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hands on the day of the decisive battle which we are to expect with the entire army of M. de Mélas.” In strict accordance with this prediction, the Imperialists presented themselves to Lannes on the morning of the 9th June, and on that day was fought the memorable Battle of Montebello, which, at a later period, gave to the family of that gallant soldier the title they now o The fight of Montebello lasted from eleven in the morning until eight in the evening. The struggle during the day was one of unexampled severity, and on both sides displayed the most signal bravery. The field of battle was a tract on the right bank of the Po, expressly selected for the purpose by Bonaparte, and extended from Stradella, where the French line rested its wings on the one side of the river, and on the other on a spur of the Appenines, to the villages of Casteggio and Montebello. Confiding in his troops, Lannes pushed his advanced guard farther towards the latter places than was strictly prudent, and thereby exposed his flank. This confidence was, however, not misplaceed. Towards evening the Austrians, repulsed at every point, fled to Montebello, leaving in the hands of the victor a large number of prisoners. The First Consul arrived just at the termination of the battle, the time and place of which he had so distinctly foretold, and found Lannes covered with blood, but exulting in the result of the day. In this combat, 12,000 French were opposed to 18,000 Austrians, of which the latter lost 4,000 prisoners, and 3,000 killed and wounded, being more than one-third of their entire number. This was one of the most desperate and bloody actions which occurred during the war. In describing the carnage to Bourienne, Lannes says, that “the bones in his division cracked like glass in a hail-storm.” After waiting three days to rest the troops after their forced marches, and to re-organize the artillery, and having appointed Desaix, who had just arrived from Egypt, to the command of a division of the army, Bonaparte, not finding the main body of the Austrians make their appearance as he expected they would, advanced with his whole army, and on the 13th débouched upon the extensive lain lying between the Scrivia and the o which has since become celebrated as the plain of MARENGo. As this place was destined on the following day to be the theatre of a catas
trophe which produced an immediate and important influence on the political condition of all Europe, and in its ultimate result, placed the Imperial Diadem on the brow of Bonaparte, it will be well worth while here to render its more prominent features clearly intelligible to the reader, so that the movements of the armies, on which so much depended, may be the more readily comprehended. The river Bormida having descended from the Appenines, here follows a tortuous course from south to north, and forms the western boundary of the plain. (See the Map) It flows into the Tanaro, a tributary of the Po, at the north-western angle of the plain. The latter river, after receiving the waters of the Bormida, follows a course nearly from west to east. Thus these two rivers form a right angle, within which the plain is included. In the angle formed by these rivers, is the village of CAstEL CERIolo. The high road leading to Tortona forms the southern limit of the plain. This road §. through another village called AN GIULIANo, which occupies the southeastern corner of the plain. A shallow, muddy stream, called the Fontanome, runs at a short distance within the Bormida, nearly parallel to the right bank of that river, holding a similar winding course from south to north, and finally discharging its waters into the Tanaro. On the left bank of the Bormida, and on a tract included between that river and the course of the Tanaro above their junction, stands the Fortress of ALEXANDRIA. This Fortress communicates with the plain by two bridges (B, on the map,) placed so close together as to have a common tete du pont. On the right bank of the Fontanone, and near the centre of the great plain which formed the battle-field, stands the village of MARENGo. A road connects this with San Giuliano, the distance between the places being about two miles, and another connects Marengo with Castel Ceriolo, the distance being about a mile and a half. The plain was in general level and open, being very favorable for the operation of cavalry. § was the field upon which a portion of the French army, led by Bonaparte, Berthier and Lannes, débouched on the morning of the 13th June, 1800, flushed with the trophies of Montebello, and impatient for that general engagement the result of which must determine the issue of the campaign.
Adopting the supposition, which apeared to be the most natural and probale, that the Austrian commander would attempt to force his way to Mantua by the main road through Tortona, knowing a general engagement to be inevitable, and having the selection of the ground for it, he would undoubtedly have halted on this plain, which presented him with advantages so striking and obvious for the effective operations of his vast artillery and splendid cavalry. But of this, probable as it seemed to be, there was no visible indication. The plain was scoured in every direction, but no trace of the Austrian army was discovered. Towards the evening the division of Victor, with the corps of Gandanne and Chambarlhac, advanced from San Giuliano to Marengo, where they found a detachment of cavalry who, after a slight resistance, retreated across the Bormida. Under these circumstances, Bonaparte no longer doubted that the Austrian had escaped him, and was about to attempt a assage either by the Ticino or upon the ower Po, and officers were despatched to these and other points to make the necessary inquiries. He might have retreated upon Genoa, on the other hand, relying on the aid of the British Squadron which blockaded that harbor. To meet this possibility, Desaix was detached in the evening with the division of Boudet, on the road to Novi. On the night of the 13th, all hope of a general battle having been thus relinquished, Victor's corps was left in occupation of Marengo and the adjoining ground; Lannes' division occupied the i. between Marengo and San Giuliano, and Murat and Kellerman, with divisions of cavalry, were stationed on either side of Marengo. Bonaparte retained with himself, in reserve at head quarters, the second division of Desaix's corps under Monnier, taking them with him on the evening of the 13th, to a small place called Torre de Garofolo, where he fixed his head quarters that night, instead of Voghera at the other side of the Scrivia, which had been previously selected for that purpose, but which fortunately, as it proved, was rendered inaccessible at the moment by reason of the swollen condition of the river. The scattered condition of the French army was now quite the reverse of that state of concentration which, in the tactics of Napoleon, was always assumed as an essential condition of success in a
general engagement. A few corps were collected at Marengo ; a reserve of one division and the Consular Guard, were with Bonaparte at Torre de Garofolo, another division was on the road to Novi; and other forces spread upon the upper and lower Po, the Ticino and the Adda. The division of the army under Thurreau, was intercepted from present communication in the direction of Mont Cénis. These were unfortunate circumstances, but were the inevitable results of the previous movements. Bonaparte had calculated on having time to produce a sufficient concentration as soon as he should discover the point at which he would have to dispute the passage of the Austrian forces. The event proved that he was deceived in this, and that he was destined to be surprised by the advance of the enemy, without having the time he expected for concentration. While Bonaparte was sending his divisions here and there in fruitless search of De Mélas, that commander was in fact on the spot, shut up in the fortress of Alexandria. How he could be there on the 13th, with the main body of his forces, without the fact being discovered by the French, whose battalions were scouring the plain beyond the river not a mile distant, and who, solicitous to discover the enemy, availed themselves of all the usual sources of information, appears incomprehensible. Nevertheless, so it seems to have been. Within Alexandria, during these curious efforts of the French to discover him, Mélas and his army were in confusion and despair. On the day of the 13th, a council of war was held there by the Austrian General, at which various projects of escape were discussed. One point of deliberation was, whether they should retreat upon the upper Po and the Ticino, or shut themselves up in Genoa. To this the generals replied, that for eighteen months they had been fighting like brave men; that they had réconquered Italy; that they were marching upon the frontiers of France, whither they were directed by orders from Vienna; that such orders had been repeated so late as the very day before; that they ought to have been informed of the danger in their rear, instead of which they had been lulled into a false and fatal security; that all means which presented themselves of avoiding an encounter with the French were complicated and difficult, and questionable, with regard to honor; that there was one, and but one, simple, straight forward and honorable course, which was to cut their way through their opponents; that they would therefore, on the morrow, open to themselves a path to Piacenza and Mantua, though it were at the price of their blood; and that if any disaster should befall them, the responsibility would rest on those who thus left them in such fatal ignorance of the peril which was gathering round them. The resolution was therefore formed, to move from Alexandria the following morning, and force a passage through the French lines. A surprise was as far from the designs of the Austrian commander, as a general engagement was unexpected by the French. Yet a surprise was produced which had resulted in the utter discomfiture and defeat of the French, but for a combination of fortuitous events, and some rare instances of promptitude and vigor on the part of Bonaparte's lieutenants. At day-break, on the morning of the 14th June, the Austrian army issued from Alexandria and crossed the Bormida by the bridges. (B.) This operation was slow, the two bridges having, as has been explained, a common tete du pont. The Austrians divided on passing the river—one part, preceded by the cavalry under Oreilly, directing its march upon Marengo, and the other moving upon Castel Ceriolo. The French, who hai occupied the ground in advance of Marengo, between the Fontanone and the Bormida, now retired and occupied the village and the bank of the stream, so as to oppose the passage of the Imperialists. When the French were thus taken by surprise, they had only the two corps of Victor and Lannes in line, amounting in all to 15,000 or 16,000, opposed to 36,000. The corps of Lannes, which was extended from Marengo to Castel Ceriolo, formed the right of the French line. The left of the Austrians, under General Ott, assed Castel Ceriolo and out-flanked nnes. At the same time the right of the Imperialists made a desperate attempt to ford the Fontanone at and above Marengo, and scale the right bank of that stream. In this they were supported by a desperate fire of their artillery, planted on the opposite bank. At length, after a terrible carnage and unheard-of struggle, the French line was out-flanked on both wings, driven from Marengo, and compelled to retreat into the open plain, exposed, without shelter, to the fire of an
artillery consisting of not less than two hundred pieces of cannon. The battle had now raged for above three hours. The *...i. yielded at every point to the overpowering numbers of their opponents. Couriers had been despatched, on the first appearance of the Austrians, to the head-quarters of Bonaparte at Torre de Garofolo. Aid-de-camp after aid-de-camp was sent in pursuit of Desaix, who had been detached towards Novi the preceding evening. Reinforcements were, in short, summoned from every quarter. It was now ten o'clock. Bonaparte arrived, galloping at the head of the mounted Consular Guard, and followed by the division of Monnier which, though forming part of Desaix's corps, was fortunately not sent with that General to Novi. The appearance of the Guard, the finest troops in the service— but above all, the presence of the First Consul, revived the spirit of the army and arrested their retreat. Bonaparte glancing his eye over the field, with the ra| ". of thought made his dispositions. e formed the troops into line, with the right resting on Castel Ceriolo, and so that he could execute a pivot movement on that point so as to give the line an oblique direction, extending from Castel Ceriolo to San Giuliano. This position would enable him to act on the flank of the Austrians, who must of necessity take the road from Marengo to San Giuliano, and a retreat to the Po would be secured by the road from Alexandria to Salé, in his rear. The battle was now renewed with fresh fury. The infantry resisted the repeated and terrible charges of the splendid cavalry of Mélas by throwing themselves into squares. The flying troops of Victor were rallied under the protection of Murat's cavalry, and brought back into position. The gardens and cottages of Castel Ceriolo were occupied, and the ivot established. But the Austrians, impelled by the courage of despair, and sustained by an overwhelming majority of numbers, at length prevailed. Nothing could withstand them. They issued in an irresistible torrent from Marengo, driving the French in confusion before them. Great and memorable were the efforts of Lannes at this moment. Under the murderous fire of eighty pieces of cannon, which ejected showers of round and rape upon him, he presented his four io to oppose the advance of the Austrians, and protracted a retreat over the short distance of a mile and an half, for two hours. When pressed hard by the pursuing Austrians, he turned and charged them with the bayonet. Having lost his heavier artillery, he had harnessed some light pieces to the best horses, which he even ventured to present in battery from time to time to cover the retreat. The Consular Guard had stood in square, like a living citadel, in the midst of the plain, on which no charge of cavalry could make any impression. The Austrians, as a last resort, planted against it a battery of cannon. It suffered fearful loss, recoiled—but recoiled unbroken. In every direction the plain displayed one vast heap of carnage, the horror of which was increased by the explosion of the ammunition-waggons, which Lannes ordered to be blown up, being, unable to take them off the field. The whole French line, in fine, retreated in more or less confusion, still keeping hold, however, on Castel Ceriolo, and attempting to }. the oblique position extending etween that place and San Giuliano, already mentioned. It was now two o'clock, and the battle was lost. De Mélas, who had two horses shot under him, and had undergone great fatigue during the day, left the charge of pursuing the flying enemy to the chief of his staff, De Zach, and withdrew to Alexandria to write his despatches conveying the intelligence of the victory, and the dispersion of the French army, which were accordingly forwarded without delay, by couriers, to Vienna and other parts of Europe. De Zach now formed the Imperial forces into columns of march, placing at the head the infantry which were followed by Latterman's grenadiers and the baggage. The cavalry under generals Oreilly, Haddick, and Kaim were placed on the flanks. In this order they directed their march on the road from Alexandria through Marengo, to San Giuliano, without the slighest apprehension of farther opposition. It was now three o'clock. At an early hour of the day Desaix, on his march towards Genoa, heard the distant booming of cannon in the direction of Marengo. He halted to listen. The sound was continued, so as to leave no doubt that an engagement had commenced. He sent forward his aid-de-camp, Savary, to Novi with a few hundred horsemen, to make a last search for the enemy. No trace of them could be found. Desaix now no longer hesitated. He
gave the order to march back to Marengo, sending in advance his aid-de-camp to announce his approach. Never was more happy instinct displayed, never was nobler service rendered by a lieutenant. On his returning march he met the aidde-camps of Bonaparte conveying to him those orders which, with so felicitous an inspiration, he had already anticipated. The heads of Desaix's most welcome columns shewed themselves issuing upon the plain behind San Giuliano at three o'clock, when the battle had been, to all appearance, irretrievably lost, and dispositions were made for a retreat upon Pavia by the road to Salé. Desaix galloped forward to Bonaparte, and they were immediately surrounded by Berthier, Lannes and the other generals, in anxious consultation as to the measures to be taken in an emergency apparently so fatal and so desperate. Bonaparte and Desaix alone, were of opinion, that it was practicable to recover the day—all the other generals advised the continuance of the retreat which had been commenced. Nor was such an opinion unsupported by strong grounds. A retreat would throw back the shattered remnant of the disastrous day, which was then drawing to a close, upon the extensive reserves composed of the fresh troops which had just descended into the Italian plains from the more eastern passes of the Alps—by a junction with these, the Austrians might be again opposed with every prospect of success. Bonaparte, however, was too deeply conscious of the importance of the prestige which surrounded his name, and of the great moral effect of the report of a victory on the part of the Austrians— which certainly would lose none of its splendor in its transmission and diffusion throughout Europe—willingly to abandon the field. Desaix, confident in his own skill and valor, and the courage and efficiency of the troops which he led, and burning, moreover, to avenge himself for some personal slights which had recently been put upon him by the Allies, was naturally eager to seize the earliest opportunity of attacking them. When consulted by Napoleon and his lieutenants, and taking a view of the confusion of the field which lay before him, he looked at his watch, and observed that the battle was certainly lost, but that it was still only three o'clock, and that a sufficient number of hours of the day remained to gain another. Upon this Bonaparte hesitated