Battle of La Rothière

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Battle of La Rothière
Part of the War of the Sixth Coalition
Bataille de La Rothiere, par Knotel.jpg
Württemberg dragoons charging French infantry
Date1 February 1814
Location
Result Coalition victory
Belligerents
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Kingdom of Prussia
Flag of Russia.svg Russian Empire
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Austrian Empire
Flag of Bavaria (striped).svg  Kingdom of Bavaria
Flagge Konigreich Wurttemberg.svg Württemberg
Flag of France.svg French Empire
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Gebhard von Blücher Flag of France.svg Napoleon I
Strength
80,000 45,000
128 guns
Casualties and losses
6,000–7,000 dead or wounded [1] 5,600 dead, wounded or captured
73 guns [1]

The Battle of La Rothière was fought on 1 February 1814 between the French Empire and allied army of Austria, Prussia, Russia, and German States previously allies with France. The French were led by Emperor Napoleon and the coalition army was under the command of Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. The battle took place in severe weather conditions (wet snowstorm). The French were defeated but managed to hold until they could retreat under cover of darkness.

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.

Austria Federal republic in Central Europe

Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a country in Central Europe comprising 9 federated states. Its capital, largest city and one of nine states is Vienna. Austria has an area of 83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi), a population of nearly 9 million people and a nominal GDP of $477 billion. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The terrain is highly mountainous, lying within the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 m (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 m (12,461 ft). The majority of the population speaks local Bavarian dialects as their native language, and German in its standard form is the country's official language. Other regional languages are Hungarian, Burgenland Croatian, and Slovene.

Prussia state in Central Europe between 1525–1947

Prussia was a historically prominent German state that originated in 1525 with a duchy centred on the region of Prussia on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. It was de facto dissolved by an emergency decree transferring powers of the Prussian government to German Chancellor Franz von Papen in 1932 and de jure by an Allied decree in 1947. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organised and effective army. Prussia, with its capital in Königsberg and from 1701 in Berlin, decisively shaped the history of Germany.

Contents

Prelude

On the 25 January 1814, Blücher entered Nancy, and, moving rapidly up the valley of the Moselle, was in communication with the Austrian advanced guard near La Rothière on the afternoon of the 28 January. [2]

On 29 January Napoleon attacked the Prussians. Blücher's headquarters were surprised and he himself nearly captured by a sudden rush of French troops (Battle of Brienne). Learning at the same time that the French Emperor in person was at hand, Blücher accordingly fell back a few miles next morning to a strong position covering the exits from the Bar-sur-Aube defile. [2]

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.

Bar-sur-Aube Subprefecture and commune in Grand Est, France

Bar-sur-Aube is a French commune and a sub-prefecture in the Aube department in the Grand Est region of France.

Defile (geography) A narrow pass or gorge between mountains or hills

In geography, a defile is a narrow pass or gorge between mountains or hills. It has its origins as a military description of a pass through which troops can march only in a narrow column or with a narrow front. On emerging from a defile into open country, soldiers are said to "debouch".

The Austrian advance guard joined the Prussians and together they decided to accept battle—indeed they had no alternative, as the roads in rear were so choked with traffic that retreat was out of the question. [2]

Order of battle

Map of the battle Battle of La Rothiere map.jpg
Map of the battle

The French army counted about 45,000 men in 57 battalions and 62 squadrons, supported by 128 artillery pieces. The Imperial Guard was commanded by General of Division Philibert Jean-Baptiste Curial. Marshal Claude Perrin Victor led the II Corps with three infantry divisions under Generals of Division François Antoine Teste, Jean Corbineau, and Georges Mouton. General of Division Emmanuel Grouchy led the cavalry. [3]

Philibert Jean-Baptiste Curial French general

Philibert-Jean-Baptiste François Joseph, comte Curial was a general in the French Imperial Army during the Napoleonic Wars.

II Corps (Grande Armée) military unit of the Grande Armée

The II Corps of the Grande Armée was a military unit that existed during the Napoleonic Wars.

Jean-Baptiste Juvénal Corbineau was a French cavalry general of the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars. His two brothers Claude and Hercule also fought in both these wars and together the three men were known as "les trois Horaces".

On the Coalition side, Prince Scherbatov led the Russian 6th Corps, General-Leutnant Zakhar Dmitrievich Olsufiev directed the Russian 9th Corps, Count Liewen III commanded the Russian 11th Corps, Feldzeugmeister Ignaz Gyulai led the Austrian 3rd Corps, Crown Prince Frederick William of Württemberg directed the 4th Corps, General der Kavallerie Karl Philipp von Wrede commanded the Austro-Bavarian 5th Corps, and there were several independent cavalry divisions. [3]

Zakhar Dmitrievich Olsufiev Russian Lieutenant General

Zakhar Dmitrievich Olsufiev was a Russian infantry Lieutenant General during the reigns of tsars Paul I and Alexander I.

William I of Württemberg second King of Württemberg from 1816

William I was King of Württemberg from 30 October 1816 until his death.

Karl Philipp von Wrede German field marshal

KarlPhilipp Josef, Prince von Wrede was a Bavarian field marshal. He was an ally of Napoleonic France until he negotiated the Treaty of Ried with Austria in 1813. Thereafter Bavaria joined the coalition.

The multinational coalition forces used white shoulder bands to distinguish friends from foes during the battle.[ citation needed ]

Battle

About noon the 2 February Napoleon attacked, but the weather was terrible, and the ground so heavy that his favourite artillery, the mainstay of his whole system of warfare, was useless and in the drifts of snow which at intervals swept across the field, the columns lost their direction and many were severely handled by the Cossacks. At nightfall the fighting ceased and the French retired to Lesmont, leaving Marmont behind to observe Coalition movements. [2]

Historian Digby Smith stated that French losses numbered 4,600 killed and wounded. The Coalition captured an additional 1,000 soldiers and 73 guns. The large loss of artillery was partly due to Coalition cavalry superiority and partly due to the soggy condition of the ground, which made it difficult to withdraw the pieces. The Coalition lost between 6,000 and 7,000 casualties. [1]

Aftermath

From Lesmont, the French moved to Troyes. Owing to the state of the roads, more perhaps to the extraordinary lethargy which always characterized Schwarzenberg's headquarters, no pursuit was attempted. [2]

Analysis

The result of this battle filled the allies with joy. They had captured 50 guns and 2,000 prisoners, and 4,000 dead or wounded Frenchmen littered the plain, but it was not these trophies or these hecatombs which raised their spirits to such a height: they themselves had had 6,000 men mown down by the grape shot; but they had overthrown Napoleon in fair fight on the soil of France; the charm which had been broken at Leipzig had not been restored, and it was again proved that the Emperor was not invincible. In face of the enormous forces which they had available, the Emperor was as good as beaten unless he were invincible.

Henry Houssaye. [4]

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 Smith 1998, p. 492.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Maude 1911, p. 232.
  3. 1 2 Smith 1998, p. 491-492.
  4. Houssaye 1914, pp. 50–51.

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References

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Further reading

Coordinates: 48°20′45″N4°33′30″E / 48.3458°N 4.5583°E / 48.3458; 4.5583