The Campaign of 1814: Chapter Three Part I
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.
OPERATIONS OF THE ARMY OF SILESIA FROM THE CROSSING OF THE RHINE TO THE FIRST
JUNCTION WITH THE GREAT ARMY OF BOHEMIA (26 JANUARY 1814).
Strength and position of the Army of Silesia in December 1813. --Since
the day (7 November) when the council of war met in Frankfurt am Main (Frankfurt),
had given Blücher the order to take the Army of Silesia back to Mainz,
the different corps of the army had been able to benefit from
a few weeks of rest granted them to recuperate and strengthen. They had received
the following tasks:
The Prussian Ist Corps (Yorck), stationed in Nassau, along the right
bank of the Rhine, had been responsible for the investment of Kassel and fort
of Montebello. Since 18 December, the Brandenburg Hussars, 10th Regiment
of Landwehr Cavalry and a handful of jägers watched the course of the
Rhine from the confluence of the Lahn to Hochheim; the 7th Brigade, stationed
at Mosbach and Bieberich, provided forces that blockaded the
fort of Montebello and was connected to Eltville with posts in echelon along
the Rhine; the 2nd Brigade occupied Wiesbaden and Erbenheim and pushing
its outposts as far as Kassel: its extreme left hand touching the right of
the corps of Sacken. The 1st and 8th Brigades were spread
around Langen-Schwalbach (Bad Schwalbach), the cavalry reserve were at Kirberg
and the headquarters of Yorck remained from 14 November to 30 December in Wiesbaden.
The total effectives of this corps was the 1st of January 1814
from 21,447 men according to Damitz, from 22,108 men, including 661 officers,
according to Droysen, and only 19,561 of officers, noncommissioned officers
and soldiers (as of January 4) after Plotho and Bogdanowitch. It consisted
of 31 ½ battalions, 44 squadrons and 13 batteries (104 cannons).
The Prussian IInd Corps (Kleist), from about 16,000 men strong (and from
20,000 by Bogdanowitch), as of 6 January, when it set off to move towards the
Rhine, had hitherto remained before Erfurt. The Corps,
which was, according to the orders it received later to be at Koblenz, 16 January
and by the 27th to 28th in Trier, had detached a flying column,
composed of two squadrons of the 2nd Silesian Hussar Regiment, two squadrons
of the Silesian National Hussar Regiment, a jäger (zu pferd) squadron
with a few cannons, which, under the command of Major General Prince Biron
of Courland, was temporarily attached to the Russian corps of General von Sacken.
When Kleist began his march towards the Rhine, his corps was composed of 25
battalions, 20 squadrons and 12 batteries (96 pieces). It was preceded
by his reserve cavalry (16 squadrons and 16 guns), under the command of General
To the left of the corps of Yorck during the months of November
and December, the Russian corps of General von Sacken, was quartered since
2 December around Darmstadt. Composed of the 6th and 11th Infantry
Corps (Lieutenant-Generals Scherbatov and Lieven III, the cavalry corps
of General Vasilchikov, Cossacks of General Karpov II), it presented at
the end of December a staff of 26 battalions, 28 squadrons, 8 regiments
of Cossacks, 7 batteries (94 cannons), in all 21,550 men.
The corps of the Russian General Count Langeron, placed in a second line around
Frankfurt, and included the 8th Corps (General Count de Saint-Priest,
who detached at Ehrenbreitstein operated separately and independently for much
of the campaign ), the 9th (General Olsufiev III) and 10th (General
Kaptzevitch), the cavalry corps of Korff and the Cossacks of General Grekov
VIII. By deducting the 8th Corps (about 10,000 men), this corps
had a strength of 23,000 men, divided into 43 battalions, 28 squadrons, 7 regiments
of Cossacks and 12 batteries (136 cannons), five companies of pioneers and
pontooners and pontoon equipment.
According Bogdanovich, the effectives of Langeron's Corps, at the time of the
resumption of hostilities, 36,000 men had been reduced to 24,099 as a result
of the detachment of 8th Corps that account for 11,901 men.
Effectives available during the crossing of the Rhine. --The
total strength of the Army of Silesia was then, when it crossed the Rhine from
67,000 men, with a little more than 300 cannons.
But as Blücher had to leave about 15,000 men of Langeron's Corps before
Mainz, it was only a little over 50,000 troops that began operations on the
left bank of the Rhine.
29 December. --Measures taken by Blücher. --Blücher,
whose headquarters was located in Höchst, repaired in person to Frankfort-am-Main,
29 December. To deceive everyone, just as he sent his lieutenants
confidential instructions relating to the passage of the Rhine, he pointedly
instructed Ribbentrop, the General-Kriegs-Kommissair of
the Army of Silesia, to actively engaged in the establishment of winter
quarters and the constitution of stores needed for troops alluding to a
long stay on the points they occupied on the right bank.
Letter from Schwarzenberg to Blücher. --At
this time, 26 December, Schwarzenberg announced to the Field-Marshal
"he occupied Bern, Solothurn, Zürich and Porrentruy; that Bubna,
who arrived in Freiburg, was heading to Geneva; he had still to reach heights
of Langres by 20 January, during which time he had fears for the right of the
Army of Bohemia, and consequently the importance of occupying French forces
who were uniting at Metz, so as to prevent them from sending everyone towards
Huningen or to try to cross the Rhine at Kehl. The generalissimo added
in his letter of the 26th that Wittgenstein, was still too weak to oppose
such attempts, he relied on the Army of Silesia to undertake this task.
Role assigned by the campaign plan to the Army of Silesia. --The
role assigned to the Army of Silesia had also been planned and decided
in the general plan of campaign: "The Army of Silesia will cross the
Rhine between Koblenz, Mainz and Mannheim, then blockading Mainz, will
move with its main body on Metz, so as to get there on 15 January, when
the Great Army will be at the level of Langres. The Army of Silesia,
without worrying about other places on the Moselle and Meuse, will continue
its movement towards Champagne, and 31 January the two major Allied armies
will be gathered between Troyes, Arcis and Vitry."
The author of the plan in question added: "As the Army of Bohemia, passes
through Switzerland and Franche-Comté and has more ground to cover,
the Army of Silesia was to cross the Rhine eleven days after the troops Schwarzenberg
had completed their passage."
Blücher's confidential instructions to his generals. --Also,
from 26 December, Blücher sent to his various lieutenants confidential
instructions by which 1 January 1814 in the morning was fixed for the Rhine
crossing, the corps of Langeron and Yorck would cross between Mainz and
Koblenz, Sacken's corps between that city and Mannheim. The various
corps of the Army of Silesia were to meet 4 January in the line of Bad
To the difficulties that always accompany the crossing of large courses of
water were still added those which came from the presence on the left bank
of the Rhine of Marshal Marmont's 6th Corps and the weak division of
General Ricard, and that Mainz and Kassel were occupied by the 12,000 men of
The result was that the Army of Silesia was trying to make the passage both
upstream and downstream of this place and that the operation was likely to
succeed only if they are prepared in secret and executed with the utmost speed,
so as not give the French time and concentrate enough to crush the heads of
the columns when they sought to gain a foothold on the left bank.
Preparatory movements of the different corps. --To
this effect, Langeron, with the 10th Corps (Kaptzevitch) and the
reserve artillery, moved the 29th on Nidda and most of the cavalry reserve
was established between Kirberg and Butzbach.
On the 30th Infantry continued its movement toward Wiesbaden, where it
relieved the Prussian outposts, which from Biebrich up to Mosbach participated
in the blockade of Kassel, while the cavalry reserve reached Kirberg and Erstein
and the Ist Prussian Corps (Yorck) left Wiesbaden to mass between Langen-Schwalbach
and the Rhine.
The next day, the 31st, this corps pushed to just between Nastätten
and the Rhine towards Kaub and Sankt Goarshausen. Langeron with the 10th Corps
stood behind him on the right bank of Mühlbach, the cavalry reserve in
Langen-Schwalbach and Katzenelnbogen and 9th Corps relieved the posts of the
right wing forces in position before Kassel.
The crossing point of Kaub reconnoitered by a staff officer of the Ist Corps
was occupied without demonstration in the afternoon by a brigade of the Ist Corps,
under the direct orders of General-Lieutenant von Hünerbein responsible
for the conduct the advanced guard.
All was quiet on the left bank: there seemed to be no notion of either the
plans of the Army of Silesia, nor the movements it had performed.
At the same time Saint Priest massed the Russian 8th Corps on the Lahn,
from Dausenau to Oberlahnstein, and embarked on 82 boats moored at a short
distance from the confluence of this river for moving 5,000 men immediately
on Koblenz, as soon as they would land on the left bank.
On the side of Sacken's Corps, the last days of December had been used in the
construction of a pontoon bridge which at the right time, came down the Neckar
and allowed the crossing around Mannheim.
On 31 December in the evening, the Army of Silesia occupied the following positions:
Sacken's corps was stationed in the vicinity of Mannheim: the Ist Prussian
Corps between Sankt Goarshausen and Kaub, which was also the headquarters of
Blücher: Langeron had taken positions with the 10th Corps behind
the Ist Corps. The 9th Corps was the whole time before Kassel
and the 8th on the side of Ehrenbreitstein. On the banks of the
Lahn the flying corps of General v. Biron, who had been ordered to join the
corps of Sacken at Mannheim, arrived in the morning of 31 December.
Orders of the Emperor to Marmont. --Movements
of Marmont. --As the Army of Silesia was preparing to cross the
Rhine, Marmont, who had been to then responsible for the guarding of the
left bank with the divisions Lagrange, posted in front of Mannheim, Ricard
and Durutte between Mainz and Koblenz, had received from the Emperor, informed
of the appearance of the Allies before Basel, orders to concentrate on
Landau the 6th Corps and the 1st Corps of cavalry, for moving
on Colmar where he would take the senior command of operations in Alsace.
The Marshal, acting on instructions from his sovereign, had immediately
begun his movement and his person was, on 30 December, at Neustadt with
the infantry of Lagrange and the cavalry of Doumerc. All that remained
at Ober-Wesel, Bacharach and around Mannheim were few small posts of Lagrange
division. As for the division of Durutte one of his brigades was
distributed between Koblenz and redoubts raised in front of Lahnstein,
the other was at Sankt Goar, Bacharach and Bingen am Rhein, the division
of Ricard marched on Bad Kreuznach, to unite with the Marshal.
Fortune smiled, as we see, on Blücher and greatly facilitated his operation
that the presence of slightly respectable forces could easily have derailed
or at least compromised.
The 1st of January 1814. --Passage of the Rhine by the corps
of Sacken. --While Sacken had taken care to bring
down the Neckar the pontoon boats, which were built in complete security,
he needed to lay the bridge over the Rhine , first to take the redoubt,
armed with six cannons and raised by the French, opposite the confluence
of the Neckar and the Rhine. He undertook the operation, which was
run in the night of 31 December to the 1st of January, with six regiments
of eigers, under
the command of Generals Tallisin II and Sass, and that had embarked on
boats found on the Neckar.
These troops had formed in two echelons that were put in motion at 4 o'clock
in the morning. Protected by fog, they managed to make it without being
seen after a few steps taking the redoubt in the presence of King of Prussia,
only after their two generals were wounded and not without having lost 300
men, including 1 senior officer killed and 2 wounded. At 6 o'clock at
night, the pontoon bridge was in place, and Sacken, starting immediately to
get his people on the left bank, pushed the same evening to Frankenthal. The
parties sent ahead came on the right, up to Worms, on the left up to Speyer,
while General Prince Biron of Courland, with his flying corps, whose main body
had stopped in Frankenthal, extended his outposts to Alzey. He had them
then search to unite on the right with the corps of Yorck and Langeron.
Cavalry combat at Mutterstadt. --General Karpov
II, who had left with
his Cossacks soon after he settled on the left shore for Mutterstadt encountered
nearly eight French squadrons; he charged without giving them time to reconnoiter,
put them in full rout and took 25 officers and 200 men.
Crossing of the Rhine at Kaub by the corps of Yorck. --It
was especially toward Kaub that fortune would favor Blücher's enterprises,
although he had chosen to cross at the point that seemed to lend the least
to one such company. Indeed, to arrive at Kaub, he must first go
through the defile of Weisel, which if allowing to mass the troops without
being able to see their movements, had the serious disadvantage of being
controlled by heights of the left bank. It could, moreover, be easily
rendered impractical if the French artillery, burning the village of Kaub,
had completely blocked the outlet. Finally, the heights located on
the left bank fell almost straight into the river. The choice made
by Blücher of such a bad point is justified by the findings that had
been made of the absence of any French posts and the lack of any provision
of a defense on left side.
The vanguard of the Prussian Ist Corps, consisting of 12 battalions of
infantry, two companies of jägers, 16 squadrons and 16 cannons, all under
the command of Generals and v. Hünerbein and von Jurgass, had massed the
31st in the evening on the right bank, just before the time the Russian
pontoons left from Nastätten and were intended to arrive to bridge on
this point. The building of a bridge was immediately started that was
upstream from Kaub in the Pfalz, without the troop movements and the work of
pontooners having caused any alarm on the opposite bank. Around 3 in the morning
200 fusiliers embarked and landed on the left side after suffering a few shots
fired at the last moment by a customs post. The fusiliers then had a
slight skirmish with a few weak detachments who, rushed from Ober-Wesel and
Bacharach, but soon retired. At dawn, the French timidly renewed their
attempt, but without success.
Information collected by the Prussians on the left bank. --A
courier, bearing news from Marmont, who was traveling from Bacharach to
Rheinfels, was captured by the troops that had crossed to the left bank. The
Prussians had learned from him that they had to deal with a small outpost
of 60 men and the left side was almost completely stripped of troops. The
seized dispatches, which were intended to General Durutte then in Koblenz,
made it clear that Marmont had intended to take a position between Kaiserslautern
and Neustadt, where Durutte had orders to join him. The Marshal prescribed
in addition to this general, where it would be impossible to march by Kirn
and Idar-Oberstein, directing him from Birkenfeld through to the Saar. Lastly,
it was now known, and this was something important to Blücher, Marmont
was for the moment at Neustadt and the division of Ricard stood around
Bad Kreuznach. So when they had thrown back the attempt by the French in
the morning, the three battalions of Prussian, who had come to strengthen
the two jäger companies, marched forward, scaled the heights and occupied
Bacharach, Ober-Wesel and villages surrounding.
At 9 in the morning, the bridge finally reached the Pfalz that was occupied
by two squadrons of hussars who, with two cannons, soon were to be transported
by boat to the left bank, where there was already an infantry brigade. The
first brigade, soon after crossing the Rhine by boat, immediately pushed in
the direction of Sankt Goar.
Breaking up of the bridge at Pfalz. --At 4 in
the afternoon, when it was thought almost certain of achieving a rapid
completion of the bridge that would lead them over the Pfalz to the left
bank, the anchors gave way, the ropes broke and the boats were driven off
by the current violence. Forced to start the work anew, the bridge
could not be completed until the morning of 2 January. Finally, the
eigers stationed on the right bank at Rüdesheim, who reported in the
night of the movements of French troops moving from Bingen to Bacharach,
General von Yorck felt obliged to send the same evening the first brigade,
which had occupied Sankt Goar, to support in any event the few troops stationed
Following the failure of the bridge, Blücher remained still during the
night of the 1st to 2nd of January on the right bank between Kaub,
Weisel and Sankt Goarshausen, with the remaining three brigades of the Prussian
Ist Corps and the Russian corps of Langeron established further back
in second line.
Crossing of a part of the corps of Saint-Priest. --Taking of Koblenz. --Further
downstream, the night of 31 December to 1 January, Saint-Priest had managed
to throw on the left side two of his brigades under the command of Generals
Bistrom II and Karpenkov, and to removed the redoubts raised by the French
in front of the mouth of the Lahn. General Durutte forced by events
to withdraw to the Hunsrück, evacuated Koblenz, where the Russians
entered on the 1st of January at 4 o'clock in the morning. Major-General
Pillar pushed again the same day to Andernach, where he seized six transport
barges loaded with food and ammunition.
On 2 January at 9 o'clock in the morning the Russian pontooners had finished
the pontoon bridge, that immediately served the troops and artillery of the
Ist Corps in completing their passage. As there was only one bridge,
it was only the 3rd at the break of day, that the corps of Langeron got
its turn to leave the right bank of the Rhine.
Crossing of the corps of Langeron. --Opinion of Clausewitz on
the Rhine crossing. --"A river crossing," Clausewitz
said about this, despite all the admiration he professes of Blücher
and frequently cites, even in his Critique of Strategy in the 1814 Campaign,
when it comes to the operations of the Field-Marshal, departing from his
usual impartiality, "a river crossing executed by 70,000 men over
a line of over 120 km long, interrupted by a position in which the enemy
had a garrison of 16,000 men, is not an easily recommendable operation;
for the enemy, as long as his strength permits it could throw himself with
all his men on a fraction of that of Sacken and pushing him back before
the others had been able to rescue him. However, given the weakness
of the French, as it was not in their plans to stand firm between the Rhine
and the Vosges there was no great danger in attempting this enterprise;
moreover, as greater results could be obtained than by operating the crossing
points that were closer, they had reason to act in this way: it is the
side that has superiority in numbers that is causing the crisis, look for
There certainly is much truth to the view of Clausewitz, and we do not approve
of the principle laid down in closing. However we feel he would have been more
severe for any other general and after he critiqued the operation, as he reasons
from the beginning; having highlighted its drawbacks and dangers, he would
not failed to say if he had not been discussing Blücher, that this way
of acting and the choice of such distant crossing points, could only be justified
if, before starting the operation, the commander Army of Silesia would have
known, by the reports of his emissaries, as he learned later by the news found
on the courier, that Marmont had been, by higher order, directed to strip the
left side and stand on Kaiserslautern.
2 January. --Movements of the corps of Yorck and Langeron. --To
overcome the limit of possible delays inseparable from the passage of a
large river on one bridge and especially on a pontoon bridge, Blücher
ordered Yorck to proceed immediately from Bacharach by Rheinböllen
and Stromberg on Bad Kreuznach. Langeron was ordered to take, once
on the left shore, the bank from Bacharach to Bingen am Rhein.
March of the division of Ricard. --General Ricard
had spent the night at Bad Kreuznach, where he had been aware of the movement
of the Prussians and Russians on Koblenz and Bacharach. He was immediately
set in motion to move by the Hunsrück to Koblenz and give a hand to
the division Durutte. Being that his vanguard had already gone past
Alzey, his main body had reached Stromberg, his rearguard that was still
at Laubach was soon to join the remnants of the division of Durutte falling
back on Simmern and moved forward again up to Halsenbach. But due
to the French posts of Sankt Goar and Bacharach being forced back by the
Prussians that pushed on Rheinböllen and Stromberg, General Ricard
was constrained to stop in Laubach to meet there with General Durutte. While
there he learned Yorck was master of the openings of the Rhine on the Hunsrück,
he had already occupied Rheinböllen and Stromberg, his cavalry had
returned to the left bank of the Moselle and knew that General Durutte
only had with him 400 to 500 men, he resolved to proceed to Trier, to ensure
the crossing of the Moselle.
Blücher, pushing rapidly forward the corps of Yorck first on Bad Kreuznach,
then through the valley of the Glan (Nahe) on Saarbrücken while he was
marching Sacken by Kaiserslautern and Zweibrücken (Deux-Ponts) to the
Saar, evidently trying to prevent the troops of generals Durutte and Ricard
to execute, first a retirement, then their junction with Marmont.
Cavalry affair at Rheinböllen. --Yorck
had put his troops in motion immediately after receiving the orders of
the Field Marshal, that is to say a little after noon; his advanced
guard took the road of Bad Kreuznach; the 1st, 2nd and 7th Brigades,
and the reserve cavalry followed the movements of the advanced guard. The
cavalry of the extreme vanguard easily drove the French cavalry from Rheinböllen,
robbed them of some fifty men and found no trace of the enemy, nor at Stromberg.
nor even Bad Kreuznach, where it arrived during the night. The 2nd Brigade
pushed up to Rheinböllen and Ellern, and as the French were still
at Argenthal and Schnorbach, as the other brigade was ordered to continue
its march, it temporarily left at Ellern a battalion and a squadron in
charge of covering the right of the other troops of the Ist Corps
until Colonel Count Henckel, who had been directed on Simmern with a flying
corps, would force the French to leave Argenthal.
The flying corps of Henckel driving on Trier. --The
detachment entrusted to Colonel Henckel, and then moved from Simmern towards
Trier, consisted of the 5th Silesian Landwehr Cavalry Regiment (4
squadrons), two squadrons of the 3rd Silesian Landwehr Cavalry Regiment,
a fusilier battalion of the corps and a half battery of horse artillery. As
this column had been formed in the course of the afternoon, it arrived
at nine o'clock in the evening Rheinböllen, paused there a moment
and regrouped prior to its movement on Simmern.
The march of 2 January, was performed in one of the strongest cold spells and
on the bad roads in the Hunsrück, that the troops of the Ist Corps
had ever experienced in camping for the past two nights, so that most of them
had not reached their quarters located in front of the gorges of the mountains
until late at night, and some even did not arrive there until the 3rd in
the morning. Yorck arrived in person at eleven o'clock at night in Stromberg,
and Blücher's headquarters remained in Bacharach.
Combat of Bad Dürkheim and movement of Biron to Alzey.
--On the side of Sacken's corps, Marmont, ultimately to cover Kaiserslautern,
had taken position on the Schindbuckel, with the Lagrange Division and the
cavalry of Doumerc between Bad Dürkheim and Ellerstadt. After a
short fight, he had to fall back on Hardenburg, behind Bad Dürkheim, and
leave in the hands of the enemy a hundred prisoners. The generals Ricard
and Durutte found it impossible to reach the Marshal as soon as the troops
of Yorck had preceded to Stromberg, and were forced to gain the Saar through
Laubach and Simmern.
On 2 January, at nine o'clock in the morning, Sacken had again directed the
flying corps of the General Prince Biron of Courland, from Dautenheim to Alzey.
This detachment, moving the next day the 3rd for Wonsheim, was
tasked with establishing and maintaining communication with the vanguard. Biron
found Alzey evacuated; he nevertheless managed to reach the enemy thanks to
a thick fog, to surprise it between Bermersheim and Lonsheim, and taking there
1 lieutenant colonel, 5 officers, 20 men, and 65 horse.
Cavalry actions at Mehlem and Oberwinter. --The
cavalry of Saint Priest had continued to push forward from Andernach and
arrived in the afternoon of 2 January to Mehlem and Oberwinter. But
at this point the Cossacks, supported by some companies of infantry and
one gun, came up against the generals Albert and Jacquinot (from the 5th Corps,
Sébastiani), which emerged from Bonn at their meeting, attacked
immediately, quickly returning them in the direction of Andernach and reoccupying
Passage of the corps of Saint Priest delayed by ice. --The
Rhine had begun covering with ice, Saint Priest succeeded, with great difficulty
and loss of a lot of time, to cross successively by boat the rest of his
infantry, artillery and cavalry. So he was forced to stay
several days in Koblenz, and it was only later that he could begin his
movement by Andernach on Malmedy, Dinant and Givet. We
will not, however, look for Saint Priest before mid-February, when he marched
with one of the Russian echelons of the 8th Corps to get to Saint-Dizier,
where he arrived on 27 February. He remained there for some time to gather reinforcements sent
to Blücher and connect the Army of Silesia, first with the Army of
Bohemia, then with the Rhine.
3 January. --Movement of the Prussian
cavalry towards Bingen am Rhein. --Most of the
troops of the Ist Corps made a halt on 3 January. Everything was
confined to a few operations of the cavalry of the advanced guard and movement
of Colonel Count Henckel.
General von Hünerbein, who commanded the vanguard, not knowing
if Bingen was still occupied by the French, sent on this side a flying
column that left from Stromberg the 2nd in the evening. It would
scout for his left and establish, if it could, communication with the corps
of Langeron. The column, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel
von Stössel and formed by the battalion of fusiliers from the Brandenburg
Infantry Regiment, drove a small French post from Waldalgesheim, which,
thanks to the darkness, managed to withdraw safely. Lieutenant-Colonel
von Stössel nonetheless managed to learn that the French (this was
General Choisy, with the 2nd Regiment of the Guards of Honor and a thousand
foot soldiers of the 2nd brigade of the Durutte Division coming from being
pent up in Mainz), were still in Bingen on the 3rd in the morning and watched
the course of the Nahe.
Cavalry action at Simmern. --Colonel
Henckel, continuing to move in the night of the 2nd to 3rd, found Argenthal
evacuated by the enemy, and arrived at 2 o'clock in the morning outside
Simmern that was still occupied a small rear guard of the Ricard Division.
This little troop, almost immediately expelled from the city, attempted
unsuccessfully to regain a foothold in the market, but broken by the
cavalry of Henckel, it was pursued up to Kirchberg where the battle,
that had cost the French a hundred men killed , wounded or prisoners,
continued until about 5 o'clock in the morning.
The main body of flying corps of Colonel Henckel at 3 in the evening had reached
Kirchberg, which the French had left later in the day to fall back with the
generals Ricard and Durutte by Kirn and Sankt Wendel in the Saarland.
Movements of the Cossacks. --The Cossacks meanwhile had
been joined at Alzey by Sacken's Corps, and some French troops stationed on
this side still had to withdraw from first on Meisenheim, then Kirn, to rejoin
the divisions of Ricard and Durutte retired on Birkenfeld.
March of Langeron on Bingen. --Langeron, whose
corps was finally able to finish the Rhine crossing the day before
and take position the 2nd at night in Bacharach, had started from daybreak,
towards Bingen, that had been raised by General Kornilov. General
Choisy, to whom the action had cost 300 men, retired with his infantry
on Ingelheim am Rhein, in the direction of Mainz, while his cavalry
sought to rally with the troops of Marshal Marmont. As for the
1st Regiment of Guards of Honor previously posted at Bad Kreuznach,
it had been cut off from the rest of French troops by the movements
of the Army of Silesia; but it was not lost as, after being forced
to divide into small packets marching through different routes, it
finally rejoined the French troops on the Saar.
Cavalry affair at Neustadt. --Ambush at Warteck. --Skirmish
of Fürfeld. --Sacken had continued to follow Marmont who,
having been joined by four battalions and a half battery Ricard Division
evacuated Bad Dürkheim and Neustadt the night of the 3rd to
4th, to fall back on Kaiserslautern. The Marshal's rearguard,
on reaching Neustadt and taken on the flank by the Cossacks of Major General
Lukovkin, was deeply shaken and weakened, in this affair by losing 3 officers
and 50 dragoons captured.
General Prince Biron had removed a supply convoy ambushed near Warteck
between Alzey and Kirchheimbolanden and had subsequently been established
at Wonsheim, where he was connected to the advanced guard of Yorck.
To complete the presentation of small operations that day, we still
have to add a Prussian patrol sent from Bad Kreuznach to Fürfeld,
had a slight engagement with a French outpost, and that Yorck's extreme
right was connected in the afternoon with the Cossacks from the corps of
Positions 3 January in the evening. --It follows from
the above that, the 3rd at night, two corps of the Army of Silesia
moved to the Saar: Yorck by the road from Bad Kreuznach, Sacken by
that of Kaiserslautern, while Langeron headed for Mainz.
4 January. -- Blücher's orders on the transmission of news. --Movement
of the advanced guard to the Saar. --The 4th of
January, the advanced guard of Yorck's Corps, pursuant to orders of Blücher,
continued, by way of Bad Kreuznach and the valley of the Glan, through
Meisenheim and Lauterecken its movement on Kusel. "So,"
said Blücher in that order, "to ensure timely transmission of news
coming from the front, they will leave behind cavalry orderlies at the main
points and they will expedite the important information with the aid of the
jäger volunteers serving as couriers."
This vanguard from Kusel marched to the Saar in two columns pointing on the
left, to Saarbrücken, on the right to Saarlouis. Its mission was
to prevent the enemy from establishing itself on the Saar, capture Saarlouis,
in the situation where the site had little food and a small garrison, and finally
cover the march of Yorck's Corps and to ensure the tranquility of its
The main body was ordered to quarter the evening of the 4th between Meisenheim
and Bad Kreuznach.
But the thaw, which had occurred in the meantime, had broken up
the roads to the point that the advanced guard, commanded by Prince William
of Prussia was unable to go beyond Lauterecken, whence a detachment was
sent to Kirn to cover the right. The extreme advanced guard, commanded
by General von Katzler had stopped at Offenbach, and merely push left,
towards Kaiserslautern, the regiment of the Lancers of Brandenburg with
orders to link with that side of the Sacken's Corps .
March of Henckel on Trier. --At the extreme right, Henckel had received orders
to go to Trier, to seize it, if this city was weakly occupied.
It was wanted to ensure some type of bridge over the Moselle
and to survey Luxembourg. Henckel moved from Morbach towards Thalfang,
following, despite all the difficulties which presented to their march,
the French rearguard, who sought to gain Saarbrücken in passing
through Birkenfeld. To cover his right, he crossed the Moselle
at Traben-Trarbach with a party of 30 horsemen, commanded by an officer
to oversee the road to Koblenz.
Langeron, in turn, approached from Mainz, pushing
before him the few French posts trying to stop his progress. Sacken continued
his march towards Kaiserslautern; Kleist, who under the agreement signed
on 21 December, went to go back the 6th to the town of Erfurt, had
received that day from Schwarzenberg permission to leave only a few troops
at the citadel and to take measures immediately to get it moving with the
rest of his corps formed in three columns.
January 5. --Movements of the Ist Prussian
Corps. --Henckel at Trier. --The Ist Corps lay motionless on 5 January;
the vanguard only made a little headway; after having concentrated at Lauterecken,
it pushed up to Kusel always preceded by General von Katzler, who reached
Konken, while the artillery reserve of the corps came to Obermoschel and
Yorck set up his headquarters at Meisenheim.
Colonel Henckel had, despite
the bad weather and poor conditions of roads, continued on his move from
Thalfang to Trier, and from the 5th in the morning he was preceded
by a detachment of four squadrons of Landwehr cavalry and 60 tirailleurs (schützen) transported in wagons under
the command of Major von Ozeroffski, who had been instructed to reconnoiter
Trier. The major succeeded in driving before him the French outposts
and stand before the city until the arrival of the colonel, who arrived
with his main body the night of the 5th just up to Ruwer, a little
more than 5 kilometers from Trier.
To deceive the enemy about the real strength of his corps, he
had a considerable number of fires lit, and, forming his troops into
two columns, he prepared to carry the town by day. But the small
French garrison did not wait for the attack and retreated to Luxembourg.
Henckel, informed of their departure, entered into Trier at 3 in the
morning, where the French had abandoned their sick, their wounded and
several magazines filled with plenty of military equipment.
March of Sacken on Kaiserslautern. --Langeron
before Mainz. --Sacken continued his march in two columns to
Kaiserslautern. After a brisk fight, Langeron had completed investing
Mainz. Leaving only the corps of General Kapzevitch guarding before
it, he immediately placed the 9th Corps (General Olsufiev III), in
route with orders to join the Army of Silesia by the shortest paths. Finally,
Major General Prince Biron of Courland, complying with the orders he had
received during the night of the 4th to 5th, were held at five
o'clock in the afternoon Kaiserslautern evacuated by the French.
Retreat Marmont towards the Saar. --Marmont,
making an exact account of the situation, understood perfectly that Blücher
was hoping to see him head to his front to Sacken, who would have enjoyed
it, in order to allow sufficient time in Yorck to outflank his left. He
also acknowledged that he did not have enough troops to maintain the position
of Kaiserslautern, and in any case, he exposed himself by remaining to
see Yorck arrive before the Saar, while Sacken outflanked him by passing
through Rabenstein and Schönberg. Finally, as he well knew that
it was only on the banks of that river that he could to rally the troops
of generals Durutte and Ricard, he withdrew the 5th in morning towards
Homburg and continued the night of the 5th his retreat on Saarbrücken,
where already there were from the day before some troops from the garrison
of Metz. To complete the precautions taken in this direction, the French
had blown up the stone bridge had replaced it by a pontoon boat bridge.
New orders of Blücher. --In the afternoon of the 5th on the basis of
information which indicated Marmont have taken position in Kaiserslautern,
Blücher changed his orders. He had prescribed to Yorck to move
the 6th, at dawn on Kusel, sending his vanguard on the Saar, and
Sacken, to move partly on Otterberg, the other part on (Enkenbach) Alsenborn,
to hold the French until Yorck could debouch in their rear. Blücher
added in his order: "If, as there is every reason to suppose, the
enemy, when turned, falls back and takes the road of Pirmasens, Sacken's
Corps' mission will be to follow him, preferably by marching the head of
his columns of infantry, which alone can act effectively in this mountainous
country. The corps of Yorck will, in turn, precede the enemy to the Saar
and the cut off Metz."
Finally Yorck, as he did elsewhere, should send
the cavalry in the direction of Zweibrücken, while the leading edge
of Prince William would continue to push on his side to Saarbrücken.
Sacken was ordered to move from Kaiserslautern by Homburg and Blieskastel,
Sarreguemines on one hand, the other on Bitche, and reminded and encouraged
him to carry forward his cavalry, either by Dürkheim and Kaiserslautern,
either by Neustadt and Kaiserslautern, otherwise by Annweiler-am-Trifels.
If the order given by the Blücher on the
5th is not as clear and as accurate as is general in the instructions
given by marshal his lieutenants, it is only that in reality he had not
been given previously information to know positively the positions held
and movements executed by his opponent. The last sentence of the
order of movement demonstrates, moreover, a peremptory manner: "It
is important", he said, "to discover at the earliest the possible
movements of the enemy, let me know immediately, provide me, therefore,
numerous and frequent reports."
But this time, and despite the hardest marching
he would force on his troops on terrible and completely smashed roads,
it was too late to meet the Duke of Raguse. Indeed, the marshal,
after having, under the protection of a rear-guard composed of a brigade
of cuirassiers camped around Homburg the night of the 5th to 6th,
had reached the 6th Sarreguemines and Saarbrücken, points where
he recrossed the Saar.
6 January. --Movements of the cavalry
of General von Jürgass on Zweibrücken. --However, General von Jürgass, with one brigade
of dragoons and a half battery of horse artillery, left from around Kusel
at, going by way of Homburg on Zweibrücken: the advanced guard marched
on Saarbrücken. At the behest of Prince William, the cavalry
of General von Katzler sent to Tholey, detached on Ottweiler the Brandenburg
Uhlans and a battalion of infantry. Lieutenant-Colonel von Stutterheim,
who led this column, had the special mission of raising, the 7th,
Saarbrücken, if this city was poorly guarded, and then push parties
toward Sarreguemines, Saint-Avold and Saarlouis. This detachment
arrived the 6th at night in Ottweiler.
But 6th in the evening, French troops had
recrossed the Saar, burned the pontoon boat bridge at Saarbrücken,
while General von Katzler was still at Tholey, Bergweiler and Marpingen,
most of the vanguard of Prince William at Sankt Wendel, General
von Jürgass at Brücken, Schönenberg and on the high road
from Kusel at Homburg. The headquarters of Yorck, whose troops only stop
at between nine and ten o'clock at night, was installed at Kusel, that
of Blücher at Lauterecken.
Henckel, meanwhile, gave a coup de main to Trier
at dawn and threw back the French offensive that he followed in the direction
of Luxembourg with a squadron of the 3rd Silesian Landwehr Cavalry
Regiment and a company of fusiliers.
Cossacks of Sacken in Zweibrücken. --On
the side of Sacken, Major General Lanskoy, with some cavalry, had pushed
ahead of Kaiserslautern on Pirmasens, and Biron, who had started nine o'clock,
had reached at two o'clock Homburg, coming from Landstuhl, where he had
sent a small party of about twenty hussars and some Cossacks under the
command of Major von Strantz to Zweibrücken, where the riders took
a part of the baggage of Kellermann. Communication between the corps
of Yorck and Sacken was now established.
The information collected had verified the retreat
of the Duke of Raguse; it was also learned that there were few supplies
in Saarlouis and a garrison of barely a thousand men.
The French troops had therefore a good day's
march head start on the Army of Silesia. Moreover, as incessant rains and
the thaw had swelled the waters of the Saar, where the bridges had been
cut, Marshal Marmont, who had managed to effect on the left bank of the
river his junction with Ricard and Durutte, was now able to dispute the
passage to the enemy, to delay its progress and gain the time he needed
to supply places and conduct the organization of the new troops formations
and the operations of the levee en masse.
7 January. --Positions of the outposts
of cavalry. --Bombardment of Saarlouis. --The day after, 7 January, the Ist Corps
of the Army of Silesia, still marching in two columns, one by Birkenfeld,
the other by Sankt Wendel, continued, but less strongly, its movement towards
the Saar. Yorck and Blücher were stayed that day at Sankt Wendel.
At the vanguard, Prince William directed General
von Katzler towards Saarlouis. He came up to Saarwellingen and Dillingen;
after unsuccessfully attempting to cross the river by a few of men swimming,
he extended his string of outposts by Dillingen, Roden, Ensdorf, and Völklingen
and threw the night of the 7th to 8th some shells into Saarlouis. The
7th in the evening, Prince William was, with the bulk of the advanced
guard in Lebach, also occupying Landsweiler, Eppelborn, Bubach (-Calmesweiler)
Henckel detached to Namur and Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle). --On
the far right, Henckel was still in Trier, where he directed an officer
with a small party, by Arlon, towards Namur and Aachen in hopes of connecting
with the Prussian IIIrd Corps. But this officer had to return to
Trier without being able to establish such communication.
In this connection, it should be noted that the
Army of Silesia seems to have been at least as badly off with shared maps
as the Army of Bohemia, at least that's according to a letter that Yorck
sent, on the 7th, to Henckel, begging him to send him from Trier
the maps that, he said, from that moment, he had been completely lacking. The
same request was renewed that day, and in terms still more pressing by
Major von Schack, quartermaster of the Prussian Ist Corps.
Skirmish of Sankt Johann (Saint-Jean). --General von Jürgass had reached Neunkirchen
with his dragoons and Lieutenant-Colonel von Stutterheim, who occupied
Sankt Johann, after a light skirmish in front of Saarbrücken, on the
right bank of the Saar, had effected a junction with Biron . The main body
of Sacken was in Homburg, his advance guard towards Sarreguemines, at Rohrbach,
Blieskastel and Zweibrücken, General Lanskoy to Pirmasens.
Key to Map #9:
In late December 1813, the Ist Prussian Corps (Yorck), consisting of
the 1st, 2nd, 7th and 8th Brigades with a cavalry reserve was massed largely
to the northwest of Mainz. While a small contingent of cavalry and light
infantry watched the Rhine from the Lahn to Hochheim am Main, the brigades
were centered on Mosbach, Bieberich, Wiesbaden, Erbenheim with troops of the
7th Brigade investing Fort Montebello in Mainz-Kastel (Kassel). The 2nd Brigade
was slightly to the north and east at Wiesbaden and Erbenheim its left touching
Sacken's Russian corps. The 30th the corps left Wiesbaden to mass
between Langen-Schwalbach and the Rhine, and the next day, pushed to just between
Nastätten and the Rhine towards Kaub and Sankt Goarshausen. The
crossing point selected slightly upstream from Kaub on the Pfalz was
occupied without incident and the building of a bridge was immediately started. On
the 31st 200 fusiliers were ferried to the left side to establish a bridgehead,
however after the pontoon bridge broke apart on 1 January, Yorck felt compelled
to send the 1st Brigade to reinforce them until the bridge was finished
on the 2nd.
The corps completed its passage by the end of the 2nd and was ordered
from Bacharach by Rheinböllen and Stromberg on Bad Kreuznach which it
reached on the night of the 2nd. The 3rd the cavalry of the
Ist Corps pressed on to Bingen am Rhein, while the rest of the corps
started to move on the Saar by way of Bad Kreuznach. Hampered by a thaw,
the main body only reached between Bad Kreuznach and Meisenheim on the 4th and
remained motionless on the 5th. Thinking Marshal Marmont would
stand at Kaiserslautern Blücher ordered Yorck to move his vanguard on
the Saar and his main body on Kusel on the 6th, while his cavalry moved
on Zweibrücken. By the 7th the Ist Corps was still marching on the
Saar in two columns, one by Birkenfeld the other by Sankt Wendel. The
advance guard having pressed ahead throwing some shells into Saarlouis and
occupying Lebach, Landsweiler, Eppelborn, Bubach and Eidenborn.
At Stromberg Yorck detached a flying column, under the command of Colonel
Henckel to push west to Simmern where it engaged the rearguard of the Ricard
Division early on the 3rd pushing them back in a running engagement to
Kirchberg. On the 4th, Henckel moved from Morbach towards Thalfang
crossing a small party over the Moselle at Traben-Trarbach to command the road
to Koblenz. Despite bad weather and roads, Henckel proceeded the 5th on
Trier which he entered on the retreat of the French.
The IInd Prussian Corps (Kleist), consisting of the 9th, 10th,
11th and 12th Brigades and reserve cavalry was in the vicinity
of Erfurt, originally ordered to head towards the Rhine, he was recalled to
Erfurt by the agreement signed on 21st of December, only to be permission
on the 6th of January to be at Koblenz, 16 January and by the 27th to
28th in Trier.
Sacken's Russian corps, consisting of the 6th, 11th and cavalry
and Cossack corps was around Darmstadt. In the last days of December
it constructed a pontoon bridge which at the right time, came down the Neckar
and allowed the crossing between Worms and Frankenthal. The night of
the 31st to 1st Sacken crossed eigers by boats to capture a redoubt
barring the deployment of the pontoon bridge. By the 6 pm on the 1st the
pontoon bridge was in place and Sacken's Corps crossed the Rhine pushing to
the same evening to Frankenthal. Parties were sent north towards Worms
and south to Speyer, while Biron's flying corps (detached previously from Saint-Priest)
sent outposts up to Alzey. Karpov II's Cossack Corps engaged the French
at Mutterstadt and routed them that day also before moving on the Alzey the
2nd and surprising Marmont's rearguard at Neustadt. The 3rd was
spent moving the corps towards the Saar by way of Kaiserslautern. While
the main body continued it march on Kaiserslautern in two columns, Major General
Prince Biron occupied Kaiserslautern on the 5th heading forward on Homburg
and reaching Zweibrücken and linking with the Ist Prussian Corps.
By the 7th Biron had joined General von Jürgass at Sankt Johann
before Saarbrücken while the main body reached Homburg with his vanguard
towards Sarreguemines and General Lanskoy at Pirmasens.
Langeron's Russian corps, consisting of 9th, 10th and cavalry and Cossack
corps were behind Sacken at Frankfort-am-Main, with the exception of Saint-Priest's
8th Corps located in Ehrenbreitstein which acted independently during
most of the campaign. Langeron, with the 10th Corps (Kaptzevitch)
and the reserve artillery, moved the 29th on Nidda and most of the cavalry
reserve was established between Kirberg and Butzbach. On the
30th the infantry continued its movement toward Wiesbaden, where it relieved
the Prussian outposts, which from Biebrich up to Mosbach participated in the
blockade of Kastel, while the cavalry reserve reached Kirberg and Erstein. Langeron
with the 10th Corps stood behind Yorck on the 31st on the right
bank of Mühlbach, the cavalry reserve in Langen-Schwalbach and Katzenelnbogen
and 9th Corps relieved the posts of the right wing forces in position
The 31st Langeron had taken positions with the 10th Corps behind
the Ist Corps. The 9th Corps was the whole time before Kastel. Due
to the breakup of the bridge and its reconstruction, Langeron's Corps only
began crossing the Rhine of the 3rd of January, were it was ordered to
clear the bank from Bacharach to Bingen am Rhein and then march on Mainz the
4th. On the 5th Langeron completed the investment of Mainz, leaving
only General Kaptzevitch and sending the 9th Corps to reunite with the
Army of Silesia by the shortest route.
On the 31st Saint Priest massed the Russian 8th Corps on the Lahn,
from Dausenau to Oberlahnstein, and embarked on 82 boats moored at a short
distance from the confluence of this river for moving 5,000 men immediately
on Koblenz, as soon as they would land on the left bank. Further downstream,
the night of 31 December to 1 January, Saint-Priest had managed to throw on
the left side two of his brigades under the command of Generals Bistrom II
and Karpenkov, and to removed the redoubts raised by the French in front of
the mouth of the Lahn. General Durutte forced by events to withdraw to
the Hunsrück, evacuated Koblenz, where the Russians entered on the 1st of
January at 4 o'clock in the morning. From there his cavalry pressed north
to Andernach arriving at Mehlem and Oberwinter the 2nd where they were
met by Generals Albert and Jacquinot from Bonn and forced them back to Remagen. Delayed
significantly by ice on the Rhine Saint-Priest remained stationary in Koblenz
for several days before moving by Andernach on Malmedy, Dinant and Givet.
Facing the Allies in December was Marshal Marmont's 6th Corps who up
to then was responsible for guarding the Rhine with the divisions of Lagrange,
posted in front of Mannheim, Ricard and Durutte between Mainz and Koblenz,
while General Morand defended Mainz and Kastel with 12,000 men. On the
appearance of the Allies before Basel, the Emperor ordered Marmont to concentrate
the 6th Corps and the 1st Cavalry Corps at Landau-in-der-Pfalz
(between Mannheim and Strasbourg) and to move on Colmar to take overall command
of the defense of the Alsace. By the 30th he was at Neustadt
with the infantry of Lagrange and the cavalry of Doumerc.
All that remained at Ober-Wesel, Bacharach and around Mannheim were few
small posts of the Lagrange division. As for the division of Durutte
one of his brigades was distributed between Koblenz and redoubts raised in
front of Lahnstein, the other was at Sankt Goar, Bacharach and Bingen am Rhein,
and the division of Ricard marched on Bad Kreuznach, to unite with the Marshal.
After the crossing of the Rhine by the Allies on the night of 31 December-1
the French forces started to fall back. General Durutte withdrew from
Koblenz on the Hunsrück on the 1st, while General Ricard at Bad
Kreuznach was initially ordered back to Koblenz to assist him. Meeting
the remnants of the Durutte Division at Laubach on the 2nd he found himself
was cut off from Marmont and forced to regain the Saar by way of Laubach
and Simmern, where Colonel Henckel's flying column hit the rearguard pushing
it to Kirchberg. The two divisions reached Saarbrücken the 6th almost
simultaneously with Marmont.
Meanwhile, Marmont to cover Kaiserslautern took positions on the Schindbuckel
at Bad Dürkheim and Ellerstadt, only to be forced back on Hardenburg. Sacken
continued to follow Marmont reunited with remnants of the Ricard Division from
Bad Kreuznach that had been cut off from the rest of the division on the 3rd,
fighting at Neustadt and causing them to fall back on Kaiserslautern on the
The 5th he continued his retreat on Saarbrücken where reinforcements
from Metz were gathering, the bridge destroyed and replaced by a pontoon bridge.
He reached Saarbrücken on the evening of the 6th.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: July 2011
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