By dawn on 15 November, Bonaparte's troops reached the intended crossing, and soon afterward Andréossy's engineers had a pontoon bridge in operation. Augereau's division crossed first and headed east and north toward Arcola. Masséna's soldiers followed and, to cover the left flank, took a causeway leading north and west toward Belfiore di Porcile.
Alvinczi posted Oberst Wenzel Brigido's four battalions in the area; of these, two battalions and two cannons defended Arcole. These troops repulsed Augereau's leading demi-brigade. Before long, most of the French soldiers were lying in the lee of the causeway to shelter from the fire. Brigido pulled every available man into the combat. Augereau threw in demi-brigades led by BG Jean Verdier and BG Pierre Verne. At mid-day, Austrian reinforcements led by Anton Mittrowsky began arriving to help the defenders.
Attempting to break the stalemate near Arcole, Bonaparte ordered BG Jean Guieu with two demi-brigades to boat across the Adige below its confluence with the Alpone at Albaredo d'Adige. He also sent a French battalion across the Alpone by boat near its mouth. The latter unit fought its way north along the east bank dike.
Trying to inspire his men to attack, Bonaparte grabbed a flag and stood in the open on the dike. He remained miraculously untouched, but several members of his staff were hit by the intense fire and his aide-de-camp, Jean-Baptiste Muiron, was killed. An unknown officer dragged Bonaparte out of the line of fire and the commanding general ended up in the muddy ditch.