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The Conscript A Story of the French war of 1813   By:

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[Frontispiece: War and Glory]








NEW YORK :::::::::::::::::::::: 1911


War and glory . . . . . . . . . . Frontispiece

The dragoon fell heavily

" Close up the ranks! "

Everything gave way before him

In the river the dead were floating by in files

" Halt! Stop! "


Instead of following "Madame Thérèse" with stories celebrating the victories of Napoleon and thus appealing to their compatriots' love of glory and military illusions, MM. Erckmann Chatrian take up next the tragic and far more significant story of 1812 13. With "The Conscript" begins their long, sustained, and eloquent sermon against war and war wagers the exordium, so to say, of their arraignment of Napoleon for wanton and insatiate love of conquest. "The Conscript" is certainly one of the most impressive statements of the darker side of the national pursuit of military glory that have ever been made. The first part of the book is taken up with a vivid and pathetic account of the passage of the grande armée through Alsace on its way to Moscow and the Beresina, of the anxious waiting for news of the battles that succeeded, of the first suspicions of disaster and their overwhelming confirmation, of the final rout and awful straggling retreat and return of the great expedition, and its demoralized and harassed entry within the national frontiers once more. The second and major portion narrates the rude surprise of the continuation of warfare and the still more fatal campaign which opened so dubiously with Lutzen and Bautzen, and culminated so disastrously in Leipsic and the capitulation of Paris. Poor Joseph Bertha, who tells the affecting and exciting story, is snatched away from his betrothed and his peaceful trade by the conscription, and his individual experiences in the campaign are as interesting, from the point of view of romance, as their representative nature and his shrewd and simple reflections upon them are historically and philanthropically suggestive. Certainly, war, in the minutiae of its reality, has never been more graphically painted than in "The Conscript of 1813."



Those who have not seen the glory of the Emperor Napoleon, during the years 1810, 1811, and 1812, can never conceive what a pitch of power one man may reach.

When he passed through Champagne, or Lorraine, or Alsace, people gathering the harvest or the vintage would leave everything to run and see him; women, children, and old men would come a distance of eight or ten leagues to line his route, and cheer and cry, " Vive l'Empereur! Vive l'Empereur! " One would think that he was a god, that mankind owed its life to him, and that, if he died, the world would crumble and be no more. A few old Republicans would shake their heads and mutter over their wine that the Emperor might yet fall, but they passed for fools. Such an event appeared contrary to nature, and no one even gave it a thought.

I was in my apprenticeship since 1804, with an old watchmaker, Melchior Goulden, at Phalsbourg. As I seemed weak and was a little lame, my mother wished me to learn an easier trade than those of our village, for at Dagsberg there were only wood cutters and charcoal burners. Monsieur Goulden liked me very much. We lived on the first story of a large house opposite the "Red Ox" inn, and near the French gate.

That was the place to see princes, ambassadors, and generals come and go, some on horseback and some in carriages drawn by two or four horses; there they passed in embroidered uniforms, with waving plumes and decorations from every country under the sun. And in the highway what couriers, what baggage wagons, what powder trains, cannon, caissons, cavalry, and infantry did we see! Those were stirring times!

In five or six years the innkeeper, George, had made a fortune... Continue reading book >>

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Reviewer: - May 24, 2016
Subject: War story
Very good

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