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 Napoleon's Campaigns

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PostSubject: Napoleon's Campaigns   Napoleon's Campaigns EmptyTue Jul 08, 2014 7:45 pm

The narrative is written from the perspective of Colonel Lepic who was a Colonel in the 1er Grenadiers a cheval de la Garde Imperiale. This regiment is often hailed as the most elite and finest heavy cavalry of its time. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Grenadiers a cheval were never defeated or thwarted. To join this elite regiment, applicants needed at least a decade of campaigning and multiple citations for bravery. Almost every member of the Emperor's first had a Légion d'honneur.

This story takes place on the Battle of Eylau, where the largest cavalry charge of the Napoleonic Wars took place. I hope you enjoy it. This is currently the first part. The next additions will include the actual combat scenes!

His breath animated the icy air as he exhaled out of anxiety. Here, in the outskirts of the French Empire, the winter menace was unforgiving – even murderous. But it was not the atmospheric climate that concerned him. Colonel Lepic of the Grenadiers a cheval de la Garde Impériale had been observing at the battlefield for hours now, and he was anxious for the Emperor. He broke his gaze occasionally to glance upon the Emperor and the Marshals. Occasionally he overheard some of the tense arguments among the General Staff, and it only exacerbated the anxiety amongst the men. Even the Garde Impériale was subject to fear.

Indeed the battle had started at a great disadvantage to the French. A few days before, both Marshal Ney’s and Bernadotte’s Corps of 20,000 men had been routed by the Russian army. The Marshal Murat’s cavalry promptly engaged the oncoming Russians to delay them, but they were quickly routed by superior firepower. The Russians quickly occupied the height overseeing the small town of Eylau, and immediately used it to their advantage. The elevation gave the Russian artillery an unprecedented increase to their cannons’ range, and the Emperor and his commanders were powerless to counter it. Despite the disadvantages, Napoleon immediately instructed his commanders to press on the offensive. The preliminary French forces engaged in close quarters combat with the Russians. Colonel Lepic could only imagine the savage melee that took place. He had seen the wounded the night before. Their white uniforms were now dyed with crimson blood and patterned with the gory handprints of their victims and comrades. Despite the brave struggle, the French offensive failed and were now in engaged in a desperate endeavor to defend their half of the town.

By now it was 1100, and the heavy snow storm began to slowly fade away. Nonetheless the visibility of the battlefield was still obscured by the white smoke of guns and cannons. Marshal Davout’s Corps had unsuccessfully but valiant engaged in combat against the onslaught of the Russian Army. Very few of his men had survived the vicious baptism of sustained musketry and heavy cannon fire. As the smoke from the most recent volley lifted, Colonel Lepic could see the 14er Ligne of the rearguard fleeing the town. Chasing after them was a storm of Russian Cossacks who appeared from the dust storm of their charge. Disorganized and in disarray, the men of the 14er were quickly skewered by the lances and curved blades. The town was lost, and the French center was gone. He turned his gaze away from the carnage and shifted to the Emperor.

“Grouchy will form the rearguard,” the Emperor instructed.

“Very good, sire, but shouldn’t we make preparations-” replied General Dorsenne.

“Prepare to retreat earlier?” the Emperor interrupted. “There is still hope yet Dorsenne. The battle has yet to be lost. Meanwhile instruct the artillery to use canister fire. We must do all we can to prevent our center from collapsing!”

“But sire, we don’t have any additional reserves, but the Garde!” said the General.

The Emperor heeded the General’s impudent observation. He turned to Marshal Murat.
“Murat, will you let them devour us!” he asked.

Murat and his staff drew their swords, rendered a sword salute, and quickly galloped off. Murat rode hard to his men. The Marshal raised his sword in the air and screamed for everyone to hear: “GENTLEMEN! THE EMPEROR IS WATCHING!” 11,000 horsemen drew their sabers in unison and commanded their horse to begin stomping the earth below.

The earth shook and the ground bellowed under the tremendous force. The Emperor rose is arm and signaled for the cavalry to begin their charge. The thunderous sound of 11,000 galloping horses quickly invaded the ear drums of everyone on the battlefield. Colonel Lepic could feel blood trickling from his ears, but he welcomed the pain. The cavalry charge vanished into the oncoming snowstorm and Colonel Lepic lost sight of the horsemen.

There was still some hope! But Colonel Lepic’s euphoria was interrupted by a sudden barrage of cannon fire. As he looked to his left a cannon ball smashed into the ground before bouncing off and decapitating his banner-bearer. The banner man’s blood showered those around him with blood and dismembered limbs. While none of the members of the Guard dared to abandon their post, many cowered their heads to avoid the same fate as the regiment’s banner man. Colonel Lepic regained his senses and summoned the courage to stand tall on his horse once again. He looked back only to see fear starring back at him. He then drew his blade from its sheath and rose it in the air towards the enemy’s cannons. “Gentlemen! Raise your heads and stand fast! Those are cannonballs not turds!” In unison his men raised themselves proudly on their mounts.

It was then General Dorsenne galloped in front of his formation and commanded, “Draw swords men! Draw swords! Marshal Murat and his men are encircled by the Russians! Now it is our turn to show the Emperor! Charge!”

On his command the trumpets bugled the charge. 1,000 horsemen from the regiments of the Guard Cavalry galloped across the battlefield to rescue their brothers. Colonel Lepic closed his eyes in short prayer as he recited the last rights and charged into the massacre.
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PostSubject: Re: Napoleon's Campaigns   Napoleon's Campaigns EmptyTue Jul 08, 2014 8:25 pm

You know about my love for the Napoleonic Wars, a well done chapter! The Guard Calvary saves the day.
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PostSubject: Re: Napoleon's Campaigns   Napoleon's Campaigns EmptyTue Jul 08, 2014 11:16 pm

What a great read!

Your use of imagery is superb, it made me feel as though I was actually witnessing the battle unfold. Nothing was stretched out and I found the flow to be fairly smooth.

My favourite part was in the last paragraph, when Colonel Lepic recited his last rites before the charge. It really made him come alive as a character for me. +1
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PostSubject: Re: Napoleon's Campaigns   Napoleon's Campaigns EmptyWed May 27, 2015 4:30 pm

I love Napoleonic era style military history and this story was amazing!
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