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Marshal Murat at Wertingen, 8 October 1805

Marshal Murat at Wertingen, 8 October 1805

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Marshal Murat at Wertingen, 8 October 1805

This picture of Marshal Murat shows him at the combat of Wertingen on 8 October 1805, the first significant fighting during the Ulm campaign.

Take from Histoire du Consulat et de l'Empire, faisant suite à l'Histoire de la Révolution Française by Louis Adolphe Thiers

Marshal Murat at Wertingen, 8 October 1805 - History

Joachim Murat, King of Naples, 1808-1815, Marshal (1804)

(La Bastide-Fortunière (Lot), 1767 - Died Pizzo, 1815)

Joachim, the youngest of twelve children, was born into a family of innkeepers. He studied at the Lazarist seminary in Toulouse. In February 1787, after a quarrel with a friend, he decided against becoming a priest and enlisted in a cavalry regiment. Two years later, he had been promoted to sergeant but was involved in a mutiny and was dismissed from the army.

When he returned home, his father cut off the purse-strings. Murat opened a grocery shop. Even then his gallantry impressed people and his town appointed him to participate in the Fête de la Fédération on July 14, 1790. The following year, he was reinstated in the army as a private.

He was named second lieutenant on May 30, 1791. Investigated after the fall of Robespierre, Murat, a fervent Republican, went so far as to adopt the name Marat in late 1794, he found himself with no assignment in Paris. On the eve of 13 Vendémiaire, Barras and a young Corsican general, Bonaparte, needed a volunteer to recover the guns parked at Sablons. Murat offered his services. He returned with 40 pieces of artillery which enabled them to quell the royalist uprising.

This action invariably linked Murat's and Bonaparte's destinies. The general named him brigade chief on February 2, 1796 and one of his aide-de-camps. He thus accompanied Bonaparte to Italy in 1796, where he distinguished himself by his bravery. In charge of taking the enemy flags to the Directory in Paris, he was also asked to intervene with Joséphine to convince her to join her husband. He returned from Paris as brigadier general. He fought in the siege of Mantua after Campo-Formio, Bonaparte sent him to the Congress of Rastadt.

Murat again distinguished himself at the head of a cavalry brigade in Egypt. After the taking of Alexandria (July 2, 1798) and the Battle of the Pyramids (July 21, 1798), he was the first to mount the attack at Acre (March 28, 1799) during the Syrian expedition. At the Battle of Aboukir, on July 25, 1799, he personally captured Pasha Mustapha, whose two fingers he cut off in the heat of the action. This earned him an unusual injury a bullet pierced his jaw from one side to the other and a promotion to general. Murat became a popular figure.

However, during the many years spent together, Bonaparte was abrupt with the man who had shown proof of his loyalty on 18-Brumaire, shouting at his grenadiers before the astounded deputies: "Throw 'em all out!" Bonaparte gave him the hand of his sister Caroline, in February 1800, after Joséphine intervened on his behalf. He made him marshal in 1804, grand admiral and prince a year later, but seemed hesitant to entrust him with major commands.

Governor of Paris in 1804, Murat reluctantly signed for the creation of a military commission which presided at the execution of the Duc d'Enghien. He left the following year for the Austrian campaign, at the head of the cavalry. After the taking of Ulm (October 15-20, 1805), he pursued the Austrian and Russian armies along the Danube. Although Bonaparte ordered him to cover the flanks of the Grande Armée, he entered Vienna at the head of his troops on November 11, 1805. Napoleon reproached him severely for this act of insubordination. Murat made up for it at the Battle of Austerlitz, on December 2.

Napoleon granted him the Grand Duchy of Berg and Clèves in 1806 he needed someone he could trust to ensure the Continental blockade. Once Murat was in power, he was concerned about the well-being of his subjects. Again there was tension with the Emperor, who soon recalled him into the ranks. In 1806, Prussia, England, Sweden and Russia declared war on France. Murat chased the Prussians to Leipzig, fought brilliantly in the Battle of Jena on October 14, 1806 and forced Blücher to capitulate at Lübeck. He was the first to enter Warsaw on November 28, 1806. At Eylau (February 8, 1807), he was at the command of the entire French cavalry. On Napoleon's orders, he launched his troops to repulse the Russian center. This charge went down in History as the "charge of the 80 squadrons."

Napoleon offered him the crown of Naples in 1808, provided he remain a pawn in Imperial politics. Murat no doubt had dreams of the Spanish throne, for which he had made personal sacrifices. Sent to Spain with no specific instructions, he had violently quelled the insurrection on May 2, 1808 and organized the exodus of Ferdinand VII and Charles IV to Bayonne. He quaked with the thought of having this Neapolitan crown taken away, as was the case for the King of Holland, whose kingdom was purely and simply annexed to the Empire in 1810.

Murat the commoner proved to be a conscientious king. He introduced reforms and organized an army. Friction with the Emperor resumed, heightened by the dissension between Caroline and Murat, who fought over power.

In 1812, Napoleon called his brother-in-law to his side for the Russian campaign, once again at the head of the cavalry. During the six-month campaign, Murat would constantly be in contact with the Russian armies. During the Battle of Borodino on September 7, he charged out to meet the Russian guns, at the head of 15,000 horsemen.

While Napoleon was in Moscow, in October 1812, he almost got surrounded at Taroutino (October 18, 1812) but managed to extricate himself. In December, Napoleon left him in command of the Grande Armée while he hastened back to Paris. Murat did not want the command, but wanted to save his kingdom. At Vilna, he lost his head and abandoned the Grande Armée. On his return to Naples, he wrote to Napoleon to explain his actions. He asked to return to the Emperor's service.

He returned to fight in the campaign of the summer of 1813 Napoleon gave him the command of the Army of the South, assigned to contain the Schwarzenberg coalition. After the defeat at Leipzig (October 16-19, 1813), he returned to his kingdom. In January 1814, he signed a treaty with Austria.

At the Congress of Vienna of 1815, the generous monies he paid the diplomats, particularly Talleyrand, served no purpose. There was the possibility that the Bourbons might return to the Neapolitan throne. A desperate Murat looked for opportunities on all sides he wrote a cordial letter to Louis XVIII and joined Napoleon in exile on Elba. The latter informed him of his plans to return. Murat declared war on Austria as soon as he learned the Emperor had landed. He soon occupied Rome, Ancona and Bologna. He launched a proclamation from Rimini, calling for the unification of Italy. Austrian troops, led by Neipperg, soon encircled him and he was defeated at Tolentino, on April 21, 1815.

Murat had to flee while Ferdinand regained the throne. He arrived in France, but Napoleon refused to see him. In Corsica, he assembled 600 men, enough for him to dream of reconquering Italy. He sailed for the Italian coast, landed at Pizzo and was taken prisoner. A decree from the king ordered the commission who tried him to allow him "half an hour to receive the last rites." Murat himself gave the order to fire, on October 13, 1815.


1805 [ edit | edit source ]

At its beginning, Napoleon's Grande Armée comprised seven army corps, the Imperial Guard, the artillery reserve, and the Cavalry Reserve. The latter consisted of two cuirassier, one light cavalry, and five dragoon divisions, including one dismounted. The mass of 22,000 cavalrymen was supported by 24 pieces of artillery. The remainder of the army's cavalry was distributed among the army corps in brigades or divisions. Ώ] Napoleon appointed Marshal Joachim Murat to command the Reserve Cavalry. Generals of Division Étienne Marie Antoine Champion de Nansouty and Jean-Joseph Ange d'Hautpoul led the cuirassier divisions while Generals of Division Louis Klein, Frédéric Henri Walther, Marc Antoine de Beaumont, and François Antoine Louis Bourcier headed the dragoon divisions, and General of Division Louis Baraguey d'Hilliers commanded the dismounted unit. ΐ] On 8 October 1805 at the Battle of Wertingen, Murat and Marshal Jean Lannes attacked an isolated Austrian division under Feldmarschall-Leutnant Franz Xaver von Auffenberg. Murat's horsemen included Klein's 3,000-strong dragoon division, Beaumont's 2,400-man dragoon division, and some light cavalry under Generals of Brigade Antoine Charles Louis de Lasalle and Anne-François-Charles Trelliard. With the support of some V Corps infantry, Murat's horsemen rode down the hapless Austrians, inflicting losses of 400 killed and wounded, 2,900 prisoners, six guns, and six flags. The French admitted 174 casualties. Α]

The cavalry saw much service during the rest of the Ulm Campaign. At the Battle of Haslach-Jungingen on 11 October 1805, the 15th and 17th Dragoon Regiments lost their eagles. However, the action was a French victory over a greatly superior force. Β] Murat led his horsemen in a series of actions between 16 and 18 October before securing the surrender of Feldmarschall-Leutnant Franz von Werneck's Austrian corps. In these clashes Klein's 1st, 2nd, 4th, 14th, 20th, and 26th Dragoon Regiments, the 1st Cuirassier Regiment, and other units were involved. Γ] In the Battle of Schöngrabern on 16 November, Klein's troopers were engaged as were the 11th, 13th, and 22nd Dragoons from Walther's division. Δ] At the Battle of Austerlitz on 2 December, Murat led approximately 7,400 cavalrymen including Nansouty's 1st Heavy Cavalry Division, Hautpoul's 2nd Heavy Cavalry Division, Walther's 2nd Dragoon Division, General of Division François Étienne de Kellermann's light cavalry division, and General of Brigade Édouard Jean Baptiste Milhaud's light cavalry brigade. Beaumont's 3rd Dragoon Division was attached to the IV Corps while Bourcier's 4th Dragoon Division with 2,500 men and three guns were attached to the III Corps. Ε]

1808 [ edit | edit source ]

After the Battle of Bailen and the subsequent French surrender on 21 July 1808, the myth of French military superiority was exploded. In the sequel, King Joseph Bonaparte withdrew the remaining Imperial French forces behind the Ebro River. Ζ] Determined to conquer Spain, Napoleon resolved to go there himself with a large army. He ordered three army corps to march from Germany to reinforce Joseph's badly shaken survivors. Η] Among other reinforcements, one light cavalry and five dragoon divisions were transferred to Spain under the command of Generals of Division Victor de Fay de La Tour-Maubourg, Milhaud, Armand Lebrun de La Houssaye, and Jean Thomas Guillaume Lorge, and General of Brigades Jacques Louis François Milet and Jean Baptiste Marie Franceschi-Delonne. La Tour-Maubourg led the 1st Dragoon Division with 3,695 troopers, Milhaud the 2nd with 2,940, Houssaye the 3rd with 2,020, Lorge the 4th with 3,101, and Milet the 5th with 2,903. Franceschi led the 2,400-man light cavalry division. Two of Milhaud's regiments were assigned to other units and Milet was soon replaced by Kellermann. ⎖] On 9 November 1808, Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bessières was replaced by Marshal Nicolas Soult in charge of the II Corps and ordered to lead the Cavalry Reserve. ⎗] However, the Cavalry Reserve was not destined to remain intact. In December, Franceschi was already assigned to Soult, Houssaye and Lorge were directed to join Soult, and Milet was still on the march to Spain. Meanwhile, La Tour-Maubourg and Milhaud were assigned to help defend Madrid. ⎘] Bessières remained with the cavalry near Madrid. ⎙]

Battle Notes

Austrian Army
• Commander: Auffenberg
• 4 Command Cards
• Optional 2 Tactician Cards

9 2 1 1 1 2

French Army
• Commander: Murat
• 5 Command Cards
• Optional 3 Tactician Cards
• Move First

Napoleon’s Ulm Campaign – Inside Bonaparte’s ‘Masterpiece’ Victory Over Austria in the Autumn of 1805

IN TERMS OF Napoleonic history, Oct 14 is a major anniversary.

On that day in 1806, Napoleon beat a Prussian army at the Battle of Jena, while his marshal Davout had a decisive victory against other Prussians at the Battle of Auerstaedt.

Few realize that exactly a year prior, during his infamous Danube Campaign of 1805, Napoleon’s Grande Armée won another important victory at the Battle of Elchingen. This victory sealed the fate of the Austrian army under General Mack (aka Karl Freiherr Mack von Leiberich), paving the way for another brilliant and decisive masterpiece for the French Emperor.

In April 1805, England faced invasion as Napoleon massed 180,000 soldiers in northern France. While Bonaparte awaited a naval victory that would allow him and his army to cross the Channel, British Prime Minister William Pitt convinced Austria and Russia to join the fight against Napoleon, producing the War of the Third Coalition.

An attack by the combined Austrian and Russian forces was meant to catch the French, whose army was massed in the north of France, by surprise. The staff of the Grande Armée however had anticipated this attack from Central Europe Marshal Louis-Alexandre Berthier, chief of staff, had received reports from spies that the British were pushing their allies in the war, and had therefore prepared plans to quickly respond to the coalition powers.

Using Berthier’s plans, Napoleon designed a maneuver to split the allied armies. Napoleon dictated orders to his aide Daru for six hours straight, and the army started to move. Joined by other troops, making it a force of 227,000 men, the seven corps of the Grande Armée were to cross the Rhine river and turn to the south, and neutralize the Austrian army of General Mack in Bavaria, which at that time was an ally of France. Prince Ferdinand and his 70,000 men had to be out of fight prior to the arrival of the Russians forces, which took time to be assembled and marched off to meet with the Austrians. As many as 40,000 of Ferdinand’s best troops were placed under the command of General Mack, with the task to stop any French movement from the west.

The move around Mack’s Army was accomplished at a pace unmatched before. Starting to leave France on Aug. 22, the seven corps of the Grande Armée had crossed the Rhine on Sept. 26. They pushed further east and turned south to put themselves between Augsburg and Ingolstadt.

This turning movement was the toughest part of the plan, as it exposed the left flank, furthest to the east, to an eventual Russian attack. Through effective reconnaissance, the French minimized the risks, and practiced efficient deception south of Stuttgart. This left Mack secure in his illusion that the main French force was coming straight from the west, instead of the north.

Mack, convinced that the main force was approaching from the Black Forrest, decided to wait in Ulm, an advanced position for the Austrian army. While he deployed his troops, the Grande Armée pushed southeast, and crossed the Danube on Oct. 7. Mack understood that he was encircled, while more French soldiers kept marching towards his then isolated encampment.

In an effort to open a way East toward Augsburg, where Mack hoped to escape and meet the rest of the Austrian forces, one of his division attempted to fight the French at Wertingen on Oct. 8, but was defeated by Murat and his troops. The Austrians fought again on Oct. 11 at Haslach, north of Ulm, but their forces failed to disband the division of Dupont.

Napoleon realized he had sent too many troops to the south of Ulm leaving Mack a northern escape route. Bonaparte reacted quickly, and ordered Marshal Ney and his Sixth Corps to move north of the Danube, to close the last way out for Mack’s army.

This move was intended to finish the encircling maneuver of the French army around the Austrians.

On Oct. 14, Ney was to have his corps cross the bridge of Elchingen towards the north with 24,500 men, and attack the Austrian positions around a nearby abbey. The wooden bridge was greatly damaged, and the French engineers had to work under fire to rebuild it. Once Ney’s corps had crossed the river, his men pushed through the woods into the fields east of the abbey, where the main Austrian force was waiting for them.

The Austrians were trying to keep the French away of the road to Augsburg, which was further north. This road was the only exit left for Mack’s forces Ney’s job was to strike fast and cut off the enemy’s retreat. Despite rushing uphill under heavy fire, the French forces kept up the assault, and beat back counterattacks from the Austrian cavalry by adopting ‘L’ formations in their lines of fire.

Solidly entrenched behind the walls of the abbey courtyard, the Austrians kept up their fire. French general Seroux, anticipating the toughness of the fight that was to come, ordered artillery brought forward to maximize his firepower. He used the cannons to pierce a whole in the walls, allowing the French to overwhelm the strong Austrian position near the abbey.

The what was left of the Austrian centre, located between Ober-Elchingen and Unter-Elchingen, were then swept by another French attack. At this point, the last divisions of Ney’s corps – under Mahler – crossed the bridge providing the marshal fresh reserves. They’d not be needed French dragoons charged the last Austrian positions, concluding a decisive hard-fought victory for the Napoleon’s Grande Armée.

At the tactical level, the Battle of Elchingen was revealing. Not only had the French shown bravery in the face of the enemy, with Ney and his generals leading from the front under heavy fire, but they had also proved able to take the initiative when needed, as demonstrated by their engineers or their artillery. This gallant success came after some recent notable failures for the Grande Armée, namely its intelligence’s inability to foresee an Austrian counterattack against Dupont at Haslach.

At the operational level, the victory at Elchingen earned by Ney’s Sixth Corps was the final nail in Mack’s army’s coffin. Mack had to surrender his 27,000 men and 70 cannons on Oct. 19, when he understood that his troops could not fight any way out of Ulm in the face of the 200,000 French soldiers.

Some 16,000 remaining forces tried to escape, but were eventually caught by Murat’s cavalry and forced to surrender. It was a brilliant success for Napoleon, who demonstrated maneuver qualities unmatched before. The fast pace of the Grande Armée had been its best weapon, as described by a saying among French troops that “the emperor fought with their legs,” instead of their rifles.

Indeed, despite small engagements at battles like Wertingen, Haslach and Elchingen, most of his Grande Armée remained untouched, while the main Austrian force was out of fight. His army was ready for another decisive battle, confident in its capacities, and eager to win against a Russian enemy that was doubting in the face of these early successes. Moving very swiftly eastward and placing itself between the Austrians and their capitals, Napoleon and his army forced Mack to the surrender, and prepared his biggest victory to come a few weeks later at Austerlitz.

Sylvain Batut is a military history writer with a master’s degree in journalism from Temple University in Philadelphia. You can follow him on Twitter at @sylvain31000

General Auguste-Daniel Belliard

Chief of staff to Marshal Murat and a notable cavalry general

Place of Birth: Fontenay-le-Comte, Vendée, France

Died: January 28, 1832

Cause of Death: Apoplexy

Place of Death: Brussels, Belgium

Arc de Triomphe: BELLIARD on the south pillar

The son of a prosecutor in the royal court of Fontenay, Auguste-Daniel Belliard did not follow his father's steps to become a lawyer. In 1789 as the Revolution began to gain momentum, Belliard helped to form a company of young citizens which two years later would become part of the National Guard. At the end of 1791, he joined the 1st Battalion of Volunteers of the Vendée as a captain. The next year Belliard joined Dumouriez's staff and served at Valmy before distinguishing himself at Jemappes . In March of 1793 he was promoted to chef de bataillon and then went on to fight at Neerwinden . A few months later he was suspended from his position.

In August of 1794 Belliard was authorized to return to military service in the 3rd Chasseurs à Cheval. A year later he received a promotion to chef de brigade. In February of 1796 he was designated for the Army of Italy, and in June he became Sérurier's chief of staff. Belliard fought at Castiglione , Saint-Georges, and Verona before being wounded at Caldiero. Nevertheless, he continued to fight and fought at the bridge at Arcola where Napoleon promoted him to général de brigade on the battlefield. In January of 1797 Belliard shifted to Joubert's division, and then he served at Trente later that month and Lavis, Neumarkt, and Mittelwald in March.

Initially designated for the Army of England in early 1798, General Belliard instead seized Civita Vecchia and then traveled to Naples. Now designated for the Army of the Orient, he was given command of the 1st Brigade of Desaix's division. He took part in the action on Malta where he took Fort Rohan. After disembarking in Egypt, Belliard fought at Alexandria and the Battle of the Pyramids . In 1799 he fought at Sediman, Assouan, Girgeh, Philé, Kous, Benouth, and Kosseir. He also defeated Murad Bey at Sapht-Rhachim, pushing that adversary to ask for peace. After Desaix left to return to France, Belliard joined Friant's division, and in 1800 he fought at Héliopolis, Belbeis, and Korain. He continued to fight, winning at Schouara and retaking Damietta but then being wounded in the belly at Cairo. General Kléber promoted him to général de division that April, and in June Belliard became governor of Cairo. In 1801 Belliard won at El-Zouameh and then was besieged at Cairo by the Turks and English, eventually being forced to surrender in June but with honorable terms. Throughout his time in Egypt, Belliard had grown an interest in archaeology and assisted the scholars on the expedition, eventually publishing a history of the expedition.

Once back in France, Belliard was given command of the 24th military division at Brussels. When hostilities resumed in 1805, he was named chief of staff to Marshal Murat. In this position he distinguished himself at Wertingen and Amstetten. When Marshals Murat and Lannes daringly attempted to talk their way into possession of the valuable Tabor Bridge, Belliard accompanied them and participated in the successful ruse. After that success, Belliard went on to fight at Austerlitz.

The latter half of 1806 was also a busy time for Belliard. Still serving as Murat's chief of staff, he fought at Jena and Erfurt and then concluded the surrender of Prentzlow. Continuing on, he fought at Lubeck and Golymin . In 1807 he fought at Eylau, and then when the campaign resumed in the summer, he fought at Heilsberg and Friedland.

In 1808 Belliard traveled to Spain, continuing as Murat's chief of staff. In August when Murat left to become King of Naples, Belliard did not follow him, instead becoming chief of staff to Marshal Jourdan. From December of 1808 to December of 1810 he served as the governor of Madrid. In the meantime he was rewarded as a Count of the Empire.

Belliard returned to France in late 1811, and when Murat rejoined the army to take command of the Cavalry Reserve for the Russian campaign, Belliard resumed his position as Murat's chief of staff. He continued to be involved in the fighting, serving at Koukviaki, Ostrowno, Witepsk, Smolensk , and Borodino. The day after Borodino he was wounded in the leg by a ball at Mojaisk.

After surviving the retreat, Belliard was given an honorary title of Colonel General of Cuirassiers. In June of 1813 he was attached to Marshal Berthier's staff, and in October he fought at Leipzig where a ball broke his left arm. Regardless of this wound, he fought at Hanau on October 30th.

During the defense of France of 1814, General Belliard fought at Montmirail , Château-Thierry, and Laon. Next he was given command of two divisions of cavalry, and fought with them at Fère-Champenoise and Paris. When Paris was surrendered to the Allies, Belliard went to Napoleon to give him the bad news.

After Napoleon's abdication, Belliard was fairly well treated, becoming a Knight of Saint Louis, Peer of France, Inspector General of Cuirassiers, and Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor. As Napoleon escaped from Elba and began his triumphant march to Paris, Belliard accompanied King Louis XVIII to Beauvais and then returned to Paris. Napoleon, quite aware of the political landscape, sent Belliard as a special envoy to Murat in Italy. Belliard traveled to Italy, leaving France in April and arriving in May to meet with Murat. Murat's loss of the Battle of Tolentino changed the political situation, and Belliard returned to France at the end of May. Once back in France he took command of the 3rd and 4th military divisions and a corps of the National Guard on the Moselle.

After Napoleon's second abdication, Belliard was arrested and thrown in prison, finally being released in June of 1816.

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Europe had been embroiled in the French Revolutionary Wars since 1792. After five years of war, the French Republic subdued the First Coalition in 1797. A Second Coalition was formed in 1798 but this too was defeated by 1801. Britain remained the only opponent for the new French Consulate. In March 1802, France and Britain agreed to end hostilities under the Treaty of Amiens. For the first time in ten years, all of Europe was at peace. There were many problems between the two sides and implementing the agreements they had reached at Amiens seemed to be a growing challenge. Britain resented having to turn over all colonial conquests since 1793 and France was angry that British troops had not evacuated the island of Malta. Γ] The tense situation only worsened when Napoleon sent an expeditionary force to crush the Haitian Revolution. Δ] In May 1803, Britain declared war on France.

Third Coalition [ edit | edit source ]

In December 1804, an Anglo-Swedish agreement led to the creation of the Third Coalition. British Prime Minister William Pitt spent 1804 and 1805 in a flurry of diplomatic activity to form a new coalition against France. Mutual suspicion between the British and the Russians eased in the face of several French political mistakes and by April 1805 the two had signed a treaty of alliance. Ε] Having been defeated twice in recent memory by France and keen on revenge, Ζ] Austria also joined the coalition a few months later. Η]

La Grande Armée [ edit | edit source ]

Prior to the formation of the Third Coalition, Napoleon had assembled the "Army of England", an invasion force meant to strike at the British Isles, around six camps at Boulogne in Northern France. Although they never set foot on British soil, Napoleon's troops received careful and invaluable training for any possible military operation. Boredom among the troops occasionally set in but Napoleon paid many visits and conducted lavish parades in order to boost morale. ⎖]

The men at Boulogne formed the core for what Napoleon would later call "La Grande Armée" (The Great Army). At the start, this French army had about 200,000 men organized into seven corps, which were large field units containing about 36 to 40 cannon each and capable of independent action until other corps could arrive. ⎗] On top of these forces, Napoleon created a cavalry reserve of 22,000 organized into two cuirassier divisions, four mounted dragoon divisions and two divisions of dismounted dragoons and light cavalry, all supported by 24 artillery pieces. ⎗] By 1805, La Grande Armée had grown to a force of 350,000, ⎘] was well equipped, well trained, and possessed a competent officer class.

Austrian army [ edit | edit source ]

Archduke Charles, brother of the Austrian Emperor, had started to reform the Austrian army in 1801 by taking away power from the Hofkriegsrat (Aulic Council), the military-political council responsible for decision-making in the Austrian armed forces. ⎙] Charles was Austria's best field commander, ⎚] but he was unpopular with the royal court and lost much influence when, against his advice, Austria decided to go to war with France. Karl Mack became the new main commander in Austria's army, instituting reforms on the infantry on the eve of war that called for a regiment to be composed of four battalions of four companies rather than the older three battalions of six companies. The sudden change came with no corresponding officer training, and as a result these new units were not led as well as they could have been. ⎛] Austrian cavalry forces were regarded as the best in Europe, but the detachment of many cavalry units to various infantry formations precluded the hitting power of their massed French counterparts. ⎛]


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Austerlitz, 2 December, 1805: a timeline

This timeline forms part of our close-up on: the battle of Austerlitz.

August 1805
9 August (21 Thermidor)
After negociations with British diplomats, Austria secretly signed its agreement to join the ‘Third Coalition’ with Britain and Russia (soon to be joined by the Kingdom of Naples and Sweden) against France and her coalition, comprising Spain, the Netherlands, the tiny principality of Piombino, Bavaria, Baden, Württemberg and Hesse-Darmstad.

26 August (8 Fructidor)
Napoleon set about striking the Boulogne camp and sending his 200,000 troops towards Austria. The day before he had signed an alliance with Bavaria. On 29 August, Napoleon gave the order for the troops to march: the Grande Armée was born! On the following day, Masséna replaced Jourdan at the head of the Armée d’Italie.

End of August
Napoleon mapped out his campaign plan (dictated to Daru on circa 28 August) and organised the army into 7 corps, or “torrents” as he called them: the 1st corps was commanded by Bernadotte, the 2nd by Marmont, the 3rd by Davout, the 4th by Soult, the 5th by Lannes, the 6th by Ney, and the 7th by Augereau.

September 1805
3 September (16 Fructidor)
Napoleon returned to Malmaison after having spent the whole of the month of August at the Boulogne camp. On the following day, he held a council of ministers at Saint-Cloud.

5 September (18 Fructidor)
Napoleon signed an alliance with Württemberg

9 September (22 Fructidor)
Napoleon re-introduced the Gregorian calendar starting from 1 January, 1806 – the Republican calendar was to be phased out on 31 December 1805

10 September (23 Fructidor)
The Austrians began hostilities by invading Bavaria

11 September (24 Fructidor)
The Kingdom of Naples joined the Anglo-Austro-Russian coalition

In September
The world of finance in France was hit by a serious crisis, brought about by the Merchants united scandal (the ‘scandale des Négociants réunis’)

23 September (1er Vendémiaire, An XIV)
Napoleon came to Paris for the day in order to organise who would wield power in his absence: the different responsibilities were shared out between Cambacérès, archchancellor, and Joseph Bonaparte, Grand Elector, but Napoleon nevertheless intended to run affairs from his headquarters.

24 September (2 Vendémiaire)
Napoleon left Saint-Cloud in the middle of the night to join the Grande Armée. Reaching La Ferté-sous-Jouarre on 24, he continued to Bar-le-Duc and Nancy on 25, he reached Strasbourg on 26 September (4 Vendémiaire) towards the end of the afternoon. He remained there until 1 October (9 Vendémiaire).

27 September (5 Vendémiaire)
Haviong crossed the Rhine, all French troops were ready to attack. This position had been reached remarkably quickly by means of forced marches for example, Murat‘s men covered 390 kilometres from 25 September to 1 October!

28 September (6 Vendémiaire)
The admiral Villeneuve received a dispatch from Napoleon, dated the 20th, ordering him to lead the combined (French and Spanish) fleet out of port and to head for Naples (where Gouvion Saint-Cyr was preparing to face off a force 30,000 Anglo-Russians) and to disrupt the British fleet on the way. Convinced that Villeneuve would not obey his orders, Napoleon had already set up Villenueve’s replacement in the shape of Admiral Rosily (appointed 17 September). However, on 2 October (10 Vendémiaire), Villeneuve was ready to set sail.

October 1805
1 October (9 Vendémiaire)
Napoleon left Strasbourg at 3pm and journeyed to Ettlingen. That evening he was to receive the Duc de Bade there.

2 October (10 Vendémiaire)
The emperor headed for Ludwigsburg and there moved into the Elector of Württemberg’s palace

5 October (13 Vendémiaire)
Napoleon signed a treaty of alliance with the Frederick, Elector of Württemberg: the presence of Ney’s troops at the gates of Stuttgart had forced Frederick to reconsider his desire to remain neutral in the conflict between Napoleon and the Third Coalition.

6 October (14 Vendémiaire)
Napoleon arrived in Nordlingen and reconnoitred Donauwerth where he hoped to have the rest of the Grande Armée cross the Danube, a manoeuvre planned for the following day

8 October (16 Vendémiaire)
Murat and Lannes won a fine victory at the Wertingen, taking more than 2,000 Austrian , including the commander, general Auffenberg.

9 October (17 Vendémiaire)
Victory for Ney and the 5th corps at Günzburg more than 1,000 Austrian were taken prisoner. On the same day, Soult and the 4th corps entered Augsburg.

10 October (18 Vendémiaire)
Napoleon arrived in Augsburg, where he stayed until the 12th

13 October (21 Vendémiaire)
Bernadotte and the 1st corps entered Munich, whilst Soult reached Memmingen

13 October au soir (21 Vendémiaire)
General Mack (1752-1828) and his troops found themselves totally surrounded in Ulm, all lines of communication cut

14 October (22 Vendémiaire)
Napoleon, brilliantly supported by the corps of Ney and Lannes, was victorious at Elchingen, forcing Mack’s Austrian forces to retire to Ulm

14 October in the evening (22 Vendémiaire)
Despairing at Mack’s lack of action, Feldmareschal Schwarzenberg and the archduke Ferdinand left Ulm, escaping with 6,000 cavalrymen. They managed to join up with Russian forces before Austerlitz.

15 October (23 Vendémiaire)
Ney and Lannes took up positions on the Michelsberg heights, dominating Ulm

16 October (24 Vendémiaire)
Napoleon offers Mack the chance of capitulating

17 October (25 Vendémiaire)
Talleyrand showed to Napoleon his concept for a European equilibrium, which included a treaty of peace which was ‘gentle’ on Austria, in order to be better able to counter the threat from Prussia and Russia. This was however rejected out of hand by Napoleon.

18 October (26 Vendémiaire)
On the Italian front, Masséna entered Verona whilst Gouvion Saint-Cyr took the port of the pontifical town, Ancôna

19 October (27 Vendémiaire)
Mack capitulated. On the following day, surrendering Austrian troops (25 000 men with 60 cannon) filed before Napoleon.

21 October (29 Vendémiaire)
The combined fleet of France and Spain was beaten by the British fleet off Cape Trafalgar. Lord Nelson, commander in chief of the British fleet, died of his wounds during the battle.

November 1805
3 November (12 Brumaire)
The Potsdam Treaty of alliance between Russia and Prussia was signed, Prussia thereby entering the Third Coalition (albeit timidly). Lannes and Murat were victorious at Ebersberg

7 November (16 Brumaire)
Ney took Innsbruck

10-11 November (19-20 Brumaire)
Action at Dürrenstein. Kutusov‘s Russians driven back by Mortier

14 November (23 Brumaire)
Napoleon entered Vienna and established his headquarters at Schönbrunn

15 November (24 Brumaire)
Even though beaten by Murat at Hollabrunn, Bagration nevertheless managed to slow up the French forces sufficiently to allow Kutusov and his men to escape.

17 November (26 Brumaire)
Napoleon at Znaïm learned of the disaster at Trafalgar

19 November (28 Brumaire)
Landing of Russo-British forces in the Kingdom of Naples

20 November (29 Brumaire)
The emperor established his headquarters at Brünn. The following day he reconnoitred what was to be the battlefield of Austerlitz.

28 November (7 Frimaire)
Gouvion-Saint-Cyr defeated the Prince de Rohan and his troops at Castelfranco in the Veneto (on 26 December 1805, as a result of the Treaty of Presbourg, this region was to be annexed to the Kingdom of Italy).

29 November (8 Frimaire)
The allies establish their forces around Austerlitz

December 1805
1-2 December (10-11 Frimaire)
Crushing victory for Napoleon at Austerlitz

The allied troops led by Kienmayer attacked the troops of Colonel Schobert of the 3 de Ligne and the Tirailleurs du Po firmly lodged in the village of Telnitz. Even though much greater in numbers, the attackers could not dislodge the tenaciously resisting French.

Buxhöwden started moving his troops down from the Pratzen heights to support the attack Telnitz. Allied commander Langeron also left the heights to attack the nearby village of Sokolnitz.

Noticing as the morning mist cleared that the allies had significantly weakened the centre on the Pratzen heights in order to support the attacks upon Telnitz and Sokolnitz, Napoleon sent Soult to take the heights he completed his mission in a mere half-an-hour.

In attempt to make up for the mistake of abandoning the Pratzen Heights, Kutuzov launched all his troops (including the imperial Russian guard) in an attempt to retake the plateau. At the same time, Bagration (to Kutusov’s right) performed an orderly retreat under pressure from Lannes and Murat. At the same time, the French imperial guard moved to bring support to Soult on the Pratzen Heights.

After violent cavalry engagements, Kutusov ordered a retreat towards Austerlitz, a movement which turned into general flight in the afternoon.

Circa 1pm
Caught between Soult and Davout, the Austro-Russian left wing was forced flee over the frozen marshes east of Telnitz

6 December (15 Frimaire)
Armistice signed between France and Austria

10 December (19 Frimaire)
The Elector of Bavaria took the title of king which had been had offered to him by Napoleon

11 December (20 Frimaire)
The Elector of Württemberg also became king. The Elector of Baden refused the title, preferring that of Grand Duke instead of Margrave

15 December (24 Frimaire)
Signing of the Franco-Prussian treaty of alliance
A decree signed at Schönbrunn created three educational institutions for the daughters of members of the Légion d’honneur

26 December (5 Nivôse)
Treaty of Presbourg betwen France and Austria

28 December (7 Nivôse)
Napoleon left Schönbrunn to return to France

30 December (9 Nivôse)
After a proposition from the Tribunat, Napoleon accepted the title « Napoleon the Great » (Napoléon le Grand)

31 December (10 Nivôse)
Napoleon arrived in Munich. The Republican calendar disappears.