Information

Battle of Rivoli, 14 January 1797


Battle of Rivoli, 14 January 1797

Introduction
The Austrian Plan
The French Position
The Battle
Aftermath

Introduction

The battle of Rivoli (14 January 1797) was the most comprehensive of Napoleon's victories in Italy during his campaign of 1796-97. At the end of the pursuit that followed the victory the French had captured more than half of an Austrian army of 28,000, despite being significantly outnumbered at the start of the campaign.

The Austrian Plan

In his first attempt to raise the siege of Mantua General Alvinczy had advanced from Friuli, at the north-eastern corner of Italy, while a second army advanced down the Adige. The two Austrian armies were meant to join up at Verona and operate together after that. This plan had come close to success, but the two armies had been prevented from joining up.

This time Alvinczy decided to take command of the main army, 28,000 strong, advancing down the Adige. Once again a second army was to advance from Friuli, but this time the two armies were not meant to operate together. While Alvinczy advanced down the Adige, the second army under General Provera was to advance towards Verona and Legnago with 18,000 men. Each Austrian army was to defeat the French troops on their front and advance on Mantua.

The Austrian advance began on 10 January. By 12 January Alvinczy was in touch with Joubert, who had 10,000 men posted at La Corona, to the north of Rivoli. On the following day Joubert was forced to pull back to Rivoli, taking up a strong position on the plateau. The Austrians followed, and on the night of 13-14 January three of their columns camped on the southern slopes of Monte Baldo.

By 13 January it was clear that this was the main Austrian attack. Napoleon ordered Masséna and Rey to make forced marches to bring them to Rivoli, and then rode on ahead, arriving on the battlefield just after midnight on 14 January.

Napoleon was familiar with the Rivoli plateau, having passed through the area earlier in the campaign in Italy. The plateau was made up of two concentric semi-circles centred on the village of Rivoli. The outer rim of the plateau was made up of the Monte Baldo to the north and Monte Moscat to the south west. The inner plateau was ringed by the semi-circular Trombalore Heights. The entire plateau was raised up above the level of the Adige River, which runs through a steep sided trench to the east. A second river, the Tasso, ran in a semi-circle around the outer plateau, effectively surrounding the French position.

The Austrian plan of attack on 14 January was typically elaborate. Rather than simply overwhelm Joubert's 10,000 men Alvinczy decided to attack in six columns, hoping to envelop the smaller French force. On the Austrian left Vukassovich was sent down the east bank of the Adige River with 5,000 men. Quosdanovich advanced along the road that ran along the west bank of the river with 9,000 men, and most of the artillery and cavalry.

In the centre three columns (Liptay to the west, Koblos in the centre and Ocksay in the east) were sent across the Monte Baldo. The poor state of the mountain roads meant that these central columns were very weak in artillery. On the Austrian right General Lusignan was sent on a wide outflanking movement that was designed to bring him to Affi, in the French rear.

This plan effectively reduced the Austrian advantage in numbers. Vukassovich was completely cut off from the main battle, and only contributed some artillery fire. Lusignan didn't arrive until the battle was effectively lost. Even in the centre Quosdanovich was cut off from the main attack by the Monte Magnone, a long steep sided ridge that runs next to the river, and when he did finally attack had to advance up a steep hill that climbed onto the plateau.

The French Position

At the start of 14 January the only French forces at Rivoli were the 10,000 men under General Joubert. They were camped on the inner plateau, around the village. Masséna and Rey were both on their way towards Rivoli. Masséna, who was coming from Verona, would arrive at around dawn, while Rey appeared towards noon. At the start of the battle the French were badly outnumbered, but the Austrian plan meant that only the 12,000 men in the central columns would be involved in the first stage of the fighting.

The Battle

The battle began at around 7.00am when Joubert advanced against the three central Austrian columns (from west to east Liptay at Caprino, Koblos and Ocksay at San Marco). Although Joubert was outnumbered (9,000 to 12,000) the Austrians lacked artillery. The French held their own for a couple of hours, but at around 9.00am Liptay on the Austrian right broke the French 29th and 85th demi-brigades, and threatened to turn Napoleon's left flank.

Fortunately for the French Masséna's division had already reached Rivoli, and Napoleon was able to feed him into the line, restoring the position on the French left. The next threat came on the opposite flank, where Quosdanovich's column, supported by Vukassovich's guns on the far side of the river, began to climb up the road from the valley bottom to the Rivoli plateau. This move threatened the French right and centre, but Joubert and Berthier were able to restore the situation. While Berthier directed a cavalry counterattack Joubert led his infantry against Quosdanovich's right flank, forcing him to retreat back up the Adige.

The final Austrian threat came from the south, where at around 11.00am (noon in some sources) Lusignan's column finally reached the battlefield after its long flank march to the west. Technically Napoleon was now surrounded, but the defeat of Quosdanovich's column meant that he was able to direct part of Masséna's division south to deal with the new threat. At about the same time more French reinforcements, under General Rey, arrived from the south. Most of Lusignan's division was forced to surrender, although the general hid in some caves and made his escape.

All of his attacks having failed, Alvinczy ordered his remaining divisions in the centre to retreat back north towards La Corona. The main battle was over, but Alvinczy's troubles were not. On the day after the battle Napoleon sent Joubert to follow him, and by 16 January around 15,000 Austrians had been taken prisoners. Only around 13,000 Austrians escaped north with Alvinczy.

Aftermath

The remains of Alvinczy's army was only able to escape because Napoleon was forced to rush south to prevent Provera's corps from reaching Mantua. On the evening of 14 November Napoleon left Rivola heading for Mantua, with Masséna's division following close behind, and on 16 November Provera was surrounded and forced to surrender at La Favorita. This second defeat sealed the fate of Mantua, which surrendered on 2 February.

The battle of Rivola demonstrated many of the traits that would make Napoleon a great general. He was able to bring widely separate divisions together at the decisive point, taking advantage of the French army's ability to move at unusually high speed for the period. On the battlefield he took advantage of having interior lines to make sure that he always had enough troops at the decisive points – first when Joubert's left crumbled, then Quosdanovich's attack on the right and finally when Lusignan appeared in the French rear. Napoleon was also famously energetic, and made his presence felt all across the battlefield.

Napoleon was also lucky at Rivola. If Provera had moved faster, then Napoleon would have had to choose between saving Joubert or maintaining the siege of Mantua. The Austrian plan at Rivoli meant that Vukassovich's 5,000 men were barely involved in the fight at all, only contributing some long range artillery fire, while Lusignan didn't appear until the first Austrian attacks had already failed, substantially reducing the Austrian advantage in numbers. The three numerically strong columns in the Austrian centre were weakened by their lack of artillery.

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Forces [ edit | edit source ]

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.


Rivoli

Rivoli Veronese, a commune in the province of Verona of about 2000 inhabitants, stretches along the right bank of the river Adige a few miles east of Lake Garda. It sits in a landscape of precipices framed by Mont Baldo on the north and dam of the Adige. In this magnificent setting on January 14, 1797 one of the most celebrated battles of the first Italian campaign took place — the battle of Rivoli. Bonaparte seconded by Joubert and Massena brought about a spectacular victory over the Austrian troops led by Alvinczy.

Napoleon had a commemorative monument built on the battlefield, an 80-foot high column that would be torn down by the Austrians in 1814. Today a mausoleum in white stone dominates the small hill surrounded by cypresses and where a few ruins are the only legacy of what this column had once been. A commemorative plaque in French says “The soldiers of the French army in Italy 1918, and dedicated to their glorious forebears of 1797”.

On Rivoli's main street, a small museum was inaugurated in 1973 in order to present the Galanti family's collections related to the battle and the Napoleonic Legend. Francesco Maria Galanti (1765-1850) served Napoleon during the exile at Elba in 1814 and would follow him to the end of the Empire in 1815. One of his descendants, Luigi Galanti (1897-1989), was the inspiration behind the museum of Rivoli. He called his collection, “Da Rivoli al Risorgimento italiano”. The museum's mission is to celebrate the victor of Rivoli, but also to demonstrate clearly the influence of Napoleon on the history of Italy, as this statement by L. Galanti sums up: “Napoleon taught the Italians that Austria and the temporal powers of the Popes could be defeated, where prior to this they were considered taboo, invincible, and untouchable,”.

The Museo Napoleonico of Rivoli presents on its first floor two panels explaining the historical importance of the battle of January 14, 1797. Exposed on the second floor are a number of works and documents related to the arrival of Bonaparte at the head of the Italian army as well as to events that preceded Rivoli (armistice at Cherasco, battles of Lodi and Arcole), portraits of the protagonists in the battle, French and Austrian arms and engravings after Bagetti and Vernet. A model and topographical maps allow the visitor to follow the principle phases of the battle.

One section is dedicated to Venice and another to the Cisalpine Republic and the creation of the kingdom of Italy and a last section to the Risorgimento. The museum also owns a library and archival center.


References

  • Boycott-Brown, Martin. The Road to Rivoli. Cassell New Ed edition, 2002. ISBN 0-304-36209-3 . Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars. New York: Macmillan, 1979. ISBN 0-02-523670-9
  • Rothenberg, Gunther E. (1980). The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press. ISBN  0-253-31076-8 . <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Smith, Digby (1998). The Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book: Actions and Losses in Personnel, Colours, Standards and Artillery, 1792–1815. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books. ISBN  1-85367-276-9 . <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Footnotes

  1. ↑ Alan Forrest (27 October 2011). Napoleon. Quercus Publishing. p.㻍. ISBN  978-0-85738-759-2 . Retrieved 23 April 2013 . <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. ↑ Reginald George Burton (2010). Napoleon's Campaigns in Italy 1796–1797 & 1800, p. 84. ISBN 978-0-85706-356-4
  3. ↑ Reginald George Burton (2010). Napoleon's Campaigns in Italy 1796–1797 & 1800, p. 85. ISBN 978-0-85706-356-4
  4. ↑ Reginald George Burton (2010). Napoleon's Campaigns in Italy 1796–1797 & 1800, p. 85. ISBN 978-0-85706-356-4
  5. ↑ Smith, p. 131
  6. ↑ Rothenberg, p. 248
  7. ↑ Chandler, p. 328
  8. ↑ Reginald George Burton (2010). Napoleon's Campaigns in Italy 1796–1797 & 1800, p. 88. ISBN 978-0-85706-356-4
  9. ↑ Reginald George Burton (2010). Napoleon's Campaigns in Italy 1796–1797 & 1800, p. 88. ISBN 978-0-85706-356-4

General Joubert at the Battle of Rivoli, 14th January 1797 (1882-1884).

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'Battle of Rivoli won by the Emperor Napoleon I', 14 January 1797, (c1835-1884). Artist: Felix Henri Emmanuel Philippoteaux

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The battle of Rivoli

near 5 May 2021, the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the death of Napoleon (5 May 1821).

Not everyone knows that in Paris Rue de Rivoli is named in memory of Rivoli Veronese

..last bastion of the Valpolicella Classica.

In Rivoli stands the Napoleonic monument depicted in the post erected in 1806 by the wish of Napoleon Bonaparte in memory of the famous battle of 14 and 15 January 1797.

It stood for a good twenty meters with a splendid Doric column visible from a long distance at the mouth of the Valdadige, on the road that led and still leads to Tyrol. Through the examination of letters, reports and dispatches between some top figures of the administration and the army, we know the various phases that led to the construction of the monument, from the laying of the first stone to the demolition of the obelisk which took place in 1814 to Austrian hand, in order to erase the shame for the sensational defeat suffered seventeen years earlier. The monument built to exalt the heroic deeds of the French army and its brave leader, over time has become a mausoleum of the remains of some Napoleonic soldiers. Even today, although changed in shape, the monument reminds posterity of the triumph in the battle that gave rise to the epic of a young general, who in the first campaign of Italy they called Bonaparte, but after Rivoli, became Napoleon.


The Battle of Rivoli by Felix Philippoteaux

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In his book Pushing to the Front (1894), Orison Swett Marden wrote:

Napoleon laid great stress upon that ‘supreme moment,’ that ‘nick of time’ which occurs in every battle, to take advantage of which means victory, and to lose in hesitation means disaster. He said that he beat the Austrians because they did not know the value of five minutes and it has been said that among the trifles that conspired to defeat him at Waterloo, the loss of a few moments by himself and Grouchy on the fatal morning was the most significant. Blücher was on time, and Grouchy was late. It was enough to send Napoleon to St. Helena, and to change the destiny of millions.

Marden is possibly cribbing from chapter 7 of John Gibson Lockhart's The history of Napoleon Buonaparte which seems to have been published in 1829 and reissued many times since. Lockhart wrote about the 14 January 1797 Battle of Rivoli:

"Here was a good plan," said Napoleon, "but these Austrians are not apt to calculate the value of minutes."

I do not know what Lockhart's source was. I assume Napoleon did say (or write) something of the sort: Lockhart does not seem -- to me -- to be a fabricator.

The context for this disputable attribution and disputable accuracy quote is the Battle of Rivoli.

The battle of Rivoli (14 January 1797) was the most comprehensive of Napoleon's victories in Italy during his campaign of 1796–97. At the end of the pursuit that followed the victory the French had captured more than half of an Austrian army of 28,000, despite being significantly outnumbered at the start of the campaign.

And here supposedly from the horse's mouth:

'Arriving about two in the morning (by another of his almost incredible forced marches) on the heights of Rivoli, he, the moonlight being clear, could distinguish five separate encampments, with innumerable watch-fires, in the valley below. His lieutenant, confounded by the display of this gigantic force, was in the very act of abandoning the position. Napoleon instantly checked this movement and bringing up more battalions, forced the Croats from an eminence which they had already seized on the first symptoms of the French retreat.

Napoleon's keen eye, surveying the position of the five encampments below, penetrated the secret of Alvinzi namely, that his artillery had not yet arrived, otherwise he would not have occupied ground so distant from the object of attack. He concluded that the Austrian did not mean to make his grand assault very early in the morning, and resolved to force him to anticipate that movement. For this purpose, he took all possible pains to conceal his own arrival and prolonged, by a series of petty-manoeuvres, the enemy's belief that he had to do with a mere outpost of the French. Alvinzi swallowed the deceit and, instead of advancing on some great and well-arranged system, suffered his several columns to endeavour to force the heights by insulated movements, which the real strength of Napoleon easily enabled him to baffle. It is true that at one moment the bravery of the Germans had nearly overthrown the French on a point of preeminent importance but Napoleon himself galloping to the spot, roused by his voice and action the division of Massena, who, having marched all night, had lain down to rest in the extreme of weariness, and seconded by them and their gallant general,* swept every-thing before him. The French was in : the Austrian's artillery position (according to Napoleon's shrewd guess) had not yet come up, and this circumstance decided the fortune of the day. The cannonade from the heights, backed by successive charges of horse and foot, rendered every attempt to storm the summit abortive and the main body of the Imperialists was already in confusion, and, indeed, in flight, before orte of their divisions, which had been sent round to outflank Bonaparte, and take higher ground in his rear, was able to execute its errand. When, accordingly, this division (that of Lusignan) at length achieved its destined object it did so, not to complete the miserj' of a routed, but to swell the prey of a victorious enemy. Instead of cutting off the retreat of Joubert, Lusignan found himself insulated from Alvinzi, and forced to lay down his arms to Bonaparte.

"Here was a good plan", said Napoleon, "but these Austrians are not apt to calculate the value of minutes."

Had Lusignan gained the rear of the French an hour earlier, while the contest was still hot in front of the heights of Rivoli, he might have made the 14th of Januarj- one of the darkest,

–– Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne: "Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte", Hutchinson: London, 1904, p44. (archive org) From The French Of F. De Bourrienne
Private Secretary to Napoleon, and Minister of State under the Directory , the Consulate, the Empire and the Restoration.

When the Memoirs first appeared in 1829 they made a great sensation. Till then in most writings Napoleon had been treated as either a demon or as a demi-god. The real facts of the case were not suited to the tastes of either his enemies or his admirers.
–– Ramsay Weston Phipps, traslator, from he preface of the 1885 edition at Charles Scribner's Sons, said to be the best English translation

The Memoirs His book gives a vivid, intimate, detailed account of his interactions with Napoleon and his mother, brothers and sisters with his first wife Joséphine de Beauharnais and her children with notable French politicians and with the marshals, he was especially friendly with Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte the future King of Sweden when they both were in Northern Germany. His narrative is invigorated by many dialogues, not only of those in which he was a speaker but even of conversations that he only was told about by others. Their exactitude may be suspect but surely they give a memorable portrait of his times. Many judgments are supported by quotes from his stockpile of documents. Naturally his narration is colored by his complicated relationship with his subject: close friendship, working together intimately for years, followed by dismissal and humiliating rejection. He tries to be balanced and gives many examples of Napoleon’s brilliance, his skill at governance, and his deft political maneuvers, while deploring his inexorable grabs for personal and familial power and wealth, his willingness to sacrifice French lives, and his abhorrence of a free press. Military campaigns are left for professional judges. One of his bombshells is the claim that the Grand Army based at Boulogne was never meant to invade England, too chancy an enterprise: it was a diversion to keep British forces at home. Of course the book infuriated devoted Bonapartists two volumes of criticisms were published promptly to attack his credibility. Controversy was still raging half a century later. His book is not a source in which to check particular facts, but as Goethe wrote: “All of the nimbus, all of the illusions, with which journalists and historians have surrounded Napoleon, vanishes before the awe-inspiring realisms of this book…”.

Karl Marx knows this to report:

His financial difficulties forced him to seek refuge in Belgium in 1828 on a country estate of the Duchess of Brancas in Fontaine l'Evêque, not far from Charleroy. Here he wrote his "Memoirs" (10 volumes, Octav), supported by Mr de Villemarest and others, which appeared in Paris in 1829 and caused great excitement. He died in an asylum (Irrenhaus).
–– Karl Marx/Friedrich Engels - Werke, (Karl) Dietz Verlag, Berlin. Band 14, 4. Auflage 1972, unveränderter Nachdruck der 1. Auflage 1961, Berlin/DDR. S. 115-116.

In fact, not only is the accuracy of that quote a bit transformed compared to the added detail in the phrasing as presented in the question and the form 'good quote seekers' or managers are familiar with. It is in doubt at the root. A more thorough assessment gives the source of that quote quite a different meaning:

Distance from the lived event is one reason that veterans often wrote about what they believed to be the “truth” in history and spoke of accurate representations of the past. Historians cannot. They generally consider memoirs from this period inaccurate and often discount them as unreliable. On the face of it, this assessment seems reasonable. We know that memories can be falsified and that veterans can end up recounting events in which they never took part, repeating stories that they heard elsewhere and that they incorporate as their own.

Indeed, contemporaries were perfectly aware of the tricks that time and memory could play on the individual attempting to recount events taking place many years earlier. *

If, however, these memoirs are regarded as “linguistic documents” that contain “culturally developed ideologies,” the accuracy or inaccuracy of a particular memoir or a specific event recounted is less important than the values transmitted in these testimonies, such as national glory and military valor, and is also less important than that the narrative, even if fictionalized, rings true, especially to the nineteenth-century reader. If this then offers a new reading of memoirs, not as historical documents in any traditional sense but as sources of information about how the past was recalled and recollected.
– * Louis-Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne, Mémoires de M. de Bourrienne, ministre d’Etat, sur Napoléon, le Directoire, le Consulat, L’Empire et la Restauration, 10 vols. (Paris, 1829), 1:8 Léon-Michel routier, Récits d’un soldat: De la République et de l’Empire (Paris, 2004), 17.
–– Philip G. Dwyer: "Public Remembering, Private Reminiscing: French Military Memoirs and the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars", French Historical Studies (2010) 33 (2): 231–258. DOI

Now the corrupted version displayed in the question

The reason I beat the Austrians is, they did not know the value of five minutes. –– Napoleon.

Seems to be a later version. The context for that is 'inspirational quote alteration', like on the internet when you see no proper source attribution attached. That is found in: S. Pollock Linn: "Golden gleams of thought, from the words of leading orators, divines, philosophers, statesmen and poets", Chicago: McClurg, 1891. (p25 on archive.org).

In that context:
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. –– Dolly (sheep)