Battle of Caldiero (1796)

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Battle of Caldiero, 1796
Part of French Revolutionary Wars
Date12 November 1796
Location
Caldiero, in present-day Italy
Result Austrian victory
Belligerents
Flag of France.svg First French Republic Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Habsburg Monarchy
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Napoleon Bonaparte
Flag of France.svg André Masséna
Flag of France.svg Pierre Augereau
Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Jozsef Alvinczi
Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Prince Hohenzollern
Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Giovanni Provera
Strength
13,000 infantry 12,000 infantry
Casualties and losses
1,800 dead and wounded, 2 guns 1,300 dead and wounded

In the Battle of Caldiero on 12 November 1796, the Habsburg army led by József 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.

Habsburg Monarchy Former monarchy in Europe from 1282 to 1918

Habsburg Monarchy is an umbrella term used by historians for the lands and kingdoms of the House of Habsburg, especially for those of the Austrian branch. Although from 1438 until 1806 the head of the House of Habsburg was also Holy Roman Emperor, the empire itself is not considered a part of the Habsburg Monarchy.

József Alvinczi Soldier in the Habsburg Army and a Field Marshal of the Austrian Empire

Freiherr Joseph Alvinczi von Borberek a.k.a. Baron József Alvinczi de Borberek was a soldier in the Habsburg Army and a Field Marshal of the Austrian Empire.

Prince Friedrich Franz Xaver of Hohenzollern-Hechingen Austrian general

Friedrich Franz Xaver Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen 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.

Contents

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.

Mantua Comune in Lombardy, Italy

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

André Masséna French military commander

André Masséna, 1st Duke of Rivoli, 1st Prince of 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."

Background

On 2 November 1796, Feldzeugmeister Jozsef Alvinczi launched the third attempt to raise the Siege of Mantua by crossing the Piave River with an army of 28,000 men and advancing west. At the same time, a second Austrian column under Feldmarschall-Leutnant Paul Davidovich moved south against Trento with 18,000 men. [1] Alvinczi hoped to break through to the relief of Feldmarschall Dagobert Sigismund von Würmser, who was trapped in Mantua with a 23,708-man garrison. Of these, only 12,420 were well enough to fight. [2]

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.

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.

To face the twin threats, Bonaparte deployed a 10,500-man division led by General of Division Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois against Davidovich in the north and General of Division André Masséna's 9,500-man division at Bassano on the Brenta River. In reserve lay General of Division Pierre Augereau's 8,300-man division at Verona and 4,300 in other units. General of Division Charles Edward Jennings de Kilmaine with 8,800 men blockaded Würmser's garrison in Mantua. [2]

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.

Bassano del Grappa Comune in Veneto, Italy

Bassano del Grappa is a city and comune, in the Vicenza province, in the region of Veneto, in northern Italy. It bounds the communes of Cassola, Marostica, Solagna, Pove del Grappa, Romano d'Ezzelino, Campolongo sul Brenta, Conco, Rosà, Cartigliano and Nove. Some neighbourhoods of these communes have become in practice a part of the urban area of Bassano, so that the population of the whole conurbation totals around 70,000 people.

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, an ancient Roman amphitheater.

On 6 November, Bonaparte with 19,500 men, including Massena, Augereau, and a reserve brigade, attacked Alvinczi at Bassano and Fontaniva. In the hard-fought Second Battle of Bassano, Alvinczi and his two division commanders, Feldmarschall-Leutnants Peter Vitus von Quosdanovich and Giovanni Marchese di Provera, repelled their outnumbered opponents. French losses were 3,000 killed, wounded, and captured, while Alvinczi's army suffered about 2,800 casualties. [3]

Fontaniva Comune in Veneto, Italy

Fontaniva is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Padua in the Italian region Veneto, located about 50 kilometres (31 mi) northwest of Venice and about 25 kilometres (16 mi) northwest of Padua.

The Second Battle of Bassano on 6 November 1796, saw a Habsburg army commanded by József 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.

Peter Vitus von Quosdanovich Austrian Empire general

Peter Vitus Freiherr von Quosdanovich 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.

Davidovich routed Vaubois in the Battle of Calliano on 7 November, inflicting 4,400 casualties on the French for an Austrian loss of 3,500. [4] Bonaparte focused on the threat from the north as he pulled back his eastern force to Verona. Davidovich remained inactive because he was under the mistaken impression that Masséna's division had reinforced Vaubois.

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

By 11 November, Alvinczi's advance elements reached Caldiero, east of Verona. Believing that Verona was being evacuated, General-major Prince Friedrich Franz Xaver of Hohenzollern-Hechingen moved forward. But Bonaparte sent the divisions of Masséna and Augereau across the Adige River to engage the Austrians. Hohenzollern lost 400 men and pulled back to a ridge running north of Caldiero. Bonaparte determined to attack the Austrians the next day.

Bonaparte sent a total of 13,000 men to attack Hohenzollern's position. [5] Masséna drove against the Austrian right and Augereau attacked the Austrian left, The Austrians, who had fortified themselves in several villages, sturdily resisted the French assaults. A violent rain and hail storm blew in the faces of the French troops, making it difficult for them to prime their muskets. At mid-day, Masséna began making headway on the Austrian right. In the afternoon, the brigades of Generals-major Adolf Brabeck and Anton Schübirz von Chobinin arrived on the field. Soon the Austrians forced back Masséna. Provera also appeared and drove back Augereau. The arrival of nightfall allowed the French to pull safely back into Verona. [6]

Result

The French suffered 1,000 killed and wounded, plus 800 men and two artillery pieces captured. The Austrians lost 950 killed and wounded, and 350 captured. [7] Having failed to dislodge the Austrians, Bonaparte contemplated a retreat behind the Adda River and potentially abandoning the blockade of Mantua. But when the Austrians dawdled rather than taking advantage of their opportunities, the French commander determined to attack his opponent again. Stripping Vaubois and Kilmaine of every available man, Bonaparte fell upon Alvinczi at the Battle of Arcola on 15–17 November and defeated the Austrians.

Notes

  1. Chandler (1966), p. 101.
  2. 1 2 Boycott-Brown (2001), p. 448.
  3. Smith (1998), p. 126.
  4. Smith (1998), pp. 126–127.
  5. Chandler (1966), p. 103.
  6. Boycott-Brown (2001), p. 456.
  7. Smith (1998), p. 127.

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References