|Research||| Napoleonic||| Berthier||| Relation de la Bataille de Marengo||| English|
WRITTEN by the General ALEX. BERTHIER,
Maps of the different movements of the troops,
Click on the links below to open inserts full-size in their own windows.
|Crevere vires, famaque, et Imperi|
|HORAT. Od. 15, I. IV.|
All the campaigns of BONAPARTE are a particular combination of boldness and caution, which military men could not study too much.
During the years 1796 to 1800, he conquered all of northern Italy. He opposed, with an army from thirty to forty thousand men, the greatest efforts of Austria, and in these three years he conducted six campaigns.
BONAPARTE draws General Beaulieu from Genoa, attacks his flanks, turns his right, beats him to Monte-Notte, moves alternately to Dégo and to Mondovi, pushes Beaulieu on Milan, Colli on Turin, subjugates the King of Sardinia, crosses the bridge of Lodi, becomes master of Lombardy, crosses the Mincio, invests Mantua, and within two months, from mountains of Genoa, he plants his flag on the Tyrol, crosses Italy and is on the borders of Germany.
We still remember the surprise with which the brilliant successes struck all Europe. The suffering of the parties in France, and the fury of our enemies, everywhere this General of twenty six years was seen as a passionate young man who would not delay causing, in his boldness, their confusion and their loss.
The first effect of these brilliant successes was to oblige Wurmser to evacuate Alsace, to recross the Rhine, to run, with forty thousand men to the aid of the Tyrol; soon he appears on Adige with eighty thousand soldiers, occupies Monte-Baldo, penetrates the valley Sabia, and arrives at the same time at Verona and at Brescia.
To this new and redoubtable enemy we could set no more than thirty thousand men: we had our conquests to be kept, and we besieged Mantua which was about to surrender, and which contained a garrison of more than eight thousand men. It is in this second campaign that BONAPARTE shows himself superior to Frederick, who had been in a similar position. He did not persist in the siege of Mantua, as did that prince in the siege of Prague; but his resolutions, his operations followed each other with the same speed. The enemy, amazed at this quickness of movement, never found the French army at daybreak where it had left it at the beginning of the night. With speed compensating for numbers, BONAPARTE made himself always almost everywhere superior to the enemy. The battles of Lonato and Castiglione crowned these great and bold plans and defeated Wurmser, in spite of his numerous cavalry and his immense strength in artillery, and went into the passes of the Tyrol, leaving in the hands of the French people a large part of his army.
In all these movements, which will offer of useful lessons to those who follow a career of arms, BONAPARTE made known that the best means to defend oneself is often that to attack, and that the genius of his art of war is especially the art to regain the initiative, after it has beens lost by the first success of the enemy.
His reputation was then established in all Europe; the French generals of all the armies proclaimed him their master, and the old companions of Frederick proclaimed him, from this moment, the hero who had picked up the scepter of the war, unclaimed since Frederick died.
BONAPARTE had won, but having been put to the hardest tests; he kept a deep resentment. He remembered that Wurmser several times had occupied his headquarters, and did not believe he had taken enough revenge, by making his projects fail, and by destroying part of his army. After six weeks of rest, he learns that this general received reinforcements and that he moves in the Tyrol towards the Brenta. Immediately BONAPARTE goes back up Adige, concentrates at Roveredo, beats, in this great day, half of the Austrian army, advances on Washing, feints at Innsbruck, and then speeds down the Brenta. All the attempts of the Austrians to oppose to this torrent are vain and unsuccessful.
BONAPARTE attacks the enemy, undoes him, puts the sword to his back, and pushes him to the Adige, which he crosses at Ronco before Wurmser was to defend it, one of those events which annuls all plans; but unfortunately for his happiness, the only retreat which this event opens him is in Mantua, which he is obliged to enter with ten thousand cavalry, several regiments of cuirassiers, all the staff and the luggage of the army.
The execution of all his movements was so quick and the defeat of this third army so whole, which the court of Vienna still was ignorant, when she learnt, by the public proclamation, that she did not have an army left in field, that her borders were unguarded, and that her general was, with the remnents of his troops, locked into the only city which remained to him.
It will be easy to notice how, in his fearless operations, BONAPARTE had done nothing by chance; and although seemingly his movements, at the first appearance, can amaze, we shall see, by reflecting on them, that he had always foreseen the case of his retreat and organized his capacities against defeat. The soldier will seize with a deep interest the numerous striking parallels of this campaign with that of the Army of the Reserve; they will see, in both, BONAPARTE maneuvering on the line of communications of the enemy, moving between him and his supplies, blocking his retreat and deciding at one blow the fate of a whole army.
We conceive easily how much these multiplied setbacks had to irritate the court of Vienna; not ignoring that BONAPARTE had only a part of France’s forces, she resolved to risk everything to free her field-marshal, as well as the staff of one of her armies, and to save at the same time the fortress of Mantua. Her efforts were such that Alvinzy had more than fifty thousand men in Frioul and in the Tyrol his lieutenant had twenty thousand. Given the impossibility of resisting forces so strong, and defending a front too much broad for his, the French General tried at first only to slow the movement of the enemy by a body of observation on the Brenta. After several days of delay, Alvinzy crosses Piave. BONAPARTE is forced to evacuate the country between the Brenta and the Adige: at Caldiero he tries to take the offensive; But, in this day, his efforts were not blessed, and at the same moment, we learnt that the enemy divisions occupied the right bank of Adige, and had arrived at Rivoli. Italy seemed lost without recourse, and we considered the lifting of the siege of Mantua as inevitable. In the roll-call which was made at Verona, after the day of Caldiero, the French army had no more than fifteen thousand men; and when in the night the army marched past, the general opinion was that we were going to continue the retreat. This expectation is deceived; the troops have orders to follow the Adige; they march at two o'clock in the morning across the river to Ronco, and BONAPARTE leads them in the famous battle of Arcole. Although the main purpose that he proposed is lacking at the beginning of the day, this skillful operation got him the advantage to force the enemy to evacuate the strong position of Caldiero, to draw him into the swamps, to oblige him to fight on dikes where the superiority of numbers was little advantageous him. The enemy divisions, repeatedly beaten during three days, abandoned the battlefield, and the defeated Austrian army retreated to the Brenta.
BONAPARTE, having always brought the victory to our flags, the public, which judges often only by the result, thought that everything had always succeeded for him: however the attentive soldier will see how many times events from even the best plans turned against him; but nobody was either quicker, or more skillful to substitute for them anew, and by there, to force the fortune to become favorable to him.
It is in this fifth campaign that gave us the battle of Rivoli, as brilliant as Marengo, and which brought the taking of Mantua. This battle of Rivoli was more glorious for the army than that of Marengo, because with eighteen thousand men, BONAPARTE undid forty thousand of the enemy, of whom twenty-seven thousand were captured. So much weaker than the enemy and on a five league-squared battlefield, it is there especially that the leader of the army developed the great art to show himself superior on all the points of attack. It is not at the distance from seven to eight leagues, nor in an interval of thirty six and forty eight hours that he outstrips the Austrian columns; but he beats them one after the other, this with gaps of less than one hour of road. Days as brilliant as Rivoli and Marengo are the result of a perfect knowledge of the battlefield, the great skill of penetrating into the plans of the enemy, and the quickness to create in an instant the means to thwart them.
At Rivoli, the enemy division which had to go around the entire French army, indeed arrives on the position which it had to take; but it arrives there only when the other divisions of the Austrian army are defeated, and is itself surrounded and taken.
Master of Mantua, BONAPARTE moves on Rome with five thousand men, only; and when Europe believes him beyond the Apennines, he signs the treaty of Tolentino. Without being tempted by the empty glory of entering in triumph in the Capitol, without losing a moment, he returns to his army on Piave, and begins his sixth campaign: it is there that within two months, having beaten Prince Charles on the Tagliamento, on the Isonzo, and the Tarvis, having crossed the Julienne Alps, the Drave, Sava and Mur, he obliges the House of Austria to conclude the peace, as the French army was in control of Trieste and Istria, Carniolea, Carinthia, Styrie, and a big part of Austria.
At the time when, twenty-five leagues from Vienna, he granted a suspension of fighting to the generals Bellegarde and Meerfeld, and when having signed it he drew the limit of the armies, which had been determined only after a long discussion, for the forces of the generals Bernadotte and Joubert, he says to them “Where do you believe, sirs, is General Bernadotte?” “Maybe he arrived i Fiume”, said General Bellegarde. “No, answered BONAPARTE, he is with me, and you will see his division a half-league from here. But,” he continues, “where you think that is General Joubert? Maybe at Innsbruck,” answered Mr. de Bellegarde, “if however he was able to get past the column grenadiers who arrive from the army of the Rhine.” “Well,” says BONAPARTE, “he is also with me, and his division is no more than two leagues away.”
These two answers amazed and alarmed the Austrians, because even at that moment, their general had just sent considerable detachments to defend the provinces of Carniola and the Tyrol where he believed attacked by generals Bernadotte and Joubert; and it was his enemies who were so spread out, while BONAPARTE had gathered in a space square six leagues of country, all his forces, approximately forty six thousand men.
BONAPARTE, too soon after the peace, left for Egypt: he appears in front of Malta; the power of its name, the confidence in his plans and the vigour of his various attacks on all the points of the island, not giving the the enemy time to breathe, make him a master of this formidable fortress which had never been taken.
Off-loaded in Egypt, from the first, he judges the kind of war that required by that country and the sort of troops which oppose him; he anticipated the new tactics which he had to create there.
The battle of Pyramids, near Cairo, that of Mont-Tabor, in the siege in Syria, and that of Aboukir, are all three of a different conception; he made no mistake, and knew how to apply to circumstances so new as varied all the facets of the art of the war.
But by this time, we were beaten to Stockach and on Adige. France feared defeat, delayed one moment by the victory of Zurich; Italy was lost; and our discouraged armies, without coordination in their plans and movements, were no longer the terror of the enemies of the France. There was civil war in the West and our finances were in disarray; the factions fought, and a Government without force looked vainly for its security in the divisions.
BONAPARTE arrives from Egypt; hope is reborn: 18 brumaire justifies him, everything yields, everything gives in to the genius which plans, in the power which orders, the moderation which reassures; but it was not enough to return order by rule of laws, you again needed to conquer. Peace won by victory.
When BONAPARTE was named first Consul, the last of our positions in Italy (Coni) had just been taken; our forces were backed up on the summits of the Alps; we did not possess any more a thumb of ground, nor a single fortress in Italy; all Germany was evacuated; we were on the defensive, occupying positions on the left bank of the Rhine; the west was in revolt, everywhere the enemy was formidable, and important successes which would have allowed him on Vosges or on the Schelde, would have had, in the deplorable state of our situation, the most disastrous consequences.
BONAPARTE felt that before reconquerring Italy, it was necessary to be sure not to lose Belgium, nor France proper.
The Emperor of Germany could adopt one of two strategies, and it was necessary to be able to defend against both. He could gather his main forces in Souabe, on the lower Rhine, appear on this river with hundred and sixty thousand men; and having obtained initial success, he could coordinate with an English army off-loaded in Holland or in Belgium.
The Austrian army in Italy, strengthened, could be held quiet on the Po, ready to receive on the plains the French army, which would have been able to arrive there only with little cavalry and badly equipped artillery.
The second campaign plan of the court of Vienna could be to stay on the defensive in Germany, and to concentrate a strong army at Genoa, from there the Var, to enter Provence, to combine its operations with fifteen thousand English soldiers who for some time were pulled to Mahon, and to take advantage of movement of revolt of the Chouans which began be smelt in the noon of France.
The first plan being the most dangerous, BONAPARTE collects on the Rhine an army of hundred and forty thousand men, at the same time as, in his rear, he gathers in Burgundy the Army of the Reserve; from the heights of Genoa he adds part of the army of Italy, yielding approximately thirty thousand men.
We shall see by these actions, that, which that whatever were the plans of the enemy, France was capable of answering everything.
If the Austrians adopted the first campaign plan, BONAPARTE went with his reserves to the Rhine, which was then strengthened to hundred and seventy thousand men; that is, his biggest forces opposite to the biggest forces of the enemy.
If, on the contrary, the court of Vienna adopted the second campaign plan, our army on the Rhine became superior to that of the enemy.
When the Austrians moved on Genoa with their main forces, BONAPARTE would be ready to cross the Alps with the reserves, would move to the Po, to take the enemy from the rear, deprive him of his supplies and cut off his retreat.
The Austrians adopt the second campaign plan, about which we have just spoken, and put their strength in Italy. Mélas begins the hostilities, crosses the Bocchetta, appears at the same time on Genoa and on Savone.
The French army on the Rhine takes advantage of its superiority; its generals and officers distinguish themselves as much by their value as by their talens there; and it obtains a most brilliant success in Swabia.
However Mélas was on the Var, and the whole State of Genoa was conquered. Cries of alarm rang in Provence; Marseille, Toulon feared for their security.
It is in this moment when the Army of the Reserve is going to cross the St Bernard and to take from the rear all of Italy. These plans were far-reaching and deep; they had been conceived in peace far in advance; they were executed with much skill and boldness.
All the measures had been ordered before-hand; two million rations of biscuit had, two months before, been made in Lyon, supposedly intended for Toulon.
All of which had to deceive Mélas so that our intentions were not been foreseen.
No movement is made; no troop shows itself either in the valley of the Maurienne, or in that of Tarantaise.
The borders of Dauphiné indicate no preparations.
The Army of the Reserves so announced as being collected in Dijon; BONAPARTE goes there; the numerous emissaries of the enemy follow him; but they see at this big review only three to four thousand men, and it is natural that intelligence on the inadequate preparations of the French people deceived the court of Vienna and Mélas; but during this time, regiments took off on forced marches: the divisions formed on the way, met and combined with each other and were joined by the draftees intended to complete the bodies which composed them; the artillery and the other services also got organized; everything had been prepared with the same secrecy, and had been put in motion on the same signal. Biscuits and supplies are transported to Geneva only at the same moment when the advance guard already quartered there.
When Mélas had invested Genoa, he wanted, before moving to the Var, to to take precautions against the preparations announced on behalf of the French people: he moved on Mont-Cénis; and on the basis of the reports which were made to him for four months that it was impossible to us to do anything, because we had no supplies and no concentration of troops, he believed he would have to change nothing in his plans, and move to Nice.
However he was warned that French troops appeared on the St Bernard; but he believed that it was the three four thousand men who had been to the review of Dijon and that they were sent to make him abandon the siege of Genoa, as, six months previously, the French General had crossed the St Bernard to distract him from the siege of Coni.
Diversions such as these being very often used in the war, Mélas believed that the real character of a general lay in keeping to his first intentions. What if he had believed, indeed, that BONAPARTE was about to enter Italy, by way of the great St Bernard to Mont-Cénis, by making use of more difficult valleys and which offered no resistance; that finally to overcome at once the obstacle of the Fort Bard, which stopped him for several days?
BONAPARTE felt that nothing could betray his project other that his presence; everything was done to create the impression that he had stayed in Geneva: that he visited several companions; each hurried over and over again to offer him his house: this news gained currency in Switzerland. He spread a rumor, a short time later, that an uprising which had just occured in Paris had forced him to return to this capital: however he was already beyond the Saint-Bèrnard.
We shall not speak here about means which were employed to get the artillery to pass, of the boldness with which we deceived the Fort Bard, nor the climb at Ivrea and the fight of Chiusella; we shall just say that BONAPARTE goes silently to Ivrea about the 27th of May.
Everybody believed that, taking advantage of the success obtained in Chiuseila, he was going to go to meet the two thousand five hundred men whom General Turreau had just collected in the Dauphiné, and with which he had gone towards Susa, having forced the entry to Cabrières.
From there BONAPARTE would have had the advantage to be pressed on positions and on the defiles of Mont Blanc; but he had a vaster, more decisive plan.
The division of General Murat, which was the rear-guard, became at one blow the advance guard; it crosses the Sesia and Ticino, enters Milan, where BONAPARTE arrives June 2nd; and his movements are done with such speed, that it was only forty eight hours after the inhabitatants first heard about the Army of the Reserve army and about the passage of the Alps.
The advance guard evacuates Chiusella, crosses the Doire, becomes rearguard, crosses the Sesia and arrives at Pavia, where it seizes an enemy field artillery park.
In the same time a division in the orders of General Moncey receives the order to cross the Saint-Gothard; and when its advance guard arrived at Milan, the forces of General Murat cross the Po, invests Piacenza, while all the army crosses this river to Stradella, where a considerable amount of enemy artillery was there to be taken.
However Mélas moved rapidly to Turin. The existence of the Army of the Reserve and the presence of BONAPARTE was recognized by several Austrian officers, was no longer in any doubt.
General Massena had just given up Genoa on June 4th.
It is here that it becomes important to follow with attention on the map the development of the plans of BONAPARTE, as he achieves his great result.
He proposed not simply to beat the enemy, but to cut him off from his retreat and to oblige him to surrender forces and at the same time re-take all of Italy.
This plan was fearless, especially against a numerically stronger enemy.
Hardly had the forces of General Lannes crossed the Po (6 June), according to orders, when BONAPARTE gives him the order to occupy the position of Monte-Bello, and supports him with a division. A brilliant engagement results; General Ott, with eighteen thousand men who came from Genoa, attacks General Lannes, who defeats him completely in glorious a day of Monte-Bello. General Ott retreated with only half of its corps remaining under the walls of Tortona.
BONAPARTE remained two days at the position of Monte-Bello; but amazed at the immobility of the enemy, and knowing that for several days he had been reuniting his divisions which were back from Nice, he thought that Mélas was assessing his options for escaping the critical position he was in, and that the Austrian general inevitably had to take one of these three approaches.
The first one was to cross the Po (he had at Casale a bridgehead so strengthened by swamps and protected by the right bank, that it had been considered difficult to take from him), to cross then Ticino, to cross Lombardy and to operate in conjunction on the Adda with General Vukassovich. The Austrian army had a of bridging train, considerable artillery, and more than twelve thousand horses.
Secondly, he could move to Genoa, meet with the forces of Tuscany and with, a division of twelve thousand English soldiers, get back to Mantua, by transporting his artillery by sea, and either take advantage of the nature of places to support itself there until he had been able to receive from Germany new troops, and to put so the Army of the Reserve between two armies, which would have caused the war to drag on in length, made the outcome uncertain, and embarrassed BONAPARTE, so that his presence in Paris would become necessary.
Finally it remained for the enemy, as a third option, to concentrate against General Masséna, who, according to all the calculations, must have arrived at Acqui, to surround his ten or twelve thousand men whom we still supposed in state able to fight, and, after his defeat, wait for the new favorable chances which the war of position and maneuver could create.
To counter to the first option, BONAPARTE had left on the Po a body of observation of three thousand men, which had to delay the passage of this river and the Sesia, and combine with General Moncey to contest for that of Ticino. We did not doubt that these obstacles in front of Mélas would give time for the army to go back on the left bank of the Po, and to arrive before him on the Ticino.
Towards two other options which the enemy could take, BONAPARTE judged that he had only to put himself in movement with his army, and act according to the circumstances.
We had arrived near Tortona, when General Desaix, who from Egypt had landed in Toulon, came to join the army on horse-back; he receives the command of a division, and at once he is sent to Rivalta to act as the leading edge and to cut-off that route from the enemy, in case he tried to move on Genoa.
BONAPARTE, with the rest of the army, crosses the Scrivia that night.
13 June, at eight o'clock in the morning, he goes to Castel-Nuovo, and clears the plain of Marengo with light cavalry: he learns that the enemy has no force at San-Giuliano, nor in the plain; he then judges to move on; he arrives at three o'clock in the afternoon: at four o'clock we find enemy outposts in Marengo. Immediately he orders an attack on the village. The resistance was not strong; Marengo is taken, and the enemy was forced across the Bormida.
BONAPARTE is confirmed in his idea that, because the enemy, instead of waiting for him in the plain of Marengo, had let take the village, that they had decided to follow one of three options which were mentioned.
The advance guard receives the order to drive the enemy posts beyond the Bormida, and, if it is possible, to burn bridges over it.
This order was given, BONAPARTE leaves to go to the headquarters to Voghera, where we received the reports of all the posts of his army and those of the spies; he hoped, by the movement of the enemy, to guess his real thoughts; but, hardly arrived at the tower of Garafolla, he receives news of Rivalta and the Po. He stops in this farm the night rest.
However the enemy spent the 13th in the greatest excitement. He felt how painful his position was, and the error of giving up Marengo; but, considering any plan of retreat henceforth too late, and the French army too much near to allow him to escape by the Po or by Genoa, he takes the noble resolution to open a passage through our army, and, in this plan, his first effort had to be to retake Marengo.
Indeed, the Austrian army proceeds at six o'clock in the morning over its bridges of Bormida, and it moves the main part of its cavalry, under the orders of General Elsnitz, to their left: their infantry consisted of two lines under the orders of the generals Haddick and Kaim, and of a body of grenadiers cornmanded by General Ott.
The French army was in echelons by division, the left forward; the division Gardanne formed the left echelon in the cassine Pedrabona, the division Chambarlhac the second echelon at Marengo, and the division of General Lannes formed the third, holding the right of the line and at the back of the right of the division Chambarlhac; the divisions Carra-Saint-Cyr and Desaix in reserve, the last one on the march coming from Rivalta from which it had as been ordered soon as the plans of the enemy had been known.
Lieutenant-General Murat, commanding the cavalry, had placed the Kellermann brigade on the left, that of Champeaux on the right, and the twenty-first regiment of Chasseurs, as well as 12th hussars, under the orders of the brigadier Rivaud, to watch the movement of the enemy on the right flank, and become if needed the pivot of the line.
The Austrian lines, after some outpost skirmishes, are arrayed for movement at eight o'clock in the morning, and attacked Gardanne’s division, which, having supported, with the forty-fourth and the fifty-first demi-brigade, a lively and murderous fight, had to withdraw on the village of Marengo.
The Kaim’s corps then continued its movement, crosses the brook and extended to the left; that of Haddick deployed; but its right wing had to fight to turn on the right, because some light troops of Gardanne’s division having thrown itself with a detail of standard into Stortigliana, attacked and threw back in disorder its first columns which went back to the Bormida to extend beyond the left of the French advance guard.
The village of Marengo became the center of the attack. General Victor received the order to defend it for as long as possible, but without trying to retake the position which had occupied by Gardanne’s division, which was placed on the right of the village, supported by the brook and the swampy ground.
The great superiority of the Austrians allowed them to attack the village with considerable force, and at the same time, as the right of General Haddick extended beyond the left of the French, and at the same time as the division of General Kaim tried to deploy to the left of Marengo, to extend beyond our right.
At this moment the body of General O'Reilly, the division Haddick, approaches the division Chambarlhac; the twenty-fourth light demi-brigade and both battalions of the ninety-sixth of line receive the shock. The second and twentieth regiments of cavalry and the sixth regiment of dragons advance and charge successfully the first enemy line; but the second reinforces it; then Marengo is attacked with a new fury, and defended with the same fearlessness; only the left of General Chambarlhac, against which is thrown the main part of the body of O'Reilly, is shaken.
General Lannes had arrived on the line together with the first echelons, and formed the right with the Watrin division and the Mainony brigade; he attacks a force from the division Kaim which is in front of him, and which was on the march to Castel-Ceriolo; but was soon flanked by this completely deployed division, it is forced to support the most lively attacks of infantry as well as cavalry; he repels them vigorously at the head of the sixth light demi-brigade and the twenty-second, twenty - eighth and fortieth of line. The brigade of cavalry commanded by General Champeaux, and intended, to flank the body of General Lannes, receives order to charge to support the right; it executes this charge with the first and the eighth regiment of dragons, and General Champeaux receives a mortal wound.
General Lannes contains the enemy on the brook in Barbotta, and so supports the brilliant defence of Gardanne’s division of Marengo. This village - so hotly contested - was still in our power. Several times the Austrians enter it with fury, but cannot become established there: our troops, by consecutive miracles, keep this important support of the center of the line.
However General Elsnitz, commanding the enemy cavalry, follows the Bormida, flanks Castel-Ceriolo, extends beyond our right and deploys by squadron between Buzana and our first line.
His operation tended obviously to force the first line back, in what could be decisive in favour of the Austrian army. But BONAPARTE had already provided in his plan the means to thwart this dangerous operation, and, from ten o'clock in the morning, the movement of all this day was decided in his thought.
He had ordered the second line or the reserve to move by echelons, the right forward; General Carra-Saint-Cyr, who commanded the right echelon, was not still as advanced as the first line: BONAPARTE places at once the grenadiers of his guard with their artillery there, to stop, the movement of General Elsnitz. Isolated at more than six hundred yards from the right of our line, they appear as a block of granite in the middle of an immense plain.
The enemy cavalry surrounds them: we live then all that can the infantry of elite. Several squadrons are broken, and the time which the enemy cavalry loses in its forward movement, gives General Carra-SaintCyr the time to arrive as far as grenadiers; he goes past them and moves to Castel-Ceriolo, having repelled the charges of the cavalry which wants to oppose to its march on this village, where he succeeds in becoming established by dislodging the Tyrolean Jägers, vainly helped by Morzini’s grenadiers.
The second echelon of the reserve, commanded by General Desaix, was on the march to take place at the left-rear of the first one, and a great distance away, as far as San-Giuliano.
From the moment BONAPARTE sees that the division of General Carra-Saint-Cyr is established in Castel-Ceriolo, he orders the first line to retreat, by echelons, the left forward. The left echelon of the line executes this movement quickly, whereas the echelons of the center move slowly, and only after the first echelon (those of left) reach their position.
The enemy general badly misunderstands this operation, and believes the army in full retreat, when really, it only changes its position. He looks with a new confidence to execute his plan to turn our left and to cut us the road of Tortona; it is in this intention that he forms this column of five thousand grenadiers which moves to the main road, to block and prevent the reunification of the corps of the French army which he supposes in disorder.
However, during the four hours which our army is making this change of position, it offered the most majestic and the most terrible spectacle.
The Austrian army turned its main forces on our center and on our left; it followed the movement of retreat of the first line, leaving with its cavalry the job of extending beyond our right beyond Castel-Ceriolo.
Our echelons made their retreat in formation by battalion in the deepest silence; we saw them under the fire of eighty pieces of cannon, maneuvering as in an exercise, stopping often, and presenting ranks always full, because the men closed up, when one of them was struck.
BONAPARTE went to them several times to give General Desaix the time to take the position which was appointed for him. He distinguished in this change of position, which was a real retreat for the first line, the order and the composure of the division commanded by General Lannes there.
However the left echelons of the first line arrive as far as San-Giuliano, where General Desaix was placed. They continue their retreat, and take place on the left behind, stop then and take a breath. All our cavalry and fifteen pieces of cannon were masked behind vineyards, and placed in the intervals of the regiments of General Desaix, of which the first third battalions were in column behind the wings of the second deployed in battle. The fighting continued to be extremely lively between the armies.
In the middle of these complicated maneuvers, and in the heat of a battle so obstinately fought, it became difficult to grasp the accounts of the rapidly changing dispositions; but confidence in the victory was always complete in the mind of the leader who directed them, although the Austrians thought themselves to have it. With certainty.
Let us come back on the position of both armies from this movement. The first echelon of the second line of reserve, commanded by General Carra-Saint-Cyr, occupied Castel-Ceriolo. He was barricaded in the village, and held in respect the enemy cavalry which was also threatened on the road to Sale. The grenadiers of the Guard were placed diagonally behind on the left of Castel-Ceriolo, the echelon of General Lannes diagonally behind on the left of grenadiers.
General Desaix was posted in front of San-Giuliano, diagonally behind and on the left of General Lannes, with fifteen pieces of artillery. All our cavalry was placed in columns in the intervals to take advantage of the first favorable movement to act, the body of General Victor diagonally behind and on the left of General Desaix.
It was six o'clock in the evening, BONAPARTE stops the movement of retreat in all the ranks; he goes through them, shows himself to them with this serene appearance which augurs the victory, speaks to the leaders, to the soldiers, and says to them that for French people it is time to stop the retreat, that the moment had come to make a decisive step forward: “soldiers,” he adds, “remember that my custom is to sleep on the battlefield.”
At the same moment, he gave the order to move forward, the artillery is unmasked, it launches for ten minutes a terrible fire: the amazed enemy stops; the charge was beaten at the same time all along the line, and this élan which communicates itself as the flame in hearts of the brave, everything adds in that moment to the heat that the presence of a leader inspires who never vainly promised them glory.
The division Desaix, which had not fought yet, marches in the front to the enemy, with this noble assurance which inspires him the desire to give in his turn proofs of this brilliant valor which the other divisions had shown; it is proud to follow a general whose post was always that of the danger and the honor. A low rise in the ground covered with vineyards revealed to this general a part of the enemy line; impatient, he dashes to discover it; the fearless ninth Light follows him in doubled step. The enemy is approached boldly, the mêlée becomes terrible; several of the brave succumb, and Desaix is no more; his last sigh was regret for glory, for which he complained not to have lived enough.
The regrets of BONAPARTE were the first levies of honor paid to his memory; his division, under the orders of General Boudet, jealous to avenge its general, boldly charges the enemy, who, in spite of his deep determination to hold against our bayonets, overturns on the column of grenadiers which faced it, and which already had arrived at Cassina-Grossa, where it attacked our scouts.
The surprised Austrians stop, shaken, it is then that showed themselves in all their day the depth and the skill of the capacities previously made.
The enemy, who had extended past our left the farm of Ventolina, and who imagined at the time that they were cutting off our retreat; are themselves attaacked on their left; the divisions which extend from Castel-Ceriolo to San-Giuliano, take their lines in flank; his battalions hear the shooting on every quarter - on the front, on the left flank and from behind. Boldly Desaix’s division pushed and forced back the right of the Austrians, hardly had they begun to execute this movement, when they hear the noise of our fire which already seems to them to reach the bridges of the Bormida and village of Marengo.
In this moment BONAPARTE orders the cavalry that he had kept in reserve, at the back of the right of Desaix’s division, to charge in the gallop by the intervals, and to charge with boldness this formidable column of grenadiers, already shaken by Desaix’s division.
This brave move is executed in an instant, with as much resolution as skill. General Kellermann goes to the gallop outside vineyards, deploys on the left flank of the enemy column, and by a quarter turn to the left, throws on it half of his brigade, whereas he leaves the other half behind to block the body of enemy cavalry opposite him and to mask the brave blow which he was going to make.
At the same time grenadiers and chasseurs of the guard carried away on the right all which was in front of, them; General Watrin attacks with a new boldness; General Carra-Saint-Cyr sends, from Castel-Ceriolo, infantrymen along the brook and the swamps to with Marengo.
General of Cavalry Rivaud, making a decided movement, had his outposts already engaged with those of General Elsnitz on the road to Sale; and the main part of the Austrian cavalry was so engaged on the extreme right, that he left his line of infantry without support in the plain.
The French army crosses in three quarters of an hour the great space which it had defended for four hours.
The enemy cavalry, pressed by General Rivaud, shot by the obstacle of Castel-Ceriolo, hurries to run up to aid of his infantry; the enemy joins, and arrived at Marengo, with the aim to keep this village.
General Boudet’s division, which wants to have the glory to retake Marengo, makes a last charge with the same vigour which had marked its first ones.
The forces of General Victor, which returned to places where it had so well defended, supports it. The enemy, who sees victory slipping away, wants to prove that he merited it, and shows, in this last fight, all the energy which the honor can give; but the victory goes to the French ranks; the tired and weakened Austrians have to give up, and our troop, go with them into Marengo which they evacuate to concern to their bridges of the Bormida.
North of Marengo, General Lannes attacked a body of reserves; he met less resistance and had not less success; he seized some pieces of cannon. A body of the reserve of the enemy cavalry prepared to charge the right of the division Boudet; but General Bessires commanding the grenadiers and chasseurs cheval of the guard, seizes this occasion of glory; and jealous for the troop of elites that he commands; he takes the honor of the last charge, it preempts the enemy, rushes, bends back this body and throws him into disorder in the brook; he discovers there the flanks of the infantry and causes a general retreat, by carrying confusion and the dismay in the enemy ranks.
The young Beauharnais is brilliant at the head of chasseurs the boldness of his youth combined with the experience of a consummate warrior, showed from his acts that he deserved the fate which waited for him.
Night already covered the plain, the remnants of the Austrian army take advantage of it to recross the bridges; and the French soldiers, in the middle of their bloody trophies, bivouac in the positions which they occupied before the battle.
The Austrians had in this day, four thousand, five hundred dead, eight thousand wounded and seven thousand prisoners; they lost twelve flags and thirty pieces of cannon.
The French had eleven hundred killed, three thousand six hundred wounded and nine hundred prisoners.
At daybreak the next day; our grenadiers attack the outposts which the enemy had left at the bridge over the Bormida. But a representative appears, and announces that General Mélas asks to send an officer of his staff to BONAPARTE.
After the first conference, General Berthier receives instructions; he is invested by BONAPARTE, necessary powers to treat with the enemy; he goes to Alexandria.
Some hours after he presents to the acceptance of BONAPARTE the following surrender, signed by Mélas:
There will be armistice and suspension of hostilities between the army of S. M. I. and that of the French Republic to Italy, until there is a response from the Court of Vienna.
The army of S. M. I. will occupy all the country included between Mincio, Fossa-Maestra and the Po; that it is to say, Peschiera, Mantua, Borgo-Forte, and there, the left bank of the Po; and on the right bank, the city and the citadel of Ferrare
The army of S. M. I. will also occupy Tuscany and Ancône.
The French army will occupy countries included between the Chiesa, Oglio and the Po.
The country between the Chiesa and the Mincio will be occupied by neither army. The army of S. M. I. can draw food from the countries which were a part of the duchy of Mantua. The French army will draw food from the country which was a part of the province of Brescia.
The castles of Tortona, Alexandria, Milan, Turin, Pizzighettone, Arona, Sailing, will be given back to the French army, between June 16th to 20th.
The fotress of Coni, the castles of Ceva, Savone, the city of Genoa, will be handed back to the French army, between June 16th and 24th.
The fort Urbain will be handed back on June 26th.
The artillery of fortresses will be classified in the following way: 1. ° all the artillery of all calibres from Austrian foundries will belong to the Austrian army; 2. ° that of all calibres from Italian foundries, Piedmontese and French, to the French army: 3. ° ammunition supplies will be shared; half will be at the disposal of the ordnance officers of the French army, and half at that of the ordnance officer of the Austrian army.
Garrisons will go out with the military honours, and will go, with weapons and luggage, by the shortest road, to Mantua.
The Austrian army will go to Mantua by marching in three columns; the first one from June 16th to the 20th; the second, from June 20th to the 24th; the third from June 24th till 26th.
Generals Saint Julian, of Schvertinck, artillery; of Brown, engineers; Telsiegé, commissioner of supplies; and the citizens Dejean, councillor of state, and Daru, inspector of reviews, General warrant officer Léopold Stabenrath, and the brigade of artillery commander Mossel, are named police commissioners of the execution of articles of the present agreement, either in the assignment of inventories, in supplies and in the transport, or for other objects.
No individual can be mistreated for reason of services rendered to the Austrian army, or for political beliefs: General-in chief of the Austrian army is to free individuals who have been arrested in the Cisalpine Republic, for political beliefs, and who would be in fortresses under his command.
Whatever is the answer from Vienna, neither army can attack without ten days warning beforehand.
During the suspension of fighting, neither army will send detachments to Germany.
Alexandria, June 15th, 1800.
AFTER the battle of Marengo, the preliminary agreement of peace was signed in Paris by General Saint Julien; but the Emperor of Germany, following the advice of a Minister bought by England, refused to ratify them, and we had appeal to arms. The Army of the Rhine was in Bavaria, the Army of Italy was on Adige, both were well supplied and elated by the feeling of the victory.
BONAPARTE raises in this time a New Army of the Reserve in Dijon; but here his tactics were quite different from the first one. He formed this army of five strong divisions with only about eight thousand infantry and four regiments of cavalry. General Macdonald, who was put in command, received the order to march to Grisons. The enemy estimating the number of the soldiers by that of the divisions, and remembering the estimate it had made of the first Army of the Reserve, estimated this one as intended to conquer Tyrol. He believes this enough to send a body of thirty thousand men to resist it, and this movement weakens, on the Inn, his army, which was then completely beaten in the great day of Hohenlinden by General Moreau.
Also distinguished were General Richepanse and Leclerc, who died subsequently on the field of honor, and the glory will keep the names of all those who led in Germany our victorious brigades. The preliminary were signed, and the suspension of fighting with Austria allowed the army of the Rhine to extend until Léoben, and to link on its right with the conquests which BONAPARTE had made in the 1797. So, with eight thousand men, most of them newly levied, the second Army of the Reserve held in check thirty thousand elites, and, within two years, peace was again concluded with Vienna. These examples warn other powers how it would be even more dangerous for them today, as our soldiers are more numerous, more hardened and better provided, to listen to the insinuations of England, or to listen to Ministers sold to this power, and ready to draw their leaders into a disastrous war. The tears which this war would make on the continent, would be a subject of enjoyment for England which has enticed people to so many troubles, and woes so irreparable.
At the same time BONAPARTE crossed Mont-Cénis with a body of ten thousand men who had been formed at first in Amiens then quartered in Dijon; and he gave lei command to General Murat; this body, that of General Macdonald, and the army of general Brunette in Italy, composed a force much superior to that of the Austrians. BONAPARTE wanted to command himself, and to continue what he had done in his sixth campaign, to cross the Tagliamento, Draye, Save and Muëhr, and to cross the Carniole; unite with General Murat with a body of eight thousand cavalry, twenty-five thousand infantry and fifty pieces of cannon. ... But it is not allowed us to speak about a campaign plan which did not receive its execution.
With the aid of J.J. MARCEL, General Director of the Imperial Printing office, Member of the Legion of Honour.
|Type of Material:||Text (Book, Microform, Electronic, etc.)|
Relation de la Bataille de Marengo :
gagnée le 25 prairial an 8,
par Napoléon Bonaparte, Premier Consul,
commandant en personne l'armée français de réserve,
sur les autrichiens,
aux ordres du Lieutenant-general Mélas /
rédigée par le Général Alex. Berthier.
|Published/Created:||Paris : Imprimerie impériale, 1806.|
|Description:||40 p. : ill., fold. maps, fold. plans ; 30 x 25 cm.|
|LC Classification:||DC223.7 .B4|
|Translation Copyright 2004, Simmons Games.|