|The Prince of Liechtenstein|
On May 21, 1809 as the French army was getting across the Danube, the Archduke launched his attack. First, at Aspern, the initial Austrian blow was dealt by General Johann von Hiller where he smashed into the French forces of General André Masséna, who he had fought before at Ebelsberg when the Austrians had been forced across the Danube. The fighting then had been savage and it was no less fierce on May 21. The French offered tenacious resistance as the successive waves of three Austrian army corps came smashing down on them, converging on their location. Street by street, house by house, the Austrians inched forward, slowly, painfully but inexorably until it seemed the French might not hold. Concerned that his flank would be turned, Napoleon launched an attack on the Austrian center, aimed at their artillery which was shelling French positions in Aspern. The French heavy cavalry in their shining cuirasses and plumed helmets with horsehair manes, rumbled forward, smashed the Austrians guns and took care to avoid the soldiers in square led by one Prince Friedrich Franz Xavier von Hohenzollern-Hechingen. He was from a different branch of the House of Hohenzollern than that which ruled the Kingdom of Prussia and, in fact, he had fought against the Prussians during his long military career. The French dashed around his infantry but met the Prince of Liechtenstein’s cavalry and though they made a good showing, they failed in their ultimate goal of diverting the Archduke from his plan of attack.
|The French at Aspern-Essling|
As dawn broke and the fighting erupted again on May 22, the confidence of the French Emperor seemed well founded. In Aspern, Masséna launched a counter-attack that stunned the Austrians and swiftly drove them back and out of the village. Simultaneously, Prince Orsini-Rosenberg was attacking Essling, however, Marshal Lannes and his men held on, were reinforced and launched their own counter-attack which, likewise, drove the Austrian forces from the town. However, that good news was followed by worrying news. At Aspern, the Austrian generals Hiller and Heinrich Graf von Bellegarde (a Saxon born officer from a noble family of Savoy) who commanded the Austrian First Corps, counter-attacked and smashed Masséna, driving the French out of town. Napoleon had to do something and he decided, once again, to launch a frontal attack on the Austrian center, this time with much more muscle. He aimed at precisely the point where the Austrian forces of the Prince of Hohenzollern and the Prince of Orsini-Rosenberg came together.
|Austrian grenadiers charge at Essling|
|Archduke Charles of Teschen|