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Dresden August 26-27, 1813 Strategic Context After his disastrous Russian Campaign, Napoleon Bonaparte hastily scratches up a new army to face the newly.

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Presentation on theme: "Dresden August 26-27, 1813 Strategic Context After his disastrous Russian Campaign, Napoleon Bonaparte hastily scratches up a new army to face the newly."— Presentation transcript:

1 Dresden August 26-27, 1813 Strategic Context After his disastrous Russian Campaign, Napoleon Bonaparte hastily scratches up a new army to face the newly assembled Sixth Coalition of Russia, Austria, Prussia, Britain, Sweden and others. The Allied strategy reflects their respectful fear of Napoleon himself; although they outnumber the French 1.5:1 overall and rising, they resolve to only give battle to his subordinates or if they have overwhelming superiority. The first two Allied defeats to Napoleon at Lutzen and Bautzen and the first two Allied victories against Marshals Oudinot and MacDonald at Grobeeren and Katzbach only emphasize the strategy’s potential to finally defeat Napoleon and reestablish France’s natural borders. So when the Allied Army of Bohemia discovers a French army half its size under Marshal Saint-Cyr at Dresden, it is believed that there is no better opportunity to defeat another one of Napoleon’s subordinates. Stakes + A French victory would hand the initiative back to Napoleon and push the Allied Army of Bohemia south away from its supporting armies to the north and east. + An Allied victory would give the coalition confidence, deny the French a base to hinder Allied maneuvers in the theater and buy time for the already massive Allied armies to grow. By Jonathan Webb, 2009 ©

2 Dresden, 1813 Strength  Grande Armée  Well  Allied Army of Bohemia  Well  Napoleon Bonaparte  170,000  120,000  Karl Philipp Furst zu Schwarzenberg By Jonathan Webb, 2009 ©  Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr

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4 St-Cyr entrenches his force in the city of Dresden and plans to hold out until reinforcements can arrive. He holds an outpost line near the Allied lines to hide his true fortifications; they include five newly built redoubts and artillery behind the Elbe River to protect his vulnerable left flank, his right flank being more secure by the cramped, marshy ground. Schwarzenberg deploys his massive force in an arc around Dresden; he plans to destroy the French army before its reinforcements can arrive. However, the Allies are hampered by a diverse war council which decisions must pass through first before any action can be taken. Schwarzenberg carries out a reconnaissance in force to be followed by a full scale assault which succeeds in pushing the French outpost line back to the city. However, the Allies must accept casualties from the French artillery and overcome fierce resistance to take the Great Garden before the French retreat in good order. Just as Schwarzenberg is ready to launch his full scale assault, he and his men hear the dreaded cries of “Vive l’empereur!” resonating from Dresden. Napoleon Bonaparte has arrived. The Tsar of Russia feels the Allies should retreat at once, the Emperor of Austria is unsure and the King of Prussia is aghast that such a superior force would retreat from one man. Schwarzenberg is nonetheless instructed to postpone the attack but the command is received too late and the Allied attack goes ahead reluctantly. Elements of the elite Imperial Guard arrive with Bonaparte and serve to bolster the ranks; Bonaparte leaves St-Cyr in defensive command and forms a counterattack reserve. Encouraged by the mere presence of their emperor and fighting from elaborate defences, the French line holds in all sectors despite the center redoubt being taken. The Allied soldiers are badly shaken by the failed offensive against the defences of Dresden and so Bonaparte judges the time to be right for his counterattack. Mortier hits the Allied right and succeeds in recapturing the Great Garden while Ney’s attack on the Allied center is so sudden that Schwarzenberg must commit his reserve to contain the damage. By nightfall, the French regain most of the outpost line originally held. Dresden Racknitz Leubnitz Plauen Landmarks Allied Army of Bohemia (Schwarzenberg) Allied Army of Bohemia (Karl Philipp Furst zu Schwarzenberg) 170,000 Grande Armée (Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr) 120,000 Grande Armée (St-Cyr) ColloredoChasteler Kleist Wittgenstein Bianchi MortierMurat Ney Great Garden

5 Overnight, 50,000 French reinforcements arrive while only 20,000 Allied reinforcements arrive due to a developing crisis to the east. Bonaparte assumes command from St-Cyr and deploys 35,000 troops on each flank with 50,000 holding the center; he plans to envelop the Allied army by overrunning its flanks and holding Dresden’s defences and the Allies’ attention in the center. Schwarzenberg deploys only 25,000 troops on his flanks with the bulk of his force, 120,000, in the center; he plans to shatter Dresden’s defences with overwhelming numbers and divide the French army. Overnight, it also rains heavily, flooding the lower ground to the west of Dresden, leaving only the bridge at Plauen as a possible crossing of the Weisseritz River. Allied Army of Bohemia (Schwarzenberg) Bonaparte strikes first; the French left quickly drives the Allies right backwards before being checked at Leubnitz. The French right also quickly drives its opposition backwards but also seizes the bridge at Plauen, severing the Allied left from the Allied center. The Allied center can do nothing but watch as Victor and Latour-Mauborg kill, scatter or capture Bianchi’s entire force. Bonaparte orders two more assaults to take Leubnitz which both fail after heavy fighting. Bonaparte personally supervises a third with more concentrated artillery fire but this is also repelled. Somewhat annoyed by this, Bonaparte begins back to his command post but spots an Allied staff group visibly situated on a hill. He nonchalantly orders the nearest artillery battery to fire a shot which scatters them. This staff group turns out to be the Allies’ highest leadership and the shot narrowly misses the Tsar of Russia. Yet another assault on Leubnitz fails as night falls. Bonaparte fully expects a third day of fighting and makes preparations to survive and win a decisive victory – but he is not given the opportunity. An Allied council of war, made up of national leaders spooked by the phantom cannonball and discouraged by the past two days’ events and Bonaparte’s presence, opts to retreat. The Allies retreat during the night despite holding numerical superiority and a right flank anchor in Leubnitz that the French could not take during four full scale assaults. Dresden Racknitz Leubnitz Plauen Landmarks Allied Army of Bohemia (Karl Philipp Furst zu Schwarzenberg) 170,000 Grande Armée (Napoleon Bonaparte) 120,000 Grande Armée (Bonaparte) Mortier Ney Latour-Mauborg St-Cyr Victor Nansouty Marmont Kleist Bianchi Wittgenstein Miloradovich Wittgenstein Mortier Ney St-Cyr Nansouty Great Garden

6 Dresden, 1813 Casualties & Aftermath Grande Armée:Allied Army of Bohemia: 10,000 or 8% 38,000 or 22% By Jonathan Webb, 2009 © The French victory was wasted by the careless pursuit of the Allies by Marshal Vandamme. Vanadamme’s 32,000 men had been pushing west to hit the Allied Army of Bohemia’s right flank throughout the battle and pursued it when it retreated, ending the battle. On August at the Battle of Kulm, Vandamme and much of his force surrendered to 54,000 Allied soldiers. The French soldiers lost in this unnecessary disaster were sorely missed at the decisive Battle of Leipzig in October of the same year.

7 The Art of Battle: Animated Battle Maps By Jonathan Webb, 2009 ©


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