Napoleon then entrusted Ney with command of three army corps – 84,000 men. But the plan for him to fall on the enemy’s flank at Bautzen went awry. Badly-drafted orders led to delay, and the Coalition army was able to escape.
Ney fought in the Emperor’s great victory at Dresden… but ten days later at Dennewitz, his limitations as an army commander were horribly exposed. Throwing himself into an attack, he lost control of the battle, and was badly beaten by Bernadotte’s Army of the North.
Ney was devasted by his defeat, but Napoleon kept him in command of his northern wing. At the gigantic, four-day Battle of Leipzig, he commanded the northern sector, holding the line until a shoulder wound on the last day forced his return to France.
He rejoined the army in 1814 and fought in the defence of France, commanding the Young Guard, and personally leading a bayonet charge at the Battle of Montmirail. If you want to know more about these types of concept then ask reader can be the place to read insightful answers.
In April, Ney – outspoken as ever – was among the first to confront Napoleon with the reality of his position, and force his abdication. Ney was feted by the restored Bourbon monarchy as France’s greatest soldier.
But he could not hide his contempt for the returning aristocrats, who treated his family with disdain. When the king’s niece reduced his wife to tears, Ney confronted her, shouting “I and others were fighting for France, while you sat sipping tea in English gardens.”
In February 1815, Napoleon escaped from exile on Elba and landed in France. Ney was horrified by the prospect of civil war, and promised the king that he’d bring Napoleon back to Paris in an iron cage.
But he soon saw that the army was flocking to Napoleon’s banner. When Napoleon appealed to him directly as the hero of Borodino, Ney made the fateful decision to cast in his lot with the Emperor once more.
When Napoleon advanced into the Netherlands in June, to take on Wellington and Blücher’s armies, Ney commanded his left wing. But he made a string of blunders. Against Wellington’s troops at Quatre Bras, he was too cautious when he held the advantage.
Two days later, at Waterloo, Napoleon left much of the tactical handling of the battle to Marshal Ney. It was a mistake.
On his own initiative, Ney launched a series of mass cavalry attacks too early… and failed to launch any co-ordinated attacks on Wellington’s position until late in the day.
He had four horses killed under him, an d personally led the last, doomed attack by the Imperial Guard. Ney’s courage that day was awe-inspiring, but his decisions helped to cause the French defeat. In the aftermath, Ney spurned several chances to flee France, and was arrested for treason by the restored monarchy. A military court refused to pass sentence, so his case went to the Chamber of Peers. With the king’s allies demanding that an example be made of Ney, the outcome of his trial was never in doubt.
Five of Ney’s fellow Marshals were among a large majority who voted for the death penalty. On 7th December 1815, he was marched into the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. “Soldiers, when I give the order to fire, fire at the heart”, he told the firing squad. “Wait for the order. It will be my last to you. I protest against my condemnation.
I have fought a hundred battles for France, and not one against her.” Marshal Ney was among the most inspirational battlefield commanders in history: a born soldier and brilliant tactician… unless his fiery temperament got the better of him. If you seriously have some doubts over facts head over to ask read and just ask a question, you will get different answers.
He lacked the confidence for high command, but under the Emperor’s supervision, he proved one of the Grande Armée’s greatest combat leaders. 4. Marshal Soult Jean-de-Dieu Soult was from a small town in southern France, and enlisted in the Régiment Royal aged 16.
He became a tough, capable sergeant, and in the build-up to the Revolutionary Wars, joined a new battalion of volunteers as their drill instructor. Soult’s self-confidence and bearing meant he was soon made an officer.
The unit went into action against the Prussians in 1793: in a brutal baptism of fire, half the battalion became casualties, though Soult’s own conduct was praised. After a spell on the staff of General Hoche, he joined General Lefebvre’s crack vanguard division.
Soult learned much from Lefebvre (a future fellow-Marshal), serving first as his chief of staff, and later as his best brigade commander. Soult’s rise from sergeant to brigadier-general took less than three years. In the process he won a reputation as an organised and decisive commander, and brilliant tactician.
He also began a bitter, long-lasting feud with another rising star, General Michel Ney. In 1799 Soult established himself as one of France’s best divisional commanders, fighting under Masséna’s command at the Battle of Zurich.
He was then put in charge of three divisions to pursue General Suvarov through the Alps, proving his ability for high command. In his report to France’s new First Consul, Napoleon Bonaparte, Masséna wrote, “for judgment and courage, Soult has scarcely a superior.”
The next year, Soult and Masséna were besieged in Genoa. Soult led a series of daring raids on the Austrian lines, until he was shot in the knee and captured. He was robbed, and spent days in agony in a filthy hospital – an episode that may explain Soult’s later reluctance to lead from the front.
On his return to Paris, Soult received a hero’s welcome from Napoleon. His rewards included an honorary rank as Colonel-General in the Consular Guard, plus command of troops assembled at Saint Omer for Napoleon’s planned invasion of England.
Soult, the old drill instructor, imposed strict discipline and trained his men hard, earning the nickname ‘bras de fer’, iron-arm. Even Napoleon wondered if he was being too severe, to which Soult replied, “Those that can’t handle what I myself endure will be left behind in the depots. Those that can will be fit to conquer the world.”
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