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Bonaparte’s Italian Campaigns: 1796-7 & 1800

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Bonaparte’s Italian Campaigns: 1796-7 & 1800
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Author(s): George Hooper
Date Published: 2010/02
Page Count: 192
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-931-2
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-932-9

The first steps on the road to greatness

This account of the Italian campaigns by the French in the late eighteenth century was written, interestingly, from the perspective of one who was viewing another French campaign in Italy at the time of writing—that of the Emperor Napoleon III during his involvement in the campaigns for the unification of Italy. Of course there were several interesting parallels between the two events—not least that a 'Napoleon' was in command of forces in the field. This book concerns General Bonaparte as a meteorically rising star. Young, dynamic, daring and brilliant as a military man in every way, this was his first opportunity to direct events where all was under his own influence. History well records the outcome. Hooper analyses the campaign from invasion through to Marengo and the breaking of Austrian power in the region at that time. He concludes with an interesting and relevant examination of the situation in 1859. All history books perforce view the past from their own moment in time, but this one is made all the more interesting because it was written in a time when the borders of Europe were still in flux, when imperial families still held sway, directed their own armies in the field and when global conflicts which would shape the modern political map were far in the future. Available in soft cover and hard cover with dust jacket for collectors.

Wurmser hoped that Bonaparte would enter the Tyrol and follow Davidowich, while he, moving across the Adige, fell upon the rear of the French, entangled in the defiles, and ensured their destruction. Bonaparte was, however, too quick for him, and while Wurmser lingered about Bassano, the French General was in the midst of the quarters of the Austrian right wing.<br>
The only chance against Bonaparte was involved in the march of Vaubois upon a separate line; but even in this fortune favoured him. On the 3rd September Massena had reached Ala, and Bonaparte fixed there his headquarters for the night. Augereau was ordered to march with the dawn from his position upon Roveredo. The cavalry were brought up to that place; and Vaubois, informed of the movements on the Adige, was directed to detach a corps to secure his communication with the main body, from which Marmont was sent with a cavalry patrol to feel for Vaubois.<br>
The advanced posts of the Austrians were commanded by Wukassowich, whom the reader will recognize as the officer who so nearly retrieved the loss of the first combat at Dego. He fell back fighting upon San Marco. He had vainly besought assistance. Wurmser and Davidowich were far from the front, engaged in laying plans for the destruction of the French. Assailed on the 4th at San Marco, Wukassowich made head for two hours against his adventurous enemy; but at length he was overpowered, turned, and forced to retire upon Roveredo.
Dubois, hurried up with the horse, charged the flying enemy, and met a soldier’s death at the head of his men. Vaubois, on his side, had forced the entrenched camp at Mori, and continued his advance on a parallel front to that of Massena. Augereau guarded the right flank, and was held in readiness to seize the line of communication between Trent and Bassano.<br>
The day was yet young when the Austrians, in several columns retired, and Bonaparte determined to follow up his blow. Rampon, therefore, turned the Austrian right by pressing between Roveredo and the Adige, while Victor charged into the main streets, slew many of the enemy, and expelled him from the town. The Austrians retired towards Caliano, and took a strong position between the steep mountains and the Adige. Here they were reinforced, and brought their artillery into play. But nothing could stop the French. Employing his cannon to shake the Austrian column in the ravine, Bonaparte sent Pijon up the heights on the right, some hundreds of skirmishers on the left, and caused a squadron of hussars to charge the Austrians.<br>
These measures were completely successful. The hussars charged right through the column, and wheeling round fell on the rear, while the infantry redoubled its attacks on the front and flanks. The result was, that part of the Austrians retreated, 6,000 men laid down their arms, twenty-five guns and seven flags were captured. Such was the battle of Roveredo; it secured the success of Bonaparte’s plan.<br>
During the night after the battle, a singular adventure befell General Leclerc. Vaubois was still on the right bank of the Adige, and Leclerc, ordered to search for him, fell into the hands of an Austrian patrol. Finding that he did not return, Desaix set out with an escort of eight men, and by a happy chance encountered the captors. Challenged, the Austrians fired, and shot dead a Frenchman, whereupon Desaix, who never wanted presence of mind, thundered out—“First battalion, forward, march!” and riding on, at once summoned the Austrians to surrender. His daring and ready wit were rewarded by the release of Leclerc, and the capture of the Austrian patrol.<br>
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