MELAS, Michael Friedrich Benedikt

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Fact file

Born Radeln, Transylvania, 1729, died Elbesteinitz (present day Czech Republic), 1806
Entered Austrian army 1746
Fought in many engagements during the Seven Years War (1756-63) as adjutant to Marschal Daun
Rose through the ranks to be appointed commander in chief of the Austrian army in Italy in 1799 (at the age of 70!)
Victor at Cassano d'Adda and Novi under Suvorov, 1799
Forced Masséna to capitulate at siege of Genova, June 1800
Nominated commander in chief of Austrian army in Italy after the departure of Suvorov
Beaten at Marengo, 14 June, 1800 and forced to leave Italy
Nominated Commandant General of Bohemia and President of the Council of War
Left the army in 1803
A successful military career, marred only (it would appear) by the failure at Marengo which was to cause the resignation of the minister Thugut. Indeed Melas's biggest mistake at Marengo would appear to have been his retiring early from the battle (his horse had been shot out from under him twice), leaving the Austrian forces to be ineffectively commanded by Kaïm. Although the battle ended in a stalemate, neither side having gained ground, the Austrians were not ready to continue the fight and Melas signed the Convention of Alessandria the following day, terminating hostilities.

Further reading

Biographisches Lexicon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich, Vienna, 1856 (57 volumes)
Longworth, P., The Art of Victory: The life and achievements of Generalissimo Suvorov, London: Constable, 1965
Tranié, J., J. C. Carmigniani, Napoléon Bonaparte: 2eme campagne d'Italie, Paris: Pygmalion/Gérard Watelet, 1991

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