The 1814 Campaign in France, Battle Montmirail
La Campagne de France de 1814, la Bataille de Montmirail
Next edition: to be announced (the event was last held in 2016)
Montmirail (Marne dep., Grand Est region)
a spectacular battle reenactment celebrating Napoleon's tactical genius on the same battlefield where the glorious French army marched in for its last epic stands before the capitulation of Paris, AD 1814...
Geographical, cultural and historical context
Montmirail lies nestled around its 15th century castle on a formerly fortified promontory overlooking the valley of Petit Morin in the heart of the Brie Champenoise area, at about 50 km from Meaux, 70 km from Reims and 100 km from Paris and its airports, in the Marne department of the Grand Est region of Northern France. The territory was inhabited since the earliest times, as witnessed by several archaeological excavations and finds confirming the presence Neolithic settlements, lakeside towns, megalithic monuments (dolmens) and caves. Although not definitely cleared, the town origins most likely date to the Ancient Roman Age: the today Montmirail was founded as a military or trade post close to two Roman roads crossing the same area. Several artefacts and objects from the Roman Era found in the area are now on display at near the Museum of Epernay. From the 13th to the 17th century the town was a renown centre of draperies production with fulling and weaving mills.
The very event for which Montmirail went down to history is related to the so-called “Six Days Campaign” (February 10-14, AD 1814), that marked a final series of French victories during the 1814 Campaign in north-east France, the final chapter of the War of the Sixth Coalition, which lasted from March 1813 to May 1814 and saw Emperor Napoleon (1769-1821 AD) facing a broad coalition of allied countries: Austria, Prussia, Russia, England, Portugal, Sweden, Spain and several German states. Following their victory at Leipzig in 1813, the allied armies invaded France closing in on Paris. Despite his army being highly outnumbered, Napoleon managed to inflict many defeats to the enemies. Nevertheless, the Coalition kept advancing towards Paris, which capitulated in late March 1814.
The four battles of Champaubert, Montmirail, Château-Thierry, and Vauchamps of the Six Days Campaign proved the breadth of Napoleon's tactical genius: counting only on few seasoned troops he managed to gain victory after victory over the enemy superior in numbers. The Battle of Montmirail was fought between a French force led by Emperor Napoleon himself and two Allied corps: a Russian army commanded by Fabian Wilhelm von Osten-Sacken (1752-1837 AD, a Baltic-German Field Marshal), and a Prussian army led by Johann David Ludwig Graf Yorck von Wartenburg (1759-1830 AD, a Prussian General). In hard fighting that lasted until evening, the French troops with the Imperial Guard in the first line defeated Russians and forced them to retreat to the north, while routing also the Prussians that tried to intervene in the struggle. A commemorative column celebrating the Napoleonic battles during the Campaign of France still stands in Montmirail.
On February 11, 1814, Emperor Napoleon defined the battle plans right at the Château de Montmirail, a brick building set with stones, with two shallow wings amd a large terrace overlooking a pond and, further down, the valley of the Petit Morin. Located in the heart of the city of Montmirail, the castle was built in the 16th century on the foundations of an older one, and purchased in 1678 by François Michel Le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois (1641-1691 AD), who was minister of King Louis XIV of France (1638-1715 AD, also known as Louis the Great or the Sun King), and had the castle restored in 1682. Part of the park was designed by the famous André Le Nôtre (1613-1700 AD), a French landscape architect and the principal gardener of King Louis XIV. The King himself happened to stay at the castle on three occasions, once in 1622 and twice in 1632. The caslte became the property of the family of La Rochefoucauld since 1779 when a daughter of the Marquis de Louvois married the viscount of La Rochefoucauld.
Event description and programme
To celebrate the Six Days Campaign, the Napoleonic military camp is set up in the park of Montmirail Castle, and the soldiers take part in a march in the countryside near Montmirail accurately following the manoeuvres and developments of the historic battle. The march is accompanied by skirmishes and displays, with a stop in a "requisitioned" village where the soldiers find food and shelter. Highlight of the event is the spectacular battle reenactment, but the rich programme includes as well guided tours at the camps, living history displays illustrating the military and civilian daily life during the Napoleonic Age, commemorative civic and religious ceremonies.
Please contact the Organizers for confirmation and further details.
Info & Contact
Event web page: http://www.leshussardsdelasalle.org/index.php/la-campagne-de-france/
Association "Les Hussards de Lasalle - Montmirail 1814"
Address: c/o Château de Montmirail, Montmirail, France
Tel. / Fax: +33 03 26599641
Montmirail Tourism Office / Office du Tourisme de Montmirail et sa Région
Addresse : 4 place Rémy petit, 51210 Montmirail, France
Tel.: +33 03 26814005
Web : http://www.montmirail-tourisme.eu/
Montmirail Town Council / Mairie de Montmirail
Address: 12 rue Jeanne d’Arc, 51210 Montmirail, France
Tel.: +33 03 26811146 | Fax : +33 03 26811427
Image: “Les Hussards de Lasalle - Montmirail 1814”
Text sources: “Les Hussards de Lasalle - Montmirail 1814”, Wikipedia, Fondation Napoleon, Montmirail Town Council, Château de Montmirail, Montmirail Tourism Office
Montmirail and its castle on Google Maps:
Promos and video reportages of the event: