The Campaign of 1814: Chapter 8, Part II
By: Maurice Weil
THE CAMPAIGN of 1814
(after the Imperial and Royal War Archives at Vienna)
CAVALRY OF THE ALLIED ARMIES
DURING THE CAMPAIGN OF 1814.
OPERATIONS OF THE ARMY SILESIA IN THE VALLEY OF THE MARNE,
3 TO 16 February
LA CHAUSÉE, MONTMIRAIL, VAUCHAMPS, CHAMPAUBERT.
of Soudron. --Retreat of Macdonald to Épernay. --The evacuation
of Châlons had led to that of Vitry. The garrison was ordered to join the
marshal on the left bank of the Marne, having left the city during the night of
the 4th to 5th. Preceded by its equipment and crews, it
took the road of Vatry to meet the cavalry sent by Marshal Exelmans to Bussy-Lettrée.
As at Châlons, the bridge of Vitry was incompletely destroyed, and General von
Pirch hoped to follow in a few hours the enemy retreating on Vertus. The march that
General Montmarie was going to execute presented even more difficulties, forced
to file between the Marne and Blücher, he ran the risk of being taken in flank
by the cavalry of the Field Marshal and to be reengaged and attacked in his
rear by the troops of Pirch. From 5 o'clock in the morning, two battalions, two
squadrons and two pieces from the latter had crossed the bridge of Vitry, pushing
in the footsteps of Montmarie and joined with his rearguard at Vésigneul-sur-Coole,
without succeeding to cut it off. But instead of continuing his march without
interruption, General Montmarie thought to refresh the horses of his convoy at Bussy
Lettrée. Arriving in Vatry at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, he effected his
junction with the cavalry of Exelmans who had been skirmishing against the
scouts of Blücher since morning. Restarting the march to gain Chaintrix-Bierges,
the infantry of Montmarie as the advanced guard covering the left of the convoy,
the cavalry of Exelmans as the rear guard and protecting the left column, then
noted columns deploying in front of Villeseneux. However, the movement was
resumed along the right bank of La Soudé, while Blücher's cavalry tried to debouch
and its artillery created havoc in the convoy and terrified the drivers who
took off at a gallop and were only stopped with difficulty. Thanks to the good
discipline of the infantry and the resolute attitude of the cavalry squadrons it
held back Blücher, despite the significant losses caused by the Prussian
artillery fire, as well as those resulting from the explosion of a caisson in the
convoy, in spite of all the efforts of the generals, leaving the battlefield,
the column and the greater part of the convoy managed to continue their march
"Arrived at Soudron," wrote Blücher about it to Schwarzenberg, "I
found about 2,000 horses deployed and covering the march of a column of 3,000
infantry escorting a convoy of food and ammunition from Vitry to Vatry. I
addressed this with my cavalry vanguard and tried in vain to stop the column, which
protected by the night went on its way. We did, however, managed to take out one
gun and 70 caissons."
The garrison of Vitry and the largest part of the convoy were saved; but this
event no less forced the Duke of Tarente to forego following the road to Montmirail;
that of Sézanne was already cut; Fère-Champenoise was occupied; nothing
remained any longer than that of Épernay to effect his retirement.
"We pulled all day at the Châlons bridge which was only slightly damaged,"
he wrote from Saint-Pierre-aux-Oies, 5 February at 11 o'clock at night, to the
Chief of Staff, "but the arch has fallen and forms a sufficient barrier to
prevent artillery from crossing for 24 hours. There are few barriers to the
cavalry; there are none to the infantry. All of the enemy are filing on Reims.
I do not know what is going on. I do not hear from any side. Everything is
disorganized and leaning to a general chaos."
Resolutions taken by Blücher and by Macdonald the 5th of February
in the evening. --The situation was obviously far from enviable for Macdonald.
However, the Marshal was still lucky to have escaped a catastrophe to which he
would have been unable to escape if, instead confronting Wittgenstein on the
Aube, he was, on the evening of the Battle of La Rothière, ordered to move on
Saint-Dizier by the left bank of the Marne and fallen into the hands of the corps
Stopped while restoring the bridge of Châlons, but still hoping to debouch by the
road of Vertus, Yorck had prescribed Pirch to follow General Montmarie in the
morning; he had, in the afternoon, sent the order to march on Châlons along the
right bank; but Pirch had already left Vitry, and it was only in the night of the
5th to 6th that the order reached him. His brigade
occupied at that time Coupetz, Vésigneul and Fontaine-sur-Coole.
While the advanced guard of the Army of Silesia was trying to take the convoy
from Vitry, Blücher had received the dispatch of 4 February by which
Schwarzenberg departed from him with the movement of the Great Army to his
left. This resolution of the Generalissimo substantially changed the dispositions
taken at Brienne 2 February and was sufficient to show the Field Marshal it
would be wrong to rely on the cooperation of the Great Army whose corps were forced
further away from his. Despite this, Blücher seems to have thought that the
presence of Wittgenstein near Arcis and marching of the Great Army sufficient
to retain the Emperor on the Seine and allow him to continue his movement in
the valley of the Marne. This is at least what emerges from the dispatch of
Soudron from which we have already made several citations. Still not knowing
if Vitry was evacuated, Blücher informed Schwarzenberg that one of his columns had crossed the Marne and pushed
before it Macdonald and Sebastiani, while with another column went on
Montmirail and his light cavalry (Cossacks of Karpov and flying corps of Biron)
continued to be on the side of Sézanne and connected to the cavalry of Pahlen.
"I managed," said the Field Marshal, "to separate Marshal
Macdonald from the bulk of the enemy; I am master of the Marne and I can, moreover,
concentrate on the Seine as soon as Your Highness wishes me."
Blücher ends by saying that before anything he intended to amass the corps of
General Yorck, which the next day, he would, however, give a very different
direction, sending them first on Épernay, then on Dormans. At that time, in
fact, when Blücher wrote to Generalissimo, he was close to Yorck. Sacken,
Olsufiev and the headquarters were at Soudron; the Marne and only a distance of
15 kilometers separated him from his first corps, and everything suggests he
thought then, indeed, of continuing moving in two columns marching at the same
level and maintaining contact. He expected to be joined shortly by the corps of
Kleist, whose advanced guard was already at Baudonvilliers (about ten
kilometers from Saint-Dizier), the 10th Brigade at Combles and
Bar-le-Duc the 11th Brigade at Savonnières and Tannois, and by Kapsewitch,
whose troops had arrived at Stainville.
Finally, although Winzingerode had not yet started his movement, his scouts spread
increasingly in the Department of Aisne and began to threaten Laon and
6 February 1814. --First movements of Yorck. --Orders of Blücher send him
on the road to Épernay. --The situation appeared to Yorck so clear and so
simple that even before the orders of Blücher, when the bridge was once more
passable at Châlons, he began to march around noon with the bulk of his forces
on the route of Vertus and was content to follow Macdonald's retirement towards
Épernay with some parties of cavalry. Believing that Blücher was still in Fère-Champenoise,
knowing that the Cossacks, heading towards Épernay, had appeared around Avize
between the two roads of Paris, he had, and his orders provide the proof, that
he had made these movements to effect his union with the Field Marshal. He had
already embarked on the road of Vertus, where his headquarters, his vanguard,
the reserve cavalry and the 7th Brigade were established in the
evening, when the staff officer of Blücher brought him verbal orders to follow
the Marne to move by Épernay, through Chateau-Thierry, while Sacken, then a
day's march from Olsufiev and further in the rear than even Kleist and Kapsewitch,
marched on Vertus and Montmirail. It was regrettably and as if from that
moment a fatal consequence of a movement that necessarily entailed the
fragmentation and dispersal of the Army Corps of Silesia, was given. Yorck
immediately launched out on his right. His advanced guard arrived in the
evening at Athis and his cavalry in Aulnay-sur-Marne. The 7th Brigade
settled in Saint-Gibrien and the rest of the Ist Corps remained at Châlons
This move would allow Macdonald gaining ground and losing for the Army of
Silesia immediate contact with the troops that were to pursue, to overtake and
It was, indeed, Blücher who was personally responsible for explaining in the
order of the 6th signed by Gneisenau, the reasons that decided this
"Field Marshal Blücher proposes to cut off the enemy 11th Corps
retreating on Épernay, or at least to capture all or part of the 100 guns whose
teams were mostly furnished under the levy. General Sacken will march,
therefore, on the small road of Paris that goes through Bergères, Champaubert,
Montmirail and La Ferté-sous-Jouarre; the corps of Yorck will pursue Marshal
Macdonald along the highway from Épernay and Chateau-Thierry and the IXth Russian Corps (Olsufiev) with the Field Marshal and his headquarters will follow
Sacken's corps at a day's march. The Field Marshal awaits the imminent arrival
at Châlons of the Prussian IInd Corps (von Kleist) and the Xth Corps of Russian infantry (Kapsewitch) to march with his whole army on Paris. The
corps of Kleist and Kapsewitch will force their march so as to be meet on the
10th at Montmirail. The corps of Yorck is heading towards Chateau-Thierry
and if he has difficulty crossing the Marne, he will move left obliquely to
approach the corps of Sacken."
"The headquarters will be in Vertus the 7th, the 8th at Étoges, the 9th at Montmirail, where the corps of General Olsufiev
will take position. Sacken's corps will come the 6th to Vertus, the
7th to Étoges, the 8th at Montmirail. His cavalry will
continue to stand on the side of Sézanne and send parties to the Seine and
"Vitry becomes like Toul, a military concentration point."
The motivating reason that justified this order is without doubt, that one
could not commit all of his corps on the only road. Blücher wanted to take
advantage of the presence of a part of Sacken's corps in front of Soudron
trying to cut the retreat of Macdonald. Yorck seems, however, not the only one
to be unpleasantly surprised by the new disposition, and the report by Major
Mareschal to Prince Schwarzenberg, contains some rather sharp criticism of the movement and the resolutions of Blücher
for the days 5 and 6 February:
"...If we had only made a forced march of yesterday, we would have taken
everything coming out of Vitry and completely destroyed the cavalry corps
brigade of cavalry and some Cossacks pushed the 4th to Sézanne, continued
to pursue the large convoy leaving Châlons for Sommesous. As we did not
receive news, there is every reason to believe that they have not reached the
convoy. Kleist with his corps and Kapsewitch with 7,000 men from the corps of Langeron
are now in Saint-Dizier."
"General Sacken is in march on Vertus. Macdonald has with him his corps
and the 2nd and 4th Cavalry Corps (Sebastiani
and Arrighi). Kellermann has from 10,000 to 15.000 conscripts. The enemy took
the direction of Meaux and sent its casualties to Reims. We know nothing here of
the march of Winzingerode."
"The Prussians lost 500 men at Châlons."
The 6th at night Sacken had arrived at Vertus, but Blücher and
Olsufiev remained in Soudron. Kleist, who had received the news at Bar-le-Duc of
the evacuation of Vitry and march of Yorck on Châlons, let his advanced guard
continue alone on Vitry and marched directly on Châlons with his two brigades. After
following the Roman road, these two brigades stopped in the evening at Contault
(Contaut-le-Maupas) and Saint-Mard-sur-le-Mont, while Zieten with the vanguard,
came up Thiéblemont and Farémont, a little way from of Vitry. Colonel von
Swichov remained at Vitry to act as a garrison with a battalion from the IInd Corps. The movement undertaken by Blücher had only one reasonable chance of
success, if it was decided through forced to prevent the Duke of Tarente from
leaving La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, surround him and to compel him to lay down their
arms. Indeed, the high road, remained the only one open to Macdonald, after
skirting the left bank of the Marne at Château-Thierry, crossing on the right
side, away from the valley of the Marne and the uniting at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre,
where it returns to the left bank and joins the shorter and more direct route of
Châlons by Montmirail, to continue on the left bank at the bridge of Trilport.
Position of Macdonald. --State of his troops. --He would have to march
briskly without stopping anywhere, and with everyone, if any results were wanted,
especially as Macdonald did not waste a moment to try to escape the threatened danger.
The manner in which the Marshal acted since leaving Châlons did not leave any
doubt in this regard and should not have left Blücher hope in seeing him slow his
movements. Yorck's troops had found that the Marshal had left during the night
of the 5th to 6th, the positions he had still held the
evening of the 5th in front of Châlons. The 6th in the
morning, most of his troops, some from Champigneul-Champagne (Molitor Division),
others from Saint-Gibrien had already reached Chouilly. At 10 o'clock in the
morning the Duke of Tarente was at Épernay and wrote to the Chief of Staff that Épernay
could not be held, which was in a rundown condition, he would go on Dormans. His
retirement had been worrisome as that evening, the scouts of Blücher had clashed
with the rear guard of the Duke of Padoue, between Plivot and Chouilly.
The correspondence of the Marshal shows that he had a perfectly clear notion of
a situation that the weakness of his fighting force and the depressed morale of
his troops only made more difficult. "The Russians march quickly by the
road to Montmirail," he wrote to the minister, "I hasten
my march to cover the important crossing points of Château-Thierry and of Ferté-sous-Jouarre.
I sent in advance of the cavalry, artillery and engineers to prepare the
mines, but I do not know if I have time. General Brayer has a division of 300
men and a battalion of 400-500 men that we picked up a Châlons. He formed the
rearguard that has arrived here. The Molitor Division has 900 to 1000 men. These
two divisions form the 11th Corps."
"The 5th Corps (Sebastiani) is reduced to 800 men, half of their
fighting strength. The 3rd Cavalry Corps has no more than 500 horse;
it experienced a defeat yesterday (combat at Chouilly, the 6th). The
2nd Cavalry was engaged every day since the first, and has no more
than 8-900 horses."
"I must not conceal from you that our cavalry was very shaken. Our little
infantry still holds together well, and gave evidence of their worth at the actions
at La Chaussée, Châlons and Vatry."
"General Montmarie returning from Vitry, has from 1100 to 1200 men;
General Simmer has 300 to 400."
7 February 1814. --Favorable conditions for the Army of Silesia at the
beginning of the operation. --Sound in principle, the operation undertaken
by Blücher became dangerous when, instead of being executed clearly and all at
once, it was slow and without cohesion. However, the conditions in which Army
of Silesia stood, from the day it started its movement prevented from meeting
these essential requirements. The sending of the cavalry of Sacken on Sézanne,
while Sacken and Olsufiev went against Soudron, the marching that ran along the
right bank of the Meuse with 3,000 horses of General Yuzefovich, the inability
to relieve the cavalry of Borozdin before Metz's in enough time to allow it to arrive
with Kapsewitch at Châlons and Vertus, the relatively weak cavalry that was
thought available, except that of Ist Corps, being forced to hold in
front of the corps of Sacken, because of the inability of linking the different
corps with communication posts, not to mention the subsequent slow motion can
be considered as the causes for the disjointed operations of Blücher and the defeats
he would suffer.
of Sacken, Olsufiev and Kleist. --Action at Chouilly. --Yorck at Épernay. --Retreat
of Macdonald on Dormans. --The 7th, in accordance with orders from
the day before, Olsufiev replaced Sacken at Vertus, who went to Étoges after
recalling the cavalry detachments sent to Avize. The Cossacks and cavalry of Biron
were moved from Sézanne by Mœurs-Verdey to Maclaunay, about a league from
Montmirail, while Marmont arrived with his corps at Fontaine-Denis, three
leagues from Sézanne. Behind the bulk of the Army of Silesia, Kleist reached Châlons,
where Kapsewitch would not arrive until the next day.
On the main road from Paris, Yorck had only found at Épernay and in front of that
city the extreme rear guard of Macdonald, who tried to stop the march of the advance
guard of the Ist Corps in the kind of defile that hills form on
getting closer to the Marne around Chouilly. After a brisk engagement, the
French were forced to retreat, and the vanguard of Yorck crossed Épernay, where
the bulk of the corps established itself during the day, pushing up to Troissy.
The reserve cavalry stopped towards evening at Port-à-Binson; but it still did
not managed to reduce the lead taken by Macdonald.
After sending Molitor, from the 5th in the evening, to spend the
night on the heights of Damery, Macdonald had his headquarters established at
Boursault. Exelmans, leaving the 6th at four o'clock in the
morning, had marched in a way to bypass Dormans and to encamp from Saint-Aignan
to Monthurel. Molitor began his march at six o'clock and came to occupy
Saint-Eugène, Crézancy and Fossoy on the left bank of the Surmelin. The brigade
of General Montmarie, leaving by Saint-Martin-d'Ablois, joined the main road at
Mareuil-le-Port and took position behind Exelmans, south-west of Dormans in
Soilly and Courthiézy.
Sebastiani and Padoue had withdrawn in stages from Épernay on Dormans and found
in position on the heights behind Épernay, the division that Brayer, designated
to form the rearguard from this point, contend step by step in withdrawal, contain
the Prussians and hold the heights of Dormans, where the Duke of Tarente only
entered in person in the evening, to give orders. He only had those with him;
what he had picked up on the way including 5,000 to 6,000 men, of which, as he
wrote to King Joseph, two-thirds were only barely able to fight.
Informed of the movement of the cavalry of Sacken on Montmirail, fearing of
being outflanked by that general and reaching La Ferté-sous-Jouarre before him,
the Duke of Tarente, despite the fatigue of his troops and the exhaustion of
his horses, decided to survey, from the evening of the 7th, the road
from Montmirail to Chateau-Thierry and prescribe to generals Simmer, Exelmans and
Molitor to force their march to be made at Ferté-sous-Jouarre the 8th.
These generals were to occupy in front of the town, on the road to Montmirail,
a position covering the passage of troops and the road to Meaux. At eight
o'clock at night, General Simmer took the road to La Ferté-sous-Jouarre with orders
to halt at three o'clock at Chateau-Thierry. Molitor left at midnight and
Exelmans, who had started at eleven, was, in crossing Château-Thierry, to
detach the 14th and 24th Chasseur Regiments, after giving
the order to General Dommanget to push with them on the road to Montmirail, a
league ahead of Château-Thierry.
Movement of Marmont on Sézanne. --At the moment when Macdonald was
taking such measures, the Chief of Staff informed him that Marmont leaving Nogent,
headed on Sézanne, where the army could support when needed; that from there
the Emperor would move on the road to Montmirail. "Act accordingly,"
added the Chief of Staff. "We will send some forces from Paris to La Ferté-sous-Jouarre."
The 7th had been bad for the Allies. Not only had they not been
able to reach and engage Macdonald, but the Marshal was now almost certain to
reach the Ferté-sous-Jouarre before Yorck, and Blücher was far from foreseeing
the danger by exposing the resolution taken by the Emperor.
Reims had fallen into the hands of the Allies. Laon had been evacuated by the
French; but the situation did not become less critical for Blücher because,
believing in a general concentration of French forces in Nogent, the
Generalissimo was moving everyone to that side, and not content with sending
Wittgenstein on Méry, more was asked of Blücher, who was considered strong
enough to overcome Macdonald, by strengthening the VIth Corps with
the corps of Kleist. As compensation, we interpose, it is true, the subsequent
arrival of Winzingerode still at Namur and only now starting to prepare a
movement on Binche and Avesnes.
February 1814. --March of the corps of Sacken and Olsufiev. --The cavalry of Marmont
chases the Cossacks of Karpov from Sézanne. --The corps of Sacken had marched
on Montmirail; its cavalry, under Vasilchikov, bypassed this city and mounted the
road to Chateau-Thierry, about the time the cavalry of Marmont dislodged the
Cossacks of Karpov from Sézanne, which retreated to Montmirail.
It seems that the sudden appearance of the French cavalry on the left flank of
the corps in route by the road from Vertus road to Château-Thierry should worry
Blücher and Sacken. However, Sacken believed his left so covered by the course
of the Petit-Morin he thought it useless to share this event with Blücher and
Olsufiev, who posted in Étoges, seemed sufficiently protected by the marshes of
Saint-Gond. Blücher still ignorant and the movements of the Emperor and the
direction taken by the army of Schwarzenberg, probably similarly signifying little
importance to an affair he would have regarded as a mere partisan skirmish, although
it was actually the beginning of an operation directly threatening his army. This
is, at least, what one can derive from the dispatch he sent the next day of the
9th to Schwarzenberg:
"Yesterday the 8th, an enemy column from Villenauxe was
directed on Sézanne. It was, they say, the 6th Corps of Marshal
Marmont; but these troops withdrew on La Ferté-Gaucher at night. The news that
General Sacken had taken position at Montmirail had persuaded the Marshal to
pull back. I have, however, no official confirmation either of the march or
retirement of the 6th Corps."
Blücher was perfectly at ease, and yet if only because of the situation of his corps,
the affair at Sézanne, as insignificant as it had been, should have given him reason
to reflect. The 8th in the evening, while Sacken occupied
Montmirail, Olsufiev was 24 kilometers behind at Étoges, the headquarters of
the Field Marshal 16 kilometers further away, in Vertus; finally, Kleist and
Kapsewitch 6 leagues behind it at Châlons. The 40,000 men forming the main column of the Army
of Silesia were therefore distributed on a line over 15 leagues long, at almost
equal intervals and forming four groups each positioned within a day's march
from the level of its neighbor.
Movement of Yorck. --Affair at Crézancy. --Yorck, meanwhile, had
commanded the advanced guard to follow the rearguard of Macdonald on the main
road, pushing on Château-Thierry, while the bulk of his corps, leaving
Boursault, between 9 and 10 o'clock in the morning marched on Dormans.
The division of Brayer had continued to retreat, step by step, on the defile of
Crézancy where the brigade of Montmarie and the cavalry of the Duke of Padoue took up
position and stopped towards evening the vanguard of Katzler. The tip of the
advanced guard of Katzler only entered at Blesmes after the departure of the
last French outposts for Château-Thierry. The rest of the corps of Yorck occupied
the evening of the 8th: the 7th Brigade Courthiézy, the
1st Soilly, the 8th, with the headquarters, Dormans. The
cavalry reserve of the Ist Corps stood at Mareuil-le-Port and Port-à-Binson.
Macdonald devoted the day of the 8th to bring his corps to the right
bank of the Marne, and from the 8th in the morning, it was announced
that Molitor himself would probably arrive in the night at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre
with generals Brayer and Montmarie and the cavalry of the Duke of Padoue. He
had directed them to choose a good position, entrench it and cover it with abatis.
He had left at Château-Thierry a rearguard under the command of Sebastiani,
whom he had recommended to establish his positions in the suburbs and barricade
the bridge to accommodate a small passage for the troops that he would return
to La Ferté. He was further informed of the presence of Marmont at Sézanne and
the subsequent march of the Emperor on Montmirail.
Positions of Marmont and Ney the 8th in the evening. --The 8th in the evening, in fact, a division of the 6th Corps with its
artillery and headquarters of Marmont was in Chapton, Soizy-aux-Bois and Saint-Prix.
400 horses posted to the left of this division, at Villeneuve-lès-Charleville
and Charleville, sent patrols on Le Gault-Soigny and towards the road from Montmirail.
The other division of the 6th Corps occupied Sézanne and there
awaited the arrival of Ney, two divisions of which were advancing on Sézanne by
road from Villenauxe.
9 February 1814. --Movement of Marmont. --Marmont, convinced, as the Chief
of Staff had announced, that the Emperor would arrive at Sézanne on the 9th,
in the morning, reinforced the cavalry of General Doumerc with 600 infantry from
the division of Lagrange. 300 men occupied the defile of Saint-Prix; the rest supported
the light cavalry which, after passing Saint-Prix, sent parties from Baye on
Champaubert. The cuirassiers remained behind Saint-Prix at the Montalard farm.
The artillery of Doumerc, with the exception of two guns on the heights of
Saint-Prix, was, once extricated from the mud, defiled on Soizy-aux-Bois. General
Maurin continued to observe La Villeneuve road from Sézanne to Montmirail, and
General de Laville posted just there at Esternay and Beauvais-la- Noue had
orders to move on Sézanne and push parties to Châlons. The infantry of the 6th Corps was to remain on its positions at Soizy-aux-Bois, Chapton, Lachy and
Sézanne. Later, when he found out, during the day that the Emperor would only arrive
in the evening at Sézanne and that Ney could not make it before noon, the Duke
of Raguse, convinced that the Emperor, forced to go to Meaux, would go to La Ferté,
transferred his headquarters in the evening and most of his troops to Sézanne
where it met the two divisions of Ney, after leaving, between Saint-Prix and Chapton
some light cavalry and 300 infantry.
slight retrograde movement had, in fact, more advantages than disadvantages. It
avoided showing to Blücher the operation beginning against him who as yet had no
notion of it. It allowed for the surveillance of the difficult crossing at Petit-Morin.
Finally, and this was something important, the Marshal had obtained valuable
information as to how accessible the road to Champaubert was to the troops who
occupied this position. The corps leaving from the Seine approached him as
soon as the poor state of roads permitted. Mortier and Grouchy, on the order
of the Emperor, marched on Sézanne and sought to arrive at least in the evening
The Emperor himself was preparing to leave Nogent in the afternoon to make it
to Sézanne the same day where, with 30,000 men (of which 10,000 were cavalrymen)
and 120 guns, he went from, beginning the next day, to start operations against
In this regard, it is interesting to note that Marmont, who had been the only
one to share ideas and to guess the plans of the Emperor, that Marmont, later
claimed authorship of this operation, wrote precisely, 9 February, to the Chief
of Staff: "This movement (the movement of Champaubert) that this morning
would have given us great results, would have been disastrous tomorrow." The
Emperor would take care of it by showing facts, that his fears were
exaggerated, his miscalculations, and even if operated at 10 instead of 9, this
maneuver would be fatal, not to the French army, but the corps of Olsufiev.
Immobility of the Prussian Ist Corps. --Katzler at Château-Thierry. --The movements of the Army of Silesia during the 9th, instead of
helping an already compromised situation, , had, on the contrary, worsened it.
Macdonald, after destroying the bridge behind Château-Thierry, had left a
battalion in the town and arrived with his last troops (Brayer Division and the
brigade of Montmarie) at 9 o'clock in the morning at La Ferté-sous Jouarre,
where he intended to continue to Meaux. Yorck, now convinced of the
impossibility of reaching the marshal gave the majority of his corps a little
rest, including his troops, halting at Dormans and in the villages before the
city the those with the most urgent need.
"We hoped to recover ourselves for a few days," we read in the Journal
of 1st Prussian Dragoons (Dragoons of Lithuania), "because
we could go no further. Our horses were unshod, lame, emaciated; our infantry
had left its shoes in the dug up roads. In a word, our whole corps was
absolutely exhausted." The advanced guard of the Ist Corps
was, moreover, only to continued its movement. Katzler, arriving in the
morning on the outskirts of Château-Thierry, had threatened to bombard the city
which the French battalion evacuated about one o'clock, when the Prussian
artillery was preparing to open fire. But as he had to repair the bridge
before considering the pursuit, Katzler simply threw on the right bank some
infantry which crossed the Marne in boats.
Battle of La Ferté-sous-Jouarre. --Meanwhile, Blücher had commanded
Sacken to stay at Montmirail. The field marshal then renounced the hope of
cutting off Macdonald. And yet the vanguard of Sacken (Vasilchikov's cavalry),
although maintained from the 5th between Sézanne and Montmirail
because it wasn't wanted to push too far ahead of the corps of the Russian
general, advanced only to La Ferté-sous-Jouarre and debouched at this point,
while most of the corps of Macdonald had already taken position in front of the
town, on the left bank of the Marne, and the troops Brayer and Montmarie were
established behind those of Molitor at the château of Moras and the heights of
Impetuously attacked by the cavalry of Vasilchikov around Pavillons during a reconnaissance
pushed on the road to Montmirail, French troops were thrown into disorder on La
Ferté-sous-Jouarre. Moras Château was taken and retaken three or four times, disputed
with an unheard of fury until the explosion of a caisson definitely threw
disorder in the ranks of soldiers of Brayer and Molitor, who abandoned Moras
and Condetz to the Russians with the three pieces in battery on the hill.
The position of the Marshal was critical. It was important to pay any price at
Moras and Condetz to allow what was still in La Ferté to debouch and escape. Fortunately
for him, the division Albert had arrived, and although it only amounted to 500
to 600 men, returning to the offensive and the bayonet charge carried by this
handful of men were enough to dislodge Vasilchikov. Seeing himself exposed,
knowing he was away from the rest of the corps, he feared to compromise his
vanguard in engaging fully, gave up trying to attack with everyone and brought them
back on the road to Montmirail, taking with him the three pieces abandoned by
the French on the heights of Condetz.
"I'm unhappily taken by the most cruel end, I find myself between two
bridges, and in having the tail of Yorck, the head of Sacken." These are
the words with which the report of Macdonald ends.
"Part of my troops fought, though worn out with fatigue, with rare
intrepidity; the others fled, and it was not without much difficulty that we
successfully recovered and evacuated La Ferté. The infantry is shaken, and the
Duke of Padoue has only little squadrons. Generals Yorck and Sacken can reunite
tomorrow. I cross the Marne at Trilport and fall back on Meaux. The bridges of
Château-Thierry and La Ferté-sous-Jouarre are burned and broken."
Movements of Kleist and Kapsewitch. --During this day, Kleist and
Kapsewitch were somewhat pressed on the center in going to Bergères and Vertus;
but Sacken, who had attached little importance to the news of the march of the
French on Sézanne was not resting at Montmirail and had marched with the bulk
of his troops to Viels-Maisons.
The line occupied by the different corps of the Army of Silesia was, therefore,
as long as it had been previously, with the difference that the cavalry of Vasilchikov was more forward around La Ferté-sous-Jouarre
and that before leaving Vertus to transfer in the afternoon, his headquarters
in Étoges, Blücher, to comply with the instructions of the Generalissimo, had
ordered Kleist to move the 10th on Sézanne with corps of Kapsewitch and
Blücher's headquarters returns from Étoges to Vertus. --Orders to Sacken
and Yorck for the day of the 10th. --Napoleon at Sézanne. --The
headquarters of Blücher had barely settled in Étoges when a Russian officer,
hastening from Baye, brought the news of the appearance of French cavalry in
these parts. It is true that once it was known that this cavalry had almost immediately retired,
no importance was any longer attached to this incident. The Field Marshal
returned however to Vertus. Completely reassured by the report of Olsufiev which
signaled the retirement of Marmont on Sézanne, he sent the same evening by
Lieutenant von Gerlach, aide to Muffling, orders to Sacken to concentrate his
corps the 10th at Montmirail, to withdraw on Château-Thierry and on Yorck,
with whom he would go on the right side if attacked by forces superior in
number; on the contrary to continue, on La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, only under the
circumstance of fearing for the flank of Sézanne. The instructions given to
Yorck were even sparser and more singular. He simply prescribed to move from Château-Thierry
on Veils-Maisons and run to the rescue of Sacken, who marched on the 9th on La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, meeting the enemy in front of this town.
But, while giving these orders, Blücher persisted nevertheless in not believing
in a movement that he still considered impossible. The Emperor, however, was
already close to Sézanne where he arrived with his Guard late into the night. Thanks
to the energy of his old soldiers, patriotism of farmers and zeal of the Mayor of
Barbonne, who requisitioned all the horses in the country, the Guard and the
artillery of the army had managed to pull through the swamps of the Forest of
Traconne and reach Sézanne the night of the 9th to 10th. Informed
by Marmont of the condition of the roads leading to Champaubert, Napoleon
decided immediately to move forward on the 10th in the morning.
10 February 1814. --March of Sacken on La Ferté-sous-Jouarre. --During
9 February, it was still possible for Blücher to evade the blow that threatened
him. He still had time to go up to Épernay on the right bank of the Marne, to bring
back on the mountain of Reims the corps of Sacken, of Yorck, of Olsufiev and of
Kapsewitch, and to contain the Guard with the corps of Kleist at Châlons, or
even better to make a general concentration on Montmirail by making Yorck and
Sacken come back on the 10th and bringing by a forced march of 40
kilometers the corps of Kleist and Kapsewitch who would reunite in passing the corps
of Olsufiev, assuming, however, that it had been found unnecessary to move
these the 9th in the evening on Montmirail. The Army of Silesia could
therefore still have made a concentration the 10th in the evening. But
it would have to question the evidence at hand, and although operations of the
Emperor were so natural that they should have been obvious, the illusions were
so deeply rooted in the minds of Blücher and Gneisenau that they prevailed once
more. Also whether he was obsessed and blinded by the idea of still
marching into Paris, as if he really had not been aware of the danger, the Field
Marshal, far from attempting a concentration on Montmirail, far from exercising
these voluntary retirements that had been so successful in 1813, further
aggravated the situation and precipitated the catastrophe that threatened by
the very provisions he had taken on the evening of the 9th at
On his command from the morning of the 10th Sacken, had resumed his move
on La Ferté-sous-Jouarre that Macdonald had evacuated. He had begun the work
to restore the bridge and pushed on the road to Meaux the cavalry of Vasilchikov,
who strongly drove the last French troops just to the Trilport bridge and took from
them three pieces and a few caissons during this retreat. Stopped at this
point by the destruction of the bridge, Vasilchikov established behind the wood
of Meaux in Saint-Jean-les-Deux-Jumeaux, while Macdonald, fearing to be
outflanked on his left by a side road from Château-Thierry, Montreuil-aux-Lions
and Lizy, sent Molitor to occupy Congis-sur-Théroanne, Villers-les-Rigault and
Lizy-sur-Ourcq, with orders to watch the crossings of the Ourcq and destroy the
The 5th Corps (Sebastiani) was responsible for guarding the crossing
at Trilport. The cavalry of Saint-Germain came to join him in Meaux and formed
with Exelmans, a corps of a little more than 2,000 horses with 5 guns.
March of Yorck on Château-Thierry. --Surprise of Lanskoy's hussars at
Saint-Fiacre. --Yorck had received in the morning at Dormans the order in
which he was directed from Château-Thierry on Viels-Maisons, but in which it
was considered unnecessary to indicate the causes for this movement. Not understanding
these new provisions, that forced him to make a long detour to reach La Ferté-sous-Jouarre,
removing him from the main road to be thrown on bad secondary roads, informed
by one of his patrols of the occupation of La Ferté-sous-Jouarre by Sacken,
knowing immediately that Macdonald was able to steal away and Sacken did not
need help, Yorck could not bring himself to execute an order completely
unintelligible to him. Desiring, however, to know the hidden motives of this disposition,
he sent Major Count von Brandenburg to Blücher's headquarters. Meanwhile, he
countermanded the movement he had planned and contented himself with pushing his
advanced guard up to Nogent-l'Artaud. The bulk of his corps came to settle in
the afternoon at Château-Thierry, at Grandes-Noues and Viffort.
Macdonald, already regretting the hasty destruction of the Trilport bridge, had
the cavalry of Saint-Germain leave from Meaux which instead going to the right
on the road to La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, had to cross the Marne at the bridge of Meaux
and then fall back to the left to the level of Nanteuil. Saint-Germain
proposed to join the main road to Saint-Jean-les-Deux-Jumeaux, continue on La Ferté-sous-Jouarre
and communicate with the Emperor in heading on Montmirail and pressing his left
to the Marne. The detour had prevented the General from pushing beyond
Saint-Fiacre, where he surprised at 5 o'clock in the afternoon the Alexandria
Hussars (Division of General Lanskoy), and took some men and a few horses. Shortly
after this skirmish, Sacken who had just received the order from Blücher
commanding him to return towards Montmirail and from there on Virtues, recalled
all his cavalry on La Ferté-sous-Jouarre.
Combat at Champaubert. --While Blücher left Olsufiev alone at Champaubert
the Emperor, just hours after his arrival in Sézanne, reported in front of Marmont's
corps. Doubling the teams by using requisition horses, they thus succeeded in
crossing the defile of Saint-Prix. At 9 o'clock, the cavalry of Doumerc, head
of the column of the 6th Corps, emerged on the heights overlooking
the valley of Petit-Morin and saw before it the little Russian corps. Ney having
received the order to follow Marmont and Mortier was, once all his troops had
reached Sézanne, informed of the hour that the Emperor he could be reached if
needed by him.
Informed by his outposts of the French movement, Olsufiev, lacking cavalry,
immediately had General Udom occupy the village of Baye, with four regiments of
eiger and six guns. As one had neglected to cut and at the same time guard the
bridge of Petit-Morin at Saint-Prix, the cavalrymen of Doumerc crossing safely,
drove up to Baye. Despite this neglect, Olsufiev could still refuse to fight
and retreat, either on the wood of the Grande-Laye, or back to Étoges. It was
enough for him to make this resolution immediately, before the divisions of Lagrange
and Ricard had crossed the bridge of Saint-Prix and was ordered to attack Baye.
But far from thinking of retirement, the Russian general ordered General Udom to
engage and try to push the French on Saint-Prix, which was being reinforced throughout
this time. The offensive movement of Russian eiger came crashing against the
French squadrons, supported by their infantry, and General Udom brought his
entire brigade to Baye and in the woods near the village.
after crossing the Morin, the Lagrange Division had veered to the left, taken a
position on the plateau which extends between Baye and Bannay, extended its
left to the village and placed 12 pieces in battery. Too weak to resist the
troops before him, General Udom asked for reinforcements and orders from his
chief, who immediately sent a brigade of infantry and six pieces to occupy
Bannay and the woods to the north of the village. While the Ricard Division moved
against Baye, the Russians managed to repel the first attack against Bannay by
the Pelleport Brigade (Lagrange Division). Ney's corps, coming into line at
this time, took position on the plateau and all the French artillery fire
crashed against the village of Bannay. It was about 1 o'clock. Olsufiev had
fully recognized the danger of his situation, his generals consulting with him,
were unanimous in their decision to retire on Étoges and Count Nostitz, aide of
Blücher, had offered to take the responsibility of a retrograde motion on
himself. However, the Russian general decided to continue the unequal and
desperate struggle at Baye and Bannay. But he thought that it was time to send an officer to the Field Marshal to
inform him of what was happening in front of Champaubert and especially to warn
him of the presence of the Emperor.
A little before 3 o'clock, in spite of prodigies of valor, the Russians
dislodged from Bannay by the Lagrange Division and part of Ney's troops, driven
out of Baye by the division of Ricard, retreated to their right to the wood of Baye,
to the wood of Andecy on their left and the Potence, seeking to gain
Champaubert. Afraid of being cut off from his only line of retreat, Olsufiev
gave orders to General Poltoratsky to hold to the last extremity with the Apcheron
(Апшерон) Regiment and Nasheburg
Regiment and 9 cannons. But soon after taking the two villages while Russian
troops no longer formed in the woods and in the rugged terrain, long thin lines
of skirmishers retired on Champaubert, the Emperor had pushed to his left the cavalry
of Doumerc with orders to outflank the right of the Russians and debouch on the
route to Paris, between Fromentières and Champaubert. On his right, the
cavalry of Bordesoulle extended the right of Ricard. Strongly pressed by the
French infantry, Olsufiev only moved his artillery to Étoges with great
difficulty, amassing his infantry that had just been deployed as skirmishers,
when informed of the presence of the cavalry on the road from Fromentières to Champaubert,
he took the chance of trying to escape by pressing on and moving on Étoges. It
was too late: on the right, the cavalry of Bordesoulle had already reached the infantry
of Poltoratsky, had charged, leaving just this general time to get into Champaubert that the fire
of the horse artillery and that of Ricard quickly made untenable. Two negotiators
sent by the French generals, when the cavalry of Bordesoulle had already
completely surrounded Champaubert and when the infantry adorned the edge of the
woods of La Grande-Laye, failed to disarm Poltoratsky to which the exit from Champaubert
was already cut off from the corps of Olsufiev, trying to reach the woods. The
Russian squares charged on all sides by the cuirassiers Bordesoulle, decimated
by fires of infantry and the French artillery, held out until their ammunition
ran out, more than 1000 men and 10 cannons fell into the hands of Bordesoulle
Olsufiev fared no better; after unsuccessfully trying to clear the passage to
Étoges by bayonet, he was thrown back to a cross-road, hoping to reach the road
from Épernay and reach the level of La Caure. The confusion and the
impracticality of the route in which his soldiers had to maneuver the pieces, also
delayed his movement. Surrounded on all sides by the cavalry, lacking
ammunition, the greater part of his little troop was captured by the French at
the level of Déserts and Grand-Étang. Only 1500 men with 15 cannons succeeded
with the generals Kornilov and Udom to break through the circle which surrounded
them, by throwing themselves into the woods and back to Port-à-Binson.
"We saved our flags and our honor," old General Kornilov wrote the
"General Olsufiev has been attacked by 6000 horses and 2000 infantrymen,"
said the report of Mareschal Major. "He had no cavalry and has been completely routed. He lost nine guns and
saved 15, 1500 men and two generals
escaped. Four generals and the rest of his troops are missing."
The speed and secrecy of his march had thus permitted the Emperor to achieve
the first part of his beautifully designed strategy. He managed to direct the
bulk of his forces against a portion of the army of Blücher; he arrived on its flank
and had begun before the Field Marshal had believed in his presence, and added it
to the news that he received in the morning from Wittgenstein informing him of
the French movement on Villenauxe. But Napoleon had not yet reached the goal he had proposed: the annihilation of
his opponent, and the fires had not completely extinguished in Champaubert before
he took his dispositions for the next day.
Napoleon's orders after Champaubert. --At 7 o'clock in the evening orders
were given to Nansouty to leave the same night with the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Divisions of the Old Guard supported by an infantry brigade of the 6th Corps, to surprise the garrison of Montmirail and send parties on
Viels-Maisons. The 3rd Cavalry Division of the Old Guard would leave
at 5 o'clock in the morning and would returned to Montmirail at 8 o'clock.
Nansouty arriving before Montmirail during the night, chased away the Cossack
regiment left on this point by the General Karpov.
was ordered to put in march at daybreak the cavalry division of General de
France, the 2nd Division of the Old Guard and all that remained at
Sézanne to come to Montmirail. He was to leave at Sézanne a rearguard of
cavalry and infantry and send a strong party of the division de France towards La
Ferté-Gaucher to connect with the Leval Division.
Ney was to follow the Duke of Trévise on Montmirail and begin his movement at 6
o'clock in the morning.
In the letter he wrote to Oudinot, the Emperor already previews and explains the events of the next day: "We
go this night to Montmirail and we'll find Sacken between Viels-Maisons and La Ferté-sous-Jouarre; he will only retreat to Château-Thierry. But Sacken has 20,000 men,
bringing the Emperor to order you to leave the divisions of Leval and
Rottembourg for tomorrow in La Ferté-Gaucher, where General Leval, with two
divisions, will move to the location when he hears the guns, between Montmirail
and Viels-Maisons. If the 9th Division has not yet arrived at Melun
or Nangis, and if the enemy has already started an offensive operation with the
army that is threatening at Troyes and Montereau by the Yonne, do not send a
division to La Ferté-Gaucher; but consider that Sacken destroyed, the battle takes
on a new light."
Lastly, Marmont, who since the battle of Montmirail, had been directed to Étoges with part
of his troops, was ordered to leave from Champaubert at 3 o'clock in the
morning, with Ricard's division with his artillery, and head for Montmirail, guarding
Étoges with the Lagrange Division and 1st Cavalry Corps, trying to
learn during the night of the 10th to 11th what Blücher
"Does he intend on heading to Châlons, on Épernay," wrote the Chief
of Staff, "or does he maneuver to attack us? (You) Must impose on him to
induce his retirement; this is important to us. Once it is established that we
have nothing to fear from Blücher and he is definitely retired, General Doumerc
should be directed on Montmirail; the light cavalry, the Lagrange Division and
12 pieces artillery to hold a defensive position and mask from Blücher and to
hide even further. Try to send someone to Vertus and receive news."
Continuation of the movement of Kleist and Kapsewitch on Fère-Champenoise. --Battle
of Linthes. --Although warnings had not failed to reach Blücher, although
the Field Marshal had received the night of the 9th to 10th,
and in any case no later than the 10th in the morning, official
confirmation from Wittgenstein of the movement the Emperor and his army it seems
that even when Olsufiev was already committed at Baye, there was little value
attributed to this news and these movements. It was preferred to share the
opinion of Sacken, based on information from Karpov, that Sacken, who according
to the words used by Mareschal, only attached to these movements altogether
secondary importance. What is certain is that instead of stopping Kleist and
Kapsewitch, they let them continue from Vertus and Bergères to Fère-Champenoise;
the advanced guard of Kleist (General von Zieten) leaving Fère-Champenoise where it
had arrived the day before to push through Connantre on Linthes where its tip
provided by the 1st Silesian Hussars, came against a few squadrons
of Polish lancers leaving from Sézanne to reconnoiter in those parts.
despite all his partiality for Field Marshal, judged, with a severity that is
not customarily found in his writings when it comes to the operations of
Blücher, the movements of Kleist and Kapsewitch executed by his order, on Fère-Champenoise:
"As the French army", he said in his Critique, "fell upon
at that time Olsufiev at Champaubert, this movement was deplorable, and Blücher,
if he knew of the march of the French, would certainly have preferred moving on
Champaubert. The news of the defeat of Olsufiev proved to Blücher he had made
a false move and to cover the Châlons road, he hastened to send, by a night
march, two corps on Bergères." The only excuse for Blücher was to hope in
his complete ignorance of the situation, to make the Emperor fall back by a
simple demonstration attempted on his right flank. One could still, strictly
speaking, admit, referring to
the Kriegs Archiv. of Berlin, C. 13, IV, that this movement began
at a time when the Field Marshal still believed it safe, to comply with the instructions
from the General Headquarters and requesting the sending of the corps of Kleist
to Nogent with the responsibility for linking the Army of Silesia with the body
of Wittgenstein (VIth Corps of the Great Army).
Orders sent on the 10th in the morning to Yorck and Sacken. --It
was not, in fact, the only fault committed in this day, by the commander of the
Army of Silesia. Indeed, the 10th in the morning, he had sent to
Yorck and Sacken orders that came to them only in the evening and bear the
imprint of indecision and uncertainty very rare in the Field Marshal .
"Based on all the information," wrote Gneisenau to Yorck, "Napoleon
is going from Nogent-sur-Seine by Villenauxe on Sézanne where, according to
what prisoners say, he will only spend the night."
"This enemy movement may lead to a junction with Marshal Macdonald, as it
may also be the beginning of an offensive operation to the Marne. In this
case, I must concentrate my army at Vertus. If you have not started your
movement on Montmirail, do it now. Bivouac your corps and keep it concentrated
so as you can move in any direction. Push your cavalry on the road from Montmirail
"As soon as I have some definite news of the march of the enemy, I will communicate
it to you. It is important not only to guard the bridge of Château-Thierry, if
it is restored, but also build a pontoon bridge, so that if by misfortune the
enemy cut off your corps and that of Sacken from my army, you can save yourselves
on the right bank of the Marne until the arrival of the main army."
"P.S. --Let me know your position."
In the letter addressed to Sacken and which Yorck should been aware of before, the
Field Marshal simply said to the Russian general that, "reunite the
10th at Montmirail with the Prussian Ist Corps, it should
be able to clear the way to Vertus in case the enemy established itself between
the two corps and the Field Marshal."
It follows from these orders, that the Chief of Staff of Blücher still believed
a junction impossible, since he knew, at least in regard to Sacken, that he had
moved on La Ferté and that he had moreover, been ordered to conform to events.
The singular redaction of these orders, the contradictions they contained, were
not likely to clarify for Yorck. Indeed, if, as the Chief of Staff of Blücher
seems to have thought under the terms of the order, Yorck had not yet moved on
Montmirail, it is his corps which, where it could join forces against the
enemy, that would be in the front line and would be the first to fight. And
yet Sacken is the only one given the order to open, in concert it is true, with
the Ist Corps the road to Vertus, and recommend to Yorck "to save himself on the right bank of the Marne".
11 February. --Positions of the corps of Yorck and Sacken between 9 and 10
o'clock. --The response of Yorck to Blücher proves, however, that the
commander of Ist Prussian Corps had recognized the seriousness of
the situation; with his lack of constraint and his openness for ordinary language,
he replied to the Field Marshal that if the Emperor continued his offensive movement,
it would be impossible to effect a junction with Sacken. He added that, with
no news from Sacken, ignoring the nature of the resolutions adopted by the general
and not wanting to impose on his troops the fatigues of a night march, he
decided to concentrate, the 11th, his body around Viffort and push his
cavalry towards Montmirail.
But Sacken, who had received a direct duplicate of the order of Blücher had
left La Ferté-sous-Jouarre at 9 o'clock at night, after destroying the bridge
he had repaired. Without informing Yorck, who was, however, modifying his
movements on his own, he had executed a night march in hopes to get ahead of
the Emperor at Montmirail. Although he had marched all night, Sacken only got
to Viels-Maisons at 9 o'clock in the morning, while the advanced guard already skirmished
with the French on the side of the farm of La Bordé. Although he had his
Cossacks report on events of the night, Sacken never the less continued to advance
against the villages of the Thorn-au-Bois and Marchais-en-Brie, already
occupied by the French outposts.
Yorck arrived with his main body at Viffort. He had learned not only that the
Cossacks of Karpov had been dislodged from Montmirail, but that his vanguard had
given the enemy positions to the side of Rozoy and Fontenelle-en-Brie. Taking an
accurate account of the difficulties of a situation exacerbated by the
destruction of the bridge of La Ferté-sous-Jouarre that Sacken had burned to
prevent a movement of Macdonald on his rear, Yorck tried one last time to
divert Sacken from his projects, to prevent an engagement and to agree to an
immediate retreat on Château-Thierry. He sent one of his officers, Major von
Schack, who joined Sacken in Viels-Maisons when the General was about to send
his last orders. Convinced that he had before him a small corps and even
though Schack had said the Ist Corps could only come in to line much
later and without its artillery that could not follow them, Sacken persisted in
Positions of the French troops. --The Emperor arrived at Montmirail,
proceeded to reconnoiter the field and noted with pleasure that the two enemy
corps had not yet effected a junction. The cavalry of Nansouty, joined in the
morning by horse grenadiers from Sézanne had already thrown back the Russian
outposts beyond the farms of Chouteaux. The Emperor, to prevent the possible
meeting of his two opponents, resolved to come and take position astride the
two roads from Montmirail to Château-Thierry and from Montmirail to La Ferté-sous-Jouarre.
To stop the movement that he foresaw on his left, he immediately moved the Ricard
Division in column of battalions in mass in front of Le Tremblay where it was to
deploy. Ney was to establish the second line with his two divisions to the
right and left of the village. The cavalry was deployed in support of the artillery,
up to the farm of Grénaux, his left on the road, the right to the farm of Plénois.
500 men taken from the division of Ricard, extended the right of the cavalry
to Bailly and occupied the woods of Plénois. The division of Friant, on the
right covered by the cavalry of General de France, was in reserve in battalion
column, at the crossroads of the two roads. The Michel Division, with Marshal
Mortier, was in march on Montmirail.
 General Montmarie to the
Minister of War, Chauconin-Neufmontiers, near Meaux, 10 February, and Marshal Macdonald
to Kellermann, Épernay, 6 February. (Archives of the War.)
 Blücher to Schwarzenberg,
Soudron, 5 February, 8 o'clock at night (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 120.)
 Macdonald to the Chief of
Staff, Saint-Pierre-aux-Oies, 5 February, 1l o'clock at night. (Archives of
 Blücher to Schwarzenberg,
Soudron, 5 February, 8 o'clock at night. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II,
Mareschal confirmed in his report from Fère-Champenoise, 5 February (K. K.
Kriegs Archiv., II, 122) the information, saying among other things to the
Generalissimo: "Field Marshal Blücher is going with two columns to attack
Châlons to cut off the enemy. The enemy retreats on Vertus and La Ferté-sous-Jouarre
pursued by our cavalry. The prisoners sent by Yorck this morning saying that Châlons
and Vitry are evacuated. The army will go tomorrow to Vertus and Épernay."
 Major Mareschal to Prince
Schwarzenberg, Soudron, 6 February, 2 o'clock afternoon (K. K. Kriegs Archiv.,
 It is here clearly not the
4th, but the 3rd Cavalry Corps. It is, moreover, to be
noted that Sebastiani commanded the 5th Corps and that Exelmans was
the head of the 2nd Cavalry Corps.
 Macdonald, Orders of Movement,
and Macdonald to the Chief of Staff, Épernay, 6 February, 10 o'clock in the
morning, 3 o'clock in the afternoon and 6 o'clock in the evening. (Archives
of the War.)
 One finds on this date two interesting
accounts in History of the 1st Uhlan Regiment of
Brandenburg no 3, by Major von Guretzky-Cornitz.
The Major recounts that after the Prussian troops, drank the champagne at Châlons,
they had broken the empty bottles along the roads. The resulting glass from these
broken bottles was so numerous that it was only with difficulty that the
cavalry and especially the artillery could reach to use the roads.
The other fact mentioned by the Major is no less curious.
the bridge was once more passable at Châlons, we crossed with Lieutenant-Colonel
von Stutterheim, who mounted the road of Vertus and Étoges. But this route had
been assigned to the corps of Sacken, who was given the order to take the high
road to Paris. The French were thus able to gain time, and it was only at the level
of Aulnay that Major Count Schmettow managed to make contact with the French
rearguard with the 2nd Squadron of Brandenburg Uhlans. Two regiments
of French cavalry were in battle formation on the left of the road. Too weak
to attack them with a single squadron, the Major, in awaiting the arrival of
the rest of the advanced guard, pushed himself with his flankers against those
of the French. But to his surprise he saw the French vedettes lower their carbines,
put their swords in their scabbards, waving bottles of champagne and inviting them
with gestures to his horsemen to approach. The uhlans who had acquired a taste
for champagne in traversing Châlons accepted the invitation of French horsemen
and fraternally toasted with them. It was not without difficulty that the Major
was able to recall them.
The French cavalry withdrew shortly after and established itself in the evening
before Plivot. Schmettov followed until, reinforced by three squadrons, he
attacked in the evening and drove them from Plivot.
 Macdonald to the minister,
Port-à-Binson, 7 February, noon. (Archives of the War.)
 A reinforcement of 3,000
men who were to arrive the 7th in La Ferté-sous-Jouarre with General
Minot, had left Paris the 6th to join the corps of the Marshal.
 The corps of Kleist
consisted on its arrival at Châlons of 17 1/2 battalions of infantry (including
8 reserve), 12 cavalry squadrons (including 4 landwehr), 2 batteries (including
1 horse), representing at that time an effective strength of 9,000 men with 16
guns (Blücher to Schwarzenberg; K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 237). The Field
Marshal ascribed in the same document the strength of Kapsewitch's corps as
 In his dispatch to the
Chief of Staff, from Dormans, 10 o'clock at night, the Marshal added: "If
I can give a few days of rest, replace arms and recover the horses' condition
and receive reinforcements, I will do battle with my little army. But I do not
count much on the conscripts of the Young Guard. Their chief says they do
not know how to turn right, I fear that making a half turn would be too much. Where is the Emperor? What movement does he make?" (Archives of the War.)
 Blücher only received
February 9th the letter of the Emperor Alexander.
 Blücher to Schwarzenberg, Vertus,
9 February (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 237).
 The corps of Kapsewitch having
left Mainz, arrived the 8th in Châlons. Kleist had halted there.
 Blücher to Schwarzenberg, Vertus,
9 February (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 237), and Macdonald to the Chief
of Staff, Crézancy, 10 o'clock in the morning, and Château-Thierry, 8 February.
(Archives of the War.)
 Major Mareschal to Schwarzenberg,
Vertus, 10 February, 10 o'clock in the morning. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 262).
 Macdonald to the Chief of
Staff and the Minister, Saint-Jean-les-Deux-Jumeaux, 9 February, 10 o'clock at
night. (Archives of the War.)
 Macdonald to the Chief of
Staff and the Minister, Saint-Jean-les-Deux-Jumeaux, 9 February, 10 o'clock at
night. (Archives of the War.)
 Major Mareschal to Schwarzenberg,
Vertus, 10 February, 10 o'clock in the morning. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 262).
 Blücher to Schwarzenberg, Vertus,
9 February. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II. 237.) According to the report of
Major Mareschal (Ibid., II, 262), the vanguard of Kleist was already the
9th at Fère-Champenoise.
 Based on Kriegsgeschichtliche
Einzelschriften, this would have happened, in fact, not the 9th,
but February 8 in the evening shortly after the arrival of the Field Marshal who
had transferred his headquarters on 8 February and not 9 February to Étoges. Blücher
have even sent 8 February a dispatch from Étoges to Sacken.
 Blücher to Yorck, Vertus, 9
February evening. --Count Nostitz sent by Olsufiev to Champaubert, pushed, now
a reconnaissance that revealed the presence of French in Sézanne. He
immediately informed Blücher thinking that the Field Marshal had prescribed
Olsufiev to move more on Montmirail. (NOSTITZ, Tagebuch,
 The Russian authors and
Count Nostitz in his Tagebuch claim that Olsufiev refused to surrender
to the advice of his generals, because at Brienne, he had been criticized for
not having taken the side of the city in which the French entered unnoticed and
nearly even taken Blücher and Sacken. These two generals were, on this
occasion, extremely hard on Olsufiev. Sacken had also severely criticized the
way Olsufiev had committed his troops at La Rothière.
 The Emperor had not waited
until the end of the battle to inform Macdonald, and after 3 o'clock, the Chief
of Staff had sent from Baye, to the Duke of Tarente, the dispatch below:
"The Emperor, as I have told you, made a flanking movement on the enemy:
we found the enemy at Baye, we have crushed them. It was Sacken (a): he
is cut off. We are at Champaubert; it seems part of his corps is at Montmirail
and the other behind it; it is only 3 o'clock and we pursue the enemy with
numerous cavalry. I look at this affair as the harbinger of many other
successes." (Archives of the War.)
It seems unnecessary to correct the error committed here by the name of Chief
 Journal of Poltoratsky.
 Report of Major General
Kornilov, 30 January/11 February, no 235.
 'Major Mareschal to Prince
Schwarzenberg, Bergères, 11 February, 10 o'clock in the morning. (K. K. Kriegs
Archiv., II, 287.) --Mareschal added: "The corps that was beaten by
the enemy consisted of the 9th and 15th Divisions. The flags
of the 15th Division and two of the 9th were saved."
 Major Mareschal to Prince
Schwarzenberg, Vertus, 10 February, 10 o'clock in the morning. (K. K. Kriegs
Archiv., II, 262.)
 Chief of Staff to Oudinot,
Sézanne, 10 February. (Records of Berthier, Archives of the War.)
 The report of Mareschal to
Schwarzenberg, Bergères, 11 February, 10 o'clock in the morning (K. K. Kriegs
Archiv., II, 281) shows that Blücher knew immediately after the occupation
of Étoges. He believed, however, that there were few there.
 Records of Berthier. (Archives
of the War.)
 Major Mareschal to Schwarzenberg,
Vertus, 10 February, 10 o'clock in the morning. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv.,
 In publishing their 5th and 6th editions (livraisons) of 1889, the journal of Count Nostitz, Kriegsgeschichtliche Einzelschriften reported, about the short stay made
by Blücher at Fère-Champenoise a curious episode. The jäger of Blücher who
rode immediately behind him and always had a special mission to give him his
coat and prepare his pipe, was sitting on a bench in front of the headquarters.
Holding in his hands the reins of his horse, he was fast asleep. Awakened
with a start at the departure time, he saw with amazement that he only had the
ends of the reins. The horse had disappeared with the mantle and pipes of the Field
Marshal. Blücher, very upset about the loss of objects to which he was so used,
forced his jäger to give up his horse. The horse was recovered a long time
afterwards among the Cossacks who had robbed him, but the pipes and coat had naturally
 Blücher to Yorck, Vertus, 10
February, 7 o'clock in the morning.
 Major Mareschal to Schwarzenberg,
Vertus, 10 February, 10 o'clock in the morning. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II,
CLAUSEWITZ, Critique of the
Campaign of 1814
 "We entered Montmirail
at midnight. Before 4 o'clock, Sacken had to know the state of the situation. What
will happen today? Will the move to Montmirail open his communications? He
would find himself caught between two fires. Does he abandon the line of La
Ferté-sous-Jouarre to Montmirail for falling back to Chateau-Thierry with his
communications provided by the road from Épernay to Châlons..." (Records
of Berthier, Archives of the War.) The Emperor, as we seen, was relying
on the cooperation of Macdonald and still unaware of the destruction of the
bridge of Trilport.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2012
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