On June 22, 1812, Napoleon orders the publication of the second Bulletin De La Grande Armée announcing the start the Second War of Poland. Napoleon tries to blame the war on Russia's supposed intransigence and its demand that French forces evacuate behind the Rhine. Napoleon states that the Russian Ambassador in Paris, Prince Kurakin, had declared "he would not enter into any explanation before France had evacuated the territory of her own allies in order to leave them at the mercy of Russia." Napoleon adds that the France's own ambassador to St Petersburg had been denied an audience with the Tsar when he attempted to negotiate peace. Napoleon's Bulletin is extraordinarily clever but self serving. It fails to explain why it happens that the French army was in such numbers on the Russian border in the first place. He ends the Bulletin with a stirring call to arms to his soldiers. The second Bulletin De La Grande Armée of June 22, 1812 is reproduced below.
SECOND BULLETIN OF THE GRAND ARMY
Wilhoteiski, June 22, 1812.
All means of effecting an understanding between the two empires became impossible. The spirit which reigned in the Russian Cabinet hurried it on to war.
General Narbonne, Aide-de-Camp to the Emperor, was dispatched to Wilna, and could remain there only a few days. By that was gained the proof, that the demand, equally arrogant and extraordinary, which had been made by Prince Kurakin, and in which he declared, that he would not enter into any explanation before France had evacuated the territory of her own allies in order to leave them at the mercy of Russia, was the sine qua non of that Cabinet, and it made that a matter of boast to Foreign Powers.
The first corps advanced to the Pregel. The Prince of Eckmuhl had his head-quarters, on the 11th of June, at Koningsberg.
The Marshal Duke of Reggio, commanding the second corps, had his head-quarters at Wehlaw; the Marshal Duke of Elchingen, commanding the third corps, at Soldass; the Prince Viceroy, at Rastenburg; the King of Westphalia, at Warsaw; the Prince Poniatowski, at Polotzk. The Emperor moved his head-quarters, on the 12th, to Koningsberg, on the Pregel; on the 17th to Intersburg; on the 19th to Gumbinnen.
A slight hope of accommodation still remained.
The Emperor had given orders to Count Lauriston to wait on the Emperor Alexander, or on his Minister for Foreign Affairs, and to ascertain whether there might not yet be some means of obtaining a reconsideration of the demand of Prince Kurakin, and of reconciling the honour of France, and the interest of her allies, with the opening a negotiation.
The same spirit which had previously swayed the Russian Cabinet upon various pretexts, prevented Count Lauriston from accomplishing his mission; and it appeared, for the first time, that an ambassador, under circumstances of so much importance, was unable to obtain an interview, either with the Sovereign or his Minister. The Secretary of Legation, Prevost, brought this intelligence to Gumbinnen; and the Emperor issued orders to march, for the purpose of passing the Niemen. "The conquered," observed he, "assume the tone of conquerors: fate drags them on; let their destinies be fulfilled."His Majesty caused the following proclamation to be inserted in the Orders of the Army:
"Soldiers!—The second war of Poland has commenced. The first was brought to a close at Friedland and Tilsit. At Tilsit, Russia swore eternal alliance with France, and war with England. She now violates her oaths. She refuses to give any explanation of her strange conduct, until the Eagles of France shall have repassed the Rhine, leaving, by such a movement, our allies at her mercy. Russia is dragged along by a fatality! Her destinies must be accomplished. Should she, then, consider us degenerate? Are we no longer to be looked upon as the soldiers of Austerlitz? She offers us the alternative of dishonour or war. The choice cannot admit of hesitation. Let us then march forward. Let us pass the Niemen. Let us carry the war into her territory. The second war of Poland will be as glorious to the French arms as the first: but the peace which we shall conclude will be its own guarantee, and will put an end to that proud and haughty influence which Russia has for fifty years exercised in the affairs of Europe.
At our head-quarters at Wilhowiski, June 22, 1812.
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