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

SENT: 2030 13 October
TO: Marshals Lannes and Murat

Marshal Lannes,

I just received the following communique from Marshal Bernadotte.  You
were inexplicably left off the list of recipients, so I am forwarding
it to you.

(Marshal Bernadotte's message, as seen above)

The movements discussed suggest the Prussians are trying to hold the
complex terrain near Jena/Gera; rapid seizure of Weimar would help
unhinge that defense.  My inclinations are shifting towards a strike
towards Weimar.  I can make the decision just before dawn.

- Marshal Davout

James Sterrett

Davout Orders for 14 October

SENT: 2200 13 OCT
TO: III Corps: 2nd Division (Friant), 3rd Division (Gudin), Cavalry
Division (Vialanne); and Marshals Lannes, Murat, & Bernadotte
FROM: Marshal Davout

Soldiers of France!

Today, our detached division help defeat a division of Ruchel's corps
to the north.  The enemy is broken and streaming eastwards in defeat
towards Erfurt.

I await news that will direct the depth of our strike tomorrow as we
attempt to destroy Ruchel's corps in its entirety.

We will either march north, up the east side of the Gera River,
intending to catch Ruchel's force in the flank as they defend the
crossings near Erfurt,

... or we will march northeast, driving to seize Weimar and block
Ruchel's retreat outright, intending to encompass his complete
destruction and to unhinge the Prussian defense of the Jena area.

In either event, the cavalry will lead, followed by the 2nd and then
the 3rd division.

My decision will be made at dawn tomorrow.

Either way, the day calls us to glory!  To arms, citizens!

- Marshal Davout

James Sterrett

Orders for 14 October

From:  Marshal Davout
Sent:  0001, 14 October
To:  III Corps: 2nd Division, 3rd Division, Cavalry Division

Order of march:

Cavalry Division
2nd Division
3rd Division

Direction of March:

Move up the eastern bank of the Gera River to Erfurt.  Contact with
the enemy is expected; if there is not contact, we will push forward
to arrive at Erfurt.

I will be at the head of the Cavalry Division main body.

If so directed, we will instead march northeast to Weimar.  This
decision will be made no later than dawn of 14 October.  In the
absence of orders to Weimar, units should move to Erfurt as above.

In the event of contact, we will fix, flank, and destroy the enemy.
Cavalry will develop the initial contact; 2nd Division will fix once
in contact while the Cavalry and 3rd maneuver to flank and destroy.

- Marshal Davout

James Sterrett

A side discussion with the umpire:

side note

I'm aware that the terrain may cause trouble...  but I'm not convinced
that is a reason to have avoided leaving the roads!   Perhaps I will
turn out to be wrong.  So it goes.  :)

Second note from me:

The map in the game in your Grogheads of today (on 1806) article shows
roads on exactly the march paths I'm planning to take.  One of these
peasants is lying to me!  :)

Note from Jim:

So, you know what's awesome?  Historical research, that's what.

The only game in my collection (and I have many) that goes that far West is Jena: Rossbach Avenged by Zucker.  He suggests you're correct that there is a road there.  Problem is, his map inconveniently omits Ohrdruf which is a critical frame of reference point in this matter.  As a matter of scale it should be on the map, and his map contains many smaller communities.

Tiller suggests that there might be a road there, but, while he's got Arnstadt and the rugged hills I mentioned earlier,it's not clear where the pair of tracks running from Arnstadt go as they quickly head West and off the farthest extremity of the otherwise wonderful campaign map.

And then there's Atlas de l'Histoire du Consulat et de l'Empire by Thiers which the fellows behind the Napoleon 1806 cite as their source for their game map.  I finally downloaded it into Google docs.  Guess who also used it for their game map?  Didier Rouy, author of VdL.  Except he just lopped off about 1/6 of what appeared in the Atlas to the West and East and otherwise used exactly what was there.

No road for you.

From me:

Sucks to be me.  :)

Glad to give you an excuse to delve into the books, though!  :)


James Sterrett

DISPATCH -- LANNES to DAVOUT, 2300, 13th October

Sent: 2000, 13th October
To: Marshals Davout, Murat, and Bernadotte
Location: South of Gotha on the Ohrdruf-Gotha Road

My lords,

All the damned dispatch riders' horses have caught the German disease. I can think of no other reason that nearly no dispatches have reached me for the past two days. Campaigning in German in the Autumn is an exercise in slogging through wet, muddy forests. Well, at least we are not invading Russia.

M Davout, I am in receipt of your dispatch on this afternoon at 5:00 of the clock. General Morand is with me, south of Gotha, along with my 1st and 2nd divisions. My cavalry is east of Gotha moving toward Erfurt. D'Hautpol's 2nd Cuirassiers from M. Murat's Cavalry Corps are just south of Gotha. We have heard cannon to our northeast, and have been marching toward the sound of the guns. I have received no dispatches from Generals LaSalle or Sahuc.

Since I am marching first into Gotha and then will be driving east along the road to Erfurt, there to either support the divisions engaged against Ruchel west of Erfurt or to attack Ruchel myself if our soldiers have suffered a reverse, I believe M. Davout's most effective course would be to swing to his north and east, toward Erfurt, to flank and destroy Ruchel. This movement offers the possibilities of catching his retreating troops if they have been routed by LaSalle and Sahuc, or forming an anvil to my hammer as I advance east. I am most concerned at this point that the Prussian has already given up the fight to the west of Erfurt and is falling back toward Weimar, and is too far gone for us to catch.

I am stopping my troops for the night. Despite marching last night my progress has been slower than I had hoped, and the troops are tired.


James Sterrett

Sent: 2330, 13 October
To:  Marshals Lannes, Murat, and Bernadotte
Location: Arnstadt

Having just received Marshal Lannes' intent to march on Erfurt
tomorrow, I will coordinate and march northwards to Erfurt up the east
side of the Gera River.  Hopefully, General Rachel will not run too
fast for us!

- Marshal Davout

[Marshal Bernadotte mis-spelled Ruchel as Rachel in one of his messages, and I was unable to resist the sophomoric joke of continuing the error.]

James Sterrett

III Corps: decision on direction of march for 14 October

To: III Corps (Cavalry, 2nd, & 3rd divisions)
Time: 2330 13 October

We will march northwards to Erfurt up the eastern side of the Gera
River tomorrow, expecting contact with General Rachel's forces.

The cavalry will be in the lead, followed by by 2nd division.  3rd
division is authorized to take an alternate route farther east of the
river if one presents itself in order to make better use of the
execrable German roads.

I will be with the 2nd Division.  Together with Marshals Lannes and
Murat, we shall spank Rachel into next week.

- Marshal Davout

James Sterrett

DISPATCH -- MURAT to DAVOUT, 0430, 14th October

To Marshall Davout (believed in the vicinity of Arnstadt, possibly moving north up the east bank of the Gera River)
From Marshal Murat (approx 10km north of Erfurt)

My dearest comrade -
As I'm sure you've already been advised, the cavalry of Generals LaSalle and Sahuc have shattered the Prussian division of General Weimar. The remnants of Weimar's force retreated eastwards, through Erfurt, in the direction of Weimar. A second (as yet unidentified) division of Prussian troops is currently deployed in defensive positions in front of Erfurt.

I am currently located approximately 10 km north-west of Erfurt, on the road leading to Weisensee, with the bulk of my corps strung out in line of march back towards Gotha. I have my scouts searching for a ford over the Gera river, which I intend to cross at first light, with an eye to then advancing south and cutting off the Prussian line of retreat from Erfurt to Weimar. Towards this end I have re-assumed operational control of General Sahuc's dragoons; I intend to leave General LaSalle's hussars attached to your corps for the foreseeable future.

Marshall Lannes is advancing eastwards from Gotha. I am directing him to attack the city as soon as he can get his men deployed for action. The intent is for him to act as the hammer to your and my anvil, encircling and destroying any Prussian forces in Erfurt before they can withdraw to Weimar.

Once we have taken Erfurt, we should re-assess our situation and decide on an appropriate course of action. Unless things go remarkably well in the early part of the day, I am reluctant to have us continue advancing on Weimar -- our troops have been constantly on the march for three days now and I am concerned that fatigue and straggling may be reaching significant levels.

Your comrade in arms,

James Sterrett


To Marshals Murat and Lannes, believed to be kicking Prussian ass
somewhere west of Erfurt and east of Gotha; and to Marshal Bernadotte,
somewhere near Saalfeld
Time:  0500 14 October

Marshal Murat, I have in hand your communique regarding your
intentions for the day.  I shall be moving up the east bank of the
Gera as you expect, barring unforeseen difficulties with the terrain.
If the Emperor were here, I am sure he would explain to God that the
terrain needed reassembly in our favor, no later than yesterday, and
thus the problem would be solved by a suitably chastened divinity.  I
have not such influence.

A day of rest may be well advised.  We can judge that best at the end
of the day, once we see the situation.

Regarding advancing on Weimar:  my uncertainty on that score regards
the intentions of the rest of the Army, which are not clear to me.
Our Emperor has charged Marshals Lannes and me with holding the line
at Erfurt, and also with advancing aggressively from it, while sending
you hooking northwards into the Prussians' lines of communication.
Your job is clear, but how we should proceed, and how our actions line
up with the intent of forces from Green through Violet is not clear.

Marshal Bernadotte appears to be crossing the river north from
Saalfeld, which might signal an intent to move in the direction of
Weimar; and from Weimar we could threaten to roll up the flank of any
centrally positioned Prussian Army.  Rachel's haste in moving
eastwards suggests a certain lack of support, but there will have been
time for messengers to go wailing to the Prussian king.

Perhaps it is my overly uncautious nature, but I advise that we move -
with or without a day of rest - on Weimar.  If our comrades in the
center and east are hard pressed, we can threaten the Prussian flank
and give them aid.  If they are victorious, we can assist in the
trapping and destruction of the rest of the Prussian Army.  If Rachel
escapes towards Weimar today we can re-engage his battered forces and
seek to continue his annihilation.

Hopefully we shall meet later today on the field of victory and can
discuss this in person.

Death and confusion to the enemy!

- Marshal Davout

James Sterrett

DISPATCH -- From Control, 1000, 14th October

The sound of battle can clearly be heard from the direction of Erfurt.


James Sterrett

[To the Umpire]

March onward!  Time to get them Prusskies from both directions for
forcing us to invade their pathetic country. No wine, and their women
are little better than sheep.  Er....  Not that I'd actually know
about sheep to make the comparison.

James Sterrett

DISPATCH -- MURAT to DAVOUT, 1030, 14th October

SENT 0700, 14th October

"General Davout and Lannes. I am at present some 10km north of Erfurt, astride the Erfurt-Weissensee road. My scouts report a division of Prussian infantry are currently marching north out of Erfurt! I am preparing to engage them. I must urge you both to rush with your corps to Erfurt and support me. Hopefully we can encircle and destroy these Prussians before they get away! Speed is of the essence -- you must proceed with all possible haste.
- Murat "

James Sterrett

[To the Umpire]

Step it up, boys, or Murat will kill all the Prussian men and rape all their women before we can!

Maybe I ought not publish that one in my memoirs....  ;)   [Oops...]

James Sterrett

DISPATCH -- CONTROL to DAVOUT, 1200, 14th October

Marshal Davout,

The forward elements of Friant's division report that they have arrived within sight of Erfurt.  The sound of battle to the North persist.

They also offer a report of an unidentified Prussian division marching away from Erfurt to the East toward Weimar.


James Sterrett

[To the Umpire]


I'd been under the impression that our order of march was:  Cav
(Vialannes), 2nd (Friant), 3rd (Gudin).  I expected to be with the

If I currently know that is not currently correct please advise -
change nothing in how you have forces arrayed, I'm merely making sure
that my vision of what I know is or is not correct.

If the above is correct...

2nd Division (Friant) presses to Erfurt, crosses the river, and
attacks the Prussian rear.

Cavalry (Vialannes) is to pursue towards Weimar; harass the enemy.
Please identify the formation if possible.

3rd will move north to the road and prepare to reinforce in either direction.

I will move to be with 3rd division.

Move move move!  :)