Battle of Montebello (1800)

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Battle of Montebello
Part of the French Revolutionary Wars
Carte golf de Genes.jpg
Date9 June 1800
LocationNear Montebello della Battaglia, Lombardy
Result French victory
Flag of France.svg France Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Austria
Commanders and leaders
Jean Lannes Peter Ott
8,000 rising to 14,000 18,000
Casualties and losses
3,000 4,275 and 2 cannons

The Battle of Montebello was fought on 9 June 1800 near Montebello in Lombardy. During the lead-up to the Battle of Marengo, the vanguard of the French army in Italy engaged and defeated an Austrian force in a "glorious victory". [1]

Montebello della Battaglia Comune in Lombardy, Italy

Montebello della Battaglia is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Pavia in the Italian region Lombardy, located about 50 km south of Milan and about 20 km south of Pavia.

Lombardy Region of Italy

Lombardy is one of the twenty administrative regions of Italy, in the northwest of the country, with an area of 23,844 square kilometres (9,206 sq mi). About 10 million people, forming one-sixth of Italy's population, live in Lombardy and about a fifth of Italy's GDP is produced in the region, making it the most populous and richest region in the country and one of the richest regions in Europe. Milan, Lombardy's capital, is the second-largest city and the largest metropolitan area in Italy.

Battle of Marengo battle

The Battle of Marengo was fought on 14 June 1800 between French forces under Napoleon Bonaparte and Austrian forces near the city of Alessandria, in Piedmont, Italy. Near the end of the day, the French overcame Gen. Michael von Melas's surprise attack, driving the Austrians out of Italy and consolidating Napoleon's political position in Paris as First Consul of France in the wake of his coup d’état the previous November.



Napoleon's capture of Milan on 2 June found the Austrian army separated into three major and several minor concentrations. General Michael Melas held Turin with 18,000 men, Feldmarschall-Leutnant (FML) Peter Ott's 16,000 troops remained near Genoa where they secured the surrender of General of Division André Masséna's starving garrison on 4 June, and FML Anton von Elsnitz with 8,000 soldiers retreated from the Riviera. To the east of Milan, FML Josef Philipp Vukassovich had 4,000 men. South of the Po River, FML Andreas O'Reilly von Ballinlough marched east toward Piacenza with 3,000 men. Strong garrisons manned the fortresses of Alessandria, Coni and Casale. Melas believed he had plenty of time to mass his army and launch a counter-offensive north from Piacenza. [2]

Milan Italian city

Milan is a city in northern Italy, capital of Lombardy, and the second-most populous city in Italy after Rome, with the city proper having a population of 1,372,810 while its metropolitan area has a population of 3,244,365. Its continuously built-up urban area has a population estimated to be about 5,270,000 over 1,891 square kilometres. The wider Milan metropolitan area, known as Greater Milan, is a polycentric metropolitan region that extends over central Lombardy and eastern Piedmont and which counts an estimated total population of 7.5 million, making it by far the largest metropolitan area in Italy and the 54th largest in the world. Milan served as capital of the Western Roman Empire from 286 to 402 and the Duchy of Milan during the medieval period and early modern age.

Genoa Comune in Liguria, Italy

Genoa is the capital of the Italian region of Liguria and the sixth-largest city in Italy. In 2015, 594,733 people lived within the city's administrative limits. As of the 2011 Italian census, the Province of Genoa, which in 2015 became the Metropolitan City of Genoa, counted 855,834 resident persons. Over 1.5 million people live in the wider metropolitan area stretching along the Italian Riviera.

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.

General of Division Jean Lannes moved south from Milan with his corps, seizing Pavia on 3 June and being initially repulsed by Piacenza's tiny 400-man garrison. In a series of operations on 6 June, Generals of Division Joachim Murat and Jean Boudet ferried their troops across the Po to the east of Piacenza while Lannes crossed the Po to the west of the city. Murat then overran Piacenza while Lannes pushed O'Reilly back to the west. These actions placed French forces directly on the main Austrian line of communication between Alessandria and Mantua in the strategic Stradella defile. [3] Meanwhile, Murat captured a set of Austrian dispatches that disclosed that Genoa had fallen. Confronted with a new situation, Napoleon issued orders to press the Austrians. [4]

Jean Lannes Marshal of France

Jean Lannes, 1st Duc de Montebello, Prince de Siewierz, was a Marshal of the Empire. He was one of Napoleon's most daring and talented generals. Napoleon once commented on Lannes: "I found him a pygmy and left him a giant". A personal friend of the emperor, he was allowed to address him with the familiar "tu", as opposed to the formal "vous".

Pavia Comune in Lombardy, Italy

Pavia is a town and comune of south-western Lombardy, northern Italy, 35 kilometres south of Milan on the lower Ticino river near its confluence with the Po. It has a population of c. 73,000. The city was the capital of the Kingdom of the Lombards from 572 to 774.

Joachim Murat Grand Duke of Berg and King of Naples

Joachim-Napoléon Murat was a Marshal of France and Admiral of France under the reign of Napoleon. He was also the 1st Prince Murat, Grand Duke of Berg from 1806 to 1808, and King of Naples from 1808 to 1815. Murat received his titles in part by being Napoleon's brother-in-law through marriage to his younger sister, Caroline Bonaparte, as well as personal merit. He was noted as a daring, brave, and charismatic cavalry officer as well as a flamboyant dresser, for which he was known as "the Dandy King".

On 7 June, Ott's column was marching north from Genoa. Ott's corps reached Voghera at 8 pm on 8 June to join O'Reilly. A patrol reported French troops to the east. Ott directed O'Reilly with six infantry battalions and four cavalry squadrons to defend the village of Casteggio on the main east-west highway. [5]

Voghera Comune in Lombardy, Italy

Voghera is a town and comune in the Province of Pavia in the Italian region Lombardy. The population was 39,374 as of 2017. It is the third most populated town in the province, after Pavia and Vigevano. It is located 30 km south-southwest of that city, on the Staffora.

Casteggio Comune in Lombardy, Italy

Casteggio is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Pavia in the Italian region Lombardy, located about 61 km south of Milan and about 25 km south of Pavia. As of 31 July 2010, it had a population of 6,537 and an area of 17.8 km².

Meanwhile, the French army became overextended. Believing that his enemies could not be in strength, Napoleon sent a note to Lannes, "If troops should present themselves between Voghera and Stradella let them be attacked without caution; they are, certainly, fewer than 10,000 men." [6] Lannes planned to continue marching west. This would bring his 8,000 men into contact with Ott's corps of 18,000. [7]


French Forces: Lannes [8]
Corps: Lannes (8,000)

Corps: Victor (6,000)

Jacques-Antoine de Chambarlhac de Laubespin French general

Jean Jacques-Antoine Vital François de Chambarlhac was a French infantry commander during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

Austrian Forces: Ott [9]


On the morning of 9 June, the 6th Light Infantry Demi-brigade belonging to General of Division François Watrin bumped into an Austrian position and immediately attacked. Melas' chief-of-staff, General-Major Anton von Zach was on the scene and he advised Ott against bringing on a battle. Ott overruled him. Watrin aggressively fed his units into the battle, but found his three demi-brigades, two batteries and one cavalry regiment opposed by a superior force. Ott disposed of 26 infantry battalions and 15 cavalry squadrons, but his 35 cannons caused the French the worst trouble. [10]

For five hours, the outnumbered French soldiers tried to break the Austrian position. Twice they seized Casteggio, but were driven out by O'Reilly's troops. Attempts to flank the Austrian left were repulsed by the Lobkowitz Dragoons and an artillery battery. The 12th Hussars charged repeatedly to keep the French infantry from being overrun by the Austrian dragoons. Nine Austrian battalions defended a hill to the south of the village while, a short distance to the west, five battalions waited in reserve in the village of Montebello. The French received some help when the Consular Guard's three field pieces and other units arrived. [11]

As Lannes' command neared their breaking point at about 1:00 pm, General of Division Jacques-Antoine de Chambarlhac de Laubespin's division of Claude Perrin Victor's corps arrived on the scene. Victor sent the 43rd Line under General of Brigade Olivier Macoux Rivaud de la Raffinière to attack the enemy right, the 24th Light to assault the Austrian left and the 96th Line to charge the center. Despite intense Austrian artillery fire, the combined pressure forced back Ott's tired soldiers and convinced that general to order a phased withdrawal. O'Reilly's battalions held Casteggio to the last and the Reisky Regiment was nearly wiped out. O'Reilly's survivors and the numerous Austrian cavalry covered the retreat. [12]


The Austrians reported losing 659 killed, 1,445 wounded and 2,171 captured, as well as two field pieces lost. The French claimed only 600 casualties, but a more realistic assessment is that they suffered about 3,000 losses. [13] "Yet the Battle of Montebello did not fatally compromise Melas' situation. His strategy to mass his forces and then attack remained sound." [14] On the other hand, "Austrian morale suffered a serious relapse, and Melas remained as if hypnotized around Alessandria for the next five days without making any significant move, waiting for his troops to complete their concentration." [15] The next engagement would be the decisive Battle of Marengo on 14 June.

Jean Lannes distinguished himself at this battle, for which he was awarded the victory title of duc de Montebello in 1808.

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  1. Mignet, François (1915) [1824]. History of the French Revolution from 1789 to 1814. Project Gutenberg.
  2. Arnold, p 115
  3. Arnold, p 120
  4. Chandler, p 287
  5. Arnold, p 121-122
  6. Arnold, p 122
  7. Chandler, p 287-288
  8. Arnold, p 270-271
  9. Smith, p 186
  10. Arnold, p 122-124. Arnold does not enumerate the 26 infantry battalions. Smith's list shows only 18 battalions.
  11. Arnold, p 124
  12. Arnold, p 125
  13. Arnold, p 125-126
  14. Arnold, p 126
  15. Chandler, p 288

Coordinates: 45°00′00″N9°06′00″E / 45.0000°N 9.1000°E / 45.0000; 9.1000