Jena, Battle of

Jena, Battle of
   Often referred to as Jena-Auerstädt, one of two battles fought on the same day, October 14, 1806, in which the French decisively defeated the Prussians. Napoleon, initially with 46,000 men but later rising to 54,000, plus 70 guns, engaged Prince Friedrich von Hohenlohe, with 55,000 men and 120 guns. Advancing at a rapid pace, Napoleon maneuvered his army around the Prussian left flank, putting himself between Berlin and Hohenlohe’s forces. Moving toward the west, Marshals Davout and Bernadotte sought to sever the Prussian lines of communication, while the remainder of the French under Napoleon proceeded in the direction of Jena. The Prussians turned around to face their opponents and divided their forces in two, with 63,000 men under the duke of Brunswick marching to Auerstädt, 15 miles to the north. Napoleon opened an assault at dawn. The Prussians counterattacked, but when their offensive began to waver under heavy French musket and artillery fire, Napoleon ordered forward three corps, forcing their opponents back. The French lost only 4,000 killed and wounded, as compared to the Prussians’ 25,000 killed, wounded, and captured.
   The significance of Jena cannot be understood without reference to its counterpart fought at Auerstädt, where Davout found himself assailed by the bulk of the Prussian army. The French commander, with 26,000 men and 44 guns, held his position against more than twice his strength - 50,000 Prussians and 230 guns under Brunswick - who was mortally wounded in the course of the fighting. The Prussians launched a series of small-scale attacks over the course of six hours, but when news of the defeat at Jena began to circulate in the ranks, Prussian morale began to wane and caused troops to retire on both flanks, thereby exposing the center to enfilading fire from the French artillery. Prussian cohesion soon faltered, and after 20,000 fresh French troops arrived and pounced on the Prussian rear, the whole of Brunswick’s force dissolved into a rout. The French lost 7,000 killed and wounded, and the Prussians suffered more than 10,000 casualties. Between the two engagements, the French captured more than 200 pieces of artillery. Prussia ’s twin defeats ended all speculation as to the superiority of the army bequeathed by Frederick the Great and ended all further organized resistance. The French quickly occupied Berlin and mopped up the remainder of Prussian forces in a brilliantly conducted campaign of pursuit and blockade.
   See also <>; <>.
    Chandler, David. Jena 1806: Napoleon Destroys Prussia. London: Osprey Publishing, 1993;
    Petre, F. Loraine. Napoleon ’ s Conquest of Prussia, 1806. London: Greenhill Books, 1993.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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