Military headquarters for the Prussian army had been fixed at Naumburg on the river Saale. All the King's cabinet and many diplomats were there. The weather war unusually warm. Luise visited the shops, and everywhere she went a crowd assembled. "But my dear good people, why do you follow me? I am only just another soldier's wife." Luise's carefree manner hid her anxiety. Next day it was decided to shift the headquarters to Erfurt. It was raining when they left. Darkness fell upon them at Blankenhain, a community so small there was no inn, but a one-room tavern. It seemed useless for anyone trying to sleep, since at any moment they might have to move again. During the night, messengers arrived with news of skirmishes. None of the news was good.
On October 13 at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, with only a few hours of daylight remaining, the Prussian army left Weimar to make its stand at Auerstedt, to the west of Erfurt. Luise rode at the end of the column in a small carriage. Near Auerstedt, the Duke of Brunswick signaled for her carriage to stop. He rode up to look in at the window. "What are you are doing here, Madame, for God's sake, what are you doing here?!", the Duke cried in shocked surprise. Luise replied that the King thought she would be safer here than on the road to Berlin. "But, my God, Madame, do you see that castle of Eckartsberg? The French are in that castle now, and they are in Naumburg too, and tomorrow we will have a very bloody, decisive day. You can't stay here! It is absolutely impossible!". Luise never had heard the Duke of Brunswick speak with such firmness. The King rode up to the carriage. When Luise told him the Duke thought she was in danger, he said "Then, in that case, you must go." He took her hand, too overcome with emotion to say anything further. The carriage was turned around, and surrounded by a small mounted guard, was driven back to Weimar. The Duchess of Weimar came to speak with her at the inn. "You must leave at once, go now." The battle had begun. On her way to Erfurt Luise heard a continuous cannonade, which died away in the hills behind her. When her carriage left Brunswick, a courier caught up with her, bringing her news from the battlefield. Her husband was alive, that was her great and only solace. Napoleon's army had won a decisive victory at Jena and Auerstedt. Luise was only a few miles from Berlin now. She turned to her companions after the first spasm of grief had passed and said, "We must pull ourselves together and we must not spread panic in Berlin."
As they drove through the dark streets of the capital, however, Berlin seemed almost empty. The soldiers had left the city and many well-to-do families had left Berlin in great numbers. The banks and stores were closed. The doom that lay over the city soon rendered the inhabitants panic-stricken. Nevertheless, a crowd had collected at the Palace to greet Luise with cheers when she alighted from her carriage. General von Schulenburg was there to tell her that the children had left earlier that day for Stettin, where he also had sent the archives and the treasure. He himself was leaving with the last garrison of soldiers. They could not defend the city, and if captured would be held as prisoners of war.
Again the night was short. Luise and the Countess von Voss caught up with her chidren at Schwedt on the river Oder. They had been traveling with their aunt Fredrica and their cousins. For them it was an adventure; they had never seen the sea and they hoped they would get as far as Danzig. Luise sent a courier with a letter to the King to tell him where they were. In this letter she begged him not to make a shameful peace. On October 20th, 1806 Luise was united with her husband at Kuestrin. The children had been sent ahead to Danzig and Luise and Frederick William followed them.
When the French Emperor arrived in Potsdam, he too went to the tomb of Frederick the Great. Standing there, he remarked, seemingly lost in thought "If he would be alive, I would not be standing here." On October 27, 1806 Napolean and the Grand Armee made their victory entrance through the Brandenburg Gate into Prussia's capital, Berlin. He made himself at home at the Palace in Charlottenburg. There he rummaged through Luise's drawers and found personal letters from Alexander, as well as his picture. He had degrading articles printed about Luise in the Moniteur. A cheap engraving showed the Tsar and Luise at the tomb of the great Frederick with the caption that she resembled Emma, Lady Hamilton, who had been the mistress of Lord Nelson.
At Graudenz, Luise saw the newspapers. "Isn't it enough for this wicked man to take the King's estates, without insulting the honor of his wife?" She hated to think, as any housewife would, of an enemy occupying her living quarters, of the wicked man and his generals putting up their muddy boots on the tapestried upholstery of her sitting room.
Danzig was no longer safe, so the family left for Koenigsberg, the capital of East Prussia. Several of the chidren were ill with diarrhea. To her father, Luise wrote, "This is a time of trial....but God, perhaps, will give us better days." In her diary she wrote words from Goethe's song of the Harper:
"Wer nie sein Brot mit Traenen ass..."
"Who never ate his bread with tears,
who never leaned upon his bed and
wept the whole night through,
knows not your might, ye Heavenly Powers"
Many were weeping in the large crowd which had gathered to see Luise climb the steps of the Koenigsberg castle. She too had arrived ill and felt feverish; the putrid waters of Ortelsburg, where they had stopped, had done their work. Napoleon had stayed long enough in Berlin to ensure that all Prussian resistance had been eliminated. He issued a decree blocking all continental ports to British trade. Then he went east to join his army in Poland. On December 26th, a battle was fought between the French and Russians at Pultrusk. It became evident that the Russians could not stem the enemy's advances. Day by day, the French drew nearer, by the end of the week they were only 35 miles from Koenigsberg. The children were sent off to Memel. Would it be safe for Luise to make this strenuous winter journey? Dr. Hufeland was doutbful and feared a hemorrhage. Luise decided: Better in Gods hands than in the hands of Napoleon! Three days later they reached Memel. Luise was carried into the same little house they had occupied four years earlier, when she and her husband had met the Russian Tsar. The time passed slowly and many things occured, too numerous to mention them all. On June 15th, the Russians were defeated at Friedland, not far from Koenigsberg. Alexander asked for a truce, Napoleon granted it. Then the French Emperor went to nearby Tilsit to make peace with a broken King and a chastened Tsar.