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NAPOLEONIC CAMPAIGNS

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Originally appearing in Volume V19, Page 220 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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NAPOLEONIC CAMPAIGNS.—1. The era of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars falls into two main divisions, the first of which (1792—1801) is dealt with under the heading FRENCH REVOLUTIONARY WARS. In the present article are described the campaigns in central and eastern Europe, directed by Napoleon—no longer one amongst many French generals, nor even a simple Primus inter pares, but " Emperor " in the fullest sense—between the years 1805 and 1814. Napoleon's short Spanish Campaign of 1809 is dealt with under PENINSULAR WAR (this article covering the campaigns in Spain, Portugal and southern France 1808-1814), and for the final drama of Waterloo the reader is referred to WATERLOO CAMPAIGN. The campaigns described below are therefore (a) The Austrian War of 1805 (Ulm and Austerlitz). (b) The Conquest of Prussia and the Polish Campaign (Jena, Auerstadt, Eylau and Friedland). (c) The Austrian War of 1809 (Eckmuhl, Aspern and Wagram). (d) The Russian War of 1812 (Borodino and the retreat from Moscow). (e) The German " War of Liberation," culminating in the Battle of the Nations around Leipzig. (f) The last campaign in France, 1814. The naval history of 1803-1815 includes the culmination and the sequel of the struggle for command of the sea which began in 1793 and reached its maximum intensity on the day of Trafalgar. 2. The Campaign of z8o5 may be regarded as a measure of self-defence forced upon Napoleon by the alliance of Russia (April 11th), Austria (August 9th) and other powers with Great Britain. The possibility had long been before the emperor, and his intention in that event to march straight on Vienna by the valley of the Danube is clearly indicated in his reply (November 27th, 1803) to a Prussian proposal for the neutralization of the South German states. In this he says, " It is on the road from Strassburg to Vienna that the French must force peace on Austria, and it is this road which you wish us to renounce." When, therefore, on the 25th of August 18o5, he learnt definitely that Villeneuve (see Naval operations below) had failed in his purpose of securing the command of the Channel, which was the necessary preliminary to the invasion of England, it was but the affair of a few hours to dictate the dispositions necessary to transfer his whole army to the Rhine frontier as the first step in its march to the Danube. On this date the army actually lay in the following positions: I. Corps Bernadotte Hanover (Gottingen) II. „ Marmont Holland IV. „ Soult Camp of Boulogne and V. „ Lannes r other points on the VI. „ Ney English Channel Guard Bessieres Paris. The corps were, however, by no means fit for immediate service. Bernadotte's corps in Hanover was almost in the position of a beleaguered garrison, and the marshal could only obtain his transport by giving out that he was ordered to withdraw to France. Marmont and Davout were deficient in horses for cavalry and artillery, and the troops in Boulogne, having been drawn together for the invasion of England, had hardly any transport at all, as it was considered this want could be readily supplied on landing. The composition of the army, however, was excellent. The generals were in the prime of life, had not yet learnt to distrust one another, and were accustomed to work under the emperor and with one another. The regimental officers had all acquired their rank before the enemy and knew how to manage their men, and of the men themselves nearly two-thirds had seen active service. The strength of the army lay in its infantry, for both cavalry and artillery were short of horses, and the latter had not yet acquired mobility and skill in manceuvring. Napoleon's determination to undertake the invasion of England has often been disputed, but it is hard to imagine what other operation he contemplated, for the outbreak of hostilities with his continental enemies found him ill-supplied with intelligence as to the resources of the country he had then to traverse. To remedy this, Murat and other general officers as well as minor agents were sent ahead and instructed to travel through South Germany in plain clothes with a view to collecting information and mastering the topography. The emperor was, moreover, imperfectly acquainted with the degree of preparation of his adversaries' designs, and when he dictated his preliminary orders he was still unaware of the direction that the allies' advance would assume. That he foresaw the march of events which ultimately drew Mack to Ulm is inconceivable. On the 26th of August, however, he learnt that roo,000 Russians were about to enter Bohemia thence to unite with an Austrian army of 8o,000 near the junction of the Inn and Danube, and this information compelled him to alter the general direction of his advance so as to traverse the defiles of the Black Forest north of the Neckar, cavalry only observing the passes to the south. 3. Austrian Army.—The Austrians after the defeats of 1800 had endeavoured to reorganize their forces on the French model, but they were soon to learn that in matters of organization the spirit is everything, the letter very little. They had copied the organization of the French corps, but could find no corps commanders fit to assume the responsibility for these commands. As always in such conditions, the actual control of the smallest movements was still centralized in the hands of the army commanders, and thus the rate of marching was incredibly slow. They had decided that in future their troops in the field should live by requisition, and had handed over to the artillery, which needed them badly, a large number of horses thus set free from the transport service, but they had not realized that men accustomed to a regular distribution of rations cannot be trans-formed into successful marauders and pillagers by a stroke of the pen; and they had sent away the bulk of their army, 120,000 under their best general, the archduke Charles, into Italy, leaving Lieut. Field Marshal Mack von Leiberich in Germany, nominally as chief of the staff to the young Prince Ferdinand, but virtually in command, to meet the onset of Napoleon at the head of his veterans. Mack was a man of unusual attainments. He had risen from the ranks in the most caste-ridden army in Europe, and against untold opposition had carried through army reforms which were correct in principle, and needed only time to develop. It was his fate to be made the scapegoat for the disasters which followed, though they need no further explanation than that, at the head of 8o,000 men and exercising only restricted powers of command, he was pitted against the greatest strategist of all ages who was responsible to no overlord and commanded, in the fullest sense of the term, an army considerably more than twice as strong. 4. The March on Ulm.—The outbreak of the campaign was hastened by the desire of the Austrian government to feed their own army and leave a bare country for Napoleon by securing the resources of Bavaria. It was also hoped that the Bavarians with their army of 25,000 men would join the allies. In the latter hope they were deceived, and the Bavarians under General Wrede slipped away to Bamberg in time. In the former, how-ever, they were successful, and the destitution they left in their wake almost wrecked Napoleon's subsequent combinations. Mack's march to Ulm was therefore a necessity of the situation, and his continuance in this exposed position, if foolhardy against such an adversary, was at any rate the outcome of the high resolve that even if beaten he would inflict crippling losses upon the enemy. Mack knew that the Russians would be late at the rendezvous on the Inn. By constructing an entrenched camp at Ulm and concentrating all the available food within it, he expected to compel Napoleon to invest and besiege him, and he anticipated that in the devastated country his adversary would be compelled to separate and thus fall an easy prey to the Russians. E or that blow he had determined to make his ownarmy the anvil. But these views obviously could not be published in army orders, hence the discontent and opposition he was destined to encounter. 5. Movements of the French.—It was on the 21st that Napoleon learnt of Mack's presence in Ulm. On that date his army had crossed the Rhine and was entering the defiles of the Black Forest. It was already beginning to suffer. Boots were worn out, greatcoats deficient, transport almost unattainable and, according to modern ideas, the army would have been considered incapable of action. es_ Oct. 6. Oct. 9. Oct. 16. Sept. 28. Bernadotte . Wiirzburg Anspach Nurnberg Regensburg Marmont . Wurzburg Anspach Nurnberg Regensburg Davout . . Mannheim Mergentheim Anspach Dietfurt Ney . . Selz Crailsheim Weissenburg Ingolstadt Lannes . . Strassburg Gmund Nordlingen Neuburg Soult . . Landau Aalen Donauw~rth On the 26th of September, its deployment beyond the mountains was complete, and as Napoleon did not know of Mack's intention to stay at Ulm and had learned that the Russian advance had been delayed, he directed his columns by the following roads on the Danube, between Donauworth and Ingolstadt, so as to be in a position to intervene between the Austrians and the Russians and beat both in detail. On the 7th of October this movement was completed—the Austrians abandoned the Danube bridges after a show of resistance, retreating westward—and Napoleon, leaving Murat in command of the V. and VI. corps and cavalry to observe the Austrians, pressed on to Augsburg with the others so as to be ready to deal with the Russians. Learning, however, that these were still beyond striking radius, he determined to deal with Mack's army first, having formed the fixed conviction that a threat at the latter's communications would compel him to endeavour to retreat southwards towards Tirol. Bernadotte in his turn became an army of observation, and Napoleon joining Murat with the main body marched rapidly westward from the Lech towards the Iller. 6. Austrian Plans.—Mack's intentions were not what Napoleon supposed. He had meanwhile received (false) information of a British landing at Boulogne, and he was seriously deceived as to the numbers of Napoleon's forces. He was also aware that the exactions of the French had produced deep indignation through-out Germany and especially in Prussia (whose neutrality had been violated, see § 14, below). All this, and the almost mutinous discontent of his generals and his enemies of the court circle, shook his resolution of acting as anvil for the Russians, of whose delay also he was aware, and about the 8th of October he deter-mined to march out north-eastward across the French lines of communication and save his sovereign's army by taking refuge if necessary in Saxony. Believing implicitly in the rumours of a descent on Boulogne and of risings in France which also reached him, and knowing the destitution he had left behind him in his movement to Ulm, when he heard of the westward march of French columns from the Lech he told his army, apparently in all good faith, that the Fi ench were in full march for their own country. Actually the French at this moment were suffering the most terrible distress—up to the Danube they had still found sufficient food for existence, but south of it, in the track of the Austrians, they found nothing. All march discipline disappeared, the men dissolved into hordes of marauders and even the sternest of the marshals wrote piteous appeals to the emperor for supplies, and for permission to shoot some of their stragglers. But to all these Berthier in the emperor's name sent the stereotyped reply-" The emperor has ordered you to carry four days' provisions, therefore you can expect nothing further—you know the emperor's method of conducting war." 7. Action of Albeck or Haslach.—Meanwhile Murat, before the emperor joined him, had given Mack the desired opening. The VI. corps (Ney) should have remained on the left bank of the Danube to close the Austrian exit on that side, but by mistake only Dupont's division had been left at Albeck, the rest being brought over the river. Mack on the 8th had determined to commence his withdrawal, but fortune now favoured the French. The weather during the whole of October had been unusually wet, the swollen Danube overflowed the low ground and the roads had become quagmires. On the south bank, owing to better natural drainage and a drier subsoil, movement was fairly easy, but the Austrians found it almost impossible. On the r rth of October, when they began their march, the road along the Danube was swept into the river, carrying with it several guns and teams, and hours were consumed in passing the shortest distances. At length in the afternoon they suddenly fell upon Dupont's isolated division at Albeck, which was completely surprised and severely handled. The road now lay completely open, but the Austrian columns had so opened out owing to the state of the roads that the leading troops could not pursue their advantage—Dupent rallied and the Austrians had actually to fall back towards Ulm to procure food. 8. Elchingen.—For three more days Mack struggled with an unwilling staff and despondent men to arrange a further advance. During these very three days, through a succession of staff blunders, the French failed to close the gap, and on the morning of the 14th of October both armies, each renewing their advance, came in contact at the bridge of Elchingen. This bridge, allbut a few road-bearers, had been destroyed, but now the French gave an example of that individual gallantry which was characteristic of the old revolutionary armies. Running along the beams under a close fire a few gallant men forced their way across. The floor of the bridge was rapidly relaid, and presently the whole of the VI. corps was deploying with unexampled rapidity on the farther side. The Austrians, still in their quagmire, could not push up reinforcements fast enough, and though Mack subsequently alleged deliberate obstruction and disobedience on the part of his subordinates, the state of the roads alone suffices to explain their defeat. Only the right column of the Austrians was, however, involved; the left under General Werneck, to whom some cavalry and the archduke Ferdinand attached themselves, did indeed succeed in getting away, but without trains or supplies. They continued their march, famished but unmolested, until near Heidenheim they suddenly found themselves confronted by what from the diversity of uniforms they took to be an overwhelming force; at the same time the French cavalry sent in pursuit appeared in their rear. Utterly exhausted by fatigue, Werneck with his infantry, some 8000 strong, surrendered to what was really a force of dismounted dragoons and foot-sore stragglers improvised by the commanding officer on the spot to protect the French treasure chests, which at that moment lay actually in the path of the Austrians. The young archduke with some cavalry escaped. g. Mack surrounded.—The defeat at Elchingen on the 14th of October sealed the fate of the Austrians, though Mack was still determined to endure a siege. As the French columns coming up from the south and west gradually surrounded him, he drew in his troops under shelter of the fortress and its improvised entrenched camp, and on the 15th he found himself completely surrounded. On the 16th the French field-guns fired into the town, and Mack realized that his troops were no longer under sufficient control to endure a siege. When, therefore, next morning, negotiations were opened by the French, Mack, still feeling certain that the Russians were at hand, agreed to an armistice and undertook to lay down his arms if within the next twenty-one days no relief should arrive. To this Napoleon consented, but hardly had the agreement been signed than he succeeded in introducing a number of individual French soldiers into the fortress, who began rioting with the Austrian soldiery. Then, sending in armed parties to restore order and protect the inhabitants, he caused the guards at the gates to be overpowered, and Mack was thus forced into an unconditional surrender. On the 22nd of October, the day after Trafalgar, the remnant of the Austrian army, 23,000 strong, laid down its arms. About 5000 men under Jellachich had escaped to Tirol, 2000 cuirassiers with Prince Ferdinand to Eger in Bohemia, and about ro,000 men under Werneck, had surrendered at Heidenheim. The losses in battle having been insignificant, there remain some 30,000 to account for— most of whom probably escaped individually by the help of the inhabitants, who were bitterly hostile to the French. to. Napoleon's Advance to Vienna.—Napoleon now hastened to rejoin the group of corps he had left under Bernadotte in observation towards the Russians, for the latter were nearer at hand than even Mack had assumed. But hearing of his misfortune they retreated before Napoleon's advance along the right bank of the Danube to Krems, where they crossed the river and withdrew to an entrenched camp near Olmutz to pick up fresh Austrian reinforcements. The severe actions of Durrenstein (near Krems) on the 1th, and of Hollabrunn on the 16th of November, in which Napoleon's marshals learned the tenacity of their new opponents, and the surprise of the Vienna bridge (November 14) by the French, were the chief incidents of this period in the campaign. 11. Campaign of Austerlitz.—Napoleon continued down the right bank to Vienna, where he was compelled by the con-Austerlitz. dition of his troops to call a halt to refit his army. After this was done he continued his movement to Brunn. Thither he succeeded in bringing only 55,000 men. He was again forced to give his army rest and shelter, under cover of Murat's cavalry. The allies now confronted him with upwards of 86,000 men, including 16,000 cavalry. About the loth of November this force commenced its advance, and Napoleon concentrated in such a manner that within three days he could bring over 8o,000 French troops into action around Brunn, besides 17,000 or more Bavarians under Wrede. On the 28th Murat was driven in by the allied columns. That night orders were despatched for a concentration on Brunn in expectation of a collision on the following day; but hearing that the whole allied force was moving towards him he decided to concentrate south-east of Brunn, covering his front by cavalry on the Pratzen heights. Meanwhile he had also prepared a fresh line of retreat towards Bohemia, and, certain now of having his men in hand for the coming battle, he quietly awaited events. The allies were aware of his position, and still` adhering to the old " linear " system, marched to turn his right flank (see AUSTERIaTZ). As soon as their strategic purpose of cutting him off from Vienna became apparent, the emperor moved his troops into position, and in the afternoon issued his famous proclamation to his troops, pointing out the enemy's mistakes and his plan for defeating them. At the same time he issued his orders for his first great battle as a supreme commander. The battle of Austerlitz began early next morning and closed in the evening with the thorough and decisive defeat of the allies. 12. Jena, z8o6.—Around the Prussian army, and particularly the cavalry, the prestige of Frederick the Great's glory still lingered; but the younger generation had little Jena experience of actual warfare, and the higher corn- campaign. manders were quite unable to grasp the changes in tactics and in the conduct of operations which had grown out of the necessities of the French Revolution. The individual officers of the executive staff were the most highly trained in Europe, but there was no great leader to co-ordinate their energies. The total number of men assigned to the field army was 1 ro,000 Prussians and Saxons. They were organized in corps, but their leaders were corps commanders only in name, for none were allowed any latitude for individual initiative. Ill-judged economies had undermined the whole efficiency of the Prussian army. Two-thirds of the infantry and one-half of the cavalry were allowed furlough for from ten to eleven months in the year. The men were unprovided with greatcoats. Most of the muskets had actually seen service in the Seven Years' War, and their barrels had worn so thin with constant polishing that the use of full charges at target practice had been forbidden. Above all, the army had drifted entirely out of touch with the civil population. The latter, ground down by feudal tradition and law, and at the same time permeated by the political doctrines of the late 18th century, believed that war concerned the governments only, and formed no part of the business of the " honest citizen." In this idea they were supported by the law itself, which protected the civilian against the soldier, and forbade even in war-time the requisitioning of horses, provisions and transport, without payment. Up to the night of the battle of Jena itself, the Prussian troops lay starving in the midst of plenty, whilst the French everywhere took what they wanted. This alone was a sufficient cause for all the misfortunes which followed. 13. Outbreak of the War.—During the campaign of Austerlitz Prussia, furious at the violation of her territory of Anspach, had mobilized, and had sent Haugwitz as ambassador to Napoleon's headquarters. He arrived on the 30th of November, and Napoleon, pleading business, put off his official reception till after the battle of Austerlitz. Of course the ultimatum was never presented, as may be imagined; Haugwitz returned and the king of Prussia demobilized at once. But Napoleon, well knowing the man he had to deal with, had determined to force a quarrel upon Prussia at the earliest convenient opportunity. His troops therefore, when withdrawn from Austria, were can-toned in south Germany in such a way that, whilst suspicion was not aroused in minds unacquainted with Napoleonic methods, they could be concentrated by a few marches behind the Thuringian forest and the upper waters of the Main. Here the Grand Army was left to itself to recuperate and assimilate its recruits, and it is characteristic of the man and his methods that he did not trouble his corps commanders with a single order during the whole of the spring and summer. As the diplomatic crisis approached, spies were sent into Prussia, and simultaneously with the orders for preliminary concentration the marshals received private instructions, the pith of which cannot be better expressed than in the following two quotations from Napoleon's correspondence: " Mon intention est de concentrer toutes mes forces sur l'extremit6 de ma droite en laissant tout 1'espace entre le Rhin et Bamberg entierement degarni, de maniere a avoir pi-es de 200,000 hommes reunis sur un meme champ de bataille; mes premieres marches menacent le ceeur de la monarchic prussienne " (No. 10,920). Avec cette immense superiorite de forces reunis sur un espace si 6troit, vous sentez que je suis dans la volont6 de ne rien hasarder et d'attaquer I'ennemi partout on it voudra tenir. Vous pensez Bien que ce serait une belle affaire que de se porter sur cette place (Dresden) en un bataillon carre de 200,000 hommes " (Soult, No. 10,941). 14. Advance of the Grande Armee.—On the 7th of October the Grande Armee lay in three parallel columns along the roads leading over the mountains to Hof, Schleiz and Kronach; on the right lay the IV. corps (Soult) about Bayreuth; with his cavalry in rear, and behind these the VI. corps (Ney) at Pegnitz; in the centre, Bernadotte's I. corps from Nordhalben, with the
End of Article: NAPOLEONIC CAMPAIGNS
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