Monday, August 30, 2010

New French Offensive at Magdeburg

13 May 1813

Magdeburg battlefield

Bluchers joy at taking Magdeburg was short lived.

News soon arrived of a French advance in the north towards Halbeck, and of the retreat of his 4th corps to Colbitz.

He still had possession of all the west bank, and Magdeburg. But what were the French up to? By now they should be in headlong retreat towards Hannover.

He ordered his four corps to hold their present positions, and send cavalry forward to determine what the French were up to.

Davout had a busy day.

His four corps marched at their best speed and all were in position at Seehausen by nightfall.

His cavalry were busy throughout the day keeping the enemy cavalry at bay and preventing them from discovering the exact location of each corps.

All was now ready for the critical battle of the campaign – the battle of Magdeburg.

12 May 1813

Blucher ordered 1st and 3rd corps to attack Magdeburg and moved south with 3rd corps to supervise the action.

When he arrived he found the city deserted, the French had abandoned the city without a fight.

Blucher had achieved all of his campaign objectives.

Davout had not been idle.

13th corps were ordered to abandon the city and fall back to Seehausen.

4th and 6th corps were ordered to attack the isolated 4th Prussian corps at Halbeck.

He led 6th corps north, but the Prussians withdrew to Colbitz at his arrival.

At midnight Davout issued orders for a concentration of all his corps at Seehausen in preparation for an attack on Magdeburg.

11 May 1813

Blucher must now make a decision about how best to exploit his third victory over the French. He could follow up his victory at Halbeck, and push on towards Hannover. However this would split his army and leave him open to a counter attack further west. Or he could move south to take Magdeburg and complete his stated mission. He decided on the latter course.

Confident that there was nothing more to fear from the French, he ordered 4th corps to hold Halbeck and 3rd corps to retreat to Colbitz. Once rested he would move on Magdeburg.

Davout was aware that he must abandon Magdeburg or risk the loss of 13th corps.

He was also aware that if he allowed Blucher to consolidate his position west of the river, he would have to retreat to Hannover.

He was determined to make one final effort to destroy the Prussians before they could consolidate.

He ordered 4th corps to retire to Helmstedt and rest.

6th corps would move south to Seehausen to cover 13th corps withdrawal from Magdeburg.

5th corps would hold Groningen until this redeployment was complete, and would then move north to Seehausen

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