The First Coalition (5)

1792 to 1797

Wurmser divided his force and sent General Peter Quasdanovich to cut Bonaparte's lines of supply.

Again using interior lines - the tactic of getting between enemies and defeating them in detail before they can unite - the French commander pinned Wurmser and then beat Quasdanovich at Lonato.

Wurmser's men then felt the full force of the French at Castiglione, from which they fled back to the Tyrol.

After he regained his composure, Wurmser tried a new attempt to help Mantua, but again split his forces.

General Paul Davidovich remained to protect the Tyrol, while Wurmser moved down towards Mantua.

Bonaparte beat Davidovich at Caliano and then sped on a cruel forced march to catch the main Austrian army.

He caught Wurmser at Bassano and while he beat him, the bulk of the Austrians managed to get through to Mantua.

The garrison was 28,000 men, but they were not enough to break out of General Andre Massena's encircling forces.

A third rescue attempt was made by Austria and General Josef Alvintzy moved against the French.

For a third time the Austrians split their forces and while a French covering force held off Davidovich, Bonaparte hit Alvintzy at Caldiero.

The battle ended in Alvintzy's favour, but at the desperate battle of Arcola the young French general routed the Austrians.

Early in 1797, Vienna made its last move to free the trapped troops in Mantua. Alvintzy, who was clearly no fast learner, split his army and attacked the French at Rivoli without the weight of his full force.

Despite this, he began well and Bonaparte was under pressure until reinforcements arrived and gave him the decisive upper hand.

Having won Rivoli, Bonaparte then returned to Mantua to help a surrounded General Jean Serurier caught between the Mantua garrison and another relieving Austrian army under General Johann Provera.

The reinforcements allowed Serurier to again bottle up Wurmser's garrison, while Bonaparte encircled Provera's men and forced a surrender.

It was the last straw for Wurmser and the troops and people in Mantua, the siege had cost them 18,000 dead - mainly from disease.

A victorious Bonaparte now set his sights on Vienna. Although opposed by Archduke Charles, the French crossed the Alps and were only 100 miles from the Austrian capital when the emperor Francis I requested peace.

Bonaparte set out the terms for the treaty of Leoben - the recognition of France's claim over the Austrian Netherlands and the acceptance of the Cisalpine Republic in northern Italy.

Considering the turmoil of previous years, 1798 was relatively quiet in revolution terms. France occupied Switzerland, creating the Helvetian republic, and Rome, Roman Republic, and there was an ill-fated landing of French troops in Ireland.

General Jean Humbert's force had been sent to assist an Irish rebellion against Britain but found it had been squashed as brutally as France's dealing in La Vendee and Quiberon.

The battle of Vinegar Hill smashed the rebels and Humbert's troops were eventually surrounded by Lord Cornwallis and forced to surrender.



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