Battle of Maida

Battle of Maida

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Maida
partof=the War of the Third Coalition

date=4 July, 1806
place=San Pietro di Maida, present-day Italy
result=Decisive British tactical victory
combatant1=flagicon|United Kingdom United Kingdom
flagicon|Two Sicilies Kingdom of Sicily
combatant2=flagicon|France First French Empire
*flagicon|Napoleonic Italy Kingdom of Italy
*flagicon|Poland|state Polish Legions
*flagicon|Switzerland Switzerland
commander1=flagicon|United Kingdom John Stuart
commander2=flagicon|France Jean Reynier
strength1=5,236 infantry
3 guns
strength2=6,112 infantry
128 cavalry
4 guns
casualties1=45 killed
282 wounded
casualties2=500 killed
1,100 wounded
400 captured

The Battle of Maida (4 July, 1806) was British victory against the First French Empire outside the town of San Pietro di Maida in Calabria, Italy, then a part of the Kingdom of Naples. The British celebrated the victory although they failed to follow up on their success.


Following the decision by King Ferdinand IV of Naples and Sicily to side with the Third Coalition against Napoleon and the Battle of Austerlitz, French forces had invaded the Kingdom of Naples in the spring of 1806, after the British army supposedly defending the kingdom evacuated Italy altogether. The Neapolitan-Sicilian army was crushed at the Battle of Campo Tenese, forcing Ferdinand to flee to Sicily and concede the Neapolitan crown to the French. Napoleon then installed his brother Joseph Bonaparte on the Neapolitan throne.

By July 1806, the French had crushed all Neapolitan resistance except for the uprising in Calabria and a garrison at Gaeta. There, André Masséna's force become embroiled in a lengthy siege. The British, rather than supporting or relieving the siege decided to organise an expedition into Calabria to further the insurrection against the French, and prevent any potential invasion of Sicily.


A British force of over 5,000 men commanded by Major-General John Stuart sailed from Messina on 27 June, landing in the Gulf of Sant'Eufemia three days later. At the same time a French force of 6,000 men under the command of General Jean Reynier, the only French force in Calabria, moved to confront them.

On 6 June 1806 the two combatants met on the plain of Maida, with the British occupying a low ridge. As Reynier advanced, the British held their fire, then released a series of devastating volleys at point-blank range. The French faltered, and when the British charged at bayonet point, were routed. The entire action lasted only fifteen minutes. Stuart, instead of attempting to relieve Gaeta, then marched south, and after a series of minor skirmishes eventually returned to Sicily, an act for which he was later criticised. However at the time his victory was much feted, and he received the Order of the Bath and an annuity of £1,000 a year from the British, and the title "Count of Maida" from King Ferdinand [Chandler, David, "Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars", Wordsworth, 1999. ISBN 1-84022-203-4] .

Order of Battle


Despite routing the French garrison of Calabria, Stuart's failed to follow up his victory by pursuing Reynier or exploiting the Calabrian insurrection. Instead Stuart made a few minor raids against pockets of French soldiers garrisoned in coastal towns and villages before he was forced to return back to Sicily, after the garrison of Gaeta inevitably surrendered on 18 July freeing Masséna's 15,000 men. In Stuart's defence, his expedition had successfully accomplished its main objective to prevent any plans for an early invasion of Sicily.

The political situation in southern Italy would remain unchanged until 1815, with the British and Sicilian troops guarding the Bourbon King Ferdinand in Sicily and the Napoleonic King of Naples controlling the mainland. The British failed to use their naval superiority around Italy and did little to harass the French on the mainland. In 1808 Joachim Murat became the King of Naples after Joseph Bonaparte was sent to govern Spain. Murat made various attempts to cross the Strait of Sicily, which all ended in failure, despite once managing to secure a foothold in Sicily. It was not until Austria defeated Murat in the Neapolitan War in 1815, that King Ferdinand was finally restored to the Neapolitan throne.

Sir John Stuart was made Count of Maida following the battle, and Maida Hill and Maida Vale in London are both named after this battle.

Historical Reanalysis

It is traditionally thought that in the Battle of Maida the British deployed in a line while the French attacked in columns, allowing the British to fire full strength volleys into the French columns, while only the first two ranks of the French could fire, similar to Crossing the T in naval combat. However, modern historians dispute this claim. The military historian James R. Arnold argues that:

:"The writings of Sir Charles Oman and Sir John Fortescue dominated subsequent English-language Napoleonic history. Their views [that the French infantry used heavy columns to attack lines of infantry] became very much the received wisdom. ... By 1998 a new paradigm seemed to have set in with the publication of two books devoted to Napoleonic battle tactics. Both claimed that the French fought in line at Maida and both fully explored French tactical variety. The 2002 publication of "The Battle of Maida 1806: Fifteen Minutes of Glory", appeared to have brought the issue of column versus line to a satisfactory conclusion: "The contemporary sources are...the best evidence and their conclusion is clear: General Compère's brigade formed into line to attack Kempt's Light Battalion." The decisive action at Maida took place in less than fifteen minutes. It had taken 72 years to rectify a great historian's error about what transpired during those minutes." [Arnold, James R. " [ A Reappraisal of Column Versus Line in the Peninsular War Oman and Historiography] ", The Napoleon Series, August 2004.] [James R. Arnold, "A Reappraisal of Column Versus Line in the Napoleonic Wars" Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research LX no. 244 (Winter 1982): pp. 196-208.]

The British fired volleys then charged with the bayonet, and the French, failing to withstand the onslaught, broke and fled, losing heavily in the rout.


* War Monthly Issue 12
* [ Details of battle]
* [ Details of battle at Clash of Steel]
* Smith, D. "The Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book". Greenhill Books, 1998. (Order of battle)

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