Battle of Elchingen

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Battle of Elchingen
The situation at 12 noon on October 14th
The situation at 12 noon on October 14th
date October 14, 1805
place near Elchingen , around 7 km east of Ulm
output French victory
Parties to the conflict

France 1804First empire France

Austrian EmpireEmpire of Austria Austria


France 1804First empire Michel Ney

Austrian EmpireEmpire of Austria Johann Riesch

Troop strength
20,000 8,000

800 dead and wounded

2,000 dead and wounded
4,000 prisoners

The battlefield in front of the Elchingen monastery

The battle of Elchingen between Austrian and French armed forces on October 14, 1805 was the largest single battle during the fighting for Ulm at the beginning of the Third Coalition War. She took the full inclusion of the Austrian army in Ulm brought where this on October 20, 1805 had to lay down their arms .


In May 1803 the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland had declared war on the French. The pretext was disputes over the possession of Malta, which should be returned by the British to the Order of St. John after the Peace of Amiens .

In order to be able to defeat Great Britain, the French First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte (emperor from 1804) planned an invasion of England and for this purpose assembled an army on the Channel coast near Boulogne . In return, Great Britain formed a coalition with Sweden, Russia and Naples in 1804/1805 , which Austria finally joined on August 9, 1805 (the so-called “third coalition”, see main article, third coalition war ). An Austrian army under Archduke Ferdinand von Österreich-Este , to which Field Marshal Lieutenant (FML) Karl Mack von Leiberich was assigned as Quartermaster General , was given the task of protecting southern Germany against the French troops.

Since FML Mack, as in the wars before, expected the French to penetrate from Strasbourg in the direction of the Ulm– Memmingen line , he moved into his quarters in Ulm on September 21 and had fortifications built along the Iller . Emperor Napoleon and his troops crossed the Rhine on September 25th between Strasbourg and Mainz and moved north of the Black Forest through Württemberg and Franconia, first eastwards and then south towards the Danube. This was crossed between Donauwörth and Ingolstadt . The troops were divided into three, with the aim of Augsburg and Munich and, under the command of Marshal Michel Ney , with the aim of falling in the rear of the Austrian army, which Napoleon suspected at Ulm.

First clash

On October 8, Austrian and French troops met for the first time near Wertingen , and the next day near Günzburg . In Elchingen , around 7 kilometers east of Ulm, the French occupied the Danube bridge, but left a few troops back to their assurance. In the meantime the main French army tried to encircle the Austrian army, which Emperor Napoleon suspected on the Iller on the way to Vorarlberg. On October 11, a French division (Dupont) was almost wiped out near Jungingen , about 5 km north of Ulm. On October 13, Emperor Napoleon moved into his headquarters in Pfaffenhofen , around 12 km southeast of Ulm and around 8 km south of Elchingen, where he received for the first time certain news that the Austrian army was concentrated near Ulm.

FML Mack, who feared being trapped in Ulm, decided to withdraw his troops in the direction of Nördlingen via Heidenheim an der Brenz , where an Austrian column under FML Werneck marched there on October 13th. A second Austrian division under FML Graf von Riesch moved from Ulm down the Danube in the direction of Elchingen, from where it was to march on via Gundelfingen an der Donau in the direction of Nördlingen. Towards evening the vanguard met the French near the monastery near Oberelchingen, and they were initially able to fight back. In doing so, however, they refrained from completely destroying the bridge, which at that time led over two islands in the Danube . Then the Austrian troops camped on a hill between Ober- and Unterelchingen, where the Danube bridge was located. On the night of October 14th, Marshal Ney had positions dug south of the Danube and set up guns.

The battle of Elchingen

Marshal Ney, Duc d'Elchingen

At dawn on October 14th, FML Graf Riesch was informed that strong French columns were marching south of the Danube bridge near Leipheim (about 12 km downstream). He immediately decided to march on via Langenau to Gundelfingen and at the same time to send troops via Weißingen to Leipheim to cover the bridge there. He left the protection of the Elchingen bridge to his rearguard, which was not even 2,000 men. When the Austrians had set out to march on to Langenau and Weißingen, French troops surprisingly attacked the Elchingen bridge from Nersingen at around 8 a.m. and took it by storm under the protection of cannons on the Danube Islands. The soldiers belonged to the army corps of Marshal Ney, who had received the order in the morning to march to Albeck (about 6 to 7 km north of Elchingen) in order to re-establish contact with the Dupont division and, together with this, the outbreak of the Austrians from Ulm to prevent from going north. After conquering the bridge, the French Loison division quickly crossed the Danube and developed against Ober- and Unterelchingen. Riesch just managed to occupy Oberelchingen Abbey with the remaining battalions and to take up position at the height above the two villages. Shortly afterwards, French cavalry, which also crossed the river via the quickly repaired bridge, overran the Austrian detachment that had returned from Weißingen. Fortunately for Riesch, the rest of his battalions and the greater part of his artillery arrived from Thalfingen in the course of the morning , which had been delayed on the march from Ulm to Elchingen due to the flooding on the Danube.

Shortly thereafter, another French division (Malher) crossed the river and developed upstream towards Thalfingen (i.e. towards Ulm), which it occupied after a while. Thanks to their numerical strength, which was now far superior, the French were gradually able to encompass the Austrians on three sides. According to the plans of October 13, the entire Austrian army should already be on the march via Heidenheim to Nördlingen by this time. Although Riesch was now being pushed back further and further, he decided to still hold out in order to secure the army's march north. When finally more French troops arrived from the direction of Langenau (north of Elchingen), FML Riesch ordered the retreat towards Jungingen at around 1 p.m., where he learned in the evening that FML Mack had not left Ulm at all. In the evening, Emperor Napoleon moved his headquarters to the Abbey of Ober-Elchingen.

The (allegedly) only 800 fallen or wounded French were compared to 2,000 fallen or wounded and 4,000 captured Austrians. The relatively high Austrian casualties and the number of prisoners in this battle can be explained by the fact that the various detachments, which had already marched separately early in the morning to Leipheim and Langenau, later found no connection with their corps and were then individually overwhelmed and captured. However, in the evening some of the battalions marched off towards Langenau in the early morning managed to join the column of FML Werneck near Giengen .

The effects

Already on October 15, succeeded nachstoßenden from Elchingen French army to conquer the Michelsberg and other hills north of Ulm and thus include the Austrian troops into the city ( Battle of Ulm ). Through a member of parliament he offered FML Mack surrender negotiations, which the latter initially refused. After several bombings of the city of Ulm on October 16, Mack finally accepted on October 17 the surrender of the enclosed Austrian army on October 25. When there was no longer any hope of external relief, the latter marched prematurely on October 20th after surrendering all weapons and horses into the French captivity.

Emperor Napoleon left Ulm on October 21, 1805 to march via Munich to Austria, where he victoriously ended the war with the Battle of Austerlitz .

For his services in the war of 1805, Marshal Michel Ney was awarded the title of Duc d'Elchingen (Duke of Elchingen) in 1808 .

His opponent, FML Mack, was brought to court martial after the war and sentenced to death. As the supreme court lord, however, Emperor Franz II converted the judgment into a 20-year imprisonment when it was signed. As early as 1808, Mack was released on the intervention of Archduke Karl and was rehabilitated again in 1819.

The victory in Elchingen marked the beginning of the end of the Holy Roman Empire . In 1806 Franz II laid down the crown of the Holy Roman Empire under pressure from Emperor Napoleon, which also meant the end of the German Empire.

The Battle of Elchingen in Art

The battle of Elchingen as a great historical event was depicted by numerous artists of the time in drawings and paintings. A larger battle painting by the French painter Camille Roqueplan is in the Versailles Historical Museum .


Web links

Notes and individual references

  1. ^ Krauss: 1805. The campaign of Ulm. 1912; Schaeben: The campaign around Ulm in 1805. 1910; Maude: The Ulm Campaign 1805. 1912; Willbold: Napoleon's campaign around Ulm. 2005.
  2. Actually it was about the control of the Mediterranean and thus also about the sea route to India via Egypt.
  3. in the literature usually referred to as "Battle near Haslach" or "Haßlach"
  4. ^ Yorck v. Wartenburg: Napoleon as a General. Vol. 1, 1902, p. 225; Krauss: 1805. The Ulm campaign. 1912, p. 521; Moriggl: The campaign of 1805 and its consequences. 1861, p. 140.
  5. instead of burning it down completely, they removed only a short piece of the wooden deck of the bridge that led over the northernmost of the three arms of the Danube (Krauss: 1805. Der Feldzug von Ulm. 1912, p. 457)
  6. the army corps comprised around 23,000 men when crossing the Rhine at the end of September (Rabou: La Grande Army. T. 1, 1865, p. 15f.)
  7. ^ Krauss: 1805. The campaign of Ulm. 1912, pp. 457ff.
  8. ^ Moriggl: The campaign of 1805 and its consequences. 1861, p. 139.
  9. It was the French Dupont division, which had been forced to retreat north during the battle on October 11 near Haslach.
  10. Pascal: Histoire de l'armée et tous le régiments. Vol. III, 1850, p. 145.
  11. the total Austrian losses on that day. According to French data, only 2,000 (Liskenne: Bibliothèque Historique et Militaire. T. VII, 1853, p. 36f.) Or 3,000 (as Pascal: Histoire de l'armée et tous le régiments. Vol III , 1850, p. 145.) Austrians captured.
  12. ^ Moriggl: The campaign of 1805 and its consequences. 1861, pp. 139-148.
  13. ^ Krauss: 1805. The campaign of Ulm. 1912, p. 478; Yorck v. Wartenburg: Napoleon as a General. Vol. 1, 1902, p. 226.
  14. ^ Up to this point, Franz of Austria wore not only the Roman imperial crown, but also the German royal crown; see. Buschmann (ed.): Kaiser and Reich, texts and documents on constitutional history. Vol. 1, 1984.
  15. JG Cotta'sche Buchhandlung: Morgenblatt für educated readers. JG Cotta'sche buchhandlung, 1837, p. 655 ( limited preview in the Google book search).