Napoleon Series Archive 2004

Re: Biezun, 23 Dec 1806
In Response To: Re: Biezun, 23 Dec 1806 ()

Hi Greg -

Yes, Bernadotte's position in command of the entire left wing of the army (1st Corps, 6th Corps and 2nd Cavalry Reserve) has always struck me as inconsistent with the assertion that Bernadotte remained in disgrace after Jena. In effect it is a promotion and a mark of confidence, odd if Napoleon's consideration of the facts of Bernadotte's performance at Jena had supported his initial outburst condemning him. N's former relationship with B's wife might be sufficient to explain giving B a second chance, but seems hardly sufficient to explain an expansion of B's responsibilities. It seems far more likely Napoleon found his initial reaction to be unjustified and this, coupled with Bernadotte's subsequent action at Halle, were sufficient for Napoleon to entrust Bernadotte with one wing of the army two months later. This would also seem to indicate that N recognized that there was no clear authority between B and Davout on 14 October - he had just expected them to cooperate - so in this instance he clarified the command responsibilities by placing Bessieres and Ney explicitly under Bernadotte. He could as easily have placed Bessieres or Ney in charge (Murat was commanding the right wing of the army). That he didn't indicates that Bernadotte had been fully exonerated for his actions on 14 October, IMO, most likely after a more sober review of the actual situation. I can't think of any explanation to justify Bernadotte's "promotion" in December 06 if Napoleon had retained his initial opinion that his performance on 14 October was worthy of a court martial.

I pulled the OOB out of my notes along with the fragment translated from Lechartier's La Manoeuvre de Pultusk (recommended). Sources are Lechartier, Hoepfner and Foucart.

Regards,

Robert Goetz

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Biezun, 23 Dec 1806
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