Italian campaign

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The Italian campaign of Napoleon Bonaparte took place in the years 1796 and 1797 within the first coalition war instead. With the assumption of command of the Italian Army and a series of victories that followed, Napoléon's unique military career began to take on immense proportions.

Invasion of Italy and victory over the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont

The Italian campaign until June 1, 1796

After Napoléon received the supreme command of the Italian Army from the Directory on March 2, 1796 , he began his advance with a 41,500-strong army against the enemy force, which was slightly superior with 47,000 Austrians and Piedmontese. To make matters worse for Napoléon, his troops were worse equipped than those of his opponents.

In order to compensate for the disadvantage in terms of troop strength, Napoléon planned a separate attack by the two allied enemy armies. On April 12, 1796, the battle of Montenotte saw the first great battle between the French and the Austrians, which ended victorious for France. The next day Napoléon marched against the Sardinian-Piedmontese troops , first defeating them on April 13, 1796 in the Battle of Millesimo and on the same and again the following day in the Battle of Dego . The decisive factor for the French victory streak was Napoléon's tactics , which included flank operations. Napoleon, who adhered to a strict battle plan, managed to win four battles in four days. On April 28, after the French victory at Mondovi , Napoleon concluded an armistice with the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont, which was followed on May 18 by the Treaty of Turin. The kingdom had to cede Savoy and Nice to France.

Conquest of Lombardy

After this peace agreement, Napoleon was able to turn against the Austrian army. In quick maneuvers he advanced against Milan and was able to defeat the Austrians on May 10th in the famous Battle of Lodi . According to legend, he stormed ahead himself while taking the strategically important bridge over the Adda . After the last Austrian troops had been driven out of Lombardy , the victorious Napoléon marched into Milan, the capital of Lombardy, on May 15, 1796. After the defeat at Borghetto (May 30), the Austrian Feldzeugmeister Beaulieu was recalled and the Austrians raised a new army under General Wurmser , which posed a new threat to the French. They only had one and a half months to turn against the southern flank and make the Papal States compliant. In the summer of 1796, Napoléon succeeded in routing the almost 20,000 papal soldiers, taking Florence and also taking abundant spoils of war. The duchies of Parma , Modena and the Papal States were quick then quick to buy peace with money and paintings.

The Directory followed Napoléon's unexpected triumphant advance with mixed feelings. Although the general made sure that money got into the government's empty coffers, on the other hand Napoléon developed into a power factor that could also threaten her own position. Therefore, in mid-May 1796, General François-Etienne Kellermann was to command the units operating in the north of Italy. But Napoléon, well aware of his power, openly threatened to resign. The Directory gave way and Napoleon continued to act largely unauthorized. After his military successes, he himself strove for more political influence.

Wurmser's surrender

Napoleon now turned against the fortress of Mantua, which was still in Austrian hands, and enclosed it. At the end of June 1796, Field Marshal Wurmser was given the supreme command of the Austrian army in Italy in Beaulieu's place. He briefly forced the French to lift the siege of Mantua and was able to occupy Milan. But after a series of unfortunate skirmishes, the battles of Castiglione (August 5), Bassano (September 8), Arcole (November 15–17) and Rivoli (January 17), he had to retreat to the fortress. On July 13, the day before the anniversary of the storm on the Bastille, Napoleon and his army returned to Milan. He reported to the board of directors: "The tricolor is flying over Milan, Pavia, Como and all the cities of Lombardy." On February 2, 1797, Mantua surrendered after six months.

Napoleon on the Arcole Bridge

Second campaign against the Papal States

The papal state was a basin for French emigrants and opponents of the revolution. For this reason Napoléon received an order from the Directory in February 1797 to begin a criminal campaign against the Pope. Pope at that time was Pius VI. (1775-1799).

Napoleon immediately set his army on the march south. In the course of the campaign, his troops occupied the papal cities of Bologna, Rimini, Ancona, Faenza and Forli, and then the entire Papal States. However, since the Pope held the Kingdom of Naples south of the Vatican in check, Napoléon drafted a mild peace treaty ( Treaty of Tolentino ) and contented himself with the annexation of the cities of Bologna, Ferrara and Romagna as well as a closure of its ports to France imposed on the Pope. enemy ships. Napoleon also confiscated several million francs.

Invasion of Austria

The French could now turn to Austria unhindered, since with the victory over the Pope and the blocking of the ports, the flanks were secured. On March 10, 1797, the campaign against Austria began and on April 7, Napoléon's forces marched into Leoben . Since no French army had ever penetrated further into Austria and most of the available troops were on the Rhine, the Austrians saw their capital Vienna threatened. Finally, on April 7, Emperor Franz II had to accept an armistice .

Preliminary peace of Leoben

In the preliminary peace signed by Leoben on April 18, 1797 and ratified a good month later on May 24, Austria had to renounce the Duchy of Milan and be ready to resolve the conflict with France that had been ongoing since 1792.

Train against Venice

During his campaign, Napoleon offered the Republic of Venice an alliance, but the Senate refused. Instead, he supported the armed uprising on Terra ferma when Bonaparte pulled against the Austrians. After the French fleet was repulsed by the cannons on the Lido on April 17th, Napoleon declared that he wanted to be the "Attila for Venice".

The city was occupied on May 14, 1797, the Grand Council had already dissolved the aristocratic republic and transferred power. There were a total of only 962 patricians from 192 families (see: patriciate of Venice ), who lost almost all of their offices. Napoleon then had a large number of works of art from galleries and collections brought to Paris. The removal of the two landmarks of the republic, the lion of San Marco and the four golden horses of San Marco, caused a particular stir . The latter adorned the triumphal gate of the Tuileries until they were returned in 1815 .

The Peace of Campo Formio

The Campo Formio Peace Treaty was signed in Campo Formio on October 17, 1797. The contract between Austria and the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, represented by the last Emperor Franz II , included, among other things, the emperor's renunciation of the Austrian Netherlands in favor of France and a reorganization of northern Italy. In return for recognizing the independence of the Cisalpine Republic created on the French model, Austria received the city of Venice with its possessions that reached as far as the Adige River.

Conclusion of the Italian campaign

The 13-month campaign, which ended with a French victory, was not least a remarkable achievement by the strategist Napoléon. With an almost always numerically inferior army, which in no battle raised more than 44,000 men and was often less materially equipped than the Austrians, Napoléon defeated a total of over 150,000 enemy soldiers and won twelve major battles. In addition, the French captured 170 flags and around 1,100 cannons. The Austrians lost around 43,000 men.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Desmond Gregory: Napoleon's Italy, Cranbury, London, Mississauga 2001, p. 33.
  2. On Napoleon's relationship to Venice: Amable de Fournoux: Napoléon et Venise 1796–1814 , Éditions de Fallois 2002, ISBN 2-87706-432-8 .