Napoleon Series Archive 2005

Re: Hohenreichen & Wertingen, 1805

Hi Jan -

I can't say for certain what Bowden was looking at, but I have been through the following:

- Murat to the Emperor, Wertingen, 8 Oct 1805
- Belliard to Andreossy, Zusmarshausen, 9 Oct 1805
- Operations of 1st Dragoon Division, 8 October 1805
- Devaux (3rd Dragoon Div) to Belliard, 10 Oct 1805
- Belliard’s official account (Cavalry Reserve) of 8 October – Combat of Wertingen
- Lannes to the Emperor, Wertingen, 8 Oct 1805
- Journal of 5th Corps (by Compans) for 16/17 Vendemiare (8-9 Oct) 1805
All in Alombert & Colin

None mention Hohenreichen, many mention Exelmans but none give specifics on his force. The highlights are outlined below.

1. According to the journal of operations of the 1st Dragoon division (Klein) they were ordered to form the advance guard of Murat’s force At Auchsesheim (just outside of Donauworth). They were the first to arrive, not Scalfort and Boyé from Beaumont’s division. Their initial action resembles that described by Bowden, but it is nowhere near Hohenreichen but rather by Gottmannshofen, just across the Zusam (SE) from Wertingen.

1st dragoon Division reports encountering Austrian advance posts at Gottmannshofen (just outside Wertingen on the right bank of the Zusam):
“General Klein, wanting to attack the advance posts of the enemy, ordered 60 dragoons to dismount, taken from the 3 regiments of the 1st brigade. The division, preceded by these men on foot, marched ahead, flushed out the enemy and forced it to retire to Wertingen.”

Klein then pushed out his left and crossed the Zusam near Roggden to cut off the Austrian line of retreat. Here the Austrians were drawn up on another height, with the infantry and 4 guns on the left and the cavalry on the right (obviously the Latour). 1er dragoons charged the position three times, finally forcing them to retreat. The rest of the division pressed off down the gorge formed by the Zusam towards Zusamaltheim

2. For the actions of Boyé and Scalfort we can consult Devaux’s report (Devaux was CoS of 34rd Dragoon division). In rough summary:

3rd dragoon div. Crosses the Danube 8 Oct at 7:00 am and marches on Zusmarshausen by Mertingen and Wertingen. The enemy occupied this position. Murat had arrived and engaged before us on the heights in front of Wertingen and pushed out tirailleurs (foot and mounted) towards the town [obviously a reference to Klein’s division already engaged], ordering Beaumont to charge a regiment in column on the road and in the town. This was executed with great vigor by the 9th dragoons, led by Scalfort at its head. The rest of the division followed and took position in advance of Wertingen in support of the 9th which had launched itself at a battalion of enemy grenadiers that had formed square on the heights. Beaumont sent the 16th to the left to maneuver and cover the division, left the 12th in reserve and at the head of the 5th and 8th also charged the battalion. The result was the capture of the entire battalion, 4 or 6 guns and 4 drapeaux. The woods prevented us from capturing them all. The 12th was then sent to the front, with Boyé at its head, and Murat ordered a charge. This general charged the enemy with very great vigor under the sharpest enemy fire coming from the woods...

3. Conclusion: It seems that Klein had frontally engaged an Austrian advance post E of Wertingen by Gottmannshofen, pushing back their advance posts and forcing them to retire into the woods and town. The strength isn’t specified, but we can probably assume this was Dinersberg’s forces that had retired from Frauenstettin, which would likely be the first Austrians the French encountered in this direction. Klein would therefore be attacking from the NE along the river and towards the Ausgburger road and its bridge over the Zusam into Wertingen. Beaumont arrives and finds Klein already engaged. He is ordered to charge another Austrian force stated as being a battalion on the road in column. This matches the Austrian deployment of the grenadier battalion of IR8 that was covering the Augsburger gate (the road from Augsburg apparently being the referenced road). Beaumont charges this battalion and cuts it up badly, the remnants forming square and fleeing into the woods that apparently were between the Hohenreichen road and the Pfaffenhofen road (which was the route taken by the French). Or it could be the Augsburger road. But this might be the source of the confusion if an account mentions the Hohenreichen road.

The Austrian sources (Schonhals, Wrede) confirm that the grenadiers of IR 8 were mauled badly and fell back into a wood, which matches Devaux’s account. It then appears that Beaumont pressed the remaining Austrians on the right bank of the Zusam back into Wertingen, cutting off a body of them in the woods, while Klein passed behind Beaumont and crossed the Zusam by Roggden to cut off the Austrian retreat to the S/SW. Meanwhile Oudinot was on the other side of the Zusam and attacked the heights of Binswagen where Hohenfeld’s grenadiers stood. Since the some of the remnants of the Austrians ended up around Zusmarshausen, it seems that Oudinot drove some of them back on Gunzburg (acc. to Compans) and some of the Austrians managed to cut their way through Klein (who was attempting to block the direct route to Zusmarshausen). In short, they were nearly encircled entirely.

As for Exelmans, he is mentioned for valor by Murat (in two reports) and by Belliard, but no details. Murat’s report: “My aide de camp, M. Exelmans, who has the honor of carrying this letter to you, conducted himself in the most brilliant manner: constantly at the head of charges and many times reforming and returning his regiments; he had 2 horses killed from beneath him …” Exelmans appears to have been with the Advance guard, although Klein’s report does not mention this.

4. So to return to your original question (having taken the long way around)the fighting seems to break into four more or less separate actions:

a. Klein’s 1st Dragoon Division

60 men dismounted from 3 regiments of 1st brigade backed up by additional mounted skirmishers (number unspecified)

2 companies Stuart IR18 grenadiers (approx. 200) + 1 squadron Albert KR

This action was bounded on the right by the Zusam and on the left by a patch of woods, the Pfaffenhofen road running through the center (direction of attack roughly SW)

Then subsequently there is:

b. Beaumont’s 3rd Dragoon Division

Boyé and Scalfort – mainly 9 squadrons

Ludwig IR8 grenadiers (1 battalion)

This action occurred to the left (SW) of the initial action and was bounded on the right by the patch of woods and on the left by the Zusam (direction of attack roughly NW)

c. Oudinot’s Grenadier Division (10 battalions)

Hohenfeld’s Brigade (4 grenadier battalions IR20, IR42, IR57, IR62)

+2 companies of Reuss-Greitz IR55 + 1 squadron Albert KR

+possibly some portion of the battalions in Wertingen proper

This action was bounded on the left by the Zusamm and on the right by Binswagen (direction of attack roughly due south)

c. Klein's 1st Dragoon division

mainly 1er dragoons (3 squadrons)

Latour Chevauxleger (2 squadrons)

+ infantry (unspecified, probably 2.5 battalions of IR55 that were closest to this position)

The remainder of Auffenberg’s force might have been the infantry with the Latour charged by 1er dragoons, which could fit Bowden’s description of battalions in square on a height with cavalry on the flanks. Klein seems to note that his cavalry charged the Austrian cavalry, supporting the squares assertion (if 1er dragoons wasn’t wasting its time trying to break squares). It seems that a good bit of Auffenberg's force withdrew behind this line to Zusmarshausen, and elements of Hohenfeld's force were forced back on Gunzburg.

Overall, I have trouble reconciling Bowden’s description with the French reports. As far as I can tell, the French cavalry was mainly engaged SE of Wertingen and subsequently S-SW (Klein’s attempted encirclement). The heights of Binswagen are NW of Wertingen. Lannes’ report (very terse as all his reports are and not really very useful though Compans’ is slightly better) describes Hohenfeld’s grenadiers as “lining the length of the wooded crest in the vicinity of Binswagen.” No mention of squares or cavalry in this sector. The cavalry reports mention one instance of a square being formed, a single battalion encountered by Beaumont (apparently IR8). The French reports align nicely with the Austrian account in Schonhals, but Bowden manages to deviate from both with some confusion as to the direction of march of the various elements of the French (he seems to place Oudinot SE of the Zusam, making him pass through Wertingen to reach Binswagen whereas Belliard states explicitly that Lannes’ forces advanced up the left bank (NW) of the Zusam. Lannes flanking maneuver to the right is therefore directed from the NE at Binswagen, and not through Wertingen at all, although portions did subsequently occupy the town. In other words, the maneuver was to encircle the Austrian force in Wertingen, not push through it. Oudinot encircled from the Zusam to the west of Wertingen, Klein to the South of Wertingen and Beaumont holding the area between the Zusam and Klein’s right.


Robert Goetz

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Hohenreichen & Wertingen, 1805
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