Marshal Louis Davout
Although many marshals and generals of the Napoleonic
Wars have left memoirs of the events they participated in,
they rarely include actual sets of orders that they received
that led up to these events. Fortunately for the historian
this is not the case for the battle of Auerstädt. The
following are the orders Marshal Davout received from
Imperial Headquarters in the week prior to the battle and in
some cases his response to those orders.
These orders are interesting for several reasons:
1. They permit the reader to ascertain why
Marshal Davout took the actions he did.
2. The reader is able to see how the orders were
written and the style that was used.
Marshal, the Emperor orders, that you would convey your
headquarters, during the day of the 7th, to Lichtenfels.
Your first division will be encamped around this town, your
two others between Bamberg and Lichtenfels, in a manner that
tomorrow, the 9th, all your army corps can be reunited, in a
war march [reference to a particular arrangement of
formations?], before Kronach, and be in (some) measure
of supporting Marshal Bernadotte who must, during the day of
the 9th, moves on the Saale.
I inform you that the right of the army, departing from
Amberg, will occupy Bayreuth the 7th and will be at Hof the
9th. It [the right wing] is composed of the corps of
Marshals Soult and Ney.
The center will occupy Kronach. It will debouch by
Lobenstein. it is composed of your corps, of that of Marshal
Bernadotte, of the main part of the reserve and of the
Imperial Guard (of which Marshal Lefebvre was coming to take
the command in turning over the 5th Corps to Marshal
The left, departing Schweinfurth, debouches on Cobourg
and from there, by Grafenthal; it is composed of Marshals
Lannes and Augereau.
The headquarters is at Bamberg. It will be the 8th at
Lichtenfels, the 9th at Kronach
Marshal Davout is ordered to depart with all of his army
corps from the position that he occupied in order to direct
himself directly on Naumberg where he will arrive as fast as
he is can, in holding always however his troops ready for
combat; he have all of his light cavalry precede him who
will send some scouts [also translated as "skirmisher"
in Cassell's, but not as courier; alternatively translated
as "runner" -- which could carry a sense of a courier, I
suppose] as far as possible, as much in order to have
some news of the enemy as in order to take some prisoners,
halt the baggage and have some precise information.
The division of dragoons of General Sahuc will be under
the order of Marshal Davout: I anticipate that I have
General Suhac told to place himself at Mittel where he will
take orders from Marshal Davout.
The Grand-Duke of Berg and Marshal Bernadotte equally
have the order to place themselves at Naumberg, but to
follow the route from Zeitz. Marshal Augereau positions
himself at Kahla; Marshal Soult at Gera; Marshal Ney at
Mittel. The imperial headquarters will be at Gera at noon
"General, the Emperor orders that you be at the command
of Marshal Davout; this marshal is before you at Mittel;
General Sahuc will be sending to take his orders, his
division being destined to march with his army corps. I am
informing the Grand-Duke of Berg of this. Place yourself on
the field with your division at Mittel."
I have the honor to render an account to Your Highness
that the light cavalry has entered Naumburg at three-thirty
[in the morning?]; the advance-guard arrived there
at eight o'clock in the evening; the day having been
extremely difficult and having occasioned a lot of
straggling, I have had the 1st Division halted at a place
just short of Naumburg, the 2nd a little bit farther and the
3rd at about three leagues.
The division of dragoons of General Sahuc has been placed
at the same point as the 2nd Division; tomorrow, at seven
o'clock in the morning, all the army will be gathered
General Vialannes seized several wagons of bread and of
baggage; but a more important seizure is that of twelve
coppered pontoons perfectly harnessed; this last prize was
made between Naumburg and Freyburg; I had them preserved, as
well as the [teams in] harness, in order to hold
them for your disposition, having promised to the 1st
Chasseurs Regiment to have them paid for all of the horses
in conformance with regulations.
We give notice [best I can do with this phrase!]
here of large magazines of forage and grain; I will have
made an inventory that I will have the honor of presenting
to Your Highness.
Some reconnaissances have been sent [in] from the
direction of Jena, but they have still not returned [I'm
not sure of the coherence of this: perhaps he is saying that
patrols were sent out but haven't come back in yet];
some cannon fire has been heard from this side; I have not
yet had news on this particular from the Prince of
All the reports from deserters, from prisoners and the
people of the country, agree in indicating that the Prussian
army is located at Erfurt, Weimar and the environs. It is
certain that the King has arrived yesterday at Weimar; they
assert that there are no troops between Leipzig and
I have had all of the packets seized from the mails; I
present them to Your Majesty; may be something interesting
will be found there. They manifest still a lot of boasting
in the Prussian officer Corps.
An unsigned letter addressed to the Prince of Saxe-Coburg
compares the defeat at Saalfeld to that of the Austrians
before Ulm, for the despondency it has spread widely in the
Yesterday and today about two hundred deserters have
passed this town.
I send a detachment to carry this dispatch to Your
Highness; tomorrow morning, as soon as I have obtained new
information, I will have the honor to present it to Your
P.S. I seems constantly to me that the Prussian troops
are uniting in the direction of Weimar. This campaign
promises to be still more miraculous than that of Marengo
"Marshal, the Emperor learns at one league from Jena that
the enemy is in the presence of Marshal Lannes with about
50,000 men. The marshal even believes that he will be
attacked this evening: if you hear an attack this evening on
Jena, you must maneuver on the enemy and overwhelm his left.
If there is no attack this evening at Jena, you will receive
tonight the dispositions of the Emperor for the day
["journee" carries a sense of focus on the day itself,
or on its length] of tomorrow."
Davout, Louis N. Opérations du 3e Corps
1806-1807 Rapport du Maréchal Davout, Duc
D'Auerstaedt Paris : Calmann Lévy ;
Placed on the Napoleon Series: April, 2000