Karl Peter Ott, Freiherr von Bartokez, 1738-1809

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Karl Peter Ott Freiherr von Bartokez (1738-1809) was an experienced Hungarian cavalry commander who proved to be a capable general during the fighting in Belgium and Italy during the Wars of the First Coalition and Second Coalition.

Ott was born into a Hungarian noble family in Gran in 1738. He trained at the Engineer School before joining Infantry Regiment 57 as a Fähnrich (ensign) in 1756.

During the Seven Years War Ott transferred to the Hussars, and was frequently mentioned in dispatches, often for leading combined attacks with cavalry and light infantry. He was wounded in the head during the battle of Leignitz (1760), but recovered to fight in the War of the Bavarian Succession. He was promoted to Oberstleutnant (lieutenant-colonel), and continued to impress in wars against the Turks. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Order of Maria Theresa, and ennobled as Freiherr von Bartokez in 1791 (roughly equivalent to Baron of Bartokez).

During the early days for the War of the First Coalition Ott fought on the Belgian front, where he was soon promoted to Generalmajor, and given a number of independent commands. Amongst his victories was the combat of Frankenthal (13-14 November 1795), a minor battle that led to the fall of Mannheim.

In 1796 Ott was transferred to Italy, where he was appointed to command Field Marshal Wurmser's advance guard during the attempts to lift the siege of Mantua. Ott was defeated at the first battle of Lonato (31 July 1796), during one attempt to raise the siege, and eventually ended up inside Mantua (along with Wurmser), after the Austrian defeat at San Giorgio on 14-15 September 1796, remaining there until the city surrendered on 2 February 1797.

At the start of the War of the Second Coalition Ott returned to Italy, where he was promoted to Feldmarschalleutnant (Lieutenant-General), joining the Austro-Russian army that swept the French out of most of Italy during 1799. Ott commanded a division during the battle of Cassano (26-28 April 1799), which saw the Austro-Russian army force its way across the Adda River on its way to Milan. Once against Ott was noted for his bravery during the battle.

In May Ott was detached into the Tuscan Apennines, where he was to guard the left flank of the Allied army against Macdonald's Army of Naples, which was approaching from central Italy. On 17 June Ott's force was attacked by Macdonald, beginning the three-day long battle of the Trebbia (17-19 June 1799). He called for reinforcements, and was joined by Suvorov. The combined Allied force held off the French, forcing Macdonald to retreat back south in an attempt to reach the French army in north-west Italy. Ott then took part in the pursuit, suffering a minor defeat at Sassuolo (23 June 1799). Ott commanded the Allied left wing at the battle of Novi in August, helping them win a major victory. He also fought at the battle of Genola (4 November 1799), the French defeat that forced them back in the Alps. At the end of the campaign of 1799 the French had been thrown out of most of their conquests in Italy apart from Genoa.

On 19 April Feldmarschalleutnant Melas began the siege of Genoa, before on 27 April departing, leaving Ott in command. With no siege guns all Ott could do was blockade the city, and hope that the French would run out of supplies before reinforcements could reach them. Napoleon did indeed lead his army into Italy, but instead of making for Genoa he headed for Turin, then advanced east in an attempt to trap the entire Austrian army in the north-west of the country. Ott was ordered to abandon the siege and rejoin the main army, but by now the defenders were close to surrender, and Ott managed to ignore his orders for just long enough. On 4 June the city surrendered, and Ott was free to move north, taking up a position to the east of the main Austrian army at Alessandria.

Meanwhile Napoleon had reached Piacenza, from where he sent Lannes west to close the trap on Melas and the main Austrian force. Instead Lannes ran into Ott's command around Montebello. After being reinforced by Victor Lannes inflicted a defeat on Ott (battle of Casteggio-Montebello, 9 June 1800). Ott was forced to retreat back towards Melas, rejoining the main army on 12 June.

Ott commanded the Austrian left during the battle of Marengo, leading the attack that broke the French right and nearly gave the Austrians a victory. He then left the left wing of the Austrian pursuit, falling somewhat behind the Austrian right and centre. This left these parts of the army exposed when Desaix arrived with French reinforcements and launched the counterattack that won them the battle, but it did mean that Ott was able to extract his command from the defeat relatively intact.

This ended Ott's active military career. He was appointed inhaber (honorary colonel) of 5.Hussars in 1801. At the start of the Franco-Austrian War of 1809 (War of the Fifth Coalition) Ott was given the task of raising the Hungarian Insurrection, which despite the name was a formal militia, but he died in the same year.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (3 November 2010), Karl Peter Ott, Freiherr von Bartokez, 1738-1809 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_ott_karl.html

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