Siege of Soissons

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Siege of Soissons
Troop movements from February 24, 1814 to March 3, 1814
Troop movements from February 24, 1814
to March 3, 1814
date March 2nd and 3rd , 1814
place Soissons on the Aisne , Picardy, France
output Surrender of the city by the French troops with free withdrawal of the defenders
Parties to the conflict

France 1804First empire France

Russian Empire 1721Russian Empire Russia Prussia
Prussia KingdomKingdom of Prussia 


France 1804First empire Napoleon Bonaparte

Prussia KingdomKingdom of Prussia Friedrich Bülow Ferdinand von Wintzingerode
Russian Empire 1721Russian Empire

The choir of Soissons Cathedral and the Monument aux Morts to commemorate the war dead
The bridge over the Aisne in Soissons

The siege of Soissons took place on March 2nd and 3rd, 1814 during the "Winter Campaign 1814" of the Wars of Liberation in France . In this dispute, the Prussian Corps Bülow and the Russian Corps Wintzingerode of the " Silesian Army " besieged the French town of Soissons on the Aisne in Picardy . The siege ended with the surprise surrender of the city's defenders, who negotiated free retreat for themselves.

The surrender of Soissons is an important turning point in the Wars of Liberation, as it enabled the Silesian Army under Blücher to cross the Aisne unmolested at Soissons and thus to evade the advancing Napoleonic army.

French literature in particular emphasizes this fact, beginning with the memoirs of the French Marshal Marmont (1832), who confessed that from the day Soissons fell he believed Napoleon to be lost. Marmont wrote:

“The Soissons surrender is the really crucial moment of the campaign. Fortune left Napoleon that day. "

- Marshal Marmont

The literature of other countries contradicts such an assessment of the Soissons surrender with good arguments . From their point of view, the handing over of Soissons to the besiegers is used to exculpate Napoleon from any guilt for his ultimate defeat, because the failure of third parties, such as the defenders of Soissons, is used as the reason for this.


On February 23, 1814, Blücher received from Tsar Alexander I and the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III. the order to bring together the "Silesian Army" led by him with the Russian corps under Wintzingerode and the Prussian corps under Bülow and then advance together on the French capital Paris . The supreme command of these armed forces was given to Blücher. For Blücher, however, one of the difficulties of this assignment was that he had no precise information about where these corps were located. In 1813, both had belonged to the coalition's “ Northern Army ”. The Bülow Corps had separated from this in November 1813, then marched into Holland and - together with a British corps - had driven out the French field troops and reached France at the beginning of February, coming from the north. The Wintzingerode Corps had separated from the “Northern Army” in December 1813 and moved to France via the Rhineland and Belgium.

Thursday February 24th, 1814

In order to fulfill his mission, Blücher decided to move north towards the two wanted corps. On the night of February 23rd to 24th, 1814, from 2:00 in the morning, the “Silesian Army” marched from Mery-sur-Seine and its surroundings and mostly crossed the night near the village of Baudement not far from Anglure sur-Aube the Aube on three pontoon bridges built the day before . The army train crossed the Aube in Arcis-sur-Aube . Then the escort teams destroyed the bridge there.

Friday February 25th, 1814

The region between the Seine and the Marne

Blücher knew that a little further north near Sézanne was still the French corps of Marshal Marmont . This stood there to cover the road from Chalons-en-Champagne to Paris, the so-called "Little Pariser Road", since the battle of Champaubert on February 10, 1814. For February 25, 1814, Blücher therefore ordered the attack on this French corps at Sézanne. Marmont, who had learned of the departure of the "Silesian Army" from Mery-sur-Seine, evaded the approaching multiple superiority by an express march to La Ferté-Gaucher . When the coalition troops could not find the French corps at Sézanne, they also moved west in pursuit of the latter: the Russian Sacken and Kapzewitsch corps on the south bank of the Grand Morin as far as Esternay on the same day , while the Prussian corps Kleist and Yorck continued to move beyond Sézanne to the north, bypassed the sources of the Grand Morin and moved on to its north bank.

Saturday, February 26th, 1814

The next day, February 26, 1814, the Russian corps moved on to La Ferté-Gaucher. The Marmont Corps had already left the place to the north and set fire to the bridge over the Grand Morin. Those arriving could still see the rearguard of the French pulling away in the distance. Since the Russians could no longer cross the river at this point, they moved on the same day to Coulommieres-sur-Grand Morin , where the bridge was still intact and the Grand Morin could be crossed. At La Ferté-Gaucher, a strong group of Cossacks stood as cover.

The Prussians, on the other hand, who had already reached La Ferté-Gaucher on the north bank of the river, were able to follow the Marmont Corps immediately and, like them, moved north on the road to La Ferté-sous-Jouarre . The majority reached that day yet the place Rebais . The vanguard crossed the Petit Morin at Saint-Quen-sur-Morin and came as far as La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, where they were involved in a brief cavalry battle.

The day was also used by the French Marshal Mortier , who had stood with his corps at Château-Thierry on the north bank of the Marne since February 12, 1814 . Informed of the situation by Marmont, he had his corps march north of the Marne to La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, where he crossed the Marne and united his corps with the Marmont corps.

Sunday February 27th, 1814

When the Prussians moved into La Ferté-sous-Jouarre on February 27, 1814, the French had already withdrawn and the Marne Bridge in town was in ruins. The French corps had already set out from La Ferté-sous-Jouarre very early in the morning and marched directly westward on the paved road to Meaux. At the village of Trilport they crossed the Marne again, because Meaux is on the north bank of the river. The bridge they used was destroyed behind them, keeping the Prussian cavalry behind with gunfire at a distance.

The Russian corps had marched directly to Meaux and there they reached the south bank of the Marne. They found the old stone bridge undamaged and the first units of the advance guard immediately began to penetrate the city via this bridge. When they were noticed, Marshal Marmont - as he himself reports - personally led the 200 naval gunners who had come to reinforce from the coast, drove the Russians out again, relocated the access to the bridge and blew it up. The Russian corps had no choice but to march eastward on the south bank of the Marne to use the pontoon bridges that the Prussians had built before they arrived. That day they got as far as Trilport.

The first result of the day was that the French corps had managed to escape the three-fold superiority of the “Silesian Army” by destroying all Marne bridges.

Blücher now remembered the real goal of his movements, the union with the two corps of the former Northern Army. He ordered the immediate passage across the Marne to the north. This was possible because the Russian corps in the “Silesian Army” had brought a large number of linen pontoons with them to the campaign. Their number was so great that by 4:00 p.m. at Ussy-sur-Marne west of La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, halfway to Trilport, two pontoon bridges could be built over the Marne, which is already a stately river here. First the Kleist Corps crossed the river, then the Russian Sacken Corps. The Yorck Corps train followed, while the bulk of the Yorck Corps was still south of the Marne in the evening. The passage of these troops across the river dragged on until late at night.

The vanguard of Kleist's corps reached the northern town of Lizy-sur-Ourcq that day and was able to repair the bridge over the Ourcq after a brief battle. Most of Kleist's corps still covered half the way to the Ourcq.

On that day even more happened: Napoleon himself left the area around Troyes on the Seine with a strong force of over 30,000 men and went in pursuit of the "Silesian Army". He reached the Aube and crossed the river in Arcis-sur-Aube after the bridge had been repaired there. On the Seine he left 40,000 men under the command of Marshal MacDonald . These included the Oudinot and Gérard corps . It was their task to prevent the “Bohemian Army” from advancing further. To this end, Napoleon arranged for the rumor to be cleverly spread that 100,000 men of the Napoleonic army were still under his personal command on the Seine.

The Mamont and Mortier corps were reinforced on this day and the next by 6,500 men, 800 horses and 48 artillery pieces coming from Paris. The Paris National Guard was commissioned to monitor the area around Lagny-sur-Marne and to immediately stop any coalition troops advancing there, but even then there was open mutiny among the National Guards and those who refused to serve in the war.

The course of the Ourcq

The river system of Champagne and Picardy

Coming from the north, the Ourcq river reaches the Marne at Mary-sur-Marne a little south of Lizy-sur-Ourcq, exactly at the northernmost point of the great Marne loop between La Ferté-sous-Jouarre and Meaux. If you follow the course of the Marne, the Therouanne stream flows from the right, i.e. coming from the west, into the Marne near the village of Le Gué à Tresmes . On the other hand, if you follow the Ourcq to the north, all the larger towns are on the western - i.e. right - bank of the river. These are from south to north May-en-Multien , Neufchelles , Mareuil-sur-Qurcq . On the other bank is the town of Crouy-sur-Ourcq , a little north of May, with the Château de Gesvres-le-Duc on the river bank. A little further north, the direction of the Ourcq changes, where it flows from east to west, so that Ferté-Milon is on the right bank, but north of the Ourcq. Further east is Neuilly-Saint-Front south of the river.

In many of these places the "Silesian Army" tried to cross the Ourcq to the west, which it did not succeed due to the agility and aggressiveness of the French corps, so that it had to move further and further north due to the Napoleonic army advancing from the south.

Battle of the Therouanne on February 28, 1814

On the morning of February 28th, Blücher issued the order in his orders of the day to march via Lizy-sur-Ourcq to Meaux. But this did not happen. When the Kleist corps, after crossing the Ourcq, reached the Therouanne brook in the morning following the Marne southwards, the numerically superior mass of the Mortier and Marmont corps met them from the south of Meaux. These immediately brought their guns into position and a fierce artillery battle began. The Prussians settled in the village of Le Gué à Tresmes , where they were violently attacked by the French troops and suffered significant losses. In the early twilight, Kleist ordered his corps to retreat. At this point, however, the French troops - following the right bank of the Marne and Ourcq - had bypassed the left flank of the Prussians, reached and occupied the place Lizy-sur-Ourcq. This prevented the Prussian troops from retreating across the Ourcq and cut them off from the other corps of the “Silesian Army”. In this situation, under constant attacks by the French, they had to retreat far north to Neufchelles, which they did not reach until midnight. The French troops followed as far as May and occupied the right bank of the Ourcq without any gaps. This enabled them to successfully repel every attempt by the “Silesian Army” to cross this part of the river the next day.

The later Prussian General Müffling , who was on Blücher's general staff, called Marmont's tactical performance on that day his best during the entire campaign.

Napoleon marched via La Fére-Champenoise to Sézanne, his vanguard reached Esternay, where they were noticed by the Cossacks that Blücher had left behind on the Grand Morin. But now Napoleon's troops at La Fére-Champenoise were attacked by a Cossack group of 1,000 horsemen, who fell into the hands of some prisoners who provided important information. These freely operating Cossacks were under the command of General Tettenborn and belonged to the Wintzingerode Corps. Tettenborn immediately sent couriers to Blücher and Wintzingerode with the news that Napoleon was personally marching north. He correctly estimates the strength of his troops at 30,000 men.

This news reached Blücher on the evening of February 28, 1814. He immediately took the action and ordered that all Cossacks who were still in the south move up and on the night of March 1, 1814 with all remaining troops of the “Silesian Army ”would have to cross the river at Ussy-sur-Marne. The pontoon bridges should be pulled in by noon the next day.

Blücher also learned from Tettenborn's courier that the Wintzingerode Corps, with a strength of 30,000 men, was near Reims , and he soon received news that came directly from Wintzingerode.

On that day, a courier from the headquarters of the coalition troops also arrived with the written copies of the orders of the monarchs Tsar Alexander and King Friedrich Wilhelm III. in which the corps of Bülow and Wintzingerode were placed under Blücher's command. Blücher immediately sent one of his adjutants with a group of 50 Cossacks to look for Bülow in the north and to bring him the orders concerning him.

Tuesday March 1st, 1814

The course of the Ourcq

On March 1, 1814, Blücher and his troops tried to force the crossing over the Ourcq in order to clear the way to Paris. But this could not succeed as long as the bridges were destroyed and French troops, especially their artillery , dominated the other bank, because under their fire it was impossible to restore a bridge or to use the sensitive linen pontoons. The French had destroyed all bridges and were there wherever Prussians or Russians tried to cross.

The bridge at Lizy-sur-Ourcq was also destroyed and repairs under enemy fire were impossible, but the Sacken corps initially remained there, the Kapzewitsch and Yorck corps moved on to Crouy-sur-Ourcq, where the bridge was also destroyed and at this day could not be rebuilt. That day the thaw set in and the rain began to pour steadily. The soil softened and the road conditions deteriorated very much.

In the evening the Sacken Corps closed up to Crouy-sur-Ourcq, but the men of the Yorck Corps were required to advance during the night over soggy roads in continuous rain to the heights of Mareuil-sur-Qurcq. When the corps arrived there late at night, they found the bridge over the Ourcq undamaged, for the Kleist corps was still on the west bank south of Mareuil-sur-Qurcq and the French had therefore not yet got there. A division of Yorck's corps was able to cross the river that night.

Napoleon's troops reached the Marne at Ferté-sous-Jouarre that day, and he himself arrived there in the evening. The rearguard of the “Silesian Army”, which was still standing at Ussy-sur-Marne on the north bank, was immediately taken across the river under heavy artillery fire by the French, which lasted until dusk. Napoleon found all bridges destroyed - on the orders of his own marshal a few days earlier.

Skirmish at May-en-Multien on March 2, 1814

On March 2, 1814, Blücher ordered another attempt to take action against the French corps west of the Ourcq. Because of the poor road conditions due to the persistent rain, the couriers with the orders reached the various corps late. As a result, Kleist's corps near Neufchelles, west of the Ourcq, did not advance south to May-en-Multien until 1:00 p.m. The French stood there with about 6,000 men and 300 riders and violent fighting began immediately, which is known as the battle near May . Due to the near equilibrium of forces, the battle dragged on for several hours, and both sides suffered some losses. The French claimed to have taken 300 prisoners alone.

At the same time, the Russian Corps Kapzewitsch tried to cross a little further east at Crouy-sur-Ourcq over the damaged bridge to May-en-Multien. This attempt failed in the defensive fire of the French.

Throughout the day Blücher and his General Staff waited for news from the south that would give them information about where Napoleon and his troops would cross the Marne. Their considerations were as follows: If Napoleon were to cross the Marne at Meaux, he planned to first unite with the corps of Marmont and Mortier west of the Ourcq and then to move against the "Silesian Army". In this case the “Silesian Army” was right and could wait for the expected reinforcements to arrive on site. But if Napoleon were to cross the river east of the Marne arch at Ferté-sous-Jouarre, he could slip between the “Silesian Army” and the corps of Bülow and Wintzingerode and prevent them from merging. In this case the “Silesian Army” had to move to the northeast immediately to forestall Napoleon. To make matters worse, Blücher did not know the strength of the troops led by Napoleon and tended to overestimate them.

The Marne bridge in Ferté-sous-Jouarre today

During the afternoon the expected news arrived: Napoleon - who had no pontoons available - had the bridge in Ferté-sous-Jouarre restored by 4:00 p.m. and had begun to cross the Marne with his troops there. Only the Corps Victor had branched off earlier and crossed the Marne further east at Château-Thierry. It was almost morning by the time all the French were across the river.

Blücher reacted immediately and decided that the "Silesian Army" would have to assemble at Oulchy-le-Château halfway on the road from Château-Thierry to Soissons in order to relocate the Napoleonic troops there. With this in mind, he sent out new orders: From 5:00 p.m., the Kleist Corps withdrew to Mareuil-sur-Qurcq - constantly pursued by the French - in order to switch to the other, eastern side of the Ourcq. However, the bridge was not free, but other troops occupied it and the whole place Mareuil-sur-Qurcq. The Kleist corps had to remain on the right bank of the Ourcq and this gave the French the opportunity to move up; the fighting picked up again. The last battalions of Kleist's corps had to stay in Mareuil-sur-Qurcq until 3:00 a.m. before they could move on. The French followed them, crossed the river, got to Ferté-Milon that night and reached Neuilly-Saint-Front the next day, where they met the same Prussian troops from the previous day and gave them the next battle.

The Kleist and Kapzewitsch corps reached the La Ferté-Milon area late at night. The Yorck and Sacken corps marched even longer through the night and reached Oulchy-la-Ville , 23 km south of Soissons , at midnight . The condition of the coalition troops after these marches in continuous rain with no protection and no way to dry and warm themselves was poor: for three days in a row no food had been given to the troops, which led to the men turning to the chagrin of the The rural population supplied themselves by looting the villages. There was also a lack of fuel: wherever a wooden house was to be seen along the march path, it was torn down and dismantled in a few minutes, the valuable wood was taken away as fuel or burned straight away. Whole villages disappeared overnight and so the coalition forces spread hatred and horror among the French rural population.

In preparation for the expected battle, Blücher sent couriers to Bülow and Wintzingerode; asked the first about his exact position and asked where there was a possibility of retreat across the Aisne, and asked the second to come with his corps to Oulchy-le-Château. Later that same day, however, news came from both corps, which contained a surprise for Blücher and his general staff: Wintzingerode's corps had moved from Reims, contrary to Blücher's plans, to the north-west of Soissons, where it met with Bülow's corps and both besieged it City. With that Blücher's plans for a battle at Oulchy-le-Château had become obsolete, as the expected reinforcements could no longer reach him, and he ordered the march north to Soissons for the next day.

Blücher's generals were dissatisfied with him and his general staff, and Yorck in particular expressed his violent anger and accused them of lack of plan.

Siege of Soissons

Soissons fortress

Soissons had been a fortified city for many years, surrounded by a wide moat, walled ramparts and turrets in the fortifications. However, the fortifications had recently been neglected, the moat had been filled in in some places to create gardens and new houses had been built in the field of fire of the guns. In mid-January 1814, the fortifications began to be restored when the city was unexpectedly captured on February 14, 1814 by a contingent of Russian troops of the Wintzingerode Corps under the command of General Tschernyschow . There was a garrison of 4,000 National Guards in the city, but when their commanding officer fell, panic spread among them and they hurried off to Compiègne unless they were captured. Since February 13, 1814, the day after the battle of Château-Thierry , the French corps Mortier moved north of the Marne. The respect of the Russians for this corps was so great that they left the city on February 16, 1814 and it was occupied by Mortier's troops on February 19, 1814 without a fight. But these also left the city on February 22, 1814.

The Paris War Ministry now sent an officer of genius to Soissons, who had to work out measures to improve the fortress, which he did accurately. In addition, Brigadier General Moreau (not to be confused with the famous, then deceased Jean-Victor-Marie Moreau) was appointed the new commanding officer of the crew.

Occupation of Soissons

Brigadier General Jean Claude Moreau was subordinate to 80 men of regular troops, 140 artillerymen and a contingent of 700 Polish veterans in Soissons, who proved themselves very well in the few hours in which they were allowed to distinguish themselves. 20 cannons of mostly small caliber were available and enormous amounts of ammunition. In addition, there were 300 vigilantes, a maximum of 1,220 men.

Moreau set about improving the fortifications, digging trenches and building palisades and tearing down some houses. However, he failed to prepare the demolition of the bridge over the Aisne because he lacked the powder for this and was no longer delivered.

Besiegers of Soissons

Corps Bülow

In 1813, the Bülow Corps belonged to the “Northern Army” of the coalition under the leadership of the Swedish Crown Prince. When the latter invaded Denmark towards the end of 1813, the Bülow corps was detached from his army and received an order from the Prussian king to drive the French troops out of Holland . On December 2, 1813, the bulk of the corps was at Utrecht and, from there going south, pushed all French field troops out of the country. On February 3, 1814, the corps reached Brussels, from where it penetrated northern France and on February 24, 1814 reached Laon in Picardy.

The Wintzingerode Corps

The Wintzingerode Corps also belonged to the Northern Army in 1813 and was a reserve near Bremen when the campaign against Denmark began. On December 9, 1813, the corps was commissioned to move to the Rhineland, which was still occupied by French troops at the time . On January 6, 1814, the corps reached the Rhine near Düsseldorf, crossed to the left, western bank of the Rhine on January 13, 1814, and occupied Cologne on January 15, 1814. However, on the orders of Napoleon, the French field troops withdrew from the Rhineland without offering any resistance, with some fortified cities remaining occupied. On January 24, 1814, the Wintzingerode Corps was in Aachen, and on January 29, 1814 in Liège. On February 13, 1814 - 10 days before the Bülow Corps - it arrived in Laon, but soon moved to Reims with the plan to join the “Silesian Army” via Châlons-en-Champagne if possible.

The siege began on March 2, 1814

Map of the region of Soissons on the Aisne

At 9:00 a.m. on March 2, 1814, two army columns were observed from Soissons almost simultaneously, which were moving towards the city: from the north on the Strait of Laon the Prussian Corps Bülow, from the southeast, south of the Aisne on the Strait of Reims the Russian Corps Wintzingerode. A little later, almost 47,000 men with 40 cannons stood at the gates of the city, which was defended by around 1,200 men. At 10:30 a.m. the first cannon shot fell from the ramparts of the city and struck a group of mounted Russian officers who had approached too boldly. Soon a fierce artillery duel was underway that lasted until 10:00 p.m. The walls around the city proved their worth here, as the ground was deeply frozen and the shelling by the coalition troops left hardly any traces. At 3 p.m. the Russians attacked the city walls with a detachment of infantry, but the 300 Polish veterans managed to drive them away again and again with the bayonet. In the evening, 23 dead and 123 wounded were counted among the occupiers of Soissons, including the commander of the Poles, who was still on duty with his arm in a sling. Some guns had become unusable.

Also in the evening a negotiator from General Bulow appeared in front of the city gate on the road to Laon. Moreau had the negotiator rejected on the grounds that he lacked any legitimacy. An hour later he was there again and was able to hand Moreau a personal letter from Bülow, in which he legitimized the negotiator, described the strength of the besiegers and pointed out the fate of the city in the event of a coalition troops storm. Moreau was probably reflecting on how long his men could hold out with the remaining cannons in the event of a 50-fold storm on the walls of the city, for he hesitated before giving a serious answer. In the event of a surrender, the negotiator offered him free withdrawal under arms and without conditions. Moreau then asked for a few hours to confer with his officers. At 3:00 a.m. on the morning of March 3, 1814, Moreau met his officers, who, with one exception, spoke in favor of continuing the battle for the city.

Surrender of the crew on March 3, 1814

Shortly afterwards another negotiator was reported to Moreau, this time sent by General Wintzingerode. The latter handed over a similar letter from his general to Moreau and warned him urgently of the consequences for the city, its occupation and its citizens, should the shelling resume that morning. Moreau was now ready to hand over the city under the very honorable conditions already discussed, but still requested permission to carry six cannons with him, which Wintzingerode initially refused. At around 9:00 am, when the thunder of cannons could be heard from the southwest, the Russians gave in and Moreau signed the deed of surrender. At 4:00 p.m. he left town on the Compiègne road with his men and six cannons.

Court martial against the occupation

When Napoleon learned of Soisson's surrender on March 5, 1814, he immediately ordered Moreau and his officers to be arrested, to be shot himself within 24 hours and to make the reasons and circumstances of this execution immediately public in order to make an example . A strict regulation for fortress commanders, which Napoleon had enacted in 1812 before the Russian campaign and which Moreau obviously violated by giving up his fortress, entitles Napoleon to do so in his opinion. Moreau and his officers were immediately arrested. The officers were quickly let go again, but Moreau was brought before a tribunal in Paris, where he tried to defend himself with rational arguments: In view of the great superiority, he believed that he would do the best service to the emperor by making his remaining men fit for battle Support. That's why he insisted on taking 6 cannons with him. The tribunal did not pass a judgment, but recommended in writing on March 24, 1814 that a court martial should be opened. It never came to that. After the end of Napoleonic rule, Moreau was released from prison, served himself to the Bourbons, was put back into service, and died in retirement in 1828.

Passage of the "Silesian Army" over the Aisne on March 3rd and 4th, 1814

Battle of Neuilly on March 3, 1814

The Aisne in Soissons

On March 3, 1814 at 6:00 a.m., Blücher sent orders to his troops to march on the Soissons road to Buzancy and await further orders there. The apparent exhaustion of the troops did not allow them to leave until 3 p.m. in the afternoon. Until then, the Kleist and Kapzewitch corps had to advance from La Ferté-Milon to Oulchy and to do this once again cross the Ourcq at Neuilly-Saint-Front from south to north. The French marshals Mamont and Mortier used this opportunity to attack the rearguard of the two corps with their artillery. This held out, but suffered some losses and the battle dragged on into the afternoon. Then the last contingents of coalition troops could withdraw over the Ourcq.

Bridges over the Aisne

In the morning at 7:00 a.m., Blücher received another message from Wintzingerode. At least now he learned that the Bülow Corps had built a pontoon bridge over the Aisne near Vailly-sur-Aisne, east of Soissons. For this purpose, he used pontoons that had fallen into his hands during the conquest of the fortress of La Fère , and of which it had more available. Blücher then went personally to Buzancy, just south of Soissons, to find out that the Bülow Corps had already started to build another pontoon bridge under the guns of the city at noon, when the surrender was confirmed, which the following night finished. That same night, another pontoon bridge was built next to the first, so that the “Silesian Army” had four bridges to train across the Aisne on the morning of March 4, 1814.

The first coalition troops crossed the bridge in Soissons in the late afternoon. The following day and night from March 4, 1814 to March 5, 1814, all four crossings were used at the same time. In total, more than 90,000 men marched across the river. First the Wintzingerode corps crossed the Aisne, then the Sacken and Yorck corps, and finally the Kapzewitch and Kleist corps. On the second night Langeron arrived in Soissons and again took command of his corps from Kapzewitsch.

Napoleon's march north

Napoleon's army was only able to leave Château-Thierry on March 3, 1814, and on that day their vanguard reached Rocourt-Saint-Martin , 30 km south of Soissons, where the road to Fismes branches off from that to Soissons.

The next day, March 4th, 1814, his troops reached Fismes on the road from Reims to Soissons. In this position he could have prevented the union of the Wintzingerode Corps with the "Silesian Army" Blücher, but he came too late. The following night the French drove the last Russians out of Reims and occupied the city.

Before the way via Soissons was clear, Blücher had sent the luggage of his corps via Fismes to Berry-au-Bac. The wagons of the Prussian corps got through, those of the Russian corps were too slow and fell into the hands of the French in Fismes.

The Corps of Marmont and Mortier also wanted to pursue the "Silesian Army" on March 4, 1814 and came to Hartennes-et-Taux north of Oulchy-le-Château, where they learned that Soissons had fallen and the persecuted were already over Aisne would move. Marmont sent a report on this to Napoleon, from which he learned on the night of March 5, 1814 that Soissons had been surrendered.


In the first two days after crossing the Aisne, the “Silesian Army” fell into a strange immobility. When Blücher and his general staff finally realized that Napoleon had not followed them directly, but had moved via Fismes to Bery-au-Bac and there crossed the Aisne, Napoleon had already occupied all advantageous positions on the north bank of the Aisne and was able to use the “Schlesische Army ”on March 7th, 1814 and deliver the bloodiest battle of the whole campaign.

The most important people of the event

Coordinates of the most important places of the event

Coordinates of the main rivers


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Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Marmont, 20th book
  2. see also Houssaye, 1814.
  3. a b c d Müffling, The War ...
  4. Müffling and Ollech give the number as 50 pontoons
  5. a b Beitzke, VII. Book, 10th section
  6. Also referred to as the battle at Le Gué à Tresmes
  7. Kleist lost about 10% of his team, cf. Marmont, Muffing, Ollech
  8. Until 10:00 a.m. the first, until 12:00 a.m. the second, cf. Ollech, Plotho
  9. Wintzingerode had been sent a copy directly, Müffling, Das Kriegsgeschehen ...
  10. During the entire campaign, the military leaders of the coalition overestimated the strength of Napoleonic troops, while Napoleon always underestimated the number of his opponents.
  11. Houssaye, Cap V., says it was seven days.
  12. Beitzke, VII. Book, 10th section, among others
  13. Houssaye, 3,000 rounds for the cannons, 200,000 (!) Cartridges for muskets
  14. a b c Houssaye, Cap. VI
  15. a b Ollech