Battle of Gefrees

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Battle of Gefrees
Part of War of the Fifth Coalition
Date8 July 1809
Location Gefrees, Germany
Result Austrian victory
Belligerents
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Austria
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Black Brunswickers
Flag of France.svg First French Empire
Flag of the Kingdom of Westphalia.svg Kingdom of Westphalia
State flag of Saxony before 1815.svg Kingdom of Saxony
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Michael von Kienmayer
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Frederick William
Flag of France.svg Jean-Andoche Junot
Flag of the Kingdom of Westphalia.svg Jérôme Bonaparte
State flag of Saxony before 1815.svg Johann von Thielmann
Strength
Entire Campaign:
13,000 Austrians
2,000 Brunswickers

At Gefrees:
6,000 Austrians
Entire Campaign:
15,000 French
15,000 Westphalians
5,000 Saxons
At Gefrees:
7,500 French
Casualties and losses
At Gefrees:
400 killed or wounded
At Gefrees:
2,000 killed or wounded

The Battle of Gefrees was fought on 8 July 1809 during the War of the Fifth Coalition between a joint force of Austrians and Brunswickers under the command of General Kienmayer and a French force under the command of General Junot, Duke of Abrantès. The battle ended in victory for the Austrians who avoided being trapped by Junot and a force of Saxons and Westphalians led by Jérôme Bonaparte, King of Westphalia. After Jérôme's troops were defeated at the Battle of Hof , the Austrians effectively had control over all of Saxony. However the victory was in vain, due to the major Austrian defeat at Wagram and the Armistice of Znaim.

Gefrees Place in Bavaria, Germany

Gefrees is a town in the district of Bayreuth, in Bavaria, Germany. It is situated in the Fichtelgebirge, 21 km northeast of Bayreuth. It was the site of a battle during the Napoleonic Wars.

War of the Fifth Coalition conflict

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.

Michael von Kienmayer austrian general

Michael von Kienmayer was an Austrian general. Kienmayer joined the army of Habsburg Austria and fought against the Kingdom of Prussia and Ottoman Turkey. During the French Revolutionary Wars, he continued to make his reputation in the cavalry and became a general officer. In the War of the Second Coalition and the Napoleonic Wars he commanded both divisions and corps. He was appointed Proprietor (Inhaber) of an Austrian cavalry regiment in 1802 and held this honor until his death. Later he was the governor of Galicia, Transylvania, and Moravia.

Contents

Background

When Austria declared war on France and her allies, including Saxony, on 9 April 1809, a small force of Austrians together with a force of Brunswickers under the command of Frederick William, The Black Duke were based in Theresienstadt, Bohemia (now Terezín, Czech Republic) and acted as a defensive force whilst the bulk of the Austrian army was engaged in southern Bavaria and Italy. There was little action in the region until 25 May, when a Saxon force under Colonel von Thielmann invaded Bohemia. In response Duke Frederick William invaded Saxony and took the city of Zittau, forcing von Thielmann to retreat back to Dresden.

Austrian Empire monarchy in Central Europe between 1804 and 1867

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.

First French Empire Empire of Napoleon I of France between 1804–1815

The First French Empire, officially the French Empire, was the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte of France and the dominant power in much of continental Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. Although France had already established an overseas colonial empire beginning in the 17th century, the French state had remained a kingdom under the Bourbons and a republic after the Revolution. Historians refer to Napoleon's regime as the First Empire to distinguish it from the restorationist Second Empire (1852–1870) ruled by his nephew as Napoleon III.

Kingdom of Saxony former German state

The Kingdom of Saxony, lasting between 1806 and 1918, was an independent member of a number of historical confederacies in Napoleonic through post-Napoleonic Germany. The kingdom was formed from the Electorate of Saxony. From 1871 it was part of the German Empire. It became a Free state in the era of Weimar Republic in 1918 after the end of World War I and the abdication of King Frederick Augustus III of Saxony. Its capital was the city of Dresden, and its modern successor state is the Free State of Saxony.

After the battle of Battle of Aspern-Essling, Archduke Charles reinforced the Austrian troops in Bohemia to a total strength of over 12,000 men and ordered a diversionary attack into Saxony. These Austrian reinforcements entered Saxony on 10 June and by the third day, an Austrian force of over 6,000 men under Major Am Ende captured the capital, Dresden. Von Thielmann and his Saxons were forced back to Gorbitz, whilst the Saxon Royal Family hurriedly fled west. Meanwhile, another force of 6,000 men under Paul von Radivojevich wheeled south into Bavaria, another French ally, capturing Bayreuth on 14 June. From here, Radivojevich could threaten an invasion of the Kingdom of Württemberg or an attempt to reinforce the Tyrolean uprising.

Battle of Aspern-Essling battle

In the Battle of Aspern-Essling, 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.

Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen Archduke 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.

Dresden Place in Saxony, Germany

Dresden is the capital city and, after Leipzig, the second-largest city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the border with the Czech Republic.

On 22 June, in face of the worsening situation in Saxony and northern Bavaria, Napoleon's brother Jérôme, who was also King of Westphalia, left Kassel with a force of 15,000 men including his Royal Guard Division. On the same day the Austrian forces had occupied Leipzig but were quickly forced to retreat by the arrival of Jérôme's troops. By 26 June, Jérôme had retaken the city and two days later the Westphalians clashed with the Austrians and Brunswickers for the first time.

Jérôme Bonaparte Napoleon Is brother

Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte was the youngest brother of Napoleon I and reigned as Jerome I, King of Westphalia, between 1807 and 1813. From 1816 onward, he bore the title of Prince of Montfort. After 1848, when his nephew, Louis Napoleon, became President of the French Second Republic, he served in several official roles, including Marshal of France from 1850 onward, and President of the Senate in 1852.

Kassel Place in Hesse, Germany

Kassel is a city located on the Fulda River in northern Hesse, Germany. It is the administrative seat of the Regierungsbezirk Kassel and the district of the same name and had 200,507 inhabitants in December 2015. The former capital of the state of Hesse-Kassel has many palaces and parks, including the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kassel is also known for the documenta exhibitions of contemporary art. Kassel has a public university with 25.000 students (2018) and a multicultural population.

Leipzig Place in Saxony, Germany

Leipzig is the most populous city in the federal state of Saxony, Germany. With a population of 581,980 inhabitants as of 2017 it is Germany's tenth most populous city. Leipzig is located about 160 kilometres (99 mi) southwest of Berlin at the confluence of the White Elster, Pleiße and Parthe rivers at the southern end of the North German Plain.

In addition, General Junot had arrived in Frankfurt and took command of the Corps of Observation of the Elbe, an army hastily assembled to guard the Confederation of the Rhine. Deciding to seize the initiative rather than engaging in a defensive campaign, Junot began marching east to confront Radivojevich. Outnumbered, Radivojevich chose to fall back towards am Ende's troops to the north. Meanwhile, Jérôme's forces had retaken Dresden forcing am Ende's to form a new defensive line further south.

Frankfurt Place in Hesse, Germany

Frankfurt is a metropolis and the largest city of the German federal state of Hesse, and its 746,878 (2017) inhabitants make it the fifth-largest city of Germany after Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, and Cologne. On the River Main, it forms a continuous conurbation with the neighbouring city of Offenbach am Main, and its urban area has a population of 2.3 million. The city is at the centre of the larger Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region, which has a population of 5.5 million and is Germany's second-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr Region. Since the enlargement of the European Union in 2013, the geographic centre of the EU is about 40 km (25 mi) to the east of Frankfurt's central business district. Like France and Franconia, the city is named after the Franks. Frankfurt is the largest city in the Rhine Franconian dialect area.

Confederation of the Rhine confederation of client states of the First French Empire

The Confederation of the Rhine was a confederation of client states of the First French Empire. It was formed initially from 16 German states by Napoleon after he defeated Austria and Russia at the Battle of Austerlitz. The Treaty of Pressburg, in effect, led to the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine, which lasted from 1806 to 1813.

In an attempt to reclaim their lost momentum, the Austrian and Brunswicker troops were reorganised into the new XI. Corps and placed under the command of General Michael von Kienmayer, who had arrived with reinforcements. However, on the same day Kienmayer took up his command, Jérôme had left Dresden and headed south in pursuit of am Ende. Kienmayer and his 15,000 troops had found themselves dangerously positioned in the middle of a Franco-Westphalian pincer movement.

Pincer movement military tactic

The pincer movement, or double envelopment, is a military maneuver in which forces simultaneously attack both flanks (sides) of an enemy formation.

Battle

However, what followed was the most successful series of battles for the Austrians in over a decade. Jérôme was slow in his pursuit, allowing Kienmayer to head south and confront Junot. The Austrians first managed to stop Junot's advanced guard and then engaged Junot's main force on 8 July 1809 at Gefrees. This was the largest battle on the northern front during the whole war and ended in a decisive victory for the Austrians.

At Gefrees, the Austrians under Kienmayer had 2 regiments of regular Grenzer troops (about 5,300 men) and several hundred irregular Landwehr militia. The Black Brunswickers remained to the north guarding against any move by Jérôme and were not engaged at Gefrees. The French under Junot, on the other hand, had 2 regular line infantry regiments (about 6,000 men), a Bavarian depot battalion (about 1,000 men), and a dragoon regiment (about 500 men and horses). However, Junot's Corps of Observation of the Elbe were mainly conscripts who were poorly trained in comparison to the Austrian Grenzers. In particular, Junot's cavalry was not able charge effectively, therefore failing to exploit the lack of Austrian cavalry, and allowing the Austrians to remain in line formation. This meant the Austrians were able to deliver heavy and sustained volley fire throughout and by the end of the day, most of the French infantry had fled the field of battle. The Austrians had only suffered minimal casualties, whilst inflicting a substantial blow against the French. Junot's pursuit was not only stopped, but he was forced to retreat to Amberg.

With the southern pincer defeated, Kienmayer turned his attention to Jérôme who was still slowly advancing south. He rejoined with the rest of his forces, including the Black Brunswickers, and finally engaged Jérôme's forces on 11 July at Hof. Jérôme had been expecting to fight an Austrian army being pursued by Marshal Junot. Instead, Jérôme found himself outnumbered and facing an army buoyed by a recent victory.

Jérôme, sensing defeat was inevitable, ordered a general retreat to Schleiz and the battle was merely a rear guard engagement. Duke Frederick William and his Black Brunswickers gave chase forcing Jérôme all the way back to Erfurt and the western borders of Saxony. The Austrians retook Dresden and the whole of Saxony had been evacuated. However, by the time Jérôme and his army had arrived safely in Erfurt, news of the French victory at Wagram and the resulting armistice at Znaim had reached Saxony. The Austrians were forced to concede all their gains and Jérôme and his Westphalians headed safely back to Kassel.

Aftermath

Duke Frederick William, however, was appalled by the Armistice of Znaim. He had hoped with the help of Kienmayer and the Austrians to start a popular uprising against Napoleon in northern Germany. Refusing to agree to the peace between Austria and France, the Black Duke decided to take matters into his own hands and make for the North Sea with his 2,000 troops. He still hoped to start popular uprising and in the following weeks, the Black Duke caused Jérôme major problems, defeating his Westphalian troops twice at the battles of Halberstadt and Ölper, as well as reinforcing his army with Westphalian deserters from both battles. The Black Brunswickers even managed to temporarily retake the city of Brunswick but Jérôme had ordered three generals to find and destroy the Duke Frederick William's forces. Despite this the Black Brunswickers still managed to reach the coast and were evacuated to the Isle of Wight in August 1809 on the ships used to land troops at Walcheren.

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References