|Siege of Genoa|
|Part of the War of the Second Coalition|
|Commanders and leaders|
|André Masséna||Michael von Melas|
|Casualties and losses|
|11,000 total||17,000 total|
During the Siege of Genoa (6 April – 4 June 1800) the Austrians besieged and captured Genoa. However, this was a pyrrhic victory as 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.
The Habsburg Monarchy – also Habsburg Empire, Austrian Monarchy or Danube Monarchy – is an unofficial umbrella term among historians for the countries and provinces that were ruled by the junior Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg between 1526 and 1780 and then by the successor branch of Habsburg-Lorraine until 1918. The Monarchy was a typical composite state composed of territories within and outside the Holy Roman Empire, united only in the person of the monarch. The dynastic capital was Vienna, except from 1583 to 1611, when it was moved to Prague. From 1804 to 1867 the Habsburg Monarchy was formally unified as the Austrian Empire, and from 1867 to 1918 as the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
A siege is a military blockade of a city, or fortress, with the intent of conquering by attrition, or a well-prepared assault. This derives from Latin: sedere, lit. 'to sit'. Siege warfare is a form of constant, low-intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static, defensive position. Consequently, an opportunity for negotiation between combatants is not uncommon, as proximity and fluctuating advantage can encourage diplomacy. The art of conducting and resisting sieges is called siege warfare, siegecraft, or poliorcetics.
Genoa is the capital of the Italian region of Liguria and the sixth-largest city in Italy. In 2015, 594,733 people lived within the city's administrative limits. As of the 2011 Italian census, the Province of Genoa, which in 2015 became the Metropolitan City of Genoa, counted 855,834 resident persons. Over 1.5 million people live in the wider metropolitan area stretching along the Italian Riviera. In terms of America, Genoa is approximately 2,516 miles away from New York City.
After Massena's victory in the Second Battle of Zurich the alliance between Russia and Austria ended. Despite this it did not end the war and when Napoleon came back from Egypt and proclaimed himself First Consul, the French prospects of victory improved even more. However, Napoleon needed time in order to bring his troops in Italy so he ordered Massena to hold Nice and Genoa at all costs until he arrived.
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Initially the French had about 60,000 soldiers, but this number was reduced to about 36,000 fighting men due to a major typhus epidemic, which also took the lives of two of Massena's predecessors, generals Championnet and Marbot. The Austrian commander Melas had around 120,000 soldiers available in Italy. After the first engagements, despite the bravery of the French commanded by Suchet and Soult, Genoa was soon cut off from any outside help and by 6 April the French were surrounded not only by land, but also by sea where a strong British squadron had just taken up positions. Nevertheless the French morale remained high and Massena was determined to hold on.
France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.
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Genoa was defended both by nature and by strong fortifications, but Massena planned a more offensive strategy. On 7 April he ordered an attack on Monte Ratti, which resulted in the Austrians being thrown out of the Apennines and the French capturing about 1,500 prisoners, including General-Major Konstantin Ghilian Karl d'Aspré. On April 9 Massena started a desperate operation to unite with the rest of the French forces commanded by Suchet. Although Massena was cut off with only 1,200 soldiers against 10,000 Austrians he endured their attacks and with the help of Soult captured another 4,000 prisoners. After this battle the French finally shut themselves in the city. Other desperately fought battles soon followed, especially those for Fort Quezzi and Fort Richelieu, inflicting further heavy casualties on the Austrians. This was followed by a battle for the possession of Mount Creto where the French were victorious again and the Austrians halted all further actions.
Konstantin Ghilian Karl d'Aspré von Hoobreuk, served in the army of Habsburg Austria during the French Revolutionary Wars. In the Napoleonic Wars, he made a mark in two major campaigns. In 1809, he was briefly Proprietor (Inhaber) of an infantry regiment and rose to command a division. His son Konstantin d'Aspré (1789–1850) also became an Austrian general.
Louis-Gabriel Suchet, Duke of Albufera, was a French Marshal of the Empire and one of the most successful commanders of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
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In the meantime, Bonaparte marched with the Army of the Reserve, not to the relief of Genoa, but to Milan where he spent six days. By the end of May, plague had spread throughout Genoa and the civilian population was in revolt. Negotiations were begun for the exchange of prisoners early in June, but the citizens and some of the garrison clamoured for capitulation. Unknown to Masséna, the Austrian general Peter Ott, had been ordered to raise the siege because Bonaparte had crossed Great St. Bernard Pass and was now threatening the main Austrian army. Describing the situation at Genoa, Ott requested and received permission to continue the siege. On 4 June, with one day's rations remaining, Masséna's negotiator finally agreed to evacuate the French army from Genoa. However, "if the word capitulation was mentioned or written", Masséna threatened to end all negotiations.
Peter Karl Ott von Bátorkéz joined the Austrian army and fought in the wars against the Kingdom of Prussia, Ottoman Turkey, and the First French Republic in the last half of the 18th century. During the French Revolutionary Wars, he rose in rank to general officer and twice campaigned against the army of Napoleon Bonaparte in Italy. He played a key role in the Marengo campaign in 1800. He was Proprietor (Inhaber) of an Austrian Hussar regiment from 1801 to 1809.
Two days later, a few of the French left the city by sea, but the bulk of Masséna's starving and exhausted troops marched out of the city with all their equipment and followed the road along the coast toward France, ending one of the most remarkable sieges in modern military history. The siege was an astonishing demonstration of tenacity, ingenuity, courage, and daring that garnered additional laurels for Masséna and placed him in a category previously reserved for Bonaparte alone.
The gruelling siege of some sixty days had ended but it played an important role in Bonaparte's strategy. By forcing the Austrians to deploy vast forces against him at Genoa, Masséna made it possible for Bonaparte to cross the Great St Bernard Pass, surprise the Austrians, and ultimately defeat General Michael Melas's army at Marengo before sufficient reinforcements could be transferred from the siege site. Less than three weeks after the evacuation, Bonaparte wrote to Masséna, "I am not able to give you a greater mark of the confidence I have in you than by giving you command of the first army of the Republic [Army of Italy]."The Austrians also recognized the significance of Masséna's defense; the Austrian chief of staff declared firmly, "You won the battle, not in front of Alessandria but in front of Genoa."
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