Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

The Campaign of 1814: Chapter Five

By: Maurice Weil

Translated by: Greg Gorsuch


(after the Imperial and Royal War Archives at Vienna)






Clausewitz's opinion on the operation against Geneva.  --"The sending of Bubna to Geneva with 12,000 men was for one reason:  when Switzerland was to be part of the base of operations, one had to be master of this great city, this important point, and moreover there was no objection to detach 12,000 men from a mass as large as that presented by the Allied armies.  We cannot, therefore, criticize the idea of ​​putting the corps in a position able to take the fullest advantage of events, and enter the Rhône Valley.  But once it was decided to make this posting, one should have left it complete freedom of action.  One could have prevented, for example, levees in the provinces of southeastern France and provoke royalist movements.  So it was not a mistake to send a small corps when you had the prospects of attaining such favorable success."

This is the judgment  addressed by Clausewitz  in his Strategic Review of sending Bubna to Geneva.  One concluding that Clausewitz completely endorsed the violation of Swiss neutrality, would obviously go too far, and the great German military writer, moreover, had been careful to condemn the measure.  It would be useless and idle to return to this point, and if we have reproduced the above lines, it is only because they contain few words of criticism of the operations which we are occupied with, they condemn what has been done, but they only indicate briefly what could and should have been done.  After this quotation, we will look at who bears the most responsibility for the eccentric movement to Lons-le-Saunier, Poligny and Dole, the responsibility for lost time from December 30 to January 5, responsibility for this inexplicable march through the Jura to the Doubs and the Saône. To obtain the results suggested by Clausewitz would have meant to bear without delay to the Rhône and crown the work begun by the entrance into Geneva, for easier operation and yet far more importantly, the immediate occupation of Lyon.

Military situation in the south of France.  --Taking possession by the Allies at the opening of hostilities, of the second city of France, then completely stripped of troops and unable to defend itself, would not have failed to produce an effect on morale whose impression would have been felt throughout the Empire.  This operation would have immediately rendered them undisputed masters of a theater of war that would have been felt throughout the campaign, an army whose presence on the banks of Aube or the Seine would have saved more than one embarrassment for Schwarzenberg, moreover a retrograde movement, and even more than one check.

From the moment when Geneva opened its gates to Bubna, the south-east of France was entirely at the mercy of the Allies.  It was only on 3 January that the Emperor signed the order directing General Musnier to go to Lyon, to gather up everything he could find in the way of troops and to form a reserve division with which he was to move to Geneva.  In the event that he could not push to Geneva, the Emperor ordered him to cover Lyon by taking a position between these two cities, to occupy Fort l'Écluse and hold the defiles of Jura and crossings of the Rhône.

But it was with pain that General Musnier succeeded in gathering 1,500 men in Lyon, 300 men at Nantua and 500 at Bourg.

In sum, there was in all this part of France, along the border of Switzerland, only 4,000 troops of questionable soundness, including 1,700 men that General La Roche had gathered at Chambéry.

Bubna stops without reason at Geneva.  --Bubna went to Geneva on December 30, and although his troops had no battle to fight, nor painful marches to execute, he nevertheless believed it their right to be given a rest day the 31st.  Perhaps he hoped to receive in the meantime specific instructions; what is certain is that he used that day to make up the civil administration of the city and township, and to organize the defense , that he gave to General Zechmeister with 4 battalions and 1 and a half squadrons.  He occupied the crossings of the Arve with outposts, who watched from afar the direction taken by the French in their retreat to Rumilly and Annecy.  Colonel Simbschen, who he had already detached from Lausanne, arrived 28 December in Saint-Maurice and advanced with his 800 men into the Valais, to cut the communications of the French army in Italy by the Simplon and the Saint-Bernard.  On 1 January 1814, Bubna, thinking to cross the Jura on the 3rd and move on Dole, was taking steps to start his movement.

2 January.  --First movements of Bubna.  --The troops began to move the 2nd in the morning.  Colonel Count Zichy, with the vanguard of 4 large companies, 4 squadrons of the Liechtenstein Hussar Regiment and a horse battery, went through Gex on Saint-Claude; the first column under Colonel Benczek with 3 battalions, one company and a battery, marched on Saint-Laurent; the second column, commanded by General Klopstein and composed of 6 battalions and a battery, advanced on Saint-Cergue; the detachment of Colonel Wieland, composed of 4 squadrons 1 battery, on Lyon.  General Zechmeister pushed part of his people against Fort l'Écluse.

On the 3rd, the advanced-guard occupied Orgelet, and the bulk of the division arrived:  the first column at Champagnole, the second at Saint-Laurent.  Colonel Simbschen, occupying the road from Saint-Bernard and making the one from the Simplon impassible, organized a battalion of volunteers in the Valais, and General Zechmeister, after opening the road to Lyon by the surrender of Fort l'Écluse, pushed his outposts up to the shores of the Usses.[1]

4 January.  --March on Lons-le-Saunier and Poligny.  --On the 4th, still according to the operational journal of Schwarzenberg, the vanguard of Bubna entered into Lons-le-Saunier.[2] The first column was at Poligny; the second with the headquarters of Bubna, at Champagnole.

"We know," the officer responsible for keeping the journal in question was careful to add, "that the south of France was stripped of troops and only occupied by organized forces at Lyon and Grenoble."

And yet, instead of marching straight on Lyon, one brings Bubna up to Poligny, where he will be the 5th and the next day when he will move to Dijon, to move up to the level of the Great Army marching by Vesoul and Langres, to cover its left wing.

Bubna ordered to march on Lyon.  --It was only 6 January,[3] after having caused or permitted an irreparable and precious waste of time, having diverted it from its true direction, that Schwarzenberg sent Bubna the order to take Poligny by the left to march on Lyon.  That general's task now, was confined to a mere demonstration designed to delay, perhaps even prevent new formations and disperse the already organized troops, or even, but only if the circumstances were exceptionally favorable, to strongly seize that city.

5 January.  --Taking of the bridge of Dole.  --But Bubna, whose whole division was at Poligny the 5th and who had been covered on his left by his advance guard, sent on his right, to Salins, part of the first column with Colonel Benczek, to try to take Fort Saint-André, and he directed on Dole a squadron of the Hussars of Emperor Ferdinand, with orders to hunt down the enemy and seize the bridge over the Doubs.

He had, moreover, received during the days of the 4th and 5th  from Colonel General Zichy as from Zechmeister, information that would necessarily call attention to what was happening near Lyon, and make him deeply regret the movement that brought him across the Jura.  Colonel Zichy had in fact indicated, from the night of the 4th, he had received at Lons-le-Saunier notice of the presence of General Musnier with 1,500 men in Bourg.  He informed him that General Legrand still watched with a handful of men the bridge of Chalon-sur-Saône, and that these two generals were trying to arm the people and enlist them, but that he could not learn about what happened in Lyon.

Movements of the column of General Zechmeister.  --For his part, also on 4 January, General Zechmeister[4] advised his leader of the arrival in Grenoble of 5,000 men from the army of Suchet and heading to Chambéry, where he had sent an emissary for accurate information.  He let Bubna know, in addition, that the French had 800 infantry and 80 horses on two roads from Rumilly and Alby (sur Chéran) to Chambéry, that the squadrons he had pushed on one side to Annecy and on the other to Seyssel, had been forced back into Frangy and Cruseilles. Another of his party, sent on the road from Nantua to Lyon, encountered a post of 20 gendarmes and 300 infantry, had initially thrown the gendarmes back on the infantry, but then had to withdraw.  This dispatch of Zechmeister ended by saying: "I have too little strength to push my cavalry reconnaissance as far as I want."

Affair of Châtillon.  --The news, that Zechmeister sent to Bubna, and in which related the affair  of Châtillon,[5] is already very disturbing and clearly showed that despite the weakness of their forces, the French did not waste their time near Lyon and Savoy.  It was important to take immediate and decisive action to reinforce the troops left in Geneva, to pretend by diverting the attention of the enemy and not undertaking anything against Lyon.  Bubna had just received the news when an aide from the camp of Schwarzenberg brought him the 6th, in Poligny, the order[6] to march on Lyon by Bourg.

The general had heard, in the meantime, that the squadron of hussars, he had directed on the city of Dole, had become master of the bridge over the Doubs and had, after  a fight of nearly two hours, forced General Lambert to fall back on Auxonne.[7]

He immediately sent his various detachments of the right the order to join him in Poligny, where he counted on leaving the next morning.  However, as it was important not to lose the benefits arising from the affair of Dole which, giving passage to Prince Alois Liechtenstein from the right bank of the Doubs, would enable him to lay siege to Auxonne and complete the investment of Besançon, he ordered the squadron of hussars at Dole to stand and guard the bridge over the Doubs until he could relieve them.[8]

Napoleon decrees the formation of the Army of Lyon.  --While Schwarzenberg ordered Bubna to resume his direction on Lyon, Napoleon, at the news of the abandonment of Geneva, had decreed 5 January, the formation of the Army of Lyon that would be composed, on paper it is true, of 17 battalions of the division of Musnier in reality only 1500 men strong, mostly conscripts, 36 national guard battalions forming two divisions and only later reinforcements from Catalonia.  It was with these forces , whose existence was still absolutely fictitious, that Augereau, who was appointed commander of the Army of Lyon, was to cover this city, retake Geneva and then fall on the Allied lines of operations extending from Basel to the Langres plateau.

6 January.  --New orders of Schwarzenberg.  --Bubna, complying with the orders of the Generalissimo, had been concentrating at Poligny,[9] to move, with all his people, by Bourg on Lyon.  He had only left at their previous positions, Zechmeister in Geneva and Fort L'Écluse and Simbschen in the Valais.  He called for the return of Colonel Benczek from Salins on Arbois and Colonel Wieland from Poligny sur Arlay.  Meanwhile, Schwarzenberg, adding credibility to information that  Napoléon gathered 80,000 men in Langres, had once again changed his mind included the written instructions received the 4th and 6th, by Bubna, and sent to that general the order to move, not only on Lyon, but also Auxonne and Dijon and occupy these two points.

7 January.  --Information provided by Bubna.  --March on Bourg.  --Before setting off for Lons-le-Saunier, Bubna had informed the Generalissimo[10] from Poligny, that, according to information he had gathered, there was, in Chalon-sur-Saône, 1800 unarmed conscripts, it was the same in Dijon and Auxonne, and whatever was available was directed towards Metz.

He added in the same dispatch:  "I intend to move myself to Bourg-en-Bresse and connect there, by Nantua, with General Zechmeister.  I will do my best to send the cavalry on Chalon-sur-Saône and Mâcon and worry the enemy on the right bank of the Saône.  At the same time, I will push to Lyon and seek to make myself master of the road from Chambéry."  He concluded by requesting Schwarzenberg to ensure, using items of correspondence posts, his communications with the general headquarters, because, he said:  "Having in total only 12 weak squadrons, I cannot be sending parties of cavalry beyond Chalon."

8 January.  --Bubna at Lons-le-Saunier.  --Bubna, whose new orders had not yet arrived, had continued his movement on the 8th and arrived with the bulk of his forces in Lons-le-Saunier. The vanguard of Colonel Zichy, that he had strengthened with a 6th battalion of jägers and a battalion of the Kaunitz Infantry Regiment, had pushed from Lons-le-Saunier up to Cousance, and Colonel Wieland , with 4 squadrons of the hussars of Blankenstein, an infantry battalion of the regiment of Vogelsang and a battery of horse artillery, had marched in flank guard on his right, from Arlay by Bletchley, to Chalon-sur-Saône.

9 January.  --The day after, the 9th, the vanguard, having gone through Cuiseaux, occupied Saint-Amour; the column of Colonel Benczek reached Cousance.  The bulk of the division was still in Lons-le-Saunier, and the cavalry, set out on the river Doubs, approached the banks of the Saône.

10 January.  --Action at Saint-Etienne-au-Bois.  --The 10th, Bubna, whose advance guard, after passing Villemotier had chased the French outposts from Saint-Etienne-du-Bois[11] the day before, arrived with the bulk of his forces at Saint-Amour.

Reasons that prevented Bubna from complying with the orders of the Generalissimo.  --He was met there by the order of the 7th, in which Schwarzenberg prescribed that he retrace his steps.  But at this time he was unable to comply with the instructions of the Generalissimo, at least not immediately.  As his division and especially its artillery could not get out of the wrong paths that led from the Bresse to Dole, Auxonne and Dijon, he must necessarily take Bourg, in order to gain the great road leading from the capital of the department from the Ain to Mâcon and Chalon-sur-Saône.  On the other hand, the populations of the department of Ain, encouraged and supported by some troops stationed in Nantua, ran to arms.  It is important above all to end this levy, in occupying Bourg and in pushing parties of cavalry on the road, which leads from Pont-d'Ain on one side to Nantua and the other to Lyon.  In complying with the orders of the generalissimo and heading to Dijon, Bubna would not only be exposed to take a setback, but it would also compromise the situation of Zechmeister.

11 January.  --Retreat of General Musnier on Lyon.  --Bubna in Bourg.  --He continued, for these reasons, his motion to Bourg-en-Bresse, and while General Legrand stopped on the side of Chalon (-sur-Saône) cavalry parties sent to the Saône, General Musnier, not thinking himself strong enough to hold before Lyon withdrew into the city, leaving the National Guard at Bourg to defend themselves.  Bubna felt as a result there would be little difficulty taking Bourg,[12] and made the advance guard of Colonel Count Zichy pursue the National Guardsmen on one side, up to Tossiat on the road of Pont-d'Ain, on the other up to Lent on the road to Meximieux.  He was at the same time to cover his left in the direction of Nantua with Colonel Benczek.  This officer, now relieved in last few days before the Fort Saint-André by the Brigade Prince Gustav of Hesse-Homburg, had received the order from Bubna to ensure, with a battalion of Warasdiner Kreuzer (Warasdiner Kreuzer Gränz-Inf.-Rgt., Nr. 5) and a squadron of Liechtenstein hussars, his communications with Geneva and Fort l'Écluse.  He came and was posted at Ceyzériat, while another detachment, strengthened with a battalion and a squadron under the command of Major Wratzfeld, took on the right the road of Villars.

12 and 13 January.  --Inaction of Bubna.  --Taking of the bridge of Mâcon. - The next day, while he waited for news from Geneva and the Valais, whether he was afraid to continue his movement until he had been authorized by Schwarzenberg, whether he was made more timid by thinking of that responsibility he had taken on by continuing to follow a direction opposite to that indicated by the last orders of the Generalissimo, or, finally, whether he wanted first to ensure strong communications with General Zechmeister, Bubna merely pushed his vanguard on Pont-d'Ain and send a party to Chalamont that linked on the right, with the detachment of Major Wratzfeld, at this moment in Villars.

The 13th brought some changes to the positions occupied by Bubna, who persisted in maintaining the bulk of his division at Bourg; but Major Count Saint-Quentin,[13] tip of the advanced guard of the detachment of Colonel Wieland, occupied this day Mâcon, while at the extreme left of Bubna, Colonel Benezek entered Nantua, so it was only the 14th, just when Augereau, leaving Paris on the 11th, arrived at Lyon, that the vanguard of Bubna entered Meximieux and establishes its point and its outposts in Montluel evacuated by the French.[14]

15 January.  --Augereau, leaving General Musnier at Lyon, goes to Valence.  --If Clarke had announced to Augereau the presence of 6,000 men in Lyon, he had not made it known, at his departure, of the incessant progress of the enemy.  As soon as one was made aware of the situation, the Duke of Castiglione thought that to save the city, in which General Musnier had in all 1,200 men there, including 200 to 300 old soldiers, primarily to speed the training of the army and the march of reinforcements.  Their arrival was the more immediate need for the state of minds of the people of Lyon which was not reassuring.  The Marshal did not believe his presence necessary in Lyon, deciding to direct General Musnier, who had been joined by 500 conscripts, to stand firm with the 1,700 men.  He went at the same time to Valence on the 15th, where he intended to send troops to that general as and when they arrived or were trained.

Bubna would have had an easier time taking the city in the day of 15th and correcting with one stroke the slowness and delays resulting in part from his moving on Dole, and on the other from his halt that he had thought necessary in Bourg since the 11th.  But although he had taken pains to expose Schwarzenberg as to the reasons that took him instead of returning to Dijon and Auxonne to continue his march to the Bourg, he was mainly preoccupied with assembling of troops who were making for, one assured him at least, Savoy.

Movement of the advanced guard of Bubna.  --Immobility of his main body.  --Worried about not having received any news on what was happening in the Valais, perhaps ignoring the weakness of the troops responsible for defending Lyon, he let pass again the opportunity when he could, almost without firing a shot , have become master of this great city that when taken, especially then, would be vital to the Allies and would have considerable influence on the result of their operations.  Thus, instead of moving resolutely on 15th, ahead of Bourg and Geneva, he remained virtually motionless, although the French troops had evacuated Miribel to come take a position on the heights of the Croix-Rousse.  All his movements were reduced to sending to Grange-Blanche and the bridge of Oullins, some parties responsible for monitoring the roads of Chalon and Tarare.  In giving orders, he confined himself to direct Colonel Wieland to move by Cuisery on Mâcon, including his vanguard that had already taken and occupied the bridge two days earlier.

Bubna's inexplicable misconduct is all the more difficult to overlook in that he seems to have absolutely ignored the situation of the spirits of the city of Lyon and the weakness of his garrison.  "Lyon," wrote Chaptal, Count of Chanteloup, the Duke of Feltre,[15] "is almost deserted.  Everyone fled to the mountains, all the rich have left, the shops are closed, signs and banners removed and the public coffers completely empty.  Marshal Augereau thinks, as does General Musnier, like me, that the position of Lyon is no longer tenable."

Augereau, meanwhile, had hardly been more reassuring in the mail he wrote on 15th, the day after his arrival, to the Chief of Staff:  "The enemy," he said, "is the day before yesterday, the 13th, at Montluel, 3 miles from Lyon.  It pushes its reconnaissance on Miribel..., he is master of the crossing at the Rousses, Fort l'Écluse, the bridge of Seyssel, Château Belley; he comes to Lyon by the two banks of the Rhône and the right bank of the Saône...The result is that Lyon is in great danger.  It even suggests that it will be contested tomorrow.  The force that we have of available troops to bring into line, presents no more than 1,100 combatants, although called combatants, nevertheless they are men who for the most part, only yesterday received weapons which they do not know how to use.  Consternation was depicted on all faces...Your Highness if it looks like Lyon will be taken, and if the 1000 to 1,200 men, which cover some of the outskirts of the city are being pushed, and it is feared that are overwhelmed and the road of Saint-Etienne cut...I'll do what I can; I will quit Lyon, leaving General Musnier to defend it, and go to the 7th Military Division trying to reunite troops from Chambéry and Grenoble, that the generals have taken from various places; finally, for the defense of the country, as much as possible to raise the public feelings, because it is so beaten in a desolate manner."[16]

It was this unique opportunity that Bubna missed. 

It is understandable, strictly speaking, that he had during the days before the occupation of the Bourg, some hesitation, some fears, and he doubted an attempt, with the relatively few troops available to him, the handing over a large city like Lyon.  But his cavalry alone had been enough to give him the information he needed.  Reconnaissance if done well could have completely informed him on the situation of French and have been able to increase the speed of his movement from the 15th and hasten his attack.  Knowing nothing or almost nothing, he continued to prudently feel his way over the terrain and went to Lyon with a slowness and caution motivated by nothing.  It is therefore reasonable to say that if the Austrian general had been able to make rational and sensible use of his cavalry, if he had pushed forward vigorously, he would have easily overthrown the weak outposts that were facing him covering the edge of town and it would have been sufficient for the appearance of its riders at the Brotteaux and the Croix-Rousse, for Lyon to suffer the fate of Nancy and Mâcon and be taken by a squadron of hussars.  But instead of doing that and trying with at least one company that could not, under any circumstances, have had adverse consequences, it was only on 16 January that, reassured about the fate of Simbschen who had occupied Thonon (les-Bains), to somewhat maintain his communications with his left, knowing, finally, that there was no evidence of serious enemy troops gathering in Savoy, he decided to continue his march interrupted since 11th.  It was at that time only that he resolved to go with the bulk of his forces from Bourg to Pont d'Ain and that in order to facilitate the operations he had undertaken against Lyon he gave the order to Zechmeister to enter with 5 1/2 battalions, 2 squadrons and 1 battery into Savoy, where the French had only a few people, drive them from Rumilly and the Fier River and the push on Chambéry.[17]

Appearance of scouts of Bubna before Lyon.  --The scouts of Bubna showed up for the first time on 16 January a few miles from Lyon, on the roads of Ambérieux and Dombes.  Some of them, pushing on the road from Trévoux and the suburb of Saint-Clair to the outskirts of the city, exchanged gunfire with the French outposts.  But all these delays had allowed the inhabitants of the Department of Ain to break the dikes of the ponds, flooding the road of Meximieux, and the Austrian general, when he wanted to move forward from Pont d'Ain, was forced to retrace his steps the 17th back to the road to Lyon by Ambérieux.

17 January.  --General Musnier falls back on the right bank of the Saône.  --The 17th in the morning, General Musnier, not having enough people to defend Lyon having taken a position in front of Guillotière in the plain on the left bank of the Rhône, rightly judged it was impossible to hold in the city, situated between the Rhône and Saône, completely dominated by the heights of Fourvière and Vaise.  Crossing the Saône again, he established himself at the crossroads of Chalon, Moulins and Clermont-Ferrand, leaving only observation posts in front of him in the peninsula formed by the confluence of two courses of water.[18]

Some parties of cavalry, belonging to the vanguard of Bubna, were seen on the right bank of the Saône and occupied Neuville.  Here, moreover, in terms Bubna reports to Schwarzenberg are the operations he attempted against Lyon, operations that his caution, verging on shyness, made unsuccessful.[19]

Report of Bubna on his operations before Lyon.  --"In the end, with my postings with direct communication with Geneva, I left Bourg-en-Bresse the 17th and established myself with my main body at Pont d'Ain; my outposts are at Meximieux.  On the night of January 17th to 18th, I was informed by my front lines of the retreat of the enemy who, after a short engagement with the flying corps of Captain Belrup (of the Liechtenstein Hussar Regiment), had left (Rillieux) la-Pape in front of Lyon."

"Another report came a little later from which I learned that the enemy had evacuated the entire area of ​​the city of Lyon, located on the left bank of the Saône, all was quiet in Lyon and that it seemed to await our arrival.  An officer, I sent as a negotiator to Lyon, confirmed to me the news.  The mayor had, however, related that if I intended to hold Lyon, I had to do it with a respectable force."[20]

"Despite my desire to get hold of this city, I thought it wise not to accede to this request lightly.  So I pushed my outposts up to Miribel and la-Pape on the 18th, , in reconnaissance of Lyon the next day and perhaps even to enter."

"But during the night, I learned that the enemy had cut the road on several points.  It now seemed determined to defend the city he had indeed reoccupied during the night of January 17 to 18 and where the people took up arms to help defend."

"It is clear to me that there is, in Lyon, two parties, one of which, is clearly hostile to us, that can be maintained with the help and support of troops.  It even tells me that it would have cut to pieces and killed one of our negotiators without the intervention of a gendarme officer.  The enemy is, for the most part, out of Lyon and still is in close contact at the moment with my outposts."

"As I only have a few infantry, as I have many sick, as, again, my 5 battalions have only 2,000 men usable effectives available, it seemed all the more risky try a coup de main on Lyon, on  ground unfavorable to me and offering no vantage point for my artillery.  I confined myself to leave before the city my outposts and to observe all that was happening ..."

"However, to be able to do something useful and because I was too small to occupy the city, I found it dangerous to leave my outposts before Lyon.  They could not have avoided insignificant engagements, but since these were nearly constant, and as these engagements would before long come to accustom the Lyonnais to these skirmishers, I retired yesterday the 20th, on Meximieux and today on Pont-d'Ain, where I can move easily in all directions."

"Since I do not think it necessary, under the current circumstances, to try taking Lyon, I at least managed to bring this to the attention of the enemy, to detach and immobilize its strengths and to prevent him from making a movement against this great army."

"Marshal Augereau was in Lyon the 15th.  Very surprised not to find an army, he went to Valence to bring back everyone."

"I find it extremely difficult to get information.  None of the scouts that I sent to Lyon have returned until now."

The report we have just reproduced, shows, it seems, that Bubna lost all the day of the 18th to negotiating, to talking, to reconnaissance of the city and seeking to build intelligence.  One found no indication on the number of French troops of Lyon or the nature of operations that a corps of less than 2,000 men had taken.  Bubna also fails to inform the Generalissimo that a small detachment, led by workers taken to the cause of the Allies had driven the night of the 18th to 19th to the dock of Saint-Clair, and that the 19th, they had already made a complete turnaround in the public sentiment.  He didn't try to explain the causes of the temporary retreat of the French on the right bank of the Saône.  He ought to have known from his emissaries that General Musnier awaited the arrival of 700 reinforcements, who sent from the post of Valence, the 19th, joined to attack the Austrians during the night of 19 to 20, to dislodge them from their positions at the gates of Lyon and throw them into the hamlet of Vernay, to quarter instead in the Croix-Rousse.  He also overlooks the small combat of the rearguard that had accompanied, on the night of the 19th to 20th, the evacuation of la-Pape.  He is guarded again to say more carefully that the rear guard under the command of Colonel Jünger (Kaiser Hussar Regiment), was strongly pushed by the French back to Montluel, that they even withdrew[21]  to Meximieux on 21st where the bulk of his troops were, and returned to Montluel only when the French had evacuated this point to establish their outposts in Miribel.

March of Wieland to Mâcon.  --Forced by his errors to leave the vicinity of Lyon and to beat a retreat before troops of fewer numbers than he had, and composed almost entirely of conscripts, Bubna gave Colonel Wieland who, on his right, had to get closer Mâcon, the order to leave as long as possible the detachment of Major Count Saint-Quentin, to be able to watch the rest of his people on the roads from Lyons by Châtillon-les-Dombes and Villars.  The Colonel had come and posted for that reason at Bourg, and to facilitate his task, he was reinforced by a battalion of Gradiscaner (Gränz-Inf. Regt. Nr. 8), who went to occupy Villars.

On the other hand, Zechmeister had received, 16 January, the order from Bubna to enter Savoy.  At the head of five and a half battalions and two reduced strength squadrons and a battery, it would operate against the French, posted on the Fier, occupy the bridges of Annecy and Rumilly and have, moreover, some troops in reserve at Alby and Albens.

18 January.  --Fight at Rumilly.  --On 18 January, while Bubna, already on the verge of withdrawing from the outskirts of Lyon, was not wanting to engage with the few French troops who were there, his lieutenant, less timid,[22] attacked the French positions , forced the passage of Fier and Chéran, pursued the French to beyond Albens and addressed, the night of the 18th, from Rumilly a report in which, after making Bubna an account of his operations, expressed his plans for the day of 19th:[23]

"I moved today with three columns against Rumilly and Annecy.  One of these columns, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Waller, passed through Cruseilles and Brogny, to occupy Annecy at three o'clock."

"The main column, marching by Frangy on the highway and the third column, under the command of Colonel Benczek, passed by Seyssel and through the mountains moved on Rumilly."

"During the march, I learned that the enemy sought to destroy the stone bridge over the Fier, and to prevent him from putting his plans into action, I immediately sent forward a squadron of hussars.  The enemy pretended to want to defend the city, readily engaged my vanguard; but fearful of being cut off from his line of retreat by my third column, he decided to retire shortly after."

"I rapidly advanced my artillery, which bombarded the masses of the enemy in retreat.  The enemy infantry jumped right into the mountains, and his cavalry, not numerous indeed, soon disappeared completely."

"The speed with which our movements were made, allowed me to hit a French column coming from Alby which wanted to follow the high road from Albens to Aix.  It was obliged to throw itself into the mountains.  My outposts were pushed to La Biolle. The bulk of my forces are here.  Lieutenant-Colonel Waller with a squadron, a battalion and 2 guns, is close to Alby.  Two companies cover my left at Annecy, 2 others my right at Seyssel, and provide a post at Serrières."

"The enemy had 500 men at Rumilly, 600 men in Annecy, 400 men in Alby, 500 men at Albens; but all these troops did not contain much in their ranks except conscripts and douaniers."

"General Marchand was at Rumilly today."

"Tomorrow I gathered my troops in Albens and I intend to move from there on Aix and dislodge the enemy who has, they say, nearly 2,000 men."

"I cannot say now if I could try something after tomorrow against Chambéry, where there are depots for three regiments and where the enemy if it manages to secure all its people may oppose us with 3,000 men, who are again it is true, douaniers and conscripts."

"The people received me everywhere with cries of  "Long live the King of Sardinia"."

19 January.  --Zechmeister occupies Aix-les-Bains.  --The 19th he continued his march, and from Aix he sent Bubna the following report, which gives an accurate picture of how the command executed those continual changes being brought about in any corps composition:

"After I effected my junction in Albens with the column coming from Annecy by Alby, I moved to Aix."

"The enemy had evacuated the city at the approach of my advanced guard and took a position with 1,600 men, 2 guns and a howitzer, behind Rages."

"I wanted to attack it again today and push it to Chambéry, but the night prevented me from pursuing my plans.  Moreover my troops were very tired, and finally the continuous rain had momentarily put out of commission our fusils."

 "My outposts are at Viviers, where I will concentrate all my people tomorrow morning at eight o'clock, to march on Chambéry, that my columns will flank to the rear. I think to be there around noon."

"I have the honor to propose to Your Excellency to not post all my people at Chambéry.  I would like to leave only six companies and half a squadron, to keep the bulk at Aix and continue to occupy Annecy and  Seyssel, Alby and Rumilly.  I will wait on these positions the orders of Your Excellency."

"Until Your Excellency remembers some of the reinforcements that He was to send me, I can only leave Aix with a flying corps which will occupy Chambéry with difficulty.  Then I will carry the bulk of my troops behind the Fier, between Annecy and Rumilly."

"Part of enemy troops, put to flight, has concentrated in the direction of Culoz. The Würzburg Dragoon Regiment is underway and will be the 18th at Carouge; the 19th it will stop, on the 20th it will be in Seyssel, the 21st at Nantua, the 22nd at  Cerdon and the 23rd at Pont-d'Ain, where it will take orders from Your Excellency."[24]

It was, moreover, using these reports that Bubna was able to be forgiven for the unforgivable failure of his expedition to Lyon, and that is why he had taken care in sending 21 January from Pont-d'Ain to Schwarzenberg, the report we cited in part a few pages earlier, beginning as follows:[25]

"Your Highness will see from the reports of General Zechmeister that this general officer chased the enemy from Rumilly and Aix and shall, at the present time, be master of Chambéry.  The goal I set for myself by sending this detachment into Savoy, the goal that had been approved by Your Highness, is achieved.  Because we have a major interest to occupy the capital of the Savoy, to encourage and support the uprising of the Savoyards, I intend to prescribe to General Zechmeister: 1o to provide people the means to take up arms; 2° to leave the bulk of his troops in Chambéry, because for now, there is nothing to fear from Geneva and because I want to powerfully cut the communications of the enemy with Italy by the Mont Cenis."

But it is good to note that in drafting the report he addressed to Schwarzenberg in these words, Bubna had not only intended to gain the favor at the Generalissimo who had obviously gotten a disagreeable impression from the failure at Lyon; he also wanted to provoke a response from the Generalissimo on the use of the troops of Zechmeister, releasing him from responsibility he did not dare to assume, by requiring him to approve or directly reject the proposals made by his lieutenant to him about the number of troops to leave in Chambéry.  So long as you look at things closely, far from being surprised by the slowness with which the operations of the Grand Army were carried out, it comes, instead, to ask how it was possible at all, with such an organization to having to move and to undertake rational, serious and especially timely operations.  Is it not at least curious to see the commander of an independent corps refer to the commander in chief when it is simply a matter of posting momentarily 2,000 men in Chambéry or Aix?  It seems, however, that an order of the day coming from above was given to this effect and the lieutenant, trying to conceal their failure to Generalissimo and their true position, complied with how it was to be adopted by the Generalissimo himself in his reports on his part to his sovereign.  To give evidence, we will simply extract the following lines of the report that Schwarzenberg[26] sent from Langres on the date of 24 January, to the Emperor of Austria, "Bubna (southern army)," it is said in this piece, "pushed the enemy to the gates of Lyon. He is too weak to enter and for this reason he posted the bulk of his corps at Pont d'Ain. He sent Zechmeister against Chambéry.  This general threw the enemy into Aix-les-Bains and his outposts were on the 19th at night in front of Chambéry."

A similar report was hardly likely to give suspicions to the Emperor of Austria, and one has the right to ask what explanation the Prince of Schwarzenberg could provide his sovereign if it had come to the thoughts of the Emperor to ask him how, after being strong enough to push the enemy to the gates of Lyon, Bubna had suddenly found himself too weak to enter this open city.

20 January.  --Occupation of Chambéry by Zechmeister.  --This digression has inevitably led us away from events in Savoy, the scene of these events, that despite his strong desire to absolve himself of responsibility, Bubna was none the less, forced to resolve.  General Zechmeister had, in fact, occupied Chambéry 20 January and was pursuing the enemy on the road of Montmélian, who strongly pushed by the Austrian cavalry, only stopped, on one side at Pontcharra, under the protection of the guns of Fort Barraux and on the other, falling back on Les Échelles.  Bubna seeing himself, in consequence,  being obliged to prescribe to Zechmeister to occupy Chambéry with the bulk of his forces,[27] no longer insisted on his own situation at Pont-d'Ain,[28] Bubna only added in his report to Schwarzenberg, he was monitoring the roads from Lyon and Grenoble by Les Échelles and that on the left of General Zechmeister, observed Conflans, Montmélian and the bridge of the Isère.

In fact from related reports, he learned from the Generalissimo, that apparently, 100 gendarmes at Chalon-sur-Saône, which had been illuminated in Lyon, the 20th, to celebrate the arrival of 800 line troops had brought the number of veteran troops present on this point to 3,000 men.  It is true that in the ending he induced, surely unintentionally, the chief was in error in saying (report of 22 January): "The Marshal Augereau is not back yet," when, on the contrary, the Duke of Castiglione had precisely arrived in Lyon in the prior 24 hours, with a few squadrons.

21 January.  --Bubna retreats on Pont-d'Ain.  --The day of the 21st, Bubna, whose outposts were up before Miribel and who had still held the day before with his main body Meximieux, thought, says the Tagesbegebenheiten,[29] to reduce his main body at Pont-d'Ain and his vanguard Meximieux, "because he had received news of the presence...,at Tournus, of General Legrand at the head of a large (?) corps of French troops."

Battle of Chapareillan and taking of the bridge of Montmélian.  --Fortunately for Bubna, Allied affairs continued to follow a favorable course in Savoy.  The same day, in fact, General Zechmeister made a demonstration on Grenoble and found the French position before Fort Barraux near Chapareillan, where they had at that time 600 men and 15 cannons.  But he forced, on the other side, General Dessaix to recross to the left bank of the Isère at Montmélian and evacuate this important point where the French general did not have time to destroy the bridge. Despite all efforts of the French, Zechmeister managed to remain master of this bridge, guarded by three companies under the command of Colonel Benczek, securing him a passage over the Isère and opening the road to Mont-Cenis.

Finally, pushing the same day a detachment into range of the Bauges by the neck of Tamines, he held the key points upstream of the Isère Valley to Conflans[30] to cover on the left.

Following his failure and the movements of Zechmeister, General Dessaix had taken a position at La Chavanne, in the valley of the Arc and vis-à-vis Montmélian on the left bank of the Isère, and seemed to want to entrench himself while General Marchand, who had replaced General de la Roche who was sick and lacking the energy and activity needed in such critical circumstances, occupied, on the right bank of the Isère, the famous position of Marshal Berwick at Fort Barraux, pressing his left at Belle-Comb on the mountain range, his right at a position on the Isère with a post at Pontcharra, designed to secure and cover his communications with General Dessaix, who renewed his attempts to retake the bridge at Montmélian the next day of the 22nd, but with no more success than before.

22-23 January.  --Attempts of the French against the bridge of Montmélian.  -The 23rd, although Zechmeister had reinforced the troops guarding the bridge at Montmélian,[31] the French tried once more to retake it; the bulk of Zechmeister went to Chambéry less 2 companies and 2 platoons that were sent to Saint-Thibaud-de-Couz on the road to Lyon.[32]

Meanwhile, despite all the dangers of the position of Chambéry, despite the inconvenience to Bubna himself that could not be missed in the report to Schwarzenberg, to which we have alluded, Zechmeister was nevertheless ordered to remain there until the approach of large French forces.  To demonstrate to the Generalissimo that occupation was not unnecessary Bubna hastened to announce that through this measure, we could have the freedom to free several Spanish officers prisoners interned there, among whom he cited as Lieutenant General Renavales and Brigadier Manuel Versarjon.[33]

The appearance of Bubna before Lyon had as a resulted, in short, happily for the French, the making of this city into a unique and general point of concentration of all forces forming in the Midi and who had remained scattered in far different depots.  The Austrian general flattered himself, indeed, in having prevented them from marching as a diversion against the extreme left of the grand army, a diversion that the French could not think of at that time by the simple reason that, as we have seen, they had no one in these parts.  On the contrary, not content with having, by throwing the alarm, shown the French the full extent of the danger, his shyness only allowed them to escape, and commit a much more serious mistake, in giving Augereau the time and the ability to organize at least some of the forces with which the Duke of Castiglione was called to take the field, forces with which, had he still had his old energy, he could have gloriously helped save France.

24 January.  --Retrograde movements of Bubna.  --Indeed, after hesitating a long time, since he felt compelled to leave the immediate vicinity of Lyon, Bubna, unable to find on the side of Pont-d'Ain a position that would allow him to both monitor Lyon and cover Chambéry and Geneva, made a serious resolution.  In the days of 22 and 23 January he had ordered Colonel Count Zichy to move with six squadrons and a battalion of jägers to Meximieux to monitor what was happening near Lyon; Colonel Wieland, to hold in Bourg with 2 battalions, 6 squadrons and a mounted battery with a mission to observe also Lyon, maintain order in the departments of Ain and Jura, and try to connect by Dole and Lons-le-Saulnier with the left of the grand army and particularly with the brigade of General Scheither.  Weak reinforcements went to join Zechmeister in Savoy, and Bubna himself returned his headquarters to Geneva.[34]

The French regained the bridge of Mâcon.  --While Bubna sent these instructions to Colonel Wieland, Major Count Saint-Quentin[35]  who, having managed to seize the bridge of Mâcon, had been instructed to guard it with a squadron of hussars and a half, supported by 2 companies , was forced, after a brisk fight, to withdraw the 23rd, at 5 o'clock at night, before the troops of General Legrand, and was pursued until nightfall.  General Legrand was then stopped and thrown back on the bridge of Mâcon that he had firmly occupied.  Colonel Wieland informed by Major Saint-Quentin of the failure he had just experienced and which had cost a lot of people from his small party, attacked in turn General Legrand, the following 24th, and sought regain the bridge. "But he could not succeed", Bubna wrote to Schwarzenberg, "due to lack of infantry at his disposal."

First action of La Grotte.  --In Savoy, General Dessaix confined himself to keeping the Austrians on alert at the bridge of Montmélian.  Lieutenant-Colonel Waller (of the Liechtenstein Hussars Regiment), detached with 3 companies and a squadron of hussars to attack the defile near La Grotte near Échelles, to finally open the side of the highway from Lyon, failed completely in his enterprise.  He managed to fall back to Saint-Thibaud-de-Couz, unmolested in their retreat.[36]

25 January.  --Position of General Dessaix.  --General Dessaix continued to maneuver on the left of Zechmeister.  He placed four guns and 1,500 men in Chavanne, in redoubts raised at the mouth of the bridge at Montmélian, strengthened his posts on the left bank of the Isère upstream to the level of Conflans and sent to Sainte-Hélène-des-Millières a party of cavalry who reconnoitered and sounded the fords of the river.  The French had further strengthened the position of La Grotte and occupied La Pont-de-Beauvoisin, whose troops furnished an outpost at La Bridoire.[37]

As for Bubna, he continued to announce to Schwarzenberg that he only had 3,000 troops in Lyon; but instead of supporting Zechmeister with everything he had, which would have been logical and might have allowed this General to jab at Grenoble, he sent to Dole Lieutenant Colonel Meninger and a squadron of Würzburg hussars, with orders to join General Scheither who seemed to need cavalry.  Bubna had also kept General Klopstein at Pont-d'Ain for to use as circumstances dictated.

26 January.  --Action at Marches.  --The 26th, the French continued to strengthen the positions of La Grotte and Pont-de-Beauvoisin, and while those of General Dessaix made a frontal attack on the bridge of Montmélian, those of General Marchand, leaving Fort Barraux by Marches, were on their way to take the rear of the Austrians stationed at Montmélian.  But they came against a column of 6 companies, a squadron and 2 cannons, with which General Zechmeister, from Saint-Jeoire, was preparing to reconnoiter Fort Barraux.  Zechmeister attacked General Marchand when he came to overthrow the Austrian outposts, drove them to Marches and forced them to retreat to Chapareillan.  The attempt against the bridge of Montmélian had failed due to the setback experienced by Marchand at Marches; but this success had cost a lot of people from the troops of Zechmeister, who nevertheless occupied this day Moûtiers in the Tarentaise, and who received at Chambéry a weak reinforcement of 3 squadrons of Liechtenstein Hussars with 2 howitzers.[38]

Report of Bubna to Schwarzenberg.  --While Zechmeister continued to hold out into Savoy against all the efforts of General Dessaix and Marchand, Bubna, concerned above all with a way to stay in communication with the main army, wrote to Schwarzenberg requesting authorization to no longer support his lines by Mâcon, but through Chalon-sur-Saône.  He argued, among other reasons, the difficulty of establishing a bridge head in Mâcon, the desirability for him, as for the General Scheither, to combine their operations in Chalon; but in reality Bubna[39] who had brought his troops on Meximieux and Pont-d'Ain, sought, especially since the bridge Mâcon was taken by the French, to restore and ensure communications and to connect more and more with the army of the Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg.  He had, moreover, another reason to insist on this: he liked much better having to support Scheither in his operation against Chalon-sur-Saône than operating on his own account and his own forces against Mâcon.  The information he sent on this date to the Generalissimo, concerning Lyon, were in fact very accurate. Thus, he estimated, on the 27th, Augereau had 6,000 men regular troops at Lyon, while the day before he reported to Schwarzenberg the presence of only 3,000 men in this town.[40]

29 January.  --Action at Aiguebelette-le-Lac.  --The arrival of some reinforcements in Chambéry, though inconsiderable, allowed Zechmeister, who now felt better about his difficulty to debouch on Grenoble and to seize this city, to continue the none the less his operations and establish himself a bit more firmly between Fier, the Isère and the Rhône.

After having, the 29th, easily chased the small French outpost of Aiguebelette, Zechmeister resolved to take the positions of La Tour-du-Pin and Pont-de-Beauvoisin, and capture above all Les Échelles.  He wanted so preserve the possibility of sending parties in the Isère valley, cover the right of the position of Chambéry and open the road to Lyon.  To achieve the purpose he intended, he must first expel the French parties of Lépin-le-Lac, then mask Pont-de-Beauvoisin and then proceed against Les Échelles.

Twenty-nine January, Major Mylius, with 4 companies and a platoon of hussars, pushed by Bissy up to the foothills.

30 January.  --Actions at La Grotte and Les Échelles.  --The 30th, in the morning, passing through the neck Novalaise, leaving the lake of Aiguebelette to left, he moved by Saint-Albin-de-Vaulserre on Lépin to take the enemy from the rear.  Meanwhile, a company stationed at Aiguebelette was to occupy the enemy established at Lépin in front, then on the arrival of Major Mylius, march in such a way to cut their line of retreat to France in the direction of Attignat-Oncin.  As for Mylius, he was ordered as soon as he performed this part of his operation, to send on Bridoire a party charged with completely masking Pont-de-Beauvoisin, and covering by a post road from Pont-de-Beauvoisin to Chambéry by Lépin to Aiguebelette; and the rest of his detachment was, from Attignat-Oncin, to push itself through La Bauche on Saint-Pierre-de-Genebroz and move with the column coming by Saint-Thibaud-de-Couz on Le Villard to cooperate in the attack on the La Grotte and Les Échelles. The bulk for the operation against the La Grotte consisted of 2 battalions, a squadron of hussars and a half battery.  It was formed on 30th, just after noon, at Saint-Thibaud-de-Couz.  Two and a half companies of this mass moving over the high mountains, by La Bauche marched in parallel with the main body, had as its mission to move with Major Mylius on Le Villard and to attack from behind La Grotte and debouch by Saint-Christophe.  Finally, a company and a half was also charged to flank the main body by Saint-Jean-de-Couz, descend into the valley of Guier, when the main body took the position of La Grotte, to occupy the bridge of Saint-Martin and attack Saint-Christophe on the right. The frontal assault on La Grotte was to begin at 3 o'clock.

Major Mylius skirmished with and almost completely dispersed a few enemy troops stationed at Lépin; the party sent to Bridoire pushed the French to Pont-de-Beauvoisin, and the Major, with the bulk of his small party, then went on Saint-Pierre-de-Genebroz.

At 3 o'clock, Zechmeister attacked the position of La Grotte from the front to draw the attention of the enemy to him.  The French troops held out until they were taken in the rear by the fire of schützen[41] a few of whom managed to get a foothold on the ridge overlooking La Grotte.  Meanwhile, the left column attacked the bridge of Saint-Martin, and Zechmeister, taking advantage of the marked hesitation by the French, took La Grotte and pursued its defenders up to Les Échelles.

Night had fallen in the meantime; already Zechmeister, with no news of the march of his flank columns that were delayed by the snow, was beginning to worry when he heard musketry on the side of Saint-Pierre-de-Genebroz.  He soon learned that his column, being aware of the taking of the position of La Grotte, had moved straight on Les Échelles[42], and had given chase to the enemy.

31 January.  Positions of Zechmeister.  --The next day, the 31st, Zechmeister occupied positions by Corbel, Saint-Pierre-d'Entremont and Entremont-le-Vieux, and his parties, descending south to the Isère, pushed up to the north side La Tour-du-Pin.[43]

Finally on February 1, one of his parties held on the road to Pont-de-Lyon Beauvoisin, while another, pushing forward from Les Échelles, passed by Voiron and scoured the country on the side of Voreppe on the highway to Grenoble.[44]

Zechmeister was therefore at the end of January master of the whole Guier Valley from its source to its confluence into the Rhône, and it was precisely at this moment he received from Bubna an order to remain in the positions where he was and to stop any forward movement.[45]

Inactivity of Bubna until February.  --We said in Chapter II that Schwarzenberg, after changing the composition of forces employed on the left and the south of France, had entrusted the Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg with the command of the considerable assembly and would take the name of Army of the South.  He even found it necessary to come in person on 24 January, to Dijon, to ensure the implementation of the measures he had prescribed, and it was after this tour as Generalissimo that January 31st  Bubna had felt obliged in turn to stop Zechmeister[46] who was getting ready to pursue General Dessaix then in full retreat on Grenoble.

Although a short duration, this time of inaction, so unexpected as it was inexplicable, occurred just in time for Marshal Augereau.  Called back to Lyon by the march of Bubna on this city, he had arrived on 21 January with the few troops he had, with great difficulty, managed to pick up in Valence and on his way.

It was unfortunately impossible to comply with the orders of the Emperor, to cover Lyon in his moving forward on the roads of Mâcon and Tarare to Grenoble and Vienna, unless on his right he could have securely held Chambéry, which was already in Allied hands.  As of 25 January the division of Musnier only had, in fact,  2,761 men, and the troops employed in Savoy and near Grenoble that only amounted themselves, before the combats discussed above, to 5,361 men.  Also, although reinforcements were not yet marching to their designated points, at least in regard to veteran troops, the head of the column of the division from the Army of Catalonia was suppose to join by mid-February, and this inconceivable disruption of operations of the Allies was nonetheless essentially favorable to Augereau.  Time alone would enable him to complete the organization of his troops, to complete the formation of his mobilized National Guard battalions, to hasten the creation of some corps of partisans and a number of independent companies.  He would not, unfortunately, take advantage of this windfall.

By naming the commander of the Army of Lyon, the Emperor had generously forgot the past failures of the Marshal failure during the final days of the 1813 Campaign, to remember those of the brilliant soldier of Lodi, Castiglione and Arcole.  A poor organizer Augereau no longer possessed any of his old qualities.  Discontented and deterred, indecisive and argumentative, the Marshal, far from responding to the confidence of one who, by becoming his sovereign, had never stopped being his friend, dared not even comply with instructions of an unmatched precision. Although liability is covered by formal orders, he will not once, throughout this campaign that might have immortalized his name, show any evidence of that instinctive energy that he had in his glory, this resolve that he had been able to imprint on the old soldiers of his division, this blind faith in the ultimate success that he once had to share the glory and inspire a Bonaparte.


[1] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im-Monate Januar. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30.) <

[2] Ibidem and Archives of the Depot of War. General Poncet at War.

[3] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im-Monate Januar. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30.)

[4] Zechmeister to Bubna, Geneva, 4 January. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., 1, 178 f.)

[5] General Zechmeister to Count Bubna. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 178 c.)

"Geneva, 5 January 1814.  --The enemy has reinforced Rumilly, Alby and Aix, where he has 3,000 men with General Dessaix.  In Chambéry they have, as I've already indicated, 2,000 men."

"Last night I had attacked Châtillon with a flying corps (that of Lieutenant Karaizay).  The cavalry had taken the village, crossed it, charged the French cavalry which had posted at its exit, was overthrown, had taken 3 horses and was hotly pursued.  Meanwhile, the French infantry had won Châtillon by the mountain, and had occupied the village that our party had to cross.  Our horsemen still reached it, notwithstanding the fire of the French, but they came at a short distance from the village against another group of French infantry who drove them back into Châtillon that they had to cross at a gallop for the second time under enemy fire.  The lieutenant lost 12 men in this matter and withdrew on Seyssel."

"I used the little horse that I had at my disposal on the side of Annecy and Rumilly to immediately warn of any enemy movement."

[6] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im-Monate Januar (Ibid., I, 30).

[7] Schwarzenberg to the Emperor of Austria, Montbéliard, 8 January. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 155) and Army Nachrichten (Ibid., I, 329).

[8] This squadron was not relieved until the 11th and alone had assured him the crossing over the Doubs for five days. (BAUMANN), Geschichte des K. K. Husaren Regiments No. 1 Kaiser Ferdinand, nach den Quellen der K. K. Kriegs Archivs.

[9] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im-Monate Januar (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30).

[10] Bubna to Schwarzenberg, Poligny, 7 January (Ibid).

[11] According to the records of the Archives of the War, 10 January, 80 armed inhabitants of Bourg and 450 gunners of the navy had surprised 150 Liechtenstein hussars at Saint-Etienne-du-Bois and taken 6 men and 13 horses.

Baron Rivet, prefect of the Ain, confirms these facts in the report he sent to the Minister on the invasion of his department.  "One hundred Austrian riders left the 8th from Lons-le-Saunier to Saint-Amour, occupying the village of Saint-Etienne-du-Bois at 2 miles from Bourg.  Eighty inhabitants of Bourg (retired military) offered to surround the village, while the enemy were thrown upon them by the troops of the line composed of 40 Hussars and Guards of Honor sent from Lyon, a few gendarmes and a detachment of 400 artillerymen of the 2nd Navy Regiment coming from Ambérieux (-en-Dombes).  The expedition succeeded.  The Austrian Hussars pushed strongly by the Navy gunners rushed at a gallop into the ambush by the inhabitants of Bourg, who killed and wounded several, and took 6 men and 12 horses."  The Prefect, in the same report, describes a small affair which took place in the night of the 8th to 9th, where a detachment of 24th Line and volunteers of  Nantua and who, starting from this city, surprised around Thoirette a party of Austrian hussars come to refloat a ferry that the French sank after loading it with stones.  The hussars in this skirmish had 4 people killed and left 18 men and 15 horses in the hands of the French.

[12] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im-Monate Januar (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30).<

[13] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im-Monate Januar (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30).

News of the Armies (Paris, 14-18 January) (Ibid., I, 529) reflects this fact by saying:  "From Bourg-en-Bresse, Count Bubna sent troops in all directions.  15 hussars appeared before Mâcon that French troops and National Guard were planning to defend, but the mayor of Mâcon and that of Saint-Laurent betraying the public trust, let 50 enemy troops occupy the bridge over the Saône."

[14] . in ibid.

[15] Chaptal to the Minister of War. (Archives of the War.)

[16] Augereau to the Chief of Staff. (Correspondence of Augereau.  --Archives of the War.)

[17] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im-Monate Januar (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30).

[18] "I took position at the end of the suburb of Vaise, where I met a few small and many isolated detachments.  The advanced troops of the enemy are at Montluel and Miribel. It has a few hundred men at Mâcon, and as it is easy to file from Bourg as many people he wants and stand there, by Villefranche on my rear, his movements on this point must attract my attention as much as they did before me. (Musnier to the Minister. Archives of the War.)

[19] The Feldmarschalleutnant Count Bubna to Prince Schwarzenberg, Pont d'Ain, 21 January 1814. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 488.)

[20] According to the reports of General Musnier, Bubna sought to confer with the municipal authorities of Lyon; but the letters were handed to the general by the mayor, and that it was General Musnier who made the answers himself. (Archives of the War.)

[21] There was at this same time in Lyon a troop of 2,500 men. (Archives of the War.)

[22] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im-Monate Januar (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30).

[23] Zechmeister to Bubna, Rumilly, 18 January, 11:30 at night. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 488, a.)

[24] Zechmeister to Bubna, Aix, 19 January. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 488 b.)

[25] Bubna to Schwarzenberg, Pont-d'Ain, 21 January. (Ibid., I, 488.)

[26] Schwarzenberg to the Emperor, Langres, 24 January. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 567.)

[27] Bubna to Schwarzenberg, Pont-d'Ain, 22 January. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 509.)

[28] You may wonder how, at Pont-d'Ain, Bubna could monitor what was happening on the left bank of the Rhône and the side of the Isère valley.

[29] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im-Monate Januar (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30).

[30] Journal of operations of General Zechmeister and report of Bubna to Schwarzenberg. Geneva, 26 January. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 594.)

[31] K. K. Kriegs Archiv<., 1, 594.

[32] There was at that time 800 men and 10 cannons on the left bank of the Isère at Pontcharra, 400 men and 2 guns at Goncelin. The Austrians had not yet tried to penetrate in Maurienne. Their vanguard held at Saint-Jeoire near the junction of the road to Italy with that of Grenoble to Chambéry, short distance from Montmélian. The side of Les Échelles, the Austrian outposts were in Saint-Thibaud-de-Couz a good league from the La Grotte, that General Barral occupied with 350 men.

[33] Bubna to Schwarzenberg, Geneva, 26 January. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 594.)

[34] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im-Monate Januar (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30).<

Bubna , in fact, had sent Zechmeister reinforcements of only 3 companies who were moved to the left of Zechmeister at Faverges.  "A battalion and a squadron", he writes, "will tomorrow (this is the 27th, since the report that we take this information is dated 26 (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 594) reinforce at Rumilly.  It currently is everything I have available in forces," Bubna adds.

[35] Bubna to Schwarzenberg, Geneva, 26 January.  (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 594.)

[36] Tagebuch of General Zechmeister and report of Bubna to Schwarzenberg of 24 January. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 594.)

[37] Id. in ibid.

[38] Tagebuch of General Zechmeister and Bubna to Schwarzenberg, Geneva, 27 January. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 618); STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im-Monate Januar (Ibid., I, 30.)

[39] Bubna reached the result he had proposed, and the evidence of those facts are apparent from the dispatch below addressed by Scheither to Schwarzenberg:

"Dole, 30 January 1814.  --I take advantage of a passing courier to send news of my corps to Your Highness."

"I was relieved yesterday at the blockade of Auxonne by Feldmarschalleutnant Baron Wimpffen.  A battalion of infantry left Salins the 30th and will be at Dole 1 February where my whole brigade the 2nd of February (5 battalions of jägers, battalion of Brodi, light horse of Vincent and 6 platoons of hussars). From there I plan on moving on Chalon-sur-Saône."

"My brigade, being too weak to take Chalon which is strongly occupied by the enemy, since General Legrand is there with 4,000 men, General Wimpffen gave me an infantry battalion..."

"...I will connect with the detachment of Colonel Wieland."  (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 682.)

[40] Bubna to Schwarzenberg, Geneva, 27 January.  (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 618.)

[41] The schützen were guided by the inhabitants.  (See the report of Senator Chaptal, Comte de Chanteloup, to the Minister of War, Lyon, 2 February.  --Archives of the War.)

[42] "The post of  Les Échelles", said General Marchand in his dispatch to the Duke of Feltre, Grenoble, 2 February, "has been taken by hundreds of Austrians, through the road that was thought to be totally impassible below La Grotte. Our soldiers just fired a few shots, and a hundred threw their weapons and back packs away to escape.  However I looked at the position as impregnable.  Grenoble is much easier to take at this time (2 February) than the position of Les Échelles was, and it is impossible to answer with such soldiers. (Archives of the War.)

General de Barral, writing on 31 January at 8 at night, from Saint-Étienne-de-Crossey to the Minister of War, gave more details on the affairs of Le Grotte and Les Échelles:

"I have very bad news for you: the outpost of La Grotte was attacked at 1:30 in the afternoon.  The fusillade started strongly and I was glad because my position seemed unassailable.  I saw this as a way to harden my young soldiers. But soon the battle was heated, and the position of  La Grotte had been flanked and attacked from five directions at once.  Soon I saw on the mountains by the snow cover, 3 columns, one turning down to La Grotte and another headed by the crest of the mountain that dominates Les Échelles at fusil range; the 3rd seemed to have been intended to turn my post at Aiguebelette, and indeed I saw it was attacked from several sides and fell back with loss.  Thus Les Échelles had been invested on the side of the road which leads to Pont-de-Beauvoisin by the height of the Commanderie which dominates the road and La Grotte, which separated me from the main post I had on this point.  I therefore pulled back one of the 2 pieces to defend the passage of the bridge of Les Échelles with 60 men I had at my disposal in this area."

"But these precautions were in vain.  Around 5 o'clock in the evening the enemy entered Les Échelles from three sides despite the shooting.  But the number of my troops found much reduced by the number of killed, wounded and especially of the fugitives, that remained was pursued by fusil shots up to 200 steps beyond the Guier, and the night ended the combat."

"Having found myself separated from the troops of La Grotte and knowing that many soldiers filed by way of Miribel, I ran to rally them hoping to defend the passage of Crossey.  I gathered some thirty who escaped under cover of night...I have just learned that my 2 pieces are in Saint-Laurent-du-Pont and I ordered them to head by Voreppe by Pommiers.  I do not know the fate of the remains of the position of La Grotte and I doubt that I still have enough to defend all the passes from Saint-Etienne-de-Crossey leading to Voiron and the neck of Placette that leads to Voreppe."

Augereau and Saint-Vallier were, indeed, hardly more reassuring; the first said:  "All the passages that cover Grenoble and Lyon are taken, and the enemy has strengthened Montmélian."  The second wrote:  "Our troops have retired on Saint-Etienne de Crossey and collar of the Placette, positions which cover Voiron and the road of Grenoble if our soldiers inspired more confidence in their chiefs."

[43] Tagebuch of General Zechmeister and STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im-Monate Januar. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., I, 30.)

[44] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im-Monate Januar<. (Ibid., II, 1.)

[45] Schwarzenberg to Bubna, Geneva, 4 February. (Ibid., II, 82.)

[46] Although at that time it had won benefits in Savoy for Bubna where there had only been very few people, it is nonetheless clear that the dispersion of his forces was to be nearly disastrous for him, when forced to shut himself in Geneva, before the brief offensive of Augereau, when he was a seriously threatened for a moment.  We must, therefore, recognize that Clausewitz was right when he condemns in his Strategic Critique all secondary operations of Schwarzenberg and in particular the detachment of troops he had to Savoy.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: October 2011

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