Home Forums Horse and Musket Napoleonic [1800] Army of the Rhine- Moreau

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
  • Author
  • #191737
    Avatar photoOotKust

    [1800] Army of the Rhine- Moreau

    Yes, not another piece on Italian battles, but another definite insider for Man of the Year!

    I’d written this a while back and thought, well, we ain’t covered him much here. Other than touching on his ‘attached’ Polish Legion of the Danube here https://www.thewargameswebsite.com/forums/topic/up-the-poles/ not much by me either.

    I’ve also rechecked for egregious errors before posting and in case anything needed updating…

    1800 clearly was a ‘year of two halves’, a bit like 1813.

    Is there another analysis/ compendium of similar status that covers the events of the ‘break’ in negotiations and resumption of hostilities?

    On Why?
    To answer my own inquisition- so many of the Armee du Rhin were sent to Santo Domingo/ Martinique etc. to perish there later.

    To rationalise the hypothesis I think it’s necessary to find out who died or became tragically ill there and determine the ratio of previous campaigns vs other officers (ie the Bonaparte associates).

    On Military Honours
    Recognising that political manipulation had a conscious effort in ‘honours’ awarded various regiments, never occurred to me in the past.

    However having looked at research for [1805] the 108e de ligne under Friant/ Davout, I see the previous major battle before their actions at Austerlitz, was Hohenlinden.

    It was front and centre literally, at the battle, and took significant stand-up and firing actions to restrain the Austrian advance until pressured by numbers.

    Jeff Berrys excellent site https://obscurebattles.blogspot.com/2020/06/hohenlinden-1800.html and graphics highlight the impressive infantry numbers [which N. later could only dream of attaining].

    And this part of his graphics shows what a nice little ‘centre’ Division Moreau had, highlighting where the 108e stood- a small basket of names from the future, not forgetting all the others associated as well:-

    OB_Hohenlinden 1800 graphic _JeffBerry©

    Unfortunately that political suppression of French victories has coloured our views of the period ever since. What gets repeated/ recited, with much of history I find, is the ‘popular’ version of the truth, not the whole…

    Grouchy for example, had a whole other history long before his 1815 campaign ‘infamy’…

    From Picard- Hohenlinden 1909, p248/9 we read:-

    It is appropriate, with Napoleon, to address to Moreau a well-founded critic: “While the fate of the campaign was decided at the fields of Ampfing and Hohenlinden, the three [actually TWO] divisions of Sainte-Suzanne and the three divisions of Lecourbe, i.e. half of the army, were not on the battlefield.

    What is the point of having troops when you don’t have the art of using them on important occasions? ” These divisions missed the battle because of the widely dispersed device adopted by the army of the Rhine to march on the Inn. Moreau had committed the fault of not sparing himself the means to concentrate his forces in good time: he himself acknowledged it.

    An eminent critic says of the day of Hohenlinden a judgment that seems accurate: Thus ended this battle which, after that of Rivoli, is undoubtedly the most extraordinary of those that were fought in the first two wars of the Revolution…
    Moreau succeeded because the use of his forces was wisely calculated and fortune served him well. The part that luck had in Bonaparte’s successes was greatly exaggerated; but, except for Marengo’s day, he was never better served by fate than Moreau at Hohenlinden.

    It was said that everything that was going on in the enemy army was combined to ensure a brilliant victory. The direction of the imperial columns; operations; the failure of Lauer and Weyrother to reflect, who forgot that the centre, having a superb road, would lead long before the rest of the army, were all causes of this success; and Moreau, who was unaware of these circumstances, could not foresee anything in his calculations to profit from them.

    If the centre had moved less quickly, or if Riesch, with the left wing, had arrived, according to the Austrian disposition, half an hour earlier at Christoph, Richepance would have encountered his column, and the rout in the plain of Maitenbeth would not have taken place.

    Perhaps the Austrians would nevertheless have been defeated, but the battle fought as a series of combats, would have yielded only insignificant results; yet the French had not collected any trophies.

    However, while Moreau could not count on such favourable incidents, his dispositions were nevertheless excellent in the state in which he [was forced] was to oppose the enemy forces.

    Isn’t it a rich compliment that a decisive battle can be won with just half of the troops available? The following two weeks showed that neither caution nor calamity awaited the army of Moreau, despite the criticisms.

    Virtually the same occured with Auerstadt, however occupying an entire French Corps against an army more numerous, but again just as uncordinated as these Austrians were.

    As much as it signalled the continuing rise of France and Bonaparte, it also sealed that success with the demise of any potential political competitors.

    Commentators made several admirable additions, this one perhaps broader. From http://napoleon-histoire.com
    Author:Hr. Dr. Herbert Zima

    An excerpt of Austrian accounts and reports of the battle with quotes from the Austrian authors analysis and his sources:-

    The situation, on the French side, is quite different: the Army of the Rhine was an incomparable instrument in the hands of a respected superior command of the troops, its victories of the summer, but also their convinced republicanism, had forged a formidable morale of fight. The “Rhine Spartans”, as their contemporaries called them, had, according to Madame de Staël, stuck to their “republican simplicity”, Mathieu Dumas*, who would later be Minister of War to Joseph, King of Naples, and Deputy Chief of Staff of the Imperial Army in Germany in 1809, characterizes the Army of the Rhine in 1800 as follows:

    This army, even if it was not, from the point of view of numbers, the strongest, but surely the most beautiful that France had ever had, was in an exceptional state. The talent and efforts of General Dessolle, his chief of staff, had brought his organization, his training, his discipline and his maneuverability to the highest level of perfection. Its equipment and armament had been renovated and improved.
    The artillery, commanded by General Eblé, one of the best officers in Europe, had been reorganized, almost completely overhauled and significantly distributed in the arsenals of Augsburg and Munich.
    (2)-Picard, Hohenlinden, page 36

    Unlike the other armies of the Republic, the Army of the Rhine had, in particular, a month’s supply in its stores.

    The rhetoric of Dumas of course side-stepping any reference to the by then discredited and banished Moreau, aiding the story of silence, of course.
    *Gen M Dumas- architect of the Legion d’honneur; confrere of Berthier, served under Rochambeau in the US colonies…

    Another equally damning report:-

    There too, a controversy developed, the day after the battle: did Moreau foresee this flank attack from the start, or did it happen, so to speak, “by chance”? ?

    Without a doubt the battle of Hohenlinden was glorious for General Moreau, for the generals, the officers, the French troops. It was one of the most decisive of the war. But it should not be put on the account of any maneuver, of a combination, of a military genius.
    (Napoleon at Gourgaud, at Sainte-Hélène) (3)-Idem page 243.

    We can certainly see in this judgment a way, psychologically motivated but not very noble, to devalue a rival and, therefore, cannot be taken seriously. Marengo’s lessons should have softened the great warrior and made him more objective.

    This matter is also highlighted by Jeff Berry in his Obscure Battles article.

    To reassert the positive:-

    In his Memoirs, unpublished, but used by Picard in his study of Hohenlinden, Decaen records how, the evening before the battle, he moved ahead of his division to the French headquarters at Anzing.
    Moreau wanted to order him to reinforce Grenier’s left wing. On the remark that, given the state of the roads, he could not be, with the head of his division, at Hohenlinden until around 2 o’clock in the afternoon – that is to say too late – Moreau asked if he could follow Richepance’s march. On Decaen’s positive response, Moreau reportedly replied:

    “Well, I wanted to turn the enemy with 10,000 men, it will be with 20,000!” (6)-Idem, page 171.

    We can therefore say that the encirclement maneuver of the Decaen and Richepance divisions is the result of Moreau’s orders.

    Of course, he could not know where the Austrian main army would be, on Haag’s road, when his right wing arrived. The attack on the backs was surely a matter of luck, which helps the smartest. But the attack on the Austrian flank would also have had decisive consequences.
    But above all we must salute the intelligent decision of Richepance – then barely 30 years old – to have decided on this attack behind the backs of the Austrians, with the few troops at his disposal.
    (7)-Jean Tranié

    On the travesty of natural justice taken against the victors, he cites:-

    8) The Battle of Hohenlinden will also have unfortunate consequences for the careers of some of its protagonists, guilty of remaining loyal to Moreau, who will soon find himself in the ranks of the opposition. Decaen will be sent to Pondicherry, Richepance in Guadeloupe, where he died in 1802 of malaria. Dessolle will remain unemployed for many years. Much later, in 1815, he will vote for death at the trial of Marshal Ney.

    It is a good analysis, though in several places the author is referring to Austrian thoughts of a French ‘offensive’, not sure whether his or the contemporaries, when of course the Austrians claimed to be following up a retreating army (it wasn’t), but then coloured their own embarrassment by pretending they fought something they hadn’t.

    The authors quotations say it all however in his leading statements of fact:-

    Assessing how the Austrian troops were led is easy – even if the diagnosis hurts (1) : a demoralized army, assembled with difficulty and made up of new recruits and a command that can only be criticized: a young and inexperienced Archduke and his mentor, who is in fact the decision maker, but who during his life has never been more than an engineer officer. Added to this is an overvalued Weyrother whose weak qualities have already been revealed to Rivoli.

    The stern but not irrelevant opinion that “Weyrother, much too late for Austria, died after the battles of Hohenlinden and Austerlitz” is from the Bavarian historian, Lieutenant General Heilmann, author of a reference work on the campaign of 1800 in Bavaria.

    That this army, under such a command, was sent into battle, the fault lies undoubtedly with the Emperor Francis.

    The Heilmann comment may be a little harsh, if somewhat true, but again the gung-ho adoption of outlandish hypotheses and hyper-exuberance on the part of the Austrian High Command [_and not just limited to this campaign or sphere ] is as obvious as Erz.Karls epilepsy, as noted, agreed to by a critical and jealous brother, the Emperor Francis II.

    Schwarzenberg [in 1800] wrote to his wife:

    My God ! What a command, no understanding of men…. If we wanted to believe that a name alone (Schwarzenberg refers here to the Archduke) was enough to beat the enemy, this fight avenged the Archduke Charles…. One more defeat, and the army is on the verge of disintegration; the confidence of the troops has disappeared…

    For all of Napoleons failures and biases, the Allied ‘cousins’ all exhibited their own forms of delusion and grandeur that caused and created countless deaths and mayhem.

    This however takes nothing away from the fighting men of both sides in 1800, who are shown to have acted well on many occasions.

    The deeper details of the Bavarian involvement is welcome of course. [And some detailled information was forthcoming that needs further transcription].


    Avatar photoTony S

    The Republican wars, before Napoleon’s Coronation, are sadly neglected aren’t they?  I’ve got the Arnold book on Hohenlinden, but your original sources are interesting.  Thanks Dave.

    (And as I write this, I am disappointed that my Essex package containing my Republican French troops hasn’t yet arrived).

    Avatar photoOotKust

    (And as I write this, I am disappointed that my Essex package containing my Republican French troops hasn’t yet arrived).

    Wow you’re quick Tony!!
    Yes agree, of course we’ve learnt so much more now…

    I too was panicking this week* about a small packet of Austrian goodies from Perry- a bit taken aback that their guns are so wacking big tho! I mean, hell… the Wurtz 6 pdr is the same size as my Russian 12’s!

    *Sodding PostOrrifice had been sitting on the package for 3 bloody weeks- their ‘notifications’ being useless and I’d been there to pick up important mail the week before- no card/ notice at all from them.

    I shall have to delete this no doubt before continuing…

    Avatar photoOotKust

    In a significant side-step, I had to locate some info for someone else- what did I pull out but the 1961 copy of  ‘The Gamble’- a blistering critique of the 1796 plans and actions of you know who.

    Actually done by a professor published in French in 1936, its a startling, archive sources based dissertation of the campaign of which we know so little actual detail.

    It will force me to re-read as have not done so for over two decades!

    Avatar photoOotKust

    An extract from Berjauds fine site, this time referencing an exploit by some legere and the 4eme de ligne, post Hohenliden on the way to Wien:- “How to Ford a River and Capture Boats for crossing… in Winter”

    …three intrepid chasseurs of the 14th Legere had determined to swim [the river] to take a boat that had been sighted half a mile above the bridge at Laufen; -Bernard, a drummer, set an example for them.
    The other two are Lemâle and Perrin, chasseurs of the same battalion.
    These intrepid soldiers, having to fight against the severity of the season, {this being Winter 1800 ! and rivers fed by the Alps} had even more to do against the current of the Salzach carried them twice to the shore from where they had managed, with all possible penalties, to pull their boat.
    Ffinally they could not complete their painful task until two of them had thrown themselves back into the river swimming and, by means of the rope attached to the boat, they managed to reach the left bank again.

    This trait of courage, to which no name can be given, inspired the greatest enthusiasm.
    Soon a large number of chasssurs of the 14th  headed by Capitaine Jean et l’Adjudant Major Cornille, entered the river to pass one of its arms which had only two feet of water, embarked and then descended on the other bank.

    I hastily grasp this {opportunity} given by this dedication. I determined to throw 300 or 400 men on the right bank, including two companies of the 4eme Demi-Brigade, commanded by Capitaine Cazeneuve et le Lieutenant Duvaldreux, who waded through most of the {deep} water, like the soldiers of the 14th Legere, although the 10eme mounted Chasseurs also wanted to pass beyond the first arm of the river on their horses and I made provisions for their protection, and above all by forcefully shooting and cannoning the enemy who was placed in ambush at the head of the bridge. We took a few more boats… “

    In Picard E., Paulier V. : « Mémoires et journaux du Général Decaen », Plon, Paris, 1910, t. 2, p. 169)

    Seems a plausible exploit by a relatively small number for a game scenario- when many rules create the greatest obfuscation about crossing obstacles.

    Sadly as they only fought ‘nature’ and not the enemy directly, these men mentioned in a despatch for their ‘intrepidity’ received no formal recognition whereas many other “armes d’honneur accordées à ses braves…”.

    I’d note as an aside, that many such river crossings {actually both sides} also occured in the Alps campaigns of 1799. Per Dr.C Duffy ‘Eagles over the Alps’.

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.