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A Conspiracy of the Carbonari

Luise Muhlbach

Library of Alexandria
AFTER ESSLINGEN. It was the evening of the 22d of May, 1809, the fatal day inscribed in blood-stained letters upon the pages of history, the day which brought to Napoleon the first dimming of his star of good fortune, to Germany, and especially to Austria, the first ray of dawn after the long and gloomy night. After so many victories and triumphs; after the battles of Tilsit, Austerlitz, and Jena, the humiliation of all Germany, the triumphal days of Erfurt, when the great imperial actor saw before him a whole parterre of kings; after a career of victory which endured ten years, Napoleon on the 22d of May, 1809, had sustained his first defeat, lost his first battle. True, he had made this victory cost dearly enough. There had been two days of blood and carnage ere the conflict was decided, but now, at the close of these two terrible days, the fact could no longer be denied: the Austrians, under the command of the Archduke Charles, had vanquished the French at Aspern, though they were led by Napoleon himself. Terrible indeed had been those two days of the battle of Aspern or Esslingen. The infuriated foes hurled death to and fro from the mouths of more than four hundred cannon. The earth shook with the thunder of their artillery, the stamping of their steeds; the air resounded with the shouts of the combatants, who assailed each other with the fury of rage and hate, fearing not death, but defeat; scorning life if it must be owed to the conqueror’s mercy, neither giving nor taking quarter, and in dying, praying not for their own souls, but for the defeat and humiliation of the enemy! Never since those years of battle between France and Austria has the fighting been characterized by such animosity, such fierce fury on both sides. Austria was struggling to avenge Austerlitz, France not to permit the renown of that day to be darkened