Combat of Mt Kita, 16 May 1809

The combat of Mt. Kita (16 May 1809) was the first of a series of French victories that broke the deadlock on the Dalmatian Front during the War of the Fifth Coalition.

At the start of the war the two commanders had very different objectives. General Marmont's main objective was to advance north to join with Prince Eugène's Army of Italy, and then Napoleon's main army on the Danube.

On the Austrian side General von Stoichevich had been given a ridiculous list of tasks. His first job, to contain Marmont in Dalmatia, was achievable, but after that he was ordered to launch an invasion of Dalmatia, despite being outnumbered and outclassed by the French.

At first the Austrians did surprisingly well. In late April they advanced across the border between Austrian Croatia and Dalmatia, and captured the key bridges over the Zrmanja River, including a bridge at Kravibrod, at the eastern end of the border.

Marmont launched a counterattack on 30 April, attacking the Austrian positions at Kravibrod and around Mt. Kita (just to the north-east), but both attacks failed. After a pause of a week the Austrians responded with another attack on 9 May, but this ended failure.

News now reached Marmont that Prince Eugène had recovered from his early defeat at Sacile, and was advancing north-east across Italy. In fact he had already won a significant victory on the Piave (8 May) and would soon force the Austrians back across the Alps (combat of Tarvisio, 18 May 1809).

This convinced Marmont that it was time to launch a fresh offensive. This time he decided to focus his efforts against the Austrian left, around Kravibrod and Mt. Kita. His aim was to push the Austrians away from the Mt. Kita position, then advance across the high ground to the east of the Zrmanja Valley, which runs north from Kravibrod, before turning west to reach Gracac.

The plan was a total success. Montrichard's division pinned the Austrians down at Kravibrod, while Clauzel forced them away from Mt. Kita. The French then advanced north across the high ground to the north of the mountain, a move that outflanked the Austrian defences in the Zrmanja Valley.

Stoichevich attempted to restore the situation by personally leading two reserve companies up the steep eastern slopes of the valley. As they reached the plateau the Austrians were attacked by French cavalry, broke and fled. The French took several hundred prisoners, amongst them Stoichevich himself.

Command of the remaining Austrian forces fell to Oberst Matthias Freiherr Rebrovic von Razboj. He retreated back to Gracac, and prepared to defend the town.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 July 2010), Combat of Mt Kita, 16 May 1809 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/combat_mt_kita.html

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