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RIVALRY OF MURAT AND DAVOUST.
NAPOLEON had just placed Davoust under the orders of Murat, who commanded the vanguard of the army, and the two generals had advanced as far as Slawkow; it was the twenty-seventh of August. On the twenty-eighth, Murat pushed the enemy beyond the Osna. He crossed the river with his cavalry, and briskly attacked the Russians, who were posted upon a height beyond the stream, and who could, in this position, easily maintain an obstinate conflict; they did so, at first, with considerable success, and Murat, whatever is said of him on this subject, wishing to spare his cavalry in a spot where the ground was so difficult, sent orders to a battery of Davoust to support his operations, and to harass the enemy upon the height. He waited, for awhile, to observe the success of this new attack-but all was silent; and the Russians, taking advantage of this singular inactivity, descended from their position, and for the moment repulsed the cavalry of the King of Naples to the very banks of the Osna, that flows in the depths of a ravine, into which both men and horses were in danger of being precipitated. Murat supported his men by his words and his example, and dispatched a second order to the commandant of the battery; but again there was no reply to this order, and word was brought back to the King of Naples, that the commandant, alleging his instructions, which forbade him, under penalty of being cashiered, to engage without an order from Davoust, had formally refused to fire. A momentary anger inflamed the face of the King of Naples, but a more urgent peril demanded his attention; the Russians continued to press his cavalry. He at once placed himself at the head of the 4th of the lancers, spurred against the enemy, and in a moment carried the heights which Davoust should have swept with his artillery.
On the following day the two lieutenants of Napoleon met in his presence : the King of Naples, strong in the feeling that he had justified his temerity by success—the Prince of Eckmuhl, calm in his opinion, based upon a skill that had often been tested. Murat complained bitterly of the orders given by Davoust to his subordinate officers. The Emperor had listened with his hands crossed behind his back, his head slightly bent upon his breast, concealing an air of satisfaction, and with his foot playing with a Russian ball, which he rolled forward, and which his eye followed attentively. Davoust, greatly irritated, did not linger with his reply.
“Sire,” he said, addressing the Emperor, “the King of Naples must be taught to give over these useless and imprudent attacks, which harass the vanguard of the army. Never has the blood of men been lavished so heedlessly, and, believe me, sire, they are well worth preserving in a campaign like this.”
“And the Prince of Eckmuhl has invented an excellent means for that," said Murat, disdainfully, “ that is, to prevent his soldiers from fighting. I would advise him to reserve this receipt for himself.”
The obstinate Davoust, who had proved sufficiently that he was a man of courage, and who wished, above all, to prove that he was in the right, turned to the King of Naples, and said in a tone of irritation :
“And of what benefit has been all your rash attacks against an army which is effecting a retreat, skilfully combined, and decided in advance, and against a rear guard, which abandons its positions only when it is upon the point of being beaten."
“ And can you tell me,” replied Murat, almost with a sneer, "when it would abandon them if it is not attacked, and if we did not place it upon the point of being beaten ?"
“ It would abandon them a few hours later,” cried Davoust, who had formed a correct opinion of the plans of the Russian general, “ for this retreat is a course resolved upon, irrevocably resolved upon, and one which they will effect, with or without fighting, according to our movements. What do we gain, then, by attacking troops, which will retire tomorrow, if we do not drive them back to-day ?”
“Glory!" replied Murat.
“And we lose the half of our vanguard,” rejoined Davoust, bitterly; “ and we shall reach Moscow without cavalry, and we shall see if the glory of the King of Naples, without a horseman under his command, will be of any great assistance to us."
Murat, highly exasperated, violently interrupted him
“ Marshal Davoust,” he said, "you would find nothing useless or imprudent in my conduct, if I were under your orders as you are under mine. It is well known that the Prince of Eckmuhl does" not like to obey any one, and that he would be well pleased to be reputed the hero of this expedition, at the expense even of the most exalted; but I swear to him that there is a share here for all, let him try to find his.”
This reproach was well aimed. Murat had, intentionally, emphasized the words “ the Prince of Eckmuhl does not like to obey any one," and Napoleon had slightly contracted his brows. Davoust, who felt that he had been assailed upon a weak point, and for a fault of which he had often been accused, even by the Emperor, hastened to protest that it was his devotion to his majesty alone, which had led him to speak and act as he did. Murat again violently interrupted him.
“So, then,” he said, “it is hatred against me? Well, then, we must finish with it. It has always been so since the campaign of Egypt. I am weary and if the Prince of Eckmuhl is willing to remember that he has been a common soldier as I have—if he is willing to remember that he wears a sabre, and I likewise-I give him”—
At these words, Napoleon, until now, indifferent to this quarrel, at once raised his head, measured Murat with a glance which caused the words to die upon his lips, and with that accent of authority which he could so readily assume, and which was so irresistible, he said to him :
“ The King of Naples has nought but orders to give to the Prince of Eckmuhl.”
Murat, satisfied with these words, which, notwithstanding the severity of their tone, established his right of command, retired to his quarters.
The Emperor, left alone with Davoust, spoke mildly to him. But better seconded in his eager march, and in his desire to overtake and give battle to the enemy, by the impetuosity of Murat, than by the prudent caution of Davoust, he represented to him kindly—“ That one man could
not have every kind of merit; that to lead a vanguard was not to direct the movements of an army; and that Murat, with his imprudence, would, perhaps, have overtaken Bagration, whom Davoust had, by his slowness, suffered to escape."
Notwithstanding the mildness of the tone in which the Emperor spoke to Davoust, he was offended by these reproaches, and he retired, more irritated than ever against the King of Naples. An hour afterwards a message was brought him, that the first who should attempt to push this quarrel farther, should be sent back to France.
On the following day, Murat and Davoust, in concert, and by the or. ders of the Emperor, took possession of Viasma. But the day after, their discord was renewed. Murat finds himself in the presence of the enemy, and suddenly the thought of combatting seizes him. The order to attack is given-his cavalry at once assails that of the Russians. The infantry of the latter advances to support the horse ; Murat wishes to bring forward his own, that is to say, that which Davoust commands under his orders; he hurries to Campans' division, and puts himself at its head. But, at the same moment, the Prince of Eckmuhl rides up; he bitterly reproaches Murat for engaging in this new and useless combat, and declares that he will not support him. He forbids Campans to advance; Murat repeats his orders; Davoust resists still more violently. At this insult, the King off Naples, furious at first, suddenly calms his anger. He appeals to his rank-his authority. Davoust does not heed him, and Campans, after long hesitation, obeys the commands of Davoust, his immediate chief. Then, with a calmness unexampled in his character, and with proud dig. nity,
Murat turns to Beillard, the chief of his staff
Beillard,” he said, go to the Emperor ; tell him to dispose of the command of the vanguard; tell him that he has a general the less, and a soldier the more. As for me, I go to extricate yonder brave fellows from the embarrassment into which I have led them." Then, turning to Davoust, he added
Marshal, we shall meet again." “Certainly, if you return safe,” replied the latter, bitterly, pointing to his horsemen, who were almost routed.
“I shall return,” replied Murat, with a glance that expressed all his resolution.
At once, while the Prince of Eckmuhl retires, Murat spurs to his cavalry; rallies them with his voice; displays, in the first ranks, his tall plumes and his sparkling decorations, which are ever seen where danger calls, they surround him—they defend him-and as he still pushes onward, he finds himself victorious once again.
"Ah!" cried Murat, “the glory is still ours alone !"
With these words, he quits the field of battle, and retires into his tent. He enters alone; and, all heated with the combat, his hand still trembling from the blows which he has dealt, he writes a few lines upon a sheet of . fine and perfumed paper. At this moment, Beillard appears. Murat, without questioning him as to the result of his message, reaches him the billet.
“Beillard,” he said, in a calm tone, “ carry this billet to Davoust."
l, S, Hawks. OUR LITERATURE-TO-DAY, TO-MORROW. To praise the men and acts of yesterday to the disparagement of ourselves, and what we have done, may be an act of veneration, but scarcely of wisdom. It is sometimes looked on by sarcastic philosophers as an outward expiation for an inward and unstinted self-laudation; but with more charity and equal truth it may be laid to thoughtlessness, or to imitation of our elders, who would persuade us that the world is daily de. generating. “ Let us,” exclaimed the stout old orator of Greece, “thank the gods that we are wiser than our fathers !” So may we be thankful, that if we are not more patriotic, or better soldiers, than our fathers, we are at least wiser. If we are not more tenacious of our property, we have more that we can call our own. Every day witnesses our progression, and our emancipation from self-imposed and foreign domination and in nothing is our advancement and our increase of freedom more noteworthy than in our literature.
AMERICAN LITERATURE.—It may have been a question in the days when an Edinburgh reviewer, sitting at judgment in oracular and undisputed dignity, sneeringly asked if any one in the four quarters of the globe read an American book ; but the shrill voice of the newsboy ever ringing in
treets—the placards always fresh upon the wall, and the incessant groanings of the giant press—assure us that no fact of the day is more certain or more likely to be perpetual. What is true of all other enlightened nations of the present age, is singularly true of our own, that never before have books been so abundant and various, writers so prolific, and readers so capacious. Indeed, to express wonder at this unexampled manifestation of intellectual energy is to be original, since the generality of men have ceased to be surprised at anything, and look upon the universal diffusion of literature as a necessary condition of the progress of the racema fit attendant upon social improvements, upon scientific advancements, and upon the creation of financial power.
In commenting on the present state of the republic of letters, foreign writers have not failed to notice the magnitude and the claims of our literature, and to acknowledge the one while they have contested the other. They readily allow that we are an intelligent and quick-witted people; that we have a taste for the exact, the symmetrical, and the beautiful ; that we are acute if not profound critics; and that our writings show fertility and versatility of intellect; while at the same time they assert that our literature is superficial, marked by crudity and carelessness, fitted rather to amuse than instruct, to arouse emotion than thought, to gratify the changing caprice of the day, than to provide for the sobered and juster demands of coming time.
These opinions, in which prejudice has fully as much to do as information, are but too often echoed at home by those whose veneration for ancient and foreign institutions blinds their perception of truth, and are largely current among our reading public. We suffer ourselves to doubt our ability to write histories, or if we recognize merit in the most VOL. XXIX.NO. III.