Combat of Neumarkt, 23 August 1796

The combat of Neumarkt (23 August 1796) was the second of two delaying actions fought by General Bernadotte which gave General Jourdan and the Army of the Sambre-and-Meuse a chance to escape from a dangerous position on the River Naab. When Jourdan crossed the Rhine General Wartensleben, the commander of the Austrian Army of the Lower Rhine, began a retreat that took him up the Main, then to Nuremburg, and finally onto the east bank of the River Naab.

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

Further south the Archduke Charles was also retreating in the face of a French invasion (Moreau and the Army of the Rhine-and-Moselle). His aim was to unite his two armies somewhere on the Danube and then turn again each French army in turn. By early August the Archduke had decided to attack Jourdan first, and on 16 August he left the Danube at Neuburg and Ingolstadt and began to move north towards Neumarkt.

When Moreau advanced east to the Naab he left General Bernadotte to guard his right-rear at Neumarkt. As the Archduke approached his positon, Bernadotte realised that he was badly outnumbered – the Archduke left the Rhine with 24 battalions of infantry and 50 squadrons of cavalry, while Bernadotte only had 6,000 infantry and 1,200 cavalry. Despite this weakness he attacked the Austrians as they were crossing the White Laber at Deining (combat of Deining, 22 August 1796). The Archduke brought up reinforcements, and Bernadotte was forced to retreat north-west onto the wooded hills north of Neumarkt.

On 23 August the Archduke advanced towards Neumarkt. While Lichtenstein bombarded the city, General Hotze's infantry attacked the French outposts in the town. The Archduke then sent his cavalry around his left, outflanking Bernadotte's right. Bernadotte retreated from his positions close to the town onto the heights of Berg, to the north of Neumarkt. For the rest of the day the fighting was limited to a cannonade between the two armies, which ended at dusk. Under cover of darkness Bernadotte retreated from Berg to Altdorf, thirteen miles to the east of Nuremburg.

The Archduke now lost a chance to trap Jourdan, who only began to retreat from the Naab on the evening of 23 August. If the Archduke had followed Bernadotte in strength, then he could have overwhelmed Bernadotte's isolated division and pushed on to Bamberg and Würzburg, blocking Jourdan's route back towards the Rhine. Instead he sent General Hotze, with six battalions and eleven squadrons, to follow Bernadotte, and then took the main Austrian army north-east towards Amberg. Although he did inflict a defeat on Jourdan at Amberg on the following day, the French were able to escape to the west.  

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 February 2009), Combat of Neumarkt, 23 August 1796 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/combat_neumarkt.html

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