Combat of the Col de Tende, 6 or 7 May 1800

The combat of the Col de Tende (6 or 7 May 1800) was an Austrian victory that forced the French to abandon a defensive position in the pass that marks the border between the Maritime and Ligurian Alps and retreat back towards Nice.

The Col de Tende (Colle di Tenda in Italian) links Nice and Tende to Cuneo, and since the French disasters of 1799 had been part of the frontline between the Austrians and French armies. In May 1800 it was defended by a detachment under General Lesuire, part of the left wing of the Army of Italy of General Massena. In early April the Austrians had cut Massena's army in half, and the left wing, under Suchet, was now operating independently.

At the start of May the Austrians under Melas forced Suchet to retreat along the coast from Borghetto to Oneglia. During this attack Lesuire was left alone, but this was a short respite. On either 6 or 7 May (sources disagree) three Austrian columns under General Knesvich attacked Lesuire and forced him to pull out of the pass.

On the following day Melas and Esnitz attacked at Oneglia, and Suchet was forced to retreat to the Var River, where he joined up with Lesuire. News then began to reach Melas that the French might be about to cross the Alps into Piedmont. Leaving a defensive force on the River Roja (just inside modern Italy), Melas sent Knesvich back over the pass to Cuneo.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 January 2010), Combat of the Col de Tende, 6 or 7 May 1800 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/combat_col_de_tende.html

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