220 years ago, 14-15 January 1797, the battle of Rivoli took place. French troops under the command of Napoleon defeated the Austrian army under the leadership of General Alvintsi. The French army repelled the fourth offensive of the Austrians in order to unlock Mantua. The defeat of the Austrians predetermined the fall of the besieged fortress and consolidated the conquest of Northern Italy.
During the 1796 campaign of the year, the French army, led by Napoleon, forced Sardinia (Piedmont) to capitulate, defeated the Austrians in several battles. The French subjugated the richest regions of Italy, received a huge indemnity and resolved the issue with the rear base.
Napoleon's troops captured most of northern Italy. The Austrian army retreated to Tyrol. In the hands of the Austrians, only the fortress of Mantua remained, which the French had blocked, but could not take, because the stronghold was protected by nature itself. The fortress, which was considered impregnable, was covered from the north and east by lakes, and from south to west - by reedy marshes, traversed by only a few dams. Therefore, Napoleon overlaid the fortress, while most of the French army covered 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.
Napoleon's troops repulsed three offensives by the Austrian army in order to liberate Mantua. In late July, the Austrian army of Wurmzer removed the blockade from Mantua. However, then in early August, the Austrian troops were defeated in the battles of Lonato and Castiglione. The remnants of the army Wurmzer left in Tyrol. French troops again blocked Mantua.
The Austrian high command, fearing an enemy invasion of Tyrol and wishing to unlock Mantua, organized a second offensive operation. The Austrians divided the 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; Wurmzer’s army in the Bassano area, Primolano. After learning about the plans of the enemy, Napoleon himself launched an offensive in early September. 4-5 September the French defeated the Austrians from Rovereto. The main forces of Davydovich were defeated. September 8 Napoleon defeated Wurmzer’s troops at Bassano. Wurmzer’s army was hit from the rear, was defeated and completely cut off from communications with Austria. But Wurmzer broke into Mantua. Thus, the second offensive operation of the Austrian army ended even worse than the first. Davidovich's corps, covering Tyrol, was defeated and fled. Wurmzer was also crushed and escaped in Mantua, which he planned to release.
The defeat of the French troops in Germany led to the fact that Vienna was able to organize a third offensive in Italy. It was necessary to save the garrison of Mantua, which, driven to the extreme by hunger and disease, could soon capitulate. Austria, having received new subsidies from England, formed a new 50 thousand army, for operations in Italy. The experienced general Josef Alvinci became the Austrian commander in Italy. In November, Austrian troops launched a new offensive. However, on November 15-17, the French stopped the enemy at the Battle of Arcola, and then threw him away.
In all three operations, common features were traced: the Austrians divided their forces, acted slowly, were often passive, could not organize interaction; Napoleon, on the contrary, acted decisively and quickly, was not afraid to take risks, and eventually seized the initiative, destroyed the plans of the enemy and beat the superior forces of the Austrian army.
The situation before the battle
After the battle of Arcola, Napoleon did not have the strength to wage an offensive war (by the end of 1796, he had about 45 thousand soldiers), reinforcements should have arrived no earlier than the spring of 1797. The Austrians put their forces in order. Vienna, with the help of the Allies and the British money, formed a new army, planning a new attempt at the de-blockade of Mantua. The Austrians were once again planning to redeploy troops to the Italian front from Germany. In addition, the Pope and Naples promised to put 15 thousand soldiers. This caused a one-and-a-half-month lull in the Italian theater of operations. France, tired of continuous wars, offered Austria peace, but Vienna, who was encouraged by the success of the troops of the Archduke Charles on the Rhine, decided to continue the war.
The Austrian high command hurried Alvinzi with the offensive. Wurmzer still held in Mantua, but the position of the fortress was terrible: every day people died on 100. By the end of December, the garrison had no more than 9 thousand soldiers in the ranks, another about 10 thousand people were sick. The Austrian commander-in-chief, Josef Alvinci, who was defeated by Napoleon Bonaparte in the battle of Arcol, believed that the army was not yet ready for a decisive offensive. Replenish not yet arrived. By the end of 1796, Alvinci had 42 thousand people. The Austrian army was located in three groups: the main forces were concentrated in the Neumarkt area - 28 thousand people, in the Bassano area - 6 thousand soldiers of General Bayalich, in Padua - 8 thousand General Provera. The 15 thousand corps, exhibited by the Pope and Naples, moved to Bologna.
Gofkrygsrat (court military council) in January 1797, ordered Alvinci to launch an offensive at any cost to liberate Mantua. The Austrian field marshal himself with the main forces was to advance through Trient along the river Adige to Mantua. At the same time, General Provera was going there through Legnago. The detachment of Bayalich, who was advancing to Verona, was to serve as a link between Alvinzi and Provera, while diverting the attention of the French to themselves. It was also assumed that part of the French forces would be distracted by the troops of the Pope and Naples, which created a threat to the French from the rear.
Napoleon was in a difficult situation. On the one hand, he needed to repel the attacks of the enemy. On the other hand, he was in conflict with the Directory. Paris, which was led by a large, inherently parasitic, speculative bourgeoisie, Italy was needed as a source of gold, works of art, other values and resources. All orders of the Directory were reduced to the plunder of Italy. At the same time, Paris was not going to “liberate” Italy in reality. The Italian lands were partly planned to occupy, partly to use for bargaining with Austria or the Piedmont.
Napoleon also pursued his policy. In September, 1796, he called for the liberation of Italy. In a multitude of appeals and appeals, he called on the Italians for bourgeois-democratic reforms, national construction. However, this call was not implemented. Italy was divided into small state entities that depended on great powers. Italy could not yet overcome local isolation. The movement of national unity is still in its infancy. As a result, Napoleon himself began to create a "free Italy", on which he wanted to rely in the fight against Austria. In October, 1796, in Milan, proclaimed the creation of the Trans-Danish Republic. It was created on the model of the French Republic. It includes the lands of the Duchy of Milan, the duchy of Mantua, the bishopric of Trent, and parts of the Republic of Venice. In the same month, the congress in Bologna announced the creation of the Cispadan Republic. The republic consisted of Modena, Reggio, Ferrara and Bologna. In 1797, both republics were united by one Tsizalpinsky republic.
Thus, Napoleon contributed to the creation of independent Italian republics related to France by common interests. By this he violated the instructions of the Directory. In Paris, they were enraged by the willfulness of the disobedient general, but could not be removed because only the Italian army was victorious, and gold flowed from Italy. Paris tried to make peace with Vienna (the mission of General Clark), which allowed Napoleon to be removed from Italy, but the Austrians did not go to peace. In Vienna, the campaign was not considered lost.
In addition, the Directory was delaying the sending of reinforcements to Italy and, in fact, deliberately substituted the become overly independent general. As a result, the forces of the French army melted from battle to battle. The Commander himself in December 1796 - the beginning of 1797, was sick: he was shaken by a fever. It was yellow, very thin, dry. The royalists even believed that his days were numbered, that in a week or two it could be deleted from the number of opponents. However, Napoleon was written off early. Napoleon gave the battle, which became one of the most brilliant achievements of military art, and utterly defeated the enemy.
The beginning of hostilities
Not expecting the advance of the Austrians earlier than the second half of January, 1797. Napoleon Bonaparte kept his troops stationed along the Adige River. The divisions of Augereau, Massena, and Joubert (each on 10 thousand soldiers), were located respectively in Legnago, Verona and on the Rivolian Plateau. Protection of the left flank and communications with Milan carried out on 4-th. Anthony Ray squad that occupied Salo and Brescia. In Castellano there was a detachment of Victor (1800 people), a detachment of Lannes (2700 people) was in Bologna with the task of repelling the offensive of Neapolitan and papal troops.
The fourth Austrian attack on Mantua began on 7 on January 1797. January 8 squad Provera pushed aside the vanguard of Augereau on the right bank of the Adige. Receiving a message about the attack of the enemy, Napoleon sent Lanna to Legnago and personally went to Verona to sort out the situation on a common front and make a decision. At the same time, the lucky circumstance revealed to the French the plans of the Austrian command: from the intercepted Austrian letters, Napoleon learned that the main attack of the enemy army should be expected from Trient on Rivoli. The French commander-in-chief decided first to smash the main enemy grouping and dispatched the bulk of Massena's division and Ray's detachment to Rivoli. Thus, he set up a strike group against X-NUMX for thousands of people against Alvinci with 22 guns.
In the meantime, Alvinci's troops were advancing in a general direction on the Rivoli Plateau, towering between the Adige River and Lake Garda. Joubert's troops are located on the heights bordering the plateau from the north. To secure the left flank of the French, one battalion was advanced to the lake. January 13 Austrians, advancing in six columns, approached the Rivoli plateau. Four columns launched a frontal attack Joubert. The right-flank convoy of General Lusignan (4500 soldier) Alvinci sent to Affi with the task of going to the rear of the French division. The left-flank column with large-caliber artillery was supposed to go along the road along the eastern bank of the Adige River. Deep snow and rough terrain made it extremely difficult to use artillery and cavalry.
Under the onslaught of superior enemy forces, Joubert was forced to withdraw to Rivoli. Not having received reinforcements on this day, he was even going to begin a retreat to Castellano. However, Napoleon arrived at Rivoli in the evening and ordered Joubert to remain in place. On the night of January 14, Alvinci stopped at a halt north of the Rivoli plateau, intending to reach the French from both flanks in the morning. The arrangement of individual columns of Austrians allowed the French commander-in-chief, who personally studied the disposition of the enemy troops, to unravel his plans. He clearly, as on the map, saw the further movements of the Austrian troops. In an effort to preempt the enemy and seize the initiative, Napoleon ordered Joubert to go on the offensive before dawn, without waiting for the arrival of reinforcements.
On the morning of January 14, the battle continued. The battles were hard, went with varying success. However, on the flanks of the Austrian columns of Lusignan from the west and Vukasovich from the east went around the Rivoli plateau. Overwhelmed from both flanks, Joubert struggled to keep the French on the verge of defeat. But by 10 hours, thousands of people from Verona, General Massena, came to the rescue with 6. The battle was a turning point in favor of the French. Supporting part of the forces of the right flank of Joubert, Massena rushed with the rest of the troops on Lusignan. It is not for nothing that General Massena who especially distinguished himself in this battle would subsequently receive the title of Duke of Rivoli from Emperor Napoleon for this particular battle.
At the same time, Ray's division arrived in front of Orce and attacked Lusignan’s convoy from the rear. The Austrians began to retreat and suffered heavy losses. A small detachment of Murat, who crossed the Salo through Lake Garda on ships from Salo, reached the rear of the Austrians. As a result, the retreat of the Austrian troops escalated into flight. By evening, the Austrians everywhere were repulsed. The next day, the Austrians will attack again, but their fighting spirit has already been broken. After the first encounter with the French, the Austrian soldiers will flee. The French pursued them all over the front. Thus, the three-day battle ended in complete defeat for the main forces of Alvinci.
Leaving the troops of Joubert and Ray to pursue the defeated enemy, Napoleon and Massena’s division hurried to help Augereau, who reported that the Adige Provera who had crossed to the right bank continued to move towards Mantua. Arriving in Legnago, the French commander-in-chief mobilized all forces to destroy the Provera unit. On the one hand, Massena’s division was passing, 50 kilometers passed within 24 hours, on the other, Augereau with the Lannes detachment, who arrived from Bologna, and on the third side, Victor with his squadron. Wurmzer tried to assault Provera, already approaching Mantua, with a sortie out of the fortress, but the Austrians were repelled. January 16, swept from all sides, General Provera capitulated. At the same time, the garrison of Verona defeated the Bayalich detachment, extremely weakened by the allocation of troops to secure the flanks and the rear.
Joubert defeated the Austrians in several clashes, joined Trient and occupied the Italian Tyrol. He captured Austrian hospitals and supplies. As a result, the French army took the same positions as before the Arkolsky battle.
Battle of Rivoli
The fourth attack of the Austrians suffered a crushing defeat. The losses of the Austrians in the fourth offensive amounted to 22 thousand people, of which, under Rivoli, Alvinci lost 14 thousand people, including more than 10 thousand prisoners. The French have lost 3200 people.
The sad lessons of the first three unsuccessful offensives did not go ahead for the Austrians. They again dispersed their forces: three separate detachments attacked without communication between themselves and without general control, which allowed the French commander to act in advance, maneuver troops along internal operational lines, concentrating large forces to strike first with one and then with another Austrian detachment.
The new defeat of the Austrians predetermined the fall of Mantua. Food stocks have been exhausted. Field Marshal Wurmzer had nothing to hope for. 2 February 1797 Austrian garrison laid down weapon. Weapons laid down 30 generals and about 20 thousand soldiers. The capitulation of Mantua actually completed the conquest of Northern Italy by the French.
The triumph of Rivoli raised the prestige of Napoleon to unattainable heights. Count Mozenigo wrote from Florence to St. Petersburg: "The French army almost completely crushed the Austrians in a fierce battle ... and as a result, Buonoparte, who almost destroyed the imperial troops in Italy for four days, entered Verona with all the attributes of victory" in triumph. Napoleon strengthened his position in the confrontation with the Directory. In Paris, they were forced to congratulate the winning general. Former intentions to teach a lesson or to dismiss a recalcitrant general had to be forgotten.
In addition, the victory at Rivoli caused a big stir in the Italian courtyards. In a panic was the Neapolitan court, there sought to achieve peace with the French. The Grand Duke of Tuscany was quick to pay a contribution. In a report from Florence to St. Petersburg in mid-February 1797, it was reported that "the anxiety and fear that engulfed Rome reached the highest limit." French troops moved to the capital of the Papal States, without encountering resistance. Napoleon occupied the city outside the city. Pope Pius VI capitulated and signed 19 on February 1797 of the world in Tolentino on the terms of Napoleon: The Papal States gave up a large and richest part of the holdings and paid a ransom of 30 million gold francs.