Reserve Cavalry Corps (Grande Armée)

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Reserve Cavalry Corps (Grande Armée)
Active 1805–1812
Country France First French Empire
Branch Army
Type Army Corps
Size Five to eight cavalry divisions, artillery
Engagements Napoleonic Wars
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Joachim Murat
Jean-Baptiste Bessières

The Reserve Cavalry Corps or Cavalry Reserve of the Grande Armée was the name of a French military formation that existed during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1805, Emperor Napoleon appointed Marshal Joachim Murat to command all the cavalry divisions that were not directly attached to the Army Corps. During the Ulm Campaign, Murat led his horsemen in successfully hunting down many Austrian Empire units that escaped the Capitulation of Ulm. Murat's horsemen fought at Austerlitz in December 1805. Under Murat, the Cavalry Reserve played a prominent role in the destruction of the Kingdom of Prussia's armies after the Battle of Jena-Auerstadt in 1806. Five dragoon divisions of the corps were employed in the Peninsular War starting in 1808 and placed under the overall command of Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bessières. The Cavalry Reserve was reassembled in 1809 to fight Austria with Bessières still in command. In 1812 the Reserve Cavalry Corps was split up into the I, II, III, and IV Cavalry Corps for the French invasion of Russia. Three cavalry divisions were subordinated to each corps, except the IV which had only two.

History[edit]

1805[edit]

At its beginning, Napoleon's Grande Armée comprised seven army corps, the Imperial Guard, the artillery reserve, and the Cavalry Reserve. The latter consisted of two cuirassier, one light cavalry, and five dragoon divisions, including one dismounted. The mass of 22,000 cavalrymen was supported by 24 pieces of artillery. The remainder of the army's cavalry was distributed among the army corps in brigades or divisions.[1] Napoleon appointed Marshal Joachim Murat to command the Reserve Cavalry. Generals of Division Étienne Marie Antoine Champion de Nansouty and Jean-Joseph Ange d'Hautpoul led the cuirassier divisions while Generals of Division Louis Klein, Frédéric Henri Walther, Marc Antoine de Beaumont, and François Antoine Louis Bourcier headed the dragoon divisions, and General of Division Louis Baraguey d'Hilliers commanded the dismounted unit.[2] On 8 October 1805 at the Battle of Wertingen, Murat and Marshal Jean Lannes attacked an isolated Austrian division under Feldmarschall-Leutnant Franz Xaver von Auffenberg. Murat's horsemen included Klein's 3,000-strong dragoon division, Beaumont's 2,400-man dragoon division, and some light cavalry under Generals of Brigade Antoine Charles Louis de Lasalle and Anne-François-Charles Trelliard. With the support of some V Corps infantry, Murat's horsemen rode down the hapless Austrians, inflicting losses of 400 killed and wounded, 2,900 prisoners, six guns, and six flags. The French admitted 174 casualties.[3]

The cavalry saw much service during the rest of the Ulm Campaign. At the Battle of Haslach-Jungingen on 11 October 1805, the 15th and 17th Dragoon Regiments lost their eagles. However, the action was a French victory over a greatly superior force.[4] Murat led his horsemen in a series of actions between 16 and 18 October before securing the surrender of Feldmarschall-Leutnant Franz von Werneck's Austrian corps. In these clashes Klein's 1st, 2nd, 4th, 14th, 20th, and 26th Dragoon Regiments, the 1st Cuirassier Regiment, and other units were involved.[5] In the Battle of Schöngrabern on 16 November, Klein's troopers were engaged as were the 11th, 13th, and 22nd Dragoons from Walther's division.[6] At the Battle of Austerlitz on 2 December, Murat led approximately 7,400 cavalrymen including Nansouty's 1st Heavy Cavalry Division, Hautpoul's 2nd Heavy Cavalry Division, Walther's 2nd Dragoon Division, General of Division François Étienne de Kellermann's light cavalry division, and General of Brigade Édouard Jean Baptiste Milhaud's light cavalry brigade. Beaumont's 3rd Dragoon Division was attached to the IV Corps while Bourcier's 4th Dragoon Division with 2,500 men and three guns were attached to the III Corps.[7]

1808–1809[edit]

After the Battle of Bailen and the subsequent French surrender on 21 July 1808, the myth of French military superiority was exploded. In the sequel, King Joseph Bonaparte withdrew the remaining Imperial French forces behind the Ebro River.[8] Determined to conquer Spain, Napoleon resolved to go there himself with a large army. He ordered three army corps to march from Germany to reinforce Joseph's badly shaken survivors.[9] Among other reinforcements, one light cavalry and five dragoon divisions were transferred to Spain under the command of Generals of Division Victor de Fay de La Tour-Maubourg, Milhaud, Armand Lebrun de La Houssaye, and Jean Thomas Guillaume Lorge, and General of Brigades Jacques Louis François Milet and Jean Baptiste Marie Franceschi-Delonne. La Tour-Maubourg led the 1st Dragoon Division with 3,695 troopers, Milhaud the 2nd with 2,940, Houssaye the 3rd with 2,020, Lorge the 4th with 3,101, and Milet the 5th with 2,903. Franceschi led the 2,400-man light cavalry division. Two of Milhaud's regiments were assigned to other units and Milet was soon replaced by Kellermann.[10] On 9 November 1808, Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bessières was replaced by Marshal Nicolas Soult in charge of the II Corps and ordered to lead the Cavalry Reserve.[11] However, the Cavalry Reserve was not destined to remain intact. In December, Franceschi was already assigned to Soult, Houssaye and Lorge were directed to join Soult, and Milet was still on the march to Spain. Meanwhile, La Tour-Maubourg and Milhaud were assigned to help defend Madrid.[12] Bessières remained with the cavalry near Madrid.[13] Meanwhile, the French won the Battle of Tudela on 23 November 1808. General of Brigade Alexandre, vicomte Digeon participated in this combat with two regiments of La Tour-Maubourg's division, 1,200 strong.[14] While Marshal Jean Lannes and the Imperial infantry put the Spanish center and right wing to flight, Digeon's and a second brigade of French cavalry immobilized the 10,000 soldiers of the Spanish left wing.[15]

Orders of Battle[edit]

Prussia 1806[edit]

Marshal Murat in gaudy white uniform with gold braid
Joachim Murat

Reserve Cavalry Corps: Marshal Joachim Murat (19,629, 26 guns)

General Klein in uniform, black and white
Louis Klein
  • 1st Dragoon Division: General of Division Louis Klein (2,401, 3 guns)
    • Brigade: General of Brigade Jacques Étienne de Fornier Fénerolz
      • 1st Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
      • 2nd Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
    • Brigade: General of Brigade Auguste Étienne Lamotte
      • 4th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th squadrons
      • 14th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th squadrons
    • Brigade: General of Brigade Joseph Denis Picard
      • 20th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
      • 26th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
    • Artillery: 2nd Horse Artillery, 2nd company (-), two 8-pound guns, one 6-inch howitzer
  • 2nd Dragoon Division: General of Division Emmanuel Grouchy (2,915, 3 guns)
    • Brigade: General of Brigade Mansuy Dominique Roget
      • 3rd Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
      • 6th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
    • Brigade: General of Brigade Jacques Louis François Milet
      • 10th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
      • 11th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
    • Brigade: General of Brigade André Joseph Boussart
      • 13th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
      • 22nd Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
    • Artillery: 2nd Horse Artillery, 2nd company (-), two 8-pound guns, one 6-inch howitzer
  • 3rd Dragoon Division: General of Division Marc Antoine de Beaumont (3,055, 3 guns)
    • Brigade: General of Brigade Charles Joseph Boyé
      • 5th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th squadrons
      • 8th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th squadrons
    • Brigade: General of Brigade Frédéric Christophe Marizy
      • 12th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th squadrons
      • 16th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th squadrons
    • Brigade: General of Brigade Victor de Fay de La Tour-Maubourg
      • 9th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th squadrons
      • 21st Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th squadrons
    • Artillery: 2nd Horse Artillery, 3rd company (-), two 8-pound guns, one 6-inch howitzer
General Sahuc in dark blue uniform
Louis Sahuc
  • 4th Dragoon Division: General of Division Louis Michel Antoine Sahuc (3,129, 3 guns)
    • Brigade: General of Brigade Pierre Margaron
      • 17th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
      • 27th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
    • Brigade: General of Brigade Jacques Léonard Laplanche
      • 18th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
      • 19th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
    • Brigade: unknown commander
      • 15th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
      • 25th Dragoon Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
    • Artillery: 6th Horse Artillery, 4th company (-), two 8-pound guns, one 6-inch howitzer
  • Light Cavalry Division: General of Brigade Antoine Lasalle
    • Light Cavalry Brigade: General of Brigade Lasalle
      • 5th Hussar Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
      • 7th Hussar Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
    • Light Cavalry Brigade: General of Brigade Édouard Jean Baptiste Milhaud
      • 1st Hussar Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons
      • 13th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squadrons

Source: Chandler, David G. (2005). Jena 1806: Napoleon Destroys Prussia. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers. p. 37. ISBN 0-275-98612-8. 

Spain 1808–1809[edit]

Color-tint print of a gray-haired man with dark eyebrows wearing a plain blue coat with gold epaulettes and two medals.
Jean-Baptiste Bessières

The first number is the reported strength in Nov. 1808 and the second number is for Feb. 1809.
Reserve Cavalry Corps: Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bessières (17,059 / 10,892)

Sources:

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Chandler, David G. (1966). The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York, N.Y.: Macmillan. p. 332. 
  2. ^ Chandler (1966), p. 1103
  3. ^ Smith, Digby (1998). The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill. p. 203. ISBN 1-85367-276-9. 
  4. ^ Smith (1998), p. 204
  5. ^ Smith (1998), pp. 205-206
  6. ^ Smith (1998), p. 214
  7. ^ Duffy, Christopher (1977). Austerlitz 1805. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books. pp. 180–182. 
  8. ^ Chandler, David G. (1966). The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York, N.Y.: Macmillan. pp. 617–619. 
  9. ^ Chandler (1966), pp. 620-621
  10. ^ Oman, Charles (2010). A History of the Peninsular War Volume I. La Vergne, Tenn.: Kessinger Publishing. p. 644. ISBN 1432636820. 
  11. ^ Oman (2010), p. 418
  12. ^ Oman (2010), pp. 540-541
  13. ^ Oman (2010), p. 470
  14. ^ Oman (2010), p. 431, 439
  15. ^ Oman (2010), p. 443

References[edit]