Military Subjects: Virtual Battlefields

 

The Campaign in Italy, 1796-97: Rivoli 14 - 15 January 1797

Virtual Battlefield Tour

By Bill Peterson

In the final attempt to relieve besieged Mantua, 28,000 Austrians under d’Alvintzi advanced down the Adige Valley, confident of overwhelming Joubert’s Division of 10,000, while smaller columns struck at Verona and Legnano from the east. Bonaparte recognized the direction of the main threat and sent Masséna’s and Rey’s Divisions marching through the night of 13-14 January to reinforce Joubert at Rivoli.

From daybreak to 9:30 AM, Joubert’s Division stood alone against the full weight of the Austrian attack along the Trombalora Heights and the Osteria Gorge. As the first elements of Masséna’s Division arrived to shore up the line, a new threat appeared to the rear where Lusignan’s Austrian column of 4,000 men completed a wide flanking movement from the west and seized Monte Pipolo. Brune’s Brigade was turned about to face south against Lusignan, while the 57e Ligne of Rey’s Division attacked Monte Pipolo from the south.

Meanwhile, the crisis of the battle occurred in the Osteria Gorge, where Quasdonovitch’s column came perilously close to rupturing the French line. Close-range fire by a light-artillery battery and an epic cavalry charge led by 21-year-old Chef d’Escadron Charles Lasalle repulsed the Austrians.

On 15 January, Joubert pressed the retreating Austrians northward while a fast column under Murat and adjudant-général Veaux swept ahead and occupied the pass at La Corona. This maneuver forced the surrender of an additional 4,000 Austrians, making a total of 12,000 losses (including 8,000 prisoners) over the two days against French casualties of 3,200. With no further hope of relief, Mantua was surrendered on 2 February 1797.

Click on any thumbnail image for a larger view.

 


(Left to right)

  1. View from Monte Pipolo, looking northeast up the Adige Valley. San Marco is the precipitous crag in the left foreground, with Monte Magnone behind.
  2. View from the eastern summit of Monte Pipolo, looking south. Lusignan’s Austrian Brigade had this view of the approaching 57e Ligne of Rey’s Division attacking up from the south, while Brune’s Brigade attacked them from the north.
  3. View west from the summit of Monte Pipolo, over the modern Verona-Brenner Pass Autostrada. Lake Garda is visible in the distance.
  4. Rivoli village, featuring the Bar Napoleone.
  5. View east from the piazza of Rivoli village, across the Adige Valley to Ceradino village and the positions of Wukassovitch’s Brigade and the Austrian batteries along the far riverbank just north of Ceradino.


 

 


(Left to right)

  1. Old farmhouse, a survivor of the battle, in the French front line at the foot of the Trombalore Heights, just south of Caprino Veronese.
  2. View from the French position on the Trombalore Heights, looking northwest over caprino Veronese. Liptay’s Austrian Brigade advanced over the pass in the background to attack this position on the morning of 14 January 1797.
  3. View from the French position on the Trombalore Heights, looking northeast toward the position of Koblos’ Austrian Brigade.
  4. Austrian view, looking southeast over caprino Veronese and the Tasso Valley to the French position on the Trombalore Heights. Liptay’s Austrian Brigade advanced along this road from Rubiano on 14 January
  5. View from the Austrian position, looking south at the French position on the Trombalore Heights near Gamberone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


(Left to right)

  1. Looking east along the upper Tasso Valley near Ori. Ocksay’s Austrian Brigade attacked from the left against the French position on the right.
  2. View from the French position on the Trombalore Heights near Ori, looking west over the engagement area of Ocksay’s, Koblos’, and Liptay’s Brigades attacking from the right (north) against the French positions to the south (left). Lake Garda is visible in the distance.
  3. View from the French position in the upper Tasso Valley, looking north toward Pazzon and the position of Ocksay’s Austrian Brigade.
  4. View from the French position at the eastern end of the Tasso Valley near Monte Magnone, looking north.
  5. View from the north edge of the Osteria Gorge, looking northeast and east. Monte Magnone is in the left foreground, the Adige River to the right. Quasdonovitch’s Brigade advanced along the narrow corridor between the mountain and the river.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


(Left to right)

  1. Continuation of the panorama from the north edge of the Osteria Gorge, looking southeast and south. The modern canal in the right foreground (not present in 1797) should not be confused with the Adige River, partly visible to the left of the steep San Marco crag. Quasdonovitch’s Brigade attacked from left to right across this picture.
  2. The narrowest section of the Osteria Gorge, looking northeast from the French position. Quasdonovitch’s Brigade clashed here head-on with Vial’s Brigade of Joubert’s Division in the bloodiest and most critical fighting of the battle. Lasalle’s cavalry charge also took place here.
  3. The French monument in the Osteria Gorge.
  4. A representation of the original 1806 monument, engraved on the modern monument. The 1806 monument was thrown down by the Austrians in 1814.
  5. Remnants of the 1806 monument, still lying where they fell in 1814.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


(Left to right)

  1. Monte Magnone, seen from the Osteria Gorge: The precipitous slopes made this a major tactical obstacle.
  2. View from the San Marco crag, looking south along the Adige Valley.
  3. View from the San Marco crag, looking southwest. Rivoli village is in the center.
  4. View from the San Marco crag to the north. Monte Magnone is in the background. Casemates of the late-19th-Century Forte San Marco are visible in the foreground, demonstrating the continuing strategic significance of the Rivoli position.
  5. General vista of the Rivoli area, looking southwest from above Pazzon. Monte Baldo is visible at center, Lake Garda to the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     


(Left to right)

  1. La Corona. This high mountain pass, north of Rivoli, was a natural choke-point. 4,000 retreating Austrians were cut off here by Masséna on 15 January 1797 and forced to surrender.
  2. Map showing principal Austrian lines of attack and positions of elements of Joubert’s Division in the early morning of 14 January 1797, before the arrival of reinforcements from Masséna’s and Rey’s Divisions. Adapted from sheets 48 I S.O. (Bardolino), 48 I N.O. (Caprino Veronese), and 48 I N.E. (Dolcé) of the Carta Topografica d’Italia Scala 1:25,000, published by Istituto Geografico Militare, Firenze.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2001

 

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