From Friedland to Tilsit (June to July 1807)

Period : Directory / 1st Empire
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This timeline forms part of our close-up on: Tilsit (July 1807).
14 June
Napoleon's victory over Bennigsen's Russians at Friedland (modern Pravdinsk)

In the early morning, Bennigsen decides to cross the river, deal with Lannes' troops and then re-cross the river. However, the geography of Friedland impedes him (winding river, large lake, sinuous streets in the town). Bennigsen set up his troops in front of Lannes, and started by attacking his left wing, and a see-saw fight ensues. Holding on by his teeth, at 8am Lannes receives reinforcements from Grouchy's dragoon divisions and Mortier's 8th corps. The battle gradually fades towards midday when Napoleon arrives on the scene. He sees that Bennigsen has an untenable situation, has a brief lunch, then dictates his plans to his corps commanders: a powerful attack on Bennigsen's left by Ney's 6th corps, followed by attacks by the centre and the left, thus firing on three sides against the Russians hemmed in against the river. Despite desperate attempts to retreat, the Russian forces suffer more than 20,000 casualties. Napoleon however does not pursue them in order to complete the rout. He spares them, thus preparing the way for his diplomatic volte-face, the treaty with Alexander.
16 June, 1807
The town of Königsberg capitulated on 16 June, 1807, before Soult. Napoleon wrote to Josephine: “Königsberg is mine. I found a great number of cannon there, as well as large amounts of stores, and finally more than 160,000 guns from Britain.”
(Correspondance n° 12760, Friedland, 16 June, 1807)

“On 17 June, Napoleon moved his headquarters to the metairie at Druscken, near Klein-Schirrau; on 18 June, he took his headquarters to Skaisgirren; on 19, at two in the afternoon he entered Tilsit.”
(80th Bulletin de la Grande Armée, Tilsit, 19 June, 1807)
19 June
A British force (the first of two) under Lieutenant General Cathcart, numbering 5,000 men, set sail for Stralsund to aid the Russia Prussian forces, ignorant of the fact that their allies had already been beaten.
21 June
A Franco-Russian armistice was signed on 21 June, 1807. The day before, Napoleon wrote to Talleyrand regarding his plans: “This evening I think that I shall have an armistice which will take the towpath of the Niemen as its limit, and the condition will be the surrender of the fortresses at Graudenz, Kolberg and Pillau.” (Correspondence n° 12872, Tilsit, 20 June, 1807)
25 June
Alexander I and Napoleon's summit on the river at Tilsit (Sovetsk)

(Extracts from the previously unpublished journal of Ernst Ludwig Siehr, Councillor of the Commission of Justice in Tilsit, for the period June-July 1807, published in the brochure 200 years treaty of Tilsit, ed. Bartheldruck, Arnstadt, 2007.)
“Starting on 21 June [1807], beams were brought for the building of a pontoon bridge. At the same time, the members of the deputation began negotiating an armistice. The negotiations lasted until 23 June when Marshal Duroc gave Alexander an ultimatum, and the armistice was agreed with Russia on 24 June. At 9pm on the same day, the order was given to build two floating 'houses' for the meeting of the two sovereigns, which was supposed to take place in the centre of the river Memel. 150 French carpenters immediately started work on the 'houses' and the first was finished and floated by midday on 25 June. [According to eyewitnesses, the 'maisonette' was exceedingly well furnished and included a large finely decorated 'salon' with two facing doors, beyond which stood two antechambers. The walls were covered with garlands of flowers and foliage, and on the roof were two weathercocks, one with a Russian eagle and the other with a French eagle.] This 'house' was anchored in the middle of the river [Neman] near the old bridge. The second 'house' was not yet completed. At half-past midday, Napoleon, accompanied by his marshals and 100 guards, reached the river bank and got into a small boat. The Russian guard formed up on the opposite bank. At a signal given by the Russian trumpets the two boats set off simultaneously and arrived both at the same time, Napoleon on the south side and Alexander on the north. They embraced and entered the 'house'. The conversation lasted three-quarters of an hour and they then returned in the same order as before. […]

On 26 June, the order was given to clear half of the town for the Russians. Alexander moved into his old quarters in Hinz's house, and from there along a north/south dividing line the French evacuated their quarters several regiments even left the town. […]

At half-past midday, they went out to the 'houses' again – they had been been completed and decorated with foliage, in exactly the same order as on the previous day, but with the difference that the Czar Alexander came with the King [of Prussia]. The conversation lasted an hour and a half and they returned in exactly the same order as before. […] At five o'clock, here and in the surroundings, 8000 French guards formed up in Deutsche Strasse with an excellent military band, the cavalry on the north side and the infantry to the south. The line stretched from the Deutsche Tor to the church. Napoleon inspected his troops until the he heard the 40 cannon blasts announcing that Alexander was crossing the river. Napoleon then rode with his entourage to the Russian lines and received Alexander, let him ride on his right-hand side, and brought him to his quarters. The King was not there. The Guards paraded in front of the house and offered an amazing show; I have seen nothing more beautiful. At 6 o'clock they went to dinner. The two emperors, the Grand Duke Constantin and Prince Murat ate alone on the piano nobile. The rest of the marshals and generals ate on the second floor. At 10 o'clock in the evening, Alexander rode back to his quarters. […]”

27 June
The two emperors manoeuvred the French guards for more than two hours, and very regular shots could be heard. At dinner, in other words at about 6pm, Alexander and Constantin ate once again at Napoleon's quarters. It was hoped that the King would also eat there, but that did not happen.

From 28 June to 6 July, 1807, Napoleon I, Alexander I and Frederick-William III met daily for their peace discussions. The three soveriegnes ate together, reviewed manoeuvres together and spoke at length.

Napoleon wrote to Cambacérès on 3 July: “Complete harmony reigns between the emperor of Russia, the king of Prussia and me. We are all three of us in this tiny town. It would be a very long letter were I recount all the little things that happen.” (Correspondence n°12 843)

And on the same day he wrote to Fouché: “Make sure that people stop saying negative things, either directly or indirectly, regarding Russia. Everything would seem to be pointing towards the fact that my system is soon to be linked in a fixed manner with that power.” (Correspondence n°12 845).

1 July
The second British division of 5,000 men under Cathcart (pointlessly) set sail for Stralsund. These troops were finally withdrawn when Stralsund fell to the French on 10 August.
5 July
Napoleon met Queen Luise of Prussia, who had arrived at Picktupöhnen the previous day. He was to meet her more formally on the following day.

A contemporary account records the events as follows: “The Queen came from Picktupöhnen at 5 o'clock and headed for the king's residence. A quarter of an hour later, Napoleon accompanied by Murat and Berthier and all the marshals came up to the Queen's quarters and stayed there for a good half an hour. He then went to see Alexander. Both men then went out through the city gate riding with a large escort, and returned at about half past seven through the German Gate. Several minutes later, the Queen arrived […] in a carriage pulled by 8 black horses […]. The Emperor received her from her carriage, offering her his hand […] The queen wore a white dress laced with silver. The king rode behind the carriage; Alexander was already at Napoleon's residence. Dinner was at eight, and at ten the royal couple left the hall.”

(Extract from the previously unpublished journal of Ernst Ludwig Siehr, Councillor of the Commission of Justice in Tilsit, for the period June-July 1807, published in the brochure 200 years treaty of Tilsit, ed. Bartheldruck, Arnstadt, 2007.)
7 July
The emperor Napoleon I and Czar Alexander signed a peace treaty at Tilsit
Napoleon announced to his brother, Prince Jerome, that he had made him King of Westphalia.

9 July
Talleyrand and the Marshal count Kalkreuth signed a treaty between France and Prussia thus completing the treaty of 7 July.

12 July
Convention of Königsberg between France and Prussia stipulating the regulations for evacuating Prussian territory
19 July
General Victor received his marshal's baton for his brilliant conduct at Friedland.

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