Battle of Mileto

Last updated
Battle of Mileto
Part of the War of the Third Coalition
Date28 May 1807
Mileto (present-day Italy)
Result French victory
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  France Flag of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1816).svg Kingdom of Sicily
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Jean Reynier Flag of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1816).svg Louis of Hesse-Philippsthal
5,000 4,000
Casualties and losses
unknown 500

The Battle of Mileto was a battle of the War of the Third Coalition. It occurred on 28 May 1807 in Calabria during an attempt by the Bourbon Kingdom of Sicily to re-conquer its possessions in continental Italy, known as the Kingdom of Naples. The battle ended in a victory for French forces under general Jean Reynier.

War of the Third Coalition war

The War of the Third Coalition was a European conflict spanning the years 1803 to 1806. During the war, France and its client states under Napoleon I defeated an alliance, the Third Coalition, made up of the Holy Roman Empire, Russia, Britain and others.

Calabria Region of Italy

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

House of Bourbon European royal house of French origin

The House of Bourbon is a European royal house of French origin, a branch of the Capetian dynasty. Bourbon kings first ruled France and Navarre in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Spanish Bourbon dynasty held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma. Spain and Luxembourg currently have monarchs of the House of Bourbon.



Louis of Hesse-Philippsthal, the Bourbon commander. Ludwig von Hessen-Philippsthal.jpg
Louis of Hesse-Philippsthal, the Bourbon commander.

Ferdinand IV of Naples sided with the Third Coalition against Napoleon and so in 1806 France invaded his kingdom, forcing its royal family to flee to Sicily and turning the area into a battleground between France and Britain, the two main powers attempting to control the Mediterranean at the time. The Bourbon royals allied themselves with Britain, whose Royal Navy protected Sicily, whilst Napoleon I made his brother Joseph Bonaparte king of Naples, which he remained until 1808, when he was succeeded by Joachim Murat.

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.

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.

Joseph Bonaparte elder brother of Napoleon Bonaparte

Joseph-Napoléon 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.

From their Sicilian base, the Bourbons and the British then attempted to foment a brigand revolt against the new French-ruled Kingdom of Naples. These stirrings of revolt made life difficult for the French rulers and triggered a vicious crackdown, mainly led by captain Charles Antoine Manhès, formerly an aide de camp to Murat. Ferdinand and his wife Maria Carolina of Austria continued their claims to the Kingdom of Naples, particularly on Maria's part - she hated France for guillotining her sister Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution. It was Maria who chose Louis of Hesse-Philippsthal as commander of the Bourbon army.


Brigandage is the life and practice of highway robbery and plunder. It is practiced by a brigand, a person who usually lives in a gang and lives by pillage and robbery.

Charles Antoine Manhès French commander of the Napoleonic Wars

Charles Antoine Manhès was a French general. He worked as aide de camp to Joachim Murat and later led the repression of brigandage in the Kingdom of Naples during Murat's reign.

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.

In 1806 Louis defended Gaeta against the French and in May 1807 landed in Calabria, intending to defeat the French once and for all. He had around 3,500 men under his command, augmented by irregular troops from among the massisti, whilst his officers included colonel Vito Nunziante. For a year the French followed a policy of strategic withdrawal in the face of the Bourbon advance and concentrating their troops (around 5,000 men) at Monteleone (now known as Vibo Valentia).

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.

Vito Nunziante Italian general

Vito Nicola Nunziante was an Italian general, politician and entrepreneur, who was active in the Kingdom of Naples.

Vibo Valentia Comune in Calabria, Italy

Vibo Valentia is a city and comune (municipality) in the Calabria region of southern Italy, near the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital of the province of Vibo Valentia, and is an agricultural, commercial and tourist center. There are also several large manufacturing industries, including the tuna district of Maierato. Very important for the local economy is Vibo Marina's harbour.


Jean Reynier, the French commander. Jean Louis Ebenezer Reynier.jpg
Jean Reynier, the French commander.

Before the battle Reynier addressed his troops about their earlier defeat at Maida:

Bourbon attempts to land on the Tropea coast were prevented by the civic guards of the coastal towns and attempts at internal insurrection had no better success - those attempts were led by bands of massisti commanded by noted brigands such as Francatrippa and accompanied by regular Bourbon troops.

Tropea Comune in Calabria, Italy

Tropea is a municipality located within the province of Vibo Valentia, in Calabria, southern Italy.

Philippsthal and his army moved from Rosarno to Mileto on 26 May 1807. Journals and accounts of the battle from both sides state errors made by the Bourbon force - colonel Nunziante and other officers warned Philippsthal to leave his position at Mileto (tactically-unfavourable should the enemy attack), but he did not heed their advice and was attacked by the French at 4.30 on 28 May on the hills of Nao and Pizzinni, which overlooked the town of Mileto. From here the battle shifted to the outskirts of the town of Mileto, where the houses and countryside to its south were fought over with rifle fire and bayonet. The encounter was bloody and the Bourbon army was routed and pursued to Rosarno, Gioia Tauro, Seminara and finally to the gates of Reggio Calabria. The two combatants totalled around 10,000, of whom a very high percentage were killed.

Rosarno Comune in Calabria, Italy

Rosarno is a comune (municipality) in the Metropolitan City of Reggio Calabria in the Italian region of Calabria. It is about 70 kilometres (43 mi) southwest of Catanzaro and about 50 kilometres (31 mi) northeast of Reggio Calabria. Rosarno stands on a natural terrace cloaked in olive plantations and vineyards on the left bank of the river Mesima, overlooking the Gioia Tauro plain. The town is an important agricultural and commercial centre known for the production of citrus fruits, olive oil, and wines.

Gioia Tauro Comune in Calabria, Italy

Gioia Tauro is a comune (municipality) in the province of Reggio Calabria, in Calabria (Italy), on the Tyrrhenian coast. It has an important port, situated along the route connecting Suez to Gibraltar, one of the busiest maritime corridors in the world.

Seminara Comune in Calabria, Italy

Seminara is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Reggio Calabria in the Italian region Calabria, located about 90 kilometres (56 mi) southwest of Catanzaro and about 30 kilometres (19 mi) northeast of Reggio Calabria.

The sources state that the battle turned on a moment when the Bourbon cavalry charged but was repulsed by the French infantry. It then fled back towards the Bourbon front rank, leading to a panic which spread to the second rank and led to a hasty and disorderly flight by the irregular Bourbon troops harried by the army and the French cavalry. As they escaped, the irregulars also looted their own Bourbon allies and the defeat turned into a total rout.

It was later realised that the main reason for the Bourbon rout had been the inferior structure of their army, which was still organised on feudal lines - such an army was capable of quelling internal rebellions but inadequate for a pitched battle in which it faced an organised and experienced army with veterans of several previous victories in the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars, especially without the land forces of its British ally (which had been present at the previous Anglo-Bourbon victory at Maida on 4 July 1806). The original Bourbon plan of reconquering Naples had also not been implemented at the time of the battle. That plan had hinged on dividing the Bourbon force into five corps which would envelop the French forces and at the same time support a general uprising by the local population, combining these two prongs to annihilate the French. Varied political reasons meant that the plan did not become a reality, leading to the defeat at Mileto.


Despite being a Bourbon defeat, it left behind so many mainland foci for anti-French resistance that Napoleon then decided to abandon his plan to capture Sicily. It did, however, reverse the balance of power established at Maida the previous year and guaranteed French control of Calabria until 1815, when Ferdinand IV was returned to the throne by the Congress of Vienna. Murat then made a failed attempt to re-conquer Naples and was shot at Pizzo on 13 October 1815 after a summary trial, with the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily reunified in 1816 under Ferdinand IV, who restyled himself Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies.


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