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Russian troops under Suvorov began Swiss campaign

21 September 1799

On 5 (16) August 1799 after a series of successful Italian campaigns Suvorov was ordered to transfer the Russian troops to Switzerland in order to join Russian army corps commanded by the General A. M. Rimsky-Korsakov. Suvorov preferred the shortest still the most dangerous route - the St. Gotthard Pass, which was occupied by the enemy.   

On 4 (15) September Suvorov arrived to Taverna only to find out that the allied Austrian Army hadn’t supplied the necessary provision and pack mules, preventing the troops from action. And it took one week to get ready for the attack.

On 10 (21) September Russian troops reached the St. Gotthard Pass, occupied by the French detachment under LeCourbe (8,500). Suvorov sent General A. G. Rosenberg to outflank the enemy’s position by choosing a route through Pass Disentis to Devil’s bridge (Teufelbruecke) avoiding the St. Gotthard Pass. On 13 (24) September the main forces under the commandment of Suvorov attacked the St. Gotthard Pass directly. Two attacks were repelled, but during the third attack the detachment under P. I. Bagration gained the rear of the enemy and thus made the French troops retreat. On 14 (25) September the French Army tried to stop Russian troops near tunnel Ursern-loch and Devil’s bridge, but they were outflanked and retreated.

On 15 (26) September troops under Suvorov arrived to Altdorf and found no route to Schwyz. The Austrian Army Command hadn’t warned Suvorov about this fact in advance.  It was decided to move through the Rostock mountain range and Molen valley. Russian troops travelled the hard distance of 18 km in 2 days. Meanwhile left by the allied Austrian troops the detachment of Rimsky-Korsakov hadn’t awaited the assistance of Suvorov and was defeated.  Having crossed the Alps, Suvorov was surrounded by the French troops and had to undertake another difficult march, which only finished in the end of September. After that Suvorov arrived to winter quarters in Augsburg.

The policy of Austrian command, the defeat of Rimsky-Korsakov, unsuccessful Anglo-Russian campaign in Holland, exhaustion and serious losses of Suvorov’s Army (over 4,000 killed and wounded) doomed the Swiss campaign to failure. Nevertheless for the first time in history the Russian Army undertook the hardest mountain crossing, repulsed an attack of superior enemy forces, escaped the encirclement and released about 1,400 captives. The Swiss campaign demonstrated the two-faced policy of Austria and on 11 (22) October Paul I dissolved an alliance and recalled Suvorov’s Army to Russia.

On 28 October (8 November) Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov was promoted to Generalissimo.

Lit.: Петрушевский А. Генералиссимус князь Суворов. СПб., 1884. Гл. 23. Швейцарская кампания: С. Готар, Чортов мост; 1799; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL.: http://www.adjudant.ru/suvorov/pt00.htm; Фон-Рединг-Биберегг. Поход Суворова через Швейцарию 24 Сентября – 10 Октября 1799 г. СПб., 1902; То же  [Электронный ресурс]. URL.: http://www.adjudant.ru/suvorov/reding02.htm; Шевяков Т., Дзысь В. Итальянский и Швейцарский походы Суворова 1799 г. М., 2002.

From the Presidential library materials:

Богданович М. И. Походы Суворова в Италии и Швейцарии. СПб., 1846;

Клаузевиц К. Швейцарский поход Суворова 1799 г. М., 1939;

Подвиги Суворова в Италии и Швейцарии. М., 1806. Ч. 1;

Подвиги Суворова в Италии и Швейцарии. М., 1806. Ч. 2.