Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

The Fortress of Peschiera: Territorial Defence Resolutions and Geo-Strategic Applications in 1796 Repubblica Marciana.

Historical Perspective and Heritage Evaluation.

History and Strategic Applications: Studies for the Bicentenary, 1796-1996

By Roberto A. Scattolin, Italy

Introduction

The history of the Serenissima[1] Republic of Saint Mark[2] remarkably constitutes a prominent, highly-sophisticated cultural topic of research, charged with intense memorial vivifications.

Congested with elaborate researches, subject-related publications are considered with peculiar attention to the afore-mentioned area of distinguished specifications; however, most historic works have been predominantly composed in the past centuries, and, a posteriori, have been narrated by sequential, schemed narrative logics permeated by rationalized inclinations.

Two long centuries of narrative rhetorics, of cultural sedimentations, not to mention, then, superimposed temporal “incrustations”, need to be evaluated through a process of strict, consistent, and critical methodologies.

At any rate, the raging fluxes of the Italian Risorgimento[3] and the incomparable patriotic élan of the local populations have made out of it the epic of an age, a glorious age, where shadows still endure even in the long-reaching course of the post-modernity.

At the closing stage of the XXth century, in the contemporary age, it is a fundamental, pre-defined cultural orientation to shrewdly discern through in-depth documentary surveys the remote events of the past, aiming for historic truth, and firmly relying on corroborative materials of historic investigation.

Abstracting from any celebrative chronological recurrence, the focus is definitely established and sought after essentials of culture, and pertinently envisaged to documentary features, progressed methodologies of research aptly conjugated in convenient culture locations[4].

It is only through a qualified examination of the original coeval documents of the late XVIIIth century that the discriminating research analyst is allowed to historically reconstruct an eloquent picture, a perfect cross-hatching of blemished forces: the oligarchia senatoria (senatorial oligarchy), the Venetian political representatives in the mainland, and the social compound more authentically involved, the citizens of the Republican establishment rooted in centuries old traditions of heritage and prosperous economic trades.

On the other hand, two powerful armies stood counter-opposed: the invading French forces of the armée d’Italie, and the Feld-Truppen (field troops) of the Österreichische Armee[5].

Although Venice had proclaimed the strictest neutrality, this political attitude was to notably imperil all the territories of the terraferma (mainland), and to leave them virtually unprotected to untold acts of military brutality and by shamefully perpetrated outrages of the belligerents powers.

The crude use of foreign military destabilizing efforts was not without ultimate consequences for the constituted social order, for the appalling limitations (i.e., vacuum) of the laws, and for upsetting public security; more importantly, the detrimental infringement of the proclaimed neutrality status.

Social uprisings erupted in vibrant urban contexts, and, in an analogous manner, in the campagne (countries) and in the territori provinciali (provincial territories).

Unable to evade the consequences of bloody strategic outbreaks then in effect, and the patent violation of any legal jurisdiction, not to mention the destructions brought about by a continued raging conflict in their territory, the autochthonous populations spontaneously contrasted by organizing armed formations.

Non-the-less, the evolving historic circumstances and the flagrant economic ravages coupled together, caused an overwhelming escalation of social reverses.

Because all of these turbulent reactions, if taken into account with the proclaimed neutrality, the resistance to the foreign troops had a destructive collapsing effect[6], which was beyond reach of any prudent, anticipative foresight of the Venetian political class and legitimate governmental institutions.

And in a number of complex difficulties was the dominating figure of an emerging protagonist, the Général en chef[7] of the French invasion forces, Napoleon Bonaparte.

                                           *            *            *            *            *

Historical Background

In the Spring of 1796 relentless armed confrontation between Directorial France and Austria (War of the First Coalition, 20 April 1792 - 17 October 1797) affected the territorial jurisdictions of the Republic of Saint Mark.

The French divisional forces advanced from the west, aiming to achieve a vigorous consolidation towards the natural barrier of the Mincio River.

On the other hand, on scheduled military planning and sustained tactical mobility, the Austrian army troops assiduously progressed forward from the eastern Venetiae.

The Venetian fortified emplacement at Peschiera[8] had been built centuries ahead[9], with a primary, definite military purpose – the armed protection of the site – and specific strategic functionality: the dominance and safekeeping of the “natural border”, in order to effectively shield the impregnability of the walled town of Verona against western-lead concurrent offensive aggressions.

In 1796 the Republic had proclaimed its neutrality, therefore a neutral State, the stronghold of Peschiera became a site for specious controversy and dispute[10].

Causal motivations had to be necessarily recognized to assure control of vital geographical areas and major routes, placed amid belligerent armies and different operative fronts: the French held onto the western one, the Austrian onto the eastern one.

Under unpredictable, telling events and strategic applications, at Peschiera the pre-defined, centuries-old military theory and rationale of “difesa statica di settore” (sector static defense)[11] was abruptly reversed and collapsed.

The local Venetian garrison was blocked inside the protected spaces[12] of the fortress[13].

In a state of anticlimactic and burning disquietude, the Venetian “regolati di lista” (regular soldiers) had neither to react nor to be antagonistic to the French or to the Austrians.

Adversity caused the local fortifications to become a calamitous “frontier of destiny” to many civilians, soldiers and officers, to revive hope, under substantial political and military crisis.

In partibus Venetiae

The primary motives and events which brought Baron Beaulieu[14] to deliberately violate the neutrality of the Serenissima Repubblica were conditioned by observations of strategic character;  factually irrevocable consequential countermeasures, the irreversible consequences of a mighty sustained campaign – a campaign strenuously opposed by the autochthonous people and their legitimate governments[15] against the relentless advance of French-Republican invasion forces throughout Northern Italian territories[16].

After receiving from General Liptai[17] confirming reports[18] on the actual military activities, Baron Beaulieu perpended upon an unwelcome political choice: violate the jurisdictional limitations and properties of the Republic of Saint Mark. 

Acting on the assumed privileges and extensions of his authoritarian power, and the swift execution of military order, dispositions were issued to have the mightily built Venetian and well-fortified compound – a complex denominated the fortress – promptly occupied at Peschiera (county of Verona).

However strong the powerful ramparted architectural works of the site might have looked, the Most Serene Republic, acting on the diplomatic support of strict neutrality, had not taken active measures neither for prompt defence organizational assets nor to implement the strategic functionality proficiencies of this geo-strategic salient whose vulnerability seemed endangered.

A well-seasoned officer of rank had been assigned to take executive dispositions in the role of  governatore militare (military governor) for the fortified positions on the upper Mincio River.

The rank of the commanding-officer was held by a colonnello (Colonel); his cognomen: Carrara[19].

Relying on the confidence and respect of chosen neutrality, presidial Venetian units conformed to this political choice, a line of coherently professed duty and tangible defence.

Worth mentioning is that the garrison force did not even number a thousand regular effectives, neither were a hundred equivalences ready to repel the potential threat and enemy offense; it is remarkable to that only a few tens of soldiers and aged, crippled veterans[20] could be ordered for active defensive dispositions.

The perfect comedy setting; and the most perfect conformity to the political conveniences of the oligarchia senatoriale (senatorial oligarchy) had achieved the zenith of military service, duty, and bravery: sixty soldiers[21], almost “diversamente abili” (invalids), and one stout-hearted commander behaving in his veiled senescence, on the wane of a centuries old Nation’s glorious heritage.

As a permanent demilitarized location, supported by potentially deterrent artillery parks: the defenders had eighty pieces (including heavy calibres), without gun-carriages and ammunitions wagons, and restricted by a limitative deficit, the pragmatic inconvenience of one hundred libbre[22] of bad powder[23] and saltpetre materials.

That was the appalling state of the fortress of Peschiera in its decaying might and in its aged fortifications; the infantry garrison perfectly paired with the deficiencies of the site. 

The Borders of the Republic: an Unstructured Stronghold

On May 24, 1796 (General Bonaparte had not yet entered the town of Brescia at that eventful time), Colonel Carrara felt the urge to send a report in detailed manner to Nicolò Foscarini, the Provveditore Generale di Terraferma[24] who had reached Verona coming from Venice[25].

Foscarini had been assigned the task of facing the invaders and to provide the defence in the eastern territories of the Repubblica Marciana (Most Serene Republic).

Words thus ensued:

«Most Illustrious and Most Excellent Sir.

I honour myself to humble to pay homage to the Charge of Yours Excellency the two enclosed Army lists demonstrating one the shabby force, that forms the arm of this Fortress, and the other the Artilleries, ammunitions, implements, and tools not useful to the same. Circumscribed my duty by the venerated commissions of Your Excellency I do not dare to set forth the real needs of this Piazza, and how would be important a major number of active Militia to keep her in the convenient decency in the present circumstances; restricting myself only to introduce to the respected his authority, not even to be there a Flag to be exposed on the ramparts, that denotes to which Sovereign it belongs this Fortress. The recognized disorders which just happened to this part produce a vivid bitterness to my soul. The Gates of the Piazza are free to the daily passage of the Imperial troops. What annoying consequences can derive from this blind condescension, the virtue of Your Excellency can know, as well the wise his penetration can see, in what kind of anxieties I will find myself a day. The wise instructions of Yours Excellency on these ungrateful emergents will tranquillize the anxious my spirit, that submissively I invoke as guidance of my directions. I have the utmost esteem to obsequiously sign myself ec.» [letter sent to N. H. Nicolò Foscarini K. and Provveditor Generale di Terraferma under the date of 24 Maggio 1796][26].

Under harsh, intricate complexities, and evolving circumstances of strategic transition, Carrara’s despatch remained unanswered.

The written document openly emphasised the obsolescence and ruined conditions of the fortress site at Peschiera, whose “perimetrale bastionata” (bastioned fortifications perimeter) was much in dire need of immediate restoration.

In addition, Carrara’s appeal stressed the necessity of having reinforcements hastily deployed, thus providing adequate manpower for the ramparted architectural structures of the curtain.

The Reversal of Strategic Logic: Forced Foreign Occupation

In the morning hours of May 26, 1796, an Imperial detachment of some fifty soldiers suddenly reached the front of the drawbridge and asked permission to transit – in order to effect a forward reconnaissance toward the province of Brescia.

The Austrian forces acted on the affirmed principles of neutrality taken by the Venetian oligarchy establishment.

The pertinacious Venetian Colonel had a second letter sent to the comando quartierale (headquarters) at Verona, presenting the detailed occurrences of the new conflict emergency, but again he received no reply to his urgent requests.

The destiny of the corso pubblico[27] seemed conditioned by precipitating factors of overwhelming difficulty, not considering, then, the seemingly apparent constitutive paralysis of commands[28].

Under prevailing, constrictive urgencies, the zealous Carrara thus wrote in the cause of justice and military honour:

«So it is, Most Excellent Sir, the ungrateful consequences by me foreseen, and to Yours Excellency pointed out with the respectful missive of the day 24. present month. The Imperials occupy the Fortress, neither counted reasons to have them desist from the violent […], alleging the General Liptai their Commander, that not being the Fortress armed, it is an advantageous situation, that it would be occupied by the French, who are beyond Brescia, and that within a five-hour term he will have a writing for me from his Commander-in-Chief, by which he will  justify his authority, and he will guarantee me to the Government. I find myself in a labyrinth without counsels, and without conduct for defect of directions. I foresee Peschiera the Theatre of the war. I have the honour to be ec.» [dispatch sent to N. H. Nicolò Foscarini K. and Provveditor Generale di Terraferma under the date of 26 Maggio 1796][29].

To have that matter accordingly settled, the Austrians were admitted within the spatial precincts of the fortress; and a pourparler[30] with the military Governor was submitted as an immediate, necessary request.

Once inside the walled defensive perimeter, the infanteristen (infantry soldiers) conformed to a shrewdly pre-arranged plan of action, strictly reassembling into a tactical surprise.

Because of the feeble reaction of the Venetian garrison units, the location was soon occupied – as res nullius[31] – through deception, and kept as military conquest.[32]

Reinforcement troops, which had moved from Castelnuovo following a pre-defined scheme, soon arrived on the spot, under the authoritative leadership of Liptay von Kisfalud.

The coup de main which successfully acquired possession of this majestic stronghold, was one of the master strokes of the whole war, and long a date which marked the treacherous military character and was to have effectual repercussions in the weeks to come.

The Imperialists had used a cunning ploy to secure easy successful outcome, and to impose on their strategic aims on the defenders of the fortress.

The military Governor of the citadel protested the infringement against the constituted sovereignty of the Republic. 

He expressed in resolutely articulated pronouncements the justifiable definitions, support of the national cause and the legitimacy, of military honours, and duty.

Colonel Carrara’s emphatic virile protest – which pointed out the violation of the political treaties – was a masterpiece of duty in sharply adverse, contrasting circumstances during belligerency among foreign contenders (notably: Directorial France, and the Empire of the Habsburgs).

To soothe his mood the determined commanding officer was equally assured a lettera giustificatoria (letter of justification) on his generous, principled behaviour.

No doubt is inferred, under controversial and compromisable circumstances, he could be accused of betrayal, further, he received an affirmative promise that the whole fortress, after the end of the present state of hostilities, would be returned to the Republic’s possession[33].  

The Spirit of an Age: Gentlemen at War

General Liptai, displaying the nonpareil[34] traits of honour which were peculiar to XVIIIth century German commanders, proffered his ancillary parole, and presented to Governor Carrara a formal expository letter, the contents of which the Commander-in-Chief Beaulieu had thoughtfully remitted to the Venetian officer.

«Mr. Commander. The approach of the French Troops by the way of Brescia towards the Imperial Troops has reasonably concluded, that the enemy would also occupy the Town of Peschiera. And this is the reason, that has conducted the Imperial General to occupy in advance this location: and I give myself the honour to inform the Mr. Commander the here enclosed copy of that was written about this matter to the Mr. Provveditor Generale Co: Foscarini, and to the Serenissima Repubblica, and I am with the most distinguished esteem.

General-Headquarters Roverbella 26 May 1796.

Obsequiously Much Obliged Servant.

Bar. Beaulieu Commander-in-Chief.»[35].

 

 

Notes: 

[1] Id est, Most Serene. A honorary referenced title.

[2] A social experience which lasted for a long period of time was substantiated by the passing of a millennium (797 A.D. - 1797). The history of Venice can be conventionally subdivided in three distinct periods. The first: the primordial dawn of the ducal power, from the close of the seventh century to the middle of the twelfth. The second: from 1172 A.D. to 1457 A.D., the apex of glory; the third: the last three and half centuries. The final act of this political experience was abruptly sanctioned by the Treaty of Campo-Formio (17 October 1797), between Bonaparte, General and Chief of the French army in Italy, and Louis, Count of the Holy Roman Empire, de Cobenzel – “Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Saint-Etienne, Chamberlain, current and close state advisor of the Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty and his Ambassador Extraordinary to His Imperial Majesty of all of Russia”. The negotiations and arranged clauses were ratified at Villa Manin of Passariano, near Codroipo (country of Udine). Italian works, vide: Braidotti, Federico, Il monumento della Pace di Campoformio: Notizie inedite di storia e d’ arte, Udine: Tip. D. Del Bianco, 1911; Cesari, Cesare, Il trattato che non fu firmato a Campoformio, Milano 1916; Cessi, Roberto, Storia della Repubblica di Venezia, G. Principato, 1968; Cessi, Roberto, Campoformido, Padova: Tip. Messaggero, 1947; Curti, Antonio, Campoformio, Milano 1919; Geatti, Angelo, Napoleone Bonaparte e il trattato di Campoformido del 1797: la verità sul luogo della firma e sul monumento della pace, Udine: Arti grafiche friulane, 1989; Napoleone e Campoformido, 1797: armi, diplomazia e società in una regione d’Europa, a cura di Giuseppe Bergamini, Milano: Electa, 1997; Padelletti, Guido, Leoben e Campoformio secondo nuovi documenti, estr. da Nuova Antologia, Firenze, 1868; Pallaveri, Daniele, Campoformio: considerazioni, Firenze: F. Le Monnier, 1864; Rava, Luigi, I profughi veneti dopo il trattato di Campoformio: 1797-1798, Roma: Direzione della Nuova Antologia, 1917; Sbuelz, Raffaello, Francesi e austriaci in Friuli all’epoca del Direttorio: il congresso di Udine ed il trattato di Campoformio (Passariano) 17 ottobre 1797, Finis Venetiae, Udine: tip. Bordusco, 1908. German works: Der Frieden von Campoformio: Urkunden und Aktenstucke zur Geschichte der Beziehungen zwischen Osterreich und Frankreich in den Jahren 1795-1797, Gesammelt von Hermann Huffer: erganzt, herausgegeben und eingeleitet von Friedrich Luckwaldt, Innsbruck: Verlag der Wagner’schen Universitat-Buchandlung, 1907.    

[3] The historic period included between the beginning of the XIXth century and the year 1870, in which Italy re-acquired her independence and conquered her unity. 

[4] It is worth mentioning, in this case, the Archivio di Stato, in Venice. The Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana. The Cà Rezzonico, Museo del Settecento veneziano.

[5] I.e.,  Austrian army.

[6] In regards to the referred facts, coeval sources are all in symbiotic historic accord. The populations of Venetian jurisdiction displayed territoriality, and stubbornly reacted against the rapacious, abrupt, and obfuscating abuses of power perpetrated by the French invaders. In Spring 1797, the vibrant social insurrection of the inhabitants of Verona and in the contado (countryside locations around the town, plus the province) will set the seal of a drastic social cadre. Worth mentioning is, in subsequent terms of historic documentary references, the determined role of the Venetian regular army formations. The obliterating conflict strategies which savagely raged at San Massimo, on 20 April 1797, are still a scarcely known subject-matter, id est, a neglected clash of arms. This harshly-disputed encounter was variously indicated by the specific nominal definition “della Croce Bianca”.  

[7] I.e., General-in-Chief.

[8] Locale description: Peschiera del Garda (Northern Italy). This site is located around twenty-five kilometres to the west of Verona. For a comprehensive, exhaustive study and accurate features of geographical evaluation, dedicated researchers can profitably consult an online website utility: www.googlemaps.it, insert the words Peschiera del Garda, and click.   

[9] The origins of the ancient site  dated to the Roman vicus (village) of Arilica. The area was heavily fortified during the Middle Ages and the Modern Age. A Venetian possession since 1440  A.D..     

[10] Positioned on the natural border – delimited by the waters of Lake Garda and Mincio River – between the Venetian Lombardy territories and the Veneto, the fortified emplacement became a harshly-tested place of contention and factual diatribe. To reduce and to inexorably overcome the Most Serene Republic’s seemingly unshaken neutrality status, therefore to gain advantageous supremacy in the strategic sphere, the Venetian stronghold was invested by the vibrant offensive pushes of the belligerents, the advancing foreign armies, the French, the Austrian.  

[11] XVth-XVIIIth century Venetian military school of thinking. A primary necessity; it was deemed an essential, strategic prerequisite to maximize the potential and the methods for the protection of the mainland territories, and mostly centered on the constitutive principles of active defense of the fortified sites and communities populated urban aggregations.   

[12] I.e., the defensive structures

[13] The infantry effectives were ordered inside the bastioned architectures, and coordinately distributed in the “assetti quartierali” (military quarters). 

[14] Feldzeugmeister Johann Peter Freiherr Beaulieu de Marconnay. A reputed military commander. He was born at the Lathuy Castle (Jodoigne, Austrian Netherlands), on 26 October 1725; died at Linz, on 22 December 1819. Promotions in the military hierarchy: 1757: Major; 1760: Oberstleutnant; 1768: Oberst; 1790: Generalmajor; 19 October, 1790: Feldmarschalleutnant; 4 April, 1796: Feldzeugmeister.

[15] Entirely dysfunctional to the pillars of liberty, to the democratic governments, and to the legitime institutions of the people, the French invasion of 1796-1797 was considered one of the most calamitous events throughout long centuries of history.  

[16]May 1796, Austrian Lombardy border. Fully aware on the tactical difficulties on ground, General Bonaparte had determined to launch an offensive manoeuvre against the Austrian line and military deployment at Borghetto, a mild natural environment on the right bank of the Mincio River. The village of Borghetto lay mid distance between the locations of Goito and Peschiera.To have his original plan and attack undetected, the Général en Chef ordered General Rusca’s troops to mount a diversionary manoeuvre towards the country center at Salò; acting on this masked pretension, Rusca had to care about the possible access roads connecting to Riva (of Trento), in the way a flanking movement was carried out to reach the Adige Valley. However the circumstances were stark, the French sent forward detachments at Lonato and Desenzano, slowly progressing to Peschiera and the western territories of the Venetian mainland at Verona. Stronger troops of the armée d’Italie were consolidating sheltering positions behind the hilly crests in between the country locations of  Castiglione, Solferino and Cavriana, within short range from the fluvial line of the River Mincio. 

[17] Anton Lipthay de Kisfalud. Born at Szécseny (Com. Neograd, Hungary, 1745); wounded at Verona on 26 March 1799, he died in Padua (17 February 1800). Ranking promotions: 1788: Major; 1789: Oberstleutnant; 1793: Oberst; 1 May, 1795: Generalmajor; 2 October 1799: Feldmarschall-Leutnant.  

[18] His headquarters had been located in the mild country environment at Castelnuovo-veronese.

[19] The full nominal declination was Giannantonio Carrara. Born 1741; 1755: cadet; 1797, 24 March: Colonel.  

[20] Not physically able, or, in other terms of incidence, differently able to execute common services and any other ordered effectual activations of military duties.

[21] Called “a ruolo” (i.e., in the military roll).    

[22] A weight measure; trslt.: pounds. 

[23] Comfortable facilities were not an undistinguished trait: there was barracks accommodation for the garrison units, and due lodgings for the officers staff; a chapel, hospital, mill, bakery, and kitchens. Powder magazines were housed in the fortress too, secured within its bastions in ventilated chambers. However, there were also magazines di spesa (i.e., of expense) located in the brick vaulted buildings.  

[24] An approaching translation of this title can be rendered: General superintendent in the mainland.  

[25] On May 18, 1796, strong Austrian formations had been observed approaching Peschiera unmolested. The seriousness of the case considered, Colonel Carrara had a missive expeditiously sent, and requiring specific instructions to Antonio Marin Priuli, by then capitanio and vice-podestà of Verona. The alarmed Venetian capitanio, in turn, contacted the Senate. The dispatched reply advised him to shape his conduct’s perspectives and political action to farsighted prudential attitudes, adopting those peaceful means by which he could avail himself to prevent the Austrian occupation of the fortress. The N. H. Foscarini had entered the town on May 19, 1796, accompanied by his skillful secretary Rocco di Sanfermo.   

[26] Primary Italian text: «Ill. ed Eccell. Signore. Mi onoro di umiliare alla ossequiata Carica di V. E. li due inserti Piedelista dimostranti l’uno la misera forza, che forma l’armo di questa Fortezza, e l’altro le Artiglierie, munizioni, attrezzi, ed utensili inservienti alle medesime. Circoscritto il dover mio dalle venerate commissioni dell’ E. V. non ardisco di esporre li reali bisogni di questa Piazza, e quanto importerebbe un maggior numero di Milizia attiva per tenerla nella conveniente decenza nelle attuali circostanze; ristringendomi solo a far presente all’inchinata sua autorità, non esservi neppure una Insegna da esporsi sopra li rampari, che denoti a qual Sovrano appartenga questa Fortezza. Li riconosciuti disordini finora corsi a questa parte producono una viva amarezza all’animo mio. Le Porte della Piazza sono libere al giornaliero passaggio delle Truppe Imperiali. Quali incomode conseguenze possano derivare da questa cieca condiscendenza, la virtù di V. E. può conoscere, come la saggia sua penetrazione può vedere, in quali angustie potrò ritrovarmi un giorno. Le sapienti istruzioni di V. E. sopra questi ingrati emergenti potranno tranquillizzare l’inquieto mio spirito, che sommessamente invoco per norma delle mie direzioni. Ho il massimo pregio di ossequiosamente segnarmi ec.» [letter forwarded to the N. H. Nicolò Foscarini K. and Provveditor Generale di Terraferma on the date of 24 May 1796].

[27] I.e., public course, properly intended as the social scene, the concurrent events.

[28] Was there something else to comprehend in the canons of the cognitive logic? Under major circumstances of attrition, the Venetian structure of command in town, and the superior governmental roles in situ (the podestà, the civil governor; and the capitanio, a civilian noble appointed to command the garrison), had to largely rely on a temporary resolution: to let the time pass, thus forcing the situations by themselves, without taking either involvement or direct responsibility in the military events then in course. This flagrant paradox, not excepted in the logic of authentic comprehension as a remarkable choice, an artifice of lenitive political convenience, i.e., minus malum (lesser of two evils), aimed arguably not to irritate the volatile, reprehensible susceptibilities of the belligerents. Under scrutiny of context and assessment of primary historic sources, this causal motivation might explain the recourse, the cunning expedient not to have lifted the stendardo Marciano (Marcian flag) to the apex of the fortress’s of Peschiera flagpole. Having the vessillo al flottante (the floating standard) removed, consequently neither perceptible in a visual way nor in the skyline at any graduated distance, this provisional preventive measure partially “secured” the neutral presence of the fortressed site itself. 

[29] Original Italian text: «Ecco, Eccellentissimo Signore, le ingrate conseguenze da me prevedute, ed all’ E. V. rimarcate colla rispettosa mia del dì 24. andante. Gl’Imperiali occupano la Fortezza, né valsero ragioni per farli desistere dal violento […], allegando il General Liptai loro Comandante, che non essendo Piazza armata, è una situazione vantaggiosa, che sarebbe occupata da’ Francesi, che sono al di quà di Brescia, e che nel termine di cinque ore mi farà avere uno scritto dal suo Generale in Capite, con cui giustificherà il suo arbitrio, e mi garantirà presso il Governo. Io mi attrovo in un Labirinto senza consigli, e senza condotta per difetto di direzioni. Prevedo Peschiera il Teatro della guerra. Ho l’onore d’essere ec.» [dispatch sent to the N. H. Nicolò Foscarini K. and Provveditor Generale di Terraferma on the date of 26 May 1796].

[30] I.e., a discussion preliminary to negotiations.  

[31] Ancient Latin language. Literary translation: nobody’s property. A “thing” entirely lost or abandoned.  

[32] Beaulied did not stigmatize the conquest, and to the Venetian officers sent to expound vivid demonstrations against an illecit act of stealing, he declared: “[…] che lorquando le ragioni di Guerra fanno credere necessaria una cosa a chi la tratta […] non valgono le deboli ragioni del diritto e vengono sforzati a tacere tutti i riguardi” [vide: Carteggio of the Provveditore Nicolò Foscarini, letter to the Doge, on 27 May 1796]. The two Venetian officers who had been sent to the Austrian camp were the tenente-colonnello Vonveiller and the capitano Zulati.  

[33] It is worth recalling that after the traumatic occupation of the fortressed site of Peschiera, which occurred on the night of 27 May 1796, a detrimental fact occurred at the location named Chiusa d’Adige. Before dawn, some officers had daringly presented in front of the fortress, supported by an infantry column within visual eyesight. They tried to command to the Venetian governor Bajo to open the gates. Undaunted, and contained in a fiery mood, the Venetian officer answered that that was not an accorded place for the transit of the troops. Further, he explicated that they had to retire to Loman. To overcome this unexpected complication, the Austrian officers reported that they had very urgent letters to deliver to the post service at Volargne -- in fact, these missives were to be urgently directed to Verona. In bona fides, Bajo ordered the Austrian officers to be then introduced in the military spaces – but when opening the bianchette, the Austrian soldiers forced the chiaverino and entered into the place with troop strength of more than two hundred men.  

[34]  Trslt.: without equal.    

[35] Original Italian text: «Signor Comandante. L’avvicinamento delle Truppe Francesi per la strada di Brescia verso le Truppe Imperiali ha ragionevolmente fatto conchiudere, che il nemico potrebbe anche occupare la Città di Peschiera. E questo è quello, che ha condotto il General Imperiale di preoccupare questo posto: ed io mi dò l’onore di comunicare al Sig. Comandante la quì occlusa copia di quello, che fu scritto in questo merito al Sig. Provveditor Generale Co: Foscarini, ed alla Serenissima Repubblica, e sono con la più distinta stima. Quartier General Roverbella 26 Maggio 1796. Ossequios. Obbligatis. Servitore. Bar. Beaulieu Comandante in Capite.».

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: January - July 2014

 

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