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Battle of Wartenburg

Battle of Wartenburg

Military History
Map showing Blücher’s move to the West prior to the battle of Wartenburg

3 October 1813 marks the Battle of Wartenburg in the 6th Coalition War.

Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher

Cavalry General Count Gebhard von Blücher’s 16,000 Prussians (22 regular & 16 Landwehr infantry battalions; 32 regular & 12 LW cavalry squadrons; 64 guns) defeated Division General Henri Bertrand’s 13-15,000 men (11 French, 14 Italian & 4 Württemberg bns; 4 Westphalian, 3 Hessian & 2 Württemberg sqns; 32 guns).

After his defeat at Dennewitz, Marshal Michel Ney withdrew to the Elbe River. He had to keep Blucher from crossing the river & cutting his communications.

He sent Bertrand to guard the Wartenburg crossing. Marshy ground on the Elbe’s banks impeded any enemy deployment. Past that, Wartenburg lay behind a long dike. Bertrand used it as a makeshift trench. He stationed men in it. There was no cover between the bank & the dike.

Bertrand

Morand’s French division held Wartenburg. Franquemont’s Württembergers held Bleddin on the right. Fontanelli’s Italians & Beaumont’s German cavalry formed a reserve at Godig. Morand surveyed the land earlier that year when water was higher. But it was now low enough to bridge.

Blücher searched for a ford.
Elbe River today

On the evening of 2 October, his engineers built 2 pontoon bridges. At 07:00, 3 October, the Prussians began crossing. It was obvious to them that a frontal assault would fail. Mecklenburg’s brigade (4 regular & 1 LW bn; 7 sqns) turned south. They marched down the bank to attack Bleddin. Steinmetz’s brigade (2 regular & 7 LW bns) crossed. He made a frontal assault. Morand easily repelled him. His brigade retreated in confusion to the bridges. Blücher rallied them. They attacked and were repelled again.

Horn’s brigade (4 regular & 4 LW bns) crossed next.

He deployed on Steinmetz’s right.

At first, he joined the frontal attack. When he was repelled, he turned & followed Mecklenburg south. At 13:00, Mecklenburg attacked Bleddin. Franquemont was already understrength. He soon retreated northwest. Horn had moved across his line of retreat, cutting him off from Morand. Franquemont could only retreat further west, leaving the field. Prussian cavalry mauled one of his columns. Only 900 infantry & 200 cavalries escaped. He lost most of his guns.

By 14:00, Mecklenburg seized Bleddin.

He left a garrison and moved north. Horn also turned. He advanced on Wartenburg from the southeast. Bertrand sent Fontanelli forward to help Morand. Horn formed columns. He staged a bayonet charge on Fontanelli’s men in the dike. Several vicious bayonet & close-range musket battles occurred. Horn was repelled several times. His horse was killed under him. He grabbed a musket & personally led the elite No. 8 Leib Infanterie’s 2nd bn forward. He drove Fontanelli out of the dike and into Wartenburg.

By now, Blücher had arrived. The Prussians attacked Wartenburg from 3 sides. The Hessian Chevaulegers (3 sqns) tried to hold Mecklenburg back. The Leib No. 2 & Mecklenburg–Strelitz Husaren (7 sqns total) brushed them aside. By 15:30, Morand abandoned Wartenburg.

He retreated west.

Bertrand ordered a general retreat. He retreated west along the Elbe. Blücher’s batteries on its far side inflicted losses. The Leib Inf. & Mecklenburg’s cavalry led the pursuit. It didn’t last very long. Bertrand reached Düben. He joined DG Jean Reynier’s VII Corps.

Blücher lost 67 officers & 1,548 men dead/wounded. Bertrand lost 900-1,200 dead/wounded, 1,000 captive, 13 guns & 80 ammunition wagons.
A map of the battle, labelled in German.

Blücher camped in Wartenburg. Next day, his Silesian Army arrived & crossed the river. Swedish Crown Prince Karl Johan’s (formerly Marshal of France Jean Bernadotte) Northern Army crossed 39 km (24 miles) west at Roßlau. Ney retreated south to Delitzsch. Napoleon’s position was now grievously compromised. The stage was set for the titanic battle at Leipzig, which would decide the fate of all Europe.

Written by Garrett Anderson

Written by Garrett Anderson

Battle of Wartenburg

Military History