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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

TreizeV

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Hey guys, sorry for the long absence, but I have returned ;). The updates may not be as frequent, but I am very eager to get back to the napoleonic story i started 3 years ago. For those who've read it, i thank you with the bottom of my heart ;) now, let's continue the story!

*playing the dark tunes of the "Imperial March" from Star Wars*

It has been over two years since the Eagles last marched, now..it is time!

VIVE L'EMPEREUR: Twilight of the Eagle

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"A revolution can be neither made nor stopped. The only thing that can be done is for one of several of its children to give it a direction by dint of victories." - Napoleon Bonaparte


(first update soon)
 

Gerrit

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Yay!! Good to see that you are back!
I really enjoyed the story so far so ill be tagging along again.
 

TreizeV

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Prologue : Eylau, December 1810

"The art of war is to gain time when your strength is inferior." -Napoleon


dhm098.jpg

The air was thick with frost and snow, but as chilling and fresh as Napoleon had ever experienced, and he breathed deeply, filling his lungs as he watched his dark coated French soldiers marching through the snow. It was supposed to be the late afternoon, but the emperor could barely make out the sun through the vicious hail, each drop of snow stabbing through his cheeks like small razors. Still, there was enough light to make out the small hills in the distance. And because of the blizzard, it seemed as though a the land was bathed in a pale blue light, as though it were water.

All around him, the men struggled to drag the cannon in place. Mules and horses whined in protest as their drivers cracked their whips, a combined effort by both man and horse to get their carriages free of the slush in the road, a tribute to the poor roads the French were finding in this part of Poland.

Still the emperor did not despair, for with him, he had the Grande Armee, unbeaten in battle, and veterans of dozens of campaigns that had taken him to places such as Jena and Austerlitz. With these veterans, came the officers as well, almost all had served with him in his early days. Men like Davout, Ney, Murat, most of whom had humble origins, and now they were to play vital roles in the coming campaign. That was the real triumph of the revolution, Napoleon thought, to allow men such as these to rise as far as their energies and talents would take them. An army commanded by men of merit rather than men of birth. In times of war, what army of half-bred aristocrats could stand up to such men?

The Emperor shivered, temporarily forgetting his cares and concerns as another chill ran through his body. Though he was wrapped in a fur coat, it did little against the harsh climates of Poland.

"God, it's cold." Napoleon muttered.

Berthier, the emperor's faithful chief of staff, turned in his saddle. "Sir?"

"Never mind, I think it is best if we keep moving, we must reach the village before dark" The emperor cupped his hands by his mouth, and let out another breath. "I would like to avoid a night action if possible."

"Yes sir, might I suggest we head towards the lodge down the road? I've had the staff prepare it for you."

Napoleon nodded, urging his horse forward, with his staff officers following suit. The entire road was filled with columns of soldiers, and the emperor was delighted to see that despite the cold and exhaustion, they were in high spirits and gave a cheer whenever he passed. Along the way he also saw the remnants of the camps that the soldiers were now packing up, and hundreds of flaps and poles stood piled on the ground, where they would be reassembled after the next march.

The emperor and his officers finally reached the lodge, a small simple building with shuttered windows. The men had already started a fire, and all through the room, the smell of soup filled the air, which the men eagerly devoured.

Yet the emperor was not concerned about this, as he slowly took sips from his bowl, his attention was focused on the reports from the leading corps of the army, commanded by Marshal Murat. Less than six miles down the road, was the village of Eylau, and beyond that, was a series of shallow sloping hills where the Russian army was positioned. They were commanded by Benningsen, the fiery Russian, with about seventy thousand men and he was expecting a further ten thousand troops from the east. While the French, had about forty five thousand men under Soult and Murat, along with the Imperial guard. Napoleon silently cursed under his breath, whether it was because of the horrible polish roads, the blizzard or his overconfidence in dealing with the Austrians and Prussians, he had allowed his armies to become spread out more than usual. Whereas on the Russian side, Bennigsen was already concentrated. He would have to double march the rest of his men to make up for falling behind. It was a bad situation, made worse by the blizzard, but Napoleon was reassured by the fact that Soult and Murat were at the village. And they could be counted on to hold the Russians back as long as possible.

The emperor ate leisurely, usually scribbling notes on a nearby notepad he kept as he leaned over the map spread out by his staff. His train of thought was quickly interrupted as the sound of distant cannon reverberated through the room. The sounds were scattered, soft, and Napoleon quickly shrugged it off as a skirmish, nothing to worry about. It took him another twenty minutes to work out the last details of the attack he had planned before another staff officer, immaculately dressed in braid and lace, saluted and strode towards the emperor's table.

"Message from Marshal Soult sire, he has engaged and made contact with the enemy, and his men are in the process of attacking the main Russian army in the village."

Napoleon stared at him for a moment, "Did I not instruct Marshal Soult to take the high ground before the village and await my reinforcements?"

"The Marshal regrets to inform you sire, that his troops were provoked by the Russian presence in the village."

Foolishness. Napoleon thought. But the battle had started, and Soult's corps was already committed. It would be the least of his worries if Bennigsen managed to concentrate the rest of his armies.

"Berthier, Duroc," He gestured at his staff officers, "come with me, we are riding to Eylau."

****

A signal gun fired from the Russian forces massed to the East, and instantly tongues of flame lashed out from their batteries, obscuring the hilltops in a thick pencil line of smoke. Moments later, the sound of explosions echoed through the plain and village as the shells exploded thunderously. Those that landed within the packed French columns left red bloody craters in the cold snow, while the rest left black charred craters in the once peaceful white landscape.

A handful of French cannon replied, but with the state of the roads, only a few of the emperor's batteries had reached the village, and within minutes they were all but silenced by the Russian barrage.

Suddenly, the firing stopped, and through the blizzard and smoke, the French soldiers heard a low rumbling as infantry, their bayonets glinting through the snow, marched forward.

"Urrah! Urrah!" The Russian troops shouted in triumph as their columns trudged through the snow-covered plains outside the village.

There was a quiet lull in the fighting as the enemy came, threatening to cut the fragile French line in two. The French, already bloodied by the artillery barrage, waited grimly, their bayonets fixed.

"Present!" A voice rang out along the French line, and thousands of muskets were brought to bear, just as the Russians were less than seventy paces away.

"Fire!" Soult swung his sword down, his voice carrying across the whole line. The entire French line exploded in a brilliant flash of smoke and light. Hundreds of Russians were scythed down in an instant, and columns recoiled back slightly like a wounded animal. But within seconds, their officers had reformed the men and they marched on.

It took two more volleys before the Russians had deployed into line and managed their first shots, but already the enemy's efforts were taking a toll on the French. Bodies littered the ground, and the smoking ruins of wagons and guns filled the sky with black smoke.

"Allons!" Soult screamed as the men discharged another volley, then ran at the Russians with fixed bayonets. The two lines crashed in a frenzy as French and Russian grenadiers shot, stabbed, punched, even bit each other in the raging storm. All the while, cannon shots from both sides roared above the din of battle, punching into the darkened night sky....

***

The battle for the village was over, for now, and morning broke over a temporary French triumph as they managed to capture the village from the Russians. The dawn brought little warmth as the bodies of four thousand Russians and French lay frozen solid in the field, while both sides, uneasy other the proximity of each other's armies, slept in the open, weapons by their side.

The French and Russian armies faced each other, both occupying parallel ridges, with the French left anchored on the village of Eylau. Any attack made by the opposing party would have to be done through a depression in between the ridges, and would have exposed them to massive batteries of cannon fire.

maps_hmeylau1.jpg


Napoleon glanced at his watch, just seven fifty in the morning. Davout's corps hadn't arrived yet, and the enemy would have enough time to launch a massive attack against Napoleon's exposed men and begin a pursuit long before nightfall had even fallen. The one saving grace was that this blizzard would deter any advance. He slapped his thigh in frustration.

How could this have happened?

The French were outnumbered at least seven to four, and over two to one in artillery. They were completely outgunned and worse yet, his infantry were still exhausted from the forced march from last night, while the Russian infantry were able to concentrate rapidly before his men even made it to the village. Napoleon saw at once that this upcoming battle was to be different from Austerlitz, instead of seeking a sweeping victory, he would be holding off against a bitter defeat.

After a quick inspection of the imperial guard, Napoleon rode straight for Soult's IV corps, which was already forming a battered line along the ridges by Eylau. The emperor made a few stops, personally siting a battery of artillery before meeting the marshal with a wry salute.

"Those Russians have more balls than I give them credit for, attacking in such a blizzard." Soult said dryly.

"You better hope your men have the same," Napoleon replied seriously, "You are going to make the same assault today."

The Marshal nodded, as though he were planning the same thing. "My men are running out of ammunition, I may as well use the bayonet."

Napoleon continued, ignoring the comment. "Your attack is for a delaying action only. You must hold this ground at all costs. I've sent for Davout and Ney, they are moving up with all speed."

"Davout? He might be able to make it but Ney? He won't reach us in time sire."

"Perhaps." Napoleon conceded. "But I have faith in them. In any case, hold them as long as you can, we'll concentrate tomorrow if need be and attack again."

If there are any more men left to concentrate, Soult thought, but it was best that he did not speak that way to the emperor.

"God be with you Marshal Soult."

Then the guns began.

***

It was an immensely unfair artillery duel, with the Russians massing over two times more cannon than the French.

"Vive L'Empereur!" The French columns shouted in the raging blizzard. The French infantry advanced into a sleet of ice and hail, which moments later quickly erupted into swathes of flame and lead as the Russian lines fired through the snow. The first French soldiers, their faces completely obscured by the scarves they wore over their faces, fell stone dead onto the ground, their bodies already starting to steam from the massive torrents of blood that spilled onto the snow. Another grenadier was decapitated as a solid shot plunged straight into the column, taking his head and blowing five more men behind him into oblivion.

Napoleon watched all this through his telescope, and saw Soult's battered columns launch their frontal assault on the Russian center. As the smoke from the first bombardment cleared, the damage was revealed. Thousands of French bodies littered the depression between the ridges, and whereas Napoleon's own line was made from battered and depleted units, the Russians were able to mass Fresh battalions to throw into the fray.

The frontal attack was a cold necessity. Without adequate manpower to plan a more detailed and complex strategy, Napoleon had to use the assault to buy time for Davout's arrival. And now Soult's men were paying for that with their lives.

Napoleon looked to his right, and saw Duroc, one of his old friends from his old Egyptian campaigns, run towards him with a scribbled note. "Soult's reporting the enemy is launching an attack on his left. Their line is extended further than ours and he's requesting reinforcements, otherwise he will have to withdraw."

Napoleon shook his head. "It is unfortunate but he must stay where he is."

"But sire, our entire left flank is in danger of being turned." Duroc replied.

"Then he will have to delay their advance as much as he can."

"At least reinforce him sire, that way his corps won't collapse! We still have Augereau in reserve."

Before Napoleon could even reply, another French officer rode up, this one a dragoon.

"Sire, Marshal Davout sends his compliments, our cavalry is forming up your left and we have engaged in several skirmishes with the Russians, the infantry are deploying as fast as possible."

"It's not enough time sire, Soult must be reinforced!" Duroc said, with a hint of urgency.

Napoleon nodded, then turned to Berthier, his chief of staff. "Tell Augereau he is to take his corps and attack. I want him and St. Hilaire's division to place pressure on the Russian left so that Davout can have time to deploy."


Berthier instantly galloped for Augereau's men, while Napoleon focused his spyglass on the batteries of cannon from the Russian side, who were enjoying a ridiculous numerical advantage in the artillery exchange. Cannon shots plowed throughout the French line, throwing up spouts of Earth, snow and blood as they found their mark. If it was any consolation, at least the Emperor's vastly outnumbered forces were spread thin enough for most of the shots to miss.

The Emperor gestured towards Duroc, pointing at a building in the far distance.

"I want to observe this attack General, let's go."

***

Augereau's corps, roughly eight thousand men in all, began forming their columns and marched towards the battle. After a fresh cannonade from the French side, the men moved forward steadily into the driving winds of the blizzard. The snow blurred all vision however, so much so that Augereau's corps found itself wandering into the center of the Russian line instead of the Russian left.

As the enemy saw the reserve corps move towards them, they diverted their attention away from Soult's men and opened fire on the columns of Frenchmen. It was sheer butchery as the French advanced straight into a seventy gun battery. At such close range, the veterans were mowed down like wheat before a scythe, and the front of the columns erupted into fountains of blood and earth. The Russian infantry added their fire, and hundreds more French fell where they stood, clutching their faces and limbs while others simply lay on the ground screaming, shouting for the bombardment to stop.

It was a disaster, and within fifteen minutes, four thousand Frenchmen lay dead or dying on the freezing battle scarred plain. Augereau and the survivors of his corps retreated in confusion back to the now-exposed French center.

***

"Shit." Napoleon cursed bitterly as he watched four thousand of his men cut down in front of the massive batteries. Augereau had wandered off route, even finding himself under fire from the French batteries. Now the center of the army lay open to attack.

The emperor and his staff had observed the attack from a forward command post, an old church which was now so riddled with bullet and shell holes that it was a miracle it was still standing.

Napoleon quickly scribbled a note on a piece of paper, then snapped his fingers for one of his gallopers.

"Give this to Marshal Augereau, with my compliments." The emperor said calmly, handing him the note.

"Sire! We have to get out of here. A Russian division is advancing towards us!" Berthier shouted above an explosion as a Russian shell found its mark on the rooftop of the church.

Napoleon ignored the caution, and reassessed the situation through his spyglass. St. Hilaire's division had deployed properly, but it alone was not enough to stem the massive waves of Russian cavalry and infantry that were now threatening the center. Something had to be done, otherwise the entire army would just collapse right there. By god he would not let it end here!

Meanwhile, somewhere outside, a voice shouted.

"Fire!" A Russian guards colonel swept his sword, and instantly the Russian line vanished behind a cloud of flame and smoke. Hundreds of Frenchman from Augereau's broken corps screamed as they fell to the ground writhing. Others dropped their muskets and made a run for the church.

The thin French line, having taken as much abuse as any man could possible take, began to flee. Dropping their muskets and haversacks, the broken men of Augereau's corps ran for their lives.

"CHARGE!" The Russian colonel waved his sword forward, leading his men through the church cemetary as shells exploded around him, throwing earth and bodies in the air. More Russian infantry poured in, fighting hand to hand for every inch of soil with the French grenadiers, often fighting tombstone to tombstone.

The French grenadiers fought bravely, firing blindly into the blizzard before charging straight into the enemy. The Russians in turn, continued their advance in overwhelming numbers, unaware of the massive prize that lay inside that church....

***
 
Last edited:

coz1

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What the deuce? :eek:

Why...it's TreizeV and more Viva L'Empereur! Holy cow! Well, I had better get situated and comfy for the ride! Great to see you back in the saddle, as it were. ;)

Looking forward to this. :D
 

TreizeV

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Gerrit Thanks! Its good to be back!

Coz1 Well hello good sir! long time no see! its great to see you are still here, and writing more than ever! I'm currently reading your "into the west" aar atm, awesome stuff! Enjoy the ride though ;)

Specialist Thats alright, you really don't need the first one, i intend this to be an AAR standing by itself, so its not necessary.

******


The first Russian grenadiers burst through the entrance to the church cemetary, dislodging the snow that had settled on the iron gates. The flow of Russians was so tremendous that some were even braving the harsh winds and musket balls to climb over the walls, jumping down into the yard to continue the struggle.

"Tirez!"
A blond-haired French lieutenant-colonel swept his sword, and to his right, a mix of Voltigeurs, Chasseurs and line infantry let loose a ragged volley into the walls. A Russian guardsman disappeared as he was knocked back down the wall with three bullets in his chest, another coughed out a red bloody mist as he struggled to breath with a musket ball in his lung.

alix18.jpg

"Now charge the bastards! Kill them!" The Frenchmen let loose a cheer and broke ranks, plunging into the Russians with bayonets and swords.

The Russians inside the yard instinctively cocked their muskets, and returned the French volley. Several screams were heard through the raging snow before the lines clashed, and the sickening sounds of steel meeting flesh and sinew filled the air, soon followed by more explosions as the Russian artillery smashed the next section of the wall.

"We can't hold for long! sir!" A French captain, his face completely blackened by powder burns, yelled at the French colonel. "We have to withdraw!"

The lt. colonel did not reply to the captain at first. Instead, he watched with disgust as the French voltigeurs began fleeing from the new surge or Russians that charged through the breach in the wall. He couldn't even hear the screams of the wounded around him, as they were drowned out by the howling winds and the thunder of the cannon. The Colonel himself was wounded in the shoulder, a piece of shrapnel from the massive bombardment his battalion had gone through as they were cut to pieces along with Augereau's corps.

Yet the colonel did not mind the wound, he did not even feel it. He was a veteran, a strongly built man with a hardened face and he had experienced worse before. Coming from a poor noble family, he had joined the ranks at seventeen when the revolution began, and he followed his regiment as he fought through Flanders, Egypt, Germany and Spain. Through his bravery and skill, he earned promotion after promotion, receiving the legion d'honneur as well as his own battalion. He had seen men torn to into bloody mangled pieces of flesh by cannon. He had fought with pride under the shining eagles of France at Austerlitz. And he had seen his friends, men who marched with him from the sunny valleys of Italy to the barren deserts of Egypt, butchered by children in the streets during the war with the Spanish Guerilla. Although a large portion of the French armies were now made from conscripts, unwilling men who had been forced into the army from the comfort of their own homes, he was proud of the fact that his regiment, the 45e Regiment d'Infanterie de Ligne, were all professionals, hardened by over ten years of constant warfare.

But now, Lieutenant-Colonel André René watched in frustration as he saw his men being battered by the Russian onslaught, having lost a good number already in Augereau's failed assault. His battalion was scattered all over the field, almost at the point of collapse.

"Sir!" Captain Joubert, a former thief that had enlisted in the battalion before Egypt, shouted at André.

"We can't fall back." André shook his head, ignoring a musket ball that whistled past his head. "If we do, there's nothing stopping the enemy from sweeping our center, we must wait for reinforcements."

"VIVE L'EMPEREUR!"


To Andre's right, he saw that the emperor's personal escort of guardsmen had bursted out of the church doors. They were large strong men, each one sporting a bearskin shako and moustache, a sign of their rank as the elite of the army. There were less than fifty of them, and they were now charging twice their number.

André looked beyond the guardsman, and saw the familiar figure of the emperor leaving the church, with his staff and generals.

"Protect the emperor!"

The ragged line of Frenchmen charged now, joining the crazied melee in the courtyard. André himself led his ragged collection of exhausted voltigeurs, thrusting his sword into the chest of a nearby Russian guardsman. The green uniformed man was huge, towering over André, and he let out a rancid breath of blood as he crumbled to the ground. The suction of dead man's flesh and the cold air both twisted the sword out of André's hand as the giant Russian fell to the ground and he temporarily found himself without a weapon. Pulling out his pistol, he discharged it into the face of a nearby officer who was in the middle of a killing stroke.

Just as he fired though, the corpse of a frenchmen fell behind him, knocking him off balance, and the ball missed the Russian officer. He looked up in silence and to André it felt as though time was slowed down. He stared into the dark eyes of the Russian and knew that the man was planning on the quickest way to kill him.

Then the officer froze, and the grim eyes suddenly closed as a French Major stabbed a spontoon into the back of the man's head, taking his brains in with the large spear. The man fell face flat into the snow.

André looked up and saw that it was Major Delacroix, the former cook from Lorraine. He quickly nodded at André before continuing the fight.

Two more French soldiers pushed their way beside André, bayonets fixed and yelling like crazed animals, while to his left, a tombstone exploded as a shell struck home, throwing up at least half a dozen men, both French and Russian.
Slowly, but steadily, the Russians, despite their advantage in numbers, were being unnerved by the new ferocity of the French guardsmen and infantry, and within minutes, the attackers retreated from the courtyard.

Then, for the first time all day, there was silence.

***

The French soldiers used their time wisely, and spent the next few minutes clearing the cemetary of corpses, morbidly throwing up a barricade of dead Russians a they prepared for the next wave.

"Jesus christ!" Joubert exclaimed in sheer amazement at the tenacity of the enemy, "It's not enough to just kill them, you have to push their corpse over."

The stoic Delacroix smirked. "At least they make a decent wall." He nodded at the mound of Russian grenadiers. "Which is more than i can say for their meals, it's like they eat nothing but rancid beef and vegetable stew!"

André René, despite all the trials of the day, could not help but roll his eyes in amusement. The cook would always entertain the notion that a man can judge the national character of a country simply through the food that their citizens ate, and he endlessly brought this up in every campaign. Whether it was the alligator stew in Egypt or the goulash in Austria.

"At least its better than the hard tack biscuits you've given us sir." Lieutenant Muiron, one of the voltigeur company leaders in the battalion, said flatly, to the laughter of the men around him.

"Lieutenant Muiron." Delacroix said with an exaggerated patience. "Either you have your men continue working on the wall or you will personally be providing the mortar for this wall, do I make myself clear?"

"Clear as the rancid shit we had to eat here sir!" The man grinned, then went back to work.

Suddenly, a private shouted from behind the group of officers.

"Horseman approaching sir." A soldier sporting a thick greatcoat pointed to the west, where an imperial dragoon was gallopping for the battalion.

"Colonel Moray." André gave his old friend a slight nod. Moray had been with the cavalry since the little corporal's campaign in Italy, and had even served for a brief period with his older brother before he joined the royalist cause.

"Chef du battalion René " Moray gave André a polite nod, and as usual, the Gascon man was chewing on a freshly lit cigar.

"So what brings a cavalryman to an infantry's shithole like this sir?" André asked casually.

"You seem to forget, it's the cavalry's job to watch over you little infantryman, and to direct you to the cannon." Moray let out a puff of smoke from his mouth. "Besides, i've got orders straight from our lord and master, General Vivreguard wants the rest of your battalion to mount a withdrawal before he court martials you for destroying what's left of his regiment. And also, congradulations on a fine day's work."

André nodded with a wry smile. The General himself was a good man, and he owed him a great debt for recommending him for a slew of promotions in all the years he had served under him. Although he treated all his officers fairly, André shared a friendship with General Vivreguard that started back in Italy.

Moray shivered in his saddle as another blast of cold whipped through him.

"Horrid country André, sometimes i wonder why Bonaparte even wants to keep this country. The weather's been horrid ever since we set foot here, and the roads are even worse. God did not think of cavalryman when he made this place."

André nodded. "At least you've got a horse to carry you on its back sir."

"That's different André, your branch is the infantry. No one gives a shit about you beggars." Moray smiled. "Of course, I guess the same can apply to our poor dragoons. Have you heard? The Russians are deploying Kalmucks against us. Little men on tiny ponies shooting their bows and arrows. Not that they're much of a threat, but they've been harassing us at every turn. Every one is thinking twice about taking a piss in the woods, lest they get an arrow up their arse."

"The lovely world of the cavalry." André said lightly.

"Today's your lucky day though Colonel." Moray added.

"How so?"

"Because it just so happens that the Emperor cares enough about you miserable infantry to help you, so he asked for us."

André gave an amused look. The cavalry were often regarded by the infantry as girls on horseback, or at least that was the joke running around.

Moray pointed back to the ridge where Augereau's men were retreating to. "When you get back to the lines, just sit back and watch us, because we're about to save your arses." Moray puffed another ring of smoke.

"How so?"

"Let me see," Moray began quite formally. "Our centre is smashed, as well as our counter attack, and on our right, we only have St. Hillaire's infantry holding up against a corps of Russians, so it is only a matter of time before our flank is turned and the Russians can sweep our centre anytime now. So we're going to lend a hand."

Somewhere in the distance, a Russian signal gun sounded, and a shell exploded in the sky with a loud bang.

"Looks like it’s starting again.” The cavalryman said with a slight anticipation.

André looked into the distance, and saw the Russian infantry, moving in three huge columns towards the village of Eylau. Immediately to their front, the Russian infantry were resuming their advance into the cemetery, jumping over the low wall and the gates.

The French opened up with a devastating volley, along with an eight pounder horse battery that swept the walls with canister. Screams of agony were mixed in with the constant roar of gunfire as both sides continued fighting hand to hand in the graveyard.

“I believe its time you and your men go Colonel. I will see you up ahead.” Moray said lightly as he pulled out his carbine, aiming at a nearby Russian officer before discharging it, his target vanishing in the smoke.

“Fall back!” André shouted, and the men needed no second order, they scrambled away, while the gunners spiked their battery and jumped onto their horses, galloping away.

“Reform inside the village!” The colonel shouted at his men, before running with them.

“This is hot work André.” Major Delacroix said as he ran beside his friend.

“I doubt the village is going to be any much better.”

***

Napoleon trained his telescope on the carnage of the field in his center, his heart felt heavy as he saw the last of the ragged formations of infantry scrambled back towards their lines in ragged squares, surrounding on all sides by Cossacks and Russian infantry.

“They died proudly for you sire, with honor.” Marshal Murat, resplendent in his cavalryman’s uniform, commented.

“I would rather have them see a victory.” Napoleon snapped back irritably. “Any word on the progress of Davout and Ney?”

General Rapp shook his head. “The advance elements of Marshal Davout’s infantry have yet to deploy, and there is no word from Marshal Ney.”

Berthier at this moment, stepped up. “Sire, the situation is growing critical. Soult’s corps is at the point of breaking, Augereau’s is destroyed. Marshal Davout has not deployed in adequate force, and our right flank is in danger of being over run any minute. Your commanders are requesting orders.”

Napoleon fought back a burning anger that was building up inside him. Must he do everything himself? The frustrations of the campaign were clear in his mind, the weather, the lack of supply, not to mention the lack of coordination among his marshals. They should not have even given battle until all the army was concentrated! A defeat here, so far from his bases of operation, would mean the end of the army, and give courage to France’s enemies.

The emperor suddenly stopped thinking, it did not matter now.

He then turned calmly to his brother-in-law. “Are your cavalry in formation?”

Murat nodded. “All eighty squadrons sire.”

Napoleon placed a hand on Murat’s shoulder. “Then I have no choice but to send you in. Our centre is lost, our right turned. If we have any hope of saving this army, it rests with you. You are the bravest man I know, I cannot think of any other man to lead this charge. Take your squadrons to the Russian centre. I will deploy all my guard cavalry to assist you.”

“I will not let you down sire.” Murat slapped the riding crop on his thigh, then quickly mounted his horse and galloped to his men.

Napoleon then gestured towards Berthier.

“Prepare orders for a withdrawal. If Ney does not reach the field by tonight, we may well have to retreat or face annihilation.”

Berthier nodded, and quickly scribbled the notes down. While Napoleon turned his spyglass towards his center, where already a gigantic black mass was formed, horsemen of every kind from all over the empire, hussars, dragoons, Cuirassiers and mounted guard grenadiers. The fate of France were in their hands.


***

The streets of Eylau were burning already, bodies, both in blue and green uniforms littered the sides of the road, which meant that the village must have changed hands at least several times. The streets themselves, were covered in a sickening red slush, and the smell of gunpowder and smoke was mixed in with the sweet smell of human flesh. The Russian batteries reopened their fire on the village and within seconds shells landed amongst the sea of humanity that was surging through the streets as the French reformed.
One shot took off the head of a private, exploding less than two yards from his body and taking half a dozen men with him. One French sergeant felt something warm seething through his clothes, then moments later, dropped dead from the bleeding.

Most of the Frenchmen were ragged, their eyes watering and their faces and bodies black with gunpowder and blood. As these exhausted Frenchmen moved out, they saw already, the glittering bayonets of newly formed French columns, their eagles at the center, all ready to charge once more into the hellish inferno that accursed village.

The Russians themselves were suffering from the French batteries. Although they outnumbered the French, they were spread out along a line less than two miles long, and so their formations were tightly packed and dense. French shells and howitzers soon found their mark, and hundreds were killed before they even saw action.

The men of the 45eme moved smartly, negotiating the slushy streets and ignoring the dead and wounded that lay on their path. As they ran, it seemed as though dozens of cannon balls rained from the sky, plowing into the earth and shooting up geysers of snow and blood. The Frenchmen kept together, closing in on the precious eagle as they ran the gauntlet.

Nearby, a French cannon exploded, killing most of its crew as it was hit dead on by a Russian shell. The Russian advantage in artillery was telling. One of the artilleryman, his legs blasted off, gritted his teeth as he pulled himself out of the wreckage and crawled towards the French lines. A French drummer boy walked around half dazed, carrying his entrails in his arms and crying for help. A dozen more of André’s men vanish as a howitzer shell exploded above their heads, sending sharp pieces of shrapnel in every direction.

“That came from our artillery!” Delacroix said angrily. It seemed as though the crews on both sides were just reloading and firing without discrimination, knowing only that the village was their target.

“They can’t see through this snow.” Captain Joubert replied bitterly, as he resented the fact that their regiment was sent into this hellish no-man’s land.

André said nothing, and instead looked up at the sky, and saw that the blizzard was as fierce as ever, mixed in with the thunder of the distant guns.

As the men of the 45eme left the village, they nearly collapsed as they formed back up into column, and watched indifferently as the new French battalions moved in, cheering as they rushed into the insanity that was Eylau.

And so it continued, with the Russians and the French killing each other. An eye for an eye until it seemed to André that it would only end when there would be nothing left but the crippled and blind.

Then he heard the trumpet sound.


***

To the Russians, it appeared as though all the horseman from all four corners of the world had gathered on the plains of Eylau. Ten thousand horsemen in total, formed in one of the largest columns ever seen. Through the driving snowstorm, the carnage and destruction of the battlefield was suddenly replaced by a beautiful and glorious sea of plumes, crests, leopard skins, flags and banners; the color and pageantry of the cavalry.

For a brief second, it seemed like all the men on the field had stopped fighting, taken aback by the awesome display. All eyes were on them, and the thunderous sound of forty thousand hooves momentarily eclipsed the sound of cannon. The huge formation moved rapidly, even as the first Russian shells struck home, killing both men and horses as they trotted.

As they neared the Russian center, the cavalry increased their pace, and to the waiting infantrymen it seemed as though the only sound in the world were the thundering hooves and the ringing of sabers and harnesses. The earth itself, seemed to quake.

Then, the trumpet sounded, and as if they were one, ten thousand cavalrymen drew their swords, and their sabers hissed as they left their steel sheaths.

Men were blasted from their mounts as the Russian guns replied, but this served to make the cavalrymen drive their charge even faster. Sabres, lances and swords were now pointed at the Russian guns, who had done so much killing that day.

Firing one last volley, hundreds of gunners began fleeing to the safety of the Russian lines, fearful of the reprisals, while others stayed and hid by their batteries in hopes of escaping detection.

The thousands of Russian stragglers in the plain were simply swallowed up by the cavalry, ridden down without mercy as skulls were crushed, bones snapped and bodies cut up by lances and swords.

More canister fired as the cavalry neared their home stretch, one French dragoon simply disintegrated into thousands of pieces of flesh as a canister took him completely. While others who were shot were trampled alive by the comrades behind him. The press of the horses was so great, that some riders and their horses were even lifted off the ground, even after they had been shot.

“VIVE L’EMPEREUR!” Murat, at the head of the column, gave the order and at once, the column of French cavalry broke into a huge tidal wave as they thundered towards the Russian infantry, which vanished into a puff of smoke as they let loose their volleys, falling hundreds of horsemen.

The leading squadrons had made contact and with a distinct ‘CRACK’, smashed into the Russian lines like a battering ram.

Hundreds of Russians fell instantly as the infantry melted away from the power of the charge. Screams of mercy were not even heeded as they were trampled, shot, and stabbed. So great was the charge, that even a regiment who had formed squares was completely broken by the impetus. Most of the Russians however, were still in line, and they paid dearly for it.

The cavalry paid no heed to anything now, as if they were infected with a madness that would not stop until every Russian in their path was dead. Russians were falling everywhere, some losing their heads or having their skulls cut open and the French cavalry continued on into the sea of humanity, leaving a trail of broken and battered bodies behind.

***

Napoleon breathed deeply as he saw the carnage and destruction before him. Ten thousand cavalrymen had charged five times their number, and had performed magnificently, in one stroke, the centre and right were saved, and now, it seemed more good news was coming.

“Sire.” Berthier exclaimed as he ran up beside the emperor. “Marshal Davout has given word that he has deployed, he will commence his attack shortly..”

Napoleon nodded to his chief of staff, then he looked back on the battlefield, the village of Eylau burning to the ground. The thousands upon thousands of French and Russian corpses as they littered the snowy plains, and the red and black craters that covered the entire terrain.

The emperor folded his telescope, and rattled off his orders to Berthier, and before long, the chief of staff saluted and galloped away, leaving the emperor alone to survey the field. Already the French cavalry were reforming into column and returning, but not before leaving a gigantic carpet of green-coated bodies in their wake.

“Sometimes, it just comes down to a bit of luck in the end.”
 
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Gerrit

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Wow, that was an absolute great chapter!!!!
I found out when i was at the end that i was holding my breath and that doesn't happen a lot. I really thought that Nappy would lose his first battle until the last lines. Again thumbs up!
 

TreizeV

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Gerrit : Thanks man! glad you liked it :D there's more to come! so stay tuned!

***A brief summary of the Campaigns in Central Europe and the First French Empire 1806-1810***

david.jpg

By 1811, the Empire of France was already a powerful nation. It seemed as though France's borders and influence were spreading everywhere. The emperor had already began systematically destroying the foundations of the old Holy Roman empire. Old electors such as Saxony, Wurttemburg, Bavaria were either all annexed to France or made client states in the new federation of the Rhine the emperor had planned. On the diplomatic front, the emperor made a momentous decision in withdrawing from the disasterous Peninsula war, where over fifty thousand Frenchmen had died in the bitter guerilla war. Turning the kingdom over to the old bourbon rulers, and installing his brother Joesph as the King's prime minister, he made Spain an effective ally and puppet in France's rear.


Empire.jpg

The French empire, and it's dependencies on the eve of 1811

As such, Napoleon only had one front to focus on, and with over two hundred thousand French troops, fresh from the fields of Jena and placed within Prussian territory, Napoleon had outflanked the Austrian armies even before hostilities were declared in the war of the 5th coalition. This led to the defeat of the Austrians at Austerlitz in 1807, where the French Grande Armee killed or captured over seventy thousand Austrians, at the cost of twenty thousand casualties, a massive power vacuum had been opened up in the Austrian empire, a vacuum the emperor was delighted to fill. Several more months of manuvering and sieging led to the emperor controlling over 80 percent of Austrian territory, while Archduke Charles mustered the remaining half of the Austrian army with Schwarzenburg for a final desperate counter-offensive. Meanwhile, as word of Austerlitz spread to the courts of Europe, Russia, not slow to note that Napoleon had defeated both Prussia and Austria, was mobilizing in preparation for war.

Despite the defeats, Austrian army had come a long way since the first coalition, and already most of the old ineffective leaders were weeded out, replaced by a steady stream of professional officers. They soon showed their
worth at a place called Wagram, where the two armies met in November 1809.

The Austrians, even after Austerlitz, had managed to gather a final army, an army that was larger than the one he crushed at Austerlitz. Two hundred thousand Austrians marched from the south, hoping to cut Napoleon’s route home from Vienna. The Emperor, anticipating the move, had already marched his entire army back to the capital.

g76a13.jpg

The emperor inspects his troops at Wagram

The Austrian army occupied own position on the high ground, a steep slope along which they placed their troops. Their position was at least several hundred yards high, giving their artillery the high ground. Aside from that, the Austrian position had no special features, save for the two bodies of wood that flanked the Austrian position. The French meanwhile, with a similar sized army, occupied a series of heights adjacent to the Austrian position. However, a low valley separated the two armies, and if one were to attack the other, then their forces would be exposed to fire as they entered the valley. They would then have to assault uphill into an enemy that could pour as much fire on them from above as possible. The battle was a massacre, with the emperor's forces mounting multiple frontal assaults on the heavily fortified Austrian batteries. The highlight of the battle was Marshal Macdonald's brave charge into the Austrian centre, forming his 20,000 men into a giant column as they were blasted from all sides by hundreds of cannon.

Wagram ended in a Pyrrhic victory for the French, with both sides suffering fifty thousnad casualties, most notable of them, Marshal Lannes, one of the empire's finest and most able commanders.

After Wagram, Napoleon began a merciless occupation of Austria, as if punishing her for the death of so many of his soldiers. His troops looted, pillaged and burned, and the emperor gave his army a free reign in stripping Austria of supplies to feed his armies as well as capturing the last of her fortresses. The Austrian army, reduced to several divisions of cavalry, mounted a mobile guerilla war in the mountains.

Several weeks later, a letter arrived from St. Petersburg to the emperor's headquarters in Vienna. The Russian army, seeing Napoleon's complete disregard for the precarious balance of power in the region, had declared war, along with a reinvigorated Prussia, which was rebuilding its armies at an alarming rate.

Napoleon acted quickly, leaving Vienna for a spring campaign in 1810, and besieged the Prussian fortress capital at Brandenburg before the Russians could mobilize. With their army still not recovered from the battles of Jena in the last war, Prussia was occupied within 2 months, and the emperor turned his armies towards the invading Russians.


fields1kw.jpg

French and Russian grenadiers get a measure of each other on the bloodied fields of Danzig.

The first encounter with the Russians took place at the French occupied fortress of Danzig, where Bennigsen with a Russian army of Eighty thousand men began their campaign. The most immediate forces available were the corps of Suchet and Ney, and fifty thousand French, German and Italian soldiers. They would soon gain a newfound respect for the Russian soldiers as the two forces met on September 12th, 1810.

The battle was a tactical draw, but strategic victory for the French as both marshals out-manuvered Benningsen's army with their advantage in cavalry, attacking the Russians as they still formed their battle line against the approaching French columns, only the timely intervention of the Russian's reserves under Bargration saved the army from a complete disaster. Noting that the rest of Napoleon's army was approaching, the Russians then began retreating eastwards, with the French unable to pursue with their usual prowess and speed due to the poor roads in former Poland. The entire French army took much time to concentrate, having just evacuated Austria. A combination of poor roads, lack of supply and the coming of winter had led to as much as forty percent casualty/desertion rates in some companies. With winter approaching, far from his supply bases,with his numbers dwindling, and the Russians building up strength, the emperor made a desperate gamble to destroy the Russian army before the year went out.

The battle of Eylau had been the most indecisive battle in the bloodiest campaign the emperor had ever undertaken, coming at a great cost. Over twenty five thousand Frenchmen were killed in the bitter cold, while the Russians, fighting on good terrain and with the advantage in numbers and able to move about their own country quicker, suffered twenty thousand casualties. Men quickly worked in the bloodied forests, constructing camps and field hospitals to accomodate the huge number of wounded and frostbitten soldiers.

The veterans of the French army now had a measure of the Russian army, and a grudging respect for the toughness and bravery of the Russian infantryman is held throughout the ranks, few soldiers doubted that the task in the new year would be easier.

With the Russians out of the country, Napoleon took the time to finish off a few other tasks of state. Orders were rattled off to French depots for a slew of Fresh supplies, reinforcements and artillery. Prussia was also forced to sign a humiliating peace treaty in Berlin, where they were to provide for the cost of supporting Napoleon's army inside their kingdom for the duration of the war with Russia.

With 1810 closing, the French army, almost a hundred thousand strong now, found itself camped hundreds of miles from their homes in a hostile country, resenting its very presence. Yet to look at this situation would ignore the fact that within 4 years of campaigning, the army had effectively destroyed the armies of two empires, conquered the Iberian peninsula, and assimilated the remaining duchies of Central Europe into the ever growing empire.

The eagles would march again.
 
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CatKnight

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TreizeV....I remember reading an AAR by a TreizeV once, long ago... Hm.

WELCOME BACK! Those first two posts has to be one of the best battles I've ever read. I could follow every move and detail effortlessly, and you gave a great deal of detail both on early 19th century warfare and the ebb and flow of that battle.
 

TreizeV

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Legu Thank you so much for reading! ;) look forward to more.

Catknight YO! whats up my friend! yeah it has been TOOO long ;) and it looks like your resurrection story is growing to be quite a monster, i'll be sure to catch up on it!
 

Deamon

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I think i'm going to follow this...But first i need to read "Glory of the Eagles" and let me say this..It's great!
 

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It's ALLLIIIVE! :)
 

TreizeV

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Interlude : Luxembourg Palace, Paris - January 1811

300px-Luxembourg_Palace.JPG


"Above all, no excessive enthusiasm"
-Talleyrand, advising future diplomats


He stared outside the windows of his office, already seeing the first flakes of snow falling onto the cold Paris streets. Outside the courtyard a gathering of soldiers presented arms to a French general, who was no doubt leading them eastwards into the vast tracts of former Poland. The Emperor's constant need for war had led to a steady deluge of men and material to the east, and Talleyrand feared that it was about to get worse.

He would imagine the treaty that he would be drawing up now, for that was his job as the foreign minister, although he did not necessarily agreed with the Emperor's foreign policy.

Suddenly, a knock resounded from the door, and Talleyrand diverted his attention from the maps and notes on his desk, past the ornate powder blue walls rimmed with gold leaves, to see a servant just at the door.

"General Caulaincourt is here to see you sir." The man bowed, next to him, a handsome French general wearing the legion d'honneur on his crisp blue uniform, cockade hat, and his cavalry sabre hanging from his side.

"General Caulaincourt," Talleyrand picked up his cane and stood up to greet his guest. "Always a pleasure."

The general returned the minister's greeting, extending a piece of paper in his hand. "I've come bearing these latest dispatches from Poland. It seems the emperor has won a victory at Eylau."

"Or so it will be called. I've already read from our dispatches from Fouché, that we've lost quite a significant number of men in the winter climate." Talleyrand countered.

"True." Caulaincourt conceded, "but it does not change the fact that we've beaten back the Tsar and his armies."

"For now." Talleyrand coughed slightly, taking out a hankerchief from his pocket. "I suppose the emperor is sending you to negotiate with the Tsar as his ambassador?" Talleyrand asked innocently, knowing full well that he was being snubbed despite being the empire's foreign minister. The emperor had a way of ignoring his suggestions for foreign policy, and his opposition to the rape and looting of Austria was well known through the imperial circles.

"Yes, I had wished to tell you myself." Caulaincourt said flatly, but as politely as any gentleman.

"It is perhaps for the best, the emperor has expressed his displeasure at my suggestions with concerns to our operations in Eastern Europe." The foreign minister replied.

"You will still be the one to draw the treaty of course." Caulaincourt added in a diplomatic tone. "The one that will once and for all bring peace to the continent."

"For how long I wonder?" Talleyrand asked rather skeptically. "We have been trying to accomplish that very feat for the past ten years. All my efforts to bring about peace with Britain and Austria have been suborned by the emperor's eagerness to settle our differences in the field. Our foreign policy is no more than a policy of cannon and bayonet."

"I would say the emperor would think of it as, 'accelerating' the negotiation process." Caulaincourt, fiercely loyal to the emperor, replied rather light-heartedly. "Besides, were you not the one who said you could do anything with bayonets? Except sit on them of course." The general grinned.

"Oui my friend." Talleyrand nodded, "But i fear that with the destruction of Austria and Prussia, the empire has forever lost its chance at peace. The emperor has alienated them and we have earned their eternal enmity. He has stripped Prussia of her armies, funds and lands, and not only that, I hear that he is purposely leaving King Frederick William out of the negotiation."

Caulaincourt nodded. "The emperor believes that the Germans are past their prime, besides, we have no reason to even ask for their friendship, it is they who have waged war on our empire for the past decade. That is why the emperor is looking to Russia, as an ally and friend. With Austria and Prussia gone, and Russia on our side, Britain will have no choice but to grant us peace." Caulaincourt said with conviction, keeping in his mind of Talleyrand's proposals towards Austria following Austerlitz. The diplomat wanted the emperor to restore Austria to what it was, in order to gain an ally in them, but why would France even need them? It was an affront to the honor of all those who had died in the wars Austria started.

"You forget, the kings of Europe are also appealing to the Tsar, the very kings that the emperor has dethroned. It will be a difficult position indeed, considering how we have treated the other kings and emperors of Europe. Tsar Alexander will be very wary of any treaty with us, especially with the Austrians whispering into his ears and the British supplying gold into his purse. I do not envy you my friend."

"Nevertheless, I shall take your advice into heart." Caulaincourt replied. "We have lost our chances in reconciliation with the Austrians and Prussians, I will do my utmost to be on good terms with the Tsar."

"And how can we go about accomplishing that?" Talleyrand countered, "I fear it is too late. We cannot just expect Alexander to casually brush aside his thoughts on what the emperor has wrought on Europe. Germany is all but fragmented, and Britain is pushing him to attack."

"There is nothing casual about the power of the Empire's armies." Caulaincourt said confidently. "In any case, the emperor has communicated with me, he tells me that Alexander is just as outraged at the British manipulations as he is. It is time for peace."

"An imposed peace." Talleyrand replied.

"A peace nevertheless," General Caulaincourt bowed. "Now if you'll excuse me sir, I've got work to do in Russia. The emperor is expecting you in Erfurt within a few weeks to finish up the treaty."

"If the emperor wishes." Talleyrand replied, rather wearily.

Caulaincourt saluted, then left the room, leaving Talleyrand to his thoughts.

The minister sighed again, then stared down at the map of Europe on his desk.

Only two powers were capable of mounting a challenge to the French empire now and preventing a permanent settlement. Britain, which could not possibly gain a serious foothold in Europe, and Russia. Whatever his grievances with the emperor, Talleyrand knew Caulaincourt was right on one point. As Britain would never go to the negotiating table with Napoleon, and with the whole of Germany destabilized, Russia was the key. And for France to have a permanent peace, her support would have to be gathered, and surely the emperor for once was going to do this the diplomatic way, and not look to his armies to solve every political problem he had.

Talleyrand wanted to think that, but deep inside, he knew the truth. Two giants dominating a continent, something had to change.
 

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Two giants dominating a continent, something had to change.
Don't do it Nappy, don't do it...
 

TreizeV

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Deamon Thank you and welcome aboard! Of course, you don't necessarily have to read Glory to get in on this story, as I will do my best to explain some past events, but you're more than welcome to :D

Fulcrumvale All i can say is, time will tell :D

Mettermrck And I, a shameful lurker of yours ;) haha thanks! Its good to be back.
 

Lordling

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This is brilliant. Rivetingly good. I'm just glad it's not ten pages long already, otherwise I could've stayed up all night reading it. And out of curiosity, what did you use to get that battle screenshot?
 

aussieboy

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Napoleon and Calaincourt have many, many things to learn about Germans... one hopes that Napoleon doesn't take the historical route and the road to Saint-Helena. Alas....
 

TreizeV

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Lordling Thank you! And yes, i will try to keep it shorter than the last one ;) probably just a greater number of shorter updates to make it easier to catch up on. As for the screenies, they are from a mod called Napoleonic total war ;)

Aussieboy Never underestimate the germans ;) although we shall see what paths Napoleon will take won't we? Thanks for reading!

(update soon)