Battle of Voltri April 1796

While perusing the warren’s book library, WR’s eye wandered to a book titled Castiglione 1796 (info below). For reasons unknown, but maybe just WR’s known interest of off beat battles, the book was read again over several nights, leading to thoughts of finally putting down scenario information on Bonaparte’s early 1796 campaign battles. Not just the famous ones like Montenotte, Lodi, Arcole and Rivoli, but bring some uncommon early 1796 Italian battles to the tabletop. So, using Bonaparte’s arrival of March 28th as a start date, the first major action didn’t even involve Bonaparte. The Battle of Voltri 1796 started with the French government action towards the neutral Republic of Genoa. Events unfolded with a French infantry column (GB Pijon replaced later by GB Cervoni) marching to Genoa to back French claims given by representative-on-mission Saliceti. The Austrians, under the recently promoted Feldzeugmeister Beaulieu, reacted with their own invasion of the neutral Genoese state on the March 31st. Several days pass and Beaulieu elected to march on GB Cervoni’s positions along the coastal Mediterranean shore. His plan was for two columns to “surround” Cervoni along the coast and force the French Army of Italy outposts back towards Savona.

Image of Voltri in a later period. I think the image is reversed as the sea should be on the left side looking westward. Does give a good impression of the hillsides near the coastal road.

Campaign map of Voltri zone showing the opening positions (Wikipedia).

Wikipedia link Voltri 1796 gives basic summary of events and the march up to the actual battle (March 31st to April 10th 1796).

Theater map April 1796. Theater map shown army dispositions in early April 1796. Clearly shows the distance Massena’s division was from the main body Army of Italy. The “yellow line” shows the crest line of the Liguria mountains.

A map showing the major battles and marches for the April 1796 campaign.

Campaign map showing battles of April 1796 and army movements.

Campaign map showing battles of April 1796 and army movements.

To the scenario…. As per my normal scenario pattern, I present hand-drawn maps below with a clear view of the map terrain and the starting location of both sides. There was a lot of ground and distance between the opening French positions. To show the “surrounding” attempt I elected to play both Austrian “columns” on the same scenario map. Player could break these actions into two separate tabletop actions…but then the total effect may be lost.

Voltri 1796 scenario map with map counters at right. Scaled to 600 yards per small square (12″x12″ square) on map.

Voltri 1796 scenario map and starting positions of map counters. The Austrian commander arrives later so his command flag counter is off scenario map at start.

The full Voltri 1796 scenario and play notes, including scenario set up, terrain notes, weather, order of battle, victory conditions and optional special event cards: Voltri 1796 Scenario notes (.doc)

French and Austrian rosters: Voltri 1796 Austro-French Rosters (.xls)

Players could select a French scenario option to allow the French player some control as to the make up of each French command. Thus the French player could play a weakened command rearguard action against one Austrian column and transfer additional battalions (in secret before game start) to the other French command starting location, with the aim to overwhelm and destroy (by losses or push-off map) the isolated Austrian command column. Then quickly march back to confront the other Austrian column before it reaches Voltri in true “early Bonaparte” style.

At the conclusion of the Voltri action, General Bonaparte realized the opportunity to strike the hinge point of the Austrian Lombardy army and the Piedmont / Sardinian army. Instead of launching his own planned offensive campaign on April 15th, the Austrians started the French campaign early. On April 11th the Austrian advance started the battle at Monte Negino (Legino) and the French defense lead to the following day French counterattack at Montenotte…which lead to Dego, Millesimo, Cosseria, Mondovi, ending with the retreat and armistice with Sardinia.

Some of the references WR used towards scenario creation and the “feel” for the campaign in general. Nafziger’s booklet (upper left) is loaded with terrain notes and opening Montenotte campaign information. Napoleon book has several uniform and location plates while Castiglione gave in-depth organizational information for the theater of operations. Road to Rivoli covers not just the opening movements but the entire 1796 campaign across the Po river valley.

Some references used with Voltri 1796 scenario creation plus the Nafziger OOB’s below.

The usual Nafziger lists: 796DAB796DAE796DAF Austrian and 796DAW French for time period early April 1796.

Rules of Play: Napoleonic rules, Files and Videos has a rules section providing files; charts, table and game play example YouTube videos.

After WR has finished painting up his small Austrian 1796 era miniature collection (15 regiments at 2×9 each), WR intends to play test this small afternoon scaled scenario, using the historical regiments in miniature, and give a report on the WR blog. After Voltri, the opening campaign events around Montenotte and Dego will surely deserve the scenario writeup and give WR an excuse to use his newly minted 1796 era Austrians again vs. the larger republican French miniature collection.



4 thoughts on “Battle of Voltri April 1796

  1. 1) You draw beautiful maps… missed a creer in cartography, I think!

    2) Really interesting table set up… I am thinking how to do the Battle(s) of Gross Beeren which involves three different actions.

    3) Some great looking books there… and for once, I own NONE of them! Dangerous…

    4) Once I do my Prussian Expansion, my British, and Spanish allies, I will be near the end (allegedly) of my Napoleonic collecting, circa 2015-16. But… there are somne really great figures coming out for this early era, and I could be tempted. Maybe. If you continue to explore Bonaparte’s 1796 campaign, you might consider doing a scenario book for formal publication. It’s a treasure trove of smaller actions very well suited for tactical wargames.

    5) Can you tell I loved this post of yours? 🙂


    • Peter
      Thanks again for the supportive east coast comments. Notes labelled to your comment numbers…
      1) The maps, in recent years, I have taken to drawing to match my available terrain. Since my hills are wooden textured 5/8″ plywood and modular in design, they can be configured into almost any terrain requirements based upon the 12′ square. There are even 45′ off angle hill pieces to bend the hill ridge. I have sufficent to cover a 16×6 table twice over…almost two layers of hills plus the basic level boards. You can walk upon said hill levels and skip rope if needed, the placing a light hand or fist of weighted kuckles has no effect (except to your kuckles). Almost all the flat terrain is “walkable” come to think. A feature of our “very early” days gaming on a large bank conference room floor or concrete patios (late 1970’s). If you want the “hills/heights shape patterns”, let me know. Easy to make…table saw/jig saw and a heavy duty sander with very rough sandpaper plus green paint, white glue, and terrain grass texture. A bit heavy to carry about…but I just pull from a 5 drawer filing cabinet my game scenario needs. Game table pictures show more.
      2) Hey, you started it when I saw your pictured table bend of Wagram 1809….just thinking of new ways to scenario a situation. Now I am trying to figure out a “A” shaped table for Montenotte. That will means I have used a “L”, “Z”, “O” and soon a “A” shaped table setup…apart from the normal square or rectangle look.
      Go for Gross Beeren… didn’t that battle have the 1813 Swedes in hiding?
      3) Find the Castiglione book if is loaded for the 1796 campaign. Road to Rivoli a good overall and some detail for scenarios. Nafziger’s booklet has excellent terrain description for the 1796 campaign.
      4) Haven’t seen any new pre 1800 miniatures… Trent is a big large for 25-28mm collections (lovely miniatures.. I have the Consular Gd to paint up). They are big+ 28mm. Old Glory 25mm still has some ranges and Foundry (25mm) a much reduced line from their 1990’s release (for french revolution period). I like them the best…near to 25mm scale and the poses are not just the “march attack look” everybody is using. MA looks boring after a while…every miniature in march attack pose except the artillerymen.
      5) More “love coming….Montenotte is next. Then Dego/Cosseria castle battle. Even painting some Sardinians for 1790’s to join my Austrians 1790 vintage army. I figure…why not. I have a 1814 Sardinian army already painted…the fighting “chickens” some have called them (standards).

      Enjoy your Borodino weekend. I await the AAR from the Aussies how their mega Borodino project came out this weekend.
      Michael aka WR

  2. Great work, full of enthusiam I am looking to see some more projects, maybe the campaign in Germany 1796 as well?
    For pre war 1800 – in 28 mm – you have the Eureka range and in 18 mm AB did last year a very nice Army for the Kaiserlicks.

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