Austrian campaign against the Duchy of Warsaw in 1809

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Austrian campaign against the Duchy of Warsaw
Austrian campaign against the Duchy of Warsaw in 1809
Austrian campaign against the Duchy of Warsaw in 1809
date April 12, 1809 to July 15, 1809
place Duchy of Warsaw and Galicia
output Extensive withdrawal of the Austrians
consequences Territorial expansion of the Duchy of Warsaw and Russia
Peace treaty Peace of Schönbrunn
Parties to the conflict

Austrian EmpireEmpire of Austria Austria

Flag of Poland.svg Duchy of Warsaw Russia
Russian Empire 1721Russian Empire


Austrian EmpireEmpire of Austria Ferdinand Karl

Flag of Poland.svg Józef Poniatowski

Troop strength
36,000 soldiers in the field and 4,000 in fortresses 12,000 soldiers growing to 24,000, plus tens of thousands of irregulars, 48,000 Russian soldiers

Around 12–15,000 men, including around 1,500 dead, over 7,000 prisoners and thousands of deserters

About 3000 men, including about 1000 dead, Russians without combat losses

The Austrian campaign against the Duchy of Warsaw , also known as the Vistula Campaign , was part of the Fifth Coalition War . It began on April 15, 1809 with the invasion of Austrian troops into the Duchy of Warsaw . A Polish counter-offensive into Austrian Galicia and West Galicia followed . From the end of May Russia occupied the eastern parts of these areas. Austria's campaign ended with the conclusion of the Znojmo armistice in mid-July 1809, when his troops only occupied the area south of Krakow . On October 14, 1809, Austria and France ended the war in the Treaty of Schönbrunn .


In 1809 Austria intended to eliminate Napoleon's supremacy in Europe by means of people's wars based on the model of the Spanish War of Independence, which began in 1808 . During the invasion of Bavaria on April 9, 1809, the people were called to revolt against Napoleon's foreign rule in the spirit of national liberation.

Such an approach was problematic in the secondary theater of the Duchy of Warsaw. An offensive should also take place there for political rather than military strategic reasons . This northern neighbor of Austria was a satellite state of France. The duchy arose in the Peace of Tilsit in 1807 as a result of an agreement between Russia and France over the territorial gains of Prussia from the partitions of Poland . Austria wanted to occupy the duchy in order to offer it to Russia or Prussia in alliance negotiations.

In Poland, which was still divided, Napoleon was considered a liberator and not a usurper . Galicia , annexed by Austria in 1772, had also belonged to Poland, as had Western Galicia , which was annexed to it in 1795 , Austria's profit from the Third Partition. When war loomed in the spring of 1809, Warsaw saw this as an opportunity, under France's protection, to end the unbearable condition that there is still Polish soil over which Germans command and liberate Galicia .

Nevertheless, the Austrian Supreme Commander Archduke Ferdinand Karl had a proclamation circulated on April 15 when he marched into the duchy , in which he shouted to the Poles that Napoleon was a deceiver and that his liberation of Poland consisted in your young warriors having fertilized the Spanish soil with their blood . But now he is coming as the true liberator and together they want to drive out the French. There was no question of restoring Poland.

Such a prospect was omitted because it could have induced Russia, allied by the Erfurt alliance with France, to take unpredictable steps against Austria. Austria wanted to keep the possibility of Russia changing sides open from the start. The attitude of Prussia was also unclear, although it was preparing an uprising against Napoleon, but a Poland would hardly accept within the borders of 1772. Austria's allies were Great Britain, Spain, Portugal and the Kingdom of Sicily . Austria could not count on military support from its allies in any of the theaters of war.

On the other hand, Napoleon had underestimated Austria's determination to go to war. The bulk of his troops were on the Iberian Peninsula or were on their way there. He himself had only appeared in Paris on January 23, 1809 and gathered all available troops, especially those of the Rhine Confederation , on the Main with the head to southern Germany, where Austria also sought the decision. Russia's intervention was not to be expected at first, because its army was at war with Sweden and Turkey in two widely separated theaters of war in Finland and at the mouth of the Danube .

The opposing forces

Austria had set up nine army corps. The 1st to 6th Corps marched in Bohemia and on the Inn , Corps 8th and 9th against the Kingdom of Italy and Corps No. 7 northwest of Radom against the Duchy of Warsaw. It consisted of seven infantry, two border guards and seven cavalry regiments as well as horse and horse artillery. All regiments were battle-tested. The infantry was reinforced by newly established Landwehr battalions . Ferdinand had a total of around 36,000 men, including over 5,000 horsemen, and around 70 field guns. Generals Neipperg , Mohr , Schauroth , Mondet and Trauttenberg were on his staff . About a third of his soldiers were Poles or Ruthenians .

The army of the Duchy of Warsaw had not yet reached its intended strength of 30,000 men. The duchy was not prepared for an invasion. A war between Austria and France had been hoped for, but in March Napoleon had the King of Saxony and Duke of Warsaw Friedrich August , who was present in Warsaw at a session of the Reichstag , assured that there was no danger of an Austrian invasion. On March 26th, Friedrich August left without leaving any orders for the event of war or instructions for War Minister and Supreme Commander Prince Poniatowski .

All regiments of the duchy with combat experience, around 18,000 men, had been used by Napoleon in Spain to fight the popular uprising - they had to be constantly replenished. In the duchy and as an occupier in Danzig there were around 10,000 men with 20 to 30 field guns, some under Dąbrowski near Posen , some in the fortresses Serock , Modlin and Thorn .

At the beginning of April, when Austria's intentions to attack became apparent, Poniatowski gathered all troops - excluding the garrison in Danzig - in Warsaw. His generals were well-known military leaders, and the soldiers were brave, albeit inexperienced. About 2200 Saxons, three battalions under General Dyherrn's command with few cavalry and 14 guns, which had already received orders to march home, stayed with him.

Raszyn and the aftermath

After Ferdinand, on 15 April, his proclamation spreading Pilica in Nowe Miasto had almost crossed with his entire army and marched on Warsaw, Poniatowski called the Duchy a popular array of. Ferdinand's proclamation, however, without any reference to Austria's responsibility as a power to divide, found no positive response from the Polish public. Poniatowski went to meet Ferdinand with his 12,500 men and took up a locking position behind a marshy watercourse near Raszyn , about 8 kilometers south of Warsaw . On the afternoon of April 19, Ferdinand attacked him, opening the Battle of Raszyn . The battle that followed was the first and last meeting of the two main forces in this campaign. On the night of April 20, Poniatowski had to retreat to Warsaw and the Saxon corps marched home.

Now Ferdinand asked him to hand over Warsaw. The negotiations ended on April 21 with Poniatowski's commitment to evacuate Warsaw and cross the Vistula without a fight . In return, Ferdinand gave him two days to do this and undertook not to cross the Vistula. For two full days, Poniatowski had all weapons, ammunition and other war supplies, all cash registers, archives and government personnel carried over the Vistula Bridge to Praga with thousands of horses and wagons , accompanied by insults and curses from the Warsaw people who had been disarmed by him. They thought that he would have to Ferdinand sold . Poniatowski withdrew over the Bug into the fortresses Modlin and Serock, while Ferdinand advanced into the hostile, silent city on April 23.

In the meantime an Austrian corps of 2,000 men under the command of General Mohr had appeared east of the Vistula off Praga. There was only one Polish battalion there. Mohr demanded that the city be handed over. The commandant asked Poniatowski for help. He sent General Michał Sokolnicki , who struck Mohr on April 25 within sight of the Warsaw audience at Grochów . The Austrians were only able to save themselves on the left bank of the Vistula with difficulty.

Poniatowski's offensive until Warsaw was regained

Now, apart from a few garrison troops and fortress garrisons , there were no Austrian troops to the right of the Vistula. Poniatowski took advantage of this and began advancing into western Austrian Galicia at the end of April . Ferdinand left Warsaw to cross the Vistula at Góra Kalwaria and meet Poniatowski. However, on May 3, he stormed General Schauroth's bridgehead , which had already been built there . With a loss of 1,500 men, Ferdinand had to stay to the left of the Vistula. Thus western Galicia was open to Poniatowski.

When the news of the French victories at Regensburg , Abensberg , and Eggmühl arrived from southern Germany , Poniatowski called for a general uprising, for shaking off the German yoke in all of Galicia, and for arms to be handed out to the people. Supported by general approval, he reached Lublin on May 14th , penetrated Old Galicia , where Zamość fell on May 20th , the only larger fortress of the Austrians, on the 24th his army was in Yaroslav and on the 28th it marched in triumph in Lviv , the capital of Galicia. A corps under Potocki had captured the fortified bridgehead Sandomierz on the left of the Vistula on May 18 , whereby the Austrians lost 2,000 men in dead and prisoners.

In the meantime Ferdinand had tried in vain to take the Polish bridgehead Thorn, but then moved to Kalisch , just as unsuccessfully . Some of his troops always had to stay in Warsaw because of the latent risk of rebellion. Another part under Neipperg fought 8000 Irregular, some of which under General Zajączek on Pilitza in western Galicia infiltrated were partly consisted of locals.

The establishment of a Saxon and a Polish volunteer corps by Ferdinand got stuck in the beginning. The attraction of the Freikorps proved to be low, especially since convicted criminals from the prisons of the duchy were allowed to undertake to enter. Because of the increasing desertions and refusals of obedience after the failures , the Austrians constantly lost their fighting strength. Many soldiers of Polish origin refused to fight when a battle broke out, or they defected in troops .

In the meantime, Dąbrowski's corps in Poznan had grown to 3,000 line troops and thousands of soldiers. He began rolling up Ferdinand's outpost from Płock to Czestochowa . On May 30th, he crossed the Bzura and advanced to Błonie ; a day later, Poniatowski's troops succeeded in building another bridgehead on the left of the Vistula near Wilanów south of Warsaw. Ferdinand thereupon, fearing an enclosure, evacuated Warsaw on the night of June 2 and hurriedly retreated south. On June 5th and 7th he tried in vain to take Sandomierz as a gateway for a reconquest of Galicia. In those days there were outbursts of rage and state attacks against the German minority in Warsaw after the popular return of the French resident and the government.

The intervention of Russia and the retreat of Ferdinand

On April 5, 1809, Tsar Alexander , as an ally of France and guarantor of the duchy, declared that he would not tolerate a disturbance of the peace in Europe and, after Austria declared war on France, recalled his envoy from Vienna. Since then, 48,000 men had gradually deployed in Białystok and Brest under Dmitri Vladimirovich Golitzyn . When the restoration of Poland became apparent in view of Poniatowski's successes, Alexander demanded in a meeting with the French ambassador in Saint Petersburg , Armand de Caulaincourt , that Galicia should be ceded to Russia in the event of Austria's defeat in the war with France. Although Caulaincourt assured that Napoleon had no intention of restoring Poland, Alexander let his troops slowly enter Galicia from the end of May or the beginning of June. Golitzyn, addressed personally by Poniatowski, did not value a common move against Ferdinand. He left a written request for help unanswered. During their further advance into Galicia, the Russian troops stayed to the right of the Vistula and avoided any engagement with the Austrians. During the subsequent occupation of eastern Galicia, the Austrians for their part withdrew without a fight from the Russians.

On June 18, after a bloody fight, Ferdinand succeeded in taking Sandomierz. Despite urgent calls for help from the defender Sokolnicki, strong Russian troops under General Carl Gustav von Sievers watched the conquest inactive. Sokolnicki had to surrender honorably and withdraw with 5000 men across the Pilica, where he met Dąbrowski. From Radom, Ferdinand ruled the area between Pilica and Vistula. One of his patrol corps appeared in front of Warsaw and triggered a mass panic there. Poniatowski had left the Russians disappointed and had concentrated his main forces in Puławy in the first days of July , where he had a bridge built over the Vistula. Poniatowski threatened to unite with Dąbrowski at Radom. In the meantime the balance of power had reversed. The duchy's army had grown to 24,000 men, plus around 30,000 irregulars. Ferdinand still had a maximum of 20,000 men. He began his retreat to Krakow , Sandomierz by dragging and gave the command to his generals Mondet and Mohr. Then he marched with some of his troops over the Jablunka Pass to the new main theater of war Moravia , where a decisive battle with Napoleon was developing. Poniatowski crossed the Vistula around July 8th, but was too late to catch Ferdinand.

With the intention of splitting Poniatowski's forces, Ferdinand had previously sent a 4,000-strong corps under Schauroth across the Vistula. He succeeded in an offensive across the San to Lemberg, which he captured at the end of June. When the Russians approached Lemberg shortly afterwards, Schauroth surrendered the city to them without surrender, very calmly, like one ally ceding a seat to another . The process was repeated over and over again. The Austrians recaptured a Galician town and shortly afterwards handed it over to the Russians who followed them without a fight, who immediately removed the white Polish eagle as a national emblem and replaced it with their black double-headed eagle. They did the same in all other places to the right of the Vistula. Napoleon asked the Poles to arbitrate the tensions that had arisen from this and let the Russians know that the Duchy's army was the IX. Corps of the Grande Armée and ordered the installation of its golden eagles in Galicia. Schauroth ended his train in mid-July in Bukovina , where the Russians did not follow him.

The end in Krakow

After small skirmishes on July 11th with Mohr and Mondet, Poniatowski's vanguard under General Rożniecki appeared on July 13th in victorious mood in front of Krakow, where the entry into the old capital of Poland was supposed to end the liberation campaign worthily. To avoid bloodshed and destruction, Rożniecki negotiated with Mondet to surrender the city on July 15th. When he was about to enter Krakow that morning, he found Russian guards at the city gates. On the night of the 15th, a mounted advance detachment from Golitsyn under Siever's command had occupied Krakow while the Austrians were withdrawing. During the day there were tumultuous scenes between the Russians and Poles, who were advancing at almost the same time. Poniatowski paved up to the handle of his sword ... his way through the ranks of the Russians . From a military point of view, Siever's forced march made no sense - the removal of Krakow was obviously intended to dampen the growing national self-confidence of the Poles. In order to prevent the mutual hatreds between the "Allies" from degenerating into shootings, Poniatowski and Sievers agreed on a common property in Krakow. When the Znojmo armistice became known shortly afterwards , they divided the city into two sectors, which were occupied by 15,000 Polish and 4,000 Russian soldiers. Otherwise, the Vistula and the Dunajec were the demarcation line between the Russian and Polish troops in the Galician areas evacuated by Austria for the next three months until the conclusion of peace, while Austrian units were still standing in the foothills of the Beskydy and Carpathian passes.


After the armistice, peace negotiations began in Hungarian Altenburg , which ended with the conclusion of peace in Schönbrunn in October. In the talks, which were conducted exclusively by Napoleon or his plenipotentiaries and the incumbent Austrian Foreign Minister, the question of whether Galicia was a member and the possibility of a restoration of Poland were also on the agenda. Both problems were solved in favor of Russia, which sat invisibly at the negotiating table as the partner of choice for both sides. It was allowed to enlarge again at Poland's expense, as Austria had to cede the Galician district of Tarnopol to it. The Duchy of Warsaw received Western Galicia and Zamość and the surrounding area. Furthermore, half of the income from the Wieliczka Salt Mine went to his seemingly potent Duke Friedrich August . As a result, his treasury money rose from 0.167 to 1.5 million talers.

Apart from symbolic downsizing, Austria remained in possession of the profits from the First Partition of Poland. The Polish question remained open, which drove the Poles towards a violent solution through a conflict with Russia. Twenty months later, Napoleon was to take advantage of this situation in his war with Russia until the political and economic potential of the duchy was completely ruined.

See also


  • Franz Schneidawind : The war of Austria against France, its allies and the Rhine Confederation in 1809 or detailed history of the campaigns in Germany, Italy, Poland and Holland; of the insurrections of Tyrol and Vorarlberg; of the uprisings in the Altmark and in Hesse. Schaffhausen 1842.
  • Claudia Reichl-Ham: "We come to truly free you". The Austrian campaign against the Duchy of Warsaw 1809. In: Heeresgeschichtliches Museum Wien (Hrsg.): From mercenary armies to UN troops. Armies and wars in Austria and Poland from the 17th to the 20th century. Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-902551-22-1 .

Individual evidence

  1. On the Austrian intentions see Alois Veltzé: War pictures from Poland, Styria and Hungary 1809. Vienna undated (1909) (= Emil von Woinowitch, kuk General of the Infantry, director of the kuk war archive, and kuk captain Alois Veltzé [ed. ]: The war year 1809 in individual representations, 11th volume), p. 1 f.
  2. Minerva. A journal of historical and political content. Hamburg, February 1810, p. 242.
  3. Wording in: Minerva. A journal of historical and political content. Hamburg, February 1810, p. 245.
  4. ^ On the alliance agreement of October 12, 1808 see Helmuth Rönnefarth: Conferences and Contracts. Contract Ploetz. A handbook of historically significant meetings, agreements, manifestos and memoranda. Part II: 1493-1952. Ploetz, Würzburg 1952, p. 107 f.
  5. Joseph a. Count Raczynski (ed. And transl.): Poland is not lost yet. From the diaries of Athanasius Raczynski. 1788 to 1818. Berlin 1984, p. 47.
  6. Partial reproduction of the wording in: Minerva. A journal of historical and political content, Hamburg, March 1810, p. 425ff.
  7. Claudia Reichl-Ham: “We come to truly free you”. The Austrian campaign against the Duchy of Warsaw 1809. In: Heeresgeschichtliches Museum Wien (Hrsg.): From mercenary armies to UN troops. Armies and wars in Austria and Poland from the 17th to the 20th century. Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-902551-22-1 , p. 89; on the recall of the envoy, see Heinrich August Pierer : Austrian War against France of 1809 . In: Universal Lexicon of the Present and the Past , 2nd edition, 21st volume. Pierer, Altenburg 1844, pp. 282–295, here p. 288.
  8. Minerva. A journal of historical and political content, Hamburg, March 1810, pp. 459ff.
  9. Joseph A. Graf Raczynski (Ed. And transl.): Poland is not yet lost. From the diaries of Athanasius Raczynski. 1788 to 1818. Berlin 1984, p. 50.
  10. On the negotiations: Friedrich Wencker-Wildberg in connection with Friedrich M. Kircheisen (ed.): Napoleon. The memoirs of his life, Volume 12, The campaign against Austria 1809. The second marriage. Russia 1812. Vienna, Hamburg, Zurich undated (1928-30), pp. 317-335 and Heinrich Ritter von Srbik: Metternich. The statesman and the person , Volume I, second edition, Munich 1944, pp. 118-122.