Surgeon Huber of the Wuerttembergians, writes to his friend, Surgeon Henri de Roos, who settled in Russia after the campaign of 1812, how he crossed the Beresina, and in this connection he describes the following dreadful episode:
"A young woman of twenty-five, the wife of a French colonel killed a few days before in one of the engagements, was near me, within a short distance of the bridge we were to cross. Oblivious of all that went on about her, she seemed wholly engrossed in her daughter, a beautiful child of four, that she held in the saddle before her. She made several unsuccessful attempts to cross the bridge and was driven back every time, at which she seemed overwhelmed with blank despair. She did not weep; she would gaze heavenward, then fix her eyes upon her daughter, and once I heard her say: 'O God, how wretched I am, I cannot even pray!' Almost at the same moment a bullet struck her horse and another one penetrated her left thigh above the knee. With the deliberation of mute despair she took up the child that was crying, kissed it again and again; then, using the blood-stained garter removed from her fractured limb, she strangled the poor little thing and sat down with it, wrapped in her arms and hugged close to her bosom, beside her fallen horse. Thus she awaited her end, without uttering a single word, and before long she was trampled down by the riders making for the bridge."
The great surgeon Larrey tells how he nearly perished at the crossing of the Beresina, how he went over the bridge twice to save his equipment and surgical instruments, and how he was vainly attempting to break through the crowd on the third trip, when, at the mention of his name, every one proffered assistance, and he was carried along by soldier after soldier to the end of the bridge.
He has related the incident in a letter to his wife, dated from Leipzig, March 11th., 1813. "Ribes," says he - Ribes was one of Napoleon's physicians - "was right when he said that in the midst of the army, and especially of the Imperial guard, I could not lose my life. Indeed, I owe my life to the soldiers. Some of them flew to my rescue when the Cossacks surrounded me and would have killed or taken me prisoner. Others hastened to lift me and help me on when I sank in the snow from physical exhaustion. Others, again, seeing me suffer from hunger, gave me such provisions as they had; while as soon as I joined their bivouac they would all make room and cover me with straw or with their own clothes."
At Larrey's name, all the soldiers would rise and cheer with a friendly respect.
"Any one else in my place," writes Larrey further, "would have perished on the bridge of the Beresina, crossing it as I was doing, for the third time and at the most dangerous moment. But no sooner did they recognize me than they grasped me with a vigorous hold, and sent me along from hand to hand, like a bundle of clothes, to the end of the bridge."