Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Battle of Winterthur (1799)

Battle of Winterthur (1799)

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Battle of Winterthur (1799)'
Start a new discussion about 'Battle of Winterthur (1799)'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
The Battle of Winterthur (27 May 1799) was an important action between elements of the Army of the Danube
Army of the Danube
The Army of the Danube was a field army of the French Directory in the 1799 southwestern campaign in the Upper Danube valley. It was formed on 2 March 1799 by the simple expedient of renaming the Army of Observation, which had been observing Austrian movements on the border between First...

 and elements of the Habsburg army, commanded by Friedrich Freiherr von Hotze
Friedrich Freiherr von Hotze
Friedrich Hotze, also known as Friedrich Freiherr von Hotze , a Swiss-born field marshal in the Austrian army during the French Revolutionary Wars, campaigned in the Rhineland during the War of the First Coalition and in Switzerland in the War of the Second Coalition, notably at Battle of...

, during the War of the Second Coalition
War of the Second Coalition
The "Second Coalition" was the second attempt by European monarchs, led by the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria and the Russian Empire, to contain or eliminate Revolutionary France. They formed a new alliance and attempted to roll back France's previous military conquests...

, part of the French Revolutionary Wars
French Revolutionary Wars
The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts, from 1792 until 1802, fought between the French Revolutionary government and several European states...

. The small town of Winterthur
Winterthur
Winterthur is a city in the canton of Zurich in northern Switzerland. It has the country's sixth largest population with an estimate of more than 100,000 people. In the local dialect and by its inhabitants, it is usually abbreviated to Winti...

 lies 18 kilometres (11 mi) northeast of Zürich
Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

, in Switzerland. Because of its position at the junction of seven cross-roads, the army that held the town controlled access to most of Switzerland and points crossing the Rhine into southern Germany. Although the forces involved were small, the ability of the Austrians to sustain their 11-hour assault on the French line resulted in the consolidation of three Austrian forces on the plateau north of Zürich, leading to the French defeat
First Battle of Zürich
The Helvetic Republic in 1798 became a battlefield of the French Revolutionary Wars. In the First Battle of Zurich on 4 – 7 June 1799, French general André Masséna was forced to yield the city to the Austrians under Archduke Charles and retreated beyond the Limmat, where he managed to fortify his...

 a few days later.

By mid-May 1799, the Austrians had wrested control of parts of Switzerland
Helvetic Republic
In Swiss history, the Helvetic Republic represented an early attempt to impose a central authority over Switzerland, which until then consisted mainly of self-governing cantons united by a loose military alliance, and conquered territories such as Vaud...

 from the French as forces under the command of Hotze and Count Heinrich von Bellegarde pushed them out of the Grisons
Grison Alps
The Grison Alps are the mountains of the Graubünden canton of Switzerland . There are many significant peaks in the Grison Alps, including the Tödi and the highest peak, Piz Bernina...

. After defeating Jean-Baptiste Jourdan's
Jean-Baptiste Jourdan
Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, 1st Comte Jourdan , enlisted as a private in the French royal army and rose to command armies during the French Revolutionary Wars. Emperor Napoleon I of France named him a Marshal of France in 1804 and he also fought in the Napoleonic Wars. After 1815, he became reconciled...

 25,000-man Army of the Danube
Army of the Danube
The Army of the Danube was a field army of the French Directory in the 1799 southwestern campaign in the Upper Danube valley. It was formed on 2 March 1799 by the simple expedient of renaming the Army of Observation, which had been observing Austrian movements on the border between First...

 at the battles of Ostrach
Battle of Ostrach
The Battle of Ostrach, also called the Battle by Ostrach, occurred on 20–21 March 1799. It was the first battle of the War of the Second Coalition. The battle resulted in the victory of the Austrian forces, under the command of Archduke Charles, over the French forces, commanded by Jean...

 and Stockach
Battle of Stockach (1799)
On 25 March 1799, French and Austrian armies fought for control of the geographically strategic Hegau region in present day Baden-Württemberg. The battle has been called by various names: First Battle of Stockach, the Battle by Stockach, and, in French chronicles, the Battle of Liptingen...

, the main Austrian army, under command of Archduke Charles
Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen
Archduke Charles of Austria, Duke of Teschen was an Austrian field-marshal, the third son of emperor Leopold II and his wife Infanta Maria Luisa of Spain...

, crossed the Rhine at the Swiss town of Schaffhausen
Schaffhausen
Schaffhausen is a city in northern Switzerland and the capital of the canton of the same name; it has an estimated population of 34,587 ....

 and prepared to unite with the armies of Hotze and Friedrich Joseph, Count of Nauendorf
Friedrich Joseph, Count of Nauendorf
Friedrich Joseph of Nauendorf, a general and field marshal in Habsburg service during the French Revolutionary Wars, was noted for his intrepid and daring raids....

, on the plains surrounding Zürich.

The French Army of Switzerland and the Army of the Danube, now both under the command of André Masséna
André Masséna
André Masséna 1st Duc de Rivoli, 1st Prince d'Essling was a French military commander during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars....

, sought to prevent this merger. Masséna sent Michel Ney
Michel Ney
Michel Ney , 1st Duc d'Elchingen, 1st Prince de la Moskowa was a French soldier and military commander during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was one of the original 18 Marshals of France created by Napoleon I...

 and a small mixed cavalry and infantry force from Zürich to stop Hotze's force at Winterthur. Despite a sharp contest, the Austrians succeeded in pushing the French out of the Winterthur highlands, although both sides took high casualties. Once the union of the Habsburg armies took place in early June, Archduke Charles attacked French positions at Zürich and forced the French to withdraw beyond the Limmat
Limmat
The Limmat is a river in Switzerland. It is the continuation of the Linth river, known as Limmat from the point of effluence from Lake Zurich, in the city of Zurich. From Zurich it flows in a northwesterly direction, after 35 km reaching the river Aare...

 river.

Political and diplomatic situation


Initially, the rulers of Europe viewed the revolution in France as an event between the French king and his subjects, and not something in which they should interfere. As revolutionary rhetoric grew more strident, they declared the interest of the monarchs of Europe as one with the interests of Louis and his family; this Declaration of Pilnitz threatened ambiguous, but quite serious, consequences if anything should happen to the royal family. The French position became increasingly difficult. Compounding problems in international relations, French émigrés continued to agitate for support of a counter-revolution. On 20 April 1792, the French National Convention declared war on Austria. In this War of the First Coalition (1792–1798), France ranged itself against most of the European states sharing land or water borders with her, plus Portugal and the Ottoman Empire. Although the Coalition forces achieved several victories at Verdun
Battle of Verdun (1792)
The Battle of Verdun was fought on August 20, 1792 between French Revolutionary forces and a Prussian army. The Prussians were victorious. This therefore opened the path to Paris....

, Kaiserslautern
Battle of Kaiserslautern
The Battle of Kaiserslautern was a battle of the War of the First Coalition , fought near the German city of Kaiserslautern...

, Neerwinden
Battle of Neerwinden (1793)
The Battle of Neerwinden took place on near the village of Neerwinden in present-day Belgium between the Austrians under Prince Josias of Coburg and the French under General Dumouriez...

, Mainz
Battle of Mainz
The Battle of Mainz was fought on 29 October 1795 during the French Revolutionary Wars, between France and Austria. The battle was fought near the city of Mainz now in western Germany and ended in an Austrian victory.-People involved:...

, Amberg and Würzburg
Battle of Würzburg
The Battle of Würzburg was fought on 3 September 1796 between an army of Habsburg Austria led by Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen and an army of the First French Republic led by Jean-Baptiste Jourdan. The French attacked the archduke's forces, but they were resisted until the arrival of...

, the efforts of Napoleon Bonaparte in northern Italy pushed Austrian forces back and resulted in the negotiation of the Peace of Leoben (17 April 1797) and the subsequent Treaty of Campo Formio
Treaty of Campo Formio
The Treaty of Campo Formio was signed on 18 October 1797 by Napoleon Bonaparte and Count Philipp von Cobenzl as representatives of revolutionary France and the Austrian monarchy...

 (17 October 1797).

The treaty called for meetings between the involved parties to work out the exact territorial and remunerative details. Convened at a small town in the mid-Rhineland, Rastatt
Second Congress of Rastatt
The Second Congress of Rastatt, which was opened in December 1797, was intended to rearrange the map of Germany by providing compensation for those princes whose lands on the left bank of the Rhine had been seized by France....

, the Congress quickly derailed in a mire of intrigue and diplomatic posturing. The French demanded more territory. The Austrians were reluctant to cede the designated territories. Compounding the Congress's problems, tensions grew between France and most of the First Coalition allies. Ferdinand of Naples
Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies
Ferdinand I reigned variously over Naples, Sicily, and the Two Sicilies from 1759 until his death. He was the third son of King Charles III of Spain by his wife Maria Amalia of Saxony. On 10 August 1759, Charles succeeded his elder brother, Ferdinand VI, as King Charles III of Spain...

 refused to pay agreed-upon tribute to France, and his subjects followed this refusal with a rebellion. The French invaded Naples and established the Parthenopaean Republic
Parthenopaean Republic
The Parthenopean Republic was a French-supported republic in the territory of the Kingdom of Naples, formed during the French Revolutionary Wars after King Ferdinand IV fled before advancing French troops...

. Encouraged by the French Republic, a republican uprising in the Swiss cantons led to the overthrow of the Swiss Confederation and the establishment of the Helvetic Republic
Helvetic Republic
In Swiss history, the Helvetic Republic represented an early attempt to impose a central authority over Switzerland, which until then consisted mainly of self-governing cantons united by a loose military alliance, and conquered territories such as Vaud...

. The French Directory
French Directory
The Directory was a body of five Directors that held executive power in France following the Convention and preceding the Consulate...

 was convinced that the Austrians were planning to start another war. Indeed, the weaker France seemed, the more seriously the Austrians, the Neapolitans, the Russians, and the English discussed this possibility. In mid-spring, the Austrians reached an agreement with Tsar Paul
Paul I of Russia
Paul I was the Emperor of Russia between 1796 and 1801. He also was the 72nd Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta .-Childhood:...

 of Russia by which the legendary Alexander Suvorov
Alexander Suvorov
Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov , Count Suvorov of Rymnik, Prince in Italy, Count of the Holy Roman Empire , was the fourth and last generalissimo of the Russian Empire.One of the few great generals in history who never lost a battle along with the likes of Alexander...

 would come out of retirement to assist Austria in Italy with another 60,000 troops.

Outbreak of war in 1799


The French Directory's military strategy in 1799 called for offensive campaigns on all fronts: central Italy, northern Italy, the Swiss cantons, the upper Rhineland, and Holland. Theoretically, the French had a combined force of 250,000 troops, but this was on paper, not in the field. As winter broke in 1799, General Jean Baptiste Jourdan and the Army of the Danube
Army of the Danube
The Army of the Danube was a field army of the French Directory in the 1799 southwestern campaign in the Upper Danube valley. It was formed on 2 March 1799 by the simple expedient of renaming the Army of Observation, which had been observing Austrian movements on the border between First...

, at a paper strength of 50,000 and an actual strength of 25,000, crossed the Rhine between Basel
Basel
Basel or Basle In the national languages of Switzerland the city is also known as Bâle , Basilea and Basilea is Switzerland's third most populous city with about 166,000 inhabitants. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany...

 and Kehl
Kehl
Kehl is a town in southwestern Germany in the Ortenaukreis, Baden-Württemberg. It is located on the river Rhine, directly opposite the French city of Strasbourg.-History:...

 on 1 March. This crossing officially violated the Treaty of Campo Formio
Treaty of Campo Formio
The Treaty of Campo Formio was signed on 18 October 1797 by Napoleon Bonaparte and Count Philipp von Cobenzl as representatives of revolutionary France and the Austrian monarchy...

. The Army of the Danube advanced through the Black Forest
Black Forest
The Black Forest is a wooded mountain range in Baden-Württemberg, southwestern Germany. It is bordered by the Rhine valley to the west and south. The highest peak is the Feldberg with an elevation of 1,493 metres ....

 and, by mid-March, established an offensive position at the western and northern edge of the Swiss Plateau
Swiss plateau
The Swiss Plateau or Central Plateau constitutes one of the three major landscapes in Switzerland alongside the Jura mountains and the Swiss Alps. It covers about 30% of the Swiss surface...

 by the village of Ostrach
Ostrach
Ostrach is a municipality in the district of Sigmaringen in Baden-Württemberg in Germany.-Geography:Ostrach lies between the Danube and Lake Constance, about halfway between Sigmaringen and Ravensburg. It lies on the brook of the same name, which passes through a narrow pass between the glacial...

. André Masséna
André Masséna
André Masséna 1st Duc de Rivoli, 1st Prince d'Essling was a French military commander during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars....

 had already pushed into Switzerland with his force of 30,000, and successfully passed into the Grison Alps
Grison Alps
The Grison Alps are the mountains of the Graubünden canton of Switzerland . There are many significant peaks in the Grison Alps, including the Tödi and the highest peak, Piz Bernina...

, Chur
Chur
Chur or Coire is the capital of the Swiss canton of Graubünden and lies in the northern part of the canton.-History:The name "chur" derives perhaps from the Celtic kora or koria, meaning "tribe", or from the Latin curia....

, and Finstermünz on the Inn river. Theoretically, his left flank was to link with Jourdan's right flank, commanded by Pierre Marie Barthélemy Ferino
Pierre Marie Barthélemy Ferino
Pierre Marie Barthélemy Ferino, , was a general and politician of France. Born in the Savoy, he was the son of a low-ranking officer in the Habsburg military. In 1789, during the French Revolution, he went to France, where he received a commission in the French Army...

, at the far eastern shore of Lake Constance
Lake Constance
Lake Constance is a lake on the Rhine at the northern foot of the Alps, and consists of three bodies of water: the Obersee , the Untersee , and a connecting stretch of the Rhine, called the Seerhein.The lake is situated in Germany, Switzerland and Austria near the Alps...

.

The Austrians had arrayed their own army in a line from the Tyrol to the Danube. A force of 46,000 under command of Count Heinrich von Bellegarde formed the defense of the Tyrol. Another small Austrian force of 26,000 commanded by Friedrich Freiherr von Hotze
Friedrich Freiherr von Hotze
Friedrich Hotze, also known as Friedrich Freiherr von Hotze , a Swiss-born field marshal in the Austrian army during the French Revolutionary Wars, campaigned in the Rhineland during the War of the First Coalition and in Switzerland in the War of the Second Coalition, notably at Battle of...

 guarded the Voralberg. The main Austrian Army—close to 80,000 troops under the command of Archduke Charles
Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen
Archduke Charles of Austria, Duke of Teschen was an Austrian field-marshal, the third son of emperor Leopold II and his wife Infanta Maria Luisa of Spain...

—had wintered in the Bavarian, Austrian, and Salzburg
Archbishopric of Salzburg
The Archbishopric of Salzburg was an ecclesiastical State of the Holy Roman Empire, its territory roughly congruent with the present-day Austrian state of Salzburg....

 territories on the eastern side of the Lech river. At the battles of Ostrach
Battle of Ostrach
The Battle of Ostrach, also called the Battle by Ostrach, occurred on 20–21 March 1799. It was the first battle of the War of the Second Coalition. The battle resulted in the victory of the Austrian forces, under the command of Archduke Charles, over the French forces, commanded by Jean...

 (21 March) and Stockach
Battle of Stockach (1799)
On 25 March 1799, French and Austrian armies fought for control of the geographically strategic Hegau region in present day Baden-Württemberg. The battle has been called by various names: First Battle of Stockach, the Battle by Stockach, and, in French chronicles, the Battle of Liptingen...

 (25 March), the main Austrian force pushed the Army of the Danube back into the Black Forest. Charles made plans to cross the upper Rhine at the Swiss town of Schaffhausen
Schaffhausen
Schaffhausen is a city in northern Switzerland and the capital of the canton of the same name; it has an estimated population of 34,587 ....

. Friedrich Freiherr von Hotze brought a portion (approximately 8,000) of his force west, leaving the rest to defend the Voralberg. At the same time, Friedrich Joseph, Count of Nauendorf
Friedrich Joseph, Count of Nauendorf
Friedrich Joseph of Nauendorf, a general and field marshal in Habsburg service during the French Revolutionary Wars, was noted for his intrepid and daring raids....

, brought the left wing of the main Austrian force across the Rhine by Eglisau. They planned to unite with the main Austrian army, controlling the northern access points of Zürich
Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

 and forcing an engagement with Masséna.

By mid-May, French morale was low. They had suffered terrible losses at Ostrach and Stockach, although these had been made up by reinforcements. Two senior officers of the Army of the Danube, Charles Mathieu Isidore Decaen and Jean-Joseph Ange d'Hautpoul
Jean-Joseph Ange d'Hautpoul
Jean-Joseph Ange d'Hautpoul was a French cavalry general of the Napoleonic wars. He came from an old noble family of France whose military tradition extended for several centuries....

, were facing courts-martial
Court-martial
A court-martial is a military court. A court-martial is empowered to determine the guilt of members of the armed forces subject to military law, and, if the defendant is found guilty, to decide upon punishment.Most militaries maintain a court-martial system to try cases in which a breach of...

 on charges of misconduct, proffered by their senior officer, Jourdan. Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte and Laurent de Gouvion Saint-Cyr were sick, or claimed they were, and had left the army's encampments to recover their health. Masséna's force had been repelled by Hotze's army at Feldkirch
Feldkirch, Vorarlberg
- Schools :* Bundesgymnasium und Bundesrealgymnasium Feldkirch * Bundeshandelsakademie und Bundeshandelsschule Feldkirch* Bundesoberstufenrealgymnasium und Bundesrealgymnasium Schillerstrasse...

, and forced to fall back, and LeCourbe's failure to push through against Bellegarde's Austrian force in the Tyrol, meant Masséna had to pull his southern wing back as well as his center and northern wing, to maintain communication with the retreating armies on his flanks. At this point, also, the Swiss revolted again, this time against the French, and Zürich became the last defensible position Masséna could take.

Locale


Winterthur (ˈvɪntərˌtuːr, ˈvɪntərtʊər) lies in a basin south and east of the Töss river approximately 31 kilometres (19.3 mi) northeast of Zürich. To the north and east of the town lies a ring of hills approximately 687 metre (0.426883070078417 mi) high. To the west, the Töss river runs on its 59.7 kilometres (37.1 mi) course north toward the Rhine. The locale of a Roman settlement from 200 to 400, and the site of a medieval battle in 919, its location at seven crossroads gave it strategic importance in the effort to control north–south and east–west communication in the early days of the War of the Second Coalition
War of the Second Coalition
The "Second Coalition" was the second attempt by European monarchs, led by the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria and the Russian Empire, to contain or eliminate Revolutionary France. They formed a new alliance and attempted to roll back France's previous military conquests...

.

Leadership


After the defeats at the battles at Ostrach and Stockach, and the Army of the Danube's retreat into the Black Forest, the French Directory
French Directory
The Directory was a body of five Directors that held executive power in France following the Convention and preceding the Consulate...

 had sacked Jean Baptiste Jourdan in April 1799 and given command of both the Army of Switzerland and the Army of the Danube to André Masséna
André Masséna
André Masséna 1st Duc de Rivoli, 1st Prince d'Essling was a French military commander during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars....

. Protecting the northern access to Zürich, Masséna gathered some of the best commanders he had available; eventually, three of them would become Marshals of France, and Tharreau, a dependable General of Division.

The situation for the French was dire. Not only had they been trounced in southwestern Germany, the legendary Alexander Suvorov
Alexander Suvorov
Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov , Count Suvorov of Rymnik, Prince in Italy, Count of the Holy Roman Empire , was the fourth and last generalissimo of the Russian Empire.One of the few great generals in history who never lost a battle along with the likes of Alexander...

 was on his way to northern Italy with 60,000 Russians, to take command of Coalition forces there. Count Heinrich Bellegarde, positioned with 20,000 men in the Grisons, effectively isolated Masséna's force from any assistance out of Italy. Most threatening, Archduke Charles' main army lay less than a day away; in size alone, it could overwhelm him, or, if he withdrew to the west, its position cut off his avenue of withdrawal toward France. If Charles' left wing, commanded by Nauendorf, united with Hotze's force, approaching from the east, Masséna knew Charles would attack and very likely push him out of Zürich.

To prevent this merger of the Austrian forces, Masséna established a forward line centered at Winterthur, and under overall command of the experienced Jean Victor Tharreau
Jean Victor Tharreau
Jean Victor Tharreau , 15 January 1767, Le May-sur-Èvre – 26 September 1812, was a General of Division in the Army of the French Empire....

. The French forces were arrayed in an uneven semicircle, in which Winterthur formed the central part. The command of the Winterthur brigades was the most important. If the center could not hold its position, the flanks would be isolated and crushed. Masséna sent newly-promoted General of Division Michel Ney
Michel Ney
Michel Ney , 1st Duc d'Elchingen, 1st Prince de la Moskowa was a French soldier and military commander during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was one of the original 18 Marshals of France created by Napoleon I...

 to Winterthur on 27 May 1799 to take command of the center. Masséna recalled him from his assignment commanding an outpost of Claude Lecourbe
Claude Lecourbe
Claude Jacques Lecourbe , born in Besançon, was a French general during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars....

's force in central Switzerland, and gave him a command more fitting with his new rank. Ney arrived with the reputation for boldness considered typical of cavalry officers, but with minimal experience in commanding mixed forces. Anxious to prove himself but aware of protocols, he had hurried to Tharreau's headquarters, but had to wait for his letters of service before he could take command. These arrived on 25 May. The troops at Winterthur included a brigade of four battalions commanded by Dominique Mansuy Roget, a weak brigade commanded by Théodore Maxime Gazan, and a cavalry brigade commanded by Frédéric Henri Walther
Frédéric Henri Walther
Frederic-Louis-Henri Walther , was an Alsatian-born general of division and a supporter of Napoleon Bonaparte. He fought for France in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars....

.

Like Ney, Friedrich Freiherr von Hotze, the Austrian commander, was also a cavalry officer. Unlike Ney, he had broad field experience. The Swiss-born Hotze had entered the military service of the Duke of Württemberg in 1758 and had been promoted to Rittmeister
Rittmeister
Rotamaster was the military rank of a commissioned cavalry officer in charge of a squadron , the equivalent of O3 or Captain, in the German-speaking armies, Austro-Hungarian, Polish-Lithuanian, Russian and some other states.The exact name of this rank maintains a variety of spellings in different...

, or captain of cavalry; he had campaigned briefly in the Seven Years' War
Seven Years' War
The Seven Years' War was a global military war between 1756 and 1763, involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines...

, but saw no combat. Later, he served in the Russian army in the Russo-Turkish War (1768–74). With an Austrian commission, he joined the Habsburg imperial army, and served in the brief War of the Bavarian Succession (1778–79). His campaigning in the War of the First Coalition, particularly at the Battle of Würzburg
Battle of Würzburg
The Battle of Würzburg was fought on 3 September 1796 between an army of Habsburg Austria led by Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen and an army of the First French Republic led by Jean-Baptiste Jourdan. The French attacked the archduke's forces, but they were resisted until the arrival of...

, had earned him the confidence of Archduke Charles and elevation to the ranks of nobility by Charles' brother, Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor
Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor
Francis II was the last Holy Roman Emperor, ruling from 1792 until 6 August 1806, when he dissolved the Empire after the disastrous defeat of the Third Coalition by Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz...

.

Action



Preliminaries


On 22 May 1799, Friedrich Joseph, Count of Nauendorf
Friedrich Joseph, Count of Nauendorf
Friedrich Joseph of Nauendorf, a general and field marshal in Habsburg service during the French Revolutionary Wars, was noted for his intrepid and daring raids....

, led a large column across the Rhine at Constance
Constance
Constance is a female given name that derives from Latin and means "constant." Variations of the name include Connie, Constancia, Constanze, Constanza, Stanzy, and Konstanze.Constance may refer to:-People:*Constance Bennett , American actress...

, Stein
Stein am Rhein
Stein am Rhein is a municipality in the canton of Schaffhausen in Switzerland.The town has a well-preserved medieval centre, retaining the ancient street plan. The site of the city wall, and the city gates are preserved, though the former city wall now consists of houses...

 and Eglisau
Eglisau
Eglisau is a municipality in the district of Bülach in the canton of Zürich in Switzerland.-History:Eglisau is first mentioned in 892 as several independent farm houses known as Ouwa. In 1238 it was mentioned as Owe, in 1304 as ze Seglinger Owe, in 1332 as ze Eglins Owe and in 1352 as ze...

. Hotze's force had already crossed the Rhine further east, where it was still a mountain stream, and passed through the Grisons
Grison Alps
The Grison Alps are the mountains of the Graubünden canton of Switzerland . There are many significant peaks in the Grison Alps, including the Tödi and the highest peak, Piz Bernina...

, into Toggenburg
Toggenburg
Toggenburg is the name given to the upper valley of the Thur River, in the Swiss Canton of St. Gallen. Currently, it is one of the eight constituencies into which the canton is divided....

, and moved toward Zürich.

To prevent these two forces from joining with Archduke Charles' 100,000 men, on 22 May, Masséna and 23,000 troops of the Army of the Danube marched from Zürich in the direction of Winterthur. Once past Winterthur, they made their way another 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) northeast and, on 25 May, the two armies clashed at Frauenfeld
Frauenfeld
Frauenfeld is the capital of the canton of Thurgau in Switzerland.-Early history:The earliest trace of human settlement are several La Tène era graves to the east of Langdorf. The Roman road from Oberwinterthur to Pfyn ran through what is now the Allmend in Frauenfeld. Two Roman villas were...

. Out-numbered almost four to one, Hotze's force was badly mauled by the French; 750 of Hotze's men were killed or wounded, and 1,450 captured; in addition, Hotze lost two guns, and one color. His second-in-command, Major General Christoph Karl von Piacsek
Christoph Karl von Piacsek
Christoph Karl von Piacsek was an Hungarian officer in Habsburg military service during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was born in 1749 in Klobusics , in the commune of Trencsén, in the Kingdom of Hungary...

, was wounded in action and died later of his wounds. Despite the superiority of the French numbers, though, Hotze extricated his force from the engagement, maneuvered around the French position, and escaped in the direction of Winterthur.

Meanwhile, by 26 May Nauendorf established camp near Andelfingen
Andelfingen, Switzerland
Andelfingen is a municipality in the district of Andelfingen in the canton of Zürich in Switzerland.-History:Andelfingen is first mentioned in 1248 as Andelfingon. Until 1970, it was known as Grossandelfingen.-Geography:...

 and reacquired contact with the main Austrian force. Having united with Nauendorf, Archduke Charles awaited Hotze's force, coming from the east, before he would attack the French at Zürich. That same night, Hotze camped between Frauenfeld and Hüttwilen
Hüttwilen
Hüttwilen is a municipality in Frauenfeld District in the canton of Thurgau in Switzerland.-History:Archeological sites and scattered, individual items indicate that there was a mesolithic settlement in the Seebachtal near Hüttwilen. In 1928 a Roman era estate was discovered in Stutheien which...

, about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) southeast of Nauendorf's position, and sent his advance posts as far ahead as Islikon and Elgg
Elgg
Elgg is a municipality in the district of Winterthur in the canton of Zürich in Switzerland.-History:Elgg is first mentioned between 760 and 763 as Ailaghoga...

, only 9 kilometres (6 mi) east of Winterthur.

Clash


On the morning of 27 May, Hotze assembled his force into three columns and marched toward Winterthur. Opposite him, Michel Ney, newly in command of his division of approximately 3,000 men, deployed his force around the heights, the so-called Ober-Winterthur, a ring of low-lying hills some 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) north of the city.

Given the size of the Austrian force approaching him, Ney planned to withdraw to Winterthur. Before he could implement this action, the over-all commander of the forward line, Jean Victor Tharreau
Jean Victor Tharreau
Jean Victor Tharreau , 15 January 1767, Le May-sur-Èvre – 26 September 1812, was a General of Division in the Army of the French Empire....

, had galloped to his position and said he would support Ney by sending Jean-de-Dieu Soult's division; Ney understood this to mean he was to make a stand along the entire outpost line, and that he would not be isolated. His small force would receive reinforcements from Soult's division. Consequently, Ney directed the weakest brigade, under the command of Gazan, to move up a long valley toward Frauenfeld, and another brigade, under the command of Roget, to take the right, preventing any Austrian flanking maneuver.

By mid-morning, Hotze's advanced guard had encountered moderate French resistance first from Roget's brigade, and then, almost immediately, from Gazan's. The Austrian advance troops quickly over-ran Gazan's weak brigade and took possession of the woods surrounding the village of Islikon. After securing the villages of Gundeschwil, Schottikon, Wiesendangen, and Stogen, further west of Islikon, Hotze deployed two of his columns facing the French front, while a third angled to the French right, as Ney had expected he would.

By mid-morning, Ney had moved toward the front with Gazan's brigade and he could see the enemy advancing toward him; still expecting Soult's reinforcements on his flanks, he anticipated an easy victory, like the one three days earlier in which Masséna's force had pounded Hotze's column at Frauenfeld. He did not realize, at least not yet, that Hotze had 8,000 men with which to secure the crossroads north of Winterthur. Ney brought more of his men to the front, and moved against the Austrian left. In an Austrian volley, he and his horse went down; the horse was killed and Ney received a knee injury. He had his wound bandaged, called for another horse, and reentered the fight.

Ney now had two problems: he expected support columns from Soult's division on both flanks to arrive momentarily and he did not know that the Austrians had arrived in force, directly in front of his center. Although Roget's brigade was strong enough to prevent the Austrians from flanking the position, Gazan's brigade was too weak to resist the superior Austrian force, which was growing visibly stronger as Hotze's troops continued to arrive at the forward line and throw themselves into the fray.

Finally accepting that Soult would not arrive, Ney could not hope to hold his position, much less push the Austrians back. He concluded that he must fall back to Winterthur. To cover the retreat, he instructed Walther and his cavalry to establish a position on the Töss, above the bridge at Stieg. From there, the cavalry could protect an orderly retreat. Amidst a muddy rivulet feeding the Töss, Ney positioned a second detachment guarding the village of Töss and the road leading to a ridge of the hills, where he placed a couple of cannons. From the ridge, his rear guard could fire its artillery on the Austrian advance.

For Walther, at the bridge, the position appeared defensible for as long as it would take to remove Ney's force through Winterthur, yet the shock of the Austrian force, as it hit his defenses, was sufficient to break his line after 90 minutes of brisk fighting. But there the Austrian forward momentum stalled. Although Hotze's men forced Walther's from the bridge, they themselves could not cross it. From the ridge, Ney's rear guard maintained a steady stream of cannon fire on any of the Austrians who crossed the bridge and attempted to advance up the hill. Hotze recognized the futility of throwing his men into direct cannon fire and ordered instead a steady musketry barrage. This proved effective, for Ney was again injured, this time in his left hand, and his second horse was killed; he relinquished command to Gazan, who organized the continued withdrawal from the position.

When the Archduke heard of Hotze's success in taking Winterthur crossroads, he directed his troops to augment Nauendorf's, and to take the village and the environs of Neftenbach, 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) west-northwest of Winterthur. Nicolas Oudinot
Nicolas Oudinot
Nicolas Charles Oudinot, 1st Comte Oudinot, 1st Duc de Reggio , was a Marshal of France.-Early life:...

, whose men had secured Neftenbach as part of the French forward line, held out for most of the day, but was forced to retreat 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) to Pfrungen in the late afternoon; his position there was not defensible and he was pushed further back to the outskirts of Zürich. By taking Neftenbach, Charles placed a formidable group of troops between Ney's force and Hotze's flank and forced an uneven French withdrawal toward Zürich. Tharreau maneuvered around the Töss, attempting to re-establish his forward line, but Masséna did not want a general engagement between Zürich and Neftenbach, not there and not then. The Armies of Switzerland and the Danube were not ready to take on Charles; Masséna's forces were not prepared for a battle on the scale required in facing Charles' entire army, and he needed the defenses offered by Zürich to mount a proper line against the impending Austrian attack. Eventually, Tharreau withdrew the entire forward line to Zürich. The clash took 11 hours.

Aftermath


Hotze's force took relatively high casualties—1,000 men killed, wounded or missing (12.5 percent) of his entire force of 8,000—although his losses were comparable to Ney's 800 killed wounded or missing, from his 7,000-man force (11.5 percent). More importantly, though, Hotze succeeded not only in pushing the French back from Winterthur, but also in uniting his force with Nauendorf's and Charles'. The unified Austrian force completed the semicircle around Masséna's positions at Zürich.

For the French, despite their success earlier at Frauenfeld, the action was considerably less successful. In the clash, Ney was sufficiently wounded that he took immediate leave, and remained out of action and command until 22 July. The conduct of the battle also demonstrated the weakness of the French command system in which personal animosity and competition between high-ranking officers, in this case, Soult and Tharreau, undermined French military objectives. Tharreau eventually charged Soult with insubordination; Soult had outright refused to go to Ney's assistance, despite specific, and direct, orders to move his division to Ney's flanks.

Furthermore, the French dangerously underestimated Austrian tenacity and military skill. The white coats, as the French called the Austrians, were far better soldiers than the French assumed, and despite such demonstrations as that at Ostrach, Stockach and Winterthur, the French continued to hold this prejudice. This did not change until 1809 when the Battle of Aspern-Essling
Battle of Aspern-Essling
In the Battle of Aspern-Essling , Napoleon attempted a forced crossing of the Danube near Vienna, but the French and their allies were driven back by the Austrians under Archduke Charles...

 and the Battle of Wagram
Battle of Wagram
The Battle of Wagram was the decisive military engagement of the War of the Fifth Coalition. It took place on the Marchfeld plain, on the north bank of the Danube. An important site of the battle was the village of Deutsch-Wagram, 10 kilometres northeast of Vienna, which would give its name to the...

 a few weeks later caused Napoleon to revise his opinion of the Austrian military.

Finally, the battle at Winterthur made possible the victory at Zürich. Once the Austrian armies united west, north and east of Zürich, Charles decided he had a sufficiently superior force to attack Masséna's positions in Zürich. His strategy, to develop a converging attack, was not entirely possible without another Austria corps, which was commanded by Suvorov, and positioned in the mountains in Italy; this would have made possible the near encirclement of Masséna's command at Zürich, making the French position untenable. Even so, at the First Battle of Zürich
First Battle of Zürich
The Helvetic Republic in 1798 became a battlefield of the French Revolutionary Wars. In the First Battle of Zurich on 4 – 7 June 1799, French general André Masséna was forced to yield the city to the Austrians under Archduke Charles and retreated beyond the Limmat, where he managed to fortify his...

 (4–7 June 1799), the Austrian army forced the French to abandon Zürich; Masséna withdrew across the Limmat
Limmat
The Limmat is a river in Switzerland. It is the continuation of the Linth river, known as Limmat from the point of effluence from Lake Zurich, in the city of Zurich. From Zurich it flows in a northwesterly direction, after 35 km reaching the river Aare...

 river, where he set up a defensive position on the low-lying hills overlooking the city and awaited his opportunity to reacquire the city.

Austrian


Lt. Field Marshal Friedrich Freiherr von Hotze
Friedrich Freiherr von Hotze
Friedrich Hotze, also known as Friedrich Freiherr von Hotze , a Swiss-born field marshal in the Austrian army during the French Revolutionary Wars, campaigned in the Rhineland during the War of the First Coalition and in Switzerland in the War of the Second Coalition, notably at Battle of...

  • 12. Infantry Regiment Manfredini (3 battalions)
  • 21. Infantry Regiment Gemmingen (2 companies)
  • 41. Infantry Regiment Bender (3 battalions)
  • 1. Light Infantry Regiment Strozzi (1 battalion)
  • 7. Dragoon Regiment Waldeck (6 squadrons)
  • First Battalion, Hungarian-Banat Border Regiment

Total: ~8000 men

French


General of Division Michel Ney
Michel Ney
Michel Ney , 1st Duc d'Elchingen, 1st Prince de la Moskowa was a French soldier and military commander during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was one of the original 18 Marshals of France created by Napoleon I...

  • Honoré Théodore Maxime Gazan de la Peyrière's column (4 battalions)
  • Dominique Mansuy Roget's column (2 battalions)
  • Frédéric Henri Walther
    Frédéric Henri Walther
    Frederic-Louis-Henri Walther , was an Alsatian-born general of division and a supporter of Napoleon Bonaparte. He fought for France in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars....

    's cavalry (3 squadrons)


Total: 7,000 men