- Battle of Fleurus (1794)
Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Fleurus
caption= The battle of Fleurus with the balloon "l'Entreprenant" in the background
French Revolutionary Wars
June 26, 1794
combatant2=flag|Holy Roman Empire
commander2=Josias von Saxe Coburg
casualties1=ca 5,000 killed or wounded,
1 cannon lost,
1 standard lostSmith, D. p.86.]
casualties2=ca 208 killed,
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 Countriesduring 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.
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
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 Charleroiwith 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
Charleroiwith 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'Alleudand 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.
This victory precipitated a full Allied withdrawal from
Belgiumand allowed French forces to push north into the Netherlands. The battle largely invalidated the argument that continuation of the French Revolutionary Reign of Terrorwas necessary because of the military threat to France's very existence. Thus, some would argue, victory at Fleurus was a leading cause of 9 Thermidora month later; Saint-Just arrived in Paris after such a great victory only to die with Robespierre and the other leading Jacobins.
* 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] .
*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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