French victory, Treaty of Pressburg
* Consolidation of the French Empire
* Creation of the
Confederation of the Rhine
* Dissolution of the
Holy Roman Empire
* Hostilities resumed a few months later with the formation of the
Holy Roman Empire
Kingdom of Naples
Kingdom of Sicily
French satellites :
Electorate of Bavaria
COMMANDERS AND LEADERS
Karl Mack von Leiberich
Karl Mack von Leiberich
William Pitt the Younger
Viscount Nelson †
Eugène de Beauharnais
War of the
* Proposed Invasion of the United Kingdom
* Cape Finisterre
* Cape Ortegal
* San Domingo
* Campo Tenese
* THIRD COALITION
* Anglo-Spanish War
* Russo-Persian War
* FOURTH COALITION
* Russo-Turkish War
* Dano-Swedish War
* Anglo-Turkish War
* PENINSULAR WAR
* Anglo-Russian War
* FIFTH COALITION
* Anglo-Swedish War
* FRENCH INVASION OF RUSSIA
* SIXTH COALITION
* German Campaign
* Campaign in north-east
* Campaign in south-west
* Swedish-Norwegian War
* SEVENTH COALITION
Minor campaigns of 1815
West Indies Campaign
* Adriatic campaign
* 1st Java
* Indian Ocean
* 2nd Java
The WAR OF THE THIRD COALITION was a European conflict spanning the
years 1803 to 1806. During the war,
France and its client states under
Napoleon I , defeated an alliance, the Third Coalition, made up of the
Holy Roman Empire ,
Russia , Britain and others.
Britain had already been at war with
France following the resumption
of hostilities resulting from the breakdown of the
Peace of Amiens and
remained the only country still at war with
France after the Treaty of
Pressburg . From 1803–05, Britain stood under constant threat of a
French invasion . The
Royal Navy , however, secured mastery of the
seas and decisively destroyed a Franco-Spanish fleet at the Battle of
Trafalgar in October 1805.
Third Coalition itself came to full fruition in 1804–05 as
Napoleon's actions in
Italy (crowning himself with the Iron Crown of
Lombardy ) and Germany (notably the arrest and execution of the Duc
d\'Enghien ) spurred Austria and
Russia into joining Britain against
France. The war would be decided on the continent, and the major land
operations that sealed the swift French victory involved the Ulm
Campaign , a large wheeling manoeuvre by the
Grande Armée lasting
from late August to mid-October 1805 that captured an entire Austrian
army, and the decisive French victory over a combined Russo-Austrian
force under Tsar Alexander I at the
Battle of Austerlitz
Battle of Austerlitz in early
December. Austerlitz effectively brought the
Third Coalition to an
end, although later there was a small side campaign against
which also resulted in a decisive French victory at the Battle of
Campo Tenese .
On 26 December 1805, Austria and
France signed the Treaty of
Pressburg, which took Austria out of both the war and the Coalition,
while it reinforced the earlier treaties between the two powers of
Campo Formio and of
Lunéville . The treaty confirmed the Austrian
cession of lands in
France and in Germany to
Napoleon's German allies, imposed an indemnity of 40 million francs on
the defeated Habsburgs, and allowed the defeated Russian troops free
passage, with their arms and equipment, through hostile territories
and back to their home soil. Victory at Austerlitz also permitted the
creation of the
Confederation of the Rhine , a collection of German
states intended as a buffer zone between
France and central Europe. As
a direct consequence of these events, the
Holy Roman Empire ceased to
exist when, in 1806,
Holy Roman Emperor Francis II abdicated the
Imperial throne, emerging as Francis I, Emperor of Austria . These
achievements, however, did not establish a lasting peace on the
continent. Austerlitz had driven neither
Russia nor Britain, whose
Sicily from a French invasion, to settle. Meanwhile,
Prussian worries about growing French influence in Central Europe
War of the Fourth Coalition in 1806.
* 1 Prelude
* 1.1 From Amiens to the
* 1.2 La
Grande Armée at Boulogne
* 1.3 Russian and Austrian armies
* 2.1 Austrian plans and preparations
* 2.2 French plans and preparations
* 2.3 The French invasion
Battle of Wertingen
* 2.5 Haslach-
Battle of Ulm
Battle of Trafalgar
* 3.3 Supply situation
* 3.4 Departure
* 3.5 Engagement
Battle of Austerlitz
Battle of Austerlitz
* 4.1 Preliminaries
* 4.2 Battlefield
* 4.3 Allied plans and dispositions
* 4.4 French plans and dispositions
* 4.5 Battle is joined
* 4.6 "One sharp blow and the war is over"
* 4.7 Endgame
* 5 Italian Campaign
* 5.1 Invasion of
* 5.2 Calabrian insurrection
* 6 Results
* 7 See also
* 8 Notes
* 9 References
* 10 External links
Europe had been embroiled in the
French Revolutionary Wars since
1792. After five years of war, the French Republic subdued the armies
First Coalition in 1797. A
Second Coalition was formed in 1798,
but this too was defeated by 1801, leaving Britain the only opponent
of the new
French Consulate .
FROM AMIENS TO THE THIRD COALITION
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. However, many problems persisted between the two sides
making implementation of the treaty increasingly difficult. Bonaparte
was angry that British troops had not evacuated the island of
The tension only worsened when Bonaparte sent an expeditionary force
to re-establish control over Haiti . Prolonged intransigence on these
issues led Britain to declare war on
France on 18 May 1803. Bonaparte
had already revived plans for an invasion of England in March 1803.
Bonaparte's expeditionary army was destroyed by disease in Haiti, and
subsequently swayed the First Consul to abandon his plans to rebuild
France's New World empire. Without sufficient revenues from sugar
colonies in the Caribbean, the vast territory of Louisiana in North
America had little value to him. Though
Spain had not yet completed
the transfer of Louisiana to
France per the Third Treaty of San
Ildefonso , war between
France and Britain was imminent. Out of anger
Spain and having the unique opportunity to sell something that
was useless and not truly his yet, Bonaparte decided to sell the
entire territory to the United States for a sum total 68 million
francs ($15 million). The
Louisiana Purchase Treaty was signed on 30
Despite issuing orders that the over 60 million francs were to be
spent on the construction of five new canals in France, Bonaparte
spent the whole amount on his planned invasion of England . In
The Plumb-pudding in danger (1805),
James Gillray caricatured
overtures made by
Napoleon in January 1805 for a reconciliation with
Third Coalition came into being in December 1804 when, in
exchange for payment, an Anglo-Swedish agreement was signed allowing
the British to use
Swedish Pomerania as a military base against France
(explicitly, the nearby French-occupied electorate of
homeland of the British monarch). The Swedish government had broken
diplomatic ties with
France in early 1804 after the arrest and
Louis Antoine, Duke of Enghien
Louis Antoine, Duke of Enghien , a royalist émigré who
had been implicated (on dubious evidence) in an assassination plot
against First Consul Bonaparte. The execution of Enghien shocked the
aristocrats of Europe, who still remembered the bloodletting of the
Revolution and thus lost whatever conditional respect they may have
entertained for Bonaparte.
Fanning the flames of the outcry resulting from d'Enghien's death and
the growing fear over increasing French power, British Prime Minister
William Pitt spent 1804 and 1805 in a flurry of diplomatic activity
geared towards forming a new coalition against France. Pitt scored a
significant coup by securing a burgeoning rival as an ally. The Baltic
was dominated by Russia, something Britain had been uncomfortable with
since the area provided valuable commodities like timber, tar, and
hemp, crucial supplies to its
Royal Navy . Additionally, Britain had
Ottoman Empire in resisting Russian incursions towards
the Mediterranean . 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.
Meantime, the lull in participating in active military campaigning
from 1801–04 permitted Bonaparte to consolidate his political
powerbase in France. 1802 saw him proclaimed Consul for Life (his
reward for having made peace with Britain, albeit briefly), as well as
the establishment of a meritorious order, the
Legion of Honour . Then,
in May 1804, Bonaparte was proclaimed Napoleon, Emperor of the French
and crowned in
Notre Dame Cathedral on 2 December 1804. He also
created eighteen Marshals of the Empire from among his top generals,
securing the allegiance of the army.
Napoleon added the crown of
Italy to his mantle in May 1805, thereby placing a
traditional Austrian sphere of influence under his rule (eventually
through a viceroy, his stepson
Eugène de Beauharnais ). Keen on
revenge and having been defeated twice in recent memory by France,
Austria joined the
Third Coalition a few months later.
LA GRANDE ARMéE AT BOULOGNE
See also: Napoleon\'s planned invasion of the United Kingdom
Inspecting the Troops at Boulogne, 15 August 1804
Prior to the formation of the Third Coalition,
Napoleon had assembled
the Army of England, an invasion force meant to strike at England,
from 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 the morale of the soldiers.
The men at Boulogne formed the core for what
Napoleon would later
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 to the rescue. 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, the
Grande Armée had
grown to a force of 350,000, was well equipped, well trained, and
possessed a competent officer class.
RUSSIAN AND AUSTRIAN ARMIES
The Russian army in 1805 had many characteristics of ancien régime
military organization: there was no permanent formation above the
regimental level, senior officers were largely recruited from
aristocratic circles (including foreigners), and the Russian soldier,
in line with 18th-century practice, was regularly beaten and punished
to instill discipline. Furthermore, many lower-level officers were
poorly trained and had difficulty getting their men to perform the
sometimes complex manoeuvres required in a battle. Nevertheless, the
Russians did have a fine artillery arm manned by soldiers who
regularly fought hard to prevent their pieces from falling into enemy
Archduke Charles , brother of the Austrian Emperor, had started to
reform the Austrian army in 1801 by taking away power from the
Hofkriegsrat , 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.
Finally, a significant divergance between these two nominal allies is
often cited as a cause for disastrous consequences. The Russians were
still using the old style
Julian calendar , while the Austrians had
adopted the new style
Gregorian calendar , and by 1805 a difference of
12 days existed between the two systems. Confusion is purported to
have ensued from the differing timetables regarding when the Allied
forces should combine, leading to an inevitable breakdown in mutual
coordination. However, this tale is not supported in a contemporary
account from a major-general of the Austrian army, who tells of a
joint advance of the Russian and Austrian forces (in which he himself
took part) five days before the battle of Austerlitz, and it is
explicitly rejected in Goetz's recent book-length study of the battle.
European strategic situation in 1805 before the start of the Ulm
Campaign and the war.
In August 1805, Napoleon, Emperor of the French since May of the
previous year, turned his army's sights from the
English Channel to
Rhine in order to deal with the new Austrian and Russian threats.
The War of the
Third Coalition began with the
Ulm Campaign , a series
of French and Bavarian military manoeuvres and battles designed to
outflank an Austrian army under General Mack.
AUSTRIAN PLANS AND PREPARATIONS
General Mack thought that Austrian security relied on sealing off the
gaps through the mountainous
Black Forest area in Southern Germany
that had witnessed much fighting during the campaigns of the French
Revolutionary Wars. Mack believed that there would be no action in
Central Germany. Mack decided to make the city of
Ulm the centrepiece
of his defensive strategy, which called for a containment of the
French until the Russians under Kutuzov could arrive and alter the
odds against Napoleon.
Ulm was protected by the heavily fortified
Michelsberg heights, giving Mack the impression that the city was
virtually impregnable from outside attack.
Aulic Council decided to make Northern
Italy the main
theatre of operations for the Habsburgs . Archduke Charles was
assigned 95,000 troops and directed to cross the
Adige River with
Mantua , Peschiera , and
Milan as the initial objectives. Archduke
John was given 23,000 troops and commanded to secure Tyrol while
serving as a link between his brother, Charles, and his cousin,
Ferdinand ; the latter's force of 72,000, which was to invade Bavaria
and hold the defensive line at Ulm, was effectively controlled by
Mack. The Austrians also detached individual corps to serve with the
Swedish in Pomerania and the British in
Naples , though these were
designed to obfuscate the French and divert their resources.
FRENCH PLANS AND PREPARATIONS
The French concentrated around the
Rhine from early to
mid-September. 210,000 troops of the
Grande Armée prepared to cross
into Germany and encircle the Austrians.
In both the campaigns of 1796 and 1800,
Napoleon had envisaged the
Danube theatre as the central focus of French efforts, but in both
instances the Italian theatre became the most important. The Aulic
Napoleon would strike in
other intentions: 210,000 French troops would be launched eastwards
from the camps of Boulogne and would envelop General Mack's exposed
Austrian army if it kept marching towards the Black Forest.
Meanwhile, Marshal Murat would conduct cavalry screens across the
Black Forest to fool the Austrians into thinking that the French were
advancing on a direct west-east axis. The main attack in Germany would
be supported by French assaults in other theatres: Masséna would
confront Charles in
Italy with 50,000 men, St. Cyr would march to
Naples with 20,000 men, and Brune would patrol Boulogne with 30,000
troops against a possible British invasion.
Murat and Bertrand conducted reconnaissance between the area
bordering the Tyrol and the Main as Savary , chief of the planning
staff, drew up detailed road surveys of the areas between the Rhine
and the Danube. The left wing of the
Grande Armée would move from
Hanover and Utrecht to fall on
Württemberg ; the right and centre,
troops from the Channel coast, would concentrate along the Middle
Rhine around cities like
Strasbourg . While Murat was
making demonstrations across the Black Forest, other French forces
would then invade the German heartland and swing towards the southeast
Augsburg , a move that was supposed to isolate Mack and
interrupt the Austrian lines of communication.
THE FRENCH INVASION
The French invasion in late September and early October caught
the Austrians unprepared and severed their lines of communication.
On 22 September, Mack decided to hold the
Iller line anchored on Ulm.
In the last three days of September, the French began the furious
marches that would find them at the Austrian rear. Mack believed that
the French would not violate Prussian territory, but when he heard
that Bernadotte 's I
Corps had marched through Prussian
Ansbach , he
made the critical decision to stay and defend
Ulm rather than retreat
to the south, which would have offered a reasonable opportunity at
saving the bulk of his forces.
Napoleon had little accurate
information about Mack's intentions or manoeuvres; he knew that
Corps was sent to
Ingolstadt east of the French positions,
but his agents greatly exaggerated its size. On 5 October, Napoleon
ordered Ney to join Lannes , Soult , and Murat in concentrating and
Danube at Donauwörth . The French encirclement,
however, was not deep enough to prevent Kienmayer's escape: the French
corps did not all arrive at the same place – they instead deployed
on a long west-east axis – and the early arrival of Soult and Davout
at Donauwörth incited
Kienmayer to exercise caution and evasion.
Napoleon gradually became more convinced that the Austrians were
Ulm and ordered sizeable portions of the French army to
concentrate around Donauwörth; on 6 October, three French infantry
and cavalry corps headed to Donauwörth to seal off Mack's escape
BATTLE OF WERTINGEN
The strategic situation from 7 to 9 October. With Kutuzov too
far away to offer significant aid, the Austrians found themselves in a
precarious position. Main article:
Battle of Wertingen
Realizing the danger of his position, Mack decided to go on the
offensive. On 8 October, he commanded the army to concentrate around
Günzburg and hoped to strike at Napoleon's lines of communication.
Kienmayer to draw
Napoleon further east towards Munich
Napoleon did not seriously consider the possibility that
Mack would cross the
Danube and move away from his central base, but
he did realize that seizing the bridges at Günzburg would yield a
large strategic advantage. To accomplish this objective, Napoleon
Corps to Günzburg, completely unaware that the bulk of the
Austrian army was heading to the same destination. On 8 October,
however, the campaign witnessed its first serious battle at Wertingen
between Auffenburg's troops and those of Murat and Lannes.
For reasons not entirely clear, Mack ordered Auffenburg on 7 October
to take his division of 5,000 infantry and 400 cavalry from Günzburg
Wertingen in preparation for the main Austrian advance out of Ulm.
Uncertain of what to do and having little hope for reinforcements,
Auffenburg was in a dangerous position. The first French forces to
arrive were Murat's cavalry divisions – Klein's 1st Dragoons,
Beaumont 3rd Dragoons, and Nansouty's cuirassiers . They began to
assault the Austrian positions and were soon joined by Oudinot 's
grenadiers, who were hoping to outflank the Austrians from the north
and west. Auffenburg attempted a retreat to the southwest, but he was
not quick enough: the Austrians were decimated, losing nearly their
entire force, 1,000 to 2,000 of which were prisoners. The Battle of
Wertingen had been an easy French victory.
The actions at
Wertingen convinced Mack to operate on the left bank
Danube instead of making a direct eastwards retreat on the
right bank. This would require the Austrian army to cross at
Günzburg. On 8 October, Ney was operating under Berthier 's
directions that called for a direct attack on
Ulm the following day.
Ney sent in Mahler's 3rd Division to capture the Günzburg bridges
over the Danube. A column of this division ran into some Tyrolean
jaegers and captured 200 of them, including their commander General
d'Apsré, along with two cannons. The Austrians noticed these
developments and reinforced their positions around Günzburg with
three infantry battalions and 20 cannons. Malher's division conducted
several heroic attacks against the Austrian positions, but all failed.
Mack then sent in Gyulai with seven infantry battalions and fourteen
cavalry squadrons to repair the destroyed bridges, but this force was
charged and swept away by the delayed French 59th Infantry Regiment.
Fierce fighting ensued and the French finally managed to establish a
foothold on the right bank of the Danube. While the Battle of
Günzburg was being fought, Ney sent General Loison's 2nd Division to
Danube bridges at
Elchingen , which were lightly defended
by the Austrians. Having lost most of the
Danube bridges, Mack marched
his army back to Ulm. By 10 October, Ney's corps had made significant
progress: Malher's division had crossed to the right bank, Loison's
division held Elchingen, and Dupont 's division was heading towards
HASLACH-JUNGINGEN AND ELCHINGEN
The strategic situation from 11 to 14 October. The French hurl
themselves westwards to capture the Austrian army. Main articles:
Battle of Haslach-Jungingen and Battle of
The demoralized Austrian army arrived at
Ulm in the early hours of 10
October. Mack was deliberating about a course of action to pursue and
the Austrian army remained inactive at
Ulm until the 11th. Meanwhile,
Napoleon was operating under flawed assumptions: he believed the
Austrians were moving to the east or southeast and that
lightly guarded. Ney sensed this misapprehension and wrote to Berthier
Ulm was, in fact, more heavily defended than the French
originally thought. During this time, the Russian threat to the east
began to preoccupy
Napoleon so much that Murat was given command of
the right wing of the army, consisting of Ney's and Lannes's corps.
The French were separated in two massive rings at this point: the
forces of Ney, Lannes and Murat to the west were containing Mack,
while those of Soult, Davout, Bernadotte and Marmont to the east were
charged with guarding against any possible Russian and Austrian
incursions. On 11 October, Ney made a renewed push on Ulm; the 2nd and
3rd divisions were to march to the city along the right bank of the
Danube while Dupont's division, supported by one dragoons division,
was to march directly for
Ulm and seize the entire city. The orders
were hopeless because Ney still did not know that the entire Austrian
army was stationed at Ulm.
The 32nd Infantry Regiment in Dupont's division marched from Haslach
Ulm and ran into four Austrian regiments holding Bolfingen.
The 32nd carried out several ferocious attacks, but the Austrians held
firm and repulsed every single one of them. The Austrians flooded the
battle with more cavalry and infantry regiments to
Jungingen hoping to
score a knockout blow against Ney's corps by enveloping Dupont's
force. Dupont sensed what was happening and preempted the Austrians by
launching a surprise attack on
Jungingen that captured at least 1,000
prisoners. Renewed Austrian attacks drove these forces back to
Haslach, which the French managed to hold. Dupont was eventually
forced to fall back on Albeck, where he joined d'Hilliers's troops.
The effects of the
Battle of Haslach-Jungingen on Napoleon's plans are
not fully clear, but the Emperor may have finally ascertained that the
majority of the Austrian army was concentrated at Ulm. Accordingly,
Napoleon sent the corps of Soult and Marmont towards the Iller,
meaning he now had four infantry and one cavalry corps to deal with
Mack; Davout, Bernadotte, and the Bavarians were still guarding the
region around Munich.
Napoleon did not intend to fight a battle
across rivers and ordered his marshals to capture the important
bridges around Ulm. He also began shifting his forces to the north of
Ulm because he expected a battle in that region rather than an
encirclement of the city itself. These dispositions and actions would
lead to a confrontation at
Elchingen on the 14th as Ney's forces
advanced on Albeck.
At this point in the campaign, the Austrian command staff was in full
confusion. Ferdinand began to openly oppose Mack's command style and
decisions, charging that the latter spent his days writing
contradictory orders that left the Austrian army marching back and
forth. On 13 October, Mack sent two columns out of
Ulm in preparation
for a breakout to the north: one under General Reisch headed towards
Elchingen to secure the bridge there and the other under Werneck went
north with most of the heavy artillery. Ney hurried his corps forward
to reestablish contact with Dupont. Ney led his troops to the south of
Elchingen on the right bank of the
Danube and began the attack. The
field to the side was a partially wooded flood plain, rising steeply
to the hill town of Elchingen, which had a wide field of view. The
French cleared the Austrian pickets and a regiment boldly attacked and
captured the abbey at the top of the hill at bayonet point. The
Austrian cavalry was also defeated and Riesch's infantry fled; Ney was
given the title "Duke of Elchingen" for his impressive victory.
BATTLE OF ULM
Marshal Murat proved instrumental during the
Battle of Ulm
Other actions took place on the 14th. Murat's forces joined Dupont at
Albeck just in time to drive off an Austrian attack from Werneck;
together Murat and Dupont beat the Austrians to the north in the
direction of Heidenheim. By night on the 14th, two French corps were
stationed in the vicinity of the Austrian encampments at Michelsberg,
right outside of Ulm. Mack was now in a dangerous situation: there
was no longer any hope of escaping along the north bank, Marmont and
the Imperial Guard were hovering at the outskirts of
Ulm to the south
of the river, and Soult was moving from
Memmingen to prevent the
Austrians escaping south to the Tyrol. Troubles continued with the
Austrian command as Ferdinand overrode the objections of Mack and
ordered the evacuation of all cavalry from Ulm, a total of 6,000
troopers. Murat's pursuit was so effective, however, that only eleven
squadrons joined Werneck at Heidenheim. Murat continued his
harassment of Werneck and forced him to surrender with 8,000 men at
Trochtelfingten on 19 October; Murat also took an entire Austrian
field park of 500 vehicles, then swept on towards Neustadt and
captured 12,000 Austrians. General Mack surrenders his army at
Ulm . Napoleon's strategic encirclement of the Austrians, in
conjunction with the
Battle of Austerlitz
Battle of Austerlitz six weeks later, sealed the
fate of the Third Coalition.
Ulm were now reaching a conclusion. On 15 October, Ney's
troops successfully charged the Michelsberg encampments and on the
16th the French began to bombard
Ulm itself. Austrian morale was at a
low point and Mack began to realize that there was little hope of
rescue. On 17 October, Napoleon's emissary, Ségur , signed a
convention with Mack in which the Austrians agreed to surrender on 25
October if no aid came by that date. Gradually, however, Mack heard
of the capitulations at Heidenheim and
Neresheim and agreed to
surrender five days before schedule on 20 October. 10,000 troops from
the Austrian garrison managed to escape, but the vast majority of the
Austrian force marched out on the 21st and laid down their arms
without incident, all with the
Grande Armée drawn up in a vast
semicircle observing the capitulation.
BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR
Battle of Trafalgar and
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Third Coalition declared war on
France after the short-lived
Peace of Amiens ,
Napoleon Bonaparte was determined to invade Britain.
To do so, he had to ensure that the
Royal Navy would be unable to
disrupt the invasion flotilla , which would require control of the
The main French fleets were at Brest in Brittany and at
Toulon on the
Mediterranean coast. Other ports on the French Atlantic coast
contained smaller squadrons . In addition,
allied, so the Spanish fleet based in
Cádiz and Ferrol was also
The British possessed an experienced and well-trained corps of naval
officers. By contrast, most of the best officers in the French navy
had either been executed or dismissed from the service during the
early part of the
French Revolution . As a result, Vice-Admiral
Pierre-Charles Villeneuve was the most competent senior officer
available to command Napoleon's Mediterranean fleet. However,
Villeneuve had shown a distinct lack of enthusiasm to face Nelson and
Royal Navy after his defeat at the
Battle of the Nile
Battle of the Nile .
Napoleon's naval plan in 1805 was for the French and Spanish fleets
in the Mediterranean and
Cádiz to break through the blockade and
combine in the
West Indies . They would then return, assist the fleet
in Brest to emerge from blockade, and in combination clear the English
Royal Navy ships, ensuring a safe passage for the invasion
barges. The plan seemed good on paper but as the war wore on,
Napoleon's unfamiliarity with naval strategy and ill-advised naval
commanders continued to haunt the French.
Early in 1804, Admiral Lord Nelson commanded the British fleet
blockading Toulon. Unlike
William Cornwallis , who maintained a tight
blockade of Brest with the Channel Fleet, Nelson adopted a loose
blockade in hopes of luring the French out for a major battle.
However, Villeneuve's fleet successfully evaded Nelson's when his
forces were blown off station by storms. While Nelson was searching
the Mediterranean for him, Villeneuve passed through the Straits of
Gibraltar , rendezvoused with the Spanish fleet, and sailed as planned
West Indies . Once Nelson realized that the French had crossed
the Atlantic Ocean, he set off in pursuit. Admirals of the time, due
to the slowness of communications, were given considerable autonomy to
make strategic as well as tactical decisions.
Villeneuve returned from the
West Indies to Europe, intending to
break the blockade at Brest, but after two of his Spanish ships were
captured during the Battle of Cape Finisterre by a squadron under
Robert Calder , Villeneuve abandoned this plan and
sailed back to Ferrol.
Napoleon's invasion plans for England depended entirely on having a
sufficiently large number of ships of the line before Boulogne ,
France. This would require Villeneuve's force of 32 ships to join
Vice-Admiral Ganteaume 's force of 21 ships at Brest, along with a
squadron of five ships under Captain Allemand, which would have given
him a combined force of 58 ships of the line.
When Villeneuve set sail from Ferrol on 10 August, he was under
strict orders from
Napoleon to sail northward toward Brest. Instead,
he worried that the British were observing his manoeuvres, so on 11
August he sailed southward towards
Cádiz on the southwestern coast of
Spain. With no sign of Villeneuve's fleet by 26 August, the three
French army corps invasion force near Boulogne broke camp and marched
to Germany, where it would become fully engaged.
The same month, Nelson returned home to England after two years of
duty at sea, for some well-earned rest. He remained ashore for 25 busy
days, and was warmly received by his countrymen, who were
understandably nervous about a possible French invasion. Word reached
England on 2 September about the combined French and Spanish fleet in
the harbour of Cádiz. Nelson had to wait until 15 September before
HMS Victory was ready to sail.
On 15 August, Cornwallis made the fateful decision to detach 20 ships
of the line from the fleet guarding the channel and to have them sail
southward to engage the enemy forces in Spain. This left the channel
somewhat denuded of ships, with only eleven ships of the line present.
However, this detached force formed the nucleus of the British fleet
that would fight at Trafalgar. Initially this fleet was placed under
the command of Vice-Admiral Calder, reaching
Cádiz on 15 September.
Nelson joined the fleet on 29 September to take command.
The British fleet used frigates to keep a constant watch on the
harbour, while the main force remained out of sight 50 miles (80 km)
west of the shore. Nelson's hope was to lure the combined
Franco-Spanish force out and engage them in a "pell-mell battle". The
force watching the harbour was led by Captain Blackwood, commanding
HMS Euryalus . He was brought up to a strength of seven ships (five
frigates and two schooners) on 8 October.
At this point, Nelson's fleet badly needed provisioning. On 2
October, five ships of the line, Queen , Canopus , Spencer , Zealous ,
Tigre , and the frigate Endymion were dispatched to
Rear-Admiral Louis for supplies. These ships were later diverted for
convoy duty in the Mediterranean, whereas Nelson had expected them to
return. Other British ships continued to arrive, and by 15 October the
fleet was up to full strength for the battle. Although it was a
significant loss; once the first-rate Royal Sovereign had arrived,
Nelson allowed Calder to sail for home in his flagship, the 98-gun
Wales . Calder's apparent lack of aggression during the
engagement off Cape Finisterre on 22 July, had caused the Admiralty to
recall him for a court martial and he would normally have been sent
back to Britain in a smaller ship.
Meanwhile, Villeneuve's fleet in
Cádiz was also suffering from a
serious supply shortage that could not be readily rectified by the
cash-strapped French. The blockades maintained by the British fleet
had made it difficult for the allies to obtain stores and their ships
were ill fitted. Villeneuve's ships were also more than two thousand
men short of the force needed to sail. These were not the only
problems faced by the Franco-Spanish fleet. The main French ships of
the line had been kept in harbour for years by the British blockades
with only brief sorties. The hasty voyage across the Atlantic and back
used up vital supplies and was no match for the British fleet's years
of experience at sea and training. The French crews contained few
experienced sailors, and as most of the crew had to be taught the
elements of seamanship on the few occasions when they got to sea,
gunnery was neglected. Villeneuve's supply situation began to improve
in October, but news of Nelson's arrival made Villeneuve reluctant to
leave port. Indeed, his captains had held a vote on the matter and
decided to stay in the harbour.
On 14 September,
Napoleon gave orders for the French and Spanish
ships at Cadiz to put to sea at the first favourable opportunity, join
seven Spanish ships of the line then at Cartagena , go to
Naples , and
land the soldiers they carried to reinforce his troops there, and
fight a decisive action if they met a British fleet of inferior
On 18 October, Villeneuve received a letter informing him that
Vice-Admiral François Rosily had arrived in
Madrid with orders to
take command. At the same time, he received intelligence that a
detachment of six British ships had docked at
Gibraltar (this was
Admiral Louis's squadron). Stung by the prospect of being disgraced
before the fleet, Villeneuve resolved to go to sea before his
successor could reach Cadiz. Following a gale on 18 October, the fleet
began a rapid scramble to set sail.
The weather, however, suddenly turned calm following a week of gales.
This slowed the progress of the fleet departing the harbour, giving
the British plenty of warning. Villeneuve had drawn up plans to form a
force of four squadrons, each containing both French and Spanish
ships. Following their earlier vote to stay put, the captains were
reluctant to leave
Cádiz and as a result they failed to follow
closely Villeneuve's orders (Villeneuve had reportedly become despised
by many of the fleet's officers and crew). As a result, the fleet
straggled out of the harbour in no particular formation.
It took most of 20 October for Villeneuve to get his fleet organised,
and it set sail in three columns for the
Straits of Gibraltar
Straits of Gibraltar to the
south-east. That same evening, the ship Achille spotted a force of 18
British ships of the line in pursuit. The fleet began to prepare for
battle and during the night they were ordered into a single line. The
following day Nelson's fleet of 27 ships of the line and four frigates
was spotted in pursuit from the north-west with the wind behind it.
Villeneuve again ordered his fleet into three columns, but soon
changed his mind and ordered a single line. The result was a
sprawling, uneven formation.
The British fleet was sailing, as they would fight, under signal 72
hoisted on Nelson's flagship. At 5:40 a.m., the British were about 21
miles (34 km) to the north-west of Cape Trafalgar, with the
Franco-Spanish fleet between the British and the Cape. At 6 a.m. that
morning, Nelson gave the order to prepare for battle.
At 8 a.m., Villeneuve ordered the fleet to wear together and turn
back for Cádiz. This reversed the order of the Allied line, placing
the rear division under Rear-Admiral
Pierre Dumanoir le Pelley in the
vanguard, or "van." The wind became contrary at this point, often
shifting direction. The very light wind rendered manoeuvering all but
impossible for the most expert crews. The inexperienced crews had
difficulty with the changing conditions, and it took nearly an hour
and a half for Villeneuve's order to be completed. The French and
Spanish fleet now formed an uneven, angular crescent, with the slower
ships generally leeward and closer to the shore. Villeneuve was
painfully aware that the British fleet would not be content to attack
him in the old-fashioned way, coming down in a parallel line and
engaging from van to rear. He knew that they would endeavour to
concentrate on a part of his line. But he was too conscious of the
inexperience of his officers and men to consider making counter
By 11 a.m. Nelson's entire fleet was visible to Villeneuve, drawn up
in two parallel columns. The two fleets would be within range of each
other within an hour. Villeneuve was concerned at this point about
forming up a line, as his ships were unevenly spaced and in an
irregular formation. The Franco-Spanish fleet was drawn out nearly 5
miles (8 km) long as Nelson's fleet approached.
As the British drew closer, they could see that the enemy was not
sailing in a tight order, but rather in irregular groups. Nelson could
not immediately make out the French flagship as the French and Spanish
were not flying command pennants.
The six British ships dispatched earlier to
Gibraltar had not
returned, so Nelson would have to fight without them. He was
outnumbered and outgunned, nearly 30,000 men and 2,568 guns to his
17,000 men and 2,148 guns. The Franco-Spanish fleet also had six more
ships of the line, and so could more readily combine their fire. There
was no way for some of Nelson's ships to avoid being "doubled on" or
even "trebled on".
Nelson's famous signal
The battle progressed largely according to Nelson's plan. At 11:45,
Nelson sent the famous flag signal, "England expects that every man
will do his duty " He had instructed his signal officer, Lieutenant
John Pasco , to signal to the fleet the message "England confides
that every man will do his duty." Pasco suggested to Nelson that
expects be substituted for confides, since the former word was in the
signal book, whereas confides would have to be spelt out
letter-by-letter; Nelson agreed to the change.
The term "England" was widely used at the time to refer to the United
Kingdom, though the British fleet included significant contingents
Wales as well as England. Unlike the
photographic depiction, this signal would have been shown on the
mizzen mast only and would have required 12 'lifts'. The fleet was
approaching the French line in two columns. Leading the windward
column in Victory was Nelson, while Collingwood in Royal Sovereign led
the second, leeward, column.
As the battle opened, the French and Spanish were in a ragged line
headed north as the two British columns approached from the west at
almost a right angle. The northern, windward column of the British
fleet was headed up by Nelson's 100-gun flagship Victory. The leeward
column was led by the 100-gun Royal Sovereign, the flagship of
Vice-Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood . Nelson led his line into a feint
toward the van of the Franco-Spanish fleet and then turned toward the
actual point of attack. Collingwood altered the course of his column
slightly so that the two lines converged at the line of attack.
Just before his column engaged the allied forces, Collingwood said to
his officers, "Now, gentlemen, let us do something today which the
world may talk of hereafter". Because the winds were very light during
the battle, all the ships were moving extremely slowly, and the lead
British ships were under fire from several of the enemy for almost an
hour before their own guns could bear. Situation at 1200 hours as
the Royal Sovereign was breaking into the Franco-Spanish line
At noon, Villeneuve sent the signal "engage the enemy", and Fougueux
fired her first trial shot at Royal Sovereign. Royal Sovereign had all
sails out and, having recently had her bottom cleaned, outran the rest
of the British fleet. As she approached the allied line, she came
under fire from Fougueux, Indomptable , San Justo and San Leandro,
before breaking the line just astern of Admiral Alava's flagship Santa
Ana, into which she fired a devastating double-shotted raking
The second ship in the British lee column, Belleisle , was engaged by
Aigle , Achille , Neptune and Fougeux; she was soon completely
dismasted, unable to manoeuvre and largely unable to fight, as her
sails blinded her batteries, but kept flying her flag for 45 minutes
until the following British ships came to her rescue.
For 40 minutes, Victory was under fire from Héros , Santísima
Trinidad , Redoutable and Neptune ; although many shots went astray
others killed and wounded a number of her crew and shot away her
wheel, so that she had to be steered from her tiller belowdecks.
Victory could not yet respond. At 12:45, Victory cut the enemy line
between Villeneuve's flagship Bucentaure and Redoutable. Victory came
close to the Bucentaure, firing a devastating raking broadside through
her stern which killed and wounded many on her gundecks. Villeneuve
thought that boarding would take place, and with the Eagle of his ship
in hand, told his men: "I will throw it onto the enemy ship and we
will take it back there!" However, Admiral Nelson of Victory engaged
the 74 gun Redoutable. Bucentaure was left to be dealt with by the
next three ships of the British windward column Temeraire , Conqueror
and Neptune . Trafalgar Battle, situation at 13h
A general mêlée ensued and, during that fight, Victory locked masts
with the French Redoutable. The crew of the Redoutable, which included
a strong infantry corps (with three captains and four lieutenants),
gathered for an attempt to board and seize the Victory. A musket
bullet fired from the mizzentop of the Redoutable struck Nelson in the
left shoulder and passed through his body lodging in his spine. Nelson
exclaimed, "They finally succeeded, I am dead." He was carried below
decks and died at about 16:30, as the battle that would make him a
legend was ending in favour of the British.
Victory ceased fire, the gunners having been called on the deck to
fight the capture but were repelled to the below decks by French
grenades. As the French were preparing to board Victory, the
Temeraire, the second ship in the British windward column, approached
from the starboard bow of the Redoutable and fired on the exposed
French crew with a carronade, causing many casualties.
At 13:55, Captain Lucas , of the Redoutable, with 99 fit men out of
643 and severely wounded himself, was forced to surrender. The French
Bucentaure was isolated by the Victory and Temeraire, and then engaged
by Neptune, Leviathan and Conqueror; similarly, the Santísima
Trinidad was isolated and overwhelmed without being rescued,
surrendering after three hours. Trafalgar Battle, situation at
As more and more British ships entered the battle, the ships of the
allied centre and rear were gradually overwhelmed. The allied van,
after long remaining quiescent, made a futile demonstration and then
sailed away. The British took 22 vessels of the Franco-Spanish fleet
and lost none. Among the taken French ships were the Aigle ,
Algésiras , Berwick , Bucentaure, Fougueux, Intrépide , Redoutable,
and Swiftsure . The Spanish ships taken were Argonauta, Bahama,
Monarca, Neptuno , San Agustín , San Ildefonso, San Juan Nepomuceno ,
Santísima Trinidad , and Santa Ana. Of these, Redoutable sank,
Santísima Trinidad and Argonauta were scuttled by the British and
later sank, Achille exploded, Intrépide and San Augustín burned, and
Aigle, Berwick, Fougueux, and Monarca were wrecked in a gale following
As Nelson lay dying, he ordered the fleet to anchor as a storm was
predicted. However, when the storm blew up many of the severely
damaged ships sank or ran aground on the shoals . A few of them were
recaptured by the French and Spanish prisoners overcoming the small
prize crews or by ships sallying from Cádiz.
BATTLE OF AUSTERLITZ
Napoleon with his troops on the eve of battle, questioning local
peasants on the movements of the Austro-Russian Army. Painting by
Lejeune Main articles:
Battle of Austerlitz
Battle of Austerlitz and Order of Battle at
the Austerlitz campaign
The main body of the Napoleonic French army followed the remains of
the Austrian army towards
Vienna . Following the failure of the
Austrian army at Ulm, a Russian army under General
Mikhail Kutuzov was
also withdrawing east, and reached the Ill river on 22 October, where
it joined with the retreating
Corps Kienmayer. On 5 November, they
held a successful rearguard action in Amstetten . On 7 November, the
Russians arrived in
St. Pölten , and then moved across the Danube
river the next day. Late on 9 November, they destroyed the bridges
across the Danube, holding the last one, at Stein, near Krems , until
the late afternoon. The French occupied the vineyards in the
floodplain, and were surrounded by Russian troops as they emerged from
defiles of the mountains. Another column of Russians approached
Dürenstein from the south.
The following day, Mortier ordered Gazan to attack what they believed
to be a Russian rear guard, at the village of Stein. This was a trap
on the part of Kutuzov, laid for the sole purpose of convincing
Mortier that he had retreated further toward Vienna, when he had
actually crossed the
Danube in force, and lay concealed behind the
ridges above the village. In the ensuing
Battle of Dürenstein
Battle of Dürenstein , three
Russian columns circled around the First Division of the Corps
Mortier, and attacked Gazan from both the front and the rear. Not
until Dupont's division arrived, after dark, was Gazan able to start
to evacuate his soldiers to the other side of the Danube. Gazan lost
close to 40 percent of his division. In addition, 47 officers and 895
men were captured, and he lost five guns, as well as the eagles of the
4th Infantry Regiment, and the eagle and guidon of the 4th Dragoons.
The Russians also lost around 4,000, about 16 percent of their force,
and two regimental colors. The Austrian Lt. Field Marshal Schmitt was
killed as the battle concluded, probably by Russian musketry in the
confused melee. Dürenstein lies on a promontory. Steep
mountains extend into the river, which curves around the promontory.
The French did not have a direct line of sight from one end of the
battlefield to the other.
Battle of Schöngrabern
Battle of Schöngrabern (also known as the Battle of
Hollabrunn) occurred a week after the battle at Duerenstein. On 16
November 1805. near Hollabrunn in Lower Austria. The Russian army of
Kutuzov was retiring north of the
Danube before the French army of
Napoleon . On 13 November 1805 Marshals Murat and Lannes , commanding
the French advance guard, had captured a bridge over the
Vienna by falsely claiming that an armistice had been signed, and then
rushing the bridge while the guards were distracted. Kutuzov needed to
gain time in order to make contact near
Brünn with reinforcements led
by Buxhowden . He ordered his rearguard under Major-General Prince
Pyotr Bagration to delay the French.
After Hollabrun, the armies gathered on the plains to the east of
Napoleon could muster some 75,000 men and 157 guns for the
impending battle, but about 7,000 troops under Davout were still far
to the south in the direction of Vienna. The Allies had about 73,000
soldiers, seventy percent of them Russian, and 318 guns. On 1
December, both sides occupied their main positions.
The northern part of the battlefield was dominated by the 700-foot
(210-metre) Santon hill and the 850-foot (260-metre) Zuran hill, both
overlooking the vital Olmutz -Brno road that ran across a west-east
axis. To the west of these two hills was the village of Bellowitz, and
between them the Bosenitz Stream went south to link up with the
Goldbach Stream, the latter flowing astride the villages of Kobelnitz,
Sokolnitz, and Telnitz. The centerpiece of the entire area were the
Pratzen Heights, a gently sloped hill about 35 to 40 feet (11–12 m)
in height. An aide noted that the Emperor 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".
ALLIED PLANS AND DISPOSITIONS
Allied (red) and French (blue) deployments at 1800 hours on 1
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 led to Vienna. Although the Tsar and his immediate entourage
pushed hard for a battle, Emperor Francis of Austria was in a more
cautious mood, and he was seconded by Kutuzov, the main Russian
commander. The pressure to fight from the Russian nobles and the
Austrian commanders, however, was too strong, and the Allies adopted
Austrian Chief of Staff Weyrother's plan. This called for a main
drive against the French right flank, which the Allies noticed was
lightly guarded, and diversionary attacks against the French left. The
Allies deployed most of their troops into four columns that would
attack the French right. The
Russian Imperial Guard
Russian Imperial Guard was held in
reserve while Russian troops under Bagration guarded the Allied right.
FRENCH PLANS AND DISPOSITIONS
Days before any actual fighting,
Napoleon had given an impression to
the Allies that his army was in a weak state and that he desired a
negotiated peace. In reality, he was hoping that they would attack,
and to encourage them on this mission he deliberately weakened his
right flank. On 28 November,
Napoleon met with his marshals at
Imperial Headquarters and they informed him of their qualms and fears
about the upcoming battle, even suggesting a retreat, but he shrugged
off their complaints and went to work. Napoleon's plan envisioned
that the Allies would throw so many troops to envelop his right flank
that their centre would be severely weakened. He then counted on a
massive French thrust, to be conducted by 16,000 troops of Soult 's IV
Corps, through the centre to cripple the Allied army. Meanwhile, to
support his weak right flank,
Napoleon ordered Davout's III
force march all the way from
Vienna and join General Legrand's men,
who held the extreme southern flank that would bear the heavy part of
the Allied attack. Davout's soldiers had 48 hours to March 110 km (68
mi). Their arrival would be extremely crucial in determining the
success or failure of the French plan. The Imperial Guard and
Bernadotte 's I
Corps were held in reserve while the V
Lannes guarded the northern sector of the battle.
BATTLE IS JOINED
The battle began around 8 a.m. with the first allied column attacking
the village of Telnitz, which was defended by the 3rd Line Regiment.
This sector of the battlefield witnessed heavy action in the following
moments as several ferocious Allied charges evicted the French from
the town and forced them on the other side of the Goldbach. The first
men of Davout's corps arrived at this time and threw the Allies out of
Telnitz before they too were attacked by hussars and re-abandoned the
town. Additional Allied attacks out of Telnitz were checked by French
Allied columns started pouring against the French right, but not at
the desired speed, so the French were mostly successful in curbing the
attacks. In actuality, the Allied deployments were mistaken and poorly
timed: cavalry detachments under Liechtenstein on the Allied left
flank had to be placed in the right flank and in the process they ran
into and slowed down part of the second column of infantry that was
advancing towards the French right. At the time, the planners thought
this was a disaster, but later on it helped the Allies. Meanwhile, the
lead elements of the second column were attacking the village of
Sokolnitz, which was defended by the 26th Light Regiment and the
Tirailleurs, French skirmishers. Initial Allied assaults proved
unsuccessful and General Langeron ordered the bombardment of the
village. This deadly barrage forced the French out, and around the
same time, the third column attacked the castle of Sokolnitz. The
French, however, counterattacked and regained the village, only to be
thrown out again. Conflict in this area ended momentarily when Friant
's division (part of III Corps) retook the village. Sokolnitz was
perhaps the most fought over area in the battlefield and would change
hands several times as the day progressed.
"ONE SHARP BLOW AND THE WAR IS OVER"
The decisive attacks on the Allied centre by St. Hilaire and
Vandamme split the Allied army in two and left the French in a golden
strategic position to win the battle.
Around 8:45 a.m., finally satisfied at the weakness in the enemy
Napoleon asked Soult how long it would take for his men to
reach the Pratzen Heights, to which the Marshal replied, "Less than
twenty minutes, sire." About 15 minutes later,
Napoleon ordered the
attack, adding, "One sharp blow and the war is over."
A dense fog helped to cloud the advance of St. Hilaire's division,
but as they went up the slope the legendary 'Sun of Austerlitz' ripped
the mist apart and encouraged them forward. Russian soldiers and
commanders on top of the heights were stunned to see so many French
troops coming towards them. Allied commanders were now able to feed
some of the delayed detachments of the fourth column into this bitter
struggle. Over an hour of horrendous fighting left much of this unit
decimated beyond recognition. The other men from the second column,
mostly inexperienced Austrians, also participated in the struggle and
swung the numbers game against one of the best fighting forces in the
French army, finally forcing them to withdraw down the slopes.
However, gripped by desperation, St. Hilaire's men struck hard once
more and bayoneted the Allies out of the heights. To the north,
General Vandamme 's division attacked an area called Staré Vinohrady
and through talented skirmishing and deadly volleys broke several
The battle had firmly turned to France's favor, but there was still
much fighting ahead.
Napoleon ordered Bernadotte's I
Corps to support
Vandamme's left and moved his own command centre from Zuran Hill to
St. Anthony's Chapel on the Pratzen Heights. The difficult position of
the Allies was confirmed by the decision to send in the Russian
Imperial Guard ; Grand Duke Constantine , Tsar Alexander's brother,
commanded the Guard and counterattacked in Vandamme's section of the
field, forcing a bloody effort and the loss of the only French
standard in the battle (the unfortunate victim was a battalion of the
4th Line Regiment). Sensing trouble,
Napoleon ordered his own heavy
Guard cavalry forward. These men pulverized their Russian
counterparts, but with both sides pouring in large masses of cavalry
no victor was clear yet. The Russians had a numerical advantage here
but fairly soon the tide swung as Drouet's Division, the 2nd of
Bernadotte's I Corps, deployed on the flank of the action and allowed
French cavalry to seek refuge behind their lines. The horse artillery
of the Guard also unlimbered a deadly toll on the Russian cavalry and
fusiliers. The Russians broke and many died as they were pursued by
the reinvigorated French cavalry for about a quarter of a mile.
By 1400 hours, the Allied army had been dangerously separated.
Napoleon now had the option to strike at one of the wings, and he
chose the Allied left since other enemy sectors had already been
cleared or were conducting fighting retreats.
Meanwhile, the northernmost part of the battlefield was also
witnessing heavy fighting. Prince Liechtenstein's heavy cavalry began
to assault Kellerman 's lighter cavalry forces after finally arriving
at the correct position in the field. The fighting originally went
well for the French, but Kellerman's forces took cover behind General
Caffarelli's infantry division once it became clear Russian numbers
were too great. Caffarelli's men halted the Russian assaults and
permitted Murat to send two cuirassier divisions into the fray to
finish off the Russian cavalry for good. The ensuing melee was bitter
and long, but the French ultimately prevailed. Lannes then led his V
Corps against Bagration's men and after hard fighting managed to drive
the skilled Russian commander off the field. He wanted to pursue, but
Murat, who was in control of this sector in the battlefield, was
against the idea.
Napoleon's focus now shifted towards the southern end of the
battlefield where the French and the Allies were still fighting over
Sokolnitz and Telnitz. In an effective double-pronged assault, St.
Hilaire's division and part of Davout's III
Corps smashed through the
enemy at Sokolnitz and persuaded the commanders of the first two
Kienmayer and Langeron, to flee as fast as they
could. Buxhowden , the commander of the Allied left and the man
responsible for leading the attack, was completely drunk and fled as
Kienmayer covered his withdrawal with the O'Reilly light
cavalry, who gallantly managed to defeat five of six French cavalry
regiments before they too had to retreat.
General panic now seized the Allied army and it abandoned the field
in any and all possible directions. Russian forces that had been
defeated by the French right withdrew south towards
Vienna via the
Satschan frozen ponds. According to popular myth, the French artillery
pounded towards the men, but
Napoleon redirected his gunners to fire
at the ice. The men drowned in the viciously cold ponds, dozens of
artillery pieces going down along with them. Estimates on how many
guns were captured differ; there may have been as few as 38 or as many
as over 100. Sources also differ on casualties, with figures ranging
from as few as 200 to as many as 2,000 dead. Because Napoleon
exaggerated this incident in his report of the battle, the low numbers
may be more accurate, although doubt remains as to whether they are
fully correct. Many regard this incident as one of Napoleon's cruelest
acts in war. However, only a few bodies are reported to have been
found in the spring of 1806, and it is most likely the incident is a
Meanwhile, in Italy, a French force under St. Cyr was still
manoeuvring on the frontier of the
Kingdom of Naples . The French were
being carefully watched by an Anglo-Russian force entrusted with
defence of the kingdom. After the Battle of Austerlitz, the Russians
Italy and the British unwilling to defend
evacuated the mainland altogether and retreated back to
Meanwhile, the French force, now stationed in
Bologna was reorganised
into the Army of
Naples and placed under the nominal command of
Joseph Bonaparte . However, the de facto commander
André Masséna , who commanded the I
Corps and was entrusted with
the invasion by Joseph.
INVASION OF NAPLES
On 9 February 1806, Masséna invaded the
Kingdom of Naples and two
days later, the Bourbon king of Naples, Ferdinand IV also fled to
Sicily, protected by the British fleet.
Naples soon fell into French
hands and by the end of February, only two places in the kingdom still
held out. One was the fortress city of
Gaeta , north of Naples, and
the other was
Calabria in the very south of Italy, which was where the
remainder of the Royal Neapolitan Army was stationed.
Ferdinand had hoped for a repeat of the events of 1799, when a
popular uprising in
Calabria eventually caused the downfall of the
Parthenopaean Republic , a French client state created after the
Neapolitans were defeated the first time during the War of the Second
Coalition . However, no such rebellion initially occurred and on 3
Jean Reynier , who commanded the 10,000 strong II Corps
of the Army of
Naples invaded Calabria. Only a few Calabrians resisted
the invading French force and the Royal Neapolitan Army was soundly
defeated at the
Battle of Campo Tenese on 10 March 1806. Ferdinand now
had no choice but to concede the Neapolitan throne to the French. A
day after Campo Tenese, Joseph was installed as the new King of
Naples. By now, the last regular troops of the Neapolitan army had
Sicily and the French controlled the entire Italian mainland
except for the fortress of Gaeta, which had been under siege since 26
However, all was not going to plan for the French. Supply problems
meant that Reynier's II
Calabria was forced to live off the
land. For over a month, the peasants of the region had supported the
Neapolitan army and were close to starvation. Joseph seemed unaware of
the problems and the potential dangers of revolt. Consequently, no
extra provisions were sent to the south of Italy. Reynier took the
initiative and seized supplies from the local populace, leading
predictably to a revolt by the end of March. What started as small
bands of partisans eventually expanded into entire villages rising up
against the French. With the fortress of
Gaeta still holding out,
Joseph was unable to send more troops to Calabria, forcing Reynier to
reinforce his army with native troops recruited from the larger towns
By July, Masséna had still failed to take
Gaeta due to poor
logistical management of the French artillery, slight reinforcements
from the British by sea and a series of successful sorties by the
Neapolitan garrison against the French sappers. With only Reynier's
small force in
Calabria still struggling against the revolt, the
British organised an expeditionary force under Sir John Stuart to
prevent any potential invasion of
Sicily and perhaps to trigger a
full-scale rebellion against the French across Italy. Although there
were early successes for the British, in particular at Maida , the
British failed to either reinforce Stuart's expedition or attempt to
relieve the Siege of Gaeta. With the French artillery finally able to
bombard the walls with their full potential, the Neapolitans
eventually surrendered on 18 July, freeing Masséna's I Corps.
Following the surrender, Masséna was ordered south by Joseph to
support Reynier's II
Corps against the British and the Calabrian
insurrection. Now severely outnumbered in mainland Italy, the British
retreated back to Sicily. However, the revolt was not suppressed until
1807, by which time Masséna had already requested permission to
relinquish command. For the first time in the Napoleonic Wars, the
French experienced a brutal guerrilla war carried on by a rebellious
population. The French gleaned that the only effective way to deal
with such an uprising was to implement terror tactics employed by
Reynier. This foreshadowed the same problems the French, and in
particular Joseph Bonaparte, would face in
Spain during the Peninsular
All the participants of the War of the Third Coalition. Blue:
The Coalition and their colonies and allies. Green: The First French
Empire , its protectorates, colonies and allies.
Austerlitz and the preceding campaign profoundly altered the nature
of European politics. In three months, the French had occupied Vienna,
decimated two armies, and humbled the Austrian Empire. These events
sharply contrast with the rigid power structures of the 18th century,
when no major European capital was ever held by an enemy army.
Austerlitz set the stage for a near-decade of French domination on the
European continent, but one of its more immediate impacts was to goad
Prussia into war in 1806 .
France and Austria signed a truce on 4 December and the Treaty of
Pressburg 22 days later took the latter out of the war. Austria agreed
to recognize French territory captured by the treaties of Campo Formio
Lunéville (1801), cede land to Bavaria, Wurttemberg , and
Baden , which were Napoleon's German allies, and pay 40 million francs
in war indemnities. Venetia was also given to the Kingdom of
It was a harsh end for Austria, but certainly not a catastrophic
peace. The Russian army was allowed to withdraw to home territory and
the French encamped themselves in Southern Germany. The Holy Roman
Empire was also effectively wiped out, 1806 being seen as its final
Napoleon created the
Confederation of the Rhine , a string of
German states meant to serve as a buffer between
France and Prussia.
Prussia saw these and other moves as an affront to its status as the
main power of
Central Europe and it went to war with
France in 1806.
In Italy, the political situation would remain unchanged until 1815,
with the British and Sicilian troops guarding the Bourbon King
Sicily and the Napoleonic King of
Naples controlling the
mainland. In 1808,
Joachim Murat became the King of Naples, after
Joseph Bonaparte became King of Spain. Murat made various attempts to
cross the Strait of
Sicily , which all ended in failure, despite once
managing to secure a foothold in Sicily.
War of the Fourth Coalition
* ^ For the diplomatic history see Paul W. Schroeder, The
Transformation of European Politics 1763–1848 (1996). pp 210–86
* ^ Chandler p. 304.
* ^ Chandler p. 320.
* ^ Herring, p. 101.
* ^ Thomas J. Fleming (26 June 2003). The Louisiana Purchase. John
Wiley and Sons. pp. 129–. ISBN 978-0-471-26738-6 . Retrieved 19
* ^ Either Antoine Boulay de la Meurthe (The Oxford Dictionary of
Quotations), deputy from Meurthe in the
Corps législatif , or
Bonaparte's chief of police,
Joseph Fouché (John Bartlett, Familiar
Quotations, 10th ed. (1919), said about his execution "C'est pire
qu'un crime, c'est une faute", a statement often rendered in English
as "It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder." The statement is
also sometimes attributed to French diplomat Charles Maurice de
Talleyrand-Périgord . Sometimes the quote is given as, "It was worse
than a crime; it was a mistake."
* ^ Chandler p. 328.
* ^ Chandler p. 323.
* ^ A B Chandler p. 332.
* ^ Chandler p. 333.
* ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes p. 33.
* ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes p. 31.
* ^ Uffindell p. 155.
* ^ A B Fisher & Fremont-Barnes p. 32.
* ^ Chandler, David G (1 March 1973). "From the
Rhine to the
Danube". The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York: Scribner. p. 383. ISBN
* ^ Stutterheim, Karl; Pine-Coffin, John (trans.) (1807). A
Detailed Account of The Battle of Austerlitz. London: Goddard. p. 44.
* ^ Robert Goetz, 1805: Austerlitz:
Napoleon and the Destruction of
Third Coalition (Greenhill Books, 2005)
* ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes p. 36.
* ^ A B Chandler p. 382.
* ^ Chandler p. 384.
* ^ A B C D Chandler p. 385.
* ^ Kagan p. 389.
* ^ Kagan p. 393.
* ^ A B Kagan p. 395.
* ^ Kagan p. 397.
* ^ Kagan p. 400.
* ^ Kagan p. 402.
* ^ Kagan p. 404.
* ^ A B Kagan p. 408.
* ^ Kagan p. 409.
* ^ Kagan p. 412.
* ^ Kagan p. 414.
* ^ Kagan p. 415.
* ^ A B Kagan p. 417.
* ^ Kagan p. 420.
* ^ Kagan p. 421.
* ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes pp. 39–40.
* ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes p. 40.
* ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes p. 41.
* ^ A B Chandler p. 399.
* ^ A B C D E Chandler p. 400.
* ^ "Nelson and His Navy – England or Nelson?". Historical
Maritime Society. Archived from the original on 28 September 2006.
Retrieved 12 September 2006.
* ^ (in German) Rainer Egger. Das Gefecht bei Dürnstein-Loiben
1805. Wien: Bundesverlag, 1986.
* ^ Smith. Databook. p. 213.
* ^ (in German) Jens-Florian Ebert. "Heinrich von Schmitt". Die
Österreichischen Generäle 1792–1815.
Epoch. Markus Stein, editor. Mannheim, Germany. 14 February 2010
version. Accessed 5 February 2010: (in German) Egger, p. 29.
* ^ A B Uffindell p. 19.
* ^ Chandler pp. 412–413.
* ^ A B Chandler p. 416.
* ^ McLynn p. 342.
* ^ Brooks , ed. p. 109.
* ^ A B Fisher & Fremont-Barnes p. 48.
* ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes pp. 48–49.
* ^ A B Fisher & Fremont-Barnes p. 49.
* ^ Uffindell p. 21.
* ^ Chandler p. 425.
* ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes pp. 49–50.
* ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes p. 51.
* ^ A B Fisher & Fremont-Barnes p. 52.
* ^ Chandler p. 432.
* ^ Spring, Laurence, "Russian Grenadiers and Infantry, 1799-1815",
Osprey Publishing 2002
* ^ A B Finley, Milton C. Jr. (April 1976). "Prelude to Spain: The
Calabrian Insurrection, 1806–1807". Military Affairs. 40 (2):
JSTOR 1987151 . doi :10.2307/1987151 .
* ^ Masséna & Koch , pp. 194–251.
* Brooks, Richard, ed. (2000). Atlas of World Military History.
London: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-7607-2025-8 .
* Chandler, David G. (1995). The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York:
Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-02-523660-1 .
* Dupuy, Trevor N. (1993). Harper Encyclopedia of Military History.
New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-270056-1 .
* Fisher, Todd; Fremont-Barnes, Gregory (2004). The Napoleonic Wars:
The Rise and Fall of an Empire. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN
* Kagan, Frederick W. (2006). The End of the Old Order. Cambridge:
Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-81137-5 .
* Masséna, André; Koch, Jean Baptiste Frédéric (1848–50).
Mémoires de Masséna (in French). V. Paris: Paulin et Lechevalier.
Retrieved 20 May 2009.
* McLynn, Frank (1997). Napoleon: A Biography. New York: Arcade
Publishing. ISBN 1-55970-631-7 .
* Schroeder, Paul W. (1996). The Transformation of European Politics
1763–1848. Oxford U.P. pp. 210–86. , diplomatic history of Eu