VI Cavalry Corps (Grande Armée)

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VI Cavalry Corps (Grande Armée)
Active February to April 1814
Country France First French Empire
Branch Army
Type Army Corps
Size Corps
Engagements Napoleonic Wars
Commanders
Notable
commanders
François Étienne de Kellermann

The VI Cavalry Corps of the Grande Armée was the name of a French military formation that had an ephemeral existence during the Napoleonic Wars. The corps was created on 9 February 1814 and François Étienne de Kellermann was appointed as its commander. The corps was formed by combining a newly arrived dragoon division from the Spanish front, a second dragoon division and a light cavalry division made up of hussars and chasseurs à cheval. The latter two divisions included units from the former III Cavalry Corps. Kellermann led the VI Cavalry Corps in actions at Mormant, Troyes, Second Bar-sur-Aube, Laubressel and Saint-Dizier. After Emperor Napoleon abdicated in early April 1814, the corps ceased to exist.

Organization[edit]

On 1 February 1814, 80,000 Coalition troops led by Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher defeated 45,000 French soldiers led by Napoleon. The Coalition sustained 6,000–7,000 casualties while the French lost 5,600 men and 73 artillery pieces.[1] After the battle, the French army retreated to Nogent-sur-Seine, where Napoleon reorganized his cavalry into the I Cavalry, II Cavalry, V Cavalry and VI Cavalry Corps, an independent division led by Jean-Marie Defrance and three divisions of Imperial Guard cavalry. François Étienne de Kellermann was appointed commander of VI Cavalry Corps, which was to include cavalry under Anne-François-Charles Trelliard that transferred from the Spanish front.[2] The necessary orders were issued on 9 February, but the organization of Kellermann's corps was not fully carried out until 20 February.[3] In July 1813 during the Battle of the Pyrenees, Trelliard's 2,300-strong division consisted of the 4th, 14th, 16th, 17th, 21st and 26th Dragoon Regiments.[4] After the Battle of the Nive in December 1813, all of Trelliard's dragoons and some of Pierre Benoît Soult's cavalry were transferred from the Spanish frontier to the Campaign in northeast France.[5]

On 1 January 1814, III Cavalry Corps of Jean-Toussaint Arrighi de Casanova consisted of a light cavalry division led by Jean Thomas Guillaume Lorge and a heavy cavalry division under Charles Claude Jacquinot. Lorge's division was made up of the 5th, 10th, 13th, 15th, 21st, 22nd and 29th Chasseurs à Cheval and the 2nd, 4th and 12th Hussar Regiments. Jacquinot's division included the 13th Cuirassier and the 4th, 5th, 12th, 16th, 17th, 21st, 24th, 26th and 27th Dragoon Regiments. The two divisions were supported by four 6-pound cannons and two howitzers of the 5th Company of the 1st Horse Artillery Regiment and the 2nd Company of the 1st Principal Train Battalion. While many units had under 100 cavalrymen, the largest unit was the 303-strong 13th Chasseurs and the weakest was the 16-man 4th Hussars.[6] On 25 January 1814, when the bulk of the field army assembled at Châlons-sur-Marne, the III Cavalry Corps was reorganized into a light cavalry division under Auguste Jean Ameil and a heavy cavalry division led by Jacquinot. Ameil's division had 201 sabers in the 1st Provisional Hussar Regiment and 842 in the 2nd Provisional Chasseur Regiment while Jacquinot counted 740 horsemen in the 3rd Provisional Dragoons and 72 in the 4th Provisional Cuirassiers.[7]

The provisional regiments were abandoned when the III Cavalry Corps was suppressed and the new VI Cavalry Corps was created on 20 February. At that time, Jacquinot assumed leadership of the 4th Light Cavalry Division which largely incorporated the regiments of the Lorge-Ameil division. Its two brigade commanders were Ameil and Marc François Jérôme Wolff. Nicolas-François Roussel d'Hurbal took command of the 6th Heavy Cavalry Division which included the 5th and 12th Dragoons from Jacquinot's old division plus the 21st and 26th Dragoons from Trelliard's division. Roussel's brigadiers were Louis Ernest Joseph Sparre and Antoine Rigaud. Trelliard's 5th Heavy Cavalry Division consisted of the 4th, 14th, 16th, 17th, 24th and 27th Dragoon Regiments. Trelliard's brigade commanders were Pierre Ismert and François Léon Ormancey. The original corps organization can be found in the Order of Battle section.[8]

History[edit]

Painting shows a clean-shaven man with curly hair wearing a dark blue military uniform with a high collar and a large number of medals pinned to the breast.
Kellermann the Younger

On 12 November 1813, Napoleon ordered Horace Sebastiani to take command of the V Corps and III Cavalry Corps and defend Koblenz.[9] Sebastiani had only 4,500 troops to protect this part of the Rhine River.[10] The Allied army of Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher successfully crossed the Rhine near Koblenz on 2 January 1814, rendering the French position untenable.[11] On 13 January, Marshal Jacques MacDonald ordered Sebastiani to retreat to Aachen.[12] By 26 January, MacDonald and Sebastiani and about 10,000 men were near Sainte-Menehould and marching toward Châlons-sur-Marne,[13] which they reached on 30 January.[14] On 5 February MacDonald was chased out of Châlons by Ludwig von Yorck's Prussians. In the next few days, Blücher tried to run down and destroy MacDonald's force, but the marshal managed to evade his pursuers by 9 February. In the unsuccessful effort to catch the French, Blücher allowed his army to become dangerously extended.[15]

Over the following week, Napoleon won all the battles of the Six Days' Campaign, inflicting very heavy casualties on Blücher's army.[16] After his victories, the French emperor had to rush to the help of his forces defending the Seine River. These troops had been pushed back by a second Allied army led by Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg.[17] Already, Napoleon ordered MacDonald to Guignes where he arrived on the evening of 14 February with 12,000 troops, including reinforcements.[18] Trelliard's division arrived at Guignes on 16 February, fresh from the Spanish front. At this time, Kellermann's corps was not yet fully formed.[19] Altogether there would be 4,200 horsemen in the divisions of Jacquinot, Trelliard and Roussel.[20]

The Battle of Mormant began at dawn on 17 February when Marshal Claude Perrin Victor's II Corps and four French cavalry divisions attacked Peter Petrovich Pahlen's Russian force. On the right flank, Kellermann commanded the divisions Samuel-François Lhéritier from V Cavalry Corps and Trelliard. On the left flank were two more V Cavalry Corps divisions under Édouard Jean Baptiste Milhaud. Lhéritier and Trelliard first scattered the Russian cavalry, then fell on the infantry opposing them. Pahlen's Russian infantry squares were broken and most of the troops cut down or captured. Later in the day, Trelliard's division was directed to pursue toward Provins and missed the action at Valjouan against the Bavarians.[21] The French inflicted 3,114 casualties of the Allies and captured nine guns and 40 caissons while losing 600 killed and wounded.[22]

Oval painting shows a gray-haired man with a thin nose wearing a dark blue military uniform with gold epaulettes and a high collar.
François-Charles Trelliard

Napoleon won the Battle of Montereau on 18 February, causing 5,000 Allied casualties and capturing 15 artillery pieces. This induced Schwarzenberg to fall back on first Troyes[23] and then farther east on 23 February.[24] Marshal Nicolas Oudinot pursued with Kellermann's cavalry, including Jacquinot's division, while MacDonald led a second pursuing column.[25] On 27 February, Napoleon left Oudinot and MacDonald to watch Schwarzenberg's army with 42,000 men and marched with 35,000 troops against Blücher, who was headed for Paris. Napoleon took with him Roussel's division and Sparre's brigade, which arrived from Spain at this time.[26] Subsequently, Roussel's detached division fought at the battles of Craonne,[27] Laon,[28] Fère-Champenoise[29] and Paris.[30]

In the Battle of Bar-sur-Aube on 27 February, Schwarzenberg attacked Oudinot by surprise, inflicting 3,060 casualties on the French while sustaining 2,400 casualties. Once the action started, Kellermann crossed to the east bank of the Aube River. Jacquinot's division charged the Russian Lubny Hussars, mauling the regiment and driving off the Pskov Cuirassiers. Ismert's dragoon brigade charged a large Russian artillery battery three times. This foolhardy attack was repulsed and the 4th and 16th Dragoons suffered 400 killed and wounded between them. Nevertheless, Schwarzenberg was alarmed at the persistence of the French attacks and proceeded with caution. During the withdrawal there was a brief panic when the infantry rearguard fled through the ranks of Kellermann's cavalry, but order was soon restored. After their defeat, the French withdrew to the west.[31]

On 3 March 1814, Schwarzenberg defeated MacDonald in the Battle of Laubressel.[32] At this time Jacquinot's division numbered 1,258 sabers while Trelliard's division counted 1,747 horsemen. At the start of the battle, Kellermann's cavalry was in reserve on the left flank near Pont Saint-Hubert. After the II Cavalry Corps was drawn into action, Kellermann's corps moved east to Saint-Parres-aux-Tertres. As the Russian infantry strove to turn the French left flank, they were charged by Kellermann's horsemen.[33] When the VI Cavalry Corps retreated from Troyes on 4 March, Oudinot failed to provide for a rearguard. Bavarian cavalry suddenly appeared, causing the French horsemen to panic and flee. Luckily, the French infantry remained steady, but the Bavarian horsemen swept up 400 of their enemies.[34]

On 14 March, Treillard led a 2,400-man reconnaissance toward Villenauxe-la-Grande which skirmished with the Allies before being pushed back.[35] After his defeat at the Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube on 20–21 March,[36] Napoleon crossed to the east bank of the Marne River. Hippolyte Piré's light cavalry division raced toward Bar-sur-Aube while Jacquinot's division headed toward Chaumont-la-Ville. On 26 March Napoleon defeated Ferdinand von Wintzingerode in the Battle of Saint-Dizier. On the right flank, Kellermann led the pursuit. When Napoleon decided to march toward Paris, the divisions of Jacquinot and Piré were in the lead. Trelliard's division and an infantry division were the rearguard.[37] On 2 April the divisions of Trelliard and Jacquinot numbered much less than when the corps was formed in February. The brigades of Jacquinot's division appear to have largely switched units, with the 2nd and 12th Hussars and the 13th, 21st, 22nd and 28th Chasseurs in Ameil's 7th Brigade and the 4th, 5th, 10th and 15th Chasseurs in Wolff's 8th Brigade.[38]

Order of Battle[edit]

VI Cavalry Corps: François Étienne de Kellermann[8]
Division Brigade Regiment Strength 20 Feb. Strength 2 Apr.[38]
4th Light Cavalry Division:
Charles Claude Jacquinot
7th Brigade:
Auguste Jean Ameil
4th Chasseurs à Cheval 123 60
5th Chasseurs à Cheval 207 65
10th Chasseurs à Cheval 170 82
13th Chasseurs à Cheval 303 111
15th Chasseurs à Cheval 93 37
28th Chasseurs à Cheval 83 38
8th Brigade:
Marc François Jérôme Wolff
2nd Hussars 178 13
4th Hussars 116
12th Hussars 64 136
9th Chasseurs à Cheval 116
21st Chasseurs à Cheval 95 19
22nd Chasseurs à Cheval 117 14
5th Heavy Cavalry Division:
Anne-François-Charles Trelliard
9th Brigade:
Pierre Ismert
4th Dragoons 570 197
14th Dragoons 395 222
16th Dragoons 255 151
10th Brigade:
François Léon Ormancey
17th Dragoons 339 257
24th Dragoons 106 222
27th Dragoons 502
6th Heavy Cavalry Division:
Nicolas-François Roussel d'Hurbal
11th Brigade:
Louis Ernest Joseph Sparre
5th Dragoons 532 detached
12th Dragoons 478 detached
12th Brigade:
Antoine Rigaud
21st Dragoons 621 detached
26th Dragoons 674 detached

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Smith 1998, pp. 491–493.
  2. ^ Nafziger 2015, pp. 124–125.
  3. ^ Nafziger 2015, p. 617.
  4. ^ Smith 1998, p. 439.
  5. ^ Gates 2002, p. 524.
  6. ^ Nafziger 2015, pp. 541–542.
  7. ^ Nafziger 2015, p. 580.
  8. ^ a b Nafziger 2015, p. 628.
  9. ^ Leggiere 2007, p. 92.
  10. ^ Petre 1994, p. 13.
  11. ^ Leggiere 2007, p. 413.
  12. ^ Leggiere 2007, p. 430.
  13. ^ Petre 1994, p. 17.
  14. ^ Petre 1994, p. 27.
  15. ^ Petre 1994, pp. 54–56.
  16. ^ Nafziger 2015, p. 169.
  17. ^ Petre 1994, p. 77.
  18. ^ Petre 1994, p. 78.
  19. ^ Nafziger 2015, p. 199.
  20. ^ Nafziger 2015, pp. 193–194.
  21. ^ Nafziger 2015, pp. 201–205.
  22. ^ Smith 1998, p. 498.
  23. ^ Petre 1994, pp. 85–86.
  24. ^ Petre 1994, p. 89.
  25. ^ Petre 1994, p. 96.
  26. ^ Petre 1994, pp. 101–103.
  27. ^ Petre 1994, p. 127.
  28. ^ Petre 1994, p. 138.
  29. ^ Nafziger 2015, p. 414.
  30. ^ Nafziger 2015, p. 433.
  31. ^ Nafziger 2015, pp. 282–288.
  32. ^ Smith 1998, pp. 506–507.
  33. ^ Nafziger 2015, pp. 293–294.
  34. ^ Nafziger 2015, p. 297.
  35. ^ Nafziger 2015, p. 300.
  36. ^ Smith 1998, p. 512.
  37. ^ Nafziger 2015, pp. 492–496.
  38. ^ a b Nafziger 2015, p. 716.

References[edit]