Battle of Dresden, 1813

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Karl Philipp Furst zu Schwarzenberg versus Napoleon Bonaparte: An Allies army under Schwarzenberg fears Bonaparte more than they fear the army he leads. Can one man really have such an impact on a battlefield?

Unfortunately, the success at Dresden was almost immediately negated by the disaster at Kulm. Bonaparte once said that “A man has his day in war as in other things; I myself shall be good for it another six years, after which even I shall have to stop”. He stated this in 1805, which means the triumph at Dresden came two years after he claimed he would have to stop. Whether Bonaparte was better or worse as a commander as time went on and when his true prime was is still hotly debated.
It is impossible to evaluate Bonaparte’s performance in this battle because it was not won by his tactical ability. Granted, his maneuvers in this battle were solid; he strengthened the wings and pounced on the weaker Allied wings while depending on his entrenched but outnumbered center to survive. The Allied left was crushed while the right held on to a single town which Bonaparte had not determined how he would capture yet. However, his mere presence is responsible for inspiring the French soldiers and intimidating the Allies into an unexpected withdrawal despite numerical superiority and contested strong points. Assuming Bonaparte was correct and that he was well past his prime by Dresden, his maneuvers of previous campaigns and wars proved more than a substitute in this particular battle.
dresden preview 2Notes
As I have already made clear, Bonaparte’s battles and campaigns are a treat to animate. Another reason I am always eager to animate his engagements is the wealth of accurate, specific information found in West Point’s Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars. Before I began animating this battle, I received feedback pointing out that I could better detail the landscape of the animations. Looking back at some previous animations, I noticed the landscapes of some animations are quite dull while others are quite elaborate. I decided that I would put a better effort into this aspect to make the animations more visually appealing. I had hoped Dresden was a good first step towards this improvement. However, seven years later while upgrading this animation, I realized how far I have come in terms of detail and quality. The upgraded animation features much more terrain, but still not to the standard I now adhere to.
– Jonathan Webb
Works Consulted

Chandler, David. The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York: MacMillan, 1966.Dupuy, Trevor N. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 BC to the Present, Fourth Edition. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.

Esposito, Vincent J. and John Robert Elting. A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars. New York: Praeger, 1965.

Lawford, James Philip. Napoleon: the Last Campaigns 1813-1815. New York: Crown, 1977.

Allied soldiers:
French soldiers:
Karl Philipp Furst zu Schwarzenberg: de Gouvion Saint-Cyr:,_Marquis_de_Gouvion_Saint-Cyr

French guns:

Map of Europe:

Map of the world:

Napoleon Bonaparte:


Readers Comments (7)

  1. I followed this link from the Wikipedia page for the Battle of Dresden. I share a tidbit of French history every day in my French classes with my high schoolers and am ecstatic to share this animation tomorrow, on the anniversary of the Battle of Dresden! I’ve forwarded the link to all my fellow teachers. Thanks for your hard work!

  2. It is always good to hear that my work is being used in such an educational way. I hope it is effective with your class and others.

  3. I think Dresden proved that Napoleon, with the use of cavalry, (much depleted in numbers due to the debacle of the Russian campaign of 1812) could still out fight his enemies.

    I think Dumbrowki’s Poles fought valiantly too. The battle was Napoleon’s final victory too…but negated by the defeat at Kulm..The Emperor had by this stage ‘lost his midas touch’ but was also commanding and Army which lacked the training and tactical nous which had been so well learned at the military cadres at Camp Boulogne some 12/13 years earlier. The officer corps, cavalry and artillery were no longer of the standard to which Napoleon had commanded in earlier campaigns.

    I would also suggest that some of Napoleon’s subordinates showed far less initiative in this campaign and consequently lost the war, whereas Napoleon proved still to have his genius intact.

    Best regards.

    Khorrum Gilani

  4. The battle of Dresden showed Napoleon at his best. His battle line was smaller, so easier to defend and he was able to exploit gaps and weakness in the much longer allied line. He managed to surprise his opponents with such a forced march. The 4-1 ratio of losses after the battle was impressive.

    Unfortunately, from 1812 onwards, he sometimes became ill on the battlefield – at Borodino, at Dresden and at Waterloo – but I don’t think he ever lost his tactical military genius as Montmirail in February 1814 and Ligny in June 1815 demonstrates.

  5. I have recently seen the comments about this encounter. I should also like to add that the French fought valiantly during this campaign. In this battle the gunnery was merciless and inflicted massive losses on both sides. The French under strength in cavalry was also exposed since the Emperor could have used it to even better effect to exploit the Allied weaknesses. However a great victory nevertheless.

  6. buy Total War – Napoleon and u can fight this battle all day long

  7. I love this site

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