Combat of Goldberg, 23 August 1813

The combat of Goldberg (23 August 1813) was a minor success for Macdonald's Army of the Bobr, but it came three days before that army suffered a heavy defeat on the Katzbach (26 August 1813), a blow that helped undo the benefits of Napoleon's victory at Dresden (War of Liberation).

Marshal Blücher von Wahlstatt
Marshal Blücher
von Wahlstatt

At the start of the Autumn Campaign of 1813 Blücher had been the first Allied commander to move, leading his Army of Silesia west towards Saxony. Napoleon decided to concentrate his forces against Blücher, and headed east. On 21 August the French won a minor victory on the Bobr (combat of the Bobr or Lowenberg), but Blücher retreated without risking a major battle, obeying the terms of the Allies' Trachenberg Plan.

Napoleon was then forced to abandon his pursuit of Blücher when news reached him that the Army of Bohemia was advancing towards Dresden. Napoleon was forced to leave the troops on the Bobr and moved west to restore the situation in Saxony.

Marshal Macdonald was left in charge of a new Army of the Bobr, made up of III, V and XI Corps. A mix-up meant that III Corps (Ney) temporarily headed west, leaving Macdonald with two corps for a couple of days. His orders were to push Blücher east across the Katzbach River (east of the Bobr) to Jauer, and then to withdraw to the Bobr, where he would form a defensive line.

As V and XI advanced east, Blucher retreated towards the Katzbach.

On 22 August V and XI Corps continued to advance. Blucher continued to withdraw, and by the end of the day his left (Langeron) was around Wolfsberg, his right at Rochlict. Langeron's advance guard and a Prussian division occupied the left bank of the Katzbach in advance of Goldberg (Zlotoryja, ten miles to the south west of Liegnitz). Goldberg was on the east bank of the river, and Langeron's men were posted in the villages of Niederau and Oberau, on the west bank (Niederau on the Allied right, Oberau on the Allied left).

Portrait of Marshal Jacques Macdonald, Duke of Taranto, 1765-1840
Portrait of
Marshal Jacques Macdonald,
Duke of Taranto, 1765-1840
War of Liberation 1813 - Autumn Campaign
War of Liberation 1813 -
Autumn Campaign

On 23 August, General Lauriston, who was in temporary command while Macdonald was elsewhere, ordered V and XI Corps to attack Goldberg. XI Corps, supported by a division of light cavalry from Latour-Maubourg's corps was to attack on the left bank of the river, with Gerard's division attacking the Prince of Mecklenburg's division at Niederau while V Corps moved to Seiffenau, a short distance to the south-west up the river, to attack the Allied left flank.

The Prince of Mecklebourg's division put up some fierce resistance at Niederau but was forced to retreat after its guns were dismounted. The Russian advance guard, which was in Oberau, was also forced to retreat.

V Corps, on the right, emerged from Seiffenau, and clashed with Langeron's corps. The heights of Wolsfberg were captured and recaptured three times, finally stopping in French hands after the Mamelon cavalry from Rochambeau's division attacked. The Russians were driven out after suffering heavy losses.

Elsewhere General Sebas's 3rd Corps and cavalry had been posed before Liegnitz, while Sacken's corps crossed the Katzbach and took up a position on the heights of Pinkendorf.

The Allies lost 7,000 men dead, wounded or prisoners on 21-23 August, but the French lost Napoleon's presence. When Blücher realised that Napoleon was gone he began to advance once again, and on 26 August the two armies clashed in an encounter battle on the Katzbach, just to the north-east of the fighting on 23 August. Macdonald didn't handle his army well, suffered a heavy defeat, and was never able to really restore the morale of his men.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (12 May 2017), Combat of Goldberg, 23 August 1813 ,

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