Battle of Hohenlinden
The Battle of Hohenlinden was fought on 3 December 1800, during the French Revolutionary Wars. A French army under Jean Victor Marie Moreau won a decisive victory over the Austrians and Bavarians led by Archduke John of Austria. After being forced into a disastrous retreat, the allies were compelled to request an armistice that ended the War of the Second Coalition. Hohenlinden is 33 km east of Munich in modern Germany. General of Division Moreau's 56,000 strong army engaged Bavarians; the Austrians, believing they were pursuing a beaten enemy, moved through wooded terrain in four disconnected columns. Instead, Moreau ambushed the Austrians as they emerged from the Ebersberg forest while launching MG Antoine Richepanse's division in a surprise envelopment of the Austrian left flank. Displaying superb individual initiative, Moreau's generals managed to encircle and smash the largest Austrian column; this crushing victory, coupled with First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte's victory at the Battle of Marengo on 14 June 1800, ended the War of the Second Coalition.
In February 1801, the Austrians signed the Treaty of Lunéville, accepting French control up to the Rhine and the French puppet republics in Italy and the Netherlands. The subsequent Treaty of Amiens between France and Britain began the longest break in the wars of the Napoleonic period. From April to July 1800, Moreau's army drove the Austrian army of Feldzeugmeister Pál Kray from the Rhine River to the Inn River with victories at Stockach, Höchstädt. On 15 July, the combatants agreed to an armistice. Realizing that Kray was no longer up to the task, Emperor Francis II removed him from command; the Austrian chancellor Johann Amadeus von Thugut first offered Archduke Ferdinand Karl Joseph of Austria-Este and Archduke Joseph, Palatine of Hungary command of the army but both declined. Because his brother, the capable Feldmarschall Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen refused the command, the emperor appointed another brother, the 18-year-old Archduke John; the inexperienced youth could not cope with this enormous responsibility, so the emperor nominated Franz von Lauer as John's second-in-command and promoted him to Feldzeugmeister.
John was directed to follow Lauer's instructions. To further complicate the clumsy command structure, the aggressive Oberst Franz von Weyrother was named John's chief of staff; the armistice was renewed in lapsed on 12 November. By this time, Weyrother had convinced Lauer to adopt an offensive posture. Weyrother's plan called for crushing the French left wing near Landshut and lunging south to cut Moreau's communications west of Munich. After a few days of marching, it became obvious that the Austrian army was too slow to execute such an ambitious plan. So Lauer convinced the archduke to convert the enterprise into a direct attack on Munich. So, the sudden advance caught Moreau's somewhat scattered French forces by surprise and achieved local superiority. In the Battle of Ampfing on 1 December, the Austrians drove back part of General of Division Paul Grenier's Left Wing; the defeated French managed to inflict 3,000 casualties on the Austrians while only suffering 1,700 losses. Yet, when the Austrian leaders found that Grenier evacuated Haag in Oberbayern the next day, they became ecstatic.
Archduke John and Weyrother overrode Lauer's cautious counsel and launched an all-out pursuit of an enemy they believed to be fleeing. However, Moreau decided deploying his army in open ground near Hohenlinden. To approach his position, the Austro-Bavarians had to advance directly west through wooded terrain. Moreau's main defensive position consisted of four divisions facing east. From north to south, these were commanded by General of Division Claude Legrand, General of Brigade Louis Bastoul, General of Division Michel Ney and General of Division Emmanuel Grouchy; the divisions of Legrand and Ney belonged to Grenier's corps. Moreau held 1,700 heavy cavalry under General of Division Jean-Joseph Ange d'Hautpoul in reserve. Off to the south near Ebersberg were two more divisions, under Generals of Division Antoine Richepanse and Charles Decaen; the divisions of d'Hautpoul, Richepanse and Grouchy formed Moreau's Reserve Corps. Moreau planned to have Richepanse march northeast to strike southern flank.
His main line would maneuver in open terrain and counterattack the Austrians as they emerged from the woods. Decaen would support Richepanse. According to the battle plan drawn up by Weyrother, the Austrians advanced west in four corps. From north to south they were Feldmarchall-Leutnant Michael von Kienmayer's Right Column, Feldmarchall-Leutnant Louis-Willibrord-Antoine Baillet de Latour's Right Center Column, Feldzeugmeister Johann Kollowrat's Left Center Column, Feldmarchall-Leutnant Johann Sigismund Riesch's Left Column; the three southern columns marched near the main road from Haag to Hohenlinden. Meanwhile, Kienmayer followed the Isen River valley from Dorfen west to Lengdorf south to Isen, before approaching the Hohenlinden plain from the east. Archduke John rode with Kollowrat's force. Latour used trails just to the north of the highway. Due to the densely forested terrain, bad roads, poor staff work, the Austrian columns were not mutually supporting, their commanders mistakenly thought the French were in retreat and were rushing to catch their enemies before they could escape.
All Austrian columns started at dawn. Marching on the all-weather highway, Kollowrat's column made good time despite heavy snow. At 7:00 am, his advance guard under General-Major Franz
Siege of Corfu (1798–99)
The Siege of Corfu was a military operation by a joint Russian and Turkish fleet against French troops occupying the island of Corfu. By the Treaty of Campo Formio and the dissolution of the Republic of Venice, the Ionian Islands were ceded to the French Republic, which occupied Corfu as the département Corcyre. In 1798, Admiral Fyodor Ushakov was sent to the Mediterranean in command of a joint Russian-Turkish squadron to support General Alexander Suvorov's upcoming Italian and Swiss expedition. One of Ushakov's main tasks was to take the strategically important Ionian Islands from the French. In October 1798 the French garrisons were driven from Cythera, Zakynthos and Lefkada, it remained to take the largest and best-fortified island of Corfu. The city of Corfu is located on the east coast in the central part of the island between two forts: The medieval Old Fortress, on the eastern tip of the city, cut off from the city by an artificial moat. From the new to the old fort a high wall ran along the shore.
The town was covered by bastions on two mountains and Salvatore, the intermediate fort of San Rocco. From the sea, the city was protected by the well-fortified island of Vido, the smaller island of Lazaretto, two miles up the coast, was strengthened by the French; the French, commanded by the governor General Louis Chabot, had 3000 soldiers and 650 guns in Corfu, plus 500 soldiers and 5 artillery batteries on the island of Vido. In the harbour was a French squadron of two ships of the line, the 74-gun Généreux and 54-gun Leander, the 20-gun corvette Brune, a bomb-vessel, a brig and four auxiliary vessels. On 4 November 1798 Ushakov's Russian-Turkish squadron, consisting of three ships of the line, three frigates and a number of small ships, began the siege of Corfu, they were joined shortly afterwards by a Turkish squadron and another Russian squadron under the command of Captain Dmitry Senyavin. Given the strong fortifications of the island and the lack of strength for a landing, it was decided to wait for Turkish reinforcements for a landing force.
However, on the first day the French abandoned their fortifications on Lazaretto island, which the Russians occupied. On 13 November a small force of Russians landed without opposition and took the small port of Gouvia about five miles along the coast. From on the Russians began building batteries and shelling the French-held forts. In December, another Russian squadron, this one under Rear-Admiral Pavel Pustoshkinthe, augmented the besieging forces; the combined fleet now consisted of 12 ships of 11 frigates and many smaller vessels. On the night of January 26 the Généreux, with her sails painted black, the brig escaped from the harbour and sailed to Ancona. In February, about 4,000 Ottoman troops arrived and it was decided to make a landing on the island of Vido – the key to the defense of Corfu – using naval artillery against its shore batteries; the assault on Vido began early in the morning of 28 February 1799. After a four-hour bombardment by several ships, all five shore batteries on the island had been suppressed.
The Leander and Brune tried to intervene but were damaged and forced to retreat to the protection of the batteries of Corfu. The allied fleet landed over 2000 men on Vido and after a two-hour battle the island was taken. Of the 800 men defending the island, 200 were killed and 400 were taken prisoner, including the commandant of the island, Brigadier-General Pivron. About 150 men managed to swim to Corfu. Russian losses were 100 wounded; the Ottomans lost 180 wounded. After the fall of Vido, the key to Corfu was in the hands of Ushakov. On March 1 the captured batteries on the island opened fire on the city's forts, supported by the Russians' shore batteries and some of the Russian and Turkish warships; the allied forces stormed and captured the outlying forts of San Rocco, San Salvatore and San Abraham. On 2 March Ushakov planned to assault the main forts, but in the morning the French sent envoys to request a forty-eight-hour armistice, on 3 March they surrendered; the capitulation agreed between the French and Russians was an honourable one, including a provision for the French troops to be conveyed to Toulon.
The remaining French ships in the harbour were taken by the allies, including the Leander, captured from the Royal Navy on 18 August 1798. Admiral Ushakov was honoured by the Emperor of Russia with the star of the Order of St Alexander Nevsky and by the Ottoman Sultan with a chelengk awarded to non-Muslims; the capture of Corfu completed the Russo-Turkish takeover of the Ionian Islands, of great military and political importance. The islands became the Seven Islands Republic, a temporary protectorate of Russia and Turkey, for several years Corfu served as a base for the Russian Mediterranean fleet. Ushakov's fleet went on to support the allied attack on Naples. In 1953, director Mikhail Romm made a cinematographic dramatization of the Russian conquest of the Ionian Islands called Корабли штурмуют бастионы, the second of a two-part biographical epic about admiral Ushakov; the movie was released by Mosfilm. Jervis-White-Jervis, History of the island of Corfú and of the Republic of the Ionian islands, London, 1852 James, William M.
The Naval History of Great Britain during the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars, volume 2, 1797–1799, first published 1822–24, reprinted by Conway Maritime Press, London, 2002
Battle of Amsteg
The Battle of Amsteg saw a Republican French division under General of Division Claude Lecourbe face a brigade of Habsburg Austrian soldiers led by General-major Joseph Anton von Simbschen. Lecourbe's offensive began on 14 August when six columns of French infantry advanced on the upper Reuss valley from the north and east. By 16 August, Lecourbe's forces had driven Simbschen's Austrians from the valley and seized control of the strategic Gotthard Pass between Italy and Switzerland. On 4 June, the First Battle of Zurich was fought between André Masséna's French Army of Helvetia and an Austrian army led by Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen. After the battle, Massena relinquished Zürich and retreated to a strong defensive position to the west of the city. At about the same time, the French commander ordered Lecourbe to abandon the Gotthard Pass and pull back to Lucerne. In August, Masséna wanted Lecourbe to recapture the Gotthard Pass; the French commander feared an Austro-Russian stroke from Italy across the pass, so he ordered an offensive to occupy the area.
Louis Marie Turreau's division advanced northeast from the Canton of Valais in support of Lecourbe. Masséna sent the divisions of Jean-de-Dieu Soult and Joseph Chabran to attack other Austrian positions in order to prevent Archduke Charles from interfering with Lecourbe's main operation. At the end of September 1799, Alexander Suvorov's Russian army had to retake the pass in the Battle of Gotthard Pass. Lecourbe's Engadine campaign began with a victory on 12 March 1799 at La Punt-Chamues-ch. By 2 May Lecourbe was back at La Punt and on 13 May he arrived at Bellinzona, having abandoned the Engadine. At the end of April, a rebellion broke out among the Swiss in the Cantons of Uri and Unterwalden. Since this insurrection cut his communications with Lecourbe and his right wing, Massena sent Soult to suppress it. Promising clemency, Soult managed to get the rebels in Schwyz to disperse, he acted more vigorously to drive the insurgents out of the upper Reuss valley, by storming their trenches at Flüelen and again at Wassen on 11 May.
Soult seized the Teufelsbrücke in Schöllenen Gorge before the rebels could break it down and overran the insurgent position at the Gotthard Pass. On 15 May, his troops met soldiers of Michel Ney's brigade of Lecourbe's division at Faido on the upper Ticino River. Consolidating his position, Masséna ordered Lecourbe to pull back. On 21 May 1799 he began withdrawing from Bellinzona across the Gotthard Pass. By 24 May, Lecourbe was at Altdorf on the upper Reuss. Promoted to general of division, Ney soon transferred out of Lecourbe's division. On the Allied side, Heinrich von Bellegarde's Austrian corps marched from the upper Rhine valley south via Lake Como to Alessandria which it reached on 8 June. To replace these troops, the Allied commander-in-chief in Italy, Suvorov ordered Karl Joseph Hadik von Futak and 16 battalions to the north and the leading formations began moving across the Gotthard Pass on 27 May. Two days Franz Xaver Saint-Julien with 6,300 Austrian soldiers defeated Louis Henri Loison and 3,300 French troops in the Urseren valley.
The Austrians inflicted 664 casualties on their foes while losing only 200. On 31 May, Lecourbe with 8,000 troops turned the tables on Saint-Julien at Wassen. On 2 June, Lecourbe drove Saint-Julien back across the Devil's Bridge, which the Austrians broke down. Two battalions of Austrians were forced to surrender. According to orders, Lecourbe withdrew to Lucerne. On 4 June, Archduke Charles commanding 53,000 Austrians attacked Masséna who led 45,000 French in the First Battle of Zurich; the victorious Austrians suffered heavier losses, 730 killed, 1,470 wounded, 2,200 captured, while the French lost 500 killed, 800 wounded, 300 captured. Another authority stated that the Austrians lost 2,000 killed and wounded plus 1,200 captured while the French sustained over 1,200 casualties. On 4 June, the Austrians broke into the French position but were driven out by a ferocious counterattack. However, Masséna conceded defeat by withdrawing from Zürich to a stronger position west of the city on the night of 5 June.
At this time Masséna's Army of Helvetia was arranged. Lecourbe's 1st Division was on the right flank at Lucerne and Chabran's 2nd Division held the line between Lucerne and the Albis Hills west of Zürich. Soult's 3rd Division held the Albis Hills with Jean Thomas Guillaume Lorge's 4th Division to its left. Jean Victor Tharreau's 5th Division held the line of the Limmat River from Baden to Böttstein. François Goullus' 6th Division guarded the line of the Aare River down to the Rhine River and Joseph Souham's 7th Division defended the Rhine down to Basel; the 6th and 7th Divisions were directed by Pierre Marie Barthélemy Ferino. The Reserve under Jean Joseph Amable Humbert was at Mellingen southwest of Baden and the Cavalry Reserve under Louis Klein was at Geneva and other places in the rear; the Interior Division under Louis-Antoine Choin de Montchoisy occupied Bern and the Valais Division under Turreau held the Great St Bernard Pass and the Canton of Valais. Masséna's force counted 76,781 troops.
Technically under Massena were the divisions of Claude Juste Alexandre Legrand and Claude-Sylvestre Colaud guarding the Rhine north of Basel. Earlier, Masséna suggested that Legrand and Colaud be formed into a separate Army of the Rhine but this was not acted on until 2 July 1799. According to various estimates, Archduke Charles led between 85,000 Austrians. One estimate gave him 18,000 cavalry. 20,000 were north and east of the Rhine watchi
Second Battle of Zurich
The Second Battle of Zurich was a key victory by the Republican French army in Switzerland led by André Masséna over an Austrian and Russian force commanded by Alexander Korsakov near Zürich. It broke the stalemate that had resulted from the First Battle of Zurich three months earlier and led to the withdrawal of Russia from the Second Coalition. Most of the fighting took place on both banks of the river Limmat up to the gates of Zürich, within the city itself. After the First Battle of Zurich Masséna had consolidated to a defensive line behind the lower reaches of the Aare River. At this time his entire army in Switzerland consisted of around 77,000 combatants, positioned as: 1st Division in the Upper Valais and the Simplon Pass. 2nd Division in the St Gotthard and the valley of the Reuss. 3rd Division Right wing near Glarus, centre on the left bank of the Linth, the left near Adliswil on the Sihl. 4th Division on the Uetliberg. 5th Division on the left bank of the Limmat between Altstetten and Baden.
6th Division from Baden to the confluence of the Aare with the Rhine. 7th Division formed the Reserve in the Frick-thal. 8th Division at Basel. Following the overall strategic plan, the Austrian army under the Archduke Charles was to be augmented by the 25,000 man Russian command of Korsakov, newly arrived at Schaffhausen after a 90-day march. Masséna meanwhile was preparing an offensive on his right flank against the Austrian positions in the Alps. On 15 and 16 August General Claude Lecourbe with 12,000 men drove the forces of Strauch and Simbschen from the St. Gotthard and Oberalp Passes in a series of violent assaults; as a distraction, on 14 August French forces under Soult made demonstrations across the Sihl below Zürich. On the night of 16/17th Archduke Charles supported by Korsakov's troops launched a surprise attack over the river Aare at Gross-Döttingen using boats and pontoon bridges, but his engineers misjudged the strength of the current and depth of the river, the pontoon bridge was unable to be secured and after serious fighting the attack was called off.
Archduke Charles and Korsakov planned no further joint action however, as following the strategic plans of the Austrian Hofkriegsrat under Baron Thugut, Charles had been ordered to move his main command north into southern Germany. Reluctantly following these instructions, he left behind a column of 29,000 men under Friedrich von Hotze, Korsakov's command with the Swiss in the Austrian service; the plan for these two commands was to wait for the arrival of the Russian column of Suvorov penetrating north from Italy over the Alpine passes and trap Masséna in a 3-point encirclement. On 22 August Korsakov and Hotze agreed that the Russians with 22,000 men would line the lower reaches of the River Limmat, Hotze with 20,000 men would occupy the Obersee region below Lake Zürich from the Linth to Glarus. On 28 August the bulk of the troops of Archduke Charles departed Switzerland. Korsakov himself arrived in Zürich the following day displaying a vain over-confidence in the capabilities of his troops and disregard both for the French and his allies the Austrians: The presumption and arrogance of Korsakoff were carried to such a pitch, that in a conference with the Archduke Charles, shortly before the battle, when that great general was pointing out the positions which should in an especial manner be guarded, said, pointing to the map, "Here you should place a battalion."
- "A company, you mean," said Korsakoff - "No," replied the Archduke, "a battalion." - "I understand you," rejoined the other. Korsakov with 33,000 men around Zürich and the Lower Limmat, distributed as: Division Lieutenant-General Gorchakov:Brigades of General-Major Tuchkov and General-Major Essen at Wollishofen. Total with gunners 10,330 men. Division of Lieutenant-General Durasov:Brigade of General-Major Markov in a camp before Weiningen opposite Dietikon Brigade of General-Major Pushchin in a camp at Würenlos and in front of the village of Wettingen: 2,500 infantry, 1,000 cossacks. Along the right banks of the Limmat from Baden to the Rhine. Total with gunners 7,052 men; the cavalry and cossacks under Major-General Gudovich were distributed on the Rhine along the line of the road from Zürich to Baden. Reserve Division Lieutenant-General Sacken, 5,700 men in a camp at Regensdorf along the north bank of Lake Zürich connecting to Hotze. Nauendorf, with 5,400 Austrians, on the right bank of the Rhine between Waldshut and Basel.
Hotze with 25,000 Austrians, including 3,000 Swiss, from Uznach to Chur and Disentis. Suvorov with 28,000 Russians on the march from Italy through the Alps. Shortly before the battle Korsakov detached Sacken's 5,000 man Reserve Division to Rapperswil to reinforce Hotze in anticipation of Suvorov's approach weakening his defensive line along the Limmat before Zürich and exposing his line of communications; the departure of Archduke Charles gave the French a momentary superiority in numbers, Masséna was determined to exploit this and the redistribution of Austrians and Russians. His aim was to beat Hotze before any intervention by Suvorov. On 30 August he attempted to push back the enemy before Zürich; this river crossing was unsuccessful, Masséna now planned a crossing near Dietikon with a subsequent attack on Korsakov in Zürich. On 19 September, Masséna revealed his plan to his division commanders. Lorge's Division and part of Ménard'
Battle of Trebbia (1799)
The Battle of Trebbia or the Napoleonic Battle of the Trebbia was fought near the Trebbia River in northern Italy between the joint Russian and Habsburg Austrian army under Alexander Suvorov and the Republican French army of Jacques MacDonald. Though the opposing armies were equal in numbers, the Austro-Russians defeated the French, sustaining about 6,000 casualties while inflicting losses of 12,000 to 16,500 on their enemies; the War of the Second Coalition engagement occurred west of Piacenza, a city located 70 kilometres southeast of Milan. In the spring of 1799 the Austrian and Russian armies ousted the French from much of northern Italy after the battles of Magnano and Cassano and they placed the key fortress of Mantua under siege. Assembling the French occupation forces of southern and central Italy into an army, MacDonald moved north to challenge his enemies. Rather than playing safe by moving along the west coast road, MacDonald boldly chose to move east of the Apennine Mountains, hoping to be supported by Jean Victor Marie Moreau's French army.
After brushing aside a much smaller Austrian force at Modena, MacDonald's army swept west along the south bank of the Po River. Suvorov swiftly concentrated his Russians and the allied Austrians of Michael von Melas to block the French move. On 17 July, the leading French divisions bumped into a holding force led by Peter Karl Ott von Bátorkéz along the Tidone River. Ott was reinforced by the bulk of the Austro-Russian army and the French pulled back to the Trebbia. Suvorov attacked on the 18th but the outnumbered French managed to hold off the Allied drive. On 19 June MacDonald's entire army was concentrated and he ordered an attack, poorly coordinated and repulsed at all points. Realizing that assistance from Moreau was not forthcoming, that night MacDonald ordered the beaten French army to slip away to the south and west. On the 20th the Allies overran a French demi brigade acting as rear guard. Instead of bringing a powerful reinforcement to the hard-pressed French in northwest Italy, only the crippled remains of MacDonald's army arrived.
Due to participation of some 3,000 soldiers of the Polish Legions, the Battle of Trebbia is commemorated on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, with the inscription "TREBBIA 17 - 19 VI 1799". The War of the Second Coalition in northern Italian began with the inconclusive Battle of Verona on 26 March 1799 between the Habsburg Austrian army of Paul Kray and the Republican French Army of Italy under Barthélemy Louis Joseph Schérer; the subsequent Battle of Magnano on 5 April was a clear-cut victory by Kray over the French, with the Austrians sustaining 6,000 casualties while inflicting losses of 8,000 men and 18 guns on their foes. The defeat was a crushing blow to French morale and prompted Schérer to plead with the French Directory to be relieved of command. Finding his strong position behind the Mincio River outflanked on the north by 12,000 Austrians, Schérer left 12,000 troops to hold the key fortress of Mantua, directed 1,600 more to defend Peschiera del Garda and retreated to the west on 12 April.
Two days Alexander Suvorov arrived at Vicenza with a Imperial Russian army and assumed command of the combined Austro-Russian forces. On 27 April, the Coalition allies led by Suvorov were victorious over Jean Victor Marie Moreau's French army at the Battle of Cassano along the Adda River; the next day at Verderio, Jean-Mathieu-Philibert Sérurier's division was surrounded and in the fighting that followed the French lost 252 men killed before the 2,700 survivors gave up. The defeats caused Moreau to fall back. On 6 May the garrison of Peschiera capitulated to Kray while on 11 May Pizzighettone and 1,500 French soldiers surrendered to Konrad Valentin von Kaim. On 12 May, Suvorov's subordinate Andrei Grigorevich Rosenberg suffered a minor setback in the Battle of Bassignana. Ferrara and Milan all capitulated to Austrian besieging forces on 24 May. Meanwhile, 30,000 Allies under Suvorov moved up the north bank of the Po River toward Turin. On the morning of 26 May, Josef Philipp Vukassovich's advance guard seized Turin with its arsenal and over 300 cannons plus large stocks of ammunition.
Pascal Antoine Fiorella and his 3,400-man French garrison withdrew to the citadel where they were besieged. Early June found the Allied main body of 47,087 troops under Suvorov and Michael von Melas camped near Turin. Karl Joseph Hadik von Futak with 9,900 Austrians watched. Kray's 19,760-man corps was engaged in the Siege of Mantua, covered by 6,122 Austrians under Johann von Klenau at Ferrera. Suvorov summoned the 19,458-strong corps of Count Heinrich von Bellegarde from Switzerland to Milan where they arrived on 5 June. To face this array, Moreau counted about 25,000 soldiers in the divisions of Paul Grenier, Claude Victor-Perrin, Pierre Garnier de Laboissière at Genoa, Paul Louis Gaultier de Kervéguen at Florence and Joseph Hélie Désiré Perruquet de Montrichard at Bologna, but the Allies were aware that Jacques MacDonald had a strong French occupation force in southern and central Italy. On 14 April 1799, the French Directory ordered MacDonald to help the French forces in northern Italy. Accordingly, he assembled the Army of Naples and moved north, leaving southern Italy in the hands of local forces.
MacDonald reached Rome on 16 Florence ten days later. From there, the safest course was to use the west coast road to reach Genoa, keeping the Apennine Mountains between him and the Allies. However, MacDonald believed that the coast road was unusable for his artillery beyond Lerici and feared that Austrian columns might interfere with the operation, but the real reason was that MacDonald wished to make a theatrical entrance to the ca
Battle of Bassignana (1799)
The Battle of Bassignana saw an Imperial Russian corps led by Andrei Grigorevich Rosenberg attempt to establish a bridgehead on the south bank of the Po River in the presence of a Republican French army under Jean Victor Marie Moreau. The French massed superior strength and attacked. After several hours of hard fighting, the Russians abandoned their foothold with serious losses; this War of the Second Coalition action occurred near the town of Bassignana, located in the angle between the Po and Tanaro Rivers, about 19 kilometres northeast of Alessandria, Italy. A string of Austrian and Russian victories in the spring of 1799 evicted the French armies from north and northeast Italy; the leader of the combined Austro-Russian armies, Alexander Suvorov prepared to drive the French armies from the rest of Italy. Suvorov ordered his lieutenant Rosenberg to join him on the south bank of the Po below its confluence with the Tanaro. Overruled by the Tsar's son Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich of Russia, Rosenberg unwisely crossed above the confluence with the Tanaro.
Two of Moreau's divisions under Paul Grenier and Claude Victor-Perrin soon counterattacked and defeated the Russians. The Bassignana action was only a minor setback for the Allies. A few days Moreau launched a reconnaissance that resulted in the First Battle of Marengo; the beginning of the 1799 campaign saw the drawn Battle of Verona on 26 March between the Austrian army of Paul Kray and the French Army of Italy under Barthélemy Louis Joseph Schérer. On 5 April, Kray with 46,000 troops defeated Schérer with 40,600 men in the Battle of Magnano; the Austrians sustained losses of 4,000 wounded plus 2,000 captured. The French lost 3,500 killed and wounded plus 18 guns, seven colors, 4,500 men captured; the badly shaken Schérer began to retreat. The Siege of Mantua lasted until the end of July, but other smaller garrisons that Schérer left behind were forced to surrender. After subtracting garrisons and battle losses, the Army of Italy had only 28,000 available. From the army commander down to the rank and file, the French were utterly demoralized.
To make matters worse for the French, Alexander Suvorov arrived with 24,551 Russian soldiers and assumed command of the combined Austro-Russian army. Schérer's resignation was accepted by the French government and he handed over command of the army to Jean Victor Marie Moreau on 26 April 1799; the next day, Suvorov won the Battle of Cassano. Moreau was compelled to retreat. Jean-Mathieu-Philibert Sérurier and 2,400 men of his division were cut off and compelled to surrender that evening. Moreau with Paul Grenier's division retreated west all the way to Turin crossed to the south bank of the Po River and marched east again. Claude Perrin Victor's division crossed the Po at Casale Monferrato and took position near the fortress city of Alessandria; when Grenier joined Victor there on 7 May, Moreau had a field army of 20,000 troops. Its right flank was buttressed by Alessandria. On 6 May 1799, Suvorov's left wing crossed the Po at Piacenza and moved southwest toward Bobbio, while his main body crossed farther west.
On 7 May, a 13,865-man Austrian corps was at Castel San Giovanni while Pyotr Bagration with the 5,862-man Russian advance guard was at Voghera, both on the south bank of the Po. Rosenberg with 10,571 soldiers was at Dorno with a 3,075-strong advance guard at Lomello, both on the north bank. Josef Philipp Vukassovich and 5,100 Austrians were farther west on the north bank; that same day Grand Duke Constantine arrived with the army. On 9 May, Suvorov's chief of staff, the Austrian Johann Gabriel Chasteler de Courcelles and two battalions chased the French out of the town of Tortona, though not its citadel. Desiring to concentrate his army on the south bank, Suvorov issued orders to Rosenberg to cross the Po at Alluvioni Cambiò - that is, downstream from the confluence of the Po and Tanaro rivers. Instead of following orders, Rosenberg began sending his troops across the Po near Bassignana, upstream from where the Tanaro emptied into the Po. Grand Duke Constantine was certainly responsible for ordering Rosenberg to ignore Suvorov's instructions.
At first the Allies believed that Valenza was unoccupied, so that a plan was made on 8 May to cross the Po. On 10 May it was discovered. During this time, Nikolay Andreievich Chubarov explored Mugarone island in the Po River and found it to be a suitable crossing place. Chubarov set up a flying bridge from the north bank to the island. A cable connected the north bank with the island so that a ferry boat could be hauled across the deep channel; the Russian preparations were so obvious. He ordered Grenier to leave a few outposts and march his division south to Alessandria to face the gathering threat from Suvorov to the east. On the evening of 11 May 1799, Rosenberg sent 4,000 Russians across to the island. Crossing on the ferry were three grenadier battalions, three jäger companies, the Semernikov Cossack Regiment. Ivan Ivanovich Dahlheim with two infantry battalions crossed on small craft; the Russians waited on the island until daylight. On the morning of 12 May, the Russians waded across two shoulder-deep fords shown to them by the local people.
Grand Duke Constantine led the troops as they drove off Grenier's outposts. The residents of Bassignana welcomed the Russians and chopped down the "Tree of Liberty" that the French had planted in their town. At this time, Rosenberg began transferring more troops from the north bank to the island; the Russians on the south bank mov
Sir Ralph Abercromby was a Scottish soldier and politician. He rose to the rank of lieutenant-general in the British Army, was noted for his services during the Napoleonic Wars, served as Commander-in-Chief, Ireland, he twice served as MP for Clackmannanshire, he was appointed Governor of Trinidad. He was the eldest son of Mary, daughter of Ralph Dundas of Manour and George Abercromby of Tullibody, a brother of the advocate Alexander Abercromby, Lord Abercromby and General Sir Robert Abercromby, he was born at Clackmannanshire. Ralph Abercromby's education, begun by a private tutor, was continued at the school of Mr Moir at Alloa considered one of the best in Scotland despite its Jacobite leanings. After passing some time there, Ralph was sent to Rugby, where he remained till he was 18 becoming a student at the University of Edinburgh. In Edinburgh, he studied moral and natural philosophy and civil law and was regarded by his professors as sound rather than brilliant, he was sent to Leipzig University in 1754 to study civil law with a view to career as an advocate.
Abercromby was a Freemason. He was a member of Canongate Kilwinning Lodge No 2, Scotland. On returning from the continent, Abercromby expressed a strong preference for the military profession, a cornet's commission was accordingly obtained for him in the 3rd Dragoon Guards, he served with his regiment in the Seven Years' War, thus, the opportunity afforded him of studying the methods of Frederick the Great, who moulded his military character and formed his tactical ideas. He rose through the intermediate grades to the rank of lieutenant-colonel of the regiment and brevet colonel in 1780, in 1781, he became colonel of the newly raised King's Irish infantry; when that regiment was disbanded in 1783, he retired upon half pay. He entered Parliament as MP for Clackmannanshire, he was a strong supporter of the American cause in the American Revolutionary War, remained in Ireland to avoid having to fight against the colonists. When France declared war against Great Britain in 1793, he resumed his duties.
He was appointed command of a brigade under the Duke of York for service in the Netherlands, where he commanded the advanced guard in the action at Le Cateau. During the 1794 withdrawal to Holland, he commanded the allied forces in the action at Boxtel and was wounded directing operations at Fort St Andries on the Waal. In 1795, he was appointed a Knight of the Bath for his services; that same year, he was appointed to succeed Sir Charles Grey as commander-in-chief of the British forces in the West Indies. In 1796, Grenada was attacked and taken by a detachment of the army under his orders. Afterwards, Abercromby secured possession of the settlements of Demerara and Essequibo in South America, the islands of Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Trinidad. A major assault on the port of San Juan, Puerto Rico, in April 1797 failed after fierce fighting where both sides suffered heavy losses. Abercromby returned to Europe and, in reward for his services, was appointed colonel of the 2nd Regiment of Dragoons.
He was made Lieutenant-Governor of the Isle of Wight, Governor of Fort George and Fort Augustus in the Scottish Highlands, promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-general. He again entered Parliament as member for Clackmannanshire from 1796 to 1798. From 1797 to 1798, he was Commander-in-Chief of the forces in Ireland. To quote the biographic entry in the 1888 Encyclopædia Britannica, "There he laboured to maintain the discipline of the army, to suppress the rising rebellion, to protect the people from military oppression, with the care worthy of a great general and an enlightened and beneficent statesman; when he was appointed to the command in Ireland, an invasion of that country by the French was confidently anticipated by the British government. He used his utmost efforts to restore the discipline of an army, utterly disorganized. Finding that he received no adequate support from the head of the Irish government, that all his efforts were opposed and thwarted by those who presided in the councils of Ireland, he resigned the command.
His departure from Ireland was lamented by the reflecting portion of the people, was speedily followed by those disastrous results which he had anticipated, which he so ardently desired and had so wisely endeavoured to prevent." After holding for a short period the office of commander-in-chief in Scotland, Sir Ralph, when the enterprise against the Dutch Batavian Republic was resolved upon in 1799, was again called to command under the Duke of York. The Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland in 1799 ended in disaster, but friend and foe alike confessed that the most decisive victory could not have more conspicuously proved the talents of this distinguished officer. In 1801, he was sent with an army to recover Egypt from France, his experience in the Netherlands and the West Indies fitted him for this new command, as was proved when he carried his army in health, in spirits, with the requisite supplies to the destined scene of action despite great difficulties. The debarkation of the troops at Abukir, in the face of strenuous opposition, is justly ranked among the most daring and brilliant exploits of the British army.
In 1800 he commanded the expedition to the Mediterranean, after some brilliant operations defeated the French in the Battle of Alexandria, 21 M