Eylau: An Abstract of the Chronological Exploits of the Grand Army
‘For the Pupils of the Imperial Military School of Fontainbleu.’
It was for you, Young Pupils of Mars, hope of the Throne and the Empire; for you who nobly grow under the watchful protection of the heir to Charlemagne, who feel the bubble of French blood in your veins, and whose courage goes beyond your age, that (we) dedicate the glorious account of the most glorious of campaigns.
We do not offer here for your consideration these famous pages, pompously written or long winded, for them to become holy engravings; that would be to usurp the field of the history; we only wanted to provide a glimpse of one faithfully told, and (if we dare to be create a useful expression) a geography of victory. With this brilliant route in your hand, enthusiasm will carry you along the tracks of your predecessors in the fields of Bellone; you will be able there to follow step by step, count their exploits, to study their successes, to analyze their erudite operations, and to prepare you to imitate them one day.
It seems to us, we already see you, you, who have hardly escaped the bonds of education and without experience still, but already learned in the art of Tureene, or the art of Vauban, are called with the defenders of the fatherland. You have hardly counted eighteen Springs, the flags Mars have not yet shaded your heads, your idle swords have not yet carried terror in the enemy lines, bronze did not thunder yet around you in the fields of Bellone, and already NAPOLEON wants that you were decorated with the epaulettes of honor. An idea really worthy of a hero! It exalts, it ignites a young warrior. Rich person of beauty: the long years that he will traverse, with what a heat he flies to the combat! How he builds, as he renews, as he will hold the oath to be faithful to his fatherland! If it considered me worthy to defend it I will not betray its hope, it will triumph, or all my blood will run on its ramparts. It says; and already its sword shines, its successes are contemplated, its unquestionable triumphs; its impatient ardor devours space; it has only one desire: glory! That goal: victory! …. The moment to deserve the rank his Monarch honors arrives finally…. it precipitates; its value knows no end: in the fray….. at the head of his battalion….. to the trench, one sees it everywhere, and everywhere the first….. French and soldier, it does not cross a forest of bay-trees without tearing off a branch from it, and exclaims, with the accent of the winner: “Yesterday, I was a second lieutenant, tomorrow, I will be a lieutenant; a campaign yet, and I am a captain.” Here is the example that you often gave, which you burn to still follow.
The work that we present to you serves only to maintain the sacred fire if courage. Undoubtedly your learned teachers have spoken to you before us, the accounts of the beautiful actions that give birth to the heroes; by reading the history of Scipio and Caesar, one does not learn the secrets of how to overcome the likes of Pharsale and Zama; but their guidance, their memorable stories lift the heart, ignite the imagination and are used as guides for your sublime passions which gives to the World conquerors, sovereigns, the ambition! Who of you who does not aspire to the famous brilliance of the heroes of Fifth-Century, who does not greet of victorious sound admiration, like Arbelle and Issus?
Which French, by reading the life whole of our Emperor, wouldn’t become a great man? Which mortal would not expect posterity, while following the steps of Napoleon, who reunites on his head the glory of the centuries past, shines of the talents, the virtues of Alexander and Caesar, without having their defects nor their weaknesses; who joins the generosity of Scipio, the justice of Aristide, the satisfying of Epaminondas, the frugality of Fabricius, which so much moved back the limits of the Art of the Poliorcète war reappeared with the head of the armies, they would be obliged to forget what they learned, and to make a new training of the trade which covered them with glory.
Young Pupils, it, is imbued with these significant truths that we conceived the idea of dedicating this Collection to you. So strong is our feeling in your future high destinies.
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