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Jena-Auerstedt 14 October, 1806

 


 
Napoleon at the Battle of Jena © Stadtmuseum Jena

Napoleon at the Battle of Jena © Stadtmuseum Jena

After Napoleon's victory over the combined armies of Russia and Austria at Austerlitz, on the 2nd of December, 1805, the face of Europe was radically altered.  France had occupied Italy and the southern German Länder, a potential source of future wars, against the advice of Talleyrand, Minister for Foreign Affairs. However, against all odds, a new hope had sprung after the treaty of peace at Pressburg, signed on the 26th of December 1805. The ceding of Hanover to Prussia seemed to ensure warmer relations between France and Prussia. But hopes of a lasting peace were soon disappointed. The negociations failed in May 1806. The Prussian ultimatum on the 26th of August 1806, demanding that Napoleon withdraw his troops behind the Rhine before the 8th of October finally obliged him to act.


It was in thick fog that the first French assault at Jena began, at 6 am on the 14th of October. Some 240,000 French, Prussian and Saxon soldiers affronted each other on the two battlefields of Jena and Auerstadt. 150,000 soldiers fought on the battlefield of Jena, on a terrain measuring 6km by 12km, and 100,000 of them were directly engaged. At Auerstadt, 65,000 of the 85,000 soldiers present were engaged. Two Prussian reserve divisions were unable to take part in the fighting. When the Duke of Brunswick, commander-in-chief of the Prussian army, was severely wounded in the head, the King of Prussia vascillated and did not appoint a replacement. The Prussians split up in a series of disorganised skirmishes. At the end of the day, the French were victorious on both battlefields.

Between 30,000 and 35,000 dead and wounded lay on the battlefields, a number that we can only fully appreciate in the knowledge that the population of Jena in 1806 numbered around 4,500 inhabitants. We know almost nothing of the unheard suffering of towns and villages in the path of armies.
 
The battlefield of 1806 has remained a tourist site, as have the nearby towns of Weimar, Apolda, Naumburg, Erfurt (the capital of Thuringia) and Eisenberg.
We suggest to you here three routes through the region in and around Jena, The Battle of Jena, the Battle of Auerstedt and the Napoleon Route, not to mention Napoleonic Continuations including Weimar and Erfurt. Enjoy your visit.
 
This itinerary was created in parthership with Jena Tourist Office.
 
Town of Jena, trans. Paul-Napoléon Calland, ed. Peter Hicks, June 2006


 

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