In the course of the month of January, the 21st, and the other troops which had assembled at Thorn, came to Posen, equidistant from the Vistula and the Oder. The regiment reformed itself with the soldiers returned from Russia, into a 1st battalion of two companies, the surplus were sent to Erfurt and to the depot, where the men of the conscription of 1814 were coming to replace those of 1813. The lst battalion was reinforced, some time afterwards, by the company of the regiment which had been sent from Julich to Antwerp, to man the ship “Albanian”. These were old soldiers having three or four years of service. The battalion was completed with conscripts of 1814, and entered into the composition of the 1st Corps, reorganised into 16 regiments, under the orders of Marshal Davout.
The second battalion was constituted at Erfurt, with the conscripts of 1813 sent from the depot.
At the end of February, Prince Eugene retreated with the first battalions formed from the debris of the old army, and that of the 21st established itself at Magdeberg. It was in reality in this town that the long retreat ended, that had begun at Moscow on the 20th October.
To complete the 3rd, 4th, and 5th battalions, which had to be formed at Julich, they recruited from the classes of preceding years, which Napoleon had just ordered to be recalled.
Napoleon formed 34 provisional regiments from the isolated battalions of various regiments spread throughout Spain, Germany and Italy, the 21st Provisional was formed from the 3rd battalion of the 59th Line and the 4th battalion of the 69th Line. The deeds of arms of this regiment, formed from scattered elements and entirely new, do not really belong to the history of the 21st Line as such, which had kept its flag, and of which the newly formed battalions all had cadres drawn from the debris of the regiment. We will only say that the 21st Provisional entered into the composition of the 1st Brigade of Souham’s 3rd Division of the 1st Corps of Observation of the Rhine, under the orders of Marshal Ney.
When Davout had gathered the second battalions at Erfurt, he directed them to Stettin, but the second battalion of the 21st went to Kassel, where it was joined by the 4th battalion organised at Julich, and composed of soldiers whose instruction was still incomplete.
It was then the end of February 1813, the Russians were advancing in Germany;
Prussia joined them. The Russian army arrived on the Elbeon 26th April, the
Emperor had already formed twelve army corps. During this time the two
battalions of the regiment which had met at Kassel had just joined the first at
Magdeberg, and entered, in April, into Teste’s 3rd Division of the 2nd Corps of
Observation of the Rhine, commanded by Marshal Marmont. The organisation of the division being still incomplete, it was not able to join the Grand Army which
took the offensive and beat the Russians at Weissenfels, on 1st May. The next
day, they gained the victory of Lutzen, and on the 19th that of Bautzen. Finally on the lst June, the right of the French army occupied Glogau, the left was at Schweidnitz, the centre at Breslau.On 5th June, an armistice, which was to last until 22nd July, was concluded at Plasswitz in Silesia. It was prolonged until l0th August; but during this time, Austria entered the coalition, and England was giving subsidies to Russia and Prussia. It was necessary to recommence the war.
During the armistice, the 21st, under the orders of Major Ricard, had been completed to four battalions, commanded respectively by chiefs of battalions Fuzier, Caillebote, Joubert, and Leroux, the regiment had a strength of 78 officers and 2123 men. The 1st and 2nd companies of the 5th battalion were in garrison at Stettin, and the two others, of the 5th battalion, were at Julich, forming the depot.
The 21st, with the 33rd Line, belonged to O’Meara’s lst brigade of Teste’s 23rd division. This division joined at Magdeburg, on the 18th June, the lst Army Corps, commanded by General Vandamme, and composed of Philippon’s and Dumonceau’s divisions, which had been detached from Davout’s Corps. The headquarters of the Corps was at Barby on lst August, and was transported on the l5th to Bautzen, in Lusatia. Napoleon, having learned that the allied army, under the orders of Schwarzenburg, was debouching from Bohemia and was marching on Dresden, halted his march towards Silesia, and headed for Dresden, taking with him the Imperial Guard and the lst Corps. During this movement, Teste’s division occupied Stolpen on the 24th, and on the 25th it was at Dresden, headquarters of the lst Corps, detaching the 2nd brigade to the camp of Lilienstein, below Konigstein. The 2lst was placed, with the 33rd, under the orders of Murat, who was to advance to meet the Austrians in the plain of Friedrichstadt.
Battle of Dresden 26th -27th August.
On the 26th, while Murat was chasing the enemy from the plain, General Teste, with the 1st Brigade, the 21st and 33rd, left Dresden by the Freyberg gate, and took the village of Klein-Hamburg. On the 27th, Napoleon gave the mission to Murat, helped by Marshal Victor, of descending into the plain and advancing with his troops to attack six enemy divisions which were covering the hills above the valley of the Plauen. General Teste established himself, with his lst Brigade, facing the village of Lobda and the mouth of the valley of the Plauen, to prevent the Austrian grenadiers of Bianchi from debouching from it, as they had the day before. As soon as the army had taken its positions, General Teste launched the 21st into the village of Lobda, chasing from it the Austrian skirmishers, and penetrated next as far as the mouth of the valley. During this time Marshal Victor was advancing onto the heights, taking three villages, Murat, deploying his 60 squadrons on the Freyberg road, overturned the enemy, put him to rout and captured his flags and cannons. Neither the rain, which fell in torrents, nor the fatigues of a night passed in the water and mud, had been able to slow down the ardour of his troops. The 21st, which had taken a glorious part in this victory of Dresden, had Colonel Guignard wounded by a blast which took him in the face. Lieutenants Pepet, Aubry, Cauchie, sous-lieutenants Avignon de Morlac, Dufour, Clairet, were killed on the field of battle. Captain Constant, was wounded by a bayonet thrust, lieutenants Querelle and Gerard were also wounded. The other wounded were: sous-lieutenants Preux, Dimey, Grillon, adjutants Henry, and Brebant, sergeant-major Michaux . Sous- lieutenant Preux particularly distinguished himself in dislodging the enemy from the village of Aldenhoven, where he killed three Hungarians with his own hands.
The day after the battle, they pursued the enemy in the direction of Peterswalde. The Russians being pushed back from the borders of Bohemia, Vandamme marched with his corps on Toplitz, fighting boldly in the defiles, but attacked unexpectedly by superior forces, he was beaten and taken by the Russians at Ku1m, with 4 or 5,000 men, the rest of the troops of the lst Corps were able to retreat in the direction of Dresden. General Vandamme, made prisoner, was replaced, on the 3rd September, by the Count of Lobau. This general received the order to re-organise the lst Corps into three divisions of ten battalions each. The 21st and 33rd, of O’Meara’s brigade, were returned to him, and all the lst Corps was placed at Dresden, thus finding itself in reserve behind the corps of Saint -Cyr and Victor. On the 5th September, Napoleon, having learned of a new appearance of the Army of Bohemia on the Peterswalde road, took himself in all haste to Dresden and posted the lst Corps on front of Zehist. On the 9th September he marched on Peterswalde and bivouacked that evening at Furstenwald. On the l0th, Count Lobau took position on the Nollemberg, at the entrance to the mountains. The next day, he was placed under the orders of Marshal Saint-Cyr occupying, with his three divisions, the plateau of Berggies-Hubel, where numerous redoubts had been built. The Guard was in reserve at Pirna. On the 13th, the advance-posts of the 2lst, retreating on Gieshubel before the Army of Bohemia, had to sustain an engagement in which lieutenant Blanc was wounded.
Combat of Hollendorf 15th September
On the 15th, Napoleon put himself at the head of the troops and repelled the allies from Gieshubel to Peterswalde, but the enemy halted in front of the defiles of Hollendorf. Attacked vigorously in this position by O’Meara’s brigade they were obliged to pull back. In this combat, captains Ladragne and Magnin of the 21st were wounded. The army then marched towards the defile, and went as far as Kulm, but the allies, to the number of 120,000 occupied strong positions there. Napoleon pulled the troops back to Pirna on the 17th, and the 1st Corps returned to take position at Gieshubel, Teste’s division at the chapel, forming the rearguard of the Corps. In the first days of October, the 1st Corps occupied all the positions round Dresden.
The Emperor, having learned that the Armies of Bohemia and Silesia were advancing on Leipzig, recalled all his forces to this city, but he left the lst and 14th Corps round Dresden. On the 18th and 19th was fought, under the walls of Leipzig, the famous battle in which the French, betrayed by the Saxons and overwhelmed by numbers, were obliged to retreat by the army of the allies. Napoleon pulled back his army to the Rhine and sent an emissary to Dresden to tell Marshal Saint-Cyr to join Davout on the lower Elbevia Torgau, Wittemberg and Magdeberg. After a long hesitation, Saint-Cyr only began to execute this order on the 6th November. He had the lst Corps make a sortie from Dresden.
Count Lobau pierced the enemy lines, but he was obliged to return into the place the next day, and on the llth Dresdencapitulated. The garrison was to lay down its arms and return to France by stages; but the capitulation having been violated, they were kept prisoner and sent to Hungary. The four battalions of the 21st suffered the fate of the rest of the garrison. We have said that after Leipzig, the army had retreated to the Rhine. Napoleon had gone to Mainz to give his orders of concentration and have armed the towns of Venloo, Grave, Julich, etc. The 5th battalion or depot, of the 21st, composed of two companies, had remained in this latter town. The two companies of the same battalion, which were at Stettin under the orders of General Grandeau, shared the fate of the valiant garrison, which became prisoners of war .There existed no more of the 21st, at the end of 1813, than the two depot companies at Julich.