Decisive French victory:
Armistice of Znaim
Treaty of Schönbrunn
End of the Fifth Coalition
Commanders and leaders
Charles of Austria
138,000–173,000 (incl. allies)
Casualties and losses
25,000–40,000 dead, wounded, missing.
30,000–41,250 dead, wounded or missing.
War of the Fifth Coalition
Armistice of Znaim
1809 Gottscheer Rebellion
Battle of Wagram
Battle of Wagram ([ˈvaɡram]; 5–6 July 1809) was a military
engagement of the
Napoleonic Wars that ended in a decisive victory for
Napoleon I's French and allied army against the Austrian army
under the command of Archduke Charles of Austria-Teschen. The battle
led to the breakup of the Fifth Coalition, the Austrian and
British-led alliance against France.
In 1809, the French military presence in Germany was diminished as
Napoleon transferred a number of soldiers to fight in the Peninsular
War. As a result, the
Austrian Empire saw its chance to recover some
of its former sphere of influence and invaded the Kingdom of Bavaria,
a French ally. Recovering from his initial surprise,
Napoleon beat the
Austrian forces and occupied
Vienna at the beginning of May 1809.
Despite the string of sharp defeats and the loss of the empire's
capital, Archduke Charles salvaged an army, with which he retreated
north of the Danube. This allowed the Austrians to continue the war
but, towards the end of May,
Napoleon resumed the offensive, suffering
a defeat at the Battle of Aspern-Essling.
Napoleon six weeks to prepare his next offensive, for which he
amassed a 165,000-man French, German and Italian army in the vicinity
of Vienna. The
Battle of Wagram
Battle of Wagram began after
Napoleon crossed the
Danube with the bulk of these forces during the night of 4 July and
attacked the 145,000-man strong Austrian army. Having successfully
crossed the river,
Napoleon attempted an early breakthrough and
launched a series of evening attacks against the Austrian army. The
Austrians were thinly spread in a wide semicircle, but held a
naturally strong position. After the attackers enjoyed some initial
success, the defenders regained the upper hand and the attacks failed.
Bolstered by his success, the next day at dawn Archduke Charles
launched a series of attacks along the entire battle line, seeking to
take the opposing army in a double envelopment. The offensive failed
against the French right but nearly broke Napoleon's left. However,
the Emperor countered by launching a cavalry charge, which temporarily
halted the Austrian advance. He then redeployed IV Corps to stabilise
his left, while setting up a grand battery, which pounded the Austrian
right and centre. The tide of battle turned and the Emperor launched
an offensive along the entire line, while Maréchal Louis-Nicolas
Davout drove an offensive, which turned the Austrian left, and
rendered Charles's position untenable. Towards mid-afternoon on 6
July, Charles admitted defeat and led a retreat, frustrating enemy
attempts to pursue. After the battle, Charles remained in command of a
cohesive force and decided to retreat to Bohemia. However, the Grande
Armée eventually caught up with him and scored a victory at the
Battle of Znaim. With the battle still raging, Charles decided to ask
for an armistice, effectively ending the war.
With 80,000 casualties, the two-day battle of Wagram was particularly
bloody, mainly due to the use of 1,000 artillery pieces and the
expenditure of over 180,000 rounds of artillery ammunition on a flat
battlefield packed with some 300,000 men. Although
Napoleon was the
uncontested winner, he failed to secure a complete victory and the
Austrian casualties were only slightly greater than those of the
French and allies. Nonetheless, the defeat was serious enough to
shatter the morale of the Austrians, who could no longer find the will
to continue the struggle. The resulting
Treaty of Schönbrunn
Treaty of Schönbrunn meant
the loss of one sixth of the Austrian Empire's subjects, along with
1.2 Opening campaign
1.3 Towards another battle
2 The first day
2.2 Opposing plans
2.3 Across the Danube
2.4 Clashes on the Marchfeld
2.5 The evening attacks
2.6 The night of July 5 to July 6
3 The second day
3.1 Rosenberg's attack
3.2 Crisis at Aderklaa
3.3 Klenau's flank march
3.4 The French reaction
3.5 Davout's flanking attack
3.6 MacDonald's column
3.7 Masséna's "Infernal Column"
3.8 Austrian retreat
4.1 Pursuit and armistice
8 External links
The strategic situation in Europe in 1809
In 1809, the
First French Empire
First French Empire held a dominant position on the
European continent. Resounding victories during the 1805 to 1807 wars
against the Third and Fourth coalitions had ensured almost undisputed
continental hegemony, to such an extent that no other European power
could challenge the might of Napoleon's empire. However, despite
having defeated Austria, forced Russia into an uneasy alliance and
Prussia to the rank of a second-rate power,
Napoleon did not
manage to force the
United Kingdom to make peace. With the British in
complete control of the seas,
Napoleon thus opted for an economic war,
Continental System against the British Isles, in a bid to
dry up vital British commercial relations with the continent. To
ensure the effectiveness of the Continental System, he sought to force
Portugal, a traditional British trading partner, to observe it; when
diplomatic means failed in 1808,
Napoleon had the country occupied,
forcing the ruling dynasty of Braganza to flee the country and seek
refuge in its main colony, Brazil. In a move that would prove to be
both uninspired and ill-handled,
Napoleon also opted to change the
ruling dynasty of Spain, replacing King Charles IV with his own
brother, Joseph, who became King José I of Spain. The new king was,
however, not well received by the population and much of the country's
ruling elite, which triggered a bloody guerrilla war throughout the
country. The French position in the peninsula was rendered
untenable after the Battle of Bailen, a rare and resounding defeat for
the French forces and an event that greatly encouraged the Austrian
war party. With
Napoleon forced to intervene personally and commit
increasingly significant forces to the Spanish, the French military
position in central Europe was severely weakened. In addition,
Franco-Russian relations had deteriorated and, although the two
countries remained allies on paper, it was unlikely that Russia would
commit itself seriously to fighting France's enemies on the
France's main adversary in central Europe was the Austrian Empire.
Defeated at Ulm and Austerlitz in 1805 and forced to conclude the
humiliating Peace of Pressburg, Austria still possessed a formidable
army which, in the years following Austerlitz, had undergone major
reforms. By 1809, the state was almost bankrupt and acutely aware that
it could not retain its status as a great power if it did not manage
to regain some of its former influence in Germany and Italy.
Encouraged by Napoleon's peninsular imbroglio, British subsidies and
the promise of a military intervention in northern Europe, the
Austrians decided that the European political context of 1808 and 1809
offered their best chance to retake lost provinces. In order to win
the war against the French,
Vienna was counting on massive
nationalist, anti-French uprisings throughout Germany and hoping that
an early success might convince
Prussia to join the new coalition,
while calculating that Russia would most likely not interfere in
support of the French. Austrian military preparations were accelerated
in 1808 and early 1809, with operations set to occur in several war
theatres, including the main one in Bavaria and sideshows in Italy,
Dalmatia, Westphalia, Tyrol and Poland. In stark contrast to
1805, by 1809 Austria had managed to reform its military and build a
relatively modern and overall redoubtable army, placed in the hands of
their best commander, Archduke Charles of Austria, brother of Emperor
Francis I of Austria.
By March 1809, war between Austria and
France was imminent and the
Habsburg army, 200,000 men strong, massed in the northwestern province
of Bohemia, near the frontier with the Confederation of the Rhine, the
French-dominated confederacy of German states. Austria hoped that
Prussia would join the war and, by massing its main army in Bohemia,
it signalled its intent to join up with the Prussians. However, by
early April 1809, it became obvious that
Prussia was not ready to
commit, and the Austrians were forced to move their main army
southwards, in a bid to launch their westward offensive along the
Danube. Strategically, the decision was sound, since an offensive
along the river valley allowed better protection for the Austrian
capital. Nevertheless, the time-consuming manoeuvres to
back cost the Austrians an entire month.
Opening moves: strategic situation on 15 April
On 9 April 1809, without any declaration of war, the main Austrian
army crossed the Inn River into Bavaria, one of France's main allies,
while secondary Austrian armies launched offensives of their own.
Napoleon was in Paris, conscious that the war was imminent
but unaware that the Austrians were prepared for immediate offensive.
Command of the French and allied army, styled Grande Armée
d'Allemagne, was in the hands of Maréchal Berthier, a formidable
officer when working as Napoleon's chief of staff, but completely out
of his depth as a commander by proxy. Furthermore, in order to
remain in close contact with Paris by military telegraph and to avoid
provoking the Austrians, Berthier was initially ordered to set up his
headquarters near Strasbourg, hundreds of kilometres away from the
front line, before moving to Germany as war broke out. As a
result, Berthier's response to Charles's invasion was timid and, after
misinterpreting Napoleon's orders, he left two entire army corps in
isolated positions. Consequently, during the first week of the
campaign, Charles was able to advance virtually unmolested and take
advantage of the poor French deployment. All changed from 17 April,
Napoleon arrived in person and began concentrating his available
troops to meet the Austrian onslaught. Before
concentrate his corps, Charles attacked Davout's isolated corps at
Teugen-Hausen but the dogged French marshal repulsed the attackers.
The tide of the campaign had turned but
Napoleon misjudged the
strategic situation, thinking that the force that had fought Davout
was only a flank guard and that the main force lay before him; in
reality it was the opposite. As the French took the offensive several
actions ensued : Landshut, Abensberg, Eckmühl and Ratisbon, with
the Austrians coming off worse each time and having their left wing
cut off from the bulk of the army. In the end, however, Charles
succeeded in avoiding a decisive defeat, preserving a combat-ready
army which he directed north of the Danube, where he awaited
Napoleon's next move.
Battles of Eckmühl and Ratisbon
Charles's retreat left
Napoleon with two options: pursue the defeated
Austrian army north of the
Danube or occupy Vienna, which was now
covered by a secondary enemy force and could not hope to hold out.
Uncharacteristically, Napoleon, who had stated on a number of
occasions that the purpose of any campaign is to destroy the main army
of the enemy, opted for the latter course of action and entered the
enemy capital on 12 May, only to find the city's strategic bridges
Danube blown up. With the emperor poised for an immediate
continuation of the offensive north of the river, this was a
considerable setback. Meanwhile, Charles brought the bulk of his
remaining force on the northern bank of the river, close to Vienna,
Napoleon into attacking them right away. Napoleon's rushed
crossing of the river was made on fragile, hastily built pontoon
bridges, over an increasingly swollen river. The French crossing
resulted in the Battle of Aspern-Essling, beginning on 21 May; the
more numerous Austrian army faced only a fraction of the Grande
Napoleon was unable to bring through the bulk of his forces
in time. Still, Charles's attempt to drive the outnumbered enemy back
resulted in total failure, as the French led a skillful combined-arms
defense, with their cavalry playing a vital role in keeping the
Austrians at bay. Fighting resumed early on 22 May, when Napoleon
began receiving some reinforcements and decided to attack. The French
offensive was quite successful but
Napoleon soon received alarming
news that the main bridge had broken and consequently, no further
reinforcements and ammunition could be brought from the southern bank,
making a protracted battle impossible. This prompted the emperor to
immediately stop his attack and order a phased retreat onto the large
Danube island of Lobau. Given that the Austrians, with their superior
numbers and overwhelming artillery firepower, were now intent upon
seizing the opportunity to launch a counterattack of their own,
retreat was most difficult. It took all the experience of the French
commanders and the determination and self-sacrifice of the troops,
including the Guard, to fend off the ferocious Austrian onslaught but,
by nightfall, the remains of the French forces were safely across the
arm of the Danube, on the island of Lobau.
Napoleon had suffered the
first significant defeat of his career.
Towards another battle
Should another battle be unavoidable, I will strike one more blow
against the French, though you may rest assured that I shall risk
nothing or as little as possible.
— Archduke Charles, writing to his uncle and mentor, Prince
Albert, Duke of Teschen.
Archduke Charles of Austria-Teschen
Archduke Charles of Austria-Teschen led the Austrians to
victory at the Battle of Aspern-Essling.
Battle of Aspern-Essling
Battle of Aspern-Essling was extremely costly for both sides,
resulting in some 53,000 casualties, almost equally divided between
the two armies. For the Austrians, Aspern-Essling was a costly
victory. Crucially, it improved the overall morale of the troops as it
proved that, despite their early string of defeats, the army could
fight extremely well. However, in the weeks following the battle,
Archduke Charles became increasingly skeptical about his chances of
winning the war. His analysis of the battle revealed that he had been
unable to capitalise on his overwhelming numerical superiority and had
thus failed to achieve more than a tactical victory.[Note 1]
Also of great significance, despite Austrian attempts to trumpet their
victory against Napoleon, its political consequences remained limited:
there were no signs of a general uprising in Germany,
still unwilling to enter the war and
Great Britain was not ready to
launch its promised land expedition in northern Europe, while Russia,
France's ally since 1807, was becoming increasingly aggressive against
the Austrian forces in Galicia. Thus, Charles's skepticism stemmed
from the realisation that none of the strategic prerequisites for an
Austrian victory in this war had materialised. He came to believe that
his country's best option was to open negotiations with
despite his warning that "the first battle lost is a death sentence
for the monarchy", his brother, Emperor Francis repeatedly refused to
consider the option.
Although a generalissimus, with supreme authority over the entire
Austrian army, Charles's position was constantly undermined by his
imperial brother and the war party at the court, who were
corresponding directly on military matters with his chief of staff,
General Major Wimpffen and some of the corps commanders. The constant
flow of information from the front maintained a bellicose atmosphere
in the high political circles and an erroneously optimistic opinion
about Austria's military situation, which hindered Charles's best
attempts to get his brother to sue for peace.
It thus became clear to the Archduke that another battle would be
forthcoming, although he still nourished hopes that
might make peace overtures. Although morale among the rank and file
remained fair following Aspern-Essling, the atmosphere among the
Austrian senior commanders was particularly rotten and Charles's
insufficiently assiduous preparations for another battle further
sapped their confidence in him. One of the senior generals, Johann von
Hiller, commander of VI Korps was overtly critical of Charles's
strategy and resigned on 4 July, on the eve of the battle of Wagram,
giving health reasons as a pretext.[Note 2] Archduke Charles did make
considerable efforts to rebuild his army and, despite the slow arrival
of reinforcements, by the end of June, it was close to full strength
again. Overall, Archduke Charles was well aware that he did not
possess the means necessary to lead any offensive actions, so he
promptly dismissed suggestions to run any major operations against the
French base on
Lobau island. A plan to march to Pressburg, cross the
Danube and launch operations against the enemy's rear from there was
also dismissed as strategically unsound after
General Major Wimpffen
noted that such a plan would leave Bohemia, the richest province still
under the Austrian Empire's control, open to a French invasion. By
the end of June, Archduke Charles was still hoping that
opt to negotiate, a misapprehension that the latter encouraged through
a series of ruses. In the event that a battle would indeed occur,
Charles planned to remain on the defensive and thus his actions
depended on the moves of the enemy. A member of the House of Habsburg,
Archduke Charles saw the army as an invaluable tool, meant to protect
the existence of the Monarchy. He was thus a cautious commander, never
willing to risk it all in order to obtain a decisive victory, a
commitment that he reiterated towards the end of June, when he wrote
to his uncle and mentor, Prince Albert of Saxony, Duke of Teschen,
stating that, should another battle be unavoidable, he would "strike
one more blow against the French" but "risk nothing or as little as
possible." Although he reckoned that Austria would need a major
victory in order to turn the tide of the war, he believed that another
Napoleon would have doubtful results.
Napoleon with Maréchal Jean Lannes. A personal friend and one of the
Emperor's ablest commanders, Lannes was severely wounded while leading
his men at Aspern-Essling. He died nine days after the battle.
Meanwhile, having retreated to the island of
Lobau after the battle of
Napoleon knew that he had failed in his attempt to
Danube and was so astonished by the severity of the setback
that he remained in unaccustomed inaction for 36 hours. After
recovering his usual drive, his immediate concern was to improve the
dire situation of his army, which was in very bad shape and virtually
Lobau island, after the
Danube had swollen. With his usual
tireless activity, he supervised the transformation of
into a huge army base. The French built temporary campaign hospitals
for his 20,000 wounded, as well as warehouses and barracks, which
sheltered a numerous permanent military garrison. As soon a secure
bridge was built, the Emperor had the wounded and a part of the troops
transferred to the mainland, but maintained IV Corps on the island. He
did not intend to abandon this position, as he was planning to use it
as a springboard for his upcoming crossing. His next task was to
rebuild the army. Casualties had been roughly equal to those of the
enemy, but, with fewer troops engaged, some of Napoleon's battalions
needed rebuilding from scratch. Losses in officers in particular had
been extremely high and proved difficult to replace. Maréchal Jean
Lannes, one of Napoleon's ablest commanders and a personal friend, had
been mortally wounded in action and died nine days after the
battle.[Note 3] Another irreplaceable loss was
Louis-Vincent-Joseph Le Blond de Saint-Hilaire, who had been created a
Marshal of the Empire
Marshal of the Empire just a month before, in recognition of his
brilliant conduct during the earlier campaign, but received a mortal
wound during the battle and died before the coveted baton could arrive
from Paris. Jean-Louis-Brigitte Espagne, another famous general
was killed in action at the head of his cuirassiers[Note 4] and the
commander in chief of the artillery, Nicolas-Marie Songis des
Courbons, became severely ill and had to leave his command a few weeks
after the battle. Despite all these setbacks, the army and its
officers retained total confidence in Napoleon's ability to lead them
to victory and morale remained high. Evidence of this came a couple of
days before the newly planned crossing of the Danube, when Napoleon's
most senior Corps commander, Maréchal
André Masséna fell from his
horse and badly injured his foot, rendering him unable to ride for
some time. In sheer contrast with Hiller's gesture, Masséna, although
in significant pain, made arrangements to lead his men in battle from
a phaeton and vowed to retain his command, much to the Emperor's
Napoleon reckoned that he would need careful planning and superior
forces, before he could attempt another crossing of the Danube. In
order to achieve that, he needed to secure his island-base at Lobau.
Following the Emperor's orders, the commander of the Grande Armée
artillery, General Songis and his successor, General Lariboisière,
installed a massive 124-gun battery on the island. They also carefully
scouted the shores and small islands of the
Danube and installed
batteries in strategic positions, in a bid to cover Vienna, but above
all with the aim of keeping the enemy guessing about the exact
location of the upcoming crossing. The French also needed reliable
bridges. Starting work on 1 June, General Bertrand led vast military
engineering works that resulted in the building of two strong bridges
from the south bank to
Lobau island. These were to be used to transfer
supplies and troops onto the island. Bertrand secured these bridges
against any floating barges that the Austrians might have launched to
destroy them, by building palisades upstream. In order to cross from
the island to the northern bank, a series of pivoting bridges and
landing craft were also built. The French also captured a Danube
flotilla and built additional patrol ships, which meant that they
were, by the end of June, in almost complete control of the river,
Napoleon to write in the Army Bulletin of 2 July that "the
Danube no longer exists for the French army".
The first day
See also: Wagram order of battle
The battle here at
Marchfeld will decide the fate of our dynasty [...]
I request that you march out here at once and join my left wing.
— Archduke Charles, writing to his younger brother, Archduke John,
commander of a secondary Austrian army.
Napoleon Crossing the Bridge to
Austrian high command
Austrian high command was well aware of the French preparations on
Lobau island and thus understood that the French attack would come
from there. Archduke Charles was however unsure about where the French
would cross and, together with his staff reckoned that the crossing
would most likely be made from the north of the island, making
landfall roughly at the same location as at the Battle of
Aspern-Essling. Working on this hypothesis, Charles had a chain of 16
defensive redoubts built, essentially between
Groß-Enzersdorf. Strangely, he did not extend the earthworks
southeast, along the riverline, which meant that the line could be
outflanked. Moreover, the redoubts did not provide all-round
protection and an Austrian observer noted that only Turks would throw
up such poor earthworks. Charles's belief that
Napoleon would cross
Lobau seemed to be confirmed on 2 July, when he received news
that French forces began to cross the river there. The Austrian
commander thought that the battle scenario he had prepared for – a
repetition of the battle fought at the end of May – was about to
materialise, so he promptly moved his entire force to face the enemy.
However, it soon became obvious that the French force was only a small
detachment, sent forward to secure a bridgehead.
On 3 July, Archduke Charles finally decided not to fight the enemy
Danube and retreated to the higher ground overlooking the
Marchfeld. This was a major decision, as it meant that the earlier
plan to man the 16 redoubts next to the
Danube and fight the enemy
there was abandoned. Instead, Archduke Charles occupied both the
Bisamberg heights and the Wagram plateau behind the Russbach river,
covering the retreat routes to
Moravia respectively, thus
occupying a sound strategic position. Although the army was not strong
enough to occupy both positions and no earthworks were provided for
the new position, it was thought that, given that the two heights were
placed at an angle to one another, any enemy force attacking would
find itself placed between two pincers. There was perhaps further
justification for this choice on a tactical level: the broken and
wooded terrain in the immediate proximity of the
Danube was adapted to
fighting in open order formations, which were insufficiently mastered
by his men, and at which the French were adept. This was, without a
doubt, one of the bitter lessons that the Austrians learned at Aspern
and Essling. But above all, the cautious Archduke Charles was
unwilling to take the risk of committing his forces in such an
advanced position, knowing that he would have a hard time extricating
them, should retreat have become necessary. He also planned not to
face the enemy on the flat plains of the Marchfeld, an ideal cavalry
terrain, where the numerically superior French horse would quickly
gain the upper hand. The two influential staff officers, Wimpffen
and Grünne, had been actively advocating for this position for weeks
and this time Charles finally acquiesced to their point of view.
Maximilian von Wimpffen, the Army's Chief of Staff, was influential in
defining the Austrian battle plan.
Intelligence received on 4 July informed the Archduke that the French
had weakened their position at Pressburg, a clear sign that the enemy
would launch its operations very soon. At 07:00 on 4 July, Charles
wrote to his brother, Archduke John of Austria, whose secondary army
was stationed near Pressburg. Charles informed John that the battle
was imminent and that it "will decide the fate of our dynasty",
ordering him to draw closer to the main army by marching to Marchegg,
adding that John should leave behind "all baggage and impedimenta". As
chance would have it, heavy thunderstorms delayed delivery of the
message, which only got to Archduke John 23 hours later.
Archduke Charles did not seriously consider the possibility that the
French could cross elsewhere than north of
Lobau island until late on
4 July. When he finally accounted for this scenario, Charles remained
faithful to his earlier plan not to move his forces towards the river.
Instead, he planned to allow the enemy to move into the Marchfeld,
leaving there only the Advance Guard and VI Korps, with orders to
delay their deployment, cause disorder and casualties, while gradually
moving back. Meanwhile, he was planning to maintain his main body on
the naturally strong position on the Wagram plateau, with the rest of
his forces further west on the Bisamberg heights, the two positions
that Wimpffen and Grünne had favoured all along. Should the French
have attempted to attack the forces on the Wagram plateau, the forces
present there were expected to resist long enough to allow Charles to
fall on the enemy's flank with the forces placed the Bisamberg
heights. Conversely, should the enemy have attacked the forces on the
Bisamberg heights, the main force on the Wagram plateau would have
attacked the enemy's flank. The plan was good enough, but had two
major flaws. Firstly, it failed to account for the slowness of the
Austrian staff work, which impaired coordination between these forces.
Secondly, it left the Advance Guard and VI with an ambiguous
objective: if Charles wanted protracted resistance, then these forces
were too weak to accomplish such a task; however, if the objective was
only brief resistance, then they were too numerous and thus needlessly
Meanwhile, the French were getting ready to cross, according to
detailed crossing plans drawn in advance by the Chief of Staff of the
Grande Armée, Maréchal Berthier.
Napoleon was aware that the
Austrians had thrown earthworks between
Aspern and Groß-Enzersdorf
and planned to cross southeast of these positions and then outflank
the enemy fortified line. This meant, however, that his forces had a
much longer march before making contact with the enemy. On 4 July, by
nightfall, under the cover of a violent thunderstorm that impeded any
Napoleon gave the order for the commencement of
the crossing operations.
Across the Danube
The army escaped all disorder, except that arising from a few
detachments following corps to which they did not belong.
Antoine-Henri Jomini commenting on the French crossing
The French made extensive use of landing craft during the first phase
of the crossing.
One French thrust was directed at occupying the strategic Hansel-Grund
salient, east of
Lobau island, which a brigade under Conroux[Note 5]
secured towards 22:00. This allowed the French to deploy three
pivoting bridges, which had been prepared in advance and on which
other elements of Oudinot's II Corps began to cross. Meanwhile,
further north, Colonel Sainte-Croix, aide-de-camp to Maréchal
Masséna had 1,500 men of IV Corps embarked on landing craft and
crossed the river, without meeting any opposition. Sainte-Croix's
pontonniers then started work and, making good use of the current,
managed to bridge the arm of the
Danube in no more than five minutes,
using another pivoting bridge. This allowed Masséna's divisions to
begin crossing, while the division commanded by Legrand, already on
the northern bank since 2 July, made a feint towards
Essling, in a bid to divert Austrian attention from the actual
crossing. Several other bridges were finalised towards 02:00, allowing
the bulk of II and III Corps, with their respective artillery, cavalry
and equipment trains to cross to the northern bank.
the pontonniers to build three additional bridges and work continued
well after dawn on 5 July, after the bulk of the
Grande Armée had
already crossed the river. The battle had begun.
As the French were crossing east of
Lobau island, the only significant
Austrian force in the immediate vicinity was Armand von Nordmann's
Advance Guard, which had been left in the sector with orders to delay
the enemy advance. Nordmann's men were faced with a massive artillery
barrage from French batteries on
Lobau island and, with increasing
numbers of enemy battalions coming up, Nordmann had no option but to
turn north, leaving behind detachments at Sachsengang castle and
Gross-Enzersdorf. With most of his troops available by now, Oudinot
and his II Corps approached Sachsengang castle and came up against its
defenders: two Austrian battalions and a few small-calibre cannon. The
French opted against storming the position and instead brought forward
their howitzers, in a bid to shell the defenders into submission.
Austrian resistance was brief, with the garrison surrendering towards
08:00. Further north, Masséna directed his divisions straight to the
strategic village of Gross-Enzersdorf, where the rest of Nordmann's
rearguard (two battalions from the Bellegarde regiment) lay. The
village itself constituted a sturdy defensive position and Napoleon
himself came forward to inspect it, noticing that it was strong enough
to potentially delay the deployment of IV Corps onto the Marchfeld
plain beyond. The Emperor thus ordered his heavy batteries on Lobau
island, including 22 heavy 16-pounders, 14 mortars and 10 howitzers,
to bombard the village. In total, some one thousand shells were fired
on Gross-Enzersdorf, with the village quickly becoming engulfed in
flames. The commander of Austrian VI Korps, Feldmarshalleutnant
Klenau, whose force was in the vicinity, also with orders to delay the
French advance, tried to relieve the defenders, but they were
successfully checked by Jacob François Marulaz's French cavalry from
IV Corps. With the defenders of the village now cut off and defending
what was becoming a burning inferno, Colonel Sainte-Croix assumed
command of the 46th Line regiment and stormed the position, taking
some 400 prisoners. Further west, the division commanded by Boudet
moved against the village of Essling, which fell to the French without
much resistance. By 10:00,
Napoleon was pleased to notice that the
bridgehead had been completely secured and that all enemy attempts to
destroy the bridges had failed. Indeed, all Austrian attempts to
frustrate the French crossing by using the tactics that worked so well
Battle of Aspern-Essling
Battle of Aspern-Essling – sending barges or trees
downstream to ram the bridges – failed utterly on 5 July, because
the French flotilla was in full control of the river. This allowed the
bulk of Napoleon's army to cross to the northern bank of the
great speed and in perfect safety.
Napoleon supervised the landing operations closely.
Archduke Charles was by now well aware of Napoleon's intentions but
remained committed to his plan not to fight the battle on the flat
Marchfeld plain, where the superior French cavalry would have given
Napoleon a clear edge. Thus, Charles did nothing to support his two
forward units and watched as Nordmann gradually withdrew north,
towards the Russbach line and Klenau withdrew northwest, towards
Napoleon was free to advance north, into the
Marchfeld plain, where he would have enough room to deploy his forces.
The French advanced in battalion columns, with their front line formed
by the Corps of Masséna on the left, Oudinot in the centre and Davout
on the right, and the respective Corps cavalry screening the flanks.
By noon, the French had advanced into the Marchfeld, a move which so
far suited both commanders.
Clashes on the Marchfeld
As the French were successfully moving forward, the Austrian Advance
Guard, under Feldmareschalleutnant Nordmann, supported by
Feldmareschalleutnant Klenau's VI Korps, in all 25,000 infantrymen,
were gradually withdrawing northwards. The Austrian infantry were
formed in masses, a formation that had proved very efficient in
fending off cavalry, but whose compact ranks made it extremely
vulnerable to artillery fire. Casualties began to mount at an alarming
rate and Nordmann's infantry, initially 12,000 men strong, was
particularly exposed to artillery fire during its retreat towards
Grosshofen. Additionally, towards 13:00, Nordmann became extremely
concerned that the numerous French cavalry, might cut him off from the
rest of the army. Seeing the dangerous situation of his Advance Guard,
Archduke Charles ordered Liechtenstein to the rescue of these
infantrymen with five cavalry regiments. Liechtenstein moved swiftly
towards the east with his squadrons, arriving in the vicinity of
Glinzendorf, but then remained passive, while the French, who now had
a numerous combined-arms presence there, were able to continue their
advance unmolested. The first serious Austrian attempt to slow down
the French onslaught came towards 15:00, when Liechtenstein and
Nordmann tried to organise a joint operation, but they gave up quite
early on, realising that they were opposed by a very powerful force of
several infantry divisions and three cavalry divisions from Maréchal
Davout's III French Corps. The Austrians pulled back, leaving Davout
free to position his men between
Glinzendorf and Raasdorf, thus
drawing closer to the II Corps.
French hussars on a scouting mission. After the successful crossing of
Danube early on 5 July, the French light cavalry launched
reconnaissance missions as they preceded the advance of the infantry
Further west, Maréchal Bernadotte's IX Corps had been steadily
advancing, with the French II Corps on their right, but began to meet
steady resistance, when troops from Nordmann's Corps decided to make a
stand. These men were from Riese's brigade, soon reinforced by the
13th Wallachian-Illyrian Grenzer and Infantry Regiment 46 Chasteler.
Bernadotte sent forward the two battalions of the 5th Light regiment,
which successfully pushed back the opposition, allowing the rest of
his Corps to continue its advance towards the village of Aderklaa,
near which they had to stop, towards 15:30, as they met enemy cavalry.
Towards 17:00, in an attempt to secure the vital position at Aderklaa,
the Austrians launched a cavalry attack with the brigade of French
émigré Roussel d'Hurbal. This heavy cavalry brigade, around
1,000 sabres strong, deployed on two lines, with the 3rd Herzog Albert
Cuirassiers on the left and the 2nd Erzherzog Franz Cuirassiers on the
right. D'Hurbal was suddenly charged by the 400 cavalrymen from the
Saxon Prinz Klemens Chevaulegers regiment from Bernadotte's Corps, who
had recklessly moved forward unsupported. D'Hurbal's cuirassiers stood
to receive the charge and repulsed them by firing a pistol volley from
30 meters. This practice that was highly unusual for the cavalry
tactics of the time but in this case it worked perfectly, with the
Saxon chevaulegers sent fleeing. The Saxons then brought up the bulk
of their cavalry, in echelon formation, with the right leading.
D'Hurbal again chose to meet them with a pistol volley but this time
the Saxons managed to maintain the impetus of their charge and crashed
into the Austrian cuirassiers. Amongst the Saxon cavalry was a single
squadron of the Herzog Albrecht Chevaulegers regiment, which shared
the same Regimental Proprietor with the Austrian Herzog Albert
cuirassiers and these units fought in a generalized melee that
involved the entire cavalry present. After a few minutes, d'Hurbal's
Austrians were beaten back and pursued, until they were rescued by
Lederer's cuirassier brigade. After this cavalry action, Prince
Liechtenstein decided that he had lost too many men to no avail and
consequently pulled the bulk of his forces back to safety, behind the
Wagram-Gerasdorf line, leaving five cavalry regiments with the IV
Korps at Markgrafneusiedl.
Meanwhile, Nordmann's slow retreat allowed Klenau's VI Austrian Korps,
which had also been placed in an advanced position, to make a skillful
fighting retreat westwards, taking few losses. In sharp contrast,
Nordmann's Advance Guard suffered horrendous losses, with its initial
12,000 infantry reduced to little more than 6,000 soldiers capable of
further action. This unusually high casualty rate resulted from
Nordmann having been positioned in a perilous location and having been
maintained there for too long, to little purpose. Additionally,
Nordmann had benefitted from little protection from the cavalry
present in that sector. After a well-led and determined staged
retreat, Nordmann managed to extricate his battered troops, reaching
the relative safety of the town of Markgrafneusiedl. The Advance Guard
continued to constitute a viable fighting force and they were thus
integrated in the IV Korps, guarding the Austrian left wing. The
Austrian army was now deployed on a very wide ark-shaped frontage, 19
kilometres (12 mi) long, including Klenau's VI Korps on the far
right, then Kollowrat's III Korps on the right-centre, Hohenzollern's
II Korps and Bellegarde's I Korps behind the Russbach line in central
position, while Rosenberg's IV Korps covered the left. Liechtenstein's
Grenadier Reserve divisions were placed in second line, with the
Cavalry Reserve in a central position next to the village of
Opposite to the Austrians lay the French Army, which managed to fully
deploy towards 18:00. From left to right, the French army included:
Masséna's IV Corps, covering a wide area between the
Süssenbrunn, the lead elements of Bernadotte's XI Corps (Dupas's
division) near Aderklaa, Viceroy Eugène's "Army of Italy" in the
centre, while Oudinot's II Corps was deployed opposite to Baumersdorf
and Davout's III Corps continued the French line eastwards, beyond
Glinzendorf. The rest of the French and Allied troops, including the
Imperial Guard and Maréchal Bessières's Cavalry Reserve, were in
Napoleon had a sound strategic position, as he was
holding the central position and had a much shorter line than his
The evening attacks
Ground I may recover, time never.
After the successful crossing of the
Danube and deployment of his army
Napoleon achieved his primary goal for the
day. Nevertheless, towards 18:00, either because he was dissatisfied
with the result of the first engagements or because he was fearing
that the enemy might retreat under the cover of darkness, the Emperor
began issuing orders for an immediate attack. Never a man to lose
Napoleon probably noted that the sun was still high on the sky,
that the Austrian right wing was placed noticeably far away from the
main body, and that there was still no sign of the arrival of Archduke
John's army from the east. This attack was also meant to probe the
strength and resolution of the enemy, as the Emperor did not know
exactly what forces lay before him. The attack was to take place
against the Russbach line on a wide front, between Wagram and
Markgrafneusiedl, with Bernadotte, Eugène, Oudinot and Davout all
ordered forward. Nevertheless, the French troops were all very tired
and the most difficult tasks were assigned to some of the weakest
troops available, namely elements of the Corps of Bernadotte and
Oudinot. Additionally, with the Emperor ordering an immediate
attack, the General Staff failed to transmit the orders to the
respective commanders in due time, which resulted in a failure to
launch synchronized actions.
An artillery bombardment, between 19:00 and 19:30 opened up the French
attack, with Oudinot launching a part of his II Corps against the
Austrian II Korps under Prince Hozenzollern. The Austrian defenders
were prepared for the attack: Hohenzollern had deployed his men in two
lines, with a heavy skirmisher screen and was occupying a naturally
strong position, which had been reinforced with earthworks. The
Austrian Korps had also deployed its powerful artillery of 68 pieces.
Nevertheless, the French crossed the Russbach stream, spearheaded by
Frère's division, which managed to reach the outskirts of the small
village of Baumersdorf. This village, consisting of no more than 30
wooden houses and a bridge, soon caught fire from the French artillery
bombardment, but the Austrian defenders from Hardegg's brigade
(8th Jäger regiment and a battalion of Volunteers from the Erzherzog
Karl Legion) stood their ground, despite the flames. Unable to storm
the position with Frère's division, Oudinot launched a flanking
attack to the right of the village, with some of his best troops: the
57th Line regiment (styled "the Terrible") and the 10th Light
regiment, both from Grandjean's division. The 57th Line valiantly
assaulted the village from the east and occupied its first houses,
where they had to stop. Meanwhile, the 10th Light crossed the Russbach
downstream and, after passing through the boggy terrain below the
escarpment, began to make its way up the slope. As the 10th Light was
coming up towards the village, they were at first greeted with intense
artillery fire and then Buresch's brigade released some heavy musketry
upon them. This disordered the ranks of the French regiment, which
began to waver and the last straw came when they saw Prince
Hohenzollern personally leading the 500 cavalrymen from the Vincent
Chevaulegers regiment against them: the 10th Light panicked and fled,
taking the 57th Line with them. After a disorderly retreat, the two
regiments stopped and reformed when they met the steady ranks of the
Imperial Guard, towards Raasdorf. By now, it was past
20:00, night was falling and Oudinot had been repulsed with
The evening attack on 5 July included offensive actions from the
French "Army of Italy" (short: Ar. It.), II, III and IX Corps, against
the Austrian 1st, II and IV Corps. The intervention of the Austrian
Grenadier Reserve and Cavalry Reserve was not necessary.
While Oudinot was engaged with Hohenzollern at Baumersdorf, to the
west, Général de Division Jacques MacDonald, commander of the V
Corps of the "Army of Italy" launched his men in an assault on the
Wagram plateau. With the village of Baumersdorf in flames and a gentle
breeze blowing from the east, the advance of the French troops was
masked by heavy smoke. Dupas's division, temporarily attached to the
"Army of Italy", spearheaded this attack and, as chance would have it,
happened to get between the Austrian 1st and II Korps and was thus
free to advance unmolested on
Deutsch-Wagram from the east. Attacking
Dedovich's division at Deutsch-Wagram, Dupas's small Franco-Saxon
division was soon supported by Lamarque's division, personally led by
MacDonald, with the divisions of Seras, Durutte and Sahuc, all from
Paul Grenier's VI Corps, also coming up in support. Seeing the French
advance, the Austrian artillerymen panicked and abandoned their guns,
with the infantry regiments 35 and 47 (Vogelsang) also retreating in
some disorder. General der Kavallerie Bellegarde intervened in person,
maneuvering to refuse his flank to the enemy, with the French advance
also faltering, due to heavy smoke. With visibility reduced, the
French mistook the white uniforms of their Saxon allies from the
Grenadier battalions, believing them to be Austrians and
promptly firing at them, which triggered a precipitated retreat of
these men. With Archduke Charles now personally present to reestablish
order, the morale of the Austrians soared and a vigorous joint attack
by infantry regiment 42 (Erbach), joined by Hohenzollern's Vincent
Chevaulegers and Hessen-Homburg Hussars repulsed the French attackers,
pushing them beyond the Russbach and to their initial positions.
Bellegarde's good maneuver and Archduke Charles's inspired
intervention ensured a totally successful counterattack, and avoided
what could have developed into a dangerous situation for the Austrian
army. Opposite to them, both the Saxons, who had suffered high
casualties, and the French troops were retreating in complete disorder
and halted only near Raasdorf.
To the west, Maréchal Bernadotte, in command of the Saxon IX Corps,
was preparing his own assault, planning to attack the Austrians at
Deutsch-Wagram from the west. This attack was delayed, as Bernadotte
had to wait for the arrival of Zezschwitz's division, but at around
21:00 the Saxons moved towards the village. As Lecoq's Saxon brigade
approached the position, they were instantly met with sustained
musketry fire from the Austrian defenders, two battalions of infantry
regiment 17 (Reuss-Plauen) and the 2nd Jäger regiment, but the Saxons
pushed on and entered the village. Once they reached the vicinity of
the village church, the Saxons were steadily met by the third
battalion of infantry regiment 17 and the attack at once broke down,
with the attackers forced to take shelter in the buildings nearby.
Moments later, Zeschau's Saxon brigade, with Prince Maximilian's
regiment attached to it, came in support, but these troops had been
much disordered when crossing the Russbach, and upon entering the
smoke filled streets of the village, they too lost impetus. With
visibility much reduced by smoke, the situation at
turned into chaos as all the troops inside spoke German and all,
except the Austrian Jägers, wore white uniforms. There were thus
several instances in which Saxon troops fired at each other and their
situation took a turn for the worse towards 22:30, when Generalmajor
Hartizsch brought fresh Saxon troops against the position. Hartizsch
was not informed that friendly troops were already in the village and,
as he was coming up for the attack, he saw a large number of
white-coats moving out of the position. The commander at once ordered
his men to fire and minutes of friendly fire and hand-to-hand combat
ensued before it became obvious that these men were actually Saxons
too. This fortuitous event had a significant impact on the attack, as
the Saxons in the village now thought themselves surrounded and at
once broke and retreated in disorder. The Saxon troops of the IX
Corps were now completely demoralised and any attempts to rally and
reform them at
Aderklaa towards 23:00 failed.
A final French attack was launched by Davout's III Corps, on the
French right. Just like Bernadotte's, this action began later than
expected, towards 21:00, with Davout's men tired after a day of
marching and fighting. The French objective in this sector was to
attack the naturally strong position at Markgrafneusiedl, which had
been reinforced with earthworks and was defended by the rested troops
of Feldmarschalleutnant Rosenberg of the Austrian IV Army Korps. After
a short artillery bombardment, Davout sent the divisions of Friant and
Morand across the Russbach stream, in a flanking attack from the east,
while his other two divisions, under Gudin and Puthod were ordered to
attack frontally, through the village of Grosshofen. Davout also sent
a part of his cavalry to open the way for the infantry attack but the
Austrian cavalry under Nostitz promptly repulsed the French horse.
Realising the futility of his action, Davout called off his infantry
attack towards 22:00, leaving only his artillery to exchange fire with
the Austrian gunners. Davout's initiative to call off his
attack early on triggered subsequent, perhaps unwarranted, criticism
The night of July 5 to July 6
I had decided to seize the only means which could give any prospect of
success against the superior enemy, namely to fall on them by surprise
on all sides as day broke.
— Archduke Charles.
With the fighting fading out completely towards 23:00, the two
commanders were at their respective headquarters, knowing that the
following day would be decisive for the outcome of the battle.
Meanwhile, with an extremely cold night settling in, soldiers from
both armies lit fires to warm up, while they were resting and
consuming their modest rations.
Late that night, the French Corps commanders reunited at the Emperor's
headquarters at Raasdorf; only Bernadotte was absent, as he was still
struggling to rally his routed infantry at Aderklaa.
that he had sustained high losses during the evening attacks and
that he had failed in his attempt at a quick breakthrough. As many
as 11,000 French and Allies were out of action, including Paul
Grenier, commander of VI Corps, who had suffered a shattered hand and
was out of action for the next day. Despite these setbacks, the
Emperor had managed to fix the enemy forces and was now certain that
Archduke Charles was ready to give battle on his current positions.
For the second day of battle,
Napoleon planned a main attack against
the enemy left, which was to be conducted by the powerful III Corps
under Maréchal Davout, who was ordered to attack the enemy on the
plateau behind the Russbach stream, storm the strategic village of
Markgrafneusiedl and then roll up the enemy flank. Such an action, if
successful, would have compromised the position of the other Austrian
Korps on the Wagram plateau and would have forced them back
northwestwards, away from any reinforcements they might have expected
to receive from Pressburg.
Napoleon also planned for his II and IX
Corps, as well as the "Army of Italy" to launch secondary attacks, in
order to prevent the Austrians from sending reinforcements to their
left. In order to shorten and reinforce his battle line, the Emperor
also ordered that most of the IV Corps move closer to Aderklaa, with
this Corps set to take its new positions towards 02:00 that night.
This meant that only Boudet's division was left at Aspern, with orders
to defend the lines of communication lines with the military base on
Lobau island. The Imperial Guard, Cavalry Reserve and the
Napoleon was expecting were to form the battle
reserve of the army.
Napoleon in conference with his senior Generals late on 5 July, after
the first day of battle.
After the conference,
Napoleon asked Davout to stay on and the two
spent a long time planning Davout's difficult and complex attack on
the fortified position at Markgrafneusiedl, an action which the
Emperor saw as decisive for the battle to come.
expecting reinforcements: the French XI Corps under Marmont, the
divisions of Broussier and Pacthod from the "Army of Italy", as well
as the Bavarian division under Wrede, which were approaching the
battlefield that night. These reinforcements placed the French and
Allied forces at 140,500 infantry, 28,000 cavalry and 488 guns, with
an additional 8,500 men and 129 guns left behind as garrison on Lobau
Archduke Charles of Austria
Archduke Charles of Austria was also planning the next day of battle,
at his headquarters in Deutsch-Wagram. Charles was exhausted and had
been lightly wounded when he took personal command of a regiment
during the critical moments of the battle, but overall he was probably
satisfied with the result of the first day of battle. Despite heavy
losses (some 6,000 infantrymen) in von Nordmann's Advance Guard, the
other formations of the Austrian army were virtually intact. Charles
probably noted that, while the enemy managed to deploy on the
Marchfeld plain with a surprising speed, all was going according to
plan, as it had always been his intention to face them here.
Additionally, with the exception of Nordmann's Advance Guard, losses
had been relatively moderate and overall the army had fought extremely
well. He reckoned that his best option was to take the initiative
and, as he later wrote: "seize the only means which could give any
prospect of success against the superior enemy, namely to fall on them
by surprise on all sides as day broke." Orders for an all-out attack
at 04:00 were issued at around midnight and Charles's intention
was to take advantage of his much longer battle line (around 18
kilometers long, to the French 10 kilometers long line) and take the
enemy in a double envelopment. To that effect, VI Korps was ordered to
advance on Aspern, with the fresh troops of III Korps on their left,
moving through Leopoldau towards Breitenlee, and the
was to move through Süssenbrunn. These three Corps were also ordered
to keep in line with each other, with the Cavalry Reserve ordered to
take position between Süssenbrunn and Aderklaa. The Austrian 1st
Korps was to move out of Wagram and advance along the Russbach, with
II Korps ordered to remain in place, in order to avoid congestion, and
simply provide artillery support. On the Austrian left, IV Korps, with
the Advance Guard now attached to it, was to move against the French
III Corps, and it was expected that Archduke John's "Army of Inner
Austria" would arrive from
Pressburg in time to support this attack.
There would be no proper battle reserve, with the only remaining
formation, Prince Reuss's small V Korps left out of the action, as a
strategic reserve, with the objective of observing the
protecting the vital routes to
Bohemia and Moravia, should retreat
Coordination between the Korps' movements was vital for the success of
this plan, yet this was something that the Austrian army command and
control system had repeatedly failed to achieve during past conflicts.
As a result, the two Corps that were farthest from headquarters, VI
and III Korps, only received their orders towards 03:00, two hours
late. Given the distance that these troops had to march in order to
make contact with the enemy, it was clear to the two Korps commanders
that they would be unable to attack at 4:00 as ordered. Archduke
Charles was also expecting the arrival of reinforcements, 13,000 men
of the "Army of Inner Austria" led by his brother, Archduke John,
whose role was crucial in supporting the attack against the French
right. While Charles thought that his brother should arrive on the
field of battle at any moment, the latter actually only began his
march of 40 kilometres (25 mi) march from
Pressburg at around
01:00 that night. Without Archduke John's men, the Austrians
could muster only 113,500 infantry, 14,600 cavalry and 414 guns for
the second day of battle.
The second day
Positioned on the left of the Austrian army, in and around the
strategic village of Markgrafneusiedl, Feldmarschalleutnant Prince
Rosenberg-Orsini was in command of the 18,140 men and 60 cannons of
the IV Korps. In addition, attached to his force was the much-battered
Advance Guard, under Feldmarschalleutnant Nordmann, reduced to around
6,000 infantrymen and some cavalry support,[Note 6] as well as the
3,120 cavalrymen from Feldmarschalleutnant Nostitz's division.
Receiving his orders in due time, Rosenberg began to organise his
attack, forming the IV Korps into three large columns, preceded by an
advance guard. The first column was formed by Hessen-Homburg's
brigade, 6 battalions strong, which was directed towards the village
of Grosshofen. The second column was 16 battalions strong (12 regular
and four Landwehr battalions) and included the brigades of Swinburn
and Weiss, with the orders to move on to Glinzendorf. The second
column was preceded by an advance guard under Feldmarschalleutnant
Radetzky, 10 battalions and 10 cavalry squadrons strong. The third
column, under Nostitz, was 30 squadrons strong and was directed to
outflank the French, towards Leopoldsdorf. Setting these troops in
motion towards 4:00, just as his orders stated, Rosenberg instructed
his commanders to maintain absolute silence among the rank and file as
they advanced but, despite this, the troops moved forward in some
disorder and with a lot of noise.
Feldmarschalleutnant Prince Rosenberg-Orsini. At the battle of Wagram,
the 47-year-old Prince Rosenberg was in command of the Austrian IV
Opposite to them lay the III Corps, perhaps the finest of the French
army, under the command of Maréchal Davout. Davout was in command
of 31,600 infantry (divisions of Morand, Friant, Gudin and Puthod),
6,200 cavalry (divisions of Grouchy, Pully and Montbrun) and 120
cannon. Davout was unaware that the Austrians were moving to
attack him, but he was himself preparing his attack, and thus his
troops were ready for action. Puthod's leading elements, one regiment
strong, were at Grosshofen, with Gudin positioned between this village
and Glinzendorf, which was held by Friant, supported by Morand. The
entire cavalry was positioned to protect the right flank of the Corps.
To the French surprise, towards 05:00, the Austrians attacked, with
Radetzky's leading elements pushing the French outposts out of
Grosshofen, and then attacking Glinzendorf. Davout immediately ordered
a counterattack on Grosshofen, with Puthod attacking frontally and
Gudin from the flank, and made sure that the defenders of Glinzendorf
steadfastly hold their ground, while releasing heavy musketry upon the
slowly advancing enemy columns. Grouchy's dragoons rode to face the
enemy cavalry column, while Montbrun sent a part of his light cavalry
division towards Ober Sieberbrunn, in a bid to outflank the Austrians.
The sound of the cannon coming from Davout's sector interrupted
Napoleon's breakfast, with the Emperor thinking that Archduke John
must have arrived on the field of battle with his forces. The
threat of Archduke John's arrival was overestimated, since French
intelligence inaccurately placed the strength of this army at 30,000
men, instead of its actual 13,000 men.
ordered Nansouty's and Arrighi's heavy cavalry divisions from the
Cavalry Reserve to that sector, followed by the Imperial Guard.
Nansouty's horse artillery was the first to arrive and deployed on the
right flank of the advancing Austrians, opening enfilade fire.
Meanwhile, Archduke Charles was observing the entire operation. With
Archduke John's reinforcements failing to materialise from the east
and no sign of the III and VI Korps approaching from the west to take
their intended positions, Charles realised that the unsupported
Rosenberg was now too exposed and in an increasingly dangerous
position. Charles thus ordered Rosenberg to fall back to his initial
Markgrafneusiedl and assume a defensive posture there.
This was no easy task and it took all the determination and skill of
Feldmarschalleutnant Radetzky in coordinating a combined-arms
operation to slow down the French onslaught, while the rest of
Rosenberg's troops retreated. By 06:00, Rosenberg was finally back to
his initial positions, but his two-hour action had cost him no less
than 1,100 casualties.
Napoleon, who was by now present alongside Davout, reconnoitered the
situation and, seeing that Archduke John's army was nowhere near the
battlefield, ordered the reserves back to Raasdorf, leaving only
Arrighi's cuirassiers and a battery of 12-pounders with III Corps. The
Emperor reconfirmed that he wanted Davout to take Markgrafneusiedl,
but, instead of a massive frontal attack, he instructed the Marshal to
launch a part of his men frontally against the position and a part in
an enveloping move from the east, in order to take advantage of the
gentle slope there. These new orders meant that Davout could not start
his attack right away, as he needed to send a part of his troops east,
where he had to bridge the Russbach stream, in order to allow his
artillery to cross.
Napoleon then issued orders to Oudinot and
Eugène, instructing them to support Davout by pinning down the
Austrian forces on the Russbach, once the IIIrd Corps began its
Crisis at Aderklaa
That braggart Bernadotte has been doing nothing but blunders since
— Napoleon, commenting on the performance of Marshal Bernadotte at
the battle of Wagram.
While Rosenberg was attacking on the left, General der Kavallerie
Bellegarde, commander of the Austrian 1st Korps, also set his men in
motion in time, just as his orders stated. He had begun his manoeuvre
just after 03:00, moving south, out of his position along the Russbach
line and at Deutsch-Wagram, Bellegarde formed a vanguard of three
battalions and three squadrons, under the command of General-Major
Stutterheim, which he sent towards Aderklaa. A strategic village that
was surrounded by an earthwork,
Aderklaa offered a strong defensive
position and Bellegarde was naturally expecting to encounter stiff
resistance from the enemy defending the village. He was much surprised
to receive reports that the village was completely undefended and,
after making sure that it was not a trap, Bellegarde immediately
ordered his vanguard to occupy it. The 1st Korps commander then
brought an additional force of 12 battalions of Feldmarshalleutnant
Fresnel's division, which he deployed in two lines, behind the
position and formed the rest of his Corps in a line between Aderklaa
and Deutsch-Wagram. Liechtenstein's cavalry duly came up in support,
taking a wide position behind 1st Korps, between
Süssenbrunn, but Bellegarde chose not move beyond Aderklaa. An
immediate Austrian attack would have posed a serious threat to the
stability of the French left wing, but Bellegarde had orders which
stated that he needed to wait for the
Grenadier Reserve to arrive and
align itself on his right.
Soldiers of the 4th Line regiment storm Aderklaa.
The task of defending
Aderklaa belonged to Maréchal Bernadotte,
commander of the Saxon IX Corps. However, Bernadotte's largely
inexperienced infantry had suffered greatly during the evening attacks
the day before and many units had routed, retreating beyond Aderklaa.
With his infantry reduced to some 6,000 men, the commander had
difficulties rallying a part of his troop but he could still count on
two reasonably valid Saxon divisions. As he would later explain,
Bernadotte believed himself in an exposed position and thus took the
initiative of abandoning
Aderklaa during the night, retreating almost
1 kilometer to the southeast of the village, in a bid to draw closer
to the rest of the army. Withdrawing without permission and without
Napoleon of his action, Bernadotte irresponsibly compromised
the entire French position on the left. Towards 04:00, seeing that the
enemy had taken position in and around the village, Bernadotte
assembled his artillery in a battery of 26 pieces, which began to
bombard Aderklaa, but the Austrian heavy artillery at Deutsch-Wagram
responded by releasing a devastating counter-battery fire, which
knocked out 15 Saxon pieces during the following three hours.
Meanwhile, an injured Masséna, leading his IV Corps from a
conspicuous white phaeton, was also executing his orders and
approaching the sector with three of his infantry divisions and his
cavalry. In compliance with Napoleon's orders, Masséna's fourth
infantry division, under General Boudet, had been left far to the
south, defending the village of Aspern. The manoeuvre of IV Corps was
hampered by the arrival of the leading battalions of the d'Aspré's
division from the Austrian
Grenadier Reserve, which delayed Masséna's
rearguard division, under General Legrand. Arriving with his other two
divisions in the vicinity of
Aderklaa towards 07:30, Masséna was
spotted by Napoleon, who got into the Marshal's phaeton to consult
with him about the situation they were facing and, after a brief
discussion, the Emperor ordered the recapture of Aderklaa. Masséna
instructed General Carra Saint-Cyr to storm
Aderklaa with his division
and, seeing that the General delayed his action, trying to find a weak
spot of the solid position, the Marshal hurried him forward for an
immediate attack. The assault was led by the 24th Light and 4th Line
regiments, which were followed by the excellent Hessian Guard brigade.
Further east, the still combat-worthy Saxon Corps, including the
Franco-Saxon division of General Dupas also moved forward, in a bid to
launch a supporting attack between
Aderklaa and Deutsch-Wagram. The
24th Light and 4th Line successfully drove back the two Austrian
battalions positioned before the village, which broke and caused some
disorder in the Austrian first line. The French impetuously moved into
Aderklaa and then tried to launch a pursuit beyond this position, but,
as soon as they moved out of the village, they were met with sustained
fire from Bellegarde's second infantry line. The two regiments
withdrew to Aderklaa, where they were reinforced by the Hessian Guard
brigade and ordered to hold the position. Not far away from this
position, the attack of the Saxons also came to a grinding halt and
these men were driven back, exposing the flank of the French troops
occupying Aderklaa. At this moment, the Austrians enjoyed a
substantial, albeit temporary numerical advantage in this sector,
44,000 men to the French 35,000. This was thus the right time for a
general attack, but the Austrian military doctrine discouraged
commanders from taking too much initiative, and Bellegarde chose to
stick to his orders and wait for III Korps, whose leading elements
were only just coming up, in line with the Grenadiers.
Austrian grenadiers defend
Aderklaa against French troops from
Archduke Charles noticed the development on his right, from his
observation post at Baumersdorf and promptly rode to Bellegarde with
new orders. Charles then personally organised an attack on Aderklaa,
with the combined elements of infantry regiment 42 (Erbach) of the 1st
Grenadier battalions Scovaud, Jambline and Brzeczinski from
the Reserve Korps. The Klenau Chevaulegers from Liechtenstein's
cavalry also charged in support of the infantry. This powerful attack
drove Carra Saint-Cyr's defenders out of
Aderklaa and the cavalry
attack resulted in them joining the panic-stricken Saxons in a
disorderly retreat. Masséna's cavalry, under Lasalle and Marulaz
promptly stepped in to protect the retreating infantry, driving off
the Austrian horse and then charging the artillery that the Austrians
were preparing to deploy in front of Aderklaa. The Austrian gunners
abandoned their pieces and fled, but Liechtenstein committed
additional cavalry, which at once repulsed the French horsemen.
Meanwhile, Masséna was preparing to retake
Aderklaa with the division
of Molitor, spearheaded by Leguay's brigade and the 67th Line
regiment. These men soon found their advance barred by a crowd of
retreating Saxons, with Masséna forced to order his men to fire at
them, in order to clear the way. Molitor decidedly advanced towards
his objective, despite the enemy fire and cavalry threatening his
flanks and, after some bitter fighting, managed to retake the village
Nevertheless, the Austrians had sufficient fresh troops in this sector
and they soon launched fresh attacks, with elements of 1st Korps and
Grenadier Reserve. Despite having taken heavy casualties during
his attack, Molitor resolutely defended the position and it took the
numerous Austrians in the sector two full hours before they were able
to finally expel him. As for the Saxons and great many Frenchmen, they
continued their retreat, with the first fugitives and Bernadotte
approaching Raasdorf, were they suddenly met
Napoleon in person. For
the Emperor, the sight of Bernadotte riding at the head of the
disorderly mob and making no apparent attempt to rally his men, was
the last straw. After a brief exchange of words,
Napoleon sacked the
Marshal, adding "A bungler like you is no good to me." The Saxon
infantry was by then completely disorganised and it could play no
further role in the battle, with only the cavalry and ten cannon still
 By mid afternoon, some 12,000 panicked stragglers, French and
Saxon were milling in the town of Raasdorf. The French centre-left was
at breaking point.
Klenau's flank march
Klenau's cavalry captures Boudet's artillery during the morning
combats on 6 July 1809.
In application of Archduke Charles's plan to take the enemy in a
double envelopment, Feldmarshalleutnant Klenau, commanding VI Korps,
Feldzeugmeister Kollowrat, commanding III Korps, moved forward
towards the French left. Both commanders had received their orders
very late and both had a long distance to cover before they could
reach their assigned positions. They did their best to comply but,
given the difficulties of a long night march, their leading elements
could only manage to arrive on the Austrian right between 07:30 and
08:00, three hours later than Charles had planned.
Klenau was the first to make contact with the enemy. His troops left
Leopoldau towards 07:30 and subsequently deployed between Breitenlee
and Hirschstetten, driving in the enemy outposts in the sector. The
only French force present here was the 4th division of the IV Corps,
under Général de Division Boudet, some 4,600 men, to Klenau's
14,000. At 08:00, Klenau unlimbered his artillery and began to fire at
the French, while sending forward Vecsey's brigade from
Feldmarshalleutnant Vincent's division to take the village of Aspern.
Boudet saw this development and sent forward a battery of ten cannon,
with orders to open enfilade fire and thus delay the enemy. This
proved to be a very uninspired move, as Austrian hussars suddenly came
up and captured these guns. The French 56th Line regiment boldly
charged the enemy horse and momentarily recaptured the guns, but they
lacked horses to carry them back and the intense Austrian cannonade
soon compelled these men to retreat and leave behind the artillery.
After making a timid attempt to defend
Aspern with the 93rd Line,
Boudet then chose to retreat towards Essling and Vincent's division
occupied Aspern, subsequently launching a determined pursuit. The
Austrians soon came in range of the French heavy batteries placed on
Lobau island, and the bombardment slowed down their advance, but they
still pushed on towards Essling, which Boudet promptly abandoned
The French retreated towards the Mühlau salient and to
Groß-Enzersdorf, in a bid to protect the vital bridges towards Lobau
island. The Austrians then launched a probing attack on the bridgehead
but were rapidly repulsed and subsequently contented themselves with
bombarding the French supply train, causing some panic among the
civilian suppliers. From his current position, Klenau was able to
either strike in the undefended rear of the enemy army, some five
kilometers away, or to attack the vital bridges towards
However, the Austrian commander chose caution; his force was only
about 14,000 men strong, a part of which was now in range of the
numerous French heavy batteries on
Lobau island and his orders
provided for his Korps to keep itself abreast with Kollowrat's III
Korps. Had Kollowrat moved forward himself, protecting Klenau's left
flank, the Austrian VI Korps might have envisaged the continuation of
its action, but, as things were, Kollowrat had not yet moved from his
position between Süssenbrunn and Breintlee.
Indeed, further north, Kollowrat had been slow in moving forward with
his numerous III Korps. He deployed between the villages of
Süssenbrunn and Breintlee and thus threatened the French flank, which
was defended only by Legrand's infantry division and some cavalry.
Kollowrat finished his positioning manoeuvres only towards 09:30, when
his men made contact with Prochaska's
Grenadier division of
Liechtenstein's Reserve Korps. For lack of orders, Kollowrat did not
attempt an attack against the weak French left. In a move which was
typical for Austrian tactics at the time, the 60-year-old Austrian
commander had been busy securing his own rear, rather than thinking of
any offensive action. He had cautiously left behind an entire brigade
on the Bissamberg heights, facing Vienna, and detailed a sizable force
to garrison Gerasdorf, a village situated in his rear. He also sent a
combined-arms force to occupy the village of Breintlee, to the south.
Despite his sound tactical position, which allowed him to envelop
Masséna's flank or even march towards the undefended Raasdorf, in the
rear of the French army, Kollowrat moved forward cautiously,
contenting himself with bombarding Masséna's force with two batteries
that he had positioned near Breintlee.
The French reaction
French cuirassiers cheering while charging past
Napoleon at the Battle
of Wagram. The Emperor committed Nansouty's heavy cavalry division, in
a bid to stop the Austrian menace on his left.
With the situation looking increasingly dangerous for his army,
Napoleon reassessed the developments and probably noted that he was
holding the central position of an increasingly curved battlefront. He
first sent word to Davout to hasten his attack preparations against
the Austrian left, but the most urgent matter was to stabilise his own
battered left wing. The Emperor did not want to commit his valuable,
fresh infantry reserves just yet, so he ordered Masséna to break
contact with the enemy and take his IV Corps southwards and attack the
Austrian VI Korps. Executing such a manoeuvre required great skill and
incurred high risks, as it meant that Masséna's men would have to
move in vulnerable march column formations, through a sector with
numerous enemy infantry, cavalry and artillery. The departure of these
troops also meant that an enormous gap would open up in the French
line, which the Emperor ingeniously intended to fill by forming an
enormous grand battery, which would check enemy advance in this sector
through a sustained artillery barrage. This required time and, with
the Austrians from III Korps menacingly moving forward, Napoleon
counted on Maréchal Bessières's cavalry to allow Masséna to
disengage and the grand battery to deploy.
Towards 11:00, Bessières received his orders, which provided for an
immediate attack at the weak point of the enemy line, the seam between
Austrian III Korps and the Reserve Korps, where only
Feldmarshalleutnant Prochaska's thinly spread division was covering
the wide position between Süssenbrunn and Aderklaa. With the division
of Arrighi sent in support of Davout, far on the right flank and the
division of Saint-Sulpice detailed to protect Masséna's IV Corps,
Bessières brought forward his only remaining unit, the mighty 1st
heavy cavalry division, under the skilled 41-year-old general
Napoleon also sent orders for the Guard cavalry to come in
support, but his orders seem not to have reached them at all.
Circumstances were so dire on the French left that Bessières opted
not to wait for the Guard cavalry and sent orders for an immediate
Austrian cuirassiers from the 4th Regiment stepped in to repulse the
French heavy cavalry near Aderklaa.
It seems that Saint-Germain's brigade was left behind in reserve and
out of the actual attack, so Bessières took Nansouty's
remaining 16 squadrons, some 2,800 men, including Defrance's 1st and
Carabiniers-à-Cheval and Doumerc's 2nd and 9th Cuirassiers.
The hastily formed squadrons rode forth, but the flat terrain of the
Marchfeld provided them with little cover from the devastating fire
unleashed upon them by Austrian artillery. The heavy horsemen
eventually made contact with the enemy near the village of
Süssenbrunn, but found the infantry prepared to receive them and
their first charge failed altogether. Rallying the men for a second
attempt, with the elite carabiniers-à-cheval leading the way,
Nansouty pushed through, but many of his troopers were unable to
follow, leaving many of the squadrons reduced to just a handful of
men. It seemed at first that the charge would do some serious damage,
especially when the Frenchmen managed to break and sabre the Grenz
Georger battalion, thus creating a breach between the two Austrian
Corps. In the end however, the effects of a cavalry charge against
prepared infantry were always set to be limited and the cavalrymen
made little further impression on the grenadier battalions, which were
by now formed in tight, solid squares. Displaying some
great tactical skill, Nansouty wheeled right with his men and fell
upon the Austrian artillery line near Aderklaa. Meanwhile, Bessières
was busy fetching the Guard cavalry, which was only just beginning to
arrive and with which he was intending to launch a second charge.
Virtually under Napoleon's eyes, a cannonball brushed Bessières's
thigh, unhorsing the Marshal, who violently hit the ground and lost
consciousness. While Bessières was being carried away from the
battlefield, Nansouty and his
Carabiniers-à-Cheval managed to capture
an Austrian artillery battery but Liechtenstein duly sent his fresh
cavalry, the 6th Rosenberg Chevaulegers and 4th Kronprinz Ferdinand
Cuirassiers against them. The Austrians hit the now diminished and
tired French cavalry in flank, wounding Defrance and sending his men
reeling back to their own lines with heavy casualties. The light
cavalry of the Guard, some 2,000 sabres, belatedly launched a brief
charge of their own, but they were also repulsed by the prepared
enemy. With Bessières presumed dead, Nansouty took command of the
entire cavalry, but, not knowing the Emperor's directives, decided to
pull his battered troop back. In all, the French cavalry charge had
been very costly; for the entire day, Nansouty's division alone lost
1,200 horses killed or wounded and a great number of men out of
action. However, it did allow Masséna to successfully disengage and
gained time for the deployment of the grand battery.
A 12-pounder from the French Guard foot artillery in action.
Lieutenant-Colonel Antoine Drouot, commander of the Imperial Guard
foot artillery, leading the deployment of his guns at Wagram.
Napoleon was aware that the cavalry charge was a stopgap, so, while
the heavy cavalry was busy blocking the advance of the Austrian
infantry, he ordered General
Jacques Lauriston to assemble a massive
battery. Its objective was to pound the enemy, stop their advance and
force them to abandon their position between
Süssenbrunn. Lauriston's battery was formed of 84 pieces,[Note 7]
including the entire 60 pieces of the Imperial Guard artillery park
and 24 pieces supplied by the "Army of Italy". The horse artillery
of the Guard, six batteries of six-pounders, eight-pounders and heavy
24-pounder howitzers, under the command of Colonel Augustin-Marie
d'Aboville, was the first to come into action, towards 11:00. It was
followed by the foot artillery of the Guard, four batteries of
12-pounders, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Antoine Drouot,
and, shortly after, by the pieces from the "Army of Italy". The grand
battery was deployed on a single line, covering some 2 kilometers,
with the "Army of Italy" cannon facing Liechtenstein's Reserve Korps,
while the Guard foot artillery was in the centre, facing Kollowrat's
III Korps and the Guard horse artillery extended the line southwards,
facing the village of Breintlee, which was in enemy hands. As they
unlimbered, the French guns were ordered to open fire at once and the
relatively short range – 350 to 550 metres – and the flat and
sodden ground, which allowed cannonballs to ricochet far, meant that
results were almost immediate. Entire files of Austrian infantry and
cavalry, sometimes as much as 20 men, were blown away with a single
shot and in some cases the French were even able to use short-range
case-shot, which was devastating for the densely packed Austrian
battalions. In order to put even more pressure on the enemy, the
French battery was ordered to advance steadily, while maintaining the
most intense fire. This move soon forced Kollowrat to begin pulling
his forces back. Meanwhile, however, the Austrian artillery was
releasing sustained counter-battery fire with the six and
eight-pounders that formed Kollowratt's and Liechtenstein's Corps
artillery. But it was above all the murderous enfilade fire, coming
from the two 12-pounder batteries near Wagram, barely one kilometer
away, that did the most harm to the French artillerymen. Soon, some
French gun crews were reduced to such a point that
Napoleon asked for
volunteers among the Guard infantry, in order to replace the losses.
Discarded artillery matches soon lit up the ripe corn crops and some
of the wounded on both sides, unable to crawl away to safety, burned
alive where they stood.
While the cannon were roaring, Maréchal Masséna was near Raasdorf,
forming his men for their march south. Towards 11:00, he rallied many
of the men who had routed during the attack on
Aderklaa and then had
rations of brandy distributed, in order to boost morale. With a
part of his troops still fighting to keep Aderklaa, Masséna directed
his men towards Essling, aiming to threaten Klenau's Corps, which was
by now in an advanced position behind the French line, but which had
made no attempt to threaten the rear of Napoleon's army. The passive
posture of the Austrian Corps was due partly to a lack of orders to
advance further and partly to the fact that Klenau's relatively small
force was by now out of touch with the main Austrian force.
Nevertheless, Masséna's task remained daunting. Some of his troops
had to march no less than eight kilometers in vulnerable column
formations, moving along the front of an enemy who had deployed
numerous cavalry and artillery. Masséna displayed his usual skill and
tenacity, using his available cavalry to screen his men and taking
advantage of the high corn crops to hide his advance. The French
troops, although out of range from enemy musketry, were under constant
bombardment from the Austrian artillery. The Austrian cavalry
attempted an attack, which nearly reached the carriage of Masséna,
whose aides were forced to draw swords and defend him as French
cavalry stepped in to repulse their Austrian counterparts. Towards
noon, after marching some six and half kilometers in 90 minutes, the
leading elements from Masséna's Corps, namely Marulaz's cavalry and
Legrand's infantry were within sight of the enemy-occupied village of
Davout's flanking attack
A modern photo of the tower at Markgrafneusiedl, which was the scene
of heavy fighting during the second day of the Battle of Wagram.
While battle was raging on the western side of the battlefield, some
10 kilometers to the east, Maréchal Davout was preparing his attack,
the manoeuvre with which
Napoleon intended to win the battle. In order
to gain a foothold on the plateau before him, Davout had to drive back
the forces of Rosenberg's Austrian IV Korps. The two forces had
already clashed during the abortive night attacks the day before and
again earlier that morning, between 05:00 and 06:00, when Rosenberg
made a surprising attack, which the French managed to repulse. Due in
part to the fact that Austrian Corps on other sectors of the
battlefield failed to attack at the same time, Rosenberg was forced to
draw his troops back to their initial positions, occupying the plateau
and the strategic village of Markgrafneusiedl, situated just below the
escarpment. This village was the key position, which Davout had to
take at all costs, in order for his manoeuvre to succeed. Despite his
vast numerical superiority, Davout's mission was not easy, as the
Austrians had a numerous cavalry and artillery available to support
their infantry. Furthermore, the defensive position was solid, with
the village of
Markgrafneusiedl formed of sturdy stone houses and a
number of large buildings, such as a disused stone church with a tall,
conspicuous tower, a monastery and a mill, all of which constituted
easily defendable structures. The only weakness of Rosenberg's
position was its left side, where the plateau formed a gentle slope,
While the French were preparing their attack, artillery on both sides
opened up, with Rosenberg's batteries placed on high ground and at
times behind earthworks. Despite the superior Austrian
tactical position, after about two hours of bombardment, the French
managed to put out of action most of the Austrian pieces and cause
fast-spreading fires in the village of Markgrafneusiedl. The fact
that the French artillery managed to win its duel with the Austrian
artillery was due in part to the larger number of French high-calibre
pieces, but most of all to their superior concentration of fire, with
the artillery of French III Corps and II Corps cooperating and
creating a deadly crossfire. By 09:30, Davout's troops were in
position and ready to commence their attack. Initial orders provided
that Davout should send his four infantry divisions in a frontal
assault northwards, but early that morning
Napoleon changed his mind,
after reconnoitering the position in person and noticing that he could
take advantage from the weakness on the left of the Austrian
position. The new orders stated that two of Davout's divisions,
those of Gudin and Puthod, were to advance from
Markgrafneusiedl, forcing Rosenberg to commit a part of his forces in
order to meet them, while the remaining infantry divisions, Friant's
and Morand's, supported by Grouchy's and Montbruns cavalry divisions,
would storm the plateau from the east. This order caused a significant
delay, as the troops had to move to their assigned positions eastwards
and artillery bridges had to be built, in order for the divisional
artillery to be able to cross the Russbach stream. Commanding the
Austrian forces in this sector, Rosenberg could rely on reinforcements
from Nordmann's Advance Guard, and a numerous cavalry under Nostitz,
all of which were placed under his direct command. He was also
counting on support from the east, with Archduke John's "Army of Inner
Austria" set to arrive on the battlefield, but so far these badly
needed reinforcements had failed to materialise.
Davout ordering the assault of Markgrafneusiedl. The commander of III
Corps had his horse shot under him while leading his men from the
front but continued his relentless attacks on the Austrian left.
The French began their steady advance between 09:30 and 10:00,
their movement hidden from view by the thick smoke resulting from the
intense artillery bombardment. On the right, Montbrun's cavalry had
already advanced towards Obersiebenbrunn, repulsing Fröhlich's
Austrian cavalry elements and clearing the way for Friant and Morand,
who began their enveloping manoeuvre against the enemy left. Rosenberg
responded by redeploying his reserves to form a new flank: Mayer's
brigade in first line, supported by Riese's brigade and Infantry
Regiment 58 Beaulieu. However, all these troops were drawn from
Nordmann's Advance Guard, a Corps which had sustained heavy casualties
the previous day. During this manoeuvre, Nostitz's cavalry, placed
initially on the plain below the escarpment, were pushed back and
forced up the slope of the plateau by Grouchy's and Pully's dragoons;
the Austrian horse subsequently redeployed to protect Nordmann's
flank. Meanwhile, Davout personally led forward the divisions of Gudin
and Puthod, who were to storm
Markgrafneusiedl frontally. The village
was defended by three Austrian brigades (Weiss, Hessen-Homburg and
Swinburn), supported in second line by Infantry Regiment 3 Erzherzog
Karl and the Landwehr battalion Unter dem Manhartsberg. The Austrian
first line met the advancing columns of Gudin and Puthod with steady
fire, which forced the French attack to a temporary halt. Further
east, Morand, leading the French attack, faced a similar fate, when
the Austrians launched a combined infantry and cavalry attack which
forced the French to draw back and reform. The first Austrian line,
the two regiments from Mayer's brigade, the 4th Hoch und
Deutschmeister and 49th Kerpen, supported by eight squadrons of
hussars from the Erzherzog Ferdinand regiment counterattacked and
Morand's frontline regiments, the 13th Light and 17th Line were
momentarily in a difficult situation. However, Friant was quick to
react in support of his fellow commander, sending the Gilly brigade
against the now exposed flank of the Austrians. At this point,
Feldmarshalleutnant Nordmann intervened in person to reestablish the
situation and was mortally wounded while doing so, with the Austrian
counterattack in this sector failing completely. The brave Nordmann
was to be discovered moments later by the French in a ditch, where he
was abandoned during the hasty retreat of his men, who sought refuge
behind Riese's brigade, where they reformed. Despite being present in
large numbers, the Austrian cavalry failed to launch a massed charge
and instead launched several small-scale charges, which produced
little effect. At this crucial juncture, Friant committed his entire
division and, despite the failure of a first attack, soon managed to
gain a firm foothold on the escarpment, pushing towards the tower at
Markgrafneusiedl, a sign that the battle in this sector was turning in
favour of the French.
General Gudin, in command of Davout's 3rd Division, was instrumental
in the attack of the III Corps.
In the meantime, Gudin and Puthod had also rallied their men and
launched them in another attack against Markgrafneusiedl. They were
met this time by Rohan's division from Rosenberg's IV Korps, which
valiantly attempted to hold its ground, in a stubborn house-to-house
defense, despite the fact that village was by now largely engulfed in
flames. The French were equally determined and even senior commanders
exposed themselves to the greatest dangers (Davout's horse was shot
under him and Gudin was seriously wounded) in order to give heart to
the men. French pressure and the fast-spreading fire forced
Hessen-Homburg's brigade, which had been drawn up in support of
Rohan's division, to evacuate the position and reform on the
escarpment behind the village, closely followed by Gudin's
skirmishers. Combat did continue around the disused church, where
Riese's battered brigade, infantry regiments 44 Bellegarde, 46
Chasteler, 58 Beaulieu, nine battalions in total, was still holding
out with remarkable tenacity and despite the fact that their
commander, General-Major Riese, did not bother to show himself
throughout the day. The church, with its conspicuous stone tower, was
finally lost by the Austrians towards noon, when Friant managed to
push through and link up with Gudin and Puthod, forcing the three
Austrian regiments to withdraw, in order to avoid being outflanked.
When Rosenberg failed to retake the tower with Hessen-Homburg's
brigade, he decided to redeploy his entire force further back on the
plateau and form a new line. This timely action temporarily stopped
any further French advance. Seeing this development, Davout chose to
force a decisive breakthrough and committed his ultimate reserve, the
3rd Heavy Cavalry Division. The Marshal ordered the heavy cavalry up
the plateau west of Markgrafneusiedl, in an immediate frontal assault
against the enemy line, rather than on the more favourable cavalry
terrain east, where Grouchy, Pully and Montbrun were already
operating. The 3rd Heavy Cavalry Division, a unit that the Emperor had
attached to III Corps that very morning, was led by 31-year-old
Général de Division Arrighi de Casanova, who had no previous command
experience at divisional level. The division was formed of four
cuirassier regiments, the 4th, 6th, 7th and 8th, totaling 16 squadrons
and almost 2,000 men. Receiving his orders to charge immediately,
Arrighi hastily formed his squadrons and led forward Bordessoule's
brigade up the slope, but once there, he found himself in the middle
of enemy barricades and was, according to his own account, unable to
deploy a single squadron. The steel-clad cuirassiers made several
attempts to break the sturdy Austrian masses, but the terrain was not
proper for such action and their best attempts came to nothing. Taking
some 300 casualties after several frustratingly ineffective charges,
Arrighi pulled his men back to safety down the slope and furiously set
off to find Davout and protest against the orders he had given.
Napoleon following the smokeline of Davout's columns. The attack of
III Corps constituted the crucial French offensive at Wagram.
It was just after noon and, despite the failure of the French cavalry
assault, Rosenberg was aware that his beleaguered line was about to
give way, with possibly catastrophic consequences for the entire
Austrian army. With his entire force already committed and no
reserves, the Austrian commander could do little to prevent the
seemingly unstoppable French onslaught. It was at this decisive moment
that Archduke Charles personally brought reinforcements to his
battered left wing: five battalions from Infantry Regiment 57 Joseph
Colloredo and 15 Zach, one battery of six-pounders, all drawn from
Austrian II Korps and four squadrons of hussars, as well as the entire
Cuirassier regiment, from the Cavalry Reserve. With
the cavalry thus reinforced and placed under the overall command of
Feldmarschalleutnant Nostitz, Archduke Charles ordered his horsemen to
charge the enemy. At first, General-Major Wartensleben's brigade, the
3rd O'Reilly Chevaulegers and the 6th Blackenstein Hussars, charged
Montbrun's first line, overwhelming the French 7th Hussars. The
Austrians then made a dash towards Montbrun's second line, which made
a surprising attempt to drive off the attackers with a carbine volley,
which failed to break the impetus of the charge and sent the French
horse reeling. As a result of his successful charge, Wartensleben was
able to capture ten French horse artillery pieces. But the Austrian
triumph was fleeting and Montbrun had carefully prepared a
countercharge with his reserve and skilfully launched the 12th
Chasseurs-à-Cheval frontally, while the 11th Chasseurs-à-Cheval
charged the O'Reilly Chevaulegers from flank. On the French side,
Grouchy soon brought his dragoons in support and Nostitz was forced to
counter them by committing General-Major Rothkirch's brigade, formed
by the 1st Erzherzog Johann and 6th Riesch Dragoons. A massive, albeit
brief, cavalry clash occurred and in the melee, both Nostitz and
Rothkirch were wounded and the Austrians were driven back, leaving
behind the cannon they had captured moments earlier and taking refuge
behind the infantry. This was the major cavalry action of the battle
and, despite the fact that the Austrians committed over 30 of their 40
squadrons present in the sector, the French gained the upper hand,
thanks largely to their superior training for massed action. Charging
by single regiments against an enemy who committed entire brigades and
divisions in coordinated actions, the Austrians, although superior in
overall numbers, had been overwhelmed, a testament to their chronic
inability to coordinate large-scale cavalry charges. Towards 13:00,
after the failure of his cavalry charge, Rosenberg reckoned that he
was unable to hold out on his current positions and began organising a
fighting retreat towards Bockfliess, some 10 kilometres (6.2 mi)
Why in the world didn't you charge the enemy when the decisive moment
— General MacDonald to General Walther, commander of the Guard
Davout's successful flanking manoeuvre did not escape unnoticed.
Despite the considerable distance, towards 13:00,
Napoleon could see
through his spyglass that the smoke line in Davout's sector was by now
well beyond the clearly visible tower at Markgrafneusiedl, a sign that
his men had managed to roll back the enemy's flank. With his left now
stabilised following Masséna's successful disengagement, the Emperor
began issuing orders for a general attack. Masséna was to continue
his march south and vigorously attack Klenau around Aspern, Oudinot
was ordered to prepare his Corps for an assault against the plateau
and dislodge Austrian II Korps, Eugène was to take VI Corps against
the enemy forces at Deutsch-Wagram, while MacDonald's V Corps was to
draw closer to Aderklaa. During the night, MacDonald had been rejoined
by the second division of his Corps and although theoretically 23
battalions strong, this force had diminished complements and could
barely muster 8,000 men.[Note 8] With this force, MacDonald was
preparing to execute Napoleon's previous orders to storm the plateau
near the village of Wagram, much at the same location where he had
attacked the previous day, when he received new orders. These provided
that MacDonald's force should head west, towards Aderklaa, and deploy
to occupy the ground held by the Grand Battery.
Just before 13:00, MacDonald moved towards his assigned location, with
eight battalions from Lamarque and Broussier's division deployed in
line, forming the front line, with the other 15 battalions remaining
in column, a formation which could more easily fend off the increasing
menace poised by the numerous enemy cavalry. This unusual formation,
some 800 metres long and 550 metres wide, was to be supported by the
remains of the Grand Battery, which had orders to advance on its right
and open intense fire against the Austrian line. Seras's division was
also ordered in support of this attack and deployed some distance
behind the column with one of the carabiniers-à-cheval regiments
protecting its rear. The assigned objective of this prodigious mass of
men was to bludgeon its way forward and take the village of
Süssenbrunn, the seam between the Austrian
Grenadier Reserve and III
Korps. Once managed to take the position, they would drive a wedge
between the two Austrian formations, pushing them apart. A powerful
cavalry force was to protect either flank of MacDonald's formation,
with Walther's mighty Guard Cavalry Division protecting the right and
Nansouty's 1st Heavy Cavalry Division protecting the left. Sahuc's
diminished cavalry division from the "Army of Italy" was also involved
in this action.
As MacDonald's lumbering column moved forward, Austrian artillery
opened up against the accompanying French cannon, disabling 15 of
them, before they even had time to unlimber and respond. The Austrian
guns then focussed on MacDonald's slow-moving formation, whose deep
ranks presented ideal targets. Seeing the French advance, Archduke
Charles ordered his Corps commanders to refuse the flank of the
Grenadier Reserve and III Korps. Liechtenstein ordered Steyer's
brigade to deploy in an oblique position and release heavy musketry
against the right flank of the advancing French column, while
Kollowrat issued a similar order to the Lilienberg brigade, which
fired musketry volleys against the left of MacDonald's men, while
Austrian artillery was pounding the column's front line. However, by
now the French had managed to dent the Austrian line and had only a
few hundred metres to go before they could reach the strategic village
of Süssenbrunn. With his force reduced to little more
than half strength and his battalions forced to form square in
order to fend off three successive cavalry attacks from
Feldmarshalleutnant Schwarzenberg's cavalry, MacDonald could go no
further. He called upon the numerous cavalry available to charge and
clear the enemy guns and infantry, who, according to his own account,
were by now in a state of complete disarray and ripe for
destruction. On his left, Nansouty, who had apparently not been
consulted regarding the placement and role of his division in the
attack, had kept his men too far back, in order to protect them
from the sustained enemy fire. When Nansouty arrived with his
cuirassiers, the Austrians were prepared to meet them and the guns had
already limbered and moved away to safety. The French cuirassiers
charged Vukassovich and Saint-Julien's divisions, but these men were
by now formed in the sturdy mass formations, which were virtually
invulnerable to cavalry.
The Chasseurs à cheval of the Guard charging Austrian dragoons.
Further north, protecting the other flank of MacDonald's column lay
the fresh Guard Cavalry Division, which also received MacDonald's
invitation to charge, but remained motionless, with its commander,
Général de Division Walther, invoking a lack of orders from his
direct commanders, either
Napoleon or Maréchal Bessières. The
Emperor was too far away from the action and Bessières had been
wounded during his earlier cavalry charge and had been carried away
from the battlefield, so the Horse Guards did not move. Towards 14:00,
MacDonald's attack had ground to a halt and the opportunity to
completely break the Austrian line in this sector came to nothing.
Napoleon noted with disgust that it was the first time that the
cavalry let him down, but, given the state of exhaustion and the
losses sustained by the French forces, MacDonald would have probably
been unable to follow up any breakthrough achieved by the cavalry
anyway. Still, the resolutely led attack achieved Napoleon's main
strategic goal, which was to pin down the Austrian forces in this
sector, preventing Charles from reinforcing his battered left. Forced
to concede that his attack had lost momentum, MacDonald did his best
to shelter his remaining men from the enemy's intense cannonade.
However, reinforcements were not far away: the Emperor sent in support
Wrede's powerful Bavarian division, 5,500 men strong, as well as
the elite Chasseurs à Cheval and Chevau-légers regiments of the
Imperial Guard, as well as the Saxon cavalry. The Bavarian
division quickly came up in support but exchanged fire with the enemy
only briefly and it was solely the artillery that really came into
action, as the Austrians were by now in full retreat. Behind the
Bavarians came the Fusiliers of the "Young Guard", four
battalion-strong, which were led by the Emperor's aide-de-camp,
General Reille, with strict orders to avoid "getting involved in any
adventure". With the support of the Guard, the Bavarians captured
Süssenbrunn and they alone continued the pursuit beyond this
village. The Guard Chasseurs à Cheval tried to halt the advance
of the enemy but they were met by Liechtenstein's Austrian cavalry
and, receiving no support from their fellow Chevau-légers, they had
to withdraw, coming away with only three enemy cannon.
Masséna's "Infernal Column"
Meanwhile, Masséna had indeed made remarkable progress since 11:00,
when he had begun disengaging from the struggle at
organising his march against Klenau. On the French left, Klenau,
commander of VI Korps, was fully aware of Masséna's manoeuvre,
stating in his post-battle report that he saw an "Infernal Column"
advancing towards him. By 12:30, elements of IV Corps were at Essling
and Masséna received the Emperor's dispatch, informing him of
Davout's success and urging him to attack. Masséna sent Marulaz's
cavalry to clear the enemy horse, which was pushing back Boudet's
defeated division. Then, Marulaz fell upon and captured the Austrian
battery which was bombarding the bridges over the Danube, sending the
panicked gunners fleeing for their lives. An Austrian countercharge
from Walmoden's Austrian hussars sent the French horse reeling and
recaptured the lost battery, managing to carry most of it, except two
guns, to safety, before more French cavalry, this time from Lasalle's
division came up against them. The French cavalry attack halted the
advance of Klenau's Korps and allowed the French launch an attack of
their own against the village of Essling. Six weeks before, during the
Battle of Aspern-Essling, the French had valiantly defended this
village against several Austrian attacks; now they were ordered to
take it from some 1,200 whitecoats. The village was in ruins, but the
sturdy stone granary was still standing and represented a formidable
defensive structure. Nevertheless, Ledru des Essarts's brigade from
Legrand's 1st division stormed the position and, after intense
fighting, they secured Essling towards 14:00, sending the defenders
fleeing towards Aspern. Masséna then took
Aspern after a brief combat
and, collecting his four infantry divisions, continued to press
Klenau, sending Molitor's division towards Breitenlee. There,
General Durutte's division of the "Army of Italy", which had been sent
to plug the gap between IV Corps and the rest of the army, had just
taken the village of Breitenlee. Durutte's division was able to link
up with Molitor.
Masséna had accomplished his mission and had no further orders to
continue his action but, hearing the intense cannonade on his right,
he understood that he needed to continue his attack. He detailed
Boudet's division to march on Kagran, while his other three infantry
divisions marched on Leopoldau. The corps cavalry preceded the
infantry and Lasalle's squadrons caught up with Klenau's infantry near
Leopoldau. There, the French cavalry met two Austrian battalions,
already formed in solid masses. This formation was ideal for fending
off enemy horse. Nevertheless, the French charged impetuously but
achieved little. The first mass could only be dispersed after horse
artillery came into action. Not long before 17:00, the cavalry moved
against the second mass and it was during this action that the gallant
Lasalle, one of the best cavalry commanders of his time, was shot
dead. Marulaz took overall command of the cavalry and personally
placed himself at the head of the 8th Hussars, in a bid to avenge the
slain commander; the attempt failed and Marulaz was himself wounded
and had to be carried away to the rear. This event, as well as the
fact that the French were now under fire from the artillery of
Austrian V Korps on Bisamberg heights, convinced Masséna to halt his
pursuit. Towards 17:00 Klenau had succeeded in extracting his corps
from the dangerous position next to the
Danube and moved to relative
safety behind the reserve V Korps, deployed on the Bisamberg
While Feldmarshalleutnant Klenau was being ousted from Essling,
Archduke Charles received much-awaited news about the arrival of his
brother on the battlefield. However, the news were disappointing:
Archduke John of Austria
Archduke John of Austria and his 13,000 men, Charles's only hope for
rescuing his collapsing left flank, would only be able to arrive
towards 17:00, much too late to make any difference. By now, Charles
was acutely aware that his troops would not hold out much longer. His
three corps on the Wagram plateau (I, II and IV) had been in action
for some ten hours. On his right, Kollowrat's III Korps, Klenau's VI
Korps and the Reserve Korps were being pushed back. Crucially, he had
no battle reserves with which to either support his battered line or
to launch a counterattack of his own. Continuing to fight in these
conditions would have spelled the end of the Kaiserlich-königliche
Hauptarmee and, in Charles's view, the end of the Habsburg Empire. His
only realistic option was to begin an orderly retreat, which he
ordered by mid morning, directing each corps along its line of
While MacDonald's attack was drawing the attention of the Austrians,
the French launched their general attack.
Napoleon committed Marmont's
fresh XI Corps, sending these men to take position opposite to
Austrian I Korps and fill the gap between the "Army of Italy" and II
Corps. Moreover, towards 13:00, the French from Oudinot's II Corps had
begun to advance frontally against the Austrian troops on the Wagram
plateau. The mercurial Oudinot, who had been waiting for his orders to
attack all morning, decided to wait no longer, despite the fact that
he had not yet received his order. Opposite to Oudinot was Austrian II
Korps. Having spent the entire morning doing nothing else than
exchanging artillery fire with French II Corps, these men were
relatively fresh. They were also in a very dangerous position. The
commander of II Korps, the experienced Feldmarschalleutnant
Hohenzollern, could see that his force was in danger of being attacked
from the flank by Davout's seemingly unstoppable corps. Now Oudinot
was advancing against him. At first, Hohenzollern tried to hold on his
initial positions and his men greeted Oudinot's advancing columns with
intense musketry. However, the Austrian commander realised the
fragility of his position, seeing that, on his left, all the Austrian
troops were in full retreat and he ran the risk of having Oudinot pin
his men down, while Davout was free to advance in his flank and rear.
Hohenzollern thus had little choice but to order his men to fall back
and form a new line further north, sending 5 battalions and several
batteries from his second line to form a new flank and slow down
Davout's two advancing divisions, which were drawing dangerously close
to the strategic village of Baumersdorf.
Seeing the Austrians in full retreat, Oudinot lost his composure and
galloped along his line, shouting his commands, ordering his men to
run at the enemy. One of the Corps divisional commanders, general
Grandjean reiterated this highly unusual and potentially disastrous
order, which would have resulted in the columns rapidly dispersing and
becoming vulnerable to a counterattack. Luckily enough, the troops
were commanded by experienced junior officers, who took over and
executed the orderly manoeuvres that were required on such occasions.
During this action, Oudinot was wounded twice and had his horse shot
from under him, but he retained his command and, after his
surgeon dressed his wounds, he led his men on. His troops stormed
Baumersdorf, which they took, despite gallant defense from Hardegg's
brigade. Oudinot's Corps then fanned out, with the bulk of his men
continuing to press Hohenzollern and Tharreau's division wheeling left
against Bellegarde's I Korps. To the west, General Pacthod and his
division of the "Army of Italy", supported by the Italian Royal Guard,
were able to manoeuvre unseen by following the riverline of the
Russbach up the village of Deutsch-Wagram. There, they fell upon the
unprotected flank of d'Aspré's Austrian grenadier division, which had
been left behind to cover Bellegarde, who had just begun to retreat,
in accordance with Charles's orders. Surprising the grenadiers,
Pacthod stormed the position and pushed the Austrians back in disorder
beyond the village of Aderklaa. They were supported by Tharreau's
division of II Corps, which had managed to storm the plateau next to
the village. Bellegarde reacted by sending in some of his reserves to
stop the enemy onslaught, but the French managed to secure both Wagram
and Aderklaa, two key positions on the battlefield.
By 16:00, the entire Austrian army was in full retreat. They executed
this maneouvre admirably, with the formations remaining cohesive and
withdrawing in echelon, each formation protecting the retreat of the
adjoining one. During this phased retreat, Generalmajor Smola,
commander of the Austrian artillery had a major role, managing to mass
a sufficient number of cannon to keep the enemy at a respectable
distance. The French, who had been marching and fighting for over
forty hours, under intense heat and with scarce rations of water and
food, were slowly following the retreating enemy. The exhaustion of
the French troops was such that, towards 16:00 a brief moment of panic
occurred at Wagram. Dozens of French infantry fled down the
escarpment, with the Old Guard forced to form square in order to
protect the Emperor's headquarters, before order could be restored. A
second such moment took place around one hour later, when a mounted
scouting party from Archduke John's army suddenly appeared near
Glinzendorf, causing panic among the stragglers and civilian
contractors of the army, with the Guard again forced to form square.
But John soon received word that the battle was already over and
hastily retraced his steps. A final incident took place towards
18:00, when elements of the 108th Line regiment from Davout's Corps
caught up with enemy stragglers at the Bockfliess. There, the French
found the houses filed with drunken Austrian whitecoats, who refused
to surrender and attempted to defend themselves. Some 200 of these men
were slaughtered and 400 were captured. By nightfall, contact had
been broken and the exhausted French had to stop the pursuit and camp
on their positions. Towards dusk, French cavalry caught up with
Austrian III Korps and tried to block its retreat but the numerous
Austrian cavalry in the sector promptly stepped in, hitting the
enemy's flank and sending these horsemen fleeing. This persuaded
Archduke Charles that he had left III Korps in an exposed position and
ordered it to hasten their retreat and get in line with VI Korps.
Towards 20:00 all combat ceased and the Austrians were able to move
away without any further incident.
Napoleon had won the great Battle
Pursuit and armistice
By nightfall on 6 July, the Austrians, still capable of action, had
broken contact with their pursuers and Charles had managed to
reestablish a cohesive, albeit irregular front. The remarkable
combat-worthiness shown during the evening fighting left Napoleon
wondering whether the Austrians would actually renew battle the next
day. The Emperor rose early on 7 July and reconnoitred the battlefield
in person, noting the huge losses in men on both sides and seeing that
the Austrians had withdrawn. He then returned to more practical
matters and, after receiving MacDonald's report, he suddenly embraced
the general and elevated him to the dignity of Maréchal d'Empire, the
only Marshal to receive the title on a field of battle. The Emperor
also criticised Marmont for his slowness in arriving on the
battlefield and told Oudinot that he ought to have him shot for
attacking without orders. The French resumed their pursuit towards
14:00, as the extreme exhaustion of the army prevented an early start.
Their artillery had fired somewhere between 90,000 and 100,000 rounds
during the battle, which left the caissons empty and it took some time
before they could be refilled. Among the rank and file, there
were even instances of severe breakdown in troop discipline, as the
army moved through county packed with vines and wine cellars. When an
incensed Oudinot, sabre in hand, tried to restore discipline among a
group of drunken cavalrymen from his army corps, he was almost
attacked by his own men. Pursuit was further complicated by the
absence of reliable information about the exact direction of the
Austrian retreat. Contradictory intelligence collected by the various
Corps confusingly stated that the Austrians were retreating either
towards to Brünn or to Znaim and other reports were actually
indicating a retreat towards Moravia. The French tried to close the
gap through sustained march. Spearheading the pursuit were the army
corps of Masséna to the west, Marmont in the centre and Davout to the
east, while the "Army of Italy" was detailed to keep an eye on
Archduke John's army.
The Austrians were actually retreating towards Znaim in Bohemia. The
Austrian army had suffered greatly during the
Battle of Wagram
Battle of Wagram and had
to leave behind their wounded, but did make off with thousands of
French prisoners, a couple of dozen guns and a few eagles. Making good
use of night marches, Archduke Charles had the bulk of his forces
Korneuburg on 7 July. Charles and his senior
commanders had considered various plans to continue the campaign, but
in the end, Charles was not positioning his army for a continuation of
the campaign. The Austrian commander's view well before the Battle of
Wagram had been that Austria's best option was to make peace and, in
order to achieve that, the Empire needed to have a large,
battle-worthy army, which they could use as leverage during the peace
talks. Between 9 and 12 August, the French from Eugène's "Army of
Italy" clashed with Archduke John's forces in a series of skirmishes
and pushed them back into Hungary, while Masséna caught up with and
fought the Austrian rearguard in a several actions, most notable of
which was the one at Hollabrunn. By now,
Napoleon had largely
understood Charles's intentions and manoeuvred against them. Marmont
and his small XI Corps was the first to engage the Austrian army at
Battle of Znaim and was momentarily largely outnumbered. His
10,000 men faced some 60,000 massed enemy troops, but, in the typical
style of Napoleonic warfare, Marmont decided to attack in order to pin
down the enemy. He could reasonably expect to be reinforced soon and
Napoleon arrived with reinforcements. The battle raged on
the next day, with some bloody fighting going on around Znaim. The
Austrians took heavy casualties, some 6,200 men, during the battle
and, as time passed, the French force was set to be augmented to some
84,000 men, following the imminent arrival of Davout and Oudinot.
Recognising the futility of another battle, Charles decided to ask for
an armistice. He did so on his own responsibility, as he did not have
permission to do so from Emperor Francis I. Ignoring the advice of his
senior commanders – Maréchal Berthier was vocal in advising the
continuation of hostilities and destruction of the
Austrian Empire –
Napoleon accepted. The
Armistice of Znaim marked the end of the active
phase of the 1809 war between
France and Austria.
With more than 300,000 combatants, Wagram was the largest battle in
European history up to its time. With at least 72,000 casualties on
both sides, it was also the bloodiest military engagement of the
entire Revolutionary and
Napoleonic Wars thus far. The unusually high
casualty rate was due mainly to an unprecedented concentration of
artillery, on a flat battlefield, where the deadly roundshot – each
army fired at least 90,000 during the two days of battle – was most
Napoleon used his usual propaganda to minimise his losses, stating in
the Bulletin of the
Grande Armée that Wagram cost the army only
"1,500 dead and 3,000 to 4,000 wounded". In reality, losses had been
horrendous. French medical services were completely overwhelmed,
although the Guardsmen, who received first call, were quite well cared
for. Of the total 1,200 Guardsmen of all arms who were wounded at
Wagram, half were able to return to the ranks in a matter of days and
only 145 died from their wounds. Among the troops of the line, many
were not that lucky. Most of the wounded on both sides had been hit by
cannon fire, which caused horrendous injuries, which often needed
amputation. The shock of the surgery, the massive loss of blood, poor
healthcare and the danger of infection meant that the chances of
survival following an amputation were not good.
Globally, since neither army provided a complete tabulation of their
losses, the exact number of casualties is hard to establish. One
author suggests that French casualties of all sorts approached 40,000
men, greatly surpassing those of the Austrian army. More
conservative estimates place overall French losses between 25,000 or
28,000 men and either 31,500 or 33,000 men. Five generals
(Duprat, Gautier, Guiot de Lacour, Lasalle and von Hartitzsch)
and another 238 officers, as well as 7,000 men were killed.
Additionally, 37 generals, 883 officers and over 25,000 men were
wounded and 4,000 men were taken prisoner, many of them
On the Austrian side, losses had also been heavy. An official
tabulation established that there were 51,626 officers and men missing
on 11 July 1809, compared to the overall complements on 5 July 1809.
This figure thus accounts not only for the Battle of Wagram, but also
for the losses registered during the numerous minor engagements and
skirmishes that occurred after the battle, as well as the losses
suffered during the Battle of Znaim. Many of these men were
simply missing in action and many were subsequently able to return to
the colours. Nevertheless, conservative estimates of the Austrian
losses at Wagram numbered some 30,000 men, of whom 24,000 were killed
or wounded, with the rest taken prisoner. According to I. Castle,
Austrian casualties were as follows: 41,250 total, of which 23,750
killed or wounded, 10,000 missing, 7,500 captured, while French and
Allied casualties amounted to 37,500, with 27,500 killed or wounded
and 10,000 missing or captured. Four Austrian generals were
killed or mortally wounded during the fighting: Nordmann, Vukassovich,
Vécsey, and d'Aspré.
Wagram was one of the few battles thus far in his career in which
Napoleon failed to score an uncontested victory with relatively few
casualties. The French forces suffered 34,000 casualties, a number
compounded by the 20,000 suffered only weeks earlier at
Aspern-Essling. This would be indicative of the gradual decline in
quality of Napoleon's troops and the increasing experience and
competence of his opponents, who were learning from previous errors.
The heavy losses suffered, which included many seasoned troops as well
as over thirty generals of varying rank, was something that the French
would not be able to recover from with ease. Bernadotte's dismissal
Grande Armée for his failure would have severe consequences
Napoleon in later years. Unexpectedly elected heir to the throne
of Sweden the following year, the former Marshal would eventually
prove an asset to the Allies.
1 With some 95,000 men committed to battle, the Austrians had held a
3/1 numeric advantage at the end of the first day of battle and a 3/2
numeric superiority throughout the second day. The Austrians also
deployed 200 cannon to the French 90 cannon.
2 Hiller was replaced at the command of VI Korps with
Felmarshalleutnant Johann von Klenau, formerly commander of the army
Advance Guard. Klenau was himself replaced at the helm of the Advance
Guard by Felmarshalleutnant Armand von Nordmann.
3 Lannes had been commanding II Corps. After his death, he was
replaced by Général de Division Nicolas Oudinot, who had held the
command of the Corps at the very beginning of the War of the Fifth
4 Saint-Hilaire had been commanding the 3rd division of II Corps and
was replaced at its helm by Général de Division
Charles-Louis-Dieudonné Grandjean. Espagne had been commanding the
3rd heavy cavalry division of the Cavalry Reserve and was replaced in
this capacity by Général de Division Jean-Toussaint Arrighi de
5 It formed the first brigade of General Jean Victor Tharreau's 1st
division of II Corps.
6 The full complements of the Advance Guard on 4 July 1809 had
included some 22 cavalry squadrons (2,500 men), 23 infantry battalions
(11,500 men) and 48 guns.
7 Sources provide various figures regarding the number of guns forming
the grand battery. The 25th Bulletin of the Grande Armée, which
recounts the facts of the Battle of Wagram, indicates that it was
formed of 100 guns and this figure is indicated by most historians,
with some putting the figure as high as 112 guns. Recent research
shows that both these figures are exaggerated and more realistic
estimates place the number of guns at either 72, 80 or 84. André
Masséna, a highly credible source and also a man who was in the
vicinity of the battery at the time when it was deployed, places its
complement at 84 pieces: 60 pieces of the Guard artillery and 24 of
the "Army of Italy". Despite claims from some authors that the cannon
of the Bavarian division were also a part of the battery, there is
actually no source contemporary to the battle supporting that
8 MacDonald's Corps included Jean-Baptiste Broussier's 1st division,
10 battalions and 4,400 men strong, which had not seen any action
during 5 July fighting. It also included Jean Maximilien Lamarque's
2nd Division, which on 4 July numbered 11 battalions, with some 3,740
men, but which had seen intense action during the night attacks on 5
July and had taken casualties.
9 The general retreat direction was northwest. Rosenberg's troops were
already retreating north towards Bockfluss. Charles's orders provided
that the various army corps will retreat, following the pace set by
Bellegarde's I Korps. The order provided that Bellegarde was to move
towards Gerasdorf, Liechtenstein's cavalry was to remain in the
Gerasdorf plain, sending patrols towards the Russbach river to collect
information about the French advance, Liechtenstein's grenadiers were
directed to Hagenbrunn, Kollowrat's III Korps was to move towards the
Stammersdorf heights, while Klenau was to deploy between Gerasdorf and
Leopoldsau. Charles informed his corps commanders that he would be
establishing his headquarters at Stammersdorf, and that they were all
required to send an officer there before nightfall, in order to
receive new orders.
^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica, online, 2012 edition
^ a b Nicholls 1999, p. 257.
^ Rothenberg 246–254.
^ Rothenberg 254–259.
^ a b c Castle 7.
^ Rothenberg 39–61.
^ Chandler, p. 663.
^ Rothenberg 61–66.
^ Chandler, p. 665-666.
^ Rothenberg 62–63.
^ Fierro, Palluel-Guillard, Tulard 131–137 and 586.
^ a b Rothenberg 65–82.
^ Chandler, p. 670.
^ Rothenberg 85–129.
^ Castle 29–55.
^ Fierro, Palluel-Guillard, Tulard 138–139 and 586.
^ a b Rothenberg 152.
^ a b Rothenberg 127–129.
^ Castle 54–55.
^ Rothenberg 145.
^ Rothenberg 143–144.
^ Rothenberg 148.
^ Rothenberg 143–147.
^ Rothenberg 144–145.
^ Chandler, p. 706.
^ Chandler, p. 692.
^ a b Rothenberg 131–143.
^ Rothenberg 146–150.
^ a b Naulet 35.
^ Lorraine Petre 341.
^ a b Rothenberg 151.
^ Chandler 709.
^ Castle 58.
^ Chandler 713.
^ Naulet 35–36.
^ Naulet 39–40.
^ Naulet 45–46.
^ Rothenberg 163.
^ a b Rothenberg 163–164.
^ a b c Castle 61.
^ Rothenberg 165.
^ Rothenberg 164–165.
^ Castle 59.
^ a b c d Rothenberg 166–167.
^ a b Naulet 46.
^ Rothenberg 166.
^ Castle 62.
^ a b Naulet 47.
^ Rothenberg 167–169.
^ Castle 62–64.
^ Naulet 47–50.
^ a b Castle 65.
^ Rothenberg 169.
^ Naulet 51.
^ a b Rothenberg 170–171.
^ a b Castle 66.
^ Rothenberg 172.
^ a b Rothenberg 172–173.
^ a b c d e Castle 66–68.
^ a b c Arnold 171.
^ Rothenberg 170.
^ Hourtoulle 46–47.
^ Castle 65–66.
^ a b c Rothenberg 173–174.
^ Castle 20–21.
^ Rothenberg 175–176.
^ a b c d Castle 68.
^ a b c Rothenber 176–177.
^ a b Castle 22.
^ Petre Lorraine 365.
^ a b Rothenberg 177–178.
^ a b c d e Naulet 60.
^ a b c Rothenberg 178–179.
^ a b Naulet 55.
^ Castle 69.
^ Rothenberg 179.
^ a b c Naulet 55–56.
^ Castle 69–70.
^ Rothenberg 179–181.
^ Arnold 142.
^ a b Rothenberg 181.
^ a b Castle 70–73.
^ Rothenberg 182
^ Arnold 145.
^ Rothenberg 182–183.
^ a b Castle 73.
^ a b c d Rothenberg 183–184.
^ a b c Castle 73–76.
^ a b Castle 23.
^ a b Arnold 148–149.
^ a b Naulet 56.
^ Rothenberg 184–185.
^ Hourtoulle 52.
^ a b Arnold 162.
^ Rothenberg 185.
^ Arnold 162–163.
^ a b Naulet 62.
^ a b Rothenberg 186–187.
^ Castle 77.
^ Naulet 63.
^ a b Rothenberg 186.
^ Naulet 62–63.
^ Rothenberg 188–189.
^ Naulet 63–64.
^ Castle 78–81.
^ Rothenberg 189.
^ Tulard (volume 1) 196.
^ Naulet 64.
^ Rothenberg 190.
^ Sokolov 455.
^ a b Rothenberg 191.
^ Naulet 65.
^ Castle 82.
^ a b c Naulet 66.
^ Rothenberg 191–192.
^ Castle 82–83.
^ Rothenberg 192.
^ Thoumas 37.
^ Castle 87.
^ a b Rothenberg 193–194.
^ a b c d e f Naulet 67.
^ Naulet 70.
^ a b Castle 85.
^ a b Rothenberg 194–195.
^ Arnold 161.
^ Rothenberg 196–198.
^ Naulet 71.
^ Rothenberg 202.
^ Rothenberg 204–206.
^ Arnold 170.
^ Naulet 77.
^ Rothenberg 206–207.
^ Rothenberg 207.
^ Rothenberg 207–210.
^ Castle 90.
^ Naulet 76–77.
^ a b c d Rothenberg 218.
^ Rothenberg 219–220.
^ Rothenberg 219.
^ Arnold 169–170.
^ Naulet 73.
^ Pigeard, Dictionnaire des battailles de Napoléon, 924.
^ Castle, I. Aspern/Wagram (1809), Osprey (1990)
^ Petre, F. Loraine.
Napoleon and the Archduke Charles. New York:
Hippocrene Books, (1909) 1976. 379
^ Tulard (volume 1) 760.
^ Castle 56–57.
^ Castle 60.
^ Castle 17 and 22–23.
^ Castle 20.
^ Castle 23 and 62–63.
^ Rothenberg 195.
Website of the Museum of the
Battle of Wagram
Battle of Wagram in Deutsch-Wagram
Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Wagram". Encyclopædia Britannica
(11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
David Chandler, Napoleon's Marshals, Weidenfeld & Nicolson,
London, 1998, pp 247–251.
Bowden, Scotty & Tarbox, Charlie. Armies on the
Arlington, Texas: Empire Games Press, 1980.
Gill, John H. 1809: Thunder on the Danube. 3 Volumes, Frontline Books,
Nicholls, David (1999). Napoleon: A Biographical Companion. ABC-CLIO.
p. 257. ISBN 978-0874369571.
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