Combat of the Pfrimm, 10 November 1795

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The combat of the Pfrim (10 November 1795) was an Austrian victory that forced General Pichegru to fall back to his last defensive postion north of Mannheim. The city had been in French hands since late September, when it surrendered to Pichegru during the French invasion of Germany. This invasion had failed, and the Austrian commander (Clerfayt) had taken advantage of the wide gap between the two French armies of General Jourdan and Pichegru to end the siege of Mainz.

On 29 October the Austrians emerged from the besieged city, smashed through the French siege lines and took up a position on the west bank of the Rhine. Clerfayt sent part of his army west to face General Jourdan and then turned south to attack General Pichegru.

Pichegru had concentrated his army along the River Pfrimm, which runes into the Rhine just to the north of Worms. The French right and centre ran along the Pfrimm while the left was at Kirchheimbolanden, just to the north of the river, which at this point turns south west and flows in the direction of Kaiserslautern.

Pichegru was later much criticised for fighting on the Pfrimm. His 2nd, 3rd and 4th Divisions were absent in the Haut-Rhin and needed more time if they were to move north to the front. Clerfayt himself was weakened by the need to sent a large force west to deal with a diversionary attack by General Marceau, and Pichegru's critics suggested that Clerfayt wouldn't have risked an attack on his full army.

This was probably not the case, for on 8 November Latour's corps of Würmser's army besieging Mannheim crossed the Rhine and reinforced Clerfayt. This gave him 16 battalions of infantry, 40 squadrons of cavalry and a strong force of artillery with 150 guns of all types (the French had 40 cannon in their lines).  

The Austrian attack began before dawn on 10 November when General Wartensleben, with one third of the Austrian army, attacked Kirchheimbolanden and forced the French left to retreat to Göllheim. General Kray, with the Austrian advance guard kept the French right and centre occupied until General Clerfayt was ready to attack in the centre.

The main Austrian attack fell on General Desaix's 10th Division. This division was not strong enough to hold the long section of the line allocated to it. As Desaix fell back Pichegru ordered a general retreat south to Frankenthal, the last defensive position north of Mannheim. On 13-14 November the Austrians attacked again, and the French were forced to retreat past Mannheim, which fell to the Austrians on 22 November.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (11 February 2009), Combat of the Pfrimm, 10 November 1795 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/combat_pfrimm.html

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