When M. de Talleyrand informed Napoleon of this ultimatum, driven by pride in a moment of delirium and attributed, again, to the old Duke of Brunswick, the Emperor did not allow the reading to end and tearing this paper from the hands of the former Bishop of Autun and convulsively crumbling it in his:
From that moment the Emperor was solely occupied with preparations for the campaign that was to open. When he looked carefully on the map, at the positions of the enemy, who already occupied the whole of Bavaria, he said:
Napoleon had the gift of second sight such that he could not have guessed better. On 13th he was in Jena, where he established his headquarters. However, at four o'clock in the evening, the first companies of our scouts, coming out on the top of the dominating mountain, first discovered the enemy lines. The Emperor went to reconnoiter; the sun hadn’t set yet. He dismounted and went until he had drawn the fire of several fusils. Then he returned to urge the march of his columns, indicating in an animated voice the position that each of his generals should occupy. He then left the home of the Princess of Rens-Lobenstein to establish his bivouac in the midst of his Guard, and invited to dinner of the heads of those corps that were present. Before going to bed, he wanted to assure himself that no ammunition caissons were still below. Having descended the mountains, he found all the artillery of Marshal Lannes stuck in a dark ravine that had to take that path.
The defile was so tight that the axles of the pieces were caught on both sides of the rock. In this position, the artillery could not advance or retreat, because there were two hundred wagons in the wake of each other; and that artillery was precisely the one he had thought the next day, to use first, the very corps that remained behind. This was an irritation. He asked at first for the general who commanded the convoy, being very surprised not to find him there; then, without spreading unnecessary accusations against the head of the corps, being the real artillery officer that he was, he gathered the gunners, made them take the tools of the park, light lanterns, and he even took one with which he illuminated the gunners who, under his leadership, worked to deepen and broaden the ravine until the suspended axle slipped through the rock. He did not leave until the first wagons made it through, which took place about one o'clock in the morning; then he thought to return to his bivouac. But before returning, he wanted to give a last glance at most of the neighboring outposts.
At the beginning of the night, there had been a white frost with fairly thick fog. This condition of the atmosphere met Napoleon while forming his troops in large masses that were almost touching, in the end allowing the overnight deployment easier. The vast plateau occupied was no more than 200 toises (400 yards) from the position of the Prussians. The sentinels could distinguish nothing to ten paces around them. The first, heard someone walking in the shadows and approaching the lines, cried twice Who goes! and was preparing to fire, at the third question. The Emperor, deep in thought, did not reply. A bullet whistled past his ear and pulled him from his reverie.
Then realizing the danger he had just run into and that which was immediately threatened, he threw himself down on his belly. This precaution was wise, because just as he had been in this posture for a few seconds, another ball whistled over his head. The first shooter came, Napoleon got up, called to him, went to a neighboring post and was recognized. It was when the soldier who fired the first arrived, that the alarm was halted. He was a young voltigeur of the 12th Line. The Emperor ordered him to approach, and taking an ear, pinched him strongly:
The voltigeur was so disturbed by the idea that he could have killed the Little Corporal, it was only with great difficulty he managed to stammer out the words:
Napoleon reassured him and said leaving the post:
It was nearly three o'clock in the morning when Napoleon returned to his bivouac. He wrapped himself in his coat and went deeply to sleep. On 14 October 1806, at the break of the day, he was on horseback: the Grand Army was at arms an hour before. He passed by all the lines while reminding the soldiers that it was only a year ago at this time, they had taken Ulm.
Immediately the army spread out in all directions, and the action commenced with a terrible firing along the whole line. In the middle of the fray, the French retained their national gaiety. A soldier of the 45th Line (the children of Paris), that his friends called the Emperor, because in fact he was small and he had some resemblance to Napoleon, impatient with the obstinacy of the Prussians, exclaimed:
And he was thrown into the thickest part of the action. His comrades followed by example and the guard of the King of Prussia was crushed.
The evening after the action, Napoleon appointed his namesake corporal on the battlefield, and gave the accolade of the decorating to himself. From that day, soldiers of the 45th never called that grenadier any other than the grand corporal to distinguish him from the small, he had the honor of kissing.
The day of the battle Napoleon mounted in a small uncovered carriage, moved to Weimar. He was going through Mersburg on the Halle when he crossed the battlefield of Rosbach. As if he had in mind the dispositions of the army of Frederick the Great and those of ours at Rosbach at that that, he told Savary:
If the harvest had not been over, Savary could never have discovered this column. Placed in the middle of an immense plain, it was no higher than the markers that you see on our road to show distances. Once he had found it, the aide-de-camp tied his handkerchief to the end of his sword and waved it in the air to serve as a director to the Emperor, who soon came to join him. All the engravings on the monument had been erased by time. After circling all around in silence with his arms crossed over his chest, Napoleon became overcome with emotion and gave a vigorous blow with the heel of his boot to the column to knock it down. He did this several times, saying:
But as the column did not move and that these unsuccessful attempts had run out of steam, having seen in the distance the Suchet Division that had resumed the march, he said to the general to send for a few engineers. It took them no time to dig up the column and have it loaded on a cart that was to leave immediately for Paris. Then he went back on route for Berlin, where he made his entrance. The first order he gave to Savary, on arriving at the palace, which he found intact, was to go immediately seize the letters that were found to be mailed.
Among those that were intercepted, he was one sent to the King of Prussia, written and signed by the Prince of Hatzfeld, who remained in Berlin as a member of the provisional government of Prussia. In that letter, he reported to his sovereign of all that had happened in the capital since his departure, and he added to the reflections that were not flattering to Napoleon, a list of our troops, the number of pieces of artillery that was parked in the city, etc.. This letter was immediately sent to the Emperor: there was obviously an act of high treason.
Napoleon repeatedly read the letter from the prince, and with every sentence, he uttered these exclamations:
Then having put the letter in his pocket, he added, shaking his head:
And he gave the order to arrest Mr. Hatzfeld on the spot. Fortunately for the prince, Napoleon forgot to include in his order the letter that was the only piece of evidence to put before the military commission set to try the case. General Savary, in his capacity as commander of the imperial police, was usually responsible for these kinds of arrests; but Napoleon had sent him on a commission in the morning, and he had not yet returned; Rapp, to his great regret, was obliged to compensate for that absence. Napoleon, remained alone with Berthier, telling him to sit down to write the order under which Mr. de Hatzfeld must be brought before a military commission. The Chief-of-Staff wrote out several drafts. Napoleon losing patience, struck on the desktop at which the major-general was seated, with such force, that everything jumped in the air, even the heavy writing set. Berthier rose quietly and left the salon. Then the Emperor, ashamed of his outburst and not finding more than words on his lips, sat back and followed Berthier with his eyes remaining still. Becoming a little calmer, he called Rapp, who was held entrenched in the next room.
And, without interrupting his walk, Napoleon dictated the following:
Napoleon took the pen from the hands of Rapp, read aloud in whispers what he had to dictate, then, after signing, changing tone, he said with feigned sweetness:
Rapp did all of this. Although trembling for himself and for the prince, because instead of having gone to the headquarters of Davoust he had left the palace, despite the formal order that the Emperor had given him. He was content to put both letters in his pocket.
However, an unofficial notice warned Madame Hatzfeld of the arrest of her husband, she was hastening to the Grand Marshal, when suddenly the cry was heard: To arms! And drums were heard outside. Napoleon had returned to the palace. The Grand Marshal left the Princess and ran to meet the Emperor, who, followed by Rapp and Savary, had already reached the top of the stairs. Duroc was not in the habit of being in such cases in his path, his presence made the Emperor say:
But hardly had he first entered the salon, when a woman appeared from an adjacent door, just to throw herself at his feet all grieving, and exclaiming:
Napoleon overcome with kindness, made a sign to Savary, and went into his office, followed by Rapp, who had offered the help of his arm to Madame Hatzfeld, whose emotion and her pregnancy could hardly be supported. The Emperor could not help repeating several times: “Poor woman! Unfortunate woman!” And, believing that the orders he had given in the morning had been executed, he directed the Princess to sit in an armchair placed near the fireplace, and then approaching Rapp said, without emotion and to be heard only by him:
In response, the aide-de-camp looked down and handed him a paper.
Having unfolded the paper, he recognized the letter from the Prince that he had surrendered to Rapp sometimes hours before. He cast a glance that seemed to forgive their disobedience:
Madame Hatzfeld in all the honesty of her soul, complained at length of who unjustly slandered her husband, and ended by asking for justice against his accusers. Napoleon, placed in front of her, had listened patiently, elbows supported on the arms of his large armchair; he had ceased to look at his thumbs that he was turning over one another. When she had finished, he rose, saying with care:
And at the same time he gave her the letter from the Prince. Madame de Hatzfeld laid eyes on this piece of accusation. As she read, fear manifested itself in all her appearance; and in her amazement, she could not stop from stuttering these words:
The Princess watched Napoleon with an immobility that came from her delirium; she fell on her knees, and with haggard eyes, stretched her arms towards him.
The princess still had the fatal paper in her hands, in a rough convulsive tremor; and not fully understanding the words of Napoleon, she did not understand or what she had to say or what she had to do. The Emperor, noting that indecision came closer to her, and indicated with his eyes and a gesture the sparkling fire burning in the fireplace:
With one hand he had taken the arms of the princess and had headed to the hearth of the fireplace, while with on the other hand he had seized letter and threw it into the fire while saying:
Then, having helped the princess to rise, he charged Savary to return her to her home.
Two days after this scene, Josephine told her maids at the Tuileries:
Hardly had she uttered these words, when the gallop of a horse was heard in the court of the Tuileries.
Indeed, it was again Moustache, who, after having gone to Constantinople, Saint Petersburg and Madrid came this time from Berlin at full speed, after crossing two hundred and forty-five leagues in sixty hours. After a few minutes, a chamberlain entered the salon with a serious step and presented to Josephine the following letter:
Berlin, 6 November 1806, nine o'clock in the evening.
This was the Emperor with regard to Madame Hatzfeld.
The Court of Prussia had fled with such haste that it was unable to take anything away from the palace. Napoleon went on to visit the vault where the coffin rested, unadorned of cedar, containing the ashes of the Frederick the Great. Then he walked through the castles of the great and small Sans-Souci; the latter especially was of great interest. He wanted to see the apartment that the King of Prussia lived in. It had always been religiously maintained; no furniture had been either changed or moved. The Emperor curiously looked, undoing the locks, opening cabinets and touching everything he found with his hand.
But what charmed the most, he found in the bedroom where the Prussian monarch died, the sword, the belt grand ribbon and the orders he carried: he quickly took them up.
All of the Guard having arrived at Charlottenbourg, when it was collected, he gave the order to put it in full dress, because Napoleon wished that it, himself included, make a triumphal entry into the capital of Prussia. However, in the main square of Berlin was a column bearing the bust of the great Frederick. Reaching this place, Napoleon circled around the column at a gallop; then standing fifty paces before it and he lowered the tip of his sword he had in hand, took off his hat, while the drums beat “aux champs” and the troops began to defile at an ordinary step, music in mind, between him and the column, and presented arms while passing the bust of the king.
This maneuver, if consistent with the character of the Emperor, was not the taste of some old grognards who still had their mustaches blackened by the powder of Jena, who would have preferred a good housing billet than a truly sublime ceremony of this kind. Also they did not cover their bad mood. One in particular expressed his displeasure loud enough so that his words reached the ears of the Emperor:
With these words, Napoleon made a sudden movement on his horse, and, extending his arm to designate the company defiling, he cried. with a ringing voice:
A corporal of grenadiers soon was sorted from the ranks and, without changing from port arms, he advanced with lowered eyes to the Emperor, and stopped indifferent in front of him. Napoleon knows that the non-commissioned officer is one of those he calls the old ones.
At these words of bad soldier, a slight tremor shook all parts of the Corporal; he straightened his head and grumbled a few inarticulate sounds; but soon he backed down and became motionless. Napoleon then asked in a more concise but less severe tone:
The other regiments continued to march in the most perfect order and with the utmost silence, but in the evening, the soldiers could not account for the deference that the Little Corporal, they said, had shown in the morning for the head of a monarch who had been crushed like the others.
After the parade, the troops were quartered in the vicinity of Custrin and Stettin, and the Guard was housed in the middle of Berlin. All the rest of the day the Emperor was besieged by deputations: they came from Saxony, Weimar, everywhere. He received almost all with kindness; but it was not the same for the Prussian diplomats. In revenge, having seen in the surrounding crowd a priest he knew at Jena had taken great pains to care for the wounded, without distinction of their flag, he went to him, thanked him profusely, and at the same time gave him a magnificent gold snuffbox decorated with his portrait, while adding most graciously:
In the evening, the emperor withdrew at an early hour. Arriving in his bedroom, followed by Rapp, who was on duty with him:
And as Rapp, having hooked the large watch by the bedside of the bed of Napoleon, in which the sword of the Prussian monarch was also suspended, looked with curiosity at a pair of horse pistols that belonged to him, he guessed the thought of his aide-de-camp, and said:
Napoleon had taken the sword of the great Frederick, had carefully examined, then, having pulled it out of the sheath:
With these words, Napoleon threw his aide-de-camp an indefinable look and, taking his ear, told him gently with that beautiful voice of a legitimate pride:
Placed on the Napoleon Series: February 2009
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