Battle of Halle 1806

In basic summary, the Battle of Halle October 17, 1806 was fought with a French corps led by Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte against the Prussian Reserve command led by Eugene Frederick Henry, Duke of Württemberg. The French defeated their opponents across the river Saale, forcing the Prussians to retreat generally northeast toward Dessau after suffering heavy losses. The city of Halle is located about 30 kilometers northwest of Leipzig, location of the large later 1813 battle, but for this campaign just a march stop by the victorious French army passing through towards Berlin.

Marshal Bernadotte’s I Corps consisted of 19,000 veteran infantry, 1,580 cavalry, and 34 artillery pieces. GD Dupont de l’Etang led 7,000-man 1st Division, GD Rivaud de la Raffinière commanded 6.000-strong 2nd Division, GD Drouet, Comte d’Erlon headed the 6,000-man 3rd Division, GB de Tilly commanded attached corps light cavalry brigade, and GD Eblé commanded I corps artillery reserve cannon. The  French 1st Division consisted of GB Rouyer‘s 9th Legere regiment of three battalions, GB Legendre d’Harvesse’s 32nd and 96th Ligne regiments of two battalions each, and two foot artillery batteries of 12 total guns. The 2nd Division included GB Pacthod‘s 8th Legere regiment of two battalions, GB Maison‘s 45th and 54th Ligne regiments, again of two battalions each, and one horse and one foot artillery battery of 12 total guns. The 3rd Division comprised GB Frère’s 27th Legere regiment of two battalions, GB Werlé‘s 94th Ligne regiment of two battalions, 95th Ligne regiment had three battalions, and one horse and one foot artillery battery of 14 total guns. Note that each infantry division has several small converged 3rd battalion elite company (grenadier and voltiguer) units. GB Tilly’s attached cavalry brigade consisted of the 2nd and 4th Hussar regiments and the 5th Chasseurs à cheval regiment (with GD Drouet for the moment), all of four squadrons each. In the artillery reserve there were one horse and one 12 pdr foot artillery battery of 12 total guns.

Eugene of Württemberg mustered 16,000 Prussian troops in the Prussian Reserve. His Prussian Reserve command included two infantry divisions, an advance guard brigade, and a cavalry reserve. GM von Natzmer’s 1st Division comprised the IR #17 Treskow regiment (detached), the IR #51 Kauffberg regiment, and the #54 Natzmer regiment, all of two musketeer battalions each, Added to the division was the Schmeling and Crety Grenadier converged battalions, and one and a half foot artillery batteries of 12 guns. GM von Jung-Larisch’s 2nd Division consisted of the IR #4 Kalkreuth regiment, the IR #53 Jung-Larisch regiment, and the IR #55 Manstein regiment (two battalions each), plus the Vieregg Grenadier converged battalion, and one and a half foot artillery batteries of 12 guns. GM von Hinrichs‘ Advance Guard brigade, generally positioned to secure the Saale covered bridge crossings, included the Borell Fusilier battalion #9, the Knorr Fusilier battalion #12, and Hinrichs’ own Fusilier battalion #17, two squadrons of Usedom Hussar regiment #10, one squadron of Hertzberg Dragoon Regiment #9, one squadron of Heyking Dragoon Regiment #10, and two 6 pdr. horse artillery pieces. The reserve cavalry command, under Oberst von Hertzberg, comprised the remaining eight squadrons of Usedom Hussar regiment #10, four squadrons of Hertzberg Dragoon regiment #9, four squadrons of Heyking Dragoon regiment #10, and one horse artillery battery of six guns (the other two cannon with advance guard). In total there were 18 battalions, 20 squadrons, and 32 guns.At the close of the victorious French Jena-Auerstedt October 14th battles, Bernadotte had the ended his day’s march for the divisions of GD Drouet and GD Rivaud near Apolda while GD Dupont’s and the corps artillery remained at Dornburg. The position of Tilly’s light cavalry wasn’t described in WR’s sources but WR assumes they were at Apolda with the forward divisions. On the morning of 15 October, Napoleon instructed Bernadotte and I Corps to march to Bad Bibra, Querfurt, and then onwards to Halle, not knowing the true location of Eugene of Wurttemberg’s Reserve command at the time his orders were sent. By the morning of the 16th Bernadotte’s advance guard was about five kilometers north of Bad Bibra. His scouts and locals reported that the Prussian Reserve lay at Halle and planned his attack for the following day.

Back on 10th October, Eugene was marching to Magdeburg. He received new orders to proceed onwards Halle from the council of war held by the Prussian headquarters. On the 13th October, the Reserve arrived at Halle, with a fusilier battalion at Merseburg to the south and another unknown detachment at Leipzig to the southeast acting as outposts. The detached IR #17 Treskow regiment and some hussars was following his line of march, was at Aschersleben (northwest of Halle), en route from Magdeburg to Halle.

The next day Eugene received an order to remain at Halle and that the Prussian main army was falling back in his direction. That day he heard the cannonade from the Jena-Auerstedt battles south of Halle. It was not until the evening of the 15th that he heard about the military disaster suffered by the Prussian main army at the twin battles. On the 16th October, Eugene still had received no further orders from any Prussian senior officer. So he instructed the fusilier battalion detachment at Merseburg, been reinforced to two and a half fusilier battalions now, to retire back to Halle and rejoin his command at Halle. The Leipzig detachment he also recalled, while sending an unknown detachment to hold Dessau on the Elbe River and secure the river bridges. Eugene then deployed his main infantry force on high ground on Halle’s south side, with his battle line facing northwest toward the city and his left flank bent back. The two and a half fusiliers battalions arriving back from Merseburg were left to defend the covered bridges on the Saale west side of Halle, together with dragoon and hussar regiment detachments. The Usedom Hussars #10 were nearby, at the junction of the Saale and the Weisse Elster rivers, just south of Halle. The IR #17 Treskow regiment meanwhile had marched south to Eisleben, to the west-northwest of Halle. Not knowing what was going on with the main Prussian army retreat since the 14th October, he awaited in his position at Halle as Marshal Bernadotte and I corps approached from the south.

Prussian covered bridge example still standing at Jestetten Baden-Wurttemberg. The three bridges to Halle over the river Saale are mentioned as being covered bridges.

Interesting article on historical German covered bridges:  German Covered Bridges

Before dawn on the 17th October, Bernadotte’s I corps set out from Querfurt to the west-southwest of Halle. Before long, he received scouting intelligence that a Prussian column was approaching from Eisleben as he neared Halle from the western side of the Saale. He left GD Drouet’s infantry division to observe the approaching Eisleben column and hurried on toward Halle with GD Dupont and GD Rivaud’s divisions and Tilly’s light cavalry brigade (less the 5th Chasseurs). In 1806 west side of Halle, the Saale river divides into three branches and the road from Querfurt and Eisleben crossed these branches via a series of covered bridges, called the Hohe Brücke. On the west bank, to the north of the highway, stretched the Dolau wood on raised ground. From old town Halle, which is entirely on the Saale east bank, radiate out roads to Magdeburg in the north, to Dessau and Wittenberg in the northeast, to Leipzig in the southeast, and to Merseburg in the south from the old town walls. History mentions two city gates, to the northeast named the Steinthor, and the gate to the southeast called the Galgenthor playing their parts in the forthcoming battle.

On 17th October, Eugene of Württemberg counted 11,350 infantry, 1,675 cavalry, and 58 guns at Halle, not including the IR #17 Treskow Regiment marching to join his command at Halle. Not counting GD Drouet’s division sent to observe the Prussian column near Eisleban, Marshal Bernadotte’s force that morning numbered 12,190 infantry, 1,000 cavalry, and 12 guns. Beginning at 0800 hours, Bernadotte’s advance guard pressed back the dragoon detachment from Passendorf on the western Saale bank. In response, Eugene sent four fusilier infantry companies (a battalion) and two guns to support the retiring dragoons. Five (four maybe or another battalion) more fusilier companies with four cannons to defend the first island in the Saale. Later that morning, as the fusilier battalions were engaged, Eugene belatedly started his civilian contractor driven wagon trains back toward Dessau. Fearing that the French were at hand, the Prussian teamsters quickly panicked and fled up the road, abandoning many wagons of needed military supplies.

Old print of Halle city town.

Mid 19th century map clip showing the clearly defined old town and city wall around Halle, the Psssendorf highway and bridges over the river Saale and the heights south of Halle.

Bernadotte set about to launch his attack at 1000 hours across the Hohe Brücke. Holding back his cavalry brigade under GB Tilly and the 96th Ligne regiment, he sent GD Dupont’s 32nd Ligne regiment charging for the covered bridges, with one battalion of the 9th Legere and three guns in close support. Racing along the embanked road in columns and flanked by fleet-footed skirmishers, the French battalion columns punched through the Prussian fusilier defenders to seize the first covered bridge and then the island. The Prussians fusiliers on either side of the road were cut off from the covered bridge and become prisoners. Those dragoons who did not pull back in time were forced to swim across the river. In less than an hour, GD Dupont’s troops continued forward and captured all three bridges and GM von Hinrichs himself. They burst into the Halle town, overwhelmed another Prussian fusilier battalion in the central marketplace (Marktplatz), and chased another unknown (musketeer?) battalion out the Steinthor. Rapidly, old town Halle was occupied along with both the Galgenthor and Steinthor old town wall gateways. At this point the French infantry attack paused to wait for the rest of Bernadotte’s I Corps to appear and march in via the cleared Saale covered bridges.

Marktplatz in Halle with its famous bell tower.

Leipziger Turm (part of old town wall and fire watch tower) near the Galgenthor gate.









Deployed southeast of Halle, Eugene found himself in an awkward position with his line of retreat to the north stretching past the east side of old town Halle. He quickly shifted two battalions northward to face the Steinthor gate and prevent the French from cutting him off from marching towards Dessau. Reinforced by the remainder of GD Dupont’s division, the French improvised defenses at the Steinthor and Galgenthor and in the gardens along the edge of Halle awaiting the possibility of Prussian assault. When GD Rivaud’s division began to arrive after crossing the Saale , led by the 8th Legere, it was fed into the line near the southern Galgenthor. This allowed GD Dupont to mass his division, together with a hussar regiment from GB Tilly’s brigade, to the north near the Steinthor. The French skirmishers moved forward and subjected the Prussians to severe harassing fire.

At length, the French surged forth from old town Halle and attacked the Prussian musketeer and cavalry battle line deployed outside. These musketeer regiments covered the bulk of the Prussian Reserve battalions and train shifting position northward and then marching towards Dessau. In between the town gates, the Prussian defenders swept the ground with intense artillery fire. But at the Steinthor and Galgenthor, the attackers rapidly gained the upper hand and pushed back the Prussians. The Prussian cavalry reserve (except the Usedom Hussar regiment #10), was deployed east of the Funckengarten near the Steinthor, was flanked and fell back toward Mötzlich to the northeast of Halle. Eugene’s formation soon was split in two, his right-wing retreating northeast toward Dessau and his left-wing toward Bitterfeld, a town 28 km further south of Dessau. The right-wing fell back in good order, pausing at Mötzlich and at Oppin where a Prussian dragoon cavalry charge discouraged further pursuit. The left-wing had worse luck, being chased by GD Rivaud’s arriving division and most of Bernadotte’s light cavalry under GB Tilly. The Prussian Usedom Hussar regiment #10 managed to repulse the French cavalry near Rabatz for the moment eastward of Halle, but were driven off by GD Drouet’s newly arrived 94th Line and 5th Chasseurs. The French light cavalry, less one hussar regiment, chased the left-wing as far as Bitterfeld where the Prussians managed to burn the bridge over the Mulde River to end the pursuit (30 km pursuit distance from Halle).

GM von Treskow with his regiment, finding the highway blocked by GD Drouet’s division at Nietleben, tried to reach Halle by moving to the north of the Dolau wood and raised heights. As he approached the Halle bridges, von Treskow’s progress was checked by a few infantrymen of the 8th Legere (GB Pacthod and probably one of those small converged elite 3rd btn.) until GD Drouet’s infantry arrived on the scene. The Prussians deployed the two battalions with their left flank on the Saale and their right on a vineyard. Believing he had enough troops to deal with GM von Treskow, GD Drouet previously had sent the 94th Ligne regiment and the 5th Chasseurs à cheval over the Hohe Brücke to help GD Rivaud east of Halle. He then attacked the IR #17 Treskow with the 27th Legere, 95th Ligne, and two cannons. Prevented from escaping through the Dolau wood by a blocking force left there by GD Drouet, GM von Treskow retreated north along the west bank in two separate battalion squares. Near Kröllwitz downriver, the Prussian regimental force fell into confusion as it crossed a marshy area and lost all of its cannons. Soon after, GD Drouet pounced on the hapless IR #17 Treskow regiment and forced its surrender after inflicting 200 killed and wounded on it. The Prussians themselves reported 13 officers killed, 26 wounded, and 74 “captured”, which doesn’t make sense if the regiment surrendered. Altogether, about 5,000 Prussian soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured during the Halle battle. Four colors of the IR #17 Treskow regiment and 11 various cannon were captured, Bernadotte admitted about 800 killed and wounded from the action and pursuit.

WR Scenario for the Battle of Halle: Back in April 2015 WR posted up the AAR from Dan’s M. scenario for the same Battle of Halle, along with the AAR commentary he provided for the game. Basically WR used the balance of Dan’s scenario design with a few changes for his own scenario version; added more wet or bog lands around the river Saale, revised the river Saale crossing ability, provided tabletop space to game the French Halle breakout portion, and added the arrival of IR #17 Treskow at the Dolau wooded heights to give the French another aspect to handle during the scenario tabletop battle.

Scenario map drawn to WR’s common scenario scale. Each map square is 12″ or 50yds to inch. Map detail note: The Dolau woods is up left corner.

Scenario map:

Scenario map showing the start location for each command. Also the arriving reinforcements are near their entrance edge. See scenario notes for full details.

Scenario notes (.doc):  Halle 1806 Scenario Notes

Scenario French and Prussian rosters (.xls files): Halle 1806 French roster, and Halle 1806 Prussian Roster

Some Nafizger list to check out on French organization at this period. Interesting there no Prussian Reserve Command list: 806JAF  806IAL   806JAB

Cheers from the warren.


Side note: Baroque composer Georg Friedrich Händel (later George Frideric Handel) was born in Halle in 1685 and spent the first 17 years of his life in the city. The family house, called Händelhaus locally. is now a museum about his life.

3 thoughts on “Battle of Halle 1806

  1. Good afternoon.
    Thanks for the interesting article, I read with curiosity.
    I’m interested in the list of officers of the regiment №54 von Nazmer. One of the family of my ancestors was a major there and participated, among others, in the Battle of Auerstadt.
    Unfortunately, I could not figure out where the names of the officers of this regiment might be.

    • Petr,
      That’s a hard one…. Regimental officers below the rank of Oberst. Found in German sources no doubt. Have you tried to find the modern day regiment which assumed the IR #54 linkage or line of succession? They “may” have a regimental history of officers for the regiment… if the documents were not destroyed in WWII war period.

      General info which I found…. but not detailed enough to battalion commander (Major) level.

      Infantry Regiment Nr. 54

      This regiment formed part of Wurttemberg’s General Reserve. It later surrendered at Ratekau and was reformed in 1808 as the 2nd West Prussian Infantry Regiment.

      01.03.1786: Bonin, Generalmajor [later Generalleutnant] Bogislav-Ernst von (1727-1797) 29.12.1794: Mosch, Generalmajor [later Generalleutnant] Christoph-Friedrich von (1733-1821)
      28.01.1799: Natzmer, Oberst [later Generalmajor] Hans-Christoph von (1743-1807)

      Another source in German:

      Chefs des Regiments
      1773 01.12. Oberst Albrecht Ehrentreich v. Rohr
      1784 22.04. Oberst Carl Kuno Ludwig v. Klitzing,
      sp. Generalmajor
      1786 01.03. Generalmajor Bogislav Ernst v. Bonin,
      sp. Generalleutnant 1794 29.12. Generalmajor Christian Friedrich v. Mosch,
      sp. Kommandant in Wesel
      1799 28.01. Oberst Hans Christoph v. Natzmer,
      sp. Generalmajor

      Ab Dezember 1773 wurde das vierte neue Füsilier-Regiment in Graudenz und Kulm errichtet und am 1. Dezember ds. Js. dem Oberst v. Rohr als Chef verliehen. Die Offiziere kamen teils aus der Armee, teils aus fremden Diensten. Zum Stamm wurden Unteroffiziere aus der Magdeburgischen Inspektion herangezogen. Gemeine gaben die an der Grenze liegenden Regimenter Ostpreußens und Schlesiens ab. Die Zahl der geworbenen ‘Ausländer war erst im September 1774 vollzählig. Die Einziehung je eines Drittels der Kantonisten für die Dauer von zwei Monaten begann bereits auf Befehl vom 17. März 1774, also schon nach 14 Wochen. Mit der Werbung im Reich sollten die jetzt weitgehend polnischen Kantonisten durchsetzt werden.
      Das Regiment stand im ‘Kulmer Land‘ zwischen Drewenz und Weichsel im Raum der Städte Kulm, Bromberg, Thorn.
      Garnisonen waren 1773 bis 1777 Graudenz für ein Bataillon und Kulm für das zweite mit Grenadieren. 1779 bis 1792 war das ganze Regiment in Graudenz vereint. 1795 bis 1806 lag es wieder wie anfangs in Graudenz und KuIm die Grenadiere seit 1799 in Marienburg. Das 1796 aufgestellte III. Musketier-Bataillon stand bis 1799 in Graudenz und Marienwerder.

      Ab 1800 ebenfalls vollständig in Graudenz, das sich zu einer starken Garnison entwickelte. Sein Ersatz kam beiderseits der Weichsel aus den Kreisen Kulm, Culmsee, Lippinken, Roggenhausen, Rehden, Graudenz, Schwetz und Tuchel mit den Städten Kulm, Graudenz, Rehden, Briesen, Schwetz, Konitz, Lessen, Kowalewo und Culmsee.
      1806 im Korps Württemberg, später Blücher, löste es sich durch die Kapitulation von Ratekau am 7. November auf. Gediente kamen ins 4. Ostpreußische Infanterie-Regiment, das III. Bataillon, das Graudenz mit verteidigt hatte, kam 1808 zum 2. Westpreußischen Infanterie-Regiment, später Grenadier-Regiment König Wilhelm I. (2. Westpreuß.) Nr. 7 Liegnitz, den sogenannten ‘Königsgrenadieren‘.

      1794 stand es Ende Mai bei Lowicz und Rawa; die Grenadiere kämpften bei Skala unweit Krakau und in der Schlacht bei Rawka am 6. Juni bei Chebdzie am linken Flügel. Ab 13. Juli war das Regiment bei Wola westlich Warschau eingesetzt, um die Belagerung einzuleiten. Für die Erstürmung der Schanzen von Wawrzyszew und der Bastion Powonske am 26. und 28. August bekam es am 3. September vier Pour-le-merite.


      Maybe something in this book found on Google source: 1806: das preussische Offizierkorps und die Untersuchung der Kriegsereignisse

      Google source tripped on this book too: Der Feldzug der alliirten und nordischen Völker im Jahre 1806 und 1807, Volume 1

      Hope that is some worth for you.
      Michael aka WR

      • P.S The IR #54 Natzmer wasn’t at Jena or Auerstadt battles. It was part of the General Reserve under Eugene of Wuttemburg. After the Battle of Halle that army marched north and joined Blucher’s command, leading to the surrender near Ratekau.

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