Just a quick post. Wanted to share this excerpt from Marshal MacDonald's memoirs regarding the Battle of Leipzig. At the end of Leipzig, Napoleon's great defeat, the French are retreating across the Elster river and, due to a junior officer's mistake, the bridge is blown prematurely. 20,000 men are left stranded on the far bank. Among them are Prince Poniatowski, the Polish freedom fighter who had been promoted to Marshal of France the day before and entrusted with the rearguard. Him and his Poles bleed and die that day for the Emperor who freed them, and to what purpose?
Marshal MacDonald is with the rearguard. In the end, he tries to find a way across, attempts a crossing on some logs, falls into the river, and is eventually fished out. His remarks capture the whole bitterness and futility of the Napoleonic Wars, the devotion the soldiers have to the men who lead them to their deaths. I'm sticking with the French Revolution, at least there's some meaning there...
". . .On the other side of the Elster the firing continued; it suddenly ceased. Our unhappy troops were crowded together on the river-bank; whole companies plunged into the water and were carried away; cries of despair rose on all sides. The men perceived me. Despite the noise and tumult, I distinctly heard these words:
'Monsieur le Marechal, save your men! save your children!'
I could do nothing for them! Overcome by rage, indignation, fury, I wept!"