Battle of Reims (1814)

Last updated
Battle of Reims
Part of War of the Sixth Coalition
La derniere victoire, Reims, 1814.jpg
"The Last Victory", by Maurice Orange, 1814.
Date12–13 March 1814
Result French victory
Flag of France.svg French Empire Flag of Russia.svg Russian Empire
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Kingdom of Prussia
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Napoleon I Flag of Russia.svg E. de Saint-Priest  
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Friedrich von Jagow
Flag of France.svg 10,000 Flag of Russia.svg 7,800
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg 5,600
Casualties and losses
12 March:
Flag of France.svg 1,200–2,500, 11 guns
13 March:
Flag of France.svg 700–900
12 March: unknown
13 March:
Flag of Russia.svg 1,400, 12 guns
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg 1,300, 10 guns

The Battle of Reims (12–13 March 1814) 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.

Reims Subprefecture and commune in Grand Est, France

Reims is a city in the Grand Est region of France, lying 129 km (80 mi) east-northeast of Paris. The 2013 census recorded 182,592 inhabitants in the city of Reims proper, and 317,611 inhabitants in the metropolitan area. Its primary river, the Vesle, is a tributary of the Aisne.

France Republic with majority of territory in Europe and numerous oversea territories around the world

France, officially the French Republic, is a sovereign state whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.02 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

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.



On 9–10 March 1814, a 100,000-strong Allied army led by Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher defeated Emperor Napoleon's 39,000-man Imperial French army in the Battle of Laon. The French lost 4,000 killed and wounded plus 2,500 men, 45 guns and 130 caissons captured. The Allies admitted only 744 casualties. [1] Another source stated that the Allies sustained 4,000 casualties while inflicting 7,500 on the French. [2] Early on the second day, Blücher was so ill with an eye infection that he temporarily handed over command to his chief of staff August Neidhardt von Gneisenau. Though Blücher had issued orders to attack the French that day, the new commander cancelled them. [3] Consequently, Napoleon was able to disengage his battered army and withdraw almost unmolested to Soissons. Without Blücher's guiding hand, the Allied corps commanders began to clash with one another. Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg tried to resign his corps command and was only persuaded to remain by Blücher. [4]

Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher Prussian field marshal

Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Fürst von Wahlstatt, Graf (count), later elevated to Fürst von Wahlstatt, was a Prussian Generalfeldmarschall. He earned his greatest recognition after leading his army against Napoleon I at the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig in 1813 and the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Battle of Laon battle

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

The title chief of staff identifies the leader of a complex organization, institution, or body of persons and it also may identify a principal staff officer (PSO), who is the coordinator of the supporting staff or a primary aide-de-camp to an important individual, such as a president, or a senior military officer, or leader of a large organization.

At dawn on 11 March, Napoleon's army began its retreat to Soissons where it formed for battle at 3:00 pm. Only 1,500 Russians mounted a pursuit and they were easily kept at bay by the French rearguard. [2] The right wing of Marshal Auguste de Marmont, whose corps had been routed at Laon, retreated to Fismes. On 11–12 March Napoleon organized a defense at Soissons and issued orders for his eastern garrisons to break out and harass the Allied supply lines going back to the Rhine River. [4]

A rearguard is that part of a military force that protects it from attack from the rear, either during an advance or withdrawal. The term can also be used to describe forces protecting lines, such as communication lines, behind an army. Even more generally, a rearguard action may refer idiomatically to an attempt at preventing something though it is likely too late to be prevented; this idiomatic meaning may apply in either a military or non-military context.

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.

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.

Not only did the French army suffer heavy casualties at Laon, it also lost between 5,400 and 8,000 men at the Battle of Craonne on 7 March. [5] Napoleon assigned Marshal Édouard Mortier to command 8,000–9,000 infantry in the divisions of Joseph Boyer de Rébeval, Henri François Marie Charpentier, Charles-Joseph Christiani, Philibert Jean-Baptiste Curial, Claude Marie Meunier, Paul-Jean-Baptiste Poret de Morvan and 4,000 cavalry in the divisions of Nicolas-François Roussel d'Hurbal and Louis Michel Pac, and a march regiment. [6] One battalion of the Legion of the Vistula, 600 Polish lancers, three cavalry march regiments, two companies of coast guard gunners, two sapper companies and 1,000 conscripts arrived as reinforcements from Paris. A new cavalry unit called the Converged Squadrons Division was formed and assigned to Sigismond Frédéric de Berckheim. [7]

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.

The Battle of Craonne 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.

Joseph Boyer de Rébeval became a French division commander during the later Napoleonic Wars. He enlisted in the French Royal Army in 1787 and earned promotions through the ranks in the War of the First Coalition and subsequent conflicts. He was wounded at Valvasone in March 1797. He emerged as a major in the Vélites of the Imperial Guard in 1806 and fought at Kolberg in 1807. He was promoted colonel of the 2nd Foot Chasseurs of the Guard in 1808. He fought at Wagram in 1809, winning promotion to general of brigade. He was wounded at Borodino in 1812. He commanded a Young Guard brigade at Dresden and Leipzig in 1813 and was promoted to general of division. He led a Young Guard division at Craonne, where he was wounded, and at Laon, Reims and Arcis-sur-Aube in 1814. During the Hundred Days he commanded units of the Imperial Guard at Waterloo in 1815 and retired soon afterward.

Napoleon disbanded the two Young Guard corps of Marshals Michel Ney and Claude Perrin Victor and Poret de Morvan's provisional division. Extra officers and non-coms were sent to Paris to recruit while the survivors were consolidated into the divisions of Curial and Charpentier. After reorganization, Mortier's 10,609-strong corps consisted of Christiani's 2,034 men, Curial's 2,796 men, Charpentier's 2,755 men, 2,062 cavalrymen and 962 gunners. The remainder of the army was formed into Marmont's 7,200 soldiers, Louis Friant's 3,600 Old Guards, Boyer de Rébeval's 3,000 men, the 2,400 sabers of the I Cavalry Corps, Berckheim's 1,700 horsemen and Horace Sebastiani's 4,400 guard cavalrymen. [7]

Michel Ney French soldier and military commander

Marshal of the Empire Michel Ney, 1st Duke of Elchingen, 1st Prince of the Moskva, popularly known as Marshal Ney, was a French soldier and military commander of German origin who fought in the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was one of the original 18 Marshals of the Empire created by Napoleon. He was known as Le Rougeaud by his men and nicknamed le Brave des Braves by Napoleon.

Paris Capital 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, and 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 Zürich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018.

Louis Friant French military commander

Louis Friant was born in the village of Morlancourt, 8 km south of Albert near the river Somme.

Allies capture Reims

Saint-Priest, a French émigré, [8] led the Russian 8th Infantry Corps, which was made up of the 11th and 17th Infantry Divisions. Each division consisted of four line infantry and two jäger regiments. At the beginning of 1814, the corps numbered 11,900 soldiers and formed part of Louis Alexandre Andrault de Langeron's 43,000-strong army corps. [9] On 31 December 1813, the 8th Corps executed a successful assault crossing of the Rhine River near Koblenz. [10] After this operation the corps advanced to Dinant on the Meuse River. [11] On 15 February, Saint-Priest's corps was ordered to take over the Siege of Mainz. [12] By early March, Saint-Priest had moved west to occupy Châlons-sur-Marne and Vitry-le-François. [13] Fresh from the blockade of Erfurt, Jagow brought his Prussian brigade to join Saint-Priest. [8]

An émigré is a person who has emigrated, often with a connotation of political or social self-exile. The word is the past participle of the French émigrer, "to emigrate".

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.

Rhine River in Western Europe

The Rhine is one of the major European rivers, which has its sources in Switzerland and flows in a mostly northerly direction through Germany and the Netherlands, emptying into the North Sea. The river begins in the Swiss canton of Graubünden in the southeastern Swiss Alps, forms part of the Swiss-Liechtenstein, Swiss-Austrian, Swiss-German and then the Franco-German border, then flows through the German Rhineland and the Netherlands and eventually empties into the North Sea.

Emmanuel de St-Priest Saint-Priest E F.jpg
Emmanuel de St-Priest

In 1814, Reims had a population of 30,000 and was one of the most important cities of France. The city was surrounded by a wall and the Vesle River flowed through the city from southeast to northwest. The Soissons suburb was on an island to the southwest, opposite the city. Reims was 38 miles (61 km) north of Châlons-sur-Marne and 31 miles (50 km) east of Soissons. Napoleon was aware that Reims was in grave danger but he could only spare the Honor Guards cavalry division under Jean-Marie Defrance to watch the crossings of the Aisne River. The city's garrison was commanded by Jean Corbineau and was made up of 4,000 National Guards, a handful of line infantry and eight artillery pieces. [8] Another authority asserted that the French garrison numbered only 1,256 infantry and 150 cavalry. These included details from the 15th, 43rd, 50th, 66th and 138th Line Infantry, 1st and 3rd Gardes d'Honneur, 2nd Eclaireurs and Guard artillery. [14]

Jean-Marie Defrance DeFrance.jpg
Jean-Marie Defrance

Saint-Priest's force included the 8-battalion 11th Division led by Ivan Stepanovich Gurgalov, four battalions from the 17th Division under Igor Maximovich Pillar, two dragoon regiments commanded by Georgiy Emmanuel, the 3-regiment 1st Horse Chasseur Division directed by Ivan Davidovich Pandschulishev and at least 12 guns. Attached to the force was Jagow's Prussian brigade which had three battalions each of the 1st Pommeranian (919 men) and 5th Kurmärk (810 men) Landwehr Regiments, one battalion each of the 3rd Pommeranian (380 men) and 2nd Neumark (263 men) Landwehr Regiments, elements of the 7th Kurmärk (77 sabers) and 1st West Prussian (41 sabers) Landwehr Cavalry Regiments, a battery with eight 6-pound cannons and a battery with six 7-pound howitzers. [15] [note 1] There were 7,800 Russians and 5,600 Prussians, including two 4-squadron regiments of Landwehr cavalry. [14]

The three attacking columns assembled at Cormontreuil at 3:00 am on 12 March 1814. Emmanuel's column consisted of the Kiev Dragoons, Riazan Infantry Regiment and 33rd Jägers plus two Prussian battalions, two cannons and two howitzers. Pillar's column included the rest of the Russian infantry, 50 horsemen, two Prussian battalions and two howitzers. Jagow's column had six Prussian battalions 150 cavalry and 10 artillery pieces. Jagow's column assaulted Reims between the Épernay and Soissons roads, from the southwest. Covered by the fire of two 12-pound cannons, the Prussians broke into the city at the Paris gate. Pillar's column moved from the southeast along the north bank of the Vesle. The column under Emmanuel attacked from the northeast down the Rethel road, while the Kiev Dragoons and the Chernigov Horse Chasseurs stormed from the northwest down the Laon road. The attack was a complete surprise. [8]

Emmanuel slowly pushed a Young Guard cadre [8] back to the Place des Arcades. Meanwhile, Pillar's troops forced their way into the city by the Châlons gate and followed the edge of the city wall to get behind the French defenders. The Young Guards tried to fight their way through Pillar's men but were soon forced to surrender. A body of defenders tried to get away north to Berry-au-Bac but they were intercepted by Russian cavalry and over 200 survivors were captured. Some French defenders retreated to the northwest along the north bank of the Vesle. Though pursued by Allied horsemen, they escaped when Defrance's six squadrons of honor guards and hussars arrived in time to cover their withdrawal. Altogether, 2,500 French infantry and 11 guns fell into Allied hands in the city. [16] A second source stated that 100 men of the 1,356-man garrison were killed and most of the remainder captured, including General Jean-Laurent Lacoste-Duvivier. [14]

Emmanuel deployed the Kiev Dragoons at La Neuvillette north of Reims. They clashed inconclusively with Defrance's cavalry for the remainder of the day. Saint-Priest was anxious to quickly establish contact with Blücher's army via Berry-au-Bac. The rest of the day was spent rounding up French soldiers trapped in the city. Saint-Priest's Russians camped inside Reims while Jagow's Prussians bivouacked in the villages on the west side of the city. Scouts were sent as far west as Fismes but patrolling was not aggressive. The Russian commander was aware of the Allied victory at Laon and did not expect any trouble. [16] When he heard that Reims had fallen, Gneisenau asserted that the French were not capable of quickly retaking the city. [17]


Approach march

Map shows Reims, Rosnay (Ronay), Berry-au-Bac, and the Aisne and Vesle (Vele) Rivers. T13 ndeg101 la bataille de Reims.jpg
Map shows Reims, Rosnay (Ronay), Berry-au-Bac, and the Aisne and Vesle (Vêle) Rivers.

When Napoleon heard that Saint-Priest captured Reims he realized that he might score a cheap victory over the Allies. A success at Reims would cut the link between the army Blücher to the north and Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg's Allied army to the south. [18] The war was going badly for Napoleon. Marshal Jacques MacDonald was falling back before Schwarzenberg, Eugène de Beauharnais was in a tight spot in Italy, Marshal Pierre Augereau was losing territory in the south. The political situation also appeared dire. The Allies were negotiating the Treaty of Chaumont in order to more closely bind their alliance against the French emperor and the French people were tired of the war. Napoleon needed a quick victory to restore his reputation. [19] The emperor wrote, "My intention being to attack Saint-Priest near Reims tomorrow, to defeat him and reoccupy the town". [18]

Auguste Marmont Marmont.jpg
Auguste Marmont

Napoleon left Mortier with 8,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry to hold Soissons. Augustin Daniel Belliard led Mortier's cavalry which included a brigade from Berckheim's division. [16] Mortier was instructed to defend the Aisne on either side of Soissons but not to allow himself to be drawn into a general battle. [20] Napoleon ordered Marmont with the VI Corps and the I Cavalry Corps to march from Fismes toward Reims starting on the morning of 13 March. They would be followed by all the Guard Cavalry, Friant's division, Pierre François Xavier Boyer's brigade and the Legion of the Vistula battalion. [16] The stage was set for the French soldiers to do some epic marching. Friant began his march from Soissons at 2:00 am and arrived before Reims at 4:00 pm, [17] while Marmont set out from Fismes at 6:00 am. [6] Ney's infantry started from Soissons around 8:00 pm and got to Reims before 4:00 pm. [17] Napoleon set out from Soissons with the Guard cavalry service squadrons. [20]

Étienne Tardif de Pommeroux de Bordesoulle's I Cavalry Corps led Marmont's advance. After obtaining local guides, the column left the main road at Jonchery-sur-Vesle and followed a route through Sapicourt to Rosnay. At Rosnay, they surprised several squadrons of Prussian cavalry which fled in a panic. One battalion of the 3rd Pommeranian Landwehr Regiment was at Rosny while a second battalion was at Muizon on the Vesle. The 5th Kurmärk Landwehr had one battalion at Gueux and a second one at Thillois. The battalion in Rosnay fell back fighting to Gueux and finally to Ormes. While defending themselves in the Ormes cemetery, the Prussians were overwhelmed by Pierre Pelleport's infantry brigade; many surrendered while others were cut down by the 10th Hussars and the 1st Gardes d'Honneur from Cyrille Simon Picquet's cavalry brigade. While he was inspecting a camp at Gueux, Jagow was surprised by French cavalry and galloped away on an unsaddled horse. Caught unaware as they cooked supper, many of the Prussians at Muizon and Thillois left their shoes and coats behind in their flight. [20]

Saint-Priest deployed his Allied troops on the west side of Reims in a double line supported by 24 field guns. His right flank rested on the Vesle River, his center on the Tinqueux heights and his left flank at the La Muire ravine. [21] The 1st Pommeranian Landwehr and 12 guns were posted near Bezannes on the left. [20] One battalion of the Neumark Landwehr was at Cormontreuil while a second battalion guarded the bridge at Sillery to the southeast of Reims. The Prussian cavalry deployed on the far left while Russian cavalry held the far right flank. Saint-Priest established an artillery battery on the Sainte-Geneviève plateau which was supported by the Riazan Infantry, the 1st and 33rd Jagers and the Kharkov and Kiev Dragoons. This force was placed under the direction of Adam Ivanovich Bistrom. Saint-Priest was still convinced that the French activity was a simple reconnaissance. [21]


Georgiy Emmanuel EmmanuelGA.jpg
Georgiy Emmanuel

Bordesoulle's horsemen began pressing back Bistrom's troops. In the early afternoon, Napoleon reached the battlefield. Since the infantry under Ney and Friant had not yet arrived, the French emperor instructed Bordesoulle and Defrance to withdraw a little and ordered the cannons to cease fire. The lack of serious action satisfied Saint-Priest that he had nothing to worry about. [21] The Russian commander gave no orders to move the corps wagon train which was parked in Reims. He believed his defenses were manned in sufficient strength. By 4:00 pm Ney and Friant were on hand. With evening only two hours away, Napoleon ordered an immediate attack. [22]

Ivan Pandschulishev Panchulidzev 1 Ivan Davydovich.jpg
Ivan Pandschulishev

Defrance's cavalry and Étienne Pierre Sylvestre Ricard's infantry division led the assault. The Guard cavalry divisions of Rémi Joseph Isidore Exelmans and Pierre David de Colbert-Chabanais, under the direction of Sebastiani, advanced on Ricard's flanks. [22] Farther south, Bordesoulle's divisions moved toward Bezannes with Christophe Antoine Merlin's division leading. Bordesoulle's thrust was designed to prevent the Prussians from retreating to the southeast via Sillery. The French artillery took position at Croix-Saint-Pierre to the north of the Soissons road while Friant and Pierre Boyer were held in reserve. Ricard's division crossed the La Muire ravine and forced its way onto the Sainte-Geneviève heights, splitting the center of the Allied line and forcing the Russians back toward Reims. [23]

The violence of the assault convinced Saint-Priest that he was facing Napoleon himself. He hastily ordered his second line to retreat through Reims in the direction of Laon. The Russian commander directed his wagon train to go south to Châlons and asked Bistrom to cover the withdrawal. The retrograde movement of the Prussians through the Reims suburb became confused and Jagow was unable to unsnarl it. When Saint-Priest and his staff rode to a place between the Soissons road and Tinqueux village, they drew fire from the French artillery on the Croix-Saint-Pierre heights. Saint-Priest was hit in the shoulder by a howitzer shell and thrown senseless from his horse. [23] A second source stated that the projectile was a solid shot. [17] The next ranking officer, Pandschulishev was injured earlier in the day. Unable to mount a horse, he stayed behind in Reims. After witnessing Saint-Priest being struck down, Emmanuel should have assumed command of the troops. Instead, he "lost his head" and rode back into Reims to ask Pandschulishev what he ought to do. The Allied command structure went to pieces. [23]

The Allied withdrawal soon degenerated into a scramble to safety as cannons were left behind and some foot soldiers jettisoned equipment in order to get away more rapidly. Philippe Paul, comte de Ségur led the 3rd Gardes d'Honneur, some cuirassiers and the 14th Young Guard Battery in a charge that forced some Russian dragoons into the Vesle. However, the Riazan Regiment, bearing the unconscious body of Saint-Priest, maintained its discipline. [23] Pandschulishev ordered six battalions to hold the city walls. Caught between Russians manning the Reims defenses and the withdrawing Riazan Regiment, Ségur's horsemen were trapped and shot down by the score. Next, Ricard's infantry tried to storm the Soissons gate but were driven back by intense musketry. Marmont ordered a battalion into the houses near the walls and instructed the soldiers to pick off the defenders. [24]

Skirmishing went on until 11:00 pm when artillery was wheeled into position to fire on the gate. Though a number of gunners were shot down by the Russian defenders, [24] 16 cannons of the Guard artillery blew open the gate in a furious barrage. Cuirassiers charged into Reims and soon cleared the streets of the Allies. Napoleon and his staff entered Reims at midnight. [25] Another source stated that Napoleon's entrance was an hour later and added that the townspeople turned out to welcome him. Meanwhile, utilizing a bridging train, Exelmans' division and some Polish horsemen crossed the Vesle and headed for the road to Berry-au-Bac. They waded into the retreating column of Jagow and Emmanuel, turning it into a fleeing mob. When Jagow arrived at Berry-au-Bac early on 14 March he reported having only two intact battalions. [24]


Etienne de Bordesoulle Bremond - General Bordessoule.jpg
Étienne de Bordesoulle

Napoleon claimed in his battle report that the gunner who fatally wounded Saint-Priest was the same one who killed Jean Victor Marie Moreau at the Battle of Dresden. [24] [17] Historian Digby Smith wrote that French casualties in the recapture of Reims were about 900. The Russians lost 1,400 men and 12 guns, while the Prussians suffered casualties of 1,300 men and 10 guns. [14] George Nafziger stated that the French suffered 700–800 casualties including a badly-wounded Ségur. Nafziger listed Allied losses as 700–800 dead, 1,500–1,600 wounded and 2,500–3,500 captured, along with 11–14 guns and 100 caissons or wagons. The Prussians admitted losses of 1,300 infantry, 85 cavalry, six howitzers and four cannons. [24] David G. Chandler asserted that the French inflicted 6,000 casualties on the Allies while sustaining losses of 700. [25] While the French army brought 20,000 to 25,000 troops onto the battlefield, no more than 10,000 were actually employed against the 14,500 Allies. [17]

Napoleon spent three days at Reims following his victory. With Blücher still recovering from sickness, Gneisenau did not trouble the French during that time. The French emperor sent Ney to seize Châlons-sur-Marne, which was done without opposition. Ney was joined by Jan Willem Janssens who gathered 3,000 men from the Ardennes garrisons. Meanwhile, Schwarzenberg's army advanced perilously close to Paris. Napoleon's problem was to lure the Allied army away from Paris. [26] He decided to leave Marmont and Mortier with 21,000 soldiers to watch Blücher and move south toward Arcis-sur-Aube to threaten Schwarzenberg's supply line. [27] The Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube was fought on 20–21 March 1814. [28]

Napoleon had achieved a remarkable victory with troops whose morale had suffered due to heavy casualties and the defeats at Craonne and Laon. According to the historian F.W.O. Maycock, success at Reims was, "surely one of the greatest triumphs of [Napoleon's] remarkable career, and speaks volumes for his powers as a leader of men". [29] Napoleon once again interposed between the forces of Blücher and Schwarzenberg, putting him in position to move on the latter's line of communications. [30]


  1. The low numbers of Prussian cavalry may be due to a typographical error in the "rank and file" column. The 7th Kurmärk listed 9 officers, 8 non-coms, 2 musicians and 58 troopers (258?) while the 1st West Prussian listed 4 officers, 14 non-coms, 2 musicians and 21 troopers (210?). It is unlikely that Saint-Priest guarded his left flank with only 118 Prussian horsemen when he had five Russian cavalry regiments available. Nafziger's Prussian returns come to only half of the 5,600 listed by Smith.
  1. Smith 1998, p. 510.
  2. 1 2 Nafziger 2015, pp. 267–269.
  3. Petre 1994, pp. 144–145.
  4. 1 2 Petre 1994, pp. 147–148.
  5. Smith 1998, p. 508.
  6. 1 2 Petre 1994, p. 149.
  7. 1 2 Nafziger 2015, p. 270.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 Nafziger 2015, p. 271.
  9. Leggiere 2007, p. 130.
  10. Leggiere 2007, p. 232.
  11. Nafziger 2015, p. 87.
  12. Nafziger 2015, p. 78.
  13. Nafziger 2015, p. 236.
  14. 1 2 3 4 Smith 1998, p. 511.
  15. Nafziger 2015, p. 673.
  16. 1 2 3 4 Nafziger 2015, p. 272.
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Petre 1994, p. 150.
  18. 1 2 Chandler 1966, p. 992.
  19. Petre 1994, p. 148.
  20. 1 2 3 4 Nafziger 2015, p. 273.
  21. 1 2 3 Nafziger 2015, p. 274.
  22. 1 2 Nafziger 2015, p. 275.
  23. 1 2 3 4 Nafziger 2015, p. 276.
  24. 1 2 3 4 5 Nafziger 2015, p. 277.
  25. 1 2 Chandler 1966, p. 993.
  26. Petre 1994, p. 155.
  27. Petre 1994, p. 156.
  28. Smith 198, p. 512.
  29. Maycock 2008, p. 103.
  30. Maycock 2008, p. 104.

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The Battle of Ligny was the last victory of the military career of Napoleon Bonaparte. In this battle, French troops of the Armée du Nord under Napoleon's command, defeated part of a Prussian army under Field Marshal Prince Blücher, near Ligny in present-day Belgium. The Battle of Ligny is an example of a tactical win and a strategic loss for the French. While the French troops did force the enemy to retreat, the Prussian army survived and went on to play a pivotal role two days later at the Battle of Waterloo, reinforced by the Prussian IV Corps, which had not participated in the Battle of Ligny. Had the French army succeeded in keeping the Prussian army from joining the Anglo-allied Army under Wellington at Waterloo, Napoleon might have won the Waterloo Campaign.

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 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 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 Lübeck battle

The Battle of Lübeck took place on 6 November 1806 in Lübeck, Germany between soldiers of the Kingdom of Prussia led by Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, who were retreating from defeat at the Battle of Jena–Auerstedt, and troops of the First French Empire under Marshals Murat, Bernadotte, and Soult, who were pursuing them. In this War of the Fourth Coalition action, the French inflicted a severe defeat on the Prussians, driving them from the neutral city. Lübeck is an old Baltic Sea port approximately 50 kilometres (31 mi) northeast of Hamburg.

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.

Waterloo campaign: Waterloo to Paris (25 June – 1 July)

After their defeat at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815, the French Army of the North, under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte retreated in disarray back towards France. As agreed by the two Seventh Coalition commanders in chief, the Duke of Wellington, commander of the Anglo-allied army, and Prince Blücher, commander of the Prussian army, the French were to be closely pursued by units of the Prussian army.

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.

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.

First Battle of Bar-sur-Aube

The First Battle of Bar-sur-Aube was fought during the War of the Sixth Coalition when Marshal Édouard Mortier, duc de Trévise's corps of French Imperial Guards defended against an Austrians corps under Ignaz Gyulai and a Württemberger corps led by Crown Prince Frederick William of Württemberg. After holding his main defensive positions in stiff fighting, Mortier withdrew his elite troops during the night and retreated to Troyes. Bar-sur-Aube is located 53 kilometres (33 mi) east of Troyes.

François Pierre Joseph Amey became a French division commander during the Napoleonic Wars. He enlisted in the French Royal Army in 1783 and joined a volunteer battalion in 1792. He won promotion to general of brigade in 1793 during the War in the Vendée. He held a command during the period of the infernal columns and his career became obscure until 1799 when he supported Napoleon's coup. He went on the Saint-Domingue expedition in 1802–1803 and later filled posts in the interior. In 1806–1807 he led a brigade at Jena, Golymin and Eylau where he was wounded.

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.

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.


Coordinates: 49°15′46″N4°02′05″E / 49.2628°N 4.0347°E / 49.2628; 4.0347