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  • The Battle of Montereau. February 18, 1814.

    Marisa Ollero

    The Battle of Montereau. February 18, 1814.

    The Battle of Montereau was fought during the War of the Sixth Coalition between an Imperial French army led by Emperor Napoleon and a corps of Austrians and Württembergers commanded by Crown Prince Frederick William of Württemberg. While Napoleon’s army mauled an Allied army under Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, the main Allied army commanded by Karl PhilippPrince of Schwarzenberg advanced to a position dangerously close to Paris. Gathering up his outnumbered forces, Napoleon rushed his soldiers south to deal with Schwarzenberg.

    Napoleon´s victory on this battle enabled him not only to hold Montereau, where three major roads crossed, but also to force the Army of Bohemia back towards Troyes, with the intent of pushing it out of France. Napoleon had turned to the south to face Field Marshal Karl Philipp zu Schwarzenberg after the French victories over General Gebhard von Blücher´s mostly Prussian Army of Silesia in the Six Days Campaign the previous week.


    In the days before the battle, the Allied forces of the Army of Bohemia were spread out in a line stretching along the Seine, holding key positions at Fontainebleau, Bray, Provins, Mormont and elsewhere. Napoleon, for his part, concentrated his forces at Guignes before sending them forward, and on the morning of February 17 he had assembled about 70.000 troops. Reluctant to face Napoleon directly, and with his forced scattered about the region, Schwarzenberg ordered a general retreat to the southeast toward Troyes. Before all of Schwarzenberg´s troops could respond to that order, Napoleon massed his forces, neatly destroying the Allied cavalry under the command of Russian General Peter von der Pahlen at Mormant.

    With the Austrian lines in general retreat, Napoleon split his forces and sent his marshals in pursuit of different elements of the enemy to Provins, Bray, and Montereau. The Allied forces retreating to Montereau were under Württemberg´s command, and Napoleon sent Marshal Claude Victor after them. Victor´s advance was slowed down in part by elements of the retreating Allies, and did not arrive at Montereau before Württemberg had fortified positions north of the town. Napoleon was furious for the delay, and after reprimanding Victor, he replaced him with General Maurice Étienne Gérard.

    Throughout the morning of February 18, Gérard attacked Württemberg´s entrenched position. It was not until the late afternoon that the French were able to overrun the Allied line and force a retreat. The appearance of Napoleon on the battlefield at the head of his troops helped to turn the advance into a rout of Württemberg´s troops past Montereau and south over the River Yonne. By the end of the day, the Allies had lost about 6.000 troops, to French losses of around 2.000. Although the Army of Bohemia had been clearly defeated, many of its troops escaped to the East and would be able to regroup against Napoleon in the weeks that followed.


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