Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

The Campaign of 1814: Chapter Two

By: Maurice Weil

Translated by: Greg Gorsuch


(after the Imperial and Royal War Archives at Vienna)




Operations of the Army of Bohemia from the crossing of the Rhine at Basel up to the first reunion with the Army of Silesia (26 January 1814).

20 December, 1813. --Order of movement.  --It was from his headquarters at Lörrach that Schwarzenberg dispatched, 20December, orders for movement to the various columns of the Army of Bohemia.

The first column consisting of the advanced-guard (1st Light Division Count Bubna) and the IInd Army Corps (Prince Alois Liechtenstein) was, starting from Grenzach and Basel, to head first to the far left in line with Geneva, then secondarily through Solothurn, Bern, Fribourg, where it would arrive on the 25th,  splitting off Bubna, pushing the parties toward Pierre-Pertuis to watch the valley of Saint-Imier and the road of Travers at Pontarlier, and continue its march from Neuchâtel on Pontarlier.

The 2nd column, the Crenneville division of the Austrian IIIrd Corps of Count Gyulay temporarily reinforced by the Grenadiers Division of Bianchi, who was not to be delayed by its employment up to the 5th of January before Belfort, had received orders to move from Basel by Bienne on Solothurn, thence to support the right, by Porrentruy and Montbéliard, to take Vesoul where it would arrive on January 7.

The 2nd Light Division (Prince Maurice Liechtenstein) and the Austrian Ist Corps (Count Colloredo) formed the 3rd column, after crossing the Rhine at Laufenburg, would pass by Aarau, Bern and Aarburg and move to Neuchâtel.

The 4th column, which consisted of 2 other divisions of the IIIrd Corps (Gyulay), had been assigned for the first day the same route as the 3rd.  This column then followed the Crenneville division and went on Vesoul.

The Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg with the Austrian reserves, (2 divisions of grenadiers and 2 of cuirassiers, 5th column), crossed the Rhine at Schaffhausen with orders to be in Bern the 29th of December.

As for the Austro-Bavarians of  Wrede that formed the 6th column, they crossed the Rhine at Basel on the 22nd, heading to Huningue and sent one division (the division Rechberg) on Belfort.

The IVth Army Corps (the Crown Prince of Württemberg) constituting the 7th column remained temporarily at Lörrach and only to cross the Rhine at Märkt, December 31.

The VIth Corps composed of the Russians of Wittgenstein, forming the 8th column that did not enter Switzerland, was ordered go to besiege Kehl and watch the Rhine at this time from Fort Vauban to Mannheim.

Finally, the Russian Guard and reserves, under the command of Barclay de Tolly, which could be considered as forming a 9th column, temporarily remained at Lörrach like the IVth Corps.

Considerations on this order of movement.  -- Assuming that the Allies had acted wisely and prudently in making their move by Switzerland, then to make a general conversion to the right on which the VIth Corps (Wittgenstein) was called to serve as a pivot, going so far as to find some reason for sending the 12,000 men of Bubna on Geneva, we were still unable to discover, however, the reasons for the direction taken by the Ist Corps (Colloredo) and the Austrian reserves of Crown Prince Hesse-Homburg, which were sent from Neuchâtel on Pontarlier and Dijon.  Further the reasons are not explained which led Schwarzenberg to create a front which extended in the last days of December, to embrace more than 300 kilometers from Fort Louis to Geneva.

Such a disposition did not correspond to the ideas in the plan of operations that the Austrian commander had submitted and accepted by the Czar at Frankfurt.

22 December, 1813.  --First movements of Wrede.  --Of all the columns which had crossed the Rhine at Basel, it was through these dispositions, that the column formed by the Austro-Bavarians of Wrede happened to stay on the main road leading to the interior of France.  Wrede, although he had crossed the Rhine with his troops the 22nd, had invested the same day Huningue with the Zollern brigade of Beckers' division, directed the division of Rechberg for Belfort and the division of La Motte on Porrentruy. The Austrians of Frimont formed his reserve, and the 700 horses of the flying corps of the Austrian Colonel Scheibler covered his right with posts sent on the road to Colmar, and up to about Habsheim and Rixheim, to that of Cernay and in the direction of Thann.

Wrede's corps was thus the only one whose troops had been placed in France and the offensive movement of an army of 200,000 men which had, strictly speaking, nothing before it, was manifested by some investment of some places and by sending a few parties into the Department of Haut-Rhin.

Whatever the panegyrists of Schwarzenberg have written to justify these dispositions, they have not found one good reason to argue.  Indeed, it was decided not to move the Austro-Bavarians forward because they would enter the line of the IVth Corps and the Austrian columns moving through Neuchâtel, it would certainly have been more rational to keep the Vth Corps a little further back.  This would have saved the partisans of Scheibler the lesson they would receive in Sainte-Croix, December 24.  One would not, indeed, have leveled two tiny villages such as Blâmont and Landskron; but one would have had the advantage of not prematurely disclosing to the French in which direction the attack would occur.

In sum, during the evening of December 22, the Army of Bohemia occupied the following positions:

Positions of the Army of Bohemia December 22 in the evening.  --Bubna was at Solothurn, General Scheither at Büren, General Zechmeister at Bettlach.  The Ist Corps in Aarau, the IInd at Balsthal.  Crenneville, drawn up before Huningue with a division of Vth Corps[1], was to move the next day on Solothurn after joining Bianchi at Lauffen.  The IVth Corps was still very far in the rear, marching to the Haut-Rhin, and should have been between 3 and 6 January at Belfort to connect with the Vth and cover its right.  Prince Eugene of Württemberg blockaded Kehl.  The Cossacks of Colonel Liubomirskii, supported by Major General Dekhterev with the Olviopol Hussar Regiment posted at Ottenheim, watched the Rhine from Kehl to Vieux-Brisach; the Major General Musin-Pushkin,  supported Major General Rudinger at Rastatt, and the Grodno Hussars did the same from Kehl to Mannheim, with the Cossack regiments of Iaroslav and Vlassov II.  Finally, Wittgenstein, in order to obtain news of the enemy, had sent General Seslavin with two squadrons of the Soumy Hussars and the Cossack regiment of Rebrikov III, an order to try to move upstream from Strasbourg, on left bank of the Rhine, and operate as partisans in the rear of Victor. The line formed along the Rhine by the observation positions of the VIth corps only measured less than 180 kilometers.

23 December, 1813.  --Movements.  --The following 23rd, the 1st Light Division of the Austrians arrived in Bern, the Ist Corps in Aarburg, the IInd in Solothurn, the IIIrd at Liestadt.  Major de Vaulx (of the light horse of St.Vincent) with a party of 100 cavalry and infantry had in the night of 22 to 23, pushed up to Neuchâtel.  The grenadier division of Bianchi was at Moutier in the evening, that of Crenneville at Asch and that of Weissenwolf at Eglisau.  The IVth Corps was near Offenburg.

Movements of the cavalry of Wrede.  --As for Wrede, who had transferred his headquarters to Hésingue on the road to Belfort, he reconnoitered Huningue and sent two small mobile columns on Landskron and Blâmont.  Colonel Scheibler, his flying corps, with a strength of 100 hussars of Szekler's regiment, 50 hussars of the regiment of Hesse-Hombourg, 90 Bavarian light horse and two small regiments of Cossack colonels El'murzin and Gorin I which together only counted 400 horses had pushed, at dawn, just to Ensisheim.  Captain Baron Schell, from the hussar regiment of Hesse-Homburg, was charged to pursue with a squadron, 100 Cossacks and a platoon of light horse the French pickets who had retired earlier, gently trailing from Battenheim by Ensisheim.  Captain Schell went just beyond Colmar, taking on the road a convoy of twelve caissons of ammunition, but informed of the approach of a French corps' march on Colmar, he thought it wiser to retire to Saint-Croix after warning Wrede of the movement of Milhaud, the French cavalry, which was, after the information he had gathered, to arrive in Colmar  the 24th[2].

24 December, 1813.  --The affair at Saint-Croix.  --Although only informed at the time of the approach of the cavalry of Milhaud, Colonel Scheibler[3], after rallying his advanced guard, thought to get closer to Saint-Croix.  Leaving Ensisheim the 24th, about seven o'clock in the morning, he arrived at ten o'clock at Saint-Croix where he was joined by a party, under the orders of Captain Eberle he had sent the previous day to scour the country in the direction of Neuf-Brisach.  He soon sent Captain Schell filing through Colmar who, with 50 hussars and 50 Cossacks, came against the right of the Montélégier Brigade and was thrown back on Saint-Croix.  Informed of this, Colonel Scheibler immediately marched forward with the squadron of hussars of Szekler and the Cossacks of El'murzin, coming first to stop and then push back the 2nd, 6th and a 11th Dragoons, of the Montélégier Brigade .

This success might have allowed Colonel Scheibler to retreat without much difficulty, if at that moment, Colonel Gorin I, who he had left in reserve at Saint-Croix with his regiment of Cossacks and Bavarian Light Horse, had not felt obliged to leave his position without orders to take part in the action, while two squadrons of the Collaert Brigade (Milhaud division) debouched from behind Saint-Croix.  Taken together from the front and rear, the largest part of the Cossacks thought only of seeking salvation in flight; nevertheless, with the 300 horses they had left, the Colonels Scheibler and El'murzin managed to break through and bring to Ensisheim the debris of the flying corps, which the affair had cost nine officers, half of the Bavarian squadron, a  total of 200 men. Colonel El'murzin, seriously wounded, was taken prisoner and died the same evening[4].

The Collaert Brigade marched on Saint-Croix where General Milhaud was support by the Piré Division. The cavalry division of Lhéritier and one brigade of the division of Duhesme occupied Colmar.

The remains of the flying corps of Scheibler[5] received the order from Wrede to serve as an extreme advanced guard of the Austrians of Frimont that because of resistance from Belfort and Huningue, had been brought to Mulhouse to cover the north flank, of the so far unsuccessful attempted attacks against these two places.

Taking of the Landskron Chateau and position of the Austrian columns the 24th in the evening.  --The capture of Landskron Chateau, which surrendered in the evening of the 24th, to Colonel von Treuberg, was little compensation for the failure experienced by Scheibler and the unexpected resistance that the Vth Corps met at Belfort and at Huningue.

The other columns had quietly continued their marches: Bubna, with the 1st Light Division, was in Freiburg. The Ist Corps at Aarwangen I, the IInd  in Bern, the IIIrd at Balsthal, the head of the column of the IVth Corps in Offenburg, the grenadiers of Bianchi at Tavannes and Bienne and those of Weissenwolf in Zurich.

Consequences of the battle of Sainte-Croix.  --As trivial a matter as the affair at Saint-Croix had been in itself, it none the less did not fail to produce in the spirit of Schwarzenberg, a more realistic impression as he had not expected to see Belfort and Huningue resist the efforts of Wrede.  One planned things in a tragic way at headquarters, said Toll.[6] It was believed that Napoleon had arrived in Strasbourg in person, was expected to lead a French corps downstream of Strasbourg, to pass on the right bank there to threaten the right of the Army of Bohemia, take the offensive against it and fall on its various fractions successively staggered and scattered along the Rhine. Schwarzenberg, therefore, thought wise to send couriers to Wittgenstein and the Crown Prince of Württemberg, inviting them to accelerate their progress and make the crossing of the Rhine quickly; to prescribe to Frimont, who was by the 25nd to rest in Colmar, to stop between Ensisheim and Mulhouse; to Wrede, to concentrate all his men between Belfort, Mulhouse and Huningue.

Farther right, Wittgenstein had to take positions at Kehl up to the heights of  Offenburg, and the Crown Prince of Württemberg, to mass on the Kinzig near Gengenbach.  But these measures themselves were not enough to allay the fears of Schwarzenberg and, December 25, he wrote to Blücher among others:

25 December, 1813.  --Letter from Schwarzenberg to Blücher.  --"It is important to occupy the enemy's army, which meets between Metz and Strasbourg, so it cannot do anything on the left bank against Huningue or attempt a crossing to the right bank, near Kehl.  Wittgenstein is before Kehl, but he is still too small a force for serious concern to the enemy.  The Army of Silesia can only divert the attention of the enemy; the Généralissime asks his commander to inform him of the measures he has taken to this effect.  It seems that an operation against Nancy or Verdun should produce results.[7]"

We have purposely emphasized the consequences of a truly amazing engagement of such little importance as Saint-Croix, because we felt that it provided lessons useful to think about even today.

Taking of Blâmont.  --For the 25th of December, there was little to describe of the capture of the Chateau of Blâmont against which Wrede had sent Captain of the Staff von Heideck with a company of infantry and a platoon of the 4th Regiment Light Horse.  The Bavarian officer found the drawbridge lowered, entered at a gallop to the interior of the chateau while his infantry were deployed; he took prisoner the few men who composed the garrison.

Positions.  --As for the other troops of the Vth Corps, they held the following positions on the 25th:  Frimont with his Austrians, extended between Ensisheim and Mulhouse, his right covered on the route of Neuf-Brisach, by the few cavalry that remained of Colonel Scheibler and were posted from Fessenheim to Blodelsheim.  The division of Count Antoine Hardegg was at Ensisheim, having an advanced guard at Mayenheim and Eguisheim, on the road of Colmar; it was supported by a part of the division of Field Marshal-Lieutenant Spleny at Baldersheim and Battenheim.  Finally, the large parties assured communications with the division of Rechberg toward Belfort, and with the division of Beckers, who invested Huningue.

Bubna had, meanwhile, arrived in Freiburg with the brigades of Hesse-Homburg and Zechmeister; detachments of the 1st Light Division had been sent to Payerne and Bienne; finally, the main column of Bubna was to be strengthened later by the division of Greth, which had replaced the brigade of Scheither moved to the IInd Corps.

The Ist Corps was at Kilchberg.  The IInd stopped in Bern. The brigade of Scheither had occupied Neuchâtel, and his vanguard under the command of Major de Vaulx was pushed to Pontarlier.  The IIIrd Corps was in Solothurn, and one of its divisions (the Light Division of Crenneville) joined Bianchi in Tavannes, while a flying column of three companies and a squadron sped on to Porrentruy and the division of Weissenwolf and went to Bremgarten.

Regarding the VIth Corps since the 22nd, the 2nd Infantry Corps under the command of Prince Eugene of Württemberg had replaced a Württemberg brigade at Kehl; 4 regiments of Cossacks, supported behind by the light cavalry, continued to monitor the course of Rhine.  The 1st Russian Corps (Prince Gortchakoff), was stationed around Offenburg, and the General Seslavin prepared to cross onto the left bank with the Cossacks and light cavalry to connect on the right to the Army of Silesia, on the left with Wrede.

Stockmeyer 's Württemberg brigade, relieved by the Russians at Kehl, was marching to join the column of General Franquemont (of the IVth body) beyond Offenburg.

26 December, 1813.  --Positions and operations.  --The 26th would be even more insignificant and no more than the 25th.  Wrede, now certain that it would be impossible to take Huningue by a coup de main, decided to undertake a siege and opened the first parallel on the night of 25th to 26th.  Frimont sent three battalions and a battery to cover the left of the Vth Corps.

The same day, a few French horsemen tried in vain to remove a bunch of hussars stationed at Cernay.

Meanwhile, Schwarzenberg concerned to see a gap occur in lines on the side of Neuf-Brisach from moving so much of the Vth Corps to Belfort, wrote to the Crown Prince of Württemberg to adjust the march of his columns in order to debouche at Freiburg as quickly as possible and to direct them on Märkt, where his army would cross the Rhine on a pontoon bridge.

However, as noted by Lord Burghersh,[8] we had nothing before us and we lost so much time performing complicated marches, supposedly learned maneuvers, we amused ourselves, outflanking positions that no one occupied and so the Austrian Army, concentrated around Basel the 21st December, took nearly one month to arrive on the plateau of Langres.

The Ist Corps continued its march methodically towards Bern.  The IInd on Aarberg; its vanguard (General Scheither), had remained motionless in Neuchâtel.  The IIIrd Corps had halted; the Weissenwolf Division was stationed behind Lenzburg, and Russian reserves and Prussians with Barclay de Tolly, whose headquarters were at Rothweil received orders directly from the Emperor of Russia to begin their movement on the 28th to Lörrach.

As for Bubna, he just went that day up to Payerne; his vanguard reached only Moudon, and the division of Greth, under the command of General Klopstein, did not go beyond Freiburg.

27 December, 1813.  --Marches and operations.  --On the 27th Bubna imparted a bit more activity in his march. His vanguard, under Colonel Count Zichy came up to Morges; the Hesse-Homburg Brigade with the headquarters to Lausanne; General Klopstein to Moudon.

The other Austrian corps, however, made little way.  The Ist Corps halted at Bern; the IInd merely got beyond Neuchâtel; the Scheither Brigade, which served as his vanguard, drove up to Travers, and its tip, which occupied Pontarlier and Morteau, made a demonstration against the fort of Joux.  The IIIrd Corps was quartered that day in Bienne.

The cavalry of the Rechburg division, of the Vth Corps, had sent parties to the vicinity of Vesoul, and Lieutenant Baron Gagern, 1st Regiment of Light Horse, who scouted with a troop of cavalry and some infantry, ran into near Lure a small French picket, taking 15 men and horses.

Two pontoon bridges were thrown across the Rhine for the IVth Corps, one at Märkt, the other in Idstein.

On this day, 300 French cavalry performed a reconnaissance before Colmar and pushed the outposts of Vth Corps to just behind Balgau.

The Allies, despite their numerous cavalry, had only been able to get vague and contradictory information on the strength of the French troops opposed to them in the Haut-Rhin. All they knew at that moment was that the French occupied Saint-Croix and Rouffach, and their cavalry had shown up in front of Soultz to Cernay.[9]

As for Wittgenstein, he used the 27th to prepare for the crossing of his army at Plittersdoff, at the very spot where, in 1793, Waldeck had managed to successfully perform, considering the same facilities that were present along the Rhine.

The same day, General Bianchi was near Glovelier, and Major Wöber, with a flying column, was moved by Porrentruy on Rocourt and Dauvan; another part, composed of a squadron supported by two companies, was directed on Sainte-Ursanne, by Saint-Léger.

Finally Crenneville, with his light division arrived at Porrentruy, threw parties on to Delle to try to connect with the division of Rechberg.

The IVth Corps captured Emmendingen; the division of Wiessenwolf stopped at night at Aarburg and the rest of the Austrian reserves continued their slow march on Pontarlier, where they arrived from January 4th to 6th.

28 December, 1813.  - Movements. - On 28 December, the Ist Corps arrived at Aarberg; the IIIrd, stationed near  Saint-Imier received the order to support Bianchi.

On the side of the Vth Corps, the French made a fairly vigorous sortie on Belfort, and work continued to attack Huningue.

Bianchi was at Porrentruy, and the light division of Crenneville came to take a position at Pierre-Fontaine to be able to support the independent corps of Major Wöber, that had been sent on reconnaissance towards Besançon.  These partisans met a small party of French at Clerval-sur-Doubs, threw it out and continued until Baume-les-Dames.

As to the IInd Corps, it was in Morteau, Le Locle and Chaux-du-Milieu.  Its advanced guard, Scheither's Brigade, reconnoitered the outskirts of the fort of Joux.

Movements of Bubna near Geneva during the days of 28 to 30 December.  --Bubna had continued on Geneva. The division of Klopstein was at Lausanne; the brigade of Zechmeister went from Morat to Moudon.  Bubna himself with the Hesse-Hombourg Brigade, arrived at Rolle, with the vanguard of Colonel Zichy pushing up to Nyon on the shores of Lake Geneva, occupying Saint-Cergues and closing the road from Jura.  Colonel Simbschen had been sent the 27th orders to occupy, with six hundred men, the passes of Saint-Bernard and Simplon and send parties through the valley of Aosta to Turin.

The occupation of Geneva by the Allies was only a matter of hours, especially since a deputation of locals had presented at the headquarters of Bubna and had informed them that General Jordy, although deploying only 6 battalions had been ordered to hold out until the very end, but had promised the City of Geneva would capitulate when threatened with shelling and invested by a respectable force.

Bubna continued his march on the 29th.  His advanced guard occupied Versoix and Gex and ensuring the road of Saint-Claude, while a squadron sent in front of Pouilly-Saint-Genis watched the fort of the Ecluse.  His headquarters were located in Nyon: Zechmeister moved to Morges.

The next day the 30th, at dawn, Zichy, with two battalions, two squadrons and three batteries, of which two were horse artillery, came by the road of Ferney to occupy the heights of Délice and of Saint-Jean, which dominate Geneva, while Colonel Wieland, marching with two battalions,  a squadron and a battery by the road along the lake, appeared almost simultaneously in Suéconex.  The division of Klopstein, who followed, occupied shortly afterwards the heights of Petit-Suéconex.  The rest of the cavalry was deployed at Ferney.

30 December, 1813.  --Occupation of Geneva.  --Bubna did not need to make provisions for an attack.  Since the emergence of the Austrian columns, the defense council had decided to surrender and without entering into negotiations with Bubna, the French garrison immediately withdrew to Rumilly.  A few hours later, General Zechmieister entered Geneva at the head of 3,000 men who were going to be garrisoned.  As for Bubna[10], we shall detail later in the chapter on operations around Lyon, how he moved with the rest of his forces through the passes of the Jura, where he arrived at Poligny, 5 January.  There he pushed his advance guard to Arbois and another party further to the left to Lons-le-Saunier, to cover the left wing of the Army of Bohemia.

Formation of the corps of partisans.  --While Bubna finished his movement on Geneva, the General Headquarters of Schwarzenberg was preoccupied with the organization of a corps of partisans to precede the army and to cover its flanks.  By the 25th, the day Barclay de Tolly advised the Generalissimo of the march of 4 Cossack regiments, he had sent out and should be returning to Little-Basel the 29th, Schwarzenberg had prescribed the formation of a corps of partisans with two Cossack regiments and a squadron of hussars, which, under the leadership of Lieutenant-Colonel Count Thurn, would push to Nancy and Verdun.  Moreover, the letter that Toll[11] written by order of Generalissimo, December 28, to Prince Volkonsky provides an exact account of projects from General Headquarters: "The Prince of Schwarzenberg, it is said, instructed me to request Your Excellency to ask H. M. the Emperor what destination he has given the corps of Count Platoff.  The Prince believes that we, entering France, employ, not only heads of partisans that are bold and fearless, but above all officers who speak the language of the country, and will serve as scouts of the army, and from their information and personal observations, give precise information on enemy movements....

The Prince of Schwarzenberg's intention are to use the partisans as follows:

1o  Colonel Scheibler descend the Rhine, through Colmar to go on Strasbourg;

2o Lieutenant-Colonel Count Thurn go through the valley of the Moselle on Nancy;

3o Another partisan by Saint-Loup and Neufchâteau on Nancy;

4o Another operate between the Seine and the Loire;

5o Another, finally, to go through Besançon on Bourges.

Seslavin, Toll said, is not included among the partisans he had just mentioned."

29 December, 1813.  --First movements of the corps of partisans.  --These dispositions were not long in being executed.  From the 29th, 4 Cossack regiments, drawn from the corps of Ataman Platoff, reached Lörrach with Major General Prince Scherbatov[12] and were sent as early as the 30th, on Altkirch with orders to proceed from there into the Moselle Valley and then push by Epinal on Nancy, while Thurn was directed on Langres.  Scherbatov was obliged, as demonstrated by the situation[13] of his detachment on December 29, to cede by superior orders one of his Cossack regiments to Lieutenant Colonel Count Thurn.

As for General Seslavin, charged at this time to scour the country between Strasbourg and Colmar and link the Vth and VIth Corp, he asked in vain for permission to build his small party consisting of 250 Sumy Hussar and 300 Don Cossacks, with 300-400 Black Sea Cossacks with whom he had crossed France to join Wellington.

Movements of the columns.  --The Ist Corps (Colloredo) arrived the 29th with the division of Count Ignatius Hardegg, at Bienne.  It then divided into two columns: the first, and reinforced with the divisions of Hardegg and Wied-Runkel, will go under the immediate command of Colloredo, by Baume-les-Dames, Montbozon and Vesoul, to Langres, where it would join, January 15th, with the left of the IIIrd Corps.  The second division was formed of the division of Wimpffen and the light division of Prince Maurice Liechtenstein.

The second column crossed from the left of the IInd Corps charged with the blockade of Besançon, to go by Salins and Dole on Auxonne that was invested by the Wimpffen division, while Prince Maurice Liechtenstein was directed by Dijon on Chàtillon-sur-Seine.  This light division was to be the base of support for the Austrian reserves that remained in Dijon during the greater part of January.  Arriving in Bern on the 29th these last continued slowly marching on the Burgundy through Neuchâtel and Montbozon.

General Scheither (vanguard of the IInd Corps) employed the 29th to outflank the fort of Joux to debouche on the road from Pontarlier.  The IIIrd Corps quartered near Saint-Braix and the cavalry of the IVth Army Corps, arriving at Märkt, immediately crossed onto the left bank some troops who relieved Colonel Scheibler at Mayenheim, the next 30th and quartered between the Ill and Rhine at Ensisheim and Blodelsheim.

The brigade of Quallenberg, and the light division of Crenneville, crossed the Doubs at Pont-de-Roide: the brigade of Haugwitz arrived at Cheveney, and the grenadiers of Weissenwolf at Barzdorf.

December 30.  --Bombardment of Belfort and Huningue.  --On the night of 29 to 30, Wrede had unsuccessfully bombarded Huningue and Belfort; then in the day, informed of the news of  approaching French troops marching to lift the blockade of Huningue and Belfort, he modified the emplacements of the Bavarians.  One brigade of the division of Rechburg remained at Belfort, the other went to Dannemarie.  A brigade of the division of La Motte was posted at Altkirch; the others under the command of General Deroy were brought back to Hegenheim to cover more effectively the work in front of Huningue, while the Austrians of Frimont stood at Cernay and Thann and their vanguard, which strongly held Soultz, sent a small detachment to establish itself at Saint-Amarin.  Frimont was more separated by the Ill from the IVth Corps now that part of it had already gained a foothold on the left bank of the Rhine. The Crown Prince of Württemberg established his general headquarters that day in Mulhouse.

Positions.  --The Ist Corps was at Court and Tavannes and General Scheither had unsuccessfully fired a few guns against Fort de Joux.  The IIIrd Corps had not moved, only the division of Hohenlohe had move somewhat closer to Porrentruy; Bianchi received there that day orders to go around, January 2, to relieve the Bavarians in Belfort and once arrived in Belfort, directed to send the light division of Crenneville on Vesoul. Weissenwolf, with his grenadiers, were in Bern, and the Corps of the Ataman Platoff crossing Freiburg-en-Breisgau was heading to Basel.

31 December, 1813.  --Movement and Action at Baume-les-Dames.  --On the 31st, the Ist Corps marched on Mouthiers, and Bianchi which reached Montbéliard, occupied the Fort of Pierre-Pertuis with a detachment, while simultaneously pushing the light division of Crenneville on Arcey. Gyulay, with the IIIrd Corps, followed the same direction; reaching Porrentruy the 31st, he entered France the next day and came to Delle.  Prince Alois von Liechtenstein (IInd Corps) had sent a battalion to blockade Fort de Joux and the brigade of Scheither to Fallerans by Aubonne.

As for the small flying corps of Major Wöber, he had been attacked that day in Baume-les-Dames by a battalion and two squadrons of French, driven from Baume and forced to recross the Doubs at Clerval.[14]

From that day the Crown Prince of Hesse-Hombourg took command of the IInd Corps, the two divisions of grenadiers of Weissenwolf and Trautenberg, and the two divisions of cuirassiers of Klebelsberg and Lederer (Austrian reserves), which were to arrive January 5 to 6 at Pontarlier.  The primary mission was to move with all his troops against Besançon and begin the siege on January 9.

The Bavarians had continued to bombard Huningue without success, and the Austrian advanced guard of Frimont had fully connected its right with the left of Württembergers, which had thrown out patrols up to Rouffach.

Reconnaissance and combat of the cavalry at Sainte-Croix.  --Wrede and Frimont were still unaware of the actual force of French troops stationed at Colmar.  To end this uncertainty, they instructed Count Antoine Hardegg to push, the 31st, a strong reconnaissance on Saint-Croix.  Informed by deserters on the defenses of Saint-Croix and the precautions taken by General de Piré, the Allies hoped to overwhelm the cavalry troops stationed in this village. Aided by a thick fog, the Austrian vanguard under the command of Colonel Mengen, appeared suddenly formed into three columns in front of Saint-Croix.  Although the reconnaissance had gone at daybreak to reconnoiter, none of it had been seen, General Piré, because of the fog, did not return to his regiment in the village at the usual hour.  The cavalrymen of Colonel Mengen resolutely charged the French grand-guard, overthrew the outposts and came along with them on Saint-Croix, which they crossed at a gallop, while the other two columns were trying to identify the town placed on both sides of the road in the middle of a vast plain.  The Austrian horse did not stop until they reached the other side of the village where they found most of the division in battle formation.[15]

Several charges were made for the occupation of the Saint-Croix, said General Petiet in his Historical Journal of the Light Cavalry of the 5th Cavalry Corps; but when the Tyrolean infantry appeared, General Piré, not having infantry with him, felt obliged to comply with previous instructions he had received; withdrew and momentarily took position at the head of the defile.  He awaited the arrival of General Milhaud, who led the 1st Division of Dragoons and who ordered him to retake Saint-Croix, which took place without difficulty, the enemy withdrawing, when it saw that it had lost its chance.  The French cavalry and that of the Allies reoccupied in the evening the positions held prior to this affair.  However the division of Piré left only one squadron in Saint-Croix, and settled the majority in Sandhofen .[16]

Finally to cover the right of Colonel Mengen during the operation, a 150 Cossacks and 50 hussars of Colonel Scheibler were pushed against the French outposts of Dessenheim and Weckolsheim. He managed to eject them back on Neuf-Brisach, after taking 11 men and 21 horses.

First movements of Platoff.  --Platoff, whose cavalrymen had passed by Fribourg, received the order to cross the Rhine at Basel and immediately move to the defiles of the Vosges, to precede the IVth Corps and link the far right of the Grand Army of Bohemia with the left of the Army of Silesia that was also to begin their march forward.

Key to the Map:

Column 1 - Consisting of the IInd Corps (A. Liechtenstein) and the 1st Light Division (Bubna) crossed the Rhine at Basel & Grenzach.  The 1st Light Division separated from the route of the IInd Corps at Bern moving south to Geneva that was occupied the 30th of December.  The IInd Corps moved west occupying Neuchâtel and sending an advanced guard to blockade Fort de Joux.  The IInd Corps passed under the command the Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg (in command of the Austrian Reserves) the 31st of December at which time it was massed near Pontarlier.

Column 2 - Consisting of the Crenneville Division (part of the IIIrd Corps) reinforced by the Grenadier Division of Bianchi (part of the Austrian Reserves) crossed the Rhine at Basel moving south to Lauffen then west to Bienne (Biel) before moving north to Porrentruy where Bianchi reached Montbéliard, Crenneville passed to the south on Arcey.  A flying column moved west from Porrentruy meeting French at Clerval-sur-Doubs before crossing the Doubs at Baume-les-Dames and skirmishing with French only to recross the Doubs at Clerval.

Column 3 - Consisting of Ist Corps (M. Liechtenstein) and the 2nd Light Division (Colloredo) crossed the Rhine at Laufenberg and crossed the Aare River at Aarburg moving southwest to Bern, before heading north through Tavannes arriving at Moutier the 31st of December.

Column 4 - Consisting of the remainder of Gyulay's IIIrd Corps also crossed the Rhine at Laufenberg staying to the north of the Aare River to Bienne sending forces towards Saint-Imier and Porrentruy by the 31st.

Column 5 - Consisting of the Austrian Reserves (less Bianchi's Grenadiers) under the Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg crossed the Rhine at Schauffhausen not reaching Bern until the 30th of December.   The Crown Prince was given command of the IInd Corps the 31st.

Column 6 - Consisting of the Vth (Bavarian) Corps of Wrede crossed at Basel, sending the Rechberg Division on Belfort, the La Motte Division on Porrentruy, Zollern's Brigade to invest Huningue, with the Frimont (Austrian) Division as a reserve.  Colonel Scheibler moved on the road to Colmar and Cernay.  December 24 the Landskron Chateau fell to Wrede and the following day Blâmont fell to La Motte's Division.  Attempting to move on Colmar from Ensisheim, Colonel Scheibler was repulsed at Sainte-Croix on the 31st.

Column 7 - Consisted of the IVth Corps (Crown Prince of Württemberg) was still moving into position the 22nd of December after being relieved by the Russians before Kehl.  They crossed the Rhine on two pontoon bridges at Märkt and Idstein the 27th, capturing Emmendigen.  The moved to the right of Wrede in two columns between the Ill and the Rhine to the level of Ensisheim and Blodelsheim.

Column 8 - Consisting of the VIth Russian Corps (Wittgenstein) who relieved the Stockmeyer Division of the IVth Corps before Kehl with Prince Eugene of Württemberg's Corps the 22nd.  Spread from Strasbourg to Mannheim they were to cross the Rhine at Plittersdorf and were massing at the point by the 31st.

Column 9 - Consisting of the Russian Reserves under Barclay de Tolly.  The Russian Emperor ordered them to move to Lörrach (Generalissimo Schwarzenberg's Headquarters) from Rottweil the 26th of December.  They were assembled before Basel by the 31st.

The skirmish at Sainte-Croix-en-Plaine took place the 24th of December, leading to a major concentration of both the Vth and IVth Corps below Colmar in anticipation of battle the 31st.

The skirmish at Baume-les-Dames took place the 31st of December.

The French forces were largely concentrated at Strasbourg consisting of the 2nd Corps of Marshal Victor.  Spread closer to the river from Huningue to Landau was the 5th Cavalry Corps (General Milhaud) .  General Jordy with 6 battalions held the city of Geneva falling back on Chambery, although support had been forwarded by General Laroche in the form of the Italian Brigade of General Saint-Paul.


[1] The flying corps of Colonel Scheibler already had that day on the side of Battenheim, a small skirmish with the French outposts who retired on Ensisheim.

[2] "Marshal Victor to the Chief of Staff.  --Strasbourg 24 December 1813. --3:00 in the afternoon…  I recount at the moment news of General Milhaud.   He told me yesterday at Colmar at 9:00 in the evening that as his vanguard entered the city on one side, the enemy entered it on the other.  It was a party commanded by Baron Schell and composed of Bavarian light horse, Austrian hussars and 20 Don Cossacks, from Mulhouse. .." (Archives of the Depot of the War.)

[3] Scheibler could not know at that time that Victor, as shown in the following dispatch, sent infantry behind Milhaud to Colmar:

"Marshal Victor to the Chief of Staff.  --Strasbourg, 24 December 1813.  --3:00 in the afternoon.  --A column of infantry was sent this morning from Strasbourg to support General Milhaud.  It was composed of 3,000 men of the 2nd Corps.  I'll send a similar force tomorrow with artillery.  That's all I have available at this time." (Archives of the Depot of the War.)

[4]The reports of the Allies only speak of 67 men killed or wounded.  On Milhaud's side his report from Colmar, December 24, at 9 at night, exaggerates the losses of Scheibler claiming them to be 200 killed, 300 wounded, 150 prisoners (Archives of War). These figures are obviously too high since the total flying corps was only 680 men.

It is true to say that the reports of the Allies estimated the number of French troops committed at 4,000 men, while only the Montélégier Brigade participated.  The two squadrons of the brigade Collaert merely made a demonstration, and, indeed, the whole division only counted 659 men on December 20. (See Archives of the Depot of War situation of the Vth Cavalry Corps).

[5] Colonel Scheibler received three wounds in the battle of Saint-Croix.

[6] BERNHARDI, Denkwürdigkeiten des Grafen Toll, VI, p. 135.

[7] BERNHARDI, Toll, VI, pg. 136.

[8] LORD BURGHERSH (Earl of Westmoreland), Memoires.

[9] "Marshal Victor to the Chief of Staff.  --Strasbourg, 27 December 1813.  --8 o'clock at night.  --The last report of General Milhaud told me the corps commanded by General Wrede is before him and he expects to be attacked at any time.  It is assumed that this corps should be from 20 to 25,000 men strong.  I have just left from Strasbourg with the rest of the 4th Division and two batteries to settle into a 2nd line of General Milhaud at Guémar.  I chose this position to await the enemy because it is the narrowest of the valley and its suitability for the forces at my disposal. They cannot rise beyond the moment of 7,000 infantry, 3,800 horses and five batteries of the 13th Light Artillery. General Milhaud has orders to fall back on Guémar when the enemy's army marches on him, but to cover and defend Colmar long as he can without danger." (Archives of the Depot of the War.)

A Report of General Milhaud .  --"Colmar, December 27, 1813.  --My Prince, I harass cautiously and with force the enemy's flanks.  My party of light cavalry and dragoons have daily skirmishes with the hostile parties, which have hitherto been to our advantage.  I protect, as far as my means permit, the community (communes) against the requisitions of the enemy..

It should be very essential to give direction to the spirit of the people to the greatest possible harm to the enemies of the Emperor and France.

The inhabitants of the Haut-Rhin are almost all good horsemen could easily be organized into a legion of volunteers on foot and horseback, but that would take a command of His Majesty.

I push out now a strong reconnaissance on the road from Belfort to see, as close as possible, whether the report of General Ludot  concerning a camp of huts between Cernay and Thann is correct.

What is certain is that the enemy has a strong division of all arms and guns in battery at Ensisheim.  However, I will take every opportunity to make a first blow and force to retain before you a corps for a larger perfect shot.

--Note.  General Beaumont remains ill at Metz, I would like to have at the head of the 9th Division of Heavy Cavalry a division general of good bearing and fearless like General Montélégier. (Archives of the Depot of the War.)"

[10] If one wants to know the numbers with which Bubna at this time would push on Lyon, just read the following lines addressed to January 1, at Grenoble by General Laroche to the Duke of Feltre: "I'm going with 1,000 or 1,200 infantry of the Italian column of General Saint-Paul, to move on Chambery to protect the retreat of the garrison of Geneva and also whether it is possible to delay the march of the enemy that one says intends to stand at Lyon and Valencia."  It can be added that General Laroche retired to Grenoble the 3rd and left the Italian Brigade to continue on to Milan.  (Archives of the Depot of the War.)

[11] BERNHARDI, Toll, VI, p. 150-151.

[12]" Instructions to Major-General Prince Scherbatov by Prince Schwarzenberg. - Lörrach, December 30, 1813 (original in French).  --Your Excellency, I intended for you to act the partisan with 4 Cossack regiments.  Your main goal will be to enlighten me on all movements of the enemy and to profit at times to bring significant blows against him without risking getting involved with a superior enemy with your troops.  As a result Y. E. will leave here for Altkirch; from there you are directed to the valley of the Moselle by Epinal on Nancy.  During this march you will maintain a communication on the right with Colonel Scheibler whose destination is to operate on Colmar on the road to Strasbourg.  On the left (as there will be no partisans in the direction of Langres) you will push the parties toward Langres and Vesoul, warning of everything that happens to the commanders of the troops who make up the blockade and Belfort and Huningue.

It may easily happen that Your Excellency will be invited to cooperate in some undertaking of consequence.  I have little doubt that you will enjoy the favorable opportunity to deal a decisive blow.  I still count, Prince, on the good discipline of your troops and I think it's the only way to facilitate the supply of the army by engaging ourselves with the locals.

I invite you, my Prince, to send me your regular daily reports so that I can give the necessary orders on time for the movements of the army.  SCHWARZENBERG."

[13] Location of the available forces of effectives attached to Prince Scherbatov December 29.

1st regiment of Cossacks of Tepler


off. sup.







3rd regiment of Cossacks of Orenburg









Regiment of Don Cossacks of Jagodin II











off. sup.







(Toll, IV, Beilage VI, p. 395, 396, and Archives of St. Petersburg.)

[14] "General Musnier to the Minister of War. - Besançon. 31 December, 10 o'clock at night.  --A corps of several hundred enemy partisans occupied Baume, a small town on the Doubs, 5 miles above Besançon.  General Marulaz sortied last night at midnight, with 600 infantry and 300 horse, to march against them.  He met them near Baume and immediately and impetuously charged them, putting them to flight, killing 18 men and taking 103 prisoners." (Archives of the Depot of the War.)

[15] "December 30, the regiment had reached Riedelsheimer, it left the night of the 30th to 31st, after detaching the 2nd division of the major who was assigned to the flying corps of Colonel Baron Scheibler.  The regiment was directed to Saint-Croix, marching at 2 o'clock in the morning.  Field-Marshal-Lieutenant Count Anthony Hardegg had resolved to attempt a surprise attack with the uhlans, the hussars of the Archduke Joseph and the 3rd battalion of chasseurs, against Saint-Croix.  The division of the Colonel was the vanguard.  The first squadron of that division followed the road to Saint-Croix and arrived at dawn in a most intense fog.  Two platoons of the 2nd squadron of the division were to take the village from its right, while the other 2 platoons were to turn the left.  This squadron was ordered into the village after having turned the village and cut off the retreat of the enemy.  But as we learned later from the French prisoners, the enemy had planned a surprise on its side, and that was why the uhlans came on to troops formed up and in position.  However, they managed to dislodge a chasseur company from the village and held it shortly thereafter.  Prisoners had been taken, and horses removed.  The company's goal was thus achieved, and the regiment received orders to return to its quarters of the night before." (Memorable Facts of the War of the Uhlan Regiment of Schwarzenberg (now the 2nd Regiment of Uhlans) O.M.Z, 1844, VII.)

We have found nowhere else any trace of a surprise questioned here and that of it being the intent of Piré.  It seems more likely that the purpose of reconnaissance had not been achieved since the Austrian cavalry failed to pierce the curtain formed by the French cavalry.

[16] See for details: PETIET, Historical Journal of the Light Cavalry Division 5th Corps of Cavalry; report of Milhaud, 31 December, 5 o'clock at night; report of the Chief of Staff of the 5th Corps; and report of General Piré on the action at Saint-Croix. (Archives of the Depot of the War.)


Placed on the Napoleon Series: February 2011


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