Field Marshal Heinrich J J, Count Bellegarde, 1756-1845

Heinrich, Graf Bellegarde, was a capable Austrian general who commanded against the French from 1799 until 1815. Bellegrade was born in Dresden and began his military career in the Saxon Army. He transferred to the Austrian army in 1771-2, fighting in the War of the Bavarian Succession (1788-1791), against the Turks in 1788-89 and against the Flemish rebels in 1788-1791. He was promoted to Generalmajor in 1792.

He served in the Netherlands in the campaign of 1793-94, taking part in the siege of Quesnoi (August 1793) and the cavalry charge at Avesnes. He led the right wing at Wattignies, fought at the battle of Landrecies (26 April 1794), an Allied victory that prevented the French from lifting the siege of Landrecies, and commanded the advance guard at Tournai.

He became a member of Clerfayt's staff, before joining Thugut's military advisory staff. He was then promoted to Feldmarshall-Leutnant and served as the Archduke Charles' deputy in the Army of the Lower Rhine (1796). It was his advance that led to the battle of Neresheim (11 August 1796).

In 1797 he accompanied Charles to Italy. In 1798, while taking part in efforts to reform the Austrian army, Bellegrade suggested the adoption of a corps system. This was rejected at the time, but implemented later.

In 1799 he commanded a brigade in Switzerland and Italy, part of the Austro-Russian army of Marshal Suvorov. The campaign of 1799 was a clear French defeat, ending with most of Napoleon's earlier conquests lost.

After initial Allied victories the two French armies in Italy had attempted to unit. Suvorov had moved east to defeat General Macdonald, leaving Bellegarde in the north-west to watch Moreau at Genoa. In June he was besieging Tortona when Moreau finally advanced from Genoa (too late to help Macdonald). Bellegarde was caught and defeated at Alessandria (20 June 1799), a defeat that helped Macdonald unite his forces with Moreau.

Bellegarde commanded the Allied right during the battle of Novi (15 August 1799). His wing made the first attack of the battle, but this was repulsed by the French. The battle ended in an Allied victory, but only after reinforcements under Mélas arrived on the scene.

In the aftermath of the defeat at Novi the French armies of the Alps and of Italy attempted to unite. Bellegarde was pushed back by one French column before being reinforced by Kaim and Vukassovich. On 15 September he defeated the French column at Rivoli, helping to defeat their plan.

In May 1800 his corps was part of the Austrian army that advanced towards Nice, and he played a part in the fighting on the Var (13-28 May 1800). During this period Napoleon was advancing into Italy, and the Austrians on the Var were soon forced to retreat. Bellegarde's forces were defeated at Breglio (1-2 June 1800) and Forcoin (3 June 1800), preventing the Austrians from holding a line in the Maritime Alps.

He fought in the Marengo campaign and commanded a brigade during the battle of Marengo(14 June 1800). His brigade launched the first attack of the battle, which ended in failure. He supported the second attack, by Kaim's brigade, and played a major role in the third Austrian attack. The Austrians were on the verge of winning the battle when reinforcements arrived under Desaix, turning a French defeat into victory.

Bellegarde commanded the Austrian forces in the north-east of Italy during the autumn campaign of 1800, suffering defeat at Pozzolo and Valeggio (25-26 December 1800). The Austrians were pushed back to the Piave before the armistice of Treviso ended the fighting (16 January 1801).

From 1800 to September 1805 Bellegrade served as general commandant in Venetia. In 1805 he was temporary president of the War Council.

He commanded part of the army at the second battle of Caldiero (29-31 October 1805). This was an indecisive Austrian victory that was negated by Mack's surrender at Ulm. Bellegarde was awarded the Commander Cross of the Order of Maria Theresa after the battle.

Bellegarde commanded I Corps in the Aspern-Essling and Wagram campaign. At Aspern-Essling (21-22 May 1809) he commanded the second of five Austrian columns on the first day, one of the first to clash with the French. At the battle of Wagram (5-6 July 1800) his corps held the village of Deutsch-Wagram, facing Eugène's Army of Italy and Bernadotte's 9th Corps (Saxons). He was the target of Eugène's attack during the fighting on the evening of 21 May, and his personal efforts (together with the Archduke Charles) helped prevent a French breakthrough at this position. On 22 May he was to form the left flank of the unsuccessful Austrian attack, although the French were almost defeated. The battle ended as a costly French victory with the Austrians retreating away from the Danube. Bellegarde's corps was involving in the final battle of the campaign, at Znaim (10-11 July 1809), which ended when news of the Franco-Austrian armistice reached the battlefield.  

He was promoted to Feldmarschall, and served as Governor of Galicia (1810-13). During this period he also served as president of the Imperial War Council (1810) and formed the Observation Korps in Galicia in 1812. He played a major part in preparing the Austrian army for war in 1813.

In November 1813 he was appointed to command the Army of Inner Austria, replacing Hiller, whose campaign had stalled after some initial successes.

He was defeated by Eugène de Beauharnais at the battle of the Mincio River (8 February 1814), but this was a costly victory. Eugène was able to prevent Bellegarde from advancing much further, but could make no progress himself. The Italian campaign only ended when news of Napoleon's first abdication (11 April 1814) reached Italy.

He commanded the Austrian forces in Italy in 1813-15.

Bellegarde was seen as a gallant commander and a capable subordinate and administrator, but he didn't display great abilities as an independent commander.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (28 February 2012), Field Marshal Heinrich J J, Count Bellegarde, 1756-1845,

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