Siege of Mantua (1796–97)

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Siege of Mantua, 1796–1797
Part of the French Revolutionary Wars
Lecomte - Reddition de Mantoue, le 2 fevrier 1797, le general Wurmser se rend au general Serurier.jpg
Capitulation of Mantua (2 February 1797), by Hippolyte Lecomte.
Date4 July 1796 – 1 August 1796 and
27 August 1796 – 2 February 1797
Result French victory
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg France Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Austria
Commanders and leaders
Jean Sérurier
Charles Kilmaine
Josef Franz Canto d'Irles
Dagobert von Wurmser
16,000 14,000–29,676
Casualties and losses
7,000 dead or wounded, 179 guns [1] 18,000 dead, 16,000 captured, 325 guns captured
Italy relief location map.jpg
Red pog.svg
Location within Italy

During the Siege of Mantua, which lasted from 4 July 1796 to 2 February 1797 with a short break, French forces under the overall command of Napoleon Bonaparte besieged and blockaded a large Austrian garrison at Mantua for many months until it surrendered. This eventual surrender, together with the heavy losses incurred during four unsuccessful relief attempts, led indirectly to the Austrians suing for peace in 1797. The siege occurred during the War of the First Coalition, which is part of the French Revolutionary Wars. Mantua, a city in the Lombardy region of Italy, lies on the Mincio River.

Napoleon 19th century French military leader and politician

Napoleon Bonaparte was a French statesman and military leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was Emperor of the French as Napoleon I from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over much of continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. He is considered one of the greatest commanders in history, and his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. Napoleon's political and cultural legacy has endured as one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders in human history.

Mantua Comune in Lombardy, Italy

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

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.


After driving the Austrian army out of northwest and north-central Italy, the French invested the fortress of Mantua starting in early June 1796. In late July, a new Austrian commander, Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser led an army to the relief of Josef Franz Canto d'Irles' garrison from the north. Mantua was reached and the French were forced to abandon the siege. However, the Austrians were subsequently beaten in the battles of Lonato and Castiglione. Forced to retreat, Wurmser resupplied and reinforced the fortress with food and able-bodied troops. After withdrawing north up the Adige River, Wurmser planned to move his main army through the mountains to Bassano via the Brenta valley. From there he would mount the second relief of Mantua from the northeast. In an exceedingly bold maneuver, Bonaparte smashed Paul Davidovich's covering force and followed Wurmser down the Brenta valley. Overcoming the Austrian army at Bassano in early September, Bonaparte tried to destroy Wurmser but failed. Instead he chased the bulk of the Austrian army into Mantua. The garrison now counted 30,000 men, but cut off from outside help, disease and starvation began mowing down Wurmser's troops.

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.

Battle of Lonato

The Battle of Lonato was fought on 3 and 4 August 1796 between the French Army of Italy under General Napoleon Bonaparte and a corps-sized Austrian column led by Lieutenant General Peter Quasdanovich. A week of hard-fought actions that began on 29 July and ended on 4 August resulted in the retreat of Quasdanovich's badly mauled force. The elimination of Quasdanovich's threat allowed Bonaparte to concentrate against and defeat the main Austrian army at the Battle of Castiglione on 5 August. Lonato del Garda is located near the SP 668 highway and the Brescia-Padua section of Autostrada A4 to the southwest of Lake Garda.

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.

A new commander József Alvinczi led the third relief of Mantua in November. While Alvinczi marched from the northeast, Davidovich's column moved down from the north. Alvinczi defeated Bonaparte twice and moved to the gates of Verona while Davidovich drubbed his French opponent in the Adige valley. At his last gasp, Bonaparte crossed the Adige behind Alvinczi's left flank at Arcole. The fighting raged for three days but the French finally prevailed, forcing the Austrians to pull back. Free of Alvinczi, Bonaparte attacked Davidovich and forced his corps to retreat also. For the fourth relief of Mantua, Alvinczi advanced his main army from the north while sending two smaller columns to threaten the French from the northeast. The French crushed the Austrian main army at Rivoli. Leaving two divisions to finish off Alvinczi, Bonaparte rapidly moved south and arrived near Mantua in time to destroy one of the other Austrian columns. With no hope of further help, Wurmser surrendered Mantua in early February.

József Alvinczi Soldier in the Habsburg Army and a Field Marshal of the Austrian Empire

Freiherr Joseph Alvinczi von Borberek a.k.a. Baron József Alvinczi de Borberek was a soldier in the Habsburg Army and a Field Marshal of the Austrian Empire.

Verona Comune in Veneto, Italy

Verona is a city on the Adige river in Veneto, Italy, with 258,108 inhabitants. It is one of the seven provincial capitals of the region. It is the second largest city municipality in the region and the third largest in northeast Italy. The metropolitan area of Verona covers an area of 1,426 km2 (550.58 sq mi) and has a population of 714,274 inhabitants. It is one of the main tourist destinations in northern Italy because of its artistic heritage and several annual fairs, shows, and operas, such as the lyrical season in the Arena, an ancient Roman amphitheater.

Battle of Arcole battle

The Battle of Arcole or Battle of Arcola was a battle fought between French and Austrian forces 25 kilometres (16 mi) southeast of Verona during the War of the First Coalition, a part of the French Revolutionary Wars.



Siege of Mantua campaign map Siege of Mantua Campaign Map 1796 1797.JPG
Siege of Mantua campaign map

After being defeated by General of Division Bonaparte's French army at the Battle of Borghetto, the Austrian army led by Feldzeugmeister Johann Beaulieu abandoned the line of the Mincio River, left a strong garrison in the fortress of Mantua, and retreated north to Trento. On 31 May, the French tried to rush the fortress but the attempt failed. The French invested the place on 3 June. [2]

The Battle of Borghetto, near Valeggio sul Mincio in the Veneto of northern Italy, took place during the War of the First Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars. On 30 May 1796, a French army led by General Napoleon Bonaparte forced a crossing of the Mincio River in the face of opposition from an Austrian army commanded by Feldzeugmeister Johann Peter Beaulieu. This action compelled the Austrian army to retreat north up the Adige valley to Trento, leaving the fortress of Mantua to be besieged by the French.

Johann Peter Beaulieu Austrian general

Johann Peter de Beaulieu, also Jean Pierre de Beaulieu, was a Walloon military officer. He joined the Habsburg army and fought against the Prussians during the Seven Years' War. A cultured man, he later battled Belgian rebels and earned promotion to general officer. During the French Revolutionary Wars he fought against the First French Republic and attained high command. In 1796, a young Napoleon Bonaparte won some of his first victories against an army led by Beaulieu. He retired and was the Proprietor (Inhaber) of an Austrian infantry regiment until his death.

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.

Together with Legnago, Verona, and Peschiera, Mantua forms part of the famous Quadrilateral of fortresses. To this day, the city is bounded on its north and east sides by a large lake formed by the Mincio River. In 1796, Mantua was nearly surrounded by water and connected by causeways to the fortified suburbs of Cittadella to the north and San Giorgio to the east. In the 18th century, the city was notoriously unhealthy in the warm months. The nearby marshes and lakes were an ideal breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitoes, though no one understood this at the time. [3]

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.

Peschiera del Garda Comune in Veneto, Italy

Peschiera del Garda is a town and comune in the province of Verona, in Veneto, Italy. When Lombardy-Venetia was under Austrian rule, Peschiera was the northwest anchor of the four fortified towns constituting the Quadrilatero. The fortress is on an island in the river Mincio at its outlet from Lake Garda.

Malaria Mosquito-borne infectious disease

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease that affects humans and other animals. Malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever, tiredness, vomiting, and headaches. In severe cases it can cause yellow skin, seizures, coma, or death. Symptoms usually begin ten to fifteen days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. If not properly treated, people may have recurrences of the disease months later. In those who have recently survived an infection, reinfection usually causes milder symptoms. This partial resistance disappears over months to years if the person has no continuing exposure to malaria.

Mantua lies in the Po River basin. The Po lies 13 km to the south of the city and Peschiera on Lake Garda is 32 km north. Running due east, a major road connected with Padua via Legnago. Another highway went northeast to Verona and Vicenza. Both roads linked with the Austrian frontier. A number of north-to-south running rivers provide defensible positions on the north side of the Po. The most important river is the Adige which rises in the Alps and runs south on the east side of Lake Garda, going past Verona and Legnago.

Lake Garda lake in Italy

Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. It is a popular holiday location in northern Italy, about halfway between Brescia and Verona, and between Venice and Milan on the edge of the Dolomites. Glaciers formed this alpine region at the end of the last Ice Age. The lake and its shoreline are divided between the provinces of Verona, Brescia (south-west), and Trento (north). The name Garda, which the lake has been seen referred to in documents dating to the eighth century, comes from the town of the same name. It is the evolution of the Germanic word warda, meaning "place of guard" or "place of observation."

Padua Comune in Veneto, Italy

Padua is a city and comune in Veneto, northern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Padua and the economic and communications hub of the area. Padua's population is 214,000. The city is sometimes included, with Venice and Treviso, in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area (PATREVE) which has a population of c. 2,600,000.

Vicenza Comune in Veneto, Italy

Vicenza is a city in northeastern Italy. It is in the Veneto region at the northern base of the Monte Berico, where it straddles the Bacchiglione River. Vicenza is approximately 60 kilometres (37 mi) west of Venice and 200 kilometres (120 mi) east of Milan.

From Trento in the north, Austrian armies had secure communications with Innsbruck across the Brenner Pass. An Austrian army at Trento had three ways to reach the Po valley in 1796. The first route used the roads running parallel with the Adige on the east side of Lake Garda. The second route went west of Lake Garda via Riva and Lake Idro to either Brescia or Lonato del Garda. The third route lay to the east through Levico Terme and Borgo Valsugana, then south along the Brenta River valley to Bassano del Grappa. By holding both Trento and Bassano, an Austrian army could move troops and supplies through the mountains without the French being able to interfere.

Siege and blockade

First relief

Battle of Castiglione, 5 August 1796 Victor Adam - Battle of Castiglione - 1836.jpg
Battle of Castiglione, 5 August 1796

The Castiglione 1796 Campaign Order of Battle shows French and Austrian units and organizations during the first relief of Mantua.

By requisitioning cannon from all over northern Italy, Bonaparte assembled a siege train of 179 heavy guns. Siege parallels were opened on 4 July and General of Division Jean-Mathieu-Philibert Sérurier put in command of operations. Feldmarschall-Leutnant Josef Franz Canto d'Irles commanded the 14,000-man Austrian garrison. Meanwhile, the Austrians replaced Beaulieu with Feldmarschall Wurmser as army commander in Italy.

Wurmser launched the first relief of Mantua at the end of July as a three-pronged attack by 49,000 men. Feldmarschall-Leutnant Peter Vitus von Quosdanovich led a column of 18,000 soldiers to the west of Lake Garda. Wurmser commanded 24,000 men of the two center columns which moved down the Adige River east of Lake Garda. Feldmarschall-Leutnant Johann Mészáros von Szoboszló and 5,000 troops hovered to the east near Vicenza. Bonaparte, who had only 44,000 soldiers, posted his divisions in an arc to protect his siege of Mantua. General of Division André Masséna's 15,000 men held Rivoli Veronese on the upper Adige, General of Division Pierre Augereau with 5,000 troops held Legnago, Sérurier's 10,000 soldiers besieged Mantua, General of Division Pierre François Sauret's 4,500 men defended the west side of Lake Garda, General of Division Hyacinthe Francois Joseph Despinoy's 5,500 covered Peschiera, and 4,000 others were in reserve or on the march. [4]

Wurmser pushed Masséna back and Quosdanovich quickly seized Brescia, forcing Bonaparte to lift the siege on 1 August. The siege cannon being too heavy to move quickly, the French burned the gun carriages and withdrew. The garrison retrieved the abandoned gun tubes and dragged them into the city. Up to this point, the French besiegers suffered 1,200 killed and wounded, plus 898 captured. The defenders lost 492 killed or died of disease, 395 wounded, and 87 captured or deserted. [5] There were also 3,275 soldiers on the sick list. [6]

After a complex series of actions, Quosdanovich's column came to grief at the Battle of Lonato on 3 August and retreated. Bonaparte then turned on Wurmser and defeated him at the Battle of Castiglione on 5 August. Before retreating up the Adige valley, Wurmser threw two brigades into the fortress and evacuated some of the sick. Because of the loss of his heavy cannons, Bonaparte could no longer try to reduce Mantua by breaching its walls. Instead, he was forced to blockade the city.

Second relief

The Bassano 1796 Campaign Order of Battle shows French and Austrian units and organizations during the second relief of Mantua.

Battle of Bassano, 8 September 1796 Battle of Bassano 8 Sept 1796.JPG
Battle of Bassano, 8 September 1796
La Favorita Palace was the scene of several actions Favorite.JPG
La Favorita Palace was the scene of several actions

At the beginning of September, 14,000 Austrians under Feldmarschall-Leutnant Paul Davidovich held the upper Adige valley to the north. With the rest of the army, Wurmser marched down the Brenta valley to the vicinity of Bassano. The Austrian plan was for both corps to probe cautiously forward. If an opportunity arose, they were to march to Mantua's relief. Wurmser's chief-of-staff, Feldmarschall-Leutnant Franz von Lauer believed that the French were incapable of quickly reacting to an Austrian offensive. This proved to be a serious miscalculation. [7] Bonaparte sent General of Division Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois and 10,000 men north on the west side of Lake Garda. Masséna with 13,000 and Augereau with 10,000 men advanced north up the Adige valley. General of Division Charles Edward Jennings de Kilmaine blockaded Mantua with 8,000 in General of Division Jean Sahuguet's division and a 2,000-man reserve. [8]

Bonaparte's concentration of three divisions overwhelmed Davidovich at the Battle of Rovereto on 4 September. Leaving Vaubois in Trento to watch the remnants of Davidovich's corps, Bonaparte boldly decided to cut loose from his supply line and follow in Wurmser's wake. He directed Masséna and Augereau east through Levico and Borgo, then south down the Brenta valley. Augereau dispersed the Austrian rearguard at Primolano on 7 September. The two French divisions fell upon Wurmser and beat him badly at the Battle of Bassano on 8 September. Instead of retreating to the east, Wurmser joined the division of Mészáros and headed west for Mantua with Bonaparte in hot pursuit. Hoping to annihilate his adversary before he reached Mantua, the French commander sent Augereau to Padua to prevent Wurmser from escaping to the east and Masséna through Vicenza and Arcole.

Masséna intercepted General-major Peter Karl Ott von Batorkez's vanguard at Cerea on 11 September, but the Austrian gamely held on until Wurmser's main force came up to deal the French a bloody repulse. Aided by a local guide, Wurmser slipped past Sahuguet's blocking force to reach the fortress the next day. The 1,600-man Austrian rearguard surrendered to Augereau at Legnago on 13 September. [9]

Wurmser arrived at the fortress with 10,367 infantry and 2,856 cavalry. On 15 September, the Austrian field marshal stood to fight a pitched battle on the east side of the Mincio, with his left flank at La Favorita Palace and his right in front of the San Giorgio suburb. Bonaparte sent Sahuguet to attack La Favorita and Augereau's division (temporarily led by General of Brigade Louis André Bon) to assault Wurmser's right. Masséna advanced in the center. Ott fought off Sahuguet all day, but the Austrian right and center crumbled. The Austrians withdrew into Cittadella and the French captured San Giorgio. Austrian losses numbered 2,452 men [10] and 11 guns, while the French lost 1,500 and nine guns. [11]

At this time, there were nearly 30,000 Austrians crowded into Mantua. Within six weeks, 4,000 died from wounds or sickness. [12] During the next two weeks Wurmser organized foraging expeditions to the south of the city which gathered some supplies for the beleaguered garrison. On 23 September, a sortie by Ott and General-major Ferdinand Minckwitz suffered a stinging defeat at Governolo with 1,000 casualties. [13] By 29 September, Kilmaine closely reinvested the fortress.

Third relief

The Arcola 1796 Campaign Order of Battle shows French and Austrian units and organizations during the third relief of Mantua.

Feldzeugmeister József Alvinczi began the third relief attempt in early November. Alvinczi and Quosdanovich led the 28,000 troops of the Friaul Corps from the Piave River toward the west. Meanwhile, Davidovich's Tyrol Corps was reinforced to 19,000 men. Bonaparte planned to hold the Austrians by deploying Vaubois with 10,500 men near Trento and Masséna with 9,500 at Bassano. Augereau lay at Verona with 8,500, Kilmaine blockaded Mantua with about 10,000 men, and there were 5,000 more in reserve units. [14]

Battle of Arcole, showing Bonaparte leading his troops across the bridge La Bataille du Pont d'Arcole.jpg
Battle of Arcole, showing Bonaparte leading his troops across the bridge

After a clash at Cembra on 2 November, Davidovich pressed the outnumbered Vaubois back and captured Trento. At the Battle of Calliano the Tyrol Corps routed Vaubois on 7 November. Meanwhile, Bonaparte brought forward Augereau and Francois Macquard to attack Alvinczi at the Second Battle of Bassano on 6 November with 19,500 troops. In a bitter fight, the French were defeated. Bonaparte pulled the divisions of Augereau and Masséna back to Verona. He then sent Masséna to stabilize the situation in the Adige valley. Believing incorrectly that Masséna's division was present, Davidovich slowed his advance to a crawl. Issuing out of Verona, Bonaparte attacked the Austrians at the Battle of Caldiero on 12 November and was repulsed again.

At this point, the French commander almost decided to retreat to the Adda River. But Bonaparte soon realized that the Austrian generals were being slow to take advantage of their opportunities. He determined to attack the Austrians again, leaving Macquard and 3,000 men to hold Verona in Alvinczi's front. Taking every spare soldier from Vaubois and Kilmaine, Bonaparte sent Masséna and Augereau to cross the Adige south of the Austrian positions and turn the enemy left flank. In the Battle of Arcole which lasted from 15 to 17 November, Bonaparte defeated Alvinczi and caused him to withdraw to the east. Also on the 17th, Davidovich smashed Vaubois at Rivoli. Having temporarily disposed of Alvinczi, Bonaparte turned on the Tyrol Corps and sent it fleeing northward. While this was going on, Alvinczi reoccupied his former position at Caldiero and Arcole. But when he heard that Davidovich was no longer in the field, he withdrew the Friaul Corps to Bassano. With a horrible sense of timing, Wurmser tried to break out of Mantua on 23 November. The Austrians lost 789 men and captured 200 Frenchmen. When his prisoners informed him that Davidovich's corps was routed, Wurmser pulled back into the fortress. [15] One source noted that the Arcole campaign cost the Austrians 17,832 casualties while estimating French losses at 19,500. [16]

Fourth relief

Battle of Rivoli, showing the French driving Prince Reuss' troops into the Pontare Bataille de Rivoli ag1.jpg
Battle of Rivoli, showing the French driving Prince Reuss' troops into the Pontare

The Rivoli 1797 Campaign Order of Battle shows French and Austrian units and organizations during the fourth relief of Mantua.

Alvinczi massed his main body of 28,000 men in the north for the fourth attempt to relieve Mantua. The Austrian commander sent Feldmarschall-Leutnant Adam Bajalics von Bajahaza with 6,200 men to move southeast from Bassano and demonstrate in front of Verona. Alvinczi ordered Feldmarschall-Leutnant Giovanni Marchese di Provera with 9,000 soldiers and a bridging train to advance from Padua, cross the Adige near Legnago, and relieve Mantua.

To defend against these forces, Bonaparte deployed Brevet General of Division Barthélemy Catherine Joubert's 10,300-man division near Rivoli in the upper Adige valley, Masséna's 9,000 men at Verona, Augereau's 9,000 troops behind the Adige near Legnago, General of Division Gabriel Venance Rey's 4,000 soldiers west of Lake Garda, and Sérurier's 10,000 blockading Mantua. A 2,000-man infantry brigade under General of Brigade Claude Perrin Victor and three small cavalry brigades remained in reserve. [17]

On 7 January, Provera began to move and Bajalics started his advance the next day. By 10 January, Provera and Bajalics were menacing Legnago and Verona, while Alvinczi's army started its march from the north. On the afternoon of 13 January, Bonaparte realized the main Austrian attack was coming from the north. Accordingly, he ordered Masséna, Rey, and Victor to march to Joubert's aid. That night, Provera crossed the Adige above Legnago at Angiari and marched for Mantua, leaving 2,000 men as a bridge guard.

On 14 January, Bonaparte inflicted a severe drubbing on Alvinczi's army at the Battle of Rivoli. Leaving Joubert, Rey, and Victor to finish off Alvinczi's crippled army, the French commander ordered Masséna south the next day. Meanwhile, Augereau captured Provera's bridge guard and moved west. Provera's advance guard failed to break through Sérurier's blockade and a breakout attempt by Wurmser was repelled at dawn on 16 January. That day, surrounded by Masséna, Augereau, and Sérurier, and unable to get through to Mantua, Provera surrendered at La Favorita with 6,000 men. [18] By this time, Alvinczi's main body lost 4,000 killed and wounded, plus a staggering 8,000 soldiers captured. The French suffered 3,200 casualties at Rivoli. [19]


After the Rivoli disaster, Wurmser held out two more weeks before capitulating on 2 February. During the siege and blockade, the Austrians reported 16,333 killed and wounded in action or died of disease. In recognition of his stout defense, the old field marshal was freed with his staff and an escort of 700 soldiers and 6 cannon. The rest of the garrison marched out with the honors of war and were paroled on the condition not to fight against France until exchanged. [20] Only 16,000 Austrians were fit enough to march out under their own power. Historian David G. Chandler reports that as many as 18,000 Austrians and 7,000 French died during the siege. [21] His health ruined, Canto d'Irles died shortly afterward. The fortress, with 325 cannon, passed into French control. Bonaparte also recovered the 179 guns lost in August 1796. While the Austrians desperately scraped together another army, Bonaparte consolidated his position in northern Italy by crushing the army of the Papal States at the Battle of Faenza. In March he launched a final offensive against Vienna.


It did not help their cause that the Austrian generals faced a military genius in Bonaparte. But they also pursued a flawed strategy. Chandler wrote,

"Throughout the whole year, the lure of Mantua continued to exert a fatal attraction over the Austrian field forces and led them to one costly failure after another." [22]

Chandler added,

"In each of the four attempts to relieve Mantua, the Austrian high command divided their forces into unconnected parts routed along divergent lines of advance, which made coordinated effort impossible, hoping thereby to divert Bonaparte's attention and cause the fragmentation of his forces. In the event, however, they only laid their own forces open to defeat in detail, throwing away the chance of commanding a decisive numerical superiority on the critical battlefield, thus violating the principle of true economy of force." [23]

Battles during the siege


  1. Chandler Dictionary, p 265
  2. Chandler Campaigns, p 89
  3. Boycott-Brown, p 362
  4. Fiebeger, p 9-10
  5. Smith, p 118
  6. Boycott-Brown, p 387
  7. Boycott-Brown, p 416
  8. Fiebeger, p 12
  9. Boycott-Brown, p 433-434
  10. Boycott-Brown, p 435
  11. Smith, p 124
  12. Boycott-Brown, p 438
  13. Boycott-Brown, p 439
  14. Fiebeger, p 14
  15. Boycott-Brown, p 477
  16. Boycott-Brown, p 478
  17. Fiebeger, p 17
  18. Chandler, p 120-121
  19. Rothenburg, p 248
  20. Smith, p 132-133
  21. Chandler Dictionary, p 265
  22. Chandler Campaigns, p 128
  23. Chandler Campaigns, p 129

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Johann Mészáros von Szoboszló joined the Habsburg army in 1756 and fought the Prussians, Ottoman Turks, and French during a long military career. During the French Revolutionary Wars, he fought in several campaigns. He commanded a division in the 1796-1797 Italian campaign against the army of Napoleon Bonaparte. He was Proprietor (Inhaber) of an Austrian Uhlan regiment from 1792 to 1797 and a Hussar regiment from 1797 to 1801.

Adam Bajalics von Bajaháza, also Adam Bajalić von Bajaházy or Adam Bayalitsch, entered Austrian military service and fought against Prussia, Ottoman Turkey, and France. During the 1796–1797 Italian campaign against Napoleon Bonaparte, he commanded a brigade or a division in several actions.

In the Battle of Arcole on 15 to 17 November 1796, the French Army of Italy commanded by Napoleon Bonaparte won a victory over the army of Austria led by Jozsef Alvinczi. The battle was part the third relief of the Siege of Mantua in which Alvinczi's army repulsed Bonaparte at the Second Battle of Bassano on 6 November and at the Battle of Caldiero on 12 November. Meanwhile, Paul Davidovich's Austrian Tyrol Corps clashed with Claude Vaubois' French division at Cembra on 2 November. Davidovich defeated Vaubois at the Battle of Calliano on 6–7 November and Rivoli Veronese on 17 November. After Bonaparte's triumph at Arcola, he turned on the Tyrol Corps, beat it at Rivoli on 21 November, and forced it to retreat north into the mountains.

Anton Lipthay de Kisfalud, also Anton Liptai or Anton Liptay, served in the Austrian army, attained general officer rank, and fought in several battles against the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte during the French Revolutionary Wars.

In the Battle of Rivoli on 14 and 15 January 1797, the French Army of Italy led by Napoleon Bonaparte crushed the main Austrian army led by Jozsef Alvinczi. The battle occurred during the fourth Austrian attempt to relieve the Siege of Mantua. After crippling Alvinczi's army on the 14th, Bonaparte left Barthélemy Joubert and Gabriel Rey to finish off the Austrians and raced south with André Masséna to deal with a relief column led by Giovanni di Provera. On 16 January, Masséna, Pierre Augereau, and Jean Sérurier trapped Provera near the Mantua siege lines and forced his surrender.

The Battle of Calliano on 6 and 7 November 1796 saw an Austrian corps commanded by Paul Davidovich rout a French division directed by Claude Belgrand de Vaubois. The engagement was part of the third Austrian attempt to relieve the French siege of Mantua during the French Revolutionary Wars. The battle was preceded by a clash at Cembra on 2 November and followed by actions at Rivoli Veronese on 17 and 21 November.

The Second Battle of Bassano on 6 November 1796, saw a Habsburg army commanded by József Alvinczi fight Napoleon Bonaparte's French Army of Italy. The Austrians repulsed persistent French attacks in a struggle in which both sides suffered heavy losses. The engagement, which happened two months after the more famous Battle of Bassano, marked the first tactical defeat of Bonaparte's career and occurred near Bassano del Grappa in Northern Italy during the French Revolutionary Wars. The action was part of the third relief of the Siege of Mantua during the War of the First Coalition.

In the Battle of Bassano on 8 September 1796, Napoleon Bonaparte and his French Army of Italy routed an Austrian army led by Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser. Afterward, Wurmser gathered the intact parts of his army and marched for Mantua. On 15 September, the French defeated the Austrians and drove them into the fortress. This raised the numbers of the underfed and malaria-ridden garrison to nearly 30,000 men. These actions and the Battle of Rovereto occurred during the second attempted relief of the Siege of Mantua.

Anton Ferdinand Count Mittrowsky von Mittrowitz und Nemyšl, or Anton Mittrovsky, served in the Habsburg army for many years. He was promoted to general officer in the spring of 1796, just in time to lead a brigade against Napoleon Bonaparte during the 1796-1797 Italian Campaign of the French Revolutionary Wars. He played a pivotal role in the Battle of Arcole, nearly defeating Bonaparte. He fought in Italy again in 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars and became the Proprietor (Inhaber) of an Austrian infantry regiment from 1806 until his death three years later.

Anton Schübirz or Anton Schubirz von Chobinin fought for Habsburg Austria against Ottoman Turkey and the French First Republic. He participated in several noteworthy actions during the French Revolutionary Wars. As a newly promoted general officer in Italy, he led a brigade in an all-night action against the French at Codogno, part of the Battle of Fombio in May 1796. In the sparring before the Battle of Castiglione, he showed initiative in bringing his troops to the assistance of a fellow general. He also fought at Fontaniva, Caldiero, and Arcole in the autumn of 1796. This was the theater of war where a young French general named Napoleon Bonaparte earned his fame. Schübirz retired from the army in 1798 and died three years later.


Coordinates: 45°09′36″N10°48′00″E / 45.1600°N 10.8000°E / 45.1600; 10.8000