Dispatches by William Wickham about the Battle of Moeskirch, 5 May 1800
Riedlingen, on the Danube, Tuesday 6 May.
My Lord [Grenville]
The army marched from Donauschingen the 2d instant, and arrived at Engen in the course of the afternoon, before the enemy had reached that place. Notwithstanding the great importance which was attached to the gaining the position of Stockach, yet it was not thought possible to proceed so far that day, without exposing to imminent danger the several corps of the Archduke Ferdinand' (which covered the march on the side of the Zolhaus) and those of Generals Giulay and Kienmayer, which had received orders to retire from Fribourg and Oiffenbourg, and join the main army. On the same day the enemy withdrew the army which had till then occupied the north-east part of Switzerland, and was oposed to the Austrians on the side of the Grisons and the Voralberg, and brought the whole of it towards Constance and Schasshausen in the course of the following night, leaving the eastern frontier of Switzerland entirely open. On the 3d in the morning, this force, united to that which had passed the Rhine at Schasshausen on the 1st instant, attacked and carried the Austrian position at Stockach, occupied by Prince Joseph of Lorraine, with a force under his command quite inadequate to meet that which the enemy had brought against him. On this occasion the Austrians sustained a very considerable loss both in men, cannon, and stores; though, fortunately, a part of the magazines which had been formed at Stockach had been carried away in the course of the two preceding days. The Prince having been obliged to fall back on Pfullendorff and Moeskirch, the left flank of General Kray's army was uncovered. In this situation of things, and before the Archduke Ferdinand had effected his junction, General Kray was attacked at Engen, about two o'clock in the afternoon, by the main French army, commanded by General Moreau in person. This army had been reinforced by a detachment from the camp at Dijon, and consisted of five entire divisions. A separate force fell at the same time upon the Archduke, and obliged him to fall back on Dutlingen. The French attacked every where with the utmost impetuosity, bringing up fresh columns in succession, and sacrificing immense numbers of men on every part of the Austrian line where they had hoped to penetrate. They were, however, unable to make any impression on any one point, and at nine in the evening they gave up the attempt; at which time the Austrians remained masters or the whole position which they had occupied in the morning, and the Archduke had joined the main army, after having defeated the corps opposed to him, and taken several prisoners and three pieces of cannon. His Royal Highness, to whose personal exertions this success was chiefly owing, has, on this occasion, merited and gained the esteem and admiration of the whole army. At this moment the spirit and confidence of the army was such, that General Kray would; in his turn, have attacked the enemy, but for the loss of Stockach, which rendered his retreat absolutely necessary. He remained, however, in the field of battle all night, and only began his march at day-break. The army arrived at Leiptingen, at nine in the morning of the 4th, where it halted till three in the afternoon, and then marched forward to Moeskirch, where a junction was effected with Prince Joseph of Lorraine at nine in the evening. The Archduke covered the march, in the course of which his Royal Highness was joined by General Giulay, with the corps from Fribourg, and by the first division of the Bavarian subsidiary army from Baylingen. The whole of this march was made, and the junction with General Giulay, Prince Joseph of Lorraine, and the Bavarians, effected without any material interruption from the enemy. In the afternoon of yesterday, the different corps of the enemy being concentrated in one great army, whilst General Kray had still between 30 and 40,000 men detached on different points, General Moreau attacked the Austrian position at Moeskirch with his whole force, but owing to the steady bravery of the Austrian troops, and particularly to the decided superiority of their artillery, he was unable to make any material impression, and at sun-set each army retired to its respective quarters. The loss was very considerable on both sides; but there is every reason to believe that the enemy has suffered much more considerably than the Austrians. This opinion, which is confirmed by the unanimous report of the prisoners made at the close of the day, is founded not only on the circumstance of his not renewing his attack in the night or this morning, notwithstanding his very great superiority of numbers, but on the nature of the action itself, which consisted in a succession of impetuous but unsuccessful attacks made by the French infantry, under the fire of the Austrian artillery, and exposed to frequent charges of cavalry. Unless General Kray should be again attacked in the course of the day, he will, probably, take a position this afternoon or to-morrow behind the Danube, his left at this place, and his right at Sigmaringcn. Your Lordship will probably have been much alarmed at the first reports of this affair that will have reached England through France, nor indeed can it be supposed that the expectation of the enemy should not have been extreme during the whole day of the 3d, or that the French officers should not have holden out to their government the most flattering hopes of ultimate and complete success; but the steady valour of the Austrian troops, the order that reigns through every department of the army, and the skill and unshaken courage and coolness of the generals have, I trust, under the blessing of God, frustrated the great designs of the enemy.
- I have the honour to be, &c.
- W. Wickham.
Ulm 8 May
My Lord [Grenville]
On the 6th instant, the Austrians took a position behind the Danube without any material opposition from the enemy, whose loss in the battle of the 5th appears to have been greater than was at first supposed. On the same day the junction was effected with Lieutenant-General Kienmayer. The second division of the Bavarians passed through this place yesterday, and marched about a league further, where they will halt to-day, and their junction with General Kray will be effected either to-morrow or the day after, according to the necessity that may exist for hastening their march. The first division, consisting of 6000 men, had joined the main army in time to render very essential services, and was closely engaged with the enemy in the battle of the 5th. The Swiss regiment of Roverea in his Majesty's service, under the command of Colonel de Watteville, has formed a part of the Archduke's corps from the beginning, and has been particularly distinguished by its bravery and good conduct: I am sorry to add, that it has suffered in proportion, and that a number of excellent officers have been either killed or severely wounded. It is impossible at present to obtain any exact return of the Austrians' loss in killed and wounded. Though the general officers exposed themselves on every occasion, yet I believe not one of them has been killed or made prisoner, and only one (MajorGeneral Karazai) wounded. Few prisoners have been made on either side; but the Austrians were obliged to leave some of their wounded at Engen, for want of carriages to carry them away. No one corps of the Austrians has been broken or dispersed by the enemy, nor have they lost a single piece of cannon in the different actions between the main armies, though several fell into the hands of the enemy at Stockach. The Archduke Ferdinand, as I have mentioned in another dispatch, took three pieces from the enemy at the time when his Royal Highness formed his junction with the Commander in Chief near Engen.
- I have the honour to be, &c.
- (Signed) W. Wickham.
The battle at Moeskirch, on the 5th, was dreadful! the earth was covered with dead. Moreau fought with the courage of a Roman hero. He had four horses killed under him: a ball that happily was already spent, struck him on the breast, and lodged in his clothes. His intrepidity decided the victory in the moment when it appeared doubtful. At the head of a corps of heavy cavalry, he turned the enemy at the moment they believed themselves conquerors. The Austrians lost 6,000 men, without counting the prisoners. On the 6th there was an armistice of twenty-four hours to bury the dead, and the 7th, the French were advancing.