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conquerors of Moscow, who frequently ill treated them, and sold before their eyes the goods which had been stolen from their deserted habitations.
During the four days (17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th September) that we remained near Peterskoë, Moscow did not cease to burn. In the mean time the rain fell in torrents; and the houses near the chateau being too few in number to contain the numerous troops who were encamped there, it was almost impossible to obtain shelter: men, horses, and carriages bivouacked in the middle of the fields. The staff-officers, placed around the chateau where their generals resided, were established in the English gardens, and lodged under grottos, Chinese, pavilions, or green-houses, whilst the horses, tied under acacias or linden trees, were separated from each other by hedges or beds of flowers. This camp, whose very situation rendered it truly picturesque, appeared still more extraordinary from the new costume adopted by the soldiers, most of whom, as some defence from the inclemency of the weather, had covered themselves with every species of apparel used by the northern nations, and which had formed the most pleasing and amusing variety on the public walks of that city. Thus we saw, walking in our camp, soldiers dressed à la Tartare, à la Cosaque, à la Chinoise; one wore the Polish cap, another the high bonnet of the Persians, the Baskirs, or the Kalmouks. In short, our army presented the image of a carnival; and it was afterwards justly said, that our retreat commenced with a masquerade and ended with a funeral.
The abundance which the soldiers now enjoyed made them speedily forget their fatigues. With the rain pouring on their heads, and their feet immersed in the mud, they consoled themselves with good cheer, and the advantages which they derived from trafficking in the plunder of Moscow. Although it was forbidden to go into the city, the soldiers, allured by the hope of gain, violated the order, and always returned loaded with provisions and merchandise. Under the pretence of going on marauding parties, they returned near the Kremlin,
and dug amongst the ruins, where they discovered entire magazines, whence they drew a profusion of articles of every description.–Our camp no longer resembled an army, but a great fair, at which each soldier, metamorphosed into a merchant, sold the most valuable articles at an inconsiderable price; and although unsheltered in the fields, and exposed to the inclemency of the weather, he, by a singular contrast, ate off china plates, drank out of silver vases, and possessed almost · every elegant and expensive article which luxury could
invent. · The neighbourhood of Peterskoë and its gardens at length became as unhealthy as it was inconvenient. Napoleon returned to establish himself at the Kremlin, which had not been burnt, and the guards and staffofficers received orders to re-enter the city (the 20th and 21st of September). According to the calculations of the engineers, the 10th part of the houses still remained. They were divided between the different corps of the grand army. We possessed the fauxbourg of St. Petersburg, in which we had been quartered at our first entry into the city.
As we again traversed the streets of Moscow, we experienced the most heart-rending sensations, at perceiving that no vestige remained of those noble hotels at which we had formerly been established. They were entirely demolished, and their ruins, still smoking, exhaled a vapour which, filling the whole atmosphere, and forming the densest clouds, either totally obscured the sun, or gave to his disk a red and bloody appearance. The outline of the streets was no longer to be distinguished. The stone palaces were the only buildings which preserved any traces of their former magnificence. Standing alone amidst piles of ruins, and blackened with smoke, these wrecks of a city so newly built resembled some of the venerable remains of antiquity.
Each one endeavoured to find quarters for himself, but rarely could we meet with houses which joined together; and to shelter a few companies we were obliged to occupy a vast tract of land, which only offered a few
habitations scattered here and there. Some of the churches, composed of less combustible materials than the other buildings, had their roofs entire, and were transformed into barracks and stables. The hymns and holy melodies which had once resounded within these sacred walls now gave place to the neighing of horses, and the horrible blasphemies of the soldiers.
Although the population of Moscow had almost disappeared, there still remained some of those unfortunate beings whom misery had accustomed to look on all occurrences with indifference. Most of them had become the menial servants of their spoilers, and thought themselves most happy if they were permitted to share any loathsome food which the soldiers rejected. There was also a number of unfortunate girls, and these alone derived any advantage from the plunder of Moscow. The soldiers eagerly associated with them, and when they were once introduced into our quarters, they soon became absolute mistresses of them, and squandered away all that the flames had spared. A small number, however, really merited our regard by their education, and above all, by their misfortunes ; for, horrible to relate, famine and misery had compelled their mothers to come and offer them to us. This immorality, under such circumstances, recoiled on those who had not sufficient virtue to resist the temptation, and who regarded with an eye of passion the forms which hunger had emaciated, and disease had rendered dangerous and loathsome.
There yet remained at Moscow a class of men the most contemptible of all, since they escaped the punishment due to their former crimes by consenting to commit still greater; these were the convicted felons. During the whole time of the conflagration of Moscow, they signalized themselves by the audacity with which they executed the orders they had received. Provided with phosphorus, they lighted the fire anew, wherever it appeared to be extinguished, and even crept by stealth into the houses which were inhabited, to involve them in the general ruin.
Several of these miscreants were arrested with torches in their hands, but their punishment, too prompt and summary, produced little effect. The people, who always detested their conquerors, regarded these executions merely as the effect of policy. In short, these victims were too obscure for the expiation of such a crime; and, above all, their trial wanting publicity and legal form, threw no light on the cause of this dreadful calamity, and could not justify us clearly in the estimation of those who persisted in believing that we were the authors of it.
Many of the Moscovites who had been concealed in the neighbouring forests, perceiving that the conflagration had ceased, believing that they had nothing more to fear, had re-entered the city. Some of them songht in 'vain for their houses, the very site of which could scarcely be discovered; others would fain have taken refuge in the sanctuary of their God, but it had been profaned. The public walks presented a revolting spectacle. The ground was thickly strewed with dead bodies, and from many of the half-burnt trees were suspended the carcasses of incendiaries. In the midst of these horrors were seen many of the unfortunate inhabitants, who, destitute of every asylum, were collecting the charred planks, to construct a cabin in some unfrequented place, or ravaged garden. Having nothing to eat, they eagerly dug the earth to find the roots of those vegetables which the soldiers had gathered, or, wandering among the ruins, they diligently searched among the cinders for any food which the fire had not entirely consumed. Pale, emaciated, and almost naked, the very slowness of their walk announced the excess of their sufferings. Others recollecting that some barges loaded with grain had been sunk, plunged into the river to feed on the wheat then in a state of fermentation, and the stench of which was most disgusting. To relieve this dreadful recital, I will relate the noble conduct of a French soldier, who found in one of the cemeteries a woman who had just lain in. Perceiving that she had been abandoned by all to whom she could naturally look
for protection, that she was without succour and without food, the generous soldier gave her every assistance in his power, and for many days shared with her the scanty provisions which he was able to procure.
THE RETREAT FROM MOSCOW. Those who did not witness the departure of the French army from Moscow can form but a faint idea of what the Greek and Roman armies were when they abandoned the ruins of Troy or of Carthage. But they who observed the appearance of our army at this moment acknowledged the accuracy of those interesting scenes which are so admirably described in the writings of Virgil and Livy. The long files of carriages, in three or four ranks, extended for several leagues, loaded with the immense booty which the soldiers had snatched from the flames; and the Moscovite peasants, who were now become our servants, resembled the slaves which the ancients dragged in their train. Others carrying with them their wives and children, or the wretched prostitutes of Moscow, represented the warriors amongst whom the captives had been divided. Afterwards came pumerous waggons filled with trophies, among which were Turkish or Persian standards torn from the vaulted roofs of the palaces of the Czars, and, last of all, the celebrated cross of St. Iwan gloriously closed the rear of an army which, but for the imprudence of its chief, would have been enabled to boast that it had extended its conquests to the very limits of Europe, and astonished the people of Asia with the sound of the same cannon with which the pillars of Hercules had reechoed.
The cavalry was now (November 19) totally dismounted, and Napoleon wanting an escort, all the officers who had been able to preserve a horse were formed into four companies of 150 men each. Generals