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The 1799 Campaign in Italy

The 1799 Campaign in Italy: May 1799 The fall of the Sardinian Fortresses

By Enrico Acerbi

The French military occupation of Piedmont

Général de division Emanuel Grouchy  HQ at Torino (Turin) [1]         

The military control of Piedmont was under General Emanuel Grouchy. At the Eve of the Adda battle, the concerned Commander in Chief, Schérer, sent urgent orders to Grouchy, imposing him to control that exposed land:

“Vous resterez dans le Piémont, ou votre présence peut être du plus grand poids pour le maintien de le tranquillité dans le pays. C’est surtout dans ces circonstances que le talent dans les chefs doit suppléer au nombre, et, à ce double titre, votre présence dans le Piémont est indispensable.”

… and about the Piedmontese garrison troops:

“Je vous engage en même temps à employer toutes les mesures qui vous paraîtront convencibles pour l’engagement de ces corps piémontais. Ne négligez rien, mon cher général, pour mettre les bataillons de garnison de tous ces corps on mesure de tenir, autant que possible, le bataillon de campagne au complet.”

In April the alarm was high into the Piedmont. Grouchy, ordered by Schérer to send as many possible regular troops reinforcements to the Adda front, sent his “right arm”, General Bertrand Clauzel, to Grenoble, in order to beg General François Müller to give him one more demi-brigade, for the control of a land which was ready to explode in riots.

Upon arrival, General Clauzel was attached to the Schérer army on April 17. He reached Piacenza with a battalion (I Battalion 68th Demibrigade) and two squadrons of the 12th Dragoons. With Clauzel’s departure, Grouchy wrote to Schérer:

Le Piémont est extrémement dégarni; la fermentation y est grande surtout dans la partie qui avoisine la Ligurie; et malheureusement les moyens de contenir le pays sont insuffisants. Comptez toutefois sur mes efforts et sur mon zéle …”

On April  25, Grouchy sent to Paris a convoy full of precious art objects, gathered in Piedmont, under the escort of his aide de camp, Captain Dupuy.

The Country (the former Kingdom of Sardinia) had been divided into four military departments. They were organized in April 1799:

1- Sesia Department (HQ at Vercelli): under adjudant général Mossard

Division de l’Ouest – (Novara and Vercelli) Général de brigade baron Robert Motte [2]


Mainly formed by milice and Piedmontese provincial troops

Cisalpine gunners company  at fort Bard and in Aosta valley


2 -Stura Department (HQ at Mondovì): under adjudant général Jean-Mathieu Seras [3] (Piedmontese from Osasco)

107th Line infantry demi-brigade II and III Battalions at Coni (Cuneo)


I Swiss or Security Foreign Battalion  “Alemanno” or German Battalion  (Switzerland) – Major Kornfeld


II Swiss or Security Foreign Battalion  “Grigioni” or Grison Battalion   (Switzerland) – Major Christ


Legione Valdese (Milice)  [4] chef-de-brigade Giacomo Marauda


Cisalpine gunners company  at Coni (Cuneo)


Cisalpine gunners company  at fort Fenestrelle


* Estimated numbers.

3 -Tanaro Department (HQ at Alessandria): under adjudant général Jacques Louis Delabrosse called Flavigny.

Division de l’Est  (Alba and Asti) – Adjudant-général Jacques Louis Delabrosse dit Flavigny


Mainly formed by milice and Piedmontese provincial troops

24th Line Demi Brigade Chef de Brigade Vital – III Battalion .


II Battalion  1st Cisalpine infantry demi-brigade (former regiment Aosta infantry)


II Battalion  3rd Cisalpine infantry demi-brigade (former regiment Regina infantry – the Queen’s own)


Cisalpine gunners company


The Department had also the command over the fortresses of Tortona, Alessandria (see after), Valenza and Casale (this latter poorly walled). However the “true” commander of the territory was the Chief of Alessandria Fortress, General Clauzel, who took the command from the Chef de brigade Vital.

4- Eridan [5] Department (HQ at Turin): under Adjudant-Général Francesco Federico Campana, Chief of the Turin National Guard. Before the April crisis, Turin had a garrison of 3438 men.

Piedmontese National Guard of Turin Adjudant-Général Francesco Federico Campana


Torino Place commander : Chef de Brigade Jules-Alexandre Léger Boutrouë

68th Line Infantry demi-brigade II and III Battalions Chef de Brigade Jules-Alexandre Leger Boutrouë


I Battalion  107th Line infantry demi-brigade


II Cisalpine Light infantry demi-brigade


Cisalpine gunners company  Chef-de-bataillon Antonio Bonfanti – sent to Genua before Turin blockade


7th Dragoon Regiment Chef d’escadron Jean-Jacques Laveran [6]


All the above units were heavily involved in every day “police” actions since the winter months of 1799, against rebels and insurgents, often organized by former Royal Piedmontese officers. They entered the campaign when the Coalition Army invaded Piedmont. As said, the anti-French feelings were more and more growing in the minds of the Piedmontese citizens. The anti-French uprising spread in the mountain districts and in the Monregalese (Mondovì), so the Grouchy “call to arms”, of April 30, for the return of the Piedmontese provincial battalions, had an insufficient outcome indeed. Grouchy could only count (a part from few hundred French) on 2 Piedmontese line battalions at Alessandria (II/1st Aosta, II/3rd Regina), 2 foreign battalions between Cuneo (the Kornfeld “alemanno”) and Oneglia (the Christ “grigione”), 2 battalions in Turin (II light demi-brigade in formation), 6 companies of artillery (Alexandria, Turin, Cuneo and Fenestrelle) and 17 invalid companies. All troops which had remained in Piedmont for garrison tasks.

On May 3d, Moreau reached Turin in order to save the baggage and, above all, installing a new Republican government in the Valdese mountain territory. He had to reach Alessandria returning eastwards (the sole stone bridge across the Po was at Turin.)

Turin Sets up the Resistance




















The Moreau’s short visit, combined with the cold welcome of Turin civil administration, made the French very concerned about the situation. The army, however, needed soldiers and generals at the Po, and so Grouchy was attached to the Moreau convoy, leaving behind a stubborn Italian (Corsican) officer to rule Turin. 

Géneral de division Pascal Antoine Fiorella [7]

2838 (of 3438)

Adjutant-général Philibert Fressinet

I Battalion  107th Line infantry demi-brigade


Cisalpine gunners of the Citadel

2 Piedmontese artillery companies


Pieces (184 mortars, 30 howitzers, 30 guns howitzers,  the rest of medium – small calibre, 40000 muskets)


National Guard of Turin


2 Battalions or 2nd Piedmontese demi-brigade légère Chef Carlo Trombetta di San Benigno


Turin, on the confluence of the Dora-Riparia Rivers into the Po, each be passable on solid stone bridges; around 100,000 inhabitants. Former capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia and Royal set. Its Citadel (a regular pentagon with bastions) was the main fortress of the place with about 14 km of tunnels underground linking the castle with the city. Turin had an artillery-foundry, an artillery workplace, a great arsenal, a weapons factory, une manufacture d’armes, a pulver-factory and a salpetre refinery. It had also an explosives workshop, a military academy, university, two large hospitals, and fine barracks. The city, one of the nicest in Italy, had large straight roads.

Many important roads started from Turin, to Genoa, to Alessandria, to the Col di Cadibona and La Bocchetta. These were the roads which passed the Alps:

1° The causeway (mountain road) from Turin to Nice through Coni (Cuneo), the Col de Tende and the Col de Brou, elongating through southern France. On that road, at Savigliano, inserted itself the Mondovi to Ceva road; from Ceva, that road elongated, by a fork, to Savona or to Albenga and  Oneille (Oneglia), through the Corniche way to Garessio and Tanaro valley. To the Ceva road, at Savona, jointed, at Carrara, the pathway coming from Alessandria (through Acqui and the Bormida valley).

2° The road from Turin to Barcelonette and Gap, through Coni (Cuneo), Demonte in the Stura Valley, and through the Col d’Argentière, where met that of Mont-Dauphin to Tournoux and Col du Vars.

3° The road from Turin to Briançon, through Pinerolo, Pragelato valley, Cesanne and Mont-Genevre. At Briançon this road went forward until either Gap, through the Durance valley, either till Grenoble through Monestier valley, La Grave and Bourg-d’Oyssans.

4° The causeway from Turin to Chambéry, through Rivoli, the Susa pass, the Mount Cenis and the Arc valley. Along that road, near Susa, began a rural road leading, through the Exilles valley, until Cesanne reaching the previous road.

5° The road from Turin to Aosta, through Ivrea, in the Dora-Baltea valley. In the Aosta valley this road changed into a very difficult path, going up until the Grand Saint-Bernard and leading to Martigny, in the Rhone valley; where it passes through the Petit Saint-Bernard, ending at Chambery, into the Isere valley in France.

6° The road from Turin to Brieg, in the Rhone valley, through Vercelli, Novara, north to the Maggiore lake, and up to Domo d’Ossola till the Simplon pass.

All other carriage-roads or bridle paths, which led to Savoy, to Switzerland or France, across the Alps, were passable only in summer. All Piedmontese roads depended heavily on the weather. In the plains, cut by channels and streams, from the Po until the Ticino, it was almost impossible to march in rainy days. 

The Vukassovich Pursuit

Moreau was forced to send his chief-of-staff, Dessole, to Genoa to enlighten the dark situation of rear communications, continually cut by insurgents, brigands and “barbets” (mountain marauders from the Nice county). Grouchy became the provisional chief-of-staff. On May 10, all northern parts of Piedmont could be considered lost, while the French had in front the Coalition Army and a force of 20000 fanatic peasants on their rear. Incredible was the Grouchy “gaffe” (otherwise ordered by Directory) when he ordered the expulsion, from the army, for all troopers and officer born in Savoy or in the Nice County, treating them as Sardinians “emigré”. The Act, very unpopular among who had distinguished himself fighting for France at Verona and on the Adda,  caused the birth of new enemies, who were the most dangerous having the knowledge of the French situation and that of their native lands roads and tracks. Half of the French troops were employed in itinerant columns charged to secure the roads and camps in Piedmont. The insurgence broke out everywhere.  Branda Lucioni  on May 6 entered Chivasso, very close to the capital city. After having raised other insurgents he avoided the engagement with the French “arriere garde” at Settimo and reached Ivrea, occupying it. North of the town, the Bard fortress was already in the insurgents hands, who had cut many roads including to Aosta and, by May 8, those to Asti, Acqui, Tortona, Casale and Valenza.

Chivasso was provided with a superb castle, strengthened town’s walls and the so – called “Cerche”, i.e. two wide and deep moats starting from the Po as far as stream Orco, thus surrounding the town itself at the east and north boundaries through  canals called “rogge”, designed to reclaim and irrigate neighbouring fields.  During Napoleonic period, the ancient fortifications had begun to be demolished.

Ivrée (lvrea), on the Dora-Baltea, 8,000 inhab. A town encircled by walls and defended by a weak fortress and a Citadel. The Fort de Bard, on Dora-Baltea, fell by treason in 1799 but was hardly defended by Austrians in 1800. Later it was demolished by explosives.  

In the middle of the mass of rioters, General Vukassovich was advancing, cautiously, towards Turin. Left the Boffalora bridge on May 5, the Austrian General reached Novara the day after and, after a pause to make some reconnaissance, was in Vercelli on May 8 capturing 30 French guns. The French burned the bridge over the River Sesia, so Vukassovich stopped his advance.

The column was split in two branches; on May 10: the first reached Arona on the Maggiore lake, capturing the French garrison with some guns (17); the second crossed the repaired bridge driving to Biella and reaching, the day after, Ivrea where they met Branda Lucioni and his Christ Mass.

It was the time to try the capture of Turin and to surround the French left wing. Branda Lucioni was sent ahead to investigate and made secret contacts with the administrator and with the National Guard in Turin. The first approach to the city happened on May 15 with secret contacts between Lucioni and the National Guard of Turin. The insurgents had the camp, outside Turin near Settimo while Vukassovich vanguard passed the Po on boats capturing the weak garrison of Casale Monferrato castle.




First Coalition approach: May 15, 1799


7th Hussar Regiment  Detachment Major (of Reserve) Branda Lucioni


the Ordered Christ’s Mass (Insurgents)


Rear threats for the French

On May 15, after the Bassignana engagement, the division Grenier was alerted by a serious menace in its rear. Moreau sent a “mobile” column against Asti, blocked by rioters.

Mobile Column Adjutant-général Philibert Fressinet to Asti


1 gun

63rd Line infantry demi-brigade Chef-de-Brigade Villaret [8]

6 companies

20th Light infantry demi-brigade

1 Battalion

18th Regiment de Cavalerie Chef-de-Brigade Denis Terreyre [9]

2 Squadrons

Whenever Asti would have been cleared, Grenier had to commit an other “mobile” column to secure other rebel towns as Alba, Casale and Carmagnola.

Mobile Column Général de Brigade Louis François Félix Musnier de la Conserverie  [10]

Grenadiers Company  (107th Line demi-brigade)


33rd Line infantry demi-brigade Chef-de-brigade François Roguet


12th Dragoons regiment 2 Squadrons


The Fate of Tortona

Tortona, on Scrivia River; about 10,000 inhabitants. It was surrounded by walls and had a castle, on a hill, which overlooked the town and the Piacenza’s road (to Alessandria).   The castle, not the walled town, was the last “French” fortress to surrender, Genoa apart.


II Battalion   68th Line infantry demi-brigade Chef de Brigade Jules-Alexandre Leger Boutrouë (not in town)
It was substituted by the III Battalion 63rd Line infantry demi-brigade – Chef Villaret

45e demi-brigade de ligne detachment

Fanteria provinciale or Piedmontese Milice 

On May 9, the Infantry Regiment 19 Alvinczy, vanguard of the Fröhlich division, approached the walls, shot 20 explosive cannonballs and forced the weak French garrison to enter the castle. The town was occupied by General Zoph with 4 battalions and 3 squadrons in order to secure the road to Alessandria and the bridge over the Scrivia.

On May 13, after the Bassignana battle, when the Coaltion Army moved forward against Alessandria, General Zoph remained behind to watch the siege.

Siege Group FML Johann Zoph


K.K.  Infantry Regiment 19 Hungarian Rifle Regiment  Freiherr Jozsef Alvinczy de Berberek


I – II Battalions and 2 companies  of IV Battalion  Commander:  Freiherr Carl Adorjan [11] instead of Barone Lelio Spannocchi


Imperial Russian Musketeers Regiment  GM Baron Ivan Ivanovic Dalheim – II Battalion


K.K.  14th Light Dragoon Regiment Franz Freiherr von Levenehr  1 sqn


On May 17, the control of Tortona was left to General Seckendorff and reinforced by the Russian detachment Castelli.

Brigade Generalmajor Friedrich Freiherr von Seckendorff


K.K.  Infantry Regiment 19 Hungarian Rifle Regiment  Freiherr Jozsef Alvinczy de Berberek


K.K.  Infantry Regiment 34 Hungarian Rifle Regiment  (future Freiherr Kraj de Kraiova)


(former Esterházy) (I-II Battalion s) Commander Oberst Johann Hillinger


K.K.  5th Hussar Regiment  4 squadrons


Russian Commander Ad interim: Colonel Stepan Nikolajevich Castelli


Imperial Russian Musketeers Regiment  GM Baron Ivan Ivanovic Dalheim – II Battalion


5th Don Cossacks Regiment  Denissov


2nd Don Cossacks Regiment  Sujchev.


The Cossacks were sent in patrols to control the road to Genoa, through Novi and Serravalle. Tortona was the site of a hard siege in the following months, also after the French defeats at the Trebbia and at Novi. The two other siege groups were formed in the following orders of battle:

Tortona June, 1799

Austrian Commander Generalmajor Johann Graf Alcaini

K.K.  Infantry Regiment 19 Hungarian Rifle Regiment  Freiherr Jozsef Alvinczy de Berberek


I – II Battalions and 2 companies  of IV Battalion  – Commander:  Freiherr Carl Adorjan


K.K.  5th Hussar Regiment  – 1 sqn


KK Light Dragoon Regiment Nr. 8 Friedrich Wilhelm Carl Herzog Württemberg


Commander Oberst Johann Festenberg Freiherr von Hassenwein, (1 – 2 – 3 div. – 6 sqn.)


Russian Commander Ad interim: Colonel Stepan Nikolajevich Castelli


Quartiermeister Oberst Cherwenko

Imperial Russian Musketeers Regiment  GM Baron Ivan Ivanovic Dalheim – II Battalion


8th Jäger (Jegherski) Regiment  Major General Chubarov now Miller– I and II Battalions


chief from 13 May: GM Ivan Ivanovic Miller


Blockades of Tortona and Gavi [12] –  July, 23rd  – August 6th 1799

Austrian Commander Generalmajor Johann Graf Alcaini


K.K.  Infantry Regiment 19 Hungarian Rifle Regiment  Freiherr Jozsef Alvinczy de Berberek


I – II – III Battalions – Commander:  Freiherr Carl Adorjan

VII Combined Battalion  Grenzregiment Warasdiner of Varazdin


K.K.  Infantry Regiment 34 Hungarian Rifle Regiment   


(the old Esterházy regiment) I – II – III Battalions – Commander:  Commander Oberst Johann Hillinger

K.k Infantry Regiment 28 Rifle Regiment  Freiherr Michael von Fröhlich


(former Regiment  Wartensleben – I-II-III Battalion s)  Commander Oberst Franz Eder von Hartenstein

Cavalry Reserve

K.K.  1st Light Dragoon Regiment Kaiser Franz II – 8 squadrons


Commander Oberst Franz Freiherr von Pilati

K.K.  5th Hussar Regiment  – 8 squadrons


KK Light Dragoon Regiment Nr. 8 Friedrich Wilhelm Carl Herzog Württemberg


Commander Oberst Johann Festenberg Freiherr von Hassenwein, (1 – 2 – 3 div. – 6 sqn.)

The Fall of Turin

As told, Lucioni, crossed the Ticino River, and immediately begun to raise the peasants of the Novarese and the Vercellese territories. He freed the cities of Novara, Vercelli and Santhià. Then he went north, in direction of the Canavese and the Biellese territories heading towards Ivrea, Pontestura and Chivasso.

Branda Lucioni had been chosen by Suvorov, just for his military talent, like his own “trader” with the civilians. We know, in fact, of about a Suvorov proclaim, in which the Russian General exhorted “the faithful soldiers of the king of Sardinia” to concur to the liberation of their native land and “to take arms against the French under the command of Major Branda Lucioni, commander of the Christian Mass”.

While the Russians headed to Alexandria, in fact, Branda Lucioni remained alone with its men in the environs of Turin, where he had placed his headquarters, near the Stura River. From that point he  made raids without stopping in one place for long, succeeding, in this way, to block the city of Turin from all sides and to control the Po. He had a complete success raising the people at the outcry of “Viva il Re, viva l’Imperatore, viva Gesù, viva Maria,morte ai francesi, morte ai giacobini”. [13]

The city of Turin had a double government. The military one was led by General Fiorella while the civil administration was ruled by the Piedmontese Municipality, under which were the Republican troops of the National Guard.  Formed on December 18, 1798, by the French authorities (only few days after their income in city), the Turinese National Guard replaced the ancient city military troops, with an innovative organization. The city was divided in numbered quarters called “islands”, from which every male citizen, in age comprised between eighteen and forty-five years, had to serve in the guards.

In this way they had to organize four demi-brigades, each of three battalions. The 72 officers assembled themselves in order to elect the chiefs of the demi-brigades. They were assisted from a chief-of-general staff with four aides; a cashier and a surgeon completed the Staff. The demi-brigades had  a formal strength of 2632, 3042, 3125, and 3652 men, with a grand total of 12,451 combatants, of which 288 were officers and 480 non-commissioned officers. These men were subordinated to a Board of Directors, named among the higher officers of the municipality and led by a commander-in-chief. Grouchy named the lawyer and fervent Jacobin, Francesco Federico Campana, with a rank of Adjudant Général.

An old saying in Italy tells “Piemontesi voltagabbana” (Piedmontese! Turncoats.) Probably one of the origins of the saying could be reported in that disgraceful 1799 campaign.  By a side, now, it is difficult to attribute the precise moment when the members of the Guard made the decision to switch sides, however it probably was made on May 5, 1799. 

That day, French General Jean Marie Moreau invited them to join the French troops in the fight against the Coalition’s army. But his call did not have the desired outcome. “Almost all the Guard’s Officers went in front of the Board of Directors declaring they will not want to take the arms against the Austro-Russians.”  This decided the fate of Turin.

The secret plan, in order to dismiss the French, would have to be played on two directions: part to eliminate the commander Campana and the other to prevent the organization of the patriots into armed battalions. For the first issue, the Board of Directors introduced an official question of Campana departure to the Turinese municipality. The municipal organ, in this phase uncertain and incapable to take position, assented to give the total Guard command to the Board. In order to try definitively to have the approval from the Turin citizens, they began to distribute false news about war, with the aim to weaken the republican minds and to take from their own part all undecided citizens. These deep anti-Jacobin feelings, which the French called “the black League”, were also a sign of dissatisfied minds and had strong roots in the country own tradition, heavily influenced by priests and aristocrats.

The Municipality, however, had to combat with the stubbornness of the place commander, General Fiorella. Not even when grenades and “small gun balls of four and eight pdrs.” hit the rooms, causing them to burst into flames (one grenade murdered two persons), Fiorella drew back his mind. After this episode, the Municipality determined to send a delegation to the general’s quarters. This delegation had the task to influence Fiorella in order to surrender the city to Branda Lucioni, who acted in the name of General Chasteler. Fiorella received the delegation laying on a bed, with a bored and sleepy attention, and said that, for his own experience of war, those grenades were barely Branda “bravados”, denying, moreover, the existence of Austrians troops at the city doors. He then dismissed the Municipals reminding them he would have defended the place “jusqu‘à la mort”. The day after this encounter, the Austrians finally arrived. On May 22, on the hills around Turin appeared the first vanguards of the coalition units; they deployed at Sassi and, after having thrown the “Liberty Tree” down, continued to march towards the city until reaching, without particular problems, the Madonna del Pilone.

On May 25, nine days after he conquered Casale castle, the Hungarian baron Joseph Philipp Vukassovich, commander of the Imperial vanguard, came in Borgo di Po, on the right river bank, and deployed two batteries, near Turin, (just on the Superga height): one (four 12 pdrs. pieces) on the blockhouse of the hill and the other (2 howitzers) on the public square of the church.

Second Coalition approach: May 24, 1799

Austrian Avantgarde Brigade Generalmajor Freiherr Josef Philipp von Vukassovich

Avant Garde Generalmajor Sebastian Prodanovich


II Battalion  Banater Grenzregiment (or I Battalion . 13th GrenzRegiment )


III (VI?) Battalion  Grenzregiment of Banat (or II Battalion  12th Deutschbanater GrenzRegiment ) Major Zedzwitz


K.K.  Light Battalion . N. 2 Oberst Carl Prince of Rohan



Hauptkolonne von Vukassovich


KK Infantry Regiment 52 Rifle Hungarian Regiment  Erzherzog Palatin Anton Viktor


I – II  Battalions Commander:  Graf Johann Nepomuk Khuen de Belasi

K.K.  9th Hussar Regiment  FML Johann Nepomuk Graf Erdödy de Monyorókerek


(Erdödy  Husaren) 3 Squadrons

K.K.  7th Hussar Regiment   6 squadrons


Commander:  Oberst Carl Freiherr von Schauroth. With 4 Squadrons  
II Div. (see after) Obstlt. Graf Thomas Dessöffy (dead at Parona) then Major Franz Szabo – III Div. 1st Major Szabo then Major Joszef Meszko – IV div. 2nd Major Joszef Meszko then Major Felix Graf Montecuccoli


Russian Avantgarde Brigade Generalmajor Petr Ivanovich Bagration


7th Jäger Regiment GM Bagration – I and II  Battalion


cmdr.: Gen. Petr Ivanovich Bagration

Imperial Russian Grenadier Battalion  (GB) Lomonosov


8th Don Cossacks Regiment  Grekov.


2nd Don Cossacks Regiment  Sujchev.


Austrian Hauptkolonne Division Generalmajor Conrad Valentin Kaim

K.K.  Infantry Regiment 8 Rifle Regiment  (former Huff Regiment )


Commander Obst Johann Schröckinger von Neidenberg (I-II-III Battalion s) – I and II Battalions will be sent at Alessandria on July

K.K.  Infantry Regiment 32 Hungarian Rifle Regiment  Graf Samuel Gyulai


Commander Oberst Franz Posztrehowsky von Millenburg – (I-II-Battalion s)

K.K.  Infantry Regiment 36 Rifle Regiment  Fürst Carl Fürstenberg


(I-II-III Battalion ) Commander Oberst Conrad von Thelen

K.K.  1st Dragoon Regiment Kaiser Franz II


6 Squadrons  – Commander:  Oberst Franz Freiherr von Pilati

At that time, Vukassovich, become in possession of Turin fortifications designs and been informed from Branda Lucioni about the intentions of the National Guard, yearning to find one solution, around six in the morning, wrote a letter to the Turinese Municipality and to the National Guard. He invited (however placing a  two hours term) them to open the city doors, demanding also to avoid the engagement of the Turinese population in an obstinate and impossible defense. Municipality answered to have some delay in the “ultimatum”, preferring to hear Fiorella about the situation. They decided also to offer a significant sum   to Fiorella in order to make the request more persuasive. A medical doctor, Bonvicino, was chosen for the “business”. Today is impossible to know if Fiorella agreed or if he wanted more money. The Chief, however, decided to resist into the Citadel, but allowed the Municipality to send out a delegation to treat with the Austrians.

During the dark night between 25 and 26 (May) the Turinese delegation went outside the walls and was received by General Chasteler and the Grand Duke Constantin, who had followed the Bagration’s vanguard. It returned to Turin with a dead-line of six hours for an other definitive answer to the surrender request. The secret pact was that, with the daylight, the Coaltion troops had to shoot some “salvoes” and consequently had to observe if the city doors would have been opened. With doors closed, instead, they would have begun the bombardment. But all went as stated. After the first gunshots, the hussar patrols of Major Meszko found the city door (Porta Po) open and entered the walls. On June 22, the Chancellor of the Republican government, Pico, emigrated to  Briançon, wrote these words: “The betrayal of the iniquitous National Guard is sure. Was it which tossed itself against the French, disarming them.” 

General Kaim led the occupation detachment. The Austrian general rapidly occupied the Turin arsenal in which were found 100 pieces of 3 and 6 pdr., 6 mountain guns, 20 six pdr. long-pieces, 40 twelve pdr. siege-pieces, 6 ten-inches mortars (or 60 pdrs.), 24 six-inches mortars (10 pdrs.), 50 Coehorn mortars; a total of 301 pieces, 6000 quintals of powder, 60000 muskets, 400,000 rounds of ammunition.   

Aleksander Vasiljevič Suvorov entered Turin, around 3:00 on the afternoon of May 26, and his arrival was an event full of political meanings, other than a simple military strategic act.

Upgrading the Occupation

When Suvorov entered the city, General Fiorella was taking a cup of coffe in the “Cafè d’Catlina” inn. He ran quickly into the Citadel and prepared his defense. Conrad Valentin Kaim was ordered to siege the Citadel with his 5740 soldiers, 700 Austrian and Piedmontese artillerymen and 100 pieces. During the first days of June, Fiorella continued to bombard the city, while the Austrian engineers arranged the trenches with which they could get close to the Citadel walls. Heavy rains delayed the works and so the first approach trench was ready only by June 18. The continuing and harassing bombardment, made by Fiorella guns, got General Suvorov very angry. He was not the kind of man who loved to waste his time. On June 20 he aligned the French prisoners in some ranks, frontally to the Manor, threatening to kill them if the Citadel did not give up.

General Fiorella ceased the fire and asked for the capitulation. He left Turin with his 3400 men (more than 300 French died or were wounded during that siege), many of whom were Swiss or Piedmontese, reaching Coni (Cuneo), the soldiers continuing their retreat until the French border, as stated in the Capitulation Act. 

Suvorov quickly organized a new Municipality for Turin, giving the highest charge to Count Carlo Francesco Thaon di Sant’Andrea, the former Tortona’s Governor, a French-Piedmontese from Nice. This was a bad move on the frail chessboard of politics; the Austrians did not agree at all. The new Municipality became also the “Consiglio supremo interinale per S.M. il Re di Sardegna” (provisional Supreme Council in the name of H.M.S. the King of Sardinia), directly showing what Suvorov had in mind to do. He created also a Sardinian War Minister, a name suggested by the King: Antonio Filippo Maria Asinari di San Marzano, Marquis de Caraglio. The Austrians were very angry and physically impeded the War Minister when he tried to enter his new office. The challenge for the supremacy in the occupied Piedmont, between the Russian Commander-in-Chief and Baron Michael Friedrich Benedikt von Melas was very unkindly. The final act of that challenge is known. Suvorov tried to force the situation directly calling to Turin the exiled (in Sardinia) King Carlo Emanuele. In late August, however, he was ordered by Czar Paul (but above all by Kaiser Franz II) to reach the Swiss front, leaving the Piedmont. The King was stopped by Austrian at Livorno (Leghorn) and forced to stay at Florence (an other kind of opulent exile), where he abdicated in 1802.

So the Imperials from Vienna mastered Turin.


[1] Général de division Emanuel Grouchy: The future Marechal (Paris, 1766 – Saint-Etienne, 1847) in 1792, was promoted maréchal de camp and commanded the cavalry of the Armée des Alpes. Was in the Vendée during the Civil war. In 1793 abandoned the army, because of a Republican decret which excluded noblemen from ranks. He returned in the National Guard as a simple soldier. On 11  June 1795, however, was reintegrated as général de division, a rank obtained frome the national “commissaries” during the preceding year. Was chef d’état major in the Armée de l’Ouest and after he became second commander with Hoche in Vendée. In 1796, the Directory confirmed Grouchy as 2nd commander of that Army and ordered him to develop plans for an expedition to Ireland. However the voyage never occurred.  In 1798 he was detached to the Armée d’Italie under Joubert. Before the engagement at the front he was the Governor of Piedmont. He participated at the Novi battle (15 August 1799) where, suffering 14 wounds, was taken prisoner.

[2] Général de brigade baron Robert Motte: (Born 03/12/1754 at Calvados – l’Oudon – Notre-dame-de-fresnay- died 1829). On 22/04/94 was Général de brigade à titre provisoire then confirmed (13/06/95) Général de brigade.

[3] Adjudant général Jean Mathieu Seras: Born on April 16, 1765, at Osasco (Piedmont), Seras joined the French army in 1791, with the rank of Sous-lieutenant. He was in the Alps battles, at the Toulon Siege and in the armée des Pyrénées-Orientales, under Augereau, whom he followed, in Italy, in 1795. He was named général de brigade on August 1799, leading a brigade at Novi, then général de division in 1805, serving with Masséna in Italy. He participated, with the armée d’Italie (prince Eugène), in the 1809 campaign, was severely wounded on July 5, at Wagram. He was named Count of the Empire for his Valour in November of the same year. He was in Spain in 1810 and 1811, and  had the command of several military places. He died in Grenoble on April 14, 1815.

[4] After the fall of Turin and the occupation of the Valdese valleys Marauda brought his Legion to General Duhesme’s camp in the Corps des Alpes.

[5] Eridanus was the ancient name of the river Po.

[6] Chef d’escadron Jean-Jacques Laveran, led the7th Dragoons, as the temporary chef de brigade, instead of Jean-Joseph Burgairolles, who had retired. Laveran was officialy the new chef of the regiment on 17 germinal an VII; confirmed with brevet of 2 floréal an VII.

[7] Général Pascal-Antoine Fiorella: born 7 February 1752, Ajaccio, died 3 March 1818, Ajaccio. Entered military service as a volunteer with the Royal Corsican regiment, in garrison at Antibes, on 24 June 1770, and in the following month became second lieutenant in the Colonel’s Company. He continued to serve with this unit as lieutenant (1774), then as second captain (1781). On 14 May 1788 he transferred with this rank to the Corsican Chasseurs, formed by splitting his former regiment into two. At the time of the formation of the battalions of volunteers, he was elected lieutenant-colonel of the 4th of Isère (18 November 1791). He served with the Army of the Alps, particularly at the affair of the Col de La Madeleine, and, having become chef de brigade of the 46th Line (27 February 1794) he was wounded at the action of Colle Ardente (26-7 April 1794). On 24 December 1795, the Directory confirmed his appointment to the rank of General of brigade, signed by Massena. In Italy, in 1796, he distinguished himself at Mondovì (22 April), at Castiglione (3 and 5 August) and in the actions around Mantua. On 14 November 1797 he became a General of division in the service of the Cisalpine Republic. At the time of the disasters in Italy after the formation of the Second Coalition, his superiors appointed him commander of the fortress of Turin (3 may 1799). The defensive works were in a poor state, and the garrison was insufficient in numbers and quality. It not being possible to defend the town effectively, General Fiorella took measures to reinforce the citadel. From 4 June 1799 the enemy opened his entrenchments and commenced a deadly and destructive bombardment. When all defence seemed impossible, a council of war of the fortress decided for surrender (20 June). The garrison was to be made prisoner, but to keep the soldiers for the Republic, the General offered himself instead, with his staff, and was taken to Austria as a prisoner. In 1801, he was reintegrated as a General of brigade in the French service, and employed in Italy. On 30 April 1804, he became lieutenant-General in the service of the Italian Republic. During the whole period of the Empire, he exercised commands in Lombardy and Venetia, except for a short campaign in the Tyrol in 1809, at the time of the insurrection of the hotel-keeper Andreas Hofer. On 10 October 1809, he became a senator of the Kingdom of Italy. He had then remarried in the country, to Marie-Félicité Goetti (1805). He left the Po valley in 1814, and, during the Hundred Days, was for some weeks the commander of the arrondissements of Ajaccio and Sartène. Under the Restoration, he had serious difficulties in having his appointment to the rank of lieutenant-general validated,  which had been obtained in the Kingdom of Italy. He succeeded none the less (16 February 1817). The governor of Corsica, the Marquis de Rivière, held him, however, to be somewhat suspect. In his report on the subject of retiring Fiorella, he did not fear to say “the General has the right to the maximum according to his age and the seniority of his service, but he has behaved badly, and will always behave badly towards the King, according to the reports I have had. He only deserves the minimum”. A road in Ajaccio is named after him.

[8] Chef-de-Brigade Antoine-Francois Brenier de Montmorand, previously wounded at Verona (twice: on April 4 and 17, 1799) and named General-de-Brigade on the battlefield on June 15, was repalced by: Chef-de-Brigade Villaret (confirmed in 1800?) not so known. Villaret was renowned as one among the best officers of the armée d’Italie. He died on April 15, 1800, during the assault of Hermette mountain.

[9] The future 27th Dragoons Regiment (Created in 1674 and named Royal-Normandie in 1762, becoming the 19e Regiment de Cavalerie in 1791 and the 18e Regiment de Cavalerie in 1792. Finally in 1803, the Regiment became the 27e Regiment de Dragons). Chef-de-Brigade Denis Terreyre – Colonel in 1803. Born: 5 October 1756. Chef-de-Brigade: 30 July 1794. Chef-de-Brigade: 30 July 1794-1803 Colonel of the 27th Dragoons 1803-1806.General-de-Brigade: 14 November 1806. Commander of the Legion d’Honneur: 25 December 1805. Baron of the Empire: 29 June 1806. Died: 14 February 1823.

[10] Louis François Félix Musnier de la Conserverie: Born on January 8, 1766, in Longueville, Pas-de-Calais, and died on November 15, 1837 in Paris. In 1780, entered the Paris Military academy at the age 14 as junior gentleman. In 1782 he was second lieutenant in the Piedmont regiment. In 1792: Captain in the same regiment and sent to the Rhine army, where he was aide-de-camp of general-in-chief Lamarlière (probably Jean Fabre of Martillière). Passed to the West Coast army, he became Major. On September 5, 1795, he was chief of brigade at the 187e  half-brigade. On June 25, 1796, he was chief of brigade at the 60e half-brigade of infantry and, on July 18, 1796, reached the North army, in Holland, where was named adjudant-General and Colonel chief of the General staff at the 187e half-brigade. Till the end of 1798, employed with the army of Italy, he seized by surprise the Novara fortress in Piedmont, action which will be worth to him the patent of brigadier general. On December 17, 1798, it was named brigadier general. In 1799, he had a brigade command in the reserve army. On June 8, 1799, passed through the Po, close to Piacenza, and entered that city. On June 14, 1800, he fought at Marengo, at the head of the 9th light infantry regiment, the Desaix avant-garde. In 1803, it was named provisional commander of the 15th military division in Rouen. In 1804, he received the award of the Legion d’honneur. On February 1, 1805, he was promoted major general. In 1808, he was transferred to Spain army and on. June 23, 1810, at Margalef, in front of Lérida, he took 6 000 prisoners of O’Donnell corps come to help Lérida, where army of Aragon was sieging. On August 28, 1810 he became Grand Officer de la Legion d’Honneur. On January 20, 1811 he was also Baron of the Empire. At the end of 1813, returned to France he became commander at Besançon. In 1814, he made the France campaign taking part under Augereau in the defense of Lyon. With the first Restoration, he was made knight of Saint-Louis and General infantry inspector for the places of Boulogne, Calais, Saint-Omer, Dunkirk. On December 31, 1814, he was made count. In June 1815, he was the General inspector of 10th and 11th divisions. Retired by royal decree on September 4, 1815.

[11] Baron Carl Adorjan took over the command of his regiment from the provisional commander Barone Lelio Spannocchi. Adorjan will be prototed to Generalmajor and led a brigade at the Genola battle (November) where he died on the battlefield.

[12] Gavi An imposing fortress on the top of the Gavi rock. From the strategic location, it can be assumed that a castle existed here as long ago as pre-Roman or Roman times. In the middle Ages, the castle was adorned by two trapezoidal towers and by high walls that made it impossible to trespass by weaponry of the time. The first important changes took place in 1625, during the French siege, when the French and Savoy army used artillery for the first time. Vincenzo da Fiorenzuola was charged with the project. He was one of the biggest experts in military buildings, and he cooperated with architect Bartolomeo Bianco. Under the supervision of both of them, within a few years, the castle became the fortress we can see today. The old castle was lowered and turned into the Maschio del Forte (Keep), six impregnable ramparts were erected, and joint by strong barrages with fitted embrasures. In the lower part of the fortress the Cittadella (Citadel) was built, it had dormitories, kitchens, water reservoirs, cells for prisoners and stables. Later, between the end of the sixteen hundreds and the beginning of the seventeen hundreds, also the Monte Moro was fortified. The fortress became then absolutely impregnable, it could also accommodate a garrison of considerable dimensions. The castle was the scene of its last battle during the Napoleonic period. The fortress, in fact, was the last French stronghold to withstand the Austro-Russian army before Napoleon’s victory in Marengo, on 14th June 1800.

[13] “Hurray for the King and the Emperor, Up with Jesus and Holy Mary, death to the French, death to Jacobins!”


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