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The Jena Campaign: 1806

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The Jena Campaign: 1806
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Author(s): F. N. Maude
Date Published: 06/2007
Page Count: 188
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-236-8
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-235-1

A classic analysis of one of Napoleon’s great campaigns in Europe

Maude’s Jena Campaign examines the famous twin battles of Jena and Auerstadt from the perspectives of both protagonists and explains thoroughly how the French army comprehensively beat the Prussians to effectively neutralise them as an enemy with an Allied coalition. This campaign, fought when the Emperor’s star shone brightest, demonstrates a genius for warfare that has seldom appeared on the stage of history—before or since.

But the fog (which under somewhat similar conditions at Spion Kop proved our undoing), in Napoleon’s case became the means of his salvation. As soon as there was light enough to see, not a moment was lost in pushing on the outpost line of Lannes’ Corps (backed up by the nearest guns) to engage the enemy; and soon a brisk roll of musketry, interspersed with the detonations of artillery, gave warning to the Prussian Headquarters that the attack had begun.
Prince Hohenlohe, however, was in no frame of mind to heed the warning. As a consequence of the unfor­tunate interruption of his projected offensive on the previous afternoon, he had settled down into that most dangerous frame of mind, in which a man refuses to accept anything beyond the responsibility for the execu­tion of direct orders.<br>
Throughout the night Tauenzien had been reporting the sound of road-making operations, of firing at the outposts, and all the noises indicating the movement of large bodies of the enemy; it was never the custom of the French to work silently. Equally disquieting re­ports from the Saxons in the Isserstedter Forest to the south, and from Holtzendorf’s patrols towards Camburg and Dornburg on the north, also came in, but he paid no attention to them. Headquarters had told him there was to be no battle next day, and as far as he was concerned, he meant to avoid provoking one. If the enemy chose to do so, at least he would not go half-way to meet him. At length, however, about 7 a.m. the firing became too general for the Prince to disregard it any longer, so he mounted and rode towards the camp of Grawert’s Division. Here he found the men already fallen in, but the tents still standing. He rode through the lines telling every one there was to be no serious fighting that day, and when at length he found that in response to Tauenzien’s urgent orders for reinforcements a portion of the troops were already marching out, he lost his temper completely, and sent his Staff galloping after them to bring them back. Fortunately, Grawert himself arrived and succeeded in convincing his Chief of the necessity of sending help to his hard-pressed comrade in front. It was well that he did so, for in the meantime the fighting on the outpost line had been growing in severity. The supports of the pickets had been brought up, and were firing volleys into the fog in the direction disclosed by the flashes of the guns, and though neither side could really see each other, case on the one hand and volleys on the other were doing heavy damage. The Saxons, considerably outnumbered, and everywhere locally overlapped, were falling back towards the Dornburg. Before 8.30 a.m. Lutzeroda and Closewitz were already in French hands, and shortly afterwards the crest running south from the Dornburg towards the Isserstedter Forest (the key of the whole position) was also occupied by them. Thus by resolutely turning to account the temporary advantage which the fog had afforded him, Napoleon had already won the cardinal point of the whole battle. Not only had he gained space for deployment, but the advantage of concealment for the massing of his reserves had also become his, and no one knew better how to profit by it.<br>
Meanwhile, Holtzendorf’s detachment isolated in wide cantonments around Rödigen and without orders, hearing the heavy firing, had fallen in, and though much delayed by the fog, was marching to the sound of the guns, his Light Troops well in advance as a protection. In the fog these ran full against the skirmishers of St. Hilaire’s Division of Soult’s Corps, also pressing on to the plateau to gain ground for deployment.<br>
In the first encounter, Holtzendorf’s men proved fully equal in individual fighting force to the French, and without much difficulty drove the latter out of the Heiligenholtz. Covered by their skirmishers and guided only by the bullets and the sounds of the firing, Holtzendorf deployed his command into line and moved to the attack in echelon, right in front with the regularity of the parade ground. So far, indeed, the Prussian drill-ground training had not failed them, but now began a succession of disasters. The Cavalry Brigade of Soult’s Corps (8th Hussars, 11th and 16th Chasseurs) emerging suddenly upon the Saxon Light Horse, cover­ing the left of the Prussian line, and catching them in the fog at a disadvantage, fairly rode over them.
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