Friday, May 20, 2011

Battle of Bautzen Begins

'...Another consequence of the battle of Lutzen was, that the allies could no longer maintain themselves on the Elbe. The main army, however, only retired to Bautzen, a town near the sources of the Spree, about twelve French leagues from Dresden, where they selected a strong position. An army of observation, under Bulow, was destined to cover Berlin, should the enemy make any attempt in that direction; and they were thus in a situation equally convenient for receiving reinforcements, or retiring upon Silesia, in case of being attacked ere such succours came up. They also took measures for concentrating their army, by calling in their advanced corps in all directions...

 The war was for a few days confined to skirmishes of doubtful and alternate success, maintained on the right bank of the Danube. On the 12th May, Ney crossed the river near Torgau, and menaced the Prussian territories, directing himself on Spremberg and Hoyerswerder, as if threatening Berlin, which was only protected by Bulow and his army of observation. The purpose was probably, by exciting an alarm for the Prussian capital, to induce the allies to leave their strong position at Bautzen. But they remained stationary there, so that Napoleon moved forward to dislodge them in person. On the 18th Elay he quitted Dresden. In his road towards Bautzen, he passed the ruins of the beautiful little town of Bischoffswerder, and expressed particular sympathy upon finding it had been burnt by the French soldiery, after a rencontre near the spot with a body of Russians. He declared that he would rebuild the place, and actually presented the inhabitants with 100,000 francs towards repairing their losses. On other occasions, riding where the recently wounded had not been yet removed, he expressed, as indeed was his custom, for he could never view bodily pain without sympathy, a very considerable degree of sensibility. "His wound is incurable, sire," said a surgeon, upon whom he was laying his orders to attend to one of these miserable objeccts.—"Try, however," said Napoleon; and added in a suppressed voice,—" There will always be one fewer of them,"—meaning, doubtless, of the victims of his wars...'

The Battle of Bautzen began on May 20, 1813.  It was to be a victory for Napoleon, following on the heels of the Battle of Lutzen.  Napoleon's forces, however, sustained heavy losses in this battle.  The text above is from Sir Walter Scott's "Life of Napoleon Bonaparte".

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