The Second Coalition

1798 to 1801

On 22 June 1799, Britain became the last nation to join the Second Coalition against France. Before her signature were those of Austria, Russia, Turkey, the Vatican, Portugal and Naples.

The first success for the new anti-French league was the capture of Rome by a Neopolitan army, led by Austria's General Karl Mack, but the high point was short-lived as French troops threw them out two weeks later.

With Napoleon Bonaparte on his Egyptian Campaign, the military leadership of France fell upon Lazare Carnot who decided the best form of defence was to attack all his enemies at once.

That called for three operations - against Austria and Russia in Italy, Austria in Germany and Russia and England in the Netherlands.

There were some big-name commanders against them, with Russia's General Alexander Suvarov leading the Italian forces, Archduke Charles the forces in Germany and the Duke of York in the Netherlands.

General Jean-Baptiste Jourdan initially took the offensive in Germany, but was pushed back at Ostrach and then beaten four days later at Stockach.

General Andre Massena performed well in Switzerland and, when Jourdan resigned, he took over the German forces as well. He was pushed back at Zurich, but did the same to the Austrians at Dottingen.

Facing a mutiny in the army of Naples, Mack threw himself on the mercy of the French and his loss meant the disorganised Neopolitans were brushed aside by the rampant forces of General Etienne Championnet.

The victory in southern Italy did nothing for the French cause, however, as defeat after defeat set its armies reeling back and the Allies recovered almost of of the ground lost to Bonaparte's brilliant 1796 Campaign.

Led by General Paul Kray, the Austrians defeated a French army at Magnano, then a combined Russo-Austrians army under General Alexander Suvarov routed the new French commander General Jean Moreau at Cassano.

Having lost the major cities of Turin and Milan, the situation was dangerous for France, but when General Macdonald lost at Trebbia, Moreau was dismissed and his replacement General Joubert defeated and killed at Novi, things looked hopeless.

Fortune then took a hand in the war, with the Allies deciding to switch Charles to the Netherlands and Suvarov to Germany. This gave General Massena the opening he needed.

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