In 1789, a revolution took place in France. In 1792, the monarchy was destroyed, the bourgeois-republican system was established in the country. In response, the neighboring monarchies organized an intervention to restore the monarchy and seize the French possessions. France, despite serious internal problems, carried out a radical reorganization of the army and itself began active military operations against the enemy coalition — it invaded Spain, the Sardinian kingdom and the western German states, led military operations in Italy.
During the 1796 campaign, hostilities took place in two separate theaters of war - in Germany and Italy. The greatest danger threatened France from the Rhine and the Alps. Therefore, the Directory decided to attack in the Rhine direction, highlighting the two strong armies of Jourdan and Moreau, with good luck they had to reach Vienna. The third army of Napoleon had to solve auxiliary tasks on the Italian front and, if successful, invade Northern Italy, take Piedmont, Lombardy, and sever the Italian states from an alliance with Austria. With the success of the French Rhine armies in the attack on Vienna, Napoleon had to support them from the south.
The Italian campaign, despite the fact that the Italian army was initially in poor condition, was extremely successful. The young general with a tough hand restored order and discipline in the army, the Austro-Italian offensive warned with a quick raid to Italy and inspired the soldiers with first victories, and at the same time supplied the troops with everything necessary at the expense of the enemy and the occupied territories.
Napoleon quickly attacked the forces of the Sardinian General Colley and the Austrian commander Beaulieu. Then he scored several victories - fights with Montenote, Millesimo, Dego, Chevy, Saint-Michel and Mondovi. The Sardinian king, frightened by the successes of the French, concluded a truce with them on 28 on April. The French received several important fortresses, free passage across the Po River, supplies and deprived the Austrians of an ally. On May 15, the Sardinian king made a final peace, according to which Savoy and Nice were ceded to France. Moreover, the frontier between France and Piedmont was “corrected” to the great advantage of France. Piedmont became the rear base of the French army.
Having lost an ally, Beaulieu decided to confine himself to the defense of Lombardy and wait for the arrival of reinforcements. 7 May the French crossed the Po. 10 May in the battle of Lodi Napoleon discovered his way to Lombardy. 15 May he entered Milan. On the eve of this day, 14 of May, Napoleon wrote to the Directory in Paris: "Lombardy now belongs to the (French) Republic." For a month, French troops cleared almost the whole of Northern Italy from the Austrians. The dukes of Parma and Modena were forced to conclude a truce, bought a significant amount of money. Milan also paid a large contribution. At the same time, a significant part of the Italians at this time supported Napoleon, considering him to be a liberator from the Austrians, and hoping for fundamental reforms that would limit the power of the feudal lords and the clergy.
On June 3, Napoleon Bonaparte entered Verona. The French also occupied Livorno in June (depriving the British of a base for fleet), Bologna and Modena. In the hands of the Austrians remained only the fortress of Mantova and the citadel of Milan. On July 29, the Citadel of Milan fell, and then Napoleon Bonaparte besieged Mantua. Beaulieu retreated to Tyrol. However, Napoleon could not advance further due to the small number of French troops. In addition, it was impossible to leave behind the strong fortress of Mantua. Therefore, Napoleon limited himself to observing in the direction of Beaulieu, overlaid Mantua and set about arranging the rear and negotiating with the Directory (she wanted to remove him, but eventually lost).
Mantua was considered the key to Italy. Its garrison was 13 thousand people and had food reserves for several months. The fortress, which was considered impregnable, was covered from the north and east by lakes, and from south to west - by marshes overgrown with reeds, passing only along the five existing dams. It was extremely difficult to take her by storm, however, it was possible to block with small forces. Having advanced Massena's division with a barrier against the forces of Beaulieu, retreating to the north, Napoleon blocked Mantua and, receiving siege weapons from Milan and Ferrara, began a gradual siege of the fortress. Most of the French troops at that time carried out the cover of the siege of the fortress. Thus, the further fighting of the Austrians and the French for eight months proceeded in the struggle for Mantua, which the Austrians tried to unblock, and the French - to prevent them.
Fight for Mantua
The Austrian Gofkrygsrat (court military council) decided to strengthen the Italian army. Troops removed from the Rhine Front. Passivity of Jourdan in the German direction allowed the Austrian high command to strengthen the troops in the Italian theater of operations, having transferred the army of General Dagobert von Wurmzer to this place. He took command of the army at the end of May from Beaulieu. By July 20, Wurmzer had an 50 thousand army, not counting the Mantua garrison. Wurmzer was to undertake an offensive operation for the de-blockade of Mantua and ousting the French from Lombardy.
On July 28, the Austrian army launched an offensive in four columns on a broad front. The beginning of the Austrian attack was successful. The Austrians rejected the divisions Augereau and Massena. Wurmzer celebrated the victory. He calmly entered Mantua, removing the siege from her. In this case, the French lost the entire siege park, created with great difficulty from the guns collected from various fortresses of Italy. This loss for the French was very sensitive. After some hesitation, Wurmzer came out of the fortress and, throwing back the enemy barrier, began to go to the rear of the French army. As a result, Napoleon’s troops appeared between the troops of Wurmzer and Kvázhdanovich.
Napoleon even thought about a retreat, but after meeting with the generals, he retained the old plan: to smash the enemy in parts. At first he decided to strike at Kvázhdanovich, put a barrier against Wurmzer. On August 3, Napoleon threw his remaining troops against Kvadzhanovich to the north of Lonato and defeated the enemy. One of the columns surrendered, the rest moved to the north. Then Napoleon turned his army against Wurmzer. The Austrian commander-in-chief, learning about the failure of Kvázhdanovich, nevertheless decided to attack the enemy and deployed his troops into battle formation at Castiglione. The battle of Castiglione took place on 5 on August 1796 of the year. Napoleon bound the main forces of the Austrians in the center and on the right flank, and delivered the main blow to their left wing of the enemy. In this part of the French went to the rear of the enemy. After a stubborn battle, the Austrians were defeated and retreated. The remnants of the army Wurmzer left in Tyrol. French troops again began to obkatyvat Mantua The Austrian garrison, which grew at the expense of the fugitives from Wurmzer’s army, now comprised 17 thousand soldiers.
Thus, the Austrian command sprayed its forces, acted slowly, hesitantly, which led to the defeat of the entire offensive operation. Napoleon, on the contrary, acted decisively and quickly, in the end he achieved victory.
Rovereto and Bassano
The successes of Napoleon in the Italian theater of operations, and of Jourdan on the Rhine elevated the mood of the Directory. Paris took a number of measures to strengthen the French army in Italy. By the end of August, Napoleon Bonaparte’s forces had grown to 70 thousand people, of whom 10 thousand were allocated to renew the siege of Mantua, and 20 thousand provided rear and communications. Napoleon did not begin to create a new siege park and confined himself to a simple blockade of the fortress. The remaining troops were located the main forces in the area of Verona, Rivoli, and were preparing to attack the Tyrol.
For its part, the Austrian high command, fearing the enemy's invasion of Tyrol and wishing to unlock Mantua, organized a new offensive operation. The Austrians decided to divide the 46 thousand army into two independent and almost equal in number parts: the corps of General Davidovich was located in the Rovereto area on the road from Trient (Trento) to Verona; The army of Wurmzer, consisting of three divisions (26 thousand people) - in the area of Bassano, Primolano. According to the plan of the Austrians, the two detachments were to move in independent ways, separated by the spurs of the Tyrolean Alps, and to unite in the area of Legnago for the further attack on Mantua. At the same time, Wurmzer assumed that the movement of Davidovich’s troops, threatening the reports of Bonaparte, would force the latter to withdraw its troops west of Mincio. The offensive was scheduled for September 4.
However, Napoleon, having learned about the plans of the enemy, decided to get ahead of him and began the offensive on September 1. The French commander-in-chief decided to smash the enemy in parts. At first he decided to crush Davidovich’s army and take Trient. He planned to push Davydovich's forces to the north, and then strike from the rear at Wurmzer. Leaving 8 thousand people besieging Mantua and 3 thousand Kilmen detachment on the line of the Adige river to cover the siege troops, Napoleon with the 34 thousand army man went north to Tyrol. With a quick march, the French divisions Massena, Augereau, Voboua climbed up the river Ech (Adige) to the army of Davydovich isolated from the main forces. For the Austrians, the enemy’s offensive turned out to be like a lot of snow.
On September 4, Massena’s division, which was marching along the Adige River and bypassing the Austrians along the western shore of Lake Garda, the Wabois Division, defeated the advanced Austrian units south of Rovereto and captured them. By the evening of the same day, French troops defeated the main forces of Davydovich north of the city with a powerful attack and entered Trient in the morning of September 5. The Austrians suffered a heavy defeat, losing only prisoners 6 thousand people. An attempt by the Austrians to hold onto the line of the Labiya River failed. The Austrians fled to Neymarkt, where all 4 thousand soldiers remained from the troops.
Wurmzer learned about the defeat of Davydovich, but decided to continue the offensive and move to Mantua along the valley of the Brenta River. He did not dare to throw the avant-garde, which went far from the main forces. Meanwhile, Napoleon, leaving a small barrier against Davydovich, followed Primolano after Wurmzer and, after a series of forced marches, overtook him at Bassano. On September 8, the French avant-garde at 6 attacked and discarded six Austrian battalions, stranded in positions in the gorges along the banks of the Brenta, in the morning hours. Their remnants went to the line of the main forces of Wurmzer, numbering about 20 thousand people. Division Augereau attacked the left flank, division Massena - right. The Austrians were overthrown everywhere and fled to Bassano, one division was surrounded and surrendered. At 15 hours, the French army has already entered Bassano. Having lost 3 thousand by prisoners and 35 guns, Wurmzer’s troops, demoralized and pursued by the French, retreated in disarray on Vicenza. Many Austrian soldiers have deserted. Thus, the advancing army of Wurmzer was hit from the rear, was defeated and completely cut off from communications with Austria. In fact, Wurmzer was surrounded, he left 16 thousand demoralized soldiers, and the French were already expecting the surrender of the enemy.
September 9 Ogeret moved to Vicenza, and Massena - to Padua, blocking the Austrians from the path of a possible escape to the north. The Austrians were saved from capture only by an oversight of the Seryurye division, which blocked Mantua. The Austrians found a conductor and passed through the swamps adjacent to Mantua. On the morning of September 12, Wurmzer broke through to the fortress with minor losses. 13-14 of September Napoleon’s forces tried to finish off Wurmser’s army, but the Austrians, relying on the support of the garrison of the fortress, beat off. September 15 Wurmzer himself tried to break out of the environment, but without success. Thus, Wurmzer himself with part of his forces was forced to lock himself in Mantua, which he had previously tried in vain to free from the siege.
Thus, the second offensive operation of the Austrian army ended even worse than the first. The Austrians have lost 27 thousand people killed, wounded, captured and deserted. The French army lost 7,5 thousand people, with the majority out of action due to illness after intensified marches. The French commander, acting proactively, quickly and energetically concentrated forces against the divided enemy, again reached a numerical superiority against each of the parts of the Austrian army and in both cases achieved a decisive victory.
Davidovich's corps, covering Tyrol, was defeated and fled. Wurmzer, attacked from the rear, was also defeated, and only thanks to luck escaped to Mantua. In this case, although the garrison of Mantua and increased to 27 thousand soldiers, this led to an increase in supply problems and an increase in mortality due to disease. So, by October more than a third of the garrison (about 10 thousand soldiers) was out of action due to illness. The Austrian garrison was saved from starvation only by the fact that Wurmzer brought with him cavalry, thousands of horses were slaughtered and salted.
Wurmzer’s Second Offensive
Third Austrian Offensive
Despite the serious defeat of Wurmzer’s army, Vienna did not give up hope of regaining positions in Italy. Archduke Karl in Germany defeated the French Sambre-Maa army of Jourdan. French troops were upset and fled. Jourdan laid down command of the army, passing it to Bernonville, who retreated to the left bank of the Rhine. The defeat of the Sambro-Maathan army put the Reino-Moselle army of Moreau in a very difficult position. However, Moreau was able to withdraw the army from the flank attack and led the troops beyond the Rhine. Thus, Austria won over the French in Germany and got the opportunity to go on the offensive in Italy again. It was necessary to save the garrison of Mantua, which, driven to the extreme by hunger and disease, could soon capitulate.
The defeat of the French army in the German theater of operations lifted the spirit of all anti-French forces. Pope Pius VI issued an appeal calling for a "crusade" against France. Austria, having received new subsidies from England, formed a new 50 thousand army, for operations in Italy. Austrian commander in Italy became Josef Alvinci. He had a great combat experience: he participated in the Seven Years' War, the war for the Bavarian inheritance, the war with Turkey and the wars with revolutionary France. The Alvincis were instructed to bring the army in order, replenish it and launch an offensive in order to free Mantuya and Wurmzer’s army locked in it.
Austrian Commander Josef Alvinci
The plan for the Alvinci offensive operation differed little from the plan of its predecessor Wurmzer. Acting in the mountains, he also divided his army into two parts: 18 thousand corps of General Davidovich and 29 thousand army of General Kvadzhanovich. Davidovich was to advance from Neumarkt along the Adige River, beat off Trient, go to Rivoli. Kvazhdanovich was heading from Friul via Bassano. Both units were supposed to give the French a decisive battle in the area of Verona, where the headquarters of the French army was located. After the victory, the Austrians were to liberate Mantua.
Thus, the Austrians stubbornly attacked the old rake: they divided the army into parts, moved separately in mountainous areas, where it was difficult to keep in touch and organize the interaction of troops, making it easier for the enemy. Napoleon was left with a favorite thing - to make quick marches and beat the enemy piecemeal. For action in the field, Napoleon had 32 thousand soldiers. Of these, 5 Thousands of soldiers under the command of Massena were located in Bassano, 10 Thousands of Wobua divisions were in Trient, covering the northern direction. The cavalry was moved to Mantua to cover the blockade forces. The rest of the French troops were concentrated in the area of Verona.
Battle at Arcole. Source: Beshanov V.V. Sixty Battles of Napoleon
Napoleon did not wait for the enemy, and despite 23 thousand. Wurmzer’s garrison in the rear, on November 2 attacked Davidovich with the Wobua division. He himself decided to attack Alvinci. The Austrians repulsed the attacks of the Wobouw division, themselves launched a counter-offensive and fought off Trient. The inconvenience of positions at Caliano forced Wabua to retreat further south and take up defenses on the Rivoli plateau. The Wobua Division lost almost half of the squad in these battles. The indecisive Davidovich almost stopped after successfully repelling the attacks of the French and the counteroffensive, receiving false news of the arrival of Massena’s Vobua aid team (only Massena himself, sent by Napoleon to find out about the situation, arrived). Only on November 14, under pressure from Alvinci, Davidovich’s corps slowly moved forward.
Meanwhile, Massena also departed under the pressure of troops Kvadzhanovich. Napoleon came to the aid of Massena with the division of Augereau, planning to strike at Kvazdanovic in Vicenza. Hard battle lasted all November 6 day. Both sides suffered heavy losses. The French were close to victory when the news of Vobua's retreat came. The French commander-in-chief decided to return to Verona and sort out the situation. Thus, at the first stage of the operation, the Alvinci army won up, and the Austrians managed to take possession of all Tyrol and all the terrain between the rivers Brenta and Adige.
The French army was under the threat of a simultaneous strike by the troops of Davidovich and Kvadzhanovich. Napoleon demanded Vobua to hand over part of the division to him and withdrew several thousand people from Mantua, pulling the troops to Verona. The weakening of the blockade of Mantua also created a threat from the garrison of Wurmzer. However, Napoleon decided to take a chance to save the results of previous victories.
The Austrians again ruined sluggishness. Davidovich and Wurmzer stood in their places, and Napoleon decided to attack the most active enemy - Alvinci. On November 12, the French attacked Kvázhdanovich’s troops all day, which occupied convenient positions at Coldier Heights and fortified them with redoubts and strong batteries. The battle went on in the pouring rain. The land was so wilted that the French artillery was stuck in mud and could hardly maneuver on the battlefield. While the Austrian artillery, being in previously prepared positions, led an effective fire. Having lost 2 thousand people, Napoleon again retreated to Verona. However, the completely spoiled weather prevented the Austrian army from securing success, the roads became almost impassable.
Thus, the position of the French army became critical. The Mantui garrison came to life, began to make frequent forays, constantly disturbing the besiegers, who left 8-9 thousand people. Before the French army stood Alvinci, in the 2 transitions - Davydovich and in the rear - the garrison of Mantua. Staying in this position was risky: Davydovich or Wurmzer, knocking over the barriers, could go to the rear of the French. Retreat beyond the river Mincio - it means voluntarily abandon all success. Alvinzi, having annexed Davydovich and Wurmzer to himself, would have had thousands of soldiers before 60 and then could have forced the French to completely clear the valley of the river Po. In this case, the French division suffered heavy losses. The morale of the Austrian army increased and the Austrians were already preparing to storm Verona. Failures undermined the morale of the French troops: everyone understood that it was pointless to attack the Austrian positions again, due to the apparent numerical superiority of the latter.
“We cannot do the task of everyone alone,” they said. “The Alvinci army that is here is the one in front of which the armies of the Rhine and Sambro-Maass retreated, and those are now idle. Why do we have to fulfill their duty? If we are broken, we, disgraced, will run to the Alps; if, on the contrary, we win, what will this new victory lead to? They will oppose us with another army, similar to the one that Alvinci has, just as Alvinci himself replaced Wurmzer, and Wurmzer - Beaulieu. In such an unequal struggle, we will finally be crushed in the end. " Napoleon told them to answer: “We have only one effort left to do, and Italy is ours. The enemy, no doubt, exceeds us in numbers, but half of his troops consist of recruits. Having broken it, having taken Mantua, we will become the masters of everything, our struggle ends by this, because not only Italy, but also the common world depends on Mantua. You want to go to the Alps, but you are no longer capable of it. From the desert and snow bivouacs on those barren cliffs it was good for you to go and conquer the wonderful plains of Lombardy, but from Italy’s welcoming and flourishing bivouacs you are not able to return to the snow. Some reinforcements approached us, others are on the way. Let those who do not want to fight anymore, are not looking for vain pretexts, because - break Alvinci, and I vouch for you for your future ... "(Napoleon. Selected Works).
Napoleon on Arkolsky bridge. French artist Antoine Jean Gros (1801)
Battle of Arcola
Napoleon found a way out. He decided to bypass the left flank of Alvinci from the south, crossing the Adige River at Ronco and go to the rear of the main enemy forces. On the night of November with 14 on 15, he raised an army and led him out of Verona. Then the army moved to the other side of the Adige. The soldiers and officers said: “He wants to bypass Coldio, whom he could not take from the front; not being able to fight on a plain with 13 000 a man against 40 000, he transfers the battlefield to a number of highways surrounded by vast swamps where you cannot do anything alone, but where the prowess of the head parts of the column decides everything ... ".
Part of the forces of the Massena division was occupied by Bionde, which provided the left flank on the side of San Martino. Crossing the Adige River and breaking the impassable swamp along the dams, the French soldiers reached the Arkolsky Bridge and immediately tried to cross to the other side of the Alpone River and cut off the Austrian communications. But the first attacks of the French on the bridge were repulsed. Division Augereau had to attack on a narrow dam, not being able to turn around in combat order. As soon as the French column emerged from the corner to the bridge, its head fell under aimed fire from the other bank and rolled back.
In the morning, Alvinci received news of the appearance of the French from Arcola, but considered this attack a false demonstration. The Austrian commander-in-chief could not believe that the whole army could be thrown into impassable swamps. In this triangle there were only two narrow bulk roads and it was possible to easily destroy all the troops. Finally, Alvinci singled out two divisions to counterattack the enemy’s “light forces,” as he thought. Mitrovsky's division he directed to the Arkol dam, and Provera's division to the left dam. At about 9 hours, Austrian troops energetically attacked the French. But now the Austrian numerical advantage, as Napoleon expected, did not matter. On the left dam, Massena’s men with a bayonet attack threw the enemy back with heavy losses. There was a similar situation on the Arkol dam: as soon as the Austrians crossed the bridge and turned onto the dam, being deprived of fire support from their shore, as Ogereau’s soldiers with bayonet counterattacks threw them into the swamp and forced them to flee. The Austrians, who did not expect such resistance, suffered heavy losses.
There was a stalemate. Neither the French nor the Austrians could not achieve decisive success. Then Napoleon, piously believing in his star, put his life on the line. Grasping the banner, he personally led the soldiers into battle, but this attack was repulsed. Retreating, the soldiers dragged the fallen general behind him, covering him with their bodies. Such bloody fights lasted two more days. By the evening of November 15, General Guyot with the brigade was ferried across the Adige to Albaredo. Arcole was bypassed from the rear. But Alvinci, having familiarized himself with the real state of things by this time, understood the danger of the situation. He hurriedly left Caldiero, destroying his batteries, and sent all his wagons and reserves across the bridge. The Austrians took a new position. Arcola was now an intermediate place between the fronts of both armies, although in the morning it was in the rear of the enemy.
The French also did not have clarity. Napoleon even thought of returning to Verona, since Davidovich's corps was slowly oppressing the Vobois division. If Davidovich had moved on Verona and forced Kilmen to rush to Mantua, he would force the blockade of this city to be lifted and cut off the retreat of the main apartment and the army in Ronco. Therefore, Napoleon ordered the cleansing of Arcole, which cost so much blood, took the army to the right bank of the Adige, leaving only one brigade and a few guns on the left bank. If Davidovich had moved to Rivoli, it was necessary to lift the bridge on the Adige, finish the business with Alvinci, arrive on time to support Vobua and cover up Mantua. On the evening of November 16, Napoleon received news that Davidovich had stopped and was not doing anything to support Alvinci. Thus, the actions of the two parts of the Austrian army continued to remain completely inconsistent with each other, which saved the French. Napoleon decided to continue the operation.
On November 17, Augereau’s division set up a bridge over Alpona near its confluence with the Adige River and crossed over to the left bank. Here Augeret joined the French garrison, which arrived from Lignoago, and after a stubborn battle, captured the village of Desmont. Then Auger began the movement towards Arcola. This decided the outcome of the bloody battle. The Austrian commander in chief, fearing for his communications and suffering heavy losses, withdrew his troops from Vicenza. In the three-day battle, the Austrians lost about 7 thousand people (according to other sources - 18 thousand), the French - 4,5 thousand people.
The French army was unable to pursue the retreating enemy, as it was forced to rush to the aid of the Vobois division. November 17 Davidovich attacked the Rivoli plateau and forced the French to retreat to Peschiera, but did nothing to support the forces of Kvadzhanovich and Alvintsi. Left alone, Davidovich under the blows of the concentrated forces of the French army also suffered a defeat and retreated to Trient. Napoleon could not develop the offensive, because he did not have sufficient forces for this.
Source: Mikhnevich N.P. History military art from ancient times to the beginning of the nineteenth century // http://www.runivers.ru/
Thus, the offensive that began with the success of the new Austrian army failed again. The vigorous actions of the French commander against superior enemy forces operating from two directions ended with the triumph of Napoleon’s army. The French commander-in-chief again took a big risk, throwing his troops to the point of a decisive blow, leaving only weak barriers in secondary directions. And he won, because the Austrians could not organize interaction and break the weaker forces of the enemy. Davidovich was inactive while Napoleon tried to defeat the main forces of the Austrian army. Under Arcol, Napoleon once again showed his high personal qualities to a commander and soldier, evoking the respect of officers and the delight of soldiers. His authority has increased even more.