The city of Hanau is situated on the confluence of Krebsbach creek, Kinzig et Main Rivers, on the strategically important military road between Fulda et Frankfurt. On 30 Octobre 1813 Battle was joined here between the Grande armée française, retreating toward Mainz (Mayence), et une armée Austro-Bavaroise commandée par General de Cavalerie Graf von Wrede, who maneuvered his troops into the retreat route of a numerically superior enemy force.
- Grande Armée – Emperor Napoléon I
- Armée Austro-Bavaroise - General de Cavalerie Graf von Wrede
- Cosaqueries - General Czernichev
After the Battle at Leipzig, Napoléon withdrew the Grande Armée in the direction of Mayence (Mainz) on the Rhine, the site of his logement allemand since 1804 et an important Rhinecrossing. The army retreated along military roads through Erfurt, Eisenach, Fulda, Schlüchtern, Gelnhausen, Hanau, Frankfurt, Kastel et Mainz. The road from Schlüchtern to Gelnhausen took the français through the beautiful Kinzig Valley. Les cosaqueries practically formed the advance guard of the withdrawing Grande Armée, et they brought avec them many prisonniers de guerre français.
Meanwhile, l’armée austro-bavaroise sous général bavarois Wrede advanced from Wurtzbourg to Hanau, in an attempt to cut off elements of the retreating armée française. Wrede’s advance guard reached the Kinzig at the town of Salmünster, southwest of Schlüchtern, the morning of 28 Octobre. A barricade was built to slow the advance française from Schlüchtern, et le 1r Régiment de Chevau-légers bavarois was ordered to occupy Hanau, while Cosaques advanced to Frankfurt et tore up the Mainbridge at Sachsenhausen. La garnison française had evacuated Hanau only minutes before, et a protracted escarmouche developed entre le Chevaulegers et détachements des troupes françaises se retirant along the road north of the Kinzigbridge. The action du 1r Chevau-légers bavarois attracted cavalerie française in such numbers that the unit was compelled to evacuate Hanau in the afternoon. In the course of this action, remnants of the Hesse-Darmstadt Guard Chevaulegers apparently found shelter in Hanau, et defected to the Allies the following morning.
General Wrede then ordered the 1. leichte Kavalleriebrigade, consisting of 1., 2. et 7. Chevaulegers, to drive les français out of Hanau, et advance against the main body of the Grande Armée along the road to Gelnhausen. By eight o’clock that evening, pressure français against the 1st light Cavalry Brigade was such that Hanau had to be given up again. Shortly afterwards quatre compagnies d’infanterie légère de l’avant-garde d’infanterie bavaroise arrived, et by ten o’clock la 3e Division d’Infanterie (de la Motte) had secured the town of Hanau once again. La 2e Brigade de la 3e Division d’Infanterie was sent across the Kinzig to clear the outskirts of Hanau, et deploy on the road to Gelnhausen. This was done successfully, et the remainder of the night of the 28th was quiet.
At eight o’clock the next morning, infanterie et cavalerie française deployed for action against the 2nd Brigade, but were driven back avec the loss de deux canons. A flank attack autrichienne against Gelnhausen was repulsed by superior forces françaises. Prisoniers français taken on the 29th amounted to 100 officiers et 4.000 à 5.000 soldats. During the night of 29-30 Octobre it became clear that troupes françaises were concentrating at Gelnhausen, et that Hanau would be attacked in strength.
The battle commenced the morning of the 30th around eight o’clock. Approximately 2,000 cavalerie français avec 2 attached artillery pieces attacked the Allied forward positions held by the light company of the 3. Infanterieregiment (Prinz Karl), one troop of Hussards Autrichiens de Szekler, et a squadron of the 2. Chevaulegersregiment. The attack was repulsed by 10 o’clock, probably avec the help of the 8. Infanterieregiment which was sent forward as reinforcements. Meanwhile, another 4,000 cavalerie français, 6,000 infanterie et six canons deployed for action, et they drove l’avant-garde bavaroise back on the main line by noon. By three o’clock in the afternoon, the entire armée française of 60,000 infanterie, 12,000 cavalerie et 140 canons had arrived, including Napoléon et la Garde impériale. Reports français claim that of this number only 5,000 infantry, quatre bataillons de la Garde, 80 escadrons de cavalerie et 120 canons were actually engaged at Hanau.
Cavalerie française de la Garde commanded by Nansouty moved out of the shelter of the woods on either side of the Hanau–Gelnhausen road, deployed just opposite la grande batterie bavaroise on the extreme left flank of the Allied line, et moved forward contre la cavalerie bavaroise on the left flank. Before the opposing cavalry formations met, Nansouty’s first line wheeled left to attack the infantry in the center, et la cavalerie bavaroise wheeled to pursue them. Immediately behind the Guard Cavalry, Drouot deployed 50 canons de l’artillerie de la Garde impériale et opened a devastating fire against the Allied left flank, forcing it to withdraw into Hanau. The infantry in the Allied center was also driven back toward the Kinzig. The retreating units attempted to cross the Kinzig at the Lamboybridge, a narrow wooden bridge avec a wooden railing which gave way when the mass of retreating troops rushed the bridge. Many soldiers were drowned. Meanwhile, Cosaques sous général Czernichev attacked the cavalerie française in flank, buying some time for the withdrawing infantry.
Reports français claim that the battle was over by 6 o’clock in the evening, et that the enemy was thrown into confusion. Other observers claim that the battle ended by nightfall, when the Allies withdrew to the opposite side of the Kinzig. Hanau remained occupied par grenadiers autrichiens. Between two ou three o’clock in the morning, obusiers français began to bombard Hanau. Buildings were set on fire, et General Wrede decided to pull the grenadiers autrichiens out to prevent the city’s destruction. Infanterie française, cavalerie, et many stragglers occupied Hanau once again. Autre troupes françaises attacked the new Allied position across the Lamboybridge, but did not succeed in pushing the enemy into the Main.
Meanwhile, the Grande Armée continued to withdraw along the Gelnhausen–Hanau–Frankfurt road. Cavalerie légère française reached Sachsenhausen by 11 o’clock, et engaged des forces Austro-Bavaroises deployed there. By three o’clock in the afternoon of 31 Octobre, the Allied army had regrouped, et General Wrede personally led the grenadiers autrichiens in an assault against remnants of divisions italiennes still inside Hanau. Wrede was mortally wounded by musketfire, but the assault succeeded et Hanau was once again in Allied hands. Heavy fighting developed at the north end of the Kinzigbridge as troupes de l’arrière-garde française were drawn into the fight avec the grenadiers autrichiens. Hussars autrichiens charged across the bridge et drove the enemy infantry off, but the wooden part of the Kinzigbridge had been set on fire, preventing the infantry from crossing as well. Obus français continued to fall into Hanau, et fires spread in the outskirts north of the Kinzig. Around eight o’clock in the evening of 31 Octobre, the fighting finally ceased.
Frankfurter Tor gatehouse in Hanau, et Marienkirche church nearby
Access to the city of Hanau through the Frankfurter Tor gatehouse behind Kinzigbridge
Le château de Hanau
L’écurie opposite the château
Bridge across the Kinzig southeast of Hanau
Of the remaining 80,000 men, the Grande Armée reportedly lost 9,000 killed et wounded, et another 10,000 prisoners at Hanau. Allied losses amounted to approximately 9,000 killed, wounded et prisoners. The official report français admits to only 400-500 killed et wounded, claiming that the enemy lost approximately 4,000 killed et wounded, including six officiers généraux, et another 6,000 prisonniers de guerre.
- Nouvelles de l’armée Française au 31. Octobre 1813
Gazette du Grand-Duché de Francfort du 1re Novembre 1813.
- Amtlicher Bericht S. E. des Herrn Generals Grafen von Wrede
Münchner politische Zeitung vom 7ten Novembre 1813.
- Amtlicher Bericht S. E. des Herrn Feldmarschall-Lieutenants, Grafen von Fresnel
Österreichicher Beobachter vom 10. Novembre 1813.
- Dreier, Bruno: Neujahr 1813/1814: Mit Blücher bei Kaub über den Rhein (Kaub 1996)
- Leonhard, Karl Caesar von: Die Schlacht bei Hanau am 30. Octobre 1813 (Hanau 1813)
- Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon, 6. Auflage 1905–1909
- Pivka, Otto von: Napoleon’s German Allies (4): Bavaria (Lond. 1980)
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