Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/99

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WAR AND MANHOOD

fell in battle. These men of Napoleon's armies were the youth without blemish, "the best that the nation could bring," chosen as "food for powder," "ere evening to be trampled like the grass," in the rush of Napoleon's great battles. These men came from the plow, from the work-shop, from the school, the best there were—those from eighteen to thirty-five years of age at first, but afterwards the older and the younger. "A boy will stop a bullet as well as a man "; this maxim is accredited to Napoleon. "The more vigorous and well born a young man is," says Novicow, "the more normally constituted, the greater his chance to be slain by musket or magazine, the rifled cannon and other similar engines of civilization." Among those destroyed by Napoleon were "the elite of Europe." "Napoleon," said Otto Seeck, "in a series of years seized all the young of high stature and left them scattered over many battle fields, so that the French people who followed them are mostly men of smaller stature. More than once in France since Napoleon's time has the military limit been lowered."

Says Le Goyt, "It will take long periods of peace and plenty before France can recover the tall statures mowed down in the wars of the republic and the first empire."

I need not tell again the story of Napoleon's campaigns. It began with the justice and helpfulness of the Code Napoleon, the prowess of the brave lieutenant whose military skill and intrepidity had caused him to deserve well of his nation.

The spirit of freedom gave way to the spirit of domination. The path of glory is one which descends easily. Campaign followed campaign, against enemies, against neutrals, against friends. The trail of glory crossed the Alps to Italy and to Egypt, crossed Switzerland to Austria, crossed Germany to Russia. Conscription followed victory and victory and conscription debased the human species. "The human harvest was bad." The first consul became the emperor. The servant of the people became the founder of the dynasty. Again conscription after conscription. "Let them die with arms in their hands. Their death is glorious, and it will be avenged. You can always fill the places of soldiers." These were Napoleon's words when Dupont surrendered his army in Spain to save the lives of a doomed battalion.

More conscription. After the battle of Wagram, we are told, the French began to feel their weakness, the Grand Army was not the army which fought at Ulm and Jena. "Raw conscripts raised before their time and hurriedly drafted into the line had impaired its steadiness."

On to Moscow,[1] "amidst ever-deepening misery they struggled on, until of the 600,000 men who had proudly crossed the Niemen for the conquest of Russia, only 20,000 famished, frost-bitten, unarmed spectres staggered across the bridge of Korni in the middle of December."

"Despite the loss of the most splendid army marshalled by man,

  1. These quotations are from the "History of Napoleon," I., by J. H. Rose.