Jena-Auerstädt, Battle of 1806

Jena-Auerstädt, Battle of (1806)


two related battles fought on October 14 between the French and the Prussian-Saxon armies during the Russian-Prussian-French War of 1806–07.

In early October 1806, the Duke of Brunswick’s Prussian-Saxon army of more than 100, 000 men held defensive positions in the Jena-Weimar region. Napoleon’s army of over 150, 000 men moved from the Bamberg-Bayreuth region through the Frankenwald (Franconian Forest), trying to reach the flank and rear of the enemy. The main Prussian forces, over 50, 000 men, began to retreat toward Auerstädt, leaving Prince F. von Hohen-lohe’s corps of 38, 000 men at Jena and Riichel’s corps of 15, 000 men at Weimar. Napoleon, taking Hohenlohe’s corps for the main forces, turned the bulk of his troops toward Jena and Apolda; only L. Davout’s corps of 27, 000 men advanced toward Auerstädt. At Jena, Napoleon easily routed the Prussians, who lost 27, 000 men and 200 guns. Davout’s corps, despite the numerical superiority of the enemy, also defeated the Prussian troops, who lost 18, 000 men and 115 guns in the engagement and fled from the field in panic.

Prussia was defeated because of the poor fighting capacity of its army, which relied on brutal discipline, continued to use the obsolete linear tactics, and was led by unimaginative generals. Napoleon’s victory at Jena-Auerstädt led to the complete defeat of feudal Prussia and demonstrated the superiority of the military system of bourgeois France.