The Brilliance of Napoleon : “4 Days Campaign” : Part 2

The Brilliance of Napoleon : “4 Days Campaign” : Part 2

This is Part 2 of a 6-par 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.

20 April 1809 marks the Battle of Abensberg in the 5th Coalition War when Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s 20,300 French, 10,000(?) Bavarian & 8,200 Württemberger infantry & 10,500 French, 1,500(?) Bavarian & 1,900 Württemberger cavalry defeated Field Marshal Archduke Karl von Österreich’s 42,000 men of the Imperial Habsburg Army. On 19 April, Karl failed to trap Marshal Louis Davout’s III Corps at Teugen-Hausen. His own army was now dispersed along the Danube’s east bank, facing west. He decided to fall back & regroup.

On the far left, Field Marshal Lt. Johann von Hiller’s VI Korps (18 battalions, 8 squadrons), now at far to the south at Mainburg, would retreat east beyond the Große Laber River to Pfeffenhausen. On the right, FML Ludwig von Österreich’s V Korps (22 bns; 16 sqns), northeast of Hiller, would retreat southeast. He would meet Hiller at Pfeffenhausen. In the center, FML Michael von Kienmayer’s II Reserve Korps (5 bns) lay further back at Ludmannsdorf – halfway between V & VI Korps & ready to support both.

Johann von Hiller

Napoleon seized the initiative & attacked. On his right, Lt. General Karl von Wrede’s 2nd Bavarian Division (8 bns: No. 6 Lichte; No. 3, 6, 7 & 13 Inf.; 8 sqns: No. 2 & 3 Chevaulegers) would cross the Danube & attack Ludwig’s left at Siegenburg. In the center, LG Crown Prince Ludwig’s 1st Bavarian Div. (8 bns: No. 1 Lichte; No. 1, 2 4 & 8 Inf.; 6 sqns: No. 1 Dragoner; No. 1 Chevaulegers) would cross & attack Ludwig’s center (at Biburg) & right (at Abensberg). On the left, Marshal Jean Lannes’ Provisional Corps (20,300 foot; 10,500 horse) would make a wide circuit around Offenstetten on Ludwig’s right, travelling through Bachl on his extreme right, to Rohr in his rear. Ludwig would be cut off & destroyed.

Karl sent Ludwig his marching orders at 07:30, 20 April.
General-Major Count Josef Radecký

He didn’t inform Ludwig that Hiller was also retreating, potentially exposing Ludwig’s left. General-Major Count Josef Radecký held Siegenburg with 4 bns & 12 sqns. GM Friedrich von Bianchi’s brigade (6 bns: No. 39 & 60 Inf.) held the Biburg crossing. GM Ludwig Thierry’s brigade (6 bns: No. 1 & 29 Inf.; 4 sqns: No. 3 & 4 Dragoner) held Offenstetten. GM Baron József Meskó’s brigade (2 bns: No. 7 Inf.; 8 sqns: No. 8 Husaren) held Rohr, led by Div. Commander FML Emmanuel von Schustekh. GM Josef Pfanzelter’s brigade (1 bn: No. 9 Inf.; 2 sqns: No. 4 Husaren) held Bachl.

At 09:00, Lannes’ advance guard under Brigadier Gen. Charles Jacquinot (1,752 horse: 1-2e & 12e Chasseurs à Cheval) seized Bachl. Pfanzelter was either ordered to retreat or was driven east to Langquaid on the Große Laber. At 10:00, Ludwig crossed the Danube & seized Offenstetten.

Thierry was driven east to Bachl. His cavalry & infantry became separated. He met Jacquinot & was driven south to Rohr.

Military History

Jacquinot rode past Thierry & reached Rohr ahead of him. A shocked Schustekh threw 4 sqns at him. Jacquinot drove them back onto their infantry. The 17e Légère (3 bns) & a horse battery arrived. Thierry’s exhausted infantry also arrived. The French turned on & broke them.

They scattered into the woods.

Schustekh charged again. Thierry’s dragoons arrived. Together, they drove Jacquinot back. A large French cuirassier force arrived. Schustekh’s cavalry was crushed & driven back onto his infantry, breaking both. Thierry & 3,000 men were captured.

Wrede attacked Siegenburg. Radecký repelled him.

Ludwig, learning of Thierry’s distress, detached 2 of Radecký’s bns. Wrede moved north to Biburg. Div. Gen. Dominique Vandamme’s Württemberger Corps (13 bns; 16 sqns) replaced him. Seeing Radecký’s strength, Vandamme also marched to Biburg. At 14:00, the 3 German divisions attacked Bianchi. Overwhelmingly outnumbered, he retreated southeast. The Bavarian No. 7 Inf. (2 bns) & GM Hügel’s Württemberg Light Brigade (4 bns: Koenig & Neuffer Jägers; No. 1 & 2 Lichte) seized Siegenburg. Radecký retreated.

By now, Ludwig had mobilized Kienmayer.

Radecký’s No. 8 Inf. (2 bns) & GM Karl d’Aspré’s Brigade (6,950 foot: Brezeczinsky, Kirchenbetter, Puteani, Scharlach & Scovaud Grenadiers) covered V Korps’ remnants & its supply train. Wrede took many prisoners, but most of Ludwig’s men escaped beyond Pfeffenhausen. They burned the bridge behind them. At 23:00, Wrede forded the Große Laber. Radecký, now in the rearguard, retreated to Hornbach Hill. Skirmishing went on all night.

At 12:00, Hiller received his orders & withdrew east to Rottenburg. FML Charles de Vincent led his advance guard: 12 bns (No. 4, 31, 49 & 51 Inf.) & 8 sqns (No. 6 Chevaulegers). He found the road jammed with retreating men. French Cuirassiers pursued them. No. 6 held them off long enough to let his infantry cross the Große Laber & dig in. Hiller arrived at 19:00. A counterattack captured 300 Bavarians. Soon after, No. 4 began a vicious firefight with French & Bavarian reinforcements. They were driven back, losing 600 dead/wounded. But they halted the enemy’s advance, ending the fight.

In conclusion, Napoleon lost 215 French, 746 Bavarians & 146 Württembergers dead/wounded. Karl lost 492 dead, 2,219 wounded, 4,000 captive, 12 guns & 8 flags. On 19 April, the 65e Ligne was besieged at Regensburg. Col. Louis Coutard ran out of ammunition. At 17:00, 20 April, he surrendered. He lost 211 dead/wounded, 1,988 captive. The IHA besiegers lost 73 dead, 220 wounded, 85 missing. Karl’s army was now split in 2. Both halves would fight major battles. The south half, now under Hiller, fought next day. The north half, under Karl, fought the day after that.

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Written by Garrett Anderson

The Brilliance of Napoleon : “4 Days Campaign” : Part 2

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The Brilliance of Napoleon : “4 Days Campaign” : Part 2