A Napoleon's River Crossing & Battle of Essling Medal
A Napoleon's River Crossing & Battle of Essling Medal - Bronze, engraver marked "BRENET F" and "DENON D" on the reverse, obverse illustrating a river god destroying a pontoon bridge, on which a cannon and two French standards appear, inscribed "DANVVIVS PONTEM INDIGNATVS" above and "PROELIVM AD ESLINCAM XXII. MAII MDCCCIX." (May 12, 1809) below, reverse illustrating French troops crossing a bridge with a winged female Victory flying overhead, inscribed "INTERVM IBIDEM" above and "TRAIECTVS V. IVLII MDCCCIX" (1809) below, 40.5 mm, light contact, extremely fine. Footnote: In the Battle of Aspern-Essling, fought on May 21-22, 1809, Napoleon attempted a forced crossing of the River Danube near Vienna, but the French and their allies were driven back by the Austrians under Archduke Charles. The battle was the first time Napoleon had been personally defeated in over a decade. However, Archduke Charles failed to secure a decisive victory as Napoleon was able to successfully withdraw most of his forces. With Austrian forces across the Danube from Vienna and secure in his strength, Napoleon had bridges built from Vienna to the Island of Lobau and from Lobau to the far bank of the river. Napoleon once said that the most difficult military operation was crossing a river in the face of an enemy, and he illustrated that here. While the first part of his army was battling the Austrians on the far bank, the bridges connecting the island with Vienna were broken, cutting the French supply lines and leaving part of Napoleon's army hopelessly outnumbered on the far bank, fighting a losing battle against one of the few military men he admired, the Archduke Charles. The badly mauled French successfully retreated to Lobau, bringing with them, among other casualties, the fatally wounded Marshal Lannes, Duke of Montebello. Lannes was a personal friend of Napoleon, who had served him well in the second Italian campaign (hence his title), at Austerlitz in the first Austrian campaign, and at Jena and Friedland in the Prussian campaign. His death on the Island of Lobau was a great loss to Napoleon, personally as well as tactically.