Thursday, January 17, 2013

1806 Campaign -- Battle of Gotha

The Battle of Gotha opens on the left flank, while Hoehnlohe pulls back to Gera on the right.

As dawn broke on Oct. 13, the crack of musketry could be heard on the outskirts of Gotha as Marshal Murat and Marshal Lannes hurried their troops to the front where Ruchel was attemptoing to hold the crossroads.

While I don't know the details of the fighting -- perhaps the commanders involved can comment -- the maps reveal a battle that ebbed and flowed. Lannes and Murat were able to threaten Ruchel's flank, but they were not able to roust him from position, probably because the French force was short on infantry. While there were clouds of French cavalry about, only two divisions of infantry were present, and Lannes was further constrained by Napoleon's instructions not to get too entangled. Given how Lannes handled later battles, it's quite possible he might have driven Ruchel from the field if given a free hand.

Meanwhile, on the right, Hohenlohe disappeared again, and Soult looked to regain contact. The rest of the French units hit the road again, having largely digested Napoleon's new instructions. With Murat's contact of the Prussians on the left, Napoleon felt his feint would stgart to work, now that it had been detected. He was unaware that the capture of Murat's messenger had revealed his plans to the Prussian commander and robbed the feint of its effect.

Augerau was on his way to relieve Soult's right flank guard units and Ney was starting to pick his way through the pass leading to Saalfeld to take up  position on the left flank. Meanwhile Davout was beginning a remarkable force march to rejoin the main body of the army. Unknown to me, the Prussian army was also on the move, although probably a day too late.

As night falls on the Gotha battlefield, Ruchel's troops have pushed the French back to the hill crests. Meanwhile the rest of the French army is on the move toward the right flank and the Prussians are stirring as well.
 Tomorrow -- A day of movement

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