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Napoleon in Germany 1813

The 200th Anniversary of Leipzig

After his disastrous campaign in Russia, Napoleon abandoned his army before Vilna on 5 December 1812 and returned to Paris to raise a new army. In less than 5 months he was back in Germany at the head of a new, but inexperienced army of some 200,000 men. His challenge was immense: his former Prussian allies had turned against him, mobilised a considerable Landwehr army and were stoking the fires of German nationalism; his Austrian allies had abandoned him and withdrawn from the conflict; numerous French garrisons were isolated on the Vistula and Oder; and his recent Russian foe had had time to re-organise, reinforce and march to join their new Prussian partners. For a while, the Napoleon of old showed flashes of genius as he defeated the coalition forces in a series of pyrrhic victories which nevertheless won him an armistice. But he failed to convert this into an advantageous peace thus bringing a frustrated Austria into the fray. Meanwhile the Allies had learnt to avoid contact with Napoleon, defeating his subordinate commanders in a series of battles instead. Gradually the Emperor found his enemies closing in on him from all directions and Napoleon’s last campaign in Germany came to an inevitable conclusion at the ‘Battle of Nations’ at Leipzig in October 1813.

Our ten-day bicentenary anniversary tour to Germany visits nearly all of the major Napoleonic battles fought during the 1813 campaign as well as the Napoleon’s great victory over the Prussians at Jena in 1806. Indeed Napoleon was not the only great commander to wage war in Saxony and we explore some of the battles fought by Fredrick the Great and Gustavus Adolphus, commanders who were admired by Napoleon and influenced his own approach to warfare. The tour is timed so that we will be able to participate in the 200th commemorations and anticipated re-enactment of Leipzig.

I am the successor, not of Louis XIV, but of Charlemagne".


Day 1.

Fly London - Berlin.  Drive to Jena and check into our hotel for two nights.

Day 2.

We spend the morning exploring the battlefield of Jena.  We climb above the Landgrafenberg and walk the Windknollen, from where Napoleon began his move against the Prussians.  We also visit the villages of Cospeda, Closewitz, Vierzehnheiligen and Isserstedt. This afternoon we tour the field of Auerstadt, fought on the same day as Jena.

Day 3.

To Rossbach, Frederick the Great’s masterpiece of 1757. Thence to Lutzen (or Gross Gorchen), Napoleon’s first victory in the campaign on 2 May 1813.  We drive up the road, to where the great Swedish commander, Gustavus Adolphus, lost his life at the battle of the same name in 1632. Continue to the beautifully restored city of Dresden and check into our hotel for four nights.

Day 4.

We visit the battlefield of Bautzen where, on 20 & 21 May 1813, Napoleon got the better of 100,000 Russians and Prussians. It was also here where an impetuous Frederick the Great received a bloody nose during the battle of Hochkirch.

Day 5.

This morning we visit the battle of Dresden, fought on 26/27 August 1813 before visiting Dresden’s superb recently renovated military museum. In the afternoon you have an opportunity to explore this famous historic city at leisure.

Day 6.

Drive to the Saxon fortress and artillery museum of Koenigstein, set spectacularly on the rim of the Elbe gorge and where Frederick the Great captured the entire Saxon army in 1756. Thence to Kulm, where on 30 August, the fiery Vandamme was forced to surrender.

Day 7 & 8.

Travel to historic Leipzig where we spend our next two nights. Over this anniversary weekend our battlefield tour of Leipzig will be determined by the planned commemorative events, many of which we will attend. A major battle re-enactment is anticipated. From the top of the massive ‘volkerschlactdenkmal’ (which is celebrating its 100th anniversary) you will gain a 360 degree panorama of the city and its battlefield (but be warned, although there is a lift, it only takes you so far up!). We will travel out to Wachu, Liebertwolkwitz, Probstheida in the south and make out what we can from the north at Mokern and visit Gustavus Adolphus’s battle at Breitenfeld.

Day 9.

We drive to Wartenberg, where Blucher forced his way across the Elbe to open operations on the west bank prior to Leipzig. Thence to Dennewitz where Bernadotte and Bulow broke Ney on 5 September. Continue to our hotel in Potsdam.

Day 10.

To Gross Beeren, where Oudinot was defeated by Bulow on 23 August. Fly Berlin – London.