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The Princeton union. [volume] (Princeton, Minn.) 1876-1976, June 06, 1907, Image 2

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Friedland and
STRIKING RESULTS OF
HUNDRED
i Very Ordinary Combat, but Decisive In a Political Sense.
Drama of the World's Events Not Essentially Varied by
French Emperor's VictorySignificance of the
i Famous Treaty of Tilsit.
By GEORGE L. KILMER.
N a military sense the battle of
Friedland, fought June 14, 1807,
in Poland up near the Baltic sea,
was a side show when compared
with the stupendous conflicts where
Napoleon Bonaparte led his indomita
ble French soldiery. The combat was
in no sense remarkable. Its chief fea
tures have been duplicated in almost
every great war. A Russian army of
60,000 to 70,000 men was routed, but
how little that affected the nation's
fighting power is shown by the fact
that a few jears later the defeated
czar at Friedland led 900,000 men to
the field to wipe out Napoleon.
With reference to the campaign of
1807 Friedland was decisive. It was
Bussia's last throw then and about as
decisive as the battle of Mukden in
the late Russo-Japanese war.
But in a political sense Friedland
was decisivethat is, decisive of tem
porary events. Napoleon wrote from
the field to his brother Joseph, "This
battle has been as decisive as those of
Marengo, of Austerlitz, of Jena." He
fought for his own fortunes in all of
these battles And really the polit
ical issues involved in the Friedland
victory were fought over again in 1813,
and the victory of 1807 reversed at
Leipsic, the "battle of the Nations."
The nations which fought Napoleon at
Leipsic in 1813 were praying for his
defeat in 1807, but only Russia had
an aimy in the field at that date to
smite the usuipmg emperor of the
French The czar and his political
allies wished to use Napoleon as he
wab used at Moscow la 1S12, smash
his aimj and drive him back eastward
over the Rhine
i Happiest iVioment of His Life.
The author ot Decisive Battles of
the Woild" defines as decisive "those
few of Inch a contrary event "would
have varied the diama of the world
in all its subsequent scenes Apply
ing this definition to Fiiedland we
must limit the e\v to the immediate
field of Napoleon's adventures It
maiked the culmination of his caieer
as a political achentmer lie said him
self that that was one of the happiest
moments of his life, "peihans the hap
piest" It made him the greatest fig
ure in all Euiope for the time But a
contiaij c\eut, the defeat of Napoleon
at Friedland, ^onld not "have -taiied
the drama of the woild in all its sub
sequent scenes" It tvould have ac
celerated the downfall which came at
Leipsic to be clinched at Waterloo
Had Napoleon lost Friedland there
would piobably ha\e been no war of
the Spanibh peninsula, 1808-1813 no
dhorce of the Empress Josephine, at
least as it was brought about two
years later no Austrian empress on
the throne of France in 1810 no Mos
cow disaster in 1812 no "great coali
tion" of the powers against the Cor
sican in 1813 hence no Elba, no Wa
terloo, no St Helena. Possibly Eng
land, freed of the menace of Napoleon
the mighty hanging on her flanks,
would ha-\e sent an army to America
in 1812 to reverse the \ei diets of Sara
toga and Yorktown in some battle on
the Canadian border or the middle At
lantic coast. Possibly too Napoleon, if
defeated at Friedland, would have
tried to take revenge out of England
by direct attack, and thus compelled
her to let America alone in 1812.
Very Ordinary Battle.
No, the drama of the world as we
look at it a hundred years from Fried
land was not essentially varied by Na
poleon's victory of June 14, 1807. He
used his new power to turn Europe
upside down for a few years, hasten
ing his own end, after which things
resumed their normal course as though
Friedland had never happened. The
battle, as before stated, was very or
dinary At the close of 1 eoo Napoleon
had overrun the kingdmi of Pru*
seizing Berlin, and passed the u&
in Poland The Prussian kinsr L' 1
BATTLE OF FRIEDLAND.
Horace Vernet depicts the emperor on the battlefield, giving orders to tlv
general of division, Oudinot, for the pursuit of the enemy.
Napoleon.]-hiHh
A BATTLE
YEARS AGO.
FOUGHT ONE
army and his ally, Alexander I. of Rus
sia, sent a force of 100,000 men into
Poland against the French invader.
An indecisive battle was fought at
Eylau in April, 1807, and in June Na
poleon took the field for the purpose
of attacking the Russian base of sup
plies at Koenigsbergx
on the Baltic
coast. The Russians, led by General
Bennigsen, were encamped east of the
river Alle, and Napoleon was on the
west side of that stream. A race was
begun for Koenigsberg, and Napoleon
sent far in advance three corps, remain
ing with the main body himself. Koe
nigsberg is on the west side of the
Alle, and in order to rescue it from the
French the Russians had to cross that
river, the only available point for the
purpose being the village of Friedland
Napoleon dispatched the corps of
Lannes with Oudinot's famous Grena-^
diers to Friedland to hold the cross
ing, and the battle of Friedland was
opened about 1 o'clock in the after
noon by a vigorous cannon fire from
the Russian batteries, still in position
on the east bank of the Alle, against
Oudinot's line. Supposing that he
could crush the French under Lannes,
General Bennigsen crossed nearly the
whole of his army to the west bank,
using the single bridge \and two pon
toon bridges which he had in his outfit.
Sweeping French Victory.
Lannes had but 10,000 men and, like
the vigorous Reynolds at Gettysburg,
put up the best fight he-could and sent
courier after courier to summon Napo-
leon to the field One of these couriers,
Baron do Marbot, of Lannes' staff has
left a =tory of the whole affair. Mar
bot sajs he met Napoleon .some miles
away, and "he was beaming." As he
rode alons the column the soldiers
cheered, and he repeatedly said to
them, "Today is a lucky day it is the
anniversary of Marengo When Na
polcon got up with the reserves, it is
said that he had 70,000 on the field
against 33,000 Russians. The battle
was going against the French when
Napoleon's chief of artillery, General
Scnarmont, pnother Warren on Round
Top and the hero of the day, massed
thirty guns to play upon the Russian
guns across the river At the same
time the French infantry charged to
ward the bridges and plied the bayonet
upon the dense ranks gathered around
the bridge heads. Senarmont next
turned his guns upon the bridges, and
the long June day closed with 20,000
to 25,000 Russians hors du combat,
while the French. so-Marbot declares,
lost but 7,000
A Meeting of Monarchs.
Meanwhile Alexander had remained
withm a few miles of the battlefield,
but with the river Niemen flowing be
vtween him and the French When he
saw his own defeated soldiers hurry
ing across the Niemen with Marshal
Murat's cavalry at their heels, he ask
ed for an armistice. Napoleon march
ed the victors of Friedland to the Nie-.
men at Tilsit and encamped on the
west of the river opposite the Russian
camps On a raft in the middle of the
river, in full view of both armies, the
czar and Napoleon met on the 25th of
June, and two days later the hapless
King Frederick of Prussia, who was
Alexander's guest and protege, was
present at an interview on the same
scene. Napoleon and the czar had em
braced after the manner of monarch3
at the first meeting, but Marbot says
that Napoleon received Frederick "po-
litely, but coldly." Frederick through
the chances of war had lost all the
vast domain of Frederick the Great
except a few villages, and Marbot ob
serves that Napoleon's coldness at the
first meeting was due to the fact that
he was planning to permanently con
fiscate a large part of the Prussian
realm.
The interviews between the mon
archs were prolonged over twenty
flays and ended in the famous treaty
of Tilsit. At Napoleon's invitation
Qjieett Louisa of- Prussia came to TO
?if. Baron Marbot says:Vv
Ifivited her to dinner, which she ac
tepted, doubtless much against the grain
Napoleon and the queen of Prussia hated
eac other cordially. She had insulted
in many proclamations, and he had
given it back in his bulletins. Yet their
Interview showed no^traces of their mu
tual hatred. Napoleon was respectful and
attentive, the queen gracious and disposed
to captivate her former enemy.
The figure cut by Louisa's royal
spouse at this time' was mostv
3
pitiful.
In the "Memoirs of Napoleon," by the
Duchess D'Abrantes, we read:
The king of Prussia was of so little ac
count in these conferences that nothing
more was said of him than if he were at
Berlin. To see a king, for in fact he was
a king, following his conqueror with an
eye of apprehension, fearing to speak,
walking always behind the other two sov
ereigns, and thus by his own act placing
himself in a subordinate rank, must al
ways be distressing.
TheNiuchess was the wife of Junot,
one of Napoleon's generals, and re
counts the story of Tilsit as given her
by eyewitnesses.
Long before Friedland and Tilsit Na
poleon had declared that he would de
throne Frederick of Prussia. At St
Helena he said:
Where I erred most fatally was at Til
sit. I ought to have dethroned the king
of Prussia I hesitated a moment. I was
sure Alexander would not have opposed
it, providing I had not taken the king's
dominions for myself. I might have de
clared that the hojise of Hohenzollern had
ceased to reign.
He added that he would have done
so had there been a scion of the branch
of Frederick the Great at hand Ap
ropos of the despoliation of Piussia.
sanctioned by the treaty at Tilsit, the
Duchess D'Abrantes quotes an inter
esting morsel from the lips of Alexan
der, whom she met in Paiis 1814.
Said the czar
On our meeting at Tilsit 1 stepped upon
the raft quite determined to sustain my
dignity in my deportment toward the
man whose treatment of the king of Prus
sia was, in my opinion, violently unjust.
I intended to do much for my unfortunate
friend (Frederick) and much also for my
own people, but scarcely had I seen Napo
leon before I was overcome.
Alas, neither the czar's sympathy nor
the beautiful queen's graciousness
availed to save the Prussian realm
from the greed of Napoleon.
But what the sword took from Louisa
and Frederick in 1807 the sword gave
back in 1814, when the allies deposed
Napoleon from his throne in Paris.
Among the troops that marched into
Paris at that time was a son of King
Frederick and^Queen Louisa, a youth
of seventeen, who won the Iron Cross
for valor Again in 1870 that boy,
grown to be a gray haired king, entered
Paris at the head of a conquering
army, dethroning Napoleon's nephew,
Napoleon III, and was crowned Wil
liam I., emperor of Germany, at Ver
sailles. So the humiliation at Tilsit
was avenged.
A Frank Reminiscence.
It has been said that at Tilsit the
czar and Napoleon divided the mastery
of Europe between themselves. Napo
leon seems to have been overjoyed at
the friendly alliance he made with the
czar. He wrote at the time to his
brother Joseph, "We lived as intimate
friends This is not the language of
a boaster, but of a man promoted and
tends to show that Napoleon felt that
he had reached his goal by an alliance
with the Russian autocrat "I found
myself dictating laws, having emperors
and kings pay me court," he afterward
said. On the other hand this versatile
Corsican sometimes laughed his
sleeve at the "emperors and kings" he
had hobnobbed with at Tilsit In talks
with Napoleon at St. Helena one of the
chroniclers records this frank remi
niscence
"When," said Napoleon, "I was at Tilsit
with the Emperor Alexander and the king
of Prussia, I was the most ignorant of the
three military affairs These two sov
ereigns especially the king of Prussia,
were completely au fait as to the number
of buttons there ought to be In front of a
jacket, how many behind and the manner
in which the skirts ought to be cut Not
a tailor in the army knew better than
King Frederick how many measu&s of
cloth it took to make a jacket In fact,"
continued he, laughing, "I was nobody in
comparison with them They continually
tormented me about matters belonging to
tailors, of which I was entirely ignorant,
although, in order not to affront them, I
answered just as gravely as if the fate of
an army depended upon the cut of a
jacket When I went to see the king of
Prussia, instead of a library I found that
he had a large room, like an arsenal, fur
nished with shelves and pegs on which
were hung fifty or sixty jackets of differ
ent patterns Every day he changed his
fashion and put on a different one He
attached more importance to this than
was necessary for the salvation of a king
dom
Three treaties resulted from Fried
landone between France and Russia,
published at the time one between
France and Prussia, also made public,
and a third, long kept secret, between
Russia and France. This last was
practically an offensive and defensive
alliance of the two powers against
England, Austria and Turkey. A rem^
nant of his realm was left to the Prus
sian king out of regard for the wishes
of Alexander Napoleon was blamed
by the liberals of Europe for not re
constituting the kingdom of Poland.
Instead of that he created the grand
duchy of Warsaw in favor of his old
ally, the king of Saxony, whose prede
cessors had reigned in Poland. At
home he was blamed for not crossing
the Niemen after Friedland and push
ing his conquest farther east also for
putting too much trust in Alexander,
who later turned upon him. He was
also blamed for leaving Prussia either
too strong or too weak Prussia strong
and allied with France would have
been a buffer between France and
Russia weak, Prussia would never
ha\e troubled France again for a cen
tury. Echoing the trend of criticism in
European capitals at the time of Napo
leon's fall, Baron Meneval, long close
to Napoleon, says in his memoirs, "It^
needed the disaster at Moscow (1812)
and Leipsic (1813) to overthrow the
beautiful monument to Napoleon's
glory," created by the victory at Fried
laud in 1807.
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