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LIFE AND Adventures or Major Roger Suerman Potter. By Peleg Van TRUES
New-York: STANFORD AND DELISSER. This is one of the queerest books that has come in our way for a long time. We have gone through it pretty thoroughly, but we cannot make out its purpose. Its pretended author, PELEG VAN TRUESDALE, commences with his auto-biography, and lays out what the reader expects will be the outline of his own career, but meeting Major Potter in the course of his peregrinations, the latter becomes his hero. Major Potter is an odd compound of folly and sense. He is weak and vain, but shrewd withal, reminding us of some of the heroes of the satirical novels of olden times a sort of Sancho Panza, or Don Quixote. Like the famous Hidalgo, he has his Rosinante. At first the reader is disposed to laugh at and with him, but before the end is reached, he votes the old gentleman a little tedious. A character, or caricature, like the Major, does very well in a slight sketch, but he is rather tiresome in a book of five hundred pages. The political portion of his adventures, especially that relating to men and things in New-York, is amusing, and not devoid of truth fulness, but it is overdone. Altogether, the book is cleverly though carelessly written, with here and there a nice bit of character, or a really comic situation; but, as we said before, we cannot for the life of us see the author's object in writing it. It was probably to show his familiarity with the ‘elephant, and to 'run a muck' with the critics.
A JOURNEY DUE North. By George AUGUSTUS SALA. In one Volume: pp. 482.
Boston: TICKNOR AND FIELDS.
MR. SALA, if we may believe the newspapers, is a young Englishman of the Richard Savage order, who lives in Bohemia, and earns his bread-and-cheese by writing for 'The Household Words.' He is supposed to do all the Dickensish articles in that pleasant little weekly. This, his first book, was originally contributed to its pages. It consists of a series of letters relating to a short residence in Russia, just before the coronation of ALEXANDER. It is not very statistical or profound, but it is agreeable and smart. Mr. Sala has a keen sense of the weak side of things, and a happy faculty of writing easily. The old adage of easy writing being hard reading, is not confirmed in his case, for we know of no recent book better fitted to while away a few spare hours than this ‘Journey due North.' One thing in respect to the volume we are bound in justice to say ; and that is, that its occasional flippancy, and mere pen-andink work, are presented to supply a demand on the part of some half-million of English rail-way travellers.
EDITOR'S T A BL E.
NAPOLEON IN 1806: A REMINISCENCE OF THE FIRST WAR BETWEEN FRANCE AND Prussia. — Is it not wonderful what an interest attaches to almost any thing, even at this distant day, which was connected with the person or the exploits of NAPOLEON ? The incidents mentioned below occurred at a time immediately preceding the great battle of Jena : and here let us mention how they came into our possession. When we do not take our hour-and-a-half morning trip to town in the “fast and snug' steamer ‘Isaac P. SMITH,' we get our daily metropolitan journals from over the river, through our village newsman, Mr. Adam C. HAESELBARTU, an old German gentleman, of modest demeanor, much experience, and a keen observer evidently from his youth up, of stirring events, and of ‘men and things.' One day, in his little box of an office, while we were looking at an engraving in one of the pictorials,' representing the inauguration of the statue of NAPOLEON, during the fêtes at Cher. bourg, the old gentleman remarked: “An excellent likeness — excellent! But who ever saw any other? The rudest wood-cut seldom fails to represent him.' * Did you ever see the 'Little Captain ?”' we asked. Oh! yes,' was the reply, * and a good chance I had, too :' and the old gentleman went on, casually, to narrate to us, in the intervals of calls for papers, the circumstances which en.
We asked him to write out the account for our Magazine, just as he had told it to us; and not, when he found his pen in his hand, to be tempted to 'enlarge,' as too many now-a-day reminiscents do. He hesitated, diffidently, at first, but finally consented to do so, and has done so, being a 'man of his word' in all things. He added: 'I was an eye-witness to all the principal incidents I have mentioned, and although at the time only twelve years of age, the scenes are still so fresh in my memory, that were I at all skilled in drawing, I think I could sketch them in life-colors at this moment. Let us premise that Gera, the birth-place of the writer, is about twenty English miles from Jena, and thirty from Leipsic. It is the capital of the Duchy of Reuss, an independent, small State, located thin the boundaries of Saxony, and noted for its extensive manufactures of fine woollen goods, linen, calico, etc., chiefly for the American market:
* It was about the middle of the year 1806, when the first great war between France and Prussia broke out. After some preliminary skirmishes, and the
battle of Saälfeld, (about a week before that of Jena,) where the Royal Prince Louis of Prussia fell, the combined Prussian and Saxon armies took up a defiant position near the town of Jena, on a hill called the 'Schneckenberg,' (Snail-hill,) where, on the thirteenth and fourteenth of October, the first great battle was fought, and the combined Prussian and Saxon armies defeated, with great loss in killed and wounded. Through the previous week, a great portion of the Prussian and Saxon armies was marching through my native place, the city of Gera, with all the pomp of war, toward the anticipated field of battle. The line of march through the city was past a new corner-house, which my father was just about building, and of which only the first-story walls were up at that time. Here myself and some other boys would station ourselves, from day to day, to see the seemingly-endless legions of soldiers march past. Some days it would be all cavalry, and then again all infantry, interspersed with long trains of artillery, ammunition, and baggage-wagons, all drawn by from four to six horses. Thus, in less than a week, about fifty thousand Prussian and Saxon troops passed our station on the wall,' which we boys thought were sufficient to 'whip all creation.' But the old folks' thought differently, (for certain reasons, which I shall mention hereafter,) and entertained the most ominous misgivings in regard to the grand result of the battle about to take place.
‘On Friday afternoon, previous to the battle, the marching of the troops had ceased, and a train of about three hundred wagons, including several regimental money-chests, and considerable baggage belonging to officers, was left in our town, with a few hundred Saxon troops as an escort. On Saturday morning, the public squares and market-places were, as was usually the case, crowded with country people from the neighboring villages. At about nine o'clock, rumors became prevalent that French soldiers had been seen in the corporation-woods, on the eastern side of the city. But the officers in command discredited the report, and some Prussian officers, in a boasting style peculiar to that nation, insisted upon it that if any Frenchmen came to the city at all, they would come as prisoners of war, and would be brought in by their own men. However, ‘Job's messengers' succeeded one another, all declaring that the woods were alive with French soldiers; whereupon at last the commanding officers became alarmed, and a squadron of horsemen were sent out to reconnoitre the woods. In less than half-an-hour they returned at full gallop, their horses covered with foam, fully confirming the reports of the approach of the French in masses.
A universal panic now seized all classes, and a scene of uproar and confusion ensued which it would be difficult to describe. The throngs in the marketplaces, with their hair almost standing erect with fright, 'dumped' the unsold parts of their market-truck' on the ground, and others having teams, threw their loads over-board, in order to get the quicker out of reach of the dreaded French: and no market was ever cleared with similar dispatch : in the space of minutes only, the frightened country people were seen hastily winding their way home over the neighboring hills.
'In the mean time, the teamsters and troops had been engaged to their utmost in hastening the harnessing of their horses, and with all possible speed dispatching the teams, as they thought, out of the enemy's reach. In less than an hour's time, the town had assumed the appearance of a deserted place: the thronging masses, and the military trains with their escorts, having vanished, the inhabitants proceeded to shut up their stores and houses, expecting every moment to see the enemy pouring in upon them.
• While this brief space of solemn, deadly silence was prevailing, a solitary French hussar, in white uniform, with a sword in his teeth, a pistol in each hand, and his eyes sparkling with wine, rode leisurely into the city, scrutinizing, as he proceeded, every door and window, to guard himself against surprise, or shots of Prussian or Saxon soldiers that might be lying in ambush.' Others soon followed in squads of two, three, four and more, until at last whole squadrons came furiously dashing through the town, in pursuit of the fleeing wagontrain.
* The very last of the wagons was just passing through the western towngate, when the first-mentioned hussar came up to it, and when near enough, tired one of his pistols as a signal for the teamster to stop; but the latter, not heeding or understanding the summons, the hussar galloped up to him, and running his sword through his back, shoved him off between the two horses, and then, with his blood-stained sword, proceeded to cut the harness-traces of this and other teams, in order to bring the horses to a stop, the drivers having by this time mostly all fled from fright. However, for him retribution was near at hand. A brave Saxon captain of dragoons, all whose men had tied, 'panic-stricken,' to the neighboring hills, was determined to remain, to the last extremity, true to his post. The French pioneer-hussar eagerly galloped up to him, while the Saxon coolly waited his approach: a few passages of their swords followed, when the Frenchman's head hung on his shoulders, and he fell a corpse on the road. Immediately after, two more hussars reached the scene of combat: the Saxon was ready to receive them, also; and, after considerable clashing of weapons, one Frenchman galloped off with his right arm dangling at his side, and the other followed, with the blood streaming from one of his wrists.
* Though the French had now begun to arrive in larger numbers, and no farther hope of escape remained for the brave Saxon, he was still determined to have another brush with the next squad of four, every one of whom, like their predecessors, was put hors du combat before they could have dreamed of it; but as too many dogs will prove a hare’s death, so was it at last with the gallant Saxon. A squad of six had now arrived, and with some of the wagons for protection in the rear, he kept even them at bay for some time, till accidentally his horse, which was a most beautiful animal, became hemmed in between some of the wagons, and himself received a severe cut in the right arm, which (lisabled him at last. There was considerable French swearing when they were taking him prisoner, but no farther harm was done him, and an escort of two took him into the city, to a place of safety.
* French troops of every description began now to arrive in masses: and very soon a scene was to be enacted, which, in the singularity of its features, and in richness of wild sport, laughable manoeuvres, and cursing, swearing, and laughing, would be past describing. I will only say, here was a line of teams, several miles in length, scattered along a straight, elevated turnpike, and several thousand excited troops engaged, in the most desperate and savage manner, in breaking open the wagons, which were all well secured and locked up, all in search of money, and whatever else might be valuable. For want of tools, they made use of whatever would make an impression on the stubborn sides of the wagon-bodies; but nothing seemed to answer so well as the wagon-poles, for battering-rams, and this latter mode of proceeding afforded them the most sport. In a very short time, the wagons were all broken open, and the con
tents, consisting chiefly of clothing and uniforms of every description, shoes, harnesses, saddles, bridles, and many other articles, scattered along the road. One party had the good luck to hit on a wagon containing & regimental moneychest, with a considerable amount of specie in it, which, amid a good deal of cheering, was divided among a party of about twenty, who had possession of the wagon. After the soldiers had finished their searches, many peasants ventured to the scene, and carried off whatever suited them, in clothing and other articles,
‘An instance of the fortunes of war,' in connection with these scenes, may not be out of place here. A wagon containing officers' baggage, and a good deal of money, was driven into the farm-yard of an uncle of mine, situated a short distance from the main road, and supposed to be a temporary place of safety. But the inhabitants, under the apprehension that the French, coming into the land as enemies, and liable to commit all manner of outrages and depredations, had all fled to the woods. My aunt, having forgotten something valuable in the house, ventured to return alone to get it; but no sooner had she entered the house, than three French horsemen rode into the yard, stopping her retreat. Not understanding French, they intimated to her by signs, that she had nothing to fear from them, and that they only wanted her to get a good cup of coffee ready for them, while they were examining the contents of the wagons in the yard; and very singularly, these three had, in this isolated retreat, all their good luck to themselves. In a short time, they came up stairs with several bags of gold and silver, which they emptied on a large round dining-table: after mixing the money in the manner a set of dominoes is shuffled, they made one grand round heap of it, and one of them with his sword divided it into four equal quarters. After stowing away their shares in their portmanteaus, they called my aunt to the table, and pointing to the fourth share, very politely gave her to understand that that was her share. After having disposed of their hasty cup of coffee, they mounted, and galloped out of sight.
* After having seen all the sights along the road, several of 'us boys' returned to the city. But here, still greater sights were now to be seen. A portion of the French army had commenced marching in solid columns through the town, and in every direction were heard the sounds of martial music and beating of drums, of the latter of which there were whole bands, of perhaps fifty in number. We boys again took our position on the same stone wall, from which, only a few days before, we had witnessed the passing by of more than fifty thousand Prussian and Saxon troops. Now they were all French, moving along that broad street in dense masses ; infantry, cavalry, and artillery, simultaneous, in three separate columns, and all to the tunes of their own peculiar music: they all appeared cheerful in the highest degree; and the unbroken noise of bands of music, the rolling of drums, and the cheering, was almost deafening. A neighbor of ours, an aged citizen, after having for some time looked with fear and astonishment at the moving, noisy masses, exclaimed, in the height of bewilderment: ‘Mine Gott! mine GotT! what is all this? Surely the gates of Hell must have been opened, and Satan himself and all his host let loose upon us!'
* While in the height of our boyish ecstasy and delight, in thus reviewing from our elevated position the movements of the martial legions, a small party of officers, in dazzling uniforms, and their breasts ornamented with beautiful stars, crosses, and orders, were repeatedly passing and re-passing the crowded