Salvatore Moschella: The battle of Maida on 4 July 1806

Salvatore Moschella
Ed. Titani, Rome 2021

The author, an expert in Napoleonic history and former senior medical officer of the army, has created, in the Museum of Military History of Catanzaro, the Napoleonic and Risorgimento wing and the room dedicated to the Battle of Maida, the battle object of his essay which arises from the desire to describe the model (to whose images, shown in the appendix - where all the soldiers and their uniforms, described in detail in the book, are represented in great detail - there are numerous references that are made during the story) representative of a phase of the battle itself and preserved in the appropriate room.

After explaining the organization and combat tactics of the two armies, the French and the British, which on the morning of 4 July 1806 faced each other in the plain of Maida, the author illustrates both the reasons that led to this clash and, subsequently , the phases of the clash itself. "On Christmas 1805, Napoleon, victorious over Austerlitz, as soon as the Peace of Presburg was signed, undertook the overthrow of the Bourbons of Naples, who had had the impudence and imprudence to sign a military alliance agreement with two powers of the third coalition anti-French (Great Britain and Russia), at the same moment in which the plenipotentiary minister of Ferdinand IV signed in Paris a pact of neutrality with France and of non-intervention in the current conflict. "

On the one hand, therefore, the French, who, with the invasion of the kingdom of Naples, in addition to punishing the betrayal of the Bourbons, would have consolidated "the French position in the Mediterranean chessboard increasingly dominated by the British navy, with the ultimate aim of occupying Sicily to prevent the British from using it", hence the need to occupy Calabria militarily, so as to be able to concentrate the military force to occupy the island in Reggio; on the other, the British with the task of defending the Bourbons and Sicily and carrying out "possible limited offensive military operations against the French forces present in southern Italy to oppose their concentration in Reggio. Finally, in June 1806, the most favorable circumstances arose to organize an amphibious naval operation in Calabria with a high probability of success. The plan of military operations that was about to materialize was code-named Descend on Calabria. "

The landing operations of the English troops began - after an English convoy formed by the Apollo Frigate, two corvettes and more than twenty transport vessels anchored in the Gulf of Sant'Eufemia - on the night between June 30th and 1st July 1806, on a Calabrian beach, near Maida, a town in the province of Catanzaro. 5800 French soldiers, under the command of General Reynier, clashed with 5350 British soldiers, under the command of General Stuart. It was the first battle fought between the French and the British on continental European soil and represented both the first defeat of the Grande Armée and "the only victory, albeit posthumous, of the third anti-French Coalition."

The Battle of Maida, or the affaire de Saint Euphèmie, as it was called by the French, to diminish its importance, it proved "to the whole world, for the first time, that the Napoleonic armies were not unbeatable." It was here that the British adopted the famous thin red line, viz "the streamlining of the linear deployment of the infantry from three to two ranks", solution that proved successful "on the decisive tactical action of the white weapon so dear to the French" that, from the evening of the defeat, they had to face a new type of war, unconventional, against the Calabrian population and for which the regular troops were not prepared. "The defeat of Maida marked the initial decline of the Napoleonic planetary project; the Emperor felt the premonitory sign, so much so that he wrote to his brother Giuseppe in a letter dated 23 July 1806 just informed of the defeat suffered in Maida: The errors committed in Calabria they will cost me a lot. "

Gianlorenzo Capano