Wednesday, December 05, 2012

King of Naples takes command

Murat is left in command
Early in the morning of the 5th, Napoleon reached Smorgoni.  Here, at seven in the evening, he held his last conference with his marshas.  Murat, Eugene, Berthier, Lefebvre, Bessieres, Mortier, Ney and Davout were summoned to attend.  The Emperor came straight to the point.  he had decided that the time had come for him to  leave the army and return to Paris.  The Emperor gave out that he would be accompanied back to France by only Caulaincourt, Duroc, Lobau, his valet Roustam and a Polish interpreter, together with a small escort of Neapolitan cavalry.  The convoy would consist of only three vehicles, a sleeping coach and two caleches.  The Empoeror would be traveling incognito, posing as Caulaincourt's first secretary.  The news of his departure was to be kept secret for several days, but then an Imperial decree was to be promulgated announcing the necessary changes of command - "Article One: The King of Naples is nominated lieutenant-general and will command the Grande Armee in our absence." - and that the Emperor was heading for Warsaw.  His aides were to follow from day to day in rota, carrying the latest tidings.

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 848-849


VolleyFireWargames said...

Never realized he put Murat in Command when he left (why not Davout)?

MurdocK said...

Obviously there are no 'records' of Napoleon's decisions about this.

However I shall take a stab at it:

Just before this decision, Ney had gone through a hell in the rearguard (see the post earlier about bravest of the brave). The reason Ney had to take over the rear guard was that Davout had failed totally in that task. Now to be fair Davout was partially abandoned by the rest of the army during the march from Borodino to Smolensk, and Eugene had to move back to get I Corps back into the column. This may have broken Davout's reputation with the other Marshals and certainly hurt it with Bonaparte.

Also, between Borodino and the entrance into Moscow, Davout had challenged Murat on his over use of the cavalry - to the point of a duel challenge. Certainly Davout would not have had Murat take his orders seriously.

Beyond that, as Murat had married into Bonaparte family - this gave the 'senior' position to Murat, as Eugene was still considered too young by many of the Marshals.

Not that Murat turned out to be such a great choice. In a few weeks he turned over the army to Eugene anyway.