Battle of Albeck, 11 October 1805

The battle of Albeck (11 October 1805) saw a badly outnumbered French force hold its own against an Austrian column attempting to escape from Ulm (War of the Third Coalition).

At the start of the war the Austrians under General Mack von Leiberich advanced west along the Danube, reaching a position at Ulm. At the same time Napoleon crossed the Rhine further north, swept around the northern flank of the Austrians, crossed the Danube further east and threatened to surround Mack's army.

Marshal Joachim Murat
Marshal Joachim Murat

The first French troops had reached the Danube on 6 October. Napoleon then moved most of his army onto the south bank of the river, expecting Mack to try and escape east or south-east, towards Vienna or the Austrian armies in the Tyrol. At this point Napoleon made one of his few mistakes of the entire campaign, failing to make sure that a sufficient number of troops had been left on the north bank of the Danube. Marshal Murat ordered Ney to move his entire corps to the south bank. Ney protested and received permission to leave General Dupont, with 4,000 infantry, 1,000 cavalry and eight guns at the village of Albeck, about six miles to the north-east of Ulm.

Portrait of Marshal Michel Ney (1769-1815)
Portrait of
Marshal Michel Ney
(1769-1815)

After some dithering Mack decided to try and escape from Ulm and on 11 October a column of 25,000 troops was sent north-east along the north bank of the Danube. This large force soon ran into Dupont, who decided that his best chance of surviving the day was to attack the Austrians, partly to delay them and partly in an attempt to convince them that the French were present in larger numbers than they really were.

Dupont's plan worked perfectly. His outnumbered force held its ground all day, fighting a fierce defensive battle at the villages of Albeck and Jungingen. His flanks were protected by the river to the left and a sizable forest to the right, preventing Mack from outflanking him. At the end of the day Dupont was able to withdraw towards Brenz, about ten miles further east. If Mack had been a more able commander the Austrians might have taken advantage of this to escape from the trap, but instead Mack retired back to Ulm. A second attempt to break out was repulsed at Elchingen (14 October 1805), before Mack and his army surrendered to Napoleon at Ulm on 20 October.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (9 March 2012), Battle of Albeck, 11 October 1805 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_albeck.html

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