Lessons on 1807: Maneuvers of Eylau and Friedland
By: Pierre Grenier
Translated by: Greg Gorsuch
Translator's Note: This small volume was writtensometime after the Franco-Prussian War and the Sino-Russian War but before World War I. It is written in a fashion that I suspect it to be something like a doctoral thesis at a war college. It deals mostly with the cavalry and Pierre Grenier was probably a cavalry officer. It is broadly broken down into "the Oder to Eylau" and the "Eylau to Friedland".
The Russian Offensive.
While the 19th, the Emperor said to Duroc: "we can consider the campaign finished" (see above), the 26th, he wrote: "It seems that the enemy advances; an engagement could take place in two or three days. This morning at Peterswalde, three leagues before Guttstadt, we took a major-general, Baron Korff, and three Russian battalions. My greatest concern is for provisions."
The question of subsistence alarmed the Emperor; he would constantly complain of it during the cantonments of the Grand Army. This question was indeed of utmost importance. Lack of food could deprive them of the freedom of action: the Emperor would be forced to withdraw to the left bank of the Vistula; then he would find it difficult to cover Danzig, Thorn and Warsaw. He might be obliged to spread out the cantonments of the Grand Army; then he might not be able to face the enemy in time. He could not assemble his army on Osterode as he wished. It would be impossible to bring forward part of his forces, or for all of his forces to counter a Russian offensive, either on his right or Warsaw. The Emperor therefore employed all his activity and energy to collect the food necessary for the Grand Army, first to provide for his cantonments, then to move it forward. He would then regain his freedom of action.
Returning to the letter addressed to Duroc:
Massena would therefore keep these Russian divisions concerned. Otherwise, a part of the enemy will be reinforced, on the other hand, the 5th Corps, which Massena had just taken command, would be of no use to the Grand Army.
Napoleon needed to be notified as soon as possible to all movements of the enemy against the 5th Corps to perform the maneuver that had been provided for in this case and which we talked about earlier.
The method is ingenious, but here the Emperor goes into detail which an army commander shouldn't bother with.
The same day, the 26th, Napoleon wrote to Rapp:
The Emperor sent, at 5 o'clock in the evening, the following letter to Soult. "Our position here will be nice when our food supply is well secured ... I hope that in four or five days, we're in a supportable situation, and that if we were to assemble on the beautiful plateau of Osterode, we will have food." The issue of food is paramount. Napoleon hoped that the corps would cover four or five days to withdraw from their positions and reach Osterode fighting.
Napoleon did not believe in a general offensive of the Russians and Prussians.
At 11:30, he wrote to Soult: "I hardly think that in this horrible weather, the enemy wants to engage with us, this is a strange blindness ...
We should not leave the cantonments until it appears that strength and prudence prescribes it. If you are presented with inferior forces, crush it there, and if, by your countenance, the enemy is warned that we won't abandon the position and we are determined to defend it. To cross a river and attack a line, must unmask the enemy forces." Ney and Bernadotte received the same instructions. The resistance of the corps of coverage guides the command on the intentions of the enemy. It will force the enemy to deploy, demonstrate its strength, especially when it has to cross a river and attack a line; it permits one to determine the place where one will find the center of gravity of the enemy forces, through the knowledge of where the enemy attack has been more persistent and more intense.
On February 27th, Napoleon wrote the following letters:
Napoleon wanted to take his line of communication through Marienburg.
If the enemy wants to simply feel out the Grand Army with similar expeditions this will make it more circumspect. They will take prisoners. Napoleon had always greatly advised this means to get information on the enemy.
On the 28th, Napoleon ordered him to "prepare a study that establishes the route of the army by Osterode, Marienburg, Dirschau, Neu-Stettin and Stettin and another from Dirschau by Bromberg and Warsaw."
The Emperor increasingly saw the possibility of implementing his project to turn the enemy's right. He highlights this idea in a letter written at 6 o'clock in the evening to Bernadotte:
Napoleon would execute a turning movement, with a pivot of maneuver on his right at Guttstadt, and a mass of maneuver to the left debouching at Braunsberg. In early 1812, he thought to realize this operation on a larger scale, in the case where the enemy would concentrate at Warsaw .
For that of 1807to be a successful strategic envelopment, it was necessary that the Russians move on the right of Napoleon. As the Grand Army had its line of communications through Thorn, they would probably try to cut it; but Napoleon had changed that and moved it by Marienburg; they would find themselves frustrated.
Napoleon at the beginning of 1806, had planned a similar maneuver. In a letter dated September 29, to the King of Holland, he saw where the Prussians, thinking his line of communications was through Mainz, sought to outflank his left; in this hypothesis, he would make his line of communications through Ulm , Nurernberg, Forchheim, moving on the left flank of the Prussians and drive them to the Rhine.
Returning to the letter sent to Bernadotte. "When this communication (with Marienburg) has been established, I intend to put Marshal Davout at Holland and charge him with guarding the bridges of Spanden and Alken. The tail of your corps could be placed in Mühlhausen. A division of cuirassiers of the reserve is ready to support you in Elbing. Looking by Elbing, by Marienwerder, even by the left bank of the Vistula, I find myself in a position to rest my troops and prepare for, in twenty-four hours, to take advantage of the first mistake that will destroy the enemy." The Grand Army would be ready to pounce on the enemy; it will emerge from its quarters when it discovers their line of operations on Konigsberg, as at the end of January.
At 6 o'clock in the evening, Napoleon wrote to Soult: "I will move the division of Espagne on Mohrungen, so it is within reach, with the division to Klein, to strike ... Of course my intention is that it does no service and it remains far behind ... I recommend to you not use the services of the dragoon division of Klein ... They are the reserve divisions that should only be used in an action." Napoleon, who had already split his dragoon divisions among the corps of coverage, sends a division of cuirassiers to the 4th Corps and the 1st Corps. All these divisions should not be employed for security or exploration services, but simply as a battle cavalry.
Marshal Ney will establish his headquarters between Deppen and Guttstadt, without attaching any importance to what the enemy can do on my right. The retreat of Marshal Ney is on Deppen." The enemy on this point will be taken in flank by a mass of maneuver debouching from Elditten.
On 1 March, the Emperor wrote to Berthier: "Give orders for the formation of a Polish division under the command of General Zajonchek. This division will be held in Neidenburg and trained as a corps of observation which links Osterode and Warsaw. My intention is that with his first regiment, it should arrive at Neidenburg six days later."
We shall see what the role of Zajonchek is later.
On March 1 in the morning, Davout received orders to move on Libemühl that he reached in the evening with two of his divisions. The third, that of Morand, remained at Allenstein to cover the right of Ney.
On March 2, Napoleon wrote to Soult, at 2 o'clock in the afternoon: "The news today is that the enemy has moved to Guttstadt on Queetz, the road to Deppen, with a column of infantry, cavalry and artillery ... I recommend you be filled with the spirit of the thing, to put aside any petty rivalries, and firmly fall on the flank of the enemy, if tomorrow morning it engages in a fight between Queetz and Guttstadt." Napoleon here applies his principles on the protection of rivers, we will see this developed further in a letter to Bernadotte, March 6.
Napoleon feigned to cover with the maneuver of one corps (the 6th) and two with the mass of maneuver (4th and 3rd Corps).
Soult also received orders to send a column on Wormditt, while the 1st Corps debouched on Spanden through Mehlsack.
"This expedition," the Emperor wrote to the marshals, "must be considered in the same respect as one would a sortie from a fortress." It was "intended to inspire terror."
The 3rd, Guttstadt was taken by Ney and the enemy abandoned their
positions on the Alle and from Wormditt up to Heilsberg.
On 4 March he wrote to Morand, who held Allenstein, "to know what happens on the side of Allenstein and know the movement of the enemy on his right ... The division of Milhaud's dragoons were ordered to be near him."
Nevertheless, all day Napoleon believed that the enemy was pushed back for some time; he recommended that Soult "to keep one or two bridgeheads, when he returned to his quarters and have them immediately available." He wrote to Davout: "My intention is to give the order to put you in Saalfeld." He did not follow his plan to place Davout in coverage; the mass of maneuver of the Emperor would therefore be more powerful.
But towards the end of the day, Napoleon became concerned about a rumor. "We heard talk of cannon fire today from Guttstadt," he wrote to Davout at 9 o'clock at night... "It seems that the enemy does something, some indications would suggest that it is a movement on my right; is it likely to be in force and decisive? it is that which is doubtful."
At the same time, the Emperor wrote to Soult:
On 5 March, the Emperor wrote to Soult:
... Everything leads one to believe that the enemy is retracing all the movements it had done on that side (the right of Napoleon) because it seems to me that it should be using Guttstadt as its pivot. But you should never guess what the enemy does. My intention is always the same," that he expressed in his letter of yesterday at 9 o'clock at night.
On this day Davout wrote to the Chief of Staff:
The Emperor, following this letter of Davout, wrote March 6, at 6 o'clock in the morning to Soult:
Despite the reassuring news that he had received from his right, Napoleon wrote to Morand March 6.
 See the Maneuver of Wilna, by M. the General Bonnal.
the Maneuver of Jena, of M. the General Bonnal.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2010
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