On the previous day the battle of Uelzen had been fought just 15 miles to the north.
Both commanders are aware that IV French corps had lost that battle, and had retreated to the west towards Munster.
General Laurison, commander of V French corps, has orders to support IV corps. Without waiting for orders from Marshal Davout, he orders his corps to advance towards Bodenteich. It is unclear what his intention might be, as he does not issue orders to attack the Prussians. But this forward movement would lead to the battle of Steinhorst
General Yorck, commander of 1st Prussian corps, does have orders to attack Steinhorst. Marshal Blucher had spent the previous evening at his headquarters, and had given verbal orders for the attack.
General Yorck ordered his corps to advance well before first light. By 0400 he was leading them out of Bodenteich on the Steinhorst road. As a Gifted commander he is allowed to issue this type of order.
When the battle starts at 0800 the Prussians are approaching Steinhorst.
V French corps are in column of march within Steinhorst ready to start their advance on Bodenteich.
The cavalry brigades of each corps are deployed in battle line between the two corps. Since 0400 the French cavalry have been withdrawing slowly towards Steinhorst. Both are within charge move and either corps commander may open the battle with a cavalry charge.The table at the start of the battle