Battle of Fleurus (1794)

The Battle of Fleurus, on 26 June 1794, was an engagement between the army of the First French Republic, under General Jean-Baptiste Jourdan and the Coalition Army (Britain, Hanover, Dutch Republic, and Habsburg Monarchy), commanded by Prince Josias of Coburg, in the most significant battle of the Flanders Campaign in the Low Countries during the French Revolutionary Wars. Both sides had forces in the area of around 80,000 men but the French were able to concentrate their troops and defeat the First Coalition. The Allied defeat led to the permanent loss of the Austrian Netherlands and to the destruction of the Dutch Republic. The battle marked a turning point for the French army, which remained ascendant for the rest of the War of the First Coalition. The French use of the reconnaissance balloon l'Entreprenant was the first military use of an aircraft that influenced the result of a battle.

Coordinates: 50°29′N 4°32′E / 50.483°N 4.533°E



After the Battle of Tourcoing on 17–18 May 1794, Jean-Baptiste Jourdan was given the command of approximately 96,000 men created by combining the Army of the Ardennes with portions of the Army of the North and the Army of the Moselle. Jourdan with his newly created army was then given the task of capturing the Charleroi fortress.

On 12 June, Jourdan's army, accompanied and supervised by a member of the Committee of Public Safety, Louis de Saint-Just invested the fortress of Charleroi with 70,000 men. On 16 June, an Austrian-Dutch force of about 43,000 men counterattacked in heavy mist at Lambusart, inflicted 3,000 casualties, and drove Jourdan away from Charleroi back across the Sambre. On 18 June, Jourdan attacked again and managed to resume the siege the Charleroi. The fortress eventually surrendered on 25 June, just as a relieving force under the Prince of Coburg arrived to raise the siege. The army that Jourdan commanded in the siege of Charleroi would later be formally commissioned on 29 June as the Army of the Sambre-et-Meuse. [7]

Opposing forces


Map Fleurus 1794
Contemporary map of the Battle of Fleurus
Early flight 02562u (10)
Collecting card (c.1890) celebrating the flight of the first observation balloon

On 26 June, Feldmarschall Coburg manœuvred around Charleroi with a force of 52,000 Austrian and Dutch soldiers. Too late to save the fortress, which had surrendered, the Austrian commander split his army into five columns and attacked the French. A French reconnaissance balloon, l'Entreprenant, operated by the Aerostatic Corps, continuously informed General of Division (MG) Jean-Baptiste Jourdan about Austrian movements. The Austrians managed to break through both French wings, pushing back MG François Marceau on the right wing and MG Montaigu on the left wing. The French center under MG François Lefebvre held and then counterattacked and the Austrian assault petered out. Colonel Nicolas Soult, then serving as Lefebvre's chief of staff, wrote that it was, "fifteen hours of the most desperate fighting I ever saw in my life."[8]

Coburg neglected to press on and uncertain of the outcome, the Austrian commander lost his nerve and fell back to Braine-l'Alleud and Waterloo, granting the French an unexpected victory. This was the final straw that caused the allies to retire over the Rhine, leaving the French free rein in Belgium and the Netherlands. Historian Digby Smith wrote,

By this stage of the war the court in Vienna was convinced that it was no longer worth the effort to try to hold on to the Austrian Netherlands and it is suspected that Coburg gave up the chance of a victory here so as to be able to pull out eastwards.[5]


It is generally agreed that the battle was a costly one for the French, with casualties estimated between five and six thousand. The Allied losses have always been in dispute: the French claimed significantly higher losses than their own, while the Allies claimed far less. Traditional estimates attribute "considerable casualties" to Coburg's army,[9] and hover near five thousand Allied killed and wounded.[6][10][11] However, according to Digby Smith, Austrian-Dutch losses numbered 208 killed, 1,017 wounded, and 361 captured. In addition, the French captured one mortar, three caissons, and one standard, while the Austrians captured one cannon and one standard.[12]

Despite any tactical imbalance, the strategic value of Fleurus was immense for the French. The victory precipitated a full Allied withdrawal from Belgium and allowed French forces to push north into the Netherlands. By the end of 1795, the Dutch Republic was extinguished. After Fleurus, the republican army would keep its momentum in the war, staying on the offensive until its eventual victory against the First Coalition in 1797.[13]

Politically, the battle invalidated the argument that continuation of the revolutionary Reign of Terror was necessary because of the military threat to France's very existence. Thus, some would argue, victory at Fleurus was a leading cause of the Thermidorian Reaction a month later. Saint-Just arrived in Paris after such a great victory only to die with Maximilien Robespierre and the other leading Jacobins.


  1. ^ Jaques, p 355
  2. ^ A Short History of France. Taylor & Francis. p. 147. GGKEY:W8BKL8DP129. Retrieved 17 April 2013.
  3. ^ Origins of Political Extremism: Mass Violence in the Twentieth Century and Beyond. Cambridge University Press. 17 March 2011. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-139-50077-7. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  4. ^ Smith, p 86
  5. ^ a b Smith, p 87
  6. ^ a b Rothenberg, p 247
  7. ^ Phipps, Ramsay Weston (2011). The Armies of the First French Republic: Volume II The Armées du Moselle, du Rhin, de Sambre-et-Meuse, de Rhin-et-Moselle. USA: Pickle Partners Publishing. ISBN 978-1-908692-25-2.
  8. ^ Glover-Chandler, p 162
  9. ^ Chandler, p. 169.
  10. ^ Dodge, p.114.
  11. ^ Jobson, p. 312.
  12. ^ Smith, pp 86-87
  13. ^ Doyle, pp. 206–207.



External links

  • U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission: "Military Use of Balloons During the Napoleonic Era". Accessed April 1, 2007.
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The 1st Infantry Regiment (1er régiment d'infanterie, abbreviated 1er RI) is an infantry regiment of the French Army, founded in 1479 as one of the oldest regiments in active service in the world. It is an offspring of the bande de Picardie under the Ancien regime, and one of the five oldest regiments in France. It particularly distinguished itself at the Battle of Fleurus (1794), the Battle of Messkirch (1800) and the Battle of Biberach (1800). The regiment has been patronned by the city of Saint-Amand-Montrond since 12 April 2003.

The 1er RI is the only French infantry regiment to feature a squadron specialised in urban warfare, the Groupe Commando d'Investigation (CGI, "Investigation Commando Group"). The CGI is, with the Compagnie de Combat en zone Urbaine of the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, the benchmark for urban combat in the French military.

99th Infantry Regiment (France, 1757–1803)

The 99th Infantry Regiment (French - 99e régiment d'infanterie or 99e RI) was an infantry regiment of the French Army. It was formed in 1791 by renaming the Royal Deux-Ponts Regiment and fought in the French Revolutionary Wars before being merged into another unit in 1803. A new and unrelated 99th Infantry Regiment was formed in 1855 and took on the traditions of the previous regiment.

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The Army of the Moselle (Armée de la Moselle) was a French Revolutionary Army from 1791 through 1795. It was first known as the Army of the Centre and it fought at Valmy. In October 1792 it was renamed and subsequently fought at Trier, First Arlon, Biesingen, Kaiserslautern, Froeschwiller and Second Wissembourg. In the spring of 1794 the left wing was detached and fought at Second Arlon, Lambusart and Fleurus before being absorbed by the Army of Sambre-et-Meuse. In late 1794, the army captured Trier and initiated the Siege of Luxembourg. During the siege, the army was discontinued and its divisions were assigned to other armies.

Battle of Fleurus

There have been three battles fought near the town of Fleurus in Belgium:

The Battle of Fleurus (1622) in the Thirty Years' War

The Battle of Fleurus (1690) in the Nine Years' War

The Battle of Fleurus (1794) in the French Revolutionary Wars

The Battle of Ligny (Battle of Fleurus 1815) in the Napoleonic Wars

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French troops had ineffectively besieged the western side of Mainz Fortress since December 1794. However, in early September 1795 the Army of Sambre-et-Meuse crossed the lower Rhine River and advanced south to the Main River. For the first time Mainz was besieged on the east side of the river, but this state of affairs did not last very long. In the Battle of Höchst, Clerfayt outmaneuvered Jourdan, forcing his army to retire to the west bank of the Rhine. With Jourdan temporarily out of the picture, Clerfayt fell on Schaal's somewhat isolated corps and drove it away to the south. During this time the commander of the Army of Rhin-et-Moselle, Jean-Charles Pichegru was in treasonous contact with France's enemies, perhaps accounting for Austria's success. The next clash was the Battle of Pfeddersheim on 10 November.

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Historically, observation balloons were filled with hydrogen. The balloons were fabric envelopes filled with hydrogen gas, whose flammable nature led to the destruction of hundreds of balloons on both sides. Observers manning these observation balloons frequently had to use a parachute to evacuate their balloon when it came under attack. To avoid the potentially flammable consequences of hydrogen, observation balloons after World War I were often filled with non-flammable helium.

Typically, balloons were tethered to a steel cable attached to a winch that reeled the gasbag to its desired height (usually 1,000-1,500 metres) and retrieved it at the end of an observation session.

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Wavre is also called "the City of the Maca", referring to the statue of the small boy who tries to climb the wall of the city hall. Tradition holds that touching the Maca's buttocks brings a year of luck.

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