General Johann Peter, Baron Beaulieu, 1725-1819

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General Johann Peter, Freiherr von Beaulieu (1725-1819) was an Austrian general who was defeated by Napoleon during his first campaign in Italy in 1796.

Beaulieu was born in Brabant (then part of the Habsburg empire) in 1725. He joined the Austrian army aged 18. He served on Marshal Daun's staff during the Seven Years War. In 1789 he was Governor of Malines and played a key role in supressing the Flemish revolt. During this uprising his only son was shot while attempting to defend the family home.

Beaulieu was responsible for one of the first French defeats of the Revolutionary Wars, when he defeated a French column commanded by General Biron near Valenciennes on 29 April 1792.

Beaulieu commanded the Austrian left wing at the battle of Jemappes (6 November 1792), the first major battlefield victory for the French Republic.

Beaulieu commanded the extreme left of the Allied line during the battle of Fleurus (26 June 1794), facing Marceau. Beaulieu defeated Marceau's divisions, but French reinforcements restored the situation, and the battle ended as a French victory that secured their control of the Austrian Netherlands. Later in 1794 he became the Chief of Staff in the Netherlands, but by this stage the Austrians were concentrating on protecting Luxembourg and the Rhine.

In 1796 Beaulieu commanded the main Austrian army in northern Italy, where he was about to become the target of Napoleon's first great campaign. Napoleon's first problem was to cross the Ligurian Apennine Mountains. He achieved this by convincing Beaulieu that he planned to advance up the Bochetta Pass from Genoa. Beaulieu split his army, leading part down the pass while a second column was sent along the Bormida valley in an attempt to trap Napoleon between the two. Instead the second column was defeated at Montenotte (23 April 1796).  Napoleon then split his own army, sending part to defeat the Piedmontese and the other part to defeat the Austrians again at Dego (14-15 April). After this defeat Beaulieu retreated to Alessandria, on the northern side of the mountains. Napoleon turned west and knocked the Piedmontese out of the war (Armistice of Cherasco, 28 April 1796).

Beaulieu's next task was to guard the line of the Po. Once again he was fooled by Napoleon, who convinced Beaulieu that he was planning to cross the Po somewhere near Pavia. Instead he moved east and crossed the river at Piacenza, thirty miles behind Beaulieu. Beaulieu rushed back east, but suffered another defeat (battle of Fombio, 7-9 May) that prevented the Austrians from taking the direct line of retreat to Cremona. Instead they were forced north-west and crossed the River Adda at Lodi. Beaulieu was prevented from using the Adda as a defensive line by Napoleon's victory at Lodi (10 May 1796). Four days later the French entered Milan for the first time. 

In the meantime Beaulieu retreated to the Mincio River, hoping to hold that line. Once again he failed, suffering defeat at Borgetto (30 May 1796). Beaulieu retreated up the Adige valley, while Napoleon began the siege of Mantua. After these defeats he retired to his estate near Linz.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (28 February 2012), General Johann Peter, Baron Beaulieu, 1725-1819 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_beaulieu_johann.html

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