Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

The Memorie Zucchi: an Extrapolation of the 1809 Italian Campaign – Part II

Eastern Venetiae: a scrittura memoriale on the battle of Fontanafredda

By Roberto A. Scattolin, Italy

History and Strategic Applications: Studies for the Bicentenary, 1809-2009

Some historical observations on the matter of the Italian campaign of 1809 would be appropriate,  enhancing the vitality and the fluency of the reading, as well as to fully discerning the intelligibility of this enthralling five-hundred-forty-four worded text.

The extrapolation of the below-cited passage is taken from the forgotten Memorie of an old Italian veteran who served throughout the period of the Napoleonic wars – a most distinguished fellow, division General Carlo Zucchi –, from a 1861 edited publication.[1]

Some eighty-four pages on the years 1796-1814 are counted as specific survey.

The syntactic structure of the following informative text is constituted by twenty-nine phrases in consequential order of grammar, and words (respectively, for each linear sentence: 24; 28; 4; 17; 15; 13; 10; 12; 25; 6; 19; 20; 21; 27; 17; 14; 15; 21; 26; 17; 15; 22; 5; 13; 10; 22; 34; 25; 25; 45; 26). 

This accurately composed narrative belongs to the XIXth Century historical memories; the work is especially conferred to the genre of military history

One characteristic view of Sacile, the ancient and picturesque small town, was once known as giardino della Serenissima (garden of the Most Serene Republic of Saint Mark). Her ancient buildings are reflected in the clear flowing waters of the Livenza River. A legendary account points out that the location had been founded by Troian war fugitives, notably led by a chief-of-arms. With a lively agricultural market, it expanded around a sacred temple erected in the VIIIth Century by “Henricus de genere Alemannorum”, Duke of the Friuli (797-799 A.D.). The Duomo (the cathedral church) was founded and construction began in 870 A.D.; it was completed in 1298 A.D.. In the Xth-XIth centuries, the castellum (castle; basically, a defensive strong point) was integrated into a fortified system including the places of Sant’Odorico, Topaligo, and Cavolano. From 1077 A.D., the urban aggregation belonged to the Patriarchs of Aquileia.

studies (although the biographical traits cannot be excluded).

Further, the remarkable literary composition is an influential addition to the écriture de gendre (i.e. memorial writings) focused on the eventful age of the French autocrat Napoleon I.

The fact-based war drama described an Italian military unit, the Primo Reggimento di fanteria di linea (i.e. first infantry regiment of the line) of the Italian Kingdom, which became trapped in a complex strategy and grand design in front of the enemy battle lines – and was pounded mercilessly in the vulnerable operative salient near Sacile-Fontanafredda (Northern Italy; Friuli Venezia Giulia, province of Pordenone). The turmoil, which occurred in April 1809 in the eastern Venetiae (high Friuli territories), against the Habsburg monarchy, is a vividly documented account.

This straightforward documentary piece has its own essence, proved in details and the sequence of events; but the narration rises above what could have been a clichéd telling of the memory of Colonel Zucchi’s other formidable ability and the indomitable determination his companions-in-arms displayed under fiercely-tested battle conditions.

Suitably, after having evaluated a pre-studied methodology of critical literary examination, the narrative scheme of the author can be subdivided into different paragraphs, which do not lack in cohesive descriptive semantics.

Documentary Piece

Addi 9 di quello stesso mese d’aprile un Ajutante di campo in tutta fretta mi portò l’ordine di partir tosto, provvedendo ogni soldato di sessanta cartuccie.

Le ostilità erano incominciate.

La marcia fu continuata sino ad occupar Fiordisotto[2] situato a circa tre miglia in avanti di Treviso[3]

Trnsl.:Today 9 of that same month of April a field Adjudant in all haste brought me the order to leave at once, providing each soldier with sixty cartridges.

The hostilities had begun.

The march was continued as far as to occupy Fiordisotto located at nearly three miles in front of Treviso”.

Comment: Logistic and tactics; sentences: one, two, three.

It is early in the month of April; the specific narrative concentrates on the Italian armed forces opening a new drive in the north-east (that was consequentially meant not only as the forward tactical movement of the above-cited infantry troop), leaving from the town of Padua (General Severoli’s divisional units), via Treviso, to the country hamlet of Fiordisotto

A significant piece of information is lively recorded: the infantrymen of the line units were furnished with battle equipment (an explicit detail), including a supply of sixty cartridges. 

La divisione Severoli, inviata nel Friuli, aveva 9000 uomini, 700 cavalli ed 8 pezzi d’artiglieria”.[4]

The urgent orders to leave for the operative front was freshly at hand by newly received communication by the time Colonel Zucchi’s infantry unit had already reached Padua.

A matter of concern not to be minimized was the fact that war hostilities had once more broken out between Imperial France and the Danubian monarchy for the contest of strategic supremacy in Northern Italy territories.

Effectively, after the declaration of war was sent on April 11, the Imperials commenced the military operations within a time frame of thirty minutes.[5]

Nella notte ebbi l’ordine di andare ad unirmi alla Divisione Serras[6], accampata a Brugne.[7]

Il resto della Divisione Severoli[8] andò ad occupare a sinistra un’altra posizione.

Mi presentai, appena giunto alla mia destinazione, al generale Serras.

Egli aveva il costume di trattar tutti nei modi i più famigliari.

Così mi disseso che tu hai un bravo reggimento; bada che domani avremo a far qualcosa, che tengo sia per essere assai seria. Intanto resta qui meco a pranzo”.[9]

Trnsl.: “In the night I had the order to go to join the Serras division, camped at Brugnera.

The remainder of the Severoli division went to occupy on the left another position.

I presented myself, as soon as I reached my destination, to general Serras.

He had the custom of treating everybody in the more homely ways.

So he told me: “I know that you have a brave regiment; mind that tomorrow we shall have to do something, that I deem to be very serious. Meanwhile remain here with me at lunch”.

Comment: Area movement; sentences: four, five, six, seven, eight.

Details of this sort implied the progressive forward movement of the unit (i.e. Primo Reggimento di fanteria di linea), and the new military corps it had been assigned to (Serras’ division), towards a generally extended area of interposition and arrest, in order to stop the advance of the Imperial troops. 

It was equally ordered that once the Italian regiment reached its location, it had been instructed by specific disposition to join Serras’ divisional force in the area where the infantry corps had lighted bivouac fires and comfortably encamped. 

The friendly meeting with Général de division Jean-Mathieu Séras (frenchified surname version) had for every convenience to be intended as a proper – and necessary – conseille de guerre (i.e. war council), where the named right wing positional commander issued straight dispositions to the subordinate commanding officer of the First Italian infantry regiment of the Line.

Alla punta del giorno il generale Serras riunite le due Divisioni, le pose in movimento nella direzione di Porzia.

Non si tardò a scontrare il nemico, col quale s’impegnò un gagliardo combattimento su tutta la linea di battaglia.

I nostri battaglioni da prima sostennero il fuoco con molta fermezza, ma poi di mano in mano si trovarono compiutamente perdenti”.[10]

Trnsl.: “At dawn that day, General Serras gathered the two divisions, and put them in movement in the direction of Porzia.

One was not late to meet the enemy, with which it engaged in vigorous fighting all along the line of battle.

Our battalions first sustained fire with much firmness, but then bit by bit found themselves completely at a loss”.

Comment: Battle scenery; sentences: nine, ten, eleven.

Generally speaking, it is a three-phrased organic ricordo di guerra (war memory) referring to the clash which was fought on those pressing military circumstances.

A basically written remembrance is provided, although an abridged version en abrégé (in a shortened, synthesized version).

The tightly written sentences created a vision of the action and owed a debt of silence to the surreal horrors and carnage of the Napoleonic wars, in which the belligerents underwent the thunderous barrage of shellfire which constantly was smashing and roaring all over the battlefield.

There were unmentionable primary causes for the lethal and bloody suffering in the ranks (exposed to the shelling range of the enemy artillery pieces), with horrifying results of dead--sodden, squelchy, swollen bodies of the fallen Franco-Italian combatants who had striven in rivalry to their opponents.

It is rather obvious that a firm cross-validation of the narrative is not mentioned regarding the tactical inefficacy and subsequent bloodletting in the attacks that the ordinary infantry regiments had to suffer in order to go through the Austrian defensive positions.

Combat infantry troops were held in line, and pushed to the attack until deemed incapable of further effort because of the numerous casualties and protracted physical exhaustion.

As the battle progressed, a remarkable aspect developed of the purely strategic attention to the dispositions which the Imperial regiments made to meet the French offensive, both immediately before the opening of the attack and during the battle.

The Austrian active counter-measures to avert the French hostile threat demonstrated in this frame of reference the importance which the Imperial commander Erzherzog Johann von Österreich (his Highness the Archduke John Baptist Joseph Fabian Sebastian of Austria; Florence, January 20, 1782-Graz, May 11, 1859; the son of the Grand Duke Leopold of Tuscany -- the future Emperor Leopold I --, and Maria Ludovica of Bourbon) ascribed to this section of the front, and the extreme dispositions he was forced to take in its cohesive defence.

In questa battaglia, detta di Secille oppure di Fontana Fredda, rimasero gravemente feriti il generale Severoli e il suo Capo di stato maggiore l’ajutante comandante Martel.

Perdite notabili sofferse il mio reggimento, del quale furono messi fuori di combattimento circa duecento cinquanta uomini.

Fra i feriti si contavano quattro Capi di battaglione; fra i morti cinque ufficiali”[11]

Trnsl.: “In this battle, called of Secille, otherwise known as Fontana Fredda, there remained seriously wounded General Severoli and his Chief of the Staff the adjudant commander Martel.

Notable casualties suffered my regiment, of which  nearly two hundred men were put out of combat.

Counted among the wounded were four battalion-commanders; among the dead were five officers”.

Comment: Battle name, losses; sentences: twelve, thirteen, fourteen.

The exact location where the disputed fighting actions took place is accurately reported.

A first accounted reference is for Secille (correct name should have been written Sacile), but this place-name retained somewhat an improper nominal attribution.

The correct place-name was Fontana Fredda.

And the martial confrontation was fought all around the nearby surrounding plains of Camolli.

Date of action: April 16, 1809.

The battle of Camollo (campus mollis), popularly called il Camoi, was a hard-disputed manoeuvre on ground, and quite a terrific military clash[12] in the North-eastern Venetiae.

Heavy losses were sustained by Filippo Severoli’s division; neither General-commanders nor Staff officers were spared injury from enemy fire volleys.

The ranks of the 1st Italian regiment of the line notably incurred severe casualties: four battalion commanders were wounded – a prominent feature –, five officers perished instead on the line of bravery and military duty.[13]

These brave men played a crucial combat role, and sacrificed their lives on the ground of martial honour.

Thoroughly examining the data exposed in the narrative text, overall battle losses were thus: nine officers (killed, plus wounded), and two-hundred-fifty soldiers out of action (k., plus w.).

Prisoners are unmentioned in this cited reading passage.

Giusta gli ordini avuti, io doveva compiere la mia ritirata alle ore dieci della sera.

Mentre io stava per ciò fare, mi trovai incrociato dal corpo del Generale Grenier,[14] che erasi sbandato e camminava alla rinfusa.

Previdi che ove io pure mi fossi posto in marcia, sarei incorso nel pericolo di vedere il mio reggimento andare anch’esso travolto nel generale scompiglio.

Deliberai pertanto di sospendere il mio movimento di ritirata e restai fermo sino alle tre del mattino.

Sul fare del giorno mi accorsi d’essere inseguito da alcuni squadroni di cavalleria austriaca.

Diedi tosto gli opportuni ordini; ma essi ci assalirono assai mollemente e a contenerli bastarono due compagnie di volteggiatori poste al retroguardo”.[15]

Trnsl.: “Just on the received orders, I had to carry out my retreat at ten p.m..

While I was doing this, I found myself opposed in the path by the corps of General Grenier, which had disbanded and walked pell-mell.

I foresaw in that case I had also myself put in march, I would have incurred  the danger of seeing my regiment carried away in the general disorder as well.

I therefore resolved to suspend my movement of withdrawal and stopped until 3 a.m..

At the dawn of the day I noticed some squadrons of Austrian cavalry following.

I at once gave the appropriate orders; but they assaulted us very weakly and to contain them sufficed two companies of voltigeurs placed at the rearguard”.

Comment: Withdrawal, and area disengagement; sentences: fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty.

The memorialist writer Carlo Zucchi neither spoke nor significantly mentioned any reported Austrian success at all.

At the same time, the Italian regiment commander did not make any annotazione reminiscenziale (reference; reminiscent annotation) implying a victorious outcome by the Imperial arms.

The strategic proficiency of the battle was lost, and no further results were acquired through armed confrontation.

The strenuously-disputed fighting against the Feld-Bataillone (field battalions) of the Danubian monarchy, however, was a tremendous experience on the field.

In consequence of the foregoing instructions, the narrative enlightened how the orders for the retreat were duly imparted to the troops.

But with the officers having no practical knowledge of the terrain and because of late night conditions (it transpired that no full moon helped by its nocturnal radiance), the march of the troops in the same direction provoked fatal staggering to the marching order of the infantry – which were soon to become disordered pêle-mêle (pell-mell).

The oversized army had difficulty with its communications among its many corps.

Whole battalions veered off the line, and ended up with the wrong divisional units.

The French was falling back.

At this critical juncture, however, the circumstances were unpredictable and Zucchi was not the kind of field officer who could accept what seemed to him a dangerously illogical disengagement order without complaint.

He was a stern and upright commander, endowed with exceptional leadership qualities, and Zucchi’s timely decision to delay the marching of his regiment force exhibited the shrewdness of his tactical brilliance (and pondered present strategic evaluation) and inspired choice.

Zucchi decided to take his time, acting in the meantime with the operative functionality of an effective rearguard for the recoiling troops.

To the general withdrawal of the army contingents, one of which was accurately remembered (General Grenier’s Corps, which is correctly a confirmed reference for Paul Grenier’s divisional force).

As a matter of fact, maintaining his regular troop battalions standing on defined security position from 10:00 p.m. to 03:00 a.m., safely allowed the  passing of the French army corps.

It is appreciated that the steadily executed night movement saved the army from further difficulties on ground. Having equally restored a bit of shaken morale, the early dawn Austrian light cavalry attack was repulsed without much annoying inconvenience.

A mezzodì arrivai alla Piave.

Il Vicerè era sul ponte a cavallo con tutto il suo Stato maggiore.

Il vinto esercito stava ordinandosi al di là del fiume.

Il mio reggimento perfettamente in ordine con la banda in prima fronte andò a prender posto innanzi al campo della Guardia Reale.

Mi sentii in verità allora orgoglioso di poter mostrare coi fatti e in mezzo a tanto disordine a qual segno di valore e di disciplina fossero pervenuti i soldati italiani affidati alle mie cure”.[16]

Trslt.: “At midday I arrived at the Piave.

The Viceroy was on the bridge on horse with all his General staff.

The vanquished army was reorganizing on the other side of the river.

My regiment perfectly in order with the military band in first rank went to take place in front of the field of the Royal Guard.

I felt as a matter of fact then proud to have the possibility to show with the facts and in the midst of such disorder to which mark of valour and discipline had reached the Italian soldiers assigned to my cares”.

Comment: A new versatile strategy: the Piave line; sentences: twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five.

The tactical movement of the French army units converging on the Piave River permitted a change to the operative front.

Safely-applied withdrawal dispositions were to direct the troops to a potentially new operative sector of arrest protected by the fast-flowing waters of the line of the Piave’s natural barrage.

Worth mentioning is that the bridge where the Viceroy had most probably taken position was the one named della Piula Ponte della Priula.

The slowly executed withdrawal of the French to the Piave River, and manning this established point for the concentration of the forces, took quite a bit of time.

A long, nine-hour march (stops included) was among the requested sacrifices which the soldiers had to bear.

The Viceroy and his accompanying entourage, standing immobile on their battle-horses, were more than an austere presence.

They were to act as a rallying-point to the recoiling soldiers.

By their sheer presence, the officiers-générals (General-officers) had to show that the Franco-Italian Army had not incurred irreparable losses (a paradigmatic conceptualization, well meaning that it had not been defeated by the enemy host) in the field; and that the course of the military ground operations was still ongoing in its – however limited – strategic proficiency.

The General-Staff provided to the disheartened troops a source of refreshing hope and a reassuring appearance for “tactical” order.

Enlivened by their unexpected presence, the disbanded units would have been prone to re-form the scattered ranks on the new line of consolidation that was established on the right bank, at the Piave.

The synergistic choices of the Viceroy had therefore a resourceful influence that soon raised the bar of honour and military determination, thus lifting high the spirits of the discomfited soldiers.

The French army had been beaten, but its army corps had not been won.

The band music of the Primo Reggimento di linea had a striking impact on the scene; its functional role had therefore to be properly understood in the context of this specific scenic frame.[17]

By having the instruments playing catchy tunes and harmonies (like it was on parade), it followed that the structural organization of the Italian regimental force had not been thrown into confusion; and this factor consequentially evidenced that no Austrian forces were hard-pressing the rearguard.

It equally meant that the troops were staying under the banner, ready to obey any issued disposition.

Significantly, this evidence indicated that confusion had not spread throughout the marching battalions, and that the fire-power capabilities of the infantry companies were ready at hand.

Further, disciplinary rules of the battalions under the primary leadership of Colonello (Colonel) Zucchi were still a major advantage and cohesive factor in the Italian ranks.

It is worth mentioning that this analogously remarkable abnegation attested to the near perfect efficiency of the subordinate regimental officers.

And the soldiers, by seeing the vigorous display of endurance by theirs officers, were greatly impressed by this stirring devotion to the arms.

The rigorous efficiency and persistent standing of the Primo Reggimento di linea had a most beneficial effect on the Army, and due to pre-determined tactical order these units were “placed” with the Guard battalions.

A cunning choice; it was aimed to demonstrate to the recoiling troops that strong, fresh reinforcements had reached the Piave.

Prince de Beauharnais was eagerly planning to capitalize on the “effect” produced by the above-mentioned battle units.

All of this expedience resounded as a shrewdly inspired escamotage de guerre (retraction of war).

Nello stesso giorno la prima Divisione italiana, provvisoriamente comandata dal generale di brigata Bonfanti, continuò il suo movimento di ritirata per Treviso, Padova e Vicenza.

Se l’inimico, dopo la vittoria, non avesse commesso l’errore di non inseguirci tosto con energia, più probabilmente la campagna sarebbe terminata per noi con le ultime sventure, tale era il disordine, che s’era messo nei vari corpi dell’esercito comandato dal Vicerè.

Il quale però seppe assai bene approfittare delle lentezze dell’Avversario; così che non tardò a trovarsi in condizioni da fronteggiare di nuovo gagliardamente il nemico”.[18]

Trnsl.: “In the same day the first Italian division, temporarily commanded by brigade general Bonfanti, continued their movement of withdrawal via Treviso, Padova and Vicenza.

If the enemy, after the victory, had not committed the mistake of not pursuing us at once with energy, more probably the campaign would have finished for us with the last misfortunes, such was the disorder, that had spread in the different army corps commanded by the Viceroy.

Nevertheless he knew very well to take advantage from the Enemy’s slowness; so that he was not too late to find himself in conditions to vigorously gain advantage against the enemy”.

Comment: New strategic scenario; sentences: twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight.

The Italian infantry battalions were used in the spearhead of General Bonfanti’s division (this General-officer had subrogated pro tempore his executive duties to General Severoli, who had been severely wounded) to ensure that the following units, in effect, the main army corps, received sufficient time and space to re-deploy and develop (id est, to re-organize the ranks, and the units per company, battalion, regiment).

Later in the war (the months of May and June 1809), because of their combat strength, equipment, and organisation, they were used in independent combat assignments.

However, primarily reading Zanoli’s particular passages, what actually transpired was quite different.

Prior to the successful phases of advance in the campaign in Italy, and the commitment in the Austrian territories (eastern theatre of operations) in the later stages of that campaign, the Franco-Italian forces were gradually retreating (April 1809).

It was in the western Venetiae that the divisions had to assume a new defensive configuration, after having left the towns of Treviso and Padova.

In these stages, Vicenza proved to be the farthest exceeding limit to consolidate new procedures in a scheme of strategic feasibilities.

Of particular interest is the eminently significant and compromising mistake, committed in evaluating with matured military insights, the present contingencies: the astonishing erratum, to not have provided any strong defence on the line of the Piave River to block any susceptible Imperial advance.

By not providing an urgent and steadfast disposition for homogenous defence efforts on the above-cited natural flowing line proved to be a fatal paradoxical failure.

Text observations

Italian language war memories that cover the 1809 campaign and the operative front in the Venetiae are relatively few, irrefutably hard-to-locate memorialist writings, and infrequent and much sought after pieces of culture – and the Memorie Zucchi fits that very well, in the line of XIXth Century history, and scholarly research.

The 1861 publication is offered as one possibility for primary-source direct study, and is of significant importance.

Basically, we deem as important any oriented historical collection of the 1809 campaign that is enriched by having at least a literary cognisance of the Memorie.

To all intents and purposes, it actually takes a great deal of time in elaborate researches and documentary complexities to meticulously discern and evaluate through the complete strategic panorama of the 1809 campaign events (Northern Italian theatre, and Hungarian front).

However, it is primarily recognized that it was credited to the Italian armed involvement in the conflict that Eugène Rose de Beauharnais’ French-led troops were successful in attaining a valuable strategic proficiency in many hotly engaged military confrontations in the teatrum bellicum (military theatre).

It is notable to take into account incredible days at Castelcerino (29-30 April), at the crossing of the Brenta river (5 May), at the Piave river (8 May), Tarvisio (17 May), and the Raab (14 June), just to name the major inter-connected locations where acts of bravery and honour held firm to the Italian arms.

If the Italian military organizations had not chosen to help the French (there were a lot less Italian extraction units and soldiers fighting in the war, than French or Austrian, but at the time the political establishment was confined to a sparsely populated country and forced levies, despite its obvious geographical extensions) the course of the war would have been different.

It is true that the Imperials were war-weary, but so was the opposition.

Delving deeper into the factual dissertation theme and the consequential analytical studies to follow in the next written examinations, one must ponder on the available facts that the Franco-Italian army generals had to abruptly face and pass through bloodily-fought engagements where the unmentioned third participant (the people; preadolescents, women, senescents) equally receive a silent and grinding token in lost lives.

In carefully reading the Memorie Zucchi, it is objectively evident that many mistakes were committed (in strategy, and tactics; and less than dominating performances); leadership requirements and gallantry to personally lead the troops forward against the adversary deployments was much often the actuality of a costly affair. 

The realities which occurred are remarkably and seamlessly (although proportionately) documented at the engagement of Camolli, and the terse literary corroboration is contained in the afore-cited textual narrative.

By deftly compiling an in-depth documentation of the Memorie, the trustworthy author Carlo Zucchi comprehensively explored the story of the 1809 epic struggle from the beginning of the field hostilities to the end of the military campaign.

It is hard to describe with words the appreciated and invaluable contributions to the growing bibliography of Napoleonic military histories, which have long fascinated both modern Europe as well as countries all over the world, and correspondingly historians and scholars since the end of the Napoleonic era (1815).

The Memorie are very highly recommended reading for military buffs wanting a documentary understanding and true appreciation of the incidents that made the men of the Primo Reggimento di fanteria di linea legendary in military annals.

Selected Bibliography and Further Reading

Primary sources

1. English works:

THE EDINBURGH ANNUAL REGISTER, For 1809. Edinburgh: printed by James Ballantyne and Co. for John Ballantyne and Co. Edinburgh; Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, and John Murray, London. 1811.

2. French works:

Beauharnais, Eugène, (de). Mémoires et Correspondance Politique et Militaire du Prince Eugène. Publiés, annotés, et mise en ordre par A. Du Casse, auteur des Mémoires du Roi Joseph. Paris: Michel Lévy Frères, Libraires-Éditeurs, 2 bis, rue Vivienne. 1859.

Guillon, Aimé. Histoire de la campagne de Son Altesse Impériale Eugène Napoléon de France, prince de Venise, archichancelier de l’Empire français, général en chef de l'armée d’Italie, contre l’armée autrichienne en 1809. Milan, 1809.

Lafolie, Charles Jean. Mémoires sur la cour du Prince Eugène, et sur le royaume d’Italie pendant la domination de Napoléon Bonaparte. Par un Français attaché a la Cour du Vice-Roi d’Italie. Paris, Audin, 1824.

Macdonald, Jacques Etienne Joseph Alexandre (Maréchal). Souvenirs du Maréchal Macdonald, duc de Tarente. Avec une introduction par M. Camille Rousset. E. Plon, Nourrit et, Paris, 1892.

Marbot, Jean Baptiste Antoine Marcellin (Général, Baron de). Mémoires du général baron Marbot. Paris, Plon, Nourrit et, Paris, 1891.

Noël (Colonel). Souvenirs militaires d’un officier du premier empire (1795-1832). Berger-Levrault, Paris, 1895.

Pelet, (Général). Mémoires sur la guerre de 1809, en Allemagne, avec les opérations particulières des corps d’Italie, de Pologne, de Saxe, de Naples et de Walcheren. Tome Troisième. Paris, Roret, Libraire, Rue Hautefeuille, au coin de celle du Battoir. 1825.

Vaudoncourt, Frédéric François Guillaume (Baron de). Histoire politique et militaire du Prince Eugène Napoléon, vice-roi d’Italie. Paris: Libraire Universelle de P. Mongie, Boulevart des Italiens, N° 10. 1828.

Vignolle, Martin (de, Général). Essai historique sur la campagne de l’armée d’Italie en 1809. Revue militaire, vol. 16, July 1900.

3. Italian works:

Lombroso, Giacomo. Vite dei primarj generali ed ufficiali italiani che si distinsero nelle guerre napoleoniche dal 1796 al 1815. Opera strettamente connessa coll’antecedente, che trattava dei marescialli, generali ed ammiragli che ebbero parte nelle succitate guerre / di Giacomo Lombroso. Coi tipi Borroni e Scotti successori a V. Ferrario, Milano, 1843.

Memorie del Generale Carlo Zucchi. Pubblicate per cura di Nicomede Bianchi. Casa Editrice Italiana di M. Guigoni, Milano, Torino, 1861.

Zanoli, A.. Sulla milizia cisalpino-italiana. Cenni storico statistici dal 1796 al 1814. Per Borroni e Scotti successori a V. Ferrario, Tipografi-Librai e fonditori di caratteri, Milano, 1845.

Secondary sources

1. English works:

Arnold, James R.. Napoleon Conquers Austria. The 1809 Campaign for Vienna. Praeger Publishers, Westport, CT, 1995.

Epstein, Robert M.. Prince Eugene at war: 1809. Empire Games Press, Arlington, TX, 1984. 

Heath, Peter P. H.. Sacile: 15th-16th April 1809. 1985.

Montagu, Violette M.. Eugène de Beauharnais: the adopted son of Napoleon. 1913

Petre, Loraine F.. Napoleon and the Archduke Charles. A history of the Franco-Austrian campaign in the Valley of the Danube 1809. Greenhill Books, London, 1991. Originally published London: John Lane, 1909.

Rothenberg, Gunther E.. The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1978.

––––––– Napoleon’s Great Adversaries: The Archduke Charles and the Austrian Army 1792-1814. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, 1982.

2. French works:

Martinien, A.. Tableaux par corps et par batailles des officiers tués et blessés pendant les guerres de l’Empire (1805-1815), Éditions militaires européennes, 50 Rue Richer, Paris, s.d..

3. Italian works:

Antonini, Prospero. Il Friuli orientale: studi. F. Vallardi, Milano, 1865.

Beauharnais, Eugène, de. Il principe Eugenio: memorie del regno d’Italia. Corona e Caimi, Milano, 1870.

Brentari, Ottone. Storia di Bassano e del suo territorio. Stabilimento Tipografico Sante Pozzato, Bassano, 1884.

Cappello, G.. L’ inizio della campagna del 1809 nel Veneto e gli italiani alla battaglia di Sacile. Tip. E. Voghera, Roma, 1899.

D’Agostini, Ernesto. Ricordi militari del Friuli: 1797-1870: raccolti da Ernesto D’Agostini e messi in relazione alle vicende politiche del Paese. M. Bardusco, Udine, 1881.

Lemmi, Francesco. Le origini del Risorgimento italiano (1789-1815). U. Hoepli, Milano, 1906.

Semenzi, Giovanni Battista Alvise. Treviso e la sua provincia. G. Longo, Treviso, 1864.

Tomaselli, Cesco. Una terra di sagre e di battaglie: Sacile. Milano, 1925.

The presence in the formed ranks of the banda reggimentale (i.e. regimental band), presents a

Study specification

At the beginning of April 1809, the partial deployment of the Franco-Italian troops could be recognized in three lines of containment – which would have then been conformed to the strategic development of the military operations.

The first: Division Seras (stationed between Udine and Palmanova); Division Broussier (between San Daniele and Venzone); Division Sahuc (Tagliamento River); Division Grenier (at Pordenone, Sacile, Conegliano).

Second: Division Severoli (at Padova, and Este); Division Barbou (between Bassano and Legnano); Division Lamarque (had to reach Verona); Guardia Reale (Milano, Padova).

Third: Fontanelli division (camp of Montichiari); Dragoons division Grouchy (between Mantova and Verona); Dragoons division Pully (at Ferrara, and Rovigo).

Appendix I

Armée d’Italie.

Commandant en chef: Prince Viceroi Eugène de Beau harnais.

Chef d’État-Major: Général de division Charpentier.

Commandant de l’artillerie: Général de division Comte Sorbier.

Division Serras

Brigade Garreau: 35e de Ligne: 3 battalions; 53e Ligne: 4 battalions.

Brigade Roussel: 106e de Ligne: 4 battalions.

Artillerie de division: 1 Compagnie à pied: 4 8lb., 2 howitzers; 1 Compagnie à pied: 4 8lb., 2 howitzers.

Division Broussier

Brigade Dessaix: 9me régiment de Ligne: 4 battalions; 24e Dragons: 1 squadron.

Brigade Dutruy: 84me régiment de Ligne: 4 battalions; 92me régiment de Ligne: 4 battalions.

Artillerie de division: 1 Compagnie à pied: 4 8lb., 2 howitzers; 1 Compagnie à pied, 4 4lb., 2 howitzers.

Sahuc’s light cavalry Division

Brigade Pages: 6me Hussards: 4 squadrons; 6me Chasseurs à cheval: 4 squadrons; 8me Chasseurs à cheval: 4 squadrons; 25me Chasseurs à cheval: 4 squadrons.

Artillerie: 1 Compagnie à pied: 6 12lb., 2 howitzers.

Division Grenier

Brigade Abbé: 1er Léger: 4me bataillon; 1er de Ligne: 4 battalions.

Dragoni Napoleone: 1 squadron.

Brigade Teste: 52me régiment de Ligne: 4 battalions; 102me régiment de Ligne: 4 battalions.

Artillerie de division: 1 Compagnie à pied, 4 8lb., 2 howitzers; 1 Compagnie à pied, 4 4lb.,  2 howitzers.

Division Lamarque

Brigade Huard: 13me régiment de Ligne: 4 battalions; 29me régiment de Ligne: 4 battalions.

Dragoni Napoleone: 1 squadron.

Brigade Almeyras: 112me régiment de Ligne: 3 battalions (I, II, III).

Artillerie de division: 1 Compagnie à pied, 4 8lb., 2 howitzers; 1 Compagnie à pied, 4 4lb.,  2 howitzers.

Division Barbou

Brigade Moreau: 8me Léger: 2 battalions (III, IV); 18me Léger: 2 battalions (III, IV).

Brigade Roize: 5me régiment de Ligne: 2 battalions (III, IV); 11me régiment de Ligne: 1 battalion (IV).

Artillerie de division: 1 Compagnie à pied, 4 8lb., 2 howitzers; 1 Compagnie à pied, 4 4lb., 2 howitzers.

Division Durutte

Brigade Valentin: 22me régiment Léger: 2 battalions (III, IV); 23me régiment de Ligne: 4 battalions; 62me régiment de Ligne: 4 battalions.

Division Severoli

Brigade Bonfanti: 1er régiment italien de Ligne: 4 battalions; 2me régiment italien de Ligne: 1 battalion.

Brigade Peyri: 7me régiment italien de Ligne: 3 battalions (II, II, IV); Régiment Dalmatien: 2 battalions.

1er Chasseurs à cheval, Reale Italiano: 1 squadron.

Arillerie de division: 1 Compagnie italienne à pied: 4 6lb., 2 howitzers; 1 Compagnie italienne à pied, 4 6lb., 2 howitzers.

Division Fontanelli

Brigade Julhien: 1er regiment Léger italien: 2 battalions (III, IV); 2me régiment Léger italien: 2 battalions (III, IV).

Brigade Bertoletti : 3me régiment italien de Ligne: 2 battalions (II, IV); 4me régiment italien de Ligne: 2 battalions (III, IV).

Istria Chasseur battalion: 1 battalion.

2nd Italian Chasseurs, Principe Reale: 2 squadrons (III, IV).

10 guns.

Division Guérin d’Etoquigny

7me régiment de dragons: 4 squadrons; 30me régiment de dragons: 4 squadrons; Italian Dragoons regiment Regina: 4 squadrons.

Division Pully

23me régiment de dragons: 4 squadrons; 28me régiment de dragons: 4 squadrons; 29me régiment de dragons: 4 squadrons.

Guardia Reale Italiana

Brigade Lechi: reggimento Veliti reali: 1 battalion; Guardia della linea: 2 battalions.

Guardie d’Onore: 5 Companies.

Brigade Viani: Dragoni: 2 squadrons.

Gendarmeria a cavallo.

6 guns.


[1] Memorie del Generale Carlo Zucchi, pubblicate per cura di Nicomede Bianchi, Casa Editrice Italiana di M. Guidoni, Milano, Torino, 1861.

[2] Nowadays, San Fior di Sotto, a fraction of the commune of San Fior, province of Treviso.

[3] Memorie del Generale Carlo Zucchi. Pubblicate per cura di Nicomede Bianchi. Casa Editrice Italiana di M. Guigoni, Milano, Torino, 1861, p. 21, l. 31-36.

[4] Zanoli, Sulla milizia cisalpino-italiana. Cenni storico-statistici dal 1796 al 1814, Milano, 1845, Vol. II, p. 82.

The composite cadre was organized as follows: “Division General, Severoli. Brigade Generals: Bonfanti, and Peyri (who did not join the division). Chef of the General-Staff, adjudant commander, Martel. Aides de camp, adjoints to the General-Staff, engineers officers, St. Paul, Saluzzo La-Manta, De-Cristoforis, Rodella, Federigo Almorò, Sessa, Castiglioni Pompeo and Marieni. Under inspector to the reviews, Parma. War commissary, Lampato, adjoint Michel. War administrator, Bonfanti. 1st Italian infantry regiment, 4 battalions: colonel Zucchi, major Arese, battalion-chiefs: Barbieri, Dubois, Ferri, Porro. 7th Italian infantry regiment, 3 battalions: colonel Bellotti, battalion-chiefs: Duparc, Soldati, Tracol. Dalmatian regiment: colonel Moroni, battalion-chiefs: Xiscousich, Perrin. 2nd Italian infantry regiment, 1 battalion: major Boretti. Cacciatori reali, 1 squadron: squadron chief Gasparinetti. Napoleone dragoons, 1 squadron: major Odier, squadron commander, Gisbert. One mounted artillery company, and one company of the artillery train: captain Fortis. The 112th French infantry regiment was added to this division; four battalions strong, commanded by colonel Penne” [cfr.: XVIII – Quadro di composizione della divisione inviata all’Isonzo, in: Zanoli. Sulla milizia cisalpino-italiana. Cenni storico statistici dal 1796 al 1814. Milano, 1845, Vol. II, pp. 326-327].

[5] Ibid, Vol. II, p. 82, l. 1-5.

[6] General Jean-Mathieu Serras was the commander of the 1st French infantry division.

Military synopsis: 1765, 16 April: born at Oza (Piemonte); 1791, 8 August: sous-lieutenant, at the service of France; 12 October: adjudant-major; 1792, 13 August: capitaine of the carabiniers in the légion allobroge; employed in the armée des Alpes; wounded at the Petit-Saint-Bernard; 1793, 22 September: chef de bataillon; 16 December: served at the siege of Toulon; and received four fire-shots at the conquest of the redoubt called Petit Gibraltar; 1794, January: passed to the armée des Pyrénées-Orientales, under Charles-Pierre-François Augereau; 6 May: wounded at the heel at the taking of the foundry of Saint-Laurent de la Mouga; 11 June: wounded at the left shoulder at Ripoll, under the orders of François-Amédée Doppet; end 1795: passed to the armée d’Italie; 1796, 16 April: wounded by a fire-shot at the leg during the attack to Ceva; 1798, 21 December: appointed by Joubert adjudant général chef de brigade; 1798-1801: at the armée d’Italie; 1799, 20 June: chef d’état-major at the division Grouchy at the combat of San Giuliano; 31 August: appointed provisional général de brigade by the général en chef Jea-Etienne-Vachiet called Championnet; November: employed in the division of général Louis Lemoine; 1800 March: division Clauzel; 7 April: repelled the Austrians at the combat of Melogno; 18-25 April: took the redoubts of Murialto; 19 April: served at the attack of Monte San Giacomo; 1 December: in reserve at the grand quartier général of the armée d’Italie; 1801, 29 March: confirmed général de brigade; 1 July: came back home, although keeping an active service position; 5 December: employed in the 7e division militaire; 1802, 31 October: at the armée d’Helvétie under Michel Ney; 1803, 30 August: brigade commander under Louis-Nicolas Davout, at the camp of Bruges; 1805, 1 February: commandant of the 10e division militaire; 31 May: commander of the 5e division d’infanterie; 8 September: commander of the 5e division d’infanterie under André Massena at the armée d’Italie; 29 October: crossed the Adige at Ponte Polo; 6 November: occupied Bassano; 20 November: Trieste; 11 December: commander of one infantry division in the 8e Corps of the Grande Armée under Massena; 1806, February: commander of the division of the Istria; 16 July: 1re division of the 2e Corps of the Grande Armée under Eugène de Beauharnais in Friuli; September: joined the armée de Naples; 3 October: in Friuli again; chevalier of the Couronne de Fer; 1809, 1 April: commander of the 1re division d’infanterie of the armée d’Italie; 16 April: served at the right at Sacile; 28 April: with the corps du centre under Paul Grenier; 29 April: wounded at the combat of Soave; 5 May: took the town of Vicenza; 7 May: employed in the reserve of the armée d’Italie; 18 May: took the fort of Pradel (corridge: Predil); 25 May: served at St. Michael; took Leoben and Bruck; 14 June: fought at the Raab.

Coincidentally, for a case of further biographical examination, vide: Serras (Pietro, sic), Generale di Divisione, in: Lombroso, Giacomo. Vite dei primarj generali ed ufficiali italiani che si distinsero nelle guerre napoleoniche dal 1796 al 1815. Coi tipi Borroni e Scotti successori a V. Ferrario, Milano, 1843, pp. 539-550.

[7] Northern Italy, Friuli Venezia Giulia, province of Pordenone.

[8] General Severoli (Faenza, 1767-October 6, 1823) leaded the 1st Italian infantry division.

[9] Memorie del Generale Carlo Zucchi. Pubblicate per cura di Nicomede Bianchi. Casa Editrice Italiana di M. Guigoni, Milano, Torino, 1861, p. 21, l. 36, p. 22, l. 1-8.

[10] Ibid, p. 22, l. 9-15.

[11] Ibid, p. 22, l. 15-21.

[12] The final tally included 3,000 killed and wounded, and 3,500 soldiers fell into enemy captivity; plus, a loss of fifteen guns. That was a grand total of 6,500 men out of Eugène de Beauharnais’ army strength of 36,000. Losses to the Austrian numbered about 4,000 (3,500 killed and wounded; 500 prisoners) – out of Archduke John’s 40,000 combat manpower.

A contemporary piece of information:


Head-Quarters, Sacile, April 17.

On the 10th and the 11th, his Imperial Highness the Archduke John, with the army under his command, entered the territory of Friuli by Pontebba, Cividale, and Goriz, and, after some opposition, advanced, on the 13th, to the Tagliamento. The enemy retired across the river, in order to join with the troops in their rear. This junction, which probably took place at Sacile, made the hostile army five divisions strong. In this night of the 14th, his imperial highness proceeded with the Austrian guard to Pordenone; the remainder of the army followed at day break. The enemy’s advance guard was at Pordenone, and his army was posted between that place and Sacile near Fontana. In this situation an action commenced, which, after a sanguinary contest of two days, terminated entirely to our advantage. The vice-king of Italy commanded the French army. The result was so decisive, that the enemy could not maintain themselves behind the Livenza, but were obliged to retreat rapidly to the Piave.The prisoners amount already to 6000, among whom are Generals Paze and Bressan. More are constantly brought in. The loss in killed and wounded greatly exceeds this number, and we have taken 16 cannon and three eagles” [vide: THE EDINBURGH ANNUAL REGISTER, For 1809. Edinburgh: printed by James Ballantyne and Co. for John Ballantyne and Co. Edinburgh; Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, and John Murray, London, 1811, p. 139].

[13] Officers wounded and killed: Barbieri, chef de bat., Bertolio, capit., Bonelli, lieut., Bonservi, lieut., Duplessis, capit. (killed), Ferru, chef de bat., Lagrange, capit., Orlandi, lieut., Panico, capit., Paoli, capit., Rivet, capit., Ronzier, capit., Rossi, capit., Tardieu, capit. (killed), Victorio, capit., Zampa, capit. A.-M., Zucchi, col..

Key for reading in French language: lieut. (lieutenant), capit. (capitaine), chef de bat. (chef de bataillon), col. (colonel); in translation: lieutenant, captain, battalion commander, colonel.

Vide: Martinien, Tableaux par corps et par batailles des officiers tués et blessés pendant les guerres de l’Empire (1805-1815), Éditions militaires européennes, 50 Rue Richer, Paris, s.d., p. 695.

[14] General Paul Grenier was the commander of the 3th infantry division.

Military synopsis: 1768, 29 January: born at Sarrelouis; 1784, 21 December: soldat in the régiment de Nassau-infanterie; 1788, 16 October: caporal; 1789, 26 March: sergent; 1790, 1 September: fourrier; 1791, 1 August: sergent-major; 1792, 12 March: adjudant sous-officier; 26 July: lieutenant; 26 August: adjudant-major; 20 September: served at Valmy; 6 November: at Jemappes; 1792-1793: at the armée du Nord; 1792, 1 December: capitaine; 1793, 6 April: appointed aide de camp of Alexis-Balthasar-Henri-Antoine Schauenburg; 8 September: served at Hondschoote; 16 October: at Wattignies; 15 October: adjudant-général chef de bataillon; November 1793: at the armée de la Moselle; 15 December: wounded at the tight at Lembach; 1794, 10 January: chef de brigade; 29 April: général de brigade; 10 June: Championnet division; 26 June: served at Fleurus; 28 June: at the armée de Sambre-et- Meuse; 11 October: général de division; 25 December: commander of the 10th division of the armée de Sambre-et-Meuse; 1795, 6 May: under the orders of Jean-Baptiste Kléber; 24 August: replaced Antoine Morlot at the head of the 2e division; 8 September: at the crossing of the Rhin at Urdingen; 23 September: under Kléber; 1796, 6 June: crossed the Rhin; 8 July: crossed the Lahn; 10 July: won at Friedberg; 3 August: at Bamberg; 4 August: at Sulzbach; 24 August: Amberg; 3 September: Wurzburg; 16 September: Giessen; 1797, February: commander of the 2e division and du centre of the armée de Sambre-et-Meuse under Hoche; 18 April: crossed the Rhin at Neuwied; 1797, 20 May: commander of the 3e division of the armée de Sambre-et-Meuse; 14 December: commander of the 2e division of the armée de Mayence; 1798, 12 January: appointed to reach the armée d’Angleterre; 16 August: commander of one division in the armée d’Italie; 1799, 26 March: served at Pastrengo; 5 April: Magnano; 28 April: Cassano; 12 May: won the Russians at Bassignano; 20 July: at San Giuliano; 30 June: appointed commander of the 7e and 8e divisions militaries; reached with his troops the armée des Grandes-Alpes under Championnet; took the Petit-Saint-Bernard; 22 September: commander of the left wing of the armée d’Italie; served at the Stura, then at Mondovi; occupied Savigliano; 4 November: was beated there by General Ott; 10 November: re-took the camp of Dalmazzo; 15 November: chased from the fortified emplacement of Limone; then, from the Argentière; defended the col de Tende; 1800, 5 June: commander of the corps du centre at the armée d’Allemagne, at the place of Gouvion-Saint-Cyr; 15 June: defeated Kray; 19 June: took Gunzburg; 17 July: crossed the Danube; 12 November: commander of the left corps of the armée d’Allemagne; 1 December: served at Ampfing; 3 December: served at Hohenlinden, at the crossings of the Inn and the Salza; 1801: inspecteur général d’infanterie in Piemonte and Liguria; 1805, 14 December: commandant provisoire of the 3e division militaire; 1806, 4 December: gouverneur of Mantova; 1807, 22 December: grand officier of the Légion d’honneur; 1809, April: commandant of the 3e division of the armée d’Italie; 16 April: at the battle of Sacile; 28 April: commandant of the corps du centre at the armée d’Italie; 29 April: won at Soave (author: absolutely, this disputed combat cannot be ascribed as a French victory); 8 May: served at the battle of the Piave; 11 May: at San Daniele; 18 May: Malborghetto; 25 May: combat of San Michele; 11 June: took the bridge of Karako; 14 June: served at the Raab.

[15] Memorie del Generale Carlo Zucchi. Pubblicate per cura di Nicomede Bianchi. Casa Editrice Italiana di M. Guigoni, Milano, Torino, 1861, p. 22, l. 21-34.

[16] Ibid, p. 22, l. 34-36, p. 23, l. 1-6.

[17] The presence in the formed ranks of the banda reggimentale (i.e. regimental band), presents a revealing detail. After first reading this short informative passage, it could almost be overlooked; otherwise its true significance is well inferred, and it is easy to adequately comprehend the historical context. It is abundantly clear that the musicians were given orders in that sense of execution. Playing military tunes carried out a defined assignation: to indicate the right way to any who were disturbed, or compromised by the slowed march of the battalions (not to lose the gathering units), thus acting as a rallying point for all infantry companies of the first Italian regiment of the line. Further, it would stimulate and raise the mood and morale of any friendly unit in the area. The functional role of the military band was not exaggerated – it need not be seen by the eyes only, but to be heard at the distance with the ears. This was the reason why the band had been placed in the front of the Primo Reggimento di Linea. Consequently, it did not at all exceed the traits of a military parade; but it developed a practical purpose in the economy of war. It was an intelligent and vital choice to inject trust and to relieve the prostrated mood of the soldati (i.e. soldiers). The music was a formal expression of the army units, in this case interacting from the clouds of the military defeat, to a new coloured horizon of hopefulness. Coincidentally, when leaving the northern side mouth of the bridge to reach the southern one, the armed forces had left the Friuli territories – to the mid Venetiae. It is assumed the military had left defeat in the past, to put faith in the future. Comparatively, the passing of the wooden bridge at the Piave was a significant episode – by first establishing a moral bridge, raising élan (fervour) and optimism in the spirit. This result was achieved by having the military tunes played. Sounds of glory, and clangours of the soldiers mixed together once more. Catchy tunes of the band could be heard at great distance, and acted as a directional acoustic orientation for any scattered French-Italian units that still had to reach the area. That vitality proved the unpredictability of courage and the troops’ resourcefulness beyond any seemingly sustained loss on the battlefield.

[18] Ibid, p. 23, l. 6-16.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: April 2010


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