Wargame Wednesday: Liechtenstein Part II

Wednesday , 12, December 2018 Leave a comment


Banner of the House of Liechtenstein and for the Principality of Liechtenstein from 1719-1852

Part I had a section with tourism advice then discussed the Swabian War in 1499. This post discusses how Liechtenstein came into being then covers the wars against revolutionary France.

Modern day Liechtenstein was part of region known as the Voralberg of which a portion remains as a modern Austrian state.  

The principality came into being for the benefit of the influential Liechtenstein family. Despite their influence they lacked power and embarked on a process to enter the Reichstag, which required land ownership in direct subordination to the Holy Roman Empire and not in fief to another noble (unmittelbar (“unintermediated”). Two adjoining unmittelbar domains were purchased in 1699 and 1712 and in 1719 Charles VI created the Principality of Liechtenstein.

Of note, it wasn’t until at least 1806 that a Prince of Liechtenstein visited the principality as their most productive lands were closer to the center of power in Vienna. The family moved from their lands in the old Austrian Hungarian Empire to Liechtenstein in 1938. 

War of the First Coalition 1793-1797

The Principality of Liechtenstein participated in this war as a member of the Hapsburg Holy Roman Empire.  This war was notable for Napoleon’s first campaigns in Italy and eventual French victory with Austria relinquishing the Austrian Netherlands (more or less modern day Belgium and Luxembourg*) to France. 

Fortunately for Liechtenstein the main battlefields were along the Rhine in Germany and in northern Italy though twenty five (two cavalry, the rest infantry) were sent to augment Swabian League forces while a militia was formed at home. Austrian troops were garrisoned in the principality to deter a French invasion from Switzerland but the French occupied Liechtenstein after the Austrians were defeated in their province of Vorarlberg to the east.   

The small number of Liechtensteiner troops contributed to the war is surprising but one must take into account the lower population levels at that time.  That being said and without going too in depth, Infogalactic lists Liechtenstein’s population at 5400 in 1800. Rough, back of the envelope, calculation is 50% of the population was male and only a quarter of males were of military age and able to serve giving a recruitment pool of 675. Some must have been kept back as militia or allowed to remain with families and farm but another aspect to consider is that many military age males were serving elsewhere in Hapsburg regiments or as mercenaries. I’m currently translating Unsere Vorfahren als Soldner in Fremden Diensten (Our Ancestors as Soliders in Foreign Service) by Otto Seger. In the introduction, Seger describes harsh conditions at home making military service an attractive economic opportunity.

The following is an excerpt from Seger’s paper:

“As long as news of the deaths of many compatriots had not arrived home, the flow of volunteers into mercenary service did not stop. One received a daily allowance in the amount of an auxiliary worker and in addition food and quarter – and was not a burden to the family.

Across the country, the recruiters moved and sought, as it were, to win their customers ‘under the influence of tumultuous drumming’, especially at fairs and festivals and in taverns, where young people were always to be found, promising them the blue of the sky and giving plenty of cash – and already their victims were, so to speak, prisoners of the regiment. Surely it was also the thirst for adventure of the youth with whom they speculated. The recruiters had a lucrative job, because the bonuses flowed very abundantly for them.

From the death lists it can be seen that mostly groups of young people joined together in the villages, in order not to be alone and abandoned in hard service, for example Triesner in the 17th century, Schaaner in a regiment set up in 1733 and Balzner afterwards, both for services in Italy”.

*Luxembourg and other small countries such as San Marino and their famous crossbowmen are on the list for future WW posts. 

War of the Second Coalition 1799

At the beginning of the war revolutionary France invaded south-western Germany while an army occupied Switzerland then preceded eastward in an effort to invade the Tyrol region. The main axis of advance path of this army went through the new Holy Roman principality of Liechtenstein.

Click on map for larger image.

Over at Emersonkent.com I found an old Cambridge University Press map and added notations showing the larger strategic picture in the opening phases of the war:

  • On 1 March 1799 the French cross the Rhine at Kehl and Basel. The invading army, commanded by General Jourdan is designated as the Army of the Danube.
  • General Masséna’s Army of Switzerland was to occupy the Grisons* and then advance eastwards into the Voralberg, linking up with the Army of the Danube east of Lake Constance.
  • The Army of Italy (not on map) was to push north and advance northwards via Verona towards the Tyrol or through the Friuli (northeast of Venice). 

The Army of the Danube was soundly defeated at the battles of Ostrach and Stockach, causing the French to fall back towards Switzerland. The Army of Italy was defeated south of Tyrol, and before the end of the year the Austrians regained control of northern Italy, allowing a Russian army under Suvarov to invade Switzerland from the south.  

Masséna’s Army of Switzerland, although initially successful in pushing the Austrians out of the Grisons and crossing the Rhine at Balzers in the southern most part of Liechtenstein, the rushing south to invest then capture Fort St. Luzisteig which guarded a narrow pass and trapping half of the Austrian force garrisoned at Chur.  Despite this initial success, the Austrians held fast at the Battle of Feldkirch and when news of the French defeats to the north and in Italy, Masséna was forced to retire. 

The Army of the Danube fell back towards Zurich with Masséna taking command.  He lost the First Battle of Zurich but when Archduke Charles left Switzerland for the Netherlands and the French subsequently defeated a smaller Russian commanded allied army at the Second Battle of Zurich.  The war passed Liechtenstein by in 1800 with most of the fighting taking place in Italy and in Bavaria.  The French were victorious on both fronts and the Voralberg was cut off from Austria to the east. By the end of the year the Austrians finally sued for peace and the war on the Continent was over. 

* The Grisons is the part of Switzerland south and south-east of Liechtenstein. The maps shows this area as part of the Helvetic Republic but Switzerland was in turmoil and the Austrians occupied this territory in 1798. As told by General Thomas Graham: “….Switzerland was revolutionized, the Grisons being threatened with the same fate, had the wisdom to place themselves under the protection of the Austrians”.


Liechtenstein in the War of the Second Coalition


At this time I do not have much in the way of information concerning any distinct Liechtensteiner units or any mention of their militia unless any such unit was referred to as an Austrian one.

Battles on the territory of Leichtenstein occurred in the northern and southern most portions of the principality.  Follow this link to a few historical map excerpts I posted to accompany this piece.

In the initial French assault a bridge was built over the Rhine at Azmooz, a mention of Austrian guns in Balzers causing damage to the advancing French, then a force of “5 or 6 thousand men” sent southwards to take the fortifications guarding a strategic pass at St. Luziensteig. The fort was taken, cutting off a line of retreat for the Austrians in the Grisons.  

In response the Austrians advance westwards from Feldkirch but are pushed back though the French are stopped on the outskirts of Feldkirch by strong fortifications. The French withdraw back into Liechtenstein and regroup at Nendeln. While waiting for reinforcements the French  plunder Liechtenstein and commit atrocities such as the nailing of an elderly man to a barn door in Eschen and the shooting of civilians.  Link to a more in depth description of the 1st and 2nd Battles of Feldkirch here.

A couple weeks later the French again advance on Feldkirch but are pushed back with heavy loss. The French will not return.

There is a link to a photo I took of the modern fortifications at St. Luziensteig.  I’m not sure if the gate dates from the late 18th Century. 







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