Battle of Grossbeeren, 23 August 1813

The first major battle of the Leipzig campaign. Grossbeeren lies about 10 miles south of Berlin. Marshal Oudinot commander of the French Army of Berlin had been ordered to quickly take Berlin and to disarm and scatter its militia, destroying the city if it resisted. To do this Oudinot had three corps, his own plus Bertrand and Reynier and a force of cavalry (9,000 strong) totalling about 70,000 men and 216 guns. Unfortunately Napoleon had underestimated his enemy and Oudinot's forces were not strong enough to take Berlin either in quantity or quality being made up largely of raw recruits. Against them were about 98,000 Prussians defending their own homes. Legend has it that the crown Prince of Sweden, the former Marshal Bernadotte wanted to retreat and leave Berlin to the French but evidence from the time shows this to be untrue. Oudinot continued his master's mistake and believed the Prussians to be much weaker than they really were and poor intelligence meant that on the morning of 23rd August his troops blundered into the Prussian forces and a scattered battle began as the French started to engage. Heavy rain added to the confusion and made firing difficult, soon the Prussians took the offensive although with clumsy frontal assaults rather than attacking the French flanks. The battle ended after the final French column encountered Prussian Lifeguard Hussars about 8pm and a confused cavalry battle took place in the dark. The next day the French continued to retreat having lost 3,000 men and 13 guns to the Prussians 1,000 causalities. Although a small battle it was the Prussians first victory over the French since 1806 and it raised morale for the upcoming battles.

Napoleonic Home Page | Books on the Napoleonic Wars | Subject Index: Napoleonic Wars

Leipzig 1813: The Battle of the Nations, Peter Hofschroer, Osprey, 1993, 96 pages. A very well regarded entry in the Osprey catalogue, covering not just the battle of Leipzig but the entire German campaign of 1813 that led to the final collapse of Napoleon's empire. [see more]
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How to cite this article:Dugdale-Pointon, TDP. (29 March 2001), Battle of Grossbeeren, 23 August 1813, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_grossbeeren.html

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