Supplementary Appendix: Battles of Jena and Auerstedt

The Battles of Jena and Auerstedt:
Background and Military Developments [*]

1. End of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation;
2. Napoleon consolidates power in Germany, 1806;
3. Napoleon insults and provokes Frederick William III;
4. Prussia reacts to the threat of losing Hannover, resolves on war;
5. Prussian army mobilized, Prussia issues ultimatum to Napoleon;
6. Prussia without sufficient allies;
7. Disposition of Prussian army;
8. Initial skirmishes, mistakes of Duke of Brunswick;
9. Battles of Jena and Auerstedt, 14 October 1806;
10. Prussian flight;
11. Prussian losses;
12. Napoleon in Berlin.

(1) End of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation

On August 1st, 1806, M. Bacher, Napoleon’s chargé’ d’affaires at the Diet of Ratisbon, presented a note declaring that the French Emperor no longer recognized the German Constitution, and that he had accepted the title of Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine. A declaration to the same effect was also handed in by the Confederate Princes. Napoleon alleged as his principal reasons for this step: that the Treaty of Pressburg had placed the German Courts allied with France in a condition incompatible with that of States of the Empire; that the Empire had been reduced to such a condition of weakness as to afford no protection to its subjects, and to have become only a means of dissension and discord. . . .

The Emperor Francis immediately determined to resign a crown which had long been little more than a vain ornament. He published a declaration at Vienna, August 6th, 1806, to the effect that by the Confederation of the Rhine he considered himself released from all connection with the German body, and that in laying down the Imperial Crown and Government, he absolved the Electors, Princes, and States of the Empire from their allegiance to him. At the same time he liberated all his German Provinces from their obligations towards the Empire. Thus was extinguished, after a duration of more than a thousand years, the Holy Roman Empire. Francis II., the twenty-first Emperor of the House of Austria, henceforth bore the title of Francis I., Emperor of Austria. . . .

(2) Napoleon consolidates power in Germany, 1806

Napoleon’s tyrannical proceedings in Germany, the extinction of the Empire, the burdens imposed upon the inhabitants for the maintenance of the French troops, excited indignation in many a bosom, even among those who had once been his admirers. Numerous articles and pamphlets were published at Nuremberg and Leipsic, painting him in the darkest colours as the oppressor of Germany, and calling on the Germans to shake off the yoke. Marshal Berthier caused Palm, a bookseller of Nuremberg, charged with selling a pamphlet entitled Germany in its deepest Humiliation, to be apprehended and conducted to thefortress of Braunau; where, by sentence of a court-martial, he was shot, August 26th. The sentence is said to have been founded on an opinion expressed by Napoleon, that the dissemination of libels in places occupied by the French troops, being calculated to incite the inhabitants to deeds of violence against them, was to be regarded as high treason. But this cruel and tyrannical act was calculated to inspire the Germans with a deeper hatred of Napoleon and the French than any pamphlets could have excited.

[Execution of Johann Philipp Palm; Pultney Bigelow History of the German Struggle for Liberty, illus. R. Caton Woodville, 2. vols. (New York 1896), vol. 1, plate following, p. 4:]


The Confederation of the Rhine completed another great step towards universal domination. Napoleon was now master of Italy and Dalmatia; he had humbled Austria and overturned the first throne of Christendom; he was the Protector and Dictator of a great part of Germany. A German coalition against him was no longer possible; yet, while a military monarchy like Prussia remained intact, he could hardly be said to reign in Germany. That monarchy, however, was now isolated, and it would not be difficult to crush it. The subjection of Prussia would open out new paths to Napoleon’s boundless ambition. The conquest of Denmark would then be easy, and would insure that of Sweden. Russia might next submit to the yoke; and then, if even England herself could not be subjugated, a march into Asia and the destruction of her empire in that quarter might at least cease to be chimerical.

(3) Napoleon insults and provokes Frederick William III

The establishment of the Rhenish Confederation was at once an attack and an insult upon Prussia. Although she had the deepest interest in the matter, she had not been consulted; nay, it had been kept a profound secret from her. Contempt was thus added to perfidy. Both these were also manifested by the twenty-fourth article of the treaty, by which Frederick William’s brother-in-law, the head of the House of Nassau-Orange, was mediatized, and one of the most illustrious princes of Europe reduced to the condition of a vassal under the plebeian Murat, the new Grand Duke of Berg. By way of conciliating the King of Prussia, he was told that if he should be inclined to unite the remaining German States into a new Confederation, and to assume the Imperial Crown for the House of Brandenburg, Napoleon would second the project. The latter part of this offer was at once declined by Frederick William, out of consideration for the House of Austria; but he appears to have joyfully accepted the idea of a new Confederation, and to have made some advances in that way to the Electors of Saxony and Hesse-Cassel, and to the Dukes of Mecklenburg. Napoleon, however, was not sincere in these overtures.

The French Government took care to excite the suspicions of the Court of Dresden respecting the intentions of Prussia. The Elector of Hesse was openly menaced with the loss of Hanau, if he should accede to the rival Confederation, while the principality of Fulda was held out to him as a bait for joining that of the Rhine. The towns of Bremen, Hamburg, and Lübeck received imperious orders not to enter the Prussian League, though Napoleon had no right to dictate to those cities. Napoleon’s unfriendly intentions were also displayed by other measures. Marshal Bernadotte was ordered to occupy Nuremberg, and to advance towards the frontiers of Prussia and Saxony. The fortress of Wesel, on the right bank of the Rhine, was seized and incorporated with the department of the Roer. The Abbeys of Verden, Elten, and Essen, in Westphalia, were also seized by Murat. A large force was assembled on the Ems; the Duchy of Berg was inundated with troops, and the western frontier of Prussia appeared to be surrounded.

(4) Prussia reacts to the threat of losing Hannover, resolves on war

It is possible, however, that Frederick William III. might have overlooked these injuries and insults, but for another, which filled up the measure of them. It will be recollected that negotiations for a peace were at this time going on between England and France. Lord Yarmouth, the English plenipotentiary at Paris, whether carelessly or purposely, let out the secret over his wine, that the restoration of Hanover to England was to be one of the conditions of it. Lucchesini, the Prussian Minister at the Court of the Tuileries, immediately conveyed this piece of intelligence to his Government, who received it, August 7th. The effect was magical. When Frederick William learned that Napoleon intended to deprive him of the Electorate which he had received in order to avert the French Emperor’s wrath, and which he looked upon as the price of his dishonour, his grief and rage knew no bounds. The news soon got abroad, and produced a like effect upon the people. It was, in fact, the immediate cause of the war which ensued. The Prussian Ministers affected to attribute their indignation solely to the perfidy of the French Government, in threatening to deprive them of a country which it had forced them to accept; but it is certain that the King and many leading personages had thrown a covetous eye upon Hanover, and that they were exceedingly sorry to be deprived of it. The relinquishment of it was, however, now become necessary, in order to make their peace with England.

Napoleon affirmed that he was driven into the Prussian war; that it had not entered into his calculations. But it appears from the correspondence of his Foreign Office, that the overthrow of Prussia had been contemplated since November, 1805; his measures were well calculated to provoke a war, and the retaining of his troops in Germany to carry it on with speed and success. On the other hand, Prussia chose an unfortunate moment to commence it. She had already devoured many insults, and if she could have digested those now offered to her but half a year, she might probably have found herself supported by another coalition. But a violent war party had arisen, at the head of which was the beautiful and spirited Queen, the King’s cousin, Prince Louis, and many of the leading statesmen and generals of the Kingdom; and the melancholy and irresolute Frederick William found himself unable to resist the warlike ardour of his Court and people. Another motive seems also to have operated with his Ministry. Prussia was in a state of isolation. She had lost the confidence of Europe, and any propositions for support and alliance would not have been listened to, unless she first proved her sincerity by a war.

(5) Prussian army mobilized,
Prussia issues ultimatum to Napoleon

A day or two after it was known in Berlin that Napoleon contemplated the restoration of Hanover to England, the Prussian army was ordered to be placed on a war footing. Before commencing the war, it was necessary for Prussia to disembarrass herself of the enemies which her alliance with France had brought upon her. A reconciliation was effected with the King of Sweden, August 17th. Diplomatic relations were renewed with the English Government, and Lord Howick, who had succeeded Fox as Foreign Minister, announced, September 25th, the raising of the blockade of the Elbe, the Weser, and the Ems. Lord Morpeth was despatched a few days after to negotiate a treaty.

On his arrival at Berlin, the King and Queen of Prussia had already set off for the army. He found them at Weimar, October 12th.

[Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls (Vienna 1805):]


A great battle was then impending, and Haugwitz would settle nothing with the English Ambassador till it had been decided. The King of Prussia, it is said, if his arms should be successful, was resolved to keep Hanover; in the other event, to exchange it for the alliance and subsidies of England. As a last attempt to avert a war, which Frederick William viewed with increasing dread as it became more imminent, General Knobelsdorf was despatched to Paris early in September to attempt a renewal of negotiations.

When the Prussian ultimatum arrived, Napoleon was already at Bamberg, superintending the march of his army (October 7th).

[Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls (Vienna 1805):] [1]


It demanded the immediate evacuation of Germany by the French troops; that France should not oppose a league of North Germany to embrace all the States not comprised in the Confederation of the Rhine; the opening, without delay, of a negotiation to arrange all matters still in dispute; with the basis, for Prussia, of the separation of Wesel from the French Empire, and the re-occupation of Elten, Essen, and Verden, by the Prussian troops. Frederick William could hardly have imagined that such an ultimatum would be accepted; and it can, therefore, only be regarded as a declaration of war.

(6) Prussia without sufficient allies

Such a declaration was formally issued, October 8th. Prussia had thus committed herself irrevocably to a struggle with all the might of France, without the hope of any timely succour. Frederick William had delayed to apply to the Emperor Alexander for aid till he had received his first despatch from Knobelsdorf, September 18th. A promise of assistance was frankly given by the Russian Emperor; but it was now impossible that his troops should arrive on the scene of action before the end of November. Application had also been made in a somewhat humble and supplicatory tone to the Emperor of Austria, but met with a refusal. Prussia was now repaid in her own coin. [2] Her only ally was Saxony, and that a forced one. Prince Hohenlohe had invaded that country, compelled the Court of Dresden to declare for Prussia, and enlisted under her banner the Saxon army of 18,000 men. The Elector of Hesse-Cassel maintained his neutrality, with the view of joining the winning side.

(7) Disposition of Prussian army

The Prussian army consisted of about 180,000 men; good troops, no doubt, but of which only a small portion had seen any actual service. The King had intrusted the command-in-chief to the Duke of Brunswick, now upwards of seventy years of age, whose military reputation dated from the Seven Years’ War. His campaigns against the French had not been such as to add to his renown; but nobody was in a better position than the Court of Berlin to determine whether his failures had been owing to military or political causes. The rest of the Prussian état major was also for the most part composed of old men; as Marshal Möllendorf, Prince Hohenlohe, Gneisenau, Blücher, Kalkreuth; though Blucher, at more than sixty years of age, still retained all the fire and energy of youth. The army of France, superior in number to that of Prussia, was reinforced by a contingent of 25,000 men from the Rhenish Confederation. The Emperor of Austria’s brother, the Archduke Ferdinand, had been compelled to join the League, September 25th. Thus, this unfortunate Prince, after being successively driven from Tuscany and Salzburg, was reduced, for his new principality of Würtzburg, to become the ally of the man who had inflicted on his house the grossest insults and injuries.

(8) Initial skirmishes, mistakes of Duke of Brunswick

The French, commanded by Bonaparte in person, and his best generals, Bernadotte, Lannes, Davoust, Ney, Soult, Augereau, Lefèbvre, were already in Germany. But Brunswick, thinking that they were dispersed in Franconia, and not yet prepared to take the offensive, formed the plan of falling suddenly upon their dispersed divisions irom the hills and forests of Thuringia [in the Circle of Saxony]. With this view he concentrated his centre at Erfurt, extended his right wing beyond Gotha towards Eisenach, while his left was placed between Jena and Blankenheim. But the Duke neither knew the true position of the French, nor allowed for the eagle’s eye and the eagle’s swoop of Napoleon. By October 8th, the French army was already assembled at the foot of the Fichtelgebirge, which separates the valley of the Main from that of the Saale. Napoleon had determined to repeat the grand manoeuvre which he had performed with such wonderful success at Marengo and Ulm.

[Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls (Vienna 1805); other locales: see continuing narrative below:]


Brunswick’s position exposed his left to be turned, his communications with the Saale and the Elbe to be intercepted; and thus his retreat to be cut off, and his junction with the Russians prevented. The French advanced in three columns. On the right, the corps of Soult and Ney marched by Hof upon Plauen; on the left, Lannes and Augereau debouched from Coburg upon Grafenthal and Saalfeld; the centre, with Murat and the Imperial Guard, and the corps of Davoust and Bernadotte, took the direction of Lobenstein along the high road between Bamberg and Leipsic. Further on the same road, at the little town of Gera, all the three columns were to form a junction. Brunswick, on discovering this movement, instead of securing the bridges over the Saale, concentrated his forces at Weimar, as if to await a battle there.

Bernadotte, having defeated a Prussian corps at Schleitz, October 9th, continued his march towards Gera. On the following day, Lannes, with the French left, obtained a still more important victory over the Prussians at Saalfeld. In this battle, Prince Louis was killed in a single combat with Guindet, a French maréchal des logis [sergeant].

[Death of Prince Louis at Saalfeld; George Moir Bussey, History of Napoleon, illus. Horace Vernet, 2 vols. (London 1895), 1:513:]


On the 12th, Napoleon had established his head-quarters at Gera. Hence Davoust and Murat with the light cavalry were despatched to seize Naumburg and the bridge of Kosen, thus cutting off the Prussian line of retreat from Weimar to Berlin; while Bernadotte was directed upon Dornburg. From Gera, Napoleon addressed a letter to Frederick William, which seems to have been rather intended as a ruse de guerre [trick of war] to frighten him and throw him off his guard, than as a sincere offer of conciliation. At the same time, Napoleon directed his main body towards the left, hoping to envelop the Prussians at Jena.

(9) Battles of Jena and Auerstedt, 14 October 1806

After the check at Saalfeld, Prince Hohenlohe and the greater part of the Prussian generals had expressed their opinion that no time should be lost in repassing the Saale, and retiring behind the Elbe. But the Duke of Brunswick took three days to decide Meanwhile Naumburg had been seized, his left turned, and his army placed in the same situation as that of Mélas at Marengo and Mack at Ulm. It was not till he heard that some of the French forces were marching upon Leipsic, quite in his rear, that he began to understand the true nature of his position. Now, at last, when it was too late, he began to move.

The King and the Duke of Brunswick, with 65,000 men, the élite of the army, and the most distinguished generals, Möllendorf, Blücher, Schmettau, Kalkreuth, the Prince of Orange, the Princes Henry and William of Prussia, directed their march on Freiburg, by Auerstedt and Naumburg.

[Ignaz Heymann, PostKarte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern 2nd ed. (Triest 1806); Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans.]


The remainder, including the Saxons, under the command of Prince Hohenlohe, were left behind at Jena to cover the retreat. Here they were entirely defeated by Napoleon in person, with much superior forces, October 14th, and compelled to retreat beyond Weimar behind the Ilm [River].

[Battle of Jena, troop movements; C. T. Atkinson, A History of Germany 1715–1815 (London 1908), plate following p. 508:] [3]


[Battlefield at Jena, 14 October 1806; Friedrich M. Kircheisen, Napoleon I. und das Zeitalter der Befreiungskriege in Bildern [Munich, Leipzig 1914], 145:]


On the same day the King of Prussia and Brunswick fell in with Davoust at Auerstadt, where they experienced a still more signal defeat, though the French forces scarcely numbered more than half the Prussians. In this fatal day, Brunswick was soon disabled by a wound in the forehead; Möllendorf, who succeeded him in the command, was also mortally wounded.

[Duke of Brunswick wounded in the face by grapeshot; by C. Bernet, in Friedrich Neubauer, Preussens Fall und Erhebung 1806–1815 (Berlin 1907), 87:]


[Duke of Brunswick escorted back toward Braunschweig after the battle (illustration by Richard Knötel):]


Frederick William, uninformed of the battle of Jena, ordered a retreat upon Weimar; but the flying troops fell in near Apolda with Bernadotte’s van. Here also they learned that Weimar was occupied by the French.

(10) Prussian flight

Now commenced a disorderly flight, the horror and confusion of which was soon augmented by falling in with the fugitives of Jena. A great part of the army dispersed itself.

[Prussian flight after the defeat at Jena; Pultney Bigelow History of the German Struggle for Liberty, vol. 1, plate following, p. 46:]


A portion, with which was the King, retreated by Sömmerda to Sondershausen; at which place Frederick William arrived October 16th, escorted by a regiment of Guards and a battalion of Grenadiers. Thence after a sojourn of a few hours, he set off for his northern provinces, leaving the command to Prince Hohenlohe, with instructions to make Magdeburg the rallying point.

(11) Prussian losses

The loss of the Prussians in these two battles is variously estimated, but, at the least, may be stated at 30,000 men, killed, wounded, or captured, with almost all their guns and magazines. Those who had escaped were in a state of complete demoralization. The Prussian Monarchy lay at Napoleon’s mercy. From Sömmerda, Frederick William had written to the French Emperor to propose an armistice, who rejected it with the remark that he must first of all gather the fruits of his victories. Murat, Soult, and Ney were despatched after the Prussians, who were retreating upon Magdeburg; Davoust and Lannes were directed on Wittenberg and Dessau, en route for Berlin; Bernadotte on Halle, into which the Prince of Würtemberg had thrown himself with 16,000 men, and whence he was driven with great slaughter, October 17th. Murat and Ney had appeared at Erfurt on the l5th, where they took 14,000 prisoners, 120 guns, and large magazines. Among the captured were four wounded generals: the Prince of Orange, Grawert, Zweiffel, and Field-Marshal Möllendorf; the last expired soon after. Napoleon dismissed all his Saxon prisoners, in number 6,000. This act had the effect intended. On the 23rd of October the Elector announced that he had separated his arms from those of Prussia, and proclaimed his neutrality.

(12) Napoleon in Berlin

Napoleon arrived at Potsdam, October 24th. Here he visited the tomb of Frederick the Great. Had anything been capable of awakening in his breast a generous sympathy, it might, one would think, have been the remains of a Sovereign who among all modern conquerors most resembled himself. But Napoleon had no feeling except for what he considered to be his own glory. The sword, the cordon of the Black Eagle, even the sash and stock of the Prussian hero, were seized, and sent as trophies to the Invalides at Paris.

[Napoleon eat the tomb of Frederick the Great; by H. Dähling, in Friedrich Neubauer, Preussens Fall und Erhebung 1806–1815 (Berlin 1907), 101:]


Napoleon entered Berlin October 27th, and was received with the acclamations of the populace.

[Napoleon enters Berlin; by L. Wolf, in Friedrich Neubauer, Preussens Fall und Erhebung 1806–1815 (Berlin 1907), 105:]


A twelve-month had not elapsed since he had also occupied Vienna as a conqueror. The wounded Duke of Brunswick wrote to Napoleon, imploring mercy for his subjects. The conqueror, in his reply, styled him only General Brunswick, refused to recognize him as a Sovereign, overwhelmed him with bitter reproaches, which, even had they been just, should not have been uttered at such a moment to a vanquished and dying enemy. To escape such ruthless hands, the Duke fled from his capital in the direction of Altona. Anguish and fatigue put an end to his Life at Oltensee. He expired in the arms of his son, who vowed to avenge him, and who, by a just retribution, before many years had passed, was baiting the tyrant in his own lair. [4]


[*] Thomas Henry Dyer, Modern Europe, from the Fall of Constantinople to the Establishment of the German Empire A.D. 1453–1871, 2nd ed., 5 vols., vol. 5: From 1794 to 1871 (London 1877), 213–22. Back.

[1] It was during Napeoleon’s stopover in Bamberg on his way to Jena that Adalbert Friedrich Marcus saw him; see Marcus’s letter to Schelling’s on 16 October 1806 (letter 417f).

Concerning Caroline and Schelling’s earlier route from Jena to Bamberg during the spring of 1800, see Schelling’s letter to Adalbert Friedrich Marcus on 3 May 1800 (letter 259o), note 7. Back.

[2] Viz., for its hesitation and equivocation during the military events associated with the Third Coalition, August–December 1805. See esp. section 14 there. Back.

[3] In the early nineteenth century, nine mills were driven by the Leutra Brook in the Mühl Thal (at bottom on the map above), and many appear in engravings of the time. At the time Caroline was in Jena, the Mühl Thal enjoyed an ambiguous reputation as a locale where shady characters lingered, often accosting travelers to and from Weimar, among other places. Georg Friedrich Rebmann wrote in 1793 (Georg Friedrich Rebmann, Briefe über Jena [Frankfurt, Leipzig 1793], 139):

The route from Jena to Weimar takes the traveller through a valley called the Mühltal, ugly and barren and wild, closed in on both sides by steep hillsides such that the width of the road itself sometimes constitutes the entire valley — a gorge where apart from a couple of half-dead fir trees not a single blade of grass grows. Everything is desolate and grisly and ghastly, here it seems the only signs of life are the occasional crows

Here French troops during the Battle of Jena in October 1806 on bivouac in the Mühl Thal (etching by Jacob Roux, Die Gegenden um Jena, no. 1 [Jena, Weimar 1806], plate 11):


What Caroline called the “military road” in her letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 16 November 1801 (letter 330) is but one such road leading in and out of Jena, in this case from Jena to Weimar (Karte des deutschen Reichs, ed. C. Vogel [Gotha 1907], no. 19):


Here French troops use the road as a military thoroughfare (beyond the Mühl Thal proper) during the Battle of Jena in October 1806 (etching by Jacob Roux, Die Gegenden um Jena, no. 1 [Jena, Weimar 1806], plate 9):



[4] See the broader assessment of Prussian fortunes by C. T. Atkinson, A History of Germany 1715–1815, 509:

But Jena and Auerstadt were as nothing to the disgraces which were in store for the Prussian army. Fortress after fortress, well supplied, strongly garrisoned and capable of a good defence, surrendered tamely on the first summons without firing a shot. Had strong places like Spandau, Cüstrin and Magdeburg made as good a defence as did Blücher at Lübeck, to which distant spot the old veteran managed to draw two French corps in pursuit of the 20,000 men he had rallied, the French might have been detained till the Russians could reach the Oder. Their feeble surrender is almost without a parallel in history.

The fate of Jena itself at the hands of the French, including its citizens and some of Caroline’s former close acquaintances, constitutes part of the coming narrative of Caroline’s letters. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott