The Battle of Aspern-Essling

Period : Directory / 1st Empire
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This timeline forms part of our close-up on: the Battle of Aspern-Essling.


10 April: the Austrian army, under Archduke Charles, crosses the River Inn and invades Bavaria. on the same day, troops under Archduke John cross the Italian border.
16 April: Austrian and French troops meet at the Battle of Sacile, where an Austrian flank movement forces the French troops, under Eugène de Beauharnais, viceroy of Italy, to retire.
17 April: Napoleon arrives at the front from Paris.
19 April: French troops, under Maréchal Davout, defeat Archduke Charles at the Battle of Teugen-Hausen, the first engagement of a four-day campaign which resulted in the French victory at Eckmühl.
On the same day, the Austrian army under Archduke Ferdinand was defeated by troops of the Duchy of Warsaw at the Battle of Raszyn.
20 April: at the Battle of Abensberg, French, Bavarian and Württemberg troops under Napoleon defeated Archduke Charles. Despite being outnumbered, Napoleon succeeded in splitting the Austrian forces: Charles was forced to retreat east towards Eckmühl and General Hiller was forced south-east towards Landshut.
21 April: General Hiller and his Austrian troops were defeated by the French, Bavarian and Württemberg troops under Napoleon at the Battle of Landshut.
21-22 April: the Battle of Eckmühl was to be the turning point of the 1809 Austrian campaign. Having been caught a little unawares by the Austrian invasion of Bavaria, it took Napoleon a couple of weeks to reclaim the initiative, which he did at Echmühl. Charles lost nearly 11,000 men and was forced to retreat to Ratisbon, arriving there late on 22 April.
23 April: Napoleon, looking to avoid a lengthy siege, attacked the city of Ratisbon and, after some resolute defence, succeeded in creating a breach in the walls. The Austrian batallion within the walls was forced to surrender. The battle is also remembered because Napoleon was injured during the fighting when a bullet glanced off his ankle. Although it required dressing, it was not serious and he was quickly back on his horse to reassure his men.


3 May: troops under General Hiller were defeated and forced to retire at the Battle of Ebersberg. French forces under Maréchal Masséna, advancing on Vienna, crossed a heavily defended bridge and forced an Austrian withdrawal.
4 May: anticipating the arrival of French forces, the Austrian imperial family left Vienna.
7-8 May: a Franco-Italian army under Eugène de Beauharnais defeated Archduke Johann at the Battle of Piave River.
8-14 May: French troops laid siege to Vienna. French chasseurs arrived at Schönbrunn on 8 May, engaging in small skirmishes with Hungarian hussars stationed in defence. By the evening of 10 May, the French occupied the Viennese outskirts. By 11 May, the city was completely surrounded and artillery shelling began, which lasted until the early hours of 12 May. As troops under Masséna moved up through the Prater park area, Archduke Maximilian, in charge of the city's defence, withdrew his troops. It was left to Marshal Andreas O'Reilly to negotiate the surrender of the city. The surrender was eventually signed on 13 May. On 14 May, Archduke Charles arrived in Stockerau, just north of Vienna, only to learn of the city's capitulation.
17 May: the Battle of Linz took place. As Napoleon's troops poured east in direction of Vienna, Davout and Vandamme were charged with securing and watching over the army's northern flank along the Danube. Particularly important in this strategy was the control of the Linz-Urfahr bridgehead. Archduke Charles, still retreating towards Vienna, began to suspect (albeit incorrectly) that Napoleon would move north, turning away briefly from Vienna, and strike across the Danube at the heart of the Austrian army, effectively bringing the campaign to an end. On 7 May, Charles issued Lieutenant-General Kolowrat with orders to cross the Danube and attack the French flank in a bid to slow the advance on Vienna and take the French troops by surprise.
Yet by 16 May, Kolowrat was still about 40 km from Linz (at a town called Freistadt), by which time Vienna had already fallen. Worse still, the French had learnt of his position. On 16 May, his right wing had crossed paths with a Württemberg outpost at Leonfelden, north of Linz, resulting in a brief skirmish. Moreover, Maréchal Bernadotte and his Saxon troops had also advanced on Linz to reinforce Vandamme
19-20 May: Napoleon had captured Vienna, but the bridges crossing the Danube had been destroyed and the Austrian troops were stationed at the Bisamberg on the bank opposite the French. On the night of 19 May, French troops stationed at Vienna bridged the Danube, crossing onto the Lobau, an island in the middle of the Danube. By daybreak on 21 May, troops under Masséna had bridged across from the Lobau onto the left-bank. The Austrian troops, intending to attack once the French troops were split crossing the Danube, hoped to catch them before further support could be mustered.
Despite this added French presence, Kolowrat attacked in the afternoon of 17 May and initially made progress, driving back the Württemberg skirmishers and cavalry posted in advance of the Urfahr bridgehead. Vandamme and Bernadotte were however able to repel the attack and eventually succeeded in pushing the main Austrian attack back east of Linz. At the same time, Vandamme sent a detachment of Württembergers north which, through a mixture of surprise and aggression, succeeded in dislodging the Austrians from their defensible position whilst taking nearly 400 prisoners. Kolowrat and the remaining Austrian troops retreated to Freistadt with the intent of launching a counter attack, but Aspern-Essling would however intervene in these plans.

21-22 May: the Battle of Aspern-Essling. Click here for our article on the events of the battle.

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