The War Feeds Itself

Hello, and welcome to Revolutions.

Since the Thermidorians came to power, we’ve seen them beat down an insurrection from the Left, then an insurrection from the Right, and then just last week, another insurrection from the Left. We’ve seen them disband the National Guard in Paris, set up a new police legion, only to disband that new police legion a few months later. So you may be asking yourself through all of this, if both wings of the political spectrum are trying to overthrow the new regime, how on earth are they still in power? The answer lies in the institution that will increasingly serve as the backbone of the Directory: the army. 

The regular army played a crucial role in overawing the insurrectionaries of Germinal and Prairial. And then, of course, under Bonaparte’s direction, regular army troops subdued the royalists of Vendémiaire. And then last week, when the conspiracy of equals was exposed, Lazare Carnot transferred police power directly to the army. So today we’re going to talk about the army, how it was being transformed into an institution with its own permanent interest, and how it fared in the campaigns of 1795 and 1796, campaigns that help transform it into an institution with its own permanent interests. Interests that, for the moment, align with the Directory. But we all know how this plays out in the end. 

OK, so just to recap a little bit, before the Revolution, the French army was trending in a bad direction. Instead of modernizing through the 1780s, the French nobility had decided to turn the military back into an ironclad stronghold of aristocratic privilege. The common soldiers were subjected to pretty draconian punishments. The non-noble professional soldiers were now forced to top out at captain and all the top spots were reserved for the well bred and well connected sword nobility. 

After the Revolution hit, two thirds of the officer corps emigrated, including almost all of those old sword nobles, leaving an officer corps that had to be restocked by men who then naturally tied their career prospects to the success of the Revolution. And the common soldiers were then augmented by passionate volunteers who made up for in zeal what they lacked in formal training. This all being brought to full fruition by the levée en masse, which eventually brought nearly a million men under arms. And then also the amalgame, which tied veterans to new recruits to quickly introduce rookies to the rules, responsibilities and values of men under arms. The levée en masse also mobilized the entire nation to keep those soldiers fed, clothed and armed. Forged in the crisis of 1793, this new French national army became a tidal wave that slowly pushed all its enemies back. 

But one of the major features of the army during this period of crisis, and one of the major innovations in the history of political warfare, was the representative on mission. Political commissars like Saint-Just had the final word in everything. Ordering their generals when to fight and where to fight, and controlling all promotions and discharges. While the Committee of Public Safety reigned, the army worked for them. The aggressive zeal of the representatives probably had a lot to do with France not only surviving the great military tests of 1793 and 1794, but frankly, emerging stronger than ever. 

After Thermidor, though, a few subtle shifts began to take place. The all powerful representatives on mission were recalled, and when the central government sent agents back to the armies, they no longer had the authority to treat the senior officers as subordinates. Yes, the generals were appointed by and took their orders from Paris, but that was about big picture, grand strategy. Day-to-day minutiae, the actual deployment of divisions, the hiring and firing of officers – that became the purview of the generals. So it didn’t take long for fidelity to whatever happened to be the political ideology of the day, to a client patron relationship between the junior and senior officers out in the field. This led to the growth of an insular system of mutual loyalty among the officer corps, who protected and elevated each other. 

This developing a spree to corps was cemented further by the deplorable state of the national finances in 1795 and 1796. It was getting harder and harder to keep the armies properly supplied. And so, for example, when the army of the north invaded the United Provinces, they were basically told to live off the land, requisitioning whatever supplies they needed. This wound up working pretty well for the army occupying the Netherlands, not so much for the Dutch. And so the offensive campaigns of 1795 and then especially in 1796, which we’re about to get into, the government told the army to live off the lands they invaded. Basically, please open your hymnals to Livy, book 34, chapter 9It happened to be the time of year when the Spaniards had the grain on their threshing floors. Cato therefore, forbade the contractors to purchase any and sent them back to Rome, saying, “the war will feed itself”.

This change in the underlying supply logic had a couple of major impacts. First, it meant that to eat, the army needed to go out a conquering. They could not afford to simply construct a defensive line along the Rhine and just sit there. Second, it meant that the men were now relying on their generals, not on their government, to keep them fed, clothed, and paid. Victory now meant full bellies and some cash. Defeat meant hunger and poverty. So if a general started to deliver spectacular victory after spectacular victory in one of the richest and most bountiful regions in Europe, well, who do you think you would give your allegiance to? 

After the run of treaties in the spring and summer of 1795 pulled the Prussians, the Dutch, and the Spanish out of the war, the French were left to face off against the British and the Austrians. But with the British mostly focused now on using their naval power to attack French colonial holdings on the other side of the world or blockade French ports, that meant that the only land power that threatened France was the Austrians and their various little satellite principalities. 

So just as the Thermidorian Convention was handing power to the Directory in the fall of 1795, they ordered their two major armies along the Rhine to go on the offensive with the intention of seizing all the major strongholds along the great river, the central prize being the great fortress city of Mainz, the really central prize being all their money. 

The French armies in question were both a little over 60,000 strong and led respectively by Jean-Baptiste Jourdan in the north and Jean-Charles Pichegru in the south. In between those two field armies, a third French force sat on the west bank of the Rhine, next to Mainz, attempting to blockade the city. But unless it was enveloped from the east, Mainz would never fall. 

The overall strategy for the year was developed back in Paris by Lazare Carnot, who was convinced that a double pincer move, his absolute favorite kind of move, could envelop and crush Austrian resistance. Now, he might have been right about that. It might have worked, except that Pichegru seemed suspiciously uninterested in holding up his end of the pincer. 

Opposing the French was, for the moment, the main Austrian army of the Lower Rhine, though an army of the Upper Rhine was being hastily cobbled together in the Black Forest to reinforce the southern Austrian defenses. So Jourdan crossed the Rhine first in early September, seizing Düsseldorf, before turning south to approach Mainz from the north. The main Austrian army moved to deflect this advance, which allowed Pichegru to cross the Rhines south of Mainz without any difficulty. Pichegru then quickly captured Mannheim without firing a shot, but then he bungled away a golden opportunity to seize the main Austrian supply depot at Heidelberg, just a few miles to the southeast. Had he taken Heidelberg, the Austrian position along the Rhine might have become completely untenable and forced them to retreat deeper into their own territory. But instead of prioritizing the supply depot, Pichegru only sent two divisions to capture it. And those two divisions were defeated by the Heidelberg garrison on September the 24th. 

It was a crucial blunder that may very well have been a conscious decision by Pichegru to undermine his own campaign, because, as would be discovered later, Pichegru had by now opened up a treasonous correspondence with agents of the self proclaimed Louis XVIII, to discuss the logistics of restoration. That also helps explain why Pichegru sat still in Mannheim and refused Jourdan’s request to merge their two armies for a solid envelopment of Mainz. Pichegru stalling gave the newly formed Austrian army of the Upper Rhine crucial time to get itself together, raced north to Heidelberg to get properly equipped, and then attack Pichegru at Mannheim on October 18. Leaving a 12,000 man garrison to defend the city, Pichegru pulled the rest of his forces back across the Rhine to regroup or, you know, not. 

Left on his own, Jourdan was stymied in his attempt to surround Mainz. The Austrian army of the Lower Rhine approached in a wide flanking maneuver that Jourdan attempted to deflect over October 11 and 12th. But the force he dispatched to cover his open left flank failed to push off the Austrians. Now far too exposed to continue with the planned approach on Mainz, and without any support from Pichegru, Jourdan was forced to retreat back across the Rhine himself. 

With both of the main French armies repelled, the Austrians then swooped down on October 29 and attacked the French force blockading Mainz on the west side of the Rhine and drove them off. This was then followed up on November 10 with another attack on the west side of the river, this time against Pichegru’s army, which drove the French into further retreat and left the poor guys trying to hold Mannheim totally isolated. They surrendered on November 22, ending the fighting for the year. 

So the brief campaign of 1795 did not go well for the French at all. Not only had they failed to capture any territory east of the Rhine, they had actually given up ground. And as winter set in, the Austrians actually sat on the west side of the river. 

Over that winter, rumors and accusations swirled around Pichegru, with many suspecting that he had, in fact, been dabbling in treason. Now, there was no official proof yet, but when Pichegru got all puffed up about his besmirched honor and offered his resignation in March 1796, the offer was accepted, much to Pichegru’s surprise and dismay. But though that would be the end of Pichegru’s military career, it will not be the end of his political career, as we will see next week

The strategy devised by Carnot in the Directory for the campaign of 1796 was basically just a more ambitious retread of the campaign strategy for 1795, except this time without a treasonous general in charge of one of the two armies. The main theater would again be the Rhine, with the two French armies crossing and a great pincer to envelop the Austrians. To help relieve some of the pressure on those Rhine armies, though, Carnot also decided to open up a secondary front in Italy, a front that would hopefully tie up enough Austrian resources to give the French a free hand up in Germany. 

To open up this second front, Carnot, with some prodding from his fellow director, Paul Barras, finally acquiesced the demands of the super ambitious 26 year old Napoleon Bonaparte for a field command. After Vendémiaire, Bonaparte had been promoted to command the army of the Interior, a reserve force that was now doubling as the Directory’s Praetorian guard. That promotion had also come after prodding from Barras, who told his fellow Directors, “Promote this man or he will promote himself without you.”

But instead of giving Bonaparte the command vacated by Pichegru, he gave the young general the 60,000 man army of Italy, which was probably supposed to bury Bonaparte in the most disorganized and demoralized of all the French armies. But Bonaparte was not going to be relegated to obscurity that easily. Nor did he think the command in Italy nearly as terrible as the politicians in Paris did. Remember, Bonaparte had served as a General of artillery in that same army in 1794 and had plotted its successful advance into the Alps and up the Riviera. Yes, the army of Italy had been totally neglected. Pay was months overdue. They were badly clothed, many lack shoes, supplies for everything were short. And on top of that, they weren’t really doing anything. The combination of idleness and deprivation was destroying morale and led to mutinies cropping up with a disturbing regularity. So this was the army Bonaparte inherited in March 1796 for his very first field command. It was a command designed to break the spirit of a general. But instead, Bonaparte looked around and said, “Yeah, there’s nothing here I can’t work with.”

Bonaparte started reorganizing and redisciplining his men, immediately arranging the army to suit the theories he had been dreaming up and jotting down his whole life. And as for the campaign strategy itself, he developed that after poring over topographical maps and intelligence reports about the terrain and the positions of the enemy armies he was up against. 

The French occupied the Riviera, specifically the coastline up to the neutral Republic of Genoa. A raid against him to the north was first of all, the Ligurian Alps, the mountain range that runs between the coast and the rich and bountiful Italian Piedmont. Also standing between Bonaparte and the Piedmont were two armies. To the east, an Austrian force about 28,000 strong. And then to the west, a Sardinian army about 25,000 strong. 

The Kingdom of Sardinia, just so you know, was an independent client of the Habsburg monarchy and controlled not just the island of Sardinia that gave the kingdom its name, but also the Piedmont. Bonaparte’s plan was to split the Sardinians from the Austrians and force the kingdom to capitulate and exit the allied coalition. What came next was a lightning campaign that took the Austrians and Sardinians completely by surprise and formally introduced Napoleon Bonaparte to the world. 

Now, the Austrians thought that Bonaparte was preparing to move against Genoa, so they sent their easternmost divisions to push back against the easternmost French divisions, which they did on April 10. But given the mountainous terrain and the limited mobility in the few passes available, Bonaparte recognized immediately that when the Austrian left wing moved down, the Austrian right wing became dangerously isolated. So Bonaparte force marched his men up one of the central passes and absolutely savaged the Austrian right at Montenotte on April 12, basically destroying that part of the army. This also left the French in between the Sardinians to the west and the remaining Austrians to the east. And this was the first great example of Napoleon’s strategy of the central position, which he would use over and over again in his career. When fighting two armies at the same time, plunge in between them, prevent them from linking up, overwhelm one and then turn around and overwhelm the other. And that’s exactly what he did on this maiden campaign. Leaving a rear guard to watch the Austrians, the French turned west and plunged hard at the Sardinians, pushing them into a fighting retreat, with Bonaparte’s army relentlessly pursuing them. 

A series of running battles culminated at Mondovì on April 21, where the exhausted Sardinians were beaten badly, leaving the road into the Piedmont wide open to the French. The Sardinian General asked for an armistice, but Bonaparte pushed out onto the plains and grabbed as much territory as he could until the King of Sardinia finally offered total capitulation on April 24. The Sardinians were knocked out of the war and the French were now allowed free passage through their territory. 

Bonaparte had achieved in two weeks what the French had not been able to accomplish in three years.

But Napoleon was just getting warmed up. Having conquered the Sardinians, the rump of the shell shocked Austrian army retreated east into Lombardy, eventually crossing over to the north side of the Po River. But instead of heading straight for them, Bonaparte took his army on a wide flanking move, eventually crossing the Po at Piacenza, which was well east of the Austrians, who were not at all expecting an attack to come from that direction. This sudden appearance of the French forced the Austrians to pull back again. Bonaparte’s army gave chase and finally caught up with them at a river crossing in the town of Lodi. The Austrian rear guard was left to hold the bridge across the river while the rest of their army escaped. 

The resulting Battle of Lodi is famous for two contributions to the mythical lore that would soon surround Napoleon. First, Bonaparte had always been interested in the minutiae of warfare, and at Lodi, he allegedly took to sighting some of the heavy guns himself, a job usually done by a Corporal. And this is the most famous, if apocryphal, version of the story of how Napoleon earned the nickname The Little Corporal. Second, Napoleon himself later wrote that it was after his victory at Lodi that he became, quote, “certain that he was a man of high destiny”. 

After an artillery duel and running push across the bridge, the French crossed the river. But the main Austrian army had by then made good its escape. Now, the immediate result of Lodi was that it left Milan defended by just a few thousand isolated Austrians holed up in the city citadel. So Bonaparte was able to just roll into the great city. He demanded money, provisions and supplies of all kinds, and he got them. 

The month before, the army of Italy was the poorest and most demoralized of the French armies. It now controlled all of northwestern Italy, some of the richest land in Europe. His men were now not only paid on time, they were paid in hard species, metal coins, not worthless paper. They no longer starved, they ate like kings. Men used to dread being assigned to the army of Italy. Now it was the best gig in the whole war

After getting driven back again and again, the Austrians set up a line to protect their central defensive fortress for the whole of northern Italy, Mantua, which would become the central focus of the war in Italy for the rest of the year. But when the French got rolling again, the Austrians were unable to hold a key river crossing at Borgeto on May 30 and had to abandon Mantua and withdrawn north, leaving 12,000 men inside the fortress to hold off the inevitable French siege until, hopefully, they could be relieved. 

Watching all of this unfold to their north, the rest of the Italian peninsula became very, very eager to come to terms with Bonaparte now that they were all defenseless. In exchange for peace, the various city states of Italy, and most especially the Pope himself, offered up supplies of all kinds and riches of all kinds, up to and including gold bullion. The French also requisitioned and plundered at will, recklessly at the beginning, but now more methodically and ruthlessly. By midsummer, crate upon crate of riches were being sent back to Paris to restock the depleted French treasury, much to the delight and amazement of the Directory. But while the Directory got its fair share, Bonaparte and his senior officers peeled off quite a bit of all this for themselves. The campaigns in Italy made them all rich men. The economic benefits of raw conquest were becoming apparent to everyone

So we’ll leave Napoleon and his men there for the moment, because, remember, his campaign in Italy was supposed to be merely a distraction for the main theater of the war up on the other side of the Alps. Now, back up along the Rhine, Jourdan was once again in command of the Northern Army, now numbering over 70,000. And to replace the possibly treasonous Pichegru, the Directory promoted Jean Victor Moreau. 

Moreau was the son of a lawyer, and he had a natural flare for leadership that was apparent all the way back to his student days. He joined the army in 1991 and served through the wars along the Belgian frontier, moving rapidly up the ranks. He was promoted by Carnot to be a divisional General in early 1794, and was a key part of the French victories in the spring of 1794, that turned the whole tide of the war against the Allies and helped make Robespierre’s initiation of the Great Terror so damn inexplicable. 

Now, as I said, the plan for 1796 was a more ambitious version of the plan for 1795. Jourdan would cross the Rhine across from Düsseldorf. Moreau would cross down near Mannheim. They would push the Austrians back, besiege mines, and then plunge as deep into enemy territory as they could, because the war now needed to feed itself. 

But facing the combined 140,000 odd French soldiers were 170,000 Austrians, which you’d think would preclude a successful French invasion. But those 170,000 men had to be dispersed all over the place to defend various cities and towns and strong points, whereas the French were able to better concentrate their forces, so they tended to have a numerical advantage in whatever region they happened to be passing through. 

The Austrian general who would face this invasion was 25 year old Archduke Charles, who I probably wouldn’t even bother mentioning, except, one, he gets really high marks for the campaign he’s about to run that successfully repels both French armies. And two, he will eventually go down in history as one of Napoleon’s most capable opponents. So just as 26 year old Bonaparte was emerging into the annals of military history down in Italy, the 25 year old Charles, who I believe is destined to take the field against Napoleon more times than any other commander in history, is doing the same up in Germany. 

Speaking of Bonaparte, his campaigns in Italy did indeed clear out some breathing space for his comrades up along the Rhine. And so when they got moving in June 1796, the Austrians had already been forced to peel off 25,000 men to go relieve Mantua. Jourdan once again crossed the river first, and Archduke Charles was forced to pull his army back to the east side of the Rhine to protect Mainz. On June 15, the Austrians attacked Jourdan’s army at Wetzler and came away with an apparent victory that forced Jourdan to scoot back across the Rhine. But the entire maneuver had really just been a distraction to allow Moreau’s army to fight its way across the Rhine against a much weaker enemy guarding the crossings to the south. So, leaving behind a force to keep an eye on Jourdan, Charles then raced down to try to stop Moreau’s advance. But, of course, as soon as Charles was out of sight, Jourdan recrossed the river and pushed off the 35,000 or so Austrians keeping an eye on him, which is all they could really do, since they weren’t strong enough to stop the French advance.

Meanwhile, Charles arrived in the southern theater and intended to strike Moreau on July 10. But Moreau decided to preempt him, attacked on July 9, catching the Austrians a bit off guard in the Black Forest, turning their flank and forcing Charles to retreat deep into his own territory. Now, Moreau was convinced that this was just some kind of faint, and so he sat on his hands for a few days before realizing that Charles was actually running all the way back to the Danube. Moreau got off his hands and gave chase. 

For Charles’s part, what he was really looking for here was an opportunity to combine all his forces against one of the two invading French armies. But he was having a difficult time figuring out when and where that should be. And if the French should combine their armies, there would be no stopping them. They’d be able to push all the way to Vienna. So he moved as fast as he could southeast towards the Danube, hoping to draw Moreau along with him, and most especially, draw Moreau away from Jourdan. And Moreau played right into his hands. 

On August 11, a portion of Charles’s army launched a surprise attack on the pursuing French to pin them down long enough to get the rest of his army to the south side of the Danube, which they were able to do. With the Austrian army he had been pursuing now, on the other side of this great river, Moreau had two options: A) Let them go, solidify the territorial gains he had made, link up with Jourdan and become an unstoppable juggernaut that pushes all the way to Vienna, or B) Just keep moving forward, put even more distance between himself and Jourdan and allowed Charles to face them, each separately. Moreau picked option B. 

Jourdan was making progress of his own, though, and after depositing a force to begin the Siege of Mainz, he pushed deeper east. And by the middle of August 1796, both French armies were deep in enemy territory and were receiving a string of swift capitulations from the various Austrian aligned principalities they passed through. Hoping to mitigate the French plundering, these principalities surrendered and laid down their arms. Not that it really helped them that much. The war will feed itself. 

Meanwhile, down in Italy, Bonaparte was about to deal with that additional Austrian army that was being sent down to try to lift the siege of Mantua. And technically, the Austrians will succeed in lifting the siege, because when they came down through the Alps in late July, Bonaparte recognized that if he was going to defend his position, that he couldn’t leave anyone behind in Mantua. So he moved everybody north. And after moving around each other for a few days, the French and Austrians met at Castiglione on August 5. 

Now, the Battle of Castiglione demonstrated another early example of the battle strategies Napoleon would use to conquer Europe. This time, it is the move on the rear. Bonaparte sent the bulk of his forces on a full frontal assault of the Austrian line, but also sent 5,000  men on a wide flanking maneuver to come at the Austrians from their back left. When the Austrians repositioned to face this new threat, creating a capital L shaped line, Bonaparte concentrated a massive force, infantry, cavalry, artillery on the hinge point of the Austrian line, smashing through it and splitting the Austrians in two, which forced them into a disorganized retreat. The Austrians pulled back to the north, but in the meantime, they had managed to get a few divisions down to Mantua to reinforce and resupply the garrison, trash the French fortifications and drag the heavy guns Bonaparte had been forced to leave behind inside the city. So it wasn’t a total loss. 

Meanwhile, back north of the Alps, Moreau himself was now crossing the Danube and was following its southern bank east, deeper and deeper into Austrian territory. And that is when Charles finally got the break he had been looking for. A cavalry officer who had been scouting Jourdan’s movements in the north recognized an opportunity to hit Jourdan’s rear flank. He sent a breathless report down to Charles saying, send 10,000 reinforcements, like, right now, and we can beat them. Charles did not waste any time leaving 30,000 behind to continue giving Moreau something to fuss around with. He raced north with 27,000 men and hit the spot his officer had identified, and boy, did it ever work.

On August 24, the Austrian army in the north turned around at Amberg and hit Jourdan straight on. While that battle was unfolding, Jourdan was then suddenly hit from the back right by Charles’s 27,000 men. With this dagger lodged in his ribs, Jourdan had to break off his advance and retreat northwest back towards the Rhine. This retreat was harried the entire way by Charles, who shadowed Jourdan to the south, above all making sure that the two French armies would never link up. 

The decisive battle in the north finally came at Würzburg on September 3. Jourdan turned around and struck at what he thought was an isolated Austrian division that he completely outnumbered. But instead, it turned out to be a well supported and well reinforced forward unit of Charles’s whole army. The battle ended whatever hopes Jourdan had of staying on the east side of the Rhine, and he was forced to re-cross the river. When he did, all the various little sieges the French had set up with the Austrians, pushed so far back had to be abandoned, most especially the siege of Mainz, which for the second straight year, resisted French attempts to capture it. 

When word finally reached Moreau that Jourdan had not only been turned around, but was headed back across the river, he looked around and was like, wow, I am really super deep in enemy territory and suddenly, all by my lonesome. So he turned around, recrossed the Danube, and started heading back towards the Rhine himself, now being pursued by the Austrian army that he had so recently been chasing. Moreau was well aware that he needed to beat it back to France before Charles could swing down from the north and cut him off. 

Now, there was a pretty dicey moment when the territory surrounding the bridgehead Moreau and his army had come over on was captured by the Austrians, forcing Moreau to turn and head due south, marching parallel to the Rhine through the Black Forest, racing for the next major crossing, which was near Basel, Switzerland. Charles caught up with Moreau a few times and the retreat turned into a fighting retreat. But after one last battle at Schliengen on October 24, Moreau and his army got back across the Rhine. 

Now, there might have been a slightly different end to all this if Bonaparte had done what the Directory had wanted him to do, instead of just doing what he wanted to do. Well, actually, that’s not exactly right. What Bonaparte wanted to do was keep pushing east, take Triëst and then use that as a springboard to come at Vienna from the south. But when he asked for reinforcements, the Directory said, “No, that is an insane plan. What we want you to do is move north into Germany to support Moreau.” And Bonaparte almost did, but then he didn’t. 

Just as Jourdan was getting beat at Würzburg in early September, Bonaparte started advancing north. His advance, though, just so happened to coincide with the second Austrian attempt to lift the siege of Mantua. The Austrian relief army was divided into two: a defensive force guarding the western pass through the mountains, while the main invading force came down the eastern pass. The Austrian Generals assumed that Bonaparte would match his troops at the bottom of the eastern pass to block the main invading army. It made sense. But instead, on September 2, Bonaparte rushed up the western pass and routed the greatly outnumbered Austrian defenders. Once they had retreated, Bonaparte then circled around to the east and wound up coming, shooting down the same path the main Austrian invading force were themselves marching down. So, Bonaparte was not sitting at the bottom of the path waiting for the Austrians to emerge. He was chasing them from behind! 

The French caught the Austrians at Bassano on September 8, and though the Austrians got away, they did have to ditch all their heavy guns and baggage. With almost no good options left, all the Austrians could do was head for the fortress they were trying to relieve and the race for Mantua was on. 

But as hard as Bonaparte pushed his army, he couldn’t catch up with the Austrians and they made it to Mantua first. They tried to hold a line outside the city to avoid getting trapped inside, but that did not work. And so they pulled back into the fortress. That meant that the garrison at Mantua was now 30,000 strong, which sounds pretty good, except you don’t really need that many guys to defend it. And all they were really doing is now using up the city’s limited supplies even faster. At the end of the day, they were simply trapped inside the city they had come to liberate. Whoops!

So we’re going to leave off there for this week. While the Rhine campaigns are done for the year, this is not the end of the drama in Italy, because in between the second and third attempts to lift the siege of Mantua, Bonaparte will have taken it upon himself, against the orders of the Directory, to start personally reorganizing the political map of northern Italy. This, of course, leads to fears that Bonaparte was aiming for something more than just a respectable military career. So next time, we will pick up with the new Italian Republic Napoleon invents out of thin air and then move on to the next great political test for the Directory, the first round of free elections, which will wind up being a crushing defeat for the incumbent Thermidorian delegates. I say next time, though, because I am taking next week off. But when I come back, there will be no weeks off between now and the end of the French Revolution.

Return to The French Revolution >>

Leave a Reply