Two hundred years ago: the Battle of the Nations
October 16, 1813, was the first day of the Battle of Leipzig, also known as the Battle of the Nations. The battle was the apex of the War of the Sixth Coalition against Napoleon’s French Empire. It would last for four days, and Europe would not see a more massive one until World War I.
Earlier in the year, there had been various battles between the French and the coalition forces, the results of which varied, but had left Napoleon in a position that seemed tenable, if precarious. There had been negotiations at Prague to end the war, but no agreement had been reached, and time worked in favor of the Coalition as it was easier for them to replace losses, and the enforced loyalty of Napoleon’s German allies was dubious at best.
At Leipzig, the Grande Armee, a mere shadow of its former glory after the disastrous Russian campaign of 1812, saw itself surrounded by the combined forces of Russia, Austria, Prussia, and Sweden. Napoleon initially believed he could use the terrain to his advantage and deal with the opposing armies separately, as he had done with great success in the past. But it didn’t work at Leipzig, and by the 19th, the French had no alternative but to seek a breakout. Most of the French army managed to escape to the west, leaving their Polish allies under prince Poniatowski to cover the retreat. But many of Napoleon’s forces were killed or captured, and there was no recovery from the loss in manpower. From that point on, the Coalition would not stop until the capture of Paris.
Hindsight says that Napoleon should probably have retreated further west earlier in 1813, closer to France and his supplies, and away from an increasingly hostile Germany. But he wasn’t quite ready to give up on his conquests yet.
Excellent Herr KaLeun.
Thank you for the write up. I must admit I was unaware Leipzig was fought today.
ABWorsham4 last edited by
I enjoyed your post! Good work.