Six Days in October: The Collected Correspondence of Marshal Davout

Started by James Sterrett, May 16, 2018, 08:48:07 PM

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James Sterrett

DISPATCH -- Lannes to Davout, 1630 Hours, 11th October

RECEIVED 2030 Hours, 11th October

To Marshal Davout
(believed along the Coburg to Moiningen road, moving northwest)
From Marshal Lannes (north of Moiningen, encamped along the Moiningen-Eisenach Road)

Davout -

I am encamped along the Moiningen-Eisenach road. At my current rate of march, I should reach the pass designated ORANGE tomorrow by midday.

Murat's cavalry have scouted out a Prussian division, apparently some of Ruchel's men, near Ohrdruf. He has them under observation while he moves to scout Eisenach.

Please advise your position and intent to Murat and myself.


James Sterrett

SENT 2100 Hours 11 October
TO Marshals Lannes and Murat


I am encamped in a howling German wilderness (no win, only beer!)
about 15km north of Hildburghausen.  My intent is to move northwards
to the intersections just south of YELLOW tomorrow.

At that point I will be ready to either move directly north to attack
Ruchel; or to take a day of rest to ensure my men are fully fit before
attacking Ruchel on the next day.

I presume we will coordinate our movements; please let me know when
you wish me to attack.

In addition, when we attack towards Gotha, shall Marshal Lannes take
the western side of the road while I take the eastern?  This may
entail my marching towards to the Arnstadt-Gotha road to cross the
river, detailing a force to hold Arnstadt and another towards Erfurt.
Otherwise, I can hold to the western side of the Ohrdruf river, but
will likely need maneuver room if I am to bring my entire force to

Please let me know how you would like me to proceed, and perhaps where
we might find wine worth drinking in this barley-ridden wasteland.

- Davout

James Sterrett

DISPATCH -- Lannes to Davout, 0730, 12th October

SENT 0230, 12th October


I am encamped approximately 12 km north of Meiningen along the Meiningen-Eisenach road. I should arrive in the vicinity of ORANGE about noon. I am hoping to encounter Murat's detached divisions or at least receive information from them regarding Ruchel's proximity to the passes.

I am in agreement with M. Davout - Once I arrive I am ready to attack north immediately, but believe that taking the rest of the day to rest would be wise. Given Davout's timetable, if he would like an entire rest day, I would plan to resume my advance on the 14th.

In regards to attacking Gotha, I am again in agreement. I will advance my corps on the west while Marshal Davout advances on the east. An advance by Davout through Arnstadt has the virtue of possibly bringing his force in on Ruchel's flank or rear, Combined with Marshal Murat creating havoc behind him, and my corps fixing him from the front, this could be a very difficult spot for him indeed.

However, I strongly suspect that there will be an engagement of some scale prior to that, somewhere between Ohrdruf and the escarpment. Any intelligence from the cavalry that have Ruchel under observation would be most welcome. My principal concern is that the full weight of the Prussians fall upon one of our corps before we are in supporting distance of one another.

Once I arrive at ORANGE I will take up defensive positions with my infantry, and scout through the pass toward Ohrdruf and Gotha with my cavalry. I will also send cavalry to attempt to make contact with Murat's divisions and Davout. I will hold ORANGE until I know that Davout in in place at YELLOW and ready to advance again.


James Sterrett

DISPATCH -- Murat to Davout, 0730, 12th October

SENT 0330, 12th October

To Marshal Davout
(believed about 15km north of Hildburghausen, moving north)
From Marshal Murat (encamped vicinity Moiningen)

My dear comrade -
I received your dispatch, sent at 2100, about two hours ago. You have my sympathy regarding the abysmal conditions around Hildberghausen; I passed along that same road yesterday and will be pleased never to have to traverse it again.

Just a few moments ago I received word from Marshal Lannes that he is camped approximately 12km north of Moiningen. He informs me that he anticipates arriving in the vicinity of the pass designated "orange" around midday.

In the morning, please continue your advance northwards, through Suhl and then up through the pass designated "yellow" in our earlier discussions. You should encounter two of my detached divisions (LaSalle light cavalry & Sahuc's dragoons) in that vicinity; assume temporary tactical control of these formations once you rendezvous with them. As soon as you have linked up with these detached cavalry it is essential that you immediately advise me of that fact and update me on the current status of the enemy forces around Ohrdruf.

As previously reported, LaSalle's scouts continue to maintain contact with the Advanced Guard of Ruchel's Corps which have been sighted in the vicinity of Ohrdruf (roughly 5000 infantry and 1000 cavalry). As of 1600 hours yesterday (my last communication with the division commander), those enemy forces were deploying in preparation for battle.

As you and Lannes have requested, once you have each reached your respective passes ("yellow" for you, and "orange" for Lannes) you may halt your advance and rest your troops for the remainder of the day, preparatory to resuming your advance (most likely initiating an engagement with Ruchel's corps around Ohrdruf) tomorrow. While your infantry are resting, employ your cavalry (including LaSalle's and Sahuc's divisions) to screen your main body from the Prussians -- it is important that they not be afforded a clear sense that the bulk of your infantry are so close.

However, do not be complacent. It appears that Ruchel is withdrawing, you should break camp and advance vigorously to maintain contact. It is vital that Ruchel not be allowed to escape.

I will be continuing north with my main body to scout Eisenach via the "red" pass. If I find Eisenach vacant, I will move through and advance on Gotha (to hopefully cut Ruchel's line of retreat). However, should Eisenach prove to be held by strong Prussian forces, my intent is to backtrack and join Lannes at "orange."

- Murat

James Sterrett

Sent 0800, 12 October

To:  Marshals Murat and Lannes

From: Marshal Davout, in a midge-infested dell about 15km north of

Marshal Murat: If your primary concern is that General Ruchel might
escape, then it would be best if we continue moving with all dispatch.

As a result, unless you countermand the order, I will move to YELLOW
pass today.  If developments permit a rest day I will use it on the
13th but I will expect to move northwards on the 14th.

Do you have an intimation of the direction of his withdrawal - north or east?

If our objective is to prevent his force from linking up with the
Prussian main body, then it would appear my objective would be to pin
him at Ohrdruf while moving to ensure he cannot move eastwards from
Gotha; I become the anvil while you and Marshal Lannes form the

This maneuver is enhanced if I tun out to draw his attention, and thus
my moving first, should it so transpire, should not discomfit our

Death and Confusion to the enemy!

Marshal Davout

James Sterrett

Sent 0800, 12 October

To:  Davout's Corps

FRAGO 1 for 12 October

Change of Destination: All forces continue to YELLOW today.
Half-day's rest is cancelled.

Message for troops: General Ruchel appears to be the Prussian's left
flank guard.  His corps is in motion near Gotha and must not escape.
We expect to move to begin engaging his force tomorrow.  Together with
the forces of Marshal Murat and Marshal Lannes, we shall destroy this
lapdog of the ancien regime!

Marshal Davout

James Sterrett

Sent: 0800, 12 October

To: Generals LaSalle and Sahuc

CC: Marshal Murat, Marshal Lannes


Per Marshal Murat's orders dated 12 October, you are now under my
tactical control.  I am most pleased to have your assistance.

It is my understanding that General LaSalle's light cavalry is
currently pinning one of General Ruchel's divisions near Ohrdruf.
Please continue this action; please inform me of any trouble.  We hope
to have an infantry division moving into place to assist you sometime
on the 13th.

General Sahuc, I do not know where your Dragoon division is at the
moment, but I presume it is not currently engaged.  Please reconnoiter
the area east of Ohrdruf towards Arnstadt and the Arnstadt-Gotha
bridges, seizing both the town and bridges if they are not defended,
in order to enable further movement north and east.

In the event that your situation renders these orders invalid, please
act in order to advance these overall needs:  III Corps and your
divisions are to pin General Ruchel's forces on the Gotha-YELLOW road,
while the bulk of the force swings eastwards to come at Gotha by way
of the Gotha-Arnstadt road, with the intent of pinning General Ruchel,
preventing his escape eastwards, and enabling the forces of Marshals
Lannes and Murat to destroy him from the east.

James Sterrett

DISPATCH -- Vialannes to Davout, 1100, 12th October

SENT 1000, 12th October

My Lord Marshal,

We have arrived just South of the pass designated as "Yellow".

No enemy is in sight.



James Sterrett

SENT: 1100 12 October

To: Marshalls Lannes & Murat

From: Somewhere south of YELLOW

Fellow Marshalls, I have received word from my cavalry division that
they have reached the southern part of YELLOW.

I await your orders to wait or press on tomorrow.

- Marshal Davout

James Sterrett

DISPATCH -- Lasalle to Davout, 1130, 12th October

SENT 1000, 12th October

My Lord Marshal,

Beg leave to report that the cavalry forces in Ohrdruf are departing to the North in some haste.

I will do my best to remain in contact.

Your Servant,


James Sterrett

SENT: 1500 12 October

TO: Marshals Lannes and Murat

Fellow Marshals,

General LaSalle reports that as of 1000, Ruchel's cavalry in Ohrdruf
was "departing to the North in some haste"; he will remain in contact.

- Marshal Davout

[I don't know why I delayed for hours in passing this along.]

James Sterrett

DISPATCH -- Lannes to Davout, 1500, 12th October

SENT 1000

To Marshal Davout
(believed to be on the Hilburghausen - Ohrdruf Road, moving north)

My esteemed M. Davout,

My cavalry piquets have observed Prussian cavalry in the village of Ohrdruf. I have ordered General Focuher to continue to observe this force, attempt to discover more of the enemy dispositions,  screen the main body of my corps, and attempt to make contact with your divisions in the vicinity.

My main body will continue to move toward ORANGE.


James Sterrett

DISPATCH, Bernadotte to Davout, 1700, 12th October

SENT 0800, 12th October

To Davout -- I Corps is Saalfeld.  No Prussians in evidence.


James Sterrett

SENT 1700 12 October

To Bernadotte (Saalfeld)

Marshall Bernadotte, my thanks for your message.  I am currently
encamped at YELLOW and will be moving north tomorrow.  A division of
Ruchel's Prussians have been seen by the cavalry screen at Ohrdruf but
are apparently withdrawing.

- Davout

James Sterrett

DISPATCH, Murat to Davout, 1700, 12th October

To: Marshals Davout and Lannes

From: Marshal Murat (on the Moiningen-Eisenach road, vicinity of the crossroad leading to ORANGE pass)

I am in receipt of Marshal Davout's message (sent 0800, 12 October) wherein he requests guidance regarding my intentions and direction on how to proceed.

I have recently received word from General LaSalle (who is south of Ohrdruff with my light cavalry) that "a portion of the Prussian army is departing from Ohrdruf, headed north in haste." Whether that means that all or only part of Ruchel's Advance Guard division is still defending Ohrdruf or not, I am unable to say as LaSalle's report was vague.

Because I am not entirely confident of where either of you are currently located, I am thus somewhat reluctant to commit to offensive action until it becomes clear whether you are in close enough proximity to support an attack on Ohrdruff.

I have directed my detached cavalry (LaSalle and Sahuc's divisions -- some 9000 sabers) to maintain contact with the enemy at Orhdruf, but not engage. I do not believe that by themselves two divisions of cavalry, especially without a senior commander on hand to orchestrate their efforts, are adequate to overcome a strong enemy rear guard.

Based on Marshal Davout's personal assessment of the situation once he actually arrives on scene, he has my permission to launch an immediate attack against the withdrawing Prussian forces should he deem that action appropriate.

For my part, I intend continue north towards Eisenach. While I personally do not feel advancing on Eisenach is necessary, the Emperor has directed that we ensure no Prussian forces are in a position to infiltrate south and interfere with our lines of communication. Therefore, to conform to the Emperor's wishes, I will clear Eisenach and then march on Gotha (to presumably rendezvous with the two of you at that location). If I am delayed at Eisenach, I will notify you both and, depending on your situation, will provide additional direction.

As I pass by the crossroads leading towards the ORANGE pass, I will be detaching some additional cavalry to conduct a reconnaissance up that road. Once Marshal Lannes arrives at that pass he should take temporary control of that cavalry and then coordinate with Marshal Davout to conduct an attack in tandem to first clear Ohrdruf and then advance on Gotha. Whichever of the two of you who arrives on the scene first should assume the duties of overall commander of any attack along the Ohrdruf-Gotha road. However, once you reach Gotha you should both stop and rest your troops before continuing your advance (as indicated above, I expect to join you in Gotha via Eisenach).

Your comrade in arms,
- Murat