Siege of Ragusa
The Siege of Ragusa was fought between Austrian Croat troops allied with the British Royal Navy under Captain William Hoste against a French garrison under Joseph de Montrichard between 19 and 27 January 1814 during the Adriatic campaign of the Napoleonic Wars. The siege was fought on the coast of the Adriatic Sea for possession of the strategically important fortified town of Ragusa.
In 1806, the Republic of Ragusa surrendered to forces of the Empire of France to end a months-long siege by the Russian fleets (during which 3,000 cannonballs fell on the city). The French lifted the siege and subsequently entered Ragusa in 1806. In 1808 Napoleon ordered Marshal Marmont to abolish the Republic of Ragusa and amalgamate its territory into the French Empire's client state, the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy. Marmont himself became the "Duke of Ragusa" (Duc de Raguse) and in 1810 Ragusa, with all Dalmatia, went to the newly created French 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 one after another December. Captain William Hoste with his ship HMS Bacchante (38 guns) had already captured the mountain fortress of Kotor with the help of Montenegrin forces in early January. After this victory Hoste along with HMS Saracen an 18 gun brig, immediately sailed to Ragusa a which was under a dubious blockade by Austrian forces under General Todor Milutinović.
Milutinović's forces were not just dealing with the French but had to endure discontent with a number Ragusan rebels with his force and trying to keep them under control. The French under command of Joseph Montrichard had less than 600 men left in the entire region after losing over a third of his men who had defected since the war with Austria began.:141
When Bacchante arrived at Ragusa on 19 January Hoste landed and visited Milutinovitch to see the situation. He had with him two Croat battalions of 400 men but they were without artillery, so Hoste improvised. On the morning of the 22nd Hoste immediately went into action and four mortars and two guns were landed and opened fire on San Lorenzo fort and the defences of the town. The French answered with a heavy fire from all batteries and Hoste soon knew that Ragusa would not be easy to take. Hoping to use the same successful tactics that won him Kotor, Hoste set about the task of seeking strategic positions. He soon eyed the forts and positions on the hill of Srđ overlooking the town and the nearby Lokrum island east of the town. By taking these positions he knew Ragusa would not last long under siege; Milutinović agreed with him.:139
To secure the approaches to the town on 24 January a third of Bacchante's crew (around 100 men) under Lieutenant Milbourne and his men rounded Srđ hill at the back of Ragusa with two eighteen pounder guns, a distance of some 6 miles. They soon bombarded the small French garrison on Lokrum, Royal Marines landed and then took the island after a small fight which yielded eleven guns. On the road to Brgat the Royal Marines cut off the French water supply and also took the Monastery of St. Jacob east of the City.:139
At the same time Hoste asked Milutinović to attack the Imperial Fortress on top of the hill of Srđ, Milutinović agreed as long as Hoste supported him with artillery fire. This was agreed and by the end of the day, and despite some losses, the Croats were on top of Srđ forcing the seventy French gunners either to surrender or flee; this yielded twenty one guns. Hoste then ordered artillery to be ferried ashore and from the northern part of Gruž then taken up to the slopes of Srđ. Hoste, who had refused to supply cannon to the Ragusans on earlier occasions, did so now by supplying Milutinovitch with one large and two smaller cannons, and permitted them to stand by the batteries under British command.:139
Now the full complement of the siege guns were brought to bear; two mortars, two 16 pounders, and six 18 pounders as well as the guns on Bacchante and Saracaen and the captured French guns both on top of Srd and on Lokrum island. Hoste ordered the bombardment which continued on to next day without ceasing. He targeted the main towers of the Ragusa fortress; the Minčeta Tower, Fort Bokar and the Revelin Fortress. Then on the 2nd day being the 26th the Royal navy ships opened up a bombardment from the sea concentrating their fire on the ports St. John Fortress.
This was all too much for Montrichard: cut off for four months, losing many of his troops though defection, suffering a revolt in the surrounding region three months earlier and riots inside the town having flared up, he decided the only option was to surrender. He sent out a truce on the morning of the 27th and to request the British batteries to cease fire. Hoste agreed and the siege of Ragusa had ended.:140
On 27 January, the French capitulation was signed in Gruž and ratified the same day. After almost eight years of occupation the French troops marched out of Dubrovnik; 138 guns and 500 men were lost. On the afternoon of 28 January 1814 the Austrian troops and 100 British marines made their way into the city through the Pile Gates, denying admission to the Ragusa rebels. British losses were no more than one killed and 10 wounded.:141–142 The Austrians had suffered a little more with around thirty casualties with most of these coming from the assault on Fort Imperial on Srd hill. There were reinforcements of British troops of the 35th regiment of foot from HMS Elizabeth which had arrived with Edward Leveson-Gower on the 29th, but he declined to take part in the negotiations seeing that Hoste had everything under control.
The rebel Ragusan Flag of Saint Blaise was flown alongside the Austrian and British colours for only two days because on 30 January General Milutinović ordered the Mayor to lower it. Subsequent events proved that Austria took every possible opportunity to take over the entire coast of the eastern Adriatic, from Venice to Kotor. The allies did everything in their power to eliminate the Ragusa issue at the subsequent Vienna Congress of 1815. The Ragusa representative, Miho Bona, was denied participation in the Congress, while the Pro Austrian Milutinović, prior to the final agreement of the allies, assumed complete control of the city.:141–142 At the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Ragusa was made a part of the crown land of the Kingdom of Dalmatia, ruled by Austria-Hungary, which it remained a part of until 1918.
After the surrender Bachannte took a detachment of the 35th foot to Trieste and, on 22 March, she went to the town of Parga on the coast of Greece after the inhabitants had requested assistance against the French garrison of 170 men commanded by a colonel. The French flag was hauled down as soon as the frigate arrived and Hoste took possession of the town.
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- Bentley p.330-331
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- External links