Sunday, January 4, 2015

Battle of "Eichberg" Carnage&Glory II Scenario: Part 1 Historical Research

Battle of Eichberg....Never heard of it? Neither had I, nor had I heard of "Steinitz Heights" or "Weissig" either. At most it is a sentence or two mentioning a combat between Yorck's Prussian Corps and Lauriston's V Corps as a precursor to the Battle of Bautzen.

In this series of posts I will lay out the historical maneuvers, the C&GII scenarios (yes, plural!) and finally some battle reports for the games played.

In search of smaller historical combats that can more easily fit our tables, I started scouring the 1813 campaigns for some inspiration and found several promising leads in the combats leading up to Bautzen, from Bautzen to the Armistice and the numerous combats of  Gen. Blucher's Army of Silesia before and after the Katzbach.

The revered Mr. Bowden in Napoleon's Grande Armee of 1813 intrigued me with his description of the combat of Eichberg as a "remarkable" example of the combat performance of the conscripts of 1813.  The two sentences alluded to earlier are thus: "In this combat, Lauriston's command--which numbered about 25,000 combatants--attacked and convincingly defeated a numerically superior force of Prussians.  For the loss of 1,821 casualties, the V corps killed, wounded, or took prisoner 5,000 of the enemy."

This passage intrigued me as it suggests that on May 19, 1813 (the day before Bautzen begins), a combat on the scale of Quatre-Bras in both numbers of combats and casualties occurred which never seems to be mentioned or wargamed.

Further research revealed a much more interesting picture, which more or less looks like this:

Starting with the preliminaries:
The Coalition forces have taken up prepared positions at Bautzen on the west bank of the Spree and ultimately accept battle with Napoleon's new Grande Armee on May 20-21, 1813. The area north of Bautzen is "Oberlausitzer Heide- und Teichlandschaft"/Upper Lusatian Moorland which is to say its forested, with streams, creeks, and lots of ponds.

Napoleon is concentrating his forces.  From Dresden the Guard, IV, VI, XI, XIII, and I Cavalry Corps head to Bautzen.  Marshal Ney, with III, V, and VII Corps is marching south from the environs of Luckau.  By May 18, 1813 (or morning of 19th), Bertrand's IV Corps, the Guard, and I Reserve Cavalry Corps camp in the small villages west of Bautzen.

On May 18 at 10 a.m. Berthier sends a dispatch to Ney directing him to be able to march on Börsa by May 21, passing the Spree (at Klix):

"The Emperor informs you that we are within
cannon range of the little town of Bautzen, which the
enemy has occupied as head of his position, and where he
has thrown up some entrenchments ; that on the (enemy's)
right are placed the Prussians, on the left the Russians ;
that he desires that, with General Lauriston and all your
forces united you should make for Drehsa near Gottamelde ;
having passed the Spree you will find that you have turned
the enemy's position ; you will take up a good position
there. The Emperor supposes that you are in a position to
reach Hoyerswerda completely on the 19th. You will draw
towards us on the 20th, and on the 21st you will be able
to reach the position (described above), which will either
have the effect of making the enemy retire farther, or of
putting you in a position to attack him with advantage."
[Taken from F. Loraine Petre's Napoleon's Last Campaign in Germany (1912) p.109
the Author identifies "Drehsa" as modern Brösa]

The approximately 18,000 men of V Corps arrives in Hoyerswerda on May 18th with orders to march due south to Zerna, placing V Corps to the rear of Napoleon's main army. General Ney recieves Berthier's dispatch on the morning of the 19th and issues new orders, for Lauriston to take V Corps to Klix via Oppitz at around 11 a.m. III Corps, still north of Hoyerswerda, is to march in three columns. The 8th Division and Laboissiere's Cavalry brigade as advanced guard are to march on Neudorf** (Neschwitz?); two divisions on Niesendorf and two divisions on Konigswartha. The advance of III Corps is however delayed on the 19th, by V Corps train and baggage which was still in Hoyerswerda. Meanwhile, on May 19th General Bertrand orders Gen. Peyri's 15th Italian Division north to Königswartha to establish communications with V Corps and Ney's approaching forces.

**The German Wikipedia reveals there are 6 Neudorfs in the Bautzen landkreis.  Several are also on the 3rd Austrian Survey map of Bautzen.  My personal guess is the Neudorf by Neschwitz.

The Allies intercept a May 18 dispatch from Berthier to Bertrand (IV Corps) indicating that Lauriston's V Corps would be at Hoyerswerda on the 18th and Ney's III Corps a march behind. The Coalition forces elect to launch a spoiling attack based upon this intelligence. A force of 24,000 men under Barclay de Tolly will march in the early morning of May 19 for Johnsberg and Wartha and attempt to destroy V Corps before it units with either Napoleon's main army at Bautzen or Ney's III Corps. This spoiling attack will involve 25% of the allied forces at Bautzen. De Tolly's force consists of the von Yorck's Prussian Corps, Raiewski's Russian Grenadier Divisions, and General Lageron's Corps, and General Tschaplitz's Advance Guard.

The allies step off at 1 a.m. on three different routes:

The Russian advance guard under Tschaplitz crosses the Spree at Niedergurig, passes within a mile and a half of IV Corps outposts at Lubachau and continues "direct" to Johnsdorf via the "wooded heights" to the east of the French positions.

De Tolly's main corps and Raiewski's Grenadiers cross the Spree at Klix and march for Johnsdorf via Milkel and Oppitz.

Von Yorck is directed on a more circuitous route, leaving from Borsa/Guttau to Lomischau, Lieske, and then "through the woods" to Hermsdorf, Steinitz, and Wartha.

These movements lead to two combats: Königswartha and "Eichberg".

3rd Military Mapping Survey of Austria-Hungary for Same Area as the Map Above
At Königswartha Tschaplitz's Advanced Guard reconnoiters Peyri's 15th Division and finds the Italians dispersed and foraging without sufficient outposts.  The Russian cavalry quickly overrun the dispersed Italians.  Bowden states the Italians lost 2,862 casualties, including 1,289 taken prisoner.  The 15th Division's strength of approximately 10,000 was thus reduced by 25%.  It is unclear when the losses take place, but the Italian's rout to the north and are pursued by the Russians.  The pursuit ends at approximately 5 p.m. at Wartha where the Russian cavalry encounters the advanced guard of III Corps.

Eichberg/Steinitz Heights***/Wessig:
Sometime before 3 p.m. von Yorck's Prussians encounter the leading elements of V Corps in or around Wessig. Bowden and Hofschröer refer to this encounter as "Eichberg", for reasons I have been unable to divine.  The streets of Wessig and Hermsdorf have multiple references to "Eichberg", but I cannot locate any other reference.  Multiple sources also mention the "heights" occupied by von Yorck's Prussians during the initial engagement with Lauriston, but google earth, google maps, and the 3rd Austrian Survey Map don't reveal any heights of note in the area of Wessig.  Hofschörer gives the location of the encounter as to the southwest of Wessig.

***Fabry's Journal des Operations des IIIe & Ve Corps en 1813, p. 22-23 refers to an attack upon Yorck on the heights of Steinitz.

At 3 p.m. von Yorck receives an order from de Tolly, ordering the Prussians to Johnsdorf to form the reserve for an engagement with what de Tolly believes to be the leading elements of V Corps.  De Tolly had mistaken  Peyri's Italian 15th Division, for the advanced guard of V Corps.  Von Yorck evacuates his strong position at Wessig and retreats towards Hermsdorf and Oppitz to comply with this order.

On reaching Hermsdorf, von Yorck receives a second dispatch, from de Tolly informing that the Russians had learned they were engaged with the 15th Italian Division of Betrand's IV Corps, and not Lauriston.  Von Yorck is ordered to engage V Corps and to hold Wessig.  de Tolly sends Raiewski's two grenadier divisions to reinforce von Yorck.  The meeting engagement between Lauriston and von Yorck further develops, but von Yorck is unable to retake his strong position on the "heights" by Wessig. The combat lasts until nightfall when de Tolly orders a withdrawal to Klix.  The coalitions forces arrive back across the Spree on the 20th after another night march.

Google Satalite View of Combat at "Eichberg"
Crop from 3rd Military Mapping Survey of Austria-Hungary

Petre and Hofschröer list the Prussian losses at approximately 1100 men, the Russians at 900. Hofschröer notes a further 2000 stragglers were lost due to the consecutive night marches.   The French lost 2800 at Königswartha and 1800 at "Eichberg".  No significant result other than Marshal Ney pausing his march, and concentrating III Corps near Buchwalde to accept battle on the 20th. Berthier reply to Ney's dispatch quickly disabused the marshal of a delay and kept Ney's flanking maneuver on schedule for the 21st.  The coalition losses are not as severe as suggested by Bowden (citing a dispatch to Berthier), but when combined with the losses to straggling, suggests a near even trade for no strategic gain.

The following posts will deal with the scenario details and specific orders of battle for Königswartha and Eichberg and two counter-factual scenarios at Milkel.

F. Loraine Petre, Napoleon's Last Campaign in Germany (1912)
Lt. G. Fabry, Journal des Operations des IIIe & Ve Corps en 1813
Peter Hofschröer, Lutzen & Bautzen 1813: The Turning Point, Osprey Campaign #87
Scott Bowden, Napoleon's Grande Armee of 1813 (1990)
George Nafziger's Orders of Battle, hosted Online by the US Army Combined Arms Center at:


  1. Good detective work, looking forward to a interesting scenario.

  2. Eichberg should be up this week. Not to spoil the future posts, but I think there is some real potential for fun scenarios around Milkel, and whether Bertrand is ordered/marches on own initiative to investigate/cut-off the Russian forces his outposts reported.

    Petre suggests that the gunfire from Konigswartha was heard by Napoleon around 1pm.