Lets see if I may add more confusion to the information that I have already put out.
Sadly I must confess that I have both the translated and French version of MacDonald’s Souvenirs/Recollections. The translated version is very bad, and I should have known better to even use it in the first place, so paint me stupid.
Nevertheless for a fact, the great body of troops was formed in a Colonne Vuide, which was fashioned with four battalions positioned on the first line and four battalions positioned in the second line, followed by 13 battalions in columns on the flank (seven battalions on one flank and six battalions of the other flank) with cavalry closing up the rear of the Colonne Vuide.
Pellet states that eight battalions were deployed divisions to form the head and thirteen battalions stayed in ployed colonnes of colonne serree on the two flanks.
When the military term of divisions are used (whether in English or French), when a great body of troops are displayed in divisions, it means that it was divided into parts. Therefore we have the first and second lines (divisions)of battalions, in battalions deployed or ployed.
The Colonne Vuide is an action column which means that it was destined to fire “en bataille sans deployer”. Hence colonne d'attaque or colonne par divisions (serre) works.
Down at the bottom of Pelet’s book on page 222, (a) there are two ways to read how Lamarque was ordered by the Emperor to form as indicated in the general instructions.
If Lamarque is attempting to explain the general instructions that were written by Napoleon prior to March 17th 1797, before the passage of Tagliamento, only referring to the flanks, then he is referring to the battalions ployed. which I feel he is refering to.
As it stands now, I feel that Hans version of having the Colonne Vuide formed with all Battalions in column is correct.
Unless Lamarque is explaining how the entire great body of troops was formed in accordance to the entire general instructions of March 1797, then the front of the Colonne vuide was formed by battalions deployed. But I not think this is the case.
In either case it was a formation that was considered for the event to be a sound military decision, loses were going to be heavy no matter what lesser formation was used. It had nothing to do with quality of troops or that Napoleon was apathetic to the point that the Soldiers were merely “common fodder”.