|"At Start" overview|
The village of Handelkirchen stood at the foot of the heights where the Abens flowed in a long arc around the base of the mountain. In spring, the Abens was difficult to cross except at the two bridges on either side of Handelkirchen. The banks of the Abens were protected in many places by a dense thicket that was impassable to cavalry. Here, Archduke Charles decided to stand and await the inevitable French attack. Under his command, Charles had infantry corps of Rosenberg, Hiller, Ludwig, a cavalry corps under Kienmayer, and a Reserve Korps under Liechtenstein. With Charles occupying the central position between the two bridges, Rosenberg's corps was to hold on the left while Ludwig attempted the same delaying action on the right. Outnumbered, out-gunned, and out-led, Charles would not have to wait long.
|Ludwig at start|
|Rosenberg at start|
|Vandamme at start|
|Bavarians at start|
|Initial dispositions from behind Austrian lines|
|Vandamme steps off on the attack|
After a brief delay the French right snapped into action led by the Bavarians and Marulaz's cavalry brigade. Marulaz's cavalry targeted the two Austrian batteries deployed south of the village and hit the batteries in successive charges. First in against the batteries was the 2nd Chasseurs a Cheval who were repulsed after suffering heavy casualties. Next in was the 3rd lancers who overran the lead battery softened by the chasseurs before being repulsed by the second battery.
|Lancers charge Austrian guns|
|Bavarian and Italian attacks continue|
|North bridge under attack|
|Austrians defending the river|
|North bridge attacked again|
|Italians advance on north village|
|Austrians stand firm|
|Last stand at north bridge|
Final body count for the day was:
French casualties: 21,720 infantry; 3,760 cavalry; and 2 batteries
Austrian casualties: 16,560 infantry; 4,880 cavalry; and 7 batteries.
That represents roughly 25% casualties for each side. If only I'd realized how mauled the French infantry were and how untouched Hiller and Liechtenstein's Corps were, the Austrians would have been well-advised to continue on with a very spirited defense of the river (provided the Austrians had some means of negating that HUGE French Grand battery).
Dispatch from Vandamme (Jake):
View from the French right wing....
With his usual casual style, Napoleon ordered Vandamme's and LaSalle's Corp to assault the Left wing of the Austrian Army. It was then that I noticed, that while my five divisions advanced, it seemed only the Bavarians cared to advance elsewhere on the battlefield. Once again, it would seem, the French Army would be dependent on its allies to do the real fighting.
We were low on ammunition, the French taking the lion's share of course, so I ordered my Corp commanders to form assault columns and attack (Vandamme advances). At 10:30 the 3rd Westphalian's, led by Tharreau himself, opened the attack by butchering the Trieste Ldw regiment. On their left, the 5th Westphalians followed their example, and wiped out the 1st division's artillery, with minor losses. The 13th Grenz, fearing the onslaught, fell back before us. The Austrians did prove to be fighters, however, when the 1st Uhlans made a glorious charge against the 2nd Provisional Croats, inflicting grievous losses, and ensuring their own demise!
Now the game began in earnest, Tharreau led the 3rd Westphalians in another gallant charge, decimating the immense and unwieldy Austrian line regiment sent to stop him. In this moment of penultimate glory, he fell, the first of a line of gallant commanders that would give their lives that day to ensure the destruction of the hated Austrian foe. St Sulpice would fall, his 1st Dragoons wiping out the Uhlans, and bleeding the 8th Hussars white. D'Espagne fell, leading the 9th Cuirassiers in a stunning victory over the Austrian cavalry. Even Montbrun, fearing the loss of his Hussars, would fall that day ensuring their final victory over three different regiments. In all, six division commanders died leading their men from the front, but for each commander lost, an entire Austrian Cavalry Brigade was destroyed.
By 2:00 the Austrians were reeling from the onslaught, and the Little General finally deigned it feasible to send in his vaunted Guard, ensuring the continuance of their legendary abilities by sending them against the divisions decimated by the regiments of Westphalia and Hesse-Darmstedt. As the Austrians wing collapsed, the 5th Cuirassiers, held in reserve for just this moment, struck like a bolt of lightning, the Austrian will collapsed as two infantry regiments fled before them. Only an Austrian Cavalry regiment had the will to fight, and they became the last victims of the day. Witnessing the death of their last cavalry regiment, the remnants of two Austrian Corp fell back across the river in disarray. The heart of his army broken, Charles decided to quit the field. Vandamme and LaSalle would enjoy a glorious victory feast that night, although there would be a few new faces at the table....