Battle of La-Fere-Champenoise, 25 March 1814

Battle of La-Fere-Champenoise, 25 March 1814

Battle of La-Fere-Champenoise, 25 March 1814

The battle of La-Fere-Champenoise (25 March 1814) was a French defeat that signalled the failure of Napoleon's last gamble during the campaign of 1814 and saw Schwarzenberg defeat Marmont and Mortier on the road to Paris.

Earlier in the campaign Napoleon had managed to win a series of battles that kept his enemies off balance. Blucher's first attempt to reach Paris had been ended by the Six Days Campaign (Champaubert (10 February), Montmirail (11 February), Chateau-Thierry (12 February) and Vauchamps (14 February) ), while Schwarzenberg's advance down the Seine was stopped at Mormant (17 February 1814), Valjouen (17 February 1814) and Montereau (18 February 1814). This was the high point of Napoleon's military success during the campaign, and after this his blows failed to connect. An attempt to defeat Schwarzenberg on the Aube failed because the Austrian commander was always willing to retreat out of danger. At the same time Blucher made another move on Paris, forcing Napoleon to move back to deal with him once again. Blucher was forced to retreat north of the Aisne, but after a narrow French victory at Craonne (7 March 1814) the French suffered a serious defeat at Laon (9-10 March 1814), where Marmont's command suffered heavy losses and only Blucher's illness on the second day of the campaign saved the French from a more serious defeat. Napoleon retreated back to the Aisne, before winning his last significant victory of the campaign, at Rheims (13 March 1814). This caused a panic in the Allied command, but unlike after earlier setbacks didn't produce a new peace offer.

Napoleon now made what proved to be a fatal mistake. He decided to move east onto the Marne, to link up with the troops currently trapped in the border fortresses (in particular Metz and Verdun), and try and threaten the Allied lines of communication. His expectation was this would force Blucher and Schwarzenberg to retreat in order to deal with this threat. The plan badly backfired. An attack on what Napoleon believed was Schwarzenberg's rearguard at Arcis-sur-Aube (20-21 March 1814) nearly ended in disaster when the French ran into most of Schwarzenberg's army, but they were saved by Schwarzenberg's reluctance to attack on the second day of the battle.

On 22 March Napoleon moved to Ormes, north-west of Arcis. He then decided to continue with his plan, and moved east to St. Dizier on the upper Marne (arriving on 23 March). Unfortunately for the French the Allies captured a letter from Napoleon to the Empress explaining his plans, and decided to gamble. Their first plan was for Schwarzenberg to move north to join Blucher, establish new lines of communications via Holland and them resume the offensive, acting against Napoleon's rear areas. They then captured messages that revealed Paris was in a state of panic, and on 24 March Tsar Alexander decided to head straight for Paris. Winzingerode with a force of cavalry and light infantry was to move to St. Dizier to trick Napoleon, while the main Allied armies combined and advanced down the Marne towards Paris.

By the end of 24 March Marmont and Mortier were in serious trouble. They now occupied a narrow strip between the Aube and the Marne, with Blucher to their north and Schwarzenberg to their east and south. However they didn't yet realise how much trouble they were in, and were still obeying earlier orders to join Napoleon.

Early on 25 March the main Allied column began to advance west along the main road from Vitry towards La-Fere-Champenoise. At this point Marmont's forces were in camp at Soude-Saint-Croix, east of Sommesous, on the main road. This put him directly in the way of the Allied advance. Mortier was about five miles to the north-west, advancing up the Soude valley from Vatry.

Marmont's men were still in their camps when the first Allied cavalry appeared on the opposite side of the Soude. He was forced to deploy while being watched by an ever increasing force of Allied cavalry, and was soon under attack. Marmont realised that he wasn't strong enough to defend Soude-Saint-Croix until Mortier arrived, and so began a retreat west down the main road.

In the north Mortier's leading troops ran into the Allies at Dommartin, not too far to the north of Soude-Saint-Croix. He was unable to make any more progress south, and like Marmont was forced to retreat west. The two Marshals united their corps around Sommesous, a third of the way back towards La-Fere-Champenoise. As more Allied troops arrived, Marmont and Mortier decided to pull back once again, this time to Connantrey, just to the east of La-Fere-Champenoise.

This retreat didn't go smoothly. First the French were hindered by a sudden hail storm, and then they ran into an awkward ravine near Connantrey, and their line was badly disordered. The Allied cavalry took advantage of this to attack, and both marshals were briefly swept up in the chaos. They were then forced to take shelter in French infantry squares until the line could be restored around the village. This was only a temporary reprieve, and under heavy pressure the French line broke and couldn't be restored until they reached the Linthes heights, west of La-Fere-Champenoise. The Allies soon broke this line as well, and the French were forced back to Allemant, north-west of Linthes.

The French were now saved by a lucky coincidence. To the north of the main battlefield a National Guard unit under General Pacthod which had been moving west from Vatry at the start of the day, escorting a food convoy. At about 10am he was ordered to halt in Villesneux, to the north of the fighting. He was then attacked by Russian cavalry, and had to try and retreat in squares towards La-Fere-Champenoise. By the time he arrived outside that town it had fallen to the Allies, but his approach forced them to recall the troops pursuing Marmont and Mortier. While the Marshals made their escape, Pacthod's force was overwhelmed and the few survivors were forced to surrender. Generals Pacthod and Amey were amongst the prisoners.

In the course of the day Marmont and Mortier had lost 10,000 men and at least 60 guns, just over half of their entire army. The Allies lost 4,000 men, a sign of the fierce fighting during the day, but with Marmont and Mortier out of the way Schwarzenberg and Blucher were able to unite their armies, and there were soon 180,000 Allied troops heading for Paris.

On 27 March news reached Napoleon of the defeat at La Fere Champenoise. Although he had fought battles nearer to Paris earlier in the campaign, the Emperor was now too far from his capital to take part in its defense. While he rushed west at top speed, the Allies closed in on Paris. Marmont and Mortier managed to scrape together a defensive force than help up the Allies at Montmartre (30 March 1814), but it was clear that the city couldn't be held. That night they negotiated surrender terms, and on the morning of 31 March the French garrison marched out and the Allies marched in. Napoleon attempted to gather one more army at Fontainbleau, south of Paris, but he finally lost the support of his marshals, and was forced to abdicate for the first time.

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Battle of Fère-Champenoise

Russian Empire 1721 Russia Württemberg Austria Prussia
Wurttemberg
Austrian Empire
Prussia Kingdom

France 1804 Auguste de Marmont Édouard Mortier Michel-Marie Pacthod François Pierre Amey
France 1804
France 1804
France 1804

Wurttemberg Crown Prince Wilhelm Konstantin Romanow Friedrich Kleist
Russian Empire 1721
Prussia Kingdom

5,000 dead and wounded
10,000 prisoners
80 cannons

The Battle of Fère-Champenoise was a battle of the Wars of Liberation and took place on March 25, 1814 between French and coalition troops.

The peculiarity of this battle was that on the side of the coalition troops only cavalry and mounted artillery were used.


Paris 1814

The artist depicts the defense of Paris on the 30th of march 1814. In the centre, marshal Moncey gives his orders to goldsmith Claude Odiot, colonel of the national guard, for whom the painting was made.

Napoleon attempted to transform Paris into a Neoclassical capital but also kept the city under close surveillance through his police and officials. Paris remained a volatile focal point for radical politics throughout the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. It surrendered to the Allies on 31 March 1814 following the action at Montmartre, and again after Waterloo, in June 1815.

Action at Montmartre, (30 March 1814)

The final engagement in the campaign of 1814, which led directly to Napoleon’s first abdication. The unsuccessful defense of Paris against the Allied armies caused the marshals to refuse to fight any longer.

During the campaign of 1814 in France, Napoleon regained his skill at outmaneuvering the Allied armies. Although heavily outnumbered, he was able to keep them at bay for some time. On 20 March he failed to turn back their march on Paris at the Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube. Recognizing that his forces were too weak to face the Allies directly, Napoleon planned to mass his available forces and attack the Allied supply lines. As long as Paris could hold out against the Allies, the strategy could force them to retreat. While he marched east, Napoleon sent marshals Auguste de Marmont and Adolphe Mortier with their weak corps to defend Paris.

Marmont and Mortier were defeated on 25 March by the Allies at La-Fere-Champenoise and retreated directly to Paris. The marshals collected the few men available, many of whom were veterans who were recovering from wounds. Another 6,000 were National Guardsmen who volunteered to join the regulars. Muskets were in short supply, and some Guardsmen were armed only with pikes. Some civilians also joined in, but the total numbered fewer than 25,000. Fewer than 100 guns were also available. Overall command rested upon Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother. In contrast, the Russian, Austrian, and Prussian forces totaled around 110,000 men. Another 10,000 cavalry had been detached to harass and mislead Napoleon. The Allies made their way down the river Marne and approached Paris from the north.

The capital’s defenses had been allowed to crumble, with Joseph comprehensively failing to restore them to an adequate state. The most important defensive positions were natural formations, especially the knoll at Montmartre. Recognizing this point as the key to the city’s defense, Joseph set up his command post there on 30 March.

Fighting broke out along the entire northern side of Paris, but the heaviest fighting was at Montmartre. Defended by Mortier’s Young Guard, the knoll was the scene of bloody fighting. The French managed to hold their own, with spirited counterattacks launched to recapture lost positions, but Joseph could see that virtually the entire Allied army was present and outnumbered the French by five or six to one. He left around noon after giving Mortier and Marmont permission to surrender Paris if necessary.

Toward the end of the day, Marmont asked for an armistice to negotiate a capitulation. Russian representatives were conducted to Marmont’s house where details were hammered out, and at 2:00 A. M. a surrender agreement was signed. The French forces marched through Paris to Fontainebleau, while the Allies were allowed to enter. Losses for the French totaled 4,000 killed and wounded, with another 1,000 captured. Allied losses numbered 6,700 killed and wounded. Although the defense of Paris had been nearly hopeless, it had been conducted with spirit.

At 11:00 A. M. on 31 March the Allied sovereigns entered Paris, while much of the population celebrated. Prince Talleyrand, the foreign minister, had already contacted the Russian tsar, Alexander I, organized a provisional government, and declared Napoleon deposed as Emperor. Furious at news of the surrender of Paris, Napoleon attempted to rally another army to continue the war, but his marshals refused to renew the fight. Discouraged, Napoleon agreed to abdicate, for the first time, on 6 April.

References and further reading Delderfield, R. F. 2001. Imperial Sunset: The Fall of Napoleon, 1813-1814. Lanham, MD: Cooper Square. Hamilton-Williams, David. 1994. The Fall of Napoleon: The Final Betrayal. London: Brockhampton. Lawford, James. 1977. Napoleon: The Last Campaigns, 1813-15. New York: Crown. Norman, Barbara. 1976. Napoleon and Talleyrand: The Last Two Weeks. New York: Stein and Day. Petre, F. Loraine. 1994. Napoleon at Bay, 1814. London: Greenhill.


1814 Napoleon’s First End Part III

With matters in such a state, the end came quickly. Though Napoleon continued to fight and manoeuvre relentlessly, he could achieve little. On 9 March Bentinck had landed at Livorno from where, having issued a call for a national revolt against the French that met with no response whatsoever, he marched on Genoa. On 12 March Bordeaux had proclaimed Louis XVIII, its authorities having first made sure that they would be immediately relieved by the Anglo-Portuguese army. As in 1870 and 1940, refugees were streaming west, adding to the confusion. Among those who fled Paris as the enemy closed in was the wife of Marshal Oudinot:

The Versailles road was free . . . We let the empress, her suite and her escort set out, and at about four o’clock in the afternoon we ourselves departed . . . It was almost dark when we arrived. We took possession of two adjacent rooms in an already crowded house in the Rue de l’Orangerie. During the whole night an incessant and confused noise told us of the passage of a large number of men, horses and carriages, and soon the daylight revealed the most astonishing sight that human eyes perhaps have ever looked upon. We stood motionless at our windows. What we saw passing . . . was the empire, the empire . . . with all its pomp and splendour, the ministers . . . the entire council of state, the archives, the crown diamonds, the administrations. And instalments of power and magnificence were mingled on the road with humble households who had heaped up on a barrow all they had been able to carry away from the houses which they were abandoning.

At this point, the army finally broke as well: with the soldiers deserting in droves, at Lyons Augereau simply abandoned his headquarters and in Paris Marmont first surrendered the city, and then led his troops over to the enemy.

It was a climactic moment. With Alexander I and Frederick William III both in the capital, the initiative was now seized by Talleyrand, who had been living there in semi-retirement and now set about persuading the allied monarchs that Napoleon had to go. A rather doubtful Alexander had to be persuaded by some hastily organized demonstrations of support for Louis XVIII, but on1 April the allied monarchs issued a declaration that they would no longer treat with Napoleon or any of his family, and that France’s future government would be decided by the wishes of the French people as expressed by an immediate meeting of the Senate. Stage-managed by Talleyrand, this event could have had but one end. On 2 April the Senate proclaimed Napoleon to be deposed and formally invited Louis XVIII to return to France. Meanwhile, Napoleon was at Fontainebleau with 60,000 men. Though the emperor was still ready to fight on, his remaining commanders could take no more and on 4 April Napoleon was bluntly informed that he must abdicate. The war was not quite over: if only because news of the armistice reached him too late, Wellington fought one last battle at Toulouse on 10 April, while various isolated garrisons also held on for a few more days. But this was a mere detail. Forced to yield to force majeure, on 28 April the emperor sailed for the Elban exile decreed by a treaty negotiated with him at Fontainebleau. The peace of Europe had been restored.

So what finally brought down Napoleon? Certainly not some mythical ‘people’s war’, nor even a general decision to employ the weapons of the French Revolution against him. The answer, of course, is in part to be found in Napoleon himself. Tired, far from healthy, and increasingly living in a world of fantasy, he threw away his only hope of victory in Russia, and then proceeded repeatedly to reject peace offers that would have left him ruler of a country larger than it had been when war began in 1792. In the words of a song popular in the British army of the period, ‘Boney was a warrior’ and, as such, there could be no peace except one based on the complete subordination of his opponents – that did not, in short, represent the very apotheosis of military glory. Even as late as 1812, this was not a problem in political terms, for Napoleon possessed the resources of an imperium that stretched from the Pyrenees to the Pripet. But pursued in the very different circumstances of 1813 and, still more so, 1814, it was another matter entirely. Forced to make demands of France of a sort which domination of ever greater areas of the Continent had shielded her from ever since 1799, if not 1793, the emperor shattered the acquiescence – often grudging – with which his rule had hitherto been accepted, while at the same time betraying the interests of the propertied elements that were the real bedrock of his regime. Just as damaging, meanwhile, was the impact on the loyalty of Napoleon’s satellites: in June 1813, for example, every interest of the ‘Third Germany’ encapsulated by the Confederation of the Rhine lay in a compromise peace that would have seen a Grand Duchy of Warsaw that the emperor could not protect restored to Austria and Prussia, but compared with the emperor’s personal prestige, the interests of Maximilian of Bavaria and the rest were as nothing. Preferring to ‘go for broke’, he jeopardized every gain they had made in the last ten years and in the process thought nothing of throwing open their peaceful domains to the horrors of war. With their loyalties tested beyond endurance, the princes were therefore thrown willy-nilly into the arms of Metternich, and this, of course, intensified the pressure on France still further.

To a certain extent the emperor’s reputation has been shielded from the impact of the complete lack of realism he displayed in the last year of his reign by the extraordinary last-ditch defence which he mounted in the face of the Allies’ invasion of France. Even now, in fact, admirers of the emperor still solemnly dream of what might have happened if only Marmont had not surrendered Paris, or the French people had not betrayed their great saviour. Nothing, however, could be more misleading. In the campaign of 1814- generally agreed to have been one of the most masterly of his entire career – Napoleon certainly achieved much local success, but this was simply the reflection of a situation in which the grande armée was no longer grande. Able to manoeuvre his army with something of his old celerity, Napoleon was also able to make himself physically visible to far more of his troops than had been the case in either 1812 or 1813 : at Arcis-sur-Aube, he even fought sword in hand at the head of his escort and was almost killed when a shell burst directly under his horse. Once again, then, his extraordinary personal magnetism was able to inspire the teenage boys who formed the mainstay of his last army and the result was feats of heroism as great as anything seen in the Napoleonic Wars. Of these perhaps the greatest example was the battle of La Fère-Champenoise (25 February 1814) in which two National Guard divisions fought a desperate rearguard action and in the process lost all but 500 of their 4,000 men. There were therefore advantages to be found in weakness, but in 1814 they were no longer enough to turn the scales in the same way as they had in Italy in 1796, and, if Napoleon thought they could, it is but one more reason to doubt his grasp of the realities of his position.

By contrast, in the allied high command there gradually emerged a structure of authority that succeeded in both containing and channelling the many strains and tensions that beset the Sixth Coalition. One by one the allied rulers, or at least powerful representatives thereof, appeared at a common headquarters joint strategies were evolved for dealing with the successive stages in the campaign and, at key moments, major decisions involving all the coalition armies were taken that allowed the Allies to respond effectively to changing circumstances. On 24 March 1814, for example, it was decided to march straight down the river Marne towards Paris irrespective of anything that Napoleon might do to attack the allied rear. Almost to the end there was no unity in terms of war aims – the treaty of Chaumont committed the Allies to fighting on until Napoleon was defeated, but it did not insist on his removal from the throne, still less a Bourbon restoration – but methods were also elaborated that from the start militated against any of the powers reneging on the alliance altogether. From March 1813 onwards none of the powers fighting on the German front ever sent its forces into action in isolation: in the Leipzig campaign, for example, Bernadotte’s Army of the North was a mixture of Swedes and Prussians, Schwarzenberg’s Army of Bohemia a mixture of Austrians, Russians and Prussians and Blücher’s Army of Silesia a mixture of Prussians and Russians. And when quarrels did erupt in the allied camp, as for example, when Schwarzenberg, for strategic reasons, ordered allied forces to enter Switzerland after Alexander had promised to respect her neutrality, they were at no time allowed to become so bitter as to endanger the future of the war against Napoleon. Time and again, indeed, difficult situations were saved by renewed bouts of negotiation. For all the Allies there was a recognition that in the end the problem of Napoleon could only be resolved through maintaining allied unity. Against hegemony was pitted compromise, and in the end it was compromise that proved the stronger.


The Allied advance on Paris

Meanwhile, Schwarzenberg had pushed Macdonald and Oudinot slowly before him toward Provins. Napoleon now marched from Reims to Méry-sur-Seine to attack his communications. Schwarzenberg withdrew to Troyes on the news of Napoleon’s approach, and by March 19, 1814, his forces were between the Seine and the Aube. Napoleon crossed the Aube at Arcis with 16,000 men, and Schwarzenberg, with nearly twice as many, was pushed off the battlefield by nightfall of March 20. Casualties were about 2,000 on either side. Next day Schwarzenberg resumed the attack with 100,000, and Napoleon had to retreat. Not strong enough to stop either allied army, Napoleon resolved to move eastward to rally his garrisons in Lorraine and seek to provoke a general rising in order to throw himself against Schwarzenberg’s rear.

From Saint-Dizier his light troops moved along the Marne. Blücher marched southward via Châlons across the French rear to draw closer to Schwarzenberg. At Sompuis on March 24, 1814, the allies determined to advance directly on Paris by parallel routes. Mortier and Marmont were soundly beaten at La Fère-Champenoise on March 25, losing 2,000 killed and wounded, 4,000 prisoners, and 50 cannons. With only 12,000 men left, they could not halt the allies, who crossed the Marne at Meaux to reach Bondy on March 29. The garrison of Paris and the national guard brought Marmont and Mortier’s forces to 42,000, and on March 30 they fought honourably before the outskirts of Paris, retiring slowly before the allies’ 100,000. That night they concluded the city’s capitulation. Napoleon hurried westward, reaching Troyes on March 29 and Fontainebleau next day.


Your Guide to the Three Weeks of 1814 That We Today Call the War of 1812

Despite its name, the War of 1812, at least in America, was barely fought in that year. Events in 1813 weren’t that noteworthy either. But in the late summer of 1814, the most famous events of the war, apart from the legendary Battle of New Orleans, occurred in a condensed period of just a few short weeks. The 200th anniversary of those events begins in just a few short days. Here’s the blow-by-blow of what happened, written by Peter Snow, author of the newly released history, “When Britain Burned the White House.

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August 24, 1814 – Midday – Bladensburg, Maryland

An army of 4,500 British redcoats suddenly appears at Bladensburg on the eastern bank of what is today known as the Anacostia River. They're battle-hardened veterans who have crushed the armies of the French emperor Napoleon in Europe. Robert Ross is their general, spurred on by the fiery Admiral George Cockburn who has been ravaging the Chesapeake for the past year.

Their mission: to give America and its President James Madison "a good drubbing" for declaring war on Britain two years earlier.

Their target: Washington, the newly built U.S. capital, in revenge for the sacking of York (the future Toronto) in 1813 when U.S. forces burned down Upper Canada's capital. But first the British must scatter the American force drawn up in three lines on the west bank of the river. And that's exactly what happens. The British cross and the battle of Bladensburg begins. The Americans, mainly poorly trained militia, led by a dithering and incompetent commander, Brig Gen William Winder, collapse before the relentless tramp of the British veterans. "We made a fine scamper of it," says one young Baltimore militiaman. Only the bravery of naval commodore Joshua Barney and his men in the third American line saves the U.S. from suffering one of the most shameful defeats in its young history. But they too are overwhelmed and by late afternoon the road to Washington is wide open.

Engraving depicting capture of Washington, D.C., by the British, originally published October 14, 1814. (Image: Library of Congress)

August 24, 1814 – 8 p.m. – Washington, D.C.

The British army strolls into an abandoned city. Madison's army has evaporated. The President has escaped across the Potomac to Virginia. His wife, the feisty Dolley Madison famously refuses to leave the White House until she's supervised the removal of George Washington's portrait from the wall of the dining room. In their hurry to depart, she and the White House servants leave the dinner table set for the President and his guests.

Ross and Cockburn are fired upon as they approach the capital. Ross's horse is killed. What follows is a series of spectacular acts of destruction that will sharply divide opinion in the civilized world and even among Ross's own staff. First, the two commanders order the torching of both houses of Congress. The lavishly furnished Capitol designed in the proudest Classical style and completed by English-born architect Henry Latrobe, is soon engulfed in flames. Thousands of precious volumes in the Library of Congress are destroyed. An English member of Parliament will later accuse Ross and Cockburn of doing what even the Goths failed to do at Rome.

The British find the White House empty. The tempting smell of freshly cooked food soon has them sitting at the Madison's table. They help themselves to the meat roasting in the spits and James Madison's favourite Madeira wine on the sideboard. It tastes "like nectar to the palates of the Gods," observes the delighted James Scott, Cockburn's chief aide. After the meal Scott helps himself to one of Madison's freshly laundered shirts in the bedroom upstairs. Cockburn and Ross then give the order to put the chairs on the table and set fire to the place. Within minutes, locals huddling in Georgetown and beyond witness the humiliating sight of their President's house ablaze. One of Ross's leading staff officers says he will "never forget the majesty of the flames", but confides that he believes the British action is "barbaric."

A comic depicting the fall of Washington entitled, "Maddy in full flight," referring to the escape of James Madison from the burning capital. (Image: Library of Congress)

August 25 – Morning – Washington, D.C.

The British continue to burn the public buildings of Washington with the destruction of the Treasury, the State Department and the Department of War. Only the bravery of the Patent Office Director, William Thornton, who rides into the city and persuades the British invaders not to behave "like the Turks in Alexandria", saves the Patent Office from going up in flames too. A huge rainstorm drenches the burning buildings and leaves most of the walls standing although the interiors are gutted. Later in the day, Ross decides he has done enough damage and pulls his army out.

August 29 through September 2 – Alexandria, Virginia

It's the climax of one of the most audacious naval operations of all time. A flotilla of British frigates and other ships, sent up the Potomac to distract the Americans from the army's advance on Washington, manages to navigate the river's formidable shallows and anchor in a line with its guns threatening the prosperous town of Alexandria, Virginia. The townspeople, completely unprotected and appalled at the fate of Washington a few miles upriver, immediately offer to surrender. The British terms, delivered by Captain James Alexander Gordon who threatens to open fire if his conditions are not met, are harsh. The town's huge stocks of tobacco, cotton and flour are to be loaded onto no fewer than 21 American vessels and shipped down the Potomac to the British fleet in Chesapeake Bay. Alexandria's leaders agree to the terms. They will come under scathing criticism from their compatriots.

September 2 through September 11 – The Chesapeake Bay

The British army withdraws to its ships in the lower Chesapeake. The urging of some officers, including George Cockburn, fail to persuade General Ross to proceed immediately to attack the much larger and wealthier city of Baltimore, just a two-days march to the northeast. This respite allows Baltimore's redoubtable military commander, the resourceful Major General Sam Smith, to supervise prompt arrangements for the city's defense. He galvanizes Baltimore's population into digging trenches, building ramparts in response to his cry that Baltimore must not be allowed to suffer the fate of Washington. A massive flag, specially made by Baltimore seamstress Mary Pickersgill, is hoisted over Font McHenry to inspire its garrison to defend the entrance to Baltimore harbor.

An engraving depicting the ripped sails of U.S. navy ships following the Battle of Plattsburg Bay. Despite their appearance, the Americans emerged victorious, and Plattsburg became a turning point in the war. (Image: © Bettmann/CORBIS)

September 11 – Plattsburg, NY

While Ross finally decides to make an attack on Baltimore, a British army 500 miles to the north under General Prevost suffers a disastrous reverse at the town of Plattsburg. Prevost holds off his land attack on the town in anticipation of a victory by the British navy in the waters of the neighboring lake. But the British ships are defeated by American frigates maneuvering skillfully on their anchors, and Prevost aborts his campaign. The news of Plattsburg lifts morale in the States after the humiliation of Washington.

A painting of the action at the Battle of North Point by militiaman and amateur painter Thomas Ruckle. (Image: Thomas Ruckle/Wikimedia Commons)

September 12 – The Battle of North Point

The British land at the foot of the North Point peninsula and Ross boasts he will eat supper in Baltimore. Within two hours, British fortunes are dramatically reversed when Ross, at the head of his advancing troops, is mortally wounded by an American rifleman. Another Irishman, Colonel Arthur Brooke, takes over and is immediately confronted by an American force dispatched by General Smith to delay the British advance. The Americans resist for a time but British numbers and rigid discipline soon force their enemy into what the British call a rout and the Americans insist is a fighting withdrawal. Brooke and Cockburn plan to make a night attack on Baltimore.

An illustration of the fatal wounding of General Ross amid the fighting outside Baltimore at the Battle of North Point. (Image: Library of Congress)

September 13-14Baltimore Harbor

While Brooke advances, several shallow draft British frigates and gunboats mount a massive bombardment of Fort McHenry in order to force entry to Baltimore's inner harbor. They fire rockets, mortar shells and ships' cannon balls at the fort. The intensity of the British fire prompts many townsfolk to abandon their homes convinced that the fort and the city must fall.

But the persistent British naval fire does not cause major damage or casualties. The British naval commander in chief sends a message to Brooke that further fighting will be fruitless and cost too many British lives.

A view of the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British fleet on the morning of September 13, 1814. (Image: Library of Congress)

September 14 - Baltimore

The siege of Baltimore is lifted. The British army retires to its ships, and the bombardment of Fort McHenry ceases. A young American poet and lawyer, Francis Scott Key, who has been watching the bombardment from a nearby vessel almost despairs of the fort's survival. But as he strains his eyes through the morning mist, he is astonished and delighted to see Mary Pickersgill’s flag still flying over the battlements. He takes a sheet of paper from his pocket and writes a poem that will earn him immortality: "O say can you see by the dawn's early light what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?" As the British fleet sails off down the Chesapeake, one crewman looks back at the great banner flying defiantly over the fort and writes in his diary "it was a galling sight for British seamen to behold."


Inhaltsverzeichnis

Die Situation auf Seiten der Koalitionstruppen Bearbeiten

Am Nachmittag des 23. März 1814 hatten Zar Alexander, der preußische König Friedrich Wilhelm III. und der Oberkommandierende der Koalitionstruppen Fürst Schwarzenberg in einem Kriegsrat in Pougy 48.447613 4.353542 gemeinsam beschlossen, Napoleon nicht weiter zu verfolgen, sondern zunächst die Vereinigung mit der Schlesischen Armee Blüchers herbeizuführen. In den nächsten Stunden wurde bekannt, dass das nächst stehende Korps der Schlesischen Armee unter Wintzingerode bereits Chalons eingenommen hatte und dass dessen Vorhut bald Vitry-le-Francois 48.726048 4.585118 erreichen würde.

Am Abend des 23. März 1813 um 20.00 Uhr verließen die Monarchen und Fürst Schwarzenberg Pougy und reisten weiter nach Sompuis 48.681554 4.378481 , [5] das sie am frühen Morgen des nächsten Tages, dem 24. März 1814 erreichten. Um 10.00 Uhr fuhren Fürst Schwarzenberg und der preußische König auf der Straße nach Vitry weiter, während der Zar zurückblieb, um sich mit seinem Stabe zu beraten. Nachdem diese Beratungen zu einem Ergebnis gekommen waren, eilte der Zar den Vorausgefahrenen nach, die er gegen Mittag einholte. Zar Alexander rief nun alle zu einem neuen Kriegsrat auf freiem Felde zusammen und schlug dann vor, dass beide Armeen der Koalitionstruppen, die Böhmische Armee und die Schlesische Armee, gemeinsam nach Paris ziehen sollten, um in der französischen Hauptstadt endgültig den Sturz Napoleons herbeizuführen. Man einigte sich sehr rasch auf diesen Plan und traf umgehend Vorbereitungen, um die entsprechenden Befehle auszusenden. Dabei zögerte der Zar nicht, russischen Truppen eigenhändige Anweisungen zuzustellen.

Böhmische Armee Bearbeiten

Noch vor Tagesanbruch des folgenden Tages, dem 25. März 1814, brachen die Truppen der Böhmischen Armee auf, um von der Marne nach Westen auf Paris zu ziehen. Es war ein trockener Tag und, da die Gegend arm an Wäldern war, konnten die Truppen querfeldein marschieren und die befestigte Straße für die Geschütze und den Tross freihalten. Das Gros der Böhmischen Armee folgte der Straße von Vitry nach Fére-Champenoise 48.75517 3.990784 . Die Garden und Reserven marschierten über Courdemanges 48.695719 4.541259 und Sompuis auf Montépreux 48.712741 4.137769 zu.

Schlesische Armee Bearbeiten

Die Infanterietruppen der Schlesischen Armee und einige Kavallerie [6] verließen um 6.00 Uhr morgens Chalons-en-Champagne 48.94821 4.353333 und marschierten entlang der alten Straße, die über Bergerés-les-Vertus 48.880522 4.004517 und Étoges 48.882328 3.851395 sowie Montmirail 48.870417 3.538928 nach Paris führt.

Ausgangsstellungen der Koalitionstruppen am Morgen des 25. März 1814 Bearbeiten

Kommandant Herkunft Division Truppengattung Kavallerie Artillerie Stellung
Rajewski Böhmische Armee Peter von der Pahlen Husaren und Kosaken 3.500 12 Drouilly 48.77319 4.526153 , am linken Ufer der Marne, gegenüber Vitry-le-François [7]
Böhmische Armee Adam von Württemberg Husaren 2.000 Blacy 48.725793 4.554348 an der Marne gegenüber Vitry-le-François
Barclay de Tolly, Großfürst Konstantin russische Garden und Reserven Kretow Kürassiere 1.600 12 Maisons-en-Champagne 48.748493 4.496927
Fürst Golitzyn, [8] Duca, Depreradowitsch Kürassiere 1.600 12 Courdemanges 48.695719 4.541259
Oscherowski Leichte Kavallerie 2.400 12
österreichische kaiserliche Garde Nostitz-Rieneck Kürassiere 2.800 18
preussische Garde Husaren 800 8
Seslawin Böhmische Armee Seslawin Kosaken 1.200 2 Pleurs 48.689431 3.870707
Langeron Schlesische Armee Korff Leichte Kavallerie 2.200 22 Chalons-en-Champagne 48.94821 4.353333
Kosaken 500
Grekow Kosaken 2.700
Sacken Schlesische Armee Wassiltschikow Leichte Kavallerie 1.450 12
Lukowkin Kosaken 2.450
Gyulay Böhmische Armee Husaren 900 6 Courdemanges
Summe 26.400 116

Die Situation der beteiligten französischen Truppen Bearbeiten

Die Korps der Marschälle Mortier und Marmont Bearbeiten

Die Korps der französischen Marschälle Mortier und Marmont waren nach dem Gefecht bei Reims über Fismes 49.307805 3.684218 und Château-Thierry 49.033333333333 3.4 an der Marne abgezogen, wobei sie ständig von den preußischen Korps Yorck und Kleist verfolgt wurden. Am 22. März 1814 hatten beide französischen Korps die Marne überschritten. Da sie die Marnebrücke hinter sich zerstörten, gewannen sie etwas Abstand zu den nachfolgenden Preußen.

Die Marschälle hatten von Napoleon den Befehl erhalten, sich der von ihm persönlich geführten Armee anzuschließen. Deshalb marschierten sie weiter nach Süd-Osten und erreichten am 23. März 1814 Étoges 48.882328 3.851395 . Dort trennten sich die beiden Korps wieder. Am Abend des 24. März 1814 stand das Korps Mortier bei Vatry 48.823141 4.244843 und das Korps Marmont bei Soudé 48.735814 4.31179 .

In der Dunkelheit der folgenden Nacht sah Marmont unzählige Biwakfeuer vor sich. Er sandte mehrere Offiziere aus, um zu erkunden, ob dort Franzosen oder feindliche Truppen lagerten. Er wählte diese geschickt so aus, dass sie auch Fremdsprachen beherrschten und sich gegebenenfalls fremden Truppen nähern konnten. Alle Kundschafter berichteten bei ihrer Rückkehr von feindlichen, nämlich russischen und österreichischen Truppen. Marmont sandte sofort einen Kurier an Marschall Mortier, der sich aber in der Dunkelheit verirrte und sein Ziel in dieser Nacht nicht erreichte.

Die Divisionen Pacthod und Amey Bearbeiten

Die Divisionen Pacthod und Amey gehörten zu den französischen Korps unter Befehl von Marschall MacDonald. Sie hatten zunächst die Aufgabe gehabt, die Reserve-Artillerie der Korps von wenigsten 100 Geschützen nachzuführen, hatten aber die Verbindung verloren und standen 23. März 1814 in Sézanne 48.723359 3.723164 . Dort war auch ein Nachschub-Konvoi von 80 Wagen aus Paris eingetroffen mit 200.000 Rationen Brot und reichlich Weinbrand.

In der folgenden Nacht wurde bekannt, dass sich zwei französische Korps bei Étoges befanden. Die beiden Generäle planten, sich diesen anzuschließen und so bewegte sich der Zug der beiden Divisionen mit Geschützen und Proviant am Morgen des 24. März 1814 nach Étoges, das aber von den Korps der Marschälle Mortier und Marmont bereits verlassen worden war. Die Truppen Pacthods und Ameys zogen weiter und erreichten erschöpft Bergères-lès-Vertus 48.879619 4.005203 , wo sie über Nacht blieben. General Pacthod sandte sofort einen Kurier zu Marschall Mortier nach Vatry. Was immer Mortier als Befehl ausgab, es erreichte Pacthod in dieser Nacht nicht mehr, denn der Kurier verirrte sich im Dunkeln und fand seine Truppe erst am nächsten Vormittag wieder.

Ausgangsstellungen der französischen Truppen am Morgen des 25. März 1814 Bearbeiten

Kommandant Division Fußtruppen Kavallerie Artillerie Stellung
Mortier Christiani 2.220 10 Vatry
Curial 2.700 10 Vatry
Charpentier 2.260 10 Vatry
Roussel unter Belliard 1.500 Bussy-Letrée 48.805055 4.261322
Ghigny [9] unter Belliard 550 Vatry
Marmont Ricard 880 12 Soudé
Lagrange 2.200 14 Soudé
Arrighi 1.820 12 Soudé
Bordesoulle 1.300 Coole 48.740569 4.393501
Merlin 1.000 Soudé
Pacthod Pacthod 4.000 100 12 Bergères-lès-Vertus
Amey 1.800 6 Bergères-lès-Vertus
Compans Noizet 800 800 bei Sézanne (nur 400 Reiter nehmen am Gefecht teil)
Vincent 800 800 bei Montmirail (nimmt nicht am Gefecht teil)
Summe 18.880 5.350 86

Das Gefecht der Französischen Korps Mortier und Marmont Bearbeiten

Erstes Gefecht bei Soudé Bearbeiten

Um 3:00 morgens am 25. März 1814 begann die Kavallerie des württembergischen Korps und des russischen Korps Rajewski als Avantgarde der Böhmischen Armee ihren Marsch nach Westen auf Paris. [10] Sie brachen vom linken Ufer der Marne bei Vitry-le-Francois 48.726048 4.585118 auf. Die russischen Reiter standen unter dem Befehl des Grafen von Pahlen, die Württemberger unter dem Kommando des Prinzen Adam von Württemberg. Bei ihnen befand sich der Kronprinz Wilhelm von Württemberg, der als Vetter des Zaren eine hervorgehobene Stellung einnahm und dem der Oberbefehl über beide Korps übertragen worden war. Ihr Weg führte sie direkt nach Soudé 48.735814 4.31179 , wo noch immer das französische Korps Marmont stand.

Um 5:00 morgens traf Marschall Mortier persönlich, von Vatry kommend, mit kleiner Begleitung ohne seine Truppen bei Marmont ein. Die beiden Marschälle einigten sich schnell darauf, eine gemeinsame Stellung rückwärtig bei Sommesous 48.73321 4.201584 aufzubauen. Mortier kehrte umgehend zu seiner Truppe zurück, um diese zu dem vereinbarten Ort zu führen.

Als die Vorhut der Böhmischen Armee um 8.00 Uhr Soudé erreichte, wurden sie aus zahlreichen Geschützen des Korps Marmont, das in Schlachtordnung hinter dem Ort angetreten war, beschossen. Den Koalitionstruppen standen nur 12 Geschütze einer reitenden Batterie zur Verfügung, mit denen sie das Feuer erwidern konnten. Ihre Reiter versuchten aber sofort, das französische Korps einzukreisen: die Russen von Norden, die Württemberger von Süden. Französische Kürassiere unter Bordesoulle ritten ihnen entgegen, konnten sich aber nicht behaupten. Marmont ließ seine Truppe in fester Ordnung nach Westen auf der Straße nach Sommesous abrücken. Einige Schützenkompanien, die zur Abwehr der Verfolger in Soudé zurückblieben, wurden von den Koalitionstruppen eingekesselt und mussten sich später ergeben.

Artillerie-Duell bei Sommesous Bearbeiten

Bei Sommesous stellten sich Marmonts Truppen südlich des Ortes auf: Die Infanterie in Karrées, vor sich Kavallerie und Artillerie. Ihre Geschütze – 30 an der Zahl – begannen sofort mit ihrem Abwehrfeuer gegen die nachfolgenden Reiter der Koalitionstruppen. Als das Korps Mortier von Vatry kommend eintraf, bezog es nördlich des Dorfes Stellung und die Zahl der Geschütze, die auf Russen und Österreicher feuerten erhöhte sich auf 60. Zu diesem Zeitpunkt waren die französischen Truppen denjenigen der Koalition zahlenmäßig überlegen. In der Ferne war aber die Masse der Böhmischen Armee zu sehen und die Marschälle wussten, dass sie sich an diesem Ort nicht lange würden halten können. Ihre Stellung war auch insofern ungünstig, als beide Korps durch den Lauf des Baches La Somme getrennt waren.

Die Koalitionstruppen wurden zunächst durch den Soudé-Bach am Nachrücken gehindert, den Reiter und Geschütze überwinden mussten. Sie brachten aber bald 36 leichte Geschütze zusammen, mit denen sie das Feuer der Franzosen erwiderten. Dieses Artillerie-Duell dauerte 2 Stunden. Währenddessen konnten die Truppen Mortiers den trennenden Bach überschreiten und beide Korps bezogen eine gemeinsame Stellung, die zwischen Montépreux 48.713279 4.136524 und Haussimont 48.7477 4.168539 lag. Die Infanterie war, in Karrées angetreten, nach Südosten ausgerichtet, die Kavallerie stand dahinter.

Bald darauf trafen 2.500 österreichische Garde-Kürassiere unter Graf Nostiz bei Sommesous ein. Die französischen Marschälle beschlossen nun weiter entlang der Straße nach dem 17 Kilometer entfernten Fère-Champenoise zurückzugehen. Als die französischen Geschütze aufgeprotzt werden sollten, kam Unruhe auf, die darauf zurückzuführen war, dass das Korps Mortier Hengste zum Ziehen der Geschütze benutzte. Die russischen Husaren Graf Pahlens nutzten die Gelegenheit und griffen die Kürassiere Bordesoulles an und trieben sie auseinander. Die Dragoner Roussel d'Hurbals, die Mortiers Korps begleiteten, kamen den französischen Kürassieren zu Hilfe, wurden dann aber ihrerseits von den Kosaken des Grafen Pahlen angegriffen und flohen zunächst in Panik, [11] sammelten sich aber bald darauf wieder. Zur selben Zeit versuchten württembergische reitende Jäger und österreichische Husaren einen Angriff von Süden, wurden aber von französischen Ulanen und einem starken Artilleriefeuer abgewiesen. Insgesamt verloren die Franzosen bei ihrem Aufbruch 5 Geschütze.

Es war 14.00 Uhr, als das Wetter umschlug und ein heftiger Oststurm anhob, der Wind, Schnee und Hagel über das Gefechtsfeld trieb. Die französische Infanterie konnte ihre Musketen nicht mehr laden oder abfeuern und mussten sich nur mit dem Bajonett verteidigen.

Die Führung der Koalitionstruppen nutzte die Zeit, um die verfügbaren Kräfte der russischen Gardekavallerie von Sompuis 48.681554 4.378481 über Poivres 48.687617 4.261751 heranzuführen. Im Sturm traf die russische Garde-Kürassier-Division unter Depreradowitsch, die leichte russische Garde-Kavallerie unter Oscherowski, die russischen Garde-Ulanen, ein Regiment Garde-Dragoner und eine Batterie reitender Garde-Artillerie – zusammen mehr als 3.000 Reiter – ein und griffen sofort in das Kampfgeschehen ein. Den Garde-Kürassieren gelang es zwei französische Karrées zu sprengen und ein Bataillon des Korps Mortier in die Flucht zu schlagen.

Auch den württembergischen Jägern gelang es im vierten Angriff mit Unterstützung österreichischer Husaren eines der Karrées zu sprengen.

Durchzug durch Connantray Bearbeiten

Den direkten Weg nach Fère-Champenoise verlegte den Franzosen der Vaure-Bach. Er entspringt südlich der Straße von Sommesous nach Fère-Champenoise und fließt dann tief ins Gelände eingeschnitten in einem nach Norden ausholenden Bogen nach Fère-Champenoise. Die einzige Brücke befand sich am Eingang zu dem Ort Connantray 48.748521 4.063547 . Als die französischen Korps nach 12 Kilometern dort ankamen, mussten sie die Karrées auflösen, um den Ort durchqueren zu können. Sie gerieten dabei in Unordnung und viele Einheiten gaben ihre Geschütze auf: Am nächsten Tage fand man in Connantray 24 verlassene Geschütze und mehr als 60 Munitionswagen. [12] In kurzer Zeit war der kleine Ort vollständig verstopft. Die Veteranen der Divisionen Ricard und Christiani hielten am besten Ordnung und brachten die feindliche Kavallerie wieder auf Abstand.

Als Connantray unpassierbar geworden war, konnten die letzten französischen Einheiten den Vaure-Bach nicht mehr überqueren und mussten am rechten Ufer des Baches seinem Lauf folgend weiter zurückgehen. [13] Sie hielten hierbei eine gute Ordnung und wurden kaum verfolgt. Hinter Fère-Champenoise trafen sie wieder mit den Resten ihrer Korps zusammen.

Mehrere Regimenter der Jungen Garde und eine französische Zwölfpfünder-Batterie hatten eine Stellung vor Connantry gehalten und versucht den Rückzug der Franzosen zu decken. Sie wurden umringt und viele von ihnen fielen im Kampf. Der Rest geriet mit General Jamin in Gefangenschaft.

Teilweise Flucht und Rückzug der Franzosen Bearbeiten

Da Connantray vollständig verstopft war, konnten die Koalitionstruppen den Vaure-Bach dort nicht überwinden. Erst nach einigem Suchen wurde ein Übergang für die Reiter gefunden. Um diese Zeit näherten sich 1.200 Kosaken unter Seslawin von Süd-Westen auf dem Wege von Euvy 48.720315 4.029729 dem Kampfgeschehen. Als die französischen Kavalleristen wahrnahmen, dass nun feindliche Reiter aus zwei Richtungen nahten, glaubten sich diese umringt es brach Panik aus: Zunächst floh die französische Kavallerie auf der Straße nach Fère-Champenoise, dann folgte die Infanterie, die sich schutzlos den Feinden überlassen sah. Nicht wenige der Franzosen rannten bis nach Meaux, das 100 Kilometer entfernt ist, ehe sie sich von den Truppen des General Compans aufnehmen ließen. [14] [15] Bei dieser Flucht ließen die Franzosen weitere 40 Geschütze und eine große Zahl an Munitions- und Transportwagen im Stich.

Die Marschälle wurden von der allgemeinen Flucht zunächst mitgerissen und konnten die Reste ihrer Mannschaften erst auf der Höhe von Linthes 48.730889 3.845816 wieder sammeln und zwischen Saint Loup 48.736663 3.81114 und Broussy-le-Grand 48.787866 3.87886 aufstellen. Einige hundert französische Kürassiere, die diesen französischen Korps nicht zugehörten und die um 17.00 Uhr von Sézanne kommend dem Kampfeslärm folgten und sich furchtlos und in bester Ordnung der vielfachen Übermacht der feindlichen Kavallerie entgegenstellten, retteten die französischen Korps vor dem völligen Untergang.

Marschall Marmont führte die Franzosen zurück bis Allemant 48.761621 3.799295 . [16] Am frühen Abend ließen die Reiter der Koalition in der Dunkelheit von der Verfolgung ab und zogen sich zurück.

Der Untergang der Divisionen Pacthod und Amey Bearbeiten

Erste Verfolgung durch Kavallerie der Schlesischen Armee Bearbeiten

Die Divisionen Pacthod und Amey unterbrachen ihren Zug von Bérgeres nach Vatry am Morgen des 25. März 1814 um 10.30 Uhr bei dem Ort Villeseneux 48.842125 4.142876 , um zu rasten. Die französischen Soldaten begannen, sich eine Mahlzeit zu kochen und sie fütterten die Pferde der Gespanne.

Zur gleichen Zeit zog die Schlesische Armee von Chalons-en-Champagne nach Bérgeres. [17] Ihre Vorhut bildete die Kavallerie des Korps Sacken unter Wassiltschikow. Der Stabschef der Schlesischen Armee Gneisenau, der den erkrankten Feldmarschall Blücher vertrat, hatte eine Erkundung nach Süden angeordnet, an der er persönlich teilnahm. Bei dieser Erkundung wurde der Zug der französischen Divisionen bemerkt. General Korf wurde mit der leichten Kavallerie des Korps Langeron, mehreren Kosaken-Pulks unter Karpow und einer reitenden Batterie ausgesandt, diese zu stellen. Sie zweigten bei Thibie 48.930451 4.21463 von der Straße ab und marschierten in der Richtung auf Germinon 48.876006 4.157639 . In Germinion benutzten alle die winzige Brücke über den Soude-Bach, wodurch ihre Formation weit auseinandergezogen wurde.

Als die Franzosen die heranrückenden Koalitionstruppen sahen, stellten sie sich nördlich von Villeseneux auf. Die Division Pacthod stand in Reihen, die Division Amey am linken Flügel im Karrée. Die Geschütze standen davor, der Tross war nach hinten gebracht worden. In dieser Stellung waren sie durch ihre starke Artillerie gut geschützt und die russischen Reiter wagten noch keinen geschlossenen Angriff, nur Einzelaktionen. Die Kosaken attackierten den Tross, von dem sie sich gute Beute versprachen. [18] Gegen Mittag beschlossen Pacthod und Amey, sich dem Lauf des Somme-Baches folgend über Clamanges 48.828721 4.082172 auf Fère-Champenoise zurückzuziehen.

Vergeblicher Rückzug auf Fère-Champenoise Bearbeiten

Die Franzosen bildeten sechs Karrées, die den Tross einschlossen und marschierten sehr langsam auf das 15,5 Kilometer entfernte Fère-Champenoise zu. Hierbei achteten sie darauf, jede mögliche Deckung zu nutzen und immer einige Geschütze feuerbereit zu halten. Die feindliche, russische Artillerie feuerte aus nur 4 Geschützen, aber aus weniger als dreihundert Metern Entfernung. Bei Clamanges traf weitere Kavallerie des Korps Langeron ein. Die Zahl der russischen Reiter verdoppelte sich hierdurch annähernd. [13] Die französischen Generäle beschlossen daher, die Wagen des Tross und des anvertrauten Nachschubs, nicht aber die Geschütze aufzugeben. Die freiwerdenden Pferde wurden benutzt, um möglichst viele Geschütze doppelt zu bespannen. Mit forciertem Tempo bewegten sich die französischen Karrées weiter auf Fère-Champenoise zu. Einige ihrer Männer, die Clamanges besetzt hatten, überließen sie ihrem Schicksal. Keiner von diesen konnte den Russen entkommen.

Gegen 14:00 [19] Uhr trafen bei Ecury-le-Repos 48.806242 4.032154 2.500 weitere Reiter des Korps Sacken der Schlesischen Armee unter Wassiltschikow – darunter vier Regimenter Dragoner – ein. Sie waren von Bergères über Moraines herangekommen. [13] Die französischen Divisionen waren nun von etwa 5.000 feindlichen Reitern eingeschlossen. Die russische Kavallerie griff nun entschlossen von allen Seiten an, wurden aber vom Feuer der Franzosen, das diese erst auf 100 Meter abgaben, gestoppt. Zwei russische Dragoner-Regimenter mit mehreren Geschützen versuchten, den französischen Karrées den Weg zu verlegen. [11] Noch einmal gelang den Franzosen mit einer schnell gebildeten Kolonne der Durchbruch auf der Straße nach Fère-Champenoise, aber nach weniger als zwei Kilometern waren sie wieder gestellt und eingeschlossen. [11] Dennoch ergaben sich die Franzosen nicht. In geschlossenen Karrées versuchten sie sich weiter auf Fère-Champenoise zuzubewegen.

Zu dieser Zeit trafen zwei reitende Batterien des Korps Sacken der Schlesischen Armee ein. Dadurch änderte sich die Situation der Franzosen zu ihrem Nachteil: Sobald diese Geschütze in Aktion traten, stiegen ihre Verluste dramatisch an.

Als weitere Verstärkung der Koalitionstruppen trafen die russische Kürassiere der Böhmischen Armee unter Kretow ein. [11] Aber die Franzosen ergaben sich nicht. In Sichtweite von Fère-Champenoise erkannten sie dort eine große Menge Truppen und es keimte bei ihnen die Hoffnung auf, dies wären die französischen Korps unter Mortier und Marmont, mit denen man sich nun verbinden könne. Es waren aber russische Truppen, bei denen sich der Zar und der preußische König persönlich befanden. Die Russen brachten sofort weitere Geschütze in Stellung und eröffneten das Feuer auf die sich nähernden Franzosen. Einige der Geschosse waren zu weit gezielt und schlugen bei den russischen Husaren Wassiltschikows ein, deren leichte Batterien das Feuer erwiderten. Ein Adjutant des Zaren musste eingreifen, um den Irrtum aufzuklären.

Zar Alexander I. und der preußische König Friedrich Wilhelm III. waren um 10.00 Uhr in Vitry aufgebrochen und ihren Truppen und dem Gefechtslärm gefolgt. Am späten Nachmittag hatten sie gerade Fère-Champenoise hinter sich gelassen, als ein Kurier von General Kretow die Meldung brachte, man sei im Gefecht mit weiteren französischen Truppen. Unverzüglich wurden Kuriere ausgesandt, um alle im Umkreis vorhandenen Koalitionstruppen zum Gefecht zusammenzuführen.

Flucht in die Sümpfe des Petit Morin Bearbeiten

Fère-Champenoise war für die Franzosen nicht mehr erreichbar, deshalb beschloss Pacthod den Versuch nach Norden in die Sümpfe des Petit Morin zu entkommen, die sie nach 7 Kilometern zwischen Morains 48.812906 3.993126 und Bannes 48.802058 3.913364 erreicht haben würden und in denen ihnen die feindliche Kavallerie nicht mehr würde folgen können. Von den sechs Karrées der Franzosen waren noch vier übrig, die nun langsam nach Norden entwichen. Es trafen aber nach und nach immer mehr Kavallerie-Einheiten der Koalition ein, insbesondere auch diejenigen, die während des Tages die Korps der Marschälle Mortier und Marmont verfolgt hatten und nun von diesen abließen. Zuletzt umringten bis zu 20.000 Reiter die französischen Karrées. Auch ihre Artillerie verstärkten die Koalitionstruppen immer weiter: Bald waren es 48 Geschütze, die aus geringer Entfernung auf die Franzosen feuerten, deren Ordnung nun nachließ.

Graf Wilhelm von Schwerin aus dem Stabe Blüchers berichtet über diese Situation: [20]

„Die Division Pacthod verschmähte hartnäckig jede Kapitulation. Von allen Seiten durch ungeheure Übermacht eingeschlossen, zu sicherem Tode zusammengedrängt, bildeten die verzweifelten Helden ein Karrée plein, welches dem ganzen gegen sie aufgeführten Geschütz zur Zielscheibe diente und von ihm zusammengeschossen ward. Ein scheußliches Massaker begann . “

Der preußische König sandte einen seiner Offiziere als Parlamentär zu General Pacthod, der diesen mit erhobener Stimme zur Aufgabe aufforderte, da seine Situation aussichtslos sei. Pacthod ließ ihn festnehmen und rief seinen Truppen zu:

„Ihr habt gehört, was uns erwartet. Voilà - ein großer Tag für Frankreich“

Von den französischen Karèes waren noch drei verblieben, denen beinahe das Entkommen in die Sümpfe gelungen wäre. Doch vor Morains hatten die Russen einige Geschütze quer des Weges aufgestellt, deren Feuer die Franzosen zum Stehen brachte. Nun war Pacthod, selbst mehrfach verwundet, [21] bereit sich zu ergeben. Auch zwei der verbliebenen französischen Karrées legten ihre Waffen nieder. Nur das letzte Karrée ergab sich nicht. Als die Masse der Feinde über dieses herfiel, gelang noch 500 Franzosen die Flucht in die Sümpfe. [22]

Augenzeugen berichteten, [11] dass nicht wenige der französischen Rekruten, die an diesem Tage zu kämpfen hatten, keine Uniform trugen. Man hatte sie in Paris losgeschickt mit dem Auftrag, sich eine Uniform von einem Toten oder Verwundeten zu nehmen. Viele werden auch kein Gewehr gehabt haben, oder konnten nicht damit umgehen.

Zug der französischen Korps nach Westen Bearbeiten

Noch in der Nacht zum 26. März 1814 sandte Marschall Marmont einen Kurier in das 20 Kilometer entfernte Sézanne zu dem französischen General Compans, der dort allerlei versprengte französische Truppen versammelt hatte. Dieser befand sich aber bereits im Abmarsch nach Westen und hatte um 2.00 Uhr morgens die Stadt geräumt. Um diese Zeit brachen die Korps der Marschälle Mortier und Marmont nach Westen auf, verloren einige Stunden, um sich den Durchzug durch Sézanne zu erkämpfen, in das bereits preußische Truppen eingedrungen waren, und erreichten zur Mittagszeit den Ort Esternay 48.724038 3.559914 , wo sie auf der Höhe von Retourneloup 48.723613 3.552747 rasteten.

Hier erfuhren sie, dass die Vorhut des preußischen Korps Yorck von Château-Thierry 49.033333333333 3.4 und Montmirail 48.870417 3.538928 kommend bereits La Ferté-Gaucher 48.780175 3.305168 erreicht und besetzt hätte. Später griff Graf Pahlen mit der Vorhut des russischen Korps Rajewski die Nachhut des Korps Marmont an.

Die beiden französischen Korps teilten sich nun: Das Korps Marmont wandte sich rückwärts gegen die russische Kavallerie Pahlens während das Korps Mortier gegen die Preußen in La Ferté-Gaucher vorging. Den Männern Mortiers gelang es nicht, sich gegen die Preußen durchzusetzen und den Ort zu besetzen. Mortier erschien es daher zu gefährlich, mit den Preußen im Rücken weiter nach Westen zu marschieren, und entschied, sich nach Süden auf Provins 48.556557 3.303709 zu ziehen. Marmont sah für sich und sein Korps keine andere Wahl, als sich dieser Marschrichtung anzuschließen. Die Franzosen marschierten während der ganzen Nacht und erreichten Provins am nächsten Morgen des 27. März 1814.

Nach einem Ruhetag marschierten beide Korps nach Nangis 48.555847 3.019009 und von dort auf verschiedenen Wegen nach Paris. Am Nachmittag des 29. März 1814 trafen sie an der Brücke von Charenton 48.816854 2.419696 wieder zusammen und am 30. März 1814 spielten sie eine wesentliche Rolle in der Verteidigung von Paris.

Verfolgung durch preußische Truppen Bearbeiten

Die preußischen Generäle Yorck und Kleist waren am 24. März 1814 abends von Château-Thierry 49.033333333333 3.4 kommend mit der Reservekavallerie ihrer beiden Korps in Montmirail 48.870417 3.538928 eingetroffen. Am nächsten Tag, dem 25. März 1814, kam das Gros der Korps auf schlechter Straße über Viffort 48.960891 3.457518 nach, wofür es annähernd den ganzen Tag benötigte.

Gefecht bei Sézanne am 26. März 1814 Bearbeiten

Die Reservekavallerie beider Korps unter Zieten rückte währenddessen weiter vor und erreichte gegen Mittag Étoges 48.882328 3.851395 , wo die Pferde gefüttert werden mussten. Dort konnte man Gefechtslärm hören und gegen 15.00 Uhr ritt Zieten mit seinen Reitern nach Süden. Als sie am späten Nachmittag Fère-Champenoise erreichten, waren die Kampfhandlungen bereits beendet. Zieten beschloss hierauf, noch in der Nacht bis Sézanne weiterzuziehen, um dort die Franzosen zu stellen. Um 4.00 Uhr morgens am 26. März 1814 erreichten die Preußen Sezanne. Noch in der Dunkelheit der Nacht erreichte auch die Vorhut der französischen Korps Mortier und Marmont die Gegend. Es war zunächst ausschließlich französische Kavallerie unter Belliard, die mit den Preußen in einzelne kleine Gefechte in und um Sézanne geriet. Als französische Infanterie nachkam, konnten die Preußen sich nicht mehr halten und mussten sich zurückziehen. Sie zogen sich über Tréfols 48.788828 3.497772 nach Meilleray 48.788533 3.424258 zurück, das sie am späten Abend erreichten.

Gefecht bei Ferté-Gaucher am 26. März 1814 Bearbeiten

Am Morgen des 26. März 1814 ließen die beiden preußischen Generäle Yorck und Kleist ihre Korps von Montmirail auf das 20 Kilometer entfernte La Ferté-Gaucher 48.780175 3.305168 marschieren. Die Wege waren aufgeweicht und sehr schlecht, die Mannschaften kamen nur langsam voran. Insbesondere die Artillerie hatte große Probleme, ihre Geschütze voranzubringen.

La Ferté-Gaucher liegt im Tal des Grand Morin an dessen nördlichem Ufer. Die Straße von Sézanne nach Meaux führt am südlichen, gegenseitigen Ufer an der Stadt vorbei. An diesem Morgen war Ferté-Gaucher von etwa 1.000 Franzosen besetzt. Auf der Straße am gegenüberliegenden Ufer zog ein starker Konvoi von Wagen nach Westen ab. Es handelte sich um die Mannschaften des General Compans, die in der Nacht in Sézanne aufgebrochen waren und auf dem Wege waren, sich über Meaux nach Paris zurückzuziehen.

Um 10.00 Uhr traf Yorck persönlich vor der Stadt ein. Als die Franzosen die Preußen entdeckten, brachen sie sofort auf, um nach Westen abzuziehen. Yorck sandte ihnen die Division unter Horn nach, die als erste von Montmirail kommend eintraf, und gab ihr alle Reiter mit, die zu diesem Zeitpunkt verfügbar war.

Die nächste preußische Division, die vor Ferté-Gaucher eintraf, stand unter dem Kommando des preußischen Prinz Wilhelm, des jüngsten Bruders des preußischen Königs. Diese Division war nur 3.800 Mann stark. Bald darauf wurde klar, dass weitere Infanterie bis auf weiteres nicht eintreffen würde, da sich unglücklicherweise der Tross zwischen die beiden Korps geschoben hatte und auf den schlechten Wegen nicht überholt werden konnte. Nur die Reserve-Artillerie traf noch vor dem Tross ein.

Gegen 14.00 Uhr erschienen die ersten Truppen des französischen Korps Mortier auf der Straße von Sézanne und gegen 16:00 war das ganze Korps vor Ferté-Gaucher versammelt. Die Preußen hatten aus ihrer zahlenmäßigen Unterlegenheit die Konsequenzen gezogen und sich auf das nördliche Ufer des Grand Morin zurückgezogen. Von dort beherrschte ihre Artillerie die Straße am anderen Flussufer. Die Stadt selbst war von drei Regimentern Infanterie besetzt. Gegen 18:00 rückten die Franzosen zum Angriff auf die Stadt vor. Als sie die Höhe von Maison Dieu 48.775311 3.315682 erreichten, eröffnete die preußische Artillerie auf der gegenüberliegenden Flussseite das Feuer. In kürzester Zeit gerieten die Franzosen in Unordnung und ihr Angriff brach zusammen. Marschall Mortier ließ seine Männer nach Süden abrücken und sammelte sie auf der Höhe von Chartronges 48.744899 3.270621 neu. Offensichtlich traute er seinen Mannschaften, die vom Vortage stark mitgenommenen waren, keinen energischen und erfolgreichen Angriff zu. Als auch das preußische Korps Kleist eintraf und seine Artillerie südlich des Flusses in Stellung brachte, zogen die Franzosen auf der Straße nach Provins ab.

Gefecht bei Chailly am 26. März 1814 Bearbeiten

Die preußische Division Horn verfolgte die französischen Truppen unter Compans auf der Straße von La Ferté-Gaucher nach Coulommiers 48.813071 3.083497 . Beim Marsch durch das Dorf Chailly 48.789422 3.124065 kam es bei den Franzosen zu einer Stockung, die die preußische Reiterei zum Angriff nutze. Sie trieb die Franzosen aus dem Ort und versprengte sie auf dem Terrain dahinter. Vor Coulommiers sammelten sich die Franzosen wieder und brachten einige Geschütze zum Einsatz. Die preußischen Reiter hatten keine Artillerie bei sich und mussten zwei Stunden warten, bis diese eintraf. Bis dahin hatten sich das Gros der Franzosen abgesetzt und überließ den Preußen die Stadt und die Brücke über den Grand Morin. Die Preußen gaben an, in diesem Gefecht 400 Gefangene gemacht zu haben.


Battle of La-Fere-Champenoise, 25 March 1814 - History

Like a lot of napoleonic wargamers I have taken a passing interest in the Campaign of 1814. I think part of it is that for all intents and purposes the game was up for Napoleon after Leipzig and yes he did pull off several impressive victories in the face of imposing numbers of Allied troops but the campaign was only ever going to end in tears for the French.

Well that's what I used to think, but after several years of various commentators coming back to have another look at this campaign and the thoughts of eminent writers like Paddy Griffith (see the downloadable articles). I think that there is more to the 1814 Campaign that deserves another look.

When you consider that the allies were by no means united on a common strategy in terms of whether they wanted to see France beaten and demobilised, certainly the Austrians were very worried about the balance of power without Napoleon. Then you have an army fighting against the allies on home turf with a population not only supporting them but indeed hostile to an enemy that was happy to burn, rape and pillage its way to Paris.

On the other hand you have a French army badly in need of everything, but mostly cavalry, having to fight an overwhelmingly strong enemy in winter because Napoleon was up to his old trick of not appointing a theatre commander in his absence. The end result being that the allies did not stop in winter quarters as he expected, and because French response to invasion was uncoordinated he did not get the winter to rebuild his army.

So given these fundamental issues for both forces the campaign was not as foregone a conclusion as at first seems. Napoleon was still a far better general than all the allies put together and by occupying the central position with a force containing a large number of elite units the scene was set for an interesting clash of wills.

The next thing to consider is the terrain. Before our little drive through Eastern France last week I had never visited the area before. For my English audience, the best way to describe the terrain is like driving over Salisbury Plain but much much bigger. You can see why the Germans were here at Maily Le Camp testing their Tiger tanks before Normandy and why Patton's Third Army raced over these open fields, this is great open tank country with sight lines only interrupted by large woods and rolling fields.

Wide open fields, typical of the country around Maily le Camp in Eastern France
The road network is Roman, so that means long straight roads crossing the countryside lined with poplars and lime trees. Off course when Napoleon was here it was muddy or snowy in a bleak mid winter. not like the lovely sunny pasture land that we travelled through with occasional vast expanses of Champagne vine yards to interrupt the view. The villages and towns are composed of a mixture of strong stone built houses together with wood and daub constructions reminiscent of the beamed houses in the Suisse Normandie, with many being thatched in Napoleon's time.

The 1814 Campaign Statistics by Paddy Griffith
Check out the Paddy Griffith article discussing the 1814 campaign and I think you might be inspired to look at it anew.

I have picked out a few of the sites we visited last week and include two very useful links for those interested in doing something similar. The Champagne-Ardenne tourist link has a particularly useful app for the IPad that has information and mapping guides to direct you to key sites
napoleon-monuments
http://www.champagne-ardenne-tourism.co.uk/patrimony/Napoleon-and-the-1814-french-campaign.aspx

I have also put up two articles by the late great Mr Paddy Griffith that I think appeared on the Kriegspiel UK site that seems now not to be up. They are very pertinent to the 1814 campaign and as a wargamer make excellent reading as you would expect from such a renowned contributor to the hobby. I've put them into PDF format and they can be downloaded from "My Resources and Downloads" in the right hand bar.

Fere Champenoise article by Paddy Griffith
The map below is a section of the great touring guide map from the Napoleon Monuments site to indicate the route we took. We planned, via Piney, to aim for our start point, the museum and former military academy at Brienne Le Chateau, that the young Bonaparte attended before being commissioned into the artillery.

Map illustrating our drive through Eastern France and the stops underlined in blue that are referred to in the post
I should say that the Parc de la Foret d'Orient in and around Brienne has put up a series of tiled stands at points of historical interest relating to the 1814 campaign and our map enabled us to follow these sites and get a good understanding of the events. I have put up pictures from these stands throughout this post for reference.

PINEY
The first village on our route to Brienne was one I immediately recognised from my pre-work studying the Monuments site. The market hall is an imposing structure that you see on entering the village and the house close by must have been a welcome site for the, no doubt chastened, Emperor after his close encounter of the Cossack kind.


The Emperor under attack by Cossack cavalry
This would make an interesting little skirmish game with the Emperor, Chasseur a Cheval of the Guard, the 3rd Hussars a baggage train and lots of Cossacks.

The stand at Piney explains the events before the Emperor's arrival in the village

The incredible roof structure over the market hall in Piney where Napoleon's baggage was stored

BRIENNE-LE-CHATEAU
The military school at Brienne was founded in 1776, one of twelve such schools, intended to train the children of the nobility to be soldiers. The building became a museum in 1969 and houses artifacts detailing the history of the schools and the battles of 1814.

The comment on the stand above reads
Napoleon wrote " it is not Corsica but Brienne my native land . " He was sent to the Military Academy in 1779 and stayed five years. The purpose of the twelve French academies was to prepare pupils for the main academy in Paris. He passed by Brienne on his way to be crowned King of Italy in 1805. Nine years later the chateau served as his HQ during the battles of Brienne and La Rothiere. Whilst he was in exile in St Helena he bequeathed a million francs to the town.


Battle of Brienne, 29th January 1814 - Theodore Yung

A description and suggested wargame scenario for the Battle of Brienne Le Chateau can be found on these links.
Battle of Brienne
Volley & Bayonet Scenarios - Brienne

The museum houses a small collection of artifacts, uniformed manikins and weapons and made an interesting visit. I have to say it would have been even more interesting if the museum catered for an English speaking audience. Not only was all the information about the displays in French but so were most of the guides for tourists. I put my feedback in the comments book and noticed a similar complaint from a Dutch family a few days before!! Oh well "c'est la vie" as the French would say.

French Line Grenadier

The end figure, nearest to camera, would have been the typical dress
of the "Marie Louise's" (Young French conscripts).

The infamous "sabre briquet", aptly named as a short little pointy blade like this was really only useful for cutting fire wood

By 1814, the ornate shako plate designs of the early empire had given way to these mass produced stamped plate versions

Cavalry weapons, pistol, light cavalry troopers sabre (right) and an officers sabre of the Guard d'Honneur (left)

Officer of the Guardes d'Honneur

Rarely used in combat because its sight was often enough to cause one side or the other to run rather than cross bayonets

LA ROTHIERE & TRANNES
Just a little down the road from Brienne you arrive at the little village of La Rothiere and a little further on Trannes. These two villages marked the positions of the two opposing lines at the Battle of La Rothiere fought in horrible weather on the 1st February 1814, between two familiar adversaries, Napoleon and Blucher.

Wurttemburg dragoons charging French infantry at La Rothiere
Map from Wikipedia

The memorial to the battle also commemorates other later conflicts

The Church in La Rothiere was central to the fighting in the village. The timbered style of building is seen on the right

Blow by blow account of the battle is captured on the stand in the village
You can read about how the battle unfolded on the following links.

The opposite village of Trannes where Blucher launched his attacks from

THE BRIDGE AT DOLANCOURT
The bridge at Dolancourt is interesting on two accounts, a skirmish battle at the end of February as French troops under Marshal Oudinot fell back over the bridge closely pursued by Austrian and Russian troops under General Schwarzenberg.

The second more dramatic event was when Napoleon was hoping to protect Paris by drawing the allied forces on to him by moving on their line of communication vis Bar sur Aube. Unknown to him was that, due to a captured dispatch, the allies were very aware of his intent and called his bluff by going straight for Paris and ignoring his sortie.

The news of the imminent fall of Paris reached him here at Dolancourt bridge and realising he would not be able to get back to relieve the capital headed back to Fontainbleu and a future in Elba. To his credit he acknowledged that this time the allies had outwitted him and he paid tribute to their double bluff.

For more information on the skirmish at Dolancourt follow the link and scroll to the bottom of the page.
The Bridge at Dolancourt

The road from Troyes heads down the slope to Dolancourt bridge

LAUBRESSEL

Whilst Napoleon was away in pursuit of Blucher, he left Marshal Oudinot the mission of slowing down General Schwarzenberg whose Army of Bohemia was marching for a second time on Troyes. Oudinot left Dolancourt to place himself in the path of the enemy. The French didn't have enough troops to seriously worry the Army of Bohemia and had decided to adopt delaying tactics.

Prince Gortschakoff's Russian army corps that had come up from Lusigny had thus to force the French from Laubressel if they wanted to continue their march. The defence of Laubressel had been given to General Rottemberg, commander of the 2nd Young Guard Division. It was cold and damp and the roads had been turned into quagmires that made the movement of cavalry and guns difficult.

Rottemberg had occupied the village on March 2nd and had hastily organised his positions so as to oppose the progress of the enemy. The allied deployed quickly but were unable to take the village and when night fell the French abandoned it in silence. The French continued their retreat and on the 4th of March the Army of Bohemia entered Troyes.

An account of the action can be read here.
Battle of Laubressel

Battle of Laubressel - Langlois


View towards the allied position as pictured by Langlois

The view the Young Guard would have had as they left town

TROYES
The beautiful city of Troyes was a key objective for the Army of Bohemia, and thankfully the old buildings still survive today and made a great place to stop for lunch.

FERE-CHAMPENOISE
After a lovely lunch and leisurely walk around Troyes, we headed north to the little town of Fere Champenoise.

Battle of Fere Champenoise 25th March 1814 - Bogdan Willewald

The description of the young French infantry nicknamed "Marie Louise's" after the young fresh faced French Empress reminded me of how these young soldiers were drilled again and again in how to form square because of the threat of enemy cavalry. It seems they were determined to keep their formation despite their hopeless situation and the offer to surrender by no less a personage than the Czar.


DOWNLOADS

Use this list of free downloads below as your reference library for ongoing product support for Age of Eagles, scenario books when published or any future additions to the L'Armee Francaise series of Fire & Fury adaptations. These include a variety of free, ready-to-play scenarios from both the author of AOE as well as our readership. Keep us bookmarked and check back often.

And while you're here, spin down to the very bottom of the page for some excellent scenarios made available to AOE by the Susquehanna Wargamers from right here in good ole PA. These are Web links to the files on their Website, all of smaller engagements to allow play in a single evening.

All are free and all most are in Adobe PDF format. Don't have the free Adobe Acrobat Reader for PDF files? Just click right here for yet another free download.

And oh BTW, dealers are welcome to download the scenarios, charts and basically everything to include in any copies of AOE they sell so long as nothing additional is charged. But above all enjoy and please contact us if you have any ideas about how to make our support to you even better.


Peninsular War

Battle of Roliça: The first battle fought by the British in the Peninsular War, on 17 th August 1808 also, the first of the string of victories over the French won by Sir Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington. Podcast of the Battle of Roliça.

Battle of Vimeiro: Sir Arthur Wellesley’s (later the Duke of Wellington) victory over the French army of Marshal Junot in Portugal on 21 st August 1808, in the opening stages of the Peninsular War a battle that nearly ruined Wellesley’s military career.Podcast of The Battle of Vimeiro.

Battle of Sahagun: The dawn attack by the British 15 th Hussars, on 21 st December 1808 in the snow, that routed a French cavalry brigade and set the standard for British cavalry in the Peninsular War‘Success to the Fifteenth and ‘God Save the King’. Podcast of the Battle of Sahagun.

Battle of Benavente: The second cavalry battle, fought on 29 th December 1808, establishing the early predominance of British cavalry over French in the Peninsular War. Podcast of The Battle of Benavente.

Battle of Cacabelos: The battle fought at Cacabelos bridge on 3 rd January 1809 during Sir John Moore’s retreat to Corunna in the Peninsular War. Podcast of the Battle of Cacabelos.

Battle of Corunna: The battle, also known as the Battle ofElviña, that ensured the escape of the British army from Spain on 16 th January 1809, during the Peninsular War, with the death of Sir John Moore at the moment of success. Podcast of the Battle of Corunna.

Battle of the Douro: This battle, also known as the Second Battle of Oporto, saw Sir Arthur Wellesley’s (later the Duke of Wellington) successful passage of the River Douro at Oporto in Portugal, on 12 th May 1809 during the Peninsular War, forcing Marshal Soult’s French army into headlong and disastrous retreat to Spain. Podcast of the Battle of the Douro.

Battle of Talavera: The British victory south of Madrid on 28 th July 1809 over Joseph Bonaparte, the King imposed on Spain by Napoleon and his French army in the Peninsular War. Podcast of the Battle of Talavera.

Battle of the River Coa: The British Light Division’s fierce battle to escape from Marshal Ney’s French corps across the River Coa on 24 th July 1810 in the Peninsular War. Podcast of the Battle of the River Coa.

Battle of Busaco: Wellington’s highly successful holding battle fought on 27 th September 1810 in Western Portugal against Marshal Massena’s invading French army, as the British and Portuguese withdrew to Lisbon and the Lines of Torres Vedras, during the Peninsular War. Podcast of the Battle of Busaco.

Battle of Barrosa: General Graham’s notable victory over the French during the march to Cadiz on 5 th March 1811, in the Peninsular War. Podcast of the Battle of Barrosa.

Battle of Campo Maior: The Peninsular War action fought on 25 th March 1811, where the British 13 th Light Dragoons charged and swept away a larger force of French cavalry before capturing a train of artillery. Podcast of the Battle of Campo Maior.

Battle of Redinha or Pombal: The indecisive battle fought on 12 th March 1811 in Western Central Portugal, during Massena’s retreat from the Lines of Torres Vedras to the River Mondego, following the unsuccessful French attempt to capture Lisbon during the Peninsular War. Podcast of the Battle of Redinha or Pombal.

Battle of Sabugal: The brilliant Peninsular War action fought on 3 rd April 1811 by the Light Division against Reynier’s French Second Corps on the north-eastern border of Portugal during Massena’s retreat to Spain. Podcast of the Battle of Sabugal.

Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro: Wellington’s hard fought battle on 3 rd to 5 th May 1811 in the Peninsular War to prevent Massena relieving the fortress of Almeida. Podcast of the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro.

Battle of Albuera: Marshal Beresford’s hard-fought battle against Marshal Soult on 16 th May 1811 during the Peninsular War, with his army of British, Portuguese and Spanish troops. Podcast of the Battle of Albuera.

Battle of Usagre: The brisk battle fought on 25 th May 1811 in the Peninsular War, where a powerful force of French dragoons was overwhelmed by the British 3 rd Dragoon Guards and 4 th Dragoons with their Spanish and Portuguese allies. Podcast of the Battle of Usagre.

Battle of El Bodon: The successful rear-guard actions fought on 25 th September 1811 in the Peninsular War, west and south of Ciudad Rodrigo, by Wellington’s troops against French cavalry. Podcast of the Battle of El Bodon.

Battle of Arroyo Molinos: The spectacular destruction of Girard’s French Division by General Rowland Hill on 28 th October 1811 in the Peninsular War. Podcast of the Battle of Arroyo Molinos.

Storming of Ciudad Rodrigo: The sudden capture by Wellington, on 19 th January 1812, of Marmont’s ‘base of operations’ for the intended French third invasion of Portugal, during the Peninsular War. Podcast of the Storming of Ciudad Rodrigo

Storming of Badajoz: Wellington’s hard-fought capture, on 6 th April 1812, of the second French base on the Portuguese border, the southern gateway for the British invasion of Spain, during the Peninsular War. Podcast of the Storming of Badajoz

Battle of Villagarcia: The successful cavalry action against the French on 11 th April 1812 in the Peninsular War. Podcast of the Battle of Villagarcia

Battle of Almaraz: Rowland Hill’s resourceful destruction of the fortified French bridge of boats at Almaraz over the River Tagus on 19th May 1812, during the Peninsular War. Podcast on the Battle of Almaraz

Battle of Salamanca: Wellington’s victory on 22 nd July 1812 over the French army of Marshal Marmont, during the Peninsular War, leading to the re-capture of Madrid also known as the Battle of Los Arapiles or Les Arapiles. Podcast of the Battle of Salamanca

Battle of Garcia Hernandez: The Second Day of the Battle of Salamanca, on 23 rd July 1812, during the Peninsular War, when King’s German Legion Dragoons overwhelmed French infantry squares during the French retreat. Podcast on the Battle of Garcia Hernandez

Battle of Majadahonda: The engagement on 11 th August 1812 in the Peninsular War between Wellington’s advanced guard and Joseph Buonaparte’s cavalry rear-guard. Podcast on the Battle of Majadahonda

Attack on Burgos: Wellington’s unsuccessful assault on the Spanish City of Burgos, between 19 th September and 25 th October 1812, during the Peninsular War, following the Battle of Salamanca. Podcast on the Attack on Burgos

Retreat from Burgos: Wellington’s retreat to Ciudad Rodrigo following the unsuccessful Attack on Burgos in the autumn of 1812 in the Peninsular War. Podcast on the Retreat from Burgos

Battle of Morales de Toro: The successful cavalry action fought by the British Hussar Brigade against the French 16 th and 21 st Dragoons on 1 st June 1813, during the Peninsular War. Podcast on the Battle of Morales de Toro

Battle of San Millan and Osma: The clash in the mountains of Northern Spain on 18 th June 1813, during the Peninsular War, between the van of Wellington’s advancing army and General Reille’s French ‘Army of Portugal’, withdrawing on Vitoria. Podcast on the Battle of San Millan and Osma

Battle of Vitoria: Wellington’s decisive defeat of Joseph Bonaparte’s French army on 21 st June 1813, in the Peninsular War. Podcast of the Battle of Vitoria

Storming of San Sebastian: The hard-fought struggle to capture San Sebastian, the city port on the north-east coast of Spain near the French border, between 11 th July and 9 th September 1813 in the Peninsular War. Podcast on the Storming of San Sebastian

Battle of the Pyrenees: The series of battles fought between 25 th July and 2 nd August 1813 in the western Pyrenees Mountains, during the Peninsular War Wellington decisively repelling Marshal Soult’s incursion across the border to relieve the French garrisons in Pamplona and San Sebastian. Podcast on the Battle of the Pyrenees

Battle of San Marcial: The Battle fought on 31 st August and 1 st September 1813 along the French border, during the Peninsular War with Spanish troops decisively repelling the French attack.Podcast on the Battle of San Marcial

Battle of the Bidassoa: The Battle fought on 7 th October 1813, during the Peninsular War Wellington’s army crossing the River Bidassoa into France. Podcast on the Battle of the Bidassoa

Battle of the Nivelle: The Battle fought on 10 th November 1813, during the Peninsular War Wellington’s army crossing the River Nivelle and moving from the Pyrenees Mountains into the plains of France. Podcast on the Battle of the Nivelle

Battle of the Nive: (including the Battle of St Pierre): The Battle fought between 9 th and 13 th December 1813 Wellington’s army crossing the River Nive and moving further into France a battle with some of the fiercest fighting of the Peninsular War. Podcast on the Battle of the Nive

Battle of St Pierre: The Battle fought on the last day of the crossing of the River Nive by Wellington’s army, on 13 th December 1813 described as some of the fiercest fighting of the Peninsular War. Podcast on the Battle of St Pierre

Battle of Orthez: The Battle fought on 2nd February 1814, during the Peninsular War, in the south-west of France, that saw Wellington push Marshal Soult’s Army of the Pyrenees back across the River Adour. Podcast on the Battle of Orthez

Battle of Tarbes: The Action fought by Wellington against Marshal Soult on 20 th March 1814 in Southern France, during the Peninsular War where the three Battalions of the 95 th Rifles distinguished themselves. Podcast on the Battle of Tarbes

Battle of Toulouse: The Battle fought by Wellington against Marshal Soult on 10 th April 1814 outside the French City of Toulouse in Southern France the last battle fought by Wellington in the Peninsular War. Podcast on the Battle of Toulouse

Sortie from Bayonne: The terrible night-time clash outside Bayonne on 14 th April 1814, that marked the end of the Peninsular War, but occurred after the abdication of the Emperor Napoleon on 4 th April 1814. Podcast on the Sortie from Bayonne

Military General Service Medals awarded to the Three Hardy Brothers of the 7th Royal Fusiliers for service in the Peninsular War and Martinique

Map of Spain and Portugal during the Peninsular War 1808 to 1814

Reference Works for the Peninsular War:

Authoritative Histories of the Peninsular War:

History of the Peninsular War by Sir William Napier

History of the Peninsular War by Sir Charles Oman

History of the British Army by John Fortescue

The life of His Grace Arthur, Duke, Marquis, and Earl of Wellington by Francis L. Clarke

Military General Service Medal 1848 with 11 clasps for battles of the Peninsular War (including the first and last battles of the war) awarded to Private Charles Billington of the 40th Regiment

Modern Accounts of the Peninsular War:

Wellington: The Road to the Lion’s Mound 1769-1815 by Daniel Res

The Peninsular War: A Concise Military History by Michael Glover

The Peninsular War by Ian Fletcher

The Peninsular War by Charles Esdaile

Corps and Regimental Histories:

History of the King’s German Legion by North Ludlow Beamish

Historical Record of the Tenth, the Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Hussars

Origin and Services of the Coldstream Guards by Colonel Mckinnon

Historical Record of the 14 th (King’s) Hussars by Colonel Hamilton

History of the Rifle Brigade, formerly the 95 th by Sir William Cope

Works dealing with particular features of the Peninsular War:

Campaign of the Left Wing of the Allied Army, in the Western Pyrenees & South of France, in the Years 1813-1814, under Field-Marshal The Marquess of Wellington by Robert Batty (captain in 1 st Foot Guards)

Wellington’s Headquarters: The Command and Administration of the British Army during the Peninsular War by S.G.P. Ward

Life in Wellington’s Army by Antony Brett-James

Wellington’s Regiments by Ian Fletcher

Redcoats against Napoleon, the 30 th Regiment during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars by Carole Divall

Inside the Regiment: The Officers and Men of the 30 th Regiment during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars by Carole Divall

Wellington’s Army in the Peninsula 1808-1814 by Michael Glover

A History of the Medical Department by Lieutenant General Sir Neil Cantlie

Peninsular Preparation: The Reform of the British Army 1795-1809 by Richard Glover, Cambridge University Press

The Battle Honours of the British and Indian Armies 1695-1914 by NB Leslie

Wellington’s Men Remembered: A register of memorials to soldiers who fought in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo (2 vols) by Janet and David Bromley

Regimental Medal awarded to Sergeant James Webb of the 43rd Light Infantry for service in the Peninsular War

Regimental Medal awarded to Sergeant James Webb of the 43rd Light Infantry for service in the Peninsular War

Contemporary Recollections by soldiers:

Memoirs of a Sergeant in the 43rd Light Infantry Regiment

Intelligence Officer in the Peninsula (letters and diaries of Charles Somers Cocks) by Julia Page

Adventures with the Rifle Brigade by John Kincaid

Diary of a Cavalry Officer in the Peninsular War and Waterloo Campaign 1809-1815 by Lieutenant Colonel Tomkinson 16 th Light Dragoons

Letters of Private Wheeler edited by B.H. Lidell Hart

Recollections of the Peninsula by Moyle Sherer 34 th Regiment

The Private Journal of Judge-Advocate Larpent

An Ensign in the Peninsular War, letters of John Aitchison edited by W.F.K. Thompson

A Journal of a Cavalry Officer in the Corunna Campaign 1808-1809 by Captain Alexander Gordon of the 15 th Hussars

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