Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

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

Modern history and memorial: analytical evaluations on the Memorie Zucchi

By Roberto A. Scattolin, Italy

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

A hugely entertaining account of the Napoleonic conflict emergencies and far distant areas of military intervention in diverse operative theatres (notably, Italy, Dalmatia, and Germany) was recalled by a resourceful Italian commanding-officer.

In the practical form of a one-volume publication, this work was originally published at Milano and Torino (Italy) in the year 1861.

The title is tersely worded: Memorie del Generale Carlo Zucchi (Memories of General Zucchi).

It preserves in authentic detail and with vivid compelling immediacy the careers and tenacity that Napoleon’s Italian soldiers made of military perils, personal risks, and tactical manoeuvres in the service of imperial France.

This is an appalling yet inspiring story -- of incommensurable sacrifices.

It was during a time of martial glories when the extremes of courage and devotion to the Country and to the honour of the arms were admired.

The military campaigns which Colonel Zucchi experienced, the battles in which he participated, the bloody actions he passed through, constitute a vital and vibrant narration.

Padua. The Porta Ognissanti (the Latin words of the original dedicatory inscription recite Omnium Sanctorum), usually referred to as Porta del Portello, and Portello Nuovo. It was inaugurated on June 12, 1519, by captain Marcantonio Loredan. The little port; it was exactly in this location that in the past centuries people and visitors embarked on the burchi to reach – through the Riviera del Brenta – the lagoon’s waterish extensions, the siti vallivo-lagunari (fishing valleys), and, more importantly, Venice. The actual stone bridge was built in the year 1784.

What most shocks the postmodern military history analyst is considering the effective causal motivations of why the principled way and adherence to the traits of uncommon valour were an ordinary virtue among the Kingdom of Italy’s regular troops.

Thoughtfully examining the Memorie Zucchi, the particular contents appear as a most surprising first hand resource for the discerning analyst in the field of humanistic sciences delving deeper in a peculiar history theme: the extensive military campaign of the 1809 Italian front.

To all appearances, and under proper critical evaluation, is the factual evidence that the fluent narrative does not concentrate on a grand strategic overview of all the Franco-Italian divisional forces employed in the long-ranged operations in the western and eastern Venetiae.

The enthralling literary account focuses on the practical organization and fighting operations of the Italian infantry either in Italy, and advancing into an offensive strategy in the domains of the mightily-forged Habsburg Empire.

That honoured perseverance of the valour of the arms was significantly referred to one distinguished battle unit – Primo Reggimento di fanteria di linea, Italian Kingdom’s army.

This primary source material has produced a substantially founded and documentary story.

Even the all-encompassing eighty-four pages of the textual matter add to its authenticity.

Remarkably, a fundamental consideration is the book’s easy style, transparent by the author’s emotional sober expertise, that unravels a stark story detailing one of the most crucial and heart-rending experiences of the Italian combat troops during the 1809 conflict.

Padua. On the left side to the viewer is discernible the imposing fortified gate called Porta di torre molino. The mighty fortified complex appropriately included distinctive defensive elements: one barriera ostruttiva, id est, the corps of the gate, ad arco ogivale, plus annexed mole fortificata, i.e., the dominating towered structure. Cunningly conceived as “strategic building”, it guarded one of the main roads of access to the inhabited town’s quarters. The stone-constructed five vaulted bridge spanned over the Bacchiglione river. This significant area was one of the strong-points, a cardinal position for the resolutions of armed defence of the whole urban prescinct. Armed guards were used to man the site – a penetrative compendium for security control and for any contingent emergency. In 1809, the urban asset authentically preserved its strategic character, deterrence, and defence facilities.

Undeniably, this was a clear and documented story that needed to be told -- with such intelligent humbleness and human feeling.

What actually occurred on the stoutly-contested battlefields of the 1809 Italian campaign portrays flexible, tenacious Italian armed forces whose indefatigable efforts and intrepid persistence under arms provided major strategic and victorious contributions to repulsing the fierce Imperial troops during a thirty-one day period.

A permanent reflection remains: General Carlo Zucchi has written a unique account of the war time events in different European countries – in which there is not extensive documentary material available in the reminiscent narration, but specific passages and themes, unique in several aspects, are primarily the essential documentary character.

The reading will not reveal any praiseworthy character nor other vainglorious bragging and glorified historical version of events.

The book does not dwell on heroics.

Zucchi’s composite attitude simply recollects the conflict emergency from the viewpoint of the “military professional in action”, a comprehensive insight of a quick-witted regimental commander performing his compatible duties of service as best he could, under unimaginable circumstances.

The precious informative details confirm Zucchi’s compiled reference as an unrivalled referential matter on the history of warfare, and the Italian troop’s battles and organisation during an eventful period of time (1805-1814) -- a topic which in postmodern academic studies has not yet reached any definite or established knowledge or thematic competence.

Not only has this amazing soldier’s extensively written memorial passages never been edited to heighten the narrative of Italy’s contributions to this era of war, but also expert commentary and essential background materials have never been added to make the book’s lively history understood and not lost forever in the waters of oblivion.

This is a fascinating “biography”, more illuminative for contemporary readers -- which provides to the Napoleonic buffs and scholars and academics alike the substantial picture by far of the true Italian soldiers of Napoleon.

In its appraised genere memoriale (memorial gendre), the Memorie Zucchi do therefore offer an increasingly intense narrative structure of quality -- a well-documented and most vivid account of an Italian regular infantry unit in campaign, during the eventful stage of the early XIXth’s century Napoleonic correspondences and audacities for conquest and territorial annexations.

This topic and the elaborately produced academic series make this the leading reference in English – a credit to scholarship.

The author’s undefatigably protracted studies and talented history competences, which are obvious from these interconnected readings, undeniably play a part in the tableaux d’epopée (time’s frescos) which set the frame of the composite investigation for the latest researched dissertations.

Plan of the work: formal scheme and narrative composition

Padua. The Bacchiglione River. In plain frontal view can be seen the elongated walled structure called il castello (the castle). Primarily (VIth century a.C.), it was a site of Byzantine fortification convenient for impelling necessities of strategic order and garrison military duties. In the course of the Middle Ages (XIIIth Century), this stronghold was a favoured residenza palazziale, i.e., palace residence, of the feudal lord and tyrant Ezzelino III da Romano (Romano d’Ezzelino, April 25, 1194-Soncino, October 7, 1259). At the beginning of April 1809, Colonel Zucchi reached the town with a four-battalions mobile component – Primo Reggimento di fanteria di linea – of the Italian Kingdom. These troops had been assigned to the Italian Army’s first infantry division. Before the incipient military operations of campaign in the eastern Venetiae, there was a stringent period of recognized intensity, for the laborious military organization and for the subordinate complexities of divisional command.

The composition structure of General Zucchi’s literary work is clearly defined, in its pre-assumed figuration and text corps.

To one extensively produced and finely rendered Avvertenza (Introduction) exhaustively compiled by the curator Nicomede Bianchi, follow intensively written narrative passages.

Densely compacted print characters are in evidence; more importantly, six absorbing and richly detailed scritture capitolari (chapters) are counted in the settled narrative scheme.

Avvertenza, pp., V-XIX; Capitolo Primo – I primi passi della carriera militare, pp. 1-15; Capitolo II. – La Guerra, pp. 17-29; Capitolo III. – Le felici imprese militari, pp. 31-41; Capitolo IV. – La campagna dell’anno 1813 fino all’armistizio di Praga, pp. 43-56; Capitolo V. – Ultimo periodo della campagna dell’anno 1813, pp. 57-68; Capitolo VI. – Il Principe Eugenio e Gioacchino Murat negli ultimi giorni del Regno d’Italia, pp. 69-84.

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Documentary outline

Carlo Zucchi, a principled man and a native of Reggio Emilia[1] – who died on December 19, 1863, had lived with strength and exemplary coherence, sustained by the integrity of the moral customs and behaved with probity.

His lifetime experiences and transcendent military career had begun simply as a sotto-tenente[2] (underlieutnant) of a volunteer’s battalion, at Reggio, during the 1796 invasion of Northern Italy conducted by the French-Republican Général-en-Chef (Commander-in-Chief) Napoleon Bonaparte.

In July of 1797 he was appointed to the rank of tenente[3] (lieutenant) in the third Cisalpine legion.

New ranks[4] and positions[5] were to follow.

On January 10, 1803 he married Teresa Montanari[6].

During the year, he gained a new step of promotion[7].

This brave Italian officer attained further distinction in 1807[8], while performing excellent service in arms in the reggimento Veliti (Veliti regiment) of the Italian Royal Guard.

He was ordered to assume the executive functions and role of commander of the Primo Reggimento di fanteria di linea of the Italian Kingdom[9].

A combatant of proven valour, he actively took part in the wars of the Empire, and in the year 1809 achieved the rank of Generale di brigata[10] (brigade General).

His zealous commitments in the line of duty and bravery in action commanded imposing respect and attracted widespread renommé (fame).

Napoleon I conferred on him the aristocratic titled attribution of Barone dell’Impero (baron of the Empire), with an yearly income of 4,000 francs[11].

Later, he was to be assigned the position of Ispettore Generale (Inspector General) and be in charge (December 1811-August 1812)[12] f all the infantry of the Regno d’Italia.

After the nadir (1813)[13]  f the once mighty monocratic political dominance of the Empire, the fall of the Italian Kingdom[14], and the sensational collapse at the battle of Waterloo (1815), Zucchi took a primary role in the military events that worked for the cause for Italian independence.

Correspondingly, thus through his sense of duty, determination, honour and his patriotism, he became one of the major protagonists in the 1848 Italian Risorgimento.

Military Synopsis

The variety and the detailed cultural substantiation of the reported historic data, provides clear-cut documentary material.

1777, 10 March: born at Reggio, in Emilia -- the father: Giovanni Zucchi; the mother: Luigia Burani; 1796, 1 December: appointed under-lieutenant in a battalion composed by volunteers of Reggio; 1797, July: appointed lieutenant in the third Cisalpine legion; 1798, 25 August: battle of Novi; 1800, July: appointed to the rank of captain major-adjudant; 1801: campaign in the Tyrol; 1803, 10 January: married Teresa Montanari; appointed battalion-chief in the second infantry regiment (i.e., mezza brigata) of the line; 1807, 5 May: promoted Lieutenant-Colonel in the regiment of the Veliti of the Guardia Reale; 5 November: Colonel of the first infantry regiment of the line; 1808, August: reached, with a four battalions force, the campo d’istruzione (military drill camp) in Montichiari (province of Brescia); 1809, end March: came to Padua, with a mobile component of four battalions, Primo Reggimento di fanteria di linea -- assigned to General Severoli’s division; 16 April: at the battle of Fontanafredda; 29-30 April: at the vehemently disputed combats of Cazzano di Tramigna, Costeggiola, Monte Bastia, Castel Cerino, Fittà, Montefoscarino, Montefoscarinetto, Illasi; 16-17 May: at the combats of Tarvis; 14 June: at the battle of the Raab; 15 June: appointed generale di brigata (Brigade General) 9; 1810, April: at Cremona, commander of the dipartimento dell’alto Po (department of the high Po river); August: commander of the dipartimento della Brenta (department of the Brenta river); 1811, December-1812, August: Ispettore-Generale (general-inspector) of the Italian infantry; 1813, 4 April: employed in Germany, in the frontline between Niedlitz-Möckern; 18 August: at the combat of Lahen; 22 September: generale di divisione (divisional General); 1814, February: governatore civile e militare (civil and military governor) of the walled fortressed site of Mantua; 2 July: appointed Lieutenant-General in the Austrian service; 1819: 30 June: retired from the Austrian military service; 1821: took par in the moti (armed uprisings) of that year; 1823, 8 February: arrested at Reggio; 1826, 29 April: set free from prison; 1831: commander of the insurgents of Modena; exiled; 1832, 4 June: the Austrian military commission condemned Zucchi to death-sentence; this severity was however changed to a twenty years’ confinement of hard prison, which he passed in the fort of Munkács, in Hungary; 1844: imprisoned in the fortress of Palmanova (Northern Italy, Friuli, province of Udine); 1848: the events of that year found Zucchi in this mighty fortified stronghold; October-17 November: Minister of the arms of the Pontifical State; 1860: Lieutenant-General, served with the Piedmontese army; 1863: 19 December: died at Reggio Emilia.

Author’s observation: the documentary research on the afore-cited theme is currently progressing smoothly, notably through the refined cultural collaboration of the Archivio di Stato di Milano (State Archive of Milano).

Military campaigns    

During the troubled times and the continual war recrudescences of the post-Revolutionary era, the Consulat (the French Consulate; from the coup d’État du 18-19 brumaire an VIII, November 9-10, 1799, to the year 1804), and the Empire, Zucchi actively performed his duties and participated to extensive armed conflicts, remarkably in the campaigns of the years 1796, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1800, 1801 – operative theatres in Italy.

Year 1803: in the Kingdom of Naples.
1806,1807: served in Dalmatia.
1809: in Northern Italy, and Austria -- in the Severoli’s division.
Not to be omitted his participation in Tyrol (October 1809).
1813: served in Germany, in the responsibility of commander of the Brigata italiana (Italian brigade; 8,500 men) under général de division Paul Grenier; was then to serve under division General Maurice-Etienne Gérard, in the XIth Corps.
1814: was ordered back to Italy by Napoleon, taking new operative dispositions under Prince Eugène Rose de Beauharnais, and assuming significant executive military role at Mantua; 27 April: Prince Eugène leaves Mantua accompanied by all his family.
1831: took active participation against the Austrians in Emilia and Romagna.
1848: prima guerra d’indipendenza in Italia (first war of independence in Italy); 23 March-24 June: Zucchi, who performed his military duties under the Governo provvisorio di Venezia, was the leading head and the governatore militare (military governor) charged to resist at the obsidione austriaca (Austrian siege operations) of the fortress of Palmanova.

Titles and rewards

Remarkable evidence of his servizi benemeriti (distinguished military services) under the arms, were assigned him titles of nobility and rewards of distinction.

1806, May: cavaliere (Knight) of the Ordine della Corona Ferrea (Order of the Iron Crown); 1809, June: was appointed Baron de l’Empire (baron of the Empire).

Officer of the Légion d’honneur.

15 August: by Imperial decree was assigned a yearly income of 4,000 francs on Rome.

Commendatore (Commendator) of the Ordine dei Santi Maurizio e Lazzaro (Order of the Saints Maurice and Lazar).

Selected Bibliography and Further Reading

Primary sources

1. Italian works:

Biografia del Barone Carlo Zucchi di Reggio nell’Emilia Generale d’Armata morto il 19 Decembre 1863 scritta dal C.D.L. (*) suo antico compagno d’armi. Tipografia della Gazzetta, Reggio nell’Emilia, 1864, pp. 7-31.

(*) Clarification: under the acronym C.D.L. stood un antico suo Compagno d’armi (one ancient comrade-in-arms), the figure of a veteran officer of the Regno d’Italia named Cesare de Laugier conte de Bellecour (Portoferraio, October 5, 1789-Fiesole, May 25, 1871).

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

Secondary sources

1. Italian works:

Annuario dell’Italia militare per il 1864. Tip. Scolastica di Sebastiano Franco e Figli, Via Cavour, N. 17, Torino 1864, pp. 435-439.

Bassi, Ugo. Reggio nell'Emilia alla fine del secolo XVIII (1796-1799). Stabilimento tipo-litografico degli artigianelli, 1895.

Carpi, Leone. Il risorgimento italiano: biografie storico-politiche d’illustri italiani contemporanei. F. Vallardi, 1888.

Comandini, Federico. Conspirazioni di Romagna e Bologna: nelle memorie di Federico Comandini e di altri patriotti del tempo 1831-1857. N. Zanichelli, 1899.

Fattiboni, Zellide. Memorie storico-biografiche. G. Vignuzzi, 1886.

Giacchi, Nicolò. L’Europa al principio del 1813. Città di Castello: Unione arti grafiche, 1914.

–––––––. Gli italiani in Germania nel 1813. Ufficio Storico dello Stato Maggiore. Roma, 1913.

Gli italiani in Germania nel 1813. Comando del Corpo di Stato Maggiore. Ufficio Storico. Città di Castello: Unione arti grafiche, 1914.

Larice, Rina. Il Friuli nel risorgimento italiano: compendio storico per il popolo. F.lli Tosolini e G. Jacob, Udine, 1905.

Leopardi, Piersilvio. Narrazioni storiche. Torino, 1856.

Lessona, Michele. Volere è potere. G. Barbera, Firenze, 1869.

In particular: Chapter VIII, subvoce Carlo Zucchi, pp. 277-286.

Manzini, Enrico, Tiraboschi, Girolamo. Memorie storiche dei Reggiani più illustri nelle scienze, nelle lettere, e nelle arti [dal 1768 al 1877]: Con un indice delle opere dei Reggiani viventi in continuazione alla Biblioteca modenese del Tiraboschi. Degani e Gasparini, 1878.

Messedaglia, Luigi. I soldati italiani in Germania nel 1813. Roma: Direzione della Nuova Antologia, 1915.

Montanari, Eugenia. Parma e i moti del 1831. G. P. Vieusseux, 1905.

Pieri, Piero. Storia militare del Risorgimento. Guerre e insurrezioni. Einaudi, Torino, 1962.

Rossi, Eugenio (de). La brigata italiana “Zucchi” e la divisione italiana Peiri nella Campagna del 1813 in Germania. In: Memorie storiche militari, Fascicolo III, dicembre 1910.

Tivaroni, Carlo. L’Italia durante il dominio francese. Roux, 1894.

Vannucci, Atto. I martiri della libertà italiana dal 1794 al 1848. Tipografia Bortolotti di G. Prato, 1887.

Vecchi, Augusto. La Italia – Storia di due anni, 1848-49. Torino, Tipografia Scolastica di Sebastiano Franco e Figli e Comp., 1856.

Vicini, Gioacchino. La rivoluzione dell’anno 1831 nello Stato romano. Memorie storiche e documenti editi ed inediti raccolti e pubblicati da Gioacchino Vicini. Galeati e figlio, 1899.

Visentin, Antonio. Gli ordini del giorno emessi durante l’assedio di Palmanova del 1848. Accademia di Scienze Lettere ed Arti di Udine. Arti Grafiche Friulane, Udine, 1972.

Appendix 1

These selected annotations are relevant and important, in their detail and corroborative elements.

They, through their clarifying support, dignify the wealth of general information.

Worth mentioning is that the author (in October 1807, a soldier) served in the regimental unit of the Veliti of the Royal Guard of the Regno d’Italia.

He remembered that Carlo Zucchi was promoted at that time to the rank of Colonel, in the First Regiment of infantry of the line, and “[…] lasciava ne’ Veliti tal memoria, di rispetto ed amore per lui, da produrre nel mio cuore giovanile profonda impressione” [vide: Laugier, Cesare (de). Biografia del Barone Carlo Zucchi di Reggio nell’Emilia Generale d’Armata. Tipografia della Gazzetta, Reggio nell’Emilia, 1864, Prefazione, p. 5, l. 6-9].

Trnsl.: “[…] left in the Veliti such a memory, of respect and love for him, to produce in my young heart deep impression”.

                                                   *            *            *            *           *

Nell’età di anni 19 entrò qual sotto-tenente in un battaglione di volontari, […]” [ibidem, p. 9, l. 2-4].

“[…] nel 1797 fu promosso nella terza legione Cisalpina spedita in prima a Corfù, e poi nel seguente anno in Ancona e in Toscana […]” [ibidem, p. 9, l. 5-8].

“[…] nel 1803 alla età di 26 anni è nominato capo di battaglione” [ibidem, p. 11, l. 17-18].

Due anni dopo è chiamato collo stesso grado nel reggimento Veliti allora creato, e guerreggiando in Dalmazia contro i Montenegrini ed i Russi vi acquista nel maggio 1807 il grado di Tenente colonnello” [ibidem, p. 12, l. 4-10].

“[…] il Viceré poco dopo il destina a colonnello del primo reggimento di fanteria di linea. […]. Composto di 5 battaglioni, è passato in rassegna nel marzo 1808 dal Principe Eugenio, il quale onde manifestare allo Zucchi la propria soddisfazione gli assegna dono generoso” [ibidem, p. 13, l. 5-7, l. 10-15].  

Ei vien promosso a general di brigata […]” [ibidem, p. 15, l. 13-14].    

“[…] titolo di Barone dell’Impero con una dotazione di quattromila franchi” [ibidem, p. 16, l. 17-19].   

“[…] nel 1811 Ispettore generale di fanteria del Regno” [ibidem, p. 18, l. 3-4].

“[…] nominato generale di divisione” [ibidem, p. 26, l. 8-9].


[1] “Nacqui in Reggio di Lombardia a’10 di marzo del 1777” [vide: Memorie del Generale Carlo Zucchi. Pubblicate per cura di Nicomede Bianchi. Casa Editrice Italiana di M. Guigoni, Milano, Torino, 1861, p. 1, l. 1].

[2] “Nominato sotto-tenente in un battaglione di volontarj reggiani al 1° dicembre 1796 […]” [ibidem, p. 2, l. 5-6]. 

[3]  “Giunto il luglio del 1797, ebbi il grado di tenente nella terza legione cisalpina” [ibidem, p. 2, l. 20-21]. 

[4] “Io, che da due anni era incaricato dell’uffizio di Aiutante Maggiore, ottenni definitivamente questo grado” [ibidem, p. 3, l. 21-23].

[5] “Essendo stato formato in quell’epoca un nuovo battaglione di cacciatori, io ebbi in esso il grado di Capitano aiutante maggiore” [ibidem, p. 7, l. 18-20].

[6] “Fu in questo periodo della mia vita e più particolarmente addì 10 gennajo del 1803 che io mi ammogliai con una graziosa e buona giovinetta modenese, chiamata Teresa Montanari” [ibidem, p. 10, l. 4-7].

[7] “Non erano per anco trascorsi sette mesi dal mio matrimonio, che mi vidi nominato Capo di battaglione nel secondo reggimento di fanteria di linea” [ibidem, p. 10, l. 25-27].

[8] “Nel maggio del 1807 fui promosso a Tenente Colonnello nello stesso reggimento dei Veliti” [ibidem, p. 15, l. 7-8]. 

[9] “Giunto al mio trentesimo anno di vita io mi trovai colonnello comandante del primo reggimento di fanteria di linea italiana” [ibidem, p. 17, l. 1-3].  November 5, 1807.

[10] “[…] nomina a generale di brigata nell’esercito italiano decretata dall’imperatore addì 15 giugno di quell’anno 1809” [ibidem, p. 33, l. 8-10].

[11] “[…] un decreto imperiale pel quale io veniva investito del titolo di Barone dell’Impero con una dotazione di 4,000 franchi di rendita annua” [ibidem, p. 41, l. 2-4].

[12] “[…] l’onorevole uffizio d’Ispettore Generale di tutta la fanteria del Regno. Dal dicembre del 1811 all’agosto del 1812 […]”[ibidem, p. 45, l. 9-10].

[13]] On September, 22, 1813, Zucchi had been appointed divisional General by Napoleon.

Zucchi, io sono contento di voi; vi ho già nominato generale di divisione. Sono anche contento degl’Italiani; ovunque si trovano, essi si distinguono sempre” [ibidem, p. 63, l. 22-25].

[14] In those eventful times, Zucchi had been trusted with the civil and military authority in the position of governor of Mantua.

“[…] mi disse: che l’imperatore mi aveva nominato governatore civile e militare di questa fortezza; […]” [ibidem, p. 69, l. 16-18].


Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2010


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