Battle of Aspern

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Battle of Aspern
Battle of Aspern on May 21, 1809 in the afternoon
Battle of Aspern on May 21, 1809 in the afternoon
date 21./22. May 1809
place at Aspern
output Victory of the Austrians
Parties to the conflict

Flag of France.svg France

Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Austria


Napoleon Bonaparte

Karl of Austria-Teschen

Troop strength
on May 21 about 27,000 men and 9,300 horsemen, on May 22 about 68,000 men, 11,700 horsemen and 152 artillery pieces on May 21st 84,550 men, 14,300 horsemen and 292 guns, on May 22nd about 75,000 men, 13,000 horsemen and 282 guns

Marshal Lannes †
General Espagne †
General Saint Hilaire †
about 27,000 men,
7,300 of them dead

Adjutant General Colonel Count Colloredo †

about 23,300 men,
4,200 dead

Battle of Aspern, history painting

The Battle of Aspern (in French Bataille d'Essling , also known as the Battle of Essling ) took place in the Fifth Coalition War on 21/22. May 1809 between French and Austrian troops at the towns of Aspern and Essling (then spelling Eßling) east of Vienna . It is considered Napoleon's first major defeat on the battlefield.

Geographical location

Aspern is located on the left bank of the Danube , at that time close to a narrow arm of the river. The outskirts of neighboring Eßling in western Marchfeld was about 500 meters from the river. The distance between the two places was half an hour's walk. The Marchfeld spreads to the east and north of Eßling and is bordered by the Bisamberg in the west .

Military starting position

The Austrian Commander-in-Chief Archduke Karl had withdrawn to the Danube line after the unfortunate battle of Regensburg via Bohemia . Had on 16 May, the 1st, 5th and 6th corps of his army north-east of Vienna on Bisamberg with front against Nussdorf gathered, the 2nd and 4th Corps and the cavalry - Reserve under Prince Liechtenstein were east at Gera village to the south from Pillichsdorf .

Without its reserves - the even more distant 3rd Corps (FML Kolowrat ) and the 5th Corps ( Archduke Ludwig , later FML Prince Reuss ) observing Vienna - the Austrian army numbered around 98,000 men, 14,300 of them horsemen. Karl and his Chief of Staff von Wimpffen were determined to defend the strategically important point at which the roads to Bohemia, Moravia and Hungary meet against Napoleon's attack. The Austrian armed forces awaited the French attack in a position north of the Danube.

The French army entered Vienna on May 13th and concentrated around 90,000 men on the right bank of the Danube in preparation for the transition. On the day Vienna was captured by the French, the Austrian Major Johann Freiherr von O'Brien succeeded in removing their first improvised bridgehead at Jedlesee with just a few soldiers . This enabled an orderly formation of the Austrian army north of Vienna. The simultaneous resistance of the Austrian defenders in Malborgeth and at the Predil Pass prevented a rapid advance of the troops of the Italian viceroy Eugen Beauharnais advancing through Carinthia from the south , which was to have a decisive effect on the later course of the war on the Danube.

Napoleon was determined to dare to cross the Danube and with it the direct confrontation with the armed forces of Archduke Charles. Due to the structure of the French army, it was not planned to carry a large train, which was very disadvantageous in view of the need to build bridges over the Danube, which was still in flood, and its tributaries. So one had to be content with pontoon bridges as a makeshift, consisting of requisitioned boats and arbitrarily used wood from the buildings in the area. In view of this initial situation, Napoleon's decision to advance immediately across the then island of Lobau to the north appeared extremely risky. The Lobau served as a parade area, which enabled Archduke Karl to recognize the offensive intentions of the French early on, despite the dense vegetation on the Danube Island. As a transition point, Napoleon chose the point at which - about a mile below Vienna - the island of Lobau is surrounded by two arms of the Danube. At noon on May 20th, the French began crossing the northern arm of the river and occupied the villages of Aspern and Eßling.

Course of the battle

Archduke Karl and his staff near Aspern, painting after Johann Peter Krafft

First day on May 21st

On the morning of May 21, the infantry divisions of Generals Molitor , Legrand and Boudet , the light cavalry division under Lasalle and the cuirassier division under Espagne with a total of 27 battalions and 38 squadrons (about 24,000 men and 5,500 riders) had the transition completed. By the height of the battle on the first day, Napoleon was reinforced to 27,000 men and 9,300 horsemen, so the Austrians were able to counter him immediately with five corps (108 battalions and 141 squadrons with 84,550 men, 14,300 horsemen and 292 guns).

Around 9 o'clock in the morning, the Boudet and Legrand divisions initiated the first preliminary battles of the day on the far right wing of the French bridgehead with their advance on Groß-Enzersdorf . By the afternoon the French had strengthened themselves to over 30,000 men by moving in from the southern bank of the Danube. Marshal Massénas IV Corps had built strong entrenchments in anticipation of the Austrian counterattack around Aspern and the II Corps under Lannes near Essling, in between the cavalry under Marshal Bessières secured . At 11.30 the Austrian 6th Corps with its avant-garde brigade under Major General Nordmann began the advance from Stammersdorf via Kagran southwards to Aspern in order to drive out the French who were holding there.

Archduke Karl tried to attack the French in the middle of the march with the superior mass of his troops. The aim was to throw the enemy back across the Danube, destroy the transition bridges and occupy the river bank with artillery. Only when the Austrian 6th Corps under FML Johann von Hiller began the attack on Aspern was the deployment of the Austrian 1st Corps in the Hirschstetten area complete. Divided into three meetings, the 1st Corps under Field Marshal von Bellegarde supported Hiller's attack on Aspern from the north. The defense of Aspern was in the hands of the French Molitor and Legrand divisions. The Nordmann Brigade won the bridge over the oxbow lake and received strong flank fire in the commune of Au. It was only after hours of house- to- house fighting and after a French cavalry attack had failed against the Austrian infantry that the Austrian right wing succeeded in pushing the French out of Aspern, which was mainly due to Hiller's aggressive spirit, who was later promoted to field military officer.

After the occupation of Groß-Enzersdorf , the attack by the Austrian left wing on the French Boudet division, which held the lines in front of Eßling, began. The attack of the 4th Corps under FML von Rosenberg failed despite strong artillery support. In the meantime, the French Carra St. Cyr division had also made its transition over the Lobau, secured Masséna's left flank in the Mühlau and then supported the Boudet division near Eßling.

In the center of the battle, the Austrian 2nd Corps under the Prince of Hohenzollern did not march southeast of Breitenlee until around 4 p.m. The deployment of the Austrian cavalry corps (5500 riders) under the General of the Cavalry Prince of Liechtenstein between the column Hohenzollern and Rosenberg was poorly coordinated, as a result of incorrect instructions, the second meeting rode into the first, order could not be restored at first. Archduke Karl did not let the two grenadier divisions behind them take part in the battle on the first day. Around 5 p.m. the Austrian army spanned the French bridgehead north of the Lobau in a wide arc.

Aspern changed hands again during the day, but all attempts by the French to wrest the village away from Hiller's troops failed. FML Hiller had the rectory torn down during the battle for the Church of Aspern in order to give his troops better defensive positions. The French cavalry tried twice to retake Aspern from the east, but failed despite a massive onslaught due to the defensive fire of the Austrian division under FML Fresnel . When General Espagne fell and even the heavy cuirassiers under Bessieres got into disarray, the French finally flooded back. The last shooting stopped at 10 p.m., and repeated attacks by the Austrian left wing on Essling failed.

Archduke Karl spent the night in Breitenlee . For the first time it was possible to repel an attack by Napoleon. He mistakenly believed that he had been confronted with the entire French armed forces and was unaware of the temporary destruction of the main connection to the other bank of the Danube. During the night, after the main bridge, which had been damaged by the Austrian pioneers under Captain Friedrich von Magdeburg (1781–1810), had been restored , Napoleon had most of his army pull over the Lobau and wanted to force a decision the next day. Napoleon went to bed at one in the morning and got up again at four.

Second day on May 22nd

Johann Peter Krafft : Archduke Karl of Austria in the Battle of Aspern ( Heeresgeschichtliches Museum Vienna)

On the morning of May 22nd, the battle began again. The French had been able to strengthen themselves during the night by pulling 34,000 infantry and 1,300 horsemen to around 68,000 men and 11,700 horsemen, but the Austrians were still numerically superior - also taking into account the losses of the previous day. It was again about the ownership of the two villages of Essling and Aspern; the Austrians under Klenau and Dedovich tried to take the first, the French divisions of Generals Carra Saint Cyr and Legrand tried to recapture the second.

The Austrian 1st Corps under Bellegarde had already lengthened its left wing considerably to the east to relieve the center. Archduke Karl left only the Wacquant Brigade of the Ulm FML division to reinforce Hiller's corps at Aspern and transferred the defense of Aspern to Major General von Bianchi . In the morning, Masséna's forces renewed their attacks. When the French made a dangerous flank thrust through progress in the Mühlau, the Austrians had to retreat to the cemetery and the rectory of Aspern.

On the left wing of the Austrians, Rosenberg's corps had received the order early that morning to finally storm Essling. The massive attack was headed by the column under FML Dedovich (around 9,000 men), the division of FML de Rohan supported from the flank, further left the division under Prince von Hohenlohe-Bartenstein tried against the avenue in the rear of the enemy bump. The attack of the 4th Corps had been expected by the French and was repulsed with heavy losses. Not far from the Esslingen brick kiln, the newly transferred French grenadier corps under Oudinot was posted as a reserve.

Felician Myrbach : French infantry defend themselves in the streets of Essling against advancing Austrians.

Napoleon now started his main thrust in the center while his right wing was defending Eßling and his left wing was able to penetrate Aspern again. At around 11 o'clock in the morning the French divisions Tharreau , Claparède and St. Hilaire began to break through the lines of the Austrian corps Bellegarde and Hohenzollern. The cavalry division under General Nansouty was assembled behind it to push back and the Demont infantry division in the Au was called in as a reserve. Marshal Lannes' attack columns advanced and threatened to break through the Austrian center. Archduke Karl, grabbing a flag from the deviating battalion Zach, himself took the lead in the troop swaying in the 2nd Corps. His adjutant general, Colonel Count Colloredo, was fatally shot in the head. The two grenadier divisions held back in Breitenlee under FML von Lindenau and d'Aspre moved quickly from their reserve position to reinforce the beleaguered Austrian center with 8,000 men. In the center of the battle, a fierce artillery duel raged , with the division leader General Saint-Hilaire fatally wounded. After Napoleon had learned that his rear pontoon bridge on the Stadtlerarm in the Lobau had also been interrupted by Austrian pioneers, he was able to use the planned reinforcement by the III. Corps under Marshal Davout no longer count.

Despite their best efforts, the troops under Rosenberg did not succeed in storming the village of Essling, and the French division stood firm. In these battles, possession of the brick, three-story bulk box that dominated the place and provided good cover from the artillery played an important role. The counterattack of the fusiliers of the Imperial Guard under General Mouton on the village of Essling contributed significantly to the rescue of the French army, which was mostly concentrated in the Danube floodplains.

Marshal Lannes, who led the attack in the center on the second day, had continuously reinforced Essling's defenders with troops. At 4 p.m., the fighting on the French right wing stopped after Archduke Karl ordered the troops under Bellegarde and Hohenzollern to retreat. He handed Oudinot the leadership and went to the right wing at around 5 p.m. to cheer on his troops. An hour later he was fatally wounded by enemy artillery fire at Essling. At last the French were driven out of Essling with the support of a cavalry unit under the highly decorated and known major Karl Wilhelm von Scheibler . On the other wing, FML Hiller had already achieved the final storming of Aspern in cooperation with General Bianchi.

Napoleon could no longer hold himself on the left bank of the Danube and ordered the retreat at night. The French were pushed back into the Au, Marshal Masséna remained to cover the main force with his rearguard until midnight between Aspern and Eßling and had the bridge on the Stadlerarm removed. He directed the retreat across the Lobau so skillfully that only a few trophies were left for the enemy. Archduke Karl was not at all sure of his tactical victory that night and expected another attack by the French the next day.


The Lion of Aspern by Anton Dominik v. Fernkorn on the Asperner Heldenplatz
Albert Paul Bourgeois: The Death of Marshal Lannes

The losses of the Austrians amounted to about 23,300, those of the French against 27,000 men. Marshal Jean Lannes, Duc de Montebello , had seriously injured a cannonball on both legs. One leg was still poorly amputated, but he finally succumbed to gangrene on May 31 in Kaiserebersdorf . In his bulletin , Napoleon described the course of the battle in such a way that he had repulsed the enemy completely, voluntarily broke off the battle in the middle of the victory and only ordered the retreat on the 23rd. But the truth got through and aroused disquiet in Paris, new hopes and belief in Prussia joining the alliance against Napoleon in Tyrol and northern Germany . Archduke Charles did not dare to take advantage of the victory, to move quickly to the right bank, and to destroy the exhausted French before they received reinforcements, given the exhaustion of his troops and their lack of ammunition. He stopped in Marchfeld and contented himself with the fame of the Battle of Aspern, for having tremendously shaken the nimbus of Napoleon's invincibility.

After the arrival of his Italian troops under Eugène de Beauharnais in early July, Napoleon was able to compensate for his numerical inferiority and still decisively defeat the Austrian main army on July 5th and 6th in the battle of Wagram and force it to peace.

See also

  • In the novel La Bataille (Eng .: The Battle ) by Patrick Rambaud (Paris 1997) the battle is told from a French perspective.
  • The Esslinggasse in Vienna was named to commemorate the battle.


  • Manfried Rauchsteiner : The Battle of Aspern on May 21 and 22, 1809 , Military History Series Volume 11, Österreichischer Bundesverlag, Vienna 1978.
  • Friedrich Jakob Heller von Hellwald : The campaign of 1809 in southern Germany , printed and published by C. Gerolds Sohn, Vienna 1864.
  • R .:  The enemy in front of Vienna. In:  Die Debatte and Wiener Lloyd , No. 196/1866 (Volume III), July 20, 1866, p. 1 below. (Online at ANNO ). Template: ANNO / Maintenance / ddb.
  • Frank Bauer: Aspern and Essling, 21./22. May 1809, Napoleon's first major battle defeat . Small series History of the Wars of Liberation 1813–1815, Volume 27, ZDB -ID 2599930-8 . Edition König und Vaterland, Potsdam 2009.
  • Christine Ranseder, Sylvia Sakl-Oberthaler, Martin Penz, Michaela Binder, Sigrid Czeika: Napoleon in Aspern (Vienna Archaeological 13), Vienna 2017, ISBN 978-3-85161-170-0 .

Web links

Commons : Battle of Aspern  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b c Manfried Rauchsteiner: Battle of Aspern. Österreichischer Bundesverlag, p. 20
  2. ^ Friedrich von Hellwald: Campaign of the year 1809, Vienna 1864, p. 29
  3. ^ Friedrich von Hellwald: Campaign of the year 1809, Vienna 1864, p. 37
  4. Manfried Rauchsteiner: Battle of Aspern, Österreichischer Bundesverlag Vienna, p. 9 f
  5. ^ Manfried Rauchsteiner: Battle of Aspern, Österreichischer Bundesverlag Vienna, p. 12 f
  6. ^ Adam Zamoyski: Napoleon: One life . CH Beck, 2018, ISBN 978-3-406-72497-8 , pp. 549 .

Coordinates: 48 ° 13 '  N , 16 ° 30'  E