The Campaign of 1814: Chapter Four 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.
MOVEMENTS OF THE
CORPS OF BÜLOW AND WINZINGERODE. --MILITARY OPERATIONS
IN THE NETHERLANDS, UNTIL 26 JANUARY.
Situation towards the end of December 1813. --In the
final pages of our work: The Cavalry of the Allied Armies during Campaign
of 1813, we have given a summary of the first operations of Bülow,
the movement of the flying columns sent by Winzingerode from Bremen over
Holland, and the raids carried out by the partisans of Major von Colomb until
23 December. With the approach of the English and Prussians, who had
effected their junction at Roosendaal, General Lefebvre-Desnouettes had lifted
the siege of Breda to get closer to Antwerp, and had come to take a position
at Hoogstraten, Minderhout, Brasschaat and Mechelen; General Maison had to
replace en route the head of the French troops of General Decaen, who the
Emperor could not forgive for the hasty evacuation of the towns of Breda
and Willemstad, at the appearance of the Cossacks of Benckendorff.
For the Allies' part, Bülow, far from being dazzled by the easy success
that he had won, employed the last days of the year 1813 to secure his quick
conquest or prevent setbacks, however unlikely they were, making a strong foothold
on the left bank of the Waal and Meuse.
However, before resuming the presentation of the events that took
place during the month of January in this part of the theater of war, it
is most essential to take a look at the respective positions of the adversaries,
that outside of the Prussians of Bülow, the English of Graham, the
Dutch of the Prince of Orange, and the Russians of Winzingerode would soon
appear on the Rhine and in Belgium, and that Maison should meet, by order
of the Emperor, combining his operations with those of Macdonald.
Positions and numbers of the Prussian IIIrd Corps. --Bülow,
whose headquarters was still at Zaltbommel (Bommel) since late December,
shortly after transferring it to Breda, had concentrated his corps to protect
the Netherlands against a renewed attack by the French, while preparing
to attack Antwerp together with the English. These, after having landed
8,000 men under General Graham at Willemstad had blockaded Bergen-op-Zoom,
and then covered on the right, the positions of the Prussian IIIrd Corps.
That corps, like other Prussian corps was composed of four infantry
brigades (3rd Brigade, General von Zielinsky; 4th Brigade,
General von Thürnen; 5th Brigade, General von Borstel; 6th Brigade,
General von Krafft), the Reserve Cavalry of General von Oppen, a brigade
of reserve artillery of 6 batteries (including 1 horse artillery) and 2
companies of pioneers. It included, besides the flying corps of Lieutenant
Colonel von Lützow (4
squadrons, three battalions, with 9 cannons), the battalion of jäger
volunteers (Freiwiliger) of Major von Reiche, the partisan corps of Major
von Colomb and
various small detachments. Overall: 45 battalions, 33½ of
landwehr, 50 squadrons, including 16 landwehr, 12 batteries and 2 companies
of pioneers, making a total of about 30,000 men, with 96 cannons.
The Prussian IIIrd Corps which formed part of the Army of
the North under the command of the Crown Prince of Sweden, only joined
in the first days of March the Army of Silesia, when Blucher's marched
toward the Aisne, and as Bülow had to leave troops in Belgium, it
resulted in adding little to the Field-Marshal as a reinforcement
of 16,000 men.
1 January 1814. - Concentration of the IIIrd Corps at Breda. --After
the French retreat from Breda on Hoogstraten, Bülow limited himself
in the last days of December, to pushing reconnaissance: to the right,
to Antwerp, to get as accurate an account as possible of the forces which
opposed him around this place; to the left, to Grave and Nijmegen to scout
this side and, most importantly, cut communications between the troops
of Macdonald and those of which Maison would take command.
It was, moreover, decided not to undertake anything against Antwerp before
being joined by the 5th Brigade (Borstel), that the vanguard of Winzingerode
had only relieved on 28 December at Wesel.
Further, as he deemed fit to leave the 3rd Cavalry Brigade astride both
banks of the Waal, to monitor Gorinchem (Gorcum); as, in addition, he was blockading
s'-Hertogenbosch (Bois-le-Duc) with six battalions and two squadrons under
the command of Colonel von Hobe, he only had little more than 12,000 men available
for active operations, when massing, 1 January around Breda: the Borstel, Thürnen
and Krafft Brigades. But although the ice carried by the rivers had forced
Bülow to stand still and have to erect pontoon bridges from boats drawn
up on the Waal and the Meuse, and although, as a result, he would have been
for some time unable to receive reinforcements he expected to fall back upon
if attacked, the concentration of the Prussian IIIrd Corps, none the
less, convinced Macdonald to give up the position of Nijmegen, to settle on
the Meuse, at Venlo, as we shall see later.
In the second half of December and before the arrival of General O'Rourke at
Wesel, General von Borstel had tried unsuccessfully to take the town by surprise.
Positions and numbers of the corps of Winzingerode. --Like
the Prussian IIIrd Corps, the corps of the Russian General Winzingerode
belonged to the Army of the North.
As it was intended to take part in active operations and to rally later
with the Army of Silesia, it had already, in the course of November, preceded
into Holland with many of its Cossacks under the command of Chernishev, Naryshkin,
Benckendorff and Stahl. Its infantry, remaining inactive, by order of
the Crown Prince of Sweden, near Bremen and on the lower Weser, only began
in the last days of December its movement from Münster to the Rhine.
By the time Benckendorff was ordered to move on Düsseldorf and General
O'Rourke, who formed the head of the column of the main corps, relieved Borstel
before Wesel and arrived on 26 December, this corps only presented an available
force of 8,000 infantrymen and 5,000 horse.
But the corps of Vorontsov and Stroganov that the
Crown Prince of Sweden had temporarily kept on the lower Elbe, were
designated to operate, thereafter, under the command of Winzingerode. After
being joined by Vorontsov, Stroganov and the various detachments temporarily
employed in the Duchy of Oldenburg, on the Rhine and the Netherlands, Winzingerode's
corps should include the cavalry of O'Rourke (3rd Division of Hussars
and 2nd of dragoons), the irregular cavalry (Cossacks and Bashkirs-)
of General Chernishev, the 3rd infantry corps of General Vorontsov,
the infantry corps of General Stroganov and 14 artillery batteries, in whole,
after Plotho: 35 battalions, 30 squadrons, 19 Cossack regiments and 162
cannons, representing total effectives of 30,850 men; according to Bogdanovich,
it consisted of 40 battalions, 47 squadrons, 19 Cossack regiments and 12 batteries
(132 guns) , making a total of 36,000 men.
Reinforcements destined to replace the corps of Bülow and Winzingerode. --These
two corps were to be replaced in Belgium, in early February, by the Confederation
IIIrd Corps (Duke of Saxe-Weimar), comprising of: two Saxon infantry
brigades (Generals Lecoq, Gablenz and Ryssel I) and 14 squadrons of cavalry;
the brigade of Thuringia and Anhalt of Prince Paul of Württemberg
(8 and a half battalions and 1 squadron) and the 4 Saxon landwehr regiments,
who. with a squadron of cavalry and the Cossack regiments of Bihalov I
and Rebrejev were placed under the command of General von Thielmann; finally,
5 and a half battery of artillery, in whole: 32 battalions, 15 squadrons,
two Cossack regiments and 56 cannons: A total of 23,350 men.
The Duke of Saxe-Weimar, with a first echelon with a strength of 12 battalions,
9 squadrons, 1 company of sappers and 4 and a half batteries, in all about
11,000 men, 1,600 horses and 28 cannons, left Querfurt, 2 January, to arrive
at Breda, 7 February.
Almost at the same time as the Confederation IIIrd Corps, the corps of
Lieutenant General Count Wallmoden Gimborn, too, received, the order
to come and take part in operations in the Netherlands. This corps consisted
of the Cossack cavalry of General Tettenborn, the mixed brigade formed by the Russian-German
Legion and mixed Hanoverian brigade; in all, 13 battalions. 16 squadrons and
4 Cossack regiments, or about 15,000 men with 32 cannons.
Positions and numbers of French troops under the command of Macdonald. --The
French forces that could oppose the two corps of Bülow and Winzingerode
in the last days of December 1813 and the first days of January 1814, were
far from presenting such a size.
According to the situation as of 1 January, Macdonald, whose headquarters would
remain until 5 January, at Kleve (Clèves), had under his direct
orders the 4th corps, which we note here for reference only, since it
had barricaded itself with General Morand in Mainz, the 5th and 11th Corps
of infantry and the 2nd and 3rd of cavalry.
The 11th Infantry Corps, divided between Nijmegen, Kleve and Wesel, where
it would eventually leave the 35th Division with General Lauberdière,
was composed at that time, of the 31st and 35th Divisions, and
consisted of, even including the 1,750 men of the division of Molitor stationed
at Venlo, 8,085 men, 1,255 horses and 18 cannons.
To its right was found along the Rhine, from Neuss just to Köln (Cologne),
the 5th Corps (Sebastiani), a total force of 3,734 men and 794 horses
with 14 cannons.
The 2nd Cavalry Corps had three brigades, formed by the 2nd and
4th Divisions of light cavalry and the 2nd Division of cuirassiers. Including
the 313 men in the regiment of hussars of Jérôme Napoléon,
it had a total of 2,484 men, 3,046 horses with 4 cannons. One of these
brigades was at Kleve and Kalkar; another at Kranenburg and Nijmegen; its 3rd Brigade,
under General Dommanget, entirely at Maastricht, scouted around Brussels.
The 3rd Cavalry Corps could only be put in the line in late December,
with 2,178 men,
2,745 horses and six cannons. It watched the Rhine from Andernach
up to Neuss and Krefeld.
It is worth noting that if the total number of troops under the Duke of Tarente
was at that time, nearly 17,000 men, he could hardly have had, in fact, 9,000
to 10,000 men at most for active operations. The remaining troops were
blockaded, and formed the garrisons of Grave, Wesel, Venlo, Jülich and
When Winzingerode appeared between Köln and Neuss, the Marshal could have,
at most, to oppose him from 6,000 to 7,000 men belonging mostly to the 5th Corps
and the 3rd Cavalry Corps, and in this case, he would have been left
with few choices, to cover his left against the operations of Bülow.
Strength of troops placed in Belgium, under orders of Maison. --In
Belgium, Maison still had a score of depots containing wounded soldiers, the
two divisions of Roguet and Barrois and the cavalry brigade of General Castex,
or, at most, fifteen thousand men.
The divisions of General Ambert, Carra-Saint-Cyr and Ledru des Essarts alone
began to form, and it was with such insignificant forces that Maison would
cover Antwerp and Belgium, assure the defense of Bergen-op-Zoom and the of
the Scheldt line, and resist to his front Bülow, on the left the English,
and on his right, the Russians vanguard of Winzingerode.
Supplementing the insufficiency of his forces by a tireless activity, Maison
began by provisioning the towns which he had to occupy. He then decided
to take the field with what was left, to refuse any commitment too serious
and constantly harass the enemy into trying to make them change their plans. About
1 January, he posted the division of Roguet to Hoogstraten and Turnhout, the
cavalry of Desnouettes between Brecht and Turnhout. The division of Barrois
was in the second line, in Brussels with some squadrons of General Castex. General
Ambert, with 4 battalions, 2 or 3 squadrons and some guns, had taken a position
at Brasschaat and Donk, north of Antwerp.
General Maison, covering Antwerp, sought to maintain communications with Bergen-op-Zoom
and monitor the movements of the British, stationed at Roosendaal, and those
of the Prussians, established at Breda.
Despite the small number of French troops who were opposing him, Bülow
would nevertheless find himself in a difficult situation until the arrival
on the Rhine of the main body of Winzingerode.
Also concentrating there and around Breda to avert an offensive
movement of Macdonald, who based on Grave and Nijmegen, could descend the
course of the Waal and Meuse and upset the troops of the Prussian IIIrd Corps
during meeting of the that French forces in Antwerp would have led
to this place. Besides, the arrival of the 5th Brigade from
Wesel, the crossing of the Rhine by Saint-Priest and the presence of Chernishev
at Düsseldorf sufficed to reassure and to give him full freedom of
4 January. -- Positions of Sebastiani between Cologne and Neuss. --Macdonald
at Venlo. --Indeed Sebastiani, who guarded with a handful of
men the line of the Rhine from Bonn until around Wesel, was justly concerned
about the emergence at Andernach of the brigade of Pillar, from the corps
of Saint-Priest. Not anticipating the difficulties that Saint-Priest
met with crossing the Rhine, he began by directing to Bonn, by Oberwinter and
Mehlen, a reconnaissance that, ably led by Generals Albert and Jacquinot,
upset the Russian cavalry. Then, at the same time he pointed out
to Macdonald the presence of the enemy on his right, seeking and obtaining
permission from the Marshal authorization to tighten his overly stretched
cantonments and bring his people between Cologne and Neuss.
The vigilance of Sebastiani had foiled an attempt, 3 January, by the Russo-Prussian
flying corps of Major von Boltenstern (of the Guard Jäger), who had tried
to cross the Rhine by boat at Mühlheim and land near Cologne. Scarcely
had the partisans set foot on the left bank than they were discovered and attacked
by French troops. They barely had time to hastily retreat to their boats,
some of which, overloaded as a result of the hasty departure of the boats in
which the first fugitives had jumped into; they only reached with great difficulty
the opposite shore. This attempt took the lives of Major von Boltenstern who
remained last on the left bank, jumping his horse into the Rhine and died by
the bullets of the soldiers of Sebastiani.
For his part, Macdonald was in danger of both being cut off from his line of
retreat by the Prussian brigades now in place around Breda and being attacked
by the troops of Winzingerode; he thought it wiser to leave Nijmegen and Kleve,
4 January and fall back on Guelders and Venlo after having informed Maison
of his decision.
March of Winzingerode on Düsseldorf. --Winzingerode
slowly and methodically continued his march to Düsseldorf at the head
of 17,000 men who he stoppedand with whom he could
have, without risking anything, gone to immediately cross the Rhine. He
urged the same caution of stopping on Chernishev.
Chernishev asks in vain to cross the Rhine immediately. --The
general, who arrived in Düsseldorf with his advanced guard, had immediately
taken all necessary steps to cross the River. On 1 January, he was
ready to attempt the passage, when he received orders not to undertake
anything as long as ice was flowing down the Rhine. Chernishev
insisted in vain with his chief; he made a beautiful attempt in presenting
to him the main reasons to arrive as soon as possible at the level of the
positions occupied by the other corps of the Allied army: he uselessly
sought to show him that his vanguard, alone nearly 4,000 men strong would be joined by the detachment
of Benckendorff, a number roughly equal and returning, on the order of
Winzingerode, from Breda to Arnhem and Emmerich on the right bank of the
Rhine. Nothing could triumph over the preconceptions of that general
officer. Also, while one kept Chernishev at Düsseldorf and Bülow
focused on any event around Breda, Maison, who did not lose a minute, took
advantage of the respite his opponents allowed him to supplement the supplies
of Flushing and Bergen-op-Zoom, reinforcing the garrison of that place
and organizing that of Antwerp, and Macdonald was able to retreat safely
on Guelders and Venlo, after throwing a thousand men in Grave.
6 January. -- Bülow's orders to the flying corps of Colomb. --Movements
and operations of this officer from 7 to 9 January. --It
was only the 6th at night that
Bülow, seeing the retreat of Macdonald and the
evacuation of Cleves and Nijmegen, gave orders to Major von Colomb to push
quickly with his independent corps to the Meuse.
Colomb arriving in Tilburg on the 7th, found no trace of the enemy. While
there he learned that the French cavalry, having crossed the Meuse at Cuijk,
had moved to Venlo, and he marched with his men on Eindhoven. There he
found a former Prussian officer who informed him that Macdonald, who arrived
on the left bank of the Meuse, had staged his cavalry on a long line to stay
connected with Antwerp. He knew that one of these squadrons, established
at the village of Meijel, in the marshes of De Peel, went out every morning
at 4 o'clock, returning to the cantonment at 9 o'clock, when its patrols and
reconnaissance announced that they had found nothing suspicious in the neighborhood. Colomb,
hoping to surprise the squadron, left Eindhoven the 8th at night fall
and pushed up to Heeze, where he rested through the following day of the 9th. He
then marched so as to arrive before Meijel at 10 o'clock in the morning. To
take the squadron stationed in this village, it was necessary to proceed with
the more energy than normal to turn Meijel.
The enterprise of Colomb only succeeded due the
freezing cold: it was possible to saber a numb vedette before he could
make use of his arms and give the alarm to the grand guard, who had no time
to remount and whose men running on foot toward the village, arrived too late
to warn the squadron. The cavalrymen none the less did well in vigorously
defending in houses, and Colomb, having taken 72 men of the 75 at Meijel which
were posted on this point, returned in the evening
to Heeze to head the next day on Sint-Oedenrode.
7 January. --Pointing cavalry to Venlo and Turnhout. - Bülow
had launched at the same time, various detachments of light cavalry to
Venlo and Roermond, and pushed the flying body of Major Hellwig towards
Turnhout. Driven from Groot-Zundert, the 7th, by the
French cavalry, Hellwig retook the position there on the 9th.
Informed by his scouts, of the preparations made by General Maison,
knowing that the division of Roguet held Wuustwezel with 2 battalions, Hoogstraten
with the bulk of its forces, that the Aymard brigade occupied Turnhout,
that the French reserves had been established at Brasschaat and Lier, and Macdonald
was always on his left flank, Bülow feared that
the French could take advantage of the broken bridges of the Waal and Meuse,
the stretched out corps of Winzingerode and the difficulty that he would meet
in crossing the Waal again, to try to effect a junction and drive him to the
river. He therefore resolved to prevent them by charging his light cavalry
with cutting the communications between the Aymard brigade, posted on the far
right of the troops of Maison, and Macdonald, whose outposts covered the left
bank of the Meuse, from Venlo up to Maastricht.
10 January. --Orders of Bülow. --Dispositions to attack
Maison. --The bulk of the IIIrd Corps was at the same time
moved against the French lines at Hoogstraten and Turnhout. Bülow
hoped in this way to push into Antwerp the troops who occupied the positions
in front of the place, by that same means to force Macdonald to retire
and continue to take himself a defensive position in which he could easily
await in safety the arrival of the corps of Winzingerode.
Maison, however, had no illusions, on the military value of the position of
In a letter sent on the 7th, to Macdonald, he noted that this position
was nothing worth fighting for, because it only had behind it communications,
and then still very bad. But he was obliged to stay there, first because
he succeeded in this way to support his troops, then, because he had to ensure
the receipt of necessary supplies at Antwerp. Finally, by posting, as
he had done, a few battalions and some squadrons in Turnhout, where they seemed
to threaten s'-Hertogenbosch , leaving at Loenhout and Hoogstraten the main
body of Roguet, setting in echelon some battalions of the garrison of Antwerp
and a squadron of cavalry at Brasschaat on the road from Breda to Antwerp,
he hoped to await the development of plans of his opponent.
Moreover, although the General Maison did not see Bülow pushing to his
front, because that by operating this way the Prussian general would put himself
at a disadvantage, the movements performed by the Prussian cavalry seem to
have inspired the commander of the 1st Corps with some concern for his
right wing. Accordingly, he ordered a party of troops stationed in Brussels
to concentrate on Lier. He had, moreover, explained his situation and
his plans in the dispatch that he addressed to
the Minister of War, almost on the eve of the day when Bülow was preparing
to march against him.
"Monsieur the Marshal Duke of Tarente had told me," he wrote, "that
Bülow focused on his left, towards Bommel, therefore to my right. The
Cossacks who were before Breda, returned to the Waal to join the corps of Winzingerode,
and hearing nothing said about the arrival of Bülow, I thought it would
march on Maastricht, by Eindhoven; but now all my reports are that he will
arrive at Breda with 10,000 men; he must be there in person today. A
certain Major Hellwig in command, supposedly of the vanguard of that
corps, came to settle in Groot- Zundert with 400 horses and 300 infantrymen. I
did chase him away the 7th, and pushed up under Breda; he came back yesterday
the 8th. If he was not supported, he would not dare do so. The
English, who received, on the 4th, 1,000 men in reinforcements landed
at Tholen and 2,000 by Willemstad, were dispatched to Roosendaal; they may
have currently on the latter point 2,000 men. I learned that the enemy
had thrown bridges over the Waal, the 4th, it seems, from these
data that Bülow will begin operations in the Brabant: he boldly announces
he will take over Belgium, where it seems that he already had intelligence."
"I concentrate the division of Roguet on Westmalle. I am guarded
by the cavalry, however, sustained a few infantry at Hoogstraten, Wuustwezel
and Loenhout as a front, I put two battalions of what is called the 1st Corps,
at Brasschaat and Donk; it leaves the remaining 3 at Antwerp as the whole garrison. I
set up 10 squadrons, 2 battalions and 2 artillery pieces in Turnhout, with
orders to retreat on Herentals in the case of an offensive movement by the
enemy. If today I am confirmed in my opinion about his plans, I will
ask General Barrois to march on Lier. This division and the 2 battalions
that I have with 1,000 horses in Turnhout, would form my right..."
"By not defending the Demer and the Nete, Belgium is conquered: one only
has to take this line, and from there, go to our towns on the former border. If
my corps had been formed as quickly as I thought, maybe I could stop this invasion. But
I do not hope with what I have, to be closer to Antwerp; for I must always
remain able to leave a garrison in this place...I do not think that all this
grouping of troops here in Antwerp prevents the enemy from moving forward. On
the other hand, if you do not leave anything to keep them out of this city,
the enemy, by a bombardment, burns the fleet and the dockyards. Please
let me know the intent of H. M. on the number of troops to leave in Antwerp
and the direction to take with the rest. For me I expect, unless otherwise
directed, when I am forced back, to mount the Scheldt and gain Lille. I
know that it will give up Belgium, uncovering Liège, Namur and Huy,
but the strength of what I am left does not allow me to think of anything else."
The position of Maison was now more difficult because it was only through Hasselt,
occupied by some troops of General Dommanget and a brigade of the corps of
Macdonald, that he could comply with the instructions of the Emperor, cover
Antwerp and stay in communication with the Duke of Tarente. Indeed, if
the Allies succeeded in dislodging Dommanget from Hasselt, settling at the
sources of the Demer, nothing would have been easier then than to debouch at
the Campine by major communication to Liège. They could then be
placed so as to cut off the Duke of Tarente, to prevent the junction of the
1st Corps, to fall successively on Liège, Huy and Namur, and push
their posts on Brussels.
Maison provided a true account of the seriousness of the events which
were being prepared: the 11th in the morning, just when Bülow began
his movement, he wrote to Roguet: "Without this city of Antwerp, he
would hesitate to march with everyone we have on the enemy making a flank movement
11 January. --Fight at Hoogstraten. --Bülow, after
uniting with General Graham for the operation he had planned for the 11th,
resolved to move in three columns against the French position. He
marched with the bulk of his forces from Breda to Hoogstraten, while Graham
went from Roosendaal on to Merksem.
The left column, under the command of General von Borstel, composed of the
5th Brigade, reinforced by the detachment of Colonel von Sydow (1
Battalion, 10 squadrons and 16 cannons), marched by the route from Breda towards
Hoogstraten and was to pierce the center of the French line. The center
column (4th Brigade, General von Thümen) through Groot-Zundert,
aimed at Wuustwezel and Loenhout; finally, the third column, commanded by General
von Oppen (6th Brigade, General von Krafft, and the cavalry reserve),
was intended, after passing Groot-Zundert, to outflank the French left and
cut off their retreat to Antwerp. The British of Graham formed the extreme
right of the attack.
The idea of Bülow was rational; but the general neglected, however, when
he regulated the march of his columns, to consider the terrain and the season. The
result was that natural barriers that became points of fierce resistance for
the division of Roguet, prevented him from reaching the goal he had proposed,
because it forced the French troops to retreat before him; he was however,
not able to cut off their retreat.
The 11th at 8 o'clock in the morning, Borstel, with the left, began the
attack on the post at Hoogstraten, where General Roguet, whose vigilance had
been alarmed by the large number and boldness of the parties Cossacks was
preparing for a reconnaissance with the brigade of Flamand. General Roguet
seeing early on that his opponent was trying to envelope him, held him firmly
by a battalion at the village and the cemetery of Minderhout, located on his
front: he posted two battalions, with 4 guns on the road to Breda, 2 others
in the rear of Oostmalle, 1 battalion on the road of Meer, leaving him 2 battalions
established on the road of Loenhout and ordered General Aymard to leave Turnhout
to fall back on Antwerp. Blessed by these dispositions, it was only noon,
four hours after a fierce battle that Borstell, who in this hilly terrain,
had been unable to utilize neither his 10 squadrons, or even his artillery,
succeeded in taking Minderhout, to debouch from the bridge at Wortel and settle
The opportune appearance of the second column (general von Thümen), who
was deployed between Wuustwezel and Loenhout, while General Borstel renewed
his attempts against Minderhout, greatly helped in this general fulfilling
General Roguet then decided on a retirement and to withdraw into Oostmalle,
and thence to Westmalle, where he hoped to find the regiment stationed in principle
in Turnhout. There was however much less reason to do so, as General
Borstell, taking Hoogstraten which had not cost less than 16 officers and nearly
500 men, stopped for an hour and a half before pushing on to Oostmalle, and
as he only would resume his march when the other two columns had reached his
level and as their movements had been planned, he stayed on the night of the
11th in his positions.
Meanwhile, General von Thümen had managed throw the skirmishers, without
much trouble, from the villages of Loenhout and Wuustwezel; the French troops,
falling first on Brecht, then abandoned this point to the cavalrymen of Major
Hellwig seen further to the rear towards Westmalle.
Meanwhile, General von Thümen moved against the brigade of General Aymard
who, having only received 2 hours earlier in Turnhout the order of General
Roguet, only began to retreat after being joined by the reconnaissance sent
on the road Tilburg. Finding the way blocked by the Prussians in march on
Westmalle, Aymard veered towards Lier, where he took the position the 12th,
by order of Maison.
The cavalry arrives too late to take part in combat. --The
cavalry that marched to the right of the Prussians and were to gather on
the 11th, at 3 o'clock in the morning, at Rukven, were ordered to
move by Nieuwmoor on Wuustwezel.
But, in the presence of the absolute impossibility of passing by roads
rendered impassable by completely freezing, General von Oppen, who commanded
this column, had been forced to take the route by Roosendaal, Essen (Esschen)
and Kalmthout, and prolonging his march by at least five hours. Therefore,
although he had started at midnight, he was unable arrive to Wuustwezel until
5 o'clock at night, after the column of General von Thümen took this place. It
was now impossible to execute the movement that Bülow had stated in his
By orders, he was to leave his infantry at Wuustwezel, to send 100 to 200 men
to Brasschaat, to connect to the English, and direct a large detachment of
cavalry on Westmalle. Colonel von Treskow with two regiments of dragoons
(Königin (Queen's) and (2nd) West Prussian Dragoon Regiments), was
responsible for establishing themselves at Westmalle. Although he had
gone at a trot the four leagues which separated him from Westmalle, he arrived
there only at night and too late to prevent the bulk of French troops, who
had been engaged at Hoogstraten and Minderhout, to effect their retirement
by Oostmalle and Westmalle on Wijnegem (Wyneghem).
Action at Westmalle. --The Prussian cavalry occupied
Westmalle shortly after 8 o'clock; but poorly guarded due
to the cold, they were surprised by the French who, after having chasing
them momentarily fell back on the road from Wijnegem on Antwerp.
Two French battalions occupied Wijnegem during the night of the 11th to
12th, the Flamand brigade moved to Deurne and the troops of General Ambert
posted themselves behind Merksem.
General Roguet had his right at Wijnegem and his left was connected at Deurne
with the troops in Antwerp; Barrois Division and the cavalry of Meuziau were
Maison, thinking he had enough people at Wijnegem and at Merksem to contain
the Prussians, decided on the 13th, on falling on Diest on their left
flank by bringing against them the troops from Lier, reinforced by a column
he would bring himself from Antwerp.
For his part, Bülow had pushed, the 12th, the brigade of Borstell
to Sint-Antonius, on the road from Turnhout to Antwerp, the brigade of Thümen
to Braschaët, to Donk and on Merksem to that of Breda, and brought the
Oppen brigade to the center at 's-Gravenwezel (Schilde
General Graham, with 4,000 British, on the extreme right of the line was on
the road from Bergen-op-Zoom to Antwerp, in the vicinity of Ekeren.
12 January. --Orders of the Emperor. --While
Maison took, the same day as the affairs of Merksem and Wijnegem, the steps
we have just indicated, the Emperor said in his General Instructions dated
"It does not appear that the mass of enemy that debouch by
Breda, that Bülow commands, could operate with more than 9,000 to
10,000 men. General Maison is able to contain and fight (it)."
of the defeat suffered by General Roguet at Hoogstraten, showing the Emperor
that the situation in Belgium was not nearly as favorable as he pretended
to believe it, caused him great irritation which we find traces evident in the letter a few days later, on 20 January, that was written
by Bertrand to Maison, then in Leuven:
"... His Majesty has seen with pain the opportunity you missed to win
an important victory over the enemy, break the blockade of Gorinchem and add
the 4,500 men to you, who are in that place and now will be useless. You
disperse your troops. If General Roguet had been found, the 11th, at Hoogstraten with
the Aymard Brigade and his entire division reunited, there is no doubt he would
have completely defeated the enemy, then, if, when you had added to you
the Barrois Division, the 14th, you had continued to pursue the enemy,
you would have completely defeated and forced it to withdraw to Breda."
Majesty does not approve of a line of 20 lieues; and this is good for smuggling,
but this system of war has never succeeded. The plan to retire on
Lille and abandon the whole of Belgium is even more fatal than the battalions
that were to compose your army having been retained in that position."
"So to defend Antwerp and Belgium you only gather your troops to Antwerp,
as His Majesty said to you, taking a strong advanced guard, one on the road
in Turnhout (Lier is too far back) and the other on the road Hoogstraten."
"In this situation, Belgium is in no danger and your troops
will remain united. Whatever the enemy may throw on Belgium you can
stand between him and Breda, and can march on Gorinchem ..."
"... This position, in front of Antwerp, by the advanced guard occupying
positions 4 or 5 lieues in front, is the only one that ensures Belgium against
all the troops that could come through the line of operations of Willemstad,
Breda and s'-Hertogenbosch ."
"The intention of His Majesty is that you rectify on the spot your battle
plan, whether you choose 1 or 2 lieues from Antwerp a good position to which
you can withdraw your vanguard and insulate your corps, and deliver battle."
"To complete this plan, you must keep moving corps, infantry and cavalry,
starting very far on your right to prevent partisans from entering Belgium,
but these positions must be observed and never remain the night where they
see the sun set."
When Maison received this dispatch, the situation had completely changed in
appearance. At the risk of once more incurring the reproach of the Emperor,
rather than risk being trapped in Antwerp, he preferred, as we will show, to
take steps to keep in the field as long as possible, to defend the Belgium
step by step, withdrawing at the last extremity to Lille and maneuvering to
cover French Flanders with his remaining troops.
The eve of the actions of the 11th in front of Antwerp, the Emperor had
sent orders to Macdonald about leaving garrisons in all towns, to join with
General Sebastiani, and the cavalry, and stand on the Meuse in Maastricht and
Namur, maneuvering against Blücher's right flank. By giving these
orders to the Duke of Tarente, the Emperor was acting under the influence
of the natural concerns caused him by the march of Blücher and the Army
of Silesia. Continuing to believe that operations in Belgium would not present
any serious nature, he thought that Maison was, with his own strength and without
the assistance of Macdonald, that he needed in a different theater of war,
able to stop Bülow and to preserve Belgium.
Anyway, the passage of the Rhine by Winzingerode would have obliged Macdonald,
who had already begun his movements of withdrawal, to change after a few days
his position and that of the generals under his command.
But before examining the operations that accompanied and followed the passage
of the Rhine by Winzingerode, it is necessary to speak of events during the
day of the 13th, near Antwerp, and to consider what were the immediate
consequences of affairs of Hoogstraten, of Merksem and of Wijnegem.
 The bulk of the corps of Lützow
only joined later. Two squadrons going from Holstein with Lützow, arrived
at Liège on 24 January and was part of the cavalry delivered that day
to General Chernishev; they went from there to the Meuse, thence to Épernay. The
infantry corps of Lützow, the other two squadrons and artillery left Holstein
after the signing of the Treaty of Kiel with Denmark; they were employed under
the command of Major von Helmenstreit, the blockade of the Jülich
from 17 February to 18 March and as a result took, no active part in the following
operations of the campaign in France.
 The flying corps of Colomb
remained only a little while in Belgium and France to operate in concert with
the two squadrons of Lützow from the first days of February.
 Bülow did not arrive
until 21 February, at Laon.
 The corps of Vorontsov was,
after the order of battle, part of the corps of Winzingerode; that of Stroganov,
the Army of Poland, under the command of Bennigsen, the latter corps was from
the beginning of 181 4 detached from the army and placed under the command
 The Cossacks of Tettenborn
alone took part in operations of the campaign in France. Arrived from
Schleswig-Holstein on 11 February in Cologne, Tettenborn went the 19th from
Trier and joined Winzingerode in Reims the 25th.
 Macdonald had made a correct
account of the dangers of the situation. In the dispatch he sent from
Kleve to the Chief of Staff on 1 January, he asked to withdraw without leaving
people in the fortresses. But in responding to him by letter dated 10
January and his note of the 12th of the situation in France, the Emperor
could not bring himself to sacrifice and give up the towns of countries he
"Macdonald to the Chief of Staff. --Kleve, 1 January."
"...The enemy defile without interruption towards Gorinchem and Breda. Rest
assured, Monseigneur, that in a few hours or a few days, they will
have broken into Belgium. The Allies maneuver their wings and demonstrate
before us at the center. Gatherings at Düsseldorf, Mühlheim,
Deutz and at the mouth of the Sieg have no other purpose than to wait
for this irruption to intercept the routes of Coblenz and Luxembourg, while
that of the Campine (Kempen) the enemy blocks the path from Brussels and
"I repeat to Your Highness that troops so spread out have no strength,
that taken obliquely and head on, this huge line will be a distraction,
useless for the general defense. The towns themselves will not help. The
complement of supply is still too far to serve. The 5th Corps
and 11th, assuming they can throw themselves into the towns without
being cut to pieces, only amount to 8,000 to 10,000 men, including the bayonets
of Wesel, two or three more at Grave, Venlo, Maastricht, Jülich. For
the five towns, it takes more than twice this, and in any case, it would
only leave a little more than an army corps on campaign."
"We are touching a great crisis: would it not also be wise to carefully
weight a high resolution? That taken, under such circumstances,
the places so remote; lacking in part; weak garrison; which will soon succumb
and without benefit to the State ... In the current crisis, at the moment
where the old France is being pierced, would it not be wise to abandon
the new by rallying all the scattered detachments, the growing of conscripts
in march and men with national honor and French blood that will come under
the eagle of the Emperor ..."
"What is the use of maintaining for the Emperor this isolated corner
of the Empire, when the barriers of the Rhine and Meuse are crossed. I
will not hide what all French murmur; they only want to defend their country,
that he cannot find here, or succumb with honor under the ruins of France!"
A few days later in a dispatch in which he sent on 7 January, to Maison, he
added to the translation of a proclamation of Blücher: "Blücher
doesn't hide the plans of the Allies and we remain isolated, scattered. By
being thrown into towns poorly armed, poorly supplied, those that are we needed
so much to defend our homeland, we bury it in ruins!" (Archives
of the War.)
 On date of 1 January and after
a dispatch from Maison to Marshal Macdonald. French troops available
for active operations were as follows:
The division of Roguet and the cavalry of the Guard (1,000 horses under Lefebvre-Desnouettes)
occupied Turnhout, with 1 battalion, 6 squadrons and 2 pieces; Hoogstraten
and surrounding villages with 8 battalions, 10 squadrons and 10 cannons; Ezenthout with
2 battalions and 2 squadrons; Brasschaat with 2 battalions, 2 squadrons and
General Maison wrote to the Duke of Tarente, that day, saying that he was forced
to give up marching on Bois-le-Duc, because it would, in this case, expose
Antwerp and was forced, therefore, to simply do the 3 or 4, a reconnaissance
of Tilburg. (Archives of the War. Correspondence of General Count
It good that we note that the regiments of Roguet lacked non-commissioned officers
and that this general had only 27 artillerymen in all to serve 6 pieces.
 This is why the 3rd of January he
had pushed three reconnaissance in the direction of Breda; the first from Hoogstraten
on Meerle, the second on Meer and Meersel and the third from Loenhout on Groot-Zundert. But
at the same time that he assembled the division of Roguet at Hoogstraten, Maison
warned the Chief of Staff of the impossibility of him to move on Gorinchem
without absolutely uncovering Antwerp and risk, on the other hand, exposing
the troops that he would lead on Gorinchem to be completely cut off in this
place. He added that pending an order of the Emperor enjoining him to
act against Gorinchem, he would lead a detachment of cavalry and infantry on
Chaam and thence to Tilburg to learn of enemy forces.
 The Marshal had in fact written
from Guelders, 7 January at 3 o'clock in the afternoon to General Sebastiani: "I
received your letter of the 3rd. Without a doubt we should tighten
up, reunite, this has been my plan for a long time: but my heart is sore to
leave behind places poorly armed, poorly supplied and with weak garrisons. I
proposed to dispose of all towns, to withdraw the garrisons, to form good core,
to recompose the 1st Corps, which would form 30,000 men, including 6,000
of cavalry. But I have not gotten a response and not a word about the
present and future events. If within twenty-four hours it does not reach
me and the circumstances give us the time, I will write to our future movements. But
if ordered, our first line should be the Rur, then the Meuse; junction points,
Jülich and Rurmond, Maastricht, Aix-la-Chapelle and Liège.
... This is inevitable in this situation where nothing is expected, nor ordered."
 The detachment of Benckendorff
consisted of the Tula (Ту́ла) Infantry Regiment and a battalion
of the 2nd Eiger Regiment, the Pavlograd (Павлоград)
Hussar Regiment, and 5 Cossack regiments with 4 pieces of horse artillery;
in all: 3,500 men who came about 6 January from Breda to Emmerich am Rhein. The
detachment of Naryshkin, posted on the lower Meuse, consisted of a thousand
Cossacks. That of General O'Rourke before Wesel, of the infantry regiments
of Smolensk (Смоле́нск), Narva
Alexiopol and New Ingria (Ингрия), the Lancers of Volhynia (Волынь), 3 Cossack regiments and
two batteries (24 pieces), in all: 5,100 men (Journal of the Operations of
Winzingerode and report to the Emperor, Düsseldorf, 26 December 1813 /
General O'Rourke, joined by Benckendorff at Wesel who had successfully
crossed the Rhine alone at Emmerich, only left a thousand men before Wesel
and assembled the bulk of the corps for marching on Düsseldorf, by Duisburg.
 Situation of the corps of
Winzingerode, 8 January 1814. --Report to the Emperor
 Colomb, Tagebuch,
pages 159 and 160.
 Macdonald wrote at the time
from Guelders to the Chief of Staff, informing him that, according
to reports of Sebastiani, the Allies had a thousand men and 500 horses in Andernach;
that Saint-Priest, after leaving 2,000 men at Coblenz , went back in two columns
to the Rhine and Moselle, and that by 6 in the morning, the troops had been
had been seen in the vicinity of Orsoy, of Homberg and at the mouth of the
Ruhr. (Archives the the War.)
In two letters he wrote from Gelderland, one to Marmont, the other to Belliard,
the Marshal was still complaining of the dispersion of his forces and the signaled
imminence of seriousness movements on the part of the Allies. The Duke of Raguse,
said in part: "When we leave garrisons in places, General Sebastiani and
I will withdraw, if we can, with some platoons of cavalry. The Prussians
and the English congregate between Bois-le-Duc and Breda. We shall soon
have an eruption towards Antwerp and Leuven. This is inevitable when
you try to guard everything and spread your forces out."
He returned again to this subject in his letter to Belliard in which he described
the plight he found himself in: "I do not know," he said, "what
has happened since the enemy occupied Andernach. Since the actions at
Mühlheim I do not know what are the further enterprises of General Saint-Priest,
who is or was, said to be at Coblenz on the 31st with 12,000 men. We
are again threatened between Köln and Bonn, but more by the Brabant ... It
is needed to guard everything, it's our way ... I have woven a long cobweb
to contain the enemy, support Sebastiani or collect his troops I persisted
in keeping on the line of the Waal, although the enemy is on both banks of
the Meuse around Bois-le-Duc and below Grave."
"Give me, I beg you, news of the Moselle: I sent messengers to
Luxembourg, but nothing comes back. (Archives of the War.)
 Feldzeilung, n. 61
(K. K. Kriegs Archiv., ad III, 113) and Report of the Crown Prince of
 Macdonald to Maison. (Archives
of the War.)
 It was at this moment that
Maison wrote General Barrois to tell him that, Bülow concentrated on the
Meuse between Bois-le-Duc and Grave, although he expected to see him march
on Maastricht and Liège by the road of Eindhoven or the
road that passes between the Meuse and the marshes of Peel. "If this movement
takes place," continued Maison, "Liège, Huy and Namur will
fall under the control of the enemy. I do not know how the Duke of Tarente,
who is still in Venlo and Wesel, will fare. Let me know if your specific
instructions do not conflict with moving on Diest and thence, depending on
the circumstances on Tongeren or Eindhoven; finally, you enter into operations
if they were to come to Antwerp, because then I will send General Roguet to
the Demer or the Iaar (or Ière)."
See below for the provisions of Maison contained in his letter of the 9th to
Minister of War. (Archives of the War.)
 On 8 January, the Duke of
Tarente, announcing to the Chief of Staff that Bülow had crossed the Meuse
with the bulk of his troops and expecting to see Winzingerode following near
the Prussians, wrote: "It is not without reason that I know that they
will soon burst into Belgium. Seeing myself outflanked, I'll put my cavalry
temporarily straddling the Meuse and my little infantry on the Rur to gain
two more marches, although it would be even wiser in the present circumstances,
to reunite with General Maison to fall on one of the enemies corps."
The Marshal had sent along with his orders to Sébastiani his motivation
for following the movements prescribed to him: "The enemy," he
wrote on 8 January to Sébastiani and Maison, "concentrating on
the left of the Meuse, the Rhine, from Wesel to the Waal and the Meuse, is
denuded of troops. There will soon be serious events; to be able to fight
with my limited resources, I will first bring them together for this purpose."
"The second line of the 11th Corps and 2nd Cavalry Corps will
tomorrow the 9th or no later than the 10th the day after tomorrow, will make
one or two marches to stand on the Rur, while two thirds of the cavalry occupy
Hasselt and Hechtel and provide a cordon that goes to the confluence of the
Rur. The first line will remain temporarily from the Rhine to the Meuse
near Xanten, to cover until the last minute communication with Wesel."
 General Maison to the Minister
of War. Antwerp, 9 January. (Archives of the War.)
 The General Maison had written
to General Barrois the 11th in the morning, from Antwerp
to invite him to press his movements so as to be the 11th at Mechelen
and 12th in Antwerp. He informed him that the General Roguet had been
strongly attacked and invited him to march without stopping to Antwerp. Finally,
a little later, on the 11th at night, he informed him that General Roguet
attacked on all sides had fought well, "Stop," he said, "at
Walem (Waelhem), or at Kontich or if you have already passed Walem. (Archives
of the War.)
General Barrois left at Brussels 1 regiment and 2 cannons.
 A detachment of 150 horses
that formed the rear guard of General Aymard losing the column, wandered during
the night, falling unexpectedly into the village of Wlimmern where there
were 500 Prussians and 2 guns, put this cavalry to flight and took 50 horses.
(Report of General Roguet to General Count Drouot, Archives of the War.)
 Report of General Roguet
to General Drouot.
The two affairs of Hoogstraten and Wijnegem cost
the Roguet Division 132 killed and 615 wounded.
 Correspondance de
No. 21. 120.
to the Chief of Staff and General Barrois, 12 January. --Pontécoulant
to Clarke, 12 January. (Archives of the War.)
Placed on the Napoleon Series: September 2011
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