The conflicts of the nineteenth century did much to create the modern world. Following the defeat of the First Empire of the French, most of Europe was in perpetual turmoil and became the stage for many small wars. The turn of the twentieth century brought even greater catastrophes, since the century that had just passed had sown the seeds of global warfare. From 1820 the people of continental Europe—from the Atlantic coasts to the Middle East—were embroiled in struggles which were both national conflicts and rebellions. This was a time when the nations we know today came into being within regions which had previously been held in thrall for generations by declining empires. Additionally, the age of colonialism saw continental European armies fighting across world. This unique Leonaur three volume set focuses, in chronological order, on the battles which were fought during this turbulent era. Beginning after the fall of Napoleon, and excluding, in the main, the conflicts of the British Empire, these narratives cover the most notable and interesting actions which involved continental European armies. Turkish and North African conflicts are also included. Each book is profusely illustrated with maps and black and white illustrations and the set is wonderful resource of information on largely forgotten wars that is suitable for all students of military history. This first volume holds seventeen accounts including Navarino, Warsaw, Nisib, Tetuan, the Volturno and others.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
Chrzanowski sent off two divisions to hold Mortara, while with the rest of his troops he attempted to make his way southward, down the right bank of the Ticino, and thus menace the field-marshal’s line of communication with Pavia. To paralyse this movement, Radetzky covered the roads between himself and the Ticino with detachments of all arms, with orders to drive back the Piedmontese wherever they encountered them. In several places along the line, as has already been stated, there was sharp fighting; and not only at Sforzesca, but in other points on Charles Albert’s left, the troops of Piedmont distinctly held their enemies in check.
And now to resume the account of the five days’ campaign. In the middle of the night of the 21st the Duke of Savoy—Charles Albert’s eldest son, best known in history as Victor Emanuel, the first King of Italy—rode into his father’s bivouac to break to him the disastrous news that Mortara had fallen into the hands of the enemy. Chrzanowski had entrusted to the young prince and to General Durando the defence of this town, an all-important spot on the series of roads between the army and the fortresses from which it drew supplies. The strength of their combined divisions was respectable. Twenty-nine battalions, 16 squadrons, and 48 guns should have sufficed to hold the Austrians in check until Chrzanowski could attack them in flank from his own left; but, owing to their neglect of proper military precautions, the Piedmontese lost the day.
Durando took up a position too close to the town, and intersected by canals which rendered it difficult for him to reinforce his fighting line or to move his reserves from one flank to another. The Duke of Savoy’s division, in second line, was drawn up to the right of the town, where it could be of little use in the battle. The outposts were badly placed and badly handled. No adequate steps were taken to fortify Mortara—no loopholes pierced, no walls crenelated, no barricades prepared to defend its streets against a sudden rush. Invalids, stragglers, muleteers, camp followers, and all the non-combatants of the army were allowed to congregate in the little town, and to impede the movements of the troops through its narrow streets.
Although heavy firing had been! heard at intervals during the day on the Piedmontese left, by a curious infatuation the generals came to the conclusion that the Austrians would not attack Mortara till the morrow. Discipline became relaxed; many of the officers left their regiments to dine at the village inns; the men were foraging on their own account, when suddenly a picket of Nizzard cavalry galloped wildly into the camp, shouting that the Austrians were upon them. From the south and south-east heavy columns of white-coated infantry could be seen converging upon Mortara, and before the Piedmontese troops had all been collected, a heavy fire of artillery was poured into their disordered ranks. The Duke of Savoy and Durando were as completely surprised as were the French at Beaumont in 1870, and with the same result.
After several hours’ fighting they were badly beaten, and the Austrians obtained possession of one of the most important strategic points in Lombardy. In this engagement, begun at dusk and continued till late at night, the generals soon lost all control over the troops, and each colonel fought entirely for his own hand in the combats which raged from field to field and from house to house. The stress of the fighting fell on Durando. A convent on which the right of his Une rented was stormed by the Austrians, retaken by the Piedmontese, and again recaptured by the Austrians. His infantry, demoralised by the fire of guns of which they could see nothing but the flashes, gave way, and in their retreat fired heavily upon the regiments which the Duke of Savoy was bringing to their aid, and then fled in panic to the town. They were closely pursued by two battalions of Hungarians, who had already penetrated some distance into its dark and winding streets before Benedek, who commanded them, discovered that six fresh Piedmontese battalions were advancing upon him.
In the small Lombard towns, the houses are well adapted for defence, for they are strongly built, with small low doors and few windows set high upon the walls. Benedek instantly flung part of his men into the buildings which commanded the street, down which he slowly led the remainder to the attack, when suddenly a fresh danger burst upon him. Out of the murky darkness of the side streets appeared the gleam of bayonets, warning him that other columns of the enemy were threatening him in flank and rear. The position was desperate, but Benedek was equal to the occasion. The streets and lanes were encumbered with broken carts and with the bodies of dead horses, and with these materials his handy troops rapidly extemporised barricades, behind which they entrenched themselves, while with sublime audacity their chief sent an officer to summon his assailants to surrender, as “further resistance would be useless!”