Monday, January 21, 2013

1806 campaign Day Seven -- Battle of Jena

Dawn breaks with Hohenlohe's troops nowhere to be seen, but Brunswick and Ney well engaged.
This day saw action occurring in three different areas. The quietest was the main front, as the Prussian main body under Hohenlohe settled into a new defense line and the main body of the French army followed. Davout was the quickest out the gate, but the other corps commanders also started edging forward.

Napoleon, realizing that a major battle was unlikely this day, took advantage of the lull to ride over to the left flank and finally get a first-hand look at what was happening over there.

This is what he found when he arrived at Ney's headquarters :

Lannes had already been given leave to go north to cooperate with Ney and he did an excellent job of it, swinging around Ney's flank while he pinned Brunswick in place and slamming into Brunswick's flank.

Napoleon decided to stay an observe the battle, taking dinner with Ney. By the time dinner was finished and Napoleon was ready to head back to the main front, the battle of Jena looked fairly well won:

As Napoleon rode south to return to Soult's headquarters, where he planned to spend the night, he came across this scene:

While Suchet was hard-pressed, Napoleon thought the widely separated elements of the Prussian army could nor possibly be in effective communication with each other and that there was a chance to continue to defeat them in detail.

Ruchel had stirred enough through forced marching to become a factor in the main front, running into a portion of Murat's force along the road to Neustadt. Murat's troopers were too tired from a straight 48 hours in the saddle to be more than a speed bump -- but a speed bump was sufficient. Ruchel was about 12 hours too late to play the dangerous role that he could have played. Events would prove that he arrived on the scene just as the campaign was being decided elsewhere.
As elements of the French army close in on Hohenlohe's position, Ney and Lannes fight a neat little action around Jena. Meanwhile some of Murat's troopers find Prussians on the road behind them.

Still, Ruchel's appearance did provoke Nappy into making a rash call of the sort he had promised himself he wouldn't make. Based on Lannes and Ney's reports I judged that Brunswick had been neutralized and therefore ordered that Lannes keep up the pursuit while Ney turned around to deal with Saxe and Wartens. Murat was given overall "tactical command" to oversee the encirclement of Saxe and Wartens using his own cavalry reserve and Ney. I told him I would send the Guard as well. After dispatching these orders Napoleon returned to Soult.
Lannes outflanks Brunswick.

Well, it was a nice plan on paper, but in reality, none of it happened. Ney was, it turned out, almost fought out and Lannes got a sudden desire to seize Weimar and therefore stopped pursuing Brunswick. Murat didn't actually have most of his corps present. Two divisions were with the main army and three were floating around far to the west. One of the two actually present was in the process of being destroyed and so he had just one tired bunch of troopers available. Oh, and Nappy changed his mind a few hours and decided he had a better use for the Guard.

Tomorrow: The Battle of Altenbourg

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