200th Anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig commemorated on Czech miniature sheet

October 2nd, 2013

The new miniature sheet by Ceskaposta commemorates the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig.

The Battle of Leipzig, fought on 16-19 October 1813 in Germany, was the largest and decisive battle of the Napoleonic wars. It was a clash between the army of the French Emperor Napoleon and the allied armies of Austria, Prussia, Russia and Sweden. The grandiose battle involved over half a million soldiers and more than two thousand cannons, making it the largest battle in the world prior to World War I. The coalition army, under the command of Karl von Schwarzenberg and several other princes, had over 300,000 troops. It outnumbered the Napoleon's army of less than 200,000 troops.

Both armies achieved no success on the first day of the battle which ended in a stalemate. The second day was used by both armies to reorganize their forces and wait for reinforcements. The French received only 14,000 troops as reinforcements; the coalition was strengthened by the arrival of 145,000 troops. On the third day, the coalition army launched a huge assault from all sides. In over nine hours of fighting, both sides suffered heavy casualties.

Napoleon saw that the battle was a lost cause and he began to withdraw his army across the river Elster. However, because of a mistake of his own commanders, the bridge over the Elster which was the only exit route was destroyed before the entire army was able to cross the river. Those who survived began to flee towards France. The defeat dealt a harsh blow against Napoleon himself, who was finally defeated two years later in the Battle of Waterloo. Shortly afterwards, Napoleon was exiled to the island of Elba.

The Czech troops, who defeated Napoleon in the battle of Chlumec nearby Ustinad Labem prior to the battle of Leipzig, considered the victory as their own triumph. Even more so because one of the commanders-in-chief of the Allied army, field marshal Karl von Schwarzenberg, was considered as a Czech prince. None of the battles fought before or after the Leipzig campaign involved so many Czech high ranking commanders including the highest ones (John Joseph Wenceslaus, Count Radetzky of Radetz was Schwarzenberg's chief of staff). A memorial for the battle, the "Volkerschlachtdenkmal", was unveiled in 1913 in Leipzig.