The Utopian Communist: A Biography of Wilhelm Weitling

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In 1806 the burghers of the city were once again living in crisis,
for in that year the city capitulated, rather shamefully, to the
armies of Napoleon which were thundering at the city gates. The
town was raped and pillaged by the soldiers of Marshall Ney until
sufficient tribute could be paid to save its citizens from further
ravages. Thereupon Magdeburg became a part of Napoleon's pup­
pet kingdom of Westphalia. For several years, the colorful uni­
forms of the French troops were visible everywhere; occasionally
duels were fought in the quiet gardens of the burghers; and officers
and men were billeted on the inhabitants throughout the city.
French was heard so frequently on the streets of Magdeburg that
many Germans learned enough of the language to carry on simple
business transactions, while their children shouted "vive l'Em-
pereur" on every appropriate occasion.
In 1812 and 1813, the fortunes of war no longer smiled on the
great Napoleon, and the occupying forces in Magdeburg had to
prepare for a countersiege by the Allied armies which were driv­
ing the Grand Army steadily back toward its own frontiers after
the disastrous invasion of Russia. During the siege, the French
destroyed some of the outlying sections of Magdeburg, used the
churches as magazines for munitions, straw, and hay, and quar­
tered cattle in the Katharinenkirche. After the Battle of the
Nations at Leipzig, the Allies moved westward in pursuit of Napo­
leon, leaving Magdeburg and its French garrison under the siege
of Prussian and Russian troops. Muskets rattled and cannon roared
in and around the city as the beleaguered French made numerous
sorties from the town, while the inhabitants lived in constant fear
lest the French destroy the city or the Allies ravage it as Tilly's
Catholic army had done in the Thirty Years' War.

In May, 1814, one month after Napoleon's abdication, the
French in Magdeburg finally capitulated. As the French marched
out to the strains of martial music through one of the gates of the
city, the Don Cossacks rode in through another. Their brown uni­
forms, and black, silver-studded belts and pistols must have pro­
vided a picturesque setting for the triumphal entry of the Allies

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