Combat of Hainau, 26 May 1813

The combat of Hainau (26 May 1813) was a rare Allied success during their retreat after the battle of Bautzen, and saw a Prussian cavalry force ambush an isolated French division east of Hainau (War of Liberation).

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

In the aftermath of their defeat at Bautzen (20-21 May 1813) the Russians and Prussians retreated east, through Görlitz and into Silesia. The Russian commanders wanted to pull back into Poland to reorganise, the Prussians to make a stand somewhere in Prussia. Tsar Alexander came up with a compromise - the Allies would retreat to Schweidnitz in Silesia (now Swidnica in Poland, south-west of Wroclaw, via Leignitz (Legnica).

On the morning of 26 May Napoleon's orders placed Marshal Ney, with V Corps and VII Corps, on the road to Hainau (modern Chojnow, 10 miles west of Legnice). General Maison's division of V Corps was in the lead, and it passed through Hainau at around 3pm. Maison had 4,000 infantry, but only 50 cavalry to act as scouts.

The Allies had three battalions of infantry and three regiments of Prussian light cavalry in the village. As the French advanced, these troops retreated. Maison pushed through Hainau to follow the retreating Prussians.

East of Hainau his route took him across a series of ridges. He was thus unable to see a force of Prussian cavalry (under Genreal Ziethen) that was waiting to attack. Maison halted his advance just beyond Michelsdorf, a village on the road between Hainau and Leignitz. As the French prepared to camp, the Prussians set fire to a mill to signal that the attack should begin. 3,000 cavalry hit the French infantry while they were out of formation, preparing to camp. They broke and fled back to Michelsdorf, where they found two battalions from another division. Puthod's division then arrived on the scene and the Prussians withdrew.

In this short combat Maison lost 1,000 dead, wounded and prisoners and lost five guns (Some French sources suggest 100 prisoners, two cannons and thre caisons). On the Prussian side Dolffs, the commander of Blücher's reserve cavalry, was killed, as was Colonel Buchloss.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (7 April 2017), Combat of Hainau, 26 May 1813 ,

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