French forces were pushed out of Italy in 1799, leaving Massena and his French forces trapped in Genoa by Austrian commander Melas and the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean. Napoleon, after returning from Egypt, began assembling the French Army of the Reserve ready to cross the Alps and launch a surprise attack against Melas. Napoleon’s northern flank was secured against attack by the Swiss Alps and other French forces further north. He led the main contingent of the Army of the Reserve on an arduous trek through the Great St Bernard Pass, meeting with General Chabran’s forces at Aosta before moving on to Fort Bard where the French route was blocked for some time. Napoleon took Milan and spread his forces for a move towards Alessandria to engage Melas who had been preoccupied at Genoa. The Battle of Marengo on 14 June ended in a miraculous French victory after Louis Desaix arrived with last minute reinforcements.
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