Army of Italy (France)

French Army entering Rome in 1798

The Army of Italy (French: Armée d'Italie) was a field army of the French Army stationed on the Italian border and used for operations in Italy itself. Though it existed in some form in the 16th century through to the present, it is best known for its role during the French Revolutionary Wars (in which it was one of the early commands of Napoleon Bonaparte, during his Italian campaign) and Napoleonic Wars.


Bonaparte's reforms

Poorly supplied (uniforms and shoes were rare), and only getting reinforcements irregularly, the Army of Italy was sometimes reduced to looting to survive. When Bonaparte arrived (he took up the role on March 27), indiscipline was rife. Chouan songs were sung by the troops, and a company of the Dauphin was formed. All the while improving the supply system as much as possible, Bonaparte also reestablished discipline. He condemned officers who had cried Vive le roi !, (English: "Live the king!"), dismissed the 13th regiment of hussards for indiscipline and dissolved an entire regiment when it revolted at the end of March. Purged in this way, the Army of Italy was subsequently the most Jacobin of all the French armies.

Its first victories improved things - allowing better resupply and easing pay problems through "war contributions" from the conquered lands - but memoirs (though not official communiques) speak of individual or collective failures right up to 1797.

Reserve army

Much of the original Armée d'Italie became the Army of Egypt. Another army, originally called the armée de Réserve, was formed at Dijon on 8 March 1800 (17 ventôse year VIII) and took the title Armée d'Italie on 23 June 1800 (4 messidor year VIII) when it was merged with the remains of the original Armée d'Italie. The new army's first commander was Masséna, followed by Bonaparte (as First Consul and "Commander in person") and général Berthier (its 'Général en chef' from 2 April to 23 June 1800)[1] It was under Berthier that this army beat the Austrians at the battle of Marengo on 14 June 1800 (25 prairial year 8).[2]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Made a Marshal of the Empire (maréchal d’Empire) or was in the staff of one.

Campaigns and battles


  1. "The consular magistracy was essentially civil, the principal of the division of powers and of ministers' responsibilities made it undesirable that the first magistrate of the Republic should be immediately in command of an Armée; but no disposition, just as no principle, would oppose that which was present ... As it turned out, the First Consul commanded the armée de réserve, and Berthier, his major général, took the title général en chef." : Memoirs of Napoléon, volume VI, page 196
  2. Alexandre Berthier, Relation de la bataille de Marengo ...; Paris 1805. // Le Capitaine de Cugnac, Campagne de l’armée de Réserve en 1800; Paris 1900


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