Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

The Campaign of 1814: Chapter 7, Part VI

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.

The IVth Corps gets the orders of the Generalissimo too late.  --Its stay in Sens stops the Ist and IIIrd Corps.  --On the left wing of the Allies, the Crown Prince of Württemberg was ordered to march on Bray, as one o'clock had arrived it was impossible to unite his troops stationed around Sens before night, forcing him to give up this movement to the next day.  The Stockmeyer Brigade and the advanced guard alone could reach Bray, after the restoration of the bridge at Pont-sur-Yonne that General Allix had failed to completely destroy.[1]

The forced halt of the IVth Corps naturally annoyed the movement of two other corps of the left wing.  In the Ist Corps, which had orders to follow the enemy and move to Pont-sur-Yonne, still occupied by the Württemberg cavalry, the division of Ignatius Hardegg had to stop in Saint-Sérotin, on the left bank of the Yonne; the Bianchi Division, Soucy; that of Prince Wied-Runkel did not even pass Véron and Nostitz confined himself, with his grenadiers and cuirassiers, around Sens, where Bianchi moved his headquarters.

The IIIrd Corps was staggered from Vaumort up to Longue-Raie; the main body occupied Cerisiers.[2]

Action of the flying corps of Thurn at Dollot.  --Affair of Cossacks at Chapelle-la-Reine.  --Movement of Seslavin towards the Loire.  --To the left of the Ignatius Hardegg Division, Thurn, who was at Chéroy, had menaced, the 13th in the morning, the French cavalry posts on the side of Dollot and managed to push them by Voulx up to Esmans, about 5 kilometers from Montereau, where he was stopped by a troop of infantry.  One of his patrols sent flying towards Moret had heard a rather sharp shooting on the side of Nemours.  "It may be," he wrote to Schwarzenberg, "some engagement of the Cossacks of Platov."  Finally, a few hours later, his scouts informed him first of the departure of the French from Esmans, and then the evacuation of Montereau and their crossing to the heights on the right bank of the Seine.[3] This information was, however, somewhat premature, since Pajol never left Montereau until the 13th at midnight.[4]

Platov was, with the bulk of his Cossacks at Souppes, where Kaisarov sent to Toll the following report:

Letter from Major General Kaisarov to Lieutenant General von Toll.  --Souppes-sur-Loing, 13 February (received in Bray, the 16th).  --"I had the good fortune to successfully carry out the most challenging enterprise of my life.  I managed to persuade the Count M. I. (Matvei Ivanovich) Platov to cross to the left bank of the Loing and posted between that river and the road to Orléans, I combined our operations with Seslavin.  Seslavin will move from Pithiviers to Orléans, while I will push from Malesherbes by Chapelle la Reine on Fontainebleau and beyond, if possible."

"The parties that I have sent from this side relate to me that for several days troops have come from Spain and estimate that 20,000 men, are marching in that direction.  How strange!"

"Tomorrow we're going to Verteau.[5]  Seslavin is responsible for advancing on Pithiviers to operate with his 3,000 horsemen on the side of Orléans against the French troops who file down this road and transport by wagons.  Do you approve this project, my dear Karl Fedorovich?"

"For the love of God, can you push and provide as much assistance as possible to us.  True, one must have patience with my little marching affair.  God and good people are my witnesses."[6]

Thanks to the hesitation of Platov, the prefect of Seine-et-Marne had time to send some troops to Colonel Lavigne with which he tried to cover Fontainebleau and drive from Chapelle-la-Reine a few Cossacks who had appeared.

Seslavin did not lose a minute.  He had barely occupied Montargis than his Cossacks were spreading throughout the department the Loiret, appeared two leagues from Pithiviers, scouring the country side of Beaune-la-Rolande, to Batilly and Courcelles, pushing even to Neuville-aux-Bois, three leagues from Artenay and further south. the 14th in the morning, up to Bellegarde-du-Loiret, a short distance from the canal of Orléans.  Major Legros, who initially had intended to withdraw from Montargis on Orléans, had remained, therefore, at Gien, in order to defend the bridge over the Loire.[7]

Position of the guards and reserves. -- Diebitsch at Sézanne.  --The guards and reserves of Barclay de Tolly were staggered in cantonments, which extended from Saint-Aubin to Saint-Hilaire and even as far as Mesgrigny.

Diebitsch, continuing his movement on Sézanne, had surprised a detachment of French cavalry.  Pushing forward patrols, he was connected with the Army of Silesia[8] and had sent Barclay a letter from Müffling announcing that Blücher, having rallied his men, attacked the French advanced guard at Étoges.

14 February 1814.  --Orders of Schwarzenberg for the days of 14 and 15 February.  --The news received at General Headquarters on the night and the morning of the 13th, leaving no doubt about the plight of the Army of Silesia, should have, this time more than ever, convinced the Generalissimo to aggressively take action.  He knew he only had before him the troops of Victor and Oudinot, retiring on Nangis.  Master of the crossings of the Seine, nothing prevented therefore his immediately striking out on the right wing and giving the guards an order to force march to disengage Blücher and seek to take the small army of Napoleon in the flank and rear.  He thought, on the contrary, it would suffice to satisfy Blücher with a platonic talk.  As the Field Marshal had, in his letters to Wittgenstein and Wrede, asked the generals to move on Provins, the IVth and Vth Corps were ordered to perform this movement during the days of the 14th and 15th, the VIth Corps standing still in Villenauxe; the guards and reserves to stand on the left bank of the Seine, from Villiers-sur-Seine and Traînel to Nogent and Romilly, taking as their focus Nogent, where the general headquarters was going to be sent.

On the left wing, the Ist Corps was ordered to continue on the 14th on Villeneuve-la-Guyard, the 15th on Montereau, followed at a short day's march by the IIIrd Corps.[9]

Without even wanting to discuss the motivation of these orders, it seems, on the one hand by the news Wrede sent of a retrograde movement on Paris, conforming on the other with the understanding of Langenau, it should be noted in dividing his army into two groups, Schwarzenberg had taken care to place at the right side where the serious action seemed more likely, the Württembergers, the Bavarians and Russians, and to march on Fontainebleau and Montereau, where he wasn't expecting any resistance for the Austrian army, only troops who, under the command of Frimont, were part of Vth Corps.

Under these conditions, the day of 14 February did not present any important event.

The marshals effect their union at Nangis.  --Movement of the Vth Corps.  --Skirmish at Rampillon and combat of Valjouan.  --Victor and Oudinot had made their junction before Nangis at 4 o'clock in the morning.  The Duke of Bellune immediately established on the road to Provins; Oudinot on that of Donnemarie, having in second-line the Rottembourg Division, in the first line the division of Boyer, covered in front by the cavalry of Bordesoulle, which scouted the road from Bray to Nangis by Donnemarie and that of Montereau to La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, while the convoy sped on to Nangis.

At 10 o'clock in the morning, Wrede had collected his whole corps at Donnemarie.  Without the news from the Generalissimo, ignorant of the position of General Headquarters, not knowing if a move on Nangis fit with the overall operations, he was reluctant to move forward and to follow his advanced guard, on the direct road from Donnemarie to Nangis or that which runs through them Villeneuve-Bordes.[10]  He decided nevertheless to feel out the position of Nangis with the Austrians of Frimont and in the course of the day he pushed forward the divisions of  Antoine Hardegg and Spleny.  The first of these generals occupied the wood of Saint-Martin and came to be established at the farm of La Haute-Saule, sending his cavalry, right on the Verrines and Lizines, ahead on Rampillon where its patrols exchanged shots with a small French post, which withdrew in the evening on a group of 500 horses posted a kilometer away in the wood, between Rampillon and Nangis.  Frimont occupied Meigneux with the division of Spleny.[11] Wrede and his Bavarians had reached Donnemarie.  To their left, the outposts of General de La Motte, whose division was stationed at Gurcy-le-Châtel, covered by the cavalry brigade of Colonel Dietz posted at Villeneuve-les-Bordes, had had a very hot engagement at Valjouan.  The squadron of Major Karvinzky was attacked by the French cavalry and was thrown back a kilometer behind Villeneuve, where they were joined by two squadrons, who managed to stop the French.[12]

When the reconnaissance of French cavalry, 400 horses strong, had retired, Colonel Dietz, rather than continue merely occupied Villeneuve-les-Bordes with a squadron and a company.  "Fearing," he said, "that the enemy had laid an ambush in the woods and, furthermore, the fatigue of his men, the exhaustion of his horses, made all movement impossible."[13]

Position of the VIth Corps.  --Diebitsch marches on Montmirail.  --The bulk of the VIth Corps remained in Villenauxe,[14] and the advanced guard of Pahlen, that Wittgenstein had sent in the direction of Sézanne, received in route the order to stop at Fontainebleau and Béthon.  Rüdinger was still in Provins and Lubomirski had pushed on the Grand-Morin up to Meilleray.

On the far right, Diebitsch whose patrols that had been sent to Fère-Champenoise, reported the departure of the Prussians in the direction of Montmirail, had received from General Sabaneyev, Chief of Staff of Barclay de Tolly, orders to track their movement.  Leaving a squadron of dragoons at Sézanne and knowing that the French occupied Montmirail, he had directed on Maclaunay hoping to operate on the 15th, an attack on Montmirail, a diversion in aid of Blücher which, despite the noise of cannon and musketry, had been forced to retreat.  Despite this, he had pushed his advance guard onto Montmirail, but the French infantry, who was there, had forced his cavalry to fall back on Maclaunay and then take a position in the woods in front of the city.[15]

Movement of Macdonald on Guignes.  --Pajol occupies Châtelet.  --While the IVth Corps finally reached Bray and only the head of its vanguard was crossing to the right bank of the Seine,[16] the Emperor had received the news of the withdrawal of the marshals and the loss of the line of the Seine.  No longer able to recall Leval's division he had sent to him. and whose presence would have permitted Oudinot to firmly hold the bridge of Bray and maybe even keep Donnemarie; he prescribed, from the night of the 13th, to Macdonald,[17] whose corps reformed at Meaux, to move in haste to Montereau, directing on Guignes what he had at Meaux, and what he had at  Coulommiers on Nangis, in order to take given the circumstances the direction of Melun or that of Montereau.  The cavalry of Saint- Germain was also sent on route from Viels-Maisons on Nangis, where Chief of Staff intended to see him arrive in the course of the day, while the headquarters of the Marshal was to be establish the evening of the 14th at Guignes. The Chief of Staff informed at the same time Victor and Oudinot of these movements, and prescribed the latter to be followed by the divisions Rottembourg, Boyer, Pacthod by the cavalry of generals Pajol and Bordesoulle and if possible by the Count of Valmy.[18]

From the moment when the marshals began on the night of the 14th to 15th, their retreat behind the Yerres, Oudinot advised Pajol to be ready to move the next day on Moissy-Cramayel, holding Lieusaint with his right, linking with the Charpentier Division posted at Corbeil and communicating with his left to Soignolles.  Pajol, after blowing up the bridge over the Yonne at Montereau, had taken position at the Châtelet; his outposts were at Sluys, about 7 kilometers from Châtelet and about 13 kilometers from the right bank of the Seine, at Montereau.  In leaving Montereau, Pajol could only, in fact, join the marshals elsewhere, since the Allied cavalry had cut the road already at Nangis.[19]

The Ignatius Hardegg Division and the flying of Thurn occupy Montereau.  --Positions of Ist and IIIrd Corps and the guards.  --The advance guard of the Ist Corps (a division of Count Hardegg Ignatius) had pushed, the 14th, from Saint-Sérotin to Cannes, extending to the left until Noisy and sending a party of horse towards Moret.  This vanguard was preceded the day before by the flying corps of Lieutenant Colonel Thurn, whose patrols had on the 13th, at 11 o'clock, a small affair with the French rearguard, that they had followed up to the palisades of the redoubt raised on the route to Montereau.  After staying overnight within gunshot of Montereau, Count Thurn entered on the 14th at 8 o'clock in the morning, and occupied part of the town on the left bank of the Yonne.[20]  Relieved by noon by the troops of Ignatius Hardegg, Count Thurn headed towards Nanteau, while General Hardegg was summarily repairing the bridges.  He succeeded in crossing on to the right bank of the Seine a few hussars who caught up with the French rearguard beyond Valence and exchanged some shots with the outposts of L'Écluse.[21]  The rest of the Ist Corps was quartered in Villeneuve-la-Guyard where Bianchi received from the Crown Prince of Württemberg the opinion that Nemours was weakly occupied.

While the line of the Ist and IVth Corps still encumbered Pont-sur-Yonne, Feldzeugmeister Gyulay stopped some of his army corps at Sens where he found the troops of Nostitz already.  He cantoned in front of the town the division of Crenneville at Nolon, Jouancy and Soucy, and assigned the Fresnel Division to quarter in neighborhoods to the east and northeast of the city, at Saligny and Fontaine-la-Gaillarde.

The Guard and reserves remained between Traînel and Pont-sur-Seine.  The light division of Prince Maurice Liechtenstein was divided between Sens and Joigny.

Combat at Chapelle-la-Reine. - The slowness of Platov had allowed General Montbrun to arrive at Moret, while General Trelliard reach, with the 14th, 16th, 17th and 27th Dragoons, Fontainebleau, that he was also forced to leave the night of 14th to 15th to join the marshals.  During his march, this general was stopped for a moment about a league before Chapelle-la Reine, by a thousand Cossacks, who had tried to block his path, but, crushed by the 14th Dragoons and the elite company of the 16th and pursued for three miles, it disappeared after losing a hundred men and some prisoners.[22]

As the bulk of Platov's Cossacks[23] was still around Nemours, Colonel Lavigne took advantage of the crossing of dragoons to communicate with General Montbrun at Moret, to restore at Ury the posts he had established the day before at Chapelle-la-Reine, where since the evacuation of Montereau and because of the presence of Cossacks on the road from Orléans to Fontainebleau, they would have been too much exposed.

March of Seslavin on Pithiviers.  --Seslavin continued his movement towards Pithiviers and the Orléans Canal  with such resolution that the sub-prefect of Montargis, writing from Gien to the Prefect of the Loiret, said, "I cannot imagine how 1500 men, who are all the enemy forces had crossing at Montargis, advance with as much confidence in a country where they are so removed from the corps that could support them."

If Platov had deployed the same vigor as Seslavin, if, like him, he marched resolutely without being stopped by a few posts and a few shots, the mission on Fontainebleau would have had serious consequences.  The letter that King Joseph wrote to the Minister of the news of the appearance of Seslavin's Cossacks between Montargis and Pithiviers, fears that the movement would lead him to Chartres, Étampes and Rambouillet, show that energetic efforts of Platov, either on Melun and Corbeil, either on Milly and Étampes, had completely sown disorder and disarray in Paris and probably would have led the Cossacks up to Juvisy, Longjumeau and Palaiseau,[24] almost to the gates of the capital.

Positions of the Army of Bohemia the night of February 14th.  --When the marshals left, on the night of the 14th, their positions at Nangis to fall back on Guignes and effect their junction with the Duke of Tarente, the great Army of Bohemia occupied from Méry and Moret up to Villenauxe and Montereau , a line of more than 15 leagues, in front of which stood the outposts at Provins, Villeneuve-les-Bordes and Valence.

In the opinion of the Generalissimo, the Army of Bohemian could, thanks to this disposition, either stand on the Marne at the rear of Napoleon, or fall back more to the left down the Seine and threaten Paris.  Schwarzenberg, adding credence to the news that he had received from the Army of Silesia and the information transmitted by Wrede, believed then that Blücher had had an advantageous affair at Étoges the 13th.  He was also informed that the Emperor, who spent the night of the 12th to 13th at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre[25] and who was, if the affair against Sacken was succeeding, would be sending reinforcements to Marmont, at Étoges, actually had no support.  Schwarzenberg had concluded that Napoleon was preparing for a retrograde movement to take a position that would allow him to cover Paris,[26] and that there was reason to expect more positive news from the Army of Silesia, before he determined the direction they would follow with the Great Army.

15 February 1814.  --Orders of Schwarzenberg.  --Meanwhile, the VIth Corps was ordered to camp, 15 February, around Provins, and its advanced guard, under Pahlen, to go to Nangis.  The Vth Corps had to stay in Donnemarie and the IVth went to Montereau.  The IIIrd Corps remained motionless at Pont-sur-Yonne, ready to come and support, when needed, either the Vth Corps, in crossing at Bray, or the Ist, in moving on Villeneuve-la-Guyard. The same role was assigned to Count Nostitz, whose grenadiers and cuirassiers were still at Sens.  The reserves and guards of the Russians and Prussians also had to stop and remain in their quarters on the 15th.[27]

Retreat of the marshals on Yerres.  --Movements of the Vth, VIth, IVth and Ist Corps.  --The continued failure of the Army of Bohemia that could have, without risking anything, slightly push the marshals and compel them into a new retirement, either on Fontenay-Trésigny and La Houssaye-en-Brie, or Villeneuve-Saint-George and Boissy-Saint- Léger, would enable them to perform the movement they had resolved upon smoothly and await the Emperor on their position behind the Yerres.  From the 13th in the morning Napoleon had, in a letter to Joseph, sketched the plan of operation that was to follow 48 hours later.[28]

Moreover, as soon as the marshals found it impossible to hold the line of the Seine, they would have been wrong to try to hold on to the plains of Brie. The party withdrew behind the Yerres then, which was not fordable following the rain and flooding, as a wiser choice, because they had greater chance to stay there for a few days.  They did not expect, however, to be able to effect their retreat unmolested by the numerous cavalry of the Allies.

The rear guard of Oudinot had left Nangis, covered by a curtain of cavalry drawn between Rampillon and Nangis which fell back slowly before the cavalry of the Vth Corps.  Colonel von Geramb, of the Archduke Joseph Hussars, occupied Nangis shortly after, with four squadrons of his regiment, a battalion and a horse battery, while the vanguard (Antoine Hardegg Division) was billeted to Rampillon.  Colonel von Geramb pushed up to Mormant a few parties where, after the contact of the cavalry of Piré posted at Aubepierre-Ozouer-le-Repos, they were relieved in the day by the cavalry of General Rüdinger (VIth Corps).  Another party had gone further left and settled in Fontenailles, on the road to Melun.[29]

Wittgenstein brought the VIth Corps to Provins.  Pahlen, with the vanguard, moved to Maison-Rouge, and Rüdinger pushed up from Nangis to Mormant.[30]

The relief of the Austro-Bavarians by the Cossacks had not escaped the French cavalry.  The marshals, astonished at the inaction of the Allies, came to ask if their opponents, taking a different direction, were not masking a flank movement on Meaux and La Ferté-sous-Jouarre by Coulommiers, or if massing all their resources to debouch in strength the next day.
The movement of the cavalry of the VIth Corps, of which Wrede had no knowledge[31] had other consequences.  It had awakened all the old animosity of Wrede against  Wittgenstein and provided the Bavarian general an opportunity to send the grand headquarters his aide, Major Prince Taxis, responsible for submitting to a dispatch to the Generalissimo on this movement[32] and verbally explaining the grievances of his chief against the Russian general.

It is clear that these continuous conflicts were not of a nature to impair their service, but then one cannot help but notice that Wrede was not absolutely wrong, precisely because that day, Pahlen, who according to the provisions of the Generalissimo, was due at Nangis, stopped at Maison Rouge, 12 kilometers from this point.

The IVth Corps had been moved from Bray on Montereau, pushing on the right bank the advanced guard, who settled in Valence. Two squadrons of cavalry had continued on Le Châtelet, that Pajol[33] had evacuated in the morning on the order of Oudinot.  At 4 o'clock in the afternoon, his infantry was established in Évry-Grégy-sur-Yerre and his vanguard at Réau on the road to Melun, where, after destroying the bridge over the Seine, he had left a post.  His cavalry occupied Moissy-Cramayel and Limoges, scouting to the right the road from Melun by Lieusaint, to the left that of Mormant by Champdeuil and Crisenoy.

The Crown Prince of Württemberg, reinforced by five battalions of the Austrian brigade of Schaeffer, who occupied Montereau and on the right bank the château of Surville, quartered his corps in the villages of the left bank, between Montereau and Bazoches-lès-Bray.[34]

The Ist Corps was to the left of the IVth, near Montereau, staggered from Varennes-sur-Seine and Ville-Saint-Jacques up to Noisy, Dormelles, Flagy and Thoury-Férottes.

Moret taken by the division of Ignatius Hardegg.  Immediately after the arrival at Montereau of Field Marshal- Lieutenant Bianchi with the Ist Corps, Field Marshal-Lieutenant Count Ignatius Hardegg had begun the morning of the 15th , marching on Moret.  The special order he had received was that he would encamp the bulk of his division near Villecerf, pushing its outposts on a line running from Saint-Mammès to Nemours, through Épizy and Nonville and to the level of Moret in the area that was only weakly occupied by the enemy.  His division had at that time two battalions of Székeler (1100 men), six squadrons of Riesch Dragoons (618 men), six squadrons of Hussars of Hesse-Homburg (648 men) and two weak regiments of Cossacks (350 men), totaling 2,716 of which 1,616 were horsemen. His artillery consisted of six pieces of horse artillery and four pieces of foot artillery.

The march of the Field Marshal-Lieutenant took place without incident until a short distance from Moret.  Captain Count Schonborn. who marched at the tip of the advanced guard, then informed the General that the French had made arrangements to defend the city.  The division had reached the heights of Belle Alliance, located about 2 kilometers from Moret, which can be seen clearly from this point.  Built on the left bank of the Loing, not far from where it flows into the Seine, the town of Moret was then surrounded by a strong wall.  A quite wide and quite long bridge, built by the Romans on the Loing, led into the suburb of Moret, going through a long street through which crossed the road from Sens to Fontainebleau.  This suburb was surrounded by an artificial channel 2 meters wide, constituting an excellent defense, which prevents it from being outflanked from the suburb and protects against an attack from road of Sens.  About twenty yards in front of the bridge, the point where the highway crosses the canal, the French had erected a redoubt armed with two cannons, threatening the road.  Some gardens surrounded by high hedges still protected the canal bank.  The garrison of Moret, under the command of Brigade General Montbrun , consisted of 1800 men with five cannons.

While the troops of the garrison were formed, without being shown, behind the heights of Belle Alliance, Count Hardegg sent Montbrun a negotiator to summon the evacuation of Moret.  But the Austrian officer in charge of this mission was stopped before reaching the redoubt, and was refused permission to enter the city to deliver his letter to the French general.  A French officer undertook to send it to his chief, and the negotiator waited in vain for nearly an hour for the response.  After sounding a call from his trumpet, he wanted to try to approach, but he was ordered to withdraw.

The enemy had thereby gained an hour, that could have been used in preparations for the defense.  It was all during this time, in the city, that General Hardegg and his officers had been able to follow the movements from the heights of Belle Alliance, and they had determined how the enemy had decided to defend themselves.  Moreover, they had seen a column of infantry defile by the bridge of the Loing, pass the canal bridge and take a stand in front and on both sides of this bridge. This column showed a thousand men.  The reserve with two guns had remained near the bridge of the Loing, whose crenellated gates defended access.

The defense of a bridge is always an easier operation than an attack, but in this case the French had, in addition, for them the benefits of the terrain.  At Moret, one had to remove two bridges and the suburbs in between.  Trying to force their way with so few infantry seemed a risky thing, and one had to, precisely because of all the circumstances, act with extreme caution.  The Field Marshal-Lieutenant, pending the arrival of infantry reinforcements he had asked for, resolved to engage the garrison in a simple affair of outposts, a kind of reconnaissance that would enable him to gain an account of the steps taken by the defense and to feel out the makeup of his troops.  So he pushed on the highway four companies of the 1st Battalion of Banat (Székeler regiment), leaving between them intervals in the hope that the French would take them for the head of a column.  The third division of the battalion took up a position as support behind a landslide; the 2nd Battalion was stationed further back and served as a reserve.  Count Hardegg worked to drive the enemy from the canal bridge.  To this end he directed to the left of the road the company placed on his extreme left and supported them by the six pieces of horse artillery.  Major-General Count Henri Hardegg was responsible for that operation; he took a position with his battery on a small hill and opened fire at two o'clock in the afternoon.  The enemy replied rather sharply with the two guns in the redoubt.  The right-wing company was then ordered to move forward and attack.  Its leader, placed at the head of its skirmish line, entered the gardens, and moved along a wall, still skirmishing, gaining ground toward the left side of the works.  Both French pieces, exposed on their right to very numerous artillery shells, on the left to infantry fire, were already being forced to slow their fire, when the Austrian skirmishers, taking advantage of this movement, rushed the redoubt and carried it by an assault.  The remaining four companies moved immediately forward and supported them just as enemy reinforcements were approaching.  The four Austrian companies remained masters of the redoubt, in which the French gave up a cannon.

The French were immediately pursued, after which they were engaged in the main street of the suburb, then the bridge of the Loing.  The French reserves posted on this point were broken by the fugitives and evacuated the right bank of the Loing.  The piece placed at the gate of the city, could not shoot because the Austrians in melee with the French on the bridge, pushed, despite the fire of the infantry, to the very walls of the city.  Not knowing if the bridge was mined, the officer who commanded the 1st Battalion of Székeler, after issuing a volley, stopped at the bridge entrance and was content to throw back the defenders into the city.

They hastened to clear the bridge and already some Austrians had managed to enter the city, when, about four o'clock, Montbrun blew the third arch of the bridge, and with it the officers and soldiers who were engaged. Fortunately for the Austrians, they found in a nearby mill enough wood to restore the crossing, and as the morale of the garrison was already very low, the resistance so far weak that Montbrun was quickly forced to evacuate the city and to withdraw to Corbeil, where he reunited with General Carpenter.

Hardegg immediately pushed his outposts a league in front of Moret, in the forest of Fontainebleau.  The bulk of his cavalry quartered however behind Moret, Écuelles, Montarlot and Villecerf. A position established at Nonville to cover his left on the side of Nemours, which was still protected by the corps of Lieutenant Colonel Thurn, posted around Nanteau .[35]

Before evacuating Moret, Montbrun had tried in vain to send to the garrison of Nemours the order to retreat. Meanwhile, the Allied Grand Headquarters had learned that the Pope was no longer at Fontainebleau, and had ordered Platov, who was still between Chapelle-la-Reine and Nemours, to abandon the proposed undertaking on Fontainebleau.

Action at Pithiviers.  --Movements of the Allies from Auxerre on Gien.  --Seslavin continued his movement and had entered Pithiviers the 15th in the morning; but he had to evacuate the city the same day with the approach of General Ismert, who had come against him with the 26th Dragoons, one horse battery , an infantry battalion and 300 gendarmes.  Seslavin had withdrawn towards Boynes, only to be able to reoccupy Pithiviers immediately after the departure of General Ismert, who marched without stopping, on Maisse by Malesherbes.[36]

But if the presence of General Ismert had temporarily averted danger on the side on Pithiviers, one had received, on the other hand, in Orléans, more worrisome news.  A column of troops from Auxerre was headed by Rogny-les-Sept-Écluses on Gien, while another column, which had slept the night of the 14th to 15th, near Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, marched by and Saint-Fargeau and Bléneau sur Briare and entered on that side in the Loiret.

Movement of the IIIrd Corps.  --Position of the guards and Diebitsch.  --The IIIrd Corps, instead of going to Villeneuve-la-Guyard, received counter orders and was directed to Pont-sur-Yonne, Michery and Serbonnes; its vanguard alone touched the left bank of the Yonne, at Champigny-sur-Yonne, Le Petit-Chaumont and Port-Renard. Nostitz remained at Sens, and Barclay, whose headquarters was at Nogent-sur-Seine, informed by Diebitsch of Blücher's defeat, thought it wiser not to change the location of the guards and reserves before the arrival of orders from General Headquarters.

Diebitsch was, as before, at Maclaunay, awaiting infantry to attack Montmirail. where the French had, however, left only a handful of men.  But as the detachment of Diebitsch consisted exclusively of light cavalry of the guard, as this division was forced to constantly provide patrols, its numbers had melted with a rapidity that worried the Russian general.

Positive news from the Army of Silesia.  --If, during the 14th, the army headquarters had received such vague and contradictory news of the Army of Silesia, as a result of the information sent by Wrede and Wittgenstein, that for a moment one could have admitted the possibility of a retrograde movement of the Emperor from Melun, the many reports coming in the night and the morning of the 15th, would throw new light on the position of the Field Marshal and dispel the murmurs of a retreat of the Emperor in the direction of Paris.  By two reports that Diebitsch sent to Sabaneyev and immediately brought to Toll by Captain Gourko, it was learned that the Emperor had managed first to prevent the concentration of the Army of Silesia, and then to bar their march on Paris.  The Emperor had defeated the isolated corps of Blücher and who was in the end forced to retreat to the Marne.  Yorck and Sacken, after the bloody affair of Montmirail, had filed towards Chateau-Thierry and had only escaped complete destruction thanks to the slowness of Macdonald, responsible for cutting off their retreat.  It was finally known that Blücher, after the slight advantage gained at Étoges the 13th against Marmont, had moved the 14th on Montmirail, was attacked at Vauchamps by the Emperor who had abandoned the pursuit of the left of the Army of Silesia. The Field Marshal had been completely defeated.  The French cavalry had crushed the Prussian infantry.  Blücher had only cleared the way to Étoges with great difficulty, where he had fallen back on Bergères and Châlons.[37]

There was no longer any doubt: it was not the Emperor who retired on Paris, it was, on the contrary, the Army of Silesia, whose remains were fleeing towards the right bank of the Marne. The information sent by Diebitsch[38] was explicit.  He could see the movement executed by the French columns.  He had learned from the French prisoners of the arrival of reinforcements from Spain and total severity of the checks experienced by the corps of Yorck and Sacken.  He saw for himself the unfavorable turn to Blücher taken early in the fight at Vauchamps.

More precise and more positive news had arrived at Pont-sur-Seine on the 15th, in the first hour, and were immediately sent to Schwarzenberg at Nogent.

"General Sabaneyev to Prince Schwarzenberg.[39]  --Pont-sur-Seine, 15 February 1814."

"An officer of the army of Field Marshal Blücher just brought the note below that I immediately sent as a communication to Your Highness."

Note of Blücher, in pencil.[40] (undated, it was 14 February 1814.)

"The army is now moving up on Montmirail; the enemy withdrew."

"Suddenly, it spun round and fell upon us with large masses of cavalry.  It was learned from prisoners that Napoleon was there.  He was marching at night on Montmirail with all the people he had.  As we were unable to engage with an enemy so numerous, and especially strong in cavalry, the army withdrew to Champaubert, and, depending on events, further back still, to allow time for the great army to perform its operations."

Council of war at Nogent.  --Orders of Schwarzenberg for the days of 16, 17 and 18 February.  --As always, when it became time for grave resolutions, a council of war was convened at Nogent.  If we may believe Toll and Radetzky, the idea seemed to prevail before the conference to keep marching the great army by its right and to move from Provins, from Bray and from Nogent on Montmirail and Sézanne, against the Emperor, who one had every reason to believe was still busy pursuing the remnants of the army of Blücher.  But even before he received the letter of Gneisenau, who having just arrived at Châlons, wrote to the Generalissimo[41] before knowing the direction taken by Napoleon, he had already changed his mind, and the 15th at noon, Schwarzenberg sent his lieutenants a new disposition, directing in a way quite different, movements for the days of 16, 17 and 18 February.  A copy of this order, which was just beginning to be executed, was immediately sent to Blücher.  This order contained, moreover, such singular contradictions, we believe it should be reproduced in full.

"Dispositions for 16, 17 and 18 February.  --The Army of Silesia probably having to retreat to Châlons-sur-Marne, it is necessary that the great army moves immediately against the enemy."

"The Vth and VIth Corps will take the offensive in its rear to clear the Army of Silesia.  They will cover the march of the army from Arcis and bring upon themselves the attention of the enemy."

"On receipt of this order, the Russian Guards and reserves will march on Arcis, where their head will arrive on the 16th and their tail the 17th.  It will raise the pontoon bridge at Pont-sur-Seine and head on Arcis-sur-Aube where it will immediately establish itself."

"The VIth Corps will go, the 16th, from Provins by Villenauxe to Sézanne, and the 17th, depending on the circumstances, to Fère-Champenoise or Sommesous.  General Diebitsch serves as an advanced guard for this corps."

"The Vth Corps will move to Sézanne on receipt of this order and will settle on the 17th, and no later than the 18th, between Semoine and Mailly.  The vanguard of the Vth Corps will remain in position the 16th and the corps will follow on the 17th."

"The IVth Corps will go on the 16th to Nogent-sur-Seine, the 17th to Méry, the 18th to Arcis-sur-Aube, but will continue to hold firmly until further notice Bray and Nogent."

"The Austrian reserves will move on the Villemaur the 16th, the 17th on Troyes and will be followed by the light division of Prince Maurice Liechtenstein."

"The IIIrd Corps will leave its present quarters so as to be able to reach Troyes on 18 February."

"The Ist Corps will leave the 16th a weak advanced guard in the positions it currently holds.  The main body will occupy Sens.  One of its brigades will be established at Pont-sur-Yonne."

"The general headquarters will be at Méry, the 16th and the 17th at Arcis-sur-Aube."[42]

As seen, the tenor of the order, dated 15 February 1814 at noon from Nogent, responds poorly to the type of exposure above.  There is little question of an offensive against the enemy.  Prince Schwarzenberg actually wants to concentrate his army between the Seine, the Aube and the Yonne, he is covered by the two corps intended to operate on the right bank of the Seine, between that river and the Marne.

Barclay alone had started to execute these orders in the afternoon of the 15th.   Never the less, remaining himself at Pont-sur-Seine, he sent his headquarters to Méry and put his troops in motion.

Wrede only resumed the disposition on the return of Taxis, who joined him very far into the evening, and Wittgenstein was careful not to move on Villenauxe.

Notes:

[1] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im Monate Februar (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1) and Crown Prince of Württemberg to Schwarzenberg, Sens, 13 February (Ibid., II, 344):

"I received at noon, at Pont-sur-Yonne, the order in which your Highness prescribed to direct me on Bray. I sent off on three battalions and a cavalry regiment of the vanguard.  I hope to repair the bridge of Bray and push tomorrow reconnaissances on Donnemarie and Provins."

"I will be in Bray the 14th with my whole corps.  The enemy withdrew from Pont-sur-Yonne towards Montereau and does not seem to want to go to Fontainebleau, as Ataman Platov is at Souppes and from there he can cut the route."

"I await with Count Wrede for information from Provins or Nangis."

"I just heard that the Vth Corps crossed the Seine and appears to be quite seriously engaged with the enemy Donnemarie."

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

[3] Id., and Thurn to Schwarzenberg, Chéroy, 13 February. (Ibid., II, 345.)

[4] Pajol to the Minister of War, Le Châtelet, 13 February, 6 o'clock in the morning (Archives of the War.)

[5] Verteau, hamlet between Chevrainvilliers and Guercheville.

[6] The same day, one of the colonels of Platov's corps wrote on his side, perhaps at the instigation of Kaisarov, the letter below which gives an idea of ​​the poor character of the hetman, and highlights the dangerous side of a correspondence, so contrary to the basic principles of discipline:

" Cossack Colonel Krasnokitzky to General-Lieutenant von Toll. Souppes-sur-Loing, 13 February."

"Absolutely out of patience, I am emboldened to the point of openly telling you what you may judge just about Count M. -I. Platov and you may see it is unanimously agreed with.  Platov now is only good for drinking and sleeping. His softness, his torpor which increases day by day, obviously causes serious harm to the service of His Majesty the Emperor and now more than ever before.  If General Kaisarov was not there to push him constantly, if I too did not act in this direction, if we did not obligate him to make at least a few marches, he would go to sleep completely.  If we had an active chief at our head, we could do wonders, which would undertake terrible diversions among the enemy.  All my efforts are useless.  Platov is angry at me because of the truths I told him, and I am obliged to leave him in peace. But to have no share in the responsibility he incurs, I beg Your Excellency to let me leave his detachment, because without it the honor of an innocent will suffer.  Despite my poor health, I try with a real zeal to assist in anything that can contribute to the good of the service, but rather than thank me, I am subjected to daily intolerable pressure to restrain any inclination to helpful and energetic action.  Again, I beg Your Excellency to deliver me from this man, even if it means being attached to an Austrian detachment, and send me anywhere you deem appropriate.  I had hope that your kindness will grant the first prayer that I extend to Your Excellency."

[7] Archives of the War.

[8] Barclay to Schwarzenberg, Pont-sur-Seine, 14February, noon.  (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 383 and II ad 383.)

"General Diebitsch informs me that General Kleist drove the enemy yesterday from Étoges.  General Kleist has been without news of Yorck and Sacken; he only knows that they have reunited at Château -Thierry and threw two bridges over the Marne."

"General Diebitsch will go with his cavalry and two guns by Boissy-le-Repos and Vauchamps and to Montmirail where the terrain is favorable for cavalry action and where he can throw himself on the flank of the enemy in case they retire on Montmirail."

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

[10] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im Monate Februar (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1), and Wrede to Schwarzenberg, Bray, 14 February morning. (Ibid., II, 380.)

[11] Frimont to Wrede, Meigneux, 14 February, 11 o'clock at night. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 425 a.)

[12] General de La Motte to Wrede, Gurcy, 14 February (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 425 b), and Colonel Dietz to General de La Motte, Villeneuve-les-Bordes. (Ibid., II, 425 c.)

[13] General de La Motte to Wrede, Gurcy, 14 February (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 425 b), and Colonel Dietz to General de La Motte, Villeneuve-les-Bordes. (Ibid., II, 425 c.)

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

[15] Diebitsch to Barclay de Tolly, Maclaunay, 14 February, 8:30 in the evening.

[16] According to some authors, and after all documents specifically related to the operations of the Württembergers, the march of the IVth Corps on Bray was imposed by the Emperor of Russia.  Worried about this turn of affairs, fearing the consequences of the first defeats of the Army of Silesia, he wanted to see the army of Schwarzenberg move immediately on Sézanne and maneuver on the rear of Napoleon.

But everything was confined to simple demonstrations and whether to believe the documents in question, when the marshals stationed at Donnemarie fell back on Nangis, it was thought unnecessary to conduct  the offensive movement against Provins on the 15th which the IVth, Vth and VIth Corps were charged with, and direct the IVth Corps on Montereau because of the proposal to redirect it on Fontainebleau.

[17] Chief of Staff to Macdonald, 13 February 13, 6 o'clock at night, Château-Thierry.  (Records of Berthier; Archives of the War.)

[18] Valmy, left from Meaux the 14th, to take command of the dragoons coming from Spain (Trelliard Division) and the cavalry of Pajol, did not join until after Montereau.

[19] The situation General Pajol was placed in was, moreover, unenviable, even under less critical circumstances.  He had neither chief of staff or staff officer.  "Forced to do everything by myself," he wrote to the Minister, from Châtelet on the 14th at 6 o'clock in the morning, "I fear even more unable to do so since  my wounds have not closed. I will do everything and more to effectively His Majesty; but I need someone who makes less than state of situation." (Archives of the War.)

The excitement seems to have been very great in Paris at the news of the retirement of the marshals on Nangis and the imminence of their movement behind the Yerres, since Clarke wrote to the 14that 5 o'clock at night to the Emperor: "It seems to me that there is no time to lose for your Majesty to come to the right with Leval's division and especially the Old Guard.  Here things are pushed to the extreme.  Le Roi did all that he could.  But you will have that your marshals that obey; otherwise they will believe to know everything better than anyone."(Archives of the War.)

[20] Thurn to Schwarzenberg, Montereau, 14 February, 10 o'clock in the morning, (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 413.)

[21] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im Monate Februar (Ibid., II, 1), and Crown Prince of Württemberg to Schwarzenberg. (Ibid., II, 385.)

[22] Trelliard to the Minister, Fontainebleau, 14 February. (Archives of the War.)

[23] Crown Prince of Württemberg to Schwarzenberg, Bray, 14 February (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 385), and STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im Monate Februar. (Ibid., II, 1.)

[24] King Joseph to the Minister of War, 14 February. (Archives of the War.) 

These fears appear to have been general since General Chanez wrote from Melun to General Hulin: "The enemy comes by Bray, Melun cannot resist... Where is the Emperor?  It would be very desirable that he was there, that he was everywhere!" (Archives of the War.)

[25] Napoleon was at this point on the outskirts of Chateau-Thierry.

[26] Summary of news from the army of Field Marshal Blücher. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 362.)

Wrede was even more emphatic; he added in a letter from Donnemarie, 14 February (Ibid., II, 379):
"On all sides, I confirm the news of Napoleon's retreat on Paris, by Meaux.  The gentleman with whom I have before me, who came back a week ago from Paris, where he taken his wife; confirms that the Empress had already wanted to leave Paris and remained there at the insistence of Cambacérès."

"The heights of Montmartre are being fortified, although the Parisians have no desire to fight."

"Everywhere on this side, there is a desire for peace."

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

[28] Correspondence.  no 21236.  --The Emperor to King Joseph, farm of Lumeront, 13 February, 10 o'clock in the morning.

[29] Schwarzenberg to the Emperor of Austria (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 859), and STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im Monate Februar.  (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1.)

[30] Wittgenstein to Schwarzenberg, Provins, 15 February.  (Ibid., II, 422.)

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

[32] Wrede to Prince Schwarzenberg, Donnemarie, 15 February (Ibid., II, 4l8):

"I have received a report by which General Rüdinger tells me that Blücher was on 13th, in a battle favorable to our arms at Étoges and pushed the enemy on Montmirail."

"I do not think that Blücher has had an engagement with the bulk of the enemy army who had to withdraw from La Ferté-sous-Jouarre on Meaux."

"Without that, indeed, Marshals Oudinot and Victor would not have left without a fight the good position of Nangis."

"I see, moreover, by the movement of General Rüdinger, that the VIth Corps no longer follows the same direction. This corps has at Maison Rouge a road to Coulommiers, but this road is long, and the VIth corps will certainly be too late menacing and compromising the retreat of the enemy, especially as Count Wittgenstein always marches slowly and very rarely catches up with his neighbors."

Taxis relates in his Tagebuch he found the Generalissimo in a bad mood, very unhappy with Wittgenstein, very depressed by the news we had received of the successive defeats of Blücher.  The Major reported at 10 o'clock in Donnemarie, with the new orders of Schwarzenberg for the days of the 16th, 17th and 18th; orders by which the Generalissimo, fearing for the rear of his army, wanted to deny his right and execute a change of front.

[33] It seems that Pajol have guessed the plans and intentions of the Allies, since the 15th at 8 o'clock in the morning, he wrote from Melun to the Chief of Staff:  "I do not think the enemy marches by the left bank of the Seine; I do not even think it has gone past Nangis on the right bank.  In recent days, its attacks have been less vigorous and displays fewer men.  I think the Austrian army which debouched on Troyes, having heard of the success of His Majesty stopped and did not follow its vanguard."  (Archives of the War.)

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

[35] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im Februar Monate (K. K. Kriegs Archiv, II, 1); Österreichische Militärische Zeitschrift, 1842, I.

Thurn to Schwarzenberg, Nanteau, 16 February, 3 o'clock in the  morning (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 434); Schwarzenberg to the Emperor of Austria, Bray, 16 February, (Ibid., II, 859.)

[36] Report of Seslavin:

"Of the 40,000 men who fought in Spain, about half, and including in this number 6,000 horsemen, were led, defection losses amounting to 2,000 men, towards Napoleon's army.  These 20,000 men have been replaced by conscripts.  Half of this corps, which has rallied further, 10,000 men more, marched by Pithiviers, Thoury and Melun and must be meeting at Meaux.  About 30,000 men have already marched.  It is claimed that 10,000 men led by Suchet in person and coming from Catalonia, marched through Perpignan to Lyon."

"I held this morning (the 15th) Pithiviers, but given the approach of the enemy 6,000 men strong, I was forced to fall back on the small town of Boynes." (Boynes, 16 February 1814, 2 o'clock in the morning)

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

[38] "The rumors of the retreat of Napoleon in Paris are false", Diebitsch wrote to Barclay from Maclaunay, 14 February at 8:30 in the evening. "I saw myself strong French columns moving from Montmirail on Champaubert.  Napoleon, after throwing Sacken back on the other side of the Marne, returned this morning against Blücher, with the bulk of his forces."  (Diebitsch to Barclay de Tolly, nos 236 and 244.)

[39] K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 409.

[40] Ibid., II, ad., 409.

[41] General von Gneisenau, Chief of Staff of the Army of Silesia, to Prince Schwarzenberg.  --Châlons, 15 February 1814, 12:30:

"Yesterday the 14th, the vanguard of the corps of Kleist gave battle to the enemy cavalry, when it advanced on Montmirail.  The enemy was on this side of Janvilliers, on the small road to Paris.  General von Kleist was forced to support his vanguard, and the corps of General Kapsewitch had also become involved.  At that time, large masses of cavalry appeared on our right and looked to turn us."

"We began the retreat which was effected in good order.  Between Champaubert and the forest behind this village, we were overtaken by the enemy cavalry that surrounded us, boldly and impetuously charged us and sought to cut off our retreat.  Our troops, with some guns placed at the head of the column, fought their way with bayonets through the enemy's horse and continued slowly retiring."

"At Étoges, there was hand to hand combat overnight."

"Our losses are far from insignificant.  We lost the unmounted guns."

"This morning, since 3 o'clock, the troops continued their retreat from Bergères and from Vertus to reach the right bank of the Marne and defiling for the moment by the city.  We hear nothing on the side of the enemy.  It is likely it has given up the pursuit and throws itself against the corps of Count Wittgenstein."

"Generals Sacken and Yorck are in Reims and will join the Army of Silesia."

"General Baron Winzingerode was in Laon for three days, and must also join the little Army of Silesia."  (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 410.)

[42] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt Armee im Monate Februar (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1), and Schwarzenberg, Daily Report to the Emperor of Austria. (Ibid., II, 404.)

 

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