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Saturday, May 31, 2014


Visit to the battlefield of Jena, on April 23, 2014

“French troops presenting the captured Prussian standards to Napoleon after the battle of Jena,” by Edouard Detaille, late 19th century.

 View of the City of Jena from the heights of the battlefield.  In the map below, the photographs in this blog post were taken at Cospeda, visible in the center of the map.

The battle of Jena, fought on 14 October, 1806, on a hilly area north west of the city of that name, was of enormous importance in the history of Prussia, and therefore of Germany, because had it not been for this battle, the State of Prussia might not have taken the prompt way to modernization, and the foundations of the future Empire of Germany, the Second Reich, would not have been in place as early as they were. The Second Reich of Bismarck was the absorption of all Germany into Prussia. At Jena, and at Auerstedt the same day, the army of Frederick the Great was defeated and forced to scatter. The battle was the consequence of the King of Prussia’s decision to challenge Napoleon’s designs for the German lands and for the Holy Roman Empire.  

King Frederick William III of Prussia

 The battle of Jena caused the final end of that Empire and left Prussia and Austria alone to contest the German lands for leadership. Jena forced the Prussian King to gather around him the best minds of his kingdom at that time, people like the Humboldt brothers, Freiherr von Stein, the military men, Roon, Scharnhorst, Moltke and Clausewitz, who transformed the Prussian State into an efficient machine with a state-of-the-art Army, where people could co-exist in good terms and in some measure of social stability, where the aristocracy still ruled, but in partnership with an aggressive bourgeoisie and a tame working class movement.  All this fortuitous and eventually triumphant entry of Prussia into the world stage was triggered by the defeat at Jena, when Napoleon humiliated the Prussian Army, the army of Frederick II, and marched into Berlin as the King of Prussia fled to his fortress in Königsberg.  

The brothers von Humboldt, in the center, with Schiller (l.) and Goethe (r.).

For further information and description of the battle, see Wikipedia at

Napoleon was victorious and entered Berlin as a conqueror.

“Entrance of Napoleon in Berlin as conqueror, after the battle of Jena, on October 27, 1806” Charles Meynier (1810)

 Museum 1806

Above the city of Jena, to the west, a museum of the battle, the Museum 1806, is located not far from the Napoleon column. The museum contains a detailed exhibition of objects, maps and correspondence, including displays indicating the various phases of the battle and its geography.  See the following site for further information:

Map of the Battle of Jena

For further information and description of the battle, see Wikipedia at

View over the battlefield

Napoleon reviewing the Imperial Guard, Bataille d'Iena. 14 octobre 1806,  by Horace Vernet (1836)

One of Napoleon's standards captured in the battle

“Battle of Jena”: Colored lithograph by Antoine Charles Horace Vernet and Jacques Francois Swebach (early 19th century)

 Views of the battlefield and the city of Jena and its outskirts in the distance


Battlefield of Jena: a lot of young men died here.

Below: “Prussian troops retreating after the disastrous double battle of Jena and Auerstedt,” Richard Knötel (1895)

Napoleon's soldiers broke into Goethe's bedroom on the night of the battle and raided his kitchen, larders and cellars.

Goethe at 79

The French army entering Jena

Mano a mano, French soldiers and German militia

There were two battles, at Jena and Auerstedt (older name: Auerstädt) fought on 14 October 1806 on the plateau west of the river Saale in the lands of Sachsen-Weimar, primarily, The Duke joined forces with Frederick William III of Prussia and chose to defy Napoleon.  The decisive feat suffered by the Prussian Army subjugated the Kingdom of Prussia to the French Empire until 1812.

The Napoleon Column

1806 was the year that Beethoven composed his Violin Concerto.

From this spot Napoleon oversaw the progress of the battle

The distances marked are to the sites of other great victorious battlefields and other major defeats of Napoleon

"Deutschland labte man sich an grösserem hasse wie an heisserer bewunderung Napoleons ein gutes Jahrhundert lang."  Golo Mann ["Germany feasted itself on its great hate and on its even warmer admiration of Napoleon, for a whole century."]

Hegel watched Napoleon enter the city of Jena after the battle.  He thought Napoleon embodied the direction of World History, being the ruler of a future Universal State.  He wrote to Niethammer on October 13, 1806:  " I saw the Emperor -this soul of the world- go out from the city to survey his reign; it is a truly wonderful sensation to see such an individual, who, concentrating on one point while seated on a horse, stretches over the world and dominates it. " (Correspondence, T. I, p. 114)


 Drums and cannonballs

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