Battle of Gefrees July 1809

Another small battle from the Franco-Austrian 1809 campaign. The battle of Gefrees occurred in southern modern Germany, near Bayreuth, and basically in the same location where the French started their 1806 campaign marches into 1806 Prussian territory, leading up to the battle of initial Battle of Saalfeld, then Jena and Auerstadt.

Accounts for the action on the Gefrees battlefield are sparse in number.  WR favorite go to source is the excellent 1809 Thunder on the Danube three-volume series written by John Gill. These books are a great source for the well-known and documented battles, and more importantly to WR, the more obscure battles fought during this campaign. but for the Battle of Gefrees, fought on July 8th and just before the signed armistice, the details are lacking for a detailed scenario. The background in Gill’s volume III book (Wagram & Znaim), has the story starting on page 290 with the sub-title of “Thunder in Bayreuth” section and reads up to page 299, before covering the Black Duke’s post armistice march to the Hanoverian coast. Specifically on mid page 297, there is a single paragraph on the Gefree battle…. per Gill a small skirmishing action it seems, ended with a violent thunderstorm of rain. So another well written source is needed and quickly found in the old First Empire magazine. The Battle of Gefrees First Empire (FE) magazine article by John (Jack) Gill appeared in issue #12 and covers in detail the short southern Germany (Bayreuth region) campaign and the battle. It is surprising that the book 1809 Thunder on the Danube has limited storyline compared to the same author’s FE article on this engagement. WR’s tabletop scenario is based upon this old FE article.

The old FE magazine article found on the internet as a .pdf file:  Gefrees 1809 Empire #12

The Danube theater wide situation at the start of July has the Battle of Wargarm (July 5th & 6th) forthcoming and the converging French Armies of Germany, Italy, and Dalmatia in general pursuit of the retiring Austrians. During the pursuit the engagement at Hollabrunn (July 9th) and the final major Battle of Znaim, fought on July 10th into the 11th occurs, leading to the signed campaign ending armistice during the evening of 11th (effective July 12th).

King Jerome

FML Kienmayer

GD Junot


Back in the rear area of Bavarian Bayreuth, Austrian Bohemia, and southern Saxony, the French and Austrians, along with their Germanic state allies, march and fight several smaller engagements during early July. In particular the confrontation of FML Kienmayer and his two French opponents; GD Junot and King Jerome of Westphalia, is the subject of this blog article. The Battle of Gefrees came from Archduke’s Charles’s earlier strategic plans after the Battle of Aspern-Essling. Archduke Charles desired peripheral theaters for limited operations to discomfort the French across the Danube river at Vienna and threaten the French line of communication back to France. With the Italian, Tyrol, and Polish theaters closing down at that time, only the Bohemian border with Saxony remained open for Austrian offensive action. The Saxon border frontier was open to Austrian military advance being ill defended, the possibility possible of sparking anti-french uprising (especially after the von Schill’s ride and raid), and reduction of the Confederation of the Rhine military efforts against Austria.

In May, the future Austrian grand military effort for this Saxon border raid adventure was limited to depot troops, the local landwehr formations, and several line detachments. Two small divisions slowly formed under the command of GM Carl Friedrich Freiherr Am Ende around Theresienstadt (8,600 and 10 cannon), up river from Dresden, and FML Paul Radivojevich (4,400 and 4 cannon) to advance on French held Bavarian Bayreuth from Eger. The French rear area and realms of the German allies had equally an odd mixture of units and formations, mostly newly raised recruits, depot, and provisional troops. The stalwart Marshal Francois Kellermann used his skill to form a Reserve Corps based around Hanau. Further north the new Kingdom of Westphalia, with their new army regiments, and the occasional Dutch, Saxon, Danes, and even Portuguese units, forming the French 10th Corps under King Jerome.

June 10th, the regional campaign starts, sees GM Am Ende cross the Saxon border and quickly control Dresden with his Brunswick and Hesse-Kassel small Frei corps allies joining him. Further northwestern marching towards Leipzig quickly ends with the cautious and indecisive GM Am Ende, a true Austrian commander, when faced by the energetic Saxon local commander von Thielmann. Oberst von Thielmann, soon joined by the marching Saxon-Polish command of GM von Dyherrn’s return from Poland, falls back before the Austrian torpid advance till joined by King Jerome’s 10th Corps at Leipzig (June 23rd). The combined Saxon and Westphalian forces immediately advanced on Dresden, with GM Am Ende quickly retreating across the Austrian border post-haste before their advance. Meanwhile, FML Radivojevich has crossed the Eger area border and occupies Bayreuth, while sending raiding groups towards Bamberg and Nuremberg. By the end of June, these raiding groups are forced to retire by the gathering French Reserve Corps under Marshal Kellermann at Hanau, soon to be commanded by GD Junot.

The start of July found FML Radivojevich back in Bayreuth and then compelled to retire on Bindloch on July 6th, the same time period days of the savage battle of Wargram. While GM Am Ende returned to Austrian territory, regrouping his command and remained camped across the Austrian border, FML Radivojevich soon had two separate French forces moving in his direction at the start of July. GD Jean-Andoche Junot, who recently taken the place of Kellermann in command of the Reserve Corps at Hanau, marched from Hanau to Wurzburg then towards Bamberg (July 5th). At Bamberg Junot is joined by GD Jean Delaroche with Bavarian depot battalion and two raw French provisional dragoon regiments coming north from Bavarian territory. With the enlarged, but untrained mounted arm available, GD Junot continues his advance against the worried FML Radivojevich, who quickly retreats towards Bindloch, as the French re-occupy Bayreuth.

FML Kienmayer rides to the rescue and arrives sometime during Am Ende’s early adventure into Saxony then retirement back to Austrian territory. Quickly he brought purpose to the enterprise and apprehensive about his forces being separated and facing superior enemy formations, he decides to exploit his central position to defeat each of the Franco-German corps in turn. Feeling the X Corps are overly enjoying their stay at pleasant Dresden, he saw Junot’s advance against FML Radivojevich as the immediate threat to his two corps. Dividing Am Ende’s command in half, he marches quickly westward toward Plauen, leaving the remainder under GM Am Ende to guard the border passes into Austria. Radivojevich’s ADC carrying messages for aid reach FML Kienmayer at Plausen (July 5th). Told to hold the Bindloch for as long as possible in reply notes, Kienmayer marches to Hof and aid of Radivojevich, leaving the Brunswick and Hessian troops at Plausen for the moment. Pressured by Junot’s advance, FML Radivojevich unknowing of FML Kienmayer’s response and actions, slowly retires to Gefrees. Under direct skirmishing with the French advance troops, Radivojevich holds Grefees position during the night of July 7th.

Gefrees and view of the surrounding countryside. (Wikipedia photo)

A brief interruption for the reader. At this moment WR is unsure of GD Junot’s part in the forthcoming battle. Even GD Rivaud de la Raffiniere’s role is limited it seems. GB Delarouche certainly is on the battlefield and appears to have commanded the French during the battle per John (Jack) Gill’s article, with GD Junot back in Bayreuth. Another thought to point out…looking over the OOB, GD Delarouche commanded the French cavalry (dragoons) but during the battle account their presence isn’t noted till the final dusk combats…. so why is GD Delaroche forward from his command?

The Battle of Gefrees (July 8th). WR draws the reader to the John (Jack) Gill’s FE article linked above for a complete summary and detailed read on the Battle of Gefrees 1809. First stop is the order of battle for the two opposing sides:

French Order of Battle under GD Junot:

1st Division (Rivaud de la Raffiniere):  1st Brigade (GB Lameth), IV Btn./19th Ligne, IV/25th Ligne, IV/28th Ligne. 2nd Brigade (GB Taupin), IV/36th Ligne, IV/50th Ligne, IV/75th Ligne (c.4500 men). French artillery 2×12 pdrs, 8x 6 pdrs, 2x howitzers in two batteries.

Dragoon Brigade (Delaroche): 1st and 5th Provisional Dragoons (1200 men).

Bavarian detachment: Depot battalion from 4th IR., 8th IR., and 5th Light Btn. plus 2x 3 pdrs. (510 men).

Austrian and Germanic Frei corps Order of Battle under FML Kienmayer:

FML Radivojevich Brigade: Deutsch Banat Brenz Regt #12* 2 btns. (1371 men), 1st and 2nd Tabor Landwehr btns. (1200 men), 2nd Chrudim Landwehr (400), 4th Koniggratz Landwehr (600), Meerveldt Uhlan Regt. #1 1 sqn. (120), Converged sqn. from zugs of the Schwarzenberg Uhlans, Rosenberg Chevaulegers, and Blankenstein Hussars (93), 2x 3 pdrs.

Kienmayer’s Austrian Brigade under Oberstlieutenant Rosner: III Btn. Erbach I.R. #42 (1308 men), III/Anton Mittrowsky I.R. #10 (300), 2nd Leitmerltz Landwehr (600), 3rd Czaslau Landwehr (600), 5th Bunzlau Landwehr (600), 1st Jager co. (157), Schwarzenberg Uhlan Regt #2 one sqn. (127), 4x 3 pdrs, 2x howitzers plus a small pioneer section.

Braunschweig Frei corps (Duke of Brunswick): Braunschweig I.R. 2 btns (300 in total), Scharfschutzen co. (150), Braunschweig Hussar Regt (300), Braunschweig artillery 2x 6 pdrs., 2 x howitzers. Attached Hesse Kassel Frei corps: Hessian Garde Grenadiers (197), Hessian Jager Co. (77), Hessian Fusilier Co. (150), Hessian Leib Dragoner one sqn. (90) and Hessian Hussars one sqn. (105)

Lastly there is the Franconian Legion formed by a Hessian major named Nostitz, around Bayreuth in June/July. The legion included a company of jagers (205) and a sqn. of uhlans (86). Location on the 8th of July is unknown as they are not mentioned being present at Gefrees.

Battle of Gefrees field and deployment. Note this map has different “north” directional orientation.

Morning of July 8th saw the French skirmishers pressing their advantage on the Austrian defenders of FML Radivojevich’s command, positioned in Gefrees town and the open ground to the northeast. During the warming sunlit morning hours, Radivojevich learns of the approach march of FML Kienmayer’s Austrian battalions (formerly Am Ende) and behind them the Brunswick and Hessian Frei corps from Munchberg. Knowing his tired and engaged infantry will soon have reinforcements, his front line positioning gives the Austrian soldiers, grenzer and landwehr alike, steady words of encouragement to maintain their ranks and give the French equally back. Soon the French under Gd Delaroche notice the steady Austrian formations, their willingness to hold their chosen ground, and summarizes that Austrian reinforcement under FML Kienmayer may soon arrive, tipping the strength of forces in the Austrian, Brunswick, and Hessian favor. By mid morning the skirmishing peters out, both sides eying their opponents while seeking water on this hot day.

French view of Gefrees from their position on the Pfaffenberg.

Noon time and the first arrivals of Kienmayer’s commands start to arrive, led by the Austrians, followed by the Germanic Frei corps stopping at Lubnitz (just outside Gefrees on main road). Originally FML Kienmayer had plans to flank the French via Kulmbach but instead assembled at Munchberg, then headed for Gefrees direct. Planning his battle maneuvers, Kienmayer’s attack plan called for advance by the detached Grenz companies at Wulfersreuth and Fichtelberg towards Bayreuth (distracting maneuver on the French flank). The main Austrian column will advance on Bad Berneck via Grunstein and Stein. Side by side with the main Austrian column, Radivojevich’s troops are to advance down the main road via Lutzenreuth then support the main column towards Bad Berneck. Held back at start, both the Germanic Frei corps arrived at Lubnitz positioned themselves as the reserve. For the French, their movement before Gefrees grounds to a halt, with ADC’s riding back towards Bayreuth (and Junot) for the reserve dragoon regiments to ride forward.

John (Jack) Gill’s situation map from the FE article with battle movement annotated. Note the directional arrow twists the map compared to typical map layout of north at the top of page.

Engagement still at a low skirmishing effort across the front line, the Duke of Brunswick, with FML Kienmayer besides him, ride together forward to reconnoiter. Captain Korfes, of the Braunschweig artillery, noticed that the French left was exposed and in the air and dominated by a rise near Witzleshofen. The duke himself rides back to his men at Lubnitz and orders them quickly forward, suffering from the marching heat. Reaching to Witzleshofen, they pass the small village and climb the rise (Berchertsberg), driving away a French patrol. Quickly the Braunschweig artillery unlimbered and bombards the surprised three French battalions across the stream, standing on the nearby rise called the Pfaffenberg. Offering little resistance, the three French battalions retreat rapidly through Boseneck, leaving the French battle line displaced or unhinged.

The Burgkapelle in Stein, bypassed by the Austrian advance towards Bad Berneck.

Now pressed by the Braunschweig Frei corps on their left, Radivojevich’s brigade in the centre, and the arriving Austrians led by Kienmayer heading for Gefrees, the French front line retreats. GB Delaroche attempts to form a new line near Lutzenreuth but the fast marching Austrians crest the Kesselberg above Lutzenreuth before the French properly formed their new lines, forcing another French retirement. Their was now no stopping the Austrians and their German allies before Bad Berneck, or beyond. Leaving two battalions to delay the Austrians at the defile by Bad Berneck as a rear guard, the rest of the French infantry and artillery retired to a low-rise, just north of the Kronach stream, between Neudorf and Kieselhof. Here they were joined by the French provisional cavalry regiments (dragoons) riding forward from their encampment by Bayreuth it seems.

Ruins of Hohenberneck castle above Bad Berneck.

Bad Berneck photo clearly shows the narrow ravine passageway through town and towards the Wassier Main lower left. The local history of Bad Berneck is below in notes. (Framepool photo)

Nearing dusk, Duke of Brunswick arrives at Micheldorf with his exhausted men (seven men succumbed to sunstroke during the chase march). While chasing the French, the Austrians stopped before the French rear guard at Bad Berneck, then quickly side-stepped their march towards Micheldorf, forcing the last French battalions to retire from Bad Berneck and across the Weisser Main. At this point Oberstlieutenant Rosner arrived with additional Austrian battalions and wanted to probe the dusk French position. Leaving Micheldorf, the Austrians forded the Weisser Main and headed for Neudorf. The march is short-lived, taken under French artillery fire by six cannon and threatened by the French dragoons, the small Austrian probe force quickly retreats back to Micheldorf. Exhaustion, darkness, and a final summer thunderstorm brough the fighting to an end. The Battle of Gefrees is over.

Convinced that his small corps is now outnumbered, GD Junot continues the retreat the next day, Leaving Bayreuth behind again, the evening of July 9th found the French and Bavarians 25km south of Bayreuth, with another day’s march to Amberg the following day. For FML Kienmayer, his victorious corps turns about and marches towards Dresden and French X Corps (Jerome). Hearing the news, the Westphalian king succumbed to the reports of Kienmayer’s strength, and with worrisome unrest in his realm, quickly countermarches north back towards Leipzig. News of the July 12th armistice signing reached the Saxon region thus ending all active operations, and before FML Kienmayer could inflict additional embarrassment on his foes. As for the 1809 Black Horde, they have another story detailing their march northwards, to Brunswick, then on to the North Sea coast for transportation to Britain.

Well, here is your chance to use Brunswickers on the tabletop outside of the Peninsular and Waterloo campaigns. Looking at the Osprey plates, the Braunschweig Infantry regiment uniform is slightly different from the later campaigns for the button counter folks, looks like the 1815 Leib Regiment. The Hussars again a close 1815 era match but the small uhlan sqn. wore a green, red faced Austrian uhlan uniform (Merveldt). For the jagers a green coat, different from the 1815 avant garde uniforms but basic Prussian jager miniatures will do  for the tabletop. For the Bavarians and Hessians their uniforms are classical for each army. This leaves the Austrians and French units, typical uniforms for each, with the landwehr giving color to the white coat Austrians. WR looks forward to using his actual 1809 Insurrection units for this battle… including the actual 1809 Kur-Hessian legion units painted years ago, lurking in the WR 25/28mm napoleonic collection.

WR 1809 Insurrection 25/28mm miniature collection paraded: 1809 Insurrection

Other information sources, scenarios, and AAR on the Battle of Gefrees for reading and scenario format ideas found by WR make for interesting comparison to the John (Jack) Gill FE article mentioned above:

The Fuentes de Onoro blogspot AAR using Rank and File rules:  Battle of Gefrees 1809 AAR

Gefrees, Saxony 8 July 1809 published in Wargames Soldiers & Strategy magazine issue #63. A .pdf file on the article using Black Powder rules format: BP Gefrees 1809 Scenario

The Wikipedia article: Battle of Gefrees

Battle of Gefrees 1809 Scenario: To cover this small napoleonic engagement, WR has written up a typical tabletop scenario with two options of tabletop play. Option one is a small standard “pitched battle” tabletop engagement with the small formations, skirmishing and occasion massed formation assaults around Gefrees by both sides. Cavalry is limited and very fragile due to their small unit sizes. Blinking twice and the scenario could be over quickly. For option two, the scenario game is designed to highlight the map square movement system, deployment to battle, and the much harder command withdraw (under pressure or not) scenario action. Player choice but WR’s future AAR will cover the second option, again to highlight the interface and use of the map square (wooden block or counter) movement concurrent with the tabletop miniature action.

The Battle of Gefrees 1809 Scenario notes (.doc): Gefrees 1809 Scenario Notes

Scenario maps includes the entire region from Gefrees towards Bayreuth. Entire tabletop measures twenty feet by six feet if utilized by the French Reserve Corps movement forward, then retirement back toward Bayreuth, being chased by the arriving larger Austro-Brunswick Bohemian Korps.

The complete Gefrees 1809 scenario map measures on tabletop 20×6 feet. Each map square is 12″ for 50 yards per inch ground scale.

Closer view of the starting positions near Gefrees. Scenario notes file has full details for scenario,

Cheers from the warren. Gefrees AAR to follow as soon as WR can paint up a Bavarian depot battalion and arrange players for the scenario.


P.S. Bad Berneck has a long history in Bavaria. WR as he designs scenario likes to look up the local history of the area. This time Bad Berneck caught his reading eye. From Wikipedia….

The exact date of Bad Berneck’s foundation is not known, but up to 1057 the place was under the control of the lords of Babenberg and later the counts of Andechs. In 1167 Berneck was first mentioned as a castle, built by Ulrich II Walpote of Berneck, without obtaining the approval of the Bishop of Bamberg.

Until 1202 Berneck was under Bamberg rule. From 1203 to 1248 it belonged again to the counts of Andechs-Merania. In 1248, following the extinction of House of Merania, it fell to the counts of Orlamünde and in 1341 to the burgraves of Nuremberg (and, later, the margraves of Brandenburg-Bayreuth). It is first recorded as a town on 18 November 1357. In 1375 Berneck was almost completely burned down and it was destroyed by fire again in 1431 and 1462 during the Hussite Wars. Plague and famine also struck the town. In 1478 the Marquis gave Berneck to Veit von Wallenroth with the stipulation that the fortifications were to be rebuilt. The castle of Hohenberneck was built. In 1495 the town had 204 residents in 76 households. After the death of Veit von Wallenroth the place went to Albert of Wirsberg, the Amtmann of Stein. He further fortified the now ruined stronghold and the family acted as robber barons against Nuremberg. The latter had the castle bombarded into ruins in 1533. In 1632, in the middle of the Thirty Years War the place was razed. This happened again on 13 May 1692 – only five houses and a mill were spared.

In 1724, 15 gypsy women were hanged and buried under the Gypsy Oak (Zigeunereiche). The men had fled. The survivors were driven across the border.

In 1732 Margrave George Frederick Charles of Brandenburg-Bayreuth had pearl oysters introduced into the Ölschnitz, probably to supplement the state’s finances In the wars of 1796-1815 the small town had to pay several contributions and provide billeting. In 1806 Blücher visited Berneck and the Blüchersruh was named after him. The former office (Amt) of the Prussian principality of Bayreuth, established since 1792, fell to France in 1807 as a result of the Treaty of Tilsit and, in 1810, went to Bavaria. Around 1830 the first spa business was established (based on whey products). Within Bavaria, Berneck was initially the seat of a regional court (Landgericht), later a district office (Bezirksamt). The territory of the district was affiliated to the neighbouring district offices of Bayreuth, Kulmbach and Münchberg. The majority of the Amt territory was controlled by the district office at Bayreuth. In 1896 it was connected to the railway network.

On 1 October 1929 the district of Berneck was dissolved. In the 1930s, Adolf Hitler spent the night in the then fashionable Bube Hotel on several occasions during the festival in Bayreuth. In 1930, Kneipp cures were introduced and its recognition as a spa came in 1950. However, since the 1970s, its role as a spa has tailed off considerably.

Hotel Bube in Bad Berneck during the 1930’s. Adolf Hitler frequently stayed at this hotel during the 1930’s during his trips to Bayreuth.



2 thoughts on “Battle of Gefrees July 1809

    • JF,
      Gefrees scenario planned for August play. Then start the preparation for two small (most likely solo games of Evora and Rolica 1808) leading up to the HMGS-PSW regional convention game for Vimeiro. So more napoleonic action forthcoming.

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