Battle of the Katzbach

Last updated
Battle of the Katzbach
Part of War of the Sixth Coalition
KaempfferKatzbachschlacht.jpg
Battle of the Katzbach by Eduard Kaempffer.
Date26 August 1813
Locationnear Liegnitz, Prussia
Result Prusso–Russian victory
Belligerents
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Kingdom of Prussia
Flag of Russia (1696-1917).svg  Russian Empire
Flag of France.svg French Empire
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Gebhard von Blücher Flag of France.svg Jacques MacDonald
Strength
114,000 102,000
Casualties and losses
4,000 killed and wounded

33,000


13,000 killed and wounded
20,000 captured
Two Eagles lost

The Battle of the Katzbach on 26 August 1813, was a major battle of the Napoleonic Wars between the forces of the First French Empire under Marshal MacDonald and a Russo-Prussian army of the Sixth Coalition under Prussian Marshal Graf (Count) von Blücher. [1] It occurred during a heavy thunderstorm at the Katzbach river between Wahlstatt and Liegnitz in the Prussian province of Silesia. [2] With the involvement of more than 200,000 troops, it was one of the largest battles of the Napoleonic Wars. Taking place the same day as the Battle of Dresden, it resulted in a Coalition victory.

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).

First French Empire Empire of Napoleon I of France between 1804–1815

The First French Empire, officially the French Empire, was the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte of France and the dominant power in much of continental Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. Although France had already established an overseas colonial empire beginning in the 17th century, the French state had remained a kingdom under the Bourbons and a republic after the Revolution. Historians refer to Napoleon's regime as the First Empire to distinguish it from the restorationist Second Empire (1852–1870) ruled by his nephew as Napoleon III.

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.

Contents

Prelude

Blücher ordered the Army of Silesia to advance on 13 August, before the Truce of Pläswitz could conclude on 17 August. In a series of running fights, the Allied army beat back the confused French, who did not anticipate that the Allies would break the armistice so brazenly. [3] These minor victories raised the morale of the inexperienced German levies. [4] On the first day, Blücher and his chief of staff August Neidhardt von Gneisenau became separated and did not issue orders for troop movements until late in the day, slowing down the Allied advance. [4] The French resistance grew in intensity, the Allied night marches multiplied owing to constant combat and delays, and the weather turned atrocious. On 20 August, Blücher's men came face-to-face Napoleon's main army at the Bober river and beat a hasty retreat when the cheers of the French troops announced the arrival of the French emperor. [4]

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.

The Truce or Armistice of Pläswitz was a nine-week armistice during the Napoleonic Wars, agreed between Napoleon I of France and the Allies on June 4, 1813. It was proposed by Metternich during the retreat of the main Allied army into Silesia after Bautzen, seconded by Napoleon and keenly accepted by the Allies. The Truce conceded all of Saxony to Napoleon, in return for territory along the Oder, and was initially scheduled to end on 10 July, but later extended to 10 August.

The title chief of staff identifies the leader of a complex organization, institution, or body of persons and it also may identify a principal staff officer (PSO), who is the coordinator of the supporting staff or a primary aide-de-camp to an important individual, such as a president, or a senior military officer, or leader of a large organization.

For the next five days, the Silesian Army engaged in a series of fierce and costly rearguard actions against the pursuing French forces, which were personally commanded by Napoleon. [4] Blücher's army began to fall apart. [4] The Landwehr militiamen deserted en masse, while the Allied corps commanders complained of the ruin befalling their army thanks to the incompetence of its general staff. [5] Blücher contemplated firing Gneisenau. [5]

Landwehr, or Landeswehr, is a German language term used in referring to certain national armies, or militias found in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Europe. In different context it refers to large-scale, low-strength fortifications. In German, the word means "defence of the country"; but the term as applied to an insurrectional militia is very ancient, and lantveri are mentioned in Baluzii Capitularia, as quoted in Hallam's Middle Ages, i. 262, 10th edition.

Desertion crime

In military terminology, desertion is the abandonment of a duty or post without permission and is done with the intention of not returning. In contrast, unauthorized absence (UA) or absence without leave refers to a temporary absence.

Corps military unit size

Corps is a term used for several different kinds of organisation.

When Blücher on 24 August learned that Napoleon was no longer in direct command of the pursuers, he turned his army around to face the enemy and ordered his men to march to the Katzbach river. [5] Jacques MacDonald's Army of the Bober would meet him in a major battle there on 26 August. [5] MacDonald was ordered by Napoleon to advance east on 25 August to the town of Jauer and assume defensive positions, but could not move for 24 hours owing to Napoleon's poorly-worded order that sent Marshal Michel Ney's 50,000-strong, three-division III Corps the wrong way. [5] Valuable time was lost before the error was rectified. [5]

Kaczawa river mouth in Odra

The Kaczawa is a river in the Lower Silesian Voivodeship in Poland. It springs from the Kaczawskie Mountains near Kaczorów and flows north and northeast through the towns of Świerzawa, Złotoryja and Legnica. Among its tributaries is the Czarna Woda. After a length of 98 km (61 mi) the Kaczawa empties into the Oder river at Prochowice.

Jawor Place in Lower Silesian, Poland

Jawor is a town in south-western Poland with 24,347 inhabitants (2006). It is situated in Lower Silesian Voivodeship. It is the seat of Jawor County, and lies approximately 61 kilometres (38 mi) west of the regional capital Wrocław.

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 during 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.

Battle

Battle of Katzbach by Klein. Prussian troops force the French into the river. Battle of Katzbach by Klein.jpg
Battle of Katzbach by Klein. Prussian troops force the French into the river.

The two armies, each with more than 100,000 men, stumbled upon one another after MacDonald crossed the swollen river. A sudden flood cut away many of the bridges and destroyed the fords. [6] In the midst of the confusion and heavy rain, MacDonald seemed to recover first. Although his orders were to defend the flank of Napoleon's main force from Blücher, MacDonald decided to attack. He dispatched two-thirds of his army, about 60,000 men, in an attempt to flank the Russo-Prussian right. But confusion reigned again as the French columns found themselves too far apart to support one another.

Flood Overflow of water that submerges land that is not normally submerged

A flood is an overflow of water that submerges land that is usually dry. In the sense of "flowing water", the word may also be applied to the inflow of the tide. Floods are an area of study of the discipline hydrology and are of significant concern in agriculture, civil engineering and public health.

Bridge structure built to span physical obstacles

A bridge is a structure built to span physical obstacles without closing the way underneath such as a body of water, valley, or road, for the purpose of providing passage over the obstacle, usually something that can be detrimental to cross otherwise. There are many different designs that each serve a particular purpose and apply to different situations. Designs of bridges vary depending on the function of the bridge, the nature of the terrain where the bridge is constructed and anchored, the material used to make it, and the funds available to build it.

Ford (crossing) crossing in a river

A ford is a shallow place with good footing where a river or stream may be crossed by wading, or inside a vehicle getting its wheels wet. A ford may occur naturally or be constructed. Fords may be impassable during high water. A low water crossing is a low bridge that allows crossing over a river or stream when water is low but may be covered by deep water when the river is high.

Blücher ordered his right-wing to advance. [6] The muskets were too wet for firing and the battle was decided with cold steel. [6] The remaining 30,000 men of MacDonald's force, who were supposed to hold down the Coalition forces, were met by a heavy counter-attack by Prussian cavalry. Without support or reinforcement, the French were crushed by the fanatical Prussian soldiers who stabbed them to death with their bayonets and pushed them into the river. [6] The remnants of MacDonald's army retreated, with thousands drowning in the river.

Bayonet bladed weapon designed for attachment to a firearm

A bayonet is a knife, sword, or spike-shaped weapon designed to fit on the end of a rifle's muzzle, allowing it to be used as a spear. From the 17th century to World War I, it was considered the primary weapon for infantry attacks. Today, it is considered an ancillary weapon or a weapon of last resort. Modern bayonets are often multi-purpose knives such as the Soviet AKM bayonet which was also a ground breaking survival knife that can be used as a wire-cutter when combined with its scabbard.

Aftermath

Casualties

MacDonald's casualties numbered 13,000 killed and wounded with another 20,000 captured. Blücher's losses were some 4,000 men killed and wounded.

Analysis

Beyond the battle losses, the French strategic position had been weakened. Austria had been planning to defect from the Allied coalition after Napoleon's great victory at Dresden on 26–27 August. [6] News of Blücher's triumph revitalized the worried Allied leadership. [6] This, coupled with the defeats at Kulm, four days later, and Dennewitz on 6 September, would more than negate Napoleon's victory at Dresden.

Because of his victory, Blücher received the title of "Prince of Wahlstatt" on 3 June 1814.

The battle gave rise to a German saying, now obsolete: "Der geht ran wie Blücher an der Katzbach!" ("He's advancing like Blücher at Katzbach!"), referring to Blücher and describing vigorous, forceful behavior.

Citations

  1. Robinson, G., 1814 The New Annual Register: Or General Repository of History, Politics, Arts, Sciences, and Literature for the Year 1813.
  2. Kelly, C., 1831., History of the French Revolution: And of the Wars Produced by that ... Event ... Including a Complete Account of the War Between Great Britain and America; and the ... Battle of Waterloo. London. Thomas Kelly. p.702 To which are Appended, Biographical Sketches of the Heroes of Waterloo
  3. Maude 1908, p. 175.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Maude 1908, p. 176.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Maude 1908, p. 177.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Maude 1908, p. 178.

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References

Coordinates: 51°06′17″N16°05′57″E / 51.10472°N 16.09917°E / 51.10472; 16.09917