Battle of Millesimo

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The Battle of Millesimo , fought on April 13, 1796 near the town of Millesimo , was the name that Napoleon Bonaparte gave in his correspondence to one of several small battles that took place in Piedmont in northern Italy between the French armies and the allied armies of Austria and the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont .


In late March 1796, General Bonaparte took command of the French Armée d'Italie , which consisted of around 40,000 armed men. After being attacked on April 10, 1796 near Genoa by the left wing of the Austrian army under Feldzeugmeister Jean-Pierre de Beaulieu , Bonaparte started the Montenotte campaign with the aim of getting Sardinia-Piedmont to leave the coalition as quickly as possible to force. To do this, the French marched over the Cadibona Pass and were able to defeat the isolated right wing of the Austrian army, commanded by Field Marshal Lieutenant (FML) Eugène-Guillaume Argenteau , in the Battle of Montenotte on April 12th. Next, the French marched further inland with the intention of taking the town of Dego and increasing the separation between the Austrian army and their ally Sardinia-Piedmont.


After his victory at Montenotte, Bonaparte swung the focus of his offensive to the west against FML Michelangelo Colli's 21,000-strong Sardinian army. To keep Beaulieu's army from intervening, the French commander dispatched a division under André Masséna north to capture Dego. On April 13th, Major General Augereau attacked the Austrian auxiliary corps, consisting of Sardinian troops, under the Lombard general Provera , after they had previously united with the Brigade of Joubert . Provera was soon defeated and driven back.

To cover the withdrawal of his troops, Provera withdrew to Cosseria Castle with part of the Austrian Gyulai Freicorps and two grenadier companies of the 27th Strassoldo Infantry Regiment, where he soon joined Colonel Filippo Del Carretto's fresh 3rd Sardinian Grenadier Battalion met. Thereupon Bonaparte gave the order to take the mostly ruined castle. Augereau's and Major General Meynier's divisions repeatedly stormed the castle hill, but the allied garrison successfully resisted. After leading the last attack of the day, Colonel Joubert wrote:

“Nothing worse than this assault can be imagined in which I was wounded when I stepped through an opening; my carbines held me up in the air, and I grabbed the top of the wall with one hand. I fended off the stones with my saber, and my entire body was the target of two jumps, which dominated the position ten paces further ”.

That evening Augereau managed to break into the castle while Bonaparte reassembled his troops. Early the next morning Augereau called on the defenders to give up the castle, whereupon Provera surrendered. At this point his troops ran out of food, water and ammunition.

The report that Bonaparte sent to the French government regarding the actions that took place at Millesimo and in which he spoke of the "Battle of Millesimo" is confusing and possibly even deliberately misleading, since Bonaparte probably did not want that at the time it became clear how serious the French had been losing and how close he had been to seeing his plans thwarted. In fact, there was actually no real battle at Millesimo itself, but rather a series of disorderly fighting on April 13th during which a small number of enemy units were pushed back, followed by a brief but dearly paid siege of Cosseria Castle, which was defended only by about a thousand Austrians and Piedmontese under Provera and Del Carretto. Only after the defenders surrendered on April 14 due to the lack of essentials and ammunition could the French advance inland safely. Bonaparte later admitted to the Piedmontese chief of staff, Colonel Joseph Costa, that the siege of Cosseria was a mistake that was due to his impatience. It is likely that in order to cover up this mistake Bonaparte speaks in such a misleading way of a "Battle of Millesimo" in his report.


The French lost about 700 men in their unsuccessful attacks on April 13th, while Proveras 988 men had only recorded 96 casualties, but after the castle was abandoned, all inmates became prisoners of war. The French adjutant General Jean Quenin, Colonel Pierre Barnel and the Sardinian Del Carretto were killed. Louis Suchet received a promotion when his colonel was killed in the storming of the castle. The losses from the brief combat operation at the beginning of the day are unknown. The surrender of the castle allowed the French offensive to continue. In addition, on April 14th, Masséna won the Battle of Dego . Shortly after this battle, Bonaparte set his army in motion for a relentless attack on the Austro-Sardinian troops located westward under Colli.


  • Martin Boycott-Brown: The Road to Rivoli. Napoleon's first campaigns . Cassell & Co, London 2001, ISBN 0-304-35305-1 .
  • David G. Chandler : The Campaigns of Napoleon . Weidenfels & Nicholson, London 1998, ISBN 0-297-74830-0 (reprint of New York 1966 edition).
  • Digby Smith : The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. Actions and losses in personnel, colors, standards and artillery, 1792–1815 . Greenhill, London 1998, ISBN 1-85367-276-9 .