Combat of Burgebrach, 29 August 1796

The combat of Burgebrach (29 August 1796) was a minor engagement during General Jourdan's retreat from Amberg that ended as an Austrian victory, but that also helped Jourdan reach relative safety at Schweinfurt. On 20 August Jourdan had reached the River Naab, the furthest east he would reach during his second campaign in Germany in 1796. Two days later his rearguard encountered a second Austrian army under the Archduke Charles approaching from the south.

Jourdan realised that he was in a very vulnerable position, and on the night of 23 August began to retreat back from the Naab towards the Regnitz and the Main. An Austrian victory at Amberg on 24 August forced him to take a more northerly route across the hills between Amberg and the Regnitz, but by 27 August the French were close to Forchheim, on the Regnitz. Jourdan was still not safe. Although the main Austrian forces were now to his east, several detachments did threaten the French retreat, in particular those under Lichtenstein at Erlangen and Hotze at Neunhof. Over the next two days these forces moved further north – Lichtenstein to Eltemann on the Main and Hotze to Burgebrach, several miles to the south-west of Bamberg on the Rauhe Ebrach River.

Jourdan decided to force Hotze out of Burgebrach, possibly indicating that he planned to retreat up the Rauhe Erbrach. This river runs parallel to the Main, but in the opposite direction, flowing east into the Regnitz. An advance up the Rauhe Erbrach would have brought Jourdan back to the Main just to the south of Schweinfurt.

Bernadotte and Kléber were ordered to make the attack, but Kléber's men had been forced onto a longer route across the hills than the rest of the French army, and so only Bernadotte was available on 29 August. He crossed the Regnitz at Bamberg, and advanced towards the River Aurach, which also runs parallel to the Main, just to the north of the Rauhe Erbrach. Bernadotte was able to push the Austrians out of their positions on the Aurach, then crossed the forest of Steinach, and emerged on the Rauhe Erbrach.

Hotze responded to Bernadotte's appearance by calling Lichtenstein back from Eltemann. The two Austrian forces then combined to launch an attack on Bernadotte, but the French were able to hold their position. It was now late in the day, and so Bernadotte decided to camp in the woods facing Burgebrach and renew his attack on the following day.

Jourdan decided not to renew the attack on 30 August, partly because he was outnumbered by the combined Austrian armies, and partly because Lichtenstein's move left the route along the Main undefended. The French were able to retreat west along the Main, reaching Schweinfurt on 31 August.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (23 February 2009), Combat of Burgebrach, 29 August 1796 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/combat_burgebrach.html

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