Battle of Campo Tenese

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Battle of Campo Tenese
Part of the War of the Third Coalition
Morano Calabro.jpg
Campotenese is located in the Morano Calabro municipality. The photo of Morano Calabro shows nearby mountainous terrain.
Date9 March 1806
Northwest of Morano Calabro, Italy
Result Decisive French victory

Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  France

Flag of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1816).svg Naples and Sicily
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Jean Reynier Flag of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1816).svg Roger de Damas
10,000 14,000
Casualties and losses
unknown but light 1,000 killed & wounded
2,000 captured
8,000–9,000 deserted
guns & baggage captured

The Battle of Campo Tenese (10 March 1806) saw two divisions of the Imperial French Army of Naples led by Jean Reynier attack the left wing of the Royal Neapolitan Army under Roger de Damas. Though the defenders were protected by field fortifications, a French frontal attack combined with a turning movement rapidly overran the position and routed the Neapolitans with heavy losses. The action occurred at Campotenese, a little mountain village in the municipality of Morano Calabro in the north of Calabria. The battle was fought during the War of the Third Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars.

First French Empire Empire of Napoleon I of France between 1804–1815

The First French Empire, officially the French Empire, was the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte of France and the dominant power in much of continental Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. Although France had already established an overseas colonial empire beginning in the 17th century, the French state had remained a kingdom under the Bourbons and a republic after the Revolution. Historians refer to Napoleon's regime as the First Empire to distinguish it from the restorationist Second Empire (1852–1870) ruled by his nephew as Napoleon III.

Jean Reynier French general

Jean Louis Ebénézer Reynier rose in rank to become a French army general officer during the French Revolutionary Wars. He led a division under Napoleon Bonaparte in the French Campaign in Egypt and Syria. During the Napoleonic Wars he continued to hold important combat commands, eventually leading an army corps during the Peninsular War in 1810-1811 and during the War of the Sixth Coalition in 1812-1813.

Roger de Damas French general

Roger de Damas was a French Army officer and Royalist general who fought against the French Revolutionary forces in order to assist the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Naples.


Following the decision by King Ferdinand IV of Naples to ally himself with the Austrian Empire, Russian Empire, and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Napoleon's decisive victory over the Allies at the Battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon declared Bourbon rule of southern Italy at an end. In the second week of February 1806 the Imperial French armies poured across the border in the Invasion of Naples. The Neapolitan army, split into two wings, retreated before the superior forces of their opponents. At Campo Tenese, Damas attempted to make a stand with the left wing in order to give the right wing time to join him.

Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies King variously of Naples, Sicily, and the Two Sicilies

Ferdinand I, was the King of the Two Sicilies from 1816, after his restoration following victory in the Napoleonic Wars. Before that he had been, since 1759, Ferdinand IV of the Kingdom of Naples and Ferdinand III of the Kingdom of Sicily. He was also King of Gozo. He was deposed twice from the throne of Naples: once by the revolutionary Parthenopean Republic for six months in 1799 and again by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1805.

Austrian Empire monarchy in Central Europe between 1804 and 1867

The Austrian Empire was a Central European multinational great power from 1804 to 1867, created by proclamation out of the realms of the Habsburgs. During its existence, it was the third most populous empire after the Russian Empire and the United Kingdom in Europe. Along with Prussia, it was one of the two major powers of the German Confederation. Geographically, it was the third largest empire in Europe after the Russian Empire and the First French Empire. Proclaimed in response to the First French Empire, it partially overlapped with the Holy Roman Empire until the latter's dissolution in 1806.

Russian Empire Former country, 1721–1917

The Russian Empire, also known as Imperial Russia or simply Russia, was an empire that existed across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.

After the defeat, the Neapolitan army disintegrated away from desertion, and only a few thousand soldiers outlasted to be evacuated to Sicily by the British Royal Navy. However, the conflict was far from over. The Siege of Gaeta, the British victory at Maida, and a bitter insurrection in Calabria proved to be obstacles to the French victory.

Sicily Island in the Mediterranean and region of Italy

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy. It is one of the five Italian autonomous regions, in Southern Italy along with surrounding minor islands, officially referred to as Regione Siciliana.

Royal Navy Maritime warfare branch of the United Kingdoms military

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.

Siege of Gaeta (1806)

The Siege of Gaeta saw the fortress city of Gaeta and its Neapolitan garrison under Louis of Hesse-Philippsthal besieged by an Imperial French corps led by André Masséna. After a prolonged defense in which Hesse was badly wounded, Gaeta surrendered and its garrison was granted generous terms by Masséna.


In early 1805, French Emperor Napoleon prepared to defend his possessions in Italy against the Austrian Empire. To this end, he deployed 68,000 troops under Marshal André Masséna in the north, 18,000 soldiers led by General of Division Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr in central Italy, and 8,000 men from the satellite Kingdom of Italy. [1] For its part, the Austrian army in Italy under Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen numbered 90,000 men. [2] King Ferdinand IV's Neapolitan army counted only 22,000 soldiers. Afraid that Saint-Cyr's corps might overrun his lands, the king concluded a treaty with Napoleon to remain neutral during the War of the Third Coalition. [3]

Napoleon 18th/19th-century French monarch, military and political leader

Napoléon Bonaparte was a French statesman and military leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was Emperor of the French as Napoleon I from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over much of continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. He is considered one of the greatest commanders in history, and his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. Napoleon's political and cultural legacy has endured as one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders in human history.

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.

Kingdom of Italy (Napoleonic) kingdom on the Apennine Peninsula between 1805 and 1814

The Kingdom of Italy was a kingdom in Northern Italy in personal union with France under Napoleon I. It was fully influenced by revolutionary France and ended with his defeat and fall. Its governance was conducted by Napoleon and his step-son and viceroy Eugène de Beauharnais.

As soon as Saint-Cyr's army marched north, Ferdinand and Queen Maria Carolina violated the agreement and invited the British and Russians to land expeditionary forces in their kingdom. [4] Napoleon had been double-crossed. Lieutenant General James Henry Craig's 6,000 British and General Maurice Lacy of Grodno's 7,350 Russians landed at Naples on 20 November 1805. [3] However, Napoleon's firm victory at the Battle of Austerlitz on 2 December 1805 resulted in the demise of the Third Coalition. [5] As a result, both expeditionary forces were ordered by their governments to withdraw and they were gone by mid-January. This left Ferdinand alone to face the fury of Napoleon, who had determined to conquer the Kingdom of Naples and hand the crown to his brother Joseph Bonaparte. [6]

Maria Carolina of Austria Archduke of Austria

Maria Carolina of Austria was Queen of Naples and Sicily as the wife of King Ferdinand IV & III. As de facto ruler of her husband's kingdoms, Maria Carolina oversaw the promulgation of many reforms, including the revocation of the ban on Freemasonry, the enlargement of the navy under her favourite, John Acton, 6th Baronet, and the expulsion of Spanish influence. She was a proponent of enlightened absolutism until the advent of the French Revolution, when, in order to prevent its ideas gaining currency, she made Naples a police state.

James Henry Craig British military officer and colonial administrator

General Sir James Henry Craig KB was a British military officer and colonial administrator.

Naples Comune in Campania, Italy

Naples is the regional capital of Campania and the third-largest municipality in Italy after Rome and Milan. In 2017, around 967,069 people lived within the city's administrative limits while its province-level municipality has a population of 3,115,320 residents. Its continuously built-up metropolitan area is the second or third largest metropolitan area in Italy and one of the most densely populated cities in Europe.

Saint-Cyr's corps was renamed the Army of Naples in January 1806 and placed under the command of Masséna, though Joseph was the nominal leader. Annoyed at being demoted, Saint-Cyr clashed with Masséna and was recalled early in the campaign. The army was divided into three wings. General of Division Jean Reynier commanded 7,500 soldiers of the right wing assembled at Rome. Masséna led the 17,500 troops of the center, also concentrated at Rome. The 5,000 men of the left wing under General of Division Giuseppe Lechi massed at Ancona on the Adriatic Sea. General of Division Guillaume Philibert Duhesme was marching from Austria with an additional 7,500-man division and 3,500 more troops from northern Italy were destined for the campaign. In total, Masséna's army numbered more than 41,000 men. [6] While the Imperial French army's combat effectiveness was high, it suffered from maladministration. Its troops were poorly paid, clothed, and fed, leading the soldiers to rob the local people as a matter of course. This habit would have evil consequences. [7]

Rome Capital city and comune in Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

Giuseppe Lechi Italian general

Giuseppe ("Joseph") Lechi was an Italian general in the Kingdom of Italy during the Napoleonic Wars.

Ancona Comune in Marche, Italy

Ancona is a city and a seaport in the Marche region in central Italy, with a population of around 101,997 as of 2015. Ancona is the capital of the province of Ancona and of the region. The city is located 280 km (170 mi) northeast of Rome, on the Adriatic Sea, between the slopes of the two extremities of the promontory of Monte Conero, Monte Astagno and Monte Guasco.

French columns lunged across the border on 8 February 1806, finding no resistance and causing panic at the Neapolitan royal court. [6] Queen Carolina abandoned Naples on 11 February and fled to Sicily. Ferdinand had already left on 23 January. [8] Lechi's division occupied Foggia on the Adriatic after only one week. The Italian general later crossed the Apennine Mountains and reached Naples. Masséna's column quickly arrived before Gaeta, about 40 miles (64 km) north of Naples, where its commander Prince Louis of Hesse-Philippsthal refused a demand to surrender. The imposing fortress dominated the coast road, so the French marshal left one division to blockade the place and advanced to Naples with a second infantry division. On 14 February, Masséna occupied Naples [9] and Joseph made a triumphant entrance to the city the following day. [10] Reinforced by General of Division Jean-Antoine Verdier's division from Masséna's main body, Reynier's column reached Naples at the end of February after marching on secondary roads. [9] Joseph now took control of the army, putting all troops near Naples under Masséna, assigning a mobile force to Reynier, and placing the forces on the Adriatic littoral under Saint-Cyr. Joseph ordered Reynier to conduct a fast march to the Strait of Messina. [11]


Jean Reynier Regnier IMG 3216.JPG
Jean Reynier

The Neapolitan army was divided into two wings. The left wing under Roger de Damas consisted of 15 battalions and five squadrons while Marshal Rosenheim's right wing had 13 battalions and 11 squadrons. [6] Receiving word that the Neapolitan army was located to the south, Reynier left Naples and advanced [9] with about 10,000 troops. Meanwhile, the Neapolitan wings retired before the French invasion. Rosenheim, whose column was accompanied by Hereditary Prince Francis, withdrew in front of Lechi's division on the east coast while Damas fell back south of Naples. Damas' left wing had between 6,000 and 7,000 regulars plus Calabrian militia. Rosenheim's right wing counted somewhat fewer soldiers. [11] The commanders of the two Neapolitan wings hoped to unite their forces near Cassano all'Ionio. Damas determined to hold a blocking position in the mountains until his colleague could reach the rendezvous. On 6 March at Lagonegro, Reynier's light infantry advance guard located Damas' militia rear guard under an officer named Sciarpa. The French scattered their opponents with a loss of 300 casualties and four artillery pieces. [12] Reynier's scouts identified Damas' position on 8 March, and the French general prepared to attack the following day. [9]

Roger de Damas Roger de Damas.jpg
Roger de Damas

In March 1806, Reynier's force consisted of his own division plus a second division under Verdier. Reynier's all-French division included the 1st Light and 42nd Line Infantry Regiments in the 1st Brigade and the 6th Line and 23rd Light Infantry Regiments in the 2nd Brigade. All regiments had three battalions. Verdier's division was made up of the three-battalions, 1st Polish Legion and the 1st Battalion of the 4th Swiss Regiment in the 1st Brigade and the three-battalion French 10th Line Infantry Regiment in the 2nd Brigade. The artillery arm had three 6-pound cannons, four 3-pound cannons, and five howitzers. [13] The cavalry units were four squadrons each of the French 6th and 9th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiments. [14]

Damas' infantry contingent counted three battalions each of the Princess Royal and Royal Calabrian Regiments, two battalions each of the Royal Ferdinand, Royal Carolina, and Prince Royal Regiments, and one battalion each of the Royal Guard Grenadiers, Royal Abruzzi, and Royal Presidi Regiments. The left wing cavalry comprised two squadrons each of the Prince Nr. 2 and Princess Regiments and one squadron of the Val di Mazzana Regiment. [15]

Damas' left wing counted about 14,000 soldiers, only half of whom were regulars. His corps took up a strong position near Campotenese with his troops sheltered behind breastworks. [12] The Neapolitans were deployed across a 1,500 yards (1,372 m) wide valley with both flanks against the mountains. [9] Narrow defiles marked the valley's entrance and exit points. The pass behind the Neapolitans was the weakest point in Damas' defensive layout, since it could make retreat difficult. [12] The Neapolitan general put nine battalions in the first line defending three artillery redoubts. He bolstered the first line with cavalry support and arranged the balance of his troops in a second line. He did not guard the mountains on either flank. [9]

Reynier's troops broke camp on the morning of 9 March. A wind at their backs blew snow in the eyes of their adversaries. [12] The French general put one brigade in his front line, ordered his light infantry to turn the Neapolitan right flank, and placed Verdier in charge of the reserve. By 3:00 PM everything was ready. [9] In single file, Reynier's light infantry picked their way along the cliffs on Damas' right flank and ultimately emerged to the right and rear of their opponents. Deploying into a cloud of skirmishers, they attacked, inducing chaos in the Neapolitan lines. At the same time, General of Brigade Louis Fursy Henri Compère led a frontal assault on the first line. [16] After exchanging a few volleys with their enemies, Compère's men charged forward and captured one of the redoubts. [9] In the face of the double attack, the Neapolitan line crumpled and the men fled for the exit to the valley. Soon the pass was crammed with panicked soldiers and the French took 2,000 prisoners, including two generals. [16] Total Neapolitan casualties added up to 3,000, and their artillery and baggage were also captured. French losses were unknown but light. The battle marked the end of the Neapolitan army as an adequate force. [17]


That evening, Reynier's troops camped at the village of Morano Calabro. A French eyewitness, Paul Louis Courier recorded that exhausted and starving soldiers robbed, raped, and murdered the inhabitants. Courier later described the war as "one of the most diabolical waged in many years". By 13 March, Reynier covered the 60 miles (97 km) distance to Cosenza. The French reached Reggio Calabria on the Strait of Messina a week later. Prince Francis escaped only a few hours earlier. [16] While Reynier chased Damas' crippled wing, Duhesme and Lechi had pursued the wing led by Rosenheim and the prince. [18] During the retreat the Neapolitan army dissolved; only 2,000 or 3,000 regulars from both wings remained to be taken off by ship to Messina in Sicily. The militia directly left to their homes while most of the regulars deserted the colours. Before leaving for Sicily, Francis encouraged the militia to form flying columns to fight the French. [16]

In 1806, much of Calabria was a rough place. The 1783 Calabrian earthquakes had killed 50,000 people. Much of Reggio was still in ruins as late as 1813 and many churches were not been rebuilt by 1806. The Calabrians were a hardy breed with an independent streak. They sometimes indulged in vendettas against neighboring families and villages. Plundering Imperial troops and grasping French civil authorities quickly set off a rebellion by the proud Calabrians. On the other hand, the residents of the major towns despised the Neapolitan royal government and often favored the French. [19] The revolt flared up after certain incidents. At Scigliano the French left a detachment of 50 soldiers. A woman was raped and the villagers massacred most of the Frenchmen. The French commanders had only one response to such events, to assault, sack, and burn down the offending village. This led directly to an ugly cycle of atrocity and counter-atrocity. [20] The newly anointed King Joseph tried to be fair. He ordered French soldiers to be shot for criminal offenses and French officials to be put on trial for corruption. Nevertheless, the Calabrian insurrection soon ran out of control. [21] The Siege of Gaeta would occupy the French from 26 February to 18 July. [22] Meanwhile, the Battle of Maida on 4 July would seriously threaten French control of Calabria. [17]


  1. Schneid (2002), pp. 3–4
  2. Schneid (2002), p. 18
  3. 1 2 Schneid (2002), p. 47
  4. Johnston (1904), p. 68
  5. Smith (1998), p. 217
  6. 1 2 3 4 Schneid (2002), p. 48
  7. Johnston (1904), p. 94
  8. Johnston (1904), p. 84
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Schneid (2002), p. 49
  10. Johnston (1904), p. 86
  11. 1 2 Johnston (1904), p. 88
  12. 1 2 3 4 Johnston (1904), p. 89
  13. Schneid (2002), p. 173
  14. Schneid (2002), p. 174. A typographical error caused the 6th Regiment to be listed twice. Since the author listed the 9th Regiment at Maida on p. 176, it is assumed that the 9th was intended.
  15. Schneid (2002), p. 175
  16. 1 2 3 4 Johnston (1904), p. 90
  17. 1 2 Smith (1998), p. 221
  18. Schneid (2002), p. 50
  19. Johnston (1904), pp. 92–94
  20. Johnston (1904), p. 96
  21. Johnston (1904), pp. 100–101
  22. Smith (1998), p. 222

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Coordinates: 39°52′30″N16°04′00″E / 39.87500°N 16.06667°E / 39.87500; 16.06667