The Soldiers of Hesse and Nassau
Translated by Greg Gorsuch
Chapter IV: Campaign of 1809 against Austria, Part 2
BATTLE OF RAAB
Lasalle was sent to meet the army of Italy, which advanced through Hungary, driving back before it the Austrian army of Archduke John. The Marulaz Division, the Hessian fusiliers, the Baden brigade accompanied the squadrons of Lasalle and would ensure the union of Prince Eugene’s troops with those of Napoleon.
Our 2 Hessian battalions on 5 June were at Kitsée on the 7th in Karlsburg, on the 11th in Ragendorf, on the 12th in Frauendorf where they took prisoners a number of men belonging to the “Hungarian Uprising”. On the 14th, they occupied Halaszi and took part in the victory of Raab won by Prince Eugene.
On the evening of this battle, Sergeant Haus, of the Hessian fusiliers, accompanied by carriage an aide-de-camp of General Lasalle carrying dispatches for the Army of Italy: Austrian cavalrymen having pursued them, the Sergeant successively shot down with fusil shots three of the enemy hussars: the others got discouraged and let the carriage escape. The French officer was saved and his dispatches reach their destination. Haus, congratulated by Lasalle, was appointed an officer.
The siege of the city of Raab lasted from 16 to 22 June, when the town surrendered. The Emperor was concerned about this siege:
‘…I attach great importance to taking Raab. If it is not taken, send your mortars there immediately, and instruct General Lasalle to put them in battery with his Hessian battalion, and 3 or 4 howitzers that you will provide him. These will fire, while General Lauriston (Baden brigade), whom I am responsible for taking over the place, will fire on his side…
On 4 July, the 2 Hessian battalions returned to Lobau Island.
BATTLE OF WAGRAM (5 AND 6 JULY 1809)
The month of June had been spent for the Grande Armée in preparing with all conceivable precautions a new crossing of the Danube, in front of the Austrian army, now covered by an imposing line of entrenchments.
The Imperial order of 2 July, given at eleven o’clock in the evening at the Napoleon Island camp, the new name of Lobau Island, prescribed all the execution details for the launching of the bridges, the passage of the troops, as well as the mission assigned to each of the army corps:
‘…The Duke of Rivoli will have his 4 infantry divisions (Molitor, Carra-Saint-Cyr, Legrand and Boudet)…He will make the left of the army: 1st position, under the position of the batteries of the Alexander Island; 2nd position, under the protection of the batteries of the Isle of Lannes; 3rd position, in Enzersdorf…’
On the night of 4 to 5 July, Boudet and Molitor crossed to the left bank of the Danube with the cavalry of Lasalle and Marulaz and were followed by Oudinot and the rest of Masséna’s corps: Carra-Saint-Cyr crossed the bridges at dawn and marched on Enzersdorf, his left leaning against the Danube. The Darmstadt Brigade had its 6 full battalions; its artillery opened fire at eight o’clock in the morning, in front of Enzersdorf, which was soon captured by the voltigeurs of the division; at half past twelve, Masséna headed for Essling: the fortified line of the Austrians was turned by the deployment of the French army. At the same time that our whole line was moving forward, the Duke of Rivoli takes as directed the village of Breitenlee, and Molitor drives back before him the Austrian corps of Klenau which Legrand outflanked on the right; Carra-Saint-Cyr was in reserve and the Hessian infantry did not fight that day: they bivouacked in the evening east of Breitenlee, where Masséna spent the night; the other elements of the 4th Corps are in Leopoldau, Breitenlee, Süssenbrunn; artillery, near Rassdorf.
DAY OF 6 JULY (2nd DAY OF THE BATTLE)
Leaving one of his divisions to occupy Gros-Aspern, Masséna had the order to seize Aderklaa. At seven o’clock in the morning he launched Carra-Saint-Cyr against this village defended by the Austrian 1st Corps. Under a terrible artillery fire, the division advanced in a tight column of battalions at 6 paces apart, preceded by its skirmishers and supported by its own artillery to which were joined 20 Saxon pieces; at 1,200 paces from the enemy, the attack sounded and the division set off, weapon in arm, with cries of: ‘Forward! — Long live the Emperor!’ The French brigades outflanked the left of the village into which the 6 Hessian battalions soon entered; the enemy line was taken but a violent counter-attack then occurred: on our left, the 24th Infantry Regiment was driven back, and a column of Austrian grenadiers intrepidly approaching the village managed to enter it, despite desperate efforts of the Hessians; in the hand-to-hand combat which was engaged at this time in Aderklaa, the 2nd battalion of the Regiment du Corps lost its leader, Major Scharnhorst, and its flag.The Hessians, decimated, were finally pushed out of the village, in which they left a fifth of their effectives killed, wounded or prisoners.
- — CARRA-SAINT-CYR, Commander of the 2nd Division of the 4th Army Corps (After a lithograph from the collection of Generals Lyonnais, published by Chevalier.)
The entire Carra-Saint-Cyr division retreated… It was collected in front of Rassdorf by the Legrand Division behind which it effected its rally: it now had only 1,500 men, including 500 Hessians…
A panic of the Saxon corps had brought about this disorder and favored the Austrian offensive. During the retreat movement of the Saint-Cyr division, Masséna whom a recent injury prevented from riding a horse, traveled in his carriage drawn by two white horses through the ranks of his battalions to put them in order: this extraordinary spectacle, which recalled the legendary times and the heroic warriors of antiquity, struck with astonishment the enemy itself and drew upon the division a hail of cannonballs…Only in the evening could one realize the losses of the day: they amounted for the brigade of Hesse, to 28 officers and 595 men, without mentioning 7 officers and 223 soldiers missing; the 1st Fusilier Battalion du Corps was reduced by half; in the Guard Regiment alone, 11 officers and 227 men were hors-de-combat.
The battery, also very tried, had only 2 pieces in any condition to move forward; it lost during the day 6 gunners killed, 19 wounded, including an officer, and a dozen horses; the ammunition which it fired was Austrian, adapting badly to the caliber of the pieces and requiring for loading the use of the rammer: hence, appreciably slowing down the speed of the fire; however, the battery fired 808 rounds, or about 135 rounds per gun.
We know that the entry into action of the artillery of the Guard, the march of Macdonald, and the capture of the heights of Neusiedel by the right of the French army determined the victory. If the Hessians had behaved valiantly in the battle, they would be equally energetic in the pursuit.
From 7 July, Carra-Saint-Cyr began to follow the enemy rearguard and arrived at Korneuburg, where a first engagement took place.
The next day, Masséna marched on Stockerau, in the footsteps of the Austrian corps of the Prince of Reuss. He received the order to direct his entire army corps on Znaïm.
Hollabrunn was heavily occupied by the enemy; on 9 July, Legrand’s division took this village, loses it and recaptures it; the Hessian battery took part in this engagement; the same day, in the vanguard, the regiment of light horse from Darmstadt experienced a disastrous failure near Stockerau. The arrival in the Carra-Saint-Cyr Division on the 10th and the battle of Schöngrabern persuaded the Prince of Reuss to retire; the 4th Corps arrived on the Thaya, Legrand advanced to the left of Guntersdorf, Saint-Cyr supports it on the right: all the army columns converged on Znaïm (Znojmo).
On 11 July, the Duke of Rivoli emerged from the Thaya bridges with the 26th and 18th Regiments soon followed by the Baden brigade; Saint-Cyr arrived with everyone, our line was established under Znaïm; the 1st Battalion of the Hessian Guard Regiment and the 2 battalions of fusiliers, starting from Tesswitz, pushed back the Austrians to the walls of Znaïm, while the Hessian battery took up position near the bridge over the Thaya. Masséna was going to make the assault, when a suspension of arms was announced: the armistice was signed the same day. The 4th Corps took up cantonments in Moravia, the Hessians in Kronau.
At the beginning of the month of August, Carra Saint-Cyr under whose orders the Hessians had just distinguished themselves throughout this campaign was replaced by General Desaix; 1 battalion of 208 men arrived from Darmstadt to reinforce the strength of the brigade, much reduced by fire and by the fatalities. The Emperor’s Feast, on 15 August, was celebrated in all the cantonments with festivities and reviews: artillery salvos were fired (the Hessian battery fired 10 cartridges per piece), the officers were invited to a grand dinner with the general of division and received a gratuity of 12 francs per head; each soldier receives 2 fr. 50.
On 27 July, the Emperor gave 7 crosses to the Darmstadt contingent: Colonel von Lehrbach, commander of the Guard Regiment, and Captain Steinlig both received the star of the brave.
After the signing of peace in Schönbrunn on 14 October, the Hessians went to Geras (17 October) where they were joined on the 26th by a second battalion of a full complement of 600 men, which left on 12 September from Darmstadt.
On 18 December, the Hessian infantry made its junction in Reichenau with the regiment of light horses and took the way back to the Grand Duchy: via Passau, Straubing, Regensburg, Nuremberg, Würzburg, Aschaffenburg, the contingent reached Darmstadt 21 January 1810; it entered with solemnity, the light horse in the lead, then the artillery followed by the 2 infantry regiments: these had their battalions formed in 5 companies, the last of which wearing the shako recently introduced to the uniform and whose distribution to the troops was not yet completed.
During a large parade, on February 4, the Hessians received another 16 crosses of the Legion of Honor: it was a fair reward for the services rendered: a third of the Darmstadt contingent – 58 officers and 1,513 men had remained on the field of honor: more than half of these losses had been suffered at Wagram.
In the first months of 1810, the French exercise regulations (Westphalian edition) replaced in the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt the Austrian regulations in use until then. The blue pants, long and falling, were adopted; and each infantryman now had 15 bullet cartridges for the annual target shooting exercises: which was, for the time, a great advance in training practices…
III: The light horse of the Hessian Guard in the Marulaz Division. Battles of Neumark. Battles of Essling and Wagram. Fight of Stockerau.
It was on 31 January 1809 that Colonel Chamot, commanding the Light Horse Regiment of the Hessian Guard, received the order to put on a war footing 2 squadrons of 100 horses to accompany the contingent of Darmstadt during the campaign against Austria. The regiment left Darmstadt on 21 March with the first Hessian column and arrived with it in Augsburg on 9 April; there, it entered the cavalry division of General Marulaz. Colonel Chamot having fallen ill at this time, the command of the Hessian squadrons was therefore exercised by the Major von Münchingen.
The Bavarian divisions fell back before the invading army of Austria; the Emperor, upon his arrival in the army, carried out a rapid concentration of his forces, attacked Archduke Louis and General Hiller at Landshut who were beaten and driven back, then entrusted Marshal Bessières with a combined corps to carry out the pursuit of the enemy left wing now out of the fight; he then turns against Archduke Charles and went on to beat him at Eckmühl.
The Hessian Light Horse did not take part in the attack on Landshut, but they were decoupled, with the entire Marulaz Division, in the advanced guard of Bessières, to initiate the pursuit: they galloped at the heels of the Austrians who they would no longer lose contact.
THE TWO BATTLES OF NEUMARKT
On 22 April at three in the morning Marulaz entered Vilsbiburg, where he found
‘…300 to 400 carriages or caissons, 2 pieces of cannon and a convoy of 40 oxen with several pontoons that the enemy could not take due to the speed that was put in pursuing it. The division continuing its movement, the Hessian Light Horse forming the head of the column, made 3,000 prisoners and reached the enemy who had rallied at Freichten half a league behind Neumarkt (Bavaria). The Hessians and the 1st Squadron of the 19th Chasseurs charged them vigorously to force him to leave this position, but at the exit of the defile he presented several lines of infantry which, growing in their fire, forced this troop to retreat behind the defile..’
Major von Münchingen, wounded by a lance blow in this engagement, was saved by his horsemen from the hands of the Austrian uhlans who were going to take him prisoner.
‘…Towards the end of the day, the division set out again, on the advice that the enemy was withdrawing from Neumarkt: it crossed this town and headed for Otting and Mühldorf. During the night of 22-23, they took up post at Unter-Rohrbach where the junction of the roads leading to Otting and Mühldorf was located: the 3rd Regiment of Chasseurs was responsible for guarding and scout that of Otting, the Hessian Light Horse that of Mühldorf and the 19th Chasseurs placed themselves behind the defiles to guard the various outlets. In this critical position, the division spent the whole night on horseback and received several alerts produced by a few fusil shots fired at our outposts…’
Here is how the Duke of Istria reported to the Emperor on these operations:
‘…Sire, I arrived at Neumarkt yesterday morning at noon; a cavalry charge carried out with vigor by part of the 19th Chasseurs and the regiment of Hesse was sufficient to sweep the small plain in front of this town. Squadron Leader Lebrun of the 19th Regiment and Major Münchingen behaved perfectly… The enemy retreated to Otting and Mühldorf …’
From daybreak on 23 April, Marulaz made a forward movement to support his reconnaissance on Otting and Mühldorf. The light horse of Darmstadt were detached under the orders of the Adjutant-Commander Ronsonnet to go to Mühldorf in order to reconnoiter the bridge of this city and to scout the roads of Munich and Wasserburg: it was the Captain Dalwigk’s squadron carrying out the reconnaissance on Mühldorf: the bridge was burnt down during the night and the enemy withdrew the night before; on the other side, Ransonnet found the Kraiburg bridge also cut off. The reconnaissance of 25 horses and 1 officer, sent on the road to Munich, met a league from Mühldorf 50 Austrian hussars that the Hessian officer charged vigorously: the enemy did not wait for the shock and withdrew; reconnaissance has learned that there were still Austrian infantry and cavalry in Munich.
- – GENERAL MARULAZ (From the portrait taken from the History of the 8th Hussar Regiment.)
‘…The Hessian patrols responsible for communicating with the 3rd Chasseurs stationed in front of Otting having reported to Adjutant-Commander Ransonnet that the enemy still occupied this bridgehead and had even gathered forces there, he ordered a retrograde movement and placed the Hessian Light Horse half a league behind Mühldorf, in a position which allowed the corps to withdraw in the event that the 3rd Chasseurs, placed to its left, would be forced: this event happened.’
- — From Neumarkt (Bavaria) to Neumarkt (Austria) for following the operations of the Hessian Light Horse in the Marulaz Division.
‘Around seven o’clock in the evening, 2 regiments of enemy hussars supported by 4 battalions left with impetuosity from Otting, charged the 3rd Chasseurs which after losing 80 men was forced to withdraw in great haste…supported by the 19th placed in echelons. This retreat was supported by a Bavarian battalion which behaved with great valor and which used the 60 cartridges it had per man in a very heavy fire.’
‘The division, pursued by superior forces, both infantry and cavalry, withdrew with great order behind Neumarkt…’
This night of the 23rd to the 24th almost ended tragically for the Hessian regiment: indeed, surprised at midnight in their bivouacs by a strong Austrian column, the Light Horse were forced to mount their horses quickly, in the dark which fortunately covered them, and also to fall back behind the Bavarian infantry whose fire stopped the enemy: this alert cost a certain number of prisoners to the Hessians.
Bessières, on the 24th, ran up against Hiller’s troops: the latter made head way against the French and German squadrons and pushed them back on the Bavarian advanced guard of General von Wrede, who followed them closely; Wrede fully engaged his 9 battalions, but he was forced to abandon Neumarkt and retreat to Vilsbiburg where Molitor’s division took him in. The Austrians, after this success, retreated to Braunau.
But the Duke of Istria without delay resumed his march forward for a moment suspended; the Hessian riders crossed the Inn on 27 May then went on the 28th to Altötting and Tittmoning; in Burghausen, on the 30th, Bessières made his junction with the corps of Marshal Lannes and with the Imperial Guard: the Emperor reviewed the troops, testified his satisfaction with the cavalry regiments and gave crosses: to the Hessian regiment, he decorated the Major von Münchingen, Lieutenant von Umbgrove and Wachtmeister Sommerlad.
The intrepidity of the Darmstadt cavalrymen had been much noticed by the general officers under whose orders they were placed: General Marulaz, this legendary type of bravery and daring, former colonel of the 8th Hussar Regiment, wrote in these terms to the commander of the Hessian Light Horse after the Freichten affair:
‘Mr. Major, I reported to His Excellency the Duke of Istria on the distinguished conduct of the corps you command, in the combat of Freichten near Neumarkt, on 22 April, and I informed His Excellency the Marshal commander-in-chief that, despite an injury, you insisted on continuing the campaign and in commanding your regiment. I asked for the eagle of the Legion of Honor for you and I hope that His Majesty, satisfied with your distinguished services, will satisfy my request. In an interview with the Emperor, I even elaborated on the particular satisfaction that the Hessian Light Horse Regiment of the Guard had given me…’
Bessières, Lannes and the Guard crossed the Salzach at Burghausen: Marulaz would cross the Inn at Braunau and from there marching on Ried and Riedau (30 April).
On 2 May, his vanguard fell on the enemy at Neumarkt (Austria). This name, badly remembered, must still be attached to an unhappy day for the Hessian squadrons; their point, engaged in a wrong direction after having crossed this small town, was not followed by the main body of the regiment which advanced in column of four without being covered in front, on a road bordered by ditches deep from which it could not come out to deploy; it was soon threatened in this difficult position by squadrons of uhlans, then by Tyrolean jäger; the Captain von Dalwigk was killed at the head of the column, he was only twenty-four years old, a light horseman fell dead beside him and several others are wounded…In front of the firm countenance of the Austrian rearguard, Marulaz abandoned the mastery of Wels, returning to Schärding (3 May) and rallied with Masséna’s corps on 4 May: the Darmstadt Light Horse Regiment had only 140 horses in line: it left half of its effectives injured or exhausted; because, since the start of operations under the orders of Marshal Bessières, ‘the regiment had to trot and even gallop a lot’.
The debris of Hiller’s corps had taken a position in Ebersberg, on the Traun: they retreated in front of Marulaz who had a happy fight against 16 Austrian squadrons of General Schustekh: the latter crossed the Traun with all his forces, 14 battalions and 24 squadrons, and delivered to Bessières, Oudinot and Masséna, the bloody combat of Ebersberg where the cavalry had little to intervene.
On 6 May, Masséna left Enns with the 4th Corps and arrived in Vienna in five stages: the French entered the city on the 13th from where the Hessian Light Horse were immediately detached and sent for observation on the road to Pressburg; they then return to Kaisers-Ebersdorf and bivouacked there several days before the battle of Essling.
Masséna began crossing the Danube on 20 May: on the morning of the 21st, Marulaz crossed the bridges with all his division; he paraded in front of the Emperor, and the regiment of light horse of the Hessian Guard immediately took the outposts in front of Aspern: it was it who began the battle; in the first engagement of the day, Lieutenant von Breidenbach was wounded. After several charges, Marulaz brought his division back to the infantry. The Emperor twice engaged his cavalry during the repeated attacks of the Austrians against Essling and Aspern: he had, during this first day of the battle, the Marulaz Division (of the 4th Corps), two other light brigades, the division of cuirassiers of Spain and part of the division of cuirassiers Nansouty: the Hessian Light Horse took part in these two cavalry attacks.
The next day, 22 May, the Marulaz squadrons detached behind the right wing of 4th Corps, towards Essling, suffered considerably from enemy artillery fire.
During the two days of the battle, the Hessian regiment lost 7 killed, 8 wounded, and 52 horses killed; 4 officers had horses killed under them. The regiment, brought back to the Island of Lobau, bivouacked there with the whole corps of Masséna and began by remaining three days without food and without fodder…
While Napoleon was preparing a second crossing of the Danube, Marulaz was sent, by Brück, to Thet on the Leitha south of Raab, to help link the Grand Army with the Army of Italy that Prince Eugene brought to Hungary by pursuing the retreating troops of Archduke John. Marulaz did not take part in the battle of Raab (14 June), returned on 4 July to Kaisers-Ebersdorf, bivouacked at Lobau and emerged on the 5th on the left bank of the Danube. That day, Masséna and Oudinot supported by Marulaz’s squadrons attacked Enzersdorf and seized it: the cavalry then passed behind the infantry; they resume their alert until the evening when they charged again in the direction of Breitenlee: the light horse of Hesse-Darmstadt were engaged twice, on this day, against the Austrian regiment of ‘Hussars of Hesse-Homburg’…
On 6 July, while the Saxons and the Carra-Sint-Cyr division of the 4th Corps marched on Aderklaa, the Hessian cavalrymen were launched on an Austrian battery of 10 pieces established to the right of this village: they entered the battery, slashed the gunners, seize the guns, while the infantry of Hesse entered Aderklaa and remained there; but an energetic counter attack return of the enemy soon forced the Hessian battalions to abandon the village; on the other hand, the battery removed by the light horse was recaptured by the Austrians: the cavalry of Darmstadt, in their retreat, were threatened with an attack by enemy cuirassiers: fortunately the Lasalle cavalry division, intervening at this time, contained and finally pushed back the Austrian squadrons. During this engagement against the battery, Lieutenant Amerongen and 19 light horse were taken prisoner; many cavalrymen were wounded…At night, while the trumpets sounded victory everywhere, Marulaz charged again the Austrian right…He finally led his exhausted squadrons to bivouac at Leopoldau.
BATTLE OF STOCKERAU
Masséna began on 7 July the pursuit of the enemy on the road to Bohemia: Marulaz therefore gathered his regiments for the kill (à l’hallali). The Hessian Light Horse did not fight that day, employed as they were to support a battery; but, the next day, they took the vanguard, and, on 9 July, while continuing this service, experienced a bloody failure: attacked by the Austrian hussars, they are broken up, dispersed, and almost destroyed…Lieutenant Colonel von Münchingen hardly managed to rally a handful of his riders in Stockerau…
‘I found in Stockerau the lieutenant-colonel von Münchingen with 26 horsemen,’ — wrote General von Nagel to the Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt that same day; ‘this is all that remains of the light horse regiment.’
This figure of 25 horsemen was quickly increased by the return of men dismounted during the engagement, lost during the rally or slightly wounded and remaining behind. The regiment therefore resumed its march on Znaïm, stopping on 12 July by the conclusion of the armistice; Masséna’s corps then took cantonments in Moravia.
During this period of rest, Lieutenant-colonel von Münchingen busied himself with restoring the best order in the equipment and armament of his squadrons. Like all the other regiments of the Grande Armée, the light horse of Darmstadt had received on 2 June a gratuity of 40,000 francs: this sum was used to give the troop the value of two months’ pay, the rest went to repairs of all kinds. No remount horses could be found in Vienna to replace the missing ones, nor the Hungarian saddles necessary for the regiment: by contrast, the Austrian capital provided sabres, carbines and pistols for the entire strength of the Hessian light horses.
The regiment was called to Vienna on 15 August to hold a garrison there, relieving in this place a regiment of Württemberg cavalry. From 14 September, it provided 60 horses for the relay line established between Vienna and Passau. While stationed in Vienna, a real battle ensued one day, at the Prater, in a ball, between a few light horse from Darmstadt and a band of a hundred French soldiers. The cause was, as one can easily imagine, a beauty of easy virtue brought there by the Hessian horsemen and which French gallants wanted to conquer: the sabres soon came out of the scabbards; despite their numerical inferiority, the light horse were bravely defending themselves against their numerous adversaries, when the gendarmerie intervened and took them to prison. The Emperor, informed of the fact, had the Hessian cavalry brought in and after a green warning sent them free to their distant location: ‘You are truly devilish!’
It was at this time that Prince Émile von Hesse-Darmstadt was appointed by the Grand Duke colonel of the regiment of light horse, replacing Colonel Chamot, whose health no longer allowed him to maintain an active command.
The Peace of Schönbrunn (14 October) brought about the month following the departure of the regiment for Gmund, where it temporarily entered the composition of Duponchel’s division; it left there on 18 November for Reichenau and there joined the other Hessian troops who returned to Darmstadt on 21 January 1810.
In this campaign against Austria, the light horse regiment of the Hessian Guard had lost 2 officers and 30 cavalry killed, 2 officers and 36 men wounded, and 180 horses, 110 of which remained on the battlefield.
 The Emperor to Marshal Davout. Schönbrunn, 16 June 1809.
 The division consisted of the 3rd, 14th, 19th and 23rd Regiments of Mounted Chasseurs and the regiment of the Baden Dragoons.
 The corps of Bessières corps included the cavalry division of Marulaz, the Bavarian division of General von Wrede and the Molitor Division of the 4th Corps.
 Historical Journal of Military Operations of the Light Cavalry Division of the 4th Corps of the German Army. (Saski, II, pp. 358-359.)
 Historical Journal of Military Operations of the Light Cavalry Division of the 4th Corps of the German Army. (Saski, II, pp. 358-359.)
 Bessières to the Emperor. Neumarkt, 23 April 1809.
 Correspondence of General Marulaz. (Saski, II, pp. 368-369.)
 This officer died the following year as a result of this injury.
 Report by Lieutenant-Colonel von Münchingen, 12 August 1809.