Siege of Danzig (1807)

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Siege of Danzig
Part of the War of the Fourth Coalition
Panoramic view of the Siege of Gdansk by French forces in 1807.PNG
Panoramic view of the Siege of Danzig by French forces in 1807
Date19 March – 24 May 1807
Danzig, Prussia (present-day Gdańsk, Poland)
Result French victory
Flag of France.svg France Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg  Prussia
Flag of Russia.svg Russia
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom (naval)
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Marshal Lefebvre Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Marshall Kalckreuth
Flag of Russia.svg Nikolay Kamensky
100 heavy guns & mortars [1]
14,400 Prussians
(garrison) [1]
7,000 Russians
(reinforcements) [2]
Casualties and losses
6,000 killed & wounded [3] 3,000 killed, wounded & sick [4]
1,500 killed & wounded [4]

The Siege of Danzig (19 March - 24 May 1807) was the French encirclement and capture of Danzig during the War of the Fourth Coalition. On 19 March 1807, around 27,000 French troops under Marshall Lefebvre besieged around 14,400 Prussian troops under Marshall Kalckreuth garrisoning the city of Danzig. [1]

Gdańsk City in Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland

Gdańsk is a Polish city on the Baltic coast. With a population of 464,254, Gdańsk is the capital and largest city of the Pomeranian Voivodeship and the capital of Kashubia. It is Poland's principal seaport and the centre of the country's fourth-largest metropolitan area.

War of the Fourth Coalition part of the Napoleonic Wars

The Fourth Coalition fought against Napoleon's French Empire and was defeated in a war spanning 1806–1807. Coalition partners included Prussia, Russia, Saxony, Sweden, and Great Britain. Several 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, and Prussian troops massed in Saxony.

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.


Importance of Danzig

Danzig held an important strategic position. As well as being an important heavily fortified port with 60,000 inhabitants at the mouth of the river Vistula, it was a direct threat to the French left, as it lay within Prussian lands but to the rear of the French army as it advanced eastward. It was also a potential dropping off point for allied troops, that could threaten the French army by opening another front to their rear. Danzig was also difficult to attack, being only accessible from the west, while all other directions were covered either by the Vistula (N) or wetlands (S and E). Furthermore, it had precious resources (such as powder, grain, eau de vie, etc.) of great interest to the Grande Armée in planning a substantial campaign in the east. In a letter dated 18 February 1807, Napoleon noted to Marshal Lefebvre:

Vistula river in Eastern Europe

The Vistula is the longest and largest river in Poland and the 9th longest river in Europe, at 1,047 kilometres in length. The drainage basin area of the Vistula is 193,960 km2 (74,890 sq mi), of which 168,868 km2 (65,200 sq mi) lies within Poland. The remainder is in Belarus, Ukraine and Slovakia.

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.

Your glory is linked to the taking of Danzig: you must go there. [5]

Order of battle

The task of taking the city was in mid-February given to Marshal Lefebvre and his 10th corps. The marshal was aided by generals Chasseloup-Laubat, who commanded the engineering works, and Baston de Lariboisière, who commanded the artillery. Together they were the two best specialists in their respective fields in the French army. General Drouet was the chief of staff. The 10th corps comprised two Polish divisions under General Jan Henryk Dąbrowski, one Saxon corps, one contingent from Baden, two Italian divisions and about 10,000 French troops, in total about 45,000 men. [1] Inside Danzig stood 14,400 men under the Prussian commander General Count Friedrich Adolf von Kalkreuth. [1] Napoleon was however to describe these men as ‘canaille' (rabble) [6]

François, marquis de Chasseloup-Laubat French general and military engineer

François, marquis de Chasseloup-Laubat, French general and military engineer, was born at Saint-Sornin, of a noble family, and entered the French engineers in 1774.

Jean Ambroise Baston de Lariboisière French general in the Napoleonic Wars

Jean Ambroise Baston de Lariboisière, also Count de Lariboisière, was a general of artillery of the First French Empire. He fought in the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars and died of fatigue at Königsberg in East Prussia on 21 December 1812, during the Grand Army's retreat from Moscow.

Jean-Baptiste Drouet, Comte dErlon Marshal of France

Jean-Baptiste Drouet, Comte d'Erlon was a marshal of France and a soldier in Napoleon's Army. D'Erlon notably commanded the I Corps of the Armée du Nord at the battle of Waterloo.


Plan of the Siege of Danzig Siege of Danzig plans of battles-1-.jpg
Plan of the Siege of Danzig

On 20 March, following Napoleon's orders to encircle the city, French General Schramm led 2,000 troops to the north bank of the Vistula beyond the outlying Weichselmunde fort, occupying a position directly to the north of the city. On 2 April the ground had thawed enough to be able to begin digging siege trenches, a second trench was begun on 8 April and completed on 15 April and a third was finished on 25 April. With the fall of the Silesian fortress of Schweidnitz to Vandamme on 11 April, the large siege guns there were transferred to Danzig, arriving on 21 April.

Dominique Vandamme French general

General Dominique-Joseph René Vandamme, Count of Unseburg was a French military officer, who fought in the Napoleonic Wars. He was a dedicated career soldier with a reputation as an excellent division and corps commander. However he had a nasty disposition that alienated his colleagues; he publicly criticized Napoleon, who never appointed him marshal.

Attempts to relieve the city

On the 23 March the French batteries opened fire. Russian forces made an attempt between 10–15 May to bring 7,000 [2] reinforcements to the city, led by General Kamensky, ferried in 57 transports under the escort of the British sloop of war Falcon and a Swedish ship of the line. Owing to the absence of the Swedish vessel (bearing 1,200 troops), Kamensky was delayed in his operations. This allowed Lefebvre time to reinforce his positions, and the outnumbered Russian troops were beaten back with a loss of 1,500 men killed and wounded. [2] A further attempt by the British 18-gun praam Dauntless to bring a badly needed 150 barrels of gunpowder via the river failed. Dauntless ran aground near a battery, which bombarded her until grenadier guards from Paris were able to capture her.

Nikolay Kamensky Russian officer

Count Nikolay Mikhailovich Kamensky was a Russian general who outlived his father, Field Marshal Mikhail Kamensky, by two years.

Diadem was launched in 1798. The Admiralty renamed her HMS Falcon after purchasing her in 1801 to avoid confusion with the pre-existing third rate Diadem. Falcon served in the north Atlantic and the Channel, and then in Danish waters during the Gunboat War. She was sold in 1816. Her new owner sailed her to the Indies under a license from the British East India Company. She was wrecked in 1820 at Batavia.

Pram (ship) ship type

A pram or pramm describes a type of shallow-draught flat-bottomed ship.

Siege continues

Entry of Napoleon and the French Army in Danzig 1807. Entry of Napoleon and the French Army in Danzig 1807.PNG
Entry of Napoleon and the French Army in Danzig 1807.

After these failed attempts to relieve the city, the siege and mining continued. On 21 May Marshal Mortier's corps arrived, making it possible to storm the Hagelsberg. Seeing that he could no longer hold out, Kalkreuth sued Lefebvre for peace, requesting the same capitulation terms given by the Prussians to the French in Mainz in 1793. The terms were finally agreed (which had already been agreed in advance with Napoleon) [7] were that the garrison could march out with all the honours of war, with drums beating, matches lighted, and standards flying. The terms were generous because Napoleon was eager to put an end to the siege since the summer (and the fighting season) was approaching and he needed to remove the threat to his rear and to reposition the troops elsewhere.

Surrender and aftermath

Reenactment of the entry of Napoleon to Gdansk after the siege. Reenactment of the entry of Napoleon to Gdansk after siege - 44.jpg
Reenactment of the entry of Napoleon to Gdańsk after the siege.

Danzig capitulated on 24 May 1807. Napoleon then ordered the siege of the nearby Weichselmünde fort, but Kamensky had fled with his troops, and the garrison capitulated shortly afterwards. The battle cost the French 6,000 killed and wounded, [3] while the Prussians lost 3,000 killed, wounded and sick, and the Russians 1,500. [4] In recompense for Lefebvre's services, Napoléon granted him the title “Duc de Dantzig” in a letter to the Senate dated 28 May, [8] but he did not inform him directly, merely noting to the marshal on 29 May,

I am […] very satisfied with your services, and I have already given proof of this, which you will discover when you read the latest news from Paris and which will leave you in no doubt as to my opinion of you. [9]

On 9 September 1807, Napoleon established the Free City of Danzig, as a semi-independent state. This territory was carved out from lands that made up part of the Kingdom of Prussia, consisting of the city of Danzig (now known as Gdańsk) along with its rural possessions on the mouth of Vistula, together with the Hel Peninsula and the southern half of the Vistula Spit. From late January to 29 November 1813, Russian forces laid siege to the city and the French occupying forces withdrew on 2 January 1814.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Rothenberg G. E. The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon. Indiana University Press, 1978. P. 219
  2. 1 2 3 Summerville C. Napoleon's Polish Gamble: Eylau & Friedland 1807. Pen and Sword, 2005. P. 102
  3. 1 2 Summerville C. Napoleon's Polish Gamble: Eylau & Friedland 1807. Pen and Sword, 2005. P. 106
  4. 1 2 3 Summerville C. Napoleon's Polish Gamble: Eylau & Friedland 1807. Pen and Sword, 2005. P. 104
  5. (Correspondence no. 11,826)
  6. (Correspondence 12208).
  7. Correspondence no. 12,629
  8. Correspondence, no. 12,666
  9. Correspondence, no. 12,683

Coordinates: 54°22′00″N18°38′00″E / 54.366667°N 18.633333°E / 54.366667; 18.633333