The Battle of
Jemappes (6 November 1792) took place near the town of
Jemappes in Hainaut, Belgium, near
Mons during the War of the First
Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars. One of the first
major offensive battles of the war, it was a victory for the armies of
the infant French Republic, and saw the French Armée du Nord, which
included a large number of inexperienced volunteers, defeat a
substantially smaller regular Austrian army.
General Charles François Dumouriez, in command of an army of French
Revolutionary volunteers, faced the Imperial army of Field Marshal
Albert of Saxe-Teschen
Albert of Saxe-Teschen and his second-in-command François de
Croix, Count of Clerfayt. The French, who outnumbered their opponents
by about three-to-one, launched a series of enthusiastic but
uncoordinated attacks against the Austrian position on a ridge. At
length, the French seized a portion of the ridge and the Austrians
were unable to drive them away. Saxe-Teschen conceded defeat by
ordering a withdrawal.
Dumouriez, intent on invading the Austrian Netherlands, advanced late
in the season and attacked the Austrians with greatly superior forces.
Jemappes was won by costly but effective charges against the
Austrians' prepared position. Dumouriez overran the Austrian
Netherlands within a month, but lost it at the Battle of Neerwinden in
March. The French would not reconquer the
Austrian Netherlands until
the summer of 1794.
2 Opposing forces
In the summer of 1792 Charles Dumouriez, the French foreign minister
and commander of the Armée du Nord, had believed that the best way to
prevent an Austrian and Prussian invasion of
France was to invade the
Austrian Netherlands (now Belgium), but the Allies had launched their
invasion before Dumouriez was ready to move, and he had been forced to
move south. The Allied invasion had been at Valmy on 20 September
where the French army stood up to an artillery bombardment, and proved
that it would not flee at the first sign of opposition The Allied
commander, the Duke of Brunswick, was not willing to risk a full-scale
assault on the French line, and withdrew after it.
This left Dumouriez free to move north, to first raise the siege to
Lille in late September and into early October, and then to launch his
long-planned invasion of the Austrian Netherlands. His original plan
for a three-pronged invasion had to be changed, as the promised
resources to achieve it proved unavailable, and instead, at the end of
October, he concentrated most of his men in front of Valenciennes and
marched towards Mons, and the way to Brussels.
The Austrian army was commanded by Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen, the
governor of the Austrian Netherlands. Although he had more than 20,000
troops available, they were scattered in a long defensive line, and so
Jemappes he fought with only 11,600 infantry, 2,170 cavalry and 56
guns. With this power, he tried to defend the 5-mile (8.0 km)
Cuesmes ridge which ran from
Mons in the Austrian left to
Jemappes on the right side.
The Austrian right was commanded by Franz Freiherr von Lilien, the
center by Franz Sebastian de Croix Count Clerfayt and the left by
Johann Peter Freiherr von Beaulieu. Lilien had seven companies and
four infantry battalions and three squadrons of cavalry on their left
while Clerfayt had three infantry battalions and four squadrons around
the village of
Cuesmes and Beaulieu had three battalions of infantry
on the hills south of Bertaimont with five companies of infantry and a
squadron of cavalry guarding his left. Two other companies were
further to the left around Mont Palisel and an infantry battalion was
The Austrian army positioned themselves on the marshes around the
Trouille groves and rivers, with two dams to their rear. The only
other way for a retreat was via Mons.
Dumouriez had twice as many men as the Austrians. His own Armée du
Nord contained 32,000 infantry, 3,800 cavalry and 100 guns and was
Jemappes by a further 4,000 men and 15 guns under General
François Harville. Dumouriez's infantry battalions contained thirteen
volunteers from 1792.[clarification needed] Harville's men were also
volunteers, but most of the older commanders were either experienced
soldiers or aristocrats. The most obvious example was the commander of
the French center, the Duke of Chartres, who had assumed the name of
General Egalite, and would later become King Louis-Philippe of France.
The right wing was commanded by General Pierre de Ruel, Marquis de
Beurnonville and left of General Louis Marie de la Caussade Ferrand.
Harville was to reinforce the right.
Dumouriez planned to use his army's numbers to overtake the Austrian
position. The plan was for Harville and Beurnonville to attack first,
and surround the weak Austrian left. Ferrand would then capture
Quaregnon before Jemappes. Beurnonville would then attack the Austrian
center while Harville moved to Mont Palisel to cut off the Austrian
The monument of the battle in Jemappes.
Jemappes 1792 Order of Battle for details of the Austrian and
Saxe-Teschen entrenched his 11,628 infantry, 2,168 cavalry and 56 guns
Cuesmes Ridge just a few kilometers west of Mons. The
Austrian artillery included fourteen 12-lb cannon, thirty-six 6-lb and
3-lb cannon and six 7-lb howitzers. The north end of the position,
Feldmarschall-Leutnant Franz Freiherr von Lilien, was
anchored on the village of Jemappes.
Feldzeugmeister Count Clerfayt
commanded the center and
Feldmarschall-Leutnant Johann Peter Beaulieu
led the left wing. The Austrian right wing faced to the west, while
the center and the left wings faced toward the southwest. The
Cuesmes lay behind the Austrian left. One flaw in the
position was that an Austrian retreat could only be made across a
single bridge over the Hain River.
Dumouriez had 32,000 infantry, 3,800 cavalry and 100 artillery pieces.
He expected to be joined by an additional 4,000 troops on the right
under General Louis Auguste Juvénal des Ursins d'Harville. (Digby
Smith gave a total of 40,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry.) Dumouriez
planned to turn both Austrian flanks. Accordingly, he divided his army
into two wings, giving General
Jean Henri Becays Ferrand
Jean Henri Becays Ferrand command of
the left wing and General Pierre de Ruel, marquis de Beurnonville
control of the right wing. The French army was made up of a motley
collection of royal army, volunteer, and national guard units.
The French made a series of "ill-coordinated but enthusiastic"
attacks which began at dawn and continued throughout the morning. With
momentum stalling Dumouriez ordered a renewed assault at noon. The
Duke of Chartres sent a massive French column at the center of the
ridge. This gained a foothold which the Austrians could not dislodge.
Some French soldiers also enveloped the enemy right, threatening the
Austrian rear. In response, Saxe-Teschen withdrew his right and center
into Mons. Beaulieu ably covered the retreat with his left wing.
The French reported approximately 650 dead and 1,300 wounded. The
Austrians reported 305 dead, 513 wounded, plus 423 men and five guns
captured. Many of the Austrian casualties were caused by the plentiful
French artillery. The Bender Infantry Regiment Nr. 41 suffered
especially heavy casualties, losing 14 officers and 400 rank and file.
Mons surrendered to the French the day after the battle and Brussels
fell on 14 November. The French populace "went wild with joy" at this
first offensive victory of the war.
At first glance
Jemappes was not an impressive French victory. The
Austrians had suffered 818 casualties, and lost another 423 men taken
France had a higher casualty rate and had failed to
prevent the escape of a much smaller army to defend a position of
danger. However, in the context of the situation in 1792, with the
French army in chaos due to exile of many of its experienced officers,
it was a great success. The victory at Jemappes, achieved by
inexperienced volunteers over the Austrian regulars, greatly increased
the confidence of the revolutionary government in Paris, and
encouraged their tendency to aggressive warfare.
In the short-term
Jemappes gave the French control of the Austrian
Mons opened its doors to Dumouriez, and he remained there
until 12 November. He then moved to Brussels, fighting a rearguard
action in Anderlecht on 13 November, before capturing the city on 14
November. This first French occupation of
Belgium would be
short-lived, but in the few months that the revolutionaries managed to
alienate the population, imposing their ideas of freedom on a
conservative population. In 1793 Dumouriez was forced to flee into
exile, but his victory at
Jemappes was an important step in the
direction of the military triumphs of the French Republic. In
addition, it ensured that the majority of the battles fought in 1793
would occur outside the borders of France.
^ a b c d Smith, p 31
^ Chandler, map, p 214
^ Chandler, p 214
^ Jules Michelet (2009). Geschichte der Französischen Revolution (in
French). Band 1. Frankfurt am Main: Zweitausendeins.
pp. 1024–1036. ISBN 978-3-86150-956-1. Neudruck der
Ausgabe Eichborn Verlag 1988.
Chandler, David. Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars. New York:
Macmillan, 1979. ISBN 0-02-523670-9.
Smith, Digby. The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill, 1998.
Coordinates: 50°27′21″N 3°53′19″E / 50.4559°N