Battle of Arcole
|Battle of Arcole|
|Part of the |
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
|3,500 killed or wounded|
1,300 captured or missing
|2,200 killed or wounded|
11 guns captured
The Battle of Arcole or Battle of Arcola (15–17 November 1796) was a battle fought between French and Austrian forces 25 kilometres (16 mi) southeast of
The battle saw a bold maneuver by
Alvinczi planned to execute a two-pronged offensive against Bonaparte's army. The Austrian commander ordered
Davidovich scored a victory against
That day Davidovich routed Vaubois, but it was too late. Bonaparte's victory at Arcole permitted him to concentrate against Davidovich and chase him up the Adige valley. Left alone, Alvinczi threatened Verona again. But without his colleague's support, the Austrian commander was too weak to continue the campaign and he withdrew again. Wurmser attempted a breakout, but his effort came too late in the campaign and had no effect on the result. The third relief attempt failed by the narrowest of margins.
The second relief attempt of the
Quosdanovich's 26,432-strong Friaul Corps was accompanied by Alvinczi as it moved west on Mantua from the
On 1 November 1796, Davidovich's Tyrol Corps numbered 18,427 infantry and 1,049 cavalry. The corps was split into six brigade-size columns under Generals-major Johann Loudon,
Wurmser commanded 23,708 soldiers within Mantua. However, only 12,420 were reported as capable of taking the field. In addition, General-major
Bonaparte deployed a 10,500-man division under
The Austrians went to a lot of trouble to conceal the strength of Davidovich's corps from their enemies. The ruse was so successful that Bonaparte ordered Vaubois to advance and defeat his opponent so that he could shift 3,000 troops to help fight Alvinczi. On 2 November, Vaubois attacked Davidovich near
On 1 November, the Friaul Corps began crossing the Piave. Bonaparte elected to attack the Austrians on the Brenta and called Augereau and Macquard east to join Masséna. In the
Davidovich attacked Vaubois at the
Poor communications plagued the Austrian commanders throughout the campaign. This was a consequence of the wide separation between the two wings. Furthermore, many of Alvinczi's men were indifferently equipped raw recruits who straggled badly. The Austrians also suffered from a serious shortage of officers. After Alvinczi sent him a mistaken report that Masséna was reinforcing Vaubois, Davidovich became very cautious. The report was sent on 9 November but only reached its recipient on the 11th, which was typical of the Austrian communications problems. Alvinczi also repeatedly urged Davidovich to speed up his march toward Verona.
Alvinczi's advance guard under GM
After three sharp defeats, even Bonaparte "became very despondent about his chances of survival." He deployed Macquard and 3,000 men to hold Verona. A slightly reinforced Vaubois clung to a strong position with about 8,000 troops, keeping Davidovich's 14,000 soldiers bottled up in the Adige valley. To blockade Wurmser's garrison within Mantua, Kilmaine could count only 6,626 men after providing reinforcements to other commands. This left Bonaparte a field force consisting of Masséna's 7,937, Augereau's 6,000, a reserve of 2,600 infantry plus cavalry, for a total of 18,000 soldiers. By this time, Alvinczi's main force numbered about 23,000 men. Historian
Like a juggler keeping three balls in the air at once, Bonaparte had to balance the dangers of the three sectors against each other, keeping them in clear relative perspective. Although he had singled out Alvinczi as his main target, it was only too clear that an aggressive move on the part of Davidovich or even by Wurmser might compel the French to abandon their operations against the main Austrian army and move every available man to reinforce the threatened area. Defeat on any sector could well spell catastrophe and the destruction of the Army of Italy.
Unknown to the French, Alvinczi planned to throw a pontoon bridge across the Adige below Verona at
On the far bank was an area of marshy land that troops could not penetrate, which meant that all movement was limited to the causeways or dikes on the banks of the river Adige, and the causeways on the banks of a small tributary called the Alpone River that flowed into it from the north. The Alpone was only 20 yards (18 m) wide and 5 feet (1.5 m) deep. In the difficult terrain, the French soldiers might have an advantage. Further, the Austrians would not be able to use their superior numbers in the restricted battlefield.
From Ronco, the north-bound road followed a dike for about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to a bridge, on the east side of which was the village of Arcole. From there, the road continued going north on the east bank of the stream to