The 1799 Campaign in Italy: The Defense of Ancona
“An hard nut to crack
The Department of Metauro, a union of territories created in 1798 in the wake of other Republic of French inspiration as the Cisalpine one. The Department of Metauro included Pesaro and Ancona, which was its capital. Its foundation caused the end of other local political realities such as the Government of the United Towns. In particular, the Government of the United Towns had been created autonomously in the area of Ancona in 1797 and integrated in its territory the city of Macerata. A Republic of Ancona (or Repubblica Anconitana) was proclaimed (with French help) on 19 November 1797. The flag was abolished when the republic was merged into the Roman Republic on 7 March 1798. During the following decades, after the decay of the Napoleonic Empire and the Pontificial Restauration there were other attempts to create territorial realities led by Ancona.
Ancona is a provincial capital not quite midway down the Adriatic coast of Italy, 97 km SE from Rimini (Emilia-Romagna), and 286 km NNE of Rome. The older part of town climbs a spur of rock rather high above the port — the view above is from the top of the spur, in front of the spectacular Romanesque cathedral of S. Ciriaco. The town is finely situated on and between the slopes of the two extremities of the promontory of Monte Conero, Monte Astagno to the South, occupied by the citadel, and Monte Guasco to the North, on which the cathedral stands. To the east of the town is the harbour the finest harbour on the SW coast of the Adriatic, and one of the best in Italy. It was originally protected only by the northern promontory, from the elbow-like shape of which (Greek. Aγκών-Agcòn) the ancient town, founded by Syracusan refugees about 390 B.C., took its name.
First commander of Ancona, 2nd Military Territorial Division was General Giuseppe Maria Casabianca (1742-1803), with his adjudant, old General Cervoni. However, in 1798, just before the Neapolitan invasion, he was substituted by General Jean Charles Monnier. Commander and Chief of General Staff of Ancona Division were respectively Girard and De La Marre, but, sometimes, having to leave Ancona, in order to lead military actions, Monnier left the provisional command of the military place to his friend Michel Ange Bernard Mangourit, Commissioner for the foreign policies and later historian of the Ancona defense. General Jean Charles Monnier was an effective military commander and an administrator. In this synthesis there is the whole Ancona adventure, an epic poem of that time.
"On vit alors, rapporte un écrivain, cet habile générale trouver dans l'activité de son génie toutes les ressorces que les circonstances lui refusaient. Il improvisa une place de guerre sur des rochers à peine couverts de quelques vieilles fortifications, fabriqua de la poudre, coula des mortiers, construisit des moulins à bras, transforma un port marchand en port de guerre, et, toujours combattent pendant ces gigantesques travaux, ils soutint, avec une poignée de braves, cent cinq jours de siége régulier contre un ennemi quinze fois plus nombreux. Enfin, après avoir livré vingt combats, presque tous avec succès, il accepta la capitulation honorable que lui offrit le général autrichien Froelich (23 brumaire an VIII)."
The treaty of Tolentino fixed a withdrawal of the French troops from the Marche Region, once the Papal government had paid what was established. Moreover, on the day after the signature of the treaty between France and the Habsburg Empire -October 17, 1797, called Campoformio- Ancona would have been returned to the Rome Government. Without the military control of Ancona, however, the French exepedition against Rome, expected for the beginning of 1798, would have been too difficult. The French, therefore, maintained Ancona and gave it a republican government, gathering there soldiers of the Cisalpine Republic. The French breaking the agreement of Tolentino, which was signed under the protection of Saint Nicholas by the Catholic Church, was one of the motivations of the 1799 insurgency, which was
Ancona – the Fort Cappuccini
Cisalpine troops, Poles, and French auxiliary troops, had begun to threaten the border with the Marche since November 179. At the beginning of December they had already occupied Saint Leo fortress. On December 21, the Cisalpines entered Pesaro, and gradually all the nearby towns. At the beginning of January 1799, the French and the Cisalpines controlled the entire Marche’s territory. Only in that moment was given the order to march on Rome.
At the beginning of 1799 - therefore still before the more important battles of the insurgency - the losses of the Italian rebels were already more than 60,000, according to the numbers given by the French General Paul-Charles Thiébault. The guerrilla, began hitting randomly from some places to other and founding resources and aid in the Abruzzi region. The revolt quickly spread: the French sent the “colonne infernali” (hell’s columns), where the riot’s fires assumed greatest proportions and introduced greater dangers, but did not succeed to extinguish them, other than for the short term. Initially the insurgency in that territories had the usual disordered reforms of all riots, but under the guide of two skilled military chiefs it soon became a real war. The first “military” chief was Donato de’ Donati, leader of the rebellion in Fano near Pesaro. The second was the famous Cisalpine General Giuseppe Lahoz Ortiz [i], who, after having disobeyed General Montrichard orders, led his staff and troops to Rimini and Fano, joining the other side of the struggle. At Fano he tried to get Cisalpine general-de-brigade Domenico Pino [ii], a close friend, and Cisalpine Chef de Brigade Achille Fontanelli [iii] to join him. They refused and left Fano. They reached Ancona where they were arrested by Monnier as spies. However the French general believed in their sincerity and taken them with him at the Citadel.
The port was soon blocked on land, by a great multitude of peasants, and at sea, on the Adriatic side, by a fleet of Russians and Turks, which arrived on May 17. On May 23 the De Donati bands occupied Ascoli; on June 4 the French re-conquered and plundered it; three days after Pesaro had fallen in the hands of the Sebastiano Grandi bands, a Catholic priest, who, on June 9, obstinately defended it from Monnier and Pino assaults. By June 12, Fano fell into rebels hands and, on 15, the bandit Chief Gentili got hold of Recanati, while, on 16, Vanni conquered Macerata. On June 18 the Turkish-Russians marines disembarked and occupied Senigallia, very close to Ancona, causing a temporarily stop in the activity of the Cisalpine French columns. It followed a naval attack.
The first attack of the Coalition fleet was grotesque. They deployed in two ranks, with the Turkish ships in the second line, almost parallel to the Russians in the first line. The Turkish vessels’ guns opened a terrible fire trying to hit the town bastions. Instead they fired on their allies, damaging the Russian ships in a such way they were soon unable to stay at sea. So the fleet withdrew in a friendly port for repairs.
This incredible accident created great confusion among the rebel troops and was noted by Monnier, in the Citadel. He quickly profited from the moment and increased the confusion by leaving Ancona with three columns. The insurgents were surprised and made a rapid escape. So Monnier was able to take all the territory between Musone and Esino creeks. A French column advanced south towards Ascoli, which was taken with a great carnage among the rebels, and the desperate Lahoz was forced to retreat to the Abruzzi region. Fontanelli’s column advanced north against Pesaro and hearing rumors of a new insurgent formation of about 6000 peasants, simulated a retreat towards Fiumicino. Here he joined the General Monnier’s column and, together, they engaged the rebels. The battle was won and the bands fled away in panic. Then Fontanelli proceeded in his march capturing the Furlo Pass, Fano and Fabriano (where he was wounded), returning through Sarnano and, finally, attacking the strong town of Macerata, which was occupied.
Ancona Division General Jean-Charles Monnier
Russian Navy Squadron – Rear (Vice) Admiral Pavel Pustoshkin
Rear (Vice) Admiral Patrona Beg
On June end, the Russian Admiral Ushakov, having occupied Corfu, sent another squadron to Ancona, under command of Commander Count Wojnovich, which embarked other 1200 Russians and 300 Turks and consisted of four frigates, one corvette and two escorts. This task force disembarked some detachments capturing Fano ans Senigallia, north of Ancona,while Lahoz and Vanni gradually encircled the fortress.
On 1 August, the French only held beyond Ancona, the towns of Montesicuro, Osimo, Castelfidardo and Camurano. Pino and Lucotte, who defended these positions, were pressed by Lahoz and were forced to withdraw into Montagnola. Two days later, again being defeated by the Cisalpine general, they had to withdraw to Ancona. Monnier’s forces were not so many, but in compensation the city was well fortified and suitable to a strong resistance; the batteries in the Fort of Cappuccini, and those in the Mount Cardeto and Santo Stefano redoubts, which dominated the place, had been strengthened with covered entrenchments and supported on their flanks by the forts erected on the Mounts Pelago and Galeazzo. Also the defenses of the Pier and the Lazzeretto had been abundantly fortified. General Lahoz had with himself 6000 rebels and one thousand Turkish-Russians, being supported by the fleet of Wojnovich. The siege operations began after the capture of Montagnola and were conduct with great energy. The Pier, the Lazzeretto, the Fort of the Cappuccini and the mounts Cardeto and Santo Stefano were incessantly bombed from the batteries of the besiegers; Mount Pelago fell in the hands of the rebels, while Mount Galeazzo, despite being attacked two times, continued to resist.
On September 29, the vanguard of the Fröhlich Corps, 1500 Austrians under the engineers General Skal, arrived. On October 8, an enemy courier came onto the French outposts bringing a letter in which the Coalition army asked the fortress to surrender.
Monnier thought to break off the blockade before the entire Austrian force would reach Ancona and on October 10 ordered a general sortie. At 2 AM, the French cautiously exited the city in three columns: the right one commanded by Lucotte, the center one under Monnier and the left one under Pino. The besiegers, surprised while sleeping, were taken by a great panic, slipped away and the French easily occupied the parallel trenches of their first and second line. They then attacked the opponent’s camp in front of Mount Cardeto, disordered the enemy troops, destroyed seven artillery pieces, stole two mortars, took away seven flags and regained the walls under great hurrahs. In this action died also the brave Lahoz, who threw himself into the melée and of whom the legend tells he was killed by his friend Pino.
The garrison was, otherwise, very weak, above all by diseases. Only 1500 men were fit to fight and the fate of the fortress was going to be desperate. In November, Fröhlich sent his second ultimatum but it was ignored by Monnier. The continual daily musketry, the cannonballs, which damaged the Ancona batteries which made them unable to fire, and finally the lack of supplies and food, made the third Austrian ultimatum definitive. After 100 days of brave resistance, the War Council of the Citadel voted to give up. The surrender treaty had honourable articles: only the soldiers had to put away the weapons, NCOs and officers retained theis sabres, baggages and horses. The whole garrison (with wounded who were able to travel) was embarked to France (Marseille, Bourg en Bresse) and Monnier marched with a special honour guard, which retained their weapons.
Last period deployment after the Montagnola clash
Mt. Gardetto Fort - Today known as monte Cardeto - General Domenico
The uncontrollable French expansion swept up Ancona, leaving there evident traces. In that twilight of the 1700's, the French gave instructions to fortify Monte Cardeto and hill Santo Stefano, which were too weak to resist. In 1799 the French began to realize the importance of Fort Cardeto and the Lunetta di Santo Stefano. This last one, which, in particular, will reveal itself decisive for the defense of the city, was made with a pointed, low defilading. It was a fortified “casermetta” (little barracks) of two floors. The fort was rather protected by its own shape, having a long ditch which got hidden great part of the escarpments, while presenting an extererior advanced defensive work – called “dente” (tooth) – to protect the ditch. The Fort was connected with the entrenched Camp by a weak system of pits and palisades. The Lunetta S. Stefano, today, is practically intact and its perimeter is very evident in the parks of Pincio and Lunetta, where there is an interesting and evocative system of tunnels, on the left face of the Lunetta. Fort Cardeto, today, is partially comprised in a park and is accessible from the road which starts from the Field of the Jews.
Fort Cappuccini - General Edme Lucotte
8th Light infantry Demi-brigade III Battalion
The French were also very interested in the area currently occupied by the two lighthouses. The hilltop of Cappuccini, therefore, was transformed into a fortress, taking advantage from the previous walls and fortifying the terraces laid between the hill and the inhabited center. So acting, it was obtained an effective rearguard building (for the Cardeto), equipped with two bastions.
Citadel - Chef-de-bataillon Michel Gazan
16th Light infantry Demi-brigade 4 companies
The Sangallo Fortress dominated Ancona was known as the “Citadel”. It was the main instrument of defense at the entrance of the city (where today is Sangallo Olace) and its walls were connected, from the end of the 1700, with Porta Pia (Pia Door) fortifications. The evidence of such defensive system is found in the central city zone, today called “the Citadel”, which has, inside it, the larger city park. From the higher point of this green zone, it is possible to have a 360 degrees vision of the whole city, from the port to Monte Conero.
Lazzaretto (Quarantine Hospital) - Chef-de-bataillon Guérin Sercilli
Roman Legions III & IV and Roman Dragoons
The Quarantine hospital (Lazzaretto or Laemocomium) of Ancona was realized by the renowned architect Luigi Vanvitelli (Naples, 1700 - Caserta, 1773), beginning from 1732 in the harbour area, when he was in the Marche, in quality of Papal planner. The imposing construction (it extends itself on an area of 20000 square meters), was planned according to the city reorganization of Ancona as a port, in order to guarantee the immunity from epidemics, which could have been carried by materials and people coming from foreign lands. The decision to construct a large Quarantine hospital was justified by the trades of Ancona, in that period become free port thanks to Pope Clement XII. The first stone was planted on July 26, 1733 and the buildins was completed in 1743.
Sobborgo Farina (a nearby village) - Chef-de-bataillon Le Coutourier
* Estimated numbers
[i] General Giuseppe Lahoz Ortiz Born in Mantua on 1773 and dead in Ancona on 1799. In 1796 he deserted from the Austrian army to reach and organize the first Cisalpine units. In 1797 he was General-de-brigade participating in the Romagna expedition (wounded at the Senio combat). When the Directory imposed the creation of the Cisalpine republic he went to Paris to obtain important political and military charges. But he was able only to obtain the rank of General-de-Division (the Cisalpine one). He was sent again to Romagna under General Montrichard. Having troubles about the conduct of the rearguard campaign, he deserted again reaching the Papist Insurgents at Fano (Donato de’ Donati) near Ancona and then beginning an hard struggle against that fortress in which there were also the old cisalpine comrades. Mortally wounded he died there without glory and memory.
[ii] Général de brigade Domenico Pino (Count). Was born in Milan on September 8, 1760, from a family of traders. He had an impetuous and determined nature, and fully embraced the Revolution ideals in 1796; initially as a simple grenadier, in the following year was already a Chiefof the legion, which took possession of some places in the Duchy of Parma, on the borders of Milanese territory. Suspected since 1798, for his close friedship with the “rebel” General Lahoz, when he came to Pesaro, with his friend, General Montrichard, from Bologna expelled these two officers and removed them from their commands. Lahoz did not yield and put resolutely himself at the head of an insurrection against the French, Pino, on the contrary, met General Monnier, commander in Ancona, showing always a true devotion to Bonapartists and contributing to the Ancona defense. He had been named general of brigade on December 16, 1798. At the end of 1799, when the Austro-Russians invaded central Italy, he repaired in France, returning in Italy after the Bonaparte’s victorious campaign of 1800. He was then named general of division. In 1802, Bonaparte charged Pino with the command of Romagna Region, and later, he entrusted to him the War Ministry of the Kingdom of Italy. In 1805, Pino was replaced, at the Ministry, by Caffarelli and returned to the field, leading his former division under Napoleon. He was characterized by bravery and intelligence; remained attached to the main French army until the autumn of 1813. The Emperor sent him again to Italy to support the viceroy against the advances of Austria. General Pino operated, with his division, on September 15, at Lippa, at Adelsberg and Fiume. After having gathered some troops in Bologna, he went against the Austrians who had passed over the River Po, close to Volano. Later, Murat, called him at Naples. There were, probably, several disagreements with the king of Naples, so Pino, suspected of sedition, was forced to leave Naples and to go to Milan, where he waited for the final standings of the campaign. When, in 1816, the Senate of the Kingdom deliberated to ask the allied sovereigns for having Eugene Beauharnais as king of Italy, it is believed that Pino took part in the insurrection of April 20, which ruined that clever project. Austrian troops having entered Milan few days after, and Field Marshal Bellegarde being put at the head of regency, the influence of the General Pino ceased. He was put in retirement with a pension of 3,000 florins. In December, Bellegarde arrested General Theodore Lechi and a Pino’s aide-de-camp, who were to be sent to the king of Naples, to commit him to employ his in order to maintain the kingdom of Italy under an “Italian” crown. Pino, again under suspicion by the Austrian authorities, was condemned to an absolute absence from the political life in Milan. He died close to Milan, on June 13, 1826, age sixty-six.
[iii]Chef-de-brigade Achille Fontanelli, son of Marquis Alfonso and of Paolina Cervi, born in Modena on November 8, 1775. He was early orphan but fate, as a compensation, gave him a solid constitution, gentle mind and open-handed nature. He enrolled in 1796, at the time of Bonaparte’s arrival to Modena, in the city Guard. In 1797 he was transferred to one of the Bologna Cohorts of the Lahoz Lombardy’s Legion, successively part of Lannes brigade. In February he led his volunteers against the Papal General Colli in Romagna, at the Senio battle. Then the brigade marched forward till it reached and captured Ancona. In middle June Bonaparte ordered an expedition against the Ionian islands. The Lombardy Legion, in the meanwhile, was split in two parts with the Transpadane Cohorts gathered under the name of 3rd Legion, led by Colonel Spinola. Absent the colonel for an illness, Fontanelli took the command, embarked the Legion at Malamocco (Venice) and went with the islands’ expeditionnary force, which took Corfù.
In 1798, he returned to central Italy, ordered to join General Giuseppe Lechi for a joint march against Rome. But the Pope resigned before the invasion and, so the Third Legion remained to garrison Pesaro. In 1799, the Legion became the 3rd Cisalpine demi-brigade and marched towards Ferrara and Verona under General Montrichard. He fought at Finale against the Austrian and was forced to retreat to Bologna and, then, to Pesaro, being there when Lahoz arrived to Fano, after his expulsion. There General Lahoz tried to embark to Egypt, probably to speak directly with Bonaparte, but he did not find any boat that would sail. So, in a enlarged War council, Lahoz decided to change his flag, but Fontanelli and Pino disagreed. He took the Legion with him and marched towards Ancona. The city was actually defended only by the Lighthouse batteries, restored by chef-de-brigade Allix, and was under rebuilding of the whole fortified system, as Bonaparte had previously ordered. At the time Ancona was under a naval blockade by a joint Turkish-Russian fleet, led by admirals Wejnowich and Pastokhin. The Fontanelli column was welcome in the Citadel, but its Chief was suspected of espionage and arrested. The trial was very quick and the Cisalpine Staff was totally discharged, being attached to the Ancona garrison. With the capitulation he was in France, at the Legione Italica where he led a light infantry battalion. From there he followed Bonaparte in his Second Italian campaign. Promoted general-de-division he was always employed in the Kingdom of Italy armies, of which he was also War and Navy Minister. He was made Count of the Empire, Coammander of the Legion d’Honneur (1804), Commendatore of the Iron Cross Order (1806). In 1809 he led a division during the campaign against Austria and Napoleon named him one who “avait bien meritée pour l’Italie”, Grand Officer of the Legion d’Honneur, State Advisor, awarding him with two annual endowments: one of 4000 Francs and another of 10000. From 1813 he was charged of the reorganization of the Italian troops into 5 divisions. After the Restoration he had the rank of Austrian Feldmarschalleutnant, with which he went into retirement. General Achille Fontanelli died in autumn 1837 in Milan, because of a bone cancer. The head of his funeral procession was led by the Austrian Field marshal Radetzky.
[iv] General-de-Brigade Edme-Aime Lucotte, He was born in Bourgogne on October 30, 1770. Studied at Dijon and was enlisted in the army in 1790, in a volunteers battalion of the Cote-d'Or. In 1793 was promoted chef-de-brigade of the 60th demibrigade and participated at the fights in Lyon, at the moment of the revolt. Having refused to open the fire against the civil rebels he was dismissed and exiled to Chambery (Savoy). Recalled in France, in June 1797, was with Bonaparte, distinguishing himself so he got back his rank of Chef-de-Brigade. Bonaparte wanted him in Egypt but, because of a transport ship damage, his travel to Africa was interrupted and the ship forced to enter the Ancona port in order to repair. So Lucotte became one of the Ancona defenders. For his conduct during the siege, Lucotte was promoted to the rank of General-de-Brigade, on November 21, 1799. Returned in France, he was named military commander of the Oise department, there he married the daughter of the marquis of Corberon and was named Knight of the Legion d' Honneur in 1804 (14 June). Then he became a member of the Joseph Bonaparte Staff, as Aide-de-camp, following him in Italy and Spain. On January 8, 1808 (in the service of Naples as Aide de Camp) he was promoted General-de-Division by Joseph Bonaparte), but only on November 4, 1813 (in the service of France) he was confirmed General-de-Brigade. As Governor of Sevilla in Spain he was much estimated from the citizens. Recalled to the campaign of France he finally was also a French General-de-Division, on April 5, 1814 and, on the same day, also Count of the Empire. On May 2, 1814, Lucotte was one of the Officers who met Louis XVIII in Saint-Ouen, in order to offer theirs swords to the king. Lucotte accompanied the king to the Tuileries after the yield of Napoleon. After the capitulation of Paris he led a reserve division at Corbeil. On March 16, 1815 had to carry out the Paris defense , but with little on hand to do it, was again submitted to Napoleon, who sent him to a command in Périgueux. On July 22, 1815, at the moment of the Restoration, he was punished and put at half-wage, then attached to the Royal Corps of General Staff, where he obtained the dismissal. On September 21, 1815, he died at Pont-sur-Saone (others say: 8 July 1825).
[v] Chef-de-Brigade Jacques-Alexandre-François Allix de Vaux, He entered the service at the age of 16, as artillerist. During the first revolutionary wars he served in the armée du Nord, distinguishing himself at the siege of Luxemburg. When he was 20 yers old he was already Colonel. As a chef-de-bataillon served in the Armée d’Italie. He distinguished during the St. Bernard’s passage, in the Verona attack (1800) and in the Santo Domingo expedition. He was named Chef-de-Brigade on March 13, 1800. He was a talented Officer but the opposition against the « Coup » of 18 brumaire delayed his career. From 1808 till 1814 he was in service of king Joseph, and he returned in France only to fight the Coalition. General-de-Brigade: October 1, 1808 (in the service of Westphalia). General-de-Brigade: November 28, 1813 (in the service of France). General-de-Division: April 15, 1812 (in the service of Westphalia). General-de-Division: February 26, 1814 (in the service of France). Member of the Legion d'Honneur: October 12, 1812. On February 18, 1814, he repulsed the Ausrian troops and the Cossacks away from the Fontainebleau forest, and, on 26, he rescue the town of Sens. After Waterloo, he was charged with the task to fortify Saint-Denis, making an impregnable position of it. In 1815 he was exiled in Germany (Westphalia) but, in 1819, he was recalled in France and his old rank of General lieutenant was restituted to him. Died at Bazames (Courcelles) on January 26, 1836.
[vi] Chef de brigade Aliès, was assigned to the 16e demi-brigade d'infanterie légère, with patent: 6 prairial an V (May 25, 1797). Probably he and Allix (see above) were the same person.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: March 2008
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