The combat of Uckerath (19 June 1796) was a hard-fought but unnecessary rear guard action fought by General Kléber during the French retreat after their defeat at Wetzler (14-15 June 1796). While General Jourdan took most of the Army of the Sambre-and-Meuse across the Rhine at Neuwied, Kléber, with three divisions from French left, was sent north to Dusseldorf.
When he reached the strong defensive position at Uckerath, south of the Sieg River, Kléber decided to ignore Jourdan's orders and make a stand. He was unaware that the Archduke Charles, with the entire Austrian army, was advancing towards him, having failed to detect Jourdan's movement to the west.
Kléber was partly saved from destruction by his Austrian opponent, General Kray. Rather than giving the Archduke Charles a chance to concentrate his entire force against Kléber, Kray decided to attack the French position with his single division. This attack was driven off. Kléber then launched a counterattack, which forced the Austrians to retreat for a short distance before running into strong resistance. Kléber was forced to call off the attack, and withdrew to his original position.
That night the French retreated across the Sieg and back to Dusseldorf. The Archduke had only been twelve miles to the east, at Altenkirchen, during the fighting, but had not contributed to the action. Both sides claimed victory in the engagement – Kléber because he had beaten off the Austrian attack and Kray because the French had retreated overnight.
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