1703-09-20 – Battle of Höchstädt
Prelude to the Battle
In September 1703, the Franco-Bavarian army operating on the Danube was in a very critical situation. The Imperialists had two armies opposing the Franco-Bavarians: one at Haunsheim, under the Count von Styrum; and another one at Augsburg, under the direct command of the Margrave of Baden. The Imperialists also occupied Ehingen, Riedlingen, Biberach, Ravensburg, and Memmingen.
For its part, the Franco-Bavarian army was at Nordendorf, trapped between these two armies.
In the evening of 17 September, Villars was informed that Styrum had marched from Haunsheim towards Höchstädt. Villars immediately set off from Nordendorf with 2 cavalry brigades and marched during the night to Donauwörth.
On 18 September, upon his arrival at Donauwörth, Villars was informed that Styrum was encamped along the Danube downstream from Höchstädt with his right in the plain and his left at Gremheim where he planned to establish a bridge for a combined attack with the Margrave of Baden on the French camp at Nordendorf. Villars immediately enjoined the Elector of Bavaria to march from Nordendorf to Oberndorf on the Lech with the rest of their army. Villars also asked M. d'Usson, encamped at Dillingen with 20 bns, 17 sqns and 16 guns, to take disposition to be within sight of Styrum's Army at daybreak on 20 September, and to announce his arrival with three cannon-shots. Villars would then sound the same signal when his own army would be ready to launch an attack on Styrum's positions. The Elector marched to Oberndorf as requested.
On 19 September, the Elector of Bavaria arrived at Donauwörth with the main body of the Franco-Bavarian army and d'Usson detached M. de Cheyladet with 1,000 horse and 500 grenadiers to a position facing Gremheim.
At 10:00 p.m. in the night of September 19 to 20, the Franco-Bavarian army marched from Donauwörth, passed the Danube and the Wernitz.
Description of Events
Around 5:30 a.m. on 20 September, Villars’ vanguard, advancing from Donauwörth by way of Münster (present-day Donaumünster), came to contact with a Prussian coy posted near Tapfheim. Part of the coy retired to the Castle of Tapfheim while the rest retreated to the Imperialist camp near Schwenningen to announce the presence of Franco-Bavarian cavalry.
At first, Styrum could not believe that the Franco-Bavarian army had crossed the Danube at Donauwörth during the night, but reports continued to arrive confirming the news. He finally held a brief council of war where it was decided to get out of camp in two columns and deploy in two lines on the nearby heights because there were no good defensive positions between Gremheim and Schwenningen.
By 7:00 a.m., Villars was still waiting for the arrival of the main Franco-Bavarian army (17,000 men with 30 artillery pieces) under the command of the Elector of Bavaria.
By 7:00 a.m., everything was ready to march out of camp and Styrum ordered to fire three cannon-shots, his usual signal to order his army to march by its left.
When d'Usson, who was approaching Steinheim with 14 bns and 16 sqns, heard Styrum's signal, he initially thought it was Villars signalling the beginning of the attack. However, d'Usson was still waiting for the arrival of Cheyladet's detachment who was returning from Gremheim. When Cheyladet's detachment had passed the defiles of Höchstädt, d'Usson also passed these defiles with his artillery and infantry and deployed in order of battle.
D'Usson then waited for more than an hour for Villars' signal. He finally received a signal from the small garrison occupying the Castle of Höchstädt, indicating that the Imperialists were retiring. At this signal, d'Usson decided to advance.
While his corps was advancing in order of battle, d'Usson sent the cavalry brigade of the Comte de Vivans-Saint-Cristau (7 sqns) and the Bourbonnais Infantry Brigade (4 bns) under the Marquis de Pery to occupy the village of Unterglauheim.
When Styrum was informed that French troops were advancing towards Oberglauheim, he conferred with FML Count Pálffy, Lieutenant-General Baron von der Schulenburg and Prince Anhalt-Dessau. They concluded that the cavalry spotted near Tapfheim was conducting a diversionary attack and that the main Franco-Bavarian attack would come from Unterglauheim. Consequently they decided to reverse their front and to send their train and heavy baggage, which were previously posted between their two lines, away in the direction of Nördlingen.
D'Usson then deployed 16 guns near Unterglauheim, supported by 1,000 grenadiers under the command of the Comte de Mailly, La Houssaye and the Marquis de Nangis
D'Usson had barely established his artillery near Unterglauheim that he saw the Imperialist train marching towards Nördlingen. His 16 guns then opened on this column, spreading panic. Soon the Imperialists had abandoned guns, ammunition carts, baggage and wagons transporting tents pell-mell. Winds being contrary, the sound of the cannonade did not reach Villars' positions.
D’Usson then saw a large body of Imperialist cavalry advancing directly on Unterglauheim. His artillery opened on these troops.
Now the entire Imperialist army was marching against d'Usson's isolated corps. Lieutenant-General Baron von der Schulenburg reached the Nebelbach with 4 Saxon bns (Königin, Churprinz, Wostromirski, Wackerbarth), closely supported by 2 other Saxon bns (Thielau, Sacken) to the Nebelbach. He crossed this stream under the fire of d’Usson’s artillery. Meanwhile 14 Imperialist sqns (Limburg-Styrum Dragoons (5 sqns), Hohenzollern Cuirassiers (5 sqns), Polish Leib-Regiment (4 sqns)) advanced to the right of Schulenburg’s infantry.
At 8:00 a.m., the heads of the columns of the main Franco-Bavarian army led by the Elector of Bavaria finally arrived near Erlingshofen, 2 km from Tapfheim. Villars and the Elector decided to advance immediately with the troops at hand without waiting for the arrival of the whole army.
During this time near Unterglauheim, d'Usson's artillery was forced to leave its positions by the complete defeat of the forces that covered it. It retired to Höchstädt. During the retreat, d'Usson's grenadiers, who were escorting his artillery, occasionally turned against the enemy.
Being too close to the positions of the much larger Imperialist forces, d'Usson was soon forced to retire under the walls of Höchstädt. He sent orders to Vivans' and Pery's brigades to retire but it was too late, their line of retreat being cut.
As his infantry started to deploy near Höchstädt, d'Usson was informed that 20 Imperialist sqns were advancing along the foot of the mountain, in an attempt to attack his entrenchments. He immediately ordered his infantry to retire beyond the defiles of Höchstädt. Meanwhile, he led his cavalry against the Imperialist cavalry who had already passed the marshes located between his entrenchments and the mountain.
The 14 Imperialist sqns then charged 12 French sqns marching towards the Geissenberg between Oberglauheim and Lutzingen and routed them. 6 French sqns under Maréchal de Camp de Vivans retired in the direction of Höchstädt. The other 6 French sqns assembled between Höchstädt and Deisenhofen where they effected a junction with Cheyladet’s 5 sqns.
D'Usson's cavalry made a charge and Montmain Dragons and de la Vrillière Dragons captured a few standards and kettle-drums.
While retiring towards Höchstädt, Vivans’ 6 sqns came within reach of FML Pálffy’s left wing cavalry. Pálffy immediately charged them at the head of 5 sqns (Prussian Leib-Regiment (3 sqns) under Colonel von Blumenthal, Crassau Dragoons (2 sqns)), supported by 1 sqn of the Markgraf Philipp Horse, defeating them and pursuing them up to Dillingen, capturing 4 standards.
Pálffy then retired when 5 French bns, which had marched from Dillingen, came to the support of their cavalry.
Meanwhile Cheyladet advanced with his 11 sqns towards Oberglauheim where he took position on a height between this village and Lutzingen to support the French bns deployed nearby: some bns advancing on the Geissenberg, west of Oberglauheim; some bns posted near the bridge to advance by way of Sonderheim and Blindheim in an attempt to turn the left flank of the Imperialists; and 8 bns posted along the woods on the Goldberg to turn Styrum’s right wing and cut his line of retreat towards Nördlingen.
The 8 French bns marching towards the Goldberg as well as the bns advancing on the Geissenberg were intercepted by the first line of infantry of the Imperialists during their advance and driven back.
Around 9:00 a.m., Lieutenant-Colonel de la Tour, who was at the head of Villars’ vanguard with 2 sqns of Fourquevaux Cavalerie and 2 sqns of Lisle du Vigier Cavalerie, crossed the Reichenbach unopposed. The vanguard saw rows of tents at Schwenningen, as well as long columns of wagons on their way to the foothills. It was the train and baggage of the Imperialists which had returned to the camp of Schwenningen after its first unsuccessful attempt to retire towards Nördlingen. It was under the protection of FML Prince Maximilian von Hannover and of the Prussian Major-General Dubislav Gneomar von Natzmer auf Gannewitz who had been posted there with picked infantry and some cavalry to observe the French detachment which had been previously reported early the same morning at Tapfheim.
When Villars and the Elector arrived in the vicinity of the almost empty Imperialist camp at Schwenningen, they realized that the Imperialists had concentrated their attention on d’Usson’s Corps in the area of Unterglauheim, They decided to block the line of retreat of the Imperialists towards Nördlingen and to attack them. They deployed their army in order of battle with most of the infantry on the right wing under Villars in the foothills and their left, mostly consisting of cavalry under Count d’Arco at the Castle of Schwenningen, where the Imperialists had 100 men.
Meanwhile, ignoring the recent developments at Schwenningen, Field Marshal Styrum gave orders to Lieutenant-General Prince of Anhalt-Dessau to attack the French brigade posted near the bridge on the Brunnerbach at Höchstädt with 4 Prussian bns (1 bn each of Kanitz, Anhalt Infantry and Markgraf Philipp along with a converged grenadier bn) and 6 guns of the left wing of the first line of infantry.
The Prince of Anhalt-Dessau advanced to 600 paces of the bridge and launched a charge. The French bns retired behind Höchstädt without combat.
At last the second line of the Imperialist army passed through the first and began its advance between the foot of the Goldberg and Deisenhofen.
D’Usson’s left wing had no other choice that to evacuate the wood near the Goldberg and to retire in wide sweeping movement towards Dillingen.
During this time, in the direction of Schwenningen, M. de la Tour, lieutenant-colonel of Fourquevaux Cavalerie, was at the point of the cavalry and charged at the head of 200 horse and the hussars a Prussian troops of horse covering an abandoned outpost.
Between 10:00 and 11:00 a.m., d’Usson’s whole corps was in full retreat towards Dillingen. Styrum thought that he had won the battle…
It was now 11:00 a.m., and d'Usson still had no news from Villars. Shortly afterwards, he heard the sound of musket and artillery fire coming from the direction of Unterglauheim in the rear of the Imperialist positions.
Soon realising that Villars was attacking the Imperialists in these quarters, d'Usson repassed the defiles of Höchstädt to participate in the pursuit of the enemy.
Around 11:00 a.m., Field Marshal Styrum recalled the bns of the Prince of Anhalt-Dessau when he saw that the main Franco-Bavarian army was advancing against the rear of his positions.
Seeing the flank of the Imperialist right wing threatened by the 8 French bns of D’Usson’s Corps still posted in a wood near the Goldberg, Lieutenant-General von Schulenburg deployed 2 Saxon bns (Königin and Churprinz) southwest of Lutzingen. Their battalion guns then opened against the wood.
The 8 French bns advanced out of the wood and charged at the point of the bayonet. However, the lively fire of the Saxon bns threw them in disorder.
As the main Franco-Bavarian army approached, 16 Imperialist troops of horse retired gradually towards Oberglauheim, keeping a distance of some 200 paces between them and the advancing Franco-Bavarians.
The slow retreat of these troops gave enough time to Field Marshal Styrum to redeploy his army in two lines on the Geissenberg, facing the main Franco-Bavarian army.
The Franco-Bavarian army soon reached the Nebelbach, a stream covering the front of the Imperialists. The Elector of Bavaria took command of the right wing; and the Count of Arco, of the left.
The Franco-Bavarian right wing, advancing along the foothills, had already reached Wolperstetten. The Dauphin Infantry Brigade was ordered to advance on the extreme right wing, along the woods and had to pass several streams and marshes. As it approached the village of Wolperstetten close to the foothills, to its great surprise, it came across 2 bns of Bourbonnais Infanterie, belonging to d'Usson's Corps. These bns had been unable to retire from the Goldberg with the rest of their corps. The Franco-Bavarians anchored their right on the village of Wolperstetten and the Dauphin Infantry Brigade was ordered to move closer to it. To the left of the Dauphin Brigade stood the Irish Clare Infanterie which made itself master of Wolperstetten. The left of the right wing anchored itself on the conquered village. These 6 French bns (Dauphin, Bourbonnais and Clare) then formed a single line and fired on the Imperialist left wing (northern wing).
The Franco-Bavarian cavalry had been waiting for the infantry to reach Wolperstetten located in the centre of the lines before marching to the enemy.
While combat raged in the vicinity of Wolperstetten, Field Marshal Count Arco, Comte du Bourg and Comte de Monasterol at the head of the cavalry left wing tried to turn the right wing (southern wing) of the Imperialists . The 15 sqns of first line (Livry Cavalerie (2 sqns), Royal Cavalerie (2 sqns), Royal-Piémont Cavalerie (2 sqns), Prince Charles Cavalerie (2 sqns), d'Heudicourt Cavalerie (2 sqns), Bavarian cavalry (5 sqns)) under Lieutenant-General Comte de Lannion rode across the Nebelbach and attacked the 9 Imperialist sqns (Stauffenberg, Württemberg, Brandenburg-Bayreuth) posted there. Without waiting for the shock, the Imperialist sqns retired towards the woods, pursued by Lannion’s Cavalry. In this affair, Lannion captured several standards.
The rout of the Imperialist cavalry of the right (southern) wing brought some wavering in the ranks of the Imperialists. Lannion then arrived in front of many Imperialist bns. However, the French infantry who had already marched 36 km without rest could not advance fast enough to follow the progress of the cavalry. Nevertheless, Villars continued to pour new French and Bavarian bns into the fight.
Styrum pushed forward his second line to replace the troops of the first. He then decided to retire in the direction of the woods of the Goldberg. Dauphin-Étranger Cavalerie and Barentin Cavalerie were ordered to charge the Imperialist infantry. They broke 2 bns and took a colour but were unable to rout the infantry who continued an orderly retreat.
As the head of the retiring Imperialist columns reached the edge of the woods at the foot of the Goldberg, they found them occupied by French infantry. It was M. de Lee, who had been sent against them at the head of the Dauphin and Bourbonnais infantry brigades.
Lieutenant-General von der Schulenburg sent Sacken Infantry (1 bn), Thielau Infantry (1 bn), Königin Infantry (1 bn) and Fürstenberg Infantry (2 bns) against the woods. The Imperialist fired on the French brigades and shook II./Dauphin Infanterie and II./Guyenne Infanterie. Seizing this opportunity, Baron Schulenburg charged with 40 men of the Eichstädt Cuirassiers headlong into these bns.
Dauphin Cavalerie (??) was immediately sent to the support of Lee's brigades but the latter rallied by themselves before the arrival of this support. Nevertheless, the Imperialists had managed to open a line of retreat towards Nördlingen.
Lieutenant-General Prince Anhalt-Dessau was charged to form the rearguard of the Imperialists with his Prussian Contingent. When the pursuers got too close it repeatedly halted and made front.
By 4:00 p.m., the Imperialist infantry had retired in good order on 10 km, constantly allowing its cavalry to rally under its cover.
Finally the Irish Infantry Brigade along with Artois Infantry Brigade and a few grenadier coys caught up with the rear of the Imperialist infantry which rapidly fell into disorder before routing.
Between 11:00 p.m. and midnight, the Imperialist infantry reached Nördlingen.
The Franco-Bavarians lost 1,000 men.
The Imperialists lost 3,000 men killed or wounded, 4,000 men taken prisoners (including General Nosmar and several colonels, lieutenant-colonels majors and captains), 37 cast iron guns, 4 colours, 9 standards, all their pontoons and most of their baggage.
Order of Battle
Franco-Bavarian Order of Battle
Summary: 9,000 men (probably excluding d'Usson's Corps)
Detailed OoB to do
- Confans and Bouzols cavalry brigades
- Bavarian Gardes du Corps (? sqns)
- Royal Cavalerie (2 sqns)
- Royal-Piémont Cavalerie (2 sqns)
- Prince Charles Cavalerie (2 sqns)
- Livry Cavalerie (2 sqns)
- d'Heudicourt Cavalerie (2 sqns)
- Conflans Cavalerie (? sqns)
Other units mentioned:
- Fourquevaux Cavalerie (? sqns)
- Lisle du Vigier Cavalerie (? sqns)
- Dauphin-Étranger Cavalerie (? sqns)
- Barentin Cavalerie (? sqns)
- Dauphin Infanterie (3 bns)
- Guyenne Infanterie (? bns)
- Montmain Dragons (? sqns)
- La Vrillière Dragons (? sqns)
- Bourbonnais Infantry Brigade
- Bourbonnais Infanterie (2 bns)
- unidentified infantry rgts (? bns)
- Artois Infantry Brigade
Imperialist Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: Field Marshal Count von Styrum
Summary: 64 sqns and 14,000 foot (according to French sources)
N.B.: units listed from right to left
|First Line||Second Line|
|Cavalry Right Wing under Lieutenant-General Prince Maximilian von Hanover|
|Austrian Limburg-Styrum Dragoons (5 sqns)
Austrian Hohenzollern Cuirassiers (5 sqns)
|Saxon Churprinz Cuirassiers (4 sqns)|
Saxon Jordan Cuirassiers (4 sqns)
|Infantry Right Wing|
|Under Lieutenant-General Schulenburg and Major-General Wostromirski
||Under Lieutenant-General Erffa and Major-General Waldt
|Infantry Right Wing|
|Under Lieutenant-General Prince von Anhalt-Dessau and Major-General Thürheim
||Under Lieutenant-General Durlach
|Cavalry Left Wing|
|Under Lieutenant-General Pálffy and Major-General Natzmer
||Under Lieutenant-General Stauffenberg
Abtheilung für Kriegsgeschichte des k. k. Kriegs-Archives: Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen, Series 1, Vol. 5, Vienna 1878, pp. 546-546, 726
Vault, François Eugène de, and Pelet: Mémoires militaires relatifs à la Succession d'Espagne sous Louis XIV, Vol. 3 pp. 666-675, 955-973
User:Constant for the Imperialist order of battle