This is the 8th blog in a series of wargame blogs about the 1814 Defense de Paris campaign, a campaign better and smaller than the 100 Days. I included an Austrian order of battle for a 200 or 300 point (Blücher) pick-up game.
The 1814 Austrian Army
The Army of Bohemia or the Grand Army, with about 200,000 Austrian soldiers under Prince Schwarzenberg, passed through Swiss territory (violating the cantons’ neutrality) and crossed the Rhine between Basel and Schaffhausen on 20 December 1813. Destination: Paris.
1814 East of Paris French-Austrian battles
The snowstorm battle of La Rothière (French Empire vs a combined Austrian-Prussian-Russian force, 2 February 1814) was a French tactical defeat and Napoleon had to withdraw. Wikipedia:
“Owing to the state of the roads, or perhaps to the extraordinary lethargy which always characterized Schwarzenberg’s headquarters, no pursuit was attempted (…)
Napoleon however then surprised Blücher and Schwarzenberg with a series of swift counterattacks in the following famous Six Day’s Campaign. First Blücher: battles vs the Prusso-Russians of Champaubert, 10 February 1814; Montmirail, 11 February, Château-Thierry, 12 February; Vauchamps, 14 February.
Then he attacked Schwarzenberg.
1814 The Three French M-victories
Napoleon with his main body struck at the flank of Schwarzenberg’s Austrian army, which had meanwhile begun its leisurely advance, and again at Mormant, 17 February; Montereau, 18 February; and Méry-sur-Seine, 21 February. He inflicted such heavy punishment upon his adversaries that they fell back precipitately to Bar-sur-Aube.
In the meantime Blücher rallied his troops and started to march north again, threatening Paris from the north-east, while Schwarzenberg slowly advanced again. Napoleon tried to neutralize Blücher near Laon/Craonne (7 and 9 March) and then tried to surprise Schwarzenberg again via Rheims at Arcis-sur-Aube.
On 14 March, Schwarzenberg, becoming aware of Napoleon’s presence in Rheims, began again his advance and his advanced guard had reached Arcis-sur-Aube, when Napoleon intercepted it on 20 March. At the start of the Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube, the Austrians were about 21,000 strong while the French fielded 20,000, however during the night of 20/21 both sides received reinforcements. On the second day of the battle while French strength was about 28,000 the Austrians now deployed 80,000. This forced the issue and while French losses were less than the Austrians, Napoleon was forced to withdraw eastwards and Schwarzenberg was free to advance west.
And that happened. Napoleon, in a all-or-nothing move, hurried to the east to show he could threaten supply lines. The Coalition Army had decided to capture symbolic Paris, however, and moved on, westward. The weak French center defense under Marmont, Mortier and Pacthod fought and lost a rearguard battle against an mainly Russian with Austrian, Prussian and German backup-army at Fère-Champenoise, 25 March 1814. The Coalition captured Paris on 31 March.
1814 Lyon- Geneva French-Austrian battles
As Napoleon dueled with the Schwarzenberg and Blücher to the east of Paris, a subsidiary campaign was fought near Lyon to the southeast.
The Austrians captured Geneva on 30 December 1813. Austrian commander Bubna operated as a practically independent commander. He left Von Zechmeister in charge of Geneva and captured Bourg-en-Bresse on 11 January 1814. Napoleon assigned Marshal Pierre Augereau to defend Lyon, mount a threat to the Allied south flank and recapture Geneva, with the help of Suchet’s 10,000 infantry plus cavalry. Augereau reached Lyon on 14 March. The Austrians hung around Lyon during 18–19 January but missed the chance to capture Lyon
Zechmeister invaded Savoie and the Austrian II Corps began blockading Besançon on 11 January. French general Marchand was appointed to defend Savoie with Dessaix as his deputy. On 25 January, 400 French soldiers with two cannons successfully defended the bridge over the Isère River at Montmélian. On 31 January Zechmeister’s Austrians were repelled in an attack on Fort Barreaux in which 10–12 year old boys from the nearby village carried ammunition to the defenders. There was an inconclusive skirmish at Chapareillan on 6 February. The local authorities mobilized National Guards, retired veterans, hunters and customs officers to defend the area. The Austrians under Bubna occupied Chalon-sur-Saône without too much trouble and seized Mâcon on 8 February.
The 3 French Defeats of St Julien, Mâcon and Limonest
By February 1814, 17.500 men reinforcements (25% Spanish veterans and 75% conscripts) allowed Augereau to organize his soldiers into four divisions and to mount an offensive against Bubna’s now-outnumbered 12,000 men. He ordered a strike northeast from Lyon toward Geneva. Bubna decided to abandon his position in Bourg on 20 February.
Schwarzenberg received the disturbing news that Augereau and Marchand were advancing in the south. Schwarzenberg detached the I Corps, a reserve division and additional troops with orders to march rapidly for Dijon. Schwarzenberg followed the wishes of the Austrian emperor Francis I who wrote earlier: “”We must not forget that the enemy can, from the South of France, move against our left, where the allies have few men, and that it is very necessary to hold strongly the road which, in case of a check, would serve for retreat”. Napoleon wanted Augereau to advance toward Chalon-sur-Saône to carry out the threat that Francis feared.
The French and Austrians clashed in several small battles (15 February, Echelles, 800 men; 18-19 February, battles around Chambéry, 2000-3000 troops per side. 23 February, Aix-Les-Bains, French cavalry vs 3000 Austrians; 24-27 February, small battles near Annecy (south of Geneva) and Frangy (west of Geneva). Eventually the French forces, out of supply, met the Austrian forces at St Julien near Geneva, 1 March 1814. Despite being outnumbered 2 to 1 (10.000 vs 5000) the Austrians held the town. The Austrians tactically retreated to Geneva and forced by fresh Austrian reinforcements the French fell back to Lyon in March. Augerau/Musnier, now themselves outnumbered (6000 vs 8 to 14000) tried to stop the Austrians at Maçon, 11 March 1814 (Maçon is 75km north of Lyon) but failed.
The Battle of Limonest (20 March 1814) saw 53,000 Austrian and Hessian troops led by Prince Frederick of Hessen-Homburg attack 23,000 French troops under Marshal Pierre Augereau. After some stiff fighting, the Allies forced the outnumbered French defenders to withdraw from a line of hills north of Lyon in this War of the Sixth Coalition action. Lyon, in 1814 the second largest city in France, was abandoned to the Allies as a direct result of the defeat.
Austrian Order of Battle
This Blücher OOB is a 228 point army (2 Corps) with a standard commander. Schwarzenberg, Bubna and Von Hessen were able, but cautious commanders without special traits or benefits. The Austrian army groups were, unlike the French specialized corps, generic brigades with a mixture of infantry, artillery, landwehr and cavalry. In this fictional order of battle I made a ‘elite’ brigade with a backbone of strong infantry and cuirassiers, a second standard brigade with horse artillery and a 3rd German allied brigade with somewhat weaker units.
First Karinthian Brigade
- Ist Grenadier Regiment
- Ist Veteran Grenz regiment (attached artillery)
- Ist Avant-Garde Brigade
- Ist Veteran Infantry regiment (attached artillery)
- Ist Grenz Infantry Conscripts
- Ist Landwehr
- Ist Cuirassiers
- Ist Light Cavalry* Von Strauss
- Ist Light Cavalry Von Sacher
Second (Donau) Brigade
- IInd Grenadier Regiment
- IInd Veteran Grenz regiment
- IInd Avant-Garde Brigade
- IInd Veteran Infantry regiment (attached artillery)
- IInd Grenz Infantry Conscripts (attached artillery)
- IInd Landwehr
- IInd Hussars ‘Radetzky’
- IInd Hussars ‘Eszterhazy’
- IInd Hussars ‘Bartok’
- Horse Artillery Battery
Upgrade to 300 points, add:
IIIrd German Auxiliary Corps (Bavarian or Hessian) 74 points
- IIIrd Veteran Infantry Von Roth
- IIIrd Veteran Infantry Von Schwarz
- IIIrd Veteran Infantry Gelbe
- IIIrd Landwehr Von Roth
- IIIrd Landwehr Von Schwarz
- IIIrd Landwehr Gelbe
- IIIrd Light Cavalry* Von Roth
- IIIrd Light Cavalry Von Schwarz
- IIIrd Landwehr Cavalry** Von Roth
- IIIrd Landwehr Cavalry Von Schwarz
* In the Army Builders it’s called ‘other’ cavalry. For clarity I call it Light, but call it Lancers or Dragoons or whatever you want. The Austrian Empire had many types
** In the Army Builders it’s called ‘Insurrection’ cavalry. For clarity I call it Landwehr cavalry, low disciplined reserve cavalry.