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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

French Cavalry At Eylau, 1807

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French Cavalry At Eylau, 1807

Postby Connaught » September 2nd, 2011, 3:30 pm

In the early afternoon of 8 February 1807, as a vicious snowstorm darkened the sky and swirled around the bloodied survivors of French Marshal Augereau's VII Corps, large numbers of horsemen massed behind Napoleon's center. A cavalry force of some 10,700 sabers, led by Marshal Murat, readied itself for a desperate mission: charge the center of the Russian line and prevent the them from advancing on Napoleon's ruptured center. [3] Among these 80 squadrons of cavalry sat Colonel Lepic of the Mounted Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard, waiting for the order to advance. Under fire from a sixty to seventy gun battery in the Russian center, he noted some of his troopers ducking incoming shells. "Heads up, by God!" he cried, "Those are bullets- not turds." [4] Moments later, he and his cavalrymen would step off on one of the most magnificent cavalry charges in military history.

The ensuing charge plainly saved Napoleon from a potentially disastrous defeat. Moreover, it represented the Emperor's distinct approach to cavalry and proved its utility, under certain favorable conditions. Unlike many contemporaries and theorists, Napoleon's cavalry was not simply an exploitation force or reconnaissance asset. Indeed, he saw it as a true shock force that could have effects disproportional to its numerical size. His employment of the Reserve Cavalry at Eylau is fully consistent with this view.


Winter 1806-7. The Prussian army, hopelessly defeated by the Grande Armeé at Jena-Auerstadt, had ceased to exist as a viable fighting force. Napoleon and his army settled into winter quarters to rest and refit for the inevitable 1807 campaign against the Russians. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Marshal Michel Ney, commanding the VI Corps, "in open contravention of the Emperor's order that no forward movements of any kind were to be made before the spring," had moved forward in search of supplies and forage and had conducted a sweep through Poland. [5] General Bennigsen, in a move uncharacteristic for the time, moved out of winter quarters in response. Using the harsh weather conditions and general lethargy of the French, Bennigsen hoped to completely surprise the French as they lay separated and scattered in winter garrisons. [6] But for some Russian columns being discovered by Ney, it would have worked. Napoleon ordered a concentration of his army and the chase was on after the Russians. This chase would culminate, after many missed opportunities, at the small Polish town of Preussich-Eylau.

On the 5th of February, Bennigsen turned his army around to face the pursuing French at Eylau. The Grande Armeé was close behind. Napoleon arrived on 7 February with his Guard Infantry and Cavalry under Marshals Lefebvre and Bessieres, IV Corps under Marshal Soult, and VIII Corps under Marshal Augereau; this force was approximately 45,000 men. VI Corps under Marshal Ney had been tasked with preventing the Prussian Corps of Lestocq from linking up with Bennigsen. Marshal Davout's III Corps was still en route to the field. Bennigsen faced the Emperor with 67,000. More importantly, the Russian commander had 460 guns to Napoleon's 200. [7]

The battle began by all accounts accidentally. Napoleon's baggage section unknowingly moved into Eylau itself and began preparing the headquarters. However, the town proper had not been secured by the French. The section was "attacked by an enemy patrol, and would have been captured but for the aid of the detachment of the Guard which always escorted the Emperor's effects." [8] This quickly escalated as both sides entered the fray. A French eye-witness, aide-de-camp Baron Marbot noted that "the enemy's generals, thinking that the French wished to take possession of Eylau, sent up reinforcements on their side, so that a bloody engagement took place in the streets of the town, which finally remained in our hands." [9] The town, especially the church and cemetery were hotly contested but the French remained in possession of the town over night.


http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/organization/c_eylau.html

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Re: French Cavalry At Eylau, 1807

Postby Laurent » September 2nd, 2011, 8:03 pm

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Re: French Cavalry At Eylau, 1807

Postby Connaught » September 2nd, 2011, 9:43 pm

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