Battle of Friedberg, 10 July 1796 (Hesse)

The battle of Freidberg (10 July 1796) was a French victory won fifteen miles to the north of Frankfurt on Main that forced the Austrians to abandon their last positions north of the Nidda and the Main and retreat to Offenbach, on the south bank of the Main.

At the end of June General Jourdan crossed the Rhine for the second time in 1796. General Kléber was sent north to Dusseldorf, where he crossed the Rhine on 27 June. On 3 July Moreau crossed the Rhine further south, at Neuwied. The two forces came together on the Lahn, and after that Kléber's force formed the left wing of Moreau's army.

War of the First Coalition - Rhine Front 1796
War of the First Coalition
Rhine Front 1796

On 9 July the French crossed the Rhine. Kléber crossed in three columns - Bonnard at Leun, Collaud at Wetlzar and Lefebvre at Giessen. Collaud's column ran into a strong Austrian cavalry force under General Kray at Nieder-Mörlen, and repulsed a series of Austrian attacks on his position at Ober-Mörlen, just to the south west (combat of Ober-Mörlen, 9 July 1796). In the aftermath of this battle the Austrian comamnder, General Wartensleben, gathered together a strong force around Freidberg, while General Kléber brought together his three columns and prepared to attack.

Portrait of Marshal Michel Ney (1769-1815)
Portrait of
Marshal Michel Ney
(1769-1815)

The Austrian position was on the west bank of the Wetter, a tributary of the Nidda. Their right was in Freidberg, close to the river. The Austrian line ran west to Ockstadt, and then south west to Rosbach. It was covered to its east by the Wesser and to the north-west by a line of low hills. Ober-Mörlen and Nieder-Mörlen, where Kray had clashed with Ney and Collaud on the previous day, were on the northern slopes of these hills.

Kléber and Wartensleben both decided to attack on 10 July, but the French made the first move. General Lefebvre was sent across the Wetter, and advanced south towards Bauernheim and Ossenheim, to the south-east of Freidberg and behind the Austrian right flank. General Ney led Collaud's division against Ockstadt and Friedberg, and General Bonnard attacked the Austrian left at Rosbach.

Lefebvre's outflanking march forced Wartensleben to abandon his own attack and move the troops that would have been involved to his right in an attempt to stop Lefebvre from passing Ossenheim. The Austrian left and centre held off Ney and Bonnard, but the right was unable to stop Lefebvre. With his right flank threatened Wartensleben was forced to order a retreat back towards the Nidda. The Austrians suffered heavy casualties – perhaps as many as 1,200 killed and wounded and 500 prisoners, while the French lost 500 men, most of them in the hard fighting between Rosbach and Freidberg.

On the day after the battle the French were forced to pause and wait for their supplies to catch up. This gave Wartensleben a chance to retire across the Nidda. He then passed across the Main to Offenbach, just to the east of Frankfurt, leaving a garrison in Frankfurt.  

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (18 February 2009), Battle of Friedberg, 10 July 1796 (Hesse) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_friedberg_1796_hesse.html

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