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.

Second Battle of Bassano
Part of French Revolutionary Wars
Date6 November 1796
Location
Bassano del Grappa, in present-day Italy
Result Austrian tactical victory, French strategic retreat
Belligerents
France French Republic Habsburg Monarchy Austria
Commanders and leaders
France Napoleon Bonaparte Habsburg Monarchy Jozsef Alvinczi
Strength
19,500 infantry 28,000 infantry
Casualties and losses
3,000 dead and wounded 2,800 dead and wounded

Background

See the Arcola 1796 Campaign Order of Battle for a list of the major units of both armies.

The second relief of the Siege of Mantua ended dismally for the Austrians after General Bonaparte defeated Feldmarschall Dagobert Sigismund von Würmser's field army at the Battle of Bassano on 8 September. After the battle Würmser elected to dash for Mantua. He reached the place safely only to have his 12,000 remaining soldiers driven into the fortress by the French on 15 September. Within six weeks 4,000 Austrians died of disease or wounds in the overcrowded city.

Siege of Mantua Campaign Map 1796 1797
Siege of Mantua map shows important towns in northern Italy.

Emperor Francis II of Austria appointed Feldzeugmeister Alvinczi to assemble a new field army and mount the third relief of Mantua. Alvinczi, Feldmarschall-Leutnant Paul Davidovich, General-Major Johann Rudolph Sporck, and Major Franz von Weyrother planned the new operation, which called for a two-pronged offensive.[1] Alvinczi accompanied the 28,000-strong Friaul Corps, led by Feldmarschall-Leutnant Peter Vitus von Quosdanovich, as it advanced from the Piave River toward the west. Feldmarschall-Leutnant Paul Davidovich led the 19,000-man Tyrol Corps, which was in the upper Adige River valley.

To face these threats, Bonaparte deployed a 10,500-man division under General of Division Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois in the upper Adige valley, 9,500 soldiers led by General of Division André Masséna at Bassano on the Brenta River, and the 8,300 troops of General of Division Pierre Augereau at Verona. General of Division Charles Edward Jennings de Kilmaine with 8,800 soldiers blockaded Würmser's large garrison in Mantua, with a reserve of 1,600 cavalry troopers and General of Division Francois Macquard's reserve of 2,800 foot soldiers.

Davidovich's column began moving at the end of October. On 2 November, his corps clashed with Vaubois' outnumbered division near Cembra in the north. By 5 November Davidovich pushed the French out of Trento. Vaubois fell back to Calliano.

On 1 November, the Friaul Corps began crossing the Piave. In the face of Alvinczi's westward advance, Massena pulled out of Bassano early on 4 November. General-Major Friedrich of Hohenzollern-Hechingen's advance guard soon occupied the town. Feldmarschall-Leutnant Giovanni Provera with two brigades reached the Brenta farther south near Fontaniva to form Alvinczi's left flank.[2] Bonaparte determined to attack the Austrians and called for Augereau and Macquard to join Masséna in resisting Alvinczi on the Brenta.

Battle

Fontaniva

Bonaparte accompanied Augereau's division as it advanced north-east from Vicenza to Bassano. Masséna took a more southerly road and clashed with the Austrian left wing at Fontaniva late on 5 November. General-major Anton Lipthay pulled his troops back to the east side of the river. This set the stage for the battle, which began on 6 November.[3]

At 7 a.m. Masséna attacked Lipthay's brigade at Fontaniva. From morning until 6 p.m., the French mounted as many as ten assaults on the Austrian general's four battalions, with heavy losses on both sides. The 2nd and 3rd battalions of Splényi Infantry Regiment Nr. 51 gallantly defended the river crossing, losing 9 officers and 657 men out of 2,000 soldiers during the fighting before they were replaced in line by the Deutschmeister Infantry Regiment Nr. 4. Injured when his wounded horse fell on him, Lipthay resolutely remained at his post. In the afternoon, Provera reinforced him with troops from the brigades of Generals-major Anton Schübirz von Chobinin and Adolf Brabeck as the Austrians successfully held their ground against the French attacks.[4]

Bassano

Early in the morning Hohenzollern crossed the Brenta, followed by Quasdanovich's right wing. This wing included General-Major Anton Ferdinand Mittrowsky's brigade, which recently joined the army by descending the Brenta valley. The Austrians anchored their right flank in the Alpine foothills while their left flank curved back to touch the Brenta. Augereau's division began to arrive in the area in mid-morning and attacked Bassano in the early afternoon before all the Austrians crossed the river. After severe fighting, in which the village of Nove changed hands several times, the action ended at 10 p.m. One battalion of the Samuel Gyulai Infantry Regiment Nr. 32 suffered 390, or nearly 50 percent casualties.[5] Though he issued a report claiming a victory, Bonaparte ordered a retreat that evening.

Results

French casualties totalled 3,000, including 508 men and 1 howitzer captured. Austrian losses numbered 2,823 and two cannons captured. Provera's left wing lost 208 killed, 873 wounded, and 109 captured. Quosdanovich's right wing suffered 326 killed, 858 wounded, and 449 captured.[6] Though Alvinczi ordered a pursuit, the fast-marching French successfully broke contact and retreated to Verona. On 7 November, Davidovich routed Vaubois at the Battle of Calliano. The two setbacks placed Bonaparte in a dangerous situation, as the two arms of the Austrian offensive threatened to close around him. Meanwhile, Würmser's large garrison remained in his rear.[7]

Alvinczi continued to press ahead, sending Hohenzollern's advance guard to the outskirts of Verona by 11 November. The following day, Bonaparte unsuccessfully attacked the Austrians at the Battle of Caldiero. The French army commander's troubles were far from over. The deciding action of the campaign was the Battle of Arcole on 15–17 November.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Boycott-Brown, p. 440.
  2. ^ Boycott-Brown, p. 449.
  3. ^ Boycott-Brown, p. 450.
  4. ^ Boycott-Brown, p. 451.
  5. ^ Boycott-Brown, p. 452.
  6. ^ Smith, p. 126.
  7. ^ Chandler, p. 105.

References

  • Boycott-Brown, Martin (2001). The Road to Rivoli: Napoleon's First Campaign. London: Cassell & Co. ISBN 0-304-35305-1.
  • Chandler, David G. (1966). The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York, NY: Macmillan.
  • Fiebeger, G.J. (1911). The Campaigns of Napoleon Bonaparte of 1796–1797. West Point, New York: US Military Academy Printing Office.
  • Smith, Digby (1998). The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill. ISBN 1-85367-276-9.
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.

Anton Lipthay de Kisfalud

Anton Lipthay de Kisfalud (1745 – 17 February 1800), also Anton Liptai or Anton Liptay, served in the Austrian army, attained general officer rank, and fought in several battles against the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte during the French Revolutionary Wars.

Anton Schübirz von Chobinin

Anton Schübirz or Anton Schubirz von Chobinin (21 December 1748 – 11 June 1801) fought for Habsburg Austria against Ottoman Turkey and the French First Republic. He participated in several noteworthy actions during the French Revolutionary Wars. As a newly promoted general officer in Italy, he led a brigade in an all-night action against the French at Codogno, part of the Battle of Fombio in May 1796. In the sparring before the Battle of Castiglione, he showed initiative in bringing his troops to the assistance of a fellow general. He also fought at Fontaniva, Caldiero, and Arcole in the autumn of 1796. This was the theater of war where a young French general named Napoleon Bonaparte earned his fame. Schübirz retired from the army in 1798 and died three years later.

Battle of Arcole

The Battle of Arcole or Battle of Arcola (15–17 November 1796) was a battle fought between French and Austrian forces 25 kilometres (16 mi) southeast of Verona during the War of the First Coalition, a part of the French Revolutionary Wars.

The battle saw a bold maneuver by Napoleon Bonaparte's French Army of Italy to outflank the Austrian army led by József Alvinczi and cut off its line of retreat. The French victory proved to be a highly significant event during the third Austrian attempt to lift the Siege of Mantua.

Alvinczi planned to execute a two-pronged offensive against Bonaparte's army. The Austrian commander ordered Paul Davidovich to advance south along the Adige River valley with one corps while Alvinczi led the main army in an advance from the east. The Austrians hoped to raise the siege of Mantua where Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser was trapped with a large garrison. If the two Austrian columns linked up and if Wurmser's troops were released, French prospects were grim.

Davidovich scored a victory against Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois at Calliano and threatened Verona from the north. Meanwhile, Alvinczi repulsed one attack by Bonaparte at Bassano and advanced almost to the gates of Verona where he defeated a second French attack at Caldiero. Leaving Vaubois' battered division to contain Davidovich, Bonaparte massed every available man and tried to turn Alvinczi's left flank by crossing the Adige. For two days the French assaulted the stoutly defended Austrian position at Arcole without success. Their persistent attacks finally forced Alvinczi to withdraw on the third day.

That day Davidovich routed Vaubois, but it was too late. Bonaparte's victory at Arcole permitted him to concentrate against Davidovich and chase him up the Adige valley. Left alone, Alvinczi threatened Verona again. But without his colleague's support, the Austrian commander was too weak to continue the campaign and he withdrew again. Wurmser attempted a breakout, but his effort came too late in the campaign and had no effect on the result. The third relief attempt failed by the narrowest of margins.

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 Caldiero (1796)

In the Battle of Caldiero on 12 November 1796, a Habsburg Austrian army led by Jozsef Alvinczi fought a First French Republic army commanded by Napoleon Bonaparte. The French assaulted the Austrian positions, which were initially held by the army advance guard under Prince Friedrich Franz Xaver of Hohenzollern-Hechingen. The defenders held firm until reinforcements arrived in the afternoon to push back the French. This marked a rare tactical setback for Bonaparte, whose forces withdrew into Verona that evening after having suffered greater losses than their adversaries. The action occurred during the War of the First Coalition, which was part of the French Revolutionary Wars. Caldiero is a town located about 15 km (9.3 mi) east of Verona.

The battle was part of the third Austrian effort to relieve the Siege of Mantua. Two Austrian forces converged toward Mantua, the main army from the east and an independent corps from the north. Both forces enjoyed early successes, driving back the outnumbered French forces in front of them. When the main army reached a position threatening Verona, Bonaparte ordered the divisions of André Masséna and Pierre Augereau to attack. Sturdy Austrian resistance and bad weather contributed to the French defeat. Bonaparte soon embarked upon a new strategy which concluded with an Austrian defeat at the Battle of Arcole a few days later.

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.

Fall of the Republic of Venice

The Fall of the Republic of Venice was a series of events in 1797 that led to the dissolution and dismemberment of the Republic of Venice at the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte and Habsburg Austria.

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.

List of battles involving France in modern history

This is a chronological list of the battles involving France in modern history.

For earlier conflicts, see List of battles involving France. These lists do not include the battles of the French civil wars (as the Wars of Religion, the Fronde, the War in the Vendée) unless a foreign country is involved; this list includes neither the peacekeeping operations (such as Operation Artemis, Operation Licorne) nor the humanitarian missions supported by the French Armed Forces.

The list gives the name, the date, the present-day location of the battles, the French allies and enemies, and the result of these conflicts following this legend:

French military victory

French military defeat

Indecisive or unclear outcome

Ongoing conflict

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.

Philipp Pittoni von Dannenfeld

Philipp Pittoni Freiherr von Dannenfeld (died 6 October 1824), fought in the army of Habsburg Austria during the French Revolutionary Wars. Promoted to general officer in 1795, he was a brigade commander in northwestern Italy at the time when Napoleon Bonaparte was appointed to lead the opposing French Army of Italy. He led one of the two main columns at Voltri in April 1796. At Borghetto in May, he unsuccessfully defended the bridge. He led a brigade at Castiglione in August and at Second Bassano and Arcole in November 1796. He retired from service the following year and died at Gorizia in 1824.

Prince Friedrich Franz Xaver of Hohenzollern-Hechingen

Friedrich Franz Xaver Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen (31 May 1757 – 6 April 1844) was an Austrian general. He joined the Austrian military and fought against the Kingdom of Prussia, Ottoman Turkey, and the First French Republic. He was promoted to the rank of general officer during the French Revolutionary Wars. During the Napoleonic Wars, he led a division in 1805 and an army corps in 1809. He was Proprietor (Inhaber) of an Austrian cavalry regiment from 1802 to 1844.

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.

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