At Arcis sur Aube, the last gasp of Napoleon’s Empire, the French Army is a sock puppet, and his campaign is running on fumes. By this time he’s all bark and no bite.
Earlier, in the battles of Mormant and Montereau, Napoleon engaged against inferior forces and the results were predictable, yet he was only swatting after rear guards, and could not force a battle at Troyes.
For the next month, Napoleon still held the magic, and he was able to out-maneuver his enemies by the terror of his name alone. Returning from his expedition to Laon, he planned to outflank the Bohemian Army and march on their communications toward Chaumont. Instead of marching direct to Bar-sur-Aube, he contemptuously diverted across the Aube at Arcis, to provide impetus to Schwarzenberg’s retreat. The action at Arcis was intended to be another swift kick in the pants to the Allied rearguard. Schwarzenberg surprised everyone by accepting battle, with odds of 3 to 1 in his favor. Yet even then, in the midst of 80,000 soldiers, the Allied Commander-in-Chief kept on hesitating and only launched the attack at 3 PM, after the French had had several hours to file away across the Arcis bridge.
During this battle the weakness of Napoleon’s Army became fully apparent. He no longer represented a menace. Too late, he then attempted the maneuver sur les derrière that he had contemplated for two months. His letter to the Empress detailing his plans fell into enemy hands. With the opening of a new line of communication through Laon, Schwarzenberg was able to screen Napoleon with a single corps while he linked up with Blücher and moved on Paris.
Command hesitancy cannot be overlooked in the battle of Arcis. Schwarzenberg was unwell and had taken to bed. His sickness filters down to the next tier of commanders, who did not receive the guidance needed for effective operations. The Fog of War cards will help us in this regard.