The Battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras 16 June 1815 Friday, Mar 9 2012 

Vauban Tile 500 pixels

Vauban Tile 500 pixels

The battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras were fought at the opening of invasion of Belgium in the the hundred days campaign, and Napoleon’s attempt to reassert his control over France. This double battle, fought simultaneously a mere 8 miles apart, had a profound influence on the final battles, fought 2 days later at Waterloo and Wavre which ended the Napoleonic era. The story begins the year before.

Sent into exile by the coalition that defeated him, Napoleon’s restless energy set about improving his new island home.

The call to power still resided within him.

Napoleon’s chance for glory came when his jailer, Sir Neil Campbell briefly left the island. Swiftly, Napoleon and his followers threw their lot in with the fates  and the reaction of the French people.

Landing on the southern coast of France, a call to arms was issued to his former army.

Napoleon 100 days

Napoleon pressed on further along the Route Napoleon through the Alps, and found the door to power unlocked. At the senior levels of France, the move was regarded with bemusement, rather than alarm. Troops were sent to intercept the rebellion.

The first true test of Napoleon’s gamble paid off.

The 5th infantry fell under the old master’s spell.

Sensing the danger, Louis XVIII sent Marshal Ney and a force to stop Napoleon. The true test had come.

With Ney’s defection, the gamble had paid off. Napoleon continued pressing on to Paris with his growing army and band of supporters.

Vive l’empereur! A bas les prêtres! A bas les nobles! A l’echafaud les bourbons! Vive la liberté!  (Long live the Emperor! Down with the priests! Down with the aristocrats! Hang the Bourbons! Long live freedom!) cried the Parisians.  Napoleon had regained control of France, and Louis XVIII fled his country.

The rest of Europe resolved to end the rule of Napoleon, once and for all. Meeting at the Congress of Vienna, the powers that fought against Napoleon formed the Seventh Coalition to fight France once more.

The 1814 campaign which first removed Napoleon from power, involved simultaneous attacks on France from the North and South. The strategy was to be repeated on a grand scale. Only the Prussian and Anglo-Dutch armies were in the field in Belgium to oppose the French. They would  be joined by Armies from the German States, Austria, Naples, Spain and Sweden, with a large Russian army forming a reserve. Once in place by the end of summer 1815, they would advance on all fronts and overwhelm Napoleon and France.

Aware of the threat coming towards him, Napoleon faced a choice. He could either go on the defensive, using the shorter internal lines of communication to defeat the planned mass invasion,  or attack the Prussian and Anglo-Dutch  armies in the field as soon as possible and knock them out. This was perhaps the riskier military option, but politically it might force Britain to withdraw from the coalition, and force the remainder to accept Napoleonic rule in France. It would also allow France to capture the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which would accept French rule again, providing more troops if required.

Napoleon chose to attack the Prussians and the Anglo-Dutch, with the assault planned for early June, once the French army of the North was ready.

Opposing them were the Prussians, under the command of Feldmarschall von Blücher.

and the composite Anglo-German-Dutch army, under the command of the Duke of Wellington.

The chosen point of attack would be the ‘hinge’ joining the two armies together.

This method of attack, used successfully by Napoleon many times before was called the strategy of the central position. Schematics of how this was intended to work in the hundred days campaign are shown below. The opening attack aimed to drive a wedge between the two allied armies, with the French advancing with two wings, supported by a reserve.

The French army corps system allowed an individual corps to fight a much larger enemy in a pinning action, releasing further corps to conduct flank attacks on the other enemy pinned down by the second wing of the French. Local superiority of force, combined with flanks attacks would normally be sufficient to rout the first enemy.

Part of the French right wing would pursue the broken enemy, who would fall back towards their line of communication, hence safety. The remainder of the French would rapidly countermarch and relieve the pinning corps facing the other enemy.

The newly composed French force would again achieve local superiority of force and outflank their enemy, thus defeating them.

The French troop concentrations proceeded with great stealth, with the Allied armies unaware of the threat.

The French massed at the border, between the Anglo-Dutch and Prussian armies.

14th June 1815

The night before the attack, Napoleon issued his order of the day, reminding the French that two famous battles (Marengo and Friedland) were fought on this day. The moment had come to conquer or die!

The Prussians began to stir from their lethargy, as reports of the French Troop concentrations reached them.

Early morning, 15th June.

The French advanced on the morning of the 15th June, initially in three columns, straight for the gap between the Allied armies, brushing aside the Prussian screen.

The realm of chance intervened, with General de Bourmont defecting to the Prussians, taking the initial French war plan with him, and confusion in III corps due to a riding accident.

Unable to hold back the attack, the Prussian I corps fell back towards Ligny. The Prussians hurried to concentrate; a potentially dangerous move without support from the Anglo-Dutch army.

Afternoon, 15th June. 

News of the invasion reached the Duke of Wellington in Brussels some 12 hours after the French invasion. Initially Wellington chose to disbelieve the direction of the French advance, believing it to be a feint.

de Rebecque, Chief of Staff to the Prince of Orange, ordered troops to hold the vital crossroads at Quatre Bras. This act of  independent action saved the allied armies, by preserving the road link between them.

Evening, 15th June.

The Duke of Wellington appeared calm when he attended the Duchess of Richmond’s ball on the evening of 15th June. This event was planned in the social calendar well in advance of the French attack.  Bryon’s poem, ‘The Eve of Waterloo’, captures the change from careless sang froid, to heart felt partings, and preparations for war, as news arrived of the French attack.

With the French before Quatre Bras, and the Prussians concentrating for battle tomorrow, Wellington finally understood how exposed his army and the Allied position was.

“Napoleon has humbugged me, by God! He has gained twenty four hours march on me.”
 
‘What do you intend doing?’
 
I have ordered the army to concentrate at Quatre Bras; but we shall not stop him there, and if so, I must fight him here (Waterloo)’
Capt Bowles, Coldstream Guards

Meanwhile, the Prussian army rushed to concentrate their four corps, ready for battle the next day.

Napoleon rested at Charleroi, secure in the knowledge his plan had succeeded so far. He could attack either the Prussians or the Anglo-Dutch as conditions allowed.

The initiative lay with the French if only they would act fast enough.

Early morning, 16th June.

At Charleroi, sent a message to Marshal Ney outlining his intention for the campaign. News soon reached him that the Prussians were concentrating their troops for battle.

Napoleon began concentrating his troops on the right flank to strike the Prussians first.

Meanwhile, Marshal Ney headed to Quatre Bras on the morning of 16th June. Napoleon’s orders reached him late in the morning, which stirred Ney into action against the few thousand Dutch troops before him.

The Duke of Wellington was also on the move on the 16th June, and rode down to Quatre Bras, ahead of the troops he’d ordered there. Seeing a quiet position, he rode over to the battlefield to meet the Prussians.

Midday, 16th June, at Quatre Bras.

Marshal Ney received a dispatch from Marshal Soult, Napoleon’s Chief of Staff, urging action against the crossroads before him.

The battlefield at Quatre Bras had a number of fortified farmhouses, a feature of the countryside. There were two thick woods, of which Bossau wood was to be sternly contested. Cornfields covered the ground, which were exceptionally high for the time of year. Some gentle slopes were also located between the farmhouse of Gemioncourt.

The main roads ran south – north, from Charleroi to Brussels, and south east to north west, from Namur to Nivelles, with the crossroad formed at Quatre Bras. The French could expect reinforcements from the south (Charleroi), and the Anglo Dutch from the north (Brussels) and north west (Nivelles).

Midday, 16th June, at Ligny.

Napoleon’s sappers built him an observation platform on a windmill for him to survey the Prussian position.

‘The old Fox (Blücher) will not stir out. They are going utterly to be smashed.’
Emperor Napoleon I

The French would accept the offer of battle from the Prussians and fight them this day.

On the other side of Ligny Brook, a meeting took place between Feldmarschall von Blücher and the Duke of Wellington, as they surveyed the impending battlefield.

‘At this moment we noticed in the distance a party of the enemy, and Napoleon was clearly distinguishable in the group. Perhaps the eyes of the three greatest military commanders of the age were directed on one another.’
von Reiche, Chief of Staff to Ziethen I Corps

 

Wellington offered his advice on how he would deploy the troops if they were his army, making use of reverse slopes, to shelter them from any French artillery fire and to keep them guessing. Despite his reservations regarding the outcome, he pledged to bring his army to their aid provided he was not attacked himself at Quatre Bras.

Between ~ 2:00 and 3:00pm

At Quatre Bras

At the start of the battle, the French had close to 3:1 superiority in overall numbers of troops, compared to the Dutch troops facing them. Despite this clear advantage, their progress in taking the key defensive farmhouses on the southern edge of the battlefield was slow.  The Duke of Wellington arrived on the battlefield. It was clear his commitment to Blücher and the Prussians would be delayed, as his army would have to fight their way past the French first.

At Ligny

Despite being outnumbered by a 5:4 ratio, Napoleon felt confident of victory as he expected Marshal Ney to support his attack in a flanking move. Similarly, von Blücher expecting reinforcements from Wellington also felt confident.

The Ligny battlefield was encompassed by a series of villages, heavily fortified by the Prussians. Before the villages, the marshy Ligny brook ran, aiding the defensive line the Prussians had occupied. The French would assault, the Prussians defend.

It was a very hot summers day, making the battle more wearisome for the combatants.

Between ~ 3:00 and 4:00pm

At Quatre Bras

Marshal Ney received an order from Napoleon urging the taking of the crossroads. Before the farmhouses of Gemioncourt and Piramont could fall to the French, British reinforcements were seen approaching from Brussels.

The 5th Division of Peninsular veteran troops, togther with a brigade of Brunswickers appeared at just the right time for the Allied army. The battle line now formed an arc. During the course of the fight, the Duke of Brunswick was killed in action.

At Ligny

The sound of cannons firing at the battle of Quatre Bras convinced Napoleon that his own flank was secure, and that he could begin his battle plan. This was to be a battle of attrition, steadily wearing down the Prussian front line until all their reserves were committed. At that point, the Imperial Guard could attack the weakest point in the Prussian line.

The assault began at St Amand, by Vandamme’s III Corps, and countered by troops from the Prussian I corps.

Followed quickly by an  assault on Ligny, by Gérard’s IV Corps. The battle here was contested strongly by both sides.

‘the combat was maintained on both sides with equal obstinacy; each soldier seemed to meet his adversary with personal rancour, and each had resolved, it is evident, to give no quarter.’

On the eastern flank, the action was more limited, with the Prussian II corps holding off probing attacks by the French. Eye witnesses, including von Clausewitz, the Chief of Staff to III Corps couldn’t believe anyone could survive in the village of Ligny as it went up in flames.

In the midst of the action, Marshal Soult, Chief of Staff sent a dispatch to Marshal Ney at Quatre Bras, requesting his assistance by a flanking attack on the Prussians.

But news soon arrived that Ney was fighting a considerable force. d’Erlon’s I Corps, at present uncommitted to either battle would have to suffice for Napoleon’s planned flanking movement, and messages were sent to that effect.

Between ~ 4:00 and 5:00pm

At Quatre Bras

Marshal Ney received another message from Napoleon. He failed to understand the Emperor’s intention.

Meanwhile, the realm of chance intervened. A messenger intercepted I Corps on its way to Quatre Bras. The commanding officer, d’Erlon was ordered to march to the battlefield at Ligny, which he duly did. But the messenger failed to ride on and tell Marshal Ney of the change of plan.

Back at Quatre Bras, a fierce action broke out between Pack’s brigade (42nd ‘Black Watch’ Highlanders, and 44th East Essex) and an attack by French lancers. The cavalry almost caught the Highlanders before forming a defensive square and being repulsed. The 44th regiment had no time to form square, but turned around to face the attack from their rear in line. After a brief exchange of fire and nearly losing their colours, the attack was beaten off.

Sergeant James Anton of the 42nd Highlanders, gave a vivid account of being in action during this phase of the battle.

“Our sudden appearance seemed to paralyse their advance.  The singular appearance about dress, combined, no doubt, with our sudden debut, tended to stagger their resolution – we were on them, our pieces were loaded, and our bayonets glittered, impatient to drink their blood.  Those who had so proudly driven the Belgians before them, turned now to fly, whilst our loud cheers made the fields echo to our wild hurrahs.

We drove on so fast that we almost appeared like a mob following the rout of some defeated faction.  Marshal Ney, who commanded the enemy observed our wild unguarded zeal, and ordered a regiment of Lancers to bear down upon us.  We saw their approach at a distance, as they issued from a wood, and took them for Brunswickers coming to cut up the flying infantry; and as cavalry on all occasions have the advantage of retreating foot, on a fair field, we were halted in order to let them take their way; they were approaching our right flank, from which our skirmishers were extended, and we were far from being in the formation fit to repel an attack, if intended, or to afford regular supports to our friends if acquiring our aid.  I think we stood with too much confidence, gazing towards them as if they had been our friends, anticipating the gallant charge they would make on the flying foe, and we were making no comparative motions movement to receive them as enemies, further than the reloading of the muskets, until the German orderly dragoon gallops out, exclaiming, Franchee! Franchee! and wheeling about, galloped off.

We instantly formed a rallying square; no time for peculiarity; every man’s piece was loaded, and our enemies approach that for charge; the feet of their horses seemed to tear up the ground.  Our skirmishers having been impressed with the same opinion that these were Brunswick cavalry, fell beneath their lances, and a few escaped death all wounds; our brave Colonel [Sir Robert Macara] fell at this time, pierced through the chin until the point of demands reached the brain.  Captain Menzies fell, covered with wounds, and a momentary conflict took place over him; he was a powerful man, and, hand to hand, more than a match for six ordinary men.  The Grenadiers, whom he commanded, pressed around to save or avenge him, but fell beneath the enemies’ lances.

Of all descriptions of cavalry, certainly the Lancers seemed the most formidable to infantry, as the lances can be projected with considerable precision, and with deadly effect, without bringing the horse to the point of the bayonet; and it was only by the rapid and well directed fire of musketry that these formidable assailants were repulsed.

Colonel Dick assumed the command on the fall of Sir Robert Macara, and was severely wounded.  Brevet-Major Davidson succeeded, and was mortally wounded; to him succeeded Brevet-Major Campbell.  Thus, in a few minutes, we have been placed under four different commanding officers.  An attempt was now to make us form in line; for we stood mixed in one irregular mass — Grenadiers, light, and battalion companies — a noisy group; such is the inevitable consequence of the rapid succession of commanders.  Our covering sergeants or called out on purpose of each company might fall on the right of its sergeant, an excellent plan had been adopted, but a cry arose that another charge of cavalry was approaching, and this plan was abandoned.

Our last file had got into square, and into its proper place, so far as unequalised companies could form square, when the cuirassiers dashed on two of its faces; their heavy horses and steel armour seemed sufficient to bury us under them, had they been pushed forward onto our bayonets.  A moment’s pause ensued; it was the pause of death.  General Pack was on the right angle of the front face of the square, and he lifted his hat towards the French officer, as he was wanted to do when returning a salute.  I suppose our assailants construed our forbearance as an indication of surrendering; a false idea; not a blow had been struck nor a musket levelled, but when the general raised his hat it served as a signal, though not a preconcerted one, but entirely accidental; for we were doubtful whether our officer commanding was protracting the order, waiting for the general’s commands, as he was present. Be this as it may, a most destructive fire was opened; riders cased in heavy armour, fell tumbling from their horses; the horses reared, plunged, and fell on the dismounted riders; steel helmets and cuirasses rang against unsheathed sabres as they fell to the ground…”

At Ligny

The French II Corps under the command of General Girad attempted to storm La Haye, a move spotted by Blücher.

‘Now, children behave well! Do not allow the great nation to rule over you again!
Vorwärts, vorwärts, in Gottes Namen.’
von Blücher
The Prussians repulsed the French and General Girad was killed in the struggle.

At Wagnelée  the battle also raged.

And at Ligny the fight went on, as recounted by these two accounts. The first is French.

“When within two hundred yards of the hedges which concealed thousands of Prussian sharpshooters, the regiment took up battle order, while still on the march. The charge was sounded and the soldiers went through the hedges. The 1st Brigade’s left half battalion, to which I belonged, went down a hollow track blocked by felled trees, vehicles, harrows and ploughs, and we got past these only after considerable difficulty and under extreme fire from the Prussians hidden behind the hedges, which were extremely thick. Eventually we overcame these obstacles and, firing as we went entered the village. When we reached the church, our advance was halted by a stream, and the enemy, in houses, behind walls and on rooftops, inflicted considerable casualties, as much by musketry as by grapeshot and cannon balls, which took us from front and flank.

        In a moment Major Hervieux, commanding the regiment, and the two battalion commanders, Richard and Lafolie, had been killed; another battalion commander, Blain by name, was slightly wounded and had his horse killed from under him; five captains were killed and three wounded, and close on seven hundred rank and file killed or wounded.

        As for me, I escaped with nothing worse than bruises on my thighs and right leg. Not for a long time had I fought with such dash and devotion. The confusion into which the enemy threw us made me curse my existence. I was so angry at seeing a fight conducted so badly that I wanted to get myself killed. No one was in command. No generals, no staff officers, no aide-de-camp were in sight. The regiment lost two thirds of its strength without receiving either reinforcements or orders, and were obliged to retreat in disorder, leaving our wounded on the ground. We rallied near our batteries, which were firing like hell at the enemy’s guns.

Captain Christophe and I rallied what remained of the regiment, and I can say to my own glory that the troops were pleased to see me still among them, and they asked me to lead them back into action. Despite the setback, the battalion had taken some five hundred prisoners.

        Just as we were busy collecting the regiment, General Rôme arrived and ordered us back into Ligny village. The men, not ay all disheartened by their failure, nor disturbed by the loss of nearly two thirds of their comrades, shouted ‘Vive l’Empereur!’ and advanced. Captain Christophe had the charge sounded, the battalion re-entered the village, but was repulsed. It rallied and forced its way in three times more, only to suffer the same reverse each time”.

Captain Charles François, 30th Line at Ligny.

The second account is Prussian.

“Presently the colonel rode up to us and said, ‘Riflemen, you are young, I am afraid too ardent; calmness makes the soldier; hold yourselves in order’; then he turned round: March! – and the dull half suffocated drum, from within the deep columns, was heard beating such delicious music. Now, at last, was all to be realized for which we had left our homes, had suffered so many fatigues, had so ardently longed. The bugle gave the signal of halt; we were in front of the village of Ligny. The signal was given for the riflemen to march out to the right and left of the column, and to attack.

        Our ardour now led us entirely beyond the proper limits; the section to which I belonged ran madly, without firing, towards the enemy, who retreated. My hindman fell; I rushed on, hearing well but not heeding the urgent calls of our old sergeant. The village was intersected with thick hedges, from behind which the grenadiers fired upon us, but we drove them from one to the other. I forgetting altogether to fire and what I ought to have done, tore the red plume from one of the grenadiers’ caps, and swung it over my head, calling triumphantly to my comrades. At length we arrived at a road crossing the village lengthwise, and sergeant major had now succeeded in his attempt to bring us somewhat back to our reason. There was a house around the corner of which he suspected that a number of French lay. ’Be cautious’, he said to me, ‘until the others are up’, but I stepped round and a grenadier stood about fifteen paces from me; he aimed at me, I levelled my rifle at him. ‘Aim well, my boy’, said the sergeant-major, who saw me. My antagonist’s ball grazed my hair on the right side; I shot and he fell; I found I had shot through his face; he was dying. This was my first shot ever fired in battle.

        Several times I approached old soldiers in the battle, to ask them whether this was really a good sound battle, and when they told me, as heavy a one a Dennewitz (1813), one of the most sanguinary engagements in which our regiment or, in fact, any regiment had ever fought, I was delighted. All I had feared was that I should not have the honour of assisting in a thorough battle”.

Franz Lieber, Colberg Regiment at Ligny.

Between ~ 5:00 and 6:00pm

At Quatre Bras

Marshal Ney finally received the news that I Corps were marching to the Battle of Ligny, not the Battle of Quatre Bras. Furious at the news and the loss of troops he believed he needed to win at Quatre Bras, he immediately ordered I Corps to return to him.

Ney received another message from Napoleon commanding him to wheel about and fall on the Prussians engaged at Ligny. But the French had to fight where they were against an enemy that was steadily growing in strength.

It did not occur to Ney to rescind the orders he’d just given to I Corps, and allow part of his wing to obey Napoleon’s summons.

At Ligny

The long expected appearance of d’Erlon’s I Corps on the western flank had failed to appear, but instead an unidentified column approached the rear of III Corps, stalling the attacks on La Haye and St Amand. Rather than move the Imperial Guard towards Ligny for the coup de grâce, Napoleon had to send the Young Guard to help Vandamme’s III corps.

This created a  delay and time for the Prussians to reorganise, and launch a counterattack, led by Blücher himself. The French fell back in disarray.

Soldiers, are you not ashamed to to fall back before these same men whom you have beaten so many times, who begged for mercy while throwing their weapons at your feet at Austerlitz, Jena and Friedland? Attack and you will see them once more flee and recognise you as their conquerors!”
General de La Bédoyère

The Young Guard appeared and they retook St Amand, ending the crisis for the French.

The battle still raged on in Ligny.

With d’Erlon’s I Corps identified as the mystery troops, which had threatened III Corps, Napoleon called for them to join him in the final attack. The realm of chance intervened again, when Ney’s order of recall arrived. A furious argument broke out, with the officers and men wishing to fight in the battle before their eyes.

But d’Erlon obeyed the orders of his line commander, and marched I Corps back to Quatre Bras, this taking no part in either battle.

Napoleon had no time to lose. He still had a battle to win, and sent the Imperial Guard forwards under darkening skies from a thunderstorm.

Between ~ 6:00 and 8:00pm

At Quatre Bras

Faced with increasing numbers of Allied troops, Marshal Ney ordered the newly arrived heavy cavalry reserve to attack.

‘General, a supreme effort is necessary. That mass of hostile infantry must be overthrown. The fate of France is in your hands. Take your cavalry and ride them down. I will support you with all the cavalry I have.”
Ney to Kellerman
General Kellerman and his Cuirassiers obeyed.

The finest cavalry in Europe swept forward to be met by infantry;  some caught in line, some in square.

Another account of being under attack by cavalry in a square was given by Ensign Edward Macready, 30th Foot.

“We soon reached Quatre Bras, and on turning the end of the wood found ourselves bodily in the battle.  The roaring of great guns and musketry, the bursting of shells, and shouts of the combatants raised an infernal game, while the squares and lines, the galloping of horses mounted and riderless, the mingled crowds of wounded and fugitives (foreigners), the volumes of smoke and flashing of fire, struck out of steam which accorded admirably with the music.  As we passed the spot where the 44th, old chums of ours inSpain, had suffered considerably, the poor wounded fellows raised themselves up and welcomed us with faint shouts,

 ‘Push on old three tens — pay ’em off for the 44th, – you’re much wanted, boys — success to you, my darlings.’

 Here we met our old Colonel riding out of the field, shot through the leg; he pointed to it and cried, ‘They’ve tickle me again, my boys — now one leg can’t laugh at the other.’

 Hamilton showed us where our regiment was, and we reached it just as a body of lancers and cuirassiers enveloped two faces of our square.  We formed up to the left and fired away.  The tremendous volly our square, which in a hurry of formation was much overmanned on the sides attacked, gave them, sending off these fellows with the loss of the number of men, and their commanding officer.  He was a gallant soldier, and fell while crying to his men ‘Advancez, mes enfants – courage – encore une fois, Francais.’

 I don’t know what might have been my sensations on entering this field truly, but I was so fagged and choked with running and was crammed so suddenly into the very thick of the business, but I can’t recollect thinking at all, except that the poor Highlanders (over whom I stumbled or had to jump almost every step) were most provokingly distributed.

On our impulse of the cavalry, a general outside the Square (said to be St Thomas Picton) thanked us warmly, and some seconds after, in still out of terms, damned us all for making such a noise, and asked if we had no officers amongst us.  We were half a minute in the square laughing and shaking hands with all about us, when we were ordered to pursue, and dashing out, was soon brought up by a line of tirailleurs, with whom we kept up a briskish fire…. The cannonade and skirmishing were lively on both sides, while the heavy fire from the wood in our rear showed that the guards and the enemy were hotly disputing it.”

But the Cuirassiers broke one English regiment of foot, and scattered another.

Between ~ 6:00 and 7:00pm

At Quatre Bras, the tide was turning against the French and in favour of the Duke of Wellington and his multinational army, as weight of reinforcements began to tell, with the Allied army having superiority of 3:2.

Another account of the battle is from Captain Bourdon de Vatry.

“Prince Jerome was struck on the hip, but fortunately the ball hit the massive gold scabbard of his sword first and did not penetrate, so he came off with nothing worse than a severe bruise which made in turn pale.  Mastering his pain, the Prince remained on horseback at the head of his division, thereby giving us all an example of courage and self-sacrifice.  His coolness had an excellent effect.  The 8th cuirassiers, commanded by Colonel Garavaque, were about to launch a strong attack on the Scottish Square; the regiment gave the Prince an ovation, and the brave horsemen, having broken the square and captured the enemies colours, presented this trophy to the ex King [of Westpahlia].  The position at Quatre Bras had just been taken by Kellermann’s cavalry.  Marshal Ney was impatiently awaiting the arrival of d’Erlon’s 1st Corps, when he learned that the Emperor had altered the direction of this corps and summoned it to join him at St Amand.  At the same moment an unaccountable panic seized Kellermann’s cavalry, which fled back hell for leather after knocking over their commander.  Kellermann had the presence of mind to cling to the bits of two of his cuirassiers horses and so avoid being trampled underfoot.

 As the infantry of the 1st Corps did not come, since it had been sent for to the battlefield of illegally, the enemy reoccupied Quatre Bras position and we were only too happy to prevent the English from going to the aid of the Prussians.  This was all we could do in the face of the considerable forces then holding Quatre Bras. 

 People then set to work to bandage the wounded, and we bivouacked for the night. Unfortunately there were no rations, so the soldiers began to wonder about the countryside, marauding in order to live.”

By now, the Duke of Wellington with extra reinforcements ordered a broad advance, and pushed the French from the battlefield at Quatre Bras.

At Ligny

The battle which had raged all afternoon moved to its climax.

“I had reason to be satisfied with the conduct of my new regiment on this brilliant day. Having dislodged the Prussians from Saint Amand after repeated attacks, the brigade composed of the 70th and ourselves was ordered to deploy beyond the village to act as a screen. At the approach of the enemy cavalry we  prepared to receive them in squares, regiment by regiment, and chequerwise. The 70th, on my left, were attacked by the Prussians with great determination, but in my view the enemy would not have driven home their charge had not the wretched 70th, without even waiting for the Prussians, suddenly taken fright and retreated, only to be caught almost immediately and sabred. Had their panic infected my 22nd, then our brigade would have been lost, but my soldiers stood firm, repulsed the enemies charge, covered the ground with men and horses they had brought down with their accurate firing, and so the situation was restored. The fugitives from the 70th were able to rally behind my square, and they took up their positions again on my left in the same order as before.

        Tempted by the weakness of the 70th rather than deterred by my regiment’s firmness and good musketry, other bodies of Prussian cavalry tried to charge us; but this time the 70th, inspired by the voice of their excellent commanding officer, Colonel Maury, did their duty, and the attackers were repeatedly driven off and severely mauled in the process. Seeing that their efforts were useless, the Prussians took advantage of a fold in the ground and brought up two guns. These fired grapeshot at us until a sudden grand effort to, in which the reserve took part – that is to say, the Imperial Guard – swept the battlefield and brought us victory”.

Colonel Fantin des Odoards, 22nd Line at Ligny 

The Prussians were broken in their centre, and streamed back in general retreat.  The only chance of saving his army was a swift counterattack, to stall the French advance. Blücher gathered all available cavalry units, in a disorganised advance to attack the French, with him leading in person. This attack was swiftly routed and Blücher fell to the ground underneath his wounded horse, and was ridden over by the French cavalry.

This self sacrifice saved a large portion of the Prussian army from disaster. Blücher remained trapped under his horse, ridden over by the French Cavalry, until being freed by his aide de camp, Norstitz.

“The light of the long June day was beginning to fail when our very depleted infantry brigade was sent into the reserve… The men looked terribly worn out after the fighting. In the great heat, gunpowder smoke, sweat and mud had mixed into a thick crust of dirt, so that their faces looked almost like those of mullatos, and one could hardly distinguish the green collars and facings on their tunics. Everybody has discarded his stock, grubby shirts or hairy tunics; and many who had been unwilling to leave the ranks on account of a slight wound wore a bandage they had put on themselves. In a number of cases blood was soaking through.

        As a result of fighting in the villages for hours on end, and of frequently crawling through hedges, the men’s tunics and trousers had got torn, so that they hung in rags and their bare skin showed through. In short, anyone accustomed to judging the efficiency of a unit merely from the men’s appearance on a parade ground would have been appalled to watch the 4th Westphalian Infantry Regiment of Landwehr coming out of the battle of Ligny”.

Captain Fritz , 4th Westphalian Landwehr Infantry.

In the evening

At Quatre Bras 

The Allied army had succeeded, and secured the crossroads at Quatre Bras. Marshal Ney was quick to blame his failure on I Corps.

At Ligny

Though beaten, morale in the Prussian army had not collapsed. Many units were badly disorganised, and in the darkness, with little chance of fully reorganising. The decision to retreat north to Wavre was confirmed. The Prussians were still in the campaign.

“We have taken a few knocks and shall have to hammer out the dents!”
 Blücher

“I found him in a farmhouse. The village had been abandoned by its inhabitants, and every building was filled with wounded. No lights, no drinking water, no rations. We were in a small room, in which an oil lamp burned dimly. On the floor wounded men lay groaning. The General himself was seated on a barrel of picked cabbage, with only four or five people around him. Scattered troops passed through the village all night long: no one knew whence they came or whither they were going. The dispersion was as great as after the battle of Jena, and the night was just as dark – but morale had not sunk. Each man was looking for his comrades so as to restore order”.

Impression of Count von Gneisenau.

Napoleon believed he had won a decisive victory over the Prussians, rather than merely wounded them.

 

He slept in Flereus that night, without ordering a pursuit à outrance.

17th June 1815

At Ligny

The next morning, no reports reached Napoleon to suggest anything other than a major Prussian defeat and retreat towards Germany. Rather than organise a pursuit, he inspected his men on the battlefield to encourage them.  Typical of the battlefields of the time, a carpet of cadavers and injured men lined the “field of glory”, especially in the villages so bitterly fought after.

“Do you believe in Hell?”
‘Yes!’
“Good!, If you do not want to go to hell, look after this wounded man whom I put in your charge! Otherwise God will make you burn. He wishes us to be charitable”.
Napoleon to a peasant, after Ligny

Only later in the day did Napoleon become aware of the strategic position, and he realised the campaign he had so brilliantly started had still to be won.

Casualties from the battles were:

Battlefield memorials are found at

References

The Battle of Eylau 8th February 1807 Redux Saturday, Mar 13 2010 

Vauban Tile 500 pixels

A wargame of the Battle of Eylau is described below.

Vauban Tile 500 pixels

The schematic of the battlefield is shown, oriented from the original map to fit the troop deployments.

This is then scaled down to fit our beloved bit of 5′ by 4′ for the wargame recreation. The scale used is board 1mm = battlefield 2 m; each move represents 5 minutes, and each figure represents 100-120 men using 25mm figures. Thus the 5′ by 4′ board rescales to 3 by 2.4 km on the battlefield.

The number of troops need to be reduced accordingly to keep the troop density equivalent. The Russians and Prussians had about 76,000 men by the end of the battle, and the French about 75,000 by dusk on 8th February 1807. Reducing this by a factor of approximately 3, the following order of battle is given.

One additional complicating factor for the wargame is the effect of the weather. The Battle of Eylau was fought in a blizzard. To simulate the capricious nature of snows in a blizzard, a marker is placed (initially) on position 4. Every move a dice is rolled. If the score is 1,2 the counter is moved down one position; 3,4 the position stays the same, and if 5,6 the counter is moved up one position.

Each position shows the visibility on the battlefield, so at position 1, the visibility falls to 100m (50mm) etc, whereas at 4-6 the visibility is unlimited, subject to line of sight. The generals refighting the battle use suspension of disbelief, so that if enemy troops are bearing down unseen upon your own because of the snow visibility, you cannot react until they would emerge… as happened during the original battle.

Further, troops moving in heavy snows (positions 1,2) are prone to veering off course to the desired direction, so a dice is rolled before setting off, with a throw of 1 (troops veer left); 2-5 (as intended), 6 (troops veer right). In addition, sending a messenger to communicate desired action requires a dice throw of 3-6 to ensure success; a throw of 1,2 accounts for messengers getting lost in the snows. At extreme range, a dice roll of 6 is needed for artillery to cause disruption, again to account for reduced effectiveness due to the snows. Finally all movement is slowed by 10mm per move for infantry and foot artillery and by 20 mm for cavalry to account for moving through heavy snow.

These adjustments are made to the general rules used for the wargame, and can be found here.

 

Move 1 08:30

The first consideration with a general who offers battle should be the glory and honour of his arms. The safety and preservation of his men is only second.

Napoleon surveys the snowy wastes before him and his opponents disposition. He balances the paradoxical trinity of enmity, chance and reason. With the Imperial Guard and Heavy Cavalry reserve, the odds are currently 50:50. Reason whispers to him that although he can see he is badly outnumbered, Davout and Ney‘s Corps have been recalled to the battlefield. Instead he counts upon his opponents timidity not to try to overwhelm his position before Eylau, giving him enough time to turn the flanks of les Russe once the reserves arrive and win a famous victory.

Count Bennigsen, in command of the Russians has other ideas. After being evicted by the French from Eylau the night before, his men have spent a miserable night upon the hills in the cold. Time to shift the French off the hills before Eylau and win a great victory that will bear his name.He orders the cannonade to begin.

‘It has begun! Here it is! Terrible but glorious!’ says the face of every private and officer.

The French cannons reply and the battle begins.

Victoria looks from afar at these two generals who would claim her favour. She will decide who to bless much, much later after many brave men have fallen.

Move 3 08:45

The cannonade rages back and forth, the Russians getting the better, with fire from the French main battery suppressed as the troops become disorganised. On the left flank, a regiment of Cossacks become disorganised from persistent artillery fire from the French battery in between the infantry.

The weather at this point is as clear as it will be this day.

Move 4 08:50

Tutchkov leads his men forwards towards Eylau, and the cavalry immediately to their right begin wheeling round behind them.

The French battalions on their left begin advancing, one towards the village of Schloditten; one towards Tutchkov’s men.

Move 5 08:55

On the left, the Russian advance led by Tutchkov continues, and to his rear, Dokhturov leads the 7th Division forwards in support, led by his cavalry.

The single French battalion continues its advance across the snows towards Tutchkov’s men. They march unsupported “avoir des engelures aux yeux“. The other French battalion at the extreme left marches continues towards the village of Schloditten, with the Dragoon regiment wheeling round in support. Another French battalion is moving into Eylau, so this can be held securely.

High on the hills, Le Chapeau sees Dokhturov’s advance. That could badly threaten his left if unchecked, so better prepare a welcoming party for them. He sends a messenger to the heavy cavalry reserve.

Move 6 09:00

On the left flank, the French battalion marching on its own feels its blood turn to ice, so they turn about and march back towards the safety of the cannon before them, which has disrupted a regiment of Cossacks. The French Dragoons sweep past the infantry bound for the village of Schloditten.

The Russian advance led by Tutchkov continues, with Eylau the target. A horse artillery battery by their side limbers up to accompany them. Dokhturov’s cavalry have moved ahead and form a second line behind Tutchkov’s cavalry. Meanwhile Dokhturov’s infantry plod onwards through the snow, singing, Ах, Вы Сени, Мои Сени.

Hidden behind the western heights, the Carabiniers form column in preparation to wheel and support the left flank, as ordered by Le Chapeau.

Move 7 09:05

Tutchkov’s Russians close on Eylau, and begin to storm the town; smoke rising from the musketry. Behind the first line of infantry are the Leyb-Gvardiya Преображенский полк, led by General Kozlovsky. They form column, in order to march around their colleagues in the firefight. To their right side, a horse artillery unit rides past.

By the village of Schloditten, the French Dragoons and Russian Cossacks fight with the honours even so far.

Behind the French lines, the Carabiniers and one regiments of Cuirassiers begin moving to the left, supported by a battery of horse artillery.

At the extreme right , the first troops from Marshal Davout‘s III corps have appeared.

Move 8 09:10

Tutchkov’s Russians continue to close on Eylau and the exchange of fire echoes across the battlefield. The Russian Leyb-Gvardiya begin marching around the right flank of this attack, supported by the horse artillery unit.

Fortuna Belli smiles on the Russian Cossacks by Schloditten and the French Dragoons retreat in disorder, leaving their left wing exposed. One French infantry battalion forms square against the threat.

Le Chapeau‘s decision to reinforce the left wing with Carabiniers and Cuirassiers looks prescient as they work their way round behind the hills, but Minerva knows his judgement comes from her silent whisperings. He sends Soult to oversee their deployment, and to try to halt the Dragoons retreat.

Move 9 09:15

Capriciousness is all – Fortuna Belli now frowns on the Russian Cossacks by Schloditten, as they break under artillery fire. Soult’s presence stops the rout of the French Dragoons besides the cannon that just did such harm.

The Russian infantry recoils before Eylau as the French musketeers do their work; the snowy fields before the town are carpeted by the fallen. The infantry battalion which was supporting their left flank also recoil from the hail of roundshot from the French grand battery.

The Russian Leyb-Gvardiya continue marching as before, supported by the horse artillery unit. They are heading towards the French battalion on the hill, to the left of Eylau who watch the Grenadiers and their tall hats grow larger, and they hear their song, Yes, they know us Turks and Swedes, for the first time. It sends shivers through them.

Dokhturov’s 7th Division continue forwards through the snow, the sound of battle growing ever louder for the troops in the front columns.

The Carabiniers and Cuirassiers receive new orders from Le Chapeau.

Move 10 09:20

The Russian Cossacks continue to retreat, allowing the French infantry close to Schloditten to reform from square to a column, and make a hasty advance towards the village before a combination of le brutal et beau sabreur closeby have them instead. Minerva smiles in approval, the eyes of Mars blaze at the Russians missed opportunity.

Tutchkov’s presence ralies the Russian infantry battalion before Eylau, ready for them to have another attempt once they’ve reorganised.

The Russian Leyb-Gvardiya sing out

“Their banner will be taken
by the Russian Bayonet,
our Fathers battle valor
it will not let us forget”.

and the French infantry receiving them break in terror, before running towards Le Chapeau.

‘Where are you running to?’ he proclaims. ‘ Les Russes are that way’, pointing towards the direction they just ran from. They rally and reform battle order before his admonishment.

On the plain les Gros Talons form up, Carabiniers close to Soult, Cuirassiers behind l’Empereur .

Move 11 09:25

The French infantry make their way into Schloditten, which will shortly become a strongpoint.

The presence of so much French cavalry forces the Russian Leyb-Gvardiya into square, as their horse artillery deploy besides them.

Dokhturov’s men continue their slow advance through the snow.

Move 12 09:30

Soult leads the Dragoons forwards a little, which allows Tutchkov to lead another assault on Eylau, with the Leyb-Gvardiya and line infantry. So far in the town, the hard pressed French cling on.

Le Chapeau sends the French infantry down the hill in a counter offensive, as les Gros Talons form up behind them on the hill, steel gleaming and waiting for any weakness from Les Russes.

In the centre, the artillery duel between the Russians and French continues, with both sides sustaining casualties.

Move 13 09:35

The Russian Leyb-Gvardiya sing out as they storm Eylau

“Loud is the voice of our honor,
solid our bayonets.
So we walk toward our glory
foremost, fearless regiment”
.

and the French infantry defending the town fall back before the gleaming steel and up the hill.

In seeming recompense, Fortuna Belli now smiles on the French infantry advancing towards the Russian horse artillery deployed close to Eylau and they take this prize at bayonet point.

Soult leads the French Dragoons forwards against Russian Hussars, who give way before the onslaught.

Move 14 09:40

A single French infantry battalion tries to retake Eylau, but is repulsed swiftly. Le Chapeau rides out to meet them, but even he fails to steady their nerves, and they continue running for now. He takes the Cuirassier regiment with him for support who pine for action. At last they are “off the hill”, they mutter, but only to themselves.

The French infantry originally thrown out of Eylau rally besides Les Immortels, who smile at their indiscipline.

Soult and his French Dragoons have beaten the Russian Hussars, who flee. The les Gros Talons of the Carabiniers form up behind Scholditten, protecting their flank.

The French infantry who captured the horse artillery unit make it their own. Dead and dying Russians are moved out the way; French soldiers have now become gunners.

Move 15 09:45

“Mесть” cry Dokhturov’s Dragoons, and they charge into Soult and his men, sending only half of them back with the Marshal, as the rest are left on the snowy field. Napoleon senses the crisis and rides out to meet them, wide eyed men and horses. The Cuirassiers deploy on the plain, to their left a French cannon, to their right the French infantry, now nursing their captured prize of a horse artillery battery into life. A Russian infantry battalion routs under their hail of grapeshot.

On the far left of the French line, les Gros Talons of the Carabiniers ride out towards the once routed, but now rallied Cossacks. This is surely a fight the Cossacks must lose?

Tutchkov gets the Russian line infantry battalion by Eylau in readiness to storm the French infantry at the foot of the hill overlooking the town once the supporting battalions join them. French cannonballs tear into the advancing green lines.

Bennigsen, in command of the Russians sees that he’s advanced on his right, and taken Eylau, a strategic prize. If Tutchkov can succeed in taking the French cannons in the centre, he can blow a hole through the middle, and order a general advance to sweep the rest of the French away.

Move 16 09:50

By Elyau, Tutchkov’s first column of Russian infantry is severely mauled by the French artillery and they rout, disorganising the second wave of men marching towards the guns.

Le Chapeau steadies the nerves of retreating French infantry, as Soult reforms what’s left of his French Dragoons. French artillery rout Russian Hussars by Dokhturov. The French Cuirassiers advance towards the Russian Dragoons who are suffering casualties under artillery fire too, and become disorganised in the process.

On the extreme left, les Gros Talons of the Carabiniers have scattered the Russian Cossacks.

Only in Eylau do the Russians stand firm.

Move 17 09:55

A clash begins between the Russian Dragoons and the French Cuirassiers, with Soult’s French Dragoons riding up to outflank the Russians. Horses rear, men slash with their sabres, but so far the Russians hold their own in the mêlée. Scenting further glory, the Carabiniers wheel around and head for the fight.

Two of Dokhturov’s infantry battalions have broken off from the main body, and march towards the French infantry, furiously making firing holes in the walls of Schloditten, before the Russians begin their attack.

Tutchkov’s second wave of infantry have formed columns, ready for attack, and they rout the French infantry guarding the foot of the hill before Eylau, who in turn pass through the French gunners. Combining this with the Russian artillery who have managed to outgun their French rivals ensures the French gunners are disorganised. They only put up a sporadic fire, unable to halt the infantry advancing towards them. Can Bennigsen‘s dream of capturing the guns and blowing a hole through the French centre be realised? Only if Fortuna Belli smiles on them.

Move 18 10:00

Napoleon rides to the centre and rallies the French infantry and artillery. Combined in strength, they rout one of the Russian infantry columns. The remaining column now faces an extra French battalion pivoting round to attack them with flanking fire.

On the left flank, the Russian cavalry continues to retreat in pockets of troopers.

Undeterred, the Russian infantry continue marching on, heading for their fate at Schloditten.

Move 19 10:05

Le Chapeau knows he must retake Eylau and so launches his ace weapon; the sound of La Marche des Grognards et La Victoire est à Nous! rings out over the battlefield. Les Grognards march steadily towards Eylau, the Russian Guards wait for them; an irresistable force against an immovable object. Fortuna Belli’s smile will determine who wins.

Perhaps by bravery, foolhardiness or tempered by past battles, Tutchkov is inured to this counterattack attack by the French. He leads his Russian infantry on against the French infantry to the left of Eylau.

To the left, Dokhturov attempts to rally the fleeing Russian cavalry. Les Gros Talons sit on the plain, forcing the Russian infantry before Schloditten into square.

Move 20 10:10

The struggle for Eylau is in full flow; so far the Russians cling on as les Grognards begin their déjeuner à la fourchette. The Russian artillery falls upon the French.

The French artillery are too busy supporting their infantry against Tutchkov’s attack.

To the left, the Russian cavalry begins to come to order and reassemble.

In the skies above the battlefield, Caecius – God of the north-east wind – bringer of foul weather, bearer of coldness, snows and blizzards; he who pours hail unto those below looks for his moment to release his curse. His breath of cold sweeps out.

Move 21 10:15

The curse of Caecius sweeps over the battlefield and the visibility falls to 400m. The Russian gunners lose their targets in the snow. The French can still see theirs and hammer away at Tutchkov’s men who stubbonly try to break the French infantry.

La Victoire est à Nous! rings out over the battlefield, Fortuna Belli has smiled on les Grognards and their déjeuner à la fourchette. The Russian Guards reel back in confusion. Le Chapeau transfers a battalion of the Young Guard to Eylau to secure this vital stronghold.

Move 22 10:20

The curse of Caecius strengthens and the visibility falls to 200m. The Imperial Guard continue to sweep the Russians from Eylau and make ready to occupy it themselves. The Russian infantry to the right of Eylau push back the French, who disrupt some of the artillery and infantry behind them in their retreat. Enough guns remain however to push two to the Russian battalions back.

Across the rest of the battlefield, silence falls as troops wait for the weather to ease.

Move 23 10:25

Visibility is still at 200m, as Caecius snowblinds all. In the chaos around Eylau, the Young Guard occupy the town, securing it for the French. A line infantry battalion makes use of the snow cover and rushes out from the town to try to recapture the horse artillery abandoned earlier. By Eylau, one final Russian battalion is in good order and makes a charge for the french artillery on the hill. It captures one of the batteries! Can it blow a hole through the French centre, despite the nearby presence of les Grognards?

Move 24 10:30

Caecius rage intensifies and the snows reduce the visiblity to 100m. That’s still enough for the Russian gunners with their new prize to achieve the near impossible, and rout a battalion of les Immortels; the Old Guard, who run back into Napoleon. “Where are you running to?” he demands. “Les Russes are that way”, pointing to where they have just come from. The other Old Guard battalion nearby exacts swift revenge and pushes the Russians off the cannon in a fierce bayonet charge. The crisis for the French passes and their centre holds. Slowly the routed French infantry on the hill recovers its composure.

However, Tutchkov’s Russians run, and this attack, so nearly successful has failed. Such is the whim of Fortuna Belli.

Move 25 10:35

Visibility is still only 100m, and the battlefield is quiet, all firing has stopped. The Russian attack under Tutchkov reorganises for another atttempt under heavy snows, the defending French also reorganise. The solitary French battalion sent from Eylau recapture the abandoned horse artillery unit. For now, they can’t see anything to fire at and can just make out Soult’s cavalry on the plain to their left.

Move 26 10:40

Caecius relents a little and the visiblity in the snow increases to 200m.

Tutchkov rallies the Russian infanry, and readies them for another assault on the French, who can only hear the sound of their drums.

Move 27 10:45

Caecius frowns and the visiblity in the blizzard decreases back to 100m.

Tutchkov’s attack emerges from the snows and they assault the French, who reply with musketry. Some Russian battalions retreat, others stand and fight.

A messenger from Count Bennigsen calls for cavalry reinforcement. Another messenger sent by Soult asks the French Carabiniers to join his main avalry body on the French left.

Move 28 10:50

Visibility continues at only 100m, and Tutchkov’s attack continues on, with neither the Russian or French infantry holding sway. Le Chapeau readies a battalion of the Old Guard for counterattack if the whim of Fortuna Belli goes against the French.

The Russian cavalry summonded by Count Bennigsen starts out forward in the thick snows towards where they think they are needed. Likewise the French Carabiniers ride throughthe snows towards Soult.

Move 29 10:55

Caecius again relents a little and the visiblity in the snow increases to 200m. The tide turns against Tutchkov’s attack and the French push back a couple of the attacking Russian Battalions. Le Chapeau senses the moment is ripe and the Old Guard begin their attack.

The French Carabiniers arrive by Soult and await for further orders.

Move 30 11:00

The attack by the Old Guard sweeps Tutchkov’s men away and they flee back towards the safety of the rest of their army. Caecius again relents a little and the visiblity in the snow increases to 400m. The Russian artillery speings to life again and attempt to cover the retreat of their comrades.

Move 31 11:05

The Old Guard begin returning back to their Emperor. Behind them, Tutchkov’s Russians continue to beat a retreat. The cavalry requested by Count Bennigsen arrive on the ridge which the Russian artillery commands.

Move 32 11:10

The snows still restrict visibility and movement, with both sides reorganising for the moment when Caecius stops his wrath.

Move 33 11:15

The visiblity improves a little. The French are ready again for the Russians. The first wave of attackers make their weary way back to their starting positions. The second wave begins the slow advance through the snows.

On the left, Soult about turns the French cavalry.

Move 34 11:20

On the left, Soult wheels the French cavalry behind Schloditten. The visibility falls again, masking the next attack, again being led by Tutchkov. He whispers to his aides close by “Success never depends, and never will depend, on position, or equipment, or even on numbers, and least of all on position.” “But on what then?” “On the feeling that is in me and in each soldier. A battle is won by those who firmly resolve to win it!”

Move 35 11:25

Under cover of the foul snows of Caecius, the Russians begin the next advance towards the French who again can only hear their adversaries draw nearer. Behind the infantry is a regiment of Dragoons.

On the left, Soult continues to wheel the French cavalry behind Schloditten. They head into snow, slowly.

Move 36 11:30

Tutchkov’s new wave of men advance through the snows, unseen by the French, and way behind them, Somov’s division begin their advance. Caecius relents a little and the visiblity rises to 200m.

Move 37 11:35

The visibilty rises further to 400m, and the silent guns spring into life on each side. Tutchkov’s men stagger until the hail of fire, but one battalion closes in on the French battery in the centre right of their line. Somov’s men continue to advance, as yet unseen by Le Chapeau.

Move 38 11:40

For a little under 90 minutes, Caecius has rained hail and snow onto those beneath him, but at last he tires and men can at last see the whole battlefield again. Le Chapeau at last sees Somov’s Division as they reach the hill behind Tutchkov’s men who are faltering under fire. All except one battalion, which still clings onto the foothill of the central French battery, whose fire in turn is suppressed by the Russians.

Move 39 11:45

The struggle for the central French battery continues, with neither side yielding. The rest of Tutchkov’s attack has faltered under cannon fire. Le Chapeau senses the moment and send a messenger to Marshal Murat to form the cavalry corps up, ready for a charge.

On the left, Dokhturov advances a regiment of Cossacks, forcing a battalion of French infantry into square. In response, Soult wheels the French Cuirassiers around to face the threat.

Move 40 11:50

On the left flank, Soult advances the French Cuirassiers towards the Russian Cossacks, as a Russian infantry battalion engages the French infantry bound in square.

The struggle for the central French battery continues, with Tutchkov and Augereau both adding their leadership to the fight. A battalion of Russian Guards makes it’s way to help their comrades, who hear their song, Yes, they know us Turks and Swedes.

Behind the French infantry, Marshal Murat‘s Dragoons sweep forward in pursuit of Tutchkov’s fleeing men.

Move 41 11:55

On the left the Russian infantry battalion engages the French infantry bound in square, who are putting up a stiff response. Dokhturov joins his Cossacks and send the Hussars around behind the hill, to outflank Soult and his French Gros Talons.

The central battle rages on, and it’s not clear who Fortuna Belli will smile on. Augereau‘s men in reserve move out of l’ordre mixtre to ordre mince, to maximise their firepower.

The French Dragoons have almost completed their wheeling move behind this battle, but come to the attention of the Russian gunners.

Move 42 12:00

The curse of Caecius again sweeps over the battlefield and the visibility falls to 400m.

On the left, the French square finally breaks, leaving the prize of a horse artillery battery to the disorganised Russian infantry. If they can sieze this, they could swing the balance on the left flank.

In the centre, a combination of French artillery and robust musketry confounds the Russian guards, who rout, leaving Tutchkov and his men more vunerable in their struggle to seize the French artillery battery.

The French Dragoons weather the hail of cannon fire directed their way. The presence of this cavalry threat forces Russian infantry into square.

The last of Davout‘s III Corps has arrived onto the battlefield on the extreme right.

Move 43 12:05

Caecius reduces the visibility to 200m.

On the left, Dokhturov’s Cossacks and Hussars lose the cavalry duel with Soult and his French Cuirassiers. The Russians flee, forcing their nearby infantry into square under threat from the victorious French Cuirassiers.

In the centre, Tutchkov and his men fail to seize the French artillery battery, which is overrun by French Dragoons. Both sides have troops retiring from the mêlée. Tutchkov does manage to rally the Russian guards back into a disorganised state.

Move 44 12:10

Caecius relents a little and the visibility rises to 400m.

On the left, Dokhturov’s cavalry continue to retreat from les Gros Talons. The Russian infantry, which fought so hard to capture the French horse artillery battery, breaks from the square under intense artillery fire, so the gun becomes unmanned again. A French battalion moves down the hill to recapture it.

In the centre, Tutchkov’s men rally as they watch the French Dragoons wheel back towards their own lines. Behind Tutchkov, a regiment of Russian Dragoons from up, ready for the fray.

Move 45 12:15

Visibility returns to normal again, and the artillery batteries both sides restart their deadly work.

On the left, the French infantry recapture the horse artillery battery. Behind the Russian lines, Dokhturov fails to rally his cavalry, in blind terror from their recent fight.

Russian artillery breaks the French infantry battalion on the hill as it tries to reman the foot artillery unit in the centre of the battlefield. Russian Dragoons bear down on them as they run for their lives.

Move 46 12:20

Caecius frowns again and the visibility falls to 400m.

The left flank action sees the recaptured French horse artillery disrupt the Russian infantry on the hill, and to their left the retreating Russian battalion halts and begins reforming.

In the centre , a cavalry mêlée rages over the hill where the Russian guns are. No one can claim this prize yet. So far the Russian Dragoons are having the worst of the battle. To the rear of this fight, Somov’s men continue to march onwards towards the French.

If the Russians can break the French centre, the battle will be theirs.

Move 47 12:25

The visibility remains restricted at 400m, which prevents the Russian main battery from helping the battle in the centre.

Fortuna Belli smiles on the Russians and gives their hearts a priceless boost. Their Dragoons rout the French, and behind them the infantry ready to storm the hill and capture the central cannon.

A moment of crisis has arisen for the French. Le Chapeau goes amongst his infantry to rally them, ready for a counterattack. He calls for his chosen children, the Imperial Guard to leave the hill and ready themselves for the attack.

On the left, Dohktorov rallies the Russian Hussars.

Move 48 12:30

The visibility rises again, and the artillery duel recommences.

The central hill now belongs to the Russians, who begin to reman the artillery battery. To their left, a fierce firefight routs one Russian battalion, with another disrupted as the French counterattack begins.

Before the hill, French Cuirassiers and Russian Dragoons begin another cavalry mêlée, with both sides holding their own.

The Imperial Guard obey the Emperor, and a battalion of Young and Old Guard make their way towards the fray.

On the left flank, Russian infantry begin marching forwards, after breaking out of square.

Move 49 12:35

The battle springs back into life on the left, as Russian infantry makes its way towards the village of Schloditten, which they last tried to storm at 10am.

The isolated French battalion to the left of Eylau, with its captured horse artillery battery tries to slow the advance of 3 Russian battalions.

In the centre, the Russians open up with their captured cannons, disrupting the French infantry further, as Augereau‘s men try to rally under his and Le Chapeau‘s praises and admonishments. The cavalry mêlée before teh hill continues, with both sides disorganised and vunerable to one last effort.

Move 50 12:40

The Russian advance into the village of Schloditten meets stiff French resistance, and the Russians faulter before the hail of fire they meet.

The isolated French battalion to the left of Eylau just about holds its own, as the Russians prepare to outflank it.

In the centre, Fortuna Belli smiles on the French cavalry as the Russians rout; their cavalry in turn disrupting their infantry on the hill with the prized cannon. Tolstoi’s reserve of cavalry forces its way through the narrow gap of retreating and advancing men, wondering what inferno they will meet once they face off against the французский.

Move 51 12:45

The Russians capture back their horse artillery battery before Eylau, sending the French back in confusion, who run for the hill above the town. However, one Russian battalion to the left of this brigade run from French artillery fire.

Before the village of Schloditten, an empasse is reached, with neither the Russians or French yielding.

The Russians secure the foot artillery battery in the centre of the battle, with infantry occupying the hill.

The French ready themselves for a major counterattack on this key sector, involving the Young Guard. Behind them, Le Chapeau prepares a cavalry surprise for les Russes.

The ebb and flow of cavalry behind this fight continues as Tolstoi’s troopers continue to make their way through gap between the hills.

Mars, breaker of armies, nods and approves at this strife.

Move 52 12:50

Caecius frowns again and the visibility falls to 400m.

The Russians conslidate their grip around the left of the battlefield, but are still stalled before Schloditten.

The French counter attack regains the central artillery unit with help from the Young Guard. To the rear, both Napoleon and Marshal Murat steady the Dragoons. On the right, Marshal Davout leads French Infantry towards Osten-Sacken’s men on the hill.

Napoleon sends a messenger to recall some of Soult‘s heavy cavalry to help reestablish command of the battlefield on the right flank.

Move 53 12:55

The Russians fall back before Schloditten. For the moment the village remains in French hands. Half of Soult‘s heavy cavalry swings around with the Marshal, convinced that for now the position on the left is stable.

In the centre, the French push on into Somov’s men, who begin to retreat. to counteract this setback, Russian Hussars charge the French infantry, forced into squares. French Dragoons begin working their way towards this threat to relieve their comrades.

Move 54 13:00

The battle on the right dominates the action. The Hussar attack on the French squares becomes a larger mêlée as the French Dragoons begin to counterattack, with French Cuirassiers not far behind. To the left of this, the battle around the hill rages, with the Russian infantry attack by Somov slowly becoming disorganised. On the right, close to Davout, another cavalry fight breaks out, with the Russians getting the worst of it.

Move 55 13:05

On the right, the infantry battle still rages. It must soon reach a crisis, as the Russian attack progresses from order to disorder; battlefield entropy displayed. The Russian Hussars slowly buckle under the French Dragoons attack, with Napoleon watching on. By Davout, the honours in the cavalry mêlée goes to the French, and their presence will doubtless pin down the Russian infantry guards close by.

Thus the battle on the center-right looks as though it is slowly turning towards the French. But the capriciousness of Fortuna Belli now smiles on the Russians as L’Estocq and his Prussians have beaten Marshal Ney‘s Corps to the battlefield. Instantly a messenger sets off from the watching French Carabiniers to alert the high command of this dramatic change.

Move 56 13:10

Cuirassiers tip the battle’s balance towards the French in the cavalry mêlée in the centre, as the Russian Dragoons recoil in disarray. The French also recapture the cannon on the hill to the immediate left of this action. The crisis in the centre for the French is passing.

On the left however, it’s a different story. L’Estocq’s Prussians continue to pour onto the battlefield. The messenge from the watchful French Carabiniers reaches Soult‘s heavy cavalry, who instantly stop their deployment, counter to Napoleon’s request.

“Tell l’Empereur that I would never disobey him, unless a tremedous need arises. Tell him les Prussiens have arrived, and until we know what their numbers are, I request command of these men on the left.”

The messenger nods and sets off to find Le Chapeau. Which young Captain would want to deliver a message like that?

Move 57 13:15

The Russian attack on the centre has ended, again in failure. Count Bennigsen, silently curses Fortuna Belli, who has now thrice nearly blessed his commands, but each time favoured the French. Next time, he vows, next time, together with die Preußen they’ll push the French off those hills.

L’Estocq’s Prussians march onwards, Hohenfreidberger Marsch playing, Ordinärfahne flying. Perhaps, today, the Prussians will perform better than they did last year against die Französisch…

Move 58 13:20

Caecius, tired of carrying his load of snow, decides to let it fall as the visibility falls to 400m.

The quaking French Captain delivers Soult‘s rebuff to Napoleon who ponders whether to shout at him for this petulance. He thinks better and send the messenger back, saying that he reminds Soult that on his judgement, the battle may hang. In truth, he can see that the Russian tide has ebbed and the crisis has passed. He sends a regiment of Dragoons around to aid the faithful Soult who turns the cavalry around, and they ride back to the left flank. On the extreme left, the French Carabiniers are being overwhelmed by sheer numbers of Russian Hussars, Cossacks and Dragoons. Meanwhile, L’Estocq’s Prussians still march on. The French infantry in Schloditten begin fighting off another Russian infantry attack, who would prefer the village to be theirs, rather than Preußen. In the smoke, the chef de battalion notes the arrival of les Prussiens on the hill. Will they hold on?

Move 59 13:25

The French Carabiniers rout after being flanked by Russian Dragoons. The path is open for the Russian cavalry if they seize the moment, but to their left, their infantry retires from trying to storm Schloditten.

In the centre, Somov and Tutchkov lead the weary Russian infantry back to their starting positions.

The French take the opportunity to reorganise their lines.

Move 60 13:30

L’Estocq’s orders the first Prussian battalion on the hill overlooking Schloditten into column, ready for attack.

In the village, French infantry fire on the Russian cavalry, disorganising the Dragoons.

Caecius, still restricts the visibility to 400m. The Generals on each side cannot see the reorganisation going on, as each side readies itself for one last push before dusk.

Move 61 13:35

Caecius, finally relents and full visibility returns.

“Where is Ney? Has anyone seen Ney?” calls out Napoleon, who knows he can win if Ney arrives soon. On the hill he sees the continued arrival of more Prussiens. “Surely these people know they are beaten?”.

Soult rallies the shaken Carabiniers, bringing them back to face the enemy.

The French are as prepared now for another assault as they can be, as the bulk of their cavalry sweeps around to the left. Le Chapeau intends to punch a hole through the screen of Russian cavalry by Doktorov’s men, to sever the Russian and Prussians apart, then begin rolling up the Russian line. To help this, the French artillery concentrate their fire on the Russian Hussars, disrupting them. He orders a field battery to relocate to the left of Eylau to support this.

Move 62 13:40

L’Estocq’s orders the third Prussian battalion on the hill overlooking Schloditten into column, ready for the attack.

From a distance, Mars sees this gathering storm and nods in approval, quoting the Emperor’s own maxim.

When you have resolved to fight a battle, collect your whole force. Dispense with nothing. A single battalion sometimes decides the day.

Always attack with superior force… Soult takes the Carabiniers back into the line, together with the Cuirassiers and Dragoons, as the French prepare a storm of their own.

Move 63 13:45

The Prussians now have a cannon on the hill above Schloditten, and troops in abundance. The French in the village prepare themselves pour lembrassé par une demoiselle.

In the gap between the hill above Eylau and the cavalry, a battalion breaks under Russian artillery fire.

“God is on the side with the best artillery”, muses Napoleon, as he sees them flee.

Move 64 13:50

The French battalion that broke under artillery fire continues to retreat, with their space being filled by French Dragoons.

Move 65 13:55

“Mitt Gott für König und Vaterland!” The Prussians sweep down off the hill towards Schloditten and the waiting French.

The French cavalry now stretches across the plain on the left hand flank.

Elsewhere, apart from the exchange of cannon fire, and the fall of a steady few on each side to this steely punch, the battlefield is quiet. The shades of the fallen will be reclaimed by Somnus and Mors and in due course be taken to visit Charon, the ferryman.

Move 66 14:00

“Rache!” The Prussians, motivated by emnity following their collapse at Jena-Auerstädt, force their way at bayonet point into Schloditten. Woe betide any Frenchman in the village who fails to run before this maelstrom.

In anticipation of losing the village, Soult leads the Carabiniers and Cuirassiers forward again. Behind the village, the Russian cavalry look nervously on as this wave advances towards their shoreline.

Move 67 14:05

The French are evicted from Schloditten as delighted Prussians claim the village. The exit of the French troops makes Soult pause in his advance. Behind him, the French Dragoons wheel. In front, more Prussians advance across the hills behind Schloditten. And finally, a French foot battery has finally made its way to support the current one on the plain. Now, how to proceed…

Move 68 14:10

With Schloditten secured by one battalion of die Preußen, the rest march back towards the hill where they just launched their attack.

Napoleon, watches les Prussiens march on towards the centre. Best to counterattack when they are fully committed and strung out on the march, maybe fifteen minutes from now. He sends a message to Soult to begin the attack no later than 2:30 pm, and forwards on a pair of infantry battalions to the left. Will les Russes interfere with his plan to roll up their right flank?

Move 69 14:15

Count Bennigsen certainly has plans for the Russians and calls for the horse artillery on the right flank to move to the centre, so they can blast a hole through the French lines. This will weaken his right, but he counts on the march of die Preußen to distract the French. The first Horse battery close to Eylau begins limbering up. Napoleon, watches this development with interest. Perhaps he should send some infantry to back up Soult once he charges…

Soult has rallied the French troops evicted from Schloditten, and gets them to march as fast as they can out of the way of the cavalry, who look on contemptuously at their scurrying.

Move 70 14:20

Napoleon, watches les Russes turn back from the valley between Schloditten and the hill overlooking Eylau, as the horse artillery makes its way across the valley beneath the hills where the Russian main development lies. So, withdraw from the right to strengthen the centre.

“Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake.” “Yes, sire.”

Soult has seen this too, and has swung the French Dragoons around to ride out onto the plain to lead the attack.

On their left flank, the Russian cavalry receive orders to move. Count Bennigsen wants one more push through the centre, as he hopes today’s attrition has weakened French resolve enough for success.

Move 71 14:25

The Russian infantry withdraw, forming columns in the process. This draws the sting of French cannon fire, as bees circle around a honey pot.

The French Dragoons now see this prey retreating before them. Now to close the distance between and turn retreat into rout and thereby win themselves fame.

Russian horse artillery dashes through the vale between each army. The French gunners try to stop them, their Russian counterparts return their fire to aid their comrades. Fortuna Belli, so far favours the bold, and the horse artillery rides on.

The infantry Napoleon sent to help on the left still march around, but the evident withdrawal of the Russsians is too good an opportunity to miss. He orders a general advance on the left flank.

Behind the line of hills clad with Russian green, their cavalry continues to reform behind the centre, ready for their commander’s new order. In the French centre, a battalion breaks under cannon fire.

Move 72 14:30

On the left, the French sweep forward, Dragoons chasing the retiring Russian infantry, followed in turn by the French infantry, supported by a battalion of Les Immortels.

Soult orders his heavy cavalry into column, ready for a punch through Les Russes.

The Russian cavalry facing them have also received orders to return to the centre, and begin withdrawing.

L’Estocq’s Prussians have begun reaching the hill overlooking Eylau, and are consequently strung out in order of march.

Count Bennigsen nods and a mass cannonade signals the start of the next Russian attack on the centre-right, and he hopes the horse artillery will help blow a hole through the French that is just appearing. The Russian horse artillery obliges by continuing the dash through the vale between each army.

Indifferent to the struggle below, Caecius, pours hail on all, and visibility closes down to 400m.

Move 73 14:35

Thick as the snow flakes on a wintry day
When Jove the Lord of counsel down on men
His snow storm sends and manifests his power
Hushed are the winds the flakes continuous fall
That the high mountain tops and jutting crags
And lotus covered meads are buried deep
And man’s productive labours of the field
On hoary Ocean’s beach and bays they lie
The approaching waves their bound o’er all
Is spread by Jove the heavy veil of snow

Caecius obeys Jove’s call and redoubles his hail as visibility closes down to 200m.

Soult curses under breath. The Russian cavalry disappear into the snows, and could have retreated for all he knows, squandering his chance. However, the “Berliner Blau caterpillar” is still crawling across the plain. If he could cut this off at the head, he could roll the entire body of men up in a morass of routing men.

He turns his heavy cavalry column around to begin the sweep towards the “caterpillar”.

L’Estocq at the tail of the Prussian “Berliner Blau caterpillar” welcomes the snows as cover for this manouveur.

Soult was right, the Russian cavalry take advantage of the snows to retire towards the centre.

Tutchkov contemplates the next roll of the dice as he leads the Russian centre forwards against the French. He hopes the snows will continue to fall. The horse artillery have just about arrived to help his men.

Augereau tries to rally the fleeing infantry, imploring them to return to the line. They stop running.

Napoleon knows better than to curse the weather in case it gets worse. He calls “Where is Ney? Has anyone seen Ney?”

Move 74 14:40

Caecius relents a little and the visibility lifts to 400m. This is still not enough for Soult who still cannot see the enemy, but follows instead the French Dragoons, who in turn are closing down on the Russian infantry. They form square, as the French infantry and cavalry bear down on them through the snows.

L’Estocq moves up towards the head of the Prussian “Berliner Blau caterpillar”, which is hard pressed under artillery fire.

Behind the Russian centre, cavalry gathers. By Somov and Tolstoi’s men they work their way through the ravine of men. In front of them, Tutchkov’s men begin to press the French infantry in the central hill. The French foot artillery and infantry become disorganised from the combined Russian infantry and horse artillery.

Move 75 14:45

On the left. the French infantry engage one of the Russian squares, breaking them. The Dragoons behind them ride forward in pursuit, with the nodding approval of Fortuna Belli. The Russian men are fleeing for their lives, as they know the French will give them no quarter if they catch them. Soult still follows the French Dragoons and the sound of musketry.

On the hill to the right of this action, a battalion of les Immortels exchanges fire with the tenacous remnants of the Russian Guards. The honours are even so far, but a battalion of Young Guard start a flanking attack on the Russians, which surely they cannot withstand.

The head of the “Berliner Blau caterpillar” breaks under artillery fire and the men flee, without even firing a shot. L’Estocq urges the men to stand, but instead they run.

A tremendous fight envelops the French centre. The artillery battery falls to the Russians, who promptly swing the guns around and begin to reman them, having taken the position at bayonet point. Russian troops to their left become disorganised under musket fire from French troops holding the firing line.

To steady the French position, Marshal Murat launches his reserve of Cuirassiers, who come under infantry fire. In return the Russian Dragoons have made their way through the ravine of men and begin to threaten French infantry into square. The battle is finely balanced and could tilt either way.

Move 76 14:50

Caecius tires and full visibility returns.

Count Bennigsen takes the opportunity to survey the battlefield. His right is more imperilled than he had bargained for; the progress of his attack on the centre is slower than he had wished.

Now it can see again, the massed French cavalry attack now latches sight onto its target. The French Dragoons force more Russian infantry into squares. The fleeing Russian troops push more infantry into disorder as they plunge through the serried marching ranks, curses being exchanged between the two groups of men.

Dokhturov wheels a regiment of Hussars around to face off against this threat before Soult’s men arrive and cause even more chaos.

The Russian guardsmen hold their own against les Immortels and the Young Guard. They must hold to shield the steady march of the “Berliner Blau caterpillar”. L’Estocq leads the head of the column of men towards the battle enveloping the centre, towards the Young Guard advancing into sustained cannon fire from the newly deployed horse artillery. This pressure has allowed the French to recapture for now the hill where their foot artllery battering is deployed. Although the Russian infantry flee, the French Cuirassiers will crumbles under supporting artillery fire. Possession of the central artillery battery will allow the victor to pour a hail of fire onto the loser, so this prize is fiercely contested; a bone between two dogs who snap and snarl.

Le Chapeau senses that here the battle can be lost for the French and stands behind the hill, rallying the stragglers and returning them to the fray.

Davout’s men begin attacking Tolstoi’s infantry upon the hill to the extreme right, but the newly deployed Russian Dragoons force some of the French infantry into square.

Move 77 14:55

A universe of battle now engulfs the entire front. On the left, a cavalry mêlée starts between the French Dragoons and Russian Hussars. French infantry columns rout Russian infantry in squares, adding to the growing chaos. Behind the columns, Soult and the heavy cavalry charge onwards, seeking to enter the gap in the infantry ahead of them.

The Russian guardsmen still hold on against les Immortels and the Young Guard, but they are becoming increasingly demoralised as the Young Guard envelops them in enfilading fire.

The “Berliner Blau caterpillar” melts under artillery fire. L’Estocq watches on as another battalion runs. Why will his men not fight today?

Le Chapeau part exalts, part chides his men as he stands on the hill. For now, the French have recpatures this ground. To the left, Russian horse artillery thin out the ranks of the Young Guard who imprudently marched towards them, and they stagger, disorganised. To the right, another cavalry mêlée breaks out. At the extreme right of the battlefield, Davout‘s men retreat from Russian cannon fire.

Move 78 15:00

On the left, the cavalry mêlée grows as Soult leads some of the heavy cavalry into the fray in support of the French Dragoons. Russian cavalry swing round to help as a counterbalance. The French infantry in columns drive onwards and the Russian fomations melt like ice; the men run and run. Even the Russian guardsmen run too. Now no infantry stand between the central Russian artillery batteries and the French.

Count Bennigsen‘s fears now overtake his original bold plan. He will lose the battle if he can’t stop this haemorrhage in men causing more damage. He can only do this by diverting troops from the central attack, enough to hold off the French, whilst still pressing the centre. The battle has become one of attrition.

Who will give up first? Fortuna Belli gives no hints on her favours.


Move 79 15:05

The smile of Fortuna Belli goes to the French on the left of the battlefield, as Russian cavalry and infantry flee before the onslaught; their haemorrhage in men continues.

The Young Guard com uner attack from a battalion of les Teufels. Both sides become disordered in the ensuing fire fight.

In the centre, Le Chapeau moves back to the Imperial Guard, leaving the troops on the hill defending the cannon to themselves. The French struggle to hold back les Russes:-

‘Русские войска.
Росейским штыком,
Сюда шли мы не гулять.’

The French and Russian troops continue to push against each other; trial under fire.

Move 80 15:10

Still the French cavalry sweep all before them on the left side. A single Russian battalion forms a shaken square to act as cover for their reteating troops, as French infantry columns march on. 3 French battalions in L’ordre mixte march up the hill towards the Russian cannons.

По войскам шрапнелью будем мы стрелять,
А шашками сами себя защищать! ‘

Despite the song, the Russian cannons fail to halt this advance.

The Young Guard repulse les Teufels, who retreat. L’Estocq watches his men crumble before the advancing Old Guard, sent forward by Le Chapeau at the crucial time.

The central hill lies empty for the moment, claimed by neither the French or the Russians; only by their dead or wounded.

Russian Dragoons by Tolstoi force Davout‘s men into squares.

Move 81 15:15

The Russians are close to total collapse on the left, as horses and infantry flee from the advancing French. The Russian infantry make their way towards the woods, which offers some degree of shelter.

Count Bennigsen‘s order for recall from the centre has yet to take place. He can only look on, and hope that somehow, things do not get worse.

The Russian gunners in the main battery carve a hole through l’ordre mixte marching towards them; the central battalion retreats in confusion.

In the centre, the Russians send out another wave of men, which carries them onto the hill where the French battery rests.

On the extreme right, Russian cavalry ride down the French artillery which guards this flank. Although the horsemen suffer casualties, their momentum takes them through and they extract their revenge on their tormentors, the French gunners, who run for their lives.

Move 82 15:20

So now the heavy hand of Mars gives grief,
To neither side his fury yields relief,
Thus equal deaths are dealt with equal chance;
By turns they quit their ground by turns advance:
Victors and vanquish’d in the various field,
Nor wholly overcome, nor wholly yield,
The gods from heav’n survey the fatal strife,
And mourn the miseries of human life.

The French attack the left flank; the Russians yield.
The Russians attack the right flank; the French yield.

This lever has its fulcrum on the central battery, itself the subject of martial ebb and flow; once more possessed by Tutchkov’s men.

The battle could go either way.

Move 83 15:25

The Russian withdrawal from the centre removes the horse artillery units which so successfully allowed Tutchkov to claim the central battery, which in turn begins to withdraw. The Russian infantry clings onto the hill against French attacks to shield this. On the right, Davout ‘s men retreat in confusion before the Russians, and Murat rallies what is left of the French cavalry.

Napoleon cannot see how far his left wing has pushed, how much damage they have inflicted. But he knows he could still lose the battle if his right wing disintegrates, so he recalls some of Soult‘s cavalry, whilst still calling out for Marshal Ney and his men.

On the left, the French advance begins to slow. Raking fire from the Prussian artillery on the hill above Schloditten routs the French Dragoons, and Dokhturov rallies a line of Russian cavalry to face off against the French. The retreating Russian infantry run for the shelter of the woods before them. The French infantry continue to press their Russian counterparts, but they hold.

On the hill before Eylau, the Russian artillery continue to slow up the French infantry advance.

Count Bennigsen sends the horse artillery recalled from the centre to the gap between the woods and the hill, at right angles to the main line. If they get there in time, he hopes his hard pressed troops can rally behind them.

Move 84 15:30

Dokhturov now forms an ordered battle line, in the shape of a crescent against the French, now reduced to 2 heavy cavalry units. The French infantry on the left forms a long line. On the hill, the Russian artillery has beaten off remaining columns of l’ordre mixte.

The Russian horse artillery batteries, direct by their commander in chief, race towards the gap between him and the woods. In the woods, the fleeing Russian and Prussian infantry find shelter and hope.

In the centre, Augereau leads the French infantry forward once more against Tutchkov’s Russians.

On the right, Davout ‘s men cling on, reformed into squares.

Move 85 15:35

The horse artillery units taken from the Russian centre now deploy in the gap, as ordered. The heavy French cavalry now see this new danger, and the reformed cavalry under Dokhturov.

Soult responds to teh Emperors request by sending back the French Dragoons under his command back to the right flank.

The Russians pull back from the centre, but their cavalry on the right of the battlefield have forced numerous French infantry battalions into square. A good target if they can exploit the situation.

Move 86 15:40

Dokhturov’s cavalry now surround the French Carabiniers, who fight on though threatened with envelopment by their enemy. The Russian horse artillery give a whiff of grapeshot towards the French Cuirassiers, who dare not attack any further forwards.

The Russian infantry give as good as they get on the left; the high tide for the French has passed.

The centre now becomes silent. Not so on the right, as the Russian and French infantry clash, with les Français getting the worst.

Move 87 15:45

The French begin their retreat on the left. Count Bennigsen’s gamble to send the horse artillery from his centre to aid his threatened right wing has paid off.

In the centre a void has opened between the two armies, where recently bitter battle play raged.

On the right, the French are still being tested by Osten-Sacken and his men as the captured cannons fire back at their previous owners. Napoleon busies himself rallying his men to continue the fight.

Move 88 15:50

Even the Russians notice the French tide has ebbed on the left. Dokhturov gathers his men to begin the pursuit at a respectful distance.

Napoleon can see that some of Soult‘s cavalry has rounded the hill behind Eylau, making their way directly to his hard pressed right flank. His men are still trying to extricate themselves from Osten-Sacken’s attack.

Move 89 15:55

The French pull back on the left. Count Bennigsen signals for an advance to follow them.

The French have virtually disengaged on the right, with an isolated square on the extreme of the flank as the obstacle before Osten-Sacken’s Russians. A lone ensign rides away from the square carrying the regiments eagle, lest the worst befall his comrades.

Move 90 16:00

Nox, the goddess of the night begins to sweep towards the battlefield to see how her children Somnus and Mors are coping with so many fallen from both sides. Her shadow casts a veil over the battlefield, and the visibility falls to 1200m.

The armies continue to separate; military mitosis, with both returning to their starting positions.

Move 91 16:05

The veil of Nox sweeps down, and the visibility falls to 1100m.

Le Chapeau forms a line of infantry at right angles to the main battery, to allow his right wing to shelter behind, away from Osten-Sacken’s Russians who close in on the isolated French square.

Soult leads the left wing of the French back to the relative safety of the main army.

Move 92 16:10

The relentless onrush of Nox reduces the visibility falls to 1000m.

The Russian infantry back short work of the French square on the right, and the survivors flee for their life, hoping that the gathering gloom will save them from pursuing Russian cavalry.

On the left, the French have almost made the hills above Eylau.

On the right, the French battalion running seems to have a good distance between themselves and the Russians, who are a little dilatory in their pursuit.

Le Chapeau urges the columns of infantry onwards. He must shepherd his men, and preserve as many as he can for further action.

The Russian lines look similar to their original positions, but with much fewer men.

Move 93 16:15

The veil of Nox continues to close over the battlefield, and the visibility falls to 900m.

Le Chapeau returns to the main battery above Eylau and watches the Russian advance. Two more hours of light, another assault and his army would crumble. But night is coming. And Ney?

Move 94 16:20

Dusk draws on and the veil of Nox continues, reducing the visibility to 800m.

Napoleon‘s silent prayers are answered as a young captain makes his way before the Emperor, to tell him Ney and his whole division is two hours away, but is making all speed. They should be here by 6:30pm, no later, and that the cavalry head the advance. Instantly the Emperor’s reflex switch from defence to attack. About half and hour light left. One more push on the left, to give Ney space to deploy and roll up the Russian flank tomorrow. He sends orders out to Soult.

Tomorrow’s battle is far from the minds of the French battalion running on the right flank. They are only concerned with the immediate danger from the Russian cavalry pursuing them.

Move 95 16:25

Twilight sparkles the ice on the ground. Nox is coming, reducing the visibility to 700m.

Twilight also sparkles on the drawn sabres of the Russian cavalry on the right flank, as they steadily colse the distance on the routing French infantry. This sight gives a sense of urgency to the retreat of the French on the right.

Move 96 16:30

Half an hour before the arrival of Nox, and the visibility falls to 600m.

The Russian cavalry close the distance to the routing Frenchmen, as Fortuna Belli smiles on the horsemen. The scene is terrible to behold, but not for Mars, who nods in approval.

Marshal Murat forms the cavalry up and leads them down onto the plain before Dokturov’s men.

“Surely they wouldn’t attack again, would they?”

Move 97 16:35

The gunners on each side stare into the gloom as Nox continues her approach. The visibility falls to 500m.

Marshal Murat leads the French cavalry forward against the Russians. Orders are barked out, infantry fold into squares and the Russian cavalry stand on the snows awaiting the next hammer blow.

On the right flank, the Russian horsemen wade into the French infantry, taking them off the battlefield. Precious few will ever see la belle France again.

Move 98 16:40

The veil of Nox sweeps down, and the visibility falls to 400m.

Steel on steel, sabre to sabre, the cavalry clash once more on the snows. Flanking fire from a Russian square ripples into an attacking French cavalry column.

Count Bennigsen cannot see the fight through the gloom, but trusts in his men’s resolve to stand firm. Napoleon hopes otherwise.

Move 99 16:45

Nox and her dark cloak reduces the visibility to 300m, and at this level of light, even Napoleon cannot see his men push half of Dokhturov’s men back, or the Russian square force back the French cavalry attacking them. He sends the Old Guard forward, safe in the belief that they will always cause, but never suffer harm.

Move 100 16:50

Straining into the gloom, Nox reduces the visibility to 200m. Now even the gunners cannot see each other and the cannons fall silent at last. Dokhturov’s men hold, despite the cries of Marshal Murat. The French do not break through.

Move 101 16:55

The cavalry battle on the left peters out amidst oaths and curses from both sides. Men can no longer see their own swords, let alone their enemies. Reluctantly the French break off the attack: the Russians have held.

The Imperial Guard rout one Russian square, but even they cannot see to pursue.

Nightfall arrives with Nox, as the visibility reduces to zero. Her children, Somnus and Mors, gather each of the fallen in turn and carry the shade away from the battlefield. How many of the wounded will succumb, and require their tender care during the bitter night ahead as Nox est perpetua una dormienda claims them?

Napoleon knows his army has been lucky to survive the day and eagerly awaits Ney’s arrival. By that time, the Russians will have begun withdrawing from the battlefield to lick their wounds and ready themselves for another day. The Emperor consoles himself as he prepares the bulletin for tomorrow.

Spread the following reports in an unofficial manner. They are however true…The Russian army is greatly weakened – that the Russian army demands peace…”. But the army knows better; “Mentir comme un bulletin”.

Tomorrow’s dawn brings the full extent of French losses to the Emperor’s eyes, for even he cannot evade this awful truth. As the Emperor and his Marshals ride across the snows, carpeted by the dead and dying, an exchange is heard by the survivors.

Napoleon to Soult:- “Marshal, the Russians have done us great harm”.

Soult to Napoleon:- “And we them, our bullets were not made of cotton”.

Ney:- “Quelle massacre! Et sans resultant.”

Victoria awards the day to the Russians and Count Bennigsen. Fortuna Belli has smiled and cursed both armies in equal measures. The Russians came close to winning outright; although they lost half their army in the fight, so did the French, and Napoleon did not beat them. But the French lost four artillery batteries to the Russians, who lost none in return. That is reason enough for her to give her blessings the les Russes est les Prussiens.

The entire battle sequence is available as an animated gif, best viewed in Windows picture viewer

The Generals fighting this battle were

Emperor Napoleon I

Count Bennigsen

The Battle of Lutzen, May 2nd, 1813 Friday, Jan 23 2009 

Vauban Tile 500 pixels

Vauban Tile 500 pixels

The Battle of Lutzen, May 2nd 1813, was an important conflict in the campaign of 1813 to liberate Germany from Napoleon’s rule.  It was fought between

the French

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under the command of Napoleon, and the combined army of

Prussia

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and Russia

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under the command of Prince Wittgenstein.

The slides below explain the build-up to the battle and the details of the event, beginning with Napoleon’s retreat from Russia in 1812.

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Links to the references can be found here.

Napoleon: lessons in coalition fighting

Lutzen and Bautzen 1813

The Campaigns of Napoleon

An animated gif of the battle sequence is below. It’s best viewed by clicking on the image and opening in a new window, or downloading and using Windows Picture Viewer.

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The full set of slides above are posted here as a pdf file.