Second battle of Lonato, 3 August 1796

The second battle of Lonato (3 August 1796) saw the final defeat of one of the three Austrian columns attempting to lift Napoleon's siege of Mantua. During July 1796 an Austrian army under General Würmser advanced towards Mantua in three columns. Würmser led the main central column down the Adige valley, while to his west General Quosdanovich led the right wing of the army down the Chiese valley towards Brescia. A smaller third force under General Szoboszio on the Austrian left advanced towards Verona from the east.

On 28 July Quosdanovich's column emerged from the Chiese valley, and on 30 July he captured Brescia and threatened to cut Napoleon off from Milan and his main sources of supplies. Napoleon responded by lifting the siege of Mantua and concentrating his army at the southern end of Lake Garda, from where he could take on the two main Austrian columns one at a time. 

Austrian Relief of Mantua, 1796-97
Austrian Relief of Mantua,
1796-97

On 31 July the Austrians suffered their first setback when Quosdanovich's advance guard was forced out of Lonato, at the south west corner of Lake Garda (first battle of Lonato, 3 August 1796). On the next day the Austrians abandoned Brescia and moved north east towards Salo, on the western shores of the lake.

While Quosdanovich was fighting around Lonato, Würmser made a dash for Mantua, reaching the city on 2 August. This was a disastrous mistake. Although it did allow him to get fresh supplies into the city, it also gave Napoleon time to defeat Quosdanovich without interference. If Würmser had turned west to deal with Napoleon then the two Austrian forces would almost certainly have been able to unite, and Napoleon would have been outnumbered. Instead Napoleon was able to defeat each wing of the Austrian army in turn, giving him a numerical advantage on each battlefield.

Quosdanovich certainly realised the danger he was in, and on 3 August made an attempt to get into contact with Würmser. At dawn General Ocksay's division attacked Lonata, and captured General Jean Joseph Pijon and his brigade.

Napoleon responded by sending Masséna's division to regain Lonata. Ocksay was badly outnumbered. The French attacked in columns, and forced the Austrians to retreat north. Napoleon then sent Junot and a force of cavalry and light infantry to cut off the retreating Austrians, and Ocksay was forced to surrender.

While this fighting was going on around Lonata, Quosdanovich was also attacked by General Guieu from Salo, and by other French forces from Brescia. By the end of the day Quosdanovich was forced to begin a retreat back up the Chiese valley, leaving Napoleon free to deal with Würmser. Two days later, on 5 August, Würmser was defeated at Castiglione, ending the first attempt to lift the siege of Mantua. 

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (29 January 2009), Second battle of Lonato, 3 August 1796 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_lonato_2nd.html

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