THE GERMAN LIBERATION WAR AGAINST NAPOLEON 1813-1815 AND THE VICTORY AT THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO

Carl von Clausewitz (1780 – 1831) in 1812 drew up a plan for Prussian partisans in which all male citizens between 18 and 60 would be armed with muskets, scythes and pitchforks. The only uniform would be a padded hat and provincial insignia. They were to hinder French officials, capture detachments and attack convoys. This force was to conduct ambushes and lend support to the regular army.

In 1808 August von Gneisenau (1760 – 1831) had written that Prussia’s only hope lay in a national insurrection and three years later Scharnhorst submitted a plan to the Prussian king which recommended guerrilla resistance.

By definition partisan or guerrilla resistance is supposed to be spontaneous. So the creation of the Landsturm in Prussia was unique. It was a guerrilla resistance enacted by law from above. The law of 21 April 1813, called for all able-bodied men between the age of 18 and 60, who were not already in the army or the Landwehr, to join the Landsturm. No uniforms were to be used, to avoid recognition by the enemy. When the French approached inhabitants in that area the guerrillas were to abandon their villages and organize under already by the king nominated officers. From the woods they would then harass the enemy. As they retreated they were to take away corn and food, burn mills, bridges and boats and fill the wells.

But in reality the Landsturm was not effective because the ruling elite feared a popular struggle which could give the partisans ideas of rising against their Prussian masters. The operations of the Prussian guerrilla were thus hampered by many qualifications and regulations. The partisans were to be under command of the provincial and local authorities.

Gatherings of local units were to be sanctioned by army or corps commanders. Any assembly without authority of the Landsturm was to be regarded as mutiny. The result was that the defensive guerrilla war only lasted three months and was ineffective. It was a people’s war without the people.

In 1813 the German liberation war against the French occupation started. From June to August 1813, when there was an armistice. Both sides started rebuilding their armies. It was now Austria joined the coalition against Napoleon. 300,000 troops were deployed in Bohemia and northern Italy. The alliance now had 800,000 frontline troops in Germany.

Napoleon brought his forces up to around 650,000. After the end of the armistice the French suffered several defeats in the north at Grossbeeren, Katzbach and Dennewitz. Afterwards Napoleon He withdrew around 175,000 troops to Leipzig. Here the so-called Battle of Nations (16–19 October 1813) took place, a defeat for Napoleon.

The emperor later pulled his forces back into France. The Allies offered peace terms in the Frankfurt proposals in November 1813. Napoleon would remain as Emperor of France, but it would be reduced to its “natural frontiers.” He waited too long and no agreement was made.

During the last months of 1813 and into 1814 Wellington with the Peninsular army in Spain invaded France from the south. Wellington was victorious in a number of battles.

In eastern France Napoleon fought a series of battles. He was steadily forced back and outnumbered. At theTreaty of Chaumont March 9, 1814 the Allies agreed to preserve the Coalition until Napoleon was ultimately defeated. A few days later, on 30 March 1814, Paris was taken.

Napoleon abdicated and the war ended soon after. As a result of the Treaty of Paris on May 30,1814 he victors exiled Napoleon to the island of Elba, and restored the Bourbon monarchy with Louis XVIII as king of France. At the Congress of Vienna (between September 1814 and June 1815) an new Europe was created. Germany had finally been liberated from French occupation.

In 1815 Napoleon had returned from Elba and collected a new army. He was defeated by the Allies at Waterloo in Belgium on June 18, 1815.

Great Britain on June 18, 2015 is celebrating the British victory over Napoleon 200 years ago. That would probably not have been done without the Germans.

As a gesture to the Germans the Massed Bands of British regiments will be joined by the Concert Band of the German Army at the celebrations in London. The German ambassador will take the salute.

“About 45% of the men with whom Wellington started the battle spoke German of one sort or another, and the proportion increased with every Prussian formation reaching the scene”, writes Brendan Simms in his book, The Longest Afternoon, the 400 Men who Decided the Battle of Waterloo.

“By the end, a clear majority of allied combatants were German, to that extent Waterloo was indeed a ‘German victory’.”

The course of the battle was changed at La Haye Sainte. It defended by soldiers of the King’s German Legion – established by George III who was also Elector of Hanover.

Despite the crucial role played by German troops at Waterloo, the German government has been concerned about French sensitivities.

200,000 soldiers took part in the battle of Waterloo, on 18 June 1815. An estimated 47,000 were killed, and 24,000 wounded.

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