Battle of Friedland

The Battle of Friedland (June 14, 1807) was a major engagement of the Napoleonic Wars between the armies of the French Empire commanded by Napoleon I and the armies of the Russian Empire led by Count von Bennigsen. Napoleon and the French obtained a decisive victory that routed much of the Russian army, which retreated chaotically over the Alle River by the end of the fighting. The battlefield is located in modern-day Kaliningrad Oblast, near the town of Pravdinsk, Russia.

Battle of Friedland
Part of the War of the Fourth Coalition

Napoleon at the Battle of Friedland (1807). The Emperor is depicted giving instructions to General Nicolas Oudinot. Between them is depicted General Etienne de Nansouty and behind the Emperor, on his right is Marshal Michel Ney.
Date14 June 1807
Location54°27′N 21°01′E
Result

French victory

Belligerents
French Empire
Kingdom of Saxony[1]
 Russian Empire
Commanders and leaders
Napoleon I
Jean Lannes
Levin August von Bennigsen
Strength
80,000
118 cannons[2][3][4][5][6][7][8]
46,000-60,000
120 cannons[2][3][5][6][7]
Casualties and losses
8,000[9]–10,000[10] 20,000[9]-40,000[11] killed, wounded and captured,
80 guns[9]
 current battle
 Napoleon not in command
 Napoleon in command

The engagement at Friedland was a strategic necessity after the Battle of Eylau earlier in 1807 had failed to yield a decisive verdict for either side. The battle began when Bennigsen noticed the seemingly isolated reserve corps of Marshal Lannes at the town of Friedland. Bennigsen, who planned only to secure his march northward to Wehlau and never intended to risk an engagement against Napoleon's numerically-superior forces, thought he had a good chance of destroying these isolated French units before Napoleon could save them, and ordered his entire army over the Alle River.[12] Lannes skillfully held his ground against determined Russian attacks until Napoleon could bring additional forces onto the field. Bennigsen could have recalled the Russian forces, numbering about 50,000–60,000 men on the opposite bank of the river, and retreated across the river before the arrival of Napoleon's entire army but, being in poor health, decided to stay at Friedland and took no measures to protect his exposed and exhausted army.[12] By late afternoon, the French had amassed a force of 80,000 troops close to the battlefield. Relying on superior numbers and the vulnerability of the Russians with their backs to the river, Napoleon concluded that the moment had come and ordered a massive assault against the Russian left flank. The sustained French attack pushed back the Russian army and pressed them against the river behind. Unable to withstand the pressure, the Russians broke and started escaping across the Alle, where an unknown number of them died from drowning.[13] The Russian army suffered horrific casualties at Friedland–losing over 40% of its soldiers on the battlefield.[14]

Napoleon's overwhelming victory was enough to convince the Russian political establishment that peace was necessary. Friedland effectively ended the War of the Fourth Coalition, as Emperor Alexander I reluctantly entered peace negotiations with Napoleon. These discussions eventually culminated in the Treaties of Tilsit, by which Russia agreed to join the Continental System against Great Britain and by which Prussia lost almost half of its territories. The lands lost by Prussia were converted into the new Kingdom of Westphalia, which was governed by Napoleon's brother, Jérôme. Tilsit also gave France control of the Ionian Islands, a vital and strategic entry point into the Mediterranean Sea. Some historians regard the political settlements at Tilsit as the height of Napoleon's empire because there was no longer any continental power challenging the French domination of Europe.[15]