Napoleon in Germany 1813
From Jena to Leipzig
Introduction to the Tour
This tour is a rich mix battlefields, fortresses, great museums and architecture. We enjoy the magnificent scenery of Saxon Switzerland in all its autumnal splendour: the meandering River Elbe, a natural moat around the mighty fortification of Koenigstein, flowing southwards through the lovingly restored city of Dresden, where modern architecture mingles with the historic such as the lovingly restored Frauenkirche, and on to the north German Plain where it becomes the formidable barrier that hampered the armies of both sides; the attractive yet strategically positioned trading city of Leipzig, where the zeitgeist of revolution sits alongside tradition and culture. To the west we encounter Thuringia’s lovely wooded hills and valleys whilst to the south we cross the border for a brief incursion in to the Czech Republic.
Whilst Prussia hovered indecisively during the campaign of 1805, Napoleon successfully took Austria out of the war, leaving a smarting Russia who eventually succeeded in convincing Prussia to side with the Allies in 1806. The result was catastrophic. In a lightning campaign in October 1806, Napoleon split her armies and decisively defeated her at the twin battles of Jena and Auerstadt and relentlessly pursued her to the shores of the Baltic. Although it was to take further campaigning in Poland to finally bring Prussia to heel, the victories of 1806 smashed the myth of Prussian military invincibility created by Frederick the Great. Six years of French intimidation followed, during which time Prussia steadily reformed her armies, despite the limitations put upon her. After breaking away from an unnatural alliance into which she was coerced, she once again sided with the Allies in what was to be Napoleon’s last campaign in Germany in 1813, culminating in the massive battle of Leipzig, the so-called “Battle of the Nations”, fought on 16-18 October 1813, which cost the contending armies some 100,000 casualties between them.
- With Military Historian John Lee
- Battlefields of Lutzen, Leipzig, Jena
- Visit beautiful restored Dresden
"I am the successor, not of Louis XIV, but of Charlemagne"."
Day 1 - Fly Out.
Fly London to Berlin and travel to Dresden where we check-in to our hotel for three nights. Welcome drinks and introductory talk.
Day 2 – Dresden.
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 in 1758. This afternoon we return to Dresden to visit its superb military museum, full of weapons, armour, uniforms, dioramas, artillery and tanks. Later we explore the eponymous battlefield fought on 26/27 August 1813, a victory negated by the disaster at Kulm.
Day 3 - Koenigstein.
Drive to the Saxon fortress and artillery museum of Koenigstein, set spectacularly on the rim of the Elbe gorge, where Frederick the Great captured the entire Saxon army in 1756. We allow a free afternoon for you to explore Dresden, when perhaps you might visit the beautifully restored Frauenkirche.
Day 4 – Kulm.
Travel to Kulm in the Czech Republic, the scene of Vandamme’s catastrophic defeat on 30 August 1813. We take a scenic drive to Leipzig through the mountain and autumnal forests and check-in to our hotel for four nights.
Day 5 – Leipzig.
A full day exploring the Battle of the Nations, Leipzig, October 1813. Including visits to museums at the Volkerschlacht Denkmal, Markkleeburg and Leipzig City.
Day 6 – Lutzen.
Continue to Lutzen (or Gross Gorchen), the site of Napoleon’s victory over a combined Prussian and Russian army on 2 May 1813. It was also the scene, in 1632, of the battle in which the great Swedish commander, Gustavus Adolphus, lost his life. We study both battles and visit the museum to the memory of Gustavus Adolphus.
Day 7 - Jena/Auerstadt.
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 8 – Berlin.
On our route northwards to Berlin for our return flight to London, we take the opportunity to look at some of the lesser actions during the 1813 campaign – that of Dennewitz and Gross Beeren where some of Napoleon’s most distinguished marshals proved their inability to succeed in an independent role.