Napoleon suspected Bernadotte of conspiring against him, but the Clary sisters helped to keep the peace. Throughout this period Bernadotte held key posts, as Minister of War in 1799, Commander of the Army of the West in 1800, and Governor of Hanover in 1804, proving highly effective in each role. That year, Napoleon made Bernadotte a Marshal, and he commanded First Corps at the Battle of Austerlitz, playing a relatively minor part in the Emperor’s great victory.
Nevertheless, he was rewarded with the title ‘Prince of Pontecorvo’. But his relationship with Napoleon remained difficult. In 1806, as Napoleon took on Prussia, Bernadotte was blamed for failing to support Marshal Davout at the Battle of Auerstedt, and was nearly court-martialled… though Bernadotte partly redeemed himself, with a vigorous pursuit of the beaten Prussians.
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The next year he missed the Battle of Eylau, after his orders were intercepted by the Russians, and a gunshot wound to the neck meant he also missed the Battle of Friedland, with command of First Corps passing to General Victor. When war resumed with Austria in 1809, Bernadotte was given command of the Ninth Saxon Corps. If you want to know more about these types of concept then ask reader can be the place to read insightful answers.
On the evening of the first day at the gigantic Battle of Wagram, his troops were in heavy fighting with the Austrians – but dressed in white, like the Austrians, they came under devastating friendly fire, panicked, and routed. The next morning Bernadotte pulled his men back without orders, and when they later retreated again, he and the Emperor exchanged sharp words on the battlefield. Bernadotte then issued a proclamation to the Saxons, praising their conduct – and outraging Napoleon.
Bernadotte was sent in semi-disgrace to the Dutch coast, to oversee the defeat of a major British landing at Walcheren. But another triumphant proclamation, effectively publicising the strength of his forces, further infuriated Napoleon. In an unlikely twist of fate, in 1810, Swedish politicians invited Bernadotte to become Crown Prince of Sweden:
the current king was old and childless, and Bernadotte was a proven general and administrator, member of the French imperial family, and well-regarded by Swedish army officers, who remembered his fair treatment of Swedish prisoners three years earlier, in Pomerania. Napoleon was at first bemused, remarking that he could think of other Marshals who were better qualified.
But he did give his assent, even when Bernadotte made it clear that as Crown Prince, he would pursue Swedish interests. He was true to his word. Three years later, with Napoleon on the ropes after his disastrous invasion of Russia, Crown Prince Bernadotte brought Sweden into the Sixth Coalition, and declared war on France.
With his insider knowledge, he helped the Allies to devise the ‘Trachenberg Plan’ – a strategy for defeating Napoleon in Germany, by avoiding battle with Napoleon himself, and targeting only his Marshals. In September Bernadotte defeated former comrades Marshals Oudinot and Ney at Dennewitz.
Five weeks later, he played a major role in the great Allied victory at Leipzig. Bernadotte’s legacy would prove the most lasting of any of Napoleon’s Marshals: the royal house of Bernadotte sits on the Swedish throne to this day. Bernadotte was labelled a traitor by Napoleon’s supporters – though not by Napoleon himself.
He was unquestionably a gifted soldier and administrator, but his personality clash, and long-running feud with the Emperor, meant he was never a great Marshal. 17. Marshal Augereau Augereau had, by his own account, an eventful younger life, serving at various times with the French, Russian, and Prussian armies… deserting or being
kicked out of all three in dubious circumstances. He briefly earned a living in Dresden as a fencing master with a feared reputation as a duellist. He embraced the French Revolution, and joined a volunteer cavalry regiment known as the German Legion, before holding various staff and training roles, where his experience in the regular Prussian army proved valuable.
Promoted to general, Augereau served in the Eastern Pyrenees, where his flair for tactics and bold, decisive action helped win a series of victories over the Spanish. Later serving in Italy under Napoleon, Augereau proved a highly effective divisional commander.
The future Emperor’s reports were glowing: “Strong character, firmness, energy, has the habit of war, liked by his men and lucky.” In 1796, Augereau played a leading role in Napoleon’s victories over the Austrians at Castiglione… and Arcole. If you seriously have some doubts over facts head over to ask read and just ask a question, you will get different answers.
In fact, the painting of Augereau’s heroism at Arcole Bridge… long predates the more famous version by Vernet, in which Napoleon takes centre stage, and is an even greater work of fiction. Augereau’s standing among fellow generals, however, was damaged by an enthusiasm for looting to rival General Brune, while others were irritated by his loud and boastful manner.
Augereau was known to be a reliable republican, and in 1797 Napoleon sent him to Paris to be the military muscle for the coup of 18 Fructidor. This was an army-backed purge of pro-royalist politicians, threatening to restore the French monarchy.