In September 1813, the strategic environment changed in favor of the Allied powers. A fresh Russian Polish (reserve) army arrived at Saxony under the command of Bennigsen. Napoleon's troops suffered a series of defeats — the battles of Kulm and Dennwitz. The second campaign of the French troops to Berlin failed. Napoleon’s army was upset by the war in several directions and went on the defensive; French troops were exhausted by continuous, fruitless marches for them, poor supply. According to the German historian F. Mehring, in August – September 1813, Napoleon’s army lost 180 to thousands of people, mainly from disease and desertion. The situation was aggravated by the lack of reserves and the poor quality of the arriving reinforcements. France was exhausted by the succession of wars and the losses in the people suffered by the French army were no longer fully compensated. Realizing that the affairs of France are bad, Bavaria, Napoleon's vassal and the largest state of the Rhine Union, began separate negotiations with the Austrians.
At the end of September 1813, the sovereigns of the Allied powers - Russia, Prussia and Austria, gathered in Teplice and taking into account the fact that Napoleon continues to hold positions with Dresden, they worked out a new plan of offensive actions. It was decided to go on a general offensive, pushing out the enemy was supposed to be a wide roundabout maneuver on both sides at once. The Silesian army under the command of General Gebraht Blücher, located in the vicinity of Bautzen, received the task of moving right through Elsterwerd and Herzberg to Elster, force the river there. Elbe and to interact with the Northern army under the leadership of the Swedish crown prince Jean Bernadot (the Northern army was supposed to cross at Aken and Roslau) against the left wing of the French army.
At the same time, Field Marshal Karl Schwarzenberg with the main forces of the Allied forces, moved through Sebastiansberg and Chemnitz to the right wing and to the rear of the enemy. Napoleon Bonaparte reacted to the movement of the enemy forces by sending the 4 Corps under the command of General Henri Bertrand (14 −15 thousand people with 24 guns) to Wartenburg to prevent the crossing of the Blucher troops, and the forces of Marshal I. Murat (50 thousand). soldier) - in Freiberg to observe the army of Schwarzenberg. Napoleon with the main forces remained in the Dresden area, awaiting further events.
The place of the Battle of Wartenburg.
General Henri Gacien Bertrand set up the division of General S. Moran in Wartenburg and its surroundings. Weak Württemberg Division Lieutenant General F. Frankemona sent to Bleddyn (in its composition was only 1,5-2 thousand soldiers -. 4 battalion) and Italian Infantry Division Major-General A. Fontanelli and Westphalian-Württemberg cavalry brigade left in reserve at Godiga. General Bertrand, who was one of the best engineers of the French empire, having deployed his troops at Wartenburg and Bleddin, wrote to Napoleon that "he hopes to discourage the enemy from hunting for the crossing at this point."
Indeed, the terrain of Wartenburg greatly contributed to the defending side. The Elbe River in this place formed a deeply entering arc, the chord of which was a dam. Behind the dam was the French corps. In front of the left wing stretched the deep arm of the Elbe; in front of the center was a swamp; only the right wing was less protected. The movement of the troops and their deployment into battle formation was hampered by many lowlands filled with water in the spring and autumn period, the space between the river and Wartenburg was low, filled with bays, ditches and embankments, covered with swampy groves and meadows. In the places most accessible to the movement, the French made abutments, and the settlement of Wartenburg was prepared for defense.
On October 2, the Prussian corps of General York, who was the vanguard of the Silesian Army, arrived at the village of Elster. Russian pontooners (3 pontoon companies) began building two bridges. The corps of York included: the brigades of Prince Karl of Mecklenburg, Steinmitz, Gorn and Günerbein and the Yurgas Cavalry (25 total thousand soldiers with 32 guns).
September 21 (October 3), at 7 o'clock in the morning, part of the Karl of Mecklenburg brigade - 3 battalion, forcing the Elbe, moved to Wartenburg. The commander-in-chief of the Prussian corps, Blücher, arrived at the troops and said: “Come on, my children! Hold tight! We need to take Wartenburg by storm! I ordered to burn the bridges! True, the old soldiers grunted, they did not like the speech of the commander. “In vain he doubts us,” they said. "We do not care if there are bridges behind us, or they will burn them." Blucher immediately recovered: ““ I did not think at all; we know each other well. ” Prussian warriors answered him with a loud cry.
The soldier Charles met a chain of enemy shooters, who began to withdraw to the Wartenburg. Finding out that the French were in a position of considerable strength, they threw 6 battalions of the brigade of Colonel Steinmitz into battle, with a foot battery, and then another 5 battalions. The 7 and 8 brigades, two Mecklenburg hussars and the Life Hussars also crossed to the left side of the Elbe.
After examining the disposition, General York ordered the Steinmitz 1 Brigade to hold positions at Wartenburg, and the Karl Mecklenburg brigade to attack the village of Bleddin, force out the enemy from there and try to bypass Vartenburg from the right flank. Gorn's brigade was located behind the forces of Prince Charles, the Günerbane brigade remained in reserve, covering the way to the bridges. After the capture of Bleddin and coverage of the flank by the opponents of Karl's brigade, it was supposed to begin the assault of Wartenburg by the forces of the Steinmitz and Horn brigades. Total offensive took part thousand soldiers (15 battalions, 16 squadrons and 27 batteries).
Bleddin defended the Württemberg division of Lieutenant General F. Frankemon. The division suffered heavy losses in the battle of Denniewice and had only the 4 battalion and 6 guns. Frankemon pointed to the insufficiency of his forces for the defense of Bleddin, the most extensive and convenient for the offensive positions of the enemy. Besides the swamps, not only prevented the allies from moving towards Wartenburg, but also created obstacles for the maneuver of French reinforcements. But Bertrand reassured him, saying that he would not allow the significant forces of the enemy to pass at Wartenburg to the Baldin. Frankemon's division was located in two lines: two battalions with 4 guns stood in a vast clearing, in front of the village; the remaining two battalions with 2 guns were located behind the village.
Prince of Mecklenburg for a long time could not fulfill the order to attack the enemy, the complexity of the terrain hampered the movement of troops. Finally, with the help of guides from local residents, he led the troops to the Baldin. The prince built troops, advanced artillery, immediately attacked the village. For the enemy, the appearance of Prussian artillery was a surprise, it was considered impossible to smuggle guns through the swamps. Advanced battalions Frankemon moved to the village. Wuerttemberg stubbornly defended, but suffering losses from Prussian artillery fire, and being attacked by superior forces of the enemy, retreated to Globig (Godigu). Their departure covered the Westphalian-Wurttemberg cavalry of Beaumont. In the 2 hour, Karl, occupying Bleddin, threw two hussar regiments at the enemy. The hussars overturned the Westphalian-Württemberg brigade, capturing prisoners around 200 people. Then the Prussian Hussars fought off the retreating infantry of Frankemon 5 guns.
Simultaneously with the attack of the brigade of Karl of Mecklenburg on the right flank, there was a battle in the center at Zouanger and on the left flank at Wartenburg. The two battalions of the Horn Brigade moved towards Zawanger. Here, under the protection of two embankments, the enemy battalions defended the 5 defenses. Gorn's infantry was subjected to a rifle-gun fire, and then it was counterattacked by the enemy. York, trying to support the attack, ordered the two landwehr battalions to attack Wartenburg and threw the 5 battalions that remained with him to General Gorn, beating the enemy. The Günerbane Brigade was supposed to support the attack.
At this time, the Russian case of Langeron crossed the Elbe. Blucher, in case of failure of the York corps, went to the Russians and, turning to General Kern, asked him to convey to the Russian soldiers his words: “You are the old Muscovites who have never turned the rear to the enemy; I myself will go with you; we need to hit the bayonet on the French; I am sure you will not step back. Come on! ”This speech was greeted by the thundering“ Hurray ”and moved to the aid of comrades. But at that time came the news of the success of the Prussian troops. The case of Langeron was stopped.
The horn, turning the brigade into dense columns and forbidding firing - “A scoundrel, who will shoot! The bayonets! ”- forced the swamp and hit the embankment. The Prussians, enthusiastic by example of a commander walking in the head of a column, crossed the ditch and climbed the first embankment. The enemy, surprised by the appearance of the Prussians, retreated beyond the second embankment, and then further. At the same time, Landwehr captured Wartenburg. The Steinmitz brigade was somewhat delayed, overcoming the swamps and abutments. But she, overcoming obstacles, began to pursue the enemy.
Prince Charles's brigade, after occupying Bleddin, marched to Wartenburg and on the way met the remnants of the defeated Italian division of Fontanelli. If the prince had cavalry, the Italian division could be completely destroyed. But the hussars pursued the enemy in the direction of Globig. Managed to capture 5 guns. Combined, the teams of Horn and Karl of Mecklenburg attacked Moran’s division and forced her to retreat down the Elbe.
The Prussians of York settled down for the night at Wartenburg; Langeron's corps, along with a part of the Prussian corps, who had not had time to take part in the battle, stood at the bridge. The corps of General Saken arrived at night and was located on the right bank of Elster. For the pursuit of the enemy sent: Austrian cavalry brigade of Colonel Katsler to Wittenburg; Major General G.A. Emmanuel (1 and 3 of the Ukrainian regiments, two Don Cossack regiments and 6-gun mounted battery) to Kemberg; Major General Yuzefovich's detachment (Kiev and Kharkov dragoon and Kalmyk regiments, 2 guns of Don artillery) up the Elbe to Precha and Shmideberg.
The scheme of the battle of Wartenburg.
The French lost in this battle 1,5 thousand people killed, wounded and captured. 11 guns were captured. Prussian troops lost up to 2 thousand people. High losses were caused by the fact that the French held defenses in convenient terrain, behind embankments, ditches, abutments, marshes.
The Silesian army of Blucher successfully crossed the Elbe. The northern army of Bernadot, influenced by the success of its neighbors, also crossed the river. The Crown Prince moved his headquarters to Dessau. Ney's troops, under the influence of the setbacks, completely lost heart. Flying cavalry detachments sent to the pursuit of enemy forces, daily brought several hundred prisoners. The allied armies, which had together with 140 thousands of bayonets and sabers, against 30 thousands of people from Ney, could go on a decisive offensive, finally defeating the enemy or inflicting a new defeat on him. Napoleon could bring no more 100 thousand soldiers to Her help. The forces of both armies of the Allied armies were sufficient to confront the enemy, even in the worst scenario.
But Bernadot, although he moved the army through the Elbe, was in no hurry to pursue the enemy. Blucher, wanting to captivate the Northern Army with his example, moved on the enemy. Ney, having destroyed the bridges on the Mulde, moved to Eileburg, where he united with Marmon, the cavalry of Lotur-Mobur, Arrigi and the Polish division of Dombrowski. His strength grew to 50 thousand people.