Battle of Saalfeld

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Battle of Saalfeld
Part of the War of the Fourth Coalition
Heldentod der Prinzen Louis Ferdinand bei Saalfeld.jpg
The death of Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, as depicted by Richard Knötel
Date 10 October 1806
Location
Saalfeld, Germany
Result French victory
Belligerents
France French Empire  Kingdom of Prussia
 Electorate of Saxony
Commanders and leaders
France Jean Lannes
France Claude Victor-Perrin
France Louis Gabriel Suchet
Kingdom of Prussia Prince Louis Ferdinand 
Strength
12,800 men
14 guns[1]
8,300 men
44 guns[1]
Casualties and losses
c.200 dead or wounded[1] 1,700-1,800 men killed, wounded or captured
33 guns (15 Prussian, 18 Saxon)
Colours of "Müffling", "Kurfürst", and "Prince Clemens" regiments[1]

The Battle of Saalfeld took place on the 10 October 1806, at which a French force of 12,800 men commanded by Marshal Jean Lannes defeated a Prussian-Saxon force of 8,300 men under Prince Louis Ferdinand. The battle took place in Thuringia in what was the Ernestine duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. The battle was the second clash in the Prussian Campaign of the War of the Fourth Coalition.

Background

French Movements

Jean Lannes

Napoleon had arranged the Grand Armée into three columns to cross the Thuringian Forest to attack the Prussian-Saxon army.[2] The westernmost column was headed by V Corps commanded by Jean Lannes, with Pierre Augereau’s VII Corps following behind. They had orders to march from Coburg via Gräfenthal due at Saalfeld on the 11 October. V Corps set out on 8 October, and by the end of 9 October was at Gräfenthal with light cavalry on the road to Saalfeld.[3] At 5am on 10th, Lannes with Louis-Gabriel Suchet’s division and Anne-François-Charles Trelliard brigade of light cavalry of V corps began advancing down the road to Saalfeld, aware that a Prussian-Saxon force was in front of them.

Prussian-Saxon movements

Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia

On the 9 October, Prince Louis Ferdinand with the Advanced Guard of Frederick Louis, Prince of Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen’s army was at Rudolstadt and Saalfeld. After the Battle of Schleiz, Hohenlohe had decided to advance to support Bogislav Friedrich Emanuel von Tauentzien’s troops.[4] Prince Louis had his headquarters at Rudolstadt, with detachments at Saalfeld, Schwarz [de], and Bad Blankenburg. He thought that Hohenlohe would be moving the rest of the Prussian-Saxon army across the Saale to support Tautentzien’s force, and that Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel’s main army would be advancing to Rudolstadt. Prince Louis therefore arranged his forces to try and prevent the French from either crossing the Saale at Saalfeld and interfering with Hohenlohe’s movements or from them moving up the western side of the Saale to Rudolstadt, which they would reach before the Brunswick’s army.[5] At 7am Prince Louis began concentrating his troops at Saalfeld, and by 9am he had arranged his forces for battle, in a line stretching in front of Saalfeld to behind Crösten [de] and Beulwitz [de], but left Pelet with a detachment at Blankenburg.[6]

Battle

Battle of Saalfeld

As the French troops advanced and the Prussian-Saxon army prepared to fight them, Lannes sent the French cavalry and a battalion to Garnsdorf [de] to engage the Prussians in front of Saalfeld. The rest of the French infantry was sent through the woods to the French left, looking to cut off the Prussians and Saxons from the Rudolstadt road. Prince Louis recognised the threat to his flank and sent troops to reinforce the area. At 11am, Prince Louis received a message from Hohenlohe to hold at Ruldolstadt, but Louis decide to continue the battle, even though he did not need to protect Hohenlohe’s now cancelled advance. The fighting intensified and focused on Beulwitz and Crösten, with the Saxon Xaver and Kurfürst regiments eventually taking the villages. At 1pm, the French advanced again against Crösten and the Saxons were driven back. Général de Brigade Honoré Charles Reille with the French 34th and 40th Ligne moved further to their left advancing on Aue am Berg [de], with the Saxon troops withdrawing toward Schwarza. In a cavalry attack, the Saxon Generalmajor Friedrich Joseph von Bevilaqua [de] was captured.

The whole of the Prussian and Saxon line was by then disordered with some troops driven across the bridge at Saalfeld. Prince Louis, determined to attack the French and gain time for a retreat, mustered five squadrons and leading them from the front charged the French 9th and 10th Hussars, who were advancing to attack the Prussian and Saxon infantry. The Prussian and Saxon cavalry were outnumbered and the French overlapped their flanks, during which Prince Louis was attacked by Quartermaster Guindet of the 10th Hussars. Although wounded, Prince Louis refused to surrender and was killed.

The Prussians and Saxon forces now broke. Many were captured, cut down, or drowned, and around 1,700 soldiers were lost, along with 33 guns. Pelet, commanding the detachment left at Bad Blankenburg, attempted to cover the retreat of the Prussian and Saxon army and reached Blankenhain on the 11 October. The French had only lost around 200 men.[7]

Aftermath

Four days after Saalfeld, the twin battles of Jena and Auerstedt took place on the plateau west of the river Saale. Although the war went on for another seven months, the decisive defeat suffered by the Prussian army resulted in Prussia's effective elimination from the anti-French coalition up until the war of 1813.

Order of battle

French V Corps Advanced Guard Division[8]
Commander-in-chief: Marshal Jean Lannes[1][9]

Chief of staff: Général de Division Claude Victor-Perrin

1st Division
Général de Division Louis-Gabriel Suchet

1st Brigade
Général de Brigade Michel Marie Claparède

  • 2 Battalions, 17th Légère Regiment (1600)
  • 1 Battalion d'elite (1730) The elite companies of most of the battalions of the division were converged into a single 20 company battalion, which maneuvered as two wings.[10]

2nd Brigade
Général de Brigade Honoré Charles Reille

  • 3 Battalions, 34th Ligne Regiment (2400)
    • 4th Battalion in depot at Strasburg [10]
  • 2 Battalions, 40th Ligne Regiment (1600)
    • 3rd Battalion in depot at Weissenburg [10]

3rd Brigade
Général de Brigade Dominique Honoré Antoine Vedel

  • 2 Battalions, 64th Ligne Regiment (1600)
    • 3rd Battalion in depot at Besançon [10]
  • 2 Battalions, 88th Ligne Regiment (1600)
    • 3rd Battalion in depot at Strasburg [10]

Divisional Artillery

  • 1 Battery, Foot Artillery (8 guns)
  • 1 Battery, Horse Artillery (6 guns)

Cavalry Brigade
Général de Brigade Anne-François-Charles Trelliard

Generalleutenant Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia

General staff: Stabskapitän Georg Wilhelm von Valentini [de]

Detachment at Blankenburg
Generalmajor Karl Gerhard von Pelet [de]

  • Fusilier Battalion No. 14 "von Pelet"
  • Jäger Company "Masars"
  • 3 squadrons, Saxon Hussar Regiment
  • ½ Horse Artillery Battery No. 2 "Gause" (4 guns)

Troops at Saalfeld
Prussian Troops

  • Jäger Company "Valentini"
  • Fusilier Battalion No. 13 "Rabenau"
  • Fusilier Battalion No. 15 "Rühle"
  • 5 squadrons, Hussar Regiment No. 6 "Schimmelpfennig von der Oye"
  • ½ Horse Artillery Battery No. 2 "Gause" (4 guns)
  • 2 battalions, Infantry Regiment No. 49 "Müffling"
  • 6lb Foot Artillery Battery "Reimann" (12 guns)

Saxon Troops
Generalmajor Friedrich Traugott von Trützschler [de]

Generalmajor Friedrich Joseph von Bevilaqua [de]

  • 5 squadrons, Saxon Hussar Regiment
  • 2 Battalions, Infantry Regiment No. 1 "Kurfürst"
  • 2 Battalions, Infantry Regiment No. 4 "Prince Clemens"
  • 2 Battalions, Infantry Regiment No. 9 "Prince Xaver"
  • 4lb Foot Artillery Battery "Hoyer" (8 guns)

16 additional guns attached to the infantry regiments

Detachment at Pößneck
Generalmajor Christian Ludwig Schimmelpfennig von der Oye [de]

  • 5 squadrons, Hussar Regiment No. 6 "Schimmelpfennig von der Oye"

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Smith, Digby (1998), The Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book, London: Greenhill Books/Lionel Leventhal, p. 223, ISBN 9781853672767
  2. ^ Chandler, David G. (1993), Jena 1806 : Napoleon destroys Prussia, Osprey Campaign Series, 20, London: Osprey, p. 16, ISBN 9781855322851
  3. ^ Petre, F. Loraine (1907), Napoleon's conquest of Prussia - 1806, London: John Lane, p. 86
  4. ^ Petre, F. Loraine (1907), Napoleon's conquest of Prussia - 1806, London: John Lane, p. 86
  5. ^ Petre, F. Loraine (1907), Napoleon's conquest of Prussia - 1806, London: John Lane, pp. 100–101
  6. ^ Petre, F. Loraine (1907), Napoleon's conquest of Prussia - 1806, London: John Lane, pp. 92–93, 98
  7. ^ Petre, F. Loraine (1907), Napoleon's conquest of Prussia - 1806, London: John Lane, pp. 94–102
  8. ^ von Lettow-Vorbeck, Oscar (1891). Der Krieg von 1806 und 1807 (in German). Berlin: E.S. Mittler und Sohn. p. 226. OCLC 9959799., Bressonnet, Pascal (1909). Études tactiques sur la campagne de 1806 (in French). Paris: Chapelot. p. 9. OCLC 610334571.
  9. ^ Chandler, David G. (1993), Jena 1806 : Napoleon destroys Prussia, Osprey Campaign Series, 20, London: Osprey, pp. 40–41, ISBN 9781855322851
  10. ^ a b c d e Bressonnet, Pascal (2009). Napoleon's Apogee. Military History Press. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-9822703-4-9.

Further reading

  • Bichler, Karl-Horst (1998). Napoleons Krieg gegen Preussen und Sachsen 1806 : (Saalfeld, Jena und Auerstedt) (in German). Reinbek: Einhorn-Presse-Verlag. ISBN 9783887567835.
  • Bressonnet, Pascal (1909). Études tactiques sur la campagne de 1806 (in French). Paris: Chapelot. pp. 1–48. OCLC 610334571.
  • Höpfner, Friedrich Eduard Alexander von (1855). Krieg von 1806 und 1807 : ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der preussischen Armee nach den Quellen des Kriegs-Archivs (in German). 1. Berlin: Simon Schropp & Comp. pp. 265–284. OCLC 10489667.
  • Hourtoulle, François Guy (2005). Jena - Auerstaedt : the triumph of the eagle. Paris: Histoire & Collections. ISBN 9782915239768.
  • von Lettow-Vorbeck, Oscar (1891). Der Krieg von 1806 und 1807 (in German). Berlin: E.S. Mittler und Sohn. OCLC 9959799.

External links

  • The Battle of Saalfeld Reported by an Eyewitness (primary source)

Media

  • Rugendas, Johan Lorenz, II, "Mort du Prince Louis de Prusse, près de Saalfeld" (1799). Prints, Drawings and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.
  • Chéreau, J., "Combat de Saalfeld. Mort du Prince Louis de Prusse: 10 8bre 1806 " (1806). Prints, Drawings and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library
  • "Le Prince Louis de Prusse.: Qui commandait l'avant garde du Prince Hohenloe, le 10 octobre 1806, à Saalfeld... " Prints, Drawings and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library
  • "Tod des Prinzen Louis Ferdinand von Preussen" Prints, Drawings and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library
  • Bell, "The Hero Was Mortal", 1807, Royal Collections Trust
  • Peter Edward Stroehling (1768-c. 1826), "The Death of Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia (1772-1806)", c.1806-16, Royal Collections Trust
  • Francois Pigeot, "Death Of Prince Louis Of Prussia At The Battle Of Saalfeld", 1850, Getty Images
  • Tranié, Jean (1984). Napoléon et l'Allemagne, Prusse 1806. Lavauzelle. ISBN 9782702500859.

Maps of the Battle

  • Napoleon Series Map Archives
  • Petre, Francis Loraine (1907). Napoleon's conquest of Prussia, 1806. London: John Lane. p. 102.
  • Ambroise Tardieu (1820). Plan Du Champ De Bataille De Saalfeld (Map).

Coordinates: 50°39′00″N 11°22′01″E / 50.6500°N 11.3669°E / 50.6500; 11.3669

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