The Second Battle of Kehl occurred on 18 September 1796, when General Franz Petrasch's Austrian and Imperial troops stormed the French-held bridgehead over the Rhine river. The village of Kehl, which is now in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, was then part of Baden-Durlach. Across the river, Strasbourg, an Alsatian city, was 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. Its channels and tributaries created islands of trees and vegetation that were alternately submerged by floods or exposed during the dry seasons. A complex of bridges, gates, fortifications and barrage dams linked Kehl with Strasbourg. These had been constructed by the fortress architect Sébastien le Préstre 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 Battle of Kehl, when the French crossed into the German states on 23–24 June. Critical to French success would be the army's ability to cross the Rhine at will. The crossings at Hüningen, near the Swiss city of Basel, and at Kehl, offered 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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