Marengo & Hohenlinden
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Marengo & Hohenlinden

Napoleon's Rise to Power

James R. Arnold

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Marengo & Hohenlinden

Napoleon's Rise to Power

James R. Arnold

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About This Book

"A good overview of the forces, their tactics, mistakes (and lies in official reports)" of the two pivotal campaigns that cemented Napoleon's dictatorship ( Paper Wars ). In a tense, crowded thirty-three days in the autumn of 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte organized a coup and made himself dictator of France. Yet his position was precarious. He knew that France would accept his rule only if he gained military victories that brought peace. James Arnold, in this detailed and compelling account, describes the extraordinary campaigns that followed. At Marengo, Bonaparte defeated the Austrians and his fellow general Jean Moreau beat the combined Austrian and Bavarian armies at Hohenlinden. These twin campaigns proved decisive. Bonaparte's dictatorship was secure and his enemies across Europe were forced in a 15-year struggle to overthrow him.

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List of Maps
A Matter of Rank
Prologue: Afternoon on the Field of Marengo
Chapter I
Coup d’etat
Part 1. France in Peril
Part 2. Dateline to a Coup
Part 3. To Dare All
Chapter II
The Power of the First Consul
Part 1. “The Revolution is Over”
Part 2. The Strategic Chessboard
Part 3. The French War Machine
Chapter III
The Austrian Offensive in Italy
Part 1. The Army of Italy
Part 2. The Austrian War Machine
Part 3. The Siege of Genoa
Chapter IV
Over the Alps
Part 1. The Saint Bernard Pass
Part 2. Bottleneck at Fort Bard
Chapter V
Blitzkrieg Through Italy
Part 1. The Trials of General Melas
Part 2. Milan Interlude
Chapter VI
To the Plain of the Scrivia
Part 1. The Vise Tightens
Part 2. The Battle of Montebello
Chapter VII
The Battle of Marengo
Part 1. The Austrian Breakout
Part 2. Battle of Attrition
Part 3. Retreat
Part 4. Death of a Hero
Chapter VIII
Resetting the Pieces
Part 1. The Convention of Alessandria
Part 2. Honor and Glory
Chapter IX
Moreau in Germany
Part 1. The Rhine Frontier
Part 2. The Austrian Command Dilemma
Chapter X
The Battle of Hohenlinden
Part 1. The Combat at Ampfing
Part 2. Plans and Terrain
Part 3. Battle in the Forest
Chapter XI
The Security of Europe
Part 1. The Last Republican Victory
Part 2. The Peace of Amiens
Appendix I
Orders of Battle
French Order of Battle at Marengo
Austrian Order of Battle at Marengo
French Order of Battle at Hohenlinden
Austrian Order of Battle at Hohenlinden
Appendix II
Numbers and Losses
Appendix III
Fates Intermingled: Prominent Officers and What Became of Them

List of Maps

(in the order they appear)
European Theater: 1800
1. The Invasion Corridors
2. The Strategic Chessboard: Bonaparte’s Assessment, Winter 1799–1800
3. Maritime Alp Passes
4. Melas’ Offensive: April 4, 1800
5. Bonaparte’s Choices: April 1800
6. Clearing the Aosta Valley
7. Melas Begins to React: May 13–18, 1800
8. Convergence on Piacenza: June 5, 1800
9. The Vise Tightens: June 12, 1800
10. Battle of Marengo: Overnight Positions June 13–14, 1800
11. Battle of Marengo: Situation at 10:00 a.m., June 14, 1800
12. The Battle of Marengo 12:00 p.m.
13. The Battle of Marengo 3:00 p.m.
14. The Battle of Marengo 5:00 p.m.
15. The Battle of Marengo: The Head of the Column, 5:00 p.m.
16. Campaign in Germany: Spring 1800
17. Campaign in Germany: The Armistice Ends, November 27, 1800
18. The Battle of Hohenlinden: Positions and Plans
19. Battle of Hohenlinden: 7 a.m.
20. Battle of Hohenlinden: 10 a.m.

A Matter of Rank

To honor the leaders and to distinguish officers in the service of France or Austria, leaders are usually referred to with their French or Austrian rank. The following provides the hierarchy of rank and for the Austrians, the abbreviations used in the text, and the United States Army equivalent.
French U.S.
general of brigade brigadier general, usually commanding a demi-brigade
general of division major general, usually commanding a division
lieutenant general lieutenant general commanding either a corps or army
Austrian U.S.
Oberst colonel
Inhaber regimental proprietor, usually an honorific position
General-Feldwachmeister (GM) major general
Feldmarschall-Leutnant (FML) lieutenant general
General der Kavallerie (GdK) full general, cavalry
Feldzeugmeister (FZM) full general, infantry
Erzherzog archduke
Kaiser emperor


I am deeply grateful to Robert and Joyce Arnold, who underwrote the first edition; Graham Beehag, for his outstanding design work; David Chandler, who kindly loaned me his photo of Fort Bard; Patrick Crusiau, who located maps and source material in Brussels; Paddy Griffith, who shared his insights on the wars of the Revolution (and the perils of self-publication!); Philip Haythornthwaite, for responding to obscure queries and providing research material; Grace McCrowell, who cheerfully processed inter-library loan requests; George Nafziger, who provided research assistance and encouragement; Robert Paulley, whose Portell Production provided essential publishing contacts; Ralph Reinertsen, who labored on my behalf through the Mras manuscript and altered his vacation plans in order to explore with critical eye the battlefield of Hohenlinden; John Slonaker for providing access to the wonderful collection at the U.S. Army Military History Institute; Bernhard Voykowitsch, who shared material from the Vienna Kriegsarchiv and cheerfully responded to queries about the background of various obscure Austrian general officers; Roberta Wiener, my indispensable chief of staff who accompanied me on a tour of Marengo and had the patience to edit and proof read this book; and the administrators and librarians at the University of Virginia, Washington and Lee University, and the Virginia Military Institute, who open their collections to the public.
The Napoleon Series is a valuable and interesting Internet site where participants “converse” about a wide array of Napoleonic topics. There I posted queries about the first names and backgrounds of various military leaders and received helpful responses from kind contributors including Ian Jackson, Bruno Nackaerts, and Digby Smith. Thank you gentlemen.
Via the Napoleon Series I also “met” two skilled cartographers, Jerry Malone and Max Sewell. These gentlemen undertook the enormous labor of translating my sketches into the fine maps contained in this book. They worked long and hard, motivated solely by a love for the period’s history. Their combination of graphic talents and knowledge about the period proved invaluable. So a special thanks to Jerry and Max: well done!
Lastly, a word about the illustrations. All are from the author’s collection except for GdK Melas, courtesy of Bernhard Voykowitsch and the Vienna War Archives; Fort Bard, courtesy of David Chandler; and the Hohenlinden terrain photos, courtesy of Ralph Reinertsen.

Afternoon on the Field of Marengo

The afternoon sun seemed to linger. Its position told Napoleon Bonaparte that there was no chance that darkness would come to save his army. Seventeen thousand Frenchmen were retreating before an ascendant Austrian army. Unless something dramatic occurred, this battle was lost.
The young leader’s position as First Consul rested precariously upon a coalition of diverse interests. Win this battle and his support would solidify. Lose, and his many enemies in Paris might surface to rally around some other popular general whom they would anoint as titular leader of state. Protected by that general’s sword – perhaps Bernadotte’s, more likely Moreau’s – they would methodically purge his supporters and eventually annihilate the Bonaparte clan.
That matters had reduced to such a state was his own fault. His overconfidence had blinded him to the possibility that the Austrians might attack. When they had stormed out of their bridgehead this morning, his army had been badly dispersed, its front line units surprised. Yet his lieutenants – old comrade Victor, gallant Lannes – had conducted a brilliant tactical battle until overwhelmed by numbers. Thirty minutes earlier Bonaparte had committed his own elite Consular Guard to help cover their retreat. The Guard performed prodigies, until it too fell back before superior numbers.
Everything depended upon Desaix, who commanded the army’s only available reinforcements. Six hours earlier, Bonaparte had sent a message recalling him. It read, “Come, in the name of god, if you still can.” At that time the Army of Reserve was still holding its position. Now the situation was far worse. Along the main road from Marengo came the battered remnants of Lannes’ and Victor’s corps. The knots of men who still marched beneath their smoke-blackened standards were those stalwarts whom the officers had managed to hold to their duty. Yet a glance to either side of the road revealed that many others had thrown away their weapons to flee as fast as possible.
A mud-splattered officer approached at the gallop. It was Desaix. “Well, what do you think of it?” Bonaparte asked.
Desaix pulled out his timepiece. “This battle is completely lost, but…there is time to win another.”
Heartened by his comrade’s response, Bonaparte rode among his troops to rally them for one more desperate effort. He called out, “Soldiers, you have retreated far enough; you know that it is my habit to bivouac on the field of battle.”
“Chins up!” replied a sergeant of the Consular Guard.
Around such men, Bonaparte cobbled together a final defensive line and awaited reinforcements. When the first of Desaix’s men appeared, the French soldiers cried out, “Here they are, here they are!”
Meanwhile, from the west came the steady beat of drums that heralded the appearance of the elite of the Habsburg army, the grenadiers. The Austrians had fought long and hard to gain this position. Now they marched east, a surging tide sweeping the debris of battle before it. The Habsburg army’s chief of staff was with them to share this moment of glory. He believed that one more hard push would be sufficient. Victory lay on the far side of a small vineyard, 300 yards farther east, where Desaix’s battle line formed behind a hedge. The pivotal encounter of the battle of Marengo was about to occur.

————— Chapter 1 —————

Coup d’etat



“The Directory trembled at my return. I was very cautious; that is one of the epochs of my life in which I have acted with the soundest judgment…Every one was taken in my toils; and, when I became the head of the State, there was not a party in France which did not build some special hope upon my success.”1
In 1792, Austria and Prussia formed the First Coalition, an alliance dedicated to crushing republican France. The execution of Louis XVI brought Great Britain into the coalition the next year, followed by Spain. Thereafter, Russia, Holland, Naples, and Tuscany participated, their roles like that of jackals, risking little but hoping to glean pieces of the kill. Amazingly, there was no kill to be had.
The French Revolution unleashed a type of energy perhaps never before seen in Europe. This energy, coupled with French martial skill, allowed France to resist her enemies. But France’s survival also depended upon her enemy’s blunders. They stemmed from the difficult...

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