The combat of Mondovi (28 September 1799) was a French defeat during General Championnet's attempts to protect Cuneo, the last important French possession in Italy after the disastrous campaign of 1799. The French Directorate urged Championnet to make every effort to save the town. He decided to move Muller's and Duhesme's divisions from the Army of the Alps down to the plains around Cuneo, while Victor and Lemoine would move to Mondovi. This would give the French a continuous line on the northern side of the Apennines, and prevent the Austrians under General Melas from feeling secure in the northern Italian plains.
The attack on Mondovi was to be supported by a number of other operations. General La Viollais was to bring 3,000 men out of the Col de Tende towards Cuneo, while General Laboissière was to send a detachment to Castellino (near Cuneo). Further east General Watrin was to make a rapid advance towards Novi, while Saint-Cyr, with 12,000 men from the three division of the right, was to create a diversion on the Riviera di Levante (the coast east of Genoa).
The entire plan failed at the first hurdle. On 28 September Victor advanced towards Mondovi, and his advance guard reached a suburb of the town, but a lack of food meant that the rest of the division had to abandon the attack, and Victor was forced to move south-west to Villanova.
On 30 September Championnet was informed that Victor had captured Mondovi, but soon discovered the truth. Worse was to come. Alerted by the unsuccessful attack Melas moved 2,000 men and some artillery into Mondovi, making it secure against a surprise attack. Championnet was forced to order his men to move onto the northern slopes of the Apennines in an attempt to live off the land in Piedmont. Serras moved to Battifollo, where he could watch the Austrians at Ceva and keep in touch with Victor to the west at Villa Nova, while Lemoine moved to Saliceto, to the east of Ceva.
The Austrians were now confident enough to launch a counterattack of their own. Laudon's brigade, reinforced by the garrison of Mondovi and a number of Italian insurgents attacked south-west from Mondovi. Victor and Lemoine were initially forced back from Villanova and past Chiusa, another four miles to the west, but the Austrians were then forced back with heavy losses. After this Serras moved north-west, to Lesegno and San Michele, from where he would directly threaten the flank of any similar Austrian attack.
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