Siege of Kehl (1733)

Last updated
Siege of Kehl
Part of the War of the Polish Succession
Festung Kehl 1788.jpg
A 1788 map showing Kehl and Strasbourg
Date14–28 October 1733
Coordinates: 48°34′N7°49′E / 48.567°N 7.817°E / 48.567; 7.817
Result French victory
Royal Standard of the King of France.svg  Kingdom of France Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Austria
Commanders and leaders
Royal Standard of the King of France.svg James FitzJames, 1st Duke of Berwick Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Baron Johann August von Phull
25,000 infantry
8,000 cavalry
250 Imperial troops
1,200 Schwabian militia

The Siege of Kehl (14–28 October 1733) was one of the opening moves of the French Rhineland campaign in the War of the Polish Succession, at the fortress town of Kehl in the upper Rhine River valley. A large French army under the command of the Duke of Berwick besieged and captured the fortress, which was lightly garrisoned and in poor condition.



On the death of Augustus II on 1 February 1733, the Polish throne was claimed by both his son, Augustus III, and by Stanislas I, father in law of Louis XV. Whilst a body double ostensibly left Brest by sea, Stanilas crossed Germany incognito and arrived at Warsaw on 8 September. On 12 September Stanislas was elected king of Poland by the diet.

On his election Russia and Austria (backing Augustus III) invaded Poland. By 22 September Stanislas, who did not have a proper army, had to take refuge in Danzig (now known as Gdańsk), there to await the French help he had been promised. On 5 October, Augustus III was proclaimed king under protection from Russian forces at Warsaw. Great Britain, the Dutch Republic, Sweden, Denmark and the Republic of Venice recognised that Austro-Russian aggression against Poland was the casus belli and pledged to remain neutral. Spain, coveting the Kingdom of Naples and Sardinia, which coveted the Duchy of Milan, sided with France.

Louis XV's courtiers (including the princes of Conti and Eu, the counts of Clermont, Charolais and Belle-Isle, the duc de Richelieu, but also Maurice de Saxe, Augustus III's half-brother and the former lover of Anna Ivanovna, now the tsarina of Russia) joined up under marshal James FitzJames to form an army for invading the Rhineland with the objective of distracting Austria from events in Poland and gaining the Duchy of Lorraine.


The village and fortress of Kehl was located near the Margraviate of Baden (now part of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, but then part of the Holy Roman Empire), just across the Rhine River from the French city of Strasbourg. The fortress at Kehl, and that at Philippsburg to the north, provided strategic military control over major crossings of the upper Rhine, which formed the boundary between French-controlled Alsace and the various principalities of the empire.

Nominally the responsibility of the emperor, maintenance and defense of the fortress belonged to the Swabian Circle, which was largely dominated by the Duchy of Württemberg. Although some imperial troops were stationed there in January 1733, the commander of the fortress was the Württembergian lieutenant general Baron Johann August von Phull, and most of its garrison consisted of Swabian troops. When the war broke out, numerous works to repair and expand the fortress were underway, but key defenses near the Rhine were incomplete.

On 12 October, French troops under Belle-Isle and Silly marched into the Duchy of Lorraine and seized its capital, Nancy. Control over the remainder of Lorraine was rapidly established, and the two commanders left garrisons throughout the duchy before sending the bulk of their forces into Alsace to focus on the campaign on the Rhine.

Also on 12 October, Berwick ordered troops from the Strasbourg encampment to cross the Rhine. At a point near Auenheim, about 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) below Kehl, they constructed a ship bridge and crossed 4,000 men to the east bank. Near Goldscheuer, 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) above the fortress, they began constructing another bridge. Two days later, the bulk of the Berwick's army had crossed the Rhine. General Phull, when the French began their movements, destroyed the bridge between Kehl and Strasbourg, and also destroyed those houses and other buildings outside the fortress that might provide the attacking French any sort of shelter.


Berwick first ordered the construction of a line of circumvallation. Local villagers were among those pressed into service for its construction, which was anchored at both ends by the Rhine, above and below the fortress. Berwick's quartermasters also made demands to the surrounding villages for the delivery of provisions to the besiegers. The Duke of Württemberg signed a supply agreement that he characterized in reports to the emperor as being concluded under the greatest duress.

By 17 October Berwick was ready to begin digging siege lines, and it became apparent to Phull that the fortress' river-facing hornwork was Berwick's target when the latter began construction of batteries on the island between Kehl and Strasbourg. On 18 October Phull issued detailed instructions to his commanders concerning the tactics of defense and retreat. The hornwork was to be held until it was either breached or its artillery rendered useless, at which point the defenders were to fall back first to the covered way between the hornwork and the main fortress, and then to the fortress proper.

The French began digging siege trenches on the night of 19 October. By 21 October the siege lines reached an unfinished lunette on the Rhine-facing side of the fortress, and the French began setting up a battery there on 23 October. The defenders were by this time reduced to musket fire and grenades, as most of their artillery had been dismounted or destroyed by enemy fire.

On 23 October the French opened fire not only on the hornwork, but also began battering the walls of the main fortress with cannon fire. After two failed assaults by Berwick's grenadiers, they succeeded in briefly occupying the hornwork; it was reoccupied by the Germans the next day. The defenders attempted a sortie against the French positions near the hornwork, but it was repulsed. By 27 October, the French had established numerous batteries and were mercilessly battering the main fortification. About 4 pm on 28 October, the French barrage started a fire on the hornwork that was severe enough that its commander requested permission from Phull to withdraw; this permission was granted. Phull then held a council, in which it was determined that only 500 men were combat-ready, and that the fortress might hold out at most three more days. Consequently, Phull raised the white flag around 8 pm on 28 October.

The garrison marched out of the fortress on 31 October with the full honors of war, and was escorted to the imperial defense line at Ettlingen.


The onset of bad weather ended the French campaign for the year, and Berwick, after consolidating his control over the area, quartered his troops for the winter on the French side of the Rhine. In 1734 Berwick continued the campaign down the Rhine, successfully flanking the Austrian defense line at Ettlingen, and continuing with the siege of Philippsburg, during which he was killed by a shell. That siege was successfully concluded by his second in command, the marquis d'Asfeld, and marked the end of significant military operations in the Rhine valley for the war. Pursuant to the 1738 Treaty of Vienna that ended the war, France eventually withdrew from Kehl and Philippsburg, but eventually annexed Lorraine.

See also



    Related Research Articles

    War of the Polish Succession War in Europe 1734–1738

    The War of the Polish Succession was a major European conflict sparked by a Polish civil war over the succession to Augustus II of Poland, which the other European powers widened in pursuit of their own national interests. France and Spain, the two Bourbon powers, attempted to test the power of the Austrian Habsburgs in western Europe, as did the Kingdom of Prussia, whilst Saxony and Russia mobilized to support the eventual Polish victor. The fighting in Poland resulted in the accession of Augustus III, who in addition to Russia and Saxony, was politically supported by the Habsburgs.

    Stanisław Leszczyński King of Poland

    Stanisław I Leszczyński, also Anglicized and Latinized as Stanislaus I, was King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Duke of Lorraine and a count of the Holy Roman Empire.

    Kehl Place in Baden-Württemberg, Germany

    Kehl is a town in southwestern Germany in the Ortenaukreis, Baden-Württemberg. It is located on the river Rhine, directly opposite the French city of Strasbourg.

    Siege of Strasbourg

    The Siege of Strasbourg took place during the Franco-Prussian War, and resulted in the French surrender of the fortress on 28 September 1870.

    Army of Sambre and Meuse one of the armies of the French Revolution formed on 29 June 1794

    The Army of Sambre and Meuse was one of the armies of the French Revolution. It was formed on 29 June 1794 by combining the Army of the Ardennes, the left wing of the Army of the Moselle and the right wing of the Army of the North. Its maximum paper strength was approximately 83,000.

    The Siege of Kehl may refer to one of four sieges of the fortress above the town of Kehl, located in present-day southwestern Germany, across the Rhine River from Strasbourg:

    Army of the Rhine and Moselle

    The Army of the Rhine and Moselle was one of the field units of the French Revolutionary Army. It was formed on 20 April 1795 by the merger of elements of the Army of the Rhine and the Army of the Moselle.

    Siege of Philippsburg (1734) 1734 siege

    The Siege of Philippsburg was conducted by French forces against forces in the fortress of Philippsburg in the Rhine River valley during the War of the Polish Succession. The Duke of Berwick led 100,000 men up the Rhine Valley in opposition to Austrian forces, of which 60,000 were detached to invest the fortress at Philippsburg, beginning on 1 June 1734. A relief column of 35,000 under the aging Prince Eugene of Savoy was unsuccessful in actually relieving the siege. On 12 June Berwick was killed by a cannonball while inspecting the trenches, and command of the besiegers fell to Marshals d'Asfeld and Noailles. The fortress surrendered one month later, and the garrison withdrew to the fortress of Mainz with the honours of war.

    Siege of Kehl (1796–97)

    The Siege of Kehl lasted from October 1796 to 9 January 1797. Habsburg and Württemberg regulars numbering 40,000, under the command of Maximilian Anton Karl, Count Baillet de Latour, besieged and captured the French-controlled fortifications at the village of Kehl in the German state of Baden-Durlach. The fortifications at Kehl represented important bridgehead crossing the Rhine to Strasbourg, an Alsatian city, a French Revolutionary stronghold. This battle was part of the Rhine Campaign of 1796, in the French Revolutionary War of the First Coalition.

    Battle of Ettlingen

    The Battle of Ettlingen or Battle of Malsch was fought during the French Revolutionary Wars between the armies of the First French Republic and Habsburg Austria near the town of Malsch, 9 kilometres (6 mi) southwest of Ettlingen. The Austrians under Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen tried to halt the northward advance of Jean Victor Marie Moreau's French Army of Rhin-et-Moselle along the east bank of the Rhine River. After a tough fight, the Austrian commander found that his left flank was turned. He conceded victory to the French and retreated east toward Stuttgart. Ettlingen is located 10 kilometres (6 mi) south of Karlsruhe.

    Hermann of Baden-Baden Imperial field marshal and president of the Hofkriegsrat

    Margrave (Prince) Hermann of Baden-Baden was a general and diplomat in the imperial service. He was Field Marshal, president of the Hofkriegsrat, and the representative of the Emperor in the Perpetual Diet of Regensburg.

    Siege of Philippsburg (1676)

    The Siege of Philippsburg was a siege of the fortress of Philippsburg during the Franco-Dutch War.

    Rhine campaign of 1796 Last campaign of the War of the First Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars

    In the Rhine campaign of 1796, two First Coalition armies under the overall command of Archduke Charles outmaneuvered and defeated two French Republican armies. This was the last campaign of the War of the First Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars.

    Battle of Kehl (1796)

    During the Battle of Kehl, a Republican French force under the direction of Jean Charles Abbatucci mounted an amphibious crossing of the Rhine River against a defending force of soldiers from the Swabian Circle. In this action of the War of the First Coalition, the French drove the Swabians from their positions in Kehl and subsequently controlled the bridgehead on both sides of the Rhine.

    Siege of Hüningen (1796–97)

    In the Siege of Hüningen, the Austrians captured the city from the French. Hüningen is in the present-day Department of Haut-Rhin, France. Its fortress lay approximately 2.5 miles (4.0 km) north of the Swiss city of Basel and .5 miles (0.80 km) north of the spot where the present-day borders of Germany, France and Switzerland meet. During the time of this siege, the village was part of the Canton of Basel City and the fortress lay in area contested between the German states and the First French Republic.

    Second Battle of Kehl (1796)

    The Second Battle of Kehl occurred on 18 September 1796, when General Franz Petrasch's Austrian and Imperial troops stormed the French-held bridgehead over the Rhine river. The village of Kehl, which is now in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, was then part of Baden-Durlach. Across the river, Strasbourg, an Alsatian city, was a French Revolutionary stronghold. This battle was part of the Rhine Campaign of 1796, in the French Revolutionary War of the First Coalition.

    Battle of Willstätt

    The Battle of Willstätt was fought during the Swedish phase of the Thirty Years' War near the Free city of Strasbourg, in the Holy Roman Empire. Having dealt a heavy defeat on the Swedish army at the Battle of Nördlingen in September, the armies of the Emperor, Spain and the Catholic League overran much of the Swedish-held southern Germany. At Wilsttätt, the armies of the Emperor and the Catholic League, led by Duke Charles IV of Lorraine and general Johann von Werth, defeated a Swedish force assembled by the Germans the Rhingrave of Salm-Kyrburg-Mörchingen, the Duke of Württemberg and the Margrave of Baden-Durlach. The battle lasted for three hours and ended with 2,000 Swedish soldiers dead on the battlefield and a bigger number in the rout. The Rheingrave Otto saved himself inside Strasbourg.

    The Bühl-Stollhofen Line was a line of defensive earthworks built for the Reichsarmee in the War of the Spanish Succession. It was constructed by order of Margrave Louis William I of Baden-Baden, also known as "Turkish Louis", from 1701 in order to protect northern Baden from the newly erected French fortress of Fort Louis on the River Rhine.

    The Battle of Ortenbach, also known as the Battle of Gengenbach, took place on 23 July 1678 during the closing stages of the 1672-1678 Franco-Dutch War, in the modern German state of Baden-Württemberg. It featured a French army commanded by François de Créquy and an Imperial force under Charles V, Duke of Lorraine.

    Action at Mannheim (1795)

    The Action at Mannheim 1795 began in April 1795 when two French armies crossed the Rhine and converged on the confluence of the Main and the Rhine. Initial action at Mannheim resulted in a minor skirmish, but the Bavarian commander negotiated a quick truce with the French and withdrew. On 17 October 1795, 17,000 Habsburg Austrian troops under the command of Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser engaged 12,000 soldiers, led by Jean-Charles Pichegru in the grounds outside the city of Mannheim. In a combination of maneuvers, the Habsburg army forced 10,000 of the French forces to withdraw into the city itself; other French troops fled to join neighboring Republican armies. First Coalition forces then laid siege to Mannheim. Subsequent action at neighboring cities forced the French to withdraw further westward toward France; after a month's siege, the 10,000-strong Republican French garrison now commanded by Anne Charles Basset Montaigu surrendered to 25,000 Austrians commanded by Wurmser. This surrender brought the 1795 campaign in Germany to an end. The battle and siege occurred during the War of the First Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars. Situated on the Rhine River at its confluence with the Neckar River, Mannheim lies in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg in modern-day Germany.