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Napoleon and His Marshals

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Napoleon and His Marshals
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Author(s): J. T. Headley
Date Published: 2007/12
Page Count: 520
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-368-6
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-367-9

An Emperor and the men who made his empire

Headley's monumental work on the men who fought for, won, held and lost Napoleon's Empire originally appeared in two substantial volumes. Both are included in this one volume Leonaur edition in their entirety. Twenty two marshals of the First Empire are vividly described with biographies of their lives and careers together with more detailed vignettes of their outstanding campaigns, battles or particular engagements. Within the pages of this book the reader will discover the actions of the great men of Revolutionary France including Berthier, St. Cyr, Lannes, Macdonald, Soult, Victor, Ney, Oudinot, Poniatowski and others as they set Europe and North Africa ablaze in conflicts whose names-Marengo, Eylau, Jena, Austerlitz, Albuera, Waterloo-to list just a few-are familiar and fascinating to every student and enthusiast of the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon and His Marshals is an essential addition to any Napoleonic library and will be fascinating reading for all those interested in the history of conflict.

Wellington at length placed in battery sixty cannon, some of them sixty-three pounders, and began to play on the walls. The thunder of these heavy guns shook the hills around, and was echoed in sullen shocks on the ear of the distant Soult. For four days did this fierce volcano belch forth its stream of fire against St. Sebastian, carrying terror and dismay to the hearts of the inhabitants. Nothing could withstand such batteries, and the iron storm smote against the walls till a frightful gap appeared, furnishing foothold for the assaulting companies.<br>
St. Sebastian stands by the sea, with the river Uremea flowing close under its walls, which in low tide can be forded. On the farther side of this river were the British troops, and on the 31st of August, at half-past ten, the forlorn hope took its station in the trenches, waiting for the ebbing tide to allow them to cross. As this devoted band stood in silence watching the slow settling of the waters, they could see the wall they were to mount lined with shells and fire-barrels, ready to explode at a touch, while bayonet points gleamed beyond, showing into what destruction they were to move. Soldiers hate to think, and the suspense which they were now forced to endure was dreadful. These brave men could rush on death at the sound of the bugle, but to stand and gaze into the very jaws of destruction till the slowly retiring waters would let them enter was too much for the firmest heart. Minutes seemed lengthened into hours, and in the still terror of that delay the sternest became almost delirious with excitement. Some laughed outright, not knowing what they did; others shouted and sung; while others prayed aloud. It was a scene at which the heart stands still. The air was hot and sulphurous dark and lurid thunderclouds were lifting heavily above the horizon, and the deep hush of that assaulting column was rendered more awful by the hush of nature which betokens the coming tempest.
Noon at length came; the tide was down, and the order to advance was given, and that devoted band moved to the centre of the stream. A tempest of grapeshot and bullets scattered them like autumn leaves over its bosom, but the survivors pressed boldly on, and, reaching the opposite shore, mounted the breach and gained the summit. But as they stood amid the wasting fire, they hesitated to descend on the farther side, for they saw they must leap down twelve feet to reach the ground; while the base of the wall bristled with sword-blades, and pikes, and pointed weapons of every description, fastened upright in the earth. While they still delayed to precipitate themselves on these steel points, the fire from the inner rampart swept them all away. Still column after column poured across the river and filled up the dreadful gaps made in the ranks of their comrades, and crowded the breach, and still the fierce volleys crushed them down, while the few who passed met the bayonet-point, and fell at the feet of the heroic defenders. After two hours of this murderous strife, the breach was left empty of all but the dead, and the shout of the French was heard in the pause of the storm. In the crisis the English soldiers were ordered to lie down at the foot of the ramparts, while forty-seven cannon were brought to bear on the high curtain within, from whence the fire swept the breach. The batteries opened, and the balls, flying only two feet over the soldiers’ heads, crushed with resistless power through the enemy’s works. At this moment an accident completed what the besiegers had begun, and overwhelmed the defenders. A shell bursting amid the hand-grenades, shells, trains of fire-barrels, and all kinds of explosive materials which the garrison had laid along the ramparts for a last defence, the whole took fire. A sheet of flame ran along the walls, and then the mouth of a volcano seemed to open, followed by an explosion that shook the city to its foundations, sending fierce columns of smoke and broken fragments into the air, and strewing the bodies of three hundred French soldiers amid the ruins. As the smoke lifted, the assailants rushed with a deafening shout forward, and though firmly met by the bayonet, their increasing numbers overwhelmed every obstacle, and they poured into the town. Soult, eight miles distant, had just been defeated in attempting to march to the relief of the garrison, and from the heights of Bidassoa heard that terrific explosion that followed the cannonading, and saw the fiercely ascending columns of smoke that told that St. Sebastian was won.
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