Napoleonís plan of attack against Alvintzi was a revision of the
Ďattacking from the rearí tactic he had used against Beaulieu at Lodi and WŁrmser
at Bassano. Napoleon felt that if all but a skeleton force of his troops
defending Verona could assault Villa Nova, using the Adige to cover their
movements, they could capture the Austrian convoys and secure the French
armyís west flank. Alvintzi would then have to forgo his attack on Verona and
fight the French army in an area of marshland situated between two rivers, the
Adige and the Alpone. This would eliminate his numerical superiority against the
French. The key to French success would be the speed at which Napoleonís plan
could be implemented before the Austrians reacted.
Napoleon left Verona for Villa Nova on the 14th with 18,000
men. By the 15th, the French army was crossing the Adige River at
three different points, moving into the marshlands. Once across, Massena quickly
secured the west flank of the French army by seizing the village of Porcile to
the northwest, just west of Verona. Augereau did not have the same fortune as he
attempted to secure the east flank, which would have allowed the French to
attack the Austrians from the rear. Heavy resistance from the Austrians, with
the help of Croatian forces, stopped Augereau from crossing the Alpone and
gaining access to Arcola. Napoleonís forces could not secure Arcola and Villa
Nova by the time that Alvintziís forces moved into the area on the evening of
To the north of the Battle of Arcola, along the east side of Lake Garda,
the French forces under Joubert had been steadily pushed back to Bussolengo, a
few kilometers south of Rivoli, by Davidovitchís forces. Napoleon, taking no
chances, pulled all of his men behind the Adige River during the evening of the
15th in anticipation of a possible rescue mission northward to help
The 16th the French forces were fighting for control of
Porcile and Arcola once again. By the end of the day, Porcile was once again
under French control but Arcola remained under Austrian control. Though the
Austrians were in control of the key positions in the area, the French army was
inflicting heavy casualties and Alvintzi believed that his army could only
withstand one more heavy attack from the French. On orders from Napoleon,
General Kilmaine arrived the night of the 16th with 3,000
reinforcements from Mantova.
As the morning of the 17th arrived with no further news from
Joubert, Napoleon prepared for a third major attack on the Austrians. In the
course of the last two days of battle, Alvintziís forces had been split into
two unconnected columns. Napoleon could now deal with each Austrian column with
numerical superiority. Massenaís division was ordered to attract the enemyís
attention within the marshes while Augereauís division went for control of
Arcola, crossing at Albaredo to the south.
With a clever ambush by Massena and trickery by Napoleon, who placed
trumpeters to the east of the Austrians (signaling the arrival of a phantom
French force), the Austrian forces to the south of Alvintziís main body
believed that they were under heavy attack and retreated northward. The French
army was then able to sweep through Arcola and onto the plain without further contest.
Alvintzi had no choice but to order his battered
army to retreat north to Vicenza. With the Battle of Arcola over, Napoleon moved
his forces back into Verona on the 18th and turned his attention to
Davidovitch who was on the verge of defeating Joubertís forces.
Augereauís division moved up along the left bank of the Adige hoping to
envelop the enemy. The Austrian general, suddenly realizing his impending
demise, quickly retreated north to Trento, leaving most of his equipment to the
French. When Alvintzi learned of Davidovitchís retreat he gave up on reaching
Mantova and withdrew further north to regroup. Napoleon knew that there was
another battle to be faced against the Austrians in the weeks to come and thus
began to make preparations.
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.