Research Subjects: Biographies

A.-H. Baron de Jomini in 1813: the Rubicon Crossed

By Eman Vovsi

Even when the full extent of the catastrophe to the Grande Armée in Russia was known to Europe, few could have predicted that the year 1813 would see the beginning of collapse of the Napoleonic Empire.  The Russian army had suffered nearly as much as the French, and arrived at the Niemen with barely forty thousand effectives.[1]  However, the Russian Tsar Alexander received unexpected encouragement when General Hans David von Yorck, commander of the Prussian corps, signed on his own initiative a convention of neutrality at Taurroggen on December 30, and Carl von Schwarzenberg withdrew his Austrian contingent from the Grande Armée.  Yielding to his patrons, the Prussian king Fredrick William III signed a treaty of alliance with Russia at Kalish on 28 February 1813 and authorized the calling out of the Landwehr.[2]  By the beginning of March, the remnants of the French army left in command of Prince Eugène had to retire behind the Elbe, waiting reinforcements raised by the Emperor Napoléon against the amassing forces of the Sixth Coalition.        

In the middle of January 1813 Baron de Jomini returned home after the disastrous Russian campaign, where he briefly held posts of the Governor of Vilna and the Military Commandant of Smolensk, although in both cases unsuccessfully.  Already on 29 January 1813 Jomini had sent a letter to the War Ministry asking its head Henri Clarke, Duke de Feltre, for a new assignment, specifying that he hoped to find a “fair employment under the orders of His Highness the Prince Eugène, or maréchal duc d’Elchingen (Ney).”[3]  However, the poor health of Jomini delayed his new appointment for three months.  Only on 21 March was he required to arrive at Frankfurt-on-Maine where he was assigned to a post at the General Staff of the resurrected Grande Armée.[4]          

Once out of Russia, the French army quickly began rebuilding itself around the cadres of veterans who survived the invasion supplemented with numerous depot battalions.[5]   Napoléon drew troops from Italy and Spain, transferred the National Guard to the active army, and scrapped the depots in France as well as the garrisons of Germany for every soldier who could carry a musket.  The men drawn from the depots were quickly organized into provisional companies, which marched to the frontiers and, while en route, were issued arms and uniforms.  Their training was completed on their way to the frontier, where they were reorganized into provisional bataillons and squadrons, which soon were formed into corps and armies led by the most prominent commanders. 

The Emperor began the task of reorganizing the field armies with the establishment of the Corps d’Observation de l’Elbe.  Its 1st Corps was formed under orders of maréchal Ney around Mainz in March and consisted of four divisions totaling sixty bataillons.  The 2nd Corps under maréchal Marmont began by concentrating three divisions around Mainz between late- May and early-April.[6]  Additional corps’ were formed from French allies; the 7th Corps consisted of Saxons, the Imperial Guard was reconstructed around the survivors of the Russian campaign, the new draftees, and veterans transferred from Spanish Peninsula.

By the end of April Prince Eugène held the line between Dresden and Hamburg.  Along with the Imperial Guard and the troops that survived the Russian campaign led by général de division François Roguet, Eugène’s force numbered 73,000 men but its quality was mixed.  The second major force was under maréchal Davout, located on the lower Elbe.  A third army was forming and consisted of the 1st and 2nd Corps d’Observation under maréchaux Ney and Marmont, respectively, the Corps d’Observation d’Italie under général de division Henri-Gatien Count Bertrand, and finally, the Imperial Guard.[7]  These corps’ were reorganized, equipped and assigned new commanders and staff personnel.  On 25 April 1813 Maréchal Ney 1st Corps d’Observation was transformed into the new 3rd Corps.  In total, Ney’s corps consisted of 48,658 infantry, 1,767 cavalry and 39 pieces of ordnance.[8]  He slowly moved his force through south Germany, imposing French will on the populations of Franconia and Thuringia; it served to menace France’s wavering allies in Bavaria and Saxony. 

All of Napoléon’s plans evolved in the following terms: if, at the moment of the resumption of operations, the French were still masters of the Elbe, they would cross at Magdeburg and march to the north towards Küstrin, Stettin and Danzig.  If the Allies were to cross the Elbe at Dresden, it would be necessary that they first be pushed back across the Elbe, but only after the Grande Armée contemplated a march on Dantzig.  Furthermore, at the beginning of May, the French Emperor expected from Ney’s 3rd Corps to cover area at Würtzburg, Erfurt and Leipzig.  Napoléon presumed that at the same time the allied army would be still to the east of the Elbe, stretching between Danzig and Glogau.[9]                     

But the retreat of the Prince Eugène to the Elbe forced the Emperor to alter his plan until the Vice-roy’s troops could join the main army.  “I think the first point is to reach Leipzig… and the main thing at this moment is to form a junction,” wrote Napoléon to maréchal Ney.[10] Hopefully, this junction would finally take place at the beginning of May at the triangle south and west of Leipzig, between the cities of Lützen and Altenberg.  

The Allies were under orders of the Russian General Count Wittgenstein who took overall command after the death of Field Marshal Kutusov on 13 April 1813.  The Tsar Alexander closely supervised his commander-in-chief and constantly interfered with his decisions.  As a result, in the Battle at Lützen on 2 May, Napoléon defeated the Russo-Prussian army and compelled it to retreat.[11]  The major pressure was launched upon maréchal Ney’s troops who held out, counterattacking vigorously, until Napoléon arrived with reinforcements.  Ney’s corps alone lost nearly 12,000 men including his Chief of staff, général de brigade Louis-Anne-Marie Gouré.[12]     

On 4 May by the order of the Emperor to Minister of War, Clarke, général de brigade Jomini was appointed the new Chief of staff of the 3rd Corps under maréchal Ney.[13]  He joined Ney at Leipzig; neither of them showed much pleasure to see each other, especially Ney, remembering how he “delicately” got rid of Jomini in Spain (in May 1809, Ney sent Jomini with military reports to the Emperor, while sending, almost immediately, a second currier, asking Napoleon to reassign Jomini).  Jomini was still considered a foreigner, a “mercenary”, even though he was in the French service and wore the French uniform for seven years.  But now, for the sake of the Empire and new glory, both Ney and Jomini dismissed their previous disagreements and Jomini assumed his new post.  Marching from Leipzig to Torgau, maréchal Ney’s corps crossed the Elbe on 11 May.  The famous flanking maneuver that Napoléon performed by means of Ney’s troops and the following Battle of Bautzen, 20-21 May 1813, merits attention because it shows in detail the performance of Jomini as corps’ Chief of staff, which is usually omitted.   

Each army corps of the Grande Armée of 1813 was, in effect, a miniature army and as such capable of engaging independently based on the Emperor’s needs and strategic decisions.  It consisted of various numbers of infantry divisions, one division of cavalry (or occasionally, only a brigade), artillery batteries, supporting services and staff.[14]  Jomini, as maréchal Ney’s Chief of staff headed the general bureau, which consisted of military-administrative, troop movements, police and topographical departments.  In his care were also civil administration (postal services, paymasters, hospitals etc.), gendarmerie, train and orderly officers.  Finally, he was also responsible for the proper functioning of artillery and engineering parcs and materiel.[15]  Serving as Ney’s Chief of staff in Spain in 1808, Jomini performed some of these functions, although not for a long.  True, he never commanded troops in battle, but his service at the Imperial Headquarters, and later on the line of communications in Russia following his successful reconnaissance missions during the Berezina crossing gave Jomini practical knowledge of warfare and administrative experience, however, brief.  But now the scale and character of the war were quite different. 

The exact composition of Napoléon’s General Staff has changed from time to time, but the Staff as it existed during the spring of 1813 is considered indicative of the Imperial Headquarters during the First Empire.  Maréchal Berthier had little influence in shaping the strategical or tactical decisions of the Emperor, but he still continued to control the staff personnel of the various corps.  To that extend, the position of général de brigade Jomini, as maréchal Ney’s 3rd Corps Chief of staff, in some way, reflected the situation of that of the Imperial Headquarter.  Generally, duties of the corps’ chief of staff were “to copy his superior instructions, to give movement-orders and those concerning the administration, to superintend the muster-rolls, the organization, the staff personnel and finally, to carry out the active duties of war near the commander.”[16]  It also required coordinating all staff activities and directing routine affairs via numerous correspondence, and massive paperwork.[17]  With the further development and mobility of warfare, chief of staff of a corps expedited the decisions of the commander.  Thus, Jomini assisted Ney in executing the responsibilities of command in preparing of orders based upon the maréchal decisions, which were based on the orders issued from the Imperial Headquarters and sent by maréchal Berthier.  Coping Napoléon’s orders verbatim, Berthier only added the typical preamble   “The Emperor orders you…”[18] before orders were sent in all directions to maréchaux or their respective staffs.    

In almost all biographical works on Jomini, it is usually stated that he played a crucial role in the forthcoming maneuver.  His first biographer, Lecomte, wrote that Jomini “perceiving the Emperor’s intention, persuaded Ney not to move on Berlin” as previously intended, but to stop and concentrate his troops; further, it appears that Jomini advised Ney on a decisive tactical move in the course of battle.[19]  It sounds profound, but Lecomte did not supply any facts to support his statement.  By the time this was written in the 1860s, Jomini’s influence as military theorist was uncontested; so Lecomte’s claim became an immutable truth for numerous publications.  It appeared in most Russian pre-revolutionary books and encyclopedias on 1813 campaign.  The new biographies on Jomini written by Courville and Baqué along with David Chandler’s monumental work also seem to accept it.[20]  In our days, the Russian historians and distant relatives of Jomini, the Mertzalovs, gave it greater emphasis once again.[21]  However, a diligent examination of primary sources on Napoléon’s flanking maneuver and role of Jomini as maréchal Ney’s Chief of staff both suggest a revision of this statement.

Only on 15 May did the Emperor obtain the reliable information that the Allies were retreating in two parallel columns towards Breslau: the Prussians to the north through Colditz, Dobelin and Meissen, the Russians to the south.  The two armies had converged at Bautzen, where they had stopped, concentrating for the battle.[22]  Now that communications were opened, Napoléon began moving both flanks towards Bautzen.  The maréchal Ney had at his disposal his own 3rd Corps, nearly 52,000 strong.  He was given overall command over the 5th Corps under général de division Lauriston, 22,000 men; 7th Corps under général de division Reynier, 10,000 men; 2nd Corps under maréchal Victor, 12,000 men and 2nd Cavalry Corps under général de division Horace-François Sébastiani, 3,150 men.[23]

Moving with the main forces from Dresden to Bautzen, on 16 May, the Emperor decided not to send Ney to Bautzen via the shortest route, but to move his troops on Hoyerswerda.[24]   It would appear that Napoléon feared that Ney’s appearance on the main road would chase the Allies back and prevent the decisive battle.

Chief of staff Jomini and his capitaines-adjoints (aide-de-camps staff assistants) immediately were overwhelmed with work – masses of troops, horses, endless trains and carriages, artillery batteries – were all on the move.  However, his staff did not receive the aforementioned Emperor’s order to Ney until 19 May.  Establishing his Headquarters at Luckau, Ney received the second order that directed him to move with Lauriston’s corps on Hoyerswerda, which now approached Luckau by a parallel road and to send Victor with Reynier and Sébastiani towards Berlin, covered by Prussians under General Frederick-Wilhelm von Bülow.  Ney reacted immediately and via Jomini sent appropriate directions to Victor and ordering Reynier to stop at Luckau.  His corps was last in the echelon of the concentrating troops.[25]

Already by the morning of 17 May, Napoléon seems to have reconsidered Ney’s original movements and redirected him to use the corps of Victor and Reynier and cavalry corps of Sébastiani as seemed most appropriate.  He did, however, clearly indicate to Ney that he anticipated a Battle at Bautzen.[26]  Ney ordered Jomini to change marching instructions to Reynier and Victor once again and to direct these two corps’ via Khalau and Hoyerswerda.[27]  Even though his aides-de-camp set off with new orders immediately, enough time was lost to prevent arrival of these forces on the battlefield to take a decisive part in the coming battle.

Napoléon, following instructions given to Ney, ordered him to move directly towards the main army rather than to make an additional maneuver.  As a result, his 3rd Corps was to swing to the left across the Spree into a flanking position on the Allied right at the last possible moment. It was not until noon on 19 May, when Jomini’s staff received the Emperor’s orders to Ney, issued at 10:00 a.m. on 18 May, that the true positions of the Allies was on the east bank of the Spree.[28]

The city of Bautzen is situated on the right bank of the Spree River.  At that time, it contained from 7,000 to 8,000 inhabitants and was surrounded by a crenellated wall.  The Spree flowed at the foot of the walls of the city but was not particularly deep or wide and presented no major obstacle.  Parallel to the Spree, about two miles east, flows the Blöser-Wasser with major towns of Kreckwitz and Preitiz upstream.  This stream was unexceptional and of no obstacle either, but its marshy bed was not easily passable and provided excellent protection for the plains due east.  The main road from Bautzen goes to Weissenberg via Würschen while the road to Hochkirch ran across the Blöser-Wasser stream.[29]  

Napoléon’s plan was to have a battle in two stages; the first day would be given to the capture of the advance line of the Allied position at Bautzen.  Then a direct onslaught on the second line was to be combined simultaneously with a flank attack by maréchal Ney who, coming up the Spree, would strike at the end of the line and attempt to turn it.  For this purpose Ney with 60,000 troops of combined corps had been engaged in the wide covering movement on Hoyerswerda town, some twenty miles down the river.  The total strength of the French forces was nearly 200,000 and they were facing about 110,000 Russians and Prussians.[30] 

After engagements at Klix on mid-day of 19 May with the corps under Lauriston, the Allied advance guard, realizing the size of the advancing main French forces, fell back to the main army.  The Russian commander General of Infantry Barclay de Tolly took up a position in the meadow beyond the Prussian army on the extreme right flank of the defense line facing the approaching Ney.[31]  Ney’s next aim was the town of Königswartha; halting for the night in the small village of Markendorf, Ney instructed Jomini to send orders to all the corps of his army, and especially to Reynier’s, to rush to that point of concentration.[32]      

On the next day, 20 May Napoléon launched his attack on the front line.  Although the Russians offered strong resistance at Bautzen itself, by evening the city and the whole line was in the hands of the French.  With the approaching corps of Ney and Lauriston, the real battle was still to be fought the next day on the second line, fortified by the Allies with redoubts and powerful artillery.  Arriving at Brehmen, Ney and his staff found divisions of his 3rd Corps on a plateau with a magnificent view of the battlefield.  Establishing their Headquarters in Klix, the French slept around the town, or bivouacking in the open.  Ney’s chief of staff Baron de Jomini and his aide-de-camps obviously worked all night preparing maps, troop dispositions and sending the last orders for tomorrow’s battle.  From his previous service under Ney in 1805 and further in 1807-09, Jomini should have remembered the maréchal instructions for the day of battle when “all major orders and instructions [from the Emperor Napoléon] shall be given to commander-in-chief [maréchal Ney] via aides-de-camp of his own staff.”[33]

Overall, Napoléon’s plans were simple.  He wished to continue his overt attempt to turn the Allied left while his center remained stationary, holding them in place.  As this happened, Ney and Lauriston were to attempt a sweeping flanking maneuver from the north and turn Barclay’s right flank. [34]  Ney was in an admirable position to make his way from Klix and by reaching Hochkirch, a village situated directly in behind the Prussian sector, would separate their troops under command of Gebhard von Blücher from the Russians.  By pushing across the Spree with his troops, Napoléon intended cutting Blücher off from the rest of the Allied army and destroying him in detail.[35]              

Ney opened the battle at dawn on 21 May by crossing the Spree at Klix and advancing on the rear of Blücher.  At the same time Napoléon waited until the sound of canon would indicate that Ney had progressed near the villages of Preititz and Klein-Bautzen.  Then he would deliver the smashing blow of a frontal attack on Blücher, synchronizing with Ney’s movement.  Ney, started his march on time with his first main objective the Galina windmill, located in the heart of the valley of the Blöser-Wasser.  Prior to the major attack, the Russians withdrew their forces on Preititz and prepared to meet four French divisions.[36]

It was approximately 10:00 a.m. when Ney’s aide-de-camp returned from the Imperial Headquarter with the following order (marked by 8:00 a.m.) from Berthier:

The intention of the Emperor is that you always follow the movements of the enemy.  His Majesty had advised your officier d’état-major [staff officer] of the enemy’s position protected by redoubts.  The intention of the Emperor is that you be in the village of Preititz at 11:00 a.m. Move on the extreme right of the enemy.  Once the Emperor would see you engaged at Preititz, we should attack the enemy at all points.[37]   

It was the only one of two confirmed orders that the Emperor sent to Ney during the entire course of the battle.  Chief of staff Jomini was, or should have been nearby the maréchal; a two-hours gap between Napoléon’s issuance of the order and its actual delivery gave Jomini the flexibility to provide his own interpretation of the maneuver, that is “ to the direct march [of Ney’s troops] on the spires of Hochkirch.”[38]  To support his claim, Jomini further stated that “instructions did not reach [Ney] on time and were of rather too general a character.  The officer [Ney’s aide-de-camp] who carried this [Napoléon’s] note made a long detour by Klix in the hopes of finding the maréchal there.”[39]  This statement by Jomini seems questionable, because

Ney started his attack at 4:30 a.m. and by 10:00 a.m. had passed Klix.[40]  Perhaps, the plan of pressing on Hochkirch appeared to Jomini to be reminiscent of the Seven Years’ War he so eloquently wrote about in his Traité de grandes opérations militaires; in the same area, on 14 October 1758, Frederick the Great engaged the Austrian army.               

By 10:00 a.m. Ney already had reached Preititz.  The Russians were retreating and taking up position on the height of the right bank of the Blöser-Wasser stream.  There, Barclay de Tolly effectively stopped the advance of two divisions of Lauriston’s corps under Ney’s command, which had moved in that directions.  About this time, reinforcements sent by Blücher arrived and were moved to block the French advance at Preititz; the Prussians attacked and recaptured the village.[41]         

Upon hearing the firing at Preititz, Napoléon gave the signal for the main frontal attack.  Three divisions under orders of général de division Henri-Gatien Count Bertrand fell upon Blücher; one of those divisions reached the village of Kreckwitz on the Blöser-Wasser and was thus able to support Ney.[42]  At that moment, around 1:00 p.m., the Emperor sent his officier d’ordonnance (orderly officer) Désiré Chalpowski with an oral order: “go to Ney and tell him to hurry up and attack with everything he has got.”[43]

Chalpowski found the maréchal “in the thick of the firing, among his infantry columns that had been repulsed and were reforming to try again.  I repeated [to Ney] the Emperor’s message.”[44]  It is noteworthy that Chalpowski transmitted the order directly to Ney and not to his Chief of staff, Jomini.  Moreover, he did not even notice presence of any of maréchal Ney’s suite.  Everything appeared as the Emperor and his Chief of Staff Berthier once had planned: orders were sent directly to the commander-in-chief for an initial execution.  However, it is very possible that Jomini was somewhere nearby and could overhear the order; furthermore he could advise Ney to press on Hochkirch to complete the maneuver, but there is no factual evidence to support this statement except for Jomini’s own statement.

Blücher, having exhausted his reserves, could not hold any longer; with the Russians on the other side of the valley and Ney between them, he was left unsupported.  Maréchal Ney was in the position to strike at the flank of the Blücher retreating columns, but for some unknown reason “the bravest of the brave” relented and stopped at Preititz; he decided not to advance beyond the Blöser-Wasser stream.  Perhaps he was concerned about the sufficient masses of the Allied cavalry and artillery batteries that he saw on the far bank.  Analyzing the battle postfactum as a historian, Jomini noted that as Ney had only 600 light cavalry, it is possible to assume that this might have been the principal reason for his hesitation.[45]  Finally, there was also some confusion that appears to have confounded the French ranks when Ney and Bertrand’s troops converged.   However, Ney’s report to the Emperor indicates that the maréchal understood the general intention and his own mission quite well.[46] 

Nonetheless the battle was won.  Activities for Jomini ended at Klein-Bautzen; from there, at 4:00 p.m. he sent maréchal Ney’s last battle order to Reynier, to direct his corps towards the town of Würschen.[47]  At 7:00 p.m. Ney, Reynier and Lauriston all met there.  Jomini and his staff immediately began paperwork on the battle outcome, which lasted all evening and most of the night.  According to the roster, the 3rd Corps lost 4,362 killed, 5,841 wounded and 136 taken prisoner.[48]  On the next day, 22 May, in accordance with the Emperor’s order, Jomini issued a general direction to all of Ney’s troops to march on Reichembach.  Pleased with Jomini’s performance, Ney asked the Emperor to promote him to the grade of the général de division.[49] 

At 7:00 a.m. 7th Corps under Reynier and the 1st Cavalry Corps under général de division Latour-Maubourg had begun their movement on Reichembach.  Lauriston’s 5th Corps was on their left, the Imperial Guard and 6th Corps under maréchal Auguste de Marmont followed Reynier, while maréchal Ney moved his 3rd Corps and staff to Weissenberg.[50]  The Allies fell back towards Gorlitz in two columns in which they had fought – Blücher and Barclay along one road, the Tsar, his Guards and the rest of the troops along the other, with the main direction on Breslau.[51]

The last three months of Jomini’s career under French banners seems rather vague and appears in bits and pieces, but using reports, general troops movements and archival documents, it is possible to reconstruct its general chronological trend.  Following his commander-in-chief maréchal Ney, Jomini and his staff appeared in the ranks of the 3rd Corps performing routine tasks, completing paperwork, and issuing marching orders.  On May 26, he could probably witness the clash of personalities between maréchaux Ney and Marmont over subordination and marching direction.[52]  Then, during the ensuing Battle of Hainau, one of Ney’s units, Lauriston’s 5th Corps, inadvertently fell into a trap laid by the Allied cavalry where the maréchal himself along with his chief of staff were nearly captured.[53]   On 29 May the 3rd Corps moved to Liegnitz and then was directed towards Breslau. Maréchal Ney instructed Jomini to send certain marching orders to Reynier, not knowing that the Emperor had his own disposition for Reynier’s 5th Corps.  When this order of Ney’s chief of staff was countered by Berthier and redirected, Ney’s tender sensibilities were wounded by Berthier’s oversight in not communicating it to him.[54]  In this fit of childish rage, Jomini, as Ney’s Chief of staff, also shared the burden of guilt.  Thus, mainly from this episode (and not earlier) comes the real source of displeasure of Berthier towards Jomini.

The spring campaign was coming to an end.  On the 1-2 June maréchal Ney moved his Headquarters from the Breslau area back to Liegnitz.[55]  While en route, Jomini met his old superior, former General Governor of Lithuania, Dirk von Hogendorp.  Describing in his mémoires the meeting with Ney, von Hogendorp, with a bit of surprise, pointed towards Jomini.   “What do you expect?”, Ney responded.  “My chief of staff was killed, so I should have taken whoever was available.”[56]   Obviously, the friction between Ney and Jomini grew, mainly, because of correspondence between the Imperial Headquarters and Ney’s staff toward Reynier’s corps.

Finally on 4 June 1813 the Armistice of Plasswitz was signed between France, Russia and Prussia giving both sides a breathing space.[57]  Maréchal Ney and his staff were at that time in Liegnitz; from there, on 14 June Jomini sent a letter to the Minister of War, Clarke, requesting a lost letter officially appointing him as Ney’s chief of staff.[58]  Jomini and his assistants continued their everyday duties of which the priority was to supply the Emperor with the most recent Situation sommaire des troups (summary of troop dispositions).[59]

Maréchal Berthier and his staff proper had routine responsibilities of personnel administration while in the field.  Based on muster reports received from the corps staffs’, this information updated both the Emperor and his General Staff on the state of each unit’s manpower during any week.   Based on a circular, issued on 29 November 1806 and directed to all corps’ chiefs of staffs, Berthier demanded that during “operations the situation on the troops shall be submitted every five days; two general reports, issued on the first and fifteenth of each month in two copies, should be also completed.”[60]

To that extend, it is strange to read Jomini’s letter to his friend Monnier, sent on 17 June from Liegnitz where he complains that Berthier began his “miserable cavils”:

I was a little late in sending the fifteenth-days report on the state of troops.  But it is just a mere formality, which is not of a major importance [emphases added].  It happened because I did not receive on time the report from General Souham’s division, composed of various provisional regiments… Another incrimination against me is that I sent one officer back to Dresden, who did not deserve the honor of belonging to the staff.  A great crime, do you think not?

How could I expect that after all these squabbles the Emperor could yet think of me … and he agreed to confirm maréchal [Ney’s] recommendation for promotion?  If, instead of an award I am being insulted, that is way too much; it requires lots of selflessness to overcome all this.[61]

The prediction of Jomini came true when on 20 June he received a letter from Berthier demanding the report on the general situation regarding the 3rd Corps.  It was further added that “the Emperor ordered … to put this information in the order of the army; he also expressed his displeasure on such negligence by which you carry out your duties”.[62]  No doubt this caused Jomini great stress and hurt his pride.

Based on Napoléon’s own recollection during his exile on St.-Hélène as depicted by Emmanuel-Augustin Las Cases, “[an] order of the day was issued to arrest Jomini on the charge of not having sent certain information on the 3rd Corps in time”.[63]  However, the arrest did not occur, but such an incident gave life to the long-lived legend of Berthier’s persecution of Jomini who, at this instant, simply expedited orders issued by the Emperor Napoléon himself.  As a result of this, Jomini was deprived of his long-desired promotion to the rank of the général de division, recommended by maréchal Ney to reward the most distinguished personnel of his Corps.  Nonetheless, another of Ney’s requests for the Legion of Honor for his staff went through; on 10 August 1813 in Dresden, Napoléon signed a decree awarding Jomini an officier de la Légion d’honneur, along with seven other staff officers.[64]   

By surprising coincidence, none of the distinguished biographers and historians ever mentioned this award.[65]  Most of them emphasized the unworthiness of Jomini’s promotion thus fueling more tension in the relationship between Jomini and Berthier, which as established above, was mere a professional in nature.  But it is also due to the fact that Napoléon’s four-page decree of 10 August 1813 with the names of awardees of those promoted was (and still is) misfiled in the Archives Nationales in Paris; by an accident, a group of decrees and minutes related to August of 1813 was attached together with those of August of 1812.  Currently, the data base of the French Ministry of Culture, LEONORE, reveals the proper documentation.

But, apparently, unaware on his decoration, getting more upset, especially when he was reprimanded for neglecting his duties, Jomini decided on a final step.  In a letter to Monnier dated 13 August, Jomini explained his further motive:  

Finally, I reached the limit of my endurance.  Just now a courier arrived bringing up the list of confirmed promotions; no less than six hundred men from our [3rd] Corps received signs of satisfaction and glory.  Only he who, by his own maréchal admittance was, more than anyone promoting the victory, left aside!  Tomorrow, alas! I will abandon these ungrateful banners where I found so much humiliation, which in no way I deserve for my part![66]

On the morning of 14 August 1813, général de brigade Antoine-Henri Baron de Jomini appeared on the lines of the Prussian positions where he asked to be directed to Prague, the Headquarters of Tsar Alexander I.[67]  It is difficult to analyze with precise exactitude Jomini’s motives; deprivation of deserved promotion, order of arrest (if ever issued), and general displeasure with his superiors all merit consideration.  But mainly, Jomini saw the negative outcome of events; earlier, on 8 August the Allies delivered an announcement ending the Plasswitz Armistice; on 10 August Austria declared war against France.[68]  Also for Jomini, the military theorist and historian, one thing was imperative: in 1813 both Napoléon and his army paid the price for the major miscalculation of the 1812 campaign; all that occurred in 1813 was sequential to the prior major mistake.   Of course, Lutzen and Bautzen were victorious for the French, but now each defeat only embittered the Allies more; they were ready to fight until the end.  Jomini position was complex; he was a Swiss in the French service and he also carried an official letter-patent of the Lieutenant General in the Russian army since 1810 (based on the secret, although private, negotiations with the Tsar’s representatives).  He also had tendered his letter of resignation to Napoléon several times.  Yet, Jomini did not leave the French army in the middle of wartime but during the armistice, and even though he abandoned one army in favor of the other, it was dictated by his personal ambition rather than dissatisfaction over a non-received promotion.  It is neither that he had “no real sense of loyalty to anyone but Jomini”[69] nor that “Jomini’s main purpose was always to serve military science, no matter where.”[70]  The truth lies somewhere in between, in Jomini’s own mind.[71]  By Napoléon’s assessments, which might be found quite neutral, he noted that 

[It was] certain, from what had occurred in 1810, that I would not accept his resignation, he was determined to join the ruler who promised him a distinguished reception. However violent this step [the desertion] the attenuating circumstances are excusable.  It was the result of a very natural feeling, such as unwillingness to be humiliated.  This officer [Jomini] was not Frenchmen, and was bound to our flag by no feelings of patriotism; the only feeling that can enable one to submit to ill treatment.[72]  

Jomini arrived at the Tsar’s Headquarters in Prague on 16 August, along with another French military celebrity, republican General Jean-Victor Moreau, where both requested to enter the Russian service.  Jomini was accepted and officially given rank of a Lieutenant General in the Russian service.[73]  Moreau, who coveted the position of Commander-and-chief of the Allied forces, was merely attached to the Headquarters of the combined armies in a private capacity as a military expert (he would be mortally wounded at the Battle of Dresden, 27 August 1813).

The Main Headquarters of the Allies was quite different from that Spartan establishment of the ever-moving Napoléon’s Headquarters led by tireless maréchal Berthier.  At this period all major European monarchs joined together – Grand Prince Constantine, Friedrich-Wilhelm III, Francis I, the Crown Prince of Sweden.  They brought along numerous aide-de-camps, “golden youths” and high court nobility.[74]  Headquarters of Army of Bohemia (the Main army) under the command of the Austrian General Field marshal Count Karl Philipp Schwarzenberg reminded one rather of an aristocratic salon populated with all sorts of “hunters” seeking grades and decorations and competing with each others in the art of intrigue and flattery.

General Lieutenant Jomini took an active part during the finale of the 1813 campaign.    Jomini did not secure any command or particular appointment; his record indicates that he was “present at His Majesty the Tsar and on his order at Count Schwarzenberg’s Headquarters”.[75]  Along with another Russian Quartermaster General Karl Toll, Jomini was appointed Tsar’s “representative” to influence the Austrian command.[76] However, it never really succeeded, manly due to the numerous conflicts between the allies.  Also, the temper of Jomini produced additional tension.  Thus, while the planning maneuvers at Dresden, 25-26 August, Jomini, became so disagreeable that the British minister Lord William S. Cathcart took him aside and suggested to moderate his views or new colleagues could became enemies.  Jomini apologized stating, “When the destiny of Europe is decided, the honor of three great monarchs and my own reputation, I can say what I please” but the tension remained.[77]  

During the following Battle of Kulm, 30 August 1813, against the French 1st Corps under Dominique Vandamme, Jomini was sent with the important mission to bring reserves to the main army fighting near the village of Teplitz.  During the conversation with Prince Metternich, Jomini persuaded him on the necessity to direct the Austrian Corps under Count Hieronimus von Colloredo to the decisive point, although Schwarzenberg ordered otherwise.  Nonetheless, the advise of Jomini was approved by the Tsar and allies managed to defeat the enemy before arrival of other French corps.  Vandamme was surrounded, lost all his artillery and finally was taken prisoner along with 6 more general officers and nearly 7,000 men.[78]   Jomini was awarded his first Russian decoration, the Order of St.-Anne, 2nd Class.[79]  However, he was not satisfied with such a reward and planned to abandon service, but only on advise of Adélaïde, who arrived to meet her husband in Vienna, Jomini agreed to stay.  But at that time he lost his practical interest in the upcoming events and returned to stay at Tsar Alexander’s Headquarters.[80]  In the meantime, the French military court judging Jomini in absencia, condemned him to death; Jomini’s former aide-de-camps, Koch and de Pont-Bellanger were placed under police surveillance.[81] 

Jomini returned to the active service in the mid-October 1813, during the “Battle of the Nations” at Leipzig.  There, on 16 October, on the first day of this three-days struggle, Jomini tried to convince Schwarzenberg to abandon his preliminary plan to maneuver on the left bank of the Pleisse, which might led the Allies to a separate defeat.  After personal observation and reconnaissance conducted from the bell-tower, Jomini again pressed Schwarzenberg to move on the right bank; he also sent his aide-de-camp to the Tsar asking for reserves.  At the same time Jomini once again had a clash with various staff officers, arrogantly pointing towards Schwarzenberg’s clumsy leadership: “you’ll see how one can lose the battle”.[82]         

On 21 October Jomini received the Order of St.-Anne of the 1st Class, but he decided not to continue his military service.[83]  Perhaps, he considered his own participation against France unacceptable.   Furthermore, after disagreement regarding the intervention in France and of the Austrian violation of the Swiss neutrality, General Lieutenant Antoine-Henri Baron de Jomini left the Russian service at the beginning of 1814.  He would soon return to spend more than fifty fruitful years in the service of Russia.  As for 1813 campaign, the Tsar recognized his service and ordered to engrave his name on the Wall of Military Fame of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Savor in Moscow.  His portrait was hung in the Winter Palace in St.-Petersburg, in the Gallery of heroes of 1812-14 campaigns.

The 1813 campaign became a turning point for Jomini.  He assumed the position as the Ney’s chief of staff at the period when a local war turned out into a national war.  Performing his duties as best he could, Jomini, nonetheless, became a simple executor of Napoléon’s orders.   His suggestions at the Battle of Bautzen were tactically justified and theoretically achievable.  But his contribution seem to be less significant than it was previously thought, because the hierarchal system of the French army required the simple process of following orders, which at the end restricted Jomini’s initiative.   Tsar Alexander had the wisdom, once he obtained Jomini’s service, to make good use of his vast knowledge.  The extent to which Jomini helped form Alexander’s policy following Napoleon’s defeat was of considerable importance in shaping European events in the post-war period.  Mention of Jomini’s role as an influential advisor to Alexander does serve to indicate that maréchal Ney’s former Chief of staff attained a position of trust and respect in his relationship with the Tsar, a position Jomini could not secure under the Emperor Napoléon.  Furthermore, Jomini was able to play a dominant role in effecting major improvement in the Russian staff system by assisting in creating the Academy of General Staff in St.-Petersburg and educating generations of young officers by his profound historical writings.  


[1] This relates only to the main army led by Kutusov; at the end of October, at the camp of Tarutino, his army totaled nearly 120 men and 622 pieces of ordnance, and equally sustained the hardships of war.  Kutusov to Tsar Alexander, 13, 14 and 21 December 1812, quoted in Corpus of documents, IV, 551-52.

[2] Convention between Russia and Prussia, 28 February 1813.  Russian foreign policy from nineteenth to twentieth centuries, first série, VII, 63-66.

[3] Saint-Beuve, Le général Jomini, 126-127.

[4] Ministère de la Guerre, minute de la lettre écrite, 21 March 1813.  Service historique, Dossier GB 8Y2 1277 (Jomini).

[5] According to the decree of reorganization of the army issued on 18 February 1808, each infantry regiment was supposed to have four bataillons de guerre and one bataillon de dépôt.  See Correspondance de Napoléon 1er, No. 13574, XVI, 398-99; the same provision followed for the cavalry in 1810.  

[6] Loraine Petre, Napoleon’s Last Campaign in Germany 1813 (London, 1912), 12-15; George F. Nafziger, Napoléon’s Spring Campaign of 1813 (Chicago, 1992), 43-48. 

[7] Napoléon to Ney, 13 March 1813.  Correspondance de Napoléon 1er, No. 19714, XXV, 90-91.  In late April, Napoléon abolished the various old corps designations and eventually reassigned them as follows: 1st Corps – maréchal Louis-Nicolas Davout, 2nd Corps – Victor, Claude-Perrin 3rd Corps – Michael Ney, 4th Corps – général de division Henri-Gatien Bertrand, 5th Corps – général de division Jacques-Alexandre Lauriston, 6th Corps – maréchal Auguste de Marmont, 7th Corps – général de division Jean-Louis Reynier, 8th Corps – Prince Joseph Poniatowski, 9th  Corps – vacant, 10th Corps – général de division Jean Rapp, 11th Corps – maréchal Gouvion St.-Cyr.   Along with the Imperial Guard, the reformed Grande Armée consisted of nearly 270,000 men.        

[8] Captain Jean-Baptiste Koch, Journal des opérations des 3rd and 5th corps en 1813 (Paris, 1909), 105-08.  Arriving from Spain, Koch was assigned the aide-de-camp to Jomini.

[9] Napoléon to Eugène , 11 March 1813.  Correspondance de Napoléon 1er, No. 19697, XXV, 71-73.

[10] Hubert Camon, La guerre Napoléonniene (Paris, 1903-10), VI, 51.

[11] Modest Bogdanovich, Istoria voini 1813 goda za nezavisimost’ Germanii [History of 1813 War fought for independence of Germany] (St.-Petersburg, 1863), I, 182-86. 

[12] Gouré served under Ney since 1810 and took part in the Russian campaign.  Six, Dictionnaire, I, 515. 

13] Service historique, Ministère de la Guerre.  Copy of the letter, 4 May 1813.  Dossier GB 8Y2 1277 (Jomini).

[14] Thus, maréchal Ney’s 3rd Army Corps was composed of five divisions: the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th of mobilized National guardsmen and 28 bataillons of conscripts formed around cadres taken form the regiments serving in Spain.  The 39th Infantry Division under général de division Jean Gabriel Marchand included contingents of the Confederation of the Rhine: Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt and Frankfurt.  The Corps also included eight squadrons of light cavalry, artillery and military train; by the muster roll on 5 May 1813 the Corps numbered nearly 34,000 men and 120 pieces of ordnance.  Koch, Journal des opérations, 108.

[15] Service historique, Livrets de situation, 3e et 4e corps d’armée, 1813, Carton C2 539; Sokolov, L’Armée de Napoléon, 254-55. 

[16] Berthier to Napoleon, 19 April 1813, as quoted in Jean B. Vachée, Napoléon et campagne (Paris, 1913), 26.  

[17] See Order of movement, 14 May 1813, signed by Ney and co-signed by Jomini; various orders from Jomini to Reynier dated on 6, 7 and 16 May 1813 in preparation for Ney’s maneuvers in the course of the Bautzen operation.  Paul-Jean Foucart, Bautzen, 20-21 mai 1813 (Paris, 1897), 76, 91, 192, 230.

[18] Denniée, Itinéraire de l’Empereur Napoléon, 5-6.

[19] Lecomte, Le général Jomini, 120-26.

[20] See Voennyi Sbornik [Military Compendium], 29, No.2, 553 (Saint-Petersburg, 1863); Voennaya Encyklopedia [Military Encyclopaedia], ed. Vladimir Novitzky, s.v.“Bautzen” (Saint-Petersburg, 1911); Courville, Jomini, ou Devin de Napoléon, 191-95; Baqué, L’homme qui devinait Napoléon, 136; David G. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon (New York, 1966), 895.

[21] Mertzalov, A.-H. Jomini, 28.

[22] Bogdanovich, History of 1813 War, 2:266.

[23] Foucart, Bautzen, 20-21mai 1813, x.  On the strength of the French army see Service historique, Livrets de situation, 2e, 3e, 5e and 4e corps d’armée, 1813, Carton C2 540-41, 543, 544.

[24] Napoléon to Ney, 16 May 1813, as quoted in Foucart, Bautzen, 214-16.

[25] Jomini to Reynier, 16 May 1813, as quoted in Foucart, Bautzen, 20-21 mai , 229-30.

[26] Ibid., 232.

[27] Ney to Berthier, 17 May 1813, Ibid., 242-43.

[28] Position de l’enemi, 18 May 1813, Ibid., 259.

[29] Nafziger, Napoléon’s Spring Campaign of 1813, 208; Camon, La guerre Napoléonniene, 411.

[30] Petre, Napoleon’s last campaign, 119; Bogdanovich, History of 1813 War, I, 264; Foucart, Bautzen, 20-21mai 1813, x.  On the strength of the French army see Service historique, Livrets de situation, 2e, 3e, 5e and 4e corps d’armée, 1813, C2 540-41, 543, 544.

[31] Camon, La guerre Napoléonniene, 413; Bogdanovich, History of 1813 War, I, 264-65.

[32] Jomini to Reynier, 20 May 1813, as quoted in Foucart, Bautzen, 20-21mai, 302.

[33] Caunter, Military studies of maréchal Ney, 61-62.

34] Foucart, Bautzen, 20-21 mai, 315; Petre, Napoleon’s last campaign, 123-25.

[35] Ibid., Nafziger, Napoléon’s Spring Campaign of 1813, 224.

[36] Camon, La guerre Napoléonniene, 423-25.

37] Berthier to Ney, 21 May 1813, as quoted in Registre d’orders de maréchal Berthier pendant la campagne de 1813 (Paris, 1900), II, 125; Petre, Napoleon’s last campaign, 126.

[38] Jomini, The Life of Napoleon, IV, 101.  As noted before, it was first written in 1827 in French.  This version of the battle by Jomini himself appeared in his biographies, so many aforementioned authors and historians repeated it.  It also could be speculated that Jomini, being a general officer, disliked the fact that the direct order was given to maréchal Ney by merely a staff officer, an aide-de-camp, while bypassing Jomini as Chief of Staff. 

[39] Ibid.

[40] Moreover, Adjudant-commandant Christophe Stoffel of the Imperial Headquarters also duplicated this order, the fact that left omitted by almost everyone who wrote on Bautzen, with exception of Foucart, Bautzen, mai 21-22, 315.

[41] Bogdanovich, History of 1813 War, I, 265-66; Koch, Journal des opérations, 26; Nafziger, Napoléon’s Spring Campaign of 1813, 230-31; Petre, Napoleon’s last campaign, 132.

[42] Camon, La guerre Napoléonniene, 425; Bogdanovich, History of 1813 War, I, 269.

[43] Désiré Chalpowski, Memoirs of the Polish Lancer, translated by Tim Simmons (Chicago, 1992), 141-42.

[44] Ibid., 142.

[45] Jomini, The Life of Napoleon, IV, 104; Bogdanovich, History of 1813 War, I, 270; Petre, Napoleon’s last campaign, 133-34.  Note, that by the 1860s, when most accounts of the 1813 War were written, Jomini was still alive, while his numerous colleagues and superiors were long deceased.   Moreover, he was on the service of Russia, attaining her highest military rank and title as the Tsar’s General Adjutant. Therefore, the version of Jomini’s determination and Ney’s irresolution became quite convenient for an official historiography and widely disseminated.  However, there are no specific facts to rebut Jomini’s claim.

[46] Ney to Napoléon, 21 May 1813, as quoted in Foucart, Bautzen ,mai 21-22, 328; Camon, La guerre Napoléonniene, 442.

[47] Jomini to Reynier, 21 May 1813, Ibid., 302; Koch, Journal des opérations, 26.

[48] Koch, Journal des opérations, 28.

[49] Lecomte, Le général Jomini, 137-38.

[50] Movement order, 22 May 1813, as quoted in Paul-Jean Foucart, de Bautzen a Pläswitz (Paris, 1897), 1-2; Koch, Journal des opérations, 28.

[51] Bogdanovich, History of 1813 War, I, 271-72.

[52] Petre, Napoleon’s last campaign, 146; Nafziger, Napoléon’s Spring campaign of 1813, 257.

[53] Bogdanovich, History of 1813 War, I, 274.

[54] Jomini to Reynier, 31 May 1813, as quoted in Foucart, de Bautzen a Pläswitz, 220-21.

[55] Koch, Journal des opérations, 36.

[56] Mémoires du général van Hogendorp, 369.  As noted above, Général de brigade Gouré served as Ney’s chief of staff during the Russian campaign until that fatal moment at Lutzen, 2 May 1813.

[57] Armistice of Plasswitz, 4 June 1813.  Russian foreign policy, first série, VII, 231.

[58] Jomini to Clark, 14 June 1813.  The response, sent by 12 July, will arrive by the end of month.  Service historique, Dossier GB 8Y2 1277 (Jomini).

[59] Service historique, Série, Livrets de situation, 3e et 4e corps d’armée, 1813, Carton C2 539.

[60] De Philip, Étude sur le service d’État-major, 67. 

[61] Jomini to Monnier, 17 June 1813.  Correspondance du général Jomini avec M. le baron Monnier, 41-42.

[62] Berthier to Jomini, 18 June 1813, Musée de Payerne.

[63] Emmanuel Augustin Las Cases, comte de, Le Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène (Paris, 1957), 1082.   Note that the Emperor had said many various things at various times during his long exile. 

[64] Emperor Napoléon’s decree, 10 August 1813.  Archives Nationales, Series AFIV (Secrétaire d’état impériale) 794.  Established in 1802 and finalized in 1805, the Order of the Légion d’Honneur had five ascending grades: legionnaire, officier, commandant, Grand officier and Grand Aigle.  Since 1807 Jomini already was a legionnaire of the Légion (c. 1807 legionnaire), hence is the next degree in the Order’s hierarchal status. 

[65] See, Courville, Jomini, ou Devin de Napoléon, 205; Saint-Beuve Le général Jomini, 146-47; Baqué, L’homme qui devinait Napoléon, 146.  The Mertzalovs even talk about the “baseness” of maréchal Berthier in A.-H.Jomini, 29.  It appeared for the first time in Langendorf’s book where the author refers to the Musée of Payerne catalogue entry in his Faire la guerre: Jomini, 89 (which is still inaccessible to the public).

[66] Jomini to Monnier, 13 August 1813.  Correspondance du général Jomini avec M. le baron Monnier, 46-47.

67] Podmazo, The Big European War, 1812-15, 110-11.

[68] Russian foreign policy, first série, VII, 341, 346-47.

[69] John R. Elting “Jomini and Berthier”, Consortium on Revolutionary Europe (1989), 136.

[70] Mertzalov, A.-H. Jomini, 30.

[71] The different perspectives taken of Jomini’s conduct by his apologists and critics are too numerous to be listed here.  Also, in author’s opinion it is politically incorrect to transfer views of a modern era to principally different historical conditions. 

[72] Las Cases, Le Mémorial de  Sainte-Hélène, 1085.  

[73] RGVIA, fond 489 (Jomini’s personal file) op. 1, d. 7062.

[74] Albert Manfred, Napoléon Bonaparte (Moscow, 1986), 646; Podmazo, The Big European War, 1812-15, 110-13.

[75] RGVIA, fond 489 (Jomini’s personal file) op. 1, d. 7062.

[76] Courville, Jomini, ou Devin de Napoléon, 218.

[77] Jomini, Précis politique et militaire des campaigns de 1812 à 1814, as edited by F. Lecomte, II, 65.

[78] Bogdanovich, History of 1813 War, II, 218; Podmazo, The Big European War, 1812-15, 119.

[79] RGVIA, fond 489 (Jomini’s personal file) op. 1, d. 7062.

[80] Lecomte, Le général Jomini, 197-98, Langendorf, Faire la guerre: Jomini, 108.

[81] Ibid.

[82] Bogdanovich, History of 1813 War, 2:451-52.  Lecomte, Le général Jomini, 209-10.

[83] RGVIA, fond 489 (Jomini’s personal file) op. 1, d. 7062.



Placed on the Napoleon Series: September 2013

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