Siege of Cattaro

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Siege of Cattaro
Part of the Napoleonic Wars
IMG 5438Montenegro Kotor (7586309972).jpg
View of Cattaro (present day Kotor) from the castle of St. John
Date 14 October 1813 – 3 January 1814
Location Cattaro, Illyrian Provinces, Adriatic Sea,
(present-day Kotor, Montenegro)
Result Anglo-Montenegrin victory[1]
Belligerents
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Flag of the Prince-Bishopric of Montenegro2.svg Montenegro
Kingdom of the Two Sicilies Kingdom of Sicily
Flag of France.svg French Empire
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg William Hoste
Flag of the Prince-Bishopric of Montenegro2.svg Petar I
Flag of France.svg Jean-Joseph Gauthier
Strength
800 Marines, soldiers & sailors
One 38 gun fifth rate
One 18 gun Brig
3 gunboats
600 men[2]
Casualties and losses
20 casualties All captured

The Siege of Cattaro was fought between a British Royal Naval detachment and Montenegrin forces under Captain William Hoste, John Harper and Petar I Petrović-Njegoš respectively and the French garrison under command of Jean-Joseph Gauthier of the mountain fortress of Cattaro. The siege lasted from 14 October 1813 to 3 January 1814 during the Adriatic campaign of the Napoleonic Wars when the French surrendered.[1] The engagement was fought in the Adriatic Sea for possession of the important fortress of Cattaro.

Background[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Adriatic campaign of 1807–1814.
The Northern walls of the Cattaro fortress
Captain William Hoste who famously ordered guns to be hauled up the mountain to besiege Cattaro

Cattaro had belonged to the Prince-Bishopric of Montenegro, by 1797 they passed to the Habsburg Monarchy with the Treaty of Campo Formio. In 1805, Kotor was assigned to the French Empire's client state, the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy by the Treaty of Pressburg, but occupied by Russian troops under Dmitry Senyavin until they left after the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807. Three years later it was incorporated into the French Empire's Illyrian Provinces. Austria declared war on France in August 1813 and by the Autumn the Royal Navy enjoyed unopposed domination over the Adriatic sea. Working in conjunction with the Austrian armies now invading the Illyrian Provinces and Northern Italy, Rear Admiral Thomas Fremantle's ships were able to rapidly transport British and Austrian troops from one point to another, forcing the surrender of the strategic ports, Zara for example had been liberated in December.[3]

Meanwhile Royal Naval Captain William Hoste with his ship HMS Bacchante (38 guns) and a brig-sloop HMS Saracen (18-guns), under Captain John Harper had been given orders for the swift expulsion of the French in the region.[4] They took part in an attack that seized the islands of Hvar and Brač and moved along the coast. Cattaro was next on the target for the British; a body of Montenegrin troops under Petar I Petrović-Njegoš a popular spiritual and military leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church from the Petrović dynasty had surrounded the place. Saracen arrived first just outside Cattaro Bay but it was impossible to sail direct to the main fortress so Harper called on the local inhabitants to tow her along the rocky shore for 3 miles. Hoste in Bacchante arrived soon after with three Sicilian gunboats carrying fifty soldiers and assumed command. The British and Sicilians forced the passage between Herceg Novi and Fort Rosa and secured an anchorage some three miles inside the outer bay. [5]:141

Blockade and Siege[edit]

On the evening of the 14th Harper left with two gunboats, the launch and barge of Bacchante and the boats of Saracaen entered the inner bay where he was fired on from the Island of St George. Afterwards heading four miles towards Cattaro he found four gunboats in a state of revolt and took possession of them. He then landed at various places where the local inhabitants were arming themselves against the French and collected volunteer crews for his new captures.[2]

At Perast Hoste found that the locals had taken possession of a French fort with 3 guns which they placed at his disposal, hoisting the English and Austrian colours. At 6am he used these guns, those of his gunboats and the newly acquired gunboats to bombard the island of St. George. Then within 15 minutes the Royal marines and the Sicilians under Captain Harper attacked, captured the island and the French had been driven from their guns and had offered to capitulate. The prize gunboats each had a long 24-pounder in the bow and two of them carried a 12-pounder carronade.[2][5]:137

By now only the main fortress of Cattaro was left and Hoste, Harper and his assortment of allies; British, Croats, Montenegrins and Sicilians surrounded the area. With the help of Montenegrins and the Pro Austrian natives of the liberated Bay of Kotor shores, Hoste found himself in an unpleasant position between the Montenegrins and their support on one hand, and the pro-Austrian population who were unwilling to submit themselves to Montenegrin domination on the other. Hoste made sure of his neutrality and the main objective was the defeat of the French in the region. He knew that politics would eventually play a role if and when the area was under allied control. He also had to make sure that by satisfying the British commissioner in the region Lord Aberdeen that the Austrians were the ones to end up with the spoils.[4] Hoste meanwhile had been ordered to attack elsewhere leaving Harper with the Saracan in charge. Hoste in the next month helped to take Split with troops of the 35th Foot and for the next month a hard blockade was made on Cattaro and the hope of the arrival of Austrian troops. Bad weather had not helped the situation, Hoste after capturing Cavtat further North soon returned to the bay but found no Austrian troops.[5]:137

By early December the local French commander, General Gauthier, had retired to Fort St. John with 600 men.[2] This fort lay on the side of the hill protecting the Western side of the fortified town of Cattaro. Hoste and Harper both agreed that use of the local armed populace would make do for the final stages of the siege. Preparations were made to put batteries all around Cattaro which meant using the top of the hill of St John as a primary position right above the fortress itself. Hoste and Harper ordered the difficult task of scattering batteries down the forbidding slopes of the Cattaro hills using block and tackle. In an "unmilitary manner" after 3 weeks of great exertion by Bachannte and Saracaens seamen in continuous rain an 18-pounder was hoisted to the summit on 23 December, a height of nearly 3,000 feet.[6] Meanwhile Bacchante and the rest of her crew mounted further pieces of ordnance; two batteries of 18 and 32-pounders were added. Hoste despite being ill personally helped the men get the equipment up the slopes of the mountain but further North and South respectively of the fort and the main battery on the slope.[2]

Medal commemorating HMS Bachannte's bombardment of Cattaro 1814

On Christmas Day once all guns were in position and good weather had returned Hoste ordered the commencement of the bombardment. Fire was opened up from four different points with the 18 pounder above the St John fortress being particularly effective. Saracan and Bacchante were kept out of range by the forts guns until the bombardment started and opened up all they had. Hoste on the 2nd ordered Harper to lead a surprise night time assault. This was not necessary however as on 3 January 1814, when Harper was about to lead an assault, Gauthier offered to surrender. After ten days of shelling and no hope of relief the French surrendered to Hoste under honorable conditions and the British and Montenegrins took control of the fort and the town.[7] After a ten-day siege, the French garrison had no alternative and surrendered on 5 January 1814.[4][7]

Aftermath[edit]

The loss on the British, amounting to only one seaman killed, and Lieutenant of marines slightly wounded. In the course of the twenty-day siege, Hoste had counted on the support of Austrian infantry which failed to show up. Hoste signed the articles of capitulation and the remaining French and Italian troops marched out in surrender, after which British troops marched in along with the Montenegrins. Hoste gave the town to the Montenegrin commission under Peter which aggravated Lord Aberdeen but Hoste argued that he had no choice in the matter.[8][citation needed]

Hoste with Bacchante and Saracen after a short rest and recuperation left Cattaro to sail to the fortress of Ragusa where they laid siege to the place in a very similar manner to Cattaro and on the 28th it surrendered.[5]:141 By the end of March all towns and cities had surrendered to the British or the allied rebels that had risen in revolt, leaving the Adriatic in complete allied control with the exception of Corfu. Cattaro was restored to the Habsburg Monarchy of the Austrian Empire by the Congress of Vienna.[9]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Jacques p. 213
  2. ^ a b c d e "Marshall" pg. 478-79
  3. ^ James, Vol. 6, p. 257
  4. ^ a b c Bjelovucic pg 143-44
  5. ^ a b c d Ćosić, Stjepan (2000). "Dubrovnik Under French Rule (1810–1814)" (PDF). Dubrovnik Annals (4): 136–137. Retrieved 11 September 2009. 
  6. ^  "Hoste, William". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. : "in what was denounced as a 'very unmilitary manner,' established a battery of heavy guns and mortars on the top of a rugged hill which dominated the enemy's position."
  7. ^ a b Michael Phillips' Ships of the Old Navy. "Bacchante (38)". Retrieved 2008-11-16. ")n 1 January 1814 two additional batteries of 18 and 32-pounders began to play on the castle." 
  8. ^ Stevenson, Francis Seymour (1 May 1971). A History of Montenegro. Arno Press. p. 176. ISBN 9780405027758. 
  9. ^ Die postalischen Abstempelungen auf den österreichischen Postwertzeichen-Ausgaben 1867, 1883 und 1890, Wilhelm KLEIN, 1967

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  • Bjelovucic, Harriet (1970). The Ragusan Republic;: Victim of Napoleon and its own conservatism. Brill. ISBN 1-B0006D1YHY. 
  • Nafziger, George F.; Gioannini, Marco (2011). The Defense of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Northern Italy, 1813-1814. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0275967972. 
  • Bentley, R. (1833). Memoirs and Letters of Capt. Sir William Hoste, Bart, Volume 2. ISBN. 
  • Bjelovucic, Harriet (1970). The Ragusan Republic;: Victim of Napoleon and its own conservatism. Brill. ISBN 1-B0006D1YHY. 
  • Chandler, David (1999) [1993]. Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars. Wordsworth Military Library. ISBN 1-84022-203-4. 
  • Clowes, William Laird (1997) [1900]. The Royal Navy, A History from the Earliest Times to 1900, Volume V. Chatham Publishing. ISBN 1-86176-014-0. 
  • Jaques, Tony (2006). Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: A Guide to 8500 Battles from Antiquity Through the Twenty-first Century. Greenwood Pres. ISBN 978-0313335365. 
  • James, William (2002) [1827]. The Naval History of Great Britain, Volume 5, 1808–1811. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-909-3. 
  • Marshall, John (2010). Royal Naval Biography 12 Volume Set: Royal Naval Biography. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1108022668. 
  • Smith, Digby (1998). The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. Greenhill Books. ISBN 1-85367-276-9. 
  • White, Colin (2005). Nelson the Admiral. Phoenix Mill, Stroud, Glos.: Sutton Publishing Limited. ISBN 0-7509-3713-0.