The weakened center of the Russian army had no other choice but to retreat from the onslaught of the main forces of the French army.
Napoleon sent a blow to the main forces on the left wing of the Allies, which were surrounded from the front and rear. Only then the commander of the left wing of the allies, after seeing the general situation of the battle, began to retreat. Part of the troops were thrown back to the ponds and were forced to retreat on the frozen ice. The right wing of the allied army resisted; but eventually was also forced to retreat after Napoleon sent cavalry against them. Emperors Alexander and Franz fled the battlefield long before the end of the battle.
The wounded Kutuzov barely escaped captivity. The Russian army for the first time since the time of Peter the Great lost the general battle. The victorious frenzy of the Russian Emperor gave way to complete despair. Allied forces lost up to 27, troops; most of them, 21 thousand, Russian. The losses of the French, according to various sources, amounted to , troops. After the battle, Austrian Emperor Franz told Alexander that it was pointless to continue the struggle. The result of the battle was the Austrian withdrawal from the war, and the disintegration of the Third Anti-French Coalition of European Powers.
Russia continued the war with France as part of the Fourth Coalition. The defeat of Austerlitz made a great impression on the Russian public, who considered the Russian army to be invincible from the time of the Narva battle, but this did not cause a decline of the spirit of the Russian army and people. The battle of Austerlitz in popular historical literature is often seen as an example of a battle that led to the complete defeat of the enemy.
He had to detach strong forces to guard his flanks, while his opponents were expected sizable reinforcements. The Archduke Ferdinand was approaching from the north-west. The Archdukes Charles and John were coming from Italy, although would probably arrive too late.
Nearer to hand were 4, Austrians under Merveldt and 12, Russians under Essen. These two forces actually joined the defeated Allied army two and four days after the battle! Napoleon was already outnumbered and the situation could only get worse. He realised that his best chance of avoiding a potentially disastrous retreat was to win a crushing battlefield victory. Even a standard victory wouldn't be enough, with enemy reinforcements on their way from every direction. The French army was now quite scattered. Davout's III Corps was near Vienna, but part of it would reach the battlefield in time to take part in the fighting.
The number of troops on each sides isn't entirely certain, but the Allies had around 85, men while Napoleon fought with around 73, After occupying Brunn Napoleon examined the ground he expected to fight over. On 21 November he visited what would become the battlefield of Austerlitz.
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The Santon mound close to the road captured his attention and he ordered its eastern slopes to be steeply scarped and captured Austrian light cannon to be placed on the summit. He also examined the famous Pratzen Heights and the valleys around them. The basic outline of Napoleon's plan was simple. He hoped to trick the Allies into moving south to attack the French right wing. Most of his army would be concentrated on the French left. Once the Allies were committed on the right, the French left would sweep around their northern flank the allied right.
Davout's corps, advancing from Vienna, would attack the Allied southern flank left. The entire Allied army would be trapped between three French forces, cut off from its supplies at Olmutz and forced to surrender. This wasn't actually what happened during the battle. Two elements of Napoleon's original plan failed to fall into place. First, the Allies didn't move their entire army south, but instead left a strong force under Bagration to guard their right wing.
This prevented Napoleon from launching his grand envelopment from the north. Second despite an impressive march Davout's corps didn't arrive in time or in enough strength to form the southern wing of the planned grand envelopment. These two developments forced Napoleon to adopt a new plan after the fighting had started.
Soult's corps, in the centre-right of the French line, managed to capture the Pratzen Heights, in the centre of the Allied line. After fighting off a spirited Allied counterattack the French on the heights turned right, and attacked the isolated left flank of the Allied army. This move allowed Napoleon to win his crushing victory, although it wasn't quite as devastating as he had originally hoped.
After the battle Napoleon claimed that the attack in the Allied centre had been his plan all along,. Napoleon's detailed plans went through three versions. In the first he envisaged a total envelopment of the Allied armies. The main attack from the north was to get behind them while Davout coming from Vienna was to complete the trap.
The second version was adopted when it became clear that the Allies were moving further south than expected while Davout was slower and his men more tired. Davout's role became to help defend the line of the Goldbach, Soult was to lead the main assault, supported by the rest of the French left. The third version was adopted on the night of December after the Allies threatened Telnitz at the southern end of the French line. Napoleon went to inspect the situation. This was followed by an impromptu torch-lit procession, after which he came up with his third plan.
Soult's corps now had the task of defending the Goldbach, while two of his brigades were to form the right-hand side of the French attack, supported on their left by the French left wing. This was the plan that was put into operation on 2 December, although as we will see it had to be modified during the battle. None of these detailed plans would have been of any value if the Allies had behaved more sensibly.
The French were isolated and unlikely to receive any reinforcements, while fresh troops were advancing to join the Allied army. Even a delay of four days would have significantly altered the balance of power, allowing 16, extra Allied troops to arrive. Napoleon knew that he had to trick the Allies into attacking him. He achieved this with a simple deception plan. Two of his corps were posted at some distance from the eventual battlefield — Bernadotte to the north-west to watch the Archduke Ferdinand, Davout to the south at Vienna.
The Allies thus believed that the French army was rather smaller than it really was. In the days before the battle Napoleon abandoned his most advanced positions, which reached beyond Austerlitz town towards the Allied camp. He send General Savary to the Allies as an envoy, officially to attempt to negotiate a truce but actually to spy on the Allies and to try and convince them that Napoleon feared a battle.
Finally, on 1 December Napoleon ordered his men to make a 'panicked' retreat from the apparently crucial Pratzen heights. All of these efforts worked perfectly. The Allied supreme command structure was a mess.
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Kutuzov was officially the commander-in-chief, but Tsar Alexander took real control of the army. He was dominated by a group of his young friends, whose general attitude was aggressive. Kutuzov realised that the best way to defeat Napoleon was to simply wait him out, but the Tsar listened to his friends and not to his experienced commander-in-chief. The Austrian Emperor Francis was present with the army, but after the defeat at Ulm the Russians had a very low opinion of the Austrian army, and Francis had little influence.
The Allied plan was almost exactly what Napoleon had hoped for. Their aim was to move most of Allied army onto the French right flank, outflank Napoleon and cut his lines of communication with Vienna. The French might be forced to retreat without a fight, but if not then the Allies would overwhelm their right flank. In order to protect their right flank and the road back to their camp the Allies decided to post General Bagration and the army advance guard on their right, guarding the main highway.
This meant that Bagration was facing the main part of the French left wing, in an area where Napoleon didn't expect to find any enemy troops. If both plans had worked out as expected then the two armies could have ended up rotating in a clock-wise direction around the centre of the battlefield, but neither side's main attack made as much progress as expected. The main allied attack was to be made by four columns. On the far left was a small Austrian force under the Austrian General Kienmayer. He had around 7, men with an equal mix of infantry and cavalry.
All three columns on the Allied left were overwhelmingly infantry formations — Doctorov had 13, infantry and only cavalry. He was to cross the Goldbach at Telnitz and then curve around to the right. His task was to cross the stream between Telnitz and Sokolnitz. Przbyswski or Prebyshevsky, was smaller, with only 7, infantry, and contained a mix of Austrian and Russian troops. Its task was to capture the castle at Sokolnitz and advance beyond it. All three of these columns were under the overall command of General Buxhowden. Miloradovich and J. It was much stronger, with 23, infantry, and was to cross the stream north of Sokolnitz.
On the right of the army Lieutenant-General Peter I. Bagration and the 9, infantry and 4, cavalry of the Advance Guard was posted on the main road. His task was to guard against the French cavalry and to shield the first four columns as they moved south. The Allied plan wasn't intrinsically flawed, but it did have two serious failings.
First, it assumed that the French were already beaten and thus would neither offer any serious opposition at the Goldbach stream nor launch an offensive of their own. It also assumed that the Allied army was capable of carrying out such a complex manoeuvre. Even if the army's high command had been more capable, work on translating the orders from German into Russian didn't begin until 3am on the day of the battle, and some commanders didn't receive their orders until after the start of the fighting!
The Allies decided to attack Napoleon on 24 November. At first they hoped to move on the following day, but they weren't organised to achieve this and instead began to move on the 27th. Wischau, north-east of Austerlitz, and the heights of Raussnitz were captured on 28 November. In order to encourage the Allied attack Napoleon ordered Murat and Soult to abandon their positions around Austerlitz, and take up a new position west of the Goldbach stream.
On the same day Bernadotte and Davout were ordered to rejoin the main army. Early on 29 November Murat and Soult moved into their new positions. The Guard and the Grenadier Division moved north to join them, forming a powerful left wing. Desperate to lure the Allies into battle, Napoleon gave every indication in the days preceding the engagement that the French army was in a pitiful state, even abandoning the dominant Pratzen Heights near Austerlitz. He deployed the French army below the Pratzen Heights and deliberately weakened his right flank, enticing the Allies to launch a major assault there in the hopes of rolling up the whole French line.
Meanwhile, the heavy Allied deployment against the French right weakened the allied center on the Pratzen Heights, which was viciously attacked by the IV Corps of Marshal Soult. With the Allied center demolished, the French swept through both enemy flanks and sent the Allies fleeing chaotically, capturing thousands of prisoners in the process. The Allied disaster significantly shook the faith of Emperor Francis in the British -led war effort.
France and Austria agreed to an armistice immediately and the Treaty of Pressburg followed shortly after, on 26 December. It also imposed an indemnity of 40 million francs on the defeated Habsburgs and allowed the fleeing Russian troops free passage through hostile territories and back to their home soil. Critically, victory at Austerlitz permitted the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine , a collection of German states intended as a buffer zone between France and Central Europe. These achievements, however, did not establish a lasting peace on the continent.
Europe had been in turmoil since the start of the French Revolutionary Wars in A Second Coalition , led by Britain, Austria and Russia, and including the Ottoman Empire, Portugal and Naples, was formed in , but by , this too had been defeated, leaving Britain the only opponent of the new French Consulate.
Battle of Austerlitz (1805) – Napoleon’s Greatest Victory
For the first time in ten years, all of Europe was at peace. But many problems persisted between the two sides, making implementation of the treaty increasingly difficult. Napoleon was angry that British troops had not evacuated the island of Malta. British Prime Minister William Pitt spent and in a flurry of diplomatic activity geared towards forming a new coalition against France, and by April , Britain and Russia had signed an alliance. He intended to use this invasion force to strike at England, and was so confident of success that he had commemorative medals struck to celebrate the conquest of the English.
Boredom among the troops occasionally set in, but Napoleon paid many visits and conducted lavish parades in order to boost morale. At the start, this French army had about , men organized into seven corps , which were large field units that contained 36 to 40 cannon each and were capable of independent action until other corps could come to the rescue. In addition to these forces, Napoleon created a cavalry reserve of 22, organized into two cuirassier divisions , four mounted dragoon divisions, one division of dismounted dragoons and one of light cavalry, all supported by 24 artillery pieces.
There was no permanent formation above the regimental level, and senior officers were mostly recruited from aristocratic circles; commissions were generally given to the highest bidder, regardless of competence.
The Russian infantry was considered one of the most hardy in Europe, however, and there was fine Russian artillery, manned by trained professional soldiers, who regularly fought hard to prevent their pieces from falling into enemy hands. Archduke Charles , brother of the Austrian Emperor, had started to reform the Austrian army in by taking away power from the Hofkriegsrat , the military-political council responsible for the armed forces.
Karl Mack became the new main commander in Austria's army, instituting reforms on the eve of the war that called for a regiment to be composed of four battalions of four companies , rather than three battalions of six companies. In August , Napoleon, Emperor of the French since December of the previous year, turned his sights from the English Channel to the Rhine to deal with the new Austrian and Russian threats.
Napoleon swung his forces southward in a wheeling movement that put the French at the Austrian rear.
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The Ulm Maneuver was well-executed and on 20 October Mack and 23, Austrian troops surrendered at Ulm, bringing the number of Austrian prisoners of the campaign to 60, The French gained , muskets, cannons, and intact bridges across the Danube. Meanwhile, Russian delays prevented them from saving the Austrian armies; the Russians then withdrew to the northeast, to await reinforcements and link up with surviving Austrian units. On 9 September , Kutuzov arrived at the battlefield, quickly contacting Francis I of Austria and his courtiers to discuss strategy and logistics.
Under pressure from Kutuzov, the Austrians agreed to supply munitions and weapons in a timely manner. Kutuzov also spotted shortcomings in the Austrian defense plan, which he called "very dogmatic. The French followed after Kutuzov, but soon found themselves in a difficult position. Prussian intentions were unknown and could be hostile, the Russian and Austrian armies had converged, and French lines of communication were extremely long, requiring strong garrisons to keep them open. Napoleon realized that to capitalize on the success at Ulm, he had to force the Allies to battle and defeat them.
On the Russian side, Kutuzov also realized Napoleon needed to do battle; so instead of clinging to the "suicidal" Austrian defense plan, Kutuzov decided to retreat. He ordered Pyotr Bagration to contain the French at Vienna with soldiers, and instructed Bagration to accept Murat's ceasefire proposal so that the Allied Army could have more time to retreat. It was later discovered that the proposal was false and had been used in order to launch a surprise attack on Vienna.
Nonetheless, Bagration was able to hold off the French assault for a time by negotiating an armistice with Murat, thereby providing Kutuzov time to position himself with the Russian rearguard near Hollabrunn. Murat initially refrained from an attack, believing the entire Russian army stood before him. Napoleon soon realized Murat's mistakes and ordered him to pursue quickly; but the allied army had already retreated to Olmutz.
Napoleon did not stay still. The French Emperor decided to set a psychological trap in order to lure the Allies out. Days before any fighting, Napoleon had been giving the impression that his army was weak and that he desired a negotiated peace. The Allied forces, numbering about 89,, seemed far superior and would be tempted to attack the outnumbered French army. However, the Allies did not know that Bernadotte, Mortier and Davout were already within the supported distance, and could be called in by forced marches from Iglau and Vienna respectively, raising the French number to 75, troops.
Napoleon's lure did not stop at that. On 25 November, General Savary was sent to the Allied headquarters at Olmutz to deliver Napoleon's message expressing his desire to avoid a battle, while secretly examining the Allied forces' situation. As expected, the overture was seen as a sign of weakness. When Francis I offered an armistice on the 27th, Napoleon accepted enthusiastically.
On the same day, Napoleon ordered Soult to abandon both Austerlitz and the Pratzen Heights and, while doing so, to create an impression of chaos during the retreat that would induce the enemy to occupy the Heights. The next day 28 November , the French Emperor requested a personal interview with Alexander I and received a visit from the Tsar's most impetuous aide, Prince Peter Dolgorukov.
The meeting was another part of the trap, as Napoleon intentionally expressed anxiety and hesitation to his opponents. Dolgorukov reported to the Tsar an additional indication of French weakness. The plan was successful. Many of the Allied officers, including the Tsar's aides and the Austrian Chief of Staff Franz von Weyrother , strongly supported an immediate attack and appeared to sway Tsar Alexander.
The battle began with the French army outnumbered. Napoleon had some 72, men and guns for the impending battle, with about 7, troops under Davout still far to the south in the direction of Vienna. At first, Napoleon was not totally confident of victory. According to Frederick C. The battle took place about six miles ten kilometers southeast of the town of Brno , between that town and Austerlitz Czech : Slavkov u Brna in what is now the Czech Republic.
The centrepiece of the entire area was the Pratzen Prace Heights, a gently sloping hill about 35 to 40 feet 10 to 12 meters in height. An aide noted that Napoleon repeatedly told his marshals, "Gentlemen, examine this ground carefully, it is going to be a battlefield; you will have a part to play upon it.
An Allied council met on 1 December to discuss proposals for the battle. Most of the Allied strategists had two fundamental ideas in mind: making contact with the enemy and securing the southern flank that held the communication line to Vienna. Although the Tsar and his immediate entourage pushed hard for a battle, Emperor Francis of Austria was more cautious and, as mentioned, he was seconded by Kutuzov, the Commander-in-chief of the Russians and the Allied troops.
The Allies deployed most of their troops into four columns that would attack the French right. The Russian Tsar rudely stripped the authority of Commander-in-chief M. Kutuzov and gave it to Franz von Weyrother.
In the battle, Kutuzov could only command the IV Corps of the Allied army, although he was still the de facto commander because the Tsar was afraid to take over in case his favoured plan failed. Napoleon was hoping that the Allied forces would attack, and to encourage them, he deliberately weakened his right flank. He shrugged off their suggestion of retreat.