The Battle of Fleurus, on 26 June 1794, was an engagement between the army of the First French Republic, under General Jean-Baptiste Jourdan and the Coalition Army (Britain, Hanover, Dutch Republic, and Habsburg Monarchy), commanded by Prince Josias of Coburg, in the most significant battle of the Flanders Campaign in the Low Countries during the French Revolutionary Wars. Both sides had forces in the area of around 80,000 men but the French were able to concentrate their troops and defeat the First Coalition. The Allied defeat led to the permanent loss of the Austrian Netherlands and to the destruction of the Dutch Republic. The battle marked a turning point for the French army, which remained ascendant for the rest of the War of the First Coalition. The French use of the reconnaissance balloon l'Entreprenant was the first military use of an aircraft that influenced the result of a battle.
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After the Battle of Tourcoing on 17–18 May 1794, Jean-Baptiste Jourdan was given the command of approximately 96,000 men created by combining the Army of the Ardennes with portions of the Army of the North and the Army of the Moselle. Jourdan with his newly created army was then given the task of capturing the Charleroi fortress.
On 12 June, Jourdan's army, accompanied and supervised by a member of the Committee of Public Safety, Louis de Saint-Just invested the fortress of Charleroi with 70,000 men. On 16 June, an Austrian-Dutch force of about 43,000 men counterattacked in heavy mist at Lambusart, inflicted 3,000 casualties, and drove Jourdan away from Charleroi back across the Sambre. On 18 June, Jourdan attacked again and managed to resume the siege the Charleroi. The fortress eventually surrendered on 25 June, just as a relieving force under the Prince of Coburg arrived to raise the siege. The army that Jourdan commanded in the siege of Charleroi would later be formally commissioned on 29 June as the Army of the Sambre-et-Meuse.
On 26 June, Feldmarschall Coburg maneuvered around Charleroi with a force of 52,000 Austrian and Dutch soldiers. Too late to save the fortress, which had surrendered, the Austrian commander split his army into five columns and attacked the French. A French reconnaissance balloon, l'Entreprenant, operated by the Aerostatic Corps, continuously informed General of Division (MG) Jean-Baptiste Jourdan about Austrian movements. The Austrians managed to break through both French wings, pushing back MG François Marceau on the right wing and MG Montaigu on the left wing. The French center under MG François Lefebvre held and then counterattacked and the Austrian assault petered out. Colonel Nicolas Soult, then serving as Lefebvre's chief of staff, wrote that it was, "fifteen hours of the most desperate fighting I ever saw in my life."
Coburg neglected to press on and uncertain of the outcome, the Austrian commander lost his nerve and fell back to Braine-l'Alleud and Waterloo, granting the French an unexpected victory. This was the final straw that caused the allies to retire over the Rhine, leaving the French free rein in Belgium and the Netherlands. Historian Digby Smith wrote,
By this stage of the war the court in Vienna was convinced that it was no longer worth the effort to try to hold on to the Austrian Netherlands and it is suspected that Coburg gave up the chance of a victory here so as to be able to pull out eastwards.
It is generally agreed that the battle was a costly one for the French, with casualties estimated between five and six thousand. The Allied losses have always been in dispute: the French claimed significantly higher losses than their own, while the Allies claimed far less. Traditional estimates attribute "considerable casualties" to Coburg's army,and hover near five thousand Allied killed and wounded. However, according to Digby Smith, Austrian-Dutch losses numbered 208 killed, 1,017 wounded, and 361 captured. In addition, the French captured one mortar, three caissons, and one standard, while the Austrians captured one cannon and one standard.
Despite any tactical imbalance, the strategic value of Fleurus was immense for the French. The victory precipitated a full Allied withdrawal from Belgium and allowed French forces to push north into the Netherlands. By the end of 1795, the Dutch Republic was extinguished. After Fleurus, the republican army would keep its momentum in the war, staying on the offensive until its eventual victory against the First Coalition in 1797.
Politically, the battle invalidated the argument that continuation of the revolutionary Reign of Terror was necessary because of the military threat to France's very existence. Thus, some would argue, victory at Fleurus was a leading cause of the Thermidorian Reaction a month later. Saint-Just arrived in Paris after such a great victory only to die with Maximilien Robespierre and the other leading Jacobins.
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Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, 1st Count Jourdan, enlisted as a private in the French royal army and rose to command armies during the French Revolutionary Wars. Emperor Napoleon I of France named him a Marshal of the Empire in 1804 and he also fought in the Napoleonic Wars. After 1815, he became reconciled to the Bourbon Restoration. He was one of the most successful commanders of the French Revolutionary Army.
The Army of Sambre and Meuse was one of the armies of the French Revolution. It was formed on 29 June 1794 by combining the Army of the Ardennes, the left wing of the Army of the Moselle and the right wing of the Army of the North. Its maximum paper strength was approximately 83,000.
The Army of the Rhine and Moselle was one of the field units of the French Revolutionary Army. It was formed on 20 April 1795 by the merger of elements of the Army of the Rhine and the Army of the Moselle.
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André Poncet commanded a French infantry division during the French Revolutionary Wars. He joined the French Royal Army in a famous regiment and fought in the American Revolutionary War. Becoming a general officer in early 1794, he fought at Fleurus, Maastricht and other actions. He led a division in the Rhine Campaign of 1795 at Höchst and in the Rhine Campaign of 1796 at Limburg. Afterward, he held interior posts until his retirement from the military in 1811. He became mayor of his home town of Pesmes. When it was occupied by the Austrians in 1814, he was arrested and confined in the Palanok Castle in distant Transylvania for five months. He became a farmer and died in 1838 after returning to France. His surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 6.
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Louis Charbonnier was a general of mediocre talent who commanded a French army for several months during the French Revolutionary Wars. In 1780 he enlisted in the French Royal Army. With the advent of the French Revolution his promotion became very rapid. In 1792 he was elected second in command of a volunteer battalion. He led his troops at Jemappes and Neerwinden. He was promoted to general of brigade in November 1793 and general of division in January 1794. A week later he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Army of the Ardennes.
The Battle of Lambusart saw a Republican French army led by Jean Baptiste Jourdan try to cross the Sambre River against a combined Dutch and Habsburg Austrian army under William, Hereditary Prince of Orange. The French were repulsed in the fourth of five attempts to consolidate a foothold on the north side of the Sambre. The clash occurred during the War of the First Coalition, part of a wider struggle known as the Wars of the French Revolution. In 1794 Lambusart was an independent village, but it is now part of the Fleurus municipality. Lambusart is located about 10 kilometres (6 mi) northeast of Charleroi.
The Siege of Ypres saw a Republican French army commanded by Jean-Charles Pichegru invest the fortress of Ypres and its 7,000-man garrison composed of Habsburg Austrians under Paul von Salis and Hessians led by Heinrich von Borcke and Georg von Lengerke. French troops under Joseph Souham fended off three relief attempts by the corps of François Sébastien Charles Joseph de Croix, Count of Clerfayt. Meanwhile, the French besiegers led by Jean Victor Marie Moreau compelled the Coalition defenders to surrender the city. The fighting occurred during the War of the First Coalition, part of the Wars of the French Revolution. In 1794 Ypres was part of the Austrian Netherlands, but today it is a municipality in Belgium, located about 120 kilometres (75 mi) west of Brussels.
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Pierre Garnier, comte de Laboissière was a French army general who commanded an infantry division during the War of the Second Coalition. After enrolling in a military academy in 1769, he joined a dragoon regiment in 1772 as a sous lieutenant. In 1779 he was promoted to captain. In late 1792 during the War of the First Coalition he was given command of a cavalry regiment with the grade of colonel. While serving in the Army of the Rhine he was captured by the Prussians. After a prisoner exchange he was promoted to général de brigade in October 1793. Laboissière was promoted to général de division in February 1799. He fought at Stockach and led a division at Novi. In the summer and fall of 1799 he fought in several actions near Genoa. Later he commanded troops in Switzerland. Napoleon appointed him to the Sénat conservateur in 1802, awarded him the Commander's Cross of the Légion d'Honneur in 1804 and made him a comte de l'empire in 1808. He died in Paris in April 1809. His surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 15.
Jean Hardy commanded a French division during the French Revolutionary Wars. In 1783 he enlisted in the French Royal Army. In 1792 he joined a volunteer battalion and fought at Valmy, earning promotion to major. After leading a battalion at Wattignies and successfully holding Philippeville in 1793, he became a general of brigade. In 1794, he led troops in the Army of the Ardennes at Boussu-lez-Walcourt, Grandreng, Gosselies and Fleurus.
Paul-Alexis Dubois commanded French divisions during the War of the First Coalition and was killed in action fighting against Habsburg Austria. He enlisted in a French infantry regiment in 1770 and transferred into the cavalry in 1776. Thereafter he served in several different cavalry and infantry regiments. From sous-lieutenant in 1791, he served in the Army of the Moselle and was rapidly promoted to general of brigade by August 1793. After briefly commanding an infantry division in the Army of the Rhine at Wissembourg he switched back to the Army of the Moselle to fight at Kaiserslautern before being wounded at Froeschwiller in December 1793.
Pierre Raphaël Paillot de Beauregard led a French division at the Battle of Wattignies. A nobleman, he joined the French Royal Army as a cadet in 1755 and fought in the Seven Years' War. He became a lieutenant colonel in 1779, but two years later got into a dispute with a superior officer and was placed on inactive service. The French Revolution and the War of the First Coalition saved his career; he was promoted general of brigade in 1792. He led a 2,000-man column at Arlon in 1793 but irritated his army commander. After his 5,800-strong division performed poorly at Wattignies he was put in prison for 10 months. He was briefly employed again during the War in the Vendée in 1795 before retiring from military service in 1796.
The Battle of Maudach occurred on 15 June 1796 between the French Revolutionary Army and the Army of the First Coalition. This was the opening action of the Rhine Campaign of 1796 on the Upper Rhine, slightly north of the town of Kehl. The Coalition, commanded by Franz Petrasch, lost 10 percent of its manpower missing, killed or wounded. It was fought at the village of Maudach, southwest of Ludwigshafen on the Rhine river opposite Mannheim. Maudach lies 10 km (6 mi) northwest of Speyer and today is a southwest suburb of Ludwigshafen; a principal town on the Rhine river in 1796.
In the Rhine Campaign of 1796, two First Coalition armies under the overall command of Archduke Charles outmaneuvered and defeated two Republican French armies. This was the last campaign of the War of the First Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars.
The Action at Mannheim 1795 began in April 1795 when two French armies crossed the Rhine and converged on the confluence of the Main and the Rhine. Initial action at Mannheim resulted in a minor skirmish, but the Bavarian commander negotiated a quick truce with the French and withdrew. On 17 October 1795, 17,000 Habsburg Austrian troops under the command of Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser engaged 12,000 soldiers, led by Jean-Charles Pichegru in the grounds outside the city of Mannheim. In a combination of maneuvers, the Habsburg army forced 10,000 of the French forces to withdraw into the city itself; other French troops fled to join neighboring Republican armies. First Coalition forces then laid siege to Mannheim. Subsequent action at neighboring cities forced the French to withdraw further westward toward France; after a month's siege, the 10,000-strong Republican French garrison now commanded by Anne Charles Basset Montaigu surrendered to 25,000 Austrians commanded by Wurmser. This surrender brought the 1795 campaign in Germany to an end. The battle and siege occurred during the War of the First Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars. Situated on the Rhine River at its confluence with the Neckar River, Mannheim lies in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg in modern-day Germany.
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