For the emperor, however, cheer was still to be found in the continued devotion shown by some soldiers. In Paris, one last parade saw Napoleon entrust Marie-Louise and the King of Rome to the garrison prior to his departure for the front: ‘The enthusiasm generated by the emperor when he took the young king in his arms . . . can never be forgotten by its witnesses. Frenetic and prolonged cries of “Vive l’empereur!” moved from the Hall of Marshals to the national guard assembled in the Carrousel . . . These demonstrations of so true a love for his son moved the emperor: he kissed the young prince with a warmth that escaped none in the audience.’ Instead of listening to the calls for peace with which he was bombarded, Napoleon therefore chose to fight on in the hope of improving his bargaining position, striking hard and fast at a succession of allied commanders as they invaded eastern France.
Battle of Gross-Jägersdorf
On 30 August Lehwaldt and the Prussian army emerged from the west near the town of Gross-Jägersdorf and attacked the Russians at around 5.00 am. The Prussians were spread thinly in linear formation. They had surprised the Russians on the march and tried to take advantage of the ensuing confusion. Heavy fighting took place in the center lines in the Norkitten Wood, but the Russian artillery took a heavy toll of the Prussians. After four salvoes against the center, the Prussian effort was spent and a general retreat began. The Prussians lost 4,500 men and the Russians lost 6,000. The Russians did not follow up the Prussian retreat, allowing them to leave the battlefield without much molestation. The Prussians, for their part, had a newfound respect for the fighting capabilities of the Russians that was reinforced in the later battles of Zorndorf and Kunersdorf.
1814 Napoleon’s First End Part III
Defense of Clichy during the battle of Paris.
With matters in such a state, the end came quickly. Though Napoleon continued to fight and manoeuvre relentlessly, he could achieve little. On 9 March Bentinck had landed at Livorno from where, having issued a call for a national revolt against the French that met with no response whatsoever, he marched on Genoa. On 12 March Bordeaux had proclaimed Louis XVIII, its authorities having first made sure that they would be immediately relieved by the Anglo-Portuguese army. As in 1870 and 1940, refugees were streaming west, adding to the confusion. Among those who fled Paris as the enemy closed in was the wife of Marshal Oudinot:
1814 Napoleon’s First End Part I
Napoleon and his staff are returning from Soissons after the battle of Laon.
The war, then, continued. Back in France Napoleon proceeded to try to rebuild his fortunes. Already a fiction, the French kingdom of Spain was now abandoned: Joseph Bonaparte had already been brusquely sacked in the wake of Vitoria, and, deciding that the moment was ripe to cut his losses, Napoleon now sent a message to Madrid offering to release the imprisoned Ferdinand VII on the understanding that he would make peace with France and expel the Anglo-Portuguese. When these terms were firmly rejected, he decided to release Ferdinand anyway, but while chaos ensued – the result was a military coup that restored absolutism – it was much too late to make any difference. What was left of France’s Peninsular army was therefore going to have to keep fighting in the south-west.