Combat of Gracac, 17 May 1809

The combat of Gracac (17 May 1809) was a battle between Austrian and French troops on the Dalmatia-Croatia border that ended in a draw, but that did not prevent the Austrians from having to withdraw further into Croatia.

The fighting on the Dalmatia border had begun with an Austrian offensive, led by General Stoichevich, that saw them advance to the Zrmanja River. Something of a stalemate followed, until on 16 May the French successfully pushed the Austrians out of their positions around Mt. Kita. Stoichevich was captured, and command fell to Oberst Matthias Freiherr Rebrovic von Razboj. He retreated to the town of Gracac and prepared to continue the fight.

Gracac is on the northern side of the Velebit Mountains, at the western end of a valley that leads towards Mt. Kita. Another pass heads south across the mountains to Zegar. Rebrovic decided to post most of his men on the open ground east of the town. The 2nd Banal Reserve Battalion was posted furthest east, with the Licca Grenzer (border troops) in immediate reserve and three companies protecting the right flank.

The French advanced slowly from the area of Mt. Kita, and didn't reach Gracac until 4pm. When they did they 2nd Banal Reserves were soon driven back, but the Austrian reserves did their job, and the French advance came to a halt. Fighting continued to around 11.00pm, although presumably on either quite a small scale or with lengthy gaps, for neither side suffered more than 300 casualties.

That night reports reached Rebrovic that the French were threatening to outflank him to the north, and taking advantage of the night he pulled out of Gracac. The Austrians reached Gospic on 19 May, and spent the next two days recovering and reorganising their shattered units.

The French also rested. Marmont needed time to gather his army together after the fighting around Mt. Kita and Gracac, and didn't resume his advance until 20 May. The two sides clashed again at Gospic (or Gospitsh), where once again the French were held but the Austrians were forced to retreat.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 July 2010), Combat of Gracac, 17 May 1809 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/combat_gracac.html

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