Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

XLII.

since the republic was mistress of the coast of Holland, since Spain had made peace, and Prussia in the treaty of Basle (1795) had acquiesed in the French conquest of the Low Countries and of Holland. Austria alone remained to reduce, and even she so far wavered as to render it necessary for England to encourage her resistance by a subsidy of six millions sterling. At the same time an aggressive war was indispensable to the Directory. In peace it could not hope to maintain its power, the national reaction of the time leading back to royalism. The old Conventionalists, who nominated and composed the Directory, must combat this; and the armies, which wanted to continue their careerthere was no other for any man—were of the same opinion. But war, to be carried on, must be bold and aggressive, for government had no money to feed the armies on its own soil.*

They must advance to find food, as well as acquire glory, in the enemies' provinces. It was therefore insisted on that the generals on the Rhine should cross it and march into Austria, and that those on the Alps should force their way into Lombardy or Piedmont. It was hoped that they might "join hands” over the Tyrol, and then advance in concert. Bonaparte had long recommended the invasion of Piedmont, and Carnot was of the same opinion. Both were for driving the Austro-Piedmontese from the Riviera, or strip of coast between the mountains and the Mediterranean, and from thence crossing the low passes between the Alps and Apennines into the plains north of them. The AustroPiedmontese were quite strong enough to have defended the Riviera against the French, and they showed it by driving back Kellerman.

But the peace with Spain (July 1795) allowed the Directory to draft the army of Catalonia to Nice.

Carnot to Scherer.

CHAP.
XLII.

Scherer and Augereau came with it, the former to take the command. Finding himself at the head of 40,000 men and urged by Carnot, he advanced up the Riviera. Piedmontese and Austrians kept on different sides of the Alpine range. By taking possession of the crest of these the French might separate them. Scherer employed Augereau and Massena to do this, whilst he himself fell upon the Austrians at Loano in November. They expected no attack so late in the year, and were completely driven from their positions, leaving open those passes to the north through which the French had intended to penetrate. Scherer, however, contented with the defeat of the Austrians and with the opening communications with Genoa, shrunk from crossing the Alps into Piedmont at the commencement of winter. For this he was strongly censured by Buonaparte, who pointed out how easily he might have taken Ceva and conquered Piedmont, doing in November, what Buonaparte himself did in the following April. He insisted that it could best be done in winter. *

The Directory could only stop the mouth of such a critic by transferring to him the command, which he accordingly assumed in March, 1796, of the army of Italy, 45,000 strong. To engage him to set out, they promised that he should find 500,000 livres at Nice. They could only forward to him 24,000;t these were all he brought to the famished army, which had to look to victory for supplies. The Piedmontese army under Colli, of nearly equal force, had its head-quarters at Ceva. Beaulieu commanded an army of 34,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry, with which he imagined he had but to defend Genoa. To keep him in this opinion Buonaparte marched a division towards that city. The Austrians attacked it on the 10th at Voltri, beat it back, and

must have been written after Loano.

† Mémoires du Duc de Gaeta.

To Napoleon's letter, included in his Correspondence, the date of October is wrongfully given. It

VOL. V.

с

XLII.

CHAP. Beaulieu intending to annihilate his adversary, sent a

strong corps to the mountains, from whence he hoped to fall upon their flank or rear. The greater part of the French had, however, already marched thither, and those driven from Voltri also took that direction. So that when Beaulieu occupied the heights of Montenotte with 13,000 men, he found himself beset on the 12th by far greater numbers of the French, whose divisions attacked him on all sides. The Austrians were overwhelmed and beaten, 2,000 of them made prisoners; the rest fell back upon Dego.

The Piedmontese were not in time to aid their allies at Montenotte, and not in force sufficient to aid them at Millesimo; Buonaparte was thus able on the 15th to send Augereau against the Piedmontese at Millesimo, whilst Massena drove the Austrians from Dego. On both points the French continued to be superior in numbers. A small Austrian division under Provera had advanced into the gorges of Millesimo to form a junction with the Piedmontese; but were driven back upon Ceva, after a smart action, and Provera compelled to surrender. The action of Dego was more fatal to the Austrians, who were expelled from the village with the loss of 3,000 killed and 9,000 prisoners. They lost all their artillery. The looseness of the Austrian tactics were proved, when on the following day, a strong corps of no less than 7,000 Austrian grenadiers stumbled upon Dego, drove the French from it, and placed the entire movement and victory of Buonaparte in jeopardy. To dislodge them was indispensable, yet, the troops worn with fatigue and fighting were scarcely equal to it. They were three times repulsed, from whence it is evident that had this corps arrived in time the former victory of Dego would not have been won. It was only on the fourth assault, led by General Lanusse with his hat held high on his sword, that the French succeeded in recapturing Dego.

XLII.

The Piedmontese showed by no means the staunchness of the Austrians. They abandoned Cera, and the French came up with them at Mondovi, to complete their rout. The victors were in high exultation. Buonaparte had shown them from Montezemolo, a little beyond Millesimo, the rich plains of Piedmont, the promised land of Italy. Hannibal, he said, may have forced his way through the Alps, we have done as much by turning them. Arrived at Cherasco, within ten leagues of Turin, Buonaparte found the plenipotentiaries of the Sardinian court empowered to make every sacrifice. An armistice was concluded (28th of April) and the final conditions of peace referred to Paris, the fortresses of Ceva, Tortona and Alexandria being in the meantime placed in French hands.

Buonaparte, or Bonaparte as he henceforth called himself, well deserved the immense credit which he obtained from this series of victories, fought with few soldiers perhaps, yet decisive in their results. The French generals of division, Augereau and Massena, showed as much heroism as their commander did skill. And yet there was no miracle in their first achievements. The Austrians, who fought also most gallantly, were inferior to the French in number. And if Beaulieu allowed them to be irreparably so, it was that he counted on the support which the Piedmontese ought to have given his right. But the armies of that effete monarchy gave no serious support and made not even a decent resistance. Their inaction and retreat left the Austrian general no resource but to withdraw behind the Lombard rivers.

On the 7th of May the French passed the Po at Piacenza whilst Beaulieu expected them at Valenza. After a show of resistance at Fombio, he proposed defending the passage of the Adda. Instead of breaking the bridge over the river at Lodi, Beaulieu thought it sufficient to enfilade it with a battery, whilst to support this battery, the Austrian grenadiers were posted too far

.

CHAP. behind. The French generals Lannes, Berthier, Massena

were thus enabled to carry the bridge at the head of their grenadiers, receiving the first discharge that killed 200 men and bayoneting the Austrian artillerymen ere they could be succoured. The crossing of the Adda gave Lombardy to the French, as Napoleon wrote, and the Austrians retired behind the Mincio.

The French commander entered Milan in triumph. The Duke of Parma thought fit to make his submission. Bonaparte made him pay down two millions, and surrender twenty of his best pictures for the Louvre. He at the same time pressed the Government in Paris for reinforcements, promising if he had them, not only to repel the Austrians, but march on Rome and Naples. The Directory took him at his word, and proposed sending him to the South of Italy with one army, whilst Kellerman should continue the conquest of North Italy with the other. Bonaparte replied by an offer of resignation. The majority of the Directors too were for not concluding the treaty with the King of Piedmont, which left the arms of the French general free. Its conclusion was only due to the efforts of Carnot.*

The month of June was spent by the French in awing and reducing the southern and central states of Italy. Tuscany had long since negotiated with the Republic; and Napoleon now visited it, hoping, yet failing to surprise the English vessels at Leghorn. Augereau occupied Bologna. Naples itself felt compelled to conclude an armistice and withdraw its troops from the Austrian army. On first entering the territories of the Venetian republic Bonaparte had announced by a proclamation his wish to remain in amity with its government. He strongly advised later that its system should be changed, and some modifications made in its ultra-aristocratic form. The proposal was scouted.

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »