Battle of Mormant

Battle of Mormant
Part of War of the Sixth Coalition
Combat de Mormant le 17 février 1814, à dix heures du matin (détail).jpg
Battle of Mormant by Simeon Fort
Date17 February 1814
LocationMormant, France
ResultFrench victory
Belligerents
France Imperial FranceRussian Empire Russian Empire
Austrian Empire Austrian Empire
Kingdom of Bavaria Kingdom of Bavaria
Commanders and leaders
France Napoleon
France Claude Victor
France Étienne Gérard
France François Kellermann
France Édouard Milhaud
Austrian Empire Pr. Schwarzenberg
Russia Peter Pahlen
Austrian Empire Anton von Hardegg
Kingdom of Bavaria Peter de Lamotte
Units involved
France II Corps
France Reserve of Paris
France V Cavalry Corps
France VI Cavalry Corps
Russian Empire VI Corps
Austrian Empire V Corps
Kingdom of Bavaria V Corps
Strength
18,000–20,000Russian Empire 3,500–4,300, 12 gn.
Austrian Empire Hardegg's division
Kingdom of Bavaria Lamotte's division
Casualties and losses
600Russian Empire +2,114, 9–12 guns
Austrian Empire Kingdom of Bavaria 1,000

The Battle of Mormant (17 February 1814) was fought during the War of the Sixth Coalition between an Imperial French army under Emperor Napoleon I and a division of Russians under Count Peter Petrovich Pahlen. Enveloped by cavalry led by François Étienne de Kellermann and Édouard Jean-Baptiste Milhaud and infantry led by Étienne Maurice Gérard, Pahlen's outnumbered force was nearly destroyed, with only about a third of its soldiers escaping. Later in the day, a French column led by Marshal Claude Perrin Victor encountered an Austrian-Bavarian rearguard under Anton Leonhard von Hardegg and Peter de Lamotte in the Battle of Valjouan. Attacked by French infantry and cavalry, the Allied force was mauled before it withdrew behind the Seine River. The Mormant-Valjouan actions and the Battle of Montereau the following day marked the start of a French counteroffensive intended to drive back Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg's Allied Army of Bohemia. The town of Mormant is located 50 kilometres (31 mi) southeast of Paris.

Background

The Allied generals, particularly the Prussians, were exuberant over their victory over Napoleon at the Battle of La Rothière on 1 February 1814. They soon conceived a plan in which the main army under the Austrian Field Marshal Schwarzenberg advanced toward Paris via Troyes. Simultaneously, Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher's army took a more northerly route along the Marne River toward Meaux.[1] When Napoleon realized that Blücher represented the more serious threat on 6 February, he began to shift his strength northward in order to deal with the Prussian field marshal. Leaving Marshals Victor and Nicolas Oudinot with 34,000 men to hold off Schwarzenberg's much larger army, Napoleon headed north on 9 February with 30,000 troops.[2]

Napoleon landed some damaging blows on Blücher's army in the subsequent Six Days' Campaign. On 10 February in the Battle of Champaubert, the French army fell on Zakhar Dmitrievich Olsufiev's corps, which numbered only 4,000 infantry and 24 guns. Only 1,700 Russians escaped the disaster and the French made Olsufiev a prisoner.[3] The next day, Napoleon defeated Fabian Gottlieb von Osten-Sacken's Russians and Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg's Prussians in the Battle of Montmirail. For the loss of 2,000 killed and wounded, the French inflicted a loss of 3,700 men and 13 guns on the Allies.[4] On 12 February, the French beat Sacken and Yorck again in the Battle of Château-Thierry. French losses were 600; the Allies lost 2,750 men and nine guns.[5] Blücher attacked the French on 14 February and was nearly destroyed in the Battle of Vauchamps. The French sustained a loss of 600 men while the Allies lost 6,000 men and 16 guns. Altogether, Blücher's 56,000-man army lost over 16,000 soldiers and 47 guns during the week while Napoleon's losses added up to only 4,000.[6]

While Napoleon was drubbing Blücher, Schwarzenberg's main army pushed back the forces of Marshals Victor and Oudinot. On the Allied right wing, Peter Wittgenstein's Russian corps advanced toward Nogent-sur-Seine while Karl Philipp von Wrede's Austro-Bavarian corps struck toward Bray-sur-Seine. On the Allied left wing, Crown Prince Frederick William of Württemberg's Württemberg corps moved toward Sens with Frederick Bianchi's Austrian corps on his left. Ignaz Gyulai's Austrian corps supported the left wing while Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly's Allied Reserves supported the right wing.[7] Wrede got across the Seine at Bray, causing the French to abandon Nogent to Wittgenstein. Victor and Oudinot retreated behind the Yerres stream, dangerously close to Paris. When the marshals called for help, Napoleon sent Marshal Jacques MacDonald to Guignes where he arrived on 14 February with a corps that was rebuilt by replacements from Paris. A blunder caused the army's wagon train to withdraw across the Marne near Paris, causing panic in the French capital.[8]

Leaving Marshals Auguste de Marmont and Édouard Mortier to watch Blücher, Napoleon rapidly transferred his strength southward against Schwarzenberg's army. The French emperor arrived at Guignes on the evening of 16 February and planned to launch his offensive the next day.[9] He found the army of Victor and Oudinot in good order and prepared to go over to the offensive.[10]

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