Campaigns of 1800 in the French Revolutionary Wars

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The French Revolutionary Wars continued from 1799 with the French fighting the forces of the Second Coalition. Napoleon Bonaparte had returned from Egypt and taken control of the French government. He prepared a new campaign, sending Moreau to the Rhine frontier and personally going to take command in the Alps, where French forces had been driven almost out of Italy in 1799.

Contents

At the start of the campaigning season of 1800, the Austrians had strong armies North and South of the Alps

The French had

Both the Austrians and the French decided to make their main effort in Italy. (Bonaparte would have preferred the main attack to be on Kray by a flanking move through Northern Switzerland, but the working relationship with Moreau was poor).

Italy

Melas attacked first, and by the third week in April had advanced to the Var, with Massena and half his army in Genoa besieged by land by the Austrians and under tight blockade by the Royal Navy. In response Berthier moved – not to the threatened frontier, but to Geneva – and Massena was instructed to hold Genoa until 4 June.

Jacques-Louis David: Napoleon crosses the Great St. Bernard Pass. In reality, Napoleon crossed the Alps on the back of a mule. Jacques-Louis David 007.jpg
Jacques-Louis David: Napoleon crosses the Great St. Bernard Pass. In reality, Napoleon crossed the Alps on the back of a mule.

The Army of the Reserve was joined by Napoleon, and in mid-May set out to cross the Alps to attack the Austrian rear. The bulk of the army crossed by the Great St Bernard Pass still covered by snow. Artillery was manhandled over with great effort and ingenuity. On 14 May 1800, the 40,000-strong French army was stopped by 400 Austro-Piedmontese soldiers at Fort Bard in the Aosta Valley. They held the pass for two weeks, completely ruining Napoleon's surprise attack on the Po Valley.

Once over the Alps, Napoleon did not proceed directly to the relief of Genoa. Instead, he advanced on Milan, to improve his lines of communication (via the Simplon and St Gotthard passes) and to threaten Melas's lines of communication with Mantua and Vienna, in the belief that this would cause Melas to raise the siege of Genoa. He entered Milan on 2 June and by crossing to the South bank of the Po completely cut Melas's communications. Taking up a strong defensive position at Stradella, he confidently awaited an attempt by the Austrian Army to fight its way out.

However, Melas had not raised the siege of Genoa, and on 4 June the French Army marched out with all equipment towards France as per the terms of the negotiated evacuation of the city. Napoleon then faced the possibility that, thanks to the British command of the Mediterranean, far from falling back, the Austrians could instead take Genoa as their new base and be supplied by sea. His defensive posture would not prevent this; he had to find and attack the Austrians before they could regroup. He therefore advanced from Stradella towards Alessandria, where Melas was, apparently doing nothing. Convinced that Melas was about to retreat, Napoleon sent strong detachments to block Melas's routes northwards to the Po, and southwards to Genoa. At this point, Melas attacked, and for all the brilliance of the previous campaign, Napoleon found himself at a significant disadvantage in the consequent Battle of Marengo (14 June). Napoleon was effectively defeated in a tough battle in the morning and early afternoon; Melas, thinking he had already won, had turned over delivery of the coup de grace to a subordinate, when the prompt return of a detached French force under Desaix and a vigorous French counter-attack (in the course of which Desaix was killed) converted the battle into an important French victory.

Melas promptly entered into negotiations which led to the Austrians evacuating northern Italy west of the Ticino, and suspending military operations in Italy.

Napoleon returned to Paris after the victory, leaving Brune to consolidate in Italy and begin a march toward Austria.

Germany

The Battles of Stockach and Engen in May 1800, followed by a larger battle at Messkirch, followed the Hohentwiel capitulation to the French. Hohentwiel-luftbild.jpg
The Battles of Stockach and Engen in May 1800, followed by a larger battle at Meßkirch, followed the Hohentwiel capitulation to the French.

Although the First Coalition forces achieved several initial victories at Verdun, Kaiserslautern, Neerwinden, Mainz, Amberg and Würzburg, the efforts of Napoleon Bonaparte in northern Italy pushed Austrian forces back and resulted in the negotiation of the Peace of Leoben (17 April 1797) and the subsequent Treaty of Campo Formio (October 1797). [1] This treaty proved difficult to implement. Austria was slow to give up some of the Venetian territories. A Congress convened at Rastatt for the purposes of deciding which southwestern German states would be mediatised to compensate the dynastic houses for territorial losses, but was unable to make any progress. Supported by French republican forces, Swiss insurgents staged several uprisings, ultimately causing the overthrow of the Swiss Confederation after 18 months of civil war. [2] By early 1799, the French Directory had become impatient with stalling tactics employed by Austria. The uprising in Naples raised further alarms, and recent gains in Switzerland suggested the timing was fortuitous to venture on another campaign in northern Italy and southwestern Germany. [3]

The Battle of Messkirch was won from the high ground. Votivbild Schlacht bei Messkirch mit Rahmen.jpg
The Battle of Meßkirch was won from the high ground.

At the beginning of 1800, the armies of France and Austria faced each other across the Rhine. Feldzeugmeister Pál Kray led approximately 120,000 troops. In addition to his Austrian regulars, his force included 12,000 men from the Electorate of Bavaria, 6,000 troops from the Duchy of Württemberg, 5,000 soldiers of low quality from the Archbishopric of Mainz, and 7,000 militiamen from the County of Tyrol. Of these, 25,000 men were deployed east of Lake Constance (Bodensee) to protect the Vorarlberg. Kray posted his main body of 95,000 soldiers in the L-shaped angle where the Rhine changes direction from a westward flow along the northern border of Switzerland to a northward flow along the eastern border of France. Unwisely, Kray set up his main magazine at Stockach, near the northwestern end of Lake Constance, only a day's march from French-held Switzerland. [4]

General of Division Jean Victor Marie Moreau commanded a modestly-equipped army of 137,000 French troops. Of these, 108,000 troops were available for field operations while the other 29,000 watched the Swiss border and held the Rhine fortresses. First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte offered a plan of operations based on outflanking the Austrians by a push from Switzerland, but Moreau declined to follow it. Rather, Moreau planned to cross the Rhine near Basel where the river swung to the north. A French column would distract Kray from Moreau's true intentions by crossing the Rhine from the west. Bonaparte wanted Claude Lecourbe's corps to be detached to Italy after the initial battles, but Moreau had other plans. [5] Through a series of complicated maneuvers in which he flanked, double flanked, and reflanked Kray's army, Moreau's army lay on the eastern slope of the Black Forest, while portions of Kray's army was still guarded the passes on the other side. [6] Battles at Engen and Stockach were fought on 3 May 1800 between the army of the French First Republic under Jean Victor Marie Moreau and the army of the Habsburg Monarchy led by Pál Kray. The fighting near Engen resulted in a stalemate with heavy losses on both sides. However, while the two main armies were engaged at Engen, Claude Lecourbe captured Stockach from its Austrian defenders under the Joseph, Prince of Lorraine-Vaudemont. The loss of this main supply base at Stockach compelled Kray to order a retreat to Meßkirch, where they enjoyed a more favourable defensive position. It also meant, however, that any retreat by Kray into Austria via Switzerland and the Vorarlberg was cut off. [7]

Jean Victor Moreau commanded the French Army of the Rhine. Jean-Victor Moreau.jpg
Jean Victor Moreau commanded the French Army of the Rhine.

On 4 and 5 May, the French launched repeated and fruitless assaults on the Meßkirch. At nearby Krumbach, where the Austrians also had the superiority of position and force, the 1st Demi-Brigade took the village and the heights around it, which gave them a commanding aspect over Meßkirch. Subsequently, Kray withdrew his forces to Sigmaringen, followed closely by the French. Fighting at nearby Biberach an der Ris ensued on 9 May; action principally consisted of the 25,000 man-strong French "Center", commanded by Laurent de Gouvion Saint-Cyr. [8] After being flanked by General Moreau, who approached Ulm from the east and overwhelmed his outposts at Battle of Höchstädt (1800), Kray retreated to Munich. Again, on 10 May, the Austrians withdrew with heavy losses, this time to Ulm. [9]

A several month armistice followed, during which Kray was replaced by the Archduke John, with the Austrian army retiring behind the river Inn. Austrian reluctance to accept negotiated terms caused the French to end the armistice in mid-November, effective in two weeks. When the armistice ended, John advanced over the Inn towards Munich. His army was defeated in small engagements at the battles of Ampfing and Neuburg an der Donau, and decisively in the forests before the city at Hohenlinden on 3 December. Moreau began a march on Vienna, and the Austrians soon sued for peace, ending the war on the continent.

Egypt

Meanwhile, Kléber remained trapped in Egypt by the British fleet. He negotiated the Convention of El-Arish with Britain and Turkey to allow him to evacuate by sea, but Britain later repudiated the agreement. Kléber won a battle against the Turks at Heliopolis in March, but was assassinated later in June.

Related Research Articles

The Battle of Höchstädt was fought on 19 June 1800 on the north bank of the Danube near Höchstädt, and resulted in a French victory under General Jean Victor Marie Moreau against the Austrians under Baron Pál Kray. The Austrians were subsequently forced back into the fortress town of Ulm. Instead of attacking the heavily fortified, walled city, which would result in massive losses of personnel and time, Moreau dislodged Kray's supporting forces defending the Danube passage further east. As a line of retreat eastward disappeared, Kray quickly abandoned Ulm, and withdrew into Bavaria. This opened the Danube pathway toward Vienna.

Battle of Marengo 1800 battle between French and Austrian forces

The Battle of Marengo was fought on 14 June 1800 between French forces under the First Consul 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.

The [Second] Battle of Stockach and Engen was fought on 3 May 1800 between the army of the First French Republic under Jean Victor Marie Moreau and the army of the Habsburg Monarchy led by Pál Kray. The fighting near Engen resulted in a stalemate with heavy losses on both sides. However, while the two main armies were engaged at Engen, Claude Lecourbe captured Stockach from its Austrian defenders. The loss of his main supply base at Stockach compelled Kray to order a retreat. Stockach is located near the northwestern end of Lake Constance while Engen is 20 kilometres (12 mi) west of Stockach. The action occurred during the War of the Second Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars.

André Masséna French Marshal

André Masséna, 1st Duke of Rivoli, 1st Prince of Essling was a French military commander during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was one of the original 18 Marshals of the Empire created by Napoleon I, with the nickname l'Enfant chéri de la Victoire.

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, the Holy Roman Empire, 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.

War of the Second Coalition Attempt to contain or eliminate Revolutionary France

The War of the Second Coalition (1798–1802) was the second war on revolutionary France by most of the European monarchies, led by Britain, Austria and Russia, and including the Ottoman Empire, Portugal, Naples, various German monarchies and Sweden, though Prussia did not join this coalition and Spain supported France.

First Battle of Zurich

In the First Battle of Zurich on 4 – 7 June 1799, French general André Masséna was forced to yield the city to the Austrians under Archduke Charles and retreat beyond the Limmat, where he managed to fortify his positions, resulting in a stalemate.

By 1799, the French Revolutionary Wars had resumed after a period of relative peace in 1798. The Second Coalition had organized against France, with Great Britain allying with Russia, Austria, the Ottoman Empire, and several of the German and Italian states. While Napoleon's army was still embroiled in Egypt, the allies prepared campaigns in Italy, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

Italian campaigns of the French Revolutionary Wars

The Italian campaigns of the French Revolutionary Wars (1792–1802) were a series of conflicts fought principally in Northern Italy between the French Revolutionary Army and a Coalition of Austria, Russia, Piedmont-Sardinia, and a number of other Italian states.

During the Siege of Genoa the Austrians besieged and captured Genoa. However, the smaller French force at Genoa under André Masséna had diverted enough Austrian troops to enable Napoleon to win the Battle of Marengo and defeat the Austrians.

Battle of Stockach (1799)

The [First] Battle of Stockach occurred on 25 March 1799, when French and Austrian armies fought for control of the geographically strategic Hegau region in present-day Baden-Württemberg. In the broader military context, this battle constitutes a keystone in the first campaign in southwestern Germany during the Wars of the Second Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars.

Italian and Swiss expedition

The Italian and Swiss expeditions of 1799 and 1800 were undertaken by a combined Austro-Russian army under overall command of the Russian General Alexander Suvorov against French forces in Piedmont, Lombardy and Switzerland as part of the Italian campaigns of the French Revolutionary Wars in general and the War of the Second Coalition in particular.

Army of Italy (France)

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.

Army of the Danube

The Army of the Danube was a field army of the French Directory in the 1799 southwestern campaign in the Upper Danube valley. It was formed on 2 March 1799 by the simple expedient of renaming the Army of Observation, which had been observing Austrian movements on the border between French First Republic and the Holy Roman Empire. It was commanded by General Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, 1st Comte Jourdan (1762–1833).

Battle of Ampfing (1800)

At the Battle of Ampfing on 1 December 1800, Paul Grenier's two divisions of the First French Republic opposed the Austrian army southwest of the town of Ampfing during the French Revolutionary Wars. The Austrians, under the leadership of Archduke John of Austria, forced their enemies to retreat, though they sustained greater losses than the French. Ampfing is located 63 kilometers east of Munich and 8 km (5.0 mi) west of Mühldorf am Inn.

Battle of Biberach (1800)

The Battle of Biberach on 9 May 1800 saw a French First Republic corps under Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr engage part of a Habsburg Austrian army led by Pál Kray. After an engagement in which the Austrians suffered twice as many casualties as the French, Kray withdrew to the east. The combat occurred during the War of the Second Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars. Biberach an der Riss is located 35 kilometres (22 mi) southwest of Ulm.

Battle of Neuburg (1800)

The Battle of Neuburg occurred on 27 June 1800 in the south German state of Bavaria, on the southern bank of the Danube river. Neuburg is located on the Danube between Ingolstadt and Donauwörth. This battle occurred late in the War of the Second Coalition (1798–1802), the second war between Revolutionary France and the conservative European monarchies, which included at one time or another Britain, Habsburg Austria, Russia, the Ottoman Empire (Turkey), Portugal and Naples. After a series of reverses, several of the allies withdrew from the Coalition. By 1800, Napoleon's military victories in northern Italy challenged Habsburg supremacy there. French victories in the upper Danubian territories opened a route along that river to Vienna.

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 Feldkirch

The Battle of Feldkirch saw a Republican French corps led by André Masséna attack a weaker Habsburg Austrian force under Franz Jellacic. Defending fortified positions, the Austrians repulsed all of the French columns, though the struggle lasted until nightfall. This and other French setbacks in southern Germany soon caused Masséna to go on the defensive. The War of the Second Coalition combat occurred at the Austrian town of Feldkirch, Vorarlberg, located 158 kilometres (98 mi) west of Innsbruck.

Convention of Alessandria

The Convention of Alessandria was a treaty signed on 15 June 1800 between the French First Republic led by Napoleon and Austria during the War of the Second Coalition. Following the Austrian defeat at the Battle of Marengo, they agreed to evacuate Italy as far as the Mincio and abandon strongholds in Piedmont and Milan. Great Britain and Austria were allies and hoped to negotiate a peace treaty with France, but Napoleon insisted on separate treaties with each nation. The negotiations failed, and fighting resumed on 22 November 1800.

References

  1. Timothy Blanning, The French Revolutionary Wars, New York, Oxford University Press, pp. 41–59.
  2. Blanning, pp. 200–280.
  3. Blanning, p. 200.
  4. Arnold, 197-199
  5. Arnold, 199-201
  6. W.M. Sloane, Life of Napoleon. France, 1896, p. 109.
  7. Sloane, 109
  8. Sloane, p. 109-110.
  9. Digby Smith, Napoleonic Wars Databook. London: Greenhill Press, 1998, p. 178.

Sources

Preceded by
1799
French Revolutionary Wars
1800
Succeeded by
1801