1200 to 1600 17 August 1813
General Wittgenstein – Russian Commander in Chief
Wittgenstein is not a happy man. Despite his determination to take full advantage of his early battlefield success his corps commanders appear to be unable, or unwilling, to do so.
At the end of the second battle of Possneck, move 6, the French were on the run and it appeared nothing could stop the Russian advance.
He urged his corps commanders to regroup and cross the river Saale in pursuit of the retreating French. It soon became obvious that his corps commanders had allowed their corps to run short of supplies. Each corps had started the campaign with sufficient supplies for nine moves, but most now reported that they were running short. It only takes one move to resupply, but many had failed to do so.
It was clear to Wittgenstein that the French offensive had failed, and that he had a short window of opportunity to take advantage of the resulting disorder in the French army. Napoleon would either retreat west, or he would hold the west bank of the river Saale. It soon became obvious that he had decided on the latter. There were only four bridges over the river, and even a reduced French army could hold them with ease.
He ordered his corps commanders to regroup and recce the length of the river for possible fords. They should be ready to cross the river by move 10. But when he received his daily reports at the end of move 9 it was clear that this would not happen.
His commanders reported that the French held the west bank of the river in strength, and had fought off any patrols that attempted to recce the river for fords.
Five moves had passed since the surrender of 2nd French corps at Possneck. Long enough for Napoleon to redistribute his reduced forces to hold the river line. The Russian attempts to recce the river line had only produced two possible fords. Any attack would have to be across one of the six known crossings.
The window of opportunity was fast closing. This situation could not be allowed to go on for much longer.