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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Bernadotte at Dornburg

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Re: Bernadotte at Dornburg

Postby Senarmont198 » December 19th, 2017, 12:45 pm

Bernadotte was not the slickest of operators, though he could find a way to get out of trouble after causing it. He was also considered to be a 'fanatic' read Jacobin extremist by Desaix. After the Brumaire coup Bernadotte portrayed himself as ready to oppose Napoleon if asked.

Apparently, in 1802 he was instrumental in fomenting a mutiny among the troops destined for Haiti in western France where he commanded at the time. He made sure he was in Paris when the shooting was supposed to start. When the plot was found out, Bernadotte stated that he knew nothing about it.

He was an intriguer and leaving Davout in the lurch in 1806 only reinforced this characteristic. His behavior in 1809 again showed him to be an unreliable subordinate, and this time he was guilty of insubordination. He trusted no one himself, and was untrustworthy as an officer and a commander.

When the sound of Davout's fight at Auerstadt was heard in Bernadotte's command, General Sahuc, who commanded a dragoon division, suggested countermarching his division to support Davout, but Bernadotte refused permission. That in itself is a truth-teller.
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Re: Bernadotte at Dornburg

Postby Josh&Historyland » December 19th, 2017, 2:50 pm

It cannot be denied that Bernadotte was the arch intriguer, but this is not in play at Jena as far as I can see. Undoubtedly he'd have accepted a primacy if offered at Brumaire, but as it was he cleverly stayed silent and took advantage by quietly making it known to those select critics of Bonaparte that he felt the coup was an abrogation of the Republic. In this sense he probably did feel it was un-republican as from most accounts he did seem to have a queer secret or private form of extreme jacobinism, treating it much as some might treat religious principle, which he didn't let get in the way of being constitutionally appointed monarch... which he took seriously but also might have enjoyed as a long running joke.
The Sahuc incident is only telling if you wish it to be, the counter argument is offered logically in the link above, and though I understand that you feel it is worthless because it supposedly depends to much on 'tertiary' sources, DaveH trusts it and having read it I see merit in some of the arguments.
In sum I see no way, with the contrasting ways of interpreting the evidence, of returning any verdict, guilty or innocent for Bernadotte at Dornburg. To say he was untrustworthy would be an overestimation, as he proved trustworthy on several occasions unless I miss my mark, and Napoleon could have dismissed him at any time had been truly thought of as a traitor when serving the French army. To say he was entirely guiltless in a military sense seems irresponsible as well but I for one would hesitate to condemn him on the eveidence at hand, rather it can plainly be said that Bernadotte for uncertain reasons did not support either Davout or Napoleon during the Battle of Jena.
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Re: Bernadotte at Dornburg

Postby Senarmont198 » December 19th, 2017, 4:20 pm

I think you're giving Bernadotte the benefit of the doubt which he does not deserve. He's in the same category as Marmont-a skunk of the first order.
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Re: Bernadotte at Dornburg

Postby DaveH » December 19th, 2017, 8:14 pm

Surely if intelligent people are still arguing now about what the "PS" meant, then it can be no surprise that its meaning was not clear to those at the time.

Bernadotte was a Jacobin and probably didn't fancy a trip to Haiti - given the losses the UK and French forces took out that way from tropical diseases, I don't think anyone would blame him either.

I didn't say Elting used Bowden - in terms of Elting, he uses Bressonet just as John Cook used Foucart. How you can say one is top class research and the other tertiary hagiography beats me. The point about Bowden is that where kevin seeks to quote from his work, we do not know what is 3e Corps journal, what is Bressonet and what is Bowden with his track record. In particular, that last paragraph begins with the statement that the two Marshals had orders to march to Apolda. As i have yet to see an order to that effect, this is someone stirring things up - hence why i was interested to know how much was original.

As regards Sahuc, where does that claim come from? I seem to remember that someone made a similar proposal to Grouchy at Waterloo. Interestingly, I came across this http://www.napoleon-series.org/military ... vout1.html in which Sahuc is clearly under Davout's command until at least 12th October, so his idea is less than unbiased. It is worth noting that on 12th October, Davout also reinforces the idea that the Prussians are massing around Weimar, which is about 22km WNW of Jena. marching from Apolda would have taken Davout right on to that road about 8km from Weimar. He would have reached it about the same time as Bernadotte, marching from Dornburg would have arrived around Jena, where Lannes was blocking the road. Nowhere does Davout suggest Prussian forces could attack him by surprise from the Thuringia Forest.

There is an interesting summary by John Wladis of Charrier's 2005 book on Davout on the Napoleon Series http://www.napoleon-series.org/cgi-bin/ ... ;id=151767

It seems in fact that Sahuc (and Dupont, who suddenly doesn't get a mention!) only suggested going to Auerstadt when Bernadotte was at Apolda with cannonfire on both sides of him. Charrier apparently has no idea of the conversation between Davout and Bernadotte at Naumburg, which suggests that the Bowden version is rather suspect! It seems that Bernadotte had been rather slow getting to Naumburg and that the PS from berthier did rather emphasise that he was expected to be in Dornburg on 14th October, so he was focused on that. The nonsense of marching down the same Naumburg to Apolda road as Davout seems overall to show that Bernadotte was absolutely right to go to Dornburg, from where he could march directly to Apolda or Jena along half-decent roads.

Where Bernadotte does seem to be at question is apparently in not reacting to messages from Davout: The first delivered by Gen Romeuf around 10 am to Bernadotte near Camberg (citing Segur, Souvenirs d’un aide de camp de Napoleon at 306); the second by Trobriand, who encountered Bernadotte about 4:07 at Apolda.

By marching to Apolda, is Bernadotte actually complying with the spirit of Berthier's PS - how could he know from th mesasge arriving at 10 am that Davout was involved in a big battle when everyone including N and Davout thought the Prussians were marching between Weimar and Jena? Ina siotuation where he actually has no idea what is happening, is he not perhaps actually guilty of being too keen to comply with Napoleon's order to get to Dornberg?

This is of course the same Bernadotte, who defeated the remaining Prussian reserves under the Duke of Würtemberg at Halle on 17th ~October and took the key city of Lübeck by storm in early November.
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Re: Bernadotte at Dornburg

Postby Josh&Historyland » December 19th, 2017, 8:33 pm

Senarmont198 wrote:I think you're giving Bernadotte the benefit of the doubt which he does not deserve. He's in the same category as Marmont-a skunk of the first order.
If you can prove he [Bernadotte] doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt then I'd be equally happy to deny his memory that courtesy. (PS I would give Marmont the benefit as well) :)
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Re: Bernadotte at Dornburg

Postby Senarmont198 » December 19th, 2017, 8:41 pm

Josh,

Bernadotte, based on his record as marshal and corps commander, does not deserve the benefit of the doubt. He failed in 1806 and failed again later in 1809. Even if he wasn't being treacherous in 1806, the record of incompetence, as has been clearly demonstrated, is actually incredible for a senior officer.

As for Marmont, he actively treated with the allies to turn his corps over to them, and when it actually happened his fellow marshals were both outraged and struck with incredulity. What he ruined was Napoleon II's future as well as France's. The war was all but over when the treason took place, and Napoleon was already abdicating in favor of his son. Marmont's actions brought the Bourbons back, which was definitely not to the benefit of France.

Have you read Caulaincourt's memoirs? As he was a witness to the episode, it is fascinating reading.
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Re: Bernadotte at Dornburg

Postby DaveH » December 19th, 2017, 9:16 pm

There is something rather strange about devotees of major personalities that makes them believe that those around this figure should stay to the bitter end, when in reality we all look for the best position for ourselves. There was no future for N2 as King of France - the Allies would have known that he would just have been the puppet of his father and they certainly were not going to legitimise a Napoleonic dynasty. So, Marmont acted in the best interests of France by getting the matter wrapped up with the least possible bloodshed. Such characters cannot be expected to fight to the bitter and hopeless end. But "traitor" is an easy word to throw as we know in the UK from the Brexit shenanigans. However, a Czech philosopher was wiser when he said something like treachery is a tricky concept - if the perpetrator succeeds, he is far-sighted; if he fails he is a traitor.

Anyway, I have found the 3e Corps report on Gallica. It is quite interesting at pp29-30 http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k9307963/f43.image and shows that either Bressonnet or Bowden was engaged in rather hysterical language. It says that Davout was ordered to Apolda to fall on the rear of the Prussian army thought to be moving from Weimar to Jena, allowing Davout to take whichever route was convenient. Then at the top of p.30 comes the infamous PS from Berthier, the key word being "ensemble". Davout gives his orders to his commanders, who leave to get things going. then he went to see Bernadotte, who was in the process of arriving in Naumburg that evening. Davout gives him the order and asks what bernadotte will be doing. Bernadotte says he is going to Camburg (ie: down the road towards Dornburg).

This version seems very sensible and a recognition of what was going on - Davout knew he was headed for the Prussian rear and Bernadotte was to be at Dornburg on the road to Jena, although if he was still back around Naumburg, he could stay roughly in line with Davout, so that they struck the Prussians in the flank and rear at about the same time. What is the point of Bernadotte being behind Davout on the same road? It delays his enttry into action and causes confusion in the available space with Davout? Quite clearly - contrary probably Bowden - there is no order to Bernadotte to go to Apolda.
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Re: Bernadotte at Dornburg

Postby DaveH » December 30th, 2017, 12:02 am

In much the same way (see esp Bourcet), the production of the original French text produces a period of quiet. In that time, it is worth looking at what is in Bowden, compared with what is actually in the 3e Corps journal:

Marechal Davout distributed the orders to all his generals, who left immediately to carry them out; then Davout went to see Beradotte, commander of the 1st Corps, who had indeed arrived in Naumburg during the night. The Marechal gave him written notice [emphasis added] of the orders he had just received from His Majesty, and asked him to declare what he was going to do. Bernadotte told Davout that he would not move towards Apolda with the 3d Corps, but would instead march for Kamburg [and from there, on to Dornburg}.’

What the journal actually says is: "(Davout) went to see (Bernadotte), who had actually arrived in Naumbourg during the evening. (Davout) communicated to him in writing the orders, which he had received from the Emperor, asking (Bernadotte) to let him know what part he was playing. (Bernadotte) said that he was departing for Camburg". Aside from the error over night/evening, Davout has provided Bernadotte with a written copy of his orders - there is no "written notice" with emphasis added or not! Bernadotte has replied that he is complying with the orders he has been given.

It does rather illustrate the fact that we must go back to the original material and not rely on intermediates and translations, as these original texts can so often be embellished, giving the impression that they represent the original text.
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