The Campaign in Italy, 1796-97: Rivoli 14 - 15 January 1797
Virtual Battlefield Tour
By Bill Peterson
In the final attempt to relieve besieged Mantua, 28,000 Austrians under d’Alvintzi advanced down the Adige Valley, confident of overwhelming Joubert’s Division of 10,000, while smaller columns struck at Verona and Legnano from the east. Bonaparte recognized the direction of the main threat and sent Masséna’s and Rey’s Divisions marching through the night of 13-14 January to reinforce Joubert at Rivoli.
From daybreak to 9:30 AM, Joubert’s Division stood alone against the full weight of the Austrian attack along the Trombalora Heights and the Osteria Gorge. As the first elements of Masséna’s Division arrived to shore up the line, a new threat appeared to the rear where Lusignan’s Austrian column of 4,000 men completed a wide flanking movement from the west and seized Monte Pipolo. Brune’s Brigade was turned about to face south against Lusignan, while the 57e Ligne of Rey’s Division attacked Monte Pipolo from the south.
Meanwhile, the crisis of the battle occurred in the Osteria Gorge, where Quasdonovitch’s column came perilously close to rupturing the French line. Close-range fire by a light-artillery battery and an epic cavalry charge led by 21-year-old Chef d’Escadron Lasalle repulsed the Austrians.
On 15 January, Joubert pressed the retreating Austrians northward while a fast column under Murat and adjudant-général Veaux swept ahead and occupied the pass at La Corona. This maneuver forced the surrender of an additional 4,000 Austrians, making a total of 12,000 losses (including 8,000 prisoners) over the two days against French casualties of 3,200. With no further hope of relief, Mantua was surrendered on 2 February 1797.
|View from the San Marco crag to the north. Monte Magnone is in the background. Casemates of the late-19th-Century Forte San Marco are visible in the foreground, demonstrating the continuing strategic significance of the Rivoli position.|
|The Austrians push up all along our French positions on the ridge line. They're hesitant to approach as terrain has a double cost for movement. Units with white can't move unless leader attached.|
|And the position on the (French Right Flank). Remember Austrian reinforcements are arriving here to the right. Our rear area.|
|Basically in this area and their artillery across the river has already pinned some of the units!|
|These pesky buggers! A view from their position.|
|It appears we're going to be encircled! I think that's not GOOD?????????|
|A view from the flank and of our Austrian enemies (People & figures)!|
|And of the Center.|
|The enemy presses forward along our entire line.|
|And along the Right flank as well.Hopefully we can hold them off till our reinforcements (Massena) arrives in a couple of turns.|
|They're positioning in our rear as well. The pressure is mounting!|
|Maybe if we hide in these trees? "Damn a 3lb mountain gun"|
|To late, troops are quickly becoming decisively engaged along the entire line.|
|CAUTION, objects appear closer than they actually are.|
|The Austrians are relentless in pressing the attack!|
|And then my good friend Murphy shows up. Hey Murph, what's up? Thanks for &*()%$#@!|
|And the entire French line starts to crumble. Maybe if I stuck to my original plan with my cavalry I could have held the Austrians up a little more? I don't know!|
|A view towards the Center.We appear to be getting the worst of it. See the units retired to our rear already that must be rallied or lost? What's a commander to do? Their friends will be joining them soon!|
|After the third turn here's whose still standing. Units in Red have attached leaders. Thus prevented unit from retiring. Things ain't looking so great!|
|My other unit rallies next to my cavalry, but things aren't looking to good. "Give me night, or give me Blucher", Uh-oh wrong battle, I mean Massena "HELP"!|
|My leader rallies some infantry as others in Yellow rout. Notice the nice Austrian horde!|
|The Austrian threat on our rear.|
|A view of the overall situation until next turn. Thank god Massena arrives, but is it to late?|
|And from the Austrian perspective. Tune in for the follow up!|
|The terrain for real.|
TO BE CONTINUED......