Battle of Raab June 1809

Eugene de Beauharnais, the Viceroy of Italy and commander of the French Army of Italy, finally chased down the Austrian Army of Inner Austria positioned before Raab. The Army of Inner Austria, commanded by Archduke Johann, had been fighting a series of small rearguard engagements since leaving the territory of northern Italy. After detaching several small commands and IX Korps (FML Ignaz Gyulai), fought several divisional sized engagements during his retreat march, Archduke Johann finally joined with Archduke Joseph (the Palatine of Hungary) at Raab with the newly raised feudal Hungarian Insurrectio army.

Following the Austrians closely during the last few days in June, Eugene’s mixture of confident French, Italians, and some recent joining Baden regiments, chased away by sharp cavalry combat the weak Austrian advance guard defending the Casnak heights. Losing these defensive heights, and seeing the French cavalry deploying below the Szabadhegy heights, quickly forced Archduke Johnan to deploy his troops behind the Pandzsa stream, a natural marshy stream bed flowing across the hasty Austrian defensive linear position. Nightfall of June 13th ended the day’s skirmish fighting, leaving both sides to organize their soldiers for next morning grand battle on June 14th.

Pandzsa sream now channelled. Its banks was mashy ground during the Battle of Raab.

Pandzsa stream now channelled. Its banks was marshy ground during the Battle of Raab.

The Army of Inner Austria wasn’t a normal Austrian army… large percentage of the army were newly raised Hungarian insurrection units of infantry and cavalry. Add in the large portion of Austrian landwehr, raised and collected during the Army of Inner Austria’s retreat march across Austria, meant a shortage of training troops throughout the Austrian defensive front. Planning and organization changes of command were discussed all during the night by the senior Austrian staff. At early morning light. Austrian units were found shifting position based upon the “agreed evening plan” between the Austrian Archdukes and their secondary commanders, who awaited the French advance near the small chapel on Szabadhegy heights. The Austrians held a strong position behind the marshy banked Pandzsa stream, buttressed by the walled stone strongpoint formed by the Kismegyer farm, the Raab riverbank on the right flank, and the Szabadhegy heights beyond.

Chapel atop the Szabadhegy height from which the Archdukes witnessed the battle till late afternoon.

Chapel atop the Szabadhegy height from which the Archdukes witnessed the battle till late afternoon. Photo by Antal Julanr.

The two armies were roughly equal in numbers at approximately 40,000 men, although in characteristic Austrian fashion Johann had weakened his battle line by detaching some 6-7,000 men to his extreme off scenario table flanks, the entrenchment position across the Raab River, and garrisoned Raab fortress with several depleted regular Austrian line battalions, therefore effectively removing them all from the coming battle. Johann also left his two reserve 12lb positional batteries behind Szabadhegy heights during the battle for reasons unknown.

Scene print of the Battle of Raab 1809.

Old scene print of the Battle of Raab 1809.

Archduke Johann drew up his army behind the Pandzsa stream, facing generally west. The Pandzsa ran roughly from south to north across his front, emptying into the Raab River to the north. In the vicinity of the battlefield, the Raab River ran from west to east, protecting John’s north flank. The fortress of Raab (now called Győr) was on the south side of the Danube River a short distance to the northeast. Johann hoped the wide marshy banks of the Pandzsa going southward would discourage a French cavalry envelopment from that direction. The enclosed and stoutly built Kismegyer walled farm stood on the east bank of the Pandzsa. Just east and behind Kismegyer farm rose Szabadhegy heights. On the heights’ north side lay Szabadhegy village adding to the Austrian positional defense.

Strongpoint Kismegyer farm. Does look like the granary building at Essling.

Strongpoint Kismegyer farm. Does look like the granary building at Essling. Photo by Szijarto Emo.

Johann deployed FML Mécsery’s left flank cavalry to defend behind the Pandzsa stream, reinforced with three early morning transferred Insurrection Hussar regiments from the entrenchment camp command of GM Mesko. He turned Kismegyer walled farm into a major strongpoint by placing FML Colloredo’s infantry into the farm and its environs, all behind the Pandzsa stream. FML Jellacic’s soldiers defended the right flank in front of Szabadhegy village. FML Frimont’s reserve stood on Szabadhegy hill, supporting both Colloredo and Jellacic’s infantry before them. Oberst Bésán’s horsemen held the ground between Jellacic’s right and the Raab River, just before the outlying Raab fortress defenses. FZM Davidovich and GM Mesko held some field entrenchment works on the north side of the Raab River with Hungarian insurrection militia, linked via a pontoon bridge across the Raab River.

French viewpoint of Kismegyer farm across the Pandzsa stream.

French viewpoint of Kismegyer farm across the Pandzsa stream. Photo by MoMof4.

Eugène took General of Division (GD) Grouchy from his corps command and reassigned him to oversee command on the right flank cavalry; his own 1st Dragoon Division and GD Montbrun’s light cavalry. These were posted on the right (south) flank with the intention of turning Johann’s open ground left flank. Eugène ordered GD Grenier to assault the Austrian center with his two divisions (GD Seras and GD Durette). GD Baragary d’Hilliers was instructed to attack the Austrian right with his leading Italian division under GD Severoli, supported by GD Pachrod’s Division. Eugène held within his reserves the troops from GD Sahuc light cavalry Division, GD Pully’s 2nd Dragoon Division, the Baden Brigade under GD Lauriston, and GD Fontanilli Italian Guards. Later in the day, GD MacDonald with GD Lamargue’s Division marched on the battlefield, too late to directly influence the French victory.

Note: The Order of Battle (OOB) and whom commanded certain divisions is unclear. Some conflicts show between two primary sources used by WR. WR followed the OOB of John Gill’s 1809 Thunder on the Danube Vol III Appendix 5. The book Prince Eugene at War (PE@W) has differences in OOB summarized below:

PE@W Austrian OOB has FML Frimont commanding the right flank cavalry vs. Oberst Bésán and GB Marziany the Reserve Division on the heights. Seems odd as the majority of the reserve was Frimont’s and why would an Austrian FML rank officer command just a few cavalry squadrons.

The French OOB in PE@W reads with Pachrod’s Division under the control of Eugene (in the reserve), and Sahac’s Lt. Cavalry with the Baden Brigade under Baragary d’Hilliers’ control.

Old map of the Battle of Raab.

Old map of the Battle of Raab. The orientation arrow (upper left) shows north pointing towards lower left corner of map.

Quickest understanding of the June 14th Battle of Raab, its movements, progress during the hot afternoon, and final results is to watch this short map video.  Raab Map Battle

The French advance began at around 10.00am on a clear warm day. GD Montbrun’s light cavalry covered the advancing infantry of GD Seras, and then turn right to join GD Grouchy’s cavalry in an attempt to get across the southern Pandzsa and turn the Austrian left. GD’s Baragary d’Hilliers and Grenier Corps were to attack in the centre towards Kismegyer farm. The original plan of Eugene was for them to attack in echelon, with GD Seras leading, but unexpectedly Seras was late in his advance and powerful resistance at Kismegyer soon forced them all into line, parallel to the Pandzsa stream. On the left GD Sahac’s cavalry was to guard the northern section of the stream from Austrian advances.

The infantry battle in the centre of the line developed quickly into a close-fought affair all along the Pandzsa stream. In the first rush, GD Seras troops stormed across the Pandzsa stream and seized Kismegyer farm for a brief moment, but the Austrians quickly took it back. In bitter fighting, the farm walls and gateways changed hands several more times during the battle. The engagements near a stone bridge leading into the village of Szabadhegy saw back and forth action between the infantry divisions of Durette, Severoli, and their opponent Jellacic. Finally, Johann committed GM Kleinmeyer’s powerful brigade from the reserve command of FML Frimont. Four grenadier battalions and the soldiers of the Alvinczi IR#19 pushed back GD Seras’ troops around the farm, then fell upon GD Durutte’s division. Meanwhile, GD Severoli’s division finally pushed back FML Jellacic’s infantry and took part of Szabadhegy village. Johann sent GM Gajoli’s brigade from the reserve to deal with this threat. The successful Austrian counterattacks succeeded in panicking the soldiers of Grenier and Baragary d’Hilliers for several minutes. They abandoned their bloody ground gains and ran back to the west side of the Pandzsa stream to reform their ranks.

Struggle around Kismegyer farm during the battle of Raab.

Struggle around Kismegyer farm during the battle of Raab. Chapel on hill right background. Note the high wall around the farm complex with four gateways.

While the infantry battle was raging along the Pandzsa stream, GD Grouchy, deducing that the three Austrian cannon defended the best crossing point over the Pandzsa, Grouchy ordered up his two horse batteries (12 cannon) and unlimbered them. French cannon fire soon silenced the opposing light Austrian artillery pieces, allowing French squadrons to begin fording the Pandzsa stream at various locations. When the French squadrons alighted from the mashy stream they quickly charged, covered by the horse artillery cannonade, Some of the nearby engaged Insurrection hussars soon took flight, opening more open ground for additional French cavalry. Eventual French victory came on their far right, where GD’s Montbrun and Grouchy managed to get entire cavalry regiments across the Pandsza stream, placing them on the open Austrian cavalry’s left flank. FML Mecsèry attempted to wheel his inexperienced horsemen to the left to face the new threat, but this caused confusion and chaos in the untrained Hungarian insurrection ranks, especially near the Viczay stream, and the Austrian cavalry left began to collapse. Timely French horse artillery fire and the threat from their advancing saber drawn disciplined ranks completed the rout. Only the Ott Hussar Regiment #7 and the Archduke Joseph Hussar Regiment #2 put up serious resistance and both units suffered heavy losses.

Vezay stream were the Austrian Insurrection Hussars and French cavalry fought.

Veczay stream where the Austrian Insurrection Hussars and French cavalry fought.

Faced with the crisis, Johann redeployed his units in a bent L-shaped line. His right flank along the Pandzsa stream, but at Kismegyer farm, the line bent to face south along the Szabadhegy heights. Johann sent Oberst Bésán’s horsemen from the right flank to cover the new open left flank on the east side of Szabadhegy heights. For his final general assault, Eugène sent in Pacthod’s division and GD Fontanilli Italian Guards from his reserve. The final general infantry attack slowly made headway across the Pandzsa stream. Finally, the Italian Guard cleared the now burning and battered Kismegyer farm. Johann, fearing envelopment from GD Grouchy’s advancing cavalry, ordered a retreat northeast, heading for Komorn, further east on the Danube River.

The French did not pursue with any great vigour. Their cavalry was exhausted after several days of marching and two days of fighting, so most of the Army of Inner Austria was able to make its escape from the battlefield that evening except the fortress garrison of Raab. The Army of Italy suffered approximately 4,000 killed and wounded. The Austrians lost 750 killed, 1,700 wounded, and 2,400 captured on the battlefield for a total of 4,850 casualties. There were also 1,300 soldiers reported missing, giving a total of 6,150 men subtracted from Johann’s army. Johann’s Army of Inner Austria retreated northeast to Komorn, leaving the garrison in Raab. The fortress surrendered on 22 June with 2,500 soldiers after a weak resistance.

Archduke Johann and his army were not present at the battle of Wagram till near the end of the battle. In contrast Prince Eugène was soon united with the main army, and the Army of Italy played its part in the fighting on 5-6 July, securing another victory for Napoleon.

Raab Monument. The Austro-Hungarian army fought here against Napoleon in 1809 This was the famous Győr-Kismegyer battle The monument was built in 1897.

Raab Monument. The Austro-Hungarian army fought here against “Napoleon” in 1809.
The monument was built-in 1897. Photo by Kis Toth Laszlo.

WR play tested his new scenario for Raab 1809. Four brave gamers joined WR on an unusual rainy July Southern California afternoon across a 6×10 tabletop. The scenario test basically ran close to the historical events, with the French side applying a strong infantry effort between the Szabadhegy village and Raab outskirts (foreground in photos below). The distant cavalry battle swirled along the Pandzsa stream frontage with French wearing down the Austrian and Hungarian horsemen ill the later broke and fled the field. WR even pulled out some of his undersized Insurrection cavalry units for the game. A few minor scenario tweets to the scenario notes readied Raab for the full WR game treatment sometime in the future. Any local Austro-Hungarian Insurrection volunteers to be bribed with food and drink?

Raab scenario notes (.doc): Raab 1809 Scenario notes

French OOB and rosters (.xls)  French Raab Roster  and the Austrian OOB and rosters (.xls)  Raab Austrian Roster

Scenario tabletop map without map counters.

Scenario tabletop map without map counters.

Command starting and arrival location on Raab scenario map. The arriving command placed just off the map edge arrival point.

Command starting and arrival location on Raab scenario map. The arriving command placed just off the map edge arrival point.

Some photos of the scenario tabletop showing the generally open terrain, the Pandzsa  and Viczay streams, the heights and village of Szabadhegy, and the various Austrian held buildings. The wooden blocks show the general starting positions after the first French movement phase.

General veiw of the open table before the placement of miniatures. French first movement of Wooden blocks completed.

Test game. General view of the open table before the placement of miniatures. French 1st movement turn completed, Their starting positions are closer to right table edge.

Test scenario in full play with both sides lining up along the P stream.

Test scenario in early action with both sides lining up along the Pandzsa stream. The Italian lower right soon crossed the Pandzsa stream and forced back the Austro-Hungarian Insurrection cavalry.

Other written scenarios on Raab for different rule sets. Seems to be a popular 1809 scenario battle in the wargaming community:

Peter’s Piquet scenario version of the Battle of Raab 1809 (from Blunders on the Danube series):  Piquet Raab. Peter has the entire 1809 covered in his Blunder on the Danube series, including scenarios, uniforms of the armies involved, and historical commentary. Check out his blog at Blunders on the Danube

Gruppo Murat’s version of Raab:  GM Raab

Age of Eagles scenario on Raab:  AOE Raab 1809

Jonathan’s scenario on Raab using Republique+ rules. His scenario AAR ran over several months on his journal blog (see links on blog). Check out the starting report with a weekend coffee then follow the linked progress reports.  Republique+ Raab

Raab YouTube videos. One a visual movement map showing the progress of the battle, Raab Map Battle, and another on a 2014 reenactor event, Raab Reenacted.

For a little side video entertainment… a total War video on Battle of Raab: Total War Raab

Information on the Hungarian Insurrection units, organization and uniforms from the Napoleon series:  Hungarian Insurrectio

Insurrection3

Some written source and reading material. Especially to note the two books; Prince Eugene at War and 1809 Thunder on the Danube vol. III for great Battle of Raab detail.

Some scenario source material apart from the internet.

Some scenario source material apart from the internet. Prince Eugene at War and 1809 Thunder on the Danube Volume III have the greatest detail on Raab.

Cheers from the game warren.

WR

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3 thoughts on “Battle of Raab June 1809

  1. Great post, scenario, pics, and OOB. Michael. I’ve already decided to return to 1809 for at least one game at Historicon 2016, and doing Raab there is a distinct possibility. I’m also considering 2nd Berg Isel (I have Eureka Tyrolean rebels to paint, but would need still more, which makes it more likely for 2017), and a “Wagon Train” scenario based upon Klagenfurt.

    • Thanks again Peter.
      I would go for Eckmuhl, the grand table look, at HCon if it was me. Solid basic units for gamers to push the lead with. Raab a smaller battlefield but maybe that’s what you desire for a HCon “break” from the grand scenario game like your last Ligny effort. Just transfix the gamers with strong Hungarian food/drink to encourage the Austrian team.

      Funny, my next planned scenario in the “development” stage is Klagenfurt. Looking for that non-standard tabletop scenario… like most of my games. For Berg Isel maybe have small “odd” shaped “pebbles” to roll down your model hillsides. Touch a miniature base and the unit takes losses or morale test. Pebble roller must of course “Yodel” before the pebble roll.

      Question. Do you have a print copy of your Blunder on the Danube Piquet 1809 scenario book at home? If so, your cost to me (add in postage) and maybe a “signed” copy from you the author.

      Michael
      mrverity58 at yahoo dot com

      • See our private correspondence re the book.

        Eckmuhl was one of the scenarios we did for Historicon 2009 (indeed, it won best theme (1809) game for the show, and did look spectacular). We had to playtest that one three times to get a decent game, as the historical battle is pretty much a walkover for the French due to the numbers, maneuvers, and superior command capabilities of the French.

        I definitely don’t want to do a huge battle for 2016. I would consider doing Wagram again – still the biggest and most fun of any convention game I’ve ever run. Maybe 2019? 🙂 It was only possible, though, because we had a team of six of us working n it.

        We ran Raab at Ellis Con in late 2009, and had a really great time with it. It’s still a pretty big battle, but not huge. Also an excuse to field the forthcoming mounted Italian Honor Guards, even if they weren’t actually there,. plus my ersatz (pre Perry) Insurrectio infantry.

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