“Oh, Cruel Torture!”

Faber du Faur painted a scene of Napoleon dated November 8.  He wonders what the Emperor must be thinking as he watches his ruined army file past.

On the Road, Not Far From Pneva,
8 November
by Faber du Faur

On the Road, Not Far From Pneva, 8 November

“From Mikalevka, where we spent the night, the retreat continued the following day.  The brilliant army that had crossed the Niemen would scarcely recognize itself now.  The cold had deprived us of our brilliance and our clothes were as those of a sorry troop of adventurers.  The man on the left, the most brilliant captain, seems oblivious to the group warming their hands by a fire fed by broken wheels and gun carriages. Behind them stand the ordnance officers, ready for the least signal.  Do you recognize the man dressed in the simple grey overcoat?  The man who led us so often in battle and to victory now partially disguised in a fur cap?  It is the Emperor.  Who knows what must be going through his mind as his pitiful army files past?  His enemies have insulted him and tarnished his glory.  Oh, cruel torture!  But those who cast their eyes on fallen grandeur momentarily forget their own suffering, and thus it was that we filed past in mournful silence, partially reconciled to our terrible fate.”

With Napoleon in Russia: The Illustrated Memoirs of Major Faber du Faur, 1812, Edited and Translated by Jonathan North

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