Meanwhile, in Germany, the Austrians, led by General Moreau, were
steadily countering the main French offensive. Once the French army was pushed
back to the West Bank of the Rhine, the Austrians could shift their main focus
to Napoleon’s army in Italy. Napoleon, after fighting numerous battles in
quick succession, was in desperate need of reinforcement. By the end of October,
the French army in Italy stood at 41,400 men, many of whom were sick or injured.
The Austrians were regrouping to the north. With Würmser’s forces still in
Mantova, Bonaparte was left with no choice but to maintain a defensive position
between the two armies. Without knowing which way the Austrians would advance
from the north, Napoleon ordered his division commanders to secure the various
routes. Vaubois’ division of 10,000 men was sent north of Trento to block any
advances from the north. Massena was sent to set up a defense at Bassano, while
Kilmaine replaced a sick Sérurier in the siege of Mantova. Augereau was placed
in central reserve, ready to be moved wherever necessary.
At the beginning of November, the Austrian army, 46,000 strong, was now
under the command of Baron d’Alvintzi. Alvintzi devised another two-pronged
attack, with his army advancing from the east and Davidovitch’s army advancing
from the north. Alvintzi’s goal was to deceive Bonaparte into believing that
his army was the main force. Napoleon was confused for a brief time as he
initially ordered Vaubois to attack the Austrians to the north. By the 5th
of November, Bonaparte realized that Davidovitch’s army was larger than he had
first anticipated and ordered Vaubois to go on the defensive, hold his position,
and not allow the Austrians to get to the south of Lake Garda.
The forces under Massena and Augereau were steadily beaten back and Napoleon had
them fall back to the Adige River. Napoleon also ordered Joubert, garrisoned in
Rovigo, to march to Rivoli to provide assistance to Vaubois. Alvintzi, instead
of advancing to Mantova, decided to attempt to join forces with Davidovitch. A
series of minor attacks from both sides were ineffective leaving the French army
in Verona facing the Austrian army in Caldiero. Napoleon was at a numerical
disadvantage and needed a plan that would even the odds between the two armies.
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.