May 1796 – Having crushed Piedmont in a lightening campaign the young revolutionary General Bonaparte prepared to attack the key Austrian fortress of Mantova, the only one of the four fortress of the quadrilateral still in Austrian control. Little did he know that it would take nine months of desperate fighting before the fortress fell.
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To the Gates of Berlin, 23 August
The battle of Grossbeeren was a meeting engagement in which the two forces were ignorant of their mutual presence in the area. Grossbeeren is a double battle, with little possibility of interaction between troops that fought in Blankenfeld because of swamps. Oudinot took a risk in separating his three corps on parallel routes as was customary when marching through open country. The IV Corps on the right, held-up as they emerged from the woods, were unable to assist VII Corps at Grossbeeren in the center; while Oudinot, on the left, tended to his own corps, considerably strung out after a long Forced March on the 22nd—instead of coordinating the battle.
A Perilous Passage, 26 August
The battle of the Katzbach on August 26th 1813 was another meeting engagement; neither commander expected to find his opponent in the area. Cavalry dominated the battlefield as muskets would not discharge in the rain.
Enfilade in the Mountains, 29-30 August
After the Battle of Dresden on 26-27 August, several French Corps began the pursuit of the defeated Coalition Army through the mountain passes leading back into Austrian territory. Vandamme’s Corps, with two divisions of the best-trained conscripts of 1813, fought several rearguard actions with Ostermann’s Russians, and expected this battle to be no different. The Emperor had already heard rumors of Macdonald’s disaster on the Katzbach. With the possibility of having to defend his great depot of Dresden against an advance by both Bernadotte and Blücher, his hopes of being able to pursue far into Bohemia were vanishing.
Collapse in the North, 6 September
Marshal Ney’s Army of Berlin set out from Wittenberg on September 5th, side-stepping Bernadotte’s main body and driving Tauenzien’s IV Corps toward Seyda. That night they camped just off-map to the south, unaware that coalition forces were five miles away.