The Napoleonic Bavarian Army

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After patterning its army on the French model, Bavaria became an important French ally. Later, as the largest military contingent in the Confederation of the Rhine, the Bavarian Army participated in all of Napoleon's major campaigns, contributing significantly to the victory at Wagram in 1809. Based on its new military power, Bavaria remained a kingdom after Napoleon's abdication.
As part of the Holy Roman Empire, Bavaria fought as a member of the First Coalition. Four regiments of infantry and one of cavalry, serving with the Army of the Upper Rhine, laid siege to Mainz (1793) and shared in the victories at Friedelsheim, Battenberg, Herzheim, Monsheim, and Zell (1794). Later, they garrisoned Mainz until the Treaty of Campo Formio (1797). Maximilian Joseph I, Bavaria's new elector (as Maximilian IV Joseph), reluctantly yielded to Austrian pressure to join the War of the Second Coalition. Bavaria's two brigades, composed of thirteen infantry battalions and one cavalry regiment, suffered defeat with the Austrians at Hohenlinden (13 December 1800) and provided the rear guard that protected the Allied retreat. Maximilian signed a separate peace, allying Bavaria with France (24 August 1801), and began reforming his army along French lines.
Before the Second Coalition, Maximilian abolished the purchasing of commissions and adopted a new Bavarian blue uniform with the distinctive Raupenhelm helmet. From this time on, Napoleon's Bavarian troops would be identified by the tall black leather helmet, named after its high peak crested with a black tuft of wool or bearskin resembling a caterpillar. After the war, the elector introduced general conscription, reduced the number of offenses subject to corporal punishment, and began promoting officers based on merit. General Bernhard Deroy redesigned the army to include smaller battalions and new skirmish units.
In 1805, 25,000 Bavarians, commanded by General Karl Philipp Freiherr von Wrede, served with the corps under Jean-Baptiste-Jules Bernadotte and protected the left flank of Napoleon's army during the Battle of Austerlitz. Napoleon rewarded their efforts by making Bavaria a kingdom, but he also required Maximilian to provide 30,000 troops to the newly formed Confederation of the Rhine (12 July 1806). During the Prussian campaign (1806-1807), the Bavarians fielded three divisions under generals DeRoy, Wrede, and Ysenberg. Their siege operations captured the towns of Plassenburg, Grossglogau, Breslau, Brieg, Kosel, Glatz, and Neisse.
During the War of the Fifth Coalition against Austria (1809), the Bavarians formed VII Corps of the Grande Armée under Marshal Françoise Lefebvre. Their three divisions, with Napoleon commanding, defeated the Austrians at Abensberg (20 April), and Wrede's division participated in the final attack, which broke the Austrian line and forced Archduke Charles's retreat (6 July). During the campaign, several Bavarian units opposed the uprising of Andreas Hofer in the Tyrol.
For the Russian campaign, VI Corps, commanded by Marshal Laurent Gouvion St. Cyr, comprised two Bavarian divisions, totaling 30,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry. Guarding the northern flank of the army, they won a minor victory at Polotsk (18 August). General Maximilian von Preysing's cavalry division served with the advance guard under Eugène de Beauharnais and suffered heavy losses at Borodino. Only 20 percent of the Bavarian troops returned from Russia.
A reconstituted Bavarian army fought with the French VI Corps during the Allied invasion of Saxony in 1813. Shortly before the Battle of Leipzig (16-19 October), however, Maximilian joined the Allies in exchange for recognition of his title. Two infantry divisions and three cavalry brigades suffered heavy losses attempting to block Napoleon's retreat at Hanau (29-31 October). During the invasion of France in 1814, the Bavarians besieged several French cities and participated in the battles of Brienne, Bar-sur-Aube, and Arcis-sur-Aube.