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 mondovi, 21 avril 1796

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Nombre de messages : 984
Localisation : evry
Date d'inscription : 30/11/2005

MessageSujet: mondovi, 21 avril 1796   Lun 25 Fév - 4:17

The Battle of Mondovì was fought on 21 April 1796 between the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte and the army of the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont led by Michelangelo Alessandro Colli-Marchi. The French victory meant that they had put the Ligurian Alps behind them, while the plains of Piedmont lay before them. A week later, King Victor Amadeus III sued for peace, taking his kingdom out of the First Coalition. The defeat of their Sardinian ally wrecked Austrian Habsburg strategy and led to the loss of northwest Italy to the First French Republic.


1 Campaign
1.1 Operations
1.2 Forces
1.3 Geography
1.4 San Michele Mondovi
2 Battle
3 Results


This was the last battle of the Montenotte Campaign in which General of Division MG Bonaparte's Army of Italy thrust between Feldmarschall-Leutnant Colli's 21,000-man Austro-Sardinian army and Feldzeugmeister Johann Beaulieu's 28,000-strong Austrian army. In the initial battles, Bonaparte savaged Beaulieu's army and drove it northeast. Then the French general turned his main attack to the west against the Piedmontese. Colli conducted a series of well-fought rear guard actions, including the Battle of Millesimo on 13 April and the Battle of Ceva on 16 April. Nevertheless, Bonaparte drove the Sardinian army relentlessly westward toward the fortress of Cuneo and the plains of Piedmont. On 18 April, Colli retreated into a strong position behind the Corsaglia River.


The Corsaglia runs in a northeasterly direction until it flows into the northwest-flowing Tanaro River near the town of Lesegno. In April the streams were swollen by snow-melt and rain which rendered them generally unfordable. On the west bank are hills that dominate the river crossings. These heights are Madonna della Cassette in the north, La Bicocca in the center, and Buon Gesù in the south near the town of San Michele Mondovi. The Ellero River and the town of Mondovì lie five kilometers to the west of the Corsaglia.

Colli appointed General Jean-Gaspard Dichat de Toisinge with 8,000 troops and 15 cannon to hold the position. Bonaparte planned to send the division of MG Jean-Mathieu-Philibert Sérurier in a head-on assault against San Michele while MG Pierre Augereau's division crossed the Tanaro to flank the position from the north. MG André Masséna's division hovered in the mountains north of Ceva, threatening a northwestward lunge to cut Colli off from Turin. MG Henri Christian Michel de Stengel was ordered to march the cavalry to support Sérurier. The division of MG Amedee Emmanuel Francois Laharpe watched the Austrians who were regrouping at Acqui Terme.

Augereau's men failed to get across the river due to high water and five well-placed cannon. The Piedmontese repulsed Serurier's morning attack on the San Michele bridge with loss. Later, some skirmishers of General of Brigade (BG) Jean Joseph Guieu's brigade found an unguarded footbridge to the south near the hamlet of Torre Mondovì. Soon Guieu's men crossed in strength and began rolling up the Sardinian right flank. The defenders of San Michele broke for the rear, allowing BG Pascal Antoine Fiorella's troops to cross the bridge and occupy the town. In the confusion, Colli was nearly taken prisoner. Dichat was caught, but he escaped by bribing his captor.

The hungry, badly-paid, and poorly disciplined French troops immediately ran wild in the town, stealing food and pillaging the houses. A company of Swiss grenadiers in Sardinian pay, noting that the French were out of control, retook part of the town. Colli organized a major counterattack in the early afternoon which drove the Sérurier's division out of San Michele, though Guieu managed to hold onto his small bridgehead. One authority estimates that the French suffered about 600 casualties while the Piedmontese lost 300.

On the 20th, Bonaparte brought Masséna's division forward while the other troops rested. To the northeast, Beaulieu still hesitated to mount a major effort to help his ally. On the night of 20 April, Colli withdrew his army from the Corsaglia position, intending to fall back behind the Ellero River at Mondovì. After destroying the bridges and leaving their campfires burning, Colli's soldiers slipped away during the evening. At midnight, Bonaparte discovered that his enemy had decamped and mounted a rapid pursuit, using a ford discovered by some scouts.


The next morning, Sérurier's advance struck the Sardinian rearguard on the heights of Buon Gesù drove it back on the town of Vicoforte. Sérurier formed his conscripts into three heavy columns and covered them with his more experienced soldiers in skirmish order. Then, putting himself at the head of the central column, he led a charge against the Sardinians with Masséna's division following behind.

The speed of the French attack did not allow Colli to deploy his troops properly, nor were there any prepared defenses. A few of the Sardinian units panicked and fled, leaving gaps in the line. Fiorella and Guieu's brigades, supported by BG Elzéard Dommartin's brigade of Masséna, converged on Vicoforte and captured it. The Sardinians at La Bicocca held firm until Dichat was killed, then they joined the disorderly retreat. Bonaparte's cavalry commander, Stengel took 200 dragoons across the Ellero, but Colonel Chaffardon counterattacked with 125 Sardinian horsemen and drove the French back. Stengel was mortally wounded in the melee.

When the French arrived at Mondovì, the governor managed to stall the pursuers for a time with negotiations, but he surrendered the town when fired on at about 6 pm. Bonaparte forced the municipal authorities to provide large contributions of food to his hungry soldiers, so the town was not sacked.


According to historian Gunther E. Rothenberg, Bonaparte's forces lost 600 killed and wounded out of 17,500. The Piedmontese lost 8 cannons and 1,600 men killed, wounded, and captured out of 13,000. Digby Smith lists a strength of 15,000 for the French and 11,000 for the Sardinians, but gives no losses. A third source lists 1,000 total French casualties versus 800 Piedmontese killed and wounded, plus an additional 800 to 1,500 captured. Bonaparte ordered a vigorous pursuit of the defeated Sardinians. On the evening of 23 April, Colli asked for an armistice, but the French general ordered his troops to continue their advance. Bonaparte demanded that Sardinia hand over the fortresses of Cuneo, Ceva, and either Alessandria or Tortona as the price of peace. On 28 April, the Sardinian government finally signed the Armistice of Cherasco, which effectively knocked the Kingdom of Sardinia out of the First Coalition.

pour info :

General of Division André Masséna
4th Division: General of Division Jean-Mathieu-Philibert Sérurier (9,448)
Generals of Brigade: Jean Joseph Guieu, Pascal Antoine Fiorella, Elzéard Auguste Cousin de Dommartin
69th Line Demi-Brigade (3 battalions)
39th Line Demi-Brigade (3 battalions)
85th Line Demi-Brigade (3 battalions)

Henri Stengel : 250 dragoons and 25 hussars parmi 1st Hussar Regiment (4 squadrons), 5th Dragoon Regiment (3 squadrons) ou/& 20th Dragoon Regiment (3 squadrons)

Sardinian Army: Feldmarschallleutnant Michelangelo Alessandro Colli-Marchi

Division : General Brempt
Colonel Colli-Ricci's Light Infantry (1 battalion)
Genevois Infantry Regiment
Royal Grenadiers Infantry Regiment (1 battalion)
Royal Allemand Infantry Regiment
Acqui Infantry Regiment (1 battalion)
Division : General Guiseppe Felice, Count Vital
Foot Chasseurs
Savoy Infantry Regiment (1 battalion)
Stettler Infantry Regiment (3 battalions)
Royal Grenadiers Infantry Regiment (1 battalion)
Oneglia Infantry Regiment (2 battalion)
Piedmontese Freikorps
Mondovì Infantry Regiment (1 battalion)
Division (at Ceva): General Count di Torneforte
Tortona Infantry Regiment (1 battalion)
Mondovì Infantry Regiment (1 battalion)
Acqui Infantry Regiment (1 battalion)

autres :
General Jean Dichat de Toisinge †, General Count de la Chiusa
La Marina Infantry Regiment (2 battalions)
Montferrat Infantry Regiment (1 battalion)
3rd Grenadiers (1 battalion)

Colonel Chaffardon : 125 cv des dragons du roi à 2 esc

La guerre, un massacre de gens qui ne se connaissent pas, au profit de gens qui se connaissent mais ne se massacrent pas. PaulV
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Nombre de messages : 984
Localisation : evry
Date d'inscription : 30/11/2005

MessageSujet: Re: mondovi, 21 avril 1796   Lun 25 Fév - 4:19

Précision :

The Charge of the King's Dragoons: Mondovì

On the evening of 19 April, the Sardinians decided to fall back behind the Ellero River, over the key Brea Bridge and towards Cuneo and its garrison, to avoid being outflanked by the French. However, the retreat should not be too fast as the vital supply stockpiled in the city of Mondovì needed to be carried away lest the French laid their hands on it. So Colli's corps had to gain some time to allow the evacuation of the depots.

The troops were therefore positioned along a line running parallel to the Corsaglia creek, southeast of Mondovì to northeast where Ellero River meets the larger Tanaro River. The line, running across mostly hilly countryside and including some good defensive positions, was however weaker than the Corsaglia one, had not been prepared beforehand, and the troops did not have time to dig in - that made a big difference.

Key points along the line were the Vicoforte village, grown around a massive shrine of the Savoy dynasty, and the Bricchetto Hill, a wide plateau southeast of Mondovì. There Colli placed, as the backbone of the defense, the remnants of his crack grenadier force, 2,000 men under Bellegarde. The grenadier center, on the Bricchetto, was the 8th Battalion led by the daring and spirited colonel Gaspar Dichat de Toisinge, an outstanding grenadier officer. Its firepower was enhanced by two 8 pounder guns, two 4 pounder and one howitzer. To Dichat's right there was Chiusano's 9th Battalion; to the left, Varax's grenadier. At Vicoforte and on the surrounding hills, Colli deployed his other elite outfits, the light infantry of Colli di Felizzano and the Nice Chasseurs of d'Auvare. A mix of line and light infantry units (Oneglia, Asti, Light Legion, Franc Corps, and others) held the remaining portions of the line. There was a cavalry reserve near Mondovì - ready to go into action, for the first time in the war.

After having been bounced twice with losses, Bonaparte now had to swiftly get rid of Colli's corps as any attack from Beaulieu while he was tackling the Sardinians would have got him into serious trouble. The opportunity was there to reap: Colli was in full retreat, his troops partly shaken though still unbeaten, he was hindered by the necessary evacuation of Mondovì, his line had a river in the rear with only one strategic bridge the troops could use to get to the safe bank in case of defeat. As importantly, Bonaparte had 25,000 men - Colli just 9,000. End game was in sight.

The Grenadiers' Last Stand

On 20 April Bonaparte concentrated his attack force - the divisions of Meynier (brigades Miollis and Pelletier), Sérurier (brigades Guyeux, Fiorella and Dommartin), Augereau and Masséna - and on 21 April at dawn he struck, crossing the Corsaglia and rushing to the Vicoforte line.

Due to a bad assessment mistake, Light Legion units facing Guyeux's brigade did not occupy the previously assigned position, leaving a sector of the line uncovered. At the same time, elements of the Austrian IR 44 Belgioioso broke and ran practically without fighting to avoid to bear the brunt of the French attack. Guyeux quickly poured into the gap in the line just as Sardinian Grenadier Guards were desperately rushing to stop it, and took the height right above the Vicoforte Shrine. From there the Meynier division attacked the Sardinian rear. Fiorella and Dommartin outnumbered their Sardinian opponents, who were driven back with losses. Then the French proceeded to attack the Brichetto position, held by the grenadiers. The first assaults were all repulsed, the French suffering heavily under the grenadiers' steady musket volleys and grapeshot, and retreating when the grenadiers launched bayonet counterattacks. In the meantime the grenadiers were being reinforced by elements from other units, including a Swiss Stettler battalion.

The French also received reinforcements and renewed their assaults with ferocity, while the Sardinian right and left wing were being pushed back and the Brichetto position was going to be cut off. Yet the grenadiers did not cave in, repelling assault after assault, until the charismatic Dichat was killed by a musket ball hitting his head as he was fighting in the first line. Shortly after, the last Bricchetto defenders - about 20 grenadiers, their captain, 6 gunners and 2 artillery officers, gathered around the remaining guns - had to run for their lives before the oncoming French wave engulfed them. Time was about 4 pm.

The loss of the Bricchetto position marked the Sardinian defeat. Stripped of the support of that strong position, Chiusano's grenadiers were dislodged after a last failed counterattack, and a company of Chablais Grenadiers, ensconced in a farmhouse from where they were shooting on the enemy, were also forced to fall back. What was left of the Sardinian covering force halted for a while in the old Austrian redoubt of Santa Croce, but all coherent resistance was rapidly crumbling and that last stronghold was evacuated.

However, hours before Dichat's death, the Sardinian retreat had already begun. It was clear that the brittle Sardinian line could not stop Bonaparte's 25,000 men and would collapse soon. As the Grenadiers' last stand was covering their retreat, mingled elements of the various units began to stream back in a state of confusion and disorder towards the town of Mondovì, the vital Brea Bridge and safety.

Historians have criticized Colli for several mistakes made in the deployment and employment of his troops on the Mondovi position. The position was sound, and a better conceived deployment and a wiser employment might have made the Sardinians' stand a much tougher nut to crack for Bonaparte. Mistakes were doubtless made, and admittedly Colli's generalship did not shine at his best on the occasion. On the other hand, he was conducting a fighting retreat amid growing disorganization and demoralization; he may not have been absolutely sure about the combat performance of some units at that juncture; and, most importantly, while he had at most 9,000 men, Bonaparte had 25,000. No wonder Colli was fighting with an eye all the time out for extricating his corps from Bonaparte's too close and lethal "embrace". Besides, even with a perfectly thought up and arranged deployment, it is highly doubtful, to say the least, if Colli's 9,000 could ever have stopped Bonaparte's 25,000. A better organized defense might well have caused the French higher casualties and heavier efforts to overcome it, and disrupted their advance for a while, but at the cost of Colli's entire corps, annihilated in the process.

The Carassone Charge

Seeing that the Sardinians were escaping over the bridge to the safe side of the Ellero river, Bonaparte urged his cavalry, under the aristocratic and highly appreciated General Stengel, to intervene and swoop on the retreating enemies before they could put the river between themselves and his infantry.

Murat, personally sent by Bonaparte, found Stengel as the latter was seeking a ford along the Ellero with a small portion of his cavalry force. There was no time to muster the entire force: Stengel had to go into immediate action with only 250 dragoons and 25 hussars.

Stengel's ride was hampered by the rough terrain, but finally he discovered a fordable site in the area of a Mondovi suburb called Carassone. The ford was narrow, however, and only a few horses at a time could cross it; it took Stengel a long time to complete the crossing, and the move was watched by Sardinian sentries perched on the belltower of a nearby church. They put on the alert the Light Legion under Colonel-Brigadier Giovanni Battista Civalleri di Masio, who was in the vicinity of the crossing site. Two Light Legion battalions swiftly formed as many squares, barring Stengel's way to the retreating Sardinian infantry plodding their way to the bridge.

Upon seeing the squares, Stengel - after reorganizing his cavalry now all across the stream, which took some more time - split his force into two groups and marched them (apparently in no haste) along the road of Cassanio, leading to the Mondovi road across a relatively broad plain, to bypass the squares.

Stengel's slow progress, however, had allowed an enemy who was watching his moves from not very far to take an instant decision.

That enemy was Colonel Marquis Oncieu de Chaffardon, Sardinian cavalry commander. Unnoticed by the French, sliding quietly behind the Light Legion squares, with a small cavalry force he now was just a few hundred meters away from Stengel.

Chaffardon had at hand two squadrons of His Majesty's Dragoons, 1st and 3rd, led by Major Tommaso Saluzzo di Valgrana, the Marquis of La Chambre and Captain Clemente Cordero di Pamparato, Count of Roburent - pure Piedmontese aristocracy. Roburent, on the left, was leading the smallest unit of Chaffardon's command - 2nd Company, 1st Squadron - whereas Chaffardon himself was with the bulk of the force, 3rd Squadron and 1st Company, 1st Squadron, along with Valgrana and La Chambre.

At 3 pm., the 11 officers and 114 dragoons of Chaffardon advanced at a steady trot, then at 100 meters distance they shot their pistols, drew their sabres and charged straight into Stengel's formations.

Stengel was caught completely by surprise. His cavalrymen had not the time to prepare to receive the charge and were smashed. From another side they were charged by the dragoon platoon of the 17 years old ensign Jean Baptiste d'Oncieu de la Batie. The French were quickly wiped out. 4 officers (one of whom was Colonel Claude Trulle) and 8 dragoons were killed, 15 wounded and 23 captured; the others fled. The chivalrous Stengel, later mourned by Napoleon, was mortally wounded in individual sabre duel by the Sardinian NCO Berteu, and died of his wounds later. The Sardinians had 2 dead, 10 wounded and 4 missing.

After driving the French off the field, Chaffardon stopped the dragoons, who, flushed with victory, were pushing forward, and withdrew fearing a French ambush. As they marched back towards Fossano, bringing their French prisoners with them, the cavalrymen were loudly acclaimed by the Sardinian infantry in retreat, with cheers of "Long Life the King's Dragoons" all along the way (which, incidentally, seems to suggest the Sardinians' morale was not SO broken as French historians were to state later).

Later on, Bonaparte would uphold the story of Murat, then an officer of Stengel's command, charging back and pursuing the Sardinian cavalry, which is pure Napoleonic fabrication - in fact Murat, who had not taken part in the combat, just trotted back with the badly mauled survivors. Stengel's failure allowed Colli's corps, or what was left of it, to safely cross the Ellero River and escape Bonaparte's clutches.

Today, the Italian Army heir of the King's Dragoons - Genova Cavalry Regiment - still proudly boasts the two gold medals for valor awarded the two dragoons' squadrons for the feat of arms of Carassone.

Mondovì Surrenders

The battle of Mondovì was over. The French lost about 2,000 dead and wounded; the Sardinians, doomed from the outset, 800 dead and 800 prisoners, 8 guns and 11 flags - a heavy defeat for such a small force, but Colli's army corps had somehow survived and could fight another day.

The citadel of Mondovì, overlooked by the Bricchetto Hill now in French hands, could not put up any serious resistance. The commander, Dellera, gave up and the garrison (700 Grenadier Guards and Stettler Swiss) surrendered.


La guerre, un massacre de gens qui ne se connaissent pas, au profit de gens qui se connaissent mais ne se massacrent pas. PaulV
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