Battle of Sacile

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Battle of Sacile
Battle of Sacile 1809 Map.JPG
date April 16, 1809
place at Sacile
output Victory of the Austrians
Parties to the conflict

France 1804First empire France Italy
Italy 1805Italy 

Austrian EmpireEmpire of Austria Austria


France 1804First empire Eugène de Beauharnais

Austrian EmpireEmpire of Austria Johann of Austria

Troop strength
36,000 40,000

6,500 of them 3,000 wounded dead 3,500 lost 15 cannons

4,000 of them 3,500 dead or wounded 500 captured

The Battle of Sacile (or Fontana Fredda ) took place on April 16, 1809 during the Fifth Coalition War between Austria under Archduke Johann and France under Viceroy Eugène de Beauharnais and ended with a victory for the Austrians. Sacile is about 60 km north of Venice and 60 km west of Udine in the Friuli region .


The main Austrian army (together approx. 190,000 men) under Archduke Karl opened the war on April 10, 1809 with their attack on southern Germany:

That led to the attack on the Grand Duchy of Warsaw in Galicia

For the attack in northern Italy, 2 corps gathered in the Klagenfurt and Laibach area with around 60,000 men under the command of Archduke Johann

The French Italian Army

The French were scattered all over Veneto . Many lines of defense were not ready and Viceroy Eugène was surprised at the rapid start of the war. Individual parts were still in Tuscany and central Italy. Two columns with around 5,000 men were on their way to Augsburg . There were few Bavarian troops in Brixen . On April 9th, Eugène reached Udine and was declared war there. The army structure according to Eberhard Mayerhoffer von Vedropolje :

Army command: Eugène de Beauharnais , Viceroy of Italy
Chief of Staff: Général de division HFM Charpentier

A total of about 34,000 men in Friuli, 8,000 of them en route to the army. 10,000 men were suspected around Verona .

Opening of the campaign

At the beginning of April Archduke Johann advanced with the two corps against Tarvisio and Villach and on April 9th ​​invaded Predil and Karfreit in Friuli. General Chasteler was ordered to advance towards Tyrol, to capture Brixen and then maneuver into the flank. FML Albert Gyulay , the brother of Banus, took over the management of the VIII. Corps . The first goal was the Adige line . The Archduke wanted to determine the further course of events based on the events.

The troops subordinated to Archduke Johann at the beginning of April are given by Eberhard Mayerhoffer from Vedropolje as follows:

Commanding Officer: Cavalry General Archduke Johann, Quartermaster General : Colonel Laval Nugent of Westmeath

  • VIII Army Corps under FML Albert Graf Gyulay with 18 battalions, 16 squadrons, 62 artillery pieces that corresponds to 18,250 men, including 1,942 horsemen
  • IX. Army corps under the Banus FML Ignácz Gyulay with 23 battalions, 24 squadrons, 86 guns that corresponds to 24,348 men, including 2,758 horsemen
  • Troop corps in Tyrol under FML Marquis von Chasteler (in support of the uprising) with 9 battalions, 3 squadrons, 17 guns that corresponds to 9,800 men, including 370 horsemen
  • Croatian troop corps against Dalmatia under FML Stoichevich with 6 battalions, 2 squadrons, 14 guns that corresponds to 7,000 men, including 300 riders

Altogether: 56 battalion, 45 squadrons, 179 artillery pieces that corresponds to 59,398 men, including 5,370 horsemen. There were repeated shifts among the corps. Troops from the 8th Corps and 2 Landwehr Battalions were used for Tyrol, and troops from both Corps and Landwehr formation from the border were used for Dalmatia.

On April 10th the offensive was completely underway and the Austrians advanced on Udine, driving the weak French troops in front of them. On April 11th, Colonel Volkmann threw General Broussier's vanguard troops back in a lively battle near Venzone and trapped Osoppo. On April 14, the crossings over the Tagliamento were secured, which could no longer be destroyed by the retreating French. Eugène decided to withdraw the troops from Tagliamento to Sacile.

Battle of Pordenone on April 15th

On April 15, the Austrian cavalry caught the French by surprise at Pordenone , about 12 km east of Sacile, and threw back General Sahuc's troops. The losses are given as around 2,500 men and the artillery.

On the French side, the 6th French Hussars, the 8th French and the 1st Italian mounted hunters and Colonel Breissard fought steadfastly with two battalions of the 35th line. According to reports, the Colonel defended himself with a rifle to the end because he had lost his sword. He surrendered to the Austrian Chief of Staff Nugent. The officers' losses were reportedly substantial. On the same day the Austrian army arrived with around 40,000 men. Johann wanted to rest here for the next day. The French used this respite to concentrate their efforts on the Livenza .

The battle on April 16th

The viceroy Eugène established the city of Sacile for defense. He wanted to attack the Austrians here. On the morning of April 16, Eugène sent his strong right wing against Pordenone at Brugnera. The Viceroy wanted to advance across the Livenza again and immediately initiate the counterattack, although the cavalry was not yet available. The right wing, the Seras and Severoli divisions , advanced from Brugnera to Tomai. In the center of the battle front, the Grenier division occupied the ridge from Fontana Fredda to Vigonovo, behind which the Barbou division served as a reserve. The left wing on the other side of Vigonovo was formed by Broussier's division, which was deployed in three meetings. The Austrian division under FML Frimont , who led the vanguard of VIII Corps (FML Albert Gyulay) on the left wing, penetrated the village of Porzia three times and was thrown out three times. Two Austrian batteries brought up to the right of Porzia inflicted heavy losses on attacking enemy cavalry. General Gajoli's brigade attacked the village of Vigonovo until the IX. Corps, which was still advancing via Nouoredo and the Campagna di Vigonovo, had arrived. Johann held his right wing defensively until noon, then he finally decided to relieve the left wing at Porzia by having Colonel Volkmann's brigade attack Villadolt with three battalions via Ronche. The battle had already been decided, then the additional attack of IX, who had arrived at Vigonovo, began. Corps (FML Ignac Gyulay). In heavy fighting the French were thrown back to Sacile by evening. The newly constructed bridge over the Livenza was the focus of the battle. General Broussier was mentioned on the French side and General Colloredo-Mansfeld on the Austrian side .

After fighting that lasted into the early hours of the morning, the battle was decided on the basis of a circumvention maneuver. Field Marshal Lieutenant Christian Freiherr Wolfskeel von Reichenberg bypassed the left wing with Savoy and Hohenlohe dragons and the Marzini brigade, with the French line being involved in heavy fighting at Fontanafredda. Eugène gave the order to retreat to the Piave, which degenerated into a wild flight.

After the battle

The sources of casualties vary between 3,000 and 6,500 men on the French side. Austria put its loss at all at only 2,836. Although these numbers are to be doubted. Furthermore, the Austrians are said to have captured between 15 and 19 guns and three French eagles. Three generals have been captured and an additional 6,000 are said to have been taken. Here, too, doubts are in order about the size of the prisoners.

Eugène then wrote to Napoleon I : “My father, I need your forbearance! Fearing your rebuke if I backed away, I accepted the battle and lost it ... "

Johann let the Austrians rest on the battlefield on April 17th. Heavy rains did not allow a pursuit until April 19th. As a result, the brilliant victory was not exploited, which was to take revenge later. Eugène surrendered again and again, tried to stop the Austrians on the Piave line, but finally had to go back to the positions of Caldiero , some 120 km away , where a battle had already broken out in 1805. Here the next line of defense was the Etsch (Italian Adige). From April 26-30, fighting raged along this line near Villanuova, San Bonifacio, Soave and Castelcerino.

End of the campaign

In the meantime, on April 29, news of the defeat of the main Austrian army in southern Germany reached the headquarters. The offensive got stuck and Johann was afraid of being attacked on the flank from the north. Johann had to withdraw immediately from northern Italy. On May 1st, he set off in the direction of Tarvisio , but first had to destroy the bridges over the Adige . The French followed suit and attacked the Austrians on May 8, 1809 on the Piave . During the retreat , valuable time was gained with the fortifications at Malborghet (May 17th), where Captain Hensel, and Predil (May 18), where Captain Hermann maintained the defense until their death. Johann was followed sharply by the troops of the Viceroy and dragged on for Klagenfurt in the Steiermark back. He reached Graz by May 26th and wanted to join the division of General Jelačić, which was approaching via Leoben . The defeat in the battle near St. Michael destroyed this plan, he was able to withdraw his corps as far as Raab in Hungary, but suffered a severe defeat there on June 14 in the battle of Raab against Eugène Beauharnais. The remnants of his troops were on their way, but at the beginning of July could no longer intervene in time for the decisive battle at Wagram .

Web links


  • Adolf von Horsetzky: Campaigns of the last 100 years , Vienna 1891
  • Eberhard Mayerhoffer von Vedropolje: Austria's war with Napoleon I 1809 , Vienna 1904
  • Karl Bleibtreu : The Great Army - Second Volume - Regensburg-Aspern-Wagram , Stuttgart 1907