Saturday, July 28, 2012

Marshal Edouard Mortier

‘…When he entered the gates of Moscow, Buonaparte, as if unwilling to encounter the sight of the empty streets, stopt immediately on entering the first suburb 1.  His troops were quartered in the desolate city. During the first few hours after their arrival, an obscure rumour, which could not be traced, but one of those which are sometimes found to get abroad before the approach of some awful certainty, announced that the city would be endangered by fire in the course of the night. The report seemed to arise from those evident circumstances which rendered the event probable, but no one took any notice of it, until at midnight, when the soldiers were startled from their quarters by the report that the town was in flames. The memorable conflagration began amongst the coachmakers' warehouses and workshops in the Bazaar, or general market, which was the most rich district of the city. It was imputed to accident, and the progress of the flames was subdued by the exertions of the French soldiers. Napoleon, who had been roused by the tumult, hurried to the spot, and when the alarm seemed at an end, he retired, not to his former quarters in the suburbs, but to the Kremlin, the hereditary palace of the only sovereign whom he had ever treated as an equal, and over whom his successful arms had now attained such an apparently immense superiority. Yet he did not sufler himself to be dazzled by the advantage he had obtained, but availed himself of the light of the blazing Bazaar, to write to the Emperor proposals of peace with his own hand. They were despatched by a Russian officer of rank, who had been disabled by indisposition from following the army. But no answer was ever returned,

1 [ " Napoleon appointed Marshal Mortier governor of the capital. 'Above all,' said he to him, ' no pillage! For this you shall be answerable to me with your life. Defend Moscow against all, whether friend or foe.' "—Segur, t. ii. p. 38.J,,,'

Edouard Mortier was among Napoleon’s first group of marshals, and rose to become a duke (courtesy of Napoleon), and Prime Minister of France.  Mortier, who had fought in the Revolutionary Wars, served France past Napoleon’s time, dying on July 28th, 1835, during an attack on Louis-Philippe I by Giuseppe Fieschi.  Scott’s text above comes from “Life of Napoleon Buonaparte”.

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