Page images
PDF
EPUB

sun.

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. А division of the Russian forces, amounting to 120,000 at the commencement of the pursuit, could not near Warsaw muster 35,000; and a re-enforcement of 10,000, that had marched from Wilna, arrived with only 1500, of whom one

8

LOSS OF LIFE BY WAR.

168

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 1821-27; 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 fifteen years.

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.

[ocr errors]

In the siege of Hamburgh, 1813, there perished 15,000 of the garrison, besides all the victims among the inhabitants, and the besieging army. In the siege of Mexico, more than 100,000 were slain in battle, and upwards of 50,000 more died from the infection of putrefying carcasses. The siege of Vienna sacrificed 70,000 lives, and that of Ostend 120,000. At the siege of Acre, by the Crusaders, 300,000 fell; ancient Carthage, containing 700,000 inhabitants, was so utterly destroyed, that not a single edifice was left standing; during the siege of Jerusalem, 1,100,000 persons perished, and during that of Troy, according to Burton, not less than 946,000 Trojans, and 870,000 Greeks; in all, 1,816,000 for a worthless courtezan!

Mark the havoc of single battles. At Durham, 1346, there fell 15,000; at Halidonhill and Agincourt, 20,000 each ; at Bautzen and Lepanto, 25,000 each; at Austerlitz, Jena and Lutzen, 30,000 each; at Eylau, 60,000; at Waterloo and Quatre Bras, one engagement, 70,000; at Borodino, 80,000; at Fontenoy, 100,000; at Yarmouth, 150,000; at Chalons, no less than 300,000 of Attila's army alone! The Moors in Spain, about the year 800, lost in one battle 70,000; in another, four centuries later, 180,000, besides 50,000 prisoners, and in a third, even 200,000. Still greater was the carnage in ancient times. At Cannæ, 70,000 fell. The Romans alone, in an engagement with the Cimbri and Teutones, lost 80,000. The Carthagenians attacked Hymera in Sicily with an army of 300,000 men, and a fleet of 2000 ships, and 3000 transports; but not a ship nor a transport escaped destruction, and of the troops, only a few in a small boat reached Carthage with the melancholy tidings. Marius slew, in one battle, 140,000 Gauls, and in another, 290,000. In the battle of Issus, between Alexander and-Darius, 110,000 were slain, and in that of Arbela, 300,000. Julius Cæsar once annihilated an army of 363,000 Helvetians; in a battle with the Usipetes, he slew 400,000; and on another occasion, he massacred more than 430,000 Germans, who “ had crossed the Rhine, with their herds, and flocks, and little ones, in quest of new settlements.”

It is difficult to conceive the havoc of ancient warfare. During a single war of the northern barbarians in Africa, no less than five millions, according to Procopius, perished by the sword, famine and pestilence; and in the war of twenty years waged by Justinian against the barbarous

hordes that poured into Italy, the Goths alone are supposed to have lost more than fifteen millions !

Look at two cases more. The army of Xerxes, according to Rollin, was composed of 1,700,000 foot, 80,000 borse, and 20,000 men for conducting the carriages and camels. On passing the Hellespont, he received a re-enforcement of 300,000, making the whole 2,100,000. His fleet consisted of 1207 vessels, each carrying 230 men ; in all, 277,610 men. This number was augmented from the European nations with 1200 vessels carrying 240,000 men; and on board the small galleys, transports, and other craft, to the number of 3000, were 240,000 more men. Including the multitude of usual attendants on an army in the East, Dr. Dick supposes “ the whole number of souls that followed Xerxes into Greece, must have amounted to 5,283,320 ;” and, if the attendants were only one-third as great as common at the present day in Eastern countries, the sum total must have reached nearly six millions! What became of this vast multitude ? In one year it was reduced to 300,000 fighting men; and of these only 3000 escaped destruction. More than five millions lost in a single year!

During the thirteenth century arose Jenghiz-khan, and ravaged the heart of Asia. His armies sometimes exceeded a million, and his wars were those of utter extermination. He seemed the war-demon incarnate. His spirit feasted on death. On the plains of Nessa, he shot 90,000 persons in cold blood.

At the storming of Kharasm, he massacred 200,000, and sold 100,000 for slavés. In the district of Herat, he butchered 1,600,000, and in two cities with their dependencies, 1,760,000. During the last twenty-seven years of his long reign, he is said to have massacred an average of more than half a million every year ; and in the first fourteen years, he is supposed by Chinese historians to have destroyed not less than eighteen millions; a sum total of 32,000,000 human beings sacrificed in forty-one years by a single hand on the Moloch shrine of war !

Do you ask, now, for an epitome of the havoc war has made of human life? In the Russian campaign, there perished in less than six months nearly half a million of the French alone, and perhaps as many more of their enemies. During only twelve years of the recent wars of Europe, no less than 5,800,000 Christian lives are supposed

« PreviousContinue »