The Siege of Kehl lasted from October 1796 to 9 January 1797. Habsburg and Württemberg regulars numbering 40,000, under the command of Maximilian Anton Karl, Count Baillet de Latour, besieged and captured the French-controlled fortifications at the village of Kehl in the German state of Baden-Durlach. The fortifications at Kehl represented important bridgehead crossing the Rhine to Strasbourg, an Alsatian city, a French Revolutionary stronghold. This battle was part of the Rhine Campaign of 1796, in the French Revolutionary War of the First Coalition.
In the 1790s, the Rhine was wild, unpredictable, and difficult to cross, in some places more than four or more times wider than it is in the twenty-first century, even under non-flood conditions. Its channels and tributaries wound through marsh and meadow and created islands of trees and vegetation that were alternate submerged by floods or exposed during the dry seasons. At Kehl and the city of Strasbourg lay a complex of bridges, gates, fortifications and barrage dams. These had been constructed by the fortress architect Sébastien le Prestre de Vauban in the seventeenth century. The crossings had been contested before: in 1678 during the French-Dutch war, in 1703 during the War of the Spanish Succession, in 1733 during the War of the Polish Succession, and earlier in 1796, when the French crossed into the German states on 23–24 June. Critical to French success was the army's ability to cross the Rhine at will. The crossings at Hüningen, near the Swiss city of Basel, and the crossing at Kehl, gave them ready access to most of southwestern Germany; from there, French armies could sweep north, south, or east, depending on their military goal.
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