First coalition war

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The First Coalition War was the first war of a grand coalition initially consisting of Prussia , Austria and smaller German states against revolutionary France between 1792 and 1797 to defend the monarchy. The war began with Allied successes until the Valmy cannonade ended its advance on Paris. The revolutionary army went over to the counter-offensive and occupied various areas, including the Austrian Netherlands and parts of the Rhineland. As a result of the execution of Louis XVI. joined in 1793 among others Great Britain , the United Netherlands , Spain and from March 22, 1793 as part of an imperial war, the imperial estates of the Holy Roman Empire joined the coalition against the revolutionaries. The threat to France from almost all European monarchies was one of the reasons for the introduction of general conscription in the form of levée en masse . As a result, the French situation stabilized without either side being able to win the war. In 1795 Prussia and Spain left the war in the Treaty of Basel . Other German states also concluded separate peace. Austria did not continue the war without success.

With the Italian campaign of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796/97 a new dynamic came into the conflict. A number of Italian states were forced to peace or occupied by the French. Napoleon's victories in northern Italy eventually forced Austria to conclude the Peace of Campo Formio in 1797. Only Great Britain continued the war. In the end, revolutionary France had largely prevailed against the allied monarchies, achieved territorial gains and made the Rhine the German-French border.


In the first time after the beginning of the French Revolution, the kings and princes ruling in Europe on the border with France showed little inclination to militarily favor Louis XVI. to intervene. The events in France did not seem to disturb the balance of power. In terms of foreign policy, the Polish question and the Russo-Austrian Turkish War were the focus of attention. Many governments viewed the rise of Russia to a great power under Catherine II with concern . In the empire the tensions between Austria and Prussia increased before the Reichenbacher Convention brought them closer together. Domestically, various popular movements inspired by the French Revolution - for example in Ireland , in the United Provinces , in the Austrian Netherlands ( Brabant Revolution ), in the Hochstift Liège ( Liège Revolution ) and in some cantons of Switzerland ( Stäfnerhandel ) - were suppressed.

Most governments did not yet recognize what was fundamentally new in the movements. The British leadership initially had little interest in getting involved in the French monarchy. On the contrary, they were not reluctant to see a weakening of their long-standing opponent. Leopold II († March 1, 1792), the new, only briefly reigning Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, also did not intend any active counter-revolutionary engagement. He even welcomed - in the course of international developments - the first reforms of the French Revolution to a constitutional monarchy . However, the feudal and ecclesiastical legislation of the revolution violated the rights of the German imperial estates, especially in French-ruled Alsace, as guaranteed by the Peace of Westphalia of 1648. In 1790, the departments of Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin were created in Alsace, eliminating the last imperial rights and small territories. France offered to negotiate compensation. The estates concerned did not agree to this and called the Reichstag . The latter protested formally, but did not take any real countermeasures.

Return of Louis XVI. after the failed escape attempt

A certain turning point came from the failed attempt at escape by Louis XVI. from revolutionary Paris to Varennes on 20./21. June 1791. Leopold II responded with a circular to the governments in which he called for the protection of legitimacy. Initially, only Prussia followed suit on July 23rd. This led to the joint Austro-Prussian Pillnitzer Declaration of August 27th. The declaration stressed the powers' interest in a complete restoration of the monarchy in France. A military intervention was also announced, provided that all other European powers would participate. Despite all the rhetoric, this meant a de facto rejection of an intervention, since by no means all powers would participate in it. The Pillnitz Declaration was intended to intimidate the French and encourage them to behave moderately. The opposite was the case. Also because the spokesman for the emigrants, Count von Artois , brother of Louis XVI, interpreted the declaration as an ultimatum, the French willingness to conflict increased. At the beginning of 1792 France made the ultimate demand that the neighboring states should expel the emigrant troops by March 1st. Because of the death of Leopold II, the ultimatum was extended to April. His successor Franz II then concluded a defensive alliance with Prussia on March 18, 1792. The two sides involved guaranteed each other their respective acquis. On March 18, there was a new French ultimatum demanding the disarmament of Austria and the end of the alliance with Prussia. Franz II refused this. In France there were various forces interested in war. On the one hand, these were staunch revolutionaries who wanted to militarily secure what had been achieved. On the other hand, Louis XVI hoped. to be able to strengthen one's position.

French caricature on the Koblenz Manifesto

The open hostilities began on April 20, 1792, when Louis XVI, still the French head of state, declared war on Francis II not as emperor of the empire - he was only elected on July 5 - but as king of Hungary and Bohemia . The French hope of being able to limit and control military events to the Austrian Netherlands was deceptive. Prussia immediately declared war on France. Prussia and Austria hoped for a quick victory, wanted absolute rule by Louis XVI. restore and planned territorial gains. It was certain that France would not be able to hold out for long. In the anti-revolutionary Koblenz Manifesto of the Duke of Braunschweig it was announced that he did not want to make any conquests. At the same time, there was a threat of retaliation up to and including the complete destruction of Paris if the king were to receive even the “slightest insult”. This contributed to the strengthening of the will to resist in France.

Repercussions on France

The course of the war had a direct impact on the domestic political situation in France. Also under the influence of the Koblenz Manifesto, the Tuileries Tower took place on August 10 and the royal family was arrested. On September 21, the republic was proclaimed, on January 21, 1793 Louis XVI. executed. The French defeats in the spring of 1793 were an important factor in the overthrow of the Girondins and the Great Terror of the Jacobins . After the situation on the theater of war had turned back in favor of France, Robespierre's dictatorship lost support and was finally overthrown in 1794. The Thermidorians and the Directory could only maintain their position by continuing and expanding the war. When Great Britain offered peace negotiations in 1796/97, the compromising members of the Directory were overthrown on September 4, 1797.

General, officer and soldier of the line troops around 1795

The advance of the Allies in 1793 led to the introduction of conscription in France in the form of Levée en masse. The government proclaimed a general people's war and mobilized all forces to repel the enemy. There was some unrest against the draft, and only 300,000 recruits could be brought together instead of the 500,000 planned by the Welfare Committee . But the program was nonetheless successful. Over time, by working with professional soldiers, the recruits became seasoned soldiers. Relatively soon, government officials like Antoine de Saint-Just restored military discipline. Initially extremely poorly armed, the state succeeded in producing weapons and equipment in an unprecedented manner. From autumn 1793 he was able to suppress the internal uprisings and again record successes externally in the war.

Initially, the war was fought as a defensive war on the French side. Pressed by political immigrants, the National Convention proclaimed other peoples "who want to regain their freedom, fraternity and assistance." In fact, various areas were occupied without establishing subsidiary republics there. Danton justified this with the thesis of "natural limits". The republic thus followed a policy that Louis XIV had already pursued in a similar way. The Thermidorians later spoke openly of objectives of conquest. The contradiction was most evident in the proclamations of Napoleon Bonaparte as commander of the Italian army. To his starving soldiers he announced: “I want to lead you into the most fertile plains of the world. […] There you will find honor, fame and fortune. ”In contrast to the Italian public he announced:“ We wage war as magnanimous enemies and only against the tyrants who oppress you. ”

Members of the First Coalition

In chronological order according to entry and exit.

The aforementioned powers took part in the coalition to restore the French monarchy and prevent the revolutionary ideas from spreading. Different expectations of the outcome of a war against France - from the punishment of regicide to the enlargement of one's own territory - were particularly evident in the tense relationship between Prussia and Austria since the Silesian Wars . As a result, both waged "a poorly coordinated parallel war in which one or the other small victory could be achieved, but which remained largely unsuccessful."

Because of the loss of territory by imperial princes in Alsace and Lorraine and violations of the imperial territory by General Custine (including Upper Rhine, Palatinate, Frankfurt am Main), the imperial assembly decided on imperial war against France in November 1792 at the request of the emperor. The declaration of war did not take place until March 1793. According to the imperial constitution, the ten imperial districts each had to provide 2000–3000 infantry and 500–2000 cavalrymen.

The summoning of the Reichsarmee , the legality of the declaration of war, the financing and command of the contingents resulted in months of decision-making by the Reich estates, which reflected the differently pronounced will of the German states for the continued existence of the Reich. It was not until the spring of 1794 that various imperial troops were mobile. The Supreme Commanding Reichsfeldmarschall became Duke Albert von Sachsen-Teschen , a son-in-law of Maria Theresa. The fact that not all imperial estates provided their contingents and the Prussian generals refused to give him the order prompted him to resign. Most of the Reich troops were sent to the Upper Rhine Army under Feldzeugmeister Clerfait .

The coalition of Great Britain participated in the financing, especially of Prussia, Sardinia and the royalists in the uprising of the Vendée . In military terms, he was primarily engaged at sea for supremacy on the seas. Troops from the continent fought against France under British command.

The Bourbon- ruled Spain had to support the war against the French republic for family reasons. It expected, however , to regain the north of Catalonia, Roussillon , which was annexed to France by Louis XIV .

Through bilateral agreements with England, Portugal, the Papal States, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and other Italian states became coalitionaries. For fear of France's aggressive expansionist urge and z. Partly because of belonging to the House of Austria.

The Russian Tsarina Catherine the Great demanded the support of the French monarchy against the "French plague" and in 1795 concluded an alliance with England. Their military activities, however, served to partition Poland and secure the southern borders with the Ottoman Empire. After her death in 1796, Tsar Paul I let his navy become active against France in the Mediterranean .

The participation of imperial estates in the war using Baden as an example

The Margraviate of Baden had been requested by the Imperial Assembly on November 23, 1792 to provide its contingent for the Imperial Army . Baden was a member of the Swabian Imperial Circle . Since 1681 said the Reichsmatrikel how big the quotas of the various imperial districts would have to be. In Baden in 1792/93 the lower margraviate provided 10,700, the upper around 6,000 men, who were incorporated into the Austrian Upper Rhine Army with the Austrian-Breisgau contingent . This land contingent was seen as not very strong militarily and was mainly used to garrison the right bank of the Rhine fortresses of Kehl and Philippsburg (Speyer).

The margraves carried the highest military titles by birth. However, no special military deeds have come down to us from Margrave Karl Friedrich . He spent the time of the French invasions in Baden with his family outside of Baden. His third son, who later became Grand Duke Ludwig I, served as a general in the Prussian army of the Duke of Braunschweig until 1795 .

Baden's " standing army " of around two thousand men was subordinate to a corps of the Duke of York financed by England and operated against the French in the Austrian Netherlands in 1793/94 .

The pressure of the war and Prussia's departure from the coalition in 1795 enabled the Baden, anti-Austrian government circles under Sigismund von Reitzenstein - against margravial disapproval - to conclude a separate peace with France in August 1796.

The negotiated peace did not spare Baden the painful French or Austrian occupation costs until the Peace of Lunéville in 1801, nor did it get back its possessions on the left bank of the Rhine. But it was able to get rid of its obligations to the Reich and release its troops after almost three years of war.

Only a six hundred strong citizen corps from the Austrian city of Freiburg, which “had done well in the field” in 1796, was not disbanded on the imperial orders because of “glorious behavior”.


Campaign of 1792

Valmy cannonade

Militarily, the Allies were clearly superior at the beginning of the war. The Austrians had over 400,000 men in the Netherlands, on the Upper Rhine and in Piedmont. The Prussians had 250,000 soldiers. In addition there were 6,000 Hessians and 8,000 royalist emigrants. French data on military strength put the Allied troops on the northern border at 112,000 men and those of all revolutionary armies from the Upper Rhine to the Netherlands at 108,000 men.

France had an army of 114,000 line infantry , 27,000 cavalry and 10,000 artillery . Affiliated units of German, Irish and Swiss origin - mercenaries of the former royal army - were insignificant in terms of crew strength .

As expected, the French went on the offensive in what is now Belgium since April 20, 1792. Two armies, one under Rochambeau with 35,000 men and the other under Lafayette with 28,000 men, faced an Austrian army (35,000 men) under Albert von Sachsen-Teschen . The attacks were aimed at the fortresses of Namur , Mons , Tournai and Furnes . The French advance, which had speculated in vain to support an uprising by the Belgians, was successfully repulsed by the Austrians. Some French troops withdrew "in wild disorder across the border."

The main army of the Allies under Karl Wilhelm von Braunschweig with 82,000 men invaded France from Luxembourg. In the north, an army was to take the fortresses on the border with Luxembourg. In the south, an Austrian army was to advance against Saarlouis and Thionville . Longwy was handed over to the Prussians on August 20 , which led to the city's residents being declared traitors in Paris. The Allies also triumphed at Verdun (August 1792). The city itself surrendered after the defensive commander Nicolas-Joseph Beaurepaire was murdered. After the so-called cannonade of Valmy (September 20, 1792), the Duke of Braunschweig had to evacuate France and retreat to the Rhine due to supply problems due to continuous rain and a massive dysentery, especially of the Prussian troops.

The actually little significant battle - which was a cannonade lasting several hours with almost 500 dead and wounded and z. B. in the British military literature is counted among the "Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World" - ended the advance of the Allies and showed that, contrary to what was expected, France was quite capable of military action. After Valmy, the French attacked again in Belgium. In Paris on September 21, the National Convention replaced the National Assembly in government and abolished the monarchy. A process of republicanization began in the armies, old generals were replaced and volunteer units and national guards strengthened the line troops and the republican fighting spirit. Charles-François Dumouriez won the Battle of Jemappes on November 6, 1792 . Then the French were able to occupy the Austrian Netherlands.

On the Upper Rhine, Adam-Philippe de Custine and the Vosges Army conquered the fortress of Pruntrut (April 28, 1792) of the bishopric of Basel and occupied the monasteries of Speyer and Worms . The Electoral Palatinate , Mainz fortress and Frankfurt am Main (October 23, 1792) also came under French control. Frankfurt was recaptured on December 2nd by the troops of the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel under Prussian high command and the French were pushed back to the left bank of the Rhine.

A French southern army (40,000 men) conquered Savoy and the country was incorporated into France as the Département du Mont-Blanc. Also Nice was annexed (31 January 1793). By the end of 1792, the armies for the defense of the republic had become conquerors of foreign countries.

Campaign of 1793

At the end of 1792 the French National Convention had instructed its generals to proclaim popular sovereignty in the conquered countries, to abolish noble privileges and feudal taxes and to allow local administrations to be elected. The British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger , who had a pro-revolutionary opposition to his political opponents in England and saw the “balance of power” disrupted by France on the continent , became the driving force behind an expanded, counter-revolutionary war coalition. In order to counter the spread of revolutionary ideas and the armed forces' zeal for conquest, he committed the anti-French parties of the continent to England with subsidies and treaties. On February 1, 1793, the French National Convention therefore declared war on England and the Netherlands at the same time.

On March 22nd, the Holy Roman Empire also joined the alliance and declared Imperial War . Contingents for an imperial army were only made available with delays from 1794.

With the execution of Louis XVI. (January 21, 1793) the alliance was expanded to include the southern European states. The British fleet also blocked the French coasts. Ultimately, only Denmark, the Ottoman Empire, Poland, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland did not participate in the war.

Domestically, the French government was in an extremely critical position due to power struggles between the moderate and radical republicans, catastrophic economic conditions and the counter-revolutionary, royalist uprising of the Vendée .

Lazare Carnot at the Battle of Wattignies

General Dumouriez left a partial army of 46,500 men at Maastricht and attacked the Netherlands. However, he was defeated among other things at Neerwind on March 18, 1793 by the Austrians under Friedrich Josias von Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld . Dumouriez escaped a threatened charge and conviction by a revolutionary tribunal by fleeing and joining the Austrian side. His army returned across the border. Josias von Sachsen-Coburg did not pursue it, but waited until English and Dutch troops arrived. However, he drove the French out of the Conde area . He took this city as well as the fortresses of Valenciennes and Le Quesnoy . France was threatened with a second invasion by troops under Austrian command.

In the new Paris government, Lazare Carnot had assumed responsibility for military affairs and revolutionized the French military with the levée en masse , arming the people into a civil army full of patriotism, and selecting officers from the men. The assignment of greater independence to the commanders, which was taken over from the American struggle for independence, and the tactics of the "riflemen sent ahead in a broken line," the tirailleurs , showed initial successes against the mercenary troops of the coalition. “[...] Such anger and bravura as the enemy has, has never occurred to me or to the oldest officers. They fear no resistance [...] ”wrote a Prussian general in 1794.

A 118,000-strong coalition army under the command of the Duke of York and the Prince of Saxe-Coburg marched along the border of the Austrian Netherlands in the summer of 1793. The siege of Condé ended on July 12, while the siege of Valenciennes was successfully completed on July 28.

The Anglo-Dutch coalition troops under Wilhelm von Freytag suffered a heavy defeat against the French under Houchard in the Battle of Hondschoote on September 8, 1793 . Thereupon the Allies had to give up the siege of Dunkirk . On September 13th the siege of Le Quesnoy was ended, on the same day Houchard defeated the Dutch under the Prince of Orange in the Battle of Menin but was then defeated himself on September 15th at Courtrai by the Austrian Lieutenant Field Marshal de Beaulieu . On September 22nd, General Jourdan was appointed the new Commander-in-Chief of the 104,000-strong French Northern Army. The allied Austrians and Dutch under the Duke of Saxe-Coburg began the siege of Maubeuge fortress on September 30th . Jourdan's army, rushing to relief via Avesnes and Landrecies , defeated the Austrians on October 15 and 16 in the Battle of Wattignies , lifted the siege of Maubeuge and was able to regain the Austrian Netherlands.

The allies besieged Mainz from April to July 1793; the French surrendered after being assured of safe conduct. The Duke of Braunschweig won the Battle of Pirmasens on September 14 and the Battle of Kaiserslautern in November . There were disagreements between the commanders on both sides. With the Allies there was a dispute between the Duke of Braunschweig and the Austrian commander Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser . On the French side, Lazare Hoche and Jean-Charles Pichegru argued about how to proceed. Born in Strasbourg, Wurmser, who had penetrated into Alsace on his own, was defeated near Weissenburg on December 26th by troops of the Moselle Army under Division General Hoche, who thereby also lifted the blockade of the French fortress Landau . The Austrians then withdrew to the right bank of the Rhine and the Prussians as far as the Lower Rhine. The French Rhine-Moselle Army under the high command of Pichegru was able to control the left, Palatine Rhine side to the south of the Mainz fortress, which was still held by imperial troops .

On the Spanish border there were several less decisive battles, most of which ended in favor of the Spaniards. In the Italian theater of war, the Allies marched into Savoy , but soon withdrew. Opponents of the Jacobin government had opened the military port of Toulon to the English fleet on August 29th . French government troops besieged Toulon on September 18 and surrendered on December 18. The then 24-year-old artillery officer Napoleon Bonaparte showed his special military qualifications here for the first time.

Campaign of 1794

The introduction of compulsory military service (“ Levée en masse ”) made it possible to increase the number of French troops significantly. In June 1794 it was 730,000 men. A French source lists 670,000 and characterizes the situation with: "enough soldiers - too few good officers". The French armies are also said to have had significantly less cavalry than the coalition. The troops were in the Ardennes (40,000), in the Alps, in Piedmont and on the Pyrenees (100,000), on the west coast (80,000), on the northern border (250,000) and between the Moselle and Upper Rhine (200,000). The Moselle Army under General Jourdan covered the border between the Saar and Moselle, the Sambre Army under General Charbonnier secured between the fortresses of Namur and Charlemont and the Northern Army under Pichegru stood between Givet and Dunkirk .

The coalition gathered its main power in the Austrian Netherlands. There the Austrians had about 200,000 men, the English 26,000 and other allies over 32,000 men. 62,400 Prussians stood along the Upper Rhine from Mannheim to Basel, plus Austrians and Prince Condé's small French emigrant army . Here, as in the theaters of war in northern Spain, Savoy and Piedmont , the Allies were far inferior to the French in terms of manpower. For this they held several fortresses on the Rhine or to the left of the Rhine. Luxembourg with 25,000 and Mainz with 60,000 were probably the most heavily occupied places.

For the opening of the new campaign, Emperor Franz II arrived in Brussels on April 9th, accompanied by Archduke Charles, and on the 14th he left for the headquarters of the Prince of Saxe-Coburg in Valenciennes . Prince Coburg began the siege of the fortress Landrecies on April 17th with an army of 75,000 men, the French under General Henri Victor Roulland surrendered on April 30th. In the Battle of Tourcoing (May 17th and 18th) the isolated English wing of the Duke of York was defeated by the French under General Pichegru . The advancing French wanted to drive the allies out of the fortified positions near Tournai , but were defeated in the Battle of Tournai (May 22nd). A French army under Jean-Baptiste Jourdan marched up to help from the Moselle. When the French besieged the city of Charleroi , Coburg advanced with 46,000 men for relief. The Austrians suffered a heavy defeat at Fleurus on June 26th , with which the revolutionary troops initiated the turning point. The Austrians then had to finally give up the Netherlands . The Commander-in-Chief Prince Coburg was replaced on August 28 by Count Clerfait , who had to take his troops back to the Rur via the Maas line in mid-September . He went to Jülich again without success and had to evacuate the left bank of the Rhine . Kurköln was occupied by the French on October 6th and Bonn on October 10th. Meanwhile, Pichegru's army conquered the whole of the Netherlands. The Batavian Republic was proclaimed there on January 26, 1795 . This made peace with France on May 16, 1795.

The French Rhine Army under Claude Ignace François Michaud was about 36,000 men strong. Another army with 30,000 men was under Jean-Victor Moreau on the Moselle . On the middle Rhine - near Mainz and Trier - the Prussian-Saxon army under General Wichard von Möllendorff secured with about 55,000 men. The Austrian army on the Upper Rhine under Wurmser prepared an incursion into Alsace , an Austrian corps under Benjakowski (9,000 men) reinforced the Prussian corps Hohenlohe near Mainz to 18,000 men. Although the Prussians won twice at Kaiserslautern in May and September 1794, they withdrew across the Rhine and left the Palatinate to the French. The coalition fell into crisis when Prussia threatened to move most of the soldiers to the Polish border. It terminated the Treaty of The Hague on October 25 , in which Great Britain and the Netherlands had undertaken on April 19, 1794 to support Prussia with subsidies . With this, Prussia found safeguarding its own interests more important than the war in the west during the last Polish partition .

In January 1794 General Dugommier was appointed Commander in Chief of the Armée des Pyrénées Orientales . On April 30th he defeated the Spaniards under General Union at the Battle of Boulou and on August 13th again at San-Lorenzo de la Muga . On September 17, Dugommier succeeded in retaking Fort de Bellegarde , and on November 18, he fell during the Battle of the Black Mountain (French: Bataille de la Sierra Negra ). General Schérer was his successor.

Campaign of 1795

Karl of Austria-Teschen

In France, the reign of terror ended in July 1794, and a newly elected board of directors came to power. The new government continued the war against Great Britain, Austria and the Reich. With the Treaty of Basel on April 5, 1795, Prussia left the war. Most of the other German states from northern and central Germany followed suit on May 17 in the Treaty of Basel. Prussia effectively renounced its possessions on the left bank of the Rhine. In return, it received the approval of France to neutralize northern Germany, which thus came under Prussian rule. Prussia was to be compensated territorially for the loss of territory.

In Italy, the French faced 40,000 Austrians under Feldzeugmeister De Vins and the allied Sardinian army under Field Marshal-Lieutenant Colli . The French Italian army under General Schérer numbered 36,000 men, who were able to achieve some success. The French Alpine Army (35,000 men) under General Kellermann occupied the Little St. Bernhard Pass . In June 1795, De Vins and the Piedmontese tried to advance with 42,000 men on the Riviera to threaten Genoa, but because of differences of opinion with General Colli there were no decisive successes. The French then launched the counter-offensive. The Austrians under the new commander Field Marshal-Lieutenant Wallis were defeated on November 23 at Loano , the Sardinians on November 27 at Garessio. The allies had to retreat behind the Bormida on Dego on the one hand, and on Ceva on the other .

Spain left the coalition in July 1795. France withdrew its troops from the occupied Spanish territories and captured Santo Domingo and the Spanish part of Haiti .

With the Peace of Basel, France now had the opportunity to attack Austria in both Germany and Italy. The French blocked Luxembourg, which surrendered on June 6th. Jourdan's army concentrated over 70,000 men on the Rhine from Koblenz to the border with the Netherlands. The army under Pichegru stood with 56,000 men in the area from Koblenz to Basel. The Austrians were still under Wurmser with around 40,000 men on the Upper Rhine. Another 60,000 men under Clerfait stood south of the Mainz fortress and tried to regain the Palatinate. The allied imperial troops stood north between Mainz and the Lower Rhine and were primarily supposed to cover the Mainz area.

The Austrians gathered their troops near Schwetzingen for a new offensive. They also posted 34,000 men between Lahn and Wupper . On the other hand, the French were preparing to cross the Rhine. Jean-Baptiste Kléber crossed the river near Düsseldorf on September 6th and advanced in the Rhine Valley. The Austrians were pushed back over the Wupper and Sieg . On September 15, Neuwied was occupied. The other French wing then crossed the Rhine. Mainz was surrounded by French troops under General Schaal .

Pichegru crossed the Rhine near Mannheim . But he was defeated in the Battle of Handschuhsheim on September 24th and had to retreat to Mannheim. Wurmser advanced on the Neckar. Clerfait went on 10/11. October across the Main and advanced to Nidda . Thereupon Jourdan had to withdraw from Mainz and finally cross the Rhine. Wurmser struck Pichegru near Mannheim on October 18 and included its troops. On October 29th, Clerfait defeated the siege troops of Mainz on the left bank and pushed them back behind the Nahe into the Hunsrück . The fighting on the lower Nahe and the Hunsrück heights lasted until December. Because General Jourdan sent units from Koblenz for reinforcement, the Austrians did not succeed in breaking the connection between the Rhine and Moselle armies in the Palatinate and the Sambre and Maas armies . The French, on the other hand - inadequately equipped, undersupplied and weakened by massive desertion - could not recapture the fortress of Mainz in order to counteract the threat to their conquests on the left bank of the Rhine. General Jourdan doubted the stamina of his troops in a wintry, repeatedly plundered region and planned to move back to the Lower Rhine.

General Marceau and Feldzeugmeister Kray , who were facing each other on the battle line, agreed on a ceasefire on December 19.

Civil war in the Vendée

General Lazare Hoche

After the suppression of the royalist uprisings in the Vendée (end of 1793), the anti-republic core was limited mainly to mugging and criminal guerrilla warfare in 1794 , known as Chouannerie . In February 1795, important leaders of the Vendée signed the Treaty of La Jaunaye. The Chouans, who agreed a peace treaty in La Mabilais the following April after violent internal disputes, were less willing to compromise. The republican side was not expected to comply with the treaty and the military pressure on the rebels increased, but tried to win the population for the republican state by means of conciliation.

In June 1795 there was the long-awaited arrival of royalist troops and English relief supplies in the bay of the Quiberon peninsula near Carnac . Lured by promises of money, weapons and food and the arrival of the royal prince and future king, Comte d'Artois , to restore the monarchy, several thousand Chouans are said to have gathered in the Morbihan department despite peace agreements . Inadequate planning and coordination among each other caused chaotic conditions at the landing sites. They were beaten, disarmed and executed by the commander in chief of the republican armies of the West, including General Lazare Hoche on the peninsula, by the end of July. In the summer of 1796, the pressure on the Chouans also increased. General Hoche formed small, mobile units which, by tracking down and smashing the Chouantrupps, forced the chiefs to surrender.

Campaign of 1796

With the official armistice of January 1, 1796 were the two French revolutionary armies, the Sambre-Meuse Army under General Jourdan strong, about 76,000 men, and the Rhein-Mosel-army of about 77,000 men, led by General Moreau , by the main armed forces of the Imperial Army were separated. In February 1796 Archduke Karl was appointed Reichsfeldmarschall and, as the successor to Count Clerfait, took over the supreme command of all imperial troops on the Rhine front. With the main part (approx. 69,000 men) of the imperial army, he occupied the Palatinate of Karlsruhe , in an arc over Kaiserslautern , the Nahe valley , the Hunsrück ridge to the upper Middle Rhine, a large part of the left bank of the Rhine .

To the north and south of this position, the Austrians stayed on the right bank of the Rhine. The left, southern wing was commanded by Wurmser . His troops (approx. 82,000 men) were deployed from Hüningen near Weil am Rhein via Philippsburg and Mannheim to Kaiserslautern and had no fortified positions between Basel and Philippsburg. However, the situation on the right, northern flank was even more difficult. Although the Ehrenbreitstein fortress was owned by the Austrians here, the demarcation line along the Agger and the victory laid down in the Treaty of Basel enabled Jourdan to stand with one foot on the right bank of the Rhine and to have a bridgehead with Düsseldorf . The Austrian wing, only about 23,000 strong, under the Prince of Württemberg , was stretched on the eastern bank of the Rhine between Neuwied (on the Rhine) and Altenkirchen, about 35 km further north. Upstream a line of outposts along the Sieg, which flows into the Rhine opposite Bonn.

Operational areas of the four revolutionary armies and the coalition troops in 1796

As early as March, the Directory had instructed its commanding generals to prepare the armies for a new campaign, because Austria was expected to break the ceasefire agreement prematurely. Generals Jourdan and Moreau, however, declared - without success - that they were unable to engage in combat due to a lack of equipment.

During these years France had practically no means to support its troops in the areas on the left bank of the Rhine that had been conquered up to now. The campaign plan drawn up by Carnot therefore had the most urgent goal of "feeding the armies in enemy territory, separating the imperial princes from the emperor and threatening the hereditary states (meaning the hereditary lands of the House of Austria)." contain the specified requirements for the commanders: the highest possible contribution payments in cash for the republic, valuables and art treasures - e.g. B. in Frankfurt am Main and others the Golden Bull , cult objects from the imperial coronation ceremonies, paintings by Italian masters from the cathedral, payments in kind and services for the troops on site, etc.

The ceasefire agreement stipulated that there was a 10-day period between its termination and the start of hostilities. Contrary to the advice of Archduke Karl and General Wurmser, the idea in Vienna was that the French could be ousted across the Moselle, seized the fortress of Landau and Alsace and besieged Strasbourg as early as winter . On May 21, Austria terminated the armistice and set the start of hostilities on June 1.

The theater of war in southern Germany

On the orders of Jourdan, General Kléber crossed the Rhine with two divisions on May 31, marching towards Sieg, where there was a first meeting . After that he took Altenkirchen and included the Ehrenbreitstein fortress . Jourdan's orders read: “To respect no other territory than that of the King of Prussia and the Landgrave of Hesse, to levy heavy war taxes in cash everywhere, to live at the expense of the country, but to give receipts, to receive the strictest discipline, the residents of the country protect those who pay their war taxes correctly, but burn towns and villages that resist and take up arms. ”Jourdan also crossed the right bank of the Rhine near Neuwied with the main army . Because the Austrians had to surrender 25,000 men for the war in Italy, their generals behaved relatively defensively. Nevertheless, Archduke Karl won the Battle of Wetzlar over Jourdan on June 15 . The majority of his troops went back to the left bank of the Rhine, because he had achieved the minimum goal of drawing the main power of the Austrians on himself and thus enabling the Rhine and Moselle armies to cross the Rhine south of Mannheim. Kléber had to give up the encirclement of Ehrenbreitstein and, against Jourdan's express instruction, while retreating on June 19, he engaged in a superfluous, loss-making battle with the Austrians at Kircheib . On June 21, he withdrew to the fortified camp in Düsseldorf .

The command of the Austrian army on the Upper Rhine passed from Wurmser to Maximilian Baillet von Latour . In this theater of war, Moreau went back to the right bank of the Rhine on June 24 and was initially successful. Archduke Karl came to the aid of the troubled troops with 60,000 men, but was unsuccessful and had to withdraw to Mannheim.

On the Lower Rhine , too , the Sambre and Maas armies went on the offensive again and reached deep into Franconia by August without defeating the Austrians in a decisive, major battle. Archduke Karl was able to record victories like in the Battle of Malsch (July 9, 1796), but had to retreat to Lower Bavaria for the time being.

The conclusion of a separate peace by Württemberg (August 7, 1796), Baden (August 22, 1796) and Bavaria's withdrawal from the coalition (Pfaffenhofen armistice, September 7, 1796) weakened the Austrian position.

Archduke Karl nevertheless successfully attacked Moreau on August 11 near Neresheim . On August 22nd he defeated a French division under General Bernadotte near Deining . On August 24th he defeated Jourdan in the Battle of Amberg , on September 1st and 3rd in the Battle of Würzburg and liberated Frankfurt on September 8th. After the Battle of Limburg on September 16, Jourdan ultimately had to retreat across the Rhine with heavy losses and handed over command of the Sambre and Maas Army to General Beurnonville . Moreau, too, had retreated with his Rhine-Moselle army. He was defeated by the combined troops of the Archduke and Latours on October 24 at Schliengen and also had to retreat across the Rhine.

The unsatisfactory result for France of the 1796 campaign in Germany had several causes. The strategy originally developed by Carnot of two separate, largely independently operating armies, which were to unite deeply (planned for Regensburg) in southern Germany in a common strike against the main Austrian power, turned out to be impracticable: the Austrian army did not face a major, decisive battle , but instead forced the French to retreat to a wide-ranging expansion of their troops, whose supply and communication with one another became more and more difficult. The Directory, dissatisfied with the course of the campaign, did nothing to help, but prescribed the generals their movements, demanded faster maneuvers, and repeatedly referred to the example of General Bonaparte's more successful approach in northern Italy.

With Archduke Karl in command, the Austrian side had the advantage of a single authority, largely undisturbed by Vienna at the battle sites. In this way, the French could be pushed back to the left bank of the Rhine, where a poor stage life awaited them for the time being.

Campaign 1796/97

Napoleon fighting for the Arcole bridge

Napoleon Bonaparte was appointed the new Commander-in-Chief of the French Army of Italy (Armée d'Italie) and arrived in Nice on March 27, 1796 . He found the French troops in poor condition. Of the estimated troop strength of 106,000 men, only about 31,000 were available, and they were also poorly armed and malnourished. The Austrian army in northern Italy had taken over Feldzeugmeister Beaulieu and numbered about 42 battalions and 44 squadrons, while the allied Sardinian troops numbered about 30,000 men; the total strength was around 80,000 men and 200 guns.

Bonaparte's troops forced Sardinia-Piedmont to peace after the Battle of Mondovi (April 22). He then defeated the Austrians on May 10 at the Battle of Lodi and marched into Milan on May 16 . The Austrians went back over the Mincio and threw themselves into the fortress of Mantua . The French subjugated all of northern Italy, and Bonaparte made peace with the Kingdom of Naples . The siege of Mantua was taken up by the French and the fortress was blocked for about six months. At the end of June 1796, Field Marshal Wurmser was entrusted with the supreme command of the Austrian Army in Italy, he forced the French from July 29th to August 12th to temporarily lift the siege of Mantua, but had to withdraw on September 13th after August 5th Defeat at Castiglione - throw the ruins of his army back into the fortress. The Austrians tried three more times to relieve the fortress with new troops under Alvinczy . The French troops initially thrown against the Austrians were thrown back on November 12 at Caldiero by the Austrian avant-garde under the Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen . Bonaparte prevented Mantua's free fight by further great victories at Arcole (November 15-17 ) and Rivoli . After the surrender of Mantua (February 3, 1797), Bonaparte also made peace with the Papal States (February 19, 1797). Then he invaded Styria regardless of his supply lines . However, a union with the French Rhine Army after it was pushed back was out of the question. Napoleon concluded the armistice of Judenburg with Archduke Karl (April 7, 1797). On April 18, 1797, Bonaparte concluded the Preliminary Peace of Leoben with the Austrian government .

Europe after the peace of Basel and Campoformio

In German, right bank of the Rhine area had General Hoche , meanwhile, started the Sambre and Meuse army in April 1797 an invasion ( Battle of Neuwied , April 18, 1797) that the French within a week to the Wetterau and Frankfurt brought . The aim of this campaign were more favorable negotiating positions for the upcoming peace negotiations with the Reich, relief for Napoleon's operations in the south and, possibly also Hohe's ambition, not to leave General Bonaparte a victory over the Austrians alone. With the armistice in connection with the preliminary peace of Leoben , the campaign had to be broken off.

The war with Austria finally ended with the Peace of Campo Formio (October 17, 1797).

Sea and colonial war

The beginning of the revolution led to a weakening of the French fleet (details here ). There was unrest, noble officers left the service and the new commanders were little experienced. It was the conquest of the Austrian Netherlands that posed a strategic threat from the perspective of the British government and navy. This was the main reason Britain entered the war. The British provided naval support for their allies' land operations, particularly in the Mediterranean. British warships also chased French merchant ships, protected their own trade convoys and blocked French ports. The French leadership initially had nothing to oppose the British fleet and therefore concentrated on land war.

Sea battle at Camperduin

The capture and defense of Toulon in 1793 was a joint, ultimately unsuccessful, action by the British Army and Navy. An expedition to the West Indies at the beginning of 1794 was also a joint venture between the navy and the army and led to the conquest of almost all of the French islands. A year later there was a French counterattack under Victor Hugues and, among other things, the recovery of Guadeloupe . After the withdrawal of the British fleet, also caused by epidemics, the British were expelled from most of the islands of the Antilles except for Jamaica and Barbados .

To prevent a famine, France had bought large quantities of grain from America. A British fleet intercepted the convoy and defeated the accompanying French fleet on June 1, 1794 in the naval battle on the 13th Prairial . In the Mediterranean, the British conquered Corsica a short time later, allied with anti-French insurgents .

After the Netherlands was occupied by the French and became the Batavian Republic, the British occupied the Cape Colony , Ceylon, and other Dutch possessions in India and the West Indies. An attempt at a French invasion of Ireland failed in 1796, as did a Dutch attempt at recapture in the Cape Colony ( surrender in Saldanhabucht ). In the same year the British evacuated Corsica. The British defeated the Spaniards, who were now allied with France (details here ), in February 1797 in the sea ​​battle at Cape St. Vincent . In the same year there were major mutinies in the British fleet. In October 1797, a British fleet defeated a fleet of the Batavian Republic in the naval battle at Camperduin .


In the end, only Great Britain remained as a noteworthy opponent of war. Peace negotiations failed in 1797 over the issue of the Cape Colony and Ceylons . British domestic politics went through a serious crisis. On the continent, the French Republic annexed the Austrian Netherlands and transformed the Republic of the Seven United Provinces into the Batavian Republic . In Italy and Switzerland, France founded subsidiary republics between 1796 and 1799. The French Republic had also temporarily gained naval dominance in the Mediterranean, and Spain had been its ally since 1796.

With regard to the compensation for lost territories on the left bank of the Rhine, the Berlin Treaties of August 1796 had made important preliminary decisions. For example, Prussia was to be compensated by parts of the Münster bishopric and Vest Recklinghausen in the Electorate of Cologne . Hesse, too, should contain compensation with the help of secularizations . The Hochstifte Bamberg and Würzburg should fall to the House of Orange . When Württemberg and Baden left the war, they had to give up their possessions on the left bank of the Rhine. They too were assured of compensation through spiritual property. The large-scale secularizations, which were decided by the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss in 1803 , were already planned at this time. According to the Basel Treaties, the Holy Roman Empire was effectively divided into two parts. Prussia ruled the north. In the south, Austria dominated the other states in an extreme way. Reich political initiatives of Third Germany no longer had a chance. Against this background, the imperial concept lost even more importance.

In the Peace of Campo Formio Austria recognized the French annexation of the left bank of the Rhine . The secular imperial estates affected were to be compensated by areas of the ecclesiastical imperial estates to the right of the Rhine ( secularization ). In addition, Austria renounced the Austrian Netherlands and Lombardy. Venice received it for this. The Grand Duke of Tuscany was compensated by the Breisgau . The archbishopric of Salzburg and parts of Bavaria were to fall to Austria. Apart from the fact that parts of the empire were ceded, Austria abandoned the Germania sacra , the ecclesiastical imperial estates as an essential pillar of the empire, by recognizing the secularizations .

The peace between the empire and France and the territorial consequences have been negotiated at the Rastatt Congress since the end of 1797 . On March 11, 1798, the Congress approved the cession of the left bank of the Rhine to France. Later he also accepted the principle of secularization. Only the three ecclesiastical electoral principalities should be excluded from this. Subsequent issues of detail were disputed until the Second Coalition War began in 1799 . The congress thus ended without a resolution.


Before 1918

After 1918

  • Elisabeth Fehrenbach : From the Ancien Regime to the Congress of Vienna . Munich 2001.
  • Gerhard Taddey (ed.): Lexicon of German history . People, events, institutions. From the turn of the times to the end of World War II. 2nd, revised edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 1983, ISBN 3-520-81302-5 , pp. 683f.
  • Max Plassmann: The Prussian imperial politics and the peace of Basel 1795. Yearbook Stiftung Preuss. Palaces and Gardens, Berlin-Brandenburg, Volume 4, 2001/2002. ( )
  • Rolf E. Reichardt: The blood of freedom. French Revolution and Democratic Culture. Frankfurt am Main 1998.
  • David G. Chandler: Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars, New Edition, London 1993
  • Jürgen König: The Hunsrück in French times 1789–1814, dissertation print Darmstadt 1995, ISBN 3-9804416-0-1 .
  • Anette Borchardt-Wenzel: Karl Friedrich von Baden. Man and legend. Gernsbach 2006, ISBN 3-938047-14-3 .
  • Karl Stiefel : Baden 1648–1952. Volume I and II. Karlsruhe 1977.
  • Uwe A. Oster: Grand Duke Ludwig I. Gernsbach 2012, ISBN 978-3-938047-62-0 .
  • Stefan Winkle: The epidemic of the Napoleonic campaigns - Prologue Valmy 1792. (PDF; 659 kB) In: Häb , 2/07, pp. 58–63.

Web links

Commons : First Coalition War  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Larger units of the imperial army did not take part in the war until 1795, but according to general judgment they had no decisive effect on the war.
  2. ^ "General conscription" was not introduced until 1798 in connection with General Jourdan's army reforms. Here it was the recruiting of 300,000 recruits, which led to great unrest in many regions, for whose selection and provision the municipality was responsible (February 1793)
  3. ^ Elisabeth Fehrenbach: From the Ancien Regime to the Congress of Vienna . Munich 2001, pp. 43–45.
  4. Michael Kotulla: German constitutional history . Berlin 2008, p. 219.
  5. ^ Elisabeth Fehrenbach: From the Ancien Regime to the Congress of Vienna . Munich 2001, p. 45f.
  6. a b c Andreas Fahrmeir: Revolutions and reforms. Europe 1789–1850 , Munich 2010, p. 64.
  7. ^ Andreas Fahrmeir: Revolutions and reforms. Europe 1789–1850 Munich 2010, p. 65.
  8. ^ Elisabeth Fehrenbach: From the Ancien Regime to the Congress of Vienna . Munich 2001, pp. 46-48.
  9. Simon Schama: The hesitant citizen. Step backwards and progress in the French Revolution . Munich 1989, pp. 752-756.
  10. ^ Elisabeth Fehrenbach: From the Ancien Regime to the Congress of Vienna . Munich 2001, p. 47.
  11. M. Plassmann: The Prussian Reich Policy ... p. 135 ff.
  12. Friedrich Wilhelm von Schütz: History of the wars in Europe since the year 1792, 1st part, Leipzig 1827. Alfred von Vivenot: Duke Albrecht von Sachsen-Teschen as Reichsfeldmarschall, Volume 1, Vienna 1864. Great General Staff (ed.): The Seven Years War . Volume 5. Berlin 1903,
  13. The Kingdom of Sardinia received £ 200,000 in 1793 alone. (Friedrich Wilhelm von Schütz: History of the wars in Europe since 1792. Part 1, Leipzig 1827, p. 163 f.)
  14. ^ Rolf E. Reichardt: The Blood of Freedom, Frankfurt am Main 1998.
  15. ^ Richard Suchewirth: German History, Leipzig 1934.
  16. ^ Karl Stiefel: Baden 1648–1952. Volume I, p. 104 ff.
  17. ^ Oster: Grand Duke Ludwig I, p. 24 ff.
  18. Borchardt-Wenzel: Karl Friedrich von Baden, p. 240.
  19. ^ Karl Stiefel: Baden 1648–1952. Volume II, p. 1008.
  20. FW v. Schütz: History of the wars in Europe since 1792. From p. 6.
  21. ^ A. Hugo, France militaire. Histoire ... Vol. 1.
  22. v. Schütz cites figures from the Swiss military historian General Jomini from p. 6 onwards .
  23. ^ Francois Furet, Denis Richet: The French Revolution . Frankfurt am Main 1981, p. 222 f.
  24. General Beaurepaire committed suicide in various descriptions of Verdun's surrender. For example in 1827 in History of the Wars in Europe since 1792. Vol. 1, p. 48, in Goethe's Campagne in France and in 1838 in A. Hugo: France militaire… Vol. 1, p. 3.
  25. ^ David G. Chandler: Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars. London 1979, p. 455 ff.
  26. A. v. Vivenot: Duke Albrecht v. Saxony-Teschen ... p. 204 f.
  27. He had publicly opposed the warfare and politics of the National Convention, campaigned for a government overthrow among his colleagues and established contacts with the commanders Mack and the Prince of Coburg . In A. Thiers: Gesch. d. French Revolution, Vol. 2 and 3
  28. ^ Karl Stiefel: Baden 1648–1952 . I. Volume. Karlsruhe 1979, p. 1010 f.
  29. ^ Ludwig I (1763-1830), Margrave of Baden: Politische Correspondenzen II, Bad. Hist. Commission (Ed.), Karlsruhe 1888, p. 83.
  30. Adolphe Thiers : History of the French State Revolution , Volume 3, p. 460ff.
  31. on the then fortress Mainz see also Elmar Heinz: Ein Kampf um Mainz. The fortress between Kurmainz, French, Prussia and Habsburg 1793–1797 ( online ). In: Michael Matheus , Walter G. Rödel (eds.): Building blocks for the history of the city of Mainz. Mainz Colloquium 2000 . Stuttgart 2002 (Geschichtliche Landeskunde, Volume 55), ISBN 3-515-08176-3 .
  32. ^ Elisabeth Fehrenbach : From the Ancien Regime to the Congress of Vienna. Munich 2001, p. 45.
  33. Biographie des célébrités militaires des armées de terre et de mer de 1789 à 1850 , p. 457.
  34. ^ Heinrich August Winkler : History of the West: From the beginnings in antiquity to the 20th century , Munich 2010, p. 371.
  35. J. König, Der Hunsrück ... p. 35ff. and AH Jomini, Histoire critique ..., Vol. 7, pp. 262ff.
  36. Joseph Hansen: Sources for the history of the Rhineland in the age of the French Revolution. Bonn 1931-1938, Vol. 3, p. 713
  37. ^ Johann Bachoven von Echt: Memories of the History of the Campaign of 1796, published in Koblenz in 1823, p. 16ff.
  38. History of the campaign in Germany in 1796, pp. 110–112.
  39. A. v. Real, Memories ..., Part II, p. 14
  40. Adolphe Thiers : Gesch. d. French Revolution, Vol. 5, p. 168.
  41. ^ Letter from the Directory of July 20, 1796 to Jourdan, in A. v. Really, Memories ..., p. 37
  42. ^ Orders from Jourdans to Kléber dated May 26, 1796 in A. v. Real, Memories ..., Part III, p. 20
  43. Especially the Sambre and Maas armies, which had to move into winter quarters in the barren Hunsrück and the Eifel, became a terrible example of a ruthless occupation army without discipline and without strict leadership. Sources on this can be found in Joseph Hansen , Sources for the history of the Rhineland ..., Vol. 2, Bonn from 1931
  44. ^ A. Hugo: France militaire .., Vol. 2, Sn. 169ff
  45. EB Potter (Ed.): Sea Power. A Naval History . Naval Institute Press, Annapolis 1961, pp. 54-63.
  46. Axel Gotthard: The Old Empire 1495–1806 . Darmstadt 2009, pp. 154–157.
  47. ^ Elisabeth Fehrenbach: From the Ancien Regime to the Congress of Vienna . Munich 2001, p. 48.
  48. ^ Heinrich August Winkler : History of the West: From the beginnings in antiquity to the 20th century , Munich 2010, p. 371.