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List Of Contents | Contents of Vaninka, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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her favourites.

The army to which the young officer belonged crossed Germany,
descended into Italy by the Tyrolese mountains, and entered Verona on
the 14th of April 1799.  Souvarow immediately joined forces with
General Melas, and took command of the two armies.  General Chasteler
next day suggested that they should reconnoitre.  Souvarow, gazing at
him with astonishment, replied, "I know of no other way of
reconnoitring the enemy than by marching upon him and giving him
battle."

As a matter of fact Souvarow was accustomed to this expeditious sort
of strategy: through it he had defeated the Turks at Folkschany and
Ismailoff; and he had defeated the Poles, after a few days' campaign,
and had taken Prague in less than four hours.  Catherine, out of
gratitude, had sent her victorious general a wreath of oak-leaves,
intertwined with precious stones, and worth six hundred thousand
roubles, a heavy gold field-marshal's baton encrusted with diamonds;
and had created him a field-marshal, with the right of choosing a
regiment that should bear his name from that time forward.  Besides,
when he returned to Russia, she gave him leave of absence, that he
might take a holiday at a beautiful estate she had given him,
together with the eight thousand serfs who lived upon it.

What a splendid example for Foedor!  Souvarow, the son of a humble
Russian officer, had been educated at the ordinary cadets' training
college, and had left it as a sub-lieutenant like himself.  Why
should there not be two Souvarows in the same century?

Souvarow arrived in Italy preceded by an immense reputation;
religious, strenuous, unwearied, impassible, loving with the
simplicity of a Tartar and fighting with the fury of a Cossack, he
was just the man required to continue General Melas's successes over
the soldiers of the Republic, discouraged as they had been by the
weak vacillations of Scherer.

The Austro-Russian army of one hundred thousand men was opposed by
only twenty-nine or thirty thousand French.  Souvarow began as usual
with a thundering blow.  On 20th April he appeared before Brescia,
which made a vain attempt at resistance; after a cannonade of about
half an hour's duration, the Preschiera gate was forced, and the
Korsakow division, of which Foedor's regiment formed the vanguard,
charged into the town, pursuing the garrison, which only consisted of
twelve hundred men, and obliged them to take refuge in the citadel.
Pressed with an impetuosity the French were not accustomed to find in
their enemies, and seeing that the scaling ladders were already in
position against the ramparts, the captain Boucret wished to come to
terms; but his position was too precarious for him to obtain any
conditions from his savage conquerors, and he and his soldiers were
made prisoners of war.

Souvarow was experienced enough to know how best to profit by
victory; hardly master of Brescia, the rapid occupation of which had
discouraged our army anew, he ordered General Kray to vigorously
press on the siege of Preschiera.  General Kray therefore established
his headquarters at Valeggio, a place situated at an equal distance
between Preschiera and Mantua, and he extended from the Po to the
lake of Garda, on the banks of the Mencio, thus investing the two
cities at the same time.

Meanwhile the commander-in-chief had advanced, accompanied by the
larger part of his forces, and had crossed the Oglio in two columns:
he launched one column, under General Rosenberg, towards Bergamo, and
the other, with General Melas in charge, towards the Serio, whilst a
body of seven or eight thousand men, commanded by General Kaim and
General Hohenzollern, were directed towards Placentia and Cremona,
thus occupying the whole of the left bank of the Po, in such a manner
that the Austro-Russian army advanced deploying eighty thousand men
along a front of forty-five miles.

In view of the forces which were advancing, and which were three
times as large as his own, Scherer beat a retreat all along the line.
He destroyed the bridges over the Adda, as he did not consider that
he was strong enough to hold them, and, having removed his
headquarters to Milan, he awaited there the reply to a despatch which
he had sent to the Directory, in which, tacitly acknowledging his
incapacity, he tendered his resignation.  As the arrival of his
successor was delayed, and as Souvarow continued to advance, Scherer,
more and more terrified by the responsibility which rested upon him,
relinquished his command into the hands of his most able lieutenant.
The general chosen by him was Moreau, who was again about to fight
those Russians in whose ranks he was destined to die at last.

Moreau's unexpected nomination was proclaimed amidst the acclamation
of the soldiers.  He had been called the French Fabius, on account of
his magnificent campaign on the Rhine.  He passed his whole army in
review, saluted by the successive acclamations of its different
divisions, which cried, "Long live Moreau!  Long live the saviour of
the army of Italy!"  But however great this enthusiasm, it did not
blind Moreau to the terrible position in which he found himself.  At
the risk of being out-flanked, it was necessary for him to present a
parallel line to that of the Russian army, so that, in order to face
his enemy, he was obliged to extend his line from Lake Lecco to
Pizzighitone--that is to say, a distance of fifty miles.  It is true
that he might have retired towards Piedmont and concentrated his
troops at Alexandria, to await there the reinforcements the Directory
had promised to send him.  But if he had done this, he would have
compromised the safety of the army at Naples, and have abandoned it,
isolated as it was, to the mercy of the enemy.  He therefore resolved
to defend the passage of the Adda as long as possible, in order to
give the division under Dessolles, which was to be despatched to him
by Massena, time to join forces with him and to defend his left,
whilst Gauthier, who had received orders to evacuate Tuscany and to
hasten with forced marches to his aid, should have time to arrive and
protect his right.  Moreau himself took the centre, and personally
defended the fortified bridge of Cassano; this bridge was protected
by the Ritorto Canal, and he also defended it with a great deal of
artillery and an entrenched vanguard.  Besides, Moreau, always as
prudent as brave, took every precaution to secure a retreat, in case
of disaster, towards the Apennines and the coast of Genoa.  Hardly
were his dispositions completed before the indefatigable Souvarow
entered Triveglio.  At the same time as the Russian commander-in-
chief arrived at this last town, Moreau heard of the surrender of
Bergamo and its castle, and on 23rd April he saw the heads of the
columns of the allied army.

The same day the Russian general divided his troops into three strong
columns, corresponding to the three principal points in the French
line, each column numerically more than double the strength of those
to whom they were opposed.  The right column, led by General
Wukassowich, advanced towards Lake Lecco, where General Serrurier
awaited it.  The left column, under the command of Melas, took up its
position in front of the Cassano entrenchments; and the Austrian
division, under Generals Zopf and Ott, which formed the centre,
concentrated at Canonia, ready at a given moment to seize Vaprio.
The Russian and Austrian troops bivouacked within cannon-shot of the
French outposts.

That evening, Foedor, who with his regiment formed part of
Chasteler's division, wrote to General Tchermayloff:

"We are at last opposite the French, and a great battle must take
place to-morrow morning; tomorrow evening I shall be a lieutenant or
a corpse."

Next morning, 26th April, cannon resounded at break of day from the
extremities of the lines; on our left Prince Bagration's grenadiers
attacked us, on our right General Seckendorff, who had been detached
from the camp of Triveglio, was marching on Crema.

These two attacks met with very different success.  Bagration's
grenadiers were repulsed with terrible loss, whilst Seckendorff, on
the contrary, drove the French out of Crema, and pushed forward
towards the bridge of Lodi.  Foedor's predictions were falsified: his
portion of the army did nothing the whole day; his regiment remained
motionless, waiting for orders that did not come.

Souvarow's arrangements were not yet quite complete, the night was
needed for him to finish them.  During the night, Moreau, having
heard of Seckendorff's success on his extreme right, sent an order to
Serrurier commanding him to leave at Lecco, which was an easy post to
defend, the 18th light brigade and a detachment of dragoons only, and
to draw back with the rest of his troops towards the centre.
Serrurier received this order about two o'clock in the morning, and
executed it immediately.

On their side the Russians had lost no time, profiting by the
darkness of the night.  General Wukassowich had repaired the bridge
at Brevio, which had been destroyed by the French, whilst General
Chasteler had built another bridge two miles below the castle of
Trezzo.  These two bridges had been, the one repaired and the other
built, without the French outposts having the slightest suspicion of
what was taking place.

Surprised at two o'clock in the morning by two Austrian divisions,
which, concealed by the village of San Gervasio, had reached the
right bank of the Adda without their being discovered, the soldiers
defending the castle of Trezzo abandoned it and beat a retreat.  The
Austrians pursued them as far as Pozzo, but there the French suddenly
halted and faced about, for General Serrurier was at Pozzo, with the
troops he had brought from Lecco.  He heard the cannonade behind him,
immediately halted, and, obeying the first law of warfare, he marched
towards the noise and smoke.  It was therefore through him that the
garrison of Trezzo rallied and resumed the offensive.  Serrurier sent
an aide-de-Camp to Moreau to inform him of the manoeuvre he had
thought proper to execute.

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