While Bonaparte was cut off in Egypt major events not favorable to the French cause took place in Europe.
A map showing Battles in Central Europe 1797 to 1800.
The map above shows the main battles in the years 1797 to 1800. Most of the actual names can be determined from the more detailed maps of Southern Gemany and Northern Italy found below. The battle in Holland is generally known as that of Bergen but actually the battles there took place over several days and in various places. The vicinity of Zurich saw two major sets of battles, and there were also two separate battles near Stockach which was a major Austrian supply center lying between the headwaters of the Danube and the Rhine.
Histories of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars tend to concentrate on events that involved Napoleon Bonaparte. If not those the social changes wrought by the Revolution, the political details of Revolution, or (at least in Britain) the Peninsular War. By contrast the details of military operations not involving Napoleon are neglected. This post attempts to address that imbalance to some limited extent.
Its core focus is military operations in Europe during the period of Bonaparte's absence in Eygpt. This constituted the roughly sixteen months between May of 1798 to October of 1799. The key period being the Spring of 1799 through to early Fall of the same year. The areas of operation were Holland, Southern Germany, Switzerland and Northern Italy. Basically the area stretching east of the French border for several hundred miles skipping Northern Germany which remained quiet.
For the sake of context events in 1797 and 1800 are also touched upon.
Bonaparte's successes in Italy by the spring of 1797 put France under the Directory in the driver's seat. By the Fall of 1797 all of continental Europe had recognized this, a fact formalized by the Treaty of Campio Formio and the Rastatt conference. By the end of 1797 the First Coalition was dead and only Britain remained at war with France.
The Directory, however, overestimated the strength of their position and underestimated Bonaparte's contribution to it.
Bonaparte's expedition to Egypt provoked the Turks. His capture of Malta on the way there infuriated the Russian Tzar. French aggression in Switzerland and Italy provoked the Austrians. French greediness at Rastatt and British gold also contributed to the formation of the Second Coalition in the winter of 1798/1799.
The first half of 1799 saw the French managing to hold their own in Holland, Southern Germany and Switzerland. The joint Anglo-Russian attack on Holland by 40,000 men was a worse threat than its eventual failure would suggest and it did result in most of the Dutch fleet being neutralized. Austro-Russian attacks in Southern Germany and around Zurich failed primarily due to poor co-ordination between the Allies and brilliant leadership on the French side provided by Massena. Neither Brune's efforts in Holland nor Massena's in Switzerland have received the recognition they deserve from 20th century historians.
It was in Italy that the Allies had their greatest successes. By the end of the year the French had been forced completely out of Italy except for Genoa and a sliver of land on the Rivieria. Scherer, Moreau, and MacDonald had all suffered severe defeats. Joubert, one of the most promising of Bonaparte's subordinate generals in the Army of the Italy, was killed at Novi.
By the time Bonaparte returned in October of 1799 the French situation was critical and the Directory discredited by military defeat. Bonaparte achieved primacy in France by his 18th of Brumaire coup in November as a result. His restoral of French military fortunes culminating in the battle of Marengo was a closer run thing than he was ever willing to publically admit.
It didn't help that the Austrian's didn't throw in the towel until defeated at Hohenlinden by Moreau.
The year 1797 wasn't a good one for the Allied Coalition opposing the new French Republic.
The year opened with the defeat of the final Austrian attempts to relieve Mantua at Rivoli and La Favorita.
Mantua surrendered on February the 2nd. Bonaparte was busy to the south bringing the Pope to heal. The Papal forces alone were totally inadequate to the task of successfully opposing Bonaparte's French forces a fact the Pope acknowledged in the Treaty of Tolentino in which he ceded his former terroritories in the Po valley.
Middle and southern Italy taken care of for the time being Bonaparte turned on the remaining Austrian forces in Italy.
They were totally inadequate to the task of stopping him. Worse even though the throughly competant Archduke Charles had been given command of them the Austian command in Vienna had tied his hands strategically ordering him to directly defend their base at Trieste.
By early April Bonaparte was, although rather overstretched, threatening Vienna itself. A truce was brokered at Leoben.
The Austrians delayed their formal surrender until October when they signed the Treaty of Campo Formio. They'd hoped events in Paris or elsewhere might create a change of circumstances but those hopes faded with the coup of the 18th of Fructidor (September 4th). The army purged the ruling Directory of those who might be willing to compromise Republican principles.
With Campo Formio Britain was left the sole power facing France.
The year hadn't started that badly for the British. The attempted French assaults on Ireland and the West of England were driven off. On the 14th of February Admiral Jervis with the help of some heroics on the part of Nelson put an end to the threat of the Spanish Navy at the battle of Cape St. Vincent. Despite having more ships and bigger ones too, the Spanish proved no match for the Royal Navy.
Then the men manning Britain's "wooden walls" mutinied in the Spring of 1797.
It was the nadir of Britain's fortunes.
By the fall, about the same time that Bonaparate finished up with the Austrians in Italy and was being appointed to command the Army of England, Royal Navy ships and men that had mutinied just a short time before destroyed the Dutch Navy at the bitterly fought battle of Camperdown.
The British nightmare that the Spanish and Dutch navies might combine with the French navy to clear the way for a French army to land in and conquer Britain had passed.
Bonaparte on personally inspecting the situation in early 1798 reported as much to his political masters.
He suggested instead that an indirect attack on the British Empire might be best. Tallyrand, currently the French Foreign minister, had proposed the conquest of Egypt. Since the Ottoman province was in de facto rebellion against Istanbul he suggested the Turks might even welcome this. Bonaparte had dreams of glorious conquests in the East to match those of Alexander the Great, and the politicians of the Directory were happy for an excuse to send him far away.
So in May of 1798 Bonaparte sailed for Egypt.
Fortune continued to favor the French during June and July of 1798. They took Malta in June, landed at Alexandria in Eygpt at the beginning of July, and before the end of the month, on the 21st of July, defeated the Mamuluke forces there at the Battle of the Pyramids.
Then on the 1st and 2nd of August, while Bonaparte was busy chasing a major portion of the remaining Mamulukes back to Syria, Nelson found the French naval squadron supporting Bonaparte anchored in Aboukir Bay and crushed it.
This battle of the Nile changed the entire strategic situation as the news of it rippled across Europe during the Fall of 1798.
The First Coalition had dissolved in the Fall of 1797.
The Fall of 1798 saw the formation of the Second Coalition. Critically the Russians under their new Tsar Paul were on board. The Turks and Russians, ancient enemies and having just recently completed their most recent war with each other, were now allies along with the Austrians and the British in a new effort to contain the triumphant French Republic.
The Russians sent aid to both the Austrians and the British.
After their success against the First Coalition the Directory in Paris was overconfident.
The generals with the French armies were less so. They knew some of their best troops had gone to Egypt with Bonaparte and that those left behind had been shamefully neglected. Neglected to the point that only around half of them were well enough to actually fight.
According to Clausewitz the opposing forces in Central Europe at the beginning of 1799 were roughly as follows:
Counting another 15,000 artillery men for the Austrians Clausewitz gives them 255,000 men total and the French 138,000 men. Take these figures with a grain of salt.
Army of Danube under Jourdan
As of March 1799 nominally about 50,000 men but only about 25,000 actually effective
Massena's Army of the Danube
As of 4th June 1799 76,000 men strong and main body near Zurich, this force is actually a melding of the original Army of the Danube and the Army of Helvetica officially on 29th April 1799, Massena having replaced Jourdan as a result of Jourdan's defeats at Stockach and elsewhere in Southern Germany
Muller's Army of the Rhine
Formed 5th July supposedly around 50,000 men but likely field force available of less than 20,000
Archduke Charles' Austrian Army in Germany
The Austrian organization was much less fixed than the French but was roughly as follows at the time of Stockach in March:
Numbers are very approximate. Austrian strengths for this period are often given in either large round figures or in numbers of infantry battalions and cavalry squadrons. The actual number of effectives in a unit varied widely and is often guess work for any particular unit at any particular time. At this time the Austrian units seem to have been fairly large with battalions of between 600 and 800 men, and squadrons of 120 to 160 men. Also figures for forces of Hotze and Bellegarde in Alpine regions appear to sometimes included militia not actually available for field deployment elsewhere.
For First Zurich on the 4th of June 1799 Charles was organized as follows:
Archduke Charles commanding, 62,450 men, 18,000 of them cavalry, organized into 53 battalions and 67 squadrons
Primarily from Gauchot footnotes pp. 103-104, but Nafziger following Miliutin is similar, Gauchot used report by Archduke Charles from Austrian archives. Some 6 btls and 10 sqns are unaccounted for. The battalions going by a discrepency between Gauchot and Nafziger were six battalions of grenadiers under Prince Anhalt-Kothen, narratives suggest that they went into the Army Reserve and likely the missing squadrons were assigned the same duty.
Of course for the actual main attack of June 4th the Austrians had to come up with a special organization of 5 attack columns, they kept some troops back as support basically two reserve forces, one under Nauendorf and the other under the Archduke it seems.
Note that Hotze has now joined Charles and that the numbers are rough estimates. The size of the reserve under the Archduke is from Jomini.
To give a precis of what happened in Germany in the summer and fall of 1799 it is important to first note the Prussians were neutral. This meant two things. One the lower Rhine between Holland and Mainz was basically neutral, the major fighting would occur elsewhere. Two as the Austrians were France's main opponents that elsewhere was the Lower Rhine and southern Germany basically along a line between Paris and Vienna through Strasbourg/Kehl, the Black Forest, and along the Danube valley. As the Black Forest is rough and heavily forested armies might pass it but their supply lines tended to run to the south along the Rhine through Basel to Stockach at the northern tip of Lake Constance, and from there to the upper Danube valley. Flanking manouvers to the north of the Black Forest along Main weren't impossible so some screening forces had to be assigned there, but the main action all occured between the upper Rhine and the upper Danube.
This was all the more so in that the Directory running France seemed to have the idea that the Alps were a kind of high ground between the Italian and German theaters and that success there was key to both those theaters. Massena's army in Switzerland proved to be the cornerstone of the French effort and the decisive battles of 1799 ended up taking place around Zurich. First Zurich occuring at the beginning of June and Second around the end of September.
The campaign in Germany kicked off when Jourdan, without the French first declaring war, crossed the upper Rhine at the beginning of March. He met minimal resistance from local forces.
The Austrian main force under the Archduke Charles was in winter quarters behind the Lech in Bavaria. Essentially in the Munich area from a high level perspective.
Roughly two weeks later the French and Austrians having both moved forward they were facing each other on a line running roughly south from Mengen on the upper Danube to Lake Constance. The French badly outnumbered by the Austrians under the throughly competant Archduke Charles were forced back to another line running from the Danube to Lake Constance. It ran roughly from Tuttlingen, through Liptingen (aka Emmingen-Liptingen) and Stockach. The battle that followed on the 25th of March saw the French under Jourdan throughly defeated.
The Archduke having pushed the French back to the Rhine failed to either destroy them or pursue them further. His army basically stood in place for the next couple of months and he has been critized for this by commentators ever since. However, it appears he did so on orders from Vienna so this is likely not entirely fair. The high command in Austrian was likely waiting for Russian reinforcements to arrive. It should further be remembered that the Austrian monarchy was always about preserving itself, which meant preserving its army, and preventing the rise of challengers to the reigning monarch. It was not about committing everything to conquest with the idea that warfare was an all or nothing contest.
In any event the French were given time to reorganize themselves under the command of Massena who in late April took over of the Army of the Danube in addition to the Army of Switzerland (Helvetica) that he had already been responsible for.
It wasn't until late May that the Archduke moved on Massena's forces now concentrated around Zurich to the south west of Lake Constance and Stockach where they, perhaps not coincidently, threatened any potential Austrian lines of supply across the lower Rhine.
On June the 4th the Austrians launched a full out attack on Zurich that resulted in bitter fighting. The French mostly holding their ground and claiming to have inflicted twice the losses on the Austrians that they suffered themselves have sometimes claimed to have won the battle. That they took advantage of a pause called by the Archduke the next day to slip away leaving a renewed Austrian attack on the 6th unopposed, and that they abandoned significant military material in Zurich leads most later historians to consider the victory to have gone to the Austrians. Massena did occupy a very strong line not far behind Zurich from Lake Zug north to the Rhine and manage to hold it. In a sense both sides stablized their situation in Switzerland. At least for the time being.
So ended the battle of First Zurich.
Not much happened in Germany and Switzerland for the remainder of June and July.
The Archduke did attempt to flank Messena to the north in mid August but a necessary river crossing of the Aare near Dottingen was flubbed and the effort was aborted.
There was great tension between the generals in the field and their unhappy political masters. The Directory was drawing off troops from Messena to send to the Army of the Rhine around Mainz and at one point seems to have considering replacing him. The Archduke got the worst of it though.
Failure is an orphan. The Austrian authorities, English and Russians all later blamed each other for the misbegotten plan that was forced on the Archduke at this juncture.
The Archduke having failed to make progress with his existing resources was apparently awaiting a reinforcement of 29,000 Russians under General Korsakoff.
Before Korsakoff arrived the Archduke was ordered north. He was to leave Switzerland and march down the Rhine against the French Army of the Rhine operating around Mannheim. Korsakoff, reinforced by Suverov with 21,000 more Russians, was to hold Switzerland.
The Archduke marched north on the 28th of August for Donaueschingen near the Danube's head waters. The French Army of the Rhine under Muller had departed from Mannheim for Phillipsburg to the south on the 26th.
Muller's advance elements only made to the vicinity of Stuttgart before at the beginning of September he decided to retreat in face of the Archduke's much greater numbers.
On the 18th of September the Archduke with 22,000 Austrians attacked an isolated French division of 5,200 men under Delaroche at Mannheim. The result was as one might expect Delaroche lost almost his entire division.
Muller's French Army of the Rhine had done its job though. The Archduke with substantial forces, perhaps 30,000 men, had been pulled north and away from Switzerland.
Korsakof's Russians with maybe an equal number of Austrians were left to face Massena alone. Massena seems to have now outnumbered them, but his main advantage was a clear undivided command and his own genius as a general.
Massena attacked on September 25th opening the Second Battle of Zurich.
The Russians had been defending the line of the Limmat. The Limmat river runs north-west some 30 km (18 mi) from Lake Zurich to the Aare which then runs directly north for 15 km (9 mi) to the Rhine.
The French main attack was at Dietikon. Their crossing met little resistence. The Russian reserves had been diverted to facilatate a link up with Suverov. Diversions at Wollishofen to the south near Lake Zurich and Vogelsburg to the north near where the Limmat meets the Aare both succeeded brilliantly.
By three in the afternoon the French under Oudinot were attacking the Zurichberg and threatening to cut the Russians in Zurich off. The Russians desperately counterattacked with limited success.
On the 26th Korsakoff's Russians managed to fight their way out of Zurich at the cost of almost half their force (8,000 men) and 100 guns. They retreated on the Rhine.
While Massena's main army was defeating Korakoff around Zurich a French division under Soult was administering a drubbing to an Austrian force under Hotze between Lake Zurich and the Walenzee to the south. Hotze was killed in the battle.
Suverov who'd been moving to reinforce Zurich found his path blocked by the French and was forced to disengage over a treacherous mountain route taking heavy losses in the process.
Second Zurich was a resounding victory for the French under Massena and a disaster for the Coalition allies. Together with events in Holland it led to the Russians leaving the Coalition. Although the French invasion of Germany had failed so had the Allied plan of a decisive attack by an Army under Suverov marching on Paris from Zurich.
A map showing Battles in Southern Germany 1797 to 1800.
As bad as Germany and Switzerland were for the French in early 1799 Italy was worse. They'd been greedy, not content with domination in North West Italy they'd extended themselves into Tuscany, the Papal States, and even had a good sized (30,000 men) army under MacDonald (French though of Scottish hertiage) busy occupying the Neapolitan State that owned the southern half of the Italian peninsula.
When the time came the French forces available in Northern Italy proved insufficient.
The Austrian's alone under Kray defeated the French under Scherer at Magano near Verona on the 5th of April 1799.
By the 27th of April the Russians under Suverov had arrived and administering another defeat to the French, now under Moreau, at Cassano on the Adda east of Milan. Suverov entered Milan on the 28th.
May saw Suverov defeating Moreau at First Marengo. Both the citedal of Milan and the city of Turin also fell to the Coalition this month.
Moreau lost his command being replaced by Joubert.
MacDonald marched north to restore the French position in Northern Italy.
Suverov met MacDonald on the Trebbia river near Piacenza between the 17th and 20th of June beating him in the Battle of the Trebbia.
Joubert badly informed by Moreau met Suverov at Novi on August the 15th. He'd sworn to triumph or die. He died. He'd been outnumbered. The French lost a third of their army.
After this string of successes Suverov was ordered to Switzerland where he arrived too late to help but in time to suffer the fruits of the defeats there.
A map showing Battles in Northern Italy 1797 to 1800.
The Duke of York's efforts in the low countries have been remembered in Britain, if they've been remembered at all, as a lot of effort and motion to no effect.
This is somewhat unfair. The 1799 joint Anglo-Russian attack on Holland with 40,000 men was a major effort. It diverted major resources from the battles in the Rhineland. If it had succeeded it would have unhinged France's strategic position. As it was it finally removed the Dutch fleet from the strategic gameboard. It's failure helped significantly to doom the Second Coalition. Last but not least that failure was not pre-ordained.
It did have its challenges. Amphibious operations are inherently tricky. They require careful planning and good training. Moreover Holland itself is difficult terrain crossed by many canals and ditches and susceptable to flooding. In the face of these difficulties a multi-national force with mediocre leadership further hindered by instructions from political leaders who manadated calling a Council of War for every major decision did have an admittedly uphill battle to fight.
Just the same the French had their own problems. They had one French division available and two very indifferently motivated Dutch ones. The Allies had the initiative and could attack where and when they wanted. Impeding terrain might help the defense locally but it also would impede any active defense of the sort the French favored. Most of the French armies were busy elsewhere and Brune, the French commander, could expect little or nothing in the way of reinforcements. In the event of Allied successes his Dutch forces might desert and the country might revolt leaving him alone and outnumbered in a hostile land.
"On the 13th July 1799 the first body of English, 10,000 men, sailed from the Downs." This force was commanded by General Abercromby. "[O]n the 27th of August the landing began the sea side of the Helder, Moore's brigade being the first put ashore. Brune had placed his divisions as follows: Daendels in north Holland, that is, the great promontory between the North Sea and the Zuyder Zee; the French division, soon to be Vandammes's to the south in Zeeland, and Dumonceau to the east in Friesland and Groningen, so that Daendels had to meet the English
Daendals and Dumonceau commanded the Dutch divisions. Apparently of about 10,000 men each.
The Halder is the large blunt horn of land pointing north between the North Sea and the Zuyder Zee with Den Helder at its tip and Amsterdam roughly at its base. So the Allies were going to have a slugging match to break out into open land.
To continue the story with Phipps. Daendels "had assured Brune that he quaranteed the enemy would be beaten if they landed, but now though the ground made the covering fire of the ships ineffectual, he did not oppose the immediate landing, which otherwise Moore thought might have been beaten off easily. As more English landed and advanced, Daendels attacked them, and a severe action began which lasted till 3 p.m., when Daendels retreated with a loss of 1,377 men, Abercromby losing 475. "
"That night the Dutch evacuated the forts at the Helder and their well-stocked Arsenal, which were taken possessiion of by the English the next morning. Daendels soon retired to Bergen, and the English took up the line of the Zype Canal, which they strengthened. The Dutch fleet had been at anchor close to the fort but sailed away when the English appeared and anchored off the Vlieter. On the morning of the 30th August the English fleet, carrying the flag of the Prince of Orange, came in. The Dutch sailors refused to fight against their old flag, and when their Admiral, Story, tried to get them to engage, they unloaded the guns and threw the charges and some cartridges overboard, so that Story had to surrender. By this transaction, which Story called an 'an extraordinary manner of carrying on war' the English got sixteen two-deckers, five frigates, three corvettes, and a brig."
So the Allied expedition had begun with a great success. Let Bryant take up the story here. "But for four days Abercromby made no move. He was short of provisions and water and without waggons, horses and artillery. It was all he could do to get supplies up from the Helder. The landscape, soaked in rain, seemed inhospitable and unfriendly, and, owing to the way in which the expedition had been hurried, he was without accurate intelligence of either the country or the forces against him."
The upshot was that it was "Not till September 2nd did he move forward a few miles to a position between along the Zype canal between Petten and the Zuyder Zee. Here, with 18,000 men, he entrenched himself to cover the landing of the Duke of York and the main Anglo-Russian armament."
General Brune "used the breathing space given him by the cautious invaders to assemble his troops and hurry them into the threatened peninsula north of the Haarlem isthmus. By September 9th he had got together 21,000 men, a force slightly superior to Abercromby's but, beign two-thirds of it Dutch, of uncertain sympathies. But as Abercromby so unaccountably did nothing, Brune assumed - what the former never seemed to assume - that his foe must have grave difficulties of his own. He therefore attacked him at dawn on the 10th. In this he erred. All along the line he was repelled with heavy loss."
"On the night of September 12th the Duke of York landed and during the next few days 8,000 more British arrived and 12,000 Russians."
"The Duke of York was now at the head of an army of more than 40,000 men, three-quarters of them British, as large a force as any Englishman had commanded on the Continent since Marlborough."
He decided to attack. " He divided his force into four columns: 12,000 Russians among the North Sea sand-dunes on the right under General D'Hermann, and 12,000 British under Abercromby on the left, with two smaller columns Dundas [4,000 men] and Pulteney [5,000 men] in between."
" On the evening of September 18th Abercromby set off to cover the fifteen miles to Hoorn on the shores of the Zuyder Zee, where he was to guard the Allied left and utilise any success won by the main forces to the west. Before dawn on the 19th he had surprised and captured the town.
" On the right the Russians, two hours before the scheduled time, had already commenced their attack."
" Storming the village of Groat they poured through the enemy's entrenchments and forced their way into Bergen, two miles behind his lines. "
" But owing to their having started two hours too early, Dundas's column was not yet in position to support them."
" Brune, throwing in his reserve, counter-attacked, [the Russians] proved no match for the clever and experienced French. General D'Hermann was killed, his second-in-command taken prisoner and the survivors driven back in confusion. Their panic, following hard on their incredible valour of the dawn, communicated itself to the untrained British Miltia, and the situation on the right was only saved by the steadiness of the Artillery and Brigade of Guards."
" While Dundas's wearied men struggled to retrieve the Russian debacle, Pulteney's column - of which nothing much had been hoped - was steadily pushing ahead across dykes and canals. By two in the afternoon it had carried the village of Oudkarspel, midway between Bergen and Hoorn. An hour later the Dutch tropps facing it began to yield to its steady volleys. Daendels, their commander, was carried away in the flying stream and only narrowly escapted capture. The battle, which had all but won in the morning and even more nearly lost at noon, trembled again in the balance as the scales tilted towards a British victory."
" Had Abercromby resumed his march from Hoorn and appeared, as intended in such an event, on the flank of the shattered Dutch at Alkmaar, he might have converted the defeat of the enemy's center into a rout. But he spent the day resting and waiting for information. The virtual immobilisation of 12,000 British troops a dozen miles from the battlefield robbed the Allies of their numerical superiority."
" At dusk the Duke of York, shaken by the failure of his right, broke off the battle and recalled Abercromby to his lines."
" Such was the Battle of Bergen"
" It cost the British 1450 men and the Russians 2600 men and twenty-six guns. The French and Dutch lost sixteen guns and about the same number of men. But as they remained in possession of their lines and the Allies failed to force their way to the defile of Holland, the French claimed victory." Phipps writes that the French lost 815 men and 21 prisoners and that the Dutch lost 1,539 and had 1,052 taken prisoner for total Gallo-Batavian loss of 3,427 men. He has the British losing 1,016 men and the Russians 2,975 for a total Allied loss of 3,991 men. Phipps also reports the Russians lost six guns and Pulteney's column twelve. Only 18 guns and loss on Pulteney's part seems odd. Even more oddly he reports D'Hermann was captured not killed. In any event both sides lost a substantial but roughly equal number of men and in the end the Allies pulled back to their own lines.
" The most serious consequences was the bad feeling roused between Russians and British."
The above account abbreviated from Bryant is Anglo centric and lays much of the blame for the defeat on the Russians. Note, however, that the performance of the British troops was uneven while their commanders consistantly proved poorly organized, slow, and timid. If either Abercromby or the Duke of York had shown more initiative or determination Holland would have likely fallen to the Allies.
Despite the setback at Bergen the Allies didn't yet give up.
Both sides remained about equal in strength Brune receiving 3,000 men in reinforcements and the Duke of York about "a Dragoon regiment and 3,000 or 4,000 Russians, with 300 Cossacks."
As Phipp's writes "On the 2nd of October 1799 the Duke again attacked, in four columns as before, only this time the Russians were flanked on their right along the dunes by Abercromby's column, assisted by the fire of vessels accompanying the march. " The French were pushed back but still held Alkmaar and Bergen at nightfall. Abercromby was threatening, however, to cut Brune off from Haarlem. Phipps has Brune losing 1,632 men and seven guns and the Allies 1,971 men including Moore. So heavy fighting and roughly equal losses. This action goes by the name of the Battle of Egmont.
To continue with Phipps "On Sunday the 6th of October came the battle of Kastrikum. Brune had 14,142 French and 3,200 Dutch, when the Duke advanced with 19,000 infantry, 1,400 cavalry, and 500 artillery, not expecting a battle but meaning only to approach the position the French were fortifying at Beverwyck. Abercromby was again on the right, the Russians in the centre, and Dundas on the left. The French held posts in front of their positions, and gradually the two forces became engaged in the confused struggle called the battle of Kasstrikum. "
" [B]y one o'clock Brune's position was critical, for if the other columns came on his army would be crushed. Bringing up infantry against Essen [commanding the Russians], he himself led a charge of Chasseurs and Dragoons which was successful, though during it he had two horses killed under him. Later he led the Dutch Hussars against the English Dragoons, and at night the two armies drew off, the Duke holding the posts he attacked and Brune his original position. Brune had lost 1,398 men; the Duke of York 3,439 and six guns."
" This battle was claimed as a victory by both sides, but its substantial gains fell to Brune."
On the 7th of October the Duke of York held a council of War that decided to retreat to the Zype lines.
The two sides signed a convention at Alkmaar on the 18th of October by which the French permitted the Allies to withdraw unmolested. The Allies kept the Dutch fleet, but released the prisoners they'd taken. By the 19th of November the expedition had re-embarked the English returning to England and the Russians going to the Channel Islands.
The Russians were throughly disappointed in both the Austrians and British after the disasters at Zurich and in Holland. Suverov withdrew the Russians still on the continent into winter quarters in Bohemia. Their numbers had been halved. Before the year was out Tsar Paul had left the Coalition. Not too long afterwards he was assasinated and the new Tzar Alexander was much less interested in intervening in Europe at least until much later.
Notwithstanding Brune's and Messena's successes in Holland, Germany, and Switzerland 1799 had not been a good year for French arms. Italy had been mostly lost and the last footholds around Genoa and on the Riveria were in danger. The French were fed up too. They were nostalgic for Bonaparte's successes in Italy. His coup of the 18th of Brumaire, the 9th of November on the old calendar, was widely received with hope.
To make that hope outright support and win over opponents and skeptics Bonapart was going to need military successes, quickly and not at too great a cost.
Moreau commanding in Germany was not the man to provide such quick success. Moreover any success he did achieve would redound largely to his credit not Bonaparte's. So Bonaparte surreptiously put together an Army of the Reserve around Dijon deliberately creating the impression it was smaller and less capable than it was.
He led that army across the Alps and into the rear of the Austrian army besieging Massena in Genoa.
He was too late to actually save Massena but in his haste he overextended himself and was almost badly defeated at Marango when the Austrian General Melas showed unexpected initiative.
His hard fighting troops and the ultimate sacrifice by his capable subordinate Dessaix, who'd been with him in Eygpt, saved the day.
He'd recovered Northern Italy and had a military victory as consul he could point to.
Unfortunately the loss of Italy wasn't enough to make the Austrians surrender.
That took most of the rest of the year and defeats at Hochstadt and Hohenlinden in Germany to achieve.
The victory at Hohenlinden was Moreau's so that was a mixed blessing for Bonaparte.
For anyone who doubts that individuals make a difference 1799 provides an object lesson. Napoleon's absence in Egypt proved fatal to French fortunes in Italy. Brune and Massena made all the difference in Holland and Switzerland.
Interestingly enough it wasn't just military competance or brave inspiring leadership that made these men so effective. It was also their moral fortitude in the face of political pressure. They insisted on undivided command and were willing to risk disobeying orders if they thought military necessity dictated it.
Echos of Bonaparte's letter to the Directory after Lodi when they tried to split the Army of Italy between him and Kellerman. Better one bad general free to act than two or more generals hobbled by direction from far away.
Note: You will need to cut and paste addresses given into your browser's address line in order to follow them.
The two best sources for this period appear to be Christopher Duffy's "Eagles Over the Alps" and Ramsey Weston Phipp's "The Armies of the First French Republic". I didn't manage to lay hands on either of them for this post. I expect there'll be a second one on the same topic in a year or two.
Blog Table of Contents