The Austro-Polish War of 1809

Dr. David Stefancic, FINS

 

In April of 1809, Austrian empire opened hostilities against France and Napoleon by attacking three of Napoleon’s closest allies; Bavaria, Italy and the Duchy of Warsaw. While Napoleon and the French Army concentrated their attention on the German and Italian fronts, the Poles were left to their own devices.

 

The Poles have a newly formed and untrained army with a novice commander. Jozef Poniatowski was inexperienced and in charge of his second command. His first command had come thirteen years earlier under Tadeusz Kosciuszko. He had more of a reputation as a playboy than a soldier. He was noted for being arrogant and being argumentative with his fellow commanders. Poniatowski was also viewed as a political appointee by his fellow officers who had more experience and were passed over. Poniatowski had this in common with Napoleon.

 

Poniatowski was to rise to the occasion to gain the respect of his officers and his soldiers. Even though outnumbered three to one, the Polish Army despite setbacks at Raszyn and Warsaw maintained their cohesion and tied down the Austrians in the Duchy. They then counterattacked by invading Austrian held Galicia where they were greeted as liberators by the local populace. The war turned out to be a success for the fledgling army and commander. They aided the French victory to the south against the Austrians by tying down 30,000 troops in the Duchy instead of being at Wagram or Aspern-Essling.

 

Despite this success and assistance to the French victory, few people outside of Poland appreciate or know about the Polish actions of 1809. The purpose of this study is to put the Austro-Polish war of 1809 in its’ proper context and its’ impact on Central European affairs after the war.