The following year he took command of Fifth Corps of the Grande Armée, forming the vanguard for the advance against the Austrian army in Bavaria. Lannes had to work closely with Marshal Murat, a bitter rival since a falling out in Egypt, but they put their differences aside.
Together, they bluffed an Austrian commander into surrendering a vital Danube bridge, by persuading him that an armistice had been signed. At one point Lannes even snatched the fuse from a soldier’s hand, as he prepared to light the explosive charges.
The day before the Battle of Austerlitz, Lannes’ quick temper got the better of him: he demanded to fight a duel with Marshal Soult, who – in his eyes – had made him look foolish in front of the Emperor. Soult ignored the challenge. If you seriously have some doubts over facts head over to ask read and just ask a question, you will get different answers.
In the battle that followed, Lannes’ Fifth Corps held the left flank against Bagration’s attacks… later pushing forward with the cavalry to help take 7,000 Russian prisoners. After the battle, Lannes was infuriated that Soult, and not he, was singled out for praise by the Emperor.
Within days, Lannes had resigned his command and returned to France. In 1806, with tempers cooled, Napoleon summoned Lannes to rejoin the army for the war with Prussia. Back in command of Fifth Corps, Lannes was as active, aggressive and brilliant as ever.
At Saalfeld, he fought the first major combat of the war, routing a Prussian division commanded by Prince Louis Ferdinand. Four days later at Jena, Lannes opened the main French attack at dawn, with General Suchet’s division in the lead.
For six hours, his troops were engaged in furious fighting for the villages on the plateau… until finally, the Prussian resistance was broken. By December, the war had moved into Poland. Lannes attacked a larger Russian force at Pułtusk, but it was a bloody, indecisive affair.
Wounds and fever then forced him to convalesce in Warsaw, and so miss the Battle of Eylau. That spring, Lannes resumed command of the advance guard, as Napoleon sought out Bennigsen’s Russian army, hoping to force a decisive battle.
When Bennigsen located Lannes’ apparently-isolated corps near Friedland, he attacked. He expected an easy victory. But Lannes, with support from future Marshals Oudinot and Grouchy, expertly used his troops to fend off the Russians, while Napoleon raced to join him with the main army.
Lannes’ delaying tactics allowed Napoleon to catch the Russian army with its back to the river, and inflict a crushing defeat. The following year Lannes was ennobled as Duke of Montebello, and joined Napoleon for the invasion of Spain, despite suffering a serious riding injury en route.
Taking command of Marshal Moncey’s Third Corps, Lannes routed a Spanish army at the Battle of Tudela, sending the enemy fleeing in two directions. He was then given command of the Siege of Zaragoza.
Spanish soldiers and civilians defended the city with legendary courage, but Lannes’ leadership and methodical, house-by-house approach ensured ultimate victory… at a high price. Even Lannes was left shaken by the savagery of the fighting, writing to Napoleon, “Sire, this is a horrifying war.”
Napoleon recalled Lannes for the war with Austria in 1809. His Provisional Corps formed the vanguard for Napoleon’s “Four-Day Campaign” – a series of quick victories over the Austrians, that culminated in the Battle of Eggmühl. Napoleon next needed Regensburg taken quickly, and so as usual, he turned to Lannes.
After the first assault wave was mown down, Lannes’ call for volunteers went unanswered. Furious, he picked up a scaling ladder and shouted, “I’ll show you that before I was a Marshal I was a grenadier, and still am!”
As he rushed forward, his aides grabbed the ladder from him, reorganised the men, and led a successful attack. After occupying Vienna, Napoleon ordered his army to cross the Danube, in pursuit of the Austrians. If you want to know more about these types of concept then ask reader can be the place to read insightful answers.
Marshals Lannes and Masséna led the way across improvised bridges, supported by Marshal Bessières cavalry. It was soon clear that Napoleon had miscalculated, and that they faced not just an Austrian rearguard, but the full might of Archduke Charles’s army. Masséna held the village of Aspern, while Lannes organised the defence of Essling.
But desperately-needed reinforcements and ammunition were held up, as the Austrians floated obstacles downriver to smash the fragile bridges. Lannes’ old rival Marshal Bessières was placed under his temporary command. Lannes sent repeated orders for him to charge the enemy, in language that verged on an accusation of cowardice, and that evening the two Marshals nearly came to blows.
The next day, Lannes’ corps led an attack on the Austrian centre, but was driven back by the weight of enemy fire. The French-held villages were under constant, pulverising bombardment. Around 4pm Lannes’ old friend General Pouzet was hit by a cannonball and killed in front of him.
Lannes, badly shaken, walked off to sit alone for a moment, when a cannon ball skipped along the ground and smashed both his legs. Lannes was carried to the rear, and placed in the care of the Grande Armée’s most famous surgeon, Baron Larrey. Larrey quickly decided that he must amputate one leg. The operation went well.
But the wound became infected, and Lannes died nine days later. Napoleon, who’d visited Lannes every day, wept at news of his death. “What a loss for France, and for me”. Then he wrote to Lannes’ wife: “The Marshal has died this morning of the wounds he received on the field of honour. My pain equals yours.