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batants. At length pale and speechless, she beat her breast in agony, and fell lifeless at the feet of the soldiers, who, attentive to their own escape, neither saw nor heard her.
At length the Russians, continually reinforced by fresh troops, advanced in a mass, and drove before them the Polonese corps of General Girard, which till then had held them in check. At the sight of the enemy, those who had not already passed mingled with the Polanders, and rushed precipitately towards the bridge. The artillery, the baggage-waggons, the cavalry, and the foot-soldiers, all pressed on, contending which should pass the first. The strongest threw into the river those who were weaker, and unfortunately hindered their passage, or unfeelingly trampled under foot all the sick whom they found in
Many hundreds were crushed to death by the wheels of the cannon. Others, hoping to save themselves by swimming, were frozen in the middle of the river, or perished by placing themselves on pieces of ice, which sunk to the bottom. Thousands and thousands of victims, driven to despair, threw themselves headlong into the Beresina, and were lost in the waves. One female was seen hemmed in by the ice in the middle of the river. Being able neither to proceed nor to retreat, she held her infant above the water, into which she was gradually sinking, and uttered the most piercing cries for assistance,
The division of Girard forcibly made its way
through all the obstacles that retarded its march ; and climbing over the mountain of dead bodies which obstructed the way, gained the other side. Thither the Russians would soon have followed them, if they had not hastened to burn the bridge.
Then the unhappy beings who remained on the other side of the Beresina abandoned themselves to absolute despair. Some of them attempted to pass the bridge, enveloped as it was in flames; but, arrested in the midst of their progress, they were compelled to throw themselves into the river, to escape a death yet more horrible. At length the Russians were masters of the field of battle, our troops retired, the uproar ceased, and a mournful silence succeeded.
As we marched towards Zembin, we re-ascended the right bank of the Beresina, whence we could distinctly see all that passed on the other side. The cold was excessive: and the wind blew in loud and hollow gusts. The obscurity of the night was dissipated only by the numerous fires of the enemy who occupied the heights. At the foot of these hills were our unfortunate companions. Their destruction was now inevitable, and amidst all their former disasters, never were they exposed to, nor can imagination conceive, horrors equal to those which encompassed them during that frightful night. The elements let loose seemed to conspire to afflict universal nature, and to chastise the ambition and the crimes of man. The conquerors and the conquered were alike overwhelmed with sufferings. Round the encampment of the Russians, however, we saw enormous masses of burning wood, but on the spot which held our devoted companions, there was neither light nor shelter. Lamentable cries and groans alone marked the place which contained these miserable victims.
More than twenty thousand sick and wounded fell into the power of the enemy. Two hundred pieces of cannon were abandoned. All the baggage of the two corps which had joined us was equally the prey of the conquerors; yet when we contemplated the deplorable fate of the wretched beings who were left on the other side of the Beresina, the consciousness of our safety rendered us insensible to the loss of our riches. They were for ever deprived of the hope of revisiting the land that gave them birth ; and were doomed to pass the sad remnant of their days amidst the snows of Siberia, where they would water with their tears the black bread which would be the only wages of the most humiliating servitude.
November 29th,—Setting out on the morrow for Zembin, and endeavouring to rejoin what remained of the fourth corps, we again commiserated the fate of the numerous friends who were no longer with us. We eagerly embraced those who had returned, whom we feared we should never again have beheld, and congratulated each other on surviving a day more terrible than the bloodiest battle. We mutually re
counted the dangers we had run, and the difficulties with which we had struggled to escape with life. “I have lost every thing,” said one, “servants, horses, baggage; but I think not of it; I rather esteem myself most fortunate, that I have preserved my life, that I have escaped from the inclemency of the weather, the horrors of famine, and the arms of the enemy.” “I have nothing but what I carry about me,” said a second, “and of all that I had, I only wish for some shoes to defend my feet, and some bread to eat: these are the truest riches.” “I have lost all,” exclaimed a third, “but I do not regret it, since the sacrifice of my baggage has enabled me to save my wounded brother.” Such was the language which we heard, during several successive days ; and those who were silent, deeply mused on the dangers which they had passed, and rendered their secret but fervent thanks to Providence for a preservation almost miraculous.
LABAUME'S CAMPAIGN IN RUSSIA.