Vauban Tile 500 pixels

Vauban Tile 500 pixels

The Battle of Lützen, fought on 2nd May 1813, was an important conflict in the liberation of Germany. The battle resulted in a French victory under the command of Napoleon

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which set back the advance of the Russian

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and Prussian

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army, under the command of Prince Wittgenstein. It could easily have been a victory for the Allies instead had they been more organised and assertive on the day.

The historical battle sequence is shown below as an animated gif.

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It’s best viewed by clicking on the image and opening in a new window, or downloading and using Windows Picture Viewer.

The rules used for the re-enactment are found here.

One figure represents 100-120 men. Units arrive on the battlefield as they did on the day in May 1813, following the historical order of battle found in this reference and on this website

In the re-enactment, about 28,000 French troops and 18,000 Prussians and Russians would eventually be deployed at this scale, which is about a 1/5th of those involved on the day. Thus, the order of battle for each army, rescaled is:-

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The battlefield scale is set so that the action covers approximately 3 x 1.8 km, at a level of 1mm = 2m. The battlefield spreads over boards of length 1.5m by 0.9m. The layout is shown below, with each village represented by a house, based on a suggested layout.

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The scale is marked on the map, with North at the top of the board. The dial in the bottom left hand shows the time during battle. The battle sequence is now shown at 15 minute intervals.

11:30 am

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Blücher “Marschall Vorwärts” leads his corps onto the Battlefield, surprising the divisions of Souham and Girard, having their lunch around the cluster of villages south of Lützen. So much for the niceties of life, a terrible battle will take place instead.

11:45 am

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“Marschall Vorwärts” leads his cavalry on a probe up to Starsteidel, trying to catch the French troops trying to come to order. The French artillery pore fire down on the Prussians, and despite exortions to continue, they halt, disorganised. Meanwhile as the Prussian infantry deploy, their French counterparts occupy the central villages.

In the far distance, many miles away, the sound of gunfire alerts Napoleon and Ney that a battle had broken out at the centre of their line of march and for once Napoleon is caught unprepared. Ney hurries back to lead his troops out from Lützen. Napoleon sends orders to the rest of the army to head to the battlefield at once; he will take the Imperial Guard with him. But will the French hold on for long enough to counteract this surprise?

12:00 pm

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The Prussian cavalry break under artillery fire, and are rallied by Blücher. The Prussians advance their own artillery and begin bombarding Gross Gorschen.

12:15 pm

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The Prussians begin storming Gross Gorschen and a terrible fire fight breaks out. The village offers some advantages to the defenders and the French hang on. The Prussians move their artillery closer to the villages, but in range of the French guns.

12:30 pm

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French troops repulse the first wave of Prussians, but fall to the charge from the second wave, so Gross Gorschen falls to the Prussians. The retreating French occupy Kaja in a disorganised state.

12:45 am

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The French artillery have suppressed fire from their Prussian counterpart. The struggle for Klein Gorschen begins, in another fire fight. The Prussians also advance on Eisdorf to secure their right flank.

1:00 pm

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The Prussian first attack on Klein Gorschen is repulsed, but the defending French fall to the second attack. The Prussians take Eisdorf, and advance towards Starseidel. Maréchal Ney has just arrived at the edge of the battlefield. Can he retake the lost villages?

1:15 pm

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Ney’s presence rallies the French troops fleeing Klein Gorschen, as his division pour onto the battlefield, heading for the central villages, and the waiting Prussians, who steadfastly deploy, ready to storm the village of Rahna. Meanwhile, the Russian division under General Wintzingerode has now begun to arrive in force, singing as they arrive.

1:30 pm

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The first assault by the Prussians on Rahna is decisively beaten, and they recoil back into the waiting reserves. Can Marschall Yorck rally them? Meanwhile, behind this action, the Prussian artillery begin to deploy in force. The Russians continue their advance to the right of the allied position, heading towards the Prussian Landwehr. The French troops have almost closed the distance for a counterattack against the two captured villages, so a major fire exchange will shortly take place.

1:45 pm

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The French force the Prussians from Klein Gorschen and try to storm Gross Gorschen, but meet strong resistance from the Prussians in the village. Their attack before Rahna meets a line of determined Prussian infantry, who hold on against the odds.

2:00 pm

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“Mitt Gott für König und Vaterland. Schwenk Marsch, Trab!” The Prussian counterattack led by Marschall Yorck for Klein Gorschen begins, as they follow the retreating French. Fortuna Belli smiles on the Allied army, as the French are likely to also lose Rahna.

2:15 pm

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The combined Prussians and Russians take Klein Gorschen, but the advancing Russians are routed by a line of French infantry before Kaja. Meanwhile the struggle around Rahna continues. Slowly, the French are being driven from the central villages in the battlefield, and strains of the Pariser Einzugsmarsch can be heard. When will l’Empereur and the rest of the French arrive?

2:30 pm

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The Prussians take Rahna and rout the defending French troops, but some are repulsed in a counterattack. Russian troops rout the French before Kaja, the last central village under their control. Dust columns on the horizon tell of imminent reinforcements for the French.

2:45 pm

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Napoleon’s arrival steadies the French, and he rallies their retreating troops. The Imperial Guard cavalry moves to reinforce the existing troops. Meanwhile on the firing line, in the intervening 15 minutes, Rahna has changed hands from the French and now back to the Prussians. The Russian troops continue to push through the central villages.

3:00pm

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The Prussian and Russian assault continues, with Kaja the final village remaining in French hands under threat. After a prolonged fire-fight, the French manage to rout one Russian battalion, but face their reserves in a counterattack. Napoleon has rallied the wavering French battalions behind Kaja, and rushes over to prevent more troops from fleeing in the direction of Starsteidel.

The Russians have deployed an artillery battery across the River Flossgraben in the hope of flanking fire to the rear of the French lines.

3:15pm

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The crisis point for the French. Kaja falls to another Russian onslaught, and across the central position of the villages a line of French troops waver whilst the Prussians and Russians press on. A hard pressed infantry officer asks Ney for relief from the line for his troops. “L’impossibilité de faire“. The troops must stand and fall where they are.

3:30pm

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“Soldats! Voilà Marmont! Vive l’empereur!” roars Ney. “Vive l’empereur! En avant! En avant!”. roar the troops back. Napoleon rallies troops at the rear of the villages, but spots the danger from the Russian artillery. He sends for a regiment of Hussars to face them, ready to exploit any weakness.

Fortuna Belli may begin smiling on the French army, as the odds begin to swing towards them with the arrival of Marmont’s Division, and Napoleon’s leadership.

3:45pm

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Marmont’s Division bursts out of Starstediel onto the flank of Marschall Yorck’s Prussians. They hold on initially, routing the first French battalion, but eventually they succumb to weight of numbers and their firing line begins to crumble. In the central village battle, the Russians and French trade musketry, with no side gaining an advantage. On the allied left, things go badly. The Russian cannon becomes disrupted from French artillery fire. Sensing their moment, the French Hussars, les beau sabreurs, cross the River Flossgraben and make for the guns. Unable to halt them, the Russian artillerymen are forced to take shelter in the protective squares of the Prussian infantry. French Artillery disrupt one square and the Hussars close down on it, hoping to break it, but the Prussians cling on for now. French infantry, under the watchful eye of Le Chapeau also begin to cross the river to add to the allies woes. An earlier request for cavalry support might have reached Blücher. Even so, it will be time before any allied cavalry can come to their relief, so they must fight and hope that Fortuna Belli is with them. Soon extra reinforcements will arrive for each army.

4:00pm

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On the allied right things go badly as Fortuna Belli frowns on the Prussian square under attack from les beau sabreurs. The square breaks and the Hussars cut to pieces all they can find, with the survivors running for shelter across the river. Meanwhile, French infantry capture the Russian artillery and break the Landwehr square. The request for aid reaches Blücher, and he sends a regiment of Totenkopf Hussars which sweeps around and sees the French cavalry making mayhem. Revanche burns in them; and their time will come soon. Blücher also releases Cossacks in pursuit of fleeing French infantry, who run for their lives across the plain. The Cossacks come under artillery fire and are disrupted, but they still ride on, forcing the advancing French into squares. Bringing up the rear of Marmont’s Division is a regiment of Dragoons; they ride onto the plain, ready to face the Cossacks. In the central batlefield, the Prussian firing line is slowly pushed back, and the Russian line collapses.

4.15 pm

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The Russian Cossacks perform a heroic charge under artillery fire and rout the Dragoons sent to oppose them. Veterans of the 1812 campaign, they maintain control and go to return to their lines, task done. In the centre, the Prussian and Russian firing line wilts from French pressure. To the north and south, reinforcements arrive; Imperial Guard infantry for the French and Konovnizin’s Russians for the allies. On the right, things are finely balanced for the Allies and the French. The Totenkopf Hussars rout les beau sabreurs, and they stand on the edge of leaving the battlefield. The advancing French infantry are forced into squares from the threat, but a Landwehr square falls to artillery fire and the troops run for their lives. French dragoons begin crossing the river, looking for action.

4:30pm

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The Russian cossacks return to the relative safety of the rest of the allied cavalry on the left. French troops before Starstediel become disordered as they rout the Prussians, leaving them vunerable to counterattack if there are troops available. The French retake Rahna, the central village, and Kaja, from an attack by the Young Guard using un déjeuner à la fourchette. On the right flank, the Totenkopf Hussars are routed in turn by the reformed beau sabreurs, seeking revanche. The broken Landwehr battalion flees for its life towards the woods before the French Dragoons can catch them.

4:45pm

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French troops before Starsteidel have formed a square to fend off the Prussian Uhlans. they hold them, long enough for the imperial gurd Lancers to come to their relief. In the centre, the Russians retake Rahna, but elsewhere the allied infantry waver or rout. The Young Guard retake Klein Groschen from the Prussians, and the right flank yields to French Pressure. Les beau sabreurs guard the river crossing as the French infantry behind them close down upon Eisdorf, held by one Prussian battalion. The Russian Guards arrive on the battlefield. Meanwhile Les Grognards take their place in the reserve behind the hill on which Le Chapeau and the artillery rest.

5:00pm

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Fortuna Belli smiles on the French as the Prussians and Russians are slowly being driven back, with only Rahna under Russian control. The Young Guard have retaken Gross Gorschen. French cavalry have moved up, ready to exploit any weakness. On the right wing, the cavalry standoff over the river crossings continue, with neither side willing to get disrupted in the crossing, only to face fully formed troops. They stand waving their sabres at each other and trade insults and occasional pistol shots. Further French reserves begin to appear on the left flank as Bertrand’s Division appears.

5:15pm

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The Allied centre begins collapsing as repeated routs disorganise troops who rout in turn, the whole mass of men in a panic in the face of a continuing French advance made to the strains of La Victoire est à Nous! . On the extreme left, Bertrand’s Division overwhelm the solitary battalion of prussians sent to hold them up, ans a regiment of Cossacks is soon surrounded by French cavalry. Victoria indicates that she will extend her blessings once more to Napoleon as the battle is now won by the French. But the extent of her blessings of victory are to be determined. Can the allies extract their right wing in good order to fight another day, or will this be surrounded, leading to catastrophe?

5:30pm

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On the left flank, the French cavalry sweep their Allied counterparts from the field, and in the centre the Allied infantry still rout, sweeping up the artillery with them. Only a battalion of the Preobrazhensky Guards holds the line, allowing the Allied right flank to retire in good order. Napoleon orders the Old Guard forward, together with the French artillery to reduce any further resistance before nightfall.

5:45pm

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The Preobrazhensky and Prussian Guards hold the line of retreat as a regiment of Russian Dragoons wheels round to face the threat from the French Cavalry. The rest of the allied right flank slowly retreats in good order. The Divisions of Bertrand and MacDonald, newly arrived on the battlefield will lead the pursuit after the broken Allied army.

6:00pm

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Night begins to fall, and the visibility reduces to 800m. The Allied cavalry guarding their infantry retreat fall to French cavalry charges and rout. this leaves the infantry with no option but to form square, fend for themeselves and hope that night saves them. Initally they hold off cavalry & infantry attacks. But there is still one hour of twilight left. The Old Guard marches forward to deliver the coup de grâce

6:15pm

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In the twilight, the visibility reduces to 600m. Despite heroical efforts from the Allied squares in fighting off encircling cavalry, the Imperial Guard have broken three of them, including the Russian and Prussian Guards. Dragoons hew the Prussian Guards down, as Fortuna Belli frowns on them. Only two squares remain, with 45 minutes before night rescues them.

6:30pm

 

 

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The victory for Napoleon is complete, and surrender terms are offered to the remaining allied troops. They gratefully accept their defeat.

The whole battle sequence is in this animated gif.

During the battle, the central villages have changed hands between the combatants, (Rahna three times) as in the original battle. The Prussian and Russian allies came close to winning, but needed another hour to gain the villages, before the rising tide of French reinforcements swing the odd around. Once the French get Marmont’s Division on the battlefield (3:00pm) and begin to establish numerical superiority, victory was theirs, but it was achieved at a high cost.

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