Battle at Sankt Michael

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Battle at Sankt Michael
date May 25, 1809
place Sankt Michael in Upper Styria
output French victory
Parties to the conflict

France 1804First empire France Italy
Italy 1805Italy 

Austrian EmpireEmpire of Austria Austria


Eugène de Beauharnais
Paul Grenier
Jean Mathieu Seras

Franz von Jellacic
Konstantin Ettinghausen
Ignaz von Legisfeld

Troop strength
15,000 men 8,000 men

670 men

6,573 men

Sankt Michael today, with a view of the Pyhrnautobahn

The battle of St. Michael on May 25, 1809 was a side operation during the 5th Coalition War (one of a total of six Napoleonic Wars ). The left wing of the French-Italian army of Viceroy Eugene de Beauharnais advancing on Vienna came into contact with an Austrian division led by Franz von Jellacic . The march back in to Leoben conceived Division was part of the French VI. Corps under General Paul Grenier intercepted and completely defeated.


Archduke Johann , the commander of the Army of Inner Austria , invaded Italy in the course of the war of 1809 and was initially able to achieve successes at Pordenone and Sacile on April 14th and 16th . As a result of the collapse of the main Austrian army under his brother Archduke Karl an der Donau , he received orders to retreat to Carinthia . This allowed Eugène to recover and in turn to initiate the persecution. On May 8th, he defeated Johann's troops in the Battle of the Piave and pursued them to the Predilpass . By separating different units for the defense of Salzburg, Tyrol and Krain and the return of militia units on the orders of the Emperor was Army Johanns additionally weakened that their initial combat capability was not given more. The bulk of the French Italian army under Paul Grenier followed Archduke Johann's troops to Carinthia and later to Upper Styria. At the same time Eugène sent his V Corps under Jacques MacDonald to Carniola to meet with XI. Unite Corps under Marmont from Dalmatia and relocate the Austrians to the Adriatic Sea. Johann wanted to regroup his troops at Pettau , but Macdonald's advance prevented this. Eugen forced the crossing at Malborgeth and the Predilpass and beat Johann's rearguard again on May 17th in the battle near Tarvisio . Johann's position in Villach was now untenable and his army marched via Klagenfurt in an easterly direction towards Graz.

Strategic overview

Since May 11th, the VII Corps, consisting of Bavarian troops , under the new commander General Lefebvre, was marching into the rebellious Tyrol , which the weak Landwehr troops under Johann Gabriel von Chasteler , defeated at Wörgl on May 13th , could not stop. The Bavarian 2nd Division under Wrede advanced over the Strubpass into the Inn Valley , the Bavarian 3rd Division under Deroy broke into the country from the north via Kufstein . The Bavarian 1st Division under Crown Prince Ludwig covered this invasion to the east from the independently operating division of FML Franz Freiherr von Jellacic. As a result of Chasteler's defeat, the Jellacic division that had become vacant went back from the Pinzgau . The return march reached Radstadt on May 19 ; here the order of Archduke Johann arrived at Jellacic to immediately return his forces to Graz , where he wanted to unite with him. Meanwhile, Johann's weakened army marched east via Klagenfurt and reached Graz on May 24th. He wanted to strengthen himself there with the help of the General Commander of Inner Austria, FZM Wilhelm Freiherr von Kerpen by the Croatian Landwehr.

Persecution through Upper Styria

Franz Jellačić
General Joseph François Durutte

On May 21st, the Jellačić division was in Schladming , the Bavarians who were standing near Golling north of the Lueg Pass and in the Lammertal, only now became fully aware of the departure of the Austrians from the Pongau . After the uprising in Tyrol had calmed down, weak Bavarian forces began to move behind Jellačić in the direction of Leoben on May 24th. To secure the passes in the Ennstal, Jellačić had left Lieutenant Colonel Plunkett behind with a regular battalion and Landwehr. From May 21st Eugen had Napoleon's orders in his hands to bring his troops to the Danube immediately by the shortest route for the decisive battle; he took the route via Neumarkt through the Mur Valley via Knittelfeld to Leoben. Therefore, on 23 May, came unexpectedly in Judenburg to a first small clash between the Kavallerievorhut Eugene with the Jellacic imputed first Judenburger Landwehr battalion, the two sides revealed the presence of the enemy. As a precaution, Jellačić had already pushed parts of his Infantry Regiment Esterhazy No. 32 from Rottenmann to Trofaiach on May 21st to protect the road from Hieflau to Leoben. On June 24th, Eugen in Unzmarkt received news from a reliable source that Jellačić was approaching Leoben via Rottenmann and the Schoberpass and decided to move the Austrians near St. Michael himself from the south.

Before the start of the battle, the Jellačić division was still about 10,500 men strong after its duties, the first brigade with the regular regiments No. 32 and 45 led Major General Konstantin von Ettinghausen , the second brigade with the regiment No. 55 and the border guards regiment 5 led Major General Ignaz Freiherr von Legisfeld . The division under Pierre-François Durutte involved in the battle on the French side consisted of the two brigades Valentin and Dessaix , plus the avant-garde brigade Roussel, part of the division Jean Mathieu Seras , together around seven line regiments and two cavalry units, each with artillery Each side can be used for about 10 cannons. On May 24th, after a march of 41 kilometers, the majority of the Austrians stood in the Mautern - Kalwang area . Eugen reached Knittelfeld (Durutte) and Judenburg (Seras) through the Mur valley.

The battle on May 25th

The Varasdiner Grenzer Regiment No. 5 advanced as vanguard in the Liesingtal through Traboch from 3 a.m. , while the majority of the Legisfeld Brigade did not leave Mautern until 4.30 a.m. At about 7 a.m. she reached the village of Steinach along the Liesing to the south and tried to reach the village of Brunn to the south-west of the slab, the Rideaurand, the so-called "Bruch", reaching up to the apron of St. Michael and rising up to 15 meters. get in hand. The village of St. Michael was north of the Mur at the intersection where the streets of Judenburg and Mautern join towards the east. The "break" ran steadily down towards the Mur for about one and a half kilometers to the apron southwest of St. Michael and formed a natural line of defense directed towards the southwest. South of St. Michael the Liesing also flows into the Mur, to the west of the village the northern Murtal opened to a width of about one kilometer and reached as far as the Fresenberg, on this territory the fighting took place. Jellacic had planned to march on immediately via Leoben, but still tried to occupy the plate that offered excellent defense opportunities.

Around 8:30 in the morning, his avant-garde under General Ettinghausen met those of the French Seras division, the latter had immediately seized the more western "breach" with its right wing to Brunn and posted two cannons near the St. Walburga Church. Jellacic had to wait for his rearguard, his train was constantly being pushed through from Traboch to Leoben. The “Bruch” was well chosen as a defense line to the southwest, but it only had two small bridges over the Liesing for the retreat, in the event of a defeat for the troops, which would later be fatal. Along the old Kohlstrasse on the densely wooded slopes of the Fresenberg to the church of St. Waldburga, a right wing had already established itself with Salzburg Landwehr troops. General Seras and his 5000 men skilfully held the Austrians by skirmishing until the main power of Eugen had approached. The Austrian retreat to Leoben could only go on undisturbed if the French were pushed back, so Jellacic had the breach line up at around 10 o'clock. Parts of the 32 Line Regiment that had arrived under Colonel Eckhardt attacked successfully and by 11 a.m. the plate had been captured and prepared for defense. The defense of this section was now the responsibility of the Brigadier von Legisfeld who had arrived, while General Ettinghausen took care of the consolidation of the wing in front of the Liesing southwards to St. Michael, where the line regiments Esterhazy No. 32 and de Vaux No. 45 moved in. Jellacic also brought out several guns and thus saw his march back sufficiently secured. But instead of just leaving a rear guard on the enemy and ensuring the march on, he allowed himself to be tempted to continuously reinforce the position with the whole division. General Ettinghausen warned about the poor possibility of retreat in case of defeat. In his correct view, the division would have just advanced through St. Michael and would have found far better possibilities for defense in the subsequent narrower valley.

Around 11 o'clock Viceroy Eugen and his corps leader Grenier also appeared, they overlooked the situation from the village of Kaisersberg, seeing the enemy colonies in front of them, Durutte's division was already on the march. In the short final battle that followed, the Austrians had about 10th battalions with 8,000 men and 4 guns at their disposal, but the French had 28 battalions with 15,000 men, including 4 cavalry squadrons and 12 guns, by the afternoon. The French Line Regiment 62 crossed the bridge south of Kaisersberg and advanced on the right bank of the Mur against the left wing of the Austrians. Already at 1 p.m. Jellacic became aware of his serious mistake after he had convinced himself that a second enemy division was approaching. His division now had a double superiority of the enemy, and he had deprived himself of adequate retreat. There was nothing left but to accept the hopeless fight, to sacrifice half of the division at the front and perhaps to save the rest in an orderly manner via the Liesing.

Viceroy Eugene carefully prepared his breakthrough. Behind the left wing under General Roussel he posted the Valentine's Brigade in case of sway. Seras led the center, behind it stood the Desaix Brigade as reserve. Leaning to the right of the Mur, the 62nd regiment of the Durutte division attacked. For the anticipated breakthrough, the mounted hunter regiments No. 6 and No. 9 were placed in front of the St. Walburga Church. The Austrian troops were already aware of their hopelessness. Jellacic lost his nerve before the enemy attack and gave the order to retreat for the troops on Fresenberg, which, however, could no longer break away from the enemy in the forest fight on the hill.

The main attack by the overwhelming French forces soon followed at around 5 p.m. this led to a decision within twenty minutes. On the road to St. Michael, the French under Seras broke open the weaker Austrian center at the first attempt, the Austrians then flooded back to the Liesingbrücken, where the masses hindered each other in traffic jams. French cavalry made their way there and cut off any possibility of retreat. At the same time, Brigadier General Roussell bypassed the positions on the Fresenberg and pushed the crews there over the slopes into the valley basin. Jellacic and Ettinghausen had crossed the bridge early enough and followed their vanguard to Leoben. On the evening of May 25, Jellacic had lost a total of 6,573 men in the battle near St. Michael and in the subsequent battle to retreat to Leoben, of which 423 men were killed, 1,137 men wounded, the majority - 4,963 soldiers were taken prisoner. The worst casualties were borne by the Varasdiner Grenzer Infantry Regiment No. 5, which, with 1,419 men, went almost completely into captivity on Fresenberg. The French lost only 670 men and General Durutte suffered injuries to his leg.


The pursuing French division Seras had covered a march of 48 kilometers from Judenburg via St. Michael to Leoben. She had fought Michael’s battle in between and was also at the end of her strength on the evening of May 25th, so she refrained from pursuing her. After his catastrophic defeat, this made it possible for Jellacic to bring about 4,500 men from his remaining division via Peggau to Graz by the evening of May 26th, but only 2,500 men arrived, completely demoralized and tired of the march. On May 27, the head of Grenier's pursuing corps was in Bruck an der Mur , and the advance guard of Durutte's division had already reached Frohnleiten . The Lauriston Brigade met Viceroy Eugen via Mürzzuschlag to Kindberg and strengthened his army by 2,000 men.

On May 27, 1809, Johann found himself in a critical position: After the defeat at St. Michael, his reinforcement by Jellacic hadn't come off, and Eugen was only 15 kilometers north of Graz. Macdonalds XI. Corps marched north after its victory at Laibach (Ljubljana) and was already in Marburg . On May 29th, French cavalry had already reached the outskirts of Graz. As a result, the Archduke was forced to give up Graz on May 29th and evade his army to Hungary via Gleisdorf and St. Gotthard. Archduke Johann then joined forces with his brother Archduke Joseph Anton , Palatine of Hungary. Finally he suffered a heavy defeat on June 14, 1809 at Raab against Eugen. Franz von Jellacic retired in the same year and died on February 4, 1810 in the Hungarian town of Szala Apathy .


  • Anton Hugo Wagner: The battle near St. Michael - Leoben on May 25, 1809, Military History Series, issue 51, Österreichischer Bundesverlag Vienna 1984
  • Hans Magenschab : Archduke Johann, Styria Verlag 1981

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Anton Hugo Wagner: The battle near St. Michael - Leoben pp. 18–24
  2. ^ Anton Hugo Wagner: The battle near St. Michael - Leoben pp. 27-30
  3. Note: Today the A9 Pyhrnautobahn runs right through this area
  4. ^ Anton Hugo Wagner: The battle near St. Michael - Leoben P. 31-42
  5. ^ Anton Hugo Wagner: The battle near St. Michael - Leoben pp. 42–44