Three fifths of the houses and one half of the churches were destroyed. The citizens had burned their capital. Before this catastrophe of 1812 Moscow was an aristocratic city. According to old usage, the Russian nobility spent the winter there, they came from their country seats with hundreds of slaves and servants and many horses; their palaces in the city were surrounded by parks and lakes, and many buildings were erected on the grounds, as lodgings for the servants and slaves, stables, magazines. The number of servants was great, many of them serving for no other purpose than to increase the number, and this calling was part of the luxury of the noblemen. The house of the seigneur was sometimes of brick, rarely of stone, generally of wood, all were covered with copper plates or with iron, painted red or green. The magazines were mostly stone buildings, on account of the danger of fire. At that time the Russian nobility had not yet accustomed itself to consider St. Petersburg the capital, they were obstinate in the determination to come every winter to hold court in the mother of Russian cities. The conflagration of 1812 broke this tradition. The nobility, not willing or not being able to rebuild their houses, rented the ground to citizens, and industry, prodigiously developing since then, has taken possession of Moscow. This is how the city has lost its floating population of noblemen and serfs, which amounted to 100 thousand souls, and how the aristocratic city has become an industrial one. It is a new city, but the fire of 1812, from the ashes of which it has risen, has left impressions on the monuments. Step by step in the Kremlin and in the city proper are found souvenirs of the patriotic war. You enter the Kremlin which Napoleon tried to explode, and which has been restored, you visit there the church of the Annunciation, and you will be told that the French soldiers had stabled their horses on the pavement of agate; you visit the church of the Assumption and you will be shown the treasures which, on the approach of the French, had been taken to places of safety; you raise your eye to the summit of the tower of Ivan and you learn that the cross had been removed by the invaders and found in the baggage of the Grand Army. The door of St. Nicholas has an inscription recalling the miracle by which this door was saved in 1812. The tower surmounting it was split by an explosion from above downward, but the fissure ended at the very point where the icon is found; the explosion of 500 pounds of powder did not break even the glass which covers the image or the crystal of the lamp which burns before it. Along the walls of the arsenal are the cannon taken from the enemy, and in the arsenal are other trophies, including the camp-bed of Napoleon.

Russian accounts from eye-witnesses of the conflagration are few - in fact, there exists none in writing. People who witnessed the catastrophe could not write. What we possess are collections from verbal accounts given by servants, serfs, who had told the events to their masters. Nobody of distinction had remained in Moscow, none of the nobility, the clergy, the merchants. The persons from whom the following accounts are given were the nun Antonine, a former slave of the Syraxine family, the little peddler Andreas Alexieef, a woman, Alexandra Alexievna Nazarot, an old slave of the family Soimonof by the name of Basilli Ermolaevitch, the wife of a pope, Maria Stepanova, the wife of another pope, Helene Alexievna. A Russian lady has collected what she had learned from these humble people, the eye-witnesses of the catastrophe, and published it, pseudonym, in some Russian journal. All these people had minutely narrated their experiences to her at great length, not omitting any detail which concerned themselves or circumstances which caused their surprise, and they all gave the dates, the hours which they had tenaciously kept in their memory for sixty years, for it was in the year 1872 when the Russian lady interrogated them. Some had retained from those days of terror such vivid impressions that a conflagration or the sight of a soldier's casque would cause them palpitation of the heart. There is much repetition in their narrations, for all had seen the same: the invasion, the enemy, the fire kindled by their own people, the misery, the dearth, the pillage. There exist documents of the events in Moscow of 1812, the souvenirs of Count de Toll, the apology of Rostopchine, which we shall come to in another chapter, the recitals of Domerque, of Wolzogen, of Segur, but these reminiscences of people in Moscow are the only ones from persons who actually suffered by the catastrophe, and they are in their way as valuable as the writings of our two writers, von Scherer and von Borcke. These plain people know nothing of the days of Erfurt, nothing of the continental blocus, nothing of the withdrawal of Alexander from the French Alliance; the bearers of the toulloupes (sheepskin furs) in the streets of Moscow of the beginning of 1812 knew nothing of the confederation of the Rhine; all they knew of Bonaparte was that he had often beaten the Germans, and that on his account they had to pay more for sugar and coffee. To them the great comet of 1811 was the first announcement of coming great events. Let us see the reflections which the comet inspired in the abbess of the Devitchi convent and the nun Antonine, and this will give us an idea of the mental condition of the latter, one of the narrators. "One evening," she relates, "we were at service in St. John's church, when all of a sudden I noticed on the horizon a gerbe of resplendent flames. I cried out and dropped my lantern. Mother abbess came to me to learn what had caused my fright, and when she also had seen the meteor she contemplated a long time. I asked, Matouchka, what star is this? She answered this is no star, this is a comet. I asked again what is a comet? I never had heard that word. The mother then explained to me that this was a sign from heaven which God had sent to foretell great misfortune. Every evening this comet was seen, and we asked ourselves what calamity this one might bring us. In the cells of the convent, in the shops of the city, the news, traveling as the crow flies, was heard that Bonaparte was leading against Russia an immense army, the like of which the world had never seen. Only the veterans of the battles of Austerlitz, Eylau, and Friedland could give some information, some details of the character of the invader. The direction which Napoleon took on his march left no doubt to any one that he would appear in Moscow. In order to raise the courage which was sinking they had the miraculous image of the Virgin conductrice brought from Smolensk, which place was to be visited by the French. This icon was exposed in the cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel, for veneration by the people. The abbess of our convent, who was from Smolensk, had a special devotion for this image, she went with all the nuns to salute the Protatrix. At St. Michael the Archangel there was a great crowd so that one hardly could stand, especially were there many women, all crying. When we, the nuns, began to push, to get near the image, one after the other in a line endlessly long, they looked upon us with impatience. One woman said: 'These soutanes should make room for us, it is not their husbands, it is our husbands', our sons' heads, which will be exposed to the guns.'"

Rostopchine tried his best to keep the population at peace by his original proclamations, which were pasted on all the walls and distributed broadcast. After Borodino he urged the people to take up arms, and he promised to be at the head of the men to fight a supreme battle on the Three Mountains. Meanwhile he worked to save the treasures of the church, the archives, the collections of precious objects in the government palaces. From the arsenal he armed the people. A tribune was erected from which the metropolitan addressed the multitude and made them kneel down to receive his blessing. Rostopchine stood behind the metropolitan and came forward after the priest had finished his ellocution, saying that he had come to announce a great favor of his majesty. As a proof that they should not be delivered unarmed to the enemy, his majesty permitted them to pillage the arsenal, and the people shouted: "Thanks, may God give to the Tzar many years to live!" This was a very wise idea of Rostopchine to have the arsenal emptied, a feat which he could not have accomplished in time in any other way. The pillage lasted several days and went on in good order.

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The French had entered Moscow. The first word of Napoleon to Mortier, whom he had named governor of Moscow, was "no pillage!" But this point of honor had to be abandoned. The 100 thousand men who had entered were troops of the elite, but they came starving at the end of their adventurous expedition. During the first days they walked the streets in search of a piece of bread and a little wine. But little had been left in the cellars of the abandoned houses and in the basements of the little shops, and with the conflagration there was almost nothing to be found. The Grand Army was starving as much almost as on the march. Dogs which had returned in considerable numbers to lament on the ruins of the houses of their masters were looked upon as precious venison. The uniforms were already in rags, and the Russian climate made itself felt. These poor soldiers, poorly clad, dying from starvation, were begging for a piece of bread, for linen or sheepskin, and, above all, for shoes. There was no arrangement for the distribution of rations; they had to take from wherever they could, or perish.

Napoleon established himself in the Kremlin, the generals in the mansions of the noblemen, the soldiers in the taverns or private houses until the fire dislodged them. Napoleon, with a part of his staff, was obliged to seek refuge in the park Petrovski, the commanders took quarters wherever they could, the soldiers dispersed themselves among the ruins. Supervision had become an impossibility. The men, left to themselves, naturally lost all discipline under these circumstances of deception and under so many provocations among a hostile population. Notwithstanding all these conditions, they behaved well in general and to a great extent showed self-control and humanity toward the conquered. The example of pillage had been set by the Russians themselves. Koutouzof had commanded the destruction of the mansions. The slaves burned the palaces of their masters.

All eye-witnesses speak of the extreme destitution of the soldiers in regard to clothing after one month's stay in Moscow. Already at this time, even before the most terrible and final trials of the retreat which awaited them, one had to consider them lost. When they first took to woman's clothes or shoes or hats it was considered an amusement, a joke, but very soon a mantilla, a soutane, a veil became a precious object and nobody laughed at it when frozen members were wrapped in these garments. The greatest calamity was the want of shoes. Some soldiers followed women simply for the purpose of taking their shoes from them. A special chapter of horrors could be written on the sufferings of the soldiers on the retreat over ice and snow fields on account of the miserable supply of shoes.

At first Napoleon reviewed the regiments near the ponds of the Kremlin, and at the first reviews the troops marched proudly, briskly, with firm step, but soon they began to fail with astonishing rapidity. They answered the roll of the drums calling them together, clad in dirty rags and with torn shoes, in fast diminishing numbers. During the last weeks of their stay in Moscow many had reached the last stage of misery, after having wandered through the streets looking for a little bit of nourishment, dressed up as for a carnival, but without desire to dance, as one remarked in grim humor.

These were the men whose destination had brought them many hundreds of miles from home to the semi-Asiatic capital of the Ivans, who had been drinking in the glory and the joy of warriors, and who now died from hunger and cold, with their laurels still intact. Thanks to the authorized military requisitions and the excesses of the stragglers of the Grand Army, a desert had been made of the city before Napoleon had begun his retreat. No more cattle, no provisions, and the inhabitants gone, camping with wife and children in the deepest parts of the forests. Those who had remained or returned to the villages, organized against marauders whom they received with pitchforks or rifles, and these peasants gave no quarter.

"The enemy appeared nearly every day in our village (Bogorodsic)," says Maria Stepanova, the wife of a pope, "and as soon as they were perceived all men took up arms; our cossacks charged them with their long sabers or shot them with their pistols, and behind the cossacks were running the peasants, some with axes, some with pitchforks. After every excursion they brought ten or more prisoners which they drowned in the Protka which runs near the village, or they fusilladed them on the prairie. The unfortunates passed our windows, my mother and I did not know where to hide ourselves in order not to hear their cries and the report of the firearms. My poor husband, Ivan Demitovitch, became quite pale, the fever took him, his teeth chattered, he was so compassionate! One day the cossacks brought some prisoners and locked them up in a cart-house built of stone. They are too few, they said, it is not worth while to take any trouble about them now; with the next lot which we shall take we will shoot or drown them together. This cart-house had a window with bars. Peasants came to look at the prisoners and gave them bread and boiled eggs; they did not want to see them starving while awaiting death. One day when I brought them eatables I saw at the window a young soldier - so young! His forehead was pressed against the bars, tears in his eyes, and tears running down his cheeks. I myself began to cry, and even to-day my heart aches when I think of him. I passed lepecheks through the bars and went away without looking behind me. At that time came an order from the government that no more prisoners should be killed but sent to Kalouga. How we were contented!"

Many savageries have been committed by the low class of Russians who had remained in Moscow. This is not surprising because these were of the most depraved of the population, including especially many criminals who had been set free to pillage and burn the city. "A little while before the French entered," tells the serf Soimonof, "the order had been given to empty all the vodka (whiskey) from the distilleries of the crown into the street; the liquor was running in rivulets, and the rabble drank until they were senselessly drunk, they had even licked the stones and the wooden pavement. Shouting and fighting naturally followed."

The really good people of Moscow had given proofs of high moral qualities, worthy of admiration, under the sad circumstances. Poor moujiks who had learned of the defeat of the Russians at Borodino said their place was no longer in a city which was to be desecrated by the presence of the enemy, and, leaving their huts to be burned down, their miserable belongings to be pillaged, they went on the highways at the mercy of God, disposed to march as long as their eyes could see before them. Others, running before the flames, carried their aged and sick on their shoulders, showing but one sentiment in their complete ruin, namely, absolute resignation to the will of God.

Some readers may say that the foregoing chapter does not give the medical history of the campaign. To these I wish to reply that it is impossible to understand the medical history without knowing the general conditions of the Grand Army, which were the cause of the death of hundreds of thousands of soldiers from cold and starvation.