Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

The Campaign of 1814: Chapter Six Part VI

By: Maurice Weil

Translated by: Greg Gorsuch


(after the Imperial and Royal War Archives at Vienna)





BRIENNE and LA ROTHIÈRE (26 January.  --3 February).

Description of the battlefield of La Rothière.  --The plain which extends from the heights of Trannes up to Rosnay and Blignicourt has its greatest length of just over 16 kilometers and in the direction of the west is a little less than 5 kilometers.  The terrain is almost flat.  This plain is bounded on all sides by natural barriers: the south is bounded by the Trannes plateau that extends to the Aube; on the east by the Bois de Beaulieu situated north-east of the village of Trannes; on the west and in front of the plateau of Trannes, by the Aube on the banks of the plain which extends from the plateau of Trannes  until near Brienne.  This plain, low in most of its extent, rises on the side of Perthes to subside then on the road to Bar; it then rises from the elbow of the Aube, upstream from Dienville, to Unienville around until about Trannes.  Dominated on the west side, in its full extent by the steep hills on the left bank of the Aube, it is bounded on the north-west by a line of heights, from the park of Brienne, that only die off on the banks of the Voire.  The rivers that mark the north, usually flood in winter.  To the east it is bounded by the marshy woods and almost impassable Vallentigny, the Bois de Anjou the woods and the back of plateau of Morvilliers which is covered on the side of the east near Soulaines on its front and on its flanks by woods and swamps and overlooking the whole plain, is the real key to the position.  It is on this plateau of Morvilliers that are located in the south and not far from the northern edge of the Bois de Beaulieu, La Giberie, then near the center Chaumesnil and finally, further north, Morvilliers.

The road from Bar-sur-Aube to Vitry-le-François cuts through this plain in its entire length almost in a straight line and passes through the village of La Rothière.

This battlefield was much too large for the forces available to the Emperor.  Even considering La Giberie as an outpost, the French lines from Dienville by Petit-Mesnil, Chaumesnil and closing from Beauvoir up to Morvilliers, had a total extent of about 15 kilometers.  This extent forced the Emperor to employ most of his cavalry, significantly outnumbered by the Allies, to fill the vast empty spaces existing on his front between the different positions he had occupied with his corps, when attacked by Blücher, he accepted combat under such disadvantageous conditions for them.

Napoleon comes in person to La Rothière.  --He sends Ney the order to beat a retreat.  --While the Allies were performing their preparatory movements behind the position of Trannes and outside views of the French, while the snow still obscured the horizon, Napoleon, who had to his great disappointment  received at night the notice in which Marmont, informing of the evacuation of Soulaines and his night march on Morvilliers, had from the morning of the 1st of February moved to La Rothière.  Alarmed by the continued immobility of the Allies, thinking they were going to decide to attack or retreat before him, he wanted to see for himself the state of things.

The impassive troops of Blücher were soon to prove to him that his hopes were dashed.  Fearful when the information announcing the march of the Great Army on Brienne were not wrong, he began to think that Blücher could well have been charged to hold him to conceal the movements of Schwarzenberg and build a wall behind which the columns of the main army would march at their ease in the direction of Troyes.  Believing that one wanted to stop him from having the time necessary to throw himself on Mortier, isolated at Troyes, he gave in the morning, to the bulk of his army the order to move by the bridge of Lesmont on this city.  He immediately sent out to Lesmont, without speaking to the Guards of Honor of General de France, already posted on the road from Lesmont to Piney, the three divisions of the Young Guard of generals Meunier, Decouz[1] and Rottembourg who, under the command of Marshal Ney, formed his reserve and occupied the evening of the 31st Brienne la Vieille.[2]

Marshal Victor and Grouchy report the first movements of the Allies.  --Reconnaissance made by the Emperor.  --Positions that he occupied.  --Ney receives the order to retrace his steps.  --The Prince of the Moskowa had already begun his movement, when about noon, General Grouchy and Marshal Victor let the Emperor know that they had noticed in the enemy lines on the roads from Soulaines to Brienne, from Éclance to La Giberie and from Trannes to La Rothière, their movements seemed to reveal an imminent attack.  The Emperor immediately mounted his horse, to throw, once again, a glance at the field, and although the snow-storm prevented him from seeing clearly what was happening in the Allied position, he shared the view expressed by Grouchy.  While Ney was sent the order to return quickly on his path and to immediately enter the division of Rottembourg into the line, he established his small army at the following positions: Gérard, the right wing and pressing to the Aube, deployed his two divisions formed into battalions en masse, the division of Dufour in the 1st line, the division of Ricard in the 2nd line from the Aube to La Rothière.  Both lines were covered in front by eight squadrons of the cavalry brigade of General Picquet who had deployed and covered the interval between the division of Dufour and La Rothière.

Also at La Rothière, where the center of the French lines began, Victor had posted one of the brigades of the division of Duhesme, while the other brigade was massed behind the village, straddling the road from Brienne to Trannes.  Two battalions were thrown into each of the villages of Petit-Mesnil and Chaumesnil.  Victor had also occupied La Giberie with troops of the 2nd Division (Forestier), who had also posted, since the day before a battalion in the Bois de Beaulieu.  Four battalions deployed as skirmishers guarded the part of the heights located in rear of the wood, the full extent between La Vénerie, the ponds of the same name and the source of channel of Froideau. The cavalry divisions of generals Piré, Briche and Lhéritier under the direct command of Grouchy, were deployed in two lines between Petit-Mesnil and Chaumesnil.  Nansouty, with the cavalry divisions of the Guard of generals Lefebvre-Desnouettes, Colbert and Guyot, was formed en bataille, also in two lines, to the right and behind La Rothière, extending to Petit-Mesnil and had taken position in before his horse artillery.

On the left wing, Marmont with the division of Lagrange occupied Morvilliers and before that point the village of La Chaise, at the exit of the woods of Soulaines.  Doumerc's cavalry was deployed on both sides of the road from Brienne to Doulevant on the plateau of Morvilliers, at the farm of Beauvoir, facing the La Chaise.

Of the three divisions of the Young Guard, one, the division of Rottembourg, would be deployed immediately in front of Brienne-la-Vieille, and the two others were still marching around Lesmont, on the farm of Beugné (located halfway between Brienne and Petit-Mesnil).

The battle front was obviously too broad: there were barely enough infantry to occupy the villages, their surroundings and the main points of the line.  All of the cavalry served to fill the empty line and the reserves, not great by any means, since the three divisions of the Young Guard had at most a total of 10,000 combatants, were not available at the moment the struggle began and then were barely sufficient to support the troops posted at La Rothière and ultimately cover the retreat.

The Allies begin their movement at noon.  --The whole morning of the 1st of February had passed without incident.  At noon, when the Emperor Alexander, the King of Prussia with his two sons, the Crown Prince and Prince Wilhelm of Prussia (who would later become Emperor Wilhelm), and Prince Schwarzenberg joined Blücher on the heights of Trannes, the different columns of the Allied armies preceded by the cavalry charged to cover their deployment, left rolling in the directions that they were assigned, initially the dispositions of Schwarzenberg followed by the orders of Blücher and Barclay de Tolly.  They began to descend towards the plain where their progress would be significantly delayed by the very nature of the drenched and sticky land over which they were moving.  The recent days of rain had soaked the plowed fields; digging into the paths of the deep ruts they had turned into quagmires.  Finally, frost, which occurred suddenly in the night of 31 January to 1 February, had covered the entire plain with a slight crust of ice which made the movements even slower and more painful as this plain was furrowed in every direction by the passage of troops, artillery and convoys, the wind was blowing hard and the snow had only stopped falling since that morning.

It was nearly one o'clock, when the Allied cavalry who, advancing slowly, covered, until that moment the deployment of columns of Gyulay and especially Sacken, passed the whole second line, exposing the heads of the infantry columns and leaving before them only some scouts.  But the state of land had hindered the progress of the troops and seriously compromised the movement of the artillery.  Sacken's corps was reduced to only bringing into the line half of its guns and left 36 of its pieces on the heights of Trannes.  Moreover, General Nikitin, who commanded this artillery, had to employ double teams for these pieces and caissons.  Following the road that leads to La Rothière, he pushed at a trot until within gunshot of the French outposts and placed himself in a battery to the right and left of the road.  The Russian artillery who had passed the heads of the columns of Sacken in this movement, was completely in the open without support; but the General having taken the party on somewhat of an adventure, did not act lightly.  For the same reason given the state of the terrain, it was important to avoid as much as possible changes in position and successively placed in battery, and, secondly, it was necessary to resolutely carry forward in order to send the teams back to Trannes and bring online the pieces that one had been forced to temporarily leave on the hills.

French cavalry charge against the Russian batteries.  --First engagements before La Rothière.  --The French cavalry thrown back to La Rothière.  --Despite the swirling snow, the French cavalry controlled by Nansouty realized the hazardous position of the Russian artillery as its support (the 11th and 36th Regiments of Jeigers) were not able to reach them, and moved on it.

General Nikitin, seeing the French squadrons head to his batteries, immediately gave the order to cease fire.  Using all his people to carry the ammunition he would need near the guns, he let the cavalrymen get up to 500 paces from the batteries.  He then opened fire with grape shot so lively and so deadly that the charge had to stop at not less than 300 paces from the pieces.  Returned several times by their generals, the French cavalry were, ultimately, forced to abandon their enterprise.  The snow fell during that time with such violence that it was not possible to see 10 steps ahead.[3]

Sacken's infantry began to arrive in line, and as the snow-storm ceased at that time, he was forced to deploy under fire from the French batteries of La Rothière and infantry posted in front of the village, in houses and gardens, while the cavalry under the command of Nansouty (divisions Colbert, Guyot and Piré) who came to reform, emerged between La Rothière and Petit-Mesnil and moved quickly to meet the Russian battalions.  Lieutenant General Lanskoy tried in vain to stop with his division of hussars[4] the charge of the French cavalry who crushed them and were already about to break the lines of the infantry, when Lieutenant General Vasilchikov, who commanded the cavalry of Sacken's corps, galloped forward with the division of dragoons of Major General Panchulidzev II.[5] Simultaneously attacking the French regiments from the front and flank before they had time to reform, he stopped them dead in their tracks, routed them and pursued them beyond La Rothière in the direction of Brienne-la-Vieille taking along the way 24 guns.  Vasilchikov's intervention was particularly timely as, beyond the possible consequences of breaking the infantry of Sacken, the Russian dragoon charge prevented the entry into the line of reinforcements that the French cavalry received only too late.

At the moment, in fact, when Nansouty brought his reserve, the Lefebvre-Desnouettes Division, to the right of La Rothière, while Grouchy showed himself to the left of this village with the dragoons of Briche, the divisions of Colbert, Guyot and Piré[6] were already cut up and recalled, their artillery taken by Vasilchikov was guarded by infantry of Sacken, and as there was nothing more they could do, these two divisions were forced to return to take a position to the rear and east of La Rothière.  As for divisions Colbert, Guyot and Piré, they only appeared again on the battlefield towards the end of the day.

It was very nearly four o'clock, when the infantry of Sacken advanced in the middle of the snowstorm towards La Rothière, under the protection of 72 pieces brought into position, engaged with the division of Duhesme and when Blücher arrived in person in front of the heights of Trannes.

Considerations on the consequences of this cavalry combat.  --If the cavalry of Vasilchikov was immediately supported by infantry, if there had been an opening at this time, if Sacken had seen what was happening in front of him and on his left, finally, if one had supported the squadrons of Lanskoy and Panchulidzev by the  cuirassiers and Russian grenadiers who had just come online, if one had carried forward the Guards to serve as the reserve for the corps of Sacken and cooperate, if necessary, to attack La Rothière, the battle would probably have taken from the beginning, a completely different turn, and the French right would have run great risk of being crushed.  It is likely that without a combination of quite special circumstances, Blücher would not have hesitated to give orders accordingly, and resolutely pushing forward, he would have burst the French lines which had at that time only the Rottembourg Division as a reserve.  But the snowstorm prevented him from discovering the battlefield, directing the battle, and when the officer sent by Vasilchikov managed to find him and was able to report the results of the charge, it was already too late to immediately take a decisive part.  Anyway, it is certain that the removal of 24 pieces and failure experienced by the cavalry of Nansouty at the outset of the affair, contributed not a little to the final outcome of the day.

Sacken, whose troops were formed in three columns,[7] had meanwhile continued his move towards La Rothière, that was crushed by his 72 pieces, and as the infantry was unable to fire, he resolved to take the village by bayonet. The Duhesme Division, already weakened by the losses it had experienced the 29th, resisted bravely; but bending under the weight of numbers, it had to give ground to the Russians and abandon the village just to the church after losing in this affair 8 of its pieces.  The bulk of Duhesme troops retreated in disorder to Petit-Mesnil, while the rest consisting of some old soldiers were committed to defending the ground inch by inch, barricaded in houses.

Gyulay's first movements on both banks of the Aube.  --To the left of the Allies, things had not taken place at the beginning of the action and throughout the first phase of the battle between 1 and 4 o'clock in the afternoon, there hadn't been such a favorable turn of events for them as on the other side of La Rothière.  Gyulay, after having left in position at Vendeuvre the light division of Crenneville[8] had, according to the orders of the Generalissimo, marched the morning of 1 February, with the bulk of the IIIrd Corps, from Bar-sur-Aube by Arsonval and Baussancourt on Trannes.  Once in the plain before Trannes the Feldzeugmeister had placed his corps in the combat formation of battalions in column and followed the movement of Sacken's Russians on the road to Brienne up to the heights of Juvanzé.  Sacken's corps was already very strongly committed, and Gyulay rightly believed that it was necessary to support with his artillery the vigorous Russian attack on La Rothière, while the columns of Austrian infantry came up from the bridge and the village of Unienville, located on the left bank of the Aube.  The Feldzeugmeister noticed at this point that some troops of the French right were preparing to debouch from Unienville and columns of a respectable size, were moving from Dienville on Unienville, seeming to want to, after threatening his left, head against the left flank and rear of the Russian divisions committed at La Rothière.  While continuing to support Sacken by some of his artillery he had established on a hill close to the Aube, to which he bequeathed as support a brigade of the division Hohenlohe-Bartenstein, he ordered Major General Pflüger with 4 battalions, 4 cannons, and 2 squadrons of light horse of Klenau, to take the bridge of Unienville, defended only by a small outpost, seize the village and to establish itself beyond Unienville on the height of the left bank.  The brigade of Pflüger easily took the bridge and the village, leading to Unienville, advancing on the left bank.[9]

The Feldzeugmeister hoped, accentuating his movement on the left bank of the Aube, to outflank the bridge of Dienville and turn the right of the French lines.

But the Emperor, who had time to decipher the intentions of Gyulay, had immediately sent to General Gérard orders to maintain Dienville at all costs.  One of the brigades the Ricard Division, Boudin's brigade, was charged with the defense of the bridges and heights that command the edges on the left bank, while the brigade of Pelleport stood behind and to the east of Dienville and the Dufour Division, connecting with the cavalry brigade of General Picquet, deployed in the second row behind the brigade, between Dienville and La Rothière.

The Feldzeugmeister necessarily had to notice all these provisions; there was now only a chance for him to be able to take the bridge of Dienville by surprise, and the two regiments of the Hohenlohe-Bartenstein Division, left by him on the right bank to guard his artillery had already (he personally acknowledges in his report[10]) began to engage with the French on the side of La Rothière; nevertheless he did not give up his enterprise.  Instead of merely harassing and annoying the French right by a few demonstrations running on the left bank of the Aube, although he had already come to realize the difficulties that would arise for an attack on Dienville on the other bank, he did not think it less useful to strengthen the Pflüger Brigade with the Czollich Brigade, 6 guns and a few squadrons, and to instruct General-Lieutenant Fresnel to conduct operations on the left bank.  At the same time, he personally took the direction of movement against Dienville, that he proposed to attack with the rest of his corps at about 5 o'clock in the afternoon.

Throughout the first half of the battle, Gyulay had to confine himself to countering the French artillery fire, and even though he had posted an entire division on the left bank of the Aube, as his army corps was astride a river, he found himself compelled, even before he engaged at the bottom side of Dienville, to bring online the last of his brigades (Grimmer Brigade), that he posted to his right to connect from there to the troops of Sacken.

When General Fresnel, skirted the Aube, had driven out the few small units of French infantry, throughout this first phase, he was without success in winning any advantage against the troops of Gérard, solidly established in Dienville.

The IVth Corps moves against La Giberie.  --The fourth column of the Allies (the IVth Corps), under the command of Crown Prince of Württemberg, to which was added five squadrons of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Hussars, was, in accordance with the general disposition, to leave before morning for Maisons and Fresnay to come take a position on the heights of Éclance.  The IVth Corps was to move from Éclance against Chaumesnil and connect with the right of the Vth Corps (Wrede).  His left was covered by the Cossacks of Karpov and flying corps of General Prince Biron of Courland.  But before reaching Chaumesnil, the IVth Corps would have serious difficulties to overcome.  It had to first pass through the woods of Beaulieu, by roads almost impassable for artillery, then, before turning on the height of La Giberie, crossing a swampy defile beaten and swept by the French artillery.  Major General von Stockmeyer, forming with his brigade the head of the column of the IVth Corps, didn't take long to come up against, even in the Bois de Beaulieu, the first French posts which retreated fighting on their support.  After a quite strong struggle, these advanced troops resolved to cede the wood of Beaulieu to the Württemberg vanguard and h to retreat in good order on La Giberie.  A regiment of Württemberg cavalry (2nd Regiment of Jägers zu Pferd of Duke Louis of Württemberg) failed, despite all its efforts to debouch quick enough from the wood of Beaulieu to reach the French battalion which reformed only a short distance from La Giberie and from which it only could take a few stragglers.[11]

But the march of the brigade of Stockmeyer and cavalry regiment of Duke Louis, albeit delayed by the horrible condition of the roads had already had a pretty favorable result for the Allies, forcing the French to evacuate, along with the Bois de Beaulieu, the wooded hills west of the forest and where their fire had, until now, hampered the deployment and the progress of the Russian corps of Olsufiev.

While the rest of his cavalry with light artillery, started to debouch alone from the Bois de Beaulieu and when the bulk of the corps was still quite far back, the Crown Prince of Württemberg, who had kept pace with his advance guard, did not hesitate, in hoping to take the greatest advantage from the early benefits he had gained, launched the brigade of General von Stockmeyer against La Giberie.

In general theory, one must condemn the repeated attacks, the isolated efforts and any kind of affair in which one must engage the troops as and when they arrive; how the Crown Prince proceeded, however, can be justified at least in part.  Indeed, he could recognize that his vanguard would have difficulty remaining in a ravine swept by the French artillery and he was trying to rush the attack on the French in La Giberie to prevent it from strengthening. Finally, there was a major interest for him to gain enough ground in front to allow the bulk of his corps to deploy.

Despite the advantages that the position of La Giberie assured for defense, the brigade of Stockmeyer succeeded, after a most fierce fight to drive out the three battalions which occupied it and temporarily ensured, through a demonstration on his left by the Württemberg cavalry, possession of a point that was paramount to the IVth Corps.  It was, indeed, the condition of being master of La Giberie that the Crown Prince of Württemberg could safely defile forming by wood of Beaulieu, connect with Sacken on the left, with Wrede on the right, and then burst through the French positions including the village of La Giberie, which was both prominent and somewhat the key.

To cover the right of the troops he had just launched on La Giberie, the Crown Prince ordered two of his regiments of cavalry and a battery of horse artillery to move as quickly as possible against the left of the Duke of Bellune.

"It was not without difficulty," said the Crown Prince in his report to Prince Schwarzenberg,[12] "that these two regiments and the battery managed to debouch from the defile that my infantry only crossed slowly because of difficulties they had to overcome at every step."  The bulk of the IVth Corps had in fact not yet managed to cross the woods of Beaulieu.

Marshal Victor had indeed, as had the Crown Prince, recognized the importance of La Giberie, whose loss would have completely changed the position of his corps and would have made it impossible to try to defeat the movement that the Allies were taking against the right of La Rothière, on his left near Chaumesnil.  Barely aware of what had happened at La Giberie he launched from Petit-Mesnil against this hamlet a column formed by all the troops still available from the 2nd Division (Forestier Division) of his corps and supported by two batteries.  The French battalions rushed at attack step on La Giberie and tore most of the hamlet from the Württembergers who, despite being reinforced by a regiment of the brigade of General Döring (Infantry Regiment No. 2), by a battalion of the 10th Regiment of Light Infantry and a battery, could only manage to maintain itself in the last houses.  The position of Crown Prince, which in light of the reinforcements sent by the French troops could permanently lose La Giberie, at that time was critical enough that the Prince believed necessary to ask Blücher, through the same intermediary of General Toll who was at this precise moment in the theater of the struggle, for support within the shortest possible time.

Situations of the three corps of Sacken, Gyulay and Crown Prince of Württemberg.  --If we take a comprehensive look on the character of the battle and the respective positions of both opponents as it was at 4 o'clock in the afternoon after three hours of fighting, we recognize that the Allies had made serious progress in the center where the Russian cavalry had succeeded in driving before it the squadrons of Nansouty and capture a large number of artillery.  It was, in fact, thanks to successful charges of the cavalry of Vasilchikov that Sacken was able to overcome the division of Duhesme and settle in the middle of the village of La Rothière.  The dispositions, moreover, highly critical of Gyulay, had brought no significant result to their left where Gérard held vigorously the head of the Austrians of the IIIrd Corps before Dienville.  Finally, on the right, the Crown Prince of Württemberg, whose deployment was delayed by difficulties in crossing the Bois de Beaulieu and ravine before the wood was about to be expelled from the last houses of La Giberie.

The general situation was, thus,  far from being as favorable as it could be for the Allies, if by rational dispositions, one had taken comfortably and with total safety, advantage of two days of 30 and 31 January to cover and bring the French in view, close to their battle positions, the troops destined to take part in the battle.

March of the Vth Corps.  --First engagements on the far right of the Allies.  --On the far right of the Allied lines, Wrede had marched, in the morning, against the troops who Marmont who, after evacuating Soulaines, despite strict orders from the Emperor, had, by a night march, pulled back his army corps on Morvilliers and Chaumesnil.  He occupied a position whose front was still out of proportion to the number of troops available to him (about 5000 men of the division of Lagrange and 1500 horse of the cavalry division of Doumerc).

At 10 o'clock in the morning, the commander of the Vth Corps had concentrated 27,000 men (including nearly 5,000 cavalry) between Trémilly and Nully and charging General Baron Frimont with the conduct of the vanguard, he had moved from Trémilly by Soulaines on the road to Brienne.

The Vth Corps began its march in one column.  The Schwarzenberg Uhlans, supported by a battalion of Austrian jägers, provided the tip of the advanced guard.  The Antoine Hardegg division came next.  The Bavarian divisions of La Motte and Rechberg, followed by the corps artillery, formed the bulk of the column and the Austrian division of Spleny brought up the rear.  The advanced guard had barely reached the edge of the wood of Fuligny, when its scouts came against the first French outposts which retreated skirmishing.  "The wood that laid before the Vth Corps", said Major Prince Thurn and Taxis, the aide-de-camp of Wrede in his journal of the campaigns of 1812, 1813 and 1814[13], "was sufficiently large. It was crossed by a single very narrow road, and the movement of the Vth Corps through the woods, was bound to take some time.[14]  It was about 2 o'clock in the afternoon, when the head of the Schwarzenberg Uhlan Regiment reached the exit of the opposite edge (near the LaChaise), driving before it the French troops behind breastworks they had made, where they had tried to hold on.  While the division of Antoine Hardegg deployed leaving the wood behind the vanguard of cavalry, General Frimont took the left, with the divisions La Motte and Rechberg, in the direction of Chaumesnil.[15]  Marmont, whose feeble corps occupied all the space between Morvilliers and Chaumesnil, who had begun the movement towards Chaumesnil prescribed by the Emperor, then decided - but it was already too late - to concentrate his forces around the farm of Beauvoir, on the plateau in front of Chaumesnil.  His cavalry covered this movement, frustrated by the poor condition of roads, that only allowed him to safely reach the farm of Beauvoir with the brigade Joubert alone, while another brigade remained in at Morvilliers."

"Wrede, who had been brought to support his advance guard, had immediately recognized the dangers to which this flank march exposed to his opponent, and accordingly sent to his last two divisions (Rechberg and Spleny) the order to accelerate their movement.  Colonel von Mengen who marched at the head of the vanguard[16] with two squadrons of his regiment (Uhlans Schwarzenberg), saw a French battery about to take a position on a hill to the right of the road which it would have commanded and enfiladed the outlet of the wood.  It charged the battery immediately, not giving it time to open fire, seized it by losing very few people and forced the retreat of the troops who support it. This brilliant charge had the immediate consequence of allowing the infantry to debouch entirely from woods and spread smoothly in a good position astride the road to Brienne.  The conditions", says Major Taxi, "were frightful with eddies of snow obscuring the skyline."

The Hardegg Division, which had completed its deployment, profited from this first advantage to bypass Petit-Morvilliers, while the Bavarian division of General La Motte and the cavalry brigade of Colonel von Diez were forming on his left and at the same level.  The division of Rechberg covered by the cavalry of Diez and that of General von Vieregg, headed to the farm of Beauvoir, removed after a most fierce fight, the brigade of Joubert and forced it to fall back on the farm of Bouillenrupt.[17]  Despite the efforts of the Bavarian cavalry which took three cannons, the brigade managed to take a stand and cover the edge of Chaumesnil.

While the division Rechberg took the farm of Beauvoir, Hardegg had advanced on Morvilliers that the taking of Beauvoir made even more untenable for the French, the last division of the Vth Corps, the Spleny Division, which deployed in view of this village on the edge of the wood and on the left bank of the Bourbonne.  The French troops of Morvilliers showed only a relatively weak resistance and retreated to the wood of Anjou, covered by cavalry of Doumerc, whose charges could only slow, but failed to stop the progress of the Austrian infantry.

It was a little before than 4 o'clock, when an aide to the Crown Prince of Württemberg came to Wrede to ask him to  accentuate his movement forward and attempt a diversion, or at least a demonstration, serious enough to disengage the strongly committed IVth Corps and vigorously press the enemy on the side of La Giberie.[18]

Wrede immediately took steps to execute a general attack with his corps against Chaumesnil.  General Frimont, with part of the divisions of Hardegg and La Motte, was ordered to move against Chaumesnil, in retaking the stream bed of the Froideau to threaten the north side of town, while a division Rechberg, after removing Bouillenrupt, would be responsible for the attack in front.[19]

General situation at  4 o'clock.  --One can hardly continue the presentation of the Battle of La Rothière without considering the impact that the intervention of the Vth Corps and the singular resolution of the initiative of Wrede, would exert on the outcome of the day.

We have shown, in effect, by the respective positions of both armies at 4 o'clock, that at Dienville as at La Giberie the Allies had, so to speak, not dented the French position.  Even in the middle, despite the failure of the cavalry of Nansouty and although La Rothière was only defended by a handful of old soldiers who decided to sell their lives dearly and to dispute the ground foot by foot, it would only take the entry into the line of some reinforcements, the divisions of Ney recalled by the Emperor, to completely restore the fight and successfully stand up to the Russians who, despite their best efforts, failed to completely remove this village and who, therefore, continued to be unable to debouch.  The general situation, without being brilliant, was far from being compromised until the attack of Wrede, facilitated, it is true, by the faults of Marmont - a secondary attack, since it had not been under the preliminary plan - would change the face of things.  By further accentuating the advantage following the appeal made by the Crown Prince of Württemberg, it would threaten the French left with an outflanking movement which, if it had not been pushed back, would have deprived the whole army of its only line of retreat on Lesmont.  So instead of repeating the presentation of events that passed after 4 o'clock from La Giberie up to the Aube, we thought it more useful to first follow the Vth Corps in the attack that it executed against Chaumesnil to relieve the Crown Prince of Württemberg, by dropping the fulcrum to the left of the French army.

Attack and capture of Chaumesnil.  --While Marmont, after being forced to abandon Morvilliers, stood on the eastern edge of the wood of Anjou, covered his flank with the squadrons of Doumerc separated by the brook of Froideau from the Austrian troops[20] posted on right bank of the creek, Frimont was on the order of Wrede, taking Chaumesnil by bayonet with two paired battalions, the one from a regiment of Austrian Szecklers, a regiment of the military frontier, and the other a Bavarian regiment Löwenstein no 7, supported by the Bavarian Habermann Brigade (Division of General La Motte).  After a pretty short, but very hard fight these battalions were able to dislodge General Joubert.

The possession of Chaumesnil was for the Allies, of such essential importance that Wrede, wary that the French sought to dislodge them from there, neglected nothing to firmly secure it.  At his command, Frimont immediately put in battery 12 pieces that will pound the outskirts of the village that was covered and occupied by the divisions of Hardegg and La Motte.  The cavalry brigade of Colonel von Diez, who had followed the first troops, galloped through the village, going to deploy at the exit of Chaumesnil and the Rechberg Division (10 battalions and 4 batteries) with the cavalry brigade of Major General von Vieregg (14 squadrons), took a position in reserve behind Chaumesnil and to the left of the lines of the Vth Corps.[21]

As soon as he had been informed of the loss of Chaumesnil, the Emperor recognized the necessity of stopping the progress of his opponents on that side.  Fearing to see Wrede completely outflank his left, moving in the rear of his army, installing himself on to the route from Doulevant to Brienne and cutting the bridge of Lesmont to the corps involved at Petit-Mesnil and La Rothière, he resolved to retake Chaumesnil and unite Marmont with the cavalry of  Guyot, a brigade of the division of the Young Guard of General Meunier and a battery.  The Emperor, after having placed 16 guns in battery west of Chaumesnil, tried unsuccessfully on several occasions to wrest that village from the Austro-Bavarians.

Bavarian cavalry charge against the French batteries.  --Around 7 o'clock at night, the two batteries Frimont posted on the outskirts of Chaumesnil managed to silence the French artillery; Wrede took the opportunity to push against this artillery, supported by the French cavalry and protected by squares of infantry, the Bavarian cavalry brigade of Diez (4th and 5th Regiments of Light Horse, the King's Regiment and the Leiningen Regiment), and the Austrian hussar regiment of Archduke Joseph.  These three regiments of cavalry passing through the intervals of the French square, rush on the batteries, routed the squadrons who served as their support, slashing the gunners at their guns and managed to seize 21 guns.[22]

Chaumesnil was definitely lost, and the troops of Marmont and Meunier, after having vainly tried to throw back the cavalry of Wrede, retreated at night to Brienne.  The darkness was, indeed, so deep that the Bavarian light horse who charged moments after the Württemberg jäger zu pferd , was brought forward between Chaumesnil and Petit-Mesnil, after the capture of La Giberie, while on their side the riders of Biron had advanced further to the left and at an equal level between Petit-Mesnil and La Rothière.[23]

The darkness, the thaw and the snow covered roads, Schwarzenberg said in Tagesbegebenheiten, prevented the cavalry of Wrede from pursuing Marmont.

While the Vth Corps seized Chaumesnil, where the Austro-Bavarian infantry could now debouch without difficulty, while the Bavarian cavalry of Colonel von Diez took the French batteries, the Austrian division of Spleny leaving Morvilliers and pushing towards the woods of Anjou, forced by his presence, Marmont to evacuate the eastern edge and eventually stop at the western edge of this wood, fronting towards Brienne.

The advantages gained by Wrede on the far right of the Allies had greatly facilitated the progress of the corps under the immediate control of Blücher had made during this second phase of the battle, between 4 and 8 o'clock.

The IVth Corps carries La Giberie.  --The movement of Wrede against Chaumesnil and Morvilliers, the arrival in line of the brigade of Döring and a horse battery had allowed the Crown Prince of Württemberg to halt the progress of the French at La Giberie.  But Victor, who had reinforced and replaced his batteries, for his part, only to wait near 5 o'clock in the evening, after the taking of Chaumesnil, for the Crown Prince, launching against La Giberie a regiment, Regiment no 7, which had joined him, finally succeeded after two hours of a second fight as hard as the first[24], to grab La Giberie and debouch towards Petit-Mesnil.  Although most of his artillery was still engaged in the defile of the Wood of Beaulieu, the Crown Prince immediately directed generals Stockmeyer and Döring against the fronts south and east of Petit-Mesnil.  It was important to master it as quickly as possible, to connect to the right with the Vth Corps, which, after the occupation of Morvilliers and Chaumesnil was heading towards the Wood of Anjou and the route from Doulevant to Brienne, and on the left, with the corps of Sacken, who sought to debouch from La Rothière.  The two Württemberg brigades took Petit-Mesnil after a most obstinate struggle when General Count Franquemont, having finally overcome all the difficulties that slowed his march through the woods of Beaulieu and marshy ravine, arrived at La Giberie with the main body of the IVth Corps and a mounted battery.

The appearance of these reinforcements, at the moment when the French troops faltered across the line, allowed the Crown Prince to push forward, between Petit-Mesnil and Chaumesnil, two cavalry regiments nos 3 and 4, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel von Bismarck, Chief of Staff of the Württemberg cavalry.

The two regiments joined in the plains, first the 2nd Jägers zu Pferd Regiment of the Württemberg cavalry, Duke Louis, which had passed north of La Giberie, then, far to the right, the Bavarian cavalry.  Threatening the right of the corps of Marmont, they executed a little later, along with the squadrons of Wrede, the charge that put an end to the struggle on the right side of the Allies.

Sacken carries La Rothière.  --If the Crown Prince of Württemberg took four hours to become master of La Giberie and if he only succeeded in debouching and seizing Petit-Mesnil that thanks to the good work, that one might say was unexpected, of Wrede , Sacken had during the same period of time sustained on the side of La Rothière an even more murderous and bloody struggle.

Blücher, who, from the beginning of the battle, had resolved to concentrate his efforts against La Rothière, center of the French lines, that he considered the key to the position, had joined Sacken a little after 4 o'clock, with General von Gneisenau, his chief of staff, just when the Russians came to carry most of the village of La Rothière; the Field-Marshal, certain that the Emperor would not fail to attempt a counter-offensive on his part and throw at La Rothière the first troops which were available, thought it all the more urgent to call to him the reserves stationed on the heights of Trannes, those troops of Sacken that Colbert's cavalry had broken, who tried to deploy in front of La Rothière and were collected by Olsufiev's regiments in reserve behind La Rothière.  Instead of seeing debouch the Russian grenadiers and cuirassiers to whom he had sent orders to join him as soon as possible, Blücher was not a little surprised to learn that the Crown Prince of Württemberg, who called for reinforcements, had directed on La Giberie, not only the division of grenadiers, but the two divisions cuirassiers.  In the meantime, the progress of Wrede had reached the IVth Corps, but as a result of this action taken without the knowledge of the Field Marshal, the four divisions that made up the reserves, the Russian 2nd Grenadier Division, sent by Barclay Tolly from Trannes to La Rothière, could only take part in the last stages of the fight, while the two divisions of cuirassiers and 1st Grenadier Division found themselves unable to come into the line by the  counter orders that they received and unnecessary movement that they made them take.

Measures taken by the Emperor.  --Movement of the French cavalry.  --The Emperor had been informed of the progress made by the Allies on his left.  Considering therefore the battle lost, he only sought to secure the retreat of his troops and thought only to take steps to bring back his corps onto the left bank of the Aube.  In the area around La Rothière, where he had moved his person, he sent Grouchy order to oppose, as long as possible, with Milhaud's cavalry (5th Cavalry Corps), the progress of the Crown Prince of Württemberg and support at the same time the Duke of Bellune.  Nansouty should stand firm behind La Rothière with the cavalry of the Guard; finally Oudinot was charged with attempting  with the division of Rottembourg an offensive against La Rothière, and seeking to regain that position.

This order was executed at once.  General Rottembourg, after forming the 1st Brigade of the smallest division into three columns, advanced at nightfall against La Rothière, where the Russians had sought again to debouch from, and where they came for the second time to be returned in disorder by the horsemen of Colbert.  Despite the fierce resistance of the Russians, General Rottembourg came under a hail of balls and despite being swept with grapeshot from the Russian artillery, to the church.  There, his column came against to the corps of Olsufiev, who, coming into line in turn, pushed the remains of the French brigade back to the end of the village.  Four pieces of French artillery in battery on this point prevented the debouchment, and even allowed the brigade of the Rottembourg division to maintain themselves in the last houses of La Rothière.[25]

Two episodes, too characteristic to be ignored, had marked the combat in which the streets of La Rothière had served as a theater.  When the young soldiers of General Rottembourg suddenly found themselves all up to the church in the presence of Russians of Olsufiev, they turned against them a misdirected volley, then pressed against each other to the point where they were able to neither advance nor retreat.  The Russian officer believed, at this scene, that the French were preparing to go and walked alone to General Rottembourg, who, in turn, sought to restrain his people through his example.  The general, thinking also that the Russians, interrupted by the advance of his two other columns, wanted to lay down their arms, marched in front of the Russian officer, trying to take him prisoner when he had realized his error.  After a sort of duel between the General and the Russian officer, the General joined his soldiers, with whom he fell back step by step, while his opponent returned to take command of his column, throwing them back against the French.  But this incident had allowed the French to recover from their panic, to reform, and had given them time to put in battery, at the mouth of the village, four pieces whose grapeshot later stopped Olsufiev's soldiers.

While these events were taking place near the church of La Rothière, a party of French cavalry had managed to slip into the village and to penetrate into the street where Sacken was trying to give orders.  Again, like three days before in the streets of Brienne, Sacken, arranging his horse against the walls and remaining completely still, miraculously escaped the French riders, who passed near him without noticing.

A little later the Duke of Reggio launched ahead the 2nd Brigade of the Division of Rottembourg and succeeded, thanks to the arrival into the line of these fresh troops, again to enter La Rothière, where fighting resumed with a new bitterness.  The night had arrived; the fire only illuminating the fighters, who continued to fight over the smoking ruins of the village.  Finally, the reinforcements that Blücher had called, the 2nd Russian  Grenadier Division (General-Lieutenant Paskevich) and the Austrian brigade of General von Grimmer (the IIIrd Corps, Gyulay), came into the line.  The two regiments of Astrakhan (Астрахань )and Little Russia, taking the head of the column, rushed with the bayonet on the exhausted troops and reduced the division of Rottembourg, finally managing to chase them from the village, but their leaders however, managed to rally and stop at 500 or 600 paces from the last houses.

Second attack of the IIIrd Corps against Dienville.  --At the extreme left of the Allies, the young troops of General Gérard had continued to defend Dienville and its surroundings with a vigor which, until before the night, had paralyzed all the efforts of the Austrians of Gyulay.

It was a little past 5 o'clock when Gyulay received at the same time, from Blücher and from Schwarzenberg, the order to carry Dienville.  He launched immediately against the bridge, which he managed to momentarily take control from the two brigades of the Fresnel division.  But although due to the physical setting, Gérard could not use his artillery to defend the bridge, the fire of his infantry placed in nearby houses and especially in the cemetery, and the counter attacks of the troops of the Dufour division, forced the Austrians to withdraw to the left bank of the Aube.  Gyulay, pending the arrival of in the line of the division of Hohenlohe-Bartenstein, which he could have after the capture of La Rothière, had to confine himself to tell his artillery in battery on the heights of the left bank, to render Dienville untenable and to chase the conscripts of Gérard.[26]  The second and third attacks, attempted simultaneously on both banks of Aube, had no more success.

Measures taken by the Emperor to cover the retreat.  --The Emperor had finished taking the necessary measures to contain the Allies for the retirement of his various corps.  Supplementing the provisions which we have seen him resort to when he tried, with the division of Rottembourg, to tear La Rothière from Sacken and where he led the cavalry of Milhaud to his left, he gave about 8 o'clock, to Drouot orders to burn La Rothière to allow his infantry, which had been dislodged permanently from the village of Brienne to withdraw under the protection of the cavalry of the Guard, and stop by firing his artillery the progress of the Allies on his left and center.  While Drouot brought his pieces in position, the divisions of Ney returned to the road of Lesmont and the corps which had maintained it for more than eight hours in an unequal struggle retreated in echelon in an order all the more remarkable as it was forced to execute with young troops harassed with fatigue a retrograde march in the darkness, through a terrain made more difficult still by the rigors of temperature and snow drifts, the cavalry of the Allies sought to capitalize on the victory and to thwart the French retreat.

The Württemberg cavalry debouch in front of La Rothière and Chaumesnil.  --The Württemberg cavalry (Jäger zu Pferd Regiments nos 2 and 4 and Dragoon Regiment no 3) had effected a junction with the cavalry on the right of the Vth Corps, on the left with the Prussian cavalry of General Prince Biron of Courland and the Cossacks of Karpov, and this mass, overwhelming the squadrons of Milhaud, compelled them to withdraw.

"I quickly pushed my horse forward", said the Crown Prince of Württemberg about this in his report to Schwarzenberg.[27] "The cavalry regiment of Prince Adam, under the command of Major von Reinhardt, threw itself on the left wing of the enemy and took five cannons.  The Dragoon Regiment no 3 (Crown Prince Regiment), that I had, under the command of Colonel von Wagner, sent on my right to link with General Count Wrede, made with a regiment of Bavarian light horse a brilliant charge against a French battery posted  on a salient southwest of the Wood of Anjou, in relation to Chaumesnil, and captured six guns."

This cavalry, rejoined by Major General von Jett with the Württemberg Jäger zu Pferd Regiment no 5 and the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Hussar Regiment, continued to follow the enemy as far as the dark state of the terrain and the exhaustion of the horses allowed them.[28]

At center, the Russian cavalry of General Vasilchikov debouch from La Rothière despite the artillery fire of Drouot and the efforts of the cavalry of the Guard who had, also, to fall back on Brienne, followed just up to the level of the Beugné Farm by riders of Sacken.

It was then nearly nine o'clock, the snow continued to fall thick and more closer than ever and, as stated by Taxis[29] in his Journal, the pursuit was all the more impossible, as they could still hear the cannon from Dienville where Gyulay only established himself at midnight,[30] when Gérard was ordered to abandon the position that his young troops had heroically defended for more than twelve hours.

Given the situation that the French army found itself during the last hours of the evening of February 1st, it would have taken little by the Allies to try and change at all any of the conditions under which a retirement would take place by the little army of the Emperor.  If, at 9:30 in the evening, when Gérard still held out at Dienville, but when Sacken, the Crown Prince of Wuerttemberg and Wrede had taken the positions of their opponents, Blücher could have deployed some fresh troops, their appearance on the battlefield, their march in good order against the points where the French generals rallied their troops shaken by a bloody and uneven struggle, would have, we cannot doubt, brought considerable results.

We understand however that the Field Marshal had given up, in the presence of the state of the terrain, the darkness and the exhaustion of the horses, to use his cavalry, which indeed could only advance at a walk and which secondarily was constrained to following the main road, would at best managed to cause alarm.  But it is undeniable, on the other hand, if Blücher had been during the last hours of the fight, joined by Russian reserves that had been unnecessarily rotated on the battlefield, he would likely have succeeded, by a night attack directed on Brienne la Vieille and east of this location up to the height of the road from Brienne-le-Château to Doulevant, in breaking the last link that still held men worn out with fatigue and exhausted by forced marches followed a combat of twelve hours.  He would have completed the demoralization of young troops who had only just received in recent days their baptism of fire and changed their orderly retreat into a rout.

With no fresh troops at his disposal, the Field-Marshal found himself absolutely unable to attempt any effort, and the Allied corps, which had been engaged since the afternoon of 1 February, settled into camp on the same positions they had conquered.

Positions of Sacken, the IVth, Vth and IIIrd Corps, at 10 o'clock.  --The advanced guards of Sacken, of the IVth and Vth Corps, bivouacked on the very points where they stopped in front of La Rothière, Petit-Mesnil and Chaumesnil.

The IIIrd Corps, of Gyulay, rested at Dienville, the Russians of Sacken around La Rothière, the IVth Corps between La Giberie and Petit-Mesnil, and the Vth at Chaumesnil and north of that village.

As for the Russian grenadiers, they had, with the exception of the 2nd Division which had delivered La Rothière, spent their day performing marches and counter marches between La Giberie and La Rothière, and although they were in short perfectly fresh, one did even think to order them to throw themselves into the darkness on the remains of the French army.  These reserves encamped: the 2nd Grenadier Division nearby La Rothière, the 1st Grenadier Division and the two divisions cuirassiers (2nd and 3rd) behind the bivouacs of the IVth Corps.

The Guards and the Russian and Prussian reserves had come in the afternoon up to Trannes.

The day of La Rothière had cost the Allies about 6,000 troops, including nearly 4,000 from the Russian corps of Sacken.[31]

Night and bad weather, preventing the Allies from pursuing their gains, had given the Emperor the opportunity to only put into effect the orders he had sent to his lieutenants about 9 o'clock at night.

Position of the French army.  --From 9 o'clock because  it was hindering General Sorbier, all corps were ordered to return behind Brienne empty caissons, the unnecessary artillery and baggage, to cross the Lesmont bridge with the parks and removed batteries.

Grouchy, keeping only the strictly necessary artillery, was to lighten as much as possible and return the led horses and men on foot.  An hour later, General de France was ordered to leave at 2 in the morning with the Guards of Honor, cross the bridge of Lesmont and throw parties on the road to Piney and the left bank of the Aube.  General Sorbier had to file the park on Lesmont and General Léry prepared to burn and blow up the bridges when the Emperor would give the signal.[32]

The French corps commanders, who had supported every effort of the struggle, had gained the points that the Emperor had appointed them and on which they were to rally their troops.  Marmont, covered by cavalry of Doumerc, stopped at the exit of wood of Anjou.  Victor had passed the farm of Beugné exceeded and left before the Russian outposts a curtain formed by a few squadrons of Milhaud.  Oudinot and Ney massed cavalry and infantry of the Guard on the road of Lesmont, while Gérard, who had been ordered to abandon Dienville, fell back after midnight on Brienne-la-Vieille.

The French army had lost in that bloody day nearly 6,000 men killed, wounded or prisoners, and sixty guns.[33]

The French troops were only, in fact, given a few hours for a semblance of rest before the Brienne-la-Vieille; orders rushed out at 11:30 at night by the Emperor, Brienne-le-Château, to restart at 2 o'clock in the morning were aimed at escaping the grip of the Allies.

Before discussing the Battle of Rothière, and why we must abandon for a moment the corps that had to fight at Dienville and Morvilliers, it is necessary to take care of the movements performed by the Ist Corps (Colloredo), at extreme left of the Army of Bohemia, because these events have a certain connection with the acts of war on whose banks of the Aube had been the scene.  One should also take a look at the operations of partisans of Lieutenant-Colonel Count Thurn, at the measures taken on the same day by the Duke of Trévise, at the attempt by the Cossacks of Platov against Sens, at Wittgenstein's march on Saint-Dizier, and Yorck to Vitry, finally at the preparations for Macdonald who sought to debouch at Châlons and thwart the plans of the lieutenants of Blücher against Châlons-sur-Marne.


[1] General Curial had replaced General Decouz, seriously wounded at Brienne and who died of his injuries.

[2] Clausewitz, as we have noted further above, says about this in his Overview of the 1814 Campaign: "Bonaparte seems to have wanted to wait for Marmont, who did not arrive until 31st.  Moreover, similarly, even on 1 February, while he awaited the attack Blücher , it is doubtful whether, at that time he sought and still wanted the battle."

[3] Journal of General Nikitin.

[4] Lanskoy commanded the 2nd Hussar Division, consisting of regiments of hussars of Akhtyr (Ахтырка), of Mariupol (Мариуполь), White Russia (Белая Русь) and Alexandria.

[5] Division of Major General Panchulidzev:  3rd Dragoon Division; dragoon regiments of Courland (Курляндия), Smolensk (Смоле́нск), Tver (Тверь), and Kinburn (Кинбурнская).

[6] PETIET, in his Historical Journal of the Light Cavalry Division (Piré) of the 5th Cavalry Corps during the Campaign in France in 1814, gives an different account of the cavalry versus cavalry combat, a version which appears to us also less creditable and less likely than the report of the Allied generals. "About 4 o'clock," he said, "the enemy, seeing that his efforts to force our extreme right were useless and they would not succeed in pushing back this side of ours, decided upon a great movement of cavalry on the dragoons.  By very quick movements , 6,000 horses, formed in two lines, were launched on our artillery and bursting around La Rothière on its left, forcing the dragoons to retreat in disorder.  Fortunately, Major General Piré, realizing the importance of this attack and its possible disastrous results, did not hesitate to leave his position when his presence was not necessary.  Without waiting for orders, he puts his division in column of squadrons and fell on a conversion of the left flank of the enemy.  This maneuver was successful; the Russians stopped and while they incline to the right to rally the dragoons had time to reform."  Without questioning what Petiet said, we should be permitted to note that the intervention of Piré could at best have saved the dragoons; because Petiet himself confirms a few lines further the reports of the Russian generals, saying, "However, the artillery far exceeded by the charge of the Allies, was partly taken, and from that moment, one could predict the outcome of the day."  It seems indeed that if the maneuver, however well timed by General Piré, was really successful, it would have forced the recall of the Russian dragoons, to retake the pieces and restore the battle line.

[7] Columns of General-Lieutenant Scherbatov, of Levin and Olsufiev.

[8] This division was ordered to remain in this position until the arrival at Vendeuvre of the corps of Colloredo, who could not make this point until the evening of the 1st of February. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1.)

[9] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im Monate Februar, 1814 (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., Il, 1), and correspondence of Gyulay to Schwarzenberg, from Lesmont. 2 February. (Ibid., II. 28.)

[10] Report of Gyulay to Schwarzenberg, Lesmont, 2 February. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 28.)

[11] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im Monate Februar (K. K, Kriegs Archiv., II, 1), and Journal of Operations of the IVth Corps under General Count Baillet de Latour, Chief of Staff. (Ibid., XIII, 36,).

"The enemy had strongly occupied the heights in front of La Giberie and it had posted several regiments of infantry and cavalry.  The land, completely broken up, did not allow fast enough cannon movement, I moved against the height with the cavalry Regiment of Duke Louis, that I supported with two battalions of infantry.  The enemy cavalry withdrew without waiting for the attack, and Colonel von Gaisberg, charged without losing a minute the infantry who retired, taking about thirty men, but thought he could not pursue, or at least seriously very far, because of it being too close to the village.  I then made General Stockmeyer attack La Giberie."  (Crown Prince of Württemberg to Prince Schwarzenberg, Petit-Mesnil, the 1st of February 1814). (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 3.)

[12] Crown Prince of Württemberg to Prince Schwarzenberg, summary report of Battle of La Rothière. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 3.)

[13] TAXIS, Tagebuch. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., XIII, 32.)

[14] This movement was even retarded by the march of the cavalry of Pahlen which had during the night of the 31st to 1st, reunited with the left of Wrede behind Fuligny and which in making its way to join Wittgenstein at Montier-en-Der, crossed the column of Wrede during his march. (Wrede to Schwarzenberg; Ibid., II, 4.)

[15] Wrede to Schwarzenberg. (Ibid. II, 87.)

[16] Tagebuch der Majors Fürsten v. Thurn und Taxis (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., XII, 32.)

The history of the Schwarzenberg Uhlans provides the following details on this feat:

On 13 January, the regiment had crossed the Vosges, and 1 February, when the Vth Corps moved forward, the regiment marched at the head of the first column and Major Count Hadik led the vanguard of two squadron strength. Scarcely had the first platoon of this advanced guard reached the edge of the wood of Chaumesnil than they saw the enemy at that time trying to place a horse battery of 4 cannons and 2 howitzers on a point of where these guns could have prevented our column debouching from the wood for at least an hour.  Immediately a sergeant was brought forth with a troop (peleton) charged to reconnoiter more fully the position of the enemy.  Meanwhile, the regiment was approaching slowly its vanguard.  When it arrived at a point where all the terrain between Chaumesnil and Morvilliers was exposed and when it was clearly aware of the intentions of the enemy, Colonel Baron Mengen executed with the uhlans a very brilliant charge.  He removed the battery under the very eyes of a regiment of cuirassiers of the Guard (sic) that debouched at this time from Morvilliers and before which two squadrons of the regiment moved at a walk.  When the cavalry prepared to make a charge for the battery it had lost, Colonel Baron Mengen perceived it and threw himself at its front with both squadrons had moved it forward at a walk, while two other squadrons, commanded by Major Baron Trach took the flanks.

The enemy tried to maintain its naturally advantageous position, especially on the right, by getting support from its artillery and push back with a hail of grapeshot the other two squadrons that were also brought against him.

He sought to clear the ground enough so that his cavalry, which was coming into the line, would have space to deploy.  But both squadrons still managed to stand firm.

No sooner had the enemy formed his cuirassiers in two lines than the uhlans managed to more strongly crush a charge of, not only the first, but even the second line and put them in disorder.  These charges forced the cuirassiers to leave the field.  The losses sustained by the French cavalry would have been much more acute if the broken terrain and the fire of infantry who strongly occupied the village of Morvilliers would have permitted the pursuit of the cuirassiers.

[17] The Bouillenrupt farm not listed on maps, was located southwest of Beauvoir, roughly equidistant between Beauvoir and Chaumesnil.

[18] Tagebuch der Majors Fürsten Thurn und Taxis. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., XIII, 32.)

[19] Frimont to Wrede (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 47, a); Wrede to Schwarzenberg. (Ibid., II, 47.)

[20] Wrede to Schwarzenberg, Brienne, 3 February. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II. 47.)

[21] Tagebuch der Majors Fürsten Thurn und Taxis. (Ibid., XIII, 32.)

[22] Tagebuch der Majors Fürsten Thurn und Taxis (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., XIII, 32), and STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im Monate Februar. (Ibid., II, 1.)

[23] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im Monate Februar. (Ibid., II, 1.)

Note here that, while Taxis speaks in his manuscript of the 21 guns, General Frimont in his report to Wrede (Chaumesnil, February 1st, K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 47 a) announced to the commander in chief taking only 14 guns. The same figure is found in the biography of Frimont (Oestereichische Militair Zeitschrift, 1843, II, page 131).

[24] "The enemy,"  --as the Crown Prince well expresses to Schwarzenberg in his report, dated from Petit-Mesnil, 1 February (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 3)--  "in turn attacked La Giberie where they fought for four hours with a fury unheard of, until finally, with the arrival of fresh troops and shot from my horse battery, I managed to repulse the attacks of the French."

[25] Journals of Sacken, of Prince Scherbatov (Topographic Archives of Saint-Petersburg), Journal of Nikitin.

[26] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt-Armee im Monate Februar. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1.) and report of Feldzeugmeister Count Gyulay to Prince Schwarzenberg (Ibid., II, 28), Lesmont, 2 February.

Gyulay committed an error in this report, saying that Napoleon had entrusted the defense of Dienville to his Guard.

[27] Crown Prince of Württemberg to Prince Schwarzenberg, Petit-Mesnil, February 1st. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 3.)

[28] Journal of the Operations of Crown Prince of Württemberg, by General Count Baillet Latour, Chief of Staff of the IVth Corps. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., XIII, 56.)

It was also around this time that one of the aides of Berthier, Colonel Maussion, who had become lost amidst the blizzard of snow and darkness, was captured by the Knesevich (Knežević) Dragoons (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1 and Journal of Major Prince Taxis, Ibid., XIII, 32.)

[29] Journal of Major Prince Taxis.

[30] Gyulay to Schwarzenberg, Lesmont, 2 February. (Ibid., II, 28.)

[31] According to Schels, the Allies only lost at La Rothière 4,655 men.

[32] Belliard to Grouchy and Chief of Staff to Sorbier, de France and Léry.  (Archives of the War.)

[33] 63 after Bogdanovich, 73 after Plotho and Beitzke, 83 from Schels, 73 also from the report of Schwarzenberg (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 34, b) and only 54 after Koch.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: February 2012

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