Battle of Bilaj
21 - 22 May 1809
During war of France, Russian and Rhine alliance against Austria in 1809, French corps under command of general Marmont advanced from Dalmatia through Lika and Slovenia to Vienna in order to link up with main French army which was also advancing towards Habsburg capital. After rear guard actions at Gracac, Austrian Border (Krajina) observer corps commanded by colonel Rebrovic has fallen back under French pressure towards Gospic and initiated new battle near Bilaj.
Rebrovic placed most of his troops, five infantry battalions (2 Lika operational battalions, Dalmatian freikorps, 1 Otocac reserve battalion) and artillery in the center on left bank of Lika river at Bilaj bridge; to secure his right flank on line Ribnik-Citluk-south of Divoselo he placed reserve battalion, 2 Lika land detachments and local last defense; left flank was secured at Barleta north form Jadova rivulet with nine detachments and Otocac last defense. Towards main part of Border observer corps, protected by unfordable Lika river, Marmont placed his skirmisher (voltigeur) while moving divisions of Clausel and Montrichard in direction of Barleta-Ostrovica-Budak, threatening left flank of Border corps and road Gospic-Otocac its main communication link.
Noticing French move, Rebrovic moved his center across Bilaj brigde and then in three columns moved forward in order to capture surrounding hills from were he planed to attack French left flank. Crossing of Lika river took a long time and Marmong had enough time to turn division Montrichard to attack Bilaj. In swift combat French took central hill in front of Bilaj and sending parts of division Clausel into battle pushed Austrian border-soldiers back across Lika river. According to French they suffered around 200 dead and 800 wounded including 3 generals but captured around 2000 Austrian border-solider. According to Austrians they suffered 64 dead, around 500 wounded and 500 captured. In meantime French 8th Light Regiment from division Clausel crossed Jadova at Barleta and pushed back weak border-soldier flank guard but captain Hrabovski, who was in command of Austrian flank, managed to hold French south of Ostrovica with aid of two Ban's battalion which arrived from reserve despite Franch sending in 11th Regiment into combat after Rebrovic attack at Bilaj was repulsed.
On the following day 22 May, Rebrovic reinforced his left flank at Ostroivca so that Hrabovski had 4 regular and 2-3 irregular militia battalions beside local last defense. At the same time Marmont moved across Jadova his 5th, 23rd and 81st Regiment and all of his artillery and begun final assault. Positions south of Ostrovica was bitterly held by border-soldiers and held them until nightfall despite heavy casualties. Under cover of darkness Austrian corps withdrew towards Karlovac. French entered Gospic and moved northwards through Otocac and Senj. Battle of Bilaj is also known as battle of Gospic.
Late Baroque parish church of St. Mary from 1780 in Gospic bears a memorial tablet, dedicated to those who fell in the battle of Bilaj in 1809 (R. Franges-Mihanovic).
Orders of Battle
- Vojna enciklopedija, Belgrade 1958
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