Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Prussian victory at Magdeburg

14 May 1813

The battle of Magdeburg

This was the largest, and most decisive, battle of the campaign.

All four corps of both armies took part, and it was very much "A Near Run Thing".

Blucher has two corps available at the start of the battle, with the remaining two corps due to arrive by mid morning. He took up a defensive position at Magdeburg and waited for the French attack.

Davout planned to hold with his left and centre, whilst attacking with his right.

He created a cavalry division by taking two brigades from his holding corps to support his attack. It started well, but was held by an aggressive Prussian counter attack.

The Prussians were slow to take advantage of this, and Davout quickly switched his attack to his left flank, holding with his centre and right.

French attack Magdeburg

He used two corps for this attack, leaving the remaining two corps to hold the centre and right.

This time he was successful drove the Prussian left back over the river Elbe. However he was unable to take Magdeburg.

Both sides suffered heavy casualties, and the Prussians withdrew over the river, but kept a strong bridgehead in Magdeburg.

The French withdrew to Marienborn to regroup and reform.


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

Sunday, August 29, 2010

French defeat at Halbeck

10 May 1813

Battle of Halbeck

At first light Blucher ordered the attack on Halbeck

The Prussian army approached Halbeck with 3 corps on the left and 4 corps on the right

A cavalry division has been created by taking the brigades from each corps.

The Prussian cavalry to advance to silence the enemy guns, the French infantry form square to protect them.

French cavalry move forward, but are overthrown by the greater numbers of enemy cavalry and thrown back. The hussar brigade from the approaching 6th corps attempt to cover the retreat but are also defeated and join the rout

4th corps is deployed around the church in the centre of Halbeck. With the loss of their cavalry their infantry are forced into square to hold the Prussian cavalry at bay.

Prussians attack Halbeck

Blucher masses his artillery opposite the church and blows a hole in the French defences. His cavalry pour into the hole and rout 4th corps.

As they flee from the town they take the approaching 6th corps with them.

Blucher has achieved a third decisive victory.

As the mass of French infantry flee from Halbeck the road to Helmstedt and Hanover is wide open.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

French concentrate at Halbeck

9 May 1813

4th corps in Halbeck, 6th corps approach from left

Blucher was slow to build up his position at Colbitz.

He spent the day redeploying 3rd and 4th corps around the town, and allowed the French to regroup to the west at Halbeck.

Davout did not waste any time at Halbeck.

By mid morning 4th corps was in a strong defensive position around the town.

6th corps was withdrawn behind Halbeck to rest and regroup

He was determined to be ready for the expected Prussian advance on Halbeck.

8 May 1813

Blucher was overjoyed at another victory, and this time in the vital north.

3rd corps was allowed to rest in Colbitz.

4th corps ordered to cross the river to support them.

Further south he would hold his position in front of Magdeburg and at Calbe.

At first light Davout arrived in Halbeck to rally his shaken 6th corps.

He brought 4th corps into the town and withdrew 6th corps to regroup west of Halbeck.

He was aware that if the Prussians were allowed to take Halbeck he would be have to fall back to Helmstedt and abandon any hope of holding the line of the river Elbe.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Another Prussian victory at Colbitz

7 May 1813

Battle of Colbitz

Blucher now had two bridgeheads over the river Elbe one in Colbitz and the second at Calbe.

With the approach of 6th corps, Davout was determined to regain the initiative. He ordered Marmont to retake Colbitz without delay.

6th French corps approach Colbitz

The French approached Colbitz in three columns. The strongest along the road in the valley, infantry on the high ground to their left and cavalry on the hills to their right.

The main column in the valley take heavy casualties as they near Colbitz. The supporting cavalry on their right charge the guns, but the gunners take cover in a nearby square until their own cavalry arrive to drive the French back.

The third column of two infantry brigades approach the village from the north. They are met by the elite 10th brigade, who are deployed in line. The Prussians easily hold their own in a skirmish and fire fight.

With the heavy casualties in the centre column, the loss of their cavalry brigade and the failure of the attack on the left Marmont has had enough. He orders his corps to fall back along the Halbeck road.

This has been a second decisive victory for Blucher.

He is now firmly established on the west bank of the river both north and south of Magdeburg.

The city itself is now becoming isolated and Davout will have to consider whether to withdraw the garrison and fall back to the west to meet his reinforcements from Hamburg, or hope it will hold long enough for his battered army to recover and attempt to drive the Prussians back across the river Elbe.


6 May 1813

3rd Prussian Corps

Blucher’s plan for the campaign called for an advance north of Magdeburg, to protect his communications with Berlin.

Pleased with the victory to the south, he was still determined to stick to his original plan.

He ordered 3rd corps, at Parey, to cross the river and occupy Colbitz.

4th corps was ordered to move north to support them.

Davout was concerned at the loss of Calbe.

The Prussians were now established on the west bank of the river.

However he still held Magdeburg, 6th corps was immediately available and 4th corps approaching from the north.

When he received reports of Prussian cavalry crossing the river to the north, at Colbitz, He ordered 6th corps to move north to Halbeck.

5th corps would regroup at Groningen and hold the southern flank.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Prussian victory at Calbe

5 May 1813

The battle of Calbe

The Prussians advanced either side of the road, with the cavalry brigade on their left.

The French cavalry were on the opposite flank holding the road to Magdeburg.

The Prussian cuirassiers charged the infantry holding the French right flank, and routed them. This caused great confusion and delayed the French redeployment to meet this threat.

The Prussian columns now stormed Calbe and the French garrison joined the rout, further disrupting the French redeployment.

The Prussian cavalry now charged the disordered mass and drove 5 French corps out of Calbe in great disorder

This was a convincing victory for 2nd Prussian corps, who received only light casualties.

5th French corps fled westwards and could not be rallied until they arrived at Groningen.

Blucher had secured his bridgehead on the west bank of the river Elbe.


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.

Prussia declares war on France

1 May 1813

On 1 May 1813 Prussia declared war on France.

The declaration of war came as no surprise, nor did the departure of Blucher from Berlin on the road to Magdeburg.

Blucher has been tasked to capture Magdeburg and secure a bridgehead on the river Elbe.

180 miles to the west, at his headquarters near Hannover, Marshal Davout is well aware of the threat posed by the Prussian army.

Only two of his four corps are immediately available for action, and are positioned on the river Elbe. 4th corps is at Hamburg and the 5th corps at Magdeburg. Between them they have 80 miles of river to defend.

13th corps is regrouping at Brunswick. They had suffered badly in Russia the previous year, but are now ready to take the field again.

The newly formed 6th corps is under his personal command at Hannover, and is also ready to take the field.

As soon as he received notification of the Prussian declaration of war Davout ordered 6th and 13th corps to march to Magdeburg.

4th corps was ordered to move south along the west bank of the river Elbe, to keep watch for any Prussian move on Hamburg

Link to main Magdeburg campaign blog


Monday, August 23, 2010

Army Organisation

Typical French Army

The army is the largest command in this campaign.

There are four corps in each army, and a reserve can be created by taking cavalry or artillery from one or more corps.

Typical French Corps

The smallest command in this campaign is the corps.

Each corps consists of

4 infantry brigades

1 cavalry brigade

Corps artillery

Order of Battle

The order of battle has been designed to make use of the figures currently in my collection.

I already had the figures when I designed the campaign, I did not have the luxury of buying them to suit the order of battle. So I have had to compromise in the selection of figures, command groups and such.

There are three sets of figures 28mm, 18mm and 6mm. Again I already had these figures in my collection. However this does give me the ability to fight large battles on the same 6x6 foot table by using smaller figures.

There are photographs of each army in each scale here:


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Western Spain

Campaign Background

Western Spain

To create the new Grande Armee in the north, Napoleon has withdrawn many of the best divisions from Spain.

This has caused a major reorganisation of the French Armies in Spain.

Marshal Soult has been ordered to abandon southern Spain and take command of all troops between Madrid and Bayonne.

In 1812 Wellington had been forced to retreat from Madrid and Burgos and has taken up position at Salamanca.

In January 1813 he is appointed Commander in Chief of all British, Portuguese and Spanish armies in Spain.

Fifth French Army

Marshal Soult commands the Fifth French Army of four corps

His orders are to hold western Spain from Madrid to Bayonne.

His four corps are all operational, but widely spread.

6th French corps is at Burgos

7th French corps is at Valladolid

8th French corps is at Madrid

16th Italian corps is at Santander

Anglo Portuguese Army

The Duke of Wellington has direct command of this mixed British, Portuguese and German army of four corps.

His intention is to march on Burgos and drive the French out of western Spain.

His four corps are all operational and are concentrated around Salamanca on the southern bank of the river Duero.

1st corps in reserve at Salamanca
2nd corps observing Madrid road at Avila
3rd corps opposite Valladolid
4th corps opposite Zamora

Friday, August 20, 2010

Eastern Spain

Campaign Background

Eastern Spain

To create the new Grande Armee in the north, Napoleon has withdrawn many of the best divisions from Spain.

The bulk of these have come from the east, where there is less threat from the Spanish armies than from Wellington in the west.

The French have abandoned their bases in Valencia and concentrated on holding the coast around Barcelona and communications with Soult via Saragossa

Wellington has been appointed commander of all Spanish forces and has tasked those in the east with containing Suchet and preventing him from sending reinforcements to Soult.

Fourth French Army

Marshal Suchet commands the Fourth French Army of three corps

His orders are to hold Barcelona and the road to the west coast via Saragossa

His three corps is operational, but widely spread.

4th French corps is at Barcelona

5th French corps is at Tarragona

15th Polish corps is at Gerona

Spanish Army

Captain General Copons commands the Spanish Army of four corps

All are operational, but corps commanders resist any central control

1st corps is at Tortosa on the river Ebro
2nd corps is further north also on the river Ebro
3rd corps has entered Lerida on the Barcelona to Saragossa road
4th corps is in the mountains near Gerona