Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

The Campaign of 1814: Chapter 7, Part IV

By: Maurice Weil

Translated by: Greg Gorsuch

__________________

THE CAMPAIGN of 1814
(after the Imperial and Royal War Archives at Vienna)

________________

CAVALRY OF THE ALLIED ARMIES
DURING THE CAMPAIGN OF 1814.

__________

CHAPTER VII.

OPERATIONS OF THE GREAT ARMY OF BOHEMIA IN THE VALLEY OF THE SEINE, from 3 to 16 February.

Cavalry actions at Granges, at Romilly and at Gélannes.  --With the Vth Corps, the light division of Count Antoine Hardegg, relieved at the outposts by some troops of the Bavarian division of General La Motte pushed up to the level of Granges.  It found General Ilovaysky XII, with two Cossack regiments of the advanced guard of Pahlen (VIth Corps) and two regiments of Bavarian light horse, skirmishing with the French since morning.  At 4 o'clock, Count Hardegg pressed forward General Ilovaysky, who he supported with four squadrons of the Schwarzenberg Uhlans.  The latter, bypassing the village of Les Granges, headed to Romilly, where the French rearguard (two battalions and a cavalry regiment) seemed willing to stand firm.  Attacked by the Schwarzenberg Uhlans and Cossacks of General Lisanevich, this rearguard, having repulsed the Russian cavalry, had to cede the high ground near Romilly and fall back on the left bank of La Gélannes, having cut the bridges.

The night came in the meantime, on the vanguard of Count Antoine Hardegg, whose main body bivouacked in front of Granges, standing on the heights southwest of Romilly.

At the same time, the Bavarian division of General Rechberg moved on Gélannes, and his cavalry under the command of General von Vieregg, tried in vain to dislodge the French from the heights of Saint-Hilaire.

The La Motte Division was between Charmoy and Traînel.[1]

Movements of the VIth Corps.  --Wittgenstein would have liked, following the line of the Aube, debouching from Arcis-sur-Aube on the right bank of the Seine and through Saron-sur-Aube and Périgny-la-Rose, to outflank the left of the French positions and mask the movement of the main army that maneuvered on both banks of the Seine. But the thaw and rain on one hand, the rising of the Aube and flooding on the other, forced the Russian general to take a another direction.  The paths passing through swamps having become impassable, he had to throw himself to the left on Méry and establish his headquarters.  Around noon, he was ordered to push the advanced guard on Nogent-sur-Seine; but before executing this movement, he thought it necessary to give to Prince Eugene of Württemberg a brigade of infantry and six guns, so that the IInd Infantry Corps might be quartered entirely between Méry and Baudement.  Wittgenstein wouldn't weakened the vanguard of Pahlen, to which he attached, in addition to the 4th and 34th Eiger Regiments, two regiments of the 14th Division (25th Eiger Regiment and the Reval (Ревель) Regiment), under the command of Major General Helfreich, six pieces of the horse battery No. 23 from the siege of Strasbourg, the Tchougouiev Uhlans and Cossack regiments of Rebrikov and Ilovaysky.  The advanced guard of Pahlen so composed pushed up to Pont-sur-Seine.  General Lisanevich could, in this way, take part with his cavalry in actions of the vanguard of the Vth Corps on the side of Granges, of Romilly and on the banks of the Gélannes. The bulk of the vanguard of Pahlen settled, the 9th at night, on a line from the Maizières-la-Grande-Paroisse to Pars-les-Romilly.[2]

Later in the afternoon, Colonel Vlassov, who scouted on the right bank of the Aube, informed Wittgenstein that "strong enemy columns were moving on Villenauxe and Sézanne and the French securely occupied the first of these places."  The detachment of Colonel Prince Lubomirsky was immediately reinforced by sending the Ingria (Ингрия) Dragoons.

The other corps remained in their cantonments.  Ignatius Hardegg, established at Sommeval, was informed by Platov of his imminent departure for Fontainebleau.  Invited by the Hetman to take Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, the Cossacks would evacuate, General Hardegg would not take it upon himself to execute this movement until having instructions of the Generalissimo.  However, in order not to delay the operations of the Hetman, partly to cover his rear, and ensuring his communications with the main army, he ordered the party posted at Tonnerre to send a detachment to Villeneuve-sur-Yonne.[3]

Operations of the flying corps of Platov.  --Platov, pressed by the orders of the Emperor of Russia and the Generalissimo, and forced out of his inaction and the pleas of Major General Kaisarov, who had joined him, had begun his movement and arrived in Courtenay.[4]

Schwarzenberg's orders for the 10th of February.  --"The astonishment caused by the presence of the French cavalry near Saint-Aubin and Saint-Hilaire," wrote Taxis "is so broad and deep, we dare not move until you know the direction taken by the bulk of enemy forces. The concern is even greater as we are without news of Blücher.  We want to make contact with the enemy, however, and see if he will defend the bridgehead formed by Nogent-sur-Seine.  The Vth and VIth Corps must,while the IVth goes towards Sens, make this reconnaissance, but without seriously engaging."[5]

Schwarzenberg explains, it is true, in a quite different way the operations that would be taken by the Army of Bohemia.  We read, indeed, in the journal of operations of the Army of Bohemia,[6] "that Prince Schwarzenberg, who occupied Troyes and provided a new base for his operations, now intends to push the bulk of his forces by Sens to Fontainebleau, in the hope of forcing by this flanking movement the enemy to divide his forces and thereby induce its corps to fight in isolation.  The Vth and VIth Corps are, to this end, charged with distracting and occupying the French on their fore front at Nogent and keeping them on the Seine.  The IVth Corps pushing on the 10th up to about Sens:  the Ist will go to Villeneuve-au-Chemin on the road from Auxerre to Troyes; the IIIrd to Auxon; the Vth, leaving the VIth before Nogent, to Avon-la-Pèze; the reserves to Bouilly and Russian and Prussian guards are quartered around Troyes."

It is curious to note that just as the Emperor had set off to take advantage of carelessness of Blücher, Schwarzenberg, writing to the Field Marshal, recommended to him to threaten the French left wing, not too far from the VIth Corps, that Count Wittgenstein could immediately support; ultimately to seek above all to force the Emperor to divide his forces.

The Emperor moves against Blücher.  --Organization and distribution of French forces.  --March on Sézanne. --But the Emperor was already heading to Sézanne, and, as he wrote to Joseph, he hoped to attack the Army of Silesia the next day.  The 9th in the morning, when the Duke of Bassano came with the dispatches that he had spent the night preparing before sending to Caulaincourt at Châtillon, he found the Emperor lying on his map, compass in hand, and not receiving any response to these words: "Ah! you are here!  It won't be much longer.  I am currently beating Blücher dead: he advances by the road to Montmirail, I depart: I will beat him tomorrow, I will beat him tomorrow.  If this movement has the success it should have, the state of affairs will change completely, and we will see!"[7]

Deciding to stand on the Marne, he divided his army into three groups.[8]  The corps acting under his direct orders were composed of the two divisions of the Old Guard of Mortier, two of the Young Guard, under the command of Ney; corps of Marmont, the cavalry of the Guard, the 1st Cavalry Corps and the cavalry of General de France; they were just under 30,000 men; the fulcrum of this little army was to be, on the 9th in evening at Sézanne, needing to execute its movement, the roads of Montmirail and Chateau -Thierry.  In the center, Victor, with his two divisions, the division of General Gérard and the 5th Cavalry Corps, in all about 13,000 men, would have to defend the heights of Pont-sur-Seine and the town of Nogent; blowing up the bridge and taking a position on the right bank where the whole army of Schwarzenberg debouched on him, he was unable to remain at Nogent.

Oudinot, with 7th Corps, composed of two divisions Leval and Boyer, from Spain, would form the right of the French army.  He would eventually have for his disposition the Rottembourg Division, which guarded the grand park of the army and  the administrative headquarters in Provins.  It also had under his command the National Guard Division of General Pacthod stationed at Montereau, Pajol's cavalry, the troops that General Allix had with him at Sens, and a cavalry brigade of 600 men, whose arrival at Bray was imminent.  "If Schwarzenberg, hiding or neglecting Nogent, marches from Troyes on Sens and Pont-sur-Yonne, or if, after forcing the city, he throws Victor on the right bank, the Duke of Reggio, will move with the Duke of Bellune, if the movement of the enemy is serious, on the Yonne towards Montereau, where he will reunite all his troops."[9]

While the Emperor sent these instructions to the marshals whom he entrusted with the defense of the Seine, he had sent Grouchy for Sézanne with the division of de France who had left 100 horses at Villenauxe to scout for Mortier.  The Duke of Trévise, moving on Sézanne, would try, following the orders of the Emperor, to sleep in Villenauxe or beyond, but not march at night, and that Marshal Ney not arrive at Sézanne in the day.  Marmont, who had gone beyond Sézanne and was lying at Chapton, had deemed it prudent to avoid arousing suspicion, to reach out to the troops stationed in Sézanne.

Finally, while it was Macdonald who prevented the great movement that was being executed, the Emperor still ordered Victor to move his headquarters, on the 9th in the evening to Nogent, and to bring the 10th in the morning the 2nd Corps , to meet the Rottembourg Division going to Provins.  He instructed to inform Gérard, whose headquarters would be at Pont-sur-Seine, that in case of a serious offensive movement by superior forces, he was to withdraw to Nogent.[10]  Similar instructions were sent Oudinot, and, in both cases, the Chief of Staff emphasized the need to hold Nogent as long as possible and not to blow up the bridge except in the last extremity.

10 February.  --Movements of the Ist and IIIrd Corps.  --The 10th of February, the Army of Bohemia began the flank march, through which the Generalissimo hoped to turn the right of the French lines.  The Ist Corps, covered in front by the light division of Count Ignatius Hardegg, which established at Sormery, Chailley and Neuvy, that went to its quarters to around Villeneuve-au-Chemin.  Farthest to the left, Bianchi occupied Coursan; the light division of Prince Maurice Liechtenstein, directed to Auxerre, had pushed by Saint-Florentin, to the very gates of the city, a reconnaissance the O'Reilly Light Horse Regiment under the command of Captain von Wüsthoff.[11]

Most of the IIIrd Corps stretched from Javernant to Roncenay, and the Fresnel Division occupied Auxon.[12]

March of the IVth Corps.  --The IVth Corps quartered, the 9th, from Villemaur to Saint-Liébaut and Fontvannes, had started the 10th early in the morning, and its main body reached Villeneuve-l'Archevêque, where it stopped, while the Crown Prince of Württemberg, with the vanguard and the brigade of General von Stockmeyer, pushed to the gates of Sens.  General Allix who held, with about 1500 men, this city, then protected by old walls and by a wide moat, had had time to briefly organize the defense and to barricade the gates.  Württemberg cavalry of the tip of the advance guard, easily transiting through the abandoned suburbs, had summoned General Allix to turn over the city, while the leading battalions of the Stockmeyer Brigade settled in the suburb Saint-Antoine.  Too weak to try to take Sens, that the garrison seemed to want to vigorously defend, the Crown Prince tried to intimidate it by bombarding the city until nightfall.  Once the Württemberg battery ceased fire, General Allix had to bring back the few troops he had hitherto held near the suburbs, and the Crown Prince, on his side, leaving only outposts, went himself to Malay-le-Vicomte.  Deciding to continue the bombardment the next day and to breach the gates, he ordered the IVth Corps to mass, the 11th in the morning, between Pont-sur-Vanne and Sens.  The cavalry of the vanguard covered his right and watched the road from Pont-sur-Yonne and from Bray.[13]

These movements had convinced Pajol to leave Pont-sur-Yonne, where he could have been outflanked, and to fall back on Fossard, to be able to cover Fontainebleau and defend the line of the Loing.  He had, however, left at Pont-sur-Yonne 900 men under General Montbrun, with orders to collect Allix if the General was unable to maintain Sens and was forced to withdraw to Montereau.

Instead of distracting the French on the Seine, near Nogent, and profiting from the diversions performed by Wrede and Wittgenstein to move the bulk of the Army of Bohemia on the Aube and Sézanne, the Generalissimo, far from seeking to approach Blücher, marched away instead, by directing the Ist, IIIrd and IVth Corps to Sens and Fontainebleau.

Position and movement of the reserves.  --The guards and Russian and Prussian reserves were around Troyes, following slowly and at some distance the movement of the Ist, IIIrd and IVth Corps.  The Russian Guard and the infantry brigade of the Prussian Guard defiled through Troyes and had come to settle, the first at Fontvannes and the second at Torvilliers.  The grenadiers were still in Maisons-Blanches, the division of light cavalry of the guard in Creney, the 2nd Cuirassier Division at Thennelières, the 3rd at Lusigny, the 1st with the cavalry brigade of the Prussian Guard at Saint-Parres-aux-Tertres, so that all of the cavalry was about 24 kilometers behind the points occupied by the infantry of the guard.

The headquarters of Barclay de Tolly remained in Troyes.

Movements of the Vth and VIth Corps.  --Fight at Saint-Aubin.  --After the affair of Romilly, Victor had taken position on the night of the 9th to 10th, behind the Ardusson, a creek that, from La Chapelle-Godefroy, drains into a wide canal perpendicular to the river bank.  The troops of the 2nd Corps and Paris Reserve had scarcely established on this point, when the Marshal saw that he was going to be dealing not only with the vanguard of Pahlen debouching on the side of Saint-Hilaire, but also to that of Vth Corps from Saint-Martin-de-Bossenay.  The Marshal changed accordingly the position of his rearguard by a change of front.  His right was pressed on Mâcon, his left stood a little behind Saint-Aubin, covered by the light cavalry of Piré.  The infantry securely held La Chapelle-Godefroy, and locations were prepared for artillery behind this village, on the left bank of the canal.

The advanced guard of the Vth Corps (Antoine Hardegg Division) was set in motion at daybreak and had, by 8 o'clock in the morning, chased from Saint-Hilaire the last French outposts, who withdrew without a fight on Pont-sur-Seine.[14] While the Rechberg Division went to Gélannes and was linked with him, Count Hardegg sped onwards with his cavalry.  At 11 o'clock he was at Pont-sur-Seine and Wrede was informed of the presence of two regiments of cavalry and a fairly large body of French infantry on a hill in front of Nogent.[15] Hardegg had just effected a junction with the troops of Pahlen (vanguard of the VIth Corps), driven by Wittgenstein to Nogent,[16] when Prince Schwarzenberg and Radetzky joined them and ordered Count Hardegg to move, without further ado, by Saint-Aubin to Nogent; Pahlen to cover the right of the Austrian division and support his attack.

Hardegg, arriving at Saint-Aubin and Macon, formed his division in column of battalions, the artillery at the fore front, his cavalry, reinforced by the Ol'viopol Hussars and Cossacks of Rebrikov and Ilovaysky, covered his left. Pahlen, who had already occupied the left side of the road from Nogent to Troyes, the Bois de l'Étoile[17], and whose horse artillery, escorted by the Grodno Hussars, forced in the morning a few French cavalry pickets to retreat, went forward on his side, to facilitate the attack of the division Hardegg.  After throwing out the French outposts on the left bank of the Ardusson, he attacked the canal bridge and the village of La Chapelle, which he managed to take control of and he violently bombarded the French left wing.  But despite the intervention of Pahlen and advantage gained by the Russians on his right, Wrede failed to dislodge the French.

The troops of Pahlen and Wrede bivouacked in their positions, the Austrian cavalry at Mâcon, the Hardegg Division in Saint-Aubin, the Russians at La Chapelle-Godefroy, their outposts and pickets at Nogent.[18]

The Bavarians of the Vth Corps were on the 10th at night in Avon-the-Pèze; a few parties scoured the country side of Traînel, and the Rechberg Division, which was on its way to Quincey and Saint-Aubin, to support Hardegg, had stopped in the evening at Saint-Martin-de-Bossenay.

The outposts of the VIth Corps had been, throughout the day, hearing a very violent cannonade in the direction of Sézanne.  Wittgenstein, coming in person to Méry, had, during the 10th, knowledge of the movement of the Emperor to Sézanne by the revelations of three Mamluk deserters, and confirmation of this by the reports of Prince Lubomirsky.  While refusing to give credence to the march of the Emperor, he would, by virtue of a singular coincidence, become of all the Allied generals the first to do more than only doubt.

Schwarzenberg's orders for the days of 11 and 12 February.  --First news of the march of the Emperor.  --But these early indications that, most likely the Generalissimo did not attach any more importance than the Russian general, only reached Schwarzenberg long after expediting of the following dispositions, regulating the operations for the days of 11 and 12 February:

"The Vth and VIth Corps approaching Nogent the 11th, will drive out the enemy on the 12th and seize the bridge of the Seine."

"All other corps are ordered to continue their movements to Sens.  The IVth Corps will arrive on the 11th a short distance from Sens, the Ist Corps on the 11th at Arcis, the 12th at Cerisiers; the IIIrd the 11th at Saint-Florentin and 12th at Arcis; Count Nostitz, with the grenadiers and cuirassiers, the 11th at Auxon, and the 12th at Villeneuve-au-Chemin; the Guards and Russian reserves at Villemaur the 11th, the 12th between l'Archevêque and Villeneuve-Thorigny."

Thus, through its ignorance, or their exaggeration by the general headquarters of the real strength of French troops stationed in Nogent, it was thought necessary to concentrate during the day of 11 February, two army corps in the position of Nogent and deliver the final attack on 12 February.

Wrede letter to the King of Bavaria.  --Although the document that we will lay before the reader only indirectly relates to military operations, it seems impossible not to reproduce, without before doing so, preceding it with some explanation.  During the stay of the rulers at Troyes, 8 February, Wrede was first called by the Emperor of Russia, to express his firm intention to "defile his guards through Paris."  Questioned before and after this audience by Schwarzenberg, Wrede related to the Prince, he had made his embarrassment known, resulting from what the Emperor of Russia wished, that drove him vigorously to get to Paris.  "The Generalissimo begged me at the same time," added Wrede, "to do my best to calm the desire of the Emperor of Russia to enter Paris with the Allied armies." It was at these audiences with the Allied sovereigns that Wrede reported to the King of Bavaria, in the letter[19] he addressed from Barberey, 10 February and cited by General Heilmann, as among the papers of the Archives of Wrede from Ellingen.  Better than personal opinions, this piece gives an exact idea of ​​the various currents which manifested themselves at army headquarters, trends essentially different among the sovereigns, statesmen and generals allies.

"I feel it my duty to send a letter to your Majesty to give an account of the audiences I had the day before yesterday and yesterday with the three Allied sovereigns, and conference that I had with the princes Schwarzenberg and Metternich.  Arriving the day before yesterday to be with Prince Schwarzenberg in Troyes, he introduced me to his embarrassment of the Emperor of Russia's vigorously growing desire to arrive in Paris.  The marshal has not only consulted me on my views in this respect, on my military views, but he communicated to me at the same time that it is already beginning to impact political relations, and he asked me to immediately go to the Emperor his master, who, like Prince Metternich, wished to see me.  He begged me at the same time, to do my best to calm the desire of the Emperor of Russia for an entrance of the Allied armies into Paris.  I went at once to the Emperor of Austria, who received me with his usual kindness, and assured me, after a long explanation of political and military affairs, that Emperor Napoleon having been agreed in the conferences at Châtillon, to all demands that had been made for the ceding of former states on the left bank of the Rhine, he could only desire that we immediately end hostilities in a struggle that, if we still wanted to fight a battle, would, if lost to us, revoke the offers of sacrifice that Napoleon has made, and that, if won, would take us no further than we could desire."

"The Emperor Francis said that his personal hatred against his son-in-law was known, but he believed that the face of Europe would not gain much by dethroning him and reinstating the Bourbons, because in the latter case, England and the North could win an incalculable influence and a preponderance of the policy of Europe.  Emperor Francis asked me if I did not know the views of Your Majesty in this regard and asked me to inquire in the quickest manner possible.  I renewed on this occasion the assurance of my personal conviction that your Majesty would be honored and that he would will help with all his might and means."

"Having left the Emperor of Austria, I went to His Majesty the Emperor Alexander, whom I found at his dinner. He rose from the table, kissed me, left his dinner and took me to his apartment.  He spoke on his desire that grows vigorously.  I told him frankly that I had no doubt we can succeed, it seemed, however, that moderation on one hand and great care on the other were all the more necessary, now that all our armies were filled with complaints, and it also seemed that we should not incite the enemy.  The Emperor Alexander replied that I was right about the precautions, he would not keep the army in Paris, but around it, but he had to go, that he had no other project than to defile his guard by this capital.  His Majesty spoke to me with the utmost confidence of his views in this regard, and although I have allowed myself to talk to him always in the direction of moderation and caution to be observed, he seemed to constantly move insistently back to the march on Paris.  He calculates on the forces of Winzingerode and Bülow that gather in the Brabant and believes that while the Emperor Napoleon assembled some troops from Spain, he could not oppose giving up Paris."

"I made my last respects to the King of Prussia, whose principles and sentiments seem very likely to accelerate the signing of the preliminaries of peace."

"Leaving this monarch, I had a long conference with the princes Schwarzenberg and Metternich, in the inn of the latter.  The Minister, with a frankness that surprised me, gave me to read the reports of Count Stadion, that he had received from Châtillon in the last days, and he gave me at the same time to read a letter Lord Castlereagh had  finally received from the Marshal Lord Wellington."

"Count Stadion, in his report from Châtillon, dated the day before yesterday, said:  "This business and negotiations with the Duke of Vicence are sufficiently advanced to the point for us to establish the preliminaries.  It is time, if the Allied powers want to recognize and parlay with Napoleon, that we signal and stop  the movements of armies.  It is also time, if there is to be dethroning, to talk about it with the French people, and finally the Allied Powers speak out against this nation, which begins to tire; we did not declare against the person of Napoleon, or accede to the offers that he has made."

"That's about the essence of the dispatch of Count Stadion I found, as far as I could judge, to be designed with great caution on the current state of things."

"Lord Wellington wrote in his letter about the following:

"Here I am on French territory.  The unanimous wishes of the people are peaceful and largely against Napoleon, but I do not see that these wishes are manifested in favor of Bourbons.  These princes, by an absence of 22 years from France, have become as foreign to the French people as all other princes of Germany.  I think if we can bring Emperor Napoleon back within limits that are consolidated by a suitable peace to the Allied Powers, he will cease to be detrimental to the rest of Europe and will occupy himself with reigning for the interests of his people."

"Lord Wellington said, moreover, he believed that one should not push things too far."

"As far as that goes, Prince Metternich assured me, these are roughly the same principles of Lord Castlereagh, and in general, the Court of Saint James shows great restraint and attaches no vow for the return of the Bourbons.  Prince Metternich also asked me if I did not know the principles of your Majesty in respect to changes to be made in the French government.  I said no, that I had no instruction in this regard, and that I would send a letter to your Majesty so that he could give orders on the subject to General Baron Orchard, but in the meantime, I did not believe it was the principle of your Majesty that would push things too far."

"Prince Metternich also renewed to me that his master the Emperor wished to enter into the most intimate relationship with your Majesty for everything that relates to the current policy, and acting in concert with him to provide peace and the future existence of the south of Germany."

"As much as I foretell that this is the time when the Allied Powers can get a solid and honorable peace, as much as I anticipate that Your Majesty may take this time to become greater.  I think that his ministry has already held to his plan in a political, financial and even military manner.  The first two items being the sole purview of the Minister Count Montgelas, my humble opinion can only be adequate in all this for those things that relates to military, which I've already explained in previous letters to Montgelas."

"In requesting you, Sir, to kindly give the earliest possible instructions to General Baron Orchard, I am with the deepest respect..."[20]

11 February.  --Battle of Nogent.  --After a break that did not even allow the troops to reform, the great Allied army was to resume its march, the 11th, in two columns separated from each other and operating, that on the right, by the left bank of the Seine; the left, against Sens.

Marshal Victor had left Nogent, cutting off in his haste, a thousand men and cannon, under the command of General Bourmont.  He had established himself, with the 2nd Corps and the 5th Cavalry Corps, on the beautiful position of Le Plessis-Mériot, where he commanded both roads of Nogent to Provins and Villenauxe.

The advanced guards of the Vth and VIth Corps were only at that time, at Nogent, straddling the road from Saint-Aubin to Troyes: the Russians of Pahlen. to the right; the Austrians under Count Antoine Hardegg, to the left.[21]

"The town of Nogent," as expressed by the Journal of Operations of the Army of Bohemia,[22]
"is built on both banks of the Seine. A stone bridge, mined by the French, connects together the two parts of the city. The cemetery forms on the left bank of the Seine a kind of natural bridge head.  The French had fortified the houses near the bridge and barricaded the streets debouching to it."

Bourmont[23] had placed 250 men of the 18th Line of barricades to right, 250 more of them on the left and kept back the 400 grenadiers and voltigeurs that remained in order to support the points most seriously threatened.  Taking advantage of the morning to cover his guns by breast-works, he sent the 200 dragoons available to the front of Mériot from there to monitor the banks of the Seine below Nogent.  Finally, from officers placed in the steeple of the church he was informed of the direction taken by the Austro-Russian columns and had, through their guidance, he was able to take necessary steps to receive them with the speed lighting on the front and flank.

Around 9 o'clock in the morning, Pahlen, supported by the Antoine Hardegg Division, posted on his left, resolved to take Nogent by a sudden attack.

Keeping his cavalry in reserve, he marched his infantry against Nogent, while his artillery bombarded the city and his horse batteries tried to enfilade the bridge.  The 25th Eiger Regiment aligned on the Seine to attack Nogent by the east, and the Revel Infantry Regiment moved straight ahead through the causeway to the southeast corner of the city.

The movement of the horse artillery was reported by observers in the bell tower, and until 10:30, 100 voltigeurs sent from this side and hidden in a ravine forced, by their fire, the Russian horse artillery to keep out of reach.  The fire had become quite strong on the other side, and the arrival of Russian eigers forced the voltigeurs to retreat to occupy the city gardens.  As the Russian infantry continued to deploy its right to the Seine, Bourmont established a cannon piece between the two bridges and a few tirailleurs in the homes of the island.  The Russians came within twenty paces of the gardens and barricades.  Decimated by shrapnel, shattered by fire from the front and flank, they retreated, after attempting against the first barricade on the road to Troyes, a cavalry charge which had no more success than the attack of their infantry and was repulsed by the tirailleurs stationed in the houses behind the fortified walls and on the barricade.  The Revel Regiment, which was deployed, soon began to threaten the right of Bourmont and the western part of the city which one had not had time to complete defensive preparations.

Around noon, the attack began.  Like the first, it had completely failed by the time Bourmont was wounded in the knee, forcing him to hand over command to Colonel Voirol of 18th Line.

Before the fierce resistance he had met, Count Pahlen sent for Hardegg to support him, by bearing against the west and south sides of town, intending to renew the attack in the afternoon.  Hardegg had with him then only three infantry battalions (2 Székeler and 1 jäger), two squadrons of the Archduke Joseph Hussars, two squadrons of uhlans and a horse battery.  Immediately leaving the vicinity of Saint-Aubin and passing through Mâcon, he deployed his troops between this village and the road to Bray and launched on the city's assault columns, which penetrated a short distance up to the cemetery.  But, stopped by a terrible fire, the Austrians had to retreat after fighting until night, and merely to occupy with some skirmishers, the first houses in the town.

Pahlen, whose third attack was less energetic and whose troops were discouraged by the unsuccessful attempts of the morning, only managed to wrest from the French a few isolated houses and gardens located on the banks of the Seine.[24]

This affair, unwisely committed to, and in which the attacks failed largely because they lacked coordination, had cost the Vth and VIth Corps a thousand men of which more than 800 were Russians.  It would have more serious consequences, by exposing the dissent that existed (until that time in a latent state) between Wrede and Wittgenstein: disagreements all the more serious because the corps of these two generals were, even in the provisions of the order of battle, constantly called upon to act in concert.

Also, that same evening of the action at Nogent, Wrede, after having concentrated three divisions of his corps at Traînel, hastily wrote to Schwarzenberg:[25] "My vanguard is at Traînel.  The cavalry withdrew without fighting to Bray.  I learned from an officer that Count Hardegg was seriously engaged with the enemy at Nogent.  Count Wittgenstein will come to his aid with the VIth Corps, but Pahlen who commanded the advanced guard to the left is without support.  I have always been opposed to partial attacks and movements that are not coordinated.  Count Hardegg acted against my orders and at the direct request of Count Pahlen.  I wanted, instead, to coordinate an attack from the west of Nogent with that in mind I directed against Bray. This movement is all the more necessary in case the Emperor goes on Sézanne.  We heard the cannon on this side.  My patrols connect me to the IVth Corps."

As seen, Wrede was already thinking about going to Bray, and while he is referring to the support that Wittgenstein will give Hardegg near Nogent, he cares more about what happens to his left.  Wittgenstein, who has not yet been able to render his thoughts on the dispositions of Wrede in this respect, is left at the same time with having to justify the remark that was just made.  Alerting Schwarzenberg[26] to the information on the events of 11th, he wrote to the Generalissimo, telling him that a movement of Bray, where it is sought, if necessary, to force the passage, would facilitate operations against Nogent: "I have expressed this to General Count Wrede," he adds, "but I have not received a response."  It should, however, be added that Wittgenstein is not very consistent himself, since in the same dispatch, he informed the Prince that as his park that have not rejoined him and was lacking ammunition that he had requested from Barclay de Tolly, with no pontoons at his disposal, could not yet cross the Seine at Nogent, he invited Wrede to go to Nogent on the 12th.  We hasten to add that, we gave up, as we shall see, moreover, a little later, the attack on Nogent and would end up giving preference to the movement on Bray.

Taking of Sens.  --In the case of Sens, chance favored the Allies.  The 11th, at 10 o'clock in the morning, the whole IVth Corps had arrived at Sens.  Eager to end the resistance of this city before which Platov had failed so miserably and had stopped his own advanced guard the day before, the Crown Prince immediately deployed his infantry in the suburbs Notre-Dame and Saint-Antoine, as close as possible to the walls of the city.  But after two hours of bombardment, he could neither make a breach or break down the gates, or even undermine the morale of the defending inhabitants and troops, which opposed with a fierce resistance everywhere and repelled all attacks.[27]

The Crown Prince of Württemberg, seeing that his artillery established on the height between the suburbs of Saint- Antoine and Notre-Dame had no effect, ordered a battery of 12 to take a position 200 meters from the walls, to breach it and pave the way for his infantry.  At that time, his chief of staff, Austrian Colonel Count Baillet Latour, discovered the existence of a postern which connected the basement of the college with promenade which had been forgotten to be walled up.  This door was broken in, by which Major General Prince Hohenlohe entered at the head of the 4th Infantry Regiment, first in college, then in the city, while two other columns, under General von Stockmeyer and Lieutenant-Colonel Count von Lippe, trying to divert attention from the garrison continued demonstrations against the gates of the city.  General Allix, who was preparing to make a sortie  through the gate  of Bray, informed of what had happened in college, had time to retreat in good order to the left bank and the suburb of Yonne, but he could not completely blow the bridge, whose deck was only slightly damaged.

Although it would have been easy to make the bridge passable again and deploy his infinitely superior forces in number, the Crown Prince was content to occupy the city[28] and maintain throughout the night a sustained fusillade against the French skirmishers from the left bank who covered the retreat of Allix to Montereau where he made his union with General Pajol.

The vanguard of the IVth Corps pushed, however, the 11th at night, on to the right bank of up to Pont-sur-Yonne. General Allix, who had taken this position, destroyed the bridge before continue his retreat, the 12th in the morning.

Affair of Ville-Saint-Jacques.  --Pajol, posted at Fossard, unwilling to abandon the garrison of Sens and already outdistanced along the Loing by Platov's Cossacks, had, on the 10th, detached from Fossard the cavalry brigade of General Coëtlosquet that, instead of marching militarily, advanced carelessly, preceded by the quartermasters charged with its quartering.

Around Ville-Saint-Jacques in the dark, these quartermasters fell into the camp of Cossacks, bringing back a great host to the brigade, and General Coëtlosquet thought to fall back to Montereau, where he settled.  General Pajol blamed him for having precipitated the skirmish and sent during the night, 100 unmounted gendarmes from Spain, to make up for the failure of the hussars.  This detachment, marching in complete silence, fell at one o'clock in the morning on the Cossack camp, using the bayonet on anything that could not escape and then returned to Fossard.[29]

Although the Boyer Division could only join the 12th in the morning, although the Leval Division still was only composed of 4,000 men, Oudinot, who had sent Pajol to Provins to advise him on the movements of the IVth Corps on Sens, nevertheless believed it his duty to obey the orders of the Chief of Staff.  He had got this division underway from La Ferte-Gaucher with orders to continue on from there on Montmirail and Viels-Maisons.  He only left at that time, at Provins, the 2,000 men of the Rottembourg Division, charged with guarding the park and the headquarters.[30]

Movement of Cossacks on Moret, Montargis, Nemours and Château-Landon.  --The Cossacks of Platov kept on the road from Moret to Fossard just the same; they had tried, without success, to take Moret and Nemours by surprise while the troops that Pajol had on the road to Bray, between the Seine and the Yonne, were forced to retreat before the Bavarian cavalry to Marolles-sur-Seine.

However, the weakness that was brought on by the pursuit of Allix by Württembergers, their shyness and their determination to remain on the right bank of the Yonne, made Pajol believe like the Duke of Reggio that the IVth Corps would follow Platov the next day and would seek to move on Paris by Nemours.

Beside Montargis, the Cossacks had come to within one league of the city, and after detaching a party on Égreville, they had, in the afternoon of the 11th, attempted to first strike against Montargis.  They had, at the same time restored the Souppes bridge, crossed the Loing, occupied Château-Landon and forced the French posts at Nargis and Cepoy to retreat to Montargis, whose commander, fearing to be found the next day, evacuated at three o'clock in the afternoon to withdraw during the night on Gien, the Orléans.

Occupation of Auxerre.  --Prince Maurice Liechtenstein entered Auxerre on 11 February at 4 o'clock, after going around the city and taking steps to attack from both sides at once.  "The city", he wrote to Schwarzenberg[31], "has been taken:  General Moreau fled hastily by the road of Orléans, and we could only take his ordnance.  60 infantrymen tried to withdraw.  Met and charged by the light cavalry regiment of the Emperor, they left in our hands 3 captains, 3 lieutenants and 40 men.  I will stay," added the Prince, "tomorrow the 12th at Auxerre and I will be the 13th at Joigny and the 14th at Sens.  I would have liked to send parties to Orléans and especially to Dijon, but the distance that separates me from these two cities is too great, and I have too little cavalry to risk such an enterprise. I will leave some infantry to Auxerre."

Alpha

Notes:

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

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

[3] Field-Marshal Lieutenant Count Ignatius Hardegg to Schwarzenberg, Sommeval, 9 February. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv.,  II, 235.)

[4] 1o  Letter signed by Major General Staff Kaisarov (writing for Platov) to General-Lieutenant von Toll (original in French):

"In march before Villeneuve-le-Roy, 9 February 1814.  --Yesterday I received the letter no 52 of Your Excellency, and immediately sent, by Courtenay and Ferrières, a big party charged with occupying the bridge of Château-Landon.  I continue today with my whole corps marching on this road, and once arrived at Château-Landon, I will act against Nemours, Moret and Fontainebleau ..."

"I have the honor to inform you that the Austrian partisans, who are behind me, remain in the most absolute stillness, as if the Cossack regiments were responsible for ensuring the security of their people.  I give you copies of what I wrote about it to Colonel Count Thurn, and I confess frankly, I do not expect to see him go with my wishes and move forward, no matter how desirable to the general interest."

"According to news received, the enemy withdrew to Troyes; my parties. last night, drove down to this city, have seen bivouac fires large enough to reveal the presence of this immense force."

2°  Kaisarov (for himself to General-Lieutenant von Toll (original in French):

"Courtenay, 9 February 1814.  --Finally, we have moved to here, and tomorrow morning we will be in Ferrières, while 700 men under Spehrberg. will be sent to Fontainebleau with the orders that you will find, my dear Karl Fedorovich, in the instructions which I send you herewith a copy.  If you ask me why I do not personally participate in this expedition, I would say that I given up the whole matter of personal ambition, I am forced to remain constantly on the Count (Platov), ​​because it is only in this manner, that one can advance our mutual interests; for without my presence and without my intervention, we would still be near Bar-sur-Seine.  If we cannot find the Pope at Fontainebleau, the appearance of Cossacks such a little distance from Paris will not fail to cause a big stir.   To this end, you should on your own write to the Count and tell him we need to get closer to Paris.  I will do the rest.  It is necessary that the Count is afraid of you, the rest is my business.  Would it not be possible to give us a little more, we are, indeed, only a handful of men?"

To this letter was attached the following instructions given to Chief of Staff by Spehrberg.

"The release of the Pope, under the present circumstances, would be a political event of great importance. Due to the personal qualities of Your Excellency, I have decided to entrust you with the leadership of the expedition to Fontainebleau, for which I've designated 700 elite Cossacks and officers of my choice.  It has been confirmed, firstly, that the Pope is still in this city, while other information claims that he is gone.  If he is still there, success depends on the speed of the march on Fontainebleau.  You must therefore, as soon as you have been joined by the 300 men I sent you, move on Ferrières; you'll find there Captain Bergmann, of the Guard, who you will take with you and go immediately on Château-Landon, and, after feeding your horses, on Nemours.  Arriving at this point, you need to confirm if the Pope is still at Fontainebleau.  If he is there, you will move at night and in a forced march, leaving from Nemours through the forest of Fontainebleau on your right, passing between the forest and the village of Staffion (a) on Franchard.  At the break of day, you come galloping into Fontainebleau, taking the city from behind.  Once in the city, you throw disorder among the troops who will be there, and if His Holiness is still in this city, you will not lose a minute to escort him here with all your troops while bestowing on him with all the honors owed him.  Leaving Nemours, you'll leave a post to cover your rear and in particular to ensure that none of the inhabitants report your arrival."

"If you learn positively at Nemours, that the Pope is no longer in Fontainebleau, you will remain at this point and you will send forward Captain Bergmann, following the road that I told you, to throw alarm in Fontainebleau.  That done, the officer will retreat immediately on the village of Staffion and send a little post to Milly, located on the route from Orléans to Melun, to see if the enemy troops are not in march in front of Orléans."

"If you stay in Nemours, you will send a party to occupy Moret.  Between these two cities is a canal which joins the Seine to the Loire and is used to supply Paris.  You will remove the transports that you find on this canal and destroy the oars, masts, etc.., boats, to immobilize them, but keep from damaging the provisions.  From Moret, you will push parties towards Montereau-sur-Yonne, and from Nemours, to Soisy-Malesherbes.  Tomorrow I'll go near Ferrières to be watching Montargis.  --9 February."  

These movements had not escaped the vigilance of the French cavalry.  We were expecting an attack on Sens thanks to the information provided by General Delort.  This general officer, placed at the outposts of Pajol at Fleurigny, had reported the move to the Villemaur and Villeneuve l'Archevêque of 1500 Cossack horses that, after requisitioning food for 8,000 men, had moved in the direction of Villeneuve-sur-Yonne.

2,000 Cossacks occupying Joigny, had detached from 5 to 600 horses on Nemours.  They had gained this city along the canal and the heights which dominate, after forcing the residents of Nargis to restore the bridge over the Loing at Fontenay.

Other reconnaissances were mounted at Thorigny and had been rebuffed.  Finally, bands of Cossacks had appeared to Souppes-sur-Loing, near Nemours and near Montargis, without being able to capture any of these points. (PAJOL, Commander in Chief.)

(a) It is really the village of Larchant that is here.

[5] TAXIS, Tagebuch. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., XIII, 32.)

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

[7] FAIN, Manuscript of 181 4, page 97.

[8] Correspondance, nos 21221 and  21227.

[9] To get an accurate account of the marvelous clarity of the Emperor, he managed to add a single sentence to the letter to Joseph: "If I succeed in two or three days to crush the Army of Silesia, I debouch on Nogent or on Montereau.  I can have with your reserves 80,000 men and give affairs an unexpected turn."

[10] Records of Berthier. (Archives of the War.)

[11] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im Monate Februar (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1), and Prince Maurice Liechtenstein to Prince Schwarzenberg. (Ibid., II, 277.)

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

[13] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im Monate Februar (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1), and the Crown Prince of Württemberg to Prince Schwarzenberg, Malay-le-Vicomte, 10 February. (Ibid., II, 258.)

[14] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im Monate Februar (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1); Wrede to Schwarzenberg, Barberey,  10 February (Ibid., II,  259 e); Hardegg to Wrede, Saint-Hilaire, 8 o'clock in the morning (Ibid., II, 259 h).

[15] Wrede to Schwarzenberg (Ibid., II, 259 i), and Hardegg to Wrede, near Pont-sur-Seine, 10 February, 11 o'clock in the morning (Ibid., II, 259 k).

[16] Wittgenstein to Schwarzenberg, Méry, 10 February. (Ibid., II, 260.)

[17] This wood is known today under the names of Bois-Favier and Parc-de-Pont.

[18] Wrede to Schwarzenberg (K. K. Kriegs Archiv.,  II, 282), and Hardegg to Wrede, Saint-Aubin, 10 February, 7:30 at night (Ibid., II, ad, 282).

[19] The original letter is written in French.

[20] Document taken from the papers of Wrede and the Archives of Ellingen and cited by the General Heilmann.

[21] Victor to the Chief of Staff. (Archives of the War.)

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

[23] Bourmont to the Minister of War, Provins, 12 February. (Archives of the War.)

[24] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im Monate Februar (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1), and TAXIS, Tagebuch. (Ibid., XIII, 32.)  

[25] Wrede to Schwarzenberg, Traînel, 11 February. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 283.)

[26] Wittgenstein to Schwarzenberg, Pont-sur-Seine, 11 February. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 261.)

[27] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im Monate Februar (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1), and Journal of Operations of the IVth Corps, (Ibid.., XIII, 56.)

[28] "I have captured at Sens a German Colonel, Chief of Staff of General Allix.  The colonel was badly wounded.  I had the good fortune to seize his papers."

"The enemy still occupies the other side and tries to destroy the bridge.  I occupy the city, and my vanguard is at Pont-sur-Yonne."  (The Crown Prince of Württemberg to Schwarzenberg, Sens, 11 February. --K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 279.)

The German colonel died a few days afterwards as a result of his wounds.

[29] GENERAL COUNT PAJOL, Pajol, General in Chief.

[30] Oudinot to the Minister (Archives of the War).  --The Duke of Reggio had, in the morning, informed Victor of the movements of the Allies on Sens and Nemours.

"I recalled the Leval Division to myself," wrote the Emperor, two days after at Joseph a farm of Lumeront, the 13th at 10 o'clock in the morning, "and as I have not have a need for it, this movement was wasted." (Correspondence, no 21236.)

[31] Prince Maurice Liechtenstein to Prince Schwarzenberg, Auxerre, 11 February. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 277.)

This information is confirmed by a letter from the prefect of the Yonne to the Minister of  War, dated Saint- Fargeau, the 12th. (Archives of the War.)

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2012

 

Military Index | Battles Index ]


© Copyright 1995 - 2015, The Napoleon Series, All Rights Reserved.

Top | Home ]