Napoleon's Italian Campaigns: 1805-1815

Napoleon's Italian Campaigns: 1805-1815

Napoleon's Italian Campaigns: 1805-1815

Napoleon's Italian Campaigns: 1805-1815

Synopsis

The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars raged in Italy for 23 years. In that time, no fewer than eight campaigns involving hundred of thousands of troops were mounted in the Italian peninsula, as France and Austria struggled over this secondary, but still vitally important theater of war. As Frederick Schneid demonstrates in this groundbreaking work, control of Italy was rightly seen by Napoleon as an important means of applying strategic pressure on the Austrians, while simultaneously providing security for France's vulnerable southern flank. As the first in-depth consideration of the struggle for strategically key region, this book places the Italian campaigns into their proper historical context.

Excerpt

Italy and especially its northern region had been contested between Austria and France for centuries. Control of the rich plains of Lombardy and Venetia and of the high plains leading to the alpine passes assumed special importance in the offensive and defensive strategy of both sides during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Of course, the valley of the Danube remained the principal line of operations for a thrust toward Vienna, but in 1796–1797 then-General Bonaparte had made Italy the primary front. After evicting the Austrian armies from the Italian plain he penetrated through the passes into Carinthia and Styria and compelled the Austrians to come to terms. Although the Marengo campaign of 1800 was Bonaparte’s last personal command in Italy, and this time it required a victory at Hohenlinden in the Danube valley to defeat Austria, control of Italy remained a significant factor in strategic considerations.

When in 1805 Austria, provoked by Napoleon’s creation of the Kingdom of Italy with his stepson, Eugène de Beauharnais, appointed viceroy, went to war, the Habsburgs’ best general, Archduke Charles, actually considered Italy the decisive theater. The main Austrian army was deployed there and supported by Russian, British, and Neapolitan forces. It was to break into Lombardy and defeat French forces there. After that, this army was to swing northwest into Switzerland and combine in Germany with the Austrian army, which, expecting prompt Russian assistance, as well as support from Prussia, would advance rapidly into western Bavaria. In the event, of course, Germany became the decisive theater when Napoleon, acting with lightning speed, eliminated the Austrian army in Germany, captured Vienna, and drove the slowly moving Russians and the Austrian remnants into Moravia. Information about these defeats forced

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