Date and place
- February 12, 1814, Château-Thierry, a town in the Aisne department of Picardy (now part of the Hauts-de-France region).
- French army (20,000 men) under the command of Emperor Napoleon I.
- Russian-Prussian army (30,000 men) under the command of General Hans David Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg.
Casualties and losses
- French army: around 600 dead or wounded.
- Russian-Prussian army: almost 3,000 men dead, wounded or prisoners.
Aerial panorama of Château-Thierry battlefield
The general situation
The day after the Montmirail victory on February 11, 1814, the situation as Napoleon could see it was as follows: Marshal Auguste Frédéric Louis Viesse de Marmont was at Etoges
The Emperor decided to complete the destruction of the bodies of generals Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg and Osten-Sacken. To do this, he began by organizing their pursuit, which had not been effectively undertaken the previous day by exhausted troops. Two infantry and two cavalry divisions were sent in the direction of Château-Thierry via the direct route through Fontenelle, under the command of Marshals Michel Ney and Adolphe Edouard Casimir Joseph Mortier. Napoleon, for his part, headed west towards Viels-Maisons
For their part, Yorck and Sacken made their junction in the early morning and withdrew towards Château-Thierry
Marshal Mortier was the first to test the resistance of the system. Napoleon then reached Montfaucon
However, against all expectations, Yorck and Sacken finally decided to accept combat rather than cross the Marne as quickly as possible. They probably felt it necessary to gain a little time, so as not to have to leave their baggage behind them, or even some of their soldiers.
At around 1 p.m., the Russian-Prussian troops set up to defend the Nesles plateau
Advancing on the heels of their opponents, the French captured Petites-Noues
This retreat uncovered the left of the Allied infantry. The Guards infantry and the cavalry reserves still available took advantage of the situation to pounce on them. Forming into squares, the enemy tried to retreat towards Château-Thierry, but was soon overwhelmed and several squares were totally destroyed. Some regiments lay down their arms. The Nesles plateau was completely in French hands.
The rest of the Russian-Prussian troops had no choice but to retreat in haste towards Château-Thierry. The retreat was rather disorderly, as the vanquished rushed to safety, giving the French cavalry an opportunity to charge the crowds gathered at the entrance to the only bridge over the Fausse-Marne
As the Prussian artillery on the right bank was bombarding it intensively, the French infantry had to be content with taking the Faubourg de Marne, and could neither pursue the enemy nor prevent it from cutting the bridge
The outcome of the battle
For the third time in three days, the French had outflanked the Allies. But they still failed to destroy them. Marshal Macdonald, who was at Meaux, a long day's march away, was in no condition or did not find the energy to complete the victory won on the left bank on the right bank. As for the pursuit, it was one more time delayed, due to the time it took to repair the bridge. Once this was done, Mortier was again sent in the footsteps of Yorck and Sacken, who were in full retreat on the road to Soissons.
The disproportionate losses reflected the scale of the success: from 2,000 to 3,000 men for the allies, they probably did not exceed 600 in the imperial army.
Picture - "Battle of Château-Thierry, February 12th, 1814, 03:00 or 04:00 PM". Watercolor by Jean Antoine Simeon Fort, a.k.a. Simeon Fort.
On the evening of the battle, Napoleon spent the night in the Lumeron farmhouse