Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns


 


Allied Order-of-Battle at Leipzig: 16-18 October 1813

By Stephen Millar

The Battle of Leipzig (also known as “the Battle of the Nations”) was the climax of the German “War of Liberation.” During 1813, Allied generals had defeated some of Napoleon’s Marshals (Ney at Dennewitz; Oudinot at Gross-Beeren) but had failed against Napoleon himself at Lutzen and Bautzen. The three-day Battle of Leipzig – a series of converging Austrian, Prussian, Russian and Swedish assaults against the Grande Armee – would see Napoleon defeated and subsequently forced to fight a defensive campaign in France in 1814.

The Allies – each harnessing a growing nationalism – were a more serious threat to Napoleon in 1813. Prussia, humiliated in the 1806 Jena-Auerstadt Campaign, had undergone significant military reform. Russia had introduced army reform in 1807 and  had just inflicted a serious defeat on Napoleon’s Grande Armee during the Russian Campaign the year before. Austria, beaten at Austerlitz in 1805 and again at Wagram in 1809, had committed almost her entire army to the upcoming campaign (an Austrian soldier, FM Karl-Phillip, Furst zu Schwarzenburg also held the field command of the combined Allied armies).

The Allied Army-Group was composed of four army-level commands: the Russian-Austrian Army of Bohemia (Swarzenburg), the Russian-Prussian Army of Silesia (GK, later GFM, Gerhard-Leberecht von Blucher), the Russian Army of Poland (GC Leonty Leontievich, Baron Bennigsen) and the Russian-Prussian-Swedish Army of the North (Jean-Baptiste-Jules Bernadotte, Crown Prince of Sweden – a former French Marshal). King Friedrich-Wilhelm III of Prussia and Czar Aleksandr I of Russia were also present at the battle.

Although the Allied Army-Group was larger than Napoleon’s Grande Armee, it suffered from several problems – the most serious being inadequate co-ordination between the numerous commands. Schwarzenburg set up two temporary operational commands for the Battle of Leipzig: GI Mikhail Bogdanovich, Count Barclay de Tolly’s Southern Wing (in the Army of Bohemia) and GL Alexandre-Louis, Comte Andrault de Langeron’s “corps-group”(in the Army of Silesia). In addition, Barclay de Tolly’s Southern Wing had a temporary command under GC Ludwig-Adolf-Peter [Petr Christianovich], Graf von Wittgenstein. After the fighting on 16 October, it became obvious to the Allies that better co-ordination was essential if they were to deliver more effective attacks.

Personal disagreements between Allied commanders – Bernadotte and GL Friedrich-Wilhelm von Bulow; Bernadotte and Blucher – also added to Swartzenburg’s command difficulties. In the end, however, weight of numbers gave victory to the Allies (although some historians have speculated a serious shortage of artillery ammunition was a major factor in Napoleon’s decision to retreat).

Although sources disagree about the composition and strength of the Allied Army-Group, it is clear the Battle of Leipzig was the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars. The website Armies, Battles, Commanders and Tactics during the Napoleonic Wars gives the Allies a general total of 273,000-396,000 men and 1,050-1,555 guns (120,000-196,000 men and 380-785 guns in the Army of Bohemia; 63,000-70,000 men and 310-360 guns in the Army of Silesia; 55,000-70,000 men and 225-275 guns in the Army of the North; 35,000-60,000 men and 135 guns in the Army of Poland; 35,000-60,000 men and 135-300 guns with detached formations). The Allied unit total  -- 454 battalions and 490 squadrons, excluding Swedish troops -- is broken down into 229 battalions and 234 squadrons (Russian) 115 battalions and 127 squadrons (Austrian) 110 battalions and 129 squadrons (Prussian). By nationality, the estimated 359,000 Allied troops at Leipzig were composed of 150,000 Russians, 115,000 Austrians, 75,000 Prussians and 19,000 Swedes.

Allied Army-Group

(Army of Bohemia, Army of Silesia, Army of Poland and the Army of the North)

452 ½ battalions, 461 squadrons + Cossacks and 116 ½ batteries excluding Swedes

Commander: Schwarzenburg, FM Karl-Phillip, Furst zu

Chief-of-Staff: Toll, Karl Fedorovich, GM

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: September 2004

 

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