On picture: Battle of Raszyn 1809, by January Suchodolski.
Left: horse battery. Right: Prince Poniatowski and his staff.
In the background (behind the church and village) are Austrian artillery and infantry.
Campaign of 1809.
Very little has been written about the defense of the Duchy of Warsaw in 1809.
The Austrian generals had assigned the entire VII Army Corps to this front.
"In view of expected resistance by the famed Polish light cavalry, the VII Corps also had close to 5.000 cavalry." (Arnold - "Napoleon Conquers Austria" p 106)
For the Austrians the Polish campaign had been a dead end, perhaps even a defeat. It illustrated the problem created by Austrian strategic decision-makers trying to fight on several fronts with inadequate resources. (Rothenberg - "The Emperor's Last Victory" p 107)
Napoleon, left Spain in January, 1809 and travelled to Paris believing that Austria to be on the point of declaring war. In February His Majesty the Kaiser of Austria, Franz I, declared war on France. Army reforms gave them confidence in being able to tackle the French army. The Austrians fought with great determination, but eventually the Emperor won a narrow victory.
The Battle of Raszyn was fought in April 1809 between Austrian and Polish troops as a part of the War of the Fifth Coalition in the Napoleonic Wars.
The war in Poland had opened favourably for Austrian generals. Approx. 35.000 Austrian troops invaded Polish territory defended by only 15.000 men. (Of the 37,000 strong army raised in the Duchy by Poniatowski, Napoleon took 22,000 out of the country and send to Spain and elsewhere).
Armies at Raszyn.
By the beginning of March, Austria had 240.000 - 300.000 men in the field. Approx. 30.000-40.000 marched against the Poles. Several sources indicate a number of Austrian regiments commanded by Ferdinand d'Este have suffered through straggling and desertion.
Nafziger gives the total strength of Austrian troops at Raszyn at 28.500 men (23 battalions, 36 squadrons and 86 guns). The Polish-Saxon corps is at 13.000 men (12 battalions, 14 squadrons and 39 guns). [Nafziger - "Poles and Saxons ..." p 103]
Commander of VII Corps - Erzherzog Ferdinand Karl von Habsburg d'Este
(Archduke Ferdinand Karl Joseph of Austria-Este)
d'Este was an Italian prince closely related
to the Habsburgs of Austria.
Adjudant du Corps - Ob. Neypperg
NOTE: Strength of the Polish troops below is from April 15th - four days before battle, by Roman Soltyk - "Relation des operations de l'armee polonaise ..."
Commander - Prince Jozef Poniatowski
Poniatowski was a young, dashing
and inspirational general.
Chief of Staff - Stanislaw Fiszer
The First Blood.
The cavalry had been called upon to cover the infantry positions. On April 11th GD Rozniecki with 1st Chasseurs and 3rd Uhlans screened the region south of Raszyn. Several Polish units under GB Bieganski (3rd Infantry with 4 guns, and the 6th Uhlans) entered Raszyn.
On April 15th GD Rozniecki was strengthened with 2nd Uhlans and moved toward the advancing Austrians. The same day Poniatowski with 8 battalions, 6 squadrons and 19 guns departed Warsaw for Raszyn.
The Saxons followed Poniatowski on the next day.
At noon between the villages of Janczewice and Wolica took place cavalry battle. Polish cavalry (12 squadrons) met the Austrian cavalry of Mohr's Advance Guard (8 squadrons) coming from Tarczyn. From Nadarzyn was coming Schauroth's cavalry (16 squadrons).
Both sides made gallant charges before Austrian horse battery opened fire. The horses were sweating and their ribs heaving, while the men thrusted and slashed. The cavalry battle was claimed as victory by both sides. On Polish side the 2nd Uhlans performed very well.
The Austrian cavalry (24 squadrons) attempted to outflank the Poles but they withdrew to Michalowice. Rozniecki ordered to move beyond Raszyn where together with the 1st Chasseurs formed Poniatowski's main reserve.
The Battlefield & Deployment of Troops.
Poniatowski selected his battlefield at Raszyn, several km from Warsaw, a city he could not politically afford abandoning without a fight. "It was a good defensive position behind a river that was bordered with heavy marshes crossed by only a few bridges and causeways." (Nafziger - "Poles and Saxons of the Napoleonic Wars" p 102)
Poniatowski deployed his corps as follow:
In afternoon the Poles saw the first echelons of MG Mohr's Advance Guard. Looming dust clouds and the firing of skirmishers heralded the advance of Austrian troops. The whitecoats were coming in large numbers, battalion after battalion marched out of the woods. The Austrian commander watched as his Grenzers and regular infantry started forward from the fringe of pines, their well dressed lines and columns surging on like a white wave crested with a glistening foam of steel.
Poniatowski thought that the Austrians will halt their advance and set a camp. He feared an Austrian attempt to march on Jaworowo and outflank him on the next day. Such maneuver would force Poniatowski into quick retreat to Warsaw. But that didn't happen. The confident Ferdinand d'Este was eager to attack immediately and ordered Mohr to attack Falenty without waiting for the rest of the corps.
On picture: Austrian staff, by Giuseppe Rava, Italy.
About 2 PM the cannonade errupted along the entire front. Mohr's 5 battalions with 12 cannons attacked Sokolnicki's 3 battalions with 6 guns. Mohr received support from Civalart's 6 battalions with 12 guns. Thick gun smoke covered the flat fields and marshy meadows.
In that moment Poniatowski was in his headquarters in Raszyn. He immediately mounted his horse and rode toward Falenty. Three guns were brought from the reserves and deployed in front of the village.
Austrians' Three Attempts
Battle in the Center.
Battle in the Center.
Battle in the Center.
The Austrian infantry pursued the Poles and even pushed to the area south-east of Raszyn.
Raszyn itself was defended by the following troops:
Raszyn was attacked by Austrians; one column moved directly on Raszyn and another column marched across a wet meadow on the left of the village. The advancing masses made an avesome sight. The marshy terrain however prevented the Austrians from bringing forward their guns and decimating the Saxons. The artillery was limited to long range canister and uneffective roundshot fire. Around 8 pm the Austrians managed to capture part of Raszyn.
For almost an hour the Poles bombarded Raszyn with grenades and the Austrian infantry with canister. At 9 pm the Polish infantry counterattacked and drove the enemy back. The burning Raszyn was retaken but the causeway was in Austrian hands. Between 9 pm and 10 pm the battle was over and the Saxons marched off angering the Poles. The Polish soldiers had no idea that French Marshal Bernadotte had attempted to order these Saxons back to Saxony already 4 days before battle. Poniatowski countermanded the order for the duration of the first battle. In this situation at 10 pm Poniatowski decided to leave the battlefield and march on Warsaw.
The Polish defense at Raszyn convinced the Austrians to allow the tiny Polish army south-east passage, in exchange for the surrender of Warsaw. It also allowed Poniatowski's troops to overrun Austrian-occupied Poland while the Austrian corps was tied up garrisoning Warsaw. After Napoleon won his campaign against the Austrians, the north-western part of the Austrian partition was incorporated into the Duchy of Warsaw.
This batte is a delight for wargamers and armchairs generals. It is fast and easy to play, with attractions like fight for the long causeway and the dike. Little plastic soldiers: Polish infantry, Polish uhlans for dioramas and wargaming.
Sources and Links.
Information supplied by Jan Kowalik, P. B. Black, L. Sorensen and Stefan Swietliczko
John Stallaert's website devoted to the Austrian army and uniforms.
Soltyk - "Relation des operations de l'armee polonaise pendant la campagne de 1809.."
Hollins - "Austrian Grenadiers and Infantry"
Zych - "Polish-Austrian War of 1809"
Zych - "Armia Ksiestwa Warszawskiego 1807-1812"
Bowden, Tarbox - "Armies on the Danube 1809" 1981
Wojcicki - "Cmentarz powazkowski" 1855
The Department of History at the US Military Academy - series of campaign atlases
Archduke Ferdinand Karl Joseph of Austria-Este.
Prince Józef Anton Poniatowski.
Pictures of Raszyn.
Colonel Cyprian Godebski.
Reenactments of the Battle of Raszyn:
polish 1 ~ polish 2 and austrian