Battle of Ebelsberg

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Battle of Ebelsberg
date May 3, 1809
place Ebelsberg , now part of Linz
output French victory
Parties to the conflict

France 1804First empire France

Austrian EmpireEmpire of Austria Austria


André Masséna
Claude-Juste-Alexandre Legrand

Johann von Hiller
Vinzenz von Bianchi

Troop strength
about 22,000 men, constantly reinforced 28,400 men and 70 cannons

about 3,600 men

about 7,000 men

The battle of Ebelsberg developed on May 3, 1809 during the retreat of the Austrian troops and was part of the Fifth Coalition War . In the run-up to the battle, the Austrian army group under Hiller tried to break away from the pursuing French under Marshal Massena south of Linz over the Traun Bridge in the direction of Enns . The French were able to catch up with the Austrians on the Traun , and a losing battle for the bridge and the Ebelsberg market developed. During the battle, about 1,000 soldiers burned in the embers of the place on fire. For Napoleon I's troops, the victory cleared the way to Vienna .


The Austrians opened the war on April 10th by attacking Bavaria, an ally of France, and crossed the Inn line. The main Austrian army under Archduke Karl consisted of five line corps and two reserve corps, altogether around 150,000 men and 382 artillery pieces (the III. Corps - 23,600 men, remained in Bohemia). On April 16, the Austrians under Archduke Karl forced the crossing over the Isar and opened the offensive. However, with the rapid advance of the French, the initiative was torn from their hands. The deployment of the French, about 160,000 strong in total, was initially led by the French chief of staff, Marshal Berthier . It was not until April 17th that Emperor Napoleon arrived at the theater of war in Donauwörth and took over the top leadership. Under the banner of Napoleon were strong contingents of the allied states of the Rhine Confederation - Bavarian , Württemberg and Baden units that operated within the framework of the French VII and VIII Corps.

On April 19, the French III, still operating in northern Bavaria, won. Corps under Marshal Davout the battle of Thann (Teugn-Hausen). The main Austrian army was defeated on April 20 at Abensberg and on April 22 at Eggmühl and split in two. After the battle of Abensberg , the Austrian V. and VI. Army corps under Feldmarschallleutnant Johann von Hiller pushed to the southeast and then withdrew to Landshut via Rottenburg and Pfeffenhausen . As a result of these defeats, Archduke Karl's main army lost around 44,700 men and 41 cannons and then only had around 81,000 men and 340 artillery pieces. Hiller's losses between April 19 and 21 amounted to a total of 12,140 soldiers, 11 guns and 328 wagons of his train. The French losses in the same period amounted to about 16,300 men. The northern group under Marshal Davout advanced with about 63,000 men on Regensburg .

The defeated main power of the Austrians under Archduke Karl was forced to retreat to Bohemia on the northern bank of the Danube . The part pushed back to the south bank of the Danube, the army group of FML Hiller (consisting of the V and VI Corps with 42,000 men) tried to secure their retreat to the east via Linz. Archduke Karl's main power withdrew to Bohemia via Cham, and tried to reorganize his army in the Budweis area . Karl's main power remained in the vicinity of this city until May 6, two divisions under Field Marshal-Lieutenant von Klenau and Major General von Stutterheim secured the advance on the north bank of the Danube towards Linz. Archduke Karl's main power marched on Budweis, where he could rely on the II. Corps with 18,234 men (Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen), which was advancing towards Freistadt.

Hiller's fighting to retreat to Linz

Johann von Hiller
Hiller's fighting to retreat to Linz

On April 21, Hiller's army group was defeated in the battle of Landshut and, after losing 2,500 men, withdrew behind the Vils and then behind the Inn . The main French power pursuing him under Marshal Massena (IV. Corps), Bessières and Lannes (cavalry corps and II. Corps) totaled around 64,000 men and followed the Austrians south of the Danube. The VI. Corps Hillers was weakened by the surrender of the Division FML von Lindenau and the V Corps ( Archduke Ludwig ) as well as the departure of the cuirassier brigade of Major General Schneller . By the evening of April 22nd, Hiller's forces had again shrunk to a corps size of 28,400 men with 70 cannons. Hiller tried in vain to counterattacks his division under FML Schustekh to regain the lost Inn line at the end of April , a brigade under Major General von Bianchi served as flank cover on the road from Schärding to Wels in the north and was pushed forward to Grieskirchen. With further retreat on the Inn, the Hiller group reached Braunau and Burghausen on April 26th . At the same time, Massena's vanguard under General Legrand arrived in Schärding in pursuit of the Austrian division . The II. Reserve Corps under Kienmayer belonging to the Hiller group had already preceded the Linz area with around 4,500 infantry and 800 horsemen to secure the northern bank of the Danube.

The French IV Corps (about 22,000 men) had reached the area around Lambach with the divisions under de Saint-Hilaire , Demont (III Corps) and Molitor . The VIII Corps under Vandamme advanced to Riedau .

On the afternoon of May 1, a fight against the vanguard of the pursuing French VIII Corps under Vandamme broke out near Riedau. But Schustekh's vanguard was thrown back by the cavalry under General Marulaz , between Riedau and Kallham the Austrians lost another 850 prisoners as they retreated further. On the night of May 2, Emperor Franz I left Linz and went to his brother's main army in Budweis . He left Hiller with instructions to delay Napoleon's advance by defending the Traun line between Ebelsberg and Lambach. Marshal Davout (III Corps) had reached the Inn line at Passau with his Morand division . Napoleon also ordered the last division of General Rouyer , who remained in Regensburg, to follow to Passau. The reserve, 12,000 men of the Imperial Guard under General Walther , reached the Inn near Braunau at the beginning of May and marched on to Ried .

On May 2, the core of Hiller's troops reached Linz, the defense of which was no longer possible. Two other brigades under Colonel Hardegg and Major General Richter secured security north of the Danube near Urfahr . Two Viennese volunteer battalions called for reinforcement reached the Traun near Ebelsberg. Hiller decided to set fire to the Danube bridge in Linz and ordered the retreat across the Traun near Ebelsberg. The Schustekh division, which was still far to the west and fought its way back from Geisenheim via Schmiding to Leonding, had to be awaited. The bulk of the French corps Massena had left Sigharting , and its vanguard met the Austrians around 10 a.m. Three kilometers southeast of Eferding, near Raffeling, there was a clash between the avant-garde of the French division under Carra Saint-Cyr and the Brigade Major General Bianchi, which flooded back defeated on Wilhering .

Michel Marie Claparède

Major General Joseph Radetzky's brigade, which was isolated in the south , was in retreat from Lambach . Chasing French cavalry under Marshal Bessières and Lannes with the II Infantry Corps reached Wels. Major General Armand von Nordmann's brigade provided protection for the open southern flank. Radetzky hoped to be able to hold out in the Wels area until nightfall so that the Schustekh division could keep the retreat to the Traun open. The bridge there over the Traun was burned in time by the Austrian rearguard. Radetzky was able to reach Marchtrenk by sacrificing his rearguard and withdrew along the Traun to Kleinmünchen.

The battle of Ebelsberg on May 3, 1809

On the morning of May 3, around 2 a.m., the Bianchi Brigade had marched off from Wilhering and took up position at Freinberg at around 4:30 a.m. The Schustekh division withdrew with his hussar regiment Kienmayer No. 8 and the brigade of Major General Hohenfeld . Schustekh withdrew across a plain to Kleinmünchen , the aim was to reach the protective defensive belt that Radetzky had built. The French cavalry regiments No. 4, 19 and 23 Chasseurs a cheval, followed by the Rhineland cavalry, pursued the Austrians. At around 8.30 am Bianchi had to repel the first cavalry attacks by the pursuing French 14th Jägerregiment near St. Margarethen. At 9.30 am the Bianchi brigade arrived in front of Kleinmünchen, the train of the returning Army group Hiller tried with extreme effort to get to the right bank of the Traun.

Battle for the bridge near Ebelsberg
Claude Alexandre Legrand

Hiller's main power reached Ebelsberg around 8:00 a.m. and began crossing the Traun River. Four rearguard brigades under Major General Radetzky and Field Marshal Lieutenant Karl von Vincent were waiting on the west bank for the remaining Schustekh division. FML Vincent provided a battalion in Kleinmünchen and five other battalions from there to Scharlinz. The French cavalry coming from Eferding under Marulaz and the Claparède division first encountered the Austrians and opened the battle. General Masséna ordered the foremost infantry brigade under General Coehorn to attack immediately. Bessières appeared from Wels with the brigade under Piré and attacked Radetzky's rearguard. The Austrian Vincent Division defended itself with the brigades of Major General Hoffmeister (Benjowsky Infantry Regiment 31 and Splenyi Infantry Regiment 51) and Major General Weißenwolf (Klebeck Infantry Regiment No. 14 and Jordis Infantry Regiment No. 59) in Kleinmünchen.

Louis Jacques de Coehorn

At 10.30 a.m., the brigade under Brigadier General Coehorn opened the attack across the bridge. General Vincent had given up the town of Kleinmünchen and ordered a retreat to Ebelsberg, which was covered by the Chevauleger Regiment No. 6 and two battalions of the Splenyi Infantry Regiment. The hasty retreat made the northern flank of the Radetzky Brigade, which was still holding south, open, who also tried to escape to Ebelsberg. At 11 a.m., the French troops reached the 550-meter-long wooden bridge over the Traun near Ebelsberg. The Hoffmeister brigade stopped behind the Mühlbach on the west bank. The Austrians then vacated their positions on the western bridgehead and withdrew in panic over the Traun Bridge to Ebelsberg. The Austrian artillery caught fire on the bridge but couldn't stop the French pushing forward. Major General Ferdinand Bubna and at least 500 cut soldiers from the Hoffmeister Brigade were taken prisoner on the other side of the river. Hundreds of Austrian soldiers drowned in the river while fighting for the bridge. Masséna had 20 guns deployed on the western bank to counter the Austrian artillery fire.

FML Hiller, who was based in Ebelsberg Castle, only now noticed the danger and ordered energetic countermeasures. Two battalions of the Wallachian Border Guard Regiment No. 13 under Colonel Gratz were deployed in the city. Hiller had also immediately deployed three battalions of Viennese volunteers and the 29th Infantry Regiment to counterattack the French under General Coehorn invading Ebelsberg. General Coehorn tried to break through to the castle, but his troops saw themselves in the city in the deadly crossfire from windows and roofs, while the numerous Austrian cannons were working on the street.

The first Austrian counterattack, scheduled at 12.30 pm by Infantry Regiment No. 58 under Lieutenant Colonel Pirquet, did not penetrate and was repulsed by the French. General Claparède led his two subsequent brigades under Generals Lesuire and Ficatier into urban warfare around this time . Lesuire's force comprised the line regiments Nos. 27th, 39th, 59th, 69th and 76th, while General Ficatier came up with the 40th, 64th, 88th, 100th and 103rd regiments. The cavalry under Marulaz could not get through the congested streets and remained passive spectators in the battle.

Another Austrian counterattack from the north threatened the French in the city, Lesuire Brigade had taken the market square and then stalled. At this critical moment, the vanguard of the Legrand division reached the scene, the light infantry regiment No. 26 under Colonel Jean Pierre Pouget pushed over the bridge and advanced to the castle at 1 p.m. with heavy losses. The castle, now held by the Jordis Infantry Regiment, suddenly exploded and caught fire.

At 1.30 p.m. the volunteers were reinforced by Infantry Regiment No. 29, and the third battalion of Infantry Regiment No. 18 was able to fight its way to the market square. After the first attack was repulsed by Lieutenant Colonel Pirquets, Captain von Siegler tried to attack with parts of Infantry Regiment No. 7, the Austrians were already planning to recapture the lost bridge.

General Coehorn split his forces into several columns, the left tried to advance near the castle, the right tried to bypass the Austrian counter-position on the southern edge of the city. Brigadier General Ledru led the fresh 18th line regiment into Ebelsberg at 2.30 p.m. In half an hour the troops of the Legrand division could secure the bridge and the passage at the city gate. The third column, under General Lesuire, advanced towards the market square and pushed the Austrians back to the eastern part of the city. But the Austrians stubbornly held their positions on the heights. At 2 p.m. Hiller had the houses in Ebelsberg set on fire, his pioneers and the howitzer fire set several houses on fire, the atmosphere was oppressive. The last phase of the battle for Ebelsberg began at 2.30 p.m., when Ebelsberg Castle fell into French hands. General Legrand led another 5,050 men, including the Baden Brigade Kister and the Harrant Brigade, into the battle.

In the afternoon Napoleon had also advanced on the right bank of the Traun with the Nansouty and Molitor divisions; all that was left for the Austrians was to withdraw. At 3 p.m. Hiller decided to give up the fight in the city and gave orders to the troops to withdraw. The fighting continued until 4:00 p.m. when the French had control of the burning city. The infantry of Legrand and Claparède were prevented from pursuing by the severe conflagration, three quarters of the houses had already been destroyed. Hiller retreated to Enns and later successfully sought connection to the main army under Archduke Karl.


The French pursued Hiller's troops, who arrived in Enns in the evening and, after they had burned down the bridges, retreated further east. The flames still raged in Ebelsberg and turned the place into a heap of rubble and ashes by the morning of the following day. The French lost about 3,600 men, 1,000 dead, 1,750 injured and 800 prisoners. The Austrians lost around 7,000 men, 2,870 dead, 1,750 wounded and around 2,200 prisoners. Among the dead was the freedom poet Leo Freiherr von Seckendorf (1773–1809), who was seriously wounded as captain of the Vienna volunteers and finally burned miserably in a barn.

The Austrians had destroyed all bridges over the Danube before their retreat; on May 4th, all of Upper Austria south of the Danube was in the hands of the French. Napoleon united about 115,000 men in the further advance on Vienna. The Austrians gathered about 96,000 men and 300 guns on the other side of the Danube in a camp between Korneuburg and Stammersdorf . After the occupation of Vienna by the French, Napoleon's attempt to establish himself on the northern bank of the river led to the battle of Aspern , in which the French suffered a tactical defeat.

The French installed a governor for Linz and Upper Austria. They converted the Linzer Zeitung into a propaganda sheet that praised Napoleon's victories and benefits in the May 22nd edition. The teacher Josef Wenzel Hayböck provided valuable information to the Austrian military as chancellor in the quarters office of the French at risk of death until he was locked in the Linz water tower on June 10, 1809. From 1810 he received a high lifelong pension from Emperor Franz I for his services to Austria.


  • The battle near Ebelsberg on May 3, 1809. Austrian Federal Publishing House for Education, Science and Art, Vienna 1968.
  • Manfred Carrington , Andreas Reiter: Ebelsberg 1809. French times in Linz and Upper Austria. Lentia-Verlag, Linz 2009, ISBN 978-3-9502622-1-6 ( review on
  • Walter Wagner: Death and annihilation every second: The battle of Ebelsberg 1809 in French eyewitness reports. In: Upper Austrian homeland sheets . Linz 2015, Issue 1/2, pp. 37–46 ( PDF on
  • Herbert Wolkerstorfer: Shadow of War: Napoleon's poor soldiers. In: Upper Austrian homeland sheets. Linz 1999, pp. 257–267 ( online (PDF) in the forum
  • Rudolf Litschel : lance, sword and helmet. Rudolf Trauner Verlag, Linz 1968, pp. 114–126.
  • Friedrich von Hellwald : The 1809 campaign in southern Germany. Printed and published by C. Gerolds Sohn, Vienna 1864.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ R. Litschel: Lance, sword and helmet, Rudolf Trauner Verlag, p. 120 f.
  2. ^ Elisabeth Schiffkorn: Josef Wenzel Hayböck, the spy out of patriotism. In: Eurojournal Pyhrn-Eisenwurzen. 1999, pp. 16-18 ( online (PDF) in the forum