Combat of Wethau, 10 October 1813

The combat of Wethau (10 October 1813) was part of an unsuccessful attempt by Allied troops to stop Marshal Augereau's IX Corps reaching Leipzig.

For most of the 1813 campaign Augereau had been posted on the River Inn, operating alongside the Bavarians to guard against an Austrian invasion of southern Germany. On 17 September Napoleon decided to call him north. Augereau was ordered to move north to guard the River Saale, moving via Würzburg, Coburg and Jena. His orders were changed again on 5 October. This time he was to move to Leipzig, join with Arrigi, and take command of the garrison.

Although Augereau was operating some way behind the front line, there were also Allied troops in the area. Maurice, prince of Lichtenstein (Austrian 1st Light Division) and General Thielmann were operating ahead of the main Army of Bohemia, and decided to try and intercept Augereau before he could reach Leipzig. The first clash came at Flemmingen, just to the west of Naumburg (30 miles to the west/ south-west of Leipzig). Subervie's dragoons pushed the Allies back.

On 9 October Augereau reached Naumburg. Lichtenstein and Thilman had taken possession of the defile of Wethau, where the road from Naumburg to Weissenfels (and then to Leipzig) crossed a tributary of the Saale (Wethau is both the name of the stream and of the first village on the river when heading south from the Saale).

On 10 October Augereau sent General Aymar, with three battalions of light artillery and some guns to capture the defile. The position was taken, and the French cavalry (Milhaud) passed through to pursue the retreating Allies. 

The pursuit ended on the plains west of the town of Zeitz, to the east of Wethay. The Allies then rallied, and put up a determined resistance. The French cavalry carried out a series of attacks, under Generals Montélégier and Subervie, but appear to have got rather carried away. One squadron from the 13th Dragoons (Ligneville) was surrounded by 800 Allied cavalry and had to form a circle and wait to be rescued.

Eventually the Allies retreated in some disorder to Zeitz, having lose 600 dead and 600 prisoners. The French lost around 200 dead and wounded. The French cavalry included some veterans who had crossed Europe from Spain, and were said to be eager to get revenge for their defeat at Vittoria.

On 12 October Augereau reached Leipzig, where he would play a part in the battle of Leizpig one week later.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (22 August 2017), Combat of Wethau, 10 October 1813 ` ,

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