The Twenty First Regiment of the Line
The demi-brigades lost their denomination as such on the 24th September 1803, and were gradually re-organised as Regiments. The first 30 regiments retained their numbers. Thus the 21eme was formed from the four battalions of the 21me demi-brigade itself also incorporating men from the 109th demi-brigade. Among the officers was to be found chef de battalion Ducrest, later to become Colonel of the regiment.
About the same time the first nominations to the order of the Legion of Honour were instituted, 19th May 1802. Those holders of commissioned “arms of honour” and who were the most military of the soldiers and who had received their arms of honour for their fine discipline in the Army of the West from 1799-1801 eventually were to become those first promoted to officers.
Until November 1803 the first and second battalions passed their time at the Camp of Bruges, formed behind Ostend. The third and fourth battalions lodged at Flessingue holding emplacements there until July 1804 at which time the four battalions were re-united at the Bruges Camp
23rd October 1804 saw the third and fourth battalions moved to Cologne where they formed part of the 25th Military Division. The other two battalions remained in the Bruge Camp until July 1805.
During their stay in the camps of the Channel coast the Emperor presided over exercises which had the men embark upon ships of war in port every day; and of uniting ships, sea and land troops in attacking other very large warships that would cross in front of the French shoreline.
The Combat of Ambleteuse 18th July 1805
The 21eme before making towards the Camp at Ambleteuse embarked on the Dutch flotilla, commanded by Admiral Verhuel. Arriving at a position above Gravelines, the flotilla suffered a long cannonade from all sides by the English fleet and were forced to take refuge in Calais. On the 18th July they set out once more and were passing the Cap Gris Nez the enemy commenced a furious attack on them with grape-shot. They were engaged in a combat that did not cease before coming to Ambleteuse, then the land batteries forced the English to keep their distance. In this combat the 21eme underwent an apprenticeship to the sort of war new to it, but they displayed the same courage and ardour that they were to display on land. The Regiment lost a few men as casualties including some killed. Lieutenant Vassale was amongst the dead.
On arriving at Ambleteuse the first two battalions, commanded by Chefs de Bataillon Vaugreneuse and Grogniet had an effective strength of 1709 men. They were place in the 1st Brigade (Petit) of the 3rd Division (Gudin) of the 3rd Corps which was formed on the right of L’Armee des Cotes de l’Ocean commanded by Marshal Davout and quartered in the area of Ostend.
The Campaign of 1805
At the beginning of 1805 England and Russia signed a treaty of alliance with the aim of returning France to its old borders, they formed the Third Coalition to which Sweden shortly joined, and Austria also some time later.
Napoleon then resolved to move the Army of the Coasts of the Ocean beyond the Rhine and in an order dated 19th August he changed its name to Le Grande Armee, announcing also that he was to command it in person. He divided the army into 7 Corps, each of 3 divisions and each having a cavalry formation attached to it.
The first two battalions of the 21eme under the orders of Colonel Dufour remained a part of the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Division of the 3rd Corps, the two other battalions remained in Cologne, forming part of the 2nd Corps of the Army of the Reserve commanded by Marshal Lefebvre.
With the force of the Emperor’s order and commands for the movement to the Danube, Gudin’s division comprising the 12th, 21st, 25th, and 85th Regiments of the Line) left Ambleteuse on 3rd September 1805 and arrived at Durkheim on the 27th September, after having stayed a while at Mons, Marche, Thionville, and having travelled some 412 miles, that is to say averaging 25 miles on each day’s actual march.
Davout’s Corps, forming the left wing of the army passed the Rhine between Meinheim and Heidleberg. Gudin’s Division passed the river on 28th September over a floating pontoon bridge established there and occupied the heights of Obrichheim to the left of Necker on the 30th. The next day they were joined by their artillery and on 3rd October they arrived at Ingelfingen on the river Kocker in the flat plain between this village and Iagstberg. On the 7th October they were re-inforced by Friant’s Division and pushed out reconnaissance towards Altmuhl and along the route to Eichstadt, this last named place being the last town before the Danube, now only 25 miles distant. Since the passage of the Rhine all the troops’ marches had been done at least in part at night, they sometimes had to stop, being unable to find their way in the dark. Frequently they found it impossible for the three divisions that formed the Corps to reach their destination and nearly every day saw the divisions in one column, being covered by the advance guard moving from one carefully selected position to another.
Napoleon manoeuvred his forces and order to fall upon the rear of the Austrian army to isolate it from the Russians and destroy them with the maximum of ease, concentrated his forces towards Donauworth.
On 8th October at six o’clock in the morning, Davout commenced the crossing of the Danube at Neubourg. On the 9th Gudin’s Division reached Suchenhofen, the troops were to be found in front of the village and fired upon from Aichach and occupied the head of the wood. At the same time General Mack found himself about to be surrounded and committed the error of retreating to Ulm, determined to hold the line Ulm to Rain.
On the 12th October Gudin’s division its front, covered by the Glen installed the hq of the Corps commander at Dachau 5 leagues from Munich.
On the 14th the division passed the river at Schwabhausen its front facing the town of Friedberg, their right in the wood behind the Ober-Roth, one battalion deployed on the route to Friedberg for maintenance of communication with d’Hautpoul’s cavalry division. The 3rd Corps, itself in a position at Dachau and its neighbourhood found itself in contact with the 1st and 4th Corps around Munich and Augsburg. Ulm was itself becoming more and more penned in, Ney engaged the Austrians at Elchingen and drove them back into Ulm which then immediately became surrounded.
On the 17th the capitulation of Ulm was signed, the terms of the capitulation being carried out on the 20th.
On the 21st October Gudin’s Division who remained in the position at Schwabhausen and occupying Dachau and its surrounding villages, they rested there until the 24th, and then went to the tomb at Gighausen on the Isar, at Gighausen merely a stream.
On the 25th they found themselves behind Hohenlinden, on the horse-road to Branau, and on the 26th at Ampfing, the right resting towards Craiburg.
On the 27th the Division carried on towards Muhldorf, but the Russians who had been arriving since the 15th October occupying the line of the Inn desired to delay Davout’s march by subjecting him to a furious artillery bombardment from selected positions as he advanced.
Davout did not lessen his pace to cross the Inn, he did so at Muhldorf and continued his march to reach the Satza.
On the 29th October Gudin’s Division arrived at Burghausen and on the 31st they took position at Haag, they remained there on the 1st November and on the 2nd reached the left bank of the Traun, the passage of the river taking a route to the right of Schwanstadt.
On the 4th November they took up position on the Salzback as far as the environs of Hall and detached the 21st towards Gunberg to scout the road between Windishsgarten, Rotternonann, and on the 5th they passed the Enns to the east of Surpinghofen.
The route the army took to march to Vienna depended on the route Davout was able to force, Davout’s Corps led and reached Maria Zell via Vaidhofen and St-Gaming, They arrived at Annaberg on the 10th November, one division going to the north by way of Licienfield.
On the 12th they traversed the Khalenberg mountain and arrived at Attenmark, only 10 leagues from Vienna. They entered the Austrian capital on the 18th and took billets in the city’s suburbs. The next day the 21eme and 12eme passed to the left bank of the Danube and occupied the hamlets at the head of the bridge (Danubion).
On the 22nd the two regiments assisted the movements at Spitz and then rested until the 26th, on the morning of which the division was on the right-bank of the Rusback, this right flank at Ekartsay, the left at Margraf-Neusied. General Gudin’s hq was at Enzerdorf.
About the time the army reached Brunn the Russian and Austrian Emperors were at Olmutz. Gudin’s division had pursued the Austrians on the road through Styrie and took their cantonments at the march and crossed that river at Neudorf without opposition on the 27th reaching Pressburg. The colonel of the 21eme then took control over that area on the 28th November, passed a squadron of the 1st Chasseurs a Cheval and a battalion of the 21eme to the right bank of the Danube in order to support General Vialannes, the commander of the Third Corps Cavalry Division.
On the 30th Davout was at Nicholsberg with Friant’s division, putting himself at their head to reach Raygem on 1st December. Gudin’s Division was stopped at Marcheck on the 30th, having set off from Pressberg, on 1st December was at Gannesdoeg on the Vienna-Brunn road. On the 2nd December Napoleon defeated the Austrian and Russian armies at Austerlitz. Gudin’s Division had marched on Nicholsberg to prevent any allied move on Vienna by holding his force there; he used his initiative however and moved forward to the village of Tracht where he was able to survey the movement of the allies and hinder any crossing of the Thaya. The troops in his division had covered twelve leagues during that days march, an impressive event.
Out of Davout’s Corps only Friant’s infantry had taken part at Austerlitz and in order to bring the other two divisions together after the battle a position was taken up between Monitz and Olnitz.
The Emperor then ordered Davout to bring together Morand and Gudin’s divisions and cease actions in order to pursue the enemy who was en route to Hungary and to intercept their retreat. Gudin set off on the 3rd December to march on Billowitz, which he reached at 3 am on 4th December. He then continued on to Josephstadt, deploying his column in front of that village in order to fight the allied cavalry there. On his left he had the stream of Prushaki which flows through a ravine and his artillery in front of Josephsdorf near to Gseding. The division in fine fettle went into the attack and overthrew the enemy cavalry. On the plain of Josephstadt and Goeding, General Merveldt (Austrian) appeared and announced that an armistice had been signed by the Three Emperors, General Savary arrived from the Emperor and that ADC gave orders to Davout to suspend his offensive. Prior to this Davout was preparing to attack the remains of the Russian army.
Gudin’s Division then retraced its march back to Pressberg, arriving on 12th December, where it lodged partly in the citadel barracks. On the 13th the 1st battalion of the 21eme took station at Angerman, the 2nd battalion at Theben, in order to guard and watch the confluence of the March and Danube Rivers. None of the division then moved until 20th December.
On the 20th December the 21eme crossed the Danube using the middle of three pontoon bridges available at Pressberg and also employed some large boats they found, each capable of carrying 150 men. They then took up cantonments on the right bank, one battalion quartered at Bruick and the other in the villages of Regelbrun, Arbestal, Collesbrunn, Willfersmauer and Schadendorf. In the meantime Colonel Dufour of the 21eme had been promoted to General of Brigade, one of the finer colonels in the 3rd Corps he was replaced by Colonel Decouz who had been appointed on 27th December having been promoted after Austerlitz, where he had had a horse killed under him.
Austria and France agreed peace terms at Pressberg on 26th December, later an agreement was made that the Russians would evacuate Austrian territory and that the Grand Army would return home.
On 5th January 1806 Gudin’s Division left their emplacements and following the right bank of the Danube led the way west through Schweckat, Sankt-Polten, Melk, Amsteten, Enns and arrived at Kreus Munster on 11th January, staying there in cantonments until the 18th. On the 19th they moved to Lambach and arrived at Haag the day after taking billets in the town and its environs occupying the demarcation line that was set for the 2nd and 1st divisions in the Inn-Wiertel Canton of Switzerland. They did not lack here fine adequate accommodation. Gudin’s division stayed at Haag until February 22nd when at daybreak the Corps set off in six columns, the left hand column comprising the 12th and 21st regiments took the lead. On the 22nd they reached Ried Attheim, on the 23rd Branau, on the 24th Eggenfelden, on the 25th Vilsbiberg, 27th Landsheet, 28th Freysing, 1st March Pfahenhofen (to the north of Munich), 2nd at Neuberg. Neuberg was the town where the Regiment had crossed the Danube for the first time at the start of the campaign.
The first column entered billets on the 3rd March 1806, their camps occupying the whole of the northern part of the Duchy of Neuberg. They remained there until 22nd March and having been joined by the divisional artillery on the 23rd at Verdingen they moved to Elwangen on the 24th, entering Swabia on the 25th by the way of Hall and on the 26th entered new cantonments on the 26th. Their camp was at Kocker on the left bank of the Danube in the Principality of Hohenlohe. Here they remained until 27th April. The 21eme then moved towards the Necker, a tributary of the Rhine, and occupied Kunzeslaw and Kupferzell, both a few leagues from the Necker, until 26th June, General Petit at this time set up his headquarters at Heilbrun.
The Campaign of 1805