Battle of Rivoli


Battle of Rivoli

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Rivoli
partof=the French Revolutionary Wars


caption=Napoleon at the Battle of Rivoli, by Felix Philipoteaux.
date=14-15 January, 1797
place=Rivoli Veronese, present-day Italy
result=Decisive French victory
combatant1=flagicon|France France
combatant2= flagicon|Holy Roman Empire Austria
commander1=Napoleon Bonaparte
commander2=Joseph Alvinczy
Peter Quasdanovich
strength1=23,000
strength2=28,000
casualties1=5,000 dead and wounded
casualties2=14,000 dead, wounded or captured

The Battle of Rivoli (14–15 January 1797) was a key victory in the first French campaign in Italy against Austria. Bonaparte's 23,000 French defeated an attack of 28,000 Austrians under General Alvinczy, ending Austria's fourth and final attempt to relieve their besieged fortress of Mantua. Rivoli further demonstrated Napoleon's brilliance and led to French occupation of northern Italy.

Prelude

Alvinczy's plan was to overwhelm Joubert in the mountains east of Lake Garda with the concentration of five separate columns, and thereby gain access to the open country north of Mantua where Austrian superior numbers would be able to defeat Bonaparte's smaller Army of Italy. However, Joubert held, and Bonaparte was able to bring up elements of Massena's division to support Joubert's efforts to form a defensive line on favorable ground just north of Rivoli on the Trambasore Heights. The battle would be a contest between Alvinczy's efforts to concentrate his dispersed columns versus the arrival of French reinforcements.

Battle

The morning of the 14th saw fierce fighting along the Trambasore Heights, as another Austrian column under General Prince Reuss attempted to turn the French right via the Rivoli Gorge. By 11:00 things looked very bad for Bonaparte: Austrian dragoons had forced their way through the gorge, word arrived that another Austrian column under Colonel Lusignan was cutting off his retreat south of Rivoli, and Alvinczy was on the Trambasore Heights urging his victorious battalions forward, though they were unformed by combat and rough terrain.

By a series of actions, the French managed to take advantage of this crucial mistake. Bonaparte, Joubert, and Louis Alexandre Berthier put together a well co-ordinated combined arms attack. A battery of 15 guns blasted the dragoons, while two columns of infantry, one for the gorge and one for the Trambasore Heights were led forward supported by cavalry under Charles Leclerc and Antoine Charles Louis Lasalle. The packed masses in the gorge fled when their own dragoons were driven them over in panic. And likewise the dispersed infantry on the Heights were unable to hold once French cavalry got in their midst. Lastly, General Louis Rey's division and Claude Victor's brigade arrived and broke Lusignan's southern column with the loss of 3,000 prisoners.

Results

The next day Joubert led a successful pursuit of Alvinczy, all but destroying his columns, the remnants of which fled over the Alps in confusion. The Battle of Rivoli was Bonaparte's greatest victory at the time, losing a mere 5,000 men to Alvinczy's 14,000.

The Rue de Rivoli, a street in central Paris, is named after the battle.

References

*Boycott-Brown, Martin. "The Road to Rivoli." Cassell; New Ed edition, 2002. ISBN 0-304-36209-3
*Chandler, David. "Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars." Macmillan, 1979.

External links

* [http://www.napoleonicminiatureswargame.com/rivoli.html Napoleonic Miniatures Wargame Society of Toronto]
* [http://www.historydata.com/places/rivoli_panorama.html Photographs of the battlefield of Rivoli]


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