Battle of Bassano - Napolean 1796

NAPOLEON'S BATTLE OF BASSANO 1796

battle of bassano

The Battle of Bassano was fought on 8 September 1796, during the French Revolutionary Wars, in the territory of the Republic of Venice, between a French army under Napoleon Bonaparte and Austrian forces led by Count Dagobert von Wurmser. The battle ended in a French victory. The Austrians abandoned their artillery and baggage, losing supplies, cannons, and battle standards to the French. This engagement occurred during the second Austrian relief attempt of the Siege of Mantua.

Austrian Plans

The first relief of Mantua failed at the battles of Lonata and Castiglione in early August. The defeat caused Wurmser to retreat north up the Adige River valley. Meanwhile, the French reinvested the Austrian garrison of Mantua.

Ordered by Emperor Francis II to relieve Mantua at once, Feildmarshall Wurmser and his new chief-of-staff Feldmarschal-Leutnant (FML) Franz von Lauer drew up a strategy. Leaving FML Paul Davidovich and 13,700 soldiers to defend Trento and the approaches to the County of Tyrol, Wurmser directed two divisions east then south down the Brenta valley. When he joined the large division of Johann Mészáros at Bassano, he would have 20,000 men. From Bassano, Wurmser would move on Mantua, while Davidovich probed the enemy defenses from the north, looking for a favorable opportunity to support his superior. Lauer predicted that the French, having suffered recent losses, would be unable to react in time. Unknown to the Austrians, the French government desired that General Bonaparte cross the Alps to join the army of General Jean Moreau in southern Germany.

Who was fighting Forces

French and Austrian army units.

Terrain

In 1796, there were only three practicable routes between Trento and the Po River basin. The first route lay west of Lake Garda. The second route was the road down the Adige valley east of Lake Garda and north of Verona. The third route went east through Levico Terme and Borgo Valsugana, and then followed the Brenta River valley (Valsugana) southward to Bassano Del Grappa. An army that held both Trento and Bassano could move troops and supplies between the two places free from French interference.

Theater Operations

Bonaparte posted General of Division (MG) Claude Vaubois with 10,000 men on the west side of Lake Garda. MG André Masséna defended the Adige River valley with 13,000 troops and MG Pierre Augereau covered Verona with 10,000 more. MG Charles Kilmaine maintained the blockade of Mantua with MG Jean Sahuguet's division of 8,000 soldiers and held a 2,000 man reserve at Verona.

Bonaparte struck first, sending Masséna and Augereau north toward Trento. Meanwhile, Vaubois advanced past Lake Idro to Riva at the north end of Lake Garda. Vaubois and Masséna converged at Rovereto on the Adige. At the Battle of Rovereto on 4 September, the French routed Davidovich's outnumbered troops, inflicting 3,000 casualties at a cost of 750 killed and wounded.

Finding that Wurmser had moved toward Bassano, Bonaparte abandoned the plan to link with Moreau. Leaving Vaubois to observe the fleeing Austrians in the upper Adigevalley, the French army commander decided to take a bold but risky course of action. Cutting loose from his supply line, he ordered Augereau, followed by Masséna, to the east into the Brenta valley.On 7 September, Augereau's 8,200 soldiers overwhelmed the 4,000 Austrians of Wurmser's rear guard at Primolano (6 km north of Cismon del Grappa), capturing 1,500 men. The victorious French then followed the valley as it turned south toward Bassano.

Battle of Bassano

Surprised by the speed of the French advance, Wurmser was only able to gather up 11,000 men before the collision took place.

On 8 September, 20,000 French soldiers fell upon Wurmser from the north. First, they attacked the 3,800-man Austrian rearguard under FML Peter Quasdanovich and General-Major (GM) Adam Bajalics. Bonaparte sent Masséna down the west bank of the Brenta and Augereau down the east bank. Overwhelmed by repeated attacks and pursued by Colonel Joachim Murat's cavalry, the rearguard collapsed and Bajalics was captured. Wurmser deployed one brigade on the west bank, a second brigade on the east bank, and a third brigade in Bassano. Colonel Jean Lannes led a successful charge which broke the Austrian lines and burst into the town. Quasdanovich later assumed command over the defeated Austrians who retreated east, but 3,500 soldiers of FML Karl Sebottendorf's division fell back to the south with their army commander.

The French suffered 400 killed, wounded, and missing. Wurmser lost 600 killed and wounded. Between 2,000 and 4,000 Austrians, eight colors and 30 artillery pieces were captured. The vigorous French pursuit also seized a bridging train plus 200 limbers and ammunition wagons.

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