Daily Archives: October 31, 2012

Divine Intervention

Jakob Walter records two  incidents early in the retreat in which he credits God for saving him.  As he headed north with the army to the Moscow-Smolensk road, the column was harassed by the cossacks and Russians.  Outside of the burned city of Borovsk, “One no sooner thought of resting than the Russians fell upon our army and cut off many as captives.  Everything was in confusion and during almost the whole night the throng had to retreat to Moshaisk everyone running so as not to fall into the hands of the enemy.  Because of these considerable losses, cannon, munition wagons, coaches, and baggage wagons by the hundreds had to be thrown into the water; and, where that was impossible, all wagons were burned…  The sutlers, even the cavalry, had to give up their horses so that these could be hitched to the cannon.  The fighting, the shrieking, the firing of large and small guns, hunger and thirst, and all conceivable torments increased the never-ending confusion.  Indeed, even the lice seemed to seek supremacy, for their number on both officers and privates was in the thousands.”

“In times when death was near, God sent me help again and again.  After midnight, when we pitched camp again following the above-mentioned pursuit by the Russians, a little village stood a quarter of an hour off the highway, and I crept with my master …  into a stable..  There I saw hanging on a cord… a smoked pig’s head.  As if received from the hand of God, I took it off from the cord with a prayer of thanks.  I, my master, and my fellow servant ate it with unbelievable appetite, and we felt life come to us again.”

Some nights later, Walter made another miraculous discovery, “As I sought to fetch water in the night… I drew my water with much effort…  On the way back, a round ball resembling a dead sheep was lying on the ground.  I picked it up and in astonished joy unwrapped a rolled-up Crimean fur that reached from my head down to my feet, besides having a peculiar collar which could be clapped over my head.  With my eyes turned to heaven I prayed again to God and gave thanks for the abundant mercy which I had received just when help was obviously most necessary.”

The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier, Jakob Walter, pp 61-063