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deadly, and no constitution could resist its effects. At San Juan," near the Isthmus of Darien, “I joined the ship, and succeeded Lord Nelson who was promoted to a larger ship; but he had received the infection of the climate before he went from the port, and had a fever from which he did not recover until he quitted his ship, and went to England. My constitution resisted many attacks, and I survived most of my ship’s company, having buried in four months one hundred and eighty of the two hundred that composed it ;” a loss of ninety per cent. from the climate alone! “Nor was mine a singular case; for every ship that was long there, suffered in the same degree. The transport's men all died; and some of the ships, having none left to take care of them, sunk in the harbor. Transport ships, however, were not wanted; for the troops they had brought, were no more; they had fallen not by the hand of an enemy, but from the contagion of the climate."
The common usage, discipline and hardships of soldiers prey upon them like murrain.
It would seem impossible for them to survive some of their punishments that are not designed to take life; and multitudes die either by the process, or from its immediate effects. The ill-treatment they receive, frequently drives them to suicide; and their scanty clothing, their unwholesome food, their unhealthy encampments, their want of shelter and bedding, their repose on the damp, cold, frozen earth, their exposures on duty day and night in all seasons, all weathers, and every clime, cannot fail to hurry countless multitudes to the grave. Scarce a peasant in Ireland, or a serf in Poland, or a slave in any country on the globe, is subjected continually to such fatal privations, hardships and exposures as fall to the common lot of soldiers.
Glance at their food, often provided by avaricious, unprincipled contractors with less .care than a farmer ordinarily takes in feeding his swine! It has been sometimes so intolerably bad as to be refused even by wretches dying with hunger; and an eminent physician once testified under oath before the British Parliament, that in the military hospitals of Aracan, "monstrous reptiles, engendered in the mass of filth, which the soldiers had been obliged to take for food, were often seen crawling from the mouths of the sick!" Let us select a specimen or two of the treatment of pris
“Our numbers,” says one of the sufferers, a Frenchman in Spain, “thinned rapidly on the way. Fatigue and insufficient provision rendered many incapable of rising to renew their march after a night's halt; and the dawn exhibited to us the stiffened limbs of such as death had released from further earthly trouble. The survivors were gaunt and emaciated; and frequently would a poor fellow drop to the ground in the extremity of weariness and despair. No effort was made to assist these sufferers; but they were either left behind to perish, or bayonetted on the spot.” The French, in their retreat from Moscow, had in one instance three thousand Russian prisoners. “During the march," says Labaume,“ having no provisions to give them, they were herded together like beasts, and not allowed on any pretext to quit the limits assigned them. Without fire, perishing with cold, they lay on the bare ice; to appease their ravenous hunger, they seized with avidity the horse-flesh which was distributed to them, and, for want of time and means to dress it, ate it entirely raw; and I have been assured that, when this supply failed, many of them ate their comrades who had sunk under their miseries !”
Take an example of hardships not uncommon in war. Every day,” says a young Scotch soldier in the Peninsular War, we were either on guard, or on fatigue. We were not a night in bed out of two during all the time we remained there. Besides, the weather was dreadful; we had always either snow or hail, the latter often as large as nuts; and we were forced to put our knapsacks on our heads to protect us from its violence. The frost was most severe, accompanied by high winds. Often for whole days and nights we could not get a tent to stand ; many of us were frost-bitten, and others were found dead at their posts. On our march, the rain poured in torrents; and melted snow was half knee-deep in many places, and stained by the blood that flowed from our bruised and wounded feet. There was nothing to sustain our famished bodies, or shelter them from the rain or snow. We were either drenched with rain, or crackling with ice. Fuel we could find none. The sick and the wounded whom we had been still enabled with our own hands to drag along with us in wagons, were now left to perish in the snow. The road was one line of bloody foot-marks from the sore feet of the men; and on its sides lay the dead and the dying."
Just glance at the havoc occasioned by forced and ex
hausting marches. The French soldiers, on their retreat from Moscow, would, on halting at night, throng into the houses, throw themselves down on the first dirty straw they could find, and there perish, in large numbers, with hunger and fatigue. From such sufferings, and from the infection of the air in the warmer season by putrefied carcasses of men and horses that strewed the road, there sprang two dreadful diseases, the dysentery and typhus fever, before which they melted away like dew before the
At times they were so overwhelmed with whirlwinds of snow, that they could not distinguish the road from the ditches, and often found their grave in the latter. The roads, league after league, were chequered with dead bodies covered with snow, and forming undulations or hillocks like those in a grave-yard. Many of the survivors scarce retained the human form. Some had lost their hearing, others their speech; and many, by excessive cold and hunger, were reduced to a state of such stupid phrenzy, that they roasted the dead bodies of their companions, and even gnawed their own hands and arms.
“No grenade or grape," says an eye-witness, “could have so disfigured those victims of the cold. One of them had lost the upper joints of all his ten fingers; and he showed us the stumps. Another wanted both ears and nose. More horrible still was the look of a third whose eyes had been frozen; the eye-lids hung down rotting, the globes of the eyes were burst, and protruded from their sockets. It was awfully hideous; but a spectacle yet more dreadful was to present itself. Out of the straw in the car that brought them, I now beheld a figure creep painfully, which one could 'scarcely believe to be a human being, so wild and distorted were the features. The lips were rotted away, the teeth stood exposed; he pulled the cloth from before his mouth, and grinned on us like a death’s-head!"
How many perish from such causes, we cannot conjecture; but in the Russian campaign of 1812, so fatal was the effect of hunger and fatigue, exposure and disease, that of 22,000 Bavarians, though they had been in no action, only 11,000 lived to reach the Duna, and the very flower of the French and the allied armies perished. A division of the Russian forces, amounting to 120,000 at the commencement of the pursuit, could not near Warsaw mușter 35,000; and a re-enforcement of 10,000, that had marched from Wilna, arrived with only 1500, of whom one
half were the next day in the hospitals. Not a few companies were utterly annihilated without a single stroke from the enemy !
Such is the waste of life in war from other causes than the sword; and even in peace the mortality among soldiers is about twice as great as among citizens. A memoir, read before the French Academy by a distinguished writer, states that in seven years of peace, (1820–6) the mortality in the French army averaged 2.254 in the hundred, while in France it is only 1.22 ; nor does it ordinarily reach even two per cent. before the age of fifty or sixty. Of 2360 galley slaves, thirty-nine died from 1824–27 ; only 1.652 in the hundred, or little more than two-thirds of the mortality among soldiers. Though generally young and robust, they live in a time of war an average of about three years; and even in
peace their life is probably cut short not less than
But no record is kept of peaceful inhabitants who perish in every country where war rages. In Madrid and other cities of Spain, the French, in the days of Napoleon, forced their way into the houses of citizens, bayonetted all within that chanced to have arms, and stationed parties of cavalry at the different outlets of the town to cut off those who should try to escape. In Portugal they burnt villages and towns, butchered prisoners, and massacred without distinction all classes of society; and, in their retreat from that ill-fated country, they literally strewed the roads with the dead bodies of nobles and peasants, of women, and children, and priests, all put to death like so many dogs.
Of such havoc it is impossible to form any estimate or conjecture; but we know that war has sometimes entirely depopulated immense districts. In modern as well as ancient times, large tracts have been left so utterly desolate, that a traveller might pass from village to village, even from city to city, without finding a solitary inhabitant! The war of 1756, waged in the heart of Europe, left in one instance no less than twenty contiguous villages without a single man or beast! In one ancient campaign, 50,000 laborers died of hunger; Hannibal alone, in sixteen years, plundered no less than four hundred towns; the barbarous invaders of the Roman Empire sometimes swept all the inhabitants from province after province; and some of the most notorious conquerors have, like Jenghiz-khan, waged wars of utter extermination, and butchered thousands and
millions of unarmed men, women and children in cold blood.
Let us quote the testimony of an eminent reviewer to the general havoc of life in war : “ The levies of soldiers in France, during her late wars, exceeded four millions, and not less than three millions of these, on the lowest calculation, perished in the field, the hospital, or the bivouac. If to these we add, as we unquestionably must, at least an equal number out of the ranks of their antagonists, it is clear that not less than six millions of human beings, in the course of twenty years, perished by war in the very heart of civilized Europe, at the commencement of the nineteenth century. But even these stupendous numbers give us no adequate conception of the destruction of human life directly consequent on the wars of the revolution and the empire. We must add the thousands who perished from want, outrage and exposure, and the hundreds of thousands who were subsequently swept away by the ravages of that pestilence which took its rise amid the retreat from Russia, and the crowded garrisons of the campaign of 1813, and for several years afterwards desolated in succession every country of Europe.”
We can scarcely glance at the multitudes that perish in sieges and hospitals. In the latter alone nearly as many die as on the field of battle; nor will such a statement seem exaggerated to any one who will minutely investigate this loathsome and horrid subject. Look at the havoc of sieges. In that of Londonderry, 1689, there perished more than 12,000 soldiers, besides a vast number of the inhabitants. During the siege of Paris, in the sixteenth century, the famine was so severe that mothers ate their own children, and 30,000 persons died of hunger alone. In the siege of Magdeburg, 1631, more than 5000 of the slain were thrown into the Elbe, to clear the streets; and a much greater number had been consumed in the flames; the victims of famine, disease and hardship could not be reckoned; but the sum total of the lost was estimated at 30,000. Such was the havoc of life at the storming of Belgrade, 1717, that “the Jews were compelled to throw into the Danube the bodies of 12,000 slain, merely to spare the trouble and expense of burying them.”
In the siege of Malplaquet in the north-east of France, 1709, there fell on both sides no less than 34,000 soldiers alone. The storming of Ismail by Suwarrow, 1790, cost 40,000 men.