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Battle of Dresden
Part of the War of the Sixth Coalition
Battle of Dresden by Naudet.jpg
Battle of Dresden
Date26–27 August 1813
LocationDresden, Saxony, present-day Germany
Result French victory
Belligerents
France French Empire Austria Austria
Kingdom of Prussia Prussia
Russia Russian Empire
Commanders and leaders

France Napoleon
France Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr France Michel Ney
France Joachim Murat

France Édouard Adolphe Casimir Joseph Mortier

Austria Karl Philipp Fürst zu Schwarzenberg

Austria Emperor Francis II

Russia Tsar Alexander I

Russia
Jean Victor Marie Moreau

Russia
Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly

Kingdom of Prussia
Frederick William III
Strength
135,000 214,000
Casualties and losses
10,000 dead or wounded 38,000 dead, wounded, or captured,
40 guns


File:Battle of Dresden map.jpg

Map of the battle

The Battle of Dresden was fought on 26–27 August 1813 around Dresden, Germany, resulting in a French victory under Napoleon against forces of the Sixth Coalition of Austrians, Russians and Prussians under Field Marshal Schwartzenberg. However, Napoleon's victory was not as complete as it could have been. Substantial pursuit was not undertaken after the battle, and the flanking corps was surrounded and forced to surrender a few days later at the Battle of Kulm.

Prelude[edit | edit source]

On 16 August, Napoleon had sent Marshal Saint-Cyr's corps to fortify and hold Dresden in order to hinder allied movements and to serve as a possible base for his own manoeuvres. He planned to strike against the interior lines of his enemies and defeat them in detail, before they could combine their full strength. He had some 300,000 men against allied forces totaling over 450,000. But the Coalition avoided battle with Napoleon himself, choosing to attack his subordinate commanders instead (see the Trachenburg Plan). On 23 August, at the Battle of Grossbeeren, south of Berlin, Crown Prince Charles of Sweden (formerly French Marshal Bernadotte, Napoleon's own Marshal) defeated his old comrade Marshal Oudinot. And on 26 August, Prussian Marshal Blücher defeated Marshal MacDonald at the Katzbach.

Battle[edit | edit source]

On the same day as Katzbach, Karl Philipp Fürst zu Schwarzenberg, the commander of the Austrian force of over 200,000 men of the Austrian Army of Bohemia (and accompanied by the Austrian emperor, the Russian tsar and the Prussian king), attacked Saint-Cyr. Napoleon arrived quickly and unexpectedly with reinforcements to repel this assault. Although outnumbered two to one, Napoleon attacked the following day (27 August), turned the allied left flank, and won an impressive tactical victory. The flooded Weisseritz cut the left wing of the Allied army, commanded by Johann von Klenau and Ignaz Gyulai, from the main body. Marshal Joachim Murat took advantage of this isolation and inflicted heavy losses on the Austrians.[1] A French participant observed, "Murat.... cut off from the Austrian army Klenau's corps, hurling himself upon it at the head of the carabineers and cuirassiers. .... Nearly all his [Klenau's] battalions were compelled to lay down their arms, and two other divisions of infantry shared their fate."[2] Of Klenau's force, Lieutenant Field Marshal Joseph, Baron von Mesko de Felsö-Kubiny's division of five infantry regiments was surrounded and captured by Murat's cavalry, which amounted to approximately 13,000 men, and 15 colours.[3] Gyulai's divisions also suffered serious losses when they were attacked by Murat's cavalry during a rainstorm. With damp flints and powder, their muskets would not fire and many battalions became an easy prey to the French cuirassiers and dragoons.

Then suddenly, Napoleon had to leave the field by virtue of a sudden fit of gastric spasma and the failure to follow up on his success allowed Schwarzenberg to withdraw and narrowly escape encirclement. The Coalition had lost some 38,000 men and 40 guns. French casualties totaled around 10,000. Some of Napoleon's officers noted he was "suffering from a violent cholic, which had been brought on by the cold rain, to which he had been exposed during the whole of the battle."[4]

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

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The Napoleon symbol "N" left in Dresden, Germany

On 27 August, General Vandamme received orders to advance on Pirna and bridge the Elbe there. This was accomplished in a pouring rain, without disturbing the Russians drawn up on the heights of Zehista. This advance by Vandamme resulted in the Battle of Kulm three days later. Interestingly Napoleon's old rival Jean Victor Marie Moreau who had only recently returned from his banishment from the United States was talking to the Tsar (who wished to see Napoleon defeated) and was mortally wounded in the battle and died later on 2 September in Louny.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Chandler, pp. 910–911.
  2. Jean Baptiste Antoine Marcellin de Marbot. The Memoirs of General Baron De Marbot, Volume II,, Chapter 23. Electronic book widely available.
  3. Smith, p. 445. Mesko was wounded, and retired the following year. Kurdna and Smith, Mesko.
  4. Script error: No such module "citation/CS1".

External links[edit | edit source]

Coordinates: 51°02′N 13°44′E / 51.033°N 13.733°E / 51.033; 13.733

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