It would seem that the misunderstanding of MacDonalds great bodies of troops basically occurred in this manner.
Pelet used Broussiers report on how Lamarque had his Division formed. In turn we have Renard and Gerome who equally used the military report of Broussier, to further substantiate their theories.
Both Renard and Gerome would have been accurate in their assumption of how the formation was formed, if what Broussiers statement would have been true:
"celui de général Lamarque dit que l'empereur avant ordonné de former les divisions en colonne (formation indiquée dans les instructions générale), Lamarque rangeas ses troupes en colonne de bataillons déployés l'un derrière l'autre à une très petite distance."
Both Renard and Geromes description of Marechal MacDonald’s formation is quite accurate according to the sources they used.
It is probable that they did not use Marechal MacDonalds Recollections, which is understandable. But they should have started with Marechal MacDonalds own After Action Report, and then followed up with the following:
Prince Eugenes After Action report, information given by General Serras, information given by General Roland who was chef d’escadron au 1er Regiment de Carabiniers at Wagram, along with other officers who confirmed his statement. But most of all both Renard and Gerome should have read the investigation that General Koch did.
General Koch concludes that Lamarques description was faulty, or corrupted by someone else in the telling, since his investigation shows that the colonne Vuide had four battalions deployed, with four other battalions in a second line also deployed, with the remaining battalions in column.
With that said, in regards to the position of the cavalry, both Marechal MacDonald and Gerome were wrong on this point. According to General Serras, General Roland, and other officers who confirmed their statement, the cavalry were positioned on the flanks of General Serass Division, and not directly to the rear of the Colonne Vuide. Nor were they positioned on both flanks of the Colonne Vuide as Gerard has them positioned in his diagram. General Koch then goes to explain why Marechal MacDonald made such an error.
As for whether or not the formation used was in accordance to the current French military system, the answer to that is yes.
As an example, Suchet's infantry division at Jena in 1806, formed a Colonne Vuide which most authors incorrectly call an “ordre mixte. Both formations were in accordance to the general principles of the French system of 1805. Not only was Marechal McDonalds formation in accordance to the general principles of the French system of 1805, but it was a sound military formation to use in this particular circumstance.
Of Marechal McDonalds command approximately 1,500 Soldiers reached the Austrian positions. Approximately 6.350 were wounded, killed, or fell to the ground as if they were hit. Once the deadly peril passed, they either joined their battalions or would run to the rear. Such circumstances took place practically in every battle and in every army. (a Prussian officer in 1757 at Prague was wounded and crawled away behind a small hill where he was astounded to encounter a "great number of officers and NCOs. Some were wounded, but most were just looking for cover.").
Colonel Du Picq also wrote that the number of causalities taken by MacDonald corps was not an absolute number, but after the battle there would have been men returning back to the ranks. It was also reported the following day when collecting men from the field, that most of the soldiers were hit by musket balls and not canon fire. Which is contrary to what most contemporary authors today write as the main cause for MacDonalds casualties.
It is reasonable to assume that the basic method of the 5 to 2 technique of accountability would work here. Meaning that for every five men lost on the field of battle, one is dead, two are wounded to be taken out of the campaign, one is slightly wounded and to return to the ranks shortly, one man unharmed and returns the next day. With this method it possible to assume with some degree of accuracy, that approximately 2,000 Soldiers would have returned back to the ranks. This also demonstrates the quality of troops to be able to keep a formed formation while there was a great loss of men in their ranks.