Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

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

Contribution of honour: The Tramigna Valley and Castelcerino

By Roberto A. Scattolin, Italy

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

The 1809 epic against the superior forces of France was considered a remarkable event in centuries-long Austrian history and military traditions. Further, it was to become anchored in Austrian national consciousness as the myth of the heroic urge for freedom that began in April 1809. Armed resistance to the military régime of the Empire (notably imbued in the predominantly consolidated by the autocratic emperor Napoleon I) turned into a mass phenomenon. National enthusiasm spread contagiously. Through hardily-endured campaigns and conflict experiences (1796-1797; 1798; 1799; 1800; 1805), the Österreichische Armee had developed into a powerful and smooth-running machine, and there was a supreme confidence in the ability to successfully carry through the task against the French. However, in 1809, during the active French military participation of the conquest of Austria and Italy, many resounding events caught the public’s attention, but none so much as the disclosed plight of the seemingly “forgotten, when apparently not known” crucial battle in the Vallata del Tramigna.

On a very special occasion, the commemoration of the Austrian and Italian campaign (bicentenary of the 1809-2009), and to delve deeper with military history events which ended the military confrontation against the mighty Habsburgsmonarchy, the Italian historian has elaborately produced an investigative paper amid his series of modern history dissertations on the afore-cited topic, that will feature an original study mostly focused on overcoming great adversity to achieve victory. The theme captures the fascinating history that takes the exploring reader back to Italy, in the western Venetiae, in the month April of 1809 -- into the “forgotten” hills of Castelcerino, a natural environment deep in the heart of the Tramigna Valley (province of Verona, district of Soave).

Explored is a concatenation of heavily-disputed military engagements – and notably one of the most consequential events of the entire campaign course – during which the Royal Italian Guard made its valiant and historic stand. Beyond the waters of oblivion of a story that was never told, the author again dips into his timely research into the events surrounding this previously “unknown” heroic encounter to present a view of what is arguably the most stoutly-contended and important episode to come from Italian units in the 1809 Italian campaign. Told mostly in the emphatically striking account[1] of Colonel Zucchi, the commanding officer of the Primo Reggimento di fanteria di linea,the evaluation of the actions which developed around the village of Castel Cerino brings even more depth to a dramatic chronicle which will fascinate serious historians and Napoleonic buffs alike even after two hundred years, and will definitely earn an honoured spot on the post modernity collector’s shelf of the Napoleonic wars.

Tavernelle: a tactical compromise

Documentary piece

L’esercito, continuando il suo movimento retrogrado, all’indomani abbandonò Vicenza.

Trovandomi al retrogrado, comandato dal generale Serras, egli mi ordinò di prendere posizione col mio reggimento alle Tavernelle a metà strada fra Vicenza e Montebello.

Vero sera il nemico era al tutto prossimo.

Ritenendo d’avere di fronte poca gente, mandata soltanto in esplorazione, feci avanzare alle sette del mattino una compagnia all’attacco.

Sul principio pareva che l’affare dovesse essere di poco momento, ma in breve conobbi che mi era di gran lunga ingannato sul numero dei nemici.

Dovetti mandare un battaglione per sostenere la compagnia già fortemente respinta e in pari tempo spedire un ufficiale al galoppo per prevenire il generale Serras a Montebello: che io era stato attaccato da forze maggiori con grande vivacità e quindi mi trovava nel pericolo di essere sopraffatto ove non fossi rinforzato.

Questa mia informazione nel fondo era falsa; ma a me tornava troppo duro di annunziare in tali frangenti:che io era andato a svegliare il cane addormentato,mentre aveva ricevuto l’ordine positivo di tenermi sulla difensiva.

Fortunatamente a cavarmi del grave impaccio in che mi era messo, sopragiunse un ajutante di campo del Viceré qual parlamentario con una lettera per l’arciduca Giovanni.

La sua presenza fece sospendere il fuoco da ambe le parti, ed io prontamente, formando i miei battaglioni in colonna serrata, mi posi a compiere il movimento di ritirata indicatomi da sopra Montebello.

Il generale Serras m’accolse assai meglio di quanto mi meritava;ma l’accaduto mi servì di lezione nell’avvenire, per non commettere più né imprudenze, né smargiassate, le quali ordinariamente alla guerra si pagano assai care[2].

Trnsl.. “The army, continuing its retrograde movement, next day left Vicenza.

Being myself at the rear-guard, commanded by General Serras, he ordered me to take position with my regiment at Tavernelle, at midway between Vicenza and Montebello.

In the evening the enemy was very near.

Considering having in front few people, sent only scouting, I made advance at seven in the morning one company to the attack.

In the beginning it seemed that the affair had to be of short duration, but shortly I knew that I had greatly mislead myself on the number of the enemies.

I had to send one battalion to sustain the company already badly repulsed and at the same time send one officer at the gallop to forewarn General Serras at Montebello: that I had been attacked by superior forces with great vivacity and therefore I found myself in the danger to be overwhelmed if reinforcements did not arrive.  

This information of mine in the end was false; but to me it turned too heavy to announce in these circumstances:that I had awakened the sleeping dog,while I had received the positive order to keep me on the defensive.

Fortunately to extricate me from the grave awkward situation in which I had put myself, there come one field-adjudant of the Viceroy enacting as negotiator with one letter for the Archduke John.

His presence caused a cease fire from both sides, and I promptly formed my battalions in compact close up column, started to perform the movement of withdrawal and signalled me to reach Montebello.

General Serras met me far better of what I deserved;but the occurence was of use to me as a lesson for the future; to make neither imprudences, nor boastings, that ordinarily are paid very costly at war”.

Comment: Convulsive combat front, and fight concatenation at Tavernelle[3]; a ten sentences syntactic structure; two hundred seventy-six terms (11, 25, 8, 21, 26, 51, 37, 27, 33, 37) compose the textual narrative passage.

A panoramic cut-view of Soave – in the first plan, the old borgo Governino. The powerful line and the majestic fortifications were predominantly elongated with distinctive traits of deterrence and firmly recognized strategic conveniences of defensive order.

The Franco-Italian army forces were adroitly imparted fresh (and definite) orders to leave the urban aggregation of the Retrone River, Vicenza, and to march westward throughout the territories of the province. This kind of disposition emanated after the General-Staff’s colloquial meetings, denoted, in primis, the strict impossibility to keep the current positions, and the inadequacy to hold a suitable line of containment and defence. Giving priority to this intention and military transition, and recognizing the gravity of the present situation, was the formal execution to re-describe the strategic asset and the deployment of the troops on a new front line, which was conveniently appreciated on a ground of ample possibilities after having passed the locations of Montebello and Soave. Late in the month of April 1809 (sure chronological date is from the day 25), Colonel Zucchi’s regimental force -- the Primo Reggimento di fanteria di Linea -- performed active duties with rear-guard functions and a heavy burden of military responsibilities. From the quite succinctly reported narrative matter, two elements in observation are distinctively clear; first: the Primo Reggimento had complete battalion strength under arms, with no signs of physical depression, prostration or contagious psychological despondency afflicted the servizio ordinario ai ranghi (active ordinary service in the ranks).

Second: if division General Serras[4] had been given the command role and executive responsibilities of the army rearguard formations (singularly, these units are not better specified by arm -- was that infantry ?; cavalry ? -- and effective numerical consistency), there is considerable evidence that the Italian regiment stood in the line, assigned at the very end-limit, at the posizione di retroguardia (id est, more distant containment position) – as flexible and tactical security force. This perilous and vulnerable military articulation specifically means that it acted as the closing regimental troop[5]. Or, in other words and more to the point: in case of preponderant enemy pressure and attack, there included the possibility to engage and to sustain the combat with manifest numerical disproportion – not omitting, then, the lack of light cavalry squadrons to provide support and tactical cover. Well enough, Colonel Zucchi was to hold the ultimate mobile “rampart” of honour and bravery, brilliantly co-ordinated by his seasoned subaltern compatriots. Remarkable attention is credited at the synergic choices with which General Jean-Mathieu Serras planned his retrograde movement: to avoid any impromptu disordered mass (civilians, carts, military units), unexpectedly causing road blockages, pêle-mêle (pell-mell) situations and an uncontrollable state of the things, especially when considering the strategic difficulties which were by then reaching the highest profiled level of danger, he had “consolidated” [6] a “temporary military line”[7].

The “head” was placed in the country village of Tavernelle, five kilometres from Vicenza; and the position was covered by Colonel Zucchi’s military deployment on ground.

Soave – Porta Verona, frontal view. Originally, there were only three gates in the walls of Soave: Porta Aquila, in the nord; Porta Vicentina, in the east; Porta Verona, at the south. The permanent defences of the western and southern walls were shielded by the natural barrier of the waters of the Tramigna.

The “center” was instead at Montebello, the location of Serras’ headquarters.

The fartherest extreme had only an open directional limit, which led to Soave, and further ahead to Caldiero.

All in all, these suffered contingences are particularly important to understand that the withdrawal of the Franco-Italian divisions sadly continued on the main country road to Verona, but that a cordon of military forces and at least a couple of strong-points had been carefully selected to keep on ground wherever the Imperial attack would have been launched from Vicenza. The unpredictability of this event generated an immense psychological weight.

Combat action

The sudden presence of the Austrian enemy units (comprehended as a progressive forward movement on the road leading to Verona; however, for the time being just in the outskirts of Vicenza)[8] is a circumstantial event which has to be properly considered. Under the circumstances, there ensued an exceptionally interesting fact: Colonel Zucchi had craftily evaluated the approach of the Imperial troops that he had to confront. Because of a “report”[9] he had received, an incontrovertible personal validation of the fact (the sighting of the enemy) was needed. The Italian commanding officer held the conviction as truth that these were minor parties – a confirmation he must have discerned through a full visual angle of the ground[10], where he had positioned his infantry battalions. Despite the absorbing perspective and independence of the event’s written report, and the growing determination that Zucchi had resolved to quickly order one company to the attack against the enemy, is worthy of attention in tactics and strategic accomplishment. To have made the most of such a great advantage in the early morning hours, and to pass unnoticed in the movement, the weather should not have been at the best (and without radial light in the line of the horizon). It is definitely a relevancy:this was a sort of “tactical surprise” led against the next near camp-site where the opposing forces (referred to as scouting parties) had taken their line. One straight question would follow: were the Austrians unconcernedly resting?

When all of this interweaving made a perfect intricacy[11] , Zucchi was trying to gain proper intelligence – having no objectively clear information about the present circumstances of the conflict. The Italian commander was proficiently trying to compensate this aching lack by a cunning elaboration thus enacted: by sending a forward company on reconnaissance detail, he could establish the distance away and the time required in determining the enemy pickets and positions. Then he could establish by an occasioned armed reaction the possible numbers of the opposing military force (would the Italian troops have to engage against the Österreichische Infanterie -- Austrian infantry ?; or opposed by cavalry ?) in that specific area. Lastly, after gaining this knowledge and the proper understanding of this information, he could prefigure if the battle forces he had to stand against were at battalion level or far greater [12]. The thoughtful expediency and perspicacity in essential strategy, and the consequential reasoning, would have further gained considerations if his troops could maintain their positions in case of frontal attack.

This meant the difference between life and death.

What then really happened on ground, and in time, was significantly clear, notwithstanding the restrictions and the scarcity of exposed narrative elements. The Italian infantry company “failed” in the supposedly congenial “tactical surprise”. It was apparently detected and invested by a hardily-developing course of fire. Prominently, the terrain did not allow sufficient cover and permeability to easily disengage the infantry squads without incurring telling losses [13]. Exposed to a prematurely precocious final annihilation and largely overwhelming rate of fire, the unit was extricated from the impasse by the timely intervention of fresh manpower. As always indulgent toward honour and bravery in action, Zucchi could not witness the obliteration of his soldiers (forthrightly, did that performance in combat point out the dialectic between the honourable and valorous comportment of his comrades in arms?); therefore, he ordered alla fronte (forward to the enemy) a whole infantry battalion[14] to rescue the severely tested company.

Strà di Caldiero (Verona). Main country road.

It is fairly obvious this armed recourse generated even more strenuous fighting, extending the battle front and greatly increasing the persistent intensity of the belligerents. The fact is confirmed that the Imperial forces were gaining a “progressive” superiority in the confrontation and correspondingly in military numbers. What at first seemed just a minor recoiling and desultorily skirmishing turned into a first-rate combat in the line. And Zucchi, who felt serious anxiety about the unavoidable outcome of the military encounter, did not hesitate to communicate his latest urgent[15] report to Serras – thus asking for reinforcements to be immediately sent. A couple of factors are manifest: the protracted efforts sustained by the unyielding Italian infantry formations, and the disquietude which developed through the crucial phases of the fighting[16], was due to lack of cavalry squadrons and artillery covering. The sudden arrival of an adjutant of the Viceroy Eugène Rose de Beauharnais proved to be a significant x-factor sufficient to attain a cease fire amid the fiercely contending battalions and to “evolve a mature view” in the strategic cadre. Colonel Zucchi took this expedient situation immediately to his favour, quickly ordering the battalions to re-group and to form in strong elongated column of march; these dispositions meant the complete re-deployment of his regimental force, hastily taking the backwards movement to Montebello. Only after pausing enough in the fighting had ensued, Zucchi, through the received reports (which implied the counting of losses) of the battalion commanders, had gained a different evaluation of the potential of the standing Austrian forces.

That argument was an even more reasonable stimulus to profit from the present situation. The Primo Reggimento di fanteria di linea hastened back to Montebello, where Zucchi soon reported on the actual military frame and circumstances to General Serras.

Author: strict documentary evidence related to the toughly-contested combat action is “distinctly clear”, although quite formally rendered in the narrative.

Cautiously discerned through the literary passages, is inferred the vigour and complete gravity of the lengthy fight. Zucchi’s thoughtful presentation defines the story, but the Italian commanding-officer does not show how the tactical circumstances evolved on the disputed ground nor does he help to evaluate the inevitable strategic conclusion which implied abandoning the previously established line of defence in this vulnerable sector. All considered, the preferred method in recounting the episode is precise; and even more indicative points are gained by what Colonel Zucchi did not report – were those circumstances perhaps too patently obvious to the comprehension of the settled narrative scheme?

For this reason, but not limited to that complex text, Zucchi’s composition methodology(id est, narration technique, plus inquisitional annotations focused on the military events; this practice notably implied in his Memorie the costrutto narrativo – and the “untold evidence” –  fairly evident) connotes a couple of powerfully interconnected examples of clear communication.In this logic of writing, basic directions of intelligibility are thus given: materia narrativa (narrative matter) versus reader (a, first substantial level of analysis), reader versus gained evidence from the narrative matter (b, consequential plan of determination of the facts).

On focus are two distinguished – but equally complementary – levels of simultaneity, well-fitted to compensate a correct interpretation of the reported events.

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High impact strategy: the Vallata del Tramigna

To properly reconstruct the environment and confrontations between the antagonist forces (Franco-Italian versus Austrian)[17], the memoir of the commanding-officer of the 1st Infantry Regiment of the Line (army of the Italian Kingdom) is a distinctive and most significant primary source for  documentation. Of necessity, a critical process of comprehension and a rigorous cultural punctiliousness have to be exercised when reading through a contemporary text, and the postmodern historian must meticulously examine all the information and circumstances “remembered” by the author.

Nonetheless, this XIXth century publication is an essential text reference rich in finely wrought details. The narrative passages provide enthralling reading, and retain their peculiar accuracy and vividness.

Da Montebello il mio reggimento fu subito diretto a S. Bonifazio.

Ma cammin facendo, ebbi l’ordine di retrocedere e d’andare ad accampare nelle basse di Cagliero, passandovi la notte.

Alla punta del nuovo giorno mandai un battaglione ad occupare Illasio, vecchio castello.

Giunto il mezzodì, il generale Sorbier con due battaglioni della Guardia ed uno dei Veliti venne ad unirsi al mio reggimento[18] .  

Trnsl.: “From Montebello my regiment was immediately directed to S. Bonifacio.

But along the march, I had the order to retrograde and to go to camp in the lower parts of Cagliero, spending there the night.

At dawn of the new day I sent one battalion to occupy Illasio, old castle.

Come the midday, General Sorbier with two battalions of the Guard and one of the Veliti came to join with my regiment”.

Comment: A couple of phrases; sixty-five terms (31, 34) are counted in syntactic. Not negligible to the process of intelligibility, and with traits of formal linear precision, Zucchi recounted that from Montebello his regimental troop was directed to San Bonifazio[19]. It appeared that fresh dispositions had reached him by staffetta (dispatch rider), while his infantry battalions were still progressing on the march. The senior Italian officer had received confirmatory orders to retire (id est, to continue the phases of his troop movement), and then to stop and make camp in a new specified sector -- the low part at Cagliero[20] -- in order to guard that assigned position and the potentially threatened area. The place had been selected as a line of arrest and interposition due to its natural defence which could be easily capitalized against the advancing Imperial forces. At dawn the next day, one infantry battalion (1st Regiment of the Line) was sent to cover the left wing at the village of Illasio[21]. This detail in tactics cannot pass unobserved, as it implicitly testified that the Franco-Italian General-Staff was re-deploying the army divisions on a previously selected front, in order to expedite (and remediate) active operations. Additional infantry reached the spot to guard that location of vital importance. Furthermore, three infantry battalions joined the operations: two battalions belonging to the Italian Royal Guard (Granatieri, and Cacciatori), and another battalion of the Reggimento Veliti, serving as part in the Guardia Reale del Regno d’ Italia. The units relied on the active manpower capabilities three battalions.

Secondly: this mobile corps numbered élite troops, well-equipped, and in campaign strength.

Thirdly: the 1st Italian Regiment of the Line had reached Illasio, and conjoined forces with the previously detached sister unit; to this military formation were added as force de bataille the equivalences of the Italian Guard units. The field strength consisted in total of seven battalions, around 5,000 soldiers in arms. Worth mentioning is that the 1st Infantry Regiment commander had rank of Colonnello (Colonel); his name was Carlo Zucchi. An aide-de-camp of the Viceroy Eugène Rose de Beauharnais was at the head of the entire battle corps. The Franco-Italian chain of command ran as follows: Général de brigade (brigade General) Sorbier[22], Generale Antonio Bonfanti (Italian brigade commander), Generale Teodoro Lechi (commander of the Italian Guard, 3 battalions), and Colonello Zucchi (commander 1st Regiment of the Line, 4 battalions). This corps had been assigned the task of taking the small village of Cazzano[23] (tactical objective), and then to attack Monte-Bastia (strategic objective) – the culmination of an offensive surprise. But since Erzherzog Johann von Österreich (Archduke John’s of Austria) army corps was massed in front of Eugène, it would have been very difficult to assault that frontal position. Outflanking Archduke John’s right wing – aptly carrying out a manoeuvre sur les derrières – seemed a preferable option.  

Actions of war

In order to comprehensively direct the historic investigation, the course of events and the unfolding combats have to be carefully evaluated. The philological formality mustfollow the exegesis of the primary source. The focus is on observation as a research method. Zucchi’s reminiscent narrative (Memorie) has therefore been subjected to an interpretative study, gained through extensive documentary research and, most importantly, after visiting the natural environment mentioned by the author[24]. On April 30, 1809, Franco-Italian forces were launched in an offensive, and the Austrian-held positions in the Tramigna Valley were invested. Zucchi reported that General Sorbier gave his subordinate commanders precise dispositions regarding the attack on the Austrians. An unspecified position was assaulted, and its emplacement was strategically important – further, the Imperial line was occupied (in this instance, the military use of this term means “covered”) by two battalions (Linien-Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 27, Strassoldo). The battle which occurred was hard-fought, long, and most dramatic. Enemy units spontaneously gave ground and retired after protracted and contentious fighting. 

Zucchi quoted:

Tosto egli – Sorbier – fece attaccare una posizione occupata da due battaglioni del reggimento Strassoldo.

Fu una vera fortuna che il nemico spontaneamente si ritirasse dopo lungo combattimento; altrimenti forse sarebbe stato impossibile di spostarlo da un sito come quello costituito da una montagna, che non poteva essere attaccata di fianco[25].

Trnsl.: “At once he – Sorbier – made attack one position occupied by two battalions of the regiment Strassoldo.

It was really truly fortunate that the enemy spontaneously withdrew after long combat; otherwise perhaps it would have been impossible to move it from a place like that formed by a mountain, which could not be attacked in flank”.

Comment: A two phrases passage; a forty-nine (13, 36) terms count.

The Austrian infantry recoiled before the Italian forces and entered the hamlet of Castel Cerino. The surrounding terrain was dominant, with the village laying on a rugged ridgeline. Its defensive capabilities were advantageously suited to the purpose of Austrian strategies. Being unassailable in the flanks, its impregnability was a remarkable feature. The Imperial commanders favoured the options of an adapted defence. Général de brigade (brigade General) Jean-Joseph-Augustin Sorbier, acting on his own initiative and responsibility, decided to pursue the enemy forces – he thought to catch them unprepared for active defence. Time restrictions and evolving tactics did not permit him to send forth squads to reconnoitre the situation. This limitation of strategic order meant that the scouting detachments had not been able to survey the difficult terrain, nor had they gained significant information on the enemy positions or on the deployment of the Habsburg units. At the root of the trouble were Sorbier’s tactical irritability and an increasingly characteristic overconfidence. This lack of sound preparations prior to the engagement was to engender major complications when the attack progressed.

Gli Austriaci si ritirarono a Castel Cerino, collocandosi in una formidabile posizione.

Il generale Sorbier, senza prima scandagliare il terreno occupato dal nemico, lo fece assalire da due compagnie di granatieri della Guardia.

Aspettate a piè fermo, furono accolte da un terribile fuoco di fila, che le scompigliò con grave perdita d’uomini; altre due compagnie mandate in aiuto, ebbero uguale ricevimento.

Vedendo che si andavano inutilmente sacrificando soldati in dettaglio, io feci osservare al generale Sorbier: che a riparare ad un male, che sempre si faceva maggiore, conveniva muovere tosto ad un assalto generale.

Mentre così favellava, egli i cadde ai piedi colpito in una coscia da un colpo di fucile[26].

Trnsl.: “The Austrians retired themselves to Castel Cerino, placing in a formidable position.

General Sorbier, without first explore the terrain occupied by the enemy, made it assaulted by two companies of grenadiers of the Guard.

Firmly waited, they were welcomed by a terrible running fire, that disarranged them with grave loss of men; two further companies sent in support, had same welcome.

Seeing that the soldiers were helplessly sacrificed in detail, I made observe to general Sorbier: that to remedy to one harm, that always grew heavier, it was convenient to move at once to one general assault.  

While I thus spoke, he fell at my feet hit at the thigh by a musket shot”.

Comment: Five sentences; a complex of one hundred twelve (12, 21, 29, 33, 17) words.

Obviously, Sorbier wanted to fulfil his pre-ordered aims as commander, and achieve successful conclusion on the field. In his executive role and formal authority, he ordered forward a couple of Grenadiers companies of the Italian Royal Guard. The failure to previously reconnoitre the enemy’s strong defensive positions meant that the attacking Italian squads were inexorably exposed to intense musketry fire, and were unable to find adequate protection behind the natural ground obstacles. Because of this strategic stalemate and the quite impassable terrain, the Italian infantry troops proved to be easy discernable targets – and a deadly shower of lead balls reaped havoc among theirs ranks. However, the undiminished tenacity of the soldiers kept them unmoved by the furious discharges of death. Losses and death ratios were severe, but the intrepid and brave troops remained unshaken. Eventually the depleted ranks were thrown into confusion as counter-fire volleys were unable to lessen the Austrian strategic dominance.

In order to not have the storming-parties annihilated and the front line overwhelmed, it was determined necessary to hastily send auxiliary units in support. Two additional companies were pressed forward to action, but these reserves were in their turn mowed down by the running-fire from the Austrian muskets. Was supporting the attacking troops in this manner the right decision ? This engagement had been constantly observed by the Franco-Italian high-ranking officers. Noticing the ongoing carnage and bloodshed, Colonel Zucchi, an experienced veteran officer whose tenacity and intellectual honesty marked his character, recognized the terrible consequences of wasting so many human lives on a doggedly contended position. Discerning the offensive ineffectiveness of this operative asset, this able tactician thought it his duty and honour to change the deficient strategies so far followed. Therefore, he urgently proposed to Sorbier a general assault. In the course of this entretien colloquial (war counsel), Sorbier fell, hit by a musket ball in the thigh.

I Veliti, il cui capo battaglione Seghedoni – author: corridge: Schedoni  –, mortalmente ferito era rimasto in potere dei nemici, si posero in ritirata disordinatamente insieme al corpo della guardia e a un battaglione del mio reggimento.

Gli altri tre battaglioni incominciavano anch’essi a vacillare, ma l’intrepidezza degli uffiziali valse a tenerli ordinati e a sostenere la ritirata[27].

Trnsl.: “The Veliti, whose battalion chief Seghedoni, mortally wounded had remained in the power of the enemies, started to withdraw untidily together with the corps of the guard and one battalion of my regiment.

The three further battalions began to vacillate as well, but the intrepidity of the officers was worth to keep them in order and to sustain the retreat”.

Comment: Two phases; fifty-five (32, 23) terms.

Soave –The Castle – Panorama. Originally, a Xth Century fortified work – for the initiative of Berengar I, King of Italy. From a careful examination of a diploma of Federick I Barbarossa (1122-June 10, 1190), the first feudal lord, belonged to the San Bonifacio family branch, and retained  military control of the castellum till the beginning of the XIIth century. 1226 A.D.: the fortification passed under the control of Eccelinus III dominus de Romano (Romano d’Ezzelino, April 25, 1194-Soncino, September 27, 1259); 1237 A.D.: a property of the feudal family Greppi. 1271 A.D.: conquered by Mastino I della Scala. Cansignorio della Scala (March 5, 1340-October 10, 1375) ordered Soave to be surrounded by the walls on the perimeter (1369). 1387: the castled complex became the strategic possession of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, lord of Milan. 1404-June 1405: the Rocha Suapis is under the domination of the Paduan family da Carrara.

In the intense firefight that continued unabated, the Veliti commander, battalion-chief Schedoni, was mortally injured and fell into the hands of the enemy. The loss of this indomitable officer caused the subsequent lack of battle direction and immediate orders, which affected the military action, and consequently some units lost touch with the enemy. The unexpected movement invested the corps of the Italian Guard, and detrimentally involved one battalion of the 1st Italian Regiment as well. This obnoxious tactical impasse virtually ensured that the Austrians would prevail – a mighty forward effort and strategic scheme to crush the Italian battle units. Under the unpredictable circumstances, three other Italian battalions which were tenaciously engaged in the fierce and bloody struggle with numerically superior enemy forces began to exhibit signs of psychological weariness and despondency. Incohesive organizational stability was bound to vacillation under overwhelming enemy pressure. Only the valiant example of the officers kept the disheartened soldiers ordered in their ranks to cover the retreat before the stout-disputing Imperial battalions. The Habsburg field units however, did not press desultorily forward in immediate pursuit. Having attained superiority, the Austrians paused instead to consolidate their recently occupied positions in the battle lines around Castel Cerino. Time was therefore a valued x factor to allow the Franco-Italian command to quickly reorganize the Italian combat units, per battalion organizational structure, and subordinate rank formations. On this occasion, Zucchi harshly reprimanded the défaillance (failure) of two prominent officers.

He noted that:

Il generale comandante il corpo della Guardia e il generale Bonfanti, comandante la brigata, non mostrarono nè quella avvedutezza, nè quella energia, che si richiedevano in tali circostanze.

Giunti ad Illasio, essi lasciarono a me la cura di far prendere alle truppe le migliori posizioni, e come le fucilate ricominciarono, si contentarono di porsi alla finestra ad osservare col cannocchiale[28].

Trnsl.: “The general commander of the Guard corps [Teodoro Lechi] and general Bonfanti, brigade commander, displayed neither that shrewdness, nor that energy, which were required in those circumstances.

Reaching Illasio, they left to me the care to have the troops take the best positions, and as soon as the muskets shots recommenced, they were satisfied to put themselves at the window to watch by telescope”.

Comment: Two phrases; sixty (28, 32) terms. As per exposed narrative.

Front of honour

The castello; its origins are remote, and can be traced back to the Middle Ages. The imposing fortification was erected on the hilly ridge overlooking Illasi. The building was formally envisaged as a complex military defence site to deal with changes in political and feudal power. On a permanent basis, the primary character of the walled circuit connoted essential aims mostly  oriented to static defence proficiencies, and to command control an area interdiction in the immediate surroundings and inhabited countryside villages. Easily recognizable in the architectural profile, the castled construction is amply based on a mastio – its height is thirty-two metres – having a rectangular-shaped plant; further, it is flanked by the cassaro, whose facilities included a dormitory for the presidial garrison manpower. The mightily-built perimeter has nearly an elliptical form, and is provided just one entry gate to the castle. The original documentary evidence related to this strong-point -- as ancient castrum -- dated to the 971 A.D.. In 1004 A.D. it was private possession of the diacono Moisè; 1223 A.D.: a property of the family Montecchi; 1233 A.D.: “assigned” to friar Giovanni da Schio, who, to protect the peace values from the continued fighting escalation of the towns in the western territories, had the fortification quartered by some troops of Vicenza. The chronicler Pietro Gerardo reported that in the year 1243 A.D., the feudal lord and tyrant Eccelinus III de Romanohebbe il castel di Lassi” (trnsl.: had the castle of Lassi) [vide: Vita et gesti d’Ezzelino Terzo da Romano: da l’origine al fine di sua famiglia, sotto la cui tirannide mancarono di morte violenta più di dodici millia padovani, In Vinegia: per Comin da Trino, di Monferrato, 1552].

Because of critical changes instrategy and having not been issued any specific order, Zucchi quickly galloped to the endangered sector where harsh fighting had suddenly broken out. A most difficult situation was revealed to him, as he discerned the ranks of the Guard were in disarray. The Veliti had not been given any orders, and they had no direction in the course of action to be taken. Despite pressing circumstances and fiery Austrian manoeuver, two battalions of the 1st Italian regiment sustained their cohesion under the enemy volleys. But two additional regimental battalions, which had been placed in close proximity, remained entirely out of action. On the verge of rupture and fatal collapse, Zucchi mantained his uncontained gallantry and devotion to front-line leadership. His boldness set a standard of duty on the battlefield. Seemingly unperturbed under a deluge of lead bullets, he yelled out imperative orders to the uffiziali superiori (superior officers). TheRoyal ItalianGuards were given orders to take at once the position they had previously held. The Veliti were placed behind the two battalions which werestill returning the fire. Battalion-chief Porro, a stern disciplinarian and an officer of intelligence and persistent vigour, was ordered to immediately mount an assault on the enemy flank. By intrepid élan, this tactical movement succeeded at the point of their bayonets. Serious casualties were inflicted on the unbroken Imperial Feld-Bataillone, and the military situation was completely reversed. Unable to make a stand and hard-pressed by the solid momentum of the counterattack, the Austrians were forced to withdraw; a hundred men were captured (among them, three officers).

Finito il combattimento, arrivarono i due Generali, che io aveva lasciati a cannocchialare dalla finestra.

Essi volevano che si mutasse il collocamento delle truppe.

Mi opposi con modi assai recisi.

Non approvo qui un tal mio contegno; non può mai esser lecito ad un subalterno di mostrarsi soverchiamente imperioso coi propri superiori nella gerarchia militare.

Ma il contegno di questi due uffiziali superiori nelle circostanze soprammenzionate mi aveva profondamente esacerbato.

Al susseguente mattino di buon’ora le Guardie partirono per raggiungere il quartiere generale del Vicerè.

Nella notte gli Austriaci erano venuti ad occupare la Bastia.

Verso il mezzogiorno il generale Bonfanti mi scrisse le seguenti parole: “Ho avuto l’ordine di riprendere la Bastia, il cielo ce la mandi buona”.

Leggendole, io credetti che fosse venuto a comandarci un Padre Guardiano dell’ordine dei Cappuccini.

Alle due principiò l’attacco, ma il nemico tosto si pose in ritirata[29].

Trnsl.: “When the battle was finished, there arrived the two Generals, that I had left to telescope at the window.

They had wanted the arrangement of the troops to be changed.

I opposed this in very cutting ways.

I do not approve this behaviour of mine; it can never be permitted to a subaltern to show himself excessively imperious to his own superiors in the military hierarchy.

But the behaviour of these two superior officers in the above-mentioned circumstances had deeply exacerbated me.

Early the following morning the Guards left to reach the headquarters of the Viceroy.

In the night the Austrian had come to occupy the Bastia.

Towards midday general Bonfanti wrote me the following words: “I have received the order to again take the Bastia, the heaven be with us”.

On reading them, I believed that a Guardian Father of the Capucin order had come to command us.

The attack started at two, but the enemy at once started withdrawing”.

Comment: Ten sentences; a syntactic construction of one hundred and forty-nine (15, 9, 6, 25, 15, 16, 10, 25, 15, 13) terms[30].

Italian losses counted 400 (killed, and wounded); 268 of them were of the Royal Guard. The prisoners were unmentioned. 700 Gefangene are quoted in the historical work of Joseph Hormayr Freiherr zu Hortenburg[31]. From a number of battalions, the Austrians lost – killed: 2 officers, 133 soldiers, 0 horses; wounded: 14 officers, 597 soldiers, 10 horses; prisoners: 5 officers, 499 soldiers, 0 horses; missing: 0 officers, 572 soldiers, 0 horses. Summa: 21 officers, 1801 soldiers, 10 horses[32].

Fighting units and composite strength

After thoroughly surveying through the reminiscent narratives of Zucchi’s Memorie, one pertinent cogitation is to basically ponder which were effectively the operative capabilities employed by the Italian military units in the Tramigna Valley battle sector. This difficult question amplifies a relevant depth of interest. Is it possible to acquire evidence as to the numerical consistency of the infantry units actively engaged in the combat frontline? Relatively speaking, few detailed annotations related to this historical subject-matter – an open investigation theme – can be conveniently expounded.

First regular unit: the Primo Reggimento di fanteria di linea (1st Infantry Regiment of the line) was formed by an efficient organizational structure, a ready deployment operative force of four battalions of the line. When the hostilities commenced in April 1809 against the Habsburgs Danubian monarchy, this regimental force of the Regno Italico (Italian Kingdom) counted on the Italian theatre (April 9, 1809) four battalions, 3,208 men. At the beginning of the military campaign operations, the Italian armed forces were composed of a three-division active component: the field troops included the divisions of Fontanelli, Severoli and Lechi (Teodoro).

The reserve corps was  placed under the leadership of General Fiorella.

The infantry of the Guardia Reale (Italian Royal Guard) counted the following official establishment: General-Staff – Infantry commander: brigade General Teodoro Lechi; war commissary Alessandro Zanoli, performing in the role and the executive functions of under-inspector at the reviews.

Reggimento Veliti Reali (Regiment Royal Velites): commander Major Carlo Vandoni; battaglione Carabinieri (Carabineers battalion), under battalion-chief Carlo Schedoni. This unit ranked (included) 811 effectives (24 officers, and 787 N.C.O. and soldiers).

The Reggimento Fanteria di Linea (Regiment Infantry of the line), who was under the authority of brigade General Teodoro Lechi, relyed on the following operative units: battaglione Granatieri (Grenadiers battalion), under battalion-chief Pietro Luigi Dubois -- numbered 486 men (25 officers, and 461 N.C.O. and soldiers).

The battaglione Carabinieri (Carabineers battalion), under battalion-chief Floriano Rossi -- was composed of 531 (18 officers, and 513 N.C.O. and soldiers).

As the military campaign evolved, in the Friuli territories (Northern Italy), on April 16, Zucchi’s regiment became critically tested at the clash of Fontanafredda-Sacile.

At Camolli, the 1st Italian Regiment of the line incurred severe losses to the Austrian – and its ranks were mowed down under the devastating Imperial artillery shelling and thundering barrage[33]

In this concern, we infer a precise documentary reference, a probative date: the Italian troop lost some two hundred and fifty (wounded, plus killed) men. By subtracting this formal cipher from the regiment force (3,208 - 250 =), there remained a 2,958 man strength under the arms. This acquired date reveals a proportional coefficient of 7,79 % in the active loss. The Italian Royal Guard units did not take part in the above-cited military collision, and had just arrived as reinforcements, reaching the natural barrier line of the Piave River. Theirs ranks were kept in good standing order, and no losses are recorded. Taking into account the contested fighting around Illasi, Cazzano, Monte-Bastia, Castel Cerino, Fittà, Montefoscarino, the reported Italian loss reached 400 (killed, plus wounded)[34]. It is known that a number of 268 (k., plus w.) were the heavy token of the Guard. Consequentially, after proper and accurate evaluation, by this numerical specification we come to know that (400 - 268 =) one hundred and thirty-two lives were the martial oblation and sacrifice of the arms to the first Italian Regiment of the line.

Général Pelet, in his work, had diversely, elseways scriven: “La Garde italienne eut 400 hommes tués ou blessés[35]; a statement however receptive “in the line” of historical-truth. More specifically defined, factual and distinguishing details are exposed by Général De Vaudoncourt[36].


In May 1809, on the Piave River, the Guardia Reale numbered 1700 troops on the ground: three infantry battalions and the cavalry squadrons (with 450 horses)[37]. On June 14, 1809, at the battle of the Raab, the Primo Reggimento di linea counted three battalions, with a complex of 2,080 men. The Guardia Reale had instead one battalion of Granatieri (350), one battalion of Cacciatori (403), and one battalion of Veliti (575). A total of 1,328 men. At Wagram, the Royal Italian Guard had: one battalion of Grenadiers (343), one battalion of Cacciatori (349), one battalion of Veliti (610) for a grand total of 1,302 men.

Impressions of a bygone age, a critical view

Straightforward impressions of the study of the 1809 battle are clear and definite. Formally reasoned, one cannot deny proper and pertinent reflections: it is important to delve into the history of obscure (or not so obscure) events in the course of a nation’s wars and history. This research paper does that admirably. It singularly educates both the cultural affectioné and stimulates the inherent fondness of the newbie, as well as established and seasoned professionals in the field of humanistic sciences in how important battles, right down to the smallest unit has an effect on the outcome. The success or failure of war can be dependent on the most trivial detail or the personality of a commander: his stubbornness to not give in to defeat; his intelligence and tactical perspicacity in understanding the particular situation at that intrinsic moment in a difficult time. All these incisive factors were addressed in the above-cited historical study. One can be constantly amazed at how these micro-histories (astonishing facts which occurred in the macro-history) are dug out and exhaustively analyzed. To a larger extent, it is so easy to reason that it takes a lot of hard work and research to be able to produce these significant and essential cultural papers whose firm critical analysis and contents are academically particularized.

Relatively speaking, Zucchi was probably being truthful and acting in the best interests of his command. It sounds as if he were the only capable commander who understood the situation in the Vallata del Tramigna (Illasi, Cazzano, Monte Bastia, Castelcerino) – in its strategic complexity, and tactical deficits. He showed courage by making that final remark to Generals Bonfanti and Lechi. The parameters of command were staggering in the complexities that evolved with which he had to contend.

Text insight

Examined with a strictly discerning eye, General Zucchi’s original publication -- Memorie -- connotes the date of printing to the second half of the XIXth century. The dating of the work referred to is the year 1861; this specification has however to be intended as produced material, and not as time-reference for the inked efforts of the author’s written recollections. First and foremost, true-to-life war stories such as these are considered a greatly proficient primary source, not excluding an important observation: the consequential literary composition expounds the action-oriented accounts during a lengthy period of military undergoings, from 1796 to 1814 -- heavily involved fighting in Dalmatia and Germany are included in the literary passages. In the Avvertenza of the text, Nicomede Bianchi[38], the curator of the work, maintained that General Carlo Zucchi had consigned to him the papers with the purpose to reconcile the past time with the exigencies of modern erudite studies[39]. More than being merely restricted to their nominal definition, the Memorie are a careful writing on the vicissitudes of a distant past, a gloriously resplendent age of the youth now disappeared. Taking into account the early beginning of Zucchi’s military career at Reggio (in the year 1796, and in media res of Bonaparte’s first Italian campaign), up to the 1861 publication, the first determining factor thus ensues: there are sixty-five years, which is the longest extreme of the time-memory -- a long chronological jump well over twelve half-decades.

Second factor of determination: considering the last year of Zucchi’s service in the Army of the Italian Kingdom (1814), that gives instead forty-seven years. Having so much time elapsed since the celebrated times of the Empire, leaves quite an impression. A point of substantiated evidence, is the chronicled time of the facts from forty-seven years (minimum temporal coefficient), to sixty-five years (maximum temporal coefficient) for this factual work. None-the-less, we do not have per contra “imposing reservations” that can objectively and reasonably be formulated. Abstracting from the principles of a methodically rigorous critical analysis, we share the opinion that the essentiality of the texts and of the historical narrative definitely remains of proven and valid informative depth, when not of magisterial character in the descriptive quality (one clearly stated example: the clash of arms in the Tramigna Valley). The absorbing historical facts are neither passed off as eulogistic work nor as a commemorative breath in the way of a panegyrical celebration. They “just” set the scene in the major supporting stageof the History, where the path of a man met the path of the eagle (Napoleon Bonaparte). In the final analysis it is significantly clear that the traits of Zucchi’s combat front experience form the work of the literary text, a veteran regiment commander who saw plenty of high intensity battles and campaigns. After reading this riveting publication, the autobiographical character is amply recognized, and not under-estimating its attractive narrative flow makes it well worth reading.

The reasons why

Abstracting from any subjective cultural inclination and possible time-period personal consideration, General Carlo Zucchi’s literary work is a compelling must. Most importantly, this story is a strongly-recommended primary history source to those inquisitive minds interested in the 1809 Italian front and military theatre of the operations. The causal reasons are counted, precise, and appreciated: 1. – it is one exceptionally rare account from an Italian infantry regiment commander who had a sound grasp for the overall strategic situation and conflict emergency as it applied to his command and hardily-brought responsibilities; 2. – it presents an unbiased view of one unyielding infantry regiment – Primo Reggimento di fanteria di linea – as a formidable combat organization along with its causative limitations and tremendous combat experiences; 3. – because of its peculiarity, the text offers a valuable glimpse into the Italian army operative performances in the Venetiae (Northern Italian front) during a crucial and bitterly contested campaign against the valorous troops of the mighty forged Habsburgs empire. The Memorie are confirmed as a long-term bibliographical value as a research source; an honest and unapologetic legacy by a stout veteran combatant with no regrets, who performed his duties for love of nation and its people independence -- the way it is meant to be.

Selected Bibliography and Further Reading

Primary sources

1. French works:

Almanach impérial pour l’année 1809. Présenté à S.M. l’Empereur et Roi, par Testu. À Paris, Chez Testu, s.d..

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. Tome premier. 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.

2. 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. 

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

Oman, Carola. Napoleon’s Viceroy. London: Hogger and Stroughton, 1966.

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:

Bournand, François. Le Général Marbot et la vie militaire sous le Premier Empire. Paris, Anc. Maison Douniol, Decombejean, 1897.

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. German works:

Hoen, Maximilian (Ritter von; k. und k. Major des Generalstabkorps), Veltzé, Alois (k. und k. Hauptmann des Armeestands). Krieg 1809. II Band. Italien. Nach den Feldakten und anderen authentischen Quellen bearbeitet in der kriegsgeschichtlichen Abteilung des k. und k. Kriegsarchiv. Verlag von L. W. Seidel & Sohn, Wien, 1908.

Hornmayer, Joseph (zu Hortenburg). Das Heer von Inneröstreich unter den Befehlen des Erzherzogs Johann im Kriege von 1809 in Italien, Tyrol und Ungarn. Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1848.

Mitteilungen des K. und K. Kriegsarchivs. Herausgegeben von der Direktion des K. und K. Kriegsarchiv. Dritte Folge. III. Band. Verlag von L. W. Seidel & Sohn, K. und K. Hofbuchhändler. Wien, 1904.

Scheidawind, Franz Joseph Adolph. Der Krieg Oesterreich’s gegen Frankreich, dessen Alliirte und den Rheinbund im Jahre 1809. Huter’sche Buchhandlung, Schaffahausen, 1842. Zweiter Band.

Zwiedineck-Suedenhorst, Hans, von. Erzherzog Johann von Österreich im Feldzuge von 1809. Mit Benützung der von ihm hinterlassenen Acten und Aufzeichnungen, amtl. u. Privat-Correspondenzen. Graz, 1892.

4. Italian works:

Ambrosi, Rosanna. Caldiero. Casagrande, 1991.

Barbieri, Giuseppe. L’immagine di Vicenza. La città e il territorio in piante, mappe  e vedute dal XV al XX secolo. Canova, 2003.

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

Bongiovanni, Zenone, Barbieri, Matteo. Illustrazione delle terme di Caldiero nel distretto veronese.

Stamperia Giuliari, Verona, 1795.

Cabianca, Jacopo, Lampertico, Fedele. Vicenza e il suo territorio.Rist. anast. Milano, 1861. Atesa, 1991.

Franzina, Emilio. Vicenza: storia di una città (1404-1866). Neri Pozza, 1980.

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

Morsoletto, Antonio. Per una storia di Altavilla, Tavernelle e Valmarana. La serenissima, Vicenza.

Piccolo, Renato. Tavernelle: le sue origini, la sua storia, la sua cultura. Pro Loco, Tavernelle, 1984.

–––––––. Tavernelle: origini, storia, cultura. 2. ed.. Pro Loco, Tavernelle, 2002.

Storia di Vicenza. L’Età della Repubblica veneta (1404-1797). Neri Pozza, 1990.


[1] Referred to the age of Napoleon (1796-1814) and to the military campaigns of the Empire, General Zucchi’s reminiscences (styled in the 1861 Memorie) have never been qualified subject-matter of academic investigation, neither were they “known” as an existing primary historical source nor as privileged lifetime narrative of a distinguished veteran regiment commander. The Memorie remained (and still are in the XXIth Century postmodernity) a virtually “uncharted” documentary source material with detailed turning points. It comes as a surprise that most of this enthralling text has never before been a topic of cultural dissertation and critical literary preservation. Further remark: the first Italian edition of the Memorie, a somewhat rare text, was virtually out of reach by the general public for nearly one hundred and fifty years (reading through the Italian text needs a long, timely and carefully experienced lexicological knowledge in foreign language).

Francis Loraine Petre (1852-1925), in his 1909 edited work [Napoleon and the Archduke Charles, London: John Lane; New York, J. Lane Co.], marginally treated the 1809 military campaign and war operations of Eugène de Beuaharnais Franco-Italian army in Northern Italy [vide: Chapter XV, Operations of the armies of Italy, and in Poland and Germany, in: Napoleon and the Archduke Charles, Greenhill Books, London, 1991, pp. 299-319]. A passage is counted as a three lines information piece: “Eugène, on the 28th April, made an unnecessary and useless attack on John at Caldiero, which was repulsed” [Napoleon and the Archduke Charles, Greenhill Books, London, 1991, p. 300]. Fairly evident is the discrepancy of the chronological reference – and despite the nominal misunderstanding, the abortive forward attempt carried out to Soave. The facts of arm which occurred in the Vallata del Tramigna (days of April 29, 30) are “sufficiently neglected”. The May 8 hardily-fought battle at the Piave River is not even mentioned. Sheer essentiality here attains one of the paramount peaks which both couple benevolence (in foreign history matters) and indulgence (in cultural studies).

One amazing grace is to read the following passage extrapolated from Oman Carola’s neatly published work: “The Viceroy was now ready to attack. He engaged the Austrians on the last day of April at Monte Bastia, not a battle, but a brilliant affair of outposts. Our troops behaved admirably” [vide: Chapter eleven: Commander in Chief 1808:1809, in: Napoleon’s Viceroy, Funk and Wagnalls, New York, 1966, p. 259, l. 3-5]. No cognitive lights are given about the tremendous events which savagely raged amid the belligerent troops in the hilly environment between Illasi, Cazzano, Castel Cerino, Fittà, and Montefoscarino. The primary causal motivation is that even the Prince Viceroy did not know himself the full extent of the protracted and dramatic combat – and the casualties which resulted in this bloodily contested strategic salient.

In the late XXth Century historiography of the Napoleonic wars, Zucchi’s memorial compilation was not a known historical source in the phenomenal corpus [The Campaigns of Napoleon, New York, Macmillan, 1966] of the British historian David G. Chandler (15 January 1934-10 October 2004). Most surprisingly, this original titled reference did neither appear in the masterpiece [Swords around a Throne, Napoleon’s Grande Armée, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1988] of Colonel John R. Elting (15 February 1911- 25 May 2000), nor in the beautifully edited work [Napoleon’s great adversaries – The Archduke Charles and the Austrian Army 1792-1814, Indiana University Press Bloomington, 1982] of Gunther E. Rothenberg (Berlin, 1923-26 April 2004). Although this author partially recalled with incisiveness the 1809 military operations in Italy and Dalmatia [chapter VII, § Operations in Italy and Dalmatia, pp. 139-145], Zucchi’s work does not appear as text reference in the Select Sources and Bibliography (pp. 202-206). To the maximum respect and persevering fondest admiration of the afore-cited distinguished gentlemen (and, before of any personal cultural appreciation, never forgotten friends: David, and John; although we never knew Gunther in person, he well deserves inclusion in this formidable trio), this is just an exampled reflection to indicate how difficult and slowly progressive is the evolution and the study and the knowledge of first hand documentary sources related to the historic period 1796-1815.

[2] Memorie del Generale Carlo Zucchi, Pubblicate per cura di Nicomede Bianchi, Casa Editrice Italiana di M. Guigoni, Milano, Torino, 1861, p. 24, l. 15-36, p. 25, l. 1-9.

[3] Tavernelle, nowadays Tavernelle Vicentina, is a fraction of the commune of Altavilla Vicentina (province of Vicenza). Since the far Roman past, many roads converged on this place; notably, the strata Postumia – whose course was charted in 148 B.C. when the consul Spurius Postumius Albinus Magnus had concentrated on constructing this military road from Genŭa to Aquileĭa, via Derthona Iulia, Placentĭa, Cremona, Verōna, Vicetĭa, and Opitergium. In this natural environment were built some stations that provided fresh changes of horses. To adequately provide for the culinary necessities of the travellers, points of restoration and tabernulae (i.e. taverns) were part of the complex. Hence, through the language fluctuations of the centuries, were derived the modern etymology and nominal reference (tabernulae = Tavernelle).

Am 20. April hatte die italien. Armee folgende Stellung: Pully, Serras, Severoli in Treviso, Lamareme in Padua, Sahuc zu Bassano, Broussier zu Este, ein Theil der Garde in Soave, der Vizekönig und Grenier in Vicenza, eine Division Dragoner zu Verona. Der Vizekönig hielt sich indessen nur zwei Tage in Vieenze auf; am 24. war sein’Hauptquartier zu Vago, seine Armee zu Caldiero, Serras und die Italiener bei Tavernelle, Pully zu Montagnana, Broussier zu Este, auf dem linken Ufer der Etsch u. s.. Am 26. brach die öster. Avantgarde unter Frimont von Tavernelle auf und rückte auf der Straße von Montebello vor. Serras stand hinter der Gna und Chiampon, die Brücken hatte er abgebrochen, auf dem Damme Geschütze aufgefahren; man schätzte seine Kräste auf 3—4000 Mann. Frimont beschloß, ihn anzugreifen, und theilte dazu seine Avantgarde in Colonnen, allein die dritte Colonne griff zu frich an und Serras verließ die Gna und den Champion und zog sich fechtend nach Villanuova, wo ihn Frimont am 27. in einer guten Stellung fand. Der durch mehrere Tage dauernde hestige Regen hatte alle Gräben mit Wasser gefüllt und die Aecker grundlos gemacht. Frimont ließ angreifen, allein die Franzosen hielten sich in Villanova und machten aus dem Kirchhofe ein hestiges Feuer. Erst in der Nacht verließen sie diesen Posten und zogen sich über den Alpon” [vide: Zwiedineck-Suedenhorst, Hans, von, Erzherzog Johann von Österreich im Feldzuge von 1809, Mit Benützung der von ihm hinterlassenen Acten und Aufzeichnungen, amtl. u. Privat-Correspondenzen, Graz, 1892, p. 210].

Trnsl.: “On 20. April had the Italian Army the following position: Pully, Serras, Severoli in Treviso, Lamarque in Padua, Sahuc at Bassano, Broussier at Este, a portion of the Guard in Soave, the Viceroy and Grenier in Vicenza, a division of dragoons to Verona. The Viceroy, however, only stayed two days in Vicenza; on 24. was his Headquarter to Vago, his army at Caldiero, Serras and the Italians in Tavernelle, Pully to Montagnana, Broussier to Este, on the left bank of the Adige […]. On 26. broke the Austrian vanguard under Frimont from Tavernelle up and advanced on the road of Montebello. Serras was behind the Gna and Chiampon, the bridges he had broken off, ascended to the dykes guns, his strength was estimated at 3000-4000 me. Frimont decided to attack him, and divided for this his avant-garde in columns, but the third column attacked […] and Serras left the Gna and the Champion, and retired fighting towards Villa Nuova, where he Frimont on 27 found a good position. The lasting several days by violent rain had filled all the ditches with water and made the lands bottomless. Frimont did attack, but the French held in Villanova, and made a heavy fire from the churchyard. Not until the night they left the post and went over the Alpone”.

[4] General Jean-Mathieu Serras, already 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.

[5] This deployment paradoxically affected the mobility and the operative strategies of all the battalions of the Primo Reggimento di Fanteria di Linea. With refined farsightedness Colonel Zucchi had aptly selected the locus forte (the place, and most favourable posture on the terrain) where to contain any occasioned emergency and fighting action against the Imperial Feld-Bataillone (field-battalions). In the village of Altavilla, his right wing was in a particularly well-covered position. The front line of the Italian forces had to “strategically cover” the “free sector” from the location of Olmo (from the wooden bridge) westward all along the fast-flowing waters of the Retrone river. This expedient particularly meant “to cut” communications along a particular section of the road (nowadays: Via Olmo, and Via Tavernelle) to Verona. Due to imponderable factors of major force (the withdrawal of the Franco-Italian forces; the advance of the Austrian army corps), the assigned mission could only be possible by selecting an active defence option. In this context, the salient which thus formed had the Habsburgs units placed at Olmo behind the Retrone; then it followed the unoccupied area from Olmo to the Tavernelle (which was to the front of the contest), and the “line” manned en potence by the Italian infantry companies. It is objectively clear that the line of containment of the Italian arms could not be sustained for a long time with proficient results in strategy. That kind of “resistance and interposition” throughout the threatened area had to be lessened by a progressive backward unhooking.

[6] This level of consolidation demanded an immediate and necessary practical nature; urged to the accomplishment, the Italian battalion-units took full advantage of the inherent compatibilities of the natural ground, and were positioned on a couple of pre-selected strong-points of sector (notably, the locations of Tavernelle and Altavilla). This conformable solution and application of military order thus gained the maximum exploitation of the emplacements of the infantry companies.

[7] The defined temporal character of these tempering military dispositions was reasonably recognized; it was a consequence engendered by the pressing advance of the Imperial forces. In establishing this “volatile” and provisional line and sector of arrest, General Seras envisaged in the cadre of the ground operations to partially relent to the enemy’s forward efforts leading to Tavernelle, and further to Montebello.  

[8]Frimont sandte 4 Züge Husaren und eine Grenzerkompagnie zur Verfolgung des Feindes ab, das Gros der Avantgarde hielt bei Olmo an und folgte erst nach Beschaffung der Verpflegung*1). Gegen Abend erreichte die Avantgarde Tavemelle, 2 Kompagnien Oguliner und eine Husareneskadron besetzten zur Verbindung mit Volkmann Montecchio maggiore, ein Detachement gleicher Stärke in der südlichen Flanke Altavilla, ein Streif-kommando wurde auf die Monti Berici entsendet*2) ”.

*1) FML. Frimont an Erzherzog Johann, Olmo, 25. April, I Uhr nachmittags. (K. A., F. A. 1809, Italien, IV, 177.) *2) Derselbe an denselben, Tavernelle, 25. April, 8 Uhr 30 Minuten abends. (Ebenda, IV, 178.) Vide: chapter entitled Besetzung von Vicenza (25. April.), in: Hoen, Maximilian (Ritter von; k. und k. Major des Generalstabkorps), Veltzé, Alois (k. und k. Hauptmann des Armeestands), Krieg 1809, II Band, Italien, Nach den Feldakten und anderen authentischen Quellen bearbeitet in der kriegsgeschichtlichen Abteilung des k. und k. Kriegsarchiv, Verlag von L. W. Seidel & Sohn, Wien, 1908, p. 167, l. 22-30. Trnsl.: “Frimont sent 4 Züge of Hussars and a Grenzer company for the pursuit of the enemy off, the main part of the avant-garde continued with Olmo and followed only to supply of nourishment*1). In the evening the vanguard reached Tavemelle, 2 companies Oguliner and one Hussars squadron occupied for liaison with Volkmann Montecchio maggiore, a detachment of similar strength in the southern flank Altavilla, a patrolling command will be on the Monti Berici sent*2)”.

[9] On April 25, 1809, it was evidently clear enough that the Imperial troops’ movement had been detected. This detailed information was soon passed to the evaluation of the regimental staff. Not excluded from the circumstantial elements gathered in the actual research, the inescapable possibility that the Italian Staff headquarters and lodgings were installed at Altavilla Vicentina, in one splendid architectural building originally-built in the 1724: the villa Valmarana Morosini (address: civic 105, Via Marconi).

[10] Significantly, from the parish church of Altavilla the Habsburgs troops could be seen and counted. Was that from the hilly sacred temple of Sant’Urbano, called chiesala Rocca” ? The necessary accessibility could not be a point of observation at mere terrain level which precluded any ordinary kind of visual depth-range. Assuming a foot level posture, to discern the profiled shapes of the Infanteristen (infantry soldiers) at the distance would have been a matter of difficulty. The question is soon raised: was a telescope used to inspect the Habsburgs troops ?

[11] The reason why is that Zucchi could not adequately establish the actual force of the approaching enemy troops. Last but not least, is the consideration that these field units could be at the vanguard of a more numerous military corps.

[12] Was that Infanterie (infantry) or Kavallerie-Schwadronen (cavalry squadrons) at regiment-strength ? Or a mobile army corps, whose vanguard had just appeared in a frontal view ?

[13] The true and relevant reason is that the compact and well distributed Italian deployment on ground could not be compromised, imperilling the line of defence.

[14] The Italian commanding-officer could not risk moving forwards his infantry battalions, thus incurring the lethal danger of fire-shots exposure and the vulnerability of a costly affair – these units had to act according to their prescriptions of combat, and to maintain their assigned position in this endangered operative salient.

[15] This fact testifies to the increasing and seemingly unstoppable advance of the Austrian (it is a matter of fact that the troops were to move to reach within the area); and the lively-hot contest exchanged at the distance on all the assumed defence line had soon erupted with violence and firm determination by the enemy.

[16] Unfortunately limited in its shag connective narration and lack of few circumscribed informative details, a briefly summarizing exposition on that stubbornly-fought fact of arms (the action course between Tavernelle, Altavilla, to Montebello) and displayed determination of honour can be retraced in the huge memorial summa of Baron Alessandro Zanoli.

Il 25 Bonfanti s’appostò a due miglia in avanti di Vicenza. Nella mattina del 26 i posti avanzati italiani, assaliti dai contrari si ritrassero combattendo e disputando il terreno palmo a palmo fino a Montebello. Ebbero 6 uomini morti e i 5 feriti: la sera si raccolsero a Villanova, ed il battaglione del 1.° d’infanteria comandato da Porro fu distaccato a Monteforte. L’ esercito del viceré si riduce (26 aprile) a Caldiero ed a Verona” [vide: Zanoli, A., Sulla milizia cisalpino-italiana. Cenni storico statistici dal 1796 al 1814, Volume II., Per Borroni e Scotti successori a V. Ferrario, Tipografi-Librai e fonditori di caratteri, Milano, 1845, p. 85, l. 39, p. 86, l. 1-6] .

Trnsl.: “The 25 Bonfanti positioned himself two miles in front of Vicenza. In the morning of the 26 the Italian outposts, assaulted by the enemy retreated themselves fighting and disputing the terrain   bit-by-bit as far as Montebello. They had six men dead and the five wounded: the evening they gathered at Villanova, and the battalion of the first of infantry commanded by Porro was detached to Monteforte. The army of the viceroy reduces (26 april) at Caldiero and at Verona”.

Observation: This author reports that the rearguard Italian troops were already in position on 25 April 1809; the combat date is correctly mentioned: April 26. On focus is the extensive general combat, which well matched two eminently distinguished phases in the ground manoeuver: the tactical movement of the infantry battalions (this is to signify the fluidity of the line of arrest and interposition, according to the strategic climate and to the Imperial troops advance), and the severe battle conditions sustained by the Italian soldiers who fought tenaciously on their assigned positions. This last detail implied the gradual recoiling, in subsequent phases of the military attrition, of Zucchi’s regimental force. The senior veteran commander’s cunning resolve was to not thoughtlessly lose human lives – keeping his units mobile and flexible at the adversarial fire-range. This acute strategic resolve is the significant “interpretative key” (this is to say, the functional operative methodology) to comprehend the events of that stubborn day of contest. The acumen of Colonel Zucchi was a remarkable result of fully-bright efficacy and deliberation. Facing superior enemy pressure, the Italian commanding-officer had to gradually move backwards to avoid being encircled, and to have his regiment cut out.

[17] In the historical examination of this primary source, the critical analysis will be stringently contained following the literary exposition of the author and the specific and unidirectional theme related to the course of the military events. A fundamental priority will be, in the following dissertations, to properly and expressly take into examination the significant role and specific moves on ground which affected the grand strategy of the Imperial battalions.

[18] Memorie del Generale Carlo Zucchi, Milano, Torino, 1861, p. 25, l. 10-16.

[19] Nowadays, the commune of San Bonifacio, in the province of Verona.

[20] At the times of the Romans, the ancient Calidarium is nowadays the commune of Caldiero (province of Verona).

[21] Illasi, in the province of Verona.

[22] Jean-Joseph-Augustin Sorbier was born at Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie (Gard) on February 12, 1774 – and died on May 21, 1809, at Verona, after the wounds he had received on April 30, 1809.

Military synopsis: 1793, April 1: pupil sous-lieutenant in the École du génie at Mézières; August 1: lieutenant; December 16: capitaine du génie at the armée du Rhin; 1794, November: employed at the siege of the tête de pont at Mannheim; 1795: Neuf-Brisach; 1796, 21 March: Toulon; at Narbonne; at Sète; transferred at the Armée d’ Italie; 1797, January 14: served at the combat of Anghiari; 1798, May 19: embarked with the armée d’ Orient; July 2: served at the conquest of Alexandria; 1799, January 21: appointed chef de bataillon provisoire by général en chef Bonaparte; 1801, January 6: appointed provisional chef de brigade du génie by the général en chef Menou; March 8: served at the battle of Lake Madieh; October 6: left Alexandria to come back to France; 24 November: sous-directeur of the fortifications; December 14: confirmed in the rank of chef de brigade; 1802: employed in the Italian Republic; 1804, June 14: officer of the Légion d’ honneur; 1805, October 18: served under Massena at the attack of Verona; December 24: commander of the génie under Prince Eugène de Beauharnais with the blockade corps of Venice; 1806, February 11: aide de camp of the Prince Viceroy; March 21: sent to mission in Dalmatia; May 1: chevalier de la Couronne de fer; 1807, June 20: discharged; August 2: served in the observation corps of the Gironde; 19 December: général de brigade employed in the line; in the armée du Portugal; 1808, 8 June: reinstated in the génie; 20 June: came back to France par congé; 17 August: sent to Italy; returned to being aide de camp of Prince Eugène; 1809, 30 April: was wounded at the thigh at the combat of Castel Cerino; trasported to Verona, where he died.

His name is inscribed on the eastern façade of the Arc de Triomphe de l’ Etoile.

A French text, recites: “Sorbier (Jean-Joseph), 1774-1809, général. Élève à l’école du génie de Mézières en 1793, il partecipe à l’expédition d’Égypte, puis, en Italie, devient aide de camp d’Eugène de Beauharnais. Général de brigade en 1807, il est mortellement blessé près de Caldiero, lors de la campagne d’Italie de 1809” [vide: Dictionnaire Napoléon, Sous la direction de Jean Tulard de l’Institut, Librairie Arthème Fayard, 1999,  p. 779] .

[23] The commune of Cazzano di Tramigna, in the province of Verona.

[24] Personal touring adventures to reconstruct the extensive battle area locations happened during a number of years. Quite amazing details and enthralling informative reports will be presented in future dissertations. 

[25] Memorie del Generale Carlo Zucchi, Milano, Torino, 1861, p. 25, l. 16-22.

[26] Ibidem, p. 25, l. 23-34.

[27] Ibidem, p. 25, l. 34-36, p. 26, l. 1-4.

[28] Ibidem, p. 26, l. 6-13

[29] Ibidem, p. 26, l. 30-36, p. 27, l. 1-11.

[30] The waning of the hard-fought battle appeared to be a concomitant factor to compulsorily “interpret” the unexpectedly arrival of the two Italian high-ranking General-officers. In evaluating this serious observation, there is a stringent point of view: the peculiarity of this coincidence is a key-note. On focus were the incontrovertible importance and the controversial character which by then was affecting the strategy, the current deployment, and the flexible advantages that the battalion-troops had to take on ground. Colonel Zucchi wanted to keep the Italian infantry rough-and-ready to counteract any intermittent crisis of conflict; therefore, in his own regimental commander’s responsibility he could not take needless risks to jeopardize any movement without proper armed cover. The hotly debated dispositions of the superior Italian officers (Bonfanti, Lechi) would have been a cutting edge to countermand the logic and the principles of war -- the success of the arms so far gained up to the present moment. Strictly imposing factors of necessity called to temperate the prudential tactical attitudes. The altercation and the timidity to quickly conform to the execution of the orders were significant: and a matter of solid contention. Clearly inferred is, in essence, Zucchi’s resentfulness: if the Imperial battalions would have attacked when the Italian units were moving unprotected (out of the fortified strong-points), what would then have happened in case of sudden collision with the enemy’s superior numbers and offensive manoeuver ?  Further: under major adverse circumstances, what then would have been the vulnerability of the Tramigna Valley strategic area ?

With the inferential and “perceived” laxity of the General-officers, there developed a relevant inter-acting dichotomy between the brigade headquarters, located “somewhere” near Illasi. Was that skilfully chosen position at the castled complex ?; no data and research elements unfavourably preclude against this possibility. The mobile regimental staff of Colonel Zucchi was instead actively performing on the disputed line of fire and combat. Two conflicting operative views were thus far sharply delineated: the “ideally” articulated battle course, as observed from the brigade headquarters was notably opposed by Zucchi’s lenient pragmatism and most immediate and practical urgencies on the contested ground.

[31] Das Heer von Inneröstreich unter den Befehlen des Erzherzogs Johann im Kriege von 1809 in Italien, Tyrol und Ungarn, Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1848, p. 120.

[32]Loc. cit..

[33]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” [vide: Memorie del Generale Carlo Zucchi, Milano, Torino, 1861, p. 22, l. 15-21] .

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 and fifty men were put out of combat. Counted among the wounded were four battalion-commanders; among the dead were five officers”.

                                                                 *            *            *

Le perdite furono gravissime; il 1° d’infanteria ebbe 37 morti, e tra essi i capitani Duplessis e Rivet, 200 feriti, e del loro numero i capobattaglioni Barbieri e Ferrù, l’aiutante Zampa, i capitani Bertolio e Lagrange, i tenenti Bonservi ed Orlandi; 75 bersaglieri intercisi caddero prigioni. L’aiutante comandante Martel, capo dello stato maggiore, fu pure ferito” [vide: Zanoli, A., Sulla milizia cisalpino-italiana. Cenni storico statistici dal 1796 al 1814, Volume II., Per Borroni e Scotti successori a V. Ferrario, Tipografi-Librai e fonditori di caratteri, Milano, 1845, p. 85, l. 1-8].

Trnsl.: “The losses were very serious; the Ist of infantry had 37 deads, and amongst them the captains Duplessis and Rivet, 200 wounded, and of their number the battalions-chiefs Barbieri and Ferrù, the adjudant  Zampa, the captains Bertolio and Lagrange, the lieutenants Bonservi and Orlandi; 75 sharpshooters cut out fell prisoners. The adjudant commander Martel Chief of the Staff, was wounded as well”.

In the count of the wounded and killed, were the following officers. Lieutenants: Bonservi, Duplessis, Panico; capitaines: Bertolio, Bonelli, Ferru (killed), Orlandi, Paoli, Rivet, Ronzier, Rossi, Tardieu (killed), Victorio, Zampa (capit. A.-M.); chefs de bataillon: Barbieri, Lagrange ; colonel: Zucchi [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] .

[34]Gli Italiani ebbero in questo fatto morti, feriti e prigionieri più di 400 individui, de’ quali 268 della guardia reale” [vide: Zanoli, A., Sulla milizia cisalpino-italiana. Cenni storico statistici dal 1796 al 1814, Volume II., Per Borroni e Scotti successori a V. Ferrario, Tipografi-Librai e fonditori di caratteri, Milano, 1845, p. 87, l. 16-17] .

Trnsl.: “The Italians had in this fact deads, wounded and prisoners more than 400 fellows, of which 268 of the royal guard”.

[35]Vide: 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, Roret, Libraire, Rue Hautefeuille, au coin de celle du Battoir, Paris, 1825, p. 186, l. 25.

Trnsl.: “The Italian Guard had 400 men killed and wounded”.

The meaning of this bit of information is sequential and well-focused: the sacrifice and loss by the Italian troops are incontrovertible. Emphatically, the written details included the soldiers of the Primo Reggimento di fanteria di linea.

[36]Nous perdimes dans cette affaire quatre cents hommes hors de combat, et deux cents prisonniers” [vide: Vaudoncourt, Frédéric François Guillaume (Baron de), Histoire politique et militaire du Prince Eugène Napoléon, vice-roi d’Italie, Tome premier, Paris: Libraire Universelle de P. Mongie, Boulevart des Italiens, N° 10, 1828, p. 212, l. 24-26 ] .

Trnsl.: “We lost in this affair four hundred men out of combat and two hundred prisoners”.

[37]Ibidem, p. 240.

[38] Nicomede Bianchi, a native of Reggio Emilia (September 19, 1818-Torino, February 6, 1886), has been an Italian politician. He graduated (1844) in Medicine at the University of Parma, and then specialized at Vienna. Covered the position (1864) of segretario generale of the Minister to the Instruction G. Natoli. From December 1870, appointed direttore capo of the R. Archivio di Stato of Torino, he covered his position and carried out his duties for a period of more than seventeen years. In the XV legislature, in 1881, he was a senator of the Regno d’Italia.

Among his works: Geografia storica comparata degli stati antichi e dell’Italia: dalla caduta dell’Impero Romano all’anno 1815. M. Guidoni, Torino, 1861; I Ducati estensi dall’anno 1815 all’anno 1850. Società Editrice Italiana, Torino, 1852; Vicende del mazzinianismo politico e religioso dal 1832 al 1854. Dai Tipi di Luigi Sambolino, Savona, MDCCCLIV; Storia della politica Austriaca rispetto ai Sovrani ed ai Governi italiani dall’anno 1791 al maggio del 1857. Dai Tipi di Luigi Sambolino, Savona, MDCCCLVII; La casa di Savoia e l’Austria: documenti inediti tratti dalla corrispondenza diplomatica del conte Giuseppe De Maistre. Tip. Letteraria, Torino, 1859; La ristorazione del duca di Modena Francesco 5. arciduca d’Austria e la tranquillità dell’Italia. Tip. Calderoni, Reggio, 1859; Carlo Botta e Carlo Alberto: lettere inedite. [S.l. : s.n.], 1862; Il Conte Camillo di Cavour. Documenti editi e inediti. Stamperia dell’Unione Tip.-Editrice, Torino, Giugno 1863; Storia documentata della diplomazia europea in Italia dall’anno 1814 all’anno 1861. Dall’Unione Tipografico-Editrice, Torino, 1865; Regolamento per l’Archivio di Stato in Torino. Stamperia dell’Unione Tipografico Editrice, 1872;  Prima relazione triennale della direzione dello Archivio di Stato in Torino, anni 1871-1872-1873. Vincenzo Bona, Torino, 1874; Storia della monarchia piemontese dal 1773 sino al 1861. Fratelli Bocca, Roma, Torino, 1877-1885.

[39] Exact text quotation is: “L’illustre Generale Carlo Zucchi per amichevole benevolenza mi consegnò manoscritte le Memorie della sua vita ond’io ne usassi liberamente a vantaggio del vero nei miei lavori di storia contemporanea” [vide: Avvertenza, in: Memorie del Generale Carlo Zucchi, Milano, Torino, 1861, p. V, l. 1-4] .

Trnsl: “The illustrious General Carlo Zucchi for friendly benevolence gave me the handwritten Memorie of his life so that I used them freely to the advantage of truth in my works of contemporary history”.  

Special thanks

The author would like to express his vivid appreciation and distinguished thanks for the kindly-rendered cultural collaboration to:

Comune di Altavilla Vicentina; Biblioteca Civica (dott.ssa Valeria Cecconello).


Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2010


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