Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

The Campaign of 1814: Chapter Two Part VI

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.

Positions of the Ist Corps and Reserves.  --March of the cuirassiers of Duka.  --The Ist Corps quartered the 14th at Pierrecourt and Malvillers.[1] The division of Wimpffen in marching on Dijon, had crossed the Saône at Gray and marched towards Mirebeau; the Austrian Reserves were waiting in vain for the completion of bridges on the Saône to get to the right bank, and their chief took advantage of this stop to reconnoiter Auxonne.

The guards and reserves of the Russians and Prussians reached Dannemarie and Giromagny.

The division of cuirassiers of Duka (3rd Cuirassier Division) marched by Lure and Vesoul on Fayl-Billot, in the end to join as soon as possible Gyulay and reinforce the very weak cavalry of the IIIrd Corps.

Instructions from the Emperor to his Lieutenants.  --Whether he hoped to achieve with his reproaches to inspire their extinguished passion, to rekindle the cooled zeal of his Marshals, or whether he really thought that the size of the Grand Army was that he stated in his general instructions of 12 January, it is nonetheless certain that Napoleon,[2] after recognizing that the enemy was operating in three masses, one against General Maison, in Belgium, the other led by Blücher, maneuvering against Marmont, that he seemed to believe, touched the third of Schwarzenberg, after having detached 20,000 men to Besançon, 20,000 men to watch the Swiss, 20,000 to 25,000 men to cover places in Germany, it was to be contained by the corps of the Duke of Trévise in Langres, the Prince of the Moskowa at Nancy and Épinal, and the Duke of Bellune in the Vosges.  "These three marshals, said the Emperor, should communicate among themselves; we must retake the gorges of the Vosges, barricade them, to reunite the National Guard, the Gardes-Champêtres, the Gardes Forestiers, and volunteers, and if, finally, the enemy forces penetrate into the interior, these three corps will block their way, always covering the road to the capital, ahead of which the Emperor gathers an army of 100,000 men."

Position of the French corps. - But when Napoleon wrote these instructions, especially when Berthier sent the orders and which said among other things, that Ney had to gain time until 15 February[3], the situation had changed. The IVth Corps had knocked off Épinal, Gyulay was on Langres, Wrede had crossed the Vosges, Wittgenstein had only to exercise a simple military march to arrive on the banks of the Meuse and the riders of Blücher approached Nancy.  Victor, thrown back by the IVth and Vth Corps, threatened on one of his wings by the Army of Silesia, on the other by the movement of the Crown Prince of Württemberg, recalled to the rear by the Prince of the Moskowa, had gained Nancy and joined Ney, who was connected on his left with Marmont.  Ney and Victor, instead of operating in unison with Mortier, had therefore, disengaged, in closing with Marmont with which they would now operate against the Army of Silesia.  It seems, however, that the Emperor was unaware of the precarious state of the others were in between the 2nd and the 5th Cavalry Corps, for here is what Grouchy wrote the Chief of Staff on this subject from Toul, 15 January:[4]

"My Lord,

It is with great sorrow, I am forced to educate Your Highness on the significant losses experienced by the cavalry by desertion…The causes of this evil, so disturbing in its progress, are the suffering of the soldiers who have not been paid, who receive almost no rations and is frowned upon and treated badly by the (local) inhabitants…

On the other hand, the severe weather that has developed since the cavalry crossed back over the Vosges and the long marches that we made have destroyed a large number of horses.  There was not a horse shod for ice and not a regiment with funds to support this urgent expenditure.  Since Baccarat up to Toul the 5th Corps of Cavalry, artillery and two regiments of Guards of Honor have lost more than 300 horses left behind, who had broken legs. . ."

The two reports that General Piré addressed the same day to General Grouchy[5] are even more distressing:

General Piré to General Grouchy.  -Gondreville. 15 January, 1814,  9 o'clock in the morning.

"My general,

I do not know in what strength the enemy entered Nancy.[6]  We have seen that there are uhlans.  It seems that a few Honor Guards were kidnapped this morning by Cossacks…my division bivouacs behind Gondreville.  It is with great sorrow that I am forced to report to you that desertion has established itself in my division.  Ten elite hussars of the 3rd Hussars and cavalrymen of the 11th and  27th chasseurs went over to the enemy; they were all true soldiers; the company complained of being poorly paid, badly clothed ..."

The second letter is from the same day, at two o'clock in the afternoon:

"My general

"I was forced by my position, to spend the day with bridle in hand, just to prevent my entire division from being exposed to being taken.  The enemy will surely come en masse to force me to retire on Dommartin, that I would not have time to do if I was in Gondreville, even less if the enemy arrived by the road leading to Pont-Saint-Vincent.

Indeed, I must say, that  in the current state of roads and the shoeing, which my cavalry has fallen victim of, has been greatly compromised.  Personally, I have traveled far on foot from Nancy: judge for yourself the others.

You cannot ignore, Sir, that the German cavalry is carefully metalled and that the Cossacks are not but their horses run very well on the ice.

My presence here does little but compromise my division, because, at the approach of the enemy, I will be forced to retire as a mere outpost, and it will mean that my horses will suffer horribly and that in a few days, my division will no longer exist.  Moreover, how should I sustain it?  Gondreville is devastated and we have found no  straw."

It is therefore obvious that the Emperor, when he gave the orders to the Marshals of which we have just spoken, was not aware of the pitiful state in which his troops were in.

"You deceived the Emperor; you whose closeness was not out of love and whom he showered with honors and money; you betrayed him;" these are the words of indignation, written fifteen days previously by General Pajol, in a private letter he sent 30 December 1813, to his brother-in-law, Victor Oudinot[7]; a letter which also helps reveal certain errors committed by Napoleon at this time, errors that his genius would allow him to repair, within limits, as soon as he arrived at the army, when he would no longer be reduced to only seeing through the eyes of others.

In returning, the manner of operation of the Allies isn't only that it is most puzzling, that despite their slow march, despite the timidity perhaps due to some of their cavalry generals, but in its failure to explain their profound ignorance and movements given the precarious situation of some troops that they had opposed to them.

15 January.   --Cavalry of the VIth Corps in Sarrebourg.  --Wittgenstein, in fact, continued to be easily deterred by some severely wounded defending Phalsbourg, Bitche and small places of the Petite-Pierre and Lichtenberg, that he could have, without any danger, left behind by merely observing them.  In doing so, it would have allowed Pahlen to move forward from the 5th or 6th of January.  He could have done so even more strongly, with the detachment of General Seslavin from the 15th, that arrived that day in Saverne.  Despite this, the cavalry of the VIth Corps never got much beyond Sarrebourg, where naturally they encountered no one and merely timidly watched the road of Blâmont and that of Phalsbourg at Nancy by Fénestrange,[8] however, it did send several scouts up to Lunéville.

The cavalry of the Vth Corps, at Bayon,  is connected by its left with the scouts of Blücher.  --Evacuation of Nancy by the French.  --The vanguard of the Vth Corps, though having nothing before it since the retirement of Victor, only pushed, by the 14th, up to Bayon; its scouts only went up to Nancy, and a small party of cavalry under the command of Captain Baron von Grafenreuth of the Light Horse Regiment No. 5 (Württemberg), who had gone on to Lunéville met, north of this town a patrol of Sacken's corps. The officer immediately informed Wrede of the arrival at Château-Salins, since the 14th, of General Sacken and a division of dragoons.  Wrede,[9] by transmitting such news to Schwarzenberg, added that the levée en masse could not be done in the Department of Meurthe; it was said in Lunéville that the Guard was between Paris and Châlons, where the Emperor gathered the troops for battle; finally, that Marmont fell back on his side of Metz on Châlons.  The commander of Vth Corps ended his dispatch to the Generalissimo announcing he would move, the 18th his left to Mirecourt, his right to Colombey-aux-Belles-Femmes (Colombey-les-Belles), and he would be, the 19th, at the heights of Neufchâteau.

He had that same day, moved his headquarters from Comar to Saint-Dié and had, beginning with their departure from Colmar and during his course, been repeatedly hit by shooting of marksmen, who sheltered in the nearby woods along the route followed by the columns, directed on the general, his escort, on the isolated stragglers and convoys.[10]

The news of the evacuation of Nancy by the French, was again confirmed by a dispatch from Scherbatov[11] to Schwarzenberg, who wrote to the Prince after having been joined in Vézelise by an officer of General Prince of Biron.  This last had also conveyed information to Scherbatov of the abandonment by the French, of the bridge at Flavigny, and the continuation of their retirement towards Toul, a point to which had Scherbatov moved from the 16th in the morning.

Pursuant to the orders given him by the Generalissimo, Wrede had dissolved after the13th, the flying corps of Colonel Scheibler and sent his aide, Prince von Thurn und Taxis, to contact the Field-Marshal Blücher and General Count Pahlen with instructions from Schwarzenberg, who prescribed to the Vth Corps to move on Neufchâteau to confer there with the main body of Blücher that stopped at Metz.  Wrede who confirmed in the dispatch he sent to Schwarzenberg, the evacuation of Lunéville and the French retreat, was forced to admit that in the country,  it was very difficult to obtain emissaries.[12]

Nature of the relations between the Allied generals.  --Since we have, in this dispatch, talk of sending the Major Prince Thurn und Taxis to be with Blücher, it seems it would be appropriate to dwell briefly on the nature of relations between the Allied generals.

The correspondence in this period between the main Allied commanders, in fact, is all the more curious to see that it allows us to get an accurate account of the wrangling that had not ceased to exist between them throughout the course of campaign.

Almost from the start of operations, Wrede was critical in the strongest terms of the measures taken by Schwarzenberg, measures that, as we have said, reduced the size of this Vth Corps on 15 January to less than 30,000 men, a result of the detachments the Generalissimo had forced the Bavarian general to leave before Sélestat, Huningue and Neuf-Brisach, which held out well until the armistice.  These wrangling threatened to turn sour, and only the tact of Schwarzenberg succeeded in calming, though only in part, the sensitivity of Wrede.

The historian of Wrede, Major General Heilmann, in the same way is obliged to find and cite the letter that Schwarzenberg addressed, in this regard, to the vanquished of Hanau, 15 January:  "This is not an easy task for me to reconcile the different ways of duty, the diverse interests that arise and occur inevitably in any Allied army."

General Heilmann, approving of the words of Schwarzenberg, notes, moreover, that Wrede considered himself as the equal and not subordinate of the Prince of Schwarzenberg, as in his correspondence with the Chief, he never employed words respectfully or obediently, and contented himself by using simple formula of: I have the honor.

General Heilmann reports the desire for independence expressed by Wrede, who immediately after crossing the Rhine, began to correspond directly with Blücher.  He had expressed his criticism and his complaints, motivated, no doubt, by the slow progress of operations, the lightness and inconsistency that existed at the headquarters  of Schwarzenberg, and had expressed a desire to operate in concert with him.  It must be recognized that Blücher appeared, in principle, to approve and encourage the attitude of Wrede, and so he wrote him from Kusel, 7 January:

"Your Excellency has made it known through the Major Prince of Thurn and Taxis, that he wanted to operate in concert with me against the enemy.  I am on my side, ready to accept your cooperation, and Your Excellency, after having read my current position, will certainly not fail to perform certain movements which I request you to inform me of.  From all the information I have, the enemy is in a most critical situation, a situation that invites us to give battle, all the better, because of the superiority of our cavalry, a lost or undecided battle cannot have fatal consequences for us, while the enemy, however, will be obliged to accept every chance and risk everything.  I have ordered General of Infantry von Sacken to try to connect through Bitche or through Saarwerden with the corps of Count Wittgenstein."

Once Schwarzenberg learned of the correspondence without his knowledge between Blücher and Wrede, and the intent clearly expressed by the Bavarian General to act absolutely as he wished, he informed Blücher, says General Heilmann, that he had forbidden Wrede from further expanding his shift to the right, he was notified by order that he was considered an integral part of the grand army, and had, therefore, to be connected to it.  This statement of Schwarzenberg was to put an end to the unacceptable state of affairs and force Wrede to calm his desire for independence.  Wrede, in fact, in sending, 15 January, Prince v. Thurn und Taxis to Blücher's headquarters, did not dare to deliver a report in the following terms:  "I just sent my aide-de-camp Major Prince v. Thurn und Taxis, to  Lieutenant General Count Pahlen and to the Field Marshal von Blücher to inform them of my progress and ask them to show as much on their side."

Blücher himself also changed his tone in his correspondence with Wrede, as evidenced by the following letter which he handed to Major Prince v. Thurn und Taxis in Château-Salins:

"I sincerely thank Your Excellency for the information contained in his letter of Saint-Dié, 15 January, that He (Y. E.) sent me through M. the Quartermaster Prince of Thurn and Taxis and his aide.  In seeking to link myself with Count Wittgenstein, at the moment when I learned of the direction followed by the 2nd Corps of the enemy that your Excellency was driving before him, I thought it useful to move myself to Nancy, with one part to cover the right wing of the Grand Army, the other to avoid the six strongholds so close to each other which are located north of Nancy.

But if the enemy threw garrisons in all these places, their supplies are very incomplete, and their garrisons are composed largely of conscripts.  I have therefore been investing Saarlouis; tomorrow I'll blockade Metz, Thionville and Luxembourg, not that I intend to dilute my strength, but because I hope in this way to deceive the enemy as to my intentions and cover the march of the IInd Prussian Corps, which moves from Coblentz, by Trèves (Trier), on the Meuse.  Tomorrow, 17 January,  I will be with about 30,000 men in Nancy, and I have directed one column by Pont-à-Mousson, on Commercy.  The blockade troops are concentrated in Saint-Mihiel, and myself, with, most of my strength, will march from Nancy on Toul and Ligny, unless Prince Schwarzenberg wants me to perform another movement.

From the information I have, the enemy is concentrated around Châlons.  It was around this point that the corps of Marmont and Victor retired.  The enemy seems to me to be much less willing to seek an action, and that travelers I have met tell me the Old Guard is on the march to Reims.  I believe that up to Châlons I will not need the concurrence of Your Excellency, concurrence which I know from experience to be able count on at the decisive moment.  I think it will be the same for the great army.  In my humble opinion, I therefore believe that Your Excellency, will comply as fully contented with the desires contained in the letter of His Highness the Prince v. Schwarzenberg, the letter your Excellency sent me, if He approaches me somewhat on it, and Neufchâteau seems to be the most advantageous for a movement of this kind.  Anyway I pray Your Excellency to let me know the direction He has taken, so I can adjust my movements accordingly.  Count Wittgenstein will only be before Saverne the 21st, according to the news he sent me yesterday; it seems difficult to me that he can come into the line, although the patrols sent by the advance guard of Sacken have met yesterday the detachments of General von Pahlen at Lunéville. I am pleased to have Your Excellency on my side and will not fail to inform all those following my movements that might be of interest to you."

Nevertheless, we see that Wrede could not suddenly resign himself to come under the command of Schwarzenberg, and this is what he wrote to Blücher, from Rambervillers, 17 January:

"I learned with great pleasure that Your Excellency's army was considerably closer to us.  My headquarters will be today at Charmes, the 18th at Mirecourt and the 19th at Neufchâteau.  All news received makes me believe that the enemy will seek to amass and post around Châlons and Paris the few troops it can still muster.  It will therefore follow, that as soon as possible, (we must) deliver there or, where we meet, a battle whose outcome, given the precarious state of its army, can only be decisive.  I pray your Excellency to let me know if I'm in agreement with his plans, always marching to the left of his troops while gradually approaching denies the right of the main army, to finally connect completely with the army of Your Excellency and the Prince of Schwarzenberg.  Major Prince von Thurn und Taxis have given to me this moment the letter which Your Excellency wrote to me yesterday.  I am doubly pleased to see that my plans respond to the wishes of your Excellency.  It is beyond doubt to me that Field-Marshal Prince Schwarzenberg seeks above all to march to the enemy with all the forces and attack it wherever we meet."

The day before.  Wrede had announced his intentions in Schwarzenberg and that he would transfer his headquarters to Châtenois the 19th:  "This movement", he said, "to get closer to the right wing of the great army of Your Highness, allows me take part in the battle that He might want to deliver and to ensure in case of check or failure, defending the passes of the Vosges, which had been given as the first objective."

The answer of Schwarzenberg, from Vesoul, 17 January, proves conclusively that the Generalissimo, in a form most friendly, experienced once again the need to educate Wrede that he was under his command and his corps was part of the great army: "I count on," wrote Schwarzenberg, "seeing Your Excellency, whose troops are acting as the last echelon of my right wing, always staying within reach and discussing up with me all that is necessary because of events.  I deliberately used the word last acting echelon, because Wittgenstein is not yet able to take an effective and direct action and his numerous cavalry will maintain communications between the grand army and the Army of Silesia."

One can easily understand, from the foregoing, the unenviable position that such circumstances placed the Generalissimo.  It is also explains more easily his timidity, his hesitation, when you think he had under his command a number of generals willing to criticize anything that came from General Headquarters; that his lieutenants were satisfied only when he presented an opportunity, a possibility, of acting alone and operating on their own, without the need to link their operations with those of their colleagues, to agree with them; that each of them wanted to escape the immediate direction of the Generalissimo; finally, that inertia, stubbornness and the unwillingness of some of them sometimes resembled insubordination.  Too often these officers found tacit encouragement and latent support from the sovereigns.  Just because the aspirations and trends of the Allied powers were substantially different, they had agreed to some extent, but in any case had to be careful not to condemn the deplorable rivalry that manifested itself at every moment and every opportunity between most of the heads of the various armies, and never thought to put an end to misunderstandings, more or less accentuated, that they dared not stir, but they did not regret to see happen.  We will, however, return more than once to these jurisdictional conflicts and these disagreements and for the moment, we must finish with the operations on 15 January.

The cavalry of the IVth Corps at Bourbonne and at Jussey.  --The vanguard of the IVth Corps captured that day Enfonvelle and Fresnes-sur-Apance; the main body, Jonvelle where the Crown Prince sent Lieutenant-Colonel Rohrig with two squadrons to Bourbonne and going from there on the main road of Mirecourt to Langres and Chaumont, while the rest of the Württemberg cavalry was connected by Jussey with the squadrons of the IIIrd Army Corps.[13]

Gyulay still awaited an enemy attack, and to be able to receive it, held throughout the day and massed his corps, he did not decide until the dusk to encamp near Fayl-Billot.

The concentration of troops of the IIIrd Corps had not, indeed, escaped Mortier, who, informed of the presence of a large gathering of Austrian troops between Chalindrey and Balesmes during the night of 14 to 15, had taken all measures to resist with the only division of the Old Guard in an attack he had every reason to believe would be immediate and inevitable.[14]

Movements of the flying corps of Thurn.  --Positions of the Ist Corps and Reserves.  --As for Thurn, who had moved to Dijon, he had passed Champlitte, made contact with Wimpffen, took position near Saint-Maurice, behind Vingeanne and pushed his outposts to Fontaine-Française, La Chaume and Courchamp.[15] The Ist Corps, stopped by absolutely impracticable paths, could not leave its cantonments.  Only the division of Ignatius Hardegg had advanced to Pierrecourt.

Bianchi, during these last days, had vainly tried to bring General Legrand to open the gates of Belfort.  Convinced now he would be unable to wrest a surrender, he had appointed General Raevsky with the blockade, and his third brigade and artillery, he had directed on Vesoul, finally to rally with the great army and take part in the fighting that Schwarzenberg had calculated to engage in with Mortier before Langres 18 January.

The Russian and Prussian reserves were between Ronchamp and Lure, and the Austrian reserves, after ascending the left bank of the Saône, had driven around Auxonne up to Pesmes-sur-l'Oignon.

16 January.  --Platoff in Neufchâteau.  --Scherbatov towards Toul.  --Information that is forwarded to the Generalissimo.   --Sixteen January, Platoff, that Kaisarov had finally decided to march, arrived at Neufchâteau, where he picked up two cannons and a hundred fusils.  The French had withdrawn at his approach without destroying the bridge, and the Ataman announced to the general in chief that he would send parties into the valley of the Ornain in the direction of Bar-le-Duc.[16]

As for Scherbatov, who we had left at Vézelise, he had gone more to the right, approached Toul and had learned from deserters that this place was still occupied by a French rearguard which had about 6,000 men.

As General Prince Biron with his flying column was on the main road to Nancy, Scherbatov proposed to fall back the 17th on the Vaucouleurs, in the end to operate on the road to Paris, between Toul and Void, between Void and Bar-le-Duc.  Scherbatov communicated, in addition, to headquarters valuable information on enemy movements, information that should been of greater value, in the headquarters although it received very little, and especially very little of accuracy.

"We heard," said Scherbatov, "at Nancy a fairly strong cannonade on the side of Pont-à-Mousson, it was even said it was seen on fire (sic).  It is claimed that large forces marched on Châlons."[17]

The information so given by Scherbatov was perfectly correct.  It is, in fact, confirmed by the dispatch sent by Grouchy from Toul 16 January to the Chief of Staff and is worth quoting because it shows that if the rivalries and misunderstandings of the Allied generals impeded and delayed the march of their troops, the lack of leadership of the Marshals also undermined their operations.

"I must inform," Grouchy wrote to the Chief of Staff, "Your Highness by reporting, that yesterday evening at 9 o'clock, the post at Pont-à-Mousson was evacuated by the troops of M. the Marshal Duke of Raguse, without having been warned.  I only knew by the report of my reconnaissance.  This evacuation will bring the abandonment of the line of the Moselle, and it is fatal to the interests of His Majesty that all movements of the troops under the Duke of Raguse and the Prince of the Moskowa not be combined, as I do forbear to express my astonishment and sorrow to Your Highness.  A similar defect in the overall operations further reduces our already low abilities and means the acceleration of the invasion of the enemy.[18]

Grouchy's orders to Milhaud.  --While Scherbatov showed, as we have seen, an intention to go to Vaucouleurs, Grouchy transmitted to General Milhaud,[19] to whom Victor had given the command to form a column composed of the 1st Infantry Division and its 14 cannons,  of the 4th Regiment of Guards of Honor and the division of dragoons of General Briche, the order to start the 17th at 6 o'clock in the morning, to go on Vaucouleurs, take position and reconnoiter there the roads of Toul, Pont-Saint-Vincent and Neufchâteau.  Milhaud had put 6 pieces of artillery behind the bridge, covered by a strong outpost and kept in communication with Grouchy, who was moved to Void up to the intersection of the  roads from Toul to Ligny, and from Vaucouleurs to Commercy with the division of dragoons of  Lhéritier, the artillery of the 5th Cavalry Corps, the 2nd Corp's 2nd Infantry Division's and its artillery.

In addition, Grouchy recommended to Milhaud to seek to obtain information on the position of the Austro-Bavarian Army "which must have pushed an advanced guard to Gondrecourt, south-west of Vaucouleurs, on the road from Bar- le-Duc."

At the same time he directed General Piré, that formed the rearguard with his division of light cavalry, supported by a battalion of the 26th Light Infantry and two cannons, leaving at 8 o'clock in the morning, the 17th from Gondreville to Toul, to cross the town and reach Lay on the road from Toul to Void.  He warned Piré at the same time that if the enemy forced him to leave Lay, he would have to fall back on Pagny-sur-Meuse, where he would find a division of infantry with cannon .[20]

If Grouchy rightly complained of defects in the overall lack of unity of command, we see, at least, the differences there were between the actions of the major French and the Allied characters.  Grouchy provides events and places to his lieutenants beyond the current situation, he maintained contact with the enemy, while managing to conceal his position, while on the Allied side, despite the benefits achieved, despite the numerical superiority, despite the presence in front of the lines of a cavalry corps as large as that of Platoff, they were reduced to groping and since Charmes, ignoring the direction taken by French troops.  Instead of being informed on their movements by the posts of horse of the Ataman, they were only able to get news via Scherbatov and thanks to the existence on the far right of Army of Bohemia, the flying columns which preceded the Army of Silesia.

Positions of the Vth, IVth and IIIrd Corps.  --The vanguard of the Vth Corps had easily advanced to Lunéville, and its riders, as we have said, had made their junction with the cavalry of Sacken.  Wrede, when seeing he had nothing to fear,  nothing to his right, nor anything to front, left himself from Saint-Dié, to go to Rambervillers and direct his army corps to Mirecourt.

The Crown Prince of Württemberg, with the brigade of Jett was at Bourbonne; as the attack on Langres would not take place until the 18th, he thought he could profit from a halt of his main body at Jonvelle and refit the shoes of his horses.

The IIIrd Corps was concentrated between the Quatre and the Griffonottes; the headquarters of Gyulay was at Chaudenay, and the Ist Corps still remained motionless at Malvillers and Pierrecourt.

Bianchi had reached Mollans; the head of the column of Russian guards, Vesoul, and Crown Prince of Hesse-Hornburg, with the Austrian Reserves, Gray.

Schwarzenberg gives the order to attack Langres.  --Being so completely ignorant of what was happening in Langres, having so little an idea of the plans and whereabouts of Mortier, Schwarzenberg, certain of meeting fierce resistance in Langres, believing there was a considerable force at this point and expecting to see, what was, in fact, perfectly reasonable, the French seeking to maintain it at any cost, sent on the 16th final orders fixing for the 18th the execution of a converging attack on Langres.  The Crown Prince of Württemberg, coming by Montigny, was to attack the city's north side, and Gyulay and Colloredo, debouching from the routes of Fayl-Billot, would do as much towards the east and southeast.  Wimpffen, who would move the 17th from Gray to Champlitte, had the mission to also appear before Langres 18 January and to form on debouching from the route of Dijon, the extreme left of the attack.  All these columns, with their heavy artillery positioned in front and equipped with ladders for the assault, should assemble before Langres at one o'clock in the afternoon.  Finally, the Prince of Hesse-Homburg was responsible for covering the left and rear of the attack with a united front against Dijon, firmly holding Mirebeau and the canal near d'Arc-sur-Tille, sending his cavalry on the road from Langres to Dijon. The Russian guards had even come to Fayl-Billot to serve as the general reserve for the columns of attack.

As for Wrede, he was marching to get closer to the right wing of the Great Army, and Wittgenstein again received orders to accelerate his movement on Nancy.

Finally, the 3rd Division of Russian Cuirassiers of General Duka had joined the IIIrd Corps on 16 January.

17 January.  --Mortier evacuates Langres without the Allies noticing his departure.  --The goal that Mortier had proposed was reached and the mission that the Emperor had entrusted to him by sending him to Langres could now be considered completed.  Despite the small size of his little corps, he knew that, by his dispositions as smart as they were energetic, by the boldness of his attitude, the determined character he had given to his offensive demonstrations, he would overawe the enemy, making it believe in the presence of some large force and secure before him for five days the corps of Gyulay.  He even managed to retard the movement of the columns of the enemy great army, forcing Schwarzenberg to change their steps, to deflect Wrede from Nancy, veering left of the IVth Corps, putting the Ist Corps behind the IIIrd, and advancing the Austrian Reserves and Russian Guards toward the positions where he had retained Gyulay.  The Marshal, learning of the movements of the Allies would have suddenly lost all the benefits of his fine maneuvers of the previous days, in persisting about the position.  He had voluntarily brought the storm over his head, he had nothing left to do now but to find ways to fill the last part of his plan, the most thankless and most difficult:  to escape the clutches of the corps that would seek to lock him in Langres by evading silently and mysteriously before their arrival.

The 17th at four in the morning, the Marshal, heading to Chaumont,[21] quit Langres, where he left only 184 men
and 13 cannons with Colonel Lamortiere Simon, whom he had given orders to hold out as long as he could and to surrender to spare the city from the aftermath of an attack.

Entry of the Allies into Langres.  --The administration of Gyulay's outposts was so strange that the Austrians noticed nothing.  It was only at the end of the day that Lieutenant-Colonel Woyna, when one of the aides-de-camp of Schwarzenberg, sent to the gates of the city with two officers of the Russian General Staff to negotiate with the Marshal, was totally surprised that he could without being stopped by any post , get within gunshot of the first houses, told of the retirement of his opponent to the Feldzeugmeister who, having received no notice of troops posted in view of Langres, had no idea of the departure of the Duke of Trévise.

Lacking ammunition for his guns, abandoned by the National Guard, who refused to take part in the defense, Colonel Simon had to lay down their arms, and the Austrians entered Langres in the evening.  Gyulay then pushed his cavalry on the road to Chaumont, sent the division of Crenneville to Humes, holding the main body in Langres, except one brigade quartered behind the city, at Corlée and at Saints-Geosmes.[22]

The vanguard brigade from the division of Wimpffen under the command of Major-General Geppert, arrived at the same time by road from Dijon at Langres.

Positions of the IVth and Vth Corps.  --The Prince of Württemberg, executing the orders of Schwarzenberg, had moved his army corps to Bourbonne and Montigny and his vanguard under General Stockmeyer up to Frécourt. Finally, as is clear from the report below, the Prince had also sent to Mandres the Lieutenant-Colonel Röhrich, with two squadrons, and to give support to the brigade of Jett.

The Crown Prince of Württemberg to Schwarzenberg.[23]  --Bourbonne, 17 January, 1814.  "--I have reconnoitered today the ground in front of Frécourt, and the roads, which in my march toward Langres, I will throw myself to the right onto the road from Langres to Chaumont in case the enemy does not defend itself at Langres.

Lieutenant-Colonel Röhrich, who has pushed up to Mandres today, must, if he learns that Chaumont is stripped of troops or they have evacuated, surprise this city, this night.  I particularly directed his attention to the depots, the telegraph and mail.  I sent Platoff by Bourmont and have decided to throw parties on the road from Chaumont to Châlons to disturb and intercept this major line of communication of the enemy.

I have instructed them to spread proclamations across them.  I have warned the Feldzeugmeister Count Gyulay of my movements.

You will see by the papers that I send you that forming in Paris are twelve legions of the National Guard which Napoleon and the dignitaries of his court saw fit to place themselves before."

To the right of the IVth Corps, the Vth Corps had its left (division of La Motte) at Mirecourt, its center (division of Rechberg) in Charmes, its right under Frimont in Bayon.[24]

Platoff in Neufchâteau.  --Scherbatov at Colombey-les-Belles.  --Level with the right and forward of the IVth Corps Platoff was at Neufchâteau where, a few hours later, he would be ordered to move by Andelot towards Bar-sur-Aube.  The parties that he had sent to Bar-le-Duc, told him that the enemy retreated towards the Marne.

To the right of Platoff and further north, covering the front of the Vth Corps, Scherbatov was at Colombey-aux-Belles-Femmes (Colombey-les-Belles), where the 17th he sent the following information:

From camp near Colombey[25] (original in French).  --On 17 January, 1814.  "--Finding the defiles between Colombey and Vaucouleurs I decided to stop near the first place, because the second is occupied by the enemy, and Toul, is near where there is a lot of cavalry.  I brought together my party and I stopped so that the enemy does not cut me off in the defiles and I can protect my party.

The advanced guard of Field-Marshal Blücher, commanded by Lieutenant General Vasilchikov, arrived today at Nancy.  By the news I have, they will march on Toul.

All the private letters that I intercepted announce that all forces are to bear on Châlons.

The news here is that Napoleon told the Senate that he will make a decisive battle on the plains of Châlons, and if it is not successful, it will deprive the Empress of her husband."

Scherbatov went the next day, to be led by Void and Ligny on Saint-Dizier.  It seems they wanted Platoff on one side and Scherbatov on the other: one to watch the highways leaving Paris and the one going by Troyes, the other by Châlons, leading to the plateau of Langres.

Positions of other Corps of the Great Army.  --At the far right of the Allies, Wittgenstein had finally decided to begin his march forward: he had left the Count of Hochberg (Wilhelm Margrave of Baden) to blockade Kehl; the troops hitherto retained on the right bank, came into Haguenau, and they unsuccessfully bombarded Phalsbourg. Prince Eugene of Württemberg, who had arrived with the 4th Division and 1st Dragoons of Baden at Saverne, undertook operations against Phalsbourg allowing the cavalry of Pahlen to resume its free action.

Finally, to the left of the Great Army[26] the Ist Corps was between Longeau and Langres, on the road from Langres to Dijon.  The division of Wimpffen was at Chassigny, the division of Bianchi near Mailly.  According to new orders, these two divisions were to go join the Austrian Reserves of Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg.

Cavalry action of Occey.  --From this side again, Thurn, who we left at Saint-Maurice, had learned that a strong convoy of powder had left Langres the 14th to travel by road to Dijon with an escort.

Leaving his two jäger companies at Saint-Maurice which, because of the abnormal flood waters of the Vingeanne, could not cross the valley, and covering them with some horsemen, he brought with him the rest of his cavalry to Occey and had laid an ambush.  About noon he saw at the top of a hill the convoy, consisting of 23 wagons escorted by 12th Cuirassiers, hussars and some chasseurs.  Thurn let the convoy and its escort pass through the village of Occey, then came out unannounced, pounced on the rear of the convoy, sabered most of the escort and took all the wagons, except one which exploded in battle.[27]

Not having enough people to be able to keep his own catch, Thurn sent them to Field Marshal Lieutenant Baron Wimpffen in Champlitte, letting him know that from what he had learned from prisoners, the convoy left Auxonne intending to go to Metz, but they had been returned to Dijon because they could not find safe enough roads to let them continue their journey.

New orders from Schwarzenberg for the 18th.  --Schwarzenberg, informed of the events of Langres, naturally changed the orders for the 18th, and ordered the IVth Corps, supported by the 3rd Russian Cuirassier Division (Duka) which was coming to Marnay, to move on Chaumont.  The IIIrd Corps was quartered in the villages along the road from Langres to Châtillon-sur-Seine, the Ist Corps between Longeau and Langres, and Crown Prince of Hesse was trying to get to Dijon by the 19th.[28]

Loss of contact with Mortier.  --Considerations on the movements of the Allies since leaving Basel.  --All the grand concentrations planned and for the most part, executed, had been completely useless, and yet they had time to plan everything and most importantly, to learn, since they had used four whole weeks to cross the 190 miles separating Basel and Langres, although they had nothing before them.  But the employment of the cavalry was so strange that one did not even know what had become of Mortier after the evacuation of Langres; one thought him well beyond Chaumont, which was expected to be entered without firing a shot.  As Toll said in his reports: "Gyulay, with his usual carelessness and drowsiness, found it absolutely useless to follow, even with a small party, Marshal Mortier,[29] who was, since the evening of the 17th, absolutely lost, not just from contact, but without a trace."

They tried to justify this slowness by claiming it was to remain at the same height with the Army of Silesia, as it was, therefore, by calculation that they weren't compelled to move with greater activity.  This argument is specious and totally worthless.  Nothing prevented, in fact, the Generalissimo from crossing the Rhine after Blücher, so that the great army would not need to wait marching in place on the Upper Rhine, and indeed there was no valid reason not to let the latter decide his own forward movements.  The march of the Army of Bohemia, if it had been accelerated, when it crossed the Rhine, would, however, have offered considerable advantages to Schwarzenberg and spared some of the more or less serious mistakes he committed during these four weeks.

If he had taken, from the outset, the resolution to move squarely forward, the Generalissimo would have had to abandon this great and unnecessary conversion movement, which had led him to push his left to Geneva and then stop an entire army corps near Dijon, a movement that was designed to outflank natural barriers that the French never dreamed of defending, because it only brought insignificant forces, as it would have been easier to guard without risking them.  He would not have needed to push Wrede unnecessarily to the left bank ten days before the rest of his forces, revealing to Victor, the point which he proposed to direct his first attacks; he would not have decided on entering France on four diverging roads.  It would have been impossible to spread everyone to cover all the towns, large or small, important or trivial, he met on his way.  Instead, he had been forced to keep everyone in his hand and would part from this notion until he believed in meeting considerable forces in Langres, extraordinarily only being able to assemble no more than forty thousand men with an army exceeding 200,000 effectives.

Instead of waiting for Blücher to enter the line, to only start marching on the approach of the columns of the Army of Silesia, forcing Ney and Victor to leave the Moselle Valley and retreat to the Meuse he could have, by increasing his movement somewhat, seriously compromised the step by step retirement of Marmont before Blücher. Finally, especially with an adversary as active as the Emperor, it was important above all to act quickly and decisively, and it was above all important to prevent Mortier from being recalled from Belgium, to withdraw Macdonald from the border of the Netherlands.  What would have happened if Napoleon left Paris, where his presence was unfortunately necessary, 10 or 12 days earlier than he did, he could, picking up en route to Mortier, Ney and Victor, joining the few troops he had brought with him, throw himself on the Allied columns separated from each other, spread, isolated, unable to support each other?  It is very probable that the Army of Bohemia would have suffered the fate of Blücher during his first attempt to march on Paris.  The Emperor had gained early advantages due almost entirely to seriously defective provisions of the Generalissimo.  The latter, in fear of risking too much, exposing his army to imaginary dangers, had committed at the time of indiscretions that he would have dearly paid for if Napoleon had not kept him away from his army for any number of reasons.

Therefore, despite the well-known weaknesses of the French, it was thought necessary to go through the Breisgau and Switzerland to turn the line of the Rhine that Napoleon was unable to defend himself, however, he could have had at least resolutely followed the lines of invasion once reaching the plateau of Langres.  Marching briskly, one ran no risk, increasing the number of lines for staging and replenishment, and at the same time taken more ground from the enemy.

But if we turn from general considerations to the examination of certain points of detail, we find that, even in this respect, all was far from satisfactory.  Thanks to absolutely inadequate and careless measures of Gyulay, Marshal Mortier had managed to slip away so cleverly that the Allies were unable to reestablish contact with his rearguard.  At headquarters they thought he had already evacuated Chaumont.  Therefore, the IVth Corps was directed to push on Chaumont.  When these orders reached the Crown Prince of Württemberg,[30] he had already taken his advanced guard, under General von Stockmeyer, in the direction of Langres, because he had failed to anticipate at the time the events of the 17th.

18 January.  --Orders and movements of the IVth Corps.  --Cavalry action of La Ville-aux-Bois.  --Reconnaissance of Chaumont.  --The Crown Prince had, by now reconstructed a new advanced guard, consisting of the Jäger zu Pferd Regiment No. 4 (Prinz Adam), a regiment of infantry and a horse artillery battery that was set to leave with General von Jett for Chaumont, the 17-18th in the morning; he made General von Stockmeyer follow the movement of General von Jett at the same time, and ordered the bulk of his corps to move from Montigny-le-Haut towards Chaumont.  He also sent Lieutenant-Colonel Röhrich before to the right of Mandres to take above Riaucourt the route from Joinville to Chaumont.  This dispatch was unable to arrive on time to the lieutenant colonel who, continuing to push straight ahead, came to blows near Biesles with some squadrons of dragoons and carabiniers of the Guard, which retreated to La Ville-aux-Bois.  A little later, when the Crown Prince, marching with the column of General von Jett came to reinforce Röhrich with the Prinz Adam Regiment and threaten La Ville-aux-Bois from the north, these squadrons continued their slow retreat to Choignes, where, protected by two battalions of infantry, they crossed to the left bank of the Marne.

After enveloping Choignes, where his infantry was soon being chased by a battalion of grenadiers of the Guards,[31] the Crown Prince reconnoitered the position of Mortier.  Finding it too strong to dare to attack with the IVth Corps alone, he merely bombarded this position until the night while he had hoped to take the next day with the help of IIIrd Corps, which had remained standing throughout the day without supporting the troops of Württemberg on the banks of the Marne.

Action of the Russian cuirassiers at Vesaignes.  --While the IVth Corps was committed on the right bank of the Marne, near Choignes, the 3rd Division of Russian Cuirassiers (3 regiments under the command of General Duka) had been pushed forward by Gyulay on the left bank of the Marne, and had received orders from the Feldzeugmeister to quarter in Marnay.  The cuirassiers not having been kept informed of the situations, as was usual, moreover, as they were reserves, unfamiliar with the services of advanced guards, came to blows with the first French vedettes at Vesaignes.  These slowly withdrew on a troop of French infantry established at Marnay and drew the cuirassiers into an ambush in a narrow valley, through which they must necessarily pass through to reach the their cantonment.  Greeted by a heated fusillade from the heights overlooking the valley, the cuirassiers turned around and retreated to Rolampont, after losing a lot of people.  As the terrain made it difficult for the heavy cavalry to act in these parts, Duka asked Gyulay to send infantry and give the order to open the road leading to his cantonments.[32]  A battalion, half a battery and a squadron of light cavalry joined the cuirassiers, for this purpose, at Rolampont the night of the 18th to 19th.

Positions of the IIIrd and Vth Corps and Platoff.  --The IIIrd Corps remained at Humes, and the Feldzeugmeister, who the Crown Prince had informed of his plans for the attack on Chaumont, proposed to maneuver the next day on the right of Mortier by debouching at Foulain.

The Bavarians of the Vth Corps arrived in Mirecourt; Frimont, with the Austrians, had remained in Bayon, but he had sent Colonel von Mengen to Vézelise and Colonel von Geramb to Charmes.

Platoff, meanwhile, sent 500 Cossacks from Neufchâteau towards Joinville.[33]

The Ataman showed, we must believe, a very great neglect in all things, as the adjutant commandant La Condamine, bearing a letter from Berthier to Prince Schwarzenberg and as a parliamentarian Platoff had sent Grouchy had related to his general that he had seen in the office of that officer an itinerary directing a column of infantry through Chaumont and Langres to Saint-Thiébault.[34]  The French cavalry had, moreover, managed to inform Grouchy of the position of the Cossacks on one hand and the progress of the Army of Silesia on the other.

Action of Scherbatov at Vaucouleurs.  As for Scherbatov, who had continued to hold the far right of the line, he had moved from Colombey-les-Belles on Vaucouleurs and had met half a league from the city the French outposts that he forced to retreat to the suburbs.  "But (and these are the same terms he uses in his dispatch[35] related in French), the dragoons, who were on foot, stopped the charge.  I came out so as not to lose a lot of my Cossacks.  The enemy is out too, but did not dare charge me with his cavalry and ordered its dragoons to dismount.  I suffered a great fire of musketry.  The cannons that the enemy had on the other side of the river were also drawn on me, so I was forced to retire with the bulk of my detachment to the first village of Gibeaumeix, which is less than a league from Vaucouleurs, but my outposts occupied the heights where the enemy had been."

While the dragoons of General Briche chased the Cossacks from Commercy and from Vignot, the division of French infantry stationed at Sorcy, was directed towards Commercy and passed for the time under the command of General Briche responsible for defending the bridge of the Meuse.  The general was, if he were forced to retreat in good order on Saint-Aubin, to give battle and await the arrival of 2nd Corps and the 5th of cavalry.  The Guard of Honor remained, half at Sorcy and half at Ville-Issey.  General Briche also had a party of 300 horses between Commercy and Saint-Mihiel. The party established its main body behind Pont-sur-Meuse and held positions by Mécrin and Ailly, while pushing its patrols on Saint-Mihiel.  On the right, the General de France, who had before him, on the Neufchâteau side, the Cossacks of Platoff, was to stop the Ataman and should, if he were forced to retreat on Void after having proceeded his movement with moving the troops from Void, Lay and Pagny-sur-Meuse.[36]

The same day, Schwarzenberg, who had settled in Langres, informed Wittgenstein that the Army of Bohemia was concentrating between Langres and Dijon, and that he should immediately push for more troops between Commercy and Joinville to support the Vth Corps.[37]

Movements of the VIth, Ist and IIIrd Corps.  --The vanguard of the VIth Corps had begun its movement, and Pahlen, with the 4th and 34th regiments of eigers, the Uhlans of Chuguev (detached from the 3rd Uhlan Division), the Olivopol Hussars and 4 pieces of horse artillery, had advanced from Saverne to Sarrebourg, while Cossacks of Rebrikov (III) and a squadron of Soum Hussars had come to Heming, to the branching roads leading to Blâmont on one side, and to Moyenvic on the other.

Behind the IIIrd Corps, the Ist Corps, which was at Saint-Maurice, would receive orders to go to Dijon, with the divisions of Ignatz Hardegg and Wimpffen posted in Aubigny, reinforcing the Austrian Reserves of the Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg at that moment in Mirebeau-sur-Bèze.  Bianchi was at Langres, and the last march of the Russian and Prussian guards and reserves had reached Port-sur-Saône, where Barclay had his headquarters.

Mortier decides to evacuate Chaumont the morning of the 19th.  --Mortier had not been deceived a moment about the intentions of the enemy.  He immediately realized the gravity of the situation and the difficulty of his task.  Seeing danger in front of two army corps; knowing he could be from one moment to the other overwhelmed on his left by a third; not only having before him an enemy infantry division,[38] and one of cavalry, he thought it wise and prudent to escape once again as he had done in Langres, to evacuate Chaumont quietly the 19th at the break of day and take the road of Bar-sur-Aube, where he planned to be reinforced by the 2nd Division of the Old Guard of General Michel, by the 113th Line, already arrived at Troyes, in order to bring him to 8,000 men and 2,500 horses.

Not that he was worried by Schwarzenberg as he left Chaumont, believing with reason, to have to guarded against active pursuit, however unlikely it might have seemed, by instructing General Letort, stationing him in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises with 2,000 men and 400 horses, to observe the roads from Chaumont and dispute the ground foot by foot.  To facilitate his task, the Marshal had part of his army corps take a strong position on the hills bordering the brook of Rouvre; his left went up to Voigny, and a grand battery, placed in front of his right, enfiladed at the same time the road from Colombey and the bridge of Fontaine.  The rest of his little corps had to take a position on the heights of the left bank of the Aube, at Fontaine.

Schwarzenberg left the Marshal to retire at his leisure.  The Generalissimo had so little reported on the small number of troops before him, that, instead of taking advantage of his superiority, he preferred to stop and restore order in his columns, to rest his troops while concentrating, especially to give time for Blücher to get up to the Army of Bohemia and not to resume his own movement for the moment until the head of the column of the Field Marshal had crossed the banks of Meuse, who marched towards the Marne.

Key to Map

IInd Corps & Austrian Reserves (Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg) -The IInd Corps, reinforced by a grenadier brigade and a regiment of cuirassiers remained before the blockaded Besançon while the Crown Prince of Hesse with the bulk of the forces at Dole occupied himself with restoring the bridges over the Saône at Saint-Jean-de-Losne and Pontailler.  The Austrian Reserves were waiting in vain for the completion of bridges on the Saône to get to the right bank, and their chief took advantage of this stop to reconnoiter Auxonne.  The 15th the Austrian reserves, after ascending the left bank of the Saône, had driven around Auxonne up to Pesmes-sur-l'Ognon. The 16th Crown Prince of Hesse-Hornburg, with the Austrian Reserves, entered Gray.  By the 17thSchwarzenberg was uniting his columns for an assault on Langres, in which the Prince of Hesse-Homburg was responsible for covering the left and rear of the attack with a united front against Dijon, firmly holding Mirebeau-sur-Bèze and the canal near d'Arc-sur-Tille, sending his cavalry on the road from Dijon to Langres.  The  Crown Prince of Hesse was still trying to get to Dijon by the 19th, when according to new orders Wimpffen (Ist Corps) in Langres was to join the Austria Reserves.

Bianchi Division -While two of his brigades marched on Vesoul, Bianchi, vainly attempted up to the 15th to bring General Legrand to open the gates of Belfort.  Convinced now he would be unable to wrest a surrender, he had appointed General Raevsky with the blockade, and his third brigade and artillery, he directed on Vesoul, to finally rally with the Great Army and take part in the fighting that Schwarzenberg had calculated to engage in with Mortier before Langres 18 January.   Bianchi reached Mollans the 16th , near Mailly the 18th and was at Langres the 19th.  According to new orders, this division was to go join the Austrian Reserves of Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg.      

Ist Corps (M. Liechtenstein) and the 2nd Light Division (Colloredo) -The Ist Corps quartered the 14th at Pierrecourt and Malvillers. The 15th The Ist Corps, stopped by absolutely impracticable paths, could not leave its cantonments, only the division of Ignatius Hardegg had advanced to Pierrecourt.  The 16th  the Ist Corps still remained motionless at Malvillers and Pierrecourt. For the planned attack on Langres the 18th, Colloredo, debouching from the route of Fayl-Billot, was to attack from the east, however found it deserted that day.  The 18th  to the left of the Great Army the Ist Corps was between Longeau and Langres, on the road from Langres to Dijon. The division of Wimpffen previously sent on Dijon, had crossed the Saône at Gray and marched towards Mirebeau-sur-Bèze, however was recalled the 17th to Champlitte to debouch on the road from Dijon at Langres which it entered the 18th.  The 19th the Ist Corps, which was at Saint-Maurice, would receive orders to go to Dijon, with the divisions of Ignatz Hardegg and Wimpffen posted in Aubigny, to reinforce the Austrian Reserves at that moment in Mirebeau-sur-Bèze.  

IIIrd Corps & Crenneville Division (Gyulay) -The 15th Gyulay still awaiting an enemy attack, held throughout the day and massed his corps, he did not decide until the dusk to encamp near Fayl-Billot. As for Thurn, who had moved to Dijon, he had passed Champlitte, made contact with Wimpffen, took position near Saint-Maurice, behind Vingeanne and pushed his outposts to Fontaine-Française, La Chaume and Courchamp..  The 16th the IIIrd Corps was concentrated between the Quatre and the Griffonottes; the headquarters of Gyulay was at Chaudenay  Schwarzenberg planning a general assault of Langres for the 18th ordered Gyulay to debouch from the routes of Fayl-Billot, attacking the southeast of Langres only to find it deserted on that day.  The 18th the IIIrd Corps was quartered in the villages along the road from Langres to Châtillon-sur-Seine, While the 3rd Division of Russian Cuirassiers (3 regiments under the command of General Duka) had been pushed forward by Gyulay on the left bank of the Marne, and had received orders from the Feldzeugmeister to quarter in Marnay.  The 19th The IIIrd Corps remained at Humes, and the Feldzeugmeister, who the Crown Prince had informed of his plans for the attack on Chaumont, proposed to maneuver the next day on the right of Mortier by debouching at Foulain.

Vth (Bavarian) Corps (Wrede) -The Vth Corps occupied Lunéville on the 14th.  The vanguard of the Vth Corps, though having nothing before it since the retirement of Victor, only pushed, by the 14th, up to Bayon; its scouts only went up to Nancy, and a small party of cavalry under the command of Captain Baron von Grafenreuth of the Light Horse Regiment No. 5 (Württemberg), who had gone on to Lunéville met, north of this town a patrol of Sacken's corps.  The 16th the vanguard of the Vth Corps had easily advanced to Lunéville, Wrede, when seeing he had nothing to fear,  nothing to his right, nor anything to front, left himself from Saint-Dié, to go to Rambervillers and direct his army corps to Mirecourt.  By the 18th , the Vth Corps had its left (division of La Motte) at Mirecourt, its center (division of Rechberg) in Charmes, its right under Frimont in Bayon.  The 19th the Bavarians of the Vth Corps arrived in Mirecourt; Frimont, with the Austrians, had remained in Bayon, but he had sent Colonel von Mengen to Vézelise and Colonel von Geramb to Charmes.

IVth Corps (Crown Prince of Württemberg) -The 15th the vanguard of the IVth Corps captured Enfonvelle and Fresnes-sur-Apance; the main body, Jonvelle where the Crown Prince sent Lieutenant-Colonel Rohrig with two squadrons to Bourbonne and going from there on the main road of Mirecourt to Langres and Chaumont, while the rest of the Württemberg cavalry was connected by Jussey with the squadrons of the IIIrd Army Corps.  The 16th Platoff, that Kaisarov had finally decided to march, arrived at Neufchâteau, where he picked up two cannons and a hundred fusils.  The French had withdrawn at his approach without destroying the bridge, and the Ataman announced to the general in chief that he would send parties into the valley of the Ornain in the direction of Bar-le-Duc.  As for Scherbatov, who we had left at Vézelise, he had gone more to the right, approached Toul and had learned from deserters that this place was still occupied by a French rearguard which had about 6,000 men.  As General Prince Biron with his flying column was on the main road to Nancy, Scherbatov proposed to fall back the 17th on the Vaucouleurs, in the end to operate on the road to Paris, between Toul and Void, between Void and Bar-le-Duc. The Crown Prince of Württemberg, with the brigade of Jett was at Bourbonne; as the attack on Langres would not take place until the 18th, he thought he could profit from a halt of his main body at Jonvelle and refit the shoes of his horses. The Crown Prince of Württemberg, coming by Montigny, was to attack the Langres' north side the 18th, executing the orders of Schwarzenberg, had moved his army corps to Bourbonne and Montigny and his vanguard under General Stockmeyer up to Frécourt, finally, the Prince had also sent to Mandres the Lieutenant-Colonel Röhrich, with two squadrons, and to give support to the brigade of Jett. Level with the right and forward of the IVth Corps Platoff was at Neufchâteau where, a few hours later, he would be ordered to move by Andelot towards Bar-sur-Aube the 18th.  The parties that he had sent to Bar-le-Duc, told him that the enemy retreated towards the Marne. To the right of Platoff and further north, covering the front of the Vth Corps, Scherbatov was at Colombey-aux-Belles-Femmes (Colombey-les-Belles).  On the failure of the plans on Langres the IVth Corps was ordered the 18th to move on Chaumont, supported by the 3rd Russian Cuirassier Division (Duka) which was coming to Marnay.  The Crown Prince had, by now reconstructed a new advanced guard, that was set to leave with General von Jett for Chaumont, the 17-18th in the morning; he made General von Stockmeyer follow the movement of General von Jett at the same time, and ordered the bulk of his corps to move from Montigny-le-Haut towards Chaumont.  He also sent Lieutenant-Colonel Röhrich before to the right of Mandres to take above Riaucourt the route from Joinville to Chaumont.  This dispatch was unable to arrive on time to the lieutenant colonel who, continuing to push straight ahead, came to blows near Biesles with some squadrons of dragoons and carabiniers of the Guard, which retreated to La Ville-aux-Bois.  A little later, when the Crown Prince, marching with the column of General von Jett came to reinforce Röhrich with the Prinz Adam Regiment and threaten La Ville-aux-Bois from the north, these squadrons continued their slow retreat to Choignes, where, protected by two battalions of infantry, they crossed to the left bank of the Marne.  As it so happened the Crown Prince of Württemberg, came to Chaumont on the 19th, and was ordered to stop and remained there until the 24th. He nevertheless urged his vanguard up to Jonchery and sent a party of cavalry to Colombey-les-Deux-Églises.

After enveloping Choignes, where his infantry was soon being chased by a battalion of grenadiers of the Guards, the Crown Prince reconnoitered the position of Mortier.  Finding it too strong to dare to attack with the IVth Corps alone, he merely bombarded this position until the night while he had hoped to take the next day with the help of IIIrd Corps, which had remained standing throughout the day without supporting the troops of Württemberg on the banks of the Marne.  Platoff, meanwhile, sent 500 Cossacks from Neufchâteau towards Joinville. As for Scherbatov, who had continued to hold the far right of the line, he had moved from Colombey-les-Belles on Vaucouleurs and had met half a league from the city the French outposts that he forced to retreat to the suburbs.   

VIth Russian Corps (Wittgenstein) -Although Wittgenstein had been directed towards Langres, he still invested Bitche, Phalsbourg, Petite Pierre and Lichtenberg on the 15th, when detachments of General Seslavin arrived in Saverne.  Despite this, the cavalry of the VIth Corps never got much beyond Sarrebourg, where naturally they encountered no one and merely timidly watched the road of Blâmont and that of Phalsbourg at Nancy by Fénestrange, however, it did send several scouts up to Lunéville.  By the 17th-18th Wittgenstein had finally decided to begin his march forward: he had left the Count of Hochberg (Wilhelm Margrave of Baden) to blockade Kehl; the troops hitherto retained on the right bank, came into Haguenau, and they unsuccessfully bombarded Phalsbourg. Prince Eugene of Württemberg, who had arrived with the 4th Division and 1st Dragoons of Baden at Saverne, undertook operations against Phalsbourg allowing the cavalry of Pahlen to resume its free action.  The 19th the vanguard of the VIth Corps had begun its movement, and Pahlen, with the 4th and 34th regiments of eigers, the Uhlans of Chuguev (detached from the 3rd Uhlan Division), the Ol'viopol Hussars and 4 pieces of horse artillery, had advanced from Saverne to Sarrebourg, while Cossacks of Rebrikov (III) and a squadron of Soum Hussars had come to Heming, to the branching roads leading to Blâmont on one side, and to Moyenvic on the other.

Russian Reserves (Barclay de Tolly) - The Guards and reserves of the Russians and Prussians reached Dannemarie and Giromagny the 14th.  Rayevsky was charged with the investment of Belfort on the 15th.  The division of cuirassiers of Duka (3rd Cuirassier Division) marched by Lure and Vesoul on Fayl-Billot, in the end to join Gyulay and reinforce the very weak cavalry of the IIIrd Corps.  The 15th the Russian and Prussian reserves were between Ronchamp and Lure,   the 16th the head of the column of Russian Guards, was at Vesoul  The 18th the Russian Guards had even gotten to Fayl-Billot to serve as the general reserve for the columns of attack (on Langres).  The 3rd Division of Russian Cuirassiers of General Duka had joined the IIIrd Corps on 16 January.  The 19th the Russian and Prussian Guards and reserves had reached Port-sur-Saône, where Barclay had his headquarters.   

1st Light Division (Bubna) -Recalled by Schwarzenberg, Bubna was forced to move forward by the nature of the roads taking Bourg on the 11th while his cavalry pushed west taking the bridge at Mâcon the 13th.   The 14th the vanguard of Bubna entered Meximieux and establishes its point and its outposts in Montluel.  After inaction on the 15th, Bubna's advanced cavalry units reached the outskirts of Lyon on the 16th, but by then the inhabitants had broken the dykes and flooding the road of Meximieux forcing the Austrian to retrace their steps to Ambérieux on the 17th.  Bubna spent much of the 18th trying to negotiate the surrender of Lyon, while the French reinforced their positions.  Bubna missing his opportunity to enter unopposed withdrew the 20th, on Meximieux and was at Pont-d'Ain the 21st.  (all off map)

The 14th, Victor had united with Ney and moved to unite with Marmont.  The 15th Nancy was evacuated and the French retreated to Toul.  The 19th while the dragoons of General Briche chased the Cossacks from Commercy and from Vignot, the division of French infantry stationed at Sorcy, was directed towards Commercy and passed for the time under the command of General Briche responsible for defending the bridge of the Meuse.  The general was, if he were forced to retreat in good order on Saint-Aubin, to give battle and await the arrival of 2nd Corps and the 5th of cavalry.  The Guard of Honor remained, half at Sorcy and half at Ville-Issey.  General Briche also had a party of 300 horses between Commercy and Saint-Mihiel. The party established its main body behind Pont-sur-Meuse and held positions by Mécrin and Ailly, while pushing its patrols on Saint-Mihiel.  On the right, the General de France, who had before him, on the Neufchâteau side, the Cossacks of Platoff, was to stop the Ataman and should, if he were forced to retreat on Void after having proceeded his movement with moving the troops from Void, Lay and Pagny-sur-Meuse.

The 17th at four in the morning, the Marshal Mortier, heading to Chaumont,  quit Langres, where he left only 184 men and 13 cannons with Colonel Lamortiere Simon, whom he had given orders to hold out as long as he could and to surrender to spare the city from the aftermath of an attack.   Mortier had not been deceived a moment about the intentions of the enemy.  He immediately realized the gravity of the situation and the difficulty of his task.  Seeing danger in front of two army corps; knowing he could be from one moment to the other overwhelmed on his left by a third; not only having before him an enemy infantry division, and one of cavalry, he thought it wise and prudent to escape once again as he had done in Langres, to evacuate Chaumont quietly the 19th at the break of day and take the road of Bar-sur-Aube, where he planned to be reinforced by the 2nd Division of the Old Guard of General Michel, by the 113th Line, already arrived at Troyes, in order to bring him to 8,000 men and 2,500 horses.

Not that he was worried by Schwarzenberg as he left Chaumont, believing with reason, to have to guarded against active pursuit, however unlikely it might have seemed, by instructing General Letort, stationing him in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises with 2,000 men and 400 horses, to observe the roads from Chaumont and dispute the ground foot by foot.  To facilitate his task, the Marshal had part of his army corps take a strong position on the hills bordering the brook of Rouvre; his left went up to Voigny, and a grand battery, placed in front of his right, enfiladed at the same time the road from Colombey and the bridge of Fontaine.  The rest of his little corps had to take a position on the heights of the left bank of the Aube, at Fontaine.

Notes:

[1] Tagesbegebenheiten (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30). and Colloredo to Schwarzenberg, Malvillers, 15 January (Ibid., I, 337).

[2] Correspondance de Napoléon, 21091.

[3] Belliard to Berthier. Châlons, 14 January, ten o'clock at night.  "--Prince, your arrival will bring very great good, I assure you, and we look forward with great anticipation.  You will be a centralized authority and all will be better because there is so little agreement in the movements of the armies of the Duke of Raguse, the Duke of Bellune and the Prince of the Moskowa, they are just making a mess of things, and it looks very much like it will continue so if you are not coming, Prince, or if the Emperor does not unite the three army corps under the command of a single leader.

From what I learned today of the right corps, we held yesterday in this part Vaucouleurs, Pagny-sur-Meuse, Toul and Commercy pushing parties on Saint-Mihiel that we hold now and that we awkwardly sent to take on Pont-à-Mousson, on Joinville and on Neufchâteau.

In front of Vaucouleurs at Neufchâteau is Platoff with 10 regiments of Cossacks." (Archives of the War.)

[4] GROUCHY, Mémoires.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Biron entered Nancy on the 14th, and as we have said below, had been joined by a party of Bavarian cavalry sent by Wrede.

[7] This letter is absolutely unique as it was taken by the IVth Corps from the post of Colombey, 28 January, 1814, before being delivered to its destination.  Lack of space forces us, to our great regret, to resist the pleasure that we would gain by reproducing here the letter, which appears in K. K. Kriegs Archiv . as no. 629 of the first issue of 1814, which, although quite intimate in character, is, from beginning to end, an expression of the purest patriotism and portrays the feelings that the general was to charge, although still suffering from injuries that had just closed, one month later at the head of his division and covering themselves with glory by taking the bridge from the Württembergers at Montereau.

[8] Wittgenstein to Schwarzenberg, 13 January (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., ad I, 493).

[9] Wrede to Schwarzenberg, Saint-Dié, 16 January (Ibid., ad I, 371).

[10] HEILMANN, Feld-Marschall Fürst Wrède, p. 327.

[11] Scherbatov to Schwarzenberg, Vézelise, 15 January (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I. 344).

[12] Wrede to Schwarzenberg, from Saint-Dié, 15 January (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 343).

[13] Tagesbegebenheiten (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30); Operations Journal of the IVth Corps (Ibid., XIII, 56).

[14] The position of Mortier was now more critical than the Allies thought.  It had received the 15th in the morning, 12 pieces of 4, but he had no bullets nor artillery. (See letter of Mortier to the Chief of Staff.  Archives of the War.)

[15] Thurn to Schwarzenberg (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 391).

[16] Tagesbegebenheiten (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30), and Daily Report to the Emperor of Austria, 18 January 1814 (Ibid., L, 435).

[17] Scherbatov to Schwarzenberg, the camp near Thuilley, 10 January. (K.  K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 369.)

[18] GROUCHY, Memoirs, and Archives of the War.

[19] Archives of the War. - Following the movement of the 2nd Corps, the Meunier Division, of Ney's corps, had to leave Pagny-sur-Meuse and Void the 17th  and pull back, the 1st Brigade on Ligny, the 2nd to Bar-le-Duc.

[20] GROUCHY, Memoirs, and Archives of the War.

[21] In falling back from Langres to Chaumont, Mortier, as proven in the following excerpt from the Correspondence of Napoleon I, did so in keeping with the intentions of the Emperor:

"To the Prince of Neuchâtel and Wagram.  Paris, 17 January, 1814.

 …tell the Duke of Trévise, in case the enemy would be too strong and that he could not hold Langres to evacuate all the pieces (of artillery) that are in that town on Vitry and on Troyes, and get closer himself to Châlons, but slowly and only as much as it would be necessary.

Inform the Duke of Trévise that I move my headquarters on Châlons." (Correspondence no. 21.092.)

On the 16th in the morning, Mortier had reported to the Chief of Staff his position and informed him of the measures he took to retire on Chaumont:  "The enemy has been strengthened," he wrote.  "Dammartin is occupied and the enemy is expected at Montigny-le-Roi.  I am find myself outflanked.  The Horse Grenadiers of the Guard remain at Rolampont, having orders to leave tomorrow at 4 o'clock in the morning for Chaumont, where I intend to bed tomorrow night, and occupy La Ville-aux-Bois, covering the roads of Montigny and of Bourbonne.  The total evacuation of Langres entails serious drawbacks: I will let Colonel Simon with some men from among the most tired to reassure the residents and to form a core defense with 400 National Guardsmen.  One estimates 25, 000 men are in the troops that I have before me.  This number is probably exaggerated, but the fact is that for four days, reinforcements have successively arrived by Chalindrey…All the villages around are occupied.  The vigorous attack which took place the night of 13 to 14 at Chatenay-Vaudin and the battle of Longeau made the enemy cautious."

As soon as arriving at Chaumont, where he took a position the 17th in the evening, Mortier immediately occupied the heights of Marnay, which obstruct the passages of the Marne and La Ville-aux-Bois:  "The Allied cavalry is already established at Biesles." writes Mortier that date,  "I am assured that the Prince of the Moskowa is at Bar-sur-Ornain: I am not able to be outflanked by the enemy.  If he does not make much progress, I will stay at Chaumont, and if the Prince of the Moskowa reports before, I will move back on Langres…

I moved the 113th Regiment now at Troyes in haste.  The troops of the Guard, including the dragoons and horse chasseurs, who have not had a moment of rest since leaving Trèves, are very tired."

Mortier was, however, very knowledgeable about the composition of troops before him: he knew that Gyulay who had under his the Prince v. Hohenlohe and that Lieutenant-Colonel Count Thurn, who commanded the flying corps detached from the side of the IIIrd Corps, corresponded directly with the Prince of Schwarzenberg. (Archives of the War.)

[22] Tagesbegebenheiten (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30). Journal of Operations of the IVth Corps (Ibid., XIII, 56). Daily Report to the Emperor, 18 January (Ibid., I, 436).

[23] K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 394.

[24]Tagesbegebenheiten (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30). Tagebuch von Majors Fürsten Taxis (lbid., XIII, 32).

[25] Scherbatov to Schwarzenberg (lbid., I, ad. 369).

[26] Tagesbegebenheiten (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30).  Tagebuch der Majors Fürsten Taxis (lbid., XIII, 32).

[27] Thurn to Schwarzenberg. Sacquenay, 17 January, 2 o'clock in the afternoon. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 391.)

[28] CLAUSEWITZ.  Strategic Critique of the Campaign of 1814.

"One can hardly distinguish the reasons why we headed the Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg with the Austrian Reserves and General Colloredo with Ist Corps to Dijon," said Clausewitz in his criticism. "It would probably maintain communications with Bubna , cover the blockade of towns in Alsace and Franche-Comté and protect the left wing of Schwarzenberg.  All this bears the stamp of strategic considerations that are the remnants of the past.  To support 12,000 men with 40,000 is to commit an inexplicable fault.  In January, the investing troops and the left wing were not threatened.  Moreover, it is clear that a decisive battle won on the banks of the Seine, led the Allies to Paris, a great battle lost threw them back on the Rhine.  There was therefore no reason to not worry about the blockade of the towns and the left wing.  With such an extensive base, from Geneva to Nijmegen; with means available, with the firm intention to end with furious blows, we should not have worried about the danger, always very problematic, that might have resulted from a strategic flank movement. "

The Allied troops attacked, the 18th at night, Varois, and the French post retreated to Saint-Apollinaire. General Liger-Bellair evacuated Dijon the 19th in the morning, going to Auxerre, and General de Veaux marched to Saint-Seine with some National Guard.  Small positions occupied Sombernon and Vitteaux. (Archives of the War.)

[29] BERNHARDI, Toll, Denkwürdihkeiten, IV, 189.

[30] Tagesbegebenheiten (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30), and Journal of Operations of the IVth Corps (Ibid. XIII, 56).

[31] Journal of Operations of the IVth Corps (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., XIII, 56), and report of Commandant Gerbaud to the Minister of War (Archives of the War).

[32] BERNHARDI, Toll, Denkwürdigkeiten, IV, 190, 191, Tagesbegebenheiten. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30.)

[33] Victor to the Chief of Staff (Archives of the War), and Grouchy, Mémoires.

[34] Victor to the Chief of Staff (Archives of the War), and Grouchy, Mémoires.

[35] Scherbatov to Schwarzenberg, from Saussure, January. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 445).

[36] Grouchy to Milhaud and to de France (Archives of the War).

[37] Schwarzenberg to Wittgenstein, 18 January (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I. 428).

[38] Fatigue and privations had reduced the effective troops of the Old Guard of General Christiani to less than 3,000 men, and 19th, Mortier, writing from Colombey-les-Deux-Églises to the Chief of Staff, was forced to confess that "The Old Guard itself is gradually weakened by desertion." (Mortier to the Chief of Staff, 19 January.  Archives of the War.)

Placed on the Napoleon Series: June 2011; updated September 2011

 

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