Volume II - Chapiter 11

 

THE BUILD-UP TO AUSTERLITZ (1) 

 

ULM, OR THE INCREDIBLE ROUT OF THE AUSTRIANS

 

 

Wars that are unavoidable are always just.

(Napoleon)

On September 3, the troops that had now become the Grande Armée set off singing. Eastward bound !

And what an army it was!

Its ranks were manned by veterans of the early victories of Valmy, Jemmapes and Fleurus, won by the first great leaders; Lodi, Castiglione, Bassano, Arcole, Rivoli, and the Pyramids by General Bonaparte; Altenkirchen by Hoche; Hohenlinden by Moreau, and Marengo by the First Consul…

All these young men – around 30 years old for veterans of the Revolutionary wars, under 25 for those who took part in the Consular campaigns – had been hardened by the chilling rain of Holland, the glacial cold of Germany and the Alps, and the scorching sands of Egypt.

The youth and vigour of the troops was all to the good, for the Emperor had laid down strict rates of advance to cover the 1,380 km separating them from the combat that English treachery had provoked: almost four kilometres an hour in 35- to 40-kilometre stages on average, with a five-minute rest each hour and a long break of 30 to 60 minutes three-quarters the way through the stage.

Napoleon, in the background, surveys the departure of the Grande Armée from the military Camp of Boulogne. The men who were to march at the speed of four kilometres an hour and cover thirty-five to forty kilometres daily in a race against time on the long journey to Vienna, said: “The Emperor has found a new way of making war : he uses our legs more than our bayonets”.

On 3 September, Napoleon’s Grande Armée assembled along the French coast suddenly swung into action and marched east towards Austria as war was now obviously inevitable. The French army totalling some 196,000 men formed seven powerful columns described by Napoleon as “seven torrents”.

 

 

COMPOSITION AND STRENGTH OF THE FIRST SEVEN ARMY CORPS

DISPATCHED TO GERMANY

 

General Staff

356

1st Corps

Marshal Bernadotte. Drouet, Rivaud and Kellermann divisions, artillery and engineers: 17,737

2nd Corps

General Marmont. Boudet, Grouchy, Dumonceau, and Lacoste divisions, artillery and engineers: 20,758

3rd Corps

Marshal Davout. Bisson, Friant and Gudin divisions, General Vialannes’ light cavalry, artillery and engineers: 27,452

4th Corps

Marshal Soult. Saint-Hilaire, Vandamme, Legrand and Suchet divisions, General Margaron’s cavalry, artillery and engineers: 41,358

5th Corps

Marshal Lannes. Oudinot and Gazan divisions, General Treilhard’s light cavalry, artillery and engineers: 17,788

6th Corps

Marshal Ney. Dupont, Loison and Malher divisions, General Tilly’s light cavalry, artillery and engineers: 24,407

7th Corps (in training)

Marshal Augereau. Desjardins and Maurice Matthieu divisions, artillery and engineers: 14,450

Reserve cavalry

Marshal Murat. Two divisions of armoured cavalry (Nansouty and Hautpoul); four divisions of dragoons (Klein, Walther, Beaumont and Bourcier); a division of infantry dragoons/dragons à pied (Baraguay d’Hilliers); artillery and engineers: 22,015

Supply /Supply depots

3,885

Imperial Guard

6,265

 

TOTAL: 196,471

 

The troops of Napoleon’s German allies should be added to this figure:

 

Bavaria

23,220

Wurttemberg

5,649

Baden

2,321

 

GRAND TOTAL: 227,661

 

 

 

A hair-raising plan

 

The advance was not just seven army corps on the march, it was a torrent – "the Seven Torrents" Napoleon called them – that streamed toward Austria and Moravia.

 

Time was of the essence.

 

The allies had conceived a plan that at first sight seemed intimidating. The troops in the north were to advance on Hanover, Holland and Belgium, by way of Pomerania, while the Austro-Russian forces would make for the Rhine along the Danube and thrust into Alsace and the Franche-Comté. Other Austrian troops under Archduke Charles were to invade the Po Valley and all of upper Italy.

 

Meanwhile, the Anglo-Russian forces, with assistance from Naples, were to sweep down the Italian peninsula. We should here note the duplicity of the Court of Naples (which in that period comprised the south of Italy); it is a small digression that shows the difference between Napoleon and all the other European monarchies, be they grand or laughable.

 

On September 21, 1805, Queen Marie-Caroline of Naples formally pledged herself to:

 

1. Remain neutral in the war underway;

2. Prevent any troops of a belligerent power from entering or landing on any part of her neutral territories;

3. Refuse to give command of her fortresses to any Russian, Austrian, or other officer from a belligerent power;

4. Forbid any squadron to enter her ports.

 

Napoleon, under the terms of Article 5, had undertaken to withdraw from the Neapolitan territories in the month following ratification of the treaty, so, faithfully executing signed agreements as usual, he had given orders that the withdrawal be completed before the agreed date. How, then, did the Queen of Naples react as soon as French departed? On November 19, she welcomed twelve thousand Russians and eight thousand English with open arms, and to complete her treachery, she gave command of all her combined forces to an English officer, Lacy, who already had command of the twelve thousand Russians!

 

AUSTRO-RUSSIAN FORCES

1) Austrian Forces

 

- The first army of 80,000 men, three or four days’ march from the River Inn, and therefore near the Bavarian border. The Archduke Ferdinand held the command, and they were led in the field by General Mack. They were to invade Bavaria, an ally of France, and take up position near Ulm to await the arrival of the first Russian army. If successful, this army would invade France through Switzerland and the Franche-Comté.

- A second army of 100,000 men under the direct command of Archduke Charles, split into two forces: 45,000 near Bassano commanded by General Bellegarde, and 55,000 more at Laybach.

- A third army of 20,000 men in the Tyrol and 10,000 in Voralberg under the command of Archduke John. Its mission was to maintain communications between the two other forces and bring reinforcements where needed.

 

Total strength of Austrian Forces: 210,000 men.

 

2) Russian Forces

 

-An army of 50,000 men in Galicia under the command of General

 Kutuzov, which was to join the Austrians immediately and fight in Bavaria.

-A second army of 50,000 men in Bohemia.

-A third of 40,000 men on the Prussian border.

-The Imperial Guard: 12,000 men commanded by Grand Duke

 Constantine, the brother of Tsar Alexander.

 

Total strength of Russian Forces: 152,000 men

 

The total strength of the Austro-Russian forces of 362,000 men gave England’s mercenaries an appreciable advantage over Napoleon’s Grande Armée.

 

 

Cont'd ... Part 2

 

Cont'd ... Part 3