The Battle of Frauenfeld was a military encounter during the War of the Second Coalition (1799-1802). It took place on 25 May 1799 between Austrian and French troops. The battle ended in the evening with the retreat of the Austrians, but on the following day the French withdrew.
The Swiss Old Confederacy was occupied by the French Empire in 1798 and the French-supported Helvetic Republic was established on its territory. Thus, at the beginning of the War of the Second Coalition, French troops under General André Masséna (1758–1817) were operating on Swiss soil. After defeats in the Battle of Feldkirch und der Battle of Stockach, the French had to pull back and abandon eastern Switzerland. Two Austrian armies under General Friedrich von Hotze (1739–1799) and Archduke Charles (1771–1847) pursued them. They sought to unite these two armies as quickly as possible. On 22 May 1799, the vanguard of the Archduke's army reached Frauenfeld, where they stopped in order to meet up with the vanguard of General Hotze's army, which occurred on 24 May.
After the advance troops of the Austrians had already linked up, General Massena who was stationed at Winterthur decided to make an attempt to prevent the enemy's main forces from linking together. At this point he posted four French and two Helvetian Battalions, a company of Helvetian sharpshooters, five squadrons of Hussars and eight cannons under General Charles Nicolas Oudinot (1767–1847) and General Augustin Keller(1754–1799) to meet the enemy at Frauenfeld. General Nicolas Soult (1769–1851) followed in reserve with three more French and three Helvetian battalions.
On the morning of 25 May 1799, around 5 o'clock, General Oudinot encountered the weak Austrian garrison at Frauenfeld. These troops slowly withdrew over the Thur. Around 9 o'clock however more troops from Hotze's army arrived (six battalions and six squadrons) under General Petrasch of Wyl, on the left flank and in the rear of the French. The French were forced to bring their main force up against this new enemy. About 22,000 Austrians were now arrayed against about 14,000 French and Swiss troops.This clash continued without a clear victor until evening. As a result, there were very heavy losses. The Adjutant General of the Helvetian troops himself, General Johann Weber (1752–1799) fell victim to a sharpshooter. Since the outcome of the battle was so unclear, General Petrasch decided to retreat at 7 o'clock in the evening. The Austrians lost about 2,000 men in the battle (mostly captured) and two cannons.
During the battle, two further columns of Massena's army attacked the Austrian archduke's main forces near Rorbas and Andelfingen in order to push them back over the Thur. After some initial success, however, the French were themselves pushed back. Despite the tactical success at Frauenfeld, Massena's position thus remained untenable and he led a withdrawal in the direction of Zurich on 26 May. Contemporaries, like Carl von Clausewitz, criticised Massena for having three columns (and the reserve under Soult) operate separately from one another instead of concentrating his whole force against Hotze's army. Only in this way, they said, could he have defeated the Austrians.
Because of the failure of the French attack on the Archduke's army and the subsequent French retreat, there was no further obstacle to the union of the two Austrian armies. After further defeats, the French army scored a victory at the end of September in the Second Battle of Zurich. After this, the French regained the city of Frauenfeld and other territory.
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.
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Friedrich Freiherr (Baron) von Hotze, was a Swiss-born general in the Austrian army during the French Revolutionary Wars. He campaigned in the Rhineland during the War of the First Coalition and in Switzerland in the War of the Second Coalition, notably at Battle of Winterthur in late May 1799, and the First Battle of Zurich in early June 1799. He was killed at the Second Battle of Zurich.
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