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Battle of Neuburg
Part of the War of the Second Coalition
Date27 June 1800
LocationNeuburg an der Donau
Coordinates: 48°43′0″N 11°5′0″E / 48.716667°N 11.083333°E / 48.716667; 11.083333
Result French victory
Belligerents
France France  Holy Roman Empire Austria
Commanders and leaders
Claude Lecourbe Pál Kray
Strength
11,000 8,000
Casualties and losses
approximately 800 wounded or killed, 200 captured 700 dead or wounded and 600 captured


The Battle of Neuburg occurred on 27 June 1800 in the south German state of Bavaria, on the southern bank of the Danube river. Neuburg is located on the between Ingolstadt and Donauwörth. This battle was the last of the Danube campaign for the summer of 1800; the armistice between the Habsburgs and the French was signed a couple of days later ended in late November, and the French ultimately defeated the Austrians at the battles at Ampfing and Hohenlinden. The heaviest action of the battle occurred in the village of Unterhausen.

Background[]

Although the First Coalition forces achieved several initial victories at Verdun, Kaiserslautern, Neerwinden, Mainz, Amberg and Wurzburg, the efforts of Napoleon Bonaparte in northern Italy pushed Austrian forces back and resulted in the negotiation of the Peace of Leoben (17 April 1797) and the subsequent Treaty of Campo Formio (October 1797).[1] This treaty proved difficult to administer. Austria was slow to give up some of the Venetian territories. A Congress convened at Rastatt for the purposes of deciding which southwestern German states would be mediatised to compensate the dynastic houses for territorial losses, but was unable to make any progress. Supported by French republican forces, Swiss insurgents staged several uprisings, ultimately causing the overthrow of the Swiss Confederation after 18 months of civil war.[2] By early 1799, the French Directory had become impatient with stalling tactics employed by Austria. The uprising in Naples raised further alarms, and recent gains in Switzerland suggested the timing was fortuitous to venture on another campaign in northern Italy and southwestern Germany.[3]

The Battles of Stockach and Engen in May 1800, followed by a larger battle at Messkirch, followed the Hohentwiel's capitulation to the French

At the beginning of 1800, the armies of France and Austria faced each other across the Rhine. Feldzeugmeister Pál Kray led approximately 120,000 troops. In addition to his Austrian regulars, his force included 12,000 men from the Electorate of Bavaria, 6,000 troops from the Duchy of Württemberg, 5,000 soldiers of low quality from the Archbishopric of Mainz, and 7,000 militiamen from the County of Tyrol. Of these, 25,000 men were deployed east of Lake Constance (Bodensee) to protect the Vorarlberg. Kray posted his main body of 95,000 soldiers in the L-shaped angle where the Rhine changes direction from a westward flow along the northern border of Switzerland to a northward flow along the eastern border of France. Unwisely, Kray set up his main magazine at Stockach, near the northwestern end of Lake Constance, only a day's march from French-held Switzerland.[4]

The Battle of Messkirch was won from the high ground.

General of Division Jean Victor Marie Moreau commanded a modestly-equipped army of 137,000 French troops. Of these, 108,000 troops were available for field operations while the other 29,000 watched the Swiss border and held the Rhine fortresses. First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte offered a plan of operations based on outflanking the Austrians by a push from Switzerland, but Moreau declined to follow it. Rather, Moreau planned to cross the Rhine near Basel where the river swung to the north. A French column would distract Kray from Moreau's true intentions by crossing the Rhine from the west. Bonaparte wanted Claude Lecourbe's corps to be detached to Italy after the initial battles, but Moreau had other plans.[5] Through a series of complicated maneuvers in which he flanked, double flanked, and reflanked Kray's army, Moreau's army lay on the eastern slope of the Black Forest, while portions of Kray's army was still guarded the passes on the other side.[6] Battles at Engen and Stockach were fought on 3 May 1800 between the army of the First French Republic under Jean Victor Marie Moreau and the army of Habsburg Austria led by Pál Kray. The fighting near Engen resulted in a stalemate with heavy losses on both sides. However, while the two main armies were engaged at Engen, Claude Lecourbe captured Stockach from its Austrian defenders under the Joseph, Prince of Lorraine-Vaudemont. The loss of this main supply base at Stockach compelled Kray to retreat to Messkirch, where they enjoyed a more favorable defensive position. It also meant, however, that any retreat by Kray into Austria via Switzerland and the Voralberg was cut off.[7]

Jean Victor Moreau commanded the French Army of the Rhine.

On 4 and 5 May, the French launched repeated and fruitless assaults on the Messkirch. At nearby Krumbach, where the Austrians also had the superiority of position and force, the 1st Demi-Brigade took the village and the heights around it, which gave them a commanding aspect over Messkirch. Subsequently, Kray withdrew his forces to Sigmaringen, followed closely by the French. Fighting at nearby Biberach an der Ris ensued on 9 May; action principally consisted of the 25,000 man-strong French "Center", commanded by Laurent de Gouvion Saint-Cyr.[8] Again, on 10 May, the Austrians withdrew with heavy losses, this time to Ulm.[9] At Höchstädt a few days earlier, a full Austrian Corps maintained a stand at Höchstädt until dislodged by repeated attacks of carabiners, curassiers and hussars, who took about 2000 of the Austrians and Würtembergers as prisoners, along with some cannons and standards.[10]

Orders of Battle[]

French[]

The exact order of battle of French forces is not clear, but contemporary sources suggest the presence of General Claude Jacques Lecourbe's Corps, including the forces of generals Laval, Molitor, Jardon, and VanDamme.[11] This is also confirmed in an extract of Moreau's dispatch to the French Minister of War, published in the London Chronicle, 10 June 1800. "The 6th chasseurs, 13th cavalry, 4th hussars and 11th chasseurs distinguished themselves in this affair. The rest of the division, and that of LeClere, passed rapidly the Danube...General Grenier was equally well prepared."[12] In addition, the presence (and death) of Théophile Corret de la Tour d'Auvergne, the First Grenadier of France, suggests that the 46th Regiment, Grenadier Company, was at least engaged.[13] In addition, General Espagne's 37th and 84th regiments were engaged, as were grenadiers the 109th Regiment. Lecourbe mentions the 37th and the 109th several times in his own account of the battle, so apparently they were heavily engaged.[14]

Austrian[]

  • FZM Baron von Kray, Commanding
    • Infantry Regimentsd Wenkheim #35, Erbach # 42 (battalions each)
    • KürRegiment Lothringen #7, Hohenzollern # 8, Kinsky #12 (6 squadrons each)
    • Dragoon Regiment Latour #11 (6 squadrons)

Total Austrian force: 8,000 men.[15]

Battle[]

Claude Jacques Lecourbe commanded the French assault at Neuburg.

On early 26 June 1800, two divisions of Gudin and Montrichard marched toward the junction of the Danube and Lech rivers from Donauwörth. General Gudin's division followed a southward track toward Pöttmes and established a line between Ehekirch and Pöttmes. Montrichard's division marked toward Neuburg, which he was instructed to occupy with his right wing connecting to Gudin's and covering the road between Augsburg and Neuburg. Gudin's division encountered some resistance before it could take possession of Pöttmes, succeeded with several charges executed by the 6th and 8th hussars, who also captured 100 horses from the Austrians. General Puthed, who commanded the brigade on General Gudin's left, took control of Ehekirch with little oppositions.[16] General Montrichard's division approached Neuburg on the causeway and took possession of the outskirts of the city with little problem. Kray's troops, joined with Prince Reuss-Plauen and emerged from Neuburg to defend the outskirts. Both Austrian forces were unprepared for battle at the moment, which allowed Montrichard's troops to penetrate within four miles of the city with little opposition.[17] Espagne's brigade supported the advance guard, and after a brief action took the heights of Oberhausen with the 37th and the 84th regiments. By nightfall, both the villages of Oberhausen and Niederhausen were retaken by Austrian forces, but the village of Unterhausen remained in French hands, defended by 100 marksmen, commanded by Lacroix, and included the 37th regiment and the first company of grenadiers of the 109th regiment. According to Lecourbe's account, the Austrians, "embolden by this first success, soon covered all the surrounding heights, on which they planted about twenty-five or thirty pieces of cannon."[17]

By late afternoon, combat centered on the village of Unterhausen. A few French platoons drove the Austrians from the woods on between Unterhausen and the Danube with a bayonet charge by the grenadiers of the 109th. As French reserves arrived, the Austrians counterattacked and retook the wood, the heights and the village. At eight o'clock at night, after 12 hours of battle, companies of the 14th and 46th regiments (French) moved along a small road on the right of the village, and another group proceeded on the left. A simultaneous French attack at both flanks and the center convinced the Austrians that, despite the defensive barrages laid by their artillery, the French had been massively reinforced. Lecourbe ordered a charge on the village, which was executed without firing a shot; in final combat taking the village, the commander of the 47th brigade was killed at the entrance to the village, as well as the First Grenadier of France, Latour D'Auvergne.[17]

Outside the village, the French 46th and 14th light infantry were "intermixed" with the Austrian cavalry, yet managed to hold their own, presumably in squares, without being broken. This continued until about 10 o'clock, the Austrians withdrew from the village. Lecourbe ordered his troops not to pursue, as nightfall was on them.[17]

Aftermath[]

The French had engaged in the campaign in 1800 to force Austria to comply with terms established in the Treaty of Campo Formio in 1797. To overcome Austrian recalcitrance, France sought to occupy Vienna. This required a double-pronged invasion through northern Italy and southern Germany. To secure access into Bavaria and, eventually, to Vienna, the French needed to control the Danube riverway. The Iller joins the Danube at Ulm, dumping massive amounts of water into the stream; at Donauwörth, the Lechenters the Danube, making it a significantly wider and faster waterway. The first significant city on the river after Donauwörth, Neuburg, had been the family seat of the princes of Pfalz-Neuburg; the city itself holds the old residence. The stretch of river between Ulm and Neuburg, however, had been the site of major battles of the War of Spanish Succession.[18]

The series of battles at Stockach and Engen, Messkirch, Biberach an der Ris, Höchstädt and finally at Neuburg broke the Austrian back along the strategic Danube. Similarly, in Italy, French successes at the battles at Montebello and Marengo forced Austrian withdrawal. The Austrians and French agreed to a cease fire, but any peace negotiations were complicated by the alliance Austria had made with Britain, and which prevented Austria from signing any separate peace. Consequently, the British, although they had been successful in blockading French ports, entered the negotiations. Initially Britain refused the French terms and offered counter terms in September 1800. Negotiations continued; Napoleon later claimed that the Austrians did not negotiate in good faith, and sought only to gain "the rainy season" (winter), when army movements would be difficult, and the Habsburgs would have an entire season to recruit.[19]

In the meantime, General Ney established his headquarters in the castle at Neuburg, which over looks the battlefield. General Moreau ordered the establishment of a tomb on the location were the First Grenadier had fallen.[20] Emperor Francis II dismissed Feldzeugmeister (FZM) Pál Kray, who had lost an impressive succession of battles, and appointed the 18-year-old General-Major Archduke John to command the Austrian army. To bolster the young man, the emperor named FZM Franz von Lauer deputy commander and the zealous Oberst (Colonel) Franz von Weyrother became Chief of Staff.[21] The ceasefire lapsed on 12 November. By this time, Weyrother had convinced John and Lauer to adopt an offensive position. Weyrother's plan called for crushing the French left wing near Landshut and lunging south to cut Moreau's communications west of Munich. After a few days of marching, it became obvious that the Austrian army was too slow to execute such an ambitious plan. Lauer convinced the archduke to convert the enterprise into a direct attack on Munich. Even so, the sudden advance caught Moreau's somewhat scattered French forces by surprise and achieved local, if temporary, superiority on 1 December, when the Austrians drove back part of MG Paul Grenier's Left Wing; despite their apparent loss, the French managed to inflict 3,000 casualties on the Austrians, while only suffering 1700 losses themselves.[22]

Moreau directs the French defeat of Austria at Hohenlinden

When the Austrian leaders found that Grenier evacuated Haag in Oberbayern the next day, they became ecstatic. Archduke John and Weyrother overrode Lauer's cautious counsel and launched an all-out pursuit of an enemy they believed to be fleeing.[23] However, Moreau had decided to stand and fight, deploying his army in open ground near Hohenlinden. To approach his position, the Austro-Bavarians had to advance directly west through heavily wooded terrain at Ebersberg Forest through which they passed in four disconnected columns. Instead, Moreau ambushed the Austrians as they emerged from the forest while launching MG Antoine Richepanse's division in a surprise envelopment of the Austrian left flank. Displaying superb individual initiative, Moreau's generals managed to encircle and smash the largest of the Austrian columns.[24] The Austrians withdrew through Bavaria into Austria territories, but by the time Francis relieved his brother of command, his army had disintegrated into a disorganized rabble.[25]

Notes[]

  1. Timothy Blanning, The French Revolutionary Wars, New York, Oxford University Press, pp. 41–59.
  2. Blanning, pp. 200–280.
  3. Blanning, p. 200.
  4. James R. Arnold, Marengo & Hohenlinden. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword, 2005, 197-199
  5. Arnold, 199-201
  6. W.M. Sloane, Life of Napoleon. France, 1896, p. 109.
  7. Sloane, 109
  8. Sloane, p. 109-110.
  9. Digby Smith, Napoleonic Wars Databook. London: Greenhill Press, 1998, p. 178.
  10. Extract of a letter from Gen. Moreau...
  11. Smith, p. 177.
  12. Extract of a letter from Gen. Moreau to the Minister of War, Neresheim, June 20. The London Chronicle. vol. 87.
  13. Mathieu Dumas, Memoirs of his own time: including the revolution, the empire, and the restoration, Volume 2, Lee and Blanchard, 1839, p.105
  14. McGowan, p. "Neu..."
  15. Smith, 187-88.
  16. J. Macgowan, The Field of Mars,1801, un-numbered pages. Battlefields listed alphabetically.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 The Field of Mars
  18. Andrew Beattie, The Danube: A Cultural History. Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 29-33.
  19. Gaspard Baron Gourgaud, editor, Memoirs of the History of France during the reign of Napoleon I, Oxford, 18233, pp 1-23.
  20. Marceau, p 105.
  21. Arnold, pp 205, 213.
  22. Arnold, p. 213
  23. Arnold, p 219-221
  24. Arnold, 220-224.
  25. David Chandler, Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars. New York: Macmillan, 1979, p 201.

Sources[]

  • Arnold, James R. Marengo & Hohenlinden. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword, 2005.
  • Beattie, Andrew. The Danube: A Cultural History. Oxford University Press, 2010
  • Blanning, Timothy. The French Revolutionary Wars, New York, Oxford University Press.
  • Chandler, David. Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars. New York: Macmillan, 1979
  • Dumas, Mathieu, Memoirs of his own time: including the revolution, the empire, and the restoration, Volume 2, Lee and Blanchard, 1839.
  • Gaspard Baron Gourgaud, editor, Memoirs of the History of France during the reign of Napoleon I, Oxford, 1823.
  • Macgowan, J. The Field of Mars,1801, un-numbered pages. Battlefields listed alphabetically
  • Smith, Digby, Napoleonic Wars Databook. London: Greenhill Press, 1998.
  • Extract of a letter from Gen. Moreau to the Minister of War, Neresheim, June 20. The London Chronicle. vol. 87.

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