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Enthusiasts restage Napoleon's defeat at Battle of Leipzig

Military history buffs have re-enacted what was Europe's bloodiest single confrontation, the Battle of Leipzig. The bloodshed of 200 years ago saw Napoleon's already-battered troops suffer a significant defeat.

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Leipzig marks Napoleon defeat

History fans in costume gathered in a battlefield outside Leipzig on Sunday to re-enact the so-called Battle of the Nations, 200 years after the decisive defeat for Napoleon.

To the sound of pipes and drums, some 6,000 enthusiasts - from an estimated 28 countries - turned out to restage the confrontation, also known as the Battle of Leipzig.

The scenario, compiled with help from a historical commission especially for the anniversary, brought together participants in uniform representing both sides. The two opposing groups fired cannons and muskets loaded, naturally, with false munitions - while spectators watched from specially-erected stands.

The re-enactment saw representatives of Napoleon's French army defeated by the allied forces of Prussia, Russia, Sweden and Britain - just as had happened in 1813.

After a debilitating and failed campaign in Russia at that time, the French troops were dealt a further blow by the allies close to Leipzig. The victory represented the beginning of the end of Napoleonic dominance over the collection of states that, at the time, comprised Germany.

Moment of reflection

The battle is regarded as the bloodiest to have taken place in Europe before World War I, with the deaths of more than 90,000 of the 600,000 soldiers who were mobilized between October 16 and October 19 of that year. One of Europe's largest war memorials stands at the site.

Earlier on Sunday, the anniversary was remembered with a service at the city's St. Nicholas Church. In an appeal for peace in Europe and throughout the world, the Evangelical-Lutheran Church's Bishop Jochen Bohl said that Europe should treasure the decades of peace it has, for the most part, enjoyed.

"We should not allow this blissful state to be endangered by petty squabbles over money," said Bohl, referring to the European debt crisis.

Previous re-enactments from the Napoleonic wars have included a restaging of the 1805 Battle of Austerlitz, which was one of the French emperor's greatest victories. There are plans to hold a bicentennial to his final defeat, at Waterloo in Belgium, two years from now.

rc/ipj (AFP, dpa, EPD)

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