Battle of Würzburg

Last updated
The Battle of Würzburg
Part of the French Revolutionary Wars
Marienberg wuerzburg.jpg
Marienberg fortress overlooking Würzburg
Date3 September 1796
Location
Würzburg, present-day Germany
Result Decisive Austrian victory
Belligerents
Flag of France.svg Republican France Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Habsburg Monarchy
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Jean-Baptiste Jourdan Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Archduke Charles
Strength
30,000 [1] 30,000
Casualties and losses
3,000, 7 guns 1,500

The Battle of Würzburg was fought on 3 September 1796 between an army of the Habsburg Monarchy led by Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen and an army of the First French Republic led by Jean-Baptiste Jourdan. The French attacked the archduke's forces, but they were resisted until the arrival of reinforcements decided the engagement in favor of the Austrians. The French retreated west toward the Rhine River. The action occurred during the War of the First Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars. Würzburg is 95 kilometres (59 mi) southeast of Frankfurt.

Habsburg Monarchy former Central European country (1526–1804)

Habsburg Monarchy is an umbrella term used by historians for the lands and kingdoms of the House of Habsburg, especially for those of the Austrian branch. Although from 1438 until 1806 the head of the House of Habsburg was also Holy Roman Emperor, the empire itself is not considered a part of the Habsburg Monarchy.

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.

Jean-Baptiste Jourdan Marshal of France

Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, 1st Comte 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 France 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.

Contents

The summer of 1796 saw the two French armies of Jourdan and Jean Victor Marie Moreau advance into southern Germany. They were opposed by Archduke Charles, who supervised two weaker Austrian armies commanded by Wilhelm von Wartensleben and Maximilian Anton Karl, Count Baillet de Latour. At the Battle of Amberg on 24 August, Charles managed to concentrate superior numbers against Jourdan, forcing him to withdraw. At Würzburg, Jourdan attempted a counterattack in a bid to halt his retreat. After his defeat, Charles forced Jourdan's army back to the Rhine. With his colleague in retreat, Moreau was isolated and compelled to abandon southern Germany.

Jean Victor Marie Moreau Marshal of France

Jean Victor Marie Moreau was a French general who helped Napoleon Bonaparte to power, but later became a rival and was banished to the United States.

Gustav Wilhelm Ludwig Count Wartensleben was a Swedish nobleman active in the Dutch military.

Maximilian Anton Karl, Count Baillet de Latour General in Austrian service

Count Maximilian Anton Karl Baillet de Latour was an Austrian general during the French Revolutionary Wars.

Order of battle

French Army

François Joseph Lefebvre Marshal of France

François Joseph Lefebvre, Duc de Dantzig, was a French military commander during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and one of the original eighteen Marshals of the Empire created by Napoleon.

Paul Grenier French general

Count 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.

Jacques Philippe Bonnaud or Bonneau commanded a French combat division in a number of actions during the French Revolutionary Wars. He enlisted in the French Royal Army as cavalryman in 1776 and was a non-commissioned officer in 1789. He became a captain in the 12th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment in 1792. The unit fought at Valmy, Jemappes, Aldenhoven, Neerwinden, Raismes, Caesar's Camp and Wattignies, and he was wounded twice. In January 1794 he was promoted to general officer. In April 1794, he reluctantly accepted command of a division that had been cut to pieces at Villers-en-Cauchies and Troisvilles, and this at a time when failed generals often were sent to the guillotine. He led his troops at Courtrai, Tourcoing and in the invasion of the Dutch Republic. He fought in the War in the Vendée the following year, briefly leading the Army of the Coasts of Cherbourg. In the Rhine Campaign of 1796 he led a cavalry division in combat at Amberg, Würzburg and Limburg. He was badly wounded in the latter action and never recovered, dying at Bonn six months later. BONNEAU is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 6.

Habsburg Army

Friedrich Freiherr von Hotze Field Marshal, French Revolutionary Wars

Friedrich Freiherr (Baron) von Hotze, was a Swiss-born general in the Austrian army during the French Revolutionary Wars, 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.

Michael von Kienmayer austrian general

Michael von Kienmayer was an Austrian general. Kienmayer joined the army of the Habsburg Monarchy 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.

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

The French army advanced against what they thought to be an isolated Austrian division under Feldmarschall-Leutnant Anton Sztáray. Jourdan's plan was to attack Sztáray with the divisions of Generals of Division Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte and Jean Étienne Championnet, leaving the divisions of Generals of Division Jacques Bonnaud and Paul Grenier in reserve. However, the early morning mist enabled Archduke Charles to bring up the division of Feldmarschall-Leutnant Friedrich Freiherr von Hotze as a reinforcement to Sztáray, effectively undoing what Jourdan thought to be a great numerical superiority for the French.

Jourdan's imagined superiority diminished even more when the division of General-Major Anton von Elsnitz to the north kept the much larger force under General of Division François Joseph Lefebvre out of the battle. Meanwhile, Austrian engineers were laying pontoon bridges over the Main in order to let the remainder of the Habsburg army cross the river. The French attacked the Austrian position without success until the Austrian divisions of Feldmarschall-Leutnant Paul Kray and Feldzeugmeister Wilhelm von Wartensleben arrived and drove the French off the field.

Result

Army of the Lower Rhine

The French suffered 2,000 killed and wounded, plus 1,000 men and 7 guns captured. The Austrians lost 1,200 killed and wounded, with 300 captured. [4] The Battle of Würzburg determined the winner of the 1796 campaign in southern Germany. Charles pursued the beaten French, turning Jourdan's south flank and keeping between him and General of Division Jean Victor Marie Moreau's French Army of Rhin-et-Moselle in southern Germany.

On 7 September, Charles forced the French to lift the siege of Mainz. [5] By 16 September, the opposing armies were back on the Lahn River where they started the campaign in June. On that day, Kray with 11,000 Austrians defeated 15,000 Frenchmen of Jourdan's army at Limburg an der Lahn. The French general fell back to Düsseldorf and crossed to the west bank of the Rhine. The French gave up their siege of the Ehrenbreitstein fortress on 17 September. Charles left 30,000 soldiers with the Army of the Lower Rhine, placed them under the command Feldmarschall-Leutnant Franz von Werneck, and hurried south. [6]

Army of the Upper Rhine

Having disposed of Jourdan's army, the Austrian archduke forced Moreau's now-isolated army to retreat west through the Black Forest to France. [7] On 18 September, an Austrian division under Feldmarschall-Leutnant Franz Petrasch stormed the Rhine bridgehead at Kehl, but was driven out by a French counterattack. At this time, Moreau's army was still south of Ulm. On 2 October, Moreau defeated Feldzeugmeister Maximilian Anton Karl, Count Baillet de Latour's Army of the Upper Rhine at the Battle of Biberach. While French casualties numbered only 500, they inflicted 300 killed and wounded, while capturing 4,000 soldiers and 18 cannon. [8] This slowed the southern Austrian pursuit, but with Charles rushing south to cut him off from France, Moreau retreated to the Rhine.

On 19 October, Moreau with 32,000 soldiers fought Charles with 28,000 Austrians at the Battle of Emmendingen. The French suffered 1,000 killed and wounded, including General of Division Michel de Beaupuy killed. In addition, the Austrians captured 1,800 men and 2 cannons. The Austrians losses totaled 1,000, including Feldzeugmeister Wilhelm von Wartensleben killed. [9]

The French withdrew south and fought the Battle of Schliengen on 24 October. This time, the Austrians lost 800 while inflicting 1,200 casualties on the French. Both sides claimed victory, but Moreau retreated to the west bank of the Rhine. Moreau soon offered Charles an armistice, which the field marshal wanted to accept. At this time, the Austrian government made a huge error by refusing to ratify the agreement. That fall and winter, while Charles reduced the fortresses of Kehl and Huningen, the French government transferred 14 demi-brigades from Moreau to General of Division Napoleon Bonaparte to help the latter bring the Siege of Mantua to a successful conclusion. [10]

Notes

  1. Smith, p 122. Smith's strengths are used. Smith and Rothenburg agree on losses.
  2. Smith, p 121–122
  3. Smith, p 122. Some names and ranks were changed according to data in Smith-Kudrna.
  4. Rothenberg, p 248. Rothenberg gives 44,000 as the Austrian strength, which may include Elsnitz's division. Smith's strengths were used instead.
  5. Smith, p 122
  6. Smith, p 124
  7. Eggenberger, p 482
  8. Smith, p 123
  9. Smith, p 123–124
  10. Smith, p 125–126

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References

See also

Coordinates: 49°47′36″N9°55′46″E / 49.79333°N 9.92944°E / 49.79333; 9.92944