It was only after Lodi that I had the idea that I could become, perhaps,
decisive person in our political arena. The first spark of ambition appeared then.
decisive person in our political arena. The first spark of ambition appeared then.
220 years ago, 10 May 1796, between the French army of General Napoleon Bonaparte and the Austrian army of Field Marshal Beaulieu and the battle of Lodi. The battle ended with the victory of Napoleon's troops, who was personally guided by the battle and was approaching the front line at a distance of a rifle shot, thereby risking a lot. This battle is considered to be one of the most brilliant military researchers of the Italian campaign ever. Napoleon's army 15 May 1796 entered Milan. The French conquered Lombardy, and soon the whole of Northern Italy.
After the French Revolution, the neighboring states formed the anti-French coalition (it became the first). Initially, the revolutionary French army, in the conditions of the problem of the commanding personnel and the disorganized economy of the country, defended itself. But military reforms and high morale seriously strengthened the French army, and it launched a counter-offensive. The allies did not act in concert, each pulling a blanket over himself. This allowed France to make a number of territorial acquisitions. The anti-French coalition was weakened by the withdrawal from the war of some states. The French army began to conduct strategic offensive operations.
During the 1796 campaign, the Directory planned an offensive campaign against the Austrian army; West and South-West Germany was considered the main theater of the upcoming battles, through which French troops were trying to invade the original Austrian possessions. In this campaign, the Directory intended to use the best troops and the most outstanding commanders. French troops were to defeat the Austrians in southern Germany and pave the way to Vienna. In the Italian theater, where the French were opposed by Austro-Sardinian troops, the French army was to conduct auxiliary actions, distracting the enemy.
However, the Italian army was led by a young, talented and energetic General Napoleon Bonaparte. Thanks to his will and energy, the weak Italian army began to turn into a powerful force and achieved brilliant results. Napoleon managed to divide the troops under the command of the Sardinian General Colley and the Austrian field marshal Beaulieu with a quick offensive. The Austrian and Sardinian (Piedmont) troops suffered a series of serious defeats - the battles of Montenotte, Millezimo, Dego, Chev and Mondovi. The Sardinian army suffered a complete defeat, and the Austrians could not help Piedmont. The Sardinian king, frightened by the successes of the French and the possibility of revolution, concluded a truce with 28 on April. The French became masters of the whole Piedmont and the whole territory of Genoa. 15 May in Paris peace was signed. Piedmont pledged not to let anyone else’s troops, except French, pass through its territory, not to conclude alliances with anyone. Sardinia-Piedmont gave way to France, the county of Nice and the whole of Savoy. Sardinia also became the base of the French army, promising to supply the French army with all the necessary supplies. So, in the shortest possible time, the young French commander achieved major strategic success by fulfilling the task of breaking the Austro-Sardinian alliance and securing communication with France.
Thus, the main task of the first stage of the campaign was completed. French troops successfully invaded Italy. Piedmont was withdrawn from the war, Austria lost an ally. The speed of operations allowed Napoleon to seize the strategic initiative and impose his will on the enemy. Being weaker than the allies in terms of the size of the army, the French commander in chief acted with concentrated forces against the enemy troops scattered on a large front and had an advantage in each decisive battle with him. The French army, after several successes, became an army winner, confident in the talent of its leader and its forces. French troops robbed the rich Italian regions and this solved the supply problem (the war feeds itself).
Before the battle
Having secured the rear from the side of Piedmont, Napoleon continued the offensive. Now he has only one enemy, but the enemy is strong - the Austrian army. The Austrians still had superiority over the French in numbers, artillery, and material supplies. Therefore, the French commander acted in accordance with his basic principle: “To compensate for numerical weakness with the speed of movements.”
At the beginning of May 1796, French troops occupied the fortresses of Koni, Tortona and Chev. Massena moved with his division to Alessandria and captured many warehouses owned by the Austrian army here. Tortona was also a strong fortress, where there were a lot of guns and various supplies. Shocked by the quick action of the enemy, Austrian troops retreated across the Po River to cover Milan. Beaulieu was counting on defending the crossing of Po across from Valenza, and if it was forced, then defending the crossing of Sesia and Ticino. The Austrian army was reinforced by a reserve division of ten battalions. The Austrian command assumed that the French would make the crossing of the Po in Valenza. However, the French took only demonstrative actions from Walesa.
From the area of Alessandria, Tortona, Voghera, Valenza, the French commander-in-chief decided to cross over to the left bank of the Po River and enter the enemy communications, whose main forces were located for the defense on the Lomello-Pavia line. This maneuver made it possible to quickly put an end to the Beaulieu army, which could, if the campaign were delayed, strengthen its army by the forces of the Italian duchies, prone in fear of the invasion of the French army and the revolution, to come out against France. Therefore, by his actions Napoleon simultaneously put pressure on the duchy of Parma and Modena, forcing them to maintain neutrality or go over to the side of France.
Ten battalions were formed from the grenadiers gathered from the whole army, including 3500 men. With these selective troops, cavalry, and 24 cannons, Napoleon made a forced march to Piacenza to quickly capture the crossing of the Po. The rest of the French divisions had to abandon their positions and hastily move to Piacenza, following the advance guard.
7 May across the Po crossed ferry cavalry and grenadiers Lanna. Two squadrons of the Austrian hussars could not prevent the crossing. On the night of 7, the entire French army arrived at 8. May 9 was over bridge bridge and the crossing of the main forces began. Thus, the French troops crossed the pontoon bridge built by Piacenza. The Austrians were late to block the crossing at Piacenza with the help of the Liptay division, with eight battalions and eight squadrons, which had left Pavia and arrived at Fombio at night, one league from Piacenza. 8 May, the French attacked Fombio and defeated the Austrians. The Austrian division, which was defending the village, was overturned, lost its guns, 2000 people were prisoners and three flags. The remnants of the Austrian troops rushed to the fortress Pitstsigetone and crossed the river. Addu.
The appearance of the French army in close proximity forced the Duke of Parma to conclude a peace agreement with the French. The Duke of Parma had no political significance: there was no benefit to seize his possessions. Therefore, Napoleon left him to manage the duchy. True to his principle that “war must feed itself”, Napoleon imposed huge donations on the duchy with money, food and horses, as well as the duty to maintain military roads and hospitals. Only Parma was forced to pay two million francs in gold. Interestingly, Napoleon laid an indemnity on art for the Paris Museum - it was the first example of this kind found in the new stories. Parma gave 20 paintings of choice of French commissioners. Among them was the famous “St. Jerome. " The Duke of Parma offered 2 a million to retain this picture, and the authorized armies were very inclined to make such a replacement. But the commander-in-chief said that from the two millions that would be given to him, there would soon be nothing left, while such a masterpiece would decorate Paris for many centuries and cause the appearance of other masterpieces.
Thus, the Austrian army, under the command of Field Marshal Beaulieu, was retreating east along the River Po from the north. They were pursued by the French army commanded by Napoleon on the southern side, part of which during the persecution crossed over to the north bank.
Initially misled by the demonstrative actions of the French from Valenza, the Austrian commander finally understood the enemy’s maneuver. Fearing for his messages, Beaulieu partially redeployed his troops to Belgioso and Fombio, but under pressure from the French troops went to Lodi. Leaving Pavia and Milan to the mercy of fate, the Austrians crossed over to the left bank of the Adda River. To cover the departure, Beaulieu left the 16-thousandth squad led by General Sebotendorf. Thus, the Austrian rear guard held a position in Lodi on the right bank of the river, covering the road to Cremona.
10 May Napoleon with the vanguard shot down the enemy's advance unit from Lodi and immediately took the city. The city had fortress walls and the Austrians tried to lock the gates, but the French soldiers entered Lodi interspersed with fugitives. The French quickly drove the Austrians to the left bank of the Adda. However, they could not cross over after them, as the Austrian artillery on the other side literally swept up all of the money on and around the bridge. The avant-garde force was not enough to attack the bridge, and they waited for reinforcements.
With the arrival of reinforcements - Massena's troops - Napoleon decided to repeat the attack. According to his own recollections, he wanted "on the same day to cross the Adda River over the bridge under the enemy's fire and to amaze him with such a bold operation." Before the attack, the French made positions for artillery at the bridge, on the city shaft and on the edge of the right bank, to fire at the Austrian troops defending the bridge and to prevent the destruction of the crossing. As a result, the line of the Austrian infantry, somewhat distanced from the river, to take advantage of the folds of the terrain and partially protect against the cores of French batteries.
In order to divert the enemy around 17 hours, Napoleon ordered General Beaumont to cross the Addu cavalry 2 upstream through the fords and launch a defensive attack on the right flank of the Austrians. Behind the city wall on the banks of the Adda, the French commander-in-chief covered the grenadier column (3 thousand soldiers). After the Austrian soldiers withdrew from the coast, fleeing from the actions of the enemy artillery, the French grenadiers were closer to enemy cannons than the line of the Austrian infantry. At 18 hours, the French convoy was ready to attack.
As soon as Napoleon noticed that the fire of the Austrians weakened, and the advance guard of the cavalry appeared on the left bank, he ordered an attack. The French general risked his life and himself led the soldiers into a bayonet attack. When the French soldiers reached the middle of the bridge, they were given a volley of grapeshot from the opposite side, which led to the appearance of a traffic jam from the dead and wounded. At this critical moment, officers André Massena, Louis-Alexander Bertier, Jean Lannes, Jean-Baptiste Servoni and Claude Dahlmann rushed forward. The order was restored, in a cursory step the French column crossed the bridge. The French grenadiers immediately captured the guns and hit the Austrian line. The Austrian rear guard, losing guns, attacked by French infantry and surrounded by cavalry, was defeated, demoralized and fled to Cremona in disorder. The French light cavalry entered Cremona after a quick attack and pursued the Austrian rearguard to Olio. The Austrians left around 2000-3000 dead and wounded, up to 2500 prisoners and 15 guns. The losses of the French were 200 people. It was a beautiful victory.
In this battle, Napoleon finally conquered the hearts of his soldiers, showing personal courage and courage. He began to be called the "Little Corporal". But the main meaning of Lodi was not that. Clausewitz wrote: "... the storming of the bridge at Lodi represents an enterprise that, on the one hand, is so far from the usual methods, on the other - is so unmotivated that the question arises whether it is possible to find an excuse for it or it is impossible." In fact, the three hundred-foot-long bridge was defended by seven thousand soldiers and 14 guns. Was the risk justified? Perhaps it was necessary to find a less protected ferry. However, Napoleon proved the victory of his actions. Cheek brings success. As the same Clausewitz noted: “The company of a brave Bonaparte was crowned with full success ... Undoubtedly, no military feat caused such amazement throughout Europe as this crossing over the Addu ... So when they say that the assault on Lodi was not strategically motivated, since Bonaparte could to get this bridge to another morning for nothing, then they mean only spatial relations of the strategy. And don't the moral results that we have indicated belong to strategy? ”Clausewitz was right. 11 May Bonaparte wrote to Carnot: “The battle of Lodi, my dear Director, gave the whole of Lombardy to the Republic ... In your calculations, you can proceed from the fact that I would be in Milan.”
A relatively small victory had strategic implications. The Austrian Archduke Ferdinand and his retinue fled from the capital of Lombardy. 15 May the French army triumphantly entered Milan. The capital of Lombardy met its conquerors with flowers and ovations. The Milanese saw in them the soldiers of the revolution, the liberators of the Italian people. In the Parma Convent of Stendhal, this episode of the Italian campaign is described: “Together with the torn-out poor Frenchmen, such a mighty wave of happiness and joy rushed to Lombardy that only priests and some nobles noticed the weight of the six million indemnity, followed by other monetary penalties. After all, these French soldiers laughed and sang from morning to evening, everyone was younger than 25 years, and their commander-in-chief was recently 27, and he was considered the oldest man in the army. ” The French army then carried hopes for a better future. Italians saw their Corsicans Napoleone and Salichetti (Army Commissar).
In the order of the army, the commander wrote: “Soldiers, from the tops of the Apennines, you collapsed like a torrent, crushing and overturning everything that you tried to resist. Piedmont, freed from Austrian tyranny, surrendered to the natural feelings of peace and friendship with France. Milan is yours, and the Republican flag flutters over Lombardy. The dukes of Parma and Modena owe their political existence only to your generosity. An army that has threatened you vainly does not find any more barrier against which it could hide from your courage. By, Ticino, Adda did not delay you for a single day. These vaunted strongholds of Italy were not strong enough; you overcame them as quickly as the Apennines. ... Yes, soldiers, you have done a lot ... But does this mean that you have nothing more to do? .. Will they say about us that we managed to win, but failed to take advantage of the victory? Will the offspring not reproach us that in Lombardy we have found Capua? But I already see how you grab for weapon. Rest panties you. The days lost for glory are lost and for your happiness. So, let's move forward, we still have forced marches, there are enemies that need to be defeated, laurels with which we need to cover ourselves, insults for which we need revenge. ... Let those who brought the daggers of the civil war over France tremble; the hour of vengeance has arrived. But let the nations be calm. We are friends of all nations, especially the descendants of Brutus and the Scipios, and the great people whom we take as models. To restore the Capitol, to hoist there with honor the statues of the heroes who made it famous, to awaken the Roman people, put to sleep by several centuries of slavery, are the fruits of our victories. They will create an epoch in history. You will have immortal glory for changing the face of the most beautiful part of Europe. The French people, free, respected by the whole world, will give Europe a glorious world that will compensate for the sacrifices made within six years. Then you will return to your homes, and your fellow citizens will say, pointing to you: "He was in the Italian army!"
The rule of the Austrians, feudal squabbles of the grand duchy and the small kingdoms opposed the people. A wave of revolutionary anti-feudal movement swept across Italy. This support of the common people contributed to the success of the young French general that shook Europe. However, Napoleon himself was in no hurry with the revolutionary changes. In the future, he will prefer to rely on already existing and well-established regimes. True, the initially young general supported the progressive aspirations of the Italians. In Lombardy, Napoleon, in complete agreement with Commissioner Salichetti, supported the Italian revolutionary forces. The “Friends of Freedom and Equality” club was created in Milan, a new municipal council was chosen, and the newspaper Giornale dei patrioti d'ltalia, edited by Matteo Guldi, began to appear. Its main slogan was the unification of Italy.
On the other hand, Napoleon strengthened the material base of the French army. The artillery park was replenished. Piedmont and Parma gave much to the French army, but even more resources were captured in Lombardy. This made it possible to pay the soldiers' salaries, satisfy all needs and make the supply of the army more regular. The winners did not forget to impose a tribute to Milan in 20 million lire. However, Napoleon and Commissioner Salichetti tried to lay the burden of taxation primarily on the shoulders of the haves and the feudal circles of Lombardy. Their actions in Lombardy had quite definite political content. In the war against feudal Austria, they sought to use the military slogan: "The war of the peoples against the tyrants." But in those areas where the population resisted the requisition, these performances were brutally suppressed, and the cities and towns were given to the plundering of the soldiers. The French command practically did not impede robbery, letting the soldiers feel the taste of victory. But in general, the Italians still saw in the French liberators from the Austrian oppression, there was hope for a better order.
After Milan 17 May, the Duke of Modena capitulated. The city of Modena had a strong defense, a good arsenal and 4000 soldiers. But the duchy did not resist. He acted like a duchy of Parma. Modena paid 10 millions, supplied horses, various kinds of supplies and a certain number of masterpieces of art.
French troops occupied Lombardy along the Adda River. Part of the French army moved to Tuscany, although the Duke of Tuscany was neutral in the ongoing Franco-Austrian war, and on June 29 occupied Livorno, liquidating the British base there fleet. The Duke of Tuscany was supposed to contribute 2 million lire, give one thousand eight hundred horses, two thousand bulls, ten thousand quintals of grain, five thousand quintals of oats, etc. This was only the beginning. In January 1797, Tuscany, under an additional agreement providing for the evacuation of French troops from Livorno, pledged to pay another million ecu. In addition, the loss of the vanquished was not limited to fixed payments. Upon leaving Livorno, the French brought out twenty-six cannons, gunpowder, shells and most of the jewelry. The government of Tuscany prudently closed its eyes to this.
Having secured his rear with shops on the left bank of the River Po, Napoleon 30 passed through Mincio in May, rejected the Austrian troops and, after a series of brilliant maneuvers, forced Beaulieu to leave for Tyrol. 4 June the French laid siege to Mantua. Thus, the whole of Northern Italy was in the hands of Napoleon. The loss of Lombardy was a major blow to Austria. Lombardy had special privileges. The Austrian emperor appointed here as governor-general of the prince of the blood and entrusted the highest authority to his first minister.
Now the name of Napoleon gained weight. His name was repeated not only by ordinary soldiers and Italians, but the generals believed in him. Napoleon himself believed in his lucky star: “It was in the evening at Lodi that I believed in myself as an extraordinary person and imbued myself with ambition to accomplish great things that until then had been my imagination.” Therefore, already during the exile on St. Helena, the former emperor most often liked to recall Italy.
Map of the Italian Campaign. 1796