The Battle of Leipzig or Battle of the Nations (Russian: Битва народов, Bitva narodov; German: Völkerschlacht bei Leipzig; French: Bataille des Nations, Swedish: Slaget vid Leipzig) was fought from 16 to 19 October 1813, at Leipzig, Saxony. The coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden, led by Tsar Alexander I of Russia and Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg, decisively defeated the French army of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French. 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 600,000 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.
Decisively defeated for the first time in battle, Napoleon was compelled to return to France while the Coalition kept up their momentum, dissolving the Confederation of the Rhine and invading France early the next year. Napoleon was forced to abdicate and was exiled to Elba in May 1814.
|Battle of Leipzig|
|Part of the War of the Sixth Coalition|
Russian, Austrian, and Prussian troops in Leipzig.
Painting by Alexander Sauerweid
|Commanders and leaders|
Prince of Schwarzenberg
Gebhard von Blücher
Crown Prince Charles John
Count von Bennigsen
Józef Poniatowski †
Frederick Augustus I of Saxony (POW)
Army of Bohemia
Army of the North
Army of Silesia
Army of Poland
|Casualties and losses|
54,000 killed and wounded:|
34,000 (Army of Bohemia)
12,000 (Army of Silesia)
4,000 (Army of the North)
4,000 (Army of Poland)
The French Emperor Napoleon I attempted to militarily coerce Tsar Alexander I of Russia into rejoining his unpopular Continental System by invading Russia with about 650,000 troops, collectively known as the Grande Armée, and eventually occupied Moscow in late 1812, after the bloody yet indecisive Battle of Borodino. However, the Russian Tsar refused to surrender even as the French occupied the city, which was burnt by the time of its occupation. The campaign ended in complete disaster as Napoleon and his remaining forces retreated during the bitterly cold Russian winter, with sickness, starvation, and the constant harrying of Russian Cossack marauders and partisan forces leaving the Grande Armée virtually destroyed by the time it exited Russian territory. Making matters even worse for Napoleon, in June 1813 the combined armies of Great Britain, Portugal, and Spain, under the command of Britain's Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington, had decisively routed French forces at the Battle of Vitoria in the Peninsular War, and were now advancing towards the Pyrenees and the Franco-Spanish border. With this string of defeats, the armies of France were in retreat on all fronts across Europe.
Anti-French forces joined Russia as its troops pursued the remnants of the virtually destroyed Grande Armée across central Europe. The allies regrouped as the Sixth Coalition, comprising Russia, Austria, Prussia, Sweden, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, and certain smaller German states whose citizens and leaders were no longer loyal to the French emperor. Napoleon hurried back to France and managed to mobilize an army about the size of the one he had lost in Russia, but severe economic hardship and news of battlefield reverses had led to war-weariness and growing unrest among France's citizenry.
Despite opposition at home, Napoleon rebuilt his army, with the intention of either inducing a temporary alliance or at least cessation of hostilities, or knocking at least one of the Great Powers of the Coalition out of the war. He sought to regain the offensive by re-establishing his hold in Germany, winning two hard-fought tactical victories, at Lützen on 2 May and Bautzen on 20–21 May, over Russo-Prussian forces. The victories led to a brief armistice. He then won a major victory at the Battle of Dresden on 27 August. Following this, the Coalition forces, under individual command of Gebhard von Blücher, Crown Prince Charles John of Sweden, Karl von Schwarzenberg, and Count Benningsen of Russia, followed the strategy outlined in the Trachenberg Plan: they would avoid clashes with Napoleon, but seek confrontations with his marshals. This policy led to victories at Großbeeren, Kulm, Katzbach, and Dennewitz. After these defeats, the French emperor could not easily follow up on his victory at Dresden. Thinly-stretched supply lines spanning now somewhat hostile Rhineland German lands, coupled with Bavaria's switching of sides to the Coalition just eight days prior to the battle, made it almost impossible to replace his army's losses of 150,000 men, 300 guns and 50,000 sick.
With the intention of knocking Prussia out of the war as soon as possible, Napoleon sent Marshal Nicolas Oudinot to take the Prussian capital of Berlin with an army of 60,000. Oudinot was defeated at the Battle of Großbeeren, just south of the city. With the intact Prussian force threatening from the north, Napoleon was compelled to withdraw westward. He crossed the Elbe with much of his army between late September and early October, and organized his forces around Leipzig, to protect his crucial supply lines and oppose the converging Coalition armies arrayed against him. He deployed his army around the city, but concentrated his force from Taucha through Stötteritz, where he placed his command. The Prussians advanced from Wartenburg, the Austrians and Russians from Dresden (which they had recently retaken, after the Battle of Kulm), and the Swedish force from the north.
The French had around 160,000 soldiers along with 700 guns plus 15,000 Poles, 10,000 Italians, and 40,000 Germans belonging to the Confederation of the Rhine, totaling to 225,000 troops on the Napoleonic side. The coalition had some 380,000 troops along with 1,500 guns, consisting of 145,000 Russians, 115,000 Austrians, 90,000 Prussians, and 30,000 Swedes. This made Leipzig the largest battle of the Napoleonic wars, surpassing Borodino, Wagram, Jena and Auerstadt, Ulm, and Dresden.
The French Grande Armée, under the supreme command of Emperor Napoleon, was in a weakened state; the majority of his troops now consisted of teenagers and inexperienced men conscripted shortly after the near destruction of the Grande Armée in Russia. Napoleon conscripted these men to be readied for an even larger campaign against the newly formed Sixth Coalition and its forces stationed in Germany. While he won several preliminary battles, his army was being steadily depleted as Coalition commanders, closely following the Trachenberg Plan, systematically defeated his marshals. The French Imperial cavalry was similarly insufficient, making it difficult for Napoleon to keep his eyes on his lines of communications or even scout enemy positions, a fact which influenced the outcome of the Battle of Großbeeren and others during the German campaign.
The Coalition army was organized into four army-level commands: the Austrian Army of Bohemia under Karl von Schwarzenberg, the Prussian Army of Silesia under Gebhard von Blücher, the Russian Army of Poland under Levin August, Count von Bennigsen and the combined Swedish, Russian, and Prussian Army of the North under Swedish Crown Prince Charles John Bernadotte. The Swedes also had under their command a company of the British Rocket Brigade armed with Congreve rockets, under the command of Captain Richard Bogue.
Despite being outnumbered, Napoleon planned to take the offensive between the Pleisse and the Parthe rivers. The position at Leipzig held several advantages for his army and his battle strategy. The rivers that converged there split the surrounding terrain into four separate sectors. Holding Leipzig and its bridges, Napoleon could shift troops from one sector to another far more rapidly than could the Allies, who had difficulty moving such large numbers of troops into a single sector.
The northern front was defended by Marshals Michel Ney and Auguste de Marmont, and the eastern front by Marshal Jacques MacDonald. The artillery reserve and parks, ambulances, and baggage stood near Leipzig, which Napoleon made his supply base for the battle. The bridges on the Pleisse and White Elster rivers were defended by infantry and a few guns. The main battery stood in reserve, and during battle was to be deployed on the Gallows Height. This battery was to be commanded by the artillery expert Antoine Drouot. The western flank of the French positions at Wachau and Liebertwolkwitz was defended by Prince Joseph Poniatowski and Marshal Pierre Augereau and his young French conscripts.
Three monarchs of the continental Coalition powers were present in the field, with Tsar Alexander I of Russia at the head of the three along with King Frederick William III of Prussia and Emperor Francis I of Austria, and a substantial staff supported the Coalition commanders. Tsar Alexander I was also the supreme commander of all Coalition forces in the eastern front of the war, while Prince Schwarzenberg of Austria was the commander-in-chief of all Coalition forces in the German theatre. For the Tsar, this was the second time that he had filled in as a battlefield commander since Austerlitz almost a decade earlier during the War of the Third Coalition. Initially, the command was plagued with incompetence and petty rivalries, and its operations were prone to the vanities of the monarchs, especially from the Russian emperor, but these largely evaporated as the battle raged on, with the command largely centering on the two main commanders during the battle.
There was a drafting of the battle plan, with marshals Prince Volkonsky of Russia, Johan Christopher Toll of Sweden, Karl Friedrich von dem Knesebeck and Gerhard von Scharnhorst of Prussia taking part in the planning. After the first plan was drafted, Schwarzenberg submitted it to the monarchs. However, Alexander, the Russian emperor, complained about his incompetence in terms of battle planning upon seeing the plan for himself. Upon learning of Schwarzenberg's main plan — to call for a secondary attack on the bridge between Leipzig and Lindenau to be led by Blücher and Gyulay, and a main attack astride the Pleiße river to be led by Merveldt, Hessen-Homburg and the Prussian Guard, he insisted that this was a disastrous tactic as it would not permit the Coalition army to fully encircle and outflank that of Napoleon or at least decisively defeat and destroy his army. Alexander thought the plan would potentially allow Napoleon to break the Coalition battle line at one point and then concentrate forces in the gap thus created and the weakened sectors; this would possibly give Napoleon a chance to regain the strategic initiative in Germany. The Prussian King attempted to opine to the Tsar but could do nothing so he treated the discussion as if it was none of his concern. Later events in the battle proved the Tsar's judgments correct. The action he had ordered Blücher to take met with great success north of Leipzig and the actions of the Russian Guard was decisive in halting the French all-out attack on Gulden Gossa in the south. On the other hand, the actions of the Austrians along Pleisse River, part of Schwarzenberg's initial plan, ended in failure.
However, not willing to plan the battle by himself as he had done during his disastrous defeat at Austerlitz almost a decade earlier, Alexander had Schwarzenberg draft another battle plan based on his thoughts and views. Schwarzenberg then drafted another plan that was largely designed to let everyone do as they pleased. The plan was as follows: Blücher's axis of advance was to be shifted northward to the Halle road, the Russian and Prussian guards and the Russian heavy cavalry was to be amassed at Rotha in general reserve. The Austrian grenadiers and cuirassiers would advance between the rivers. This strategy would ensure the encirclement of the French army in Leipzig and its vicinity, or at least inflict heavy losses upon them to assure the needed decisive results. Seemingly, though somewhat reluctantly, convinced, Alexander soon agreed to his plan, and he then ordered him to tell the other commanders to follow the plan.
The allied offensives achieved little and were soon forced back, but Napoleon's outnumbered forces were unable to break the allied lines, resulting in a hard-fought stalemate.
The Austrian II Corps, commanded by General von Merveldt, advanced towards Connewitz via Gautzsch and attempted to attack the position. By the time Napoleon arrived on the battlefield along with the Young Guard and some Chasseurs, Merveldt found that the avenue of advance was well covered by the French battery and some skirmishers who had occupied the houses there and did not permit the Austrians to deploy their artillery in support of the attack. Merveldt himself in an unlucky turn was wounded and captured by the French after he went straight into the Saxon-Polish lines at the Pleiße river. Repulsed, the Austrians then moved to attack nearby Dölitz, down a road crossed by two bridges and leading to a manor house and a mill. Two companies of the 24th Regiment ousted the small Polish garrison and took the position. A prompt counterattack by the Saxons and Poles ejected the Austrian troops and the battle seesawed until the Austrians brought up a strong artillery battery and blew the Poles out of the position. The Poles suffered heavy casualties during their furious defense and set fire to both the manor and the mill during their retreat.
General Kleist, moving along the Pleiße, attacked Marshals Poniatowski and Augereau in the village of Markkleeberg. The Austrians repaired a bridge and took a school building and manor. The French counterattacked, throwing the Austrians out of the school and back over the river. French attacks on the manor only resulted in mounting casualties for the French and Poles. The Russian 14th Division began a series of flanking attacks that forced the Poles out of Markkleeberg. Marshal Poniatowski stopped the retreat and the advancing Russians. Catching four battalions of the Prussian 12th Brigade in the open, Poniatowski directed attacks by artillery and cavalry until they were relieved by Russian hussars. Marshal Poniatowski retook Markkleeberg, but was thrown out by two Prussian battalions. Austrian grenadiers then formed in front of Markkleeberg and drove the Poles and French out of the area with a flank attack.
The Russian II Infantry Corps attacked Wachau near Leipzig with support from the Prussian 9th Brigade. The Russians advanced, unaware that French forces were waiting. The French took them by surprise on the flank, mauling them. The Prussians entered Wachau, engaging in street-to-street fighting. French artillery blasted the Prussians out of Wachau and the French recovered the village.
Liebertwolkwitz was a large village in a commanding position, defended by Marshal MacDonald and General Lauriston with about 18,000 men. Johann von Klenau's Austrian IV Corps attacked with 24,500 men backed up by Pirth's 10th Brigade (4,550) and Ziethen's 11th Brigade (5,365). The Austrians attacked first, driving the French out of Liebertwolkwitz after hard fighting, only to be driven out in turn by a French counterattack. Russian General Württemberg was notable for his extreme bravery directing his troops under fire. At this point, Napoleon directed General Drouot to form a grand battery of 150 guns on Gallows hill. This was done and the guns blasted the exposed Russian II corps, forcing the Prussian battalions supporting it to take cover.
The hole had now been opened as Napoleon wished and at this point, Marshal Murat was unleashed with 10,000 French, Italian, and Saxon cavalry. However, Murat's choice of massive columns for the attack formation was unfortunate for the French force, as smaller mobile formations of Russian, Prussian, and Austrian cavalry were able to successfully harass Murat's Division, driving them back to their own artillery, where they were saved by the French Guard Dragoons. The young Guard Division was sent in to drive out the allies and give Napoleon his breakthrough. They recaptured both Liebertwolkwitz and Wachau, but the Allies countered with Russian Guard and Austrian grenadiers backed by Russian cuirassiers. The units lived up to their elite reputation, forming squares that blasted French cavalrymen from their horses and overran the French artillery batteries. On the southern front, although Napoleon gained ground, he could not break the Allied lines.
The northern front opened with the attack by General Langeron's Russian Corps on the villages of Groß-Wiederitzsch and Klein-Wiederitzsch in the centre of the French northern lines. This position was defended by General Dabrowski's Polish division of four infantry battalions and two cavalry battalions. At first sign of the attack, the Polish division attacked. The battle wavered back and forth with attacks and counterattacks. General Langeron rallied his forces and finally took both villages with heavy casualties.
The northern front was dominated by the battle of Möckern. This was a four phase battle and saw hard fighting from both sides. A manor, palace, walled gardens, and low walls dominated the village. Each position was turned into a fortress with the walls being loopholed for covered fire by the French. The ground to the west of the position was too wooded and swampy for emplacement of artillery. A dike ran east along the river Elster being four metres high. Marshal Auguste Marmont brought up infantry columns behind the positions in reserve and for quick counter-attack against any fallen position. Blücher commanded Langeron's (Russian) and Yorck's (Prussian) corps against Marmont's VI Corps. When the battle hung in the balance, Marmont ordered a cavalry charge, but his commander refused to attack. Later, an attack by Prussian hussars caused serious loss to the French defenders. The battle lasted well into the night. Artillery caused the majority of the 9,000 Allied and 7,000 French casualties, and the French lost another 2,000 prisoners.
In the western front, the Austrian III Corps under general Giulay attacked the suburb of Lindenau and had success at first, forcing Marshal Michel Ney to divert Bertrand's IV Corps to hold the position. But soon the French held, the fighting later ground down into a stalemate, and the Austrians were driven back not far from the village. However, for the French, there was also a negative strategic consequence for this minor success; this French corps was needed by Napoleon for his attacks on the main Austro-Russian armies positioned at the south, and since they did not take part in the attack as they were that time engaging the Austrians in Lindenau, his attack failed.
There were only two actions on 17 October, one an attack by the Russian General Sacken on General Dabrowski's Polish Division at the village of Gohlis. In the end, the numbers and determination of the Russians prevailed and the Poles retired to Pfaffendorf. Blücher, who was made a field marshal the day before, ordered General Lanskoi's Russian 2nd Hussar Division to attack General Arrighi's III Cavalry corps. As they had the day before the Sixth Coalition's cavalry proved to be superior, driving the French away with great losses.
The French received only 14,000 troops as reinforcements. On the other hand, the coalition was strengthened by the arrival of 145,000 troops divided into two armies, one commanded by Russian General von Bennigsen from the Army of Bohemia's first line and the other, the Army of the North which consisted mainly of Swedish troops, commanded by Prince Charles John of Sweden.
It was evident that the Allies would encircle Napoleon and his army, and he knew that not retreating from the battle would mean capitulation for his entire army, which by this time were starting to run out of supplies and ammunition. So Napoleon began to examine whether the roads and bridges of Lindenau could be used to withdraw his troops, or at the very least to secure a bridgehead crossing on the Pleisse river. However, he was not yet in the mood for withdrawing as he thought to achieve one more great victory for France. He also thought that a strong, formidable rear guard in Leipzig itself could repulse any Allied assault, which could buy him and his forces more time to withdraw from the battle.
During this time Napoleon sent General von Merveldt, who had been captured two days earlier, back to the Allies on parole. Merveldt was given a letter to Tsar Alexander I, Prussian King Frederick William III, and Austrian Emperor Francis I in which Napoleon offered to surrender to the Coalition the fortresses he held along the Oder and Vistula, on the condition that the allies allow him to withdraw to a position behind the Saale. He added that, if approved, they should sign an armistice and undertake peace negotiations. However, all the monarchs declined the offer.
The Coalition launched a huge assault from all sides, this time completely encircling Napoleon's army. In over nine hours of fighting, in which both sides suffered heavy casualties, only the resilience and bravery of the French troops prevented a breakthrough, but they were slowly forced back towards Leipzig. The Sixth Coalition had Field Marshal Blücher (Prussian) and Crown Prince Charles John of Sweden to the north, the Generals Barclay De Tolly, von Bennigsen (both Russian), and Prince von Hessen-Homburg (Austrian) to the south, and Giulay (Austrian) to the west.
The Prussian 9th brigade occupied the abandoned village of Wachau while the Austrians, with General Bianchi's Hungarians, threw the French out of Lößnig. The Austrians proceeded to give a demonstration of combined arms cooperation as Austrian cavalry attacked French infantry to give Austrian infantry time to arrive and deploy in the attack on Dölitz. The Young Guard Division threw them out. At this point, three Austrian grenadier battalions began to contest for the village with artillery support.
The bloodiest fighting of the battle occurred in Probstheida, a village just southeast of Leipzig. Here, about 60,000 soldiers under Barclay de Tolly were marching and advancing towards the village in two columns, one Prussian under von Kleist advancing through Wachau, and one Russian under Wittgenstein advancing through Liebertwolkwitz. Barclay was pressured by the monarchs, especially the Russian tsar, to take the village since it was the key to the positions of Napoleon's troops, and although von Kleist opposed this, the monarchs' orders were paramount, so Barclay had to follow their orders anyway.
The French dispositions at the village, however, were heavily fortified, thanks to the high and thick garden walls that gave excellent protection for the French infantry. The defense was also strengthened with artillery and strong infantry reserves behind the village. A day earlier the Russians had taken most of the losses incurred during the battle, so it was the Prussians who took the initiative.
The Prussian jägers attempted to enter the village by storm but were quickly driven back. Then the artillery of both sides opened fire upon the village; despite the enormous amount of artillery that the Coalition had brought with them, the more powerful French Imperial Guard Artillery gradually gained the upper hand. The Prussians conducted a series of attacks against the French positions at the village, but because the French artillery repulsed each attack, their efforts were in vain. The French cuirassiers, under Murat, charged upon the weakened Prussian lines and drove them back. Counter-charges by the numerous Russian cavalry saved the infantry by repeatedly driving back the French cavalry, albeit with heavy losses. The Prussians again conducted a charge upon French lines, but this charge was less successful than the first one. The third assault was now conducted, this time, by the Russians, commanded by Raevsky, the hero of Borodino who had arrived a few days earlier from his homeland after a delay due to sickness. The assault on the village was somewhat more successful than the first two, taking the gardens and destroying several French infantry units, but it was eventually driven back by the French Imperial Guard, who had just arrived at the scene. Despite von Schwarzenberg's request that the Russian Tsar send the Russian Guard, the tsar ordered that more assaults were to be undertaken against the village. However, despite their successful, stubborn defense, the French were now in dire straits as they were dangerously short of manpower, and thus the fighting became only a hollow tactical victory for them.
During that morning, Sweden's Bernadotte and Prussia's Blücher held a conference in Breitenfeld. It was agreed that Bernadotte's Army of the North would pass the Parthe river at Taucha with a reinforcement of 30,000 men drawn from Blücher's Army of Silesia. Blücher agreed to dispatch Langeron's army corps, and to renounce his rank and his rights as army commander, putting himself at the head of his Prussians. The advance of the Army of the North towards Leipzig had been slow, purportedly because Bernadotte had received word that Napoleon planned a renewed attack towards Berlin after his marshals' failure to take the city in the battles of Grossbeeren and Dennewitz.
Platov's Russian heavy artillery began to fire on the Saxons around Paunsdorf. Langeron placed pontoon bridges over the Parthe river and a flying bridge via Mockau; large masses of troops had now moved to the east bank of the river. Meanwhile, Russian and Austrian forces began attacking French and Saxon positions in Paunsdorf, but after counterattacks by French infantry and deadly canister shots from Franco-Saxon batteries, were driven back. After being driven back, the Coalition troops were pursued by French infantry before being counterattacked by Austrian hussar and Grenzer cavalries, in turn driving the French back. The town itself was still held by five Franco-Saxon battalions. Richard Bogue, captain of the British Rocket Brigade, advanced with his unit and began firing Congreve rockets into the town, causing the defenders to fall back in disorder. Bogue, seizing the moment, charged at the head of his escort squadron of cavalry; this small force was in turn being driven out of the village when a barrage of rockets fired in close support again caused the French troops to break ranks. The French fell back to Sellerhausen pursued by two Prussian battalions, while the Rocket Brigade formed on the left of a Russian battery and began firing on the retiring columns, causing near-panic. At this time, Captain Bogue was shot in the head by a skirmisher. Shortly after, the reserve French Young and Old Guard drove the allies out of Paunsdorf again, but eventually Ney judged the position untenable and ordered a withdrawal.
More heavy fighting occurred in Schönefeld. Coalition troops repeatedly assaulted French positions there, but were forced back. French infantry attacks on Coalition positions produced similar results. Repeated assaults by Russian musketeers and grenadiers under General Langeron finally drove the French out of Schönefeld. The heavy fighting in Paunsdorf and Schönefeld set both villages on fire.
In the meantime, at the behest of his Swedish officers, who felt embarrassed that they had not participated in the battle, the Crown Prince Charles John gave the order for his light infantry to participate in the final assault on Leipzig itself. The Swedish jägers performed very well, losing only about 121 men in the attack.
On the western front, the French IV Corps under Bertrand finally drove the Austrian III Corps under Gyulay away from Lindenau. This broke the encirclement which the Coalition forces earlier had made against the Grande Armee, clearing the way for its retreat which would take place later the next day.
During the fighting, 5,400 Saxons of Jean Reynier's VII Corps defected to the Coalition, specifically Bernadotte's Army of the North due to the esteem the Saxons had for the former French marshal. Four years prior, Bernadotte, while still a French Marshal, had commanded the wholly Saxon IX Corps during the Battle of Wagram where his mild and courteous behavior toward them in the weeks prior, along with a controversial Order of the Day praising their courage after the battle, greatly endeared Bernadotte to them. . At first French officers saw the Saxons' rushing towards the advancing Prussians as a charge, but treachery became evident as they saw the Saxons asking the Prussians to join with them for the impending assault. Reynier himself witnessed this, and he rallied the remaining Saxons at his disposal, but to no avail, because Württemberg's cavalry also deserted from the French; this forced the French line in Paunsdorf to fall back.
The battle during the day of 18 October was one of attrition. French troops held on to their respective positions, but were steadily being worn out and depleted by fierce and intensifying Coalition attacks throughout the day. The French artillery had only 20,000 rounds left. Later that night, Napoleon was treating the battle as a lost cause. At this time, he promoted Poniatowski to the rank of Maréchal d'Empire or Imperial Marshal, the only foreigner of all his marshals who was given this title, and the latter swore that he would fight to the last stand, which he did. After this, the Emperor began to stage the retreat for the Grande Armée westward across the Elster River.
During the night the French army had been ordered to withdraw silently from Connewitz, Probstheida, Stotteritz, Volkmansdorf, and Reudnitz, all to cross the river via Leipzig and the single bridge in the river. Those in Lindenau were to move to Weissenfels. Weak rear guards occupied the villages in order to conceal the retreat, and support troops were placed in the outer suburbs by the wind mills and near the walls of the city. The garden and cemetery walls by the Grimma Gate were pierced with loopholes as well as the gates themselves. Skirmishers were posted in the farm houses, in the brush, in the parks, and everywhere possible. Leipzig was to be occupied by the Reynier's VII Corps, Poniatowski's VIII Corps and Macdonald's XI Corps. They were ordered to hold it for a day or a bit longer, in order to allow the rest of the army, its artillery, and its equipment sufficient time to effect the evacuation. The Coalition cavalry advance posts were ordered to attack without relief the French advanced posts during the night to determine whether or not the French were attempting to withdraw. However, they failed to realize that the French were, in fact, pulling out from the battle area. Therefore, the evacuation continued throughout the night.
The Coalition only learned of the French evacuation at 7:00 on the morning of the 19 October. Soon thereafter between 8:00–9:00 am they launched a full-scale assault from the north, south and east against the then-retreating French. But they were held up in Leipzig because of a ferocious street-to-street rearguard action fought by Oudinot's 30,000 troops. As the Russians and Prussians entered the city through the Halle and Grimma gates they fell upon barricades and houses full of French soldiers. Civilians were forced into hiding as the bloody urban combat raged through the city.
Napoleon's retreat continued smoothly until early afternoon when General Dulauloy, tasked with destroying the only bridge over the Elster, delegated the task to a Colonel Montfort. The colonel then passed this responsibility to a corporal, who was unaware of the carefully planned time schedule. The NCO ignited the fuses at 1:00 in the afternoon while the bridge was still crowded with retreating French troops and Oudinot's rearguard was still in Leipzig. The explosion and subsequent panic caused a rout that resulted in the deaths of thousands of French troops and the capture of 30,000 others. Oudinot managed to swim his way across but Marshal Poniatowski, hampered by his wounds, was one of the many who drowned while attempting to cross the river.
By the end of the battle at the afternoon of 19 October, the remnants of the French army had crossed the Elster River and begun a well-ordered retreat. The battle had ended conclusively and decisively with the nations of the Coalition as the victors, and the German Campaign was a complete failure for the French, although they achieved a minor victory when an army of the Kingdom of Bavaria attempted to block the retreat of the Grande Armée at Hanau. The heavy casualties the Coalition army had incurred and their exhaustion from the bloody 4-day battle they fought made it impossible for them to promptly pursue the retreating Grande Armée, the French were also already very exhausted after the battle, and were themselves retreating at a fast pace towards the Rhine River.
The battle of Leipzig was the bloodiest in the history of the Napoleonic Wars. Over 200,000 rounds of artillery ammunition had been expended. Casualties on both sides were astoundingly high, such that locals had a hard time disposing of the corpses, and corpses were still visible the next year. Estimates range from 80,000 to 110,000 total killed, wounded or missing. Napoleon lost about 38,000 killed and wounded. The Allies captured 15,000 able-bodied Frenchmen, 21,000 wounded or sick, 325 cannon and 28 eagles, standards or colours, most of the French supply trains and stores and had received the men of the deserting, formerly pro-French German divisions. Among the dead was Marshal Józef Antoni Poniatowski, a nephew to the last king of Poland, Stanisław August Poniatowski. The Pole, who had received his marshal's baton just the previous day, was commanding the rear guard during the French retreat and drowned as he attempted to cross the river. Corps commanders Lauriston and Reynier were captured. Six French generals were killed, 12 wounded and 36 captured.
Out of a total force of 430,000, the Allies suffered approximately 54,000 casualties. Schwarzenberg's Bohemian Army lost 34,000, Blücher's Silesian Army lost 12,000, while Bernadotte's Army of the North and Bennigsen's Army of Poland lost about 4,000 each.
A year ago all Europe marched with us; today all Europe marches against us.— Napoleon.
The battle ended the First French Empire's presence east of the Rhine and brought the German states over to the Coalition. It also dealt a harsh blow to Napoleon himself, who was decisively defeated in battle for the first time in the Napoleonic Wars (although he had suffered a lesser defeat in 1809 at the Battle of Aspern-Essling), severely damaging his reputation as a military genius. Tsar Alexander now urged all of his subordinate commanders including those of Prussia, Austria and other nations to push the gigantic Coalition army on the offensive after the battle, and, having decisively won the battle, was more than ever determined to carry the war onto French soil.
Three weeks after Leipzig, Napoleon arrived at Saint-Cloud to organize the defense of France. The time he went back to Paris at the year's end, his first words on entering the Senate, after his return from the battle disaster, sad and low in mood, were, "A year ago all Europe marched with us; today all Europe marches against us." Half a million troops had been lost in the German Campaign of 1813.
With the German states of the Confederation of the Rhine defecting to the Coalition cause and Prussia officially once again becoming one of the continent's great powers after their severe setbacks of 1806, the Coalition army pressed its advantage and invaded France in early 1814 as the Tsar commanded. Though Napoleon repeatedly engaged some of their units during his counter-offensive campaign, he was eventually forced from the throne of France after Paris fell to the Coalition and exiled to the island of Elba; the First French Empire capitulated for the first time.
The 91-metre (299 ft) Monument to the Battle of the Nations (Völkerschlachtdenkmal) was completed in 1913 according to a design by Bruno Schmitz at a cost of six million German gold marks. The course of the battle in the city of Leipzig is marked by numerous monuments and the 50 Apel Stones that mark important lines of the French and Allied troops.
In 1829, it was reported in British newspapers that human bones from the battlefield were being collected and shipped to Scotland for use as fertilizer.
Events from the year 1642 in SwedenBattle of Breitenfeld (1642)
The Second Battle of Breitenfeld, also known as the First Battle of Leipzig, took place on 23 October 1642 at Breitenfeld, some 7.5 kilometres (4.7 mi) north-east of Leipzig, Germany, during the Thirty Years' War. The battle was a decisive victory for the Swedish army under the command of Field Marshal Lennart Torstenson over an Imperial Army of the Holy Roman Empire under the command of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria and his deputy, Prince-General Ottavio Piccolomini, Duke of Amalfi.Battle of Hanau
The Battle of Hanau was fought on (30 – 31 October 1813) between Karl Philipp von Wrede’s Austro-Bavarian corps and Napoleon's retreating French during the War of the Sixth Coalition.
Following Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Leipzig earlier in October, Napoleon began to retreat from Germany into France and relative safety. Wrede attempted to block Napoleon’s line of retreat at Hanau on 30 October. Napoleon arrived at Hanau with reinforcements and defeated Wrede’s forces. On 31 October Hanau was in French control, opening Napoleon’s line of retreat.
The Battle of Hanau was a minor battle, but an important tactical victory allowing Napoleon’s army to retreat onto French soil to recover and face the invasion of France.Confederation of the Rhine
The Confederation of the Rhine (German: Rheinbund; French: officially États confédérés du Rhin ("Confederated States of the Rhine"), but in practice Confédération du Rhin) was a confederation of client states of the First French Empire. It was formed initially from 16 German states by Napoleon after he defeated Austria and Russia at the Battle of Austerlitz. The Treaty of Pressburg, in effect, led to the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine, which lasted from 1806 to 1813.The members of the confederation were German princes (Fürsten) formerly within the Holy Roman Empire. They were later joined by 19 others, altogether ruling a total of over 15 million subjects providing a significant strategic advantage to the French Empire on its eastern frontier by providing a separation between France and the two largest German states, Prussia and Austria, to the east, which were not members of the Confederation of the Rhine.
Napoleon sought to consolidate the modernizing achievements of the revolution, but he wanted the soldiers and supplies these subject states could provide for his wars. Napoleon required it to supply 63,000 troops to his army. The success of the Confederation depended on Napoleon's success in battle; it collapsed when he lost the Battle of Leipzig in 1813.Edward Solly
Edward Solly (25 April 1776 – 2 December 1844) was an English merchant living in Berlin, who amassed an unprecedented collection of Italian Trecento and Quattrocento paintings and outstanding examples of Early Netherlandish painting, at a time when those schools were still largely unappreciated. In 1821 Solly sold his collection of about 3000 works to the Prussian king; 677 of them formed a core of the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. Solly acquired a second collection during his years in London after 1821. Solly is also credited for having undertaken a
perilous journey to deliver the first news of Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Leipzig to the English.Gersfeld
Gersfeld is a town in the district of Fulda, in Hesse, Germany. It is situated on the Fulda River, in the Rhön Mountains, 20 km (12.43 mi) southeast of Fulda. It belonged to the abbey-principality of Fulda before secularisation in 1803. It then belonged to the Principality of Nassau-Orange-Fulda between 1803 and 1806, to France between 1806 and 1810, and then later to the Grand Duchy of Frankfurt between 1810 and 1813. After the Battle of Leipzig, it was occupied by the Allied troops of the Sixth Coalition between 1813 and 1815. After that, it was ceded to the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1815. During the Austro-Prussian War, it was occupied by Prussia before its annexation in the newly established Hesse Nassau province. It was finally incorporated in the state of Hesse in 1945.Grand Duchy of Würzburg
The Grand Duchy of Würzburg (German: Großherzogtum Würzburg) was a German grand duchy centered on Würzburg existing in the early 19th century.
As a consequence of the 1801 Treaty of Lunéville, the Bishopric of Würzburg was secularized in 1803 and granted to the Electorate of Bavaria. In the same year Ferdinand III, former Grand Duke of Tuscany, was compensated with the Electorate of Salzburg. In the Peace of Pressburg of 26 December 1805, Ferdinand lost Salzburg to the Austrian Empire, but was compensated with the Würzburg territory, Bavaria having relinquished it in return for Tyrol.
Ferdinand's state was briefly known as the Electorate of Würzburg (Kurfürstentum Würzburg), but it was elevated to the status of a Grand Duchy after the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire on 6 August 1806. It joined the Confederation of the Rhine on 30 September 1806. In 1810 it acquired Schweinfurt.
After Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Leipzig, Ferdinand dissolved his alliance with the First French Empire on 26 October 1813. Through an Austrian-Bavarian treaty of 3 June 1814, Ferdinand lost his possessions to the Kingdom of Bavaria and the Grand Duchy was dissolved. Ferdinand was restored to a reconstituted Grand Duchy of Tuscany by the Congress of Vienna. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Würzburg was reestablished in 1821 without temporal power.Henryk Dembiński
Henryk Dembiński (16 January 1791 – 13 July 1864) was a Polish engineer, traveler and general.
Dembiński was born in Strzałków, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship. In 1809 he entered the Polish army of the Duchy of Warsaw and took part in most of the Napoleonic campaigns in the East. Among others, he took part in the Battle of Leipzig in 1813. After the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte he remained in Poland and became one of the members of the Sejm of the Congress Poland.
In the Polish November Uprising of 1830, he was a successful leader of the Polish forces. In 1831, after his victorious campaign in Lithuania, he was promoted to generał dywizji and for a brief period became the Polish Commander-in-Chief. He took part in the battles of Dębe Wielkie and Ostrołęka.After the fall of the revolution in 1833 he emigrated to France, where he became one of the prominent politicians of the Hôtel Lambert, a group of supporters of Adam Jerzy Czartoryski.
In the Hungarian revolution of 1848 he was appointed the commanding officer of the Northern Army. After his successes he was soon promoted and Lajos Kossuth appointed him the Hungarian commander-in-chief. He was hampered by the jealousy of Artúr Görgey and after the defeat at the Battle of Kápolna, he resigned. After the Battle of Temesvár (where he was commander until the arrival of Józef Bem) and Kossuth's resignation, he fled to Turkey, where he (together with many other prominent Polish officers) entered the service of sultan Mahmud II. However, in 1850 he returned to Paris, where he died.Kinzig (Main)
The Kinzig is a river, 87 kilometres long, in southern Hesse, Germany. It is a right tributary of the Main. Its source is in the Spessart hills at Sterbfritz, near Schlüchtern. The Kinzig flows into the Main in Hanau. The Main-Kinzig-Kreis (district) was named after the river. The towns along the Kinzig are Schlüchtern, Steinau an der Straße, Bad Soden-Salmünster, Gelnhausen, and Hanau. The Kinzig is first recorded in 815 A.D. as Chinzicha.
This river played a part in the Battle of Hanau in October 1813, as Napoleon retreated back to the Rhine, after his defeat at the Battle of Leipzig.Kyffhäuser Monument
The Kyffhäuser Monument (German: Kyffhäuserdenkmal), also known as Barbarossa Monument (Barbarossadenkmal), is an Emperor William monument within the Kyffhäuser mountain range in the German state of Thuringia. It was erected in 1890–96 at the site of medieval Kyffhausen Castle near Bad Frankenhausen.
The Kyffhäuser Monument is the third-largest monument in Germany, after the Monument to the Battle of the Nations (Völkerschlachtdenkmal) commemorating the 1813 Battle of Leipzig and the Emperor William Monument at Porta Westfalica, both of which also were designed by architect Bruno Schmitz (1858–1916).Marshal Forwards (film)
Marshal Forwards (German:Marschall Vorwärts) is a 1932 German historical war film directed by Heinz Paul and starring Paul Wegener, Traute Carlsen and Hans Graf von Schwerin.It portrays the life of Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, a German hero of the Napoleonic Wars who was present at the Battle of Leipzig and the Battle of Waterloo. It takes its name from Blücher's contemporary nickname, which came from his aggressive forward-thinking stance. It is part of the Prussian film genre, popular during the Weimair and Nazi eras.Monument to the Battle of the Nations
The Monument to the Battle of the Nations (German: Völkerschlachtdenkmal, sometimes shortened to Völki) is a monument in Leipzig, Germany, to the 1813 Battle of Leipzig, also known as the Battle of the Nations. Paid for mostly by donations and the city of Leipzig, it was completed in 1913 for the 100th anniversary of the battle at a cost of six million goldmarks.
The monument commemorates Napoleon's defeat at Leipzig, a crucial step towards the end of hostilities in the War of the Sixth Coalition. The coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria and Sweden were led by Tsar Alexander I of Russia and Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg. There were German speakers fighting on both sides, as Napoleon's troops also included conscripted Germans from the left bank of the Rhine annexed by France, as well as troops from his German allies of the Confederation of the Rhine.
The structure is 91 metres (299 ft) tall. It contains over 500 steps to a viewing platform at the top, from which there are views across the city and environs. The structure makes extensive use of concrete, and the facings are of granite. It is widely regarded as one of the best examples of Wilhelmine architecture. The monument is said to stand on the spot of some of the bloodiest fighting, from where Napoleon ordered the retreat of his army.Operational Studies Group
Operational Studies Group, also known as OSG, is a publisher of tabletop wargames mostly devoted to the wars of Napoleon I. Some of their more notable games include Napoleon at Leipzig, Napoleon at Bay and Bonaparte in Italy. OSG is a leader in the design and production of Napoleonic Wargames. OSG's Board Wargames are played on historically accurate heavy-stock paper maps. The armies and leaders that move across the maps are represented by 1/2" square die-cut cardboard playing pieces.
OSG is run by Kevin Zucker, a former managing editor at Simulations Publications. Zucker left OSG in 1979, and the company closed down soon thereafter, but Zucker renewed the company name to market new wargames, such as Four Lost Battles (a game representing the defeat of Napoleon's marshals in the campaign leading up to the Battle of Leipzig) and "The Habit of Victory" (*Napoleon's 1807 Campaign in Poland).
After a hiatus in 2009, the company once again commenced production in 2010. "The Coming Storm" (four battles of the 1806-07 campaign) was published on 22 December 2010.Principality of Leyen
The Principality of Leyen was a Napoleonic German state which existed 1806–14 in Hohengeroldseck, in the west of modern Baden-Württemberg. The House of Leyen had acquired many districts in western Germany, and eventually these were inherited by the Leyen line of counts at Adendorf. In 1797, France defeated the Holy Roman Empire and all lands west of the Rhine were lost. Following the defeat of Austria in December 1805, most of the smaller German princely states were mediatized, with the glaring exception of Leyen, which was spared by virtue of the fact that the Count was nephew to Archchancellor Karl Theodor von Dalberg, a close collaborator of Napoleon's.
In 1806, Count Philip Francis of Adendorf was raised to a Prince, and his lands were renamed to the 'Principality of Leyen'. The territory formed an enclave surrounded by Baden. Prince Philip Francis, like many other members of the Confederation of the Rhine became largely a French puppet, so following Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, the Congress of Vienna opted to mediatize his realm and give it to Austria. In 1819, Austria traded it to Baden.SMS Leipzig
Three ships of the German Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial Navy) have been named SMS Leipzig, after the Battle of Leipzig:
SMS Leipzig (1875), a Leipzig-class corvette
SMS Leipzig (1905), a Bremen-class cruiser that was sunk at the Battle of the Falkland Islands in 1914
SMS Leipzig (1918), a Cöln-class cruiser that was cancelled before completion in 1918Siege of Hamburg
The city of Hamburg was one of the most powerful fortresses east of the Rhine. After being freed from Napoleonic rule by advancing Cossacks and other following Coalition troops it was once more occupied by Marshal Davout's French XIII Corps on 28 May 1813, at the height of the German Campaign during the War of the Sixth Coalition from French rule and occupation. Ordered to hold the city at all costs, Davout launched a characteristically energetic campaign against a similar numbered Army of the North made up of Prussian and other Coalition troops under the command of Count von Wallmoden-Gimborn, winning a number of minor engagements. Neither force was decidedly superior and the war ground to a halt and resulted in a rather stable front line between Lübeck and Lauenburg and further south along the Elbe river, even after the end of the cease-fire of the summer 1813. In October 1813 a French column's movement towards Dannenberg resulted in the only major engagement in the North of Germany, the Battle of the Göhrde. The defeated French troops retreated back to Hamburg.
Despite steadily shrinking manpower, food and ammunition supplies, Davout's forces displayed no signs of abandoning Hamburg. When French armies withdrew west after the lost Battle of Leipzig at the end of the year, and the Allies deployed a large portion of Bernadotte's Army of the North to watch the city during the 1814 campaign for France. Davout was still in control of Hamburg when the War of the Sixth Coalition ended in April, and eventually capitulated to Russian forces under General Bennigsen on 27 May 1814, obeying orders delivered by General Gérard from King Louis XVIII.War of the Sixth Coalition
In the War of the Sixth Coalition (March 1813 – May 1814), 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.
The War of the Sixth Coalition saw major battles at Lützen, Bautzen, and Dresden. The even larger Battle of Leipzig (also known as the Battle of Nations) was the largest battle in European history before World War I. Ultimately, Napoleon's earlier setbacks in Russia and Germany proved to be the seeds of his undoing. With their armies reorganized, the allies drove Napoleon out of Germany in 1813 and invaded France in 1814. The Allies defeated the remaining French armies, occupied Paris, and forced Napoleon to abdicate and go into exile. The French monarchy was revived by the allies, who handed rule to the heir of the House of Bourbon in the Bourbon Restoration.
This was not, however, the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon subsequently escaped from his captivity and returned to power in France, sparking the War of the Seventh Coalition in 1815 (also known as the "Hundred Days"), until he was defeated again for the final time.XIII Corps (Grande Armée)
The XIII Corps of the Grande Armée was the name of a French military formation that existed during the Napoleonic Wars. The corps was formed in the spring of 1813 and Marshal Louis-Nicolas Davout was appointed as its commander. The corps included three French infantry divisions and attached cavalry. In the spring campaign the corps was assigned to defend northern Germany. Accordingly, Davout seized Hamburg and prepared to defend it against the Allies. In September 1813, one brigade was defeated at the Battle of the Göhrde by the Allies. After Emperor Napoleon's decisive defeat at the Battle of Leipzig in October, the XIII Corps became isolated in Hamburg. An Allied army under Levin August, Count von Bennigsen initiated the Siege of Hamburg in December. Under Davout's leadership, the corps repelled three attacks in February 1814 and a fourth attack in April. Davout was only persuaded to surrender in mid-May by direct orders from the new French government after Napoleon abdicated. Thanks to the iron discipline of Davout, the behavior of the XIII Corps soldiers toward the citizens of Hamburg was exemplary, compared to the usual rough treatment non-combatants often received from French soldiers of the era.XIV Corps (Grande Armée)
The XIV Corps of the Grande Armée was the name of a French military formation that existed for several months during the Napoleonic Wars. The formation was organized in the summer of 1813 and Marshal Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr was named to command it. The formation was made up of four French infantry divisions, one cavalry division, and supporting artillery. The corps was stationed near Dresden to watch the passes of the Erzgebirge Mountains, which were the border between the hostile Austrian Empire and the allied Kingdom of Saxony. Gouvion Saint-Cyr's corps played a major role in Emperor Napoleon's victory at the Battle of Dresden in late August. Since it was assigned to garrison Dresden, the XIV Corps missed the Battle of Leipzig in October. Isolated after Napoleon's decisive defeat at Leipzig, the unit endured the Siege of Dresden which ended in November with a French surrender.