Combat of Dohna, 8 September 1813 (Saxony)

The combat of Dohna (8 September 1813) was a minor French victory over the troops of Barclay de Tolly, then advancing up the left bank of the Elbe towards Dresden (War of Liberation).

In the aftermath of the French victory at Dresden (26-27 August), the Army of Bohemia had retreated back into Bohemia, defeating Vandamme's corps on the way (battle of Kulm, 29-30 August 1813). The French had also suffered defeats at Grossbeeren (23 August 1813), where Oudinot's advance on Berlin ended, and on the Katzbach (26 August 1813), where Macdonald suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Blücher and began a rapid retreat west.

War of Liberation 1813 - Autumn Campaign
War of Liberation 1813 - Autumn Campaign

Napoleon decided to send Ney north to attack Berlin once again, while he moved east to support Macdonald. St. Cyr was left to defend Dresden.

Schwarzenberg, the Austrian commander of the Army of Bohemia, decided to advance up both sides of the Elbe. He led 60,000 men up the right bank, nearest to Napoleon, possibly in the belief that Napoleon was about to move south to attack Prague. Barclay de Tolly was sent up the left bank to threaten Dresden. This would probably force Napoleon back to Dresden, and perhaps give Schwarzenberg and Blücher the chance to destroy Macdonald's army.

As Barclay advanced, St. Cyr was forced to pull back towards Dresden and by 8 September he had been forced to retreat behind the River Müglitz, seven miles to the south-east of Dresden, although his advance guard held on in Dohna and Heidenau. Napoleon reached Dresden on 6 September, but he seems to have been unusually reluctant to try and trap Barclay's isolated troops. By the afternoon of 8 September he was prepared to advance, although he decided to delay the main advance until the following day.

There was some fighting on 8 September. St. Cyr's XIV Corps was ordered to recross the Müglitz. St. Cyr was able to take advantage of his bridgeheads at Dohna and Heidenau, but there was then some hard fighting before Barclay's troops retreated three and a half miles east to Zehista (just south of Pirna on the Elbe).

Over the next few days the Allies retreated, after realising that they now faced Napoleon. On 10 September Napoleon had a chance to attack Barclay's isolated force at the Geiersberg, but only a minor combat took place. Napoleon decided that the risk was too great and decided to withdraw. 

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (15 June 2017), Combat of Dohna, 8 September 1813 (Saxony) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/combat_dohna.html

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