THE BADEN CONTINGENT

IN THE BATTLE OF LEIPZIG

 

16 - 19 October 1813

translated and edited by Geert van Uythoven

 

“The composition and strength of the Baden troops, participating in the campaign, was:

 

Commanding general: Lieutenant-General Markgraf Wilhelm zu Baden

 

General staff [43]

 

Dragoner-Regiment ‘von Freystedt’ (4 squadrons)[676]

 

1st Brigade (Major-General von Stockhorn)

          Infanterie-Regiment No.1 ‘von Stockhorn’ (2 battalions)[1722]

          Infanterie-Regiment No.3 ‘Groβherzog’ (2 battalions)[1722]

          [1/2] Foot artillery battery (4 guns)[135]

 

2nd Brigade (Major-General Brückner)

          Infanterie-Regiment No.2 ‘Markgraf Wilhelm’ (2 battalions)[1722]

          Light battalion (1 battalion)[856]
          [1/2] Foot artillery battery (4 guns)[114]

 

Total: 6,990 men

 

 

During the battle of Leipzig, these troops had been divided among the French army as follows:

-    The 1st Infantry Brigade, combined with Hessian troops, formed the 39th Division (‘Marchand’), belonging to XI Corps (‘MacDonald’);

-    The 2nd Infantry Brigade was in garrison in Leipzig, with the Duke of Padua as its governor;

-    The dragoon regiment was combined with the French 10th Hussars, forming the Light Brigade ‘Beurmann’.

 

On 5 October, the Division ‘Marchand’ crossed the Elbe at Meiβen, marched over Mautitz, Oschatz, Probsthain, Wildenhain and Pretsch to the area of Wittemberg (12 October). From here it marched over Kemberg and Düben to Panitsch near Leipzig, were it arrived in the evening of the 15th. In the morning of the 16th at 4 o’clock, the Division received orders to march to Holzhausen village and to unite with the 36th Division (‘Charpentier’). This Division was already engaged with the enemy, which occupied the so called Swedish entrenchment [‘Schwedenschanze’] or the Kolmberg. The 39th Division marched to A. in support; the light brigade ‘Beurmann’ was also send here, and deployed behind the left wing (B.). Both other Divisions of XI Army Corpsstood to the left, as well as Cavalry Corps ‘Sebastiani’. The enemy troops were pushed back to the Schwedenschanze and, after they had try to maintain this position, forced from it by a second attack, which was now occupied by the 39th Division (C.). In this way it was placed into the firing line, but only exchanged some fire with the enemy artillery. During the night, the 1st Baden Regiment [Infanterie-Regiment No.1 ‘von Stockhorn’] with four guns occupied the hill; a Schützen-company was pushed forward to the foot of the hill and against Niederholz (D.), the 3rd Regiment [Infanterie-Regiment No.3 ‘Groβherzog’] as well as the Hessian brigade bivouacked between the hill and the road leading to Seyffertshayn. Division Charpentier stood forward to the right near and inside the Niederholze, both other Division near the burning Seyffertshayn village.

 

On the 17th, these troops remained in these positions without changes. The Allies stood on the heights behind Groβ-Poβnau and Seyffertshayn. A French sapper company worked this day on an entrenchment on the Kolmberg, for with the remains of the old one was used, which were extended on the left side to the foot of the hill. To occupy these entrenchments a 12-pdr battery was destined, which arrived during the day. In the afternoon, substantial masses of the Allied army showed themselves on the heights between Seyffertshayn and Fuchshayn. Our troops stood to arms, the guns were placed in battery. Marshal MacDonald arrived in great haste, and remained at this point until deep in the night (it was the Polish army under Bennigsen, which arrived on this day and which deployed near Fuchshayn).

 

The 2nd Infantry Brigade not only had a very strenuous service in Leipzig, but it was as well often used to provide escorts or to make raids, and because of this it was considerably weakened. The most painful loss was suffered in during the combat near Altenburg on 28th August. Here four companies of the 2nd Infantry Regiment [Infanterie-Regiment No.2 ‘Markgraf Wilhelm’], which had been assigned to General Lefebvre-Desnouettes on his expedition against General von Thielmann, were first ran over by routing French cavalry, then taken prisoner after having resisted bravely. Although the 2nd Infantry Regiment was reorganised into two battalions again, each had four companies only.

 

On 16 October, formal task of the [2nd Infantry] Brigade was occupying and defending the city of Leipzig. The 1st battalion of the 2nd Regiment and the half battery were added to General Bertrand’s IV Corps which stood near Lindenau. At the start of the battle it stood in reserve at the road near Kuhthurme (E.). The 2nd battalion of the 2nd Regiment stood on the market place of Leipzig (F.), while a detachment of it occupied the Grimma Gate. Also on the market place stood the light battalion, with the following detachments:

- 1 company at the inner Randstadt Gate;

- 1/2 company at the outer Randstadt Gate;

- 1 company at the inner Halle Gate;

- 1/2 company at the outer Halle Gate;

- 1/2 company in Reichels Garden (G.).

 

When in the afternoon on the 16th the Austrians had taken Lindenau and Plagwitz, 1st battalion of the 2nd Regiment and the half battery also participated in the attack through which both places were retaken. Near Plagwitz, between the Elster and the road leading to Klein-Zschocher, the battalion was engaged in heavy skirmisher fighting (H.). With the result that the battalion was nearly completely cutup, without having lost a single man as prisoner. Only two officers and eighty men remained of this unit when finally General Girardin, who commanded here, relieved them by a French battalion.

 

The artillery stood to the right of the battalion on a height between de road to Klein-Zschocher and the dike. It remained continuously in the firing line, until darkness ended all fighting. During the morning of the 17th the half battery occupied an unfinished redoubt close by, which was abandoned again early the 28th, in order to reunite with its brigade inside Leipzig. During the night of the 19th it was send back against Weiβenfels.

 

Early on 18 October at 5 o’clock, the 39th Division came under arms, and marched further back to the left to Holzhausen; two Baden Schützen-companies followed acting as a rearguard. Baggage was send back to Leipzig. The 36th Division deployed in front of Holzhausen, the 39th occupied Zuckelhausen. The Baden Brigade occupied the left side, the Hessians the right half of this village (J.). Both half batteries of the Division, by the Badeners covered by two Schützen-companies of the 3rd Regiment, stood in front of the village at the road leading to the old tile shed [‘Ziegenscheune’]. The remaining ten companies of the [3rd] Regiment. as well as two Hessian battalions on the Hessian side, inside the gardens and houses, front against Meusdorf. Two companies of the 1st Baden Regiment had their positions in the village, and the 2nd battalion of this regiment behind these. The same way, further to the right, both Hessian battalions were deployed. In communication with Holzhausen, both Schützen-companies of the 1st Baden Regiment were deployed along and behind the brook and the fences [‘Weidengruppen’], which connected both villages. The two remaining companies of the latter regiment stood as a reserve behind this skirmisher line. Further back on the Steinberge a 12-pdr battery was deployed, and behind this hill stood the 31st Division. The Light Cavalry Brigade ‘Beurmann’ was positioned behind Schönfeld, at the road to Mockau (K.), and in the afternoon was repositioned further to the right (L.).

 

The village Holzhausen was almost immediately early in the morning fiercely attacked by the Allies, catching fire. After fighting for two hours, the 36th Division had to abandon the village, and the 39th received orders to abandon Zuckelhausen as well. The Hessian brigade marched first, followed by the Badeners, of which the 2nd battalion of the 1st Regiment and both Schützen-companies of the 3rd Regiment formed the rearguard. The French Division standing on the right also retreated, although fighting and in good order.

 

The retreat of the 39th Division was executed under the gunfire of the Austrians from the direction of Probstheyda, covered by closed battalion masses and the 12-pdr battery on the Steinberge. Between Probstheyda and Stötteritz the troops deployed again, front against Zwey-Naundorf. Soon however the whole Division retreated to Stötteritz. The 1st Baden Regiment was positioned left of the village behind the Hopfengarten, the half battery on its left wing. The 3rd Regiment, deployed in battalion masses, was placed in some lower ground to the right of the 1st Regiment (M.). The Hessian Brigade stood partially right forward of Stötteritz, partially to the side and behind the [3rd] Baden Regiment. Forward to the windmill height a 12pdr battery had advanced, which was covered by a Schützen-company of the 1st Baden Regiment. In this position the 39th Division remained for the rest of the day, without making any further movement. The fighting was continued by the artillery only, until darkness fell, during which the 1st Baden Regiment lost many men. Loss of the Hessians on this day was 14 officers and 365 men. The Hessian artillery was pulled back from the firing line after it had fired all its ammunition. The Baden guns had been engaged against those of the Austrians near Melckau. During the night of the 19th the half battery of the Baden Brigade, as well as two guns of the Hessians, beside the baggage train, escorted by a hundred men, were send back to Lindenau to retreat along the road to Weiβenfels. Because of the strong pressure from all sides they only managed to pass trough Leipzig the next day.

 

On 19 October in the morning the Division deployed in line, with the right wing resting on Stötteritz, front against Melckau and Stüntz (N.). In front of them a line of French light cavalry had advanced, in their intervals four Baden Schützen-companies had been divided. One company was positioned among the skirmishers in squads [‘Rottenweise’]. Enemy troops were deployed on the opposite side, without undertaking anything. Around half past six, Marshal MacDonald ordered the 39th Division to march back to Leipzig. It marched through the outer Grimma Gate on to the esplanade, and deployed right and left of the inner gate (O.). Present there were also the Divisions ‘Charpentier’ and ‘Albert’. The Light Cavalry Brigade ‘Beurmann’ retreated right through Leipzig.

 

In the meantime, the Governor of Leipzig, the Duke of Padua, had relinquished command and the defence of the city to the Markgraf Wilhelm zu Baden. The whole garrison consisted of two Baden and an Italian battalion; 1,200 Saxon served only as a guard to their king and did not take part in the defence. When the army closed in, most outer posts were called in and the inner gates and various houses, the Pleiβenburg, the Theatre etc. occupied. The rest of the brigade stood on the market place as a reserve. Only the outer Halle Gate remained occupied by a detachment of light infantry, which had a substantial role in the defence of this post.

 

Between 9 and 10 o’clock, the Emperor Napoleon came to the Baden Brigade, asking General von Stockhorn about his participation in the battle.In the meantime firing before the gates had started again and came closer and closer. Three Hessian battalions were send to the entrance of the suburb, while the troops there were not strong enough anymore, to resist. The fourth battalion of this [Hessian] brigade advanced left on the esplanade, to take up the retreating French troops. General von Stockhorn received orders to march with his brigade to the Peters Gate, and to place himself there under the command of Marshal Augereau. He order the brigade, when it arrived, to deploy in front of the Peters Gate, in order to support the hard pressed Polish troops. While this was executed, the commanding officer of the 39th Division, General Marchand, hurriedly arrived and ordered General von Stockhorn to send the 3rd Regiment with al haste to the Grimma Gate and to throw back the enemy which had penetrated here.

 

The 2nd battalion of this Regiment was send along the street leading from the Peters Place to the Grimma Gate, and soon engaged Prussian troops. General von Stockhorn hurried with the 1st battalion along the esplanade. A squadron of French cuirassiers and half as much Polish lancers supported this attack, and for the moment the enemy troops were forced back.

 

It happened during this fighting that it was fired upon the troops standing on the esplanade from inside the city, and well on the 1st battalion of the 3rd Baden Regiment. Therefore, General von Stockhorn dispatched his adjutant to the Markgraf Wilhelm zu Baden commanding in Leipzig. Soon after he received from him orders, to march with his brigade into the city and on to the market place., and to unite himself there with the remaining Baden troops. Before executing this order, General von Stockhorn wanted to consult General Marchand, commander of the Division, and rode over to the Peters Gate. Arriving there he learned that this general had left this post after a short conversation with Fürst Poniatowski. Except for the chief of the General Staff, Adjutant-Commander Richard, no one of the French officials was present anymore. Richard was asked if the order to go to the market place should be executed. This was confirmed, and Richard himself rode into Leipzig and onto the market place at the head of the 1st [Baden] Regiment which had remaind at the Peters Gate. Arriving there, the 2nd battalion was detached to the Pleiβenburg. Therefore, it is completely unfounded and incorrect what a few French authors wrote (Baudoncourt, Fain, Norvins) and which was copied by others, that the Peters gate was surrendered to the Allies by the Baden troops.

 

General von Stockhorn in person returned to the 3rd Regiment still engaged at the Grimma Gate to pull it back out of the fighting. Unfortunately, disorder and the crowding of the retreat had become so big on the esplanade that he found it impossible to reach the gate. This was the cause that this regiment retreated fighting to the Pleisse. Here it found that all bridges had been demolished. Few succeeded in crossing the river; many drowned, others were killed or wounded. The remainder, nearly 500 men, became prisoner.

 

From the units standing in Leipzig, a light company defended the Grimma Gate, until it was broken, and then retreated fighting to the market place were the Baden troops were collected after the fall of the city. Losses of the infantry were, according to the lists of 21 October: with the 1st Brigade 12 officers and 593 others; with the 2nd Brigade 13 officers and 627 others.

 

 

Source: Anonymous, “Notizen über die Theilnahme der Groβherzogl. Badischen Truppen an der Schlacht bei Leipzig 1813”, in ‘Militair-Wochenblatt’, 15. Jahrgang (Berlin 1830) pp. 4233-4237.

 

© Geert van Uythoven