Meeting at a river crossing of the Danube, the Austrians had recently forced Lannes to retire and taken the town of Großeüberfahrtstadt. Now the French marshal returned, with the support of General Vandamme who crossed the Danube just south at Kleineüberfahrtstadt. Hiller and Hohenlohe agreed that Hiller would hold Großeüberfahrtstadt against Lannes with Radetzky’s infantry division, supported by the Avant Garde and the 3rd Ferdinand Hussars. Meanwhile, Hohenlohe would hit Vandamme with Lindenau’s grenadier division and hold Ulm’s infantry division in support.
The battle opened with the French apparently agreeing to the Austrian plan as Lannes lunged at Großeüberfahrtstadt with two infantry divisions and St. Sulpice’s cuirassier division. Hiller immediately let loose Vincent’s 3rd Hussars against Morand’s approaching infantry, the suspected death charge worked better than expected as the Austrian horsemen caused a protacted skirmish that tired the French and successfully blunted their attack. This spoiled the engagement with Radetzky’s infantry and Morand was forced back. St. Sulpice’s cuirassiers crushed the Austrian Avant Garde but were fatigued and disorganized by the encounter. Seeing that Demont’s infantry had cleared the marshes and could flank Großeüberfahrtstadt, Lannes directed the tired horsemen back into the fight against Radetzky as Morand tried to hang on.
About two miles off, Hohenlohe’s attack finally fell against Vandamme who only had two small brigades up. As Ulm’s infantry marched out of Kleineausbreitendestadt, Vandamme immediately sent Pajol’s light cavalry against them. Never had French chasseurs fought so hard, the tiny brigade of perhaps 500 horse drove back multiple Austrian battalions before breaking off exhausted. The precious time this had bought was for not though, as the Austrian grenadiers were determined to drive Vandamme back across the Danube and Ulm’s infantry would soon recover.
As evening came on Lannes wrote to the Emperor for instructions: Hold Großeüberfahrtstadt and await another reinforcement attempt, or withdraw and avoid isolation?