Battle of Bassano

Last updated
Battle of Bassano
Part of the French Revolutionary Wars
Chiesa San Giovanni Nepomuceno Bassano Grappa.jpg
The church of San Giovanni on the outskirts of Bassano, Bonaparte's headquarters during the battle
Date8 September 1796
Location
Bassano, Venetia, present-day Italy
Result French victory
Belligerents
Flag of France.svg First French Republic Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Habsburg Austria
Commanders and leaders
Napoleon Bonaparte Dagobert von Wurmser
Strength
20,000 11,000
Casualties and losses
400 killed, wounded or missing 600 killed or wounded,
3,000 captured,
30 cannons, 8 standards,

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.

French Revolutionary Wars series of conflicts fought between the French Republic and several European monarchies from 1792 to 1802

The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of sweeping military conflicts lasting from 1792 until 1802 and resulting from the French Revolution. They pitted France against Great Britain, Austria and several other monarchies. They are divided in two periods: the War of the First Coalition (1792–97) and the War of the Second Coalition (1798–1802). Initially confined to Europe, the fighting gradually assumed a global dimension. After a decade of constant warfare and aggressive diplomacy, France had conquered a wide array of territories, from the Italian Peninsula and the Low Countries in Europe to the Louisiana Territory in North America. French success in these conflicts ensured the spread of revolutionary principles over much of Europe.

Republic of Venice Former state in Northeastern Italy

The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic, traditionally known as La Serenissima was a sovereign state and maritime republic in northeastern Italy, which existed for over a millennium between the 7th century and the 18th century from 697 AD until 1797 AD. It was based in the lagoon communities of the historically prosperous city of Venice, and was a leading European economic and trading power during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser austrian marshall

Dagobert Sigismund, Count von Wurmser was an Austrian field marshal during the French Revolutionary Wars. Although he fought in the Seven Years' War, the War of the Bavarian Succession, and mounted several successful campaigns in the Rhineland in the initial years of the French Revolutionary Wars, he is probably most remembered for his unsuccessful operations against Napoleon Bonaparte during the 1796 campaign in Italy.

Contents

Background

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.

Mantua Comune in Lombardy, Italy

Mantua is a city and comune in Lombardy, Italy, and capital of the province of the same name.

Battle of Lonato

The Battle of Lonato was fought on 3 and 4 August 1796 between the French Army of Italy under General Napoleon Bonaparte and a corps-sized Austrian column led by Lieutenant General Peter Quasdanovich. A week of hard-fought actions that began on 29 July and ended on 4 August resulted in the retreat of Quasdanovich's badly mauled force. The elimination of Quasdanovich's threat allowed Bonaparte to concentrate against and defeat the main Austrian army at the Battle of Castiglione on 5 August. Lonato del Garda is located near the SP 668 highway and the Brescia-Padua section of Autostrada A4 to the southwest of Lake Garda.

Battle of Castiglione battle of 1796 during the French Revolutionay Wars

The Battle of Castiglione saw the French Army of Italy under General Napoleon Bonaparte attack an army of Habsburg Austria led by Feldmarschall Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser on 5 August 1796. The outnumbered Austrians were defeated and driven back along a line of hills to the river crossing at Borghetto, where they retired beyond the Mincio River. The town of Castiglione delle Stiviere is located 10 kilometres (6 mi) south of Lake Garda in northern Italy. This battle was one of four famous victories won by Bonaparte during the War of the First Coalition, part of the Wars of the French Revolution. The others were Bassano, Arcole, and Rivoli.

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]

Franz von Lauer austrian general

Franz von Lauer began his service in the Habsburg Austrian army as an engineer officer and advanced to high rank during his career. After serving in the Seven Years' War he earned promotion to oberst (colonel) over the next two decades. He fought against Ottoman Turkey at Belgrade and became a general officer for his distinguished effort as a siege specialist. He directed sieges against Fort-Louis and Mannheim while fighting the armies of the First French Republic during the War of the First Coalition. Named chief of staff of the army fighting against Napoleon Bonaparte in Italy in 1796, he fought at Bassano and Mantua. In 1800 he was appointed deputy commander of the main army in southern Germany. His efforts ended in a military disaster at Hohenlinden in December 1800. He was made the scapegoat and soon dismissed from the service.

Baron Paul Davidovich or Pavle Davidović became a general of the Austrian Empire and a Knight of the Military Order of Maria Theresa. He played a major role in the 1796 Italian campaign during the French Revolutionary Wars, leading corps-sized commands in the fighting against the French army led by Napoleon Bonaparte. He led troops during the Napoleonic Wars and was Proprietor (Inhaber) of an Austrian infantry regiment.

County of Tyrol former county of Austria

The (Princely) County of Tyrol was an estate of the Holy Roman Empire established about 1140. Originally a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of the Counts of Tyrol, it was inherited by the Counts of Gorizia in 1253 and finally fell to the Austrian House of Habsburg in 1363. In 1804 the Princely County of Tyrol, unified with the secularised Prince-Bishoprics of Trent and Brixen, became a crown land of the Austrian Empire in 1804 and from 1867 a Cisleithanian crown land of Austria-Hungary.

Forces

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

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.

Geography

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.[ citation needed ]

Trento Comune in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Italy

Trento is a city on the Adige River in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol in Italy. It is the capital of the autonomous province of Trento. In the 16th century, the city was the location of the Council of Trent. Formerly part of Austria and Austria-Hungary, it was annexed by Italy in 1919. With almost 120,000 inhabitants, Trento is the third largest city in the Alps and second largest in the Tyrol.

Lake Garda lake in Italy

Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. It is a popular holiday location in northern Italy, about halfway between Brescia and Verona, and between Venice and Milan on the edge of the Dolomites. Glaciers formed this alpine region at the end of the last Ice Age. The lake and its shoreline are divided between the provinces of Verona, Brescia (south-west), and Trentino (north). The name Garda, which the lake has been seen referred to in documents dating to the eighth century, comes from the town of the same name. It is the evolution of the Germanic word warda, meaning "place of guard" or "place of observation."

Verona Comune in Veneto, Italy

Verona is a city on the Adige river in Veneto, Italy, with 258,108 inhabitants. It is one of the seven provincial capitals of the region. It is the second largest city municipality in the region and the third largest in northeast Italy. The metropolitan area of Verona covers an area of 1,426 km2 (550.58 sq mi) and has a population of 714,274 inhabitants. It is one of the main tourist destinations in northern Italy, because of its artistic heritage and several annual fairs, shows, and operas, such as the lyrical season in the Arena, the ancient amphitheater built by the Romans.

Operations

Battle of Rovereto, 4 Sept 1796 Battle of Rovereto 4 Sept 1796.JPG
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]

Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois French general

Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois was a French general during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. On 20 August 1808 he was created Comte de Belgrand de Vaubois. Later, his name was inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

André Masséna French military commander during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars

André Masséna, 1st Duc de Rivoli, 1st Prince d'Essling was a French military commander during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. He was one of the original eighteen Marshals of the Empire created by Napoleon, with the nickname l'Enfant chéri de la Victoire.

Pierre Augereau general, Marshal of France

Charles Pierre François Augereau, 1st Duc de Castiglione was a soldier and general and Marshal of France. After serving in the French Revolutionary Wars he earned rapid promotion while fighting against Spain and soon found himself a division commander under Napoleon Bonaparte in Italy. He fought in all of Bonaparte's battles of 1796 with great distinction. During the Napoleonic Wars, Emperor Napoleon entrusted him with important commands. His life ended under a cloud because of his poor timing in switching sides between Napoleon and King Louis XVIII of France. Napoleon wrote of Augereau that he "has plenty of character, courage, firmness, activity; is inured to war; is well liked by the soldiery; is fortunate in his operations."

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

Bassano

Battle of Bassano, 8 Sept 1796 Battle of Bassano 8 Sept 1796.JPG
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, 9-15 Sept 1796 Race for Mantua 15 Sept 1796.JPG
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]

Results

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]

Footnotes

  1. Boycott-Brown, p 416
  2. 1 2 3 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 https://archive.org/details/histoiremilitai02gachgoog
  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. 1 2 Boycott-Brown, p 435
  17. Smith, p 124

Related Research Articles

Battle of Rivoli battle

The Battle of Rivoli was a key victory in the French campaign in Italy against Austria. Napoleon Bonaparte's 23,000 Frenchmen defeated an attack of 28,000 Austrians under General of the Artillery Jozsef Alvinczi, ending Austria's fourth and final attempt to relieve the Siege of Mantua. Rivoli further demonstrated Napoleon's brilliance as a military commander and led to French occupation of northern Italy.

Battle of Arcole battle

The Battle of Arcole or Battle of Arcola 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.

Battle of Rovereto battle

In the Battle of Rovereto 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.

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.

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.

Siege of Mantua (1796–97) siege

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.

Johann Mészáros von Szoboszló Austrian general

Johann Mészáros von Szoboszló 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.

Joseph Ocskay von Ocskó joined the army of the Habsburg Empire and rose to the rank of general officer during the French Revolutionary Wars. He fought in numerous actions in the 1796-1797 Italian campaign against the French army commanded by Napoleon Bonaparte. In particular, he led a combat brigade during the first, third, and fourth Austrian attempts to relieve the Siege of Mantua.

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.

Anton Lipthay de Kisfalud, 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.

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.

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.

The Battle of Borghetto, near Valeggio sul Mincio in the Veneto of northern Italy, took place during the War of the First Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars. On 30 May 1796, a French army led by General Napoleon Bonaparte forced a crossing of the Mincio River in the face of opposition from an Austrian army commanded by Feldzeugmeister Johann Peter Beaulieu. This action compelled the Austrian army to retreat north up the Adige valley to Trento, leaving the fortress of Mantua to be besieged by the French.

Anton Ferdinand Count Mittrowsky von Mittrowitz und Nemyšl, or Anton Mittrovsky, 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.

Karl Philipp Sebottendorf van der Rose 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.

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.

References

Printed materials

See also

Coordinates: 45°46′00″N11°44′00″E / 45.7667°N 11.7333°E / 45.7667; 11.7333