Battle of Sehested
|Battle of Sehested|
|Part of the War of the Sixth Coalition|
Slaget ved Sehested, by Jørgen V. Sonne
|Commanders and leaders|
Prince Frederik of Hesse|
|Casualties and losses|
522 killed or wounded|
The Battle of Sehested was fought between Danish and Russian-Prussian-British troops at Sehested (in Holstein) on 10 December 1813 during the War of the Sixth Coalition. The Danish Auxiliary Corps, which fought on the side of the French, was pushed back by the allies under Major General Ludwig von Wallmoden-Gimborn in early December 1813, but the Danes, commanded by Prince Frederik of Hesse, managed to secure their retreat However, the battle could not change the course of the war, which ended in Denmark’s defeat in 1814.
The kingdom of Denmark-Norway found itself involved in the Napoleonic Wars following the events of the Battle of Copenhagen in 1807. To prevent the large Danish-Norwegian fleet from falling into the hands of Napoleon's French Empire, the United Kingdom attacked Copenhagen destroying ships at anchor; the kingdom, which until then had tried to maintain a precarious neutrality in the conflict between the French and the British, therefore sided openly with France. While keeping faith with this alliance, the prudent King Frederick VI of Denmark tried to keep the country out of the frequent Frequent campaigns as much as possible, and the Danish troops did not go beyond a generic employment as occupation troops in the northern regions of Germany.
Following the French defeat in the Russian Campaign, at the beginning of 1813, Denmark-Norway formally declared a state of neutrality: the country was bankrupt and more than ever needed a return to peace to restore its disastrous economy. The negotiations initiated by Frederick IV with the powers of the sixth anti-French coalition, however, did not lead to anything: the coalitions favored Sweden's claims for an annexation to this of Norway, and in March 1813 the king therefore decided to renew his treaty of alliance with France; a Danish-Norwegian expeditionary force, 13,000 strong under the orders of Prince Frederik of Hesse (brother-in-law of the monarch) was then deployed in the Schleswig-Holstein region and supported the forces of Marshal Louis Nicolas Davout in his campaigns in the Hamburg area against the multinational troops of the Russian general Ludwig von Wallmoden-Gimborn.
The decisive defeat suffered by Napoleon in the Battle of Leipzig on 16-19 October 1813 led to the collapse of French domination in Germany. While Davout retreated to Hamburg where he ended up besieged by the coalition forces, Prince Frederick received the order to retreat with his men in Denmark to defend the country from possible enemy offensives.
Holtsee and Haby
As the head of the Danish force were reaching the town of Holtsee, an enemy force could be seen occupying it. Lallemand's Advanced Guard deployed into battle formation, and the Danish vanguard halted to allow them to clear the enemy from the village. Major Baumberg commanding the Allied forces holding Holtsee spotted the Danes, and had no intention of engaging an entire corps with only three battalions, so he slowly began to withdraw west to the town of Haby, facing southeast. When the main Danish force had arrived, Frederik dispatched two squadrons of the Holstein Cavalry Regiment and the Polish Cavalry Regiment to observe Baumberg's movements east of Haby. At the same time, he also sent two battalions of the Holstein Regiment, the battalion of the Queen's Regiment, and a hussar squadron to cover the area to the northeast of Holtsee.
Baumberg's slow withdrawal had given time for Wallmoden to bring up the rest of his troops from Sehested. However as the Danish marching continued, he allowed himself to be pushed back towards the village. When the Danes passed the southern end of the causeway leading through Haby, a detachment under Major Berger was left to prevent Baumberg from descending on the rear of the convoy. This was just in time as, within a few minutes, Baumberg's force attempted to storm the vanguard. This task was virtually impossible, as they could only form up in a column eight men wide, and the attack was beaten off with so heavy casualties, that Baumberg was effectively cut out of the action. The units left to keep and eye on him east of Haby, were now joined by the four squadrons of cavalry from Holtsee, and as a consequence of this disastrous attack, these units were now free to begin to march towards the Sehested road and the rear of the vanguard.
Danish attack on Sehested
Wallmoden had now pulled back to Sehested, where he turned to face the Danes, forming up at the north of the long, straggling town, just south of the point where the Rendsborg road took a sharp right turn, with his left just north to the marsh which ran along the western side of the town and his right on the river Eider. The Mecklenburg Jaeger battalion was sent across the river in the direction of Holtsee, to see if they could harass the Danish vanguard with long range musketry. Seeing their enemy taking up this position the Danes once again halted, and prepared for battle. The 1st and 4th battalions of the Oldenburg regiments formed into columns, and supported by the fire of Gonner's and Koye's batteries, attacked Sehested, screened by a musketeer company of the 1st battalion and the Jaeger company of the 4th. The 6th and 7th battalions of the Russo-German Legion immediately counterattacked ,and supported by the 5th battalion, threw the Danes back to their previous position.
Frederik renewed the attack, which went in with himself at its head and pushed the allied forces back to the northern part of Sehested. The Russo-Prussian 6th and 7th battalions prepared a new defense, but were soon overrun. By 10 o’clock Sehested was entirely in Danish hands. The Danes formed a line alongside the southern edge of the town and a detachment under Major Bie, consisting of the 1st battalion of the Funen Infantry Regiment and the Friis battery, were sent to cover the ground between Sehested and Hohenfelde, which the Allied left wing had retreated across. Wallmoden now ordered the Sehested to be retaken and the 5th and 6th battalions of the Legion, along with the Anhalt-Dessau battalion, supported by the guns of the KGL and the Hanoverian battery, returned to the fray, attacking in columns.
Wallmoden's counterattack and retreat
The leading column of the 5th battalion of the Legion, was charged by the Funen Dragoon Regiment, and despite the attempt, was unable to form square in time. The survivors were taken prisoner, as were the crews of the two KGL guns and one of the Hanoverian battery. The other two battalions broke and routed back to safety, whilst the captured artillery pieces were dragged back into the Danish lines. The Allies now withdrew some 500 metres down the Osterrode road, and took up a new position, with their left resting on Hohenfelde, and their right on the Eider. On their left a fierce engagement had developed between the 1st and 2nd battalions of the Russo-German Legion and Bie's force, with the outnumbered Danes getting the worst of it. After realizing his men had run out of ammunition, Bie was forced back about halfway to the Rendborg road, alongside the vanguard. Fortunately for the Danes, the Holstein Cavalry Regiment and the Polish Cavalry Regiment from Haby, had now arrived and pushed the Allied left back to its main body.
In a desperate attempt to break the Danish line, Wallmoden ordered the Mecklenburg Mounted Jaegers to charge the southern part of Sehested. They were eventually routed by musketfire from the 2nd battalion of the Funen Regiment and the 1st battalion of the Schleswig Regiment. Realising that he could no longer hope to hold his position Walmoden ordered a retreat over the Eider to a position on the low heights around Osterrode. Frederik ordered the Holstein Cavalry Regiment forward to try and convert this retreat into a rout, but their attack were beaten off by overwhelming allied musketfire and they fell back to the northern bank of the Eider. From there, they began an artillery bombardment on Wallmoden's position, as well as scouting on Vegesack's division, which had just arrived and was now occupying a position between Wakendorf and Bovenau to the west of the canal. Under heavy bombardment, Wallmoden now began to withdraw across the Cluvensieck bridge, taking up a defensive position facing back across the canal.
End of battle
Charles XIV John had now arrived on the scene, and after a short discussion with Wallmoden and Vegesack, sent a messenger to Prince Frederik suggesting a twenty-four hour ceasefire, in order to collect the wounded and bury the dead, which Frederik agreed to. The Danish troops marched after the vanguard, while a rearguard were kept on the left of the Mühlenerg, to prevent any attempt at pursuit. The battle was over. For the Danes, they had achieved their objective of clearing the road to Rendsburg, whilst the allies had suffered an unhoped defeat. The Allies had lost 1,100 men in total, while the Danes had only lost around 500.
The Dano-Norwegian army reached Rendsburg without further incident, where it established a defensive position along the course of the Eider; with Napoleon beaten and fleeing to France, however, King Frederick IV had realized the futility of any further resistance and immediately signed an armistice with the coalition powers in order to start peace negotiations. The negotiations eventually led to the signing, on January 14, 1814, of the Treaty of Kiel, which ended the participation of Denmark-Norway in the Napoleonic Wars.
Orders of Battle
Avant Garde Brigade:
- 2nd Battalion Schleswig Jaeger Corps
- 1st & 2nd Battalions Holstein Sharpshooter Corps
- 1st Battalion 3rd (Jutland) Infantry Regiment
- Holstein Heavy Cavalry Regiment (4 squadrons)
- 17th Polish Lancer Regiment (2 squadrons)
- 6pdr Foot Battery von Gerstenberg (8 guns)
1st Brigade: General Graf Schulenburg
- 1st & 4th Battalions Oldenburg Infantry Regiment
- 3 Companies 2nd Battalion Oldernburg Infantry Regiment
- 3rd & 4th Battalions Holstein Infantry Regiment
- 2nd & 6th Squadrons Danish Hussar Regiment
- 3pdr Foot Battery von Gonner (8 guns)
- 6pdr Foot Battery Koye (8 guns)
2nd. Brigade General Lasson
- 1st & 2nd Battalions Funen Infantry Regiment
- 1st & 2nd Battalions Schleswig Infantry Regiment
- Funen Light Dragoon Regiment (3 squadrons)
- 6pdr Foot Battery Friis (10 guns)
- 1st Battalion Queen's Infantry Regiment
- 2 Companies 2nd Battalion Oldenburg Infantry Regiment
- Funen Light Dragoon Regiment (1 squadron)
Total: 9,000 men
- 1st Battalion Russo-German Legion (910)
- 2nd Battalion Russo-German Legion (760)
- 5th Battalion Russo-German Legion (834)
- 6th Battalion Russo-German Legion (808)
- 7th Battalion Russo-German Legion (643)
- Hanoverian (German) Lauenburg Battalion (638)
- Hanoverian (German) Langrehr Battalion (638)
- Hanoverian (German) Bennigsen Battalion (638)
- Anhalt-Dessau (German) Battalion (600)
- KGL Light (British-German) Detachment (150)
- Hanoverian (German) Jaeger Company (40)
- Meckleburg (German) Foot Jaegers (375)
- 1st Russo-German Hussar Regiment (487)
- Bremen-Verden (German) Hussar Regiment (300)
- Mecklenburg (German) Mounted Jagers (384)
- 1st Russo-German Horse Battery (6 guns)
- 2nd Russo-German Horse Battery (6 guns)
- Hanoverian (German) Foot Battery (4 guns)
- KGL (British-German) Horse Battery-one section (2 guns)
- 3rd Battalion Russo-German Legion
- 4th Battalion Russo-German Legion
- Hanoverian (German) Feldjagerkorps von Kielmannsegge
Total: 10,500 men
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- Allen, Colin (2018). "Sehested, 10th December 1813" (PDF). 113ème Régiment d’Infanterie de Ligne. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
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