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The Life of Napoleon I (Volume 1 of 2) by Rose

Bonaparte now flew southwards towards Mantua


Thus

closed the desperate battle of Rivoli (January 14th). Defects in the Austrian position and the opportune arrival of French reinforcements served to turn an Austrian success into a complete rout. Circumstances which to a civilian may seem singly to be of small account sufficed to tilt the trembling scales of warfare, and Alvintzy's army now reeled helplessly back into Tyrol with a total loss of 15,000 men and of nearly all its artillery and stores. Leaving Joubert to pursue it towards Trent, Bonaparte now flew southwards towards Mantua, whither Provera had cut his way. Again his untiring energy, his insatiable care for all probable contingencies, reaped a success which the ignorant may charge to the account of his fortune. Strengthening Augereau's division by light troops, he captured the whole of Provera's army at La Favorita, near the walls of Mantua (January 16th). The natural result of these two dazzling triumphs was the fall of the fortress for which the Emperor Francis had risked and lost five armies. Wuermser surrendered Mantua on February 2nd with 18,000 men and immense supplies of arms and stores. The close of this wondrous campaign was graced by an act of clemency. Generous terms were accorded to the veteran marshal, whose fidelity to blundering councillors at Vienna had thrown up in brilliant relief the prudence, audacity, and resourcefulness of the young war-god.

It was now time to chastise the Pope for his support of the enemies of

France. The Papalini proved to be contemptible as soldiers. They fled before the republicans, and a military promenade brought the invaders to Ancona, and then inland to Tolentino, where Pius VI. sued for peace. The resulting treaty signed at that place (February 19th) condemned the Holy See to close its ports to the allies, especially to the English; to acknowledge the acquisition of Avignon by France, and the establishment of the Cispadane Republic at Bologna, Ferrara, and the surrounding districts; to pay 30,000,000 francs to the French Government; and to surrender 100 works of art to the victorious republicans.

It is needless to describe the remaining stages in Bonaparte's campaign against Austria. Hitherto he had contended against fairly good, though discontented and discouraged troops, badly led, and hampered by the mountain barrier which separated them from their real base of operations. In the last part of the war he fought against troops demoralized by an almost unbroken chain of disasters. The Austrians were now led by a brave and intelligent general, the Archduke Charles; but he was hampered by rigorous instructions from Vienna, by senile and indolent generals, by the indignation or despair of the younger officers at the official favouritism which left them in obscurity, and by the apathy of soldiers who had lost heart. Neither his skill nor the natural strength of their positions in Friuli and Carinthia could avail against veterans flushed with victory and marshalled with unerring sagacity. The rest of the war only served to emphasize the truth of Napoleon's later statement, that the moral element constitutes three-fourths of an army's strength. The barriers offered by the River Tagliamento and the many commanding heights of the Carnic and the Noric Alps were as nothing to the triumphant republicans; and from the heights that guard the province of Styria, the genius of Napoleon flashed as a terrifying portent to the Court of Vienna and the potentates of Central Europe. When the tricolour standards were nearing the town of Leoben, the Emperor Francis sent envoys to sue for peace;[72] and the preliminaries signed there, within one hundred miles of the Austrian capital, closed the campaign which a year previously had opened with so little promise for the French on the narrow strip of land between the Maritime Alps and the petty township of Savona.


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