Monday, August 3, 2015

Campaign Post Operations Report #8 - The tale of Marshal Ney

re-en actors from 2010
The tumultuous Battle of Berlin last saw Maréchal Ney, Prince of Moscow charging off towards the then opened gates of the city, opened so that some of the retreating Russian horse artillery might escape into the citadel and continue the defense of the city.

Ney was attacked by a force of cossacks and knocked from his horse by a saber blow to the head.  He was rescued by a force of grenadiers, though his horse was taken and his hat claimed as a prize by the cossacks who had thought him dead.

Not so!  As Ney quickly regained his composure, though such soaked in blood, he led the force of Grenadiers and Voltigeurs westward outside the city walls in hot pursuit of other Russian forces that were escaping from the battlefield.

These Russians were fleeing to a small access in the walls on the south-west side of the outer city, Ney and his band of elite Frenchmen were in hot pursuit.

The Russians threw 1/2 of their number at the pursuing French, who overcame the rearguard in only minutes as these tired stoic Russians had only powder of a couple of shots and no stomach for hand-to-hand.  Leaving some grenadiers to guard the Russians, Ney set off again in the near dark towards the, hopefully, still open access to the outer city of Berlin.

Upon arrival at the door, Ney was foiled ... the Russians had left another 20 men outside the door as they had been trapped outside the walls.  While they did not fight with the French, it was clear now that there was no way into the walls of the outer city.  Commandeering a tavern near the gate the Frenchmen then toasted one another on a great field victory in advance of what would likely become a siege.  Ney and the men drank the few remaining bottles and casks dry.

Ney could not be roused from his sleep on the morning of 21 August 1813 (fictional) and his head wound was not the only one suffered in the dark in clashes with cossacks and Russian foot.. as there were a number of torso wounds now bleeding into his already blood-soaked tunic.

The Voltigeurs and Grenadiers sent off messengers to get help at once for their stricken leader.

That day, information arrived in Napoleon Bonaparte's hands:


The outer city of Berlin has opened the gates and surrendered.   Only the garrisoned citadel on the north bank of the Spree at the city has given any resistance.  That resistance is formidable.  This is a Vauban fortification, the south works are gone - subsumed into the city, but the north side is fully positioned with 4 'points' of a 9 pointed Vauban fort still present.  Though artillery could be moved closer in the Konigsburg of south Berlin, there are plenty of Freikorps innsurrectio forces that have been taking shots at passing French forces, the city is not yet secured.



He has been found at an inn outside the south walls of the city, lots of gin and garlic.  He has a head wound and a sabre slash to the torso.  Has not regained consciousness since collapsing there early on the 20th.  There are calls for Doctor Larrey.  None outside of III Corps command and the grenadiers that cared for Ney know that he is still alive.


Bonaparte was to promote Prince Poniatowski to the  post of command of the Army of Berlin and keep the truth about Ney a secret.  While Larrey would manage to recover the Marshal, Bonaparte wanted to keep the morale effects limited and potentially be able to re-activate Ney as a surprise to the Allied armies and provide the sudden boost to morale that such a lightening bolt might bring.


The Orders sent out on the 21st from Imperial Headquarters were:

From Davout (8/7) to 30th Light Cav, XIII Corps (10/11) move to Parchim (9/12) and cut line of supply/communications to the enemy troops that are in and around Schwerin (8/9). Should any of the enemy move against you fall back towards Pritzwalk (10/14) and then towards Karstadt (11,11) where I will endeavour to bring the rest of my command to persue the enemy. If you have to fall back in the face of the enemy send me news by your fastest rider.

From Davout (8/7) to 9th Light Cav, V Cav Corps at Wismar (5/9) by the time you receive this despatch the lines of supply & communication to the enemy troops in Schwerin (8/9) will all have been cut by troops under my command. You are only to move from your present position if faced by superior force of enemy arms moving north from Schwerin. Under those circumstances fall back westwards towards Lubeck (5/5) and send me news by your fastest rider.

Remainder of Davout's command to remain at their present position; should the enemy move westwards against me I will issue further orders at the appropriate time.
Ornano's command - units of the Guard Light Cavalry - Ornano is keen to continue with the mission of capturing Prince John Charles, the traitor Bernadotte, 

Napoleon, at (14/24) sends ultimatum to FM Gen Lt Vegesak for him surrender himself and his troops forthwith to prevent any further bloodshed

Napoleon, at (14/24) sends orders to Flahault and the Young Guard (18/25) to proceed to Lubben via Teupitz

Napoleon, at (14/24) sends orders to Oudinout; Hold for as long as you can, without your force being badly damaged, then fall back towards Cottbus. The Young Guard Division together with the Guard Heavy Cavalry have been already been ordered there. I intend joining them at Cottbus together with the Imperial Guard, the Guard Light Cavalry and another Cavalry Corps. Please report your position and situation as a matter of urgency.

Napoleon, at (14/24) sends orders to Omano; continue your pursuit of Prince John Charles and bring him to me at the earliest opportunity. When you capture him or, if you are sure, he has fled back to Sweden then you are to bring the Light Cavalry of the Guard to join me at Cottbus.  Please report your position and situation as a matter of urgency.

Napoleon, at (14/24) sends orders to Poniatowski. Detail one of you Infantry regiments to escort the prisoners, from the Swedish division (actually the remnants that had retreated from VIII Corps), currently held at (14,24)(?).
Also I would wish that you order 1st Cavalry Corps, under Général de division Latour-Maubourg, to march to Lubben, via Teupitz, where they will then come under my direct command. 


A full day was expected across all the lines, from Berlin to the Bohemian pass at Marienberg and along the line of the Bobr.