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Correspondence of Marshal Davout

October 20, 1806 to October 25, 1806 (190 - 199)


190 - To the Emperor and King

Wittenberg, 20 October 1806

Sire, the intentions of Your Majesty are fulfilled: the advance guard of the 3rd Corps crossed the Elbe, the 20th, at nine o'clock in the morning; the entire Corps was on the right bank before three in the afternoon; I dispatched, at that time, Adjutant Major Beaupre to the Prince of Neufchatel, in order to give him information of this event. The Prussians, at our approach, set fire to the bridge and saved themselves without opposing the prompt succor which was brought and had the happiest result in saving the bridge, which is of the greatest solidity.

The reconnaissances have revealed, on the route to Berlin, a league and a half from here, two infantry regiments and some squadrons of cavalry which moved on Wittenberg in order to defend the passage of the Elbe. Seeing themselves forestalled, they withdrew. I sent a detachment in order to communicate with Marshal Lannes; I still have no news from it,

The Prussians have burned all the boats between Wittenberg and the bridge of Dessau.

50 chasseurs from the 1st Regiment, whom I sent on reconnaissance to Torgau, captured the bridge, which the Saxons did not defend, saying that they were at peace with us. This bridge is in the best condition.

There exists at Wittenberg a magazine containing more than 140 thousands of powder in good condition. One has the keys to it.

The fortifications which were around Wittenberg are to a large extent destroyed; much work would be necessary in order to put this fortress in a state of defense against surprise attack.

In conformance with your orders, Sire, there has been laid out and work will begin immediately on a bridgehead. It would be desirable that some sapper companies and some funds be sent for this purpose. I will also reclaim some engineer officers, nearly all those of the 3rd Corps having been wounded in the affair of the 14th.

In all the villages there are many Prussian deserters and stragglers.

191 - To the Major General of the Grand Army
Prince of Neufchatel, etc.

Wittenberg, 21 October 1806

My lord, I have the honor of sending to Your Highness four letters from the Prince of Wurtenberg to the Prussian officer who commanded the Wittenberg troops. These letters, which have been intercepted, proved that the Prussian Army is not dreaming of covering Berlin, and that its retreat on the Oder was ordered.

I have had the 3rd Corps take the following positions:

The 1st Division is placed in front of Wittenberg, controlling the routes from Potsdam and from Belzig ; it has in advance of it a detachment of 100 horses in order to observe these two routes. The 2nd Division has its right brigade on the route from Torgau, mastering those from Jessen and from Zahna ; this brigade is covered by the 2nd Regiment of mounted chasseurs. The 2nd Brigade is on the route from Koswich.

The 3rd Division is in reserve at the village of Plata, on the left bank of the Elbe.

I am having my cavalry observe the triangle which is to be found towards Dessau between the Mulde and the Elbe.

I have ordered General Vialannes to thrust a strong reconnaissance on Potsdam.

In awaiting the orders of Your Highness, the Corps is taking some moments of rest here of which it had need in order to rally the men, whom the long marches in a sandy country had forced to remain behind.

An account has been rendered to me that there exists on the Elbe some considerable stores, particularly at Wittenberg and at Koswich. I have ordered that possession be taken of them and that the condition of them be ascertained.

General Hanicque discovered a powder magazine at a quarter league from this town. According to his report, there exist 300 thousands of good quality powder, well preserved.

The bridge train was stopped by the sand; it will not be able to arrive at Wittenberg in less than some hours. I am having all the sailors and pilots of the country assembled in order to have them descend the Elbe to the point which it will please Your Highness to designate. The horses and drays will be made to follow by land.

I have the honor of sending to Your Highness the account which the engineer Colonel Touzard has rendered to me, on the condition of the fortress of Wittenberg. I have ordered this superior officer to have the works necessary to protect against surprise attack laid out on the two banks of the Elbe immediately. I have authorized him to make all necessary requests to the authorities of the country for the pioneers, workers and materials which will be necessary.

I pray Your Highness to consider that at the battle of the 14th, four engineer officers of the Corps were put, hors de combat, and that the sapper company suffered so much at that same battle that there remain to it only 36 available men, among whom there are to be found no skilled worker. I pray Your Highness to send some engineer officers to this Corps, as well as come companies of miners and sappers in order to be able to carry out this work.

A reconnaissance by the 12th Regiment of mounted chasseurs, sent on Roslau, arrived there during the night and found the troops of Division Suchet crossing the Elbe on some skiffs.

Another reconnaissance by the 1st Regiment of mounted chasseurs seized the bridge of Torgau and confided the guard of it to the Saxon troops, with the express condition of defending the passage of it from the Prussian troops.

192 - To the Major General of the Grand Army
Prince of Neufchatel, etc.

Wittenberg, 22 October 1806

I have the honor of forwarding to Your Highness a report by the chasseur captain charged with the reconnaissance of Torgau, as well as a report on the provisions and munitions which exist in the fortress.

193 - To the Major General of the Grand Army
Prince of Neufchatel, etc.

Lukenvalde 23 October 1806

My lord, on the march from Zahna to Lukenvalde I received the letter which Your Highness did me the honor to write to me in order to send back to the depot at Wittenberg the crippled men who are to be found in the Corps. I have the honor of making the observation to Your Highness that this measure has already become nearly impracticable for this Corps, which is going to be two long marches from Wittenberg today, and as besides few men requiring to be sent to the rear are to be found here, Everyone is able to follow.

194 - To the Major General of the Grand Army
Prince of Neufchatel, etc.

Lukenvalde, 23 October 1806

My lord, I have the honor of rendering account to Your Highness that the Corps, having yesterday made a longer march than I supposed, will take position today between Trebin, where the 1st Division will be, and Veittersdorff ; in such a way that tomorrow the 24th, about two o'clock in the afternoon, the Corps will be in front of Berlin.

If I receive no contrary orders, the army will be on the march at five o'clock in the morning. I am awaiting General Hulin in order to put him in command of this fortress.

Tonight, I will send some detachments in order to invest Berlin; Adjutant Major Romeuf will be sent there to assure the subsistence of the troops there.

195 - To the Major General of the Grand Army
Prince of Neufchatel, etc.

Lukenvalde, 23 October 1806

My lord, I hasten to render account to Your Highness that General Vialannes, commanding my light cavalry, had thrust a reconnaissance up to Potsdam; he would have entered there, if he had not received the orders which I had dispatched to him earlier to rejoin me at Lukenvalde.

He has this moment arrived; and he confirms the report that no enemy troops exist either at Potsdam or at Berlin, that all have withdrawn by Magdebourg and behind the Oder.

196 - To the Major General of the Grand Army
Prince of Neufchatel, etc.

Outskirts of Berlin 24 October 1806

My lord, I have the honor of rendering account to Your Highness that the 3rd Corps arrived in Berlin; I had sent there in advance Adjutant Major Romeuf with some superior officers of artillery and engineers and a war commissioner, designated by the Intendant General, to take possession of the arsenals and military magazines and to have rations prepared.

Adjutant Major Romeuf rendered account to me that immediately after his arrival, a squadron of the 9th Regiment of hussars, making up part of the 5th Corps, and some officers of Marshal Lannes had entered the fortress, announcing the 5th Corps, I wrote immediately to Marshal Lannes the letter of which I have the honor of addressing a copy to Your Highness.

General Hulin has arrived; I had a detachment of light cavalry given to him in order that he could place the essential post ; he is in possession of his command.

Tomorrow, in conformance with the orders of Your Highness, the 3rd Corps will make its entry into Berlin and will be received by the magistrates and notables, etc., and from there it will go to take position a league in front of the town.

I will leave at Berlin at the disposition of General Hulin, the 108th Regiment, which has suffered much and which lost its chiefs at the battle of the 14th. All the dispositions set forth in Your Highness' letter of the 23rd will be exactly executed. I will establish my headquarters at Schonberg this evening.

197 - To Marshal Lannes
Commanding the 5th Corps

Outskirts of Berlin 24 October 1806

Adjutant Major Romeuf, whom I had sent, Marshal, tonight to Berlin, renders account to me that a squadron of the 9th Regiment of hussars, making up part of your Corps, entered this fortress this morning. Meanwhile, His Highness the Prince of Neufchatel has made known to me that the intention of the Emperor was that the 3rd Corps should enter there first, and that it should do so only tomorrow the 25th. I have reason to believe, by the arrival of this squadron of the 9th Hussars and some one of your officers, that these dispositions have been replaced by subsequent and contrast one; in this case, I would oblige you to make them known to me, in order that I can conform to them; but, if nothing was changed in the orders which have been prescribed to me, I have the honor to pray you, Marshal, to give your orders in order that whoever it be of your Corps does not enter Berlin before it is authorized by His Highness the Prince of Neufchatel: I have given mine accordingly.

198 - To the Major General of the Grand Army
Prince of Neufchatel. etc,

Schonberg, 25 October 1806

My lord, the correspondence officer, whom His Majesty sent to me with the order to move the dragoon division on Oranienbourg, only arrived at seven o'clock in the morning; this order is going to be executed as well as all those which His Majesty prescribes to me. I have had all the letters in the post stopped; I have observed that the greater part were addressed to Magdebourg, where it is still believed here the Prussian forces are; I am sending them to Your Highness; there has fallen under my hand a French one which I add hereto, because the individual who wrote it and who appears informed, assures that the army of the Prince of Hohenlohe is assembling near Brandenburg.

I am likewise joining to it a letter from a French person who remains here and whom it would be important to discover in order to have information.

Finally, I attach to it an extract from the latest Berlin journals, which it will perhaps be useful to bring to the attention of His Majesty because they prove that, in spite of the assertion of M. Lucchesini, Lord Morpeth only left after the battle of the 14th; these journals can also make known the spirit which dictated the last manifestoes of Prussia.

I am sending to Your Highness a report which I received from Colonel Charbonnel on what he discovered concerning his departure to Berlin.

The army crossed the town about noon in order to go and take position behind the little stream which flows into the Spree below Copnick My headquarters will be at Frederickfels.

199 - To the Major General of the Grand Army
Prince of Neufchatel, etc.

Frederickfels 25 October 1806

My lord, I have the honor of rendering account to Your Highness that. according to all. the intelligence which has come to my attention. I am informed that there exist only very very few troops in Francfort, and that the bridge is not yet cut; I have as a consequence given to General Vialannes, commanding the light cavalry, orders to surprise this town.

I likewise have the honor of sending to Your Highness a report of travelers going to Hambourg and who were obliged to retrace their steps.

All the detachments which I sent out. on the Spree have still given me no news; and, as they have orders to thrust to where they encounter the enemy, I suppose they have a long way to go. Following the orders of the Emperor, who had warned me that it was possible that Spandau might put. up some resistance, I sent to this point an adjutant on the staff who reported to me that this fortress had surrendered.

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