XXXVI. Blücher as a Writer

Darkness came, and the rain continued. The "dear little angels in heaven," who, as Blücher said in the morning, wept for joy at the prospect of a fight, were now perhaps shedding tears of grief at the many thousands lying on the battle-field with gaping wounds, and whose last sighs were borne away on the stormy wind of the night.

Blücher rode across the field toward his headquarters; no one was by his side but his friend, General Gneisenau, and, at some distance behind them, Christian Hennemann, holding a burning pipe in his mouth. Absorbed in deep reflections, they were riding along the dreadful road strewed with dead and wounded soldiers, and through pools of blood. Even Blücher felt exhausted after the day's work; his joy was suppressed by the incessant rain that had drenched his clothes, and by the groans of the dying, which rent his ears and filled his soul with compassion. But soon overcoming his sadness, he turned toward Gneisenau. "Well," he said, "this battle we have gained, and all the world will have to admit it; now let us think what we may put into our bulletin to tell the people HOW we have gained it. For ten years past Bonaparte has issued such high- sounding accounts of his victories that I always felt in my anger as though my heart were a bombshell ready to burst. Well, this time, let us also draw up such a bulletin of victory, and show that we have learned something. Let us proclaim that we have conquered, and draw up the document as soon as we arrive at Brechtelshof."

"General, you will have to decide the name of the battle," said Gneisenau. "How is it to be known in history?"

"Yes, that is true," said Blücher, thoughtfully, "it must have a name. Well, propose one, Gneisenau!"

"We might call it the battle of Brechtelshof, because the headquarters of our brave chieftain, our Father Blücher, are at that place," said Gneisenau, in a mild tone.

"No, do not mix me up with the matter," said Blücher, hastily; "the good God has vouchsafed us a victory, let us humbly thank Him for it, and not grow overbearing.--Wait, I have it now! We shall call it, in honor of General von Sacken, the battle of the Katzbach; for, by Sacken's vigorous cannonade from Eichholz, on the Katzbach, and with the assistance of his brave cavalry, that drove the enemy into the river, we gained the victory, and the battle ought to have that name. 'The battle of the Katzbach!'--Well, here are our quarters!"

"Now, general, you must rest," said Gneisenau, with the tenderness of a son. "You must change your dress, take food, and repose on your laurels, though there is but a straw mattress for you."

Blücher shook his head. "My clothes will dry quickest if I keep them on my body," he said, "and I must do so, for we have still a great many things to attend to; we must inform the king of our victory, take care of our wounded, arrange for the pursuit of the enemy; and, finally, write the bulletins of victory. We may take refreshment, but I do not care for laurels with it--laurels are bitter. But let us take a drink, and smoke a pipe.--Pipe-master!"

Fifteen minutes afterward, General Blücher entered with Gneisenau the small chamber called his headquarters; all the other rooms were filled with the wounded prior to the general's arrival at Brechtelshof. Pains had been taken to render this chamber as cosy and comfortable as possible, and, when Blücher entered, he was gratified in seeing a straw mattress near the wall, and on the table (beside a flickering tallow-candle placed in a bottle) a flask of wine, with a few glasses, and near it a large inkstand and several sheets of paper.

"Well," cried Blücher, cheerfully, "let us divide fraternally, Gneisenau; I will take the wine, and you the ink. But, first, I will give you a glass, and in return you will afterward let me have a drop of ink." Sitting down on one of the wooden stools, he quickly filled two glasses to the brim. "Gneisenau," he said, solemnly, "let us drink this in honor of those who are lying on the battle-field, and who hare died like brave men! May God bid them welcome, and be a merciful Judge to them! Let us drink also in commemoration of Queen Louisa and Scharnhorst, who both doubtless looked down upon us from heaven to-day, and assisted us in achieving a victory. To them I am indebted for all I am. But for the angelic face of the queen the calamity of the accursed year 1807 would have driven me to despair and death: and but for Scharnhorst I should never have been appointed general-in-chief. Why, they all considered me a bombastic old dotard of big words and small deeds; but Scharnhorst defended me before the king and the emperor, and what I am now I am through him, because he, the noblest of men, believed in me. And I will not give the lie to his faith, I will still accomplish glorious things--to- day's work is only a beginning."

"But what you have done to-day is something glorious, your excellency," said Gneisenau. "That we have gained the battle, thanks to your generalship and the enthusiasm of the troops, is not the greatest advantage. A more important one is, that the Silesian army has been able to prove what it is, and what a chieftain is at its head. Now, all those will be silenced who constantly mistrusted and suspected us; who tried to sow the seeds of discord between the Silesian army and the headquarters of the allies; and who were intent on preventing your excellency from entering upon an independent and energetic course of action."

"It is true, they call me a mad hussar," said Blücher, shrugging his shoulders; "and Bonaparte, as I read somewhere the other day, calls me even a drunken hussar. Well, no matter! let them say what they please. And, moreover, they are all, to some extent, justified in making such assertions; for I cannot deny that the years of waiting, during which I was obliged to swallow my grief, really made me a little mad, and with sobriety I never intend to meet Bonaparte; but, for all that, it is unnecessary for me to be drunk with wine. I am still intoxicated with joy that we have at length been allowed to attack the French, and God grant that I may never awaken from this intoxication! Well, Gneisenau, now let us go to work!--you with the ink, and I with the wine! Draw up the necessary instructions for the pursuit of the enemy, and, in the mean time, I will consider what I have to write."

Gneisenau took the pen, and wrote; Blücher the glass, and drank. Half an hour passed in silence; Gneisenau then laid down his pen, for he had finished the instructions; and Blücher pushed the glass aside, for the bottle was empty.

"I beg leave now to read the instructions to your excellency," said Gneisenau.

"No," said Blücher, "not now! I have myself gathered some thoughts, and if I defer writing them down, they will fly away like young swallows. Such ideas, that are to be written down, are not accustomed to have their nest in my head, and for this reason I will let them out immediately. I will write to the king and to the city of Breslau, informing him that we have gained the battle, and the city of Breslau that it ought to do something for my wounded. Give me the pen; I shall not be long about it." With extraordinary rapidity he wrote words of such a size that it would have been easy even for a short-sighted person to read them at a distance; and, although they were drawn across the paper very irregularly, the general always took pains to have broad intervals between the lines, that there might be no probability of leaving them illegible. A sheet was soon filled; Blücher fixed his signature, and contemplated the paper for a moment. Half an hour afterward two other sheets, filled with strange and uncouth characters, lay before the old general, and he cast the pen aside with a sigh. "It is abominable work to write letters," he said; "I cannot comprehend why you, Gneisenau, who are so good a soldier, at the same time know so well how to wield the pen. It is not my forte, although I had a notion once to be a savant, and really become a sort of writer. In those calamitous days, subsequent to 1807, despair and ennui sought for some relief to my mind, and made me write a book, and I believe a good one."

"A book?" asked Gueisenau, in amazement. "And you had it printed, your excellency?"

"Not I; I was no such fool as to do that. The critics and newspaper editors, who talk about every thing, and know nothing, would have pounced upon my book, and severely censured it. No, my dear Gneisenau, one must not cast pearls before swine. I keep my book in my desk, and show it only to those whom I particularly esteem. When we return home from the campaign I will let you read it; I know it will please you, and you will learn something. My work is called 'Observations on the Instruction and Tactics of Cavalry.' A splendid title, is it not? Well, you may believe me, there is a great deal in it, and many a one would be glad of having written it. [Footnote: Blücher was proud of this work, the only one he ever wrote, and always referred to it in terms of great satisfaction.--Vide Varnhagen von Ense, "Life of Prince Blücher of Wahlstatt," p. 530.] Let us say no more about it. Here are my two dispatches; there is the letter to the king, and here is my letter to the city of Breslau, and--you must do me a favor, Gneisenau. You must read what I have written, and if I have made any blunders in orthography or grammar, be so kind as to correct them."

"But, your excellency," said Gneisenau, "no one can express himself so vigorously as you, and no one knows how to put the right word in the right place as quickly as you do."

"Yes, as to the words, yon are right. But the grammar! there's the rub. Men are so foolish as to refuse speaking as they please, but render life even more burdensome by all sorts of grammatical rules. I have never in my whole life paid any attention to them, but have spoken my mind freely and fearlessly. But as people really do consider him a blockhead who does not talk as they do, let us humor them, and please correct my mistakes; but, pray, do so in such a manner that it will not be found out." He handed Gneisenau the pen, and pushed the two letters toward him. "Correct what I have written," he said; "in the mean time I will read what you have written."

"And pray be so kind as to correct it, too, your excellency," begged Gneisenau, "for possibly I may have made mistakes weighing heavier than mere infractions of grammatical rules, and I may not have succeeded in rendering your instructions in words as concise and distinct as you gave them to me."

"Well, we shall see," exclaimed Blücher, smiling, and taking up the paper.

"Very good," he said, after reading it through, "every thing is done just as I wished it, and if all our commanders act in accordance with these instructions, we shall give the enemy no time for taking a position anywhere, but completely disperse his forces without being compelled to fight another battle."

"And when the city of Breslau reads this noble and affecting plea for your wounded," said Gneisenau, "they will be nursed in the most careful manner, and our able-bodied soldiers will receive wagon- loads of food and refreshments. And when the king reads this dispatch, announcing our victory in language so modest and unassuming, his heart will feel satisfaction, and he will rejoice equally over the victory and the general to whom he is indebted for it."

"Have you corrected the grammatical blunders?"

"I have, your excellency; I have erased them so cautiously that no one can see that any thing has been corrected."

"Well, then, be so kind as to dispatch a courier."

"But, your excellency," said Gneisenau, "shall the courier take only these two dispatches? Have you forgotten that you promised Madame von Blücher to write to her after every battle, whether victorious or not, and that I solemnly pledged her my word to remind your excellency of it?"

"Well, it is unnecessary to remind me," cried Blücher, taking up the letter he had first written. "Here is my letter to Amelia. She is a faithful wife, and I surely owed it to her to tell her first that the Lord has been kind and gracious enough toward me to let me gain the battle. But you need not correct it. My Amelia will not blame me for my grammatical blunders, and to her I freely speak my mind."

"Did you inform your wife, too, that you drew your sword yourself, and rushed into the thickest of the fray?"

"I shall take good care not to tell her any thing of the kind," exclaimed Blücher. "As far as that is concerned, I did not speak my mind to her. It is true I had promised my dear wife to be what she calls sensible, and only to command and play the distinguished general who merely looks on while others do the fighting. But it would not do--you must admit, Gneisenau, it would not do; I could not stand still like a scarecrow, while my old adjutant, Katzeler, was charging with the hussars; I had to go with them, if it cost my life. You will do me the favor, however, not to betray it to Amelia."

"Even though I should be silent, your excellency, your wife would hear of it."

"You believe Hennemann will tell her?" asked Blücher, almost in dismay. "Yes, it is true, she has ordered the pipe-master not to lose sight of me in battle, and always to remain near me with the pipe. Well, the fellow has kept his word; but he will now also fulfil what he promised my wife, and tell her every thing. Yes, the pipe-master will tell her that I was in the charge of the light cavalry."

"Yes," exclaimed Gneisenau, smiling, "he will betray to your wife and to history that Blücher fought and charged at the battle of the Katzbach like a young man of twenty. But for the pipe-master history might not know it at all."

"Gneisenau, you are decidedly too sharp," cried Blücher, stroking his mustache. "Well, please forward the dispatches, and then let us try to sleep a little. We must invigorate ourselves, for we shall have plenty to do to-morrow. 'Forward, always forward!' until Bonaparte is hurled from his throne; and hurled from it he will be! Yes, as sure as there is a God in heaven!"

Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches Napoleon and Blücher