Battle of Fleurus (1794)

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The Battle of Fleurus on June 26, 1794, a military clash between France and the Roman Emperor and the House of Habsburg Austria in the First Coalition War (1792–1795 / 97), was a major victory for the French Revolutionary Army under the French General Jean- Baptiste de Jourdan on the coalition troops under the Prince of Saxe-Coburg. This success (according to the revolutionary calendar on the 8th Messidor of the year II of the Republic) opened the southern (Austrian) Netherlands to the French Republic .


In June 1794, the French Brigadier General Jourdan received supreme command of the Moselle Army and the Ardennes Army from the Welfare Committee . Louis Antoine de Saint-Just (1767–1794) had been placed at his side as representative of the people . The historian Hans Peter Richter mentions that Saint-Just thought through many details of the advance and discussed them with Jourdan. In the weeks leading up to the battle on the eastern flank of the front at Fleurus, Saint-Just established the successful conditions for victory. There the crossing over the Sambre was only successful after seven attempts and Charleroi was included, which then had to surrender after seven days on June 25th. According to Hilaire Belloc , this success was an important prerequisite for the success of the conflict with the allies on the following day. The enthusiasm of Saint-Just and the military organizational talent of Lazare Carnot brought about the superiority of the French revolutionary troops.

The imperial and their allies brought 46,000 men together and tried to bring relief to the besieged Charleroi. On the day of the battle, they knew nothing of the fall of the city, which had happened the day before.

Mutual deployment of troops

Austro-Dutch coalition army

Friedrich Josias of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld

The Austrian units under the command of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg :

Right wing


  • 2nd column under FML. Peter Vitus von Quosdanovich with 7.5 battalions and 16 squadrons counted 6,400 men, 2,150 horsemen and 16 guns
  • 3rd column under Feldzeugmeister Franz Wenzel von Kaunitz-Rietbetz with 8 battalions and 18 squadrons numbered 9,192 men and 2,200 riders, 17 guns
  • 4th column under Feldzeugmeister Archduke Karl and grenadier division under FML. Franz von Werneck with 7.5 battalions and 16 squadrons had 6,400 men, 1,800 horsemen and 18 guns

Left wing

  • 5th column under FML. Jean-Pierre de Beaulieu counted 10,300 men, 3,050 horsemen and 20 guns. Right wing with 6 battalions and 11 squadrons, the middle with division of the FML. Aching (8 battalions and 10 squadrons) and on the left wing another division under General Zoph (4 battalions and 5 squadrons), this was detached against Gilly to secure the Sambre at Tamines .

French army

The French units combined after the battle to form the Sambre and Maas Army under the command of General Jean-Baptiste Jourdan:

Jean-Baptiste Jourdan

Right wing General Marceau

Center Chief General Jourdan

Left wing General Kléber

  • Division Jean-Baptiste Kléber ..................... 12 batt., 2 cav. Reg., 1 comp. Artillery
  • Division Anne Charles Basset Montaigu .............. 12 Bat., 3 Cav.-Reg., 1 Comp.
  • Division Mueller ..................... 2 brigades,
  • Reserve of the left wing… 6 bat., 3 cav. Reg., 1 comp. Artillery

Total strength over 80,000 men

Course of the battle

Battle of Fleurus: General Jourdan on the white horse and Saint-Just to the left in the background. The balloon can be seen at the top right of the sky. Painting by Jean Baptiste Mauzaisse (1784–1864), Versailles Palace, Gallery of Battles

At dawn on June 26th, the allied army of Duke Friedrich von Sachsen-Coburg attacked the French who had marched in a position north of the Sambre, in a semicircle around the besieged fortress Charleroi .

The Dutch allies under the Prince of Orange had already marched the evening of the previous day on the western section of the battle front from the forest of Mariemont in the direction of Chapelle d'Erlemont. They met the left French wing, which was formed by the Daurier Brigade (5,900 men) and the Montaigne division (8,300 men) and stretched along the Fontaine l'Eveque line to Forchies and Trazegnies. The French Kleber division (9,900 men), which was initially concentrated as a reserve at Gosselies, was directed to reinforce the left wing after the attack by the Dutch. The 2nd column under General Quosdanovich and the 3rd column under Count Kaunitz had taken a position at Cense Chassart the evening of the previous day and advanced at 5 a.m. towards the Lombuc forest, where the center of the front was developing. Archduke Karl was advancing on Fleurus on the left wing of the imperial army, in the far east of the front the troops of the FML Beaulieu lay in front of Lambusart and pushed the French outposts back south to the Sambre.

Jourdan's front was attacked at almost all points at daybreak, but generally withstood the enemy's attacks. The left wing corps of Prince Friedrich of Orange under the leadership of Prince Friedrich Karl August von Waldeck , reinforced by an Austrian division under FML Maximilian Baillet von Latour , pushed its forces forward on the Pieton brook in Judan's style. At 9 o'clock the Hereditary Prince of Orange began the attack against the town of Wespes, but was thrown back to the heights of Calvaire d'Anderlues by French reinforcements in the course of the morning. The attack on Marchienne au Pont was abandoned, and after noon the Dutch withdrew to the Monceau forest. Colonel Bernadotte , under the command of General Kléber, made a special contribution to the left wing of the French by stopping wavering troops, recapturing lost terrain with 6 battalions and throwing the Austrians back to their camp at Chapelle d'Erlemont. Because of his bravery and his successes in this battle, he was appointed brigadier general.

The 2nd column under Quosdanovich had taken Frasnes and continued to attack Gosselies, while the troops under Kaunitz drove back the French advance troops at Heppignies and then ran aground. The fourth column of the Imperial under Archduke Charles rushed to the advance of its infantry in battle with the enemy troops Jean Étienne Championnet around 9:00 am, the village of Fleurus . The right wing under Beaulieu was able to push the opposing wing under Marceau to the Sambre. The victory had leaned towards the imperial troops by noon, the right wing of the French had already been defeated. Before Fleurus, however, the French were continuously reinforced by those troops that had become free after the surrender of Charleroi. In the center, the French Lefebvre division successfully counterattacked, here the Austrian attack came to nothing. Jourdan also used his main reserve there, so that the battle against Archduke Karl at the Cense Campinaire billowed back and forth several times.

The historian Albert Soboul (1914–1982) wrote that Saint-Just led the columns incessantly to attack during the battle . - In addition to General Jourdan, other important generals of the Empire took part in the Battle of Fleurus, including François-Joseph Lefebvre , Jean-Baptiste Kléber, François Severin Marceau, Bernadotte (later King of Sweden and Norway ), Jean-Étienne Championnet, Nicolas- Jean de Dieu Soult and Étienne-Maurice Gérard .

When the Prince of Saxe-Coburg became aware of the fall of Charleroi, he broke off the attack and the coalition troops began to withdraw. Jourdan still had 77,300 men towards the end of the battle and was still vastly outnumbered. The significant losses suffered by the French with 5,000 as opposed to approx. 200 dead, 1,017 wounded and 361 prisoners on the coalition side show that for the Austrians it was not a major defeat, but rather a lost victory. Nevertheless, this was the beginning of the end of the Austrian possessions in the Netherlands.

First reconnaissance from the air

For the Battle of Fleurus, Jean Marie Joseph Coutelle rose on the French side with the military balloon "Entreprenant", probably the first aerial reconnaissance in history. Nicolas-Jean de Dieu Soult said in his “Memoirs” that these observations had no influence on the battle.


The Battle of Fleurus became legendary for the French: after the cannonade of Valmy (September 1792) and the victorious Battle of Jemappes (November 1792), which were followed by numerous serious setbacks in 1793/94, the victory at Fleurus was achieved with a new one Volksheer ( levée en masse ), a strategic turning point - in retrospect a stage on the way to the conquest of all areas on the left of the Rhine (doctrine of the “natural borders” of France). The victory took an important part of the legitimacy of the dictatorship of the welfare committee, which invoked the general state of emergency and the defense against internal and external threats to the revolution. The battle is therefore considered to be one of the causes of Robespierre's fall one month after the battle.

In Napoléon's Waterloo campaign, two more battles took place near Fleurus on June 16, 1815: the battle of Ligny and the battle of Quatre-Bras .



  • August von Witzleben : Prince Friedrich Josias von Coburg-Saalfeld, Duke of Saxony , Volume 3, Berlin 1859
  • Abel Hugo : France militaire. Histoire des armées de terre et de mer. 1792–1837, Vol. 1 and 2 . Delloye, Paris 1838 (full text online at
  • Gerhard Taddey (ed.): Lexicon of German history . Events, institutions, people. From the beginning to the surrender in 1945. 3rd, revised edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-520-81303-3 , p. 363.
  • Désiré Lacroix: Les marechaux de Napoléon . Garnier, Paris 1896.
    • German translation: The Marshals of Napoleon I. Verlag Heinrich Schmidt & Carl Günther, Berlin 1898 (translated by Oskar Marschall von Bieberstein).
  • Karl Bleibtreu : Marshals, Generals, soldiers of Napoleon I. VRZ-Verlag, Hamburg 1999, ISBN 3-931482-63-4 (reprint of the Berlin 1899 edition).
  • Antoine-Henri Jomini : Histoire critique et militaire des guerres de la révolution . Anselin & Pochard, Paris 1820/28 (12 vol.).

Secondary literature

  • Hilaire Belloc: The French Revolution . University Press, Oxford 1960 (reprint of the London 1911 edition).
    • German translation: The French Revolution . Verlag Wilhelm Goldmann, Munich 1963.
  • Albert Soboul: Précis d'histoire de la Révolution Française . Édition Sociales, Paris 1983, ISBN 2-209-05513-X (reprint of the Paris 1962 edition).
    • German translation: The Great French Revolution. An outline of their history, 1789–1799 . 5th edition. Athenaeum VG, Frankfurt / M. 1988, ISBN 3-610-08518-5 (reprint of the Frankfurt / M. 1971 edition)
  • Hans Peter Richter: Saint-Just and the French Revolution (large figures) Engelbert-Verlag, Balve / Sauerland 1975, ISBN 3-536-00414-8 .
  • Günter Schneider: 1794. The French on the way to the Rhine. Helios-Verlag, Aachen 2006, ISBN 3-938208-24-4 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ After Alexander Minarelli-Fitzgerald: The campaigns of the French revolution . Organ of the military science associations, Vienna 1892. Edited by Günter Schneider in 1794 - The French on their way to the Rhine . P. 26 f.
  2. August von Witzleben: Prince Friedrich Josias von Coburg-Saalfeld, Duke of Saxony , Volume 3, Berlin 1859, p. 293 f.
  3. According to General Jomini: Histoire critique et militaire des guerres de la révolution , Vol. 5 and 6.
  4. Since the sources are not clear, the battle of Maubeuge could have been the first aerial reconnaissance on June 2 (as well as 11 and 13), 1794 .