Battle of Bautzen

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Battle of Bautzen
Part of the War of the Sixth Coalition
Battle of Bautzen 1813 by Bellange.jpg
Battle of Bautzen
Date20–21 May 1813
Location
Result French victory
Belligerents
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  France Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg  Prussia
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg  Russia
Commanders and leaders
Napoleon I
Michel Ney
Géraud Duroc  
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Gebhard von Blücher
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Peter zu Sayn-Wittgenstein
Strength
115,000-200,000 [1] 96,000 [2] [1]
Casualties and losses
20,000–22,000 [3] [4] 11,000–20,000 [3] [4]

In the Battle of Bautzen (20–21 May 1813) a combined RussianPrussian army, that was massively outnumbered, was pushed back by Napoleon I of France but escaped destruction, some sources claiming that Michel Ney failed to block their retreat. The Prussians under Count Gebhard von Blücher and Russians under Prince Peter Wittgenstein, retreating after their defeat at Lützen were attacked by French forces under Napoleon.

Kingdom of Prussia Former German state (1701–1918)

The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom that constituted the state of Prussia between 1701 and 1918. It was the driving force behind the unification of Germany in 1871 and was the leading state of the German Empire until its dissolution in 1918. Although it took its name from the region called Prussia, it was based in the Margraviate of Brandenburg, where its capital was Berlin.

Michel Ney French soldier and military commander

Marshal of the Empire Michel Ney, 1st Duke of Elchingen, 1st Prince of the Moskva, popularly known as Marshal Ney, was a French soldier and military commander of German origin who fought in the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was one of the original 18 Marshals of the Empire created by Napoleon. He was known as Le Rougeaud by his men and nicknamed le Brave des Braves by Napoleon.

Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher Prussian field marshal

Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Fürst von Wahlstatt, Graf (count), later elevated to Fürst von Wahlstatt, was a Prussian Generalfeldmarschall. He earned his greatest recognition after leading his army against Napoleon I at the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig in 1813 and the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Contents

Prelude

The Prusso-Russian army was in a full retreat following their defeat at the Battle of Lützen. Finally, generals Wittgenstein and Blücher were ordered to stop at Bautzen by Tsar Alexander I and King Frederick William III. The Russo-Prussian army was nearly 100,000 strong, but Napoleon had 115,000. Additionally, Marshal Ney had 85,000 more men within easy marching distance. Wittgenstein formed two defensive lines, with the first holding strongpoints in villages and along ridges and the second holding the bridges behind a river bend.

Battle of Lützen (1813) battle during the War of the Sixth Coalition, 1813

In the Battle of Lützen, Napoleon I of France halted the advances of the Sixth Coalition after the French invasion of Russia and the massive French losses in the campaign. The Russian commander, Prince Peter Wittgenstein, attempting to forestall Napoleon's capture of Leipzig, attacked the isolated French right wing near Lützen, Germany. After a day of heavy fighting, the combined Prussian and Russian force retreated; due to French losses and a shortage of French cavalry, Napoleon was unable to conduct a pursuit.

Tsar title given to a male monarch in Russia, Bulgaria and Serbia

Tsar, also spelled czar, or tzar, is a title used to designate East and South Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers of Eastern Europe, originally Bulgarian monarchs from 10th century onwards. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism. The term is derived from the Latin word Caesar, which was intended to mean "Emperor" in the European medieval sense of the term—a ruler with the same rank as a Roman emperor, holding it by the approval of another emperor or a supreme ecclesiastical official —but was usually considered by western Europeans to be equivalent to king, or to be somewhat in between a royal and imperial rank.

Alexander I of Russia Emperor of Russia

Alexander I was the Emperor of Russia between 1801 and 1825. He was the eldest son of Paul I and Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg. Alexander was the first king of Congress Poland, reigning from 1815 to 1825, as well as the first Russian Grand Duke of Finland, reigning from 1809 to 1825.

Napoleon had planned to pin down his enemies to their lines and then trap them with Ney's troops. However, due to faulty reconnaissance, he became concerned that the Prusso-Russians had more soldiers and held stronger positions than they actually did. So Napoleon then decided he would not set up his trap until they had been softened up.

Battle

After an intense bombardment by the grande batterie of Napoleon's artillery and hours of heated fighting, the French overpowered the first defensive lines and seized the town of Bautzen. The Prusso-Russians appeared to be buckling. By nightfall, the French were ready to cut the allies off from their line of retreat. But Marshal Ney became confused, and his faulty positioning left the door open for the Allies to escape.

Grand Battery was a French artillery tactic of the Napoleonic wars. It involved massing all available batteries into a single large, temporary one, and concentrating the firepower of their guns at a single point in the enemy's lines.

Artillery class of weapons which fires munitions beyond the range and power of personal weapons

Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons built to launch munitions far beyond the range and power of infantry's small arms. Early artillery development focused on the ability to breach defensive walls and fortifications during sieges, and led to heavy, fairly immobile siege engines. As technology improved, lighter, more mobile field artillery cannons developed for battlefield use. This development continues today; modern self-propelled artillery vehicles are highly mobile weapons of great versatility providing the large share of an army's total firepower.

Bautzen Place in Saxony, Germany

Bautzen is a hill-top town in eastern Saxony, Germany, and administrative centre of the eponymous district. It is located on the Spree River. As of 2017, its population is 39,429. Asteroid 11580 Bautzen is named in honour of the city.

Fighting on the following day, the 21 May, was again hard and after several hours of setbacks, renewed French attacks began to gain momentum. But these assaults were only intended to fix the allies in place so they could be cut off and enveloped. Once again, Marshal Ney became distracted and decided to seize the village of Preititz  [ de ], and thus lost sight of the strategic importance of cutting off the allies.

The Russo-Prussian army were being pushed back across the river and, at 4:00pm, when the Imperial Guard was sent in, began an all-out retreat. Without Ney's forces to seal them in; however, they again escaped the total defeat Napoleon had planned. Losses on both sides totaled around 20,000. But some other sources (e.g. Dr Stubner) also say that the losses on French side were significantly higher because of their aggressive attack tactics which failed to cut off the allies from their lines and the allies in fact only lost 11,000–14,000. The French victory at Bautzen is therefore often called a Pyrrhic victory. [5]

Imperial Guard (Napoleon I) Elite soliders of Napoleons Grande Armée

The Imperial Guard was originally a small group of elite soldiers of the French Army under the direct command of Napoleon I, but grew considerably over time. It acted as his bodyguard and tactical reserve, and he was careful of its use in battle. The Guard was divided into the staff, infantry, cavalry, and artillery regiments, as well as battalions of sappers and marines. The guard itself as a whole distinguished between the experienced veterans and less experienced members by being separated into three sections: the Old Guard, Middle Guard and Young Guard.

Pyrrhic victory metonymy

A Pyrrhic victory is a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. Someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has also taken a heavy toll that negates any true sense of achievement.

Aftermath

Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher in Bautzen, 1813 Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher in Bautzen 1813.jpg
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher in Bautzen, 1813

Although a success for the French, Bautzen was not the decisive, strategic result Napoleon was looking for. Ney's failure to cut the line of retreat robbed the French of complete victory. Once more Napoleon had to settle for a narrow, pyrrhic victory. To make matters worse, during the battle, Napoleon's close friend and Grand Marshal of the Palace, General Geraud Duroc, was mortally wounded by a cannonball the day after the battle and died. Following Bautzen, Napoleon agreed to a nine-week truce with the Coalition, requested by the Allies on the 2 June 1813. The Armistice of Pleischwitz was signed on the 4 June, and lasted until the 20 July, but was later extended to the 10 August. During this time he hoped to gather more troops, especially cavalry, and better train his new army. The allies, however, would not be idle; they too would mobilise and better prepare, and after hostilities were resumed, the Austrians joined the ranks of the allies. It is reported that Napoleon later (on Saint Helena) said that his agreement to this truce was a bad mistake, because the break was of much more use to the allies than to him. The campaign would resume in August.

Round shot

A round shot is a solid projectile without explosive charge, fired from a cannon. As the name implies, a round shot is spherical; its diameter is slightly less than the bore of the gun from which it is fired.

Footnotes

  1. 1 2 David Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 1119.
  2. Chandler, D., p.892.
  3. 1 2 Chandler, D., p.897.
  4. 1 2 Clark, Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, p. 365.
  5. Riley, J.P., p.106

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References

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Battle of Bautzen at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 51°11′00″N14°25′00″E / 51.1833°N 14.4167°E / 51.1833; 14.4167