Johannes Joseph, Fürst zu Lichtenstein, 1760-1836

Johannes Joseph, Fürst zu Lichtenstein (1760-1836) was an Austrian cavalry commander who performed well in most of Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, before retiring after the defeat at Wagram.

Lichtenstein was the fourth son of Franz Josef I of Lichtenstein (1726-1781), although by the time he entered the Pappenheim Kurassiers as an Unterleutnant in 1781 he was the second surviving son. In this same year his father died, and Lichtenstein's brother Aloys I became prince of Lichtenstein, making Johannes Joseph the heir-presumptive.

Lichtenstein rose quickly through the ranks, reaching the rank of Major in the Harrach Dragoons in 1787. He fought in the Austro-Turkish War of 1788-91, and was promoted to Oberstleutnant of the Kinsky Chevaulegers. He took part in the siege of Cetin, stopping a Turkish sortie and leading his men up the walls on 20 July 1790. He was awarded the Maria Theresa Order as a reward and promoted to Oberst.

At the start of the War of the First Coalition Lichtenstein fought in the campaign in the Austrian Netherlands. He saw success at Avesnes-le-Sec (20 September 1793), and in a raid on the French camp at Mauberge in 1794. After this raid he was promoted to Major General.

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

In 1796 he served under the Archduke Charles during the campaign in Germany. He commanded the advance guard on the Austrian right at the defeat at Neresheim (11 August 1796). He commanded the rearguard during Charles's initial retreat, winning a number of rearguard actions against the French under Desaux.

Once he reunited his armies near the Danube, the Archduke decided to focus on Jourdan first. On 23 August he attacked his right-rear at Neumarkt, where Lichtenstein's forces bombarded the city while Hotze attacked the French outposts. The Archduke failed to take advantage of these early successes, and Jourdan was able to escape from the trap, despite suffering a defeat at Amberg (24 August).

After the failure of Jourdan's second invasion of Germany Lichtenstein briefly threatened to cut his line of retreat down the Main, but he then had to move to Burgebrach to support Hotze (29 August 1796), so although that combat ended as an Austrian victory, it also allowed Jourdan to move towards safety.

At the battle of the Wurzburg (3 September 1796) he commanded the light cavalry when it outflanked the French lines, and then led the heavy cavalry charge that helped defeat Jourdan.

In 1797 he commanded a cavalry brigade, and destroyed a French light cavalry regiment at Rastatt.

During the War of the Second Coalition he served in Italy. He fought at the battle of the Trebbia (17-19 June 1799), where he helped to stop MacDonald's main attack on the final day of the battle. He was rewarded with the Grand Cross of the Maria Theresa Order. After the battle of Novi, he captured the fortress at Cuneo (18 November-4 December 1799).

In 1800 he campaigned in Germany, and helped to use his cavalry to protect the defeated army after Hohenlinden.

On 24 March 1805 Aloys died in Vienna, and Johannes Joseph became the sovereign prince of Lichtenstein, but this didn’t end his military career. He commanded the Allied Fifth Column at the battle of Austerlitz, where he supported Bagration on the northern flank of the battlefield, where the Allies came closest to success. He then helped cover the Allied retreat after Napoleon defeated the central and southern part of the Allied armies. After the battle he helped negotiate the Peace of Pressburg, after making the initial approach to the French with a flag of truce on the night of 2-3 December 1805.

During the peace that followed the defeat, he served as General Commandant of the Empire. However in 1806 Napoleon forced Lichtenstein to join the Confederation of the Rhine. Johannes abdicated in protest and wasn't restored until 1814.

In 1809 he commanded I Reserve Corps. During the early Austrian advance he captured Regensburg, but Napoleon soon forced a retreat back into Austria, covered by Lichtenstein's corps.

Lichtenstein commanded the cavalry at Aspern, Napoleon's first major battlefield defeat. He commanded the Reserve at Wagram, and his attack from the west caught Napoleon by surprise and almost gave Austria a second victory. The chance was missed, and after the defeats at Wagram and at Znaim Lichtenstein had to sign the Peace of Schonbrunn. After the end of the fighting he was promoted to Field Marshal and retired from the army after being criticised for the terms of the peace.

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), Johannes Joseph, Fürst zu Lichtenstein, 1760-1836 ,

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