The Battle of Fehrbellin ( La bataille de Fehrbellin/Die Schlacht von Fehrbellin ), January 22, 1805
Part One – The Setting and Forces
Wer alles verteidigt, verteidigt nichts.
“He who defends everything defends nothing.”
Ce ne sont pas les grandes armées qui ont gagné les batailles, ce sont les bonnes.
“It is not big armies that win battles, it is the good ones.”
“L’Empereur, when informed of the fait accompli of the Austrian and Prussian declarations of war, immediately set upon a determined course, intending to knock Prussia out of the war with a winter campaign and then turn on Austria. Accordingly, Le Grande Armee massed in Hanover to accomplish this purpose. He divided his forces into two Armies; the Army of the Elbe, under his command, and the Army of the Weser, under Marshal Massena. Ignoring Berthier’s advice to delay the Campaign until the Spring due to the costs of campaigning in the Winter he said, “Bien que les fleurs puissent pousser, la taille de la force ennemie augmentera également.” As well, the Austrian declaration of War on Bavaria did not distract him from this object, as he said to Talleyrand, upon hearing of the urgency with which the Bavarians desired assistance, “L’électeur a aussi une armée, n’est-ce pas?”
Brunswick, meanwhile, had deployed the Prussian Army anticipating a French move on Brandenburg via a direct crossing of the Elbe in the vicinity of Rathenow. Accordingly, he had two Corps positioned there under Hohenlohe, anticipating that when Napoleon attacked there, he would attempt to reinforce with his three Corps in Berlin from the East and the Saxon Army would also move in from the South.
Massena’s move on Magdeburg seemed to confirm this course of action. In fact, L’Empereur, as was his wont, discussed this very course of action with foreign diplomats and amongst his Marshals. However, when orders were dispatched by fast courier to Massena, Napoleon, in a typical frenzy of late-night activity, gave orders for the Army of the Elbe to march on Berlin, through neutral Mecklenburg. When warned of the offense the Grand Duke may take to this violation of his territorial sovereignty, L’Empereur replied, “Il peut me battre avec un pêcheur armé de hareng plus tard.”
The march was well prepared and organized by Berthier and the Army of the Elbe sped into Brandenburg from the Northwest early on January 21, 1805. Brunswick, reacting, spun the Army of Brandenburg to the North, and hoping to hold off the French Advance and buy time for reinforcements to join him, established a position at Fehrbellin intending to protect his flanks from the fast approaching Army of the Elbe, as the individual corps were now spread coming towards the capital from the North Northeast, North and Northwest, with Murat commanding the first, Eugène commanding the latter, and L’Empereur commanding the Northern line of march with Jérôme at his side.
However, a flanking maneuver was impossible to execute given the strung out condition of the three lines of march, given the speed of the advance. Not wishing to give the Prussians any more time to prepare but needing more time for any more complex tactical dispositions, Napoleon, in council on the night of the 21st, ordered a general assault the next day, eschewing a reserve, commenting to Murat, “Pour un sou, pour un Livre.”
The sun rose that morning, obscured by mist over the half-frozen ground…
Key Leader and Commander: Napoleon 5.5.6 A
Other Leaders: Murat (Cavalry Leader), Eugene, Jerome
I Corps with 20 Infantry and 3 Cavalry, all have 4.0 Morale
II Corps with 20 Infantry and 3 Cavalry, all have 4.0 Morale
III Corps with 10 Infantry and 2 Cavalry, all have 4.0 Morale
IV Corps with 10 Infantry and 3 Cavalry, all have 4.0 Morale
71 Factors, 11 are Cavalry, at 4 Morale
Prussian (@Cuthbert )
Commander, Brunswick, 2.1.3 A
II Corps with 14 Infantry at 3 Morale and 3 Cavalry at 4 Morale
III Corps with 14 Infantry at 3 Morale and 3 Cavalry at 4 Morale
Depot Garrison with 10 Infantry at 3 Morale
44 Factors, 6 are Cavalry, at 3.2 Morale
Leadership, Terrain, Environment, Operational Factors
Leadership: Attacker has +1 to Combat Rolls, Defender has -1 to Combat Rolls. Attacker has a Cavalry Leader.
Operational Factors: Defender will attempt to Reinforce from the West and the South each round on each day.
Chits: Attacker Chooses Escalated Assault, Defender Chooses Cordon