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Old 04-21-2018, 12:40 PM   #5131
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April 21, 1961
Algiers Putsch

The majority of the French people had voted in favor of Algerian self-determination in the disputed referendum of January 8, 1961, in metropolitan France. The wording of the referendum was "Do you approve the Bill submitted to the French people by the President of the Republic concerning the self-determination of the Algerian population and the organization of the public power in Algeria prior to self-determination". French citizens living abroad or serving abroad in the military were allowed to vote, as were all adult Algerians, regardless of ancestry, in a single electoral college. Speaking for the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (the political arm of the FLN), Ferhat Abbas called for a boycott of the referendum, as did 16 retired French generals and factions among the pied noir (French settler) community opposed to independence. Self-determination was approved by 75% of voters overall and 69.5% in Algeria. The government reported voter turnout of 92.2%. Other sources claim that four out of ten entitled to vote abstained.

Following the outcome of the referendum, Michel Debré's government started secret negotiations with the nationalists. On January 25, Col. Antoine Argoud visited with Premier Debré and threatened him with a coup directed by a "colonels' junta"; the French Army was in no way disposed to let the French Algerian départements created in 1848 become independent.

On the night of April 21-22, 1961, retired generals Maurice Challe, André Zeller and Raoul Salan, helped by colonels Antoine Argoud, Jean Gardes and civilians Joseph Ortiz and Jean-Jacques Susini (who would form the OAS terrorist group), took control of Algiers. Gen. Challe criticized what he saw as the government's treason and lies toward French Algerian colonists and loyalist Muslims who trusted it, and stated that “the command reserves its right to extend its actions to Metropolitan France and to reconstitute a constitutional and republican order seriously compromised by a government whose illegality is blatant in the eyes of the nation.”

During the night the 1st Foreign Legion Parachute Regiment (1e REP), under Hélie de Saint Marc, took control of all of Algiers' strategic points in 3 hours. The units directly involved in the putsch were the 1st and 2nd REP, the 1st REC and the 14th and 18th Regiments of Chasseurs Parachutistes. Together they comprised the elite units of the airborne divisions of the French Army. Initially, there were pledges of support from other regiments (27th Dragoons, 94th Infantry, 7th Algerian Tirailleurs and several Marine units), but these seem to have reflected the views of senior officers only and there was no active participation.

The head of the Parisian police, Maurice Papon, and the director of the Sûreté nationale, formed a crisis cell in a room of the Comédie-Francaise, where Charles de Gaulle was attending a presentation of Racine's Britannicus. The president was informed during the entracte of the coup by Jacques Foccart, his general secretary of African and Malagasy Affairs and closest collaborator, in charge of covert operations.

Algiers' population was awakened on 7:00 on the 22nd to a message on the radio: "The army has seized control of Algeria and of the Sahara". The rebel generals had the government's general delegate, Jean Morin, arrested as well as the National Minister of Public Transport, Robert Buron, who was visiting, and several civil and military authorities. Several regiments put themselves under the command of the rebel generals. The following day, Gen. Salan arrived in Algeria from Spain and refused to arm civilian activists.

Gen. Jacques Faure, 6 other officers and several civilians were simultaneously arrested in Paris. De Gaulle proclaimed a state of emergency in Algeria, while left-wing parties, the communist trade union and the socialist Ligue des droits de l'homme (LDH, Human Rights League) called for demonstrations against the coup d'état. At 8:00 PM on the 23rd, de Gaulle appeared in his 1940s military uniform on television, calling on French military personnel and civilians, in metropolitan France or in Algeria, to oppose the putsch.

Due to the popularity of a recent invention, transistor radio, de Gaulle's call was heard by the conscript soldiers, who refused en masse to follow the professionals' call for insurgency and in some cases jailed their officers. The putsch met with widespread opposition, largely in the form of civil resistance, including a 1-hour general strike called by the trade unions the day after de Gaulle's broadcast. Within the army itself much depended on the position taken by individual senior officers. The 13th Light Division of Infantry, responsible for the strategic Zone Sud Oranais and including Foreign Legion units, followed the lead of its commander, Gen. Philippe Ginestet, in remaining loyal to the government in Paris. Ginestet was subsequently assassinated by the OAS in retaliation.

The few military units which had followed the generals progressively surrendered. Gen. Challe gave himself up to the authorities on April 26, and was immediately transferred to metropolitan France. The putsch had been successfully quashed, but Article 16 granting full and extraordinary powers to de Gaulle was maintained for 5 months. "The Battle of the Transistors"--as it was called by the press--was quickly and definitely won by de Gaulle. The only known fatality was Sgt. Pierre Brillant, who was killed by the putschists while defending the radio transmitter at Ouled Fayet, Algiers.

A military court condemned Challe and Zeller to 15 years in prison. However, they were granted an amnesty and had their military positions restored 5 years later. Raoul Salan and Jouhaud escaped. Salan was condemned in absentia to death (later commuted to life sentence), as was Jouhaud. Salan and others later founded the OAS, a terrorist paramilitary organization that attempted to stop the ongoing process of the April 1962 Independence Evian Agreements for the Algerian territories. A July 1968 act granted amnesty; a 1982 law reintegrated the surviving generals into the army. Salan, Jouhaud and 6 other generals benefited from this law.
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Old 04-21-2018, 12:41 PM   #5132
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805
Siege of Patras

The Byzantine Empire's military position in the Balkans collapsed in the early 7th century as a result of disastrous military ventures against the Persians and then the Arabs in the East, which forced the effective abandonment of the Danube limes and opened the way for large-scale penetration and settlement of the Balkan hinterland by various Slavic tribes. The Slavs raided as far as southern Greece and the coasts of Asia Minor. Most of the region's cities were sacked or abandoned and only a few, including Thessalonica, remained occupied and in imperial hands.

In Greece, the eastern coasts of the Peloponnese and Central Greece remained in Byzantine hands as the theme of Hellas, while in the interior, various Slavic groups established themselves. A large native Greek population probably also remained in the land, either mixed with the Slavs or in its own autonomous communities. As elsewhere, a mostly peaceful modus vivendi soon emerged between the Slavs and the remaining Byzantine strongholds, with the mainly agricultural Slavs trading with the Byzantine-held coastal towns. Further north, in the Greek mainland, by the turn of the 7th to 8th century smaller Slavic districts or sclaviniae emerged around the fringes of imperial territory, ruled by their own archons, who received Byzantine titles and recognized some form of imperial suzerainty. Imperial authority across Greece was greatly strengthened by the 783 campaign of the logothete Staurakios, who ventured from Constantinople overland to Thessalonica and from there south to the Peloponnese, subduing the Slavs of those regions.

In the reign of Emperor Nikephoros I (r. 802–811) the Slavs of the Peloponnese made war on the Greek population with the aid of "African Saracens", looted the countryside and laid siege to Patras, on the northwestern coast of the Peloponnese. The city held out for a while, but as food began growing short, the inhabitants gave thought to surrendering. First, however, they dispatched a rider to Corinth, the seat of the military governor (strategos), to find out whether or not he was coming to their aid. The envoy had been instructed on his return to give a signal through a flag he carried: if help was on its way, he was to dip the flag, otherwise to hold it erect. The rider found out that the strategos was not coming or was delayed, but on his return to the city, his horse slipped and both he and the flag fell down. The inhabitants of Patras interpreted this as a sign that aid was near, and sallied against the besieging Slavs. The Slavs panicked at the sudden assault and fled, abandoning the siege. As a punishment, that the Slavs were thereafter obligated to maintain at their own cost all officials or envoys passing through Patras, relieving the local see of this burden.

The failure of the Slavic attack on Patras consolidated the recently re-established Byzantine control over the Peloponnese, and Nikephoros I's policies led to the successful re-Hellenization of the peninsula. The defense of Patras also secured the Byzantine Empire's main maritime road of communication with Italy and the West, as it opened up the shorter route through the Corinthian Gulf, instead of the longer, more dangerous route around the Peloponnese that was exposed to Arab attacks.
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Old 04-22-2018, 01:01 PM   #5133
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April 22, 1809
Battle of Eckmühl

In the early morning of April 10, 1809, the War of the 4th Coalition opened as leading elements of the Austrian army, under Archduke Charles, crossed the Inn River and invaded Bavaria. Bad roads and freezing rain slowed the Austrian advance, but the outnumbered Bavarians gradually retreated. The Austrian attack occurred about a week before Napoleon anticipated, and in his absence Berthier's role became all the more critical. Berthier (whose fortè was staff work) proved to be an insufficient field commander, a characteristic made worse by the fact that several messages from Paris were being delayed and misinterpreted when they finally arrived. Napoleon had written that an Austrian attack before April 15 should be met by a general French concentration around Donauwörth and Augsburg, Berthier focused on a sentence that called for Davout to station his III Corps around Regensburg and ordered the Iron Marshal to move back to the city despite massive Austrian pressure.

The “Grand Army of Germany” was now in a perilous position of two wings separated by 75 miles, linked by a thin cordon of Bavarian troops. On the 16th, the Austrian advance guard had beaten back the Bavarians near Landshut and had secured a good crossing place over the Isar by evening. Napoleon finally arrived in Donauwörth on the 17th after a furious trip from Paris. Archduke Charles congratulated himself on a successful opening to the campaign and planned to destroy Davout's and Lefebvre's isolated corps in a double-pincer. When Napoleon realized that significant Austrian forces were already over the Isar and were marching towards the Danube, he insisted that the entire French army deploy behind the Ilm River within 48 hours, all in hopes of undoing Berthier's mistakes and achieving a successful concentration. However, he underestimated the number of Austrian troops heading for Davout; Napoleon believed Charles only had a single corps over the Isar, but in fact, the Austrians had five corps, a grand total of 80,000 men. Napoleon needed to do something quickly to save his left flank from collapsing.

Davout anticipated the problems and withdrew his corps from Regensburg, leaving a garrison of only 2000. The northbound Austrian columns in the Kelheim–Abbach zone ran into the French columns heading west towards Neustadt in the early hours of the 19th. The Austrian attacks were slow, uncoordinated, and easily repulsed. Napoleon knew there was fighting in Davout's sector and had already devised a new strategy: while the Austrians attacked to the north, Masséna's corps, later augmented by Oudinot's forces, would strike southeast towards Freising and Landshut in hopes of rolling up the entire Austrian line and relieving the pressure on Davout. Napoleon was reasonably confident that the joint corps of Davout and Lefebvre could pin the Austrians while his other forces swept the Austrian rear.

The attack on the 20th began well as the central Austrian V Corps guarding Abensberg gave way. However, Massena's advance towards Landshut required too much time, permitting Hiller to escape south over the Isar. The Danube bridge that provided easy access to Regensburg and the east bank had not been demolished, allowing the Austrians to transfer themselves across the river and rendering futile French hopes for the complete destruction of the enemy. The Austrians had lost 10,000 men and 30 guns, but were still a potent force. That evening, Napoleon realized that the day's fighting had only involved 2 Austrian corps. Charles still had a good chance of escaping east over Straubing if he wished.

Charles now moved to concentrate his remaining forces so as to envelop and destroy Davout's corps. Prince Friedrich of Hohenzollern-Hechingen's III Corps (15,700 men) and Prince Franz Seraph of Rosenberg-Orsini's IV Corps (21,400 men), were ordered to hold the Austrian left, pinning Davout's corps, while Johann Kollowrat's fresh II Corps (28,100 men) and the elite grenadiers and cuirassiers of Prince Johann of Liechtenstein's I Reserve Corps advanced south from Regensburg and deployed against Davout's exposed left flank. Inexplicably, no orders were issued to Count Heinrich von Bellegarde, so his powerful I Corps (27,600 men) remained on the north bank of the Danube and played no role in the subsequent fighting.

For his part, Napoleon was intent on enveloping and destroying the Austrian forces retiring southwest to Landshut. The II and IV Corps (57,000 men under the overall command of Marshal Masséna) were directed to cross the Isar upstream from Landshut and block the Austrians from crossing to the South Bank. Meanwhile, under the overall command of Marshal Lannes, Lannes' Provisional Corps, the VII (Württemberg) Corps, a division from VII Corps and two cuirassier divisions (51,000 men) were to closely pursue and destroy the defeated Austrians. The mop-up was left to Davout, even though more than half of the III Corps' original units had been detached to create Lannes' task force. Despite Davout's reports to the contrary, Napoleon ordered him to attack the Austrians on his front in the morning, with the proviso that Lefebvre's equally depleted corps would support him if he needed help (A total of approximately 36,000 men for both corps).

Leading elements of the Austrian attack ran into Montbrun's cavalry, who managed to reduce the impetus of the charge thanks to hilly and wooded terrain. Rosenberg displayed serious concern when he realized that Davout's troops were not moving to account for the ongoing battle, and rightly assumed that more French troops were on the way. These troops had, in fact, arrived and brushed aside Rosenberg's flank guard. Napoleon had set the French army into motion around 2 a.m. on the 22nd and had his men march 18 miles north in just a few short hours, meaning reinforcements for Davout would be arriving faster than promised.

The vanguard of the assault were the German troops under Gen. Vandamme, who stormed the bridge at Eckmühl and even captured the town's chateau after ferocious Austrian resistance. At this point, Davout launched his men against the Austrian center at the village of Unterlaichling and the woods to the north. The 10th Legere Regiment became involved in vicious fighting around the woods, but eventually was strengthened by Bavarians and managed to capture the positions. North of Unterlaichling, Davout's troops under Louis Friant and St. Hilaire steadily pushed back the defenders of Oberlaichling and the surrounding woods, overran a redoubt held by Hungarian grenadiers, and prompted Charles to order a general retreat.

The struggle now devolved into a series of major cavalry clashes as the Austrians attempted to extricate their army without losing too many prisoners. Perhaps the best cavalry in the Habsburg army, the Vincent Chevau-légers and the Stipsic Hussars, occupied the Bettelberg ridgeline between Eckmühl and the woods above Unterlaiching. These elite units demolished some German light cavalry before being stopped by Bavarian infantry. Napoleon was insistent on the immediate capture of this position and ordered forward two heavy cavalry divisions under St. Sulpice and Nansouty. These horsemen were pummeled by Austrian artillery but came on nonetheless and managed to saber the gunners after having seen off the enemy cavalry.

The first phase of the retreat ended, but it was not over yet. The Austrians had found a chokepoint in the road and were instructed to stem the French tide. Three French cuirassier divisions supported by additional German light cavalry attacked and a swirling melee developed. The Austrians fought heroically but were heavily outnumbered and had to retreat. During this part of the conflict, more French cavalry struck their flank and the remaining Austrian horse fled north to Ratisbon (Regensburg).

The French had won the battle, but it was not a decisive engagement. Napoleon had hoped that he would be able to catch the Austrian army between Davout and the Danube, but he didn't know that Ratisbon had fallen and thus gave the Austrians a means of escape over the river. Nevertheless, the French inflicted 12,000 casualties at the cost of just 6000, and Napoleon's speedy arrival witnessed an entire axial realignment of his army (from north-south to east-west) that permitted the defeat of the Austrians. Both sides prepared for the next day’s fighting.
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Old 04-23-2018, 12:55 PM   #5134
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April 23, 1809
Battle of Ratisbon

On April 22, 1809, Marshal Davout, who had been left to deal with what Napoleon believed was the shattered remains of the Austrian right, ran into the Archduke Charles around Eckmühl. Napoleon was forced to turn north to deal with this new threat. The resulting battle was a French victory, but the bridge across the Danube at Regensburg (Ratisbon) had been taken by the Austrians late on April 20, and so Charles was able to escape north across the Danube, leaving a rearguard to defend the city.

That rearguard was commanded by Karl von Fölseis, normally the commander of a brigade in II Corps. He was given 5 battalions and a brigade artillery battery. A significant part of the Austrian army had crossed the river by the time the first French cavalry appeared (some time between 8 and 9 AM), but II Corps and large parts of the III and IV Corps were still on the southern bank. The result was a large cavalry battle outside the city. Napoleon had around 8000 cavalry at his disposal, the Austrians only 5000, but the Austrians managed to delay the French advance. The general trend of events also tended to push the French west, away from a crucial pontoon bridge just to the east of Regensburg. Eventually the pressure of numbers forced the Austrians to retreat back into Regensburg, and the last open gate was slammed shut before the French could get into the city.

This left Napoleon with a major problem. Regensburg was not strongly fortified by contemporary standards, but it was still a fairly strong position, and Napoleon couldn't afford to leave it in Austrian hands. He had a choice of two main strategies - either to cross the Danube and pursue the main Austrian army, or to advance east along the southern bank to threaten Vienna. If he chose the first option then the bridge at Regensburg was essential, if he chose the second then it could not be left in Austrian hands, as that would have left the French lines of communication open to attack.

The last gate into Regensburg was closed by noon, and by 1 PM the French had surrounded the city. Clearly a formal siege was out of the question, as it would have taken far too much time and given Charles time to rebuild his army. Instead Napoleon chose to launch a series of assaults. The first, using the first 3 infantry regiments to reach the area, was an attempt to catch the Austrians by surprise, and failed.

Napoleon's next move was to bring up some of his guns and began a bombardment of the southeast corner of the walls, close to Peter's Gate. During this bombardment the Emperor suffered a minor wound when a spent bullet hit his foot. Although the bullet failed to break his skin, news of the wound caused some nervousness across the army, forcing Napoleon to spend some time visiting his troops.

At about 3:00, part of a tower and the outer wall of a house finally collapsed, partially falling into the dry ditch outside the walls. The resulting breach was still far too small for a conventional assault, but Napoleon was unwilling to wait. A second assault was launched, with no more success than the first. A third attack also failed. By this time the supply of volunteers was running short. Marshal Lannes, who was in command of the attack, attempted to convince his men to make a fourth attack (third on the breach), but it took a dramatic gesture to achieve anything. Frustrated with the failure of his men to respond, Lannes picked up a ladder and prepared to lead the next attack himself. His staff officers attempted to talk him out of it, volunteering to lead the attack themselves. This public argument inspired (or shamed) his men. The next attack was led by Jean Baptiste Marbot and Charles François Huchet de la Bédoyère, two of Lannes' staff officers, and involved men from the 25th and 85th Ligne. Marbot would late claim to be the first officer to reach the top of the walls, followed by de la Bédoyère.

This attack finally managed to break through the breach. The French then reached a postern gate, which allowed them to let reinforcements into the city. These captured Peter's Gate from the inside, and by 4:00 Gudin's division was inside the walls. The fighting then developed into 2 separate battles. The French quickly reached the southern end of the stone bridge across the Danube, and for the next 5 hours were involved in a fight with the Austrian troops defending the fortified bridge, before eventually managing to gain a toehold on the north bank, capturing the suburb of Stadtamhof. The second part of the battle was a vicious street fight that lasted for about the same time, and mixed in with an outbreak of looting. The eventual Austrian casualties of around 8900 killed, wounded and missing included 3700 men from the garrison of Regensburg. The French lost almost 2000 men.

The fall of Regensburg ended the Bavarian phase of the war. In just under a week Napoleon had transformed the situation, turning a potential disaster into a stunning victory (if not quite as stunning as he would have hoped). The main Austrian army had been split in two, Archduke Charles had been thrown off the southern side of the Danube, and the road into Austria was now open.

Napoleon then turned his attention south towards Vienna, fighting a series of actions against Hiller's forces, most famously, at the Battle of Ebersberg on May 3. Ten days later, the Austrian capital fell for the second time in four years.
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