The combat of Bormida (20 April 1800) saw the failure of an attempt by General Suchet to regain contact with the main body of the French Army of Italy around Genoa. At the start of April the French had held a continuous line inland from the Italian coast, but in early April the Austrians (Melas) attacked the centre of the French line, and reached the coast at Savona and Vado.
Masséna, the commander of the Army of Italy, realised that it was essential that he reunited the two wings of his army, but his own efforts to attack towards the west ended in failure. At the same time he sent a message to Suchet, commander of his left wing, ordering him to attack towards Savona, in an attempt to break through from the west.
Suchet held a line that ran inland from Borghetto. His main effort on 20 April came inland. On the evening of 19 April he occupied the village of Bormida, and prepared to attack the Austrian positions on the mountain of the same name. If all went well the French would advance east to the village of Mallare, and then along a valley to the main road to the coast between Vado and Savona.
Unfortunately for Suchet his Austrian opponent, General Elsnitz, was expecting an attack, and had been reinforced with three brigades by Melas.
The French attack was made in three columns, with two reserve forces in the gaps. The central column, commanded by the Polish general Jablonowsky, advanced too fast and reached Mallare before the other two columns had advanced past the foot of the mountain. This allowed Elsnitz to defeat the French force in detail - first the central column, then the right and finally the left. The French were forced to retreat back to Bormida, where they rallied safely, but any chance of reaching Masséna was gone.
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