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Battle of Magnano
Part of the French Revolutionary War
Date 5 April 1799
Location near Castel d'Azzano, present-day Italy
Result Austrian victory
Belligerents
France First French Republic Habsburg Monarchy Habsburg Austria
Commanders
Barthélemy Schérer Pál Kray
Strength
41,000[1] 46,000
Casualties and losses
8,000 6,000

In the Battle of Magnano on 5 April 1799, an Austrian army commanded by Pál Kray defeated a French army led by Barthélemy Schérer. In subsequent battles, the Austrians and their Russian allies drove the French out of nearly all of Italy. This action was fought during the War of the Second Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars.

Contents

Background

After the Treaty of Campo Formio, only Great Britain remained at war with the First French Republic. However, a heavy-handed and acquisitive French foreign policy soon provoked Austria and Russia, and led to the formation of the Second Coalition.[2]

In Switzerland, hostilities between France and Austria began in early March 1799. In Germany, the Austrians won the Battle of Stockach on 25 March.[3] The next day, fighting occurred along the Adige River between the opposing forces of General of Division (MG) Schérer and Feldmarschal-Leutnant (FML) Kray. The French scored a success at Pastrengo and fought a drawn battle near Austrian-held Verona, but the Austrians managed to get across the Adige at Legnago.[4] To defend Verona, Kray concentrated his army in its vicinity. Schérer's army faced north toward Verona, with the French-held fortress of Mantua to his southwest. The French general considered crossing the Adige below Verona to flank Kray out of Verona, but heavy rains thwarted his plan. By 5 April, the two armies confronted each other on a rain-sodden field near the hamlet of Magnano, south of Verona.

Battle

Schérer deployed 41,000 soldiers in the divisions of MGs Joseph de Montrichard, Claude Victor, Jacques Hatry, Antoine Delmas, Jean Sérurier, and Paul Grenier. The French total included 6,800 cavalry attached to the divisions. Kray's 46,000-man army included his own division and the divisions of FMLs Karl Mercandin, Michael Fröhlich, Konrad Kaim, and Johann Zoph.[5]

Schérer sent the divisions of Victor and Grenier to attack on the right flank. Jean Moreau led the divisions of Hatry and Montrichard to attack in the center. Serurier's division on the left flank struck northwest to Villafranca to protect Moreau's flank. Delmas, with the reserve, marched forward to fill the gap that opened between the French right flank and Moreau as the latter moved north.

Because Kray advanced at the same time as the French, Magnano is a meeting engagement. The Austrian commander appointed Mercandin to lead the left column, Kaim to direct the center column, and Zoph to command his right column. General-Major (GM) Friedrich of Hohenzollern-Hechingen led a reserve division on the right, while Kray held back a second reserve division under GM Franz de Lusignan.

On the east flank, Victor and Grenier defeated the outnumbered Mercandin, who was killed. They pressed north toward Verona. Kray committed Hohenzollern's reserve to assist Zoph's right flank division. Serurier engaged in a back-and-forth struggle all day but he finally seized his objective. Moreau pushed back the Austrians in his front, but did not score a notable success. Delmas was late, but he engaged Kaim and drove him back.

One historian writes, "Schérer went into this battle without forming a reserve and was thus unable to react to crisis and opportunities effectively."[6] By this point in the action, Schérer's divergent attacks had spread his troops across a wide front. Kray launched Lusignan's reserve at the so-far victorious French right wing. This attack sent Victor and Grenier reeling back to the south and opened a large gap in the French battle line. Kray sent troops against the exposed right flank of Delmas and drove him back also. During the disorderly retreat, the Austrians managed to cut off and capture one of Victor's demi-brigades.

Result

The French lost 3,500 killed and wounded, including General of Brigade Jean Pijon mortally wounded. In addition, the Austrians captured 4,500 soldiers, 18 guns, 40 vehicles, and 7 colors. The Austrians suffered 4,000 killed and wounded, plus 2,000 captured. Mercandin and GM Johann Kovacsevich were killed.[7] After the French defeat, Schérer retreated to the Adda River, abandoning several defensible river lines. The city of Brescia fell on 21 April. In late April, the discredited Schérer relinquished command to Jean Moreau.[8] The victor, Kray was quickly promoted to Feldzeugmeister. The next major action was the Battle of Cassano on 27 April.

References

  • Chandler, David. The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York: Macmillan, 1966.
  • Eggenberger, David. An Encyclopedia of Battles. New York: Dover Publications, 1985. ISBN 0-486-24913-1
  • Rothenberg, Gunther E. The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980. ISBN 0-253-31076-8
  • Smith, Digby. The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill, 1998. ISBN 1-85367-276-9
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External references

Footnotes

  1. ^ Rothenberg, p 248. All strengths and casualties are from Rothenberg.
  2. ^ Chandler, p 255
  3. ^ Eggenberger, p 419
  4. ^ Smith, p 149-150
  5. ^ Smith, p 151
  6. ^ Smith, p 151
  7. ^ Smith, p 151. Smith matches Rothenberg's numbers, with the added details of guns, vehicles, and flags.
  8. ^ Eggenberger, p 257

See also


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