20-21 March 1814

Napoleon Bonaparte's last roll of the tactical dice against the Allies came at Arcis-sur-Aube when his 28,000 men took on Field Marshal Schwarzenberg's 80,000 troops.

A late-morning assault by Marshal Ney had thrown the Austrians out of the town of Arcis and then a mighty cavalry battle broke out that lasted well into the night.

Despite the odds in his favour, Schwarzenberg was loath to attack the French because he feared he was walking into one of Bonaparte's traps.

Eventually he gave the order for a counterattack but his tardiness had allowed the French to withdraw.

Marshal Oudinot led the French rearguard and they held off the Austrians with a fiercely stubborn defence that ended when he ordered the destruction of the Arcis bridge.

Bonaparte lost 3000 men, while the Austrians suffered 4000 casualties.


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