Thursday, September 20, 2012

Precarious Position

"If your majesty still conserves for me some remnant of your former feelings", wrote Napoleon to Alexander on September 20, "You will take this letter in good part."

This was hardly the language of a confident conqueror addressing a vanquished enemy; it was almost the tone of a suppliant asking a favor.  The Emperor, in fact, was reporting the devastation of Moscow by fire, evincing the greatest anxiety to place the blame squarely on the heads of the Tsar's servants lest the catastrophe should ruin the chances of a negotiated peace treaty.  Napoleon's strongest wish at this juncture was to see the war brought to a rapid conclusion even at the price of a compromise peace.  He could not believe that the Tsar, after having learnt of his army being beaten at Borodino, his religious capital occupied by the enemy ans subsequently burned by hs own minions, would have any further hesitations on the matter; peace was the only logical outcome, or so it appeared to Napoleon's rather warped sense of judgement.  The King of Naples, at any rate was convinced that all desire for further hostilities had left the Russian armies.  From the cavalry reserve's advanced positions to teh east and south of Moscow, Murat was continually reporting friendly contacts with Cossack chieftains, and many evidences of fraternization could be seen at other point of the front.  The French Emperor, in fact, was being deliberately lulled into a false sense of security, for Field-Marshal Kutusov was determined to gain invaluable time before the next phase of the campaign should open.  The Court of St. Petersburg, moreover, remained ominously silent when Napoleon's first tentative feelers were put forward in the second half of September.
The Court of St. Petersburg

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 813

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