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Battle of the Vosges

The Battle of the Vosges also known as the Battle of Trippstadt was fought on 13 July 1794 in eastern France in the Vosges Mountains from which it derives its name.

The Introduction

By July 1794, the fledgling French Republic had been at war for a little under two years and in that time its fortunes had changed dramatically. Following initial setbacks for the Revolutionaries, the war changed in France's favour with the appointment of Lazare Carnot to the post of War Minister (or as the position was formally known - Head of the Committee of Public Safety War Section). Following the introduction of the levée en masse or mass conscription, French armies had increased to around 800,000 frontline troops and a grand total of between 1.4 and 1.6 million men under arms. These were divided into 13 principal field armies.

The largest of these was the Army of the Rhine which in July 1794 amounted to around 115,000 under Claude Ignace François Michaud. The Army of the Rhine was deployed along a frontline some 70 kilometres in length. It was opposed by an Allied army of around 70,000 Prussians, Austrians and Electoral Saxons under Prussian Wichard Joachim Heinrich von Möllendorf which held strong defensive positions in elevated terrain. In the approximate center of the Allied line was the town of Trippstadt.

The battle

On 2 July Michaud launched an attack all along the front. The French army was halted everywhere except on the extreme right where the young divisional commander, Louis Desaix, successfully pushed back the Allied wing. However this left his division isolated and counterattacks by the Prince of Baden and future victor of Waterloo, Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, reversed his advance while inflicting about 1,000 casualties. At the end of the day both armies occupied approximately the same positions as they had at the start of hostilities.

On orders from Carnot, Michaud launched a second offensive on 13 July. On the right of the French line Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr, a future Napoleonic marshal, captured Kaiserslautern supported by the artillery of Desaix's division. In the centre of the battlefield Alexandre Camille Taponier's division pushed back Frederick Louis, Prince of Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen's Prussian corps to Trippstadt whilst on the left the French advance divided the Allied line, thus denying Friedrich Adolf Graf von Kalckreuth the chance to assist Hohenlohe. Taponnier's attack on Trippstadt was decisive because the Austrians failed to support the Prussians.

The aftermath

Möllendorf ordered his forces to regroup east of the Rhine on the night of 13–14 July thus ending all Coalition presence on the west bank. On the 16th Kalckreuth and Hohenlohe rejoined the bulk of Möllendorf's army, but no attempt to salvage the situation was made until September when Hohenlohe successfully caught Michaud off-guard. This later success however was not followed up and the complacency of both forces led to stagnation of the front.

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