1814: Campaign in France, Part III
Our next game presents four battles on the Seine, February-March 1814
Publication Date: February 2024
The first of the four battles occurred on the 17th and 18th of February: Mormant took place 3 days after the Battle of Vauchamps, covered in "La Patrie en Danger." The last two battles were fought in late-March: Arcis followed 8 days after Reims, from "Napoleon Retreats." With all three games you can contemplate a 12-battle Grand Campaign.
A Fighting Rear Guard, 17 February 1814
The French army under Napoleon began the counteroffensive with an attack 50 km southeast of Paris, targeting a division of Russian troops under Count Pahlen. His outnumbered force was enveloped and nearly destroyed, with a third of his men escaping. Later in the day, a French column encountered an Austro-Bavarian rearguard at Valjouan. It was mauled by French infantry and cavalry, before withdrawing behind the Seine.
The Seine and Yonne Bridges, 17-18 February
Napoleon approached a corps of Austrian and Württemberg troops. The Allied commander ordered a withdrawal, but 17 February saw his rear guards overrun or brushed aside. Ordered to hold Montereau until nightfall on the 18th, the Crown Prince of Württemberg posted a strong force on the north bank of the Seine. All morning the Allies stoutly held off a series of French attacks. However, the lines buckled in the afternoon and the troops ran for the single bridge behind them. The French cavalry got among the fugitives, capturing the spans over both the Seine and Yonne Rivers and seized Montereau. The Allied force suffered heavy losses and the defeat confirmed Schwarzenberg's decision to continue the retreat to Troyes.
Time Runs Out, 20-21 March 1814
After his victory at Reims, Napoleon moved south to threaten Schwarzenberg. The Austrian Generalissimo pulled his army back to Troyes and Arcis-sur-Aube. Napoleon arrived and attacked the town, but Schwarzenberg uncharacteristically advanced to fight it out rather than retreat again. The first day was inconclusive and Napoleon prepared to pursue a retreating enemy the next day. The French advance to high ground revealed up to 100,000 troops in battle array south of Arcis. Napoleon, massively outnumbered, ordered a retreat. By the time the Austrians discovered this, most of the French had already disengaged and the Allied pursuit couldn’t stop them.
La Fère Champenois
The Marshals Entrapped, 25 March
After pulling out of Arcis-sur-Aube, the Emperor’s eagles moved east, hoping to draw the Coalition armies away from Paris by threatening their supply lines; this desperate ploy failed in its intent. Meanwhile, Marmont and Mortier were marching to join Napoleon, with Blücher’s Army of Silesia hot on their tails. As the two marshals moved east out of Sezanne they unexpectedly collided with Schwarzenberg. Realizing they were marching into a trap, they turned back, and managed an orderly retreat until a violent rainstorm rendered their muskets unreliable. They were steadily driven back and completely routed by aggressive Coalition horsemen and gunners, suffering heavy casualties and the loss of most of their artillery. A nearby convoy, escorted by two French divisions of National Guards under Pacthod, were also attacked and wiped out at Bannes. With the corps of Marmont and Mortier collapsing, the Allied assault on Paris was a foregone conclusion. The Battle of Paris followed on 30 March.