Serbelloni, Giovan Battista Count

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Serbelloni, Giovan Battista Count (aka Johann Baptist von Serbelloni)

Austrian Major-General (1742-54), General of Cavalry (1754-58), Feldmarshall (1758-78)

born 1694(97), Duchy of Milan, Habsburg Domain

died September 7, 1778, Milan, Habsburg Domain


Portrait of Johann Baptist Count von Serbelloni - Source: Contemporary 18th century copperplate portrait from the collection of Alister Sharman

Johann Baptist's parents were Giovanni, II. Duca di San Gabrio and Maria Giulia. He had three brothers, Gabrio, Galeazzo and Fabrizio and two sisters, Costanza and Luigia.

Very little is known of Johann Baptist's early years. At an unknown date, he became lieutenant-colonel in the d’Olonne Dragoons (Hessen-Darmstadt Dragoons during the Seven Years’ War).

In 1738, Serbelloni was appointed colonel of the d’Olonne Dragoons.

By the time of the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), Serbelloni’s bravery had already attracted attention on him. Notably he took part in the battles of Braunau in 1745 and Rottofreddo (where he was wounded) in 1746. On May 16, 1742 he was appointed major-general (Generalfeldwachtmeister). At court he became Imperial chamberlain on January 8, 1744. In June 1745, he became proprietor of the former St. Ignon Cuirassiers, after Franz Count St. Ignon died of his wounds after the Battle of Striegau. On June 16, 1746, Serbelloni distinguished himself at the Battle of Piacenza where, together with Lucchesi, he drove back the Franco-Spanish cavalry.

On June 12, 1754, Serbelloni was promoted to general of cavalry, ranking from December 9, 1748.

On January 24, 1757, G.d.C. Serbelloni replaced Piccolomini as commander of the Austrian army posted around Königgrätz (present-day Hradec Králové). At the end of March, he was at the head of 20,600 foot and 6,600 horse deployed along the Upper Elbe on both sides of Königgrätz. In mid-April, when the Austrians formed two armies in Bohemia, Serbelloni assumed command of an army of 54,000 men posted on the border between Bohemia and Silesia. On April 19, during the Prussian invasion of Bohemia, he sent a detachment to Schmirsitz (present-day Smiřice) and posted another one on the left bank of the Elbe near Königgrätz while his outposts retired in front of the advancing Prussian columns. On April 20, he abandoned his positions on the left bank of the Elbe and retired towards Königgratz where he remained idle even though the surrounding country was so suitable to the use of his light troops. On April 30, on Prince Charles’ insistence, Serbelloni finally advanced to Nechanitz (present-day Nechanice) and Neubidschow (present-day Nový Bydžov) with the main body of his army. On May 5, Field-Marshal Daun replaced Serbelloni as commander of the Austrian corps posted at Kolin. On June 18, Serbelloni was wounded at the Battle of Kolin where he commanded the right wing cavalry. On November 22, Serbelloni took part in the Battle of Breslau where he commanded the first line of the left wing cavalry. On December 5, he fought in the disastrous Battle of Leuthen where he was once more at the head of the left wing cavalry. On December 6, he led the rearguard during the retreat of the Austrian army. On December 8, he took position on the heights east of Klein Bresa (present-day Brzezica/PL) and Bohrau (present-day Borów/PL) to delay the Prussian pursuers.

In May 1758, Serbelloni took command of a corps who effected a junction with the Reichsarmee and campaigned in Saxony. On May 11, he was promoted to Austrian field marshal, one year later, on May 27, he was appointed Reichs-field marshal.

In 1759, Serbelloni once more commanded an Austrian corps which operated in Saxony in conjunction with the Reichsarmee.

In 1761, Serbelloni once more assumed command of the Austrian auxiliary corps assisting the Reichsarmee in Saxony.

By mid-March 1762, Serbelloni was at the head of an Austrian army of 35,000 men posted in Saxony. On May 12, his corps was attacked by surprise and defeated in the Combat of Doebeln. At the end of June, he was driven out of his outposts covering the Austrian left wing near Dresden. On September 7, General Hadik arrived at Dresden from Silesia to replace Serbelloni as commander-in-chief of the Austrian forces in Saxony.

After the Seven Years’ War, Serbelloni became the commanding general of Lombardy. In 1765, he was accepted into the Order of the Golden Fleece by Joseph II. He died in 1778 in Milan.


Serbelloni, Johann Baptist Graf in Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich, Vol. 34, 1877, p. 136

J.F.S. [i.e. Johann Friedrich Seyfarth]: Geschichte des seit 1756 in Deutschland und dessen angränzenden Ländern geführten Krieges…, Frankfurt and Leipzig 1758 ff. Vol. 1, p.107, vol. 2 p. 140.

Schmidt-Brentano, Antonio: Kaiserliche und k.k. Generale (1618-1815). [Wien/München] 2006, p. 92.

N.B.: the text for the period extending from 1756 to 1763 is mostly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.


Alister Sharman for the digitized copy of an original copperplate of his collection.

Klaus Roider for additional info on the biography of this general