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1796-7: Napoleon in Italy

Consequences of Napoleon's Italian Campaign

General Wurmser finally surrendered Mantua on 2nd February 1797. Turning his attention to the southern Papal States, Napoleon was quickly able to brush aside the papal army, prompting Pius VI to beg for peace. The Treat of Tolentino was signed on 19th February 1797. Meanwhile, Archduke Charles replaced Alvinczy as commander of the Austrian forces and was swiftly sent to Italy to face Napoleon. Charles did not have much success against Napoleon. His troops consisted of many of Alvinczy’s survivors and despite being promised 90,000 men, this number never materialised. His army was tired and demoralised by consecutive defeats and the official surrender of Mantua. In mid-February Napoleon reinforced his divisions by 19,000 and now Mantua was no longer an issue he was free to attack the Archduke. In March 1797 Napoleon marched his troops 400 miles in a month, across the Carnic Alps. After skirmishing with Charles’ forces in and around Klagenfurt on March 29th, Charles saw the situation was futile and asked Napoleon for a five day armistice on 7th April 1797; eleven days later Charles signed a preliminary peace agreement at Leoben. Whilst Austria did not sign a formal peace agreement until October, this at least signalled the end of the fighting.

Archduke Charles




There was some confusion on the Rhine surrounding the armistice – Generals Hoche and Moreau had heard the news on April 22nd after an attack on the Austrians, assumed they had been included in the armistice and stopped fighting. Hoche died shortly after from a lung infection and Moreau was under investigation in Paris for withholding evidence. With these two generals out of the picture, Napoleon named Augereau commander of the two armies on the Rhine. This was a key development in the coup d’etat of Fructidor. On 18 Fructidor, Year V (or 4th September 1797 for those unfamiliar with the Revolutionary Calendar) Augereau purged huge numbers of royalists and counterrevolutionaries from the Corps Legislatif. This was a huge defeat for the royalists and helped clear the path for Napoleon’s eventual rise to political power.

One of the most important treaties to be set up in the wake of the Italian Campaign was the Treaty of Campo Formio. The treaty solidified French victory in the War of the First Coalition; France was granted control of two Northern Italian republics (the Cisalpine and Ligurian republics), gained Venice’s Ionian Islands and Belgian territory owned by Austria and were allowed to annex occupied territory on the left bank of the Rhine River. As compensation, Austria was given the territories east of the Adige, including Venice, Istria and Dalmatia, signalling the end of Venetian independence. When Napoleon returned to France in 1797 his reputation soared and he was gratefully received by the French elite, swiftly being elected to the Institute. This, however, did not dull his desire for another campaign, and perhaps one that would take him somewhere slightly more exotic.


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