Battle of Rovereto

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Battle of Rovereto
Part of the French Revolutionary War
Bataille de Rovereto.jpg
Battle of Rovereto
Date4 September 1796
Location
Rovereto, present-day Italy
Result French victory
Belligerents
Flag of France.svg First French Republic Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Habsburg Monarchy
Commanders and leaders
Napoleon Bonaparte Paul Davidovich
Strength
20,000 [1] 10,000 [1]
Casualties and losses
750 [1] 3,000, 25 guns, 7 colours [1]

In the Battle of Rovereto (also Battle of Roveredo) on 4 September 1796 a French army commanded by Napoleon Bonaparte defeated an Austrian corps led by Paul Davidovich during the War of the First Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars. The battle was fought near the town of Rovereto, in the upper Adige River valley in northern Italy.

Baron Paul Davidovich or Pavle Davidović became a general of the Austrian Empire and a Knight of the Military Order of Maria Theresa. He played a major role in the 1796 Italian campaign during the French Revolutionary Wars, leading corps-sized commands in the fighting against the French army led by Napoleon Bonaparte. He led troops during the Napoleonic Wars and was Proprietor (Inhaber) of an Austrian infantry regiment.

War of the First Coalition 1790s war to contain Revolutionary France

The War of the First Coalition is the traditional name of the wars that several European powers fought between 1792 and 1797 against the French First Republic. Despite the collective strength of these nations compared with France, they were not really allied and fought without much apparent coordination or agreement. Each power had its eye on a different part of France it wanted to appropriate after a French defeat, which never occurred.

French Revolutionary Wars series of conflicts fought between the French Republic and several European monarchies from 1792 to 1802

The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of sweeping military conflicts lasting from 1792 until 1802 and resulting from the French Revolution. They pitted France against Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia and several other monarchies. They are divided in two periods: the War of the First Coalition (1792–97) and the War of the Second Coalition (1798–1802). Initially confined to Europe, the fighting gradually assumed a global dimension. After a decade of constant warfare and aggressive diplomacy, France had conquered a wide array of territories, from the Italian Peninsula and the Low Countries in Europe to the Louisiana Territory in North America. French success in these conflicts ensured the spread of revolutionary principles over much of Europe.

Contents

The action was fought during the second relief of the Siege of Mantua. The Austrians left Davidovich's corps in the upper Adige valley while transferring two divisions to Bassano del Grappa by marching east, then south down the Brenta River valley. The Austrian army commander Dagobert von Würmser planned to march south-west from Bassano to Mantua, completing the clockwise manoeuvre. Meanwhile, Davidovich would threaten a descent from the north to distract the French.

Bassano del Grappa Comune in Veneto, Italy

Bassano del Grappa is a city and comune, in the Vicenza province, in the region of Veneto, in northern Italy. It bounds the communes of Cassola, Marostica, Solagna, Pove del Grappa, Romano d'Ezzelino, Campolongo sul Brenta, Conco, Rosà, Cartigliano and Nove. Some neighbourhoods of these communes have become in practice a part of the urban area of Bassano, so that the population of the whole conurbation totals around 70,000 people.

Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser austrian marshall

Dagobert Sigismund, Count von Wurmser was an Austrian field marshal during the French Revolutionary Wars. Although he fought in the Seven Years' War, the War of the Bavarian Succession, and mounted several successful campaigns in the Rhineland in the initial years of the French Revolutionary Wars, he is probably most remembered for his unsuccessful operations against Napoleon Bonaparte during the 1796 campaign in Italy.

Mantua Comune in Lombardy, Italy

Mantua is a city and comune in Lombardy, Italy, and capital of the province of the same name.

Bonaparte's next move did not conform to the Austrians' expectations. The French commander advanced north with three divisions, a force that greatly outnumbered Davidovich. The French steadily pressed back the Austrian defenders all day and routed them in the afternoon. Davidovich retreated well to the north. This success allowed Bonaparte to follow Würmser down the Brenta valley to Bassano and, ultimately, trap him inside the walls of Mantua.

Background

Plans

After being defeated in the Battle of Castiglione on 5 August, the Austrian army under Feldmarschall Würmser retreated north to Trento. Meanwhile, the French army resumed the Siege of Mantua. Pre-dawn attacks on 24 August led by General of Division Jean-Joseph Sahuguet and General of Brigade Claude Dallemagne pressed the Austrian garrison back into the fortress. [2]

Battle of Castiglione battle of 1796 during the French Revolutionay Wars

The Battle of Castiglione saw the French Army of Italy under General Napoleon Bonaparte attack an army of Habsburg Monarchy led by Feldmarschall Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser on 5 August 1796. The outnumbered Austrians were defeated and driven back along a line of hills to the river crossing at Borghetto, where they retired beyond the Mincio River. The town of Castiglione delle Stiviere is located 10 kilometres (6 mi) south of Lake Garda in northern Italy. This battle was one of four famous victories won by Bonaparte during the War of the First Coalition, part of the Wars of the French Revolution. The others were Bassano, Arcole, and Rivoli.

Trento Comune in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Italy

Trento is a city on the Adige River in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol in Italy. It is the capital of the autonomous province of Trento. In the 16th century, the city was the location of the Council of Trent. Formerly part of Austria and Austria-Hungary, it was annexed by Italy in 1919. With almost 120,000 inhabitants, Trento is the third largest city in the Alps and second largest in the Tyrol.

Claude Dallemagne French general

Claude Dallemagne started his career in the French army under the Bourbons, fought in the American Revolutionary War, rose in rank to become a general officer during the French Revolutionary Wars, took part in the 1796 Italian campaign under Napoleon Bonaparte, and held military posts during the Napoleonic Wars.

Dagobert von Wurmser Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser.png
Dagobert von Würmser

On 26 August orders arrived from Emperor Francis II to immediately attempt a second relief of the fortress of Mantua. Würmser's new chief-of-staff, Feldmarschall-Leutnant Franz von Lauer therefore drew up plans for an offensive. The division of Feldmarschall-Leutnant Johann Mészáros near Bassano was reinforced to 10,700 troops. Würmser would lead two divisions from Trento into the Brenta River valley. This route went east, then south to reach Bassano. From that location, the Austrians would turn southwest, join Mészáros, and march to Mantua via Legnago. [3]

Franz von Lauer austrian general

Franz von Lauer began his service in the Habsburg Austrian army as an engineer officer and advanced to high rank during his career. After serving in the Seven Years' War he earned promotion to oberst (colonel) over the next two decades. He fought against Ottoman Turkey at Belgrade and became a general officer for his distinguished effort as a siege specialist. He directed sieges against Fort-Louis and Mannheim while fighting the armies of the First French Republic during the War of the First Coalition. Named chief of staff of the army fighting against Napoleon Bonaparte in Italy in 1796, he fought at Bassano and Mantua. In 1800 he was appointed deputy commander of the main army in southern Germany. His efforts ended in a military disaster at Hohenlinden in December 1800. He was made the scapegoat and soon dismissed from the service.

Legnago Comune in Veneto, Italy

Legnago is a town and comune in the Province of Verona, Veneto, northern Italy, with population (2012) of 25,439. It is located on the Adige river, about 43 kilometres (27 mi) from Verona. Its fertile land produces crops of rice, other cereals, sugar, and tobacco.

The 17,300-man Mantua garrison was sent orders to stage attacks on the besiegers when the relief army drew close. Feldmarschall-Leutnant Davidovich with 19,600 troops defended Trento. [4] If the French forces facing him weakened, he was to move south on Mantua. Lauer noted that the French army, "had suffered badly during the recent combats, and had not properly recovered, nor received significant reinforcements. However, he drew some dangerous conclusions from this..." Lauer confidently predicted that the French army would remain quiet long enough for the Austrian relief effort to get well underway. [5]

In fact, the French government approved a strategy that sent the Army of Italy north across the Brenner Pass to link with General of Division Jean Moreau's army in Bavaria. Accordingly, General of Division Bonaparte planned to mass 33,000 soldiers from the divisions of Generals of Division Claude Belgrand de Vaubois, André Masséna, and Pierre Augereau, then advance to Trento. His remaining 13,500 men covered the blockade of Mantua and the line of the Adige near Verona and Legnago. [6] Bonaparte instructed Sahuguet and General of Division Charles Kilmaine to leave a garrison in Peschiera del Garda and fall back behind the Oglio River if they were unable to resist an Austrian attack from the east. [7]

Army of Italy (France) field army of the French Revolutionary Army

The Army of Italy was a field army of the French Army stationed on the Italian border and used for operations in Italy itself. Though it existed in some form in the 16th century through to the present, it is best known for its role during the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars.

Brenner Pass mountain pass at the international border between Austria and Italy

Brenner Pass is a mountain pass through the Alps which forms the border between Italy and Austria. It is one of the principal passes of the Eastern Alpine range and has the lowest altitude among Alpine passes of the area.

Jean Victor Marie Moreau Marshal of France

Jean Victor Marie Moreau was a French general who helped Napoleon Bonaparte to power, but later became a rival and was banished to the United States.

Battle

Andre Massena Andre Massena.jpg
André Masséna

The 4,100-man division Feldmarschall-Leutnant Karl Philipp Sebottendorf moved out on 1 September. It was soon followed by Feldmarschall-Leutnant Peter Quasdanovich's 4,600 soldiers. Davidovich controlled 19,555 troops, but only 13,695 of these were immediately available. He deployed the brigades of General-majors Josef Philipp Vukassovich and Johann Rudolph Sporck near Rovereto, while the brigade of General-major Prince Heinrich XV of Reuss-Plauen held Trento and some positions west of the Adige. The brigades of General-major Johann Loudon in the Valtelline and General-major Johann Grafen in the Vorarlberg were not within supporting distance. [4]

Vaubois, with 10,000 men, lay to the west of Lake Garda. He put General of Brigade Jean Joseph Guieu and his brigade in boats, while his other two brigades marched north past Lake Idro to Riva del Garda at the northern end of the lake. Joined by Guieu, Vaubois turned east toward Rovereto. Bonaparte sent Masséna's 13,000 troops advancing directly north up the Adige valley while Augereau's 9,000 men struggled through the mountains north of Verona. [8]

Battle of Rovereto strategic situation Battle of Rovereto 4 Sept 1796.JPG
Battle of Rovereto strategic situation

On 3 September, Masséna attacked 1,500 of Vukassovich's troops near Ala and drove them back to Marco on the east bank of the Adige. Vukassovich tried to warn Davidovich, but his superior was away at a conference with Würmser in Trento. Vaubois brushed aside some elements of Reuss's brigade at Nago-Torbole and stood poised to attack an Austrian position at Mori on the west bank. Meanwhile, Würmser became aware of the French threat to Trento, but he nevertheless pursued his strategy of moving via the Brenta valley. [9]

At dawn, Masséna's division attacked Vukassovich's Austrians at Marco. General of Brigade Claude Perrin Victor led one demi-brigade straight up the main road, while General of Brigade Jean Joseph Magdeleine Pijon seized the high ground to one flank. After sturdy resistance, the Austrians pulled back to avoid being cut off. Masséna pursued vigorously, breaking up a number of Austrian formations. When he reached Rovereto, Vukassovich stood firm again until noon-time. Then he fell back toward Calliano with the remnant of his brigade and Sporck's troops. By this time, Vaubois had captured Mori on the west bank. [10]

Davidovich placed Colonel Karl Weidenfeld and the Preiss Infantry Regiment 24 in a formidable position in the Adige gorge to cover the retreat of his forces. However, the regiment's morale was poor after suffering casualties and being hustled out of several defensive lines. Aided by artillery fire directed by General of Brigade Elzéar Auguste Cousin de Dommartin, Masséna's troops attacked in heavy columns and broke through. Believing themselves well-covered by Weidenfeld's force, Vukassovich and Spork allowed their troops to cook dinner when they arrived in Calliano. Without warning, the French interrupted the proceedings by storming into the camp in the late afternoon. The result was a rout of the surviving Austrians. [11]

Result

The French lost 750 casualties during the day. Austrian losses included 3,000 killed, wounded, and prisoners, plus 25 cannon and 7 colours captured. [1] During the night, Davidovich evacuated Trento and fell back to Lavis, a village at the river Avisio and southern frontier of Austrian territory, where he joined Reuss. Masséna entered Trento on the morning of 5 September, followed by Vaubois. At this time, Bonaparte found out Würmser's plan of marching east into the Brenta valley. He discarded the strategy of joining Moreau and adopted a very bold plan. [12]

Far from retiring down the Adige with his whole army, Bonaparte ordered Vaubois to block the gorges north of Trent with 10,000 men, while the remaining 22,000 troops set off in full pursuit of Würmser down the same pass that the Austrians were using. This was an extremely risky course to pursue, for during the operation the Army of Italy would be wholly dependent on what supplies it could seize locally, and even a temporary check on the Brenta might lead to starvation in the midst of the Alps." [13]

On 5 September, Vaubois crossed the bridge of the river Avisio, attacked Davidovich at Lavis and drove him farther north. Satisfied that Davidovich was no longer a threat, Bonaparte sent Augereau's division to Levico Terme on the trail of Würmser. Soon, Masséna's troops followed in Augereau's wake. [14] This set the stage for the subsequent skirmish at Primolano on 7 September and the Battle of Bassano on 8 September. [15]

See also

Footnotes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Smith, p. 122.
  2. Boycott-Brown, p. 415.
  3. Boycott-Brown, pp. 415–416.
  4. 1 2 Boycott-Brown, p. 418–419.
  5. Boycott-Brown, p. 416.
  6. Boycott-Brown, p. 419.
  7. Fiebeger, p. 12.
  8. Boycott-Brown, p. 421–423.
  9. Boycott-Brown, p. 422–423.
  10. Boycott-Brown, p. 424–425.
  11. Boycott-Brown, p. 425–426.
  12. Boycott-Brown, p. 427–428.
  13. Chandler, p. 97.
  14. Boycott-Brown, p. 428–429.
  15. Smith, p. 123.

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References

Coordinates: 45°53′00″N11°03′00″E / 45.8833°N 11.0500°E / 45.8833; 11.0500