Prince Louis Ferdinand was one of the principal advocates of resuming war against the French.
The French did not have the means to force battle, and the Prussians could have joined their larger forces in nearby Jena, but Prince Louis, apparently ignorant that Lannes's division on the field was but part of his forces (the rest were coming up) and that alone outnumbered him, chose to take a stand on the field. Prince Louis positioned his men on low ground outside the town, with their back to the river, and against the French who were attacking down hill. Lannes and General Suchet had noticed the Prussians had their back to the river, and estimated the Prussian forces to only be about half the size of V Corps. Lannes battered them with cannon for a bit and when they showed signs of disorganization he ordered a charge by his infantry whilst sending a unit against the flank. Pinned and outnumbered by the French, the Prussian infantry soon began to break under the flank attack and were driven in disorganization under the walls of Saalfeld. Belatedly seeing his mistake, trying to relieve the pressure Prince Louis put himself at the head of his cavalry and charged the advancing French on the flank. The charge was repulsed and the Prince found himself in close combat with Guindet, quartermaster of the French 10th Hussars, who offered the Prince quarter. Refusing to surrender, the Prince merely replied with a slash to the man's face causing a severe wound, but was run through and killed by the counter blow of the Quartermaster, dying immediately. The Prussians lost 400 killed and wounded and 20 guns. Over 1,000 were captured including General Bevilaqua, commander of the Saxon forces.
Four days after Saalfeld, the twin battles of Jena and Auerstedt took place on the plateau west of the river Saale. Although the war went on for another seven months, the decisive defeat suffered by the Prussian army resulted in Prussia's effective elimination from the anti-French coalition up until the liberation war of 1813.
Order of battle
|French V Corps||Prusso-Saxon Force|
|Commander-in-chief: Marshal Jean Lannes
|Generalleutenant Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia
Prussian Infantry Brigade
Prussian Cavalry Brigade
Saxon Infantry Brigade
Saxon Cavalry Brigade
- Chandler, p. 470
- Chandler, p. 471
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