Jena and Auerstedt
Let us summarize the prelude to this situation. On October 8, the two armies were on either side of the Thueringerwald forest, the French to the south, the Prussians to the north. The latter then initiated a movement intended to go around Napoleon while he was crossing the mountains in the northwest, but the Emperor got ahead of them by doubling back to Frankenwald in the southeast. By descending into the valley of the Saale, the French Army reached Jena on October 13, both behind and on the flank of the Prussian positions.
Fearing encirclement, the Prussian commander, Brunswick, accompanied by the King of Prussia and Queen Louise by whose grace all these soldiers were to be torn to pieces, pulled back his 70,000 men in the direction of the Elbe, while Hohenlohe, with his 50,000 troops, was ordered to cover the withdrawal.
In addition to these troops, there were 20,000 more under the Prince of Wuerttemberg in Magdeburg, and 25,000 others in Silesia, making a total of some 165,000 combatants.
The Opposing Armies
Both armies were split into separate parts: Napoleon's main force at Jena consisted of Soult's IV Corps, Lannes' V Corps, Ney's VI Corps, Augereau's VII Corps, and the cavalry of Murat, about 96,000 men in total. Further north, in the vicinity of Auerstedt, was Bernadotte's I Corps (20,000 strong) and Davout's III Corps (27,000). Opposing them, the Prussian king had three forces: 55,000 men under the Duke of Brunswick, 38,000 under Prince Hohenlohe, and 15,000 under General von Ruechel.
The battles began when elements of Napoleon's main force encountered Hohenlohe's troops near Jena. Initially only 48,000 strong, the Emperor took advantage of his carefully-planned and flexible dispositions to rapidly build up a crushing superiority. The Prussians were slow to grasp the situation, and slower still to react. Before Ruechel's 15,000 men could arrive from Weimar, Hohenlohe's force was routed. Nevertheless, it was a fierce battle, and Napoleon mistakenly believed that he had faced the main body of the Prussian army.
Further north at Auerstaedt, both Davout and Bernadotte received orders to come to Napoleon's aid. Davout attempted to comply, but Bernadotte, for reasons never fully explained, did not. Davout's route south, however, was blocked by the Prussian main force of 55,000 men, including the King in person. A savage battle ensued. Although outnumbered two to one, Davout's superbly trained and disciplined III Corps endured repeated attacks before eventually taking the offensive and putting the Prussians to flight.
Battle of Jena
The battle of Jena began with the chance evening meeting of Marshal Lannes' corps and a Prussian force of 38,000 men under General Friedrich Hohenlohe.
Sending for immediate reinforcements, Lannes camped near the enemy positions. Throughout the night new units moved up until French forces numbered at least 50,000, and more were on the way, ensuring Napoleon Bonaparte would have some 90,000 men available.
The initial French move was to push the Prussians into open ground, where the advantage of numbers would be telling, and while the resistance was strong it was eventually achieved. Hohenlohe urgently sent for assistance from Ruechel's nearby 15,000 men and hoped to hold on until they arrived.
Meanwhile, all of the good work done by marshals Augereau and Lannes was almost undone by the impatient Marshal Ney, who launched an unauthorised assault in the centre. Neither side could believe the stupidity of the assault and soon Ney was in danger of being swamped by Prussian cavalry. Fortunately for the fiery marshal, Lannes, Bertrand, and massed French cavalry intervened before the trap could shut.
At 1 pm, Bonaparte ordered a general advance and within two hours the exhausted Prussians gave way, fleeing the field and trying to avoid the sabres of Marshal Murat's horsemen. Jena cost Bonaparte some 5,000 men, but the Prussians had a staggering 25,000 casualties.
Estimates of Hohenlohe's Prussian-Saxon army on 14 October usually range from 50 battalions, 74 squadrons and 12 ½ batteries [37,000 men] to 50 battalions, 77 squadrons and 15 batteries [46,500 men] -- with between 74 and 120 guns. Some sources cite his total strength as high as 53,000 men. Many of these estimates do not include Ruechel's Corps, which, although it fought at Jena, was a separate command. Ruechel is believed to have arrived on the battlefield with 12,000-15,000 troops.
Two Prussian formations in the theatre of operations were not present at either Jena or Auerstedt: the Prussian General Reserve Corps (15,000 men in 18 battalions, 20 squadrons and 4 batteries under Generalleutnant Herzog Eugen Friedrich Heinrich von Wuerttemberg) and the main army's "Advanced Guard" detachment at Ilmenau (9 battalions, 20 squadrons and 2 batteries under General der Cavallerie Herzog Karl August von Sachsen-Weimar). Wuerttemberg's troops were defeated on 17 October by elements of Marshal Jean-Baptiste-Jules Bernadotte's corps at the attle of Halle; Sachsen-Weimar's command -- subsequently commanded by Generalleutnant Christian-Ludwig von Winning - surrendered to French forces on 7 November at Ratkau.
Prussian-Saxon Army: 49 battalions, 77 squadrons and 12 batteries
Prussian-Saxon Army: 64 battalions, 107 squadrons and 15 ½ batteries [including Ruechel].
Battle of Auerstedt
During the night of 13 to 14 October, Davout held the Koesen pass and occupied Naumburg. It was here that he received the Emperor's instructions, conveyed to him by Berthier
The Emperor has located the Prussian Army with troops stretching from one league in front of, as well as on the heights of Jena all the way to Weimar, and has the intention of attacking at dawn. He orders Marshal Davout to advance to Apolda in order to fall on the rear of the Prussian army.
Napoleon's orders also stipulated that if Bernadotte (I Corps, 21,200 men) was with him he could march with Davout, but "the Emperor hopes that he will be at the position indicated at Dornburg."
When these instructions reached Davout, Bernadotte was not at the "position indicated", but next to Davout who asked the future traitor of 1813 to march with him. Bernadotte, who detested his colleague, refused quoting Napoleon's instructions and without loosing time, he immediately ordered his I Corps to march to Dornburg.
Davout was going to have to fight the Prussians alone with his III Corps. With only three divisions, and it is important that we should name them here: Morand, Friant and Gudin, in all less than 29,000 men, including the 1,620 men of Vialannes' cavalry brigade, and 55 cannon.
Gudin's troops were on the move from Naumburg before 6:30am. By 7 am the 1st Chasseurs were stopped cold in their tracks outside of Poppel by Prussian cavalry and artillery. There was a heavy fog that had lifted just as they approached the village. Once Davout became aware of the Prussian force he ordered Gudin to deploy his force at Hassenhausen.
The present Prussian commander on the field was Schmettau and his division was actually under orders to proceed down the very road that Davout was on to block his advance in the Pass at Koesen. While his troops were deploying to attack Hassenhausen, Bluecher arrived with his cavalry and deployed on his left. Together they attacked Gudin's troops and pushed them back to the village.
Wartensleben arrived at 8:30am with Brunswick who ordered his infantry to the left flank and his cavalry to the right. The rest of the French cavalry arrived at 9 am and was placed on Gudin's left. Friant and the 12pr artillery arrived at 9:30am and moved in squares on Gudin's right. The advance of the French squares forced Bluecher's cavalry back. Seeing no other option available he ordered his cavalry to attack. At this very moment two of Wartensleben's regiments attacked Hassen-hausen.
Everything failed, three cavalry regiments were routed and the infantry fell back. At this critical point, Brunswick needed to take drastic action. Shortly before 10 am he ordered a full assault on Hassenhausen. By 10 am Brunswick was carried from the field mortally wounded along with Schmettau who was also badly wounded. With the loss of these two commanders the Prussian command broke down.
As skilled and tough as Davout's III Corps troops were - GdD Charles-Etienne Gudin de la Sablonniere's infantry division suffered a 40% casualty rate - several important factors assisted Davout. The slow rate of the Prussian advance (due to staff inefficiency as well as severe troop congestion in the army's rear area), the un-coordinated Prussian attacks and the serious wounding of Prussian army commander Generalfeldmarschall Herzog Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand von Braunschweig (with King Friedrich-Wilhelm III of Prussia's subsequently failing to assume command) all worked in Davout's favour.
Bluecher's infantry and the Prince of Orange arrived about 10:30am and the King made his only decision of the day, to split Orange's command in two, half to each flank. On the French side Morand's Division arrived and was sent to secure Gudin's left. Davout could now see that the Prussians were wavering so at 11 am he ordered his infantry to counter attack.
The crucial moment of the battle came when Oberst Gerhard Johann David von Scharnhorst (Braunschweig's chief-of-staff) appealed to General der Cavallerie Graf Friedrich Adolf von Kalckreuth to launch his 18 reserve battalions against the battered, but now-advancing III Corps. Kalckreuth refused, telling Scharnhorst he required a direct order from the King to launch the attack. With Braunschweig out of action and Friedrich-Wilhelm III failing to assert his authority, Kalckreuth's reserve remained unengaged (although it later helped to cover the army's retreat).
By noon Schmettau's center was broken and forced back over the Lissbach Stream, Bluecher's cavalry was blown and Wartensleben was trying to reposition his troops. The Prussians realized all was now lost and the King ordered a withdrawal.
The strength of Braunschweig's Hauptarmee at Auerstedt is usually listed as 52 battalions, 80 squadrons and 230 guns (a total of 50,000-60,000 men). Sources state the Prussians suffered 10,000-13,000 casualties and lost 115 guns in the battle.
The losses suffered by Marshal Davout's III Corps show the ferocity of the battle of Auerstedt: between 7,000 to 8,000 men which represented about thirty per cent of the corps.
It should be noted by researchers that General der Cavallerie Herzog Karl August von Sachsen-Weimar's Advanced Guard (9 battalions, 20 squadrons and 2 batteries) is often listed with Braunschweig's troops in Prussian orders-of-battle. This is true at the beginning of the 1806 Campaign, but his formation was later detached and was at Ilmenau on 14 October.
Napoleon initially did not believe that Davout's single Corps had defeated the Prussian main body unaided, and responded to the first report by saying "Tell your Marshal he is seeing double". As matters became clearer, however, the Emperor was unstinting in his praise. Bernadotte was severely censured and came within an ace of being dismissed on the spot despite being within earshot of Auerstedt and within marching distance of Jena, he ignored his orders and did not fire a shot in either battle. Davout was made Duke of Auerstedt. Soult, the hero of Jena, was not so honoured, possibly because Napoleon judged it best for reasons of prestige to keep the glory for himself.
Prussian resistance still remained in the territory east of the River Oder. A small force of the Prussian Army continued to fight with the Russians against Napoleon.
Over the last 25 years only one group took care of the battlefield area. It was the dedicated people around M. Peter Graf and Mr. Robert Heyne who restored monuments, set new markers on the field and promoted the area all over Europe. The re-enactment held every five years brought tourists to the area. No other organization cared about the development of the area. The only group who cared was the "Jena 1806" e.V. organization.
Many soldiers of both sides died in these battles. As part of our heritage we should not forget either side. It should be our goal to honor both sides. The area of both battlefields has not changed much over the last 200 years. To honor both sides the fields should be protected so that the dead could rest in piece.
On the Prussian side, Brunswick had been mortally wounded at Auerstedt, and over the next few days the remaining forces were unable to mount any serious resistance to Murat's ruthless cavalry pursuit. Davout led his exhausted III Corps into Berlin on October 25th. Hohenlohe's force surrendered on October 28th, Bluecher's on November 7th in Luebeck.
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