Battle of Würzburg (1796)

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Battle of Würzburg
Part of: First Coalition War
Sketch for the battle of Würzburg on September 2nd and 3rd, 1796
Sketch for the battle of Würzburg on September 2nd and 3rd, 1796
date September 1st to 3rd, 1796
place Wurzburg
output Austrian victory
Parties to the conflict

France 1804First French Republic France

Habsburg MonarchyHabsburg Monarchy Austria


France 1804First French Republic Jean Baptiste Jourdan

Habsburg MonarchyHabsburg Monarchy Archduke Carl of Austria

Troop strength
approx. 30,000 approx. 45,000

approx. 3,000

22 officers and 1,447 soldiers

The Battle of Würzburg was part of the First Coalition War (1792-1797) and lasted from 1 to 3 September 1796. After his defeat in the Battle of Amberg (August 24) suffered the general of the French revolutionary troops Jean-Baptiste Jourdan on the retreat in the Main Valley towards the Rhine, here a second defeat against Imperial Austrian formations (Lower Rhine Army) under the leadership of Archduke Karl of Austria .


On September 1, the French were driven out of the right-Main part of Würzburg , which they had occupied since July 24, 1796, by an Austrian vanguard. About 20 light riders got into the fortified city in the early afternoon after the gate guards were taken by surprise through the outside and with the help of townspeople also through the inner Sander gate, whereby about 20 French soldiers were killed. Unaware of the real number of attackers, the French rushed to retreat to the Marienberg fortress on the left bank of the Main. On the same day, two Austrian battalions occupied the city and subsequently an artillery battle developed across the city and the river between the French on the fortress and Austrians on the Galgenberg.

On the morning of September 2, the Bernadotte and Championnet division of Jourdan's army set off from Schweinfurt to Würzburg. The French avant-garde appeared on the Steinberg at noon, followed by the heavy cavalry division under Bonnaud . The Austrians had to withdraw their outposts from the local vineyards, the French occupied the Aumühle and the present valley. In the city, the Austrian occupation under FML Hotze fought back attacks from the citadel and prevented the French from marching in by occupying the walls. Several attempts by the French to penetrate the city over the Main Bridge in order to open the city gates to the French troops, who were still outnumbered at the beginning of the fighting, were repulsed. The Austrian division under Lieutenant Field Marshal Anton Sztáray on the other side of the river has already been hard-pressed by the French Bernadotte and Championnet divisions .

The decision on September 3rd

The decisive battle took place in the late afternoon of September 3, after Archduke Karl arrived at the battlefield with additional troops. His avant-garde (9 battalions, 20 squadrons) under FML Kray had made the transition to the right bank of the Main near Oberschwarzach at 9.30 a.m., from midday onwards he was on the move against Prosselsheim to get on the flank of the long French front. The Archduke had his troops swing to the left, in which the division under FML Friedrich von Hotze formed the fulcrum and was supposed to hold the enemy with sham movements. The Austrian cavalry crossed an explored ford across the Main, half swimming, the riders won the right bank and swung quickly around Schwarzenau and rode through Dettelbach and Biebergau to support the Sztáray division on Erfeldorf. Jourdan tried in vain to prevent the enemy 24 squadrons from deploying by means of advanced gunfire. On the right wing of the Austrians, Feldzeugmeister von Wartensleben then carried out the attack at 3 p.m. with 24 squadrons that decided the day. The cuirassier regiment “von Mack” led by Colonel Orsini-Rosenberg and the Nassau cuirassiers under FML Karl von Lorraine-Lambesc stood out in particular.

In the battle there were now 45,000 Austrians (including 12,000 horsemen) against around 30,000 French. Sztaray's reinforced troops were now able to push the enemy back into the Kürnach valley. Prince Johann von Liechtenstein , whose troops fronted Championnet, took the area at the Seligenstadter Hof, but was then attacked with superior strength even at Unterpleichfeld by part of the heavy cavalry division under Bonnaud. When the battle became general all along the line, the troops under Hotze also advanced again by storming the Aumühle and also penetrating Würzburg. The Austrian Kray division had meanwhile attacked the too widely distributed French Grenier division , which covered the connection with Schweinfurt. Kray's troops drove the French out of Diepach and Heiligental, one column successfully advanced against Bergheim and Sacrificial Tree in Grenier's flank, the other column advanced against Oberpleichfeld .

The French garrison on the citadel of Würzburg under Division General Spolemont had to capitulate with 800 men and went into captivity.


In total, the fighting for Würzburg claimed 2,000 dead and wounded on the French side and 1,500 men on the Austrian side. About 1000 French were taken prisoner.

On September 4th the Austrians crossed the Main near Zell and advanced into Frankfurt on the 8th . As a result of the French defeat, General Jourdan was forced to return to the Lahn. On September 19, 1796, there was a second battle at Altenkirchen during the fighting there . After the retreat as far as Düsseldorf, the commander-in-chief Jean-Baptiste Jourdan resigned from his command.

To protect their withdrawal, the French burned the villages of Unterpleichfeld , Burggrumbach and Mühlhausen in the Pleichach Valley , a procedure that the Sambre and Maas armies repeated frequently on their loss-making retreat to the Rhine.

Museum reception

The capture of the Intrépide balloon near Würzburg on September 3, 1796. Painting by Karl von Blaas , 1870 ( HGM )

In the course of the Battle of Würzburg on September 3, 1796, the French Intrépide observation balloon was captured by Austrian troops. Today it is exhibited in the Vienna Army History Museum and thus represents the oldest surviving military aircraft .


  • Wolfgang Kraus: The strategy of Archduke Carl in 1796 with special consideration of the battle of Würzburg . Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Berlin, 1913, 75 pages
  • Reinhard von Bibra: The battle near Würzburg on September 3, 1796 , 34 pages
  • Jan Křtitel Vaňhal: The battle near Würzburg: the third September 1796; between the KK army under the orders of its kings. Highness of the Archduke Karl von Oesterreich Reichsfeldmarschall and the hostile French troops under the orders of the Obergeneral Jourdan . Published in 1796
  • Würzburg City Archives: The Battle of Würzburg on 2/3 September 1796 . Echter, 1996, 2 pages
  • Archduke Carl of Austria : Principles of strategy, explained by the representation of the campaign of 1796 in Germany. Part II: History of the Campaign. Anton Strauss, Vienna 1819, Battle of Würzburg p. 310 f
  • Thirteenth special supplement to the "Wiener-Zeitung" No. 72, Thursday, September 8th, 1796
  • Fourteenth special supplement to the "Wiener-Zeitung" No. 73, Saturday September 10, 1796 (document of surrender of the citadel of Würzburg)
  • Jean-Baptiste Jourdan , translated by Johann Bachoven von Echt: Memories of the History of the Campaign of 1796 . Coblenz 1823, from p. 101 ff. Online edition at

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Christoph Hatschek: "L'Intrépide". The “fearless” captive balloon from Würzburg , in: Viribus Unitis . Annual report of the Army History Museum 2003. Vienna 2004, pp. 23–36.

Coordinates: 49 ° 48 '  N , 9 ° 56'  E