The Campaign of 1814: Chapter Two Part IV
By: Maurice Weil
THE CAMPAIGN of 1814
(after the Imperial and Royal War Archives at Vienna)
CAVALRY OF THE ALLIED ARMIES
DURING THE CAMPAIGN OF 1814.
8 January. Movements of Victor. --Moved by
the reproaches he had incurred,
and willing, despite the numerical disproportion, to make a final effort; knowing
on the other hand, by a letter from the Mayor of Rambervillers, that the Allied
troops stationed on the side of Épinal had been requisitioning around
Rambervillers, Victor ordered Grouchy to post on this last point a division
of dragoons to prevent the Allies coming to disquiet the villages and impose
on the column at Épinal. Victor recommended, in addition, to protect
the division by the other division, which was staggered from Gerbéviller
to Roville-aux-Chênes and support the whole, if necessary, by a few battalions. Finally,
the division of dragoons at Rambervillers was to observe with attention the
roads of Saint-Dié and Épinal. Grouchy, complying with
the orders of Marshal, sent to Rambervillers the dragoons at Briche, and was
supported by those of Lhéritier. The infantry of
Duhesme, posted around Raon-l'Étape, served as their support during
when Generals Cassagne and Rousseau, coming up the valley of the Moselle from
Nancy, were directed by Charmes on Épinal.
The Cossacks take a courier sent to Victor from Strasbourg.--While
taking the steps we have just indicated, fortune which was capriciously
helping the Allies, provided a chance that so many times gave them
the information they could not procure otherwise, by having a courier
fall into the hands of the cavalrymen of Pahlen, who scoured the
country on the side of Mutzig and of Wasselonne; a
courier that, from Rœderer, Special Commissioner of the Emperor
in the Lower Rhine, in Strasbourg, had sent to Victor. On this
courier was found in addition to the dispatch Kellermann transmitted
to the Duke of Bellune, the reproach and the Emperor's orders and
indicating, as noted, the positions of troops between Nancy and Charmes,
a letter of Rœderer to the Duke of Rovigo (Savary), in which
he gave an accurate account of the chilling state of mind in Strasbourg,
and the terror produced by the appearance of the first Allied troops
around the city,
"Rœderer to the Duke of Rovigo, Minister of General Police. --Strasbourg,
7 January 1814.
My lord, the enemy approached the town yesterday, pulling up to
a half-mile. This has created a big change in people's minds. There
was shouting in the shops and cafes that the city was sold out, that the
Duke of Bellune had taken the garrison, and the city would be taken within
three days. These rumors have spread terror in the mass of people. This
terror proceeded from a natural feeling; but many of those who called the
alarm seemed very suspicious.
Accordingly, I have decided:
1o To make a proclamation to reassure the simple folk;
2o To give orders for the arrest of speakers, if they
start again today;
3o To take measures for the removal of foreign suspects
who are in Strasbourg.
I will undertake measures to ensure financial services for all circumstances…,
including in case communications are cut to Paris, and they are at least
questionable at this time.
…The forces of the enemy who have passed Fort Vauban are
little more than 8,000 to 9,000 men; but they have spread throughout the
countryside, and joined with forces that have crossed at Basel…
Finally, we need help from the center of France, and they must promise
to assist the zeal of this border city."
Defective transmission of information and news. --This
piece and the dispatch of Kellermann to Victor were certainly at this time,
valuable catches to the Allies, because they contained information that
both the Generalissimo and the commanding generals of the different corps
of the Army of Bohemia had an interest in knowing immediately. But
services of the headquarters of the different corps of the Army of Bohemia
were so fantastically organized, that it was only 12 January (four days
later) that Lieutenant General D'Aunay, Chief of Staff of the VIth Corps
shipped from Rastatt these dispatches to Schwarzenberg, whose headquarters
was at Vesoul. D'Aunay announced,
it is true, to the Generalissimo that Pahlen had communicated this information
to Wrede. If he did so, then, it leaves one trying to explain the
delay in the transmission of such important information? It is doubtful,
because it would likely, in this case, lead one to find a plausible excuse. Considering
that this is not an isolated event, we are forced to look at that relations
that existed between the various heads of columns, that the reports of
these same generals with the Generalissimo were insufficiently resolved,
and that the transmission and sending of information of interest
to these generals and the general headquarters was made in an absolutely
illogical manner and contrary to the interests of the service.
In support of our thoughts, we shall quote the no less important
letter of the pay master (comissaire d'ordonnateur) of Nancy, dated 7 January,
intercepted the same day as the previous one:
"The Young Guard will move to Épinal, Charmes and Flavigny
and the 6th cohort to Rambervillers, Raon-l'Étape and Saint-Dié. Another
cohort and other troops will be sent to the Vosges.
An army of nearly 100,000 men, consisting of a force commanded by
the Duke of Treviso, five corps of infantry and cavalry, military equipment,
and all the troops that were going to Mainz to reinforce the corps of the
Duke of Raguse, will be sent to the Departments of Meurthe and of Vosges.
It will need provisioning of food supplies across the line from
Reims to Colmar, to Épinal for 30,000 men."
But this letter, most importantly, since, besides the obvious and
probably intentional, exaggerations, it contained valuable information
on the movements of the French, was sent (which Scherbatov provides
us with proof) that 13 January to Schwarzenberg.
The late submission of information may, in a fairly large number
of cases explain the hesitation, slowness, counter-orders from higher command. It
should be understood, however, that the whole responsibility of the poor
organization of such an important service falls all the more heavily on
the commander in chief and his immediate staff, who thus missed early in
the campaign, special occasions which would have allowed them to bring
without danger decisive blows to an opponent unable to offer any serious
Positions and movements of the VIth, Vth and IVth Corps. --Pahlen
occupied on 8 January, with the uhlans of Chuguev, Baden dragoons and four
pieces of horse artillery, Saverne, where one squadron of his vanguard
was already situated for more than twenty-four hours, and pushed his outposts
to the suburbs of Phalsbourg. Prince Eugene of Württemberg,
which had a division on that date in Haguenau, sent two squadrons of the
1st Dragoons of Baden to Bitche to monitor this site; some Baden
infantry battalions had also joined them. Wittgenstein posted them
on the right bank of the Rhine at Stollhofen, where they served as reserve
troops to Gorchakov, still responsible for the investment of Kehl.
On the side of Strasbourg, Rüdinger had advanced by the roads
from La Wantzenau and Brumath, to the city that he would soon completely
invest, which he already watched around, while French troops of all arms,
outside of the city, took position in Schiltigheim and La Robertsau.
In the Vth Corps, the Austrian brigade of Minutillo came up
to Neuf-Brisach to relieve the Bavarian brigade of Maillot, which went,
in turn, to retake the positions occupied by the Austrian brigade of Volkmann
under Sélestat (Schlestadt). This movement allowed for the
redeployment of Colonel von Geramb, who crossed with three squadrons and
a battalion at Gerstheim, joining in the night of the 8th to 9th,
in Boofzheim, Colonel Scheibler, who Wrede had ordered to proceed to Saverne
and get news of the enemy. Lieutenant-Colonel Count Alberti, who
had left the day before with two squadrons of Schwarzenberg Uhlans, arrived
in Molsheim and was connected to the side of Brumath by the cavalry of
the VIth Corps. General Deroy, leading the advanced guard of
Vth Corps, was still in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, and the division
of Rechberg was posted further left and further back, watched Kaysersberg
and the neck of Bonhomme. They continued to bombard Huningue fruitlessly.
Lastly, the same day, an aide to Caulaincourt appeared at the outposts
of Deroy carrying a letter to Metternich. They took him to Colmar, to Wrede,
who sent the letter to Metternich and kept the officer in Colmar. The
answer did not arrive until the 11th; Metternich agreed in principle
to the meeting at Châtillon-sur-Seine of a congress that was to begin
to sit after the arrival of Lord Castlereagh,but set no date for the first session.
The Crown Prince of Württemberg had crossed the Vosges. The
IVth Corps was quartered from Fraize up to Bussang. Its light
troops occupied Rupt, Ramonchamp, Ventron and Remiremont. Platoff
was at Éloyes and Scherbatov scoured the country between Épinal
The information provided on this side by the emissaries, revealed
the existence of sizeable stores at Auxonne, the presence of Kellermann
at Nancy with 5,000 men, finally the existence, at Nancy, of another assemblage
under the command of Nansouty, and composed of 5,000 cavalry. The
emissary added in this connection that Nansouty lacked horses and had many
Movements of the flying corps of Thurn and cavalry of the IIIrd Corps. --Lieutenant-Colonel
Count Thurn, who, with his partisans had gone on in front of the IIIrd Corps,
continued to march toward Langres and had a small skirmish, the 8th in
the evening on the Cintrey side, where it drove in the French outposts. But
as the flying corps was too weak to push anyone to Gray, Gyulay had to
send a squadron of hussars to this side, in order to try to cut off communications
and convoys between Besançon and Langres. Gyulay
under orders from the Generalissimo, had occupied Vesoul with the Hohenlohe-Bartenstein
Division; he had encamped the Fresnel Division to the right, left and rear
of the town. The Crenneville Light Division had pushed beyond Vesoul,
and arriving in Port-sur-Saône, it had spread to its right to Conflandey,
while it threw ahead parties on the road from Langres to Combeaufontaine.
Although Thurn had preceded it in these parts and had reported the presence
of any enemy gathering, although Gyulay would have known he had little to fear
for his left, since the Ist Corps cavalry had alit on the right bank
of Doubs, before Baume-les-Dames, the Feldzeugmeister had been covered during
the entire march of the 7th, by detachments of flankers on the side of
Montbozon. "These detachments," he said in his report, "scouting
with patrols pushed to the side of the road to Besançon, have met some
vedettes of the enemy's cavalry near the village of Cendrey, occupied by a
small 20 horse strong French post."
The presence of the platoon worried Gyulay because he adds in the
same report: "I have, therefore, bordered my march from Montbozon
Échenoz-le-Sec, by flank guards, and I established posts on my left,
at Vellefaux and Andelarrot." Caution is certainly a valuable quality
in a general, but in this case, it seems that the Austrian general, knowing
that there had been 20 men at Cendrey, instead of leading a squadron to Gray
and complying strictly with the senior levels, would have acted more wisely
and logically by detaching one or two squadrons, to see if there was something,
and what, behind the Cendrey post.
Instead, he sent with the same courier to Schwarzenberg information
that had more value in the eyes of the Allied generals, that Count Gyulay
kept them from the words of characters in a position to know exactly what
was happening and that their exact position would have required more tact
and reserve, not to mention that they had to perform the duties towards
their sovereign, of not speaking of the feelings of patriotism that the
terror inspired by the invasion had temporarily stifled.
"The Count Feldzeugmeister Gyulay to Prince Schwarzenberg. --Vesoul,
8 January 1814.
The brother of General Junot is the Collector General here. He
had sent his wife for Dijon; reassured by the discipline and good conduct
of our troops, he sent her back and she arrived today, having left Dijon
before yesterday. She claims to have seen the State Councilor Ségur
arrive in Dijon, with the responsibility for organizing the mass levy, but
the people refused to listen, and the mayor said it was impossible to proceed
upon the levy in Burgundy, due to the lack of weapons and lack of men able
Ségur returned to Paris.
General Valence has tried but without success, to organize the mass
levy in the Departments of Jura, the Haute-Saône and Doubs.
Madame Junot says there has been no unrest in Paris, but that
here is much discontent.
The enemy troops, stationed at Gray, Dijon and Langres were reportedly
ordered to withdraw on the approach of the Allies to Troyes, where
there is a fairly large gathering of troops."
On the left wing there was little movement; the Austrian reserves were still
in Ornans; the IInd Corps tightened their investment of Besançon
on the left of the Doubs, while Wimpffen established on the right bank, at
Roulans-le- Grand, pushing his vanguard to Malmaison.
Bianchi bombarded Belfort, and part of the Prussian and Russian
reserves (the 2nd Division of Grenadiers and 2nd and 3rd Division
of Russian Cuirassiers) reached Altkirch. Finally, Schwarzenberg
gave that same day to Wittgenstein orders "to head south-west,
leaving Saverne, to be closer to the Austro-Bavarians of Wrede and
operate in concert with this general against Langres."
9 January. --Pahlen before Phalsbourg. --The
events of the 9th, though small in themselves, did not go well however
for the Allied arms.
On the side of the VIth Corps, the French, without being attacked,
left towards Schiltigheim and the Robertsau to return to Strasbourg, and
General Rüdinger, to be able to observe more closely the place, would
be strengthened by the 2nd Baden Dragoon Regiment moved for this
purpose to Saverne.
As for Pahlen, he was joined on this point by Olviopol Hussars and
the 4th and 34th Eiger Regiments (4th Division), that
he needed to be able to operate more efficiently toward Phalsbourg.
Vth Corps. --Order to move on Remiremont. --Wrede
had received the order at Colmar to move first on Remiremont, and thence
Langres. He immediately sent General Minutillo to invest the town
of Neuf-Brisach, General Count Pappenheim that of Sélestat, General
Baron Zollern that of Huningue, and gave the senior direction of these
three operations to General Count Beckers, whose troops (2nd Bavarian
Division) were, already employed at these places. As for himself,
he immediately set out for Saint-Dié. General Deroy (2nd Brigade
of the 3rd Bavarian Division), after crossing the Vosges at Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines,
was in position at Sainte-Marguerite. One of his battalions, supported
by some squadrons occupied Saint-Dié, at 5 miles in front of Sainte-Marguerite. Patrols
of this extreme vanguard had even pushed to the left up to a short distance
from Bruyères without encountering the enemy. In Alsace, Colonel
Scheibler, with a small flying corps was still between Obernai and Erstein,
and Lieutenant-Colonel Alberti scoured the country around Molsheim, on
one side to Mutzig, and the other to Strasbourg.
Seslavin at Bruyères. --Information. --Letter
from Victor intercepted by the Cossacks. --Seslavin who Wittgenstein
had sent from Saverne with two Cossack regiments and some hussars, was
at Bruyères, linking with the outposts of Deroy and from there he
sent to Wrede the first news of the occupation of Rambervillers by the
French cavalry and the failure experienced by Scherbatov at Épinal.
The General Seslavin to H. E. Mr. General Count Wrede, the Commander
and Chief of the Bavarian Army (original in French). --Bruyères,
9 January, 1814.
I have the honor to inform Your Excellency that, today, I came to
Bruyères, where I learned, from an officer of the detachment of
Prince Scherbatov, the following information:
The corps of the enemy under the Duke of Bellune, who was in
Raon, has concentrated on Épinal and Scherbatov, who was there,
was forced to evacuate, having been attacked by a hostile force of
all arms. An enemy cavalry division has already come to occupy
Rambervillers, and I am honored to send a letter to your Highness that
this officer has intercepted, and from which you will see the preparations
of the Duke of Bellune.
According to repeated news, there is no doubt that the French Army
rallies at Nancy, and a corps of 40,000 men has amassed at Metz."
This dispatch was accompanied by the following letter from General
Victor to Cassagne, found by the Cossacks of Scherbatov on a hussar
officer they had taken:
"Baccarat, 9 January, 1814. --M. the Captain Lassalle,
commanding Magnières, sent me the letter you wrote to him yesterday,
in which you tell him that you move on Épinal to hunt the enemy. I
must warn you that the Duke of Valmy has provided me with all the troops
of his command, including the division of voltigeurs of the Young Guard,
I asked His Excellency to bring all the troops to Charmes, under the command of General
Meunier, to whom I send my instructions, as soon as the reunion is made,
and results in marching together to the enemy with the 2nd Corps
and link you with Rambervillers, where I now have a division of dragoons.
I am told that there are 4,000 men are in Épinal, and that
it expects a larger number. Try, please, to have positive information
on their strengths, and please send them to me.
P. S. --I send you herewith a letter for the General Meunier,
I beg you to send it to him."
This second letter was not, moreover, found on the officer taken
by the Cossacks.
It seems unnecessary to emphasize the exaggerations found in the
information collected by Seslavin, and which shows there were 40,000 men
at Metz; but it is certain that taking the letter that was addressed to
General Cassagne was of real value to the Allies, because it showed at
the same time, the plans of Victor, the positions and the composition of
the troops which the Marshal had, and allowed them to get an accurate account
of the nature of the resistance that they could expect to encounter, especially
after the unfavorable affair that they had experience on the 9th,
both in the Meuse Valley and that of the Mortagne and Meurthe.
Actions at Rambervillers and Épinal. --Indeed,
while the bulk of the Vth Corps began to move forward, the IVth Corps,
continuing its march, reached Remiremont with the head of its columns, and
that its bulk was cantoned, the 9th, around Ramonchamp, Victor, finally
drove off the Allied light troops, whose presence he had reported between
Saint-Dié and Épinal, having decided to occupy Rambervillers
with the dragoon division of General Briche, who took a position in this
town after having overwhelmed and vigorously chased a party of 200 Cossacks
who had come to this bank to requisition, and had thought it unnecessary
to keep serious guard.
In the same day, a brigade of infantry of the Young Guard, under
the command of General Cassagne was moved, with a detachment of 300 horses
Scherbatov, informed by the patrol he had sent out discovered beside
Charmes the presence in front of this place (between Charmes and Épinal),
enemy parties that seemed to be the head of a strong column, wishing to learn
more completely and knowing, moreover, he was supported in the rear by the
IVth Corps, moved with his flying corps over to Charmes.
Arrived at about midway between Épinal and Charmes, he met the
French troops in motion on Épinal, who he repulsed and pursued to Pouxeux,
where he was joined by Platoff.
Platoff at Pouxeux. --His communications with the Crown
Prince of Württemberg.--The Ataman, always timid,
would give, from the day he came into the line, the first evidence of the
insurmountable weakness that he would not shake for the rest of the campaign,
these imaginary fears that paralyzed his operations, and consistently prevented
his Cossacks to do anything right, until the Czar, tired of his cowardice,
made more dangerous by the impudence of his boasting, relieved Platoff
of his command.
To enable the reader to understand how Platoff acted from the beginning
of the campaign, we feel obliged to give exact accounts and reports that
he sent the Crown Prince of Württemberg and the answers he received
from the Prince.
The Ataman Count Platoff to the Crown Prince of Württemberg
(the original in French). --From Pouxeux, 9 January 1814.
"I have the honor to inform your Royal Highness of the approach
of the enemy on Épinal.
I approached this city and have made my contact with the detachment
of Prince Scherbatov, that told me that the enemy occupied Épinal,
with four strong columns (sic) of infantry, five squadrons and three
The terrain has prevented me from reconnoitering the enemy forces
The French outposts are established before the town on the road of Pouxeux,
in the defiles, I have an idea of attacking at seven o'clock in the morning
and pushing on Épinal; but as the land occupied by the outpost is a
narrow and confined defile against which the cavalry cannot act effectively,
it must be that I use my artillery, I need troops of infantry that I am completely
lacking. I therefore request Your Highness to send me, if not four, at
least three infantry battalions
I think the enemy is in force in the city and wants to defend this
very important point."
Here's how the Crown Prince replied to the request of the Ataman:
Crown Prince of Württemberg to Count Platoff. --Remiremont,
9 January 181 4.
"I find it absolutely impossible to send even three battalions. You
evaluate the strengths of the enemy at 3,000 infantry, five squadrons,
three cannons. It should be possible for you to overcome anything
with your corps; but if the enemy is determined to resist vigorously, we
certainly will not overwhelm it with three battalions.
I would obviously like to dislodge the enemy from Épinal
very much, and if you do not succeed in your affair, I will attack it on
11th with my whole corps. In the meantime, and if it is necessary
for you to fall back, I'll post three battalions on the road to Pouxeux."
Platoff, it must be admitted, had a unique way of understanding
the duties of the commander of a corps of cavalry intended, in the minds
of the Commanders in Chief, to act in the distance, to educate the general
headquarters of the movement and plans of the enemy, only to have a group
emerge that he himself admits he could not reconnoiter, for which he thought
it necessary to request a reinforcement of three battalions.
What is certain is that the mad fears of Platoff nevertheless exerted
an influence on the resolution of the Crown Prince of Württemberg. Who
had not yet, it must be said in his defense, had an opportunity to appreciate
the true value of an officer coming from the army preceded by a reputation,
if not altogether undeserved, at least greatly exaggerated , an officer
who had accomplished once brilliant feats of arms, had it not been for
his undeniable courage, he seemed to have completely lost his former energy
and special skills that he had proven in 1812.
Inaction of the IVth Corps on January 10. --The
Crown Prince placed his corps in echelon between Éloyes and Saint-Nabord,
then waited all day for the results of the operations on the 10th that
he had discussed with Platoff and that he was to be careful in undertaking. The
Crown Prince seems, however, to have very seriously taken the new data
of Platoff, and believed him as if there was on this point and behind the
vanguard important enemy forces, responsible for covering the plains of
Lorraine and seeking to prevent the Allies' debouchments
from the Vosges. Indeed, on the evening of the 9th, in preceding
Schwarzenberg the apparition of a French corps had driven off Scherbatov at
Épinal , and despite the order to turn left to bear on Langres, he stated
that, as the French corps could force Platoff to withdraw to Pouxeux, it was
almost certain that they take the same road that leads from Remiremont by Bains,
Vauvillers, Jussey and Fayl-Billot on Langres, and he would be forced to march
right on the Épinal "to drive the enemy from this important point
he said, "the enemy could cut off our communications with Remiremont and
prevent the Schaeffer Brigade and the troops who followed from debouching. If
I attack Épinal," he said further, "I allow my park and my
convoys at Plombières to keep in touch with Vesoul and the great army,
and avoid whatever happens, from forcing me back on the Vosges."
Barclay de Tolly probably shared the concerns raised by the Crown
Prince of Württemberg and believed, like him, in the presence of considerable
forces, behind Épinal, since in a letter he addressed to Schwarzenberg
from Altkirch dated the 10th, he said he had
ordered Scherbatov to be supported by Crown Prince.
According to documents we have cited, we realize the concern that
a major offensive movement as little as one in question here, caused in
the Allied General Staff. One might wonder if acting aggressively
with everything he had at hand, with reinforcements sent from Nancy, Victor
could not have succeeded in not only slowing and significantly delaying
the progress of the Allied columns still occupied with crossing the Vosges,
but to prohibiting access of the Allies to the Moselle basin, even threatening
the communications of the troops of the grand Army of Bohemia marching
on Langres and Vesoul. Such a result would only have been temporary,
but in the situation that France was in, it was important above all to
try to gain time by stopping the Allies as long as possible and taking
full advantage of this lesser occasions. This is what seems to have
been feasible on 10 January and which unfortunately had not been done.
Certainly, on the other hand, even a well managed and successful
offensive operations of the Duke of Bellune would only gain two or three
days. The Marshal was forced to withdraw as soon as he was aware
of the retreat that Marmont executed at that time from the Saar towards
the Moselle, and he would have found himself threatened on his left and
his rear by the march of the cavalry and the vanguard of the Army of Silesia
directed from Château-Salins on Lunéville and Nancy.
9 January. --Check of the flying corps of Thurn at Langres.--The
day of 9th had been much better for the flying corps of Lieutenant
Colonel Thurn, who scouted the front of the IIIrd Corps moving
on Langres. With some caution and circumspection, it would have
been easy for the little corps to avoid the lesson it received.
Thurn, who arrived with his corps at the Griffonotte, had the idea
of taking possession of Langres alone. He thought that the occupation
of that city would not present more difficulties than that of Vesoul and
hoped to obtain there reports on certain locations and strengths of the
French troops that were known to move on this point. Convinced that
he would overwhelm Langres without firing a shot, Thurn sent before him
an officer, accompanied by two hussars charged with announcing his arrival
to the mayor and summoning the commander of arms to surrender the city. Even after
two hours he had yet to hear from that officer and that silence should
have been worrisome and made them understand that it was necessary to act
cautiously, not in the least effected by the fact however, he directed
his vanguard on Langres. The latter, under the command
of Captain Burckhardt, entered without incident along the suburb through
which passes the road of Vesoul. It had already passed the gates
of the city, when suddenly it came to a troop of cavalry of the Guard (advanced
guard of Marshal Mortier) who had arrived in Langres. Strongly attacked
in front by the cavalry supported by the gendarmerie and the men of the
levy, shot at by people who had taken up arms, the detachment of Captain
great pain managed to get out of the city and the suburbs and to fall back
Action against armed peasants of Chaudenay. --During
this retreat, the Austrian hussars found themselves again on the verge
of being completely cut off. The peasants of Chaudenay a village
that they were forced to cross, had taken up arms spontaneously, and killed
one officer and 12 men.
Here, follows, in the words of Thurn himself, the report to Schwarzenberg
of his failed coup de main at Langres, a coup de main, as we shall show,
whose scope and consequences the Allies could not have predicted.
Lieutenant-Colonel Count Thurn to Prince Schwarzenberg. --Fayl-Billot,
9 January 181 4, 9 o'clock at night.
"I have the honor to inform Your Highness that Mortier arrived
with his advanced guard in Langres and I have entered the suburbs with
The people invited us to enter, saying that they were waiting with
impatience for a long time. The patrol heads had already passed a
number of houses, when it was greeted by a volley, by gunfire from the
rooftops and fired by the men of the levy(conscripts), Departmental
guard and supported by some line infantrymen.
The patrol withdrew on my vanguard.
The village of Chaudenay, by which I was obliged to pass by retiring,
was armed during this time and we had to force our way through sword in
hand. We have inflicted heavy losses on the farmers. I made
some prisoners belonging to the Italian regiments, who assure me that Mortier
will tomorrow, 10 January, have 30,000 men in Langres and other troops
have arrived today from Gray.
I lost in these actions the Lieutenant Schlachter. Captain Burckhardt,
having had a horse killed under him, was wounded in the leg: four of my hussars
I am informed that the enemy moves in force against Fayl-Billot. I'll
watch it and slowly remove myself, if I am forced, on Combeau-Fontaine, where
the vanguard of Count Gyulay is located."
The population begins to arm itself. --In
the report he sent two days after to the Emperor of Austria, Schwarzenberg announced
to his sovereign that "in the presence of a general levy that
the enemy seeks to organize," he immediately prescribed Feldzeugmeister
Count Gyulay to "move on Langres with forced marches."
But Gyulay was still in Vesoul, where he had used the 9th to give some
rest to his troops. It was only the 11th that his vanguard reached
Combeau-Fontaine, its extreme posts occupied Fayl-Billot, and 14th that
most of the IIIrd Corps came to Langres that the cavalry division of
General Laferrière (2,567 men, 2,695 horses ) had occupied since the
10th and the division of Friant (5,885 men and 148 horses), since the
11th. For the first time since its arrival in France, the center
of the main Allied Army would encounter a semblance of resistance.
It seems, however, that Schwarzenberg immediately recognized the importance
that was seen in the action of Langres, the gravity of taking for granted facts
in themselves inconsiderable; and while this was certainly an insignificant
check, it could be fraught with consequences, because for the first time since
the entry of the Allies in France, the inhabitants had taken up the fight. The
organization of the levée en masse had so far produced no result and
it would still take some time before the measure could be applied in general
and to take a truly disturbing character. The causes of the apathy that
had appeared during the first weeks of January 1814 if they are many and varied,
are interesting to look at and consider. It would be wrong indeed to
believe that the hesitation, by putting forth a call to arms of the populace,
came, as some have tried to demonstrate, due to the unpopularity of the Emperor. For
the people, but especially for the peasants, Napoleon was then, as he has always
remained the greatest warrior of all time, the triumphant Caesar who had vanquished
and conquered Europe, which, alone appeared strong enough to face the world
coalition against him. In his lifetime, he had already become a legend,
of which neither retreat from Russia, nor the disaster of Leipzig, nor the
invasion had been able to diminish the slightest bit of prestige that his name
exercised and always exercised on the masses. He was still, always and
especially in the eyes of the people, the wonderful man whose presence made
the discouraged find trust, whose voice electrified the conscripts and gave
soldiers a fire as strong as the oldest veterans of the Guard. The real
cause of this indifference, as vandalism and brutality of the Cossacks and
the Prussians were soon to dispel, came rather because the people, tired of
wars that claimed the country for over twenty years, were exhausted by the
sacrifices that had been requested since 1795 and especially since the Empire,
perhaps abused in principle by the false promises contained in the proclamation
of the Allied sovereigns, even dazzled by the memory of past victories, could
not believe the invasion and ignorant of the horrors it would bring in its
train, were willing to see the Allies, not as liberators, but as the tools
to bring peace in the world in which France did not aspire any less strongly
than the rest of Europe.
Finally, what had hitherto failed to make the people consider the reality of
the situation as it already had been since the beginning of the invasion, was
an example. They hesitated, they doubted because it was believed that
the local resistance, resistance improvised in every town, every village would
be pointless and draw on these cities, the villages terrible reprisals. The
impetus was now given, the firing of the inhabitants of Langres and the peasants
of Chaudenay would be repeated in all Champagne, Burgundy, Lorraine, Alsace. The
people have now found its way, it was recaptured; knowing now what is expected
of it, it was now making an exact count of results that could be produced by
its armed intervention, it would no longer hesitate to do its duty bravely. So
far justice has neglected the actions of the armed peasants they deserve and
to highlight the magnitude of the role they played during the sad days of the
invasion. We won't astonish, therefore, if we insist in this work, to
speak of their service, of the evil they did to the Allies, and if we deliver
to the public the available parts that relate to their bold strikes, especially
those that we were able to see and retrieve from the archives of the Imperial
and Royal Ministry of War in Vienna. Finally, before returning to the
movements of the Allies during the day of 9 January, it should be added that
if the burghers of Langres and the peasants of Chaudenay were the first to
take up arms, they were also almost the last to the lay them down along with
the people of Fayl-Billot and surrounding areas.
Positions of the other corps of great army during the 9th. --The
other corps of the great army had continued to march on the 9th in
their usual slow manner. Gyulay had, as we said, stopped in Vesoul;
behind him, the Ist Corps did the same in Villersexel. Two brigades
of General Bianchi, relieved in Belfort by the Russian grenadiers of Rayevsky,
had started the march on Lure and Vesoul. The Austrian reserves were
still motionless in Ornans, and the IInd Corps was assigned to the
blockade of Besançon. The headquarters of Barclay de Tolly had been
transferred from Altkirch in Chavannes-sur-l'Étang.
Key to Map #5
IInd Corps & Austrian Reserves (Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg) After
debouching from the mountains at Flangebouche the majority of the corps was
still located below Besançon at Hôpital du Gros-Bois, while leaving
some troops at Fort de Joux. Two divisions of the four divisions of the
Austrian Reserves reached Pontarlier nearby the 4 January, and painfully moved
to Villafans, Ornans and Étalans by the 6th. The 7th the
IInd Corps crossed the Doubs at Baume-les-Dames, while the reserves moved
slowly on Besançon. By the 9th, the IInd Corps
had been assigned to blockade Besançon, while the Reserves moved to
Bianchi Division -Bianchi after bombarding and calling on the surrender of
Belfort, was relieved by the Russian grenadiers of the Rayevsky and moved on Lure
and Vesoul by the 9th .
Ist Corps (M. Liechtenstein) and the 2nd Light Division (Colloredo)
-The bulk of the corps reached Delle replacing the IIIrd Corps while
the Ignatius Hardegg Division remained in the valley of the Doubs at Clerval
and Pont-de Roide watching the evacuation of Baume-les-Dames east of Besançon. The
division of Wimpffen was detached on Héricourt to support on the right
bank of the Doubs the enterprise of the Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg on Besançon. By
the 9th they had moved on Vesoul reaching Villersexel.
IIIrd Corps & Crenneville Division (Gyulay) -Schwarzenberg order
the movement of the IIIrd Corps from Montbéliard to occupy Vesoul
were current the flying column of Count v. Thurn was alone. The vanguard
reached Villersexel the 6th, while the main body was at Vellechevreux
and the reunited Crenneville Division at Ronchamp. Count v. Thurn taking
Port-sur-Saône the 6th, Crenneville occupied it the 7th. The
vanguard of Gyulay reached Vesoul, while the bulk had not passed Villersexel
and Crenneville was at Mollans. Thurn moved from Vesoul on Langres and
after a slight skirmish at Cintrey on the 8th, was in Griffonote the
9th. A small party of cavalry was ambushed by troops and armed
citizens and pushed back to Fayl-Billot, where the extreme vanguard of Gyulay
met them the 11th with the bulk of the IIIrd Corps in Combeau-Fontaine.
Vth (Bavarian) Corps (Wrede) -Largely at Colmar, it moved to invest
Sélestat the 5th and relieve the Württembergers at the investment
of Neuf-Brisach. The Brigades of Deroy and LaMotte moved through the
Vosges towards Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines occupying the neck of the passage, while
the Bavarian cavalry under Scheibler was at Boofzheim. Depleted
by the investments of Huningue, Neuf-Brisach and Sélestat they moved
on Remiremont through Saint-Dié and Sainte-Marguerite, while the vanguard approached
Bruyères. In Alsace,
Colonel Scheibler, with a small flying corps was still between Obernai and
Erstein, and Lieutenant-Colonel Alberti scoured the country around Molsheim,
on one side to Mutzig, and the other to Strasbourg.
IVth Corps (Crown Prince of Württemberg) -Relieved at Neuf-Brisach
by the Württembergers began their move on Remiremont to exploit the success
of Scherbatov. Rather than following Milhaud through the passage at Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines,
they went south through Cernay following Scherbatov through the pass at Bussang. The
partisans of Platoff who were to precede them moved through Saint-Weiler, arrived
at Thann on the 6th and continued its march on Épinal (already
occupied by Scherbatov) by way of Saulxures and Éloyes. Scherbatov
pushed beyond Épinal reaching Charmes only to discover the French behind
him about midway between Épinal and Charmes, assaulting them and pushing
them back on Pouxeux where Platoff was. The Crown Prince in anticipation
of an attack of Platoff on Épinal on the 10th was located in support
VIth Russian Corps (Wittgenstein) -While the cavalry of Pahlen & Selifontov
spread out moving south west and north to unite with the Army of Silesia, Wittgenstein
had only moved his headquarters to Rastatt and his outposts were on a line
from Haguenau to Wissembourg and Spire. The 8th Pahlen occupied
Saverne, pushing patrols on Sarrebourg and Phalsbourg, while the infantry moved
to Haguenau, Rœschwoog, Benfeld and Mutzig. The 9th Pahlen was
before Phalsbourg, while the infantry moved closer to Strasbourg, and the cavalry
of Seslavin united with the outposts of Wrede at Bruyères after being
moved from Saverne by Wittgenstein.
Russian Reserves (Barclay de Tolly) -The reserves with the exception of Colonel
Scherbatov and Lieutenant Colonel Count v. Thurn had moved slowly from Basel
reaching Altkirch with the 2nd Grenadier Division and 2nd and 3rd Division of Russian Cuirassiers the
8th. The grenadiers of Rayevsky relieved the division of Bianchi
before Belfort the 9th.
1st Light Division (Bubna) -After the taking of Geneva, Bubna had slowly
made his way into France, and by the 6th his cavalry had taken the bridge at
Dole, while the infantry had reached Poligny and Salins where it received orders
to move on Lyon. One of its brigades having been allocating with watching
Savoy since the capture of Geneva.
The French forces had been ordered to hold on the Rhine, however seeing himself
threatened upstream by the Bavarians and Württembergers and downstream
by the Russians with being trapped at Strasbourg Victor resolved to fall back
on Raon-l'Étape liking with the 5th Cavalry Corps of Milhaud. Ségur
with the Guards of Honor remained near Phalsbourg screening the advance of
the Russians. Victor had Grouchy post a dragoon division at Rambervillers
and the other was staggered from Gerbéviller
to Roville-aux-Chênes. These were supported by the Division of
Duhesme at Raon-l'Étape.
The remainder of Victor's forces were staged at Baccarat . The 1st Division
of Young Guard and the troops being gathered for the 4th Division (Cassagne & Rousseau)
were moved from Nancy towards Charmes with two batteries the 5-6th and
was to stand on Épinal. Elements encountered Scherbatov on the
9th. The Old Guard Divisions &
Reserves under Mortier were still moving on Langres and elements of Guard cavalry
and gendarmerie threw back Thurn the 9th.
had at the time on 9 January, searched to justify his retirement. Writing
the Chief of Staff, he observed that in moving on Saverne, he
had merely carried out the orders Berthier had given him in the name of the
Emperor and by which he recommended not to allow cutting the road from
of Milhaud and Memoirs of Grouchy. (Archives of the War).
Belliard had asked Berthier that he confer to one of three marshals (Ney, Victor
and Marmont), supreme command, so there would be no conflict of authority between
them. (Belliard, Correspondence, Depot of the War).
Victor had, 6 January at nine o'clock in the evening, sent from Baccarat the
Chief of Staff a report in which he tried to justify and explain his retirement. "He
was to have," he says, "everyone at Molsheim the 3rd; but General
Milhaud was attacked at the time the movement began and would, therefore, be
in Molsheim the 4th."
The Marshal added that at this time a column of Allied
troops, that of the right, marched on Saverne, that Milhaud was followed by
another column, and a third one, that of Frimont, moved by Saint-Amarin on
Remiremont; that both sides were threatened, that communication with Saverne
was compromised and he had also learned that Marshal Marmont could not join
"In moving on Saverne as I intended," wrote the Marshal, "I
could meet the enemy, whose advance guard was already at Hochfelden, and would
be followed by the column that attacked Milhaud. Because of the imbalance
of forces, and further to prevent Frimont from debouching at Raon-l'Étape,
I turned on the 5th by Mutzig and arrived on the 6th at noon at
Raon. I left Duhesme with 5 battalions, the light cavalry of the 5th Corps
and a battery of horse artillery to observe the communications of Saint-Blaise
and Rambervillers, and I posted the rest of the infantry, dragoons and artillery
at Baccarat, …I have, continues the Marshal, formed the plan to fall
back on Phalsbourg to cover this side of communications of Nancy and of Metz,
but, having learned that the enemy showed themselves in Saint-Dié, I
thought I should stay here until the orders of his Majesty, and I left below
Saverne, General Ségur with 1,400 horse of the Guards of Honor. (Archives
of Depot of the War).
K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 205, c.
to Schwarzenberg, from Rastatt, 12 January, K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I,
K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 281.
to Schwarzenberg, in camp near Châtel, 13 January, 1814. (K. K. Kriegs
Archiv., I, 284.)
des bagerischen Majors Fürsten Taxis vom Feldzuge 1812-1814, hauptsächlich
die bayerische Armee betreffend (written in his own hand).
(K. K. Kriegs Archiv., 1814, XIII, 32.)
K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30 and I, 155.
of emissaries (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, l55, b.)
Count Thurn to Feldzeugmeister Count Gyulay. --Cintrey,
9 January 1814, six in the morning.
"Your Excellency, seeing myself prescribed by order of H. H. Prince Schwarzenberg,
to move faster towards Langres and try to get in, I immediately started last
night after you sent your outposts to Combeaufontaine.
At Cintrey, I met an enemy patrol of 15 chasseurs who withdrew on Fayl-Billot,
where there was one officer and 37 chasseurs, that the tip of my advanced guard
surprised and dislodged. The officer who commands my advanced guard informs
me that several enemy chasseurs were wounded, he lost a man and he pushes towards
Langres, where there is a general with more depots.
As I continue my movement on Langres, and I do not want to lose the benefits
of the affair tonight, I am absolutely unable to undertake anything against
I hope to level Langres and I still move then, if possible, on Gray, but I
beg to inform Y. H. that according to the information I collected, all enemy
convoys may have left Gray." (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 168 a.)
K. Kriegs Archiv. Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt Armee. (K.
K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30. and Gyulay report to Schwarzenberg, I, 168.)
of Gyulay to Schwarzenberg, from Vesoul, 8 January, 1814. K. K. Kriegs
Archiv., I, 159.
K. Kriegs Archiv., ad. l, 159.
this moment, Grouchy, by order of Victor, prescribed to General de Ségur
only to leave 200 horse with a squadron commander at Sarrebourg and come in
two marches to Rambervillers, through Blamont , Ogéviller, Flin and
Magnières. The General of France had come to Rambervillers to
take command of the four regiments of Guards of Honor.
K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 201, t.
K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 201, s.
 See, Archives
of Depot of the War: Memoirs of Grouchy and journal of Petiet.
der Haupt Armee (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30), and Operations Journal
of IVten Army Corps. (Ibid., XIII, 56.)
to the Prince of Württemberg. K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, I73, a.
Prince of Württemberg to Platoff. K. K. Kriegs Archiv., 1, 173, b.
Prince of Württemberg to Schwarzenberg; Remiremont 9 January. K.
K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 173.
Prince of Württemberg to Schwarzenberg; Remiremont 9 January. K.
K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 202.
I often need to dwell on the singular nature of the relations between Allied
generals, to highlight the mistakes resulting from lack of unity in leadership;
conflicts that occurred almost daily between leaders in the very highest positions,
I felt obliged to quote the following letter from Barclay to Schwarzenberg. Everyone
we see, gives orders without even bothering to confer with the Generalissimo;
then, when the orders were put into execution and Schwarzenberg learns of them
that way, and only then, that it was done without his knowledge, one tries
to explain more or less successfully, the reasons for these movements and to
gain his endorsement, while seeming to have guessed his plans and intentions. Barclay's
letter is obviously inspired by a feeling of this nature.
Barclay de Tolly to Schwarzenberg. --Altkirch, 9 January, 1814. "The
General Count Toll informs me that he had given orders for Platoff to go to Épinal,
and that Your Highness, however, wished to see him go to Neufchâteau. I
had only ordered Platoff to eventually reassemble Scherbatov in passing by Épinal,
and immediately occupy the city, to continue his movement on Mirecourt towards
Neufchâteau, urging him to send the party there at Bar-le-Duc and to link
on the left at Langres with the Austrians, on the right with Prince Scherbatov
that Your Highness sends on Nancy.
We will leave at Épinal, as support to cover the communications, some
Cossacks who will remain there until the arrival of the troops of the Crown
Prince of Württemberg." (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 174.)
is the text of the summons of Thurn:
"The commander of the vanguard of the Allied Armies to the Commander of
the City of Langres.
I charge you, Monsieur Commander, to give up the city to the arms of
the victorious army; it would be useless to make a vain resistance, my strengths
are such that the city cannot resist; I warn you to spare the city from the
scourge of war that would follow.
I am with every consideration." (Archives of the Depot
of the War.)
aus der Geschichte of K. K. Husaren Regiments no. 3, Erzherzog Ferdinand
and Tagesbegebenheiten Haupt der Armee. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30.)
K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 170.
to the Emperor of Austria, from Villersexel, 14 January (K. K. Kriegs Archiv.,
I, 238 and ad. I, 238). Schwarzenberg said in these reports that Mortier
did not have 30,000 men in Langres, the news gathered by Gyulay and Thurn contradict
this initial information, that one only met in Troyes conscripts and they had
cadres of troops.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: April 2011
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