Battle of Rivoli (1797)

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The Battle of Rivoli , which took place in the First Coalition War from January 14-15, 1797 near the Italian city of Rivoli , was a key success of the French army under Napoleon Bonaparte in the Italian campaign over a numerically superior Habsburg army under Field Marshal Alvinczy .

The battle ended Austria's fourth attempt to liberate the fortress of Mantua , which was besieged by France , and to drive the French army out of the Po Valley . The battle also helped to underline Bonaparte's extraordinary military capabilities, and in its wake led to the complete occupation of northern Italy.


Alvinczy's plan was to overwhelm General Joubert's troops in the foothills of the mountains east of Lake Garda with five separate columns . From there, the Austrian army was to advance into the plains north of Mantua in order to field the French units in open field battles by means of numerically superior forces.

Joubert was able to withstand the Austrian march, however, and made it possible for Bonaparte to send units of the division of General André Masséna to his aid. Joubert intended to use these reinforcements to take a line of defense along the hills of Trambasore, north of Rivoli, on favorable, elevated terrain. Alvinczy tried to gather his divided units in time for the arrival of the enemy reinforcements and to carry out an attack with concentrated forces.

Course of the battle

Napoleon at the Battle of Rivoli. Painting by Felix Philippoteaux

On the morning of January 14, 1797, fierce fighting took place along the hills of Trambasore when an Austrian unit under General Reuss tried to bypass the right flank of the French forces via the Rivoli gorge . Around 9:00 a.m., the first French reinforcements of 8,000 men arrived from the south and prevented the breakthrough on the Trambasore front. At around 10:00 a.m. from the left bank of the Adige , the Austrians took the French defensive posts under artillery fire. Under this fire protection, many soldiers fight their way up the steep road to the plateau. Around 11:00 a.m., 3,000 Austrians stormed the plateau and pushed the French back. Austrian dragoons had also fought a way through the gorge. But Bonaparte received news that Austrian units under Colonel Lusignan cut the route of retreat south of Rivoli, Alvinczy had stormed the hills of Trambasore and pushed his troops further forward despite the adversity of the fighting and the terrain.

Through a series of precise counter-attacks, the French troops were able to turn all maneuvers of the enemy to their own advantage. Bonaparte, Joubert and Berthier carried out a well-coordinated attack: a battery of 15 cannons forced the dragoons out of the gorge, while two columns of infantry - one in the gorge and one on the hills of Trambasore - with the support of the cavalry under Charles Leclerc and Antoine Charles Louis de Lasalle stopped the Austrian breakthrough.

When the Austrian units in the gorge saw the dragoons retreating, they too withdrew in disorder. The quickly worn out infantry units on the hills could not withstand the French counterattack. The attacks by the cavalry also led to a retreat of the Austrians there.

Finally, the division under General Louis Rey and the brigade under Claude-Victor Perrin were able to wipe out Victor Lusignan's troops in the south. 3,000 Austrian soldiers were taken prisoner.


The following day, Joubert successfully pursued Alvinczy's troops and wiped them out completely, leaving them with only a disorderly retreat over the Alps. The Battle of Rivoli was Bonaparte's greatest victory to date, with losses of 5,000 soldiers against the loss of 14,000 soldiers on the Austrian side.

In memory of this French victory, the Rue de Rivoli in Paris was given the name of the battle.


Web links

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