Battle of Froeschwiller, 18-22 December 1793

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The battle of Froeschwiller (18-22 December 1793) was the first victory won by General Lazare Hoche in his role as Commander of the Army of the Moselle in the autumn of 1793. When Hoche was appointed to that post the Austrians and Prussians had broken through the lines of Wissembourg (13 October 1794), were threatening Strasbourg, and there was a real chance that the French would be forced out of Alsace, but while the Austrians continued to press the French the Prussians planned to go into winter quarters.

The French Directory responded by giving Hoche command of the Army of the Moselle and Pichegru command of the Army of the Rhine. Reinforcements were rushed to the area and two representatives of the Directory arrived to encourage the men. Hoche's first move, an attack on the Prussians west of the Vosges, ended in a defeat at Kaiserslautern (28-30 November 1793), but although the Prussians won the battle their retreat north left the Austrians under General Würmser vulnerable to a concentrated counterattack.

When he discovered that Brunswick had retreated Würmser pulled back to the line of the River Moder, which runs from west to east across Alsace passing through Haguenau on its way to the Rhine. Between 24 November and 9 December the French Army of the Rhine carried out a series of attacks on this line. The Austrians were able to hold their position against these frontal assaults, but they were soon faced with a second threat.

After his failure at Kaiserslautern Hoche ordered General Taponier to take 12,000 men across the Vosges. His main column was to advance down the valley of the Niederbronn, a line of advance that would bring them out of the hills west of Froeschwiller and Woerth in the Austrian right rear. On 8 December Taponier's advanced troops clashed with the Austrians in the Niederbronn valley, and on the following day the Austrians were forced to pull their right wing back from the Moder. On 9 December the left wing of the Army of the Rhine made contact with Taponier's advance guard.

On 18 December the French attacked Würmser's right again, forcing him to pull back from Froeschwiller to Woerth. Fighting continued over the next few days but the decisive attack came on the morning of 22 December. Five of Hoche's divisions attacked the Austrians under the cover of fog and forced Würmser to pull all the way back to the Lines of Wissembourg and the River Lauter. 

This would only be a temporary refuge. On 26 December Hoche, who was now in command of the Armies of the Moselle and of the Rhine, attacked again and the Allies were forced to abandon the Lines (battle of Wissembourg or the Geisberg). Within a few days of this second defeat the Austrians retreated across the Rhine.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (9 February 2009), Battle of Froeschwiller, 18-22 December 1793 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_froeschwiller.html

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