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List Of Contents | Contents of Vaninka, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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The battle between the French and Austrian troops raged with
incredible fury.  Bonaparte's veterans, during their first Italian
campaigns, had adopted a custom which they could not renounce: it was
to fight His Imperial Majesty's subjects wherever they found them.
Nevertheless, so great was the numerical superiority of the allies,
that our troops had begun to retreat, when loud shouts from the
rearguard announced that reinforcements had arrived.  It was General
Grenier, sent by Moreau, who arrived with his division at the moment
when his presence was most necessary.

One part of the new division reinforced the centre column, doubling
its size; another part was extended upon the left to envelop the
enemy.  The drums beat afresh down the whole line, and our grenadiers
began again to reconquer this battle field already twice lost and
won.  But at this moment the Austrians were reinforced by the Marquis
de Chasteler and his division, so that the numerical superiority was
again with the enemy.  Grenier drew back his wing to strengthen the
centre, and Serrurier, preparing for retreat in case of disaster,
fell back on Pozzo, where he awaited the enemy. It was here that the
battle raged most fiercely: thrice the village of Pozzo was taken and
re-taken, until at last, attacked for the fourth time by a force
double their own in numbers, the French were obliged to evacuate it.
In this last attack an Austrian colonel was mortally wounded, but, on
the other hand, General Beker, who commanded the French rearguard,
refused to retreat with his soldiers, and maintained his ground with
a few men, who were slain as they stood; he was at length obliged to
give up his sword to a young Russian officer of the Semenofskoi
regiment, who, handing over his prisoner to his own soldiers,
returned immediately to the combat.

The two French generals had fixed on the village of Vaprio as a
rallying-place, but at the moment when our troops were thrown into
disorder through the evacuation of Pozzo, the Austrian cavalry
charged heavily, and Serrurier, finding himself separated from his
colleague, was obliged to retire with two thousand five hundred men
to Verderio, whilst Grenier, having reached the appointed place,
Vaprio, halted to face the enemy afresh.

During this time a terrible fight was taking place in the centre.
Melas with eighteen to twenty thousand men had attacked the fortified
posts at the head of the bridge of Cassano and the Ritorto Canal.
About seven o'clock in the morning, when Moreau had weakened himself
by despatching Grenier and his division, Melas, leading three
battalions of Austrian grenadiers, had attacked the fortifications,
and for two hours there was terrible carnage; thrice repulsed, and
leaving more than fifteen hundred men at the base of the
fortifications, the Austrians had thrice returned to the attack, each
time being reinforced by fresh troops, always led on and encouraged
by Melas, who had to avenge his former defeats.  At length, having
been attacked for the fourth time, forced from their entrenchments,
and contesting the ground inch by inch, the French took shelter
behind their second fortifications, which defended the entrance to
the bridge itself: here they were commanded by Moreau in person.
There, for two more hours, a hand-to-hand struggle took place, whilst
the terrible artillery belched forth death almost muzzle to muzzle.
At last the Austrians, rallying for a last time, advanced at the
point of the bayonet, and; lacking either ladders or fascines, piled
the bodies of their dead comrades against the fortifications, and
succeeded in scaling the breastworks.  There was not a moment to be
lost.  Moreau ordered a retreat, and whilst the French were
recrossing the Adda, he protected their passage in person with a
single battalion of grenadiers, of whom at the end of half an hour
not more than a hundred and twenty men remained; three of his aides-
de-camp were killed at his side.  This retreat was accomplished
without disorder, and then Moreau himself retired, still fighting the
enemy, who set foot on the bridge as soon as he reached the other
bank.  The Austrians immediately rushed forward to capture him, when
suddenly a terrible noise was heard rising above the roar of the
artillery; the second arch of the bridge was blown into the air,
carrying with it all those who were standing on the fatal spot.  The
armies recoiled, and into the empty space between them fell like rain
a debris of stones and human beings.  But at this moment, when Moreau
had succeeded in putting a momentary obstacle between himself and
Melas, General Grenier's division arrived in disorder, after having
been forced to evacuate Vaprio, pursued by the Austro-Russians under
Zopf, Ott, and Chasteler.  Moreau ordered a change of front, and
faced this new enemy, who fell upon him when he least expected them;
he succeeded in rallying Grenier's troops and in re-establishing the
battle.  But whilst his back was turned Melas repaired the bridge and
crossed the river; thus Moreau found himself attacked frontally, in
the rear, and on his two flanks, by forces three times larger than
his own.  It was then that all the officers who surrounded him begged
him to retreat, for on the preservation of his person depended the
preservation of Italy for France.  Moreau refused for some time, for
he knew the awful consequences of the battle he had just lost, and he
did not wish to survive it, although it had been impossible for him
to win it.  At last a chosen band surrounded him, and, forming a
square, drew back, whilst the rest of the army sacrificed themselves
to cover his retreat; for Moreau's genius was looked upon as the sole
hope that remained to them.

The battle lasted nearly three hours longer, during which the
rearguard of the army performed prodigies of valour.  At length
Melas, seeing that the enemy had escaped him, and believing that his
troops, tired by the stubborn fight, needed rest, gave orders that
the fighting should cease.  He halted on the left bank of the Adda,
encamping his army in the villages of Imago, Gorgonzola, and Cassano,
and remained master of the battlefield, upon which we had left two
thousand five hundred dead, one hundred pieces of cannon, and twenty
howitzers.

That night Souvarow invited General Becker to supper with him, and
asked him by whom he had been taken prisoner.  Becker replied that it
was a young officer belonging to the regiment which had first entered
Pozzo.  Souvarow immediately inquired what regiment this was, and
discovered that it was the Semenofskoi; he then ordered that
inquiries should be made to ascertain the young officer's name.
Shortly afterwards Sub-Lieutenant Foedor Romayloff was announced.  He
presented General Becker's sword to Souvarow, who invited him to
remain and to have supper with his prisoner.

Next day Foedor wrote to his protector: "I have kept my word.  I am a
lieutenant, and Field-Marshal Souvarow has requested his Majesty
Paul I to bestow upon me the order of Saint Vladimir."

On 28th of April, Souvarow entered Milan, which Moreau had just
abandoned in order to retreat beyond Tesino.  The following
proclamation was by his order posted on all the walls of the capital;
it admirably paints the spirit of the Muscovite:

"The victorious army of the Apostolical and Roman Emperor is here; it
has fought solely for the restoration of the Holy Faith,--the clergy,
nobility, and ancient government of Italy.  People, join us for God
and the Faith, for we have arrived with an army at Milan and
Placentia to assist you!"

The dearly bought victories of Trebia and Novi succeeded that of
Cassano, and left Souvarow so much weakened that he was unable to
profit by them.  Besides, just when the Russian general was about to
resume his march, a new plan of campaign arrived, sent by the Aulic
Council at Vienna.  The Allied Powers had decided upon the invasion
of France, and had fixed the route each general must follow in order
to accomplish this new project.  It way decided that Souvarow should
invade France by Switzerland, and that the arch-duke should yield him
his positions and descend on the Lower Rhine.

The troops with which Souvarow was to operate against Massena from
this time were the thirty thousand Russians he had with him, thirty
thousand others detached from the reserve army commanded by Count
Tolstoy in Galicia, who were to be led to join him in Switzerland by
General Korsakoff, about thirty thousand Austrians under General
Hotze, and lastly, five or six thousand French emigrants under the
Prince de Conde in all, an army of ninety or ninety-five thousand
men.  The Austrians were to oppose Moreau and Macdonald.

Foedor had been wounded when entering Novi, but Souvarow had rewarded
him with a second cross, and the rank of captain hastened his
convalescence, so that the young officer, more happy than proud of
the new rank he had received, was in a condition to follow the army,
when on 13th September it moved towards Salvedra and entered the
valley of Tesino.

So far all had gone well, and as long as they remained in the rich
and beautiful Italian plains, Suovarow had nothing but praise for the
courage and devotion of his soldiers.  But when to the fertile fields
of Lombardy, watered by its beautiful river, succeeded the rough ways
of the Levantine, and when the lofty summits of the St. Gothard,
covered with the eternal snows, rose before them, their enthusiasm
was quenched, their energy disappeared, and melancholy forebodings
filled the hearts of these savage children of the North.

Unexpected grumblings ran through the ranks; then suddenly the
vanguard stopped, and declared that it would go no farther.  In vain
Foedor, who commanded a company, begged and entreated his own men to
set an example by continuing the march: they threw down their arms,
and lay down beside them.  Just as they had given this proof of
insubordination, fresh murmurs, sounding like an approaching storm,
rose from the rear of the army: they were caused by the sight of
Souvarow, who was riding from the rear to the vanguard, and who

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