Although Napoleon’s men were tired and in need of proper clothing and
rest, the French generals received a new set of orders. Sahuguet’s 10,000 men
were to remain at Mantova, continuing to besiege the fortress. General
Kilmaine’s division was to remain at Verona, guarding the Lower Adige against
any possible attacks from the east. The remainder of the French army,
approximately 33,000 soldiers, was to be led north by Vaubois, Massena, and
Augereau, to attack Würmser’s forces in Trento.
The Austrian general had no intention of staying in Trento for any length
of time. It was his plan to advance to the south once again via the Brenta
River, running from Trento to the Adriatic, reaching Mantova from the east.
Davidovitch was to remain at Trento with 25,000 men to defend the region.
Thus when Napoleon’s forces advanced on Trento they were met by only
Davidovitch’s forces. These were quickly defeated. Only then did Napoleon
learn that Würmser was advancing southward along the Brenta River. Instead of
moving back down the Adige to meet Würmser in the south, Napoleon sent his
troops in pursuit of the Austrian army, leaving 10,000 men under Vaubois to
block the gorges north of Trento.
Würmser left Trento on the 1st of September with Napoleon in
pursuit as of the 6th. By the end of the next day the French army had reached
Cismona, covering almost 60 miles in two days. The Austrian general became
worried by the speed of the French advance and ordered two of his divisions to
halt at Bassano and slow the progress of the French army. On the 8th Napoleon
destroyed the Austrian blockade, taking 4,000 prisoners and 35 guns in the
process. Only 3,500 men managed to rejoin Würmser’s main force to the south.
To the south, Kilmaine’s division blocked all of the crossing points on
the Adige River. At some point before the arrival of the Austrian forces,
Kilmaine withdrew a few of his garrisons to help defend Verona. Sahuguet was to
fill these gaps but did not arrive in time to prevent Würmser’s forces from
crossing the river on the 10th. By the 12th, Würmser had
broken through the weak French defence and had gained entry into the
fortifications of Mantova, raising the number of men inside to 23,000. Attempts
were made to attack the French-held suburbs around Mantova on the 15th
but Massena arrived just in time to help Sahuguet’s forces push Würmser back
behind the fortress walls.
Though Würmser had succeeded in his objective of reaching Mantova, his
army was now caged inside the fortress and surrounded by the enemy. Napoleon was
then free to commence his third siege on the town.
Chandler, David G. (1966). The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York: MacMillan
Publishing Co., Inc.
Britt, Albert Sydney (1986). Atlas for Wars of Napoleon. Wayne, N.J. : Avery Publishing Group.