Davout was aware that he was outnumbered by three corps to two, but felt he had to offer battle in order to force Blucher to abandon his march on Hanover. He hoped that he might be able to fight at least the early stages of the battle on even terms. As he observed the Prussian lines it was obvious that all three corps were in position at the start of the battle.
Blucher commanded three corps, but they were far from equal. 1st corps had suffered heavily at Wolfsburg and took the field with only two infantry brigades and the corps artillery. 3rd corps was his best corps and was almost full strength. 4th corps was also full strength, but was commanded by general Tauentzien the least capable of Blucher’s four corps commanders.
The attack opened with a general advance by the three Prussian corps.
1st corps had 12 pounder artillery, and they halted within range of VI French corps, but out of range of the 9 pounder French guns. VI corps was thus pinned by the much weaker 1st corps, but could not ignore the threat
3rd and 4th corps advanced towards V corps. The French cuirassier brigade moved forward causing 3rd corps to halt and form square. Their hussar brigade engaged the cuirassiers and drove them back.
As 3rd corps continued their advance, Tauentzien lost his nerve and ordered 4th corps to halt. Blucher ordered 3rd corps to press on, and went to sort out Tauentzien. 3rd corps had suffered from artillery fire whilst they sheltered in square, and were now met by a determined French infantry line. Without the support of 4th corps they lost the exchange and fell back to regroup.