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The Battle of La F�re-Champenoise, 1814

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Sirdar Bahadur

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  Quote Temujin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: The Battle of La F�re-Champenoise, 1814
    Posted: 21-Oct-2004 at 13:50

can you believe it? a small force of cavalry only and a few batteries of horse artillery (under the crown pricne Wilhelm fo Wrttemberg and Grandpricne Constantin of Russia) was able to defeat a many times larger army under two French marshalls (Mortier, Marmont)? but it really happened, i will post details later. the numbers were:

French: 12.700 infantry, 4000 cavalry, 84 cannons

Allies (Wrttemberg, Russians, Austrians): 12.000 Cavalry, 48 cannons

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  Quote Quetzalcoatl Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Oct-2004 at 20:21

can you believe it? a small force of cavalry only and a few batteries of horse artillery (under the crown pricne Wilhelm fo Wrttemberg and Grandpricne Constantin of Russia) was able to defeat a many times larger army under two French marshalls (Mortier, Marmont)? but it really happened, i will post details later. the numbers were:

French: 12.700 infantry, 4000 cavalry, 84 cannons

Allies (Wrttemberg, Russians, Austrians): 12.000 Cavalry, 48 cannons

 

  I don't think this battle is representative of the french Napoleonic army. these were probably demoralised rookies (at the end of the war especially). usually Napoleonic armies were very tough and would usually win  despite being outnumbered. 

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  Quote Temujin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Oct-2004 at 13:10

in this battle, 12.700 french infantrymen with 84 cannons, 4000 cavalry under Marshall Mortier, Marshall Marmont and General Count de Belliard (who had replaced the woudned Grouchy) faced 12.000 Wrttemebrgian, Russian and Austrian cavalry (without any infnatry support) with 48c annons udner crownprince Wilhelm of Wrttemberg, Grandprince Constantine, General-Lieutenant Pahlen and Fieldmarshall-Lieutenant Nostitz.
the Wrttemebrgians had just recently changed fronts, in 1813 they were still supporting Napoleon.

Fere-Champenoise lies south-east of Etoges, 70 miles east of Paris. on march 23rd, Marmont's VI. Corps and Mortier'S young guard were nine miles west of Sommesous when Mortier received order from napoleon to join forces with Marmont and march east as fast as possible. on march 25th, the French met with the allies between Soude-St.Croix and Soude-Notre-Dame on the road from Troyes to Chalons. a cavalry scout-patrol of prince Adam of Wrttemberg met on a French avantgarde which they took captive. the captives confirmed the presence of both french marshalls.
Prince Adam of W. let bring forward two cannons to fire a few shots after which the French deployed a battle line.
Between 8 and 9 am crownprince Wilhelm arrived with the rest of the cavalry at the scene and ordered an immediate charge. count Piotr of Pahlen with cossacks, Russian Hussars and the Kretov Cuirassiers on the right, the crownpricne on the left. after short ressistance the French withdrew from Sommesous while the cavalry was able to penetrate the arrieregarde and slained a lot of enemies.
the French formed a new defensive line. Mortier's guard was placed slightly ahead left of Sommesous, Marmont's Corps to the right.
crownprince Wilhelm let bring forward his artillery to set the enemy line udner fire. a heated artillery skirmish developed while Mortier retreated to form a common line with Marmont's units between Vassimont and Montpreux.
now the Cuirassiers of Nostitz arrived on the field. Count Pahlen's division looked for a passage over the swampy ground that protected the swampy ground of the French right wing.
Prince Adam's Brigade prepared for a frontal charge. in the first wave the Division Nostitz in divisional columns (a front of two squadrons), the Wrttembergians on the wings.
it was noon. first the Archduke Ferdinand Hussars together with the Prince Adam Chasseurs attacked. two squadrons of the latter skirmished behidn the battle line with French Hussars and Chasseurs and threw them back after a while. the French cavalry fell back and tried to regroup to charge again. however they've been thrown back several times and left the battlefield.
General Belliards "Spanish Dragoons" (the 5th, 6th, 21st, 25th and 26th dragoons with the 23rd chasseurs) replaced the retired horsemen.
General von Jett intercepted them with the remaining 2 squadrons of the Wrttemberg Chasseurs. a fight man vs man developed in which the Spanish Dragoons were routed.
in the meantime Nostitz attacked the enemy battery in the centre. Delfours brigade has been hit severely by grapeshots, got disordered and had to withdrew. additionally hit by Bordesoulles cuirassiers they had to leave the scene of battle.
Liechtenstein's cuirassiers were now surrounded by enemy cavalry and in a very dangerous position.
the situation in the centre forced the Pricne Adam regiment to withdrew. Crownprince Wilhelm placed himself on the head of the Archduke Ferdinand Hussars to make a counterattack. the Chasseurs joined them. they succeeded in closeing the lines and to save the Liechtenstein Cuirassiers from their dangerous position.
now the regiments had to be rallied which took quite some time. during the regrouping of the allies, Mortier and Marmont took up a new line bewteen Conantry and Clamage, the infantry in squares,t eh cavalry behind them.
at this point crownprince Wilhelm received news that grandprince Constantine with the Russian guards are on their way via Poivre to attackt he French on their right wing.
Count Pahlen joned forces with Crownprince Wilhelm and Nostitz. the cavalry of the allies now charged at the French squares. Prince Adams Chasseurs charged a square formed by 1000 Tirailleurs of the young guard. the charge was thrown off. the second charge couldn't break the guardmen either. on the third charge they were able to break into the square and captureing 2 cannons, but he square held it's line.
only the 4th charge in which the Archduke Ferdinand Hussars uner general von Jett participated succeeded. shortly before strong rain fell down that disturbed the French. the Tirailleurs were scattered, many of them slain. the French started to withdrew through Conantry.
in the meantime the Archduke Ferdinand Hussars and the Russian Guard-Cuirassiers broke another square (Garde Voltigeurs).
Conantry was completely blocked by abandoned train of all kind. the cavalrymen had to struggle through all the chaos and wherever possible, cross the river.
because of the marshy terrain, the wrttembergian artilelry couldn't follow anymore.
around 2pm the French were on a general retreat to the west, around Fre-Champenoise tot he heights of Broussy-le-Grande and St. Loup.
after the regrouping of their regiments and passing the defile at Conantry, Count Pahlen and Prince Adam watted to attack the retreating French on their left and Grandprince Constantine on their right wing.
the allies had now concentrated 10.000 cavalrymen. appx. around this time Marmont heard cannons far behidn the lines. it eh assumption it were the untis of Napoleon that came to their aid, he changed the marching direction and now headed eastwards (in fact it was the skirmish bewteen the French under Amey and Pacthod who were utterly defeated by the Silesian army).
Marmont'S cavalry met with Russian cannons. the joy over their easy prey was short - premier-lieutenant von Reinhard with the Prince Adam Chasseurs, supported by an Austrian Cuirassier regiment immediately charged in and saved cannons and crew. the French cavalry withdrew.
the darkness canceled further actions. the overtired allies were not able to pursuit the French further.

the french lost at Fre-Champenoise 5.000 men death and wounded. together with Ameys and Pacthods units together 10.000 prisoners, 80 cannons and 250 baggage wagons.
the allies lost appx. 2.000 men.
the corps of Marmont and Mortier was so severely hit that they were not able to fight for the next time.

Fre-Champenoise was the last major battle before the fall of Paris on the 30. march 1814.


participating units:

French:

Marshall Mortier with 8 batallions of the young guard with Tirailleurs and Voltigeurs....overall appx. 3.878 men
VI. Corps - Marshall Marmont with 2 Divisions Infantry and a light cavalry division....overall appx. 11.330 men
cavalry-corps belliard with 4 divisions and 2 brigades....overall appx 4000 cavalrymen

allies:

IV. Corps Crownprince Wilhelm of Wrttemberg....overall 8 squadrons
Grandprince Constantine - Guard (russian)....overall 54 squadrons
VI. Corps General-lieutenant of Pahlen (Russian)....overall 24 squadrons and 5 pulks Cossacks
Fieldmarshall-Lieutenant Coutn Nostitz Cuirassiers, Hussars, Chevaux-legers....overall 28 squadrons

source:
Digby Smith, CHARGE, Great Cavalry Charges of the Napoleonic Wars, London, 2003 (translated from a German translation)

 

the Prince Adam Jger (Chasseurs) were promoted to Leib-(Lifeguard) Carabiniers thereafter.

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