Napoleon, on learning of the insurrection in Holland, had brought General Decaen, who had been in Catalonia, to organise in Belgium the 1st Army Corps (bis) utilising the men of the depots of Marshal Davout’s forces.
On arriving at Antwerp, General Decaen began by uniting 7 to 8,000 men, sailors and conscripts, throwing them into Bergen op Zoom, included in this force was a battalion of the 21eme drawn from the depot and composed of 8 officers and 283 men.
The other recruits formed at Julich were destined to enter the formation of the 1st Army Corps (bis). In the meantime, General Bulow having been able to establish himself on the left banks of the Vahl and the Meuse, Napoleon decreed the formations of 55 battalions.
Their organisation completed, two battalions of the 21eme newly formed were part of the 3rd Division commanded by General Carra St Cyr, under the command of General Maison, whose headquarters were at Antwerp. This general, who had been named by the Emperor to succeed General Decaen, was established in an entrenched camp before Antwerp and made all efforts to prevent the enemy’s march on the Scheldt. The two battalions of the 21eme, who had been quickly formed, were installed in the camp during the course of January 1814.
In precaution against an allied siege the places of Antwerp and Bergen op Zoom were fully provisioned with munitions and food. Julich, where there were the cadres of two companies and a small number of men of the 21eme, surrendered during January after a siege of some days, the garrison being made prisoners of war.
Defence of Bergen op Zoom
On the 8th March, the English scaled the walls of Bergen op Zoom and entered into the town, defended by 2,700 men, commanded by General Bizanet. But this latter rushed onto and overthrew the English columns taking a large number prisoner. The battalion of the 21eme, commanded by Chef de Bataillon Lespez, stationed at the Steinburg Gate, behind the stockades which defended the approaches to a bridge over a ditch into the main body of the place. He had vigorously repulsed the attack on this side. Captain-Adjutant-Major Tiger was wounded, and died later of his wounds. Lieutenants Langrand and David, and sous-lieutenant Benoit, were also wounded.
While General Maison campaigned in Flanders with a part of the 1st Corps, the two battalions of the 21eme had remained at Antwerp, the defence of which was assigned to Carnot. The fortress surrendered on the 28th April, the garrison leaving with its arms and baggage.
On the 31st March, the allied sovereigns and their troops had entered Paris, four days later, Napoleon abdicated the throne, on the 14th April the Senate passed the government of France to the Count of Artois, with the title of Lieutenant-General.
The 20th April, Napoleon left for the Isle of Elba, and on the 3rd of May, Louis XVIII made his solemn entry into Paris as King of France.
The army received a new peacetime organisation. A Royal Ordnance of the 12th May 1814 reduced the regiments to three battalions; there were 90 line regiments and 15 light infantry regiments, with a compliment of 1400 men. The disbanded units were absorbed into the organisation of those which were maintained.
The 21eme de Ligne retained its number; the 3rd and 5th battalions of the 151st, and later the 1st battalion of the 4th Tirailleurs were absorbed into the Regiment, which took up position at Cambrai.
The standard returned to the colour white with the new decorations of the arms of France.
The ranks of Generals of Division and Brigade were replaced by those of Lieutenants generaux and marechaux de camp. A large number of brave and active officers were placed on retirement; a large number were sent home on half-pay.