Battle of Kulm

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Battle of Kulm
Part of the War of the Sixth Coalition
Battle of Kulm by Kotsebu.jpg
Battle of Kulm; painting by Alexander Kotzebue
Date29–30 August 1813
Location
Result Coalition victory
Belligerents
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  France Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg  Russia
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg  Prussia
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg  Austria
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Dominique Vandamme   White flag icon.svg
Flag of France.svg Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr
Flag of France.svg Auguste Marmont
Flag of Russia.svg Alexander Ostermann-Tolstoy
Flag of Russia.svg Barclay de Tolly
Flag of Russia.svg Peter Wittgenstein
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Friedrich von Kleist
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Prince Schwarzenberg
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Hieronymus von Colloredo-Mansfeld
Strength
34,000 16,000 (on 29 August)
60,000 (on 30 August)
Casualties and losses
5,000 killed or wounded
7,000-13,000 captured
80 guns captured
11,000 casualties

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.

Battle part of a war which is well defined in duration, area and force commitment

A battle is a combat in warfare between two or more armed forces. A war usually consists of multiple battles. Battles generally are well defined in duration, area, and force commitment. A battle with only limited engagement between the forces and without decisive results is sometimes called a skirmish.

Chlumec (Ústí nad Labem District) Municipality in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic

Chlumec is a village and municipality (obec) in Ústí nad Labem District in the Ústí nad Labem Region of the Czech Republic.

Přestanov Municipality in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic

Přestanov is a village and municipality (obec) in Ústí nad Labem District in the Ústí nad Labem Region of the Czech Republic.

Contents

Background

Following the French victory at Dresden, Vandamme pursued the retreating allies. Napoleon sent Marshals Gouvion Saint Cyr and Auguste Marmont to support Vandamme's corps. With Vandamme in advance, Saint Cyr's and Marmont's corps brought up the rear. Vandamme caught up with Alexander Ivanovich Ostermann-Tolstoy's forces near the town of Kulm, eight kilometres northwest of Aussig (Ústí nad Labem, now in the Czech Republic).

Battle of Dresden Part of the War of the Sixth Coalition

The Battle of Dresden 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.

Napoleon 19th century French military leader and politician

Napoléon Bonaparte was a French statesman and military leader of Italian descent who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was Emperor of the French as Napoleon I from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over much of continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. He is considered one of the greatest commanders in history, and his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. Napoleon's political and cultural legacy has endured as one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders in human history.

Alexander Ivanovich Ostermann-Tolstoy Russian general and noble

Alexander Ivanovich Count Osterman-Tolstoy was a Russian nobleman and soldier in the era of the French Revolutionary Wars. He belonged to the famous Tolstoy family.

Battle

Charge of the cuirassiers at Kulm Kulm.jpg
Charge of the cuirassiers at Kulm

On 29 August, Vandamme, with 34,000 soldiers and 84 guns at his disposal, attacked Russian formations forming a rearguard for the retreating Coalition army, at 16,000 strong, under the command of Russian general Ostermann-Tolstoy. The situation was very dangerous for the allies; if Vandamme won the battle, the French would take the passes in the mountains, and the retreating Coalition army could be trapped by Napoleon. However, Ostermann-Tolstoy rallied all of his troops for a stiff defense, and soon Vandamme's troops were repulsed. Vandamme's situation changed the next day. A Prussian army corp commanded by Friedrich von Kleist attacked Vandamme's rear guard. Kleist then received help from a combined Russian and Austrian attack on his front, under the command of Generals Ostermann-Tolstoy and von Colloredo-Mansfeld. In an attempt to repulse simultaneous attacks on his front and rear, Vandamme ordered his forces to form squares. The inexperienced French troops were unable to fend off the allies, and soon withdrew from the battlefield, with heavy losses, including Vandamme himself as a captured prisoner of war.

Friedrich Graf Kleist von Nollendorf prussian general

Friedrich Emil Ferdinand Heinrich Graf Kleist von Nollendorf, born and died in Berlin, was a Prussian field marshal and a member of the old junker family von Kleist.

Infantry square combat formation of infantry

Historically an infantry square, also known as a hollow square, is a combat formation an infantry unit forms in close order usually when threatened with cavalry attack. With the development of modern firearms and the demise of cavalry this formation is now considered obsolete.

Casualties

The French lost more than half of the pursuing force of 34,000; about 5,000 soldiers killed or wounded, and between 7,000 and 13,000 French soldiers were taken prisoner, including Vandamme, and almost all of his artillery, 80 of his 84 guns, were captured. The allies lost approximately 13,000 soldiers killed or wounded.

In Vandamme's corps there were two Polish regiments of Uhlans, part of cavalry divisions under the command of General Jean Corbineau. These regiments were used by Vandamme to defend against enemy cavalry charges. One regiment, commanded by Colonel Maximilian Fredro (brother of playwright Alexander Fredro), was attacked after withdrawing to a defile and surrendered. The other regiment of Uhlans, under the command of Count Tomasz Łubieński (generally known in English as Thomas Lubienski) successfully withdrew.

Duchy of Warsaw client Napoleonic state from 1807 to 1815

The Duchy of Warsaw was a Polish state established by Napoleon I in 1807 from the Polish lands ceded by the Kingdom of Prussia under the terms of the Treaties of Tilsit. The duchy was held in personal union by one of Napoleon's allies, King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony. Following Napoleon's failed invasion of Russia, the duchy was occupied by Prussian and Russian troops until 1815, when it was formally partitioned between the two countries at the Congress of Vienna. It covered the central and eastern part of present Poland and minor parts of present Lithuania and Belarus.

Jean-Baptiste Juvénal Corbineau was a French cavalry general of the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars. His two brothers Claude and Hercule also fought in both these wars and together the three men were known as "les trois Horaces".

Defile (geography) A narrow pass or gorge between mountains or hills

In geography, a defile is a narrow pass or gorge between mountains or hills. It has its origins as a military description of a pass through which troops can march only in a narrow column or with a narrow front. On emerging from a defile into open country, soldiers are said to "debouch".

Aftermath

While Marshal MacDonald's defeat at Katzbach coincided with Napoleon's victory at Dresden, the Coalition success at Kulm eventually negated his triumph, given that his troops never completely crushed the enemy. Thus, by winning this battle, Ostermann-Tolstoy and his troops succeeded in buying much needed time for the Coalition armies to regroup after the Battle of Dresden.

Jacques MacDonald Marshal of France

Étienne Jacques Joseph Alexandre MacDonald, 1st Duke of Taranto was a Marshal of the Empire and military leader during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

Insults

According to a French anecdote, after the battle Vandamme was brought to and accused by Emperor Alexander I of Russia of being a brigand and plunderer. He retorted, "I am neither a plunderer nor a brigand, but in any case, my contemporaries and history will not reproach me for having murdered my own father." This statement apparently hinted at the widespread belief that Alexander I was implicated in the murder of his father, Emperor Paul I. [1]

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.

Paul I of Russia Emperor of Russia

Paul I reigned as Emperor of Russia between 1796 and 1801. Officially, he was the only son of Peter III and Catherine the Great, though Catherine hinted that he was fathered by her lover Sergei Saltykov, who also had Romanov blood, being a descendant of the first Romanov tsar's sister, Tatiana Feodorovna Romanova.

The battlefield today

The battlefield is mostly built over. There is a large monument topped with a lion next door to the Hotel Napoleon.

Notes

  1. Mémoires du général baron de Marbot. 1891. Vol. II, p. 375.

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References

Coordinates: 50°41′50″N13°56′20″E / 50.6972°N 13.9389°E / 50.6972; 13.9389