4 June to 31 July 1796,
24 August 1796 to 2 February 1797

Battlefield Guides for Northern Italy

The Austrian fortress at Mantua was of vital strategic importance to both sides during the 1796-1797 campaigns in Northern Italy.

To defend Mantua the Austrians had some 9000 men and 500 cannons within its walls when the French first began laying siege to it on 4 June 1796.

Relief columns were sent by Vienna and the imminent arrival of General Dagobert Wurmser forced Napoleon Bonaparte to abandon the operation - and in the process spike his artillery - and move to deal with the threat.

The battles of Lonato and Castiglione followed and while the Austrians were sent reeling from the defeats, they were able to get supplies and 6000 reinforcements into Mantua.

Bonaparte returned to besieging the fortress, but again Wurmser appeared in the vicinity to threaten his forces.

The French general defeated his enemies at Caliano and Bassano and forced Wurmser to have his men fight their way to the supposed safety of Mantua.

But, the extra mouths to feed would drain the citadel's supplies and mindful of the danger Wurmser quickly tried to break out again, but was forced back having lost some 4000 troops in the attempt.

More Austrian relief attempts ended in failure at Caldiero, Arcola and Rivoli and on 2 February 1797, Wurmser was forced to surrender.

More than 18,000 Austrians died defending Mantua compared with 7000 French troops.

With the dangers posed by the fortress to his lines of communication removed, Bonaparte could now carry the campaign to the Austrians.



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