Battle of Saorgio (1793)

Last updated
Battle of Saorgio (1793)
Part of the French Revolutionary Wars
La forca l'Authion.jpg
Fort de La Forca on the Massif de l’Authion
Date8–12 June 1793
Location
Result Austro-Sardinian victory
Belligerents
Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Habsburg Austria
War Ensign of the Kingdom of Sardinia (1785-1802).svg  Kingdom of Sardinia
Flag of France.svg Republican France
Commanders and leaders
Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Joseph De Vins
War Ensign of the Kingdom of Sardinia (1785-1802).svg Count of Saint-André
Flag of France.svg Gaspard Brunet
Strength
10,000–12,000 17,000
Casualties and losses
unknown 1,532

The First Battle of Saorgio (8–12 June 1793) saw a Republican French army commanded by Gaspard Jean-Baptiste Brunet attack the armies of the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont and Habsburg Austria led by Joseph Nikolaus De Vins. The local Sardinian commander in the Maritime Alps was Charles-François Thaon, Count of Saint-André. Though the French were initially successful in this War of the First Coalition action, their main assaults against the strong defensive positions on the Massif de l'Authion and the Col de Raus failed with serious losses. Saorge is now located in France about 70 kilometres (43 mi) northeast of Nice, but in 1793 Saorgio belonged to Piedmont. In April 1794 the French seized the positions from the Austro-Sardinians in the Second Battle of Saorgio.

Gaspard Jean-Baptiste Brunet

Gaspard Jean-Baptiste Brunet commanded the French Army of Italy during the French Revolutionary Wars and was executed during the Reign of Terror. Despite this fate his son Jean Baptiste Brunet also became a French general. From the minor nobility, he entered the French Royal Army as a gunner in 1755, transferred to an infantry unit and fought in the Seven Years' War. He received the Order of Saint-Louis and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1779.

Maritime Alps mountains in France and Italy

The Maritime Alps are a mountain range in the southwestern part of the Alps. They form the border between the French region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur and the Italian regions of Piedmont and Liguria. They are the southernmost part of the Alps.

Charles-François Thaon, Count of Saint-André Italian soldier (1725-1807)

Charles-François Thaon de Revel et de Saint-André was an army commander for the Kingdom of Sardinia during the War of the First Coalition. He fought in the War of the Austrian Succession and during the years of peace gained promotion until he was made major general in 1780. He was forced to abandon Nice to the invading Republican French army in 1792. The following year he defeated the French at Saorgio. He played a minor part in 1799 during the War of the Second Coalition. He went to Sardinia after the end of that conflict and died at Cagliari.

Contents

Background

Operations

The winter of 1792 found two French armies facing the Kingdom of Sardinia. On the north was the Army of the Alps under François Christophe Kellermann occupying Savoy. [1] On the south lay the Army of Italy under Jacques Bernard d'Anselme at Nice with a paper strength of 26,806 men but only 21,728 available for field work. [2] Anselme wanted to mount a naval expedition to Rome but the French government desired to attack the island of Sardinia instead. The government ordered Anselme suspended on 16 December 1792 and his temporary replacement was Gaspard Jean-Baptiste Brunet. Anselme was arrested on 12 April 1793 but managed to survive the Reign of Terror. Meanwhile, Brunet led the expedition to Sardinia which began on 8 January and ended in complete failure within two months. [3] Armand Louis de Gontaut, Duke of Biron assumed command of the Army of Italy on 10 February and pushed eastward with his right flank on the Mediterranean Sea. [4]

Kingdom of Sardinia former Italian state (1324–1861)

The Kingdom of Sardinia was a state in Southern Europe from the early 14th until the mid-19th century.

Army of the Alps

The Army of the Alps was one of the French Revolutionary armies. It existed from 1792–1797 and from July to August 1799, and the name was also used on and off until 1939 for France's army on its border with Italy.

Savoy Cultural-historical region between Western and Central Europe

Savoy is a cultural-historical region between Western and Central Europe. It comprises roughly the territory of the Western Alps between Lake Geneva in the north and Dauphiné in the south.

Dismayed by the incapacity shown by his general officers in 1792, King Victor Amadeus III begged Habsburg Austria to send his army a supreme commander and his ally sent Joseph Nikolaus De Vins on 21 December. Despite this, the Austrian government suspected Victor Amadeus of desiring a separate peace with France. In fact, the French tried to diplomatically drive a wedge between Sardinia and Austria, but the execution of King Louis XVI by guillotine on 21 January 1793 caused Victor Amadeus to rebuff France. [5] In the spring, the defenses of Sardinia were organized from north to south as follows. The Duke of Montferrat held the Little St Bernard Pass which protected the Aosta Valley. The Marquis of Cordon (or Gordon) covered the Susa Valley with 14 battalions. His headquarters were at Susa and a 16-gun fort overlooked the Mont Cenis Pass. Giovanni Marchese di Provera guarded the Agnel Pass near Monte Viso. Leopold Lorenz Bartholomaus von Strassoldo shielded the Stura di Demonte Valley with 12 battalions posted near Demonte. Farthest south, Charles-François Thaon, Count of Saint-André employed 10,000 to 12,000 soldiers to defend Saorgio and pose a threat to Nice. [6]

A general officer is an officer of high rank in the army, and in some nations' air forces or marines.

Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia King of Sardinia

Victor Amadeus III was King of Sardinia from 1773 to his death. Although he was politically conservative, he carried out numerous administrative reforms until he declared war on Revolutionary France in 1792. He was the father of the last three mainline Kings of Sardinia.

Louis XVI of France King of France and Navarre

Louis XVI, born Louis-Auguste, was the last King of France before the fall of the monarchy during the French Revolution. He was referred to as citizen Louis Capet during the four months before he was guillotined. In 1765, at the death of his father, Louis, son and heir apparent of Louis XV, Louis-Auguste became the new Dauphin of France. Upon his grandfather's death on 10 May 1774, he assumed the title "King of France and Navarre", which he used until 4 September 1791, when he received the title of "King of the French" until the monarchy was abolished on 21 September 1792.

Combat at Levens

On 28 February 1793 there was a clash at Levens in which Biron's 12,000 Frenchmen defeated 7,000 Sardinians under the Count of Saint-André. Both sides suffered 800 casualties while the Sardinians also lost two of their six artillery pieces. [7] At this period, the Sardinians were more familiar with mountain warfare while the French columns, moving separately, often lost themselves in the forests, rough terrain and foggy valleys. [6] Biron's offensive was helped when the Army of the Alps took responsibility over the Barcelonette valley and the County of Beuil. Moving east, the French overran the lower Var and Vésubie valleys and occupied Sospel. In March the Army of Italy counted 17,000 troops present for duty in 25 infantry battalions and two cavalry squadrons. Already a rising star, André Masséna had charge of five battalions. In its strange policy of moving commanders around before they could master their armies, the French government transferred Biron to lead the Army of the Coasts of La Rochelle on 4 May 1793. Though the duke was loyal to the French Revolution, the Jacobins planned to bring him down because he was a prominent aristocrat. [4] They finally succeeded and Biron went to the guillotine on 31 December 1793. [8]

Levens Commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Levens is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes département in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France.

Beuil Commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Not to be confused with Bueil, Bueil-en-Touraine, or Saint-Bueil

Var (river) river in France

The Var is a river located in the southeast of France.

The end of March 1793 saw Saint-André's forces organized into a Left Division under Pernigotti headquartered at Breil-sur-Roya with 7,050 soldiers in 15 battalions and a Right Division under Dellera based at Fontan with 5,200 troops in 11 battalions. The Sardinian infantry regiments normally had two battalions, numbering about 500 men each. Grenadier and Light Infantry Battalions counted about 400 men and the Light Legion had 300 soldiers. The Austrians contributed Infantry Regiment Belgiojoso Nr. 44 with one battalion of 600 men and a Garrison battalion of 400 men. In May, 1,000 men of the Casale Regiment arrived as a reinforcement. [9]

Breil-sur-Roya Commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Breil-sur-Roya is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France.

Fontan (village) Commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Fontan is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France.

Grenadier infantry soldier armed with grenades or a grenade launcher

A grenadier was originally a specialized soldier, first established as a distinct role in the mid-to-late 17th century, for the throwing of grenades and sometimes assault operations. At that time grenadiers were chosen from the strongest and largest soldiers. By the 18th century, dedicated grenade throwing of this sort was no longer relevant, but grenadiers were still chosen for being the most physically powerful soldiers and would lead assaults in the field of battle. Grenadiers would also often lead the storming of fortification breaches in siege warfare, although this role was more usually fulfilled by all-arm units of volunteers called forlorn hopes, and might also be fulfilled by sappers or pioneers.

Battle

Count of Saint-Andre Charles francois comte de Revel et de st andre (1725-1807).jpg
Count of Saint-André

Biron's replacement was Brunet who was in favor with the representatives on mission who brought about Anselme's dismissal. [10] In May and June, the Army of Italy began closing on Saint-André's main defenses. [11] On 19 May, Brunet sent Jean-Mathieu-Philibert Sérurier with a left flank column to Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée where he made a rendezvous with some Army of the Alps troops. From there, the 3,000-strong force advanced up the Tinée River to seize Isola on 21 May. The Sardinians abandoned the upper Tinée valley; Sérurier left it in possession of the sister army and returned to the Army of Italy. [11]

Jean-Mathieu-Philibert Sérurier French soldier and political figure who rose to the rank of Marshal of France

Jean-Mathieu-Philibert Sérurier, 1st Comte Sérurier led a division in the War of the First Coalition and became a Marshal of France under Emperor Napoleon. He was born into the minor nobility and in 1755 joined the Laon militia which was soon sent to fight in the Seven Years' War. After transferring into the regular army as an ensign, he was wounded at Warburg in 1760. He fought in the Spanish-Portuguese War in 1762. He married in 1779 after a promotion to captain. A newly minted major in 1789, the French Revolution sped up promotion so that he was colonel of the regiment in 1792. After leading Army of Italy troops in a number of actions, he became a general of brigade in 1793 and a general of division the following year.

Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée Commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France.

Tinée river in France

The Tinée is a river that flows through the Alpes-Maritimes department of southeastern France. Its source is on the east side of the Col de la Bonette, in the Maritime Alps. It flows through Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée, Isola and Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée, and it flows into the Var near Utelle. The Guercha and the Vionène are its tributaries.

The main Sardinian defenses covered the town of Saorgio, situated on the east bank above the gorge of the Roya River. From Saorgio, a line of fortifications ran west, starting at the Saint-Martha entrenched camp on the west side of the Roya. [12] Going west along the crest, the key points were the Colle Basse, Massif de l'Authion and Col de Raus. The village of Roquebillière marked the western end of the line. In the other direction from Saorgio, the mountain ridge trended to the northeast via the Cima di Marte, Colle Ardente and Monte Saccarello. [13] Dellera and Michelangelo Alessandro Colli-Marchi led the two defending brigades. [12] The Austro-Sardinians suffered from command problems. Like De Vins, Colli was an Austrian general lent to Sardinia. Colli and his superior Saint-André did not get along. The situation was made worse by instructions from De Vins for Colli to obey an order from Saint-André only if the Austrian generalissimo concurred. The Sardinian officer corps also disliked De Vins' chief of staff, another Austrian named Eugène-Guillaume Argenteau. [14]

The French representatives on mission repeatedly insisted on frontal attacks and threatened to denounce any general who showed reluctance to carry out their demands. [12] Brunet began his offensive on 8 June with a success in which Masséna participated. [11] Jean Quirin Mieskowski's brigade captured the entrenched camp of [12] Linieras and seized Mangiabo. On the same day, Sérurier and 3,000 troops were repulsed in an attack on the Col de Raus, 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) northwest of Authion. On 12 June Brunet tried again with a direct assault on the artillery battery that crowned Authion. Sérurier led one of the attacking columns which were composed mostly of the army's grenadiers. Despite three brave charges, the French finally recoiled after an Austrian counterattack. While the French supporting fire was weak, the Sardinian batteries were well-sited to take any attackers in flank. As the French first line fell back, the raw troops making up the reserves screamed, "Treason!" and ran away. Seeing this, Brunet decided nothing more could be done and retreated. The French suffered losses of 280 dead and 1,252 wounded. Austro-Sardinian losses are not stated. [11]

Forces

Austro-Sardinian order of battle

Historians Ramsay Weston Phipps and Edward Cust both assert that Saint-André led the allies at Saorgio. [11] [12] However, an order of battle exists for the Austro-Sardinian army on 8 June 1793 that placed the Duke of Chablais in command over the Left Division of Saint-André and the Right Division of Colli. The Left Division had two battalions of Infantry Regiment Nice, one battalion of Queen's and 8th Grenadier Battalion in Camp Brouis, two battalions of Saluzzo in Camp Perus, two battalions of Tortona in Saorge, two battalions of Vercelli in Camp Linieras, one battalion of Sardinia in Camp Albarea, 1st Light Battalion in Camp Beolet, one battalion of Queen's in Camp Briel and 4th Grenadier Battalion in Camp Corgoule. The Austrian Garrison battalion was split between Camps Brouis and Perus. [15]

The Right Division deployed two battalions each of Infantry Regiments Casale and Lombardy, one battalion of Christ and 1st Grenadier Battalion at Camp Authion, two battalions of Acqui at Camp Raus, two battalions of Oneglia at Oneglia to the east, 9th Grenadier Battalion at Camp Fromagnie, one battalion of Austrian Belgiojoso Nr. 44 en route to the Col de Tende, Light Legion at Saint-Véran and Ortighea and French Royalists at Moulinet. [15] Infantry Regiment Christ was a Swiss unit in Sardinian pay and Sardinian light units were denoted Cacciatore. [16]

French order of battle

Raphael de Casabianca Portrait de Rapael de Casabianca.jpg
Raphaël de Casabianca

On 7 June 1793 Kellermann exercised authority over both his own army and the Army of Italy under Brunet. Jean François Cornu de Lapoype was Brunet's chief of staff while Jean du Teil commanded the army's artillery. Dominique Sheldon was the only general of division, while Raphaël, Comte de Casabianca, Pierre Jadart Dumerbion, Joseph Louis Montredon, Antoine Saint-Hillier and Jacques Louis Saint-Martin were generals of brigade. [17] Dumerbion later became army commander, [18] but in 1796 Napoleon Bonaparte wrote that Casabianca was "not fit to command a battalion". [19] The French army consisted of both regular and volunteer battalions. Grenadier and chasseur companies were detached from their battalions to form elite units. [17]

Places on the French Riviera were garrisoned with 9,000 troops. There were 597 troops at Antibes, 1,076 at Monaco, 2,471 at Nice, 168 at Saint-Laurent-du-Var, 1,021 at Toulon and 626 at Villefranche-sur-Mer. Additionally, there were 1,053 volunteers in two battalions at Camp Diegue and 1,988 in the two-battalion 11th Line Infantry Regiment and two volunteer battalions at Castillon near Sospel. [17]

In the Roya Valley to the right flank were 7,052 troops. There were 426 grenadiers in seven companies and 87 gunners in two artillery companies at L'Escarène and 298 grenadiers in five companies and 649 chasseurs in 12 companies at Sospel. The bulk of the strength lay at the Camp de Braos with two battalions each of the 28th, 51st and 91st Line Infantry or 3,384 regulars, 196 grenadiers in three companies, 1,761 men in four volunteer battalions and 251 gunners in five companies. [17]

In the Tinée and Vésubie valleys on the left flank were 6,057 troops. There were 285 men at Saint-Sauveur, 190 at Utelle, 1,027 in one volunteer battalion and three companies at La Bollène-Vésubie, 1,621 in three battalions, nine grenadier and two artillery companies at Lantosque and 557 volunteers in one battalion at Roquebillière. At Belvédère were two battalions each of the 42nd and 50th Line Infantry or 1,890 regulars and 487 men in six infantry and two artillery companies. [17]

An additional body of 3,618 troops was posted in the center. There were 2,438 soldiers in one regular and three volunteer battalions and one artillery company at Saint-Arnould, 730 in five light infantry and seven grenadier companies at Col Negre and 450 in one volunteer battalion at Lucéram. [17]

Aftermath

Louis Freron Louis-Marie Stanislas Freron (1754-1802), French revolutionary (small).jpg
Louis Fréron

Hectored by the political representatives, Brunet launched a new assault on the Massif de l'Authion and Col de Raus at the end of July. This effort failed though the connection with the Army of the Alps improved. Brunet announced that he would turn the left flank of the Saorgio position by marching across Republic of Genoa territory. Nothing came of this plan. [20] Representative Paul Barras did not care for the generals, but Sérurier's actions had pleased him so he nominated him for promotion on 25 June. Both Masséna and Sérurier were appointed generals of brigade on 22 August 1793. [21]

Brunet did not get along with his chief of staff, who was a radical Jacobin, so he assigned Lapoype to guard the coast. Lapoype complained to his brother-in-law, the representative Louis-Marie Stanislas Fréron. Soon Brunet became embroiled in a dispute with the politically powerful Fréron and Barras. [20] Later, Brunet correctly predicted that Toulon might admit Coalition forces if the political representatives resorted to harsh measures. In the meantime, he refused to send troops to bully the city into submission. For this, Fréron and Barras removed him from command on 8 August and replaced him with Dumerbion. When Toulon let in the Allied fleet on 27 August, Brunet was denounced as a traitor. He was imprisoned in Paris on 6 September, put on trial on 14 November and guillotined the next day. [22]

The following year, Bonaparte, the new artillery commander of the Army of Italy submitted a plan to strike eastward across neutral Genoese territory to capture Oneglia and turn the Saorgio position from the east. The plan was accepted on 2 April 1794 and Dumerbion's offensive began four days later. In the Second Battle of Saorgio, the French captured Oneglia on 9 April, Ormea the 17th and Garessio on the 19th. Turning back to the west, they attacked Saorgio from the northeast on 27 April. Hopelessly outflanked, the Sardinians under Colli retreated and the French occupied Saorgio on the 28th. [23]

Notes

  1. Phipps 2011, p. 72.
  2. Phipps 2011, p. 79.
  3. Phipps 2011, p. 80.
  4. 1 2 Phipps 2011, p. 81.
  5. Boycott-Brown 2001, p. 76.
  6. 1 2 Cust 1859, p. 136.
  7. Smith 1998, p. 42.
  8. Phipps 2011, p. 18.
  9. Nafziger 2009.
  10. Phipps 2011, p. 84.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 Phipps 2011, p. 85.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 Cust 1859, p. 137.
  13. Boycott-Brown 2001, p. 88.
  14. Boycott-Brown 2001, p. 78.
  15. 1 2 Nafziger 2007a.
  16. Smith 1998, p. 47.
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Nafziger 2007b.
  18. Phipps 2011, p. 95.
  19. Boycott-Brown 2001, p. 412.
  20. 1 2 Phipps 2011, p. 88.
  21. Phipps 2011, p. 97.
  22. Phipps 2011, pp. 95–96.
  23. Boycott-Brown 2001, pp. 89–91.

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The Battle of Haguenau saw a Republican French army commanded by Jean-Charles Pichegru mount a persistent offensive against a Coalition army under Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser during the War of the First Coalition. In late November, Wurmser pulled back from his defenses behind the Zorn River and assumed a new position along the Moder River at Haguenau. After continuous fighting, Wurmser finally withdrew to the Lauter River after his western flank was turned in the Battle of Froeschwiller on 22 December. Haguenau is a city in Bas-Rhin department of France, located 29 kilometres (18 mi) north of Strasbourg.

Antoine Digonet

Antoine Digonet commanded a French brigade during the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars. He joined the French Royal Army and fought in the American Revolutionary War as a foot soldier. In 1792 he was appointed officer of a volunteer battalion. He fought the Spanish in the War of the Pyrenees and was promoted to general officer. Later he was transferred to fight French royalists in the War in the Vendée. In 1800 he was assigned to the Army of the Rhine and led a brigade at Stockach, Messkirch and Biberach. Shortly after, he was transferred to Italy. In 1805 he fought under André Masséna at Caldiero. He participated in the 1806 Invasion of Naples and led his troops against the British at Maida where his brigade put up a sturdy resistance. After briefly serving in the 1809 war, he took command of Modena and died there of illness in 1811. He never married.

Battle of Epierre

The Battle of Epierre was part of a larger War of the First Coalition campaign that pitted a Republican French army led by François Christophe de Kellermann against a numerically stronger Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont army commanded by the Prince Maurizio, Duke of Montferrat. Under the overall leadership of the Austrian commander in chief Joseph Nikolaus De Vins, Montferrat launched an offensive in mid-August 1793 to recapture the Duchy of Savoy from the French. Because the French were preoccupied with the Siege of Lyon, the Piedmontese recovered most of the Maurienne and Tarentaise Valleys, but they were stopped just short of Albertville and the reconquest of Savoy. In September, Kellermann launched a counteroffensive in which he adroitly switched his troops between valleys in order to drive back the Piedmontese. At Épierre, the French under Jean-Denis Le Doyen defeated the Marquis of Cordon in a local action. By 8 October the Piedmontese abandoned all their gains and withdrew to the crests of the Graian Alps. In spite of his victory, the suspicious politicians in Paris put Kellermann in arrest and he was imprisoned until November 1794.

References

Further reading

This is a good source for finding the full name and rank of French generals of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras.

Coordinates: 43°59′18″N7°33′11″E / 43.9883°N 7.5531°E / 43.9883; 7.5531