Battle of Heilsberg

The Battle of Heilsberg took place on 10 June 1807, during the Napoleonic Wars.[3]

Battle of Heilsberg
Part of the War of the Fourth Coalition
BattleOfHeilsberg

Battle of Heilsberg. Etching by unknown artist.
Date10 June 1807
Location
Result Russo–Prussian tactical victory;
French strategic victory
Belligerents
France French Empire Russia Russian Empire
Kingdom of Prussia Kingdom of Prussia
Commanders and leaders
France Joachim Murat
France Jean Lannes
Russia Levin Bennigsen
Strength
65,000[1] 53,000[1][2]
Casualties and losses
1,398 killed
10,059 wounded
864 captured[1]
6,000 killed & wounded[1][2]

Overview

On 24 May 1807, the Siege of Danzig ended when Prussian General Friedrich Adolf, Count von Kalckreuth capitulated to French Marshal François Joseph Lefebvre. With Danzig (modern day Gdańsk) secured, Napoleon was now free to turn against Bennigsen's army. Yet it was the Russian who struck first when he ordered his columns to converge on Marshal Michel Ney's exposed VI Corps on 2 June. Outnumbered 63,000 to 17,000, Ney fought a rear guard action at the Battle of Guttstadt-Deppen on 5 and 6 June. Though he lost his baggage train, two guns, and 2,042 men, Ney managed to escape to the southwest over the Pasłęka (Passarge) River with the bulk of his soldiers, leaving Bennigsen and his officers upset over the missed opportunity.

Within two days, Napoleon ordered his 190,000-man army to close in on the 100,000 Russians and 15,000 Prussians. Detecting the approaching avalanche, Bennigsen ordered his troops to retreat on Lidzbark Warmiński (Heilsberg). The Russian army took up strong defensive positions around the town, which stood on the Łyna (Alle) River. The French army, under Marshals Murat and Lannes, attacked on 10 June. Bennigsen repelled several attacks, resulting in huge French casualties, but had to withdraw towards Friedland the following day. Four days later, the decisive Battle of Friedland occurred, ending the War of the Fourth Coalition with the passing of the Treaty of Tilsit.

Influences on the battle

Geography

The Battle of Heilsberg was fought on the Alle river, known today as the Lyna. The Teutonic Castle being the focal point of the battle was held by Russian control.

Terrain

Aside from geographical advantages, the Russians had also spent three to four months compiling tactics on how to defend against a French invasion, regardless of where they would attack the castlegrounds. Defensively, the castle was supported by its bridges and walls, both of which were built along the perimeter of the castle. The land surrounding the Teutonic Castle acted as an obstacle for the French army due to the increase of elevation from the base of the river to the castles foundation. The Prussian 21st Fusiliers, commanded by Ludwig August von Stutterheim, was garrisoned there.[4]

Climate

Although the terrain was punishment enough for the French, weather also took a toll on their abilities and health. During the day, on top of the weight being carried in regards to supplies and armory, temperatures reached dangerously hot and humid levels. The dampness and bitter cold of the night also played a significant role by providing little opportunity for rest.

Strategies and tactics

Beginnings of the battle

The French were initially outnumbered by the Russians, and knowing this, positioned themselves to cut off any opportunity for the Russians to obtain reinforcements. At the beginning of the battle, French army men were separating amongst their own divisions. This tactic was thought to help block Russian sights in terms of all the French positioning and flanking. Although the woods surrounding the French had provided a perimeter of camouflage, the shrubbery did not extend to the barren field in front of the castle. It was because of the forest density, however, that dodging the Russian artillery and infantry fire was difficult to maneuver around.

Middle/end of the battle

In the midst of war, French cavalry leaders Murat, Soult, and Lannes had segregated their troops from the greater unit, which would soon result in utter failure. After such separation, the smaller units within the reserves had refused orders to flank and attack stronger sides of the Russian armies. This was partly because orders being issued by reserves of the secondary infantry, rather than Marshalls and Major Generals, were not given enough of credit of leadership in their absence. Despite both sides losing a significant number of men, each refused to withdrawal their armies. The realization of the large number of French soldiers who had already been a victim of death, and the success of the Russian defense gave Bennigsen and Napoleon little choice but to call an undocumented truce to end hostilities. This truce was focused primarily on recovery of wounded soldiers. The battle ended with medics and soldiers alike helping the wounded and retrieving the dead.

Outcome and post-war analysis

This battle is recognized as having been tactically indecisive due to neither side having gained any significant ground, it is most notably discussed as a battle that yielded little change in the balance of strength between the Russians and the French. By most accounts, this was a successful Russo-Prussian rearguard action. Napoleon never realized he faced the entire army at Heilsberg. Ney attacked prematurely and at the strongest point in the Russo-Prussian line. The Russians had built extensive fortifications on the right bank of the Alle river, but only a few minor redoubts on the left bank, yet the French advanced over the river to give battle, squandering their advantages and incurring casualties [5] The Battle of Heilsberg was fought four days before the decisive Battle of Friedland.

French Army losses

1,398 killed, 10,059 wounded, 864 captured[1] Three units lost their eagles, and Digby Smith places the losses higher than Clodfelter, at 1,398 killed, 10,059 wounded and 864 captured. Nicolas Jean-de-Dieu Soult's IV corps sustained the majority of losses: 8,286, and General François Xavier Roussel, Chief of Staff of the Imperial Guard, was killed. Three generals were wounded, and Jean Lannes' corps lost 2,284 killed and wounded.[6]

Russo-Prussian losses

Disputes over the killed and wounded remain. Clodfelter estimates 6,000 killed and wounded.[1][2] In addition, generals Koschin, Warneck, and Pahlen were killed; Dmitry Dokhturov, Werdrevski, Fock, Zakhar Dmitrievich Olsufiev, Duka, Laptiev, Passeck and Duke Charles of Mecklenburg were wounded. The Russian commander, Bennigsen was sick all day, but remained on his horse despite falling off unconscious several times. Digby Smith says that the Russian Prussian force lost 2-300 dead, and about 5-6000 wounded, and they lost two guns.[7]

Phase 1 Phase 2 Battle picture by Knötel
Heilsberg Heilsberg2 Schlacht bei Heilsberg 1807

Notable officers of the French Army present were:

Notable officers of the Russian Army present were:

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Clodfelter M. Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Reference to Casualty and Other Figures, 1500-2000. McFarland, 2002. P. 169
  2. ^ a b c Roberts A. Napoleon: A Life. Penguin Group. 2014. P. 450
  3. ^ Theodore A. Dodge (2001). Napoleon: A History of the Art of War. Adamant Media. ISBN 1-4021-9517-6.
  4. ^ German Canadian Museum, Schlacht von Jena - Auerstedt 1806, ISBN 9781894643108 p. 247.
  5. ^ Digby Smith. The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill, 1998. ISBN 978-1853672767 pp. 247–248.
  6. ^ Smith, p. 247.
  7. ^ Smith, p. 248.

External links

Coordinates: 54°07′00″N 20°35′00″E / 54.1167°N 20.5833°E

1807 in France

Events from the year 1807 in France.

Aleksey Gorchakov

Prince Aleksey Ivanovich Gorchakov (20 May [O.S. 31 May] 1769 – 12 December [O.S. 24 December] 1817) was a Russian general and statesman from the Gorchakov family.

Alexandre, vicomte Digeon

Alexander Elisabeth Michel vicomte Digeon, (27 June 1771 – 2 August 1826) fought in the French Revolutionary Wars in the cavalry. He became a general officer during the Napoleonic Wars, fighting in a number of important battles. After 1814, he gave his loyalty to the Bourbon Restoration and briefly served as Minister of War.

Antoine Charles Louis de Lasalle

Antoine-Charles-Louis, Comte de Lasalle (10 May 1775, Metz – 6 July 1809, Wagram) was a French cavalry general during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, often called "The Hussar General". He first gained fame for his role in the Capitulation of Stettin. Over the course of his short career, he became known as a daring adventurer and was credited with many exploits. Eventually, he fought on every front and was killed at the Battle of Wagram.

Antonio Franconi

Antonio Franconi (1737 in Venice, Italy - 1836 in Paris, France) was an Italian equestrian.

He started as a juggler and wandering physician, then arranged bullfights in Lyon and Bordeaux. In 1783, he associated with the English horse rider Philip Astley who had opened a riding school in Paris and founded an equestrian theater named Cirque Olympique (French, Olympic circus), which acquired an impressive reputation.

His sons and grandsons continued to attract the public with the talent of their squired and the perfection of their showmanship in their fantasy and military plays. The last famous squire bearing this name was Laurent Franconi who died in 1849.

Napoleon once remarked acidly to his marshal Joachim Murat, who was gayly attired in an extravagant Polish uniform after the Battle of Heilsberg in 1807, that he looked like Franconi ("Vous avez l'air de Franconi").

Armand Lebrun de La Houssaye

Armand Lebrun de la Houssaye (20 October 1768–19 June 1848) led a cavalry division during the First French Empire of Napoleon. He joined the army of the First French Republic in 1791 and fought at Kaiserslautern in 1793. He was appointed to lead a hussar regiment the following year. Promoted to general officer in 1804, he led a heavy cavalry brigade at Austerlitz, Eylau, and Heilsberg and a division at Friedland. Transferred to Spain, he commanded a dragoon division under Marshal Nicolas Soult at Corunna, Braga, First and Second Porto, and Arzobispo in 1809. In 1812 he led a cavalry division in the III Cavalry Corps during the French invasion of Russia where he was badly wounded at Borodino. While recovering in the hospital, he was captured by the Russians and held until the peace in 1814. Lahoussaye is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe on Column 6.

Chevalier Guard Regiment

The Chevalier Guard Regiment (Russian: Кавалергардский полк) was a Russian heavy cavalry guard regiment, created in 1800 by the reformation of the Chevalier Guard corps, itself created in 1764 by Catherine the Great. As other Russian heavy cavalry guard regiments (the Life-Guards Horse Regiment, His Majesty's Life-Guards Cuirassier Regiment, and Her Majesty's Life-Guards Cuirassier Regiment), the Chevalier Guards were equipped as cuirassiers (with some differences in uniform and equipment from army cuirassiers and other guard cuirassier regiments).

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François Amable Ruffin

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Gorchakov

Gorchakov, or Gortchakoff (Russian: Горчако́в), is a Russian princely family of Rurikid stock, descended from the Rurikid sovereigns of Peremyshl, Russia.

Heilsberg

Heilsberg may refer to:

German name of Lidzbark Warmiński

Battle of Heilsberg

Transmitter Heilsberg

Jean-Louis-Brigitte Espagne

Jean-Louis-Brigitte Espagne, Count d'Espagne and of the Empire (born 16 February 1769 in Auch, died 21 May 1809 on the island of Lobau) was a French cavalry commander of the French Revolutionary Wars, who rose to the top military rank of General of Division and took part to the Napoleonic Wars.

Jean-de-Dieu Soult

Marshal General Jean-de-Dieu Soult, 1st Duke of Dalmatia, (French: [ʒɑ̃dədjø sult]; 29 March 1769 – 26 November 1851) was a French general and statesman, named Marshal of the Empire in 1804 and often called Marshal Soult. Soult was one of only six officers in French history to receive the distinction of Marshal General of France. The Duke also served three times as President of the Council of Ministers, or Prime Minister of France.

Soult's intrigues while occupying Portugal earned him the nickname, "King Nicolas", and while he was Napoleon's military governor of Andalusia, Soult looted 1.5 million francs worth of art. One historian called him "a plunderer in the world class."

List of Napoleonic battles

This list includes all those battles which were fought throughout the Napoleonic era, April 1796 – 3 July 1815.

Ludwig August von Stutterheim

Ludwig August von Stutterheim served Frederick the Great and his successors in the War of Bavarian Succession, the Kościuszko Uprising, and the wars of the Fourth and Sixth coalitions. In 1794 he earned the prestigious Pour le Mérite award for his distinguished actions. He was promoted major general in 1807 after courageous behavior at the Battle of Eylau. He became a lieutenant general in 1811 and general of the infantry in 1824.

Nikolay Kamensky

Count Nikolay Mikhailovich Kamensky (Russian: Никола́й Миха́йлович Каме́нский; 27 December 1776 – 4 May 1811) was a Russian general who outlived his father, Field Marshal Mikhail Kamensky, by two years.

Pyotr Papkov

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Marie-Victor-Nicolas de Faÿ, marquis de La Tour-Maubourg (22 May 1768 at Château de La Motte-de-Galaure, near Grenoble – 11 November 1850 at Dammarie-lès-Lys, Île-de-France) was a French cavalry military commander under France's Ancien Régime before rising to prominence during the First French Empire.

Under the Restoration, he served as a diplomat and parliamentarian; after being created a Marquis, he was also briefly in government as Minister of War between 1819 and 1821.

Zakhar Dmitrievich Olsufiev

Zakhar Dmitrievich Olsufiev (Russian: Захар Дмитриевич Олсуфьев) (1773 – 1835) was a Russian infantry Lieutenant General during the reigns of tsars Paul I and Alexander I.

In 1805 he commanded a brigade at Austerlitz and in 1807 he was wounded at Eylau and Heilsberg. In 1812 he commanded the 17th Division at Borodino and Vyazma. After being promoted to head the 9th Infantry Corps, he fought at the Katzbach and Leipzig in 1813 and at Brienne and La Rothière in 1814. On 10 February 1814, he commanded a 5,000-man Russian infantry corps during the Battle of Champaubert in an attempt to stop a 30,000-man army under Napoleon. His small corps was effectively destroyed and he became a French prisoner of war.

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