Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Prussians cross the river Elbe

4 May 1813

2nd Prussian corps at Zerbst

Blucher’s main army arrived at the river Elbe.

As night fell 1st corps arrived in sight of Magdeburg.

3rd corps, to the north, approached the river at Parey.

4th corps was held in reserve at Drewitz.

But the most important news was from 2nd corps to the south. They had reached Zebst and fought a cavalry skirmish for possession of the town. The French were in position at Calbe. Blucher sent orders for 2nd corps to attack and seize Calbe.

For most of the day Davout had held Magdeburg with only the cavalry of 13th corps. Just as Prussian cavalry were approaching Mockern the remainder of 13th corps began to arrive. The city was secure.

Good news also from 6th corps, who had arrived at Seehausen just one day’s march to the east.

Not so good from 4th corps, who were still four days march to the north.

Most important of all, 5th corps had reached Calbe ahead of the Prussians. They reported a cavalry skirmish, and were taking defensive positions around the town.

3 May1813

The cavalry of 2nd Prussian corps reached the Elbe at Zebst, south of Magdeburg, and found the bridge intact and undefended. Blucher ordered them to cross and push on towards Dessau. His other three corps continued their race for the river.

Davout arrived in Magdeburg at midnight.

Reports were coming in of large bodies of Prussians approaching from the east, and of a crossing far to the south at Zebst. 13th corps was approaching Magdeburg, but the other two corps were still 2 and 5 days march away.

True to form he grasped the initiative and ordered 5th corps to march south to Calbe and 13th corps to replace them in Magdeburg. This would leave the city at risk for a few hours, but there were no reports of any Prussian troops within one day’s march of the city.

He sent orders to 4th corps to abandon their careful march down the river and make straight for Magdeburg.

2 May 1813

It was now a race to the Elbe, and the Prussians were winning.

Blucher moved his headquarters to Potsdam, where he received reports from his cavalry that there was no sign of any French activity east of the river.

Leaving 6th corps to make its long journey to Magdeburg, Davout rode ahead to Brunswick and send orders to 5th corps to hold Magdeburg at all costs.

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