Leipzig, Battle of

Leipzig, Battle of
   Also known as the “Battle of the Nations,” Leipzig was the largest engagement of the War of the Sixth Coalition. Fought from October 16 to 19, 1813, between 185,000 French with 600 guns under Napoleon, and 220,000 - rising to 300,000 -Allies (Russians, Prussians, Austrians, and Swedes) with 1,400 guns, Leipzig was the decisive engagement of the campaign in Germany and forced Napoleon to abandon his hold over Central Europe.
   Failing to capture the Prussian capital, Berlin, Napoleon retired to Leipzig, in Saxony, where he established defensive positions against three converging Allied armies advancing in an arc around the northern, eastern, and southern approaches to the city. On October 16, Russian forces under Barclay de Tolly attacked the southern portion of Leipzig, but were thrown back by a French counterattack. The Prussian commander, General Gerhard von Blücher, opened a simultaneous assault against the position held by Marshal Marmont, but notwithstanding their numerical superiority, the Prussians failed to oust the French before darkness brought the fighting to a close. Reinforcements arrived for both sides during the night, raising the forces to 150,000 French - 27,000 having fallen on the first day - and 300,000 Allied troops, 35,000 having become casualties. October 17 saw only sporadic fighting, as Napoleon narrowed his front and consolidated his hold within the city itself. The next day the Allies attacked several sectors at once. Although the French withstood the onslaught, conceding little ground to their opponents, Napoleon was acutely aware that he had to preserve a line of retreat, as he could not long sustain his position against mounting numbers. During the night he therefore began withdrawing his army over the single remaining bridge spanning the river Elster. When the bridge was prematurely blown, however, Prince Poniatowski’s corps of 20,000 French and Poles was stranded in the city, together with 15,000 wounded left behind in the city’s hospitals. The battle cost the French at least 70,000 killed, wounded, and taken prisoner, including many generals and 150 guns. The Allies lost heavily themselves: approximately 54,000 killed and wounded, but such losses - unlike those suffered by the French - could be replaced. Victory on this scale cleared the way for the Allied advance on Paris in 1814.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
    Chandler, David G. The Campaigns of Napoleon. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1995;
    Hofschröer, Peter. Leipzig 1813. London: Osprey, 1993;
    Nafziger, George. Napoleon at Leipzig - The Battle of the Nations 1813. Chicago: Emperor’s Press, 1996;
    Petre, F. Loraine. Napoleon ’ s Last Campaign in Germany, 1813. London: Greenhill Books, 1992;
    Smith, Digby. 1813 Leipzig: Napoleon and the Battle of the Nations. London: Greenhill Books, 2001.

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

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