Battle of Saint-Dizier

The Battle of Saint-Dizier was a battle during the War of the Sixth Coalition, fought on 26 March 1814, and is notable as Napoleon's last victory before he abdicated.

Battle of Saint-Dizier
Part of War of the Sixth Coalition
14035336

Castle of Saint-Dizier
Date26 March 1814
Location
Result French victory
Belligerents
 France  Russia
Commanders and leaders
France Napoleon I Russian Empire Ferdinand Wintzingerode
Strength
30,000-34,000[1] 10,000, mostly cavalry[2]

Background

Blücher and Schwarzenberg agreed to attack Napoleon from both sides with all their united forces, and thus, if possible, to put an end to the war with one blow. Blücher, therefore, marched from Rheims to Châlons, Schwarzenberg from Arcis-sur-Aube to Vitry, in search of Napoleon: instead of falling back before him at some distance from one another, and thus giving Napoleon plenty of room, as he had expected, they boldly formed a junction of their several divisions behind him. The Allies hoped that Napoleon might turn back when he found his expectations foiled, and that they would then fight him in the great plains between the Marne and the Aube, where the Allies could make use of their numerical superiority in cavalry against the very inferior French cavalry. But Napoleon was already on his way to Saint-Dizier, and had only left a small division behind him, which occupied the villages along the road, close to Vitry.

On 24 March Schwarzenberg reached Vitry, meeting the King of Prussia and Tsar Alexander there. It was decided to march with the united force towards Paris and to leave the pursuit of Napoleon to the cavalry and horse artillery of General Wintzingerode, who was to harass Napoleon's troops. Taking into consideration all the circumstances of the case, it is impossible not to praise it for great boldness. Napoleon had nothing but chosen troops with him, and could form a junction with the numerous garrisons in his fortified towns.

Maison, in the Netherlands, had already joined his forces to those of Carnot, who was then threatening Brussels, and might at any moment render assistance to Napoleon. Behind the Allies the whole country was in a state of insurrection, which would naturally be increased by the approach of Napoleon. Marshal Augereau was at the head of numerous forces at Lyon, and could send troops from thence.

Meanwhile, the Allied armies, plunged deeper and deeper into the heart of France, were separated from the sources whence they drew their supplies; the Allies were in the midst of a desolated country, without any point upon which they could fall back for their supplies or support, and were shortly about to appear before the capital of the kingdom, the population of which were perfectly capable of giving employment to, and even destroying, a whole army. All this was sufficient to excite the greatest anxiety; but in their determination the allies clearly took the right course, even had the results been less successful. Paris and Napoleon had now lost the importance which they mutually gave to one another.

The large Allied armies broke up their quarters near the Aube and the Marne on 24 and 25 March, on their way to Paris. On the 25th, near Fere-Champenoise, they encountered the united troops of Marshals Marmont and Mortier, who were on their way from Soissons to join Napoleon. After a short but bloody engagement the two marshals were beaten, their troops destroyed, and the march on Paris was resumed.

On the evening of 24 March Wintzingerode advanced with all his cavalry from Vitry towards Saint-Dizier, whither Napoleon had directed his march, true to his intention of drawing the allies away from Paris, and approaching his own fortresses.

The command of the advance guard was entrusted to Tettenborn, who had five regiments of Cossacks, one of Hussars, and eight pieces of horse artillery under him. The French had withdrawn from the neighbourhood of Vitry during that afternoon, and the Allies only came up with them at nightfall in the village of Thieblemont, where they had some sharp skirmishing with the French infantry.

On the following day the pursuit was continued with increased vigour, and the Allies overtook a still larger French division at Saint-Dizier, where a brisk engagement took place. The French held possession of Saint-Dizier with infantry, so as to cover the march of the other troops who were there recrossing and marching along the Marne. From the direction which these troops were taking, it appeared certain that Napoleon intended again to attack the main Allied armies; he must, therefore, have received some intelligence of the direction they were taking towards Paris.

On the other side of the river the Allies saw compact masses of troops coming straight towards them, having changed their line of march; they advanced down to the banks, and then marched away up the heights on the left. Tettenborn immediately brought his guns close to the bank of the river, and commenced pouring a murderous fire of cannonballs and grenades upon the nearest French troops, which retreated into the woods with the loss of many men. As a regiment of Cossacks now crossed the Marne, and threatened to cut off the troops in Saint-Dizier, these men, who had bravely stood their ground until now, likewise fled to the woods. However, the French were not long exposed to this fire, as a portion of their artillery, placed on the heights of Valcour, commanding the road which lay through a narrow gorge, soon silenced the Allied guns.

The French held the heights of Valcour until evening, and then pursued their retreat towards Wassy. Tettenborn followed close at their heels, and drove them out of the village of Humbecourt, but found it impossible to penetrate further, as the adjoining villages were full of infantry, who offered the most obstinate resistance; a sure sign that the main body of the French army was close by, with the result that the Allied troops could not approach any nearer.

The skirmishing continued all the night, during which the Allies saw the whole surface of the country between them and Wassy lighted up with numerous watch-fires, which stretched a long way to the Allies' right along the wood, almost reaching their headquarters. Tettenborn passed the night in Eclaron, while General Wintzingerode fixed his headquarters in Saint-Dizier, and sent a considerable number of troops from Vitry towards Montier-en-Der, so as to secure the Allied right flank.

Battle

Early on the morning of the 26th of March Tettenborn found the villages which the French held on the previous day by no means deserted: on the contrary, the French advanced against the Allies. The Allies could clearly perceive large masses of troops in the distance, drawing nearer every moment, followed by still greater numbers; among them were considerable bodies of cavalry.

The French, numbering roughly 30,000 men, advanced against the Allies on all sides, forcing the Cossacks to retreat: considerable bodies of cavalry showed themselves on both sides of the Allied force. On first seeing these masses of troops, Tettenborn assured Wintzingerode that the whole French army had turned and was marching against the Allies. The advance of the French was so rapid, and their numbers so great, that to form any plan was useless.

The danger was imminent, the nature of the ground prevented the Allies using even one regiment of Cossacks with any advantage, and all the French had to do to entirely cut off the Allied force would be to capture the village of Valcour in the Allied rear before the Allies did. Nothing, therefore, remained but to retreat immediately across the Marne, which Tettenborn did, remaining as long as he could on the left bank of the river, to give Wintzingerode time to take such measures as he might think necessary. Whilst Wintzingerode was still doubtful whether Napoleon was actually approaching with his whole force, and hesitated to give full credit to Tettenborn's statements, he saw General Tschernyscheff suddenly driven back from Montier-en-Der, while he himself was attacked at the same moment.

The French poured their forces upon the enemy with incredible rapidity; troop followed troop, the whole plain was covered, and in a few minutes the engagement commenced on all sides. A large number of guns were brought on the plain and pointed against Saint-Dizier. The country was flat, but cut up with vineyards and hedges, and too much hemmed in on all sides by woods and low bottoms for the Allies' numerous cavalry to be used with any advantage.

It was still possible by a rapid retreat to avoid an action which the Allies would be sure to lose. Tettenborn tried to impress this upon others; but, unfortunately, 700 Russian chasseurs were stationed in Saint-Dizier; and as these were the only infantry which Wintzingerode had with him, he delayed his retreat in the hope of saving them. He therefore ordered Tettenborn to defend the road to Vitry, while Wintzingerode maintained himself in Saint-Dizier, intending to fall back upon Bar-le-Duc in case of necessity.

Meanwhile, the French had crossed the Marne between Valcour and Saint-Dizier, with large bodies of cavalry, infantry, and some artillery, and advanced without impediment towards the road to Vitry: the guns planted on the heights of Valcour had protected this movement. The Russian cavalry and horse artillery were distributed in the plain behind this road; in their rear was the wood, in their front the French, who poured a heavy fire into the Allied ranks.

The baggage and horses had not yet been sent to the rear, and caused considerable disorder. On one side of this road to the right, Tettenborn stood his ground with about 1000 horses, of which four squadrons were Hussars, the rest Cossacks. A body of at least 10,000 French cavalry had already crossed the Marne, and had forced their way between Tettenborn and Wintzingerode. Tettenborn was in momentary expectation of seeing these masses suddenly deploy and throw his men into utter confusion.

Meanwhile, bodies of infantry and artillery continued to cross the river, and to form. It was no use for the Allies to think now of retreating, as the cavalry was close upon them; a resolute front could scarcely check them, much less a retreating foe. Tettenborn, therefore, boldly formed his 1,000 men into a compact body, with which he charged the masses of French with reckless courage, just as they were about to deploy. The Hussars and Cossacks fell with the utmost intrepidity upon the French, and drove them before them: the first line was broken, then the second; and the contest was most bloody. But fresh masses of French cavalry deployed on both sides of him; more and more troops came from the back -ground, — the inequality of numbers was too great, and the greatest bravery of no avail.

The Allied troops came within the range of the enemy's guns, broke and were put to the rout along the road to Vitry; here the baggage and led horses, flying in all directions, caused indescribable confusion. Tettenborn, who with his officers had maintained the contest to the last, and had been in great personal danger, got his troops again into some order at the village of Perthe, skirmished a little with the French that same evening, and retreated during the night by Marolles to Vitry. His whole loss consisted of only forty men. The rest of Wintzingerode's cavalry, who were drawn up on the plains by Saint-Dizier, and who had waited till the French attacked them, without taking the initiative, had a far greater number of men killed, besides losing many cannon. After a heroic defence of Saint-Dizier, Wintzingerode left that town on the same evening and retreated to Bar-le-Duc, hotly pursued by the French, whom, however, he beat off when they pressed upon him too closely.

Results

From the Allied point-of-view this battle, in spite of its unfavourable outcome, was most successful in its results: it led Napoleon into an error by which he lost three entire days, during all which time his capital was in imminent danger. Napoleon was convinced that Schwarzenberg's whole army was on his tracks, and Wintzingerode had taken care to strengthen this surmise by hiring rooms at Saint-Dizier for the Emperor of Russia and for the King of Prussia, and by giving out that his cavalry was merely the advance guard of the main army.

Napoleon, who learned all this from some of his devoted adherents in Saint-Dizier, halted at Vassy, recalled those troops which had already marched forward, and thought that he would fight a battle where the ground and the circumstances would be in his favour.

Even on the day after this action Napoleon could not be brought to believe that he was mistaken, and had been striking at a shadow; he persisted in advancing against Vitry, where the small garrison prepared to meet the storm. There, however, he suddenly learnt of Marmont's and Mortier's defeat at the Battle of Fère-Champenoise and the advance of the Allies upon Paris: he now hastily collected his weary, half-famished troops, and made forced marches by Troyes, Sens, and Fontainebleau, to relieve his threatened capital.

References

  1. ^ Korcaighe P. Hale in The Encyclopedia of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars by Gregory Fremont-Barnes (main editor) (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2006) 932.
  2. ^ Tim J. Watts in The Encyclopedia of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars by Gregory Fremont-Barnes (main editor) (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2006) 653.

Sources

2nd Dragoon Regiment (France)

The 2nd Dragoon Regiment (French: 2e régiment de dragons, 2e RD) is an armoured cavalry unit of the French Army, stationed at Fontevraud-l'Abbaye, by Saumur in Maine-et-Loire. The current regiment is an amalgamation of the old 2nd Dragoon Regiment and the groupe de défense NBC, which took effect in July 2005. It incorporates the capabilities of the previous 2nd Dragoons, which was specialised as a reconnaissance unit, in a new mission as the sole French Army unit dedicated to combatting chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons.

Despite the recent formation of the regiment in its current configuration, it is the oldest French cavalry regiment, dating back to 1556. The regiment found fame as the personal regiment of Louis, Duke of Enghien and later Prince of Condé, from 1635 to 1686; in honour of the "Grand Condé," it is still called the "Condé-Dragons". The French Revolution gave it the designation of the second regiment of dragoons in the French Army, and with brief interruptions it has served under this name in successive French armies ever since.

2nd Pavlograd Life Hussar Regiment

The 2nd Pavlograd Life Hussar Regiment (Russian: 2-й лейб-гусарский Павлоградский полк) was a cavalry regiment of the Imperial Russian Army.

The regiment was originally formed in 1783 as the Pavlograd Light Horse Regiment from the Dnepr and Yekaterinoslav Regiments of Pikemen, although it traced its seniority back to the establishment of both regiments in 1764. It became the Pavlograd Hussar Regiment in 1801, and fought in the Napoleonic Wars, distinguishing itself at the Battle of Schöngrabern during the War of the Third Coalition. The regiment also fought at Austerlitz, Eylau, and Friedland, but served in a secondary theatre during the French invasion of Russia, although it fought in the Battle of Berezina in the latter. Subsequently, it took part in the Russian campaign in Europe, fighting at Leipzig, Craonne and Saint-Dizier.

The regiment went on to fight in the Russo-Turkish War of 1828–1829, the November Uprising, the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, the Crimean War, and the January Uprising.

Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube

The Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube (20–21 March 1814) saw an Imperial French army under Napoleon face a much larger Allied army led by Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg during the War of the Sixth Coalition. On the second day of fighting, Emperor Napoleon suddenly realized the long odds against him and hurriedly ordered a retreat. The French were able to disengage and withdraw to the north because of the hesitations of the Austrian Field Marshal Schwarzenberg. This was Napoleon's penultimate battle before his abdication and exile to Elba, the last being the Battle of Saint-Dizier.

While Napoleon fought against Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher's Russo-Prussian army to the north, Schwarzenberg's army pushed Marshal Jacques MacDonald's army back toward Paris. After his victory at Reims, Napoleon moved south to threaten Schwarzenberg's supply line to Germany. In response, the Austrian field marshal pulled his army back to Troyes and Arcis-sur-Aube. When Napoleon occupied Arcis, the normally cautious Schwarzenberg determined to fight it out rather than retreat. The clashes on the first day were inconclusive and Napoleon mistakenly believed he was following up a retreating enemy. On the second day, the French advanced to high ground and were appalled to see between 74,000 and 100,000 enemies in battle array south of Arcis. After bitter fighting, Napoleon's troops fought their way out, but it was a French setback.

Battle of Fère-Champenoise

The Battle of Fère-Champenoise (25 March 1814) was fought between two Imperial French corps led by Marshals Auguste de Marmont and Édouard Mortier, duc de Trévise and a larger Coalition force composed of cavalry from the Austrian Empire, Kingdom of Prussia, Kingdom of Württemberg, and Russian Empire. Caught by surprise by Field Marshal Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg's main Coalition army, the forces under Marmont and Mortier were steadily driven back and finally completely routed by aggressive Allied horsemen and gunners, suffering heavy casualties and the loss of most of their artillery. Two divisions of French National Guards under Michel-Marie Pacthod escorting a nearby convoy were also attacked and wiped out in the Battle of Bannes. The battleground was near the town Fère-Champenoise located 40 kilometres (25 mi) southwest of Châlons-en-Champagne.

After being defeated at the Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube on 20–21 March 1814, Emperor Napoleon moved to the east. He hoped to draw the Coalition armies away from Paris by cutting their supply lines, but Schwarzenberg's army instead began moving west toward Paris. Meanwhile, Marmont and Mortier were marching to join Napoleon, pursued by Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher's Allied army. As the two marshals moved east near Fère-Champenoise they unexpectedly came into collision with Schwarzenberg heading west and Blücher moving south. Belatedly realizing they were marching into a trap, the French began a withdrawal to the west. After six hours of orderly retreat, a sudden violent rainstorm made it difficult for the French foot soldiers to fire their muskets and the Allies' enormous superiority in cavalry proved decisive. With the corps of Marmont and Mortier crippled, the Allied capture of Paris was practically inevitable and the Battle of Paris followed on 30 March.

Charles Claude Jacquinot

Charles Claude Jacquinot (3 August 1772 – 24 April 1848) commanded a French cavalry division at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. He joined a volunteer battalion in 1791 and transferred to a light cavalry regiment as a junior officer in 1793. He earned promotion to squadron commander and was acting commander of his regiment at Hohenlinden in 1800. After serving in a staff position at Austerlitz in 1805, he led a light cavalry regiment at Jena in 1806. Promoted to general of brigade he led his horsemen at Abensberg, Raab and Wagram in 1809. During the French invasion of Russia he fought at Ostrovno, Smolensk and Borodino in 1812. During the 1813 German Campaign he led a cavalry brigade at Dennewitz and Leipzig. After being appointed general of division he fought at Second Bar-sur-Aube and

Saint-Dizier in 1814. During the Hundred Days he rallied to Napoleon and led a light cavalry division in the Waterloo campaign. After 15 years of inactivity, he was restored to favor in the 1830s. Thereafter he held a number of commands and was appointed to the Chamber of Peers. His surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 20.

Dragons de la Garde Impériale

The Dragons de la Garde impériale (Dragoons of the Imperial Guard) was a heavy cavalry unit formed by Napoleon I through the decree of April 15, 1806. The "dragoon" regiments of the line had distinguished themselves in the German Campaign of 1805, and therefore Napoleon decided to reorganize the cavalry of the Guard and create within it a regiment of dragoon guards. This regiment was colloquially known as the Dragons de l'Impératrice (Empress' Dragoons), in honor of Empress Joséphine. Following the Bourbon Restoration, they were renamed Corps royal des Dragons de France (Dragoons of France Royal Corps) but were disbanded shortly afterwards. The Empress' Dragoons were reformed during the Second Empire (1852-1870).

Jean Antoine de Collaert

Jean Marie Antoine Philippe de Collaert (13 June 1761 – 17 June 1816) led the Dutch-Belgian cavalry division at the Battle of Waterloo. He became an officer in the Habsburg Austrian cavalry in 1778 and later served in the Dutch Republic army until 1786. After the armies of the First French Republic overran the Dutch Republic in 1795, Collaert became a lieutenant colonel of hussars in the new army of the Batavian Republic, a French satellite state. He fought with distinction at the Battle of Castricum in 1799 and was badly wounded fighting the Austrians in 1800. He was promoted colonel in 1803. Under the Kingdom of Holland he became a major general in 1806 and colonel-general of the King's Bodyguard in 1808.

After Holland was annexed to the First French Empire, Collaert entered French service as a general of brigade and was assigned to garrison duty for two years. In 1813 he was appointed to command a French cavalry brigade in the German Campaign. That year he led his horsemen at Dresden, Leipzig and Sainte-Croix-en-Plaine. In 1814 he fought at La Rothière, Mormant and Saint-Dizier. Going to the newly created Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815, he was soon appointed lieutenant general of its cavalry. He was badly wounded at Waterloo on 18 June and died of his injuries a year later.

Joseph Galatte

Joseph Nikolajevič Galatte (Russian: Иосиф Николаевич Галатте; 1760 - 1816) was an Italian-born commander in the Imperial Russian Army during the Napoleonic Wars.

Ligier Richier

Ligier Richier (c. 1500–1567) was a French sculptor active in Saint-Mihiel in north-eastern France.

Richier primarily worked in the churches of his native Saint-Mihiel and from 1530 he enjoyed the protection of Duke Antoine of Lorraine, for whom he did important work. Whilst Richier did sometimes work in wood, he preferred the pale, soft limestone with its fine grain, and few veins, extracted at Saint Mihiel and Sorcy and when working in this medium he experimented with refined polishing techniques, with which he was able to give the stone a marble-like appearance. One of his finest works is the "Groupe de la Passion", consisting of 13 life-size figures made in the local stone of the Meuse region. It can be found in the Church of St. Étienne. It is also known as the "Pâmoison de la Vierge" (Swoon of the Virgin, the Virgin fainting, supported by St John). Other works attributed to him are in the Church of St. Pierre, Bar-le-Duc, and in the Louvre.

His work "Le Transi de René de Chalon" is in the church of Saint-Étienne i, Bar-le-Duc. Made in Sorcy stone and standing at 1m74cm, it depicts the corpse of Rene de Chalon, Prince of Orange (who died on the 15th of July 1544) in the form of a flayed corpse clutching its own heart.

List of battles involving France in modern history

This is a chronological list of the battles involving France in modern history.

For earlier conflicts, see List of battles involving France. These lists do not include the battles of the French civil wars (as the Wars of Religion, the Fronde, the War in the Vendée) unless a foreign country is involved; this list includes neither the peacekeeping operations (such as Operation Artemis, Operation Licorne) nor the humanitarian missions supported by the French Armed Forces.

The list gives the name, the date, the present-day location of the battles, the French allies and enemies, and the result of these conflicts following this legend:

French military victory

French military defeat

Indecisive or unclear outcome

Ongoing conflict

VI Cavalry Corps (Grande Armée)

The VI Cavalry Corps of the Grande Armée was the name of a French military formation that had an ephemeral existence during the Napoleonic Wars. The corps was created on 9 February 1814 and François Étienne de Kellermann was appointed as its commander. The corps was formed by combining a newly arrived dragoon division from the Spanish front, a second dragoon division and a light cavalry division made up of hussars and chasseurs à cheval. The latter two divisions included units from the former III Cavalry Corps. Kellermann led the VI Cavalry Corps in actions at Mormant, Troyes, Second Bar-sur-Aube, Laubressel and Saint-Dizier. After Emperor Napoleon abdicated in early April 1814, the corps ceased to exist.

Éclaireurs of the Guard

The Éclaireurs of the Guard (French: Éclaireurs de la Garde) was a Corps of cavalry scouts of the French Imperial Guard, which included three cavalry regiments created by Napoleon when he reorganised the Imperial Guard following the disaster of the 1812 campaign in Russia. The Corps was created in Article I of the decree of 4 December 1813.The 1st regiment was divided into the Old Guard and Young Guard squadrons, with the first two wearing a uniform of the hussars, also sometimes known as Hussards Éclaireurs, and the others wearing a coatee similar to the Chasseurs a Cheval.All three regiments were organised into four squadrons with 250 sabres in two companies each. Due to insufficient recruits, an appeal was made for volunteers from the Cavalry of the Line, and 1,005 troopers eventually were added to the regimental rolls. Although half of the Éclaireurs were armed with 2.75m long lances issued in 1812 to the line regiments, and the rest with carbines, the regiments were rarely employed as lancers in battle, more usually acting as scouts for the Army as a whole. The lances had crimson over white pennons although none were initially intended for issue, and many troopers were lacking these also. The rest of the weapons equipping the Éclaireurs were the standard Chasseur a Cheval model Year XIII cavalry pistols and model Year IX light cavalry sabre. Due to general lack of equipment only the 3rd regiment was able to obtain shabraques, with only officers being so equipped in the 1st and 2nd regiments.The regiments, owing to their scouting role, were not issued Eagles.

Belli-
gerents
Major
battles
Info

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.