Combat of Oneglia, 7 May 1800

The combat of Oneglia (7 May 1800) was one of a series of minor Austrian victories that forced the left wing of the French Army of Italy under General Suchet to abandon their last positions on the Italian Riviera and retreat behind the Var River. At the start of April the French had held a continuous line along the coast to Genoa, but in early April the Austrians, under Melas, launched an attack on the French line and split the Army of Italy in half.

At first Suchet had held a line just to the west of Vado, where the Austrians had reached the sea, but at the start of May he was pushed back from his position at Borghetto towards Oneglia.

The new French line ran in a semi-circle from Oneglia to the Col de Tende. Clausel, with four demi-brigades, formed the right wing, from Diano on the coast just to the north-east of Oneglia, north-west to Torria. Next was Pouget, who held the line from Torria north-west to Rezzo. To his right was Serra, with 1,000 men at Triole, west of Rezzo. Serra's left linked with Lesuire in the Col de Tende.

Suchet had a strong position but he was badly outnumbered. After the initial Austrian successes Melas had sent Elsnitz west to push the French back along the coast, and in late April he had joined this force in person.

On the morning of 7 May the Austrians attacked the French right and centre. Clausel was forced back six miles along the coast to San Lorenzo, while Pouget's left was overwhelmed by eleven battalions. Pouget was forced to retreat, although 1,400 men from his brigade was surrounded and forced to surrender. The Austrians also took the Col de Tente (either 6 or 7 May 1800), and the French were forced to pull back to the Var River, west of Nice.

This was the furthest limit of the Austrian advance. News soon reached Melas that the French were planning to cross the Alps further north, and he was forced to withdraw most of the troops on the Var back to Cuneo, leaving a small force to defend the Roja River, just inside modern Italy. Melas himself returned to his main army, which would soon suffer a major defeat at Marengo, undoing all of the Russian and Austrian successes in Italy since the start of the war of the Second Coalition.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 January 2010), Combat of Oneglia, 7 May 1800 ,

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