PRISONERS OF WAR
Beaupre was taken prisoner at the passage of the Beresina and remained in captivity for some time. His lot as a prisoner of war was an exceptionally good one. He tells us that prisoners when they were out of such parts of the country as had been ravaged by the armies, received regular rations of a very good quality, and were lodged by eight, ten, and twelve, with the peasants. In the provincial capitals, they received furs of sheep skin, fur bonnets, gloves, and coarse woolen stockings, a sort of dress that appeared to them grotesque as well as novel, but which was very precious as a protection against the cold during the winter. When arrived at the places in which they were to pass the time of their captivity they found their lot ameliorated, and the reception accorded to them demanded a grateful eulogy of the hospitality exercised by the Russians.
Quite different was the experience of a very young German, Karl Schehl, a private whose memoirs have been kept in his family, and were recently published by one of his grand-nephews. After a battle on the retreat from Moscow he, with many others, was taken prisoner by Cossacks, who at once plundered the captives. Schehl was deprived of his uniform, his breeches, his boots. He had a gold ring on his ring finger, and one of the Cossacks, thinking it too much trouble to remove the ring in the natural way, had already drawn his sabre to cut off the prisoner's left hand, when an officer saw this and gave the brutal Cossack a terrible blow in the face; he then removed the ring without hurting the boy and kept it for himself. Another officer took Schehl's gold watch. Schehl stood then with no other garment but a shirt, and barefoot, in the bitter cold, not daring to approach the bivouac fire.
The Cossacks (on examining the garments of Schehl), found in one of the pockets a B clarinette. This discovery gave them great pleasure; they induced their captive to play for them, and he played, chilled to the bone in his scanty costume. But now the Cossacks came to offer him garments, a regular outfit for the Russian winter. They gave him food to eat and did all they could to show their appreciation of the music. What a rapid change of fortune within two hours, writes Schehl. Toward noon, riding a good horse, with considerable money in Russian bank notes and a valuable gold watch in his possession, all brought from Moscow, at 1 p.m. he stood dressed in a shirt only, with his bare feet on the frozen ground, and at 2 p. m. he was admired as an artist by a large audience that gave him warm clothes, which meant protection against the danger of freezing to death, and a place near the fire.