Foreign Campaigns of the Russian Army of 1813-14

Foreign Campaigns of the Russian Army of 1813-14

 

the combat operations of the Russian Army to drive Napoleon’s troops from the countries of Western Europe. After the defeat of the Napoleonic army in the Patriotic War of 1812, the Russian government decided to transfer military operations to Western Europe in order to obtain a definitive victory over Napoleon. Although defeated in Russia, Napoleon still had considerable forces at his disposal. The Russian command initiated military action by December 1812, and by February 1813 the Russian troops under the command of Field Marshal M. I. Kutuzov (over 100,000 men) had driven the remnants of the Napoleonic army (80,000 men) from Poland to the Vistula. Then the main forces moved toward Kalisz, and the corps of P. Kh. Vitgenshtein and F. V. Saken advanced toward Berlin and the Austrian frontier. On December 18 (30), General L. Yorck, the commander of the Prussian Corps, signed the Convention of Tauroggen of 1812, according to which the Prussian troops were to halt military operations and withdraw to East Prussia. On Feb. 16 (28), 1813, Prussia signed the Treaty of Kalisz, which began the sixth anti-French coalition. This coalition, while being an alliance of reactionary monarchies, was supported by the peoples of Europe fighting for liberation from the Napoleonic yoke.

The Russo-Prussian troops resumed their offensive in late March. A partisan movement began to be active in Germany behind French lines, and the German population welcomed the Russian troops as their liberators. On February 20 (March 4) a Russian detachment liberated Berlin. By the middle of April, Napoleon succeeded in massing 200,000 men against 92,000 Russo-Prussian troops, which, after Kutuzov’s death on April 16 (28), were commanded by Vitgenshtein; after May 17 (29) they were under the command of General M. B. Barclay de Tolly. Napoleon defeated the allies at Liitzen on April 20 (May 2) and at Bautzen on May 8-9 (20-21). These battles were followed by a cease-fire that was concluded on May 23 (June 4) and lasted until July 29 (August 10). Austria acted as an intermediary in the negotiations with Napoleon. After the failure of the negotiations, Austria broke off relations with France, and Sweden—linked with Russia by the alliance treaty of 1812—entered the war against France. Great Britain signed conventions with Russia and Prussia that granted subsidies to both countries. On Aug. 28 (Sept. 9), 1813, treaties of alliance between Russia, Austria, and Prussia were concluded at Teplitz (Teplice), and soon Great Britain joined as well.

By the autumn of 1813 the allied troops numbered 492,000 men, including 173,000 Russian troops. They were deployed in three armies: the Bohemian Army (about 237,000 men) under the Austrian field marshal K. von Schwarzenberg; the Silesian Army (about 100,000 men) under the Prussian field marshal G. von Blucher; and the Northern Army (over 150,000 men) under the Swedish crown prince J. Bernadotte. A detached corps (about 30,000 men) was moved toward Hamburg. Napoleon had an army of about 440,000 men, the bulk of which was in Saxony. In August the allies began a converging offensive. Napoleon moved his main forces against the Bohemian Army and defeated it in the battle of Dresden on Aug. 14-15 (26-27), 1813. The French troops tried to pursue the enemy, but the Russian rear guard re-pulsed them in the battle of Kulm (Chlumec) on August 17-18 (29-30). The Silesian Army defeated J. Macdonald’s troops and the Northern Army defeated C. Oudinot’s troops. The allies changed to a general offensive and routed Napoleon’s army in the battle of Leipzig on Oct. 4-7 (16-19), 1813. The remnants of Napoleon’s army retreated beyond the Rhine, and L. Davout’s corps was encircled in Hamburg. The allied victories compelled Denmark to give up its alliance with Napoleon, to conclude on Jan. 2 (14), 1814 the Kiel peace treaties with Sweden and Great Britain, and to pledge to enter the war against France. The allied troops began to drive the Napoleonic troops out of the Netherlands. The major result of the campaign of 1813 was the liberation of Germany from the Napoleonic yoke. But, as V. I. Lenin pointed out, it was achieved “not without the aid of robber states that waged against Napoleon by no means a war of liberation but an imperialist war”(Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 35, p. 382).

By the beginning of the campaign of 1814 the allied troops numbered 900,000 men, of whom 453,000 (including 153,000 Russian soldiers) were deployed along the right bank of the Rhine; the remaining forces were in Spain, Italy, and in the reserves. Napoleon could mount only 300,000 men against them, of whom 160,000 men were deployed along the left bank of the Rhine. From December 1813 to January 1814 the allied troops crossed the Rhine and opened an in-depth offensive against France. The allied command acted very indecisively, and Napoleon managed to win several partial victories. Serious contradictions broke out between the allies. According to the Treaty of Chaumont of 1814, which was signed on February 26 (March 10) in order to strengthen the coalition, the allies pledged not to conclude a peace or a cease-fire with France without the agreement of all. The secret clauses of the treaty dealt with the postwar arrangement of Europe. At the Congress of Chatillon in 1814 the allies made one more attempt to solve the conflict with Napoleon peacefully, but the latter rejected the condition that France return to the frontiers of 1792. In March the allied troops defeated Napoleon’s army in several engagements and opened an offensive on Paris, which capitulated on March 18 (30) after sustained resistance. On March 25 (April 6) at Fontainebleau Napoleon signed his abdication from the throne and was exiled to the island of Elba. Louis XVIII, the brother of the executed king Louis XVI, was put on the throne. The Peace Treaty of Paris between the allies and France was signed on May 18 (30), 1814.

In the course of the campaign of 1813-14 the Russian Army rendered immense help to the peoples of Western Europe in liberating them from Napoleon’s domination. It was the main core around which the troops of the other participants of the coalition were grouped. However, the reactionary goals of the ruling circles of the allied powers gave to the war against Napoleon a contradictory character. Marx pointed out that “all the wars for independence waged against France were characterized by a combination of the spirit of rejuvenation with the spirit of reaction” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 10, p. 436).

REFERENCES

Pokhod russkoi armii v 1813 g. i osvobozhdenie Germanii: Sb. dokumentov. Moscow, 1964.
Andrianov, P. Ot Nemana do Reina: Voina 1813 g. Bor’ba za osvobozhdenie Evropy ot iga Napoleona. Odessa, 1913. Andrianov, P. Voina 1814 g: Ot Reina do Parizha: 1814-1914. [Odessa, 1914.]
Bogdanovich, M. Istoriia voiny 1813 g. za nezavisimost’ Germanii …, vols. 1-2. St. Petersburg, 1863.
Bogdanovich, M. Istoriia voiny 1814 g. vo Frantsii i nizlozhenie Napoleona I …, vols. 1-2. St. Petersburg, 1865.
Osvoboditel’naia voina 1813 g. protiv napoleonovskogo gospodstva. Moscow, 1965.

I. I. ROSTUNOV

Full browser ?