« AnteriorContinuar »
CHAP. then been passed higher up. The aim was thus not
attained of turning or reaching Caldiero from the east, but an equal result was obtained by Alvinzi quitting that position to fight the French column on the chaussées or roads through the marshes, on which the heads of columns alone could take part in the combat.
The contest continued on the two following days in the open plain, where Alvinzi's troops, no longer sheltered by their position, were completely beaten. Napoleon says they were chiefly raw recruits. Alvinzi in this engagement lost half his force, and finally withdrew into the Tyrol.
The victory of Arcola and the retreat of Alvinzi were followed by negotiations which occupied December. They having failed in producing an agreement, Alvinzi reappeared in January, 1797, with an army as strong as ever. Its numbers were completed and spirit invigorated by volunteers from the chief towns of Austria. Those of Vienna had received their colours from the hands of the Empress. The French troops, however, had been reinforced too, and were thus more equal to the new contest than they had been for that decided at Arcola.
This time with merely a feint attack upon Verona from the east, the chief force of Alvinzi came down the valley of the Adige, it and the French staking at once the issue of the campaign upon the possession of the high plain of Rivoli. The French had collected their principal force there, and held it with a formidable artillery. It thus became the task of Alvinzi to assault this position on several sides with his infantry, it being impossible to use at first either cavalry or artillery. Fighting under this great disadvantage, the Austrian columns gallantly ascended the heights of Rivoli, and one portion especially drove in Joubert, and had well nigh established themselves on the plateau. They were driven from it, however, when Massena arrived with the last reinforcements. It was a day-long struggle, which
ended in the complete failure of the Austrians to take CHAP. the plateau. As they attacked from all sides in different divisions, these once defeated, could not unite or rally, so that the consequence of failure was the loss of half his army to Alvinzi. Such was the battle of the 14th of January, 1797, known as that of Rivoli.
Meantime 7,000 or 8,000 of the Austrians under Provera had left the main armies combating, and hurried to Mantua, to surprise the French corps of besiegers. They resisted for the night, and by the morning some of the troops that had so lately fought at Rivoli arrived to prevent the revictualling of the fortress. In vain did Wurmser make a desperate sortie and Provera do all that a gallant general could, to penetrate into the place. Wurmser was repulsed, and Provera obliged to surrender. The campaign was over. The Austrians had not resources for marching a sixth army to save Italy. Mantua surrendered on the 2nd of February. And the war, if continued, had at least not to be fought on Italian ground.
Previous to the last expedition of Alvinzi, England and France, more from regard to popular opinion than to the convictions of the government, had made an attempt at negotiation. Lord Malmesbury came to Paris, and had several interviews with Delacroix the minister of Foreign Affairs. But neither had any idea of making the concessions requisite for peace. The English could not stomach the French hold of Belgium, and the hopes and efforts of the Directory were centered on the expedition of twenty odd thousand men who, with Hoche at their head, were about to land in Ireland. They sailed for that purpose, and returned as they came, having battled only with the elements. But it showed the animus of the French—to strike a deep blow at England, not conclude peace with it.
The Directory proposed a separate peace with Austria, and sent Clarke, subsequently the Duke of Feltre, for
the purpose. But he was as little successful with the Austrians, as Lord Malmesbury had been with the French. Bonaparte was averse to the mission and the instructions of Clarke, which went to leave the fortress of Mantua to the enemy.
The astounding success of the French army of Italy, and the glory of its commander, not merely cowed and prostrated Europe, but threatened to do the same by the parties which struggled against the Directory at home. It would be difficult to find a government less calculated to command obedience or respect. It had obtained and prolonged its reign against the popular choice, and by doing it absolute violence, whilst every man of respectability and moderation scorned its members as incapable and corrupt. The directors indeed soon perceived that they could not survive in an atmosphere of freedom. To gag the press, falsify the elections and keep up the laws excluding from office all who were not Terrorists, formed their only means of retaining power.
The majority of Frenchmen were unmistakably returning to their old convictions and their old habits, to religion, to monarchy, or to the rule of those who had some claim and right to govern. Had the Bourbon family possessed a prince of eminent qualities, all eyes would have turned to him, but the legitimate princes merely looked to restore the reign of long years previous. The Duke of Orleans, notwithstanding his campaigns, had not redeemed the crimes of his father. Hence moderate men were more anti-revolutionary than royalist, and would not have objected to a Directory of honourable men, governing constitutionally, in harmony with the people and the assemblies. The majority of the directors, however, consisting of Barras, Rewbell and Reveillere would not consent to this. The lately elected Third of the representatives was decidedly hostile to them; the second Third, which with the First, would come in to constitute a majority in the spring of 1797, promised to
be still more so. And the elimination of terrorists and conventionalists from the government was to be expected.
In this sinking state of its fortunes several events came to the aid of the Directory. The first was the folly of its enemies in conspiring and meditating violent revolution. The accomplices of Babæuf displayed to the citizens the spectre of the Terror behind the more moderate tyranny of the Directory. And whilst the moderates carried on a constitutional opposition, the royalists plotted and concocted conspiracies not only for the overthrow of the government, but the restoration of royalty under its most objectionable form. In vain did constitutionalists, such as Thibaudeau, separate from those who actively conspired for royalty and dominated in the club of Clichy; they were implicated all the same, and all who opposed the Directory came to be confounded in the common and still odious appellation of royalist.
The majority of the civilian world was, however, decidedly adverse to the Directory, as the elections proved. But on the other hand the armies and the greater number of the generals upheld its cause. Pichegru indeed had placed himself at the head of the royalists, and Moreau who knew his treason, showed his impartiality by concealing it. But Hoche was violently republican, and what was more important, Bonaparte decidedly revolutionary. When he first took the command of the army in Italy, the Piedmontese general sent a French émigré to make some demands. Bonaparte caused him to be seized, and threatened to shoot him; and he would have fulfilled his threat but for the interference of the Directory. This shows how deeply imbued with revolutionary feeling was the young general, who indeed sufficiently evinced this in the battle against the Sectionaries. Royalism, in fact, would have closed the career which opened before him
CHAP. and the soldiers born of the revolution. He already saw
how vast that career might be, and he sent from himself and his armies zealous promises of support to Barras and his friends against the reactionists of the Assemblies.
If his splendid campaign of 1796 had raised Bonaparte's reputation to the highest, his mode of finishing the war in 1797 was calculated, if possible, to add to it. Whilst Moreau and his army were vainly endeavouring to save the little fortress of Kehi, Bonaparte, in the wintry month of March, set out to cross the Carinthian Alps to Vienna. The Archduke Charles had taken the command of the Austrian army, and large reinforcements were promised him. But ere they came, Bonaparte, who was at the head of 70,000 men, advanced against the enemy. He crossed the Piave on the 13th of March, and the Austrians were defeated on the Tagliamento, three days later. Seeing the march of the French, the Archduke Charles had hurried up with what force he could collect to defend the passage of the Alps at the Col de Tarvis. He there met Massena coming from the Tyrol, and a struggle ensued of equal gallantry between them, which terminated in the French retaining possession of the crest of the Alps. The French commander had by this time received his reinforcements from the Rhine; the Archduke Charles had not.
Whilst the French general was thus pushing his way victoriously into the German provinces of Austria, the Venetian towns, which the French had by their presence revolutionised, burst forth into insurrection against the capital. The authorities of the republic mustered what troops they had to reduce them. And the French officers left behind, found it impossible not to support the insurgents. They had an easy excuse for this in the fact that the mountaineers and peasants of the Venetian territory, with their priests, armed against the revolutionists, with whom they confounded the French.