1600 to 2000 16 August 1813
General Wittgenstein – Russian Commander in Chief
Wittgenstein has spent an anxious 48 hours.
As the newly promoted commander in chief of the Russian field army he was aware that many senior generals, some with the ear of the Tsar, were waiting for him to make a mistake. Following the revered Kutuzov would be difficult for any general, for such a young and junior one it was particularly so.
At the start of the campaign he ordered his headquarters to move west from Dresden. Throughout 14th and 15th August he received vague reports of wide spread fighting between Naumburg and Possneck. It was clear that Napoleon had launched a major offensive over the river Saale. It was less clear how it was going.
On arrival at Gera on the morning of 16th August he received the welcome news that his army had not only held the line of the river Saale, but they had driven the French west of the river and that the 2nd French corps had surrendered.
Very little of this was due to Wittgenstein. His strategic plan for the campaign was to hold the line of the river and see what Napoleon would do. The defeats inflicted on the French were entirely due to the bravery, skill or perhaps luck of his corps commanders. However this would not prevent Wittgenstein from claiming credit for defeating Napoleon in person.
Had his army lost and been defeated he would have had to carry the blame. He was determined that he would reap the benefits of victory.
Only one small matter remained to be resolved. How best to cross the river, drive the French west and turn a major tactical victory into a major strategic one.