Eylau: Precis Des Travaux de la Grande Armée
Battle of Eylau
At the point of the day, the enemy began the attack with a sharp cannonade on the town of Eylau and division Saint-Hilaire.
The Emperor went to the position of the church that the enemy had defended so much the day before. He advanced the corps of the marshal Augereau, and cannonaded the hillock with forty pieces of artillery of his guard, a terrible cannonade engaged on both sides.
The Russian army line in columns was within half-range of the guns; any blow struck. It appeared one moment, by the movements of the enemy, that impatiently suffered so much, it wanted to outflank our left. At the same time, the tirailleurs of the marshal Davoust were heard, and arrived at the rear of the enemy army; the corps of the marshal Augereau came out towards the enemy, and, thus drawing its attention, to prevent it from going entirely against the corps of the marshal Davoust. The Saint-Hilaire division came out to the right, one and the other having to maneuver to meet up with the marshal Davoust: hardly had the corps of the marshal Augereau and Saint-Hilaire division emerged, than a thick snow covered the two armies, such as one could not distinguish two steps ahead.
In this darkness, the point of direction was lost, and the columns, bearing too far on the left, drifted uncertainly. This desolate darkness lasted half an hour. At the time it cleared up, the grand-duke of Berg, at the head of his cavalry, being supported by the marshal Bessières at the head of the guard turned around the Saint-Hilaire division, and fell on the enemy army: a daring operation, if ever there were, which covered the cavalry with glory, and which had become necessary in the circumstance where our columns were found. The enemy cavalry, which wanted to oppose to this operation, was routed; the massacre was horrible. Two lines of Russian infantry were broken; the third resisted only while having a wood to their back. Squadrons of the guard passed through the whole enemy army twice.
This brilliant and unprecedented charge that had routed more than 20 thousand infantrymen, and had obliged them to give up their pieces, would have at once decided the victory had not there been the wood and some difficulties of terrain. The general of division d’Hautpoult was wounded by grapeshot. The general Dalhmann, commanding the chasseurs of the guard, and a good number of his intrepid soldiers died with glory. As for the 100 dragoons, cuirassiers or soldiers of the guard which one found on the battle field, one found surrounding them there more than a thousand enemy corpses. This part of the battlefield was a horror to be seen. During this time, the corps of the marshal Davoust emerged behind the enemy. The snow, which several times in the course of the day darkened at times, also delayed his march and the whole of his columns.
The harm to the enemy is immense, that which we endured is considerable. Three hundred pieces of ordnance have vomited death on both sides during twelve hours. The victory, a long time uncertain, was decided and gained when the marshal Davoust emerged on the plateau and overran the enemy, who, after having made vain efforts to take it, beat a retreat. At the same time, the corps of the marshal Ney emerged by Altorff on the left, and pushed in front of him the remainder of the Prussian column that had escaped the combat at Deppen. It took its placed in the evening at the village of Schnaditten; and by that the enemy was so tight between the corps of the marshals Ney and Davoust, that fearing to see its rear-guard compromised, it resolved, at 8 o'clock in the evening, to retake the village of Schendaditten. Several Russian grenadier battalions, the only ones that had not been used, appeared at this village; but the 6th. regiment of light infantry let them approach to point-blank range and put it all to rout. The following day the enemy continued to the river of Frischling. He withdrew himself beyond the Prégel. He gave up on the battlefield sixteen pieces of cannon and his casualties. All the houses of the villages that it passed through in the night, are filled by them.
The marshal Augereau was wounded by a ball. The Generals Desjardins, Heudelet, Lochet, were wounded. The General Corbineau was swept away by a ball. Colonel Lacuée, of the 63rd., and colonel Lemarois, out of the 43rd., were killed by balls. Colonel Bouvières, of the 11th. regiment of dragoons, did not survive his wounds. All died with glory. Our combined loss is exactly 1900 dead and 5700 wounded, among which a thousand, which are serious will be out of service. All dead were buried in the day of the 10th. One counted on the battlefield 7 thousand Russians.
Thus the offensive expedition of the enemy, the purpose of which was to go on Thorn while overrunning the left of the Grand-Army, was disastrous to him. Twelve to fifteen thousand prisoners, as many men out of combat, eighteen flags, forty-five pieces of cannon are the trophies too dearly paid without doubt for the blood of so many brave men.
Small nuisances at the time, which would have appeared light in all other circumstances, opposed the combinations of the French General much. Our cavalry and our artillery made wonders. The horse guard was unsurpassed, it is well to say. The foot guard was all the day with guns at arm, under the fire of a terrible grapeshot, without drawing a blow from musket, nor to make any movement. The circumstances were not such that it had to be used. The wound of the Augereau marshal was also an unfavorable accident, while leaving, during the most extreme part of the fray, his army corps without a head able to direct it.
This account is the general idea of the battle. It is done without the facts, which honor the French soldier: an enormous task to collect them.
Consumption of canon ammunition was considerable; it was much less than ammunition of infantry.
The eagle of one of the battalions of the 18th. regiment was not recovered; she probably fell into the hands from the enemy. One does not provide a reproach for this regiment because of it; it is, in the position where it was, an accident of war; the Emperor will return to them another at any time when it takes a flag from the enemy.
This expedition is finished; the beaten enemy is thrown a hundred miles from the Vistula. The army will take up again its cantonments, and will return to its winter-quarters.
END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
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