Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

The Campaign of 1814: Chapter 7, Part V

By: Maurice Weil

Translated by: Greg Gorsuch

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

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CAVALRY OF THE ALLIED ARMIES
DURING THE CAMPAIGN OF 1814.

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CHAPTER VII.

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

Movements of the Ist and IIIrd Corps.  --The Ist Corps, moving on Sens, had great difficulty in crossing the forest of Othe, absolutely impassable for wheeled vehicles, and it painfully got to Arces-Dilo, after a long day of marching in that direction.  Its advanced guard, the light division of Count Ignatius Hardegg was at Cerisiers; but the division of the Prince Wied-Runkel was still far behind in the rear at Chailley.[1]

The IIIrd Corps was behind Ist  and Gyulay with the Fresnel Division established the 11th at night in Saint-Florentin, the Crenneville Division in front of Avrolles, the Weiss Division behind Neuvy.  His reserve artillery, which was to come from Sommeval to Saint-Florentin, was forced to go back towards Troyes and to take the high road of Sens, as the paths to Saint-Florentin had become impassable.[2]

Count Nostitz had remained at Auxon; the Russian and Prussian guards and reserves, were at Troyes, with orders to be ready to march the next day on Méry.

News of the march of the Emperor and the Battle of Champaubert.  --While the troops of the Army of Bohemia performed these few movements, while Sens fell into the hands of the Crown Prince, and while the resistance of the rear guard of Victor stopped two divisions at Nogent, positive news relating the first check of the Army of Silesia was received in the course of the afternoon, at General Headquarters.  At 5 o'clock, General Witte, sent by Blücher on the day before at 10 o'clock at night, handed the letter to the Generalissimo from the Field Marshal, informing him of the defeat of Olsufiev at Champaubert, explaining to him the situation of the Army of Silesia, scattered between the Seine and the Marne, and showed him that as a result of inaction of the Army of Bohemia, it would now be very difficult, perhaps impossible, to effect a union.  It proved to him that Napoleon following the shortest routes, taking no account of the difficult terrain and concentrating especially to stand fast against each of his corps, intended to fight alone.[3]

This serious news was again confirmed twice by Wittgenstein to Schwarzenberg.  Prince Lubomirski, that Wittgenstein[4] had sent from Méry with his flying corps, was in contact with the troops of the Field Marshal and had met Colonel Blücher again near Pleurs.  The Russian officer had known the way that the Field Marshal was deployed with the bulk of his forces in Vertus, Kleist at Fère-Champenoise and Connantray-Vaurefroy, Kapsewitch at Épernay, and that when still with the Army of Silesia, on the 10th, there was no news of Yorck.  Wittgenstein, passing this information the 11th in the morning to the Generalissimo, added that "as Winzingerode approaches the Army of Silesia, the Field Marshal seemed able to resist for the moment the army of Napoleon."

The postscript of the dispatch was, indeed, even less reassuring.  Blücher had just informed him that "Olsufiev is committed at Champaubert, he still doesn't know the result of combat.  The enemy advances in force by the road from La Ferté-sous-Jouarre to Vertus and seems to have intended to break through to the Army of Silesia."

"The Field Marshal, who is with Kleist and Kapsewitch at Bergères and Vertus; asks," writes Wittgenstein, "as we are partially following of the rear of the enemy to stop it and thus give Yorck and Sacken, who are in Chateau-Thierry and La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, time to unite."  It was known at that time, as Wittgenstein observed, that the scattered corps of the Army of Silesia did not occupy the positions they had previously indicated.[5]

Hours later, General von Zieten, confirming and supplementing the news brought by General Witte,[6] informed Wittgenstein of the occupation of Étoges by the French, and communicated the order by which Blücher returned with Kleist to the positions of Bergères and Vertus, where Field Marshal hoped to succeed in concentrating.

Once these various news items were received at Troyes, the Emperor of Russia advised him to immediately move to Sézanne to operate with the whole Army of Bohemia in the rear of Napoleon.  But, given the impossibility of accepting his idea by the Emperor of Austria and Schwarzenberg, he was forced to consent to a half-measures which, like all the resolutions of this kind, could not bring any serious results.

Schwarzenberg modifies his orders.  --Prince Schwarzenberg giving up actions  beyond the left wing of Sens until matters were restored on the side of the Army of Silesia, decided to push his right onto the right bank of the Seine. He thought that the movement of a portion of his army enough to disengage Blücher by threatening the rear of the French and stopping the progress of the Emperor.[7]

He ordered, therefore, the Vth and VIth Corps to force a crossing at Nogent and move on Villenauxe.  The guards and reserves he directed the 12th on Méry following their movement.

The left wing of the Army of Bohemia (Ist and IIIrd Corps and the grenadiers and Austrian cuirassiers) had to mass with the IVth Corps around Sens, whose capture the Generalissimo was still unaware of and where, according to these orders, these four bodies were to pursue the enemy.

Instead of concentrating the Army of Bohemia, the Generalissimo preferred to divide into two groups separated from each other by a considerable distance and by a great river and tried to explain the reasons for this singular provision in the letter that he addressed the 11th in the evening of Troyes to Blücher:

"It seems to me," said Schwarzenberg. "the enemy, throwing himself on columns that come unto him, wants to save time and hopes we will make false moves for them."

"The state of the paths involved, moreover, make him unable to move fast, Your Excellency will no doubt have the time to link the different corps of your army."

"The columns that I have already directed at Sens have gone too far for me to have them retrace their steps, and it is for this reason that the Ist, IIIrd and IVth Corps continue to attack the city."

"Count Wittgenstein attacks Nogent tomorrow.  If he manages to take control of this point, he will march by Villenauxe on Sézanne, if he fails in his affair, I shall be forced to bring him back on Méry to send him this way to Sézanne."

"To cope with all eventualities, the guards and Russian reserves go tomorrow to Méry,[8] and my headquarters will remain at Troyes until I have finally determine the choice of the greater directions that I will follow."

"It would be very unpleasant, I admit, to be compelled, because of the movements of the enemy, to veer my army to the right. The condition of roads and the absolute lack of food make me fear a march like this."

"I beg your Excellency to give me as often as possible his news and information on the enemy movements."

If we may believe some writers and some private letters of the Generalissimo, Schwarzenberg could have had serious political reasons for not performing the requested movement by Blücher and the Emperor of Russia.  Austria at that time did not despair from accepting, from Caulaincourt and from the Emperor, the conditions imposed at the first meeting of the Congress, and the Emperor of Austria, Metternich and Schwarzenberg were far from approving of what the Generalissimo called in his private letters "the mad rush of Blücher, who, in his haste to reach the Royal Palace, might, by scattering his forces, expose himself on the way to some disaster."[9]

These orders were, in fact, only partially executed: first, because the news of the taking of Sens brought Schwarzenberg to change them himself; on the other hand, because Wittgenstein and Wrede judged it unnecessary and even dangerous to persist at Nogent.

12 February.  --Operations of the Vth and VIth Corps against Bray and Nogent.  --The bloody and relentless combat of the 11th and the position occupied by Victor at Mériot, had demonstrated to Wittgenstein and especially Wrede that, before the bulk of his corps were before Nogent, that it would be almost impossible to force a crossing by a frontal attack.  Both generals, after conferring together, decided in consequence to threaten the rear of Victor, in crossing the Seine upstream and downstream and to compel by an outflanking movement the marshal to pull back the defenders of Nogent.[10]

But as the Bavarian division of General Rechberg had left Traînel on the 12th at daybreak, to relieve and support the division of Count Hardegg, Wrede resolved to leave both divisions before Nogent, that the bulk of the VIth Corps observed throughout the day.  One limited themselves to skirmish with the enemy, remaining in just the few houses they had occupied the night before and only attack at night, if by then the French did not evacuate the city.  For the Russians part, the Rosen Brigade had relieved the 25th Eiger Regiment and Revel Regiment very tried by the combat of the 11th.

Meanwhile, the Bavarian division of La Motte was moved to Bray and Frimont was replaced by Rechberg at Traînel.  Wrede seems, moreover, to have decided in principle at least, and before his meeting with Wittgenstein, with the movement on Bray, because several hours before arriving at Nogent, he had sent from Traînel, the 12th, at 2 o'clock in the morning, Schwarzenberg a note containing these words: "I will attack this morning Nogent and Bray."[11]
Due to the partial destruction of the stone bridge of Bray, that had an arch blown up, Oudinot had believed that some National Guards would be enough to guard such an important crossing.  This neglect certainly had, not only for him, but for the entire French army, unpleasant consequences.  The Bavarians of La Motte, after crossing the river by boat, effortlessly drove from the houses on the left bank these provisional soldiers, landed on the right bank and occupied Mouy-sur-Seine. Repair of the bridge was immediately began so that the La Motte Division could cross at 10 o'clock at night.[12]  Frimont, informed of the outcome of the combat of Bray, had immediately left Traînel to come in the evening to settle with his Austrians between Bray and Villuis.[13]

Oudinot, posted at Provins, had heard the gunfire from Bray and had been informed at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, of the loss of this position.  He immediately warned the Duke of Bellune of this serious event and informed him that he was evacuating Provins, going with his remaining troops (part of the Rottembourg Division) to a position at Donnemarie-Dontilly where he invited him to come and support him.  At 8 o'clock at night, the Duke of Reggio was at Donnemarie with 1,00 men and 200 horses and sent to General Boyer (9th Division) whose 1st Brigade (General Gauthier) had just arrived at Nangis the order to move immediately to join him at his new position where he hoped to cover both Bray and Provins.[14]

The cavalry of Rüdinger crosses the Seine.  --Evacuation of Nogent.  --That same day, General Rüdinger, with a detachment composed of the Grodno Hussars, of two squadrons of the Sumy Hussars, the Rebrikov Cossacks, two infantry battalions and four pieces of horse artillery, had, on the order of Wittgenstein,[15] crossed the Seine on a pontoon bridge at Pont-sur-Seine and pushed up to Villenauxe, where it had driven some parties of French cavalry belonging to the 5th Cavalry Corps.

Informed of the appearance of the enemy on the right bank of the Seine upstream and downstream from Nogent, Victor had to resign himself to send to Colonel Voirol orders to evacuate Nogent.  This officer, who had shown an energy and a remarkable intelligence, began to withdraw towards evening, the troops stationed in the cemetery. After bringing all his men onto the right bank, he still managed by one last attack, to stop the troops who followed him, blowing up the bridge when the first Russian troops had just become engaged, and joining the Duke of Bellune on the road from Provins at the entrance of the forest of Sourdun.[16]

A small brigade had managed to stop the Allies for more than four days at Nogent, and when the negligence of Oudinot forced Victor to give the order to evacuate the town, Wrede and Wittgenstein had amassed on this point four divisions, since it had been thought necessary to send the Rechberg Division and part of the corps of Prince Eugene of Württemberg support and relieve the divisions Pahlen and Rechberg.

Movements of the guards and the reserves and the cavalry of Diebitsch.  --The guards and Russian reserves called upon to follow the movement of the Vth and VIth Corps were quartered around Méry, on both banks of the Seine.  Only the light cavalry of the Russian Guards under the command of Diebitsch that, in the morning, had crossed the Aube at Plancy, went to the heights that rise south of Faux and drove patrols from there on Sézanne and Fère-Champenoise.  Scouts sent to Fère-Champenoise brought back the news of the march of Blücher from Vertus on Montmirail.[17]  It was known in that way, first that there had been French infantry in Sézanne, then, by a report of Lubomirski, that the French cavalry had, also, fallen back on Montmirail.[18]

General Allix had joined Pajol, and both occupied Montereau, where the latter had intended to stay, as had Oudinot, by withdrawing from Provins on Nangis, leaving him free to mass or to withdraw, depending on circumstance, on Melun.  To cover his right, to protect Fontainebleau and to know what was happening on the Loing, Pajol had sent General Montbrun to Moret and Nemours, with orders to defend these two bridges and hold to the bitter end.

The IVth Corps stops around Sens.  --March of the flying corps of Thurn on Saint-Valérien.  --Although it had nothing before it and the French had not been able to blow up the bridge of Sens, the IVth Corps hardly moved on the 13th.  The advanced guard cavalry was around Pont-sur-Yonne early in the morning; Lieutenant-Colonel Rohrig had two squadrons at Soucy (north of Sens, on the road to Nogent) from which he sent on the road of Bray a few parties responsible to seek out communications with the Vth Corps.[19]  A little later, when he learned of the evacuation of Pont-sur-Yonne, the Prince sent the brigade of General Walsleben.

The vedettes of Pajol posted at Villemanoche, had reported this movement of the Württembergers.

The flying corps of Thurn, coming from near Troyes, had arrived the morning of the 12th at Sens, where, with part of his little corps he crossed the bridge when it was practicable for the cavalry.  The rest of his troops had ascended to the Yonne about at Villeneuve-le-Roi and then went to join him in Saint-Valérien.  His patrols, pushing to near this village, had reported the presence in Dollot, Chéroy, Vallery and Blennes of two regiments of French dragoons (the 17th and 25th of the Trelliard Division) coming from Spain and heading to Montereau.  Thurn was supported on his left by Platov's Cossacks on the side of Égreville, on his right by the outposts of the Crown Prince of Württemberg.[20]

Movement Ist  and IIIrd Corps.  --March of Platov on Nemours and Fontainebleau.  --Seslavin in Montargis.  --The Ist Corps had continued its march.  The light division of Count Ignatius Hardegg had veered to the left and moved from Cerisiers on Véron and Rozoy.  Its advanced guard had also arrived near Malay and Sens.  The Bianchi Division had pushed from Arcis to Pont-sur-Vanne and the division of the Prince of Wied-Runkel had come from Chailley to Cerisiers, which was still the headquarters of the corps.  The whole IIIrd Corps, came to Saint-Florentin and Avrolles, encamping around Sens.[21]  Nostitz went from Auxon to Villeneuve-au-Chemin.

Platov was in force at Souppes and was preparing to move on Nemours.  50 to 60 of his Cossacks had crossed the Loing at the level of Nanteau, going to Chapelle-la-Reine, another party had tried to force the fording of Montigny. The was great alarm at Fontainebleau, where the prefect of Seine-et-Marne hastily sent 300 horses and 200 men.[22]

Seslavin, arrived in Montargis, needing to reshoe his horses; after getting food and fodder from the municipality, he immediately pushed many parties into the Gâtinais and seemed to want to go first on Pithiviers then descend on Orléans .

Schwarzenberg changes orders on the new of the taking of Sens.  --But, meanwhile, Schwarzenberg, on the news of the taking of Sens, had again changed his orders.[23]  It was now the Ist Corps' responsibility to pursue the enemy in the direction of Fontainebleau and occupy Pont-sur-Yonne on the 13th.  The IVth Corps would go to Bray.  The IIIrd Corps would remain at Sens and behind it, at Cerisiers, the cuirassiers and grenadiers of Nostitz.  The light division of Prince Maurice of Liechtenstein would also come from Auxerre to Sens, but march along the left bank of the Yonne.

Master of Sens, Méry and Troyes, not knowing when he gave these orders, that the Bavarians held the crossing at Bray, the Russians that of Pont-sur-Seine and the French had evacuated Nogent, Schwarzenberg believed he had to move his army between the Seine and the Yonne, where he had nothing before him.  He hoped to await in this position the events which were to take place on the side of the Army of Silesia if the Field Marshal continued to be followed with the Emperor after him.  He thought then that if the Emperor would give up on the Army of Silesia to turn against him, he would be in the middle of the different corps of his army; his corps which he thought he had posted so he could mass in a single march all his army at a position that he reserved to choose later.

13 February.  --Schwarzenberg undecided on marching to relief of Blücher.  --Naturally, the disturbing news of the Army of Silesia, led the principal lieutenants of the Generalissimo to expect to see him take a strong resolution. Believing so hard in immediate action, a general movement executed at least by the right wing, as we indicated above, Barclay de Tolly, hoping to receive the order to march, had held the guards under arms from five o'clock in the morning.  At eight o'clock he resigned himself to make them return to their quarters.

The advice of all kinds, however, had not failed to effect Schwarzenberg.  Without including information that he had sent the commanders of army corps, he was already in the hands of Blücher's dispatches of 9 and 10 February and a report on 10th of the officer he had detached to the headquarters the Army of Silesia.  He considered himself so knowledgeable about the plight of this army that he was able to send to the Emperor of Austria a synopsis, very optimistic, it is true, of the news from the army of Blucher from February 10 to 13.[24]

"Napoleon", the summary said, "had moved on the 10th, from Sézanne on Champaubert, where he found the 9th Russian Corps, and forcing it to retreat to Bergères, where the corps of Kleist and Kapsewitch were concentrated. On the 11th, the Emperor had marched on Montmirail; Sacken, leaving from La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, and Yorck, Château-Thierry, were to meet him.  The combat at Montmirail lasted until night.  Both opponents had retained their positions.[25]  Yorck had then thrown a bridge over the Marne at Château-Thierry, and the corps of Sacken and Yorck had occupied a strong position at Viffort awaiting the enemy.  As canon could not be heard on the 12th, it seems that the French had abandoned the attack."

It is true that the Generalissimo had not yet received the report from Blücher, from the evening of the 12th, from Major Mareschal, who arrived at Troyes on the 13th, at noon, and that Blücher himself had ignored up to 12 at night after the affair of Montmirail.  It should, moreover, be added that Blücher had taken care, in this report, to disguise the truth and to significantly reduce the importance of check Napoleon had inflicted on his lieutenants.  Montmirail was, according to him, a undecided matter; Sacken had simply denied the right wing and joined in Viffort, Yorck whose artillery could not reach the next position. The advanced guards had remained on the battlefield.  The losses were inconsiderable, although they were not yet fully established.

Despite these misgivings, however, it was easy to sense the truth.  Blücher, in fact, was already preparing the new headquarters for the retirement of Yorck and Sacken to the right bank of the Marne.  He added, finally, he had no idea of ​​the real strength of the French troops before him in Étoges; that his lack of cavalry prevented him from attacking the 11th and 12th, but that he intended to take the offensive on the 13th.

So it was known as early as the 13th at noon, that despite the defeats of his lieutenants, despite the losses they had suffered and that his army was less concentrated than ever, Blücher was decided to attempt another trial of arms.  And yet the Emperor of Russia himself could not tear from the General Staff an immediate and general order of march on Provins, to obtain execution of a movement that, by threatening the rear of the Emperor, could only reach the army of Blücher.

The 13th had even passed almost without incident if the Russian cavalry of Rüdinger and Diebitsch had not pushed vigorously forward, and if Marshals Oudinot and Victor had not tried to repair the faults committed at the bridge of Bray by seeking to stop the Vth Corps.

March of the VIth Corps on Villenauxe.  --Wittgenstein had crossed the Seine with the bulk of his corps, the 13th in the morning, at Pont-sur-Seine.  Pushing parties right on Sézanne and Barbonne, he settled in and made his vanguard under Pahlen take position at Villenauxe and Beauchery-Saint Martin (Saint Martin-Chennetron) and Léchelle on the road to Provins.  Prince Lubomirski, posted on his extreme right in Saint-Rémy, had informed him that cannon had been heard on the side of Étoges and Champaubert and that the French infantry reoccupied Sézanne.

Lubomirski naturally could only deploy a few small parties to Sézanne, Wittgenstein therefore ordered General Ilovaysky to move on this point, attack the enemy and given an exact account of the forces at its disposal.  The operations of Diebitsch were, in fact, to make the intervention of Ilovaysky useless.

As various news received at the VIth Corps seemed to indicate that Blücher and the Emperor were still in their positions of the day before, Wittgenstein had conceived the plan to move on Sézanne the 14th when his cavalry would have confirmed this information.  He made his intentions known to the Generalissimo and asked Barclay de Tolly to support it.[26]

To his left, General Rüdinger, awaited the arrival of the advanced guard of Pahlen at Villenauxe so he could resume his movement by Montpothier, Le Plessis-Mériot and the forest of Sourdun.  He rejoined the French rearguard near Sourdun which covered with a thousand horses, the retirement of the 2nd Corps and the reserve of Paris, that withdrew without a fight.  Rüdinger followed keenly, occupying Provins in the evening and setting up his outposts on the roads from Lizines and Nangis.[27]

Combat of Cutrelles and Luisetaines.  --Around 5 o'clock in the morning, the bridge of Bray was completely repaired.  The La Motte Division went and joined on the right bank of the Seine three battalions which had successively been transported by boat, having protected the repairs to the bridge.

The Bavarian vanguard effortlessly chased off the small French posts around Mouy of Oudinot.  But at 8 o'clock in the morning, while most of the Vth Corps marched conforming to the orders of Schwarzenberg by the highway of Provins, the 1st Brigade of the division of La Motte (3rd Bavarian Division), three battalions of the 2nd Brigade of this division, two brigades of Bavarian cavalry and two Austrian regiments (Székeler hussars and dragoons of Knesevich) had already crossed the bridge, General La Motte was informed by Wrede that a large French column was advancing on the road from Donnemarie-en-Montois and had occupied Saint-Sauveur-lès-Bray.  Indeed, Marshal Oudinot, having left Nangis with the few troops he could gather, had brought them by forced marches to Bray hoping to get there in time to still prohibit the crossing of the Allies.  Finding the Bavarians on the right bank, he had established himself in two lines between Donnemarie and Luisetaines, and was to meet the Allies.

Wrede immediately sent to the division of La Motte orders to march on Saint-Sauveur, and as Frimont, with the divisions of Antoine Hardegg and Rechberg could not come into line until around noon, the commander of the Vth Corps marched Spleny to Provins with two regiments of Austrian cavalry.

La Motte strongly took Saint-Sauveur, and the cavalry of General Vieregg, supporting the advanced guard of the 3rd Division, helped them to throw the French from Cutrelles and tumbled onto a French squadron from which it took an officer and thirty chasseurs.[28]
 Wrede had, meanwhile, joined the vanguard of the division of La Motte.  "I saw," he says, "that the enemy firmly occupied Cutrelles, having established his infantry, cavalry and artillery on the strong position formed by the heights of Donnemarie.  I recognized immediately that it would be difficult to force the front of this position, but it was pretty easy to be outflanked with my right, by Luisetaines."  While the La Motte Division was deployed on a small rise between Vimpelles and Savigny, Wrede prescribed to his Chief of Staff, Major-General Count Antoine Rechberg, to move with a battalion of infantry and six squadrons on Luisetaines, that this general officer occupied almost without opposition.  The Duke of Reggio directed straight away on this point three battalions that managed to secure possession for the Marshal of this important point, if Wrede didn't have the idea on ​​his side to send three battalions and to take a position with a battery whose shot forced, after a fierce battle, the French to abandon Luisetaines and return to the position of Donnemarie.  However, instead of enjoying his gains immediately, Wrede waited to form his attack on Donnemarie[29] on the entrance into the line of the Rechberg Division who arrived only at 4 o'clock, when it had just been told to him that a French column, strong 6,000 to 7,000 men (it was the corps of Victor), appeared headed to Paroy and threaten his right.  "As night approached", adds Wrede[30], "I thought it prudent to stick there and not to try at the position Donnemarie."  A few moments afterwards, the advanced troops of Count Ignatius Hardegg, posted at Ormes, came against the French cavalry on the side of Paroy.  After this skirmish Marshal Victor decided to fall back on Donnemarie first, then to get ahead of the retreat of Oudinot on Nangis.  The Duke of Reggio, outflanked on his left, which had suffered much at Luisetaines, having lost 600 men, including General Gauthier (who died a few days after from his injuries), seeing that the enemy had appeared with superior forces on the right bank of the Seine, evacuated Donnemarie around midnight and retired on Nangis.

Two Bavarian squadrons and a battalion occupied Donnemarie at 2 o'clock in the morning.

Before leaving his position, Oudinot, considering the presence of the enemy on the right bank of the Seine, now rendered Montereau untenable, sending Pajol the order to blow up the bridge and to withdraw to Le Châtelet and from there on Nangis where the Marshal thought it essential to gather as much force as possible.

The retreat of Victor and Oudinot on Nangis was even less calculated to please the Emperor, who on the 12th, had sent the two marshals orders to withdraw to Montereau, in case they were forced from Nogent.  Oudinot and Victor none the less, complete their reports trying to justify the direction given to retire by the loss of Sens and Pont-sur-Yonne, the movement of Allies on Nemours and Moret, and finally by the appearance of the Austro- Bavarians at Bray.

They were, indeed, to find it impossible, after the affair of the 13th, to think of descending from Donnemarie to Montereau.  Despite the fierce resistance of the troops of Oudinot at Cutrelles, they were left with no other course to take than to fall back on Nangis.  Having entrusted the guarding of the bridge at Bray to National Guard and the incomplete destruction of the bridge, thwarting the plans of the Emperor, of maintaining the Army of Bohemia even after the evacuation of Nogent , on the left bank of the Seine and losing, after the lines of the Yonne and the Loing, far more important the line of the Seine.

Notes:

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

[2] Ibid., II, 1.

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

[4] Wittgenstein to Schwarzenberg, Méry, 11 February. (Ibid., II, 214.)

[5] Wittgenstein evidently alludes here to the information sent to the Generalissimo by Major Mareschal that Schwarzenberg had detached to the headquarters of the Army of Silesia that we'll focus our attention more than once in the next chapter.

[6] Wittgenstein to Schwarzenberg, Méry, 11 February. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 284.) The Russian general finished his dispatch by saying: "It is urgent that we move forward and I pray your Highness to invite General Wrede to not lose a moment in joining me."

Wrede, meanwhile, had been informed directly by Blücher of the situation in which he found the corps of the Army of Silesia. We will defer to reproduce the letter from Blücher below when we review the day's events of 12 February.

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

[8] Plotho and Damitz make a mistake by marching the guards and reserves from Méry on the 11th.  The Emperor of Russia dared not make such a significant change in the orders of the Generalissimo on his own authority.  He was content to leave Diebitsch, the evening of the 11th with the light cavalry of the guard with which the General crossed the Aube at Plancy, the morning of the 12th.

[9] Letter from Schwarzenberg to the Princess.

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

[11] Wrede to Schwarzenberg, Traînel, 12 Feb. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 312.)

Wrede was, in fact, responsible for justifying himself for that assessment.  General Heilmann, in his biography of Wrede, provides, in effect, proof of what we have to put forward by presenting previously the letter received by Wrede from Blücher on the night of the 11th to 12th and letting us know the resolution with which Wrede stopped immediately after the arrival of the letter of Field Marshal.

After Brienne, General Heilmann said, Blücher had to move through the Marne Valley.  Schwarzenberg would march on both banks of the Seine and would meet below Paris with the Prussian Field Marshal.  The 4th of February, Schwarzenberg deluding himself completely on the situation, wrote to Wrede:  "Blücher will be strong enough to drive before him Macdonald and Marmont, and arrive in Paris in a few days.  For our part we must, true to our principle, constantly seeking to outflank the enemy by his right."

A week had barely elapsed when Wrede received on the night of 11 to 12 February, the following letter that Blücher had written on the 10th from Fère-Champenoise:

"The enemy, far superior in number, attacked this afternoon the corps of General Olsufiev posted at Champaubert.  I have not until now received accurate news on the outcome of this engagement.  All my information leads me to believe that the enemy march with a large force on the road to Vertus and Ferté-sous-Jouarre and he apparently intends to seek to pierce and cut in half our army.  I, therefore, decided to leave here with the corps of Kleist and Kapsewitch and take a position at Bergères near Vertus.  In informing Your Excellency of this movement, I pray, if possible, to prevent the march of the enemy by a demonstration on his rear, to give in this way the corps of Sacken and Yorck, stationed at Château-Thierry and at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, the time necessary to effect a junction.  From the latest news I have received, more columns will be set in motion in the rear of the enemy.  But both because of the considerable number of stragglers that the poor condition of roads in which the artillery is bogged down, they encounter many obstacles in their march.  This is perhaps another reason to undertake an offensive movement on the rear of the enemy."

This letter from Blücher, adds Wrede, made him decide to try to force the passage of the Seine on one point anywhere and comply with the wishes of Field Marshal Blücher in maneuvering in the rear of the enemy. (General HEILMANN, Wrede, p. 341, 342.)

[12] At 4 o'clock in the morning, only on the 13th, according to General Heilmann.

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

[14] Oudinot to the Chief of Staff, to the Minister of War and to General Boyer. (Archives of the War.)

[15] "The enemy still occupies Nogent... I have managed to establish a crossing at Pont-sur-Seine and in the last hour I have crossed troops that I have directed on Villenauxe."

"I informed Count Wrede."

"I am today without news of Blücher:  I cannot hear cannon on his side.  Prince Lubomirski is at Marigny." Wittgenstein to Schwarzenberg, Pont-sur-Seine, 11 February. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 310.)

[16] Prince Taxis in his Tagebuch (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., XIII, 32), does justice to the heroism of the defenders of Nogent, but he attributed all the honor to Bourmont.

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

Diebitsch addressed his reports directly to General Barclay.  Lieutenant General Sabaneyev, Chief of Staff of Barclay, then relayed these reports written in Russian to the Emperor Alexander and to Toll at the general headquarters of Schwarzenberg, who translated the first orally to the Field Marshal and his advisers.  It is likely, although it far from certain, that the officers then provided Toll a written translation.  It is, moreover, from the same moment of these different pieces that we take the following documents: "Sabaneyev to Toll.  --Méry, 12 February 1814 (received at the headquarters at Troyes on the 13th)."

"By order of His Excellency the Commander in Chief (Barclay), I have the honor to submit the following report for H. H. Field Marshal Prince Schwarzenberg."

"The vanguard under Lieutenant-General Diebitsch reached this morning at 8 o'clock the village of Plancy and stopped at this point on the left bank of the Aube, because the enemy destroyed the bridge which won't be repaired before this evening."

"Lieutenant-General Diebitsch directed to the village of Faux two squadrons that will push patrols on Sézanne and Fère-Champenoise and send a few of Cossack to the side of Villenauxe to seek communication with Count Wittgenstein, that we have every reason to believe, had occupied Nogent, since, except for a few shots heard this morning in the direction of Saint-Quentin (Saint-Quentin-le-Verger), all was quiet on this side."

"The Commander in Chief directed Colonel Bock to go to with 50 Cossacks towards Arcis to connect to Field-Marshal Blücher and learn exactly what is happening with the army of the Marshal."

[18] The pieces that contain this information is especially interesting to see in that they give an exact account of the relationship between the Russian and Austrian generals.  They appear all the more curious in that we have already taken time to discuss the reports of tension between Wrede and Schwarzenberg one hand, between Wrede and Wittgenstein on the other, and that when combined with the pieces above they enlighten  us on how singularly slow and complicated the method of sending information became that should have come directly to headquarters.

"Barclay de Tolly to Toll. - Méry, 13 February, 8 o'clock in the morning (received the same day at Troyes)."

"My dear general, please let me know exactly and at the moment all the movements of the different corps.  I do not know if it is intentional or through negligence that the Austrian headquarters has not sent me any communication.  In the hope of receiving an order of march, I had gathered my troops this morning at 5 o'clock on the points that I had indicated in case of concentration.  I camped again.  Attached is a copy of reports of Diebitsch and Lubomirski. I will push the cavalry of the vanguard to Sézanne, but I will give the command to another general officer because I need Diebitsch.  As a result of floods, the bridges over the Aube and the route from Plancy to Sézanne are almost impassable for infantry and artillery."

"Report of Lieutenant-General Diebitsch to Barclay de Tolly. --Les Granges, 13 February 1814, 6:30 in the morning."

"I have the honor to transmit to Your Excellency the report sent to Major General Chalikov by Colonel Aide-de-Camp Prince Lubomirski that my patrols encountered in Saint-Remy near Sézanne.  Your Excellency will see by this report that the enemy is close to Montmirail, where according to the report of Prince Lubomirski, the troops of Field Marshal Blücher, also appear to have concentrated.  What is even more likely is that the parties that I had sent on the side of Vertus, to connect me with the Prussians, let me know they found no trace of the Allied troops and continue to search for them."

"I propose, therefore, if the parties I have sent confirm for me the absence of any hostile force between Sézanne and Vertus, to move myself with the Guard Cavalry Division on Sézanne, where it will be more easy to discover a means of communications with Field Marshal Blücher and operate, if necessary, either against Montmirail or against Nogent.  I ordered the infantry and artillery to follow by Savun (Saron) if crossing is possible at this point and, if not, to reunite with the corps of grenadiers.  I await Your Excellency about these proposals."

"Report of Prince Lubomirski to Major General Chalikov, commanding the Guard Lancers.  --Saint-Rémy, near Sézanne.  12 February."

"I occupied Sézanne today; the cavalry (about 1,000 horses) withdrew on Montmirail and I hear from this side a heavy cannonade.  Yesterday, in the village of Pleurs, I was in communication with the Prussians who yesterday continued their movement to the right and since then I have been able to connect with them on this side.  I sent two parties in this direction and two to the other side of Nogent.  My detachment of 300 men is too small to maintain communication with Wittgenstein and with Field Marshal Blücher.  If Your Excellency could send someone to my right to connect with me and the Prussians, it would be possible to establish a constant line of communication that does not exist currently, I am forced to stand more on the side of Nogent and Provins."

"Diebitsch to Barclay.  --Les Granges, 13 February in the morning (received at Troyes the same day)."

"The parties sent to Fère-Champenoise report to me that there are no enemy troops on this side, that the Allies have moved to Vertus and yesterday they heard a heavy cannonade from that quarter.  Field Marshal Blücher spent the night of the 10th to 11th at Fère-Champenoise and left for Vertus, the 11th in the morning.  I hope the officer that I sent to Vertus, will find him.  As there is no enemy on my right flank, I move to Sézanne with my cavalry and I will seek hence the shorter line of communication.  I have the honor to transmit herewith the provisions that I have taken on the movement of the cavalry and the report of Colonel Marquis de Boissaizon."

[19] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt Armee im Monate Februar (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1) and the Crown Prince of Württemberg to Schwarzenberg, Sens, 12 February. (Ibid., II, 314.)

[20] Thurn to Prince Schwarzenberg. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 314.)

[21] Journal of the Operations of the IVth Corps. (Ibid., XIII, 56.)

[22] Colonel Lavigne to the prefect of Seine-et-Marne and the count of Plancy to Colonel Lavigne. (Archives of the War.)

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

[24] Summary of news from the Army of Silesia, 10 to 13 February. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 362.)

[25] In his daily report to the Emperor of Austria (Ibid., II, 361), the Generalissimo recognizes that Sacken, was beaten at Montmirail, saying he had fallen back on Viffort, but he claims he was forced into retirement because Yorck had only four brigades at Viffort, and could not support them.

[26] Wittgenstein to Schwarzenberg Villenauxe, 13 February. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 348.) Wittgenstein ends his dispatch with the following sentences:

"I do not know what forces General Wrede has before him and I have ask him to support until he has become master of Provins.  It is enough for me, besides, if he covers my rear, for I do not think Napoleon will maintain his position once I have executed this movement."

"According to what the locals say, Napoleon has been here with more than 40, 000 men, but his soldiers were exhausted by the marches he has given them and by the hardships they have endured.  It is incredible that with such an army, he dares to place himself in such a position.  He acts as if he had nothing to fear from the junction of the forces of Blücher and especially as if he had nothing to fear on the part of Yorck and Sacken."

[27] Wittgenstein to Schwarzenberg, Villenauxe, 14 February (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 386), and Wittgenstein to Barclay de Tolly, no 230.

[28] Wrede learned later that he had fought with Oudinot and troops from Spain.  --We reproduce here the officer's interrogation of 21st chasseurs made by the 4th Bavarian Light Horse:

"Questioning at the Vth Corps Headquarters of a French officer (Captain Boudin, 21st Horse Chasseurs):"

"The regiment is part of the division of General Lorge, the corps of the Duke of Padoue."

"200 horses of the regiment under the command of a major, were ordered to escort a park of 300 cannons from Châlons-sur-Marne to Troyes.  In route we received counter orders and led the park on Sézanne from where we were returned to Provins.  This park should probably go to Paris, but the captain could not confirm this because at Provins he was sent to rejoin the corps of Marshal Oudinot at Donnemarie."

"He also is ignorant of the actual strength of the corps of the Marshal.  He does not believe that the Marshal can be sustained on his position and believes he will retire before an attack."  (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 349 b.)

[29] "If the enemy had been enterprising, he would have been able to push vigorously in his first attack and do infinite harm, seeing that I was without cavalry." (Oudinot to the Chief of Staff, Nangis, 14 February, Archives of the War.)

[30] Wrede to Schwarzenberg, Bray, 13 February.  (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 349.)

In this report, Wrede says again "that the Emperor Napoleon, after moving to La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, retreated to Paris determined to make a decisive battle under the walls of his capital."  We will return to this news that arrived on the 14th at Nogent, the headquarters of Schwarzenberg, which was not without some influence on the provisions of the Generalissimo.  The march of Victor had been reported to Wrede by the following report of Frimont (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 349, a) that we reproduce in full because it gives the exact position of the Austrians of the Vth Corps, the 13th in the evening:

"General Frimont to General of Cavalry Count Wrede.  --Everly, 13 February 1814, 5:30 at night."

"Field-Marshal-Lieutenant Spleny, with his cavalry, the 3rd battalion of jägers and a battery of horse artillery, pushed forward by Chalmaison on Soisy.  Two squadrons of Székeler hussars are at Flamboin and cover my right.  They connect, at Nogent, with the corps of Wittgenstein.  Count Hardegg is at Les Ormes, with the Schwarzenberg Uhlans, 4 pieces of horse artillery and 2 infantry battalions connecting with your corps at Donnemarie."

"I am with five battalions and six squadrons of Archduke Joseph Hussars on the heights in front of Everly."

"The enemy at our approach, has retreated from Chalmaison on Soisy.  One of his columns defiles in the direction of Provins to Donnemarie and consists of 6,000 to 7,000 men.  Also seen on the heights behind Savins was another column, composed almost entirely of cavalry, whose strength I cannot evaluate because I do not see its head."

"Count Hardegg informs me on his side that between Les Ormes and Savins, enemy patrols were also found."

"On my right I heard a few cannon shots on the side of Nogent."

"A French deserter claims the French 6th Corps is in Provins."

"I have no news of Count Wittgenstein."

To completely show the positions occupied by the Vth Corps in the evening of the 13th, suffice it to say that the La Motte Division bivouacked between Vimpelles and Luisetaines and Rechberg Division at Cutrelles; the brigade of Maillot (3rd Brigade of the Rechberg Division) guarded Nogent.  Finally, Wrede added that another enemy column which appeared in the afternoon on the left bank of the Seine, from Montereau (this is obviously here the dragoons from Spain of General Trelliard), and he had, because of this bizarre movement, sent troops to that river.

The various documents of K. K. Kriegs Archiv. which we reviewed recount these facts (Report of Wrede to Schwarzenberg, II, 349: Reports of Frimont to Wrede, II, 349 a and II, 353; STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt Armee im Monate Februar (II, 1.) and are fully consistent with the dispatches of Oudinot. (Archives of the War.)

Only Prince Taxis in his Tagebuch (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., XIII, 32) ignores the battle of Cutrelles; he is content to say simply:  "Pushing forward on the roads from Provins and Donnemarie; we threw back some cavalry parties of Oudinot's corps; the Bavarian advanced guard was in Donnemarie after midnight."  Wrede, one can see, was not said to be satisfied with the day.

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