The Campaign of 1814: Chapter 11 Part III

By: Maurice Weil

Translated by: Greg Gorsuch


(after the Imperial and Royal War Archives at Vienna)







The Ist Corps (Bianchi ) recrosses to the right bank of the Yonne.  --Under the dispositions for the 18th, the Ist Corps had come to encamp at Pont-sur-Yonne and brought back to Villeneuve-la-Guyrd, the light division of Ignatius Hardegg which merely left some posts in Fontainebleau and Moret .

Besides the two batteries of the Austrian Ist Corps, which from the left bank of the Seine, had greatly contributed to the Prince remaining so long in the position of Surville, Bianchi, when he began his movement, had left at Montereau the brigade of Hirsch (regiments of Jerome Colloredo and Hiller), which had not lost everyone trying to defend the bridges.  This brigade, after much suffering, retired at 9 o'clock in the evening on Cannes, and prevented by the fire from the enemy 's battery extended on the road to Bray.  It realigned there with the dragoons of Riesch and the infantry of Count Albert Gyulay established around Fossard and responsible eventually with collecting the light division of Ignatius Hardegg.  With the approach of the cavalry of Pajol and the infantry of Duhesme, which pushed to Fossard when the bridge was restored in Yonne, and which forced the dragoons of Riesch and the Austrian infantry to retreat by Montmachoux in the direction of Saint-Sérotin, Bianchi recrossed the Yonne overnight at Pont-sur-Yonne.[1]  The division of Wied-Runkel having already arrived at this point, continued to Sens, where it arrived at midnight.

Retaking of Fontainebleau and Moret by the French.  --At 10 o'clock in the morning, General Charpentier, partly from Melun, had driven from Fontainebleau Colonel Simony, as well as the hussars of Hesse-Homburg. and forced him to retreat on Moret that General Allix was charged with taking.  But Count Ignatius Hardegg, reinforced in recent days by the arrival of two battalions of fusiliers and connected on his left with the Cossacks of Platov around Nemours, was aware of the movement of the Emperor to the Seine and the march of the reinforcements from the Spanish army.  He did not wait for the attack of General Allix and when he was joined by Colonel Simony, he evacuated Moret at 5 o'clock to go and take position behind the Canal du Loing.  Being informed of the loss of the Battle of Montereau, asked to expedite his retirement, knowing that the French already held the road from Montereau to Moret, Hardegg succeeded thanks to his calmness and his ability to safely get out of such a critical situation.  Taking advantage of the arrival of a negotiator sent by General Allix who, having failed in his various attempts to force the passage of the canal, sought through negotiations that which he couldn't take by arms, Hardegg only agreed to begin talks under the formal condition, immediately accepted by Allix, that the French would not go beyond the canal bridge before midnight.  Once night fell, the light division decamped and passed through Montmachoux and Saint-Aignan, arriving after a very difficult night march at Saint-Sérotin.

Seslavin falls back from Orleans on the right of the army.  --On the extreme left of the Allies, Seslavin, after having occupied Châteauneuf -sur -Loire the 17th, had attacked the 18th at Biogny-sur-Bionne near Combleux some National Guard supported by some conscripts.  He then ​​summoned Orleans to surrender and threatened in case of refusal, to burn the city.  Fortunately for Orleans, which could not have been rescued in time, since the dragoon brigade of General Sparre was still two days of marching away, at Salbris, and one of his batteries had arrived alone without escort at La Ferté-Saint-Aubin, Seslavin[2] received at that moment the order to head by forced marches to the extreme right wing to replace Diebitsch.  Before leaving Semoy, he left the mayor of the village, the following proclamation :

"By order of His Majesty my Emperor, I leave the fate of the city to another.  I am very sorry not to be able to grant peace to the good people of the city of Orleans.  I received another order.  I leave these places and I fly to win more celebrated victories. I do not want to burn the most beautiful city in France and I leave it to another time.  I am very angry that the inhabitants of the city were misled up to this point, that they thought I commanded a mass of brigands. The unfortunate who fled the town of Bellegarde and Châteauneuf will tell you who I am and who I command.  I return your papers with him and am your servant."[3]

Movement of the IIIrd Corps on Pont-sur-Vanne.  --Position the Guard and reserves.  --The IIIrd Corps (Gyulay) was formed on the 18th in the morning, in two columns, one at Sergines (Weiss Division), the other (divisions of Crenneville and Fresnel) at Serbonnes, ready to move in support of the points the enemy would threaten, whether on the Seine or the Yonne.  But in the afternoon, the corps having been ordered to move by Villeneuve-l'Archevêque on Troyes, in order to be able to defile the 20th in the morning through this town and then be on the road of Maisons-Blanches, Gyulay left their positions, arriving very late in the evening at Pont-sur-Vanne and quartering, for a few hours, his troops in Malay, Noé, Theil, Vareilles and Vaumort.  The grenadiers and Austrian cuirassiers of Count Nostitz followed the movement of the IIIrd Corps.

The Guards and Russian and Prussian reserves, under the command of Barclay, were partly at Traînel, partly in Nogent, with a post of two battalions and two squadrons at Pont-sur-Seine.[4]  Diebitsch had rejoined with the light cavalry of the Russian guard and crossed the Aube at Plancy.

Movement of the Vth and VIth Corps on Nogent and Bray.  --Affair at Sourdun.  --Taking of a Russian convoy.  --On the side of Provins, Oudinot had resumed his march from the 8th in the morning, while the rear guard of the VIth Corps left the vicinity of Provins to follow the movement of the main body's retreat on Nogent.  The dragoons of Trelliard had, however, managed to reach the Cossacks of Ilovaysky XII and Rebrikov around Provins and had managed to make good progress beyond Mériot.  Wittgenstein, with his whole corps and the cuirassiers of Duka had recrossed the Seine at Nogent.

After sending a reconnaissance into Villenauxe meeting no one, then finding the presence of considerable forces on the left bank of the Seine, from Nogent up to Bray, Oudinot[5] staggered his corps between Sourdun and Provins pending orders.

The Vth Corps after marching all night, arrived in Bray towards morning.  The Antoine Hardegg Division had taken position at Grisy-sur-Seine.  The brigade of Maillot, charged with the defense of the bridge of Bray had left one of its battalions on the right bank, at Mouy-sur-Seine.  Six batteries sheltered behind breastworks, the Spleny Division and the bulk of the Bavarian troops settled in the hills just outside Bray.

Between 10 and 11 o'clock in the morning, the heads of the columns of Macdonald, whom the Emperor had given the order to continue from Donnemarie on Bray, appeared up to Saint-Sauveur, at the same time as the French cavalry appeared near Châtenay-sur-Seine.  The French 5th Cavalry Corps leaving from Salins pushed up to Saint-Sauveur[6] and to Everly, from where detachments of the  3rd Cavalry Corps and cuirassiers of Bordesoulle seized, on the road from Ormes to Bray, a Russian convoy of 14 caissons of ammunition and carriages containing Russian paper money, escorted by sixty men.

While Macdonald, realizing the difficulties presented by an attack on the bridge of Bray by the road from Donnemarie, felt out Mouy with some infantry, that was still occupied by a Bavarian battalion, Wrede's cannonade did not do any great harm.  The Duke of Tarente, who proposed to go around the bridge of Bray the next day, deployed his troops out of range of the artillery of the Vth Corps: the Boyer Division took position in the area from Mouy to Saint-Sauveur, having in reserve a brigade of the Albert Division at Cutrelles and on his right, at Vimpelles, the cavalry of General Laferrière.  The other brigade of the Albert Division was at Ormes; a brigade of General Amey at Everly with 3rd Cavalry Corps .

In the evening, around 9 o'clock, Macdonald was ordered to cross the Seine the 19th, at the bridge of Montereau.  He immediately took steps to put things in motion at 4 o'clock in the morning through Vimpelles-Égligny and Saint - Germain-de-Laval  and leaving only two squadrons at Bray charged with hiding his movement.   Ney, whose two divisions of the Young Guard only arrived at Nangis at four o'clock, would also execute, on the 19th, the same maneuver, coming by Villeneuve-les-Bordes to Montereau.

"Up until 3 o'clock in the afternoon , Wrede was perfectly quiet," recounts Major Prince Taxis.  "The cannonade heard on the left told him that the IVth Corps was engaged, but he was sent Colonel Le Couteulx that the  Württembergers  were taken and he was directed towards the general headquarters.  A little later, Wittgenstein, from Nogent, asked of Wrede if he knew what happened to two regiments of his missing since yesterday.  Wrede had no news of the regiments.  The enemy infantry demonstrations were insignificant.  Wrede had absolutely no concern about his position, when shortly after 3 o'clock Major von Amerongen appears.  Dispatched by the Crown Prince to Schwarzenberg, he announced that the IVth Corps, beaten Montereau, did not have time to blow up the bridge.  A little later, another officer of the Crown Prince told us that the IVth Corps, having suffered greatly, was in full retreat on Bray."[7]

Letter of Wrede to the King of Bavaria.  --A letter that Wrede wrote (in French) to the King of Bavaria, from Bar-sur-Aube, 25 February, and in which he examines the military events of the days of 17 and 18 February,[8] completely echoes the information provided to us by the journal of Taxis:

"Since the departure of my last dispatch, sent from Donnemarie the 16th of this month by Count Seefeld, the face of the military operations has changed," Wrede said to his king.

"It would seem I write a novel if I reported to your Majesty of all the incomprehensible things that happened.  As the command of the rearguard was entrusted to me it has not exhausted us too much since I merely reported to Your Majesty that as it was true that the Allied powers signed instructions the 15th for the plenipotentiaries at the Congress of Chatillon to sign the basis for preliminary projects, it is equally true that the next day, before that Napoleon had received the agreed minutes of the Chatillon articles, he beat General Count Wittgenstein who, inexcusably negligent, was placed like an idiot.  On receipt of the news of what had happened, I gathered my corps to attract the attention of the enemy on me and to disengage as much as possible.  I succeeded , but not without shedding blood."

"The next day , the Crown Prince of Württemberg, who chose a disadvantageous point to fight and behind him having a difficult defile, was beaten near Montereau, where the enemy crossed the Seine pell-mell with him.  I pushed back on the same day, heavy enemy attacks near Bray; but the events that had taken place in respect to Count Wittgenstein and the Crown Prince of Württemberg had convinced Prince Schwarzenberg to a retrograde movement for which I served until now as rearguard.  As time allows me, Your Majesty will receive an official report of these events in German."

First movements of the Army of Silesia.  --Blücher prepares to take the offensive.  --Of the 18th in the morning, the reorganization of the Army of Silesia was already sufficiently advanced to allow Blücher to guide the movements he had the outlined the 18th and thought to execute the 19th against Marmont and Mortier.  The headquarters, the corps of Sacken and Kapsewitch still remained on the right bank of the Marne.  But the corps of Yorck crossed at Châlons and the division of Prince William of Prussia pushed up on the left bank to Écury-sur-Coole; that of Horn came to Sogny-aux-Moulins and the reserve cavalry of Jürgass to Coolus.  General von Katzler was again placed at the head of a vanguard of four infantry battalions, the 2nd Hussar Regiment (hussars of the corps), the Brandenburg Hussars and Uhlans and a horse battery.  Kleist's corps occupied the same day, Nuisement-sur-Coole.

Winzingerode was still in position at Reims, and Marmont, with no one before him, proposed to leave a strong party of cavalry at Montmirail, heading to La Ferté Gaucher with Grouchy who from there would join the Emperor with his cavalry and Leval Division.  Grouchy and Leval had, indeed, moved that the day from La Ferté-sous-Jouarre and Viels-Maisons to Montmirail, where they effected a junction with the Duke of Raguse.

On the side of Mortier, everything was quiet.  The Marshal, pending the arrival at Soissons of a battalion of 800 men of the regiment of the Vistula, had been sent a detachment 300 men from the Old Guard and 150 horses from General Colbert.

Reorganizing in a few days an army that Napoleon thought he had , if not destroyed , at least made powerless and forced into immobility for some time, Blücher had created through his energy and his will, a feat all the more extraordinary that he still had to overcome the natural difficulties of a special kind.  For reasons that we were unable to find, perhaps because instead of blaming Sacken, he was in some ways approving of the courage he had shown in stubbornly fighting at Montmirail, Yorck had seriously considered retiring. It did not take less than many requests and a letter from Blücher to the commander of the Ist Corps to convince him to stay in the army.

19 February 1814.  --Letter from Schwarzenberg to Blücher.  --First dispositions for the 19th.  --The dispatch from Châlons in which Blücher had, from the 17th, announced to the Generalissimo, that he had left the 19th ready to resume the offensive vigorously, reached Schwarzenberg at the moment where, after the affairs of Mormant, of Nangis and Villeneuve-les-Bordes and before knowing anything about the loss of the Battle of Montereau, he had written from Bray to the Field Marshal by sending his first dispositions for the days of the 19th and 20th, and saying "I will be massed and ready to fight behind Troyes the 21st.  This requires that your army has effected at the same time its junction at Arcis-sur-Aube with Wittgenstein's corps, so you can resume the offensive on the 22nd and support what I intend to do.  Answer me about a specific way to allow me to combine my subsequent dispositions with yours."

But later in the afternoon , when the Crown Prince was informed by the Generalissimo that he felt obliged to retreat, Schwarzenberg had already been forced to make some changes to the same dispositions that had been communicated with Blücher.  Returning from Bray to Traînel to confer with the sovereigns, he ordered the IVth and Vth Corps to stay at Bray until the 19th in the evening and then fall back by Traînel on Troyes.  The VIth Corps should remain in Nogent; the Ist Corps going to be moved then on Villeneuve-l'Archevêque, in charge of his rear cutting the bridge of Pont-sur-Yonne when the enemy force debouched in force from Montereau.  The IIIrd Corps and the bulk of the Russian and Prussian Guards and reserves were ordered to press their march on Troyes.  The Generalissimo added, it is true that "the movement on Troyes was especially designed to prevent the fighting of partial corps and gather the army so that, united with Field Marshal Blücher, it could again take the offensive."

The news received at the headquarters during the night had left no doubt about the scope of the Battle of Montereau. Indeed, the complete repair of bridges, barely damaged, of the Seine and the Yonne, could allow the French to spread , the 19th, between the two rivers.

New dispositions of Schwarzenberg.  --Orders of Napoleon.  --Reorganization of his army.  --The retreat behind Troyes seemed all the more necessary to Schwarzenberg who, further amended the dispositions for the days of the 19th and 20th, prescribing Wrede to withdraw the same day on Traînel by masking his march through a division in Bray.  While this rear guard left Traînel the 20th, the Vth Corps was to proceed on Prunay-Saint-Jean, south of Troyes, to be consolidated with the IVth Corps and established in front of the Guard and reserve positions. The VIth Corps had come to Saint-Hilaire the 19th and the 20th to Méry to go on the Arcis-sur-Aube.  One of its divisions remained in Nogent as in Traînel being occupied by the rear guard of the Vth Corps.

The 20th, the Ist Corps was to be at Fontvannes, the light division of Prince Maurice Liechtenstein at Villeneuve-l'Archevêque and his rear guard at Sens.  The IIIrd Corps was massed around Montgueux.  The headquarters of the sovereigns and the Generalissimo left Traînel the 19th in the morning and was transported to Troyes.[9]

Instead of pushing to the Aube, the Emperor, gave up forcing the passages of Nogent and of Bray, recalling all his corps to Montereau and losing by the time he would use to defile his army through it, the immediate benefits of the victory he had won .

Macdonald was ordered to come back from Bray to Montereau; Ney getting there from Nangis, Oudinot from Provins, Grouchy and Leval bringing all the troops they had there on the side of Montmirail.  Gerard alone went to Pont-sur-Yonne to cross to the right bank where he repaired the bridge.  Allix, was directed on Nemours and would move on from there, if there was no one, on Pont-sur-Yonne and Sens.

These moves would cost the French army valuable time and make them lose touch with the Allied Great Army.  The Emperor used in his way the forced stop that it imposed on his troops.  The Pacthod Division was assigned to 7th Corps (Oudinot).  The Paris Reserve was deposited in the 2nd Corps now consisting of three divisions under the command of Gerard.  Victor was given command of a newly formed corps composed of the Young Guard divisions of generals Charpentier and Boyer de Rébeval.  One of these divisions, that of General Charpentier, was to come from Fontainebleau to Fossard, that of General Boyer de Rébeval was in march on Melun from Fontainebleau.  The cavalry was also completely reorganized.  Bordesoulle took command of the 1st Cavalry Corps (light cavalry divisions of General Merlin and the division of heavy cavalry placed previously under his command).  The 2nd Cavalry Corps under the command of Saint -Germain, consisted of the light cavalry of General Berckheim and that of heavy cavalry of Saint -Germain.  Milhaud retained the 5th Cavalry Corps and its three divisions. Pajol was obliged by his wounds, to leave his command.  The 3rd Cavalry Corps was disbanded and replaced by the 6th Cavalry Corps entrusted to the Count de Valmy and formed of the light cavalry division of General Jacquinot from the 3rd Corps, and the two divisions of dragoons from Spain of generals Trelliard and Roussel.  Then came, as always, blame and criticism, when the Emperor was forced to stop during this campaign that he knew that, quick and energetic action alone could continue to save it.  It was first towards General Sorbier, who he indicated that he was very unhappy with the service of the artillery of the line during the day of Montereau.  "It held its reserves too far off, or at least did not care to successively approach the caissons; this was due to some senior officers and that there were few gunners.  The service of the artillery is not sure.  The infantry lack cartridges..."  The chief of staff of the artillery is not spared.  The Emperor reminded the chief of staff that he must deploy the artillery, provide for consumption, correct bad emplacements made ​​by officers.  After General Sorbier it was Rovigo that the Emperor launched sharply on for newspaper articles that "with the stroke of a pen destroys all the good that results from the victory."  The Emperor reminded the Minister of Police "that He had formed an office to run newspapers, it is not a matter of vanity and one of the first principles of war is to exaggerate ones strengths and not to diminish them.  If you do not want to say that the forces of the Emperor are huge, at least do not say anything."

It still seemed to the Emperor that it was useful to make an example that would prevent the return of the faltering of town commandants.  Clarke was ordered to suspend General Montbrun and send him to a commission of inquiry to justify his conduct in Moret and his hasty retreat on Essonnes.  Finally, after blaming everything that he found bad, after informing Caulaincourt that he should deny doing anything without having received instructions and after having announced that he will would write himself an ultimatum, he honored the brilliant conduct of the cavalry and the heaped them with awards and decorations.

Movements of the corps of Schwarzenberg.  --Under such conditions, military operations were limited the 19th to what little could be done.  One of the two armies withdrew and had already taken the lead.  The other was busy for a long and difficult march.  Separated by two streams from his opponent, he had naturally lost contact.  It is left for us to review the movements performed during the day of the 19th, and to indicate the positions held in the evening of that day.

The IVth Corps, continuing its retirement went from Bray to Saint-Aubin.  Wittgenstein, not having received the second order requiring him to hold Nogent and not cede the city until after a serious attack, not even having in his hands the first provision, stopped at Traînel the 18th in the afternoon noon and sent to Saint-Hilaire, went to Pont-sur-Seine, where he was joined by the troops of General Shakovskoi, from the blockade of Landau and the corps of the Prince Gorchakov relieved in front of Strasbourg by the Badenese.  He had left the cavalry of Pahlen at Nogent.

Oudinot and Valmy later had a Villenauxe side and another Pont- le-Roi . They had just Villenauxe few isolated , but they had intercepted a letter announcing his Diebitsch movement Plancy .

Due to the blundering of a courier that went astray, Oudinot had only received the order at 11 o'clock to fall back on Montereau and could not, therefore, begin the movement on Donnemarie until about 1 o'clock, leaving momentarily a brigade of infantry , a squadron and two pieces of cannon at Provins.

Wrede, after rallying and left filing by road from Traînel the troops of the Crown Prince of Württemberg, had brought on the left bank of the Seine the battalion stationed at Mouy, destroyed the bridge of Bray and began his retreat at 6 o'clock in the morning.  Instead of taking the high road from Troyes, the Bavarian general, although the path from Traînel was in very poor condition , had preferred to follow the IVth Corps to cover any offensive movement against the French.  His rearguard, under the command of Frimont, composed of four regiments of Austrian cavalry, seven Bavarian cavalry regiments and strengthened by four regiments of Russian cuirassiers General Kretov, had only left Bray at 9 o'clock and came to deploy on the heights of Traînel.  His right took  position (dragoons of Knesevich and Székeler Hussars) at Gumery; his left (Bavarian brigades of Vieregg and Diez) at Traînel, having behind it in reserve the cuirassiers of Kretov in Bouy-sur-Orvin, while the Schwarzenberg Uhlans and the Archduke Joseph Hussars (light division of Antoine Hardegg) stood second in line behind his right at Fontenay-de-Bossery.  With the cavalry posts they monitored the roads from Bray to Nogent and from Sens to Traînel; with circulating patrols those from Thorigny to Pont-sur-Yonne.  Wrede had pushed to Macon with the bulk of the Vth Corps.

Despite the snow, Macdonald had yet to notice the retreat of the Austro-Bavarians and worked to occupy Mouy with General Amey.  He was already occupied at restoring the bridge, when Major Prince Taxis appeared as a negotiator and brought in a dispatch from Caulaincourt to the Chief of Staff.[10]  Lacking beams sufficiently long enough to securely restore the bridge, and when it was finally repaired during the night from 19 to 20, it could serve as the infantry and cavalry.

The Austrian Ist Corps, departing from Pont-sur-Yonne and through Gisy-les-Nobles and Thorigny, encamped itself from Villeneuve-l'Archevêque to Foissy-sur-Vanne, Molinons, Lailly, Bagneaux and Vulaines.  The light division of Ignatius Hardegg , which was its rearguard, left Pont-sur-Yonne at noon, cut the bridge and made ​​for La Chapelle-sur-Oreuse to establish that evening in Thorigny.

General Gerard, arriving with most of the 2nd Corps in Pont-sur-Yonne, was forced to stop there, to prepare materials for the repair of the bridge until the arrival of a company sappers from Montereau.  He had knowledge of the movement of the Austrians on Thorigny and Villeneuve-l'Archevêque and knew that Bianchi had nothing moving from Pont-sur-Yonne on Sens.

The division of Maurice Liechtenstein, who had occupied the city in the last days, had to quit after having left a simple observation post composed of some horsemen.  It was fallen back on Pont-sur-Vanne and formed the rear guard of the IIIrd Corps marching on Saint-Liébaut , where the headquarters of Gyulay was established in the evening, while his troops were staggered from this point and Villemaur up to Paisy-Cosdon and Saint-Benoist-sur-Vanne.  Further back Nostitz was at Fontvannes and Barclay at Villeloup.

Platov chased from Nemours.  --Platov, who had left the vicinity of Fontainebleau from the day before, had first withdrawn on Nemours.  But at the arrival of General Allix, and after an engagement which followed he was then obliged to fall back on Ormesson and Aufferville, to abandon Nemours to the French, to try to gain by the bridge of Souppes, the right bank of the Loing.  On the side, at Fontainebleau, the country folk scoured the forest to pick up the last Austrian and Russian Hussars.  Seslavin continued his retrograde motion and was at that time with his flying corps around Pithiviers.

Blücher concentrates his army at Sommesous.  --If the French army had lost almost all contact with the army of
Schwarzenberg and if, as the Emperor wrote to Joseph, at 9 o'clock at night, it took it all day to cross this horrible defile of Montereau; if Mortier was still in Villers-Cotterêts, if Marmont, with nothing in front of him, had moved with Grouchy between La Ferté-Gaucher and Sézanne, Blücher had better used that day.  After receiving the letter in which Schwarzenberg had asked ​​him if the Army of Silesia would be able to effect on the 21st its junction with Wittgenstein at Arcis and the 22nd cooperate with an offensive movement executed by the two armies, he had before even letting Major Count Schulenburg responsible to report his response go to the Generalissimo, modified in the morning the orders he had given to his corps.  Judging by his first orders, the Field Marshal had intended to march in two columns and two roads on Sézanne and Montmirail and established behind the advanced guard and pushed just to Connantre and Étoges his corps on a line from Bergères to Fère-Champenoise.  Renouncing the movement immediately after the arrival of Count Schulenburg, he ordered, on the contrary, his army having to come entirely together to bivouac the 19th on two lines at Sommesous.  The right wing would be formed in the first line by Sacken, the second by the corps of Langeron (Kapsewitch and Rudzevich corps), the left wing, by Yorck and Kleist.  This change of direction was effected without difficulty in the vast plains of Champagne, and at noon the whole army of Blücher settled into bivouac at Sommesous.  The vanguard of Kleist, under the command of Vasilchikov, occupied Fère-Champenoise, that of Yorck, led by Katzler came to Montépreux.  Korff 's cavalry was placed at Connantray-Vaurefroy in support of the two advance guards.  Winzingerode, following the order he had received, occupied Épernay and pushed parties to Dormans.

The 19th in the evening, Schulenburg was back at Troyes with a letter in which Blücher announced that he would be the 21st at Méry, ready to battle with 53,000 men and 300 guns.

20 February 1814.  --Schwarzenberg decides to continue the retreat.  --In such circumstances, it seems logical to think that one would offer battle the 21st to the Emperor, since it was now able to resist with at least170,000 men with the  60,000 he could reach a maximum to get in the line.  This seems also to have been the thought of Generalissimo the 20th in the morning.  His army would, in fact, concentrate the whole day around Troyes, scouting with its advanced guards near Sens, near Traînel and near Nogent.  The Army of Silesia was already in Arcis-sur-Aube, to be next day at Méry.  Schwarzenberg himself wrote the day of the 20th:  "I've reached my goal, Napoleon left Blücher time to reform and rally his army.  I have ordered my corps to concentrate at Troyes, which is done at this time.  Blücher is in Arcis with 50,000 to 60,000 men.  Tomorrow I send him to Méry, and then trusting in the help of the Almighty I will accept the battle."

And yet, although he did not yet know of the offensive movements of Augereau, although the retirement on Troyes continued on for the 20th with no more difficulty than the previous day, Prince Schwarzenberg[11] changed from the idea in the course of the same day.  After explaining the situation to the Emperor of Austria, he will offer him to bring his army from Bar- sur-Aube.  While Blücher remain in Arcis, one would go to Brienne, then, if the enemy continues in its forward march, the Prince would continue his retirement on Chaumont and Blücher falling back on Joinville.  For reasons that we will be exposing a little further, the Emperor of Austria, in a letter dated 21 February, fully approved of the plans that Prince Schwarzenberg had submitted.

The Emperor moves on Bray and Nogent.  --Everything seemed to indicate, on the other hand, that Napoleon was already regretting having recalled his corps to Montereau, not having left Macdonald in front of Bray and Oudinot in Nogent.  The loss of direct contact with the enemy, stopping the destruction of the bridge of Pont-sur-Yonne imposed on Gerard the decision to cross Oudinot and the cavalry of Valmy at the bridge of Bray.  Nansouty, with the Guard cavalry, had to use the bridge to debouch on the left bank and follow the rear of the 5th Corps.  He was followed by Ney and the Old Guard.  Macdonald , instead of going through Montereau, was to go by Bray on Nogent with the 5th Cavalry Corps and leave no later than 7 o'clock in the morning, so that the columns were not cut by the troops who followed.  Gerard led with Allix in the direction of Sens and connect  at Nogent where the Emperor would establish his headquarters.  General Charpentier was also, to come to Bray, while the Boyer Division of Rébeval occupied Montereau and the reserve brigades of Paris (the Duke of Padoue) went individually, that of General Lucotte to Melun, the other to Essonnes.[12]  But it was already too late to prevent the junction of the two Allied armies, a junction that could have been prevented by marching as one, from the 18th or no later than the 19th in the morning, by the right bank of the Seine.

Movements of the corps of Schwarzenberg.  --Suffering and deprivations of the Allies.  --During the 20th , Pahlen had brought his cavalry from Nogent on Châtres and stood in front of the posts of Romilly in the last position.  The bulk of the VIth Corps stood at Méry, straddling both banks of the Seine.  Diebitsch with the light cavalry of the Russian guard , was on his left at Vallant-Saint-Georges and Prince Lubomirski on his right at Pleurs, watching Villenauxe and Sézanne.[13]

The French could not bother the retreat of Pahlen, only occupying Nogent-sur-Seine and the Pont-le-Roi that night.[14] Their arrival on these points was immediately reported by Pahlen to the commander of the four squadrons Wrede had sent for observation on this side.

The bulk of the Vth Corps reached Fontaine- les-Grès and Grès.  General Frimont with his cavalry and the Russian cuirassiers, had left the position of Traînel at 6 o'clock in the morning and passing by Bouy, Charmoy and Avon -la- Pèze, he had come to settle on a line spread from Saint-Lupien (Sommefontaine) by the plateau of Belleville to Ossey-les-Trois-Maisons, Orvilliers-Saint-Julien and Origny-le-Sec.  The cuirassiers were mostly behind Villeloup and Pavillon.  Frimont thus connected with his right hand to the cavalry of Pahlen.  Finally, four squadrons of Schwarzenberg Uhlans had been stationed in observation, two behind Nogent in Saint-Aubin to monitor the movements of the French between Bray and Nogent, the other two supporting Saint-Hilaire (Faverolles).  In his manner, Wrede added:  "The two cavalry divisions (four squadrons ) seek to learn about the movements of the enemy and will fall back without engaging on the main body of the General Frimont, if they come to be attacked.  If this main body was attacked in turn , it should fall back in echelon on the ranks of infantry, at the first chance, it will move forward by division echelon to collect the cavalry."[15]  These squadrons retreated in fact, when the French occupied Nogent and retreated the 20th in the evening on Saint-Hilaire.[16]

Although they would not be harassed in their retreat, the troops of the Vth Corps, and especially the Bavarian troops had suffered so much, had endured such hardships that Wrede, unable to support themselves and to meet their needs, sent the same evening to Troyes, at the headquarters, Major Prince Taxis, who had just returned to Bray to resume his mission.[17] Wrede had instructed his aide to state to the sovereigns and the Generalissimo that the situation was untenable and that he needed to:  either evacuate the Department of the Aube, which was completely exhausted, did not lend its self much to a defensive and methodical war, that seemed to be wanted, or engage in a great battle soon.

Taxis , however, was not able to bring a definitive answer.  There was hesitation between a battle that due to the arrival of Blücher, seemed able to be given in front of Arcis, and retirement on Langres, that some preferred given the arrival of news from Dijon.

Meanwhile, on the French side, the cavalry of Milhaud was at Nogent and Pont-le-Roi; the dragoon division of Briche in Mâcon.  The 11th Corps was staggered from Nogent to Courceroy, with its headquarters in La Motte-Tilly. General Amey, who had only received the order at Nogent to move towards Sens, had started to Thorigny and Fleurigny.  The French troops suffered , moreover, as well as those of Wrede.  "There is only the Brayer Division that has bread.  The other troops do not.  The Albert Division has more than two thirds of its total fallen behind, it is the same with others.  The Guard looted at Bray a food convoy belonging to my corps and I picked up on the right bank of the Seine.  The old road from Troyes is awful, it is almost a path; if we were surprised by the thaw, the artillery could not leave at all.  We are in the middle of vast plains.  The villages are only hamlets, and all are devastated ...  I have at most around me that the equivalent of an infantry regiment."  These were the sum of the news, or rather the complaints that Marshal Macdonald passed the 20th in the evening to the Chief of Staff.[18]

Oudinot had crossed the bridge of Bray and had arrived at the level of Traînel, preceded by the cavalry of Valmy.  He tried to push that same day to Nogent, then move on Méry by Romilly.

The IVth Corps (Crown Prince of Württemberg), camped from Payns to Barberey-Saint-Sulpice, with his cavalry at Villeloup and Pavillon, lacked everything, like everyone else, and the Crown Prince of Württemberg had been in the presence of distress of his troops, Schwarzenberg ask permission to tap into stores at Troyes.[19]

Barclay de Tolly, whose troops stretched along the Seine from Saint-Lyé to Troyes, had his headquarters in Saint-Lyé .

The Ist Corps had continued its march towards Troyes by squeezing its cantonments from Saint-Liébaut to Fontvannes.  The light division of Ignatius Hardegg acted as its rearguard at Villemaur.

The IIIrd Corps, arriving around Troyes, was camped at Montgueux, Torvilliers, Macey and Prugny, its artillery at Sainte-Savine its rearguard, the light division of Crenneville at Saint-Liébaut so that, if necessary, it could fall back on Prince Maurice of Liechtenstein.[20]

This last had arrived in Villeneuve-l'Archevêque, where he announced the occupation of Sens by some French squadrons and the first appearance of French troops on the right bank of the Yonne, in front of Pont-sur-Yonne.[21] With no one on his right since the departure of Count Ignatius Hardegg, ignoring what was happening on the side of Nogent, the Prince, whose position became critical, took this last step to perform his retirement.

From noon, immediately after the restoration of the bridge, General Gerard began to debouch from Pont-sur-Yonne. As he had no news from General Allix, he had sent in the morning, onto the left bank of the Yonne, a strong cavalry reconnaissance to take Sens.

Auxerre had been evacuated by the Austrians at noon.  Platov withdrew hastily from Villeneuve-sur-Yonne.  Finally, the Cossacks of Seslavin after staying there two days left Montargis with their General and ran, too, on Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, but by Ferrières-Gâtinais and Courtenay.

Pending a final response from the Emperor of Austria allowing it to execute its retreat on Bar-sur-Aube, Schwarzenberg prescribed the VIth Corps to stay the 21st at Méry; the guards and reserves to cross onto the right bank of the Seine and come to Villacerf; the VIth Corps to pass through Troyes to establish at Saint-Parres-aux- Tertres.[22]  The other corps of the Great Army to remain in their positions from the day before.

Positions of the Army of Silesia around Arcis.  --The evening of the 20th, the Army of Silesia, which had left Sommesous at 7 o'clock in the morning, held the following positions:  the advanced guard of the Ist Corps (General Katzler) was at Charny-le-Bachot and Longueville; Prince William of Prussia at Rhèges; Horn at Bessy; the reserve cavalry at Pouan-les-Vallées with the headquarters of Yorck; the IInd Corps with Kleist in Villette; the corps of Sacken at Champigny-sur-Aube and Ormes; the corps of Langeron at Le Chêne; the cavalry vanguard of Sacken, under the command of Lanskoy and Vasilchikov at Plancy; the cavalry of General Korff at Viâpres; that of General Borozdin further back at Mailly.

Orders of the Emperor to Marmont.  --While Blücher performed these movements, the Emperor, knowing that the Duke of Raguse had left the road of Montmirail, required him to take a position in Sézanne.  Well established on the road to Vitry, the Marshal could, depending on events, go either on Arcis-sur-Aube or on Montmirail to cover the road to Châlons.  The instructions that the Emperor had charged the Chief of Staff to transmit, is all the more interesting because they contain a few lines, presenting the current situation.  Napoleon began by saying to the Marshal that Winzingerode had moved from Châlons on Reims and probably Soissons, being opposite the corps, the Duke of Raguse should monitor their movements.  Then, getting to the heart of the matter, in consideration of the situation that created ​​the victory of Montereau and retirement of Schwarzenberg on Troyes, he added, speaking of the Generalissimo:[23]  "What is his intention?  Does he give battle at Troyes and recall Blücher, that from Châlons by Arcis -sur -Aube, could be in three or four days at Troyes?  Then he must pass through Arcis and you cannot ignore the movement.  Or the enemy wants to move away to concentrate more and get closer to its reinforcements?  One reason he is seems determined to stick at Troyes may be the desire to cover the Congress of Châtillon-sur-Seine; but this would still be a secondary consideration.  We restored the bridge at Bray, that of Nogent probably will be done in the day.  One of our columns is already at Sens.  In summary (and this is how the instructions of the Chief of Staff sent would end), you must: 1st cover on the roads of Paris from Châlons; 2nd join the army on the Aube and Troyes at the same time as Blücher, that is if Blücher seeks to reunite with the Allied army."

However, the occupation of Épernay and information received by the Marshal would prevent him from moving on Sézanne and decide to stay the 21st at Réveillon.  Marmont had indeed learned in the night that 400 horses out of Dormans , had settled in Paroy, a short distance from Crézancy , and that their presence was even more alarming to General Vincent posted in Château-Thierry, as they announced the advanced guard of Yorck.  Marmont finally felt unable to take the direction of Sézanne following the departure of Grouchy, who had separated from him to move, by order of the Chief of Staff on Bray.  Grouchy, preparing to go, in effect, the next day after his movement, had left on the morning of the 20th from Réveillon for La Croix-en-Brie with the cavalry of Saint -Germain and the infantry of Leval from La Ferté-Gaucher.

Mortier was at Villers-Cotterêts with the second division of Old Guard, the Guards of Honor and three guns. Missing cartridges, he had to ask General d'Aboville, who refused him, claiming he was instructed to send them to a corps of partisans and that they would be found in Soissons.  The Duke of Trévise could only be set in motion before the arrival of Poles at Soissons who would make the detachments available that he had sent there and he was all the more unable to repel the Russian scouts who had occupied Mailly and who reappeared in Fère-en-Tardenois and Oulchy-le-Château.  The Marshal had even thought it necessary to support the garrison of Soissons with the cavalry of Colbert established for this purpose, in front of Villers-Cotterêts, at Chaudun,  Ploisy and Vauxbuin.

21 February 1814.  --Orders of the Emperor.  --Movements of the French corps.  --The 21st in the morning, the Emperor committed to strongly push the march of his army on Troyes.  He hoped, despite the numerical superiority of the Allied Great Army, to still reach Schwarzenberg and force him to accept the 23rd or 24th, battle under the walls of Troyes.[24]  Macdonald would move his headquartered to Saint-Martin from Bossenay and unite his whole army corps between Saint-Martin and the heights Saint-Flavy and of Marigny-le-Châtel, on the old road from Troyes.  The 5th Cavalry Corps remained under his command.  To his left, Oudinot had his headquarters in Romilly-sur-Seine, his cavalry (the 6th Cavalry Corps of Count de Valmy ) and vanguard at Châtres.  The Emperor who believed Méry was occupied by only 4,000 men leaving from Sézanne, ordered him to find out when these troops were arriving and establish them at Méry as soon as possible.  Drouot sent the 1st Division of the Old Guard to Nogent, the 2nd to Pont-sur-Seine.  Ney would approach from Nogent and establish at La Motte-Tilly.  The two divisions of cavalry of the Guard would come to Pont-sur-Seine and camp at Pont, Crancey and Saint -Hilaire.  Pacthod would move on Saint -Hilaire, to reunite with the corps of the Duke of Reggio.  Charpentier occupied Traînel; Boyer de Rébeval, Montereau.  Milhaud 's cavalry sent parties on Sens to communicate with that of Roussel.  Bordesoulle, who was at Montereau with some cavalry belonging to the 1st and 2nd Corps, would march in a way to be the evening of 21st in Bray and the 22nd in Nogent.  A few hours later, at noon, Gerard was ordered to come to Villeneuve-l'Archevêque and to occupy Marcilly with his cavalry.  Napoleon ordered at the same time Macdonald to extend to his right to just beyond Avon-la-Pèze to connect to the cavalry of Gerard when it arrived at Marcilly-le-Hayer.

The Chief of Staff concluded his dispatch by telling the commander of the 2nd Corps:  "We will march on Troyes by three roads, when the Duke of Reggio is at Grès, Duke of Tarante at the Pavillon and you Villeneuve-l'Archevêque and at La Grange-au-Rez.  The Emperor thinks to be on the 23rd at Troyes and to give battle the 24th."

At the same time, the Emperor changed his line of operations, which now went by Brie-Comte-Robert, Nangis, Provins and Nogent, where, unable to quickly restore the bridge, he temporarily threw up a pontoon bridge.  Leaving from the 23rd nothing to cross through Montereau, and everything for the army following the right bank of the Seine to Nogent.

Influence of the news from Dijon on plans of Schwarzenberg.  --Sending reinforcements to the Midi and the new organization of the Army of the South.  --Everything seemed so far to justify the viewpoint of Napoleon.  The slow pursuit, the time lost crossing the bridge of Montereau, the lead taken by the Allied Great Army, the peace he had enjoyed during his movement on Troyes, all while not talking of the march of the Army of Silesia, allowed the Emperor to believe Schwarzenberg would offer him battle, or at least accept it.  As Wrede had pointed out to the Generalissimo and as the Emperor knew, such an extensive army could not stay for long at Troyes.  The countryside was exhausted and could offer no resources for housing or food for the men nor fodder for horses.  The weather was cold and rainy, and wood was gone.  It was impossible to think of encamping such a considerable multitude of men in the villages, looted hamlets, devastated and mostly burnt and ruined.  He was therefore hurried to make a choice between the continuation of retirement and immediate battle.  Everything seemed to indicate, the 20th in the morning, the Prince of Schwarzenberg would opt for the latter course.  He knew he was supported by Blücher.  The junction was made ​​complete since the 21st in the morning, and to address the positions of the Allies, the French army, forced to traverse the vast barren plains of Champagne, was unable to unmask his movements and to hide its dispositions.  Nevertheless, Schwarzenberg hesitated to risk a battle, the consequences could be incalculable, the fate of the country and his army.  The news reaching the headquarters at Troyes, on the night of 20th to 21st, would provide the pretext that he seemed eager to find, especially as the time approached for him to make a resolution whose liability would not have failed to come back on him, despite the approval of a council of war.

A courier from the Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg, arrived at Troyes on the night of the 20th to 21st, brought grave news from the south of France.[25]  "Augereau took the offensive on the Saône.  One of his columns threw back Scheither on Chalon-sur-Saône; another threatens Dôle and will, if we cannot stop it, force the Prince Alois Liechtenstein to lift the siege of Besançon.  Dessaix and Marchand pushed by the Savoie on Geneva, where Bubna is seriously worried."

Engaging in a battle in such conditions under Troyes, exposing in case of defeat to be cut off from his line of retreat by the progress of Augereau and a general uprising of the population already very excited that a victory for Napoleon would electrify, seemed too risky a thing to a general, as cautious and methodical as Schwarzenberg.  Now decided to abandon the position of Troyes, he immediately took steps to cover his rear and decided to weaken his own army to strengthen the Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg, trying to stop Augereau and save Geneva.  Bianchi, with the Ist Corps and his former division, moved immediately and by forced marches by Châtillon on Dijon.  The Generalissimo placed in addition, under his orders, the brigade of Scheither, the light division of Ignatius Hardegg, the troops of generals Klebelsberg, Wimpffen, Weissenwolff and Lederer, totaling: 54 battalions, 46 squadrons and 11 batteries.  Prince Philip of Hesse-Homburg was ordered to hasten his march and come with his 10,000 men of Confederation troops from Basel to Dijon, where Prince Alois Liechtenstein was to send an infantry brigade of General Weigel and cuirassiers of Kaiser Francis.  Crown Prince of Hesse-Homburg would immediately return to Vesoul, in front of the Austrian Reserves of General Kroyherr and there hasten to Dijon adding to Bianchi throwing back the enemy and seizing Lyon.  The Generalissimo however left them free, or take the offensive immediately, or await for the arrival of reinforcements from Prince Philip of Hesse-Homburg.


[1] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt- Armee im Monate Februar. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1.)

[2] Seslavin to General von Geppert, Châteauneuf -sur -Loire, 17 February. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, ad., 583.)

[3] Seslavin to the Mayor of Semoy, 18 February. (Archives of the War.)

[4] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt- Armee im Monate Februar. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1.)

[5] "His Majesty is very satisfied," wrote the Chief of Staff to Oudinot, the 18th, at half past five in the morning, "that you sent away the aide de camp of Prince Schwarzenberg after receiving the dispatch.  If we had to answer any questions, you should send the letter to the vicinity of Châlons where I am with the Emperor.  This proves that the enemy is in trouble.  I recommend that you not let yourself be fooled by any supposition of a peace process or signing a preliminary treaty.  We made too many campaigns against the Austrians for not knowing their tricks, especially when they are beaten.  It seems they put a lot of importance in knowing where the Emperor is." (Archives of the War.)

[6] Bordesoulle, at the arrival of the infantry of Macdonald near Mouy continued with 300 horses at his disposal to Milly-sur-Seine.  He found some Cossacks who retreated to Mériot and there rallied with the main body of Ilovaysky who retired before Trelliard.  They learned from him that the Russians had not restored the bridge at Nogent and had thrown up a pontoon bridge downstream from the stone bridge.

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

[8] Wrede to the King of Bavaria, Bar-sur-Aube, 25February. (Archives of Ellingen, Letter cited by General Heilmann.)

[9] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt- Armee im Monate Februar. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1.)

[10] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt- Armee im Monate Februar (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1) and TAXIS, Tagebuch (Ibid. , XIII , 32).

[11] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt- Armee im Monate Februar. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1.)

[12] Correspondance, nos 21321, 21322 and 21323.

[13] Wittgenstein to Schwarzenberg, Romilly, 20 February in the morning, (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, ad. 575.)

[14] Pahlen to Wittgenstein. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 633 b. )

[15] Wrede, Marching dispositions for 20 February. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 633 a.)

[16] Wittgenstein to Schwarzenberg (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 633) and Pahlen to Wittgenstein. (Ibid., 633 b.)

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

[18] Macdonald to the Chief of Staff.  (Archives of the War.)

[19] Crown Prince of Württemberg to Prince Schwarzenberg, Barberey-Saint-Sulpice. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 625.)

[20] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt- Armee im Monate Februar. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1.)

[21] Prince Maurice Liechtenstein to Prince Schwarzenberg, Villeneuve-l'Archevêque, 20 February. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 583.)

[22] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt- Armee im Monate Februar. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1.)

[23] Correspondence, no 21320, and Chief of Staff to Marmont, Montereau.  20 February, 4:30 am, Records of Berthier. (Archives of the War.)

[24] Correspondence, nos 21330, 21332 , 21334 and Records of Berthier. (Archives of the War.)

[25] STÄRKE, Eintheilung und Tagesbegebenheiten der Haupt- Armee im Monate Februar. (K. K. Kriegs Archiv., II, 1.)


Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2013

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