- By creating the Confederation of the Rhine,
Napoleon directly threatened Prussian dominance
over the German states. This and Napoleon's offer
to hand Hannover back to Britain (earlier offered
to Prussia), prompted Prussia to declare war on
France in September 1806.
- In the aftermath of Frederick the Great's great
military victories, Prussia's military reputation
was unrivalled. However, this reputation was
unfounded. The Prussian army was essentially an
18th Century army steeped in outmoded doctrine
and tactics. It also did not have a military
genius of the caliber of Frederick the Great.
- The French, on the other hand, practised a new
form of warfare. One which the old armies of
Europe could not stop. To top it off, it had
Napoleon at its head - the greatest military
leader of the age.
- The stage was therefore set for a Prussian defeat
- but no one could have predicted the swiftness
of that defeat.
- The Battle of Jena
- The Campaign opened on 8 October 1806, with the
Grande Armee pouring into Thuringia. By 14
October, Napoleon had placed his army on the left
flank of the Prussian army, cutting off 2
Prussian corps at Jena and Auerstaedt.
- The battle which followed was a victory for the
French, despite 2 major errors by the French
early in the battle - first, the French troops
were packed shoulder to shoulder before the
battle started - an ideal target for artillery
(the early morning fog saved them); secondly, Ney
was in the wrong place - leaving a huge gap in
French the line.
- Nevertheless, the French outnumbered the
Prussians nearly 3 to 1 - and the Prussians
failed to take advantage of the French errors. By
1pm, the battle was "ripe" and Napoleon
ordered a general advance. The Prussian line soon
crumbled, and were swept off the field by Murat's