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Battle of Schleiz

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Battle of Schleiz
Part of the War of the Fourth Coalition
Schleiz 1810.jpg

Schleiz from an 1810 painting
Date9 October 1806
Result French victory
France French Empire Kingdom of Prussia Prussia
Commanders and leaders
France Joachim Murat
France Jean Bernadotte
France Jean-Baptiste Drouet
Kingdom of Prussia Bogislav Tauentzien
34 guns
12 guns
8 guns
Casualties and losses
light 566
1 gun lost

The Battle of Schleiz took place on October 9, 1806 in Schleiz, Germany between a Prussian-Saxon division under Bogislav Friedrich Emanuel von Tauentzien and a part of Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte's I Corps under the command of Jean-Baptiste Drouet, Comte d'Erlon. It was the first clash of the War of the Fourth Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars. As Emperor Napoleon I of France's Grande Armée advanced north through the Frankenwald (Franconian Forest) it struck the left wing of the armies belonging to the Kingdom of Prussia and the Electorate of Saxony, which were deployed on a long front. Schleiz is located 30 kilometers north of Hof and 145 kilometers southwest of Dresden at the intersection of Routes 2 and 94.

At the beginning of the battle, elements of Drouet's division clashed with Tauentzien's outposts. When Tauentzien became aware of the strength of the advancing French forces, he began a tactical withdrawal of his division. Joachim Murat assumed command of the troops and began an aggressive pursuit. A battalion-sized Prussian force to the west was cut off and suffered heavy losses. The Prussians and Saxons retreated north, reaching Auma that evening.

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The French emperor napoleon Bonaparte managed to win a number of decisive battles and showed complete tactical and strategic dominance over his opponents during the War of the Third Coalition, but brilliance often begets new challenges, and more enemies would join the alliance against the French in the war of the Fourth Coalition among the central actions of this conflict were the twin battles of a Jena and Auerstedt fought in 1806. Napoleon utterly defeated the Allied Austro-Russian army at the battle of Austerlitz in early December of 1805. A separate peace at Pressburg was signed by the end of the month as Austria had no capacity to continue fighting. Austria had to recognize Bavaria and Wurttemberg as kingdoms, ceding a number of provinces to them in Germany, while Napoleon received the provinces of Venetia and Dalmatia as the king of Italy. France was also promised 40 million francs in war indemnities. The Russians were given a free pass to retreat through Austrian territory, as the French troops were too tired to chase them anyway. Prussia was planning to join the coalition in 1805, but was delaying declaring war on France. The Allied defeat at Austerlitz was alarming for the Prussian King Frederick William III and in early 1806 he signed a treaty with Napoleon. The Prussians had to cede a few provinces to the German allies of France while they would receive in return French occupied Hanover, which belonged to Britain Prussia also formally entered the alliance with France against Britain. Meanwhile the Austrian forces, which were keeping French commander in Italy Massena occupied returned home, and that allowed the French to concentrate their forces against the kingdom of Naples. In February 1806 Massena invaded Naples. Although the British expedition of Stewart supported the Neapolitans they lost the decisive battle at Campo Tenese and by the end of July King Ferdinand IV and General Stewart had to retreat to Sicily. All of mainland Italy was now under French control and this situation would remain unchanged until the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Since Britain and Russia did not share borders with France and were not eager to start an amphibious invasion the War of the Third Coalition was effectively over and Napoleon started forming a new order in Germany. In July 1806 he established the Confederation of the Rhine consisting of 16 German states with himself as the protector. This gave Napoleon a buffer between France and the most influential German states - Austria and Prussia. On the 6th of August he declared the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, which had existed since 800. All this was insulting for Prussia and as Napoleon offered to return Hannover to Britain to procure peace, war became inevitable. The Prussian court was divided with the king leading the peace party while his spouse Queen Louise was nudging the country into conflict. Finally the war party won and on the 10th of August Prussia started mobilizing its army in the next two months was able to enter the alliance with Britain and Russia. Napoleon learned about the Prussian mobilization in early September and ordered 50,000 conscripts to join the army. The French troops were stationed all over Germany, and Napoleon was not ready to go on an offensive just yet. Prussia used that to enter Saxony and conscript 20,000 locals into its army. Napoleon demanded that the Prussian army leave Saxony, but on the first of October received an ultimatum to leave the lands to the east of the Rhine. On the 6th of October the War of the Fourth Coalition began. Both France and Prussia had about 200,000 troops however there was no unity in the Prussian army and it had three formal leaders. A number of generals advised the defensive approach with a slow strategic retreat in the hopes that Bennigsen would soon join them with more than 100,000 Russians under his command. However this plan was ignored and a more ambitious plan created by the Prince of Brunswick Charles William Ferdinand was adopted. The Prussians were going to go on the offensive, take Stuttgart to cut Napoleon from a portion of his forces and France. Meanwhile the French Emperor had already decided on his moves: he was going to move towards the Prussian capital of Berlin from the southwest, which meant that his troops would be able to avoid the majority of the rivers. Just a few days after the declaration of war Napoleon was already on the move. It seems that neither army was sure about the location of the enemy, but Napoleon's plan was better as it was cutting the Prussians from the Russians and Berlin, and therefore forcing them to fight. Due to scouting reports Napoleon was now sure that the Prussians were concentrating near Jenna, however the latter finally understood that the French army was moving fast to cut the roads to Berlin and some of the Prussian forces started moving to the north. Indeed just three days after the war began Napoleon's troops ended up to the south and east of the Prussian army and due to their faster movement concentrated and defeated the Prussians in the first battles of the campaign at Schleiz and Saalfeld. Once again the French were too quick for their opponents and two corps alongside the cavalry reserve ended up to the northeast of the Prussian positions. The Prussians were not encircled, but as the road to Berlin was open to attack, they had to stand and fight. The twin battles of Jenna and Auersted took place on the 14th of October. In a way it was two distinct battles as the two locations were more than 30 kilometers from each other and the two battles never combined into one. The French had about 40,000 infantry 8,000 cavalry and 110 guns at Jenna under the overall command of Napoleon, against 34,000 infantry 12,000 cavalry and 15 artillery batteries of the Prussian Prince Hohenlohe the French Center was commanded by Lannes the left flank by Augereau and the right by Soult. Napoleon ordered his troops to take Landgraefenburg - the plateau that prevailed over the battlefield. Part of the plateau was taken by the French during the night, but they needed more space, so at 6 a.m. an attack commenced the. French Center took Closwith while the left captured captured Cospeda. The Prussians lost the hill. Hohenlohe now understood that he was fighting the main French army and asked for help from the reserves at Weimar. The Prussians managed to set the second line of defense between the villages of Isserstadt and Vierzehnheiligen French advance was halted. However by 11:00 a.m. Ney's 6th Corps was on the scene and Napoleon launched another attack Augereau captured Isserstadt, Ney occupied Vierzehnheiligen and Soult turned the Prussian left. By 1 p.m. Hohenlohe had committed all his reserves in order to keep his line intact. Reserved from Weimar were desperately needed. Napoleon ordered his whole line to advance and the Prussians finally collapsed by 3:00 p.m. The Prussians were in full retreat with the French cavalry chasing them. The reserves from Weimar finally arrived and stopped the French at Kapellendorf Rüchel, who was leading the newly arrived 15,000 Prussians didn't set a proper line and decided to counter-attack. Although the French forces were initially halted, their cavalry soon outflanked and routed the enemy. By 4:00 p.m. the Battle of Jena was over. The French had lost about 6500 men while the Prussian losses have been estimated at 25,000. Napoleon was sure that he had defeated the main Prussian army, but he was wrong. At this point his marshal Davout was fighting the Prussian prince Brunswick. On the previous day Davout was ordered to move to the south and attack what Napoleon considered to be the main Prussian army from the north. He also was told to join forces with Bernadotte. However the latter declined and kept his position at Dornburg, as he was ordered to before. In the early morning Davout's 28,000 left their positions near the river Salle and moved towards Auerstadt. Yere they were attacked by 52,000 Prussians with no hope of support. Early in the battle the French took the village of Hassenhausen. the French leader deployed his three divisions nearby. Despite repeated charges by the Prussian cavalry by 8:30 a.m. Davout's infantry managed to rout the enemy cavalry. But the Prussian infantry was arriving to the battle. The French stopped a number of Prussian attacks mainly because the Prussians attacked in small groups with each division advancing in isolation. As their leader was mortally wounded early on, the Prussians lacked any coordinated command. At 11:00 a.m. when the Prussians had exhausted their efforts, Davout ordered a French advance and the Prussians collapsed. by the end of the battle Davout had inflicted 10,000 casualties and taken 3,000 prisoners while he lost 7,000. Over the next few weeks a relentless French pursuit caused more casualties to the Prussians and Berlin was occupied on the 27th. In less than a month since the start of the campaign Napoleon's forces killed 20,000 Prussians and took more than 140,000 prisoners. Still the Prussian leadership retreated towards the Russian army, so the war of the fourth coalition was just starting. Thank you for watching our documentary on the twin battles of Jena and Auerstedt. In two weeks we will be back to cover the Battle of Eylau. We would like to express our gratitude to our patreon supporters who make the creation of these videos possible. Patreon is the best way to suggest a new video, learn about our schedule and so much more. This is the Kings and Generals channel and we will catch you on the next one!




During the War of the Third Coalition, King Frederick William III of Prussia signed the Potsdam Accord with Tsar Alexander I of Russia, an active belligerent, on 3 November 1805. Frederick William promised to send an ambassador to Napoleon with an offer of armed mediation. Unless the French emperor agreed to disgorge the Kingdom of Holland and Switzerland, and renounce the crown of the Kingdom of Italy, the Prussians would join Habsburg Austria and the Russian Empire against Napoleon.[1]

Portrait of King Frederick William III of Prussia in blue military uniform
King Frederick William III

Curiously, the Prussian army had already been mobilized against Russia in September when the tsar demanded that Prussia join the Third Coalition.[2] Irritated by Napoleon's violation of its territory of Ansbach in September 1805, Prussia subsequently moved toward an understanding with Russia.[3] Napoleon managed to stall the Prussian ambassador Christian Graf von Haugwitz until after his great victory at the Battle of Austerlitz on 2 December 1805. Soon afterward, Austria sued for peace and Russia withdrew its troops, effectively dissolving the Third Coalition.[4]

On 15 February, Napoleon maneuvered Prussia into agreeing to transfer several of her territories to France and France's allies in return for Hanover, which France had previously occupied.[5] France invaded the Kingdom of Naples on 8 February 1806[6] and the last foothold on the Italian peninsula fell to the conquerors on 23 July.[7] On 25 July, Napoleon created the Confederation of the Rhine, a French satellite in Germany.[8] In the face of these French aggressions, the pro-war faction at the Prussian court, centered around Queen Louise, soon gained the upper hand. The pacific Haugwitz was dismissed as chief minister and on 7 August 1806 King Frederick William determined to go to war against Napoleon.[9]


Jena-Auerstedt Campaign Map, 8–14 October 1806
Jena-Auerstedt Campaign Map, 8–14 October 1806

Prussia mobilized 171,000 soldiers, including 35,000 cavalry, 15,000 gunners, and 20,000 Saxon allies. The troops were grouped in three armies. Feldmarschall Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick concentrated his soldiers around Leipzig and Naumburg in the center. The left wing, led by General of the Infantry Frederick Louis, Prince of Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen assembled near Dresden and included the Saxon contingent. Generals Ernst von Rüchel and Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher gathered the right wing at Göttingen and Mühlhausen.[10]

Portrait of Bernadotte in a Swedish uniform from a later date
Marshal Jean Bernadotte led the center column.

Presently, Napoleon became aware of the Prussian preparations for war. He called up 50,000 conscripts of the class of 1806 on 5 September and put the French forces in Germany on alert. When he received intelligence that the Prussians absorbed the Saxon army into their forces, he rapidly massed his Grande Armée with the goal of destroying the Prussian army.[11] On 5 October, Napoleon issued an order describing the order of march for the Grande Armée's invasion of the Electorate of Saxony. Marshal Bernadotte's I Corps led the center column, followed by Marshal Louis Davout's III Corps, most of Marshal Murat's Cavalry Reserve, and Marshal François Joseph Lefebvre's Imperial Guard. The right column was formed by Marshal Nicolas Soult's IV Corps in the lead, Marshal Michel Ney's VI Corps, and the Bavarians in the rear. The left column contained Marshal Jean Lannes' V Corps, followed by Marshal Pierre Augereau's VII Corps. Napoleon directed the right column toward Hof, the center column from Kronach to Schleiz, and the left column from Coburg to Saalfeld.[12]

The 59,131-strong right column's IV Corps numbered 30,956 infantry, 1,567 cavalry, and 48 guns, its VI Corps had 18,414 infantry, 1,094 cavalry, and 24 guns, and Lieutenant General Karl Philipp von Wrede's Bavarian division had 6,000 infantry, 1,100 cavalry, and 18 guns. The 38,055-man left column's V Corps counted 19,389 infantry, 1,560 cavalry, and 28 guns and its VII Corps had 15,931 infantry, 1,175 cavalry, and 36 guns. The 75,637-man center column's I Corps numbered 19,014 infantry, 1,580 cavalry, and 34 guns, its III Corps had 28,655 infantry, 1,538 cavalry, and 44 guns, its Imperial Guard had 4,900 infantry, 2,400 cavalry, and 36 guns, its Cavalry Reserve had 17,550 troopers and 30 guns. Not counted in the previous totals were 9,000 gunners, sappers, and others.[13]

Prussian 1805 horse artillery in bicorne hats, blue coats, white trousers, and black boots
Prussian horse artillery, 1805

The Prussian high command held several councils of war but no strategy could be agreed upon until a 5 October reconnaissance revealed Napoleon's forces were already moving north from Bayreuth toward Saxony. Then it was decided that Hohenlohe would move to Rudolstadt, Brunswick to Erfurt, and Rüchel to Gotha. The right wing would send forces to menace the French communications at Fulda. The Reserve under General Eugene Frederick Henry, Duke of Württemberg was ordered to move from Magdeburg to Halle.[14]

Murat in a gaudy white uniform with gold braid
Marshal Joachim Murat led the cavalry screen.

The Thuringian and Franconian Forests stretch northwestward from Bohemia. This area is composed of wooded mountains of about 750 meters altitude. In 1806, there were only a few poor roads through the tract. Napoleon selected his invasion route in the zone where the belt of rough terrain was narrowest, the Franconian Forest to the east.[15] The French army crossed the Saxon border on 8 October, screened in front by light cavalry. Napoleon was not certain where the opposing Prussian-Saxon army was located, so his army was arranged in a battalion carré (battalion square), capable of concentrating against threats coming from any direction.[16]

Murat personally led the light cavalry screen in front of Napoleon's battalion carré. In the east General of Brigade Antoine Lasalle scouted toward Hof, while General of Brigade Édouard Jean Baptiste Milhaud probed toward Saalfeld to the west. Napoleon directed General of Brigade Pierre Watier to take one regiment from his brigade and push as far forward as possible in front of the I Corps. The objects of the light cavalry's attentions were the location of Prussian and Saxon units and details of the road net. On the 8th, Murat's horsemen seized the bridge at Saalburg-Ebersdorf. A small defending force fell back east to Gefell where it rendezvoused with General-Major Tauentzien as his division retreated north from Hof. That evening, Tauentzien assembled his troops at Schleiz.[17]

About 9,000 Saxons lay at Auma 15 kilometers north-northeast of Schleiz and Oberst Carl Andreas von Boguslawski's Prussian detachment was 18 kilometers north-northwest at Neustadt an der Orla. General-Major Christian Ludwig Schimmelpfennig's detachment of 600 cavalry was 20 kilometers to the northwest at Pößneck.[18] Tauentzien's division counted 6,000 Prussians and 3,000 Saxons.[16] Bernadotte's three infantry divisions were led by Generals of Division Drouet, Pierre Dupont de l'Etang, and Olivier Macoux Rivaud de la Raffinière,[19] and his corps cavalry brigade by General of Brigade Jacques Louis François Delaistre de Tilly.[20] General of Division Jean Baptiste Eblé commanded the corps artillery reserve.[21]


Map of the Battle of Schleiz, 9 October 1806 at 2:00 pm
Battle of Schleiz, 9 October 1806 at 2 pm

See the Jena-Auerstedt Campaign Order of Battle for the composition and organization of the French, Prussian, and Saxon armies.

On 9 October, the first clash occurred between the troops of Bernadotte and Tauentzien near the Oschitz Wood, a belt of timber which lies south of Schleiz. Bernadotte ordered General of Brigade François Werlé to clear the forest to the right as Drouet's division advanced on Schleiz. In the thick woods, the infantry moved ahead while Watier's regiment followed behind. Werlé's advance guard took possession of the woods but was prevented from continuing on by a Prussian force under General-Major Rudolf Ernst Christoph von Bila.[22][23]

Black-and-white portrait of a hatless Bogislav Friedrich Emmanuel von Tauentzien in a full dress military uniform
Bogislav Tauentzien

By 2:00 pm, the French were in strength and Tauenzien decided to abandon Schleiz. The Prussian division fell back to the north covered by Bila's rear guard of one infantry battalion and one and a half cavalry regiments. Drouet attacked Schleiz at 4:00 pm and drove out the last of the Prussians. North of the town, Murat charged the rear guard with the 4th Hussar Regiment, but this attack was repulsed by the Prussian horsemen. Reinforced by the 5th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment and with infantry support, Murat pressed back Bila's troops to the wood north of Oettersdorf.[24][note 1]

Earlier, Tauentzien sent an officer named Hobe with one battalion, one squadron, and two guns to Crispendorf about six kilometers west of Schleiz. Hobe's assignment was to guard the right flank and maintain communications with Schimmelpfennig's cavalry in Pößneck. When Tauenzien began to fall back, Hobe's detachment retreated to the northeast to rejoin his division. At the wood near Pörmitz, a village four kilometers north of Schleiz, the detachment found itself caught between Murat's cavalry and one of Drouet's battalions. Attacked in a marshy forest, Hobe's force was badly mauled and lost one of its cannons. Most of the losses in the battle were from Hobe's luckless detachment.[25] The Prussians and Saxons lost 12 officers and 554 rank and file killed, wounded, captured, and missing, as well as one artillery piece captured. French losses are unknown but probably light.[20]


Black-and-white portrait of Jean Baptiste Drouet, later known as d'Erlon, in a military uniform
Jean Drouet

Tauentzien retreated to Auma where his tired and hungry troops camped at 7:00 pm.[26] Joined to the Saxon troops under General der Kavallerie Hans Gottlob von Zeschwitz, the total number of troops at Auma was 16,400 strong. That evening, Boguslawski's 3,000 men were still at Neustadt and Schimmelpfennig's 600 cavalry remained at Pößneck. Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia's 8,000-man division held Saalfeld to the west. Hohenlohe had 8,000 troops at Orlamünde south of Jena.[27]

The rest of the Prussian army was strung out to the west. Brunswick with the main body lay at Erfurt. Rüchel was positioned farther west near Gotha, while Blücher held Eisenach. General Karl August, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach led an 11,000-man corps with an advance guard at Schmalkalden and a detachment under General Christian Ludwig von Winning at Vacha. Duke Eugene of Württemberg's Reserve lay far to the north between Magdeburg and Halle.[27]

When Hohenlohe heard about the encounter at Schleiz, he ordered the troops of his left wing to mass between Rudolstadt and Jena before moving east to the support of Tauentzien and the Saxons. However, Brunswick refused to allow the maneuver so Hohenlohe suspended it. In the meantime, Hohenlohe sent a vaguely worded order to Louis Ferdinand, which the prince misinterpreted as an order to defend Saalfeld. The Battle of Saalfeld occurred the next day in front of Lannes' left flank corps.[28]


Historian Francis Loraine Petre notes that Napoleon's Grande Armée had a superior organization, employed better tactics, had more youthful and energetic subordinates, and enjoyed a 20% to 25% numerical superiority over their enemies.[29] The French corps were commanded by marshals capable of managing the details of their organizations. Lacking the corps system, the Prussian commanders were often forced to issue orders that went into great detail.[30] The French army was led by a single commander who alone made the decisions. Against Napoleon, the leaders of the Prussian army, who were mostly older, frequently held councils of war which "never decided anything definite".[31] Though Brunswick was nominally the Prussian commander in chief, his orders had to be confirmed by King Frederick William, while Hohenlohe and Rüchel were almost independent of him.[32] Napoleon's strategy was simple, but the Prussian generals felt compelled to plan for every eventuality, resulting in a much wider deployment of their forces.[33] On the evening of 9 October, between Winning's detachment in the west and Zeschwitz's Saxons in the east, the Prussian-Saxon army covered a 145 kilometer front. Furthermore, the Reserve was hopelessly out of touch at Magdeburg. Meanwhile, Napoleon's powerful batallion carré advanced on a front of only 60 kilometers.[34]


  1. ^ Google Earth was used throughout the article to determine directions and straight-line distances between Petre's locations.
  1. ^ Kagan, Frederick W. The End of the Old Order: Napoleon and Europe, 1801-1805. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press, 2006. ISBN 0-306-81137-5. 539-541
  2. ^ Kagan, 530-532
  3. ^ Kagan, 535
  4. ^ Chandler, David. The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York: Macmillan, 1966. 443
  5. ^ Chandler, 447
  6. ^ Schneid, Frederick C. Napoleon's Italian Campaigns: 1805-1815. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 2002. ISBN 0-275-96875-8. 48
  7. ^ Schneid, 55
  8. ^ Chandler, 449
  9. ^ Chandler, 453
  10. ^ Chandler, 456
  11. ^ Chandler, 460-462
  12. ^ Chandler, 467
  13. ^ Petre, F. Loraine. Napoleon's Conquest of Prussia 1806. London: Lionel Leventhal Ltd., 1993 (1907). ISBN 1-85367-145-2. 74
  14. ^ Chandler, 458-459
  15. ^ Petre, 75
  16. ^ a b Chandler, 468
  17. ^ Petre, 82-83
  18. ^ Petre, 84
  19. ^ Petre, 202
  20. ^ a b Smith, Digby. The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill, 1998. ISBN 1-85367-276-9. 223
  21. ^ Smith, 227
  22. ^ Petre, 84-85. Petre calls this general Bila II and his older brother Bila I.
  23. ^ Montag, Lexikon: Bf-Bo. This gives the names and dates of the two Bila brothers.
  24. ^ Petre, 85
  25. ^ Petre, 85-86
  26. ^ Petre, 86
  27. ^ a b Petre, 87
  28. ^ Chandler, 470
  29. ^ Petre, 165
  30. ^ Petre, 27
  31. ^ Petre, 166-167
  32. ^ Petre, 29
  33. ^ Petre, 167-168
  34. ^ Petre, 87. In this paragraph, the distances are Petre's.


This page was last edited on 23 February 2019, at 15:16
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