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Army of the Rhine
A French fusilier carries his long muzzled musket. He wears a blue jacket and white shirt and trousers; his cartridge belt is strapped across his chest and he wears a tricorn hat with a red revolutionary cockade.
Fusilier of a French Revolutionary Army
Active 1791–95, 1797–98, 1799–1801
Disbanded 20 April 1795
Country France
Allegiance First Republic
March Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Nicolas Luckner
Adam Philippe, Comte de Custine




The Army of the Rhine (Armée du Rhin) was formed in December 1791, for the purpose of bringing the French Revolution to the German states along the Rhine River. During its first year in action (1792), under command of Adam Philippe Custine, the Army of the Rhine participated in several victories, including Mainz, Frankfurt and Speyer. Subsequently, the army underwent several reorganizations and merged with the Army of the Moselle to form the Army of the Rhine and Moselle on 20 April 1795.

Organization of French Armies, 1791–1793

Revolutionary Wars[edit | edit source]

The Army of the Rhine (Armée du Rhin) was one of the main French Revolutionary armies operated in the Rhineland theater, principally in the Rhine River valley, from 1791 to 1795. At its creation, the Army of the Rhine had 88,390 men. It was formed on 14 December 1791, to defend France's eastern frontier in conjunction with two other armies, the Army of the North and the Army of the Center (name changed in October 1792 to Army of the Moselle). These armies were subdivided, fresh forces were raised and gradually grew until, by 30 April 1793, eleven armies encircled France on its coastal and the land frontiers. In October 1792, a portion of the army was used to form the Army of the Vosges but these units rejoined the Army of the Rhine on 15 March 1793.[1]

Song of Glory[edit | edit source]

In the first months of fighting, victories for France were few. Although Custine had succeeded in driving the ecclesiastical authorities from the Swiss village of Porrentruy by 27 April 1792, this singular victory was accomplished largely through the enterprises of a local uprising assisted by some advanced guard and it was the last French victory for several weeks: subsequently, the borders of France had been assaulted by the Habsburgs and their allies. At Mons (18–29 April 1792), Tournay (29 April 1792), Bavay (17 May 1792), Rumégies (19 May 1792), Florennes 28 May 1792, and La Glisuelle, a village 5 kilometers (3 mi) north of Maubeuge (11 June 1792), Austrian skirmishers repeatedly defeated French forces.[2]

Although much of the spring and summer of 1792 action continued throughout in the border regions with Belgium,[3] the cities along the Upper Rhine, especially the city of Strasbourg, felt under threat of invasion by the Habsburg armies massing on the east side of the Rhine River. On 25 April 1792, Philippe Friedrich Dietrich, mayor of Strasbourg, asked a guest, Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, to compose a song to rally against the Habsburg threat.[4] That evening, Rouget de Lisle wrote "Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin" (English: "War Song for the Army of the Rhine"),[5] and dedicated the song to Marshal Nicolas Luckner, a Bavarian in French service.[6] The melody soon became the rallying call to the Revolution: Allons enfants de la Patrie (Arise, children of the Fatherland)/Le jour de gloire est arrivé! (The day of glory has arrived!). It was renamed "La Marseillaise".[5]

Successes under Custine's command[edit | edit source]

The French government ordered Luckner to take command of the Army of the North, and Custine replaced him as overall commander of the Army of the Rhine in Spring 1793. Under his experienced command, the Army took several important positions on the Rhine, including at Speyer, Mainz, Limburg and Frankfurt (see chart of battles below).[7]

Final reorganization[edit | edit source]

On 29 December 1794, the left wing of the Army and the right wing of the Army of the Moselle combined to form the Army besieging Mainz. The rest of the Army of the Moselle united with the Army of the Rhine on 20 April, to form the Army of the Rhine and Moselle. This army united with the Army of Sambre-et-Meuse to form the Army of Germany on 29 September 1797.[8]

Principal battles[edit | edit source]

Battles of the Army of the Rhine.[9]
1792–1795
Date Battle Victor Commander
28 April 1792 Battle of Porrentruy France Adam Philippe Custine[10]
21 October 1792 1st Mainz French Custine
30 September 1792 Capture of Speyer French Custine
21 October 1792 Capture of Frankfurt French Custine
10 November 1792 Limburg French Custine, Houchard commanding the advanced guard.
2 December 1792 Frankfurt am Main Coalition Custine, GdB van Helden commanding the garrison force
14 April–23 July 1793 2nd Mainz Coalition Alexandre de Beauharnais
13 October 1793 1st Wissembourg Coalition Jean Pascal Carlenc
20 August–23 December 1793 Landau French Louis Lazare Hoche (Army of the Moselle)
Jean-Charles Pichegru (Army of the Rhine)
18 November–22 December 1793 Haguenau French Pichegru
18–22 December 1793 Fröschwiller French Hoche
26–29 December 1793 2nd Wissembourg French Hoche and Pichegru
23 May 1794 2nd Kaiserslautern Prussian-Saxon Claude Ignace François Michaud
23 May 1794 Battle of Schifferstadt French Michaud
12–13 July 1794 Schänzel French Laurent de Gouvion Saint-Cyr
17–20 September 1794 3rd Kaiserslautern Prussian-Saxon François Ignace Schaal
25 December 1794 Battle of Mannheim bridge French Martial Vachot

1793 Order of Battle[edit | edit source]

In its five-year history, the Army had several Orders of Battle. This is the OOB at the beginning of the 1793 campaign.[11]

Right wing[edit | edit source]

  • 1st and 2nd Battalions Haute Saône
  • 2nd Battalion Nièvre
  • 4th Battalion Vosges
  • 4th Battalion Seine-et-Oise
  • 3rd Battalion Bas-Rhin
  • 2nd Battalion Puy-de-Dôme
  • 1st, 3rd Battalions Ain
  • 3rd Battalion Grenadiers de L'Indre-et-Loire
  • 2nd Battalion Rhône-et-Loire
Total 20 battalions

Center[edit | edit source]

  • Column Custine, positioned at Mainz.
  • Grenadiers (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th battalions)
  • 57th Infantry Regiment (two battalions)
  • 62nd Infantry Regiment (one battalion)
  • 82nd Infantry Regiment (one battalion)
  • National Guard
  • 2nd Battalion Ain
  • 4th Battalion Haut-Rhin
  • 9th and 10th Battalions Haute-Saône
  • 4th Battalion Calvados
  • 10th Battalion Meurthe
  • 2nd Battalion Républicque
  • 1st Battalion Chasseurs républicains
  • 3rd, 7th, and 8th Battalions Vosges
  • 5th and 6th Battalions Bas-Rhin
  • 1st Battalion Fédérés Nationeaux
  • 2nd Battalion Seine-et-Oise
  • 14th Cavalry Regiment (3 squadrons)
  • 2nd Chasseurs à Cheval (light cavalry) (1 squadron)
  • 7th Chasseurs à Cheval(4 squadrons)
  • 10th Chasseurs à Cheval (5 squadrons)
Total 26 battalions, 12 squadrons

Left wing[edit | edit source]

Positioned at Bingen.

Brigade Houchard
  • 1st Battalion 7th Light Brigade
  • 36 Infantry Regiment (1 battalion)
  • 37th Infantry Regiment (1 battalion)
National Guard
  • 4th and 6th Battalions Jura
  • 2nd Battalion Haute-Rhin
  • 1st Battalion Sone-et-Loire
  • 1st and 2nd Battalions Vosges
  • 8th Chasseurs à Cheval (4 squadrons)
2nd Brigade Gilot
  • 13th Infantry Regiment
  • 48th Infantry Regiment
  • National Guard
  • 1st Battalion Haute-Rhin
  • 1st Battalion Bas-Rhin
  • 1st Battalion Correze
  • 3rd Battalion Nievre

Cavalry[edit | edit source]

  • 2nd Chasseurs à Cheval (3 squadrons)
  • 2nd Cavalry Regiment (3 squadrons
  • 3rd Cavalry Regiment (3 squadrons)
  • 9th Cavalry Regiment (3 squadrons)
  • 11th Cavalry Regiment (3 squadrons)
  • 12th Cavalry Regiment (3 squadrons)
Total 22 squadrons

Reserves[edit | edit source]

  • Grenadiers (12 companies)
  • 6th Light Infantry
  • 2nd Infantry Regiment
  • 22nd Carbine Regiment (3 Squadrons)
  • 16th Dragoon Regiment (3 squadrons)
  • National Guard
  • 6th, 10th and 13 Battalions Vosges
  • 5th Battalion de l'Eure
  • 6th Battalion Calvados
  • 12h Battalion Haute Saône
  • Hussars de la Liberte (unknown )
  • National Gendarmarie
Reserve totals 8 battalions, 12 squadrons, 2 platoons

Commanders[edit | edit source]

Stability of command of the Army of the Rhine reflected the overall chaos of the French Revolutionary governments, especially in the years 1791–1794. Four of the generals serving in those years were guillotined (see chart below).

Commanders-in-Chief of the Army of the Rhine
1791–1795
Italics indicates general was guillotined during Reign of Terror
Date Name
14 December 1791 – 6 May 1792 Nicolas Luckner[12]
7 May – 20 July 1792 Alexis Magallon de la Morlière (intérim)[12]
21 July – 25 December 1792 Armand Louis de Gontaut (also called "Biron") *[12]
26 December 1792 –14 March 1793, Étienne Deprez-Crassier, interim and subordinate to Adam Philippe Custine, who commanded this and the Army of the Moselle[12]
15 March – 17 May 1793 Custine, also commander of the Army of the Moselle until l9 April; he was removed from command of both armies on 29 July 1793, tried and executed in August.[12]
18–29 May 1793 Dominique Diettmann, interim and subordinate to Jean Nicolas Houchard* [12]
30 May – 17 August 1793 Alexandre de Beauharnais, provisionally and subordinate to Houchard.[12]
18 August – 29 September 1793 Charles Hyacinthe Leclerc de Landremont, interim to 23 August, then provisionally[12]
30 September – 1 October 1793 Louis Dominique Munnier (interim)[12]
2–26 October 1793 Jean Pascal Raymond Carlenc (provisional)[12]
27 October 1793 – 13 January 1794 Jean-Charles Pichegru, subordinate to Lazare Hoche[12]
14 January 1794 – 10 April 1795 Claude Ignace François Michaud, during his absences, Jean Philippe Raymond Dorsner
4 December 1794 – 13 February 1795 Jean-Baptiste Kléber, subordinate to the Army of Mainz
14 February – 29 April 1795 François Ignace Schaal, subordinate to Army of Mainz
11–16 April 1795, Jean-Baptiste Kléber (interim)
17–19 April 1795 Jean-Charles Pichegru, during assembly of the Armies of the Rhine and Moselle

Other incarnations[edit | edit source]

An army of the Bourbon Restoration bore this name. In 1815 during the Hundred Days the V Corps – Armée du Rhin[13] under the command of General Jean Rapp, was cantoned near Strassburg, and fought holding actions against contingents of Russians and Austrians, the largest of which was the Battle of La Suffel on fought on 28 June 1815.[14]

This name was also used for the French military forces posted to Germany during the Occupation of the Rhineland (1919–1930), following the First World War.

Related people[edit | edit source]

People known to have served in this Armée include:

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Phipps, Ramsey Weston (2011). "Armies of the First French Republic". Pickle Partners Publishing. pp. 2–3. 
  2. Smith 1996, pp. 21–22.
  3. Smith 1996, pp. 22–27.
  4. Billington 2011, pp. 58–59.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Weber 1976, p. 439.
  6. Stevens 1896, p. 2.
  7. Smith 1996, pp. 21–26.
  8. Orders of Battle show the same troops, under the amalgamation, reformed into these armies (Smith 1996, pp. 111, 131).
  9. Unless otherwise noted, all information in the chart comes from Smith 1996, pp. 28–96
  10. Chuquet1892, p. 43; and Vautrey 1878, pp. 225–227
  11. Smith 1996, p. 41.
  12. 12.00 12.01 12.02 12.03 12.04 12.05 12.06 12.07 12.08 12.09 12.10 Chuquet 1892, pp. 5–6.
  13. Chandler 1981, p. 180.
  14. Siborne 1895, p. 772.

Sources[edit | edit source]

  • Billington, James H. (2011). "Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith". Transaction Publishers. pp. 58–59. ISBN 978-1-4128-1401-0. 
  • Chandler, David (1981). "Waterloo: The Hundred Days". Osprey Publishing. 
  • Chuquet, Arthur (1892). "L'expédition de Custine" (in fr). L. Cert. pp. [ 5–6, 43. 
  • Phipps, Ramsey Weston (2011). "The Armies of the First French Republic: Volume II The Armées du Moselle, du Rhin, de Sambre-et-Meuse, de Rhin-et-Moselle". Pickle Partners Publishing. 
  • Siborne, William (1895). "The Waterloo Campaign 1815". Birmingham, 34 Wheeleys Road. pp. 767–780. https://archive.org/details/waterloocampaig02sibogoog. 
  • Smith, Digby (1996). "Napoleonic Wars Data Book". Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. 
  • Stevens, Benjamin F. (January 1896). "Story of La Marseillaise". Boston, Massachusetts: Oliver Ditson Company. p. 2. https://books.google.com/books?id=qWYPAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA7-PA2. 
  • Vautrey, Louis (1878). "Histoire de Porrentruy" (in fr). J. Gürtler. pp. 225–227. 
  • Weber, Eugen (1976). "Peasants Into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870–1914". Stanford University Press. p. 439. ISBN 978-0-8047-1013-8. 

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Clerget, C. (1905). "Tableaux des armées françaises pendant les guerres de la Révolution" (in fr). Librairie militaire. 

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