Jena Battlefield in Thuringia, Germany was the site of the Battle of Jena during the Napoleonic Wars. On 14 October 1806, the Prussian army of Frederick William III together with Saxony troops met that of Napoleon’s French troops at Jena in Saxony, being modern day Germany.
In what is now known as the Battle of Jena, the Prussian army suffered a decisive defeat at the hands of the French Emperor. On the same day, another Prussian division was defeated at nearby Auerstädt.
Today, visitors can tour Jena Battlefield, including Windknollen and Landgrafenberg, on guided tours. Museum 1806, located on the map, offers a good introduction to the Battle of Jena. Re-enactments of the battle also take place at Jena Battlefield on the anniversary of the conflict.
Why did the battle of Jena take place?
The seeds for this article grew out of a visit to the “Journées de Thuringes” held in Jena in Germany on 14 July, 2006. As part of the festivities, held under the aegis of Franc-German friendship, the local museum had an exhibition of military events related to the battle of Jena, 14 October, 2005, a special Audio Walk had been created at Cospeda for visitors to the battlefield. Both were resolutely emotional in their approach. The museum had produced six tableaux showing the civilian and military experience of the battle – pillaged houses, burning buildings, field hospitals, military uniforms -, the audio walk was a poetical reflection on memory, realms of memory (such as battlefields) and the emotional experience of remembering war. Neither had made any attempt to explain why the battle took place. This essay considers the events which brought about the confrontation.
Battle of Jena: Napoleon’s Double Knock-out Punch
On the night of November 5, 1805, two men and a woman secretly entered the crypt of the Church of the Garrison at Potsdam near Berlin. At exactly midnight, the three joined hands over the coffin of Friedrich II, king of Prussia — Frederick the Great — and swore to overthrow ‘The Monster,’ as they and many other Europeans called Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of the French. Making the oath were Friedrich Wilhelm III, king of Prussia his wife, Queen Louise von Mecklenburg-Strelitz, so beautiful that a contemporary described her as ‘an apparition from a fairy tale’ and Tsar Alexander I of Russia.
Within a month of their solemn agreement, however, that oath was in jeopardy. On December 2, 1805, Napoleon crushed a combined Austro-Russian army at Austerlitz, a victory that left him in control of most of Western Europe. The Austrians were forced to sign the humiliating peace treaty of Pressburg, and Alexander’s Russian army had to retreat homeward, technically still at war with France, but defeated and exhausted.
But where were the Prussians? Despite Friedrich Wilhelm’s assurance of support, the pace of events had moved too fast. By the time that the king’s foreign minister, Christian Graf von Haugwitz, managed to meet with Napoleon, the French emperor had already destroyed the Austro-Russian armies. Instead of delivering an ultimatum, Haugwitz abruptly reversed his stance, offered his warmest congratulations and agreed to a treaty with France. Under its terms Prussia ceded the principalities of Ansbach, Cleve, Neufchatel and Wesel to France. In return Prussia received the right to occupy the kingdom of Hanover, then the property of George III, king of Great Britain. When word of Friedrich Wilhelm’s duplicity became public, Britain promptly declared war on Prussia.
For Prussia, worse was to follow. On July 17, 1806, Napoleon concluded the Treaty of the Confederation of the Rhine. Fifteen German rulers, sniffing the prevailing wind, agreed to secede from the Holy Roman Empire and the protection of defeated Emperor Francis II of Austria and become members of a Confederation of the Rhine under Napoleon’s protection. The 15 pledged to shelter French troops and to raise contingents of soldiers to aid them in any war they might fight.
Friedrich Wilhelm now feared war with France and tried to forestall pressure from the growing war party in his government, one of whose leaders was Queen Louise. When Napoleon offered to return Hanover to George III in exchange for peace with Britain, however, the Prussian king was furious. He wrote to Tsar Alexander on August 9, ‘If Napoleon is treating with London about Hanover, he will destroy me.’ The Prussians secretly started preparing for war with France. Friedrich Wilhelm began to seek allies. A flurry of new treaties with Russia, still eager to overthrow Napoleon, and an agreement with England led to the formation of a new coalition — the fourth — against France.
Supremely confident of victory, the Prussians bragged that clubs would be all they needed to thrash Napoleon’s French ‘cobblers.’ Berliners cheered wildly when Queen Louise, wearing a crimson and blue colonel’s uniform, paraded before the regiment of dragoons that bore her name. French Lieutenant Jean Baptiste Antoine Marcellin de Marbot, then in Berlin as an envoy to the Prussian government, recalled, ‘The officers whom I knew ventured no longer to speak to me or salute me many Frenchmen were insulted by the populace the men-at-arms of the Noble Guard pushed their swagger to the point of whetting their sword-blades on the stone steps of the French ambassador’s house.’ On October 7, 1806, Friedrich Wilhelm sent an insulting ultimatum to Napoleon, giving the emperor just two weeks to remove all French soldiers east of the Rhine and demanding that France give up all territory acquired since 1794.
To knowledgeable observers, Prussian confidence was out of place. As early as 1789, a French politician noted, ‘The Prussian monarchy is so constituted that it could not cope with calamity.’ The much-vaunted Prussian army of Frederick the Great had rested on its laurels and lacked recent experience in combat. In peacetime there was scant provision for large units to exercise together. In time of war brigades and divisions were organized ad hoc, leaving commanders little time to train or get to know their units. There were no army reserves of artillery or cavalry, or more important, any staff organization worthy of the name.
Most of those problems stemmed from the fact that the officer corps was old and hidebound. Many of Prussia’s highest-ranking officers had been junior officers during the Seven Years’ War by 1806, of 142 generals, four were over 80 years of age, 13 were over 79, and 62 over 60, while 25 percent of the regimental and battalion commanders were over 60.
The Prussian mobilization was disorderly and incomplete. Young Captain Carl Maria von Clausewitz wrote that the Prussian army had 210,000 men, but such large detachments were held back in Poland and Silesia that the actual number of men available to face Napoleon was not more than 110,000.
To compound the army’s problems, the king divided his army into three commands. The first, 60,000 men, was commanded by 71-year-old Duke Carl of Brunswick, nephew and pupil of Frederick the Great. The second, 22,000 men, was under 60-year-old Friedrich Ludwig, Prince of Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen. The third, 28,000 men, was commanded by General Ernst Philipp von Rüchel. Brunswick nominally commanded the entire force, but the other commanders felt free to propose their own plans and did so. To allay friction among the commanders, the king decided to accompany the Duke of Brunswick’s headquarters, taking with him his own military advisers, the Ober Kriegs Kollegium, or Army Council. Even Queen Louise and her ladies felt they might be useful, so they came along too. Little wonder that Clausewitz wrote, ‘The future looks forbidding to me.’
For the Prussians, the prudent course of action would be to remain on the defensive until the Russian army, 120,000 strong, arrived and then overwhelm Napoleon with superior numbers. They had no intention of doing so. The Prussian plan was to seize the initiative, surprise the French army and drive it back over the Rhine. On September 13, 1806, the Prussians occupied neighboring Saxony, adding a Saxon corps of 20,000 to Hohenlohe’s force. By September 25, the three Prussian forces, now totaling about 130,000, were concentrated on a line centered on Erfurt and stretching 55 miles from Eisenbach in the west to Jena in the east. Rüchel, with 28,000 troops, was at Eisenbach, Brunswick at Erfurt with 60,000 and Hohenlohe, with 42,000, at Jena. The line, located 150 miles southwest of Berlin, put the Prussian army in a good position to protect the capital and to strike at the French army, centered at Bamberg, 75 miles to the south. But the Prussian commanders then squandered several days holding councils of war, trying to reach a consensus about what to do next. By October 7, General Gerhard Johann David von Scharnhorst, Brunswick’s chief of staff, was so exasperated that he wrote: ‘What we ought to do, I know right well. What we shall do, God only knows.’
Meanwhile, at the Château de Saint-Cloud in Paris in a second-floor office overlooking the park, ‘The Monster’ was studying his maps. Napoleon was fully informed about the Prussians’ plans and had no intention of waiting on the defensive. His own plan was to destroy the Prussians before the Russians could arrive.
To do so he would employ two of his classic strategic maneuvers. First, using a manoeuvre sur position centrale — maneuver on the central position — he would insert the French army between the Prussian and the approaching Russian armies. At the same time, he would employ a manoeuvre sur les derrières — maneuver on the enemy’s communications — to interpose the French army between the Prussian army and Berlin. (In time this maneuver would become known as the manoeuvre d’Iéna or the manoeuvre de Saale.) To protect Berlin, the Prussians would be forced to give battle. Napoleon would destroy the Prussians, then turn to deal with the Russians.
The key to those maneuvers was secrecy and speed. To hide his army from the Prussians, the French emperor would use the Saale River, which ran generally south to north, as a screen between his Grande Armée and the Prussian army. By the time the Prussians discovered his army, it would be too late — the French would already be behind them.
The speed would be provided by the legs of his soldiers. To the Prussians, marching 15 miles seemed a hard day’s work. The French soldiers had proved they were capable of forced marches of 20 to 25 miles a day for weeks on end, fighting while they marched, although such treks generally left behind a trail of exhausted stragglers and marauders. Moreover, almost all of Napoleon’s soldiers were battle-hardened veterans. Their generals were young, energetic and experienced — including Napoleon himself, who had just turned 37 the previous month. Finally the Grande Armée was tightly integrated and led by a man of such martial genius that Clausewitz would later refer to him as the ‘God of War.’
Against 130,000 Prussians and Saxons, Napoleon mobilized 167,000 top rank soldiers. His army consisted of the Imperial Guard, 7,000, and the following formations, each led by a maréchal de France: the I Corps under Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte, 21,000 the III Corps under Louis Nicholas Davout, 29,000 the IV Corps under Jean de Dieu Soult, 29,000 the V Corps, led by Jean Lannes, 22,000 the VI Corps under Michel Ney, 19,000 the VII Corps led by Pierre François Charles Augereau, 20,000 and the Cavalry Reserve under Joachim Murat, 14,000. In addition to these, there was a Bavarian Auxiliary Corps of 6,000 under Général de Division Prince Karl Philipp von Wrede.
Napoleon arrived at Bamberg on October 6. The following day he received the Prussian ultimatum. That same day, the officers of the French army read a proclamation from Napoleon to their assembled troops: ‘Soldiers! The order for your return to France was already given triumphal feasts awaited you. But cries of war have been heard from Berlin. We are provoked by an audacity that demands vengeance. Soldiers! There are none of you who wish to return to France by a road other than that of honor we will not return except by a route that leads under triumphal arches. What! Have we braved weather, seas, deserts, beaten a Europe united against us, gathered glory from Orient to Occident only to return to our country as refugees, having abandoned our allies and to hear that the French eagle has fled before the Prussian army?’
The following day the French launched their 19th-century-style blitzkrieg. Screened by horsemen from Murat’s Cavalry Reserve, the Grande Armée advanced via three parallel roads, one column on each road. The V Corps was to lead the left column, followed a day’s march behind by the VII Corps. The I Corps was at the head of the center column, followed in turn by the III Corps, the Cavalry Reserve and the Imperial Guard. The right column was made up, in order, of the IV, VI and Bavarian corps. The frontage of the whole army was about 38 miles, and its depth was about the same, or two days’ march, so that Napoleon would be able to concentrate his entire strength within 48 hours. The result was a flexible formation able to attack in any direction, a formation that would go down in history as the bataillon carré.
On October 9, Murat’s cavalry and Bernadotte’s I Corps encountered the Prussians at Schleiz, 26 miles southeast of Jena, and after some difficulty, drove them back. Casualties were light on both sides.
The situation became more serious the next day when Lannes’ V Corps ran into Hohenlohe’s advance guard at the town of Saalfeld, about 22 miles south of Jena. The Prussians were commanded by General Prince Ludwig Ferdinand, the king’s nephew, who according to Clausewitz had the potential of becoming the leading Prussian commander of his time. It was not to be. Lannes drove in the Prussian lines and captured the town. The Prussians collapsed. Prince Ludwig led a desperate cavalry charge in an attempt to stem the French advance, but was killed by Sergeant Jean Baptiste Guindey of the French 10th Hussars. The prince’s force of 8,000 was effectively destroyed, losing a third of its strength killed, wounded or captured. French losses were light.
The sound of distant guns at Saalfeld alarmed the Prussian headquarters. The Prussian high command realized Napoleon was about to outflank them. Brunswick began to concentrate his army and shift it to the east to meet the advancing French. He hurriedly sent out orders to Rüchel to join the main army, which would move to Weimar, midway between Erfurt and Jena, about 12 miles west of the latter. Hohenlohe was to remain at Jena to cover the left flank.
When he received his orders, Hohenlohe decided to withdraw from Jena proper and form a defensive camp on the Landgrafenberg plateau, situated west of the Saale above the town. By then the nervousness in the Prussian high command had communicated itself to the rank and file. At noon of the 11th, as Hohenlohe’s soldiers were filing through the narrow streets of Jena, a hussar with a bloodstained bandage around his head came galloping down the road from Weimar shouting: ‘Get back! Get back! The French are upon us.’ Some frightened Prussian artillerymen turned around their gun teams and galloped back into the town, colliding with the infantry columns. In an instant Hohenlohe’s entire army dissolved in panic. It took hours for the Prussian officers to gather up their soldiers.
When word reached Napoleon of these Prussian movements, he issued orders to wheel the whole French army to the left, roughly onto the line of the Saale. By the time those moves had been completed, the army would be ranged on a 30-mile front from Kahla, about 10 miles south of Jena, to Naumburg, about 20 miles north of Jena. The French army was now to the east and north of the Prussians — and nearer to Berlin.
About noon on October 12, the Prussian high command received news of the French arrival at Naumburg, throwing it into something approaching panic. A council of war was ordered immediately, and first thing the following day the Prussian leaders gathered to decide what to do.
Meanwhile, at daybreak on October 13, while the Prussian leaders were still gathering for their meeting, Lannes’ V Corps was probing its way through a thick mist along the road to Jena. The French occupied Jena, and Lannes, accompanied by a handful of infantry, gained the Landgrafenberg plateau above the town. As the mist lifted, Lannes, observing from the Windknolle — a knoll occupied by a number of windmills — saw all 40,000 of Hohenlohe’s Prussians stretching before him upon the plateau of Jena. Within minutes Lannes’ aides-de-camp were spurring their horses down the road to Napoleon’s headquarters.
‘Enfin le voile est déchiré (At last the veil is torn aside),’ observed Napoleon. By early afternoon, he was on his way to Jena Soult’s IV Corps, Ney’s VI Corps, Augereau’s VII Corps and the Imperial Guard were advancing to Jena by forced marches and Davout’s III Corps and Bernadotte’s I Corps were alerted to march to the sound of the guns if they heard cannon fire at Jena.
Meanwhile the Prussians had had their meeting. Instead of facing the French in battle, they decided that Brunswick’s main army would withdraw toward Leipzig, 50 miles to the northwest — and 90 miles south of Berlin — to head off the French advance. Hohenlohe would defend the line of the Saale until Brunswick and Rüchel were safely away.
By nightfall, however, the head of Brunswick’s main army had reached Auerstädt, directly across the Saale from Naumburg. The rest of his force was stretched out all the way back to Weimar, 23 miles away, where Rüchel’s army was still waiting for the roads to clear, the victim of atrocious Prussian staff work. Meanwhile, on the Landgrafenberg stood Lannes’ V Corps and the Imperial Guard, while Soult’s IV Corps, Ney’s VI Corps and Augereau’s VII Corps were close by. Bernadotte’s I Corps was just south of Naumburg.
That night Napoleon, holding a lamp, personally directed his gunners as they struggled to move artillery pieces up the steep, narrow defiles toward the Landgrafenberg, where the French soldiers were packed like sardines. Jean-Roche Coignet, a grenadier in the Imperial Guard, recalled: ‘We were obliged to grope our way along the edge of the precipice not one of us could see the other. It was necessary to keep perfect silence, for the enemy was near us.’
Hohenlohe believed the French constituted only an advance guard, screening the flank of the main French army while it passed to the east. Consequently he placed only 8,000 men to his front, anchored by the villages of Cospeda on his left and Closewitz on his right.
At 6 a.m. on October 14, the French attack rolled forward through a thick morning mist. Napoleon’s first act was to secure sufficient space on the plateau to allow his close-packed army to deploy. To attain that goal, Lannes’ V Corps marched to attack Closewitz, a half mile ahead through the fog. As space opened up on the plateau, Augereau’s VII Corps swung up on Lannes’ left and struck for Cospeda, while Soult’s IV Corps deployed to support Lannes’ right. The Imperial Guard remained in reserve.
Lannes’ advance on Closewitz went astray in the heavy mist, but eventually he captured the village, while Augereau took Cospeda. Meanwhile Soult moved up on Lannes’ right. The weight of three French corps slowly forced the Prussians back across the plateau. About 9 a.m. it began to occur to Hohenlohe that he was facing something more than a French advance guard, and he sent urgent messages to Rüchel at Weimar begging for help. By 10 a.m., the fog had lifted. The Prussians had been forced back about two miles to a second line of villages, Vierzehnheiligen on the Prussian left and Isserstadt on the right. There, they repulsed repeated attacks, and the French advance ground to a halt. ‘The sun came out,’ recalled Coignet, ‘and lighted up the beautiful plateau. Then we could see in front of us. On our right we saw a handsome carriage drawn by white horses we were told that it was the Queen of Prussia, who was trying to escape.’
By 11 a.m., Ney’s VI Corps was on the scene, and Napoleon launched another full-scale attack. Augereau captured Isserstadt, Ney took Vierzehnheiligen, and Soult turned the Prussian left. By 1 p.m., Hohenlohe had committed all his reserves every one of his soldiers was in combat. Rüchel’s arrival was desperately awaited as more and more French troops swarmed onto the plateau. At that hour, Napoleon ordered an advance across the whole line, and the exhausted Prussians collapsed. Napoleon unleashed Murat’s reserve cavalry, and the collapse turned into a rout. By 3 p.m., the Prussians were streaming west from the field with the French cavalry in hot pursuit. The pursuit paused about two miles from the battlefield at the village of Capellendorf as the French ran into Rüchel coming up from Weimar. With an astonishing lack of appreciation for the situation, Rüchel, described by Clausewitz as a man who was ‘energetic but who lacked intellect,’ led his 15,000 men right through Hohenlohe’s madly fleeing soldiers and tried to attack the French. By 4 p.m., Rüchel’s men had joined Hohenlohe’s routed masses, and the Battle of Jena was over.
Some 50,000 panicky Prussians were now fleeing. The French had lost about 6,500 of the 54,000 men who had actually been engaged. Prussian losses are unknown but have been estimated at about 25,000.
Napoleon returned to his headquarters believing that he had just crushed the main Prussian army. He was wrong. At Naumburg, 18 miles north of the Jena battlefield, 36-year-old Louis Nicholas Davout — balding and myopic but determined to persevere — was locked in battle with Brunswick.
At 3 a.m. on October 14, Davout received orders from Napoleon, written at 10 p.m. on October 13 at his bivouac on the plateau above Jena. The emperor wrote he had identified a Prussian army deployed about 2 1/2 miles away and extending from the heights of Jena to his front as far as Weimar. He intended to attack in the morning. He directed Davout to march across the Saale pass through the village of Auerstädt, then swing south and fall on the rear of the Prussians. The message added, ‘If Marshal Bernadotte is with you, you will be able to march together, but the Emperor hopes that he will be in the position indicated to him, that is, at Dornburg.’
Davout issued orders for the III Corps to advance, then went to see Bernadotte, whose I Corps had marched into Naumburg the previous evening. Davout gave Bernadotte a copy of the emperor’s orders and invited him to join him in the advance on Auerstädt. Bernadotte, however, had no desire to be associated with Davout. He chose to assume that the emperor wished him to go to Dornburg, located on the east bank of the Saale halfway between Naumburg and Jena, and marched his I Corps off to the south, where he would fail to support either Napoleon or Davout. After the battle Napoleon prepared a court-martial indictment for Bernadotte, but the wily Gascon escaped with a severe tongue-lashing.
So it was that early on the 14th, when the III Corps moved through the heavy morning mist across the Saale to Auerstädt, Davout’s 28,000 men found themselves attacked by 52,000 Prussians, with no hope of support. Early in the fighting the French managed to capture the village of Hassenhausen, and Davout deployed his three divisions nearby despite repeated charges by Prussian cavalry led by 63-year-old Lt. Gen. Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. By 8:30 a.m., Davout’s steady infantry had routed Blücher’s cavalry, but the Prussian infantry was arriving in force. Over the course of the day, the French repeatedly blocked Prussian attacks, largely because the Prussians attacked piecemeal, with each division advancing in isolation and being defeated in detail. At 11 a.m., when the Prussians had exhausted their efforts, Davout ordered a French advance, and the Prussians collapsed.
Brunswick was mortally wounded during the battle, leaving it for Friedrich Wilhelm to give the command to abandon the field. When it was over, Davout had inflicted 10,000 casualties and taken 3,000 prisoners, but his own casualties totaled 7,000 — very heavy relative to his strength. Only the lack of French cavalry for pursuit prevented another Prussian rout. Over the next few weeks a relentless French pursuit bagged enemy survivors and bluffed Prussian fortresses into surrender. By November 10, barely a month after Jena-Auerstädt, Prussian might was no more. In just 33 days, the Grande Armée had killed 20,000 Prussians and taken 140,000 prisoners, along with 800 pieces of artillery and 250 colors and standards. But the war did not end. The Monster would need two more campaigns to force Friedrich Wilhelm, Queen Louise and Alexander I to the conference table.
Still, each of the two French achievements on October 14 bore its distinctive stamp. ‘At Jena, Napoleon won a battle he could not lose,’ wrote historian François-Guy Hourtoulle. ‘At Auerstädt, Davout won a battle he could not win.’
On October 24, the Grande Armée began to parade through Berlin, led by the soldiers of Davout’s III Corps, whom Napoleon had given the honor of being the first to enter the city. ‘It was a fine autumn day,’ recalled Quartermaster Charles Parquin, a cavalryman in the French 20th Chasseurs. ‘The city was beautiful, yet it looked depressing. All the shops were closed, and no one was at the windows. In the streets there were a few people and no carriages at all. The only sound to be heard was the rumble of our guns and wagons.’
Lieutenant Marcellin de Marbot rode through the city too. ‘My first feeling on returning to Berlin,’ he wrote, ‘…was one of sympathy with a patriotic population thus brought low by defeat, invasion and the loss of relations and friends. The entry of the ‘Noble Guard,’ however, disarmed and prisoners aroused in me very different sentiments. The young officers who had sharpened their sabers on the steps of the French Embassy were now humble enough. They had begged to be taken round, not through Berlin not caring to be paraded in view of the inhabitants who had been witnesses of their old swagger. For this very reason the Emperor gave directions to the troops guarding them to march them through the street in which the French Embassy stood.’
On October 26, Napoleon visited the tomb of Frederick the Great. ‘He walked rather hurriedly at first,’ wrote a witness, ‘but as he drew near the church, he moderated his pace, which became slower still and more measured as he approached the remains of the great king to whom he had come to pay homage. The door of the monument was open and he stopped at the entrance in a grave and meditative attitude. His glances seemed to penetrate the gloom which reigned around these august ashes, and he remained there nearly ten minutes, motionless and silent, as if absorbed in profound thought.’
James W. Shosenberg, a member of the Société française d’histoire napoléonienne and a fellow of the International Napoleonic Society, writes from Oshawa, Canada. For further reading, he suggests: Napoleon’s Conquest of Prussia, 1806, by F. Loraine Petre or Notes on Prussia During the Great Catastrophe 1806, by Carl von Clausewitz.
This article was originally published in the October 2006 issue of Military History magazine. For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Military History magazine today!
Analysis of the battles
Major credit for destroying the Prussian army must go to Davout. Without question, the major battle was fought at Auerstedt, not at Jena. Had Davout been overrun on 14 October, the Prussians might have escaped to join the Russians, making a final French victory over the coalition more difficult. Considering another alternative, had the Prussians defeated Davout at Auerstedt, they might have concentrated against Napoleon at Jena and handed Napoleon his first major defeat. Indeed, this is what Napoleon feared the most. That is why when Napoleon heard of the extent of Davout's victory at Auerstedt, he refused to believe it. After two days of pouting, Napoleon finally accepted the facts and wrote Davout a letter of congratulations, but he stated that it was for Davout's subordinate generals and men. Even on the battle streamers of the French regiments that fought at either battle, Napoleon had Jena, not Auerstedt, emblazoned.
Napoleon had misjudged where the major Prussian army lay and thus gave his full attention to the action at Jena and none to that at Auerstedt. When he moved on the false assumption that the main Prussian army lay before him, Napoleon's imagination took over. By late afternoon, he had convinced himself he had 60,000 or more Prussians before him, when he actually had less than half that number. Napoleon also benefited at Jena from the actions of good subordinates, most notably Marshal Jean Lannes. But he also had an obliging enemy. The Prussians went far toward defeating themselves, both at Jena and Auerstedt. They had grossly overestimated the strength and effectiveness of their own army. They had advanced without waiting for the Russians, extended their forces westward, and made themselves vulnerable to a French counterstroke. They had no effective central command, the armies of Brunswick and Hohenlohe were separated, and there was little coordination between the two.
Special forces is one of the best video game expansion I've played, and obviously battlefield 2 have a special place in my heart.
BF2 the best game ever. it built community's that still exist today, it still has quite a healthy playerbase maybe more players per day then all the newer battlefield games?, If BF6 is 10% as good as BF2 we will get something special, but i fear it will be just another watered down battlefield game
show this twitch channel some love if you remember the good old days :) https://www.twitch.tv/allidoisspectate not my channel, just a great place to watch the good old BF2 live.
BF2 was so ahead of its time. It was definitely the peak in PC gaming, clans, communities etc. It was fantastic.
It makes me sad I'll not be able to experience that time and feeling for the first ever time again.
I got my copy from a new game that opened in my home town but I bought preowned PC copy that was missing the code book, and because it was their first day I managed to blag the manager to give me a brand new copy for the same price when I brought the shit one back. Still the best blag of my life lol
I think BF2 had the best commander and squad gameplay.
Special Forces, man the grappling hooks and tactile nature of that DLC was fantastic.
Modern combat was my first battlefield
I had so many good times on Special Forces. Finding hiding spots with the zip line! Christ man do much nostalgia.
I always dream about a proper Battlefield game being similar to Battlefield 2 but I don't think it will ever happen, ever.
Everyone just seems to make run and gun high intensity combat where there's never time to breath. There's no tactics or anything.
I remember on BF2 youɽ get your squad together and covertly go around the edge of the map and take out one of the flanking flags on Strike of Karkand. Protecting your squad leader as you done it too, and prey prey didn't walk into a tank or something on the way in!
Jena Battlefield - History
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Jena, city, Thuringia Land (state), east-central Germany. It lies on the Saale River, east of Weimar. First mentioned in the 9th century as Jani, it was chartered in 1230 and belonged to the margraves of Meissen from the mid-14th century. The house of Wettin, which held the margraviate and (after 1423) the electorate of Saxony, was divided in 1485, and Jena fell to the dukes of the Ernestine branch. From 1672 to 1690 it was the centre of the duchy of Saxe-Jena, and it remained a ducal residence until 1918. Napoleon won a notable victory over the Prussian army on the heights north of Jena in 1806 (see Battle of Jena).
A rail junction, Jena is a major centre for optical and precision instruments and glass products. The city has a significant pharmaceutical industry and several biotechnology and microelectronics firms.
The city’s Friedrich-Schiller University was founded by the elector John Frederick the Magnanimous in 1548 as an academy and was raised to university status in 1577. It flourished under the duke Charles Augustus, patron of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, from 1787 to 1806, when the philosophers Johann Fichte, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Friedrich von Schelling and the writers August von Schlegel and Friedrich Schiller were on its teaching staff. It was long in the forefront of German universities in the liberal acceptance of new ideas. The evolutionist Ernst Haeckel was prominent at the university in the mid-19th century, and Karl Marx received a doctor’s degree in absentia in 1841. A prominent landmark in Jena is the university’s tower (400 feet [122 metres]).
Jena suffered severe damage in World War II, but it has been restored. Notable structures are the old university buildings, the 14th-century town hall, and St. Michael’s Church (1438–1528). Numerous towers remain from the medieval fortifications. University buildings (1906–08) occupy the site of the old ducal palace where Goethe wrote his novel Hermann und Dorothea. The city is also home to the Max Planck Institutes for Biogeochemistry, Chemical Ecology, and Economics. There are botanical gardens, a planetarium, and civic and university museums. Pop. (2003 est.) 102,634.
Ten Biggest Battles of the 19th Century
Although the Franco-Prussian war has many of the century’s largest battles, it was relatively short in duration containing a small number of large battles, most fought on the frontier – as a contest it was over within three months, although the siege of Paris continued into the following year. The American Civil War, by comparison, had more soldiers (about 3m), but lasted much longer (4 years) and consisted of a large number smaller battles (nearly 400). The largest battle of that conflict was the Seven Days which had 195,000 combatants – about the same as Waterloo, but neither make it onto the list above. Neither do two other decisive battles of the 19 th century – Austerlitz (1805) and Gettysburg (1863) both of which had about 170,000 combatants although Gettysburg lasted much longer, 3 days, whilst Napoleon needed just 8 hours to annihilate Kutuzov at Austerlitz.
The Battle of Nanjing, China (1864)
The 3 rd battle of Nanjing was the decisive engagement of the Taiping Rebellion, which raged across southern China from 1850 to 1864, the latter stages occurring at the same time as American Civil War. About 1,000,000 government troops, loyal to the ruling Qing dynasty, fought about 500,000 well-armed Taiping rebels.
The Qing (“ch-ing”), known in western histories as the Manchu, had ruled China since the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644 and were originally from Manchuria, being of a separate ethnic group to the majority Han. Qing power reached its zenith in the early 18 th century, particularly under the 61 year reign of the Kangxi Emperor and formed the basis of what is now the territorial area of modern China. During the early and mid 19 th century a combination of natural disasters, economic stagnation and disastrous wars against more technologically advanced foreign powers, such as the British who annexed Hong Kong, had substantially eroded Qing authority.
The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom grew from a quasi-religious, millenarian cult founded by Hong Xiuquan (“hung hsiu-chuan”) in Guangxi province during the 1840’s. Hong had been an applicant for the Imperial Civil Service the previous decade who had locally been exposed to the preaching of Christian missionaries, and possessed a Chinese translation of the bible. Although he paid little attention to Christianity at the time, when in 1836 he failed the entrance examinations for the 4 th time (not so strange, the pass rate was less than 5%) the failure brought on a period of intense depression which culminated in a nervous breakdown during which he claimed to have experienced a spiritual revelation during a series of dreams. He interpreted this experience as a divine summons to rid China of “demon worship” and came to believe that he was a re-incarnation of the younger brother of Jesus Christ and began preaching among the local community of the Hakka ethnic group, of which we was a member. He laid out a quasi-Christian philosophy that included common ownership of property, equality for women (but also strict separation of the sexes) and the destruction of Buddhist and Confucian symbols and images. By 1840, the sect had as many as 40,000 followers and attracted the attention of the Qing authorities who attempted to violently supress it, leading eventually to civil war.
The revolt proper began in Guangxi province in 1850 when a 10,000 strong Taiping force attacked and captured the town of Jintian (present day Guiping). The Qing government, already heavily committed in the 2 nd Opium War against the British, failed to quell the revolt and by 1853 and the rebels had occupied Nanjing and declared it their capital, changing its name to Tianjing (“heavenly capital”). The Heavenly Kingdom expanded its control over more of south east China and attempted to enlist the support of European powers, but were rebuffed. In 1860 they attempted to take the city of Shanghai, but were repulsed by Qing forces, by now trained and advised by a small number European officers, and a slow painful fightback by the government began.
By 1864, most of the rebel area had been re-occupied and the Qing, by now with the support of western powers, prepared to re-take Nanjing. By June, Nanjing had been surrounded and was preparing for siege when Hong suddenly died, most likely of food poisoning. With a force of 500,000 Qing troops against of maybe 400,000 in the city a bitter struggle erupted in the outer suburbs as government troops took the city gates and bridges one-by-one, eventually capturing the city on the 19 th of July, and carrying out a massacre of the inhabitants in which as many 100,000 may have been killed. The fall of Nanjing effectively destroyed the Taiping army and, although sporadic resistance and interlinked rebellions in neighbouring provinces continued for several years afterwards, the Heavenly Kingdom collapsed with the fall of the city.
The Taiping rebellion may well have been the largest and bloodiest civil war in all human history, although the Napoleonic wars in Europe were a larger scale conflict. Both sides engaged in the destruction of urban commercial centres and rural agricultural production, including the massacre of inhabitants, as an economic warfare tactic as many as 600 major towns and cities were destroyed in this way. It has been estimated that as many as 20-30m people died during the conflict – to put that in context, it is more than the total Soviet Union war dead, civilian and military, during the whole of the second world war.
Always an avowedly peasant and working class movement, the Taiping were referenced in later Chinese history by both nationalist leader Sun Yat Sen and communist Mao Tse Tung as examples of the power of ordinary Chinese to stand up to a decaying and corrupt imperial system. Although victorious in the rebellion, the Qing dynasty was gone within 50 years the last emperor, Pu Yi, was overthrown in 1912 and China became a republic after 2,000 years of rule by the Emperors.
Siege of Paris (1870)
At the outset of the Franco-Prussian war in July 1870, France was led by Louis Napoleon Bonaparte III (nephew of Napoleon I). Although elected as president of the Second Republic in 1848, he seized power in a bloodless coup-d’état in 1851 and crowned himself Emperor, initiating the short lived Second Empire. He had already fought a successful war in Italy to aid the Italian nationalists in ejecting the Austrian army from northern Italy and speeding Italian Unification as well his attempt to install Maximillian Hapsburg as Emperor of Mexico he was also the prime mover in the coalition that fought Russia in the Crimean war.
Prussia was then a monarchy under William I, but real power lay in the hands of his formidable Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. Territorially enlarged from wars with Austria and Denmark, and rapidly industrialising – Prussia was the “Tiger” economy of 19th century Europe, riding a wave of German nationalism as head of the North German Confederation – a growing and ever present threat to the pre-eminence of France in European power politics.
When war broke out in 1870, the French appeared the stronger side – the two armies where evenly matched in size (900,000 French v 1.2m Prussians, Wurttenburgers and Bavarians), but the French had the interior lines and a much shorter route to the frontier. In addition, the French army was 50% regular troops, whilst the bulk of German force was conscript. In weapons the French had a clear advantage – the German Dreyse rifle that had decimated the Austrians at Sadowa was now outclassed by the French Chassepot – the best in the world also the French possessed the Mitrailleuse, an early form of machine gun. The Prussians for their part had the steel barrelled breech loading Krupp six-pounder artillery piece that fired contact detonating shells, whilst the French still used bronze cast muzzle loaders. The greatest advantage the Prussians had however was their leaders – they had the only professional general staff in Europe – the speed and efficiency of their mobilisation plus their adaptable tactics where to prove the decisive factor from day one.
Only partly mobilised and badly organised, the French Army of the Rhine was divided into two wings – one under Marshall McMahon and accompanied by Louis Napoleon the other, commanded by Marshall Bazaine and under huge political pressure, attacked first and crossed the border to occupy the manufacturing town of Saarbrucken. Rapidly outnumbered by the speedy Prussian mobilisation, the French fell back fighting a series of rear-guard actions as the Prussians, many deployed by rail, started to pour across the border. The fast moving Prussian columns surrounded them and used their superior artillery to destroy most of the French army at the catastrophic defeats of Metz and Sedan in September 1870, after just 3 months of war, with Louis Napoleon himself among the captured. Von Moltke is reputed to have said to a captured French officer after Sedan “If my army had your rifles, I would have won this war in three weeks, and if your army had my generals then you would have won in two weeks!”
What was left of the French army fell back into the defences of Paris. Completely cut off from outside supplies and able to communicate only by hot air balloon or carrier pigeon, the French held out from Sept until January of the following year, by which time much of Paris had been damaged by artillery bombardment and food was running out. The city was surrounded by 240,000 regulars of the pan German force and its defences contained 200,000 French regulars, plus another 200,000 militia and sailors 640,000 in total. French defeat brought about German re-unification plus the loss of Alsace – Lorraine and a huge indemnity (5 billion francs) the re-building of Berlin was paid for largely with the French indemnity. The most important consequence however was the proclamation of the 19th century German Empire – the Second Reich – in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.
Dresden and Leipzig (1813)
The four day battle fought near Leipzig, Germany in October 1813 was also known as the Battle of the Nations, and was far the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars, and the largest pitched battle of the whole century. It was the decisive engagement of the Sixth Coalition war, fought by the allied powers to finish off Napoleon after his defeat in Russia. Just two weeks after Napoleon’s return from Russia a coalition formed consisting of Russia, Prussia, Austria, Great Britain, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Sicily and Sardinia to capitalise on his defeat and finish him off. Napoleon, who still had a few allies (Kingdom of Italy, Duchy of Warsaw, Naples, Denmark-Norway, Switzerland, Confederation of the Rhine) was able to put 900,000 troops into the field against about 1 million allied troops, although this number swelled as the war went on and Napoleon’s allies began to defect – the allies swelled to 1.2m, whilst Napoleon’s army reduced to 400,000.
The war was fought on three fronts. In Dec 1813, Swedish troops attacked the Danes in Holstein and fought the battles of Bornhoved (Swedish victory) and Sehested (Danish victory). By the terms of a separate treaty after the war in 1814, Denmark was forced to cede Norway, which had been previously ruled by Sweden during the 17 th century. The Norwegians however rejected this and declared independence and this led to a Swedish invasion of Norway which restored rule from Stockholm and left Norway part of Sweden until 1905 when it regained its independence.
Meanwhile, in Iberia, A force of British and Portuguese regulars with Spanish partisans led by Arthur Wellesley had been tasked with completing the ejection of the French, begun in 1808. Allied victories at Burga and Vitoria where 100,000 allied troops (50% British, 25% each Spanish and Portuguese) defeated 65,000 French were followed by the Spanish capture of Pancorbo the following month. Despite a French fightback at the battles of Maya and Roncesvalles, by October 1813 the allies were across the Bidasoa river and into France proper.
The main action however took place in Germany. Napoleon invaded Prussia with a force of 400,000 in April 1813 and defeated the allies at Lutzen and Bautzen, inflicting heavy casualties a brief armistice was declared in June with the combined casualties from April having now reaching 250,000. When fighting resumed in August, Napoleon with 135,000 defeated 214,000 Austrians, Russians and Prussians at the two day battle of Dresden but weakened by his losses and lacking cavalry he withdrew 190,000 of his force to Leipzig in Saxony, where he was finally cornered by 430,000 Russian, Austrian, Prussian and Swedish troops (although 50% of the allied force was Russian). The resultant four day battle completely destroyed Napoleon’s force and he was compelled to flee. The following year, 1814, the allies invaded France and finally forced Napoleon to abdicate on 6 th April 1814 – to be exiled to the Italian island of Elba, whilst the Bourbon monarchy was restored in France.
Sadowa, Czech Republic (1866)
Known also the Battle of Konnigratz, it was the decisive battle of the Austro-Prussian war. Fought less than 12 months after the end of the Civil War in America, it had more than twice the number of combatants as that war’s largest battle – The Seven Days, Virginia (1863) which had 190,000. Austria’s defeat is regarded as an important milestone in the development of Prussian and, ultimately, German nationalism. The conflict marked the end of Austrian ambitions to be the leader of the huge collection of German speaking states that the medieval German empire (the First Reich) had collapsed into after the devastation of the Thirty Years War in the 17th century. The emerging power of Prussia, now rapidly industrialising and, with possession of the coal fields of Silesia, taken from the Austrians a century earlier, now became the clear leader among the German states. Fought in a single day near the village of Sadowa in Bohemia 221,000 Prussians, armed with rapid firing, breech loading Dreyse rifles beat 206,000 Austrians and Saxons still armed with muzzle loading musket-rifles the Austrians suffering 44,000 casualties, against only 9,000 Prussian. The aftermath of the battle led directly to the formation of North German Confederation and fostered the idea of “little-Germany” nationalism – the idea of unification of German speakers, but without Austria. It was also an important pre-cursor conflict to the Franco – Prussian war four years later.
Gravellotte, Metz, Sedan (1870)
Marshall Bazaine’s early advance into Saarland was quickly reversed as the German commander von Moltke deployed his huge force to outflank and surround them. The French rapidly withdrew across the border with the Prussians in pursuit on 4 th August von Moltke attacked part of McMahon’s army at Wissembourg in the first major battle of the war. 8,000 French troops with 12 guns fortified the small town and fought hand to hand in the streets against 60,000 Germans. The local populace, trapped in the town during the fighting were eventually so sickened by the slaughter around them, that they formerly surrendered the town to the Germans to stop the bloodshed.
Further Prussian victories at Worth and Spickeren left Bazaine’s force falling back towards the fortress of Metz and led to the two interlinked battles of Mars-Le-Tour and Gravellotte. At the second of these the French were finally able to establish an effective defensive posture and took a heavy toll of the Prussian infantry, who lost 20,000 casualties to Chassepot and Mitrailleuse fire against 12,000 of their own, almost all of those from artillery fire . Although a tactical French victory, Baziane’s army had been badly mauled and fell back to the defences of Metz to regroup and await re-enforcements from McMahon.
Von Moltke, like Grant at Fort Donaldson in 1862 or O’Connor in the western desert in 1940, realised that by quick manoeuvre he could cut off the routes into the town and turn a fortress into a prison. Quickly surrounding Metz he trapped 190,000 French troops in the fortifications of a small town designed to hold a tenth of that number.
The newly formed French Army of Chalons commanded by McMahon made two attempts to relieve Metz, the first was defeated at Beaumont-en-Argonne whilst the second occurred close to the fortress of Sedan where McMahon’s main force was deployed. Again, the battle centered on a small town, in this case Bazeilles, who’s populace where trapped in the town during the fighting and helped the army build barricades as the battle commenced with a street by street fight for the town. The fighting spread south from the town into the countryside with McMahon himself wounded – under heavy Prussian artillery fire, the French were finally driven inside the defences of Sedan, where they were rapidly surrounded and cut off from any relief. The following day, 2 nd September, 120,000 men of the army of Chalons surrendered along with their commander McMahon and their Emperor Louis Napoleon. Shortly afterwards, and facing starvation, the 190,000 troops in Metz also surrendered.
With the fall of Sedan, the bulk of France’s field army had been lost after just 3 months of war on the following day, 3 rd September the news of Louis Napoleon’s capture reached Paris and a bloodless coup-d’état ensued led by Trochu, Favre and Gambetta that overthrew Louis Napoleon and proclaimed the Third Republic, plus a determination to continue the war. Just as in 1940 after Dunkirk, the small remnant of the regular army that survived fought back with near fanatical bravery, but it was too late. Once they had fallen back to the defences of Paris, their fate was sealed. Louis Napoleon was to go into exile after the war in Britain, where he lived at Camden House, Chislehurst until his death in 1873, referring several times in his last words to Sedan.
Louis Napoleon is remembered as the loser at Sedan, but he was no fool, he had his successes too. One of these was his assistance to the Italian independence struggle, Il Risorgimento (“the Resurgence”). Italy had long been divided into petty states that individually fell prey to many foreign powers over the centuries – Spanish, French and Austrian – and its independence movement was initially looked on favourably by France and Britain, but neither were prepared to do anything to upset the Austrians. Consequently the First Italian Independence war, fought by the leading Italian state, Piedmont to drive the Austrians from Lombardy and Venice, failed through lack of great power support.
The situation was brought home to Louis Napoleon personally in 1858, when an attempt was made on his life this shocked Napoleon into realising that the Italian situation would spiral out of control if not resolved and he determined to aid the nationalists in the hope of acquiring a useful ally in the new Italy and seriously diminishing his rival Austria in the process. Piedmont had previously been an ally for the French in the Crimean war it also had a railway line designed by Brunel.
Thus was set the scene for the Second Italian Independence war, the decisive engagement of which was the seventh largest battle of the 19 th century, fought near the villages of Solferino and San Martino, south of Lake Garda between Milan and Verona.
In 1858, Louis Napoleon concluded a secret treaty with the Comte di Cavour, prime minister of Piedmont that France would aid the Italians in ejecting the Austrians from Lombardy and Venice, whilst receiving the provinces of Nice and Savoy in return. Napoleon committed half the French army – 130,000 men, plus brought along 70,000 Sardinian troops against 240,000 Austrians.
At the outbreak of war, there were no French troops in Italy, so the French commander, McMahon organised a mass deployment by rail into Piedmont to link up with the Sardinians. The first major clash was at the battle fought for the railway junction at Magenta, near Milan in June 1859 where McMahon’s 60,000 men defeated 125,000 Austrians and shortly afterwards occupied Milan. The Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I now personally took command of his army, the last European battle in which two monarchs personally led their armies against each other.
Attempting to counter – attack after their defeat at Magenta, they ran into the French at Solferino and were drawn into a confused and fast moving fight for three small towns Solferino, Cavriana and Volta Mantovana. Badly mauled, the Austrians drew off beyond the Micinio and Po rivers and, at the treaty of Villafranca in July 1859 ceded Lombardy to the Piedmontese, but not Venice. The Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed two years later, in 1861.
The battle will remain best known however, for the visit to battlefield after the conclusion by a Swiss businessman and philanthropist where he witnessed the suffering of the battle’s estimated 30,000 casualties and was moved to found an organisation to relieve their suffering who took it’s symbol from the reverse colours of the Swiss flag. The businessman was Henri Dunant and the organisation he founded was the Red Cross.
During the Fourth Coalition war, and after Napoleon’s success against the Austrians at Ulm and Austerlitz in 1805, Austria had been left subdued, and the Emperor turned his attention to Prussia. At the twin battles of Jena and Auerstedt Napoleon’s 120,000 French troops defeated 110,000 Prussians and Saxons so comprehensively that Berlin was occupied shortly afterwards and Prussia reduced to a French vassal state, which it would remain until the Sixth Coalition war in 1812. The trauma that Prussia suffered during the Napoleonic occupation acted as a spur to the modernisation of the state – later reformers such as Clausewitz , Scharnhorst and Gneisenau served in the army and were profoundly affected by it, as was the philosopher Hegel who called it “the end of history”.
Wagram was the main engagement of the Fifth Coalition War, and was fought in 1809 the coalition consisted of Austria, Great Britain, Spain, Sicily, Sardinia and Brunswick against a French led alliance with Duchy of Warsaw, Confederation of the Rhine, Italy, Naples, Switzerland and Holland.
The war was fought on two fronts. In Iberia, both Spain and Portugal had been invaded a few years earlier and the small British force driven out, when Napoleon entered Madrid at the head of 80,000 troops having first fomented a coup. By 1809, however, the British had returned and with Arthur Wellesley in command set about the recovery of Portugal, after Marshall Soult had invaded again. Wellesley’s Anglo-Portuguese force defeated Soult at Grijo and Porto in May, whilst Marshall Ney with another French force was defeated by the Spanish at Puente Sanpayo. With Portugal secure, Wellesley pushed on into Spain and linked up with Spanish partisans. The costly British victory at Talvera forced Wellesley’s hasty retreat after the battle with French re-enforcements nearby, but the essential objective, that of liberating Portugal, had been achieved.
Buoyed by allied success in Iberia, and heavily subsidised by the British, the Austrians made their move by invading Napoleon’s ally, Bavaria in March 1809. The Austrians massed their army in Bohemia on the frontier of Prussia, then a French vassal, in the hope that it would foment an anti – French revolt and bring in Prussia on the allied side, but this never happened. Also, Austrian hopes of assistance from the Russians were dashed by the fact that they were technically at war with Britain, which also meant that Britain’s ally Sweden would not intervene either. Nonetheless, the speed of the Austrian advance across the Inn river caught the French by surprise and at first they fell back as a series of mistakes by the French commander Berthier allowed the Austrians to occupy the old imperial capital of Regensberg. Napoleon himself arrived in Bavaria on 17 th April to take command and launched a series of counterattacks that resulted in the French victories at the battles of Eckmuhl and Ebersberg and re-took Regensberg while the battered remains of the Austrian army fled back across the border.
Pursuing them, Napoleon crossed into Austria and, on the 13 th May occupied Vienna for the second time in four years. Despite a failed attempt to cross the Danube that resulted in the battle of Aspern-Essling (Napoleon’s first significant battle defeat), the French retained the initiative and crossed the Danube in force in June and resumed the offensive. The two armies finally met near the village of Wagram north east of Vienna where 140,000 French fought a two day battle against 160,000 Austrians resulting in a decisive French victory with high casualties on both sides (80,000 in total), mostly caused by artillery fire into the packed ranks of 300,000 troops crammed into a battlefield just a few miles across.
Napoleon imposed harsh terms on the Austrians taking provinces containing 20% of Austria’s population and leaving them bankrupt. Despite his overwhelming success, the Fifth Coalition war was to prove the high water mark for French ambitions – just three years later Napoleon embarked on his disastrous Russian campaign, followed by the cataclysm of the Sixth Coalition war in 1813/14 that climaxed with the battle of Leipzig and the eventual fall of France and Napoleon’s abdication in April 1814.
The Battle of Jena-Auerstädt: 14 Oct 1806
The Battle of Jena-Auerstädt was fought in Germany on 1806 between the French Imperial Army and the Prussian Royal Army. It is actually two separate battles separated by about twenty miles. Both the French and Prussian armies were split leading to two separate engagements one was fought by Napoleon and Davout commanded the French Corps at Auerstädt. The battle at Jena was the larger of the two as far as forces involved are concerned but the action at Auerstädt was operationally the more decisive. Combined, the Prussians suffered a devastating defeat that they could not recover from and led to the virtual surrender of the kingdom in the face of Napoleons demands at Tilsit a little over three months later. It is simpler to look at the two engagements separately and then talk about the way the twin defeats affected the Prussians and French. One of the important things about the battle is the impetus to reform given to the Prussians after their defeat. They went to war against Napoleon in 1805 with an army that was essentially unchanged in structure and doctrine from the one Frederick II had used fifty years previously during the invasion of Silesia and Seven Years War.
Relative locations of the engagements on 14 Oct 1806
I will discuss the Battle at Jena to begin with. Not only were there more forces engaged there, that was where Napoleon was in command. Some sources claim Napoleon displayed his typical brilliance at Jena, I am not so sure. The fighting at Jena began early in the morning and continued through the afternoon. The Prussians pressed attacks home but they were continually thrown back by French artillery fire. The Prussians also suffered from the effect of the fire from French skirmishers.1 The decisive moment at Jena was when several commanders of the Prussian left were killed or wounded. This led to the collapse of that flank and after that it was all over except for the crying as the saying goes. The French pressed their advantage and this led to a Prussian retreat all along their front that quickly started to look like a rout, especially once the French cavalry started attacking and pursuing the retreating Prussians.
The battle at Auerstädt some 12 Kilometers north of the main battle at Jena was a slightly different affair but the results in the end were the same. At Auerstädt, the Prussians actually had numerical superiority and could have perhaps avoided complete defeat if their senior commanders had actually worked together instead of at cross purposes. Marshall Davout commanded the French forces and he handled his troops extremely well. He was also assisted by the overall greater unity of command in the French army. Davout achieved a defensive victory and then followed it up with an offensive late in the day that caused the Prussian army to essentially rout and leave the field in a rush.
The Prussian army was pretty much destroyed as a fighting force after Jena-Auerstädt. The French literally had their way with Prussia over the next two months as the remnants of the Prussian army fought several small delaying actions as the bulk of the army attempted to escape to the east and safety in Russia along with the Prussian king. That destruction, wand the consequent elimination of Prussia from the Second Coalition was the greatest effect of the battle. The long-term consequence was that Prussia significantly reformed their army and was in a position less than seven years later to be instrumental in the final coalition to defeat napoleon both in the 1813 campaign and again at Waterloo at the end of the Hundred Days.
A good resource with driving guides if you happen to visit the battlefield can be found at www.Napoleon.org
One of these days, I am going to actually take the time to drive the hour and a half from my house to the battlefield and do an in-depth analysis with photos. Nevertheless, like everything else, I am hampered by time. When I do, I will be sure to post an update to the relatively broad, operational/strategic analysis presented here. My real love is the tactical side of military history anyway.
1. Cark, Christopher, Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press 2006. 296-298
The Battle of Jena
French troops under Napoleon smashed the outdated Prussian army led by Charles William Ferdinand at the Battle of Jena.
The Battle of Jena, also called Battle of Jena-Auerstädt, (Oct. 14, 1806), military engagement of the Napoleonic Wars, fought between 122,000 French troops and 114,000 Prussians and Saxons, at Jena and Auerstädt, in Saxony (modern Germany). In the battle, Napoleon smashed the outdated Prussian army inherited from Frederick II the Great, which resulted in the reduction of Prussia to half its former size at the Treaty of Tilsit in July 1807.
The battles began when elements of Napoleon’s main force encountered Hohenlohe’s troops near Jena. Initially only 48,000 strong, the Emperor took advantage of his carefully planned and flexible dispositions to rapidly build up a superior force of 96,000 men. The Prussians were slow to grasp the situation, and slower still to react. Before Ruchel’s 15,000 men could arrive from Weimar, Hohenlohe’s force of 38,000 was routed, with 10,000 killed or wounded and 15,000 captured. Nevertheless, it was a fierce battle, with 5,000 French losses, and Napoleon mistakenly believed that he had faced the main body of the Prussian army.
Further north at Auerstedt, both Davout and Bernadotte received orders to come to Napoleon’s aid. Davout attempted to comply via Eckartsberga, Bernadotte via Dornburg. Davout’s route south, however, was blocked by the Prussian main force of 60,500 men, including the Prussian King, the Duke of Brunswick and Field Marshals von Möllendorf and von Kalckreuth. A savage battle ensued. Although outnumbered two to one, Davout’s superbly trained and disciplined III Corps endured repeated attacks before it eventually took the offensive and put the Prussians to flight. Though within earshot of both battles, Marshal Bernadotte controversially took no steps to come to Davout’s aid, refusing to take the initiative and instead adhering to the last written set of Napoleon’s orders.
AftermathFrench troops presenting the captured Prussian standards to Napoleon after the battle of Jena.
Napoleon initially did not believe that Davout’s single Corps had defeated the Prussian main body unaided and responded to the first report by saying “Your Marshal must be seeing double!”, a reference to Davout’s poor eyesight. As matters became clearer, however, the Emperor was unstinting in his praise. Davout was made Duke of Auerstedt. Lannes, the hero of Jena, was not so honored.
Bernadotte’s lack of action was controversial within a week of the twin battles. Bernadotte had last received positive written orders on the day before the battle in which his I Corps, along with Davout’s III Corps, were to lay astride the Prussians’ projected line of retreat. He was the only Marshal not to receive updated, written orders on the night of 13 October. In the early hours of October 14th, Davout received a courier from Berthier in which he wrote: “If the Prince of Ponte Corvo [Bernadotte] is with you, you may both march together, but the Emperor hopes that he will be in the position which had been indicated at Dornburg.” Davout thence relayed this order to Bernadotte when the next met at 0400 the same morning. Bernadotte later cited the poorly written, equivocal nature of the verbal order, as discretionary and complied with Napoleon’s wish to be at Dornburg instead of accompanying Davout. Moreover, when told of Davout’s difficulties, Bernadotte did not believe that the Prussian main force was before III Corps as Napoleon had claimed the main body was at Jena. As a consequence, he failed to aid Davout and instead fulfilled the Emperor’s orders to position I Corps in the Prussian rear on the Heights of Apolda, which, incidentally, did have the effect intended as the Prussians at Jena withdrew once they saw French troops occupy their line of retreat.
Davout and Bernadotte later became bitter enemies as the result of Bernadotte’s perceived indifference at the fate of a fellow Marshal. For his part, Napoleon later stated on St. Helena that Bernadotte’s behavior (though he was complying with Napoleon’s orders) was disgraceful and that but for his attachment to Bernadotte’s wife, Napoleon’s own former fiancée, Desiree Clary, he would have had Bernadotte shot. However, contemporary evidence indicates that far from scenes of recriminations and insults alleged by Davout and his aides-de-Camp against Bernadotte the night of the battles, Napoleon was unaware anything was amiss, insofar as I Corps had played the part assigned to it by the Emperor, until days later. Napoleon later sent a severely worded reprimand to Bernadotte but took no further action.
Artist: Charles Meynier
Title: Entrée de Napoléon à Berlin. 27 octobre 1806 (Entry of Napoleon I into Berlin, 27th October 1806)
On the Prussian side, Brunswick was mortally wounded at Auerstedt, and over the next few days, the remaining forces were unable to mount any serious resistance to Murat’s ruthless cavalry pursuit. In the Capitulation of Erfurt on 16 October, a large body of Prussian troops became prisoners with hardly a shot being fired. Bernadotte crushed Eugene Frederick Henry, Duke of Württemberg’s Prussian Reserve Army on the 17th in the Battle of Halle, partially redeeming himself in Napoleon’s eyes. In recognition of his glorious victory at Auerstadt, Napoleon gave Davout the honor of entering Berlin first. Davout led his exhausted III Corps into Berlin in triumph on 25 October. Hohenlohe’s force surrendered on 28 October after the Battle of Prenzlau, followed soon after by the Capitulation of Pasewalk. The French ran down and captured several small Prussian columns at Boldekow on 30 October, Anklam on 1 November, Wolgast on 3 November, and Wismar on 5 November.
21,000 Prussian field troops remained at large west of the Oder as November began under the command of Gebhard Blücher. French advances prevented his corps from crossing the Oder, or moving toward Stettin to seek waterborne transport to East Prussia. Bernadotte began a relentless pursuit of Blücher, with the two forces engaging in several holding actions, and was later joined by Murat and Soult in “The Pursuit of the Three Marshals.” Blücher then moved west to cross into neutral Denmark but the Danes placed their army on the border with the intent of attacking any force that tried to cross it. The Prussians then violated the neutrality of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck and fortified it with the intent of joining forces with an allied Swedish contingent there on its way home, and commandeering ships in the hopes of reaching a safe harbor. However, Blücher and Winning’s corps was surrounded and destroyed in what became the Battle of Lübeck on 6 and 7 November after Bernadotte’s I Corps, still smarting from the Emperor’s censure, stormed the fortified city gates, poured into the streets and squares breaking hasty attempts at resistance and captured Blücher’s command post (and his Chief of Staff Gerhard von Scharnhorst) as Soult’s troops blocked all escape routes. The Prussians lost 3000 killed and wounded. On the morning of 7 November, with all hope of escape extinguished, Blücher surrendered personally to Bernadotte and went into captivity with 9,000 other Prussian prisoners of war. The Siege of Magdeburg ended on 11 November with Ney’s capture of the fortress. Isolated Prussian resistance remained, but Napoleon’s primary foe was now Russia, and the Battle of Eylau and the Battle of Friedland awaited.
References [ edit | edit source ]
Chandler was used almost exclusively for the French order of battle. Smith was used for the Prussian order of battle, except that Chandler's artillery compositions are given. Smith's Prussian strengths are used, which are lower than Chandler's.
- Jena 1806: Napoleon Destroys Prussia. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 2005. ISBN 0-275-98612-8 . Napoleon's Conquest of Prussia 1806. London: Lionel Leventhal Ltd., 1993 (1907). ISBN 1-85367-145-2
- (French) Pigeard, Alain. Dictionnaire des batailles de Napoléon. Tallandier, Bibliothèque Napoleonienne, 2004. ISBN 1-85367-145-2 . The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill Books, 1998. ISBN 1-85367-276-9