Battle of Sankt Michael

Last updated
Battle of Sankt Michael
Part of the Napoleonic Wars
Date25 May 1809
Location Sankt Michael in Obersteiermark, Austria
Result French victory
Flag of France.svg First French Empire Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Austrian Empire
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Paul Grenier Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Franz Jellacic
12,000 [1] to 15,000 [2] 8,000 [2] to 9,000 [1]
Casualties and losses
670 [1] 6,573 [1]

In the Battle of Sankt Michael (or Sankt Michael-Leoben) on 25 May 1809, Paul Grenier's French corps crushed Franz Jellacic's Austrian division at Sankt Michael in Obersteiermark, Austria. The action occurred after the initial French victories during the War of the Fifth Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars. Sankt Michael is located approximately 140 kilometers southwest of Vienna.

Paul Grenier French general

Paul Grenier joined the French royal army and rapidly rose to general officer rank during the French Revolutionary Wars. He led a division in the 1796-1797 campaign in southern Germany. During the 1800 campaign in the Electorate of Bavaria he was a wing commander. Beginning in 1809, in the Napoleonic Wars, Emperor Napoleon I entrusted him with corps commands in the Italian theater. A skilled tactician, he was one of the veteran generals who made the Napoleonic armies such a formidable foe to the other European powers. After the Bourbon Restoration he retired from the army and later went into politics. Grenier is one of the Names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe.

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.


Originally part of the Danube army of Archduke Charles, Jellacic's division was detached to the south before the Battle of Eckmühl and later ordered to join the army of Archduke John at Graz. As it retreated southeast toward Graz, Jellacic's division passed across the front of Eugène de Beauharnais' Army of Italy, which was advancing northeast in pursuit of Archduke John. When he learned of Jellacic's presence, Eugène sent Grenier with two divisions to intercept the Austrian column.

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.

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.

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.

Grenier's lead division duly intercepted Jellacic's force and attacked. Though the Austrians were able to hold off the French at first, they were unable to get away. The second French division's arrival secured a clear numerical superiority over Jellacic, who was critically short of cavalry and artillery. Grenier's subsequent French assault broke the Austrian lines and captured thousands of prisoners. When Jellacic joined John it was with only a fraction of his original force.


In the opening encounters of the 1809 war between France and Austria, Emperor Napoleon beat Feldmarschall-Leutnant Johann von Hiller at the battles of Abensberg and Landshut on 20 and 21 April. [3] The following day, Napoleon defeated Generalissimo Archduke Charles at the Battle of Eckmühl, forcing him to retreat through Regensberg (Ratisbon) to the Danube's north bank with the main army. [4] On the south bank, Hiller fell back to the east with his own VI Armeekorps, Feldmarschall-Leutnant Archduke Louis' V Armeekorps, and Feldmarschall-Leutnant Michael von Kienmayer's II Reserve Armeekorps, pursued by Marshal André Masséna. [5]

Johann von Hiller Austrian general

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.

Battle of Abensberg battle

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.

Battle of Landshut (1809) battle

The Battle of Landshut took place on 21 April 1809 between the French, Württembergers and Bavarians under Napoleon which numbered about 77,000 strong, and 36,000 Austrians under the General Johann von Hiller. The Austrians, though outnumbered, fought hard until Napoleon arrived, when the battle subsequently became a clear French victory.

Battle of Sankt Michael, situation early 25 May 1809 Battle of Sankt Michael 1809 Map.JPG
Battle of Sankt Michael, situation early 25 May 1809

At the beginning of the 1809 war, Feldmarschall-Leutnant Jellacic's division formed part of VI Armeekorps and consisted of two brigades of line infantry under Generals-Major Konstantin Ettingshausen and Josef Hoffmeister von Hoffeneck. [6] However, when Bavaria was invaded, Archduke Charles detached Jellacic to advance from Salzburg and occupy Munich on the extreme south flank. [7] To better perform this mission, Hoffmeister's brigade was exchanged for General-Major Karl Dollmayer von Provenchères' cavalry-infantry brigade from the corps light division. [8] After the Austrian retreat began, Jellacic was ordered to fall back on Salzburg. Accordingly, elements of his command began assembling in Salzburg beginning on 29 April. [1] Believing cavalry was of little use in the mountains, Jellacic sent Provenchères toward Vienna on 1 May with the O'Reilly Chevauxlegers # 3. [9] Hiller fought the Battle of Ebersberg on 3 May, then crossed to the north bank of the Danube on 11 May. [10] On 4 and 5 May, Jellacic fought a successful rearguard action at Lueg Pass, 40 km south of Salzburg. In the clash, a few hundred Hungarian regulars and Grenz infantry repulsed a brigade of pursuing Bavarians under the overall command of Marshal François Joseph Lefebvre. [11]

Salzburg Place in Austria

Salzburg, literally "salt castle", is the fourth-largest city in Austria and the capital of Federal State of Salzburg.

Munich Place in Bavaria, Germany

Munich is the capital and most populous city of Bavaria, the second most populous German federal state. With a population of around 1.5 million, it is the third-largest city in Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg, as well as the 12th-largest city in the European Union. The city's metropolitan region is home to 6 million people. Straddling the banks of the River Isar north of the Bavarian Alps, it is the seat of the Bavarian administrative region of Upper Bavaria, while being the most densely populated municipality in Germany. Munich is the second-largest city in the Bavarian dialect area, after the Austrian capital of Vienna.

Grenz infantry or Grenzers were light infantry troops who came from the Military Frontier in the Habsburg Monarchy. This borderland formed a buffer zone between Christian Europe and the Ottoman Empire, and the troops were originally raised to defend Austria against the Ottoman Turks. When there was no danger of war against the Ottomans, the Grenzer regiments were employed by the Habsburgs in other theatres of war, although one battalion of each regiment would always remain guarding the border.

In Italy, General of Cavalry Archduke John defeated Viceroy Eugène at the Battle of Sacile on 16 April. [12] Eugène fell back to Verona where he gathered reinforcements until he was superior in numbers to his Austrian opponent. After hearing news that Archduke Charles was in retreat, John withdrew from his Adige River defenses on 1 May. [13]

A viceroy is an official who runs a country, colony, city, province, or sub-national state, in the name of and as the representative of the monarch of the territory. The term derives from the Latin prefix vice-, meaning "in the place of" and the French word roy, meaning "king". A viceroy's territory may be called a viceroyalty, though this term is not always applied. The adjective form is viceregal, less often viceroyal. The term vicereine is sometimes used to indicate a female viceroy suo jure, although viceroy can serve as a gender-neutral term. Vicereine is more commonly used to indicate a viceroy's wife.

Battle of Sacile battle

The Battle of Sacile on 16 April 1809 and its companion Clash at Pordenone on 15 April saw an Austrian army commanded by Archduke John of Austria defeat a Franco-Italian army led by Eugène de Beauharnais and force it to retreat. Sacile proved to be the most notable victory of John's career. The action took place east of the Livenza River near Sacile in modern-day Italy during the War of the Fifth Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars.

Verona Comune in Veneto, Italy

Verona is a city on the Adige river in Veneto, Italy, with 258,108 inhabitants. It is one of the seven provincial capitals of the region. It is the second largest city municipality in the region and the third largest in northeast Italy. The metropolitan area of Verona covers an area of 1,426 km2 (550.58 sq mi) and has a population of 714,274 inhabitants. It is one of the main tourist destinations in northern Italy, because of its artistic heritage and several annual fairs, shows, and operas, such as the lyrical season in the Arena, the ancient amphitheater built by the Romans.

On 8 May, Eugène and John fought the Battle of Piave River and the Austrian retreat continued. [14] John split his army, sending Feldmarschall-Leutnant Ignaz Gyulai along a southerly route to Ljubljana (Laybach), while taking his attenuated main body northeast to Villach. Sending General of Division Jacques MacDonald and 20,000 soldiers after Gyulai, Eugène followed John with 25,000 troops. [15] As John's columns slipped away toward Klagenfurt and Graz, Eugene entered Villach on 20 May. [7]

Battle of Piave River (1809) battle

The Battle of Piave River was fought on 8 May 1809 between the Franco-Italian army under the command of Eugène de Beauharnais and an Austrian army led by Archduke John of Austria. The Austrian commander made a stand behind the Piave River but he suffered a defeat at the hands of his numerically superior foes. The combat took place near Nervesa della Battaglia, Italy during the War of the Fifth Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars.

Ljubljana Capital city in City Municipality of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana is the capital and largest city of Slovenia. It has been the cultural, educational, economic, political, and administrative centre of independent Slovenia since 1991.

Villach Place in Carinthia, Austria

Villach is the seventh-largest city in Austria and the second-largest in the federal state of Carinthia. It represents an important traffic junction for southern Austria and the whole Alpe-Adria region. As of January 2018, the population is 61,887.

On 15 May, Jellacic held Salzburg with 10,200 troops and 16 artillery pieces of the Northern Division. His force included 2,880 poorly trained Landwehr and only 60 cavalrymen. [16] After receiving orders from Archduke John to join him at Graz, Jellacic evacuated Salzburg on 19 May. By this time his isolation had become dangerous. [1] Eugène at Villach was only 130 km from Graz, while Jellacic at Salzburg was 200 km distant from Graz. [note 1]


French order of battle

Paul Grenier General Paul Grenier.JPG
Paul Grenier

Austrian order of battle

Franz Jellacic Franjo Jelacic.jpg
Franz Jellacic



On the evening of 23 May, Jellacic's column marched into Mautern in Steiermark, 16 km northwest of Sankt Michael on the Mur River and 60 km northwest of Archduke John at Graz. At the same time, Eugène's main body reached Judenburg on the Mur, 33 km southwest of Sankt Michael, with elements only 20 km away. For his part, Archduke John warned Jellacic that Eugene was heading for Bruck an der Mur, 40 km north of Graz. The axes of advance for both Eugene and Jellacic intersected at Sankt Michael. At about this time, Eugene became aware of Jellacic's presence and ordered General of Division Grenier to force-march the two nearest divisions, those of Generals of Division Jean Mathieu Seras and Pierre François Joseph Durutte, to the northeast and intercept the Austrians. [2] At some point, Jellacic sent away the bulk of the Salzburger Landwehr and most of his artillery, retaining only four cannons. [1]

Sankt Michael in Obersteiermark from the south St. Michael in Obersteiermark Panorama.jpg
Sankt Michael in Obersteiermark from the south

Jellacic's advance guard arrived at Sankt Michael on the morning of 25 May, and by 9:00 am the bulk of his division had reached a location just to the north. However, Grenier's advance elements soon appeared to the southwest. Jellacic sent his 60 horsemen and General-Major Ignaz Legisfeld's light brigade to hold off the French on a ridge just west of the town. At 10:00 am, Seras attacked Legisfeld's line but his troops were driven back. Seras kept up the pressure and soon the Austrian division commander brought Ettingshausen's brigade of approximately 5,000 soldiers into action. Jellacic anchored his left flank on the Mur and planted his right flank in the hills to the north. Durutte's division arrived in the afternoon, giving Grenier a superiority of about 15,000 to 8,000. [2] Another authority gives the French numerical advantage as 12,000 to 9,000 troops. [1]

Pierre Durutte General Durutte(1767-1827).jpg
Pierre Durutte

Grenier prepared a two-division assault. He placed General of Brigade Louis Gareau's brigade of Seras in the first line. General of Brigade François Valentin of Durutte's division stood in the second line. Seras' second brigade under General of Brigade Roussel was sent through the hills to envelop Jellacic's right flank and cut the road leading back to Mautern. Durutte's remaining brigade, led by General of Brigade Joseph Marie, Count Dessaix, was held in reserve by Grenier. The French commander also sent two battalions of the 62nd Line Infantry Regiment along the south bank of the Mur to turn the Austrian left flank. [2]

With only one landwehr and one Grenzer battalion to face Roussel's envelopment, Jellacic withdrew one battalion of the Esterhazy Infantry Regiment # 32 from the center to shore up his right flank. Other troops had to be sent to face the threat from the 62nd Line. At 4:00 pm, Grenier's assault smashed the weakened Austrian center. Roussel also broke through on the flank to cut the road to the north. The Austrian fled in rout to the northeast along the Mur valley, closely pursued by the French. Grenier harried his beaten foes through Leoben, 7 km northeast, and Bruck an der Mur, 20 km northeast. At Bruck, Jellacic's survivors turned south, following the Mur valley to Graz. Only 2,000 of Jellacic's troops reached Graz the next day. [26]


Grenier wrecked the Northern Division. Instead of providing a substantial reinforcement to Archduke John, Jellacic brought in less than one-third of his command. The Austrians suffered 423 dead, 1,137 wounded, 4,963 captured, and 50 missing. French losses numbered 200 killed, 400 wounded, and 70 captured. Historian Digby Smith blames the disaster on Jellacic remaining in Salzburg too long and his error in sending away most of his cavalry and artillery. [1] Austrian army historian Gunther E. Rothenberg calls Jellacic, "a remarkably unlucky and inept general." [27] Archduke John retreated first to Körmend then to Győr, pursued by Eugène. The main French and Austrian armies fought the Battle of Raab on 14 June. [28]


  1. Airline distances measured from Google Earth.
  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Smith, p 312
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Schneid, p 86
  3. Smith, pp 290–291
  4. Smith, p 292
  5. Smith, p 292-294
  6. Bowden & Tarbox, p 70
  7. 1 2 Schneid, p 85
  8. Arnold, p 260n
  9. Petre, 249
  10. Rothenberg, p 138
  11. Smith, p 299
  12. Smith, p 286
  13. Schneid, pp 76–77
  14. Smith, p 300
  15. Schneid, p 83
  16. Bowden & Tarbox, p 115
  17. Schneid, pp 186–187
  18. Bowden & Tarbox, pp 110–112. This source shows Durutte's division had a 6-pdr foot battery at Piave. In Eugene's army all horse batteries had 4-pound guns.
  19. French Wikipedia, Liste des généraux de la Révolution et du Premier Empire. This is either Jean Charles Roussel or Charles Alexandre Roussel de Saint-Rémy.
  20. Bowden & Tarbox, p 101. Schneid's order of battle omits Gareau.
  21. French Wikipedia, Louis Gareau
  22. Schneid, p 186
  23. Bowden & Tarbox, p 115. This source's estimated strengths are from 15 May. It differs from Schneid by including 4 battalions of landwehr and 16 3-pdr cannons, and leaving out the Reuss and Archduke Charles units.
  24. Smith, p 312. Smith agrees with Schneid except in stating that Jellacic only had four guns. Since an Austrian brigade battery typically had eight cannons, four guns would be a half-battery.
  25. Bowden & Tarbox, pp 101–103
  26. Schneid, pp 86–87
  27. Rothenberg, p 145
  28. Schneid, pp 87–88

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