Battle of Occhiobello

Last updated
Battle of Occhiobello
Part of the Neapolitan War
Date8–9 April 1815
Location
Occhiobello, present-day Italy
Result Austrian victory
Belligerents
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg  Austrian Empire Flag of the Kingdom of Naples (1811).svg  Kingdom of Naples
Commanders and leaders
Johann Frimont
Johann Freiherr von Mohr
Joachim Murat
Strength
10,000 25,000
Casualties and losses
400 killed or wounded 2,000+ killed or wounded

The Battle of Occhiobello was fought on 8 April – 9 April 1815 and was the turning point of the Neapolitan War. Joachim Murat, King of Naples was repulsed by an Austrian force under the command of Johann Frimont whilst trying to cross the bridge over the Po River at Occhiobello. Following the battle, the Austrians would not lose an engagement for the remainder of the war.

Neapolitan War conflict

The Neapolitan War was a conflict between the Napoleonic Kingdom of Naples and the Austrian Empire. It started on 15 March 1815 when King Joachim Murat declared war on Austria and ended on 20 May 1815 with the signing of the Treaty of Casalanza. The war occurred during the Hundred Days between Napoleon's return from exile and before he left Paris to be decisively defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. The war was triggered by a pro-Napoleon uprising in Naples, and ended with a decisive Austrian victory at the Battle of Tolentino after which Bourbon monarch Ferdinand IV was reinstated as King of Naples and Sicily. However, the intervention by Austria caused resentment in Italy, which further spurred on the drive towards Italian unification.

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".

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.

Contents

Background

By March 1815, it became increasingly likely that Joachim Murat would lose the crown of Naples, which had been given to him by his brother-in-law, Napoleon Bonaparte, in 1808. After hearing news that Napoleon had escaped from exile in Elba and landed in France, Murat decided to take matters into his own hands and declared war on Austria, the greatest threat to his position as King of Naples. Following Napoleon's defeat in 1814, areas such as Lombardy and Venetia became part of the Austrian Empire and were directly ruled from Vienna.

Elba Mediterranean island near Italy

Elba is a Mediterranean island in Tuscany, Italy, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from the coastal town of Piombino, and the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago. It is also part of the Arcipelago Toscano National Park, and the third largest island in Italy, after Sicily and Sardinia. It is located in the Tyrrhenian Sea about 50 kilometres (30 mi) east of the French island of Corsica.

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.

On 30 March, hoping to start a popular uprising against the Austrians, Murat gave the Rimini Proclamation calling all Italian nationalists to war. Although there were many Italians sympathetic to his cause, fearful of the increasing Austrian influence in Italy and longing for independence, most Italians saw Murat as someone trying to save his own crown rather than a figurehead for unification. The Austrians also quickly crushed any unrest and there would be no general insurrection so long as Austrian troops were stationed in Italy. Despite this, by early April, Murat has reached the Austrian border on the Po River. Across the border in Lombardy, there were reportedly around 40,000 Italian partisans, mostly veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, waiting to join Murat's army as soon he arrived in Milan.

Rimini Proclamation

The Rimini Proclamation was a proclamation on 30 March 1815 by Joachim Murat, who had been made king of Naples by Napoleon I. Murat had just declared war on Austria and used the proclamation to call on Italians to revolt against their Austrian occupiers and to show himself as a backer of Italian independence, in an attempt to find allies in his desperate battle to hang onto his throne. It began:

Napoleonic Wars Series of early 19th century European wars

The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European powers formed into various coalitions, financed and usually led by the United Kingdom. The wars stemmed from the unresolved disputes associated with the French Revolution and its resultant conflict. The wars are often categorised into five conflicts, each termed after the coalition that fought Napoleon: the Third Coalition (1805), the Fourth (1806–07), the Fifth (1809), the Sixth (1813), and the Seventh (1815).

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 1,395,274 while its metropolitan city has a population of 3,245,308. 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.

However, the Austrians had also been assembling troops in northern Italy. Originally intended for an invasion of southern France following Napoleon's return from exile, the Austrians troops now moved south to counter the threat Murat now posed. Realising the danger of an Italian insurrection should Murat arrive in Milan, Johann Frimont moved his headquarters to Piacenza to block Murat's direct route to Milan. By now, the Austrian numbers on the frontier and available for war swelled to nearly 50,000, vastly outnumbering the Neapolitans. With his original route now blocked, Murat was forced eastwards to Ferrara. On the 8 April, Murat made an attempt to cross the Po into Austria with the bulk of his army at the town of Occhiobello, just a few miles northwest of Ferrara.

Johann Maria Philipp Frimont Austrian general

Johann Maria Philipp Frimont, Count of Palota, Prince of Antrodoco was an Austrian general.

Piacenza Comune in Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Piacenza is a city and comune in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, the capital of the eponymous province. The etymology is long-standing, tracing an origin from the Latin verb placēre, "to please." In French, and occasionally in English, it is called Plaisance. The name means a "pleasant abode", or as James Boswell reported some of the etymologists of his time to have translated it, "comely". This was a name "of good omen."

Ferrara Comune in Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Ferrara is a city and comune in Emilia-Romagna, northern Italy, capital of the Province of Ferrara. As of 2016 it had 132,009 inhabitants. It is situated 44 kilometres northeast of Bologna, on the Po di Volano, a branch channel of the main stream of the Po River, located 5 km north. The town has broad streets and numerous palaces dating from the Renaissance, when it hosted the court of the House of Este. For its beauty and cultural importance, it has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Battle

Murat chose Occhiobello as a crossing point because the bridge was only lightly defended by a small force of Austrians under the command of Johann Freiherr von Mohr. However, the majority of the Neapolitan artillery had been diverted to the Siege of Ferrara along with a significant portion of Murat's army, where the Austrian garrison was frustrating the Neapolitans. Nevertheless, Murat was still able to move on Occhiobello with around 25,000 infantry and cavalry.

Meanwhile, although the Austrians had spread their forces along their border, they had concentrated their guns at favourable positions around the bridges over the Po. When on 8 April, Murat finally launched his first attempt to cross the bridge at Occhiobello, a dogged defensive action by Mohr's outnumbered infantry combined with a devastating artillery barrage, threw the Neapolitan attack back in disarray. After successive charges, including one by an entire dragoon regiment, were repulsed by the Austrians, the Neapolitan morale slowly disintegrated and the assault petered out.

The following day, Murat again attempted to force a crossing but by now Frimont had reinforced Mohr's force to around 10,000 men. On the other hand, the Neapolitan force had dwindled due to large numbers of the less enthusiastic officers and men deserting Murat's cause altogether. By the end of the second day, Murat was compelled to fall back from Occhiobello and establish a new defensive position in preparation of the inevitable Austrian counterattack. To make matters worse, news had reached Italy that the United Kingdom had declared war on Murat and were sending a fleet of gunboats to the Adriatic Sea.

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Historical sovereign state from 1801 to 1921

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was a sovereign state established by the Acts of Union 1800, which merged the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland.

Adriatic Sea Body of water between the Italian Peninsula and the Balkan Peninsula

The Adriatic Sea is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkan peninsula. The Adriatic is the northernmost arm of the Mediterranean Sea, extending from the Strait of Otranto to the northwest and the Po Valley. The countries with coasts on the Adriatic are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, Montenegro and Slovenia. The Adriatic contains over 1,300 islands, mostly located along the Croatian part of its eastern coast. It is divided into three basins, the northern being the shallowest and the southern being the deepest, with a maximum depth of 1,233 metres (4,045 ft). The Otranto Sill, an underwater ridge, is located at the border between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. The prevailing currents flow counterclockwise from the Strait of Otranto, along the eastern coast and back to the strait along the western (Italian) coast. Tidal movements in the Adriatic are slight, although larger amplitudes are known to occur occasionally. The Adriatic's salinity is lower than the Mediterranean's because the Adriatic collects a third of the fresh water flowing into the Mediterranean, acting as a dilution basin. The surface water temperatures generally range from 30 °C (86 °F) in summer to 12 °C (54 °F) in winter, significantly moderating the Adriatic Basin's climate.

Aftermath

The Neapolitans had sustained over 2,000 casualties during the two days of fighting with thousands more deserting. The Austrians had sustained only 400 casualties and had established a bridgehead around Occhiobello from where they would able to launch attacks against Carpi and Casaglia. With the morale of Neapolitan army broken and the partisans in Lombardy unable to join his cause, Murat would eventually be forced to retire back to his original headquarters in Ancona by late April.

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References

Coordinates: 44°54′54.80″N11°34′46.52″E / 44.9152222°N 11.5795889°E / 44.9152222; 11.5795889