16 May 1813 - End of Campaign
Prussians complete their withdrawal to the
This was a limited victory for the Prussians.
French advance to east bank and halt.
They have clearly failed to achieve their objectives of holding the line of the river Elbe.However they have contained the Prussians at the river line.
It was a defeat, but not a disaster.
The French rested after their day of victory.
Blucher ordered one corps to hold
14 May - Battle of Magdeburg - see battle report
This was the largest, and most decisive, battle of the campaign. All four corps of both armies took part, and it was very much "A Near Run Thing".
Blucher has two corps available at the start of the battle, with the remaining two corps due to arrive by mid morning. He took up a defensive postion at Magdeburg and waited for the French attack.
Davout planned to hold with his left and centre, whilst attacking with his right. He created a cavalry division by taking two brigades from his holding corps to support his attack. It started well, but was held by an aggressive Prussian counter attack.
The Prussians were slow to take advantage of this, and Davout quickly switched his attack to his left flank, holding with his centre and right. He used two corps for this attack, leaving the remaining two corps to hold the centre and right. This time he was successful drove the Prussian left back over the river Elbe. However he was unable to take Magdeburg.
Both sides suffered heavy casualties, and the Prussians withdrew over the river, but kept a strong bridgehead in Magdeburg. The French withdrew to Brunswick to regroup and reform.
Davout had a busy day. His four corps marched at their best speed and all were in position at Seehausen by nightfall. His cavalry were busy throughout the day keeping the enemy cavalry at bay and preventing them from discovering the exact location of each corps. All was now ready for the critical battle of the campaign – the battle of
Blucher ordered 1st and 3rd corps to attack
Davout had not been idle. 13th corps were ordered to abandon the city and fall back to Seehausen. 4th and 6th corps were ordered to attack the isolated 4th Prussian corps at Halbeck. He led 6th corps north, but the Prussians withdrew to Colbitz at his arrival. At midnight Davout issued orders for a concentration of all his corps at Seehausen in preparation for an attack on
Blucher must now make a decision about how best to exploit his third victory over the French. He could exploit his victory at Halbeck, and push on towards
Confident that there was nothing more to fear from the French, he ordered 4th corps to hold Halbeck and 3rd corps to retreat to Colbitz. Once rested he would move on
Davout was aware that he must abandon
He ordered 4th corps to retire to
Blucher led the attack on Halbeck. For the battle he created a cavalry reserve by taking the cavalry brigade from each corps. He approached the town with one corps on either side of the Colbitz-Halbeck road, and the cavalry off to the left. He was aware that there was only one French corps holding the town, and his cavalry were pushed forward to delay the approaching reinforcement.
Despite Davout’s best efforts, 6th corps was still in reserve when the battle started. 4th corps was in a good defensive position and at daybreak 6th corps moved forward to support them. He ordered them to deploy to the south of the town, but as they approached the Prussian cavalry advanced. 4th corps cavalry were outnumbered and routed. 6th corps cavalry went forward to cover their retreat, but were also pushed back. Meanwhile 4th corps was outnumbered two to one and forced to abandon Halbeck.
A third defeat for the French, but at least 6th corps were able to cover the retreat and the damage to 4th corps was not too serious.
Blucher was slow to build up his position at Colbitz. He spent the day redeploying 3rd and 4th corps around the town, and allowed the French to regroup to the west at Halbeck.
Davout did not waste any time at Halbeck. By mid morning 4th corps were in a strong defensive position around the town, and he was busy preparing 6th corps to become operational again. He was determined to be ready for the expected Prussian advance on Halbeck
Blucher was overjoyed at another victory, and this time in the vital north. 3rd corps was allowed to rest in Colbitz, and 4th corps to cross the river to support them. Further south he would hold his position in front of
At first light Davout arrived in Halbeck to rally his shaken 6th corps. He brought 4th corps into the town and withdrew 6th corps to regroup west of Halbeck. He was aware that if the Prussians were allowed to take Halbeck he would be unable to hold.
7 May – Battle of Colbitz (see battle report)
Blucher was content to hold his two bridge heads north and south of
Again Davout grasped the initiative. With the approach of 4th corps from the north, he wanted to retake Colbitz and secure his northern flank. He ordered 6th corps to retake the town, and 4th corps to move to Halbeck to support them.
The area between Halbeck and Colbitz is hilly and broken, and this aided the Prussian defence. The French advance was broken by the hills, and they delivered their attacks piecemeal down the valleys leading to Colbitz. The Prussians held their ground, and at nightfall the French fell back to Halbeck. It was another serious setback for the French.
Blucher’s plan of campaign called for an advance north of
Davout was concerned at the loss of Calbe. The Prussians were now established on the west bank of the river. However he still held
5 May – Battle of Calbe (see battle report)
Both sides consolidated their positions whilst waiting for the outcome of the battle. The Prussians attacked with great determination and drove the French out of Calbe. Under cover of darkness the French retreated towards
Blucher’s main army arrived at the river
For most of the day Davout had held
Good news also from 6th corps, who had arrived at Seehausen just one days march to the east. Not so good from 4th corps, who were still 4 days march to the north. Most important of all, 5th corps had reached Calbe ahead of the Prussians. They reported a cavalry skirmish, and were taking defensive positions around the town.
The cavalry of 2nd Prussian corps reached the Elbe at Goswig, south of
Davout arrived in
It was now a race to the
Leaving 6th corps to make its long journey to
1 May – Start of
180 miles to the west, at his headquarters in
As soon as he received notification of the Prussian declaration of war Davout ordered 6th and 13th corps to march to