How Napoleon destroyed the Prussian army under Jena and Auerstedt

When Prussian generals in the 1806 year ... rushed Frederick the Great in an oblique order into the open mouth of doom, it was not only the surviving manner that affected him, but also the utter stupidity that Methodism once reached. And they destroyed the army of Hohenlohe as never before had any army been destroyed on the battlefield itself.
K. Clausewitz

On the road to disaster

Napoleon did not wait for the boastful Prussian army to go on the offensive, the emperor did not even wait for the expiration of the ultimatum. October 6 1806, in a message to the Senate and the order for the army, he announced that France is entering the war with Prussia. Without losing time, the French emperor moved towards the enemy. October 8 ordered the invasion of the Allied Prussia of Saxony, and the "Great Army", concentrated in Bavaria, began to cross the border in three columns. Having passed through the forests, the Napoleonic army reached the Elbe, heading, according to the plan, to the rear of the Prussians.

As soon as it became clear that a real war had begun, the time had come for the Prussian army to march on, as the boastful shouts were silent. The Prussian army was well able to beat back a step on the parade ground, but was completely unprepared for a real war. It was a rotten mechanism, which not only lost the fighting power of Frederick the Great, but also degraded. Great attention was paid to the external form of the army: the maintenance of braids and boules of soldiers' wigs in the charter, for the wrong length of braids they were mercilessly flogged But when they got their guns from the arsenals, many of them were left without flies. Have weapons, available in the troops, from the regular cleaning with bricks so thinned the walls of the barrels that the guns could not withstand the firing of live ammunition and massively collapsed in their hands. The soldiers had no overcoats, no vests, no pants, in the summer - not even cloth trousers. Desertion flourished. The soldiers fled, flourishing scuffle.

The soldiers lived half starving. The gallant Prussian warrior received 2 pounds of poorly baked bread daily and 1 a pound of meat a week. The opposite was the world of gentlemen officers. They didn’t deny themselves anything in the war. Troops accompanied by a huge officer train. All that was customary for them in peacetime, they carried with them: one - the young mistress, the second - a skilled chef, the third - the piano. The infinite wagon train, permitted by their charter, the officers also increased by carts and carriages, in which families with attendants often carried. Thus, the bulky, clumsy, burdened with endless carts, the Prussian army moved with sluggishness, which would have seemed surprising even for the XVII century. As the Higher Military College decided: "... it is better to burden yourself a little more on the march in order to defeat the enemy with more confidence than to go light and then lose."

Therefore, as soon as the Prussian army began to move, it began to pop at the seams. And it was impossible to fix it. It showed the first collision. October 9 battle took place at Schleutz. The French avant-garde of Murat and Bernadot approached the Prussian detachment and attacked it. The clash was small. The Prussians were driven back and lost around 700 people.

The next day there was a new fight, more serious. Marshal Lunn approached the city of Saalfeld, where Prince Ludwig stood, the head of the court military party, with 9-thousand. detachment. A fight ensued, which ended in victory for the French. Prussian cavalry was overturned and chopped up by the French, whole batteries were abandoned by Prussian gunners. The Prussians fled, losing about 1500 people and all artillery (44 guns). Thus, it became clear that the Prussian army was not ready for war. The morals of the Prussians were undermined. Napoleon was now closer to Berlin than the Prussian army. In the main apartment of the Prussian army, from hats and caps turned to despondency.

Prussian command decided to immediately withdraw the troops and concentrate them in the cities of Weimar and Jena (Jena). Moreover, the withdrawal of the army strongly resembled flight: soldiers threw weapons, deserted and hid from local residents, robbed carts, all roads were littered with abandoned weapons, ammunition, guns overturned by servants stuck out in ditches. A large part of the Prussian army was morally defeated before a decisive battle. And although it was still possible to counterattack, hit the flank of the French, the Prussians did not.

Battle of Jena

In the morning of October 12, Napoleon decided with the main forces (about 100 thousand people) to move the shortest way to Jena, suggesting that the bulk of Prussian troops are concentrated here. At the same time, he sent the corps of Davout and Bernadot (about 60 thousand people) around Naumburg. These troops were to cut off the enemy’s retreat routes to Berlin, first of all to capture the Kezen bridge.

Realizing the threat, the Prussian commander-in-chief, Duke of Brunswick, ordered his troops to retreat to Merseburg in order to engage the enemy in a decisive battle between the Saale and Elbe rivers. There it was planned to transfer the corps of the Prince of Württemberg. The main forces of the Prussian troops (over 53 thousand soldiers) began to withdraw to Auerstedt, leaving the Prince Hohenlohe corps (38 thousand men) and the corps of General Rüchel (15 thousand men) from Jena. The troops of Hohenlohe were to cover the retreat of the main forces, and then also withdraw, avoiding serious clashes with the French.

October 13 Corps Davout has already occupied Naumburg. In the evening of the same day, the main forces of the French army entered Jena, which was cleared by the Prussians as early as October 11. Moreover, the degree of decomposition of the Prussian army shows an anecdotal case. A few convalescent soldiers who were treated at the city hospital decided to take a country outing. Their hospital caps from afar were reminded to someone by French shakos. Instantly, a rumor about the appearance of the French spread in the city, panic began. Having abandoned their weapons, the Prussian regiments began to scatter, leaving their artillery and carts.

On the plateau beyond Jena, Napoleon discovered the Hohenlohe troops and decided in the morning to attack the enemy. Prince Friedrich Ludwig Hohenlohe knew that the French occupied Yen, but he thought that only advanced units were in front of him, so he spent the night before the battle quite carefree. The prince did not fear the attack of the enemy and decided to take the fight, confident in their abilities. Hohenlohe did not prepare for the battle, did not even make a disposition the next day, without expecting anything serious. Thus, the Prussian command underestimated the enemy.

The French, on the contrary, overestimated the Prussian forces. Napoleon thought that the whole of the Prussian army was in front of him, and therefore he carefully studied the terrain, spending half the night to strengthen his position. In the dark, imperceptible to the enemy, the French soldiers occupied Mount Landgrafenberg, which dominated the surroundings of the Yen. In total darkness, thousands of French soldiers scrambled up the paths and dragged their guns, thus taking the most advantageous starting position for the attack. The left flank of the French army was commanded by Marshal Augereau. In the center of the French positions was the corps of Marshal Lannes, somewhat behind him was the imperial guard. Marshal Soult's corps was located on the right flank.

All participants in the historic day noted that in the morning there was a thick fog. The battle began on October 6 14. The first to move into battle was Lann’s corps, which in three hours threw off the 8-thousand. the avant-garde of the Prussians under the command of Tauentsin and took a number of positions under Caspeda, Lutzerode and Klozvitsa, previously held by the enemy. All that time, Prince Hohenlohe remained completely calm, still not knowing that he was attacked by the main forces of Napoleon. Only the flight of the avant-garde showed him that the situation was dangerous. When the fog finally cleared, Hohenlohe, to his utter amazement, discovered that the French were attacking from all directions — from the heights of Landgrafenberg, from the flanks, and against the center.

Hohenlohe urgently requested assistance from Weimar from General Rüchel. He himself tried to gather his troops into a single fist from bivouacs scattered at a great distance from each other. Raising his camp and gathering about 25 thousand people, he moved them towards the French to the village of Fierzenheuingen. The Prussians rushed forward according to all the rules of linear tactics, opening massive fire without aiming.

At the same time, the troops of Soult and Augereau joined the battle after Lann. The first one rose from the valley of the river Saale to Klozevitsa, the second one went along the Muchtal gorge to Caspeda. Moving to Klozvitsu, Soult collided with a detachment of General Goltsendorf standing separately in the forest on the left flank of the Prussian positions. For two hours, the French tried to capture the forest, trying to knock the Prussians off their positions. Finally, they succeeded, and the enemy, having lost 5 thousand killed and wounded, retreated.

While these events were taking place, Marshal Ney noticed the movement of the Prussians towards Firtzenheuingen. Then, with 3, thousands of soldiers became entrenched in this village and withstood the onslaught of the main forces of Hohenlohe for an hour. Linear tactics turned out to be completely unsuitable for the enemy, who had an almost perfect shooting at all levels. Of the buildings, because of the fences, the French fired at the Prussian lines that were not far from them, as if on targets. Prussian-Saxon troops suffered heavy losses in fruitless attacks, but could not knock the French out of the village. Nevertheless, the Prussians fought bravely. Seeing Ney’s difficult situation, Napoleon ordered Lanna to support him.

In 13 hours the reserve lines of the French cavalry turned around, and after them two fresh divisions from the Ney corps lined up in battle order. In addition, the bypass columns of Soult and Augereau, completing the maneuver, unanimously hit the enemy from the flanks. And Napoleon gave the order to a decisive attack by all means, including reserves. Hohenlohe could still save his troops from complete defeat if they had begun to retreat in time. But he was not capable of any decision: with senseless stubbornness, he was waiting for Ryukhel, but he still did not come. During the general offensive, French troops overturned the Prussian-Saxon lines and turned them to flight, which became universal and panicky. Only one Saxon grenadier battalion stubbornly held on. He surrounded the commander and slowly retreated in battle formation.

In 14 hours, when the battle of Jena was already lost, the troops of Ryukhel appeared. But instead of providing cover for the randomly retreating Hohenlohe troops, he decided to attack. Trying to rectify the hopeless situation, Ryuhel, having built troops in two deployed lines with cavalry on the flanks, rushed at the French. The latter met the attackers with strong rifle and artillery fire, and then with superior forces they counterattacked from the front and from the flanks. Half an hour later, Ryukhel's corps was crushed, and the general himself was seriously wounded.

Murat's cavalry pursued the running Prussians and Saxons. Part of the Hohenlohe army fled to Weimar, hoping to find salvation for its fortifications. But Murat's cavalry on the shoulders of the retreating broke into the city streets. The French cavalrymen, flushed with battle and persecution, hacked away all those who fell by the arm, not listening to the cries of mercy and not taking them as prisoners. Hundreds of mad people died under the blades of the French, crushed each other in a stampede and were trampled by horses. Prussian-Saxon troops suffered a complete defeat. Part of the fugitives led by Hohenlohe rushed to Naumburg to join the army of the Duke of Brunswick. But suddenly they met mobs of other fugitives, shouting that the Duke’s army was also defeated.

How Napoleon destroyed the Prussian army under Jena and Auerstedt

Marshal Murat, who leads the cavalry attack in the Battle of Jena


On the same day, the main forces of the Prussian army were also defeated. On the evening of October 13, the retreating main forces of the Prussian army were in complete disarray. Confusion reigned among the soldiers. Being without supplies, without food, firewood and straw, they plundered Auerstedt, where the king himself and the commander-in-chief were. Prussian High Command showed its complete lack of talent and helplessness. Before the decisive battle there were no meaningful orders, no one thought about the reconnaissance of the area where the enemy could have appeared.

Therefore, when the Prussian troops moved further north north of October 14 in 6, they suddenly ran into the French — the corps of Marshal Davout, who, by order of Napoleon, left Naumburg to go behind enemy lines. The French managed to cross the river Saale by the Kezen ferry and get to the village of Hassenhausen. The vanguard of the Prussian troops under the command of Blucher also came to her. After a short encounter, the French occupied Hassenhausen, intercepting the road to the bridges.

Blucher received in reinforcement the cavalry of General Vartensleben and again attacked the enemy. The French, having built a battalion square, resisted the fierce attack of the Prussian cavalry. Having suffered serious losses, the Prussians began to retreat, and after a counterattack by French horse rangers, they fled. The king who was present at the same time tried to stop his cavalry, but he himself was fascinated by the spontaneous flow of people running and even knocked off his horse.

Meanwhile, Prussian infantry approached and attacked the French in the village. Again, the long line of Prussian battle formation proved completely incapable of doing anything against the rifle tactics of the French infantry. The Prussian infantry, met with strong artillery and rifle fire, stopped in an open field in a deployed formation and suffered heavy losses from the French riflemen. The repeated attack of the Prussian infantry also failed. During this battle, the Duke of Brunswick and General Schmettau were fatally wounded. 82, Field Marshal Mellendorf, who replaced the Duke, was also injured.

King Frederick Wilhelm III himself took command. However, command and control was already disrupted. The orders of the king could not change the course of the battle. In fact, the staff officers of the main apartment, in their own discretion, disposed of. Prussian generals also acted on their own: some troops fought, while others remained inactive far from the battlefield. Thus, the Prussians could not use their greater numerical advantage, two-fifths of the main forces did not take any part in this decisive battle for Prussia.

After repulsing all the attacks of the enemy for six hours, and seeing the enemy’s vibrations, the Davout corps launched a counter-offensive on all fronts. Simultaneously, two of his divisions began to cover the Prussian flanks. Prussian troops could not stop the bypass movement of the French divisions. In the end, the king, even without using the reserves, gave the order to retreat, although the troops themselves left the battlefield in complete disarray. Even the king's retinue in a panic rushed to run, leaving their monarch.

Thus, Davout bravely got involved in a battle with more than twice his superior opponent. 70-thousand he could oppose the army only 26 thous. soldiers. At the same time 20-th. Corps Bernadot did not take part in the battle. The behavior of this commander, according to Napoleon, deserved to be told to a military court. However, Davou not only withstood the main forces of the enemy, but, surpassing in military art, defeated him utterly. In this battle, Louis-Nicolas Davout, a direct and honest soldier, proved that he is one of the most talented commanders of France. His operational leadership in the battle of Auerstedt became for his time a model of the art of war.

The remnants of the defeated Prussian army were rejected by the French onto the road along which the regiments of Hohenlohe, defeated at Jena, ran. It was a complete defeat, a real disaster. The Prussian army, on which so many hopes were pinned, and which was supposed to “shower the caps” of the French, actually ceased to exist. One day decided the outcome of the entire campaign. Already on October 15, the Prussian king sent a representative to the French emperor with a request for peace, but received an answer that peace would be signed only in Berlin. The victory at Jena and Auerstedt handed over the whole of Central Germany to the French. Without encountering resistance, the French occupied Weimar.

Marshal of France Louis Nicolas Davout


At Jena, the Prussians lost 20-27 thousand people and 200 guns. French losses - 5-7,5 thousand people. Under Auerstedt, Prussian troops lost 13-18 thousand people and 115 guns, while the French lost 5-7 thousand people. Most of the Prussian artillery were in the hands of the French. 20 Prussian generals were killed, wounded, and captured. The Prussian army as a single force ceased to exist.

The victory of Napoleon in the battle of Jena and Auerstedt determined the complete defeat of the Prussian kingdom. The army was no more. Total state institutions were paralyzed. On October 17, Bernadotte defeated the corps of the Prince of Württemberg, moving to Halle to cover the retreat of an already non-existent army. Remains of Prussian troops, throwing weapons, artillery and carts, fled across the country. On October 27, that is, less than two weeks after the Jena catastrophe, the emperor of the French drove in triumph to Berlin, surrounded by four of his marshals and several elite units of the Great Army. Prussia Hohenzollern was defeated.

The moral decline of the Prussians was so strong that they could not organize stubborn resistance. Although Prussia had strong fortresses that could hold siege for a long time. But Prussian generals from bragging at one moment turned to confusion. All the major fortresses of Prussia capitulated to the beginning of the 1807 of the year. So, November 7 in Lübeck capitulated Blücher. Two days later, the first-class fortress Magdeburg with 24-thousand surrendered to Neyu. garrison. When Kleist, the commandant of the fortress, surrendered his army to Her, he said anxiously to his adjutant: “Rather, take the guns from the prisoners; there are two times more than us. ” The Arsenal and reserves of the whole army fell into the hands of the French only in Magdeburg: 700 guns, a million poods of gunpowder, 80 thsd. Bombs, pontoon parks, etc. the garrison and the 5 cannon surrendered when the entire regiment of French cavalry appeared in front of its gates - the Hussars of the Hussars with two guns. Similarly, many other fortresses and garrisons surrendered. Murat confidently reported to the emperor: "Sire, the battle is over due to the lack of combatants." It was true: Prussia no longer fought, she gave up. As G. Heine quite rightly remarked: "Napoleon blew on Prussia, and it ceased to exist."

True, the war has not yet been completed. The king of Prussia asked Napoleon for peace. But the emperor was already "dizzy with success." He laid a contribution on Prussia in 100 million francs (a colossal sum for those times). Demanded from the allies of Prussia 60 millions. Placed in Prussia a huge army, which contained the local population. The emperor demanded that Prussia concessions its possessions to the east of the Elbe, the closure of all ports for England, the break in relations with Russia. At the same time, during the negotiations, Napoleon constantly changed his requirements, his appetites grew. The Prussian king was ready for anything, but in the end it became clear that Napoleon was apparently ready to destroy Prussia. And driven to despair, Friedrich Wilhelm, who fled to the east of the kingdom, begged the Russian tsar not to leave him in misfortune, to support Prussia. This ruthlessness towards Prussia made the continuation of the war inevitable. The Russian army came to the aid of the already defeated Prussia.

The battles of Jena and Auerststedt most clearly revealed the advantage of the new fighting principles of the French army over the outdated principles of the linear tactics of the times of Frederick. French troops, led by Napoleon and his commanders, swiftly and decisively attacked the enemy, seeking the destruction of his manpower, boldly carried out a maneuver to bypass or reach the enemy, combining it with a frontal strike. They tried to consolidate the success of the battle by crushing persecution, destroying the enemy's manpower.

Prussian generals, burdened by outdated schemes, could not oppose the enemy. Only courage and perseverance, dying in senseless attacks by the masses. The Prussian command acted indecisively, did not have a clear plan and was lost in a difficult situation. Closed lines of oblique battle formations, used in accordance with the principles of linear tactics, suffered heavy losses from the fire of French riflemen. Under the blows of the columns, the Prussian-Saxon troops unorganized retreated and fled. In addition, the morale of the French army was much higher than the Prussian troops. It was an army of winners, self-righteous and superior to their emperor.

It is worth noting that this campaign will be a good example and will serve as a reason for the reorganization of the leading armies of Europe, including the Prussian army. The Prussians still learn how to defeat their French teachers. True, after the death of the "Great Army" Napoleon in Russia and with the support of Russian troops.

Painting by Charles Manir "Napoleon in Berlin"
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  1. +3
    20 October 2016 08: 40
    27 October, that is, less than two weeks after the Jena catastrophe, the emperor of the French triumphantly entered Berlin

    Just 8 years later, with no less triumph, the Prussian troops entered Paris. And next year, again.
    Thus ended the adventurous predatory policy of Napoleon, which brought untold suffering to the peoples of Europe and France itself ....
    1. 0
      27 October 2016 21: 01
      Only with the Russians, Saxons, Austrians and English. And what kind of predatory policy? Napoleon did not capture Prussia, she herself committed aggression. And what kind of suffering are we talking about? Is it not about those sufferings that 99% in squalor and poverty, in the mud field, and 1% in the chic and splendor of castles?
  2. +3
    20 October 2016 10: 57
    Apparently, after this, Napoleon was finally convinced of his super genius and began to simply ignore the realities, for which he would pay later, first in Spain, then in Russia.
    1. +2
      28 October 2016 11: 41
      Wouldn't your roof go after the destruction of the strongest state in the world? I would be crazy about that. It's hard to believe, but just 10 years ago Napoleon was just a beggar.
  3. +2
    20 October 2016 12: 43
    Hmm .. so many victories from Napoleon and it all went to waste .. he drove his country into wars .. of course the vile Anglo-Saxons played a small role .. then they convinced others to create coalitions against Bonaparte ..
  4. +2
    20 October 2016 20: 44
    Alexander did not know how to choose allies.

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