German Campaign of 1813

Last updated
German Campaign
Part of War of the Sixth Coalition
MoshkovVI SrazhLeypcigomGRM.jpg
The Battle of Leipzig
Germany and Central Europe
Result Decisive Coalition victory
Confederation of the Rhine dissolved
Norway ceded to Sweden

Original Coalition
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg  Austria
Flagge Grossherzogtumer Mecklenburg.svg Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg  Prussia
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg  Russia
Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
After the Battle of Leipzig


Flag of Bavaria (striped).svg  Bavaria
State flag of Saxony before 1815.svg Saxony
Flagge Konigreich Wurttemberg.svg  Württemberg

Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  France

Flag of Denmark.svg Denmark–Norway
Commanders and leaders
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Alexander I
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Karl von Schwarzenberg
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Friedrich Wilhelm von Bülow
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Levin August von Bennigsen
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Matvei Platov
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Peter Wittgenstein
Flag of Sweden.svg Crown Prince Charles John
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Napoleon I
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Pierre Augereau
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Louis-Alexandre Berthier
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Jean-Baptiste Bessières
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Louis-Nicolas Davout
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Jacques MacDonald
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Auguste de Marmont
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Édouard Mortier
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Michel Ney
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Nicolas Oudinot
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Laurent de Gouvion Saint-Cyr
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Jean-de-Dieu Soult
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Claude Victor-Perrin
Flag of Poland (1807-1815).svg Józef Poniatowski
Flag of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy.svg Eugène de Beauharnais
Flag of the Kingdom of Naples (1811).svg Joachim Murat

16 August 1813:
Total: 860,000 men [2]

Field army:
512,113 men [2]
1,380 guns [2]

16 August 1813:
Total: 700,000 men [3]

Field army:
442,810 men [4]
1,284 guns [4]
Casualties and losses
299,000 [5]
  • 223,000 killed and wounded
  • 76,000 captured and missing
446,000 [5] [6]
  • 60,000 killed
  • 196,000 wounded
  • 190,000 captured and missing
Battles of the German Campaign inscribed on a medal Medaille Wiener Kongress.jpg
Battles of the German Campaign inscribed on a medal
The Lutzow Free Corps in action Luetzows verwegene jagd aquarellreproduktion 1900.jpg
The Lützow Free Corps in action

The German Campaign (German : Befreiungskriege, lit.  'Wars of Liberation') was fought in 1813. Members of the Sixth Coalition, including the German states of Austria and Prussia, plus Russia and Sweden, fought a series of battles in Germany against the French Emperor Napoleon and his Marshals, which ended the domination of the First French Empire. [lower-alpha 3]

After the devastating defeat of Napoleon's Grande Armée in the Russian Campaign of 1812, Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg – the general in command of the Grande Armée's German auxiliaries (Hilfskorps) – declared a ceasefire with the Russians on 30 December 1812 via the Convention of Tauroggen. This was the decisive factor in the outbreak of the German Campaign the following year.

The Spring Campaign between members of the Sixth Coalition and the First French Empire ended inconclusively with a summer truce (Truce of Pläswitz). Via the Trachenberg Plan, developed during a period of ceasefire in the summer of 1813, the ministers of Prussia, Russia, and Sweden agreed to pursue a single allied strategy against Napoleon. In the following Autumn Campaign, Austria eventually sided with the coalition, thwarting Napoleon's hopes of reaching a separate agreement with the major powers Austria and Russia. The Coalition allies now had a clear numerical superiority, which they eventually brought to bear on Napoleon's main forces, despite earlier setbacks as in the Battle of Dresden. The high point of allied strategy was the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813, which ended in Napoleon's decisive defeat. The Confederation of the Rhine, an alliance of west German rulers allied to France, had already lost battles against the Coalition allies in Bavaria and Saxony and after the defeat at Leipzig dissolved. This broke Napoleon's power to the east of the river Rhine.

After a delay—while a new strategy was agreed among the Sixth Coalition powers—in early 1814 the eastern Coalition invaded France, coinciding with the Duke of Wellington's march up through southern France. Napoleon was forced to abdicate and Louis XVIII regained the French Throne. The war came to a formal end with the Treaty of Paris in May 1814.


Since 1806 writers and intellectuals such as Johann Philipp Palm, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Ernst Moritz Arndt, Friedrich Ludwig Jahn and Theodor Körner had been criticising the Napoleonic occupation of Germany. They advocated limitations to the dynastic princes of Germany and a joint effort by all Germans to eject the French. From 1810 Arndt and Jahn asked high-ranking figures in Prussian society again and again to prepare such an uprising. Jahn himself organised the German League and made a major contribution to the founding of the Lützow Free Corps. These forerunners took part in the outbreak of hostilities in Germany, both by serving in the armed forces and by backing the Coalition forces through their writings.[ citation needed ]

Even before the German Campaign, there had been uprisings against the French troops occupying Germany – these had broken out from 1806 onwards in Hesse and in 1809 in the Tyrolean Rebellion. These uprisings intensified in the same year under Wilhelm von Dörnberg, the initiator and commander-in-chief of the Hessian uprising, and Major Ferdinand von Schill.[ citation needed ]


After the devastating defeat of Napoleon's Grande Armée in Russia in 1812, Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg – the general in command of the Grande Armée's German auxiliaries (Hilfskorps) – declared a ceasefire with the Russians on 30 December 1812 via the Convention of Tauroggen. This was the decisive factor in the outbreak of the German Campaign the following year.[ citation needed ]

On 17 March 1813 – the day Alexander I of Russia arrived in the Hoflager of Frederick William III of Prussia – Prussia declared war on France. On 20 March 1813 the Schlesische privilegierte Zeitung newspaper published Frederick's speech entitled An Mein Volk , delivered on 17 March and calling for a war of liberation. In addition to newly formed Prussian units such as the Landwehr and Landsturm, the initial fighting was undertaken by volunteers such as German volunteer troops and Jäger and Free Corps (such as the Lützow Free Corps) and the soldiers of Russia and (from summer 1813 onwards) Sweden under Crown Prince Charles John (the former French marshal Bernadotte) and Austria under field marshal Schwarzenberg. Already busy with maintaining naval supremacy and fighting the Peninsular War, Great Britain did not take any direct part in the German campaign, though it sent subsidies to support it.[ citation needed ]

The War of Liberation

The Convention of Tauroggen became the starting-point of Prussia's regeneration. As the news of the destruction of the Grande Armée spread, and the appearance of countless stragglers convinced the Prussian people of the reality of the disaster, the spirit generated by years of French domination burst out. For the moment the king and his ministers were placed in a position of the greatest anxiety, for they knew the resources of France and the boundless versatility of their arch-enemy far too well to imagine that the end of their sufferings was yet in sight. To disavow the acts and desires of the army and of the secret societies for defence with which all north Germany was honeycombed would be to imperil the very existence of the monarchy, whilst an attack on the wreck of the Grand Army meant the certainty of a terrible retribution from the new armies now rapidly forming on the Rhine. [7]

But the Russians and the soldiers were resolved to continue the campaign, and working in collusion they put pressure on the not unwilling representatives of the civil power to facilitate the supply and equipment of such troops as were still in the field; they could not refuse food and shelter to their starving countrymen or their loyal allies, and thus by degrees the French garrisons scattered about the country either found themselves surrounded or were compelled to retire to avoid that fate. Thus it happened that the viceroy of Italy felt himself compelled to depart from the positive injunctions of Napoleon to hold on at all costs to his advanced position at Posen, where about 14,000 men had gradually rallied around him, and to withdraw step by step to Magdeburg, where he met reinforcements and commanded the whole course of the lower Elbe. [8]

Napoleon's Preparations

Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David, 1812 Napoleon crop.jpg
Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David, 1812

Meanwhile Napoleon in Paris had been organizing a fresh army for the reconquest of Prussia. Thanks to his having compelled his allies to fight his battles for him, he had not as yet drawn very heavily on the fighting resources of France, the actual percentage of men taken by the conscriptions during the years since 1806 being actually lower than that in force in continental armies of today. He had also created in 1811–1812 a new National Guard, organized in "cohorts" to distinguish it from the regular army, and for home defence only, and these by a skilful appeal to their patriotism and judicious pressure applied through the prefects, became a useful reservoir of half-trained men for new battalions of the active army. Levies were also made with rigorous severity in the states of the Rhine Confederation, and even Italy was called on for fresh sacrifices. In this manner by the end of March upwards of 200,000 men were moving towards the Elbe, [lower-alpha 4] and in the first fortnight of April they were duly concentrated in the angle formed by the Elbe and Saale, threatening on the one hand Berlin, on the other Dresden and the east. [8]

Spring Campaign

Map of the spring 1813 campaign. Fruhjahrsfeldzug 1813.png
Map of the spring 1813 campaign.

The Coalition allies, aware of the gradual strengthening of their enemy's forces but themselves as yet unable to put more than 200,000 in the field, had left a small corps of observation opposite Magdeburg and along the Elbe to give timely notice of an advance towards Berlin; and with the bulk of their forces had taken up a position about Dresden, whence they had determined to march down the course of the Elbe and roll up the French from right to left. Both armies were very indifferently supplied with information, as both were without any reliable regular cavalry capable of piercing the screen of outposts with which each endeavoured to conceal his disposition, and Napoleon, operating in a most unfriendly country, suffered more in this respect than his adversaries. [8]

On 25 April Napoleon reached Erfurt and assumed the chief command. On this day his troops stood in the following positions. Prince Eugène, with Lauriston's, Macdonald's and Regnier's corps, on the lower Saale, Marshal Ney in front of Weimar, holding the defile of Kösen; the Imperial Guard at Erfurt, Marshal Marmont at Gotha, General Bertrand at Saalfeld, and Marshal Oudinot at Coburg, and during the next few days the whole were set in motion towards Merseburg and Leipzig, in the now stereotyped Napoleonic order, a strong advanced guard of all arms leading, the remainder—about two-thirds of the whole—following as "masse de manœuvre", this time, owing to the cover afforded by the Elbe on the left, to the right rear of the advanced guard. [8]

Meanwhile the Russians and Prussians had concentrated all available men and were moving on an almost parallel line, but somewhat to the south of the direction taken by the French. On 1 May, Napoleon and the advanced guard entered Lützen. Russian General Wittgenstein, who now commanded the Coalition allies in place of General Kutusov, hearing of his approach, had decided to attack the French advanced guard, which he took to be their whole force, on its right flank, and during the morning had drawn together the bulk of his forces on his right in the vicinity of Gross-Görschen and Kaya. [8]

Battle of Lützen

Battle of Lutzen (1813). French troops storm the positions of Russians and Prussians. Napoleon on his white horse, seen from behind, looks at the battlefield. Hand-coloured from the Pennington Catalogue. Battle of Lutzen by Georgin.jpg
Battle of Lutzen (1813). French troops storm the positions of Russians and Prussians. Napoleon on his white horse, seen from behind, looks at the battlefield. Hand-coloured from the Pennington Catalogue.

About 09:00 on 2 May Wittgenstein began an attack on the French advance guard in Lützen, whilst the remainder of his army was directed against Napoleon's right and rear. Just as the latter were moving off the heads of the French main body suddenly appeared, and at 11:00 Napoleon, then standing near the Gustavus Adolphus Monument on the field of Lützen, heard the roar of a heavy cannonade to his right rear. He realized the situation in a moment, galloped to the new scene of action, and at once grouped his forces for decisive action—the gift in which he was supreme. Leaving the leading troops to repulse as best they might the furious attack of both Russians and Prussians, and caring little whether they lost ground, he rapidly organized for his own control a battle-reserve. At length when both sides were exhausted by their efforts he sent forward nearly a hundred guns which tore asunder by their case-shot fire the enemy's line and marched his reserve right through the gap. Had he possessed an adequate cavalry force the victory would have been decisive. As it was, the Coalition allies made good their retreat and the French were too exhausted for infantry pursuit. [8]

In the opinion of the military historian Frederic Maude writing in the Encyclopædia Britannica 11th Edition (1911) perhaps no battle better exemplifies the inherent strength of Napoleon's strategy, and in none was his grasp of the battlefield more brilliantly displayed, for, as he fully recognized, "These Prussians have at last learnt something—they are no longer the wooden toys of Frederick the Great", [8] and, on the other hand, the relative inferiority of his own men as compared with his veterans of Austerlitz called for far more individual effort than on any previous day. He was everywhere, encouraging and compelling his men—it is a legend in the French army that the persuasion even of the imperial boot was used upon some of his reluctant conscripts, and in the result his system was fully justified, as it triumphed even against a great tactical surprise. [8]

Battle of Bautzen

Prince Blucher and Cossacks in Bautzen during 1813. Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher in Bautzen 1813.jpg
Prince Blücher and Cossacks in Bautzen during 1813.

As soon as possible the army pressed on in pursuit, Ney being sent across the Elbe to turn the position of the Coalition allies at Dresden. This threat forced the latter to evacuate the town and retire over the Elbe, after blowing up the stone bridge across the river. Napoleon entered the town hard on their heels, but the broken bridge caused a delay of four days, there being no pontoon trains with the army. Ultimately on 18 May the march was renewed, but the Coalition allies had continued their retreat in leisurely fashion, picking up reinforcements by the way. Arrived at the line of the Spree, they took up and fortified a very formidable position about Bautzen. Here, on 20 May, they were attacked, and after a two-day battle dislodged by Napoleon; but the weakness of the French cavalry conditioned both the form of the attack, which was less effective than usual, and the results of the victory, which were extremely meagre. [8]

The Coalition allies broke off the action at their own time and retired in such good order that Napoleon failed to capture a single trophy as proof of his victory. The enemy's escape annoyed him greatly, the absence of captured guns and prisoners reminded him too much of his Russian experiences, and he redoubled his demands on his corps commanders for greater vigour in the pursuit. This led the latter to push on without due regard to tactical precautions, and Blücher took advantage of their carelessness when at the Battle of Haynau (26 May), with some twenty squadrons of Landwehr cavalry, he surprised, rode over and almost destroyed Maison's division. The material loss inflicted on the French was not very great, but its effect in raising the morale of the raw Prussian cavalry and increasing their confidence in their old commander was enormous. [8]

Summer truce

Charles John (Bernadotte), Crown Prince of Sweden; painting by Francois Gerard. Charles XIV John as Crown Prince of Sweden - Francois Gerard.jpg
Charles John (Bernadotte), Crown Prince of Sweden; painting by François Gérard.

Still the Coalition allies continued their retreat and the French were unable to bring them to action. In view of the doubtful attitude of Austria, Napoleon became alarmed at the gradual lengthening of his lines of communication and opened negotiations. The enemy, having everything to gain and nothing to lose thereby, agreed finally to a six weeks suspension of arms under the terms of the Truce of Pläswitz. In the opinion of the military historian Frederic Maude (1911), this was perhaps the gravest military error of Napoleon's whole career, and his excuse for it, want of adequate cavalry, is the strongest testimony as to the value of that arm. [9]

Autumn Campaign

As soon as a suspension of arms (to 15 August) had been agreed to, Napoleon hastened to withdraw his troops from the dangerous position they occupied with reference to the passes leading over the mountains from Bohemia, for he entertained no doubt now that Austria was also to be considered as an enemy. Finally he decided to group his corps round Gölitz and Bautzen whence they could either meet the enemy advancing from Breslau or fall on his flank over the mountains if they attempted to force their way into Saxony by the valley of the Elbe. This latter manoeuvre depended, however, on his maintenance of Dresden, and to this end he sent the I Corps up the Elbe to Pirna and Königstein to cover the fortifications of Dresden itself. His instructions on this point deserve the closest study, for he foresaw the inevitable attraction which a complete entrenched camp would exercise even upon himself, and, therefore, limited his engineers to the construction of a strong bridge head on the right bank and a continuous enceinte, broken only by gaps for counter attack, around the town itself. [10]

Then Napoleon turned his attention to the plan for the coming campaign. Seeing clearly that his want of an efficient cavalry precluded all ideas of a resolute offensive in his old style, he determined to limit himself to a defence of the line of the Elbe, making only dashes of a few days duration at any target the enemy might present. [10]

Campaign of 1813 EB1911-19-0230-a-Napoleonic Campaigns, Campaign of 1813.jpg
Campaign of 1813

Reinforcements had been coming up without ceasing and at the beginning of August Napoleon calculated that he would have 300,000 men available about Bautzen and 100,000 along the Elbe from Hamburg via Magdeburg to Torgau. With the latter he determined to strike the first blow, by a concentric advance on Berlin (which he calculated he would reach on the 4th or 5th day), the movement being continued thence to extricate the French garrisons in Küstrin, Stettin and Danzig. The moral effect, he promised himself, would be prodigious, and there was neither room nor food for these 100,000 elsewhere. [10]

Towards the close of the armistice Napoleon learned the general situation of the Coalition allies. The crown prince of Sweden (Bernadotte), with his Swedes and various Prussian levies, 135,000 in all, lay in and around Berlin and Stettin; and knowing his former marshal well, Napoleon considered Oudinot a match for him. Blücher with about 95,000 Russians and Prussians was about Breslau, and Schwarzenberg, with nearly 180,000 Austrians and Russians, lay in Bohemia. In his position at Bautzen he felt himself equal to all his enemy's combinations. [10]

Battle of Dresden

Napoleon crossing the Elbe by Jozef Brodowski (1895) Brodowski Napoleon Elbe.jpg
Napoleon crossing the Elbe by Józef Brodowski (1895)

The advance towards Berlin began punctually with the expiration of the armistice. However Napoleon, in command of the main French army, waited to see more clearly his adversaries plans. At length becoming impatient he advanced a portion of his army towards Blücher, who fell back to draw him into a trap. Then the news reached Napoleon that Schwarzenberg was pressing down the valley of the Elbe, and, leaving Macdonald to observe Blücher, he hurried back to Bautzen to dispose his troops to cross the Bohemian mountains in the general direction of Königstein, a blow which must have had decisive results. But the news from Dresden was so alarming that at the last moment he changed his mind, and sending Vandamme alone over the mountains, he hurried with his whole army to the threatened point. This march remains one of the most extraordinary in history, for the bulk of his forces moved, mainly in mass and across country, 90 miles (140 km) in 72 hours, entering Dresden on the morning of 27 August, only a few hours before the attack of the Coalition allies commenced. [10]

Dresden was the last great victory of the First Empire. By noon on 27 August the Austrians and Russians were completely beaten and in full retreat, the French pressing hard behind them, but meanwhile Napoleon himself again succumbed to one of his unaccountable attacks of apparent intellectual paralysis. He seemed unaware of the vital importance of the moment, crouched shivering over a bivouac fire, and finally rode back to Dresden, leaving no specific orders for the further pursuit. [11]

French defeats

Battle of Katzbach 1813, by Eduard Kaempffer. KaempfferKatzbachschlacht.jpg
Battle of Katzbach 1813, by Eduard Kaempffer.

The Coalition allies, however, continued to retreat, and unfortunately for the French, Vandamme, with his single corps and unsupported, issued out of the mountains on their flank, threw himself across their line of retreat near Kulm, and was completely overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers (Battle of Kulm, 29 August). In spite of this misfortune, Napoleon could claim a brilliant success for himself, but almost at the same moment news reached him that Oudinot had been severely defeated at the Battle of Grossbeeren (23 August) near Berlin by Bernadotte as had Macdonald at the Battle of Katzbach (26 August) by Blücher. [12]

Napoleon's movements

During the next two days Napoleon examined his situation and dictated a series of notes which have been a puzzle to every strategical thinker ever since. In these he seems suddenly to have cut adrift from every principle the truth of which he had himself so brilliantly demonstrated, in them he considers plans based on hypothesis, not knowledge, and on the importance of geographical points without reference to the enemy's field army. [12]

From these reveries he was at length awakened by news which indicated that the consequences of Macdonald's defeat had been far more serious to the morale of that command than he had imagined. He immediately rode over to establish order, and his manner and violence were so improper that Caulaincourt had the greatest difficulty in concealing the scandal. [12]

Blücher, however, hearing of Napoleon's arrival, at once retreated and Napoleon followed, thus uncovering the passes over the Bohemian mountains, a fact of which Schwarzenberg was quick to take advantage. Learning of his approach, Napoleon again withdrew to Bautzen. [12]

Then hearing that the Austrians had counter-marched and were again moving towards Dresden, Napoleon hastened back there, concentrated as many men as could conveniently be handled, and advanced beyond Pirna and Königstein to meet him. But the Austrians had no intention of attacking him, for time was now working on their side and, leaving his men to starve in the exhausted district, Napoleon again returned to Dresden, where for the rest of the month he remained in an extraordinary state of vacillation. On 4 October he again drew up a review of the situation, in which he apparently contemplated giving up his communications with France and wintering in and around Dresden, though at the same time he is aware of the distress amongst his men for want of food. [12]

Leipzig Campaign

Meanwhile Blücher, Schwarzenberg and Bernadotte were working round Napoleon's flanks. Ney, who had joined Oudinot after Grossbeeren, was defeated at the Battle of Dennewitz (6 September). The victory, won solely by Prussian troops, greatly encouraged the coalition. Suddenly Napoleon's plans were again reviewed and completely changed. Calling up St Cyr, whom he had already warned to remain at Dresden with his command, he decided to fall back towards Erfurt, and go into winter quarters between that place and Magdeburg, pointing out that Dresden was of no use to him as a base and that if he were to have a battle, it was much better have St Cyr and his men with him than at Dresden. [12]

On 7 October Napoleon drew up a final plan, in which one again recognizes the old commander, and this he immediately proceeded to put into execution, for he was now quite aware of the danger threatening his line of retreat from both Blücher and Schwarzenberg and the North Army; yet only a few hours afterwards the portion of the order relating to St Cyr and Lobau was cancelled and the two were finally left behind at Dresden. From the 10 to 13 October Napoleon lay at Düben, again a prey to the most extraordinary irresolution, but on that day he thought he saw his opportunity. Blücher was reported near Wittenberg, and Schwarzenberg was moving slowly round to the south of Leipzig. The North Army under Bernadotte, unknown to Napoleon, lay on Blücher's left around Halle. [12]

Napoleon decided to throw the bulk of his force on Blücher, and, having routed him, turn south on Schwarzenberg and sever his communications with Bohemia. His concentration was effected with his usual sureness and celerity, but whilst the French moved on Wittenberg, Blücher was marching to his right, indifferent to his communications as all Prussia lay behind him. [12]

This move on 14 October brought him into touch with Bernadotte, and now a single march forward of all three armies would have absolutely isolated Napoleon from France; but Bernadotte's nerve failed him, for on hearing of Napoleon's threat against Wittenberg he decided to retreat northward, and not all the persuasions of Blücher and Gneisenau could move him. Thus if the French movement momentarily ended in a blow in the air, it was indirectly the cause of their ultimate salvation. [12]

Battle of the Nations

The Battle of the Nations or the Battle of Leipzig by A.I. Zauerweid. Battle of Leipzig by Zauerweid.jpg
The Battle of the Nations or the Battle of Leipzig by A.I. Zauerweid.

On the 15 October Napoleon concentrated his forces to the east of Leipzig, with only a weak detachment to the west, and in the evening the Coalition allies were prepared to attack him. Schwarzenberg had 180,000 men available at once and 60,000 on the following day; Blücher had about 60,000, but Bernadotte now could not arrive before 18 October. [12]

Napoleon prepared to throw the bulk of his force upon Schwarzenberg and massed his troops south-east of the town, whilst Schwarzenberg marched concentrically against him down the valley of the Elster and Pleisse, the mass of his troops on the right bank of the latter and a strong column under Giulay on the left working round to join Blücher on the north. The fighting which followed was most obstinate, but the Austrians failed to make any impression on the French positions, and indeed Giulay felt himself compelled to withdraw to his former position. On the other hand, Blücher carried the village of Möckern and came within a mile of the gates of the town. During the 17th there was only indecisive skirmishing, Schwarzenberg waiting for his reinforcements coming up by the Dresden road, Blücher for Bernadotte to come in on his left, and by some extraordinary oversight Giulay was brought closer in to the Austrian centre, thus opening for the French their line of retreat towards Erfurt, and no information of this movement appears to have been conveyed to Blücher. Napoleon when he became aware of the movement, sent the IV Corps to Lindenau to keep the road open. [12]

On the 18 October the fighting was resumed and by about noon Bernadotte came up and closed the gap to the north-east of the town between Blücher and the Austrians. At 14:00 the Saxons, who had remained faithful to Napoleon longer than his other German allies, went over to the enemy. All hope of saving the battle had now to be given up, but the French covered their retreat obstinately and by daybreak next morning one-half of the army was already filing out along the road to Erfurt which had so fortunately for the French been left for them. [12]

Retreat of the French and Battle of Hanau

General Nansouty at the Battle of Hanau by Horace Vernet. General Nansouty at the battle of Hanau.jpg
General Nansouty at the Battle of Hanau by Horace Vernet.

It took Blücher time to extricate his troops from the confusion into which the battle had thrown them, and the garrison of Leipzig and the troops left on the right bank of the Elster still resisted obstinately—hence no direct pursuit could be initiated and the French, still upwards of 100,000 strong, marching rapidly, soon gained distance enough to be reformed. Blücher followed by parallel and inferior roads on their northern flank, but Schwarzenberg knowing that the Bavarians also had forsaken Napoleon and were marching under Wrede, 50,000 strong, to intercept his retreat, followed in a most leisurely fashion. Blücher did not succeed in overtaking the French, but the latter, near Hanau, found their way barred by Wrede with 50,000 men and over 100 guns in a strong position. [12]

To this fresh emergency Napoleon and his army responded in most brilliant fashion. As at Krasnoi in 1812, they went straight for their enemy and after one of the most brilliant series of artillery movements in history, directed by General Drouot, they marched right over their enemy, practically destroying his whole force. Henceforward their march was unmolested, and they reached Mainz on 5 November. [12]


The Wreath Maker - a painting by Georg Friedrich Kersting symbolising the memory of the fallen, whose names are inscribed on the trunks of oak trees. Kersting - Die Kranzwinderin.jpg
The Wreath Maker – a painting by Georg Friedrich Kersting symbolising the memory of the fallen, whose names are inscribed on the trunks of oak trees.

When the last of the French troops had crossed to the western bank of the Rhine, divided counsels made their appearance at the headquarters of the Coalition allies. Every one was weary of the war, and many felt that it would be unwise to push Napoleon and the French nation to extremes. Hence a prolonged halt arose, utilized by the troops in renewing their equipment and so forth, but ultimately the Young German party, led by Blücher and the principal fighting men of the army, triumphed, and early in 1814 the eastern Coalition allies invaded France from east. [13]

At the same time Wellington invaded France over the Pyrenees. Leaving Marshals Soult and Suchet to defend south-west France, Napoleon fought and lost a campaign in north-east France, that ended with the occupation of Paris, the abdication of Napoleon, his exile to Elbe, and the Bourbon Restoration under King Louis XVIII.[ citation needed ]

The campaign ended the 'French period' (Franzosenzeit) in Germany and fostered a new sense of German unity and nationalism. The German Confederation, formed at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, was a precursor to the modern German nation state, which was, however, only realized more than half a century later under Prussian leadership. The popular image of the campaign in Germany was shaped by the cultural memory of its veterans, especially the many students who volunteered to fight in the Lützow Free Corps and other units who later rose to high positions in the military and political spheres. A new boom in remembrance of the war occurred in 1913, on the centenary of its outbreak.[ citation needed ]

See also


  1. Dissolved following Battle of Leipzig. [1]
  2. Duchy of Warsaw as a state was in effect fully occupied by Russian and Prussian forces by May 1813, though most Poles remained loyal to Napoleon.[ citation needed ]
  3. In Germany itself it became known as the Befreiungskriege (Wars of Liberation) or Freiheitskriege (Wars of Freedom) – both terms were used at the time, both by liberals and nationalists who hoped for a unified Germany and by conservatives after the Bourbon Restoration to mean restauring the old aristocratic order and freeing Europe from French hegemony and occupation. It is also known as the europäische Befreiungskriege (European Wars of Liberation), to distinguish it from the 1808 Spanish Uprising during the Peninsular War.
  4. Napoleon always gave them 300,000, but this number was never attained (Maude 1911, p. 229).
  1. Hans A. Schmitt. Germany Without Prussia: A Closer Look at the Confederation of the Rhine. German Studies Review 6, No. 4 (1983), pp 9-39.
  2. 1 2 3 Maude 1908, p. 156.
  3. Maude 1908, p. 149.
  4. 1 2 Maude 1908, p. 148.
  5. 1 2 Bodart 1916, p. 46.
  6. Bodart 1916, p. 130.
  7. Maude 1911, pp. 228–229.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Maude 1911, p. 229.
  9. Maude 1911, p. 229–230.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 Maude 1911, p. 230.
  11. Maude 1911, pp. 230–231.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Maude 1911, p. 231.
  13. Maude 1911, pp. 321–232.

Related Research Articles

Frederick Augustus I of Saxony King of Saxony

Frederick Augustus I was a member of the House of Wettin who reigned as Elector of Saxony from 1763 to 1806 and as King of Saxony from 1806 to 1827. He also served as Duke of Warsaw from 1807 to 1813.

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.

Battle of Leipzig 1813 battle in the Napoleonic Wars

The Battle of Leipzig or Battle of the Nations was fought from 16 to 19 October 1813, at Leipzig, Saxony. The Coalition armies of Austria, Prussia, Sweden, and Russia, led by Emperor Alexander I and Karl von Schwarzenberg, decisively defeated the Grande Armée of French Emperor Napoleon I. Napoleon's army also contained Polish and Italian troops, as well as Germans from the Confederation of the Rhine. The battle was the culmination of the German Campaign of 1813 and involved 500,000 soldiers, 2,200 artillery pieces, the expenditure of 200,000 rounds of artillery ammunition, and 127,000 casualties, making it the largest battle in Europe prior to World War I.

Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube 1814 battle between French and Allied forces

The Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube saw an Imperial French army under Napoleon face a much larger Allied army led by Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg during the War of the Sixth Coalition. On the second day of fighting, Emperor Napoleon suddenly realized he was massively outnumbered, and immediately ordered a masked retreat. By the time the Austrian Field Marshal Schwarzenberg realized Napoleon was retreating, most of the French had already disengaged and the Allied pursuit afterwards failed to prevent the remaining French army from safely withdrawing to the north. This was Napoleon's penultimate battle before his abdication and exile to Elba, the last being the Battle of Saint-Dizier.

Battle of Brienne 1814 battle between Napoleon and Prussian and Russian forces

The Battle of Brienne saw an Imperial French army led by Emperor Napoleon attack Prussian and Russian forces commanded by Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. After heavy fighting that went on into the night, the French seized the château, nearly capturing Blücher. However, the French were unable to dislodge the Russians from the town of Brienne-le-Château. Napoleon himself, making his first appearance on a battlefield in 1814, was also nearly captured. Very early the next morning, Blücher's troops quietly abandoned the town and retreated to the south, conceding the field to the French.

Battle of Bautzen battle

In the Battle of Bautzen a combined Russian–Prussian 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.

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 victory against the Allied army led by Field Marshal Schwarzenberg. 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.

War of the Sixth Coalition Part of the Napoleonic Wars

In the War of the Sixth Coalition, sometimes known in Germany as the War of Liberation, a coalition of Austria, Prussia, Russia, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Sweden, Spain and a number of German States defeated France and drove Napoleon into exile on Elba. After the disastrous French invasion of Russia of 1812, the continental powers joined Russia, the United Kingdom, Portugal and the rebels in Spain who were already at war with France.

War of the Fourth Coalition part of the Napoleonic Wars

The Fourth Coalition fought against Napoleon's French Empire and were defeated in a war spanning 1806–1807. The main coalition partners were Prussia and Russia with Saxony, Sweden, and Great Britain also contributing. Excluding Prussia, some members of the coalition had previously been fighting France as part of the Third Coalition, and there was no intervening period of general peace. On 9 October 1806, Prussia joined a renewed coalition, fearing the rise in French power after the defeat of Austria and establishment of the French-sponsored Confederation of the Rhine. Prussia and Russia mobilized for a fresh campaign with Prussian massing troops in Saxony.

Six Days Campaign conflict

The Six Days Campaign was a final series of victories by the forces of Napoleon I of France as the Sixth Coalition closed in on Paris.

Battle of Paris (1814) Battle of the War of the Sixth Coalition

The Battle of Paris was fought on March 30–31, 1814 between the Sixth Coalition, consisting of Russia, Austria, and Prussia, against the French Empire. After a day of fighting in the suburbs of Paris, the French surrendered on March 31, ending the War of the Sixth Coalition and forcing Emperor Napoleon to abdicate and go into exile.

Battle of Dennewitz battle

The Battle of Dennewitz took place on 6 September 1813 between the forces of the First French Empire and an army of Prussians and Russians of the Sixth Coalition. It occurred in Dennewitz, a village in the Prussian province of Brandenburg, near Jüterbog, 40 kilometres (25 mi) southwest of Berlin.

Battle of the Katzbach battle

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. It occurred during a heavy thunderstorm at the Katzbach river between Wahlstatt and Liegnitz in the Prussian province of Silesia. 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.

Battle of Château-Thierry (1814) 1814 Napoleonic battle

The Battle of Château-Thierry saw the Imperial French army commanded by Emperor Napoleon attempt to destroy a Prussian corps led by Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg and an Imperial Russian corps under Fabian Wilhelm von Osten-Sacken. The two Allied corps managed to escape across the Marne River, but suffered considerably heavier losses than the pursuing French. This action occurred during the Six Days' Campaign, a series of victories that Napoleon won over Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher's Army of Silesia. Château-Thierry lies about 75 kilometres (47 mi) northeast of Paris.

Battle of La Rothière battle

The Battle of La Rothière was fought on the 1st of February 1814 between the French Empire and allied army of Austria, Prussia, Russia, and German States previously allies with France. The French were led by Emperor Napoleon and the coalition army was under the command of Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. The battle took place in severe weather conditions. The French were defeated but managed to hold until they could retreat under cover of darkness.

Campaign in north-east France (1814)

The 1814 campaign in north-east France was Napoleon's final campaign of the War of the Sixth Coalition. Following their victory at Leipzig in 1813, the Austrian, Prussian, Russian, and other German armies of the Sixth Coalition invaded France. Despite the disproportionate forces in favour of the Coalition, Napoleon managed to inflict many defeats, especially during the Six Days' Campaign. However, the Coalition kept advancing towards Paris, which capitulated in late March 1814. As a result, Napoleon was deposed and exiled to Elba and the victorious powers started to redraw the map of Europe during the First Treaty of Paris and during the early stages of the Congress of Vienna.

Johann von Klenau Austrian General of Cavalry in Napoleonic Wars

Johann von Klenau, also called Johann Graf von Klenau, Freiherr von 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.

Battle of Gué-à-Tresmes

The Battle of Gué-à-Tresmes was fought between 14,500 French troops led by Marshals Auguste de Marmont and Édouard Mortier and 12,000 Prussians commanded by Friedrich Graf Kleist von Nollendorf and Friedrich von Katzler. On 28 February the French attacked and drove the Prussians to the north along the west bank of the Ourcq River. That evening and the next day Kleist tried to push the French back while Russian units under Peter Mikhailovich Kaptzevich tried to cross from the east to the west bank of the Ourcq; the Allies were unsuccessful. Gué-à-Tresmes is located where Route D405 crosses the Thérouanne stream about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) northeast of Meaux.

The siege of Antwerp took place during the War of the Sixth Coalition and lasted from 14 January 1814 to 4 May 1814.

The Treaty of Troyes was an agreement of 22 February 1814 by Austria, Russia and Prussia following a council of war with senior generals, Tsar Alexander I of Russia and King Frederick William III of Prussia. The treaty determined the movements of the Austrian and Prussian-Russian armies following a series of defeats during the invasion of north-east France. Despite dissent from the Russian and Prussian leaders, Austrian General Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg secured support for a withdrawal ahead of the French forces of Emperor Napoleon I who was seeking to bring the allies to battle.


Further reading

In English
In German