Battle of Primolano, 7 September 1796

The battle of Primolano (7 September 1796) was a minor French victory in the valley of the Brenta valley that was the first stage in the defeat of Field Marshal Würmser's second attempt to raise the siege of Mantua. At the start of September Würmser had begun to move down the Brenta valley from Trento, with the intention of joining up with General Mészáros at Bassano, where the Brenta emerged from the mountains, and them moving south west to lift the siege.

At exactly the same time Napoleon had begun an advance up the Adige valley, heading for Germany to join up with the Army of the Rhine. When he reached Trento Napoleon discovered Würmser's plan. Rather than retrace his steps down the Adige valley, Napoleon decide to follow Würmser down the Brenta, taking advantage of his army's superior speed.

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

By the end of 6 September the Austrians were badly strung out. Mészáros had been sent ahead to Vicenza. Sebottendorf's division was at Bassano, while Quosdanovich was at Primolano, fourteen miles inside the mountains. Above Primolano the valley bottom was at least 1,000ft wide, but below Primolano the valley narrowed dramatically, and wound its way through the mountains to Bassano.

On the morning of 7 September the leading French troops – General Lanusse's brigade from Augereau's division – caught up with Quosdanovich. In the fighting that followed the Austrians were caught in the gorges between Primolano and Cismon, and the French took several hundred prisoners.

Napoleon spent the rest of the day advancing towards the edge of the mountains, where on the following day he inflicted a far more serious defeat on Würmser at Bassano (8 September 1796). The Austrian army was split in two – Quosdanovich's division had to retreat east towards Treviso, while Würmser took his remaining 12,000 men south west. The second attempt to lift the siege of Mantua had failed.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (30 January 2009), Battle of Primolano, 7 September 1796 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_primolano.html

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