Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

The Campaign of 1814: Chapter 7, Part III

By: Maurice Weil

Translated by: Greg Gorsuch


(after the Imperial and Royal War Archives at Vienna)






Movements of the Ist Corps.  --Notes on the service of the outposts.  --The flying corps of Thurn.  --The Ist Corps was marching on Troyes, when it received orders to make camp.  The cuirassiers and grenadiers of Nostitz settled in Saint-Germain and Saint-Leger, the division of Count Ignatius Hardegg at Sommeval, that of the Prince of Wied at Lirey, that of Bianchi at Javernant.  Liechtenstein, with only part of his people, moved to Auxon; his cavalry brigade of Prince Gustav of Hesse-Homburg and the infantry regiment of Reuss-Plauen formed the provisional garrison of Troyes.

Toll furnishes us, in regards to how the advanced troops of the Ist Corps performed their service, with information so singular, they would be unrepeatable if they were not specifically confirmed by the dispatches of Lieutenant-Colonel Count Thurn to the Generalissimo.  Wanting to give a precise account of the situation, Toll had arrived very early near  Prince Maurice Liechtenstein in Saint-Parres-lès-Vaudes:  "I found him," he tells us,[1] "in a dressing gown, taking his coffee and smoking his pipe.  I announced the arrival of the Generalissimo, and it was then that he gave his troops the order to be ready to march.  Taking to reconnoiter for myself the position of the enemy, I moved towards Les Maisons-Blanches, where I was, according to the words of Liechtenstein, to find the outposts of the French.  En route, beyond La Vacherie, I met a major of the Austrian staff returning from reconnaissance and telling me that there was nobody at Les Maisons-Blanches."  Lieutenant Colonel Thurn corroborates the correctness of the assertion of Toll.  Thurn, who was 11 o'clock in the morning at Bouilly, wrote at that time to Schwarzenberg[2] telling him that "Napoleon left from Troyes, slept at Grès, and that his army is retreating along the two roads of Paris."  Thus, there is every reason to believe that if he had earlier knowledge of this great news, the Lieutenant-Colonel would have hastened to give immediate notice to the Generalissimo.

Note in this context, how much the role of the small corps under his command and service relationships of the Lieutenant Colonel had of being poorly thought out.  Indeed, at 7 o'clock at night, Field Marshal-Lieutenant Count Ignatius Hardegg requested from Sommeval that the Generalissimo return to him Lieutenant-Colonel Count Thurn's corps, or, conversely, whether to continue to push before and send it to Saint-Florentin.[3] But a few hours earlier, at 4 o'clock, Thurn, who was at Messon,[4] about to debouch on the road from Sens to Troyes, wrote to the chief that "in order to give some rest to his men and his horses, he went back to Saint-André, near Troyes, and expected the direct orders of the Generalissimo."  Under such circumstances it would be difficult to maintain contact with the enemy and to observe its movements; the existence of a flying corps of this sort, obeying no person, responsible only to report to the Generalissimo, was a danger rather than a guarantee for the generals operating behind the points they had every reason to believe were occupied by these partisans.

The Russian and Prussian guards and reserves did not go beyond Clérey.  Barclay remained in Bar-sur-Seine. Schwarzenberg made his headquarters at Troyes.  Two battalions of Austrian grenadiers and the Preobrazhensky (Преображенский) Regiment took their place in service from that time.

The continual rains had made roads impassable, swelled the lesser streams; the infantry had the greatest difficulty in dragging itself to its quarters; it had spread along the roads most of its men, of whom only few joined their corps before 8 February.  The artillery, which could only used pavement, was obliged in consequence to take many detours.

Actions taken by the Emperor at Nogent 7 February. --Anyway, excuses made based on bad weather are the less serious, less valid, because the same rains which, according to Schwarzenberg, were the only causes of slowness of his march, had not delayed the movement of the French columns.  The Emperor was not a man to be deterred by bad weather or rain and to lose an almost unexpected opportunity that presented itself to him.  The negligence and slackness of the Allies would allow him, through his genius and his indomitable energy, not only to save his army and rescue it from the dangers which threatened in the aftermath of La Rothière, but also to prepare and soon be able to execute one of his best maneuvers, a move that would put the Army of Silesia within an inch of its life.

And yet what difficulties had he not overcome!  As Schwarzenberg and the Allied generals, he had against him the bad weather, which was dissolving and demoralizing, all the more formidable for him as he had taken on a beaten army, composed largely of conscripts and completely discouraged by a long and painful retreat.  The couriers brought him the unfavorable news, that Liège and Aix-La-Chapelle were, as Macdonald had anticipated, occupied immediately after his departure.  Antwerp was blockaded.  Bülow had entered Brussels, forcing Maison to fall back on our old boundaries.  Châlons was in the hands of Blücher.  Macdonald, unable to close the road to Paris to the Field Marshal, would no doubt find it very difficult to stay in Épernay for only a few hours.

Maintaining his calm and composure, more than ever master of himself, Napoleon fortify houses, mined the bridge of Nogent, preparing to hold at any event as he held at Troyes, and stop Schwarzenberg on the Seine as he has done on the Aube.  And as he dictated almost hourly the movements to Berthier that his marshals would make, he still found the time and the fortitude necessary to look after the spirits in Paris.  In the midst of all these anxieties, still increased by the bad news he received from the Congress of Châtillon, he expounded his ideas to Joseph and tells him how to rapidly constitute a respectable reserve in Paris, a reserve which must be available for the 10th; that he thinks little of the news spread on the march of the Prussians on the La Ferté-sous-Jouarre and Meaux, and that preparing for the execution of his movement between the Seine and the Marne, he announced the departure of Marmont for Sézanne. At the same time, he wrote to Cambacérès and said:  "I see that instead of supporting the Empress, you are discouraged.  What is with this Miserere and these 40 hours of prayers in the chapel?  Are we going crazy in Paris? The Police of Minister says and does stupid things."  Thinking about everything and neglecting no detail, along with directing the headquarters and the grand artillery park on Rozoy and Nangis, he prescribes to Count Daru, Minister of War Administration, to send daily, by the direct road from Brie-Comte-Robert and Nangis to Nogent-sur-Seine, 30,000 rations of bread biscuit, cattle and brandy.  General Saint-Germain, to be placed soon at the head of the 2nd Cavalry Corps, received the order to take command of all the cavalry of Meaux, to stay with them at Meaux and La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, while he would seek to fall on the rear of all that seek to debouch at Meaux.

Marmont was already set in motion with his two divisions of infantry and the cavalry of Generals Doumerc and Piquet; that of Bordesoulle being all that was left in Nogent.  The Duke of Raguse was instructed to push on Sézanne and send out a large vanguard on Vitry and strong reconnaissance on Montmirail.  The poor condition of roads would prevent, indeed, going beyond Villenauxe and Fontaine-Denis, and the light cavalry of General Piquet, followed by an infantry battalion, could only go up to Barbonne.  Victor occupied, behind Romilly, the heights of Crancey, Saint-Hilaire and Gélannes.  His left was on the Seine, and his right (the 5th Cavalry Corps of Milhaud) went, by the old road from Troyes to Nogent, to Saint-Martin from Bossenay on the Ardusson.  General Leval was at Provins; his reconnaissance pushed on both banks of the Aube to Saron-sur-Aube.  Pajol was ordered to move on Sens and Pont-sur-Yonne.

At 3 o'clock in the afternoon, the Emperor's ideas were more clear and more precise still; he thought more and more to move against Blucher: "Tell me," he wrote to Marmont, "in your dispatch tonight, that I expect to receive before midnight, the road conditions.  I think, according to the news I receive, starting at daybreak with the infantry and cavalry of the Guard and Leval's division, that I will head from Provins at the point where I move; but as I cannot make a wrong move, I need specific information that you send me from Sézanne."

From that moment, moreover, the march to Montmirail was so decided in his mind he already announced it in his letter of 7 February at 4 o'clock, to Joseph.  Three hours later, he gives to his brother the new order to stop the prayers of 40 hours and Miserere.  "If we go through so many antics," he wrote, "we should all fear of death.  There's an old saying that priests and doctors make for a painful death.  The moment is difficult without doubt ... The evil spirit of Talleyrand and men who wanted the nation to sleep prevented me from making the call to arms, and here is what is the result.  In this type of situation, we must show confidence and take bold steps."  Then, returning on military affairs and as if from that moment, previewing the expected role, the fatal role that the town of Soissons would play a little less than a month later, he added:  "It would be possible for parties of cavalry to go around Soissons.  The enemy have an immense cavalry which has flooded France ... I guess the Minister of War gave positive orders that Soissons defends itself."  Finally, he concluded this dispatch with these words in a postscript:  " Keep the Empress gay, she is dying of consumption."

But this day, already so full, was not yet over for the Emperor:  at 9 o'clock at night, he gave to the Chief of Staff instructions for the next day.  Mortier, which he supposed would arrive the night of the 7th on the heights of Granges, was to go to Nogent-sur-Seine with the 2nd Division of the Old Guard, the cavalry of General de France and leave, at Pont-sur-Seine, Gérard who, would act as the rear guard with his division and the 5th Cavalry Corps, relieving, in Saint-Hilaire, the troops of Victor.  The Duke of Bellune had to be ready to march to Nogent, as was the Duke of Reggio.  The Emperor wanted to have the morning of the 8th at Nogent, the Young Guard, the Old Guard and the two divisions of Victor.  The Old Guard and the two divisions of Young Guard of Ney had to be ready to leave Nogent at 5 o'clock in the morning, as soon as they received the order.  To be able to execute, from 8 in the morning, with the troops of Marmont, a division of Spain and Guard, the movement he meditated against Blücher, orders were taken Mortier to cross the 8th, in the first hour, the bridge of Nogent.[5]

The First Congress of Châtillon.  --Finally, when he had completed these dispositions, he received from Châtillon dispatches announcing that the Allies, refusing to accept the proposed bases in Frankfurt, would not agree to peace if the Emperor was resigned to go to the old boundaries of France.  It was with great difficulty that Berthier and the Duke of Bassano managed to keep Napoleon, determined to reject such conditions, from permitting an evasive answer so Caulaincourt could continue negotiations.

The Congress of Châtillon had in fact held on that day its first session; but, frankly, neither the Allies, nor the Emperor,  ever thought to make peace.  The Allies, because the victory of La Rothière had intoxicated them; because their march on Paris seemed to be a stroll; because the Emperor of Russia was above all to make a triumphal entry; and finally, because the royalists, already listening to their advice, were working on the downfall of Napoleon. The Emperor, because after, through the negligence and slackness of the Allies he managed to save his army compromised by the loss of the battle of La Rothière, foresaw the possibility of making them pay dearly for this one day success; because in every way that he was followed after his defeat, he took an exact account of the projects of his opponents, one of which took six days to execute a 40 kilometer march, while the other, more ardent and anxious, unable to continue champing at the bit, rushing headlong into the trap that the Emperor was going to tender, undertook a flank march of great imprudence, staggered and disseminated his corps as if he had destroyed the French army.  Finally, because, as he had already written to Caulaincourt, 4 January:  The most unfortunate circumstances of the war could not make him agree to ratify what he considered a dishonor, and a disgrace to France.

Far from thinking of peace, neither the Allies nor the Emperor even believed at this point of the possibility of a truce.  If Caulaincourt spoke shyly of the armistice in one of his letters to Metternich, Alexander was more emphatic and sharper.  In a note, all in his own hand, he declared "that an armistice could not be advantageous to us as the French ... moreover, the time to stop is a long way coming ..."

Without dwelling further on the details of these negotiations, it suffices to say that, while Caulaincourt reported to Napoleon of the session of the 7th and the claims of the plenipotentiary, he was informed on 9 February, even before receiving the reply of his sovereign, of the momentary cessation, required by the Czar, of the conference sessions. They were not re-started until ten days after the first meeting, 17 February, at a time, it is true, where the situation had completely changed in appearance.

It is, moreover, quite easy to find the cause of this sudden disruption of the Congress that had just opened.

Lord Castlereagh and Lord Burghersh, better placed than anyone to know what was happening, took care to give us a precise account of these events.  Since the last days of January, if we may believe their Memoirs and correspondence, a session did not sit, either in Parliament or the House of Lords, without their sending ministers to ask on the final aim and object of the war.  The Whig opposition was gaining ground.  The greatness of Napoleon was openly acknowledged.  The English character, friendly to all that is great, beginning to feel an admiration for an enemy whose adversity was such that the fear he had inspired to this day, gave way to admiration.  His overthrow was not wanted.  It was only wished that France should return to the boundaries it had before 1792.  One saw, however, a jealous eye to the considerable increase of influence and power that this war brought to Russia.  It was wondered whether England should help increase this influence.  The English Parliament then weighed in cold blood, as it never stopped doing, the power relations of states.  It is the policy of British interests.  They think of themselves, not consulting others.  Therefore, in a conference held 28 January in Langres, Lord Castlereagh insisted on opening negotiations and supported by Metternich, he eventually got Alexander to cede, who had for him the support of Prussia.

The peace party was able to obtain the opening of the Congress; but the Tsar was not a man to accept failure so easily.  The instructions he gave to the Russian and Prussian plenipotentiaries would provide a striking contrast and question everything.

8 February.  --Immobility of the Army of Bohemia.  --The Army of Bohemia seemed, moreover, to have done, up to the 8th, just what was needed to facilitate the implementation of the project that Napoleon had meditated on for several days, allowing him to operate with full freedom against the Army of Silesia.

 Another period of inactivity began, indeed, on 8 February for the main army of the Allies.  The Generalissimo thought it necessary to give forty-eight hours of rest to his troops who, having traveled only a little way and only having, with the exception of the Vth Corps, petty skirmishes, were worn out and weakened by an infinite number of movements in place, mostly useless as each other and mostly countermanded as soon as they were started to be implemented.  The corps of the Army of Bohemia remained in quarters the 8th quarters that they had occupied the night before, taking advantage of the halt to collect stragglers and be joined by their artillery.  It was thought sufficient to fill the day with deciding the subsequent movement of two army corps to Sens and two others to Nogent.[6]  Only the advanced guard of the Ist Corps (light division of Count Ignatius Hardegg) and the IVth Corps was to commence on the 9th to head towards Sens, the first by Auxon, the second by Villeneuve-l'Archevêque; the same day the Vth and VIth corps were to send parties, the first by Traînel, the second by Méry, towards Nogent.  Finally, the light division of Prince Maurice Liechtenstein was responsible for driving the French partisans from Auxerre and covering the extreme left of the army during the movement on Sens, that it would execute forty-eight hours later.

The Ist Corps remained absolutely motionless; but as the side roads were impassable, its heavy artillery arriving in La Trinité (north and a short distance from the forest of Aumont) had to reverse to Troyes and take the main road from Auxerre by Saint-Florentin, to gain the cantonments of the corps.

In the IIIrd Corps, nobody moved, except Fresnel, who went to Saint-Pouange and to Roncenay, and the headquarters of Gyulay, transferred from Troyes to the first of these two villages.

In the IVth Corps, the immobility was complete.

The Vth Corps also remained in their positions of the day before, although the French rearguard was, on the morning of the 8th, leaving Les Grès to fall back on Les Granges, and the troops who kept watch on the edge of Méry located on the left bank of the Seine, had done so, also, on the night of the 7th to 8th, retiring in Pont-sur-Seine.

Cavalry skirmish at  Romilly.  --Pahlen immediately occupied the left bank of the Seine and Mesgrigny, 3 kilometers south of Méry, with a few companies of infantry of the vanguard; he followed the enemy to Nogent with the Cossacks, he had thrown on the left bank of the Seine; the Cossacks came to the extreme French rearguard on the other side of Châtres, trying unsuccessfully to enter at Romilly and were quite strongly repulsed until they were joined by four squadrons of the 2nd Bavarian Light Horse[7] whose vedettes established themselves in the evening at the level of La Belle-Étoile.

The bulk of the VIth Corps had arrived at Arcis; Pahlen had done worked on the restoration of the bridge of Méry, which was completed in the evening.  As the French, in retiring, had destroyed all the passages of the Aube downstream from Arcis, Pahlen had been compelled to establish a pontoon bridge a short distance from Baudement, allowing him to send on the right bank of the Aube Prince Lubomirsky with a party of 100 horses to scour the country between Sézanne and Villenauxe.[8]
The guards and reserves benefited from this day to get closer to Troyes.  The infantry of the Russian Guard went to Vaudes; the 1st Cuirassier Division and the cavalry brigade of the Prussian Guard to Saint-Parres-les-Vaudes, the infantry brigade of the Prussian Guard to Virey-sous-Bar, the division of light cavalry division of the Russian Guard to Lantages, the grenadiers to Neuville-sur-Seine, the 2nd and 3rd divisions of grenadiers to Riceys.

The Emperor of Russia, King of Prussia, Barclay de Tolly and Schwarzenberg were to stay with the General Headquarters and their military houses.

Letter from the Emperor of Russia.  --Upon his arrival at Troyes, Emperor Alexander was not a little surprised to receive a deputation which, for the first time since he had set foot in France, issued in an address their wishes for the restoration of royalty.  The response of the Tsar was hardly likely to encourage the hopes of the signatories to this address: "Before we deal with Bourbons, there is the matter of defeating Napoleon."  But on the other hand, the Emperor of Russia had already given the day before a striking proof of the noble and generous sentiments that animated him and brought him, even during the invasion, some popularity.  Schwarzenberg informed of the evacuation of Troyes, knowing on the other hand, that French troops were poorly handled, immediately had written (in French), by Prince Volkonsky, the following letter,[9] "His Majesty the Emperor, charges me to thank Your Highness for the attention he was willing to show by announcing the occupation of Troyes , asks of Your Highness that he wishes that his headquarters not be established there tomorrow and that he send someone after the Crown Prince of Württemberg, with strict orders to spare the city as much as possible and to maintain the utmost discipline.  This measure appears to His Majesty all the more necessary as the inhabitants here assure us that yesterday the town of Troyes was looted by the French; therefore, being on good behavior on our part can affect a lot of the spirit of the nation and make them feel the difference in the treatment that we give."[10]

State of the French Army.  --Misery and hunger were the only excuses for these reprehensible acts of marauding; but it is for this reason that the Allies should have acted aggressively, at a time when their inaction, or at least their slowness served to marvel Napoleon.  The Emperor had indeed managed to take a more critical position, but he had not yet been able to give his army of conscripts discouraged by the failure of La Rothière, demoralized by the retreat, exhausted by hunger and the fatigue of all sorts, the confidence and energy that was beginning to abandon even his old regiments.  The correspondence of the Emperor is there to give us an accurate picture of the situation, to show us that any vigorous effort attempted by the Allies would have sufficed to tip the scale of the disorganization of the French army and to force the Emperor to abandon his plans.  The distress of the army at that time was so horrible that the Emperor[11]  reproached  on morning of the 8th Marmont's stop in Fontaine-Denis instead of having continued on Sézanne, he said in conclusion: "Collect a lot of bread, but do not keep everything for yourself. You have three times more than you need and we starve."[12]

Measures taken by Napoleon.  --Organization given the corps left on the Seine.  --Despite this, the Emperor did not give up anything  on his march against Blücher; but before heading towards the Marne, he recognized the need to organize the defense of the Seine, to create a 7th Corps under the Duke of Reggio with 7th and 9th Divisions from Spain and reunited  Leval's Division at Provins, the division of Boyer at Nangis,[13] forming with his cavalry, which Grouchy was to become commander in chief, not 6, but 4 corps:  the 1st under Bordesoulle, the 2nd  under Saint-Germain, the 5th under Milhaud and the 6th under the Count of Valmy.[14]  He did not, unfortunately, resolve to invest any of his marshals as the command in chief of his forces, and confined himself to defining in broad terms the area of action specifically assigned to each of them.  He therefore left on the river Seine, in addition to the 7th Corps of Oudinot, the Duke of Trévise, charged with the 2nd Old Guard Division and 5th Young Guard of guard Nogent, to mask his movement and to be ready to come at the first order to reunite on the Marne, and Victor with the 2nd Corps, the two divisions of General Gérard and three divisions of the 5th Cavalry Corps.  He sent word to the Duke of Bellune of the presence of Mortier at Nogent, of Pajol near Montereau and Pont-sur-Yonne, of Allix at Sens and of Oudinot at Provins and Nangis.  He informed him also that if he were seriously threatened, he was to fall back on Nogent and on the left bank "but that this operation would be unfortunate since, the bridge of Bray being destroyed, there would be no place to sally forth to impose on the enemy, and that he must therefore remain at the rear, where he was placed, and at Nogent."[15]

Movement of the Cossacks on Nemours and Montargis.  --Near Sens, nothing special happened.  Pajol was with 1200 horse, 1000 infantry and an artillery company in Saint-Denis, Soucy, Gisy-les-Nobles and Fleurigny, on the roads from Pont to Villeneuve-l'Archevêque and Nogent-sur-Seine. He had sent a picket of 25 horses to Traînel to assure communication and correspondence, and a party of 200 horses to Dollot and Chéroy, both to scout the countryside and to see what was happening between Nemours and Montargis.  Finally, he had left General Pacthod at Montereau with 3,000 National Guardsmen.  Meanwhile, a detachment of Austrian dragoons had arrived at Villeneuve-l'Archevêque to prepare shelter and food for 20,000 men coming from Troyes.[16]

Platov,[17] had crossed the Yonne at Villeneuve-le-Roi, heading on Courtenay and from there on Nemours and Montargis.  Further south, General Moreau. the very man who had, a month later, given up so infamously at Soissons, announced to Allix that he was threatened at Auxerre and that, far from being able to count on the locals, there was reason to believe that there they shared in a plot to seize his person as soon as he would defend the city against the attacks of the Allies.

As of 8 February, Allied scouts and Cossack parties had started to extend seriously towards the Loing.  "The aide-de-camp of General Gentil de Saint-Alphonse, en route to rejoin his general in the Army of Italy, with great difficulty escaped the Cossacks, who took from him two orderlies and six horses between Nemours and Montargis.  100 Cossacks arrived at La Selle-sur-le-Bied and at La Chapelle-Saint-Sépulcre, and took the messenger bearing dispatches from Montargis to General Allix.  The gendarmes, surprised by the Russian scouts, just had time to save themselves on Nemours.  Finally, another Cossack party, after pushing on Ferrières had left before the town an observation post and headed on Nemours.[18]

9 February.  --Immobility of the bulk of the Army of Bohemia.  --Reconnaissance of Sens.  --If we except a few engagements of outposts, the day of 9 February would still be a rest day for the troops of the Great Army.  The leftward movement and direction of the march by Fontainebleau had only been decided upon in principle.

The IVth Corps, appointed to serve as a mobile wing, was none the less in its quarters.  One wanted to make contact with the enemy again near Sens.  Major Count Wratislaw with two squadrons of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Hussar Regiment, would effect this from Villeneuve-l'Archevêque up to the gates of Sens and learn that General Allix occupied the town with about 1500 men.  The other squadrons of Archduke Ferdinand Hussars and the 5th Württemberg Jäger zu Pferd Regiment formed the cavalry screen and the union with the Vth Corps, marching on Traînel.  They send a party to the right by Vallières (north of Thorigny), to Marcilly-le-Hayer, while another party went to the left to Cerisiers, with orders to establish communication with the light division of the Prince Maurice Liechtenstein, coming from Auxerre.[19]


[1] BERNHARDI, Denkwürdigkeiten aus dem Leben des Grafen Toll, t. IV. p. 352.

[2] Thurn to Prince Schwarzenberg, Bouilly, 7 February 11 o'clock in the morning. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 184 a.)

[3] Count Ignatius Hardegg to Prince Schwarzenberg, Sommeval, 7 February, 7 o'clock at night. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 191.)

[4] Thurn to Schwarzenberg, Messon, 7 February, 4 o'clock in the evening. (Ibid., II. 184. 6.)

[5] Correspondence, no 21193 to 21207, and Records of Berthier. (Archives of the War.)

To have an accurate picture of the morale condition of the army of the Emperor, the army with which he would undertake his memorable operations against Blücher, just read the dispatch below, taken a little later by the Allies, when it captured, 3 March, the papers of Gérard, and in which the Chief of Staff presents to the general the austerity measures that the Emperor decreed against marauders and stragglers.

"Chief of Staff to General Gérard.  --Nogent-sur-Seine, 7 February 1814."

"Monsieur General Gérard, I send you an order that the Emperor has given in relation to stragglers and marauders to be decimated.  The instruction of His Majesty is as an order of the day should you feel the need for this measure. The officers are included in this order.  Recommend to commanding officers to understand that if the order is not put in positive terms that offending officers will also be shot, this is so not to dishonor the title of officer in the eyes of the soldiers so the generic word soldier should be understood to mean everybody."

Following the order is the formation of the five gendarmerie columns of 20 gendarmes each, one going to Provins, one between Nogent and Sézanne, one between Nogent and Bray, one between Nogent and Nangis to stop the fugitives, conduct them to the nearest prison, bring them to the provost and decimate them.  (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 207, and Records of Berthier.)

[6] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im Monate Februar. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1).

[7] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1), and Wrede to Schwarzenberg, Barberey, 8 February (Ibid., II, 216):

"Conforming with the orders of Your Highness, I pursued the enemy that I encountered near Châtres.  The 2nd Regiment Bavarian Light Horse, (under) Prince Taxis, took 120 men.  The rear guard of the enemy continued its retreat and. according to a report I just received, it took a position at Granges.  Attacked by the same regiment of cavalry, it was shaken and 150 men taken."

"The same report tells me the retreat of the enemy is towards Nogent ... I am sending to Your Highness a native of Troyes, but coming from Paris, he left the 5th, and he will give your Highness some interesting news."

[8] Wittgenstein to Schwarzenberg, Charmont and Arcis-sur-Aube, 8 February 181 4 (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 215, and II, ad., 215).  --"Charmont, 8 February 1814."

"I have quartered my troops around Arcis."

"After a short cannonade General Count Pahlen,  yesterday took the part of the town of Méry which is located on this side of the river.  The enemy had destroyed the bridge and occupies the other part of town.  General Pahlen sought to chase them today, repairing the bridge and pursuing the enemy to Nogent.  I will also cross the Aube at Plancy with the greater part of this vanguard of Pahlen, and I have directed it along the right bank on Nogent, for observing the movements of the enemy, especially against Blücher, and preventing it from detaching from everyone against the Field Marshal."

"Throughout the day yesterday, troops and wagons filed from Troyes on Nogent."

"If one has not given another destination for Seslavin, who was previously responsible for observing the side of Nogent and Provins, I can tell your Highness what happens on that side."

"Arcis, 8 February 1814.  --General Count Pahlen informs me that the enemy has evacuated the rest of Méry.  He immediately crossed the infantry that he has established at Mesgrigny.  The bridge is repaired and has already served the crossing of a Cossack regiment, which he conducted on Pont, with orders to follow the enemy."

"The road from here to Plancy and from Plancy to the right bank of the Aube and Seine are flooded and impassable. Those which pass by Sharon-sur-Aube are not much better as a result of the thaw.  Should I move on Nogent by Méry?  I sent Prince Lubomirsky with a few hundred horses to monitor the right bank of the Seine. Due to road conditions, it is absolutely impossible to send artillery."

[9] Journal of  Sent Notes, no 61. (Archives of Saint-Petersburg.)

[10] It is curious to see that at the same time the Emperor Alexander believed in the immediate fall of Paris and disturbed by the slowness of Schwarzenberg, he wrote to Blücher, to prevent him from entering the first, the following letter:

 "I think I should warn you, Marshal, after my coordination with H. M. the King, we thought it would be useful at the approach of the Allied armies to Paris, the troops were quartered around the city, but not actually in the city.  I wish that every passage of troops through Paris is avoided until the arrival of the King and myself, and that those who are with us entering the capital first are from our suite.  I would like very much, Monsieur Marshal, that this determination, made by mutual agreement with your Sovereign, is generally performed well and you would oblige me by making it strictly observed by the various corps that are under your orders.  Political considerations of the utmost importance make such action necessary."  (Journal of Sent Dispatches, no 62, Archives of Saint-Petersburg)

[11] Correspondence, no 21208.  --The Emperor insisted even more strongly on this serious issue of food, and drew a picture of the heartbreaking misery of his army, in the letter (Correspondence, no 21214) that he addressed to Daure, Chief Commissary of the Army, at Sézanne, from Nogent, 8 February 1814:

"The army is starving, all reports, that you make that say it is nourished, are fabricated.   12 men died of starvation, although everything has been done to put fire and sword on the road to gain subsistence.  However, if I believe your reports, the army is fed.  The Duke of Bellune has nothing, General Gérard has nothing, the cavalry of the Guard is starving.  It is a double evil, but without remedy when one becomes an illusion, authority becomes undermined.  It would have been easy to distribute one pound of rice in Troyes and follow with meat."

"We cannot take any action when the administration is wrong and misleads the Imperial staff.  Let me know the status of rice that exists in the various army corps, let me know what happened tonight.  But give me the report accurately, without duplicating what exists, and let me know what to expect at the depots.  Finally, in the absence of bread, you should distribute flour to the troops.  Send to General Gérard, who is the rear guard, an equipment company responsible for hay with flour; he can make bread at Pont-sur-Seine and the neighboring villages and feed his troops."

[12] We have intentionally ignored the few affairs that the cavalry of Marmont had in his march to Sézanne, with the enemy cavalry.  We will be talking instead of this in the next chapter when we examine the operations of the Army of Silesia.

[13] General Boyer, while informing the Minister of War he would be the 9th at Melun, warned him that his troops lacked shoes, clothes and cloaks.  (Archives of the War.)

[14] Organization of the French cavalry in 4 corps, as of 9 February:

1st CORPS: General Count Bordesoulle.

1st Light Cavalry Division, General Merlin.  --1st Brigade, General Wathier; 2nd Brigade, N. .. (later General Guyon and Delort).

Division of Heavy Cavalry, General Bordesoulle.  --General Thiry and Laville.

2nd CORPS: General Count Saint-Germain.

2nd Light Cavalry Division, General Maurin.  --3rd Brigade, General Dommanget; 4th Brigade, General Delort.

2nd Division of Heavy Cavalry, General Saint-Germain.  --3rd Brigade, General Blancard, 4th Brigade, General Sopransi.

5th CORPS: General Count Milhaud.

3rd Light Cavalry Division, General Baron Piré.  --Brigadier Generals Subervie and Coëtlosquet.

3rd Division of Heavy Cavalry, General Briche.  --Brigadier Generals Montelégier and Ludot.

6th Division of Heavy cavalry, General Lhéritier.  --Brigadier Generals Lamothe and Collaert.

6th CORPS: General Count de Valmy (son of Kellermann).

4th Light Cavalry Division, General Jacquinot.  --Brigadier Generals Ameil and Wolf.

5th Division of Heavy Cavalry, General Trelliard.  --Brigadier Generals Ismert and Ormancey.

6th Division of Heavy Cavalry, General Roussel.  --Brigadier General Sparre and Rigaud.

Division of Guards of Honor, General Count de France.

4 regiments and the 10th Hussars.

[15] Correspondance, no 21215, and Records of Berthier. (Archives of the War.)

It is worth recalling here that Gérard had to take a position on the 8th in the morning, between Romilly and Saint-Hilaire; that Victor was at Pont-sur-Seine, and the Chief of Staff  who warned Grouchy and Milhaud of the intelligence of 500 to 600 Austrian horse leaving the 8th in the morning from Saint-Lupien (Somme-Fontaine) to Marcilly-le-Hayer.

[16] Correspondence of generals Pajol and Allix with the Chief of Staff and the Minister of War, Major Legros, commander of Montargis, with General Hulin. (Archives of the War.)

[17] Platov, leaving Villeneuve-le-Roi (Villeneuve-sur-Yonne), had thought it necessary to send the two curious letters to Thurn (originals in French) that we have reproduced below:

1o "Villeneuve-le-Roy, on 7 February 1814.  --I read the letter you sent, Colonel, to General Kaisarov.  The news, you give of the enemy's retreat in the vicinity of Troyes, comply with all the ones I have in my party.  It is precisely this reason which forces me to reiterate my invitation to you to progress as fast as possible on Villeneuve-le-Roy, that I leave tomorrow morning.  I repeated the same invitation to General Count (Ignatz) Hardegg, and I cannot sufficiently present to you the consequence of the position that I give up, as the one by which I can have communication with the army, that probably the enemy, who are found in Sens, will not fail to occupy at the same time."

"I advise you, Colonel, taking my direction by the left bank of the Yonne from Fontainebleau, I leave in Villeneuve-le-Roy many of my wounded and sick, that if you do not hurry to occupy, will fall into enemy hands, and which would easily be avoided when you send a small detachment to take possession of the city, that I urge you on your personal responsibility in telling you that I send copy of this to H. H. the Prince Marshal."

"I warn you at the same time that along on the entire course of the right bank of the Yonne there is no enemy anywhere, except a few insignificant individuals remaining at Auxerre with forty gendarmes."

"If, moreover, in your directions, Colonel, you are strictly prescribed, but at the same time are permitted to approach from Sens, in this case I would suggest to you to advance your patrols at least up to the city leaving a post on this side of the Villeneuve-l'Archevêque, which is sufficient to impose (a) on a part of the garrison of Sens to take possession of Villeneuve-le-Roy."

2o "Villeneuve-le-Roy, 8 February 1814.  --This is a second letter that I send you, Monsieur Major, in a few hours of time because the subject is of such importance."

"I leave with my corps in a moment in the direction of Fontainebleau, by the left bank of the Yonne.  I have long guarded the post of Villeneuve-Le-Roy as one of greatest consequence and as the only communication that serves me to our armies.  I am leaving many wounded and sick in my belief that some troops of our Allies will occupy the city."

"With that, I urge you, Monsieur Major, immediately after the receipt of my letter, to take moves at least on Brinon, from where, observing Auxerre, you will occupy with a detachment of your party, Villeneuve-le-Roy, which the enemy will not fail to take possession on arriving from Sens, soon after I have gone and making prisoners all I left there."

"You see, sir, from this, that the case is too urgent for me not to impress upon you to execute, that what I reveal to you, and I warn you that if this happened, you will be solely responsible, since the post of Tonnerre where you are of no use, since the enemy is found only in a few insignificant individuals at Auxerre and not at all in Saint-Florentin, and farther up in the same direction, and nothing can stop you acting on what I propose."

"In leaving Villeneuve-le-Roy, there is still justification.  It is from there that dispatch couriers arrive and depart from Châtillon-sur-Seine to Napoleon's headquarters.  Despite the difficulty you have experienced up to Sens, with no intermediate post, these gentlemen you have seen, lack in total those of our troops up to said city, which could give real benefits which the enemy would not fail to enjoy.  I'll be waiting for your answer, sir, in relation to my proposal and also tell you that I shall send a copy thereof to headquarters, where I pray to send my two packages and the one received above."

(a) Impose is obviously a mistake in handwriting.  Platov wanted to say prevent.

[18] Major Legros to General Hulin, and sub-prefect of Montargis to prefect of Loiret. (Archives of the War.)

"The sub-prefect of Montargis to prefect of Loiret.  --Montargis, 8 February 1814."

"In the afternoon, 100 Cossacks appeared before Ferrières, taking care to put vedettes on the right and left.  With the speed of lightning, one of the leaders was next to the mayor; he stayed a few minutes.  The troop departed to the field, taking guides to get on the highway, heading to Nemours."

[19] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im Monate Februar. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1),


Placed on the Napoleon Series: April 2012


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