I have just been reading a Polish cavalryman's account of Leipzig. He has an interesting description of some French infantry which I thought I would share:
"How our regiment suffered can be measured by the fact that one of our officers, Captain [Antoni] Potkański, had three horses killed under him. Around me at least seven men were killed or wounded, that is four from my company and three from the 7th Company, while Captain Kossowski, standing next to me, was also wounded there. The truth is that for us officers such a situation is the very worst, because our tall bearskin caps (Barmütze) made us a clear target when we were next to the shorter shakoes of our troopers. Our six guns were already down to just two, the rest had been smashed by cannonballs or their gunners had been killed. After more than two or three hours of standing in this deadly position, the French infantry came to our aid, and they deployed in one line on our left flank, having the alder grove, which I mentioned before, behind them. But it was only the infantry of Marshal Augereau, the Duke of Castiglione, made up of young recruits who had only been in uniform for two weeks, and the hands of the soldiers were still dark blue from the dye running from their new and unsullied tunics. Such soldiers would not be able to stand for a moment under such intense fire, and after a few roundshot reached them, their line began to falter. When the enemy infantry column began to approach them, this regiment fired once, seeming to do so without even having received the order, and then they turned their backs and fled from the battlefield."
Yes. Delauney, Historique de l'artillerie de la marine, p. 97, writes, that by decret of 24th January 1813 the 4 regiments of the infantry (I guess, print error - he means: artillery) of the marine "fait passer ... au compte du département de la Guerre, à partir du 1er février suivant". So they were formally transferred from the marine to the army.
( https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6552409h/f135.item )
No they weren't sailors - they were naval artillery - did they still belong to the Navy in 1813 ?
Absolutely, we see for the autumn campaign 1813 the break-down of the French supply system (while the army was constantly marching, "va et vient"). The allies cut off the French operational line (the main road / Heerstrasse from Mayence / Frankfurt to Leipzig), transports and couriers were forced to stop. As Napoleon stated himself (I believe, in September already), the army was not supplied, the rice ration decreased etc pp. E.g. marshal St. Cyr describes the shortage of provisions for his army corps, which operated on the Saxon-Austrian border (Erzgebirge, in the south of Dresden), a traditionally poor region with small harvests... Some French soldiers died of eating belladonna, thinking it was cherry etc.
The quality of French infantry on the German war theatre (1813) seems to have decreased continuously: From new established infantry regiments / battalions (some with veteran soldiers - the coastal artillery or "marine artillery", for example, which behaved well at Lutzen) down to many provisional regiments and march regiments which were involved in the autumn campaign. The same holds for the officer corps, which were the "cadres" of these respective battalions.
Augereau did not perform too well in 1813 and 1814-especially 1814.
Also a very good account, it sounds horrific. Some stood firm, some broke. By the way our Pole notes that Augereau's men broke and fled and adds that Baron Fain, in his account of the battle, states that, on the contrary, the French repulsed the Allied attack. But the Poles adds he was there and saw it happen.
History is like that.
Captain Jean-Baptiste Barres, a company commander in the 3d Bataillon of the 47th Ligne at Lutzen on 2 May 1813, made the following commnents in his memoirs, 161-162:
'The front of Strasiedel we were saluted by the whole artillery of the enemy army and horribly cut up. Threatened by the cavalry we formed square, and in this position received incessant charges which we always successfully repulsed. At the beginning of the action Colonel Henrion had his left epaulet carried away by a bullet and was forced to withdraw. Commandant Fabre took over the command of the regiment and was replaced by a captain. In less than half an hour I, the fifth captain of the battalion, found my turn had come to command it.'
'At last, after three and a half to four hours of stubborn fighting, having lost half our officers and men and had our guns dismounted and ammunition caissons blown up, we retired in good order, at the march, as on parade, and went to take up our position behind the village of Strasiedel, without closing up our ranks too much, Major Fabre was admirable in this movement of withdrawal: what coolness, what presence of mind this uneducated man displayed! A little respite having been granted us, I saw that I was forty-three men short, and an officer, wounded in the head. I too was wounded in two places, but so slightly that I did not think of leaving the battlefield. One of these wounds was inflicted by the head of a sub-lieutenant, which had been hurled into my face. I was for a long time covered with my own blood and the brains of this nice young fellow...'
'...Our young conscripts behaved very well; not one left the ranks; on the contrary, some that we had left behind, sick, came to take their places. One of our buglers, a boy of sixteen, was of the number. He had a thigh carried away by a ball and died at the rear of the company. These poor children, when they were wounded but still able to walk, used to come to me to ask to leave the company to get their wounds dressed; it was a renunciation of life, a submission to their superiors, which touched one more than it astonished...'
What Polish cavalry Regiment had tall bearskin caps?
About the blue dye - I wonder why they did not wear great coats when it was raining so badly.
As to the blue dyed bodies, the coats were lined with linen and white wool, then would come a waist coat, again lined and then a shirt.
I've seen something similar. I think it was someone describing the dead at Paris in 1814. They had been stripped but you could tell they were French because their bodies were stained with blue dye.
"... and the hands of the soldiers were still dark blue from the dye running from their new and unsullied tunics." A nice, almost novelistic, detail.