Why is Battle of Leipzig (Battle of Nations) in 1813 so overshadowed despite being by far largest, bloodiest and one of most decisive battles of Napoleonic wars ?

Read the Story

Show Top Comments

The simplest answer is because it was bracketed by two of the most monumental military clashes in history: The disastrous invasion of Russia and its aftermath (into which the Battle of Leipzig is often lumped), and the battle of Waterloo (which if Napoleon had never been able come back to France, would have been the battle of Leipzig in the narrative, i.e. The final battle where the Allies defeated the “vampire emperor” once and for all and decisively ended the Napoleonic Wars). A similar example would be Operation Bagration in the Second World War: it was easily the biggest land attack of 1944, and the biggest campaign launched by the Red Army ever at that point. However, it is overlooked for similar reasons as The Battle of Nations: it came just 16 days after D-Day, and the German army managed to go on the offensive one last time in December in the Ardennes (which pales in comparison to Bagration far more than the size disparity between Waterloo and Leipzig, but the Battle of the Bulge is memorable as the last serious German offensive of the war – and so stands out more readily than a much larger campaign). Really it is historians predilection for neat narratives with clearly defined “start” and “end” points that are to fault here, in my opinion. Also, certain cultural or linguistic focuses can change the perceived significance of an event: the Battle of Leipzig is far more important in German language historiography than Waterloo is to French/English historiography.

airborngrmp

I can’t tell precisely why, but the “mainstream historical narrative” has passed the verdict that the failure of the Russian campaign was Napoleon’s “Game Over” My best guess is that in the wake of the French defeat, the Russians and the English capitalized on being the two strongest countries in the world. First politically (together with Austria and Prussia) and then, much slower, culturally. The Napoleonic wars inspired a ton of popular literary fiction which warped public perception. From the viewpoint of the Russians they “defeated” the Grand army in their own lands and chased Napoleon back to Paris, while from the viewpoint of the British they delivered the crushing blow at Waterloo. In this narrative there is no place for the battle of the nations.

_-null-_

In my country the Netherlands: Because Waterloo is more relatable and national pride. Dutch divisions in Leipzig were fighting for Napoleon whereas in Waterloo there was a Dutch army fighting against the French. It’s easier to talk about victories then about defeats.

Pieterbr

In Austria Leipzig is definitely not overshadowed. And to my knowledge in Germany as well. I understand why Waterloo is more in focus in the Anglosphere though.

Cultourist

I guess it is not that prominent in the US and UK because there was no English army there.

redox6