Battle of Fleurus (1794)


Battle of Fleurus (1794)

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Fleurus


caption= The battle of Fleurus with the balloon "l'Entreprenant" in the background
partof=the French Revolutionary Wars
date=June 26, 1794
place=Fleurus, Belgium
result=French victory
combatant1=flagicon|FranceFrench Republic
combatant2=flag|Holy Roman Empire Habsburg Austria
commander1=Jean-Baptiste Jourdan
commander2=Josias von Saxe Coburg
strength1=70,000
strength2=52,500
casualties1=ca 5,000 killed or wounded,
1 cannon lost,
1 standard lostSmith, D. p.86.]
casualties2=ca 208 killed,
1,017 wounded,
361 captured,
4 cannons lost,
1 standard lostSmith, D. p.87.]
In the Battle of Fleurus (June 26, 1794) French forces under Jourdan defeated an Austrian army under Saxe-Cobourg in one of the most decisive battles in the Low Countries during the French Revolutionary Wars. Both sides had forces numbering in the vicinity of 80,000 men but the French were able to more effectively concentrate their forces in order to achieve victory against the Austrians.

The French use of the reconnaissance balloon "l'Entreprenant" marked the first military use of an aircraft that had decisive influence on the outcome of the battle.

Prelude

After the Battle of Tourcoing (May 17-18, 1794), Jourdan was given the command of the "Army of the Ardennes" and four divisions of the Army of the North, about 96,000 men in total. This new group was then named the "Army of the Sambre-Meuse". The new army was then given the task of capturing Charleroi.

On June 12, the French army, accompagnied and supervised by a member of the Committee of Public Safety Louis de Saint-Just, had invested the town of Charleroi with about 70,000 men. On June 16, an Austrian-Dutch force of about 43,000 men counterattacked in heavy mist and managed to inflict some 3,000 casualties on the French and drive them back over the Sambre. On June 18, Jourdan attacked again and managed to restore the investment of Charleroi. The city surrendered on June 26, just as a relieving force under Coburg arrived to raise the siege.

Battle of Fleurus

On June 26, Coburg arrived around Charleroi with 52,000 Austrians & Netherlanders to raise the French siege. Too late to save the city, which at that time was surrendering, the Austrian commander split his army in to five columns and attacked the French. A French reconnaissance balloon, "l'Entreprenant", continuously informed Jourdan about Austrian movements. The Austrians managed to break through both French wings,pushing back Gen.Marceau (Right Wing) & Gen.Montaigu (Left Wing), but as the center under Lefebvre held and then counterattacked, the Austrian assault petered out. Coburg neglected to press on and, uncertain of the outcome, the Austrian commander lost his nerve and fell back to Braine-l'Alleud and Waterloo, granting the French an unexpected victory. This was the final straw that caused the allies to retire back over the Rhine, leaving the French free rein in Western Europe.

Consequences

This victory precipitated a full Allied withdrawal from Belgium and allowed French forces to push north into the Netherlands. The battle largely invalidated the argument that continuation of the French Revolutionary Reign of Terror was necessary because of the military threat to France's very existence. Thus, some would argue, victory at Fleurus was a leading cause of 9 Thermidor a month later; Saint-Just arrived in Paris after such a great victory only to die with Robespierre and the other leading Jacobins.

Footnotes

External links

* U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission: "Military Use of Balloons During the Napoleonic Era". [http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Lighter_than_air/Napoleon's_wars/LTA3.htm Accessed April 1, 2007] .

References

*David Chandler, "Napoleon's Marshals", Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1998, p161-162, 220.
*Smith, D. "The Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book". Greenhill Books, 1998.


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