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The Soldiers of Hesse Nassau Chapter VI: The Hessian Contingent in the Campaign of 1813

The Soldiers of Hesse Nassau Chapter VI: The Hessian Contingent in the Campaign of 1813

The Soldiers of Hesse Nassau Chapter VI

The Hessian Contingent in the Campaign of 1813

I. Formation of the contingent. Battles of Lützen and of Bautzen.

While the Emperor Napoleon brought to the Saale the new army which he had magically formed in France to replace the old bands which disappeared in the retreat from Russia, all our allies of the Confederation of the Rhine were also campaigning new contingents.

From 1 January 1813, the Grand Duke of Hesse gave orders for the preparation of replacement troops: 2 additional battalions for the Guard Fusilier Regiment were organized into 3 companies each: the first had 9 officers and 950 men – the second, 10 officers and 637 soldiers; they set off with 3 pieces of cannon for Würzburg on 21 and 26 February.

The decree on the organization of the Grade Armée of 1813, dated from Trianon on 12 March, said in article XII:

‘…The contingents of Hesse-Darmstadt, Baden and the Prince-Primate will form a division called the 39th …’

And the Emperor wrote on 13 March to Marshal Ney, commanding the 3rd Corps of the Grande Armée (Souham, Gérard, Grenier and Ricard divisions):

‘… I also placed under your command the 39th Division composed of the Hesse-Darmstadt Brigade, the Baden Brigade and the Regiment of the Prince-Primate…  The Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt has already sent to Würzburg 2 battalions …; he also provides you with a regiment of 600 horses:  these 600 horses are not yet available, but there are 300 ready to go…’

The 39th Division was to be commanded by General Marchand.

In the Grand Duchy of Hesse, the regiment of the Guards (Colonel von Follenius), du Corps (Colonel von Gall), that of the light horse were reorganized; on 2 and 3 April, the du Corps Regiment set out, followed on the 5th and 6th by the Guards Regiment, on 7th by the rest of the artillery (2nd Foot Battery, Captain Müller, comprising 3 cannons of 6 and 2 howitzers of 7) and the 22nd by 2 squadrons of light horse formed with the depots by Colonel von Münchingen: these 2 squadrons together counted 10 officers, 328 cavalrymen and 350 horses; they were led by Hanau, Fulda, Eisenach, Erfurt and Leipzig on Dresden where they arrived on 9 May; composed of recruits and remounted on young horses, the Hessian squadrons had only 173 riders in the ranks when they arrived in Dresden…  They left on the way more than 100 blown, wounded, or sick horses, a new example of the fragility of a too recently trained cavalry and the essential care it requires to be brought to work with troops in good condition…

The Hessian infantry brigade, assembled in Würzburg, had 84 officers, 4,329 men, 184 non-combatants and 276 horses, including 153 in artillery.

The Provisional Battalion formed at Stargard with the following of the contingent of 1812 made its junction at Ilmenau with the 2 reinforcement battalions which left Darmstadt at the end of February; Colonel von Schönberg then organized his regiment of fusiliers in 2 battalions with 4 companies, incorporating the companies of the provisional battalion; including the 2nd (Captain Meyer), which remained with the French Imperial Guard and would not join the brigade until the morning of the battle of Lützen. Colonel von Schönberg headed for Jena where he joined the Hessian Brigade – Guards Regiment and du Corps Regiment – which had gone to this point via Schweinfurth, Königshofen, Stuhle, Meiningen and Weimar (26 April).

These movements of the Hessians resulted from the orders sent by the Emperor to Marshal Ney, who was to push the troops of Baden and Hesse on Schweinfurth and Kronach as soon as General Marchand arrived in Würzburg:

‘…Send the 2 battalions from Hesse-Darmstadt to the small fort of Königshofen, which they will guard and where they will be gathered for observation …’












‘You will place in Schweinfurth, if there is sufficient fodder, your cavalry brigade commanded by General Beaumont and which will be made up of the 10th Hussar Regiment, the Hessian regiment and the Baden regiment: that must make 2,500 men, but I do not do not think that at present there are more than 1,200 of them, sufficient force to push parties on the Saale and prevent Cossack platoons — if they crossed Dresden — from straying too far from their army..’

During April … the Baden and Hessian contingents will arrive in Würzburg …[1]

All of General Marchand’s division met on 27 April in Jena: it had the following composition:

Hessian Brigade: { 3 infantry regiments.
(Prince EMILE of HESSE)
Baden Brigade: { 2 Baden infantry regiments;
(General DE STOCKHORN) 1 Frankfurt battalion.
Cavalry of the 3rd Corps: { 10th French hussars, Baden dragoons,
(General BEAUMONT)      Hessian light horse (not arrived).
Artillery { 1 French battery, 1 Hessian battery,
     1 Baden battery: in all 24 cannons.

Based on a staffing situation from mid-April, the division consisted of:

3,678 Baden infantry and artillerymen,
450 Baden dragoons,
4,329 Hessian infantry and artillerymen,
600 Frankfurt infantry;

In all, 11 battalions.

In the concentration marches on Würzburg, the Baden and Hessian regiments suffered notably from desertion:  the consumption of men made in 1812 terrified the populations, and the German soldiers wanted to be our victorious allies, but not defeated …

The Emperor, with the 3rd Corps (Ney), the 4th (Bertrand) and the 12th (Oudinot), made his junction with the army of Prince Eugene (2nd Corps, Victor, – 5th Corps, Lauriston, – 11th Corps, Macdonald); while this last maneuvered on Halle, Ney descended on the Saale via Naumburg, Bertrand more to the right towards Dornburg, and Oudinot on the extreme right on the Saalfeld side: the two armies marched on Weissenfels on 30 April.

It was Souham, who collided that day at two in the evening near Weissenfels with Lanskoy’s Russian cavalry: formed in squares, he pushed back all the charges, and the enemy withdrew.

On 1 May, the Emperor attacked Winzingerode, at which Lanskoy fell back; the defile in front of Weissenfels was defended by 15,000 enemy cavalry, an infantry division and a strong artillery; Souham, charged with the attack, executed it with his regiments in squares, supported by the 10th Hussars and the Baden Dragoons; Gérard and Marchand followed him, also in squares, and in echelon; finally came Grenier and Ricard:  the defile was forced and the enemy retreated on Lützen.  Marshal Bessières was killed with a cannon shot. The 3rd Corps settled in the bivouac between Lützen and Pegau; the Marchand, Grenier and Ricard divisions arrived in the evening without having been engaged in this combat.








  1. — GENERAL MARCHAND, Commander of the 39th Division  (After the lithograph by A. Tardieu.)



The French army, spread out in a long column, was marching on the road to Leipzig when the enemy suddenly attacked it on its right flank; the 3rd Corps, which covered the right of the army, was still occupying its bivouacs of the night when this attack occurred:  the divisions of Ney were assaulted by the deep masses which came out of Pegau and wanted to emerge by Lützen to cut the communications of our army.

The artillery of the Marchand’s division opened fired on Klein-Görschen, covered by the Hessian fusilier regiment supported on the right by 2 French divisions; the Hesse brigade hurriedly left their bivouac and marched into battle without having taken their meal … It was at this moment that Napoleon overtook the troops of Darmstadt, galloping towards the south where a hasty cannonade was heard … the Meyer company of the provisional battalion of Stargard had just joined the brigade and was immediately distributed between the 2 fusilier battalions.

The Baden engage against Flößgraben filled with enemy skirmishers, while the 2 Hessian regiments, to their right, were launched on Klein-Görschen. The Guards regiment disturbed in its deployment by a wound received by its colonel, wavered and retreated… but Prince Emile ran up, formed the regiment in square and continued the march forward: he inspired the Baden; the du Corps Regiment followed in the second line on the left; and the fusiliers, on the extreme left, formed in a column, covered the movement.  The artillery redoubled its fire, the skirmishers were deployed, the battalion columns rushed forward …  The Flößgraben was crossed and the division approached Klein-Görschen at the same time as the left of Macdonald’s corps: the village was captured and the enemy retreated to Groß-Görschen.

Prince Emile and Colonel Schönberg themselves led this attack, during which the Hessians drove many enemies from the houses and gardens of the village, and captured 150 Russian eiger, soldiers of the Guard or Prussian volunteers.

The du Corps Regiment pursued the enemy on Groß-Görschen, supported by the division’s artillery. On another part of the battlefield, the village of Kaja, lost by our troops, was recaptured and lost again …  Finally, Marmont decisively makes himself master with 16 battalions of the Young Guard: it was victory; an attempted night attack carried out by the Prussian cavalry on the bivouacs of the victorious army was immediately stopped by a regiment of the Young Guard.

The Hessians, engaged during the whole day, suffered significant losses: the fusiliers had a third of their officers and 324 men hors-de-combat;[2] the brigade had 1 officer and 78 soldiers killed, 12 officers (including Colonel von Follénius) and 421 wounded men; finally, 846 missing men… The Hessian battery which accompanied the infantry in the attack on Klein-Görschen on difficult terrain, cut off by numerous ditches, fired 111 rounds of 6 and 80 rounds per howitzer:  it was so clearly distinguished that it received 5 stars of the Legion of Honor, 2 for officers and 3 for gunners; however, during the battle itself, 8 artillerymen deserted; 9 others desert on 5 May… Eleven knight’s crosses (4 for officers, 7 for soldiers) rewarded the value of the battalions of the Hessian fusiliers at Lützen.

The day after the victory, the 3rd Corps remained on the battlefield and removed the wounded. On 4 May, it marched on Leipzig where it took cantonments; then, while the allies withdrew on Bautzen, the army arrived on the 8th in front of Dresden and entered there triumphantly – except the 3rd Corps which the Emperor sent towards Wittenberg to threaten Berlin.

The 2 Hessian light horse squadrons reached Dresden only on 9 May; they entered into the composition of a cavalry division entrusted to General Beaumont and attached to the 6th Corps (Marshal Marmont):  this division included 1 regiment of French hussars, the 2 regiments of Westphalian hussars and the regiment of light horse of the Westphalian Guard.

After a review passed by the Emperor in Dresden (11 May) the Hessian squadrons had an affair of outposts with the Cossacks on the road to Torgau, and left Reichenberg (15 May) with the whole division in reconnaissance on Großenhain, where the enemy cavalry was rushed. Beaumont then moved to Elsterwerda and Hoyerswerda.

The allies established themselves on the studied and fortified position of Bautzen: in the center and on the Left, Miloradovich and Gorchakov with 50,000 Russians; on the right, Blücher with 25,000 Prussians; behind, the Guards and the cavalry reserves – 30,000 men; finally, Barclay de Tolly covered the extreme right with 30,000 soldiers in the direction in which Marshal Ney was maneuvering.

This first headed for Berlin; in Wurschen, on the night of 88 May, fire broke out in the cantonments of the Hessian fusiliers who lost a large number of bags and equipment in this fire. The 3rd Corps continued its march on Eulenburg and Torgau, arrived at Düben (10 May) in a torrential rain so that many cartridges were wet and put out of service… While the army corps reached Weidenhain, the 1st Battalion of the Hessian Guards carried out a reconnaissance on Kemberg; the brigade of Hesse arrived on the 12th in Sistitz and Prince Emile reviewed it on the 13th. The Saxon General Thielmann, governor of Torgau, refusing the entry of the place to all troops other than the Saxon troops (Thielmann would soon pass as turncoat into the camp of the allies), it was necessary to start unexpected talks so that this general officer decided to give passage to Marshal Ney whose movement was slowed down and who gained Zillmersdorff (16 May) by Herzberg, Bukow near Kalau (17) and finally Rosenberg (18).

The Marshal abandoned the road to Berlin: the Emperor placed the 5th and 7th Corps at his command, ordering him to reach Hoyerswerda on 19 May and to attack Bautzen’s positions on the 21st by enveloping the allies’ right.


Leaving a mask in front of Bülow who defended the direction of Berlin, Marshal Ney went south by the road to Luckau with the 3rd, 5th and 7th Corps.

On 19 May, Yorck’s division was jostled in front of Hoyerswerda by the 5th Corps and on 20 May we arrived at Hoyerswerda from where the enemy had withdrawn; that day the Emperor forced the crossings of the Spree, occupied Bautzen and driving back the enemy to a second position; he pushed his right forward to draw his opponents’ reserves to this side:  they reinforced their left, thus weakening their own right which was going to assail Ney’s army. The 3rd corps concentrated in Opitz: the battalion of fusiliers of the Guard, which remained in Hoyerswerda to ensure communications with the 7th Corps, did not rejoin until the evening of the 21st without taking part in the battle.

On the 21st, at eight o’clock in the morning, Ney moved forward; Marchand’s division crossed Klix, where another division fought in the morning: the earth was covered with dead and wounded Russians, we approached the battlefield.  At noon, we reached the crest of the windmill from which Barclay’s corps had been driven; Preititz was taken from the rear of Blücher’s army, but Souham could not hold on there against the desperate attack of the reunited Barclay and Kleist who succeed in reoccupying this village for a while… The Hessian brigade was maneuvering towards the west to deceive the enemy; the 7th Corps arrived, emerged behind the Hessians and immediately engages towards Baruth; at this moment, a wounded general officer who was taken from the battlefield passed in front of the fusiliers of Darmstadt and stopped to greet them: it was General Anthing who had them under his command in Rügen. At three o’clock, Preititz was retaken by Delmas’ division; Marchand’s troops crossed this village and marched on Klein-Bautzen where the Prussians were still covered by a large number of artillery, and from where they repelled all attacks. Ney was wounded in the foot: he walked through the ranks of his soldiers, wearing only one boot, with a silk stocking and a shoe… At the first shots of the cannons of the 7th Corps that could be heard behind the right of the enemy, the marshal exclaims: “Forward, my friends! Victory is ours!” — and he launched the Ricard Division on Klein-Bautzen, which attacked was accompanied by its musicians. The Hessians followed in reserve.  Despite losses, the position was won; the Hessians occupied it, – and soon the enemy withdrew into the mountains, covered by strong rearguards.

The Hessian Brigade would bivouac at Preititz, which was in flames – like 30 other villages on the battlefield; – the battalion of fusiliers of the Guard joined the brigade which was fed that evening with the meat of the oxen that had been found grilled alive in the burned-out stables.

The day after the victory, Marshal Ney’s 3rd Corps led the army, along with the Imperial Guard, and began the pursuit under the leadership of the Emperor. The 7th Corps drove Miloradovich back to Schöpp, then between Reichenbach and Markersdorf where a cannonball took General Kirgener and Marshal Duroc; Marchand’s division bivouacked at Weißenberg.

On the 24th, the whole army assembled before Gorlitz; it crossed the Neisse on the 25th.

The Maison Division was driven out of Haynau on the 27th by a Prussian cavalry corps: Marchand arrived in this town on the 28th, established himself there to ensure communications between Gorlitz and Liegnitz and went to the latter town on the 31st, leaving in Haynau the Hessian Fusiliers of the Guard.

The 2nd Battalion of the Hessian Guards, detached on 3 June at Passendorf on the road to Parswitz with 2 howitzers, was suddenly alarmed there:  a cloud of dust was advancing towards the village — where the battalion quickly took up its defensive positions, believing it a new attack of the Prussian cavalry: but it was only a false alarm; a herd of oxen had been brought by the French cavalry …

After the victory of Bautzen, the Beaumont cavalry division was attached to the 12th Corps (Oudinot) and charged by it to hold in check the corps of Bülow, reported to be on the left flank of the army. Oudinot therefore went to Luckau via Hoyerswerda; on the 27th, the Beaumont outposts (Hessian Light Horse and Westphalian Hussars) were attacked in front of Bergen near Hoyerswerda by General Borstell’s Prussian cavalry: supported by the French infantry, the German squadrons drove back the Prussians and returned to the positions they had previously had to abandon. Bülow unsuccessfully attacked Hoyerswerda on the 28th: ​Borstell’s and Oppen’s brigades, launched against the Laurencez and Pacthod divisions, were forced to withdraw.

Continuing his march on Luckau, Oudinot ran up against 16 battalions, 12 squadrons and 6 batteries that Bülow had assembled there (4 June); he entered the city but could not stay there and retired via Sonnenwald:  during this retreat movement the Prussian cavalry strongly pressed our columns and the 2 squadrons of Hessian light horse were badly handled: they ended up rallying behind a battery, then, returning to combat, taking 20 prisoners.

Pils recounts this last episode as follows:

In Luckau, the dragoons of Hesse-Darmstadt who were scouts returned at a gallop to lean on two battalions which were to support them:  one of them enveloped the dragoons and formed a square.  Oudinot only had time to mount his horse and enter the square that the 2nd Battalion had just formed, entirely made up of conscripts.’

‘The enemy cavalry arrived at the charge train …  It was the famous regiment of the Black Hussars, known as ‘of Death’ …  The Marshal was very astonished that such a seasoned cavalry did not penetrate such a loose square…’

Oudinot was heading for Herzberg when he learned, on 10 June of the conclusion of an armistice signed at Pläswitz.

II. The Armistice. The March on Berlin; Zahna fight; Battle of Jüterbog.

The French army had just reached the Bóber on 25 May, when the allies asked for an armistice which Napoleon unfortunately granted them: this measure was to be disastrous, because the Russians and the Prussians who reciprocally referred the responsibility for their successive failures were on the point of parting; the suspension of hostilities would allow, on the one hand, Austria to finally throw off the mask and enter with 200,000 soldiers in the ranks of the allies; on the other hand, for England, to pour out its gold on the continent to bribe our enemies; we were going to see all the old political hatreds, all the dynastic grudges skillfully exploited against us; the Tugendbund multiplied its propaganda; Moreau, the emulator of Bonaparte joined the staff of the allied sovereigns; finally Bernadotte , the former Marshal of the Empire, landed at the head of a corps of Swedes and received the command of one of the three great armies directed against France!

The Marchand’s division, during the armistice, quartered near Luben. On 19 June, the Hessian brigade received 30 crosses of the Legion of Honor to reward its services in Lützen. At the end of the month, Prince Emile announced to the provisional regiment of light infantry made up of the battalion of fusiliers of the Guard and the 1st Battalion of Fusiliers du Corps, that the Grand Duke, to show his satisfaction to these battalions, transformed them into a “Regiment of Fusiliers of the Hessian Guard”. Marshal Ney passing a review of the brigade on 30 June addressed him his compliments for the good barracks that he was able to build.

As the armistice was to end the day after the Emperor’s feast day, it was brought forward and celebrated on 10 August: each soldier received two francs and a double ration of food; artillery salutes, balls, fireworks, cries of ‘Vive l’Empereur!’ and ‘Vive le Grand-duc!’ – Nothing was lacking in the splendor of this celebration: Ave Cesar, morituri te salutant …(Hail Caesar, we who are about to die salute you!)

The Darmstadt light horse received cantonments in Lübbenau with the rest of the Beaumont Division which went on 24 June to Friedland (near Frankfurt-on-Oder); the Hessians were at Großlauthen on the Spree, opposite the Prussian outposts. During the armistice, the Emperor reviewed the division at Cottbus and Luben. On 13 August, at Großbeutel, 2 new squadrons of 5 officers, 333 men and 361 horses completed the Hessian Light Horse Regiment; Napoleon saw these two reinforcement squadrons as they passed through Dresden on 9 August.

On the 14th, General Beaumont inspected the division in its bivouacs south of Baruth; the Hessian light horse were recruited under the orders of General Wolf with a combined regiment of Bavarian light horse (Colonel von Seyssel d’Aix) and with the regiment of light horse of the Westphalian Guard (Colonel Berger). The strength of the brigade amounted to 1,187 horses.

The armistice expired on 16 August at midnight; the light horse of Darmstadt consequently received the order to occupy during the night of the 15th to the 17th the village of Zesch located in front of the outposts of General Borstell: they were surprised there by the Prussian Major von Cardell who attacked them with 3 infantry companies, 1 squadron of hussars and 1 squadron of Cossacks: the Hessians had 13 wounded in this engagement and left 62 prisoners and 83 horses in the hands of the enemy; the Bavarian cavalry regiment, attacked at the same time at Radeland, was not any happier and lost 3 officers and 75 horses.


Beaumont’s division was attached to the 12th Corps; this one, as well as the 4th (Bertrand), the 7th (Reynier) and the 3rd of cavalry (Arrighi) was placed under the orders of Marshal Oudinot who is in charge of marching on Berlin at the head of 70,000 men against the 90,000 soldiers by Bernadotte.












The Oudinot offensive began on 19 August. While the 12th and 7th Corps, as well as the Arrighi cavalry, were moving towards Luckenwalde and Schönefeld, the 4th Corps and General Wolf’s cavalry brigade remained in Baruth until the 21st:  Bertrand had sent a strong reconnaissance on the Zossen road of an Italian battalion and 2 squadrons, – 1 Hessian and 1 Westphalian, -which jostled Major Cardell’s Prussian outposts on the 19th at Lindenbrück (Jachzenbrück); on the 21st, the 4th Corps moved to Saalow and on the 22nd fought a happy fight in the village of Junsdorf. But the 7th Corps, isolated, was surprised, attacked and beaten on the 23rd by Bülow at Großbeeren: Reynier was picked up by the 12th Corps which arrived too late to prevent defeat; all of Oudinot’s army retreated on Wittenberg, the 4th Corps forming the rear guard; on 1 September, the 3 corps were in positions at Zahna, the Wolf Brigade behind the 4th, and the Hessian light horse at the outposts; the next day, these outposts were attacked by Russian Cossacks and dragoons supported by artillery: the Hessian cavalrymen fought on foot with their carbines, stopped the march of enemy squadrons, then mounted on horseback, charged their adversaries and forced their retirement; also Generals Beaumont and Wolf show their satisfaction to the Hessians for their good conduct in this fight, as a result of which Captain Boyneburg and Lieutenant Glock were promoted to the Legion of Honor.

Marshal Oudinot arrived on 2 September at Wittenberg and established himself behind this town, the 4th Corps on the right and General Wolf’s cavalry behind the center of this army corps: for the first time in fourteen days they had been riding Hessian light horse unsaddle their horses.

Ney replaced the unfortunate Oudinot in his command; he took over the movement on Berlin with the 4th, 7th and 12th Corps. On 5 September, ‘as in the heyday of Elchingen’, he brilliantly attacked and captured Zahna and Seyda: Tauentzien’s corps fell back on Jüterbog: that day, at half past eight in the morning, the Marshal was reviewing the Wolf Brigade when the shooting started; he immediately sent the Hessian light horse to support a battery; despite frequent changes of position, the regiment suffered from enemy artillery fire; the Colonel von Münchingen had his head carried off by a cannon ball, his ordinance and his second horse were also killed: the Hessian colonel was buried at the foot of a large tree, near the hamlet of Euper. Bubna’s lieutenant, who was then serving in the Hessian light horse regiment, left interesting memories of this campaign; he recounts this episode as follows:

When the colonel was killed, I was with him:  we were both mounted on white horses, and the trumpeter which accompanied us had a piebald horse:  it was very tempting for the enemy artillerymen…”

General Guilleminot, with the 12th Corps, having seized Zahna, the retreating enemy was followed at a trot by the Hessian and Westphalian light horse regiments which crossed a stream and were received on the other bank by fire from grape shot which put them in the greatest disorder and forced them to go back …  Finally, the Prussians retreated, the 12th Corps bivouacked at Seyda, the 7th at Zalmdorf, the 4th near Naundorf and the Wolf Brigade behind of this village.

The next day, 6 September, emerging from Dennevitz on Jüterbog, the 4th Corps fell on the Prussians of Tauentzien: the latter should have been crushed, – but Ney let the favorable moment pass, and Bülow sent Thümen’s division to support Tauentzien. Reynier, with the 7th Corps, came to the aid of Bertrand’s left; Ney then called the 12th Corps which instead of falling on Bülow’s right passed behind Reynier to support the 4th Corps; at this moment Bülow attacked on the whole line, the Borstell and Kraft divisions drove back the 7th Corps… The French army retreated to Torgau by Rohrbeck and Dahmne. During the execution of this movement, the regiment of light horse of Darmstadt, attacked by the Russian dragoons, was entirely dispersed and almost destroyed… Captain von Breidenbach collected with great difficulty 120 horses of the regiment and reached the 7th Siptitz, where Lieutenant Sommerlad joined him with 70 cavalry: the losses suffered by the regiment in the days of 5 and 6 September exceeded 150 men and 150 horses.

The army arrived in Torgau on 8 September; there, Marshal Ney tried to reorganize it; the 12th Corps was suppressed and Oudinot received command of the Young Guard.

Several officers of the Hessian cavalry had been taken on as orderly officers by French generals:  Lieutenant von Bubna recounts how he passed from General Beaumont’s staff to that of Marshal Oudinot:

‘…I was on reconnaissance and the bullets were whistling around me when I noticed that my horse was going to lose one of his shoes:  immediately dismounting, I reattached the shoe with a stone as well as it was possible for me, and I continued my reconnaissance.  An aide-de-camp, advancing towards me, then asked me my name, which was my regiment, and tells me to go find Marshal Oudinot who was very close to there, observing the movements of the troops and the enemy.  I came close to him, and he asked me the same questions as the aide-de-camp, asking me about the fights in which I took part and who sent me to reconnoiter; to my answer that it was General Beaumont, he replied that I had to warn this general officer that he was keeping me as an orderly officer near him; a high-ranking aide-de-camp added that I would bring six light horse with me as orderly horsemen.’

For a young officer like I was then, less than sixteen years old, it was a great pleasure to have been noticed by Marshal Oudinot, this famous warrior, and that my conduct had attracted his interest.  I owe this luck to the lessons of my late colonel, who had often told us that a good cavalry officer must take great care of his horse, approach the enemy with speed, retreat slowly, and remember that a horse that is kept clean is always ready for a new effort.’

‘General Morand was Marshal Oudinot’s chief of staff; the first aides-de-camp were two colonels, one of whom had only one leg and the other only one arm:  to these last were attached a captain named Helene; there were still five other aides-de-camp and several orderly officers in the staff; I was the only German.  The two colonels had accompanied the Marshal in almost all of his campaigns, and as the latter had a justified reputation for always being injured in every case, his entourage ran the same chances, and no one was surprised to live with these two cripples. Morand was the Marshal’s right-hand man.  He showed me a sort of hatred, because of the Marshal’s kindness towards me.  All the night rides, all the nasty missions were for me; when it was necessary to leave in these conditions, one turned to my side and everyone said:  “It’s the little German’s turn!”  For these rides, we often also took an escort.  In our report, it was necessary to say what we had noticed, to describe the ground, its practicability, to indicate the bridges, to say the nature of the banks; we were congratulated if we brought back a little sketch:  I learned how to do it, and I was often thanked …[3]

III. The command of Macdonald.

Before the rupture of the armistice, the Emperor had placed Marshal Ney with the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 11th Corps in front of the Army of Silesia established towards Breslau. The 1st, 2nd and 8th Corps were established in Bautzen; Napoleon himself was in Gorlitz with the Imperial Guard. The French corps were arranged in such a way that the Emperor could face the two threatened sides:  against the Austrians, by reinforcing Saint-Cyr (14th Corps) in Dresden by the group of Bautzen and the Guard; against Blucher, by supporting Ney with Gorlitz’s troops. The allies had agreed to encircle little by little the French army thanks to their enormous numerical superiority, to act offensively on all the points where Napoleon would not be in person, and to make a rapid retreat whenever he appeared in front of one of their armies.

While the Emperor was towards Bautzen with the 8th Corps, Blücher, violating the armistice, had moved forward and had thrown the 3rd and 5th Corps behind the Bóber; Napoleon rushed with the Imperial Guard and the cavalry reserves:  he resumed the offensive: the Army of Silesia, violently attacked, was thrown back beyond Katzbach and onto Jauer.  Marchand’s division, which had bivouacked at Thomaswald on 19 August, after the battle fought on this point by Albert’s division against Sacken’s corps, reached Bautzen on the 20th, where it was slightly engaged behind a division of the 6th Corps; the 1st Battalion of Fusiliers of the Hessian Guard received the mission to destroy the bridges over the Bóber to Eichberg:  but the offensive caused by the arrival of the Emperor occurred:  on the 21st, Maison with the head of the 5th Corps stopped the allies at Goldberg, the 3rd Corps fought the Russians and the Prussians at Bunzlau; Girard captured Bunzlau, Sébastiani crossed the Bóber and in the evening at four o’clock the Marchand Division crossed the city, pursuing Sacken’s corps in retreat.

In the meantime, the Emperor learned that the 200,000 Austrians in the Army of Bohemia have crossed the border and were marching on Dresden:  he left Macdonald in command of the 3rd, 5th and 11th Corps, -quickly resumed the road to Dresden with the Guard, the 6th Corps (Marmont) and the cavalry reserves, and under the walls of the capital of Saxony won a fine victory over Schwarzenberg on 26 and 27August.

Macdonald had the order to continue the offensive to hide the absence of the Emperor left for Dresden with Marshal Ney; Souham commanded the 3rd Corps; Marchand’s division was at Thomaswald on the 22nd, from where the 2nd Battalion of Fusiliers, detached to the Imperial Headquarters, also took the road to Dresden: this battalion would remain in charge of the escort of the Guard convoys and would no longer join the Hessian brigade. On the 23rd, Marchand was in Follendorf, on the 24th he fought against the Cossacks by moving to Bunzlau.

On the 26th, the battle of Katzbach took place: Macdonald marched on Goldberg with the 5th and 11th Corps, the 3rd Corps and Sébastiani’s cavalry to debouch from Liégnitz on the Prussians flank; but Blücher contained the Marshal’s frontal attack with part of his forces, — and at the head of the main body of his army he crushed the 3rd Corps, pushed back our cavalry, captured the isolated Pacthod Division at Hirschberg… Macdonald’s army was thrown back on Löwenberg and Bunzlau. Marchand’s division did not take part in the battle:  it remained in Hainau where it was summoned to surrender by a parliamentarian who was turned away; then it joined the army at Bunzlau after having forded, with a thousand dangers, the little Bóber swollen by the rains… The next day, the 27th it was the big Bóber whose floods must also be overcome… The army retreated to Gorlitz, – and Marchand, flanking its march, headed for Lauban and bivouacked on the 28th at Bartiz; it is the 29th on the Queis; Gorlitz was abandoned and the army reached Bautzen on 2 September. The 2nd Battalion of the Hessian Guards, detached to Knix to bring back food, was attacked in this village by the enemy cavalry:  a parliamentarian offered the Hessians to unite with the Germans against the French, otherwise they would be exterminated:  “The Hessians are not any defectors“, – replied the battalion commander, – “and they are ready to receive your attack with honor and glory!”[4]— The detachment was then fortunately rescued by the arrival of a company and a Hessian cannon, which allowed them to return without accident to Bautzen, marching in the formation ‘in square’.

The defeat of the Katzbach brought Napoleon back to Bautzen near Macdonald:  he brought with him the Guard, the 6th Corps, the cavalry of Latour-Maubourg and immediately resumed the offensive against Blücher; the latter soon recognized that he had the Emperor in front of him, and, following the agreed plan, immediately retreated, followed by the French to Löbau. Napoleon was recalled to Dresden by new movements of the Army of Bohemia:  he went there with the Guard and the 6th Corps, leaving Macdonald in Bautzen.

Towards the middle of August, the latter was obliged to abandon Bautzen and the line of the Spree; he was at Stolpen with his army reduced to 50,000 men. Blücher has approached the Elbe, crossed this river at Wartenburg, and reunited with Bernadotte, advancing towards Leipzig, while the Army of Bohemia joined by the Polish Reserve Army debouched in Saxony via Commatau.

The Emperor gathered his army on the 22nd, and the enemy still refused him battle. The Marchand Division, which passed to the 11th Corps since 8 September, is on the 23rd at Camenz; from 26 September to 2 October it occupied Rochwitz; Napoleon reviewed it: it was the last time he sees the Hessians; he left them 20 crosses of the Legion of Honor.

Marchand led his 2 brigades to Dresden (2 October); then he brings them back to Trachau, on the right bank of the Elbe, an hour and a half from the capital of Saxony; the Hessian regiments of the Guard and du Corps reconnoitered towards Meissen (3 and 4 October) and the entire division then moved to Königsbrück (5th and 6th), leaving only the fusiliers of the Guard to hold Trachau. The Imperial Guard and part of the 11th Corps then moved against Blücher to throw him back on the right bank of the Elbe:  the Hesso-Baden Division took part in this movement, arrived at Meissen whose wooden bridge had been broken: it could not cross the left bank except on a hastily built makeshift bridge.

The Emperor wanted to put an end to Blücher: leaving in Dresden the 11th Corps (Gouvion-Saint-Cyr) and the 1st (Lobau), – and in front of the Army of Bohemia Lauriston (5th Corps), Victor and the Poles, – he rushed north with 150,000 men:  the Guard, the 11th Corps (Macdonald), the 6th (Marmont, the 7th (Reynier) and the 4th (Bertrand). They arrived at Oschatz (7 October), at Dahlen (8th) and Probsthain (9th):  Blücher slipped away again; Napoleon would march on Berlin, he reached Wiedenhain on the 10th, Pretsch and Düben on the 11th; Ney and Reynier attacked Tauentzien and Thümen at Zerbst, and the Hessians heard their cannon:  the greatest results may depend on this maneuver by Napoleon… And now a dramatic change occurred: the Emperor learns on the 13th of Bavaria’s defection … It is no longer a question of an offensive, or of victory, but the salvation of the army and even of the Empire. The order was given to retreat to Leipzig by Düben… Berlin was saved. The whole French army was concentrated around Leipzig.

[1] The Emperor to Marshal Ney. Trianon, 20 March 1813.

[2] Bigge gives the following figures for the losses of the Hessian fusiliers at Lützen:  18 killed, 200 wounded, 230 missing.

[3] Zimmermann, p. 194.

[4] Kosterus, p. 61.