IV Cavalry Corps (Grande Armée)

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IV Cavalry Corps (Grande Armée)
Active 1812–1815
Country France First French Empire
Branch Army
Type Cavalry Corps
Size Two cavalry divisions
Engagements Napoleonic Wars
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Victor de Fay de La Tour-Maubourg
François Étienne de Kellermann
Édouard Jean Baptiste Milhaud

The IV Cavalry Corps (Grande Armée) was a French military formation that existed during the Napoleonic Wars. The corps was created in 1812 and rebuilt in 1813 and 1815. Emperor Napoleon first organized the corps for the French invasion of Russia. Under General of Division Victor de Fay de La Tour-Maubourg, the corps fought at Borodino. During the War of the Sixth Coalition in 1813, General of Division François Étienne de Kellermann commanded the all-Polish corps at Leipzig. During the Hundred Days in 1815, Napoleon reconstituted the corps and nominated General of Division Édouard Jean Baptiste Milhaud to direct it. Composed entirely of cuirassier regiments, the two divisions fought at Ligny and Waterloo.

History[edit]

1812[edit]

Painting shows yellow-coated cavalrymen with brass helmets at the left attacking white-coated cuirassiers at the right.
Yellow-coated Saxons at left attacking Russian cuirassiers at Borodino.

At the beginning of the French invasion of Russia, the IV Cavalry Corps numbered 7,964 troopers in 40 squadrons with 24 cannons attached. The corps was placed under the leadership of General of Division Victor de Fay de La Tour-Maubourg and organized into two divisions under Generals of Division Alexander Rozniecki and Jean Thomas Guillaume Lorge. Rozniecki's 4th Light Cavalry Division was made up of Poles while Lorge's 7th Heavy Cavalry Division consisted of Poles, Saxons, and Westphalians. Along with three infantry corps, the corps formed part of the Second Support Army under King Jérôme Bonaparte.[1] On 9 July 1812, General of Brigade Casimir Turno's 900-strong brigade of Rozniecki's division was defeated by 4,500 Cossacks under General Matvei Platov at Karelichy. The 3rd, 15th, and 16th Lancers lost 356 men killed, wounded, or captured. The next day, near Mir in modern-day Belarus, 1,600 troopers of Rozniecki's division were again worsted in a clash with a mixed force of 5,000 Russians, including Russian regular infantry and cavalry plus Cossacks. Elements of the Polish 2nd, 3rd, 9th, 11th, 15th, and 16th Lancer Regiments were engaged. The Russians suffered 180 casualties while Polish losses are unknown.[2]

The IV Cavalry Corps was engaged at the Battle of Borodino on 7 September 1812. The 4th Light Cavalry Division deployed three regiments of Polish uhlans (lancers) backed by two Polish horse artillery batteries. The 7th Heavy Cavalry Division counted two regiments of Saxon, two of Westphalian, and one of Polish cuirassiers, supported by one Saxon and one Westphalian horse artillery batteries. See Orders of Battle: Borodino 1812.[3] The final attack on the Great Redoubt occurred at 2:00 PM. Prince Eugène de Beauharnais sent three infantry divisions in a frontal attack, while the III Cavalry Corps advanced on the left and the II Cavalry Corps and IV Cavalry Corps advanced on the right. The cavalry on the right-hand side soon trotted past the marching infantry and drove for the left side of the redoubt. According to the Saxon colonel of the Zastrow Regiment, the young-looking La Tour-Maubourg deftly led the corps past the left end of the redoubt. Galloping over dead bodies from the earlier fighting, Lorge's cuirassiers were the first into the fieldwork. Some cavalrymen forced their way through embrasures while others swept around the rear. Massed inside the Great Redoubt, the Russian infantry refused to give up as infantrymen and horsemen engaged in a wild frenzy of slaughter. When the French infantry finally burst into the fieldwork from the front, they quickly massacred the remaining defenders. Witnesses later described a ghastly scene with some corpses torn apart by artillery fire and others stacked several layers deep.[4]

After the capture of Moscow, the Imperial French cavalry corps under Marshal Joachim Murat were assigned to watch the Russian camp near Tarutino. Camped in the open, men and horses sickened and died in large numbers. By mid-October, General Thielmann reported that the Saxon cavalry brigade could only muster 50 horses.[5] La Tour-Maubourg led a remnant of his corps at the Battle of Krasnoi on 16 November 1812. On this occasion, the corps held off Russian cavalry and Cossacks, allowing the retreating army to utilize the main highway.[6] About the time of this action many units of the main army simply dissolved.[7]

1813–1814[edit]

Black and white print of a man with hair that looks like its being blown. He wears an elaborate high-collared military uniform with epaulettes and unusual braiding.
Michał Sokolnicki

When the summer 1813 armistice ended, the IV Cavalry Corps counted 3,923 horsemen in 24 squadrons with 12 artillery pieces attached. Napoleon appointed General of Division François Étienne de Kellermann to lead the formation. During the spring campaign, the Polish army under Prince Joseph Poniatowski was isolated near Warsaw. By an agreement with the Allies, the Poles were permitted free passage to join Napoleon's forces in Saxony. From the Allied perspective, the arrangement freed up a large number of troops who would otherwise be required to contain the Poles.[8] The Poles were allowed to march through the neutral territory of the Austrian Empire. The IV Cavalry Corps was instructed to assemble at Bautzen along with the I Corps under General of Division Dominique Vandamme. All told, 37,000 soldiers including 5,000 cavalry and 88 guns were massed at Bautzen.[9] On 27 September, the IV Cavalry Corps and the VIII Corps under Poniatowski were located at Waldheim.[10] At this time corps strength was about 3,000 troopers and 12 guns.[11] On 14 October, 8,550 cavalrymen including the IV Cavalry Corps, V Cavalry Corps, Frédéric de Berkheim's division of the I Cavalry Corps, and a Polish cuirassier regiment engaged the Allies in the action of Liebertwolkwitz. Though the French held their ground, the combat was not a success because Marshal Joachim Murat's dense tactical formations were fended off by only 5,570 Allied horsemen.[12] One source credited Kellermann's corps with only 1,800 combatants in the action.[13] At the start of the Battle of Leipzig on 16 October, the IV Cavalry Corps was positioned directly behind Poniatowski's corps.[14] The corps comprised the 7th and 8th Light Cavalry Divisions under Generals of Division Michael Sokolnicki and Antoni Pawel respectively. Each division had two brigades consisting of two regiments each. In both divisions, three regiments were made up of uhlans (lancers) and one of hussars. All corps units were Poles with the exception that one of the two horse artillery batteries was French. See Orders of Battle: Leipzig 1813.[15] When Napoleon ordered the retreat, Kellermann's corps was directed to accompany the Imperial Guard and several other units.[16]

The III Cavalry Corps under Jean-Toussaint Arrighi de Casanova and the IV Cavalry Corps under Horace François Bastien Sébastiani de La Porta served in Marshal Jacques MacDonald's command during the first week of February 1814.[17]

1815[edit]

Photo of a man uniformed as an early 1800s French cuirassier mounted on a horse.
Horseman outfitted as a French cuirassier in 2011.

During the Hundred Days, Napoleon reconstituted the IV Cavalry Corps and appointed General of Division Édouard Jean Baptiste Milhaud to lead it. The two divisions were commanded by Generals of Division Pierre Watier and Jacques-Antoine-Adrien Delort. Each division comprised two brigades of two cuirassier regiments. The corps included the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, and 12th Cuirassier Regiments. See Orders of Battle: Waterloo 1815.[18] At the beginning of the campaign, the corps counted 2,556 horsemen, 313 artillerists, and 12 guns.[19]

The corps fought at the Battle of Ligny on 16 June 1815. Only the 6th, 9th, and 10th Regiments were engaged.[20] At 7:00 PM, Napoleon launched the Imperial Guard supported by Milhaud's cuirassiers in an assault on the Prussian lines. After the attack broke through, General Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher led his cavalry in a counterattack. The Prussian horsemen were repulsed and Blücher's horse was killed. The Prussian commander was ridden over by cuirassiers twice amid the fighting, but a member of his staff managed to rescue him.[21]

At the Battle of Waterloo on the 16th, Milhaud's two divisions and the Imperial Guard light cavalry took position on the right flank, behind the I Corps.[22] At 1:30 PM, Napoleon sent General of Division Jean-Baptiste Drouet, Comte d'Erlon's I Corps at the Anglo-Allied lines, supported by General of Brigade Étienne Jacques Travers' cuirassier brigade.[23] The heavy cavalrymen enjoyed a quick success when they caught the Hanoverian Lüneburg Light Battalion in line formation behind La Haye Sainte and cut it to pieces.[24] Soon after, the cuirassiers were attacked and routed by the British Household Cavalry Brigade.[25] Later in the day, Marshal Michel Ney ordered Milhaud to send one brigade of cuirassiers to charge what he erroneously believed to be a retreating enemy. By some mistake, Delort's entire division moved to the attack followed by the rest of the IV Cavalry Corps as well as the Guard light cavalry. The unsupported French cavalry hurled itself at the Allied infantry squares, cannons, and cavalry but were beaten back.[26] Again and again the cavalry returned to the attack but every charge was repelled. Soon the III Cavalry Corps and the Guard heavy cavalry joined in, but every charge failed. By 6:00 PM, the superb French reserve cavalry was ruined as a fighting force.[27]

Orders of Battle[edit]

Borodino 1812[edit]

Black and white print of a proud-looking, curly-haired man in a plain dark military uninform.
Victor de La Tour Maubourg

IV Cavalry Corps: General of Division Victor de Fay de La Tour-Maubourg

  • 4th Light Cavalry Division: General of Division Alexander Rozniecki
    • 1st Brigade: General of Brigade Casimir Turno
      • 3rd Polish Uhlan Regiment (three squadrons)
      • 11th Polish Uhlan Regiment (three squadrons)
      • 16th Polish Uhlan Regiment (three squadrons)
    • Divisional Artillery:
      • 3rd Polish Horse Artillery Battery (six guns)
      • 4th Polish Horse Artillery Battery (six guns)
  • 7th Heavy Cavalry Division: General of Division Jean Thomas Guillaume Lorge
    • 1st Brigade: General of Brigade von Thielemann
      • 14th Polish Cuirassier Regiment (two squadrons)
      • Saxon Garde du Corps Regiment (four squadrons)
      • Saxon Zastrow Cuirassier Regiment (four squadrons)
    • 2nd Brigade: General of Brigade Lepel
      • 1st Westphalian Cuirassier Regiment (four squadrons)
      • 2nd Westphalian Cuirassier Regiment (four squadrons)
    • Divisional Artillery:
      • Saxon 2nd Horse Artillery Battery (six guns)
      • Westphalian 2nd Horse Artillery Battery (six guns)

Source: "Order of Battle of Borodino". napolun.com. 2007. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 

Leipzig 1813[edit]

Painting of a man with curly hair, round eyes, and sideburns. He wears a high-collared blue uniform loaded with military decorations.
François de Kellermann

IV Cavalry Corps: General of Division François Étienne de Kellermann

  • 7th Light Cavalry Division: General of Division Michael Sokolnicki
    • 17th Light Cavalry Brigade: General of Brigade Jozef Tolinski
      • 3rd Polish Uhlan Regiment (four squadrons)
      • 1st Polish Chasseur Regiment (four squadrons)
    • 18th Light Cavalry Brigade: General of Brigade Jan Krukostoweicki
      • 2nd Polish Uhlan Regiment (four squadrons)
      • 4th Polish Uhlan Regiment (four squadrons)
  • 8th Light Cavalry Division: General of Division Antoni Pawel
    • 19th Light Cavalry Brigade: General of Brigade Casimir Turno
      • 6th Polish Uhlan Regiment (four squadrons)
      • 8th Polish Uhlan Regiment (four squadrons)
    • 20th Light Cavalry Brigade: General of Brigade Jan Weyssenhoff
      • 1st Polish Hussar Regiment (four squadrons)
      • 10th Polish Uhlan Regiment (four squadrons)
  • Corps Artillery:
    • Polish Horse Artillery Battery
    • French 2nd Company of the 4th Horse Artillery Regiment

Source: "French Order of Battle at Leipzig". The Napoleon Series. 2004. Retrieved 13 September 2013. 

Waterloo 1815[edit]

Black and white profile of a man with heavy eyebrows. He is in civilian dress but his coat has several medals.
Édouard Milhaud

IV Cavalry Corps: General of Division Édouard Jean Baptiste Milhaud (2,556 cavalry, 313 artillery)

Source: Haythornthwaite, Philip J. (1974). Uniforms of Waterloo. New York, NY: Hippocrene Books. pp. 183–187. ISBN 0-88254-283-4. 

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Chandler, David G. (1966). The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York, NY: Macmillan. p. 1112. 
  2. ^ Smith, Digby (1998). The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill. p. 379. ISBN 1-85367-276-9. 
  3. ^ "Order of Battle of Borodino". napolun.com. 2007. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  4. ^ Zamoyski, Adam (2005). Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March. New York, NY: Harper Collins. pp. 278–281. 
  5. ^ Zamoyski (2005), pp. 348-349
  6. ^ Zamoyski (2005), p. 422-423
  7. ^ Smith (1998), p. 403
  8. ^ Maude, Frederic Natusch (1908). The Leipzig Campaign 1813. New York: The Macmillan Co. p. 148. 
  9. ^ Petre, F. Loraine (1912). Napoleon's Last Campaign in Germany, 1813. New York: John Lane Company. p. 172. 
  10. ^ Maude (1908), p. 227
  11. ^ Maude (1908), p. 233
  12. ^ Maude (1908), pp. 251-252
  13. ^ Petre (1912), p. 318
  14. ^ Petre (1912), p. 354
  15. ^ Millar, Stephen (2004). "French Order of Battle at Leipzig: The Southern Sector". The Napoleon Series. Retrieved 29 September 2013. 
  16. ^ Petre (1912), p. 368
  17. ^ Weil, Maurice (2012). "The Campaign of 1814: Chapter 8, Part 2". The Napoleon Series. Retrieved 29 September 2013. 
  18. ^ Haythornthwaite, Philip (1974). Uniforms of Waterloo. New York, NY: Hippocrene Books. p. 183. ISBN 0-88254-283-4. 
  19. ^ Haythornthwaite (1974), p. 187
  20. ^ Smith (1998), p. 535
  21. ^ Libert, Alfons (2004). "The Battle of Ligny". The Napoleon Series. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  22. ^ Chandler (1966), p. 1064
  23. ^ Chandler (1966), p. 1077
  24. ^ Haythornthwaite (1974), p. 14
  25. ^ Chandler (1966), p. 1078
  26. ^ Chandler (1966), pp. 1080-1081
  27. ^ Chandler (1966), pp. 1084-1085

References[edit]