Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Campaign Background

Magdeburg Campaign Area 1 May 1813 - Start of Campaign

Northern Germany is the setting for the Magdeburg Campaign.

Start positions as follows:

4 French corps - Brunswick

5 French corps - Wolfenbuttel

6 French corps - Goslar

13 Polish - Hannover

1 Prussian - Genthin

2 Prussian - Drewitz

3 Prussian - Goswig

4 Prussian - Brandenburg


Second French Army

At first light on the morning of 24 April 1813 Marshal Davout, commander in chief of Second French Army, met with his corps commanders in the north German city of Hannover. The previous night he had received a despatch from Napoleon confirming that Prussia had declared war on France.

Davout was responsible for holding the line of the river Elbe from Hamburg to Madgeburg as part of Napoleons overall strategic plan for 1813. This plan envisaged that Napoleon would lead the First French Army against the Russians at Dresden, whilst Davout held the Prussians in check at the river Elbe. When the Russian army was destroyed both French armies would advance on Berlin and finish the war. However it would be at least two weeks before First French Army was ready to move.

Napoleon was well aware that the greatest threat came from Prussia. He therefore allocated his best troops to Davout, who was tasked to hold the Prussians in check. Davout had deployed his two best corps to the defence of the river line.

The Second French Army had spent three months being reorganized and reinforced following their retreat from Russia of the previous year. The army was now ready to take the field, and Davout issued orders for his four corps to advance to Magdeburg.

Davout was confident that he had done all that he could. If the Prussians moved quickly he could not stop them crossing the river Elbe, but with luck he could contain them between Magdeburg and Hannover. He was fully aware that if he failed to do so, there was nothing else to stop them reaching Paris.


Prussian Army

110 miles east of Hannover, Prince Blucher reviewed the Prussian army at Potsdam just outside the city of Berlin. Although nominal allies of Napoleon during the Russian campaign, the Prussian army had taken care not to get involved in any serious fighting. The four corps which formed the army were therefore in excellent shape and ready to fight.

For the past month Blucher had urged the King to declare war on France. He was well aware that the French army had ceased to exist during the terrible retreat. Had Prussia immediately marched on France he was confident they would have had an easy victory. However the King had hesitated, and wanted reassurance that the Russian army would join them. Both knew it would still be weeks before that could happen, as the Russians had suffered almost as much as the French during the retreat.

Blucher was therefore delighted to be told that war would be declared on 24 April 1813. He was ready. His army was ready. He finished his review and gave the order to march on Madgeburg and destroy the French.

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