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Wars of the French Revolution: Battle of Hohenlinden

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Wars of the French Revolution: Battle of Hohenlinden

General Jean Victor Marie Moreau

Photograph Source: Public Domain

Battle of Hohenlinden - Conflict:

The Battle of Hohenlinden was fought December 3, 1800, and was part of the War of the Second Coalition (1799-1802), which was in turn part of the Wars of the French Revolution/Napoleonic Wars.

Armies & Commanders:

French

  • General Jean Moreau
  • 56,000 men

Austrian Empire

  • Archduke John
  • 62,000 men

Battle of Hohenlinden - Background:

In late 1800, the French Army of the Rhine, led by General Jean Victor Moreau, was operating approximately twenty miles east of Munich when it encountered a larger Austrian army led by the 18-year old Archduke John. On December 1, sharp fighting occurred at Ampfing with the Austrians forcing a rearguard under General Michel Ney to retire west. Following, the Archduke was pressured into offensive operations by his second-in-command, General Franz Lauer, and his chief-of staff, Franz von Weyrother. After learning of the Austrian pursuit, Moreau assumed a defensive position facing west near the village of Hohenlinden.

Marching west, von Weyrother designed the battle plan for attacking Moreau's position. This called for four columns, led by Generals Michael von Kienmayer, Maximilien de Baillet, Johann Kollowrat, and Johann Riesch, to move through the hilly, wooded terrain east of the village and strike the French line simultaneously. Due to the terrain, the columns were not mutually supporting and would be operating independently. Weyrother believed the French to be retreating and rushed the plan with the goal of catching them. The Archduke accompanied Kollowrat's column which as advancing down the main east-west road.

Battle of Hohenlinden - Moreau Deploys:

Aware of the Austrian's approach, Moreau arrayed four divisions north and south of Hohenlinden. These were led by Generals Claude Legrand, Louis Bastoul, Michel Ney, and Emmanuel, marquis de Grouchy. He also dispatched two divisions, under Generals Antoine Richepanse and Charles Decaen, south with orders to march around and strike at the Austrian left flank. Moreau would command the main line and would counterattack the Austrians as they emerged from the woods near the village. While each of the Austrian columns moved out at dawn, it was Kollowrat's, moving down the road, that struck the French first.

Battle of Hohenlinden - Moreau Triumphs:

Opening the battle at the southern end of the French line around 7:00 AM, Kollowrat's troops attacked those of Grouchy. Shortly thereafter, von Kienmayer's column arrived farther north and began engaging the French line. The remaining two columns were badly delayed by the terrain and weather. At the south end of the field, Riesch's column was so far behind schedule that Richepanse's division passed in front of it while making its flanking march. As the Richepanse's troops were moving north, his division was cut in two by a pair of grenadier regiments sent back by Kollowrat to search for Riesch.

Detaching his rear-most brigade, led by Brigadier General Jean-Baptiste Drouet, and leaving them to fight the grenadiers, Richepanse reached the road and turned west towards Kollowrat's rear. To the north, Baillet, whose column still had not reached the fight began to lose his composure as he heard firing to both the west and south. Desperate to make contact, he dispersed his command in an effort to locate friendly forces. Near Hohenlinden, Kollowrat and von Kienmayer doggedly attacked Moreau's lines with little success.

Around noon, Decaen's division arrived to aid Drouet's beleaguered brigade. Blundering around the woods, Drouet and Decaen's men battled Riesch's column, ultimately forcing it to retreat west. After learning of the battle to his rear, the Archduke began sending element's of Kollowrat's command east to clear the road. These were defeated in turn by Richepanse. Sensing weakness on the part of the Austrians, Moreau ordered his men to attack. Advancing, they drove back von Kienmayer and nearly encircled Kollowrat's column. The battle lost, the Archduke fled and the army began a hasty retreat east.

Battle of Hohenlinden - Aftermath:

French casualties at the Battle of Hohenlinden numbered around 3,000 dead and wounded, while the Austrians suffered 4,600, as well as 9,000 captured and 76 guns lost. Slowly pursuing for five days, Moreau increased his pace on December 8 and covered 189 miles while capturing an additional 20,000 Austrians. On December 17, Archduke John was relieved by his brother Charles. With the army reduced to tatters, Charles was unable to stop Moreau's advance on Vienna. With the French 50 miles from the city, he requested an armistice on December 24. The Battle of Hohenlinden, along with Napoleon's victory at Marengo (June 14, 1800) effectively ended the War of the Second Coalition and led to the Treaty of Luneville and the Treaty of Amiens.

Selected Sources

  1. About.com
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  3. Military History
  4. Conflicts & Battles
  5. Battles & Wars: 1800s
  6. Napoleonic Wars
  7. Battle of Hohenlinden - War of the Second Coalition Battle of Hohenlinden - Jean Moreau

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