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Second Battle of Bassano
Part of French Revolutionary Wars
Date 6 November 1796
Location Bassano del Grappa, in present-day Italy
Result Austrian victory
Belligerents
France French Empire Habsburg Monarchy Austria
Commanders
Napoleon Bonaparte Jozsef Alvinczi
Strength
19,500[1] 28,000
Casualties and losses
3,000 2,800

In the Second Battle of Bassano on 6 November 1796, an Austrian army commanded by Jozsef Alvinczi repelled the attacks of Napoleon Bonaparte's French army. 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.

Contents

Campaign

The second relief of the Siege of Mantua ended dismally for the Austrians after General Bonaparte defeated Feldmarschall Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser's field army at the Battle of Bassano on 8 September. After the battle Wurmser elected to dash for Mantua, and reached there only to have his 12,000 soldiers driven into the fortress by the French on 15 September. Within six weeks, 4,000 Austrians died of disease or wounds in the overcrowded city.

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Third Relief

Kaiser Francis II of Austria appointed Feldzeugmeister Alvinczi to assemble a new field army and mount the third relief of Mantua. Alvinczi, Feldmarschal-Leutnant (FML) Paul Davidovich, General-Major (GM) Johann Sporck, and Major Franz von Weyrother planned the new operation, which called for a two-pronged offensive.[2] Alvinczi accompanied the 28,000-strong Friaul Corps, led by FML Peter Quasdanovich, as it advanced from the Piave River toward the west. Davidovich led the 19,000-man Tyrol Corps south, following the Adige River valley.

To face these threats, Bonaparte deployed a 10,500-man division under General of Division (GD) Claude Belgrand de Vaubois in the north, 9,500 soldiers led by Maj-Gen André Masséna at Bassano on the Brenta River, and the 8,300 troops of GD Pierre Augereau at Verona. GD Charles Kilmaine with 8,800 soldiers blockaded Wurmser's large garrison in Mantua, with a reserve of 1,600 cavalry troopers and GD Francois Macquard's 2,800 foot soldiers.

Forces

See the Arcola 1796 Campaign Order of Battle for a list of the major units of both armies.

Operations

Davidovich's column began moving at the end of October. On 2 November, his corps clashed with Vaubois' outnumbered division near Cembra in the north. By 5 November Davidovich pushed the French out of Trento. Vaubois fell back to Calliano.

On 1 November, the Friaul Corps began crossing the Piave. In the face of Alvinczi's westward advance, Massena pulled out of Bassano early on 4 November. GM Friedrich of Hohenzollern-Hechingen's advance guard soon occupied the town. FML Giovanni Provera with two brigades reached the Brenta farther south near Fontaniva to form Alvinczi's left flank.[3] Bonaparte determined to attack the Austrians and called for Augereau and Macquard to join Masséna in resisting Alvinczi on the Brenta.

Battle

Masséna clashed with the Austrian left wing on 5 November, causing it to pull back behind the river. This set the stage for the battle, which began on 6 November.

Fontaniva

At 7 am, Masséna attacked Anton Lipthay's brigade at Fontaniva. From morning until 6 pm, the French mounted as many as ten assaults on Lipthay's four battalions, with heavy losses on both sides. The 2nd and 3rd battalions of Splényi Infantry Regiment (IR) # 51 gallantly defended the river crossing, losing 9 officers and 657 men out of 2,000 soldiers during the fighting before it was replaced in line by the Deutschmeister IR # 4.[4] Injured when his wounded horse fell on him, Lipthay remained at his post. In the afternoon, Provera reinforced him with troops from Anton Schübirz and Adolf Brabeck's brigades as the Austrians successfully held their ground against the French attacks.

Bassano

Early in the morning Hohenzollern crossed the Brenta, followed by Quasdanovich's right wing. This wing included GM Anton Mittrowsky's brigade, which recently joined the army by descending the Brenta valley. The Austrians anchored their right flank in the Alpine foothills while their left flank curved back to touch the Brenta. Augereau's division began to arrive in the area in mid-morning and attacked Bassano in the early afternoon before all the Austrians crossed the river. After severe fighting, in which the village of Nove changed hands several times, the action ended at 10 pm. One battalion of the Gyulai IR # 32 suffered 390, or nearly 50% casualties.[5] Though he issued a report claiming a victory, Bonaparte ordered a retreat that evening.

Results

French casualties totalled 3,000, including 508 men and 1 howitzer captured. Austrian losses numbered 2,823 and two cannons captured. Provera's left wing lost 208 killed, 873 wounded, and 109 captured. Quasdanovich's right wing suffered 326 killed, 858 wounded, and 449 captured.[6] Though Alvinczi ordered a pursuit, the fast-marching French successfully broke contact and retreated to Verona.

On 7 November, Davidovich routed Vaubois at the Battle of Calliano. Alvinczi continued to press ahead and defeated Bonaparte again at the Battle of Caldiero near Verona on 12 November. But Bonaparte finally turned the tables on his foes by winning the Battle of Arcola on 15-17 November.

See also

Sources

  • Boycott-Brown, Martin. The Road to Rivoli. London: Cassell & Co., 2001. ISBN 0-304-35305-1
  • Chandler, David. The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York: Macmillan, 1966.
  • Fiebeger, G. J. The Campaigns of Napoleon Bonaparte of 1796-1797. West Point, NY: US Military Academy Printing Office, 1911. Reprinted in Bonaparte in Italy Operational Studies Group wargame study folder.
  • Smith, Digby. The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill, 1998. ISBN 1-85367-276-9

Notes

  1. ^ Smith, p 126. Smith gives all strengths and losses.
  2. ^ Boycott-Brown, p 440
  3. ^ Boycott-Brown, p 449
  4. ^ Boycott-Brown, p 451
  5. ^ Boycott-Brown, p 452
  6. ^ Smith, p 126


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