Battle of Saalfeld 1806

Another FRW / Napoleonic Imperial era campaign period and change of scenery. From the dry lands of the Levant and Italy. WR now looks forward to new military formations, unit names, old school commanders, forests, wet weather, muddy roads, and later on maybe a blizzard on the tabletop. All earmarks of the 1806-07 French, Prussian, and Russian campaign or Wars of the Fourth Coalition. Two months ago WR started preparation for the Battle of Saalfeld 1806 to nudge himself into painting up, organizing, and basing his 1806 era Prussians. WR’s Prussian 1806-07 has been privately labelled or nicknamed the “forgotten army” in the collection but in truth his British army of 1790, 1800, and 1812 era formations are the actual forgotten army, having been mostly painted, even unit organized, and just pending their basing since YR2010. Sometimes projects just go slow in the warren…. and need a bigger nudge to get rolling over the finish line. WR foresees a Peninsular war expansion nudge in his future as he presently has a large Spanish and English allied Portuguese army ready to hold their own on the tabletop while waiting for the British to land in Portugal.

For now it’s the 1806-07 Prussian army’s turn to form up and march across the tabletop. Someplace in the dark, cold, and no doubt snowy forests of Russia (or garage) lurks the Russian 1806-07 28mm miniature army. These allies of Prussia will surely be needed to save the Prussian army from their projected defeat at the hands of the French Grande Armee. But to paint an entire new green coated hoard army…. before the British army in sunny Portugal and Spain? WR will have to turn in his UK passport and identity as an Englishman. Choices for YR2018 painting schedule that WR will have to make…. green or red coats.

Meanwhile, back to the borders of southern Prussia and Saxony. After the weeks of political discussion by men with dusted hair, some written offers or threats, military service call up, and restocking of the fortress magazines, both the French Grand Armee and the Royal Army of Prussia, with their Saxon allies, were only week’s march apart along the southern Prussian / Saxon border. In general the Franconian forest, with its dense woods, hilly terrain, and narrow road passages lay between both armies. The French, with their own Germanic allies, are guided by the golden hand and unified command of Emperor Napoleon and his band of battle-tested Marshals. The Prussians, with their Saxon ally, held councils of war, wrote out long orders, and never really came to unified discussion or purpose of action before joined in conflict on the Jena and Auerstaedt battlefields. For one thing in WR’s favor, unlike some previous era and battles written up, the campaign of 1806, and somewhat 1807, is well documented, with much ink printed, discussing the military formation movement, the French command structure vs. the Prussian system… or lack of a system, the leadership characteristics, and minute details of both armies and their marches.

Taking the offensive in true French style, the French Grande Armee crossed the separating Franconian forest region in three grand columns. The main center column had the advance guard cavalry (Murat), I Corps (Bernadotte), 3rd and 4th Dragoon divisions (Beaumont & Sahuc), then III Corps (Davout). Bring up the tail end of the center column is the Imperial Guard, massed heavy cavalry divisions of D’Hautpoul and Nansouty, the 1st Dragoon division (Klein) and presence of Napoleon and his Imperial headquarters. The right column had IV Corps (Soult) and VI Corps (Ney) securing the eastern approaches and heading for Hof and then maybe threaten Dresden. The left column had V Corps (Lannes) and VII Corps (Augereau) directed towards Saalfeld then later on Jena. First to encounter the Prussians and Saxons, the center column advance guard cavalry, led by Marshal Murat, and Bernadotte’s light cavalry of I Corps encounter their Prussian – Saxon foes near the town of Schleiz.

West Point atlas early 1806 campaign map showing the three French ‘grand’ columns marching into Prussian-Saxon territory.

The Battle of Schleiz took place on October 9, 1806, between a Prussian-Saxon division under GM Bogislav Friedrich Emanuel von Tauentzien marching to rejoin Hohenlohe’s army near Jena, and leading infantry division (of Marshal Bernadotte I Corps) under the command of Jean-Baptiste Drouet, Comte d’Erlon and some leading cavalry regiments, led personally by Marshal Murat. It was the first clash of many in the War of the Fourth Coalition.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brushing aside minor pickets and seizing a bridge crossing, the first significant clash occurred between the troops of Marshal Bernadotte and GM Tauentzien occurs near the Oschitz Wood, a belt of forest which lies south of the town of Schleiz. Marshal Bernadotte ordered GB François Werlé to clear the forest to the left as GD Drouet’s division advanced on Schleiz. In the thick woods, the infantry (27th Legere leading, supported by 94th and 95th Ligne, moved ahead while Watier’s cavalry regiments followed behind. GB Werlé’s advance guard entered and took possession of the woods but was prevented from continuing on by a Prussian force encountered under GM Rudolf Ernst Christoph von Bila. By 2:00 pm, the French were in growing strength and GM Tauenzien decided to abandon Schleiz, retiring to his supports further northwest. The Prussian division fell back to the north covered by GM Bila’s rear guard of one infantry battalion and one and a half cavalry regiments. GD Drouet attacked Schleiz at 4:00 pm and drove out the last of the Prussians. North of the town, Marshal Murat charged the rear guard with the 4th Hussar regiment, but this attack was repulsed by the Prussian fresh horsemen (Bila 11th Hussars and Saxon Pz. Johann Chevaulegers). When the 5th Chasseurs à Cheval regiment arrived with light infantry support, Marshal Murat pressed back Bila’s troops to the woods north of Oettersdorf where the action basically ended for the day.

Earlier and before the opening morning volleys, GM Tauentzien had sent Major Hobe with one battalion, one squadron, and two guns to Crispendorf about six kilometers west of Schleiz. Major Hobe’s assignment was to guard the right flank and maintain communications with GM Schimmelpfennig’s 6th Hussars in Pößneck, who was linking the front outpost chain to Prinz Louis near Saalfeld further on. When GM Tauenzien began to fall back, Major Hobe’s detachment retreated to the northeast to rejoin his division. Near Pörmitz, a village roughly four kilometers north of Schleiz, the detachment found itself caught between Marshal Murat’s cavalry and one of GD Drouet’s battalions. Attacked in a marshy forest, Major Hobe’s force was badly mauled and lost one of its cannons. Most of the losses in the battle were from Hobe’s luckless detachment. The Prussians and Saxons lost 12 officers and 554 rank and file killed, wounded, captured, and missing, as well as one artillery piece captured for the day’s fighting. French losses are unknown to history but probably light. For the central French Grande Armee column, the engagements around Schietz ended active combat till the Battles of Jena / Auerstaedt on October 14th.

While the central column was forcing back the Prussians near Schielz, the French Grande Armee left column was crossing the Franconian forest mountains via narrow roadways. In order, the left column contained the V Corps (Lannes) leading then followed by the VII Corps (Augereau). The V Corps under Marshal Lannes, with two infantry divisions (Suchet and Gazan) and light cavalry brigade (Treillard) leading his corps, left the mountain town of Grafenthal, early on October 10th, to descend towards Saalfeld and the reported position of Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia commanding the Prussian – Saxon advanced guard (of Prince Hohenlohe’s army currently near Jena).

The Saalfeld region of modern Germany has changed little over the last two hundred plus years. Looking at the current maps below you clearly see the outline of the old town of Saalfeld, the modern road network overlaid on the old roads, and the local villages mentioned in the historical record. There is increased built up areas between Saalfeld and Garnsdorf, a few small industrial parks scattered about on former farm land, and the railroad rails / track bed paralleling the Saale river. Just outside the station at Wohlsdorf, the tall monument to Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia stands, near to the location where his body was found. Interesting, across the roadway, about 50 yards down, is another smaller monument to Prince Louis, with the appearance of placement in more recent times.

Present day satellite view of the Saale river valley at Saalfeld. Other than some modern structures around Saalfeld and Garnsdorf, and enlargement of the villages,the battlefield looks the same.

Period map of the battle at Saalfeld. Expanded version marks the movements of units during the battle.

Mid 19th Century map shows the open ground, the streams, the road net and the built up areas, from Beulwitz, to Crosten, then Wohlsdorf. Note Siedenbach stream and the steep streambank.

Old town of Saalfeld, the Lerchen Hugel (hill rise), and open terrain towards Garnsdorf. Note the steep stream bank for the Siedenbach outside of Saalfeld. A grown up Alten Saalfeld at right.

Google terrain map clearly shows the steep hills which the French marched down from, the gradual sloped farming district and open fields, and the Saale River at the bottom.

The early morning of October 10th found the Prussian Saxon advance guard, under Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, encamped in several locations.  At Blankenburg, there was a bridge to defend so GM von Pelet had his own fusilier battalion, the Masars Jager company, three sqns. of Saxon Hussars, and a half battery of Prussian Gause 6 pdr. horse artillery in position. Five sqns. of 6th (Schimmelpfennig) Hussars under GM Schimmelpfennig was station near Posneck on the Prussian far left (off map), acting as a linking force with the retiring GM Tauentzien. Before Saalfeld, Major Rabenau commanded his own fusilier btn., the Ruhle Fusilier battalion, the Valentini Jager co., and a battery of 6 pdr. foot artillery (Riemann). Back at Rudolstadt with the main body and Saxon GM’s von Bevilaqua and Trutzschler, are found five sqns. of Saxon Hussars, the other half of 6th Hussars (5 sqns.), Saxon IR Kurfurst (Elector), IR Clemens, and IR Xavier (six btns.), Saxon Hoyer 4 pdr. foot battery and the Prussian IR #49 von Muffling detached from von Pelet’s command at Blankenburg. Each of the Saxon musketeer regiments and the Prussian von Muffling regiment had their attached regimental cannon. Someplace was the other half of the Prussian Gause 6 pdr. horse battery…. WR has them near Saalfeld at scenario start.

As the sun rose, Prinz Louis orders the main body at Rudolstadt to march towards Saalfeld, stopping short of the town wall after passing Wohlsdorf. In the open fields between Wohlsdorf and Saalfeld the Saxon infantry and artillery formed up while the Prussian IR #49 von Muffling regiment and cavalry formed a second line. Later on, before the French arrival, Prinz Louis order three sqns. of Saxon Hussars to detach and reinforce the command under Major Rabenau standing before Saalfeld and the Valentini jager co. was sent into Garnsdorf village upslope of Saalfeld. The stage is set for the French to arrive.

Situation at 10:30 am with the French arriving and already contesting the approaches to Saalfeld. Map from Jena Auerstaedt book EG Hourtoulle.

Before the battle commentary, time to see what the countryside looks like today, little changed from the day of battle. Some photos taken from the internet….

Saale river near Saalfeld. Photo by D. Reichmanner. Slow and peaceful river in present times.

Saale river bridge at Saalfeld leading to Alten Saalfeld (at right) across the Saale river. Photo by Zentel.

The old town wall and the Oberes Tor gate looking out towards the “countryside”. Photo by M Henkel. Modern roadway passage needs has opened the wall alongside the former gateway at left.

Looking through the Saalfeld Oberes Tor gateway towards the central market square. Photo by Rene Speur. Clearly shows the narrow roadway common to towns of this period.

Marshal Lannes, with the 17th Legere regiment leading, emerged upon the open valley of Saalfeld on the Grafenthal road leading to Garnsdorf. The 17th Legere, of two full strength battalions and a small converged elite company unit (from 3rd btn.) formed the 1st brigade (Suchet’s 1st Division), under command by GB Claparede. Following them, in road columns, GB Treillard trotted on the battlefield leading his brigade of three regiments; 9th & 10th Hussars, then the 21st Chasseurs a’ cheval with two 4 pdr. horse cannon under Lt. Simonnet.

Seeing the village of Garnsdorf occupied by the Prussian jagers at 10:00 am, Marshal Lannes ordered the 17th Legere to clear the village. Sharp orders from Claparede sent the 17th Legere battalions forward supported by Lt. Simonnet’s small battery. They quickly sent the Prussian jagers back on their support stationed near the Lerchen Hugel low-rise. That support, under the command of the future Prussian leader Gneisenau, was a single company of Rabenau Fusiliers who slowly retired facing the advancing French. Major Rabenau’s left advance guard command itself slowly retired behind the valley of the Sichenbach stream, joining the Rabenau Fusilier btn. and the Riemann foot battery in position with the Saxon Hussars and Ruhle Fusilier btn. marching back through Saalfeld. Seeing their support retiring, the Valentini jager company contested the French advance through the Oberes Tor gateway, then building by building through the town, before rejoining Rabenau command outside Saalfeld. With the French now controlling old town Saalfeld and the bridge over the Saale, the 17th Legere follow the movements of the French cavalry and shift leftwards towards the battlefield center to face the Prussian Saxon main body between Crosten, Wohlsdorf, and Saalfeld. Only the small battery detachment of Lt. Simonnet and the elite converged companies continue the battle near Saalfeld and into the old town itself.

While the town of Saalfled was being cleared of Prussian and Saxons, the arriving French infantry columns; 2nd Brigade under GB Reille with 34th and 40th Ligne and the 3rd Brigade under GB Vedel with 64th and 88th Ligne regiments, are shifting westward towards Beulwitz village via hilly wooded roads and paths. The 17th Legere skirmishers, now spread westward, toyed with the stiff ranks of the Prussian Saxon main body infantry before them. Occasional Prussian 6th Hussar forward movement forced them back on several, but each time they returned to the sniping fire and occupy the attention of the serried ranks. The arriving French 4 pdr. foot artillery (Capt. Sibille) battery deployed above Beulwitz, sending round shot towards the distant downslope Prussian and Saxon infantry ranks positioned near Crosten village. During this static warfare around 11:00 am, the Prussian Saxon main body shifted several regiments about. Prince Louis received orders from Hohenlohe to hold Rudolstadt so he ordered one battalion of the IR #49 von Muffling to retire and hold the Schwarza bridge, the other von Muffling battalion to march towards Aue (Aye) village to “secure” the far right flank. GM Bevilaqua, with Prince Louis nearby, ordered his IR Clemens and the Hoyer 4 pdr. foot battery to the Sandberg and Oberhayn /Aye village position, again to help secure the right flank and counter the visible French leftward shift (17th Legere and cavalry at this time). The IR Kurfurst and Xavier lined themselves up near Crosten village, preparing to attack towards Beulitz village up slope. Time ticks by, it is now near noon on this cloudy October day. The Saxon IR Xavier starts and leads the advance towards Beulwitz, followed by IR Kurfurst (“Elector” on EG Hourtoulle’s map). Skirmishers from the 17th Legere fire and fall back to reload. They extend themselves further westward to also engage the arriving IR Clemens near Oberhayn hill.

Suddenly the two battalions of the 34th Ligne emerged from the woods above Beulwitz, drums beating the advance, followed closely by the 40th Ligne regiment. Entering Beulwitz before the arriving Saxons, the French passed through and then attacked the Saxon IR Xavier which quickly flee back towards Crosten village. Chasing the Saxons downslope, the 34th entered the Crosten village. Prince Louis and GM Bevilaqua organized a sharp counterattack with the nearby IR Kurfurst battalions. Led by Prince Louis in person, the Saxons sweep into the village and evicted the French 34th Ligne, tired from their run down from Beulwitz. The 34th Ligne regroup behind Beulwitz alongside the 40th Ligne. Another lull in the battle as the French await more arriving battalions from the 3rd Brigade (64th and 88th). GD Suchet detaches and sends more voltigeurs companies forward (from 34th, 40th, 64th) to support the 17th Legere. Skirmishing fire dropping more from the serried ranks of the Prussians and Saxons as their small schutzen regimental companies cannot contain the active French sharpshooters.

Open fields near Crosten looking towards Wohlsdorf. Someplace near here Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia lost his life leading the Prussian-Saxon cavalry covering the army retirement.

Upper slope above the village of Beulwitz. The French marched toward Beulwitz from this direction. The Saale river is distant towards the tall chimney in lower plain. Photo by Timberjack.

Marshal Lannes waits and bids his time. His last battlefield brigade (3rd Brigade/ 1st Division under GD Suchet) is arriving near Beulwitz and position themselves to follow the Marshal’s future orders. GB Treillard has massed the French cavalry before the Prussian Saxon main body. The Prussians and Saxon can expect no reinforcements to arrive. Their detachment at Blankenberg (von Pelet) slowly moves towards the Sandberg hill ( occupied by von Muffling battalion) led by the Masars jager co. The 6th Hussars detachment under GM Schimmelpfennig will never arrive from Posneck. The pause lasts for an hour. During the lull Prince Louis marched his infantry towards Wohlsdorf except for the IR Kurfurst holding Crosten village. The left flank fusilier infantry and Riemann battery slowly retired back towards Wohlsdorf, pursued by the converged elite battalion exiting old town Saalfeld. It’s one o’clock and the final battle stage is set.

Crosten, held by the IR Kurfurst battalions, is the first French target. Behind them, stationed before Wohlsdorf, are the IR Xavier (shaken from their earlier action) and the Riemann foot battery. The former left flank fusilier battalions (Rabenau and Ruhle) cover the open ground between Wohlsdorf and Graba while the Valentini jager co. continues their private battle with the approaching 17th Legere converged elite battalion skirmishers on the far left flank. All the Prussian and Saxon cavalry is massed in the center, outside of Wohlsdorf and positioned on the open ground.

The French 64th and 17th Legere form up and charge into Crosten village. Clearing the IR Kurfurst in swift action, they then advance and fall on the shaken IR Xavier, which promptly retires in complete disorder westward. The exposed Prussian fusilier battalions see the advancing French cavalry mass under GB Treillard. They retire quickly into Wohlsdorf village as their own cavalry line trots forward, the Saxon Hussars in the first rank, supported by the Prussian 6th Hussars half regiment. Seeing opportunity, the 21st Chasseurs a’ cheval charges the retiring IR Kurfurst, which holds and repulses the French charge supported by the fire from the battery Reinmann nearby. Prince Louis sees his moment… he joins the Saxon Hussars, leading them into charge against the French 9th and 10th Hussars trotting forward. The French hussars outnumber the brave Saxon counterparts. They are repulsed and the Prussian 6th Hussars fail to counter charge, drawn into the fray by the advancing French hussars. Disordered, the Prussian hussars retire quickly, leaving their infantry exposed to the rapid French cavalry crossing the open ground near Wohlsdorf. Prince Louis tries in vain to rally his fleeing troops. At Wohlsdorf, the Prince meets with Sergeant Guindey (10th Hussars), and after sharp sword play, is killed by the Frenchman’s saber thrust.

Today the Prince Louis is remembered on the battlefield by a monument besides the Wohlsdorf train station.

Monument to Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia near the Wohlsdorf railroad station. Photo taken by R. Mueller.

A smaller and second monument to Prince Louis across the roadway. Photo by D. Reichmanner.

French second objective is now to sweep the battlefield. The Sandberg hill has the Saxon Hoyer foot battery supported by the one battalion of von Muffling IR. We had left the IR Clemens engaged by French 17th Legere skirmishers at the Oberhayn hill. The French assault came quick. The 34th and 40th Ligne regiments led the attack. The Saxon infantry bravely held their ground, trading volleys with the French as they slowly backed up from the growing French infantry pressure. While the rest of the Prussian Saxon main body and former left flank battalions retired or fled from the French infantry assault and French cavalry sabers, the IR Clemens retired after receiving orders from GM Bevilaqua to march on Schwarza and the bridge held by the other von Muffling battalion. Seeing this movement, the rallied French 21st Chasseurs a’ cheval regiment rode up to support the French infantry. The von Muffling battalion reached Schwarza, but the brave IR Clemens was charged by the French 21st Chasseurs. Broken and fleeing, the Saxon infantry was rounded up along with their Hoyer foot battery as prisoners.

With the broken Prussian Saxon main body and left flank units routing and being rounded up by the French cavalry across the open ground, the last remaining battlefield Prussian force was the command under GM von Pelet near Blankenberg. French 40th regiment skirmishers pushed back the approaching Masars jager company near Unter-Wirbach. Von Pelet, seeing the Prussian Saxon disaster, remained at Blankenberg for the afternoon, then retired that night marching to rejoin General Hohenlohe on the 12th (in time for the Battle of Jena on the 14th).

French victory no doubt…. four flags as trophies, 34 cannon taken, 900 Prussian and Saxon dead, 1800 wounded or captured, plus the Prussian advance guard division was totally shattered save the small detachment under von Pelet. Lannes announced he lost 172 men from this battle…. seems a bit low. At Jena on the 14th, GD Suchet’s Division would continue giving grand service, with the 17th Legere in the forefront of the action.

WR Scenario: Following WR’s normal custom, each of his scenarios has several files. The rosters for both sides in .xls spreadsheet format, the scenario notes file in .doc format and the scenario map drawn to the common scale of 50 yards to the tabletop inch with 12″ squares pencilled on.

Battle of Saalfeld 1806 scenario map, a scenario start, drawn at 50 yards to inch scale. Each map square is 12″ or one foot. French lower map edge, Prussian-Saxons upper edge and at left.

Rosters: Saalfeld French roster 1806,  Saalfeld Prussia Saxon roster

Scenario notes file: Saalfeld 1806 Scenario notes,

Battle of Saalfeld 1806 scenario map showing the starting command positions and possible arrival points for reinforcements.

Prior to this posting, WR wrote up some preparation notes for the Battle of Saalfeld conventio game. These notes can be found here:  Preparation for Saalfeld 1806

Three weekends ago, on the anniversary of the actual Battles of Jena and Auerstadt (October 14, 1806), WR and his warren napoleonic gaming group staged the Battle of Saalfeld 1806 as a tabletop scenario 28mm miniatures game. A complete Battle of Saalfeld 1806 scenario After Action Report (AAR), with photos of this tabletop action and highlights, will soon be posted on WR.

Opening situation at scenario start. Its 1000 hours and the Prussian-Saxon army awaits the French arrival, upper left in photo, near Garnsdorf. The Prussian jager co. engaged at Garnsdorf.

French columns arrive and march towards Garnsdorf occupied by Prussian jagers. French 17th Legere regiment leads French advance followed by the arriving light cavalry under GB Treillard.

The Prussian-Saxon main body at left (eight battalions), in center Pz Louis with Prussian hussars, and at right the Prussian advance guard before old town of Saalfeld.

Another view of the Prussian-Saxon position at scenario start. Main body upper right, Prussian advance guard at left face the approaching French. Oldtown with city walls and Saale river bridge.

Other Saalfeld 1806 scenario formats and links to compare WR’s scenario to other published scenarios and AAR. There are many found with a Google search. Seems Saalfeld is a popular small tabletop scenario to play:

The scenario by Avon Napoleonic Fellowship and their tabletop map:

Gruppo Murat’s Saalfeld scenario. They have an interesting different outlook on the 17th Legere’s elite battalion size. Their scenario map was used by WR as his basic outline.

Another Italian blogger with their Saalfeld game. Honnuer!

NapoleonsHQ blog on the Battle of Saalfeld with a more styled set up:  NapoleonsHQ

Some of the warren library reference materials used to develop WR’s Saalfeld scenario. The Saalfeld game is interesting and playable during a rainy afternoon. Link to some Saalfeld game commentary for those interested and view of game components:  Saalfeld game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miniature Wargaming #314 June 2009 issue with article and scenario formatted as a .pdf: MW Saalfeld Scenario

Some G. Nafigzer October 1806 OOB files:  806JAA,  806JBL and 806JXA

Cheers from the warren. Now to type up the Saalfeld AAR blog post.

WR

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