General Paul Freiherr Kray von Krajova, 1735-1804

General Paul Freiherr Kray von Krajova (1735-1804) was a relatively successful Austrian general who fought in Germany and Italy, but who was removed from command after suffering a series of defeats in Germany in 1800

Kray was born in Késmárk (Hungary) in 1735, and joined the Austrian army at the age of 19, serving in Grenz or military frontier units. He served in the Seven Years War, helped put down a revolt in Transylvanian and fought against the Turks (1787-1792), where he commanded raids into Ottoman territory.

In 1790 he was promoted to generalmajor and was ennobled. His title, Frieherr von Krajova, celebrated a successful raid that reached Krajova in Romania. Field Marshal Clerfayt requested his presence in Belgium in 1793, where he served as army advance-guard commander early in the French Revolutionary Wars.

He commanded the Austrian advance guard during the combat of the Pfrim (10 November 1795) and the Austrian right (under General Clerfayt) at the combat of Frankenthal (13-14 November 1795), a victory that forced the French to abandon their last defensive positions north of Mannheim. Soon afterwards Mannheim itself fell to the Austrians.

War of the First Coalition - Rhine Front 1796
War of the First Coalition
Rhine Front 1796

In July a French army under Jourdan crossed the Rhine for the second time in 1796. Kray was pushed back from Wilsndorf (4 July 1796). His cavalry force based at Nieder-Mörlen made a series of determined attacks but was unable to push the French back (combat of Ober-Mörlen, 9 July 1796). He was unable to hold Amberg, was present during the Austrian defeast at Forchheim (7 August) and Neukirchen (17 August 1796) and despite winning a victory at Wolfring (20 August 1796) was forced to retreat to the Naab.

The initial French successes came to an end when the Archduke Charles moved north from the Danube to join the Austrian armies on the Naab. Kray played a part in the Archduke's victories at Wetzlar, Amberg and Würzburg in 1796. He commanded the Austrian force involved in the rear-guard action at Uckerath (19 June 1796), the right wing at Amberg (24 August 1796),

After the battle of Würzburg Jourdan was forced to retreat north-west to the River Lahn and then on towards Altenkirchen, while at the same time Moreau was retreating from Bavaria. Jourdan decided to make a stand on the River Lahn, The Archduke Charles decided to try and trick the French into believing that he was going to make his main effort to force their position at Giessen. On 16 September Kray commanded an unsuccessful attack on the French position at Giessen. On 19 September he commanded the force advancing along the main road towards Altenkirchen (Second battle of Altenkirchen). Kray was held up long enough for the French to complete their retreat, entering the town on 20 September.

In April 1797 the French attempted to cross the Rhine once again. This time they had two bridgeheads over the river. Kray was in command of the Austrian army watching the French position at Neuwied. The French made a feint further north which fooled the Austrian commander (General Wernick). He pulled Kray out of the defensive lines, just to find that Hoche and the main French army was actually crossing the Rhine at Neuwied. Kray was ordered back into his lines, where he suffered a defeat (battle of Neuwied, 18 April 1797). Soon after this the fighting was ended by the preliminary peace of Leoben. In the aftermath of this campaign Werneck and Kray were both court-martialed and Kray spend two weeks in jail, but his military career wasn't affected.

In 1799 he temporarily held command in Italy (replacing the Prince of Orange, who died in 1798), where he won the battles of Verona (26 March 1799) and Magnano (5 April 1799) and recaptured Mantua, preventing the French from conquering all of northern Italy before the Russians arrived. As a reward he was promoted to Feldzeugmeister.

In mid-April Field Marshal Suvorov arrived and took command of the combined army. The combined army defeated the French at Cassano (27 April 1799), a victory that allowed them to recapture Milan.

His troops formed part of the Allied right at the battle of Novi (15 August 1799), under General Bellegarde. He made the first attack of the battle, but this was repulsed. Bellegarde supported him in a second attack, which also failed. Despite these early setbacks the battle ended as a major Allied victory after reinforcements reached the scene.

Kray returned to Novi later in the year when he failed to push the French off the heights behind Novi (6 November 1799).

He commanded in Germany in 1800 where he faced Moreau. Kray was defeated at the Second battle of Stockach (3 May), Mösskirch (5 May), Ulm and Höchstadt (19 June), but managed to avoid total disaster. Despite this the Austrian high command decided to replace him with Lauer, and then with the Archduke John. On 3 December Moreau inflicted a crushing defeat of the Archduke at Hohenlinden.

Kray was now 65, and he spent the rest of his life in retirement, dying in 1804. He was considered to have been a courageous, capable commander.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 August 2012), General Paul Freiherr Kray von Krajova, 1735-1804, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_kray_paul.html

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