Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

The Campaign of 1814: Chapter Two, Part II

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).

Part 2

January 1, 1814.  --Wittgenstein prepares to cross the Rhine.  -- On the day of 1 January and the night of the 1st to 2nd, Wittgenstein, with a prudence and caution that had no justification, since he had before him no more than 250-300 men guarding the works of the ruins of Fort Louis, methodically prepared the Rhine crossing.

The violent current and the intensity of the fog did not allow him to build bridges in the day on the 2nd.  He confined himself with massing the Corps and the 2nd Corps of Cavalry of Pahlen near the point chosen for the passage and pushing forward the regiment of eigers to head the column and level Fort-Louis (Fort Vauban).

Movement of the partisans of Scheibler and Scherbatov.  --The IVth and Vth Corps, which formed at that time the right of the main army, did not move.  Only the small flying corps of Colonel Scheibler scouted to Neuf-Brisach, going a little more to the left of Soultz by Guebwiller and General Prince Scherbatov, with four regiments of Cossacks, left Altkirch and passed through Thann to enter the valley of Saint-Amarin , then across the Vosges and to proceed from there on Remiremont.  On this date (the same journal of operations kept at the army headquarters of Schwarzenberg gives us irrefutable proof)[1] one only knew of the cavalry of General Milhaud and Piré at Saint-Croix and Habstatt.  So that was the only information obtained during the ten days that had passed since the Vth Corps had crossed the border.

The IIIrd Corps (Gyulay) came to Delle, as we have said, and posted between Blâmont and Villers, its vanguard brigade (Grimmer Brigade).  Another brigade charged specifically with supporting Major Wöber, who had evacuated the Baume-les-Dames, and ensuring the IIIrd Corps' possession of the bridges of Clerval and Pont-de-Roide, was placed in Montbouton .

Movements of the flying corps of Thurn.  --The flying corps of Lieutenant-Colonel Thurn, which preceded the corps of Gyulay had pushed to Lure.[2]

Movements of the columns.  --The Ist Corps arrived in Délemont, after detours and following difficult roads from Solothurn, it would have been easier and quicker to bring them into the line, if one had known what role was reserved for them at this time and what direction it was to have followed.

To its left, the IInd Corps was still motionless on the side of Pontarlier. The patrols of the vanguard of Bubna (General Scheither) had contact with the French outposts near the Hôpital du Gros-Bois.

The Austrian reserves, still far behind the Ist and IIIrd Corps were in echelon in Neuchâtel  at Bern; while the Russian and Prussian reserves marched slowly from Freiburg-en-Breisgau on Basel; the cavalry of Ataman Platoff, however, had crossed the Rhine and was stationed at Altkirch.

January 2, 1814.  --Movements of the Allies in Alsace.  --On January 2, Wittgenstein managed finally to cross the Rhine with his vanguard, to level Fort Louis (Fort Vauban) and Fort d'Alsace, to throw on the left bank the 4th Infantry Division, while the Cossack regiments of Vlasov II and Iaroslav crossed the ford of the oxbow of the Rhine between Fort Louis and the Alsatian shore and spread out on the roads of Strasbourg, Haguenau and Lauterbourg.

The Crown Prince of Württemberg, always stationed at the right of the Vth Corps, brought up the reserve of his first column (General Stockmeyer) just between Ensisheim and Bantzenheim, and the bulk of the 2nd (General Koch) took the position of Rumersheim at Blodelsheim.

Wrede, whose headquarters were in Cernay, concentrated by order of the Generalissimo between Cernay and Aspach the division of La Motte,  between Soultz and Rouffach the division of Antoine Hardegg, at Uffholtz the division of Spleny, at Soppe-le-Bas the division of Rechberg that Bianchi went to relieve at Belfort, and only left before Huningen the brigade of Zollern.

At that time there were only some French cavalry pickets stationed at Pfaffenheim, Herrlisheim and Saint-Croix across from the position of the Vth Corps.  Hardegg debouching from Rouffach chased from Pfaffenheim the French cavalry found there.  A few hours later, when the Austrian general had returned to his lines at Rouffach they reoccupied this post.

The flying corps of Colonel Scheibler came up to Bühl to monitor the valley of Lautenbach.

Concentration of IVth and Vth Corps on Colmar.  --From what we have said, it is clear that the IVth and Vth Corps employed the first two days of 1814 to concentrate and amass to remove from Colmar the cavalrymen of Milhaud and some infantry that Victor had posted on that side in support of the 5th Cavalry Corps.  It was for such a petty obstacle that Schwarzenberg had thought it necessary to direct Wrede to march with the whole Vth Corps by Rouffach and Saint-Croix to Colmar and the Crown Prince of Württemberg to amass the whole IVth Corps at Ensisheim.

While Wrede and the Crown Prince of Württemberg were preparing to execute the orders of the Generalissimo, Lieutenant-Colonel Count Thurn had continued his movement on Lure, that he occupied without a shot being fired in the night of the 1st to 2nd January and where he pushed the parties on the roads to Luxeuil and Vesoul.[3]

Bianchi having relieved the Bavarians before Belfort left on the roads of Besançon and of Vesoul the light division of Crenneville, which occupied Arcey, Isle-sur-le-Doubs, Héricourt, and whose patrols appeared on the road from Vesoul up area of Lure.

The IIIrd Corps that was still in Delle, sent a regiment to Montbéliard to fall back upon, if necessary, by the troops to Crenneville posted in Arcey.

Schwarzenberg, to be more mobile, had moved his headquarters to Lörrach at Basel.  Finally completing all the unnecessary precautions, the Ist Corps came to Porrentruy.  The IInd while leaving the troops at Fort de Joux, massed around Morteau so as to move forward the next day, while behind these two corps, the Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg, was marching on Pontarlier, camped his troops from Travers to Saint-Blaise and Aarberg. The Prince was, with 25 battalions and 74 squadrons, trying to push from Pontarlier on Besançon that he thought to take by force. The Prince of Hesse-Homburg proposed moreover, if a coup de main against Besançon were to fail, to fall back on the right of Vesoul, to rally the right wing of the Army of Bohemia.  Finally, General Scheither, posted between Villafans and Fallerans united the left of the IInd Corps with the main body of Bubna.

January 3, 1814 .  --The cavalry of Pahlen crossing to the left bank of the Rhine is directed to Haguenau.  --In the night of 2 to 3 January, the pontooners of Wittgenstein having completed the bridge over the Red Rhine, Pahlen immediately passed to the left bank with his cavalry (Grodno Hussars, 5 squadrons; Sumy Hussars, 2 squadrons Tchougouiev Lancers, 4 squadrons; 2nd Baden Dragoon Regiment, 4 squadrons; and the horse battery, No. 23).

He had orders to move on Haguenau, threaten and, if he could cut the road from Strasbourg to Nancy by Saverne. Pahlen, advancing in the direction of Haguenau, covered his left to Strasbourg by General Rüdinger that would go with the Grodno hussars, Cossacks of Vlasov II and 2 pieces of horse artillery up to Drusenheim and to push half of the Cossack regiment as far as possible towards Strasbourg.

A squadron of hussars of Grodno and the rest of Vlasov II Cossacks were directed by the road from Haguenau to Strasbourg by Brumath, sending parties on one hand to Strasbourg, the other towards Saverne.

Finally, Lieutenant-Colonel Nabel, with two squadrons of Sumy Hussars and half of the Cossack regiment Iaroslav, was responsible for covering the right side of Landau, stationing themselves at Seltz and sending parties beyond Wissembourg to Landau and Bitche.

To complete this scene, Colonel Selifontov went with two squadrons of the lancers of Tchougouiev and the remaining sotnias of the regiment of Iaroslav, established themselves at Lauterbourg, by sending by Langenkaudel parties on Landau and looking for ways to communicate with the Army of Silesia through Rheinzabern and Spire.[4]

During the day of the 3rd, Prince Eugene of Württemberg occupied Fort Louis (Fort Vauban) with the 3rd Infantry Division; the 4th stood still on the right bank at Stollhofen and did not pass to the left bank until the 8th. [5]

The cavalry of the VIth Corps had been sent in all directions in order to obtain the necessary information about the position and strength of the enemy, and on the progress of other Allied columns.  This cavalry only made a little progress on the road the 3rd, and that night it occupied the following positions:  Pahlen, with the bulk of his cavalry had not passed Suffelheim; Rüdinger had gone up to Schierofen; the Cossacks of Vlasov II had established themselves at Drusenheim and gone past Gambsheim, scouting the side of La Wantzenau still occupied by the French and finally, one of the two squadrons of lancers of Tchougouiev settled in Haguenau, that the French had evacuated the morning of the 3rd.

One finds in the remarks on the occupation of Haguenau in the reports of Wittgenstein and Barclay de Tolly to the Emperor of Russia, dated 5 January, curious data about the mindset of the people.  The entry of Russian lancers did not cause, it seems, any emotion, nor discontent, as the population continued to go about its usual occupation, as if nothing had happened.  But the situation was soon completely changed immediately following the measure, which was prescribed by Schwarzenberg without the  knowledge of the rulers and also only reported on slightly after[6], imposing the duty of submitting obedience and loyalty to the Allied sovereigns, by the authorities and populations.  These, subjected to abuse and violence inseparable from invasion, aggravated by poverty and mistreatment, decided to gradually take up arms and take, as we shall see later, a glorious part and actively defend the nation's territory.

In sum, Pahlen had only managed to learn that two regiments of guards of honor (the 3rd and 4th) were watching the Rhine in the vicinity, while on the side of Strasbourg, this service was entrusted to a few companies of infantry from the garrison; that the bulk of the 4th Regiment of the Guards of Honor, who had abandoned Haguenau at the approach of the lancers seemed to retire on Severn, and the 3rd regiment of these guards had fallen back into the vicinity of Fort Vauban by Bischwiller, where one would have expected to see it take the road of Saverne.

March of Wrede on Colmar. - Schwarzenberg had delivered the 3rd in the morning the troops he had intended, by an order dated 2 January at Lörrach, to act against Colmar.[7]  This movement would allow Wrede resume the place he had been assigned in the order of battle, passing in front of the IVth Corps, moving to the right of the latter, having consequently the Crown Prince of Württemberg and Wittgenstein to his left to his right.

The march on Colmar[8] was effected as follows: Frimont with the division of Antoine Hardegg. marched at dawn on Rouffach: it was followed by the divisions of La Motte, Spleny and by the Bavarian Light Horse of General Ellbracht.

The division of Rechberg marched at the same time towards Soultz and stayed as the reserve.  Finally, the IVth Corps was put on the march in two columns, one with General Koch towards Neuf-Brisach along the Rhine, the other led by the Crown Prince of Württemberg in person, through Ensisheim on Saint-Croix and Colmar, covering the right and the rear of the Vth Corps, with which the Württembergers were linked further by the small flying corps of Colonel Scheibler, temporarily reinforced by two companies of chasseurs.

The last posts covering the rear-guard of Milhaud at that time still occupied Saint-Croix, Pfaffenheim and Hattstadt. At 9 o'clock, the two Allied corps began their movements; the vedettes and the small posts of French cavalry fell back immediately on Colmar[9] they left almost without a fight.  General Milhaud informed of the passage of the Rhine executed by Wittgenstein evacuated in the morning, riding with his cavalry in the direction of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, while the infantry had filed towards Strasbourg.  At least that was what Wrede learned, when at 3 in the afternoon, he arrived in Colmar at almost the same time as the IVth Corps.  The rear guard was meekly pursued by Scheibler up to Marckolsheim, and retreated without further molestation towards Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, to cover the crossing of the Vosges and allowing the rest to safely reach the valley of the Meurthe.

So it was to take Colmar, with a handful of cavalry and for passing the investment of Neuf-Brisach, that had set in motion two army corps who camped that night, the Vth in and around Colmar, the IVth between Sainte-Croix and Biltzheim.

Schwarzenberg for his part returned to Altkirch; Colonel Scheibler, who had only pretended to follow the rear guard of Milhaud had after being stopped at Marckolsheim move towards Sélestat, because the chief was convinced that Milhaud would move from there to Strasbourg to join Victor.

March of Scherbatov towards Remiremont.  --Scherbatov had on his part, crossed the Vosges, debouching in the Moselle valley and pushed with 700 cavalrymen towards Remiremont, that he occupied the 3rd, at one o'clock in the afternoon, after a skirmish which he accounted for as follows:

Report of Scherbatov to his Highness the Prince of Schwarzenberg, Commander in Chief of the United Armies.   --Remiremont, 3 January 1814. (the original in French.)

"Two leagues from Remiremont my vanguard commanded by Colonel Efimovitch, was met by a detachment of enemy cavalry, which was crushed.

Many were killed and 36 captured.  There were 6 Cossacks injured 2 of them seriously.

About one o'clock in the afternoon, Remiremont was occupied; but now I chanced to find a letter that told of 600 infantry marching from Épinal towards Remiremont, that 230 cavalry men arrived at Épinal and that they were waiting on 250 more in the night.

I could not resist such a strong force, and I will have to fall back on the same road by which I came, so as not to allow the surprise of the left flank of the army debouching from the gorges of the mountains.

I sent a good patrol to Plombières that found no enemy there."[10]

Movement of the cavalry of Thurn towards Vesoul.  --Lieutenant-Colonel Count Thurn, who for his part, came to Lure, had resolved to surprise, on the night of the 2nd to the 3rd, the French detachment stationed at Calmoutier, but which had, meanwhile, fallen back on the heights near Vesoul.  The party that Thurn had pushed forward, who had skirmished throughout the morning with the French outposts, was ordered by the Colonel to occupy them and hold the attention of the enemy.  Marching during this time, with the rest of his forces, by way of Besançon to Vesoul, he came upon the rear of Vesoul, by Vellefaux.  "As soon as," he said,[11] "this movement was executed, I strongly had attacked the enemy in front. Captain Burckhardt performed his task with such skill and intelligence, he entered pell-mell with the enemy into the city, and took the Prefect just at the time he was preparing to leave."

Thurn said he had 200 prisoners, including sick, wounded; he has taken, in addition to the Commissaire de Guerre attached to the Depot of Vesoul, a fodder warehouse and a large warehouse of tobacco: he has the Prefect under guard, but the main result of his raid on Vesoul has been to delayed the levée en masse to be ordered by the Prefect.

Bianchi, after relieving the Bavarians in front of Belfort, had unsuccessfully called upon the General Legrand to surrender this place to him.  The IIIrd Corps (Gyulay), arrived in Montbéliard, was his support, and as this corps lacked cavalry, he had occupied the positions of Clerval and Arcey with infantry.  Bianchi also warned Schwarzenberg in his report of 3 January,[12] "that it would be impossible to push the light division of Crenneville very far forward in the direction of Vesoul, because this general officer had with him only two weak squadrons."

Not surprisingly, we hoped at least to set our focus on the details that may, at first, seem insignificant; but on a little reflection, one discovers easily why we attach such significance to these facts.  It seems, indeed, it is necessary to do so, if you want to get an exact account of the nature of the operations, to discover the cause of the delays that seem inexplicable at first glance, to appreciate the full extent of the kind of superstitious terror which seems to have haunted the headquarters of the Generalissimo from the time he decided to set foot on French soil.  With nothing ahead, he could have pushed firmly and quickly forward, to break through the thin curtain of cavalry, behind which he would have found some weak battalions scattered from Wissembourg to Baume-les-Dames.  If one opens, to the 3rd of January, the Summary Journal of Operations and Marches taken by the Grand Headquarters of Schwarzenberg,[13] we read there that Pahlen is in Haguenau, where he found the sick and took the depots of the cavalry, he drives straight ahead on Wissembourg and Saverne, that Scherbatov has crossed the Vosges at Saint-Amarin and advanced in the Moselle valley up to Remiremont.  But one must carefully search, however, to find the slightest allusion to the delays of Wittgenstein, what motivated them to unnecessary deploy of two army corps to Colmar to remove a few horsemen, to mention the loss of contact with Milhaud's cavalry, to explain the marking of time imposed on the IIIrd, IInd and Ist Corps and Reserves.

We have to say upfront, to be finished with the day of the 3rd, that the division Ignatius Hardegg, of the Ist Corps, had retaken on the Doubs, from the side of Saint-Hippolyte, Pont-de-Roide and Baume-les-Dames, the positions that the IIIrd Corps, going on Montbéliard had left.  The bulk of this corps was indeed still in Porrentruy, and the IInd Corps debouched alone at Flangebouche, while the Austrian reserves, with the Crown Prince Hesse-Homburg, were moved without haste, on Pontarlier, Saint-Sulpice, Chaux-du-Milieu and Saint-Blaise, and Barclay de Tolly installed his headquarters in Basel.

Considerations on the positions of the Allies--Effects of the entry of the Vth Corps into Colmar.  --It must be recognized the Allied drive towards Colmar, forced Milhaud to retreat on Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, coming to thwart Napoleon's plans and the movements of Victor.  Forced to seek, above all, to win the time he needed to ensure a semblance of cohesion to his new formations.  Napoleon inevitably had been led to the idea of holding a mock defense of the Rhine, and had, therefore, to extend his line equal to the length of the front through which the natural lines of the Allied invasion would have to pass.  The results, nevertheless, leaves one the burden of finding fault in Napoleon's vision, because, while being in echelon along the Rhine, the French corps, despite the mistakes made by some generals, nonetheless were able to rally on the points further back chosen by the Emperor.

It is indeed obvious that if the French troops had, from the beginning, continued their retreat, the Allies, instead of losing by hesitations, by counter marches, almost the entire month of January, would have followed step by step and knowing what they had before them, would not have remained motionless so long.  Unfortunately, the lieutenants of the Emperor and especially Victor, who we have occupied ourselves at present, were less likely to perform adequately a plan that required a confidence and an enthusiasm they had lost, an ardor and zeal that had cooled and had given way to weariness, indifference, if not discouragement.

The Emperor
[14] ordered, 2 January, the Chief of Staff to prescribe Marmont having to visit Colmar to take command of the division made up from the 2nd Corps, and reunite the two divisions of the 6th Corps, the 1st and the 5th Corps of Cavalry.  Victor was staying in Strasbourg, to form the 2nd and 3rd Divisions of his corps (the 2nd) and ensure the protection of the towns, while Mortier would act as the reserve at Langres and two divisions of the Guard under the command of General Curial, would go from Nancy and Luxemburg to Épinal to take position.  But Victor, seeing himself threatened upstream of Strasbourg by the Württembergers and Wrede, downstream by the crossing of Wittgenstein to the left bank, and the appearance of the Pahlen's cavalry at Haguenau, fearful of being overwhelmed and trapped in Strasbourg, and above all concerned about the responsibility that weighed upon him, had, contrary to the orders of the Emperor resolved[15] to fall back by Sélestat and Molsheim towards Saverne where he hoped to reach a hand to Marmont, not knowing, he was already separated from him by the march of the Army of Silesia.   The movements executed by the Allied IVth and Vth Corps had, moreover, , the effect of preventing the execution of the ordered retrograde motions by Molsheim on Saverne, Victor had sent to the 5th Corps of Cavalry. T he direction on Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, that Milhaud impressed upon his retirement, completely baffled the Duke of Bellune, who left just two regiments of the Guards of Honor next to Saverne to observe Pahlen, thought it wiser, instead of seeking opportunities to defend the debouchments of the Vosges on the side of Épinal, to retreat the 5th of January[16], by Mutzig and Blâmont on Raon-l'Étape, leaving Épinal, with open mountain passes and frustrating, making them useless, all measures taken by the Emperor.  This was committing a serious offense which could not fail to assist an opponent that was somewhat active and enterprising.  But the hesitation of Schwarzenberg, the singular directives on Colmar he gave, as we shall see, the corps of Wrede, the slowness of Wittgenstein who began to move upon Severn; finally, something absolutely unheard of from a general having numerous and battle experienced cavalry, the loss of contact with Milhaud's cavalry, were, if not repaired, at least mitigated the misconduct by Victor.

It is indeed certain that the Allies in continuing their forward movement, in following step by step and in strongly driving the rear guard of the 5th Cavalry Corps, could, without meeting any resistance, descend by the valley of Meurthe on Lunéville and Nancy.  Wittgenstein, in accentuating his movement on Saverne, would have called all of Victor's attention upon him, causing him to deploy on that side.  Further on the left, a corps, could have by defiling through Épinal, marched quickly through the valley of the Moselle to Charmes and Pont-Saint-Vincent, and two other corps, the IIIrd and Ist for example, could have accelerated their march on Langres by Vesoul. A similar movement, without danger as there was no one before it, would have completely disorganized the defense and delivered almost without fighting, on the sides of Meuse the heads of the valleys of the Marne, of the Aube and of the Seine.  The timidity of Allied commanders can thus be explained solely by the fear that the Emperor inspired, by the fear they had of seeing him first launch against Blücher, the battle on the Meuse River and then return with the reinforcements he had collected en route against the heads of the columns of Schwarzenberg.  Also, being more than faithful to the principles expressed at the signing of the agreement Trachtenberg, the Allied generals appear to have sought above all to avoid any serious encounter, prevent any enterprises of the smallest consequence, until the moment where the Army of Bohemia had effected a junction with that of Silesia.

But this junction itself could have taken place quickly, easily, without wasting time and safely.  It would have been sufficient to achieve this by ordering the VIth Corps to push immediately to the front on the 3rd in the evening, while on the contrary, Wittgenstein was allowed to march in place, from the 3rd until January 10th, around the point where he had crossed the Rhine. And so it happened that when Blücher arrived January 17 at Nancy with the bulk of his troops, we find the cavalry of Pahlen up at Phalsbourg.  Blessed with the slow, methodical Wittgenstein, the reluctance of the general headquarters, a cavalry corps took fifteen days to go from Haguenau to Phalsbourg!

4 January 1814. - Movements of the Cavalry of the VIth Corps.  --The 4th, in fact, Pahlen was content to occupy, with the bulk of his troops, Haguenau, where one of his squadrons had been on the previous day.  He had, indeed, taken measures to carefully cover his left, with Rüdinger, who established himself at Gambsheim and where outposts were held to Wantzenau.  On his right, with Colonel Selifontov went beyond Lauterbourg, and Lieutenant-Colonel Nabel sending parties to Landau, without meeting anywhere the small French detachments who had fallen back on Landau.  Pahlen had even dared to push before Haguenau, a squadron that went on the road from Saverne up to Monmenheim and to send on the roads of Bouxwiller and Bitche, the Baden dragoons.  The rest of the VIth Corps remained in the same positions as before.

It seems, moreover, that the general headquarters of Wittgenstein did not have enough cavalry[17], since the next day on 5January, it was informed it would be joined by Seslavin.  This general officer, who could have been of real service if he had, as he wished, as he requested, allowed to attempt an advanced towards the south of France, received, in Porrentruy, the order to move by Dannemarie and Colmar, on Sélestat to link the Vth and VIth Corps.

Loss of contact.  --As already indicated, the IVth and Vth Corps had completely lost, the day before, contact with the cavalry of Milhaud, first because Colonel Scheibler had been stopped at Marckolsheim, then because it was believed in high places that Milhaud would be unable to withdraw on Sélestat.  Because of the same ignorance which is found here and orders received from General Headquarters, nothing was undertaken, it is true to say, in the valley of the Rhine!  Wrede, having failed to discover any trace of his opponent, was unable to draw any strong conclusions from the conflicting information given by the people,[18] detached from his vanguard three parties of horse; the first, under the command of Major General Ellbracht, skirted the foot of the Vosges, heading left towards Ober-Bergheim and Guemar;[19] the second, that Colonel Baron Mengen led by Marckolsheim to Heidolsheim; and, finally, the 3rd on the right, under the command of Colonel Scheibler, went on to Diebolsheim to subdue the country between the Ill and the various branches of the Rhine. The rest of the Vth and all of the IVth Corps remained completely still.

Movements of the flying corps of Thurn before Vesoul.  --Lieutenant-Colonel Count Thurn had occupied Vesoul the 4th at noon, with the bulk of his party, and he added in his letter from Vesoul, at 5 o'clock to Schwarzenberg:  "I am watching all roads in the direction of Besançon, Gray, Port-sur-Saône and Luxeuil.  I have received intelligence of all that is happening with Major-General von Haecht, and asked him to hold Lure to serve as my support.  I have tried in vain to link myself through Luxeuil and Remiremont with the flying corps of Prince Scherbatov, and as I have very little horse, I cannot disperse them too far away by sending out detachments.  An emissary, who just returned, tells me that a body of French cavalry marches by Chaumont, towards Langres and Port-sur-Saône, and its patrols have pushed to Charmoille. I immediately headed to Port-sur-Saône the captain of Bavarian chasseurs Fleischmann with a detachment of mixed cavalry and chasseurs, and gave him the order to obtain information about the enemy and seek above all to take prisoners.

The enemy cavalry depots muster in Dijon.

The news from Paris indicate a great dissatisfaction in the population and soon will lead to an explosion of serious disorders.  The Emperor, from what the agent told me that I sent to Paris, and who left the city six days ago, intends to bring 10,000 men to Guard[20]

I have the honor to send to Your Highness the issue of the Moniteur that I just received."

Key to Map:

IInd Corps (formerly Column 1) -Passed under the command the Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg (in command of the Austrian Reserves) the 31st of December at which time it massed near Le Locle and Chaux-du-Milieu and the vanguard under General Scheither had sent troops on Fort de Joux and made contact with French patrols as far north as Hôpital du Gros-Bois, posting between Villafans and Fallerans. Leaving troops at Fort de Joux the corps massed at Morteau debouching at Flangebouche the 3rd.

Bianchi and Crenneville Divisions (formerly Column 2) -Bianchi having reached Montbéliard relieved the Bavarians before Belfort, Crenneville holding the roads of Besançon and Vesoul at Arcey, Isle-sur-le-Doubs, Héricourt. Bianchi unsuccessfully called on General Legrand to surrender Belfort on the 3rd.   

Ist Corps (M. Liechtenstein) and the 2nd Light Division (Colloredo) (formerly Column 3) -Reached Délemont the 1st and Porrentruy the 2nd. On the 3rd the Ignatius Hardegg Division retook Pont-de-Roide and Baume-les-Dames from the side of Saint-Hippolyte, while the bulk of the corps moved to Delle to replace the IIIrd Corps.

IIIrd Corps (Gyulay) (formerly Column 4) -Reached Delle posting its vanguard between Blâmont and Villers on the 1st sending troops to guard the bridges of Clerval and Pont-de-Roide.  Remained in Delle the 2nd and moved to Montbéliard the 3rd.

Austrian Reserves (Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg) (formerly Column 5) -Following behind the IInd Corps it was still between Bern and Neuchâtel on the 1st.  Reaching the IInd Corps on the 2nd it moved on Pontarlier, Saint-Sulpice, Chaux-du-Milieu and Saint-Blaise the third.

Vth (Bavarian) Corps (Wrede)(formerly Column 6) Believing of a major enemy concentration at Colmar, the Vth Corps was largely reunited south of Saint-Croix leaving only the Zollern Brigade before Huningue.  The divisions of Antoine Hardegg, La Motte and Spleny with the Bavarian Light Horse moved on Rouffach at dawn on the 3rd with the division of Rechberg moving on Soultz to act as a reserve.  They found Colmar empty, and Colonel Scheibler meekly pursued up to Marckolsheim then to Diebolsheim by the 4th.  The Bavarian Light Horse moved on Ober Bergheim the same day.

IVth Corps (Crown Prince of Württemberg) (formerly Column 7) Had taken up positions in two columns between the Ill and the Rhine to the level of Ensisheim and Blodelsheim.  As part of the assault on Colmar the 3rd it moved in two columns one under General Koch towards Neuf-Brisach along the Rhine, the other under the Crown Prince through Ensisheim on Sainte-Croix and Colmar. Platoff's Cossacks had crossed the Rhine the 29th of December and was to precede the corps.

VIth Russian Corps (Wittgenstein)(formerly Column 8) Prepared to cross at Plittersdorf on the day and night of the 1st and 2nd.  In the night of 2-3 January the pontoon bridge over the Red Rhine was completed and Pahlen's 2nd Cavalry Corps crossed with five contingents moving on Haguenau, Drusenheim, Brumath, Seltz and Lauterbourg (off map).  On the 3rd Prince Eugene of Württemberg occupied Fort Louis with the 3rd Division while the 4th stayed on the right bank at Stollhofen.  By the 4th, Pahlen was in Haguenau, Rüdinger in Gambsheim, Selifontov was beyond Lauterbourg, Nabel at Landau.

Russian Reserves (Barclay de Tolly) (formerly Column 9)  -The reserves was based at Basel by the 1st.  The cavalry had been pushed forward to Altkirch and elements were used to organize partisan corps made up of 2 Cossack regiments and a squadron of hussars each.  The most active of these in this period were Colonel Scherbatov who left Altkirch the 1st moving through Thann on Saint-Amarin where he crossed the Vosges advancing up the Moselle valley to Remiremont; and Lieutenant Colonel Count Thurn who advanced at the same time taking Lure and finally Vesoul on the 4th.

The French forces were largely concentrated at Strasbourg consisting of the 2nd Corps of Marshal Victor.  Seeing himself threatened upstream by the Bavarians and Württembergers  and downstream by the Russians with being trapped at Strasbourg Victor resolved to fall back by Sélestat and Molsheim towards Saverne, but felt that the Allied move on Colmar prevented this, leaving him to fall back by Mutzig on Raon-l'Étape.  He posted two regiments of Guards of Honor at Saverne to monitor Pahlen.  The 5th Cavalry Corps (General Milhaud) judiciously fell back on the 3rd on Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines.  On 2 January the Emperor ordered the two divisions of the Young Guard with their artillery under Curial to move from Nancy and Luxemburg to Épinal, and for General Mortier to act as a reserve at Langres with the Old Guard and the reserve division forming in Paris along with "two Old Guard divisions forming in Paris."


[1] STARKE. Eintheilung und der Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt Armee unter Feld-Marschall Fürst Schwarzenberg im Monate Januar 1814. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30.)

2] Letter of Lieutenant-Colonel Count Thurn to Prince Schwarzenberg .  --"Frahier, the 1st of January 1814.  --To his Highness the commander in chief, Field Marshal Prince Schwarzenberg.  --I hasten to respectfully inform Your Highness that I arrived here this afternoon with my corps and I pushed my outposts to the side of Ronchamp.

Tonight I will try to occupy Lure where yesterday the enemy had no one, and I will try to remove the enemy's cavalry regiment stationed at Vesoul.

The spirit of the people surprised me and exceeded my expectations.  Tired of a despised and detested government, the people await with impatience the expected hour of their deliverance.  The proclamations that we distributed, the excellent conduct of our troops have helped to develop these powerful feelings.

According to information reaching me at the moment, serious disturbances have broken out in Lyon and the Vendée. In Lyon conscripts have refused to surrender to the government's appeal.

In Metz, I learn that the corps quartered in and around the place has just 20,000 men.  The bulk of enemy forces seems to have been partly directed on Holland, and partly massing on the side of Mainz.

In a few days I hope to convey to Y. H. accurate and precise reports from the emissaries I have sent out." (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 31.)

The assessments of Count Thurn, assessments that we find in many of his early reports are useful to record. They can illuminate the state of mind at the beginning of the invasion and follow by showing the step by step awakening of national spirit.

[3] Lieutenant-Colonel Count Thurn to Prince Schwarzenberg.  --"Lure, January 2, 1814. - Tonight I took Lure with a platoon of hussars, and the rest of my detachment joined me today.

My positions are on the road of Luxeuil and on the two roads from Vesoul.  The Bavarian jägers, who have been my assistants, provide in this wooded area my communications with my outposts.  I pushed a strong force on the two routes of Vesoul to focus on the conflicting information I have received of the presence of the enemy cavalry in Vesoul and I commanded the head of this detachment to try to surprise and attack the enemy during the night.  Tomorrow I will try to link myself through Luxeuil, with the flying corps of Major-General Prince Scherbatov and if possible, to join my left with the division of Count Crenneville that I'm looking for.

It is certain that there was only this morning a strong picket of horse chasseurs at Calmoutier, the prefect of the Haute-Saône has posted at today at noon in Vesoul the Decree on the Levy, as The Imperial Commissioner and Senator Valencia arrived at Besançon and gave the orders for the organization of mass conscription.  It appears that the discipline and maintenance of troops is imposed on the population.

My party has been received in the area with joy.  Everyone seems to indicate that they have been waiting, even within the interior of the country, our arrival with a real impatience.

I have the honor to send to Y. H. the very interesting Journal of the Empire dated 28 and 29 December.

Finally, I must communicate to Y. H. another no less interesting news from letters received here from Paris by the ex-commissaire-ordonnatuer La Motte, suggesting he would have been  in Paris leading an uprising to prevent the Emperor from leaving.

I know of a shop here in Lure with 50 quintals of smoking tobacco and look to Y. H. to issue orders."
(K. K. Kriegs Archiv, I, 46.)

[4] Composition of the cavalry of Pahlen, according to the status report of 4 January, 1814.

[5]Count Wittgenstein to the Prince of Schwarzenberg; Rastatt, 3 January 1814.  --Wittgenstein reports on the passage of the Rhine by the troops of the VIth Corps, the actions at Fort Vauban and Fort Alsace, and then adds:

"The 3rd bridge (that of the 3rd arm) is completed, all my horse will go with me onto the left bank.  The bulk of the cavalry under the command of Count Pahlen, goes to Haguenau and pushes as far as possible towards Saverne. Another corps of cavalry will go towards Strasbourg and Sélestat to connect with the partisans and couriers of General Count Wrede.  Finally, another detachment of cavalry is moving in order to try to connect with the left of Field Marshal Blücher, near Wissembourg." (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., 1, 84.)

[6] See BOGDANOWITCH, I, 67.

[7] Schwarzenberg to Field-Marshal Lieutenant Bianchi.  --"Lörrach, 2 January, 1814.  --General Count Wrede to push, 3 January, to Colmar.  The flying corps of General Prince Scherbatov is shifted towards Epinal on the road of Remiremont." (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 37.)

[8] Regiment of Austrian lancers of Schwarzenberg before Colmar (History of the Regiment).  --4 January 1814.

 --The regiment marched that day to Colmar with the Vth Corps of which it formed the advanced guard.

Major Count Hadik had been sent with a squadron on the right flank to cover this flank and to link with the troops of Colonel Baron Scheibler who was to be going to Colmar on the road from Saint-Croix.  Although the squadron had to go across terrain most unfavorable to the deployment of the cavalry, cut across the marshes, ditches and half frozen ponds,  it managed however to get into Colmar first and do some harm on the other side of town to the rear guard of the enemy who retreated.  These good results were mainly due to the quick eye and decisiveness of Captain Baron Saamen.

The Wachtmeister Hyrsch, who was sent forward with 15 men to skirmish with the enemy, particularly distinguished himself.  Arriving in the vineyards surrounding the town, he moved rapidly forward with two men up to the gate of Colmar, where five enemy horsemen, aided by some towns people, tried to barricade it.  He did not hesitate to start the fight with them, prevented them from continuing their work, until, supported by ten Cossacks of Platoff, he succeeded in putting them to flight.  Without orders and on his own accord, he pursued the enemy with the Cossacks, into the square and a platoon of cavalry en train, wounding the leader and pursuing the fugitives to the gate located across the city, which he held until the arrival of the rest, although four enemy squadrons were established in the vicinity and outside that gate.

[9] In the report he wrote, 7 January in the night, from Baccarat, to the Chief of Staff, General Milhaud reported this in terms of the retreat:

"When I had ordered the Duke of Bellune to leave Colmar, he says in this report, I was in the presence of a strong army that attacked the 5th Cavalry Corps and my infantry brigade with four large columns; I had detachments on the banks of the Rhine before Neuf-Brisach and in the mountains of Soultzbach, and despite the enemy forces being twelve times (?) superior to ours, we made our retreat without losing a single man or a horse.  I left Colmar at 2 in the afternoon and thought I should not respond with a single shot to the enemy gunfire.  We maneuvered in the defiles and on the plain with the greatest order…the lancers of Schwarzenberg formed the vanguard of the enemy, but with great caution…

The detachment of 100 dragoons and 200 infantry commanded by Squadron Chief Montanolle, of the 22nd, I sent into the valley of Munster, was retired along the mountains and came to join our rear guard.

What a pity, my prince, added the general in ending, not to defend the entrance of the gorges of Saverne, of Mutzig and Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines with some battalions of light infantry. " All the inhabitants of the mountains only wanted to see one or two battalions protecting the beginning of each gorge to make an eruption and defend their homes. (Archives of the Depot of the War.)

[10] K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 57.

[11] Report of Thurn to Schwarzenberg, from Vesoul, 4 January. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 73).

[12] K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 49.

[13] STARKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt Armee unter Feld-Marschall Fürst Schwarzenburg im Monate Januar (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30).

[14] Correspondence, Nos. 21055 and  21056.

[15] Victor to the Chief of Staff, Strasbourg, 3 January, 8 o'clock in the morning.  --Victor added in this dispatch: "I think that the troops of the 2nd and 5th Corps of Cavalry, who are in the valley of Colmar, will reunite today in Molsheim, and that early tomorrow we will be on the heights Saverne, where it is possible that the enemy have preceded us, because it is less far for them to go than us. (Archives of the Depot of the War.)

[16] It was here, in fact, that Grouchy wrote to General Milhaud, 5 January, at 8 o'clock in the morning:  "The enemy occupy Saverne (a).  The Marshal retires by Mutzig, Urmatt and Wisches. The 5th Cavalry Corps is established in the rear of Framont; the light cavalry remains at Schirmeck, pushing a few parties on the road towards Senones, to receive news of the enemy and whether it has appeared on that side." (Archives of the Depot of the War.)

(a), P.S. Here is a mistake committed by Victor and Grouchy.  Saverne still remained occupied at that time by the French cavalry, and it was not until the 7th in the morning that the courier of Pahlen made its entrance to Saverne. The French only evacuated there on the night of the 6th to 7th of January.

[17] Prince of Schwarzenberg, to General-in-Chief Count Wittgenstein.  --Altkirch, 5 January, 1814:  "To provide as quickly as possible to Y. E.'s lack the cavalry, I commanded the Major General Seslavin taken away from Colmar for rejoining with Your Excellency." (K. K. Kriegs Archiv. I. 84.)

[18] Schwarzenberg shows such little understanding of the situation in the bizarre orders of which we shall speak and in the marching of Wrede on Sélestat, that he thought fit to recommend the following:

Schwarzenberg to Wrede.  --Altkirch, 4 January, 1814.

"…..It would be nice to see you attack the cavalry you have before you.  Crushing it and spreading a little terror on your side." (K. K. Kriegs Archiv. 1/66 C.);

At the same time he thought necessary to inform and reassure the Crown Prince of Württemberg, who he wrote: "You're covered on your front by the Prince Scherbatov, on the left by the IIIrd Corps, which will be in Vesoul the 9th.  Your communications with General Count von Wrede will be provided on the right by the flying corps." (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., 1 / 66 B.)

[19] Grouchy to the Chief of Staff.  --Baccarat, 6 January:

"Attacked on three points in Colmar,  we have withdrawn in good order, without losses, and the enemy followed us only up to the heights of Guémar.  From that point to the position occupied by the 5th Corps of Cavalry, the enemy has no longer shown itself.  One of his columns was moved by the road along the Rhine in the direction of Strasbourg.  The other columns debouched at the Vosges by the roads from Ste-Marie-aux-Mines and Bonhomme. The Guards of Honor were yesterday the 5th, in front of Saverne, having before them the Russian light cavalry.  If they are strongly pushed, they have the orders from the Duke of Bellune to redeploy at Phalsbourg, and route to Nancy…The total number of effectives in the 5th Cavalry Corps is in the neighborhood of 3,000 horse." (Depot of the War.)

This shows that while the Allies were losing contact with Milhaud's cavalry, this cavalry managed however without compromise and without revealing its presence, to keep abreast of the movements of the columns of the Allies. The fact we felt the pain of being reported.

[20] K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I. 73.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: March 2011


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