Battle of Ampfing (1800)
The Battle of Ampfing on 1 December 1800 saw Paul Grenier's two divisions of the First French Republic defending against the Austrian army southwest of the town of Ampfing during the French Revolutionary Wars. The Austrians, under the leadership of Archduke John of Austria, forced their enemies to retreat, though they sustained greater losses than the French. Ampfing is located 63 kilometers east of Munich and eight km west of Mühldorf am Inn.
After the expiration of the summer truce in November 1800, both the Austrian and French armies rushed to come to grips with each other in the terrain east of Munich. Archduke John managed to bring the bulk of his army against Grenier's left wing of Jean Moreau's French army near Ampfing. Outnumbered, two French divisions fought a stubborn rear guard action for six hours before retreating in good order.
Instead of being sobered by their 3,000 casualties, Archduke John and his staff became convinced that the enemy was on the run. The Austrian general ordered a pursuit of the French through forested terrain. But, instead of fleeing, Moreau and his troops were waiting for the Austrians. The two armies met in the decisive Battle of Hohenlinden two days later.
On 15 July 1800, France and Austria agreed to a truce that ended the summer campaign in southern Germany. Both armies prepared for a renewal of hostilities, but an extension of the truce was signed on 20 September. At this time, the Bavarian fortresses of Ingolstadt, Ulm, and Philippsburg were handed over to the French. But this allowed Austria to augment their field forces with 20,000 line infantry belonging to the garrisons. In the meantime, peace negotiations were carried out which ultimately failed.
The summer armistice held until 12 November 1800, when the French notified their enemies of their intention to end the truce in two weeks. Back in July, Emperor Francis II dismissed Feldzeugmeister (FZM) Pál Kray and appointed the 18 year old General-Major Archduke John to command the Austrian army. To bolster the young man, the emperor named FZM Franz von Lauer deputy commander while Oberst (Colonel) Franz von Weyrother became Chief of Staff.
The Austrians distributed 124,000 soldiers in an arc from Würzburg in the north to Innsbruck in the south. Feldmarschal-Leutnant (FML) Joseph-Sebastien von Simbschen held Würzburg with 12,000 troops. FML Johann von Klenau and 14,000 soldiers defended the north bank of the Danube near Regensburg. Archduke John's main army, with 49,000 infantry and 16,500 cavalry, lay behind the Inn River near Braunau am Inn and Passau. Lieutenant General Christian Zweibrücken's 16,000 Bavarians, Württembergers, Austrians, and French Émigrés lay to the southwest of the main army, guarding the line of the Inn. Farther to the southwest, FML Johann von Hiller occupied Innsbruck with 16,000 troops.
To counter the Austrians, the French fielded an even larger array of forces. From Frankfurt am Main, General of Division (MG) Pierre Augereau and 16,000 troops threatened Simbschen's northern wing. MG Jean Moreau controlled 107,000 of the main army, deployed in four wings. MG Gilbert Bruneteau de Saint-Suzanne's 24,000-strong detached force occupied the north bank of the Danube near Ingolstadt, MG Grenier's 24,000-man Left Wing deployed on the west bank of the Isar River near Landshut. Moreau massed the 36,000 soldiers of the Center around Munich under his personal control. The Right Wing of MG Claude Lecourbe defended the line of the upper Lech River farther west. Lastly, MG Jacques MacDonald with the 18,000-strong Army of the Grisons menaced Hiller's force from Switzerland.
Unlike most French armies of the Revolutionary period, Moreau's troops enjoyed a well-organized supply service. Though the onset of winter lengthened the army sick list, the months-long truce allowed many units to approach full strength. Many French officers were confident of success.
Moreau planned a broad-front advance eastward to the Inn, fighting any enemies he found. He would lead with his left to allow Lecourbe's Right Wing to advance unmolested, since it had a greater distance to cover. Once the French wings closed up to the Inn River, his troops would look for crossing sites.
The aggressive Weyrother persuaded Archduke John and Lauer to launch an offensive. The Austrian chief of staff planned to strike in the direction of Landshut. From there, the Austrians would either wheel left to smash the French left flank or possibly get across their enemies' line of communications to the west of Munich. However, in the last days of November, the Austrian army proved unable to advance with the necessary speed to turn the French north flank. Aware that their adversaries were also advancing, Lauer convinced the archduke to convert the flank march into a direct advance on Munich.
By the evening of 30 November, the Austrian advance occupied Ampfing. At dawn on 1 December, FML Johann Riesch left the town with 12 battalions of infantry and 12 squadrons of cavalry, or approximately 14,000 men. FML Ludwig Baillet de Latour-Merlemont led 9 battalions and 18 squadrons, or 12,000 soldiers, on Riesch's right flank. Latour quickly overran the French outposts and nearly surprised MG Michel Ney's division in its camp. Despite odds of four-to-one, the 19th Cavalry Regiment charged their attackers, which included the Latour Dragoon Regiment # 11.
The cavalry charge gave Ney enough time to place General of Brigade (BG) Gabriel Desperrières' brigade in line of battle to meet the first shock. Ney's division included 8,200 infantry, 1,100 cavalry, and 14 cannons, but one of his three brigades was detached to the south at Wasserburg am Inn. Desperrières conducted an able defense, counterattacking when the 13th Dragoons rode to his support. Meanwhile, Ney directed the fighting on a second brigade front. At noon, a horse artillery battery led by BG Jean Baptiste Eblé arrived and its accurate fire quickly dismounted four Austrian guns and destroyed three caissons. Later, two pieces were overrun by hussars, but the French gunners rallied and recaptured the pieces in a horseback charge.
While Latour battered against Ney, Riesch launched attacks against the 4,100 foot soldiers, 2,000 horsemen, and 16 guns belonging to Jean Hardÿ's division. A brigade belonging to MG Claude Legrand's division marched up and helped block Riesch's attempt to turn Hardÿ's flank. During the fighting, a shellburst wounded Hardÿ and caused him to hand over command to BG Louis Bastoul. With both French divisions being slowly pressed back by superior numbers, Grenier gave orders for a withdrawal.
Grenier directed a well-managed retreat along the road to Haag in Oberbayern, the units falling back in echelon. To save some artillery from capture, the 2nd Dragoons charged their pursuers and captured 100 Austrians. After falling back eight km, the French soldiers reached the open ground around Haag where they took up a defensive position. All told, the battle lasted six hours. In addition to the Latour Dragoons, the most heavily engaged Austrian units were the Archduke Charles Infantry Regiment (IR) # 3 and the Waldeck Dragoons # 7 from Riesch's column, plus IR # 60 and the Vecsey Hussars # 4 from FZM Johann Kollowrat's column.
The Austrians suffered 303 killed, 1,690 wounded, and 1,077 captured. The French lost 193 killed, 817 wounded, and 697 captured.  Expecting to fight a major battle the following day, the Austrian generals were surprised to find that the French evacuated Haag and vanished into the deep woods. Though Lauer counseled caution, the victory elated Archduke John, Weyrother, and the army staff. They became convinced that they only faced French rear guards. "This erroneous idea prompted Austrian headquarters to ignore all normal precautions in the haste to come to grips." John ordered a pursuit toward Hohenlinden by the columns of Riesch, Latour, and Kollowrat, while drawing in FML Michael von Kienmayer's 16,000-strong column to form his northern flank. Instead of running away, Moreau waited for the Austrians in the Hohenlinden plain with four divisions and his cavalry reserve. Two more French divisions stood ready farther south. The showdown Battle of Hohenlinden on 3 December would decide the winner of the war.
- Smith, p 188
- Arnold, pp 274-275. This is the strength of Ney (9,600) and Hardy (6,300) at Hohenlinden, plus Ampfing casualties. Smith lists 35,000 engaged, which is more than Grenier's entire Left Wing.
- Arnold, pp 276-277. This is the strength of Riesch (13,300) and Latour (10,900) at Hohenlinden, plus Ampfing casualties
- Arnold, p 220. Smith gives French losses as 1,200 total. Arnold's casualties are more detailed and are used here.
- Arnold, p 208
- Arnold, pp 205 & 213
- Arnold, pp 209 & 213
- Arnold, pp 209 & 211
- Arnold, p 212
- Arnold, pp 213-214
- Smith-Kudrna, Ludwig Baillet. Arnold incorrectly names older brother Maximilian Anton Karl, Count Baillet de Latour as a column commander.
- Arnold, p 217.
- Smith, p 188. Smith lists the Latour Dragoons as engaged.
- Arnold, p 218
- Arnold, pp 218-219
- Arnold, pp 219-220
- Smith, p 188. Smith also specifies the Clerfayt (vacant) IR # 9, but this unit belonged to Kienmayer's corps and was unlikely to have fought at Ampfing.
- Arnold, p 220
- Arnold, p 221
- Arnold, p 222
- Arnold, pp 225-228
- Arnold, p 256
- Arnold, James R. Marengo & Hohenlinden. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword, 2005. ISBN 1-84415-279-0
- Pivka, Otto von (pseud). Armies of the Napoleonic Era. New York: Taplinger Publishing, 1979. ISBN 0-8008-5471-3
- Smith, Digby. The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill, 1998. ISBN 1-85367-276-9