Combat of Châtillon, 18 May 1800

The combat of Châtillon (18 May 1800) was a French victory early in the campaign that ended at Marengo. Napoleon, with a new Army of the Reserve, had decided to cross the Great St. Bernard Pass, which would bring him out of the mountains to the north-west of Turin. His advance guard, under General Lannes, reached the top of the pass on 16 May, and on the same day overwhelmed an Austrian outpost at Saint Remy. On the following day Lannes took Aosta, and then rested to the east of the town, where on the same day he was joined by his own cavalry and by Chabran's division, which had crossed the Little St. Bernard.

Portrait of Marshal Jean Lannes, 10 April 1769-1809
Portrait of
Marshal Jean Lannes,
10 April 1769-1809

The next obstacle in Lannes's way was the town of Châtillon, on the Doire Baltèe river, which was defended by a small Austrian garrison. Source differ on the size of the garrison, ranging from a low figure of 450 men from the 1st Banat Grenzer Battalion with two guns up to 1,200 men with 13 guns.

Lannes sent Watrin's infantry division to attack the town. Watrin made a three pronged attack, outflanking the Austrians on both wings, while at the same time making a frontal assault on the town. The Austrians were quickly forced to retreat (apparently escaping to Ussel on the opposite bank of the Doire Baltèe before continuing down the valley), leaving behind them two guns and between 25 and 500 men.

Lannes continued to advance down the valley of the Doire Baltèe, but soon ran into an unexpected obstacle at Bard, where a well positioned fort made it almost impossible for the French to move their artillery down the valley. While the infantry and cavalry were able to work their way around the fort, the need to get the artillery past meant that the French had to conduct an unexpected siege, which lasted until the start of June.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 January 2010), Combat of Châtillon, 18 May 1800 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/combat_chatillon.html

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