Combat of Colditz, 5 May 1813

The combat of Colditz (5 May 1813) was a rearguard action during the Allied retreat after their defeat at Lutzen three days earlier (War of Liberation).

War of Liberation 1813 - Spring Campaign
War of Liberation 1813 -
Spring Campaign

Part of the Allied rearguard was retreating on parallel routes, with Steinmetz's brigade to the north and Miloradovich to the south. Kleist was somewhere to the north of both of them, heading for a different crossing of the Elbe. On 5 May both Steimnetz and Miloradovich had reached the River Mulde, Steinmetz at Colditz and Miloradovich at Rochlitz, just over twenty file miles to the east of Lützen.

Steinmetz decided to make a stand at Colditz, part of an attempt to delay the French pursuit.  At about 11am Prince Eugène de Beauharnais, then with Macdonald's XI Corps, emerged from the Colditz forst, west of the time, to find Steinmetz formed up ready to fight.

Eugène attacked Steinmetz, and he was soon forced to retreat to Hartha, another eight miles to the east. This retreat threatened to cut off Miloradovich, and so he sent all of his available forces to join Steinmetz.

The combined force was able to hold for a short period at Hartha, before Eugène forced them to retreat once again. This time they reached Waldheim and the Zschopau River (just to the east of the town).

This time Prince Eugène didn't push too hard. He reported having seen a large body of troops to his left, believed to be Kleist, who was heading for Mühlberg. Partly as a result of this Eugène only pushed outposts to the Zschopau, while his main force ended the dya at Hartha.

Napoleon wasn't pleased with Eugène's performance at Colditz, and informed him that he should have been able to take 2,000-3,000 prisoners in such hilly country. This was perhaps unfair to Miloradovich, who conducted a skilful retreat over the next few days.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 March 2017), Combat of Colditz, 5 May 1813 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/combat_colditz.html

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