Battle of Verona (1805)

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Battle of Verona (1805)
Part of the War of the Third Coalition
Ponte di Castelvecchio (Verona).jpg
The French launched their attack across the lightly guarded Ponte di Castelvecchio.
Date18 October 1805
Location
Verona, modern-day Italy
Result French victory
Belligerents
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  France Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg  Holy Roman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg André Masséna Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Archduke Charles
Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Josef Vukassovich
Strength
13 battalions
15 guns [1]
6 battalions
1 squadron
12 guns [1]
Casualties and losses
323 [2] -450 [1] 1,152 [2] -1,622
4 guns lost [1]

The Battle of Verona was fought on 18 October 1805 between the French Army of Italy under the command of André Masséna and an Austrian army led by Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen. By the end of the day, Massena seized a bridgehead on the east bank of the Adige River, driving back the defending troops under Josef Philipp Vukassovich. The action took place near the city of Verona in northern Italy during the War of the Third Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars.

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.

André Masséna French military commander

André Masséna, 1st Duke of Rivoli, 1st Prince of 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.

Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen Archduke of Austria

Archduke Charles Louis John Joseph Laurentius of Austria, Duke of Teschen was an Austrian field-marshal, the third son of Emperor Leopold II and his wife, Maria Luisa of Spain. He was also the younger brother of Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor. Despite being epileptic, Charles achieved respect both as a commander and as a reformer of the Austrian army. He was considered one of Napoleon's more formidable opponents.

Contents

In the fall of 1805, Emperor Napoleon I of France planned for his powerful Grande Armée to fall upon and crush the Austrian Empire army in southern Germany. The French emperor hoped to win the war in the Danube valley. To help accomplish this purpose, Napoleon wanted Masséna to hold Archduke Charles' large army in Italy for as long as possible.

The Grande Armée was the army commanded by Napoleon I during the Napoleonic Wars. From 1805 to 1809, the Grande Armée scored a series of historic victories that gave the French Empire an unprecedented grip on power over the European continent. Widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest fighting forces ever assembled, it suffered terrible losses during the French invasion of Russia in 1812 and never recovered its tactical superiority after that campaign.

Austrian Empire monarchy in Central Europe between 1804 and 1867

The Austrian Empire was a Central European multinational great power from 1804 to 1867, created by proclamation out of the realms of the Habsburgs. During its existence, it was the third most populous empire after the Russian Empire and the United Kingdom in Europe. Along with Prussia, it was one of the two major powers of the German Confederation. Geographically, it was the third largest empire in Europe after the Russian Empire and the First French Empire. Proclaimed in response to the First French Empire, it partially overlapped with the Holy Roman Empire until the latter's dissolution in 1806.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

In order for Masséna to grapple with his enemies, it was necessary to establish a bridgehead on the east bank of the Adige. During the battle, the French attacked across the river, cleared two suburbs, and seized some high ground on the opposite bank. The Austrians suffered considerably more casualties than the French in the encounter. This clash set the stage for the subsequent Battle of Caldiero on 29 to 31 October.

Battle of Caldiero (1805) Battle during War of the Third Coalition

The Battle of Caldiero took place on 30 October 1805, pitting the French Armée d'Italie under Marshal André Masséna against an Austrian army under the command of Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen. The French engaged only a part of their forces, around 33,000 men, whilst Archduke Charles engaged the bulk of his army, 49,000 men, leaving out Paul Davidovich's corps to defend the lower Adige and Franz Seraph of Orsini-Rosenberg's corps to cover the Austrian right against any flanking maneuvers. The fighting took place at Caldiero, 15 kilometres east of Verona, in the War of the Third Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars.

Background

Austrian plans

On 5 September 1805, Feldmarschall Archduke Charles, Feldmarschall-Leutnant Karl Friedrich von Lindenau, and General-Major Anton Mayer von Heldensfeld drew up the final Austrian strategic plan. This strategy largely conformed to an earlier plan worked out by Charles, Feldmarschall-Leutnant Karl Mack von Leiberich, and Feldmarschall-Leutnant Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg. However, Mayer convinced Charles and Lindenau to transfer troops from Italy to Germany, where Mack was pressing for an invasion of the Electorate of Bavaria. [3]

Karl Mack von Leiberich Austrian general

Karl Freiherr Mack von Leiberich was an Austrian soldier. He is best remembered as the commander of the Austrian forces that capitulated to Napoleon's Grande Armée in the Battle of Ulm in 1805. Mack makes a brief appearance as a character in book two of Volume I of Tolstoy's War and Peace.

Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg Czech nobleman

Karl Philipp, Fürst zu Schwarzenberg was an Austrian field marshal.

Electorate of Bavaria state in the Holy Roman Empire

The Electorate of Bavaria was an independent hereditary electorate of the Holy Roman Empire from 1623 to 1806, when it was succeeded by the Kingdom of Bavaria.

Archduke Charles Archdukecharles1.jpg
Archduke Charles

The original plan put 120,000 troops in Italy, 70,000 in Germany, 25,000 in the Tyrol, and 20,000 for internal security. Mayer's revision reduced the force in Italy to 90,000, with 30,000 on the march for Germany. [4]

County of Tyrol Former county of Austria

The (Princely) County of Tyrol was an estate of the Holy Roman Empire established about 1140. Originally a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of the Counts of Tyrol, it was inherited by the Counts of Gorizia in 1253 and finally fell to the Austrian House of Habsburg in 1363. In 1804 the Princely County of Tyrol, unified with the secularised Prince-Bishoprics of Trent and Brixen, became a crown land of the Austrian Empire in 1804 and from 1867 a Cisleithanian crown land of Austria-Hungary.

Archduke Charles disagreed with Mack's aggressive strategy. When Emperor Francis I asked his opinion, Charles wrote him that Mack was making a serious blunder by invading Bavaria. Nevertheless, the emperor allowed Mack to pursue his course of action. [5] Fearing the worst in Bavaria, Charles took up a defensive posture, even though he knew he outnumbered Masséna. [4]

Bavaria State in Germany

Bavaria, officially the Free State of Bavaria, is a landlocked federal state of Germany, occupying its southeastern corner. With an area of 70,550.19 square kilometres, Bavaria is the largest German state by land area comprising roughly a fifth of the total land area of Germany. With 13 million inhabitants, it is Germany's second-most-populous state after North Rhine-Westphalia. Bavaria's main cities are Munich, Nuremberg and Augsburg.

The archduke posted Feldmarschall-Leutnant Johann von Hiller's 22,000 troops in the Italian Tyrol, north of Rivoli Veronese. The archduke lined the east bank of the Adige from Verona to Legnago with 40,000 soldiers and he held a 30,000-man central reserve at Caldiero. Of these troops, Feldmarschall-Leutnant Count Heinrich von Bellegarde watched Verona, with the division of Vukassovich northeast of the city and the divisions of Feldmarschall-Leutnants Joseph Simbschen and Andreas O'Reilly von Ballinlough to the east. Feldmarschall-Leutnant Eugène-Guillaume Argenteau's six divisions manned the line at Caldiero. Feldmarschall-Leutnant Paul Davidovich with two divisions defended the Adige near Legnago. [6]

French plans

Emperor Napoleon I Jacques-Louis David - The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries - Google Art Project 2.jpg
Emperor Napoleon I

At the beginning of August 1805, Napoleon gave up his plan for invading Great Britain across the English Channel. Instead, he decided to move his army from the channel coast to south Germany to smash the Austrian army. He hoped to be at the Austrian capital of Vienna in November, before the Russian army appeared on the scene. [7] With corps numbering I through VII, a cavalry corps, the Imperial Guard, and Bavarian allies, Napoleon committed 194,000 troops to the campaign in Germany. In training, personnel, morale, and organization, the Grande Armée was the finest body of troops that Napoleon would ever command. On 26 August, he gave the order to march and a month later his troops were crossing the Rhine. [8]

Andre Massena Andre Massena.jpg
André Masséna

Thanks to an elaborate spy network, Napoleon was aware that the Austrians deployed their largest army in Italy. The emperor desired that Archduke Charles' army not be allowed to influence events in southern Germany. Masséna, whose army only counted 48,000 troops, first looked to his defenses. In 1805 the Adige was the boundary between French Lombardy and Austrian Venetia. [9] On the west side of the Adige, Masséna placed 5,000 garrison troops in the fortresses of the Quadrilateral, that is, Verona, Legnago, Peschiera del Garda, and Mantua. [10]

Initially, Masséna held the line of the Adige with three infantry divisions. General of Division Jean-Mathieu Seras observed Hiller from a strong position at Rivoli in the north. General of Division Gaspard Amédée Gardanne held Verona and General of Division Jean-Antoine Verdier defended the Adige near Legnago in the south. Following Napoleon's instructions, Masséna began concentrating his army. He intended to mass his striking force of five infantry and two cavalry divisions near Verona. He planned to have Verdier's division, supported by General of Division Charles Randon de Pully's cavalry division, divert the Austrians' attention by making a probe farther south. [11]

To play for time, Napoleon authorized Masséna to propose a truce. He did so, and Archduke Charles accepted. On 29 September, a convention was drawn up whereby the armies would not begin fighting until six days after one side notified the other. A week later, Masséna sent word to Charles that hostilities would begin on 14 October. On 17 October Charles received word that Napoleon was in Munich. Foreseeing the disastrous outcome of the Ulm Campaign, the archduke made plans to withdraw from Italy. But first he would defend himself against a French attack. [12]

Battle

French Army

Masséna's order of battle on 18 October is as follows. [13] Army of Italy: André Masséna

Jean-Antoine Verdier General Jean Antoine Verdier.jpg
Jean-Antoine Verdier
Guillaume Duhesme General Guillaume Philibert Duhesme.jpg
Guillaume Duhesme

Austrian Army

On 18 October, Archduke Charles' forces were organized as follows. [14]

Heinrich Bellegarde Heinrich von Bellegarde.jpg
Heinrich Bellegarde

Armee von Italien: Feldmarschall Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen

Prince Reuss-Plauen Reuss.H.XV.jpg
Prince Reuss-Plauen
Joseph Radetzky Radetzky-von-radetz.jpg
Joseph Radetzky

Action

Battle of Verona map, showing Massena's assault crossing to the east bank of the Adige. Seras and Verdier carried out successful diversions on the left and right flanks. Verona Battle Map 1805.jpg
Battle of Verona map, showing Massena's assault crossing to the east bank of the Adige. Seras and Verdier carried out successful diversions on the left and right flanks.

Directly east of Verona was the suburb of Veronetta, which the Austrians had heavily fortified. In addition, the bridges between Verona and Veronetta were well-covered by Austrian artillery. Therefore, Masséna turned his eyes to the west side of Verona, to the suburb of San Giorgio, which was accessible by a stone bridge [15] known as the Castelvecchio Bridge (Ponte di Castelvecchio). [16] Vukassovich was responsible for defending the area. The Austrian division commander had a wall built across the center of the bridge and fortified San Giorgio. However, Vukassovich only allocated two battalions to its defense. He deployed six battalions in the hills northeast of Verona, while the remainder of his division lay farther north, maintaining contact with Hiller's corps. [17]

Masséna decided to personally command the bridge assault. Stripping the 24 voltiguer (light infantry) companies from the battalions in Gardanne and General of Division Guillaume Philibert Duhesme's divisions, the French army commander formed them into a storming column. The voltiguers were supported by a sapper battalion and a light artillery company, and backed by Gardanne's division. [18]

In the early hours of 18 October, Masséna led his storming column silently onto the Castelvecchio Bridge. The sappers set charges which destroyed the wall, and the French column surged forward. After quickly overrunning the Austrian outposts, the voltiguers attacked San Giorgio. General of Brigade Louis Fursy Henri Compère advanced to support the attack, while Vukassovich reinforced the defenders with two battalions. Sometime after 10:00 am San Giorgio fell to the French. Soon afterward, Vukassovich had the Archduke Ferdinand Hussar Regiment # 3 and General-Major Hannibal Sommariva's Grenz infantry on hand. The Austrian division commander hurled his hussars at Compère's brigade. The French formed square, and with the help of artillery firing across the river, drove off the Austrian cavalry. [19]

Around noon, Verdier mounted a diversionary attack. Easily penetrating General-Major Joseph Radetzky von Radetz's screen, he crossed the Adige at Albaredo d'Adige with two battalions of the 23rd Light Infantry Regiment. Believing that the action at Verona was the diversion and the crossing at Albaredo was the real attack, Archduke Charles marched against Verdier with three columns. By the time he arrived at Albaredo, the 23rd Light had withdrawn safely to the French side of the Adige. [2]

Masséna also ordered Seras to mount a diversion in the north. Leaving part of his division at Rivoli, Seras demonstrated in front of Pescantina, 11 kilometers west of Verona. This action froze half of Vukassovich's division, which remained watching Seras and never got into action. [2]

In the afternoon, some of Duhesme's troops and the 23rd Chasseurs à cheval were in action on the French side. By 5:00 pm, San Leonardo fell to the French after severe fighting, allowing Masséna's troops to occupy the heights and press to the east. At this time, Bellegarde appeared with Feldmarschall-Leutnants Andreas O'Reilly and Joseph Simbschen's divisions at the hamlet of San Felice in the Val Pantena, northeast of Verona. Bellegarde pushed back the French a short distance until darkness and fatigue ended the fighting. [2]

Results

Johann Frimont Johann Frimont.jpg
Johann Frimont

One historian puts French losses at 77 dead and 246 wounded, a total of 323, while stating Austrians casualties as 1152, including 246 killed and 906 wounded. [2] A second authority writes that the French counted 150 killed and 300 wounded, while Austrian losses numbered 1,622 killed, wounded, and captured, and four cannons. [1]

Masséna failed to capture Veronetta, but he carved out a bridgehead on the heights northeast of Verona. Angry that Vukassovich failed to stop Massena's attack, Archduke Charles dismissed him and replaced him with Feldmarschall-Leutnant Prince Franz Seraph of Rosenberg-Orsini. The archduke believed that Vukassovich could have repulsed the first French assault if he had defended the bridge with more troops. [1] [2] Smith writes that Vukassovich was dismissed because he gave battle too close to the river, against explicit orders. It is impossible to reconcile the Smith and Schneid accounts so only Schneid's view is presented in the article.

Even so, Charles had sufficient troops to attack the French bridgehead. Instead, he contented himself with holding Veronetta, placing General-Major Johann Maria Philipp Frimont's brigade in the suburb of San Michele, east of Veronetta, and ordering Rosenberg to hold the Val Pantena. The Austrian commander withdrew the rest of Bellegarde's Right Wing into the Caldiero lines. Massena reinforced his bridgehead with all of Gardanne and Duhesme's divisions. Both Charles and Massena later explained away their subsequent inaction by claiming that they were awaiting events in Germany. [20] The next action was the Battle of Caldiero from 29 to 31 October. [1]

Footnotes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Digby Smith. The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill, 1998. ISBN   1-85367-276-9, 206
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Frederick C. Schneid. Napoleon's Italian Campaigns: 1805–1815. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 2002. ISBN   0-275-96875-8, p. 28.
  3. Rothenberg, Gunther E. (1982). Napoleon's Great Adversaries, The Archduke Charles and the Austrian Army, 1792–1814. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press. pp. 82–84. ISBN   0-253-33969-3.
  4. 1 2 Schneid, 18
  5. Rothenberg, 89–90
  6. Schneid, 19–20
  7. Schneid, 20
  8. Rothenberg, 90
  9. Schneid, 20–21
  10. Rothenberg, 94
  11. Schneid, 22
  12. Schneid, 22–23
  13. Schneid, 161–163. The French order of battle is from Schneid.
  14. Schneid, 164–166. The Austrian order of battle is from Schneid.
  15. Schneid, 23
  16. Kagan, Frederick W. (2006). The End of the Old Order: Napoleon and Europe, 1801–1805 . [[Cambridge, Massachusetts|]], Massachusetts: Da Capo Press. p.  522. ISBN   0-306-81137-5.
  17. Schneid, 23–24
  18. Schneid, 24
  19. Schneid, 27
  20. Schneid, 29

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Coordinates: 45°26′00″N10°59′00″E / 45.4333°N 10.9833°E / 45.4333; 10.9833