Battle of Rivoli
|Battle of Rivoli|
|Part of the French Revolutionary Wars|
Napoleon at the Battle of Rivoli, by Philippoteaux (Galerie des Batailles, Palace of Versailles)
|First French Republic||Austria|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Napoleon Bonaparte||Jozsef Alvinczi
|Casualties and losses|
The Battle of Rivoli (14–15 January 1797) was a key victory in the French campaign in Italy against Austria. Napoleon Bonaparte's 23,000 Frenchmen defeated an attack of 28,000 Austrians under Feldzeugmeister Jozsef Alvinczi, ending Austria's fourth and final attempt to relieve the Siege of Mantua. Rivoli further demonstrated Napoleon's brilliance as a military commander and led to French occupation of northern Italy.
Alvinczi's plan was to overwhelm Barthélemy Joubert in the mountains east of Lake Garda with the concentration 28,000 men in five separate columns, and thereby gain access to the open country north of Mantua where Austrian superior numbers would be able to defeat Bonaparte's smaller Army of Italy. Alvinczi attacked Joubert's 10,000 men on 12 January. However Joubert held him off and was subsequently joined by Louis-Alexandre Berthier and, at 2am on 14 January, by Bonaparte, who brought up elements of André Masséna's division to support Joubert's efforts to form a defensive line on favorable ground just north of Rivoli on the Trambasore Heights. The battle would be a contest between Alvinczi's efforts to concentrate his dispersed columns versus the arrival of French reinforcements.
The morning of the 14th saw fierce fighting along the Trambasore Heights, as another Austrian column under Prince Heinrich of Reuss-Plauen attempted to turn the French right via the Rivoli gorge. By 11:00 things looked very bad for Bonaparte: Austrian dragoons had forced their way through the gorge, word arrived that another Austrian column under Colonel Franz Lusignan was cutting off his retreat south of Rivoli, and Alvinczi was on the Trambasore Heights urging his victorious battalions forward, though they were unformed by combat and rough terrain.
By a series of actions, the French managed to take advantage of this crucial mistake. Bonaparte, Joubert, and Louis Alexandre Berthier put together a well co-ordinated combined arms attack. A battery of 15 guns blasted the dragoons, while two columns of infantry, one for the gorge and one for the Trambasore Heights were led forward supported by cavalry under Charles Leclerc and Antoine Lasalle. The packed masses in the gorge fled when their own dragoons were driven over them in panic. And likewise the dispersed infantry on the Heights were unable to hold once French cavalry got in their midst. Lastly, Gabriel Rey's division and Claude Victor's brigade arrived and broke Lusignan's southern column with the loss of 3,000 prisoners.
The next day Joubert led a successful pursuit of Alvinczi, all but destroying his columns, the remnants of which fled north up the Adige River valley in confusion. The Battle of Rivoli was Bonaparte's greatest victory at the time. The French lost 2,200 killed and wounded and 1,000 captured, while the Austrians suffered 4,000 killed and wounded, plus 8,000 men and 40 guns captured.23 One authority gives the French 5,000 and the Austrians 14,000 total losses.4 Mantua surrendered on 2 February. In March, Bonaparte launched an offensive to the east.
The Rue de Rivoli, a street in central Paris, is named after the battle.
- Boycott-Brown, Martin. The Road to Rivoli. Cassell; New Ed edition, 2002. ISBN 0-304-36209-3
- Chandler, David. Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars. New York: Macmillan, 1979. ISBN 0-02-523670-9
- Rothenberg, Gunther E. The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1980. ISBN 0-253-31076-8
- Smith, Digby. The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill, 1998. ISBN 1-85367-276-9
- Alan Forrest (27 October 2011). Napoleon. Quercus Publishing. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-85738-759-2. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
- Smith, p 131
- Rothenberg, p 248
- Chandler, p 328