Maximilian, Graf Baillet von Latour, 1737-1806

Maximilian, Graf Baillet von Latour (1737-1806) was an Austrian commander who served under the Archduke Charles on the Rhine front in 1796.

Latour was born at the Schloss Latour in Luxembourg. In 1755 he joined the Salm-Salm Infantry Regiment, ended up as Oberst of the regiment. He fought with the regiment at Kolin in 1757.

In 1782 he was promoted to Major General and in 1789 to Lieutenant General. He fought in the campaign in the Austrian Netherlands in 1793, and commanded a brigade at the Allied defeat at Fleurus (24 June 1794). In mid September he was forced away from Sprimont, as part of the general Austrian retreat to the Roer. On 18 September he was defeated at the battle of the Ourthe, briefly giving the French a chance to cut Clerfayt's army in half.

In 1795 he was part of Wurmser's army during the siege of Mannheim. He was transferred to Clerfayt's army on the west bank in time to take part in the Austrian victory on the Pfrimm (10 November 1795), and he commanded the left wing during the combat of Frankenthal (13-14 November 1795) which forced the French to retreat, and on 22 November Mannheim fell to the Austrians.

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

At the start of the Rhine campaign of 1796 Latour commanded the left wing of General Würmser's army on the Upper Rhine, spread out from Philippsburg to the Swiss border. By the time Moreau actually crossed the Rhine in late June, Wurmser had been summoned to Italy, leaving Latour in command of the entire force, but he agreed to subordinate himself to Archduke Charles.

The campaign didn't begin well for Latour. Moreau convinced him that he planned to cross the Rhine at Mannheim, and Latour moved his troops to that area. Moreau then crossed at Strasbourg, cutting Latour's army in two. He then turned north and defeated Latour at Renchen (26 June 1796) and Rastatt (5 July 1796). On the following day Archduke Charles arrived, but their combined force was then defeated at Ettlingen (9 July 1796).

Charles decided to retreat east to wards the Danube, to join up with Wartensleben, then retreating in front of the second French army, under Jourdan. His plan was to combine the two Austrian armies and then attack the most vulnerable of the French forces. By early August he was on the Danube, and Moreau was advancing on a wide front. Charles counterattacked, but although the battle of Neresheim was a partial success continued his retreat. Soon after this, Moreau crossed to the south bank of the Danube, obeying orders from Paris. Charles decided to turn north to deal with Jourdan, leaving Latour to keep Moreau pinned down in the south.

Latour didn't perform his task with much skill. He spread his troops thinly along the River Lech, allowing Moreau to defeat him at Friedberg (24 August 1796), with the loss of 4,000 prisoners. Moreau advanced into Bavaria, but to his north the Archduke had defeated Jourdan, who was retreating back to the Rhine. This left Moreau exposed to attack, but he continued to advance. Latour also learnt of the Archduke's successes, and decided to go onto the offensive. He sent his cavalry to attack the French left (combat of Langenbruck). Although the French won this battle, Moreau realised that he couldn't remain isolated in the south, and decided to move to Nuremberg, in an attempt to find Jourdan. By the time he got there Jourdan had already been forced to retreat further west. Moreau left his army dangerously stretched out around Neuburg, but Latour missed his chance and instead only carried out a small scale attack (combat of Zell, 14 September 1796), which ended in defeat. However he also sent Nauendorf along the north bank of the Danube, and Moreau realised that he could no longer linger on the Danube.

Latour continued to harass Moreau as he retreated, although again without much success. An attack on the French centre at Schussenreid (30 September 1796) was repulsed, and Latour then left his troops in an exposed position, confident that the French wouldn't attack. Moreau was a better commander than that, and on 2 October he won the battle of Biberach, inflicting 5,000 casualties on the 11,000 of Latour's troops that actually got involved. Even so, Moreau was forced to continue his retreat, and even after he finally reached the Rhine exposed himself to another attack. By now Archduke Charles was back in the south, having defeated Jourdan, and led a combined attack on the French at Emmendingen (19 October 1796). This was a partial Austrian victory, and it was followed by a similar result on 24 October (battle of Schliengen). These two battles finally convinced Moreau to retreat to the west bank of the Rhine, and he crossed over on 26 October.

On the same day Latour began a siege of the fortified camp at Kehl that would last until 10 January 1797. During this siege he repulsed a French sortie on 22 November and conducted his own attacks during December. Heavy rain almost forced him to abandon the siege, but he hung on, and Moreau eventually negotiated surrender terms and his troops moved back to the west bank.

Although Latour's performance in the campaign hadn't been that impressive, it had ended as an Austrian victory, and he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Maria Theresa Order as a result.

At the start of 1797 Archduke Charles was moved to Italy, to face Napoleon, and Latour replaced him. Vienna ordered him to spread his 100,000 men out along the Rhine front from Basle to Dusseldorf, and he took command on the southern half of the line, leaving Werneck to command on the Lower Rhine. Once again Moreau managed to convince Latour that he was planning to cross the river at Manheim, before crossing further to the south. Even so, this crossing almost ended in failure after General Sztaray came close to pushing the French back into the river before reinforcements arrived (battle of Diersheim, 20-21 April 1797). Moreau then turned north, expecting to fight Latour and Sztaray, but instead he was greeted with news of the Preliminary Peace of Leoben, which ended the fighting on the Rhine for the moment.

Latour was then appointed as General Commandant of Moravia-Silesia, before in 1805 becoming President of the Hofkriegsrat, the Austro-Hungarian military administration.

Maximilian's younger brother Ludwig also served in the military. To avoid confusion, Maximilian was know as Latour and his brother as Baillet.

Who was Who in the Napoleonic Wars, Philip J Haythornthwaite Covers over one thousand of the most important political, military, civil and artistic figures of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period, from all of the combatant powers. A very useful reference book that shows just how widely this first 'Great War' spread its influence. Each biography is short, with three to a page, but this allows the author to fit in so many differing characters.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (8 November 2017), Maximilian, Graf Baillet von Latour, 1737-1806 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_latour.html

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