While the successes of Wellington's gallant soldiers in the south of France were thus drawing the war to a close, the operations against the French in the Italian states were carried on with vigour, as well by king Murat, – now co-operating with the Austrians against Beauharnois, – as by the anglo-Sicilian army under lord William Bentinck. On the 9th of March a force of eight thousand men landed from Palermo at Leghorn, where lord William, taking the command, issued a proclamation, in which he called upon the Italians to unite with him in effecting the deliverance of their country. This was met by considerable reinforcements from the Italian states, and a force of more than fifteen thousand men was soon assembled at Leghorn. Among the troops employed in this service were the third, sixth and eighth line battalions of the German legion under major-generals von Barsse and von Hohnstedt; captain Bindseil of the German artillery had the charge of a rocket battery; some gunners of the third German battery also accompanied the expedition, and the following officers of the legion served on the staff of the army:
Captain Münter, seventh line battalion, aide-de-camp to lieutenant-general Macfarlane; captain Delius, seventh line battalion, aide-de-camp to major-general von Hohnstedt; captain von Hohnstedt, third line battalion, brigade-major to major-general von Barsse; captain Chüden, aide-de-camp to major-general von Barsse; lieutenant Appuhn, third line battalion, brigade-major to major-general von Hohnstedt; lieutenant Schaedler, sixth line battalion, deputy-assistant-quarter-master-general.
Leaving major-general von Barsse as commandant in Leghorn, lord William Bentinck proceeded towards Spezia, and on the 20th of March, his advanced guard under lieutenant-colonel Travers, reached Sarzana on the river Magra. The skirmishers of the eighth line battalion of the legion under captain Charles Poten, led the advance, and found, on arriving at the river, that the enemy had taken over all the boats to the other side. Poten called out for volunteers to swim across and bring over a boat, and immediately three spirited fellows of the company, Ehmann, Deppelt, and Fürstenberg, presented themselves, and plunging into the rapid stream, although exposed to the enemy's fire, gained the other side and brought back the desired means of conveyance. The skirmishers then crossed, and driving back the enemy, captured several guns, and a considerable quantity of ammunition.
On the 24th, fort Santa Croce situated at the mouth of the river Magra was stormed and carried by Poten's skirmishers in gallant style, and on the 27th, the advanced guard under colonel Travers occupied Spezia. The neighbouring fort of Santa Maria, however, held out until the 30th, when breaching batteries having been erected against it, and an effective fire poured upon the enemy’s artillery-men by the German skirmishers, it capitulated, and the allies were enabled to advance.
Serjeant Schultz was conspicious for his intelligence and gallantry during these operations. In the attack upon fort Santa Croce he was one of the first to volunteer his services, and in the succeeding investment of Santa Maria, he and a few other fearless men of the company, voluntarily brought away several casks of powder which were discovered in a house between the place and the allied lines, (exposing the besiegers to considerable danger,) and with great expertness, applied the powder to supply the troops with cartridges, of which they were much in want. He afterwards volunteered to pick off the enemy's gunners, and, assisted by seven other good marksmen of the company, succeeded so completely that the artillery-men abandoned their guns, and sought the protection of their infantry.
Lord William Bentinck, having been informed that there were only two thousand troops in Genoa, determined upon making a rapid advance upon that city, and endeavouring to gain possession of it; but on arriving at Sestri he learned that the garrison had been reinforced, and now consisted of between five and six thousand men; he proceeded, however, on his march, but, owing to the bad state of the roads, was not able to concentrate his army until the 14th.
The country is extremely mountainous and difficult, and the troops met with considerable obstruction from the enemy; on the 8th of April, however, the allies dislodged them from the strong country near Sestri; on the 12th, general Montressor's division drove the French from Monte Faccia and Nervi, and on the following day, established itself in the advanced position of Sturla. On this occasion the eighth line battalion of the legion under lieutenant-colonel von Schroeder, bore a conspicuous part, and suffered a loss of twenty-seven men in killed, wounded, and taken.
The French now took up a very strong position in front of Genoa, resting their left upon the forts Richlieu and Teckla; their centre occupying the village of St. Martino, and their right extending to the sea, through a most difficult country, thickly covered with country houses, the only communications to which were by narrow lanes, bounded by high walls. On the 16th, dispositions were made by the British commander for a general attack, which he purposed to carry into execution on the following morning. The eighth line battalion of the legion formed with the thirty-first English regiment, the left advance, commanded by major-general Montressor; the right was directed by lieutenant-colonel Travers; the third and sixth battalions of the legion, forming the brigade of major-general von Hohnstedt, were directed to move round by the mountains on the north of the fortress, for the purpose of cutting off the enemy’s retreat; the second line of attack was commanded by major-general Macfarlane, and the sixty-second regiment formed the reserve. With the exception of another English regiment, (the twenty-first,) a detachment of the twentieth dragoons, three batteries of English artillery, a rocket battery, and a detachment of the staff corps and engineers, the rest of the troops were Italian, Calabrian and Greek levies.
The attack opened at day-break on the 17th along the whole line; the third Italians under lieutenant-colonel Ceravignac, carried with great spirit, a height in front of fort Teckla, – drove off the enemy, and took three mountain guns; part of the same regiment then moved up the hill towards fort Richelieu, while colonel Travers with the Calabrians, Greeks, and Poten's skirmishers, descended from Monte Faccia, and got possession of the highest part of the hill above the fort. Some of the advance pushed forward to the foot of the wall, which so alarmed the garrison, that, fearing to be taken by escalade, they surrendered. Fort Teckla was now hastily evacuated, and the greater part of the garrison made prisoners, the consequence of which was, that the enemy’s left, being exposed, immediately fell back.
The movements against the French right were not less successful. The thirty-first regiment and the eighth line battalion of the legion led the attack, under the immediate orders of general Montressor, and became sharply engaged at the church-yard of St. Francisco de Albaro, whre the eighth battalion lost some men, and lieutenant Brinckmann, the adjutant, was wounded. This post, which formed the key of the enemy's right, was, for some time, firmly held, but the twenty-first regiment, having been sent forward from the second line by general Macfarlane, it was soon after evacuated. The houses and gardens from thence to the sea also afforded the enemy considerable means of resistance, and a detachment under lieutenant Schaedler mainly contributed to turn this flank; however little serious stand was offered after the fall of the church-yard, and the enemy’s left being turned, they at last retired precipitately into the town.
During these operations the gun boats from the English ships of war, which had accompanied the expedition, opened upon the enemy's sea batteries, which were soon deserted, and the whole of their sea line without the walls was taken possession of by the English sailors and marines; a bettery which had been planted on the cliff of the Albaro, and which had hitherto escaped observation, was luckily discovered by colonel A'court and captain Münter, and was immediately secured by two English companies.
By ten o'clock the allies were in full possession of the whole ground before Genoa, and at noon they took up a position within six hundred yards of the town, at a point from whence the defences could be easily destroyed. Preparations were immediately made for erecting the necessary batteries; Sir Edward Pellew's squadron entered the harbour and anchored in front of Nervi, and it was expected that the assault would be given on the following day.
But in the evening a deputation of the inhabitants waited upon lord William Bentinck, with a request that he would agree to a suspension of arms until the expected intelligence of peace having been concluded, should arrive. Lord William replied that these were arguments to use with the French commandant, but not with him; the next morning several communications were conveyed by captain Münter between the governor (count de Fresias,) and the British general, and at length a convention was agreed on, according to which, Genoa was to be given up to the English and Sicilian troops.
A considerable quantity of naval and military stores, as well as six ships of war fell into the hands of the allies on this occasion; the French troops marched out with the honors of war on the 21st, taking with them six pieces of cannon, and a safe passage to their own country was secured to them.
The late events at Paris became now known in Italy; all hostilities ceased, and the allied troops broke up in different directions: the eighth line battalion of the legion was removed to Corsica, and in the following June both this and the third battalion proceeded to England under the command of major-general von Barsse; the sixth and seventh line battalions, as well as the third foot battery still remained in the Mediterranean, being stationed in Genoa, Sicily, and the island of Ponza; captain Kronenfeldt of the sixth battalion who, during the two preceding years, had been acting as assistant adjutant-general to major-general Mackenzie's division in Catalonia, was, after the surrender of Genoa, left in charge of the adjutant-general’s department in that place; Genoa remained in the hands of the British until the month of December, when it was made over to the king of Sardinia, and the allied troops were directed to act as auxiliary to that sovereign.
© 2004 Michael-Andreas Tänzer