that they were a general with his adjutant, and that they should be her
guests. Nothing about them indicated their rank, they were wrapped in
sheepskins and rags full of dirt, blackened by the smoke from the camp
fires, with long beards, frozen hands and feet.

On January 2nd., 1813, these two officers arrived at Thorn. They considered
themselves saved from the great catastrophe, when there, like in all places
to which the wrecks of the grand army had come, typhus broke out. General
von Ochs was stricken down with this disease, and his condition did not
warrant any hopes for recovery. His son, however, who had gone through the
whole retreat wounded and sick with typhus, whom the general and his
adjutant had brought from Borodino in a wagon under incredible
difficulties, had recovered and was able to nurse his father.

And General von Ochs came home with his Adjutant, von Borcke, on February
20th., 1813.

Good people took pains to give their guests an opportunity to clean
themselves thoroughly; the well-to-do had their servants attend to this
process; in houses of the working class man and wife would give a helping

Sergeant Schoebel, together with a comrade, was quartered in the house of
an honest tailor who, seeing how the soldiers were covered with lice, made
them undress and, while the wife boiled the undergarments, the tailor
ironed the outer clothing with a hot iron.

Generous people tried to ameliorate in every manner possible the need which
presented itself in such a pitiful form.

Lieutenant Schauroth was sitting in despair at a table in an inn when one
nobleman pressed a double Louisd'or into his hand and another placed his
sleigh at the lieutenant's disposal to continue his journey.

In Tapiau a carpenter's helper, himself a very poor man, begged among his
friends to obtain a suit of clothes for Sergeant Steinmueller, whom he had
never known before.

But cases of this kind were the exception; in general the Prussian
peasants remembered the many excesses which, notwithstanding Napoleon's
strict orders, the soldiers had committed on their march through East
Prussia; they remembered the requisitions, they felt the plight of Prussia
since the battle of Jena, and they revenged themselves on the French
especially, but even the Germans of Napoleon's soldiers had to suffer from
the infuriated, pitiless peasantry. Holzhausen describes scenes which were
not less atrocious than those enacted by Russian peasants.

And those who were treated kindly had the most serious difficulties: the
sudden change from misery to regular life caused many serious disorders of
the organs of digestion, ennervation and circulation. All who have been in
the field during our civil war know how long it took before they were able
again to sleep in a bed. The Napoleonic soldiery describe how the warmth of
the bed brought on the most frightful mental pictures; they saw burnt,
frozen, and mutilated comrades and had to try to find rest on the floor,
their nervous and their circulatory systems were excited to an intolerable
degree. After eating they vomited, and only gradually the ruined stomach
became accustomed again, first, to thin soups and, later on, to a more
substantial diet.

How much they had suffered manifested itself in many ways after the thick
crust had been removed from their body and, above all, after what had taken
the place of shoes had been taken off. When Sergeant Toenges removed the
rags from his feet the flesh of both big toes came off. Captain
Gravenreuth's boots had been penetrated by matter and ichor. Painful
operations had to be performed to separate gangraenous parts. In
Marienwerder Hochberg found all the attendants of Marshal Victor on the
floor while a surgeon was amputating their limbs.

But these were comparatively minor affairs, amputated limbs played no roll
when hundreds of thousands of mutilated corpses rested on the fields of

An enemy more vicious than the one that had decimated the beautiful army
was lying in wait for the last remainder which tried to rally again.

It was the typhus that on the road from Moscow all through Germany and
through France did its destructive work.

This disease had been observed, as Dr. Geissler reports, first in Moscow,
ravaged most terribly in Wilna and held a second great harvest in
Koenigsberg, where the first troops arrived on December 20th.

One-half of those who had been attacked succumbed, although the hospitals
of Koenigsberg were ideal ones compared with those of Wilna.

Geissler and his colleague had to work beyond description to ameliorate and
to console; help was impossible in the majority of cases.

The physicians of Koenigsberg were not as lucky as Dr. Krantz, whose
patients were in the open air instead of being confined in a hospital.

It is heartrending to read how so many who had withstood so much, escaped
so many dangers, had to die now. One of these was General Eblé, the hero of
the Beresina.


BEAUPRE, MORICHEAU. A Treatise on the Effects and Properties of Cold with a
Sketch, Historical and Medical, of the Russian Campaign. Translated by John
Clendining with Appendix xviii, 375 pp., 8 vo. Edinburgh, Maclachnan and
Stewart 1826.

BLEIBTREU, CARL. Die Grosse Armee. Zu ihrer Jahrhundertfeier. 3. Band.
Smolensk--Moskau--Beresina. Stuttgart, 1908.

----, Marschälle, Generäle. Soldaten, Napoleon's I. Berlin (without date).

VON BORCKE, JOHANN. Kriegerleben 1806-1815. Berlin, 1888.

BONOUST, MARTIN. Considerations générales sur la congelation pendant
l'ivresse, observée en Russie en 1812. Paris, 1817.

BRANDT. Aus dem Leben des Generals Heinrich von Brandt. Berlin, 1870.

CARPON, CHIRURGIEN. Majeur de la Grande Armée, Les Morts de Wilna. La
France Médicale, 1902, pp. 457-63.

CHUQUET, ARTHUR. 1812 La Guerre de Russie. 3 vols. Paris, 1912.

EBSTEIN, DR. WILHELM. Geh. Medizinalrat und Professor der Medizin an der
Universität Goettingen, Die Krankheiten im Feldzuge gegen Russland (1812).
Eine geschichtlich-medizinische Studie. Stuttgart, 1902.

GOURGAUD, GENERAL G. DE. Napoleons Gedanken und Erinnerungen, St. Helena,
1815-1818, Nach dem 1898 veröffentlichten Tagebuch deutsch bearbeitet von
Heinrich Conrad. 7. Aus. Stuttgart, 1901. Illustrated.

HOLZHAUSEN, PAUL. Die Deutschen in Russland, 1812. Leben und Leiden auf der
Moskauer Heerfahrt. 2 vols. Berlin, 1912.

KERCKHOVE, J. R. DE. Chirurgien-en-Chef des Hopitaux militairs, Histoire
des maladies observées a la grande Armée française pendant les campagnes
de Russie en 1812. 2 vols. l'Allemagne en 1813. Anvers, 1836.

KIELLAND. ALEXANDER L. Rings um Napoleon. Uebersetzt von Dr. Friedrich
Leskien und Marie Leskien-Lie. 3 Auflage. 2 vols. Leipzig, 1907.

KRANTZ, DR. Bemerkungen über den Gang der Krankheiten welche in der Königl.
preuss. Armee vom Ausbruche des Krieges im Jahr 1812 bis zu Ende des
Waffenstillstandes (im Aug.) 1813 geherrscht haben. Magazin f. d. ges.
Heilkunde. Berlin, 1817.

LOSSBERG, GENERALLIEUTENANT VON. Briefe in die Heimath. Geschrieben während
des Feldzugs 1812 in Russland. Leipzig, 1848.

DE MAZADE, CH. LE COMTE ROSTOPCHINE. Revue des Deux Mondes, Sept. 15, 1863.

RAMBAUD, ALF. La Grande Armee a Moscou d'après les recits russes. Revue des
Deux Mondes, July 1, 1873.

SCHEHL, KARL. Mit der grossen Armee 1812 von Krefeld nach Moskau.
Erlebnisse des niederrheinischen Veteranen Karl Schehl. Herausgegeben von
Seinem Grossneffen Ferd, Schehl, Krefeld. Düsseldorf, 1912.

DE SCHERER, JOANNES. Historia morborum, qui in expeditione contra Russian
anno MDCCCXII facta legiones Wuerttembergica invaserunt, praesertim eorem,
qui frigore orti sunt. Inaugural Dissertation. Tuebingen, 1820.

THIERS, A. Histoire du Consulat et de l'Empire.

VON YELIN. In Russland 1812. Aus dem Tagebuch des württembergischen
Offiziers von Yelin. Munchen, 1911. Illustrated.

ZELLE, DR. W. Stabsarzt A. D., Kreisarzt, 1812. Das Voelkerdrama in
Russland. 2. Auf. (Without date.)


Alcoholic Beverages
Alexander the Great

Basilius Monastery
Borcke, von
Brandt, von

Cesarian Insanity
Charles XII
Crossing the Niemen

Description of diseases 100 Years Ago



Grolmann, von

Happrecht, von
Hochberg, von



Kalkreuter, von
Keller, von
Kerner, von
Kohlreuter, von

Leppich's Airship
Lossberg, von

Murat at Thorn

Ochs, von

Prisoners of War
Retreat from Moscow
Roos, de

Scherer, von
Schmetter, von
Soden, von

Thiers, Tilsit

Victor, Vop

Wrede, von





  3 Dr. H.J. Achard, Ravenswood, Chicago.
  1 Dr. Fred. H. Albee, 125 W. 58th Street, N.Y. City.
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 10 Hon. D.N. Botassi, Consul General of Greece, N.Y. City,
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  1 Dr. Chas. H. Hughes, 3858 W. Pine Bl., St. Louis, Mo.
  1 Dr. L.M. Hurd, 15 E. 48th Street, N.Y. City.
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  1 Miss Maud Ingersoll, 117 E. 21st Street, N.Y. City.
  1 Dr. Walter B. Jennings, 140 Wadsworth Avenue,  N.Y. City.
  1 Dr. George B. Jones, 1st Lieut. Med. Corps, Las Cascadas
      Panama Canal Zone.
  1 Dr. Oswald Joerg, 12 Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn, N.Y.
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  1 Mr. Albert Karg, 469 Fourth Avenue, N.Y. City.
  1 Rev. Arthur C. Kenny, 408 W. 124th Street, N.Y. City.
  1 Dr. E.D. Kilbourne, Capt. Med. Corps, U.S.A., Columbus, O.
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  5 Mr. Richard Kny, Pres. Kny Scheerer Co., N.Y. City,
  1 Dr. A. Knoll, Ludwigshafen, Germany.
  3 Dr. S. Alphonsus Knopf, 16 W. 95th Street, N.Y. City.
  1 Dr. S.J. Kopetzky, 616 Madison Avenue, N.Y. City,
  1 Dr. John E. Kumpf, 302 E. 30th Street, N.Y. City,
  1 Rev. Mother Lauretta,  Middletown,  N.Y.
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  5 Messrs. Lekas and Drivas, 17 Roosevelt Street, N.Y. City.
  5 Messrs. Lemcke and Buechner, 30 W. 27th Street, N.Y. City.
  3 Dr. B. Leonardos, Director Museum of Inscriptions,
      Athens, Greece.
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  1 Dr. Forbes R. McCreery, 123 E. 40th Street, N.Y. City.
  1 Miss Agnes McGinnis, 2368 Seventh Avenue, N.Y. City.
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  2 Dr. Wm. Mabon, Wards Island, N.Y. City.
  1 Dr. Chas. O. Maisch, State Infirmary, Tewksbury, Mass.
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  1 Mr. Edward J. Manning, 59 W. 76th Street, N.Y. City.
  3 Mr. Wm. Marko, 254 Bowery, N.Y. City.
  1 Dr. L.D. Mason, 171 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, N.Y.
  1 Dr. Charles H. May, 698 Madison Avenue, N.Y. City.
  5 Rev. Isidore Meister, S.L.D., Marmaraneck, N.Y.
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  2 Mr. Epominondas Minekakis, 366 Sixth Avenue, N.Y. City,
  1 Professor P.D. de Monthulé, 97 Hamilton Place, N.Y. City.
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  1 Dr. J.B. Murphy, 104 So. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Ill.
  1 Miss Mary Murphy, 233 Eighth Street, Jersey City, N.J.
  2 Mr. Wm. Neisel, 44-60 E. 23rd Street. N.Y. City.
  2 Dr. Rupert Norton, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Md.
  1 Dr. M.C. O'Brien, 161 W. 122nd Street, N.Y. City,
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  1 Mr. O.G. Orr, 37 Wall Street, N.Y. City,
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  1 Dr. Charles E. Page, 120 Tremont Street, Boston, Mass.
  1 Dr. Roswell Park, 510 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, N.Y.
  1 Dr. Ralph L. Parsons, Ossining, N.Y.
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  1 Dr. Daniel J. Phelan, 123 W. 94th Street, N. Y. City.
  1 Dr. C. W. Pilgrim, Poughkeepsie, N. Y.
  1 Dr. J. L. Pomeroy, 212 Am. Nat. Bank, Monrovia, Cal.
  1 Dr. R. S. Porter, Captain Med. Corps, U. S. A., Fort Wm. H. Seward,
  1 Dr. M. Rabinowitz, 1261 Madison Avenue, N. Y. City.

  1 Dr. Chas. Rayersky, Liberty, N. Y.
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  3 Dr. August Adrian Strasser, 115 Beech Street, Arlington, N. J.
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  1 Surgeon General's Office, Washington, D. C.
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  1 Dr. Cornelius Doremus Van Wagenen, 616 Madison Avenue, N. Y. City.
  2 Rev. Thos. W. Wallace, 921 Morris Avenue, N. Y. City.
  1 Dr. Jas. J. Walsh, 110 W. 74th Street, N. Y. City.
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  2 Kommerzienrat Richard Weidner, Gotha, Germany.
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  1 Dr. Thos. H. Willard, 1 Madison Avenue, N. Y. City.
  1 Dr. M. H. Williams, 556 W. 150th Street, N. Y. City.
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  1 Dr. Frederick N. Wilson, 40 E. 41st Street, N. Y. City.
  1 Dr. Fred. Wise, 828 Lexington Avenue, N. Y. City.
  2 Mr. A. Wittemann, 250 Adams Street. Brooklyn, N. Y.
  1 Miss E. Wittemann, 17 Ocean Terrace, Stapleton, S. I.
  1 Dr. David G. Yates, 79 W. 104th Street, N. Y. City.
  1 Professor Dr. Zimmerer, Regensburg, Germany.
  1 Mr. H. H. Tebault, 624 Madison Avenue.
  1 Dr. R. L. Sutton, U. S. N., Kansas City, Mo.
  1 Mr. L. Schwalbach, 12 Judge Street, Brooklyn, N. Y.
  1 Mr. N. Becker, 361 Crescent Street, Brooklyn, N. Y.
  1 Mr. Anton Emmert, 563 Hart Street, Brooklyn, N. Y.
  1 Dr. Ernest V. Hubbard, 11 E. 48th Street, N. Y. City.
  1 Dr. J. A. Koempel, 469 E. 156th Street, N. Y. City.
  1 Dr. John D. Riley, 200 E. Mahonoy Ave., Mahonoy City,  P. I.
  1 Dr. John McCoy, 157 W. 73rd Street, N. Y. City.




Translated from the German by ACHILLES ROSE, M.D., New York.

This volume embraces Rosenbach's discussion on the clinico-bacteriologic
and hygienic problems based on original investigations. They represent a
contest against the overgrowth of bacteriology, principally against the
overzealous enthusiasm of orthodox bacteriologists.

PARTIAL CONTENTS--Significance of Animal Experiments for Pathology and
Therapy, The Doctrine of Efficacy of Specifics, Disinfection in the Test
Tube and in the Living Body, Should Drinking Water and Milk be Sterilized?
In How Far Has Bacteriology Advanced Diagnosis and Cleared Up Aetiology?
The Mutations of Therapeutic Methods; Stimulation, Reaction,
Predisposition; Bacterial Aetiology of Pleurisy; The Significance of Sea
Sickness; Pathogenesis of Pulmonary Phthisis; Constitution and Therapy;
Care of the Mouth in the Sick; Some Remarks on Influenza; The Koch Method;
The Cholera Question; Infection; Orotherapy; Undulations of Epidemics.

_The Post Graduate_, New York: "It is a rich storehouse for every physician
and will give much food for thought."

12mo, Cloth. 455 Pages. $1.50, net; By Mail, $1.66.



It sets forth facts about the healing qualities of carbonic acid gas which
were known centuries ago and then passed into disuse until they had become
unjustly forgotten.

THE CONTENTS--The Physiology and Chemistry of Respiration; History of the
Use of Carbonic Acid in Therapeutics; Inflation of the Large Intestine with
Carbonic-acid Gas for Diagnostic Purposes; The Therapeutic Effect of
Carbonic-acid Gas in Chloriasis, Asthma, and Emphysema of the Lungs, in the
Treatment of Dysentry and Membranous Enteritis and Colic, Whooping-cough,
Gynecological Affections; The Effects of Carbonic-acid Baths on the
Circulation; Rectal Fistula Promptly, Completely, and Permanently Cured by
Means of Carbonic-acid Applications; Carbonic-acid in Chronic Suppurative
Otitis and Dacryocystitis; Carbonicacid Applications in Rhinitis.

"From this little volume the practitioner can derive much valuable
information, while the physiologist will find a point of departure for new
investigations."--The Post-Graduate, New York. Illustrated. 12mo. Cloth,
268 Pages. $1.00, net; By Mail, $1.10.


Atonia Gastrica, by which term is understood abdominal relaxation and
ptosis of viscera, is a subject of vast importance, as has been proved by
the avalanche of literature it has caused during the last decade. The
relation of some ailments to abdominal relaxation has only been recognized
since the author's method of abdominal strapping has been adopted and
extensively practiced. This book gives in attractive form all we know in
regard to aetiology; it describes and treats on the significance of the
plaster strapping as the most rational therapeutic measure. The
illustrations given with the description will prove of much practical value
to those who wish to give the method a trial, but who have not had the
opportunity to see the Rose belt applied.

12mo. Cloth. Price, $1.00, net.

FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY, Publishers, 44-60 East Twenty-third Street, New


BY DR. ACHILLES ROSE, Honorary Member of the Medical Society of Athens.
Member of the Committee on Nomenclature of the Medical Society of Athens.

G. E. STECHERT & COMPANY, 151-155 West 25th Street, New York. Price, $1.00.

Dr. James P. Warbasse of Brooklyn, N. Y., wrote concerning this book: "I am
much in sympathy with your efforts to secure more uniformity and
correctness in our medical words. While you may not be wholly satisfied
with the results which you are able to secure or with the reception which
your work has received at the hands of your colleagues, still it is
continually bearing fruit. The campaign which you have carried on has
awakened a general and widespread interest in the matter, and is bound to
accomplish great good. I have read with much interest your correspondence
with the Academy of Medicine. It shows an admirable persistent enthusiasm
on one hand and a successful postponing diplomacy on the other."

"For the work done by you, your name will be praised by generations."

In order to understand the onomatology question in medicine as it stands at
present one has to read this book.


G. E. STECHERT & CO., 151-155 West 25th Street. Price, $1.00.


PREFACE.--A Political Retrospect on Greece.--The Hostility of the Great
European Powers towards Greece Since the Establishment of the Greek
Kingdom.--Pacifico Affair and Lord Palmerston.--Cretan Insurrections.
--Latest War.--Greece's Future

CHAPTER I.--An Historical Sketch of Greek.--Relation of the Greek of To-day
to the Greek of the Attic Orators.--Exposure of many Erroneous Views
which have been Prevailing until Recently

CHAPTER II.--Proper Pronounciation of Greek.--The Only True Historical
Pronounciation is the One of the Greeks of To-day; the Erasmian is
Arbitrary, Unscientific, is a Monstrosity

CHAPTER III.--The Byzantines.--Misrepresentations in Regard to Byzantine
History.--Our Gratitude due to the Byzantine Empire

CHAPTER IV.--The Greeks under Turkish Bondage.--The Misery into which the
Greek World was Thrown during the Centuries of Turkish Bondage, the
Wonderful Rising of the Greek People from the Lethargy caused by Slavery,
and their Spiritual and Political Resurrection

CHAPTER V.--The Greek War of Independence, and the European Powers.--The
most Incomprehensible Wrongs Done to the Heroic Greek Race by the Powers
while it was Struggling for Liberty after Long Centuries of Terrific
Vicissitudes, under Circumstances which Presented More Difficulties than
any Other Nation had Encountered.--Philhellenism

CHAPTER VI.--The Kingdom of Greece before the War of 1897.--Continuation of
the Hostility towards the Greeks Since a Part, Part Only of the Nation was
Set Free

CHAPTER VII.--Greek as the International Language of Physicians and
Scholars in General.--The Necessity of Introducing Better Methods of
Teaching Greek in Schools in Order that Greek may become the International
Language of Scholars

EPILOGUE.--Calumniations Against the Greeks of To-day and the Refutation of


His GRACE, ARCHBISHOP CORRIGAN, New York, wrote the day after having
received the book: "Dear Doctor, Many thanks for your great courtesy in
sending me a copy of your charming work, 'Christian Greece and Living
Greek.' I have already begun its perusal, the chapter on the proper
'Pronunciation of Greek' naturally inviting and claiming immediate
attention. I think you laugh Erasmus out of court. Now I must begin, if
leisure be ever afforded me, to dip into Greek again, to learn to pronounce
your noble language correctly. Congratulating you on your success, and with
best wishes, I am, dear Doctor,

  "Very faithfully yours,



S. STANHOPE ORRIS, Professor of Greek in Princeton University, who was
Director of the American School at Athens from 1888 to 1889, who kindly
revised the manuscript, wrote:

"I think that the impression which the manuscript has made on my mind will
be made on the minds of all who read your book--that it is the production
of an able, laborious, enthusiastic, scholarly man, who deserves the
gratitude and admiration of all who labor to perpetuate an interest in the
language, literature, and history of Greece."

Again, after having received the book, the same Philhellene writes to the
author: "Professor Cameron, my colleague, who has glanced at the book,
pronounces it eloquent, as I also do, and unites with me in ordering a copy
for our University Library."

HON. EBEN ALEXANDER, former United States Minister to Greece, Professor of
Greek, North Carolina University: "My dear Dr. Rose, The five copies have
been received, and I enclose check in payment.... I am greatly pleased
with the book. It shows everywhere the fruit of your far-reaching studies,
and your own enthusiastic interest has enabled you to state the facts
in a strongly interesting way. I hope that it will meet with favor. I
wonder whether you have sent a copy to the King? He would like to see it,
I know.... I am sincerely your friend."

WILLIAM F. SWAHLER, Professor of Greek, De Pauw University, Greencastle,
Ind., writes: "I received the book today in fine order, and am much pleased
so far as I have had time to peruse the same."

THOMAS CARTER, Professor of Greek and Latin, Centenary College, Jackson,
La., writes: "Am highly delighted with Dr. Rose's work; have not had the
time to read it all yet, but from what I have been able to get over, am
more than ever convinced of his accurate learning, his profound
scholarship, and his devoted enthusiasm for his beloved Hellas."

A. V. WILLIAMS JACKSON, Professor of Oriental Languages, Columbia
University, New York: "The welcome volume arrived this morning and is
cordially appreciated. This note is to express my thanks and to extend best
wishes for continued success."

MR. JOHN C. PALMARIS, of Chicago: "[Greek: Eugnomonon Eggaen]. Dr.
Achilles Rose. Dear Sir, Allow me to express my thanks from the bottom of
my heart as a Greek for your sincere love for my beloved country 'Hellas,'
and to congratulate you for your noble philological and precious work,
'Christian Greece and Living Greek,' with the true Gnomikon. 'It is
shameful to defame Greece continually.' I received to-day the three copies
for me and one for my brother-in-law (Prince Rodokanakis), which I
despatched immediately to Syra."

DR. A. F. CURRIER, New York: "Dear Dr. Rose, I received your book with
great pleasure. It is very attractively made up, and I am looking forward
to the pleasure of reading it. As I get older I am astonished at the charm
with which memory recalls history, myth, and poetry in the study of the
classics long ago. With sincerest wishes for your success, believe me
yours, Philhellenically."

C. EVERETT CONANT, Professor of Greek and Latin, Lincoln University,
Lincoln, III.: "I wish personally to thank you for the effort you are
making to set before us Americans the true status of the modern Greek
language in its relation with the classic speech of Pericles' day. With
best wishes for the success of your laudable undertaking, I am cordially

MR. H. E. S. SLAGENHAUP, Taneytown, Md.: "Dr. Achilles Rose. Dear Sir, Your
book, 'Christian Greece and Living Greek,' reached me this morning.
Although it arrived only this morning I have already read the greater part
of it. It is a work for which every Philhellene must feel truly grateful to
you. Not only do I admire the care, the industry, and the scholarly
research which are evident on every page of this valuable exposition of
Hellenism and Philhellenism, but I most heartily indorse every sentiment
expressed in it. I rejoice that such a book has appeared; I hope it may
have a wide influence favorable to the just cause of Hellas; and I pledge
myself to render whatever assistance may lie in my power in the furtherance
of that cause. The disasters of the past year have in no wise shaken my
faith in the Hellenic race; on the contrary, they have increased my
admiration for the brave people who undertook a war against such odds in
behalf of their oppressed brethren; and I believe that the cause which
sustained such regrettable defeats on the plains of Thessaly last year will
eventually triumph in spite of opposition."

FRANKLIN B. STEPHENSON, M. D., Surgeon United States Navy. "United States
Marine Corps Recruiting Office, Boston: My dear Doctor, Permit me to write
you of my pleasure and satisfaction in reading your excellent book on
Christian Greece and Greek; and to express my appreciation of the clear and
vivid manner in which you have portrayed the life and work of the Hellenes,
who have done so much in preserving and transmitting to us the learning in
science and art of the ancient world.... Your reference to the eminent
professor of Greek who said that there was 'no literature in modern Greek
worthy of the name,' reminds me of the remark of a man,
prominent in financial and social circles, who told me that there was
nothing in Russian to make it worth while studying the language [Dr.
Stephenson is a well-known linguist--mastering eight languages, Russian
among them]. I wish you all success in the work of letting the light of
truth, as to Greek, shine in the minds of those who do not know their own

MORTIMER LAMSON EARLE, Professor Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pa., who
mastered so well the living Greek language that Greeks of education
pronounce their admiration of his elegant style, saying that it is most
wonderful how well a foreigner writes their own language: "The book has
been duly received, but I have not as yet had time to read all of it.
However, I have read enough to know that, though I differ with you in many
details, I am heartily in accord with you in earnestly supporting the cause
of a people and language to which I am sincerely attached. I am glad that
you speak so highly in praise of the Klephtic songs. I hope that your book
may do much good."

LOUIS F. ANDERSON, Professor of Greek, Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.:
"From my rapid inspection I regard it as superior even to my
anticipations. I trust that it will have an extensive sale and
corresponding influence. It is the book needed just now. I hope to write
more in the future."

MR. C. MEHLTRETTER, New York: "After due reading of your book I feel it my
duty to congratulate you on same. True, you may have received so many
congratulatory notes that the layman's opinion will be of little value.
Nevertheless, I can assure you the perusal of your book caused me more
pleasure and instruction than any other I heretofore read on the subject. I
assure you it will find a prominent place in my library, and any time in
future you should again write on _any subject_ consider me one of your

WILLIAM J. SEELYE, Professor of Greek, University of Wooster, Ohio: "Dr.
Rose's book received yesterday. I have already read enough to see that the
author is not only full of his subject, but treats it with judicial mind."

JOSEPH COLLINS, M.D., Professor Post-Graduate School of Medicine, New York:
"The chapters of your book that I have read have been entertaining and

ISAAC A. PARKER, Professor of Greek and Latin, Lombard University,
Galesburg, Ill.: "I wish to say to Dr. Rose that, although I have yet had
time only to glance hastily at the book, the few sentences which I have
read have interested me very much, and it will give me much pleasure to
give it a careful perusal, as I see that it contains much valuable
information. The thanks of those interested in Greece and Greek literature
are due to Dr. Rose for giving them this book. Praise is due to the printer
for his excellent work."

CHARLES R. PEPPER, Professor Central University, Richmond, Ky.: "Your book,
'Christian Greece and Living Greek,' came duly to hand. I am much pleased
with it. I hope the interest of the Philhellenes in the United States may
be quickened to a livelier degree in Greece and Greek affairs, and that
your book may accomplish a good work in putting before the people generally
the claims of Hellas to the gratitude, love, and admiration of the
civilized world."

[_From the Troy Daily Times_, Feb. 7, 1898.]

"Christian Greece and Living Greek," by Dr. Achilles Rose. In view of the
Hellenic defeat in the war with Turkey a year ago the future of Greece to
many minds is rather vague and clouded. This idea is due to lack of
knowledge of Greece history and character. Were Americans more familiar
with the character of the Hellenes and their traditions none would doubt
that the descendants of those great figures of the heroic age have a
mission before them and that this mission will be accomplished in spite of
Turkish bullets and the selfishness of the other European powers. Dr. Rose
in this volume offers a clear presentation of the condition of Greece at
the present time. His work deals not only with the nation, but with the
language, and the history of each is traced from its earliest beginnings
down to the present time. The reading of this book will afford a much
clearer understanding of the causes leading to the war of 1897 than is
generally possessed. Of especial interest is an introduction written by one
of the best known Greeks now resident in this country, who reviews the
causes leading to the great war, and clearly shows the shamefulness of the
course pursued by the great European powers in leaving Hellas to her fate.
Some of the statements made are significant, notably the following:
"If Greece has sinned, it was on the side of compassion for her oppressed
children and coreligionists. She is bleeding from every pore of her
mutilated body, but there is a Nemesis which sooner or later will overtake
those who rejoice now at her defeat and humiliation." New York: Peri
Hellados Publishing Office.

From REV. HENRY A. BUTTZ, Dean Theological Seminary, Madison, N.J.: "My
dear Sir, I have read with interest your book 'Christian Greece and Living
Greek,' and have found it full of valuable suggestion. It discusses many
points of great interest, giving a more correct view of the true condition
of the Greece of to-day and of its relation to its glorious past. I am
especially pleased with your forcible putting of the importance of adopting
the modern Greek pronunciation in our study of the Greek language. I wish
your book a wide circulation."

F. A. PACKARD, M.D., Kearney, Neb.: "Dear Sir and Doctor, Your book on
'Christian Greece and Living Greek' received. I must say it is a grand work
and I prize it highly and consider it a valuable addition to my library.
Wishing you success, etc."

A. JACOBI, M.D., Professor Columbia University: "Dear Dr. Rose, The perusal
of your book has been a source of much pleasure to me. If Hellas has as
enthusiastic men and women among her own people as you are, a friend in a
foreign nation, she will have a promising future."

MR. LOUIS PRANG, Boston, Mass.: "'Christian Greece and Living Greek' has
given me not only great pleasure to read but I have learned more about
Greece, as it was and as it _really_ is, than I ever knew before. Your book
is exceedingly valuable to a man like me who desires _reliable_ information
on this very interesting people and who lacks the time for personal
investigation or much book-reading, which after all, to judge by your
statements, would not lead to a correct appreciation of present conditions.
Your personal experience based on large and varied observations among the
people, and your evidently thorough study of past history make your
judgment acceptable, and your manner of giving it to the reader is
eminently interesting and engaging, and above all convincing. I do not
think that what I have said here will be of much interest or satisfaction
to you, as coming from a simple business man, but I wished to thank you for
the enjoyment your book has given me and to tell you that you have made at
least one convert for the cause of living Greek."

A GREEK LADY, living in Cairo, Egypt, writes to her father: "I thank you
above all for the book of Dr. Rose you were so kind as to send me, and
which I am perusing with the greatest interest. One can see that Dr. Rose
is a friend of our dear country; if there were more like him we would not
be so run down by ignorant and spiteful people."

[_From New York Medical Journal_, March 5th, 1898.]

Dr. Rose's well-known enthusiasm for the Greeks, their country, and
particularly their language has resulted in the production of a very
interesting book. Physicians will naturally be most interested in the
concluding chapter, which treats of Greek as the international language of
physicians and scholars in general, but from cover to cover there is
nothing commonplace in the book; it is quite readable throughout. We
congratulate Dr. Rose on the appearance of the volume in so attractive a

[_From The Independant_, March 24th, 1898.]

Dr. Rose stands forth in his volume the champion of modern Greece, the
Greeks and their wrongs. He tells the story as it has been developed in
this century, and recites the older history and appeals to the intelligent
Christian world against the Great Assassin of Constantinople. He believes
the modern Greek tongue as now spoken and written to be the ideal one for
international intercourse, especially on scientific matters, and repudiates
the Erasmian method of pronunciation. His account of the Greeks themselves
is encouraging. He claims for them a strict morality. Theft he declares
unknown, and drunkenness. The book is certainly eloquent and inspiring.

[_From The Living Church_, Chicago, March 19th, 1898.]

This is a most interesting book. There is not a dull page in it. It is made
up of various lectures delivered by the accomplished author, at different
times, on the Greek language and history. Magnificent as Gibbon's work is
on the Byzantine Empire, the contemptuous tone he uses toward it has much
misled modern writers and readers in their estimation of that wonderful
monarchy. A state which lasted as that did in the face of so many
difficulties, could not have been so badly governed as Gibbon implies. That
Dr. Rose shows, and a good, English, up-to-date Byzantine history is
greatly to be desired. Dr. Rose's account of the Greek struggle for
independence is vivid, patriotic, and full of information on a subject that
few people know much about. The most interesting part of the book to
scholars is the chapters on modern Greek. Dr. Rose says: "The living Greek
of to-day shows much less deviation from the Greek of two thousand and more
years ago than any other European language shows in the course of
centuries." This statement will surprise many, but it is literally true.
Dr. Rose gives the history of the creation of the modern Greek literary
language on the lines of classic Greek, and he advocates the use of modern
Greek, especially in the matter of pronunciation, in teaching classic
Greek. In all this we go with him heartily, and his views are being adopted
in many colleges in Europe and America.

[_From the Evangelist_, February 17th, 1898.]

We commend this book to all who would know what the "concert of European
powers" means to a struggling kingdom and people used as a "buffer state"
between the unspeakable Turk and civilized "Westerns." The historical
chapters of the work are a revelation of the intricacies of "the
disgraceful deals of the great powers whose victim the kingdom of Greece
has been." The story is simply told with great candor and quiet reserve,
but it carries a lesson that moves the heart and stirs the indignation of
dispassionate and perhaps indifferent observers. How hard is it for a
people like the Greeks or the Armenians to get a hearing! What "political
necessities" demand silence; what diplomatic falsehoods, deceptions,
subterfuges are indulged by ministries and cabinets that are called
Christian! The history of Greece from the fall of the Byzantine Empire
up to this hour is a tragedy, and the final deliverance in 1828 was more
painfully sad and disappointing, more shamefully mismanaged and limited,
more wretchedly hampered and hindered in every possible way, than is
easily conceivable, considering the popular sentiment roused by such
Philhellenes as Byron, Erskine, Gladstone, and the Genevan banker Eynard.
Think of the massacre of Chios, and then hear men talking of Navarino as
a blunder!

But let our readers turn to the pages of Dr. Rose's book for information.
There is a historical sketch of the Byzantine Empire, showing the most
extraordinary misrepresentations which have held on till very recently; a
second chapter exposes the "erroneous views which have prevailed in regard
to the relation of the Greek of to-day to the Greek of the classical
period," with a chapter on "absurd ideas in vogue in regard to Greek
pronunciation"; a fourth chapter gives the misery of the Turkish bondage
and "their spiritual and political resurrection"; then follows one on the
wrongs to the Greeks in their struggle for liberty, in which some American
shipping firms are involved and "Mr. W. J. Stillman" is pretty severely
handled; then "the kingdom of Greece before the war of 1897," and an
"Epilogue," which should be read before Dr. Hepworth has time to get in his
Armenian discoveries. This is the merest hint as to the intrinsic interest
and pertinency of the book, the only unprejudiced and patriotic plea for
the Greeks which has escaped the censorship of the press and politics and
politicians. Let the Greeks be heard! Let the list of Philhellenes grow to
a grand majority in Europe and America that shall make itself heard in
behalf of justice and humanity!

The scholarly chapters are as admirable as the statesmanlike and patriotic
ones. They should lead to a Greek revival. We think the university wars of
"Greeks and Trojans" might be fought over again. We join the Greeks!

His EXCELLENCY KLÉON RANGABÉ, Greek Ambassador in Berlin, writes: "Many
sincere thanks for the kind transmission of your most interesting book....
I can congratulate you most sincerely. You treat all the important subjects
in so exhaustive and conclusive a manner that all those who seek for truth
must necessarily be convinced. We are in consequence indebted to you for a
valuable service, but your own American countrymen ought also to be
thankful to you, for every apostle of truth is in his way a benefactor of
humanity. I hope that the days of the Erasmian absurdity, which belongs to
the Dark Ages and is unworthy of American scholars, are now numbered. I
hope that your book will also appear in German as it would do a great deal
of good here. What you say about the system applied to Greek studies in
general is also perfectly correct. These studies are still and will always
be the soul of every liberal education, and, constantly undermined by the
materialistic tendencies of the age, they can only be saved through a
fundamental change of this system. The language must henceforth be taught
as a living one, having never ceased to live for a moment since the days
of Homer."

_Neologos_, an Athenian paper, writes a long article, reviewing the book
and its author's works in general. "The author's name is already known to
us by his lectures on Greece which have been published here. Mr. Rose
belongs to those who will persevere to establish an idea; obstacles and
difficulties can only serve to such characters to spur their ardor. Mr.
Rose is inspired by the noble idea to disseminate a better knowledge of
Greece of to-day and to enlist sympathies in her behalf. He is combating
the influence of an impossible Grecophobe press. People abroad will change
their opinion when they know our true history, our character, our morals,
customs, etc."


Other Athenian political and literary journals bring likewise reviews. All
are full of praise of the author and his book. The editor of the journal,
_Salpinx_, of Cyprus, writes that the author's name is engraved in the
hearts determination of Greeks.

D. B. ST. JOHN ROOSA, M.D., President Post-Graduate Medical School and
Hospital, New York: "My dear Dr. Rose, The copy of the important work
written by you, which has just been published, came to me two days ago. I
write to thank you, and again to express my sincere interest in your book.
I hope you may live to see it successful. A common language for scientific
men is indeed a great need. Yours ever faithfully."

B. T. SPENCER, A.M., Professor of Greek, Kentucky Wesleyan College: "I am
deeply interested in the subject and feel that that interest has been
intensified by reading Dr. Rose's book. All the friends of Hellas should
read it."

DR. JAMES T. WHITTAKER, Cincinnati, Ohio: "I am enjoying your book very
much and have just finished the chapter concerning the Greeks under Turkish
bondage, which is the most interesting description of this subject which I
have ever seen."

KNUT HOEGH, M.D., Minneapolis, Minn.: "Your book came one mail after your
letter; I went to a medical meeting in the evening; during my absence my
oldest daughter read the book, and on my return, when I opened the door,
she told me how well she liked it. I had to sit down and read it, and I did
so until far out in the small hours. I must say that the book opened new
views to me, and I am sorry that I did not know the many valuable facts
contained in it when I was in Berlin last year, when you know the wind that
was blowing was anything but Philhellenic. What a forcible argument against
the prevailing order of things in Europe is the whole Eastern question!"

A German translation under the title: Die Griechen und ihre Sprache seit
der Zeit Konstantin's des Grossen, has been published in Leipzig Verlag von
Wilhelm Friedrich, 1899.

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