The Brilliance of Napoleon : “4 Days Campaign” : Part 1

The Brilliance of Napoleon : “4 Days Campaign” : Part 1

This is Part 1 of a 6-part series covering Napoleon’s brilliant “4 Days Campaign” in Bavaria in the 5th Coalition War in which almost 40,000 men of the Imperial Habsburg Army were killed, wounded or captured.

19 April 1809 marks the Battle of Teugen-Hausen in the 5th Coalition War when Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s 32,000 French & 7,600 Bavarians defeated Field Marshal Archduke Karl von Österreich’s 35,300 men of the Imperial Habsburg Army. On 9 April, Austria declared war on France. On 10 April, Karl led 80,000 men into Bavaria. Napoleon was caught off-guard. He arrived on 16 April. He began organizing his men. Marshal Louis Davout’s III Corps was isolated at Regensburg along a wide front on the Danube’s banks.

Siege of Cuidad Rodrigo

Karl saw an opportunity to destroy III Corps. He formed 65,000 men into 3 giant columns. Field Marshal Lt. Johann von Liechtenstein’s right column (20,000) marched on Regensburg. FML Prince Franz von Rosenberg’s center column (12,300) marched northeast to Dünzling. FML Friedrich von Hohenzollern’s left column (18,000) aimed for Hausen & Saal. If Saal fell, Davout would be cut off. General-Major Ludwig Thierry’s far left column (5,000) linked Hohenzollern with Field Marshal Archduke Ludwig von Österreich’s army at Abensberg.

Karl issued marching orders at 05:00, 19 April. It went wrong quickly.

His columns didn’t march until 06:00. Davout knew of his dangerous position. By 05:00, he was already marching southwest to Abensberg. He led 3 columns – a supply column (closest to the river) & 2 troop columns. Karl’s staff was incapable of coordinating large forces. He didn’t know Davout had already left the ground Karl planned to trap him on. Liechtenstein met no one.

Elements of General Louis-Pierre Montbrun’s Light Cavalry Division (1-2e, 11-12e & 16e Chasseurs à Cheval; 5e & 7-8e Hussards) & 2 bns – 3,800 men engaged total – guarded Davout’s far left. After 09:00, he met Rosenberg at Dünzling. Rosenberg’s advance guard had already brushed against French forces further west. Uncertain of his surroundings, he began dispersing men into villages to hold his flank & rear. Montbrun fought a brilliant rearguard. He drew Rosenberg after him all day. He lost 233 dead/wounded. Rosenberg lost 116 dead, 452 wounded, 357 captive & 159 missing.

Thierry reached Abensberg. General Lt. Crown Prince Ludwig’s 1st & GLT Prince Karl von Wrede’s 2nd Bavarian Divisions massed there. Bavarian cavalry (14 sqns; No. 1 Dragoner; No. 1-3 Chevaulegers) mauled Thierry’s dragoons (4 sqns: No. 3 & 4 Dragoner). Thierry withdrew southeast, losing 400 captives & a gun. The Bavarians admitted 13 dead, 201 wounded, 13 captive. Further southwest at Pfaffenhoffen, Oudinot’s II Corps routed isolated an IHA detachment. He took 200 captives.

The hardest fighting occurred at Teugen-Hausen.

At 09:00, Gen. Louis St.-Hilaire’s div. (11,330 foot: 10e Légère; 3e, 57e, 72e & 105e Ligne) met Hohenzollern. Hohenzollern drove him back to a wooded ridge, halfway between Hausen & Teugen. St. Hilaire needed time to deploy from column into line. Davout sent the 3e Ligne (2,000) at the 6,000 Habsburg soldiers & 12 guns deployed on the ridge. They didn’t take it, but they gave the 57e time to deploy. The 57e charged, capturing the ridge. Further south, they met a 2nd ridge. They were forced back.

By now, St. Hilaire was deployed in line. A vicious fight developed. Both leaders fed reinforcements into the fight. The 57e fought off 2 flank attacks. St. Hilaire repelled a general IHA attack. At length, Hohenzollern captured both ridges. Davout personally rallied St. Hilaire’s div. At 15:00, his artillery arrived. With its support, Davout captured the 1st ridge. An artillery colonel secretly deployed a horse battery on Hohenzollern’s flank. Additional French forces appeared. Davout organized a new attack.

As his infantry charged, the horse battery enfiladed Hohenzollern’s flank.

The IHA was driven off the 1st ridge. A counterattack checked Davout. At 17:00, a violent thunderstorm ended the fight. Davout lost 2,345 dead/wounded, mostly from St. Hilaire’s div. Hohenzollern lost 527 dead, 2,470 wounded & 436 captive. This was the day’s last action. Karl ordered Hohenzollern to retreat. The attempt to trap Davout had failed.

In conclusion, in all, Napoleon lost 2,805 dead, wounded or captive. Karl lost 643 dead, 2,922 wounded, 1,393 captive, 159 missing & 1 gun. Both sides fought fiercely & bravely. Davout was free to continue marching. He joined Napoleon on 20 April. Regensburg’s remaining garrison was trapped & besieged. Lastly, the fight would continue on 20 April. On that day, Napoleon won a 2nd victory at Abensberg.

The Brilliance of Napoleon : “4 Days Campaign” : Part 1 Written by Garrett Anderson

Written by Garrett Anderson