French Revolutionary Wars: Campaigns of 1796

From Academic Kids

The French Revolutionary Wars continued from 1795, with the French in an increasingly strong position as members of the First Coalition made separate peaces. Austria and Great Britain were the main remaining members of the coalition. The rebellion in the Vendée was also finally terminated by General Hoche.

Mignet's History of the French Revolution states:

"The directory found the Rhine open towards Mayence, the war of La Vendée rekindled; the coasts of France and Holland threatened with a descent from England; lastly, the army of Italy destitute of everything, and merely maintaining the defensive under Schérer and Kellermann. Carnot prepared a new plan of campaign, which was to carry the armies of the republic to the very heart of the hostile states. Bonaparte, appointed general of the interior after the events of Vendémiaire, was placed at the head of the army of Italy; Jourdan retained the command of the army of the Sambre-et-Meuse, and Moreau had that of the army of the Rhine, in place of Pichegru. The latter, whose treason was suspected by the directory, though not proved, was offered the embassy to Sweden, which he refused, and retired to Arbois, his native place. The three great armies, placed under the orders of Bonaparte, Jourdan, and Moreau, were to attack the Austrian monarchy by Italy and Germany, combine at the entrance of the Tyrol and march upon Vienna, in echelon. The generals prepared to execute this vast movement, the success of which would make the republic mistress of the headquarters of the coalition on the continent."


Bonaparte went to Nice to take over the weak and poorly supplied army of Italy on March 2, and immediately prepared for a daring invasion against superior forces. Invading Piedmont, he defeated the Austrian-Sardinian center at Montenotte, and separated the two countries' armies at Millesimo. The enemy armies retreated to Milan and Turin, their respective bases. Outflanking the Sardinians, Bonaparte defeated them at Mondovì, and they signed an armistice at Cherasco. On May 18 they signed a peace treaty at Paris, ceding Savoy and Nice and allowing the French bases to be used against Austria.

Reinforced now by Kellermann, Napoleon forced the Austrians back, crossing the Po at Piacenza and defeating the Austrians at Lodi on May 10 to capture Milan. Napoleon laid siege to Mantua and moved to the foothills of the Tyrol.

During July and August, Austria sent a fresh army under Wurmser into Italy. Wurmser attacked toward Mantua along the east side of Lake Garda, sending Peter Quasdanovich down the west side in an effort to envelop Napoleon. Napoleon was forced to abandon his siege of Mantua to meet the threat, and attacked the two armies in detail, defeating Quasdanovich at Lonato on August 3 and Wurmser at Castiglione on August 5. Wurmser retreated to the Tyrol, and Napoleon resumed the siege.

In September, Napoleon marched north against Trento in the Tyrol, but Wurmser had already marched toward Mantua by a route further east, leaving a holding force behind. Napoleon defeated the holding force at Caliano, but had to return south to defeat Wurmser at Bassano. Wurmser, cut off from his base, had to retreat into Mantua.

The Austrians sent yet another army of Hungarians under Alvintzy against Napoleon in November, but they were defeated in the Battle of Arcola east of Verona.


Meanwhile, Moreau and Jourdan crossed the Rhine and invaded Germany. Moreau was at first completely successful, advancing to the edge of the Tyrol and taking Ulm and Augsburg, but Jourdan became separated from Moreau and was defeated by the Archduke Charles at Amberg and Würzburg and both armies were forced to retreat across the Rhine by September.

At Sea

Spain signed a Treaty of Alliance at San Ildefonso with France on August 19, entering the war against Britain on the side of France in return for concessions in Italy. In response, Britain withdrew from Corsica in order to concentrate the Mediterranean fleet at Gibraltar against the combined threat.

See also


This article makes use of the out-of-copyright work History of the French Revolution by François Mignet (1824):


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