Combat of Forchheim, 7 August 1796

The combat of Forchheim (7 August 1796) was a victory won by General Kléber during his brief period in command of the Army of the Sambre-and-Meuse that forced the Austrian army of General Wartensleben to abandon its position around Forchheim on the River Rednitz and retreat south to Nuremburg. At the start of July 1796 General Jourdan had led the Army of the Sambre-and-Meuse across the Rhine for a second time. General Wartensleben retreated in front of the French advance, and Jourdan followed him along the Main from Frankfurt to Bamberg. He was then taken ill, and replaced for a short period by General Kléber.

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

As the French approached Bamburg Wartensleben retreated south down the River Regnitz and took up a new defensive position centred on Forchheim. His right ran along the River Wiesent, which runs into the Regnitz at Forchheim, while his left was posted a little further north, on the River Aisch, where General Kray had command of five battalions of infantry and twenty-two squadrons of cavalry, posted between Weppersdorf and Willersdorf, 3-4 miles to the north west of Forchheim. The Austrians also had small posts at Sassenfurt (half way between Forchheim and Bamberg) and stretched out south-west along the Aisch at Hochstadt and Neustadt. Wartensleben had been retreating in order to join up with the main Austrian army under the Archduke Charles. In early August Charles was on his way north from the Danube, and by 5 August he had reached Nordlingen, sixty miles to the south-west of Forchheim.

On 6 August the French pushed the Austrians out of their advanced posts north of the Aisch. On the west bank of the Regnitz General Lefebvre made even better progress, sending a detachment across the hills to Ebermanstadt, north-east of Forchheim in the Wiesent valley. The Austrians were split in two by the Regnitz, and if Kléber had concentrated his attack against a single wing he could have won an important victory, but instead he decided to attack along both sides of the river.

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

The French began their attack at seven in the morning on 7 August. On the left General Lefebvre advanced towards the Wiesent, where he threatened the Austrian right flank. In the centre General Collaud advanced towards Forcheim, located on the east bank of the Regnitz. His advance guard was commanded by Adjutant General Ney, who soon became involved in a battle with much stronger Austrian forces. Collaud was able to send reinforcements, and Ney was able to hold his position while the battle was decided elsewhere. After the battle Ney was promoted to brigadier-general.

General Grenier, advancing down the west bank of the Regnitz, pushed the last Austrian forces back across the Aisch, and then moved south-west along the river, where he joined up with Championnet. The French then carried out a series of attacks that kept Kray pinned in place, while General Bernadotte advanced towards Hochstadt, four miles to the left of the main Austrian line. When General Bonnaud led his cavalry around the Austrian left Kray realised that he had been outflanked. He retreated south-east, and crossed the Regnitz at Hausen, two miles to the south of Forchheim. This left Wartensleben isolated, and so he abandoned Forchheim and ordered a general retreat south to Nuremburg. The small garrison of Forchheim surrendered at the first summons, and the French captured sixty guns in the fortress.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 February 2009), Combat of Forchheim, 7 August 1796 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/combat_forchheim.html

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