Archive For The “Historical Sites” Category

Adventures in Napoleonicisms: An Auerstedt Travelogue

by Jim Owczarski, 6 October 2018

In the Summer of 2017, I spent two wonderful weeks chasing after Napoleonic glory in what was once East Germany.  I have written at length about my experience of researching and eventually visiting Jena, but have neglected to report on what I think is both one of the most pristine and most intriguing of the Napoleonic battlefields I have have been to: Auerstedt.

In this case, however, Auerstedt is sufficiently intact to have permitted me to find each of the viewing points recommended by the book and these, in turn, inform the narrative that follows.

Telling the story briefly, in October 1806, Napoleon, stealing a march on the uxorious Fredrick William III, drove his armies into Thuringia with the intent of destroying the Prussian army before it could attack.  Wrong-footed by the rapid French advance, the Prussians began a retreat from their forward positions, intending to form a new defensive line in the vicinity of Leipzig.  The Emperor, however, did not wait and his V Corps first caught up with and routed the Prussians at Saalfeld (10 October).  Then, three days later, Napoleon himself caught up with what he assumed was the main Prussian army near Jena.  He determined to attack early on the morning of the 14th, but, in the meanwhile, sent both Marshals Bernadotte and Davout on a long flank march to the North and East to cut off the likely route of the Prussian retreat. (more…)

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