Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Battle of the Day: The Battle of Handschuhsheim

On this day in 1795, During the French War of the First Coalition, French Revolutionary Forces faced the Austrian Army outside of a little village in western Germany just north of Heilelburg.

The French Revolution had turned on itself and spilled outside of the borders of France. The Terror of Robespierre had resulted in women and children of the nobility being murdered, the poor still suffered terribly, and counter-revolutionary riots were gripping the country. The Revolution had pit France against the traditional Monarchies of Europe, who had formed a coalition to fight it. Even the young United States had turned against the Excesses of the Jacobins and signed an agreement with Great Britain to blockade French shipping. The fall of the Jacobins and the execution of Robespierre left the county adrift and surrounded by enemies. Royalist forces were on the counter-attack inside and outside France. By September of 1795 Revolutionary France had been forced to sign peace deals with Spain, the Netherlands, and Prussia. The Austrians saw no reason to make peace.

At Handschuhsheim, the Austrian army had superior Cavalry forces. They defeated the French Cavalry facing them, then rode down the Infantry. Out of about 12000 men, the French lost around 1500, while of the roughly 8000 Austrians 187 were lost.

Such defeats helped Napoleon seize power; in fact, only a few days later in October, Bonaparte would crush a counter-revolutionary riot in Paris and be named Commander of the Interior.