[CENTER][SIZE="3"][color="Navy"]The War of the Fourth Coalition[/color][/size]
The Fourth Coalition (1806–1807) of Prussia, Russia, Saxony, Sweden, and the United Kingdom against France formed within months of the collapse of the Third Coalition. Prussia joined the coalition fearing the rise in French power and influence in Germany after their defeat of Austria and Russia at Austerlitz.
In July, 1806 Napoleon formed the Confederation of the Rhine out of the numerous German states which constituted the Rhineland and most other parts of western Germany. He amalgamated many of the smaller states into larger electorates, duchies and kingdoms to make the governance of non-Prussian Germany more efficient. Napoleon also elevated the rulers of the two largest Confederation states, Saxony and Bavaria, to the status of kings.
Friedrich Wilhelm III[/CENTER]
Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia longed to control the Electorate of Hanover which the French had occupied since 1803. Napoleon demanded and seized the Prussian principalities of Cleves, Ansbach, and Neuchatel, for which Prussia was to receive Hanover. As an added insult Napoleon offered Hanover back to England during protracted peace negotiations before the treaty with Prussia had been finalized. While the response to the offer in England was less than enthusiastic, the effect in Berlin was electric. Queen Louise of Prussia, head of the 'War Party' at court, was outraged and it is said that the King finally relented to war only after she persistently denied him his 'conjugal rights.'
On August 7, the decision to go to war was secretly made and a search for allies began. On the 10th of August Prussia mobilized. On the 6th of September Prussia began to occupy Saxony to keep it out of the Confederation of the Rhine. It was then that reports finally filtered back to Napoleon that Prussian hotheads had been sharpening their swords against the steps of the French Embassy in Berlin and a warning was belatedly sent to Prussia to not occupy Saxony under threat of war.
The Prussian Gardes de Corps sharpen their swords on the steps of the French Embassy in Berlin 1806
Prussian Preparations & War Plans
The weakest attribute of the Prussian Army lay not with its men but with it's commanders. Along with three Chiefs of Staff there were personal animosities and ambitions to contend against. It took from August 10 to early September for the field armies to be organized. One under the Duke of Brunswick of about 75,000 men based on Magdeburg. The second was commanded by Prince Friedrich Ludwig von Hohenlohe of about 42,000, including the assimilated 18,000 man Saxon Army, in Dresden, Saxony. A third of 29,000 men was formed in southern Brunswick near Mulhausen north of Erfurt commanded by Generals Blücher and Rüchel. In East Prussia General Lestocq commanded 25,000 men.
Prince Friedrich Ludwig von Hohenlohe
Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand, Herzog zu Braunschweig-Lüneburg
As to how to use the army...no more than five different plans were put forward. Colonel Gerhard von Sharnhorst put forward a most sensible plan to delay the French in holding actions in the Thüringerwald Forest, along the Elbe, or even on the Oder if necessary until the Russian Army of 120,000 under General Count Levin Bennigsen arrived, if
Napoleon were to attack before a Prussian attack was ready. This was promptly assailed as 'an affront to the army's honor' and shelved. Hohenlohe's plan was to concentrate the army around Erfurt and Hof (near Plauen), wait to discern Napoleon's line of attack and then outflank them. This too was vetoed as to defensive (although subsequently this was not to far removed from what would occur historically by circumstance.) The Duke of Brunswick advocated an aggressive move southwest from Erfurt through Würzburg towards Stuttgart against the French encampments. When this was favored, Hohenlohe suggested a modified plan to attack from Hof towards Würzburg. The King finally intervened and imposed a compromise plan between Brunswick's and Hohenlohe's. Plans were drawn up and preliminary orders had been given when on September 27 the council of war reversed course and endorsed the Duke of Brunswick's original plan, causing chaos as the military bureaucracy ground to a halt as new orders were drawn up, sent, and regiments moved yet again.
On October 5th the news that Napoleon was advancing from the Würzburg area with a large force towards Saxony threw the Army command into confusion as to what to do. Should the Prussians draw up behind the Saale, or should all three armies converge on Leipzig? Nobody however reverted to Scharnhort's plan, and he later lamented, 'What we ought to do I know right well; what we shall do, only the gods know.'
Colonel Gerhard Johann von Sharnhorst[/CENTER]
It is here that our story will commence.