The combat of Stromberg (10 November 1795) was a diversionary action fought in the aftermath of the failure of the French invasion of Germany in the autumn of 1795. In September 1795 the Army of the Sambre and Meuse (Jourdan) had crossed the Rhine around Dusseldorf and moved south towards Mainz, while the Army of the Rhine and Moselle (Pichegru) had captured Mannheim. Jourdan and Pichegru failed to coordinate their assaults, and were soon forced back across the Rhine.
General Clerfayt, the Austrian commander on the Rhine, took advantage of this French failure to break the siege of Mainz. While the French were blockading the city, the Austrians held the opposite bank of the Rhine. Clerfayt moved a large part of his army into Mainz, and on 29 October broke out of the city and overwhelmed the French force blockading the city. This placed him between Pichegru, who was to his south around Mannheim, and Jourdan, who was rather further to the north at Dusseldorf.
Jourdan realised that if Clerfayt was left alone he could turn south and crush Pichegru and so he sent General Marceau south to mount a diversionary attack on the Austrian right wing. Mainz sits on a corner in the Rhine. Above the city the river runs south towards Switzerland, but below the city it runs west towards the Hunsrück, a minor mountain range, and then turns north. The best route through the Hunsrück is the gorge of Stromberg, a long narrow steep sided valley that cuts through the mountains. By 10 November this valley was defended by a small Austrian force.
On the morning on 10 November Marceau led his men into the gorge and pushed the Austrians out of the valley, at a heavy cost to both sides. The French attack owed much of its success to Marceau's enthusiasm and ardour.
Having forced the Austrians out of the gorge of Stromberg Marceau advanced to the River Nahe at Kreutznach. On the evening of 10 November Marceau ran into strong Austrian reinforcements, and rather than risk a battle when outnumbered two-to-one he decided to retreat back to his starting point for the day. The combats of Stromberg and Kreutznach forced Clerfayt to divert forces from the attack on Pichegru, but even so the Austrians were able to force the French to retreat south past Mannheim, forcing the French garrison to surrender.
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