Military Review

Battle of Lutzen

Battle of Lutzen

2 May 1813 during the War of the Sixth Coalition, the first general battle took place between the French army led by Napoleon and the united Russian-Prussian army under the command of the Russian General Wittgenstein. The battle took place near the town of Lutzen, which was located in 20 km south-west of Leipzig in the western part of Saxony. In German historiography, it is known as the Battle of Grossgörschen (German: Schlacht bei Großgörschen) by the name of the settlement at the battlefield.


By 28 on April 1813, when the great Russian commander Mikhail Kutuzov passed away, the Russian army cleared Prussia from the French and entered the Elbe towards the German states, which continued to be Napoleon’s allies. February 28 in Kalisz signed a treaty of alliance between Russia and Prussia. 27 March 1813, the Prussian monarch declared war on France. The main Russian army 27 March occupied Dresden, 3 April - Leipzig. The shortest way from Prussia to the French capital went through the territory of Saxony.

Wittgenstein's separate 4 March building entered Berlin. March 17 to the troops of Wittgenstein joined the Prussian corps of York. Convinced that there was no threat to Berlin, Wittgenstein moved his troops southward to Leipzig to join the army of Kutuzov.

At the same time, Russian-Prussian troops besieged enemy fortresses along the Vistula and Oder lines. A detachment under the command of Lieutenant-General Leviz (then Prince of Württemberg) blocked Danzig at the mouth of the Vistula (the fortress capitulated at the end of the 1813 year); Barclay de Tolly's corps besieged Thorn fortress on the middle Vistula, it surrendered 6 (18) April; the corps of Major General Paskevich blocked Modlin, a fortress on the right bank of the Vistula at the confluence of the Narew River near Warsaw (Modlin capitulated 1813 of the year in November); Zamoć Fortress, which was located on a plateau in 100 km east of the Vistula, was besieged by a detachment of Lieutenant General Radt (the fortress surrendered in November). Along the line of the Oder, they besieged: the fortress of Spandau, which was located in 15 km west of Berlin at the mouth of the river Spree, it capitulated on April 21; Stettin at the mouth of the Oder was besieged by the Prussian corps of General Tauentsin, and then by Major-General Plets (surrendered in November 1813 of the year); Kustrin and Glogau capitulated in January 1814.

After the death of Kutuzov, the Russian army was led by Peter Christian Wittgenstein, who distinguished himself during the Patriotic War of 1812 with victories near Klyastitsy and Polotsk. He led the Russian troops to the north and was proclaimed the "savior of St. Petersburg." In the course of the Foreign Campaign that had begun, under the command of Wittgenstein, the troops acted more actively than the Main Army of Kutuzov, as the winner of Napoleon expressed doubts about the need to continue the offensive and the war with France.

Forces of opponents and their location

Wittgenstein moved 90-th. Russian-Prussian army (with 656 guns) for the Elbe to Leipzig, advanced units were advanced to the river Saale. In mid-April 1813, the French emperor led the newly formed army (about 130 thousand bayonets) and at the end of the month moved it to the aid of 60-thousand. Army Eugene Beauharnais, who tried to stop the enemy on the Elbe. It should be noted that the new army of Napoleon, although much larger than the Russian-Prussian troops in numbers (the Russian-Prussian command was forced to spray considerable forces on the siege and blockade of fortresses), was inferior in the field of training soldiers, lack of cavalry (only 8 thousand Sabers) and artillery (350 guns). Having mobilized in France, Napoleon was able to restore the army, but in three months it was impossible to recreate the cavalry and artillery lost in Russia.

Due to the lack of a sufficient number of cavalry, the French emperor could not conduct deep reconnaissance and had vague ideas about the location of the enemy army, not knowing about the concentration of Russian-Prussian forces south of Leipzig. By May 1, French troops stretched for 60 km from Jena to Leipzig.

In this situation, the Russian-Prussian command could hope to win. The suddenness of the attack, the speed and decisiveness of the actions could lead to victory over part of the enemy army. Evasion of battle with Napoleon’s army, retreat to the right bank of the Elbe was threatened by the deterioration of the military-strategic situation, by the loss of influence on the German states. General Wittgenstein decided to take advantage of the stretching of the enemy troops and strike at Napoleon’s right-flank corps while they were on the march, beating them separately. The lack of cavalry among the French reduced the risk of failure, in case of defeat, the enemy could not organize prosecution. Wittgenstein had 54 thousand Russian soldiers and 38 thousand Prussian soldiers, about 92 thousand people in total, of which about 20 thousand were cavalry. To attack against Napoleon's corps, the commander-in-chief of the Russian and Prussian forces could use 73 thousand people, the rest of them guarded the flanks and places of the crossings.

May 1 on the road to Leipzig near Weissenfels was a collision of a Russian detachment from the corps of General Wintzingerode with the French. In this battle, Napoleon’s cavalry commander, Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bessier, was killed. The French pushed aside advanced Russian troops and occupied Lutzen, where Napoleon’s main apartment was located.


The May 2 battle began when General Lauriston's French forward corps tied a shootout with the Prussian Kleist squad that occupied Leipzig. Napoleon, having received news of the fighting, hurried with the guard to the battlefield.

Around noon, unexpectedly for the French, the Prussian corps of Blucher attacked the corps of Marshal Ney (35 thousand soldiers), who covered the right flank of the French army moving towards Leipzig from the side of Pegau. The battle began in the rear of the main Napoleon, in 5 km south of Lützen, east of the main road to Leipzig. The enemy was caught off guard. Napoleon immediately began to send troops, including the forces of Beauburna, to help Her. Those troops that were closest to Leipzig were sent to the left flank of Ney, the rear corps to the right flank.

Before the arrival of the corps of Marmont, Bertrand and Macdonald, the Russian-Prussian troops had a numerical advantage, they were opposed by a total of about 50 thousand French. The Allies forces drove the enemy from the villages of Grossgörschen, Kleinershen, Kaye. The fighting was hampered by rugged terrain, with many ponds and canals. The decisive success of the forces of Wittgenstein failed.

Reinforcements began to approach 5, and Russian-Prussian troops went over to the 7 hours of the evening to defend. Numerical superiority was now on the side of Napoleon's troops. He concentrated the fire of several dozen guns against the center of the Allies in the area of ​​the village of Kaye, and with the attack of the guard threw the Russian-Prussian troops back to their original positions. By nightfall, the overall situation worsened. Wittgenstein's troops were swept from both flanks. Kleist's Prussian detachment was driven out of Leipzig, which created a threat to bypass the Russian-Prussian army from the north and the loss of communications with the Elbe. General Wittgenstein asked the monarchs, who were with the army, permission to retreat.

Results and meaning

- The French army lost 16-20 thousand people killed, wounded and captured in this battle. Allied forces lost up to 10 thousand people: 8 thousand Prussians (they fought in the first line) and 2 thousand Russian. True, some sources cite other numbers. So military historian Nikolai Orlov believed that the French had lost 15 thousand soldiers, and the allies "a little less." Historian E. Tarle noted that the French lost 20 thousand people and the losses of the Russian-Prussian troops were approximately equal to the losses of Napoleon's army. The higher losses of the French army were due to the significant superiority of the allied army in artillery.

“Among the reasons that led to the defeat of the Allied Army, the researchers point out the fact that Wittgenstein’s initiative was constrained by the presence of the Russian emperor and the Prussian king, they had to report every step of the army, ask their consent. In the army there was no unity of command, which seriously affected the conduct of hostilities. Much time was spent deploying troops, coordinating actions, instead of attacking an enemy that had been caught off guard. There was no Suvorov "speed and onslaught." Wittgenstein had to confront the most illustrious Napoleon, and leading not only the Russian troops, but also the Prussian units, not knowing about their level of preparedness, stamina, not having full power in the army. We must not forget about the numerical superiority of the enemy army. In addition, Wittgenstein was criticized for not using the Miloradovich corps, located at Tseyts, and thus weakened the strike power of the Allied army.

- The battle at Lutzen did not reveal a clear winner, as the Russian-Prussian troops did not suffer a crushing defeat and left their positions themselves. Napoleon could not win a decisive victory and organize the pursuit of Russian-Prussian troops, not having significant cavalry forces. In addition, Napoleon’s troops suffered greater losses than Allied forces. Therefore, it is not surprising that in Russia Lutzen was originally presented as a victory over Napoleon. General Wittgenstein was awarded the highest order of St. Andrew the First-Called by the Russian emperor, and the Prussian military commander Blücher, who distinguished himself in this battle, was awarded the Order of St. George 2 degree.

- 3 May Allied forces retreated. Prussian detachment under the control of Bülow on Meissen to close the Berlin direction. The main Russian-Prussian forces, along with artillery and carts, went to Dresden. Covered the army corps Miloradovich. 8 May was abandoned and Dresden. Saxony was again ruled by Napoleon. 12 May Russian-Prussian troops took up a position under Bautzen. It was decided here to give a new battle to the French army.
Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must to register.

I have an account? Sign in

  1. svp67
    svp67 April 29 2013 09: 03 New
    "à la guerre comme à la guerre"
  2. Standard Oil
    Standard Oil April 29 2013 10: 48 New
    Well, once again, the Russians showed that they can win, and the French can be invincible. Well, the cowardly Frederick once again changed sides.
    1. Prometey
      Prometey April 29 2013 19: 09 New
      For some reason Napoleon despised the Prussians and the same Marshal Blucher. But contempt for the enemy ultimately always turns sideways. Blucher taught the Prussians to fight again and fight mercilessly. After the battle of Linyi in 1815, the French overthrew the Prussians, but Blucher led his army in an organized manner. This was the first alarming signal to Napoleon that this was not the enemy who could be beaten with impunity like that of Jena and Auerstedt. But even after that, he divided his army (and this is before the decisive battle!) And sent the Pears to catch Blucher. The recklessness is doubly that Blucher had 1,5 times more bayonets and sabers than Pears. The meeting of Pear with Blucher was for the first catastrophic. Well, ironically, the complete defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo was arranged by the Prussians and Blucher despised by him.
  3. xan
    xan April 29 2013 14: 14 New
    This time is the time of Clausewitz, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and of course Blucher. The Germans, for the first time, can be said to start fighting as only the French and Russians had fought before. But in the German character everything is brought to perfection. These guys are godparents of the Prussian military and two world wars
    1. Prometey
      Prometey April 29 2013 18: 59 New
      Quote: xan
      The Germans, for the first time, can be said to start fighting as only the French and Russians had fought before.

      Here, however, is somewhat different. Before Napoleon, the French were never warriors. And in the wars against Prussia they always received cuffs. The Prussian war machine was created by the kings Friedrich Wilhelm and Frederick II the Great, who can rightfully be ranked among the great commanders of the 18th century. After the death of Frederick2, the Prussians became lazy and temporarily lost their ardor. Only in the middle of the 19th century after a powerful modernization was the Prussian military created, which unleashed world wars.
      1. xan
        xan April 29 2013 23: 47 New
        Quote: Prometey
        After the death of Frederick2, the Prussians became lazy and temporarily lost their ardor.

        Yes here, be lazy, do not be lazy, nothing would help. Frederick often received from the Austrian warriors and did not win a single battle with the Russians, and the Russians were not commanded by the super-duper commanders. The reason is the extremely low stamina of the Prussian muzzle soldier in a bayonet battle.
        1. Prometey
          Prometey April 30 2013 00: 19 New
          Quote: xan
          The reason is the extremely low stamina of the Prussian muzzle soldier in a bayonet battle.

          Here you are mistaken. Friedrich was one of the first to use the oncoming bayonet battle. Before the Russians, the bayonet attack of the Prussian grenadiers could not withstand. At the Battle of Leyten, the Austrians were crushed by Prussian bayonets. Yes, and the Russians got well at Gross-Egersdorf and Zorndorf from Prussian bayonets. But under Kunersdorf, the Russian army had already beaten Friedrich with his own weapon - a counter-bayonet attack. Which yes, the brave soldiers of Frederick could not stand.
  4. datur
    datur April 29 2013 17: 51 New
    [quote = xan] This time is the time of Clausewitz, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and of course Blucher. The Germans, for the first time, can be said to start fighting as only the French and Russians had fought before. But in the German character everything is brought to perfection. These guys are the godparents of the Prussian military and two world wars [- and you forgot about the children (his oranges from Oranges) Friedrich the Great - you forgot.
    1. xan
      xan April 29 2013 23: 39 New
      Quote: datur
      Friedrich the Great - you forgot.

      I remember very well, but the Germans of Friedrich fought differently. Frederick basically had a mercenary army, all of whose combat readiness rested on the officer corps. As soon as such an army clashed with the popular Russian and French Napoleon, it immediately became clear that the Germans needed new approaches to recruiting soldiers. Just in 1813, the Germans already had such a soldier’s squad who understood what he was fighting for.
      Frederick's legacy is valuable in maneuvering and strategic deployment. But as soon as it came to real fights with an adversary who did not panic, was not lost, and was not afraid to get into hand-to-hand combat, the genius of Friedrich flew into the trash.
  5. George
    George April 29 2013 21: 14 New
    Mikhailo Larionitch died, and the Russian army began to suffer defeat.
  6. Was mammoth
    Was mammoth April 29 2013 21: 53 New
    And this is a monument in Leipzig. An interesting building
  7. Arct
    Arct April 29 2013 22: 41 New
    Prometey, I read your comments on the Napoleonic Wars and quietly wonder. What sources do you operate on. "Sent Pears to catch Blucher," "Before Napoleon, the French were never warriors," "Kellerman and Bude were victors at Marengo," pearls from other articles. It seems that they are hooked on one source - Wikipedia - and stupidly scat data from there. Did not try to read different authors on the topic? Maybe peremptory statements would be replaced by reasonable judgments? Yes, and would learn to analyze ...
    1. Prometey
      Prometey April 30 2013 00: 10 New
      Quote: Arkt
      It feels like I'm hooked on one source - wikipedia

      I turn to Wikipedia only to clarify dates or specific facts. And so, from memory I turn to different sources. Well, what do you dislike with Pears? Word to catch up? Change the word to pursue. What is wrong with Marengo? Napoleon took this victory for himself, without actually commanding a battle. One cannot trust only one source and writer for whom Napoleon was an indisputable authority. Read the description of the course of the battle (not necessarily on Wikipedia). The battle, which began in the morning, at 2 p.m. was almost completely lost by the French. Napoleon was completely at a loss, although he did not show a sight. The Austrian general Melas, considering the battle won, passed the command to his deputy and left the battlefield. The Austrians relaxed and began to settle on rest. But at 3 o’clock the column of General Dese approached and immediately went on the attack. But Dese himself was killed immediately at the beginning of the battle and could not provide any guidance on the course of the battle. The attack on the Austrians taken by surprise was led by General Bude, who was supported by the attack of the heavy cavalry General Kellerman. What is wrong here? Well, yes Napoleon is not mentioned, well, then he rewrote everything for himself.
      What do not like about the French? I had in mind the 18th century (the days of dArtagnan tactfully go around). Well, the French did not have a normal army in the 18th century. The French army before the revolution was a complete rabble, in which they primarily recruited marginals and associative elements. Read the sources for the Thirteen Years and Seven Years War. One way or another, looting was carried out by soldiers of all armies, but the French excelled everyone in this matter. But they did not want to fight, and when it got hot, they quickly showed the rear. By the way, all these moments are reflected even in the old comedy film "Fanfan Tulip". Therefore, the French could not fight alone not with Frederick, nor with the British, who had managed to purge Canada.
      I will take my leave for this hi