Here Blucher crossed the Rhine with the Prussian and Russian armies, on New Year's night 1813-1814, in pursuit of the French.
To meet the impending blow the Prussians had been extended in a cordon along the great road leading from Mainz to Dresden, Blucher was at Erfurt, Riichel at Gotha, Hohenlohe at Weimar, Saxons in Dresden, with outposts along the frontier.
Even then the day might have been saved had Blucher been able to find even twenty squadrons accustomed to gallop together, but the Prussian cavalry had been dispersed amongst the infantry commands, and at the critical moment it proved impossible for them to deliver a united and decisive attack.
Only Blucher now remained in the field, and he too was driven at length into Lubeck with his back to the sea.
This led the latter to push on without due regard to tactical precautions, and Blucher took advantage of their carelessness when at Haynau (May 26), with some twenty squadrons of Landwehr cavalry, he surprised, rode over and almost destroyed Maison's division.
Blucher with about 95,000 Russians and Prussians was about Breslau, and Schwarzenberg, with nearly 180,000 Austrians and Russians, lay in Bohemia.
At length becoming impatient he advanced a portion of his army towards Blucher, who fell back to draw him into a trap. Then the news reached him that Schwarzenberg was pressing down the valley of the Elbe, and, leaving Macdonald to observe Blucher, he hurried back to Bautzen to dispose his troops to cross the Bohemian mountains in the general direction of KOnigstein, a blow which must have had decisive results.
In spite of this misfortune, Napoleon could claim a brilliant success for himself, but almost at the same moment news reached him that Oudinot at Grossbeeren near Berlin, and Macdonald on the Katzbach opposed to Blucher, had both been severely defeated.
Blucher, however, hearing of his arrival, at once retreated and the emperor followed, thus uncovering the passes over the Bohemian mountains, a fact of which Schwarzenberg was quick to take advantage.
In the meanwhile Blucher, Schwarzenberg and Bernadotte were working round his flanks.
He then on the 7th of October drew up a final plan, in which one again recognizes the old commander, and this he immediately proceeded to put into execution, for he was now quite aware of the danger threatening his line of retreat from both Blucher and Schwarzenberg and the North Army; yet only a few hours afterwards the portion of the order relating to St Cyr and Lobau was cancelled and the two were finally left behind at Dresden.
Blucher was reported near Wittenberg, and Schwarzenberg was moving slowly round to the south of Leipzig.
The emperor decided to throw the bulk of his force on Blucher, and, having routed him, turn south on Schwarzenberg and sever his communications with Bohemia.
His concentration was effected with his usual sureness and celerity, but whilst the French moved on Wittenberg, Blucher was marching to his right, indifferent to his communications as all Prussia lay behind him.
This move on the 14th brought him into touch with Bernadotte, and now a single march forward of all three armies would have absolutely isolated Napoleon from France; but Bernadotte's nerve failed him, for on hearing of Napoleon's threat against Wittenberg he decided to retreat northward, and not all the persuasions of Blucher and Gneisenau could move him.
Schwarzenberg, with 180,000 men available at once and 60,000 on the following day; Blucher had about 60,000, but Bernadotte now could not arrive before the 18th.
Napoleon prepared to throw the bulk of his force upon Schwarzenberg and massed his troops south-east of the town, whilst Schwarzenberg marched concentrically against him down the valley of the Elster and Pleisse, the mass of his troops on the right bank of the latter and a strong column under Giulay on the left working round to join Blucher on the north.
On the other hand, Blucher carried the village of Mbckern and came within a mile of the gates of the town.
During the 17th there was only indecisive skirmishing, Schwarzenberg waiting for his reinforcements coming up by the Dresden road, Blucher for Bernadotte to come in on his left, and by some extraordinary oversight Giulay was brought closer in to the Austrian centre, thus opening for the French their line of retreat towards Erfurt, and no imformation of this movement appears to have been conveyed to Blucher.
Of the town between Blucher and the Austrians.
It took Blucher time to extricate his troops from the confusion into which the battle had thrown them, and the garrison of Leipzig and the troops left on the right bank of the Elster still resisted obstinately - hence no direct pursuit could be initiated and the French, still upwards of 10o,000 strong, marching rapidly, soon gained distance enough to be reformed.
Blucher followed by parallel and inferior roads on their northern flank, but Schwarzenberg knowing that the Bavarians also had forsaken the emperor and were marching under Wrede, 50,000 strong, to intercept his retreat, followed in a most leisurely fashion.
Blucher did not succeed in overtaking the French, but the latter, near Hanau, found their way barred by Wrede with 50,000 men and over loo guns in a strong position.
Hence a prolonged halt arose, utilized by the troops in renewing their equipment and so forth, but ultimately the Young German party, led by Blucher and the principal fighting men of the army, triumphed, and on the 1st of January 1814 the Silesian army (50,000) began its passage of the Rhine at Kaub.
On the 25th of January, Blucher entered Nancy, and, moving rapidly up the valley of the Moselle, was in communication with the Austrian advanced guard near La Rothiere on the afternoon of the 28th.
But on the 4th of February Blucher, chafing at this inaction, obtained the permission of his own sovereign to transfer his line of operations to the valley of the Marne; Pahlen's corps of Cossacks were assigned to him to cover his left and maintain communication with the Austrians.
Blucher himself on the night of the 7th was at Sezanne, on the exposed flank so as to be nearer to his sources of intelligence, and the rest of his army were distributed in four small corps at or near Epernay, Montmirail and Etoges; reinforcements also were on their way to join him and were then about Vitry.
He himself retreated towards Etoges endeavouring to rally his scattered detachments, but Napoleon was too quick for him and in three successive days he defeated Sacken at Montmirail,York at Champ Aubert and Blucher and his main body at Etoges, pursuing the latter towards Vertus.
In the meantime Blucher had rallied his scattered forces and was driving Marmont and Mortier before him.
Napoleon was here defeated, and with only 30,000 men at his back he was compelled to renounce all ideas of a further offensive, and he retired to rest his troops to Reims. Here he remained unmolested for a few days, fop Blucher was struck down by sickness, and in his absence nothing was done.
On the 15th of August 1760 Frederick the Great gained a decisive victory near Liegnitz over the Austrians, and in August 1813 Blucher defeated the French in the neighbourhood at the battle of the Katzbach.
It was accordingly arranged that Wellington and Blucher should await in Belgium the arrival of the Austrian and Russian masses on the Rhine, about July 1, before the general invasion of France was begun.
Consequently he determined to advance swiftly and secretly against Wellington and Blucher, whose forces, as Napoleon knew, were dispersed over the country of their unenthusiastic ally.
Once Wellington and Blucher were destroyed he would move southwards and meet the other allies on the Rhine.
Blucher, based on Napoleon s places.
Wellington and Blucher were disposed as follows in the early days of June (Map I.).
It will be seen that Blucher covered Fleurus, his concentration point, by Zieten's corps, in the hope of being able to collect his army round Fleurus in the time that Zieten would secure for him by a yielding fight.
As the foe would lie away to his right and left front after he had passed the Sambre, one wing would be pushed up towards Wellington and another towards Blucher; whilst the mass of the reserve would be centrally placed so as to strike on either side, as soon as a force of the enemy worth destroying was encountered and gripped.
But on the r 5th the critical nature of the situation dawned on them, and naturally on Blucher first, as his headquarters were nearer to the frontier than Wellington's, and Blucher had had previous experience of Napoleon's powers.
Blucher wisely shifted his own headquarters to Sombreffe on the afternoon of the r 5th.
Failing to appreciate this fully, Wellington omitted to order an immediate concentration on his inner (left) flank as Blucher had done, and the danger of Blucher's position was thus enormously increased.
Thus, thanks to Zieten's fine delaying action, Blucher by nightfall on June 15 had secured most of the ground requisite for his pre-arranged concentration; for one corps was in position, and two others were at hand.
Billow's corps was unavailable, for the reason already given, but of this fact Blucher was still necessarily ignorant.
Blucher meanwhile was making his arrangements to hold a position to the south of the Namur-Nivelles road and thus maintain uninterrupted communication with Wellington at Quatre Bras.
To attack whatever force Blucher might command, and the Guard and Milhaud would be at hand to act as reserve.
Blucher had already determined to fight.
Meanwhile, Wellington, having reached Quatre Bras in the morning, wrote to him to concert the day's operations; then, as all was quiet in his front, he rode over to meet Blucher at Brye.
Immediately afterwards (about 5.30) he received an order from Napoleon to seize Quatre Bras and then turn eastwards to crush Blucher, who was caught at Ligny.
Blucher, to cover the Namur road, held with the I.
The villages were captured and recaptured, but generally the French had the better of the fighting, for they compelled Blucher to use up more and more of his reserves, and prevented the Prussians from breaking through to the southward of S.
Blucher now delivered a general counterstroke against Vandamme.
He could at least beat Blucher and render the Prussians unfit for any serious operation except retreat on June 17, although he could no longer expect to destroy the Prussian army.
Without doubt, the personal risk to which Blucher exposed himself at this crisis was far too great; for it was essential that the command of the Prussian army should remain vested in a chief who would loyally keep in touch and act entirely in concert with his colleague.
The execution had again fallen short of the conception; Blucher though beaten was not destroyed, nor was his line with Wellington cut.
Gneisenau apparently selected Wavre, not with the intention of assisting his ally, but rather to re-establish his own line of communication, and the presence of the Prussians on the field of battle of Waterloo must be put down to the immortal credit of Blucher and Grolmann, his quartermaster-general.
Probably Wellington's failure to co-operate at Ligny had heightened the Prussian chief-of-staff's unworthy suspicions of the good faith and soldierly qualifications of the British marshal; and it was well for the allies that Blucher was able to resume command before Napoleon had time to profit from the dissensions that would probably have arisen had Gneisenau remained in control.
They turned out to be stragglers; but their capture for a time helped to confirm the idea, prevalent in the French army, that Blucher was drawing off towards his base.
Pressing danger could only exist if Blucher had gone northwards, and northwards, therefore, in the Dyle valley, he should have diligently sought for traces of the Prussian retreat.'
Had Blucher gone eastwards, Grouchy, holding the Dyle, could easily have held back any future Prussian advance towards Wellington.
During the night Wellington received the reassuring news that Blucher would bring two corps certainly, and possibly four, to Waterloo, and determined to accept battle.
Blucher loyally kept his promise to his ally; but the execution left much to be desired.