Combat of Reichenbach, 22 May 1813

The combat of Reichenbach (22 May 1813) was a rearguard action during the Allied retreat after their defeat at Bautzen, most notable for the death of one of Napoleon's closest friends, the Grand Marshal Duroc.

At the end of the battle the Allies had been split between Weissenberg in the north and Löbau in the south. On 22 May both columns moved to Reichenbach (north-east of Löbau, south-east of Weissenberg), and then continued east to Görlitz as a single column. Prince Eugène of Wurttemburg was left with the 7,000 strong rearguard at Reichenbach, fifteen miles east of Bautzen (amongst his forces was a cavalry detachment under Davydov).

War of Liberation 1813 - Spring Campaign
War of Liberation 1813 -
Spring Campaign

The French pursued in two main columns. On the left Reynier's VII Corps and Latour-Maubourg's 1st Cavalry Corps moved towards Reichenbach, with Lauriston's V Corps and the Guard on its left. On the right XI Corps and IV Corps moved through Löbau.

At about 10am Reynier and Napoleon reached Reichenbach, and found the Allied rearguard posted on some heights east of the town. Napoleon ordered Reynier to carry out a frontal assault, while Lauriston advanced around the Allied right. This attack didn't go quickly enough for Napoleon, and he ordered the Guard cavalry (The 'Red Lancers' and the Polish Lancers) to cross the stream that runs through Reichenbach south of the town. The Guard cavalry was hit by fire from two batteries of horse artillery, and then attacked by the Russian cavalry. Latour-Maubourg's cavalry corps was committed to the action, but the French cavalry was never very strong during the 1813 campaign, and the Russians were able to hold their own.

By 3pm Lauriston's outflanking movement had begun to threaten Prince Eugène's right. He had already delayed the French for five hours, so he ordered a retreat east to Markersdorf, four miles to the east. The French took an hour to get moving after the fighting around Reichenbach, and when they reached Markersdorf Prince Eugène retreated without any significant resistance, taking up a new position just outside Görlitz.

After the brief action at Markersdorf, Napoleon ordered VII Corps to resume its advance. Before the attack began an allied round shot passed close to Napoleon and hit a group that included Marshal Mortier, General Kirgener (the general of Engineers) and Grand Marshal Duroc. Mortier escaped without injury, but Kirgener was killed instantly and Duroc was morally wounded. He died twelve hours later in a farmhouse near Markersdorf. This blow clearly deeply affected Napoleon, and he ordered the combat to stop.

This action is also known as the combat of Würtzen (where Duruc was wounded) or of Markersdorf.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (30 March 2017), Combat of Reichenbach, 22 May 1813 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/combat_reichenbach.html

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