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1796. BONAPARTE AT LONATO. 115
these the Austrians issued from the Tyrol. Wurmser seemed full of confidence; so much so, that whilst he advanced in person southward down the Adige, occupying1 both banks to drive the French before him and relieve Mantua, he dispatched 20,000 men under Quasdanowitch to march round the Lago di Garda, and cut off the retreat of the French.
General Bonaparte, engaged in pressing the siege of Mantua, was here for the first time caught slumbering on his past good fortune. He was tied, in fact, to the conquest of Mantua, which he could not bring himself to abandon: and hence the Austrians were allowed to burst upon him. His projected line of defence on the Adige was useless; for Wurmser's chief force came down in the pass betwixt it and the lake. Here Massena was driven from his positions: Quasdanowitch did as much by Guyeux on the other side of the lake. Tidings of both reverses reached Bonaparte on the 30th of July, and shook him for the time. He was not accustomed to defensive warfare; his spirit and genius were only called forth when he attacked. His first impulse was to call a council of war; an unusual act of condescension. All counselled retreat save Augereau; and his appeared but blind ardor. In his meditations of the night, Bonaparte's imagination kindled with a plan of assuming the offensive, and of rapidly attacking each division of the enemy separately. On the morrow all was active. The besieging army was instantly ordered to abandon Mantua, destroy its artillery, and rally with all the scattered corps to the southern extremity of the lake westward of the Mincio.
When this was effected, Bonaparte marched to repulse Quasdanowitch, impending from the western shore of the Lago di Garda. Fortunately Wurmser allowed him time for this operation, by an idle march which he made to provision Mantua. Whilst the Austrian general was thus enjoying the sight of cannon destroyed, and other signs of a siege abandoned, the French were driving back Quasdanowitch, routing one of his corps, and intimidating the rest to inaction and retreat. Bonaparte then hurried back—he scarcely quitted horseback for many days—to face the Austrians advancing from the Adige. They came to join bands with Quasdanowitch, and drove Massena at first from Lonato. Bonaparte in person arrived from his expedition to support Massena along the road from Brescia. As he halted in their presence, the Austrians advanced their wings to envelop him, as well as with their right to reach as near as possible to Quasdanowitch. The French general allowed them to extend, till, seizing the moment, he rushed with his whole force upon their III.—8
centre, broke through it, scattered one half, and intercepted the other, which, pursued with unrelenting activity by Junot, laid down its arms at last. Such was the combat of Lonato fought on the 3d of August.
Lonato is a short distance southward of Desenzano, which forms the point of the lake. Still • farther south, in a direct line, is Castiglione, where certain heights formed a favorable position of defence. Thither then Bonaparte transferred his quarters to resist Wurmser; who, returning from Mantua, had rallied the divisions beaten at Lonato, and prepared to take his revenge. Both generals spent the 4th in mustering and preparing to try the fortunes of a battle on the following day at Castiglione. Bonaparte had ridden to Lonato to hasten the march of his rear, when a straggling body of Austrians, beaten on the 3d, and wandering ever since in search of the main army, presented itself, and commanded the French general to surrender. Bonaparte had but 1000 men. Assuming a bold countenance, however, he received the officer sent to summon him, in the midst of a numerous staffj and, feigning anger at the demand, replied, "Return, and tell your officer that you have found here the commander-in-chief of the French, who gives him eight .minutes to surrender. He is surrounded by our division, and has nothing to hope." The astonished Austrian delivered the message, and corroborated the assertion that Bonaparte himself was there. The com mander accordingly abandoned all thoughts of resistance, and, with upwards of 3000 men, surrendered to a body not one third its number.
On the next day, the 5th, was fought the battle of Castiglione. Bonaparte, to render it decisive, had dispatched orders to the corps of Serrurier, which had been engaged in the siege of Mantua, and which in its retreat from thence had not yet joined the main army, to take a circuitous route, so as to reach the left of the Austrians at a certain hour. It was in these calculations of time that Bonaparte excelled. Now the cannon of Serrurier was heard simultaneously with those of the French right wing, which advanced to the attack. The left held back, bringing the line into a semicircular form, which was also assumed by the Austrians as they pressed on. The latter, 1 owever, forming the outer circle, tended to spread as they advanced; the French concentrated as they retired. The Austrian line became soon still more weakened on the right by the necessity of drafting some of the detachments to oppose Serrurier's corps. The French suddenly ceased to retire, and began to attack. The Austrian right was driven in, at the same time that their left was throw n into disorder by Ser1796. DEFEAT OF WURMSER. 117
rurier; and Wurmser, narrowly escaping1 capture himself, was obliged to give orders for retreat.
Thus did the fatuity of the Austrian general, in parcelling out his noble army, deliver it up to be beaten in detail by Bonaparte. Wurmser now saw himself worsted; but he resolved at least to avoid the fate of Beaulieu, and to preserve his force from total discomfiture. He therefore retreated into the Tyrol in as good order as was possible with troops who had lost all confidence, and who began to believe, with some reason, the French invincible. Whilst the conquerors reposed for the remainder of August, resuming the siege of Mantua, the court of Vienna reinforced Wurmser, the cabinet acting on the same false plan as its generals, in making petty consecutive and divided efforts, instead of a grand and overwhelming one. In the beginning of September, Wurmser was again about to assume the offensive. Leaving Davidowitch in the gorges of the Tyrol, either to defend them or to advance down the Adige, according to the force opposed to him, the Austrian general descended the valley of the Brenta, taking a circuitous route towards Verona and Mantua. If he divided his force this time, it was so widely, that Bonaparte would be obliged, he thought, to imitate his example. The French commander left Wurmser to pursue his distant route, attacked Davidowitch, defeated him at Roveredo, and annihilated his division in the defile of Colliano. He then, instead of returning by Verona and the Adige, to face Wurmser, marched straight after him down the Brenta, not only to attack but to cut off from him all retreat. This was hazardous; for Wurmser might m the mean time fling himself on Verona, where there was little to oppose him: but Bonaparte depended on his celerity; he hurried on, without provision, without horses, himself sharing the rations of the soldier, and thus reached the rear of Wurmser at Bassano. The Austrian was obliged to recall his troops, and a battle took place which proved the last blow to this new army and general. The latter, cut off from home, fled south to Vicenza, from thence to Legnago, where he forced the passage of the Adige. The French in vain endeavored to intercept equally his retreat to Mantua. In this they failed, and Wurmser succeeded ji* throwing himself into that fortress with 15,000 troops, the relics of his army.
To form the siege anew was all that was left to Bonaparte. Had the army of the Rhine been equally victorious, he might have passed the Tyrol to act in concert with it; but Jourdan was then beaten, and Moreau in retreat. The army of Italy was too weak to mrke such an attempt by itself. A respite, therefore, was allowed to general and soldiers. The former spent it in reorganizing the friendly countries of Italy. How these were to be treated, what steps were to be taken, w hat hopes held forth, was an early and important point of consideration. With respect to Piedmont, we have seen that the love of propagating and extending revolution, had been sacrificed to expediency. Milan demanded equal reserve; it being yet uncertain whether it was to be ceded back to Austria, or given to Piedmont as the price of a firm alliance with France. The same motives did not apply to the countries south of the Po. Modena and Reggio (the towns which Bonaparte declared most ripe for liberty) rose and expelled their sovereign, uniting with Ferrara and Bologna. They formed under French protection the Cispadane republic, and Bonaparte's correspondence tells the care he took that aristocratic influence should not be altogether crushed and excluded. This indicates the change that had already taken place in hisr political sentiments. A conqueror, and by necessity an administrator, placed so as no longer to look from below, but from above on the mechanism of social organization, he regarded the Italian aristocracy without the envy of the Jacobin, and acknowledged the justice as well as the advantage of supporting rather than overthrowing its existence. Josephine, his spouse, had, at the same time, joined him in Italy, and was received with almost regal honors in each city. Her circle at Milan might have been called a court, from its brilliancy; and exactions, it is said, were not spared to support her magnificence. All this had a very anti-republican effect on the young commander.
The year 1796, however, left him leisure for naught but glory. Personal ambition had not time to blend with it, and conquest had not yet sounded the hour when the generous fame of this warrior was to be sullied by political machiavelism. The indefatigable Austria had again composed an army. Russia undertaking to provide for the tranquillity of Gallicia, the imperial forces engaged in occupying the Polish provinces, were sent to the Adriatic, and the marshal Alvinzi was appointed to the command of the new army, rallying the remains of Wurmser's and Beaulieu's routed divisions. A large body of this army, led by Davidowitch, was to descend from the Tyrol, between the lake of Garda and the Adige, Wurmser's first route, while the main force advanced straight over the Brenta, towards the Adige. Unwilling again to raise the siege of Mantua, Bonaparte had few and inferior forces to oppose both the menaced points. Vaubois, however, was ordered to resist Davidowitch, whilst the French commander1796. STATE OF THE ARMY. 119
in-chief marched against Alvinzi, for the purpose of giving him a severe check, and then rushing with his wonted celerity to crush Davidowitch altogether, in concert with Vaubois. He in consequence attacked Alvinzi the 6th of November on the Brenta, and had the advantage, but it was trifling. Immediately after, a dispatch arrived, that Vaubois had been driven back from the gorges of the Tyrol, and that he might not be able long to defend the position of Rivoli, the only obstacle betwixt Davidowitch and Verona. This was dangerous. Unable to master the army before him, he was menaced with another in his rear. Bonaparte instantly retreated to the latter town, left his army there, and hurried in person to Rivoli, where he excited by his presence the courage of the soldiers, and rebuked two regiments who had fled in the last affair. He ordered it to be inscribed upon their colors, that they no longer formed part of the army of Italy.
He then hastened back to Verona, within a few leagues of which the Austrians had penetrated, Alvinzi taking a skilful and strong position on the heights of Caldiero. Napoleon had neglected to stop his retreat there, and occupy them; but, in truth, he was unwilling to expose his army to the Austrian attack, he himself being absent. At daybreak, on the 12th of November, the French attacked Alvinzi with their wonted ardor, and endeavored to drive him from Caldiero; the attempt was vain; they were worsted; and attributing their defeat to the rain and sleet, they were obliged to retire to Verona. Here for a day's space Bonaparte was stricken with despondency: he was, indeed, in a critical situation; the fruit of all his victories about to be ravished from him, through the fault, as he felt, of the directory, who refused him reinforcements, whilst the Austrian army had been re-completed four times. He had asked but two regiments, and even they had not appeared. He vented his rage in a dispatch, in which he despaired, he said, to prevent Alvinzi from relieving Mantua. It was always in one of his dark fits of despite rather than despondency, that the bright idea of retrieval, and of re-seizing victory, was struck forth, like lightning from the cloud of night. Bonaparte conceived a plan; his troops were ordered under arms at nightfall on the 14th; it was not for attack, however: they were ordered to evacuate Verona on the side remote from the enemy, leaving merely a force to guard the walls. Having issued from the town? they marched all night southwards along the Adige, till they reached Ronco, where, to their astonishment, a bridge was instantly thrown over the river, and the army soon found itself on the same side as the Austrians, and in their rear. Around Ronco extends a marsh