Battle of Bassano

The Battle of Bassano was fought on 8 September 1796, during the French Revolutionary Wars, in the territory of the Republic of Venice, between a French army under Napoleon Bonaparte and Austrian forces led by Count Dagobert von Wurmser. The engagement occurred during the second Austrian attempt to raise the Siege of Mantua. It was a French victory, however it was the last battle in Napoleon`s perfect military career as two months later he would be defeated at the Second Battle of Bassano, ending his victorious streak. The Austrians abandoned their artillery and baggage, losing supplies, cannons, and battle standards to the French.

Battle of Bassano
Part of the French Revolutionary Wars
Chiesa San Giovanni Nepomuceno Bassano Grappa

The church of San Giovanni on the outskirts of Bassano, Bonaparte's headquarters during the battle
Date8 September 1796
Bassano, Venetia, present-day Italy
Result French victory
France First French Republic Habsburg Monarchy Habsburg Austria
Commanders and leaders
Napoleon Bonaparte Dagobert von Wurmser
20,000 11,000
Casualties and losses
400 killed, wounded or missing 600 killed or wounded,
3,000 captured,
30 cannons, 8 standards,


Austrian Plans

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, Feldmarschall Wurmser and his new chief-of-staff Feldmarschal-Leutnant (FML) Franz von Lauer drew up a strategy. Leaving FML Paul Davidovich and 13,700 soldiers to defend Trento and the approaches to the County of Tyrol, Wurmser directed two divisions east then south down the Brenta valley. When he joined the large division of Johann Mészáros 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. Lauer predicted that the French, having suffered recent losses, would be unable to react in time. Unknown to the Austrians, the French government desired that General Bonaparte cross the Alps to join the army of General Jean Moreau in southern Germany.[1]


See Bassano 1796 Campaign Order of Battle for a list of French and Austrian army units.


In 1796, there were only three practicable routes between Trento and the Po River basin. The first route lay west of Lake Garda. The second route was the road down the Adige valley east of Lake Garda and north of Verona. The third route went east through Levico Terme and Borgo Valsugana, then followed the Brenta River valley (Valsugana) southward to Bassano del Grappa. An army that held both Trento and Bassano could move troops and supplies between the two places free from French interference.


Battle of Rovereto 4 Sept 1796
Battle of Rovereto, 4 Sept 1796

Bonaparte posted General of Division Claude Vaubois with 10,000 men on the west side of Lake Garda. General of Division André Masséna defended the Adige River valley with 13,000 troops and General of Division Pierre Augereau covered Verona with 10,000 more. General of Division Charles Kilmaine maintained the blockade of Mantua with General of Division Jean Sahuguet's division of 8,000 soldiers and held a 2,000 man reserve at Verona.[2] Another source gave Vaubois 11,000, Massena 13,000, Augereau 9,000, Sahuguet 10,000, and Kilmaine 3,500 soldiers.[3]

After Castiglione, Bonaparte had rearranged his intelligence gathering: the French representative in Venice, Lallement, was sent money to pay for spies to check out the areas between Venice and Trent [4] and Bonaparte's station chief, Angelo Pico, based at Pescheira, sent his men forward into the Tyrol. More importantly, his spy Francesco Toli had penetrated Austrian headquarters and forewarned Bonaparte that Wurmser had left Davidovich at Trento.[5] So, Bonaparte struck first, sending Masséna and Augereau north toward Trento. Meanwhile, Vaubois advanced past Lake Idro to Riva at the north end of Lake Garda. Vaubois and Masséna converged on Rovereto on the Adige. At the Battle of Rovereto on 4 September, the French routed Davidovich's outnumbered troops, inflicting 3,000 casualties at a cost of 750 killed and wounded.[6]

Finding that Wurmser had moved toward Bassano, Bonaparte abandoned the plan to link with Moreau. Leaving Vaubois to observe the fleeing Austrians in the upper Adige valley, the French army commander decided to take a bold but risky course of action. Cutting loose from his supply line, he ordered Augereau, followed by Masséna, to the east into the Brenta valley.[7] On 7 September, Augereau's 8,200 soldiers overwhelmed the 2,800 to 4,000 Austrians of Wurmser's rear guard at Primolano (6 km north of Cismon del Grappa), capturing 1,500 men and their commander Oberstleutnant Alois von Gavasini. The victorious French then followed the valley as it turned south toward Bassano.[8][9]



Battle of Bassano 8 Sept 1796
Battle of Bassano, 8 Sept 1796

Surprised by the speed of the French advance, Wurmser was only able to gather up 11,000 men before the collision took place.

On 8 September, 20,000 French soldiers fell upon Wurmser from the north. First, they attacked the 3,800-man Austrian rearguard under FML Peter Quasdanovich and General-Major (GM) Adam Bajalics. Bonaparte sent Masséna down the west bank of the Brenta and Augereau down the east bank. Overwhelmed by repeated attacks and pursued by Colonel Joachim Murat's cavalry, the rearguard collapsed and Bajalics was captured.[10] Wurmser deployed one brigade on the west bank, a second brigade on the east bank, and a third in Bassano.[2] Colonel Jean Lannes led a successful charge which broke the Austrian lines and burst into the town. Quasdanovich later assumed command over the defeated Austrians who retreated east, but 3,500 soldiers of FML Karl Sebottendorf's division fell back to the south with their army commander.

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. The vigorous French pursuit also seized a bridging train plus 200 limbers and ammunition wagons.[11]

Race for Mantua

Race for Mantua 15 Sept 1796
Race for Mantua, 9–15 Sept 1796

Wurmser unexpectedly headed west toward Mantua and joined the division of Mészáros at Vicenza. 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. General-Major Peter Ott distinguished himself by leading Wurmser's vanguard in the race for Mantua. A French battalion holding Legnago abandoned its post, allowing the Austrians passage across the Adige.[2] Wurmser left 1,600 men to hold the city and continued his march. On 11 September, Masséna intercepted the Austrians at Cerea with two brigades weakened by straggling.[12] Ott held on until Wurmser arrived with the main body,[13] driving the French back with 1,200 casualties.[14] Bonaparte ordered Sahuguet to take up blocking positions at Castel d'Ario and at Governolo where the Mincio River flowed into the Po River. The next day, the Austrian field marshal, assisted by a local guide, crossed a bridge that Sahuguet failed to destroy and led 10,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry to Mantua.[15]

After capturing the detachment at Legnago on 13 September, Bonaparte appeared before Mantua. On 15 September, Wurmser awaited the French on the east bank of the Mincio River 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 General of Brigade Louis André Bon (leading Augereau's division) on the right. The French succeeded in capturing the San Giorgio suburb and driving the Austrians into Mantua.[16] 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 nine guns captured.[17]


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

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.[16]


  1. ^ Boycott-Brown, p 416
  2. ^ a b c Fiebeger, p 12
  3. ^ Boycott-Brown, p 419
  4. ^ "Oeuvres de Napoleon Bonaparte. Tome premier -sixieme!: 1.2". 8 April 2018. Retrieved 8 April 2018 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Histoire militaire de Masséna. Le première campagne d'Italie (1795 à 1798) by E. Gachot, p.170
  6. ^ Smith, p 122
  7. ^ Chandler, p 97
  8. ^ Smith, p 123
  9. ^ Boycott-Brown, pp 429–431. This source lists 2,800 Austrians.
  10. ^ Boycott-Brown, p 431
  11. ^ Smith, p 123. Chandler says 4,000 were captured.
  12. ^ Fiebeger, p 13
  13. ^ Boycott-Brown, pp 433–434
  14. ^ Smith, pp 123–124
  15. ^ Boycott-Brown, p 434
  16. ^ a b Boycott-Brown, p 435
  17. ^ Smith, p 124


Printed materials

  • Boycott-Brown, Martin. The Road to Rivoli. London: Cassell & Co., 2001. ISBN 0-304-35305-1
  • Chandler, David. The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York: Macmillan, 1966.
  • Fiebeger, G. J. (1911). The Campaigns of Napoleon Bonaparte of 1796–1797. West Point, New York: US Military Academy Printing Office.
  • Smith, Digby. The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill, 1998. ISBN 1-85367-276-9
  • Gachot, Eduoard Histoire militaire de Masséna. Le première campagne d'Italie (1795 à 1798) (1898)

External links

See also

Coordinates: 45°46′00″N 11°44′00″E / 45.7667°N 11.7333°E

1796 in France

Events from the year 1796 in France.

Anton Ferdinand Mittrowsky

Anton Ferdinand Count Mittrowsky von Mittrowitz und Nemyšl, or Anton Mittrovsky, (1745 – 30 September 1809) served in the Austrian army for many years. He was promoted to general officer in the spring of 1796, just in time to lead a brigade against Napoleon Bonaparte during the 1796-1797 Italian Campaign of the French Revolutionary Wars. He played a pivotal role in the Battle of Arcole, nearly defeating Bonaparte. He fought in Italy again in 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars and became the Proprietor (Inhaber) of an Austrian infantry regiment from 1806 until his death three years later.

Bassano 1796 Campaign Order of Battle

In the Battle of Bassano on 8 September 1796, Napoleon Bonaparte and his French Army of Italy routed an Austrian army led by Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser. Afterward, Wurmser gathered the intact parts of his army and marched for Mantua. On 15 September, the French defeated the Austrians and drove them into the fortress. This raised the numbers of the underfed and malaria-ridden garrison to nearly 30,000 men. These actions and the Battle of Rovereto occurred during the second attempted relief of the Siege of Mantua.

Battle of Calliano

The Battle of Calliano on 6 and 7 November 1796 saw an Austrian corps commanded by Paul Davidovich rout a French division directed by Claude Belgrand de Vaubois. The engagement was part of the third Austrian attempt to relieve the French siege of Mantua during the French Revolutionary Wars. The battle was preceded by a clash at Cembra on 2 November and followed by actions at Rivoli Veronese on 17 and 21 November.

Battle of Rovereto

In the Battle of Rovereto (also Battle of Roveredo) on 4 September 1796 a French army commanded by Napoleon Bonaparte defeated an Austrian corps led by Paul Davidovich during the War of the First Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars. The battle was fought near the town of Rovereto, in the upper Adige River valley in northern Italy.

The action was fought during the second relief of the Siege of Mantua. The Austrians left Davidovich's corps in the upper Adige valley while transferring two divisions to Bassano del Grappa by marching east, then south down the Brenta River valley. The Austrian army commander Dagobert von Würmser planned to march south-west from Bassano to Mantua, completing the clockwise manoeuvre. Meanwhile, Davidovich would threaten a descent from the north to distract the French.

Bonaparte's next move did not conform to the Austrians' expectations. The French commander advanced north with three divisions, a force that greatly outnumbered Davidovich. The French steadily pressed back the Austrian defenders all day and routed them in the afternoon. Davidovich retreated well to the north. This success allowed Bonaparte to follow Würmser down the Brenta valley to Bassano and, ultimately, trap him inside the walls of Mantua.

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Franz von Weyrother

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François Macquard

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Jean Joseph Magdeleine Pijon

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Jean Lannes

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Johann Mészáros von Szoboszló

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Karl Philipp Sebottendorf

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Order of battle for the Battle of Arcole

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Second Battle of Bassano

The Second Battle of Bassano on 6 November 1796, saw a Habsburg Austrian army commanded by Jozsef Alvinczi fight Napoleon Bonaparte's French Army of Italy. The Austrians repulsed persistent French attacks in a struggle in which both sides suffered heavy losses. The engagement, which happened two months after the more famous Battle of Bassano, marked the first tactical defeat of Bonaparte's career and occurred near Bassano del Grappa in Northern Italy during the French Revolutionary Wars. The action was part of the third relief of the Siege of Mantua during the War of the First Coalition.

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Siege of Mantua (1796–97)

During the Siege of Mantua, which lasted from 4 July 1796 to 2 February 1797 with a short break, French forces under the overall command of Napoleon Bonaparte besieged and blockaded a large Austrian garrison at Mantua for many months until it surrendered. This eventual surrender, together with the heavy losses incurred during four unsuccessful relief attempts, led indirectly to the Austrians suing for peace in 1797. The siege occurred during the War of the First Coalition, which is part of the French Revolutionary Wars. Mantua, a city in the Lombardy region of Italy, lies on the Mincio River.

After driving the Austrian army out of northwest and north-central Italy, the French invested the fortress of Mantua starting in early June 1796. In late July, a new Austrian commander, Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser led an army to the relief of Josef Franz Canto d'Irles' garrison from the north. Mantua was reached and the French were forced to abandon the siege. However, the Austrians were subsequently beaten in the battles of Lonato and Castiglione. Forced to retreat, Wurmser resupplied and reinforced the fortress with food and able-bodied troops. After withdrawing north up the Adige River, Wurmser planned to move his main army through the mountains to Bassano via the Brenta valley. From there he would mount the second relief of Mantua from the northeast. In an exceedingly bold maneuver, Bonaparte smashed Paul Davidovich's covering force and followed Wurmser down the Brenta valley. Overcoming the Austrian army at Bassano in early September, Bonaparte tried to destroy Wurmser but failed. Instead he chased the bulk of the Austrian army into Mantua. The garrison now counted 30,000 men, but cut off from outside help, disease and starvation began mowing down Wurmser's troops.

A new commander József Alvinczi led the third relief of Mantua in November. While Alvinczi marched from the northeast, Davidovich's column moved down from the north. Alvinczi defeated Bonaparte twice and moved to the gates of Verona while Davidovich drubbed his French opponent in the Adige valley. At his last gasp, Bonaparte crossed the Adige behind Alvinczi's left flank at Arcole. The fighting raged for three days but the French finally prevailed, forcing the Austrians to pull back. Free of Alvinczi, Bonaparte attacked Davidovich and forced his corps to retreat also. For the fourth relief of Mantua, Alvinczi advanced his main army from the north while sending two smaller columns to threaten the French from the northeast. The French crushed the Austrian main army at Rivoli. Leaving two divisions to finish off Alvinczi, Bonaparte rapidly moved south and arrived near Mantua in time to destroy one of the other Austrian columns. With no hope of further help, Wurmser surrendered Mantua in early February.

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