Battle of Maida

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Battle of Maida
Part of the War of the Third Coalition
Bitwa pod Maida.jpg
Battle of Maida, painted by Philip James de Loutherbourg
Date4 July 1806
Location
San Pietro di Maida (present-day Italy)
Result British victory
Belligerents

Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  France

Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Flag of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1816).svg Kingdom of Sicily
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Jean Reynier Flag of the United Kingdom.svg John Stuart
Strength
5,400
4 guns
5,236
3 guns
Casualties and losses
490 killed
870 wounded
722 captured
Total:
2,082
45 killed
282 wounded
Total:
327

The Battle of Maida on 4 July 1806 was a battle between the British expeditionary force and a First French Empire division outside the town of Maida in Calabria, Italy during the Napoleonic Wars. John Stuart led 5,200 British troops to victory over about 5,400 French soldiers under Jean Reynier, inflicting significant losses while incurring relatively few casualties. Maida is located in the toe of Italy, about 30 kilometres (19 mi) west of Catanzaro.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

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.

Maida, Calabria Comune in Calabria, Italy

Maida is a town and comune in the province of Catanzaro, in the Calabria region of southern Italy. The British routed the French in the Battle of Maida in 1806, as part of the War of the Third Coalition.

Contents

In early 1806, the French invaded and overran the Kingdom of Naples, forcing King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies and his government to flee to Sicily. The Calabrians revolted against their new conquerors and Stuart's expeditionary force tried to exploit the unrest by raiding the coast. While ashore, the British encountered Reynier's division and the two sides engaged in battle. The 19th-century historians presented the action as a typical fight between French columns and British lines. This view of the battle has been called into doubt by at least one modern historian who argued that the French deployed into lines. Nobody questions the result which was a one-sided British tactical victory.

Kingdom of Naples former state in Italy

The Kingdom of Naples comprised that part of the Italian Peninsula south of the Papal States between 1282 and 1816. It was created as a result of the War of the Sicilian Vespers (1282–1302), when the island of Sicily revolted and was conquered by the Crown of Aragon, becoming a separate Kingdom of Sicily. Naples continued to be officially known as the Kingdom of Sicily, the name of the formerly unified kingdom. For much of its existence, the realm was contested between French and Spanish dynasties. In 1816, it was reunified with the island kingdom of Sicily once again to form the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

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.

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.

After the battle, Stuart captured some isolated garrisons in Calabria and was transported back to Sicily by the Royal Navy. Two weeks after the battle, the city of Gaeta fell to the French after a long siege. While Stuart succeeded in preventing a French invasion of Sicily and sustained the revolt in Calabria, he missed an opportunity to assist the defenders of Gaeta.

Calabria Region of Italy

Calabria, known in antiquity as Bruttium, is a region in Southern Italy.

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.

Gaeta Comune in Lazio, Italy

Gaeta is a city and comune in the province of Latina, in Lazio, central Italy. Set on a promontory stretching towards the Gulf of Gaeta, it is 120 kilometres from Rome and 80 km (50 mi) from Naples.

Background

Following the decision by King Ferdinand to side with the Third Coalition against Napoleon I of France, French forces had invaded the Kingdom of Naples in the spring of 1806, after the British and Russian forces supposedly defending the kingdom evacuated Italy altogether: the British to Sicily and the Russians to Corfu. The Neapolitan-Sicilian army was crushed at the Battle of Campo Tenese, forcing Ferdinand to flee to Sicily and concede the Neapolitan crown to the French. Napoleon then installed his brother Joseph Bonaparte on the Neapolitan throne.

Battle of Campo Tenese battle

The Battle of Campo Tenese 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.

Joseph Bonaparte elder brother of Napoleon Bonaparte

Joseph-Napoléon "Joe" Bonaparte, born Giuseppe di Buonaparte was a French diplomat and nobleman, the older brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, who made him King of Naples and Sicily, and later King of Spain. After the fall of Napoleon, Joseph styled himself Comte de Survilliers.

By July 1806, the French had crushed all Neapolitan resistance except for the uprising in Calabria and a garrison at Gaeta. There, André Masséna's force become embroiled in a lengthy siege. The British, rather than supporting the defenders or relieving the siege, decided to organise an expedition into Calabria to further the insurrection against the French, and prevent any potential invasion of Sicily.

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.

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.

Battle

Map of the Battle of Maida showing the British march to the battlefield. Battle of Maida 1806 Map.jpg
Map of the Battle of Maida showing the British march to the battlefield.

A British force of over 5,000 men commanded by Major-General John Stuart sailed from Messina on 27 June, landing in the Gulf of Sant'Eufemia three days later. At the same time a French force under the command of General Jean Reynier, the only French force in Calabria, moved to confront them. The exact size of the French force is unknown. [1] Contemporary French sources range between 5050 and 5450. [1] Some later historians have suggested a force as large as 6400 but the most recent estimates are closer to 5400. [1]

John Stuart, Count of Maida British Army officer of the Napoleonic Wars

Sir John Stuart, 1st and only Count of Maida in the Kingdom of Naples, was a British Lieutenant-General during the Napoleonic Wars.

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.

On the morning of 4 July, Reynier broke camp and advanced toward level terrain along the shallow Lomato River. Believing his army superior in numbers, Stuart marched toward the same location nearly parallel to the French column. As both forces deployed from march column, they ended up in echelon formation. On the French side, the left flank was leading, while on the British side the right flank was leading. On the French left, General of Brigade Louis Fursy Henri Compère was echeloned forward, with the 1st Light Infantry Regiment on the left and the 42nd Line Infantry Regiment to its right. The center, commanded by General of Brigade Luigi Gaspare Peyri, included two battalions of Poles and the 4th battalion of the 1st Swiss Regiment. On the right flank, General of Brigade Antoine Digonet trailed the other two formations. Digonet's command comprised the 23rd Light Infantry and 9th Chasseurs à Cheval Regiments and the field guns. Opposing the French was Colonel James Kempt's Advanced Guard on the British right flank, echeloned forward. To Kempt's left rear was Colonel Wroth Palmer Acland's 2nd Brigade. Well to Acland's left rear marched Colonel John Oswald's 3rd Brigade, which formed the center. Colonel Lowry Cole's 1st Brigade deployed on the left flank with the artillery. Cole was closer to the French than Oswald. Off conducting diversionary actions was the 20th Foot, which would be late. [2]

Sir James Kempt Sir James Kempt by William Salter cropped.jpg
Sir James Kempt

Only when the armies were nearly in contact did Stuart realize that he was outnumbered, but he allowed the battle to commence without changing any orders. Kempt detached the Royal Corsican Rangers and Sicilians as skirmishers. These got into a brawl with Compère's voltigeurs (light companies) and fell back. Kempt sent the flankers of the 35th Foot and the light company of the 20th Foot to help. Once the British troops halted the French skirmishers, they rejoined Kempt. At this time, Compère launched the 1st Light at Kempt, while the 42nd Line aimed to strike Acland. Since it had a head start, 1st Light's attack columns met Kempt's troops first. At 150 yards, the Advanced Guard fired its first volley but the 1st Light continued to advance. Kempt's second volley was fired at a range of 80 yards, wounding Compère, who nevertheless urged his men on. Though disordered by their losses, the French closed to 20 yards, where they absorbed a third volley. This fire completely broke up the 1st Light and its soldiers turned and fled. Compère, who literally rode into the British line, and others were captured in the brief melée that followed. [3]

The 1st Light starts to break (drawing from an English book) The 1st Light breaks at Maida.jpg
The 1st Light starts to break (drawing from an English book)

As the 1st Light's attack collapsed, Kempt's men charged their shaken enemies. As the French formation disintegrated, the Advanced Guard went out of control, chasing the fleeing French as far as Maida. Meanwhile, the 42nd advanced on Acland in two battalion columns. The British fired at a range of 300 yards and blazed away until the French attack ground to a halt. Aware that their neighboring regiment was fleeing from the battlefield, the 42nd also decamped. [3] Seeing his left wing in rout, Reynier sent Peyri's brigade to face Acland. After a brisk action, the Poles were routed at bayonet point. The Swiss, however, maintained order and gave a good account of themselves. After Stuart sent reinforcements into the fight, the Swiss battalion fell back to join Digonet's brigade. Acland and Cole now advanced on Digonet and the Swiss. The 9th Chasseurs charged, forcing the British battalions to form square. Oswald's brigade appeared on the scene, but Digonet still held his ground, supported by the cavalry and the guns. Finally, the 20th Foot arrived from the coast and began firing at the exposed right flank of the 23rd Light. At this, Digonet and the Swiss began an orderly retreat and the battle was over. [4]

Stuart's 5,196-man force suffered 45 killed and 282 wounded for a total of 327 casualties. Out of a total of 6,440 soldiers, Reynier lost 490 killed and 870 wounded. In addition, the British captured 722 French soldiers and four cannon. [5] Another authority asserts that the French saved their guns. The 1st Light Infantry lost 50% of its strength between killed, wounded, and prisoners. [4] The action involving the 1st Light Infantry lasted only fifteen minutes. [6]

Aftermath

Admiral Sidney Smith Admiral Sir Sidney Smith (1764-1840) - Louis-Marie Autissier.jpg
Admiral Sidney Smith

Stuart ordered Kempt's Advanced Guard to observe Reynier's withdrawal while he and Sidney Smith discussed future actions. On 6 July, they decided to move south and pick off Reynier's garrisons. [4] That day, a half-battalion of the Polish-Italian Legion in the town of Vibo Valentia (Monteleone di Calabria) surrendered to Stuart. [7] On 7 July, three more companies of Poles laid down their arms in Tropea when summoned by Captain Edward Fellowes in the frigate HMS Apollo . [8] Reggio Calabria surrendered on 9 July to Brigadier General Broderick with 1,200 British and Neapolitan troops. The allies were transported from Sicily in the frigate HMS Amphion under Captain William Hoste. On this occasion, 632 soldiers from the 1st Light and 42nd Line Infantry Regiments were captured. [9]

Jean Reynier Regnier IMG 3216.JPG
Jean Reynier

Marching south, Stuart reached Reggio on 23 July. Before returning to Sicily, he and Smith mopped up all of Reynier's garrisons in southern Calabria. [10] On 24 July, the fortress of Scilla and 281 soldiers of the 23rd Light Infantry surrendered to Oswald. The British had one battalion each of the 10th Foot, 21st Foot, and Chasseurs Britanniques. The 3rd battalion of the Polish-Italian Legion, 500 strong, surrendered to Captain Hoste in the Amphion and the 78th Foot at Crotone on 28 July. [9] Stuart received the Order of the Bath and an annuity of £1,000 a year from the British crown, and the title Count of Maida from King Ferdinand, for the victory. [6]

The allies suffered a major setback on 18 July when the long Siege of Gaeta ended. After the French siege artillery breached Gaeta's walls, the Neapolitan garrison capitulated. By marching south, Stuart and Smith missed a chance to intervene in the siege or to land at Naples and attempt to overthrow Joseph's government. The surrender freed Masséna's force for operations in Calabria. In Stuart's defence, his expedition had successfully accomplished its main objective, which was to prevent any early invasion of Sicily. He also lengthened the revolt, which the French would not bring under control until 1807. [10]

The political situation in southern Italy would remain unchanged until 1815, with the British and Sicilian troops guarding the Bourbon King Ferdinand in Sicily and the Napoleonic King of Naples controlling the mainland. The British failed to use their naval superiority around Italy and did little to harass the French on the mainland. In 1808, Joachim Murat became the King of Naples after Joseph Bonaparte was sent to govern Spain. Murat made various attempts to cross the Strait of Sicily, which all ended in failure, despite once managing to secure a foothold in Sicily. It was not until Austria defeated Murat in the Neapolitan War in 1815, that King Ferdinand was finally restored to the Neapolitan throne.

Legacy

Maida Hill and Maida Vale in London are both named after this battle.

The Royal Navy named the recently captured Jupiter HMS Maida.

Orders of battle

British order of battle [7] [11] French order of battle [7] [12]

Major General John Stuart (236 officers, 4,960 men)

British Army Order of Battle (Battle of Maida) British Army Order of Battle (Battle of Maida).png
British Army Order of Battle (Battle of Maida)

Général de Division Jean Reynier (6,029 men)

French Army Order of Battle (Battle of Maida) French Army Order of Battle (Battle of Maida).png
French Army Order of Battle (Battle of Maida)

Historical reanalysis

It is traditionally thought that in the Battle of Maida the British deployed in a line while the French attacked in columns, allowing the British to fire full strength volleys into the French columns, while only the first two ranks of the French could fire, similar to Crossing the T in naval combat. However, modern historians dispute this claim. The military historian James R. Arnold argues that:

"The writings of Sir Charles Oman and Sir John Fortescue dominated subsequent English-language Napoleonic history. Their views [that the French infantry used heavy columns to attack lines of infantry] became very much the received wisdom. ... By 1998 a new paradigm seemed to have set in with the publication of two books devoted to Napoleonic battle tactics. Both claimed that the French fought in line at Maida and both fully explored French tactical variety. The 2002 publication of The Battle of Maida 1806: Fifteen Minutes of Glory, appeared to have brought the issue of column versus line to a satisfactory conclusion: "The contemporary sources are...the best evidence and their conclusion is clear: General Compère's brigade formed into line to attack Kempt's Light Battalion." The decisive action at Maida took place in less than fifteen minutes. It had taken 72 years to rectify a great historian's error about what transpired during those minutes." [13] [14]

The British fired volleys then charged with the bayonet, and the French, failing to withstand the onslaught, broke and fled, losing heavily in the rout.

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References

  1. 1 2 3 Hopton, Richard (2002). The Battle of Maida 1806 Fifteen Minutes of Glory. Leo Cooper. p. 111. ISBN   0-85052-845-3.
  2. Schneid, Frederick C. Napoleon's Italian Campaigns: 1805-1815 . Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 2002. ISBN   0-275-96875-8. pp. 52-53
  3. 1 2 Schneid, p 53
  4. 1 2 3 Schneid, p 54
  5. Smith, p 221
  6. 1 2 Chandler, David, Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars, Wordsworth, 1999. ISBN   1-84022-203-4. p 261
  7. 1 2 3 Smith, Digby. The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill Books, 1998. ISBN   1-85367-276-9. p 221. Smith assigns 1/35th to grenadiers, Schneid gives 1/36th. Smith lists Flankers of 35th; Schneid lists 5th. Smith was used in both cases.
  8. Smith, pp 221-222
  9. 1 2 Smith, p 222
  10. 1 2 Schneid, p 55
  11. Schneid, p 176. Strengths are from Schneid.
  12. Schneid, pp 175-176
  13. Arnold, James R. " A Reappraisal of Column Versus Line in the Peninsular War Oman and Historiography ", The Napoleon Series, August 2004.
  14. Arnold, James. "A Reappraisal of Column Versus Line in the Napoleonic Wars" Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research LX no. 244 (Winter 1982): pp. 196-208.

Sources

Coordinates: 38°51′00″N16°22′00″E / 38.8500°N 16.3667°E / 38.8500; 16.3667