The Battle of Hanau was fought on (30 – 31 October 1813) between Karl Philipp von Wrede’s Austro-Bavarian corps and Napoleon's retreating French during the War of the Sixth Coalition.
Following Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Leipzig earlier in October, Napoleon began to retreat from Germany into France and relative safety.
These men were organised in two divisions, one cavalry reserve and one artillery reserve: the 2nd division was under General Beckers, the 3rd division under General Lamotte, the three-brigade cavalry reserve was under Generals Bieregg, Ellbracht, Dietz, and the artillery reserve was under General Cologne.
The Battle of Leipzig, the largest and bloodiest encounter of the Napoleonic Wars, began on 16 October 1813, raged for three days and ended with a decisive victory for the Sixth Coalition.
Napoleon was forced to abandon central Germany to the coalition and hastily retreated westwards.
On 31 October Hanau was in French control, opening Napoleon’s line of retreat.
The Battle of Hanau was a minor battle, but an important tactical victory allowing Napoleon’s army to retreat onto French soil to recover and face the invasion of France.
This allowed the coalition to threaten the overall military position of the French by moving a 45,000 - 50,000 Austro-Bavarian army, under the command of Karl Philipp von Wrede, into Napoleon's rear, occupying Würzburg in Franconia.
The small French garrison of Würzburg, under General Jean Victor Tharreau, did not try to resist and instead barricaded themselves at the local citadel, allowing the enemy to occupy the town without a fight.
He had plenty of time to prepare his dispositions and deployed his army in a relatively narrow and deep order, which was quite sensible, given that his intention was to remain on the defensive.
Wrede's left covered the road to Frankfurt and Mainz, the main retreat route that the French wanted to take.
The bulk of his force was positioned along the Kinzig river, on the opposite bank from the city of Hanau, while on his right the divisions of Elbracht and Trautenberg were positioned on the southern bank of the Kinzig.
Beckers's Bavarian division constituted the far right and was deployed on either side of the Kinzig.
Napoleon thus commanded a total of about 20,000 men (40 battalions, 113 squadrons) at the battle of Hanau.