How did Napoleon fall?
The "Battle of the Nations near Leipzig" began 200 years ago today. Until the First World War, it was considered the largest that was ever defeated. With immense losses, Russians, Austrians, Prussians and Swedes forced Napoleon to withdraw from Germany in a bitter struggle lasting several days and ended French rule over parts of Europe.
"A terrible rain of bullets, to which we were exposed from the Austrians and Russians, forced us to give way, but we soon had to go forward again and greet them with our fire. It was raining bullets and grenades around and next to us. ... In We stayed with this cannon fire, which took place only with a few interruptions, until about two o'clock in the afternoon, when it subsided a little after this rain of bullets had carried away many of us ...
the Saxon chief gunner Friedrich Wilhelm August Böhme noted in his diary about the battle near Paunsdorf on October 18, 1813. We are in the middle of the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig "which has been raging since October 16 and only on the 19th with a victory for the allied Austrians , Russians, Prussians and Swedes via Napoleon and his German allies of the Rhine Confederation, including the Saxons, ends. Until then, the battlefield is soaked with the blood of thousands upon thousands of fallen and wounded. The casualty figures vary between over eighty thousand and over one hundred and twenty thousand. A high price for them Liberation of Germany from French rule, but that is only half the story.
In a historical battle representation in Markkleeberg near Leipzig, participants in uniform shoot on the anniversary of the Battle of the Nations (picture alliance / dpa / Hendrik Schmidt)"In Leipzig I found around 20,000 wounded and sick warriors of all nations. ... Among ... (them) not a single one received a shirt, sheet, blanket, straw mattress or bed. ... Many wounded are not yet ... bandaged. ... Wounded, those who cannot get up have to let feces and urine go under and rot in their own rubbish.… I close… with the most hideous spectacle that… paralyzed my composure.… in the open courtyard of the community school I found a mountain that consisted of the rubbish and corpses of my compatriots lying naked and being eaten by dogs and ravens as if they had been culprits and murderers.
This is how one desecrates the remains of the heroes who fell to the fatherland. "
The report that the Berlin medical professor Johann Christian Reil wrote seven days after the end of the battle to Freiherr vom Stein, then head of the central administration for the areas liberated from the French troops, is not in any history book. But if the wounded and dead of the winners are treated in a brutal manner, how must the seriously injured of the losers fare! Maximilian Poppe, Leipzig chronicler of the war years, has just one line left for her. On October 22nd, 1813 he wrote:
"The French severely wounded are slain."
The Battle of Leipzig went down in history: not because of the high number of victims and the inhuman treatment of the wounded, but because of the masses of warriors who were moved on the battlefield. Therefore, until the First World War, it was considered the largest that was ever defeated. Napoleon had raised 440,000 men. His opponents came up with almost 510,000 soldiers. This numerical superiority initially offset the strategic genius of the great Corsican. But in the long run he was the tactic of attrition of the three opposing armies
The main Bohemian army under the Austrian Schwarzenberg, the Silesian under the Prussian Blücher and the northern army under the Swedish Crown Prince Bernadotte, could not stand up. The decisive factor for their victory was of course the "Trachenberg War Plan", which the allies had agreed on on July 12, 1813 in Trachenberg, Lower Silesia. The Austrian military historian Kurt Mitterer:
"This plan aims ... like a game of cat and mouse, so that only one army ... attracts the French troops and causes wear and tear on the troops. ... and at the same time the other ... armies operate in the background and cut off the supply lines, so that Napoleon finally ... has to take seven puffs of air with his army without getting hit. "
The architect of this plan was not a Prussian general, but an Austrian. No wonder that one has to look for him with a magnifying glass in the tradition of the Leipzig "Battle of the Nations", which has long been dominated by Prussian historiography. It was the chief of staff of the Austrian commander-in-chief Schwarzenberg, Joseph Wenzel Graf Radetzky, who later - in the revolution of 1848/49 - knew how to maintain Austria's rule over northern Italy and was to become the most popular military leader of the Danube monarchy.
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