Battle of Emmendingen

Coordinates: 48°7′17″N 7°50′57″E / 48.12139°N 7.84917°E / 48.12139; 7.84917

Battle of Emmendingen

Moreau's troops withdraw through the Val d'Enfer (Valley of Hell)
Date19 October 1796
LocationEmmendingen (now southern Germany)
Result Austrian victory
France Republican France Habsburg Monarchy Habsburg Austria
Commanders and leaders
France Jean Moreau Habsburg Monarchy Archduke Charles
32,000 28,000
Casualties and losses
2,800, 2 guns, Gen. Michel de Beaupuy  1,000 Gen. Wilhelm von Wartensleben 
Both armies lost a general in action.

The Battle of Emmendingen (19 October 1796) was fought between the French Army of Rhin-et-Moselle under Jean Victor Marie Moreau and the Austrian Army of the Upper Rhine commanded by Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen. The Austrians won the battle and forced the French to withdraw to the south where the Battle of Schliengen was fought five days later. The action occurred during the War of the First Coalition, the first conflict of the larger French Revolutionary Wars.

Emmendingen is located on the Elz River in Baden-Württemberg, capital of the district Emmendingen of Germany. It is located at the Elz River, 14 km (8.7 mi) north of Freiburg im Breisgau.


French troops overwhelmed the Swabian militia at Kehl on 24 June 1796

At the end of the Rhine Campaign of 1795 the two sides called a truce in January 1796.[1] This agreement lasted until 20 May 1796 when the Austrians announced that it would end on 31 May.[2] The Coalition Army of the Lower Rhine included 90,000 troops. The 20,000-man right wing under Duke Ferdinand Frederick Augustus of Württemberg stood on the east bank of the Rhine behind the Sieg River, observing the French bridgehead at Düsseldorf. The garrisons of Mainz Fortress and Ehrenbreitstein Fortress counted 10,000 more. Charles posted the remainder of the Habsburg and Coalition force on the west bank behind the Nahe.[Note 1] Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser led the 80,000-strong Army of the Upper Rhine. Its right wing occupied Kaiserslautern on the west bank while the left wing under Anton Sztáray, Michael von Fröhlich and Louis Joseph, Prince of Condé guarded the Rhine from Mannheim to Switzerland. The original Austrian strategy was to capture Trier and to use their position on the west bank to strike at each of the French armies in turn. However, after news arrived in Vienna of Bonaparte's successes, Wurmser was sent to Italy with 25,000 reinforcements. Reconsidering the situation, the Aulic Council gave Archduke Charles command over both Austrian armies and ordered him to hold his ground.[1]

On the French side, the 80,000-man Army of Sambre-et-Meuse held the west bank of the Rhine down to the Nahe and then southwest to Sankt Wendel. On the army's left flank, Jean Baptiste Kléber had 22,000 troops in an entrenched camp at Düsseldorf. The right wing of the Army of Rhin-et-Moselle was positioned behind the Rhine from Hüningen northward, its center was along the Queich River near Landau and its left wing extended west toward Saarbrücken.[1] Pierre Marie Barthélemy Ferino led Moreau's right wing, Louis Desaix commanded the center and Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr directed the left wing. Ferino's wing consisted of three infantry and cavalry divisions under Bourcier and Delaborde. Desaix's command counted three divisions led by Beaupuy, Delmas and Xaintrailles. Saint-Cyr's wing had two divisions commanded by Duhesme, and Taponier.[3]

The French grand plan called for two French armies to press against the flanks of the northern armies in the German states while simultaneously a third army approached Vienna through Italy. Jourdan's army would push southeast from Düsseldorf, hopefully drawing troops and attention toward themselves, which would allow Moreau’s army an easier crossing of the Rhine between Kehl and Hüningen. According to plan, Jourdan’s army feinted toward Mannheim, and Charles quickly reapportioned his troops. Moreau’s army attacked the bridgehead at Kehl, which was guarded by 7,000 imperial troops—troops recruited that spring from the Swabian circle polities, inexperienced and untrained—which amazingly held the bridgehead for several hours, but then retreated toward Rastatt. On June 23–24, Moreau reinforced the bridgehead with his forward guard. After pushing the imperial militia from their post on the bridgehead, his troops poured into Baden unhindered. Similarly, in the south, by Basel, Ferino’s column moved speedily across the river and proceeded up the Rhine along the Swiss and German shoreline, toward Lake Constance and into the southern end of the Black Forest. Anxious that his supply lines would be overextended, Charles began a retreat to the east.[4]

At this point, the inherent jealousies and competition between generals came into play. Moreau could have joined up with Jourdan’s army in the north, but did not; he proceeded eastward, pushing Charles into Bavaria. Jourdan also moved eastward, pushing Wartensleben’s autonomous corps into the Ernestine duchies and neither general seemed willing to unite his flank with his compatriot's.[5] There followed a summer of strategic retreats, flanking, and reflanking maneuvers. On either side, the union of two armies—Wartensleben’s with Charles’ or Jourdan’s with Moreau’s—could have crushed the opposition.[6] Wartensleben and Charles united first, and the tide turned against the French. With 25,000 of his best troops, the Archduke crossed to the north bank of the Danube at Regensburg and moved north to join his colleague Wartensleben.The defeat of Jourdan's army at the Amberg, Würzburg and Altenkirchen allowed Charles to move more troops to the south. The next contact occurred on 19 October at Emmendingen.,[7]


The Elz drops from the heights of the Black Forest to join the Rhine.

Emmendingen lies in the Elz valley, which winds through the Black Forest. The section of the valley involved in the battle runs south-west through the mountains from Elzach, through Bleibach and Waldkirch. Just to the southwest of Waldkirch, the river emerges from the mountains and flows north-west towards the Rhine, with the Black Forest to its right. This section of the river passes through Emmendingen before it reaches Riegel. Riegel sits in a narrow gap between the Black Forest and an isolated outcropping of volcanic hills known as the Kaiserstuhl.[7]

This aerial picture of Malterdingen depicts the hilly and forested terrain surrounding the village.
Rocky outcroppings, streams, and small falls complicate passage through the rough terrain
Heavy rains brought the Elz to flood stage by 19 October.


On the left wing, under command of Desaix, the Division St. Suzanne (9 Battalion and 12 squadrons,) stood by Riegel, on both shores of the Elz. On the right of these, by Malterdingen, the Division Beaupuy, with 12 battalions and 12 squadrons. And Further to the right, by Emmendingen itself, and in the heights by Heimbach, stood St. Cyr; around this stretched the Duhesme's Division (12 battalions and eight squadrons). Further to the right of these, in the Elz valley by Waldkirch, the Division of Ambert and the brigade Girard; by Zähringen, about a mile away, Lecourbe's brigade stood in reserve, and stretching northward from there, was a mounted division of 14,000 horses, in the vicinity of Holzhausen. These positions created a line about 3 miles (5 km) long. On the far side of Lecorbe's brigade stood Ferino's 15 battalions and 16 squadrons in the mountains. He debouched through the Höll valley. Everyone had been hampered by heavy rains; the ground was soft and spongy, and the Rhine and Elz rivers had flooded. This increased the hazards of mounted attack, because the horses could not get a good footing.[8]

Against this stood the archduke's force. Upon reaching a few miles of Emmending, the archduke split his force into four columns. Column Nauendorf, in the upper Elz, had eight battalions and 14 squadrons, advancing southwest to Waldkirch; column Wartensleben had 12 battalions and 23 squadrons advancing south to capture the Elz bridge at Emmendingen. Latour, with 6,000 men, was to cross the foothills via Heimbach and Malterdingen, and capture the bridge of Köndringen, between Riegel and Emmendingen, and column Fürstenberg held Kinzingen, about 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Riegel. Frölich and Condé (part of Nauendorf's column) were to pin down Ferino and the French right wing in the Stieg valley.[8]


The French, being the first to arrive on the scene, secured the high point at Waldkirch, which commanded the neighboring valleys. Barely had they secured the village, though, when Nauendorf's men advanced from the heights of the Black Forest, ambushing Saint Cyr's advance.[9] On the left, Beaupuy had taken Decaen's place with the advanced guard, after the general had fallen from his horse.[10] Latour's columns attacked Beaupuy at Matterdingen, killing the general and throwing the column into confusion. In the center, French riflemen held up two of Wartensleben's detachments while his third detachment struggled over muddy, nearly impassable roads. Once this detachment mastered the roads and arrived at Emmendingen, the French retreated across the river, destroying all the bridges at Matterdingen.[7][Note 2]

Notes and Citations


  1. The First Coalition included Habsburg Austria, the Holy Roman Empire, Prussia, Spain and the Dutch Republic until 1795, Sardinia until 1796, Sicily and several other Italian states (at various times and duration), French royalists (mostly those in the Prince Conde's emigre army, Newfoundland, and Great Britain.
  2. Wartensleben was also wounded, and died of his injuries.


  1. 1 2 3 Theodore Ayrault Dodge, Warfare in the Age of Napoleon: The Revolutionary Wars Against the First Coalition in Northern Europe and the Italian Campaign, 1789–1797. Leonaur Ltd, 2011. pp. 286–287. See also See also Timothy Blanning. The French Revolutionary Wars. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-340-56911-5, pp. 41–59.
  2. Ramsay Weston Phipps,The Armies of the First French Republic: Volume II The Armées du Moselle, du Rhin, de Sambre-et-Meuse, de Rhin-et-Moselle Pickle Partners Publishing, 2011 reprint (original publication 1923-1933), p. 278
  3. Digby Smith, Napoleonic Wars Databook Greenhill Press, 1996, p. 111.
  4. Dodge, p.290. See also (German) Charles, Archduke of Austria. Ausgewӓhlte Schriften weiland seiner Kaiserlichen Hoheit des Erzherzogs Carl von Österreich, Vienna: Braumüller, 1893–94, v. 2, pp. 72, 153–154.
  5. Dodge, pp. 292–293.
  6. Dodge, pp. 297.
  7. 1 2 3 J. Rickard,(17 February 2009),Battle of Emmendingen, History of Accessed 18 November 2014.
  8. 1 2 (German) Johann Samuel Ersch, Allgemeine encyclopädie der wissenschaften und künste in alphabetischer folge von genannten schrifts bearbeitet und herausgegeben. Leipzig, J. F. Gleditsch, 1889, pp. 6466.
  9. Archibald Alison, History of Europe, [London], W. Blackwood and Sons, 1835, p. 174.
  10. Phipps, II:380.

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