1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Napoleonic Campaigns
NAPOLEONIC CAMPAIGNS.—1. The era of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars falls into two main divisions, the first of which (1792–1802) is dealt with under the heading French Revolutionary Wars. In the present article are described the campaigns in central and eastern Europe, directed by Napoleon no longer one amongst many French generals, nor even a simple primus inter pares, but “Emperor” in the fullest sense between the years 1804 and 1814. Napoleon’s short Spanish Campaign of 1809 is dealt with under Peninsular War (this article covering the campaigns in Spain, Portugal and southern France 1808–1814), and for the final drama of Waterloo the reader is referred to Waterloo Campaign.
The campaigns described below are therefore—
(a) The Austrian War of 1805 (Ulm and Austerlitz).
(b) The Conquest of Prussia and the Polish Campaign (Jena, Auerstädt, Eylau, and Friedland).
(c) The Austrian War of 1809 (Eckmühl, Aspern, and Wagram),
(d) The Russian War of 1812 (Borodino and the retreat from Moscow).
(e) The German “War of Liberation,” culminating in the Battle of the Nations around Leipzig 1813.
(f) The last campaign in France, 1814.
The naval history of 1803–1815 includes the culmination and the sequel of the struggle for command of the sea which began in 1793 and reached its maximum intensity on the day of Trafalgar.
2. The Campaign of 1805 may be regarded as a measure of self-defence forced upon Napoleon by the alliance of Russia (April 11th), Austria (August 9th) and other powers with Great Britain. The possibility had long been before the emperor, and his intention in that event to march straight on Vienna by the valley of the Danube is clearly indicated in his reply (November 27th, 1803) to a Prussian proposal for the neutralization of the South German states. In this he says, “It is on the road from Strassburg to Vienna that the French must force peace on Austria, and it is this road which you wish us to renounce.” When, therefore, on the 25th of August 1805, he learnt definitely that Villeneuve (see Naval operations below) had failed in his purpose of securing the command of the Channel, which was the necessary preliminary to the invasion of England, it was but the affair of a few hours to dictate the dispositions necessary to transfer his whole army to the Rhine frontier as the first step in its march to the Danube. On this date the army actually lay in the following positions:—
Camp of Boulogne and
other points on the
The corps were, however, by no means fit for immediate service. Bernadotte’s corps in Hanover was almost in the position of a beleaguered garrison, and the marshal could only obtain his transport by giving out that he was ordered to withdraw to France. Marmont and Davout were deficient in horses for cavalry and artillery, and the troops in Boulogne, having been drawn together for the invasion of England, had hardly any transport at all, as it was considered this want could be readily supplied on landing. The composition of the army, however, was excellent. The generals were in the prime of life, had not yet learnt to distrust one another, and were accustomed to work under the emperor and with one another. The regimental officers had all acquired their rank before the enemy and knew how to manage their men, and of the men themselves nearly two-thirds had seen active service. The strength of the army lay in its infantry, for both cavalry and artillery were short of horses, and the latter had not yet acquired mobility and skill in manœuvring. Napoleon’s determination to undertake the invasion of England has often been disputed, but it is hard to imagine what other operation he contemplated, for the outbreak of hostilities with his continental enemies found him ill-supplied with intelligence as to the resources of the country he had then to traverse. To remedy this, Murat and other general officers as well as minor agents were sent ahead and instructed to travel through South Germany in plain clothes with a view to collecting information and mastering the topography. The emperor was, moreover, imperfectly acquainted with the degree of preparation of his adversaries’ designs, and when he dictated his preliminary orders he was still unaware of the direction that the allies’ advance would assume. That he foresaw the march of events which ultimately drew Mack to Ulm is inconceivable. On the 26th of August, however, he learnt that 100,000 Russians were about to enter Bohemia thence to unite with an Austrian army of 80,000 near the junction of the Inn and Danube, and this information compelled him to alter the general direction of his advance so as to traverse the defiles of the Black Forest north of the Neckar, cavalry only observing the passes to the south.
3. Austrian Army.—The Austrians after the defeats of 1800 had endeavoured to reorganize their forces on the French model, but they were soon to learn that in matters of organization the spirit is everything, the letter very little. They had copied the organization of the French corps, but could find no corps commanders fit to assume the responsibility for these commands. As always in such conditions, the actual control of the smallest movements was still centralized in the hands of the army commanders, and thus the rate of marching was incredibly slow. They had decided that in future their troops in the field should live by requisition, and had handed over to the artillery, which needed them badly, a large number of horses thus set free from the transport service, but they had not realized that men accustomed to a regular distribution of rations cannot be transformed into successful marauders and pillagers by a stroke of the pen; and they had sent away the bulk of their army, 120,000 under their best general, the archduke Charles, into Italy, leaving Lieut. Field Marshal Mack von Leiberich in Germany, nominally as chief of the staff to the young Prince Ferdinand, but virtually in command, to meet the onset of Napoleon at the head of his veterans. Mack was a man of unusual attainments. He had risen from the ranks in the most caste-ridden army in Europe, and against untold opposition had carried through army reforms which were correct in principle, and needed only time to develop. It was his fate to be made the scapegoat for the disasters which followed, though they need no further explanation than that, at the head of 80,000 men and exercising only restricted powers of command, he was pitted against the greatest strategist of all ages who was responsible to no overlord and commanded, in the fullest sense of the term, an army considerably more than twice as strong.
4. The March on Ulm.—The outbreak of the campaign was hastened by the desire of the Austrian government to feed their own army and leave a bare country for Napoleon by securing the resources of Bavaria. It was also hoped that the Bavarians with their army of 25,000 men would join the allies. In the latter hope they were deceived, and the Bavarians under General Wrede slipped away to Bamberg in time. In the former, however, they were successful, and the destitution they left in their wake almost wrecked Napoleon’s subsequent combinations. Mack’s march to Ulm was therefore a necessity of the situation, and his continuance in this exposed position, if foolhardy against such an adversary, was at any rate the outcome of the high resolve that even if beaten he would inflict crippling losses upon the enemy. Mack knew that the Russians would be late at the rendezvous on the Inn. By constructing an entrenched camp at Ulm and concentrating all the available food within it, he expected to compel Napoleon to invest and besiege him, and he anticipated that in the devastated country his adversary would be compelled to separate and thus fall an easy prey to the Russians. For that blow he had determined to make his own army the anvil. But these views obviously could not be published in army orders, hence the discontent and opposition he was destined to encounter.
5. Movements of the French.—It was on the 21st that Napoleon learnt of Mack’s presence in Ulm. On that date his army had crossed the Rhine and was entering the defiles of the Black Forest. It was already beginning to suffer. Boots were worn out, greatcoats deficient, transport almost unattainable and, according to modern ideas, the army would have been considered incapable of action.
|Sept. 28.||Oct. 6.||Oct. 9.||Oct. 16.|
|Soult . .||Landau||Aalen||Donauwörth|
On the 26th of September, its deployment beyond the mountains was complete, and as Napoleon did not know of Mack’s intention to stay at Ulm and had learned that the Russian advance had been delayed, he directed his columns by the following roads on the Danube, between Donauwörth and Ingolstadt, so as to be in a position to intervene between the Austrians and the Russians and beat both in detail. On the 7th of October this movement was completed—the Austrians abandoned the Danube bridges after a show of resistance, retreating westward—and Napoleon, leaving Murat in command of the V. and VI. corps and cavalry to observe the Austrians, pressed on to Augsburg with the others so as to be ready to deal with the Russians. Learning, however, that these were still beyond striking radius, he determined to deal with Mack’s army first, having formed the fixed conviction that a threat at the latter’s communications would compel him to endeavour to retreat southwards towards Tirol. Bernadotte in his turn became an army of observation, and Napoleon joining Murat with the main body marched rapidly westward from the Lech towards the Iller.
6. Austrian Plans.—Mack’s intentions were not what Napoleon supposed. He had meanwhile received (false) information of a British landing at Boulogne, and he was seriously deceived as to the numbers of Napoleon’s forces. He was also aware that the exactions of the French had produced deep indignation throughout Germany and especially in Prussia (whose neutrality had been violated, see § 14, below). All this, and the almost mutinous discontent of his generals and his enemies of the court circle, shook his resolution of acting as anvil for the Russians, of whose delay also he was aware, and about the 8th of October he determined to march out north-eastward across the French lines of communication and save his sovereign’s army by taking refuge if necessary in Saxony. Believing implicitly in the rumours of a descent on Boulogne and of risings in France which also reached him, and knowing the destitution he had left behind him in his movement to Ulm, when he heard of the westward march of French columns from the Lech he told his army, apparently in all good faith, that the French were in full march for their own country.
Actually the French at this moment were suffering the most terrible distress—up to the Danube they had still found sufficient food for existence, but south of it, in the track of the Austrians, they found nothing. All march discipline disappeared, the men dissolved into hordes of marauders and even the sternest of the marshals wrote piteous appeals to the emperor for supplies, and for permission to shoot some of their stragglers. But to all these Berthier in the emperor’s name sent the stereotyped reply— “The emperor has ordered you to carry four days provisions, therefore you can expect nothing further—you know the emperor’s method of conducting war.”
7. Action of Albeck or Haslach.—Meanwhile Murat, before the emperor joined him, had given Mack the desired opening. The VI. corps (Ney) should have remained on the left bank of the Danube to close the Austrian exit on that side, but by mistake only Dupont’s division had been left at Albeck, the rest being
brought over the river. Mack on the 8th had determined to commence his withdrawal, but fortune now favoured the French. The weather during the whole of October had been unusually wet, the swollen Danube overflowed the low ground and the roads had become quagmires. On the south bank, owing to better natural drainage and a drier subsoil, movement was fairly easy, but the Austrians found it almost impossible. On the 11th of October, when they began their march, the road along the Danube was swept into the river, carrying with it several guns and teams, and hours were consumed in passing the shortest distances. At length in the afternoon they suddenly fell upon Dupont's isolated division at Albeck, which was completely surprised and severely handled. The road now lay completely open, but the Austrian columns had so opened out owing to the state of the roads that the leading troops could not pursue their advantage—Dupont rallied and the Austrians had actually to fall back towards Ulm to procure food.
8. Elchingen.—For three more days Mack struggled with an unwilling staff and despondent men to arrange a further advance. During these very three days, through a succession of staff blunders, the French failed to close the gap, and on the morning of the 14th of October both armies, each renewing their advance, came in contact at the bridge of Elchingen. This bridge, all but a few road-bearers, had been destroyed, but now the French gave an example of that individual gallantry which was characteristic of the old revolutionary armies. Running along the beams under a close fire a few gallant men forced their way across. The floor of the bridge was rapidly relaid, and presently the whole of the VI. corps was deploying with unexampled rapidity on the farther side. The Austrians, still in their quagmire, could not push up reinforcements fast enough, and though Mack subsequently alleged deliberate obstruction and disobedience on the part of his subordinates, the state of the roads alone suffices to explain their defeat. Only the right column of the Austrians was, however, involved; the left under General Werneck, to whom some cavalry and the archduke Ferdinand attached themselves, did indeed succeed in getting away, but without trains or supplies. They continued their march, famished but unmolested, until near Heidenheim they suddenly found themselves confronted by what from the diversity of uniforms they took to be an overwhelming force; at the same time the French cavalry sent in pursuit appeared in their rear. Utterly exhausted by fatigue, Werneck with his infantry, some 8000 strong, surrendered to what was really a force of dismounted dragoons and foot-sore stragglers improvised by the commanding officer on the spot to protect the French treasure chests, which at that moment lay actually in the path of the Austrians. The young archduke with some cavalry escaped.
9. Mack surrounded.—The defeat at Elchingen on the 14th of October sealed the fate of the Austrians, though Mack was still determined to endure a siege. As the French columns coming up from the south and west gradually surrounded him, he drew in his troops under shelter of the fortress and its improvised entrenched camp, and on the 15th he found himself completely surrounded. On the 16th the French field-guns fired into the town, and Mack realized that his troops were no longer under sufficient control to endure a siege. When, therefore, next morning, negotiations were opened by the French, Mack, still feeling certain that the Russians were at hand, agreed to an armistice and undertook to lay down his arms if within the next twenty-one days no relief should arrive. To this Napoleon consented, but hardly had the agreement been signed than he succeeded in introducing a number of individual French soldiers into the fortress, who began rioting with the Austrian soldiery. Then, sending in armed parties to restore order and protect the inhabitants, he caused the guards at the gates to be overpowered, and Mack was thus forced into an unconditional surrender.
On the 22nd of October, the day after Trafalgar, the remnant of the Austrian army, 23,000 strong, laid down its arms. About 5000 men under Jellachich had escaped to Tirol, 2000 cuirassiers with Prince Ferdinand to Eger in Bohemia, and about 10,000 men under Werneck, had surrendered at Heidenheim. The losses in battle having been insignificant, there remain some 30,000 to account for—most of whom probably escaped individually by the help of the inhabitants, who were bitterly hostile to the French.
10. Napoleon's Advance to Vienna.—Napoleon now hastened to rejoin the group of corps he had left under Bernadotte in observation towards the Russians, for the latter were nearer at hand than even Mack had assumed. But hearing of his misfortune they retreated before Napoleon's advance along the right bank of the Danube to Krems, where they crossed the river and withdrew to an entrenched camp near Olmütz to pick up fresh Austrian reinforcements. The severe actions of Dürrenstein (near Krems) on the 11th, and of Hollabrünn on the 16th of November, in which Napoleon's marshals learned the tenacity of their new opponents, and the surprise of the Vienna bridge (November 14) by the French, were the chief incidents of this period in the campaign.
11. Campaign of Austerlitz.—Napoleon continued down the right bank to Vienna, where he was compelled by the condition Austerlitz of his troops to call a halt to refit his army. After this was done he continued his movement to Brünn. Thither he succeeded in bringing only 55,000 men. He was again forced to give his army rest and shelter, under cover of Murat's cavalry. The allies now confronted him with upwards of 86,000 men, including 16,000 cavalry. About the 20th of November this force commenced its advance, and Napoleon concentrated in such a manner that within three days he could bring over 80,000 French troops into action around Brünn, besides 17,000 or more Bavarians under Wrede. On the 28th Murat was driven in by the allied columns. That night orders were despatched for a concentration on Brünn in expectation of a collision on the following day; but hearing that the whole allied force was moving towards him he decided to concentrate south-east of Brünn, covering his front by cavalry on the Pratzen heights. Meanwhile he had also prepared a fresh line of retreat towards Bohemia, and, certain now of having his men in hand for the coming battle, he quietly awaited events.
The allies were aware of his position, and still adhering to the old “linear” system, marched to turn his right flank (see Austerlitz). As soon as their strategic purpose of cutting him off from Vienna became apparent, the emperor moved his troops into position, and in the afternoon issued his famous proclamation to his troops, pointing out the enemy's mistakes and his plan for defeating them. At the same time he issued his orders for his first great battle as a supreme commander. The battle of Austerlitz began early next morning and closed in the evening with the thorough and decisive defeat of the allies.
12. Jena, 1806.—Around the Prussian army, and particularly the cavalry, the prestige of Frederick the Great's glory still lingered; but the younger generation had littleJena Campaign. experience of actual warfare, and the higher commanders were quite unable to grasp the changes in tactics and in the conduct of operations which had grown out of the necessities of the French Revolution. The individual officers of the executive staff were the most highly trained in Europe, but there was no great leader to co-ordinate their energies. The total number of men assigned to the field army was 110,000 Prussians and Saxons. They were organized in corps, but their leaders were corps commanders only in name, for none were allowed any latitude for individual initiative. Ill-judged economies had undermined the whole efficiency of the Prussian army. Two-thirds of the infantry and one-half of the cavalry were allowed furlough for from ten to eleven months in the year. The men were unprovided with greatcoats. Most of the muskets had actually seen service in the Seven Years War, and their barrels had worn so thin with constant polishing that the use of full charges at target practice had been forbidden. Above all, the army had drifted entirely out of touch with the civil population. The latter, ground down by feudal tradition and law, and at the same time permeated by the political doctrines of the late 18th century, believed that war concerned the governments only, and formed no part of the business of the “honest citizen.” In this idea they were supported by the law itself, which protected the civilian against the soldier, and forbade even in war-time the requisitioning of horses, provisions and transport, without payment. Up to the night of the battle of Jena itself, the Prussian troops lay starving in the midst of plenty, whilst the French everywhere took what they wanted. This alone was a sufficient cause for all the misfortunes which followed.
13. Outbreak of the War.—During the campaign of Austerlitz Prussia, furious at the violation of her territory of Anspach, had mobilized, and had sent Haugwitz as ambassador to Napoleon's headquarters. He arrived on the 30th of November, and Napoleon, pleading business, put off his official reception till after the battle of Austerlitz. Of course the ultimatum was never presented, as may be imagined; Haugwitz returned and the king of Prussia demobilized at once. But Napoleon, well knowing the man he had to deal with, had determined to force a quarrel upon Prussia at the earliest convenient opportunity. His troops therefore, when withdrawn from Austria, were cantoned in south Germany in such a way that, whilst suspicion was not aroused in minds unacquainted with Napoleonic methods, they could be concentrated by a few marches behind the Thuringian forest and the upper waters of the Main. Here the Grand Army was left to itself to recuperate and assimilate its recruits, and it is characteristic of the man and his methods that he did not trouble his corps commanders with a single order during the whole of the spring and summer.
As the diplomatic crisis approached, spies were sent into Prussia, and simultaneously with the orders for preliminary concentration the marshals received private instructions, the pith of which cannot be better expressed than in the following two quotations from Napoleon's correspondence:—
“Mon intention est de concentrer toutes mes forces sur l'extérmité de ma droite en laissant tout l'espace entre le Rhin et Bamberg entrèment dégarni, de manière à avoir près de 200,000 hommes réunis sur un même champ de bataille; mes premièrs marches menacent le cœur de la monarchie prussienne” (No. 10,920).
“Avec cette immense supériorité de forces réunis sur un espace si étroit, vous sentez que je suis dans la volonté de ne rico hasarder et d'attaquer l'ennemi partout où il voudra tenir. Vous pensez bien que ce serait une belle affaire que de se porter stir cette place (Dresden) en un bataillon carré de 200,000 hommes” (Soult, No. 10,941).
14. Advance of the Grande Armeé.—On the 7th of October the Grande Armée lay in three parallel columns along the roads leading over the mountains to Hof, Schleiz and Kronach; on the right lay the IV. corps (Soult) about Bayreuth; with his cavalry in rear, and behind these the VI. corps (Ney) at Pegnitz; in the centre, Bernadotte's I. corps from Nordhalben, with the III. corps (Davout) Lichtenfels; Guard and headquarters, Bamberg. The left column was composed of the V. (Lannes)
at Hemmendorf, with the VII. (Augereau) extending south to the Main at Burgebrach.
Napoleon's object being surprise, all the cavalry except a few vedettes were kept back behind the leading infantry columns and these latter were ordered to advance, on the signal being given, in “masses of manœuvre,” so as to crush at once any outpost resistance which was calculated upon the time required for the deployment of ordinary marching columns. This order has never since found an imitator, but deserves attentive study as a masterpiece (see H. Bonnal, Manœuvre d'Iéna).
To meet the impending blow the Prussians had been extended in a cordon along the great road leading from Mainz to Dresden, Blücher was at Erfurt, Rüchel at Gotha, Hohenlohe at Weimar, Saxons in Dresden, with outposts along the frontier. An offensive move into Franconia was under discussion, and for this purpose the Prussian staff had commenced a lateral concentration about Weimar, Jena and Naumburg when the storm burst upon them. The emperor gathered little from the confused reports of their purposeless manœuvres, but, secure in the midst of his “battalion square” of 200,000 men, he remained quite indifferent, well knowing that an advance straight on Berlin must force his enemy to concentrate and fight, and as they would bring at most 127,000 men on to the battlefield the result could hardly be doubtful. On the 9th of October the cloud burst. Out of the forests which clothe the northern slopes of the Thuringer Wald the French streamed forth, easily overpowering the resistance of the Prussian outposts on the upper Saale, and once the open country was reached the cavalry under Murat trotted to the front, closely followed by Bernadotte's corps as “general advance guard.” The result of the cavalry scouting was however unsatisfactory. On the night of the 10th, the emperor was still unaware of the position of his principal foe, and Murat with Bernadotte behind him was directed on Gera for the 11th, the remainder of the army continuing along the roads previously assigned to them.
In the meanwhile, however, the Saxons had been moving from Naumburg through Gera on Jena, Hohenlohe was near Weimar, and all the other divisions of the army had closed in a march eastwards, the idea of an offensive to the southward which Napoleon had himself attributed to them having already disappeared.
Reaching Gera at 9 a.m. Murat reported the movement of the Saxons on the previous day, but omitted to send a strong detachment in pursuit. The traces of the Saxons were lost, and Napoleon, little satisfied with his cavalry, authorized Lasalle to offer up to 6000 frs. reward for information of the Prussian point of concentration. At 1 a.m. of the 12th Napoleon issued his orders. Murat and Bernadotte via Zeitz to Naumburg; Davout (III. corps and a dragoon division) also to Naumburg; Lannes to Jena, Augereau following; Soult to Gera.
15. Prussian Movements.—In the meantime the Prussians were effecting their concentration. Rüchel, who with 15,000 men had been sent into the mountains as an advanced guard for the projected offensive, was recalled to Weimar, which he reached on the 13th. The main body were between Weimar and Apolda during the 12th, and the Saxons duly effected their junction with Hohenlohe in the vicinity of Vierzehnheiligen, whilst the latter had withdrawn his troops all but some outposts from Jena to the plateau about Capellendorf, some 4 m. to the N.W. The whole army, upwards of 120,000 men, could therefore have been concentrated against Lannes and Augereau the afternoon of the 13th, whilst Soult could only have intervened very late in the day, and Davout and Bernadotte were still too distant to reach the battlefield before the 14th. All the French corps, moreover, were so exhausted by their rapid marches over bad roads that the emperor actually ordered (at 1 a.m. on the 13th) a day of rest for all except Davout, Bernadotte, Lannes and Murat.
The Prussian headquarters, however, spent the 12th and 13th in idle discussion, whilst the troop commanders exerted themselves to obtain some alleviation for the suffering of their starving men. The defeats undergone by their outpost detachment had profoundly affected the nerves of the troops, and on the afternoon. of the 11th, on the false alarm of a French approach, a panic broke out in the streets of Jena, and it took all the energy of Hohenlohe and his staff to restore order. On the morning of the 12th the Saxon commanding officers approached Hohenlohe with a statement of the famishing condition of their men, and threatened to withdraw them again to Saxony. Hohenlohe pointed out that the Prussians were equally badly off, but promised to do his best to help his allies. Urgent messages were sent off to the Commissary von Goethe (the poet), at Weimar for permission to requisition food and firewood. These requests, however, remained unanswered, and the Prussians and Saxons spent the night before the battle shivering in their miserable bivouacs.
16. The 13th of October.—During the early morning of the 13th the reports brought to Napoleon at Gera partially cleared up the situation, though the real truth was very different from what he supposed. However, it was evident that the bulk of the Prussians lay to his left, and instructions were at once despatched to Davout to turn westward from Naumburg towards Kösen and to bring Bernadotte with him if the two were still together. The letter, however, ended with the words “but I hope he is already on his way to Dornburg.” Now Bernadotte had neglected to keep the emperor informed as to his whereabouts. He was still with Davout, but, concluding that he had missed an order directing him to Dornburg, he thought to conceal his error by assuming the receipt of the order evidently alluded to in the last words, and as a result he marched towards Dornburg, and his whole corps was lost to the emperor at the crisis of the next day’s battle.
On the road from Gera to Jena Napoleon was met by intelligence from Lannes announcing his occupation of Jena and the discovery of Prussian troops to the northward. Knowing the emperor’s methods, he wisely restrained the ardour of his subordinates and asked for instructions whether to attack or wait. The emperor rode forward rapidly, reached Jena about 3 p.m., and with Lannes proceeded to the Landgrafenberg to reconnoitre. From this point his view was, however, restricted to the immediate foreground, and he only saw the camps of Hohenlohe’s left wing. At this moment the Prussians were actually on parade and ready to move off to attack, but just then the “evil genius” of the Prussian army, von Massenbach, an officer of the Headquarter Staff, rode up and claiming to speak with the authority of the king and commander-in-chief, induced Hohenlohe to order his troops back to camp. Of all this Napoleon saw nothing, but from all reports he came to the conclusion that the whole Prussian army was actually in front of him, and at once issued orders for his whole army to concentrate towards Jena, marching all night if need be. Six hours earlier his conclusion would have been correct, but early that morning the Prussian headquarters, alarmed for the safety of their line of retreat on Berlin by the presence of the French in Naumburg, decided to leave Hohenlohe and Rüchel to act as rear-guard, and with the main body to commence their retreat towards the river Unstrutt and the Eckhardtsberge where Massenbach had previously reconnoitred an “ideal” battlefield. This belief in. positions was the cardinal principle of Prussian strategy in those days. The troops had accordingly commenced their march on the morning of the 13th, and now at 3 p.m. were settling down into bivouac; they were still but a short march from the decisive field.
17. Battle of Jena.—On the French side, Lannes’ men were working their hardest, under Napoleon’s personal supervision, to make a practicable road up to the Landgrafenberg, and all night long the remaining corps struggled through darkness towards the rendezvous. By daybreak on the 14th, the anniversary of Elchingen, upwards of 60,000 men stood densely packed on the narrow plateau of the mountain, whilst, below in the ravines on either flank, Soult on the right, and Augereau on the left, were getting into position. Fortunately a dense fog hid the helpless masses on the Landgrafenberg from sight of the Prussian gunners. Hohenlohe had determined to drive the French into the ravine at daybreak, but had no idea as to the numbers in front of him. For want of room, only a few Prussian battalions were sent forward, and these, delaying their advance till the fog had sufficiently lifted, were met by French skirmishers, and small columns, who rapidly overlapped their flanks and drove them back in confusion. Hohenlohe now brought up the remainder of his command, but in the meanwhile the French had poured across the neck between the Landgrafenberg and the main plateau, and the troops of Soult and Augereau were working up the ravines on either hand. In view of these troops the Prussian line, which had advanced faultlessly as if on parade, halted to prepare its bayonet attack by fire, and, once halted, it was found impossible to get them to go on again. The French who had thrown themselves into houses, copses, &c., picked off the officers, and the flanks of the long Prussian lines swayed and got into confusion. The rival artilleries held each other too thoroughly to be able to spare attention to the infantry, whilst the Prussian cavalry, which had forgotten how to charge in masses of eighty or more squadrons, frittered away their strength in isolated efforts. By 10 a.m. the fourteen battalions which had initiated this attack were outnumbered by three to one, and drifted away from the battlefield. Their places were taken by a fresh body, but this was soon outnumbered and outflanked in its turn. By 2 p.m. the psychic moment had come, and Napoleon launched his guards and the cavalry to complete the victory and initiate the pursuit. Rüchel’s division now arrived and made a most gallant effort to cover the retreat, but their order being broken by the torrent of fugitives, they were soon overwhelmed by the tide of the French victory and all organized resistance had ceased by 4 p.m.
Briefly summarized, the battle came to this—in four successive efforts the Prussians failed because they were locally outnumbered. This was the fault of their leaders solely, for, except for the last attack, local superiority was in each case attainable. Organization and tactics did not affect the issue directly, for the conduct of the men and their junior officers gave abundant proof that in the hands of a competent leader the “linear” principle of delivering one shattering blow would have proved superior to that of a gradual attrition of the enemy here, as on the battlefields of the Peninsula and at Waterloo, and this in spite of other defects in the training of the Prussian infantry which simultaneously caused its defeat on the neighbouring field of Auerstädt.
18. Battle of Auersädt.—Here the superiority of French mobility, a consequence of their training and not necessarily of their system, showed its value most conclusively. Davout in obedience to his orders of the previous morning was marching over the Saale at Kosen, when his advanced guard came in contact with that of the Prussian main army. The latter with at least 50,000 men was marching in two columns, and ought therefore to have delivered its men into line of battle twice as fast as the French, who had to deploy from a single issue, and whose columns had opened out in the passage of the Kösen defile and the long ascent of the plateau above. But the Prussians attacked at the old regulation speed of seventy-five paces to the minute, and the French manœuvred at the quick or double of 120 or 150. The consequence was that the French always succeeded in reinforcing their fighting line in time to avert disaster. Nevertheless by mid-day their strength was well-nigh exhausted, whilst the Prussian reserve, eighteen battalions of guards under Kalckreuth, stood intact and ready to engage. But at the critical moment the duke of Brunswick fell mortally wounded, and Scharnhorst, his chief of the staff, was at the time absent on another part of the field. Meanwhile rumours from the battle-field at Jena, magnified as usual, began to reach the staff, and these may possibly have influenced Kalckreuth, for when appealed to to attack with his eighteen battalions and win the day, he declined to move without the direct order of the commander-in-chief to do so, alleging that it was the duty of a reserve to cover the retreat and he considered himself personally responsible to the king for the guards entrusted to his care. Even then the day might have been saved had Blücher been able to find even twenty squadrons accustomed to gallop together, but the Prussian cavalry had been dispersed amongst the infantry commands, and at the critical moment it proved impossible for them to deliver a united and decisive attack.
Seeing further efforts hopeless, Scharnhorst in the duke's name initiated the retreat and the troops withdrew N.W. towards Buttelstedt, almost unmolested by the French, who this day had put forth all that was in them, and withstood victoriously the highest average punishment any troops of the new age of warfare had as yet endured. So desperate had been their resistance that the Prussians unanimously stated Davout's strength at double the actual figure. Probably no man but Davout could have got so much out of his men, but why was he left unsupported?
Bernadotte, we have seen, had marched to Dornburg, or rather to a point overlooking the ford across the Saale at the village of that name, and reached there in ample time to intervene on either field. But with the struggle raging before him he remained undecided, until at Jena the decision had clearly fallen, and then he crossed the river and arrived with fresh troops too late for their services to be required.
19. Prussian Retreat.—During the night the Prussians continued their retreat, the bulk of the main body to Sömmerda, Hohenlohe's corps towards Nordhausen. The troops had got much mixed up, but as the French did not immediately press the pursuit home, order was soon re-established and a combined retreat was begun towards the mouth of the Elbe and Lübeck. Here help was expected to arrive from England, and the tide might yet have turned, for the Russian armies were gathering in the east. It was now that the results of a divorce of the army from the nation began to be felt. Instead of seizing all provisions and burning what they could not remove, the Prussian generals enforced on their men the utmost forbearance towards the inhabitants, and the fact that they were obeyed, in spite of the inhumanity the people showed to their sick and wounded countrymen, proves that discipline was by no means so far gone as has generally been believed. The French marching in pursuit were received with open arms, the people even turning their own wounded out of doors to make room for their French guests. Their servility awakened the bitterest contempt of their conquerors and forms the best excuse for the unparalleled severity of the French yoke. On the 26th of October Davout reached Berlin, having marched 166 m. in twelve days including two sharp rearguard actions, Bernadotte with his fresh troops having fallen behind. The inhabitants of Berlin, headed by their mayor, came out to meet him, and the newspapers lavished adulation on the victors and abuse on the beaten army. On the 28th Murat's cavalry overtook the remnant of Prince Hohenlohe's army near Prenzlau (N. of Berlin) and invited its capitulation. Unfortunately the prince sent Massenbach to discuss the situation, and the latter completely lost his head. Murat boasted that he had 100,000 men behind him, and on his return Massenbach implored his chief to submit to an unconditional surrender, advice which the prince accepted, though as a fact Murat's horses were completely exhausted and he had no infantry whatever within call. Only Blücher now remained in the field, and he too was driven at length into Lübeck with his back to the sea.
20. Campaigns in Poland and East Prussia.—Hitherto the French had been operating in a rich country, untouched for half a century past by the ravages of war, but as the necessity for a campaign against the Russians confronted the emperor, he realized that his whole supply and transport service must be put on a different footing. After the wants of the cavalry and artillery had been provided for, there remained but little material for transport work. Exhaustive orders to organize the necessary trains were duly issued, but the emperor seems to have had no conception of the difficulties the tracks—there were no metalled roads—of Poland were about to present to him. Moreover, it was one thing to issue orders, but quite another to ensure that they were obeyed, for they entailed a complete transformation in the mental attitude of the French soldier towards all that he had been taught to consider his duties in the field. Experience only can teach the art of packing wagons and the care of draught animals, and throughout the campaign the small ponies of Poland and East Prussia broke down by thousands from over loading and unskilful packing.
21. The Russian Army formed the most complete contrast to the French that it is possible to imagine. Though clad, armed and organized in European fashion, the soldiers retained in a marked degree the traditions of their Mongolian forerunners, their transport wagons were in type the survival of ages of experience, and their care for their animals equally the result of hereditary habit. The intelligence of the men and regimental officers was very low, but on the other hand service was practically for life, and the regiment the only home the great majority had ever known. Hence obedience was instinctive and initiative almost undreamt of. Moreover, they were essentially a war-trained army, for even in peace time their long marches to and fro within the empire had most thoroughly inured them to hardship and privation. Napoleon might have remembered his own saying, “La misère est l'école du bon soldat.” In cavalry they were weak, for the Russian does not take kindly to equitation and the horses were not equal to the accepted European standard of weight, while the Cossack was only formidable to stragglers and wounded. Their artillery was numerous and for the most part of heavy calibre—18- and 24-pounders were common—but the strength of the army lay in its infantry, with its incomparable tenacity in defence and its blind confidence in the bayonet in attack. The traditions of Suvarov and his victories in Italy (see French Revolutionary Wars) were still fresh, but there was no longer a Suvarov to lead them.
22. Advance to the Vistula.—Napoleon had from the first been aware of the secret alliance between Prussia and Russia, sworn by their respective sovereigns over the grave of Frederick the Great, and this knowledge had been his principal reason for precipitating hostilities with the former. He remained, however, in complete ignorance of the degree of preparation attained on the Russian side, and since the seizure of Warsaw together with the control of the resources of Poland in men and material its occupation would afford, was the chief factor in his calculation, he turned at once to the eastward as soon as all further organized resistance in Prussia was ended by the surrender of Prenzlau and Lübeck. Scarcely leaving his troops time to restore their worn-out footgear, or for the cavalry to replace their jaded horses from captured Prussian resources, he set Davout in motion towards Warsaw on the 2nd of November, and the remainder of the army followed in successive echelons as rapidly as they could be despatched.
The cavalry, moving well in advance, dispersed the Prussian depôts and captured their horses, as far as the line of the Vistula, where at last they encountered organized resistance from the outposts of Lestocq's little corps of 15,000 men—all that was left of Frederick the Great's army. These, however, gave way before the threat of the advancing French and after a few trifling skirmishes. Davout entered Warsaw on the 30th of November, being followed by the V., IV. and Guard corps during the succeeding fortnight, whilst the VI. and VII. were echeloned to their left, and the VIII. (Mortier) and IX. (Jerome Napoleon) and X. (Lefebvre), all new formations since the outbreak of the war, followed some marches in the rear. Jerome's corps was composed of the Bavarians, Württembergers and Badensers.
Behind these all Prussia was overrun by newly formed units, (3rd and 4th battalions) raised from depot companies, conscripts for 1807, and old soldiers rejoining after sickness or wounds. Napoleon caused these to be despatched to the front immediately after their formation. He had much territory to occupy, and in the long march of on an average 85 days, he considered that they could be organized, equipped and drilled en route.
23. Pultusk.—The Russians meanwhile had been moving slowly forward in two bodies, one under Bennigsen (50,000), the other under Buxhowden (25,000), and the French being at this time in Warsaw, they took up threatening positions about Pultusk, Plock and Prassnitz. From this triangle they harried the French communications with Berlin, and to secure a winter's rest for his men Napoleon determined to bring them to action. On the 23rd of December operations were commenced, but the difficulties of securing information and maintaining communication between the respective columns, so unlike what any of the French had previously encountered, led to a very partial success. The idea had been to induce the Russians to concentrate about Pultusk and, turning their position from its left, ultimately to cut them off from Russia, and if possible to surround them. But in this new and difficult country the emperor found it impossible to time his marches. The troops arrived late at their appointed positions, and after a stubborn rearguard action at Pultusk itself and indecisive fighting elsewhere (Soldau-Golymin) the Russians succeeded in retreating beyond the jaws of the French attack, and Napoleon for the first time found that he had exceeded the limit of endurance of his men. Indeed, the rank and file bluntly told him as much as he rode with the marching columns. Yielding to the inevitable, but not forgetting to announce a brilliant victory in a bulletin, he sent his troops into winter quarters along the Passarge and down the Baltic, enjoining on his corps commanders most strictly to do nothing to disturb their adversary.
24. Campaign of Eylau.—Bennigsen, now commanding the whole Russian army which with Lestocq's Prussians amounted
to 100,000, also moved into winter quarters in the triangle Deutsch-Eylau-Osterode-Allenstein, and had every intention of remaining there, for a fresh army was already gathering in Russia, the 1st corps of which had reached Nur about 50 m. distant from the French right.
Unfortunately, Ney with his VI. corps about Gilgenberg had received the most poverty-stricken district in the whole region, and to secure some alleviation for the sufferings of his men he incautiously extended his cantonments till they came in contact with the Russian outposts. Apparently seeing in this movement a recommencement of hostilities, Bennigsen concentrated his troops towards his right and commenced an advance westwards towards Danzig, which was still in Prussian hands. Before his advance both Ney and Bernadotte (the latter, between Ney and the Baltic, covering the siege of Danzig) were compelled to fall back. It then became necessary to disturb the repose of the whole army to counter the enemy's intentions. The latter by this movement, however, uncovered his own communication with Russia, and the emperor was quick to seize his opportunity. He received the information on the 28th of January. His orders were at once issued and complied with with such celerity that by the 3 ist he stood prepared to advance with the corps of Soult, Ney, Davout and Augereau, the Guard and the reserve cavalry (80,000 men on a front of 60 m.) from Myszienec through Wollenberg to Gilgenberg; whilst Lannes on his right towards Ostrolenka and Lefebvre (X.) at Thorn covered his outer flanks.
Bernadotte, however, was missing, and this time through no fault of his own. His orders and the despatch conveying Napoleon's instructions fell into the hands of the Cossacks, and just in time Bennigsen's eyes were opened. Rapidly renouncing his previous intentions, he issued orders to concentrate on Allenstein; but this point was chosen too far in advance and he was anticipated by Murat and Soult at that place on the 2nd of February. He then determined to unite his forces at Joukendorf, but again he was too late. Soult and Murat attacked his rearguard on the 3rd, and learning from his Cossacks that the French corps were being directed so as to swing round and enclose him, he withdrew by a night march and ultimately succeeded in getting his whole army, with the exception of von Lestocq's Prussians, together in the strong position along the Alle, the centre of which is marked by Preussisch-Eylau. The opportunity for this concentration he owed to the time gained for him by his rearguard at Joukendorf, for this had stood just long enough to induce the French columns to swing in to surround him, and the next day was thus lost to the emperor as his corps had to extend again to their manœuvring intervals. The truth is that the days were too short and the roads too bad for Napoleon to carry out the full purpose his “general advanced guard” was intended to fulfil. It was designed to hold the enemy in position by the vigour of its attack, thus neutralizing his independent will power and compelling him to expend his reserves in the effort to rescue the troops engaged. But in forests and snowdrifts the French made such slow progress that no sufficient deployment could be made until darkness put a stop to the fighting. Thus, when late on the 7th of February 1807 Murat and Soult overtook the enemy near Eylau (q.v.) the fighting was severe but not prolonged. This time, however, Bennigsen, with over 60,000 men in position and 15,000 Prussians expected to arrive next morning, had no desire to avoid a battle, and deployed for action, his front protected by great batteries of guns, many of them of heavy calibre, numbering some 200 in all.
During the night Augereau and the Guards had arrived, and Ney and Davout were expected on either flank in the forenoon. This time the emperor was determined his enemy should not escape him, and about 8 a.m., ordered Soult and Augereau on the left and right respectively to assail the enemy, Murat and the Guards remaining in the centre as reserve. Napoleon's own forces thus became the “general advanced guard” for Ney and Davout, who were to close in on either side and deliver the decisive stroke. But here too the weather and the state of the roads operated adversely, for Ney came up too late, while Davout, in the full tide of his victorious advance, was checked by the arrival of Lestocq, whose corps Ney had failed to intercept, and the attack of Augereau's corps (VII.), made in a blinding snowstorm, failed with the appalling loss of over 40% killed and wounded. Augereau himself was severely wounded, and the remnant of his corps was subsequently distributed amongst the other corps. Bennigsen, however, drew off on Ney's arrival, and the French were too much exhausted to pursue him. Again the emperor had to admit that his troops could do no more, and bowing to necessity, he distributed them into winter quarters, where, however, the enterprise of the Cossacks, who were no strangers to snow and to forests, left the outposts but little repose.
A protracted period of rest followed, during which the emperor exerted himself unremittingly to re-equip, reinforce and supply his troops. Hitherto he had been based on the entrenched camp of Warsaw, but he had already taken steps to organize a new line of supply and retreat via Thorn, and this was now completed. At the same time Lefebvre was ordered to press the siege of Danzig with all vigour, and on the 5th of May, after a most gallant resistance, Kalckreuth, who redeemed here his failure of Auerstädt, surrendered. English assistance came too late. By the beginning of June the French had more than made good their losses and 210,000 men were available for field service.
25. Heilsberg and Friedland.—Meanwhile Bennigsen had prepared for a fresh undertaking, and leaving Lestocq with 20,000 Prussians and Russians to contain Bernadotte, who lay between Braunsberg and Spandau on the Passarge, he moved southwards on the 2nd, and on the 3rd and 4th of June he fell upon Ney, driving him back towards Guttstadt, whilst with the bulk of his force he moved towards Heilsberg, where he threw up an entrenched position. It was not till the 5th that Napoleon received tidings of his advance, and for the moment these were so vague that he contented himself by warning the remainder of his forces to be prepared to move on the 6th. Next day, however, all doubts were set at rest, and as the Russians advanced south of Heilsberg, he decided to wheel his whole force to the right, pivoting on the III. corps, and cut Bennigsen off from Königsberg and the sea. On the 8th the VI., III., VIII. and Guard corps, together with a new cavalry reserve corps under Lannes, in all 147,000, stood ready for the operation, and with Murat and Soult as general advanced guard the whole moved forward, driving the Russian outposts before them. Bernadotte, who was to have attacked Lestocq, again failed to receive his orders and took no part in the following operations.
Murat attacked the Russians, who had halted in their entrenched position, on the 11th and drove in their outposts, but did not discover the entrenchments. Meanwhile Soult had followed with his infantry in dose support, and the emperor himself arriving, ordered him to attack at once. Now the Russians uncovered their entrenchments, and in the absence of artillery preparation Soult's leading troops received most severe punishment. Fresh troops arriving were sent in to his support, but these also proved insufficient, and darkness alone put an end to the struggle, which cost the French 12,000 killed and wounded.
Bennigsen, however, learning that his right was threatened by the III. corps, and not having as yet completed his concentration, retreated in the night to Bartenstein, and the following day turned sharp to right towards Schippenbeil. The emperor now pressed on towards Friedland, where he would completely control the Russian communications with Königsberg, their immediate base of supply, but for once the Russians out marched him and covered their movement so successfully that for the next three days he seems to have completely lost all knowledge of his enemy's whereabouts. Lestocq in the meantime had been forced northwards towards Königsberg, and Soult with Murat was in hot pursuit. The III.,VI., VIII. and Guard corps followed the main road towards Königsberg, and the former had reached Mühlhausen, the remainder were about Preussisch-Eylau, when Latour Maubourg's dragoons sent in intelligence which pointed to the presence of Bennigsen about Friediland. This was indeed the case. The Russians after passing Schippenbeil had suddenly turned northwards, and on the evening of the 13th were taking up a strong position on the river Alle with Friedland as a centre.
What followed presents perhaps the finest instance of the Napoleonic method. The enemy lay direct to his right, and Murat, the IV. and III. corps had well overshot the mark. Lannes's reserve corps (cavalry), to whom Latour Maubourg reported, lay at Domnau some 10 m. to the right. The latter at once assumed the rôle of advanced guard cavalry and was ordered to, observe the enemy at Friedland, Ney following in close support. Davout was turned about and directed on the enemy's right, and the VIII. corps (Mortier), the Guards and the reserve cavalry followed as main body. On the 14th (the anniversary of Marengo) Lannes carried out his rôle of fighting advanced guard or screen, the emperor's main body gradually came up, and the battle of Friedland (q.v.), notable chiefly for the first display of the new artillery tactics of the French, ended with a general attack about 5 p.m.and the retreat of the Russians, after severe losses, over the Alle. Lestocq was, meanwhile, driven through Königsberg (which surrendered on the 15th) on Tilsit, and now that he was no longer supported by the Russians, the Prussian commander gave up the struggle.
26. The Austrian Army in 1809.—Ever since Austerlitz the Austrian officers had been labouring to reconstitute and reform their army. The archduke Charles was the foremost amongst many workers who had realized that numbers were absolutely needed to confront the new French methods. With these numbers it was impossible to attain the high degree of individual efficiency required for the old line tactics, hence they were compelled to adopt the French methods of skirmishers and columns, but as yet they had hardly realized the increased density necessary to be given to a line of battle to enable it to endure the prolonged nervous strain the new system of tactics entailed. Where formerly 15,000 men to the mile of front had been considered ample for the occupation of a position or the execution of an attack, double that number now often proved insufficient, and their front was broken before reinforcements could arrive. Much had been done to create an efficient staff, but though the idea of the army corps command was now no new thing, the senior generals entrusted with these commands were far from having acquired the independence and initiative of their French opponents. Hence the extraordinary slowness of their manœuvres, not because the Austrian infantry were bad marchers, but because the preparation and circulation of orders was still far behind the French standard. The light cavalry had been much improved and the heavy cavalry on the whole proved a fair match for their opponents.
27. The French Army.—After the peace of Tilsit the Grand Army was gradually withdrawn behind the Rhine, leaving only three commands, totaffing 63,000 men, under Davout in Prussia, Oudinot in west central Germany, and Lefebvre in Bavaria, to assist the princes of the Confederation of the Rhine in the maintenance of order and the enforcement of the French law of conscription, which was rigorously insisted on in all the States comprised in this new federation.
In exchange for the subsistence of the French troops of occupation, a corresponding number of these new levies were moved to the south of France, where they commenced to arrive at the moment when the situation in Spain became acute. The Peninsular War (q.v.) called for large forces of the old Grande Armée and for a brief period Napoleon directed operations in person; and the Austrians took advantage of the dissemination and weakness of the French forces in Germany to push forward their own preparations with renewed energy.
But they reckoned without the resourcefulness of Napoleon. The moment news of their activity reached him, whilst still in pursuit of Sir John Moore, he despatched letters to all the members of the Confederation warning them that their contingents might soon be required, and at the same time issued a series of decrees to General Clarke, his war minister, authorizing him to call up the contingent of 1810 in advance, and directing him in detail to proceed with the formation of 4th and 5th battalions for all the regiments across the Rhine. By these means Davout's, Oudinot's and Lefebvre's commands were augmented, whilst in February and March new corps were formed and rapidly pushed towards the front.
On his return from Spain, seeing war imminent, he issued a series of march orders (which deserve the closest study in detail) by which on the 15th of April his whole army was to be concentrated for manœuvres between Regensburg, Landshut, Augsburg and Donauworth, and sending on the Guard in wagons to Strassburg, he despatched Berthier to act as commander-in-chief until his own arrival.
28. Austrian Offensive.—The position of assembly was excellently chosen, but unfortunately the Austrians took the initiative. On the 9th of April their main body of six corps crossed the Inn between Braunau and Passau, and simultaneously two additional corps moved from Pilsen in Bohemia on Regensburg. At this moment Davout was entering Regensburg with his leading troops, the remainder still some marches in rear, and it was evident that the whole concentration could no longer be carried out before the Austrians would be in a position to intervene. Berthier received the news while still on his way to the front, and quite failed to grasp the situation. Reaching Donauwörth at 8 p.m. on the 13th of April, he ordered Davout and Oudinot to remain at Regensburg, whilst Lefebvre and Wrede (Bavarians) who had fallen back before the Austrians were directed to reoccupy Landshut. This was in direct contradiction with the instructions Napoleon had given him on the 28th of March in view of this very emergency. Davout obeyed, but remonstrated. On the 16th Berthier went on to Augsburg, where he learnt that Lefebvre's advanced troops had been driven out of Landshut, thus opening a great gap seventy-six miles wide between the two wings of the French army. Meanwhile Napoleon, who had left Paris at 4 a.m. on the 13th of April, was hastening towards the front, but remained still in ignorance of Berthier's doings until on the 16th at Stuttgart he received a letter from the Marshal dated the 13th, which threw him into consternation. In reply he immediately wrote: “You do not inform me what has rendered necessary such an extraordinary measure which weakens and divides my troops“—and—” I cannot quite grasp the meaning of your letter yet, I should have preferred to see my army concentrated between Ingolstadt and Augsburg, the Bavarians in the first line, with the duke of Danzig in his old position, until we know what the enemy is going to do. Everything would be excellent if the duke of Auerstädt had been at Ingolstadt and the duke of Rivoli with the Württernbergers and Oudinot's corps at Augsburg, ... so that just the opposite of what should have been done has been done” (C. N. to Berthier, Ludwigsburg, 16th April).
29. Napoleon takes command.—Having despatched this severe reprimand he hastened on to Donauwdörth, where he arrived at 4 a.m. on the 17th, hoping to find Berthier, but the latter was at Augsburg. Nevertheless, at 10 a.m. he ordered Davout and Oudinot to withdraw at once to Ingolstadt; and Lefebvre and Wrede on the right to support the movement. About noon Berthier returned and after hearing his explanation Massena received orders to move from Augsburg towards Ingolstadt. “To-morrow will be a day of preparation spent in drawing closer together, and I expect to be able by Wednesday to manæuvre against the enemy's columns according to circumstances.”
Meanwhile the Austrians had approached so near that by a single day's march it would have been possible to fall upon and crush by superior numbers either wing of the French army, but though the Austrian light cavalry successfully covered the operations of the following troops they had not yet risen to a conception of their reconnoitring mission, and the archduke, in ignorance of his opportunity and possessed, moreover, with the preconceived idea of uniting at Regensburg with the two corps coming from Bohemia, moved the bulk of his forces in that direction, leaving only a covering body against Davout altogether insufficient to retain him. Davout, however, had left a garrison of 1800 men in Regensburg, who delayed the junction of the Austrian wings until the 20th inst., and on the same day the emperor, having now reunited his whole right wing and centre, overwhelmed the covering detachments facing him in a long series of disconnected engagements lasting forty-eight hours, and the archduke now found himself in danger of being forced back into the-Danube. But with the Bohemian reinforcements he had still four corps in hand, and Napoleon, whose intelligence service in the difficult and intersected country had lamentably failed him, had weakened his army by detaching a portion of his force in pursuit of the beaten right wing, and against the archduke's communications.
30. Eckmühl.—When, therefore, the latter, on the 22nd, marched southward to reopen his communications by the defeat of the enemy's army, always the surest means of solving this difficulty, he actually reached the neighborhood of Eckmühl with a sufficient numerical superiority had he only been prompt enough to seize his opportunity. But the French had been beforehand with him. Napoleon, who had personally taken part in the fighting of the previous day, and followed the pursuit as far as Landshut, whence he had despatched Massena to follow the retreating Austrians along the Isar, seems to have realized about 3 a.m. in. the morning that it was not the main body of the enemy he had had before him, but only its left wing, and that the main. body itself must still be northward towards Regensburg. Issuing orders to Davout, Oudinot and his cavalry to concentrate with all speed towards Eckmühl, he himself rode back along the Regensburg road and reached the battle-field just as the engagement between the advance troops had commenced. Had the Austrians possessed mobility equal to that of the French the latter should have been overwhelmed in detail, but whilst the French covered 17 and 19 m. the Austrians only marched 10, and, owing to the defect in their tactical training alluded to above, the troops actually on the ground could not hold out long enough for their reserves to arrive. The retreat of the front lines involved the following ones in confusion, and presently the whole mass was driven back in considerable disorder. It seemed as if nothing could save the Austrians from complete disaster, but at the critical moment the emperor, yielding to the protestations of his corps commanders, who represented the excessive fatigue of their troops, stopped the pursuit, and the archduke made the most of his opportunity to restore order amongst his demoralized men, and crossed to the north bank of the Danube during the night.
31. Austrian Retreat.—On the following morning the French reached Regensburg and at once proceeded to assault its medieval walls, but the Austrian garrison bravely defended it till the last of the stragglers was safely across on the north bank. It was here that for the only time in his career Napoleon was slightly wounded. Then, leaving Davout to observe the archduke's retreat, the emperor himself rode after Massena, who with the major portion of the French army was following the Austrian weaker wing under Hiller. The latter was not so shaken as Napoleon believed, and turning to bay inflicted a severe check on its pursuers, who at Ebelsberg lost 4000 men in three fruitless assaults. Thus covered by his rearguard Hiller gained space and time to pass his troops over to the north bank of the Danube and remove all boats on the river. This left the direct road to Vienna open, and Napoleon, hoping to find peace in the enemy's capital, pushed the whole of his army down the right bank, and with Murat's cavalry entered the city on the 12th of May, after somewhat severe resistance lasting three days. Meanwhile the archduke and Hiller, both now unmolested, effected their junction in the vicinity of Wagram, picketing the whole line of the Danube with their outposts and collecting all the boats.
32. Aspern and Wagram.—The reconnaissance of the river was at once taken in hand by the French upon their arrival in Vienna, and a point opposite the island of Lobau selected for the crossing. Thanks to the Austrian precautions it took four days to collect the necessary material to span the main branch of the river, here some 2000 yds. across, and though Napoleon personally spurred on all to activity nearly four days more were required for its construction. It was not till the night of the 19th of May that orders for the passage were finally issued, and during the night the troops commenced to occupy the island of Lobau. Surprise, of course, was out of the question, but the Austrians did not attempt to dispute the passage, their object being to allow as many French as they felt they could deal with to pass over and then to fall on them. Thus on the 21st of May the battle of Aspern (q.v.) or Essling began. It ended on the night of the 22nd with the complete defeat of Napoleon, the first ever inflicted upon him. The French retreated into the island of Lobau. By nightfall upwards of 100,000 men, encumbered with at least 20,000 wounded, were crowded together on the little island scarcely a mile square, short of provisions and entirely destitute of course of all hospital accessories. The question then arose whether the retreat was to be continued across the main stream or not, and for the second time in his career Napoleon assembled his generals to take their opinion. They counselled retreat, but having heard them all he replied, in substance: “If we leave here at all we may as well retire to Strassburg, for unless the enemy is held by the threat of further operations he will be free to strike at our communications and has a shorter distance to go. We must remain here and renew operations as soon as possible.”
Immediate orders were despatched to summon every available body of troops to concentrate for the decisive stroke. Practically the lines of communication along the Danube were denuded of combatants, even Bernadotte being called up from Passau, and the viceroy of Italy, who driving the archduke Johann before him (action of Raab) had brought up 56,000 men through Tirol, was disposed towards Pressburg within easy call. The arsenal of Vienna was ransacked for guns, stores and appliances, and preparations in the island pushed on as fast as possible. By the end of June 200,000 troops were stationed within call, and on the 4th July the French began to cross over to the left bank of the Danube. The events which followed are described under Wagram. The great battle at this place, fought on the 5th and 6th of July, ended in the retirement of the Austrians. The only other event which occurred before peace was made was an unimportant action at Znaym on the 11th of July.
33.The Russian War of 1812.—Whilst the campaign of 1809 had seriously shaken the faith of the marshals and the higher ranks in the infallibility of the emperor's judgment, and the slaughter of the troops at Aspern and Wagram had still further accentuated the opposition of the French people to conscription, the result on the fighting discipline of the army had, on the whole, been for good. The panics of Wagram had taught men and officers alike a salutary lesson.
Aware of the growing feeling against war in France, Napoleon had determined to make his allies not only bear the expenses of the coming campaign, but find the men as well, and he was so far master of Europe that of the 363,000 who on the 24th of June crossed the Niemen no less than two-thirds were Germans, Austrians, Poles or Italians. But though the battlefield discipline of the men was better, the discipline in camp and on the march was worse, for the troops were no longer eager to reach the battlefield, and marched because they were compelled, not of their own goodwill. The result was apparent in a sudden diminution in mobility, and a general want of punctuality which in the event very seriously influenced the course of the campaign. On the other hand, the Russians, once their fatherland was invaded, became dominated by an ever-growing spirit of fanaticism, and they were by nature too obedient to their natural leaders, and too well inured to the hardships of campaigning, to lose their courage in a retreat.
34. The Strategic Deployment.—By the middle of June 1812 the emperor had assembled his army along the line of the Niemen. On the extreme right stood the Austrian contingent under Schwarzenberg (34,000 men). Next, centring about Warsaw, a group of three corps (19,000 men) under the chief command of Napoleon's brother Jerome. Then the main army under Napoleon in person (220,000 men; with 80,000 more under the viceroy of Italy on his right rear); and on the extreme left at Tilsit a flanking corps, comprising the Prussian auxiliary corps and other Germans (in all 40,000 strong). The whole army was particularly strong in cavalry; out of the 450,000, 80,000 belonged to that arm, and Napoleon, mindful of the lessons of 1807, had issued the most minute and detailed orders for the supply service in all its branches, and the forwarding of reinforcements, no less than 100,000 men being destined for that purpose in due course of time.
Information about the Russians was very indifferent; it was only known that Prince Bagration with about 33,000 men lay grouped about Wolkowysk; Barclay de Tolly with 40,000 about Vilna; and on the Austrian frontier lay a small corps under Tormassov in process of formation, while far away on the Turkish frontiers hostilities with the sultan retained Tschitschagov with 50,000 more. Of the enemy's plans Napoleon knew nothing, but, in accordance with his usual practice, the position he had selected met all immediate possible moves.
35. Opening of the Campaign.—On the 24th of June the passage of the Niemen began in torrid heat which lasted for a few days. The main army, with the emperor in person, covered by Murat and the cavalry, moved on Vilna, whilst Jerome on his right rear at once threatened Bagration and covered the emperor's outer flank. From the very first, however, the inherent weakness of the vast army, and the vicious choice of time for the beginning of the advance, began to make itself felt. The crops being still green, and nothing else available as forage for the horses, an epidemic of colic broke out amongst them, and in ten days the mounted arms had lost upwards of one-third of their strength; men died of sunstroke in numbers, and serious straggling began. Still everything pointed to the concentration of the Russians at Vilna, and Jerome, who on the 5th of July had reached Grodno, was ordered to push on. But Jerome proved quite inadequate to his position, listening to the complaints of his subordinates as to want of supplies and even of pay; he spent four whole days in absolute inertia, notwithstanding the emperor's reprimands. Meanwhile the Russians made good their retreat—Barclay towards the entrenched camp of Drissa on the Dvina, Bagration towards Mohilev.
The emperor's first great coup thus failed. Jerome was replaced by Davout, and the army resumed its march, this time in the hope of surrounding and overwhelming Barclay, whilst Davout dealt with Bagration. The want of mobility, particularly in the cavalry, now began to tell against the French. With horses only just recovering from an epidemic, they proved quite unequal to the task of catching the Cossacks, who swarmed round them in every direction, never accepting an engagement but compelling a constant watchfulness for which nothing in their previous experience had sufficiently prepared the French.
Before their advance, however, the Russian armies steadily retired, Barclay from Vilna via Drissa to Vitebsk, Bagration from Wolkowysk to Mohilev. Again arrangments were made for a Napoleonic battle; behind Murat's cavalry came the “general advanced guard” to attack and hold the enemy, whilst the main body and Davout were held available to swing in on his rear. Napoleon, however, failed to allow for the psychology of his opponents, who, utterly indifferent to the sacrifice of life, refused to be drawn into engagements to support an advance or to extricate a rearguard, and steadily withdrew from every position when the French gained touch with them.
Thus the manœuvre against Vitebsk again miscarried, and Napoleon found himself in a far worse position, numerically and materially, than at the outset of the campaign. Then he had stood with 420,000 men on a front of 160 m., now he had only 229,000 men on a front of 135; he had missed three great opportunities of destroying his enemy in detail, and in five weeks, during which time he had only traversed 200 m., he had seen his troops reduced numerically at least one-third, and, worse still, his army was now far from being the fighting machine it had been at the outset.
36. Smolensk.—Meanwhile the Russians had not lost a single gun and the moral of their men had been improved by the result of the many minor encounters with the enemy; further, the
junction of Bagration and Barclay was now assured in the vicinity of Smolensk. Towards this place the French advance was now resumed, and the Russian generals at the head of a united force of 130,000 men marched forward to meet them. Here, however, the inefficiency of the Russian staff actually saved them from the disaster which must certainly have overtaken them had they realized their intention of fighting the French. The Russians marched in two columns, which lost touch of one another, and as it was quite impossible for either to engage the French single-handed, they both retired again towards Smolensk, where with an advanced guard in the town itself—which possessed an old-fashioned brick enceinte not to be breached by field artillery alone—the two columns reunited and deployed for action behind the unfordable Dnieper.
Murat and Ney as “general advanced guard” attacked the town in the morning of the 16th of August, and whilst they fought the main body was swung round to attack the Russian left and rear. The whole of the 17th was required to complete the movement, and as soon as its purpose was sufficiently revealed to the Russians the latter determined to retreat under cover of night. Their manœuvre was carried out with complete success, and then began a series of rearguard actions and nocturnal retreats which completely accomplished their purpose of wearing down the French army. The Russian government, however, failed to see the matter in its true light, and Marshal Kutusov was sent to the front to assume the chief command. His intention was to occupy a strong position and fight one general action for the possession of Moscow, and to this end he selected the line of the Kalatscha where the stream intersects the great Moscow road.
37. Borodino.—Here he was overtaken by Murat and Ney, but the French columns had straggled so badly that four whole days elapsed before the emperor was able to concentrate his army for battle and then could only oppose 128,000 men to the Russians' 110,000. About 6 a.m. the battle began, but Napoleon was suffering from one of those attacks of illness and depression which henceforth became such an important factor in his fate. Till about midday he followed the course of the action with his usual alertness; then he appears to have been overcome by a kind of stupor and allowed his marshals to fight by themselves, There was no final decisive effort as at Wagram and the Guard was not even called on to move. Ultimately the sun went down on an undecided field on which 25,000 French and 38,000 Russians had fallen, but the moral reaction on the former was far greater than on the latter.
38. Moscow.—Kutusov continued his retreat, and Murat with his now exhausted horsemen followed as best he might; Sebastiani, commanding the advanced guard, overtook the Russians in the act of evacuating Moscow, and agreed with the latter to observe a seven hours' armistice to allow the Russians to clear the town, for experience had shown the French that street fighting in wooden Russian townships always meant fire and the consequent destruction of much-needed shelter and provisions. Towards nightfall Napoleon reached the scene, and the Russians being now clear the troops began to enter, but already fires were observed in the farther part of the city. Napoleon passed the night in a house in the western suburb and next morning rode to the Kremlin, the troops moving to the quarters assigned to them, but in the afternoon a great fire began and, continuing for two days, drove the French out into the country again The emperor was now in the direst perplexity. Kutusov was hovering on the outskirts of the city, his main body at Kaluga, some marches to the S.W., where he was in full communication with the richest portion of the empire; and now news arrived that St. Cyr, who had relieved Macdonald on his extreme left, had only 17,000 men left under arms against upwards of 40,000 Russians under Witgenstein; and to the south Tschitschagov's army, being no longer detained on the Turkish frontier, peace having been made, was marching to join Tormassov about Brest-Litewski with forces which would bring the total of the two well over 100,000 men. Meanwhile Schwarzenberg's force opposing these had dwindled to a bare 30,000.
The French army was thus disposed almost in an equilateral triangle with sides of about 570 m., with 95,000 men at the apex at Moscow opposed to 120,000, 30,000 about Brest opposite 100,000, and 17,000 about Drissa confronted by 40,000, whilst in the centre of the base at Smolensk lay Victor's corps, about 30,000. From Moscow to the Niemen was 550 m. In view of this situation Napoleon on the 4th of October sent General Lauriston to the Russian headquarters to treat. Whilst waiting his return Murat was enjoined to skirmish with Kutusov, and the emperor himself worked out a scheme to assume the offensive with his whole army towards St Petersburg, calling in Victor and St Cyr on the way. This project was persisted with, until on the 18th Murat was himself attacked and severely handled (action of Tarutino or Vinkovo). On the morning of the 19th the whole army moved out to accept this challenge, and the French were thoroughly worsted on the 24th in the battle of Maloyaroslavetz.
39. The Retreat from Moscow.—Then began the celebrated retreat. It has generally been forgotten that the utter want of march discipline in the French, and not the climatic conditions, was responsible for the appalling disasters which ensued. Actually the frost came later than usual that year, the 27th of October, and the weather was dry and bracing; not till the 8th of November did the cold at night become sharp. Even when the Beresina was reached on the 26th November, the cold was far from severe, for the slow and sluggish stream was not frozen over, as is proved by the fact that Eblé's pioneers worked in the water all through that terrible day. But the French army was already completely out of hand, and the degree to which the panic of a crowd can master even the strongest instinct of the individual is shown by the conduct of the fugitives who crowded over the bridges, treading hundreds under foot, whilst all the time the river was easily fordable and mounted men rode backwards and forwards across it.
To return to the actual sequence of events. Kutusov had been very slow in exploiting his success of the 24th and indeed had begun the pursuit in a false direction; but about the 2nd of November, headquarters of the French being at Vyazma, the Cossacks became so threatening that the emperor ordered the army to march (as in Egypt) in hollow square. This order, however, appears only to have been obeyed by the Guards, with whom henceforward the emperor marched.
Kutusov had now overtaken the French, but fortunately for them he made no effort to close with them, but hung on their flank, molesting them with Cossacks and picking up stragglers. Thus the wreck of the Grande Armée, now not more than fifty thousand strong, reached Smolensk on the 9th and there rested till the 14th. The march was then resumed, the Guard leading and Ney commanding the rearguard. Near Krasnoi on the 16th the Russian advanced guard tried to head the column off. Napoleon halted a whole day to let the army close up; and then attacked with his old vigour and succeeded in clearing the road, but only at the cost of leaving Ney and the rearguard to its fate. By a night march of unexampled daring and difficulty Ney succeeded in breaking through the Russian cordon, but when he regained touch with the main body at Orcha only 800 of his 6000 men were still with him (21st).
40. The Beresina.—From here Napoleon despatched orders to Victor to join him at Borisov on the Beresina. The cold now gave way and thaw set in, leaving the country a morass, and information came that Tschitschagov from the south had reached Borisov. He now selected Viesselovo as the point of passage and at 1 a.m. on the 23rd sent orders to Oudinot to march thither and construct bridges. In the execution of these orders Oudinot encountered the Russian advanced guard near Borisov and drove the latter back in confusion, though not before they had destroyed the existing bridge there. This sudden reassumption of the offensive threw Tschitschagov into confusion. Thus time was gained for Victor also to come up and for Oudinot to construct the bridges at Studienka near the above-mentioned place, but a spot in many respects better suited for the purpose. Thither therefore Napoleon sent his pontonniers under General Eblé, but on their arrival they found that no preparations had been made and much time was lost. Meanwhile Victor, in doubt as to the real point of passage, had left the road to Studienka open to Wittgenstein, who had followed hard on his heels.
By 4 p.m. on the 26th the bridges were finished and the passage began, but not without resistance by the Russians, who were gradually closing in. The crossing continued all night, though interrupted from time to time by failures of the bridges. All day during the 27th stragglers continued to cross, covered by such combatants as remained under sufficient discipline to be employed. At 8 a.m. on the 28th, however, Tschitschagov and Wittgenstein moved forward on both banks of the river to the attack, but were held off by the splendid self-sacrifice of the few remaining troops under Ney, Oudinot and Victor, until about 1 p.m. the last body of regular troops passed over the bridges, and only a few thousand stragglers remained beyond the river.
The number of troops engaged by the French that day cannot be given exactly. Oudinot's and Victor's men were relatively fresh and may have totalled 20,000, whilst Ney can hardly have had more than 6000 of all corps fighting under him. How many were killed can never be known, but three days later the total number of men reported fit for duty had fallen to 8800 only.
41. Final Operations.—Henceforward the retreat of the army became practically a headlong flight, and on the 5th of December, having reached Smorgoni and seeing that nothing further could be done by him at the front, the emperor handed over the command of what remained to Murat, and left for Paris to organize a fresh army for the following year. Travelling at the fullest speed, he reached the Tuileries on the 18th, after a journey of 312 hours.
After the emperors departure the cold set in with increased severity, the thermometer falling to 23°. On the 8th of December Murat reached Vilna, whilst Ney with about 400 men and Wrede with 2000 Bavarians still formed the rearguard; but it was quite impossible to carry out Napoleon's instructions to go into winter quarters about the town, so that the retreat was resumed on the 10th and ultimately Königsberg was attained on the 19th of December by Murat with 400 Guards and 600 Guard cavalry dismounted.
Meanwhile on the extreme French right Schwarzenberg and his Austrians had drifted away towards their own frontier, and the Prussian contingent, which under Yorck (see Yorck von Wartenburg) formed part of Macdonald's command about Riga, had entered into a convention with the Russians at Tauroggen (December 30) which deprived the French of their last support upon their left. Königsberg thus became untenable, and Murat fell back to Posen, where on the 10th of January he handed over his command to Eugène Beauharnais and returned to Paris.
The Russian pursuit practically ceased at the line of the Niemen, for their troops also had suffered terrible hardships and a period of rest had become an absolute necessity.
42. The War of Liberation.—The Convention of Tauroggen became the starting-point of Prussia's regeneration. As the news of the destruction of the Grande Armée spread, and the appearance of countless stragglers convinced the Prussian people of the reality of the disaster, the spirit generated by years of French domination burst out. For the moment the king and his ministers were placed in a position of the greatest anxiety, for they knew the resources of France and the boundless versatility of their arch-enemy far too well to imagine that the end of their sufferings was yet in sight. To disavow the acts and desires of the army and of the secret societies for defence with which all north Germany was honeycombed would be to imperil the very existence of the monarchy, whilst an attack on the wreck of the Grand Army meant the certainty of a terrible retribution from the new armies now rapidly forming on the Rhine.
But the Russians and the soldiers were resolved to continue the campaign, and working in collusion they put pressure on the not unwilling representatives of the civil power to facilitate the supply and equipment of such troops as were still in the field; they could not refuse food and shelter to their starving countrymen or their loyal allies, and thus by degrees the French garrisons scattered about the country either found themselves surrounded or were compelled to retire to avoid that fate. Thus it happened that the viceroy of Italy felt himself compelled to depart from the positive injunctions of the emperor to hold on at all costs to his advanced position at Posen, where about 14,000 men had gradually rallied around him, and to withdraw step by step to Magdeburg, where he met reinforcements and commanded the whole course of the lower Elbe.
43. Napoleon's Preparations.—Meanwhile the emperor in Paris had been organizing a fresh army for the reconquest of Prussia. Thanks to his having compelled his allies to fight his battles for him, he had not as yet drawn very heavily on the fighting resources of France, the actual percentage of men taken by the conscriptions during the years since 1806 being actually lower than that in force in continental armies of to-day. He had also created in 1811–1812 a new National Guard, organized in “cohorts” to distinguish it from the regular army, and for home defence only, and these by a skilful appeal to their patriotism and judicious pressure applied through the prefects, became a useful reservoir of half-trained men for new battalions of the active army. Levies were also made with rigorous severity in the states of the Rhine Confederation, and even Italy was called on for fresh sacrifices. In this manner by the end of March upwards of 200,000 men were moving towards the Elbe, and in the first fortnight of April they were duly concentrated in the angle formed by the Elbe and Saale, threatening on the one hand Berlin, on the other Dresden and the east.
44. Spring Campaign of 1813.—The allies, aware of the gradual strengthening of their enemy's forces but themselves as yet unable to put more than 200,000 in the field, had left a small corps of observation opposite Magdeburg and along the Elbe to give timely notice of an advance towards Berlin; and with the bulk of their forces had taken up a position about Dresden, whence they had determined to march down the course of the Elbe and roll up the French from right to left. Both armies were very indifferently supplied with information, as both were without any reliable regular cavalry capable of piercing the screen of outposts with which each endeavoured to conceal his disposition, and Napoleon, operating in a most unfriendly country, suffered more in this respect than his adversaries.
On the 25th of April Napoleon reached Erfurt and assumed the chief command. On this day his troops stood in the following positions. Eugene, with Lauriston's, Macdonald's and Regnier's corps, on the lower Saale, Ney in front of Weimar, holding the defile of Kösen; the Guard at Erfurt, Marmont at Gotha, Bertrand at Saalfeld, and Oudinot at Coburg, and during the next few days the whole were set in motion towards Merseburg and Leipzig, in the now stereotyped Napoleonic order, a strong advanced guard of all arms leading, the remainder—about two-thirds of the whole—following as “masse de manœuvre,” this time, owing to the cover afforded by the Elbe on the left, to the right rear of the advanced guard.
Meanwhile the Russians and Prussians had concentrated all available men and were moving on an almost parallel line, but somewhat to the south of the direction taken by the French. On the 1st of May Napoleon and the advanced guard entered Lützen. Wittgenstein, who now commanded the allies in place of Kutusov, hearing of his approach, had decided to attack the French advanced guard, which he took to be their whole force, on its right flank, and during the morning had drawn together the bulk of his forces on his right in the vicinity of Gross-Görschen and Kaya.
45. Battle of Lützen.—About 9 a.m. on May 2nd he began an attack on the French advance guard in Lützen, whilst the remainder of his army was directed against Napoleon's right and rear. Just as the latter were moving off the heads of the French main body suddenly appeared, and at 11 a.m. Napoleon, then standing near the Gustavus Adolphus monument on the field of Lützen, heard the roar of a heavy cannonade to his right rear. He realized the situation in a moment, galloped to the new scene of action, and at once grouped his forces for decisive action—the gift in which he was supreme. Leaving the leading troops to repulse as best they might the furious attack of both Russians and Prussians, and caring little whether they lost ground, he rapidly organized for his own control a battle-reserve. At length when both sides were exhausted by their efforts he sent forward nearly a hundred guns which tore asunder by their case-shot fire the enemy's line and marched his reserve right through the gap. Had he possessed an adequate cavalry force the victory would have been decisive. As it was, the allies made good their retreat and the French were too exhausted for infantry pursuit.
Perhaps no battle better exemplifies the inherent strength of the emperor's strategy, and in none was his grasp of the battlefield more brilliantly displayed, for, as he fully recognized, “These Prussians have at last learnt something—they are no longer the wooden toys of Frederick the Great,” and, on the other hand, the relative inferiority of his own men as compared with his veterans of Austerlitz called for far more individual effort than on any previous day. He was everywhere, encouraging and compelling his men—it is a legend in the French army that the persuasion even of the imperial boot was used upon some of his reluctant conscripts, and in the result his system was fully justified, as it triumphed even against a great tactical surprise.
46. Bautzen.—As soon as possible the army pressed on in pursuit, Ney being sent across the Elbe to turn the position of the allies at Dresden. This threat forced the latter to evacuate the town and retire over the Elbe, after blowing up the stone bridge across the river. Napoleon entered the town hard on their heels, but the broken bridge caused a delay of four days, there being no pontoon trains with the army. Ultimately on the 18th of May the march was renewed, but the allies had continued their retreat in leisurely fashion, picking up reinforcements by the way. Arrived at the line of the Spree, they took up and fortified a very formidable position about Bautzen (q.v.). Here, on the 20th, they were attacked, and after a two days battle dislodged by Napoleon; but the weakness of the French cavalry conditioned both the form of the attack, which was less effective than usual, and the results of the victory, which were extremely meagre.
The allies broke off the action at their own time and retired in such good order that the emperor failed to capture a single trophy as proof of his victory. The enemy's escape annoyed him greatly, the absence of captured guns and prisoners reminded him too much of his Russian experiences, and he redoubled his demands on his corps commanders for greater vigour in the pursuit. This led the latter to push on without due regard to tactical precautions, and Blücher took advantage of their carelessness when at Haynau (May 26), with some twenty squadrons of Landwehr cavalry, he surprised, rode over and almost destroyed Maison's division. The material loss inflicted on the French was not very great, but its effect in raising the moral of the raw Prussian cavalry and increasing their confidence in their old commander was enormous.
Still the allies continued their retreat and the French were unable to bring them to action. In view of the doubtful attitude of Austria, Napoleon became alarmed at the gradual lengthening of his lines of communication and opened negotiations. The enemy, having everything to gain and nothing to lose thereby, agreed finally to a six weeks suspension of arms. This was perhaps the gravest military error of Napoleon's whole career, and his excuse for it, “want of adequate cavalry,” is the strongest testimony as to the value of that arm.
47. The Autumn Campaign.—As soon as a suspension of arms (to 15th of August) had been agreed to, Napoleon hastened to withdraw his troops from the dangerous position they occupied with reference to the passes leading over the mountains from Bohemia, for he entertained no doubt now that Austria was also to be considered as an enemy. Finally he decided to group his corps round Gölitz and Bautzen whence they could either meet the enemy advancing from Breslau or fall on his flank over the mountains if they attempted to force their way into Saxony by the valley of the Elbe. This latter manœuvre depended, however, on his maintenance of Dresden, and to this end he sent the I. Corps up the Elbe to Pirna and Königstein to cover the fortifications of Dresden itself. His instructions on this point deserve the closest study, for he foresaw the inevitable attraction which a complete entrenched camp would exercise even upon himself, and, therefore, limited his engineers to the construction of a strong bridge head on the right bank and a continuous enceinte, broken only by gaps for counter attack, around the town itself.
Then he turned his attention to the plan for the coming campaign. Seeing clearly that his want of an efficient cavalry precluded all ideas of a resolute offensive in his old style, he determined to limit himself to a defence of the line of the Elbe, making only dashes of a few days duration at any target the enemy might present.
Reinforcements had been coming up without ceasing and at the beginning of August he calculated that he would have 300,000 men available about Bautzen and 100,000 along the Elbe from Hamburg via Magdeburg to Torgau. With the latter he determined to strike the first blow, by a concentric advance on Berlin (which he calculated he would reach on the 4th or 5th day), the movement being continued thence to extricate the French garrisons in Küstrin, Stettin and
Danzig. The moral effect, he promised himself, would be prodigious, and there was neither room nor food for these 100,000 elsewhere.
Towards the close of the armistice he learned the general situation of the allies. The crown prince of Sweden (Bernadotte), with his Swedes and various Prussian levies, 135,000 in all, lay in and around Berlin and Stettin; and knowing his former marshal well, Napoleon considered Oudinot a match for him. Blücher with about 95,000 Russians and Prussians was about Breslau, and Schwarzenberg, with nearly 180,000 Austrians and Russians, lay in Bohemia. In his position at Bautzen he felt himself equal to all his enemy's combinations.
48. Dresden.—The advance towards Berlin began punctually with the expiration of the armistice, but with the main army he himself waited to see more clearly his, adversaries plans. At length becoming impatient he advanced a portion of his army towards Blücher, who fell back to draw him into a trap. Then the news reached him that Schwarzenberg was pressing down the valley of the Elbe, and, leaving Macdonald to observe Blücher, he hurried back to Bautzen to dispose his troops to cross the Bohemian mountains in the general direction of Königstein, a blow which must have had decisive results. But the news from Dresden was so alarming that at the last moment he changed his mind, and sending Vandamme alone over the mountains, he hurried with his whole army to the threatened point. This march remains one of the most extraordinary in history, for the bulk of his forces moved, mainly in mass and across country, 90 m. in 72 hours, entering Dresden on the morning of the 27th, only a few hours before the attack of the allies commenced. For the events which followed see Dresden (battle).
Dresden was the last great victory of the First Empire. By noon on the 27th August the Austrians and Russians were completely beaten and in full retreat, the French pressing hard behind them, but meanwhile Napoleon himself again succumbed to one of his unaccountable attacks of apparent intellectual paralysis. He seemed unaware of the vital importance of the moment, crouched shivering over a bivouac fire, and finally rode back to Dresden, leaving no specific orders for the further pursuit.
49. French Defeats.—The allies, however, continued to retreat, but unfortunately Vandamme, with his single corps and unsupported, issued out of the mountains on their flank, threw himself across their line of retreat near Kulm, and was completely overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers (29th). In spite of this misfortune, Napoleon could claim a brilliant success for himself, but almost at the same moment news reached him that Oudinot at Grossbeeren near Berlin, and Macdonald on the Katzbach opposed to Blücher, had both been severely defeated.
50.Napoleon's Movements.—During the next two days the emperor examined his situation and dictated a series of notes which have been a puzzle to every strategical thinker ever since. In these he seems suddenly to have cut adrift from every principle the truth of which he had himself so brilliantly demonstrated, and we find him discussing plans based on hypothesis, not knowledge, and on the importance of geographical points without reference to the enemy's field army. From these reveries he was at length awakened by news which indicated that the consequences of Macdonald's defeat had been far more serious to the moral of that command than he had imagined. He immediately rode over to establish order, and his manner and violence were so improper that Caulaincourt had the greatest difficulty in concealing the scandal. Blücher, however, hearing of his arrival, at once retreated and the emperor followed, thus uncovering the passes over the Bohemian mountains, a fact of which Schwarzenberg was quick to take advantage. Learning of his approach, Napoleon again withdrew to Bautzen. Then hearing that the Austrians had counter-marched and were again moving towards Dresden, he hastened back there, concentrated as many men as could conveniently be handled, and advanced beyond Pirna and Königstein to meet him. But the Austrians had no intention of attacking him, for time was now working on their side and, leaving his men to starve in the exhausted district, the emperor again returned to Dresden, where for the rest of the month he remained in an extraordinary state of vacillation. On the 4th of October he again drew up a review of the situation, in which he apparently contemplated giving up his communications with France and wintering in and around Dresden, though at the same time he is aware of the distress amongst his men for want of food.
51. Campaign of Leipzig.—In the meanwhile Blücher, Schwarzenberg and Bernadotte were working round his flanks. Ney, who had joined Oudinot after Grossbeeren, had been defeated at Dennewitz (6th Sept.), the victory, won by Prussian troops solely, giving the greatest encouragement to the enemy. Suddenly Napoleon's plans are again reviewed and completely changed. Calling up St Cyr, whom he had already warned to remain at Dresden with his command, he decides to fall back towards Erfurt, and go into winter quarters between that place and Magdeburg, pointing out that Dresden was of no use to him as a base and that if he does have a battle, he had much better have St Cyr and his men with him than at Dresden. He then on the 7th of October drew up a final plan, in which one again recognizes the old commander, and this he immediately proceeded to put into execution, for he was now quite aware of the danger threatening his line of retreat from both Blücher and Schwarzenberg and the North Army; yet only a few hours afterwards the portion of the order relating to St Cyr and Lobau was cancelled and the two were finally left behind at Dresden. From the 10th to the 13th Napoleon lay at Düben, again a prey to the most extraordinary irresolution, but on that day he thought he saw his opportunity. Blücher was reported near Wittenberg, and Schwarzenberg was moving slowly round to the south of Leipzig. The North Army under Bernadotte, unknown to Napoleon, lay on Blücher's left around Halle. The emperor decided to throw the bulk of his force on Blücher, and, having routed him, turn south on Schwarzenberg and sever his communications with Bohemia. His concentration was effected with his usual sureness and celerity, but whilst the French moved on Wittenberg, Blücher was marching to his right, indifferent to his communications as all Prussia lay behind him.
This move on the 14th brought him into touch with Bernadotte, and now a single march forward of all three armies would have absolutely isolated Napoleon from France; but Bernadotte's nerve failed him, for on hearing of Napoleon's threat against Wittenberg he decided to retreat northward, and not all the persuasions of Blücher and Gneisenau could move him. Thus if the French movement momentarily ended in a blow in the air, it was indirectly the cause of their ultimate salvation.
52. The Battle of the Nations.—On the 15th Napoleon concentrated his forces to the east of Leipzig, with only a weak detachment to the west, and in the evening the allies were prepared to attack him. Schwarzenberg, with 180,000 men available at once and 60,000 on the following day; Blücher had about 60,000, but Bernadotte now could not arrive before the 18th.
Napoleon prepared to throw the bulk of his force upon Schwarzenberg and massed his troops south-east of the town, whilst Schwarzenberg marched concentrically against him down the valley of the Elster and Pleisse, the mass of his troops on the right bank of the latter and a strong column under Giulay on the left working round to join Blücher on the north. The fighting which followed was most obstinate, but the Austrians failed to make any impression on the French positions, and indeed Giulay felt himself compelled to withdraw to his former position. On the other hand, Blücher carried the village of Möckern and came within a mile of the gates of the town. During the 17th there was only indecisive skirmishing, Schwarzenberg waiting for his reinforcements coming up by the Dresden road, Blücher for Bernadotte to come in on his left, and by some extraordinary oversight Giulay was brought closer in to the Austrian centre, thus opening for the French their line of retreat towards Erfurt, and no information of this movement appears to have been conveyed to Blücher. The emperor when he became aware of the movement, sent the IVth Corps to Lindenau to keep the road open.
On the 18th the fighting was resumed and by about noon Bernadotte came up and closed the gap to the N.E. of the town between Blücher and the Austrians. At 2 p.m. the Saxons, who had remained faithful to Napoleon longer than his other German allies, went over to the enemy. All hope of saving the battle had now to be given up, but the French covered their retreat obstinately and by daybreak next morning one-half of the army was already filing out along the road to Erfurt which had so fortunately been left for them.
53. Retreat of the French and Battle of Hanau.—It took Blücher time to extricate his troops from the confusion into which the battle had thrown them, and the garrison of Leipzig and the troops left on the right bank of the Elster still resisted obstinately—hence no direct pursuit could be initiated and the French, still upwards of 100,000 strong, marching rapidly, soon gained distance enough to be reformed. Blücher followed by parallel and inferior roads on their northern flank, but Schwarzenberg knowing that the Bavarians also had forsaken the emperor and were marching under Wrede, 50,000 strong, to intercept his retreat, followed in a most leisurely fashion. Blücher did not succeed in overtaking the French, but the latter, near Hanau, found their way barred by Wrede with 50,000 men and over 100 guns in a strong position.
To this fresh emergency Napoleon and his army responded in most brilliant fashion. As at Krasnoi in 1812, they went straight for their enemy and after one of the most brilliant series of artillery movements in history, directed by General Drouot, they marched right over their enemy, practically destroying his whole force. Henceforward their march was unmolested, and they reached Mainz on the 5th of November.
54. The Defensive Campaign.—When the last of the French troops had crossed to the western bank of the Rhine, divided counsels made their appearance at the headquarters of the allies. Every one was weary of the war, and many felt that it would be unwise to push Napoleon and the French nation to extremes. Hence a prolonged halt arose, utilized by the troops in renewing their equipment and so forth, but ultimately the Young German party, led by Blücher and the principal fighting men of the army, triumphed, and on the 1st of January 1814 the Silesian army (50,000) began its passage of the Rhine at Kaub. They were to be supported by Schwarzenberg with 200,000 men, who was to advance by Basel and Neu Breisach to the south, and Bernadotte with the Northern army, about 120,000, was to move in support on the right flank through the Netherlands and Laon; this force was not yet ready and did not, in fact, reach the latter place till March.
To meet these forces the emperor could not collect 200,000 men in all, of whom upwards of 100,000 were held by Wellington on the Spanish frontier, and 20,000 more were required to watch the debouches from the Alps. Hence less than 80,000 remained available for the east and north-eastern frontier. If, however, he was weak in numbers, he was now again operating in a
friendly country, able to find food almost everywhere and practically indifferent as to his communications.
On the 25th of January, 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 28th. Here his headquarters were surprised and he himself nearly captured by a sudden rush of French troops, and he learnt at the same time that the emperor in person was at hand. He accordingly fell back a few miles next morning to a strong position covering the exits from the Bar-sur-Aube defile. There he was joined by the Austrian advance guard 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. About noon the 2nd of February Napoleon attacked them; 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 emperor retired to Lesmont, and thence to Troyes, Marmont being left to observe the enemy.
55. Montmirail.—Owing to the state of the roads, more perhaps to the extraordinary lethargy which always characterized Schwarzenberg's headquarters, no pursuit was attempted. But on the 4th of February Blücher, chafing at this inaction, obtained the permission of his own sovereign to transfer his line of operations to the valley of the Marne; Pahlen's corps of Cossacks were assigned to him to cover his left and maintain communication with the Austrians.
Believing himself secure behind this screen, he advanced from Vitry along the roads leading down the valley of the Marne, with his columns widely separated for convenience of subsistence and shelter—the latter being almost essential in the terrible weather prevailing. Blücher himself on the night of the 7th was at Sézanne, on the exposed flank so as to be nearer to his sources of intelligence, and the rest of his army were distributed in four small corps at or near Épernay, Montmirail and Étoges; reinforcements also were on their way to join him and were then about Vitry.
In the night his headquarters were again surprised, and he learnt that Napoleon himself with his main body was in full march to fall on his scattered detachments. At the same time he heard that Pahlen's Cossacks had been withdrawn forty-eight hours previously, thus completely exposing his flank. He himself retreated towards Étoges endeavouring to rally his scattered detachments, but Napoleon was too quick for him and in three successive days he defeated Sacken at Montmirail, York at Champ Aubert and Blücher and his main body at Étoges, pursuing the latter towards Vertus. These disasters compelled the retreat of the whole Silesian army, and Napoleon, leaving Mortier and Marmont to deal with them, hurried back to Troyes with his main body to strike the flank of Schwarzenberg's army, which had meanwhile begun its leisurely advance, and again at Mormant on the 17th of February, Montereau the 18th and Méry the 21st, he inflicted such heavy punishment upon his adversaries that they fell back precipitately to Bar-sur-Aube.
56. Laon.—In the meantime Blücher had rallied his scattered forces and was driving Marmont and Mortier before him. Napoleon, as soon as he had disembarrassed himself of Schwarzenberg, counter-marched his main body and moving again by Sézanne, fell upon Blücher's left and drove him back upon Soissons. This place had been held by a French garrison, but had capitulated only twenty-four hours beforehand, a fact of which Napoleon was naturally unaware. The Silesian army was thus able to escape, and marching northwards combined with Bernadotte at Laon—this reinforcement bringing the forces at Blücher's disposal up to over 100,000 men.
On the 7th of March Napoleon fell upon the advance guard of this force at Craonne and drove it back upon Laon, where a battle took place on the 9th. Napoleon was here defeated, and with only 30,000 men at his back he was compelled to renounce all ideas of a further offensive, and he retired to rest his troops to Reims. Here he remained unmolested for a few days, for Blücher was struck down by sickness, and in his absence nothing was done. On the 14th of March, however, Schwarzenberg, becoming aware of Napoleon's withdrawal to Reims, again began his advance and had reached Arcis-sur-Aube when the news of Napoleon's approach again induced him to retreat to Brienne.
57. The Allies March on Paris.—Thus after six weeks fighting the allies were hardly more advanced than at the beginning. Now, however, they began to realize the weakness of their opponent, and perhaps actuated by the fear that Wellington from Toulouse might, after all, reach Paris first, they determined to march to Paris (then an open city), and let Napoleon do his worst to their communications. Actually this was exactly what he was preparing to do. He had determined to move eastward to St Dizier, rally what garrisons he could find, and raise the whole country against the invaders, and had actually started on the execution of this plan when his instructions fell into the enemy's hands and his projects were exposed. Regardless of the threat, the allies marched straight for the capital. Marmont and Mortier with what troops they could rally took up a position on Montmartre heights to oppose them, but seeing further resistance to be hopeless they gave way on the 31st of March, just as Napoleon, with the wreck of the Guards and a mere handful of other detachments, was hurrying across the rear of the Austrians towards Fontainebleau to join them.
This was the end of the First Empire. The story of the Waterloo Campaign is told under its own heading.
The Military Character of Napoleon.
No military career has been examined more often and more freely than that of Napoleon. Yet even so the want of complete documentary evidence upon which to base conclusions has vitiated all but the most recent of the countless monographs and histories that have appeared on the subject. Fortunately the industry and ability of the military history section of the French General Staff have rendered available, by the publication of the original orders issued during the course of his campaigns, a mass of information which, taken in conjunction with his own voluminous correspondence, renders it possible to trace the growth of his military genius with a reasonable approach to accuracy. Formerly we could only watch the evolution of his powers of organization and the purely psychic gifts of resolution and command. The actual working of his mind towards that strategic and tactical ascendancy that rendered his presence on the battlefield, according to the testimony of his opponents, equal to a reinforcement of 40,000 men, was entirely indiscernible.
The history of his youth reveals no special predilection for the military service—the bent of his mind was political far more than military, but unlike the politicians of his epoch he consistently applied scientific and mathematical methods to his theories, and desired above all things a knowledge of facts in their true relation to one another. His early military education was the best and most practical then attainable, primarily because he had the good fortune to come under the influence of men of exceptional ability—Baron du Keile, Bois Roger and others. From them he derived a sound knowledge of artillery and fortification, and particularly of mountain warfare, which latter was destined to prove of inestimable service to him in his first campaigns of 1794–95 and 1796. In these, as well as in his most dramatic success of Marengo in 1800, we can discern no trace of strategical innovation. He was simply a master of the methods of his time. Ceaseless industry, energy and conspicuous personal gallantry were the principal factors of his brilliant victories, and even in 1805 at Ulm and Austerlitz it was still the excellence of the tactical instrument, the army, which the Revolution had bequeathed to him that essentially produced the results.
Meanwhile the mathematical mind, with its craving for accurate data on which to found its plans (the most difficult of all to obtain under the conditions of warfare), had been searching for expedients which might serve him to better purpose, and in 1805 he had recourse to the cavalry screen in the hope of such results. This proved a palliation of his difficulty, but not a solution. Cavalry can only observe, it cannot hold. The facts as to the position of an opponent accurately observed and correctly reported at a given moment, afford no reliable guarantee of his position 48 hours later, when the orders based on this information enter upon execution. This can only be calculated on the ground of reasonable probability as to what it may be to the best interest of the adversary to attempt. But what may seem to a Napoleon the best course is not necessarily the one that suggests itself to a mediocre mind, and the greater the gulf which separates the two minds the greater the uncertainty which must prevail on the side of the abler commander.
It was in 1806 that an improved solution was first devised. The general advanced guard of all arms now followed immediately behind the cavalry screen and held the enemy in position, while the remainder of the army followed at a day's march in a “bataillon carrée” ready to manœuvre in any required direction. The full reach of this discovery seems as yet scarcely to have impressed itself upon the emperor with complete conviction, for in the succeeding campaign in Poland we find that he twice departed from this forma—at Pultusk and Heilsberg—and each time his enemy succeeded in escaping him. At Friedland, however, his success was complete, and henceforth the method recurs on practically every battlefield. When it fails it is because its inventor himself hesitates to push his own conception to its full development (Eckmühl 1809, Borodino 1812). Yet it would seem that this invention of Napoleon's was intuitive rather than reasoned; he never communicated it in its entirety to his marshals, and seems to have been only capable of exercising it either when in full possession of his health or under the excitement of action. Thus we find him after the battle of Dresden—itself a splendid example of its efficacy—suddenly reverting to the terminology of the school in which he had been brought up, which he himself had destroyed, only to revive again in the next few days and handle his forces strategically with all his accustomed brilliancy.
In 1814 and in 1815 in the presence of the enemy he again rises supremely to each occasion, only to lapse in the intervals even below the level of his old opponents; and that this was not the consequence of temporary depression naturally resulting from the accumulated load of his misfortunes, is sufficiently shown by the downright puerility of the arguments by which he seeks to justify his own successes in the St Helena memoirs, which one may search in vain for any indication that Napoleon was himself aware of the magnitude of his own discovery. One is forced to the conclusion that there existed in Napoleon's brain a dual capacity—one the normal and reasoning one, developing only the ideas and conceptions of his contemporaries, the other intuitive, and capable only of work under abnormal pressure. At such moments of crisis it almost excelled human comprehension; the mind seems to have gathered to itself and summed up the balance of all human passions arranged for and against him, and to have calculated with unerring exactitude the consequences of each decision.
A partial explanation of this phenomenon may perhaps be found in the economy of nervous energy his strategical method ensured to him. Marching always ready to fight wherever his enemy might stand or move to meet him, his mind was relieved from all the hesitations which necessarily arise in men less confident in the security of their designs. Hence, when on the battlefield the changing course of events left his antagonists mentally exhausted, he was able to face them with will power neither bound nor broken. But this only explains a portion of the mystery that surrounds him, and which will make the study of his career the most fascinating to the military student of all times.
Amongst all the great captains of history Cromwell alone can be compared to him. Both, in their powers of organization and the mastery of the tactical potentialities of the weapons of their day, were immeasurably ahead of their times, and both also understood to the full the strategic art of binding and restraining the independent will power of their opponents, an art of which Marlborough and Frederick, Wellington, Lee and Moltke do not seem ever even to have grasped the fringe. (F. N. M.)
Bibliography.—Among the principal modern works on Napoleon's campaigns 1805–14 are the following: Yorck von Wartenberg, Napoleon als Feldherr (1866, English and French translations); H. Camon, La Guerre napoléonienne (Paris, 1903); H. Bonnal, Esprit de la guerre moderne (a series of works, of which those dealing with 1805–1812 are separately mentioned below). For 1805 see Alombert and Colin (French Gen. Staff), Campagne de 1805 en Allemagne (Paris, 1898–1910); H. Bonnal, De Rosbach à Ulm (Paris, 1903); Sir D. Haig, Cavalry Studies (London, 1907); G. A. Furse, Ulm, Trafalgar and Austerlitz (London, 1905). For 1806–1807, Pr. Kraft zu Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen, Letters on Strategy (Eng. trans., vol. i.); Freiherr v. d. Goltz, Rossbach und Jena; the new edition of the same work, Von Rossbach bis Jena und Auerstzädt (Berlin, 1906) and Von Jena bis Preussisch-Eylau (Berlin, 1908); Studies in French Gen. Staff Revue d'Histoire (1909); P. Foucart, Campagne de Prusse; H. Bonnal, La Manœuvre d'léna (Paris, 1904); Memoirs of Bennigsen (trans. by E. Cazalas, French Gen. Staff, 1909); F. N. Maude, The Jena Campaign (London, 1909); F. L. Petre, Napoleon's Campaign in Poland (London, 1902). For 1809, H. Bonnal, La Manœuvre de Landshut (Paris, 1905); Saski, Campagne de 1809 (Paris, 1899–1902); Ritter v. Angeli, Erzherzog Karl (Vienna, 1895–1897); Lieut. Field Marshal von Woinovich (ed.), Das Kriegsjahr 1809; Buat, De Ratisbonne à Znaim (Paris, 1910). For 1812, G. Fabry (French Gen. Staff), Campagne de 1812 (Paris, 1904); La Guerre nationale de 1812 (French translation from the Russian general staff work, Paris, 1904); H. Bonnal, La Manœuvre de Vilna (Paris, 1905); Freiherr v. d. Osten-Sacken, Feldzug 1812 (Berlin, 1899); H. B. George, Napoleon's Invasion of Russia (London, 1900). For 1813, F. N. Maude, The Leipzig Campaign (London, 1908); Lanrezac, La Manœuvre de Lützen; B. v. Quistorp, Gesch. der Nordarmee 1813 (1894); v. Holleben, Gesch. des Frühjahrsfeldzug 1813 (Berlin, 1904); Friedrich, Der Herbgfeldzug 1813 (Berlin, 1905-1906). For 1814, German Gen. Staff, Kriegsgcsch. Einzelschnften, No. 13; v. Janson, Der Feldzug 1814 in Frankreich (Berlin, 1903–1905). See also works mentioned under French Revolutionary Wars and under biographical headings, as well as the general histories of the time.
The French navy came under the direct and exclusive control of Napoleon after the 18th Brumaire. At the close of 1799 (see French Revolutionary Wars) he had three purposes to serve by the help of his fleet the relief of the French garrison besieged by the British forces in Malta; the reinforcement of the army he had left in Egypt; and the distraction of Great Britain by the threat of invasion of England across the Channel, or of Ireland. The deficiencies both in number and in quality of his naval resources doomed him to fail in all three. Though he had control of what remained of the navies of Holland and Spain, as well as of the French, he was outnumbered at every point, while the efficiency of the British fleet gave it a mobility which doubled its material superiority. All Napoleon's efforts to support his troops in Malta and Egypt were necessarily made under the hampering obligation to evade the British forces barring the road. The inevitable result was that only an occasional blockade-runner could succeed in escaping detection and attack. The relief thus brought to Malta and Egypt was not sufficient. In February 1800, the “Généreux” (74), one of the few ships which escaped from the Nile, sailed from Toulon with three corvettes, under Rear-admiral Perrée, to relieve Malta. On the 18th she was sighted by the blockading squadron, surrounded and captured. Three other survivors of the Nile were at anchor in Malta—the “Guillaume Tell” (80), and two frigates, the “Diane” and the “Justice.” On the 29th of July the “Guillaume Tell” endeavoured to slip out in the night. She was sighted, pursued and overpowered, after a singularly gallant resistance. The frigates made an attempt to get off on the 24th of August, but only the “justice,” a solitary survivor of the squadron which fought at the Nile, reached Toulon. Malta, starved out by the British feet, surrendered on the 5th of September 1800. Very similar was the fate of the efforts to reach and reinforce the army of Egypt. The British squadrons either stopped the relieving forces at their point of departure, or baffled, when they did not take them, at their landfall. A squadron of seven sail of the line, under Admiral Ganteaume, succeeded in slipping out of Brest, when a gale had driven the British blockading force off the coast. Ganteaume met with some measure of success in capturing isolated British men-of-war, one of them being a 74, the “Siiviftsure.” But he failed to give effectual help to the Egyptian army. He sailed on the 23rd of January 1801, entered the Mediterranean and, his squadron being in a bad condition, steered for Toulon, which he reached on the 18th of February. On the 19th of March he sailed again for Egypt, but was again driven back by the same causes on the 5th of April. On the 25th he was ordered out once more. Three of his ships had to be sent back as unfit to keep the sea. With the other four he reached the coast of Egypt, on the 7th of May, only to sight a powerful British force, and to be compelled to escape to Toulon, which he did not reach till the 22nd of July. The French in Egypt were in fact beaten before he reached the coast. At the beginning of 1801, a British naval force, commanded by Lord Keith, had sailed from Gibraltar, escorting an army of 18,000 men under General Abercromby. It reached Marmorice Bay, in Asia Minor, on the 31st of January, to arrange a co-operation with the Turks, and after some delay the army was transported and landed in Egypt, on the 7th and 8th of March. Before the end of September the French army was reduced to capitulate. In the interval another effort to carry help to it was made from Toulon. On the 13th of June 1801 Rear-admiral Linois left Toulon with three sail of the line, to join a Spanish squadron at Cadiz and go on to Egypt. In the straits he was sighted by the British squadron under Sir J. Saumarez, and driven to seek the protection of the Spanish batteries in Algeciras. On the 6th of July he beat off a British attack, capturing the “Hannibal,” 74. On the 9th a Spanish squadron came to his assistance, and the combined force steered for Cadiz. During the night of the 12th/13th of July they were attacked by Sir J. Saumarez. Two Spanish three-deckers blew up, and a 74-gun ship was taken. The others were blockaded in Cadiz. The invasion scheme was vigorously pushed after the 3rd of March 1801. Flat-bottomed boats were gradually collected at Boulogne. Two attempts to destroy them at anchor, though directed by Nelson himself, were repulsed on the 4th and 16th of August. But the invasion was so far little more than a threat made for diplomatic purposes. On the 1st of October 1801 an armistice was signed in London, and the Peace of Amiens followed, on the 27th of March 1802. (For the operations in the Baltic in 1801, see Copenhagen, Battle of.)
The Peace of Amiens proved to be only an uneasy truce, and it was succeeded by open war, on the 18th of May 1803. From that date till about the middle of August 1805, a space of some two years and two months, the war took the form of a most determined attempt on the part of Napoleon to carry out an invasion of Great Britain, met by the counter measures of the British government. The scheme of invasion was based on the Boulogne flotilla, a device inherited from the old French royal government, through the Republic. Its object was to throw a great army ashore on the coast between Dover and Hastings. The preparations were made on an unprecedented scale. The Republic had collected some two hundred and forty vessels. Under the direction of Napoleon ten times as many were equipped. They were divided into: prames, ship-rigged, of 35 metres long and 8 wide, carrying 12 guns; chaloupes cannonières of 24 metres long and 5 wide, carrying 5 guns and brig-rigged; bateaux cannoniers, of 19 metres long by 1.56 wide, carrying 2 guns and mere boats. All were built to be rowed, were flat-bottomed, and of shallow draft so as to be able to navigate close to the shore, and to take the ground without hurt. They were built in France and the Low Countries, in the coast towns and the rivers—even in Paris—and were collected gradually, shore batteries both fixed and mobile being largely employed to cover the passage. A vast sum of money and the labour of thousands of men were employed to clear harbours for them, at and near Boulogne. The shallow water on the coast made it impossible for the British line-of-battle ships, or even large frigates, to press the attack on them home. Smaller vessels they were able to beat off and so, in spite of the activity of the British cruisers and of many sharp encounters, the concentration was effected at Boulogne, where an army of 130,000 was encamped and was incessantly practised in embarking and disembarking. Before the invasion was taken in hand as a serious policy, there had been at least a profession of a belief that the flotilla could push across the Channel during a calm. Experience soon showed that when the needful allowance was made for the time required to bring them out of harbour (two tides) and for the influence which the Channel currents must have upon their speed, it would be extremely rash to rely on a calm of sufficient length. Napoleon therefore came early to the conclusion that he must bring about a concentration of his seagoing fleet in the Channel, which would give him a temporary command of its waters.
He had a squadron at Brest, ships at L'Orient and Rochefort, some of his vessels had taken refuge at Ferrol on their way back from San Domingo when war broke out, one was at Cadiz, and he had a squadron at Toulon. All these forces were watched by British blockading squadrons. The problem was to bring them together before the British fleet could be concentrated to meet them. Napoleon's solution grew, as time went on and circumstances changed, in scope and complexity. In July 1804 he ordered his admiral commanding at Toulon, Latouche Tréville, to seize an opportunity when Nelson, who was in command of the blockade, was driven off by a northerly gale, to put to sea, with 10 sail of the line, pick up the French ship in Cadiz, join Villeneuve who was in the Aix roads, and then effect a junction with Ganteaume and the 21 sail of the line at Brest. He hoped that if the British ships in the North Sea concentrated with the squadron in the Channel, he would be able to make use of Dutch vessels from the Texel. The death of Latouche Tréville, 20th of August 1804, supplied an excuse for delay. He was succeeded by Villeneuve. Napoleon now modified the simple plan prepared for Latouche Tréville, and began laying elaborate plans by which French vessels were to slip out and sail for distant seas, to draw the British fleet after them, and then return to concentrate in the Channel. A further modification was introduced by the end of 1804. Spain, which was bound by treaty to join Napoleon, was allowed to preserve a show of neutrality by paying a monthly subvention. The British government, treating this as a hostile action—as it was—seized the Spanish treasure ships on their way from America, near Cape Santa Maria, on the 5th of October 1804, and Spain declared war on the 12th of December. New plans were now made including the co-operation of the Spanish fleet. Amid all the variation in their details, and the apparent confusion introduced by Napoleon's habit of suggesting alternatives and discussing probabilities, and in spite of the preparations ostensibly made for an expedition to Ireland, which was to have sailed from Brest and to have carried 30,000 troops commanded by Augereau, the real purpose of Napoleon was neither altered nor concealed. He worked to produce doubt and confusion in the mind of the British government by threats and attacks on its distant possessions, which should lead it to scatter its forces. One of these ventures was actually carried out, without, however, securing the co-operation, or effecting the purpose he had in view. On the 11th of January 1805 Admiral Missiessy left Rochefort with 5 sail of the line, undetected by the British forces on the coast. Missiessy carried out a successful voyage of commerce-destroying, and returned safely to Rochefort on the 20th of May, from the West Indies. But the force sent in pursuit of him was small, and the- British government was not deceived into weakening its hold on the Channel. It was in fact well supplied with information by means of the spy service directed by an exiled French royalist, the count d'Antraigues, who was established at Dresden as a Russian diplomatic agent. Through his correspondents in Paris, some of whom had access to Napoleon's papers, the British government was able to learn the emperor's real intentions. The blockade of Brest was so strictly maintained that Ganteaume was allowed no opportunity to get to sea. Villeneuve, who was to have co-operated with Missiessy, did indeed leave Toulon, at a moment when Nelson, whose policy it was to encourage him to come out by not staying too near the port, was absent, on the I7tl1 of January 1805. The British admiral, when informed that the French were at sea, justified Napoleon's estimate of his probable course in such a contingency, by making a useless cruise to Egypt. But Villeneuve's ill-appointed ships, manned by raw crews, suffered loss of spars in a gale, and he returned to Toulon on the 21st. His last start came when he sailed, unseen by Nelson, on the 30th of March. Aided by lucky changes of wind, he reached Cadiz, was joined by 1 French and 6 Spanish ships under Admiral Gravina, which, added to the 11 he had with him, gave him a force of 18 sail. He left Cadiz on the night of the 9th/10th of April, and reached Fort de France in Martinique on the 14th of May. Here he was to have remained till joined by Ganteaume from Brest. On the 1st of June he was joined by a frigate and two line-of-battle ships sent with orders from Rochefort, and was told to remain in the West Indies till the 5th of July, and if not joined by Ganteaume to steer for Ferrol, pick up the French and Spanish ships in the port, and come on to the Channel. Villeneuve learnt on the 8th of June that Nelson had reached Barbadoes in pursuit of him on the 4th. The British admiral, delayed by contrary winds, had not been able to start from the entry to the Straits of Gibraltar till the 11th of May. An action in the West Indies would have ruined the emperor's plan of concentration, and Villeneuve decided to sail at once for Ferrol. Nelson, misled by false information, ranged the West Indies as far south as the Gulf of Paria, in search of his opponent whom he supposed to be engaged in attacks on British possessions. By the 13th of June he had learnt the truth, and sailed for Gibraltar under the erroneous impression that the French admiral would return to Toulon. He sent a brig home with dispatches; on the 19th of June, in lat. 33° 12' N. and long. 58° W., the French were seen by this vessel heading for the Bay of Biscay. Captain Bettesworth who commanded the brig hurried home, and the information he brought was at once acted on by Lord Barham, the First Lord of the Admiralty, who took measures to station a force to intercept Villeneuve outside Ferrol. On the 22nd of July, 35 leagues N.W. of Finisterre, Villeneuve was met by the British admiral sent to intercept him, Sir Robert Calder. A confused action in a fog ended in the capture of 2 Spanish line-of-battle ships. But Sir R. Calder, who had only 15 ships to his opponent's 20 and was nervous lest he should be overpowered, did not act with energy. He retreated to join the blockading fleet oil Brest. Villeneuve was now able to join the vessels at Ferrol. Nelson, who reached Gibraltar on the very day the action off Ferrol was fought, was too far away to interfere with him. But Villeneuve, who was deeply impressed by the inefficiency of the ships of his fleet and especially of the Spaniards, and who was convinced that an overwhelming British force would be united against him in the Channel, lost heart, and on the 15th of August sailed south to Cadiz. By this movement he ruined the emperor's elaborate scheme. Napoleon at once broke up the camp at Boulogne and marched to Germany. The further movements of Villeneuve's fleet are told under Trafalgar, Battle of.
With the collapse of the invasion scheme, the naval war between Napoleon and Great Britain entered on a new phase. It lost at once the unity given to it by the efforts of the emperor to effect, and of the British government to baffle the passage of the Channel by an army. In place of the movements of great fleets to a single end, we have a nine years' story (1805–1814) of cruising for the protection of commerce, of convoy, of colonial expeditions to capture French, Dutch or Spanish possessions and of combined naval and military operations in which the British navy was engaged in carrying troops to various countries, and in supporting them on shore. Napoleon continued to build line-of-battle ships in numbers from Venice to Hamburg, but only in order to force the British government to maintain costly and wearing blockades. He never allowed his fleets to go to sea to seek battle. The operations of the British fleet were therefore divided between the work of patrolling the ocean roads and ancillary services to diplomacy, or to the armies serving in Italy, Denmark and, after 1808, in Spain. The remaining colonial possessions of France, and of Holland, then wholly dependent on-her, were conquered by degrees, and the ports in which privateers were fitted out to cruise against British commerce in distant seas were gradually rendered harmless. Though privateering was carried on by the French with daring and a considerable measure of success, it did not put an appreciable check on the growth of British merchant shipping. The function of the British navy in the long conflict with Napoleon was of the first importance, and its services were rendered in every sea, but their very number, extent and complexity render it impossiblehere to record them in detail.
Bibliography.-Captain Mahan, Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and the Empire (London, 1892); Chevalier, Histoire de la marine française sous le consulal et l'empire (Paris, 1886). All the operations connected with the successive invasion schemes are recorded, with exhaustive quotations of documentary evidence, in Projets et tentatives de débarquement aux Iles Britanniques, by Captain Desbrière (Paris, 1901). Captain Desbrière's exhaustive work was done for the historical section of the French general staff, and is a fine example of the scholarly and conscientious modern French historical school. (D.H.)
- At the action of Saalfeld on the 10th, the young and gallant Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia was killed.
- Napoleon always gave them 300,000, but this number was never attained.