Siege of Luxembourg (1794–95)
|Siege of Luxembourg|
|Part of the French Revolutionary Wars|
Siège de Luxembourg 1794-1795 by Charles Caïus RENOUX
|French First Republic||Habsburg Austria|
The siege of Luxembourg was a siege by France of the Habsburg-held Fortress of Luxembourg that lasted from 1794 until 7 June 1795, during the French Revolutionary Wars. Although the French army failed to breach the walls of the city, which were renowned as amongst the best in the world, the fortress was forced to surrender after more than seven months.
The result of the capture of Luxembourg was the annexation of the Southern Netherlands into France on 1 October 1795. Most of Luxembourg (including all of the modern Grand Duchy), became a part of the département of Forêts, which was created on 24 October 1795.
After taking Rheinfels Castle, the French were masters of the left bank of the Rhine, with the exception of the fortresses of Mainz and Luxembourg. The Committee of Public Safety therefore ordered that both of these should be conquered.
The Army of the Rhine, commanded by General Michaud, attacked Mainz, while the Army of the Moselle under Jean René Moreaux would deal with Luxembourg. The French were particularly eager to take this city as they were hoping to find large stocks of provisions and war materials, which they were lacking.
Field Marshal Baron von Bender was the governor of Luxembourg, and the commander of the city was Field Marshal-Lieutenant von Schröder. 15,000 were garrisoned in the city, which was also defended by 500 guns, cannons, mortars and howitzers.
On 19 November 1794, the two companies of the 5th dragoon regiment which made up the vanguard of the division of General Jean-Baptiste Debrun were met around Liège by a large Austrian contingent of 1,500 infantrymen and 400 cavalry, which they defeated despite their numerical inferiority.
On 21 November, on the edge of the forest of Grünewald, the Debrun division encountered an Austrian outpost of 400 infantrymen, 300 Hussars and 6 artillery pieces. The brigade of General Péduchel pursued the enemy up to the reach of the cannons of Luxembourg. The confrontation, started at 11:30, lasted until nightfall, and ended in a victory for the French, who captured 4 cannons and their caissons.
The commander-in-chief, Moreaux, arrived on 22 November and deployed his three divisions around the city. The Tapronnie division occupied the road to Trier; the Debrun division took the road to Arlon; the third was on the road to Thionville; the reserve was in Frisange.
The artillery of the city engaged in intense firing on anything that was within range. The soldiers of the Army of the Moselle suffered from the hardships of winter, and lacked supplies. Often, half the men were not at their posts, but were buy pillaging the neighbouring villages to find food. General Moreaux, in late January, requested Field Marshal Bender to surrender honourably, but this was declined.
Unable to allow themselve to pillage like their soldiers, the officers also suffered from hunger. Moreaux fell ill and had to be evacuated to Thionville, where he died in the night of 10 to February. Command was now in the hands of General Jean-Jacques Ambert, but the Committee of Public Safety, in order to put an end to the siege of Mainz, decided to send the three divisions of the Army of the Moselle and its new commander to reinforce the Army of the Rhine. The Army of the Moselle's place would be taken by two divisions of the Army of Sambre-et-Meuse under Generals Chapsal and Desjardins. The artillery was entrusted to Major General Bollemont, while Jacques Maurice Hatry became Commander-in-Chief.
The two armies crossed on 20 March. Witnessing these movements, those inside the city thought that the French were lifting the siege, and engaged in several sorties to harass them, but were repulsed.
In the last days of April, General Hatry renewed the offer for the city to surrender, but this was declined again. He then started constructing a shielded battery on a nearby height, equipped with mortars, in order to bombard the city. Faced with this threat, the Austrians attempted a massive sorty on the night of 15 to 16 May, but were repulsed with heavy losses. Newly convinced of the futility of such actions, the governor ordered the continual bombardment of the French artillery positions. The firing lasted 12 days, but the French batteries retaliated and caused numerous casuaties, to the extent that the residents asked Bender to capitulate.
On 1 June, an envoy was sent to General Hatry, and on 7 June, the capitulation was signed at the French headquarters in Itzig. On 12 June, the 12,396 men still making up the garrison, left with the honours of war in front of 11,000 French soldiers. The last Austrian column was mostly composed of Belgian and Walloon soldiers, who laid down their arms, refused to follow the Austrians, and asked to serve France.
The French made a triumphal entry into the city: their first act was to plant a "tree of liberty" on the Place d'Armes.
As they had hoped, the French captured a large amount of war material: 819 cannons, 16,244 firearms, 4,500 sabres, 336,857 cannonballs, 47,801 bombs, 114,704 grenades, and 1,033,153 pounds of powder.
The capture of the Fortress of Luxembourg allowed the French Republic's annexation of the Southern Low Countries. On 1 October 1795, most of Luxembourg became part of the Département des Forêts, created on 24 October 1795. Only the left bank of the Rhine, Mainz, now remained.
- Kreins (2003), p.64
- Kreins (2003), p.64–5
- (French) Thewes, Guy; Wagener, Danièle. "La Ville de Luxembourg en 1795." Ons Stad, No. 49, 1995. p.4-7