This was a very significant campaign. At the start of 1813 Napoleon still appeared to dominate Europe, despite the disasters in Russia. His troops occupied Prussia, and still held a line in Poland. Prussia had yet to join the war against him, and Austria was still officially an ally. Most of the rest of Germany was also still dominated by French troops. Even after the Prussians officially joined the war, this was still Napoleon’s last real chance to save his Empire. His failure to take full advantage of his victories at Lutzen and Bautzen forced him to agree to the summer armistice, and encouraged the Austrians to join the war, dramatically changing the odds against a French victory. Despite that importance, it is often treated as a prelude to the autumn campaign and the famous battle of Leipzig, where Napoleon’s power was finally broken.
In some sections the book is perhaps too detailed to be really readable. This does make it a very useful reference work, especially for the more obscure sieges and combats of the period, which I had struggled to find any details of in the past, but on occasions the amount of detail makes the text somewhat bitty, jumping from one siege to the next, and making it necessary to jump around the text to get a complete picture of a siege. The author also tends to repeat the detailed troop dispositions rather too often, especially early on, tracing quite minor movements on an almost daily basis. While this is valuable information, it might have been better placed in an appendix, with a less detailed overview in the main text.
Despite these fairly minor flaws, this is a very valuable account of this campaign, well researched and including all of the details I wished I’d had access to when I was writing my own articles on this topic, and it will allow me to go back and fill in many gaps. There is a good anaylsis of the reasons for the French failure, from the poor quality of the cavalry in 1813 to the limited abilities of many of Napoleon’s subordinates – in particular the men who ended in in command in Poland and Prussia early in 1813, who really should have been able to keep the Russians from advancing so far west so quickly. Napoleon’s own failings during this campaign are also acknowledged, not least his refusal to accept any reasonable diplomatic end of the war.
1 - Out of the Snows of Russia: The Military Situation, January-February 1813
2 - The Politics of Early 1813
3 - The Race to Rearm
4 - Befreiungskrieg! The War of Liberation Begins, March 1813
5 - The Cossacks Strike West
6 - The Political Situation, April-May
7 - The French Offensive Begins
8 - Davout's Operations in the North
9 - Prelude to a Battle
10 - The Battle of Lutzen, 2 May 1813
11 - The French Advance Continues
12 - Prelude to Bautzen, 16-19 May 1813
13 - The Battle of Bautzen: The First Day, 20 May 1813
14 - The Battle of Bautzen: The Second Day, 21 May 1813
15 - The Aftermath of Bautzen and the Path to Armistice, 22 May-1 June 1813
16 - Armistice
Author: George Hafziger