Military Subjects: Virtual Battlefields

 

The Campaign in Italy, 1796-97: The Second Battle of Castiglione 5 August 1796

Virtual Battlefield Tour

By Bill Peterson

Castiglione was the decisive action of Bonaparte’s hard-fought campaign to turn back Würmser’s attempt to relieve Mantua. It is also noteworthy, as illustrated in Chandler’s chapter “The Embryonic System: Castiglione” in The Campaigns of Napoleon, for the early demonstration of Napoleon’s battle system, later to be developed with dramatic effect at Austerlitz, Friedland, and Bautzen.

At Castiglione, the key stages of the battle were:

1)      An early sham attack by Masséna’s Division and 4e Ligne of Augereau’s Division, followed by a withdrawal feigning weakness. This drew Austrian attention and reserves to their right, and lured the Austrian right wing forward in pursuit.

2)      A flanking move by Sérurier’s Division (temporarily commanded by Fiorella due to the general’s illness) through Guidizzolo and Cavriana into the Austrian left rear.

3)      The massing of a grand battery of 18 guns under 22-year-old Commandant Marmont (a future Marshal) against the Austrian redoubt of Monte Medolano, keystone of the Austrian left.

4)      The launching of a masse de rupture comprising Verdier’s grenadier battalions with cavalry support to seize Monte Medolano, completing the dislocation of the Austrian left.

5)      A general attack by Augereau’s and Masséna’s Divisions, reinforced by the 5e Ligne of Despinois’ Division, against the outflanked and demoralized Austrian center and right.

Due to some errors of timing, the high fatigue level of the French troops, and the intervention of a fresh Austrian brigade under Weidenfeld which arrived from Peschiera in time to cover the retreat of Würmser’s main body, the French victory was less than annihilating. Still, the Austrians lost 5,000 men and 22 guns compared to French losses of slightly over 1,000. More importantly, Bonaparte achieved his strategic goal of forcing Würmser to retreat north to the Tyrol, allowing the siege of Mantua to be resumed.

Click on the image to see a larger view.

 

 

  1. Panorama west and northwest from La Rocca tower at Solferino. The village of Pozzo Catena is visible in the right foreground.
  2. Panorama south and southwest from La Rocca tower.
  3. Looking southeast from Masséna’s starting position toward the position of Schubirz’ Austrian brigade on the wooded ridge near Staffolo.
  4. Panorama west and northwest from Cavicchie farm, at the junction of Schubirz’ and Spiegel’s brigades, toward Masséna’s advance.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Looking southwest and west from the front line of the Austrian Infantry Regiment 4 “Hoch und Deutschmeister” in the fields west of Pozzo Catena. The French 4e and 5e Ligne stormed through this position to capture Pozzo Catena and Solferino.
  2. View from Solferino cemetery Southwest over Pozzo Catena. Bloody street-fighting occurred in the village as the 4e and 5e Ligne burst through the Austrian right-center.
  3. Looking east from the Austrian front line west of Pozzo Catena toward the village of Solferino (at left) and La Rocca tower, as seen by the advancing French of the 4e and 5e Ligne.
  4. Looking north toward Grole and Monte Corna from the plain. Augereau’s Division attacked from left to right of this picture against the Austrian center.
  5. Looking east from the plain south of Grole toward the center of the Austrian line, as seen by Augereau’s Division. La Rocca tower is visible on the ridge at left.
  6. Derelict monument to “General Augier” outside Ca Morino farm near Monte Medolano.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

  1. Northwest corner of Monte Medolano.
  2. Monte Medolano: the slope. This so-called “mountain” rises barely 5 meters above the plain. Under its present heavy growth of trees the rise is indistinguishable at a distance.
  3. Monte Medolano: the summit.
  4. Looking west from Monte Medolano (Austrian viewpoint) toward the position of Marmont’s battery.
  5. Looking east from the position of Marmont’s battery toward Monte Medolano.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

  1. Looking N from Guidizzolo toward Cavriana on the ridge, as seen by Sérurier’s (Fiorella’s) Division.
  2. Coming over the ridge at Cavriana, Fiorella gained this extensive view N into the Austrian rear.
  3. The Austrian and French starting positions, and the attack of Marmont and Verdier against Monte Medolano. Positions copied from Voykowitsch’s Castiglione 1796, p. 78. Mapsheet Castiglione delle Stiviere, 48 III SO of Carta d’Italia alla scala di 1:25000, Istituto Geografico Militare, 1969.
  4. The advance of Sérurier’s (Fiorella’s) Division into the Austrian left rear, and the Austrian retreat. Positions copied from Voykowitsch’s Castiglione 1796, p. 79. Mapsheet Cavriana, 48 III SE of Carta d’Italia alla scala di 1:25000, Istituto Geografico Militare, 1969. This map adjoins the eastern edge of the Castiglione delle Stiviere map.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Chandler, David G. The Campaigns of Napoleon London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 1966.

Tranié, Jean and J.C. Carmigniani. Napoléon Bonaparte: La Première Campagne d’Italie, 1796-97 Paris : Pygmalion; 1990.

Voykowitsch, Bernhard. Castiglione1796 Maria Enzerdorf : Helmet Military Publications; 1998.

 

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: July 2001

 

 

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