Battle of La Suffel (La Souffel) 1815

Rapp’s V Corps and Wilhelm of Württemberg with the III Corps of the Austrian army, north of Strasbourg on 28 June. Wilhelm’s force is made up of a mixed bag of Allied troops with infantry brigades from Austria, Hessen-Darmstadt, and two from Wurttemberg and a Württemberg cavalry brigade. Rapp commands the 15, 16 and 17th Brigades (the later a reinforcement) and the 7th cavalry brigade.

JUNE 28, 1815

Forces Austrian: 40,000; French: 20,000.

Casualties Austrian: 2,125; French: 3,000.

Location Souffelweyersheim and Hoenheim, near Strasbourg, France. The V Corps of the French Army was deployed against the Austrians, and so was not involved in the Waterloo campaign. Although the Napoleonic cause was lost by that time, V Corps engaged an Austrian army and inflicted a defeat.

The Battle of La Suffel (28 June 1815) was a battle of the Hundred Days campaign of the Napoleonic Wars, the last battle of the Napoleonic Wars that the army of the First French Empire would win. Jean Rapp’s 20,000-strong French V Corps (also called the Army of the Rhine), which had defected to Emperor Napoleon I upon his return to France, was sent to defend the Vosges, and the 40,000-strong III Corps of the Upper Rhine Army of the Austrian Empire under Crown Prince Wilhelm of Wurttemberg met the French near Strasbourg at La Suffel.

AUSTRIA – JANUARY 01: Emperor Franz I and his Chancellor Prince Clemens Metternich crossing the Vosges on their way to Paris, July 2, 1815, after the defeat of Napoleon I. The Emperor and the Chancellor are shown in the midst of Allied Russian troops.

General Rapp’s Army of the Rhine was pursued by the vanguard of Schwarzenberg’s Army of the Upper Rhine, a multi-national coalition of over 200,000 men. On June 26 Rapp skirmished with the Austrian III Corps, buying himself just enough time to continue his withdraw toward Strasbourg. But with the allied vanguard in hot pursuit, Rapp elected to make a stand along the banks of the meandering Suffel River. Late in the afternoon of June 28, Crown Prince Eugene eagerly collected his III Corps to mount an attack against the heavily-outnumbered French.

Rapp deployed in a traditional defense over a four-mile front, with two divisions guarding the river bridges, and one central division in reserve. For his own part, Prince Eugene may have been overly eager to win some glory in the waning days of the war. Instead of concentrating his superior numbers, Eugene committed his men piecemeal as they arrived. He first directed the Austrians to seize Lampertheim. When this failed to turn Rapp’s flank, Eugene committed Franquemont to strike Souffelweyersheim. Charging headlong over the bridge, Prince Adam’s cavalry broke through the French line, only to have Rapp personally direct a counter-charge with Merlin’s division. The onset of dusk allowed Eugene to call off his engagement, and the imminent arrival of 30,000 Russians forced Rapp to fall back into the fortress of Strasbourg, where he remained until Napoleon formally abdicated. La Suffel was a tactical French victory, but strategically irrelevant. Each side lost roughly 3,000 casualties.

The arrival of Russian reinforcements for the Coalition army forced Rapp to withdraw to Strasbourg. The mayor of Souffelweyersheim and 17 bourgeois townspeople were executed by the Austrians after the battle, but Crown Prince Wilhelm pardoned the other prisoners at the behest of Pastor Dannenberger.

Notes on Sources

La Suffel was a minor engagement and a footnote in the wake of Waterloo. Research is difficult to find, and Count Jean Rapp’s biased memoir is the best source. The battlefield map was created by cross-referencing Rapp’s account with Google Maps. See Jean Rapp, The Memoirs of General Count Rapp (1823), pp352-374. For a brief account of the battle and a summary of the overall strategic refer to William Siborne’s The Waterloo Campaign, 1815 (1848).

Scourge of War: La Souffel – The Penultimate Battle of the Napoleonic Wars

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