Po and Rhone by Frederick Engels 1859
For hundreds of years Upper Italy has been, even more than Belgium, the battle-field on which the Germans and the French have fought out their wars. For the aggressor, possession of Belgium and the Po valley is a necessary condition for either a German invasion of France or a French invasion of Germany; it is only by virtue of such possession that the flanks and rear of the invasion are fully secure. The only exception could be a completely reliable neutrality of these two regions, and that case has never yet arisen.
If the fate of France and Germany has been decided indirectly on the battlefields of the Po valley ever since the day of Pavia, the fate of Italy has been simultaneously decided there directly. With the huge standing armies of modern times, with the growing power of France and Germany, and with the political disintegration of Italy, old Italy proper, the region south of the Rubicon, lost all military importance, and possession of the old Cisalpine Gaul inevitably brought with it mastery of the long narrow peninsula. In the basins of the Po and Adige, on the Genoese, Romagnese and Venetian coasts, was the densest population, and there was concentrated Italy’s most flourishing agriculture, most active industry and liveliest trade. The peninsula, Naples and the Papal States, remained relatively stationary in their social development; their military power had not counted for centuries. Whoever held the Po valley cut off the peninsula’s land communications with the rest of the Continent and could easily subdue it if the occasion arose, as the French did twice during the revolutionary war and the Austrians did twice in this century. Accordingly, only the basins of the Po and the Adige are of military importance.
Enclosed on three sides by, the unbroken chain of the Alps and Apennines and on the fourth, from Aquileia to Rimini, by the Adriatic Sea, this basin forms a region very clearly demarcated by nature, with the Po flowing through it from west to east. The southern, or Apennine, boundary does not interest us here; the northern. or Alpine, boundary interests us all the more. Its snow-clad ridge has only a few passes with paved roads; even the number of wagon-tracks, bridle-paths and footpaths is limited; long narrow gorges lead to the passes over the high peaks.
The German frontier bounds North Italy from the mouth of the Isonzo to the Stelvio Pass; from there to Geneva the border is with Switzerland; from Geneva to the mouth of the Var it is with France. Going west from the Adriatic to the Stelvio Pass, each pass leads deeper into the heart of the Po basin than the previous one and hence outflanks any positions of an Italian or French army lying further to the east. The border-line of the Isonzo is immediately outflanked by the first pass from Caporetto to Cividale; the Pontebba Pass goes round the position on the Tagliamento, which is also outflanked by two unpaved passes from Carinthia and Cadore. The Brenner Pass outflanks the line of the Piave by the Peutelstein Pass from Bruneck to Cortina d'Ampezzo and Belluno, the line of the Brenta by the Val Sugana to Bassano, the line of the Adige by the Adige valley, the Chiese by the Giudicaria, the Oglio by unpaved roads over Tonale, and finally all the territory east of the Adda by the Stelvio Pass and the Valtellina.
One could say that with such a favourable strategic position, actual possession of the plains down to the Po would not matter too much to us Germans. Given forces of equal strength, where could the enemy army take a stand east of the Adda or north of the Po? All its positions would be outflanked; even if it crossed the Po or the Adda, its flank would be threatened; if it moved south of the Po, its communications with Milan and Piedmont would be threatened; if it went beyond the Ticino, it would endanger its connections with the entire peninsula. If it were reckless enough to advance in an offensive in the direction of Vienna, it could be cut off any day and forced to give battle with its rear towards enemy country and its front facing Italy. If it were beaten, it would be a second Marengo with the roles reversed; if it beat the Germans, the latter would have to behave very stupidly to be deprived of their retreat to the Tyrol.
The construction of the road over the Stelvio Pass is proof that the Austrians learned their lesson from their defeat at Marengo.
Napoleon built the Simplon road in order to have a protected route into the heart of Italy; the Austrians supplemented their system of offensive defence in Lombardy by the road from Stelvio to Bormio. It may be said that this pass is too high to be practicable in winter; that the entire route is too difficult since it goes without relief through inhospitable high mountain country for a distance of at least fifty German Miles [1 German mile = 7.42 km] (from Füssen in Bavaria to Lecco on Lake Como), including three mountain passes; finally, that it can easily be blocked in the long defile along Lake Como and in the mountains themselves. Let us look into this.
To be sure, the pass is the highest practicable one in the entire chain of the Alps, 8,600 feet, and may be heavily snowed up in winter. But if we recall Macdonald’s winter campaign of 1800-01 in the Splilgen and Tonale, we will not give too much weight to such obstacles. All the Alpine passes are snowed up in winter and are passable nonetheless. Armstrong’s production of efficient breech-loading rifled cannon has made reorganisation of all artillery something that can hardly be put off; it will introduce lighter guns into field artillery as well, increasing their mobility. A more serious obstacle is the long march in the high mountains and getting over one range after another. The Stelvio Pass does not cross the divide between the northern and southern Alpine rivers, but between the Adige and the Adda, two rivers that flow into the Adriatic, and therefore presupposes that the main range of the Alps is crossed by the Brenner or the Finstermünz Pass in order to get from the Inn valley into that of the Adige. Since in the Tyrol the Inn flows pretty much from west to east between two mountain ridges, troops from Lake Constance and Bavaria must also cross the more northerly of these ridges, so that there will be a total of two or three mountain passes on this route alone. Laborious though this may be, it is not a decisive obstacle to leading an army into Italy by this route. This difficulty will soon be reduced to a minimum by a railway in the Inn valley, which is already partly completed, and a projected line in the valley of the Adige. Napoleon’s route over the St. Bernard Pass from Lausanne to Ivrea involved no more than about 30 miles through high mountains; but the route from Udine to Vienna, along which Napoleon advanced in 1797 and along which Eugène and Macdonald joined him at Vienna in 1809, goes through high mountains for over 60 miles, and likewise over three Alpine passes. The way from Pont-de-Beauvoisin over the Little St. Bernard to Ivrea, the route that goes directly from France. furthest into Italy, without touching Switzerland, and is therefore the best for outflanking, also leads for more than 40 miles over high mountains, as does the Simplon route from Lausanne to Sesto Calende.
Finally, as for blocking the road in the pass itself or on Lake Como, one is no longer so inclined, after the campaigns of the French in the Alps, to rely on the efficacy of roadblocks. Commanding heights and the possibility of outflanking make them rather futile; the French stormed many of them and were never seriously held up by the fortifications in the passes. Any fortifications of the passes on the Italian side can be flanked via Cevedale, Monte Corno and Gavia, and the Tonale and Aprica. From the Valtellina there are many bridle-paths to the Bergamo region, and roadblocks on the long defile by Lake Como can be outflanked along those paths or from Dervio or from Bellano through Val Sassina. In mountain warfare, advancing in several columns is advisable in any case, and if one of them gets through, the purpose is usually attained.
How practicable even the most difficult passes are at virtually any time of year, provided good troops and resolute generals are employed; how even minor auxiliary passes not negotiable by vehicles can be used as good operational lines, especially for flanking purposes; and how little roadblocks can do to block the advance — all this is best shown by the campaigns in the Alps from 1796 to 1801. At that time not a single Alpine pass had been paved, and nonetheless armies crossed the mountains in every direction. In 1799, as early as the beginning of March, Loison with a French brigade crossed the divide between the Reuss and the Rhine by footpaths, while Lecourbe went over the Bernardino and the Viamala, then crossed the Albula and Julier Passes (7,100 feet high) and by March 24 took the Martinsbruck defile by a flanking movement, sending Dessolle through the Milnster valley over Pisoc and the Worms Pass (a footpath 7,850 feet high) to the Upper Adige valley and thence to the Reschen-Scheideck. At the beginning of May Lecourbe pulled back over the Albula again.
Suvorov’s campaign followed in September of the same year; during it, as the old soldier expressed it in his vigorous figurative language, the Russian bayonet forced its way through the Alps (Ruskij sztyk prognal crez Alpow). He sent most of his artillery over the Splilgen, had a flanking column go through Val Blegno over the Lukmanier (footpath, 5,948 feet) and thence over the Sixmadun (about 6,500 feet) into the Upper Reuss valley, while he himself
went through the St. Gotthard, which at that time was hardly passable for vehicles (6,594 feet). He took the roadblock of Teufelsbrücke by storm on September 24-26; but when he got to Altdorf, with the lake in front of him and the French on every other side, there was nothing left for him to do but to go up the Schächen valley over the Kinzig-Kulm into the valley of the Muota. Arriving there, after leaving all his artillery and baggage in the Reuss valley, he found the French in superior force before him again, while Lecourbe was on his heels. Suvorov went over the Pragel Pass into the valley of the Klön in order to reach the Rhine plain by that route. He met with insurmountable resistance in the Näfels defile and the only thing left him was to take the footpath through the Panix Pass, 8,000 feet high, to reach the upper valley of the Rhine and the link with the Splügen. The passage began on October 6 and on October 10 the headquarters were in Ilanz. This passage was the most impressive of all Alpine crossings in modern times.
We shall not say much about Napoleon’s crossing of the Great St. Bernard. It does not come up to other similar operations of that period. The season was favourable and the only noteworthy thing was the skilful way in which the strong point of Fort Bard was outflanked.
On the other hand, Macdonald’s operations in the winter of 1800-01 were remarkable. With the assignment of taking 15,000 men as the left wing of the French army of Italy to outflank the Austrian right wing on the Mincio and the Adige, he crossed the Splügen (6,510 feet) in the depth of winter with all kinds of arms. With the greatest of difficulty, often halted by avalanches and snowstorms, he led his army over the pass between December 1 and 7 and marched up along the Adda through the Valtellina to the Aprica. Nor were the Austrians frightened off by winter in the high mountains. They held the Albula, the Julier and the Braulio (Worms Pass), and at the last named even made a surprise attack in which they captured a detachment of dismounted French hussars. After Macdonald had surmounted the Aprica Pass from the Adda valley into the valley of the Oglio, he climbed the very high Tonale Pass by footpaths, and on December 22 attacked the Austrians, who had obstructed the defile in the pass with blocks of ice. Thrown back on that day as well as in the second attack (December 31-thus he remained in the high mountains for nine days!), he went down the Val Camonica to the Lago d'Iseo, sent his cavalry and artillery through the plain and with the infantry climbed the three ranges leading to Val Trompia, Val Sabbia and the Giudicaria, where lie reached Storo as early? as January 6. Meanwhile Baraguay d'Hilliers had gone over the ReschenScheideck (Finstermiinz Pass) from the valley of the Inn into the Upper Adige valley. — If such manoeuvres were possible sixty years ago, What can we not do today, when we have excellent paved roads in most of the passes!
Even from these sketches we can see that the only roadblocks that had any sort of ability to hold out were those that were not outflanked, whether from lack of skill or lack of time. For example, the Tonale was untenable once Baraguay d'Hllliers appeared in the Upper Adige valley. The other campaigns show that they were taken either by a flanking operation or, frequently, by storm. Luziensteig was stormed two or three times, and likewise Malborghetto in the Pontebba Pass in 1797 and 1809. The Tyrolean strong points did not stop Joubert in 1797 or Ney in 1805. It is known, as Napoleon stated, that outflanking can be accomplished on paths that a goat can negotiate. And ever since people have waged war on this basis, any and all strong points can be bypassed.
Consequently, we cannot see how, given equality of forces, a hostile army can defend Lombardy east of the Adda in the open field against a German army advancing over the Alps. Its only chance would be to take up a position between existing or newly erected fortifications and to manoeuvre between them. This possibility will be examined later.
What passes are now open to France for penetrating into Italy? Whereas Germany surrounds a full half of Italy’s northern border, the French frontier runs in almost a straight line from north to south, surrounds nothing and outflanks nothing. It is only after taking Savoy and a part of the Genoese coast that flanking movements can be prepared via the Little St. Bernard and some passes in the Maritime Alps, and even then the effect will extend only to the Sesia and the Bormida and will not reach Lombardy and the duchies, let alone the peninsula. Only a landing in Genoa, which. would have its difficulties for a large army, could bring about a flanking of all of Piedmont; a landing further east, e.g., at La Spezia, could no longer be based on Piedmont and France, but only on the peninsula, and would therefore be outflanked as much as itself doing the outflanking.
Thus far we have assumed that Switzerland would be neutral. In the event that it was drawn into the war, France would have one more pass available, the Simplon (the Great St. Bernard, which leads to Aosta as the Little St. Bernard does, would yield no new advantages beyond the shorter line). The Simplon leads to the Ticino and therefore covers Piedmont for the French. In the same way, the Germans would obtain the relatively minor, Splilgen, which meets the Stelvio road on Lake Como, and the Bernardino, whose effect extends as far as the Ticino. The St. Gotthard could serve either side, depending on the circumstances, but would riot give them many new opportunities for flanking operations. Thus we see that the effect of a French flanking manoeuvre over the Alps, on the one hand, and of a German flanking manoeuvre, on the other, extends to the present border between Lombardy and Piedmont, the Ticino. But if the Germans are on the Ticino, even if they are only at Piacenza and Cremona, they bar the French from the land route into the Italian peninsula. In other words, if France dominates Piedmont, Germany dominates all the rest of Italy.
The Germans have moreover a tactical advantage. Along the entire German frontier, the watershed is on the German side for all the important passes, with the exception of the Stelvio. The Fella in the Pontebba Pass rises in Carinthia, and the Boite in the Peutelstein Pass in the Tyrol. In the Tyrol this advantage is decisive. The Upper Brenta valley (Val Sugana), the Upper Chiese valley (Giudicaria) and more than half of the course of the Adige belong to the Tyrol. Although in any particular case it cannot be known, without a close study of the locality, whether possession of the watershed in mountain passes gives actual tactical advantage, this much is certain, that as a rule the party occupying the ridge and some of the slope towards the enemy will have the better chance of outflanking the other side and dominating the enemy from above. Furthermore, that party will be in a position to make the most difficult stretches of the auxiliary passes negotiable for all arms, even before war breaks out; this can be of decisive importance for communications in the Tyrol. If this projection of our territory on the enemy side has the extent that the zone of the German Confederation has in the South Tyrol; if, as here, the two main passes, the Brenner and the Finstermünz, are far removed from the enemy frontier; if, in addition, decisive auxiliary passes, such as those through the Giudicaria and the Val Sugana, are entirely within German territory, the tactical conditions for an invasion of Upper Italy are facilitated so enormously that in the event of war they need only be judiciously employed to ensure victory.
So long as Switzerland remains neutral, the Tyrol is the most direct route for a German army operating against Italy; if Switzerland is no longer neutral, the Tyrol and the Grisons (the Inn and the Rhine valleys) are the most direct. It was along this line that the Hohenstaufens moved against Italy; there is no other route by which a Germany acting militarily as a single state can operate decisively with rapid blows in Italy. For this line, however, not Inner Austria, but Upper Swabia and Bavaria, from Lake Constance to Salzburg, is the operational base. This was true throughout the Middle Ages. Only when Austria had consolidated on the Middle Danube, when Vienna became the central point of the monarchy, when the German Empire fell apart and merely Austrian wars, not German wars, were waged in Italy, was the old, short, straight line from Innsbruck to Verona and from Lindau to Milan abandoned; only then was it replaced by the long, crooked, bad line from Vienna through Klagenfurt and Treviso to Vicenza, a line that a German army would formerly have relied on only in the extreme emergency of a threatened retreat, but never for an offensive.
So long as the German Empire existed as a real military power and hence based its attacks against Italy on Upper Swabia and Bavaria, it could strive to conquer Upper Italy on political, never purely military grounds. In the long struggles for Italy, Lombardy was at various times German, independent, Spanish or Austrian; but it should not be forgotten that Lombardy was separate from Venice and Venice was independent. And although Lombardy held Mantua, it did not include the Mincio line and the region between the Mincio and the Isonzo, without possession of which, we are now told, Germany cannot sleep in peace. Germany (through the intermediary of Austria) has had full possession of the Mincio line only since 1814. And although Germany, as a political body, did not play the most brilliant of roles in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, this was not due to its not possessing the Mincio line.
In any case, the strategic rounding-out of states and their provision with defendable frontiers has come more to the forefront since the French Revolution and Napoleon created armies with greater mobility and traversed Europe with those armies in every direction. While during the Seven Years’ War"’ the field of operations of an army was confined to a single province, and manoeuvres would go on for months around individual fortresses, positions or operational bases, in any war today the configuration of the terrain of entire countries is involved, and the importance previously attached to individual tactical positions is now given only to large groups of fortresses, long river lines or high, prominent mountain chains. In this connection, such lines as the Mincio and the Adige are certainly much more important than in the past.
Let us therefore examine these lines.
All the rivers cast of the Simplon that flow from the Alps into the Po in the Upper Italian plain or directly into the Adriatic make a concave arc with the Po or by themselves to the cast. They are therefore more favourable for defence by an army to the east of them than by one to the west. If we look at the Ticino, the Adda, the Oglio, the Chiese, the Mincio, the Adige, the Brenta, the Piave or the Tagliamento, each of these rivers, alone or with the adjacent portion of the Po, forms an arc whose centre is to the east. This enables an army on the left (east) bank to take up a central position from which it can reach any seriously threatened point on the river in a relatively short time; it holds Jomini’s “internal line”,’ and marches on the radius or the chord, whilst the enemy has to manoeuvre on the periphery, which is longer. If the army on the right bank is on the defensive, on the other hand, this situation is unfavourable to it; the enemy is supported in his feinting attacks by the terrain, and the shorter distances from the various points on the periphery that favour him in defence add decisive weight to his attack. Accordingly, the lines of the Lombard and Venetian rivers are favourable in every way to a German army, whether for defence or offence, and unfavourable for an Italian or Italian-French army; and if we add the circumstance discussed above, that the Tyrolean passes outflank all these lines, there is really no reason to be concerned for the security of Germany, even if there were not a single Austrian soldier on Italian soil; for the soil of Lombardy is ours whenever we want it.
Furthermore, these Lombard river lines are for the most part quite insignificant and unsuited to serious defence. Apart from the Po itself, which will be discussed below, there are only two positions in the entire basin that are really important for France or Germany; the relevant general staffs have realised the strength of these zones and fortified them, and they will undoubtedly play a decisive role in the next war. In Piedmont, a mile below Casale, the Po, which has an easterly course up to that point, turns southward, runs south-southeast for a good three miles and then bends eastward again. At the northern bend the Sesia flows in from the north; at the southern bend the Po is joined by the Tanaro, coming in from the southwest. The Tanaro is joined, just before its confluence, near Alessandria, by the Bormida, the Orba and the Belbo, forming a system of radial river lines converging at a central point; this important junction is covered by the fortified camp of Alessandria. From Alessandria as a base, an army can take either bank of the smaller rivers, can defend the line of the Po in front of it, or can cross the Po at Casale (likewise a fortress) or operate downstream along the right bank of the Po. This position, which is strengthened by sufficient fortifications, is the only one that covers Piedmont or can serve as the base for offensive operations against Lombardy and the duchies. It has the drawback that it lacks depth, a highly unfavourable circumstance since it can be either outflanked or broken through frontally; a strong and skilful attack would soon reduce it to the as yet uncompleted fortified camp of Alessandria, and we have no basis for judging to what extent that camp could protect the defenders from having to give battle under unfavourable conditions, since neither the nature of the latest fortifications there nor the extent to which they have been completed is known. Napoleon already realised the importance of this position for the defence of Piedmont against attack from the east, and had Alessandria refortified. In 1814 the position did not maintain its protective power; how far it can do so today may be apparent to us soon.
The second position, which protects the Venetian region against attack from the west as much as or more than Alessandria does Piedmont, is that of the Mincio and the Adige. The Mincio, after leaving Lake Garda, flows south for four miles to Mantua. There it becomes a sort of lagoon bordered by swamps and then flows southeast to the Po. The stretch of river below the Mantua swamps to the confluence is too short to be used as a crossing by an army, since the enemy could take them from the rear by a sortie from Mantua and compel them to give battle under the most unfavourable conditions. A flanking movement from the south would have to go further, and cross the Po at Revere or Ferrara. On the north the position on the Mincio is broadly protected by Lake Garda from being outflanked, so that the actual length of the Mincio line that has to be defended, from Peschicra to Mantua, is only four miles long, with a fortress at either end ensuring a débouché onto the right bank of the river. The Mincio itself is no great obstacle, and one bank or the other is higher, depending on the locality. That discredited the line more or less before 1848 and it would hardly ever have become very famous were it not significantly strengthened by a special circumstance. This circumstance is that four miles further back the Adige, the second largest river of Upper Italy, flows in an arc roughly parallel to the courses of the Mincio and the Lower Po and thereby forms a second, stronger position, which is reinforced by the two Adige fortresses of Verona and Legnago. The two river lines, with their four fortresses, constitute such a strong defensive position for a German or Austrian army attacked by Italy or France that no other complex in Europe can be compared with it; an army that can still take the field after leaving garrisons in the strong points will easily be able to stand up to a force twice as strong, if based on this position. Radetzky showed in 1848 what could be got out of the position. After the March revolution in Milan, the desertion of the Italian regiments and the crossing of the Ticino by the Piedmontese, he withdrew to Verona with the rest of his troops, about 45,000 men. After leaving garrisons of 15,000 men he had somewhat more than 30,000 men available. Against him, between the Mincio and the Adige, were about 60,000 Piedmontese, Tuscans, Modenese and Parmesans. In his rear appeared the army of Durando, about 45,000 Papal and Neapolitan troops and volunteers. The only line of communication he had left was through the Tyrol, and even that was threatened, although only lightly, by Lombard irregulars in the mountains. Nevertheless Radetzky held on. Keeping Peschiera and Mantua in check drew off so many troops from the Piedmontese that when they attacked the Verona position (battle of Santa Lucia) on May 6 they could put only four divisions, 40,000 to 45,000 men, in the field. Radetzky could utilise 36,000 men, including the garrison at Verona. Considering the tactically strong defensive position of the Austrians, equilibrium Was already i-eestablished on the battlefield, and the Piedmontese were beaten. The counter-revolution in Naples on May 15 freed Radetzky from the presence of 15,000 Neapolitans and cut down the army of the Venetian mainland to about 30,000; of these only 5,000 Papal Swiss and about the same number of Papal Italian troops of the line could be used in the open field, the rest being irregulars. Nugent’s reserve army, which had been formed in April on the Isonzo, easily broke through these troops and joined Radetzky near Verona on May 25, almost 20,000 strong. Now at last the old field marshal could go beyond passive defence. In order to relieve Peschicra, which the Piedmontese were besieging, and to give himself more freedom of action, he made the celebrated flanking march to Mantua with his entire army (May 27), then from here debauched on the right bank of the Mincio on the 29th, stormed the enemy line on the Curtatone and pressed on towards Goito on the 30th, in the rear and on the flank of the Italians. But Peschiera fell on the same day; the weather turned unfavourable and Radetzky did not yet feel himself strong enough for a decisive battle. So on June 4 he marched back through Mantua again to the Adige, sent the reserve corps to Verona and with the rest of his troops moved via Legnago against Vicenza, which Durando had fortified and occupied with 17,000 men. On the 10th he attacked Vicenza with 30,000 men; on the 11th Durando capitulated, after a stout resistance. The Second Army Corps (d'Aspre) conquered Padua, the Upper Brenta valley and the Venetian mainland in general and then followed the First Corps to Verona; a second reserve army under Welden came up from the Isonzo. During this time and until the end of the campaign the Piedmontese, with superstitious obstinacy, concentrated all their attention on the Rivoli plateau which, since Napoleon’s victory, they seem to have regarded as the key to Italy but which had lost its importance by 1848 since the Austrians had restored safe communication with the Tyrol through the Vallarsa and in particular had reestablished direct connection with Vienna across the Isonzo. At the same time something had to be done against Mantua, and so a block was set up on the right bank of the Mincio-an operation that could not have had any other purpose than to document the perplexity prevailing in the Piedmontese camp, to disperse the army all along the eight-mile stretch from Rivoli to Borgoforte and into the bargain to split it into two halves by the Mincio, halves which could not support each other.
When the attempt was now made to blockade Mantua on the left bank as well, Radetzky, who had got 12,000 of Welden’s troops in the interim, decided to break through the Piedmontese in their weakened centre and then defeat the assembling forces separately. On July 22 he ordered Rivoli to be attacked, and the Piedmontese evacuated it on the 23rd; on the 23rd he himself started from Verona with 40,000 men against the position of Sona and Sommacampagna, which was defended by only 14,000 Piedmontese, took it, and thereby broke the entire enemy front. The Piedmontese left wing was completely driven back over the Mincio on the 24th, and the right wing, which had reformed in the meantime and was advancing on the Austrians, was defeated at Custozza on the 25th; on the 26th the entire Austrian army crossed the Mincio and defeated the Piedmontese once again at Volta. This ended the campaign; the Piedmontese withdrew behind the Ticino almost without any resistance.
This brief account of the 1848 campaign is better proof than any theoretical reasoning could give of the strength of the position on the Mincio and the Adige. Once the Piedmontese had entered the quadrilateral between the four fortresses, they had to detach so many troops that their offensive power was thereby broken, as the battle of Santa Lucia shows, while Radetzky, as soon as his first reinforcements arrived, could move between the fortresses with complete freedom, base himself now on Mantua and then on Verona, threaten the rear of the enemy on the right bank of the Mincio today and a few days later capture Vicenza and constantly hold the initiative in the campaign. The Piedmontese committed error after error, it is true; but it is precisely the strength of a position that puts the enemy in a quandary and almost compels him to make errors. Holding the individual fortresses in check, let alone besieging them, forces him to divide his forces and weaken his available offensive strength; the rivers compel him to repeat the division and make it more or less impossible for his various corps to come to each other’s assistance. What forces would be needed to besiege Mantua so long as an army ready for action in the field could break out of the detached forts of Verona at any instant?
Mantua alone was able to hold up General Bonaparte’s victorious army in 1797. Only twice did a fortress impede him: Mantua and, ten years later, Danzig. In the entire second part of the campaign of [1796 and] 1797: Castiglione, Medole, Calliano, Bassano, Arcole, Rivoli -everything revolves around Mantua, and only after this fortress had fallen did the victor venture to advance eastward and over the Isonzo. At that time Verona was not fortified; in 1848 only the circle of walls was completed on the right bank of the Adige at Verona, and the battle of Santa Lucia was fought on terrain where Austrian redoubts were put up immediately thereafter, and permanent detached forts subsequently; only as a result of this did the fortified camp of Verona become the core, the citadel of the entire position, which thus gained enormously in strength.
It will be seen that we have no intention of impugning the importance of the Mincio line. But let us not forget: This line only became important when Austria began waging war in Italy on its own account and the line of communication Bolzano-InnsbruckMunich was pushed into the background by the Treviso-Klagenfurt-Vienna line. And for Austria, as presently constituted, possession of the Mincio line is ‘ indeed a matter of life and death. Austria as an independent state, which wishes to operate as a European great power independent also of Germany, must either control the Mincio and the Lower Po or abandon defence of the Tyrol; otherwise the Tyrol would be outflanked on both sides and linked to the rest of the Empire only by the Toblach Pass (the road from Salzburg to Innsbruck goes through Bavaria). Now the opinion is held by elderly military men that the Tyrol has great defensive capacities and controls both the Danube and the Po basins. But this opinion is based entirely on fantasy and has never been confirmed by experience, for an insurrectional war, as in 1809, proves nothing for the operations of a regular army.
The source of this opinion is Bülow, he expresses it, among other places, in his history of the Hohenlinden and Marengo campaigns. A copy of the French translation of this book, belonging to Emmett, an English engineer officer assigned to, St. Helena while Napoleon was a prisoner there, came into the hands of the exiled general in 1819. He made copious marginal notes in it and Emmett had the book reprinted in 1831 with Napoleon’s notes.’ Napoleon obviously started reading the book in a favourable frame of mind. At Bülow’s proposal to break all the infantry up into skirmishers, he remarks benevolently: “ Order, always order — skirmishers should always be supported by troops of the line.” Then we have a few times: “ Good — this is good “ and again: “Good!” But from the twentieth page on it gets to be too much for Napoleon when he sees the unfortunate Billow working his head off, with rare futility and clumsiness, to explain all the vicissitudes of warfare by his theory of eccentric withdrawals and .concentric attacks, and rob the -most masterful moves of their meaning by schoolboyish interpretation. First a few: “Bad — this is bad — bad principle”, and then “This is not true — absurd — bad plan, very dangerous — stay united if you want to win — one should never separate one’s army by a river — all this scaffolding is absurd”, etc. And when Napoleon finds that Bülow keeps on praising bad operations and condemning good ones, that he attributes the silliest motives to generals and gives them the most comical advice, and finally that he wants to do away with the bayonet and arm the second line of the infantry with lances, he cries out: “Unintelligible chatter, what absurd chatter, what an absurdity, what miserable chatter, what ignorance of war.”
Bülow here reproaches the Austrian Danube army under Kray for going to Ulm instead of to the Tyrol. The Tyrol, he said, that impregnable bastion of rocks and mountains, dominates both Bavaria and a part of Lombardy if it is occupied by enough troops (Napoleon: “One does not attack mountains, neither the Tyrol nor Switzerland, one keeps them under observation and goes around them by the plains”) . Then Bülow reproaches Moreau for letting himself be held up by Kray at Ulm, instead of leaving him there and conquering the Tyrol which was weakly held: Conquest of the Tyrol would have overthrown the Austrian monarchy (Napoleon: Absurd, even if the Tyrol had been open, it should not have been entered”).
After finishing reading the book, Napoleon characterised the system of eccentric withdrawals and concentric attacks and the control of the plains by the mountains in the following words: “If you want to learn how to have a stronger army defeated by a weaker army, study this writer’s maxims; you will have ideas on the science of war, he prescribes the opposite of what should be taught.”
Napoleon repeated, three or four times, the warning: “Mountain countries should never be attacked.” This fear of the mountains obviously dates from his later years, when his armies had reached such colossal size and were tied down to the plains by reasons of supply and tactical development. Spain and the Tyrol may also have contributed to this. Formerly he had not been so afraid of mountains. The first half of his campaign of 1796 was all fought in the mountains, and in the following years Masséna and Macdonald proved adequately that even in mountain warfare — and precisely there more than anywhere else — great things can be accomplished with small forces. But in general it is clear that our modern armies can develop their power best in the mixed terrain of plains and foothills, and that a theory is false that prescribes throwing a large army into high mountain regions — not in transit but to take up permanent positions there — so long as there are free-lying plains like those of Bavaria and Lombardy on either side, in which the war can be decided. How long can an army of 150,000 men be fed in the Tyrol? How soon would hunger drive them down into the plain, where in the meantime the enemy, would have been given time to dig in and where they could be forced to fight under the most unfavourable circumstances? And where in the narrow valleys could they find a position in which they could develop their entire strength?
Once Austria no longer controlled the Mincio and the Adige, the Tyrol would be a lost position, which it would have to give up as soon as it was attacked either from the north or the south. For Germany, the Tyrol flanks Lombardy up to the Adda by means of its passes; for an Austria acting separately, Lombardy and Venctia up to the Brenta outflank the Tyrol. The Tyrol is only tenable for Austria when it is shielded by Bavaria in the north and possession of the Mincio line in the south. The establishment of the Confederation of the Rhine made it impossible for Austria by itself to make a serious defence of both the Tyrol and Venetia, and thus it was quite consistent for Napoleon to detach both provinces from Austria in the Treaty of Pressburg.
For Austria, therefore, possession of the Mincio line with Peschicra and Mantua is an absolute necessity. For Germany as a whole, possession of it is not at all necessary, although still a great military advantage. What this advantage is, is obvious: simply that it ensures us, in advance, a strong position in the plain of Lombardy, one that we do not have first to conquer, and that it rounds out our defensive position comfortably while significantly supporting our offensive power.
But what if Germany does not hold the Mincio line?
Let us assume that all of Italy is independent, unified and allied with France for an offensive war against Germany. It follows from everything we have said so far that in that event the operational and withdrawal line of the Germans would be not Vienna-Klagenfurt-Treviso but Munich-Innsbruck-Bolzano and Munich-Füssen-Finstermünz-Glorenza, and that their débouchés on the plain of Lombardy lie between the Val Sugana and the Swiss border. Where then is the decisive point of attack? Obviously, that part of Upper Italy that affords communication of the peninsula with Piedmont and France, the Middle Po from Alessandria to Cremona. But the passes between Lake Garda and Lake Como are quite sufficient to provide the Germans with access to that region and keep open a way of retreat on the same route or, if the worst comes to the worst, over the Stelvio Pass. In that case fortresses on the Mincio and the Adige, which we have assumed to be in the hands of the Italians, would lie far off from the decisive field of battle. Occupation of the entrenched camp of Verona with suitable forces sufficient for an offensive would only be a useless dispersion of the enemy troops. Or is it expected that the Italians massed on the beloved Rivoli plateau would deny the Adige valley to the Germans? Since the Stelvio road (over the Stelvio Pass) has been built, the outlet from the Adige valley has lost much of its importance. But assuming that Rivoli should once more be the key to Italy and that the Germans should be drawn strongly enough by the power of attraction of the Italian army stationed there to make the attack-what purpose would Verona serve in that case? It does not blockade the Adige valley, or else the march of the Italians to Rivoli would be pointless. Peschiera is sufficient to cover a withdrawal in the event of defeat; it provides a safe crossing over the Mincio and so ensures a further advance to Mantua or Cremona. Massing the entire Italian striking force between the four fortresses, perhaps to wait for the French to arrive there, and refusing to he provoked into fighting, would split the forces opposed to us at the very outset of the campaign and would enable us first to move concentrated forces against the French along the line of their join-up and after defeating them to undertake the somewhat tedious process of dislodging the Italians from their fortifications. A country like Italy, whose national army is confronted at any successful attack from the north and east with the dilemma of choosing between Piedmont and the peninsula as its base of operations, must obviously have its major defensive facilities in the region where its army may encounter this dilemma. Here the confluences of the Ticino and the Adda with the Po constitute points of support. General von Willisen (Italienischer Feldzug des Jahres 1848) wanted both points to be fortified by the Austrians. Apart from the fact that this will not work, if only for the reason that the land needed does not belong to them (at Cremona the right bank of the Po is Parmesan and at Piacenza they have only garrison rights), both points are too far forward for a major defensive position in a country in which the Austrians would be surrounded by insurrections in any war; furthermore, Willisen, who can never see two rivers join without straightaway making plans for a great entrenched camp, forgets that neither the Ticino nor the Ad(la are defensible lines and so, even according to his own views, do not cover the region behind them. But what would be useless expenditure for the Austrians is undoubtedly a good position for the Italians. For them, the Po is the principal line of defence; the Pizzighettone-Cremona-Piacenza triangle, with Alessandria to the left and Mantua to the right, would provide effective defence of this line and enable the army either to wait in security for the arrival of distant allies or if need be to advance offensively in the decisive plain between the Sesia and the Adige.
General von Radowitz said in the Frankfurt National Assembly: If Germany no longer held the Mincio line, it would be placed in the same position in which it would be today after an entire unsuccessful campaign. The war would then be fought immediately on German soil; it would begin on the Isonzo and in the Italian Tyrol and all of South Germany up to Bavaria would be outflanked, so that the war even in Germany would have to be fought on the Isar rather than on the Upper Rhine.
General von Radowitz seems to have evaluated the military knowledge of his public accurately enough. It is true that if Germany gives up the Mincio line, it gives up as much, in terrain and positions, as an entire successful campaign might bring the French and Italians. But that does not signify that Germany would thereby be put in the position in which an unsuccessful campaign would put it. Or is a strong, intact German army which assembles at the Bavarian foot of the Alps and marches over the Tyrolean passes to invade Lombardy in the same situation as an army ruined and demoralised by an unsuccessful campaign and fleeing towards the Brenner, pursued by the enemy? Are the chances of a successful offensive from a position that in many respects dominates the point of juncture of the French and Italians equal to the chances that a defeated army has to get its artillery over the Alps? We conquered Italy much more often before we had the Mincio line than since we have had it; who can doubt that we can perform the trick again if need be?
As for the point that without the Mincio line the war would at once be shifted to Bavaria and Carinthia, that too is incorrect. The upshot of our entire exposition is that without the Mincio line, defence of the southern border of Germany can only be conducted offensively. One reason for that is the mountainous nature of the border provinces of Germany, which cannot serve as a decisive battlefield; another is the favourable position of the Alpine passes. The battlefield lies in the plains in front of them. There is where we have to descend, and no power on earth can prevent us from doing so. It is hard to conceive of any more favourable prelude to an offensive than that available to us here in the most unfavourable case of a Franco-Italian alliance. It can be strengthened by improving the Alpine roads and fortifying the road junctions in the Tyrol enough, if not to hold up the enemy entirely in the event of a retreat, at least to compel him to detach strong contingents to guard his communications. So far as the roads through the Alps are concerned, all the wars in the Alps prove that most of the unpaved main roads and many bridle-paths are practicable for all classes of arms without excessive difficulty. Under these circumstances it should be possible to organise a German offensive into Lombardy in such a way as to have every prospect of success. We could still be beaten, to be sure; and then we should have the case that Radowitz speaks of. In that case, what about the exposure of Vienna and the outflanking of Bavaria through the Tyrol?
In the first place, it is clear that no enemy battalion would dare to cross the Iso-nzo until the German army of the Tyrol has been completely and irrevocably thrown back over the Brenner. Once Bavaria is the German operational base against Italy, from that moment on a Franco-Italian offensive in the direction of Vienna is purposeless; it would be a futile dispersion of forces. Even if Vienna were such a vital centre that it would be worth devoting the main power of the enemy army to conquer it, that proves only that Vienna must be fortified. Napoleon’s 1797 campaign and the invasions of Italy and Germany in 1805 and 1809 could have turned out very badly for the French if Vienna had been fortified. An offensive that has been carried forward to such distances always runs the risk of seeing its last forces smashed before a fortified capital city. And even assuming that the enemy had thrown the German army back over the Brenner, what a degree of superiority would be required to make it possible to draw off an effective force against Inner Austria!
But what about the outflanking of all South Germany through Italy? In point of fact, if Lombardy flanks Germany as far as Munich, how far does Germany outflank Italy? At least as far as Milan and Pavia. So far, then, the chances are equal. But because of the much greater width of Germany, an army on the Upper Rhine which is “outflanked” from Italy towards Munich does not for that reason need to withdraw at once. An entrenched camp in Upper Bavaria or a temporarily fortified Munich could receive the defeated army of the Tyrol and soon bring the offensive of the pursuing enemy to a halt, while the army of the Upper Rhine would have the choice of basing itself on Ulm and Ingolstadt or on the Main, that is, at worst it would have to change its base of operations. In Italy, on the other hand, it is entirely different. If an Italian army is outflanked via the Tyrolean passes in the west, it need only be driven from its fortresses and all Italy is won. In a war against France and Italy together, Germany always has several armies, at least three, and victory or defeat will depend on the aggregate result of all three campaigns. Italy has space for only one army; any division would be a mistake; and if this one army is wiped out, Italy has been conquered. For a French army in Italy, communication with France is vital under any and all conditions; and so long as this line of communication is not limited to the Col di Tenda and Genoa, its flank is exposed to the Germans in the Tyrol — and all the more so, the further the French advance into Italy. The possibility of a penetration of Bavaria through the Tyrol by the French and Italians must, to be sure, be guarded against once German wars are waged again in Italy and the base of operations is shifted from Austria to Bavaria. But with suitable fortifications in the modern sense, with the fortresses being there for the sake of the armies, not the armies for the sake of the fortresses, the spearhead of this invasion can be broken much more easily than that of a German invasion of Italy. And therefore we need not have any nightmares about this so-called “outflanking” of all South Germany. An enemy that outflanked a German army on the Upper Rhine through Italy and the Tyrol would have to advance to the Baltic before he could gather the fruits of this outflanking. Napoleon’s march from Jena to Stettin would be hard to repeat in the direction from Munich to Danzig.
We have no intention of denying that Germany yields a very strong defensive position if it gives up the line of the Adige and the Mincio. But we completely deny that this position is necessary for the security of the German southern frontier. If we proceed from the assumption, as the advocates of the opposite view seem to do, that a German army will always be defeated, wherever it makes its appearance, then it may be possible to imagine that the Adige, the Mincio and the Po are absolutely necessary for us. But in that case nothing would be of any use, really; neither fortresses nor armies would avail, and the best thing we could do would be to go at once under the Caudine Forks. We have a different opinion of Germany’s military power, and that makes us quite content to see our southern frontier secured by the advantages for an offensive on Lombard soil that that frontier affords.
Here, however, political considerations come into play which we cannot ignore. Since 1820 the national movement in Italy has emerged from every defeat rejuvenated and more powerful. There are few countries whose so-called natural frontiers coincide so closely with the frontiers of nationality, and are at the same time so clearly marked. Once the national movement has become strong in such a country, which moreover has twenty-five million inhabitants, it can no longer rest so long as one of the best, and politically and militarily most important, parts of the country, with almost a quarter of the population, is under anti-national foreign domination. Ever since 1820 Austria has ruled in Italy by force alone, by suppressing repeated insurrections, by the terrorism of the state of siege. In order to maintain its domination in Italy, Austria is compelled to treat its political opponents, that is, every Italian who regards himself as an Italian, worse than common criminals. The manner in which Italian political prisoners have been treated by Austria, and to some extent still are being treated, is something unheard of in civilised countries. The Austrians have taken particular delight in trying to degrade political offenders in Italy by flogging them, either to extort confessions or under the pretext of punishment. Streams of moral indignation have been poured out over the Italian stiletto, over political assassination, but it seems to have been entirely forgotten that it was Austrian floggings that provoked it. The means that Austria has to use to maintain its rule in Italy are the best possible proof that this rule cannot endure; and Germany, which despite Radowitz, Willisen and Hailbronner does not have the same interest in it that Austria has — Germany must ask itself whether that interest is important enough to outweigh the many disadvantages it entails.
Upper Italy is an appendage that, under any conditions, can be of use to Germany only in war, but in peace can only harm it. The armies required to hold it down have kept growing larger since 1820, and since 1848, in a time of deepest peace, exceed 70,000 men, who are always as if in enemy country, expecting an attack at any moment. The war of 1848 and 1849 and the occupation of Italy down to the present time — despite the Piedmontese war indemnity, despite the repeated Lombard indemnities, forced loans and special taxes — have obviously cost Austria much more than Italy has brought in since 1848. And this despite the fact that from 1848 to 1854 the country has systematically been treated as a mere temporary possession to be drained of everything that can be got out of it before leaving. Since the Oriental war Lombardy has been in a less abnormal status for a few years; and how long will that last with today’s complications and with Italian national feeling pulsating so strongly again?
Much more important, however: Does possession of Lombardy outweigh all the hatred, all the fanatical hostility, that it has brought us throughout Italy? Does it outweigh the complicity in the procedures by which Austria — in the name and on behalf of Germany, as we are assured — maintains its rule there? Does it outweigh the continual meddling in the internal affairs of the rest of Italy, without which, according to previous practice and Austrian assurances, Lombardy cannot be held, and which makes the Italians’ hatred of us Germans even fiercer? In all our military discussions above, we have always assumed the worst possible case, an alliance between France and Italy. As long as we hold Lombardy, Italy will certainly be France’s ally in any French war against Germany. As soon as we leave it, that will no longer be true. Is it really in our interest to hold four fortresses and thereby ensure that 25 million Italians will hate us fanatically and ally themselves with the French?
The disingenuous chatter about the political incompetence of the Italians and their calling to be under German or French domination, and the various speculations as to the possibility or impossibility of a unified Italy, sound a bit strange to us on the lips of Germans. How long is it since we, the great German nation, with twice as many people as the Italians, have escaped the “calling” to be either under French or Russian domination? And have today’s realities solved the question of the unity or disunity of Germany? Are we not today in all likelihood on the eve of events that will mature the question of deciding our future in both directions? Have we completely forgotten Napoleon in Erfurt or the Austrian appeal to Russia at the Warsaw conferences or the battle of Bronzell?
We will grant for the moment that Italy must be under either German or French influence. In that case, the decisive factor is, in addition to particular sympathies, the military-geographical position of the two influencing countries. We will assume that the military forces of France and Germany are of equal strength, although obviously Germany could be far stronger. But now we believe we have proved that even in the most favourable case, that is, if the Valais and the Simplon Pass were open to she French, their immediate military influence would extend only to Piedmont and they would have to win a battle before extending that influence to further areas, whereas our influence extends to all of Lombardy and the point of junction between Piedmont and the peninsula and we would first have to be defeated to deprive us of that influence. But where such a geographical basis for domination exists, the influence of Germany has nothing to fear from French competition.
Recently, General Hailbronner said in the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung something like the following: Germany is called to other things than to act as a lightning-conductor for the thunderbolts that are collecting over the head of the Bonaparte dynasty. The Italians could say with equal justification: Italy is called to other things than to serve as a buffer for Germany against French blows, and to get flogged by the Austrians in lieu of thanks, But if Germany has an interest in having such a buffer there, it would in any case be served much better by being on good terms with Italy, doing justice to the national movement, and leaving Italian affairs to the Italians so long as they do not interfere in German affairs. Radowitz’s assertion that France would necessarily rule in Upper Italy tomorrow if Austria departed today was just as baseless at the time as it was three months ago; as things stand today, this assertion seems to be wanting to become true, but in a sense opposite to that of Radowitz. If the twenty-five million Italians cannot assert their independence, the two million Danes, the four million Belgians, the three million Dutch can do so even less. Nevertheless, we do not hear the defenders of German domination in Italy bemoan French or Swedish domination in those other countries or demand that it be replaced by German rule.
So far as the question of unity is concerned, our opinion is: Either Italy can be unified, and then it has a policy of its own, which of necessity will be neither German nor French and hence cannot be more harmful to us than to the French; or it remains divided, and then the division will assure us allies in Italy in any war with France.
In any event, this much is sure: Whether we have Lombardy or not, we shall always have considerable influence in Italy so long as we are strong at home. If we leave it to Italy to manage its own affairs, the Italians’ hatred of us will come to an end automatically, and our natural influence on Italy will be much greater in any case and, eventually, rise to actual hegemony. Instead of seeking our strength in the possession of foreign soil and the oppression of a foreign nationality, whose future only prejudice can deny, we should do better to see to it that we are united and strong in our own house.
184 See Note 164.
185 The Seven Years’ War (1756-63) — a war between the two European coalitions: the Anglo-Prussian and the Franco-Russo-Austrian. The war was caused by the conflict of interests of the feudal absolutist powers (Prussia, Austria, Russia and France) and the colonial rivalry between France and Britain. The war resulted in the expansion of the British colonial empire at the expense of the French possessions and in the growth of Russia’s might; Austria and Prussia retained in the main their pre-war frontiers.
186 See Note 121.
187 In March 1848, under pressure from the masses who had risen throughout Italy against Austrian rule, Pope Pins IX and Ferdinand II of Naples were compelled to send troops to Northern Italy to fight the Austrians. But the participation of these forces in the liberation struggle was brief for soon Pius IX and Ferdinand II openly went over to the enemies of the Italian revolution.
188 On May 15, 1848 the King Ferdinand II of Naples brutally suppressed a popular uprising in Naples and carried out a coup d'état. He recalled to Naples the Neapolitan corps which was in Lombardy to help the revolutionary army,thus easing Radetzky’s position in Northern Italy.
189 On the siege of Danzig by Napoleon’s troops see Note 163.
Engels enumerates the battles between the French and Austrian armies during the siege of Mantua by the French (see also Note 162) in Napoleon’s Italian campaign of 1796-97. In the battle at Medole the Austrians were defeated; in the first battle at Cailiano, on September 4, 1796, the French were victorious but in the second, on November 6-7, they were driven back by the Austrians; at Bassano on September 8, 1796 the French were victorious but the battle on November 6 was undecisive.
190 The reference is to the national liberation struggle against the Napoleon yoke waged by the Tyrolese peasants under Andreas Hofer in 1809. In this insurrectional war the Tyrolese widely used guerrilla methods of fighting in the mountains. In October 1809 the Austrian Government signed peace with Napoleonic France, in consequence of which the Tyrolese peasants, receiving no support from the Austrian regular army, were routed by the French and Italians in 1810.
191 At the battle of Hohenlinden, that took place on December 3, 1800, during tile war between France and the second European coalition, the French army under Moreau defeated the Austrian army of Archduke John.
192 The reference is to the Spanish people’s national liberation struggle against the French invaders between 1808 and 1814, during which the Spaniards made wide use of the guerrilla methods of fighting in the mountains.
193 The Confederation of the Rhine (Rheinbund) — an association of sixteen states in Southern and Western Germany established in July 1806 under the protectorate of Napoleon 1, after the latter had defeated Austria in 1805. 1,ater twenty other states in Western, Central and Northern Germany joined the (Confederation. It fell apart in 1813, after the defeat of Napoleon’s army in Germany.
194 Under the Treaty of Pressburg (Bratislava) concluded on December 26, 1805 between France and Austria, the latter acknowledged France’s seizure of part of Italian territory (Piedmont, Genoa, Parma, Piacenza, etc.) and yielded to the Kingdom of Italy (i.e. to Napoleon I who became King of Italy) the Adriatic coast-the Venetian region, Istria and Dalmatia — keeping only Triest. The Tyrol was given by Napoleon I to his ally Bavaria.
195 The reference is to the swift and practically unhindered march of Napoleon I’s army in Prussia after its victory over the Prussians at Jena and Auerstädt on October 14, 1806; on October 29 the French entered Stettin (Szczecin).
196 In 321 B.C., during the second Samnite war, the Samnites defeated tile Roir)ati legions in the (,audine pass, near the ancient Roman town of Caudine, and compelled them to go under the “forks”, which was the greatest shame for the defeated army. Hence the expression “to go under the Caudine forks”, i.e. to undergo extreme humiliation.
197 In July 1820 the Carbonari revolted against the absolutist regime in the Kingdom of Naples and succeeded in having a moderate liberal constitution introduced. In March 1821 there was a rising in Piedmont headed by liberals who proclaimed a constitution and attempted to make use of the anti-Austrian movement in Northern Italy to unify the country under the aegis of the Savoy dynasty then ruling in Piedmont. Interference by the powers of the Holy Alliance and the occupation of Naples and Piedmont by Austrian troops fed to the restoration of absolutist regimes in both states.
198 By the autumn of 1808, when Napoleon I arrived in Erfurt to negotiate with the Russian Tsar Alexander I, almost the whole of Germany had been subjected to France. The German Princes assembled in Erfurt confirmed their loyalty to Napoleon.
In May and October 1850 Warsaw was the scene of conferences in which representatives of Russia, Austria and Prussia took part. They were convened on the initiative of the Russian Tsar in view of the intensification of the struggle between Austria and Prussia for mastery in Germany. The Russian Tsar acted as arbiter in the dispute between Austria and Prussia and used his influence to make Prussia abandon its attempts to form a political confederation of German states under its own aegis.
The battle of Bronzell was an unimportant skirmish between Prussian and Austrian detachments on November 8, 1850, during an uprising in Kurhesseil. Prussia and Austria contended for the right to interfere in the internal affairs of Kurhessen to suppress the uprising. In this conflict with Prussia, Austria again received diplomatic support from Russia and Prussia had to yield.