« AnteriorContinua »
On the 5th of March, Murat learned Buonaparte's departure from Elba; and from that moment he appears to have determined to keep pace with his brother-in-law, maintaining, how ever, as long as possible, the appear ance of fidelity to his treaty with the allies, so as to have ground to retreat upon, in case Buonaparte should prove unsuccessful. While, therefore, he gave directions for putting his army into motion, he assembled his cabinet, and solemnly declared his resolution of adhering to the allies. Buonaparte's failure at Antibes seems to have checked his resolution of proceed ing; but on hearing that he had been joined by the military, and had taken possession of Lyons, his schemes of ambition were again reassumed. He demanded from the Pope leave to march two of his divisions through the Roma. territories, doubtless because the mountains of Abruzzo, which he must otherwise have traversed, afford roads difficult or impracticable for the march of an army. Pius VII. refused this permission, and protested against the violation of his territorities; on which two Neapolitan divisions instantly penetrated to Rome, and occupied the capital of the holy see. The Pontiff was preparing to bear his part in a religious procession, when he had information of their approach, through means, it was supposed, of Lucien Buonaparte. He had but the necessary time to throw himself into a carriage, and withdraw to Florence, and from thence to Genoa, where he put himself under protection of the heretical army of England. The various foreign ministers, the members of the sacred college, even the old King and Queen of Spain-all followed the example of the holy father, and no one chose to await the arrival of Murat, the character of whose army, as well as his own reputation for rapine, made his approach dreaded by
all who had any thing to lose. While a part of his troops thus occupied the ancient capital of the world, Murat himself advanced to Ancona, where he established his head-quarters. His troops immediately commenced marching, in four columns, on the routes of Bologna, Modena, Reggio, Ferrara, and thus threatening the whole line of the Po, while a fifth division defiled into Tuscany through the passes of the Appenines. They speedily drove the Austrian garrisons from Cesena and Rimini, and at the latter town Murat published a proclamation which threw complete light on his purpose.
It was addressed to the Italians, and assured them March 31. that Providence called on them to assert their independence, and that every trace of foreign domination should in future be erazed from the soil of Italy. Eighty thousand Italians of Naples had sworn it should be so, and invited their countrymen of every denomination to join them. England, free herself, could not, it was asserted, refuse her suffrage to an effort for freedom. The Italians of Milan, Bologna, Turin, Venice, Brescia, Modena, and Reggio, were all called on to remember the sufferings of their exiled and imprisoned patriots. They were summoned to arms, and were promised a national representation, and a constitution worthy of them and of the age. This remarkable production was subscribed Joachim Napoleon, Murat having now reassumed the latter name which he had formerly laid aside.
But Italy had been too long divided into petty states, and these too long accustomed to transfer their allegiance from one foreign conqueror to another, to feel any thing arousing in the name of independence. In Bologna some of the students in the once celebrated university, caught by the sounds of liberty and honour, always so dear to
youth, enrolled themselves under the standard of Murat when his forces arrived in that city. But in most other places of Italy, particularly in the Roman and Tuscan territories, the indifference of the inhabitants to the advantages promised by Murat, and their extreme and peculiar aversion to the Neapolitans, prevented his receiving any partizans. "It is probable," says an intelligent author, "that when Murat made an appeal to the valour of Italians, the number of singers, dancers, improvisators, abbés, and players, who form the delight of the society of that country, greatly exceeded that of the men who prepared to combat for the independence proposed."
But Murat's force was of itself sufficiently formidable. He attacked an Austrian army of about ten thousand men, under General Bianchi, who occupied the banks of the Panaro, on the road from Bologna to Modena. The advantages of superior bravery and discipline were unable to counterbalance that of numbers, and after a desperate resistance of six hours, the Neapolitan General of Division Carascosa, whose troops were composed of deserters from almost all nations, and fought with remarkable desperation, carried the bridges, and the Austrians were driven from their possession of Sammoggia. This victory opened to Murat the possession of Modena, to which he soon added that of Tuscany, and its capital, Florence. The Aus trian General Nugent fell back to oc cupy the passes of the Appenines, and join with the British troops in defence of Genoa.
At this period of his fortunes, Mu, rat might have made a treaty with the allies on his own terms. Buonaparte was again in power, and it was of the last importance to prevent Murat from joining him. Austria is said to have offered him, not only to guarantee the Crown of Naples to him and his heirs,
but to have added the Marches of the Papal See. Britain caused it at the same time to be announced, that, having made truce with Murat at the solicitation of Austria, that truce would last no longer than his good intelligence with her ally. But Murat, it is said, rejected the proposals contained in the Austrian dispatches, repeating frequently as he read them, "It is too late; Italy desires freedom, and she shall be free."
This obstinacy proved fatal to him. Austria declared war against him, and expedited the reinforcements which she had ordered into Italy. Britain prepared an armament to invade his Neapolitan territories, where Ferdinand continued to have many partisans.
Murat, meanwhile, from his head quarters at Ancona, directed the march of his army. His generals, Liveron and Pignatelli, had already sustained a check in an attempt to press upon the rear of General Nugent, which he had not only repulsed, but driven them back to Florence with loss. The Austrians, under General Frimont, prepared to defend the line of the Po. Murat resolved to force the passage, and his scheme was that of an able disciple of Napoleon. While he affected a grand movement to the westward, as if to attack Placentia, Cremona, and Casal Maggiore, he trusted to a real assault upon Ferrara, by which, had it succeeded, he would have obtained possession of the Lower Po, and been able, perhaps, to stir up insurrections in Lombardy, and the Venetian territories. In the former province, where the inhabitants are more martially disposed than in other states of Italy, it was supposed that he might have received a reinforcement of several thousand veterans, who had served under Napoleon, and were ready to rise and join with Joachim. But the
in doing so, he detained a large army, which, when disengaged from the Italian campaign, would certainly enter France.
manœuvres of Murat had failed to deceive the Austrians. To succeed in his attack on the Lower Po, it was necessary to carry the bridge and town of Occhiobello, in order to be master of the passage of the river. The Neapolitans were not only unable to carry this place, but were attacked on different points by the moveable columns of the Austrians as they retired from the points of attack, and sustained a severe loss.
Upon receiving this check, Murat seems at once to have renounced his undertaking as desperate. He evacuated not only Parma, Reggio, Modena, and Bologna, but Florence and all Tuscany; thus avouching, by a general retreat on his whole line, that he abandoned the north of Italy to its fate. All, and his own soldiers first of all, became aware that his hopes were chimerical, and that he had undertaken an enterprize too great both for his courage and understanding. The consequence was total discouragement to the soldiery, with its usual attendants, disorder, insubordination, and desertion. The evacuation of Florence, General Pignatelli Stromboli is said to have executed without Joachim's knowledge, and contrary to his orders. It was a measure of disastrous consequence, as it put the Austrians at once in possession of the shortest and best road to Rome, and exposed the left flank and rear of Murat's army to their hostile manœuvres.
Having once resolved on a retreat, Murat ought to have executed his purpose as speedily as possible. But he was so ill advised as to linger in the Roman territory, in the vain hope of maintaining his ground there against the Austrians. This was so obviously contrary to all military rules, that it has been ascribed to the arts of Napoleon, whose interest it was to keep Murat as long opposite to the Austrians as possible; because
The delay was fatal to Murat, for General Frimont, now reinforced with the troops from Austria, adopted a plan of tactics, which had for its object his utter destruction.
General Neipperg was sent against Murat, with instructions to engage his attention by false demonstrations, and detain him in the north-east of Italy; while General Bianchi, proceeding by forced marches from Bologna to Foligno, should intercept his retreat to the Neapolitan territory; and while General Nugent, advancing from Florence, should recover possession of Rome, and proceed forwards to Capua and Naples.
Murat, in the meanwhile, made serious reflections on his situation, and saw it was full time to solicit the peace he had lately rejected. The chief of his staff, Millet de Villeneuve, wrote to the Austrian commander in chief to request an armistice, and to represent all that had looked like hostility in Murat's conduct, includ ing two or three severe battles, besides skirmishes, together with the siege and assault of strong places, and all the circumstances of an active invasion conducted by a sovereign at the head of his army, as a train of unhappy misunderstandings and fortuitous accidents, arising from some unlucky discharges of musketry at Cesena, which had engaged King Joachim innocently, and against his inclination, not only in war with Austria, but in a dispute with England, who seemed disposed to take the part of the Emperor Francis. On the whole, upon thinking better of it, the King of Naples, it was said, had resolved to commence some new negociations at Vienna, and proposed a
cessation of arms to wait the event. History records scarce any such futile attempt to stop, by flimsy falsehoods, the course of a victorious enemy, unless it be the offer of Murat himself, who, when involved in the disasters of the Russian retreat, where he had acted as general of his brother-inlaw's cavalry, attempted to extricate himself, by offering to make peace with Alexander in his individual capacity as King of Naples. The answer of General Neipperg to the let ter we have mentioned, returned a formal refusal to listen to the proposal of an armistice. It was not, he said, the skirmish at Cesena, which had decided the question of peace or war, but the whole tenor of Murat's conduct, his invading with a formid able army the Legations occupied by the Austrian troops, and the proclamation dated from Rimini, announcing sentiments and projects so different from those expressed in the letter of the Neapolitan chief of the staff. While these negociations proceeded, General Neipperg had so well obeyed his orders, by engaging Murat's attention in front, that the army of General Bianchi had already penetrated as far as Foligno, in the rear of that of Naples. Joachim was compelled to a retreat so speedy, that several thousand Neapolitans were left behind, who, throwing themselves into the town of Ancona, were instantly blockaded in that place.
Meantime Murat, pressed alike on his front and rear, and sustaining losses in a variety of partial actions, endeavoured to extricate himself by leaving a strong rear-guard to oppose Neipperg, while, with the main body of his army, and moving by forced marches, he sought a battle with Bianchi as he advanced from Foligno. The armies met near the town of Tolentino, where Murat found General Bianchi in an advantageous situation.
and Murat displayed, not only the military experience which he had reaped in so many successful campaigns, but all the daring and intrepid valour which had acquired for him, in the French armies, the name of the handsome swordsman, (Le beau sabreur). Eight thousand Neapolitans, whom Joachim conducted in person, descended from the heights of Monte Milone, formed into close columns, or rather phalanxes, each composed of two or three battalions, in order to overwhelm the left wing of the Austrians; while the other troops of Naples maintained a fire of musketry along the front of the line. But the Austrians, without replying to the musketry, awaited the attack on the left with so much apparent determination, that the Neapolitan soldiers could not be brought to venture upon a close engagement. Despite the obstinacy with which Murat persisted in the attack, who is said to have placed field-pieces, loaded with grape, in the rear of his attacking columns, with command to fire on them if they gave way; and despite also of the personal valour which he displayed, not one of his charges succeeded; and his troops, exposed to the fire of several batteries of fieldguns, and to repeated charges of cavalry, at length gave way and fled. In the confusion of their retreat, they were attacked in various directions by other Austrian corps, who came up from different points to take share in the action; and two brigades of the army of Naples, those of Taquilla and Medicis, were totally cut off or dispersed. The remainder retreated,
had now only a disorganised body of about five thousand men, found, upon advancing towards St Germano, that he had a new enemy to combat, and was, for the second time during this calamitous retreat, pent up between a pursuing and an intercepting army. His van guard was attacked and routed with considerable loss; and while he continued a rapid and desperate march towards Naples, he had the mortification to learn, that the inha. bitants of his late kingdom had declared for the king of Sicily, whereever the Austrians had appeared; that Colonel Church, an English officer of distinction, was raising against him an army of his late subjects; that both the Calabrias were in general insurrection; that the Lazzaroni of Naples had mutinied, and were with the utmost difficulty kept in subjection by the burgher, or national guard; that an English fleet, escorting a Si cilian army, had appeared in the bay; in short, that his power was mouldering, like a palace built of isicles under the influence of a general thaw. When he received this accumulation of disastrous tidings, the remnants of the force which he himself led were pressed and inclosed between the ar mies of Bianchi and Nugent, which were now in the most active commu nication with each other; and besides various other partial affairs, in all which they were losers, had to sustain a brisk attack near Migniano, in which his whole rear-guard were dispersed, or cut to pieces.
In these circumstances, he left the miserable remnant of his army to make their way towards Capua, with permission to get for themselves, and, if pos sible, for him, such terms as the vic tors would grant. Joachim himself hastened to Naples, which he entered after sun-set upon horseback, and at the gallop, attended only by his ne phew, and four lancers for escort.
or rather fled, by routes almost impracticable, through Macerata, Fermo, Giulia Nova, Pescara, and Popoli. The armies of Bianchi and Neipperg having joined after the battle, the Austrians maintained a close pursuit with their light troops, while their heavy battalions manceuvred on the flank of Murat's march so effectually, that he could not again take up any military position. From the 4th of May, the day of the decisive battle of Tolentino, till the 13th, Murat continued his disastrous retreat. Guns, ammunition, baggage, his military chest, his royal treasure, amounting, it is said, in specie and diamonds, to two millions of livres; his personal equipage and wardrobe, all became the spoil of the pursuers. Great num bers of prisoners were also made; whole battalions of the Neapolitans throwing down their arms without resistance; and Murat, in traversing the mountains of Abruzzo, lost fully more than one half of his army, without stroke of sword.
He was now again in the dominions of Naples, but it was evident they were to be his no longer. The Austrian General Bianchi now gave him, in his proclamations, the name of General Murat, and called on the inhabitants to assume the red cockade, and return to the allegiance of their lawful monarch Ferdinand. General Bianchi entered Aquila, a principal town of the district of Abruzzo, on the 13th May. General Nugent, who had taken his route along the west ern side of Italy, while Bianchi pursued Murat along the shores of the Adriatic, and through the moun tains of Abruzzo, had recovered Rome from the Neapolitans, dispersed some free corps which had decla red for independence, and was now marching rapidly southward to intercept the wrecks of Murat's army. Thus the unfortunate Joachim, who