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To all the other circumftances that tended to encourage the hopes, and inflame the ambition of the French republic, is to be added the death of the emprefs of Ruffia. Though it might feem to a found politician, unwarped by prejudice or paffion, that an emperor of Ruffia could not be other than hoftile to the friends of Sweden and the Porte, and the patrons of revolution in Poland; yet there was generally in fovereign princes, as well as in prime minifters and governors of all kinds, a jealoufy of the very fhade, and a difpofition to recede in their conduct, from the measures and maxims of their predeceffors. Neither the temper and genius of Paul I. nor the terms on which he had lived with his illuftrious mother, gave any reason to expect that he would ftrictly adhere to her plans, and adopt her intentions. In fact, he had no fooner mounted the throne of Ruffia, than he countermanded the orders that had been given for the march of the troops to Gallicia. He entered into a negociation for a fettlement of an old debt, due by the Ruffian government, to the Seven United Provinces, and for the eftablishment of a treaty of commerce. He fhewed a difpofition to become a mediator for peace, in danger of being broken, between the Auftrians and Pruffians, and feemed even ambitious of being the arbiter of a general peace in Europe.
Thus Great Britain and Auftria were the fole adversaries that France
had now to encounter. But the fuccefles of its arms had fo completely defeated all the projects they had jointly engaged in against it, that no apprehenfions were entertained of their being able to turn the fcale of fortune by any fubfe
quent efforts. The efficacy of thefe muft naturally be diminished proportionably to the loffes and difcomfitures they had met with, and would, probably, ftill experience, if they were to perfift in a conteft, in which, being only the remainder of the coalition, they could not hope to be lefs unfuccefsful than it had proved in the united strength of its whole power.
In addition to the maritime force of Spain, France relied with still more confidence on that of the Ba tavian republic. The numerous seamen, employed in its extenfive commerce, had always borne the character of a brave and hardy race of men, completely fkilled in their profeffion, and incomparably preferable, in every refpect, to the Spanish mariners. That republic was now exerting itfelf to fit out as many ships of war as were lying in its ports, and of adding them to those of its French and Spanish confederates, in hope of depriving the English of the empire of the fea.
This hope had not been diminished by the failure of the attempt against Ireland, which the French attributed folely to the unpropitious weather, that had conftantly attended the expedition. It had been planned, in their opinion, on the beft of all grounds; the noted difcontents of a people ill-treated, and weary of a yoke that had for centuries kept them in a flate of depreffion. They were all ripe for a vigorous refiftance, and required only
a moderate affiftance to deliver themfelves from the tyranny of England. Though the firft effay to relieve them had failed, from caufes that could not, in the nature of things, be obviated, it was not to be imagined, that these would al
ways recur. The attempt ought, The attempt ought, therefore, to be refumed, as the opportunity ftill continued as inviting as ever. It was ignominious for three fuch powers as France, Spain, and Holland, to defift from so practicable a design, which they had every reafon to profecute, and none to abandon. The fleets of Great Britain were not fuperior to thofe of the potent confederacy,, formed againft it; and fo many advantages would refult from the accomplishment of the object propofed, that it ought, in good policy, to be perfifted in, againft all difficulties, and at all hazards. Such was the language of the French.
Animated by motives of this kind, the three allied powers refolved to exert themselves, without intermiffion, in the equipment of fuch a naval force, as might effectually confront the British marine, and make, at the fame time, a fuccefsful impreffion upon that part of the empire of Great Britain, which appeared most vulnerable. Such was the plan in the contemplation of the enemies of England, and of which they formed the moft fanguine expectations. Nor did the moft fagacious politicians look upon it as illfounded, though they were equally perfuaded, that it would meet with every obftruction from the long noted valour and skill of their adverfaries. Thus, all circumftances contributed to render the prefent year productive of events, not lefs, if not more, important and ftriking than those that had preceded. The eyes of all the European nations, were anxiously fixed on the vaft preparations making against a pow
which, if it refifted them, would become greater than ever: but of which the defliny feemed un
certain, when the rooted hoftility, and the prodigious efforts of fuck formidable enemies, were duly and impartially confidered.
The readiness with which the
French government broke off the negociation with England, arofe, in the opinion of thofe who were reputed the most judicious, in the firm perfuafion, that the triple alliance, as it was ftyled, now formed against it, could hardly fail to compaís the ends it propofed, by profecuting them with the energy and perfeverance, of which they were deferving.
While France was fo bufily intent on the means of effecting the downfal of England, it was no lefs occupied in preparing, as it hoped, the final deftruction of the power of Auftria. The fpirit with which this latter fuftained the fucceffive difafters, that had befallen its repeated endeavours to maintain its ground in Italy, had kept alive the courage of its fubjects and wellwifhers to fuch a decree, that they all concurred in a refolute determination to ftand by it as long as the leaft profpect remained of any poffibility to retrieve its affairs.
The theatre, to which the attention of Europe was chiefly turned, at the end of the laft and beginning of the prefent year, was Italy. The exploits of Buonaparte had not yet terminated, as he had long expected, and many labours awaited him before the accomplishment of that object, without which, both he and his foes well forefaw that his views would be fruftrated, and the fruits of his victories loft. This was the capture of Mantua, which held out with an obftinacy that had never been exceeded in the defence of
any place. The garrifon was reduced to almost every fpecies of hardship and diftrefs, and yet underwent the fevereft duties and fatigues, with a cheerfulness and fortitude that never flackened in the multiplicity of trials that daily arofe from the indefatigable activity of the befiegers.
The fiege of this important fortrefs had now lafted feven months. Marthal Wurmfer, who had as gallantly, as fkilfully, forced his way to the city, through fo many obftacles, had fo much revived the courage of the garrifon, that, under his command, they began to entertain fresh hope of a fuccefsful refiftance. He was upwards of feventy but age feemed to have had no other effect upon him, than to increase his experience. His active difpofition remained unimpaired, and no officer under him exceeded the vigour and celerity of action which he difplayed upon every occafion. He not only concerted, but perfonally conducted every plan that was executed for the prefervation of Mantua. He acquired by his unremitted efforts and valour, the particular efteem of Buonaparte, who ranked him above any general with whom he had contended.
His other opponent, Alvinzi, was now unable to encounter him in the field, and had cantoned the fhattered remains of his defeated army, in various pofitions along the northern fide of the Brenta, awaiting the fupplies that were collecting with all diligence in the emperor's hereditary dominions. So great were the efforts of the Auftrian government, that, before the end of December, Alvinzi faw himself at the head of a complete and regular
army, the fifth that had been brought together to oppose the French, during this eventful campaign.
Buonaparte, who had calculated the furrender of Mantua, previously to the renewal of hoftilities with Alvinzi, was now neceffitated to refume offenfive operations againft him, before he could arrive at this important acquifition. He had, at the fame time, other objects in contemplation; the fettlement of the two republics that were forming on the north and on the fouth of the Po, and the fuppreffion of the attempts making by the pope, to refift the defigns formed against him by the French.
The forces which the pope had collected were not, indeed, formidable, either for military fame or numbers. It is not to be fuppofed, that this pontiff was fo weak as to fuppofe that they could, of themfelves, make any tolerable stand againft the French; but it was poffible, that his courageous example might re-animate religious zeal, and infpire refolution into the fovereigns and fubjects of other ftates. His holinefs, therefore, put his troops, fuch as they were, in march towards Romagna, to watch the ftates of Reggio, Ferrara, Bologna, and Modena, which had declared themfelves independent: and alfo in order to favour the efcape of general Wurmfer in the Ferrarefe, or into the ecclefiaftical states, in cafe of neceffity, from Mantua.
But, as thefe appeared objects of a fecondary confideration, when weighed with the former, the French commander refolved at once to take the field against the new army of Auftrians, prepared to difpute once more the fovereignty of Italy, confident, that if fortune again favoured
him, it would be the laft effort of Auftria for the recovery of its loft dominions.
Alvinzi was now advancing from the Brenta, with the utmost expedition. His army, fifty thoufand ftrong, was composed of the best troops that could be procured. It counted large numbers of volunteers from the best families in Vienna, most of them young men in the prime of life, and defirous of fignalizing their attachment and loyalty to the emperor on this critical occafion. The intentions of the Auftrian commander were, to force a paffage to Mantua, where the junction of the garrifon would give him a decided fuperiority over the French, whofe ftrength was greatly reduced, by the numerous battles they had fought. The reinforcements, promifed to Buonaparte, were not yet arrived, and the knowledge of this circumftance was an additional motive for Alvinzi to quicken his motions.
A ftrong divifion of his army attacked on the eighth of January, 1797, a French poft in front of Porto Legnago, on the Adige. The French, though inferior in number, maintained their pofition the whole day, and retired at night in good order to this place: apprised of this attack, the whole of the French line, along that river, was obliged to concentrate itself, in hope of being able to refift the Auftrians until it was relieved by the fuccours that had been dispatched by Buonaparte.
This general, after infpecting the pofts in the vicinity of Mantua, and providing a ftrong reinforcement for general Augereau, who commanded the line on the Adige, haftened to Verona, where he arrived in time
to be present at the action, that took place on the twelfth, between Maffena and the Auftrians. These were fuccefsful on the firft onset : but after an obftinate difpute were repulfed, and loft fome hundreds flain or captured. The corps under the command of general Joubert, at Montebaldo, was attacked the very fame day : but this alfo repulfed the enemy, and at night a body of Auftrians, who attempted to take the citadel of Verona by furprize, were completely defeated.
In the mean time, the Auftrian general had croffed the Adige; and, with the whole of his force, fallen upon Joubert, who had not half his number, and compelled him to withdraw to Rivoli, between the Adige and the lake of Garda. This happened on the thirteenth, As foon as Buonaparte was informed of what had paffed, and particularly of the line of march obferved by the Imperialifts, which was obvioufly directed towards Mantua, he fet out for Rivoli, where he arrived at midnight, with as powerful reinforcements as he had been able to collect in the courfe of the day.
Unfortunately for the Auftrian general, he was totally unapprifed of the arrival of Buonaparte, and of the reinforcements that accompanied him. He adhered of course to the plan of attack which he had previously projected: nor did he difcover the real ftrength of the French, till they had commenced their attack upon the Auftrians, whom they drove from a poft which they had taken from them on the preceding day.
This firft fuccefs was obtained early on the morning of the fourteenth. It enabled general Jou bert to occupy the high grounds on
the right banks of the Adige, and to make an impreffion on the left of the Auftrians. But their right affailed the left wing of the French fo vigoroufly, that it gave way, and the centre of the Auftrian army bore down in compact order on the centre of the French. Aufpiciously for thofe, Maffena's division arrived at that inftant, as the commanderin-chief had calculated they would, on the field of battle. Buonaparte who had fucceeded in rallying his left wing, put himself in perfon at the head of this divifion. It fell with fuch fury on the Imperial centre, that it was inftantly broken and thrown into diforder, and the left of the French, after being rallied, recovered the pofts it had loft: but the Austrian centre foon rallied, and, feconded by part of their right, returned to the charge, and furrounded general Berthier's divifion in the centre, which ftood its ground with great firmnefs. He was attacked, at the fame time, by a ftrong divifion from their left. The conflict here was extremely obftinate; but, while the Auftrians were striving to turn the centre and right of the French, who had concentrated both, to refift the weight of the enemy's charge, Buonaparte directed a large body of infantry and cavalry to take them in flank, and Joubert at the fame inftant, fell upon them from the heights he had occupied, with fuch impetuofity, that they were intirely routed and put to flight. Their centre, however, ftill maintained the conteft, and thereby afforded time for a large column to turn the left of the French, and to cover the ground on their rear: by which their communication was cut off with Verona, and their posts on the
lake of Guarda. The republican forces were thus entirely furrounded. Wherever they caft their eyes, they beheld the enemy on every fide. Buonaparte, who had fought, as well as given orders, the whole day,' in every direction was now driven to the centre. He called his field officers around him, and coolly pointed out to each, what he judge to be the least perilous mode of extricating themselves from their imminent danger.
The Auftrians, after a general difeharge, rufhed on to fcale the entrechments at Rivoli, of which they were three times in poffeffion; but they were fucceffively repulfed. In the mean time, a finall battery, of four field-pieces, had been brought to cannonade the right wing of the Auftrians, through which, it feems, Buonaparte had meditated his escape: but which he now hoped to improve into a victory. Two brigades, in three columns, under the generals Brune and Monnier, were ordered to attack this wing, and diflodge it from the commanding pofition which it kept on the heights. This defperate fervice the foldiers effected, advancing, at firft, in regular order, finging one of their war-hymns. But they no But they no fooner approached within gun-fhot of the enemy, than they rufhed on them with defperation.
The Auftrians, over-whelmed and confounded by the violence of the aflailants, fled, panic-ftruck, towards the lake of Guarda; and meeting with a ftraggling party of light infantry, who were trying to join the furrounded French army, and whom they fupposed to be a more confiderable body, laid down their arms, to the number of three thoufand men.