Battle of Hagelberg.
27th August 1813.
The Cossacks and Prussian Landwehr inflicted 6.000 casualties
on the French regulars. Their own losses were 1.500 killed and wounded.

Hagelberg memorial 1. Itroduction.
2. Troops.
3. Battle.
4. Aftermath.
5. Sources and Links.

On photo: Battle of Hagelberg 1813 memorial. Source:
"Die Schlacht bei Hagelberg ereignete sich in der Folge
der Schlacht bei Großbeeren und im Vorfeld der Völkerschlacht
bei Leipzig während der Befreiunskriege."
"Die Schlacht von Hagelberg wurde zum Symbol für den Widerstand
gegen das napoleonische Herrschaftssystem in Deutschland."

The war in 1813 was called by the Prussians,
the War of Liberation. Public demonstrations
in Prussia against the French persuaded
the king of Prussia, Frederick William,
to change sides.

The Prussians received news that a French division
was in camps near Hagelberg. The Cossacks were
immediately sent, and the Prussians followed them.

Map of Europe in 1813 "Germany, and particularly Prussia, suffered more than other German regions under French rule following the dramatic Prussian-Saxon defeat of 1806-07. The hatred of France and all things French was more developed in political discourse there than elsewhere in Germany. The patriotic-national mobilization for the ‘War of Liberation’ in 1813 extended beyond the small elite of the educated strata." (- Karen Hagemann, Wales)
The war in 1813 was called by the Prussians, the War of Liberation. Public demonstrations in Prussia against the French persuaded the king of Prussia, Frederick William, to change sides. Austria declared war on France in August. The combined allied armies were nearly half million strong and were commanded by Bernadotte, Blucher, Barclay de Tolly, Bennigsen, and Schwarzenberg. The Saxon Campaign in 1813 is one of the greatest Napoleonic Campaigns. It includes such battles like Lützen, Bautzen, Hanau, Dresden, and the mighty Battle of the Nations at Leipzig.

Napoleon's victories at Lützen and Bautzen were indecisive and the Prussians welcomed the armistice of June 4 as a chance to strengthen their army. The Prussian Landwehr completed its basic training and was considered ready for action, swelling the army's ranks. The Landwehr only recently received their muskets. Although they were considered second rate troops they were strongly motivated to liberate their country.

The strategical situation in the beginning of 1813 was complicated. While Marshal Oudinot's army moved towards Gross-Beeren, Girard's infantry division sought to join him. The Prussians seeking information on Girard sent out patrols and Hirschfeld's force to engage the French. General-Major Karl Friedrich von Hirschfeld received news that Girard's division was in camps near Lubnitz and Hagelberg. The Cossacks were immediately sent to Belzig.


The Prussian Landwehr had been disdainfully portrayed
by Napoleon as scoundrels, but they passed their
baptism by fire at Hagelberg.

"Evidently, some of the new [French] troops
looked so bad in drill while still at the
training centers that the populace referred
to the army as the 'infants of the Emperor."
- General Savary

Prussian General Hirschfeld had the following regiments at Hagelberg:
Prussian Landwehr - 3rd Kurmark Landwehr Infantry Regiment (4 battalions)
- 4th Kurmark Landwehr Infantry Regiment (3 battalions)
- 6th Kurmark Landwehr Infantry Regiment (4 battalions)
- 7th Kurmark Landwehr Infantry Regiment (1 battalion)
- Elbe Infantry Regiment (1 battalion)
- 1st Reserve Infantry Regiment
- 3rd Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry Regiment (4 squadrons)
- 5th Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry Regiment (4 squadrons)
- 6th Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry Regiment (4 squadrons)

Although the Landwehr in 1813 was second rate troop, they were highly motivated. The Prussian Landwehr was based on the model of that of Austria of 1809.

Loraine Petre writes: "As the impoverished state of Prussian finances precluded much assistance from the State, the expense of equipment had to fall on the men themselves, or their villages. ... At first, the front rank was often armed with pikes or scythes, and it was only as French muskets were taken from the battlefields that the men were armed with yet another pattern of firearm. There was a great dearth of officers, as most of the half-pay officers still fit for service were required for the reserve battalions.
All sorts of officials, many of them very unsuitable as military officers, joined, and it was only later on that men of some experience were got from the 'volunteer-jagers, etc. Naturally, the landwehr, as a whole, was at first of no great military value, though their initial worth was in some corps (Yorck's and Bulow's especially) enhanced by long marches and still more by early successes." (Petre - "Napoleon at War" p 114)

Russian Cossacks The Prussians were supported by several Russian units. There were 10 light guns and five regiments of the bearded Cossacks. They were commanded by one of the best Cossack leaders, Chernyshev.
- Vlasov-III's Cossack Regiment
- Rebreiev's Cossack Regiment
- Pantelev's Cossack Regiment
- Grekhov-XVIII's Cossack Regiment
- Sisoiev's Cossack Regiment
- XXVI Light Battery (10 guns)
The horsemanship of Cossacks was second to none in Europe. They could pick up a small coin from the ground during full gallop or fire from pistols from under horse's belly. The Cossacks, portrayed by some as Satan’s bastard offspring, were constant menace for the Frenchmen, Germans, and Italians. Their horses were not large and they appeared as if they should crumble under the sheer weight of their diverse loads. The Cossacks however feared artillery and musketry.

The French were commanded by seasoned Général de Division Jean-Baptiste Girard (1775 - 1815). In 1813 the French army was made of young recruits (the battle-hardened veterans perished in Russia few months earlier). General Savary writes: "Evidently, some of the new troops looked so bad in drill while still at the training centers that the populace referred to the army as the 'infants of the Emperor."
1813: the French line infantry dressed 
according to the Bardin Regulations. Although Girard's infantrymen were young recruits they have already experienced combat. The artillery was superb, the cavalry however was poorly trained. All Girard's troops were regulars, vast majority were Frenchmen. Girard had the following units at Hagelberg:
- III Battalion of 24th Light Infantry Regiment
- III Battalion of 26th Light Infantry Regiment
- III Battalion of 18th Line Infantry Regiment
- III Battalion of 19th Line Infantry Regiment
- III Battalion of 56th Line Infantry Regiment
- III Battalion of 72nd Line Infantry Regiment
- III,VI Battalion of 134th Line Infantry Regiment
- Croatian battalion
- Westphalian battalion
- two Saxon battalions
- 13th Hussar Regiment (3 squadrons)
- de marche cuirassiers (1 squadron)
- de marche light cavalry (1 squadron)
- Artillery

Prussians & Russians
525 cavalrymen
5 squadrons of French cavalry
1.000 cavalrymen
12 squadrons of Prussian cavalry
5 regiments of Cossacks
14-24 guns 10-12 guns
8.000 infantrymen
8 French battalions
2 Saxon battalions
1 Westphalian battalion
1 Croatian battalion
10.350 infantrymen
1 infantry battalions
4 reserve infantry battalion
13 landwehr battalions


Benkendorf with several Cossack regiments
defiantly galloped in front of the whole French position.

The Battle.
The Cossacks routed French cuirassiers,
captured two cannons and several wagons,
which they took with them.

Hirschfeld issued the following order: "The combined cavalry, except for von Bornstadt's squadron, shall march to the left under the command of Oberst (Colonel) von Bismark. The Fusilier Battalion of the 1st Reserve Regiment shall lead, followed by two musketeer battalions of the regiment.
... They shall be followed by the 11 cavalry squadrons, then the 10 guns of Kpt. Chamborand (Russian 26th Light Battery) ... The march shall be made in the greatest quiet and tranquility. Any noise or unauthorized discharge of weapons will be punished by 6 weeks arrest. ... The artillery shall remain in formation and move according to the terrain. ..."

Prussian reserve infantry.
Picture by Steven Palatka. Prussian reserve infantry At 1 AM the 6th Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry (3 squadrons) encountered the French cavalry encampment near Lübnitz. They surged forward, the tunes of the trumpets rent the air, quickly followed by two other cavalry regiments. The French brought infantry and guns to the right side of the village.

As the Landwehr cavalry began to advance toward the French, they were raken by artillery fire. The French advance guard was not about to yield without a fight.

The 5th and 6th Kurmark Landwehr attacked driving back the French infantry and scattering the French cavalry. The debris of the French advance guard fled back on the main body of Girard's forces behind Lübnitz. The Prussian cavalry followed them and had completely disbanded itself in the process. One Landwehr battalion moved through the streets of the burning village pursuing the enemy. Two French battalions took cover behind a wall and opened fire on the cavalry. The casualties however were very light.

The Prussian reserve infantry (see picture) followed the Landwehr cavalry and infantry. The 1st Reserve Infantry had 2,882 men in 4 battalions, and was one of the strongest Prussian units on the battlefield. Three of its battalions were part of the advance guard commanded by Major von Langen. The fourth battalion led von Puttlitz's brigade.

Map of Battle of Hagelberg, 1813. The French main force was in battle array and waiting for the enemy. French artillery opened fire and one of their howitzer shells struck the II/7th Kurmark Landwehr. The battalion halted and refused to advance, two other battalions followed its example.

Only after the French battery withdrew the Prussians continued deploying their troops. Major von Langen took 1st Reserve and 4th Kurmark Landwehr and entered the Belzig Wood in order to turn the French flank. To avoid being outflanked the French fell back and deployed on the hill near Hagelberg.

While Cossacks led by Alexandr Ivanovich Chernishev advanced against Girard's flank, the seven Prussian battalions moved between the Belzig and the Birken Woods. The French opened fire but without much effect, they were driven off from the hill and pushed into Klein-Glien. At 3 pm the Prussians placed the bulk of their Landwehr on the edge of the woods while the main French force stood west of Klein-Glien.

The Cossacks defeated cavalry
and captured two cannons.

Benkendorf Aleksandr Benkendorf (see picture) galloped with Cossack regiments in front of the whole French position, from the far right to the far left wing. Musketry accompanied the Cossacks and they were received by grapeshot. Nevertheless, a Cossack regiment (300-400 men) defeated squadron of cuirassiers and some light infantry, in full view of the artillery. Then they captured two cannons and several wagons which they took with them.

Landwehr battalion fled
"carrying the other battalions back with them."

The Prussian Landwehr attacked several times. The first line of the attackers consisted of battalion of 3rd Landwehr and battalion of 1st Reserve Infantry. The Prussians passed through the skirmish chain and deployed into line to exchange fire. The French line held their ground and opened rapid musket fire. After 3 minutes of musketry the Landwehr battalion had enough and fled "carrying the other battalions back with them."

To modern man, long accustomed to repeating and automatic firearms, one, 2 or even 3 rounds per minute is nothing to write home about. However, once one comes to grips with the idea of 600 men, packed into front of about 200 paces, able to fire anywhere from 1000 to 3000 rounds per minute, then the image alters drastically, even in the eyes of a modern soldier.

Hirschfeld's general advance
and the capture of Hagelberg.

Hagelberg today. Two Prussian battalions captured Hagelberg before being driven back by canister fire. The French battery on the Wind Mill was supported by the 13th Hussars. The guns swept the battlefield in front of them. While a Landwehr battalion came out of the Belzig Wood and attacked Hagelberg from the flank, the Cossacks have engaged the hussars. A group of French soldiers in the Grutzdorf Wood was surrounded.

Hirschfeld ordered a general advance by the right wing, storming the Hagelberg hill. Two French battalions counterattacked and colided with three Landwehr battalions and three squadrons. The French fell back with the Landwehr hot on their heels.
Girard's line was broken.

The Landwehr surrounded one French battalion in the garden. The French with 2 guns surrendered. Another French battalion and small troop of cavalry still kept fighting in the streets. The 3rd Kurmark Landwehr advanced into a plowed field surrounded with a stone wall, which stood next to the village. The French exchanged volleys with them and withdrew into the village.

Girard's division fell back.

Landwehr with captured French armor.
By Gomez Segura The Prussians were masters of the center and in the Belzig Wood their three battalions pushed the French skirmishers aside. Then one battalion moved against the east side of Hagelberg. The French abandoned the village.

Meanwhile the single Cossack regiment was joined by freshly arrived four regiments of the bearded warriors. In this situation Girard's division fell back on Klein-Glien and abandoned the Hagelberg hill.

The Cossacks drove the French hussars off. Two French battalions were retreating when 500 Cossacks, 300 Prussian riflemen and several Russian guns struck at them. Approx. 1,030 Frenchmen surrendered. Landwehr cavalry followed the retreating enemy. Girard's division withdrew from Gross-Glien in two columns, one column marched towards Magdeburg. The roads were filled with fleeing soldiers, and here and there were piled up baggage wagons, and abandoned weapons.



Prussian Landwehr cavalry.
Picture by Knotel. In 1813 the Allies followed the strategy outlined in the Trachenburg Plan to avoid clashes with Napoleon but to seek meetings with his marshals and generals, which led to victories at Grossbeeren, Kulm, Katzbach, Dennewitz and Hagelberg.

Plotho gives the Prussian casualties at 1,012 (234 killed and 778 wounded). Nafziger provides 238 killed, 859 wounded, and 662 missing. Total 1,759 casualties.
The French losses were much heavier; the Prussians claim to have taken 7 guns and 5,000 prisoners. Girard also lost the entire baggage of his division. Sauzey stated that Girard's division had only 3,500 men when returned to Wittenberg. It gives 4,500-5,000 casualties.

Nafziger writes: "The battle of Hagelberg is unusual, not in that the French were defeated, but that the defeat was at the hands of a force consisting largely of Prussian landwehr that had only recently abandoned its pikes for muskets. This suggests that the Landwehr was hardly what one would call veterans.
Theoretically Girard was leading first line troops. It is true that they were mostly recent conscripts, yet it was conscripts that had defeated allies at Lutzen and Bautzen. It was also new French conscripts facing Prussian landwehr which had little difference in its overall training." (Nafziger - "Napoleon's Dresden Campaign" p 136)

Sources and Links.

Photos: (Lienhard Schulz)
Nafziger - "Napoleon's Dresden Campaign."
Bogdanovich - "Istoriya voiny 1813 Goda"
Beitzke - "Geschichte der Deutschen Freiheitskriege in den Jahren 1813 und 1814"
Quistorp - "Nord Armee"
Plotho - "Der Krieg" vol. II
Pictures of Prussian reserve infantry by Steven Palatka.
'Zapiski Benkendorfa' (Memoires du comte Alexandre Benkendorf)
[This is a reprint of two fragments, published for the first time in a hundred years,
about little known facts of the military campaigns of 1812-1814.
His division liberated several cities of the Netherlands in 1813.]

Vom Koalitionskrieg gegen Frankreich zu den Befreiungskriegen.
Brief History of Prussia.
Flags of Prussian Landwehr.
Pictures of Prussian Landwehr.
Cossacks !

Battle of Dennewitz 1813 ~ BATTLE OF THE NATIONS - LEIPZIG 1813 ~ Battle of Dresden 1813

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