The 1799 Campaign in Italy: the French Retreat –
An Impossible Plan
The 27th passed without unremarkably. Only some sporadic
attacks occurred in the center of the battlefield, and the Austrians,
too much exposed under
The general in chief, on the 27th, began to realize that Lecourbe
and Dessoles were able to support his left wing from Tyrol, but
he was still too inflexible to take the action of crossing the
Verona plains with his troops, cutting off the mountains that
separated him from Adige valley; it was a dangerous maneuver
uncover Mantua and open a Cisalpine door for the Austrians. Moreau,
seeing the enemy’s intention to concentrate forces inside
Plan to Pass the
However all of Scherer’s subordinates wanted to engage the enemy, criticizing the irresolution that had resulted in the loss of so much time after the accomplishments of the 26th. The council of war, having comprehended the gravity of the French mistake of waiting so long, failed to appreciate the possibility of committing a still more serious tactical fault, and decided that the army should attempt a passage of the Adige at Ronco or Albaredo, in spite of being in front of a more numerous enemy and between two large enemy-held fortresses.
On the 29th, Scherer asked Kray for a brief truce
of some hours in order to bury the dead still remaining on the
battlefield of the 26th. To support the planned passage
between Legnago and
While Moreau was left nearly alone on the left bank of the river Adige, on March 30, to march along the Trento-Verona road to engage the mass of the enemy forces, the rest of the left wing marched along the Menago creek, in a broad movement hinged on Isola-della-Scala, where Scherer made his headquarters.
Advance Guard Brigade – Chef Luis Gareau (cdr of the Advance Guard and Piedmontese troops)
The 1,200-1,500 French troops under Gareau had orders to attack Pescantina at
2nd Line Brigade – Général Jean-Baptiste Meyer
At Parona, they tried to cover the infantry retreat, under brigadier Maurizio Ignazio Fresia, commander of the Hatry cavalry.
The 5,000-6,000 French troops under Meyer were in the second line, exposed to the Austrian artillery fire from Valpolicella hills. The rout of the brigade resulted in a general rout which was covered by the hussars and Piedmontese dragoons, along with the rearguard formed by the 18e Légère. Two battalions of this unit, the last remaining on the battlefield, were encircled and captured while trying to run up the Adige to cross the river at La Sega (near Rivoli) by boats.
Brigade – GM Anton Freiherr von Elsnitz
Campo avanzato di Parona
1st Right Column (Rechts Kolonne) – Col. Freiherr Franz Kottulinsky
2nd Column (Center) – GM Friedrich Heinrich Freiherr Gottesheim
(Col. Joseph Graf Nimptsch, cdr. of the cavalry)
3rd Left Column (Links Kolonne) (
Detachement – FML Paul Kray de Krajowa et Topolya
Advance Guard – GM Franz Joseph Marquis de Lusignan ( ?)
Hauptkolonne – FML Paul Kray de Krajowa et Topolya
In this battle the Austrians made prisoners of war of: 4 chefs-de-bataillon,
73 officers and NCOs, and 1,100 soldiers. The Imperial forces
lost 390 men (dead, wounded or prisoners). During the night the
Rivoli plateau was occupied by GM St. Julien’s Austrian
brigade. “Les Français perdirent 1,500 hommes
dans cette affaire mal engagée, et ou ils combattirent
contre un nombre triple d'ennemis.” [Roughly: The French
lost 1,500 men in this badly begun affair, and where thy fought
against a triple number of enemies.] (AA.VV.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2007
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