- - The French in Dresden. >
- - French preparations. >
- - Allies troops. >
- - Map 1. >
2. Battle: 1st Day.
- - The Russians suffered from French artillery fire. >
- - Fight for the Grand Garden. >
- - Unsuccessful Prussian attack. >
- - Austrian jagers captured French redoubt. >
- - On the left flank. >
- - Cavalry battle. > .
- - Young Guard retook the Grand Garden and the redoubts. >
- - In the night. >
3. Battle: 2nd Day.
- - Murat's grand cavalry charge. >
- - Victor's masterful strike. >
- - The shattered Austrians fell back. >
- - The battle in the center was limited to a massive artillery fire. >
- - Young Guard pushed the Prussians and Russians back. >
- - Map 2. >
4. Allies' retreat.
5. Sources and Links.
In 1813 huge armies mobilized, battalions and squadrons marched, and men died throughout the
continent, but it was on central Europe that the men of power focused.
James Arnold writes: "Before the French Revolution, European heads of state had warred for limited objectives: the
possesion of a province or the capture of a fortress. They did not seek to overthrow a fellow
monarch. The revolution, and the subsequent rise of Napoleon, changed the nature of warfare.
‘With me’ Napoleon reflected, ‘the stake is always my existence and that of the whole Empire."
The combined allied armies were nearly half million strong and were commanded by Bernadotte, Blucher, Barclay de Tolly, Bennigsen, and Schwarzenberg. Endless convoys of horse-drawn wagons creaked through the mud or the dusty ruts, loaded with food and ammunition, spare muskets and sabers. Weary infantry, days on the march, scattered out of the path of the artillery trains. Long lines of colorful cavalry moved on both sides of the highways.
While Bernadotte's Army of the North (100,000 Russians, Prussians, and Swedes) stood near Berlin, Blucher's Army of Silesia (100,000 Russians and Prussians) was in the east, in Silesia. Meanwhile the Russian main army moved into Bohemia and joined the main Austrian army and they formed the Army of Bohemia (250,000 men). The command over this massive force was given to Schwarzenberg.
Napoleon was in Gorlitz and planned to seize the initiative. He sent 75,000 men under
Marshal Oudiont to the north to attack the hesitant Bernadotte and take Berlin, and Marshal
Macdonald's 100,000 men against the aggressive Blucher. Napoleon planned to concentrate the
remaining 125,000 men in the south, as he expected the Army of Bohemia to cross the mountains,
enter Saxony, and move on Dresden and Leipzig.
Dresden, where the Emperor stayed, was the pivot for the army astride on the two banks of the Elbe. It was one of the largest cities in Europe.
Dresden has a long history as the capital and royal residence for the Kings of Saxony, who for centuries furnished the city with extraordinary cultural and artistic splendor. The royal buildings are among the most impressive buildings in the city. The place between the Old City and the New City was (and still is) the location of the oldest bridges in Dresden. A bridge at that place is already reported in the 13th century.
"On March 9, 1813 the French sent a party of laborers to tear up
the road-bed on the bridge. These were driven off by a band of patriotic citizens after being
forced to re-lay every paving stone they had removed.
The next morning, the French reappeared, and so did the townspeople. A French officer then
undertook to measure off the space required for the charge of gunpowder. The citizens,
rushed over the police barricade, and threw the measuring line over the bridge into the Elbe,
and were on the verge of doing the same to the French soldiers had not a large force of
gendarmes appeared to restore the quiet.
In 1813 Dresden was surrounded by an old wall in rather poor condition. Napoleon ordered that the Pirna Gate be reinforced by a ditch filled with water, the seven gates to the suburbs and all the gates in the garden walls blocked up.
The old city-wall was defended by the Dresden garrison GdD Durosnel:
Outside of the city-wall were several suburbs and the Grossen Garten.
The French and Westphalian soldiers had barricades erected on various major streets
and 13 major redoubts outside the suburbs. Each redoubt had 1 gun and an unit of infantry.
Five redoubts stood on the left and eight on the right bank of the Elbe River.
Napoleon arrived at Dresden at 9 AM on 26 August. As he passed, the troops greeted him with
mounting enthusiasm. Everyone made an effort to get close enough to see HIM, for many young
soldiers, it was their first sight of the commander in chief since the last battle.
Three Allied monarchs were present at Dresden: Emperor Alexander I of Russia (Tsar Aleksandr I Pavlovich), Emperor Francis of Austria (Franz II, Heiliger Römischer Kaiser), and King Frederick William III of Prussia (Friedrich Wilhelm III, König von Preußen). In 1813 the most influential of the three was Emperor Alexander of Russia.
Emperor Alexander I of Russia succeeded to the throne after his father was murdered. Young Alexander sympathised with French and Polish revolutionaries (Kosciuszko Uprising), however, his father seems to have taught him to combine a theoretical love of mankind with a practical contempt for men. These contradictory tendencies remained with him through life and are observed in his dualism in domestic and military and foreign policy. Napoleon thought him a "shifty Byzantine". Castlereagh gives him credit for "grand qualities", but adds that he is "suspicious and undecided".
Emperor Francis of Austria continued his leading role in Europe as an opponent of France, and suffered several defeats, one of which led to his delivering his daughter, as a bride in a reluctant marriage of state. As the leader of the large multi-ethnic Habsburg Empire, Franz felt threatened by Napoleon's call for liberty and equality in Europe. The events of the French Revolution impressed themselves deeply into the mind of Francis, and he came to distrust 'radicalism' in any form. He set up an extensive network of police spies and censors to monitor dissent. In 1813, for the fourth time, Austria turned against France and joined Russia, England, and Prussia in their war against Napoleon.
Frederick William III of Prussia succeeded the throne in 1796. He married Louise of Mecklenburg, a princess noted for her beauty. Napoleon dealt with Prussia very harshly, despite the pregnant Queen's personal interview with the French emperor. Prussia lost all its Polish territories, as well as all territory west of the Elbe River, and had to pay for French troops to occupy key strong points within the Kingdom. Too distrustful to delegate his responsibility to his ministers, Frederiick William was too infirm of will to strike out and follow a consistent course for himself. Although the ineffectual King himself seemed resigned to Prussia's fate, various reforming ministers, such as Stein, Prince von Hardenberg, Scharnhorst, and Gneiseanu, set about reforming Prussia's military.
The commander in chief of the allied armies was Austrian Fieldmarshal Schwarzenberg.
Schwarzenberg had a great political tact and was able to command a multinational army with
3 monarchs present in his headquarters. "As the commander of a great alliance he faced major
problems, but managed to maintain the common cause through bad times as well as good."
(- David Chandler)
Schwarzenberg planned to attack Dresden on 26 August, but he was plagued by hesitation. St.Cyr's three divisions had not stood out on the plain before the city, as anticipated. The French took cover behind the redoubts and city-wall. When St.Cyr saw that the enemy were going after the redoubts in force, he seized hold of the troops that were close at hand and brought them up quickly. Tsar Alexander and General Jomini advocated a withdrawal to a strong position near Dippoldiswalde and menace Napoleon's line of communications.
The King of Prussia however argued for an attack on Dresden. The battle was to begin at 3 AM in early morning.
Meanwhile the Allies received news of Napoleon's arrival to Dresden they again changed their minds and ordered withdrawal. It was too late however, their troops were already engaged along the entire front line. The Allies and French pickets exchanged shots, and the French column at Neustadt (Dresden suburb) was cannonaded. The Austrians established their batteries about noon. Had the Allies acted quicker they would have overwhelmed the French but they were slow to act and lacked any real leadership. The fresh French forces were reported advancing on Dresden.
Commander-in-Chief of Allied Armies:
Karl-Philipp, Furst zu Schwarzenburg (Austrian)
Map of Battle of Dresden 1813.
Reserve Division - Cranneville
- [5 Grenzer battalions,
- 10 chevaulegere squadrons, 6 3pdrs]
3rd Light Division - Meszko
- [3 Grenzer battalions,
- 10 hussar squadrons, 6 3pdrs]
Infantry Division - Bianchi
- [12 infantry battalions, 18 guns]
Infantry Division - Weissenwolf
- [14 infantry battalions, 18 guns]
Cavalry Division - Schneller
- [8 chevaulegere and 8 hussar squadrons]
Grenadier Division - Chasteler
- [8 grenadier battalions, 12 guns]
Cuirassier Division - Nostitz
- [16 cuirassier squadrons]
Infantry Division - Colloredo
- [12 infantry battalions, 18 guns]
1st Light Division - Liechtenstein
- [3 jager and 1 Grenzer battalion,
- 12 chevaulegere squadrons, 14 guns]
Reserve Artillery - Riese
- [18 12pdr and 18 6pdr guns]
12th Brigade - Prinz August
- [6 infantry and 4 Landwehr battalions, 8 guns
- 4 Landwehr squadrons]
10th Brigade - Jagow
- [6 infantry and 4 Landwehr battalions, 8 guns]
11th Brigade - Pirch (Ziethen ?)
- [6 infantry and 4 Landwehr battalions, 8 guns
- 2 coys Schutzen, 4 hussar squadrons]
9th Brigade - Klux
- [6 infantry and 4 Landwehr battalions, 8 guns
- 2 coys Schutzen, 4 dragoon squadrons]
Reserve Cavalry - Roeder
- [12 cuirassier, 4 uhlan, 2 hussar
- 6 national and 4 Landwehr squadrons, 16 guns]
Reserve Artillery - Mjr.Lehmann
- [16 12pdr cannons, 40 6pdr cannons, 8 howitzers]
Advance Guard - Roth
- [10 jager and 2 infantry battalions, 12 guns]
Infantry Division - Mesentzev
- [2 jager and 8 infantry battalions,
- 12 medium and 12 heavy guns]
10th Light Cavalry Division - Pajol
- [4 French, 4 Polish and 4 Italian squadrons]
45th Infantry Division - GdD Razout
- [12 infantry battalions, 8 guns]
Infantry Division - GdD Teste
- [12 ? infantry battalions, 8 ? guns]
44th Infantry Division - GdD Berthezene
- [12 infantry battalions, 16 guns]
43rd Infantry Division - GdD Claparede
- [13 infantry battalions, 16 guns]
Old Guard Infantry Division - GdD Friant
- [10 infantry battalions, 8 guns]
1st Guard Cavalry Division
- [18 cavalry squadrons, 6 guns]
2nd Guard Cavalry Division
- [10 cavalry squadrons, 6 guns]
3rd Guard Cavalry Division
- [22 cavalry squadrons, 12 guns]
MURAT - RESERVE CAVALRY
3rd Light Cavalry Division - GdD Chastel
- [13 chasseur squadrons]
1st Heavy Cavalry Division - GdD Bordesoulle
- [14 cuirassier and 8 Saxon squadrons]
3rd Heavy Cavalry Division - GdD Doumerc
- [6 cuirassier, 9 dragoon and 4 Italian squadrons]
Artilley [24 French, 5 Saxon, 6 Westphalian guns]
9th Light Cavalry Division - GdB Klicki
- [4 chasseur squadrons]
5th Heavy Cavalry Division - GdB Collaert
- [7 dragoon squadrons]
6th Heavy Cavalry Division - GdB Lamotte
- [5 dragoon squadrons]
Artilley [6 guns]
1st Young Guard Infantry Division - Dumoustier
- [12 ? infantry battalions, 24 guns]
2nd Young Guard Infantry Division - Barrois
- [12 ? infantry battalions, 24 guns]
3rd Young Guard Infantry Division - Decouz
- [12 ? infantry battalions, 24 guns]
4th Young Guard Infantry Division - Roguet
- [12 ? infantry battalions, 24 guns]
The 1st Day of Battle.
Open fields intervened on both sides, unobstructed by trees, except the wood on allies right flank, and the few trees along the roads behind which skirmishers took positions. The first shots were exchanged on Allies left flank. Already in the morning the Grenzer battalions attacked sheep pens, customs house, and the powdermill. After two hours fight the Austrian Grenzers found themselves completely mixed on the field.
At 9 AM [Austrian] Beaulieu Infantry Regiment and two foot batteries moved forward to take Friedrichstadt, but had to retire after fired off all their ammunition. At 11 AM a pause came to the fighting. Eight companies of Grenzers then moved against Redoubt #4 in skirmish order. Several officers were killed and wounded, with a number of the rank and file.
Before 5 PM four divisions of the Young Guard arrived in Dresden. While MdE Mortier took the 1st and 2nd Division and moved against the Austrians, MdE Ney with the 3rd and 4th Division moved to the road to Pirna. The men sprang up with cheerful alacrity, and the columns advanced.
It was 3 P.M. when the signal guns were fired, the field at that time being silent, but for light picket firing between the lines. The grand roar followed from the guns of both armies. As a spectacle, the fire from the several kilometers of batteries, stretching from one flank to anorther, was appalling; but practically the fire was too high, and most of the damage was done behind the first line.
At 4 PM General Wittgenstein began his attack. Wittgenstein commanded Gorchakov's Russian corps and Kleist's Prussian corps. When the Russian infantry appeared the French guns were directed upon their ranks. The leading Russian cavalry was driven back by Doumerc's cuirassiers and dragoons.
GM Mezentzov's 5th Infantry Division (7,350 men and 24 guns)
was thrown back by horse battery and the Young Guard. The Russians suffered badly from 30
French guns situated on the right bank and those in the Redoubt #1. It was more than they
could take. One battery of the Old Guard Horse Artillery deployed near the redoubt and almost annihilated
the leading jager unit. The attackers rapidly fell back.
The Grand Garden was an oblong area and covered about 1,5 km² The park has been established in 1676. Ways and avenues were styled in symmetric muster. During the battle the garden was seriously damaged.
At 4 PM Roth's Russian Advance Guard attacked Grand Garden (Gross Garten). Loggin-Ossipovich Roth had 20th, 21st, 24th, 25th, and 26th Jagers, and Selenguinsk Infantry. This force (7,450 men and 12 guns) passed through Grand Garden and at 5 PM stormed Redoubt #2. The spearheading unit was the 24th Jagers led by Chef GM Vlastov.
The Young Guard led by Marshal Mortier (Dumoustier's and Barrois' divisions) moved out of the Pirna Suburb and counterattacked. Roth was pushed back and the Young Guard recaptured half of the garden.
General Friedrich Kleist with Prussian 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th Brigade moved forward.
Pirch's 10th Brigade (8,000 men and 8 guns) advanced against the French in the garden.
With the support of artillery they overrun the garden and even reached the ditch surrounding
the Redoubt #2. Two Prussian heavy batteries and one howitzer battery were pushed forward
a few hundred paces.
In about the same time the Austrians began their own assault on the other flank against Redoubt #3.
As the Prussian attack rolled forward the sound of military music came out of the city suburbs. It was a fresh division of the Young Guard. The French with the support of artillery immediately attacked Roth's jagers and Pirch's 10th Brigade and threw them back with heavy losses. The percentage of losses in killed and wounded in the spearheading French column, taken as a whole, was not extraordinary for the Napoleonic battle.
At 4 PM 72 Austrian guns opened intense fire. Their target were Redoubts #3, #4, #5, and the walls. Two French batteries limbered up and withdrew. Especially Austrian howitzers caused a lot of damage and the suburbs were in danger of bursting into flames.
Liechtenstein's 1st Light Division (4,600 men and 12 horse guns) and Colloredo's 1st Infantry
Division (13,800 men and 6 guns) advanced forward. Although the 1st Light Division was
numerically weak it consisted of fine troops: three jager and one Grenzer battalions,
Vincent and Emperor's Chevauxlegeres, and two horse batteries.
These light troops were greeted by French 27th Light Infantry with musket volleys.
The Austrians however were unable to gain more ground and were repulsed by the Grenadiers of Old Guard and the Fusiliers of Middle Guard.
At 4 PM arrived Weissenwolf's [Austrian] 2nd Infantry Division and its artillery pounded
Austrian infantrymen, massed behind the artillery, could tell from the movement of the
couriers that the moment was about to arrive when they would begin marching toward the
A howitzer shell landed in the redoubt and chased out the French infantry.
The Austrians enetered the fieldwork before a single company of 2nd Chasseurs of
stromed into the redoubt and drove them out.
The French deployed 35 guns before Friedrichstadt. Behind them stood Murat's powerful cavalry and Mortier's two divisions of the Young Guard. These forces were joined by Teste's 23rd Infantry Division, Razout's 45th Infantry Division, and Pajol's 10th Light Cavalry Division. Encouraged by such show of force the French 21st Line Infantry attempted to dislodge Emperor's (Kaiser) Infantry from Lobtau.
There was a sharp artillery duel for about 10-20 minutes, when the French and Polish
cavalry, with a shout as though pandemonium had broken loose on that part of the line,
sprang forward to the charge. Murat's cavalry passed Lobtau and struck the enemy with full
The rest of Murat's cavalry hit Meszko's 3rd Light Division and Weissenwolf's Infantry Division. Part of the French cavalry reached their artillery line when they were charged by enemy's cavalry, and a fight began, which lasted only a short time. While the infantry delivered musket volleys O'Reilly Chevauxlegeres charged and drove some French cavalry back. Meanwhile the Saxon heavy cavalry unoppossed by any cavalry created havoc, they cut to pieces one battalion of the Manfredini Infantry Regiment, and then went after the gunners.
Napoleon ordered Marshal Mortier to attack the Russians, and Marshal Ney attack the Austrians. The Russians fell back. Mortier then moved to the right and hit the Prussians in Grand Garden. The Young Guard was followed by 43rd and 44th Infantry Divisions. The Prussians fled. Hundreds of allied prisoners were captured, one redoubt was taken. The French reached Striesen and took several houses. Their assault was halted by falling darkness. It was 9 PM.
Meanwhile in the center the French captured Redoubt #3, and attacked Redoubt #4 and #5. In the first line marched Young Guard and Berthezene's 44th Infantry Division. In second line was part of Old Guard. These veterans came on with precision and in gallant style. Something in their confident manner inspired the rest of the French army.
Ney attacked between Bianchi's and Colloredo's divisions. The fighting now became severe at
this part of the field. War ever devours the bravest and best, and here perished, unhappily
and without glory, some of the choicest men in the Austrian service. One battalion of
Hessen-Homburg Infantry Regiment was surrounded and taken prisoner. Other troops broke
and fell back and only few bravely stood to the guns, which were in front; but these could
not repel the irresistible onrush of the French.
Giulay's corps was saved from destruction by falling darkness.
In the night a torrential rain poured on the battlefield and the city. During the night Marshal Victor's II Army Corps and Marshal Marmont's VI Army Corps arrived in Dresden. Victor's troops were moved to Lobtau, facing the Austrians. Marmont's troops marched to Dippoldiswalde in the center. St.Cyr's troops were placed in Grand Garden. The rest of the night was consumed in waiting for other troops to arrive.
The 2nd Day.
In the morning a thick fog covered the entire battlefield. Schwarzenberg's army was joined by Russian and Prussian reserves. The Reserves consisted of Russian Grenadier Corps, Russian Foot Guards Corps, Russian Horse Guard Corps, and Prussian Royal Guard. With these troops were 90 Russian guns of GM Hune's Army Reserve Artillery. The Reserves however deployed far in the rear and their participation in the battle was minimal. (NOTE: The leading elements of the Reserves arrived already on the previous day.)
The Russians at Dresden were under the command of GoI Barclay de Tolly. His Chief-of-Staff was GL Ivan Sabaneiev, Chief-of-Artillery GL Yahvill, and Chief-of-Engineers GM Sievers.
Napoleon was in a bell tower and studied the allied positions. He sent orders Murat's cavalry and Victor's II Army Corps to attack the Austrians, while the Young Guard led by Mortier and Ney was to attack the Russians and Prussians. The reserve was formed by Friant's Old Guard, and Nansouty's Guard Cavalry. Napoleon hoped to destroy the entire Allies army before Freiherr von Janowitz Graf von Klenau's corps would arrive.
The first sign of activity on the French side came from artillery. At 7 AM the French cannons opened fire and their skirmishers advanced against the enemy. Austrian II/Kaunitz Infantry was driven out of the small Reischwitz Garden and palace.
Murat's grand cavalry charge.
Marshal Murat commanded Napoleon's cavalry. He was wearing his extravagant uniform was well seen across the battlefield. Georges Blond writes: "Murat was wearing a blue, Polish-style tunic, with a gilded belt from which was slung a light sabre with a straight blade, violet breeches with a gold stripe, yellowe leather boots ..." Murat's escort was formed of squadron of Saxon cuirassiers.
After 9 AM huge formation of French cavalry under Marshal Joachim Murat moved against
three Austrian divisions:
Murat formed his cavalry in the following formation:
As soon as the Austrian gunners saw the cavalry through the fog they cannonaded it.
Five squadrons of Saxon heavies struck 2 squadrons of Austrian hussars and drove them back.
Mass of French cuirassiers (Bordesoulle's 1st Heavy Cavalry Division) advanced against
Meszko's 3rd Light Division. (Meszko had 5,200 men in 3 Grenzer and 3 infantry battalions,
1,400 men in 12 hussar squadrons, and 12 guns.)
Two Austrian battalions formed squares before Bordesoulle's cuirassiers charged. The cavalry was repulsed but then the French brought up horse battery and fired canister at close range. W.Colloredo Infantry Regiment (of Liechtenstein's 4th Infantry Division) was destroyed, with hundreds being killed, wounded and taken prisoner. Only few survived.
The Saxon cuirassiers broke two Austrian squares, capturing them entirely. The French
dragoons attacked Austrian infantry moving in columns and squares. The French cuirassiers
moved against Austrian squares standing near the Pennrich Height. One Austrian battalion
surrendered without resistance. The Vacquant Infantry Regiment was attacked by French
and Saxon Cuirassiers and after a short but fierce fight capitulated.
Murat then rallied his breathless men, and the wounded were taken to the rear.
Murat's squadrons although very successful were in disorder.
The pause gave the Austrians a chance to disengage here from the enemy.
At 3 PM General Pajol's 10th Light Cavalry Division, with the 7th Lancers (Vistula Uhlans) in the lead, passed by Gorbitz and followed the retiring enemy. Chastel's 3rd Light Cavalry Division moved past Pennrich. Berkheim's light cavalry attacked one Austrian square from all sides forcing it to surrender. Erzherzog Rainier Infantry Regiment lost 190 killed and wounded, and 900 prisoners. Lusignan and Beaulieu Infantry Regiments suffered similar fates, they were trapped and forced to surrender. The French also captured 16 guns and General Seezenny. Austrian heavy battery was also captured. The few squadrons of Hungarian hussars made several desperate charges but without success.
Victor's masterful strike.
Once Murat's cavalry moved forward and sufficient terrain for deployment became available, Marshal Victor's II Army Corps bursted forward. Victor wisely chose to advance through the intervals between the stronly defended villages, and then, through a turning maneuver, to strike the flanks and rear of the garrissons.
In the lead marched Estko's brigade: 26th Light and 93rd Line formed in columns and screened
with skirmishers. The fog limited visibility to 100 paces.
Austrian Weissenwolf's 2nd Infantry Division (12,600 men in 14 battalions, and 18 foot guns)
was deployed near Lobtau. They strongly occupied the villages to their front, with infantry
behind the loopholed walls, and the streets barricaded.
Unfortunately the rain wetted the powder and prevented the use of many muskets.
The French then attacked and captured the villages of Rossthal and Wolfnitz, the same way as
they did at Nauslitz. The last Austrians were chased from Lobtau. One strong Austrian
battalion (1,000 men) retook Rossthal and captured 20 prisoners, but it was too late and too
The shattered Austrians fell back.
About 3 PM the Austrian troops began falling back. While Murat rallied his cuirassiers and dragoons, Teste's 23rd Division chased the Austrian infantry out of Pennrich. With the Austrian infantry being pushed back so far, the French artillery was pushed forward and deployed near Rossthal.
Marshal Victor occupied Dolzschen with Dubreton's 4th Division, and Rossthal and Gorbitz with Vial's 6th Division. Dufour's 5th Division stood to the northwest of Rossthal and Gorbitz. While Victor had his headquarters established in Gorbitz, Murat's were in Wolfnitz.
Murat wrote to Napoleon in his usual manner: "Your cavalry has made 15,000 prisoners and taken 12 cannons and 12 flags, one general-lieutenant, two generals, and a great number of senior officers and other grades are in our hands." The crushed Austrians could not be reinforced because of the intervening Weisseritz ravine.
The battle in the center was limited to a massive artillery fire.
Allied troops in the center woke up at 4 AM and took their assigned positions.
They faced Marmont's VI Army Corps. Marshal St.Cyr's XIV Army Corps was quickly recovering
from the previous day's hard fighting was moved to the Grand Garden.
The French artillery in the center opened heavy fire forcing some Prussian troops to fall back.
"The rain having prevented the infantry of both armies from using their muskets and
greatly slowed the movements of the cavalry, it was the artillery which, in spite of the
difficulty of manoeuvering on the rain sodden ground, played a decisive rôle.
In particular the French artillery, whose teams of horses Napoleon had doubled up, using
animals from the headquarters wagons, which remained safely in Dresden." (- Baron de Marbot)
The village of Plauen had been set afire by French howitzer shells. Austrian battery then was silenced by French horse battery and the emigree French General Moreau was fatally wounded. The propaganda would report that Napoleon had personally the gun that killed his revolutionary rival for power in France. This was, however, not true. The fighting on this part of the battlefield was limited to long range artillery fire. Napoleon ordered to deploy 32 heavy guns near Rachnitz and cannonaded Colloredo's and Chasteler's divisions. Hieronymus Graf von Colloredo-Mannsfeld had 12 strong battalions.
At 6 AM four divisions of the Young Guard led Ney and Mortier had taken their positions.
Behind them stood Nansouty's splendid Guard Cavalry.
At 7:30 AM Mortier, Ney and Nansouty began their advance along the entire front.
Boyer de Rebeval's 4th and 5th Tirailleurs moved along the Elbe River.
The reminder swung over Striesen and moved to the right to strike Roth's jagers and the
The Russian and Prussian hussars were driven off by artillery fire and the Young Guard resumed its advance. They took the villages of Klein-Dobritz and Gross-Dobritz and pushed towards Prohlis. Approx. 30 guns supported the advance, Nansouty's Guard Cavalry moved between Dobritz and Leuben. The Grodno Hussars again attacked the Young Guard and broke one square. The Russians drove the enemy back. Soon however the guns of Young Guard caused them precipitately to surrender the field.
Map of the Battle of Dresden, 1813.
Map of the Battle of Dresden, 1813.
At 6 PM the French occupied the Russian, Prussian and Austrian morning positions. Napoleon thought that the Allies intended to resume the battle on the next day. Marshal Marmont believed he heard the sounds of withdrawal. Napoleon rode to Marmont and watched the withdrawing enemy troops.
At 5 PM Schwarzenberg issued an order to retreat. The roads were covered with mud and the troops moved slowly. He had a very powerful reserve, almost 60 squadrons of cuirassiers and guardsmen, but for some unknown reason he choose not to use it against the French Young Guard and the Guard Cavalry. Before 7 PM the retiring Austrians from the crushed left wing encountered the lead elements of Klenau's Corps.
Instructions were received by Allies generals from Schwarzenberg as to the order of march back to Bohemia. The Russian and Prussian Guard, the Russian I Infantry Corps and Prussian II Corps (Kleist's) were moving south from Dresden to Teplitz. The Allies moved along the muddy roads and through narrow valleys whose slopes were wooded. This difficult way, rendered doubly by heavy rain, was so blocked by wagons and carts as to render it very difficut to push ahead the artillery. There was no proper field for cavalry operations.
"As Prince Schwartzenberg, the commander of the enemy troops defeated at Dresden, had given Teplice as the rallying point for the remains of his defeated armies, the Austrians retreated through the valley of Dippoldiswalde, the Russians and the Prussians on the Telnitz road and the remnants of Klenau's corps via Freiberg. Napoleon accompanied the French columns which were pursuing the vanquished enemy as far as Pirna, but just before he arrived in that town, he was taken by a sudden indisposition, due perhaps to the fact that he had spent five days constantly on horseback, exposed to incessant rain." (- Baron de Marbot)
During the pursuit the French artillery wagons and numerous prisoners were a hindrance to the French. The condition of many horses was as bad as possible, they were exhausted and starving for food. Not infrequently a large part of the marching column would halt in the narrow road due to mud and it required the utmost exertions of officers to keep the troops in motion.
As Schwarzenberg's army was on the retreat from Dresden, Napoleon was notified of the
advance of a large body in the direction of Teplitz. Despite rather weak pursuit the
Allies suffered further losses. The Prussian Guard reported losing 10 men per
Why the battle was lost for Schwarzenberg ?
Allies line was an enveloping semicircle, 7-8 km in development, and communication
from flank to flank even by courier was difficult.
"... the Allies had one trump card to play, their cavalry advantage, but they played it
in an appalling manner. ... Heavy rains may have made the ground unsuitable for the use
of cavalry, but then it doesn't seem to have bothered the French. ... as the day was marked
by heavy rain and, as musketry was largely unavailable, the battle became one of cold steel
(bayonets and sabers) and artillery.
Sources and Links.
Nafziger - "Napoleon's Dresden Campaign" (the best source for the next 100 years)
Marbot - "Memoirs of General Baron de Marbot"
Macdonald - "Recollections of Marshal Macdonald"
Chandler - "Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars"
Bowden - Napoleon's Grande Armee of 1813"
Elting - "Swords Around a Throne"
The Department of History at the US Military Academy - series of campaign atlases
Napoleon's Campaign in 1813 in Germany
Marshal Joachim Murat"The First Saber of Europe"
Marshal Michel Ney "The Bravest of the Brave"
Karl-Phillip, Furst zu Schwarzenburg
Mihail Bogdanovich Barclay de Tolly
Petr Hristianovich Wittgenstein
Prince Andrei Ivanovich Gorchakov
Travel to Dresden
Pictures of Dresden bridges
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Napoleon, His Army and Enemies