The Battle of Friedland
The Battle of Friedland (June 14, 1807) was a major confrontation 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.
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 corps of Marshal Lannes at the town of Friedland. Thinking he had a good chance of destroying these isolated French units, Bennigsen ordered his entire army over the Alle River. Lannes held his ground against determined Russian attacks until Napoleon could bring additional forces onto the field. By late afternoon, the French had amassed a force of 80,000 troops on the battlefield. Relying on superior numbers, 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. The Russian army suffered horrific casualties at Friedland–losing over 40% of its soldiers on the battlefield.
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.
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