Battle of Ratisbon

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Battle of Ratisbon
Thevenin-Storming of Ratisbon.jpg
Marshal Lannes leads the storming of the citadel at the Battle of Ratisbon, as painted by Charles Thévenin.
Date23 April 1809
Location
Result French victory
Belligerents
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Austrian Empire Flag of France.svg First French Empire
Commanders and leaders
Archduke Charles Emperor Napoleon I
Jean Lannes
Louis-Nicolas Davout
Strength
26,000 37,000
Casualties and losses
6,000+ [1] 1,500-2,000 [1]

The Battle of Ratisbon, also called the Battle of Regensburg, was fought on 23 April 1809, during the Napoleonic Wars, between the army of the First French Empire, led by Napoleon I, and that of the Austrian Empire, led by Archduke Charles. Scene of the last engagement of the Bavaria phase of the campaign of 1809, the brief defense of the city and installation of a pontoon bridge to the east enabled the retreating Austrian army to escape into Bohemia. During the assault, Marshal Jean Lannes led his troops up ladders onto the walls, and Napoleon was wounded in his ankle by a small artillery round. The shot had been fired at great distance and did not severely hurt the Emperor, but caused a contusion. [2]

Napoleonic Wars Series of early 19th century European wars

The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European powers formed into various coalitions, financed and usually led by the United Kingdom. The wars stemmed from the unresolved disputes associated with the French Revolution and its resultant conflict. The wars are often categorised into five conflicts, each termed after the coalition that fought Napoleon: the Third Coalition (1805), the Fourth (1806–07), the Fifth (1809), the Sixth (1813), and the Seventh (1815).

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.

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.

Contents

Prelude

Following his victory at Eckmühl on 22 April Napoleon summoned his first ever council of war, which decided to halt the army about 18 kilometers south of the city of Ratisbon (which the Austrians had captured two days earlier). That night, the main Austrian army (I–IV Korps and I Reserve Korps) began moving its heavy equipment over the city’s vital stone bridge over the Danube, while a pontoon bridge was thrown 2 kilometers downstream to the east for the troops. Five battalions from II Korps defended the city, while 6,000 cavalry and some infantry battalions held the hilly ground outside. [2]

Battle of Eckmühl battle

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.

Danube river in Central Europe

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.

The battle

At dawn on 23 April the French advance continued in a pincer movement toward Ratisbon, with General Louis-Pierre Montbrun coming from the southwest and Napoleon moving up from the south. Around 9:00 A.M. 10,000 French cavalry, led by General Étienne Nansouty’s two cuirassier divisions, began to engage the Austrian cavalry, who despite poorly coordinated charges were able to hold them for almost three hours to facilitate the army’s escape, before they slipped away. Only then did the French discover the pontoon bridge, but its last defenders were able to hold on and cut the securing ropes to prevent the French from using it. [2]

Louis-Pierre Montbrun French general

Louis Pierre, Count Montbrun, French cavalry general, served with great distinction in the cavalry arm throughout the wars of the Revolution and the Consulate, and in 1800 was appointed to command his regiment, having served therein from trooper upwards.

Étienne Marie Antoine Champion de Nansouty French cavalry commander during the French Revolutionary Wars

Étienne-Marie-Antoine Champion, comte de Nansouty was a French cavalry commander during the French Revolutionary Wars who rose to the rank of General of Division in 1803 and subsequently held important military commands during the Napoleonic Wars.

Napoleon wrongly depicted as being injured in his right foot Battle of Ratisbon.jpg
Napoleon wrongly depicted as being injured in his right foot

By noon the French infantry had arrived and formed up around the city’s medieval defenses. Lannes was given charge of its capture and opened up an artillery bombardment, while light infantry engaged the Austrian troops in the suburbs. Two infantry assaults on the main gates had already failed with heavy losses, when at 3:00 P.M. General Henri Gatien Bertrand, head of the engineers, smashed a breach in the wall with heavy artillery near the Straubing gate. Walking to observe the gap, Napoleon was struck by a small canister round in the left foot but was able to mount his horse and ride around, reassuring his anxious troops. Three small parties with siege ladders failed to scale the damaged wall. [2] Lannes' men could not bring themselves to advance into the maelstrom a fourth time and so, exasperated, Lannes grabbed a scaling ladder and renewed his appeal. Then, amid an embarrassed silence, he angrily shouted: "I will let you see that I was a grenadier before I was a marshal and still am one." He took the ladder and moved forwards, but was physically restrained by his aides. His troops, shamed into action by the despair of their leader, rushed forward. The fourth assault party carried the walls and within minutes French troops were pouring into the now-doomed Ratisbon. [1]

Henri Gatien Bertrand French general

Henri Gratien, Comte Bertrand, was a French general.

A street-by-street battle raged for several hours until the French could secure and begin looting the southern part of the city. The bridge was determinedly defended by the 1st battalion of Infanterie Regiment 15 from the northern gatehouse until around 9:00 P.M., when they abandoned their positions and the French could reach the northern suburb of Stadt-am-Hof. The last 300 defenders surrendered soon after. [2]

Consequences

French casualties, including a wounded-in-the-ankle Bonaparte, were between 1,500 and 2,000 while the Austrians lost at least 6,000 men killed, injured or captured. Sending Marshal Louis Davout to guard the north bank across the Danube, Bonaparte was now free to move on Vienna. [1]

Louis-Nicolas Davout Marshal of France

Louis-Nicolas d'Avout, better known as Davout, 1st Duke of Auerstaedt, 1st Prince of Eckmühl, was a French general who was Marshal of the Empire during the Napoleonic era. His talent for war along with his reputation as a stern disciplinarian earned him the title "The Iron Marshal". He is ranked along with Masséna and Lannes as one of Napoleon's finest commanders. His loyalty and obedience to Napoleon were absolute. During his lifetime, Davout's name was commonly spelled Davoust, which is how it appears on the Arc de Triomphe and in much of the correspondence between Napoleon and his generals.

Vienna Capital city and state in Austria

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.

In literature

Robert Browning's poem "Incident of the French Camp" describes a probably fictional incident during the battle. [3]

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 "Ratisbon". Napoleonic Guide. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Hollins, David (2006). "Ratisbon, Storming of (23 April 1809)". In Fremont-Barnes, Gregory. The Encyclopedia of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO Ltd. pp. 808–809. ISBN   9781851096466.
  3. Browning, Robert (1895). "Incident of the French Camp". In Stedman, Edmund Clarence. A Victorian Anthology 1837-1895. Cambridge: Riverside Press.