Battle of Craonne

Last updated
Battle of Craonne
Part of the War of the Sixth Coalition
Date7 March 1814
Location
Result French victory
Belligerents
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg French Empire Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Kingdom of Prussia
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Russian Empire
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Napoleon
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Michel Ney
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Étienne de Nansouty
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Gebhard Blücher
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Mikhail Vorontsov
Strength
Overall: 48,000
Craonne: 30,000, 102 guns [1]
Overall: 110,000
Craonne: 22,300, 96 guns [1]
Casualties and losses
8,000 [1] 5,000 [1]

The Battle of Craonne (7 March 1814) was a battle between an Imperial French army under Emperor Napoleon I opposing a combined army of Imperial Russians and Prussians led by Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. The War of the Sixth Coalition engagement began when the bulk of Napoleon's army tried to drive Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov's 22,000 Russians off the Chemin des Dames plateau to the west of Craonne. After a bitter struggle, Napoleon's attacks compelled Vorontsov's force to withdraw, but French casualties exceeded Russian losses. While the battle raged, Blücher's attempt to turn Napoleon's east flank ended in failure due to poor planning.

First French Empire Empire of Napoleon I of France between 1804–1815

The First French Empire, officially the French Empire, was the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte of France and the dominant power in much of continental Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. Although France had already established an overseas colonial empire beginning in the 17th century, the French state had remained a kingdom under the Bourbons and a republic after the Revolution. Historians refer to Napoleon's regime as the First Empire to distinguish it from the restorationist Second Empire (1852–1870) ruled by his nephew as Napoleon III.

Russian Empire Former country, 1721–1917

The Russian Empire, also known as Imperial Russia or simply Russia, was an empire that existed across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.

Kingdom of Prussia Former German state (1701–1918)

The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom that constituted the state of Prussia between 1701 and 1918. It was the driving force behind the unification of Germany in 1871 and was the leading state of the German Empire until its dissolution in 1918. Although it took its name from the region called Prussia, it was based in the Margraviate of Brandenburg, where its capital was Berlin.

Contents

In late February 1814, Blücher's army separated from the main Allied army of Austrian Field Marshal Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg, moving northwest and making a dash at Paris. Napoleon left Marshal Jacques MacDonald with one army to observe Schwarzenberg and started after Blücher with another army. Blücher evaded Napoleon's attempt to trap him and retreated north toward Laon, picking up reinforcements as he went. Russian forces under Ferdinand von Wintzingerode and a Prussian corps led by Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Bülow would soon give Blücher a huge numerical advantage over the French. Napoleon came into contact with Vorontsov's corps on the evening of 6 March, believing that he had Blücher on the run. The next contest would be the Battle of Laon on 9–10 March.

Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg Czech nobleman

Karl Philipp, Fürst zu Schwarzenberg was an Austrian field marshal.

Paris Capital city of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, as well as the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zurich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018. The city is a major railway, highway, and air-transport hub served by two international airports: Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly. Opened in 1900, the city's subway system, the Paris Métro, serves 5.23 million passengers daily, and is the second busiest metro system in Europe after Moscow Metro. Gare du Nord is the 24th busiest railway station in the world, but the first located outside Japan, with 262 million passengers in 2015.

Marshal of the Empire military rank

Marshal of the Empire was a civil dignity during the First French Empire. It was created by Sénatus-consulte on 18 May 1804 and to a large extent resurrected the formerly abolished title of Marshal of France. According to the Sénatus-consulte, a Marshal was a grand officer of the Empire, entitled to a high-standing position at the Court and to the presidency of an electoral college.

Craonne is located 25 kilometres (16 mi) southeast of Laon and about 90 kilometres (56 mi) northeast of Paris. [2]

Laon Prefecture and commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Laon is the capital city of the Aisne department in Hauts-de-France, northern France. As of 2012 its population is 25,317.

Background

Operations

On 22 February 1814, Schwarzenberg with nearly 150,000 Allied troops faced Napoleon with half that number at Troyes. Because bad news arrived from the south and the Allied army was poorly supplied, but mainly because he believed that he was outnumbered, Schwarzenberg ordered a retreat that evening. Disappointed that no battle was going to be fought, Blücher proposed that his army separate from the main army and operate to the north. To this Schwarzenberg agreed and Blücher's 53,000 soldiers began moving northwest. [3] When he realized that the Prussian field marshal's army was headed for Paris, Napoleon left 42,000 troops under Marshal Jacques MacDonald to contain Schwarzenberg and marched after Blücher with 35,000 men. An additional 10,000 soldiers under Marshals Auguste de Marmont and Édouard Mortier stood between the Prussian field marshal and Paris. [4]

Troyes Prefecture and commune in Grand Est, France

Troyes is a commune and the capital of the department of Aube in the Grand Est region of north-central France. It is located on the Seine river about 150 km (93 mi) southeast of Paris. Troyes is situated within the Champagne wine region and is near to the Orient Forest Regional Natural Park. Many half-timbered houses survive in the old town. Troyes has been in existence since the Roman era, as Augustobona Tricassium, which stood at the hub of numerous highways, primarily the Via Agrippa.

Jacques MacDonald Marshal of France

Étienne Jacques Joseph Alexandre MacDonald, 1st Duke of Taranto was a Marshal of the Empire and military leader during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

Auguste de Marmont French General, nobleman and Marshal of France

Auguste Frédéric Louis Viesse de Marmont was a French general and nobleman who rose to the rank of Marshal of France and was awarded the title Duke of Ragusa.

Marmont and Mortier blocked Blücher's advance on 28 February when they defeated Friedrich von Kleist's corps [5] in the Battle of Gué-à-Tresmes. [6] The following day, Blücher again failed to push the reinforced French out of his path, but time had run out. On 2 March the Prussian field marshal realized that Napoleon was following him and decided to retreat to the north bank of the Ourcq River. He knew that Wintzingerode's Russians and Bülow's Prussians were nearby and hoped to join them soon. [7] The premature surrender of Soissons allowed Blücher to more easily cross to the north bank of the Aisne River on 3–4 March. [8] By this time Napoleon knew that Wintzingerode had joined Blücher, giving him at least 70,000 men to oppose 48,000 French troops. However, the French emperor believed that Bülow was still well to the north near Avesnes-sur-Helpe. [9]

Friedrich Graf Kleist von Nollendorf prussian general

Friedrich Emil Ferdinand Heinrich Graf Kleist von Nollendorf, born and died in Berlin, was a Prussian field marshal and a member of the old junker family von Kleist.

Battle of Gué-à-Tresmes

The Battle of Gué-à-Tresmes was fought between 14,500 French troops led by Marshals Auguste de Marmont and Édouard Mortier and 12,000 Prussians commanded by Friedrich Graf Kleist von Nollendorf and Friedrich von Katzler. On 28 February the French attacked and drove the Prussians to the north along the west bank of the Ourcq River. That evening and the next day Kleist tried to push the French back while Russian units under Peter Mikhailovich Kaptzevich tried to cross from the east to the west bank of the Ourcq; the Allies were unsuccessful. Gué-à-Tresmes is located where Route D405 crosses the Thérouanne stream about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) northeast of Meaux.

Ourcq river in France

The Ourcq is an 87-kilometre-long (54 mi) river in France, a tributary of the Marne. Its source is near the village Ronchères, and its course crosses the departments of Aisne, Oise, and Seine-et-Marne. It flows southwest through the towns of Fère-en-Tardenois, La Ferté-Milon, Mareuil-sur-Ourcq, and Crouy-sur-Ourcq, finally flowing into the Marne near Lizy-sur-Ourcq. Napoleon I made use of the river as a water source, and it supplied the city of Paris until Baron Haussmann's rebuilding of Paris.

Pre-battle maneuvers

In fact, Blücher may have had as many as 110,000 troops by this time. They were distributed as follows – Russians: Wintzingerode (30,000), Louis Alexandre Andrault de Langeron (26,000), Fabian Gottlieb von Osten-Sacken (13,700); Prussians: Bülow (16,900), Kleist (10,600), Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg (13,500). For his part, Napoleon had 34,233 troops on 2 March while Marmont and Mortier had been reinforced to 17,000 men but lost possibly 3,000 casualties in the week before Craonne. Yet, Napoleon hoped to get to Laon before Blücher's army arrived there. [10] On 5 March, Napoleon was at Fismes from where he hoped to move straight north to Laon. Since he lacked a pontoon bridge to cross the Aisne, the French emperor directed his forces to move northeast to Berry-au-Bac where there was a stone bridge. Berry-au-Bac was on the direct road from Reims to Laon. [11] On this day, Napoleon ordered Jan Willem Janssens at Mézières to gather up the Ardennes garrisons and operate in Blücher's rear areas. [12] Janssens promptly obeyed and the movements of his troops threw a scare into the Allies. [13]

Louis Alexandre Andrault de Langeron French general in the service of the Imperial Russian Army during the Napoleonic Wars

Count Louis Alexandre Andrault de Langeron, born in Paris, was a French soldier in the service of, first, the Kingdom of France, and then the Russian Empire.

Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg Prussian Field Marshal

Johann David Ludwig Graf Yorck von Wartenburg was a Prussian Generalfeldmarschall instrumental in the switching of the Kingdom of Prussia from a French alliance to a Russian alliance during the War of the Sixth Coalition. Ludwig van Beethoven's "Yorckscher Marsch" is named in his honor.

Fismes Commune in Grand Est, France

Fismes[fim] is a commune in the Marne department in the Grand Est region of north-eastern France.

At 5:00 am on 5 March, Guard cavalry divisions under Pierre David de Colbert-Chabanais and Louis Marie Levesque de Laferrière surprised and captured Reims and its Allied garrison. [14] Napoleon ordered Étienne Marie Antoine Champion de Nansouty to seize Berry-au-Bac with a cavalry force consisting of Rémi Joseph Isidore Exelmans' division and Louis Michel Pac's brigade. Nansouty's troopers overran some Russian cavalry and captured 200 men and two guns, but the main prize was their seizure of the bridge. Louis Friant's 1st Old Guard Division and Claude Marie Meunier's 1st Young Guard Division crossed and occupied positions as far north as Corbeny. [13] From 3:00–6:00 pm on 5 March, Marmont and Mortier tried to capture Soissons from its Russian garrison, but were repulsed. The Russians sustained 1,056 casualties, [14] while the French lost 800–900 men. [13] Another source calculated French losses as 1,500 men. [11]

Blücher realized that Napoleon was trying to reach Laon by the Reims road. He sent Bülow and his wagon trains back to Laon. The Prussian commander began to shift his other forces to the northeast. By 6 March Napoleon had 30,500 men near Berry-au-Bac. He planned to send an advanced guard north toward Festieux, but needed to make sure of Blücher's intentions. [15] During the day of 6 March, Meunier's division encountered Russian forces near Vauclair Abbey (Vauclerc) while two battalions of the Old Guard were needed to flush out Craonne's Russian defenders. [16] At first Blücher directed his army to concentrate near Craonne, but he decided that position was too cramped for his 90,000 men. He also heard that French cavalry were advancing north on the Reims road. Changing plans, Blücher planned to assemble 10,000 cavalry and 60 horse artillery guns under Wintzingerode and send it toward Festieux. [17] Wintzingerode's force consisted of 5,500 of his own horsemen plus all of the reserve cavalry belonging to Langeron and Yorck. Blücher ordered Wintzingerode's infantry, commanded by Vorontsov, to remain behind and directly oppose Napoleon's army. [18]

Allied corps commanders

French corps commanders

Battle

6 March

By 5:00 pm on 6 March, Meunier captured Vauclair Abbey from the Russians. Meunier and the Old Guard battalions captured Heurtebise Farm several times, but its Russian defenders threw them out each time and remained in possession of the place. [19] The Russian forces involved were the 13th and 14th Jäger Regiments. [17] That evening, Meunier withdrew a little to the north while the Old Guards occupied part of the Chemin des Dames ridge that they seized. Pierre François Xavier Boyer's division was at Bouconville in support of Meunier, one Old Guard brigade was at Craonne and the other was at Corbeny, Exelmans' horsemen were at Craonnelle and Joseph Boyer de Rébeval's division was at La Ville-aux-Bois-lès-Pontavert. The divisions of Colbert, Laferrière, Philibert Jean-Baptiste Curial, Henri François Marie Charpentier and Nicolas-François Roussel d'Hurbal were at Berry-au-Bac. Still south of the Aisne were Mortier at Cormicy, Jean-Toussaint Arrighi de Casanova at Roucy and Marmont more distant at Braine. [19] With him, Mortier had the infantry divisions of Charles-Joseph Christiani and Paul-Jean-Baptiste Poret de Morvan and the cavalry division of Jean-Marie Defrance. [13]

Blücher planned to have Vorontsov defend against a French attack on the Chemin des Dames ridge, while Sacken remained in support farther west at Braye-en-Laonnois. [17] While Napoleon was facing Vorontsov, Wintzingerode's cavalry, followed by Kleist, York and Langeron, would move east on the north side of the Ailette River, then strike Napoleon's right flank and rear. Wintzingerode's cavalry was supposed to gather at Filain before setting out on its march and was expected to arrive at Festieux at dawn. One difficulty was that Wintzingerode's horsemen would first have to move west along the Chemin des Dames ridge to reach Filain. [18] When Wintzingerode arrived at Filain during the night, he found that the cavalrymen of Yorck and Langeron were already in camp with their horses unsaddled. In the circumstances, Wintzingerode decided to wait until daybreak to start on his march, but he neglected to order a reconnaissance of the roads. [20]

7 March: Plans

Battle of Craonne Battle of Craone by AK Johnston.png
Battle of Craonne

The Chemin des Dames (Ladies' Road) starts on the Soissons-Laon road and runs east along a continuous ridge to Craonne and then loses elevation before rising again a little at Corbeny. The ridge has an average height of 400 feet (122 m) above the Aisne valley on the south. North of the Ailette there is more ground of a similar elevation. The slope was wooded and steeper on the north side where the marshy Ailette ran west before joining the Oise River. The ridge varies from 200 yards (180 m) to 2 miles (3.2 km) in width. It is narrow in the places where ravines encroach from north and south. [21] The Russian position was naturally strong because the ridge in front was narrow and easily targeted with artillery fire. North of the narrows were the Marion Woods while the Quatre Heures Woods were to the south. [22] The ridge was steep on the right flank but even more so on the left. The disadvantage on the left flank was that the slope was so steep that it provided the French with "dead ground" or places where they could approach without coming under cannon fire. [23]

At 8:00 am on 7 March, Vorontsov deployed his corps facing east in three lines, spaced 400 to 500 yards (366 to 457 m) apart. The first Russian line was 1.5 miles (2 km) long and a distance of 1,100 yards (1 km) west of Heurtebise Farm. The first line consisted of 14 battalions of Nikolay Vasilyevich Vuich's 24th Division, Mikhail Ponset's brigade of the 14th Division and the 13th Jägers. On the right of the first line were the Pavlograd Hussars and four Cossack regiments under Alexander Christoforovich Benkendorf. The 14th Jägers held the Heurtebise Farm and drew up in skirmish formation in front of the first line. The advance force was led by Afanasy Ivanovich Krasovsky and included two squadrons of the Pavlograd Hussars on the jägers' right. The village of Ailles on the left flank was held by skirmishers. [24]

The Russian second line was made up of the seven battalions of Vasily Laptiev's 21st Division. The third line under Pavel Aleksandrovich Stroganov comprised nine battalions in Nikolay Nikolaevich Hovansky's 12th Division and Sergey Fyodorovich Zheltukhin's brigade of 13th Division. Nikolay Diomidovich Myakinin commanded the corps artillery which deployed 12 heavy and 24 light guns in the center under Colonel Vinspar. The 12 guns of Horse Artillery Battery Nr. 11 were on the right flank and the 12 guns of Horse Battery Nr. 9 were on the left. Six guns of Heavy Foot Battery Nr. 28 were of the left of the second line dominating the slope on the left. There were 24 light and six heavy guns held in reserve. [24] During the battle 18 guns from the reserve were brought forward as replacements while 12 guns were used during the retreat. [25] Since 1811 Russian artillery batteries each numbered 12 field pieces. [26]

According to one authority, Vorontsov commanded roughly 16,300 infantry, 1,000 regular cavalry, 1,000 Cossacks and 96 artillery pieces. Farther east at Cerny-en-Laonnois were 4,000 regular cavalry led by Ilarion Vasilievich Vasilshikov and 1,500 Cossacks under Akim Akimovich Karpov. [27] This cavalry force was part of Sacken's command. Sacken's infantry was posted too far east to help Vorontsov. [18] A second source credited Vorontsov with 16,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry and 96 guns, plus Vasilshikov's 4,000 horsemen. [28]

Napoleon had 23,573 infantry and 6,350 cavalry available, [29] plus 102 guns. However, the 8,000 men from the Guard divisions of Christiani and Poret de Morvan were not destined to be used. [30] One historian credited Napoleon with 30,000 troops and the Allies with 50,000. [31] Napoleon planned to launch a frontal assault on Vorontsov's Russians, using Marshal Claude Perrin Victor's corps and Curial's division. These formations were to be assisted by Friant's division and the reserve artillery. On the French right flank Marshal Michel Ney would lead the divisions of Meunier and Pierre Boyer to attack. On the left, Nansouty was instructed to lead Exelmans and Pac to turn the Russian flank. By 8:00 am, Napoleon was aware that his enemies intended to fight. [22]

Russian generals

French generals

7 March: Fighting

The view is east along the Chemin des Dames with Heurtebise Farm at left. The French advance came toward the viewer. Chemin des Dames - IMG 3111.jpg
The view is east along the Chemin des Dames with Heurtebise Farm at left. The French advance came toward the viewer.

At 9:00 am, the French Imperial Guard artillery unlimbered on the east end of the Chemin des Dames ridge and opened fire. The Russian artillery replied, but the range was 1,500 metres (1,640 yd), too long to inflict much damage on either side. [32] Blucher was with Vorontsov until 10:00 am when he rode off to learn the whereabouts of Wintzingerode's column. [20] Ney had been told to wait for the order to attack, but the bombardment caused him to send his troops forward. He ordered Pierre Boyer to attack Ailles with Meunier advancing on his left. [28] One account stated that Curial's division operated with Meunier's troops from the beginning. [33] Napoleon was partly responsible for Ney's blunder because he did not explain his battle plan to the marshal. Sending his men into the attack without artillery support was Ney's fault alone. The soldiers of both Meunier and Pierre Boyer were stopped in their tracks by the Russian cannons. [34] Boyer de Rébeval's division arrived on the field at 11:00 am, but Charpentier's division was slowed by sleet-covered roads. [32]

At about 11:00 am Heurtebise Farm burst into flame and was abandoned. [34] Vorontsov ordered Krasovsky's advanced troops to pull back to the main line. The 2nd Jäger Regiment from the second line moved forward and occupied Ailles. [32] Because of Ney's premature attack, Boyer de Rébeval's division had to be diverted from the main attack to support the right flank. [28] At 11:30 am, Ney's artillery began pounding the Russian left flank and Ney personally led Meunier's men forward to the top of the slope. Nansouty advanced up the Paissy spur and pushed back the cavalry on the Russian right flank [34] despite being charged by three Cossack regiments and four squadrons of hussars led by Benkendorf. [35] At noon, Boyer de Rébeval attacked and seized the Marion Woods. [34] Early in the action, a bullet hit Victor in the thigh, putting him out of action. [35] On the Russian side, Krasovsky was also quickly wounded and compelled to leave the field. Boyer de Rébeval's advance was carried out by Auguste Julien Bigarré's brigade with Jacques Lecapitaine's brigade in reserve. They were supported by six batteries of Guard artillery plus 12 their own guns. Since Boyer de Rébeval's men were raw conscripts with only 20 days of service their musketry and cannon fire was not very effective. [33]

By 1:00 pm, the Russians threatened to drive the troops of Meunier and Boyer de Rébeval off the ridge. [34] Boyer de Rébeval brought up Lecapitaine's brigade on Bigarré's left. Vorontsov committed Andrey Savvich Glebov's brigade from the third line into the fight. The 19th Jäger and Shirvan Infantry Regiments pressed forward but Antoine Drouot moved up two Guard artillery batteries and their fire halted the Russian attack. At 1:30 pm Napoleon ordered Emmanuel de Grouchy to commit his cavalry in an effort to get the attack moving. Grouchy sent Louis Ernest Joseph Sparre's dragoon brigade forward. Sparre's troopers drove off the Pavlograd Hussars [35] and then swept into Parkinson's Horse Artillery Battery Nr. 9, cutting down the gunners. Both Grouchy and Sparre were wounded and the dragoons were forced to retreat. Boyer de Rébeval's division fell back into the Marion Woods where it rallied. [36]

The battle of Craonne, by Theodore Jung. Jung theodore.jpg
The battle of Craonne, by Theodore Jung.

At 1:45 pm, Laferrière's 3rd Guard Cavalry Division charged the large Russian battery in the center. The elite horsemen got among the cannons but were unable to break the Russian foot soldiers behind the guns, who were formed in squares. Laferrière was badly wounded [36] and his horsemen were met by intense fire. However, by the time the Russians forced the Guard cavalry to retire, Charpentier's division reached the field and easily captured the Quatre Heures Woods. They were soon followed by Curial's division. By 2:30 pm, Charpentier's troops linked up with Nansouty's horsemen on the French left and together they began to force back the Russian right flank. Nansouty reached the end of the Paissy valley before being turned back by cannon fire. By this time Ney had brought Meunier's division onto the ridge and the Guard artillery moved forward. Pierre Boyer reported seeing an Allied force to the north; this was Kleist's corps moving east. [37]

That morning, having failed to reconnoiter the roads, Winzingerode selected a bad route. Meanwhile, Kleist selected a more direct route and the two columns crossed at Chevregny at 11:00 am, causing a traffic jam. [20] Kleist finally arrived at Festieux at 4:00 pm. Blücher caught up with Winzingerode at 2:00 pm at Bruyères-et-Montbérault and realized there was no chance to carry out the intended attack on Napoleon's east flank. [30] Anxious that Sacken and Vorontsov were in danger, Blücher ordered those generals to retreat. [36] Sacken received his orders at 3:00 pm. He instructed his cavalry to assist Vorontsov and sent his infantry north toward Laon. Vorontsov withdrew 22 dismounted guns and his wounded. He formed his infantry into a checkerboard of mutually-supporting squares and began to retreat to the west on the Chemin des Dames plateau. [38]

At 2:30 pm Napoleon decided to launch the decisive blow. The reserve artillery was brought forward and placed in battery beside the guns belonging to Victor's divisions and the Guard. Under the orders of Drouot, 88 guns pummeled the Russian infantry with grapeshot. The divisions of Friant and Curial pressed forward, supported by cavalry. [39] By 3:00 pm, the 2nd and 6th Jäger Regiments abandoned Ailles to Pierre Boyer's division. Napoleon appointed Augustin Daniel Belliard to replace the wounded Grouchy and switched the cavalry divisions of Roussel d'Hurbal and Colbert to the French left flank. [40] Earlier, Napoleon asked Charpentier to take command of Victor's corps. [38] Four French cannons astride the main road were particularly effective in punishing the withdrawing Russian infantry. [41]

The Russians fell back in good order to a position 800 yards (732 m) southwest of Ailles. At 4:00 pm Vorontsov withdrew again to the hamlet of Troyan near Cerny. [39] Alexey Petrovich Nikitin prepared an ambush with 36 guns from Sacken's corps. When the 6th Jägers fell back through their position, Nikitin's guns opened a deadly fire on the pursuing French. [41] Vasilshikov's cavalry intervened just as Benkendorf's horsemen were on the verge of being overwhelmed by the cavalry of Exelmans, Pac and Laferrière. Seeing Colbert's horsemen swarming around several Russian infantry squares, Vasilshikov ordered Sergey Nicolaevich Lanskoy to lead the Mariopol and Alexandria Hussar Regiments to charge. This attack drove off Colbert's troopers but the Russian hussars were in turn driven back by Nansouty's cavalrymen. Vasilshiov sent forward three dragoon regiments and Nansouty's cavalrymen were stopped as Lanskoy's hussars rallied in the rear. [42]

The Russians retired to another position on the Chemin des Dames plateau before crossing the Ailette at Chevregny. The French artillery took the crossing under fire and caused some confusion and loss, but Vorontsov's corps got safely away to the north bank. Since other Allied forces were in the area, the French pursuit ended about 7:00–8:00 pm. The French army bivouacked along the Chemin des Dames ridge as follows: Charpentier's infantry and the Guard cavalry at Filain, Colbert at Aizy-Jouy, Belliard at Ostel, Ney to the north of Ostel, Napoleon, Mortier and the Guard infantry at Braye-en-Laonnois. Étienne Tardif de Pommeroux de Bordesoulle's cavalry camped at Heurtebise Farm to establish a link with Marmont's corps at Berry-au-Bac. [43]

Result

One historian stated that the Russians lost 5,000 while the French counted 5,500 casualties. [44] A second authority placed French casualties between 5,400 and 8,000, while the Russians admitted losing 4,785 killed, wounded and missing. [45] A third source broke down the Russian casualties into 1,529 dead and 3,256 wounded, while giving French losses as 8,000. General-Major Lanskoy was mortally wounded; Generalmajor Sergey Nikolaevich Ushakov II of the Courland Dragoon Regiment and Colonel Parkinson of the artillery were killed. General-Leutnant Laptiev and Generalmajors Hovansky, Glebov, Feodor Vasilyevich Zvarykin and Andrey Timofeevich Maslov were wounded. The Pavlograd Hussars lost 22 officers killed or wounded, the 13th Jägers lost 16 officers and 400 men and the Shirvan Infantry Regiment lost half its numbers. On the French side, Marshal Victor and Generals of Division Grouchy, Laferrière and Boyer de Rébeval were wounded as were Generals of Brigade Bigarré and Lecapitaine. Boyer de Rébeval's division suffered losses of two out of three men. Neither side lost a cannon or a color. [46] The 14th Voltigeurs, which was made up of French soldiers from Joseph Bonaparte's disbanded Spanish Guard, lost 32 officers and was virtually annihilated. [47]

According to two historians, Craonne was a Pyrrhic victory because the French held the battlefield at the day's end, but their other objectives were not attained. [46] [30] Napoleon hoped to march rapidly to Laon and get there ahead of Blücher. In the event, the effort involved to drive off Vorontsov caused the French army to be spread out toward Soissons, rather than toward Laon. Napoleon had hoped to easily dispose of Vorontsov's corps, but found that he had to fight a major battle. Instead of cutting off Blücher from Laon, Napoleon had to pursue the Allied army directly. [30] If Blücher had added Sacken's infantry to Vorontsov's corps, Napoleon might well have been beaten. [48] Napoleon believed that the Allied army was fleeing from him in confusion, but this was not the case. [49] Napoleon's army would sustain a defeat in the Battle of Laon on 9–10 March and be lucky not to suffer even worse damage. [50]

Russian and French general officer casualties

Forces

French order of battle

Russian order of battle

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 4 Pigeard 2002, pp. 648–9.
  2. Smith 1998, p. 507.
  3. Petre 1994, pp. 86–91.
  4. Petre 1994, p. 101.
  5. Petre 1994, p. 105.
  6. Smith 1998, p. 505.
  7. Petre 1994, pp. 106–109.
  8. Petre 1994, pp. 111–113.
  9. Petre 1994, p. 115.
  10. Petre 1994, pp. 115–116.
  11. 1 2 Petre 1994, p. 117.
  12. Petre 1994, p. 119.
  13. 1 2 3 4 Nafziger 2015, p. 236.
  14. 1 2 Nafziger 2015, p. 235.
  15. Petre 1994, pp. 118–119.
  16. Petre 1994, p. 121.
  17. 1 2 3 Nafziger 2015, p. 237.
  18. 1 2 3 Petre 1994, p. 123.
  19. 1 2 Petre 1994, p. 122.
  20. 1 2 3 Petre 1994, p. 130.
  21. Petre 1994, p. 120.
  22. 1 2 Petre 1994, p. 124.
  23. Petre 1994, p. 132.
  24. 1 2 3 Nafziger 2015, p. 238.
  25. Nafziger 2015, p. 239.
  26. Rothenberg 1980, p. 202.
  27. Nafziger 2015, p. 2015.
  28. 1 2 3 Petre 1994, p. 125.
  29. 1 2 Nafziger 2015, p. 240.
  30. 1 2 3 4 Petre 1994, p. 131.
  31. Houssaye Henry, Napoleon and the campaign of 1814. p. 157
  32. 1 2 3 Nafziger 2015, p. 241.
  33. 1 2 3 4 Nafziger 2015, p. 242.
  34. 1 2 3 4 5 Petre 1994, p. 126.
  35. 1 2 3 Nafziger 2015, p. 243.
  36. 1 2 3 Nafziger 2015, p. 244.
  37. Petre 1994, p. 127.
  38. 1 2 Nafziger 2015, p. 245.
  39. 1 2 Petre 1994, p. 128.
  40. Nafziger 2015, p. 246.
  41. 1 2 Nafziger 2015, p. 247.
  42. Nafziger 2015, p. 248.
  43. Petre 1994, p. 129.
  44. Chandler 1966, p. 988.
  45. Smith 1998, p. 508.
  46. 1 2 Nafziger 2015, p. 249.
  47. Oman 1997, p. 253.
  48. Petre 1994, p. 133.
  49. Petre 1994, p. 134.
  50. Chandler 1966, pp. 989–991.
  51. Nafziger 2015, pp. 658–660.
  52. 1 2 Petre 1994, p. 131n: This source stated that Christiani and Poret de Morvan were not engaged.
  53. Nafziger 2015, p. 734.
  54. Nafziger 2015, pp. 661–662.

Related Research Articles

Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube 1814 battle between French and Allied forces

The Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube saw an Imperial French army under Napoleon face a much larger Allied army led by Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg during the War of the Sixth Coalition. On the second day of fighting, Emperor Napoleon suddenly realized the long odds against him and hurriedly ordered a retreat. The French were able to disengage and withdraw to the north because of the hesitations of the Austrian Field Marshal Schwarzenberg. This was Napoleon's penultimate battle before his abdication and exile to Elba, the last being the Battle of Saint-Dizier.

Battle of Brienne 1814 battle between Napoleon and Prussian and Russian forces

The Battle of Brienne saw an Imperial French army led by Emperor Napoleon attack Prussian and Russian forces commanded by Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. After heavy fighting that went on into the night, the French seized the château, nearly capturing Blücher. However, the French were unable to dislodge the Russians from the town of Brienne-le-Château. Napoleon himself, making his first appearance on a battlefield in 1814, was also nearly captured. Very early the next morning, Blücher's troops quietly abandoned the town and retreated to the south, conceding the field to the French.

Battle of Champaubert battle

The Battle of Champaubert was the opening engagement of the Six Days' Campaign. It was fought between a French army led by Napoleon and a small Russian corps commanded by Lieutenant General Count Zakhar Dmitrievich Olsufiev. After putting up a good fight, the Russian formation was effectively destroyed; the survivors escaped into the woods while Olsufiev became a French prisoner. Champaubert is located in France, 46 kilometres (29 mi) west of Châlons-en-Champagne and 69 kilometres (43 mi) east of Meaux.

Battle of Montereau 1814 battle between the French and Austrians

The Battle of Montereau was fought during the War of the Sixth Coalition between an Imperial French army led by Emperor Napoleon and a corps of Austrians and Württembergers commanded by Crown Prince Frederick William of Württemberg. While Napoleon's army mauled an Allied army under Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, the main Allied army commanded by Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg advanced to a position dangerously close to Paris. Gathering up his outnumbered forces, Napoleon rushed his soldiers south to deal with Schwarzenberg. Hearing of the approach of the French emperor, the Allied commander ordered a withdrawal, but 17 February saw his rear guards overrun or brushed aside.

Battle of Montmirail battle

The Battle of Montmirail was fought between a French force led by Emperor Napoleon and two Allied corps commanded by Fabian Wilhelm von Osten-Sacken and Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg. In hard fighting that lasted until evening, French troops including the Imperial Guard defeated Sacken's Russian soldiers and compelled them to retreat to the north. Part of Yorck's Prussian I Corps tried to intervene in the struggle but it was also driven off. The battle occurred near Montmirail, France during the Six Days Campaign of the Napoleonic Wars. Montmirail is located 51 kilometres (32 mi) east of Meaux.

Battle of Mormant 1814 battle in Europe

The Battle of Mormant was fought during the War of the Sixth Coalition between an Imperial French army under Emperor Napoleon I and a division of Russians under Count Peter Petrovich Pahlen. Enveloped by cavalry led by François Étienne de Kellermann and Édouard Jean-Baptiste Milhaud and infantry led by Étienne Maurice Gérard, Pahlen's outnumbered force was nearly destroyed, with only about a third of its soldiers escaping. Later in the day, a French column led by Marshal Claude Perrin Victor encountered an Austrian-Bavarian rearguard under Anton Leonhard von Hardegg and Peter de Lamotte in the Battle of Valjouan. Attacked by French infantry and cavalry, the Allied force was mauled before it withdrew behind the Seine River. The Mormant-Valjouan actions and the Battle of Montereau the following day marked the start of a French counteroffensive intended to drive back Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg's Allied Army of Bohemia. The town of Mormant is located 50 kilometres (31 mi) southeast of Paris.

Battle of Vauchamps battle

The Battle of Vauchamps was the final major engagement of the Six Days Campaign of the War of the Sixth Coalition. It resulted in a part of the Grande Armée under Napoleon I defeating a superior Prussian and Russian force of the Army of Silesia under Field-marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher.

Battle of Château-Thierry (1814) 1814 Napoleonic battle

The Battle of Château-Thierry saw the Imperial French army commanded by Emperor Napoleon attempt to destroy a Prussian corps led by Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg and an Imperial Russian corps under Fabian Wilhelm von Osten-Sacken. The two Allied corps managed to escape across the Marne River, but suffered considerably heavier losses than the pursuing French. This action occurred during the Six Days' Campaign, a series of victories that Napoleon won over Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher's Army of Silesia. Château-Thierry lies about 75 kilometres (47 mi) northeast of Paris.

Battle of Reims (1814) battle

The Battle of Reims was fought at Reims, France between an Imperial French army commanded by Emperor Napoleon and a combined Russian-Prussian corps led by General Emmanuel de Saint-Priest. On the first day, Saint-Priest's Russians and General Friedrich Wilhelm von Jagow's Prussians easily captured Reims from its French National Guard garrison, capturing or killing more than half of its defenders. On the second day, an overconfident Saint-Priest carelessly deployed his forces west of the city, not grasping that Napoleon was approaching with 20,000 troops. Too late, Saint-Priest realized who he was fighting and tried to organize a retreat. In the battle that followed, the French army struck with crushing force and the Allies were routed with serious losses. During the fighting, Saint-Priest was struck by a howitzer shell and died two weeks later.

Battle of Laon battle

The Battle of Laon was the victory of Blücher's Prussian army over Napoleon's French army near Laon.

Battle of Fère-Champenoise battle

The Battle of Fère-Champenoise was fought between two Imperial French corps led by Marshals Auguste de Marmont and Édouard Mortier, duc de Trévise and a larger Coalition force composed of cavalry from the Austrian Empire, Kingdom of Prussia, Kingdom of Württemberg, and Russian Empire. Caught by surprise by Field Marshal Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg's main Coalition army, the forces under Marmont and Mortier were steadily driven back and finally completely routed by aggressive Allied horsemen and gunners, suffering heavy casualties and the loss of most of their artillery. Two divisions of French National Guards under Michel-Marie Pacthod escorting a nearby convoy were also attacked and wiped out in the Battle of Bannes. The battleground was near the town Fère-Champenoise located 40 kilometres (25 mi) southwest of Châlons-en-Champagne.

Battle of Guttstadt-Deppen

In the Battle of Guttstadt-Deppen on 5 and 6 June 1807, troops of the Russian Empire led by General Levin August, Count von Bennigsen attacked the First French Empire corps of Marshal Michel Ney. The Russians pressed back their opponents in an action that saw Ney fight a brilliant rearguard action with his heavily outnumbered forces. During the 6th, Ney successfully disengaged his troops and pulled back to the west side of the Pasłęka (Passarge) River. The action occurred during the War of the Fourth Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars. Dobre Miasto (Guttstadt) is on Route 51 about 20 kilometers (12 mi) southwest of Lidzbark Warmiński (Heilsberg) and 24 kilometers (15 mi) north of Olsztyn (Allenstein). The fighting occurred along Route 580 which runs southwest from Guttstadt to Kalisty (Deppen) on the Pasłęka.

The VI Cavalry Corps of the Grande Armée was the name of a French military formation that had an ephemeral existence during the Napoleonic Wars. The corps was created on 9 February 1814 and François Étienne de Kellermann was appointed as its commander. The corps was formed by combining a newly arrived dragoon division from the Spanish front, a second dragoon division and a light cavalry division made up of hussars and chasseurs à cheval. The latter two divisions included units from the former III Cavalry Corps. Kellermann led the VI Cavalry Corps in actions at Mormant, Troyes, Second Bar-sur-Aube, Laubressel and Saint-Dizier. After Emperor Napoleon abdicated in early April 1814, the corps ceased to exist.

Étienne Pierre Sylvestre Ricard French politician and officer

Étienne Pierre Sylvestre Ricard was a prominent French division commander during the 1814 Campaign in Northeast France. In 1791 he joined an infantry regiment and spent several years in Corsica. Transferred to the Army of Italy in 1799, he became an aide-de-camp to Louis-Gabriel Suchet. He fought at Pozzolo in 1800. He became aide-de-camp to Marshal Nicolas Soult in 1805 and was at Austerlitz and Jena where his actions earned a promotion to general of brigade. From 1808 he functioned as Soult's chief of staff during the Peninsular War, serving at Corunna, Braga, First and Second Porto. During this time he sent a letter to Soult's generals asking them if the marshal should assume royal powers in Northern Portugal. When he found out, Napoleon was furious and he sidelined Ricard for two years.

The Battle of Laubressel saw the main Allied army of Field Marshal Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg mount a three-pronged converging attack on the weaker army of Marshal Jacques MacDonald. The French forces under Marshal Nicolas Oudinot bore the brunt of the fighting, in which the Allies tried to turn their left flank. The French abandoned Troyes and retreated west as a result of the action. The village of Laubressel is located 10 kilometres (6 mi) east of Troyes.

Claude Marie Meunier French officer

Claude Marie Meunier became a French division commander during the Napoleonic Wars. He joined a volunteer regiment in 1792 and fought on the Rhine and in Italy as a captain. After a stint in the Consular Guard as a major, he became colonel of the 9th Light Infantry Regiment in 1803. His regiment fought at Haslach and Dürenstein in 1805, Halle, Waren and Lübeck in 1806, and Mohrungen and Friedland in 1807. Transferred to Spain, he led his troops at Uclés, Medellín and Talavera in 1809. He was promoted general of brigade in 1810 and fought at Barrosa in 1811.

Pierre François Xavier Boyer French soldier

Pierre François Xavier Boyer became a French division commander during the Napoleonic Wars. He joined a volunteer regiment in 1792. He fought in the Italian campaign of 1796 and participated in the French invasion of Egypt in 1798. He became a general of brigade in 1801 and took part in the Expedition to Saint-Domingue in 1802. While sailing back to France he was captured by the British. After being exchanged, he fought at Jena and Pultusk in 1806, Friedland in 1807 and Wagram in 1809. Transferred to Spain, Boyer led a dragoon division at Salamanca and Battle of Venta del Pozo in 1812 and Vitoria in 1813. He earned the nickname "Pedro the Cruel" for brutal actions against Spanish partisans. He led an infantry division at the Nivelle and the Nive in late 1813. His division was transferred to the fighting near Paris and he was promoted general of division in February 1814. He led his troops at Mormant, Craonne, Laon and Arcis-sur-Aube.

Pierre Decouz French soldier and officer

Pierre Decouz became a French division commander during the later Napoleonic Wars. He was born in the Kingdom of Sardinia but after the region was annexed to France, he joined a volunteer battalion in 1793. He fought in Italy during the War of the First Coalition. He participated in the French campaign in Egypt and Syria, fighting at the Pyramids, Acre and Abukir. After distinguishing himself at Austerlitz in 1805, he was promoted to command an infantry regiment. In 1806–1807 he led his regiment at Auerstädt, Pultusk and Eylau. In 1809 he fought at Eckmühl, Ratisbon and Wagram, winning promotion to general of brigade. After leading an Imperial Guard brigade at Lützen and Bautzen in 1813, he was promoted general of division. He commanded a Young Guard division at Dresden and Leipzig. Still leading a Young Guard division, he was fatally wounded at the Battle of Brienne and died three weeks later. His surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 17.

Six Days Campaign order of battle

The Six Days' Campaign saw four victories by the Imperial French army led by Napoleon over the Army of Silesia commanded by Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. Between 10 and 15 February 1814, the French inflicted losses of at least 14,034 men and 52 guns on the Army of Silesia. A second estimate listed 16,000 casualties and 60 guns. A third estimate reached as high as 20,000 casualties, but a calculation by historian George Nafziger suggested that Blücher may have lost 28,500 soldiers.

References

See also