Combat of Renchen, 26 June 1796

The combat of Renchen (26 June 1796) was a minor French victory that helped expand General Moreau's bridgehead across the Rhine in the early stages of his invasion of Germany. On the night of 23-24 June Moreau sent Desaix across the Rhine at Strasbourg. On the next night the French built a bridge of boats across the river and crossed in force. Desaix advanced east to Willstätt cutting the Austrian army under General Latour in half. Latour, who had replaced General Würmser as commander of the Army of the Upper Rhine, was now faced with the problem of protecting the gorges of the Black Forest to prevent the French crossing to the upper Danube.

War of the First Coalition - Rhine Front 1796
War of the First Coalition
Rhine Front 1796

Marshal Gouvion-Saint-Cyr
Marshal Gouvion-Saint-Cyr

General Stein was posted on the River Kinzig, which rises at Lossburg on the eastern side of the Black Forest, flows south, then turns west to cross the mountains, emerges on the western side at Offenburg and flows into the Rhine at Kehl. General Anton Sztaray (given as Starray in some sources), with 10,000 men, was to defend the Rench, which emerges from the mountains further north, at Oberkirch, flows through Renchen and then flows north-west into the Rhine. Latour, with a reserve of 8,000 men, was posted twenty miles to the north at Muggensturm.

On the morning of 28 June the French brigade Sainte-Suzanne advanced towards Renchen from Urlaffen, just over two miles to the south west. Before this attack could develop General Desaix arrived with the rest of his corps, and the French attack was mounted on a larger scale.

Desaix split his force into three columns. The left column was to act as a holding force in front of Urlaffen. The central column was to advance along a main road known as Bergstrasse, which runs through Zimmern to Renchen. The right wing was to advance east towards Oberkirch. The three columns were to advance across a low plain covered with a scattering of small woods.

Sztaray attempted to take advantage of this cover to mount an attack on the French right. The cuirassiers of Kavanagh twice charged two battalions of the 97th demi-brigade, but were repulsed both times. Sztaray then switched his attention to the French left, but this time his cavalry were overwhelmed by three French cavalry regiments and the entire Austrian right was routed. At about the same time Desaix's right wing defeated the three Austrian battalions defending Oberkirch and the valley connecting it to Renchen. Sztaray was forced to retreat, first to Ensbach, and then to Buhl, ten miles to the north of Renchen. This encounter cost the Austrians 1,200 dead, killed and wounded and 10 guns, and secured the French bridgehead over the Rhine.

Soon after this combat St-Cyr crossed the Rhine with Moreau's left wing, which had been in front of Mannheim. Moreau spent the next six days reorganising his army, placing St-Cyr in command of the centre, Férino of the right and Desaix of the left. By the time Moreau made his next move Austrian reinforcements had begun to arrive, and the battle of Rastatt (5 July 1796) ended inconclusively.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (12 February 2009), Combat of Renchen, 26 June 1796 ,

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