Combat near Laybach, 22 May 1809

The combat near Laybach of 22 May 1809 was an almost bloodless victory for the French that ended with the surrender of a large Austrian force near Laybach (modern Ljubljana). In the aftermath of the French victory on the Piave on 8 May Prince Eugène, Napoleon's viceroy in the Kingdom of Italy, split his army, sending General Macdonald towards Trieste to follow the Austrian left, while he moved north-east to follow the Archduke John as he retreated into Austria.

Portrait of Marshal Jacques Macdonald, Duke of Taranto, 1765-1840
Portrait of
Marshal Jacques Macdonald,
Duke of Taranto, 1765-1840

Macdonald quickly took Trieste, then moved east towards Ljubljana, which in 1809 was part of the Austrian Empire, and was known as Laibach. Macdonald was given two divisions - Pully's and Lamarque's. Lamarque reached Laybach first, arriving outside the town on 20 May. On the following day he occupied the part of the town surrounded by the river of the same name, and the right-hand part of a fortified Austrian camp that had been abandoned on the previous day.

The left-hand part of the camp was held by 4,000 elite Austrian troops, commanded by General Meerveldt. This camp must have been to the north-east of the city, for it bordered on the River Sava, which ran to the north of the town. The Austrians had two ways out of the camp - north towards Klagenfurt, or east through a gap in the swamps that then lined the Ljubljana River below the town.

Macdonald decided to outflank the Austrian camp and besiege it. On 22 May Pully's division was sent to the Sava to blockade the part of the Austrian camp facing that river. Lamarque was sent to the left, with orders to make it look as if he was planning to take Laybach Castle, but actually to cut the road to Klagenfurt. Broussier was ordered to line the Ljubljana River, using one brigade to watch the swamps and the other to block the gap.

General Meerveldt could see all of these French moves, and rather than risk attempting a break out or resisting an assault, he decided to ask for terms. General Lamarque was sent to negotiate with him, and an unconditional surrender was soon agreed. 4,000 men, 63 guns and three flags were captured.  

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (30 June 2010), Combat near Laybach, 22 May 1809 ,

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