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Siege of Kehl (1796–97)

Siege of Kehl
Part of The French Revolutionary Wars

Habsburg and French troops skirmished for control of the crossing in the weeks before the siege.
Date October 1796 – January 1797
Location Kehl, Margraviate of Baden (present-day Baden-Württemberg
Result Austrian victory
Belligerents
Republican France Habsburg Austria
Commanders and leaders
Louis Desaix, relieved by Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr Maximilian Anton Karl, Count Baillet de Latour
Strength
20,000 40,000
Casualties and losses
4,000 3,800 plus 1,000 captured[1]

The Siege of Kehl lasted from October 1796 to 9 January 1797, during the War of the First Coalition (part of the French Revolutionary Wars). Habsburg and Württemberg regulars, numbering 40,000, under the command of Maximilian Anton Karl, Count Baillet de Latour, besieged and captured the French-controlled fortress of Kehl, which crossed the Rhine River. The fortunes of Kehl, part of Baden-Durlach, and those of the Alsatian city of Strasbourg were united by the presence of bridges and a series of gates, fortifications and barrage dams.

At the end of the summer's fighting in 1796, the Austrian force under the command of Archduke Charles had succeeded in pushing the French back to the Rhine. With the conclusion of the Battle of Schliengen on 24 October, the French army withdrew south and west toward the Rhine. Forces commanded by Jean Charles Abbatucci and Pierre Marie Barthélemy Ferino provided the rear guard support and the main force retreated across the Rhine into France. The French retained control of the fortifications at Kehl and Hüningen and, more importantly, the tête-du-ponts (bridgeheads) of the star-shaped fortresses where the bridges crossed the Rhine. The French commander, Jean Victor Moreau, offered the Austrian commander an armistice that the archduke was inclined to accept. He wanted to secure the Rhine crossings and then send troops to northern Italy to relieve Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser at besieged Mantua; an armistice with Moreau would allow him to do that. However, his brother, Francis II, the Holy Roman Emperor, and the civilian military advisers of the Aulic Council categorically refused such an armistice, forcing Charles to order simultaneous sieges at Hüningen and Kehl. These tied his army to the Rhine for most of the winter. While the Austrians besieged these Rhine crossings, Moreau had 14 demi-brigades available (approximately 12,000 troops) to send into Italy to assist in the siege at Mantua.[2]

The French defenders under Louis Desaix and the overall commander of the French force, Jean Victor Marie Moreau, almost upset the siege when they executed a sortie that nearly succeeded in capturing the Austrian artillery park. After the defenses were thoroughly riddled by heavy bombardment from the besiegers, the French defenders capitulated and withdrew on 9 January 1797.

Contents

  • Background 1
  • Campaign of 1796 2
    • Preliminaries to the siege 2.1
  • Terrain 3
    • Political terrain 3.1
  • Diplomacy and politics 4
  • Laying siege 5
    • Conduct of the siege at Kehl 5.1
    • Action of 22 November 5.2
    • Expansion of the siege 5.3
    • Surrender 5.4
  • Aftermath 6
  • French Order of Battle 7
  • Austrian Order of Battle 8
    • Infantry 8.1
    • 1. Column 8.2
    • 2. Column 8.3
    • 3. Column 8.4
    • Cavalry 8.5
  • Notes and citations 9
    • Notes 9.1
    • Citations 9.2
  • References 10

Background

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. In 1790, Leopold succeeded his brother Joseph as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and by 1791, the danger surrounding his sister, Marie Antoinette, and her children, alarmed him. In August 1791, in consultation with French émigré nobles and Frederick William II of Prussia, he issued the Declaration of Pilnitz declaring the interest of the monarchs of Europe as one with the interests of Louis and his family. He and his fellow monarchs threatened ambiguous, but quite serious, consequences if anything should happen to the royal family. The French émigrés continued to agitate for support of a counter-revolution abroad. On 20 April 1792, the French National Convention declared war on Austria. In this War of the First Coalition (1792–98), France ranged itself against most of the European states sharing land or water borders with her, plus Portugal and the Ottoman Empire. A key to the French success was the army's ability to cross the Rhine at will. The crossings at Hüningen, near the Swiss city of Basle, and the crossing at Kehl, near the Alsatian city of Strasbourg, gave them ready-access to most of southwestern Germany; from there, French armies could sweep north, south, or march east, depending on their military goal. The imperial army had laid siege to Kehl, but the garrison there had successfully defended themselves.[3]

Campaign of 1796

At the end of the Rhine Campaign of 1795, the two sides called a truce.[4] This agreement lasted until 20 May 1796, when the Austrians announced that it would end on 31 May.[5] The Coalition's Army of the Lower Rhine counted 90,000 troops. The 20,000-man right wing under Duke Ferdinand Frederick Augustus of Württemberg stood on the east bank of the Rhine behind the Sieg River, observing the French bridgehead at Düsseldorf. The garrisons of Mainz Fortress and Ehrenbreitstein Fortress counted 10,000 more. The remainder of the Imperial and Coalition army was posted on the west bank behind the Nahe. Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser led the 80,000-strong Army of the Upper Rhine. Its right wing occupied Kaiserslautern on the west bank while the left wing under Anton Sztáray, Michael von Fröhlich and Louis Joseph, Prince of Condé guarded the Rhine from Mannheim to Switzerland. The original Austrian strategy was to capture Trier and to use their position on the west bank to strike at each of the French armies in turn. However, after news arrived in Vienna of Napoleon Bonaparte's successes, Wurmser was sent to Italy with 25,000 reinforcements. Reconsidering the situation, the Aulic Council gave Archduke Charles command over both Austrian armies and ordered him to hold his ground.[4]

On the French side, the 80,000-man Army of Sambre-et-Meuse held the west bank of the Rhine down to the Nahe and then southwest to Sankt Wendel. On the army's left flank, Jean Baptiste Kléber had 22,000 troops in an entrenched camp at Düsseldorf. The right wing of the Army of Rhin-et-Moselle was positioned behind the Rhine from Hüningen northward, centered along the Queich River near Landau and its left wing extended west toward Saarbrücken.[4] Pierre Marie Barthélemy Ferino led Moreau's right wing at Hüningen, Louis Desaix commanded the center and Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr directed the left wing. Ferino's wing consisted of three infantry and cavalry divisions under François Antoine Louis Bourcier and Henri François Delaborde. Desaix's command counted three divisions led by Michel de Beaupuy, Antoine Guillaume Delmas and Charles Antoine Xaintrailles. Saint-Cyr's wing had two divisions commanded by Guillaume Philibert Duhesme, and Alexandre Camille Taponier.[6]

The French grand plan called for two armies to press against the flanks of the northern Coalition armies in the German states while simultaneously a third army approached Vienna through Italy. Specifically, Jean-Baptiste Jourdan's army would push south from Düsseldorf, hopefully drawing troops and attention toward themselves, which would allow Moreau’s army an easier crossing of the Rhine. According to plan, Jourdan’s army feinted toward Mannheim, and Charles quickly reapportioned his troops. Once this occurred, Moreau’s army attacked the bridgehead at Kehl, which was guarded by 7,000 imperial troops—troops recruited that spring from the Swabian circle polities, inexperienced and untrained—which amazingly held the bridgehead for several hours, but then retreated toward Rastatt. Moreau reinforced the bridgehead with his forward guard, and his troops poured into Baden unhindered. In the south, by Basel, Ferino’s column moved speedily across the river and advanced up the Rhine along the Swiss and German shoreline, toward Lake Constance and spread into the southern end of the Black Forest. Anxious that his supply lines would be overextended, Charles began a retreat to the east.[7]

At this point, the inherent jealousies and competition between generals came into play. Moreau could have joined up with Jourdan’s army in the north, but did not; he proceeded eastward, pushing Charles into Bavaria, and Jourdan pushed eastward, pushing Wartensleben’s autonomous corps into the Ernestine duchies.[8] On either side, the union of two armies—Wartensleben’s with Charles’ or Jourdan’s with Moreau’s—could have crushed the opposition.[9]

Preliminaries to the siege

Wartensleben and Charles united first, and the tide turned against the French. With 25,000 of his best troops, the archduke crossed to the north bank of the Danube at Regensburg and moved north to join his colleague Wartensleben. There followed a summer of strategic retreats, flanking, and reflanking maneuvers. Once Charles and Wartensleben's forces were reunited, their combined efforts pushed the French slowly to the east. The defeat of Jourdan's army at the Amberg, Würzburg and Altenkirchen allowed Charles to move more troops to the south. The next contact occurred on 19 October at Emmendingen, in the Elz valley which winds through the Black Forest. The section of the valley involved in the battle runs south-west through the mountains from Elzach, through Bleibach and Waldkirch. Just to the southwest of Waldkirch, the river emerges from the mountains and flows north-west towards the Rhine, with the Black Forest to its right. This section of the river passes through Emmendingen before it reaches Riegel. Riegel sits in a narrow gap between the Black Forest and an isolated outcropping of volcanic hills known as the Kaiserstuhl. Here the archduke split his force into four columns.[10]

Column Nauendorf, in the upper Elz, had eight battalions and 14 squadrons, advancing southwest to Waldkirch; column Wartensleben had 12 battalions and 23 squadrons advancing south to capture the Elz bridge at Emmendingen. Latour, with 6,000 men, was to cross the foothills via Heimbach and Malterdingen, and capture the bridge of Köndringen, between Riegel and Emmendingen, and column Fürstenberg held Kinzingen, about 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Riegel. Frölich and Condé (part of Nauendorf's column) were to pin down Ferino and the French right wing in the Stieg valley. Nauendorf's men were able to ambush Saint' Cyr's advance; Latour's columns attacked Beaupuy at Matterdingen, killing the general and throwing his column into confusion. French riflemen delayed Wartensleben, in the center, until his third (reserve) detachment arrived to outflank them; the French retreated across the rivers, destroying all the bridges.[10][note 1]

Overnight the Austrians repaired one of the main bridges, and moved closer to Freiburg. If Moreau withdrew from Freiburg, Ferino's column would be trapped. On 18 September, an Austrian division under Feldmarschall-Leutnant

  • Alison, Archibald. History of Europe from the commencement of the French revolution to the restoration of the Bourbons, Volume 3. Edinburgh: W. Blackwood, 1847.
  • Blanning, Timothy. The French Revolutionary Wars. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. ISBN 978-0340569115
  • Cuccia, Phillip . Napoleon in Italy: the sieges of Mantua, 1796–1799, Tulsa, University of Oklahoma Press, 2014.ISBN 978-0806144450
  • (German) Ebert, Jens-Florian "Feldmarschall-Leutnant Fürst zu Fürstenberg," Die Österreichischen Generäle 1792–1815. Napoleon Online: Portal zu Epoch. Markus Stein, editor. Mannheim, Germany. 14 February 2010 version. Accessed 28 February 2010.
  • Knepper, Thomas P. The Rhine. Handbook for Environmental Chemistry Series, Part L. New York: Springer, 2006. ISBN 978-3540293934.
  • (French) Lievyns, A., Jean Maurice Verdot, Pierre Bégat, Fastes de la Légion-d'honneur: biographie de tous les décorés accompagnée de l'histoire législative et réglementaire de l'ordre, Bureau de l'administration, 1844.
  • Malte-Brun, Conrad. .Universal Geography, Or, a Description of All the Parts of the World, on a New Plan: Spain, Portugal, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, and Holland. A. Black, 1831. OCLC 1171138
  • Philippart, John. Memoires etc. of General Moreau. London, A. J. Valpy, 1814. OCLC 8721194.
  • Rickard, J (17 February 2009), Siege of Huningue, 26 October 1796 – 19 February 1797. History of war.org. Accessed 1 November 2014.
  • Rickard, J. (17 February 2009), Battle of Emmendingen, History of war.org. Accessed 18 November 2014.
  • Rogers, Clifford, et al. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0195334036.
  • Rotteck, Carl von. General History of the World, np: C. F. Stollmeyer, 1842. OCLC 653511
  • Sellman, R. R. Castles and Fortresses. York (UK), Methuen, 1954. OCLC 12261230
  • Smith, Digby. Napoleonic Wars Data Book, NY: Greenhill Press, 1996. ISBN 978-1853672767
  • Vann, James Allen. The Swabian Kreis: Institutional Growth in the Holy Roman Empire 1648–1715. Vol. LII, Studies Presented to International Commission for the History of Representative and Parliamentary Institutions. Bruxelles, Les Éditions de la Librairie Encyclopédique, 1975. OCLC 2276157
  • (German) Volk, Helmut. "Landschaftsgeschichte und Natürlichkeit der Baumarten in der Rheinaue." Waldschutzgebiete Baden-Württemberg, Band 10, pp. 159–167.
  • Walker, Mack. German home towns: community, state, and general estate, 1648–1871. Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1998. ISBN 0801406706

References

  1. ^ John Philippart, Memoires etc. of General Moreau, London, A.J. Valpy, 1814, p. 279.
  2. ^ Phillip Cuccia, Napoleon in Italy: the Sieges of Mantua, 1796–1799, University of Oklahoma Press, 2014, pp. 87–93. Smith. Databook. pp. 125, 131–133.
  3. ^ Timothy Blanning. The French Revolutionary Wars. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-340-56911-5, pp. 41–59.
  4. ^ a b c Theodore Ayrault Dodge, Warfare in the Age of Napoleon: The Revolutionary Wars Against the First Coalition in Northern Europe and the Italian Campaign, 1789–1797. Leonaur Ltd, 2011. pp. 286–287. See also See also Timothy Blanning, The French Revolutionary Wars, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-340-56911-5, pp. 41–59.
  5. ^ Ramsay Weston Phipps,The Armies of the First French Republic: Volume II The Armées du Moselle, du Rhin, de Sambre-et-Meuse, de Rhin-et-Moselle Pickle Partners Publishing, 2011 reprint (original publication 1923-1933), p. 278.
  6. ^ Digby Smith, Napoleonic Wars Data Book, Connecticut: Greenhill Press, 1996, p. 111.
  7. ^ Dodge, p.290. See also (German) Charles, Archduke of Austria. Ausgewӓhlte Schriften weiland seiner Kaiserlichen Hoheit des Erzherzogs Carl von Österreich, Vienna: Braumüller, 1893–94, v. 2, pp. 72, 153–154.
  8. ^ Dodge, pp. 292–293.
  9. ^ Dodge, pp. 297.
  10. ^ a b c J. Rickard,(17 February 2009),Battle of Emmendingen, History of war.org. Accessed 18 November 2014.
  11. ^ Charles, Schriften, 371.
  12. ^ Graham, p. 122.
  13. ^ Graham, p. 126.
  14. ^ Philippart, p. 100.
  15. ^ Smith, pp. 125, 131–133.
  16. ^ Laufenburg now has dams and barrages to control the flow of water. Thomas P. Knepper. The Rhine. Handbook for Environmental Chemistry Series, Part L. New York: Springer, 2006, ISBN 978-3-540-29393-4, pp. 5–19.
  17. ^ Knepper, pp. 19–20.
  18. ^ (German) Helmut Volk. "Landschaftsgeschichte und Natürlichkeit der Baumarten in der Rheinaue." Waldschutzgebiete Baden-Württemberg, Band 10, S. 159–167.
  19. ^ Joachim Whaley, Germany and the Holy Roman Empire: Volume I: Maximilian I to the Peace of Westphalia, 1493–1648 (2012), pp. 17–20.
  20. ^ See, for example, James Allen Vann, The Swabian Kreis: Institutional Growth in the Holy Roman Empire 1648–1715. Vol. LII, Studies Presented to International Commission for the History of Representative and Parliamentary Institutions. Bruxelles, 1975. Mack Walker. German home towns: community, state, and general estate, 1648–1871. Ithaca, 1998.
  21. ^ Conrad Malte-Brun, Universal Geography, Or, a Description of All the Parts of the World, on a New Plan: Spain, Portugal, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, and Holland, A. Black, 1831 and Carl von Rotteck, General History of the World C. F. Stollmeyer, 1842, p. 210.
  22. ^ a b Cuccia, pp. 87–93.
  23. ^ Digby Smith, Napoleonic Wars Databook, Greenhill Press, 1996, p. 126.
  24. ^ a b c (German) Jens-Florian Ebert, "Feldmarschall-Leutnant Fürst zu Fürstenberg," Die Österreichischen Generäle 1792–1815. Napoleon Online: Portal zu Epoch. Markus Stein, editor. Mannheim, Germany. 14 February 2010 version. Accessed 28 February 2010.
  25. ^ The Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology. Oxford University Press. pp. 266–267. 
  26. ^ R.R. Sellman. Castles and Fortresses. Methuen, 1954, pp. 44–45
  27. ^ a b Philippart, p. 114.
  28. ^ Philippart, pp. 105, 108, 111–125.
  29. ^ Philippart, p. 105.
  30. ^ Philippart, p. 106.
  31. ^ Philippart, pp. 107–113.
  32. ^ Philippart, p. 105, 118.
  33. ^ Philippart, pp. 118–121.
  34. ^ Philippart, p. 127.
  35. ^ a b (French) A. Lievyns, Jean Maurice Verdot, Pierre Bégat,Fastes de la Légion-d'honneur: biographie de tous les décorés accompagnée de l'histoire législative et réglementaire de l'ordre, Bureau de l'administration, 1844, p. 353.
  36. ^ Philippart, p. 279.
  37. ^ a b Philippart, p. 283.

Citations

  1. ^ Wartensleben was also wounded, and died of his injuries a day or so later.
  2. ^ The French Army designated two kinds of infantry: d'infanterie légère, or light infantry, to provide skirmishing cover for the troops that followed, principally d’infanterie de ligne, which fought in tight formations.
  3. ^ Riesch is frequently mis-identified in French sources as Reise.

Notes

Notes and citations

The Imperial troops (also called Kreis-truppen) employed to guard the Rhine are not included.[37]

  • General Baillet-Latour, General of Artillery, commander of the Siege
  • Lieutenant Field Marshal Kollowrath, commander of Artillery
  • Colonel Szeredai, Director of Engineers

The Austrian force included Infantry, three columns, and cavalry:[37]

Austrian Order of Battle

Moreau noted that out of 40 total battalions, 15 battalions were in daily service on the right bank. Six battalions defended the fortification of Kehl itself, three held the entrenchments, three occupied the Ehrlen islands and three held the island of Kinzig. A reserve of six battalions encamped on the left bank of the Rhine. He also rotated battalions through the trenches so none became so exhausted they could not function. He also had additional forces available from the Army of the Rhine and Moselle.[36]

Total: 40 Battalions

Commanding: General Louis Desaix, relieved by Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr

Louis Desaix led a rearguard action after Emmendingen, and crossed the Rhine north of Kehl. By 24 October, he had moved his forces south to assume command of the fortress and prepare for siege.

The French garrison consisted of headquarters and three mixed divisions:[35]

French Order of Battle

After the Battle at Schliengen, Charles sent Karl Aloys zu Fürstenberg to Hüningen with a force that included two divisions with 20 battalions of infantry and 40 squadrons of cavalry. It spoke highly of Charles' confidence in Fürstenberg that the Archduke would charge him with the taking of the Hüningen bridgehead. His confidence was well-placed; on 27 October 1796, Fürstenberg initiated the siege works before Hüningen, opening and draining the trenches and beginning construction on the contravallation.[24] The capitulation at Kehl in January allowed Charles to send additional troops to Hüningen. On 2 February 1797, as the Austrians prepared to storm the bridgehead, General of Division Colonel and Proprietor of the Infantry Regiment Nr. 36, which bore his name until his death in battle in 1799.[24]

Aftermath

At 10:00 on 9 January the French general Desaix proposed the evacuation to General Latour and they agreed that the Austrians would enter Kehl the next day, on 10 January (21 Nivôse) at 16:00. The French instantly repaired the bridge, which was rendered passable by 14:00, which gave them more than 24 hours to evacuate everything of value and to raze everything else. By the time Latour took possession of the fortress, nothing remained of any use: all palisades, ammunition, even the carriages of the bombs and howitzers, had been evacuated. The French insured that nothing remained behind that could be used by the Austrian/Imperial army; even the fortress itself was but earth and ruins. The siege concluded 115 days after its investment, and following 50 days of open trenches, the point at which active fighting began.[34]

Kehl Gate, from the Strasbourg side of the river (demolished before 1900)

Surrender

By late December, the Austrian batteries were completed and the French expected a general attack on 1 January. According to spies and deserters, the archduke himself had been exhorting and cajoling his troops to lift their spirits, "prepared his troops by harangues and presents," according to Moreau. On 1 January, after a lengthy salvo, twelve Imperial battalions attacked the outer redoubt and the right wing of the French entrenchment, drove the French out, and immediately took possession of the earthen works and six pieces of artillery. French reserves had not been able to traverse the Rhine in sufficient time; boats intended to transport such troops had been damaged by the lengthy cannon fire. The connecting bridges, which had also been damaged, were repaired quickly, but by the time these repairs had been made, the Austrians were deeply entrenched in their new positions and the French could not force them out. Even miners, who had dug under the trenches, were unable to blow up the redoubt.[33]

By 6 December, the Austrian and Imperial defenses were connected in a grand parallel and a series of batteries in a semicircle around the village. On the morning, the Austrians opened fire simultaneously with their batteries, and maintained a salvo the entire day. At four in the afternoon, they attacked a French position, which was defended by 300 men. They succeeded in taking it, but the French counter-attacked, and recovered it, taking also some prisoners. At the same time, the Austrians attacked the other works, called the Bonnet de Pretre, where only 20 men were posted, and succeeded in taking it, and afterward connected it to the network of fortifications.[32]

Strasbourgers assist in the demolition of the Redoubt of Kehl on 9 January 1797. Once the surrender occurred, the French took everything they could move, leaving the Austrians naught but a pile of rubble.

Expansion of the siege

This action was the principal assault on the Austrian/Imperial line and apparently took the besiegers by surprise. Latour and the archduke personally moved to the gap the French created, pulling six battalions of armed workmen and all the Austrian troops after them. Thick fog favored the Imperial action, because it prevented the French from reconnoitering and, as Moreau reported later, the humidity on the ground impeded the march of their columns. The fighting was heavy, though. General Moreau himself was wounded (head) and his aide-de-camp Lélée was badly wounded. General Desaix's horse was killed under him, and he received a contusion in his leg, and General Latour's horse was also shot from under him.[30] The action of 22 November convinced the French that the Austrians and Imperial forces were too numerous and too established for the French to shake. The French instead focused their efforts on reinforcing their palisades, strengthening batteries, and developing the redoubts and earthen works.[31]

The arrival of General Desaix earlier in the month had strengthened the French garrison sufficiently for the French to consider a sizable sortie of 16,000 infantry and 3000-4000 cavalry against the combined Austrian and Württemberg positions. Soldiers had constructed pallisades and heavy artillery augmented the French earthworks. Simultaneously, though, Baillet de Latour had also ordered the augmentation of the Imperial earthworks. Before the besiegers could finish their digging, however, Desaix attacked the Imperial lines of contravallation between the Kinzig and the Rhine. They departed from the small island of Erlen, in the Rhine, and from the left of the entrenchment camp. The first column forced the two first Imperial redoubts. Another penetrated the earthen works near the center and carried the village of Sundheim and the two redoubts that ran contiguously to the village. However, additional troops intended to support the first wave did not arrive in time, and the entire French sortie party withdrew, taking 700 prisoners, seven pieces of cannon, and two howitzers. The want of horses prevented them from taking another 15 pieces of cannon, which they spiked.[29]

Action of 22 November

Baillet de Latour immediately lay the groundwork for a lengthy siege by ordering the construction of extensive earthworks around the bridgehead. This allowed Austrian marksmen close access to the bridge works, where they could, ostensibly, pick off French defenders. It also allowed them to begin to tunnel under the bridgehead walls and to establish artillery batteries that could fire at closer range to the walls. The French had made several night sorties on the works of the besiegers. In these forays, they would chase the diggers out of the lines, but the Austrian reserves always recovered the works before the French could capture any cannons or destroy the construction. Consequently, every day, the Austrians expanded their works and erected new batteries. They built some new trenches on the left of the Schutter, by the entrance to the old village of Kehl.[27]

Realizing that the siege was imminent, the French had destroyed most of the village of Kehl on 26 October (as the Battle of Schliengen concluded). Only the church and post house walls remained, but those in ruins.[27] They maintained control of the three main islands surrounding the Kehl crossings: Ilse de Estacade, Ilse de Escargots, and Isle de Ehrlin. Their control of these provided essential positions from which the French established their operations. The islands were semi-connected to Kehl and to each other through a series of flying bridges (pontoon bridges); troops could also be moved by boat if necessary.[28]

Strasbourg and Kehl, both built on land and over the river channels, had lengthy systems of bridges connecting the land works to each other, such as this one, the Vauban barrage. This is a modern view of the bridge.

Conduct of the siege at Kehl

Once the Aulic Council refused Charles's plans, Latour engaged the main French force at Kehl and Charles entrusted to Karl Aloys zu Fürstenberg the command of the siege force at Hüningen.[24] The process of laying siege was complicated. Most commonly, armies established positions around a city and waited for the surrender of those inside. Quite commonly, they bribed or coerced someone inside to betray the fortification. An attacker, aware of a prolonged siege's great cost in time, money and lives, might offer generous terms to a defender who surrendered quickly. The defending troops would be allowed to march away unharmed, often retaining their weapons. As a siege progressed, however, the defender's position became more precarious. The surrounding army would build earthworks (a line of circumvallation) to completely encircle their target, preventing food, water, and other supplies from reaching the besieged city.[25] Generally, time was on the side of the defenders; most armies could not afford to wait out the prosecution of a siege, especially of a well-fortified, well-provisioned city. Until the invention of gunpowder-based weapons (and the resulting higher-velocity projectiles), the balance of power and logistics definitely favored the defender. With the introduction of gunpowder, cannon and mortars and howitzers (in modern times), the traditional methods of defense became less effective against a determined siege.[26]

Drawing of Vauban's plan for Strasbourg/Kehl fortifications, circa 1720. Note the multiple channels of the Rhine and its tributaries, and the double star points of the fortifications.

Laying siege

Charles advised his brother of the French Directory's offer, but it was flatly refused by the Emperor and the civilian military advisers on the Aulic Council. He was instructed to lay siege to the fortresses, to take them, and secure any possible access to southern Germany via the Rhine. The Aulic Council still believed Austrian forces could relieve Mantua. Consequently, by tying him down at the Rhine, besieging to Vauban fortresses across the river, the Council effectively sealed the fate of Wurmser's troops in Mantua. With the failure of Paul Davidovich's column to reach their beleaguered counterparts in Mantua, Wurmser hoped still that Joseph Alvintzy's relief column would cross the Adige river.[22] After it became clear that Charles was locked into place at Kehl and Hüningen, Moreau moved 14 demi-brigades to Italy, leaving behind modest forces on the Rhine.[23]

Control of the bridge at Kehl remained a high priority goal for the Habsburg commanders. Charles had formulated a plan to circumvent that problem, and to free enough of his troops to send a sizable relief fortress into northern Italy, where Dagoburt von Wurmser held Mantua against the French. If the French would agree to an armistice, he could take command of the fortresses; the French would withdraw, and he could send a sizable force to northern Italy to help relieve Mantua. The Siege of Mantua was long and costly, and had tied up a significant portion of both the French and Austrian force. The French Directory was willing to give up Mantua in exchange for the Rhine bridgeheads, which they deemed more important for the defense of France; Clarke, their envoy sent to negotiate between the Austrians and the French in Italy, could not convince Napoleon Bonaparte to allow the Habsburgs to keep Mantua. Napoleon flatly refused the suggestion, maintaining that Mantua was the keystone to the conquest of Habsburg Italy and to maintaining pressure on the Habsburgs in their capital of Vienna.[22]

The fortresses at Hüningen and Kehl were both important bridgeheads across the river; maintaining control of them had been critical in relative ease of the French crossing to the German side of the Rhine. At Strasbourg, a once imperial city, and Kehl, the German village across the river from it, the first permanent bridge had been erected in 1338. In 1678, Strasbourg was taken over by France, and the bridge became part of the city's defense system. Louis XIV ordered the construction of the fortress by the famous architect, Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban (1679–81), resulting in the construction of the star-shaped fortresses and bridgeheads in both locations. The principal fortresses lay on the west side (French side) of the Rhine; the bridgeheads and the smaller fortifications surrounding those lay on the west side; these protected the various bridges, barrages and viaducts connecting the two towns.[21]

Diplomacy and politics

[20] The German-speaking states on the east bank of the Rhine were part of the vast complex of territories in

Complications of political boundaries
The plethora of states of the Holy Roman Empire was especially dense on the east bank of the Rhine. 
In particular, the states involved in late 1796 included, for example, the Breisgau (Habsburg), Offenburg and Rottweil (imperial cities), the princely states of Fürstenberg, Neuenburg, and Hohenzollern, the Duke of Baden, the Duchy of Württemberg, and several dozen ecclesiastic polities. Many of these territories were not contiguous: a village could belong predominantly to one polity, but have a farmstead, a house, or even one or two strips of land that belonged to another polity. The light cream-colored territories are so subdivided they cannot be named. 

Political terrain

The Rhine River itself looked different in the 1790s than it does in the twenty-first century; the passage from Basel to Iffezheim was "corrected" (straightened) between 1817 and 1875. Between 1927 and 1975, a canal was constructed to control the water level. In 1790, though, the river was wild and unpredictable, in some places more than four or more times wider than the twenty-first century, even under regular (non-flood) conditions. Its channels wound through marsh and meadow and created islands of trees and vegetation that were periodically submerged by floods. It was crossable at Kehl, by Strasbourg, and Hüningen, by Basel, where systems of viaducts and causeways made access reliable.[18]

The Rhine River flows west along the border between the German states and the Swiss Cantons. The 80-mile (130 km) stretch between Rheinfall, by Schaffhausen and Basel, the High Rhine (Hochrhein) cuts through steep hillsides over a gravel bed; in such paces as the former rapids at Laufenburg, it moves in torrents.[16] A few miles north and east of Basel, the terrain flattens. The Rhine makes a wide, northerly turn, in what is called the Rhine knee, and enters the so-called Rhine ditch (Rheingraben), part of a rift valley bordered by the Black Forest on the east and Vosges Mountains on the west. In 1796, the plain on both sides of the river, some 19 miles (31 km) wide, was dotted with villages and farms. At both far edges of the flood plain, especially on the eastern side, the old mountains created dark shadows on the horizon. Tributaries cut through the hilly terrain of the Black Forest, creating deep defiles in the mountains. The tributaries then wind in rivulets through the flood plain to the river.[17]

The Rhine River: shows the passage of a water way, flowing east, then turning north, toward the North Sea. The river is labeled at different locations.
The Rhine River prevented easy escape into France.

Terrain

[15][14] The two armies met again at

[12] and the river.Kandern, and the corps of General Michael von Fröhlich. His combined forces of 24,000 closely followed Moreau's rear guard from Freiburg, southwest, to a line of hills stretching between Louis Joseph, Prince of Conde, commanded by Army of Condé on 21 September, where he was joined by both the Breisgau The Archduke entered the [11]

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