The 1799 Campaign in Italy: Fate of the Great Citadel: Alexandria (Alessandria)
Alexandria (Alessandria) a walled town on Tanaro river, where it received, in the middle of a large marshy plain, the river Bormida; 27,000 inhabitants, to the South- East of Turin. It had, on the left Tanaro bank, a great Citadel linked to the town with a stone bridge and defended by fortification “à corne”. The Citadel formed an elongated hexagon, with bastions, was armed with about 300 guns and could contain a garrison of about 6000 men; the hospital, the barracks and other military buildings were armored. All the fortifications were improved by French, making Alessandria one of the stronger fortresses in Europe; in 1814 the Austrians dismantled them.
The fortress is located North-West of the city of Alessandria, from which it is separated by the river Tanaro. It is the lowest zone of the piedmont region, about 90 metres above sea-level; this region was named ‘ Mesopotamia' by humanists and destined to be always a borderland. The Citadel is a huge fortress that spreads over 20 hectares and is in the shape of an elliptical hexagon, whose longer side (1 : 1,235) is parallel to the axis of the river. Its hexagonal shape is due to the need of defending the long borderline. The Citadel is a perfect example of modern-type fortress and consists of six bastions called by the names of the patron saints and was surrounded by moats to be flooded by the river's water. The city-entry was through a long stone-bridge leading to a huge place surrounded by multi-storey buildings placed according to Bergoglio's previous building axes, all covered by resistant vaults and built between 1749 (quarter of San Tommaso) and 1831 (warehouse of fortifications). The construction and state of conservation of Napoleonic buildings are unique. In the first months of 1799 the garrison, until his commitment to the Po survey on April, was under command of :
After the Bassignana and Marengo battles, into Alexandria was left Général Gardanne with his garrison of about 3000 men, tired by the heavy combats of May.
General Gaspard-Amédée Gardanne Commander
Valenza and Casale, dismantled by the French, were abandoned. So, on May 21, general Jacob Ivanovich Povalo-Shvejkovsky 1st entered Alessandria beginning the Citadel siege.
May, 23rd 1799 Alessandria Austro-Russian siege group
July, 23 1799 Alessandria Austrian Citadel garrison (after capitulation)
Capitulation of Alessandria– July 21, 1799
The Race to the Sea
Also the important fortress of Ceva had fallen into insurgent hands,
blocking the vital way which linked Piedmont with Savona on the sea.
Ceva, during the middle ages was a strong fortress defending
the borders of Piedmont towards
On May 18, Moreau received this bad news at Asti: the Ceva’s
commander had given up without any resistance. The insurrection at
Ceva and Mondovì had begun on May 6 when a great bunch of rioters
had forced the republican garrisons to close themselves into the fortresses.
Two large columns of armed civilians led by Francolino, a former Sardinian
lieutenant, and the other by Doctor Cerrina, a surgeon, besieged the
fortress. From May 8 to 11 the fort was bombarded by rebels and, on
May 14, the fortress capitulated after a night attack of the insurgents,
who destroyed a fortress door. The French commander, Maris, surrendered
and was left free to reach Mondovì. Here the whole garrison
was disarmed by other rioters and the French were allowed to reach
Coni. Maris had a subsequent trial and the Court Martial condemned
him to death by shooting. Losing Ceva, the French lost the quickest
way to reach Genoa. Moreau immediately activated two “mobile” columns
and give their command to the brigadier,
“provisional”, Garreau and to the adjudant-général
Jean Mathieu Seras, a Piedmontese born in Osasco, who had served only
in the French armies. Every column had two battalions; they had to
force the march and seize Ceva, but the River Tanaro had a flood and
the columns could not pass through and forced to march along its rough
right bank. During the same days Mondovì fell into Insurgents
hands forcing the Coni garrison to try and recapture it. Moreau did
not lose his self-control. He camped at Poirino and Villa-Nuova, while
ordered to adjudant-général Drouot to escort baggage,
artillery, and ammunition to France , through the
Moreau waited at Savigliano for the results of Garreau’s endeavours (which had rallied at Coni the “mobile” columns of Seras and Fressinet). He occupied Mondovì but, fearing to lose the communications with the main army, returned to Coni, where an angry Moreau changed his orders. Grouchy, and 8 battalions, were sent forwards to open the road to the sea, after having reunited all the “mobile” columns. The advance into the Insurgents’ territory was followed also by Moreau, who brought his HQs at Coni. The Grouchy vanguard, led by Adjudant Garreau, and 1300 men strong, entered Mondovì engaging the Royalists. During that struggle chef-de-brigade Lacalle was killed and 330 French died or were wounded. Mondovì was occupied, the enemy retreating into Ceva fortress. Having heard of the victory of Garreau, Grouchy brought 4 battalions to Lesegno, near Ceva, clearing the location from a bunch of 8000 peasants, badly armed. However the strong fortress resisted and the French decided to leave General Quesnel (who had recovered from his wound) and 2700 men to begin a blockade. But, about May 28, the rebellion of the mountain territory was softened and the French deploy3e on the Appennini Ridge.
During that period, around May 30, the Coalition’s Army reinforced
itself gaining a new right wing under General Bellegarde, with 18 battalions
and 4000 cavalrymen. Moreau did not pass the Appennines through Col
di Tenda, because this could had separated his troops from Victor and
Macdonald. After a reconnaissance he decided to pass through Garessio
A part of the Grenier division remained in Arriere-garde at Mondovì, the right wing detached along the Tanaro valley. The main army marched towards the mountains, with all materials and artilleries. On June 6 they safely reached Loano, while the cavalry reached Finale and Savona. This ended the long march after the San Giuliano battle.
The new French deployment of June 1799 was the following:
Division Laboissière was at Genoa with the Lapoype Division;
Division Victor guarded the Toscana’s borders at Pontremoli, and in Taro and Magra valleys;
Division Grenier controlled the passes at Savona (Cerisola, Bardineto and Carpi with Partonneaux brigade, linked on its right with Quesnel brigade at Altare and Mallare; the Adjudant Piedmontese Campana stood at San Giacomo del Segno while Adjudant Garreau remained in the hills near Cadibona pass, at Torre and at Madonna di Savona.)
The Coalition’s Army Occupation of Piedmont
After the fall of the Citadel, the Coalition Army enlarged their occupation
reaching all the farthest Piedmont’s territories, the French
being on the other side of the mountains until Autumn’s last
combats. From June 1, the Austro-Russian moved forward. General Seckendorff
blocked Montenotte and the road to Savona, Vukassovich took the control
of Ceva and Mondovì, blocking the Col du Tende road, Fröhlich,
before his commitment in central Italy , with the 1st brigade occupied
Coni, with the 2nd Brigade Lusignan tried to win the resistance of
Coalition Army in Piedmont – June 4-9, 1799
Turin (Torino) HQs with Division Generalmajor Conrad Valentin Kaim
Corps Infantry-general Andrey Grigorjevich Rozenberg
Division Lieutenant General Ivan Ivanovich Förster (alias Ferster in Russian)
Pinerolo (or Pignerolo) and Susa Valley
Pinerolo, the town at the head of the Chisone valley, had about
8000 inhab. Its fortifications were destroyed by French after 1796-97
campaign. Likewise at Pinerolo, all Piedmontese border Forts ( Susa
and Chisone valleys) were designated to be demolished, as dangerous
for the République. This was the destiny of Exilles
Russian Avantgarde Brigade Generalmajor Petr Ivanovich Bagration
Suse ( Susa), encircled by walls and towers was (is) at the Mont Cenis feet where streams Cenise (Ginicia) and Dora-Riparia join together. The fortress, one of the most important military buildings, was destroyed by Napoleon's will in 1796 (treaty of Cherasco). Its name was Forte della Brunetta and it was more than a simple fortress. It was the result of the hard digging of a whole hill (80 years of work) with the target to block the Mont Cenis pass road (from France ). It was linked with the old Fort of Santa Maria by a long and well hidden passage. The Paris Treaty of 16 May 1796 imposed on the Sardinian King the demolition of the Fort della Brunetta (Brunette) together with other fortresses like Exilles.
Exilles, on the Dora-Riparia, in Exilles valley, blocked the causeway
from Suse to Briançon through the
Fenestrelle, on Chisone stream, had a significant strategic impact.
Anciently its name was Fort du Moulin, which could have had a garrison
of about 1000 soldiers. During the Moreau retreat of May-June 1799
it served also as depot for the artillery park of general Debelle,
after the departure from Turin. With the Restoration, (after having
obtained an evil reputation as French prison), at the place of the
abandoned Fort du Moulin, was built a totally new fortress, which blocked
the road of the Pràgelato valley. It was on the right bank of
the stream and was commanded by an other fortress built on the left
bank: San Carlo. San Carlo, with the Tre Denti and Valli fortresses,
were placed on rocky crests, almost inaccessible, which ended to the
Catinat camp. At its end was the
Coni, situated between two small streams, and though neither very large nor populous, was significant for the strength of its fortifications. Its name ("wedge") is due to its position on a hill between the two streams, the Stura and the Gesso. It was honoured with the title of the Maiden-Fortress (Virgin), because though several times besieged, it was never taken.
That important fortress was ceded by the treaty of Cherasco (1796), with Ceva and Tortona, to the French. In 1799 it was taken of ter ten days' bombardment by the Austrian and Russian armies, and, in 1800, after Marengo, the French demolished the fortifications.
Higher Bormida valley
Higher Tanaro valley
Mondovì originated on the hill where several rural communities
and other little villages sought to free themselves from feudal domination,
subject to the emperor and executed by the bishop of Asti. The community
spread out at the hill foot due to the settlements that would originate
the most ancient quarters of Mondovì. The weakness of Mondovì,
in particular in the military field, did not allow it to remain autonomous,
especially in external relations. In 1415 the Statuta Civitatis
Montisregalis , i.e. the rules of the town, were drawn up in order
to establish “defined rules”
regarding government and civil life, also with respect to the
Avantgarde Brigade Generalmajor Freiherr Josef Philipp von Vukassovich
 Général de brigade Bertrand Clausel (more correctly Clauzel, Count) (1772-1842), marshal of France, was born at Mirepoix (Ariege) on the 12th of December 1772, and served in the first campaign of the French Revolutionary Wars as one of the volunteers of 1791. In June 1795, having distinguished himself repeatedly in the war on the northern frontier (1792-1793) and the fighting in the eastern Pyrenees (1793-1794), Clausel was made a general of brigade. In this rank he served in Italy in 1798 and 1799, and in the disastrous campaign of the latter year he won great distinction at the battles of the Trebbia and of Novi. In 1802 he served in the expedition to S. Domingo. He became a general of division in December 1802, and after his return to France he was in almost continuous military employment there until in 1806 he was sent to the army of Naples. Soon after this Napoleon made him a grand officer of the Legion of Honour. In1808-1809he was with Marmont in Dalmatia, and at the close of 1809 he was appointed to a command in the army of Portugal under Massena. Clausel took part in the Peninsular campaigns of 1810 and 1811, including the Torres Vedras campaign, and under Marmont he did excellent service in re-establishing the discipline, efficiency and mobility of the army, which had suffered severely in the retreat from Torres Vedras. In the Salamanca campaign (1812) the result of Clausel's work was shown in the marching powers of the French, and at the battle of Salamanca, Clausel, who had succeeded to the command on Marmont being wounded, and had himself received a severe wound, drew off his army with the greatest skill, the retreat on Burgos being conducted by him in such a way that the pursuers failed to make the slightest impression, and had themselves in the end to retire from the siege of Burgos (1812). Early in 1813 Clausel was made commander of the Army of the North in Spain , but he was unable to avert the great disaster of Vittoria. Under the supreme command of Soult he served through the rest of the Peninsular War with unvarying distinction. On the first restoration in 1814 he submitted unwillingly to the Bourbons, and when Napoleon returned to France , he hastened to join him. During the Hundred Days he was in command of an army defending the Pyrenean frontier. Even after Waterloo he long refused to recognize the restored government, and he escaped to America , being condemned to death in absence. He took the first opportunity of returning to aid the Liberals in France (1820), sat in the chamber of deputies from 1827 to 1830, and after the revolution of 1830 was at once given a military command. At the head of the army of Algiers, Clausel made a successful campaign, but he was soon recalled by the home government, which desired to avoid complications in Algeria . At the same time he was made a marshal of France (February 1831). For some four years thereafter he urged his Algerian policy upon the Chamber of Deputies, and finally in 1835 was reappointed commander-in-chief. But after several victories, including the taking of Mascara in 1835, the marshal met with a severe repulse at Constantine in 1836. A change of government in France was primarily responsible for the failure, but public opinion attributed it to Clausel, who was recalled in February 1837. He thereupon retired from active service, and, after vigorously defending his conduct before the deputies, he ceased to take part in public affairs. He lived in complete retirement up to his death at Secourrieu ( Garonne) on the 21st of April 1842.
 General Major Gheorgy Gavrilovich Zukata or, in Italian, Zuccato (Цукато) – a Russian count, begun general-major, descendant of an ancient Venetian family which left the service at the Württemberg Court and entered Russian service in 1788. He participated in the Second Turkish war, distinguishing himself at the assault of Prague. During Suvorov's Italian campaign was at the Trebbia and Novi battles. In 1809 - 1810, sent for a command in Little Walachia, organized a regular cavalry regiment from the Serbian cossacks. He died in 1810.
 Colonel (Polkovnik) Petr Petrovich Passek (Пaccek) was promoted General-major on June 7, 1799. From July 16, 1798 to that date he had led the Grenadier regiment of Moscow (Rozenberg Grenadiers). From June 7, 1799 to August 6, 1803 he became the Owner of the Grenadier regiment of Kiev, which he commanded from 1803 to November 15, 1804. In 1807 he became the Owner of the Musketeers regiment of Mogilev.
 Former Major Zaltser was promoted Lieutenant Colonel on May 6, 1799, after the Adda battles, and became Colonel on September 11, 1800. He led the Tambovsky regiment until February 7, 1806.
 Colonel Grigoryi Dmitrjevich Kasahovsky (Кacaгoвckий) became General Major on February 16, 1800 when he left the command of the Smolensk Musketeers Regiment becoming the Chief of the Vitebsk Musketeers Regiment.
 From May 17, 1797 until March 8, 1800 its official number was the 6th Jäger (6-й Егepckий полk – Jeghjerskyi). Only after 1800 it assumed the number 7th; otherwise in all sources it was always related as 7th regiment. Its commander was also its Owner till September 20 (to December 31) when it was under Colonel Vassiliy Aleksejevich Chvitzky who was at Susa with the Prince.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2007
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