In his book Napoleon the End of Glory, Munro Price discovered some never before utilized papers by Caulaincourt. As he explains: “ Caulaincourt’s memoirs were published in 1933, but these did not include a mass of autobiographical notes, including an entire section of several hundred pages on the 1813 campaign, and some important correspondence, now in the Archives Nationales in Paris.”
Price, Munro (2014-08-04). Napoleon: The End of Glory (Kindle Locations 292-293). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
Cauaincourt’s papers allow for a reinterpretation of Napoleon’s decisions and motivations prior to the battle of Leipzig. According to Price,
“By October the marshals’ disaffection had become so open that it began to affect Napoleon’s strategic decisions. On the 10th he was at Düben, north of Leipzig, preparing to strike at Blücher and Bernadotte. Yet instead of attacking, he stayed put for the next four days in the pleasant moated country house he had made his headquarters agonizing over his next move. Many historians have seen this as further evidence of Napoleon’s declining powers.
Some unpublished notes of Caulaincourt’s reveal that there were other factors at work. Napoleon’s initial plan at Düben was to cross to the right bank of the Elbe,destroy the bridges Blücher and Bernadotte had thrown over the river, and cut them off from the rear. This strategy carried a risk that his own lines of communication to the west could be cut off, and this was too much for the marshals. As Caulaincourt recalled: “This project, which would separate us from France, hampering if not breaking entirely our communications with her, appealed to nobody…[ Berthier] who had been told about the plan in Dresden did everything he could to get it changed, and the other commanders did as well. Ney, whom the Emperor summoned and talked to because of his popularity with the soldiers also tried to make him understand that the state of opinion within the army demanded that he take another direction and moved back towards France, whose frontiers and security were already seen as menaced. “21
Napoleon defended his plan, but the marshals stuck to their position. The impasse was only broken by news that changed the strategic picture. Blücher and Bernadotte had struck further west than anticipated, towards Halle, and were already menacing the French rear. Then Murat, commanding the French forces to the south around Leipzig , reported that Schwarzenberg was advancing fast on the city. This finally determined Napoleon to pull back to Leipzig, concentrate his forces there and fight a decisive battle. According to Caulaincourt, he took this decision ‘less by conviction that it was the right course than a realization that he had to bow to the general opinion’. This incident is very revealing. It shows that Napoleon’s hesitation at Düben was caused not only by his own lethargy, but by a confrontation with his increasingly recalcitrant marshals.
Price, Munro (2014-08-04). Napoleon: The End of Glory (Kindle Locations 3128-3152). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
21. ‘ 1813. Projets ministériels au depart de Dresde; ce qui les changea. Séjour à Düben. Paroles de sentiment du général Bertrand en revoyant l’empereur après Leipsick pour qu’il passe le Saal’, AN 95 AP carton 12, pièce 644.