Battle of San Giorgio, 14-15 September 1796

The battle of San Giorgio (14-15 September 1796) was the disastrous end to the second Austrian attempt to raise the siege of Mantua. Field Marshal Würmser had hoped to outflank the French forces covering the siege by advancing east along the Brenta valley from Trento, and then turning south west to reach Mantua, but this movement took place at the same time as Napoleon was advancing towards Trento with the intention of joining the French Army of the Rhine on the Danube. When the French reached Trento they learnt of Würmser's plan, and gave chase. The Austrian rearguard was defeated at Primolano (7 September 1796) and the main army at Bassano (8 September 1796). The Austrian army was split in two, with one division escaping east while Würmser attempted to make his way to Mantua.

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

Despite French efforts to catch him, Würmser managed to reach Mantua on 13 September. He then took up defensive positions to the north of the city, and prepared for battle. The Austrian right was in front of the faubourg of San Giorgio (to the north east of the city), and their left around La Favorita (to the north), with an advance guard at the village of Due-Castelli.

The first French attack came on 14 September. Masséna's division advanced from Castellaro towards San Giorgio. The Austrians were pushed out of Due-Castelli, but then General Ott launched a counterattack which stopped the French advance. Fighting continued through the day, but both sides held their ground.

On 15 September Napoleon took command of the battle. General Sahuguet advanced along the Roverbella road to attack the Austrian left wing while General Augereau attacked the Austrian left at San Giorgio. Once Würmser had been forced to weaken his centre to hold off the attacks on his flanks, Masséna's division was ordered forward. The attack on the Austrian centre forced Würmser to retreat into the fortifications of Mantua.

The garrison of Mantua was now 30,000 strong, larger than was really needed to defend the city. Inevitably supplies ran down faster, and thousands died from illness. Two more attempts were made to lift the siege, both without success, and on 2 February 1797 Würmser was forced to surrender.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (30 January 2009), Battle of San Giorgio, 14-15 September 1796 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_san_giorgio.html

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