Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Battle of Limonest 20th March 1814

In the final battle for Lyon, Marshal Augerau with 18,000 men tries to hold of the 48,000 men of Prince Hesse-Homburg Reserve Corps of the Army Of Bohemia.

Despite two successive defeats at the hands of the Austrians the situation was still not hopeless for Augereau, the new position he had chosen on the heights around Limonest was a formidable one and Général Beurmann was marching at the head of 5,000 men from Catalonia to join the army, which more than made up for any losses on the 18th.

He deployed his men on the right bank of the Saone in an arc from Limonest on the Mont d'Or north of Lyon (Division Musnier), along the heights at Dardilly (Division Pannetier with Brigade Esteve in Dardilly and Brigade Gudin in Paillet) to Tassin-la-Demi-Lune to the west of Lyon on the Paris road (General Digeon with Beurmann's Brigade and a squadron, on the road to Salvagny).

Remond's Brigade including the honor guards from Lyon, and 12e Regiment of Dragoons were in reserve near Vaise.

Detached were Bardet's Brigade (Conscripts of Nimes) at Miribel to observe and contain a column (Austrian General Hardegg) who was adavancing from Bourg en Bresse and two battalions sent to Caluire to stop another Austrian column (General Coburg) coming down the left bank of the Saone.

The Austrian plan was simple, to attack all along the front whilst maneuvering to outflank the French left wing.

The Austrian attack began on the entire front at dawn. On the right Binachi sent Bakony and Lederer to sieze Dardilly and Wied-Runkel against Tassin-la-Demi-Lune to turn the position. On the left Wimpffen would make a feint on Limonest to pin Musnier.

The French comfortably resisted the attacks and about noon Augereau whose command post was on the Salvagny road left the field to talk to civil authorities in Lyon.

Général Musnier had relied heavily on the imposing natural strength of the Mont d'Or to protect his right flank and had placed only a few small detachments to guard in that direction. However an Austrian brigade led by Mumb's marched down the Soane Valley from the east, through the heights of Couzon au Mont d'Or and Sainte Romain Mont d'Or and without barely firing a shot seized the Mont d'Or and turned the French right around 1:00pm.

Towards one o'clock Musnier finds that the Austrians have seized Dardilly threatening his left, crown the heights of Mont d'Or on his right and Mumb threatens to cut off his rear, so Musnier decides to fall back on Vaise, this then forces Pannetier who is still fighting for heights around Dardilly to withdraw on Ecully.

Digeon, on the road to La Tour de Salvagny facing Wied-Runkel is now outflanked on both wings and is in danger of being cut off as he tries to slowly fall back towards Tassin-la-Demi-Lune.

All this was taking place between 12:00 and 15:00 hours, during which time the Marshal now in Lyon was unaware of what was going on. When he finally hears that Musnier and Pannetier have appeared in Vaise he rushes to find out what is happening. On arriving he realises he is staring defeat in the face, through Musniers mistake and his absence the army may be cut off from Lyon and destroyed. He decides to stand firm and with his usual courage try and to save both his honor and that of the army.

He orders Général Guillemet with the 13e Cuirassiers, two infantry batallions and 3 guns, to strengthen Digeon whose heroic resistance against Prince de Wied-Runkel is at least averting disaster.

Wimpffen soon reaches the Chateau de La Duchère and Mumb start to shell Vaise from heights of Rochecardon. It is imperative that they are repulsed. The Marshal marches at the head of Musnier and Pannetier troops and with bayonet clears Duchère and Rochecardon, pushing back both Wimpffen and Mumb, and then holds them into the night against repeated attacks from the Austrian reserves.

However Bakony, Lederer and Wied-Runckel now almost encircle Digeon between Ecully and Sainte-Foy. The French cavalry charge on the two roads in order to keep open the line of retreat which is now inevitable. The 13e Cuirassiers led by Bigarré sabre a battery of 8 guns and capture their limbers and train, the 12e Hussars of Colbert capture 400 men and the Colonel of
l'IR "Hiller". Continued charges by the 4e and 12e Hussars drive back the Austrians and as night falls the line is stabilised without further trouble.

The Austrians have lost 1,432 men and the French about 1,200 but this is offset by 1,500 men who arrive from Catalonia that evening. Augerau could realistically consider fighting again the next day around Vaise and Sainte-Foy as Hesse Homburg had failed to disloadge him and within 24 hrs he would receive another 2,500 veterans from Catalonia.

However he decided not to, and by 6:00am on the 21st there was not a soldier left in the town and by 10:00am the Austrians had taken Lyon this was considered a catastrophy for France.

La Loire et l'aigle: les foréziens face à l'état napoléonien By Pascal Chambon

No comments: