Napoleon Series Archive 2009

Re: Line or Guard Artillery
In Response To: Line or Guard Artillery ()

Dear Stephen,

Much of what the French artillery did you won't find in the period manuals. Senarmont's decisive attack with a corps worth of artillery certainly wasn't an 'option' in the manuals. Everything done by the French wasn't in the manuals, witness their aggressive employment of large numbers of skirmishers-that certainly was not in the 1791 Reglement. What you did have among the French artillery generals was the ability to think and act for themselves and to use their artillery aggressively in order to win. For French doctrinal practice you should consult du Teil.

At Ligny in 1815 Drouot massed a large battery in front of Ligny that preceeded the Guard's and Gerard's assault that split the Prussian center.

For Lutzen, perhaps this might help. It is a first-hand account by General Flahaut who accompanied the infantry assault:

'The Emperor ordered four Imperial aides to accompany the troops of the Guard selected for the attack. I accompanied General Berthezene at the head of the Fusiliers of the Guard. This brave general and his fine troops had earlier attacked and routed the enemyh from their positions around Kaja, the men comprising the Fusiliers were all veteran soldiers, and their discipline and elan were no match for our adversaries; the Fusiliers were supremely confident of victory.'

'The signal to advance being given, our brigade moved out, and eventually passed by the left flank of the grand battery. The discharges of these pieces were deafening, and the smoke covered the field, obscuring our view. Our battalions were formed in attack column of two pelotons width and rapidly traversed the ground already devastated by the day's fighting. We passed over the wreckage of entire regiments which had been cut down by our guns. At times, the enemy dead and wounded were so thick that our men's feet did not touch the ground. My horse hesitated often as it looked for firm footing.'

'The enemy could not withstand our advance. They fired a few, sporadic volleys, broke ranks, and fled before our bayonets. His Majesty can be pleased iwth the soldiers of the Guard who carried this attack into the heart of the enemy line.'

Drouot's large battery was made up of more than Guard artillery.

It should be noted that when the Guard artillery was expanded by the creation of a foot artillery regiment in 1808 it was meant to act thereafter as the army's artillery reserve. However, as at Lutzen, it was not solely Guard artillery that made up large batteries that were used in artillery attacks, economy of force missions, or to screen tactical movements. And the French artillery from Friedland onwards was employed as both a supporting and a supported arm. Both Senarmont's action at Friedland in 1807 and Drouot's at Lutzen in 1813 are examples of this.

Sincerely,
K

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