Friday, 19 February 2010

Part One - The Magdeburg Campaign

Strategic map at start of Magdeburg campaign


The Magdeburg campaign is the first phase of the larger 1813 Campaign. It covers the period 1 May 1813 to 16 May1813 and the fighting in northern Germany between Second French Army and the Prussians.

It has been done as a separate blog in order to keep all of the relevant reports together and to avoid making the main campaign blog too long and complicated.

We started the campaign on 8 April 2009 and finished on 5 July 2009

The full campaign report can be read at:

Background to the Campaign

Prussia declared war on France and Prince Blucher is ordered to march on the river Elbe and capture Magdeburg. He immediately orders his four corps to march west, sending his cavalry ahead to recce crossing of the river north and south of Magdeburg.

180 miles to the west, at his headquarters in Hannover, Marshal Davout is well aware of the threat posed by the Prussian army. Only two of his four corps are immediately available for action, and are positioned on the river Elbe. The 4th corps is at Hamburg and the 5th corps at Magdeburg. Between them they had 80 miles of river to defend. The 13th corps was regrouping at Brunswick. They had suffered badly in Russia the previous year, but were not ready to take the field again. The newly formed 6th corps was under his personal command at Hannover, and was also ready to take the field.

As soon as he received notification of the Prussian declaration of war Davout ordered 6th and 13th corps to march to Magdeburg. 4th corps was ordered to move south along the west bank of the river Elbe, but to keep watch for any Prussian move on Hamburg.

Summary of the Campaign

The Prussian army crossed the river Elbe and won the battle of Calbe on 5 May. Two days later they won again at Colbitz. They were now firmly established on the west bank. On 10 May the French were again defeated at Halbeck.

The Prussians now turned their attention to Magdeburg. As they approached the city the French withdrew, and moved north. The Prussians were thrown into confusion at this unexpected move, and were completely unprepared for the French major attack at Magdeburg. The result was a French victory. The Prussians held Magdeburg, but had to retire across the river Elbe.

The campaign ended with a limited Prussian victory. They had taken, and held, Magdeburg. But they had failed to secure the line of the river Elbe, and the French were now concentrated and in position to oppose any crossing of the river.

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