Battle of Brienne
|Battle of Brienne|
|Part of the War of the Sixth Coalition|
Napoleon was nearly taken by the Cossacks after the Battle at Brienne, but was saved by French general Gourgaud.
|Commanders and leaders|
Gebhard von Blücher|
Fabian Gottlieb von Osten-Sachen
|Casualties and losses|
|1,500 killed or wounded||4,000 killed or wounded|
The Battle of Brienne was fought on 29 January 1814, and resulted in the victory of Emperor Napoleon I's French forces over the Russian and Prussian forces commanded by the Prussian Generalfeldmarschall Prince von Blücher.
The battle followed on the heels of reverses suffered by the French in both 1812, which had gutted the strength of the French Army, and 1813, where they fought against the Sixth Coalition. The Sixth Coalition had intentions of deposing Napoleon, dissolving the First French Empire and restoring the Bourbon monarchy to France.
The battle (the first of the 1814 Campaign) took place near Brienne-le-Château, where Napoleon had attended military school in his early years. As the Allies advanced on France from three different directions, the French Emperor planned to attack and defeat each in turn.
Napoleon's first target was the spread-out force of some 17,000 Russians (part of the combined Prusso-Russian Army of Silesia) under Field Marshal Blücher. To battle his old adversary, Napoleon had a force of some 30,000 troops, but most of these were just out of the recruiting camps with little training and no wartime experience. Napoleon had tried to accomplish an envelopment of Blucher's whole force near the Aube River, but allied cavalry captured a set of the Emperor's orders and Blucher avoided the trap. Additionally, rain had turned many area roads into mud, slowing Napoleon's advance. Napoleon finally caught up with Blucher near Brienne. Blucher, outnumbered, with only Russian Lt. General Baron Osten-Sachen's wing of his army on hand (Yorck's Prussian I Corps was out of supporting distance) was forced to accept battle, as his army's baggage trains were too close – stuck on the muddy roads between Brienne and Dienville.
The French emperor began the clash by pinning the enemy down while he organised a flanking attack. General Grouchy's cavalry and horse artillery kept the Prussians occupied as marshals Ney (with the Imperial Young Guard Corps) and Victor (commanding French II Corps) secured both the town of Brienne and its chateau. About dusk, the chateau was captured by the French, when Blucher thought the battle was nearly over, and was preparing for dinner. Blucher and his second-in-command General von Gneisenau only just managed to elude capture. During the heavy fighting Napoleon was almost taken prisoner by Russian Cossacks. The battle ended about midnight when the allies retreated. Blucher left behind some 4000 casualties to France's 3000.
- Gregory Fremont-Barnes (2002). The Napoleonic Wars: The Fall of the French Empire 1813–1815. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-431-0.