Unprecedented military preparations coincided with the diplomacy of the Grand Alliance. Frederick William and Alexander met with a disgruntled Bernadotte at Trachenberg on 10 July. There the Allied sovereigns endorsed Austria’s proposal to extend the armistice to 10 August. On the evening of the eleventh Bernadotte received their promise for an army commensurate to his status. According to these arrangements, Bernadotte would command 22,000 Russians under Gen. Ferdinand von Wintzingerode, 60,000 Prussians under Bülow and Tauentzien, and Wallmoden’s corps, which was increased to 20,000, as well as his own 30,000 Swedes under the seventy-year-old field-marshal Curt Stedingk. In return Bernadotte pledged to concentrate his efforts against the French and postpone his war with Denmark. On the following day the sovereigns adopted a general plan for the upcoming campaign. Several contemporaries claimed authorship of the so-called Trachenberg Plan, but credit belongs to the Austrian Count Radetzky von Radetz. His plan depended on Austrian cooperation and called for the formation of three principal Allied armies.
Metternich insisted on vesting an Austrian general with supreme command. The Habsburg Empire had lost the most during the struggle with France and now had the chance to win the most. Metternich fully understood that for the war to be an Austrian success it would have to be waged in a manner conducive to restoring Habsburg preponderance over Central Europe and limiting Prussian and Russian influence. Vienna had carefully prepared for this hour, and Emperor Francis placed his hopes in the largest army Austria had ever fielded against France: 479,000 officers and men. “The power that puts 300,000 men in the field,” argued Metternich, “is the first power, all the others only auxiliaries.” Allied defeats at Lützen and Bautzen, resulting from what Metternich believed to be a lack of strategic direction, concerned the Austrians. Prussian impetuosity and carelessness, as well as the tsar’s “penchant for superseding his commander-in-chief at critical moments in the battle,” also contributed to Metternich’s insistence. Tsar Alexander presented his candidate: the Austrian archduke Charles, who was not only the brother of Francis, but the only man ever to beat Napoleon in the field. Metternich refused, knowing that Charles’s love for Alexander’s sister Caroline would place the archduke squarely under the influence of the tsar and give the Russians “a preponderance of influence” at Grand Allied Headquarters. Thus the forty-two-yearold Prince Karl Philip zu Schwarzenberg received command of all Allied forces, including the main army-the Army of Bohemia-which consisted of 220,000 Austrians, Prussians, and Russians. Blücher received command of the Army of Silesia-75,000 Russians and Prussians. Bernadotte took command of the Combined Army of North Germany- 120,000 Prussians, Russians, Swedes, and North Germans. The Allies created these multinational armies both to prevent Napoleon from defeating them piecemeal and to limit politically motivated acts of national self-interest.
According to the Trachenberg Plan, the three Allied armies would form a wide arc around Napoleon’s forces in Saxony and only engage detached corps of the Grande Armée; pitched battles with the emperor had to be avoided. Should Napoleon concentrate against any one army, it would retreat, while the other two attacked his flanks and lines of communication. The plan sought to split Napoleon’s forces and exhaust them through constant movement. Although Napoleon had the advantage of interior lines, he would be forced to fight against armies advancing simultaneously on his center, flanks, and communications. Schwarzenberg’s army would concentrate in the Bohemian mountains and challenge Napoleon in either Saxony or Silesia. Bernadotte’s force would assemble south of Berlin, while Wallmoden’s corps observed French forces in Hanover. Once hostilities resumed, the crown prince would cross the Elbe and march on Leipzig, while Blücher also advanced into Saxony from Silesia.
The armistice also facilitated the general expansion and reorganization of the Prussian army. The Prussians now had the time to remedy the problems caused by the chaotic nature of the mobilization that had occurred in March. Veteran regiments of the spring campaign were grouped into three separate corps commanded by Yorck, Kleist, and Bülow. Initially Blücher received command of all three, respectively designated the First, Second, and Third Corps. Subsequent negotiations distributed the Prussian corps among the three Allied armies. Each Prussian corps contained four brigades consisting of one line regiment, one reserve regiment, one Landwehr regiment, one cavalry regiment, and one six-pounder battery. Each corps also included a reserve of two cavalry brigades (sixteen to twenty squadrons), three twelve-pounder batteries, and three horse batteries. Like the French division, each Prussian brigade consisted of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, had its own staff, and could operate independently. This allowed one brigade to form the advance guard, two others to follow in support, and the fourth to remain in reserve with the cavalry and artillery. As noted, Tauentzien received command of the Fourth Corps. By explicit order of the king, this corps of mostly Landwehr units would only cover communications, conduct sieges, and mask fortresses.
In July Bülow officially received command of the Third Corps. Some of his veterans from the spring campaign remained with him, but in the general redistribution of the regiments he received several new units, including twelve Landwehr battalions and sixteen Landwehr squadrons. Two Russian twelve-pounder batteries and some Cossack regiments from the spring campaign also remained attached to Bülow’s corps. All together his corps totaled 31,480 infantry, 6,550 cavalry, 1,985 gunners with 102 guns, and 2,280 pioneers. The corps consisted of four brigades: the Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth, respectively commanded by the Prince of Hessen-Homburg, Thümen, Borstell, and Krafft. Oppen commanded the reserve cavalry, and Lieut.-Col. Karl Friedrich von Holtzendorf the reserve artillery. Bülow enjoyed cordial working relationships with his senior officers, especially Oppen and Krafft, but Borstell proved to be the exception. Borstell had held a semi-independent command over a Pomeranian brigade throughout the spring campaign. Now assigned to the Third Corps, Borstell resented his subordinate position and complained to the king. To soothe him Frederick William decreed that Borstell’s Fifth Brigade should operate independently, an avoidable and unfortunate political measure.
One of Scharnhorst’s goals-the creation of an elite corps of well-educated staff officers to lead the new national army-also reached fruition at this time. General Staff officers would provide the Prussian army with an intellectual nerve center that radiated enlightened leadership. This leadership not only would embrace the modern principles of warfare but also would personify the evolving concepts of civic duty, nationalism, and professionalism. Staff officers received vigorous educations, and Scharnhorst instilled in them “a high sense of moral responsibility and glowing idealism.” He selected the best of his pupils and trained them to plan and execute military operations. Their function was not to command but to assist their commanders in determining the technical and tactical feasibility of an operation.
Scharnhorst firmly believed that the forces of a national war effort could only be harnessed and directed by a General Staff system. Resistance to his General Staff originated among the army’s aristocratic element, which refused to embrace any principle that might endanger its rights and privileges. Scharnhorst’s educational emphasis and other “bourgeois notions” intimidated Prussian traditionalists and conservatives. Before reaching an understanding with Scharnhorst in 1809, Yorck had championed the opposition. Although a member of Scharnhorst’s Militärische Gesellschaft, he once commented that “there was too much learned talk in the society, more of it, in fact, than an honest Prussian’s brains could cope with.” Opposition also came from reactionaries who still retained illusions of Frederician invincibility. Such men did not view the Prussian catastrophe of 1806 as the modern refutation of Frederician operational doctrine; nor did they heed the social and organizational implications that accompanied the defeat. Instead they blamed the unfortunate outcome of the war on irresponsible leadership and bad luck.
Napoleon’s situation had dramatically worsened after just one month of campaigning. The success of the Trachenberg Plan had depleted the ranks of his Grande Armée; the French had lost 150,000 men and 300 guns since the expiration of the armistice, and an additional 50,000 names filled the sick roles. While French commanders suffered defeats at Groß Beeren, the Katzbach, Hagelberg, Kulm, and Dennewitz, the emperor raced back and forth between the Elbe and the Bober Rivers in futile attempts to achieve the decisive victory that had eluded him thus far. Under normal conditions the constant marches and countermarches would have exhausted his conscripts both mentally and physically. Yet the conditions remained far from normal. Heavy rains washed out roads, and Cossacks menaced the lines of communication. Although Napoleon granted his men plenty of rest, the slow starvation of the army could not be ignored. Supply shortages and the exhaustion of the Saxon countryside prompted Napoleon to write: “The army is no longer fed; to view it in any other way would be mere self-deception.”