A village in Lombardy whose name has been spread all over the
world because of the battles fought there. Each battle was the prelude
to a historically momentous battle soon after.
On June 9, 1800, French general Jean Lannes attacked
an Austrian force of 16,000 with 8,000 troops outside the town of Casteggio.
There was bloody fighting for a while, and the Austrians' superior numbers
seemed about to overwhelm the French, when General Claude-Victor Perrin
arrived with reinforcements, and the Austrians were forced to withdraw.
4,000 Austrians and 600 French (probably much more) were killed in the
During the battle, the French occupied Montebello, and someone must
have liked the name, as the battle was named after the village instead
At 3 PM that day, while the smoke was clearing, Napoleon Bonaparte
arrived on the scene (after riding all the way from Pavia) to take command
of the army. Five days later, after being softened up at
Casteggio, the Austrians were crushed by Bonaparte at the Battle of Marengo.
In 1808, during Bonaparte's dynasty-building phase, he made Lannes
(now a Marshal of France) "Duc de Montebello".
On May 20, 1859, during the Second War for Italian
Independence, some Austrian infantry (well, actually mostly Hungarians
and Italians, not very keen on dying for Austria) blundered into Piedmontese
cavalry and a division of French infantry outside Montebello. The
Austrians put up stiff resistance, occupying a fortified position in the
village cemetery for a while, but the French and Piedmontese eventually
overran them in a bayonet charge. 1,300 Austrians and 850 Piedmontese and French (including their commander (Maj. Gen. Elie Forey) were killed.
This battle diverted the attention of the Austrian commander in Italy,
Ferenc Gyulai, causing him to concentrate his troops in the wrong place.
It also revealed the inadequacy of the Austrian army. Two
weeks later, French Emperor Napoleon III and General Mac Mahon crushed
the Austrians at the Battle of Magenta, and a later slaughter at the
Battle of Solferino. As a result, Lombardy was annexed by
Piedmont. Italian reunification became inevitable; Piedmont's king
Victor Emmanuel I and Prime Minister Cavour immediately renamed the
country 'Kingdom of Italy'.
Fighting alongside Lannes' troops at the 1800 Battle of Montebello
were many American veterans of the Revolutionary War. Among
these was General Samuel Smith, who, on his return home, renamed his
500-acre estate northeast of Baltimore 'Montebello'. Smith was
ruined financially during the Panic of 1819 after his business partner,
James Buchanan, embezzled the Bank of the United States into
insolvency. Although his son John Spear Smith eventually bought the
estate back, it wound up the property of John W. Garrett, founder of
the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Garrett expanded the estate, which
covered a large part of what is now Northeast Baltimore. Garrett's
heirs eventually sold off the estate.
In 1881, Baltimore City water engineers dammed Tiffanys Run, a tributary
of Herring Run, to form the 54-acre Lake Montebello. This was
a waystation for water from Loch Raven Reservoir. Water treatment facilities
were opened in 1910 and most of the water consumed by Baltimore passes
through Lake Montebello first.
In 1801, French explorer Nicolas Baudin mapped a group of islands
off the west coast of Australia and named them the Montebello Islands
after the recent battle. Despite a 1956 British nuclear test there,
the islands are now a tourist destination.
Lombardia in Rete (translated by Google) at
The Italian Campaign of 1859 at
Live Baltimore Marketing Center -- Neighborhoods at
The Montebello Islands - History at