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    Avatar photoOotKust

    Dec 2022

    The First Campaign of the new Emperor, and his rebadged ‘Grande Armée’ brought it’s own reality to veterans and conscripts alike.

    The Ulm campaign was different to previous ones undertaken by the distinct French armies. A recent re-reading of the site https://www.napoleon-histoire.com/ by Robert Ouvrard gives many facts and stories, enlightenment on the era.

    One of my ‘special’ units of interest, hard to be casual about it, is the variously entitled Chasseurs or Tirailleurs Corse.

    Without reciting their history and creation, solely on the pragmatism of ‘cousin’ Buonaparte, from 1802, their first major encounter (despite at times being the avant-garde of the sprawling Grande Armée) in the campaign, came at Hollabrunn against one of Russias great generals- Bagration! (or as it is frequently named Schöngrabern- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Sch%C3%B6ngrabern).

    On October 9 at 0400 in the morning, Vandammes Division started moving towards Augsburg in a horrific weather on dirty roads, bridges cut, and by noon the division suffering from fatigue and hunger settled between Augsburg and Gôgglingen; while the Chasseurs Corse were ordered to join the 3rd Division continue their journey towards Haunstetten.

    Following an ‘incident’ between General Vandamme*, full on and very lively, and the commander of the Tirailleur Corses, Philippe d’Ornano, the battalion was reassigned by Soult to Legrands’ Division, under GBD Merle. It is from this date that the Corsican Tirailleurs will be associated with those of the Tirailleur du Pô.

    All the men are at the bivouac, exhausted by walking [forced marches] and hunger.

    *This irrascible and hard leaning General deserves a decent bio by now. While he had great moments, like Murat, he produced some utter flops when unexpected events occurred- witness his contribution to the loss of the 1/4eme de ligne at Austerlitz!

    THE BAPTISM OF FIRE-Schöngrabern

    The night is already advanced when ahead at Wullersdorf, General de Brigade Merle, commanding the 4 legere battalions of the 3rd Division, realizes that the 3eme de Ligne had been surprised by a night offensive from the enemy who were retreating on the road to Hollabrunn.

    Judging the critical situation, Merle directed his brigade at Grund. The Corse who form his left wing approach [in silence?] the Russians with the bayonet. Until 10 o’clock in the evening they fight with incredible hardship in the alleys, courtyards and gardens of Grund, where the Russian corps leave more than a third of their personnel. But, thanks to the night, Bagration can and does continue to retreat to Brünn.

    The Corsican soldiers bivouac on the battlefield amid the dead and wounded. The night though beautiful, is very cold and the temperature is around -6 or -7 degrees.

    Baron Pouget (commander of the 26eme Legere in the Brigade) writes:
    “We lay on Russian corpses close to each other on which hay had been spread. The show was horrible. The wounded mainly those of the Russians had taken refuge in the houses where the fire had soon hit them. Everything that could still walk had fled as this new danger approached, but the crippled as well as the severely injured men had been burned alive under the rubble…. The bodies of the men and horses killed in the fight had also been roasted, so that Hollabrünn’s unfortunate reputation spread several leagues round an appalling smell of grilled flesh that saddened the heart. “

    On the morning of November 17, Marshal Soult visited the battlefield; passing the companies of the Tirailleur Corses, he stops for a moment to address a word of encouragement to Lieutenant Ramolino, who had just been bandaged.

    Addressing the Commander d’Ornano, the Marshal asked for the name of this wounded officer. Ramolino! And the marshal, who was as fine a courtier as he was a skillful general, showed exceptional friendliness. He compliments the wounded officer and ends by saying: Ramolino! but you are a relative of the Emperor. HE CLAIMS THIS, MR MARSHAL. And Soult left laughing!

    The next day, all the wounded bandaged, their stomachs filled, the 3rd Division starts… towards AUSTERLITZ which it reaches on 20 November.

    Excerpts from FB recent updates (December 2022), and quite some revelations, but not about uniforms or personalities for a change!

    7eme Legere

    On 1 August 1807 Davout wrote, from Thorn, to the Major General of the Grande Armée, Prince de Neuchâtel:… In Lubraniec, a rather serious incident took place. Soldiers from a Polish detachment attacked French soldiers working in a store (magazine) belonging to the 7eme Legere Regiment; they beat and drove them away, and then seized some of the effects of that store.

    “12 Polish soldiers, found to be the most guilty, were arrested; I had them interrogated, and they will be handed over, with all the documents relating to this case, to the Polish general commanding the legion to which they belong, to be put on trial…”

    (Mazade C. (de): “Correspondence of Marshal Davout, Prince of Eckmühl: his commandments, his ministry, 1801-1815,” t. 2, p. 7, letter 350).
    – –
    31eme Legere

    “Deserters since April 12, 1807.
    31eme Legere Regiment, 1st Battalion: a deserter from the Carabinier Company. (Three quarters of this company have three pairs of shoes and three shirts, one pair of gaiters.) [Not quite sure WHY this info added, unless as some sort of justification…].

    Six deserters from the 1st Chasseurs company.
    Eight deserters from the Carabinier Company of the 2nd Battalion.
    Ten deserters from the 2nd Chasseurs company.
    Two deserters from the 3rd company.

    Some information on the causes of desertion. – I was told that it was presumed only for lack of food. There was no complaint [to me] or complaint from any soldier. The desertion took place only among the former soldiers who have neither fire [meaning spirit to fight I presume], nor place, nor relatives, and [others] are among some substitutes [those who were ‘paid’ to take a conscripts place].
    The real conscripts were not guilty of this crime.
    Adjutant Major Roussel “(Cazalas E.:” Memoirs of General Bennigsen, “Volume 2, page 57).

    According to a “State drawn up in accordance with the provisions of the letter of His Excellency Marshal Ney dated 26 April, “the 31eme Legere Regiment, on that date, had :
    10 men struck off the controls [register of men], who had been absent for three months without authorization;
    2 men absent for less than three months and temporarily scratched;
    20 men recognized as deserters and tried in absentia;
    5 men prisoners of war”
    (Cazalas E.: “Memoirs of General Bennigsen,” Volume 2, page 57).

    On April 29, 1807, in Finkenstein, “Marshal Berthier submitted to the Emperor a request from Marshal Ney, in order to move the depot/ caserne of the 31eme Legere regiment, stationed at Napoleon (Vendée), be moved closer to the Rhine and established at Landau”; “Refused,” replies Napoleon.
    (Picard E. and Tuetey L.: “Original correspondence of Napoleon 1st preserved in the Archives of War,” Paris, 1913, t. 1, letter 1075).
    – –

    [The following occurred during Ney’s deployment as avant-garde Corps of the army prior to Eylau.]

    “Report of Major General Marchand to Marshal Ney.
    Guttstadt, 28-29 May.
    There is nothing new about the outposts.
    Two voltigeurs and a Chasseur of the 31st Regiment deserted to the enemy being on duty.
    Two Chasseur of the same regiment missed the call last night”.
    (Cazalas E.:” Memoirs of General Bennigsen, “Volume 2, page 74).

    On June 3, 1807, Ney wrote to Berthier: “This morning, at 230, 300 Russian infantry came to attack an external guard post of 12 men commanded by a sergeant of the 31eme Legere infantry and watching in the direction of Schmolainen; the enemy who had set up an ambush, first showed only 25 men…
    After some firing, the sergeant eager to defeat [them] had the recklessness to get out of his entrenchments and charge with the bayonet… The sergeant was killed and almost all his men taken prisoner”.

    (Cazalas E.:” Memoirs of General Bennigsen, “Volume 2, page 128).
    – –

    Interesting variations of themes. Proving you cannot ‘generalise’ on a unit ‘type’ or qualities! That true conscripts did not desert; that some experienced (I won’t use veteran as that’s not documented) did so; and that a presumably veteran NCO took a precipitous action and got himself killed AND lost his squad as POW…

    regards davew

    Avatar photoHeroy

    About Vandamme ….

    John G. Gallaher
    Napoleon’s Enfant Terrible General Dominique Vandamme
    Norman : University of Oklahoma Press, 2008

    Albert Du Casse
    Le Général Vandamme et sa correspondance
    Paris : Didier, 1870 (2 Vols.)

    Charles Mullié
    Biographie des célébrités militaires des Armées de Terre et de Mer de 1789 à 1850
    Paris : Poignavant et Cie., s.d. [1852] (2 Vols.)

    Dossier Vandamme : Cote GR 7 YD 303
    Service Historique de la Défense au Château de Vincennes

    Other works by/about the general Vandamme : http://worldcat.org/identities/lccn-n80122085/


    The emperor and the general d’Ornano were 2nd cousins.
    Sebastian Nicolo Buonaparte (1683-1720)
    — Giuseppe Maria Buonaparte (1713-1763)
    —— Carlo Maria Buonaparte (1746-1785)
    ——— Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821)
    — Napoleone Buonaparte (1715-1767)
    —— Isabella Maria Buonaparte (1749-1816)
    ——— Philippe Antoine d’Ornano (1784-1863)

    The emperor and the lieutenant Ramolino were, I think, “3rd cousins once removed”.
    Morgante Ramolino (1622-1653)
    — Giovanni Geronimo Ramolino (1645-1699)
    —— Giovanni Agostino Ramolino (1697-1777)
    ——— Giovanni Geronimo Ramolino (1722-1755)
    ———— Maria Letizia Ramolino (1750-1836)
    ————— Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821)
    — Giovanni Francisco Ramolino (1647-?)
    —— Francisco Agosto Ramolino (1670-?)
    ——— Nicolo Ramolino (1738-?)
    ———— Francisco Agosto Ramolino (1779-1822)

    Avatar photoOotKust

    Forgive my tardy response. Interesting how nepotism works!

    I’ve been re-collecting information and have migrated to George Blonds ‘La Grande Armée’. some ‘information is disconcerting, and I feel ambitious guesswork is or has been taking over.

    PLD in a recent dissertation on the humble ‘capote’ showed the ‘manner of uniforming recruits and cadre being ‘repositioned’, or assigned to war battalions.

    As this was a very long standing ‘tactic’ of man management, it continued from the early to very late Empire, if not to the end.

    Why are capotes important? Looking at the reasons for ‘desertions’, notable amongt more ‘trained’ men than recruits- several reasons are documented- lack of food/ constant discomfort from weather/ and poor uniforms.

    Given the 31eme Legere above, it is said that the 3e Bon marched from France to Berlin and thence Thorn (I think) and arrived nearly naked? But, they had been following orders to be dressed right? it is demonstrated by ‘inspections’ that they had 2-3 pairs of shoes; 2-3 chemise etc. Why then could some be termed naked, and disaffected?

    The in campaign losses- men missing from roll calls- surely wasn’t a form of desertion- why would Frenchmen desert from the army or to the enemy in Winter? What would they believe they could obtain as POWs that their own side could not provide.

    I feel there is a deeper meaning to such affairs- we know the cossacks and certainly some of the senior jaeger regiments were extremely skilled. Did that involve infiltraion and kidnapping?

    We certainly have the documented experience of the Austrian Chevau-Legere ‘pinch squad’ doing so at approx 0300 on 2 December 1805 at Tellnitz. They performed a stealthy recce and took a portion of sleeping Tir du Po sharpshooters who had been assigned to enhance the limited garrison post (one battalion of 3e de ligne) of the village.

    PLD seems to assume that N. orders of complete uniforms for despatched replacements was followed. But there is an absence of proof IMO. Does that lead to the ‘reports’ cited in some quantity in 1807? Later in the era he specifically says “dont worry about habits…” just to send them in vestes, pantalons and a capote.

    I haven’t quite formulated all this but I have that uneasy feeling, nagging at me…

    Avatar photoHeroy

    “Why then could some be termed naked”
    Sold or traded kit for booze ? Got drunnk and were “rolled” by the locals ?

    “infiltraion and kidnapping”
    Clearly, yes. Especially Cossacks, who were paid prize money for prisoners, horses and weapons taken (and not paid regular salaries).

    Avatar photoOotKust


    I accept your confirmation!

    Another variable to add to the cossacks!

    Avatar photoOotKust

    Just to add ink to the water that flows past, here another obscure quote from the man, showing that even in ‘safe’ arenas as homelands, uniform supply still wasn’t consistent:

    On October 8, 1811, the Emperor wrote, from Utrecht, to General Lacuée, Comte de Cessac, Minister Director of the War Administration, in Paris: “I have just reviewed the 18th, 56th, 73rd and 124th… I do not understand that by spending so much money my troops must be so badly dressed ”
    (Correspondence of Napoleon, t. 22, letter 18169; General correspondence of Napoleon, t.11, letter 28798 (gives by mistake the 93rd instead of the 73rd, but on the original, it is indeed the 73rd).

    Found in http://frederic.berjaud.free.fr/073edeligne/073eligne.htm

    Cheers -d

    Avatar photoOotKust

    I’ve been somewhat slow in my research lately, but here’s another translated missive, some may say mutilated, from Davouts Memoires Page138, a report to Major-General Berthier.

    Preamble for same:

    Davout- AN XIV (1805)

    This first form of military training under the First Consul gave infinite care, both for the organisation of the troops and for the choice of the men called gave order to them, for an object of the greatest importance.

    They became the core of what went later, to be called the Grande Armeé… The troops of the Camp of Bruges have formed the 3eme Corp in three divisions under Friant, Gudin, and Morand, which came under Marshal Davout had to march on all future battlefields, as Austerlitz, as Auerstaedt etc. –


    86. TO THE MINISTER OF WAR, Major General.
    Oggersheim, 4 vendmiaire an XIV (26 septembre1805)

    M le Marchal,
    I have the honour to give an account to Your Excellency that there consequence of orders of His Majesty, that you transmitted to me, I took possession of Manheim in the morning General Eppler took 1,000 infantry men and 400 horses today; has Heidelberg, and will push its outposts to there or Neckarmund.

    The division of General Bisson passed the Rhine at nine o’clock with means of boat craft which I have organised; he will be in Manheim before midday and take position between Heidelberg and Manheim, as Neckarhausen.

    The division of General Friant will pass tomorrow and come to occupy this position. The division of General Bisson will occupy that of Neckarmund. 3eme division will pass on 6th, that of General Nansouty on 7th, if it arrives with me as promised.

    I did not speak to Your Excellency about artillery before this moment, because I well have the cannon pieces, but I lack the soldiers and the horses of the train, as promised to me, because I still have not received them.

    Ammunition for infantry and equipment for the park appears to be driven by carters and horses of requisition. I believe I have to send you, M le Marchal, a report to me made by a gunnery sergeant [!] commanding on the behaviour of these convoy crews. There was desertion of horses and men, many horse swaps, and the few that remains there mostly need to be reshod.

    The promises for the carters [charioteers?] being paid are without execution, no money has [been] made available; finally there is much disorder in this part.

    I advise you that carts and wagons of requisition attached to this army by the Treasurer-General; the men are not paid, and there was the abuse for the horses requisitioned for the artillery.

    All divisions arrive in arrears [underpaid] of balance and of gratifications and indemnites of the march promised by the Emperor, as well as the sums which owed unpaid for capotes and shoes, also missing in gratification. The payer has still not arrived, despite all orders which I have to given him. Everybody in this Corps d Arme desperately is in need of the most money.

    We were supposed to take, in execution of your orders, four days of biscuit on our march; but still nothing has arrived. I will search Heidelberg and Manheim to remove this obstacle by making the most possible biscuit.

    It appears that the bad routes of the Ardennes have broken almost completely the shoes of my divisions, and that of by consequence is not possible to count on the resource of the ready-to-wear clothes promised supplies to all divisions; I will do my best to remove this obstacle by by making the countries of my left a resource.

    Troops arrive in the best mind, and the best proof, there were few desertions; that there was they are not as fatigued as they could been expected.

    I promised myself to pay the fees of all the boatmen of both banks which I use in the passage of troops. I plead Your Excellency to approve this measure and at the same to keep my promises. I must also request that it is necessary that the Emperor puts funds at my disposition as service of secret accounts [services] and for any extraordinary case [issues] I will use it with economy and for services of His Majesty.

    I plead, M le Marchal, to take utmost consideration of the different objects of my letter here.

    P. S. I have 500 to 600 requisition horses for the intendant’s service [train]; the carts are all uncovered, most in bad condition and intended to carry biscuits they don’t have.
    I ask Your Excellency to let me know if his intention is for them to follow us.
    I would add that then, being of no use, they increase the obstacles, since it will be [more] fodder and subsistencies to be obtained [by us].
    – –

    Very interesting and telling comments on the ‘advance’ into Germany, before Ulm and just over two months before Austerlitz.

    Clearly matters were not resolved with the train and intendance services.
    We see in every Corps many of the horse companies are down to half strength, [some by design it is true] and as Davout later points out he kept his lighter Divisional pieces and opted to leave the heavy 12 pounders behind, which took more horses than available to move.


    Avatar photoOotKust

    Another anecdote:

    Interesting comments on Davout from a later journal-
    “Marshal’s military career”.

    Davout is characterized by the constancy of his successes, he was never defeated. They were spread in his conversations and letters attributing this spotless glory to ‘Fortune’ -or fate, not the horse!.

    Speaking one day with an aide-de-camp, he praised Marmont’s great strategic science; the officer noted that, despite his science, Marmont had always been beaten, while Davout had never been beaten.

    “The Duke of Raguse,” replied the marshal, “was more learned than I was, but I was happier.”

    Must admit I’ve liked Mortier all along, but not found that… “je ne sais quoi” moment yet.

    [Edits 23/10- clarity and correction of titles.]

    Avatar photoOotKust

    well that was a bust… citing the location of an academic pdf…

    Avatar photoOotKust

    Hmmm, well here’s another from Davouts Memoires

    A letter (extract) to the Empereur from Ortelsburg, February 2, 1807 (before Pultusk. Poland).

    The 2nd and 11th Chasseurs á Cheval are with General Grandeau in Myszyniec. The 2nd has no more than 150 horses, including a detachment of 40 which has just arrived from France in the worst condition men without coats, incomplete harnesses, and horses of the worst quality.
    I will address to the Major General [Mal. Berthier] the report of General Marulaz on the status of this detachment, so that Your Majesty may know the recklessness of the commander of the depot of this corps.
    I look forward to the presence of Colonel Mathis, appointed to the 2nd.
    His presence is necessary. As soon as I have news, and I will have it every moment, I will have the honour to transmit it to Your Majesty.

    PLDs upcoming volume seems to have some merit, at least.


    Avatar photoOotKust

    Well, the entity that was to become La Grande Armée had a broad and varied composition and pre-history.
    So I feel no guilt about showing how it was built or from what. From http://frederic.berjaud.free.fr/Articles_de_Didier_Davin/31eLeger/31e_Leger.html .

    Some extracts:-

    En Janvier 1803, la 31e Demi-brigade légère se retrouve à Givet, à la frontière des départements belges.

    At this time it was just two battalions strong. But in his wand waving ways, the man changed that:

    Le 6 Avril 1803, la 112e Demi-brigade de ligne, formée d’ex troupes piémontaises, est dissoute et le 25, son 2e Bataillon vient former le 3e Bataillon de la 31e Demi-brigade légère, portant les effectifs à 1690 hommes et Officiers. Bien entendu, il va falloir équiper ces fantassins de ligne à la mode de l’infanterie légère. Par contre, ils amènent un armement quasi neuf.

    Interesting- line infantry suddenly transformed into legere! As quick as cavalry changing ‘status’ and formations… so we can wonder what their uniform status may have been after that; albeit with ‘new’ armament in hand.

    A little while later one of the most important reviews took place under:

    Le 19 avril 1803 (29 Germinal an 11), le Général de Division Grenier écrit, depuis Sarrelibre : “Inspection de l’an 11 dans les 2e et 4e Divisions
    Le Général de Division, Inspecteur général d’infanterie,

    A very very experienced General of the Revolution and Republic and obviously very charismatic and competent in administration.

    In a separate report two months later he noted his concerns about unpaid officers- [officiers de santé]-

    On June 26, 1803 (7 Messidor an 11), General de Division Grenier wrote, from Verdun, to the Minister Director of War Administration:
    “I have the honour to address herewith, a complaint of two health officers of the 111th half-brigade; please, Citizen Minister, take it into consideration and do so if necessary.

    The health officers are claiming a backlog of pay, which has already been twice sent to the Minister by the board of the half-brigade; the Inspector General requests the Director Minister to take it into consideration and to order the payment of the sums due to these health officers, especially since this favor was granted to those of the 31st light who were in the same case
    (Papers of General Paul Grenier. XV. 1768-1827, BNF, Paris. Doc. 131 page 274).

    Why my concern?- well everyone knows the Division of United Grenadiers (forming at this time under Junot) included the combined elites regiment of the 28e Legére and 31e Legére.

    Seems to clearly indicate that despite rules and regulations, the ‘administration’ wasn’t quite up to snuff to pay [or reimburse costs of] the officers, let alone men, on time.

    Avatar photoOotKust

    In case you haven’t read a recent extract from Jonas de Neefe, here’s an interesting snippet about indiscipline in the French ranks. (No longer Grande, but Army of Germany…)


    The occupation of Germany – 1808

    The peace of Tilsit and the Franco-Russian alliance did not result in the Grande Armée returning to France. From the outset of 1808, Napoleon realised that Tsar Alexander was not complying with the Continental Blockade. Austria was also rearming itself….

    The Grande Armée was stationed in Germany, ready to intervene. The war battalions of the 7th Legere were reinforced during the year by the 4th Battalion, which left Huningue to establish itself at Sonnenburg near Frankfurt on the Oder.

    Pierre’s battalion was based at Crossen from February to August 1808. Our officer was awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honour with effect from 1 October 1807. He was in command of the Kreis of Crossen.

    Although morale among the officers was high on account of these rewards, there were signs of disobedience and mutiny among the troops. On 25 April 1808, Pierre wrote:

    Three soldiers were sentenced to death for insulting and threatening an officer. I was the draftsman for the review board, which decided that the judgement was well founded, and these men were subsequently given their sentences.

    This was a very unfortunate case and it has not ended yet; a grenadier from the same regiment was a little drunk and, having encountered the officer I mentioned earlier, drew his sabre and threw himself at the officer who, fortunately, knew how to handle a sword and was able to parry all the blows. There you had it, another life lost.

    These of course under the most disciplinarian Marshal, Davout.  So these events happened away from any war conditions, in garrison of occupied ‘Prussia’ I presume.


    Avatar photoOotKust

    [1805] On the way to the great battle__

    From Berjaud (recent update):

    Le 4 Fructidor an 13 (22 août 1805), le Maréchal Berthier écrit, depuis Boulogne, à l’Empereur…

    J’ai l’honneur de rendre compte à Votre Majesté du nombre de conscrits que…

    Il résulte de l’état ci-joint que la désertion s’est principalement manifestée dans les 24e et 26e régiments d’infanterie légère, puisque sur 800 à 900 conscrits arrivés à chacun de ces régiments, il en est déserté près de 250.

    Transl: “It follows from the attached state that the desertion was mainly manifested in the 24th and 26th light infantry regiments, since out of 800 to 900 conscripts who arrived in each of these regiments, nearly 250 deserted.”

    I guess we’re all used to delusions, and somehow, I’d never read such a thing before; can’t say I saw these numbers in any ‘Situations’ that I’d collected at SHaT such a statement.

    Nor does it appear in the copy of said tome online, that I have scraped many years ago… so there are variations in publications?

    Authors source is: (Alombert P. C., Colin J. : « La campagne de 1805 en Allemagne », Paris, Chapelot, 1902, t. 1, p. 696).

    The online copy I have, same book, not OCR’d but Paris, Chapelot, 1904, Tome 3- Book 2 and nothing like this around page 696!  In fact this volume starts two months after the statement shown. We can only hope a properly OCR’d version gets created!

    Sadly my former delight at Soults Corps being immaculate, and untouched by this disease, has been broken… and the 26e Legéré somewhat less than before.


    Avatar photoOotKust

    31eme Legere “Deserters since April 12, 1807.

    A follow up to the above (first article) comes a comment on the times, added to Berjaud missives-

    To survive far from its depot in la Vendée, the 31st legere remains marauding* [to survive]: a dangerous activity with Cossacks roaring [about].
    Napoleon, meanwhile, draws up his new battle plan to draw the Russo-Prussians into a trap.

    *Marauding has clearly been ‘polished’ in English texts of the last 50 years to simply scavenging or requisitioning.

    The ability of the cossacks to burden and constrain the French, from all directions given their dispersal (a fault noted by some of Ney advancing beyond his directed orders…) is unmatched.

    What in Spain large armies against small French detachments accomplished, a few sotnia inspired fear amongst the cold and starving French in East Prussia and Poland.

    Even Ney was not immune to the continued reports of intercession and captures by them. Once these symptoms set in with the VI Corps, they manifested again when confronted in battles.

    Remember the reports cited above were not comments or fictional opinions- these are taken from official reports captured by cossacks and quoted by Bennigsen. Their information gathering was immense, and helpful, to the Russians.

    Avatar photoOotKust

    Something of a more positive spin for a change from 1806. The weather and ground conditions causing the most problems, affecting logistics, men and horses in many ways.

    Found a new ‘old’ book- with reference given by PLD in a N-S article on artillery. G.Lechartier- Les Service de l’arriere a la Grande Armee. 1907. The version on Gallica states 1910 publication.

    Contemporary Comments on 1806 Campaign
    Poland 1806-

    Embarrassed that they are handicapped by the ground conditions everywhere, the generals of the Grande Armée use the woods and forests as masks and try to manoeuver the enemy, to envelop or to go beyond one of his wings (1).
    No useful ideas could be lost to the infantry of the Grande Armée in 1806, impetus, endurance, competance in the firing line, suppleness, and understanding of small operations [or little wars- the nibbling partizan scraps].

    Night battles as in Czarnowo, battles of villages as in Soldau, attacks under woods as in Golymin, on bare ground as in Pultusk, nothing puts it off, it advances always, unless they collide with crushing force and artillery unable to be beaten; and in that case it is seen like the heroic attacks of the 64e de ligne and 17e at Pultusk, attacking the same position three times in the same day.

    The French infantry is, paid tributeby the Russian commander Bennigsen himself in his Memo; “It deploys on the field of battle preceded by scouts of light cavalry who fire and skirmish on horseback; these are closely followed by the skirmishers of light infantry who protect the deployment of the infantry lines of battle. Every infantry division forms generally on two lines, the first one is deployed, or when the line is long and troops must stretch, semi deployed, parts left in ‘colonne serrée par division’”.

    The second line forms entirely battalions en colonne serrée par division (2). Some generals still conserve doctrines similar to Frédérick The Great, such as Daultanne comments, in these terms of the deployment of the division before Pultusk:

    “The 3rd Division was formed by battalions in a tight column, and marched ‘par echelons’, the first one along the edge of the wood and the last one along the left bank of the stream which passes to Gromin.

    As soon as the first échelon came close to the heights at the angle formed by the enemy line, the general carried out a change of direction to the left to all his battalions, which gave it an oblique line on the flank of the enemy…”

    A few lines later, the same Daultanne reports that he “recognized the [battle] line of Marshal Lannes who, with troops in an ‘ordre parallèle’, covered their front with a swarm of tirailleurs, was in conflict with the enemy…
    But such formalist leaders are rare in the Grande Armée, where the main concern is to use the terrain…”

    From this point of view, the deployment of the divisions Heudelet and Desjardins to Golymin shows that the French infantry in 1806 knew how to use the terrain as a ‘point d’appui’.

    On 26 December, while Desjardins Division occupied Ruskowo and relying on this village, formed in the plain in ‘échelons à gauche’, Heudelets Division which force marched, established itself at Watkowo and in the immediate vicinity with its first brigade; therefore, finding in these two localities the point d’appui [in this case now ‘support points’ rather than manoeuvre], which they sought, the two following brigades of the two divisions [ie the 2nd line] deploy and carry themselves forward. We would not do otherwise nowadays (2).

    Among the most widely used assault methods in 1806 were the batallions ’par demi-bataillons en échelons à 50 pas’; and to attack the woods, the columns are formed en ‘échelons par division’, preceded by the ‘voltigeurs et d’une ligne de tirailleurs’- a rather dense line (1).

    The days of Pultusk and Golymin seem to have made Napoleon feel the weakness of the artillery capacity of his army, because we will no longer see the French troops present themselves in combat with only twelve pieces per division.

    Already, at the end of the campaign, the number of guns of the Grande Armée was increased from 275 in October 1806 to 546. At Pultusk, the few guns that Lannes had been able to keep with him were placed at the front in the intervals of the front-line battalions, on the right and in the centre; on the left, the ground did not allow them to be brought forward.

    But at the time of the last attack on Gorki heights, a few pieces went forward following the movement of the infantry, and proceeded firing at short range to good effect. But this intervention remained an isolated fact during the campaign, where the French artillery played, by the fault of the terrain, a rather compromised role.

    It was quite different from that of the Russians, which was numerous and widely used; Bennigsen attributed the failure of Daultanne’s attack on the Moszyn wood to the action of a powerful battery on the right of his main line, that is to say at the very end of the day.

    At Golymin, the 7th Corps was held in check throughout the afternoon by a Russian battery which was protected by a swamp and could not be defeated [ie attacked or subdued], Augereau having been able to bring with him only three pieces (2)

    Partial Sources cited:
    (1) Journal des opérations du 3° corps. (2) Cazalas, loc. cit., 1.1, p. 97; Journal des opérations du 5 e corps.
    (1) Daultanne îi Davout, Pizcwodowo, 20 décembre 180G ; Journal des opérations du 3° corps. (2) Notes sur les marches et opérations du 7* corps.–

    So some contemporary and competent Generals thought they were doing alright!

    GBD Daultanne was a very competent officer. A cadet-gentilehomme in 1775, Capitaine in 1790 in his first combats of the Revolution; Adjudant-général en l’an IV and thence chef d’état-major d’une division de l’armée en Helvétie, fighting at: Engen, Stockach  and Hohenlinden with Moreau.

    Sidelined because of this ‘association’ for several years, he was restored to rank in 1805 and assigned again as Chef d’état-major with Davout in III Corps d’ Armée till Austerlitz. Due to his efforts in the 1806 Campaigns he was promoted at this time général de division in December.

    Thus I’d say his judgement and free speaking style, like Davout, is impeachable. The trust between these two men was equally strong.

    The ‘prosaic’ notions by the staff writer of the book, perhaps, best left in 1910…
    – –
    regards~ davew


    Avatar photoOotKust

    Another anecdote, to contrast to the frequent brushing aside of requests and pleas made to N. mostly reported in texts:

    On July 29, 1806, from Saint-Cloud, the Emperor was sent a “Proposal to grant a final leave to Jean Moncarrat, soldier of the 7th Light:” his brother had drowned trying to save a fifteen-year-old teenager, leaving a wife burdened with three children, as well as an elderly father and mother  without means”;
    “Granted,” replies the Emperor
    (Chuquet A.: “Ordre et apostilles de Napoléon, 1799-1815,” Paris, 1912, t. 3, letter 3513).
    – –

    From 1809, just prior to the rupture with Austria, Davout writes to Berthier (MoW)-

    The various camps established in Silesia had been built during the fine season; all the shacks were in planks, and it is necessary that in their construction all the necessary care was provided to make them tenable in the rainy season.

    The little precaution that had been taken particularly in the construction of the roofs made these shacks extremely cold during the beautiful nights and uninhabitable by a rainy weather.

    The continued rains during the last half of September and the first days of October already had an alarming effect on the health of the encamped troops, who could not be provided with paillasses and blankets; our hospitals were bustling every day, to the extent that they feared that they would not be able to receive the influx of the sick.

    Most of the camps were poorly located, as the land on which they were established was flooded after the first days of rain. Based on these considerations, I did not hesitate to order the evacuation of the camps and the quartering of the troops; they are in the following order: [not given]

    – –

    And of the war with Austria, a little ruse de guerre:

    On June 15, 1809, at 5 o’clock in the evening, Marshal Davout wrote, from the heights of Kitsee, to the Emperor:…
    Not having his report in hand, at this moment, the report of the colonel of the 7th Light Infantry, I will address it tomorrow to Your Majesty;
    [however] he released a boat that, bearing dummies [ie mannequins ] arranged by Colonel Blin, came out and that the enemy shot at it with two pieces not known to him; such that everyone threw himself into the entrenchments, so that they could not be shot”
    (Mazade C. (de): “Correspondence of Marshal Davout, Prince of Eckmühl: his commandments, his ministry, 1801-1815,” t. 3, p. 35, letter 777).

    I presume the last statement is referring to the French on the opposite bank of the river… one way to unmask an enemy’s presence!

    Avatar photoOotKust

    Feb 2024

    And despite the order and control of both Government and Army/ military, little errors sometimes crept in…

    From Berjaud site (11e Chassuers á Cheval), a Napoleon anecdote, no doubt lacking amusement at the time–

    On December 31, 1808, the Emperor wrote from Benavente to Clarke: “There’s a rumour going round the army that I appointed Sieur Coigny, aide de camp of General Sébastiani, captain, when he was only a sub-lieutenant.
    I suppose you will not have carried out my decree, and you will have called from the poorly educated Emperor to the better informed Emperor; at least that is your duty.

    In any case, I am sending you this letter to let you know that I would like you to present me with an order in council to appoint this officer a lieutenant.
    I wanted to advance him one grade, but not two. If the decree was that Sieur Coigny, a sub-lieutenant, was appointed captain, and it was a copy-maker’s mistake, you do not have to send it.
    But if he bears that Sieur Coigny, lieutenant, is appointed captain, it is clear that this is a false assumption”.

    (Chuquet A.:” Inédits napoléoniens, “Paris, 1913, t.1, letter 301).
    As a reminder, Coigny, is supernumerary to the 11th Chasseurs.
    – –

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