Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

 

Battle of Mount Kitta (also called Kitta Mount) 16th May 1809.

By Paul Latham

During the war with Austria in 1809, Napoleon ordered General Marmont, who commanded in Dalmatia, to unite his forces with the rest of the Grand Armee in preparation for a great battle (Wagram).

Hearing of this movement, the Austrian High Command sent a small force to stop Marmont and recapture Dalmatia for Austria . The Austrian forces numbered around 8,000 men and were under the command of General Andreas Von Stoichewich.

On 16  May, Marmont’s march towards the Danube was blocked by Stoichewich with an advance column of his forces. Stoichewich had occupied a steep hill called Mount Kitta and held the adjoining valley with a column of infantry and a battalion of Bosnian irregular cavalry. The position was very strong for defence, as the hill was steep with rough terrain and part of it was defended by a tributary of the Zermangna river. Stoichewich had chosen a good position; if Marmont moved to attack Mount Kitta his cavalry would take them in the flank. If he chose to attack the valley, the infantry would fall on him from the hill and also cut of his line of retreat towards Zara.

However the French held a significant advantage in artillery and Marmont, as a former artillery officer, had collected a battery of 78 guns. He opened this battery and directed its assault on the hill. With the infantry pinned down for the moment, Marmont sent forward the 11th Legere supported by his own guard of around 300 Chasseurs-a-Cheval into the valley. The Bosnian irregular cavalry was dispersed and pushed out of the valley whilst the infantry fell back with them, pressed hard by the 11th Legere.  With Stoichewich focus moved to watch what was happening in the valley, Marmont ordered the 23d  and the 8th Legere to storm the Mount. The Austrians were surprised by this movement and were pushed out of their defensive positions and back into the valley. The 11th Legere had been withdrawn from the valley and was ordered by Marmont to take position on the reverse slope of the Mount and conceal itself.

Stoichewich knew that Mount Kitta was the key to this engagement and promptly ordered a general advance from all of his forces, some of which had been at the exit to the valley and had not yet been engaged. A large column of 4,000 Austrians stormed down the valley and began to climb the hill under heavy fire from the 23d  and 8th Legere. As the Austrians reached the summit, Marmont gave the order for the 11th to reveal themselves and fire a volley into the oncoming enemies. The 11th then bayonet charged the bewildered Austrians who, tired after the tough ascent and surprised by the 11th, were powerless to offer effective resistance. As the Austrians reach the valley floor, the Chasseurs-a-Cheval of Marmont's guard crash into them scattering and routing the enemy. In their charge the Chasseurs captured 800 prisoners, 50 officers and General Stoichewich himself!

In this action, the Austrian losses are 3,000 killed, wounded and taken prisoner with many of the retreating forces abandoning their arms to make better their escape through the mountain passes.

The French forces only sustain light casualties and Marmont continued his push to the Danube.

Sources:

Fisher, Todd. The Napoleonic Wars: Empires Fight Back 1808-1812

Memoires du Marechal Marmont, Duc de Raguse, De 1792 A 1841

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2001

 

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