Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

The Campaign of 1814: Chapter Two Part III

By: Maurice Weil

Translated by: Greg Gorsuch

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

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CAVALRY OF THE ALLIED ARMIES
DURING THE CAMPAIGN OF 1814.
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CHAPTER II.

Movements of other corps and orders of Schwarzenberg.  --In the middle and the left wing, the IInd and IIIrd Corps did not move further, and the Ist Corps went to Porrentruy from Delle, again leaving in the valley of the Doubs at Clerval and Pont-de-Roide the light division of Ignatius Hardegg, which constantly patrolled the evacuation of Baume-les-Dames and the presence of some French horsemen on the Mamirolle side, east of Besançon.  Finally, two of the four divisions of the Austrian reserves arrived at Pontarlier.

While the troops of the Army of Bohemia remained inactive on the 4th, instead, it had been very busy at the General Headquarters at Altkirch; orders abounded and rained on all sides.  In reality, it is difficult to understand what needs they met, and what reasons had led Schwarzenberg to decide to send Wrede to invest Sélestat (Schlestadt), to keep until the 6th the IVth Corps in front of Neuf-Brisach, which was being relieved that day by part of the Vth Corps, only for it to begin until later its movement on Remiremont, while the IIIrd Corps received orders to leave Montbéliard the 6th, and to move by Vesoul on Langres.  To complement these measures, the Ist Corps was to come with Schwarzenberg to Montbéliard, and on the extreme left, the Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg was responsible for investing and bombarding Besançon January 9th.  Finally, although he had so far no struggle to support, although each of his corps was equipped with a respectable number of squadrons, although he had time and ease to determine in advance the composition and operation of his columns, Schwarzenberg was already having thoughts to bring from the rear a cavalry that moreover, never should have been there, because it did not and could not be used for anything.  He wrote, in fact, Barclay de Tolly, "As I have currently no cavalry in front of me, I should take to support the light division of Crenneville a division of Russian cuirassiers, which you should direct to go, 8 January, from  Montreux to Novillard; the 9th by Vézelois, Meroux, Sevenans, Botans, Bavilliers, Essert, to Frahier; the10th, to Lure; the 11th, to Vesoul, where it will encamp.  A regiment of Cossacks will go to Montbéliard, where my headquarters will be located.

Finally, to monitor the Meuse Valley and to learn about the movements of the enemy, I intend to send the Ataman Count Platoff, the 9th, from Épinal on Neufchâteau so that, together with Prince Scherbatov, he maintains, on the side of Langres and of Chaumont, communications with the troops who will be moved forward.[1]"

The vigorous and energetic offensive, which Schwarzenberg was always talking about in his orders, therefore, was to give an absolutely illogical direction to Wrede, to leave the VIth Corps (as was said at headquarters) to take its time marching to the left bank, to repair the works in the ruins of Fort Vauban and organize a strong foothold at Fort Alsace; on the other hand, he was blockading Huningue, Neuf-Brisach, Schlestadt, Besançon, and for this reason he maintained, the Russian and Prussian reserve very far back, just when they should have been closing together with the corps of the first line at all cost and marching quickly and decisively forward.  And yet, precisely because of the fear inspired by an opponent who was expected to appear anywhere at any time, by an opponent that a few days later, on 7 January[2] was even believed to have arrived at Langres, at the head of an army of 80,000 men, he should have been primarily avoiding the dissipation of his forces.

One should have avoided wasting precious time and irreparable harm to conquer Alsace, where there wasn't anyone; but on the contrary, should have hasten to assemble 120,000 to 150,000 men at a given point, Langres, for example, finally, to be in the first ten days of January, as able as one could, moreover, to crush the enemy under the weight of these masses that nothing, especially the formations just outlined, could resist.

News of Blücher.  --Schwarzenberg had just sent these various orders when he learned of Blücher crossing the Rhine with the Army of Silesia and the commencement of the execution of the movement towards the Saar.  It seems it would have been natural at this time to change orders, to accelerate the progress of various columns and primarily move the VIth Corps, which formed the right of the Army of Bohemia, resolutely forward.  Schwarzenberg preferred to write for Blücher to inform him of his own situation and tell him covertly that he would make a final resolution "when the Army of Silesia had arrived in Nancy."

5 January.  --Movements of the VIth Corps.  --So the day of 5th presented for the same reason little more of interest than the previous day.  Regarding the VIth Corps, all that happened was the occupation by General Rüdinger of La Wantzenau that the French evacuated after a skirmish against the Cossacks, to fall back on Hohenheim.  The patrols, pushed forward on the road of Haguenau to Bitche, came up to Reichshoffen.  There they learned that the 3rd Regiment of Guards of Honor, after appearing the prior day in this village, on hearing of the news of the occupation of Haguenau, fell back in the evening by Bouxwiller on Saverne.  The partisans, sent from Brumath near Mutzig and the valley the Bruche,  seeking to communicate with General Seslavin, were pulled with the French outposts to the side of Marlenheim.  Finally, on the basis of information collected on the side of Lauterbourg, one came to know that Marmont fell back from Pirmasens to Bitche.

Measures taken by the Crown Prince of Württemberg for the crossing of the Vosges.  --The Vth Corps investing Sélestat, sent a brigade of the division to La Motte to Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines and relieved in Neuf- Brisach the Württembergers scheduled to begin their movement the next day and that the Generalissimo had reinforced with the Austrian brigade of Schäffer and the Archduke Charles Ferdinand Hussar Regiment (n. 2).  The headquarters of the Crown Prince moved to Ober-Bergheim, where the Prince sent Schwarzenberg the report in which he communicated the measures he took for the march the next day:

"Crown Prince of Württemberg to Schwarzenberg. Ober-Bergheim, 5 January, 1814.[3]

Tonight I received the orders of Your Highness, and I will march tomorrow on Remiremont.  The head of my column will seek to reach this point before that date, so that my cavalry is not forced to stay longer than necessary in such an inhospitable region as the Vosges.

To stay in communication and liaison with General Count Wrede, I will send parties to my right and I will ask Count Wrede to do the same on his side.

My headquarters will be at Cernay tomorrow."

The Generalissimo, while approving the proposals of the Crown Prince relative to cavalry, however, suggested to leave as little time as possible without infantry, because he feared it might be stopped by a small rear guard of the enemy taking advantage of the uneven and difficult terrain of these regions.

Schwarzenberg advised at the same time the Crown Prince of General Scherbatov and how that general officer  had moreover anticipating this, was forced to evacuate Remiremont to an approaching 600 infantry and 500 enemy cavalry.[4]

Scherbatov returned from Remiremont.  --The advice of Schwarzenberg was not entirely useless, since, as shown by the letter of the Chief of Staff of the IVth Corps to Scherbatov, the bulk of this corps should, according to the plans of the Crown Prince, arrive four days later in Remirernont.[5]

Scherbatov did not, however, remained inactive, and even on the 5th, taking advantage of some Allied troops that had occupied the defiles of Bussang; reassured of his rear, and almost certain now to be able, in case of failure, to fall back on this support, he again debouched in the day on Remiremont that he had occupied.

Combat of Arches.  --It is from the report that he wrote in French to Schwarzenberg, from Arches, on the night of January 5 to 6, that we extract the following:

Report of Prince Scherbatov  to Schwarzenberg (the original in French).  --Arches, 6 January, 1814, midnight.

"The troops of Württemberg having come yesterday to occupy the passes of Bussang, I again debouched on Remiremont.

I crossed the city and I moved to just up to Arches, at 2 o'clock to Épinal.  Before arriving there, my vanguard encountered an enemy patrol which led there a detachment of 400 horses.  Lieutenant-Colonel Nazaroff, regimental commander of the Cossacks of the Urals, attacked, supported by 150 Cossacks of Tepter, crushed it and drove it out of town about a quarter of a mile.

The night came and 100 infantry were lying in the bushes having protected the flight of their cavalry.  Besides many killed, there were 12 prisoners.  Our only loss was a subaltern and two Cossacks wounded, five horses killed and 11 wounded.  Among the prisoners there were two totally new draftees inducted in Lyonnais.  I let these two conscripts return to their home as they say that the Allies do not come to make war with the French, they want no harm to any inhabitants, but they come to bring back peace and tranquility for the happiness of the French nation.

These people have no ill will to serve, and I hope that returning them will change the opinion that the government seeks to sow in the minds of the bourgeois and the peasant.

There may be about 4,000 infantry at Épinal, because between Épinal and Nancy there are three large encampments.

Tomorrow I will attack at daybreak, and will take possession of the city, if I find the opportunity.

A Spanish lieutenant named Torres, who was a prisoner in Nancy, having learned of the approach of Allied troops, has found a way to escape and came to report to me.  The news he gave me, is that there are at Metz 30,000 conscripts of  whom 15,000 will be sent to Brussels.  Every day new ones came, the best were chosen, they were placed in the Young Guard and shipped to the coast of Holland.  All the depots surrounding Metz come together there and counting all the troops for conscription, there are definitely 25,000 counted.

The cavalry depots are the largest object of concern.

The headquarters of the army and that of the Emperor are at Metz.  He is expected, but has not come.

In Nancy the garrison is from 1000 to 1500 men.  Among the troops stationed between Nancy and Épinal is the Guard…

Oudinot is disgraced for daring to say that there was no way to wage war and that he could not command a corps composed of weak and undisciplined children. . .

... The citizens are very dissatisfied with the government and want a change…It is certain that they absolutely lack
weapons.

The prisoners I think they're happy because they say they will not serve more."[6]

Movements of Platoff and of Thurn.  --Meanwhile Platoff was marching on the Vosges: he was to be at Saint-Weiler the 6th, the 7th in Saulxures and the 9th at Épinal.  He was ordered to connect with Scherbatov on his right and his left with the Austrian columns destined to march by Vesoul on Langres.  Thurn, always around Vesoul, continued to monitor the roads of Besançon, Gray, Port-sur-Saône and Luxeuil, while at the extreme left Scheither was ordered to occupy Ornans.

The movements performed during that day by the IIIrd, IInd and Ist Corps and by the Austrian reserves, are so insignificant that they do not even deserve to be mentioned.

Position of Victor.  --Upon learning of the crossing of the Rhine by the Allies and the movement that discovered his right, Victor, as we have said, abandoned the defense of the river, leaving an infantry brigade of the division of Duhesme there under the command of General Milhaud, with the cavalry division of General L'héritier, which instead of moving by Molsheim on Saverne, had to withdraw through the valley of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines.  He himself, with the rest of his troops (Gérard Division, a brigade of the division of Duhesme and the cavalry division of General Briche), marched by Mutzig on Raon-l'Étape, the point where he had directed the light cavalry division of General de Piré.

Orders of the Emperor to Mortier.  --Until this time, moreover, the Emperor had not changed the direction of  reinforcements on the march.  However, on December 24, he had ordered Mortier to go from Namur to Reims.  The Marshal found, January 3, himself immediately ordered to continue on Chaumont and on Langres with his infantry division of the Old Guard, 5 to 6 artillery batteries and the cavalry division of the Guard.  The proposed motion by Victor had intended (the orders he gave to Milhaud, and that he could also go, evidenced) to post in Saverne, to hold until the arrival of Marmont had displeased the Emperor who instructed the Chief of Staff to express his discontent.[7]

Orders to Victor intercepted by the Cossacks.  --A dispatch addressed to Victor through Kellermann, was intercepted by the Cossacks on the side of Mutzig, on the night of January 7 to 8.  It was as follows:

"The Marshal Duke of Valmy[8], to H. E. Marshal Duke of Bellune, commanding the 2nd Corps.

My dear Marshal, I informed H. M. the Emperor of the content of the dispatch that you sent to the Commandant of Phalsbourg, and that you had charged me with.

The Emperor replied by dispatch dated today from Paris:

It was not on the heights of Saverne that the Duke of Bellune was directed, but on Épinal.  If he is already on the side of Saverne, order him to move on Nancy.

I hasten to send you this dispatch, my dear Marshal, and tell you that the first division of the Young Guard and the troops gathered for the 4th Division is between Nancy and Charmes, with two batteries, ready to stand on Épinal, if the enemy's cavalry in the Vosges it is not supported by infantry.

P.S. The Duke of Raguse was yesterday at Homburg near Deux-Ponts and General Ricard at Ottweiler, with the 8th and 32nd Divisions."

This dispatch would have naturally been more valuable to the Allies, if it had been intercepted on the 6th.  At this moment, in fact, they had not yet been able to reestablish contact; but the taking of this dispatch was, though somewhat belatedly, advantageous in positively establishing some directions that Victor had followed.  It also allowed them to assume that the Marshal, once reaching the other side of the mountains, would again be informed of the Emperor's orders to seek and win the important point of Épinal, a node for routes from Switzerland, crossing the Vosges mountains.  A corps posted at Épinal would occupy, in fact, a central position, where it would have been much easier to prevent the heads of Allied columns debouching into the valley of the Moselle, it would not have to worry about its rear covered by the troops that Ney was uniting at Nancy, who seemed destined to take part in operations in a short time.

The recommendations, Schwarzenberg had made the same day to the Crown Prince of Württemberg on the employment of his cavalry, were perfectly justified.

After committing the mistakes that we have just mentioned.  Victor did not even know how to fix them.  Instead of acting aggressively using every means possible against the Allies, he dealt them timid blows and made the more serious mistake of spreading thin his already very inconsiderable forces and operating in small units.  Such a mode could only lead to useful results (to the Allies), and if it did not have more fatal and more serious consequences, we must seek the reason, not in actions taken by the Duke of Bellune, but in the looseness of the Allied operations, the uncertainties of the higher command, fragmentation and sequencing of different corps, and especially the poor job one did with a cavalry large enough to penetrate the weak curtain stretched before it, and not follow the marching and moving columns of French infantry.

6 January, 1814.  --Information provided by the cavalry of the VIth Corps.  --The information transmitted in the day of the 6th to Wittgenstein by his cavalry, showed him that Marshal Marmont was not, as we had noted on the previous day, currently concentrating in Bitche.  The parties sent from Brumath by the valley of the Bruche, had again come to Marlenheim, not far from Wasselonne, against a party of French cavalry, from whom they had taken a dozen men, but who prevented them from expanding their reconnaissance further.  More to the right, the Colonel Selifontov had by Spires, open communications with Sacken.  Wittgenstein had, however, received direct news informing him of the positions occupied by the Army of Silesia on the 4th.  The Lieutenant Colonel Nabel had, meanwhile, sent couriers who pushed up to the walls of Landau and Bitche.  They told him that the garrison of Landau consisted only of National Guard, while Bitche was guarded by some invalids.  It was already known that the French had evacuated Hochfelden the evening of the 6th, falling back by Dettwiller on Saverne, and that General Count de Ségur, after having united his two regiments of Guards of Honor, had continued his retreat towards Sarrebourg.  The headquarters of Wittgenstein was still at Rastatt, and his extreme outposts did not exceed a line from Haguenau to Wissembourg and Spire.

Movements of the Vth Corps.  --As for the Vth Corps it was linked by two squadrons of the Schwarzenberg Uhlans sent from Benfeld on Molsheim with General Rüdinger, the vanguard of the VIth Corps.[9] The Austrian general Volkmann had completed the investment of Sélestat and thrown out the garrison in the town; the Bavarian brigade of Maillot had relieved the Württembergers in Neuf-Brisach; Colonel Scheibler had driven 200 dismounted French hussars to Boofzheim, which barely had time to jump in Sélestat; and the brigade of Deroy, joining the other brigade of the division to La Motte near Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines had occupied the neck and the passage leading  from beside Alsace-Lorraine.

In addition, it was already known at the headquarters of Wrede that Victor fell back from Strasbourg on the Vosges, and Milhaud, with his dragoons, had retired on Saint-Dié.[10]

Movement of the IVth Corps towards the Vosges.  --The IVth Corps had begun its movement towards the Vosges.[11] At Cernay, where it arrived on the 6th in the morning, the Crown Prince of Württemberg wrote to Schwarzenberg to tell him he had been joined by a squadron of the Archduke Ferdinand Charles Hussar Regiment (n. 2), and ask him to send the 2nd Squadron as soon as possible, to be able to direct these two squadrons the 9th, or at the latest the 10th, on Luxeuil.  The intention of the Crown Prince was to stay a few days around Remiremont, and, unless given formal orders sending him on Épinal, to push quickly on Lunéville and Nancy.  The Prince added in this report, that to cover Wrede, he sent towards Saint-Dié and Bruyères parties with whom he could link with Pouxeux.  Finally, as he had just been informed of the arrival of Platoff in Thann, it was not without reason, as noted, so as not to exhaust the country already highly depleted, he suggested it would be good to assign the cavalrymen of the Ataman another route than that assigned to the IVth Corps for the passage of the Vosges.

In front of the Württembergers, General Prince Scherbatov still scoured the country between Pouxeux and Arches. The reports he sent to headquarters and Barclay de Tolly, reports in which he indicated the presence of French troops at Épinal, had resulted in the order given to Platoff, who arrived that day only up to Thann, having to move rapidly forward to support Scherbatov and help take Épinal.[12]

The IIIrd Corps ordered to march to Vesoul.  --Far to the left, Schwarzenberg, recognizing the need to occupy as soon as possible Vesoul and only having on this side the small flying corps of Lieutenant Colonel Count Thurn, sent from Montbéliard, where he had transferred his headquarters, Count Gyulay orders to accelerate the march of his corps (IIIrd) to be at Vesoul, instead of the 9th, the 8th, at least with the head of his columns.[13]  He advised him to have cover on his right to his arrival in Remiremont by Crown Prince of Württemberg, with whom he would have to connect.  The vanguard of the IIIrd Corps arrived the 6th at Villersexel, the main body at Vellechevreux, the division of Crenneville at Ronchamp.  He also gave the order for this last division to be the 7th instead of 8th, at Port-sur-Saône,[14] which Thurn, as shown in the following report, had taken the night of the 5th to 6th.

Surprise of Port-sur-Saône by the flying corps of Thurn.  --"Lieutenant-Colonel Count Thurn to Prince Schwarzenberg.  --Vesoul, 6 January 1814, 5 o'clock at night:

I have the honor to inform Your Highness that I surprised and held last night, Port-sur-Saône: I took some conscripts.

My patrols scour the country side of Combeaufontaine, on the road to Gray, to Grandvelle, that of Besançon and that of Villersexel. On the right, I am clear and covered by flanking patrols by Faverney and Luxeuil.

I leave here tonight to move on the Department of Haute-Marne in the direction of Langres, because I learned just now that the division of Crenneville has Lure.

I will send tomorrow to Your Highness the English and Spanish prisoners of war that I have released.

I would respectfully submit to Your Highness that the requisitions of any kind, which involves striking the country folks, alienates the minds of people who, in large part, were favorably disposed towards us.

I convey to Your Highness the letter I sent today from the Prefect, and the response that I have made.

The cigar store I've taken here is valued at more than 100,000 francs.

My emissaries assured me that the Duke of Valmy is in Metz with 8,000 men, nearly all conscripts; the bulk of the enemy is moved on the Brabant, another mass goes to Strasbourg and that 10,000 men of the Guard are marching on Paris."[15]

It is far, from the enthusiasm that we previously saw, which Thurn[16] reported so pompously in his first reports.

The people, amazed and surprised at first, did not take long, however, to meet against the invaders and to make them pay dearly for its brutality, its violence and its looting.

Movements of the Ist and IInd Corps.  --As for the Ist Corps, it was still in Montbéliard and Arcey, but it detached on Héricourt the division of Wimpffen, that was to support 9 January, by the right bank of the Doubs, the enterprise of the Prince of Hesse-Homburg against Besançon.  The IInd Corps, which served the Prince as the advanced guard was at the Hôpital-du-Gros-Bois, and the Austrian reserves advanced painfully up to about Villafans, Ornans and Étalans. Prince Maurice of Liechtenstein, who took command of the 2nd Light Division, covered the extreme left of the Prince of Hesse.

To supplement the data on the Allied corps position to that date, it should be pointed out that the cavalry of Bubna was master of the bridge of Dole, the troops of that general were in Poligny and Salins, where he received, on the 6th, the order to march on Lyon.  Let us add, finally, one of their brigades watched the Savoy, since the capture of Geneva.

Arriving in Lunéville, Caulaincourt instructed to resume negotiations.  --It was also on 6 January that Caulaincourt, appointed by the Emperor to resume and monitor the negotiations interrupted for over a month, arrived at Lunéville, and asked Metternich for the passport he needed to cross the outposts of the Allies. The same day, Lord Castlereagh landed in Holland and continued his journey to join the general headquarters of the Allies.

7 January.  --The cavalry of the VIth Corps in Saverne.  --The 7th in the morning the Russian outposts noticing that the French had evacuated Saverne[17] to fall back on Phalsbourg, immediately occupied the town and preceded Pahlen, who immediately pushed the parties to Sarrebourg and Phalsbourg.[18]

The infantry of the VIth Corps began, too, its movement.  A brigade of the 4th Division (IInd Corps, commanded by Prince Eugène of Württemberg) marched in support of the cavalrymen of Pahlen, to Haguenau; the other brigade remained at Rœschwoog, but the 3rd Infantry Division went in part to Fort Louis, on the left bank, and Wittgenstein tried to link on the left by Benfeld and Mutzig, with the right of Wrede.  We had succeeded in removing the semaphore towers of Haut-Bar, near Saverne, and Kochersberg near Willgottheim, cutting and intercepting the aerial communications of the enemy.

Positions of the Vth Corps.  --Affair of Saint-Dié.  --The Vth Corps remained in front of the places it was investing with its outposts on the right, near Ziegelhutt; in the center, in Benfeld; on the left, at the neck of Bonhomme, and in front of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines.  Only the General Deroy, posted as we have said in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, sent near Saint-Dié several patrols that skirmished with French vedettes and brought the information that Wrede transmitted to Schwarzenberg in the attached report below, a report that only succeeded in reaching, moreover, the Generalissimo, in Vesoul, the 14th:

"Wrede to Schwarzenberg, at Colmar, 8 January 1814.

I inform Your Highness that General Deroy, that I posted yesterday near Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, has sent patrols to Saint-Dié.  The general has met the enemy in front of this city, has strongly attacked and continued to beyond Saint-Dié.  The taken position consisted of 80 horses.  He learned in this way there was at Raon, under the command of General Piré 3,000 infantrymen and cavalry, and Marshal Victor was at Baccarat with 12,000 men.

I ordered General Deroy to enforce Saint-Dié and the road to Saint-Dié by patrols, and to link by Bruyères with the troops of the Crown Prince of Württemberg.

The cavalry that I sent to Molsheim informs me that it has linked with the light troops of Wittgenstein

…I prayed the Prince of Württemberg sends Platoff,  not on Épinal, but by Bruyères on Rambervillers, and from there, right on Lunéville.  In addition, I have ordered all my commanders to push out patrols to obtain information. Meanwhile, I have been told by General Frimont of Colonel Scheibler, having gone to Saverne."[19]

Movements of the IVth Corps and Platoff.  --The vanguard of the IVth Corps was assigned to the two roads leading to Wesserling from Remiremont.  Two squadrons and 4 companies going just up to Oderen and Felleringen.  One squadron and 3 companies pushed on the other road just up to Urbay and Mollau.  The support established itself at Wesserling and Saint-Amarin.  The main body was at Willer.  The Crown Prince of Württemberg, both to cover his left and to connect with the center of the Army of Bohemia, marching on Vesoul, and the corps that invested Belfort, had sent a squadron of Archduke Ferdinand hussars for Faucogney, Château-Lambert and Giromagny.

Platoff arrived the 6th at night in Thann, with 4,000 horses, and had next continued his march on Épinal, by Saulxures and Éloyes.[20]

In the forward positions occupied by the IVth Corps and the other side of the Vosges, Scherbatov had continued to advance through the Moselle valley without meeting any resistance and had occupied Épinal.[21]

Movements of other corps.  -- In the center, the vanguard of Gyulay, the bulk of which had not gone past Villersexel, arrived at Vesoul, and the division of Crenneville at Mollans.  The Ist Corps, still completely around Montbéliard, had merely sent a few cavalry patrols near Besançon, while the IInd Corps had crossed onto the right bank of the Doubs, in Baume-les-Dames, the Archduke John Baptist Dragoon Regiment (n. 1), who had forced back the French outposts at Roulans were seen far in the rear.[22]

The Austrian reserves still continued as always with their same methodical and same slow march to Besançon, and the Russian and Prussian reserves of Barclay de Tolly still were going with their columns from Basel, where they were finishing crossing the Rhine, just at Altkirch.

Schwarzenberg, adding credence to false information, changes orders.  --It was at that moment the headquarters of  Schwarzenberg received, unfortunately false news, but it arrived in time to imprint a semblance of momentum for the march which had hitherto been so drawn out, so uncertain and so hesitant an invasion .  The Generalissimo, on the basis of what was reported to him of the imminent rally on the plateau of Langres of an army of 80,000 men, disturbed by these reports which had, all things considered, the appearance of truth, was now convinced that he would take away the hard-fought point as important as the strategic plateau of Langres, decided to shake off the torpor in which he had indulged.  He took immediate steps to throw on this side considerable forces and amass the columns he had turned so far in the most diverse directions, he had left to march in place and which, while always remembering to concentrate on the plateau of the Morvan, he had sent from Basel in a divergent movement to the left, consuming time, not to mention the corps for blockading Besançon, Baume-les-Dames.  As we have remarked more than once again during the course of this campaign, we pass suddenly and without cause, from the most absolute confidence to the deepest concern, from the most complete serenity to the most unreasoning terror.  This time too, we find the headquarters had more or less plausible excuses to justify the perfectly logical and rational movements in themselves, movements that would have, moreover, if executed earlier, would not have had, at certain times, affected, or at least appeared to affect the entourage of Schwarzenberg a sovereign with contempt for the eternally true and immutable principles of warfare.  So apparently because Victor, Milhaud and Piré evacuated the Rhine Valley, but in reality because one thought that one would have to make a superhuman effort to take the position of Langres, still almost unoccupied, we finally recognized that it was time to give Wittgenstein and Wrede a destination a little more in line with the forces at their disposal that one had stopped then just before Kehl, across from Strasbourg, under Sélestat, Neuf-Brisach and Huningue.

For the same reason it occurs to the general headquarters of the Allies to find that Bianchi has something else to do but sit in observation before Belfort.  But, although one appears to believe in the presence or the impending arrival of a considerable force to Langres, it is well known that there are no more enemies in the Rhine Valley, instead of merely contending for towns defended by conscripts, National Guard or the disabled, one does not resolve to act forcefully, still preferring half-measures to a vigorous offensive.  Schwarzenberg gave the order to move forward, but before one could begin the movement, he weakens the corps of his lieutenants by imposing the obligation to give back a considerable part of their forces.  So that instead of resolutely marching the entire VIth Corps, he requires Wittgenstein to keep before Strasbourg and Kehl, the forces necessary to blockade these towns seats and heads for the Champagne with the rest of his corps, forming the right of the main army until the arrival of the troops being brought by the Count William von Hochberg (Margrave William of Baden).  It was the same for Wrede; he was required to leave 8,000 men at Sélestat, Neuf-Brisach and Huningue, and therefore, could only set out with about 30,000 men.

The IVth Corps would not be weakened by detachments, and the Crown Prince of Württemberg, who had expressed an intention to stay a few days around Remiremont would receive orders there to a halt for twenty-four hours and to march to his left by Bains and Jussey coming to a junction with the center to the north-west of Vesoul, on the side of Fayl-Billot.

The Ist and IIIrd Corps must be in position the 10th at the latest on the banks of the Saône on a line from Seveux to Port-sur-Saône; they will be backed by the reserves of Barclay de Tolly, in echelon from Besançon and Vesoul; but however, Bianchi will leave the vicinity of Belfort in two echelons.  He was prescribed to leave two of his brigades at Vesoul until they were relieved by the Russian troops of General Rayevsky, but to remain in Belfort with the third for the duration of the bombardment.  It only had to remain with the Russians for the blockade if the bombardment was not effective.[23]

The Allies, moreover, brought such a caution in their enterprise, that the same day again, Schwarzenberg prescribed establishing strong bridgeheads on the Rhine, at Märkt and Rheinweiller. It is, moreover, because he would not cease, during the entire duration of the campaign, to have fears for his left, mostly imaginary, because he constantly shook his rear, that we see Schwarzenberg send off at any moment the troops he could have used more advantageously in the existing principle theater of operations.

Finally, although thirty-six hours earlier they had given strict orders to Bubna to proceed without delay to Lyon, he thought it was prudent to stop him, and he was told of having to report through Dole, Auxonne and Dijon.

The same day from Blücher's headquarters at Kusel, a report was sent to Schwarzenberg on movements of the Army of Silesia since the Rhine crossing, but this letter did not come into Wrede's hand until the 14th, who immediately forwarded to the General in Chief.

Notes:

[1] K K. Kriegs Archiv., 1/66 A.

[2] BERNHARDI, Toll Denkwürdigkeiten, IV, 164.

It is essential to consider that it was only due to the receipt of false news, that Schwarzenberg modified the orders of the 4th, and recalled Wittgenstein and Wrede to him, that it is plausible that without it, he would have launched into the Alsace long before.

[3] K. K. Kriegs Archiv. ad, I. 81.

[4] K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I. 81.

[5] Colonel Count Baillet de La Tour to General Prince Scherbatov, Ober-Bergheim, 5 January, 1814 (the original in French):

"In ordering H. R. H. Crown Prince of Württemberg to cover Remiremont with his corps, H. H. Marshal Prince tells him that you are responsible for covering his front.

I will not be remiss in relating to you, my Prince, and telling you that today Thann was occupied by a Württemberg battalion that tomorrow will move to Bussang to serve you in case of a retreat as you see necessary.

The Crown Prince, however, trusts that you can hold the road to Remiremont until about the 9th , the day when the head of the corps will follow.

Captain Nagel, who goes before us with a squadron is responsible for gathering food and fodder for the corps.

The Crown Prince desires, my Prince, in order to facilitate this task, you try to get food and forage needed by your corps, around Plombières and Épinal.  He also hopes that you'll want to provide any reports that you can get on the strength and movements of the enemy."  (K. K. Kriegs Archiv. I., 121, G.)

Since we have spoken of the Count de La Tour, we thought it was interesting to reproduce the letter below.  It is clear that when entering France the headquarters of the Allies did not have maps and, what is even stranger is that Colonel de La Tour submitting the case to the Generalissimo and having asked permission to give the Lieutenant-Colonel Count Thurn the order to hold the map mentioned below, Schwarzenberg was responding (Part I. 124, Kriegs Archiv.) that he should leave Thurn the maps as this officer had more need than any other.

Louise Fries to Colonel Count de La Tour.  --Montbéliard, January 4, 1814:

"Sir, I have just received, by a courier, the letter which you kindly sent to my husband, and in which you ask for the national atlas of France.

I am very sorry for not being able to fulfill your request, having already delivered it to the Count of Zettritz, who was sent by the Count Thurn.  I could not even give you any other map, my husband had purposely gone to Basel to search there in our city and to give homage to Prince Schwarzenberg.  He went back that night.

I have the honor, sir, to greet you with a perfect consideration.
" (K. K. Kriegs Archiv. I., 124, D.

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] K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I. 118.

[7] The Emperor Napoleon to the Prince of Neuchâtel and Wagram, Chief of Staff, in Paris.  --Paris, 6 January 1814.

"My cousin, make it known to the Duke of Bellune my displeasure that, at Colmar, he moved his corps onto the heights of Saverne, exposing all the Vosges and uncovering Épinal; that he was much more convenient at Colmar than moving to the neck of Épinal; that the neck of Saverne is guarded by the town of Phalsbourg while, at Épinal, Nancy is completely uncovered.

If he is already on the side of Saverne, give him orders to file around on Nancy.

Order the Prince of Moskowa to leave during the day to go to Nancy and take command of the division of the Young Guard and the troops who are on this side, to guard Nancy, finally to retake Épinal, which is only occupied by a cavalry, and that he contain the enemy on that side."

[8] K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 205 c.

[9] Tagebuch of Major Prince Taxis (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., XIII, 32), and STÄRKE, Eintheilung and Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-armee (Ibid., I, 30).

[10] At the grand headquarters, we had knowledge of the movement of Victor on Lunéville and knew he wanted to connect, in the Moselle Valley, with the cavalry of Milhaud and of Piré. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30.)

[11] The advanced guard of the IVth Corps occupied on January 6 the following positions: two squadrons of the regiment of Duke Louis (Herzog Lüdwig Jäger zu Pferd Regiment n. 2) in Thann, a squadron at Uffholtz, a horse battery at Wattwiller, with a battalion of infantry, a battalion at Berrwiller and another at Hartmannswiller.

[12] Barclay de Tolly to Schwarzenberg.  --Basel, 6 January, 1814.  (Provisions it takes to remove Épinal.)

"Major-General Prince Scherbatov informs me that in Épinal, a town to which Ataman Count Platoff goes, there are enemy troops in respectable force.

I, therefore, required Count Platoff to consult with the Prince Scherbatov to chase the enemy with him to Épinal, to leave a correspondingly strong enough position, to recommend to the Prince Scherbatov, to which he shall first give two cannons, to march from there on Nancy and to maintain constant contact on the right with the Bavarian outposts.

The Count Platoff will move, in turn, on Neufchâteau and remain in communication with Scherbatov on the right, on left with the Austrian corps stationed in Vesoul.

I also specified to the generals Platoff and Scherbatov to keep me aware of their movements day by day in order to assign alternative directions, according to the orders I receive from Your Highness." (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 113.)

[13] Schwarzenberg to Gyulay. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 110.)

[14] Schwarzenberg to Bianchi (who blockaded Belfort at that time). (K. K. Kriegs Archiv. Ad., I, 110.)

[15] In the margin of this document (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 117), is found the following note made by the headquarters of Schwarzenberg and used to the answer items to Thurn:

"I received your reports of 4 and 6 January.  Regarding the Prefect of Haute-Saône, handle carefully and send him under escort to me at my headquarters, which will be the 9th at Arcey, the 10th at Villersexel, the 11th at Vesoul.

[16] Count Thurn in 1814, was a lieutenant-colonel in the Austrian regiment of Palatinate Hussars.

The presence of the riders of Thurn at Combeaufontaine, and even his projects up to Langres, were known to the French as the Commandant Gerbaux, aide to Secretary of War, writing to him said, from Langres, 6 January at 8:30 in the evening: "The enemy has a small post at Combeaufontaine; one awaits this evening 150 horse at Cintrey, and it is said he wants to do a reconnaissance of Langres." (Depot of the War.)

[17] At the same time when the French cavalry had to evacuate Saverne, Grouchy prescribed to Ségur, in case he was pushed by the enemy, to fall back on Phalsbourg, Sarrebourg and finally Héming, at branching of the Strasbourg road to Metz and to Nancy, and in case he had to abandon Héming, to withdraw by the Nancy road, but to do so as late as possible.  Grouchy added:  "We are still in Raon-l'Étape and Baccarat. We will not make any movement today or probably not tomorrow.  (Archives of Depot of the War.)

[18] K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30.

[19] K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 165.

[20] Crown Prince of Württemberg, Wesserling, 7 January, to Schwarzenberg (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 137), and daily report to the Emperor of Austria. (Ibid., I, 130.)

[21] General Prince Scherbatov to Schwarzenberg (the original in French):

"Épinal, 7 January, 1814.

I have the honor to announce to Y. H. I now occupy Épinal.

Still at Remiremont I sent a party to my left on Plombières and Fontenois (Fontenoy-le-Château) at the request of Lieutenant-Colonel La Tour (a).  The party returned without having discovered it; I could not push on Langres, given the excessive remoteness.

Today I again sent a strong party to my right to Rappoltsweiler (Ribeauvillé) towards Schlestadt (Sélestat) to the find the Bavarian Corps and Colonel Scheibler, who must move there, as General Toll informed me.

I am obliged tomorrow to await the return of this detachment, which may not return in the afternoon, because of the distance from here to Rappoltsweiler (Ribeauvillé).

The rear guard of the enemy is in Charmes, at three leagues from Épinal (b).  My patrols have already been there."  (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 166.)

(a) He speaks here about Lieutenant Colonel Thurn.  (b) There are more than 3 miles from Épinal to Charmes.

[22] K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30.

[23] This bizarre order seems to have had no a special reason.  It was hoped that the bombarded Belfort would capitulate, and one is led to believe at least, that this place should surrender to the Austrian troops.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: March 2011

 

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