Friday, August 5, 2011

The Battle of Rivoli, 1797, Conclusion!

Unfortunately my vacation coincided with the second part to this battles schedule and I was unable to attend it. I did however receive a follow up battle report; (It was needless to say not a surprise!)

Great sites for all interested in Italian campaigns

Major victory for the Tirolean Corps - Steve took the Austrians and me the French (Chris could not make it).  He took the initiative and continued the Austrian cavalry attacks I initiated the previous week - the attacks were aimed at the four red French battalions that fled over the hills - they were wiped out.  As the French reinforcements arrived the Austrian cavalry went over the hills into counterattack positions in the event the French counterattacked his RED AND WHITE infantry bns,  But it was too late for the French, on the next turn (8) their army morale dropped to 73 and we called the game.

Some adjustments that led to the Austrian success:

1) Ruess Bde entered on Turn Two and the 1st Massena infantry bde entered on Turn six -- too much of a gap (will change to Turn four)
2) Historically the Massena Div cavalry arrived by 1 PM, an hour after the renewed Austrian attack at 1200, but in the game they arrived on turn seven -- too much of a head start for the Austrian cavalry
3) A slow Austrian advance on line that kept firing pressure on the French produced crippling casualties -- the only recourse is a 3-4 bn French reserve that can attack in column anywhere the Austrians start to fatigue or go white/red

The Army Of Italy has suffered losses of:
 [ 31%]   6282 men of all arms
   incl.[ 10%]   2020 prisoners of all arms
 [ 33%]   6209 bayonets
 [  3%]     34 sabres
 [  6%]     39 artillerists
Honors: [ 113]  3/11 Arty a pied

The Tyrolean Corps has suffered losses of:
 [ 19%]   4392 men of all arms
   incl.[  2%]    544 prisoners of all arms
 [ 21%]   4375 bayonets
 [  1%]     13 sabres
 [  0%]      4 artillerists

Honors: [ 510] Bn#3 Mitrowsky IR 40

Historical Account;

Over the next few months, Alvintzi menacingly hovered in the Bassano region, gathering up reinforcements from the Trieste region that increased his army’s strength to 45,000 men. Napoleon had roughly the same number of men but 10,000 of them were committed to the continuing siege of Mantova. Prior to Alvintzi’s last attack, the French army was in the best possible defensive position. Joubert’s division was garrisoned between La Corona and Rivoli on the eastern side of Lake Garda, in close support of Massena’s division in Verona. Augereau was positioned on the Adige River, south of Ronco, while General Rey occupied the western shores of Lake Garda. Sérurier, recently recuperated, took over command of the Mantova siege from a now ill Kilmaine.

On the 8th of January 1797, the first contact was made between Austrian and French forces and Augereau was driven back by an Austrian advance at Bassano. Augereau, believing that this was the main Austrian advance, sought reinforcements. Napoleon believed that this Austrian advance was only a diversion and that the main attack was still to come. Napoleon was soon proven correct. Joubert was attacked by a sizeable force and had to retreat from La Madonna di Corona, the small village just north of Rivoli. Alvintzi had revealed his plan. His Lake Garda column was sizeable, totaling 28,000 men. Bonaparte acted quickly, ordering Joubert to hold his position at all costs while he summoned Massena and Rey to move to Rivoli at once.

The battlefield at Rivoli favoured the French. There were several routes to move along between Verona and Rivoli all leading to a horseshoe-shaped ridge called the Trombalore Heights, between the Adige and Tasso Rivers. The Austrian army had less to work with, as there were only two mountain roads along which the troops could move southward.
The key to French victory would be the speed at which the reinforcements could be brought to battle.

At 6:00am on the 14th, Napoleon ordered Joubert to position his division on the eastern flank of the plateau and to hold off the Austrian forces under Koblos and Liptay. Massena arrived shortly thereafter and was ordered to position his division on the western flank. By 10:00am, the French had 17,700 men on the field. This number would increase to 23,000 with the arrival of Rey’s division.

The crucial point in the battle came later that day as the Austrians flanked the French forces by seizing the Osteria Gorge to the east of the Trombalore Heights. Napoleon quickly ordered Joubert’s forces to move east to counter the Austrian advance. The French commander trained his artillery on the densely packed enemy from above and decimated the Austrian force, bringing about a full retreat.   The Austrians were defeated. Over the two days of fighting, Alvintzi’s army sustained 14,000 casualties and 11,000 prisoners. The remainder of the Austrian army retreated up the Adige signaling the end of the Austrian offensive of 1796-7 in Northern Italy.

All that remained was the siege of Mantova. Würmser held out until the 2nd of February 1797, when the fortress was turned over peacefully to the French. Of the garrison of 30,000 men, only 16,000 were able to walk out of the fortress without assistance. The fall of Mantova completed Napoleon’s conquest of Northern Italy. Napoleon may have won the battles but the war was not over. The Austrian Government refused to capitulate to the French Government and made preparations to create another army under their best commander, the Archduke Charles.

Chandler, David G. (1966). The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York: MacMillan
Publishing Co., Inc.

Britt, Albert Sydney (1986). Atlas for Wars of Napoleon. Wayne, N.J. : Avery Publishing Group