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The 1799 Campaign in Italy

The 1799 Campaign in Italy: The Armies

By Enrico Acerbi

Austria, Russia, Sardinia – Piedmont, and the Polish Legion




In 1798 the Archduke Charles and the Hofkriegsrat at Vienna introduced the first step of a larger reform in the Austrian Army which was completed from 1805 to 1807


General conscription had been introduced in Austria in 1771, but exemptions were granted to several towns and provinces. The areas under conscription were divided into regimental districts (for ‘German’ infantry regiments). Hungary , the Netherlands and northern Italy , as well nobles and officials, were all excluded from compulsory military service. Some of the areas (Tyrol, northern Italy , and the Netherlands ) relied on free recruiting while in others relied on quotas, such as Hungary , where local officials filled the ranks according to quotas imposed by the Hungarian Diet, and still others relied simply on volunteers.

In 1798 the old regimental numbering system was abandoned. In that year the Grenzer regiments[1] were separately numbered (1 through 17), and their withdrawal from the infantry sequence vacated the numbers beginning with 60. The term ‘line infantry’ was officially introduced in 1798 (e.g., changing Infanterie-Regiment, or ‘IR’, to Linie-Infanterie-Regiment, or ‘LIR’). Further, all units, except the Grenzer (on the Borders of the Empire or the Frontier), received the prefix ‘K.k.’ for Kaiserliche (Imperial) und königliche (royal).

The Coalition Wars brought many changes. Regiments were disbanded or established according to the current situation. The infantry’s regimental numerical sequence had already been interrupted in 1795 when Infantry Regiment Nr. 48 was disbanded due to heavy losses and overall unreliability (the regiment was recruited in the Northern Italian provinces). In 1798 the 3rd Garrison Regiment was disbanded (without a number), and its rank-and-file transferred to the 2nd Garrison Regiment (Nr. 6). In the same year, four new Hungarian regiments were established. One of them was given the vacant number 48, and the others numbered 60 to 62. The number 63 was given to the Walloon regiment established in 1799.

As a counterpart to the numbering of the infantry regiments, the combined grenadier battalions had existed since 1769 and were never numbered. Officially they were identified by their commander’s name (an analogy to the identification of regiments by their proprietors’ names). In the literature, however, it is possible to encounter these grenadier battalions under an alternative identification, that created by the use of the official numbers of the two or three regiments which had provided their grenadier divisions (division = two companies in the Austrian military terminology) to create the combined battalion. Since 1790 there existed 20 grenadier battalions, of which three were each composed of two grenadier divisions, the other 17 of three divisions. In 1797 the composite battalions were disbanded and the grenadiers returned to their parent regiments. Twenty grenadier battalions were re-established in 1799, only to be again disbanded in 1801.

Other infantry units were also numbered, though on a different basis. First, the light infantry battalions, which were established in 1798 by transformation of different volunteer corps. The battalions were identified in a manner similar to that used for the grenadier battalions, using the commander’s name (there were no proprietors of light infantry battalions) and numbered in sequence from 1 to 15 – number 8 was left vacant because its rank-and-file personnel were in Wurmser’s Corps until the end of the War of the Second Coalition. In 1799–1800, two more battalions were formed (Italian and Dalmatian), sometimes identified with the numbers 16 and 17. The light infantry was disbanded in 1801 and its rank-and-file transferred to the line infantry regiments.

In 1797 a commission was established to modernize the army’s equipment, not without resistance from traditionalists. Some proposals were rejected, among them a scheme for numbering the buttons, and introducing black belts.

Most dramatic of the changes introduced by the 1798 regulations, which probably came into force in the following year, was a new coat and, instead of the kasquet, a large leather, crested helmet. Theoretically styled upon classical designs, this headdress consisted of a black leather skullcap 16.5cm high, topped with a raised comb running from front to back, upon which was fixed a crest of black over yellow wool 5cm high. Reinforcing bands ran up the sides of the helmet, usually of black leather, or blackened or shiny brass; the front of the helmet bore a large brass plate upon which the Emperor’s cipher was embossed. The new jacket was white cloth with ten yellow or white buttons on the breast; the collar (now upright), cuffs and turnbacks (the latter now smaller and the skirts less voluminous) were all in the facing color. Shoulder straps were now present on both sides, either in white with piping of the facing color, or vice-versa. From 1798 the white breeches of German infantry extended to below the knee, with half-stockings below, the latter covered by shorter black gaiters. Hungarians retained their light blue pantaloons with black and yellow braid, and their lace-up shoes with a seam at the rear and raised ankles. White or off-white overall trousers probably continued in use on campaign.

A new musket was introduced in 1798, similar to earlier patterns, but of improved construction: with brass fittings, of 17.6mm caliber, measuring 150cm in length, and weighing 4.8kg. The lock-protector was withdrawn.

The distinctive fur cap of grenadiers was retained, with its high front and low rear, which gave rise to its French nickname fauteuil, or ‘armchair’. At some time (probably between 1798 and 1805) a black leather front peak was added. The light infantry had the same equipment as the regular line, but wore the 1798 helmet with a brass F.II. cipher instead of a plate, and pike grey coats; the coat, breeches and gaiters of the five Italian regiments were of German style, the remainder wearing Hungarian pantaloons.

Light infantry tactics remained largely the same as those of the Freikorps and Grenzers, and in some cases were essentially discouraged in the regular army. Despite the later claim that by 1798 the Austrian army was able to fight in open order (as actually attempted at 2nd Novi or the Bosco in November 1799, resulting in defeat), in April 1800, Melas’s chief of staff, Baron Zach, expressed the general reliance on old-fashioned, close and linear formations, an advance ‘courageously in closed formation, with bands playing, and keeping their formation’ as being, in his opinion, a guarantee of success. ‘Unnecessary skirmishing can only be detrimental … a determined charge delivered in close order … will certainly result in victory with very few casualties.’


In 1798, the Cavalry changed considerably. The Karabiniers were changed into Kürassiere, the Chevauxlegers into Light Dragoons, so it happened that, at end of the 18th century, the German cavalry (the Hussars were considered to be Hungarian) had only two branches of service: Kürassiere and Dragoner. At the same time, from the 5th divisions (i.e., the 9th and 10th squadrons) of the other Hussaren-Regiments, were formed two new units, the 5th and 7th Hussars Regiments; the Galician horse-volunteers became the 2nd Uhlanen-Regiment; and finally, from parts of other cavalry units, were organized one new KürassierRegiment and 2 new Dragoner-Regimenter. From the former Freikorps of Bussy, Rohan, Carneville, and Bourbon, was formed a chasseurs regiment, the Jäger-zu-Pferd Regiment Bussy of 8 squadrons with 1300 men.

To the hussars was added the newly constituted Kroatisch-Slavonische-Hussaren-Regiment, born in Slavonia in 1793 and formed from the Wurmserischen Freikorps. With the final reform act, the establishment of every hussars regiment became 8 squadrons (in 4 divisions).

Tactically there was lack of precise instructions for multi-regiment formations and large-scale exercises. The consequences of this practice of scattering imperial cavalry in small bodies were very serious. It greatly reduced their combat effectiveness —single regiments and brigades were often defeated by French brigades and divisions. One reason for such careful use of cavalry was their relative low numbers. Austria was a mountainous country and had low ratio of cavalry to infantry.

In 1798 the Austrian cavalry improved their firepower by changing its firearms:

– Carbine for hussars, the M 1798: 84.5cm long, weighing 2.45kg.

– Carbine for dragoons, M 1798: 123.5cm long, weighing 3.25kg.

– Rifle for cavalry, M 1798: 71cm long, weighing 2.65kg.

The Hussar cap was a felt cylinder bearing a black and yellow cloth rosette with a braid loop on the front, and a black over yellow plume above a yellow pompon with black centre. Cords in the mixed black and yellow national colors fastened around the upper edge of the cap, falling as ‘raquettes‘ on the right side. In 1798, this cap was replaced by a true shako, an 8-inch-high cylinder of rigid felt, with a black leather peak and chinstrap, but with rosette, pompon and cap lines as before. The 14-inch feather plume (upon a wire or whalebone foundation) could be enclosed in a black waterproof cover. The 1798 regulation allowed the hussars to wear grey overalls with buttons for use on campaign. They were reinforced with leather on the side on which the saber was worn. The standard long boots were cut in the national style with strong, durable decoration on top. The jacket of the uhlans was green with red lapels for all regiments. The pennons on lances were black over yellow. All wore green trousers. The cuirassiers wore white coats and breeches. During campaign they wore grey overalls over, or instead of, their tight elegant breeches. The boots rose to below the knee. Until 1792, the dragoon regiments had 2 squadrons of chevauxlegers and 6 squadrons of dragoons each. In 1799-1801 there were no longer dragoons and chevauxlegers but all were light dragoons. They wore the Dragoner helm, dark green jackets and white pants.

The 1798 light dragoon uniform was identical in cut and equipment to that of the Cuirassiers, the coloring and lack of a cuirass being the most obvious differences. The helmet was identical, but the coat was made of dark green cloth, with a 2-inch standing collar, which like the cuffs and piping of the turnbacks, was in the facing-color. The waistcoat, forage cap, and gloves were also dark green; the cartridge box belt was 23 inches wide, and al1 men were armed with carbines having brass fittings.


The organization of the artillery was centered around the tactical role it was assigned. There were initially three field artillery regiments, a Bombardier Corps of men with additional training, and an Artillery Fusilier Battalion which provided the unskilled labor. A fourth field regiment was created in February 1802, partly from the now-disbanded Artillery Fusiliers, and the number of companies per regiment increased during the period.

In wartime, the artillery regiments were split into small detachments to serve the ‘battalion guns’ (Liniengeschutz) that were attached to each regiment, with infantrymen providing the untrained artillery laborers; the gun were usually 3-pdrs. Light pieces which capable of being transported on horse- or mule-back were called Gebirgsgeschütze, or mountain-guns.

The artillery reserve was crewed by the Bombardier Corps and personnel from the garrison or fortress artillery; reserve batteries usually comprised four guns and two howitzers or two guns and one howitzer as a brigade (Kolonne) asset. There were, in addition, ‘cavalry batteries’ of light 6-pdrs whose officers and NCOs were mounted but whose gunners sat astride a caisson or ‘Wurst-wagen‘, and were thus much less mobile than proper horse artillery.


The artillery uniform was styled on that of the infantry, including the use of the combed or crested helmet of 1798 – 1803 (with a red crest for the rank-and-file), the jackets brown with red facings (light blue facings for the Handlanger Corps). Prior to 1798 a low round hat was worn, after which a bicorne was adopted.


Maximum Range

Effective Range


3-pdr gun




6-pdr gun




12-pdr gun




7-pdr howitzer 




The relationship between the French and Austrian artillery is quite fascinating. The Austrian artillery had powder and ammunition of higher quality than that of the French. But in general the French tactics and usage were more striking and original, and France ’s guns had longer ranges and larger caliber-equivalents than Austria ’s. For example, in 1798 the captured 6-pdr Austrian guns were equivalent to French 5pdrs (the Austrian pound was smaller than the French).

In combat, the artillery was an independent, maneuverable weapon. It began combat at long ranges (at which fire usually remained rather ineffective). The battle-lines advanced and the cannons followed. Sometimes it marched “masked” by the advancing infantry or Kavallerie and, after the opposing infantry had advanced and Austrian troops evaded sideways unmasking the artillery, it began to fire against the opponent by concentrated Kartätschenfeuer at short range.

Tactically, Austrian gunners differentiated between two kinds of fire: ‘battalion fire’, which was performed in a regular order (successively, first the odd pieces, such as howitzers, then the guns), and ‘single fire’, where each cannon was managed by its Vormeister. The officers worried little about ranges and firing corrections, this was left to the skill of their Kanoniere, whose skills were attained by exercise and many years of experience. The Russian marshal Suvorov, who commanded the Imperial army at Novi, in his order of the day, wrote: ‘… the artillery is free, their officers can shoot where they want…’, which probably testifies to his great confidence in the K. k. artillery.

Russia – РОССИЯ

‘Reconnaissances! I do not want reconnaissances!

They are utilized by bashful people

and put the enemy on warning of our arrival.

I’ll find the enemy whenever I want!

Columns, bayonets, l’arme blanche, attack,

Reinforce the attack! These are my reconnaissances!’

~ Aleksandr Suvorov

Under Emperor Paul I[2] (reigned 1796-1801), the Russian Army was closely modeled on that of Prussia . Paul’s putative son Alexander (who consented to, if he did not connive in, Paul’s rather messy murder) began its reorganization during 1805-1807; from then until 1815 it was continually strengthened and developed. Russian armies were based on a thoroughly Russian type of conscription which fell almost entirely on the serfs, each land owner being periodically ordered to supply a certain number.  Enlistment was for 25 years, though actually for life. Discipline was rigid, often brutal; training and service life harsh. Supply services always collapsed during any Russian offensive; forcing the troops to live off the country, regardless of whether it was hostile or allied territory. When thoroughly trained and disciplined, Russians were tough, stubborn opponents, inured to hardship and short rations. Led by inspiring, competent commanders like Generalissimus[3] Marshal Alexander Suvorov, the Russian soldier was capable of great deeds.

Russian Infantry

From November 29, 1796, the Russian infantry had 13 grenadier regiments, 62 musketeer regiments and 20 jäger battalions (from the reformed Jäger Corps). On December 13 of the same year, the flank companies in grenadier regiments and grenadier companies in musketeer regiments were ordered to form combined grenadier battalions [Svodnye Grenadirskie bataliony], which were named after the field-grade officers commanding them. As of May 17, 1797, jäger battalions were relabeled and reorganized as regiments, retaining their previous numbers and reforming with two-battalions, each battalion having five companies. Also all grenadier (except the Leib-Grenadiers), musketeer, and jäger regiments were ordered ( October 31, 1798) to be named after their chefs. So the Moscow Grenadiers became Gen.-of-Inf. Rozenberg’s [Rozenberga]; the Apsheron Musketeers became the Maj.-Gen. Miloradovich’s, the Smolensk Musketeers were the Lt.-Gen. Povalo-Shveikovskii 1st’s, the Tula Musketeers renamed as Maj.-Gen. Tyrtov’s and so on. The Young Baden (molodo Badenski) Musketeers (formerly Butyrsk) changed its name only in June 1799, and became Maj.-Gen.Veletskii’s. The jäger regiments in Italy with General Rozenberg’s Corps became, respectively: Maj.-Gen. Prince Bagration’s (7th Jägers) and Maj.-Gen. Chubarov’s (8th Jägers).

Russian Cavalry

From 1796, all hussar regiments were named after their chefs. The regular cavalry consisted of 16 cuirassier, 16 dragoon, and 8 hussar regiments, with an additional 2 squadrons of hussars with the Moscow Police. Each cuirassier and dragoon regiment consisted of five squadrons, while Hussar regiments contained ten. On October 31, 1798, all cavalry regiments were named after their chefs. In Italy the Russian Corps did not bring cavalry other than the Cossacks. In order to balance their forces some Austrian squadrons were attached to the Russian commands.

Anecdotes circulate that ‘[t]here were cases in Italy and Germany when townspeople came out to greet them [Cossacks] as liberators, only to be quickly despoiled of clothes, watches and money.’ But it appears to be a false picture. In Italy , while the Cossacks were received with some curiosity owing to their uniform, they served as supervised, regular troops, acting in very strict adherence to tactical orders just as would regular cavalry units.  According to Austrian officer A. Prokesch: ‘A characteristic which makes the Cossacks especially useful for the “light war” is their total indifference to a thousand things, which are called ‘obstacles’ in the military sense ….’[4] They were the best ‘sweeping up’ cavalry of that period, contributing to the capture of masses of routing troops. Almost all Cossacks carried an 8-foot long lance with a steel spearhead surmounting a steel ball, to ensure easy withdrawal of the point. Cossacks were also armed with an assorted arsenal of weapons: curved sabers (carried by all officers) and 1-8 pistols (!); some carried carbines or muskets or other firearms. Their regiments had up to 5 squadrons (sotnia) often led by first lieutenants (sotniki), boasting a variable strength; the sotnia could also be commanded by a captain (esaul). The regimental staff was formed by: the colonel (polkovnik) commander, 1 lieutenant-colonel (podpolkovnik), 1 major (voiskovoi starshina), 1 captain (esaul), 1 ensign (horonzhyi), 1 quartermaster and 1 judge.

Russian Artillery

On February 27, 1797, the field artillery — consisting of the Bombardier Regiment, 1st and 2nd Cannoneer Regiments, and the 1st and 2nd Fusilier Regiments; the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Bombardier Battalions, and five horse artillery companies — was reorganized into battalions: 3 Siege [Osadnyi], 10 Field [Polevoi], and 1 Horse [Konnyi]. In place of the two Pontoon companies under the artillery administration, there were established 8 Pontoon Depots [Pontonnye Depo], and a Pioneer Regiment [Pionernyi polk] was to be attached to the Artillery.

Each battalion consisted of five companies, a company having the following ordnance: in a field company, four 12-pdr unicorns [yedinorogi] and four 12-pdr cannons [pushki]; in a Horse company, six 12-pdr unicorns and six 6-pdr cannons. There was no regulation concerning the siege artillery. Battalions were also named after their chefs.

With regard to regimental artillery, on March 12, 1798, all grenadier and musketeer regiments were ordered each to have one 12-pdr unicorn and four 6-pounder cannons, except for the Leib-Grenadier Regiment, which was equipped with eight 12-pdr unicorns.

Sardinia – Piedmont

‘It is much better to have well known enemies

than to have friends hidden in the shadows.’

~ Bonaparte

On January 12, 1799, the unwilling King of Sardinia was included among the belligerents against the Coalition by the French Directory. The Piedmontese thereby became allies of the French.

By a regulation promulgated by Gen. Suchet on February 4, the Piedmontese infantry was reorganized in four demi-brigades (three line and 1 light, each with 3 battalions of 10 companies, two of which were elite grenadiers or chasseurs  and eight of which were fusiliers, each 80 men strong). The Piedmontese infantry totaled 400 officers and 9,200 men. The 1st Demi-Brigade of the Line was formed between Cremona and Bozzolo and was constituted from the regiments of Savoia, Aosta and Lombardia and led by the Sardinian marquis Chef-de-brigade Francesco de Varax, a former grenadier commander.

The 2nd Demi-Brigade of the Line was formed from the Monferrato, Saluzzo, and Alessandria Regiments and assigned to Chef-de-brigade Carlo Trombetta. The 3rd Demi-Brigade of the Line, comprising the Piemonte, the Queen of Savoy, and Oneglia Regiments, was led by Chef-de-brigade Regard di Clermont, previously colonel of the Queen’s Regiment. Many complaints arose with respect to the Light Infantry Demi-Brigade organization. The disputes burst out when the glorious regiment of the Savoy Guards (an elite unit that was the senior unit of the Savoyard army) was merged with the Light Savoy Regiment, a pioneer battalion, and the execrable Corpo Franco (this last unit was composed entirely of reprieved deserters, who were part of the Insurgents of Carosio). The command of the 1st Light Infantry Demi-Brigade (which later was augmented from the Valdese Legion) was entrusted to Caspar Gaetano des Hayes, count of Mussano, former colonel of the Guards. He subsequently refused the appointment and tried to reorganize his old loyal regiment during the Austro-Russian occupation.

French distrust, however, was not targeted against the light demi-brigade but toward the 3rd Line Demi-Brigade and, particularly, toward the soldiers from Oneglia (Oneille) Regiment. These Ligurians, subjugated by the Sardinia Kingdom, were fierce enemies of the Genoese (and, so, of the French, too). ‘Oneglians’ confirmed the Republican distrust by rioting against the tri-colored Republican flag. In order to avoid more serious troubles, the command was given to the French Chef-de-brigade Jean Baptiste Solignac and the demi-brigade was left unsupplied with ammunition.

The Cavalry

Piedmontese cavalry was early on divided into six regiments and later reduced to four. It was really the best performing branch of service during the campaign. The former regiments had to change their names, which were too monarchical for Republican service, assuming a numerical order. Three were dragoon regiments and the other three were former chevauxlegers[5]:

1st Cavalry Regiment (formerly King’s Dragoon or Dragoni del Re)
2nd Cavalry Regiment (formerly His Majesty’s Chevauxlégers or Cavalleggeri del Re)
3rd Cavalry Regiment (formerly Piedmont’s Dragoons or Dragoni di Piemonte)
4th Cavalry Regiment (formerly Royal Piedmont Chevauxlégers or Cavalleggeri Piemonte Reale)
5th Cavalry Regiment (formerly Savoy Chevauxlégers or Cavalleggeri di Savoia)
6th Cavalry Regiment (formerly Queen’s Dragoons or Dragoni della Regina)

However, cavalry, the arm of the aristocracy, had several desertions after that reorganization, many of their soldiers having fought against the French for the last six years. As the result of heavy desertion, the 5th and 6th Cavalry Regiments were disbanded in February 1799. Therefore, from February 1799, the Piedmontese cavalry consisted of just 4 new regiments, all labeled dragoons.

1st Piedmontese Cavalry (Dragoon) Regiment (composed of the King’s Dragoon Regiment and two squadrons of the Queen’s Dragoon Regiment)
2nd Piedmontese Cavalry (Dragoon) Regiment (composed of the His Majesty’s Chevauxlégers and two squadrons of Savoy Chevauxlégers)
3rd Piedmontese Cavalry (Dragoon) Regiment (composed of the Piedmont’s Dragoon Regiment and the remaining two squadrons of the Queen’s Dragoon Regiment)
4th Piedmontese Cavalry (Dragoon) Regiment (composed of the Royal Piedmont Chevauxlégers and the remaining two Savoy Chevauxlégers squadrons).

The command of the Piedmontese cavalry was taken by the former commander of the Chablais Dragoons, Colonel Maurizio Ignazio Fresia, assisted by Captain Alessandro Gifflenga. Both, after the surrender of Sérurier’s Division at Verderio ( April 23-24, 1799), changed sides to fight with the Austro-Russian army.

The Artillery

On February 8, 1799, the Savoy artillery regiment was split into 2 battalions (1st and 2nd), having 4 divisional staffs (I to IV) and 16 artillery companies, including 2 companies of Ordnance-masters. The odd-numbered companies formed the 1st Battalion, while the even-numbered constituted the 2nd Battalion. The older gunners were charged with only garrison duties and formed two independent companies of veterans. On campaign, the artillery was organized into four brigades (three of which served with the French army, while one remained in garrison at Turin).

The Swiss Regiments

The December 4, 1798 Agreement between the Swiss Cantons and the French Republic directed, in conformance to which the Sardinian King authorized, the reorganization of the last 2,000 Swiss soldiers remaining in the King’s service into a French army auxiliary corps, with the exception of 400 Swiss-Grisons and as many Swiss-Germans of the Alemanno Regiment, employed in internal security tasks. On December 5, the King of Sardinia donated a munificent money amount to each Swiss company (14,000 Piedmontese Lire) as severance pay. The day after, the French Directory hired the 5 Swiss regiments (Belmont, Bachmann, d’Ernst, Zimmermann, and Peyer Im-Hof) and put them under General Joubert, the current commander in chief of the France ’s Armée d’Italie. They were later transferred to Mantua, where they reorganized in two Swiss Legions (1st and 2nd Helvetique), each with two battalions of 400 men.

Piedmontese on Campaign

Although opinion was divided, with serious misgivings as to the reliability of the conquered Piedmontese cousins, the French commander of the Armée d’Italie, General Barthélémy Louis Joseph Schérer, decided to employ Piedmontese troops in the line of battle, but distributing them between the divisions of Sérurier (at Peschiera), Hatry (around Verona), Montrichard (at Legnago) and Gaultier (at Toscana). The Piedmontese army, disbanded with the Cherasco Armistice of 1796, had retained some units and cadres, a mass of 10 battalions, 4 dragoons regiments, 1 Carabinier squadron, and 3 artillery brigades ‘de Bataille’. They were:

Piedmontese Infantry

1st Piedmontese Line Demi-brigade (1st Bn Savoia and 3rd Bn Lombardia) in Toscana (with Gaultier de Kerveguen’s Division)
2nd Piedmontese Line Demi-brigade (1st Bn Monferrato, 2nd Bn Saluzzo, and 3rd Bn Alessandria) at Legnago (with Montrichard’s Division)
3rd Piedmontese Line Demi-brigade (1st Bn Piemonte and 3rd Bn Oneglia) near Verona (with Hatry’s Division)
1st Piedmontese Light Infantry Demi-brigade (1st Bn Guardie, 2nd Bn Leggero [Light], and 3rd Bn Corpo franco) at Peschiera (with Serurier’s Division), containing 1800 men.

Piedmontese Cavalry

Commander: Colonel Maurizio Fresia, Baron of Oglianico; Adjudant: Captain Alessandro Gifflenga.

1st and 3rd Dragoon Regiments (formerly Dragoni del Re, Piemonte and Regina) at Ferrara (in Montrichard’s Division)
2ndand 4th Dragoons Regiments (formerly Cavalleggeri del Re, Piemonte Reale and Savoia)

near Verona (in Hatry’s Division);

1st Piedmontese Carabinier squadron at Schérer’s Headquarters;

Piedmontese Artillery

3 Artillery “de Bataille” brigades: 1 near Verona (in Victor’s Division), 1 at Legnago (in Montrichard’s Division) and 1 (chef Cappello) in Valtelline (in Dessolle’s Division);

Former Piedmontese Swiss troops

1st Swiss Legion (Legion Helvetique) near Verona (with Victor’s Division)
2nd Swiss Legion (Legion Helvetique) near Verona (with Grenier’s Division).

Near the Adige, the Swiss troops numbered 1,600; the Piedmontese were 3.700 men strong (5 infantry battalions, 2 dragoons regiments, and 1 brigade of 120 artillerymen).

The opening events of the 1799 Campaign progressed as follows:

March 26. Clash at S. Fermo and Incaffi. The 1,800 men of the Piedmontese 1st Light Demi-brigade, together with the French 18e Demi-Brigade Légère, drew back the Austrians until reaching Affi and Rivoli’s plateau. While advancing, the whole 3rd Bn, or Corpo Franco (formed of former deserters and insurgents), deserted again near Calmasino, reaching the Austrian lines.

March 30. Some 2,755 Piedmontese remained with the colors, representing 4.7% of the whole French-allied infantry, 11.7% of the whole cavalry, and the 20% of the artillery. In sum, the Piedmontese represented 5.9% of the whole French-allied army.

April 5. Schérer attacks at Magnano, south of Verona and east of Villafranca. The Swiss, 800 Piedmontese Dragoons, and 900 men of the 3rd Line were on the right wing. The 900 men of the 1st Light infantry were at the extreme left wing (with Sérurier’s Division).

The two battalions of the 1st Line Demi-Brigade, temporarily isolated in Tuscany, betrayed the French led by Gaultier. They were soldiers of the former Savoy regiments Savoia and Lombardia, troops from Savoy, and not Piedmontese Italians; many of them were also mercenaries or professional soldiers, used to taking service wherever the best salary could be found.

The command of the deserters’ force was assumed by Major Balegno, an officer of the 1st Battalion, and the new ‘insurgent’ unit was named the Legione Balegno.

Major Balegno and his men apart, many Piedmontese soldiers decided to desert to the Coalition lines or simply to surrender during the battles. Others instead fought with gallantry along side the French and were noted in the official Acts of the Directory.

After the successful advance into Piedmontese territories, the Coalition army raised seven Piedmontese Jäger companies. The command and the recruitment of these companies were assigned to Oberst Freiherr Filippo Brentano-Cimarolli. The seven companies (with one Russian and six Austrians for commanding officers) were gathered, at the end of May, in the Feldjäger-Korps.

Polish Legion

Myśli względem projektu
utworzenia korpusów
patriotycznych polskich
mających organizować
się we Włoszech

In 1797, a Polish Legion was formed in Italy , to fight for France against Austria . The Polish Legion, under General Dabrowski, fought with Bonaparte in his earliest Italian campaigns. These were the beginnings of Polish forces of Napoleonic period, though these legions were never used for purposes related to Polish independence. In northern Italy , during 1797, the original corps underwent administrative and name changes. The initial name was linked to the Cispadane Republic and Lombardy, to the time the cities of Bologna, Ferrara and the Romagna joined the new Cisalpine Republic. Subsequently a renegotiation of the convention between Dąbrowski and the Directory, an agreement was reached in August between Bonaparte and the Milanese War Minister of the Cisalpine Republic, Birago. As a result, the Polish Legion was renamed as the ‘Auxiliary Cisalpine Polish Legion’.

After autumn 1798, and after the Naples War, the Auxiliary Polish Legion, now called simply the Polish Corps or Polish Legion, was comprised of the following:

Commander in Chief – Gen. Jan Henryk Dąbrowski
Adjutants – Eliasz Tremo, Ignacy Zawadzki
Staff Adjoints – Jean-Baptiste Froussard (from Dec. 30, 1798)
Commander of the Polish Depot in Milano – Kazimierz Konopka

1st Polish Legion ( Southern Italy)

Chief of the Legion- Gen. Karol Kniaziewicz
2nd Chief – Jan Strzałkowski
Major of the Legion – Józef Chamand
Adjutant Major- Tadeusz Petrykowski
Quartermaster – Antonio Caccianiga

1st Battalion

Chef – Szymon Białowiejski
Major – Józef Nadolski
Adjutant Major – Piotr Świderski
Battalion Medical Officer – Jan Ritter
Captains-chefs de compagnie – Jan Au, Mateusz Chojnacki, Józef Drzewiecki, Jan Iliński, Stanisław Jabłonowski, Jan Konopka, Antoni Pokrzywnicki, Ignacy Stokowski, August Sznayder, Piotr Tomaszewski

2nd Battalion

Chef – Maciej Forestier
Major – Józef Chłopicki
Battalion Medical Officer – Franciszek Kinzel
Captains-chefs de compagnie – Antoni Billing, Walenty Borowski, Ignacy Cebulski, Antoni Downarowicz, Adam Kozakiewicz, Aleksander Laskowski

3rd Battalion

Chef – Józef Zeydlitz
Major – Piotr Bazyli Wierzbicki
Battalion Medical Officer – Giuseppe Valentini
Captains-chefs de compagnie – Ferdynand Bogusławski, Jan Dembowski, Jan Karski, Michał Pągowski, Józef Wasilewski, Bonifacy Zdzitowiecki, Michał Zeydel

2nd Polish Legion ( Northern Italy)

Chief of the Legion – Gen. Franciszek Ksawery Rymkiewicz
2nd Chief- Antoni Kosiński
Legion Major – Felicjan A. Kralewski
Adjutant Major – Józef Gabriel Biernacki
Legion Adjutant – Józef Regulski-Falk
Adjutant chef de la Legion – Franciszek Ks. Kossecki

1st Battalion

Chef – Ludwik Dembowski
Major- Michał Sulejewski
Lt. Adjutant Major – Pantaleon Czempiński
Battalion Medical Officer – Giovanni Bolatti
Captains-chefs de compagnie – Michał Choroszewski, Tadeusz Estko, Piotr Karski, Mateusz Królikiewicz, J. Wessel, Jan Zieleniewski

2nd Battalion

Chef – Lipczyński
Major – Leon Mościcki
Lt. Adjutant Major – Jan Kanty Sierawski
Lt. Adjutant Major – Michał Zadera
Battalion Medical Officer – M. Grill
Captains-chefs de compagnie – Ignacy Cybulski, Franciszek Grabski, Antoni Kirkor, Stanisław Klicki, Józef Mądrzycki, Błażej Winiarski, Bonifacy Zdzitowiecki, Franciszek Żymirski

3rd Battalion

Chef – Tomasz Zagórski
Capt. Adjutant Major – Franciszek Paszkowski
Lt. Adjutant Major – Józef Szubert
Battalion Medical Officer – Orsatti
Captains-chefs de compagnie – Andrzej (Fabian) Jackowski, Mateusz Maciej Kąsinowski, Ferdynand Komorowski, Jan Łachowski, Jędrzej Świderski

The 1st Legion’s cavalry commander was (from December 31, 1798) Eliasz Tremo. On January 6, 1799 the first Squadron was formed with two companies (chorągwi) of 50 lancers.

Chef d’escadron – Eliasz Tremo

1st Company

Rotmistrz (Captain) – Franciszek Brzechwa
Porucznik (Lieutenant) – Jan Jacewski
Podporucznik (under-Lieutenant) – Warell

2nd Company

Rotmistrz – Feliks Przyszychowski
Porucznik – Piotr Linkiewicz
Podporucznicy – Stanisław Kawecki, Jan Szulc

While the 2nd Legion was reduced by almost half after the battles at Verona and Magnano and retired into Mantua’s fortress, the Poles of the 1st Legion, fighting a hard anti-insurgent campaign in central Italy , was given a new organization in May 1799:

Commander in Chief of the Polish Legion – Gen. Jan Henryk Dąbrowski
Vice Commander – Gen. Władysław Jabłonowski

1st Polish Legion

Chef de la Legion – Maciej Forestier
Vice-Chef – Jan Strzałkowski
Major de la Legion – Piotr Świderski

1st Battalion: Chef – Szymon Białowiejski; Major – Jan Konopka

2nd Battalion: Chef – Józef Chłopicki; Major – Andrzej Sielski

3rd Battalion: Chef – Ignacy Zawadzki; Major – August Sznayder

Polish Grenadier Battalion: Chef – Kazimierz Małachowski; Major – Antoni Downarowicz

Polish Chasseur Battalion: Chef– Ignacy Jasiński; Major – Antoni Pokrzywnicki

The veteran elite companies were organized in a Grenadier and a Chasseur Battalion (above), while all the Polish artillery was employed in Mantua with the 2nd Legion.

Legion’s artillery

Chef-de-bataillon – Józef Aksamitowski
Major – Stanisław Jakubowski
Adjutant Major – Kajetan Stuart
Quartermaster – Feliks Mościcki

1st Foot Artillery Company: Captain – Hipolit Falkowski

2nd Foot Artillery Company: Captain – Jakub Redel

3rd Foot Artillery Company: Captain – Józef Czachowski

4th Foot Artillery Company: Captain – Jan Mehler

Each artillery company had 1 sergeant-major, 5 sergeants, 1 corporal fourrier, 10 corporals, 2 directors, 30 1st class gunners, 47 2nd class gunners – a total of 101 men.

Polish officers and generals communicated in Polish and French. The troops were organized after the French model and used much of its terminology.

Cisalpine Republic

On May 19, 1797, Bonaparte gave his “placet” to the creation of the Cisalpine Republic with capital city in Milano. This definitively killed the other Italian Republican project, the Cispadana, as French diplomacy wanted to declare their renounce on Venetia, papal land and former Emilia duchies of northern Italy in order to close the peace conference with Austria. Cisalpine Republic born officially on June 29, 1797.

The Cisalpine Division – Eve of 1799 Campaign

In a letter to Carnot, on September 3, 1797, Bonaparte estimated that he would be able to arrange, in case of war, for only 10,000 Italian infantrymen and 1,000 cavalry, of which one-fifth were to be Cisalpine and the remainder Piedmontese. In effect, it is possible to estimate that, fifteen months later in January 1799, the two French armies in Italy included approximately 43,000 Italian auxiliaries:





Artillery Cos

































*Levy of about 9,000 excluded.

However, only half of the total number was of personnel fit for first line duty, the mainly aggregated into the 11 French mobile divisions or utilized to fill shortages in the under-strength French units of field artillery, engineers, and navy. Little more of one-quarter of those troops were on the main front, from Bormio to Ferrara: 3,700 Piedmontese, 6,000 Cisalpine, 1,600 Swiss, and 2,000 Poles. The same numbers of troops were employed in Central Italy: 860 Piedmontese and 900 Cisalpine in Tuscany; 6,000 Romans in the territory of their Republic, 4,000 Poles at Civitavecchia, Gaeta, Sessa, and 873 Cisalpine at Capua. On March 1799, Cisalpine units were so deployed:

In Valtelline – Lechi’s Brigade: 3rd Cisalpine Line Demi-Brigade (Chef de Brigade Miloshevic) with 3 Battalions (1/3rd Guideni, 2/3rd Scotti, 3/3rd Martincourt) with 1,771 men, and l battalion of the 1st Cisalpine Light Infantry Demi-Brigade (1/1st Girard);

       On the Lower Adige – Teuliè’s Brigade: a Cisalpine Grenadier Battalion (elite companies of 1st and 3rd Bns, 1st Line Demi-Brigade), 4 Cisalpine Hussars squadrons (Campagnola), and l Company of Brescia Infantry Guides.

     With the Mantua Garrison: 2 battalions of the 1st Cisalpine Light Infantry Demi-brigade (1/1st Cappi, 3/1st Belfort);

In Romagna – Lahoz’s Brigade: 4 Battalions (2/1st Cisalpine Line Demi-Brigade or 3rd Legion [Fontanelli], 1/7th Legio­n [Audifret], 2/7th Legio­n [David], 3/7th Legio­n [Lasinio]), and a Cisalpine Dragoons squadron (Viani);

In Toscana with Gauthier’s Division: 2 battalions of the 1st Cisalpine Line Demi-Brigade, at Massa (XVI Rogier) and at Livorno (VI Ferrent);

With the Armée de Naples: 2nd Cisalpine Legion (Serres), with 2 battalions (1/2nd [Fontàne], 2/2nd [Robillard]), at Ca­pua.

On April 30, for the withdrawal from Milano and the retreat of the Cisalpine Directory, Cisalpine troops amalgamated into French units. This necessitated the following arrangements (and the units remained largely unused owing to the way operations developed):

The Cisalpine 1st Line Demi-Brigade (Chef de Brigade Luigi Mazzucchelli) had to reach Dijon to complete a new reorganization with other Ligurians and with a large numbers of other dispersed units and stragglers.

·        The Cisalpine 2nd Line Demi-Brigade (Chef de Brigade Serres) was the new name given to the Capua 2nd Legion.

·        The Cisalpine 3rd Line Demi-Brigade (Chef de Brigade Morosini) withdrew and marched from Valtelline to Savoy.

·        The Cisalpine 1st Light Demi-Brigade (Chef de Brigade Cappi) was formed with the remains of Mantua Garrison.

·        The Cisalpine 2nd Light Demi-Brigade (Chef de Brigade Lorot) was formed in Savoy with the Valtelline Chasseurs Battalion.

·        The Cisalpine Cavalry Brigade (Chef de Brigade Balabio) had 2 regiments (1st Viani, 2nd Lechi).

·        The Cisalpine Artillery Battalion (De Kokel).

1799 Italian Campaign Bibliography

Auréas, Henri. Un général de Napoléon: Miollis. Les Belles Lettres, 1961.

AA.vv. “Aus ruhmvollen Tagen: Blätter der Erinnerung an die Stiftung des Militär-maria Theresien-ordens.” Danzer’s Armee-Zeitung, 1907.

AA.vv.  France Militaire – Histoire des Armées Françaises de Terre et de Mer. Tome III. Paris: Delloye Editeur, 1838.

Battaglini, Mario. Il monitore napoletano (1799). Guida Editori, 1999

Beauvais de Preau, Charles Theodore; Voïart, Jacques Philippe [ed.]. Victoires, conquêtes, désastres, revers et guerres civiles des Français: de 1792 à 1815, C.L.F. Panckoucke, 1817 et foll. 

Borus, Joszef M. “Habsburg Regiments, Officers and Soldiers of the Habsburg Army during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars” in War and Society in East Central Europe. Vol. IV, New York, 1984.

Chodźko, Léonard. Histoire des légions polonaises en Italie, sous le commandement du général Dombrowski. J. Barbezat, 1829.

Clausewitz, Carl von. Campagne de 1799 en Suisse et en Italie. Paris: Neuauflage, 1979.

Colletta, Pietro. Storia del reame di Napoli dal 1734 sino al 1825. Napoli, 1835.

Coppola, Filippo Cesare; Ilari, Prof. Virginio [ed.]. L’esercito piemontese e Napoleone. Masterwork of academic year 2002-2003, Università del Sacro Cuore di Milano.

Courcelles, Jean Baptiste Pierre Jullien de. Dictionnaire historique et biographique des généraux français. Vols. I-VIII. Paris, 1820.

D’Ayala, Mariano. Le vite dei più celebri Capitani e Soldati Napoletani. Napoli, 1843.

Duffy, Christopher. Eagles over the Alps. Chicago: Emperor’s Press, 1999.

Dumas, Mathieu. Précis des événemens militaires: ou, Essais historiques sur les campagnes de 1799 à 1814. Vols. I-VIII. Treuttel et Würtz, 1826.

Ehemaliger, Cavallerie-Offizier, Die Reiter-regimenter der K.k.oesterreichischen Armee. 1862.

Gachot, Edouard. Souvarow en Italie. Perrin et cie, 1903.

Galandra Marco, Baratto Marco. 1799 LE BAIONETTE SAGGE La campagna di Suvorov in Italia e la Prima Restaurazione in Lombardia. Iuculano, 1999.

Günther, Reinhold. Der Feldzug der Division Lecourbe im Schweizerischen Hochgebirge 1799 . J. Huber, 1896.

Höfer, Dr. coll. Nouvelle biographie universelle [afterw.] générale, publ. sous la direction de m. le dr. Hoefer. Nouvelle biographie, 1852.

Hüffer, Hermann. Der Krieg des Jahres 1799 und die zweite Koalition. B. G. Teubner, 1904.

Quellen zur Geschichte der Kriege von 1799 und 1800. B. G. Teubner, 1901.

Quellen zur Geschichte des Zeitalters der Französischen Revolution. Leipzig, 1900.

Horsetzky, Adolf von. Kriegsgeschicht­liche Übersicht der wichtigsten Feldzüge seit 1792. Wien, 1913.

Ilari Virgilio, Crociani Piero, Paoletti Ciro, “Storia militare dell’Italia Giacobina, dall’armistizio di Cherasco alla pace di Amiens (1796-1802)”, Vol. I of La guerra continentale. Roma: SME Ufficio Storico, 2001.

Jomini, Antoine Henri. Histoire critique et militaire des guerres de la révolution. Vol. III. Bruxelles, 1842.

Histoire critique et militaire des guerres de la Revolution. Vol. XIV. Paris: Tipografia: Anselin, 1822.

Lombroso, Giacomo. Vite dei primarj generali ed ufficiali italiani, che si distinsero nelle Guerre napoleoniche dal 1796 al 1815. Tipi Borroni e Scotti, 1843.

Macdonald, Jacques Étienne Joseph Alexandre. Recollections of Marshal Macdonald, Duke of Taranto. R. Bentley and son, 1892.

Macready, Edward Nevil.  A Sketch of Suwarow, and His Last Campaign. With Observations on Mr. Alison’s Opinion of the Archduke Charles as a Military Critic, and a few Objections to Certain Military Statements in Mr. Alison’s History of Europe. Edited by an Officer of Rank. Adamant Media Corporation, 2001.

Miliutin, Dmitriĭ Alekseevich. Istorīia voĭny 1799 goda mezhdu Rossīeĭ i Frantsīeĭ v tsarstvovanīe imperatora Pavla I. Vols. I , II, and III, Sankt Petersburg: V tip. Imp. Akademīi nauk, 1857

Miliutin, Dmitriĭ Alekseevich fortge­setzt von, Mikhaĭlovskiĭ-Danilevskiĭ Aleksandr Ivanovich. Geschichte des Krieges Rußlands mit Frankreich während der Regierung Kaiser Paul I. im Jahre 1799. Vol. II. München, 1856.

Pancoucke, C. L. F. Victoires, conquêtes, désastres, revers et guerres civiles des français, de 1792 à 1815. Tome XI.  Paris, 1818.

Phipps, Ramsay Weston. The Armies of the First French Republic. Vol. V. London: Oxford, 1939.

Rudtorffer, Franz von, Corréard Joseph. Géographie militaire de l’Italie. J. Corréard, 1848.

Schérer, Général Paul. Precis des Operations de l’Armée d’Italie depuis le 21 Ventôse jusqu’au 7 floreal de l’an 7. Paris: Dentu, An VII.

Scheviakov, T. & Dzuis, V. Italianski i Shveizarski Pachody Suvarova 1799. Moskva: ed. Astrel AST, 2002.

Smola, Karl Freiherrn von, Major im kais. Österr. Generalquartiermeister-Stabe, dargeßtellt von. Das Leben des Feldmarschalls Prinzen Friedrich Franz Xavier z u Hohenzollern-Hechingen. Wien: Schaumburg & Compagnie, 1845 .

Stutterheim, Joseph Freiherr von. “Der Feldzug 1799 in Italien bis zum Abzug der Russen in die Schweiz”, Neue militärische Zeitschrift (= ÖMZ). Jahrgang 1812,1. Band, 3. Wien: Heft, Neue Auflage, 1834.

Spring, Laurence. The Cossacks 1799-1815. Osprey Publishing, 2003.

Susane, Louis. Histoire de la cavalerie française, J. Hetzel et Cie, 1874.

Thürheim, Andreas. Die Reiter Regimenter der K.k.österreichischen Armee. Vols. I-II-III.  F.B.Geitler, 1866.

Thürheim, Andreas. Gedenkblätter aus der Kriegsgeschichte der K.k. Armee. Buchhandlung für Militär-Literatur K. Prochaska, 1880.

Viskovatov, Aleksandr Vasilevich;  Historical Description of the Clothing and Arms of the Russian Army. Vols. 1-30. St. Petersburg, 1841-62. Also Conrad, Mark [trans.]. 2nd ed. Vols. 1- 34. St. Petersburg – Novosibirsk – Leningrad, 1899-1948.

W.M. Die Schlacht von Magnano am 5. April 1799. Eperjes, 1899 [Oberst Wilhelm Microy, Kommandant der IR 67.]

Wrede, Alphons Frhr. von. Geschichte der K. und K. Wehrmacht. I. Band. Wien, 1898.

Wrede, Alphons, Semek Anton. Geschichte der K. und K. Wehrmacht. 1905.

Załuski, Józef Henryk. La Pologne et les polonais, défendus par un ancien officier de Chevau-Légers polonais de la garde de l’Empereur Napoléon Ier contre les erreurs et les injustices des écrivains français, MM. Thiers, Ségur Lamartine. Dumineray, 1856.

Zanoli, Alessandro. Sulla milizia cisalpino-italiana: cenni storico-statistici dal 1796 al 1814. Borroni e Scotti successori a V. Ferra Ferrario, 1845.

Zima, Herbert. “Magnano 1799 ein vergessener österreichischer Sieg vor 200 Jahren” in Pallasch magazine. Heft 10(2001) 2-1.


[1] Southern and southeastern parts of the monarchy, in vicinity of the Ottoman Empire or its vassals, created a special region broadly described as the ‘Military Borders’. It consisted of several administrative units whose unifying hallmark was a subordination of all authority to the military. The establishment of this institution was a consequence of proximity to the ‘hereditary enemy’ (Erbfeind – Austrian military term for the Turks) which produced a permanent atmosphere of threat in the border regions. In the territory of the Military Borders, special military units were raised with regiments of both infantry and cavalry. The Grenz troops had their own artillery and the special riverboat unit of tschaikisten (Tschaikisten Battalion). Next to their military service, some elements of the Grenz units were charged with securing public safety in their respective territories. These units were called ‘Gränitz’, later ‘Gränz’ or ‘Grenz’, e.g. Gränz-Infanterie-Regiment, Gränz-Husaren-Regiment, etc. With regard to their identification, the Grenz regiments were an exception because the name of their original territories created a part of the official title of the regiment.

[2] Paul Petrovich Romanov’s birth and death are still the subjects of controversy. The identity of his father is still hotly debated by scholars, while the extent of the involvement of his eldest son, Alexander Pavlovich (later Tsar Alexander I), in his murder is yet unclear. He played a supporting role in the life of the Alexander Palace, but his life and death are nonetheless interesting to contemplate. Since he succeeded his mother, Catherine the Great, there has been a tendency to dismiss him, as she did, both personally and politically. That view is now being replaced with a more balanced one. As a politician and tsar, Paul Petrovich was undoubtedly a failure. As a person, he had many admirable qualities, and was, in many ways, a finer person than his illustrious mother.

[3] Generalissimus was an exceptional distinction outside the Table of Ranks, and only awarded in three instances (to Menshikov, Suvorov, and Prince Anton Ulrich von Braunschweig).

[4] As generously translated by Geert van Uythoven.

[5] The Piedmontese cavalry was first reduced by disbanding the two regiments the Chablais (Chiablese) Dragoons and Aosta Cavalry, and the loss of the two Sardinia Dragoons squadrons, which followed the King to the island of Sardinia. There remained six regiments of four squadrons each, every squadron having 106 troopers (434 men for each regiment, and the whole cavalry force about 2604 men), excluding the three Bodyguard cavalry companies (Guardia del Corpo reale). The new regiments were concentrated in the towns of Monza, Ferrara and Casalmaggiore. However, in February 1799, the whole force of cavalry in Monza and Ferrara fell to 900 men. To stop the problem of desertion, the authorities decided to move the two regiments in Casalmaggiore to Monza and Ferrara, concentrating there all the former dragoons, and in Monza all the old Chevauxlégers. (Source: Coppola Filippo Cesare, ed. by Prof. Virginio Ilari, L’esercito piemontese e Napoleone, Thesis in the academic year 2002-2003, Università del Sacro Cuore di Milano. Available at

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