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Battle of Friedland Area Today

A map of the area around the battle positions

Battle of Friedland summary

The Battle of Friedland (June 14, 1807) saw Napoleon I's French army decisively defeat Count von Bennigsen's Russian army about twenty-seven miles (43 km) southeast of Königsberg.

  1. The Russian forces under General Golitsyn had driven off the French cavalry outposts from Friedland on June 13, and Bennigsen's main body began to occupy the town at night.
  2. The army of Napoleon marched on Friedland, but remained dispersed on its various march routes.
  3. Knowing that Napoleon was within supporting distance with at least three corps, Lannes sent aides galloping off with messages for help and waged an expert delaying action to fix Benningsen in place. With never more than 26,000 men, Lannes forced Benningsen to commit progressively more troops across the Alle to defeat him.
  4. Lannes held Benningsen in place until the French had massed 80,000 troops on the left bank of the river.
  5. Benningsen was trapped and had to fight. Having thrown all of his pontoon bridges at or near the bottleneck of the village of Friedland, Benningsen had unwittingly trapped his troops on the west bank.
  6. Beyond the right of the infantry, cavalry and Cossacks extended the line to the northeast.
  7. The left wing also had some cavalry and, beyond the Alle river, batteries came into action to cover it.
  8. The head of Mortier's (French and Polish) corps appeared at Heinrichsdorf and drove the Cossacks out their positions.
  9. Lannes held his own, and by noon Napoleon arrived with 40,000 French troops at the scene of the battle.
  10. Cavalry masses were collected at Heinrichsdorf. The main attack was to be delivered against the Russian left, which Napoleon saw at once to be cramped in the narrow tongue of land.
  11. At 5 o'clock all was ready, and Ney, preceded by a heavy artillery fire, rapidly carried the Sortlack Wood on the French right.
  12. Marshal Ney's right-hand division under Marchand drove part of the Russian left into the river at Sortlack, while Bisson's division advanced on the left.
  13. A furious charge by Russian cavalry took place at the gap between Marchand and Bisson.
  14. The attack was repulsed by the dragoon division of Latour-Maubourg.
  15. Soon the Russians found themselves huddled together in the bends of the Alle, an easy target for the guns of Ney and of the reserve.
  16. Ney's attack came eventually to a standstill. Bennigsen's reserve cavalry charged with great effect and drove him back in disorder.
  17. The infantry division of Dupont advanced rapidly , the cavalry divisions drove back the Russian squadrons into the now congested masses of infantry on the river bank, and finally the artillery general Sénarmont advanced a mass of guns to case-shot range.
  18. The terrible effect of the close range artillery saw the Russian defence collapsing within minutes, as canister decimated the ranks. Ney's exhausted infantry succeeded in pursuing the broken regiments of Bennigsen's left into the streets of Friedland.
  19. The Russians incurred very heavy losses in retreating over the river at Friedland. Many soldiers drowned.