Leipzig, Battle of 1813
Leipzig, Battle of (1813)
the decisive battle of the 1813 campaign in the war of Russia, Austria, Prussia, and Sweden against Napoleonic France.
The battle took place on October 4–7 (16–19). The allies had more than 300,000 men and 1,385 artillery pieces; this included 127,000 Russians, 89,000 Austrians, 72,000 Prussians, and 18,000 Swedes. The Napoleonic Army (French, Poles, Italians, Belgians, Dutch, and others) numbered about 200,000 and had 700 artillery pieces. On October 3 (15) in the region to the south of Leipzig there was only Field Marshal K. Schwarzenberg’s
Bohemian Army (133,000 men and 578 guns, including 38,500 Russians, 64,500 Austrians, and 29,700 Prussians), against whom Napoleon had concentrated 122,000 men under the command of J. Murat, intending to crush this army before the other allied forces approached. On the north Leipzig was covered by the corps of M. Ney and A. de Marmont (50,000 men), and on the west H. Bertrand’s corps (12,000 men) secured the Lindenau corridor. On October 4 (16) the Bohemian Army began an attack on Wachau and Liebertwolkwitz with a total of 84,000 men commanded by M. B. Barclay de Tolly operating against 120,000 enemy troops. At 3 p.m. the hard fighting was ended by a powerful assault by the French cavalry (10,000 men), which was supported by strong artillery fire and which upset the allies’ battle formations. The threat of a breakthrough was removed by bringing the reserve, the Russian guards and grenadiers, into the battle. Napoleon was unable to crush the Bohemian Army.
In the north G. Von Blücher’s Silesian Army (60,000 men and 315 artillery pieces, including 39,000 Russians and 21,500 Prussians) arrived and pushed Napoleon’s forces back from the Möckern-Wiederitzsch line toward Leipzig. On this day each side lost about 30,000 men. After the arrival of J. Bernadotte’s Northern Army (58,000 men with 256 guns, including 20,000 Russians, 20,000 Prussians, and 18,000 Swedes) and L. A. Bennigsen’s Polish Army (54,000 men with 186 guns, including 30,000 Russians and 24,000 Prussians), Napoleon, who had received only 25,000 reinforcements, sent a proposal of peace to the allies on October 5 (17). It went unanswered.
On October 6 (18) the allies began a concentric attack on Leipzig from the south, east, and north. The allies made a serious mistake in sending only I. Gyulai’s weak Austrian corps against Bertrand’s corps, which was guarding the French Army’s only path of retreat. Gyulai did not fight aggressively and at the end of the day was brought back beyond the Elster River. Offering stubborn resistance, on October 6 the Napoleonic army kept its positions. During the night of October 6 (18), Napoleon brought his troops back toward Leipzig and in the morning began a retreat to the west through Lindenau. He was able to evacuate about 100,000 men. The French lost up to 80,000 (including 20,000 prisoners) and virtually all of their artillery; allied losses totaled for the Russians more than 22,000, the Prussians 16,000, and the Austrians about 15,000.
In the battle of Leipzig the allied command lost a chance to crush the enemy completely. Nevertheless, the defeat of Napoleon’s army in the battle hastened Napoleon’s fall in 1814, stripped France of all its territorial conquests in Europe, and led to the liberation of all German and Dutch territory from Napoleon’s forces and to the disintegration of the Rhine Alliance.
REFERENCESLevitskii, N. A. Leiptsigskaia operatsiia 1813. Moscow, 1934.
Pokhod russkoi armii protiv Napoleona v 1813 g. i osvobozhdenie Germanii: Sb. dokumentov. Moscow, 1964.
Bogdanovich, M. I. Istoriia voiny 1813 g. za nezavisimost’ Germanii, podostovernym istochnikam, vol. 2. St. Petersburg, 1863.
Die Völkerschlacht bei Leipzig: Eine bibliographische Übersicht. Edited by G. Loh. Leipzig, 1963.