Refighting the Battle of Raab, 14th June 1809

The Battle of Raab in Hungary, then part of the Austrian Empire, was the culmination of a three-month campaign fought in 1809 between Napoleon’s adpoted son, Prince Eugène de Beauharnais, Viceroy of Italy, and Archduke John, younger brother of Emperor Francis of Austria.

Archduke John of Austria

In concert with the thrust into Bavaria by his older brother Archduke Charles, Archduke John’s smaller army had invaded French-occupied Italy, defeating Prince Eugène’s scattered Franco-Italian forces in a series of battles.  However, the Austrians were never able to inflict a knockout blow and as he fell back into Italy, Eugène was able to concentrate increasing numbers of men against the Austrian attackers.  Napoleon in the meantime, had counter-attacked in Bavaria, inflicting a series of reverses on Archduke Charles.  Bavarian forces also managed to defeat Chasteler’s Austrian division in Tyrol, thus releasing more forces for Eugène and exposing John’s right flank to attack from the Tyrolean Alps.

Archduke Charles ordered John to retreat back into Hungary, to combine his forces with the Hungarian Insurrection under Archduke Joseph and then reinforce the main army near Vienna. However, John was harried all the way by Eugène and was eventually forced to fight a defensive battle at Raab.

Prince Eugène, Viceroy of Italy

While the numbers were fairly equal, Archduke John’s army was largely made up of German and Italian ‘Landwehr‘ militia and Hungarian ‘Insurrection‘ troops, so lacked the quality and training of the French and Italian veterans facing them. However, they were in a strong position behind a stream, with the strongly-fortified farm of Kis-Megyer at the centre of the position, backed up by high ground and strong reserves.

Above:  The Battlefield of Raab, as it appeared on our wargames table.  The city of Raab is just off the left-hand (northern) edge of the map and is on the far bank of a wide and unfordable river, which roughly follows the northern edge of the map.  Each map square represents approximately 1km or 12 inches on the table.

The Pancza Stream, flowing south to north across the Austrian front line, is fordable only by infantry for most of its length, though is also fordable by cavalry south of the point where a minor tributary joins it south of Kis-Megyer farm.  The tributary itself is insignificant and may be ignored for game purposes.  The Pancza is crossed by three bridges.

All built-up areas have a defensive modifier of +1 in Napoleon’s Battles, except for the Kis-Megyer Farm, which is a considerable fortified structure, with a +4 defensive modifier.

Above:  On the southern edge of the battle, the Pancza stream was shallow enough for cavalry to ford with ease. Consequently, Mescery’s Austrian cavalry (two regular hussar regiments and three Hungarian Insurrection brigades) formed up near the bridge, ready to receive the inevitable charge by Grouchy’s massed French and Italian cavalry – the divisions of Montbrun, Pully and Colbert.

Above:  A closer look at Mescery’s Austrian hussars. A cavalry battery has deployed near the bridge, ready to engage anyone who attempts to use that easy crossing.

Above:  On Mescery’s right, Colloredo’s Centre Division deploys in and around the Kis-Megyer. The stream here is too deep for cavalry or artillery to cross. The walls of Kis-Megyer are thick and loopholed for musketry – defence against centuries of raids by bandits and marauding Turks, but also ideal for keeping out Frenchmen!  To the rear of the farm is a large hill, upon which sits Frimont’s Reserve Division, comprising regular Line Infantry Regiments, a brigade of elite Grenadiers, a regiment of Grenzer light infantry and two batteries of 12pdr heavy artillery.

Above:  On the northern (right) flank of the Austrian line is Jellacic’s Division; a very mixed bag of German Landwehr, Hungarian Insurrection infantry, Insurrection cavalry, regular infantry, regular cavalry and Grenzer light infantry.  They have the vital task of holding the two bridges on the northern half of the battlefield – the stream here is unfordable by cavalry and artillery.

Above:  On the French southern (right) flank is Grouchy’s Cavalry Corps, which comprises Montbrun’s Franco-Italian cavalry division, Pully’s French dragoon division and Colbert’s French light cavalry brigade, as well as a couple of batteries of horse artillery.  This impressive force has a slight advantage in quality over Mescery’s Austrian cavalry, as well as a considerable command & control advantage, but will that be enough to win the day?

Above:  On Grouchy’s left is Grenier’s VI Corps, which comprises the divisions of Seras (nearest the camera) and Durutte – a total of five infantry brigades and two small cavalry detachments.  To Grenier’s rear is stationed Eugène’s reserve – the Italian Royal Guard Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery, under General Lecchi.

Above:  On the left of Eugène’s army is Baraguéy d’Hilliers’ XII Corps, consisting of Pacthod’s French division and Severoli’s Italian Division – a total of three French and two Italian brigades.

Above:  On the extreme left of Eugène’s army are two formations that have just arrived from Germany, having been sent by Napoleon – General Sahuc’s French light cavalry division and General Lauriston’s contingent, comprising two infantry regiments and a horse artillery battery from the German state of Baden.

Above:  Eugène’s plan is relatively simple: to mount a strong, but ultimately diversionary attack on the right with Grouchy’s and Grenier’s corps, destroying Mescery’s cavalry and force Archduke John to commit his reserves to holding that flank. Then, with the Austrian reserves committed, launch the main assault against the Austrian right wing with Baraguéy d’Hilliers’ corps, supported by Lauriston’s Badeners, Sahuc’s cavalry and Lecchi’s Italian Guards.

Above:  As the two cavalry formations glower at each other, Seras’ infantry division moves forward to take the bridge.  However, he quickly runs into extremely stiff fire from the Austrian cavalry battery and the two reserve heavy batteries stationed on the hill.  French infantry casualties are unexpectedly heavy and the French horse artillery gallop forward to even the odds.

Above:  Some of Mescery’s hussars fall back from the threat of the French guns, but maintain a close watch on the riverbank.

Above:  As the battle begins on the southern flank, in the centre the Italian Guards deploy their artillery and commence a bombardment of the Kis-Megyer fortress.

Above:  At the southern bridge, Seras’ division receive a pasting from the Austrian guns. The Austrian gunners really did earn their pay on this day!

Above:  On the northern flank, Lauriston’s Baden infantry and Sahuc’s light cavalry have arrived.  The Baden horse artillery deploys and proceeds to make life miserable for a brigade of Hungarian Insurrection infantry on the eastern bank.

Above:  On the southern flank, the French cavalry have finally charged across the stream with mixed results; one regular Austrian hussar regiment and an Insurrection brigade have been routed, with the other regular hussar regiment being thrown back in some disorder.  The second line of Insurrection cavalry holds firm however, and the French cavalry fall back behind the stream to rally for the next assault.

Seras’ infantry meanwhile, are being cut to pieces by the Austrian guns.  Grenier moves his small cavalry detachment forward against the Austrian cavalry battery, but that too becomes a target.

Above:  Another view of the action on the southern flank of the battle.  The French cavalry ready themselves for the next assault.  The Austrian battery at the bridge meanwhile, starts to feel very isolated!

Above:  In the centre, the Italian Guards occupy a small knoll overlooking Kis-Megyer and start to reduce the defences of the farm.  With the Austrian artillery committed elsewhere, there is nothing the defenders can do to respond.

Above:  The Hungarian Insurrection infantry are definitely not used to this sort of thing, but hold their ground!

Above:  With things looking increasingly bad on the left, Archduke John moves Frimont’s reserves to face Mescery’s crumbling flank… Thus doing exactly what Eugène hoped he would do…

Above:  With their horse battery providing supporting fire, the Baden infantry advance to control the northernmost bridge.  Sahuc’s cavalry stand by, ready to take advantage of any opportunity.

Above:  Very quickly, the combined Baden artillery and infantry fire finds its mark and a brigade of Hungarian Insurrection infantry is routed!

Above:  With the Insurrection infantry out of the way, Sahuc’s cavalry quickly cross the bridge and deploy into line.  Sadly missed by our camera, the Austrian regular cavalry brigade launches a charge, but comes off worst and recoils.  However, Sahuc’s men become disordered and fall back across the bridge to rally and try again…

Above:  Back on the southern flank, Grouchy again masses his cavalry and lauches an even more powerful assault against the massed Insurrection Hussars.  The brave cavalry battery is overrun and it surely looks as though the French horsemen are going to sweep away the remnants of Mescery’s hussars…

Above:  A close-up of Grouchy’s charge: The forward line is largely made up of French dragoon brigades belonging to Montbrun’s and Pully’s divisions, with a brigade of French Chasseurs a Cheval and Hussars on their left.

Above:  Colbert’s French hussars provide close backup for Montbrun’s dragoons… Perhaps a little too close…

Above:  Near the southern bridge, the Italian dragoon brigade follows Montbrun’s charge, forcing the French gunners to cease fire as they mask their targets.  Beyond the bridge, one of Seras’ infantry brigades has been broken up by Austrian artillery fire and the other is seriously damaged.  As the battered infantry division pulls back, Durutte’s division moves forward, ready to cross the bridge and exploit Grouchy’s successes.

Above:  Things look desperate from Mescery’s point of view.  In the foreground, two hussar brigades (one regular and one Insurrection) remain routed and are in need of rallying, while the remaining three hussar brigades (one regular and two Insurrection) look about to be swept away.

Above:  Archduke John looks on apprehensively from his hill top and turns Frimont’s reserves, ready to face the coming onslaught from the south.

Above:  Prince Eugène meanwhile, positions himself near his Italian Royal Guards, as they push their artillery closer to Kis-Megyer.

Above:  Somewhat astonishingly, the French cavalry completely failed to break through the heroic Hungarian Insurrection hussars!  With friendly cavalry following on so closely behind, the disordered French cavalry are milling about in confusion when the Hungarians launch their counter-attack!

Above:  The view a few moments later…  Most of the French and Italian cavalry was thrown back across the Pancza, save for a single brigade of dragoons!  However, it was to be a pyrrhic victory for the Austrians – Mescery was killed at the head of his men and the two heroic brigades of Insurrection Hussars charged on to destruction, leaving a single regiment of regular hussars still in the fight and soon to be overwhelmed by vengeful Frenchmen.

Above:  An overall view of the southern flank, following the great cavalry battle.

Above:  With the Austrian reserves now committed to holding the Austrian left, Eugène launches his master-stroke and hurls XII Corps against the Austrian right wing.

Above:  Lauriston’s Badeners and Severoli’s white-coated Italians quickly engage the Austrians in a firefight across the Pancza and soon gain the uper hand.  Sahuc’s cavalry once again cross the northernmost bridge and threaten the Austrian right flank.

Above:  Once again, the Austrian regular cavalry brigade charges Sahuc’s French cavalry as they cross the northern bridge, but this time come off much worse and are routed, thus beginning the collapse of the Austrian right wing.

Above:  With the French, Badeners and Italians winning the firefight, they soon launch an assault across the Pancza stream and roll up the Austrian right wing.

Above:  In the centre, the Italian Guard Horse Artillery continues to whittle down the defences of Kis-Megyer and the elite Royal Guard Grenadiers prepare to launch an assault on the farm.

Above:  With the last of Mescery’s hussars swept away by Grouchy’s cavalry, Durutte’s French infantry cross the southern bridge and mount a demonstration in front of Frimont’s reserve division.  Their purpose here is not to attack – just to keep the Austrian reserves pinned in place and unable to intervene against the real attack on the opposite flank.

Above:  Frimont has little choice but to deploy his reserves in response to Durutte’s threat.

Above:  Sadly the last photo, but here we see Lecchi’s Guards as they continue to pound Kis-Megyer.  Soon afterwards, with his left wing destroyed and his right wing crumbling, Archduke John wisely decided to disengage from the battle, thus keeping his centre and reserves intact for another day.  Following this victory, Prince Eugène’s army would go on to reinforce Napoleon’s army at Vienna and would play a decisive role in the Emperor’s great victory against Archduke Charles at Wagram.

Models and Rules Used

Most of the models are AB Figures 15mm from my own collection, with some Austrians from the collection of Martin Small and the Italian infantry from the collection of Jase Evans.

Rules used are Napoleon’s Battles 4th Edition which is a grand-tactical ruleset, where the smallest tactical unit represents a brigade or large regiment and each base of figures represents approximately 400 men.

This entry was posted in 15mm Figures, Napoleon's Battles (Rules), Napoleonic Wars, Scenarios. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Refighting the Battle of Raab, 14th June 1809

  1. Miltiadis says:

    what a GREAT report! Must have been a wonderful wargame. I will certainly play it some day, using Napoleon’s Battles (which was my favorite rule set in the past) or another set of rules. Thanks for this post!

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers Miltiadis! Much appreciated and I hope you enjoy it. Though it is a very tough nut for the Austrians to win…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.