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In the Battle of Aspern-Essling (21–22 May 1809), Napoleon attempted a forced crossing of the Danube near Vienna, but the French and their allies were driven back by the Austrians under Archduke Charles. The battle was the first time Napoleon had been personally defeated in over a decade. However, Archduke Charles failed to secure a decisive victory as Napoleon was able to successfully withdraw most of his forces.
The Danube, known by various names in other languages, is Europe's second longest river, after the Volga. It is located in Central and Eastern Europe.
Vienna is the federal capital and largest city of Austria, and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today, it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.
The Austrian Empire was a Central European multinational great power from 1804 to 1867, created by proclamation out of the realms of the Habsburgs. During its existence, it was the third most populous empire after the Russian Empire and the United Kingdom in Europe. Along with Prussia, it was one of the two major powers of the German Confederation. Geographically, it was the third largest empire in Europe after the Russian Empire and the First French Empire. Proclaimed in response to the First French Empire, it partially overlapped with the Holy Roman Empire until the latter's dissolution in 1806.
At the time of the battle Napoleon was in possession of Vienna, the bridges over the Danube had been broken, and the Archduke's army was near the Bisamberg, a hill near Korneuburg, on the left bank of the river. The French wanted to cross the Danube. A first crossing attempt on the Schwarze Lackenau on 13 May was repulsed with some 700 French losses.Lobau, one of the numerous islands that divided the river into minor channels, was selected as the next point of crossing. Careful preparations were made, and on the night of 19–20 May the French bridged all the channels on the right bank to Lobau and occupied the island. By the evening of the 20th many men had been collected there and the last arm of the Danube, between Lobau and the left bank, bridged. Masséna's corps at once crossed to the left bank and dislodged the Austrian outposts. Undeterred by the news of heavy attacks on his rear from Tyrol and from Bohemia, Napoleon ferried all available troops to the bridges, and by daybreak on the 21st, 40,000 men were collected on the Marchfeld, the broad plain of the left bank, which was also to be the scene of the Battle of Wagram.
Bisamberg is a municipality in the district of Korneuburg in Austria.
Korneuburg is a town in Austria. It is located in the state Lower Austria and is the administrative center of the district of Korneuburg. Korneuburg is situated on the left bank of the Danube, opposite the city of Klosterneuburg, and is 12 km northwest of Vienna. It covers an area of 9.71 square km and as of 2001 there were 11,032 inhabitants.
The Lobau is a Vienna floodplain on the northern side of the Danube in Donaustadt and partly in Großenzersdorf, Lower Austria. It has been part of the Danube-Auen National Park since 1996 and has been a protected area since 1978. It is used as a recreational area and is known as a site of nudism. There is also an oil harbour, and the Austrian Army used the Lobau as a training ground. In addition to the water coming from the Alps through the Wiener Hochquellenwasserleitung, the Lobau is a source of groundwater for Vienna.
The Archduke did not resist the passage. It was his intention, as soon as a large enough force had crossed, to attack it before the rest of the French army could come to its assistance. Napoleon had accepted the risk of such an attack, but he sought at the same time to minimize it by summoning every available battalion to the scene. His forces on the Marchfeld were drawn up in front of the bridges facing north, with their left in the village of Aspern (Gross-Aspern) and their right in Essling. Both places lay close to the Danube and could not therefore be turned; Aspern, indeed, is actually on the bank of one of the river channels. The French had to fill the gap between the villages, and also move forward to give room for the supporting units to form up.
Aspern is part of Donaustadt, the 22nd district of Vienna.
Essling is part of Donaustadt, the 22nd district of Vienna.
The corps led by Johann von Hiller (VI), Heinrich Graf von Bellegarde (I) and Prince Friedrich of Hohenzollern-Hechingen (II) were to converge upon Aspern, while Prince Franz Seraph of Rosenberg-Orsini (IV) was to attack Essling. Prince Johann of Liechtenstein's Austrian reserve cavalry was in the center, ready to move out against any French cavalry attacking the heads of the columns. During the 21st the bridges became more and more unsafe, owing to the violence of the current, but the French crossed without intermission all day and during the night.
Johann Baron von Hiller was an Austrian general during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He held an important command during the 1809 campaign against France, playing a prominent role at the Battle of Aspern-Essling.
Johann I Joseph was Prince of Liechtenstein between 1805 and 1806 and again from 1814 until 1836. He was the last Liechtenstein prince to rule under the Holy Roman Empire between 1805 and 1806 and as regent of Liechtenstein from 1806 until 1814. He was the fourth son of Franz Joseph I, Prince of Liechtenstein.
Kaiserlich-Königliche Hauptarmee, under the command of Charles of Austria:
Archduke Charles Louis John Joseph Laurentius of Austria, Duke of Teschen was an Austrian field-marshal, the third son of Emperor Leopold II and his wife, Maria Luisa of Spain. He was also the younger brother of Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor. Despite being epileptic, Charles achieved respect both as a commander and as a reformer of the Austrian army. He was considered one of Napoleon's more formidable opponents.
Karl Freiherr von Vincent, born 11 August 1757 – died 7 October 1834, fought in the army of Habsburg Austria during the French Revolutionary Wars. He first served as a staff officer then later as a combat commander. During the Napoleonic Wars, he was given important commands in two campaigns. He was Proprietor (Inhaber) of a famous light cavalry regiment from 1806 until his death.
Count Heinrich von Bellegarde, Viceroy of Lombardy-Venetia, of a noble Savoyard family, was born in Saxony, joined the Saxon army and later entered Habsburg military service, where he became a general officer during in the Habsburg border wars, the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He became a Generalfeldmarschall and statesman.
Friedrich Franz Xaver Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen was an Austrian general. He joined the Austrian military and fought against the Kingdom of Prussia, Ottoman Turkey, and the First French Republic. He was promoted to the rank of general officer during the French Revolutionary Wars. During the Napoleonic Wars, he led a division in 1805 and an army corps in 1809. He was Proprietor (Inhaber) of an Austrian cavalry regiment from 1802 to 1844.
TOTAL: 99 000 men; 84 000 infantry, 14 250 cavalry, 288 guns
Grande Armée d'Allemagne, under the command of Napoleon I:
TOTAL (on 22 May): 77 000 men; 67 000 infantry, 10 000 cavalry, 152 guns
The battle began at Aspern; Hiller carried the village at the first rush, but Masséna recaptured it, and held his ground with remarkable tenacity. The French infantry fought with the old stubborn bravery which it had failed to show in the earlier battles of the year. However, the Austrians also fought with fierceness and tenacity that surprised the French, including Napoleon himself.
The three Austrian columns were unable to capture more than half the village. The rest was still held by Masséna when night fell. Meanwhile, nearly all the French infantry between the two villages and in front of the bridges had been drawn into the fight on the flank. Napoleon therefore, to create a diversion, sent forward his center, now consisting only of cavalry, to charge the enemy's artillery, which was deployed in a long line and firing on Aspern. The first charge of the French was repulsed, but second attempt was made by heavy masses of cuirassiers. The French horsemen drove off guns, rode round Hohenzollern's infantry squares, and resisted the cavalry of Lichtenstein, but they were unable to do more, and in the end they retired to their old position.
In the meanwhile Essling had been the scene of fighting almost as desperate as that of Aspern. The French cuirassiers made heavy charges on the flank of Rosenberg's force, and delayed an assault. In the villages, Lannes with a single division resisted until night ended the battle. The two armies bivouacked, and in Aspern the French and Austrians lay within pistol shot of each other. The emperor was not discouraged, and renewed efforts to bring up every available man. All through the night more and more French troops came across.
At the earliest dawn of the 22nd the battle was resumed. Masséna swiftly cleared Aspern of the enemy, but at the same time Rosenberg stormed Essling. Lannes, however, resisted desperately, and reinforced by St Hilaire's division, drove Rosenberg out. In Aspern, Masséna was driven out by a counter-attack of Hiller and Bellegarde.
Meanwhile, Napoleon had launched a great attack on the Austrian center. The whole of the French center, with Lannes on the left and the cavalry in reserve, moved forward. The Austrian line was broken through, between Rosenberg's right and Hohenzollern's left, and the French squadrons poured into the gap. Victory was almost won when the Archduke brought up his last reserve, leading his soldiers with a colour in his hand. Lannes was checked, and with his repulse the impetus of the attack died out all along the line. Aspern had been lost, and graver news reached Napoleon at the critical moment. The Danube bridges, which had broken down once already, had been cut by heavy barges, which had been sent drifting down stream by the Austrians.
Napoleon at once suspended the attack. Essling now fell to another assault of Rosenberg, and the French drove him out again. Rosenberg then directed his efforts on the flank of the French center, slowly retiring on the bridges. The retirement was terribly costly, but Lannes stopped the French from being driven into the Danube. Complete exhaustion of both sides ended the fighting.
The French lost over 20,000 men including one of Napoleon's ablest field commanders and close friend, Marshal Jean Lannes, who died after being mortally wounded by an Austrian cannonball in an attack on Johann von Klenau's force at Aspern, which was backed up by 60 well-placed guns. French general Louis-Vincent-Joseph Le Blond de Saint-Hilaire also died as a result of injuries from the battle; his leg was torn off by a cannonball. The Austrians had also suffered similar casualties but had secured the first major victory against the French for over a decade. The victory demonstrated the progress the Austrian army had made since the string of catastrophic defeats in 1800 and 1805.
The French forces were withdrawn to the island. On the night of the 22nd the last bridge was repaired, and the army awaited the arrival of reinforcements in Lobau.The Austrians, surprised by their victory, failed to capitalize on the situation, allowing the French to regroup. One month later, the French made a second attempt to cross the Danube where Napoleon gained a decisive victory over the Austrians at the Battle of Wagram.
The Löwe von Aspern (Lion of Aspern), a large stone sculpture in front of St. Martin's Church, is a monument commemorating the battle.
Patrick Rambaud, a French author, wrote a fictionalized account of the conflict entitled "The Battle" using many first-hand sources. Just looking from the French perspective, the novel provides a rather realistic description of combat in the Napoleonic era, as well as detailed depictions of famous commanders such as Napoleon, Massena, and Lannes. The concept and notes for the book originally came from noted French author Honoré de Balzac. Jean Baptiste Antoine Marcellin de Marbot, one of Marshal Lannes aide-de-camps, wrote in his memoirs of the battle, in which he had to observe the last moments of his close friends, and describes the amount of bloodshed and sadness which came to the Grande Armée after the crossing of the Danube.
The army surgeon Dominique-Jean Larrey also described the battle in his memoirs and mentions how he fed the wounded at Lobau with a bouillon of horse meat seasoned with gunpowder.
The Battle of Eckmühl fought on 21 April – 22 April 1809, was the turning point of the 1809 Campaign, also known as the War of the Fifth Coalition. Napoleon I had been unprepared for the start of hostilities on 10 April 1809, by the Austrians under the Archduke Charles of Austria and for the first time since assuming the French Imperial Crown had been forced to cede the strategic initiative to an opponent. Thanks to the dogged defense waged by the III Corps, commanded by Marshal Davout, and the Bavarian VII Corps, commanded by Marshal Lefebvre, Napoleon was able to defeat the principal Austrian army and wrest the strategic initiative for the remainder of the war.
The Battle of Wagram was a military engagement of the Napoleonic Wars that ended in a costly but decisive victory for Emperor Napoleon I's French and allied army against the Austrian army under the command of Archduke Charles of Austria-Teschen. The battle led to the breakup of the Fifth Coalition, the Austrian and British-led alliance against France.
Jean Lannes, 1st Duc de Montebello, Prince de Siewierz, was a Marshal of the Empire. He was one of Napoleon's most daring and talented generals. Napoleon once commented on Lannes: "I found him a pygmy and left him a giant". A personal friend of the emperor, he was allowed to address him with the familiar "tu", as opposed to the formal "vous".
The Battle of Caldiero took place on 30 October 1805, pitting the French Armée d'Italie under Marshal André Masséna against an Austrian army under the command of Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen. The French engaged only a part of their forces, around 33,000 men, whilst Archduke Charles engaged the bulk of his army, 49,000 men, leaving out Paul Davidovich's corps to defend the lower Adige and Franz Seraph of Orsini-Rosenberg's corps to cover the Austrian right against any flanking maneuvers. The fighting took place at Caldiero, 15 kilometres east of Verona, in the War of the Third Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars.
The War of the Fifth Coalition was fought in 1809 by a coalition of the Austrian Empire and the United Kingdom against Napoleon's French Empire and Bavaria. Major engagements between France and Austria, the main participants, unfolded over much of Central Europe from April to July, with very high casualty rates for both sides. Britain, already involved on the European continent in the ongoing Peninsular War, sent another expedition, the Walcheren Campaign, to the Netherlands in order to relieve the Austrians, although this effort had little impact on the outcome of the conflict. After much campaigning in Bavaria and across the Danube valley, the war ended favourably for the French after the bloody struggle at Wagram in early July.
The Battle of Abensberg took place on 20 April 1809, between a Franco-German force under the command of Emperor Napoleon I of France and a reinforced Austrian corps led by Feldmarschall-Leutnant Archduke Louis of Austria. As the day wore on, Feldmarschall-Leutnant Johann von Hiller arrived with reinforcements to take command of the three corps that formed the Austrian left wing. The action ended in a complete Franco-German victory. The battlefield was southeast of Abensberg and included clashes at Offenstetten, Biburg-Siegenburg, Rohr in Niederbayern, and Rottenburg an der Laaber. On the same day, the French garrison of Regensburg capitulated.
The Battle of Teugen-Hausen or the Battle of Thann was an engagement that occurred during the War of the Fifth Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars. The battle was fought on 19 April 1809 between the French III Corps led by Marshal Louis-Nicolas Davout and the Austrian III Armeekorps commanded by Prince Friedrich Franz Xaver of Hohenzollern-Hechingen. The French won a hard-fought victory over their opponents when the Austrians withdrew that evening. The site of the battle is a wooded height approximately halfway between the villages of Teugn and Hausen in Lower Bavaria, part of modern-day Germany.
The Battle of Ebelsberg, known in French accounts as the Battle of Ebersberg, was fought on 3 May 1809 during the War of the Fifth Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars. The Austrian left wing under the command of Johann von Hiller took up positions at Ebersberg on the Traun river. The French under André Masséna attacked, crossing a heavily defended 550-meter-long bridge and subsequently conquering the local castle, thus forcing Hiller to withdraw. Ebelsberg is now a southern suburb of Linz, situated on the south bank of the Traun, a short distance above the place where that stream flows into the Danube River.
Feldmarschall Johann Karl, Graf von Kolowrat-Krakowsky joined the Austrian army, fought against the Kingdom of Prussia and Ottoman Turkey before being promoted to general officer rank. During combat against the French in the French Revolutionary Wars, he first became known as an artillery specialist. In the Napoleonic Wars, he commanded corps in the 1805 and 1809 campaigns. He became the Proprietor (Inhaber) of an Austrian infantry regiment in 1801 and held that position until his death.
Johann von Klenau, also called Johann Josef Cajetan von Klenau und Janowitz, was a field marshal in the Habsburg army. Klenau, the son of a Bohemian noble, joined the Habsburg military as a teenager and fought in the War of Bavarian Succession against Prussia, Austria's wars with the Ottoman Empire, the French Revolutionary Wars, and the Napoleonic Wars, in which he commanded a corps in several important battles.
The Battle of Winterthur was an important action between elements of the Army of the Danube and elements of the Habsburg army, commanded by Friedrich Freiherr von Hotze, during the War of the Second Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars. The small town of Winterthur lies 18 kilometers (11 mi) northeast of Zürich, in Switzerland. Because of its position at the junction of seven roads, the army that held the town controlled access to most of Switzerland and points crossing the Rhine into southern Germany. Although the forces involved were small, the ability of the Austrians to sustain their 11-hour assault on the French line resulted in the consolidation of three Austrian forces on the plateau north of Zürich, leading to the French defeat a few days later.
The Battle is a historical novel by the French author Patrick Rambaud that was first published in 1997. The English translation by Will Hobson appeared in 2000. The book describes the 1809 Battle of Aspern-Essling between the French Empire under Napoleon and the Austrian Empire. The action in the novel follows closely historical observations and descriptions as seen from the French perspective. La Bataille is the first book of a trilogy by Rambaud about the decline of Napoleon, describing his first personal defeat in a European battle; the other two books cover Napoleon’s defeat in Russia in The Retreat and his banishment at Elba in Napoleon’s Exile.
The Battle of Verona was fought on 18 October 1805 between the French Army of Italy under the command of André Masséna and an Austrian army led by Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen. By the end of the day, Massena seized a bridgehead on the east bank of the Adige River, driving back the defending troops under Josef Philipp Vukassovich. The action took place near the city of Verona in northern Italy during the War of the Third Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars.
Jacob François Marulaz or Marola, born 6 November 1769, died 10 June 1842, joined the Army of the Kingdom of France as a cavalry trooper and rose to become a field officer during the French Revolutionary Wars. Under the First French Empire, he became a general officer and fought under Emperor Napoleon I of France in two notable campaigns.
Joseph-Armand Ritter von Nordmann, was a French officer in the French Royal Army. He transferred his allegiance to Habsburg Austria during the French Revolution, like other French émigrés. In Austrian service he fought capably against his former country during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.
Konstantin Ghilian Karl d'Aspré von Hoobreuk, served in the army of Habsburg Austria during the French Revolutionary Wars. In the Napoleonic Wars, he made a mark in two major campaigns. In 1809, he was briefly Proprietor (Inhaber) of an infantry regiment and rose to command a division. His son Konstantin d'Aspré (1789–1850) also became an Austrian general.
On the 5 and 6 July 1809, north of Vienna, took place one of the most important confrontations in human history until then, the battle of Wagram. It opposed an Austrian army led by generalissimus Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen to a Franco-Italo-German army under the command of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, King of Italy, Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine.
The Battle of Hollabrunn was a rearguard action fought on 9 July 1809 by Austrian VI Korps of the Kaiserlich-königliche Hauptarmee Hauptarmee under Johann von Klenau against elements of the French IV Corps of the Grande Armée d'Allemagne, under the command of André Masséna.
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