Battle of Saalfeld
|Battle of Saalfeld|
|Part of the War of the Fourth Coalition|
The death of Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, by Peter Edward Stroehling
|Commanders and leaders|
Louis Gabriel Suchet
|Prince Louis Ferdinand †|
|Casualties and losses|
|c.200 dead or wounded||
1,700-1,800 men killed, wounded or captured|
33 guns (15 Prussian, 18 Saxon)
The Battle of Saalfeld took place on 10 October 1806, at which a French force of 12,800 men commanded by Marshal Jean Lannes defeated a Prussian-Saxon force of 8,300 men under Prince Louis Ferdinand. The battle took place in Thuringia in what was the Ernestine duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. The battle was the second clash in the Prussian Campaign of the War of the Fourth Coalition.
Napoleon had arranged the Grand Armée into three columns to cross the Thuringian Forest to attack the Prussian-Saxon army. The westernmost column was headed by V Corps commanded by Jean Lannes, with Pierre Augereau's VII Corps following behind. They had orders to march from Coburg via Gräfenthal due at Saalfeld on 11 October. V Corps set out on 8 October, and by the end of 9 October was at Gräfenthal with light cavalry on the road to Saalfeld. At 5am on 10 October, Lannes with Louis-Gabriel Suchet's division and Anne-François-Charles Trelliard brigade of light cavalry of V corps began advancing down the road to Saalfeld, aware that a Prussian-Saxon force was in front of them.
Prince Louis Ferdinand commanded the Advanced Guard of Frederick Louis, Prince of Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen's army and on 9 October the Prince his headquarters at Rudolstadt, with detachments at Saalfeld, Schwarza, and Bad Blankenburg. The Prince had received a message from Hohenlohe that the Prussian-Saxon army would be advancing across the River Saale to support Bogislav Friedrich Emanuel von Tauentzien's force after the Battle of Schleiz, and that Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel's main army would be advancing to Rudolstadt. In the evening of 9 October Oberst Leopold Ludwig Maximilian Nordeck zu Rabenau (who commanded a detachment at Saalfeld) reported to Prince Louis that a French column of between 16,000 to 20,000 men had left Coburg heading for Saalfeld and that a post of 30 hussars stationed at Gräfenthal and the Jäger Company "Valentini" stationed at Hoheneiche had both retreated to Arnsgereuth after clashing with the French. Knowing that the main body of the army under Hohenlohe was due to advance across the River Saale on 10 October, Prince Louis therefore decided that his forces needed to stop the French column from either crossing the Saale at Saalfeld and interfering with Hohenlohe’s movements or from moving up the western side of the Saale to Rudolstadt, which they would reach before Brunswick’s army. During 9 October a fusilier company commanded by August von Gneisenau was sent to Arnsgereuth to support the troops there, and having confirmed that the French were advancing on Saalfeld and in strength, the Prussian troops withdrew from Arnsgereuth to Lerchenhügel, just outside Saalfeld, with advance posts in Garnsdorf.
At 7am Prince Louis began concentrating his troops at Saalfeld, and by 9am he had arranged his forces for battle. The troops were arranged in a line stretching from in front of Saalfeld to behind Crösten and Beulwitz facing the woods the covered the hills above Saalfeld and the Saale valley. The Prince left Generalmajor Karl Gerhard von Pelet's detachment at Blankenburg.
Order of battle
At around 9.45AM, the advanced guard of V Corps, consisting of the corps' Bataillon d'élite (formed of the elite companies of battalions left at depots), the 17th Légère Regiment, and two cannons, made its way towards Saalfeld and occupied the heights overlooking the town. The French light cavalry brigade and the advanced guard began to engage the Prussian-Saxon army. The Bataillon d'élite supported by French skirmishers pushed out the Prussian troops from Garnsdorf and occupied it. As the French troops advanced and the Prussian-Saxon army prepared to fight them, Marshal Lannes noticed that the right flank of the Prussian-Saxon army was completely uncovered, and while the cavalry and French advanced guard engaged the Prussians around Garnsdorf and Saalfeld, he ordered rest of Suchet's division to march northwards through the woods to outflank the Prussian and Saxon line. To cover these moves, the 17th Légère Regiment formed a skirmish line that extended from Saalfeld to Beulwitz.
Prince Louis was aware that he was engaged with a larger force, and then at 11 am, Saxon Souslieutnant Heinrich August von Egidy brought a verbal order from Prince Hohenlohe to remain at Rudolstadt and that the offensive across the Saale had been abandoned. Prince Louis decided to try and disengage with the French and retreat to Rudolstadt. He ordered second battalion of the "Müffling" Regiment to Schwarza to hold the bridges, and sent troops under the Saxon Generalmajor Friedrich Joseph von Bevilaqua to extend the right of his line to the hills either side of Aue am Berg (known as the Oberhayn and Sandberg). He also ordered the "Prince Xaver" and "Kurfürst" regiments to take the offensive by attacking the plain between Siechentbal and the Kesselthal streams. The skirmishers of the 17th Légère Regiment supported with the 34th Ligne Regiment (which had moved out of the woods into Beulwitz) repelled the Saxon regiments, who then fell back in disorder. Prince Louis rallied these troops, and fearing that he would lose communication with General Bevilaqua and his troops, he ordered another attack, and by midday the "Kurfürst" regiment had captured Crösten. Thinking that his centre was secure, Prince Louis gave further orders for a withdrawal. The French had entered Saalfeld and were pushing the Prussian troops back to Wöhlsdorf, where Prince Louis headed to rally these troops.
At just before 1 pm, Marshal Lannes gave the signal for the offensive. The 34th, 40th, and 64th Ligne headed towards the Saxon troops around Aue am Berg, whilst the French cavalry, with the 88th Ligne behind them, moved forward between Crösten and Saalfeld. Prince Louis decided this was a moment to engage the French cavalry with the Prussian and Saxon cavalry, attacking an exposed flank of the 21st Chasseurs à Cheval. However, the second line of French cavalry then enveloped the Prince's outnumbered cavalry line. Order in the Prussian and Saxon cavalry began to break down, and they fled joining the troops retreating from Saalfeld. In the confused mass around Wöhlsdorf, many were cut down by the French hussars and some drowned trying to escape across the Saale. Prince Louis tried to cut his way out towards Schwarza, during which he was attacked by Quartermaster Guindet of the 10th Hussars. Although wounded, Prince Louis refused to surrender and was killed.
Meanwhile, on the Prussian-Saxon right, General Bevilaqua tried to reinforce the Sandberg with the "Prinz Clemens" regiment, but then seeing the rout at Wöhlsdorf, Bevilaqua ordered a retreat to Scwharza. As the first battalion of the "Prince Clemens" Regiment moved down the slope it was attacked repeatedly by the 21st Chasseurs à Cheval, and the Saxons broke under the onslaught. the 21st Chasseurs à Cheval then assaulted and successively broke the second battalion "Prinz Clemens" Regiment and first battalion "Müffling" Regiment. As these troops dispersed, General Bevilaqua was captured.
There was a final conflict at Schwarza and Pelet's force engaged the French around Unter-Wirbach. Pelet's force was largely intact but had to retreat to Stadt-Ilm, which it reached at 10 pm. The French cavalry pursued the remains of the Prussian and Saxon units to Rudolstadt, but the French infantry halted at Schwarza. Some of the Prussian and Saxon troops that had escaped onto the east side of the Saale withdrew towards Rudolstadt.
Prince Louis' force had been completely dispersed as a fighting force. Only Pelet's detachment was intact, and they were forced to take a long route to rejoin Hohenlohe.
Despite this battle and the battle of Schliez, Napoleon was still not fully aware of location of the Prussian army. After four days of further marches, the French engaged the Prussians and Saxons at the twin battles of Jena and Auerstedt on the plateau west of the river Saale.
Colours of "Müffling", "Kurfürst", and "Prince Clemens" regiments.
Maps of the Battle
- Bodart 1908, p. 371.
- Smith 1998, p. 223.
- Chandler 1993, pp. 40–41.
- Petre 1907, p. 86.
- Bressonnet 1909, pp. 7–8.
- Bressonnet 1909, pp. 10, 16.
- Petre 1907, pp. 100–101.
- Bressonnet 1909, pp. 16–17.
- Petre 1907, pp. 92–93, 98.
- Bressonnet 1909, pp. 22–24.
- Bressonnet 1909, p. 26.
- Bressonnet 1909, pp. 28–29.
- Bressonnet 1909, p. 30.
- Bressonnet 1909, p. 32.
- Bressonnet 1909, pp. 33–35.
- Bressonnet 1909, p. 38.
- Bressonnet 1909, pp. 40–42.
- Bressonnet 1909, pp. 43–44.
- Bressonnet 1909, pp. 45–48.
- Bressonnet 1909, p. 48.
- Petre 1907, p. 102.
- Tardieu 1820.
- Bodart, Gaston (1908). Militär-historisches Kriegs-Lexikon (1618-1905). Retrieved 17 June 2021.
- Bressonnet, Pascal (1909). Études tactiques sur la campagne de 1806 (in French). Paris: Chapelot. OCLC 610334571.
- Chandler, David G. (1993), Jena 1806 : Napoleon destroys Prussia, Osprey Campaign Series, 20, London: Osprey, ISBN 9781855322851
- Petre, F. Loraine (1907), Napoleon's conquest of Prussia - 1806, London: John Lane, hdl:2027/inu.32000013315975
- Smith, Digby (1998), The Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book, London: Greenhill Books/Lionel Leventhal, ISBN 9781853672767
- Tardieu, Ambroise (1820). Plan Du Champ De Bataille De Saalfeld (Map).
- Bichler, Karl-Horst (1998). Napoleons Krieg gegen Preussen und Sachsen 1806 : (Saalfeld, Jena und Auerstedt) (in German). Reinbek: Einhorn-Presse-Verlag. ISBN 9783887567835.
- Höpfner, Friedrich Eduard Alexander von (1855). Krieg von 1806 und 1807 : ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der preussischen Armee nach den Quellen des Kriegs-Archivs (in German). 1. Berlin: Simon Schropp & Comp. pp. 265–284. hdl:2027/hvd.hw2kvy. OCLC 10489667.
- Hourtoulle, François Guy (2005). Jena - Auerstaedt : the triumph of the eagle. Paris: Histoire & Collections. ISBN 9782915239768.
- The Battle of Saalfeld Reported by an Eyewitness (primary source)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Battle of Saalfeld.|
- Rugendas, Johan Lorenz, II, "Mort du Prince Louis de Prusse, près de Saalfeld" (1799). Prints, Drawings and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.
- Chéreau, J., "Combat de Saalfeld. Mort du Prince Louis de Prusse: 10 8bre 1806 " (1806). Prints, Drawings and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library
- "Le Prince Louis de Prusse.: Qui commandait l'avant garde du Prince Hohenloe, le 10 octobre 1806, à Saalfeld... " Prints, Drawings and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library
- "Tod des Prinzen Louis Ferdinand von Preussen" Prints, Drawings and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library
- Bell, "The Hero Was Mortal", 1807, Royal Collections Trust
- Peter Edward Stroehling (1768-c. 1826), "The Death of Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia (1772-1806)", c.1806-16, Royal Collections Trust
- Francois Pigeot, "Death Of Prince Louis Of Prussia At The Battle of Saalfeld", 1850, Getty Images
- Tranié, Jean (1984). Napoléon et l'Allemagne, Prusse 1806. Lavauzelle. ISBN 9782702500859.