Dismiss Notice
Welcome to IDF- Indian Defence Forum , register for free to join this friendly community of defence enthusiastic from around the world. Make your opinion heard and appreciated.

Great Battles #9 Napoleon's Italian Campaign 1796-97

Discussion in 'Military History' started by Austerlitz, Oct 27, 2016.

  1. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    316
    Country Flag:
    India
    RISE OF NAPOLEON

    [​IMG]
    BACKGROUND :

    In 1789 the French revolution shattered europe.After a century of absolute monarchy, arrogance enormous decadence and corruption on part of the nobility allied with the clergy with france facing economic bankruptcy and famine and still the nobility refusing reforms that would curtail their privilages the lower classes broke out in open rebellion .The upper classes comprised perhaps 1.5% of the total population but controlled 40% of the national wealth.They paid no taxes and also possesed immunity from criminal prosecution by any save the king.Almost all important posts were occupied by the nobility.The lower classes however had to pay half their income in taxes and their situation had become destitute and desperate in the economic crisis.The result was inevitable-Revolution.

    [​IMG]

    Inspired by the writings of Voltaire and Rousseau,the french populace led by the burgeousie adopted the slogan of 'Liberty,Equality,Fraternity' and proclaimed a republic.With the nobility killed or fled,the king executed-it was a dangerous precedent as far as the shocked european absolute monarchies were concerned.To suppress the dangerous ideas emanating from france an europe wide coalition of monarchies marched against it,determined to restore the old order.The revolutionary leaders fired by revolutionary enthusiasm also added fuel to the fire by declaring their intention to bring the revolution to all the nations of europe.However with much of the officer cadre of the army which was predominantly the nobility defected,they found serious difficulty in fielding forces to halt the allied advance at first with ill disciplined but enthusiastic rabble.As france stood alone against all europe,desperate she unleashed total war.

    [​IMG]

    Europe in 1792.Austria-Hungary,Prussia,France,Britain and Russia were the great powers of europe.Spain and the ottomans had been in decline for some time now.Habsburg austria had diverse possesions both in the netherlands,hungary,austrian heartland and italy.In this age european armies were professional and small,but france's was giant advantage was manpower.She was the most populous nation of europe.The revolutionary leaders abandoned the old way of fighting.Universal nationwide Conscription was adopted and the guillotine and reign of terror crushed all internal dissent.The prussian army was halted at Valmy and soon prussia and russia left the coalition.Aided by her inexhaustible manpower reserves and having developed new techniques[which we discuss later].France overran austrian netherlands and belgium and attacked austrian territories in italy.A determined austria however refused to pull out of the war,furious at the execution of the french queen Marie Antionette-who had been an austrian princess and the annexation of austrian netherlands.Now after 4 years the war of the first coalition drags on in 1796.Austrian armies face and push back the main french army in germany while secondary forces oppose each other in italy.

    [​IMG]

    Italy in 1796.Austria was allied with the piedmont-sardinian monarchy ,the papal states and and naples.
    Domestically the french government was in tatters through corruption and instability.The govt was mostly bankrupt, and by this time the reign of terror of the jacobin radicals had been replaced by the burgoesie Directory which was not too popular.Since the time of the revolution the Paris mob had often dictated the political scene.The revolution had opened doors for a new generation of officers-among them an unknown corsican lieutnant of artillery,Napoleone Buonaparte.Corsica was a small mediterranean island which had only been annexed to france in 1769.The revolution however removed all previous obstacles of birth and bonaparte had impressed many of the political observers of the directory by playing a prominent role in the fall of toulon 1793 and later in his theoritical writings on the italian campaign to carnot,the main organizer of the french war effort.He was thus a promising officer considered loyal to the directory in 1795 when the paris mob attacked the directory intent on dismantling it like it had made and broken several governments before.The desperate politicians turned to bonaparte,the only general willing to take the job to repulse the 25,000 mob with 6000 troops available .Bonaparte however makes superb use of his artillery and crushes the paris mob in what became in his own words a 'Whiff of grapeshot'.The mob as a political force was finished in a brutal slaughter.As a reward for his services and also to get the now potentially ambitious general away from paris the directory sends him to command the army of italy which was a secondary and neglected theatre hoping to see the end of him.This is where the story begins.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    NEXT: NATURE OF WARFARE LATE 18TH CENTURY
     
    Inactive likes this.
  2. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    316
    Country Flag:
    India
    THE NATURE OF WARFARE

    [​IMG]

    European warfare was essentially linear at this time.The linear nature of battle was determined by the state of technology.The musket while a very effective weapon,still took quite long to reload and most importantly was inaccurate beyond short-mid ranges(75-100 yards = 20-30% efficiency,200 yrds=1-2% efficiency),thus to provide concentrated firepower musketeers were grouped together in closed ranks for massed volleys.Also only infantry in close formation could repel cavalry as infantry caught in the open were liable to be cut down in swathes.Troops were deployed in blocks with spaces in between for retreat,reforming and reinforcement . Infantry had replaced cavalry as the 'Queen of the Battlefield'.3 main formations dominated.The line,column and square.

    [​IMG]
    (A later period line formation of 9 companies)​

    LINE FORMATION:

    The line formation was the premier formation used for musket firefights,it utilized the complete firepower of a battalion.Men were drawn up 3 ranks deep to deliver volleys.Thus all available muskets were brought into action.However as time went on often 2 rank deep were used,as the 3rd men would fire too often resulted in friendly fires into the backs of their own infantry.The 3 rank remained but were increasingly used to replace those killed in the first 2 ranks and for reloading.The french army of this period employed the 3 rank firing system in line.The difficulty with advancing lines was their sensitivity to terrain and order. The irregularities of the terrain caused the ranks to become ragged, the battalion bowed in the middle and sometimes broke completely in half. A line of two battalions on a battlefield would be halting to dress more frequently than one battalion. The long line made the troop more difficult to manoeuvre and to turn. For these reasons, commanders used lines only for short distances and over open terrain with no serious obstacles. Line formation thus allowed pouring of large volumes of firepower,but was difficult to manuever and extremely vulnerable to flank attacks and cavalry charges.(thin density,long time to turn)


    [​IMG]
    (Later column formations)​

    THE COLUMN FORMATION : Columns were the simplest and most used formations amongst the french.It was particularly favoured by french commanders due to its mobility.They were of 2 types- March Column and Battalion Column.

    March Column(Colonne de Marche): The best formation for rapid or sustained movement of troops and a good melee attacking formation, but it offered little firepower and was also vulnerable to flank attack, ambush, artillery and "funneling".

    Attack Column(Colonne d'Attaque): A wide column of infantry, almost a hybrid of line and column, with light infantry skirmishers in front to disrupt the enemy and screen the column's advance. Once the column closed, the skirmishers would move off to its flanks, then the column would fire a massed musket salvo and charge with their bayonets. An excellent formation against a standard, thin line. The Attack Column was developed from the "Mob" or "Horde" tactics of the early French revolutionary armies. Its disadvantages were a lack of massed firepower and vulnerability to artillery fire.

    Strengths of Column :
    Column was the simplest of all formations and the fastest to advance and maneuver, an excellent device for bringing men more rapidly into action. The speed mattered as it was important to minimize the amount of time spent under artillery fire while advancing against the enemy. It was very useful to use with conscripts.
    Column advanced without problems over every terrain and in various speeds. In contrast the long line required 'redressing' - the faster the movement and the more obstacles (bushes, fences, ditches, wounded and killed men and horses) the more disordered the line became.Columns were better at handling flank attacks(though it was not desirable)Because of column's narrow front it was easier to pass through a broken or wooded terrain. In villages and towns only columns were able to move.The column also offered greater shock impact.
    The compact column was steadier than hollow square against cavalry. There were numerous cases where even poorly trained troops formed in compact mass repulsed the best cavalry. The depth of the column meant often it could repulse cavalry without forming square and in any case could form square much faster.French manuals stated 100 seconds to form square from line to only 30 seconds from column.

    [​IMG]

    Weaknesses of column:
    Only the front lines of column would bring their muskets into action.This made the formation deficient in firepower and at a serious disadvantage against line in a prolonged firefight.The line offered far more volume of firepower and also offered flanking oppurtunities.However if a resolute column even after taking heavy losses in its forward troops managed to close to melee distance it would gain the advantage over 2-3 rank deep line.

    Columns were highly vulnerable to artillery due to their packed nature.Against roundshot column was very vulnerable,whole files could be wiped out if hit compared to the thin 2-3 rank deep line.Against close range canister shot however more or less both were equally vulnerable.

    [​IMG]

    SQUARE :Classic infantry formation for defence against cavalry. Soldiers would form a hollow square at least three or four ranks deep on each side, with officers and artillery or cavalry in the middle. It offered infantry their best protection against charges, especially on good defensive terrain such as on the top or reverse slope of a hill. Squares were slow moving, almost stationary targets, however. This, along with their density, made squares very vulnerable to artillery and to a lesser extent, infantry fire. Once broken, squares tended to completely collapse.The square was the universal anticavalry formation. Each nation formed it according to the requirements of its battalion organization.

    EVOLUTION OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTIONARY ARMY :


    The changes to come could be traced back to the pre-revolution era.Defeat and humiliation in the seven years war had led to an upheaval in french military thought and the next decades reforms had been made,particularly in artillery .Prominent theorists such as guibert had advocated a more mobile cohesive approach to warfare.But these were not implemented in any depth during the royalist era except in the artillery.

    When the revolutionary wars broke out in 1791 french armies were to officially follow the carefully crafted army regulations dating from the royalist era with its linear formations.But the defections in the nobility heavy officer cadre coupled with the explosion of new citizen recruits brought by conscription who were enthusiastic but an ill disciplined rabble soon made this impossible.The existing drills and disciplines advocated 3 deep volleys in line followed by attack with bayonet.However these synchronized manuevering from line and column was found to be totally beyond the capacity of the raw conscripts.After a series of initial defeats,the french leaders adapted a mix of 'horde and human wave tactics'.The core of this new style was the sober fact that soldiers now with conscription were cheap and france could pump out men regardless of losses.

    [​IMG]
    (Human wave & the Horde)

    The basis of these new tactics were a common practice to take the most reliable men and send them out in front of the main body to act as a cloud of skirmishers operating in loose order to harass the enemy.Infantry at this time was divided into line infantry and light infantry.Line infantry fought in close formations[usually line,thus called line infantry],light infantry were bodies of individuals acting as sharpshooters.Light infantry in numbers during this time was quite rare in european armies.However the french had appreciated their effectiveness in the american revolution.In any case the border between line and light infantry in french revolutionary armies began to blur as both could act as skirmishers.The close order disciplined movements being usually beyond them.Unlike the linear formations who fought in the open,skirmishers could make good use of cover.
    While this horde of skirmishers harassed the enemy the rest of the revolutionary conscript force in the rear would make up their mind to fight or flee.In case of a fight usually,the sharpshooters were concentrated on specific points of enemy lines and would be rotated to keep up the pressure,being relatively safe from the opposing line infantry by their individual mobility[line infantry being tied to the other ranks of their formation] and from artillery by their loose dispersion.If the enemy was judged weakened by mass skirmishing and the supporting french artillery,the rest of the army would form up into crude columns then to the cries of 'Vive'l'Republique' wild charges resembling human wave attacks with bayonet were released on the enemy.Often the surprised linear european armies,unable to retaliate effectively against the dispersed skirmishers,and unused to such unrefined brute force tactics that followed could be overwhelmed.

    An indignant french Emigre(defected french noble fighting with the european monarchies to restore the old order in france)sums it up -''Fifty thousand savage beasts foaming at the mouth,charging with the fury of cannibals,hurl themselves at top speed''

    The strength of these tactics were their pragmatism and unfamiliarity.They made most of the strength of the revolutionary armies-drive,ardour and zeal and required little discipline or precision-something they lacked entirely.However if the attack failed,the revolutionary mob would usually lose heart and cohesion and a mass rout to the rear take place.As can be expected,such tactics exacted very heavy casualities.However at this point manpower was not an issue for the french.

    Out of this chaos however gradually the conscript armies became battle hardened and more experienced and it was becoming feasible to return to conventional linear tactics emphasizing the combination of Fire and shock without discarding the new elements that had been incorporated into the french way of war.A new group of officers,who had risen from the ranks in combat also developed as leaders.The mixture of remnants of the old royal army that had been loyal to the republic and the new breed now blended into the new french army of the republic.The French military theorists now adapted to make best use of the disciplined and drilled regular old army formations along with the newly raised forces who had acquired some battlefield experience.The result of this effort was the Ordre Mixte.First proposed by guibert,the french adopted this in a unique fashion.

    [​IMG]

    Growing sophistication in French light infantry tactics.The earlier great mob of skirmishers being replaced by better organized light infantry usage.2nd diagram here illustrates the employment of a light infantry platoon.Bulk are employed as a harassment screen,while some part are held back behind in solid formation as a point to regroup in case of enemy cavalry attack.[Best way to disperse skirmishers]

    Further Developments in Organization and Tactics -

    Revolutionary France discarded the old Regiment as the standard unit due to its feudal origins.This was replaced by Demi-Brigades.
    The main problem faced by the French Revolution infantry was a lack of unity. The Army included three main types of infantry, all with different uniforms, organizations, equipment, and rates of pay:

    Regular infantry
    inherited from the old Royal regiments of the King, relatively well trained and equipped, dressed in white uniforms.
    National guard units, less well-trained or equipped, with blue uniforms
    Fédéré volunteer battalions, poorly trained and equipped, with no uniform other than a red phrygian cap and a tricolour cockade.

    The variations between units created logistical problems, and animosity (due to different rates of pay) among units.
    The purpose of the Demi-brigade was to blend all three formations into a single unit, with identical equipment, organization, pay, and uniforms. A Demi-brigade consisted of three infantry battalions: one battalion of regulars (from old Royal regiments), and two battalions of either volunteers or national guards. Each battalion had the same organization of one company of grenadiers (heavy infantry for bayonet assault) and eight companies of fusiliers (regular infantry). On paper, a Demi-brigade would have 2,437 men and four six pounder guns.Later seperate light infantry demibrigades were also formed.
    In the use of these the Mixed order formation was advocated.These new formations, were intended to combine the discipline and training of the old army with the enthusiasm of the new volunteers.

    [​IMG]
    A demibrigade in Mixed order.The centre battalion of old regulars deployed in line in four companies .On 2 sides are battalion columns of conscript volunteers.In front is a screen of skirmishers.One company drawn from each battalion.The grenadier companies of each battalion may be held back as an assault reserve.

    Mixed Order could be adapted to be used by companies or battalions and involved two or more of these units using a combination of Line and Column formations.The regular troops moving in line along with the recruits moving in column, which required far less training to perfect, either on the flanks, the centre or in the rear of the veteran units.
    The column formation allowed the unit rapid movement, a very effective charge (due to weight of numbers) or it could quickly form an square to resist cavalry attacks, but by its nature only a fraction of its muskets would be able to open fire. The line offered a substantially larger musket frontage allowing for greater shooting capability but required extensive training to allow the unit to move over ground as one while retaining the line.The mixed order thus offered the best of both in a way.And was a flexible formation for both defense and offense.Napoleon advocated it as his primary tactical formation

    NEXT : OPPOSING ARMIES
     
    Inactive likes this.
  3. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    316
    Country Flag:
    India
    THE ARMY OF ITALY

    [​IMG]
    THE INFANTRY -

    The Army of Italy Bonaparte assumed command of was in a wretched condition,penned up in the ligurian mountains by the austrians on one side and piedmontese on the other-it was a neglected secondary theatre for the french govt.The bankrupt directory had failed to provide any support to the forces,with the consequence that the army was unpaid,dressed in rags,without shoes and arms even in many cases.Desertion was common.Starving half mutinous troops presented a gloomy picture more akin to a gang of thugs than an army.The earlier commander had resigned in protest of lack of reinforcements and support from paris.It was also outnumbered by the combined austrian-piedmontese forces.

    However beneath this seemingly hopeless situation,the actual troops were combat experienced and excellent raw material.They lacked neither courage nor ability to endure hardship.Also regardless of the misery of the troops,the subordinate officers bonaparte would inherit were a redoubtable bunch.The product of a mix of old royal army officers and the new breed of revolutionary rise through the ranks soldiers,these were battle hardened and usually competent.Most of the new revolutionary officers were younger and more energetic than the older generation.

    [​IMG]
    The French Charleville 1777 musket was amongst the finest firearms of the era these were supposed to be standard issue in 1796 italy.However therwas no standardized arms or equipment in practice and many troops didn't even have any muskets waiting to capture any from the enemy if they could find them.The charleville musket reamined in use throughout the napoleonic wars and came with a socket bayonet.One very important development that had taken place due to the inability of the french central authority to supply the armies was that the french armies learned to live off the land without being dependant on cumbersome supply columns and depots.While this meant often they went hungry,they were also much more mobile than the armies of the european monarchies who were tied to their depots and supply columns.(Not that the french didn't have depots,but supply was irregular and much was foraged from the countryside).Napoleon Bonaparte would use this advantage of strategic mobility to the hilt.

    [​IMG]

    THE CAVALRY :
    The cavalry was the arm most affected by the revolution as it was almost exclusively manned by the nobility.The quality of french cavalry in the revolutionary period was generally extremely poor,a far cry from the terror it was to become later under napoleon.Lacking in quality horses,equipment and discipline they were mostly only good for reconssaince.However the austrians clear superiority in the mounted arm was negated by the hilly terrain of italy .(Due to the relative unimportance of french cavalry in this campaign,not discussed in detail .

    [​IMG]

    THE ARTILLERY :

    Artillery could be said to be the most effective and reliable arm of the french army.This was due to 2 factors.
    1>The artillery arm had been composed of mostly middle class citizens and was almost unaffected by the revolutionary upheaval.
    2>The Gribeauval Reforms of the french artillery in wake of its poor performance in the seven years war had transformed the french artillery into arguably the best artillery force in europe.This system revolutionized French cannon, with a new production system that allowed lighter, more uniform guns without sacrificing range .

    Gribeauval's primary improvement came in the production of large artillery pieces.. The resulting guns had tighter manufacturing tolerance between the bore and ball and allowed thinner barrels to be made without sacrificing range. Because the projectile fit the gun much more tightly, the barrel could be shorter without reducing accuracy; the shorter, thinner, barrel reduced weight. Gribeauval also designed improved carriages which allowed highly mobile fieldpieces.The french artillery thus was mobile,standardized,accurate and reliable.
    Field guns were standardized on the calibres- 4pdr light battalion support pieces,8pdr medium pieces and 12 pdr heavy guns.Artillery tactics described in detail here - Battle Report #15 Ulm-Austerlitz 1805 | Page 2

    Added to this was a new generation of aggressive officers who employed massed guns in offense.The slow introduction of professional gunners also helped improve the efficiency of the artillery.And the foremost of these new breed of gunners was Bonaparte himself-An erstwhile officer of artillery and an ardent supporter of the destructive capacity of cannon.Despite the negligence of theorists like guibert who considered artillery a nuisance , napoleon disagreed on this point vehemently.And indeed the age of artillery would begin with napoleon.

    ''God is on the side with the best artillery''-Napoleon Bonaparte.

    [​IMG]
    NEXT : AUSTRIAN ARMY
     
    Inactive likes this.
  4. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    316
    Country Flag:
    India
    THE AUSTRIAN ARMY

    [​IMG]

    "The Austrian infantry had long had the reputation of being
    solid and reliable, and had fought the French to a standstill
    on a number of occasions since 1792." - Robert Goetz

    INFANTRY :

    The austrian army was multiethnic and had changed little from the days of frederick.The core regiments were german supplemented by those from hungary,transylvania and croatia.Croatia supplied limited numbers of Grenzer light infantry.Though not fired by revolutionary ideals and still hierarchichal and dominated by the nobility,the austrian infantry were stout and dependable.The 'German' regiments were the best trained and disciplined part of the infantry. The 'Hungarian' regiments were renowned for their fierce fighting spirit. Drill and discipline were espoused as secrets to battlefield success and infantry were expected to deliver 3 rounds per minute.The Line remained the formation of choice,but austrian infantry were adept at forming square-indeed solid dense mass squares.This being the result of their experience of long wars with the turkish cavalry.

    The formal warfare of the 18th century demanded synchronized manuevre and maintaining the alignment of long lines with correct intervals and the austrian infantry were trained to accomplish these.However overdrilling and insistence on obedience led to lack of individual initiative and this manifested itself in poor ability in skirmishing except for the grenzers.One weakness of the austrian armies was the low numbers of light infantry to match the french skirmishers and this often made the line infantry vulnerable to harassment unless cavalry support was nearby.

    [​IMG]

    The austrian infantry were organized in regiments.Each regiment had 3 battalions and a grenadier 'division'[not to be confused with modern division] Battalions were further divided into 3 divisions each,each division of 2 companies.Each battalion thus had 6 companies of 180 men each for german battalions and 200 men for hungarian ones.The zug was the lowest tactical unit.Austrian commanders were competent but cautious.However they were conventional and often had difficulty adapting to this new mode of warfare.By and large however austria had by 1796 blunted the french revolutionary advance and with its allies now looked to go into the offensive.
    One disadvantage of the austrian troops was their inferior strategic mobility compared to the revolutionary french,austrian armies were tied by their supply trains and depots and moved accordingly.Attempts to emulate the more mercurial french in living off the land were failures.The professional soldiers expected to be supplied and equipped by the state.On the eve of bonparte's arrival the austrian army was in a far superior situation to the wretched french forces in italy both logistically and positionally.

    Detailed description of Austrian army with tactics here -
    http://indiandefence.com/threads/great-battles-7-ulm-austerlitz-1805.56566/page-2
    Post #28-31

    [​IMG]

    CAVALRY :

    Austrian cavalry consisted of lancers,armoured sword cuirassiers,dragoons plus hungarian hussars.Much of the austrian heavies were facing the main french armies on the rhine frontier,italy being a secondary theatre and the terrain not as favourable to cavalry action.Austrian cavalry remained however the among the finest in europe and far superior to the french at this point.

    The main tactical unit was the division,being composed of 2 squadrons.4 divisions made up a cavalry regiment.(For a total of 8 squadrons per regiment).Heavy cavalry squadrons numbered 150 sabres,while light cavalry and dragoons numbered 170-180.The Austrian cavalrymen were excellent swordsman and horsemen, well-trained and well-mounted, and enjoyed great reputation in Europe.However one drawback was that they were rarely used en masse which limited their impact.

    The hungarian hussars were the finest light cavalry in europe.Adept at skirmishing and harssment they had made life hell for frederick the great during the seven years war,raiding and ransoming berlin twice.The hussar general Hadik had even emptied his pipe on frederick's throne!In italy on one hussar raid bonaparte was almost captured with his entire staff,fleeing by jumping over a wall minus one boot along with his generals massena and murat!

    [​IMG]

    ARTILLERY :

    The pre-Napoleonic Austrian artillery was held up as an example to the world. It enjoyed a high reputation for the quality of gun powder and ammunition. The famous French Gribeauval system was based on Austria’s Lichtenstein system. The artillerymen, recruited mostly from the German provinces, has always stood high; not so much by early and judicious adoption of improvements, as by the practical efficiency of the men. They were volunteers and not recruits as it was the case in majority of European armies.However it had remained relatively unchanged from the seven years war period when it was the best in europe and was feeling its age in comparison with the newer gribeauval.In terms of accuracy the Austrian gunners were superior to their British, Prussian and Belgian counterparts,in the era between 1792-1815.To all but the russians and the french.

    Austrian army however was the only major force that lacked well-developed horse artillery. Kevin Kiley writes, "The Austrians' cavalry batteries were organized in the 1780s, their new light 6pdr gun and the 7-pounder howitzer being the usual armament of these mobile units. The cannoneers were not individually mounted, but first rode modified caissons, commonly called Wurst-Wagen, sitting astride them one behind the other, while others rode the gun carriage astride a specially made seat on the trail.

    The comparison of the French and Austrian artillery is quite interesting. The Austrian artillery had powder and ammunition of higher quality than the French and the Russian artillery. Their tactics and organization however were behind the French. The gunners of Austrian horse artillery sat on caission while the French were mounted on horses. It made the Austrian batteries slower in movement across fields and roads, but they were quicker in deploying and unlimbering the guns. The Austrians also needed less horses, were cheaper, required less space and therefore were a smaller target for enemy's guns. The French gunners however were more dashing and imaginative and their guns had longer range and heavier calibres than Austrians'. For example in 1798 the captured 6pdr Austrian guns were equal to French 5pdrs (the Austrian pound was smaller than the French). Finally, the individual battery commanders, described by Charles as 'often old and frail, and having been slowly advanced up the ladder', still tended to regard the individual piece as a discreet fire element, while generals often lacked the feeling for the proper use of artillery. As a result the archduke's instructions that artillery should always act as part of a combined arms team as often were neglected."

    Piedmontese army -
    The piedmontese forces were tarined on the model of habsburg austria and of similar calibre and disposition.

    NAPOLEON'S ART OF WAR -
     
    Inactive likes this.
  5. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    316
    Country Flag:
    India
    NAPOLEON'S ART OF WAR

    [​IMG]
    ''Napoleon,this despotic sovereign of the battlefield in whose presence rival generals seldom sought to manuever,seeking only to ward off his blows'' - Daniilovskii

    (Note that this section will analyze napoleon's methods throughout the whole 20 yr period and not just 1796 as it is impossible to do it in isolation.So some terms like corps which were not in use in 1796 will be involved but i will explain them.)

    History records no greater strategist than napoleon.He marks the departure from the great commanders of old whose fame rested on mastery of battlefield tactics.Not that napoleon was not a first rate tactician,but napoleon's uniqueness is in his mastery and revolutionization of operational strategy.He can be termed the first modern or scientific strategist and the napoleonic age signals the beginning of the trend where strategy came to decide the fate of battles and campaigns rather than tactics as in the older times.

    ''Strategy is the art of making use of time and space.Space i can recover,time..NEVER''- Napoleon.

    APPROACH TO STRATEGY:

    Napoleon's style was a synthesis of reforms and vague concepts propounded by military theorists of the late 18th century and his own ideas moulded to form a formidable systematic approach to war.In doing so he transformed the art of war itself.
    Before the french revolution wars tended to fall into formal patterns,characterized more by back and forth inconclusive manuevering, taking of strongpoints and fortresses rather than battles.Not that there wasn't the occasional general who thrived on battle-namely marlborough, and frederick.But even then battles were few and far in between mostly.Marlborough fought 4 pitched battles in his career.Even Frederick who warred constantly fought 14. Napoleon in contrast would fight nearly sixty - more than any other commander in history.The arms and equipment of napoleon's armies were more or less same as that of marlborough or frederick's men.The key difference would be in the employment of the men .

    5 PRINCIPLES OF STRATEGY:

    1
    . An army must have a single line of Operations.That is- The objective must be clearly laid out and every available formation be directed towards it.This doesn't mean they all use a single road[not prudent in terms of giving away intelligence,speed and logistics] but that ultimate objective be the same and minimal numbers of men wasted in secondary operations.This corresponds to the modern principles of war,namely - a]Concentration of Effort and b]Selection and Maintainence of Aim.

    2. Second,The opposing enemy army must be the main objective.Not strongpoints,not his capital[though this may be attacked to force the enemy army to battle],not fortresses but the enemy army.The destruction of the enemy's main field force is the objective.This was a radical departure from contemporary practices and is the core principle of Blitzkrieg tactics.Move rapidly and destroy the enemy army in a swift and decisive campaign of movement.
    ''There are many good generals in europe today,but they see too many things at once.I see only one thing-the enemy's main body.I try to crush it,confident that secondary matters will then settle themselves'' - Napoleon.

    3. The French army is to move in a way to place itself on the enemy's flanks and rear .Move always for effect,and upset the enemies equillibrium.This will be expanded in detail later in the post.

    4. The enemy's Lines of communication must be a prime target to force the enemy into an inoppurtune battle and to cut off his supplies and retreat.

    5. The french army must keep its own lines of communication safe and open and adjust them regularly to keep up with movement and repositioning.
    Apart from these Napoleon also heavily stressed Unity of command and the Effect of Morale.

    ''One bad general is better than 2 good ones'' - Napoleon.

    ''Morale is to material as three is to one'' -Napoleon

    For winning the hearts of his soldiers he made a conscious attempt with rewards,medals,a show of personal care and remembering individual names and feats-all added to a string of continous victories.He also made it a point to keep the army open to all men of talent and instill a sense of pride and a thirst for La Gloire,declaring -''In every french soldier's Knapsack is a marshal's baton'' .Such was his personal magnetism,aura and the fanatical devotion inspired by him in the course of time,wellington thought 'his presence on the battlefield to be worth 40,000 men'.

    [​IMG]

    CONTRIBUTION TO MILITARY ORGANIZATION:
    Napoleon's main contribution to military organization was the establishment of Permanent Army corps.At this timeframe armies were organized into regiments which were divided into adhoc divisions in wartime.Napoleon established permanent corps with their own staff.A corps was essentially a miniature army,an all arms formation of infantry,cavalry and artillery sized from 15,000/20,000 to 40,000 depending on its role and ability of its commander.It had its own integral infantry divisions[2-3,the division itself being composed of regiments,and regiments of battalions], medium or light cavalry division and integral corps artillery[The regiments had light artillery pieces[later abolished then reintroduced] and the heavy artillery was concentrated into a corps artillery reserve].Scroll back to pg 1 of the thread to see the posts on the composition of an army corps.
    The corps organization allowed flexible independent movement and also confused enemy intelligence as to the main point of french effort when multiple corps were manuevering.Napoleon designed these mini armies in a way that even when faced with a larger enemy force they could hold out on their own for about 24 hrs provided they were reinforced in time.This meant they could pin down larger enemy forces for moderate periods of time without additional support.It also greatly simplified handling by the army commander as he had to deal with a handful corps and not hundreds of regiments.The corps system was eventually adopted by all armies and is the standard large unit formation of modern militaries
    Another feature was the development of the first modern general staff system.Each corps and its commander had his own permanent staff.On top of these was the imperial headquarters general staff which carried out the emperor's orders(Napoleon travelled with his mobile headquarters on campaign) to the various corps formations and controlled their movements and directed them to the single objective along various routes all the while being in mutually supporting positions.

    [​IMG]

    CHANGES IN CAVALRY AND ARTILLERY DOCTRINE:


    "Convinced that it was not possible to fight anything but a defensive war without at least parity in cavalry, Napoleon made great efforts to turn this branch into a powerful striking force, capable of rupturing the enemy front, while retaining its ability for exploitation, pursuit, and reconnaissance." (- Gunther Rothenberg)

    Napoleon totally overhauled the cavalry arm of the french armies to the extent that they would become the terror of europe.The organization and division of the french cavalry has already been discussed.The role of the light cavalry was the traditional
    screening.harassment and reconssaince.Each corps had its light cavalry division(of hussars and dragoons usually) for corps reconssaince and screening as well as co-operating with the infantry in battle.Apart from parceling out the light and medium cavalry among the corps napoleon retained numbers at an army level to provide screening for the whole army and for large scale strategic pursuits after victory.

    ''Without cavalry battles are without result''-Napoleon[On the utility of cavalry in pursuit of a defeated enemy]

    However the heavy cavalry was not distributed among corps and exclusively concentrated into heavy cavalry divisions which were kept together in a large heavy cavalry reserve only for the big battle.This army level heavy cavalry reserve had one duty-To smash the enemy ranks with brute force and massed shock in combat.The cavalry would thus be versatile and effective.Thus the comment-

    ''Cavalry is useful before,during and after the battle''-Napoleon.

    Before in screening -denying intelligence to the enemy and reconssaince,during in massed brute force shock charges and co-operation with infantry(timely cavalry charges in conjunction with french infantry forced enemy infantry to form squares reducing their firepower by 1/4 and making them vulnerable to artillery and french infantry),and after in pursuit of an enemy.Napoleon thus added a strategic dimension to the role of cavalry,not just tactical.

    One of Napoleon's practices with regards to artillery was to not only have each corps have their own integral artillery,but to mass a force of heavy guns and keep them in reserve as an army artillery reserve for deployment at a crucial point in battle in a chosen sector.This role was usually played by the imperial guard artillery.Thus napoleon attempted to always keep a reserve of heavy cavalry and artillery at hand for a smashing blow at a chosen moment.How this 'moment' was chosen will be explained below.The forming of massed 'Grande batteries' is a practice that dates from this era.He lavished attention on his guns and the french artillery was manned by aggressive officers who didn't disappoint their emperor's faith in them.

    DISPOSITIONS AND MARCH PATTERN OF THE GRANDE ARMEE:


    Napoleon was extremely thorough in preparation for a campaign[usually reading all books/maps on topography from french national library of the area] 3-4 months in advance.He possesed a near photographic memory[in 1813 he pointed out while reading a report from a subordinate omission of 2 guns by the coast he had seen while on inspection in 1804 and was proved right,and as commander he dealt with hundreds of guns daily!].Add to this was an inexhaustible capacity for work-18 hours a day being standard practice.He was a firm believer in the offensive,but not at the cost of security.

    [​IMG]
    The principal aim of french movement was to seek out and rapidly engage and destroy the enemy army.Under napoleon initially the corps would seem spread out and isolated.But this was deceptive.They were actually laid out in a carefully designed web of positioned mobile formations,in mutually supporting distances[within 24 hrs march] and the trap on an unwise allied commander engaging an apparently isolated corps could be quickly shut as others arrived by forced marches and converged on his position from multiple directions.The corps system coupled with the practice of living off the land and bold leadership thus gave the french very high strategic mobility their enemies couldn't match.

    The standard strategic march formation devised by Napoleon was the 'Battalion Carre' [Battle square].The army was divided into 4 parts .The advance guard ,the left wing,the right wing and the reserve.Each of these parts would consist of 1-2 Corps depending on the overall size of the french army.Each part was thus semi-independent and capable of holding out for 24 hrs or so on their own.Each neighbouring wing was within 24 hrs marching distance and could come faster by forced marching.In the centre was napoleon with his headquarters guiding the movements of hundreds of thousands of men in his different corps with his unseen masterhand.With him would be the imperial guard,the army artillery reserve and the heavy cavalry reserve.The army light cavalry would screen the main army seeking out the opposing army.The whole army would move towards the reported position of the enemy army in this formation in parallel lines.The formation was balanced and flexible.Its beauty was that -

    1.The initial dispersion confused the enemy to the real point of french effort.
    (Conventional armies usually moved in 1-2 big masses and either manuevred inconclusively or engaged in a tactical slugfest.)

    2.Lured an unwise commander into attacking an isolated french corps inviting disaster.(the corps could hold out for 24 hrs and pin the enemy)

    3.Simplified logistics as each of the corps marched by different roads but were all moving on the same strategic objective-masterminded and controlled by napoleon.Thus bonaparte's maxim -

    4.Until the last moment napoleon could keep his options open as to where to concentrate,and converge no matter where it met the enemy be it front or wings the whole formation could swing round and concentrate rapidly on the enemy force.As u can see in the 2nd and 3rd picture,even if the enemy engaged in the flank or rear,the engaged wing would merely become the advance guard and pin him down while the advance guard and reserve became the wings and rapidly converged on the position.Napoleon would arrive in person with the imperial guard infantry,army artillery and heavy cavalry reserve.Thus the flexibility of this formation was superb.Apart from this napoleon also used other strategic march formations.

    ''Aptitude for manuever is the supreme skill of a general.It is the most useful and rarest gift by which genius is estimated'' - Napoleon.

    [​IMG]

    These were used sparingly, compared to the battalion carre mostly due to terrain features obstructing one wing.Note how all advances go along roads.This is where napoleon's planning and preparation came into fore.Quite a few times napoleon's mental calculations could deduce where he would face the enemy[Austerlitz,marengo examples]
    The initial corps dispersion deluded the enemy and then napoleon would 'steal a march' by a rapid forced march at night presenting his stunned enemy with a battle he couldn't win with multiple corps converging on him the next day.

    However this concentration was not just a crude throwing in of every bayonet available.It was equally important that they be dispersed enough to make provision for a outflanking force.And also hide their intention from the enemy.That a single mind controlled hundreds of thousands of men in such a precise and balanced manner day after day for 20 yrs is almost a miracle of human genius.This was perhaps illustrated in a celebrated incident in 1805 when a french regiment on the march had lost its way and its officers were pouring over maps looking for directions.Napoleon's headquarters came across them and on spot bonaparte told the astounded officers what their march route was,the direction and current position of their parent formation,where they were supposed to be over the next few days and even their lodgings!And this was a mere part of a regiment among an army of 200,000 on the march!

    NEXT : NAPOLEON'S OPERATIONAL SYSTEMS OF MANUEVER AND GRAND TACTICS
     
  6. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    316
    Country Flag:
    India
    PART II- NAPOLEON'S OPERATIONAL SYSTEMS OF MANUEVER

    Now that a basic idea about the movement patterns of the french armies has been established we move on to napoleon's methods of strategically checkmating enemy forces .Napoleon never openly disclosed systematic precise methods,prefering only indirect hints and maxims and during the napoleonic wars the allies were unable to really decipher his methods for the most part.Post war 2 scholars - Jomini and Von clausewitz came closest to understanding napoleon's way of war and both had an immense impact on commanders of the 19th centrury such as moltke,schlieffen,Robert lee and stonewall jackson etc.After a century of study by napoleonic scholars 3 systems have emerged as the templates upon which napoleon built his successes.


    [​IMG]
    1) La Manuever Sur les Derrieres or Strategy of the Indirect Approach -

    Napoleon's Favourite Move used as many as 30 times between 1796 to 1815.In french it means literally -'move on to the rear'. In modern terminology as coined by Liddell hart the Indirect Approach attack.
    This was Napoleon's strategy of Superiority/Equity.Used when he had parity or superiority in numbers against a single opposing army.Its aim was to achieve a situation where the battle would be fought on bonaparte's terms.Bonaparte disliked fighting a full frontal battle[to march and face the enemy fully arrayed in a starightforward tactical contest].This strategy entailed for a secondary force [1-2 corps] to pin the enemy down in a feint attack,while napoleon force marched his main force through the nearest flanking route hidden by a cavalry screen and natural obstacle to arrive on the enemy's rear or flank and sever his line of communications.

    [​IMG]

    A manuevre sur le derrieres operation in detail taking into account all possible variations.
    On the extreme left is the french secondary force that diverts enemy attention, any garrisons in nearby areas[optional and conditional] may also serve as diversions.Meanwhile aided by a natural obstacle and covered by a cavalry screen the main army force marches to attack the enemies lines of communication.[Note in this case its a river,it could also be a hill/forest.In 1800 marengo campaign the Alps served as the natural barrier,in 1805 ulm the black forest,in 1806 prussian campaign the thuringwald forest etc].This movement required excellent mobility and very bold leadership and nerve.Once arrived on his enemies flank or rear napoleon whenever possible attempted to set up a 'strategic curtain' based on a natural barrier.All river crossings would be blocked[blocking bridges required very few troops,1-2 regiments],thus isolating his victim from reinforcements ,supply and retreat.If there was possibility of reinforcement a corps of observation could be set up to pin down any approaching reinforcements[This was a rare and conditional variation,as if napoleon was faced by 2 armies he usually reverted to his second move that will be discussed later].After establishing the strategic curtain he then relentlessly advanced on the main enemy army from its rear or flank.Now the enemy had 2 choices fight on unfamiliar ground or even worse be caught from the rear while engaged with secondary force[if he failed to detect the turning movement] or surrender/flee with whatever forces could be salvaged out of the trap.

    Now it seems all too easy on paper.So how would an enemy commander react to napoleon's attempt to turn his flank?
    Advantages of the strategy are high.Enemy would be surprised and his equillibrium shaken at the sudden threat to his rear.An enemy general could attempt 3 things at this juncture.

    1.If he was confident enough he could continue to advance against the french secondary force.
    However Napoleon was always careful to see to it that the pinning force was strong enough to resist for a certain amount of time,and also that it was covered by a river line or nearby fortress.[See the image,secondary force based on easily defensible riverline with fortress nearby for refuge in case of emergency].However the kicker is that even if the enemy was successful in forcing his way through and advanced against the secondary force-he would still be only more and more entangling himself into the trap.Going deeper and deeper into hostile territory,cut off from provisions and a rampaging napoleon about to descend upon him from the rear.

    2.He could attempt to attack Napoleon's main force's overextended Lines of communication[LoC] in turn,trying to cut off the army that is attempting to sever his LoC.However to do such a thing the enemy would have to split his army up piecemeal.One to engage the secondary pinning force in front.One to watch napoleon in the rear and finally the rest to conduct the actual operation.This dispersal would be fatal to the enemy,as napoleon's main army would not oblige to being 'watched' and would descend upon the outnumbered forces with utmost speed and ruthlessness and next on the one engaging the original french secondary force in all probability annihilating both seperately.If napoleon thus linked up with his original secondary force his new lines of communication along the straight route though the secondary force would make the allied attack on his previous LoC irrelevant.
    In any case the french were accustomed to living of the countryside and thus far less vulnerable to temporary disruption in supply than he european armies of the period.Napoleon during a campaign kept his line short and constantly readjusted them,focusing them on a few Centre of operations directly to the armies rear.[shown on diagram- petit palace and centre of operations denote french mobile supply depots changing places].Napoleon was thus prepared to accept a temporary break in his supply columns if it meant placing the enemy army in a scattered and vulnerable position.

    3.Finally,the opposing commander could turn back in a hurry and march to offer battle to napoleon's main force.[the course of action depicted in the diagram]And this is playing Napoleon's game.Battle would be fought on ground chosen by napoleon,and the enemy morale would be shaken and his formations scattered and disorganized by the sudden withdrawal.And he would still require to leave behind a force to contain the original french secondary force or risk being taken in the rear mid-battle.Note that if the enemy army was defeated in such a position in the resulting battle,it would likely be destroyed as its retreat was cut off and french cavalry could conduct a total strategic pursuit.

    [​IMG]

    This move thus devised by napoleon was both deadly and very flexible.Its requirements were to seize the initiative at the outset,consistent bold leadership and movement and high mobility.

    * An allied commander faced with this would require early prompt intelligence of what was afoot[the french turning move]to withdraw or luck.[in 1807 polish campaign bennigsen,the russian commander was aided by a captured french dispatch and was able to thus escape the trap about to close on him]

    * Or they could refuse any prolonged engagement with the secondary force and retreat continously denying any sort of big battle to the french.However this meant usually surrendering key political areas including your capital to the mercy of the french without a fight and required enormous strategic space.[Used by the russians in 1812 and was unique to russia due to her geographic advanatge.]

    * Or the single allied army had to be overwhelmingly big,so numerically superior to the french that even if it was divided piecemeal,the parts could face bonaparte's flanking force on relatively equal terms.[Allied strategy in last years 1813-1814]

    The Indirect Approach attack is a manuevre often used in modern warfare ,though the tools have changed-the concept remains the same.Some of the most famous uses of the Indirect approach except napoleon are the numerous uses in the American Civil war -especially the chancellorsville and peninsular campaigns by Robert Lee and Stonewall Jackson.[both students of the napoleonic style],By von moltke[using planned system of railways for required superior mobility]in 1870 Sedan vs the french.

    [​IMG]
    The German masterplan in the West against France in WWI,the schlieffen plan-laid down by the former head of the german general staff count schlieffen[like moltke a student of von clausewitz,who in turn fought in the napoleonic wars and studied napoleon,his 'god of war'.]
    This is a classic manuever sur les derrieres almost identical to napoleon's famous Ulm operation of 1805.German divisions on the frontier holding the disputed border provinces act as bait and the secondary force,while bulk of the german army swings entering france wide by invading belgium and netherlands. The french who would eager to reclaim lost provinces of alsace and lorraine would advance on the secondary force,and be trapped from the rear against the alps and the rhine in an annhilation envelopment.It came within an hairsbreath of knocking france out,but failed due to passive and hesitant leadership from the german high command and loss of mobility [Foot infantry in later stages vs french emergency reinforcements in automobiles in 'Miracle on the marne']-thus underscoring in both essential requirements.

    It was also employed in the eastern front in WW I against the imperial Russian armies with stunning success.A series of operations culminating in hindenburg and ludendorff routing the russian forces at Tannenburg.[1914]

    German Blitzkrieg of 1940 in france was a combination of the indirect approach and napoleon's second move.The Inchon landing operations in the korean war and recently the 1991 gulf war saw its usage.


    2) Strategy Of The Central Position :


    ''The art of generalship consists in when being inferior to the enemy overall,being superior to him on the battlefield'' - Napoleon.

    Coming back to Napoleon,France was often at war with the bulk of Europe and many times napoleon would be faced by not one but 2 enemy armies .Usually allied armies.In a single contest the french armies were among the largest in europe,but against the combined forces of 2 national armies Napoleon would be at a overall numerical disadvantage.Thus the turning movement was not useful in such a scenario.For this Napoleon fell back on his strategy of central position.It was his Strategy of Inferiority.

    [​IMG]

    PHASE I :


    Above diagram illustrates the initial position.Overall the allied armies outnumber the french,but seperately the french usually outnumbered them[France being the most populous nation fielded large armies].
    1.The french would seize the initiative and march to prevent the unification of the allied armies.First napoleon collected all available intelligence and determined the hinge or weak joint between the enemies strategic dispositions.This joint may be a lightly defended enemy position which could be rapidly overrun and occupied in a surprise attack or in most cases simply a geographical position the french would occupy by rapid movement even before the allied armies had a chance to unite.
    Shielded by a cavalry screen French advance guard and elements of the heavy cavalry reserve achieves a crash concentration and seizes the 'central position'.
    2.Rest of the formations of the battalion carre -The wings and reserve advance and mass on this point.Bonaparte has now succeded in interposing his army between the 2 enemy forces.They now have to operate on 'exterior lines'[Greater distance from one flank to another for the whole of the allied forces] while the french using 'Interior lines' require shorter distances to travel.The advance guard and cavalry meanwhile pushes back the enemy cavalry patrols.The star indicates napoleon's position,probably travelling with the imperial guard.[Guard artillery performs role of army artillery reserve]

    [​IMG]
    PHASE II:

    Now having seized the central position,it would be highly risky to turn the whole french army on one allied force as the other allied army could strike the french from the rear and napoleon would be crushed between 2 numerically superior armies.

    1.To prevent this possibility,The 2 wings move to engage the respective allied armies pinning them down.Napoleon now proceeds to isolate his first adversary confident the other wing can hold for a limited amount of time.The first target is usually the army closest to the central position.
    2.The french light cavalry forms a screen severing all communications between the seperated allied armies.At this point both allied commanders possibly believe they are facing the main french attack.
    3.The french reserve splits in 2 .
    4.One part of the reserve moves to form up on the flank of the right wing thus extending the french line to match the allied one.This new arrival may prompt the allied commander to shift some of his reserves to this wing.
    5.The French advance guard now arrives and makes a flank attack on the other allied flank.This coming in quick succesion to the french reinforcement of the right wing,is sure to confuse to enemy commander.In desperation he releases his final reserves and extends and bends his right flank to contain this new threat frontally.
    6.The rest of the reserve coupled with french heavy cavalry reserve and guard artillery form a 'mass d' decision' ,now are unleashed on the weakened bent of the right right flank to complete his destruction.The allied commander with no more reserves can't respond effectively.

    [​IMG]

    PHASE III :


    1.The French right wing and light cavalry[formerly acting as screen] continues heavy pursuit of the defeated allied army.While the mass of decision after doing its work regroups .
    2.Advance guard turns back and marches to form up alongside the near exhausted french left wing engaged with the other allied army thus reinforcing and extending the line.It may prompt allied commander to disptach some reserves in this direction.
    3.The former mass d' decision marches to the aid of the other french army.
    4 and 5.The other half of the reserve previously acting as flank reinforcement in the earlier battle now force marches the greater distance and arrives suddenly at the left flank of the second allied army,thus playing the role that the aldvance guard played in the first battle.
    6.In the same sequence,final allied reserves are expended to meet this new threat as allied commander predictably bends his right .Again the mass of decision and cavalry reserve are unleashed on the hinge to complete the rout.

    Thus by brilliant operational manuevering an inferior french force overall could concentrate and achieve battlefield numerical superiority in both cases in a classic exapmle of a 'defeat in detail'.The requirements for the central position tactic was again- 'Seize the initiative,bold movement and leadership and finally reasonably able subordinates[who could pin an army in place for a certain time and also carry out the pursuit of the defeated army with vigour to prevent it regrouping [something that happened at waterloo-Marshal grouchy failed to properly pursue prussians under blucher resulting in him suddenly appearing to wellington's aid midst-second battle].

    Drawbacks of this type of battle were that napoleon couldn't be present in both sectors in person,and more importantly-the need to immediately turn back on the second allied army meant that a total pursuit of the first was not possible,as in the case of a manuever sur les derrieres battle,and chances of a decisive success were lower.After thes econd battle too french army was likely to be exhausted from 2 battles and incessant marching within a very short period of time and pursuit would not be as effective.

    The Strategy of the Central Position was used several times in the american civil war,as well as being used on a grand strategic scale by the germans in WW1 and israelis in 1967 and 1973.Rommel used it in his tunisian campaign.

    The german blitzkreig of 1940 in France was briliant combination of both the central position and the indirect approach .[i will not expand on this as next battle report will do so]

    [​IMG]
    3) Strategic Penetration -

    Napoleon's third move was simple and was often a launching board for his 2 other techniques.The strategic Penetration technique was used when napoleon found the enemy holding a broad front cordon type defensive line.The french achieved a rapid concentration at one point and broke through the enemy front in a narrow frontage.Once inside the enemies lines napoleon would the commence operations using his above 2 techniques.This method in reality was still one in development,because campaigns at this time were still decided by field battles the 3rd technique alone would not be decisive yet.However a century later in an era where the broad front trench warfare was norm,it would be the germans who would fully develop it and give it its ultimate shape.In form of narrow panzer spearheeads to rupture an enemy front followed by rapid infiltration,exploitation and eventual encirclement in their own unique way ['kesselschlacht'-next battle report]what became known as blitzkrieg.

    Strategic Pursuit -

    A key feature of napoleonic warfare and one of nappy's cherished goals was the total annihilation of an enemy army after a battle by strategic pursuit with cavalry.This tall ask was however achieved completely only twice- in 1806 prussia and in Italy 1796.

    Napoleon formulated his methods of war before 1796 and all these would on frequent display in 1796 campaign,though initially in a crude embryonic fashion.As they were refined over the decade,they would be unleashed on the hapless armies and generals of europe.

    A key thing to note about these strategies are their relative modernity.This was the first real systemization of operational strategy in military history and forms napoleon's legacy.

    NEXT: Napoleon's Grand Tactics
     
  7. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    316
    Country Flag:
    India
    PART III :NAPOLEON'S GRAND TACTICS

    [​IMG]
    In the earlier post we have seen how napoleon set up his battles using strategy so as to gain a almost insurmountable advantage even before the contest had begun.But how did he actually win the battles?

    Napoleon's Battles have been generally divided into 2 types.

    1]The 'Strategic Battle' or 'Battle of Manuever' -


    The battle of manuever or Strategic Battle was Napoleon's favourite.Elements of it have already been described in the last post under central position.It consisted of essentially a massive tactical flanking move supported by firepower and shock.Napoleon's strategic dispositions would constantly upset the enemies equillibrium as new formations arrived from different directions.Since strategy to a large extent determined the success of this form of battle its called 'Strategic battle'.These often consisted of his greatest victories.

    [​IMG]

    1.Elements of the french light cavalry screen make contact with enemy main body.They swiftly fall back and notify french command.
    2.The leading divisions/corps of the advance guard immediately advances to engage in a pinning operation against the enemy army.
    3.They are swiftly reinforced by the nearest corps from wings,main body or rest of advance guard.These advance and form up on the flanks of the first force,extending the line and settling into a prolonged frontal pinning battle.
    4.The cavalry screen moves to the flanks as a screen and flank protection.
    5.Rest of the french army rapidly approaching.

    [​IMG]

    1.Inconclusive Frontal battle ongoing along the front.
    2.As more French formations arrive,they concentrate on one enemy flank.Usually the one closest to the enemies line of Communication.
    3.Seeing this reinforcement of the french force,the allied commander moves his initial reserve to prevent it from outflanking his frontline.At this point he might be shaken by constant french reinforcement and attempt a desperate push which would only play into napoleon's hands as that would mean emptying of all his reserves against the next stage that is coming.
    4.At this point the Heavy artillery of the 2 french corps of the right flank[II and III] are massed into a 'grand battery' to pound the austrian line in this sector.
    5.Behind this action,Another french corps -usually the one under the best subordinate commander.Conducts a rapid flank march hidden by the light cavalry screen,aiming to arrive across the enemy's LoC.The Enemy army distracted by heavy pressure on the front of the flank and steady frontal pinning action is oblivious to this new threat.
    6.The last of the french reserves arrive arrive usually with the imperial guard and the heavy cavalry reserve ,they are being steadily concentrated behind the main body to form 'Mass de' Decision'[Or mass of Rupture].

    [​IMG]

    1.Napoleon judges the situation,once confident that the enemy has already deployed a large part of his reserves he gives the preagreed signal.[Maybe a dispatch,a flag signal or usually a simultaneous cannonade by a number of guns twice or thrice in pre timed intervals].Now from behind the cavalry screen the enveloping force would suddenly reveal itself approaching the enemies rear.
    2.Now,almost simultaneously the french would begin a general vigorous pinning attack all along the line preventing any troops from being moved from these sectors.
    3.Once the allied general sees the suddenly appearing flanking force about to descend on him,he would in panic quickly attempt to extend his flank and create a new line to face this.To do this he would deploy his final remaining reserves.Also before the reserves could deploy time would have to be bought by scraping up a line from whatever troops were nearmost.These being the rear battalions of the nearest flank.This sector already under heavy grand battery fire would thus be further weakened.
    4.This weakening of the enemy sector and deployment of his final reserves is Napoleon's 'Moment' of the battle.

    ''In battle there is but one moment,the great art is to seize it.It is the one drop of water that makes the cup tip over '' -Napoleon.

    Now the imperial guard artillery would released from the reserve.Its elite fresh horse batteries would gallop up and unlimber at almost point blank range,joining the general grande battery in the onslaught of canister.The weakened enemy sector would bear the brunt of this savage firepower.
    5.Behind the grande battery,the mass of decision begins it advance usually formed up by infantry divisions in giant assault columns or Mixed order formation supported by packed ranks of steel clad cuirassiers of the heavy cavalry reserve.Its target is the hinge or junction of the bent allied flank already weakened by stripping of reserves,exhausted by constant fighting and mauled by savage artillery bombardment.

    [​IMG]
    1.Determined renewed pinning attacks all along the line.
    2 and 3.Closely following the massive artillery bombardment of the chosen weak sector would be massed shock charges by armoured heavy cuirassiers of the cavalry reserve.Wave after wave would be hurled in to smash the remaining enemy lines of this sector with brute force.Mostly they would succeed ,however even if some held out.Behind the cuirassiers the advancing french infantry assault columns and imperial guard would finally crush all resistance and rupture the allied flank.[Infantry formed in squares to resist cuirassiers being highly vulnerable to french infantry and artillery]
    4.With the collapse of the allied flank the light cavalry would now swiftly move through and begin the pursuit ,placing themselves along the fleeing enemies LoC for Maximum effect.
    5.As the rest of the allied army attempted to retreat they would have the unenviable job of doing so with their retreat route blocked by the french and the french cavalry around them.

    Thus the enemy army could be dealt a devastating blow by carefully combining strategy with battlefield tactics.

    2)FRONTAL BATTLE OR BATTLE OF ATTRITION -

    The second type of battle was the attrition battle.The frontal battle resembled the normal conventional battles of the era,with 2 armies slugging it out fully arrayed in a contest of attrition.Napoleon disliked this type and used it only when no other alternative was present.

    [​IMG]

    The basic premise was usually a penetration of the centre attack.After initial reconssaince to identify a likely weak spot in the enemy line,pinning attacks would launched on other sectors.Now massive quantities of artillery would be massed in grande batteries on this point and pounded constantly until it began to break under sheer volume of fire.This type of battle was likened by napoleon to be similar to a siege.

    [​IMG]
    Finally after wearing it down with massive firepower,the heavy cavalry reserve would be unleashed in massed squadrons to tear open a hole through the remnants with brute force like a battering ram.They would be followed closely by the mass of rupture[the reserve and guard infantry].Once they expanded the hole they had hacked through and broken the enemy center,light cavalry would swarm through and begin pursuit.
    This type of battle was costly and often resulted in pyrrhic victories,and even a rare defeat.[Waterloo-failed because blucher's arriving prussians diverted all reserves needed to expand the gap in wellington's center].Although Napoleon did win a few decisive battles even with this type of battle [Eg-Freidland] he generally tended to avoid it.

    CONTD.
     
  8. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    316
    Country Flag:
    India
    BONAPARTE'S ARRIVAL

    [​IMG]
    The newly appointed 26-year-old commander in chief of the French Army of Italy arrived at his headquarters in Nice on March 27, 1796.A trio of generals,his would be subordinates -all of them more senior soldiers than him, awaited with smirks to meet this new political appointment who had earned his rank by mowing down the paris mob.First of them to the left,Andre' Massena -38 years old born in Nice ,former fruit vendor and smuggler.Fond of both women and money but a very capable soldier.With the revolution had rapidly risen through the ranks and was now a soldier with vast practical experience,having won great reknown in the battle of loano a year earlier.Massena was to become One of napoleon's greatest battlefield marshals and earn the title 'The dear child of victory'.Massena had met napoleon once briefly earlier at toulon.
    Pierre Augereau.A product of the paris slums.The hook nosed braggart had earlier served in both russian and prussian armies and deserted from both.With the revolution he had rapidly risen through the ranks.An ardent republican,adventurer and swordsman he was popular with the soldiers.Not as good as massena,he was nonetheless an able tactician and a determined fighter-especially with his backs to the wall.Another future battlefield marshal.

    [​IMG]
    General Serurier.The senior most of the lot with 34 years in the ex-royal army.A cautious and meticulous commander but not with any great record of battlefield success.A future senatorial marshal.The youthful commander, who according to one contemporary looked more like a mathematician than a general, eagerly showed the portrait of his beautiful new wife, Josephine de Beauharnais, to the amused older soldiers.When he began to discuss the campaign to come, however, their impression of General Napoleon Bonaparte abruptly changed.
    Augereau confided to Massena that this 'little bastard of a General' frightened him.
    ''His look froze my blood'' - Augereau.
    Massena recounted -
    ''He put on his General's hat,' 'and seemed to have grown two feet. He questioned us on the position of our divisions, on the spirit and effective forces of each corps, prescribed the course we were to follow, announced that he would hold an inspection on the morrow and on the following day attack the enemy.'!​
    All three divisional generals were impressed by their commander's energy and commitment to their future success.In a single meeting Bonaparte had imposed his authority on his subordinates by force of personality.

    [​IMG]
    The young general also brought with him a small retinue including the colonel of cavalry -Joachim Murat,who had aided him in putting down the paris mob.A dashing and recklessly brave cavalryman with a superb eye for the charge,but little talent for anything else.Future-brother in law of Napoleon and his marshal of cavalry.The so named 'First saber of Europe'.Jean Lannes,another future marshall was already serving in the army of italy.

    [​IMG]
    Louis Alexander Berthier.Napoleon's chief of Staff and future marshal.It was to him to organize and efficiently send out detailed dispatches conforming to napoloen's orders to all the corps/divisions day in and day out.With a memory and capacity for work near equal to napoleon, he would serve him till 1814 as one of great Chiefs of staffs in history.However he had no aptitude for strategy himself and was found at a loss in napoleon's absence.
    Also present was Auguste Marmont,an artillery specialist and friend of Napoloen.Another future marshal,he would desert him at the end.

    Now the general turned to inspect the 'Army' he had inherited and begun to understand why none of the 3 senior general had been keen to assume command when the previous overall commander resigned.On paper he had 54,000 men.But 37,000 were fit for service.Rest being sick or deserted.
    Morale was low,supplies were short,the soldiers had recieved no pay for years,Most had no proper uniforms,shoes and were in rags,some didn't even have muskets.Penned up in the ligurian mountains,with the austrians and piedmontese on 2 sides and nelson's royal navy at their back on the coast ,situation was dire.Cavalry horses were in half rations for half a year,artillery was in short supply -Hunger and neglect had led to a situation where the army was rapidly disintegrating.Taking advantage royalist agents were in the ranks inciting mutiny.2 days before his arrival, young Bonaparte faced a mutiny of the 209th Demibrigade, which refused to move forward, claiming it had no money or shoes.Grasping the gravity of the situation ,bonaparte determined that only a successful offensive could save the army and take it into the plains,out from the barren mountains.As he reviewed his skeptical soldiers he resorted to oratory -

    [​IMG]

    ''Soldiers! You are hungry and naked; the Government owes you much but can give you nothing. The patience and courage which you have displayed among these rocks are admirable, but they bring you no glory–not a glimmer falls upon you. I will lead you into the most fertile plains in the world. Rich provinces, opulent towns, all shall be at your disposal; there you will find honor, glory, and riches. Soldiers of Italy! Will you be found wanting in courage or steadfastness?' -

    Napoleon in his First address.


    (Note the pragmatic and brutally realistic style of the speech.No babbling on the 'rights of man' and liberty as was the norm for the then republican generals.A direct appeal to the soldier's honour and courage coupled with a cunning and realistic lure to the greed and sense of materialism of the motley group of starving scarecrows.)

    He succeeded in winning the soldiers over and instilling hope in them.But to carry out his promise he needed immediate success.Providing for a minimum time of reorganization and re-equipment he quickly dealt with looters and embezzlers,stiffened discipline,secured a loan by bullying the bank of genoa to pay at least some soldiers for the moment as the army of italy -Bonaparte's soon to be 'Heroes in rags' prepared to take the offensive.

    Meanwhile,austrian intelligence had also noted the arrival of the young commander and described him as more of a theorist than a general.General Beaulieu,commander of the austrian army caustically remarking -''It would be a pleasure to teach the fundamentals of war to this brat of a buonaparte''.

    An epic campaign was about to begin.

    NEXT :CAMPAIGN BEGINS
     
  9. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    316
    Country Flag:
    India
    MONTENOTTE CAMPAIGN -DEFEAT OF PIEDMONT

    [​IMG]
    The overall strategic situation in 1796.The bulk of both the armies of france and austria are concentrated in the rhine theater.The french armies under Moreau and Jourdan oppose that of the Archduke Charles and Marshal Wurmser.
    Aside from this Austria also has a reserve army[usually of second rate troops] further inland acting as an army of observation watching the prussians.2 small french armies under Kellerman(18,000) and Hoche(15,000) Garrison the coast and the alpine passes.Note these are not field armies.They are mostly a collection of strung out detatchments covering the alpine passes from any austrian intrusion,and the french coast from british seaborne landings and raids.The royal navy is active in both the channel and the mediterranean.The main effort was to be made in the german theatre while the italian theatre was to be a secondary one to distract the attention and resources of habsburg austria.At least that was the directory's plan.

    [​IMG]

    THE ITALIAN THEATRE :

    A closeup of the situation in italy.Refering to top image.The light yellow boundary denotes the ligurian mountains which seperates the enemy armies.French are penned up in the mountains with the coast on their back and strung out.Their LOC runs along the coast.Massena's Forces form the right flank of bonaparte's army.It comprises of the divisions of Laharpe and Meynier.A detatchment from laharpe's division -Cervoni's brigade is situated far out on the extreme right holding Voltri in a rather isolated position.This exposed position was the result of the directory's attempt to bully the tiny republic of genoa for money.The previous commander,Scherer had thus sent this force of under cervoni of around 6,000 men towards genoa.On his arrival bonaparte suspended this movement away from the main body,but the withdrawal back into the main force had not yet been accomplished.It however served as a distraction for the main austrian army.In total Laharpe,Meynier and Cevorni's commands made up the forces nominally subordinated to Massena.This was the largest of the french divisions in the Army of italy.The centre was formed By the division of Augereau.The Left wing by the division under serurier located adjacent to augereau's force.

    The other blue oval partly visible in the diagram at the extreme bottom left,represents about 7,000 troops in small detatchments garrisoning fortresses and protecting the french LoC back to mainland france.These are not available for field duty.Thus inspite of his nominal strength of 58,000,bonaparte in reality has around 37,500 available for field service.

    Ranged against these are the forces of austria and piedmont.On the left are the piedmontese under general Colli with around 20,000.He is supported by an auxillary austrian force under general provera based near Ceva.[If u search hard u can see Ceva inside the piedmontese army deployment area ]On the top right u can see partially see another piedmontese force.These were around 20,000 second rate troops under Corrigan guarding the alpine passes in small detatchments and garrisons,exactly the same role Kellerman's force was doing on the french side.Thus Kellerman and Corrigan cancelled each other out and none of these field armies capable for independent operations of large scale.On the Right is the main austrian army under overall command of general Beaulieu.Nominally 35,000 strong -The division of general Argentau was the closest to the french numbering 11,500 men.Beaulieu personally had a further 20,000 odd under himself.Of these half were in forward positions under Vukassovich and Sebotendorff.The rest were held further back in garrisons and reserve around the main austrian supply base at the fortress of Alessandria.
    (Note in the map there are 2 black dots at edge of the austrian battle area,if u look very closely the names Montenotte and Dego u might be able to see - Keep them in mind.These locations will assume importance later)

    In all The french had 37,500 effective troops on the field to the allied 52,000.On paper this would be overwhelming for the french if concentrated,but as of yet they were still somewhat dispersed[so were the french for that matter] and relations between Colli and Beaulieu were patchy.Bonaparte understood however if he could achieve a rapid concentration on chosen sectors he may be able to gain a temporary numerical superiority on the battlefield even while being outnumbered overall,before the austrians had a chance to finish their concentration.
    Now i will discuss the operational movements in depth.Unlike in battles it would be difficult to describe this one step at a time.So i will present the movements of the armies during a set time period as a whole,then describe those events in detail.

    [​IMG]

    PHASE I OF MONTENOTTE CAMPAIGN - FROM VOLTRI TO DEGO


    To understand the above diagram key is to follow the dates to get the sequence of events.Also note that the dotted lines represent roads-the nodes of the movement of armies.Whenever i mention a place scroll back to check the above diagram for better understanding.The above diagram is the key to follow the events below.

    1) Beaulieu attacks Cervoni's isolated force at the battle of Voltri.The campaign has thus began ahead of bonaparte's schedule.Cervoni manages a fighting retreat and links up with bonaparte's main force.

    2) Argentau attacks the advance elements of Laharpe's division at Monte Legino redoubt but is held off in a desperate effort just long enough for Laharpe to arrive with his main body and push the austrians back.

    3) French advance on Montenotte .Laharpe pins Argentau frontally.Rest of Massena's command -Meynier's division [bonaparte in person is with this force] conducts a flank march and arrives on argentau's exposed side in the battle of montenotte.Battle of Montenotte is Napoleon's first pitched battle.French have now seized the central position at Carcare-Montenotte area.

    4) Mauled Argentau retreats to dego.Bonaparte identifies Dego as the new startegic position to be seized to pin the austrians down and prevent Beaulieu from uniting with Colli.[recall the sequence of the central position tactic in earlier posts]

    5) Meanwhile acc to Bonaparte's plan,Serurier advances to fix the attention of the Main Piedmontese army .Augeareau moves in from the flank but is held up at Milisemo-Cosseria.He finally takes cosseria.Further increasing the gap between the piedmontese and the austrians.

    6) Part of Augereau's force is ordered to swing back and joins massena and bonaparte for a united strike on Dego.French rout argentau's remnants and reinforcements at the battle of dego and seize the central position,isolating Colli from Beaulieu.Beaulieu's desperate last minute reinforcements arriving from voltri under vukossavich arrive too late at Dego to prove more than a temporary hindrance.
    Now i will describe the events outlined above in detail.

    THE RESPECTIVE PLANS :

    The campaign began against all expectations when Beaulieu goaded by Cervoni's now suspended movement against Genoa was roused into action.The austrian plan was simple - 2 columns under Vukossavich and Sebetendorff would envelop Cervoni's brigade and secure Genoa.The rest of Beaulieu's force would then fall back to alessandria leaving behind a sufficient blocking detatchment before Genoa.They would then regroup and this time advance along bormida valley to join argentau and the piedmontese for a general assault.Argentau meanwhile was to advance on Laharpe's position seperating him from Massena and hold until beaulieu arrived again with the main body.
    Bonaparte had not been idle either.His instructions from the directory were to treat the piedmontese mildly in hope of a settlement with them,bonaparte however determined on an immediate and ruthless attack to knock the piedmontese out of the war.Napoleon understood piedmont was war weary,but to focus on austria he had to secure his rear first.Bonaparte planned to seize the central position between the 2 armies which he identified as the town of Carcare(see map) with a combined drive by Massena and augereau.Laharpe would support their advnace.Serurier and Cervoni were to serve as diversions on the extreme flanks.He would then leave a pinning force to keep the austrians at bay in the vicinity of Dego and advance with the bulk of his forces on Colli and his isolated Piedmontese in a classic application of his Strategy of the central position.The plan was practical and would give Beaulieu little time to reinforce the threatened sector.The alternatives -an attack over the tanaro valley against the piedmontese was hindered by rough ground and distance and a concentrated drive towards genoa following cervoni would require redployment giving beaulieu time and would leave his rear vulnerable to a piedmontese descent.The whole operation was to begin on 15th april 1796.

    [​IMG]

    Battle of voltri and The defense of Monte legino -
    In reality however things didn't go acc to plan.The austrians opened the campaign late on the 10th with an attack on Voltri taking napoleon by surprise.Cervoni however managed to conduct a skillful fighting rereat along the coastal road .This attack however had made it clear to napoleon the place of beaulieu's main effort.

    Meanwhile Argentau advanced on Laharpe aiming for the main french supply base at Savonna.He was held up at Monte Legino Redoubt by a french holding force under Col.Rampon.The difficult terrain and steep hillsides of Monte Legino redoubt and the courage of the defenders led by Rampon held up the austrian army,despite large numerical superiority.Colonel Rampon, with 32nd DB Ligne flag in hand, holding the small Monte Negino redoubt. The oath he made his soldiers swear….”It is here, my friends that we must conquer or die”.
    The late afternoon struggle for this small mountain redoubt, with several bloody assaults , ended with the Austrian army retiring for the night and renewing the effort the next day.

    Napoleon's Response-
    Bonaparte had got word of Cervoni's retreat and The attack on Monte Legino by late afternoon on the 11th.He could send relief forces in both directions and try to stabilize the situation,but that would be reacting to the enemy and ceding the initiative.As the saying in war goes- ''Never reinforce Failure''.Instead he resolved to counterattack and go ahead with his original offensive plan with minor modifications.
    'Realizing his advantage of interior lines and ignoring Beaulieu who was too far away for the moment, he brought forward his own offensive battle plans and issued his march orders for rapid concentration of three divisions in the Bormida river valley, centered on Carcare. Two divisions under GD Massena (Meynier and La Harpe) would come from the south and east and one (Augereau) from the southwest. The former Voltri defenders (Cervoni brigade) will march westwards crossing the shoreline hills to reach Savona and rejoin Massena. This would give General Bonaparte 20-30,000 troops massed in a fairly small area, just south and near the junction of the two allied armies.'

    'The only Austrian forces within range of the area of concentration were FML Argenteau’s 9,000 men, mostly engaged below Monte Negino, and GM Provera’s Auxiliary Corps numbering 2,000 near Millesimo. FZM Beaulieu’s Voltri campaign forces were returning back over the Ligurian mountain passes, marching to support Argenteau from distant Acqui. The small column under Colonel Vukassovich return marched along mountain ridge roads towards Sassello, with the aim to link up with FML Argenteau near Dego on April 15th. FML Colli and the Piedmontese army remained entrenched and stationary around Ceva with small forward detachments.

    [​IMG]

    BATTLE OF MONTENOTTE :

    Overnight Laharpe reinforced Monte legino with his full strength and brought cannon up the heights.In the morning understanding his chances of taking the strongpoint was now zero,Argentau slowly retreated towards Montenotte Superior.Laharpe followed with vigour seeking to pin Argentau down.French cannons began firing from Monte Negino on the Austrians below them.
    Meanwhile Meynier's division of Massena's command with Bonaparte in person makes a rapid flank march.Shortly afterward, Masséna's soldiers launched their attack on the weakly held Austrian right flank, swamping the defenders with superior numbers.By now the french had 9000-14,000 men against Argentau's 7000-9000. Argenteau deployed the Stein and Pellegrini battalions under Nesslinger to hold the center and assigned the two Archduke Anton battalions to defend the left flank on Monte Pra. Then he took the Alvinczi battalion to the rescue of the 3rd Terzi battalion on his right flank. While Masséna overwhelmed Argenteau's right, Laharpe fell on the Austrians defending Monte Pra. At first the Austrians conducted a stout defense. But Masséna's assault made such rapid progress that Argenteau ordered a retreat. The 3rd Terzi battalion was nearly destroyed and Nesslinger's two battalions were badly cut up. In the Austrian retreat from Montenotte Superiore, the Alvinczi battalion provided the rear guard. The battalion had to fight its way out, losing its color and many soldiers. Argenteau's men barely cleared out of Montenotte Inferiore before Masséna's and Laharpe's flanking forces converged on the hamlet. By 9:30 AM the battle was over.Napoleon Bonaparte had won his first battle.

    The escape from Montenotte was disastrous for the austrians as the survivors scattered in all directions.The french had lost 880 killed and wounded while argentau had lost 2500 and 12 guns.He retreated in disarray towards Dego hoping to link up with Beaulieu's forces from Acqui.However his effective command had been reduced to a mere 700 men.He reported in a dispatch to Beaulieu that 'his command was almost destroyed'.

    [​IMG]

    ENGAGEMENT AT MILISEMO-COSSERIA :


    The french don't pause to celebrate.'General Bonaparte gave orders to march from their central position around Carcare and Montenotte and start the campaign against the Sardinian – Piedmontese army under FML Colli near Ceva. General Massena was to march towards Dego and determine the strength of the Austrian positions that afternoon, General La Harpe to Cairo from Montenotte Superiore after chasing the remains of Argenteau’s forces. General Augereau to Millesimo then attack today towards Montezemolo further west near Ceva . General Serurier towards the southern flank of Colli’s entrenched position at Ceva.'Bonaparte's already unreliable supply train was breaking down and french forces were running hungry.A central reserve of 6 battalions and bulk of what little cavalry the french had under Stengel were kept at carcare to rapidly reinforce any of the 2 sectors in a emergency.

    Thus,Bonaparte planned to swing the main weight of his offensive to the west against the 21,000-strong Sardinian army. To keep Beaulieu's Austrian army from interfering, the French commander sent half of massena's division to seize Dego[other half under Laharpe to aid augereau against the sardinians] to the north and block the lilkely route of austrian reinforcements.However things didn't go all to plan.Augereau's march was delayed first by a lack of shoes.Many were distributed muskets captured from the austrians at montenotte.
    Initially augereau quickly swept away the allied outposts near Milisemo but the french advance was stopped cold at the fortress of Cosseria by a 1000 piedmontese and austrian grenadiers against 6000 french.3 costly attacks proved futile. Bonaparte arrived in person to inspect the situation. -

    “You are surrounded on all sides. Your resistance would only cause the spilling of blood without gaining any advantage. If in a quarter of an hour you do not all give yourselves up as prisoners, I shall show mercy to no one.” -

    Napoleon's letter to Provera.His demands for surrender were scornfully rejected by the opposing commander Provera leading the austrian provisional corps plus piedmontese grenadiers.Bonaparte's bluff had been called.

    ‘this blasted castle will force us to turn back to the Riviera.’ -A frustrated Napoleon.

    [​IMG]

    BATTLE OF DEGO :


    Meanwhile more bad news arrived.Massena sent word that a sizeable austrian force was holding Dego.Understanding
    time was not on his side Bonaparte changed his plans and again swung the weight of his forces against the austrians aiming for Dego.Leaving augereau with one brigade to surround Cosseria,he took the other brigade under Joubert(injured and so not leading in person) along with the Laharpe's forces(which were near Cairo) and turned back to join Massena for a united attack on Dego.

    Beaulieu had ordered Argentau to hold Dego for 2 days until the 15th-16th when he could arrive with the main body.Argentau tried his best by collecting available reinforcements from the area and the survivors of Montenotte.Late on the 13th he also requested Vukassovich to hurry to his aid.

    However Bonaparte didn't give them any time.After forced marching,on early the 14th The french 3-prong attack under Masssena bolstered by the forces Bonaparte had assembled[Laharpe's force,part of joubert's brigade minus joubert and Stengel's cavalry from the reserve at Carcare] swept away the outnumbered Austrians from multiple directions.12,000 frenchmen having been concentrated against 6000 austrians.For 1500 casualities french inflicted 3000 and captured 19 guns.With this Argentau's command was nearly totally crushed and the remnants fled towards Acqui.

    To cap off this success on the morning of the 14th news arrived that Cosseria had finally capitulated.It had cost the french 900 casualities while the austrians had suffered only 100 dead.However the rest of the force around 900 became prisoners to augereau's forces.

    Leaving Massena to occupy Dego and block any advance by Beaulieu ,napoleon returned west with Laharpe and Joubert's force to unite with Augereau and Serurier and then focus his entire attention on Colli.

    However the drama at Dego was not yet over.For the starving french troops,'Discipline now completely broke down, starved and hungry soldiers went on a rampage of looting and search for food.Disintegration and abandonment of duty which officers and generals were unable to contain. Churches were looted, the town of Dego searched and sacked from end to end for food and valuables. The long cold and rainy night added to slackening professional vigilance, encouraging the French looters to remain under shelter of the town houses.'

    [​IMG]
    At this juncture on dawn 15th,Vukassovich suddenly appeared from the fog with the french scattered and lying drunk all over the town.Predictably the french were totally routed and driven out in disarray.Massena himself was caught in bed with a woman and fled in his nightshirt.Vukassovich promptly began to improve the defences of Dego and await Beaulieu who was to arrive the next day.

    On hearing of the reverse,a furious bonaparte countermarched back to Dego with the cursing troops of Laharpe.Meanwhile massena rallied his men and after joining with bonaparte and subjecting them to a verbal dressing down,the french again rushed forward like in the previous day to sawrm the outnumbered austrians of Vukassovich.12,000-15,000 french concentrating on 3500 austrians.The battle was however brutal.'Platoons fought platoons, companies exchanged musketry in the smoke of battle as Austrian redoubt cannon lashed apart French formations. GD La Harpe’s infantry forded the Bromida river again as the previous day, losing General Causse in a reckless assault near Plano as the battle raged. Victor’s troops spread out as skirmishers and gave support, a counterattack by brigadier Leczeny forced back the 51st DB. General Massena was everywhere on foot, leading, pushing, returning Frenchmen into the brawl as Colonel Vukassovich was likewise cheering forward his brave infantry.'Finally around 4 pm on the 15th austrians broke.French suffered 938 casualities and the austrians 1,757.The surrounding countryside was subjected to another round of plunder ,this time led by Laharpe's exhausted men.

    Bonaparte expected Beaulieu's arrival and spent the entire 16th preparing for such a possibility at Dego.He sent probing patrols to determine the austrian intentions.
    Beaulieu however had had enough.After suffering 3 defeats and Argentau's command being wiped out,he believed HE was about to be subjected to a major french attack.He fell back on Acqui to regroup.Bonaparte finally convinced of Beaulieu's inactivity left Laharpe to hold Dego and marched west to settle affairs with Colli.

    NEXT: PHASE II OF MONTENOTTE CAMPAIGN (The whole italian campaign 1796-1797 will consist of 6 mini-campaigns like the montenotte campaign.These earliest battles are small and not in detail,but later ones will be big and far more extensive)
     
  10. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    316
    Country Flag:
    India
    PHASE II OF THE MONTENOTTE CAMPAIGN - DEGO TO MONDOVI

    [​IMG]
    (As usual consult this map to explain events)​
    On the late 16th Bonaparte left Laharpe at Dego(The movement shown here is of a later date) ,and sent the rest of Massena's division towards San Benedetto so as to be ready to fall on Beaulieu's right flank if he advanced on Laharpe at Dego or alternatively support Augereau on the other flank.He himself transfered his headquarters from Carcare to Milisemo along with the bulk of the artillery.Meanwhile Serurier advanced from the Tanaro valley towards Ceva and Augereau had already made probing attacks towards it.

    [​IMG]

    THE BATTLE OF CEVA :

    Augereau in the meantime with 8,000 men had begun a somewhat premature attack on Ceva on the 16th itself.Colli however had realized beaulieu was now out of supporting distance and was already preparing to withdraw.6000 men under count Vital forming the rearguard garrisoned the fortified sector at Ceva fortress.Above shows Ceva fortress and its surrounding redoubts.The entrenched camp at Ceva was an excellent defensive position.
    At about noon, the French launched a number of uncoordinated attacks. To the north, Joubert’s column, fearing being outflanked from Mombarcaro, soon retreated in disorder. Meanwhile, two attack columns of Augereau’s division advanced toward La Pedaggera and Bric Bastia. After an initial failure, the French, with some artillery support, succeeded in taking the latter. Farther south, Rusca advanced to exploit a gap in the Piedmontese deployment, but a counterattack from the Mondoni Redoubt pushed him back. Their line restored, the Piedmontese forced the enemy to evacuate Bric Bastia.At this point, Augereau decided to give up and decided to await serurier's arrival.The battle of Ceva had cost 600 french casualities to 150 piedmontese.However with serurier advancing from their exposed right flank overnight the piedmontese abandoned the fortress except a tiny garrison of 500 and withdrew towards the main piedmontese body at behind the corsaglia river line near La bicocia(check corsaglia river in map).French seized Ceva immediately afterward.

    [​IMG]

    THE CORSAGLIA LINE- ST MICHELE:


    Bonaparte,furious at the enemy's escape, harried his forces to pursue with utmost speed,but colli beat a skillful retreat.On the 18th the exhausted troops of Serurier and attempted to force a engagement at La bicocia/St Michelle .
    The corps of Baron Colli still had 12,000 infantrymen and 2,000 cavalrymen. Some units were in or near the town of Mondovì, some miles to the rear. The Tanaro - Corsaglia Rivers line, was meant - in the conditions Colli was finding himself in - as a delaying area to slow down the French advance.
    'The core of the line was the fortified hill of la Bicocca di San Giacomo, where a bridge across the Corsaglia lay. The first line, right on the river bank, was made up by two grenadier battalions (8th and 9th, 800 men in all) led by a highly respected fighting man, Marquis Dichat. The bridge was garrisoned by the 2nd Swiss Grenadier company from the Christ Regiment, a light artillery battery with 2 guns and a heavy one with 6 guns. Behind them, on the hill, stood 2,000 men: two Guards battalions, one Savoy battalion, one Maurienne battalion, two grenadier battalions under Varax, a Savoyard officer of proven ability. The force was led by two excellent Piedmontese officers, brigadier Chiusa (a veteran grenadier commander) and brigadier Civalieri.Along the left sector of the line, Colli deployed 10 battalions with 3,400 infantry (of whom, 1,000 Austrians) and 1,500 dragoons, under brigadier Brempt. These troops should also keep the line of retreat of the whole corps safe and open.On the center, 13 infantry battalions with 4,000 men and 300 cavalrymen of the Royal Piedmont Regiment.On the right, 2,000 men including some Royal Grenadiers, Nice Chasseurs, Light Legion troops. The main stronghold was the Jesus Chapel of San Michele, on a hill, defended by Captain Radicati di Primeglio with Light Legion elements and an artillery battery. The 1st Grenadier battalion from the Chiusano regiment connected the stronghold to the village of San Michele.
    All along the line, several very well placed artillery batteries added firepower to the defense. The line, however, had one serious flaw. The Bicocca stronghold formed sort of a bulge towards the French lines, and almost prompted a two-prongs attack from the north and the south to cut it off from the defensive line. Which was exactly what the French planned to do.The line was garrisoned by 8,000 men in all.'

    'Bonaparte devised to use two divisions (Augereau and Sérurier), each with 6,000 men, possibly reinforced by a third one (Masséna), to carry out a hammer-and-anvil plan. Sérurier would attack the southern sector of the line, Augereau the center. Once crossed the river and pushed the defenders back, Augereau would play the anvil, and Sérurier - wheeling to his right, to the north - the hammer. After the destruction of the bulk of the enemy corps, its left wing would have been easily disposed of. Sérurier had at his disposal a relatively important cavalry force of 14 squadrons under generals Beaumont and Stengel. Those should be used after Sérurier's breakthrough to cut the Sardinian line of retreat.'In the night between 18 and 19 April, Bonaparte ordered to attack.

    [​IMG]
    The plan was to prove too hasty.Napoleon was in a hurry to demolish Colli and ignored advice from some of the more cautious french commanders to wait for massena.'In the morning of 19 April,The Corsaglia river was in full spate, the cliff on the far bank looked impassable, and the Sardinian artillery opened up on them with a heavy and well directed fire. Augereau's attack stalled immediately and was called off.

    The Piedmontese repulsed Serurier's morning attack on the San Michele bridge with loss. Later, some skirmishers of Guieu's brigade found an unguarded footbridge to the south near the hamlet of Torre Mondovì. Soon Guieu's men crossed in strength and began rolling up the Sardinian right flank. The defenders of San Michele broke for the rear, allowing BG Fiorella s troops to cross the bridge and occupy the town. In the confusion, Colli was nearly taken prisoner. Dichat was caught, but he escaped by bribing his captor. The hungry, badly-paid, and poorly disciplined French troops immediately ran wild in the town, stealing food and pillaging the houses. A company of Swiss grenadiers in Sardinian pay, noting that the French were out of control, retook part of the town. Colli organized a major counterattack in the early afternoon which drove the Sérurier's division out of San Michele, though Guieu managed to hold onto his small bridgehead. One authority estimates that the French suffered about 600 casualties while the Piedmontese lost 300.

    TO MONDOVI -

    Napoleon finally recognizing the need for a period of reorganization called a halt to all operations for 2 days while the french regrouped and massed serurier,augereau and massena for an overwhelming 3-division assault.

    An important step taken by napoleon at this juncture was the change in lines of communication of the french army.Hitherto it had run from the supply depot at savonna through the exposed cadibona pass which was vulnerable to an austrian attack.With the seizure of Ceva,Bonaparte changed them to a new line running from the more secure Ormea depot to ceva.(Note the change in LOC is depicted in the very first map of this post,this went into effect on 19th).This change made Dego strategically less important .
    Therefore Laharpe was ordered to keep just one brigade near the Dego-Cairo region and send his second brigade to relieve massena's division at San Beneditto.
    Massena with the rest of his command(-laharpe) was thus freed up to join Augereau and Serurier for a grand assault on Colli .
    On the 20th Massena's division was brought up to join Augereau and Serurier,who rested.On the night of 20 April, Colli withdrew his army from the Corsaglia position, intending to fall back behind the Ellero River at Mondovì,the main sardinian supply depot. After destroying the bridges and leaving their campfires burning, Colli's soldiers slipped away during the evening. At midnight, Bonaparte discovered that his enemy had decamped and mounted a rapid pursuit, using a ford discovered by some scouts.

    [​IMG]

    THE BATTLE OF MONDOVI :

    The next morning, Sérurier's advance struck the Sardinian rearguard on the heights of Buon Gesù drove it back on the town of Vicoforte.Sérurier formed his conscripts into three heavy columns and covered them with his more experienced soldiers in skirmish order. Then, putting himself at the head of the central column, he led a charge against the Sardinians with Masséna's division following behind.In all bonaparte had succeeded in massing 17,500 french against 11,000-13,000 piedmontese.

    The speed of the French attack did not allow Colli to deploy his troops properly, nor were there any prepared defenses. A few of the Sardinian units panicked and fled, leaving gaps in the line. Fiorella and Guieu's brigades, supported by BG Dommartin's brigade of Masséna, converged on Vicoforte and captured it. The Sardinians at La Bicocca held firm until Dichat was killed, then they joined the disorderly retreat. Bonaparte's cavalry commander, Stengel took 200 dragoons across the Ellero, but Colonel Chaffardon counterattacked with 125 Sardinian horsemen and drove the French back. Stengel was mortally wounded in the melee.

    When the French arrived at Mondovì, the governor managed to stall the pursuers for a time with negotiations, but he surrendered the town when fired on at about 6 pm. Bonaparte forced the municipal authorities to provide large contributions of food to his hungry soldiers, so the town was not sacked.The battle of Mondovi had cost 600 french killed and wounded to 1600 sardinian and 8 cannon.
    The taking of the well stocked arsenal of Mondovi marked a turning point.French supply problems were eased and FINALLY the french were out of the mountains and into the plains of piedmont,just as bonaparte had promised to his starving soldiers a fortnight ago.

    The french now pursued the remaining piedmontese forces with vigour,formed up in a crude Battalion Carre with serurier and Laharpe forming the flanks and massena and Augereau the center each within 24 hrs supporting distance.Colli hopelessly outnumbered asked for a ceasefire on the 23rd.Bonaparte's response was to advance on the piedmontese capital of turin at double speed.Finally with the seizure of Cherasco and french armies on the gates of Turin,and all communication with beaulieu being severed-the sardinian court capitulated to bonaparte's demands by the armistice of Cherasco on the 28th.Several fortresses including Alessandria[currently in austrian hands],Ceva,Cuneo and Tortona were handed over to the french and france recieved right of passage through sardinian territory.With his rear secure Napoleon now ordered Laharpe to swing round and advance on Acqui and Beaulieu with other french formations following closely.

    [​IMG]

    In a ten day lightning assault,at the cost of just 6000 casualities, napoleon had knocked piedmont out of the war.The general had some right to self-congratulation when he boasted -''Hannibal forced the alps,we turned it''.[He was to force the alps in 1800 marengo campaign]

    To placate the directory whose instructions he had ignored and without whose consultation the treaty had been signed,cunningly much booty was sent to Paris.Bonaparte knew the already unpopular directory wouldn't dare to undo his work and the material booty sent to the bankrupt govt would also be appreciated.

    A declaration summed up his achievements.-

    ''Soldiers!In fifteen days you have gained six victories,taken 21 colours and 55 pieces of artillery,seized several fortresses and conquered the richest areas of piedmont.You have captured 15,000 prisoners of war and killed or wounded more than 10,000''

    The promises made to his starving soldiers on his first speech had been fulfilled.Then,they had half-believed him.From henceforth -they would believe in him.

    [​IMG]

    STRATEGIC PICTURE OF THE MONTENOTTE CAMPAIGN :

    Step by step representation of the campaign.Bonaparte seizes the central position at Carcare after crushing argentau's offensive at Montenotte.Then Widens the gap between the allied armies by smashing Dego and MIlisemo,at both places also pinning down the enemy.Originally intending to concentrate on the sardinians,he improvizes and changes target being held up at cosseria.After mauling Beaulieu he finally pursues and defeats colli.In all a prototype of the strategy of the central position with excellent improvisation twice.First on counterattacking rather than recating to the initial austrian advance on voltri and monte legino,then quickly switching targets to Dego at being held up at cosseria .The flexible changing of the lines of communication is also apparent mid-campaign.
    Through iron determination,brilliant manuevering,rapid concentration of force tempered with economy of effort,surprise with security and sheer audacity and speed Bonaparte had turned the balance of power in north Italy upside down in ten days,turning a disgruntled rabble into a powerful and mobile army.
    And the Italian campaign had only begun.

    [​IMG]
    NEXT : LODI CAMPAIGN -THE PURSUIT OF BEAULIEU
     
  11. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    316
    Country Flag:
    India
    THE LODI CAMPAIGN -PURSUIT OF BEAULIEU

    [​IMG]
    PHASE I -ALESSANDRIA TO LODI :

    With the defeat of Piedmont,the french now halted for a period of regrouping while bonaparte requested the directory to sanction the armistice with piedmont and also to send him 9,000 reinforcements from Kellerman's army of Italy.He didn't however wait for the directory's reply.Summoning troops under Macquert and Gamier till now garrisoning Fortresses along the french LoC,now freed up he intended to resume the offensive before the austrians had any time to recieve reinforcements.Beaulieu meanwhile was now in no position to attack and resolved to withdraw to the east bank of the Po river and set up a defensive line there with its fortresses and natural barriers,something Bonaparte ardently wished to prevent him from doing.

    Laharpe began his movement towards Acqui and Alessandria on the 28th,but was stalled by a temporary mutiny among his troops who had not shared in the loot of Mondovi.The austrians abandoned Alessandria on the 28th and by the 30th when Laharpe got there were safely across the Po.Bonaparte now brought up the whole army swelled to 39,600 men and focused on breaching Beaulieu's defensive line on the Po manned by around 25,000 austrian troops.

    For the first time,enjoying overall numerical superiority Napoleon now resorted to his favourite move and strategy of superiority for the first time - The Manuever sur les Derrieres.

    [​IMG]

    Above - Bonaparte breaches the Po river defensive line with a manuever sur les derrieres.Events to be described in detail below.(Consult above diagram whenever following events are described)

    Beaulieu established his centre of Operations at Valeggio with the divisions of Sebetendorff,Vukassovich and Liptay covering the river line and Colli[having been on loan to sardinia and now reverted back to austrian service] with a small contingent further deep covering Milan,the capital of Lombardy.Bonaparte identified 3 options to force a crossing.
    1>Valenza was the closest,but could quickly be reinforced by nearby austrian troops as it was near the austrian main body and if the french were caught while crossing result would be a disaster.

    2>He could attempt to ford the Po opposite Pavia east of valenza.This would place him on Beaulieu's flank,but again was within easy distance of austrian reinforcements to disrupt any crossing attempt.

    3>The final option was to cross via the Piacenza.This was nearly fifty miles from valenza but bonaparte believed his hard marching troops could conceal their intentions and achieve surprise with their superior strategic mobility.Also the depth and width of the river at this point was great.But regardless it offered several key advantages.One,it would place him in Beaulieu's rear and across his LOC.As Bonaparte writes to the directory about his intentions on May 6 -
    ''This river is very large and difficult to cross over.My intention is cross over as close to Milan as possible,so as to be faced with no further obstacles before i reach that capital.By so doing,i shall turn three lines of defense that Beaulieu has prepared along the agogno,Lombro and the ticino.Today i march towards Piaceza,Pavia will find itself turned and if the enemy determines to defend that town,i will find myself between him and his depots''

    Thus this daring manuever intended to at one stroke bypass the 3 possible river lines that beaulieu could fall back in succession incase of a crossing along the other 2 routes- that of the R.Agogno,R.Ticino and the river Lombri .Each a tributary of the Po.(Check the rivers on the map)

    To distract the enemy from his true objective and buy time for the crossing Serurier and Massena massed near the Valenza crossing point appearing to prepare for a major attempt.This force thus acted as the 'Secondary force' of the Manuever sur les derrires[ If u read the napoleon's art of war -strategy section in earlier posts].
    To act as the main assault force to effect the main crossing 3600 grenadiers gathered from the grenadier companies of the army were assembled into four battalions under rising star and future marshal Colonel Jean Lannes -'The future Roland of the army'.

    Except the 3600 grenadiers the assault force also included 2500 of the best cavalry.The whole force was commanded by General Dallemagne.Augereau and Laharpe were to follow this initial assault force closely and once a crossing had been secured Massena and part of serurier too would follow.Once the main french body was in the austrian rear,a strategic barrier would be formed along the river adda[by blocking the crossing points] cutting off Beaulieu from all supplies and reinforcements and then squeezing his army to death.

    As Dallemagne and the bulk of the french began their move screened by a cavalry screen and the river itself acting as a natural barrier,Serurier and Massena held austrian attention at Valenza.At this juncture however Beaulieu's cautious nature acted to his advantage.Seeing no attack coming from Valenza on the 5th and 6th he began to retreat the bulk of the austrian army beyond the Ticinus river line and asked Liptay to keep an eye out for any crossing on the Pavia or further east.This move was to prove a very wise decision.
    Meanwhile Lannes had seized a ferry and got across with his force on the Piacenza early on the 7th.But the alert austrian hussar patrols soon brought news of the crossing to Beaulieu who was in the process of withdrawing to the ticinus.Beaulieu adjusted his scheme and immediately ordered the closest austrian division under Liptay to eliminate the french bridgehead to be soon reinforced by 4500 men of Vukassovich marching from Valeggio.

    [​IMG]
    (Laharpe)
    BATTLE OF FOMBIO :
    Throughout the evening on the 7th Dallemagne's force clashed inconclusively with the austrian outposts and advance elements of Liptay's arriving division who fell back on Fombio village.[See first diagram for location]
    Overnight Dallemagne was reinforced by Laharpe and Bonaparte in person.The french now had 11,500 men against austrain 6600.On the morning of 8 May, Dallemagne's advance guard, supported by Laharpe's 6,500-strong division, assaulted the village of Fombio Colonels Lannes and François Lanusse led the advance guard's left and center columns while Dallemagne personally commanded the right column. At first Lipthay resisted stoutly, using his hussars to counterattack, but he decided to withdraw to avoid being trapped by the flanking columns. His Austrian and Neapolitan cavalry covered the retreat to Codogno. The French pursued hard and attacked Lipthay again in Codogno and the Austrians had to fight their way back to Pizzighettone, where there was a bridge over the Adda river. Lipthay's losses numbered over 568 men on 7–8 May. French suffered 450 casualities.

    Meanwhile Augereau had crossed over and Serurier and Massena were on their way.
    That evening, as Laharpe's 51st Line Infantry Demi-Brigade marched through Codogno, General-Major chobinin, with 1,000 foot soldiers and 580 lancers attacked the town from the west. In the chaotic street fighting in the dark, Laharpe was killed, possibly by friendly fire.(Laharpe -A promising officer he would possibly have made marshal had he survived to the days of the empire)Bonaparte's chief of staff, Berthier took charge steadying the wavering troops and rushed two more demi-brigades into the fight before Schübirz withdrew about dawn on the 9th. Cut off from the bridge over the Adda at Pizzighettone, Beaulieu directed his retreating units to make a desperate rush for the bridge at Lodi farther north,the only remaining escape route across Napoleon's trap.

    [​IMG]

    BATTLE OF LODI :

    Bonaparte hurriedly assembled his arriving columns,more or less his entire force having now made the crossing and set off in pursuit to stop Beaulieu from escaping.He was already disappointed at Beaulieu's rapid retreat and escape.The crossing of the Po is nowadays considered as a classic River forcing operation.

    On the 10th Bonaparte and his advance columns approached the town of Lodi.Beaulieu had left Sebetendorff with 10,000 men as a rearguard to stall the french as the rest of his army fled to the security of the river line at the Mincio where he could form a new and powerful defensive line with his flanks secured by the lake garda to the north and fortress of Mantua to the south to prevent another strategic turning move by napoleon.
    The French advance guard caught up with Vukassovich's Austrian rear-guard at about 9 am on 10 May and after a clash followed them towards Lodi. Vukassovich was soon relieved by Rosselmini's covering force near the town. The town's defences were not strong, the defenders were few, and the French were able to get inside and make their way towards the bridge. The span was defended from the far bank by nine battalions of infantry arrayed in two lines and fourteen guns. The Austrian general in command at Lodi, Sebottendorf, also had four squadrons of cavalry at his disposal, who were mostly completely exhausted after a hasty forced march. Sebottendorf decided that it was inadvisable to retire in daylight, and opted to defend the crossing until nightfall.

    While the french had taken the town the advance guard was unable to move up the bridge.The bridge was covered by 12 guns.6 directly facing the bridge and 3 each on either side for flanking Enfilade fire.Bonaparte recognized the advance guard wouldn't be able to storm the bridge and awaited the arrival of massena's division.Meanwhile he sent cavalry detatchments both upstream and downstream to find fording points and began personally supervising the siting of a 24 gun battery to support the crossing.At about noon the French artillery sprung to deadly life, and unloaded a severe cannonade against the Austrian defenses.Napoleon’s plan called for the deadly barrage to be followed by a two pronged cavalry and infantry attack. For that to occur, Napoleon sent Marc Antione de Beaumont’s carabiniers to cross the Adda and take Mozanica, and follow that up by storming the Austrian right wing.

    [​IMG]

    Napoleon sighting a cannon personally at Lodi.This is where his soldiers affectionately gave him his nickname -'La petit Corporal' or little corporal as this was usually the job of a corporal.This became part of napoleonic legend and bonaparte exposing himslef to the fire earned the admiration of his troops.
    As french reinforcements arrived,grenadiers were formed into an assault column and stormed the bridge after a stirring speech by napoleon.They got halfway before being bundled back with heavy losses before the devastating austrian cannonfire,canister raking their ranks.
    Bonaparte however would not be denied,a second wave of troops this time led by several high ranking french officers such as Masssena,Berthier,Cervoni and Dallemagne led the assault in person to the shouts of Vive'l' Republique.
    This time the french broke through.The Austrian troops were already exhausted from hours of marching and fighting without food, demoralised by the French cannonade and gave way.Any final austrian attempts to counterattack were put to rest by the arrival of the french cavalry to the flanks.Sebetendorff's survivors retreated in disarray.The battle of Lodi was over.The french had lost 500-900 men,while the austrians over 2,000 ,plus 14 guns and their baggage.However large part of Beaulieu's army to bonaparte's utter frustration had managed to escape him.

    The storming of the bridge of Lodi formed a central theme of later Napoleonic legend.Napoleon said later that it was at Lodi that he began to believe himself a 'superior being' destined for greater things.
    ''At lodi was struck the first spark of high ambition'' - Napoleon.

    That evening he admitted to his confidant marmont-
    ''They have seen nothing yet,in our time no one has concieved anything great;it is for me to set the example''

    [​IMG]

    That very evening however a dispatch arrived from paris ,with the directory's intention to split the command of the army of italy between Napoleon and kellerman -intended to cut the young and increasingly popular general down to size.A furious Bonaparte however adamantly refused stating it would be against the principle of unity of command and offered to resign,knowing full well the directory would never dare to sack the only successful french commander in the field.And the only one who was sending back money to the government.As if to emphasize the point,bonaparte's response was accompanied by a convoy of rich booty for the directors.By the time it reached Paris,the news of the victory of Lodi had created a sensation in Paris .The directory gave in to the inevitable and on their response in 21st also ratified the treaty with piedmont.''Immortal glory to the conqueror of Lodi...yours is the only plan we follow''.
    Bonaparte now knew as long as he maintained battlefield success,he could easily manipulate the corrupt government.

    Meanwhile on the 14th Massena occupied Milan.Initial milanese enthusiasm at french 'liberation' soon dampened at the insatiable financial demands.However the millions of Livres taken from Milan enabled bonaparte to finally pay his army in hard cash,the first time in years.With the treaty with piedmont ratified and the directory agreeing to send reinforcements from Kellerman's army Bonaparte resumed his campaign On the 22nd with his lines of communication finally secure by the ratification of the treaty the french renewed their advance on Beaulieu's new defensive line on the mincio river.

    NEXT : PHASE 2 OF LODI CAMPAIGN -MILAN TO MANTUA
     
  12. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    316
    Country Flag:
    India
    LODI CAMPAIGN PHASE II

    [​IMG]
    FROM MILAN TO MANTUA :

    Path of the 2 armies from lodi to the mincio line as the french breach the austrian defense and pursue.The events will be described in detail below.

    With his rear secure by peace with piedmont bonaparte resumed his march on 22nd may,leaving behind 5000 men to siege the milan citadel which was still being held by a austrian garrison.The austrian army under Beaulieu having recieved small numbers of reinforcements now 28,000 strong held a powerful defensive position on the mincio river.His right was guarded by the lake garda and the left flank by the greatest fortress in italy-Mantua.There would be no bypassing or turning this defensive barrier like napoleon had turned the Po.Napoleon had at his disposal around 31,000 men.Rest were guarding his LoC as garrisons and seiging the milan citadel.Kellerman's reinforcements promised had yet to arrive.

    [​IMG]
    (Consult above image)​
    Beaulieu had set up a cordon like defense,but had made a mistake of keeping no central reserve.Unable to use his general strategy of superiority the manuever sur les derrieres due to the topographical features,napoleon now intended to employ his third technique -The Strategic Penetration.

    However before the operation could begin the french were faced with an uprising in pavia and milan(due to greed of french troops and officers) which were crushed severely but somewhat delayed affairs.Bonaparte returned to the main army on the 28th.

    THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE MINCIO LINE :

    The Mincio River exits lake garda at Peschiera and winds its way south for 30 kilometers. At a point 8 km before it arrives at Mantua, it veers to the east. The river was a maximum of 40 meters wide, but in May the snow-melt from the Alps made it difficult to ford. Between Lake Garda and Mantua there were only four bridges, from north to south, at Peschiera, Borghetto, Goito, and at Rivalta near the bend in the river. Near Peschiera and Borghetto there are a series of moraines that form ridges, which can conceal troop movements. In the area of Goito and Mantua, the terrain is flat. To the north, Lake Garda extends about 50 km to its northern tip at riva del garda. Other noteworthy locations are the towns of Castelnuevo six km east of Peschiera ,Valeggio on a hill one km east of Borghetto, Salionze six km north of Valeggio, Campagnola two km southwest of Valeggio, and Villafranca eight km east of Valeggio.

    French forces - With Laharpe's death,Bonaparte reorganized his army into 3 main divisions.[See diagram] under serurier,augereau and Massena.[numbers given].Add to this around 6200 picked troops including the cavalry formed a reserve under General Killmaine.5000 troops besieged milan and 5500 garrisoned fortresses in the french LoC.

    Austrian Forces -
    To bring Mantua's large fortress up to a defensible level, Beaulieu assigned the brigades of Rosselmini,Rukavina and Vukassovich to defend the city. Altogether, Josef Canto d'Irles had 12,800 men in his garrison, though many of these soldiers soon became ill after their hard service in the Montenotte Campaignand the Lodi campaign.

    Beaulieu posted Lipthay with 3,049 infantry and 779 cavalry at Peschiera. Feldmarschall-Leutnant Colli held the crossing at Goito with a 3,558-man division consisting of Rukavina's 2,583 infantry plus Austrian and cavalry. Canto d'Irles and his large garrison covered the Rivalta bridge. In the center, Melas and Sebottendorf jointly commanded 8,169 infantry and 2,086 cavalry to defend the Mincio near Valeggio.

    Bonaparte determined to use the bridge at Borghetto for his crossing. To misdirect the Austrians, he ordered a Feint attack in the direction of Peschiera.He sent Rusca to Salo on the west shore of Lake Garda, where the French began to collect boats. To hide his true intentions, Bonaparte held his three combat divisions well to the west of the Mincio.

    Beaulieu reacted as the French commander hoped. Instead of concentrating his forces at the bridges, the Austrian commander attempted to set up a cordon defense on the river between Peschiera and Goito. In the center, Beaulieu deployed 4,500 soldiers in the brigades of Peter Gummer and Beust at Salionze and Oliosi, General-major Franz Nicoletti's 2,600-man brigade at Campagnola and Pozzolo, and Dannenfelds 3,100-strong brigade in and around Valeggi on 29th beaulieu fell ill,causing further confusion in the austrian headquarters.On the 30th french began their sudden crash concentration intended to break through at borghetto.

    [​IMG]

    BATTLE OF BORGHETTO :

    Napoleon ordered Kilmaine's advance guard to move rapidly via Solfireno on Borghetto.He was to be closely supported by Massena's division.Augereau and Serurier moved on 2 flanks attracting austrian attention,but also within supporting distance if necessary in a battalion carre.

    Kilmaine's troops pushed back the Austrian cavalry outposts and reached the bridge about 9 am. When the retreating horsemen reached the bridge, there was a jam on the narrow span. A number of Austrians left the roadway and crossed the river, betraying the fordable points to the French. Only single battalions of 2 Regiments were available to defend the span. Under the direction of Pittoni, the badly outnumbered Austrians put up a spirited fight. But, with Beaulieu's army in some disorder, few reserves arrived to help the defenders and soon French troops led by Chief of brigade Gaspard gardanne forded the river and pushed the defenders uphill toward Valeggio.

    After some fighting, the French cleared Valeggio but the Austrian cavalry prevented them from advancing beyond the town. Meanwhile, Prince Hohenzollern rallied the defeated Austrians and even mounted a counterattack on the town. Sometime in the afternoon, some Austrian hussars rode into the town and nearly captured Bonaparte who was dining with massena and murat.All three fled by jumping over several garden walls.Bonaparte with one boot!This incident convinced napoleon to form a cavalry bodyguard called the Guides under future marshal Besseires Eventually, this unit would evolve into the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Imperial Guard.

    The Austrians reacted slowly to the crisis. At nearby Campagnola, Sebottendorf's gaze remained riveted on some French troops[advance forces of serurier's division] in his front and he failed to send reinforcements to Valeggio. Farther north at Salionze, aggressive French patrols[augereau's division's elements] also distracted Melas from Bonaparte's true purpose. From distant Goito, Colli alertly marched his entire force to the north to help the center, but he arrived too late to help. Beaulieu ordered the army to retreat to the north.

    Sebottendorf tried to recapture Valeggio, was repulsed, and retreated to Villafranca. Colli sent Rukavina's brigade back to rejoin the Mantua garrison and took his cavalry to Villafranca. Melas gathered up the troops of the right center and fell back to Castelnuovo. He was soon joined by Hohenzollern's force. Lipthay soon abandoned Peschiera, pursued by the French. When one of Augereau's units got too close, Lipthay's cavalry finally in the plains cut it to pieces, inflicting 100 casualties for a loss of only nine Austrians.Beaulieu's units marched north from Castelnuovo and Villafranca. By the next morning, most units reached safety in the Adige valley. The Austrians admitted 572 soldiers killed, wounded, or captured. French losses are estimated at 500.
    Around 4500 austrian trtoops under Rukavina were cut off from beaulieu's main body and withdrew into the garrison at mantua.
    The french conducted a rapid pursuit nonetheless.Peschiera,castelnuovo and Verona fell quickly to the frencha s the austrians withdrew in disarray from northern italy.Only Mantua remained.The french proceeded to surround and beseige the fort.An epic siege is about to begin.

    [​IMG]
    However the french strategic position was not as rosy as it may seem at first look.The speed of the defeat of the austro-sardinian armies had shocked europe and made bonaparte a sensation.However much of Beaulieu's army had managed to escape.Bonaparte's rear was in turmoil by uprisings.Mantua remained defiant with a huge garrison of 12,000 and 316 guns.It would eat up a considerable number of french soldiers to keep it under siege.Meanwhile austria was sure to make renewed attempts to retake its holdings in italy.The failure of french armies on the rhine frontier meant soon austrian force swould be transfered to italy.As long as mantua held out Bonaparte's forces were stretched thin.It would take all his skill on the defense,not the offense for the army of italy to survive.

    NEXT: FIRST AUSTRIAN RELIEF ATTEMPT - ENTER WURMSER
     
  13. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    316
    Country Flag:
    India
    THE CASTIGLIONE CAMPAIGN - ENTER WURMSER

    [​IMG]
    (Left to right -Joubert,Bonaparte,Augereau,Wurmser)
    With the remnants of Beaulieu's army driven out of italy Bonaparte concentrated on the problems at hand.Simultaneously rear areas had to be made safe and bonaparte sent several detatchements under lannes and even himself in person to suppress all rebellious activity promptly.Genoa which was funding and encouraging this was bullied into submission via a military mission headed by murat.Meanwhile Mantua with its impregnable fortress remained the center of attention.

    [​IMG]

    Closeup of the fortress of Mantua.Three lakes protected its northern and eastern sides,and marshes on the south and west added to the problems.French attempts to storm the fortress and take it by coup de main failed and lacking siege guns the french settled down to besiege it.Meanwhile following the directory's instructions Augereau was sent into central italy to terrorize the Pope and tuscany both of which were in league with austria.The Pope got rid of the 'godless french revolutionaries' only at the cost of the better part of his treasury at the vatican -34 million francs!This massive booty and several art treasures seized made their way to Paris and to the pockets of the french officers alike.Militarily the French occupied Leghorn in Tuscany,which was a base for the Royal navy.A small force was also sneaked into Corsica across the waters to rise it in rebellion against the occupying british forces.The heavy guns taken from the castles of tuscany allowed Bonaparte to assemble a siege train.Finally the bombardment of Mantua could begin.
    However a mere six weeks would pass from Beaulieu's defeat to the return of a reinforced and reinvigorated austrian army to northern italy.The Austrians war council had replaced Beaulieu with Marshal wurmser,recently commander of one of the 2 austrian armies on the Rhine frontier.Fresh from success on the german front,austrian reinforcements now poured into North italy.Wurmser linked up to take command of a joint force of 25,000 veteran troops sent from the Rhine frontier added to 8,000 more from austria to around 16000-17000 of Beaulieu's survivors.By around the last week of June he had assembled his whole force nearly 50,000 strong.Added to this was another 12,000 men garrison under Count D'Etres at mantua which tied down a significant portion of french troops.Wurmser was however unable actually begin the campaign until late july due to the low morale of beaulieu's survivors and general disorganization prevailing .Bonaparte in all had around 42,000 effectives to deal with the advancing austrian menace.

    [​IMG]

    French Order Of Battle :


    Army of Italy: Napoleon Bonaparte (42,049)
    • Division: General of Division André Masséna (15,391)
      • Brigade General of Brigade Barthelemou Joubert
      • Brigade: General of Brigade Antoine La Valette
      • Brigade: General of Brigade Antoine Guilleme Rampon[of monte legnano fame]
      • Brigade: General of Brigade Claude Victor
      • Brigade: General of Brigade Jean Pijon
      • Brigade: General of Brigade Paul Guillaume
    • Division: General of Division Pierre Augereau (5,368)
      • Brigade: General of Brigade Martial Beyrand
      • Brigade: General of Brigade Jean Gilles André Robert
      • Brigade: General of Briagde Gaspard Gardanne
    • Division: General of Division Pierre Sauret(4,462)
      • Brigade: General of Brigade Jean Guieu
      • Brigade: General of Brigade Dominique Rusca
    • Division: General of Division Jean Phillipe Serurier later substituted by Pascal Fiorella (10,521)
      • Brigade: General of Brigade Louis Pelletier
      • Brigade: General of Brigade Charles François Charton
      • Brigade: General of Brigade Emmanuel Gervais de Roergaz de Serviez
      • Brigade: General of Brigade Claude Dallemagne
    • Division: General of Division Joseph Despinoy(4,772)
      • Brigade: General of Brigade Nicolas Bertin
      • Brigade: General of Brigade Jean Baptiste Cervoni
    • Cavalry: General of Division Charles Killmaine(1,535)
      • Brigade: General of Brigade Marc Antoine Beaumont

    Austrian Order Of Battle:

    Austrian Army: Feldmarschall Dagobert von Wurmser(60,690, 98 position and 94 light battalion guns)
    • Right (I) Column: Feldmarschall Leutnant Peter Quasdanovich (17,621)
      • Brigade: General-major Reuss
      • Brigade: General-major Johann Rudolph Sporck
      • Brigade: General-major Peter Ott
      • Brigade: General-major Joseph Ocskay
      • 17 battalions (15,272), 13 squadrons (2,349), 24 position guns
    • Right-Center (II) Column: Feldmarschall-Leutnant Michael von Melas (14,403)
      • Brigade: General-major Peter Gummer
      • Brigade: General-major Adam Bajalics
      • Division: Feldmarschallleutnant Karl Sebetendorff
        • Brigade: General-major Franz Nicoletti
        • Brigade: General-major Philip Pittoni
      • 19 battalions (13,676), 4 squadrons (727), 24 position guns
    • Left-Center (III) Column: Feldmarschall-Leutnant Paul Davidovich (9,892)
      • Brigade: General-major Anton Mittrowsky
      • Brigade: General-major Antone Lipthay
      • Brigade: General-major Leberecht Spiegel
      • 11 battalions (8,274), 10 squadrons (1,618), 40 position guns
    • Left (IV) Column: Feldmarschall-Leutnant Johan Szoboslo (5,021)
      • Brigade: General-major Prince Hohenzollern
      • Brigade: General-major Ferdinand Minckwitz
      • 5 battalions (3,949), 7 squadrons (1,072), 10 position guns
    • Mantua Garrison: Feldmarschall-Leutnant Joseph Canto d'Irles (13,753)
      • Brigade: General-major Gerhard Rosselmini (3,666 in 5 battalions)
      • Brigade: General-major Joseph Vukassovich (2,449 in 3 battalions)
      • Brigade: Major Karl Salisch (1,489 in 6 battalions)
      • Brigade: General-major Mathias Rukavina(2,443 in 5 battalions)
      • Brigade: Oberst Strurioni (2,298 in 2½ bns)
      • Unattached: 434 cavalry in 3½ squadrons, 96 sappers, 701 artillerists
    [​IMG]
    (Main campaign map)​
    THE AUSTRIAN PLAN :

    A key terrain feature of the North italian theatre was Lake garda which lay along the route of the austrian advance.
    Wurmser devised a four-column plan of attack. He retained direct control over the two central columns. Leading the Right-Center (2nd) Column, Melas struck south with 14,000 soldiers down the west bank of the Adige. Davidovich led the 10,000 men of the Left-Center (3rd) Column down the east bank. Operating west of Lake Garda, Quasdanovich commanded the Right (1st) Column's 18,000 men.von szoboslo lay at Vicenza, with the 5,000 troops of the Left (4th) Column. His orders were to occupy Verona and Legnago as soon as the French evacuated the two cities from the pressure of the other columns.

    Check the troops with the austrian order of battle.Now see in the map the central austrian advance[red] is that of wurmser's main force of 2 center columns advancing down the rovereto-Rivoli road.The austrain advance on the left[for the reader] is that of Quasdanovich's column.And the wide movement on the far right[for the reader,for austrians left column] is Von szoboszlo's diversionary column.Wurmser planned to use his numerical superiority to launch a pincer attack that would converge on bonaparte's army and crush it.However till the time that quasdanovich on the west bank of the Garda and Wurmser with the main force on the east bank of the Garda could unite,Bonaparte had a small window of oppurtunity to attempt to defeat them in detail seperately before they could unite.If they united or caught bonaparte between their 2 converging forces a french defeat would be certain.

    French Dispositions :
    [Check order of battle when i describe any force if confused].Sauret held Brescia and the western side of Lake garda. Massena guarded the northern approaches with the bulk of his force in the upper Adige river valley on the east side of Lake Garda. Masséna also garrisoned Verona. Augereau covered the lower Adige on either side of Legnago. Serurier led the force besieging Mantua. Despinoy had one demi-brigade at Peschiera, another with Masséna and more troops on the march. Killmaine's cavalry reserve lay at Villafranca, southwest of Verona.
    Note that only sauret 4500 men held the approaches west of lake garda due to terrain/logistics difficulties posed by the mountain roads which led bonaparte to believe that austrian forces in this sector would not be too large.

    QUASDANOVICH'S ATTACK -WEST BANK OF LAKE GARDA :


    The austrian column on the west bank under Quasdanovich numbered around 18,000 and was subdivided into 4 composite brigades of infantry and cavalry and 2 advance guard detatchments.The 4 brigade commanders were Ocskay,Ott,Reussen and Sporck.Facing these were only 4500 men of Sauret's division spread out covering the area with garrisons at Brescia,Salo,Gavarado and finally further south at Desanzano.(see locations on map,both earlier campaign map and above)French were taken by surprise as Ott's brigade attacked Salò while Ocskay's brigade moved against Gavardo.

    At gavarado on the 29th Sauret retreated after losing 500 men towards Desanzano.At Salo ,His brigade commander Gieu however was surrounded and blockaded with 400 men at the citadel by Ocskay's men.
    Meanwhile the austrian advance guards totally surprised the garrison at Brescia,now exposed from the flank and took the city by Coup de main under cover of fog taking 600 soldiers prisoner plus 2000 more recovering in the hospital.Among them were future luminaries such as Lannes,Murat and Kellerman(the younger,son of the kellerman commanding the alps frontier army)

    Quasdanovich now arrived with his remaining brigades under reuss and Sporck at Brescia and united with his advance elements.Ocskay besieged Gieu at Salo.
    Meanwhile Ott now advanced on Desanzano .
    The campaign had only begun and already the french left flank had collapsed and bonaparte's LOC to milan was now cut with the fall of brescia.

    [​IMG]
    (Locations Map)​
    WURMSER'S ATTACK : EAST BANK OF LAKE GARDA

    Meanwhile wurmser's main 2 center columns hit Massena's outnumbered division at Rivalta on the 29th.[See original campaign map]Result was another serious reverse for the french.For a loss of 800 men, the Austrian inflicted 1,200 killed and wounded, and captured 1,600 men and nine cannon.Massena later reported of this day -
    ''I have seen the austrians fight with such fury,they were all drunk with brandy''

    Massena beat a hasty retreat towards the south end of the lake garda towards peschiera.Now the french centre too had been broken through.Meanwhile von szoboslo's extreme left column[for austrians] moved unopposed towards verona.The french forces were in retreat.

    NAPOLEON'S REACTION :

    Bonaparte's initial reaction as report after report came in of austrian successes was despondence.He nearly ordered a retreat ,but only when he realized that wurmser was being slow to follow massena he resolved to fight it out.It was here that napoleon called his first and last council of war.While the others advocated a retreat Augereau refused(see opening quote in the picture).
    Infused by his subordinate's zeal and sensing an oppurtunity Bonaparte now decided to counterattack.Realizing he needed every man available against the superior austrian forces Serurier was ordered to abandon the siege of mantua,which the french did by on the 31st spiking the siege guns.The first siege of mantua thus ended in failure.
    Augereau's division was ordered to withdraw from manning the adige river line and unite with massena's forces near lonato.[See moves in campaign map]

    The french thus abandoned the east bank of the mincio river and shortened their front.Napoleon understood that if quasdanovich and Wurmser united,he wouldn't survive.He fell back on his strategy of inferiority -that of the Central position.As it stood the french already occupied the central position,the austrian columns being seperated by the lake garda.Bonaparte decided to first concentrate on Quasdanovich and secure the threat to his LoC.Then mass against wurmser.Accordingly Massena,Sauret,Kilmaine and Augereau force marched to retreat from their previous positions and begin to assemble for the assault on Quasdanovich.Wurmser's fixation with mantua,the objective he had been assigned by the austrian high council at vienna aided this concentration.(This illustrates the difference in mentality -Napoleon's objective is the new way -target the enemy army.The austrian way is the old one- Fortresses and strongpoints being the principal objectives)

    [​IMG]
    The french massing.Sauret falling back on Desanzano.French have abandoned the east bank of mincio and adige river is now occupied by austrian garrisons under meszeros.Wurmser advances on mantua. Despinoy , Massena , Kilmaine and Augereau mass against quasdanovich and repulse ott's brigade at First Lonato.

    THE FIRST BATTLE OF LONATO :

    Quasdanovich moved his 2 reserve brigades south towards ponte san marco centre to follow Ott's advance,Ott meanwhile was now pursuing the french towards Lonato.Vogel with quasdanovich's original advance guard was occupying brescia.
    On the 31st a series of simultaneous actions took place.
    Ott's brigade at San Marco advanced to the east on Lonato. The Austrian general led two battalions of the Kheul Infantry Regiment Nr. 10, four companies of the Johann Jellacic Infantry Regiment Nr. 53, two companies of the Liccaner Regiment Nr. 60, and one squadron of the Erdödy Hussar Regiment Nr. 11. The initial attack flushed part of General of Division Despinoy's division out of Lonato.
    Yet now the heads of Despinois' and Massena's divisions were arriving in the area between Lonato and Desenzano. Napoleon ordered d'Allemagne to immediately retake Lonato. As the Hussars chased the fugitives to the east, they were repulsed by two waiting French artillery batteries. Immediately d'Allemagne with his own brigade and Rampon's of Massena's division attacked Lonato in several columns. . In a tough four-hour fight, the French drove Ott's outnumbered soldiers out of Lonato and pushed them back to San Marco.Napoleon himself directed the combat. GM Ott for a time defended the town against these superior numbers. Yet enveloped on both wings he was compelled to leave Lonato and to retreat to Ponte San Marco.

    While this was occuring at Lonato, Sauret(whose division ott was actually pursuing) counterattacked via a different pass on the 31st northwards at Salo and managed to rescue Gieu's force by attacking ocskay's isolated brigade by surprise before promptly retreating back towards desanzano .He was however injured in the fighting.

    FRENCH COUNTERATTACK :

    On 1 August, Bonaparte assembled 12,000 men under augereau and kilmaine and moved northwest from goito toward Brescia, pushing Klenau and vogel's weak force before him.Quasdanovich was unaware that sauret had retreated back and this apparent new threat to his LoC coupled with the mauling at lonato and the loss of brescia convinced him to retreat . Quasdanovich ordered all of his troops north to Gavardo.Bonaparte recaptured Brescia without opposition, and was soon joined there by Masséna and Despinoy. Klenau moved northeast toward Gavardo to join Quasdanovich. Vogel retreated to caino in the mountains.
    Meanwhile wurmser had been slow and from the 30th to 2nd august was still making sure the siege of mantua had indeed been lifted.
    With Brescia now secure, Bonaparte ordered Masséna to San Marco, while Augereau and Kilmaine marched back to Montichiari -where they could act as a pinning force to intercept wurmser and delay him till napoleon finished with quasdanovich in classic central position style. [See locations on the earlier map]Despinoy held Brescia where he was joined by a demi-brigade from milan under lanusse. Bonaparte directed Guieu, who replaced the injured Sauret, to march from Lonato to retake Salò the next day. Forces under Despinoy from Brescia and Dallemagne from Lonato were sent to attack Gavardo-where quasdanovich's main strength was believed to be.Thus dallemagne would pin quasdanovich frontally and gieu would turn his left flank at salo and despinoy his right from brescia in a 3 prong pincer attack converging on gavorodo .Massena would be within supporting distance at ponte san marco.

    QUASDANOVICH'S RENEWED ATTEMPT :


    Upon Wurmser's letter "that he would cross the Mincio that day and operate against the enemy back" reaching him noon 2 August FML Quosdanovich decided to support the operations of his commander in chief: General Ott was reinforced and ordered from Goglione to advance upon Ponte San Marco in two columns. General Ocskay should march for Desenzano and join Ott at Ponte San Marco next morning. Together they were intended to attack Brescia still in before noon. To support the attack lieutenant-colonel Vogel from Caino was to advance against Brescia. - Colonel count Klenau with his force from Caino had had reached Gavardo. With him and brigades Reuss and Sporck, Quosdanovich the next morning wanted to march to MonteChiari there to await further orders from the fieldmarshall.Yet only general Ocskay would march to Desenzano because in the night at 22.30 a report of Ott from Goglione reached Gavardo: "At 4 o'clock in the afternoon I have been told that a strong enemy column is advancing through the mountains from Lonato to Salo. Having reconnoitered it I judge its strength at 4.000. Till dusk I expected it to bump into general Ocsky's position at Sojano. Yet it remained totally silent in that quarter, no combat ensued, no shot was heard. I thereby divine that general Osckay has already changed his position, that thereby Salo has been exposed and my position at Goglione as well as yours (FML Quosdanovich's) at Gavardo has already been turned." This report was confirmed by explorers and returning patrols making FML Quosdanovich cancel the advance planned for next day's morning. By midnight he had general Reuss with 2 bns Klebek and 1 sqn Wurmser hussars leave the camp at Gavardo ordering him to "advance against this French column, attack it wherever met and restore and keep the connection between brigades Ott and Ocskay.. General Ott was ordered to once more concentrate his brigade.

    This column between the Austrian brigades was division Sauret with which general Guieu according to his orders had left Lonato to take Salo and then attack the Austrians at Gavardo together with d'Allemagne and Despinois. Guieu had chosen a rarely used and almost forgotten causeway leading over the heights between lake Garda and the Chiesa river. Neither had he noticed general Ocskay's column moving south to Desenzano to his right nor had this column realised his march. As it happened also general Reuss on his search for Sauret had taken a different route so that these French and two Austrian columns must have passed each other quite close without noticing each other.

    [​IMG]

    Events leading to the second battle of Lonato.See Guieu and Ocksay's column's marching in opposite directions almost parallel.The rest of the movements described below.This map will be called 'from 3rd august' to avoid confusion.

    SECOND BATTLE OF LONATO :

    With Ocksay now nearing Desanzano ,Bonaparte released his central reserve of massena's division on them.(Meanwhile guieu moved on salo and despinoy and dallemagne on gavorodo.)However ocksay prempted by attacking Lonato.This was occupied by massena's hitherto rearguard brigade under Pijon which had retreated from the Mincio before wurmser and now formed his advance guard.Taking the outnumbered french by surprise ocksay routed them and took pijon prisoner.The remnants of this demi-brigade fortunately found shelter behind the Fossa Lonata, an irrigation canal, and other obstacles presented by the terrain which prevented Ocskay's further advance.However now napoleon arrived in person with the rest of massena's divisio

    [​IMG]
    1.Napoleon immediately forms up the french into columns with a small cavalry contingent for exploitation and advances on Lonato to assault the austrians.
    2.Ott understands that his center won't be able to withstand the shock of such a superior force and deploys his second line to the sides to overlap and outflank the french columns.
    3.Bonaparte counters .He redeploys his rear 2 columns into massed bodies of skirmishers even as the forward columns continue their march.
    4.The french skirmishers pin down the austrian flanks with constant fire,preventing them from outflanking the center columns .
    5.Bonaparte's center columns break through Ocskay's weak centre.Forcing Ocskay to order a full retreat.
    The battle was a 'penetration of the centre' operation.

    Ocskay orders a retreat towards desanzano.But Napoleon has already expected such a escape.Understanding that ocskay's presence at desanzano would cut off Gieu he orders junot and the french cavalry to use their superior mobility to seize desanzano first.

    When ocskay and his survivors reach desanzano they find the french blocking their path.Hemmed in between bonaparte coming up behind him and his route blocked by the french occupying the village the whole brigade is forced to surrender after brief resistance.With the total destruction of Ocskay's brigade,the second battle of lonato thus ended in decisive success for the french.The tide was turning.
    Reuss's brigade arrived too late to aid him.When he did he was forced to retreat immediately against bonaparte's superior forces.A rapid french pursuit meant he lost considerable numbers of prisoners.

    THE DEFEAT OF QUASDANOVICH :


    Moving from Rezzato, Despinoy attacked Ott piecemeal and was repulsed. After some fighting, the French general withdrew toward Brescia. [see 3rd august map] Doggedly, Dallemagne moved around Ott's east flank and even reached Gavardo twice, but each time the Austrians drove him back. Dallemagne retreated to Brescia, where he reported sick. Casualties and other details of these fights are unknown. Because of the French attacks, Ott did not advance farther south than Paitone, south of Gavardo. At some time during the day, Klenau reinforced Ott. Reuss was sent cross-country to establish contact with Ocskay.[this was how reuss arrived later at 2nd lonato].

    Meanwhile, Guieu reached Salò, found it unoccupied, and turned west to menace Gavardo. The French soon came upon and captured Quasdanovich's artillery park. But Sporck counterattacked and recaptured the guns. The day ended with Sporck holding the heights west of Salò while the French controlled the town. That evening, Quasdanovich ordered Ott to join him on the heights. Reuss turned up with his brigade during the night with the tidings of Ocskay's disaster.With ocskay's brigade destroyed and both the advance guards and ott's brigade having suffered a mauling,Only Reuss and Sporck's brigades remained truly combat effective. A council of war determined to retreat.Bonaparte had succeeded in fulfilling first part of his plan -The western austrian pincer had been smashed.But what had happened to Wurmser?

    NEXT: CASTIGLIONE
     
  14. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    316
    Country Flag:
    India
    CASTIGLIONE CAMPAIGN PHASE II -BATTLE OF CASTIGLIONE

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Wurmser's 2 centre columns had advanced steadily breaking through massena on the rivalta on the 28th who retreated and then took part in lonato as described in the above post.Wurmser meanwhile reached peschiera on the 31st,the day when the french abandoned mantua and left a detatchment under bajalich to siege the small garrison left behind.With his main force he proceeded towards mantua,which he erroneously believed on the verge of surrender.His preoccupation with the fortress[assigned primary objective by austrian war council] however had one serious effect.Bonaparte had vital time to regroup and concentrate on Quasdanovich without serious interference by Wurmser who was busy evacuating the sick ,reequipping the garrison and supplying it from 31st july to 2 august-3 days.His center columns reached Mantua where they spent time demolishing the French siege lines and dragging the abandoned siege guns into the city.


    On the late 2nd Wurmser resumed his advance this time to join quasdanovich.However it was too late.Bonaparte had acted rapidly and with vigour to eliminate quasdanovich.On 2 August, Wurmser's 4,000-man advance guard under GM Lipthay drove (BG) Antoine Valette's brigade out of Castiglione. The next day, Augereau attacked Lipthay with 11,000 troops. In a bitter fight, the French forced Lipthay back to Solfireno where he was reinforced by Davidovich. At length, Wurmser came up with his entire field army and stopped Augereau's drive. The Austrians suffered 1,000 casualties and GM Franz Nicoletti wounded. French losses may have exceeded 1,000 men, including BG Martial Beyrand killed. At the time, Wurmser and Quasdanovich's forces were about eight kilometers apart.However Augereau's dogged stand prevented wurmser from joining Ocskay while he was fighting at Lonato.Napoleon never forgot Augereau's glorious conduct during this battle and would ever later retort his detractors with -
    ''Ah,but remember what he did for us at castiglione''
    Augereau under the empire became Duke of Castiglione.

    On 3 August, the French inflicted crippling defeats on the Austrian Right Column in the 2nd battle of lonato. Quasdanovich finally ordered a retreat to the north. Sending Sauret to watch the withdrawing Right Column, Bonaparte now massed against Wurmser.

    [​IMG]
    1.Wurmser advances.Bajalich sieges peschiera.
    2.Wurmser advances towards Mantua as meszeros[Szoboslo] secures the bridges with garrisons in rear.He spends 3 days in the vicinity of mantua .
    3.Quasdanovich defeated in the battles of lonato.Augereau holds off wurmser at castiglione.
    4.Serurier's division[now commanded by fiorella,serurier returned to france from illness]Which had retreated from mantua towards marcaria now ordered to arrive on wurmser's rear.
    5.Guieu pursues quasdanovich,bonaparte concentrates the whole french army against wurmser at castiglione.

    THE BATTLE OF CASTIGLIONE :


    On 4 August, both armies skirmished. Wurmser arranged for Bajalics to send him a reinforcement of four battalions under Franz Weidenfeld. He also directed Mészáros to block Sérurier from joining Bonaparte ( however he was too far away to do so)On this day, the French captured 2,000 Austrians of Quasdanovich's column in Lonato.

    On 5th august Wurmser with 25,000 austrians holds the castiglione salfireno heights.Massena has joined augereau's exhausted division to stabilize the french line but the french are still outnumbered 21,000 to 25,000.However if napoleon's projected reinforcements arrive he will achieve a decisive numerical superiority on the battlefield .Napoleon has summoned despinoy from brescia and serurier from marcaria.

    [​IMG]
    Napoleon's Plan :
    The battle of castiglione marks the first use of napoleon's favourite battle tactic- the 'strategic battle' or the 'battle of manuever'(For details scroll back pages and see napoleon's art of war section on this thread).Bonaparte devised his plan as he observed the austrian positions.Wurmser's right is anchored at solfireno and left at monte medolano protected by a battery.

    Massena and augereau would launch attacks and pin the austrians in front along the line.
    Despinoy arriving from brescia
    could support this attack if it faltered or alternatively launch a flanking attack on the austrian right at solfireno.Meranwhile Fiorella leading serurier's division would march from marcaria and fall on wurmser's left from the rear.Wurmser would no doubt hastily construct a new line from his second line reserves ,thus bending his line to face fiorella frontally.Meanwhile 3 battalions of grenadiers,supported by killmaine's cavalry and marmont's 'grand battery' would be massing behind the french right.This is the 'Mass de decision'.As soon as wurmser expended his reserves by bending his line to confront fiorella,and with his front pinned down by augereau and massena..Marmont's grand battery would be unleashed on this hinge followed by kilmaine/beaumont's cavalry and 3 chosen battalion of grenadiers which would smash wurmser's left at monte medolano and sever his Loc to mantua.A ruthless pursuit would then ensue to mop up the rest of wurmser's army.

    The conception of the plan was bold and brilliant.It aimed at the total annihilation of wurmser's army.
    In order to draw Wurmser further into his trap, Bonaparte ordered Masséna and Augereau to retreat. When he suddenly pulled the two divisions back, the Austrians obligingly followed.Wurmser was drawn in by bonaparte's feigned withdrawal tactic.Wurmser swung his right flank around to crush massena.This is the movement shown in the last map
    [​IMG]

    French attack -
    Bonaparte's feigned withdrawal had succeeded in drawing the austrians down from the heights.Meanwhile Fiorella had arrived in the vicinity ably screened by french light cavalry and undetected by wurmser.The trap was set.
    However here things went wrong for the french.First Fiorella attacked prematurely,before wurmser's whole first line had been committed giving a shocked wurmser just enough time to halt his moving divisions and recall them to form a new line.
    Secondly the exhausted french troops of augereau were unable to properly pin down wurmser's front line.
    Thirdly part of the french troops under joubert didn't understand their role and stayed back thus allowing wurmser to pull back without being fully pinned in the front line.These men were harried into combat only by a shouting bonaparte.This lack of co-ordination and timing would rob napoleon of his 'annihilation battle.'

    Nonetheless at this juncture the mass de decision was unleashed on the austrian right supported by marmont's guns and kilmaine's cavalry.The austrians were thrown into total confusion as the french overran monte medolano.Meanwhile despinoy's advnace elements under Leclerc arrived and stormed solfireno.Assaulted on both sides and nearly captured ,a shaken wurmser ordered a full retreat.Here however bonaparte was disappointed.Bajalich's reinforcements from peschiera arrived just in time for the austrians to cover their retreat..The poor quality of the french cavalry and the exhaustion of the troops who had force marched and fought non stop prevented a total pursuit and wurmser was able to save his army from destruction.In total the french lost over 1100 men.Austrians suffered 2,000 killed and wounded, plus 1,000 men and 20 cannons captured.
    [​IMG]
    The Austrian army was thus defeated but not annihilated which it easily could have been.There were some factors behind this
    1>The position of Fiorella's force meant that napoleon could attack with him only along wurmser's secondary line of communications to mantua,not his primary one towards austria itself as is the norm with the general strategic battle.This allowed wurmser to escape destruction as he could retreat safely along his main LoC.
    2>Failure of part of french front line to fully pin down wurmser's first line which enabled him to fall back and face fiorella without committing all his reserves.
    3>The timing was off.Fiorella's attack came before wurmser's front line was fully committed.
    4>The size of the mass de decision was too small to allow large exploitation after the breakthrough after breaking through the austrian left.
    5>The poor quality of french cavalry and exhaustion of troops prevented a proper pursuit.

    Thus ended bonaparte's first manuever battle.Not as succesful as it could have been,but then again napoleon was only learning his trade.

    Wurmser retreats -
    After his mauling at castiglione,Wurmser fell back to the Mincio line like beaulieu had done before him.Again bonaparte feinted at borghetto and launched his real attack at peschiera.[against beaulieu napoleon had fiented at pesciera and attacked at borghetto -see battle of borghetto top post in this page]With his LoC threatened Wurmser fell back to Trent again abandoning North italy.The french moved to besige mantua for a second time.The castiglione campaign was at an end.The french had lost 6000 killed and wounded and 4000 prisoners but inflicted 16,700 losses on the austrians.
    Through rapid manuevering bonaparte had again managed to concentrate superior numbers on the actual battlefield while inferior overall.However Wurmser would try again,and soon.

    NEXT :BASSANO CAMPAIGN -SECOND RELIEF ATTEMPT
     
  15. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    316
    Country Flag:
    India
    BASSANO CAMPAIGN

    [​IMG]
    The first relief of Mantua failed at the battles of lonato and castiglione in early August. The defeat caused Wurmser to retreat north up the adige river valley. Meanwhile, the French reinvested the Austrian garrison of mantua.

    Ordered by Emperor Francis II to relieve Mantua at once,Wurmser and his new chief-of-staff Franz von Lauer drew up a strategy.Though defeated in the last campaign,the austrians had not yet despaired.They had come within a hairsbreadth of destroying the french and lifted the siege of mantua.Lauer however drew an overoptimistic conclusion from the tidings of the last campaign.Lauer noted that the French army, "had suffered badly during the recent combats, and had not properly recovered, nor received significant reinforcements.He thus predicted that the french would take time to recover and this would give time for the austrians to attempt a new relief attempt from the eastern side while leaving behind a smaller force to defend Trent.
    Unknown to him
    however,Bonaparte had recieved instructions from the directory to carry out their own plan.To attack wurmser and drive him into the alps then follow and link up with the french armies in germany,trapping the austrian armies in between them.It was a wildly overoptimistic plan,and despite his doubts Napoleon obliged to follow.What this meant was that there would be no passive french recovery that lauer had counted on.

    Army of Italy:Napoleon Bonaparte(45,000)
    • Division: General of Division Massena (13,000)
    • Division: General of Division Augereau (9,000)
    • Division: General of Division Vaubois (10,000)
    • Division: General of Division Sahuguet (10,000)
    • Reserve: General of Division Kilmaine (3,000)
    Feldmarschall Von Wurmser(48,800 available)

    • Main Army: Feldmarschall Dagobert Von Wurmser (19,348)
      • Division: Feldmarschallleutnant Quasdanovich (4,589)
        • 3,742 in 6 battalions, 847 in 6 squadrons
      • Division: Feldmarschallleutnant Sebetendorff(4,086)
        • 3,787 in 6 battalions and 5 companies, 299 in 2 squadrons
      • Division: Feldmarschallleutnant Meszeros Von Szoboslo(10,673)
        • 7,365 in 10 battalions and 3 companies, 3,308 in 23 squadrons
      • Brigade: General Major Von Chobinin
        • 2 battalions, 2 squadrons (at Pontebba)
    • Corps: Feldmarschallleutnant Davidovich (~19,000 )
      • Brigade: General-major Reuss(5,229)
        • 5,011 in 7 battalions, 218 in 2 squadrons (at Trent)
      • Brigades: General-major Johann Rudolf Sporck and General-major Vukassovich (8,466)
        • 7,840 in 12-1/2 battalions, 626 in 4 squadrons (at Rovereto)
      • Brigade: General-major Johann Loudon (2,409)
        • 1,841 in 2 battalions, 568 in 4 squadrons (in Valtellina)
      • Brigade: General-major Johann Graffen (3,451)
        • 3,451 in 4-2/3 battalions (in Voralberg)
    • Mantua Garrison: Feldmarschallleutnant Joseph Canto de Irles (17,259, fit for duty: 10,271)
      • Brigade: General-major Ferdinand Minckwitz
        • 6 battalions
      • Brigade: General-major Leberecht Spiegel
        • 4 battalions
      • Brigade: Colonel/Oberst Sola
        • 3 battalions
      • Brigade: Oberst Joseph Sturioni
        • 4 battalions, 4 squadrons
      • Brigade: Oberst Philipp Brentano
        • 6 battalions
    [​IMG]

    (Above -Bonaparte's pursuit of wurmser.Kilmaine covers the river line.Sahuget sieges mantua)
    The armies were thus more or less equal.A large part of austrian strength was however locked up at mantua.On the other side Sahuget really had around 6000 effectives from his paper strength of 10,000 besieging mantua and possibly vaubois had lower number of effectives as well.When the campaign began thus both armies approached each others presumed position assuming they were the attackers.Wurmser's main force headed for mantua by a wide route,while bonaparte aimed to concentrate his bulk strength on trent.

    THE AUSTRIAN PLAN :

    In 1796, there were only three practicable routes between Trento and the Po river basin. The first route lay west of Garda.[this was the route attempted by quasdanovich's column in the castiglione campaign that ended in his defeat at lonato] The second route was the road down the Adige valley east of Lake Garda and north of Verona. [The route taken by wurmser's main army in the centre in the castiglione campaign]The third route went east through Levico[see map] and Borgo then followed the Brenta river valley (Valsugana) southward to Bassano An army that held both Trento and Bassano could move troops and supplies between the two places free from French interference.[(see above map for locations)

    Leaving FML Davidovich with around 20,000(only 13,700 ready,divisions of Laudon and Graffen still massing some distance away) to defend Trento and the approaches to the Tyrol, Wurmser directed two divisions[sebettendorff and quasdanovich -see map] east then south down the Brenta valley. When he joined the large division of Meszeros Szoboslo at Bassano, he would have 20,000 men. From Bassano, Wurmser would move on Mantua, while Davidovich probed the enemy defenses from the north, looking for a favorable opportunity to support his superior.Wurmser calculated that by his wide turning approach he would face bonaparte at a dilemma.If napoleon approached trent and davidovich,wurmser would be in a position to wheel west and place himself in napoleon's rear cutting off his LoC.Bonaparte could never ignore such a threat to his rear as he might find himself trapped between wurmser and davidovich.Thus he would have to retreat south towards mantua.In this second case too Wurmser would be at an advantage as he would have a headstart and be already halfway to mantua before bonaparte could fall back.In all probability he could sweep aside sahuget's weak division and relieve mantua for a second time,joining his forces with that of the garrison and then engage bonaprte on the field while davidovich supported from the north.

    THE FRENCH PLAN :

    Bonaparte posted Vaubois with 10,000 men on the west side of Lake garda. Massena defended the Adige river valley with 13,000 troops and Augereau covered Verona with 9,000 more. Kilmaine maintained the blockade of Mantua with Jean Sahuguet's division of 10,000[6,000 effectives] soldiers and held a 3,000 man reserve at Verona.Bonaparte planne dto leave kilmaine and sahuget to prosecute the siege while he massed Vaubois,Massena and Augereau in a field army of over 30,000 to attack trent from two directions -Vaubois from the west and augereau and massena from the south.

    THE BATTLE OF ROVERETO :

    On 1st September Wurmser led the divisions of quasdanovich and sebetendorff to join meszeros's advance guard near bassano.Davidovich controlled 19,555 troops, but only 13,695 of these were immediately available. He deployed the brigades of vukassovich and Sporck near Rovereto, while the brigade of Reuss held Trento and some positions west of the Adige. The brigades of Laudon and Graffen were not within supporting distance.

    On 3rd september Bonaparte struck davidovich's surprised troops.At Ala, Massena attacked and overran davidovich's advance guard driving them back to marco while Vaubois struck from Riva in the west.[see map for movements].At dawn, Masséna's division attacked Vukassovich's Austrians at Marco. General of Brigade Victor[future marshal]led one Demi brigade straight up the main road, while General of Brigade Pijon seized the high ground to one flank. After sturdy resistance, the Austrians pulled back to avoid being cut off. Masséna pursued vigorously, breaking up a number of Austrian formations. When he reached Rovereto, Vukassovich stood firm again until noon-time. Then he fell back toward Calliano with the remnant of his brigade and Sporck's troops. By this time, Vaubois had captured Mori on the west bank.

    Davidovich placed Oberst Weidenfeld and the Preiss Infantry Regiment 24 in a formidable position in the Adige gorge to cover the retreat of his forces. However, the regiment's morale was poor after suffering casualties and being hustled out of several defensive lines. Aided by artillery fire directed by General of Brigade Dommartin.Masséna's troops attacked in heavy columns and broke through. Believing themselves well-covered by Weidenfeld's force, Vukassovich and Spork allowed their troops to cook dinner when they arrived in Calliano. Without warning, the French interrupted the proceedings by storming into the camp in the late afternoon. The result was a rout of the surviving Austrians.

    Thus ended the Battle of Roveredo.Bonaparte had concentrated 20,000 men from Vaubois and Massena's divisions and routed Davidovich's 10,000-13,000.The French lost 750 casualties during the day. Austrian losses included 3,000 killed, wounded, and prisoners, plus 25 cannon and 7 colours captured.
    During the night, Davidovich evacuated Trento and fell back to Lavis[see map], a village at the river Avisio and southern frontier of Austrian territory, where he joined Reuss. Masséna entered Trento on the morning of 5 September, followed by Vaubois. On 5 September, Vaubois crossed the bridge of the river Avisio,attacked Davidovich at Lavis and drove him farther north. Satisfied that Davidovich was no longer a threat Bonaparte turned on wurmser.

    By this time, Bonaparte had found out Würmser's plan of marching east into the Brenta valley. He discarded the strategy of joining Moreau and adopted a very bold plan.

    THE ROAD TO BASSANO -

    [​IMG]

    Far from withdrawing down the way he came with his army like the austrians expected to prevent wurmser getting into his rear.Bonaparte totally shocked all with his unconventional move.Leaving Vaubois with 10,000 to watch davidovich's remnants,he turned the divisions of Augereau and Massena 22,000 in all on wurmser's tail down the same route in a hell for leather pursuit.This was on the face extremely reckless,as bonaparte was simply abandoning his supply line and the troops would be dependant wholly on what they could seize enroute from the countryside.And halt or repulse would lead to starvation in the mountains.However was it really as reckless?We see that bonaparte's move was essentially a improvised Manuever sur les derrires.It just so happened that he was already in wurmser's rear just as wurmser was about to get into his.

    Here Kilmaine's 3500 men holding the bridges and the river line at the adige with sahuget nearby represented the secondary force.Massena and augereau the main body.Bonaparte calculated if the river bridges could be held just long enough,he could sever wurmser's retreat and descend upon him from the rear.As is the norm with this technique of napoleon's [see napoleon's art of war section early in this thread]Wurmser could hardly ignore such a rapidly advancing threat from his rear.He would either have to turn round all his advancing formations and retrace his steps,which would cause considerable disorganization and chaos and then face bonaparte on a place not of his choosing.Even here the fast marching french could catch up with him before he had even the chance to unite his formations and turn them.Or he could withdraw altogether towards the adriatic and away from north italy.Both cases suited napoleon as the siege of mantua would not be disturbed.

    THE BATTLE OF BASSANO -


    [​IMG]
    (Massena urges his troops forward)

    On 6th september Augereau's division stormed the primolano heights[see map] and broke through the austrians surprised rear division taking 1500 prisoners for trifling losses after having marched 60 miles in 2 days.Wurmser was left dumbfounded by this french movement and hurriedly attempted to recall his divisions to assemble at bassano.

    It was all too late.Meszeros's advance guard of 10,000 men never managed.Wurmser only managed to gather 11,000 men of sebetendorff and quasdanovich's contingents when 20,000 french under bonaparte assaulted him at bassano.This is a classic case of a succesful manuever sur les derrires- enemy scattered and forced into battle at an inoppurtune time and place with all cards stacked against him right from the beginning.
    First, they attacked the 3,800-man Austrian rearguard under Quasdanovich and Bajalics.Bonaparte sent Masséna down the west bank of the Brenta and Augereau down the east bank.[See map] Overwhelmed by repeated two-prong attacks and pursued by Murat's cavalry, the rearguard collapsed and Bajalics was captured. Wurmser deployed one brigade on the west bank, a second brigade on the east bank, and a third in Bassano. Colonel Jean Lannes led a successful charge which broke the Austrian lines and burst into the town.The result was disaster for the austrians.
    Quasdanovich with a group of survivors around 3500 men fled in total disarray east after being seperated from wurmser's main body.In the battle itself The French suffered 400 killed, wounded, and missing. Wurmser lost 600 killed and wounded. Between 2,000 and 4,000 Austrians, eight colors and 30 artillery pieces were captured.
    Wurmser retreated towards meszeros with just 3500 soldiers of his originally 11,000 left to him.
    The vigorous French pursuit also seized a bridging train plus 200 limbers and ammunition wagons.

    THE RACE FOR MANTUA :


    [​IMG]

    Wurmser having united with meszeros at vicenza(see map) for a total of around 15,000 men,unexpectedly decided to continue a desperate advance towards mantua.Immediately, Bonaparte sent his two divisions after the Austrians, hoping to cut them off. Masséna advanced southwest from Vicenza while Augereau moved south to Padua to close the Austrian escape route to the east.Here however fortune saved Wurmser from total immediate annhilation.
    Part of Kilmaine's force which was garrisoning the bridges on the adige river,especially the Garrison at legnano were withdrawn prematurely giving wurmser free passage to the other side before napoleon's main body could close in from his rear and crush him.Leaving behind 1500 men at legnano to delay the french wurmser headed for mantua.Augereau and massena's exhausted soldiers despite pursuing very rapidly were held off barely in 3 rearguard actions -prominently at cerea and legnano.At legnano french overran the austrian force left behind .However the prey had escaped.Wurmser brushed aside Sahuget's weak outposts and entered mantua on the 12th-13th of september.


    [​IMG]
    (An overview of the bassano campaign)

    BATTLE OF LA FAVORITA :

    However old wurmser was still not done.The garrison of mantua having raised his effective force to 23,000 he arrayed his army for battle.On the 15th when bonaparte approached mantua with the main body of the french,he found wurmser waiting for him.Wurmser awaited the French on the east bank of the Mincio in line of battle, with his right flank on the San Giorgio suburb and his left on La Favorita Palace. The Austrian left wing under Ott held off Sahuguet's attacks all day. But the Austrian line gave way before the attacks of Masséna on the center and Louis Bon (leading Augereau's division) on the right. The French succeeded in capturing the San Giorgio suburb and driving the Austrians into Mantua. During this fight, 2,500 Austrians became casualties and 11 cannon and 3 colors were captured. The French lost 1,500 killed and wounded, plus 9 guns captured.[ see previous 2 maps for la favorita]

    [​IMG]

    [The battle of la favorita.Ott holds sahuget on the left,massena and Bon break through in centre and right]

    Mantua's garrison was thus swollen to nearly 30,000 men. But, within six weeks, 4,000 Austrians died of wounds or disease in the crowded fortress.

    RESULT :
    The bassano campaign thus ended in total disaster for the austrians-nearly her whole field army in italy had been neutralized and the general sent to relieve mantua found himself locked up in the very fortress he was sent to succor.

    ''The second attempt to relieve Mantua had therefore come to a rather sorry conclusion for the Austrians. Their army commander had managed to get himself shut inside the very place he was trying to liberate, losing more than 11,000 men in the process. The French had failed to make the link between their armies in Italy and Germany, and Bonaparte was, in a sense, back to square one, still faced with the problem of reducing Mantua, which now had a much more powerful garrison''.

    Bonaparte's bold manuever sur les derrires had again turned the tables and brought a briliant success.But the mantua still a fruit that needed further ripening before it could be eaten -and austria was not done.Another austrian army,another new austrian general would come..

    NEXT : ARCOLE CAMPAIGN -THIRD AUSTRIAN RELIEF ATTEMPT
     

Share This Page