France, Napoleon I Bonaparte. Bronze medal commemorating the death of General Desaix at the Battle of Marengo, 1800
- KOD: 4607206RMA
France, Napoleon I Bonaparte. Bronze medal commemorating the death of General Desaix at the Battle of Marengo, 1800, Brenet & Auguste, Bramsen 44, Julius 807, Essling 2724, Bronze 50 mm, weight 60,48 g., Condition aUNC, beautiful brown patina with lustre, edge damage on reverse, dark tarnish in places
Battle of Marengo - the decisive battle of Napoleon's second Italian campaign, fought on June 14, 1800 against the Austrian army under General Michael von Melas. The battle ended in victory for the French, and was followed by the withdrawal of the Austrians from Italy. The victorious outcome of the battle solidified Napoleon's position in France; defeat could have meant his total defeat.
Desaix and the French counterattack At about fifteen o'clock Melas thought the battle was won and sent a courier to Vienna with the news of victory. Bonaparte's army was retreating, putting up desperate resistance, the Austrians were preparing to deliver the decisive blow. At the same time, however, Desaix appeared at Bonaparte's headquarters with the news that his division, with a strength of 5,000 men and eight guns, was about an hour's march from Marengo. The French had to persevere for another two hours. According to accounts, Desaix, when asked about his assessment of the situation, was said to have said: this battle is already lost, but it is only the second one, we will manage to win the next one. Around sixteen o'clock the French were ready to counterattack. General of Artillery Marmont had eighteen guns at his disposal (of the initial fifteen he had five left, five came from the reserve, eight were brought by Desaix). What followed is described by experts in the art of war as the best executed tactical operation of combined infantry, artillery and cavalry in the entire history of wars (quoted in Archibald Gordon Macdonell, "Napoleon and His Marshals"). The Austrian assault column was shelled by Marmont's cannon fire for 20 minutes, after which Desaix's division moved to attack. Marmont pulled up a four-division battery to support the attack and relentlessly cartwheeled the Austrians, holding back Desaix's wobbly troops at times. To top it all off, an ammunition scramble broke out in the Austrians' ranks, causing confusion in their ranks. At this point Desaix's infantry rose to the assault, and at the same time Kellerman's heavy cavalry of about 400 men moved to charge. Soon the Austrian column ceased to exist, and the commanding General Zach, to whom Melas had given command of the entire army, was taken prisoner. Around 6pm it was virtually over the battle, although the fighting dragged on until 10pm, when the Austrians under General Otto withdrew behind Bormida. The Austrians lost 15 banners, 40 cannons, 6,000 killed, 8,000 prisoners. French losses were up to 7,000 killed and wounded, including more than 800 Poles from the Polish legions in Italy under the command of Jan Henryk Dabrowski. Death was suffered by Desaix, after the battle Napoleon wept over his body and it was the first time the soldiers saw tears in the eyes of the "God of War".