The Eye of the Cyclone at the Fall of the XVIIIth Century: the ill-fated Helvetic Republic (1798-1803)

Наполеон (1814 г.)

Аннотация

События двух последних лет XVIII века могут остаться незамеченными среди более выдающихся военных кампаний и драматических политических событий. Французская Директория боролась с серьезными политическими и финансовыми проблемами в 1799 году. На международном фронте судьба Французской Республики была довольно мрачной, сразу четыре крупные державы состояли в заговоре против нее, враждебные Франции войска простирались от Фрисландии до Калабрии, военно-морской флот находился в руинах, а лучший полководец застрял в Сирии.

В течение этого периода незаметно для всех прошли несколько важных мероприятий, связанных с появлением нового государства – Швейцарской республики. Три первоначальных участника пакта 1291 решили собраться в единую конфедерацию, и им удалось выйти практически невредимыми из катастрофических эпизодов. Объединению способствовали важные исторические события, такие как Реформация, Тридцатилетняя война и становление Франции как доминирующей нации. В Швейцарии тяготели Фландрия, Лотарингия, Бургундия, Франш-Конте и Савоя. Старая Конфедерация фактически сохранила старую традицию, по которой все дела решали крупные олигархи, а простой народ был отстранен от власти. Неудивительно, что Франция воспользовалась этим, чтобы втянуть в революционные события Швейцарскую республику, что и произошло в 1798-1803 гг.

В то же время, в годы 2-й коалиции союзных держав, были сформированы три большие армии, одна в Голландии под командованием герцога Йоркского, одна в Южной Германии под руководством эрцгерцога Карла и одна в Италии под командованием фельдмаршала графа Суворова. Французскую армию в Италии возглавляли генералы Моро и Шампионне. Эти способные командиры потерпели ряд серьезных поражений от русских казаков, которыми командовал 70-летний полководец Екатерины II. К концу кампании 1799 года Суворов сумел полностью вытеснить Французов из Северной Италии, и был на грани вторжения на юг Франции. Он был сделан князем Итальянским в свидетельство его успехов. Затем начались перемещения австрийских войск вдоль Альп. Французская армия в Голландии считалась более надежной потому, что здесь предполагалось вторжение англо-русских войск. В сентябре 1799 года Эрцгерцог Карл отправился со своей армией на север, чтобы поддержать союзные войска. Между тем генерал-фельдмаршал Суворов должен был пересечь Теччино к северу от Милана, проскользнуть через Сент-Готардский перевал и добраться до центральной Швейцарии, чтобы сдерживать здесь французов. Однако французский генерал Массена быстро воспользовался уходом Суворова и отправил свою армию в Цюрих 25 сентября. Здесь австро-русские позиции генералов Корсакова и Хоце были взяты врасплох и захвачены. Союзные войска вскоре отступили на восток Австрии.

В течение этого времени Суворов отказался от всякой надежды на получение мулов, которые должны были перевозить оружие, оборудование и провиант через Альпы. У русских казаков было мало выбора, кроме как отказаться от своих лошадей и в марте начать переход через Сент-Готардский перевал (2’108 м) под шквальным огнем французов. Несмотря на это, русским удалось пересечь перевал до 24 сентября, и армия Суворова устремилась дальше на север через Чертов мост в ущелье Шольнен. Два дня спустя оказалось, что нет лодок для пересечения местных озёр, и Суворов двинулся в восточном направлении через Чинсин (2’073 м) и Прагель (1’515 м) в Гларис, в сторону Австрии. Они пришли туда только для того, чтобы понять, что французские войска прочно обосновались в Гларисе и единственная их возможность – отступить на юг через перевал Паникс (2’407 м) в направлении Рейна. Теперь на русскую армию действовали голод, лютый холод и сильный снег в сочетании с усталостью и отчаянием. 6 октября старому, но неукротимому фельдмаршалу удалось выйти из Швейцарии с остатками своей, некогда успешной армии. Войска в конечном итоге прошли быстрым маршем обратно в Австрию и Россию. Несчастный Суворов попал в немилость к Павлу I, заболел и вскоре умер. Тем не менее жители Швейцарии до сих пор помнят удивительную стойкость и упрямство русских солдат, продемонстрированные осенью 1799 года.

Аннотация, ключевые слова и фразы: Швейцария, Суворов, Наполеоновские войны, военная кампания 1799 г. в Европе.

Annotation

Events of the two last years of the XVIIIth century may go unnoticed in the middle of more prominent military campaigns and dramatic political developments alike. The French Directory was struggling with political and financial challenges in 1799. On the international front, the fate of the French Republic did appear rather grim, with four major powers leagued against it, armies stretched from Friesland to Calabria, a navy in shambles, its best general stuck in Syria.

During that period, a corner of the world that is usually very quiet underwent a series of memorable events. The three initial participants in the 1291-Pact had crystallised around them a Confederation that had managed to emerge virtually unscathed from the disastrous episodes attached to the Reformation, the Thirty-year War and the emergence of France as a dominant nation at the expense of Flanders, Lorraine, Burgundy, Franche-Comté and Savoy. The old Confederation had actually preserved a number of antiquated practices that worked to the benefit of oligarchic parties at the expense of ordinary people. Little wonder that France would soon seize the opportunity of replicating itself in the form of the ill-fated Helvetic Republic (1798‑1803).

At the same time, the 2nd Coalition of allied powers had formed three large armies, one in Holland under command of the Duke of York, one in Southern Germany under Archduke Charles and one in Italy directed by Field‑Marshal Count Suvorov. The French Army of Italy was led by Generals Moreau and Championnet. These otherwise capable commanders happened to lose every major engagement with the Russian Cossacks brilliantly conducted by the 70‑year-old once favourite of Catherine II of Russia. By the end of the 1799 campaign, Suvorov had conquered back all of Northern Italy and was on the verge of invading the South of France. He had been made Prince Italskii in testimony to his successes. At this particular moment, the Aulic Council in Vienna came about moving armies along the Alps… General Brune heading the French Army of Holland was considered a threat to the poorly co-ordinated Anglo-Russian forces once intended to overthrow the Batavian Republic. In September of 1799, Archduke Charles was ordered North to support these. Meanwhile, Field-Marshal Suvorov was to march across the Tessin region North of Milan, slip through the SGothard Pass and reach central Switzerland to contain the French. General Masséna was quick to seize the opportunity, and ordered General Oudinot eastwards across the Limatt River at Zurich on 25th September. Austro-Russian positions under Generals Korsakov and Hotze were taken by surprise and overrun. The allied troops soon had to retreat towards the Vorarlberg Province of Austria to the East.

During that time, Suvorov had given up any hope of receiving the mules that had been committed to carry guns, equipment and forage across the Alps. The Cossacks had little choice but to give up their horses and march up to the St Gothard Pass (2’108 m) against heavy fire from the overwhelming French entrenchments. Notwithstanding, they managed to cross the pass on 24th September and rush further North across Devil’s Bridge into the Schöllenen Gorges. Two days later, their chance of boarding boats to cross the Four-Cantons-Lake had vanished and Suvorov was left to head eastbound across the Chinsig (2’073 m) and the Pragel (1’515 m) Passes towards Glaris and Austria. They reached there only to realise that the French troops had settled in Glaris and the only opportunity yet available to them was to retreat Southwards across the Panix Pass (2’407 m) towards the Anterior Rhine River. By now, hunger, bitter cold and heavy snow had combined with tiredness and despair against the unfortunate Russians who had lost up to their shoes… On 6th October, the old yet indomitable Field-Marshal managed to cross that pass with whatever was left of his once-successful army. The troops would eventually reach Chur before marching back to Austria and Russia. The unfortunate Suvorov, upon presenting to the tsar, was to fall in disgrace, get ill and die soon afterwards. Nevertheless, locals in Switzerland and soldiers in Russia still remember the amazing resilience and stubbornness as displayed by the Cossacks during the fall of 1799.

Meanwhile, General Brune had routed the English expeditionary force in Castricum (Holland) on 6th October. Unexpectedly, General Bonaparte had abandoned his army back in Egypt and reached Paris to prepare a coup (18th Brumaire Year VIII – 9th November, 1799). He was to quickly reassert law and order, reach the appropriate compromise with the aristocracy in exile and the Catholic Church alike, hence actually combining the benefits of both worlds, the old and the new. Eventually, the determination of his archenemies – Pitt the Younger and Admiral Nelson – was to force the soon to be emperor into ever-continuing wars with all European powers of the time. Year 1814 was the last time that Switzerland would have to stand foreign soldiers on its soil. The hesitancy of many Swiss citizens of this day to join into either European or other international commitments may well have something to do with the events of that time.

Annotation, key words and phrases: Switzerland, Suvorov, the Napoleonic wars, the military campaign of 1799 in Europe.

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The Eye of the Cyclone at the Fall of the XVIIIth Century: the ill-fated Helvetic Republic (1798-1803)

(Начало наполеоновских войн и трагедия Республики Гельвеция)

The 1798-99 period is highlighted by the fascinating Campaign of Egypt, during which General Bonaparte managed to secure the support of a fading French Navy, conquer the imposing fortress of Valetta on the Island of Malta, escape the British Navy all the way through to Alexandria prior to conquering Egypt. Even though Vice-admiral Nelson had soon made sure the French could not sail back and thus greatly reduced the benefits of such a venture, Bonaparte eventually made his way back to Fréjus and Paris where he was to take power on 18th Brumaire, Year VIII (9th November, 1799).

One may wonder why such an apparent waste of valuable resources is often pictured as a remarkable military and political achievement. A possible reason for such view is that the French Directory (government) of the time was exhausted in many respects, its armies spread around across Italy, Switzerland, Rhineland and the Law Countries to try and contain those of the 2nd Coalition (all European powers apart from Spain and Prussia). Hence against such odds the rather improbable conquest of Egypt was rightly received as an astounding success.

It might be of interest to actually have a look at those events which occurred then in Rhineland, Switzerland and Italy, since those are the places where France was to sustain the ominous forces of Austria and Russia, a power that has not yet been involved in Western Europe and was actually not to return until this day.

Whereas some of the traditional competitors of France had initially welcomed the Revolution since it was to lessen the might of the kingdom, all European powers were soon to realise how threatening to their regimes the resulting social unrest had become by the end of 1791. Consequently they reacted to the declaration of war of the Convention to the “king of Bohemia and Hungary” (the emperor of Austria) by a military alliance to be referred to as the 1st Coalition. The leading powers of the time were Austria, Prussia, the United Kingdom and Russia where the aging tsarina Catherine II was extremely vocal against what she referred to as a “lair of bandits”. Contrary to all expectations, the republican army managed to contain the allies at Valmy (20th September, 1792) and they subsequently invaded Rhineland, Belgium and Northern Italy where they encountered some support in the population. A “sister-republic” was instated in Mayence (17th March, 1793), Savoy and the Austrian Low-Countries (Belgium) were annexed in 1792-94.

After the Directory had replaced the Convention and the Treaty of Basle (1795) had concluded peace with Spain, hostilities were to continue in the Low-Countries, Germany and Italy, not to mention the high seas. So-called “sister-republics” were now in place all around the “Grand Nation” – Batavian, Cisrhenanian, Ligurian, Cispadanian and Transpadanian to be later united as Cisalpine, and soon to be Roman, Parthenopean and Helvetic Republics.

On top of such exposure, the Directory was facing uprising in France (War of Vendée, riots in Provence and secession in Corsica), in Santo Domingo which had been acquired from Spain, having to compensate for the emigration of the aristocracy which was adding to the poor condition of the navy. Nevertheless the war cabinet set up two expeditionary forces in succession bound to Ireland, a delegation to Tippo Sultan fighting the East Indian Company in the Deccan (Southern India) while others were engaging into reforming society down to the roots (metric system, state schooling, secularisation of society, universal granting of civil rights, abolition of slavery…). The Campaign of Egypt was mounted against all odds early 1798, to have General Bonaparte conquer the Island of Malta where the Knights of St John had been ruling for 250 years, prior to landing at Ab Ukir near Alexandria. Not only did the campaign bring little benefit, it also resulted in pressing both the sultan of Constantinople and the tsar Paul Ist of Russia entering the coalition against France…

Switzerland was born in the Middle Ages as a result of increasing demand for transportation across the Alps. The construction of a stone-bridge on the tumultuous Schöllenen torrent allowed access to the St-Gothard Pass, thus attracting traffic to an area that had been neglected in Roman times, albeit transalpine traffic had then been flourishing. Raising taxes on the traffic soon created local wealth and political ambition. The Duke of Habsburg did not succeed in his efforts to keep in control of affairs, as a result of which the cantons attempted at overseeing access to the pass from the South as well as from the North. Whilst they largely succeeded in their venture, the kings of France were clever enough to make alliance with the Swiss powers against Burgundy and Austria from that early period.

Towards the end of the XVIIIth Century however, the Swiss cantons were amounting to 13, all of them German speaking, and had secured treaties with local vassals and other entities alike, thus called their allies. Although they were extremely jealous of their independence, they also used to send deputies to a Diet sitting in Solothurn, actually devoid of any real power. The cantons had thus retained their own banners, separate armies, currencies and tax-systems. Although economic fundamentals were generally rural and conservative in nature, several cities to the North-West of the Confederation had actually achieved prosperity through waiving and clock-making as well as banking across Europe.

Whilst J-J. Rousseau had been picturing the Swiss Confederation as a democratic model, reality was somewhat grimmer. A small number of aristocratic families had made sure political power remained in their hands in the major towns (Basle, Zurich, Berne, Lucerne). Apart from the 13 cantons, large regions had been acquired through conquest and subjected, and those had been in effect reduced to the condition of colonies. A number of popular uprisings occurred during the latter part of the XVIIIth Century as a consequence of the Enlightening movement. These were brutally suppressed.

At the same time, economic prosperity had resulted in a better education and intellectual challenging. Many of the brilliant thinkers of the time actually resided in Switzerland, e. g. mathematicians Bernoulli and Euler, physicians Haller, Tissot, Tronchin as well as Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Constant, Bonstetten, Fellenberg, Bonnet, Candolle, Pictet, Saussure…

Whilst many in the lower classes were forced into emigration to secure a living, others in prominent families were also led to seek their fortune abroad, sometimes as far away as America, Russia and India. Not only soldiers, but also architects, engineers, men of letters, artists often gained prominence away from their original country. Paris was possibly the most famous city of the world, and the Swiss community was particularly prosperous there.

The United Kingdom had gained much power during the century, and family scions indulged into the habit of travelling across Europe to accomplish their Grand Tour. Subjects of nature had been promoted by such writers as Rousseau, and the young Goethe was to further develop that trend by reporting on his travels in Switzerland. Whilst Gibbon lived in Lausanne and felt enthused by the local system, other political thinkers were quick to point to its limitations (Casanova, Voltaire). Talking of Switzerland, Goethe observed: “Liberty is but a fairy tale preserved in alcohol ”, and the Russian traveller Karamzine: “Prosperity has made citizens selfish and thereby caused moral decadence of the people.” Even more ominous, a deputy from St Gallen was to state: “Issuing a bill to state that it will be snowing in winter should require more than a dozen deliberations !”

It may come as little surprise that such a conservative society would be shaken by the tremendous sequence of events soon to occur in Revolutionary France. Many radical thinkers of the time, like Constant, La Harpe, Ochs, Germaine de Staël, were adamant at precipitating dramatic changes in the social and political fabrics of society. Furthermore, Switzerland had escaped war on its soil for some three hundred years, and no one considered military invasion other than an

Geneva had been a stronghold on the Rhone River since Roman times, due to its strategic location for hosting a bridge at the end of a large lake. It remained a small city during the Middle-Ages, with merchants challenging the power of its bishop to introduce political and financial franchises similar to those granted to many bourgeoisies across Europe at the time. The Cantons of Berne and Fribourg had commited their support as early as 1526 (Combourgeoisie Treaty). During the XVIIIth Century however, these democratic achievements had been largely neutralised by a small number of prominent families willing to keep power to themselves. At the same time, political protests had become vocal and some street demonstrations had been suppressed with the help of the neighbouring powers of France and Savoy (1792). Many citizens of Geneva were proud of their Huguenot ancestors, while at the same time making a good living out of trading with France and lending large chunks of money to its government heavily engaged in the American Revolution.

The 1st Coalition of European powers had been formed in 1792 as a result of the aggressive posture of the French government, still formally a kingdom at the time. The Dukedom of Savoy had joined the alliance and most political observers were convinced that the French government would not be up to the challenge posed by the formidable alliance of a dozen leading powers never before united (United Kingdom, Spain, Prussia, Austria, Savoy, Naples and others)…

Contrary to all expectations, the revolutionary government did measure up and called citizens to the defence of their homeland. They responded in numbers (“Levée en masse”) and caused the retreat of the German army in Champagne and Rhineland, thanks to the action of Generals Kellermann and Custine (1792 – 93). Another French army under command of General de Montesquiou invaded the Dukedom of Savoy, so that the western part of it was annexed by the French Republic in 1792. Rulers of the Republic of Geneva were soon to realise that their sheer existence was at risk, and they introduced a number of democratic changes in order to mimic the French model (late 1792).

Some years later, the French Republic was facing a new alliance (2nd Coalition) and would not resist the temptation of invading Geneva for good (15th April, 1798). The once proud city-state was now reduced to the status of an ordinary French city at the head of a newly formed Département (Léman by name). In contrast to the previous elimination of any catholic representation in Geneva, the new power, although formally secular, did impose recognition of both the Catholic and the Jewish faiths and their regular celebrations. Nevertheless the so-called bishop of Geneva who had resided in neighbouring Annecy for some 250 years wisely did not attempt at coming back to celebrate in the former cathedral…

It should come as little surprise therefore that social and political unrest in France was deemed to have repercussions in Switzerland. The peasants, however conservative, were prompt to see the benefits of pulling down feudal rights and taxes. Press censorship was then the rule throughout Europe, with the result that undercover publications would make their way into radical segments of society. Uprisings had occurred in the Valais, in Schaffhausen and Canton Zurich in the 90’s. The French assembly went up to issuing a warning in form of the following bill : “On behalf of the French Nation, the National Convention commits to helping and supporting all the peoples which may claim their freedom, and urges the government to take military steps to that effect.” French columns ended up occupying Basle and Bienne at the end of 1797, the Pays de Vaud by early 1798, thus prompting the creation of the short-lived Lemanese Republic (23-24th January). Most cantons were prompt to adapt to the new fashion and adopt “democratic” constitutions overnight.

The Canton of Berne was the leading power in the area, and hungry Republicans were eager to grab its treasury, commonly considered very sizeable. Generals Brune and Schauenbourg soon crushed the Bernese forces which did not measure up to their long-standing reputation, and French troops entered in Berne on 5th March 1798. The canton had collected a 30 million franc-treasury which was to finance the Campaign of Egypt. The antiquated Eidgenossenschaft (Confederation) had lived and prospered for 500 years, and the great powers had recognised its neutrality since the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), yet it was now over. A radical politician from Basle – Peter Ochs – issued a constitution to rule the newly formed Helvetic Republic (22nd March 1798). The capital was to be itinerant between Aarau, Lucerne and Berne, a triple tripped banner was introduced (green, red and yellow), a centralised system was to mimic that of the French protector (common currency, civil rights, metric system…).

As a result of such upheaval, the economic situation was to deteriorate abruptly and the various components of such a segregated society soon to battle among themselves. French troops could not afford to leave the country, least even to allow for chaos. Between 1800 and 1802, not less than four coups were mounted against the new regime. As soon as General Bonaparte had arrived from Egypt, he mandated a deputation chamber with the task of proposing a new constitution. The so-called Consulta came up early 1803 with a proposal. The then First Consul stated: “Nature has provided you with a federal nature, so that wise men should not wish otherwise… Your people should not aim at anything else than neutrality, a prosperous trade, and a conservative rule of business… Preserve your tranquillity, even at times of oscillation, since you hold the arm of the balance in the middle. Keep quiet, retain your laws, your mores, your industries, as a result of which your share will keep sizeable.” (19th Frimaire, Year XI). Thus a bill to reverse to the old Confederation was adopted in form of an Act of Mediation granted by the First Consul on 19th February, 1803. Provisions were made to commit 12’000 soldiers to the French ally every year. But overall, the system would work out fine and the French Empire was to respect the neutrality of the country against all odds.

The ancient Reich (Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation) had survived largely unchanged since the Middle Ages. There were more than 300 principalties, each with their denomination (“cujus regio, ejus religio”), their currency, their legal and metric systems… The French Republic had seized the left bank of the Rhine for sake of “geographic rationality”. The kingdoms of Hanover, Prussia and Saxony had all withdrawn from the coalition due to military failures, while the Grand-Duchy of Bavaria had felt inclined towards its arch-enemy Austria in consideration of the new threat. The 2nd Coalition thus appeared formidable in the face of a French army stretched from Friesland to Sicily, aligning some 180’000 troops against more than 300’000 combined forces…

By early 1799, General Jourdan was in command of Army of the Rhine and Danube, facing austro-russian forces under Archduke Charles. General Masséna was soon called into office. He retreated into Northern Switzerland and settled in the Zurich area. At the same time, the opposite forces were taking camp between the Lakes of Constance and Zurich, ca. 100 km to the East. A so-called Aulic Council used to sit in Vienna to overlook the operations. At the same time, an expeditionary corps under the Duke of York has landed in Friesland to invade the newly formed Batavian Republic. It unusually combined forces from the United Kingdom and Russia. Therefor the Helvetic Republic was to find itself right in the middle of the storm taking force during the course of 1799…

Further South, the French Republic had taken control of much of the Italian Peninsula at the Campo Formio Treaty (18th October, 1797). The 1st Campaign of Italy (1796-97) conducted by General Bonaparte had given birth to the Cisalpinian Republic formed around Milan, another sister-republic with a triple-tripped banner (green, white and red). The young Henri Beyle – better known as Stendhal – then an officer in the French army would later recall: “The army set up by Bonaparte had managed to bring together the sombre Novarian and the light-hearted Venitian, the citizen of Reggio and the good Buseccone from Milan. It produced two results: the creation of a new language and the disappearance of the hatred among cities as well as the petty patriotism”.

At the same time, an Army of Rome was formed under General Berthier, soon succeeded by Championnet. Pope Pius VI fled and a Roman Republic was established on 15th February, 1798. King Ferdinand IV of Naples was reluctant to resist the French since his army had performed poorly during the previous coalition. However the pressure exercised by Emperor Francis II of Austria, his brother-in-law, and Rear-Admiral Nelson who was a frequent visitor, in the end overcame his resistance and the Neapolitan army under Austrian General Mack had a go at fighting near Civita Castellana on 5th December, 1798, only to retreat and ultimately dissolve. General Championnet entered Naples on 23rd January, 1799 and a so-called Parthenopean Republic was instated. The king, together with Queen Maria-Carolina – a former archduchess of Austria and a sister of Marie-Antoinette, the former queen of France, Sir Francis Acton their English minister and the court had just escaped to Sicily with the assistance of Rear-Admiral Nelson and the Royal Navy. Nelson was most affectionate with Lady Emma Hamilton, the beautiful British ambassadress, although he was not really an Adonis, having lost both his arm and his eye in battle, and also very short …

It was the third time in history that a French expeditionary force had conquered Naples, after Charles of Anjou in 1266 and Charles VIII of France in 1495. Alas, the newly-formed government was less than united, and typical Mediterranean quarrelling was soon to rage, with a so-called San-fedist reaction taking place in the country, led by clerics like Fra Diavolo (sic) and General-Cardinal Ruffo. Meanwhile the situation in Northern Italy had deteriorated for the French and General Macdonald, now in charge, was soon to accept the terms of a withdrawal on 7th May, 1799. A sad episode was then to occur. Admiral Francesco Caracciolo, Duke of Brienza, a former companion of Admiral Nelson in the Royal Navy, had been enrolled on the side of the Republicans. Nelson had him tried in spite of the peace agreement, and actually hanged at the mast of his own ship, the Minerva (29th June, 1799)

At the same time, a new Austrian army under Field-Marshal Kray came close to the French settlements in Lombardia under command of General Schérer. In addition, a Russian expeditionary force made of Cossaks and other elite-troops had been brought across Europe by Field-Marshal Souvorov, an seasoned commander who had gained his fame at the time of Tsarina Catherine II. The French under Generals Serurier, Genier and Victor had taken fortified positions on the Adda River towards Venice. By late April, Souvorov crossed the river, conquered Milan, crushed the positions of Moreau at Cassano and had Sérurier surrender. The Russians entered Turin on 26th May, 1799.

Further South, General Macdonald had been called from Naples to Florence where he arrived on 26th May. His army arrived in time to rescue the fortress of Mantua besieged by Austrian Field-Marshal Melas and actually repelled the Austrians at Modena and Piasanca. General Suvorov was prompt to react. A long and difficult struggle was engaged on the Trebbia River, to the ultimate benefit of the Russians (17th-19th June, 1799). General Macdonald managed to conduct a successful retreat through Via Aurelia towards Genoa.

On 5th July, General Joubert who was pictured as a new Bonaparte (he was 30 years old) was named to succeed Moreau as commander-in-chief. He would rely on the yet unscathed Army of the Alps under General Bernadotte, although the fortress of Mantua would fall on 17th July, leaving little more than Genoa and Liguria as French strongholds. General Joubert, realising the situation was worsening quickly, rushed down the Po River towards the Austro-Russians. Both parties set to dig retrenchments at Novi. Battle started on 15th August, and Joubert got killed among the first. General Moreau took over and ordered retreat towards Genua. Generals Pérignon, Grouchy and Colli had been wounded and taken prisoners. General Suvorov was promoted field-marshal and prince of Italia (Knyaz Italiyski ) by Tsar Paul Ist.

Meanwhile, a naval force combining Russian and Ottoman ships led by the brilliant admiral Ushakov had conquered the Ionian Islands and Illyria acquired by France under conditions set down by treaty of Campo Formio. The British Royal Navy layed siege before Valetta in Malta, then in French hands as well. By September, Austrian forces under General Ott were routing General Suchet towards Southern French Alps. Meanwhile Field-Marshall Melas was taking the upper hand over Championnet while leading the Austrian Army of the Alps in Genola (4th November)…

Hence the scene was set for Field-Marshal Suvorov to course the retreating French across the Alps and contemplate invading the South of France. Heads of states would actually see to it that the wheel of fortune turn into a different direction. British funding was essential to the conduct of military business. To the London cabinet, developments in the Low Countries were of primary importance. And there an expeditionary force under the Duke of York was facing stiff resistance on the part of General Brune. One may also speculate that the perspective of Tsar Paul I getting a close hand into West European affairs as a result of Russian military successes was all but welcome by British and Austrian governments alike. Whatever the case, the Aulic Council in Vienna issued an order to Suvorov that he moved back to Ticino through the St Gothard Pass in order to support General Rimsky-Korsakov in Northern Switzerland (mid-September, 1799). The strategic purpose was to route the French forces out of Switzerland.

The Army of General-Prince Rimsky-Korsakov (23’000 troops) was to relieve that of Archduke Charles being sent down the Rhine River to the North. They were facing entrenchments of General Masséna across Central Switzerland. General Hotze, a Swiss in Austrian service was expected to move South to join the Russian troops arriving from Tessin through the Gothard Pass. General Linken (sic) was to lead the left wing of the allied forces across Pragel Pass to the West.

The move by General-Prince Suvarov might have appear feasible on the map, crossing a distance of ca. 500 km so late in the year, with an army exhausted by a long and difficult campaign and having to cross a pass at 2’000 metres under enemy fire was anything but an easy assignment.

Marching orders of the major military forces in 1799

  • French Army of Holland, under General Brune: Provide support to the newly formed Batavian Republic in the face of an Anglo-Russian expeditionary corps landed in Friesland under the Duke of York.
  • French Army of Helvetia, the Danube and the Rhine, under General Massena: Provide support to the newly formed Helvetian Republic in the face of the Austrian Army of Archduke Charles.
  • French Army of the Alps and Italy, under Generals Moreau, Macdonald, Joubert, Championnet (them Masséna from 1800): Hold the settlements of Liguria, Piedmont and Lombardy until rescue was available.
  • Anglo-Russian Army of Holland, under General-Duke of York: Crush Franco-Dutch forces, wipe out the Batavian Republic and aim at investing Paris.
  • Austrian Army of the Northern Alps, under Field-Marshal Archduke Charles: Contain the French Army in Southern Germany and Switzerland, then combine Austrian and Russian forces to invade France in Alsace.
  • Austro-Russian Army of the Alps, under Field-Marshal Suvorov: Conquer Lombardy and Northern Italy, thereby eliminating the French and their puppet-republics to have Austria regain its traditional influence in Italian affairs.

Some prominent military figures on stage at the time 

Петр Иванович Багратион

General Piotr Ivanovitch, Prince Bagration (1765-1812): He was the scion of an illustrious Geogian family. Along with General Suvorov, he had served during the violent revolt in Poland (1794). During the glorious Campaign of Italy in 1799, he conquered the fortress of Brescia (10th April), had the high hand against Sérurier and Moreau later that month and played a decisive role during the battle of La Trebbia (17th-19th June) when opposed to Macdonald’s forces. Following the disgrace of Suvorov, he served under Field-Marshal Kutusov during engagements in Austria (1805) and Russia (1812). He died shortly after the fall of Moscow in 1812.

Луис Александр Бертье

Field-Marshal Louis Alexandre Berthier, Prince of Neuchâtel (1753-1815): He had his first military exposure during the American Independence War. During the early days of the Revolution, he was a major in the National Guard and did his best to protect the royal family. Berthier then served in Rhineland under Kellermann and in Italy under Bonaparte (1796-97). Running to the rescue of General Duphot who had been assassinated in Rome in late 1997, he was instrumental in establishing the Roman Republic on 15th February, 1798. Having then taken part in the Expedition of Egypt, he would not be forgotten by Napoléon who had him elevated to head of staff, field-marshal, prince of Neuchâtel and finally prince of Wagram. During the First Restoration, he supported the king and was named Peer of France. His sudden death in Bavaria in 1815 has raised eyebrows…

Guillaume Marie Anne Brune

Field-Marshal Guillaume Marie Anne Brune (1763-1815): Although he was the son of a lawyer, young Brune willingly joined the National Guard, and then the Army of the North under General Dumouriez (1792). During the war in Italy (1796), he was promoted to general by Masséna. The war cabinet had him conduct the invasion of the Swiss Confederation in early 1798, during which he was suspected of diverting part of the Berne treasury (ca. 30 million Francs in all). During the war in Holland the following year, he conducted a masterly campaign against the Anglo-Russian expeditionary corps. Although Napoleon thought highly of him, he had little confidence in his loyalty and had him relieved of active office during most of the Empire. In 1814 however, Field-Marshal Brune fought in Piedmont and was recognised by a rioting party while in Avignon, which resulted in his being lynched by the crowd.

Francesco Caracciolo

Admiral Francesco Caracciolo, Duke of Brienza (1752-1799): Born into an illustrious Neapolitan family, Francesco embraced a naval career and served as a junior officer in the Royal Navy during the American Independence War. Since the Kingdom of Naples had joined in the 1st Coalition against the French Republic, Rear-Admiral Caracciolo took part in the siege of Toulon by a French army where Captain Bonaparte was to play a deciding role. He was still instrumental in capturing two French ships of the line in 1795, Cayra and Censeur. During the operations of the 2nd Coalition, a French army under General Championnet conquered Naples and established the Parthenopean Republic (January 1799) while King Ferdinando IV had fled to Sicily with the assistance of Admiral Nelson. Francesco felt unattended to and sailed back to Naples where he took office with the Republican Navy. Halas, a few months later, the French had to retreat and Caracciolo was tried and convicted for treason. Upon the personal insistence of his long-standing fellow Admiral Nelson, the martial court had Admiral Caracciolo hanged at the main yard of his own ship, Minerva.

Lazare Carnot

General Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot (1753-1823): Young Carnot was of higher bourgeois descent. He became enthused with the Revolutionary cause, and left a formal military career for a more political role, in effect masterminding all French military campaigns of the time. He thus received the well-deserved nick-name organiser of the victory following brilliant military prowesses in Belgium and Rhineland (1793-95). After Bonaparte had instated the Consulate and was leaning towards dictatorship, General Carnot left office for a while. Towards the end of the era however, he was appointed commander of the fortress of Antwerp, then minister during the Hundred Days. He was also a respected scholar in mathematics.

Jean Etienne Championnet

General Jean Etienne Championnet (1762-1800): He was put in charge of Army of Rome in 1798 and actually ordered to march against the Kingdom of Naples, whose King Ferdinando IV had foolishly got involved in the 2nd Coalition. The French army had the upper arm at the battle of Civita Castellana against General Mack leading the Neapolitans, and General Championnet was to instate the Parthenopean Republic in January, 1799. A few months later, the French had suffered serious setbacks in Northern Italy and the army was called to retreat, which resulted in the restoration of the monarchy and a series of disgraceful punishments for the Republicans. Championnet suffered a severe blow at Genola from the Austrian corps led by Field-Marshal Melas. He died in Nizza soon afterwards.

Mathurin Léonard Duphot

General Mathurin Léonard Duphot (1769-1797): Having been involved in the 1st Campaign of Italy (1796‑97), he was appointed to accompany the embassy led by Joseph Bonaparte to the Saint See in Rome (1797). The eruption of violent protests by the populace and rebellious soldiers resulted in the lynching of General Duphot and his fellow Bassville (27th December, 1797), which was to precipitate a protracted argument between France and the Papacy, as well as prolonged military involvement of the former in Southern Italy on the part of the former. 

Karl Ludwig von Erlach

General Karl Ludwig von Erlach (1746-1798): The scion of a Bernese patrician family, he joined the Swiss Guard in Paris in 1774. His ancestor Jean Louis d’Erlach had been Field-Marshal of King Louis XIV of France. In the context of the French invasion, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Confederate army early 1798, whilst denied adequate resources. In the aftermath of the defeat of Grauholz on 5th March 1798, he was mistakenly murdered by the mob at Wichtrach.

Лоран де Гувион Сен-Сир

Field-Marshal Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr, Marquess and Peer de France (1764-1830): Born the son of a tanner, he joined Army of the Rhine in 1792 and soon proved extremely able, being appointed general within two years. In 1798, he was made commander of Army of Rome and conquered the city after having settled a disciplinary rebellion of the higher officers against General Masséna. During the campaign against Field-Marshal Suvorov, he served under Joubert who was killed at Novi (15th August 1799) and managed to retreat to Genoa. Although he had continuously demonstrated his capacity, he was sidelined by Napoléon due to his independent character. He was appointed field-marshal in 1812 and contributed to national reconciliation at the time of the Restoration. Louis XVIII made him a marquess and peer of France.

Karl von Habsburg, Archduke of Austria (1771-1847)

Field-Marshal Karl von Habsburg, Archduke of Austria (1771-1847): He was the third son of Leopold II of Austria, and as such designated to rule the Austrian Low Countries (Belgium and Luxembourg). Archduke Charles actually demonstrated outstanding military capabilities when opposed to such figures as Moreau, Jourdan in Germany (1796), Masséna in Italy (1797) and Napoléon in Austria (1809). The protracted engagement at Essling proved extremely costly to both sides during the latter campaign. The marriage of Archduchess Marie-Louise to Napoléon in 1810 was to turn him into a nephew of the French emperor.

Franz Jellachich

General Franz Jellachich, Baron von Buzim (1746‑1810): Of Croatian descent, Franz Jellachich entered into service in 1763, fought against the Turks in 1789 and was made colonel in 1794. He fought under Archduke Charles in Rhineland in 1796 and the following years, being then opposed to Generals Moreau and Masséna. During the 1805 campaign, he was to cover Vorarlberg while Napoléon triumphed at Ulm. He was involved once more in the 1808 campaign.

Barthelemy Catherine Joubert (1769-1799)

General Barthélémy Catherine Joubert (1769-1799): He volunteered at the time of the levée en masse (1791). Making rapid progress through the ranks, he was appointed general during the Campaign of Italy in 1795. He was commander-in-chief in Holland (1797) and Rhineland (1798) prior to taking over from Brune in Italy (latter part of 1798). During the disastrous Campaign of Italy in 1799, he was taken by surprise and killed at Novi while opposing Field-Marshal Suvarov. French Director Sieyès, a member of cabinet, had plans for him to take pre-eminence on the political scene, although Bonaparte eventually proved to be a more-than-willing replacement (on 18th Brumaire, Year VIII / 1799).

Paul Kray von Krajowa

General Paul Kray, Baron von Krajowa (1735-1804): This fine tactician was of Hungarian descent. He had entered the career during the Seven-Year-War. In 1788, he was to crush the Walachian uprising in Transylvania, and then was involved against the Turks in 1990. During the 1799 Campaign in Italy, he took over from Field-Marshal Melas who was unfit. He triumphed over General Schérer at Magnano and subsequently conquered Mantua back. On the following year, he took over from Archduke Charles and was overpowered by General Moreau in Southern Germany. He subsequently resigned his commandment. 

Claude Jacques Lecourbe

General Claude Jacques, Count Lecourbe (1758-1815): He had joined the Army of the Rhine in 1792 prior to pursuing a brilliant career in the Low Countries and Rhineland. Subsequently he was attached to Army of Helvetia and was appointed general in 1799. Under General Masséna, he was to hold positions in the St-Gothard Pass against attemps by Field-Marshal Suvorov. The French proved uncapable of resisting the decisive move of Russian troops, even though they managed to inflict serious damage. He then served under General Moreau at Army of the Rhine in 1800, until Napoléon sacked him together with General Moreau in 1804.

Etienne Jacques Joseph Alexandre Macdonald

Field-Marshal Etienne Jacques Joseph Alexandre Macdonald, Duke of Tarento (1765-1840): He was of remote Scottish descent and first served in the Irish Legion of the French Army, then at the Maillebois Regiment in 1785. During the Revolutionary Wars, he distinguished himself at Army of the North and Army of Sambre et Meuse (1796). In 1798, he took over from General Gouvion St-Cyr as commander of Army of Rome, prior to moving to Army of Naples (early 1799). During the difficult campaign against the Austro-Russian army, he was successful at Modena but beated at Trebbia and was then releaved from office in Italy. He then served under General Moreau in Germany during 1800 and managed to cross Splügen Pass during that winter to reach Trento in the Valtelina. He was instrumental during the difficult battle of Wagram (6th July, 1809) and was elevated to field-marshal and duke on the battlefield, even though Napoléon had reservations about him.

Andre Massena, Duke of Rivoli

Field-Marshal André Masséna, Duke of Rivoli, Prince of Essling (1758-1817): A son of the ancient Principalty of Monaco, André Masséna had reached the grade of general during the 1st Campaign of Italy at the time when much younger General Bonaparte was appointed above him in April, 1996. He was put in charge of Army of Helvetia, the Danube and the Rhine at the end of 1798. Although he had been taken by surprise by the Austro-Russian offensive late 1799, he actually managed to reverse the course of events to the benefit of France. Taking over from General Championnet in Northern Italy, he sustained the siege of Genoa by the Austrians until the rescue army of Prime Consul Bonaparte arrived to claim victory at Marengo (18th June, 1800). He then served as field-marshal in Italy, Austria, Portugal and Spain. Napoleon had granted him the nickname “beloved child of Victory” at Rivoli (14th January, 1797).

Michael Friedrich Benedikt, Baron von Melas

Field-Marshal Michel Frédéric Benoît, Baron of Melas (1729-1806): This applied officer had joined the army at the tender age of 17 and taken part in the Seven-Year-War under Field-Marshal Daun. Having made his way through the ranks he was placed at the head of Army of the Alps in 1799, although he had then reached 70! Field-Marshal Suvorov – also aged 70 – soon demonstrated outstanding capabilities under his (nominal) command. Melas was successful against the French at Cassovo and Novi (summer of 1799). Once Suvorov had been called to Switzerland, he had free reins to finish with the French. General Masséna had taken command of the fortress of Genoa, whose siege was made long and difficult until the spring of 1800. On 14th June, the rescue army of First-Consul Bonaparte suddenly appeared onto the scene. Melas marched on and defeated the French while they were still divided. He then left the battlefield, only to have General Desaix come to rescue and actually reverse the fortune of battle at Marengo later that day… Melas then retired from active service.

Jean Victor Moreau

General Jean Victor Moreau (1763-1813): He had volunteered in 1791 and made his way at Army of the North under General Dumouriez, having been elevated to lieutenant-colonel in Belgium (1793). Succeeding General Pichegru at Army of the Rhine in 1795, he captured Munich in 1796, prior to conducting a remarkable retreat to Rhineland. In 1799, Field-Marshal Suvorov made his life difficult in Northern Italy. At the same time, Sieyès had plans for him to rule in Paris… On the following year, General Moreau led a brilliant campaign in Southern Germany against Archduke John. Bonaparte had him banished in the aftermath of the Cadoudal conjuration (1804). Moreau died on the battlefield at Dresden while under Russian service.

Gabriel Jean Joseph Molitor

Field-Marshal Gabriel Jean Joseph, Count Molitor (1770-1849): Having joined the Moselle Batallion in 1791, he fought in Army of Sambre et Meuse as well as Army of the Rhine under Generals Custine, Jourdan and Hoche. He had been elevated to brigadier in Army of Helvetia in 1799. His corps had been well entrenched in Klön Pass towards the end of September, 1799 facing Suvorov coming East from the Schöllenen Pass. This forced the Russians to retreat South to the Grisons. Molitor then continued his career during the Empire and the Restoration when he became Field-Marshal. 

Horatio Nelson

Admiral Horatio Nelson, Baron of the Nile, Duke of Brontë (1758-1805): The young Horatio started at the age of 12 years on HMS Raisonnable, and by age 20 was commanding HMS Hinchinbrooke, a frigate. He went on demonstrating outstanding seaman’s capabilities on various occasions, loosing his right eye at Calvi in 1794, and an arm at Cape St Vincent while fighting the Spaniards in 1797. On 1st August, 1798, his squadron took the French Navy by surprise near Alexandria and actually destroyed most of it, thereby barring Bonaparte any retreat from Egypt. Having contributed to the withdrawal of the French in Naples in June 1799, he was made rear-admiral and duke. Having destroyed the Danish Navy in Copenhagen, he blockaded Admiral Villeneuve in Toulon during 1803-1805. Once the French Navy had finally escaped, Admiral Nelson lead the brilliant battle of Trafalgar against joined Spanish-French forces (21st October, 1805). He was to die in action on that day.

Александр Михайлович Римский-Корсаков (худ. Варнек)

General Alexander Michaïlovitch Rimsky-Korsakov (1753-1840): A former cadet at the Semienovski Regiment of the Imperial Guard, he had been involved in the Turkish war in 1788-89 and against the Swedish army later on. Impress Kathrin II appointed him Colonel of the regiment. Rimsky-Korsakov then was attached to Count of Artois who had taken refuge in the UK and took part in action against the French under Custine in Flanders and thus took part in the battle of Fleurus (1794). He was then sent against the Persians under General Subov. Tsar Paul Ist put him in charge of the expeditionary corps in support of the Austrian army of Archiduke Charles during the campaign of Switzerland (1799). Following the foolish withdrawal of the Austrian allies next to Zurich, Masséna crushed the Russian positions at the 2nd battle of Zurich (June 26, 1799). Rimsky-Korsakov was left to retreat to Lindau and join the Kossaks led by Suvarov then routed North along the Rhine valley. Alexander Ist was then to appoint him in charge of the cavalry and later to have him Governor of Lithuania prior to have him sit at the Imperial Council.

Cardinale Fabrizio Ruffo

General Fabrice Denis Ruffo, duke of Baranello and Bagnara, cardinal (1744-1827): This rather uncharacteristic eminence had been fired from the Papal Curia due to inappropriate behavior. Ruffo felt little interested to stay in Palermo where the royal court had taken refuge following the French invasion of Naples. He set up a force located in the Puglia and Calabria to counter the new revolutionary regime (« banda de Santa Fede » — party of the Saint Faith). The partisans (briganti) had a leader by the well-suited name of « Fra Diavolo » (Father Devil). Following the French retreat, these groups raided Naples and committed atrocities on those accused of colluding with the French with support from the Carbonari. The cardinal was considered too lenient by these extremists and subsequently spent time in Naples, not even leaving under the reign of Joseph Bonaparte (1806-1808).

Jean Matthieu Philibert

Marshall Jean Matthieu Philibert, count Sérurier (1742-1819): He had been enrolled as militian prior to seeing fire during the Seven-Year War and had been appointed colonel in 1792. Following his unexpected destitution, he got enrolled again as a private and got up the ranks again to the grade of general in 1795. He then served in Italy and conquered Mantua in February 1797. Bonaparte had him governor of Venice and demonstrated such unusual fairness and probity that he was nicknamed Vierge d’Italie (Virgin of Italy). In 1798, Sérurier reported to Moreau and was routed by Suvarov at Verderio in April 1799. He was to be appointed senator and marshall in 1804 yet was not to take part in action again.

Suvorov Alexander Vasilievitch

Field-Marshal Alexander Vassilievitch Suvorov, Prince of Italy (1729-1800): He had started his career at Semionovsky Regiment of the Imperial Guard, prior to serving Tsarina Elizabeth I, Tsar Peter III, Tsarina Catherine II and Tsar Paul I in succession. Such endeavours had him fight against Prussia, the Ottomans, rebellious Cossacks led by Pugachev, the Poles as well as various Caucasian nations. He proved reckless while suppressing the Varsaw uprising in 1794. In contrast to Tsarina Catherine having shown particular benevolence to him, her son Paul I disliked Suvorov. However, Emperor Francis II of Austria had such high regard for him that General Suvorov was appointed head of the Russian expeditionary force in Northern Italy in 1799. There this man aged 70 proved invincible against a array of French generals, which he all beated. Made Field-Marshal and Prince of Italy, he was ordered North for obscure reasons and finally led to a desperate pursuit across five passes of the Alps in succession, with minimal support and equipment. Amazingly, Suvorov has since received the highest regard in consideration of this particular episode. He died soon after he had been back to Russia.

Frederick Augustus

Field-Marshal Frederick Augustus, Duke of York (1763-1827): He was second in succession to his father King George III of England. Having taken command of the expeditionary force landed in Northern Holland in 1795, he conducted a campaign against French Army of Holland led by Generals Dumouriez and Jourdan. He was appointed Field-Marshal and again landed in Holland to receive support from Russian forces in 1798. Severely beaten by General Brune in 1799, he had to withdraw and re-embark, only to face severe criticism including dishonesty back in his country. Having thus resigned his position in 1809, he was finally rehabilitated in 1811.

To be continued…

Список литературы / Spisok literatury

На русском

  1. Барсенков А.С., Вдовин А.И. История России. 1917-2004 гг.: Учеб. пособие для студентов вузов. – М.: Аспект Пресс, 2005. – 816 с.
  2. Информационные материалы официального сайта Государственной Думы Федерального Собрания РФ/ http://www.duma.gov.ru.
  3. Короткевич В.И. История современной России. 1991-2003 гг.: Учеб. пособие. – СПб.: Изд-во С.-Петерб. ун-та, 2004. – 296 с.
  4. Отечественная история России новейшего времени: 1985-2005 гг.: Учебник / Отв. ред. А.Б. Безбородое. – М: РГГУ, 2007. – 804 с.

English

  1. Barsenkov A.S., Vdovin A.I. Istorija Rossii. 1917-2004 gg.: Ucheb. posobie dlja studentov vuzov. – M.: Aspekt Press, 2005. – 816 s.
  2. Informacionnye materialy oficial’nogo sajta Gosudarstvennoj Dumy Federal’nogo Sobranija RF/ http://www.duma.gov.ru.
  3. Korotkevich V.I. Istorija sovremennoj Rossii. 1991-2003 gg.: Ucheb. posobie. – SPb.: Izd-vo S. – Peterb. un-ta, 2004. – 296 s.
  4. Otechestvennaja istorija Rossii novejshego vremeni: 1985-2005 gg.: Uchebnik / Оtv. red. A.B. Bezborodoe. – M: RGGU, 2007. – 804 s.