Combat of Zahna, 5 September 1813 (Prussia)

The combat of Zahna (5 September 1813) was a French success during Marshal Ney's attempt to capture Berlin, but on the following day Ney suffered a defeat at Dennewitz and was forced to abandon the attempt.

Early in the autumn campaign Marshal Oudinot had been given the task of taking Berlin, but his attempted ended in defeat at Grossbeeren (23 August 1813). He retreated back to the Elbe at Wittenberg, and was replaced in command of the Army of the North by Marshal Ney. Oudinot remained with the army as commander of XII Corps.

War of Liberation 1813 - Autumn Campaign
War of Liberation 1813 -
Autumn Campaign

Ney took over command on 3 September. His army was facing north around Wittenberg, with Bertrand's IV Corps on the right, Oudinot's XII Corps in the centre and Reynier's VII Corps on the left.

Ney faced the Army of the North, commanded by the former Marshal Bernadotte, now the Crown Prince of Sweden. His troops had been rather widely scattered, but on 4 September Oudinot made a demonstration towards Zahna, six miles to the east/ north-east of Wittenberg, and Bernadotte had moved his troops closer together. On 5 September his left (Tauenzien's corps) was at Zahna. Bülow's corps was in the centre. His right (Stedingk, Winzingerode and Hirschfeld's division) were around Lobbese, eight miles to the north of Zahna.

Portrait of Marshal Michel Ney (1769-1815)
Portrait of
Marshal Michel Ney
(1769-1815)

Ney almost immediately issued orders for a new advance. On 5 September XII Corps and IV Corps were to head to Zahna and then Juterbogk (14 miles to the east/ north-east of Zahna). XII Corps was to take the lead. VII Corps, from the French left, was to move north, then turn right to make for Baruth, a similar distance to the east/ north-east of Juterbogk. These moves would place his army about thirty miles to the south of Berlin, but his aim was actually to move further east to Luckau, where he was expecting to join up with Napoleon.

The main fighting on 5 September took place around Zahna, where Oudinot's advancing troops clashed with Tauenzien's advance guard. After a hard fight the French captured Zahna, and Tauenzein's men retreated back towards Juterbogk.

By the end of the day the French were thus heading east towards Luckau and Dahme, with most of Bernadotte's troops to their north. On the following day Bernadotte defeated Ney at Dennewitz, ending this French attack on Berlin.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (7 June 2017), Combat of Zahna, 5 September 1813 (Prussia) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/combat_zahna.html

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