200 years ago the battle of Bautsen occurred. The battle of 20 — 21 of May 1813 of the year between the allied Russian-Prussian army under the command of Peter Wittgenstein and the French forces under Napoleon I took place near Bautzen (40 km east of Dresden). This was the second major battle of the 1813 campaign of the year. 2 May 1813 of the year during the general battle between the Allied army and the French forces near the town of Lutzen (in 20 km south-west of Leipzig) Napoleon won up (Battle of Lutzen). Russian-Prussian troops were forced to leave first Leipzig, and then Dresden, having gone beyond the Elbe. Saxony again came under the authority of the French Emperor.
Plans of the parties, political situation
After the defeat at Lützen, the Allied command intended to withdraw slowly, restraining the enemy and inflicting losses on him. It was expected rather entry into the war of Austria. The Vienna court promised to stand on the side of the Allies for a month. It was decided not to abandon the new general battle, with a comfortable position.
Napoleon, due to the lack of cavalry, could not deploy an active pursuit of the enemy, impose a new battle on him. However, he hastened to use the success of Lutzen for propaganda: he sent out couriers with news of his victory to Vienna, Paris and Constantinople. The power of Napoleon over the German states of the Rhine Union was strengthened. The territory on the left side of the Elbe was under the complete control of Napoleon. It is clear that the German monarchs conducted behind-the-scenes negotiations with the allies, but did not intend to openly oppose Napoleon. For their uprising it was necessary to crush the military power of the French army.
Frederick Augustus, the Saxon king, was obliged to Napoleon to significantly expand his possessions and, in the event of a victory for Russia and Prussia, could lose the vast Prussian territories ceded by Berlin under the Treaty of Tilsit. Before the battle of Lutzen he tried to tack, to be neutral following the example of Vienna. Leaving his capital, the Saxon ruler moved to Regensburg, and then to Prague. A part of his army accompanied him, the other defended Torgau, into which the king forbade letting both French and Russian-Prussian troops. However, after Lutzen, Napoleon demanded Friedrich Augustus to return to Dresden, to let the French in Torgau and join their forces to the French army. In case of refusal, the French emperor promised to deprive Friedrich Augustus of the throne, possessions. Frederick Augustus, having received this terrible warning, immediately left for Dresden and restored the alliance with France.
Negotiations with Austria were delayed, Vienna was cunning and waited. The Austrians negotiated with the allies and the French. So 12 May in the main apartment (headquarters) Alexander Pavlovich arrived Austrian diplomat Count Stadium, who insisted that Vienna will join the Russian-Prussian alliance at the end of the month. At the same time, the Austrian General Bubn was sent to Dresden, to Napoleon, with a letter from the Austrian emperor Franz, which offered mediation in the negotiations. The Viennese court assured Napoleon of his loyalty and peace-loving plans. In addition, the Austrians hinted that they would like to get from Italy - Illyria, to expand the territory in Poland and Bavaria, and to destroy the Rhine Union, which threatened the influence of Vienna in Germany.
The retreat of the Allied forces covered the rear guard under the command of Miloradovich. Thanks to the fearlessness, composure and activity of this general, the main forces made their way from Lützen to Bautzen rather calmly, not hurrying, as if on maneuvers in peacetime. The rearguard itself retreated in perfect order, did not lose a single gun, or carts. The troops were equipped with a sufficient number of carriages, so not a single patient and almost none of the wounded went to the enemy. The Russian emperor, paying tribute to Miloradovich, a pupil of the Suvorov school and the hero of the Patriotic War, granted him a count of dignity.
Initially, Russian and Prussian troops were divided. The Prussians wanted to cover the Berlin direction. But then the understanding came that it would be easier for Napoleon to crush the disjunct forces. The command decided to concentrate the troops again in a single fist, even with the risk of losing the Prussian capital. Napoleon, having received news of the concentration of enemy troops, decided to abandon the capture of Berlin and recalled the corps of Ney, who received such a task. Napoleon stayed in Dresden until May 6 (18). He sent Viceroy Eugene Beauharnais to Italy to strengthen his position there.
In negotiations with the Austrians, Napoleon agreed to convene a congress for an armistice. A letter about this was sent to the Allied Headquarters 6 (18) in May 1813. On the same day Napoleon made a guard from Dresden along the Bautzen road. However, the Allies did not give any response to this proposal.
The Case of Konigswart
The command of the allied army, having received lime on the movement of General Jacques Loriston’s corps and not knowing that two more Ney’s corps were following it, sent Barclay de Tolly’s corps, Rajewski’s grenadier corps and York’s Prussian corps, against him. Barclay's
7 (19) in May, Chaplitsa’s vanguard at 1 was at one o'clock in the afternoon at Ionsdorf, where it received a message about the location of the village of Königsvarta of the Italian division of Peyre. Barclay decided to strike immediately and sent Major General Rudziewicz with the Chasseur Regiment, a hundred Cossacks and 2 guns to Konigswart, followed by the rest of the troops. The enemy was taken by surprise and retreated to the place. The 18 division of Major-General Shcherbatov, meeting the enemy forces in the forest near Königsvart, drove him from there and attacked an enemy square in a clearing, seizing two guns. The enemy retreated into the place. At the approach of the new forces, Shcherbatov attacked Königsvart and, after an hour-long battle, occupied her. 7 guns were captured, two were spoiled, the whole wagon train was captured by divisional general Peyri, three brigadier generals and 754 officers and soldiers.
At the same time, the corps of York engaged the enemy at Weissig. By evening, on the heights of Eichberg, which were the key to the position, a stubborn battle ensued. Height changed hands several times. However, the French had the advantage in forces and York, fearing encirclement, began to withdraw troops. The Prussians gave way to the height, but all attempts of the enemy to move further were reflected. The Prussian corps in this battle gained more fame, restraining the onslaught of three times more powerful enemy within six hours and losing a third of its composition. York, along with Russian reinforcements, had about 8 thousand people, but they fought so bravely that Loriston reported that there were more than 30 thousand enemy soldiers against him. Barclay, telling the king of Prussia about this battle, wrote: "General York is beyond praise." The darkness of the night stopped a fierce battle. 20 May Barclay's forces returned to the Bautzen positions. Prussian troops lost 1,8 thousand people, Russian about 1 thousand French losses are unknown.
Forces of opponents and their location
The losses of the Allied army after the defeat at Lutzen were compensated by the 4 (16) approach of May 13,5-th. Corps Barclay de Tolly, who was released after the capture of Thorn. The army was also replenished with 5 thousand Kleist, 3 thousand Prussian reserves and 3-4 thousand Russian reinforcements. Thus, the number of reinforcements increased to 25 thousand people and the allied army was no weaker than under Lutzen. Its number reached 93 thousand people (65 thousand Russian, 28 thousand Prussians) with 610 guns. Of these, about 24 thousand cavalry, including 7 thousand Cossacks.
The position of the Russian-Prussian army under Bautzen consisted of two lines. The first defensive line went along the right bank of the River Spree across the main road, in the center of it was the city of Bautzen, which was protected by a stone wall. The city was prepared for defense, additional fortifications were erected in it. The front line was defended by parts of General Mikhail Miloradovich. The main position was not solid and was focal on the heights beyond Bautzen, stretching for 12 km. The left wing (southern) covered the ridge, behind it was the Austrian territory, on the right wing (northern) the advance was hampered by a number of swamps and ravines. On the left wing stood the Russian corps under the command of Andrei Gorchakov, in the center - the Prussian corps of Johann York and Gebhard Blucher, on the right wing - the corps of Michael Barclay de Tolly. Russian Guard was in reserve.
The commander of the Russian-Prussian army, Wittgenstein, in contrast to the battle of Lutzen, where the initiative was on the side of the Allies, and they attacked the enemy, chose a purely defensive tactics, deciding to use difficult terrain.
B.P. Villevalde Blucher and Cossacks in Bautzen.
The French emperor had a great superiority in forces: 143 thousand people. However, as in the battle of Lutzen, the French were weaker in cavalry (12 thousand people) and artillery (350 guns). The defeat in the Russian 1812 campaign of the year continued to have a most negative effect on Napoleon’s army, both in purely military aspects and in geopolitical matters. Deficiencies in cavalry were not a serious obstacle in a battle on a rough terrain, but prevented to bring the matter to a decisive victory. It was the cavalry that pursued the defeated enemy, greatly reducing its ranks.
Directly at Bautzen, Napoleon Bonaparte had about 100 thousand soldiers - 4 infantry corps and guards. Three more Nei corps approached from the north, about 45 thousand people, who were originally sent to Berlin. But then the French emperor decided that if the Allies were defeated, the Prussian capital would get to the winner anyway. True, the order was somewhat late, Nei was late for battle. On the eve of the advice of Jomini Nei he turned the case. Ney went to the second day of battle.
In the battle, Napoleon's forces were positioned, starting from the right flank, in the following order: XU NUMX th unit Udino - 12 thous. People, 20 th body MacDonald - 11 thous. Bertrand Corps - 12 thousand. The French Guard was in reserve (6 thousand people). Marshal Soult commanded the right wing of the French army, Marshal Oudinot left. Napoleon was planning a strong attack on the center and the left flank of the enemy, forcing the Russian-Prussian command to bring in reserves, and then bypass the right flank to send Nei's corps and go to the rear of the allied army.
20 May. At 10 hours of the morning, the MacDonald Corps launched an attack on Bautzen, while troops under the command of Soult and Oudinot launched an attack on the heights along the forward position of the Allied forces on Spree. After 3 hours of the day, French troops were able to force the river in several places. By 6 hours of the evening, the troops of the Allied right wing had moved to the main position. The French captured Bautzen, after which, without much success, they attacked the left wing of the Russian advanced position.
A particularly stubborn battle unfolded over the heights on the extreme right, where 5 thousand Prussian Kleist fought 20 thousand French from Bertrand's corps. Klest, receiving reinforcements, repelled the frontal attacks of the French, but by the 8 watch also went to the main positions (Marmon walked around to the left). In the evening, with the advance units of Barclay de Tolly, on the far right flank, Ney's troops came in contact. The battle ended by 10 hours of the evening.
21 May. At 5, hours of the morning Corps MacDonald and Oudinot attacked the left flank of the Russian-Prussian army, distracting the enemy. The army commander Peter Wittgenstein, guessing the plans of the enemy, convinced the Russian emperor about the secondary importance of the offensive of the enemy forces on the left wing. But Alexander Pavlovich insisted on the transfer to the flank of most of the reserves. Miloradovich, receiving reinforcements, went on the counteroffensive and by 2 hours of the day repulsed previously lost positions.
On the right flank of the morning at 6, the positions of Barclay de Tolly’s troops began the offensive of Marshal Ney's corps. The French had to seize the village of Gokhkirchen, after the seizure of which all the withdrawal routes of the allied forces would have been cut. The Russian commander had 12 thousand soldiers against 45 thousand French, but his advantage was the rugged terrain, where he was dominated by heights and superiority in artillery. Fighting with the Russian troops, the French marshal sent two divisions from the Corps of Loriston to bypass the positions of the allied army. By 11 hours of the morning, Barclay de Tolly led the troops to a new position across the Lebau River, which opened the flank of the neighboring Prussian Corps of Blucher. A joint counterattack of Prussian and Russian forces forced the French out of Preitits and stabilized the situation.
Napoleon, having received news of the difficulties of Ney, ordered the attack to begin in the center, where the troops expected the success of the flank attack of Nei's corps. Under a powerful blow, the Prussian troops were pressed out. But having received reinforcements from the Russian troops, they launched a counterattack, trying to regain their lost positions. By the hours of the day 2, Neit seized Preutitz again, and the French emperor threw reserves into battle - guards units and artillery reserves. Ney could not go to Gokhkirchen, being connected by a battle with the corps of Blucher, to the rear of which the French went.
The Allied Command realized that the continuation of the battle threatened the release of the French to the rear of the whole army, the loss of escape routes. The army was threatened with complete defeat. Moreover, the defense of the center, especially at the junction of the center with the right wing, was shaken. Strong positions were retained only on the left flank of Miloradovich. At 4 in the afternoon, the Allied Army began a well-organized departure in three columns. In the beginning, Blyukher departed under the cover of the rearguards, then Barclay de Tolly's troops, closed the withdrawal of the troops of the left flank under the command of Miloradovich.
The course of the battle 21 May 1813.
The outcome and significance of the battle
- The Russian-Prussian army suffered a second defeat in the general battle with the French army. However, in both the Lutzen and Bautsen battles, the French troops could not achieve decisive success, completely defeating the enemy. The allies themselves decided to retreat, retreated in good order, the army retained its combat capability and fighting spirit, artillery and transports. The cash superiority of the Russian-Prussian troops in the cavalry did not allow the French to organize relentless pursuit, intercepting the backward soldiers, causing damage to retreating troops. The French emperor exclaimed after the battle: “How! Such a massacre and no results! ”
- Researchers note the skillful maneuver of the Allied army - a timely and well-organized retreat of the troops. Among the errors note the passivity of the defense: 8 (20) May the Allied command missed the opportunity to attack the enemy’s divided forces, before the approach of Nei's corps. But the allies did not have a commander who would decide on such a responsible decision. Wittgenstein, after the battle of Lutzen lost the trust of the monarchs and the army; Barclay de Tolly, since the time of World War 1812 of the year, was considered by many to be little capable of decisive action; Blucher enjoyed the prestige of a brave warrior, but not a general capable of defeating Napoleon. In addition, the risk was too high, in case of failure, the situation would be seriously complicated.
Napoleon skillfully chose the direction of the main attack (the right flank of the Russian-Prussian army, less covered by natural obstacles), forced the enemy to retreat, but could not achieve a decisive victory.
- The allied army lost 12 thousand people: 6,4 thousand Russian and 5,6 thousand Prussians. The French losses were harder - 18-20 thousand people, the superiority of the allies in artillery and the convenient for the defense area affected.
- For Prussia, this defeat was a serious political blow, as the fighting was transferred to its territory. The allied army retreated to Silesia.
- Emperor Alexander I, frustrated with his second consecutive defeat, replaced 25 in May with Commander-in-Chief Peter Wittgenstein with a more experienced and senior officer with the rank of Michael Barclay de Tolly.
- Both sides did not reach decisive success, agreed to a truce. Napoleon could not achieve the defeat of the Russian-Prussian army. The French army was tired of fighting, suffered a series of failures in the rearguard battles. The supply of the French army was unsatisfactory, and the looting of the local population had to be interrupted. The Allies were expecting the Austrian Empire to come to their side, and negotiations were held on this topic with Sweden. 4 June 1813 of the year, the French emperor concluded in Poischwitz a truce with Russia and Prussia until July 20 (it was then extended until August 10 1813), after which he returned to Dresden. Both sides hoped to use this breathing space to mobilize forces. Many historians and Napoleon himself later call this truce a serious strategic miscalculation by the French emperor. During the truce, Napoleon’s opponents greatly strengthened their ranks.