Austerlitz: Prelude to the Battle

The site of the battle today … Evening. Photo from the bus window

There are battles, the impact of which on history was truly enormous. One of these battles was the battle that took place in 1805 in the lands of the then Austrian Empire in the area of ​​Austerlitz. It is believed that there were only three similar battles in the history of wars: at Gaugamela, Cannes and at Austerlitz. In all these three cases, the art of command and control overwhelmed the number of the troops themselves!

“All the Frenchman crap.
It seems French, and maybe English.
But this, perhaps, does not matter, because everyone decisively crap for us,
except ourselves, of course. On our own, we’re so pure
so pure – “purer than the snow of the alpine peaks”;
clean and, moreover, humble, complacent, although formidable to enemies.
It is even difficult to understand why we, with such
completely unfavorable conditions, after all, everyone crap:
they do not appreciate our purity, they are not afraid of thunderstorms ”.

Nikolay Konstantinovich Mikhailovsky

Greatest battles in history.
We are starting a new series “The Greatest Battles in History”, in the description of which all the circumstances of what happened will be considered in detail: from the historical place and action to the last button on the uniform of the last soldier.

Here at VO I already had experience writing similar articles. They considered the battles of Borodino and Preussisch-Eylau. However, they all lacked something. For example, descriptions of the historical setting in which they took place. Or a demonstration of the participants’ uniforms. In a word, there is always a place to improve the presentation of such a topic. And now it is finally embodied in the text.

Austerlitz: Prelude to the Battle
And this is how this strange monument looks during the day …

So, today we have the battle of Austerlitz, which is also called (and quite rightly) the battle of the three emperors.

Well, and she interested me a year ago, when our tourist bus was rolling along the highway to Olomuts at dawn. And then the guide exclaimed:

“Look, look! Soldiers in the field of Austerlitz! ”

And then we saw them.

Huge nutcrackers next to the cannon, standing at the very edge of the field. And it was amazing to look at them and understand that exactly 215 years ago, it was here that cannons rumbled and huge masses of people and horses exterminated each other at the will of just some three people …

And so there was an interest in this topic. And then went the search for relevant literature, its study. And finally, work on the material itself.

One of the main characters in our history: Russian Emperor Alexander I. Artist Francois Pascal Simon Gerard. Wellington Museum

“Great European Game”

Well, now let’s see what events preceded this battle? And what people did everything to make it happen?

To begin with, let us recall that by this time there existed, but two coalitions of opponents of Napoleonic France had not achieved success.

On March 25, 1802, a peace treaty was signed in Amiens, ending the second coalition. But

“The music in the house did not last long.”

The very next year, England imposed an embargo on French and Dutch shipping.

And Napoleon, in revenge, captured Hanover, which was previously outside of his sphere of influence. But most importantly, he organized a huge military camp in Boulogne directly opposite the “Island”, began to drill his troops there and clearly prepare for an amphibious operation.

And this is the one on whose money all this was done. Or rather, let’s say, he was the initiator of the organization of all this political “event” and “soul of the conspiracy”: British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. Portrait by John Hopner. The location of the painting is unknown

Third Coalition Forces

It is clear that the British did not like this at all.

Therefore, they tried to win over the Russian Emperor Alexander I.

He was offered a huge subsidy – 300 francs for every Russian soldier put under arms against Napoleon.

Well, he simply could not resist such a temptation.

It was planned to collect 200,000 people and form three armies from them:

– The first army led by Kutuzov.

– The second army led by Buxgewden.

– The third army under the command of Bennigsen was supposed to act in conjunction with the Prussian troops, if suddenly Prussia decided to join the new coalition.

– A separate detachment of Essen in 10,000 people. He was supposed to be the vanguard, but with his arrival in Olomuts (Olmüts) he was late.

– The landing corps of Lieutenant General Tolstoy was supposed to act in conjunction with the British and Swedes in Holland.

This is the second emperor to participate in the Austerlitz drama. Franz II Holy Roman Emperor and Austrian Emperor Franz I. Artist Leopold Kupelwieser. South Tyrol State Museum Castle

Such were the forces of Russia, which she was preparing to throw into the jaws of the Moloch of war.

But then Austria also joined the coalition that was being created on July 7, 1805. And no less forces were involved there:

– The Austrian army of 60,000 people, moreover, since the Bavarian elector remained loyal to Napoleon, it was occupied by the Austrian troops of Baron Mack von Leiberich.

– Army of Archduke Charles of 100,000 in Italy.

– Archduke Johann’s army of 22,000 in Tyrol.

The loser king of Sweden Gustav IV Adolf. Portrait of Per Kraft the Younger 1809 Location unknown

Sweden was preparing to support Tolstoy’s corps with troops.

It was also not without a woman. The Neapolitan queen Maria Carolina opened the border of her state to Russian and English troops, which posed a threat to the Kingdom of Italy, which was also supposed to be defended by French troops.

And here is the woman politician: the Neapolitan queen Maria Carolina. Portrait by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun Le Brune. Condé Museum

Finally, Prussia, which the British also offered to pay for every Prussian soldier. And she didn’t go for it.

But she allowed the Russian troops to pass through their territory to join with the Austrians. That is, in relation to Napoleon, she took a clearly unfriendly position.

As a result, this is how the third anti-French European coalition took shape. England supplied money and weapons. Austria, Russia and partly Sweden are manpower. And the Kingdom of Naples and Prussia – freedom of action for the allies in their territories.

And, finally, the legendary and great “Buonaparte” himself – Emperor Napoleon I. Artist Francois Pascal Simon Gerard. National Palace Museum Malmaison

The emperor ordered to go east! And let’s go …

It has always been the case that the most important problem for people was created by inconsistency in needs.

That is, knowledge, for example, was in one place. And the people who needed it were different. In one place there was a forest, but it was needed in the middle of the steppe. The same thing happened in the war: soldiers were in one place, and they were needed in another. And most often the winner was the one who threw them into place the fastest.

So Napoleon acted quickly and decisively in the face of the threat.

Troops from the camp of Boulogne were ordered to go to … the Danube!

Of these, seven corps were formed, consisting of infantry, cavalry and artillery. Each corps was commanded by a marshal. And all the formations of these corps moved towards the target indicated by the emperor with unprecedented speed. At the same time, a message was sent to Italy to Marshal Massena to have an army of 60,000 in readiness. General Gouvion Saint-Cyr was also expected to muster 20,000 troops to attack Naples in order to take him out of the game.

To ensure the movement of such a huge mass of people and horses, the emperor requisitioned 3,500 carts, which were to be harnessed to four horses with two drivers. Not all carters obeyed the order. Especially when he learned that he was going to go to Austria. But many, driven by patriotic motives, arrived with the best horses.

Not only the route was thought out, but also the order in which his troops should go. So, the infantry marched in ranks of two … along the side of the road! Artillery and wagons rolled along the road. The drummers walked in three groups: vanguard, rearguard and center, and set the rhythm with drum rolls.

Every hour a five-minute stop was announced – “to recover.” At the stops, the drummers fell silent. But regimental bands began to play. Only generals were allowed to ride in a cart. The colonels were supposed to accompany the regiment on horseback. One battalion was a hundred paces away from the other. So it was known exactly when which part would fit. The speed of movement was one league per hour – 4.44 km. The cavalry also moved in twos on the other side of the road.

Map of the advance of the French troops before the Battle of Austerlitz. Illustration from the book by F.G. Urtulla “1805. Austerlitz. Battle of the Three Emperors “. M .: Eksmo, 2013.S. 7.

Periodically, if necessary, the speed of movement and increased. For example, Friant’s division covered 110 km in 40 hours.

Before the march, all the soldiers received a frock coat and a pair of shoes.

However, it cannot be said that the soldiers walked lightly. In addition to the weapons and ammunition they had to put, many of the soldiers carried on themselves “what God sent” and were heavily loaded. But they did not murmur. Because

“Does not carry its own burden.”

The officers turned a blind eye to this. Especially if you knew the courage of this or that “loaded” soldier.

All the places of the camps were calculated in advance and were also prepared in advance for receiving soldiers.

The march took place from August 29 to September 21, 1805. And as a result, the transfer of a huge mass of troops was successfully completed.

However, nothing only exceptionally good in life happens without bad. The bad one is also always somewhere nearby.

The genius of Napoleon helped him to gather troops in the right place. But the British hit him where he least expected.

On September 21, Admiral Nelson defeated the French fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar. True, Napoleon himself found out about this only on November 1 …

Well, we will tell you about the fighting qualities of Napoleon’s army and his opponents next time.

To be continued…

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