Battle of Dresden

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Battle of Dresden
Part of the War of the Sixth Coalition
Napoleon.Dresden.jpg
Battle of Dresden
Date26–27 August 1813
Location
Result French victory
Belligerents
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  France Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg  Austria
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg  Russia
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg  Prussia
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Napoleon I Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Prince of Schwarzenberg
Strength
135,000 214,000
Casualties and losses
10,000 killed or wounded 38,000 killed, wounded, or captured
40 guns lost

The Battle of Dresden (26–27 August 1813) was a major engagement of the Napoleonic Wars. The battle took place around the city of Dresden in modern-day Germany. With the recent addition of Austria, the Sixth Coalition felt emboldened in their quest to expel the French from Central Europe. Despite being heavily outnumbered, French forces under Napoleon scored a great victory against the Allied army led by Field Marshal Schwarzenberg.

Napoleonic Wars Series of early 19th century European wars

The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European powers formed into various coalitions, financed and usually led by the United Kingdom. The wars stemmed from the unresolved disputes associated with the French Revolution and its resultant conflict. The wars are often categorised into five conflicts, each termed after the coalition that fought Napoleon: the Third Coalition (1805), the Fourth (1806–07), the Fifth (1809), the Sixth (1813), and the Seventh (1815).

Dresden Place in Saxony, Germany

Dresden is the capital city of the German state of Saxony, and with around 550,000 inhabitants, it is the state's second most populous city after Leipzig. It is the 12th most populous city of Germany, the fourth largest by area after Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne, as well as the third most populous city in the area of former East Germany, after (East) Berlin and Leipzig. Dresden is contiguous with Freital, Pirna, Radebeul, Meissen and Coswig, and its urban area has around 780,000 inhabitants, making it the largest in Saxony.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Contents

However, Napoleon's victory did not lead to the collapse of the coalition, and the lack of effective French cavalry units, caused by a very heavy loss of French horses during the past 1812 French invasion of Russia, precluded a major pursuit. Three days after the battle, the Allies surrounded and captured a French corps at the Battle of Kulm.

French invasion of Russia Napoleon Bonapartes attempted conquest of the Russian Empire

The French invasion of Russia, known in Russia as the Patriotic War of 1812 and in France as the Russian campaign, began on 24 June 1812 when Napoleon's Grande Armée crossed the Neman River in an attempt to engage and defeat the Russian army. Napoleon hoped to compel the Emperor of All Russia, Alexander I, to cease trading with British merchants through proxies in an effort to pressure the United Kingdom to sue for peace. The official political aim of the campaign was to liberate Poland from the threat of Russia. Napoleon named the campaign the Second Polish War to gain favor with the Poles and to provide a political pretext for his actions.

Battle of Kulm battle

The Battle of Kulm was a battle near the town Kulm (Chlumec) and the village Přestanov in northern Bohemia. It was fought on 29–30 August 1813, during the War of the Sixth Coalition. 32,000 French troops under Dominique Vandamme attacked an army of about 50-60,000 Austrians, Russians and Prussians under Alexander Ostermann-Tolstoy, but were defeated with heavy losses on both sides.

Prelude

On the 16 August, Napoleon had sent Marshal Saint-Cyr's corps to fortify and hold Dresden in order to hinder allied movements and to serve as a possible base for his own manoeuvres. He planned to strike against the interior lines of his enemies and defeat them in detail, before they could combine their full strength. He had a field army of 442,810 men and 1,284 guns in 559 battalions and 395 squadrons against Allied field forces totaling 512,113 men in 556 battalions, 572 squadrons and 68 Cossack regiments, and 1,380 guns. [1] [2]

Battalion military unit size

A battalion is a military unit. The use of the term "battalion" varies by nationality and branch of service. Typically a battalion consists of 300 to 800 soldiers and is divided into a number of companies. A battalion is typically commanded by a lieutenant colonel. In some countries, the word "battalion" is associated with the infantry.

The Coalition avoided battle with Napoleon himself, choosing to attack his subordinate commanders as per the Trachenberg Plan. On the 23 August, at the Battle of Grossbeeren, south of Berlin, Crown Prince Charles of Sweden (formerly French Marshal Bernadotte, Napoleon's own Marshal) defeated his old comrade Marshal Oudinot. On the 26 August, Prussian Marshal Blücher crushed Marshal MacDonald's army at the Battle of Katzbach.

Trachenberg Plan

The Trachenberg Plan was a campaign plan created by Allied commanders in the 1813 German Campaign during the War of the Sixth Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars, and named for the conference held at the palace of Trachenberg. The plan advocated avoiding direct engagement with the French emperor, Napoleon I. This resulted from fear of the Emperor's now legendary prowess in battle. Consequently, the Allies planned to engage and defeat the French Marshals and Generals separately, and thus weaken his army while they built up an overwhelming force even he could not defeat. It was decided upon after a series of defeats and near disasters by the Coalition at Napoleon's hands at the battles of Lützen, Bautzen and Dresden. The plan was successful, and at the Battle of Leipzig, where the Allies had a considerable numerical advantage, the Emperor was soundly defeated and driven out of Germany, across the Rhine back into France itself. The plan was an amalgam of two prior works: The Trachenberg Protocol and the Reichenbach Plan, authored by the Austrian chief of staff of the allied coalition, Radetzky and the Swedish Crown Prince Charles John whose experience with the tactics and methods of the French Army, as well as personal insight on the mind of Napoleon, proved invaluable. The combined, modified version of the two prior plans became known as the Trachenberg Plan.

Charles XIV John of Sweden King of Sweden and Norway between 1818-1844. Prince of Ponte Corvo 1806-1810 and French field marshal

Charles XIV John or Carl John, was King of Sweden and King of Norway from 1818 until his death in 1844.

Nicolas Oudinot Marshal of France

Nicolas Charles Oudinot, 1st Comte Oudinot, 1st Duc de Reggio, was a Marshal of France. He is known to have been wounded 34 times in battle. Oudinot is one of the Names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, Eastern pillar Columns 13, 14.

Battle

On the same day as Katzbach, Karl Philipp Fürst zu Schwarzenberg, the commander of the Austrian force of over 200,000 men of the Austrian Army of Bohemia and accompanied by Francis II, Alexander I, and Frederick William III, attacked Saint-Cyr. In Dresden, French infantry manned the various redoubts and defensive positions. They hoped to last long enough for reinforcements to arrive. Napoleon arrived quickly and unexpectedly with reinforcements to repel this assault on the city. French counterattacks on the Great Garden in the southeast and on the allied center were successful, and by nightfall the French had regained almost all of Saint-Cyr's original positions.

Großer Garten park in Dresden, Germany

The Großer Garten is a Baroque style park in central Dresden. It is rectangular in shape and covers about 1.8 km². Originally established in 1676 on the orders of John George III, Elector of Saxony, it has been a public garden since 1814. Pathways and avenues are arranged symmetrically throughout the park. The Sommerpalais, a small Lustschloss is at the center of the park.

Although outnumbered three to two, Napoleon attacked the following morning on the 27 August, turned the allied left flank, and won an impressive tactical victory. The flooded Weisseritz cut the left wing of the Allied army, commanded by Johann von Klenau and Ignaz Gyulai, from the main body. Marshal Joachim Murat took advantage of this isolation and inflicted heavy losses on the Austrians. [3] A French participant observed, "Murat.... cut off from the Austrian army Klenau's corps, hurling himself upon it at the head of the carabineers and cuirassiers. .... Nearly all his [Klenau's] battalions were compelled to lay down their arms, and two other divisions of infantry shared their fate." [4] Of Klenau's force, Lieutenant Field Marshal Joseph, Baron von Mesko de Felsö-Kubiny's division of five infantry regiments was surrounded and captured by Murat's cavalry, which amounted to approximately 13,000 men, and 15 colours. [5] Gyulai's divisions also suffered serious losses when they were attacked by Murat's cavalry during a rainstorm. With damp flints and powder, their muskets would not fire and many battalions became an easy prey to the French cuirassiers and dragoons.

Johann von Klenau Austrian General of Cavalry in Napoleonic Wars

Johann von Klenau, also called Johann Josef Cajetan von Klenau und Janowitz, was a field marshal in the Habsburg army. Klenau, the son of a Bohemian noble, joined the Habsburg military as a teenager and fought in the War of Bavarian Succession against Prussia, Austria's wars with the Ottoman Empire, the French Revolutionary Wars, and the Napoleonic Wars, in which he commanded a corps in several important battles.

Joachim Murat Grand Duke of Berg and Cleves, The King of Naples

Joachim-Napoléon Murat was a Marshal of France and Admiral of France under the reign of Napoleon. He was also the 1st Prince Murat, Grand Duke of Berg from 1806 to 1808, and King of Naples from 1808 to 1815. Murat received his titles in part by being Napoleon's brother-in-law through marriage to his younger sister, Caroline Bonaparte, as well as personal merit. He was noted as a daring, brave, and charismatic cavalry officer as well as a flamboyant dresser, for which he was known as "the Dandy King".

Carabinier light cavalry or gendarme armed with a carbine

A carabinier is in principle a soldier armed with a carbine. A carbine is a shorter version of a musket or rifle. Carabiniers were first introduced during the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. The word is derived from the identical French word carabinier.

However, Napoleon's failure to follow up on his success allowed Schwarzenberg to withdraw and narrowly escape encirclement. The Coalition had lost some 38,000 men and 40 guns. French casualties totaled around 10,000. Some of Napoleon's officers noted he was "suffering from a violent colic, which had been brought on by the cold rain, to which he had been exposed during the whole of the battle." [6]

Aftermath

The Napoleon symbol "N" left in Dresden, Germany Napoleonstein Dresden 2007 03 11.JPG
The Napoleon symbol "N" left in Dresden, Germany

On the 27 August, General Vandamme received orders to advance on Pirna and bridge the Elbe there. This was accomplished in a pouring rain, without disturbing the Russians drawn up on the heights of Zehista. This advance by Vandamme resulted in the Battle of Kulm three days later. Napoleon's old rival Jean Victor Marie Moreau who had only recently returned from his banishment from the United States was talking to the Tsar (who wished to see Napoleon defeated) and was mortally wounded in the battle, dying later on the 2 September in Louny.

Hoffman

The author and composer E. T. A. Hoffmann happened to be in Dresden during the battle, being at the time employed by a locally based orchestra. On the 22 August, after the end of the armistice, the Hoffmann Family was forced to relocate from their pleasant house in the suburbs into the town. During the next few days, as the battle raged, they experienced the ongoing bombardments. As Hoffman later recounted, many people were killed by bombs directly in front of him. After the main battle was over, he visited the gory battlefield. His account can be found in Vision auf dem Schlachtfeld bei Dresden.

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References

  1. Maude 1908, p. 148.
  2. Maude 1908, p. 156.
  3. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, pp. 910–911.
  4. Jean Baptiste Antoine Marcellin de Marbot. The Memoirs of General Baron De Marbot Archived 19 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine , Volume II,, Chapter 23. Electronic book widely available.
  5. Smith, p. 445. Mesko was wounded, and retired the following year. Kurdna and Smith, Mesko.
  6. "Memoirs of the Duke of Rovigo". Peterswald. Archived from the original on 14 March 2001.

Bibliography

  • Maude, Frederic Natusch (1908). The Leipzig Campaign, 1813. London: Swan Sonnenschein.

Coordinates: 51°02′N13°44′E / 51.033°N 13.733°E / 51.033; 13.733