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|
The church of San Giovanni on the outskirts of Bassano, Bonaparte's headquarters during the battle
|First French Republic||Habsburg Austria|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Napoleon Bonaparte||Dagobert von Wurmser|
|Casualties and losses|
|400 killed, wounded or missing||
600 killed or wounded,|
30 cannons, 8 standards,
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.
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.
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. Another source gave Vaubois 11,000, Massena 13,000, Augereau 9,000, Sahuguet 10,000, and Kilmaine 3,500 soldiers.
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  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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. Ott held on until Wurmser arrived with the main body, driving the French back with 1,200 casualties. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.Bosnian–Ragusan War
A war was fought between the Kingdom of Bosnia and the Republic of Ragusa in 1403. In 1403 Stephen Ostoja of Bosnia sided with King Ladislaus of Naples in his plights against the Hungarian King Sigismund, Bosnia's liege. King Ostoja led a war against the Ragusans, Sigismund's allies.
Radič Sanković led the attacks on Dubrovnik in the name of Stephen Ostoja. Sandalj Hranić captured and blinded Radič, and held him in prison until his death in 1404. Among the fallen noblemen were Vukosav Nikolić and the Duke of Slano.The Ragusans set fire to Šumet and Žrnovnica, so the Bosnian army retreated.Franz von Weyrother
Franz von Weyrother (1755 – 16 February 1806) was an Austrian staff officer and general who fought during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He drew up the plans for the disastrous defeats at the Battle of Rivoli, Battle of Hohenlinden and the Battle of Austerlitz, in which the Austrian army was defeated by Napoleon Bonaparte twice and Jean Moreau once.François Macquard
François Macquard or François Macquart (18 October 1738 – 29 November 1801) joined the French royal army as an infantryman, fought in the Seven Years' War, and rose slowly from the ranks to become an officer in the 1780s. While serving in Italy during the French Revolutionary Wars, he became a general officer. In the Italian campaign of 1796, he fought in several actions under the orders of Napoleon Bonaparte.Giovanni Marchese di Provera
Giovanni Marchese di Provera, or Johann Provera, born c. 1736 – died 5 July 1804, served in the Austrian army in Italy during the French Revolutionary Wars. Provera played a significant role in three campaigns against General Napoleon Bonaparte during the Italian Campaign of 1796.Jean Joseph Magdeleine Pijon
Jean Joseph Magdeleine Pijon or Jean Pigeon, born 7 September 1758 – died 5 April 1799, was a French general who was killed in combat during the French Revolutionary Wars. He led an attack column at Loano in late 1795. He commanded a brigade in Napoleon Bonaparte's French Army of Italy during several famous campaigns. In 1796 he fought at Lonato where he was briefly captured, Rovereto where he was in the forefront of the action, Bassano, Cerea where he led the advance guard, and early in the Arcole campaign where he was wounded. In Italy during 1799, he fought at Verona and met his death at Magnano. His surname is one of the 660 names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe.Jean Lannes
Jean Lannes, 1st Duc de Montebello, Prince de Siewierz (10 April 1769 – 31 May 1809), was a Marshal of the Empire. He was one of Napoleon's most daring and talented generals. Napoleon once commented on Lannes: "I found him a pygmy and left him a giant". A personal friend of the emperor, he was allowed to address him with the familiar "tu", as opposed to the formal "vous".Johann Mészáros von Szoboszló
Johann Mészáros von Szoboszló (1737 – 17 November 1801) joined the Austrian army in 1756 and fought the Prussians, Ottoman Turks, and French during a long military career. During the French Revolutionary Wars, he fought in several campaigns. He commanded a division in the 1796-1797 Italian campaign against the army of Napoleon Bonaparte. He was Proprietor (Inhaber) of an Austrian Uhlan regiment from 1792 to 1797 and a Hussar regiment from 1797 to 1801.Karl Philipp Sebottendorf
Karl Philipp Sebottendorf van der Rose (17 July 1740 – 11 April 1818) enrolled in the Austrian army at the age of 18, became a general officer during the French Revolutionary Wars, and commanded a division against Napoleon Bonaparte in several notable battles during the Italian campaign of 1796.Order of battle for the Battle of Arcole
In the Battle of Arcole on 15 to 17 November 1796, the French Army of Italy commanded by Napoleon Bonaparte won a victory over the army of Austria led by Jozsef Alvinczi. The battle was part the third relief of the Siege of Mantua in which Alvinczi's army repulsed Bonaparte at the Second Battle of Bassano on 6 November and at the Battle of Caldiero on 12 November. Meanwhile, Paul Davidovich's Austrian Tyrol Corps clashed with Claude Vaubois' French division at Cembra on 2 November. Davidovich defeated Vaubois at the Battle of Calliano on 6–7 November and Rivoli Veronese on 17 November. After Bonaparte's triumph at Arcola, he turned on the Tyrol Corps, beat it at Rivoli on 21 November, and forced it to retreat north into the mountains.Peter Vitus von Quosdanovich
Peter Vitus Freiherr von Quosdanovich (Croatian: Petar Vid Gvozdanović; 12 June 1738 – 13 August 1802) was a Croatian nobleman and general of the Habsburg Monarchy. He achieved the rank of Feldmarschall-Lieutenant and was awarded the Commander's Cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresa. He played a major role in several battles against the French Army of Italy led by Napoleon during the French Revolutionary Wars.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.Siege of Acre (1799)
The Siege of Acre of 1799 was an unsuccessful French siege of the Ottoman-defended, walled city of Acre (now Akko in modern Israel) and was the turning point of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt and Syria. It was Napoleon`s first strategic defeat as three years previously he had been tactically defeated at the Second Battle of Bassano.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.