The Campaign of 1814: Chapter Three Part
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).
16 January. --Movement of the troops of Yorck around Metz. --Yorck
subsequently moved his headquarters on the 16th from Longeville to Boulay
while his troops were performing the prescribed movements around Metz. However
the reserve cavalry of General von Jürgass failed to cross the Moselle
in front of Ancy, at Jouy-aux-Arches: a thaw had occurred since the previous
evening, had swollen the river, which was carrying large ice floes, and the
General, absolutely lacking any resources to implement his transit to the point
indicated, had to back up the Moselle to Pont-à-Mousson, only getting
It was the same for the brigade of Pirch, who could not get to Thionville,
and General von Horn, who, not wanting to go back to Trier to give up the
route to Luxembourg, found himself obliged for the same reason to stay at
Sierck. Henckel, indeed, had arrived in Betzdorf, and one of his parties,
under the command of Captain von Osten, with a squadron, cleared the area
north of Luxembourg, between Mersch and Arlon.
Henckel sends parties on Arlon. --Henckel profited from
the presence of General von Horn from Colonel von Valentini, Chief of Staff
of the Ist Corps, by emphasizing the almost absolute impossibility
of making himself master of Luxembourg by a coup-de-main. "The
he wrote to General von Horn, "has been misled by the reports and proposals
for a young officer; ardent, eager to find an opportunity to distinguish
himself, but one who could not and failed to appreciate the value and extent
of the resources we have."
Moreover, even assuming that Henckel had in turn exaggerated the strength
of the garrison in Luxembourg it is further no doubt that this garrison, kept
alert by the presence of many cavalry parties in the area, safe guarded itself
and that the place was well armed, and could not be taken by surprise. General
von Horn had no great difficulty in convincing Valentini, who wrote the same
day to Henckel: "You will not fail to receive before long from General
von Horn, orders, and you will come back around to the left." But
as we shall see, Valentini was wrong at least by a few days, since it was only
the 21st that Blücher finally gave up his idea about Luxembourg.
Sacken at Nancy. --The marshals continue their retreat. --The
day passed, however, quietly enough. Sacken came to install his
headquarters at Nancy; Blücher had his at Chateau-Salins, and
communications were now established between the Armies of Silesia and
Meanwhile, the French marshals continued their retreat: Ney was at that time
in Bar-le-Duc, with the division of Meunier; at the approach of the Russians,
Victor had departed Toul, where he left only 300 men, falling back just to
Commercy; but at least he had the idea to reoccupy the bridge of Commercy,
with the dragoons of General Briche, supported by a small force of infantry,
while, on the order of Marmont General Decouz marched to repossess the bridge
If we emphasized in Chapter II the Allied generals disagreements, if we tried
to highlight the struggles and conflicts in duties and responsibility that
took place at any moment in the different headquarters of the Army of Bohemia,
it is impossible to ignore the fatal misunderstandings of the three marshals
who should have been more than ever combining their movements and operations,
to retard the progress of the invasion.
We have already had occasion to produce in this regard a letter to the Chief
of Staff from Grouchy, to quote one of dispatches of Belliard to Berthier. But
it was especially during the evacuation of Nancy, the loss of the line of the
Moselle, where the inexcusable negligence occurred that gave to the Allies
the bridges of Frouard, Bouxières-aux-Dames and Pont-à- Mousson,
which failed to give them those of Saint-Mihiel and Commercy, that the recriminations,
complaints amongst the marshals against one another took alarming proportions. Marshal
Victor, of all, it seems most irritated, more dissatisfied, probably because
he was the one, of all of them, who had incurred the most severe criticism
from the Emperor.
Before evacuating Toul, he wrote, in effect, to the Chief of Staff on the 16th at
night to him to highlight the disadvantages of sharing command; but instead
of expressing his readiness to serve under the command of the one among them
who the Emperor would entrust direction, he sought in this case the favor of
being used elsewhere:
"It is likely," wrote the Duke of Bellune, "if His Majesty does
not unify under one command the 2nd Corps, that of the Prince of Moskowa
and the Duke of Tarentum, the enemies will go as far as they want without hindrance. The
Duke of Raguse left last night the position of Pont-à-Mousson without
my being notified. I only learned indirectly. The troops of the Prince
of Moskowa, which were at Void, have gone I know not where, and I have been
informed of that in the same way. Such dispositions can only be detrimental
to the good of the service, and should that happen, unless we are brought remedy,
that the troops will discover, as are mine now, they have been compromised. I
am convinced that the three corps, united under the command of one marshal,
would be in condition to stop the progress of the enemy, while divided as they
are, their service is absolutely zero. I therefore request Your Highness
for a meeting with His Majesty. If the Emperor agrees and His Majesty
has laid the eyes someone other than me, as I believe, to entrust this command,
I beg to call me then to an army where my services can be useful."
A few hours later, Ney wrote in the same vein from Bar-le-Duc, the 17th in
the morning, to Berthier:
"A detachment of cavalry entered Saint-Mihiel and pushes its tip
on Commercy. It is said that another column with the infantry arrived
at Neufchâteau. These are probably the demonstrations on the flanks
of the 2nd Corps that determined the retreat of the Duke of Bellune. The
marshal had no doubt given Your Highness the most extensive information;
but as he leaves me in ignorance, of what he has done and what he wants to
do, and as I only have news from him when his troops mingle with mine,
I merely collect from the civil authorities the reports they receive. I
sent off one of my aides to learn the location of the headquarters of the 2nd Corps,
to establish with the Duke of Bellune an interview that I think necessary for
the good of the service."
In terms of Marmont, we have already taken time to talk about his dispatches
of 15 January, the recriminations they contained about the movements of the
Prince of the Moskowa and the Duke of Bellune; but the Duke of Raguse, did
not only stop there. In his report of the 16th to the Chief of
Staff, he almost attributes to Marshal Ney the responsibility for the fault
committed by Ricard at Pont-à-Mousson. "It is unfortunate," he
writes, that the Prince of Moskowa was not ordered to cut the bridge over the
Moselle at Frouard the moment when he evacuated Nancy. General Ricard would
then also have cut the one at Pont-à-Mousson, and then I could have
stayed on the Moselle, moving en masse on Pont-à-Mousson ... And he
adds: "Now that the enemy is master of the defile of Pont-à-Mousson
and the bridge at Frouard, an operation of this kind on the left bank of the
Moselle is impractical, remaining so until the flooding disappears."
The next day of the 17th, he returns with even more anger on the subject,
in his dispatch dated from Harville, at 9 o'clock in the evening: "I
sent yesterday," he wrote to the Chief of Staff, "duty officers to
prepare the defense of the Meuse and blowing up bridges from Saint-Mihiel,
but the fatal imprudence of the Prince of Moskowa, who in evacuating Nancy,
did not blow up the bridge at Frouard, gave the enemy the means of arriving
on the Meuse before me and prevented my arrangements of having their effect. The
officer whom I had sent to Saint-Mihiel announced to me that the enemy came
in force ... Thus, the preservation of the bridge at Frouard deprived us of
the defense of both the Moselle and the Meuse. Had it been cut, it is
likely that we would have defended the Moselle four to five days, and the defense
of the Meuse would have been prepared, and it would have stopped the enemy
for at least as much time." All these complaints were evidently well based,
and the complaints of each of the marshals were perfectly legitimate in themselves. It
is understood, therefore, what type of relationships might have existed between
the leaders who, instead of listening and working together, sought only to
accuse each other and place on each other all the weight of faults that they
and their lieutenants had committed. It was, moreover, the same in Belgium,
where General Roguet, reluctantly only obeying Maison, was recalled to the
Duke of Piacenza and Drouot, adjutant of the Guard, against the orders that
he received from his commander in chief.
17 January. --March of Biron on Toul. --Cavalry of General
von Jürgass in front of Pont-à-Mousson. --The 17th in
the morning, Biron, followed by a party of Russian infantry of Sacken,
was heading from Nancy towards Toul and had stopped the bulk of his corps
at Gondreville, where, escorted by some cavalry, he marched forward reconnoitering
the surrounding area. His flying corps was quartered without trouble
at Gondreville and served as a vanguard for the cavalry of Vasilchikov,
while General von Jürgass, with the reserve cavalry of the Ist Corps,
crossed the Moselle at Pont-à-Mousson and pushed up to Thiaucourt
its advanced guard, of two strong squadrons under the command of Major
von Woïsky. The French rearguard was at that time in position
near Saint-Benoit in the Woëvre.
Further north, Major General von Horn had, not without difficulty, managed
to cross the Moselle at Remich, and the infantry of the 2nd Brigade,
having relieved the cavalry before Metz, Lieutenant-Colonel von Stutterheim
marched with some squadrons on the road of Pont-à-Mousson to Corny.
Movements of Sacken, a part of the corps of Langeron and the cavalry
of Kleist. --Sacken's troops were still between Chateau-Salins
and Nancy, but the cavalry of General Borozdin (dragoons of Mitau and New
Russia, 2nd and 4th Regiments of Ukrainian Cossacks) had reached
Saint-Avold preceding the infantry division of Olsufiev, marching from
Forbach on Saint-Avold.
General von Röder, with the cavalry of the 2nd Corps (Kleist)
occupied Trier from 7th in the evening, as we have said.
Observations of Yorck in response to Blücher's orders. --Finally,
Yorck, after complying with the orders of Blücher, sent that day to
the Field-Marshal, in response to instructions of the 15th, some
observations, in which he outlined the inseparable difficulties of operations
as complex as those in the spirit of the Field Marshal should ensure that
the Army of Silesia possession of Saarlouis, Metz, Thionville and Luxembourg. A
similar undertaking was more difficult, as the commander of the Ist Corps
wrote, as he didn't have at his disposal pontoon equipment or siege artillery,
and the total number of effective in his army corps, following the marches
executed since the crossing of the Rhine had already cost more than 3,000
men, having fallen at that time below 17,000 men. Yorck ended his
letter by telling the Field Marshal he would personally go to the towns
of the Moselle, reconnoiter, to definitely see if such an enterprise could
or could not be attempted with any chance of success.
18 January. --March of Lieven's Division on Toul. --The 18th in
the morning, Biron and Vasilchikov had contacted Toul again, where the
commander and the mayor refused to capitulate. Convinced, therefore,
that the town could not be taken without infantry, and especially without
artillery, they immediately sent from Gondreville for Nancy an officer
who would explain the situation to Blücher in person. At this
time, however, the infantry division of General Lieven, from the corps
of Sacken, was already moving on Toul.
Role of the French cavalry. --Meanwhile, the French cavalry
had kept contact with the enemy and discovered using information from the
locals the main movements of their opponent. Thus, on the 18th,
at two o'clock in the afternoon, Grouchy could
write to the Chief of Staff: "The Cossacks are established between
Neufchâteau and Gondrecourt-le-Château.
The corps of Yorck follows Marmont in the direction of Metz to Verdun. The
corps of Sacken, who headed for Pont-à-Mousson and Nancy, is standing
before me; that of Kleist seems
to have stopped at Thionville." Based on his information, he had
sent early in the morning, his 1st Division, stationed in Sorcy-Saint-Martin,
was ordered to join the division of Briche, at Commercy to defend the bridge
to the last extremity, and then fall back, if it was forced, on Saint-Aubin-sur-Aire,
where it would do battle.
Movements of the corps of Langeron and Yorck. --As for the
infantry of Langeron's Corps, who came to strengthen Sacken, they had reached
the height of Château-Salins and Faulquemont. General Borozdin,
who had preceded them with his cavalry, was ordered to push a party on
Pont-à-Mousson, to now be able to cooperate on this side with the
investment of Metz.
Yorck had, for the evening of the 17th, sent his generals orders determining
the nature of the operations to be undertaken against the towns of the Saar
and Moselle, and fixing a precise time they had to spend and the extent of
the effort they had to do for this purpose.
Starting the 18th, he directed Prince William, with the bulk of his
vanguard, towards Pont-à-Mousson; Lieutenant-Colonel von Stutterheim,
with the tip of this advance guard, going to Vandières and sent patrols
to Metz and Gravelotte.
Colonel von Warburg, with his brigade, and Lieutenant-Colonel von Stössel
remained in their old positions before Metz. General von Jürgass,
with his brigade of dragoons and a battery of horse artillery, came to Thiaucourt
and carried its vanguard to Saint-Benoit on the road from Pont-à-Mousson
That same day, Marmont arrived at Verdun and General Ricard had fallen back
in the same direction, covered by a rear guard, which at the approach of the
Prussian cavalry, retreated through Fresnes-en-Woëvre.
Affair of Saint-Mihiel.
--- Marmont, it is important to note, had been misled by the false news of
a serious movement by the Prussians on Saint-Mihiel and the announcement
of the entry of their vanguard into this city. The very fact that this
information had been provided by one of the officers he usually employed
as a cross country courier was such as to convince him of the accuracy of
the news, furthermore the Army of Silesia had held since the 14th,
the bridge Frouard, and they were basically only 2 or 3 marches from Nancy
to Saint-Mihiel. The sudden and hasty retreat of General Ricard, who had
retired from Pont-à-Mousson so strongly that he had not felt able
to stop at Thiaucourt, where he would have known what to expect of the alleged
movements of the Prussian Ist Corps, contributed even more to give
to this news reality. But as soon as the Marshal could assume by the
reports that he received on the morning of the 18th, that the Prussians
were not in force in Saint-Mihiel, he hastened to send a detachment of infantry
and cavalry under the command of his adjutant, Colonel Fabvier, to surprise
and drive out the Cossacks. The colonel then reoccupied Saint-Mihiel
and immediately took all necessary measures to destroy the bridge if one
were forced to abandon the town again. At this moment, therefore, Marmont,
whose troops were in Verdun, whose rear-guard was still at Haudiomont with
parties at Manheulles, was in a position to defend the Meuse as long as the
corps of Marshal Victor would remain on the banks of this river.
Cavalry affair at Hollerich. --On the far right of
the Army of Silesia, Henckel, who had been ordered to move, the 23rd on
Longwy and be at Saint-Mihiel on the 26th, had bypassed Luxembourg
and had established himself at Bertrange, while Horn remained at the positions
he already held the day before.
During this march, one of his squads, led by Captain von Altenstein had had
an affair with a detachment of infantry, that came out of the town, trying
unsuccessfully to prevent it from entering the village of Hollerich and was
forced to withdraw to Luxembourg after a cavalry charge.
Movements and positions of the corps of Saint-Priest. --Raid by
the flying corps of Major Falkenhausen. --General de Saint-Priest
had, in turn, moved by Andernach and Remagen on Malmedy, Dinant and Givet,
thus forming the extreme right of Blücher. He had also sent
off a flying column to Arlon which, under the command of Major Falkenhausen,
would prevent the conscription and levy in the department of Sambre-et-Meuse.
Positions of the Army of Silesia. --It would have been
seemingly simple, in looking at the positions of the different factions
of the army of Silesia, during the days of January 15 to 18, to see that
the French could easily take advantage of their isolation along a front
stretching from Luxembourg to above Pont-à-Mousson, and even up
to Toul. Until the 18th in the morning, having before them
only cavalry, preceding at a considerable distance some small groups of
infantry, they could have massed on a point at several places this long
line, to force, which would not have been difficult, the passage of the
Moselle and fall, for example, on the right of the Ist Corps of the
Army of Silesia, north of Metz, and from there to press down on its rear. A
movement of this kind, had the three Marshals Ney, Victor and Marmont simply
tried, would have had against Yorck the advantage of numbers, and would
certainly have had results. All they needed was a little confidence
in themselves and their troops. But such an enterprise, even less
dangerous if Macdonald had covered the French left flank on the lower Meuse,
would have been only possible if the Emperor had previously given command
over to one of his lieutenants. Vested with the authority to remedy
the deplorable disjointed operations, the commander in chief could have,
in any case, issued a single direction in retirement, so that each of the
marshals didn't operate for his own account, regardless of neighboring
corps, without even informing others of his retrograde movements performed
with speed and unprovoked haste.
Without this unique and energetic leadership, we lost the opportunity where
it was still possible to repair the inexcusable negligence at Frouard, Bouxières
and Pont-à-Mousson; we lost the opportunity to regain a foothold on
the right bank of the Moselle, throwing into disorder and confusion the columns
scattered in small units of the Army of Silesia, if not to force him to retreat
on the Saar, at least to stop them and mass.
Which if it did not have as a consequence, inflicting a serious
defeat on this army, at least a pause in the passage, a transient tear, a few
marches in retreat, which, momentarily would have exposed the right wing of
the Army of Bohemia, would that not certainly have brought trouble into the
mind of the naturally worried Generalissimo? Such an event would probably
have sufficed for Schwarzenberg, terrified of the awesome responsibility he
did not feel strong enough to carry, and which already had caused him to hesitant
to go beyond the plateau of Langres, deciding to stop there with the bulk of
his forces and detour the movements of the Prince Royal of Württemberg
and the Austro-Bavarian Wrede.
19 January. --Orders of the Emperor. --It was
also really what the Emperor recognized, belatedly, it is true, and that
is why he wrote from Paris, 19 January, to the Chief of Staff:
"My cousin, we cannot conceive anything in the conduct of the Duke of
Bellune. Arrive at the fore front before morning tomorrow the 20th. Make
a defense of the Meuse, give the command to the best general. Include
the division of Young Guard. Call back the Duke of Bellune, give the
command of all to the Duke of Raguse and stay until the Duke of Raguse has
taken all measures to defend the Meuse and to fight."
On the same day again, filling his mind and judging the situation from afar
as clearly as if he was on the scene, he addressed to his marshals instructions
contained in the piece that will read:
"Paris, 19 January 1814. --The enemy has crossed the Meuse with
the cavalry; it should be attacked and that line taken over. If it is
not possible and one must redeploy, the Duke of Raguse will defend the arrival
of the enemy on Châlons and dispute the road from Châlons to Verdun."
"The Duke of Bellune and the Prince of the Moskowa will take the position
of Vitry-le-François, where they will fight."
"In this position, the Duke of Raguse will form the left, the Duke of
Bellune and the Prince of the Moskowa the center, the Duke of Trévise
"General Dufour is at Arcis-sur-Aube with four battalions and 16 guns. The
Duke of Trévise is in Chaumont with the two divisions of the Old Guard
and the brigade of General Bourmont consisting of three battalions of the 113th;
two battalions, commanded by General Curial, are at Châlons; three battalions
to rest the 15th at Meaux, and has been commanded on Châlons."
"The division of the Young Guard of General Rottembourg is also marching,
heading to Châlons...General de La
Hamelinaye is at Troyes."
Movements of the corps of Sacken towards Toul, of Cossacks towards Vaucouleurs,
of Olsufiev to Nancy. --But when the Emperor gave these orders,
it was already too late to undo the wrongs done by the marshals.
The division of Lieven, of Sacken's corps, approached Toul and was due on 20th in
the morning under the walls of this town, that of Biron and Vasilchikov continued
to observe with their cavalry: "I sent from Colombey-les-Belles
the cavalry to Toul, where you can hear the guns," wrote Frimont on that
The Cossacks of the cavalry of Sacken had pushed to Vaucouleurs and there joined
the small flying corps of Scherbatov, while the infantry
of General Olsufiev came into the vicinity of Nancy.
Movements around Metz. --On the side near Metz, the
flood of the Moselle had stopped Prince William, who, posted since the
day before at Pont-à-Mousson, had received orders from the Field
Marshal to remain on this road up to Pont-à-Mousson and if it became
feasible for him, to complete the investment of the town by the left bank.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant-Colonel von Stutterheim was established at Gorze;
outposts occupied Ars-sur-Moselle, Gravelotte and Vaux while on the other
side, the Russian cavalry of General Borozdin, in the day of the 19th relieved
the posts filled at Metz by Lieutenant-Colonel von Stössel.
Cavalry Combat at Manheulles. --On the night of the
18th to 19th, Major General von Jürgass had followed the
French rear guard with two squadrons of Major von Woïssky, which reached
the enemy near the village of Manheulles, just at a cross roads that led
to Pont-à-Mousson, Metz and Verdun. The French had posted
their infantry in the village, they had to cover the approaches by their
cavalry (10th Hussars). Major von Woïssky attacked
on the 19th in the morning and quickly sent word to the general,
who immediately marched forward with the dragoons of West Prussia (1st)
and two pieces of horse artillery, while leading the Lithuanian Dragoon
Regiment and the rest of his artillery by Fresnes. Supported by tirailleurs
from the infantry posted in the houses and gardens of the village, the
French cavalry pushed back the first charges of Prussian dragoons. But
the Prussian artillery fire forced the retreat, and General von Jürgass
pursued the French up to the entrance of the defile of Haudiomont. Rallied
on this point by a detachment of infantry supported by a few guns, they
managed to survive until the morning of the 20th and retired to Verdun
unmolested. General von Jürgass not daring to approach that
night, attacking a naturally strong position firmly held by infantry troops,
settled at Manheulles and at Fresnes with his horsemen, and confined himself
to monitoring Haudiomont with his grand guard and vedettes.
Yorck tours before the towns. --As previously announced,
Yorck went to see for himself the situation of the troops responsible for
investing and leveling the towns, and their chances of succeeding in this
Saarlouis had been bombarded unsuccessfully. Horn and Henckel, who would
receive the next visit of the Ist Corps commander, had invested Luxembourg:
Horn on the east side, Henckel the west; General von Röder, with the cavalry
of the 2nd Corps (Kleist) arrived that day at Grewemachern.
Raid of Falkenhausen in the Sambre and Meuse. --Affair at Neufchâteau.
--Major von Falkenhausen, who had moved the 18th from Arlon, where he
had reported the presence of 800 Polish lancers, had continued to move, the
19th in the direction of Bastogne. He sought to prevent the levy
in the department of Sambre et Meuse, hunt down French partisans, establish,
if he could communication between the Army of Silesia and the North, and obtain
specific information about the strength of the corps of General Sébastiani.
"I expected," he said in his report, "to meet some resistance
in Neufchâteau, but Lieutenant von Schoening managed to surprise the
enemy position and to take 18 men belonging to the troops stationed at Sedan,
while secondly that of, Lt. Spitzer surprised Bastogne, where I was received
with enthusiasm, and where," says the Major, "I learned that a French
flying column, 120 horse strong, was established around Marche-en-Famenne."
Report of Blücher to Schwarzenberg. --We have
already provided in the chapter describing the operations of the Army of
Bohemia, that Blücher had sent the 19th from Nancy to Schwarzenberg,
a report summarizing the advice he had given Wrede, communicating the orders
sent to Yorck, to be delivered at Saint-Mihiel on the 26th, and informing
him of his intention to move in a manner to be on the 30th, when
Kleist would arrive with his infantry in Metz, with the bulk of his army
between Vitry and Arcis. To the report was attached a memorandum
in which the Field-Marshal detailed the reasons which led him to favor
these operations in which he asked Schwarzenberg to
kindly give his projects approval.
20 January. --Surrender of Toul. --The
20th in the morning, Vasilchikov, passing through Dommartin-lès-Toul
and skirting Toul to the south, had posted himself on the left bank of
the Moselle, while Biron was advancing by the road of Gondreville and General
Lieven, whose artillery had taken position on the heights overlooking the
city on the north side, formed his infantry column between the roads from
Pont-à-Mousson and Void.
Surrounded on all sides, threatened by an attack which would be impossible
to resist, the commander of the town was forced to capitulate to the Allies
and open the gates of a city that had a real importance to them, because as masters
of Toul, they could now use the highway from Nancy to Bar-le-Duc.
Information provided by Sacken. --Sacken immediately
informed Blücher of the surrender of Toul. In a report dated the 20th at two o'clock in the
afternoon, he informed him that we had found two flags (which seem, he
says, to be Portuguese), 3 bronze cannons, one iron cannon, 800 fusils,
2,000 projectiles that could be used by the Allied artillery, much powder,
food, fodder and 400 men, and he was pursuing the enemy. He had, indeed,
pushed up to Foug, on the route to Void and Ligny, the flying corps of
Biron, whose vedettes watched Lay.
Sacken completed in telling his report to Blücher that a driver who had
brought an officer to Châlons, and who had left on the 18th to
return to Toul, assured him that the French were massed at Châlons and
were disposed to march on Langres; one spoke at Châlons of the forthcoming
establishment of a large camp at Valmy. He concluded his report by saying: "People
are tired of war. Conscripts flee and men 20 to 40 years old refuse to participate
in the levée-en-masse."
The Russian general was soon to change his mind and realize that the Mary-Louise's were
able to victoriously hold the head of his troops, also the peasants armed themselves,
and willingly, resisted the invasion.
The Austrian Major Mareschal, that Schwarzenberg had sent to the headquarters
of Blücher and followed throughout the campaign operations of the Army
of Silesia, confirmed this news, and communicated from Nancy, in addition,
to the Generalissimo of noise implying that "Marshal Ney is at Bar-le-Duc
with his corps."
These two reports and the dispatch sent from Nancy on 20 January by Blücher
to Schwarzenberg, in which he outlined the general situation at that time,
confirming earlier reports, reached the Generalissimo the 22nd.
Positions and movements on the 20th. --The
corps of Sacken was therefore between Toul and Nancy the 20th, where
one found the headquarters of Blücher. General Lanskoy, with
his cavalry, was at Rambucourt and General Borozdin (of Langeron's corps,
whose infantry advanced under Olsufiev from Château-Salins towards
Nancy), sent two of his four regiments (Mitau Dragoons and the 4th Cossacks
of the Ukraine) to Gorze on the left bank of the Moselle.
Prince William was preparing to complete the investment of Metz, that the abnormal
height of the water of the Moselle was still delaying. Although, in principle,
he hoped to try the night of the 20th to 21st a coup de main against
this place, the Prince was still forced to stay in Pont-à-Mousson ,
and only, Lieutenant-Colonel von Stutterheim approached Metz and could settle
March of the cavalry of Jürgass to Verdun. --After
the retreat of the French rearguard, General von Jürgass had occupied
two of his squadrons which sent forward scouts and patrols in the direction
of Verdun. He himself stayed until 26th with the bulk of his
squadrons at Fresnes, and stationed at Manheulles two squadrons which established
their grand guard on the side of Étain, while a third squadron,
posted further back at Pintheville, observed the road from Metz to Verdun. Jurgass
searched in vain for the six days he spent in these quarters, to open negotiations
with the commandant of Verdun and get him to capitulate.
Action of the cavalry to Henckel at Ettelbruck. --Yorck arrived
in person in the area of Luxembourg during the night of the 19th to 20th,
having conferred at Rödt with General von Horn and Röder. Henckel,
who would have had to go to this conference, could not leave his troops
in Strassen, because they were constantly kept alert by sorties of the
garrison. However, the Colonel had managed to take near Ettelbruck,
a convoy of ammunition issuing from Liège to Metz, while his detachments,
under the command of Captain von Osten and Lieutenant Chevallerie, took
four leagues beyond Arlon a transport loaded with military equipment, 400
fusils and eight bales of cloth destined for the garrison of Luxembourg
and also coming from Liège.
Yorck, while having fully realized the almost absolute impossibility of removing
by a coup de main a fortress as respectable as Luxembourg and the strong garrison,
however, thought only in the end of having to comply with the orders of Field-Marshal. Before
making a final resolution and changing the nature of the investment by recalling
the troops that he had been forced to detach from that side, he ordered the
brigade of Horn to undertake the next day the 21st, a serious reconnaissance
of the town.
Raid of Falkenhausen towards Marche-en-Famenne. --Information
on the march of Macdonald and Sebastiani. --Continuing
operations, Major Falkenhausen was the 20th at dawn, headed to Marche,
preceded by a patrol which had orders to move further to the right by La
Roche. "I expected," he said in his report, "to hide the arrival
of my march from the enemy, but to celebrate our arrival, they rang bells
on all sides and the mounted peasants preceded me in to Marche. The
enemy thus had time to saddle its horse and escape in part. However,
Captain von Kalinowsky still succeeded in capturing 37 horses and drove
the French into the woods where many of them were slaughtered by the peasants."
Falkenhausen, after this somewhat fanciful tale, reported that according to
information gathered, Marshal Macdonald had withdrawn from Maastricht to Namur,
and General Sebastiani from Cologne on Liège. Finally, the night
of the 20th to 21st, to check this information he had ordered an
officer and 16 uhlans in the direction of Namur, who, mounted on horses requisitioned
farmers, came to within two leagues of Namur against 300 French cavalry covering
the retreat of Macdonald, and were obliged to quickly withdraw.
21 January. --Orders of Blücher for movement towards the
Marne. --21 January would be one of the most important
days for the Army of Silesia, not so much because of the operations that
same day, but because that Blücher decided from that moment to press
the chain of events, resolutely moving forward. The commander
of the Army of Silesia could not resign himself to await the response from
Schwarzenberg, who wrote to him, however, the very day when the Field Marshal
had sent him the memorandum of which we spoke, endorsing the march by Arcis
but advising him to make in advance or at the same time one by Vitry-le-Francois
on Châlons. Giving free play to the decision, the indomitable
spirit that formed the basis of his character, a passion that neither age
nor fatigue were able to calm down, he had resolved to strongly move forward
the bulk of his forces as soon as he became convinced that the marshals
were preparing to retire to Châlons, and when he learned that Macdonald
had abandoned the Netherlands and Belgium to also move on this city. Convinced
by the arguments of Gneisenau, certain that Châlons would become
the point for general concentration of French troops, thinking, not unreasonably,
that the marshals were only maintained behind the Meuse to give time for
this concentration to take place and to cover its required movements, feeling
that it was urgent to prevent the attack that the French would not fail
to want to take, Blücher, informed of the presence of the Grand Army
of Bohemia near Chaumont, by the arrival the Vth Corps (Wrede) in
Neufchâteau, moved forward in three columns. The first, the
one on right, was made up by the advanced guard, under the command of Lieutenant-General
Prince Scherbatov, of the cavalry of General Vasilchikov
and the first column of the Sacken's corps, was ordered to move by Ligny
and Bar-le-Duc on Saint-Dizier. The second column consisted of the
rest of Sacken's corps and was followed a day's march by the third, composed
of Russian IXth Corps of Olsufiev belonging to the corps of Langeron,
was, passing through Vaucouleurs and Gondrecourt to turn left on Joinville
for the its first goal.
to push the right wing of Victor's corps from Ligny towards the Marne, to make
the enemy believe he wanted to reach Châlons, while masked by his vanguard
who would face the marshal and would be before him at Vitry-le-Francois, and
would outflank, without being noticed, his right wing and reach with three
columns on the side of the Aube, Arcis, through Brienne.
As for Yorck, he was, according to the draft of Blücher, to stay a few
days before the towns of the Saar and Moselle, until the arrival of the troops
of Kleist and the cavalry of Langeron scheduled to relieve him, then arrive
at Bar-le-Duc on the 27th and take Vitry, where he was due on the 30th.
The cavalry cross the Meuse at Vaucouleurs. --On
the night of the 20th to 21st, the vanguard of the left column
heading to Joinville, had crossed the Meuse unopposed at the bridge of
Vaucouleurs, that the French had not destroyed,
because flooding had prevented them. That at least explained, but
does not excuse, one tried to give this inconceivable forgetfulness. But
precisely because of the flooding, the possession of the bridge was especially
valuable to the Allies: allowing them to continue their operations on the
left bank of the Meuse without loss of time. The abandonment of the bridge
at Vaucouleurs forced the retreat of Victor to Ligny, evacuating
Void and Vaucouleurs; Marmont, leaving only division in Verdun, had to
leave the division of Decouz at Saint-Mihiel, which, after blowing the
bridge, settled in Naives; the division of Lagrange had come to Chaumont-sur-Aire.
Disadvantages of the position of Victor at Ligny.
- The position occupied by Victor at Ligny was perilous, and despite the
strict orders of the Emperor, who wanted him to hold firmly on the Ornain,
Victor probably yielded to the advice of his generals of cavalry, focusing
on the serious drawbacks of this position, who urged him to establish himself
behind Ligny, at the entrance of the defile of Saint-Dizier.
From the 21st in the morning, with this in mind, Grouchy wrote to General
Milhaud: "My dear general, it is very unfortunate that all our cavalry
was forced to be tonight in Ligny; it will have the enemy under its nose and
tomorrow morning he will hurray as he pleases, not only on Ligny, but also
on the division of Briche on the flank of which he will come while crossing
the Ornain that has bridges."
"Tell General Briche about it. Send orders to the division of L'héritier
to be mounted tomorrow before the day ahead of Ligny on the road to Saint-Aubin,
with the division of Piré before it, supported by infantry, that will
come from the Marshal."
"The division of Briche should push a reconnaissance at 4 o'clock on Demange-aux-Eaux,
only to ensure that an enemy column does not move forward on this side; but
that reconnaissance march must be well scouted, because the enemy is in Gondrecourt."
General Piré writing to Grouchy, the same evening, at 9 o'clock,
is as concerned as his chief and gives, too, an exact account of the seriousness
of the situation, from the dangers inevitably exposed to while remaining at
"All information, all reports," he writes from Nançois-le-Petit, "show
that the corps of the Marshal Duke of Bellune is compromised by continuing
to occupy Ligny, which is a bad position and a true funnel. If the brigade
evacuated Nançois-le-Petit, the enemy, arriving by Nançois-le-Grand
and Willeroncourt, will cut the road from Bar by the beautiful stone bridge
Velaines, or that of Nançois-le-Petit, beside which there is a ford. On
the other hand, M. General Briche, guarding the road to Gondrecourt, is not
in a state to resist the enemy column, which is known to have debouched from
Vaucouleurs and Maxey. If it does not attack General Briche, it obviously
marches on Saint-Dizier, by Joinville, and the corps of observation that was
sent to Joinville can not oppose the march of such a superior number."
The events of that day were only to completely justify the estimates of Generals
Grouchy and Piré.
March of Biron on Void. --Movements around Metz. --Biron
had received at Foug, the 21st, at 8 o'clock in the morning, the
order to move on Void. Collecting in passing his grand guard, established
in front of Lay-Saint-Remy, the Prince stopped the night in Pagny-sur-Meuse,
disposing his outposts on the left bank of the river and sending out patrols
in the direction of Void.
On the side of Metz nothing important had happened. However, as the Moselle
continued to fall, Prince William had resolved to strengthen, the next day,
his investment instead. The two cavalry regiments of General Borozdin
which arrived at Gorze, one, the Mitau Dragoon Regiment had been ordered to
stay before Metz, while sending patrols to Verdun, while the 4th Ukrainian
Cossack Regiment was to leave on the 23rd to ensure the blockade of Mézières.
The Colonel Henckel had been relieved, the 21st in the morning at Luxembourg
by Lieutenant-Colonel Wrangel and four squadrons of the Grossfuerst Constantine
Cuirassiers. Complying with his orders that had arrived on the 17th he
was, after rallying everyone, to move that day on Aubange to see if it was
not possible to attempt a coup de force against Longwy. But before starting
to move, he received from Yorck the order to change his subsequent marches to be at
Saint-Mihiel on the 27th and to effect a junction with the brigade of
Horn, who, having appeared before Thionville on the 23rd, was also, to
defile on Saint-Mihiel the 27th.
 K. K. Kriegs Archiv.,
 It is worth noting in
passing that General Ricard, evacuating Pont-à-Mousson, had neglected
to destroy the bridge and, as shown in Mémoires de Grouchy,
also did not see fit to give notice of his retirement to the troops under
the command of Ney and Victor.
General Meynadier, Chief of Staff of Marmont, had in fact ordered the 17th at
10 o'clock of the morning, General Ricard to immediately dispatch 150 infantry
and 100 horses, with an officer of his choice, for Saint-Mihiel, where the
detachment was to guard the bridges, defend them and destroy them if the
enemy appeared in force before the arrival of the 2nd Division of the
Young Guard of General Decouz. A few hours later, the Marshal, informed
of the occupation of Saint-Mihiel by Allied riders, directed Ricard to rally
his division at Fresnes-au-Mont and be in formation the 18th, at 3
o'clock in morning at Manheulles, where the Marshal was prepared to send
 K. K. Kriegs Archiv.,
 GROUCHY, Mémoires.
 Grouchy only commits an
error in respect to Kleist, whose infantry started that day crossing the
Rhine at Koblenz. The cavalry under Röder arrived only the day
before at Trier. There was at that time before Thionville only General
von Pirch's brigade, of the Ist Corps.
 GROUCHY, Mémoires.
 Report of Major Falkenhausen
on the occupation of the department of Sambre-et-Meuse. (K. K. Kriegs
Archiv., I, ad. 699.)
 It seems to us useful
to reproduce here some general instructions that the Emperor, after recognizing,
13 January, the enemy was operating in three masses, addressed to the corps
of Antwerp, the Dukes of Tarente, Raguse, Bellune, and Prince of Trévise,
and of La Moskowa, and in reaction to the nature of Blücher's march:
"He moves, it is said on the Saar, and therefore he has to cover Saarlouis. If
he passes the Saar and moves on the Moselle, he will cover Luxembourg, Thionville,
Metz and Marsal. His corps is barely sufficient for these operations. The
Duke of Raguse must be watch for this, contain him, maneuvering around these
places and if by chance, that is not probable, that Marshal was forced to cross
the Moselle, he would throw the division of Durutte into Metz and prevent at
all cost the enemy from the high road to Paris. In this assumption, the
Duke of Tarente, which brings together a corps on the Meuse, watching the right
flank of the enemy, defends Liège and the Meuse, and always follow the
right flank of the enemy, so as never to cease in covering the openings to
Paris. If, instead, after taking the Saar Blücher menaces the lower
Meuse to threaten Belgium, the Duke of Tarente will defend the Meuse, and the
Duke of Raguse will follow the left flank the enemy, to watch its movements,
contain, delay and harm it as much as possible." (Correspondance de
 Tagesbegebenheiten ...
(K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30.)
 Scherbatov to Schwarzenberg.
(K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 445.)
 General von Jürgass,
relating of the combat of Manheulles and report of Yorck to Blücher,
from Pange, 28 January.
 According to Koch,
who also estimated the actual number of effectives in the two regiments of
General von Jürgass, at 1,200 horses, General Picquet, on the contrary,
managed to hold Manheulles and Jürgass, pursued by the 10th Hussars,
was forced to withdraw. We believe that Koch is guilty of a slight
error and meant that Jürgass failed, the 19th, in forcing the
defile of Haudiomont. The report of General von Jürgass is, moreover,
confirmed, if not in detail, at least in its generality, by the same version
of General Curély, then colonel of the 10th Hussars. (See, for
this purpose : GENERAL THOUMAS, Le Général Curély,
As for Marmont, he simply says to the Chief of Staff that his vanguard was
attacked at Manheulles by a thousand Prussian horses, and that General Decouz
 Report of Major von
Falkenhausen. (K. K. Kriegs Archives., I, ad. 699.)
 K. K. Kriegs Archiv.,
I, 492 a, and I, 492 b.
 I think it is useful
to note in passing the error committed by the Plotho, III, p. 84, who claims
that General Lieven took Toul by assault and at the point of bayonet. General
Sacken would not have failed to record this feat of arms and failed in this
case to mention it to Blücher in his announcement on the surrender of
 Sacken to Blücher.
Toul, 20 January, 2 o'clock in the afternoon. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv.,
I, 466 a.)
 Major Mareschal to
Schwarzenberg. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 466 b, and ibidem,
I, 30 and 31.)
 According to this last
piece (Blücher to Schwarzenberg, Nancy, 20 January, K. K. Kriegs
Archiv., I, 466), that Damitz (I, p. 314) is, also mistaken in claiming,
there had been formed with General Sotomayor and the Spanish
prisoners found in Nancy, a battalion of 4 companies after the surrender,
to garrison Toul. Blücher announced, on the contrary to Schwarzenberg,
that General Sotomayor and the officers returned to Spain, he armed the Spanish
soldiers who preferred to stay and he used them to escort convoys. It
was only later that he divided them among the towns.
 General Picquet left
Haudiomont, by order of Marmont, two hours before daybreak, and came to Haudainville
and General Ricard received the 20th, from the Duke of Raguse, the
order to leave one of his brigades at Verdun and to go and quarter with the
other at Sivry-la-Perch on the road to Clermont. The morning of the
20th the divisions of Lagrange and Ricard were formed in front of Verdun,
possibly to support the cavalry of General Picquet.
 Report of Yorck to
Blücher, dated from Pange, 23 January.
 Report of Major von
Falkenhausen. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, ad., 699.)
 Schwarzenberg to Blücher,
Langres, 21 January. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 492.)
 It is important not
to confuse the general officer of the General Staff of the same name. who
commanded a corps of partisans currently operating on the Meuse, which preceded
the Army of Bohemia.
 Blücher to Wrede,
21 January, 9 o'clock in the morning. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 511.)
 We will see later that
the marching orders of Yorck had to be modified. Instead of being in
Vitry the 30th, he was to be that day in Saint-Dizier.
 We have already had
occasion to speak of matters that had occurred on 18 January at Vaucouleurs,
between the Cossacks of Major-General Prince Scherbatov and the rearguard
of the French cavalry, when we presented in the previous chapter the operations
of the Army of Bohemia. See, among others. Report of Major General
Scherbatov to Schwarzenberg, from Saussure, 19 January. (K. K. Kriegs
Archiv., 1, 445.)
 Victor had prescribed,
the 20th at night, to fall back on the 21st, at 1 o'clock in
the morning, promptly and in good order by Void and Saint Aubin on
Ligny, to take positions behind Ligny, on the road to Bar-le-Duc. The
2nd Division (General Forestier) would follow the division of Duhesme
and settle behind it in a 2nd line; the 1st Division had orders
to leave from Commercy at 4 o'clock in the morning, going on Ligny by Saint
Aubin, and going behind Ligny in a 3rd line. General Piré charged
with blowing up the bridge of Pagny-sur-Meuse, after the passage of the division
of Duhesme, had to move there from Void, waiting on General of France at
Void, who also had to leave at 4 o'clock from Vaucouleurs, going to Void,
only to fall back on Ligny with Piré; and finally, General Briche,
was also departing at 6 o'clock from Commercy, for Ligny.
 Belliard, writing on
21 January to Macdonald, summarized the positions of the corps of Marmont
and Victor and gave some indication about the exact position of the Allies:
"The Duke of Raguse holds with his army corps Verdun, Saint-Mihiel, and
extended his left to the side of Stenay.
He had his advanced guard three miles in front of Verdun, on the road
The Duke of Bellune occupies Commercy, Void where his headquarters
are, Vaucouleurs and Gondrecourt. The Prince of Moskowa is at Bar-le-Duc,
occupying Ligny and Saint-Dizier. The Marshal Duke of Trévise must
be at Chaumont."
'P. S. - The corps of the Duke of Yorck (sic) marches on Verdun, that
of Sacken on Saint-Mihiel. Blücher is before the Duke of Bellune. Platoff
is Neufchâteau with 10 regiments of Cossacks. (Belliard, Archives
of the War.)
Belliard has the corps of Yorck marching faster than he marched in reality,
since 21 January the Ist Prussian Corps was still at Metz.
 The arrival of Berthier
and categorical orders that were sent Victor the 20th from Châlons
and the 21st from Bar-le-Duc, before going with him, prevented only
the marshal to leave his position.
 Grouchy to Milhaud.
(Archives of the War.)
 Piré to Grouchy,
Nançois-le-Petit, 21 January. (Archives of the War.)
 Order of Yorck to Henckel,
from Strapig, 21 January.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2011
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