Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The battle of Leipzig was fought over the period 14-19 October 1813. It started with the largest cavalry battle in history, fought at Libertwolkwitz, followed by Wachau, Connewitz, Lindenau, Mockern and finally Leipzig itself.

I have always found Leipzig to be one of the most difficult of all Napoleonic battles to grasp. The size of the battlefield, the armies involved, the number of combats within the battle all make it hard to understand. In preparation for this visit we did a lot of research, read a lot of books and prepared a lot of maps. Despite all of this preparation, the actual visit turned out to be a disappointment

Our day on the battlefield started to the north of the city, where we visited the area around Mockern (centre of photo). This would have been the Blucher’s view as he approached Leipzig.

Our next site was a park near the battle memorial in Probstheyda. This photo was taken looking towards the city centre.

It was here that it became obvious that either our guide had not done sufficient preparation, or else that the city had grown so much that it was not possible to find suitable locations to follow the course of the battle. Despite my own preparation I found it difficult to follow his attempts explain the battle.

Next we visited the huge monument to the Battle of the Nations, built in 1913 and located in the southern part of the city. The monument dominates the city skyline, and the sheer size makes it one of the most impressive I have visited. The views which follow have all been taken from the viewing platform.

Looking towards Dosen

The road in the centre leads to Wachau

The radio tower is in Libertwolkwitz, the scene of the cavalry battle.

Looking north towards Mockern, the scene of bitter fighting with the Prussian army of Blucher

Lindenau commanded the road west and the only line of retreat for the French

Connewitz was the scene of bitter fighting for the bridge over the river Pleisse, where the newly promoted Marshal Poniatowski would lose his life in the closing hours of the battle.

The hour spent here at the monument was well spent, but by lunchtime we had completed the guided tour of the battlefield. After a long lunch we had a “free afternoon” to explore Leipzig. To my mind this was a waste of time, and I would have loved to spend the time exploring the battlefield. Instead we passed the time looking walking around the shops. A disappointing end to our visit to Napoleon’s German battlefields.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


This small German village was the scene of two famous battles. The first was in 1632 when the famous Swedish general Gustavus Adolphus lost his life. The second was the first battle of the 1813 campaign.

In 1813 Scharnhorst was the allied Chief of Staff. At the battle of Lutzen he received a mortal wound, of which he dies some days later. This rather ugly monument marks the spot where he received that wound.

Napoleon was marching on Leipzig when he was attacked by the combined Prussian and Russian at Lutzen on 2 May 1813. The confused battle was finally won by the French. The allies retreated through Dresden and fought a second battle at Bautzen.

Close to the Scharhorst monument is this one to the Prussians who died during the battle.

This diagram of the battle shows the relative locations and direction of the combat

This photo, looking towards Gross Gorschen, shows the area where Blucher launched his surprise attack.

The road from Gross Gorschen looking towards Rahna (centre) and Starsiedel (behind the trees). This was the scene of the allied cavalry charge.

Starsiedel saw much heavy fighting between Marmont and Yorck as the battle developed.

On the left is Klein Gorschen and behind the trees lies Gross Gorschen. This road was the axis of the Young Guard attack.

Klein Gorschen as seen by the Young Guard when they reached the outskirts of the village.

The Prussian view from Klein Gorschen as the Young Guard approached from Kaja (centre distance behind trees)

Buildings on the edge of Klein Gorschen

The main road from Klein Gorschen to Gross Gorschen.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


The battle of Bautzen is a large battle; fought over two days, with 200,000 French commanded by Napoleon against 96,000 Prussians and Russians. This was the second battle of the 1813 campaign. Napoleon had defeated the Prussians at Lutzen just 20 days earlier. On paper it should have been a decisive victory for Napoleon. He won the battle, but he allowed the allies to retreat to the east. The armistice followed, which in turn led to the Austrians joining the allied cause and the defeat of Napoleon at Leipzig.

Bautzen is a large battlefield which stretches 4 miles north to south and 2 miles west to east. The allied armies were deployed in sloping ground behind a formidable river. It is not possible to take in the whole battlefield from one position, and we would be taken to five different locations, plus a visit to the city itself.

The first location was situated on a hill where the allied left flank stood. It provided a marvelous view of the whole southern part of the field. Bautzen itself it out of sight behind the trees on the left. This view covers the area from Jenkwitz to Plieskowitz

Quite near to our first location was this large farm complex. I have no idea how old it is, but it looked like parts of it might well have been there in 1813.

For our second location we were taken to the allied right flank near the village of Klix, which can be seen through the trees in the centre of the photograph. This is where Marshal Ney reached the battlefield. He was supposed to arrive much further east, and prevent the allied retreat.

This is the village of Hochkirchen. This church steeple was an aiming point for Marshal Ney as he marched on the allied right flank. However he swung to his right here, and arrived in front of the allied right rather than behind it.

For our third location we moved over the river to the French left. This photo was taken just south of the village of Klix, and shows Ney’s view of the battlefield as he joined the battle.

Taken from the same location, this photo shows Kleists position at Klein Bautzen (centre of photo).

Again taken near the previous photo, this one shows the village of Preititz, where Neys attack struck home.

After four hours walking the battlefield we took a break and visited Bautzen for lunch. It is a typical German walled town, with much of the original wall still standing.

The unusual tower in the centre of Bautzen makes the town easy to identify from a distance.

The river runs just east of the town and is a formidable obstacle

This tower formed part of the town wall. Bautzen is an interesting town to explore with lots of character.

After lunch it was back in the coach, which returned us to the French left centre. We did not visit the French centre or right, and I assume that this is because there was no suitable location to view it from.

Our fourth location was a lay-by just east of the river where General Bertrand was held at bay by Blucher who occupied the Krechnitz Heights. Its capture by Napoleon’s Young Guard forced the Prussians to retreat and signaled the end of the battle.

Our fifth location is on the Krecknitz Heights looking towards Ney’s position at Plieskowitz.

It is easy to miss this memorial to the Prussian dead, which is hidden amongst the trees near to Blucher’s command post.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Festung Konigstein

Just a few miles from Dresden, Festung Konistein dominates the river Elbe and the surrounding area. Napoleon visited and inspected the castle in 1813, but as far as I know it played no active part in the Napoleonic Wars

The fortress was considered to be impossible to capture, and indeed no one seems to have attempted to do so. It is first mentioned in 1250 and since then has served as a monastery and a prison, as well as its primary function as a military stronghold and final refuge for the Kings of Saxony.

We were dropped off here whilst the coach and our guide went off to recce the next battlefield. To be honest we were not unhappy to visit the fortress, which is a favourite tourist attraction.

We did not have a guided tour, but were left to explore as we wished. There is a museum which has many items connected with the garrison, including artillery uniforms of the Napoleonic period.

But the most interesting part of our visit was walking the ramparts. It covers a large area and we only just had enough time to walk around the wall in the two hours we were allowed there.

During the First and Second World Wars the fortress was a POW for senior allied officers. At this spot there is a description of the escape of the French general Henri Giraud, who apparently climbed down the wall at this point!

The river Elbe at this point is wide and impressive. It made me realise what a major military obstacle it must have been in the Napoleonic period, and what a major task it must have been to cross if the bridges had been destroyed.