Ney’s corps is responsible for the northern flank of the French Army.
They hold a stretch of the river Saale which runs east and then north, resulting in a pocket of land much nearer to the Russian positions than the other French corps.
Throughout the morning Ney has received reports of Russian activity along the whole length of the river on the eastern side.
Having inspected his defence positions, and finding them to his satisfaction, he has ordered his staff to prepare a mid morning snack and a cool glass of wine on a nearby hill overlooking the river. As he raises the glass to his lips one of his aides draws his attention to the nearby river Saale
The marshal and his staff have a clear view of the large Russian column that is approaching the eastern bank opposite their hill. As they watch, a French column moves south over the bridge just to their right.
The two columns are within a few miles of each other, and sight each other at the same time. A lancer regiment is leading the French column and they immediately form line and move towards the enemy column. The hussar regiment leading the Russian column also form line and move towards the lancers. After a short and sharp melee both sides withdraw disordered. Neither side has suffered any casualties, and both fall back towards their respective column.
Meanwhile a French 12 pounder battery just below Ney’s hill have unlimbered and now opens fire on the main body of the Russian column. The cannon balls fall in the midst of the nearest infantry regiment causing some casualties and much confusion.
The Russians are quick to deploy a battery to return the fire, but it proves ineffective and results only in shouted French insults across the narrow river.
Ney writes a quick despatch and hands it to one of his trusted ADCs. Napoleon will be pleased to hear that first blood has gone to the French.