Epic Historical Battle: Battle of Leipzig

1813, 16–19 October, Battle of Leipzig (otherwise known as the battle of Nations). This battle deserves its name, for nearly all nations of Europe fought in this conflict. Italians, Germans, Prussians, Austrians, Russians, a British rocket regiment, French, Poles, and Swedes fought.

Napoleon possessed a little over 200 000 men and the allies nearly 370 000. In this battle, Napoleon was surrounded on three fronts; the north, south, and east. He began by engaging to the south, where Prince Schwarzenberg’s Austrians were located. Napoleon ordered the occupation of nearby hills and heights.

In the sixteenth of May, Napoleon had an advantage over the allies. He split their right and sent Macdonald’s corps to turn it. The French cavalry excelled in the beginning, but lack of infantry support forced the horsemen to make a grizzly retreat. Then Blücher attacked from the north, his cavalry officer Yorck pushed the French from the town of Möckern, forcing Marshal Marmont back into Leipzig. The day of 17 October there was no action, the two armies rested and the allies received much reinforcements.

The 18 of October began with Russian commander Benngisen attacking from south and took many towns from Macdonald. The day was marked with the betrayal of Saxon troops, for about 6 000 of them defected to the Allied side, causing a great blow to French morale. The Prussians then captured Paunsdorf, a town to the North-East of Leipzig, and then attempted to take Probstheida, but it was defended ferociously by the French.

Alexandre Langeron, a French general fighting for Russia, fought a duel of artillery between Marmont, and won, forcing the Marshal retreat closer to Leipzig. Meanwhile, Blucher was nearing Leipzig, forcing Ney to send troops to Sellerhausen, a village in frightening proximity to the city the French so staunchly defended. Napoleon personally led a charge to a town between two Allied armies, but was forced to retreat back to Leipzig. It was then that he realized that all was lost. Casualties amounted each on both sides to 25 000.

In the morning of October 19, Napoleon ordered a general withdrawal from Leipzig. However, great confusion gripped the French, and a crucial bridge was prematurely blown apart. The retreat turned to a rout, and desperate fighting ensued. Marshal Poniatowski and Macdonald raced across the river, where Poniatowski tragically drowned. The Battle of the nations was, in my opinion, nearly impossible to win.

Napoleon had a huge disadvantage in manpower and resources. He maneuvered himself in a trap in Leipzig. The French army was reduced to tatters now, and the garrisons in Danzig and Hamburg now had no hope from being relieved from the Allied sieges.

Napoleon tried to his best to fight against a converging enemy coming from three sides, and it was a desperate situation. The battle of Leipzig was the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars, drawing from nationalities from all over Europe.