Volume II - Chapiter 11 (... Part 3 - end)

 

THE BUILD-UP TO AUSTERLITZ (1) 

ULM, OR THE INCREDIBLE ROUT OF THE AUSTRIANS

 

 

Napoleon’s generous offer

 

Facing the city, Napoleon was only too aware of what the troops and unfortunate inhabitants besieged in Ulm could expect when the attack began in earnest.

 

On October 16, the Emperor, knowing that Prince John of Liechtenstein, whom he greatly respected, was in the city, dispatched Count Philippe de Ségur, one of the captains on his General Staff, to negotiate. When the Prince presented himself at headquarters in Elchingen, Napoleon urged him to use his standing with General Mack to persuade him that his decision should be to shield the troops and inhabitants from the terrifying ordeal of a full-out assault.

 

"Prince, save the brave nation of Austria and spare me the need for this appalling action: your position is not tenable."

 

Liechtenstein assented, and Napoleon gave General Mack two days to make his decision. The answer was not long in coming, and the next day Marshal Berthier, Major General of the Grande Armée, signed the surrender with General Mack.

On 20 October, General Mack officially capitulated and handed over the keys of the city. Thirty thousand Austrian soldiers, including two thousand horsemen, were made prisoners of war and were marched past the French army laying down their arms, standards and colours escorted by the Imperial Guard

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On October 20, from two o’clock in the afternoon until seven in the evening, in front of the French army in battle ranks on the heights of the city, 30,000 troops, including 2,000 cavalry, filed past the victorious Emperor flanked by his Imperial Guard.

Napoleon summoned the 16 Austrian generals, including General Mack, and treated them with the greatest respect:

"Gentlemen, the Emperor whom you serve is waging an unjust war against me. I tell you frankly, I do not know why we are fighting. I do not know what they want of me."

Napoleon responded to an Austrian officer who was amazed to view the French monarch covered in mud and grime like the last of the grenadiers:

"Your master wished to remind me that I was a soldier; I hope it suits you that the throne and the imperial purple have not made me forget my first calling."

Pointing to the French army in battle order on the heights surrounding the city, he added:

"My strength does not lie in just this army alone; even if that were the case, I would certainly go far with them; but I appeal to the reports your soldiers will make when they are transported as prisoners across France; they will see the mood of my people, and how they hasten to join my ranks. Therein lies the strength of my nation and my position: one word, and two hundred thousand willing men will run to enlist, and in six weeks will make good soldiers. Your recruits, however, only march when forced, and take years to become soldiers. The notion that the dynasty of the House of Lorraine is to end must horrify the Emperor of Germany. Let me now remind you that I want nothing on the Continent. Ships, colonies, trade – those are what I seek, and they serve your ends as much as ours."

It was a superb and astonishing campaign that, in under three weeks, saw the main Austrian army completely wiped out and 60,000 men taken prisoner, including 29 generals and 2,000 officers, without a real battle.

As for the Grande Armée, losses amounted to fewer than 2,000 men, which gave rise to the well-known barrack-room saying:

"The Emperor has found a new way of making war – he makes more use of our legs than our bayonets!"

 

Napoleon is compassionate and humane in victory

On November 1, news reached the Emperor of the disaster befalling the French fleet at Trafalgar, but that was not sufficient reassurance for the monarchs, who understood that the victory profited England alone.

When General Kutuzov, commanding the Russian forces, was personally informed by General Mack that Ulm had surrendered, he decided to abandon his ally, leaving open the road to Vienna, where Napoleon entered on November 13.

Letter sent by Augereau, then commanding the Military camp of Brest, in late Summer 18O4, to his friend Marshal Massena then Commander-in-Chief, of the French army in Italy. A few months later, Augereau was to participate in theAusterlitz Campaign and Massena was to defeat the Austrian army at Caldiero.

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Pierre François Charles Augereau (1757-1816) was created marshal in 1804 and the following year he commanded the 14,000 men of the VII Corps. Born in Paris, he came from humble origins and he started his military career as a mercenary in the Prussian army, which later earned him the nickname of the “Big Prussian”. Returning to France, he joined the Republican army in 1792 and was promoted general in 1793. It was in Italy in 1796 where he first met Bonaparte that he was to prove his military value as a skilled commander and his victory at Castiglione later earned him his title of Duke.

Masséna, who had orders to watch the movements of Archduke Charles in Italy, had not been idle. On October 30, the marshal defeated the enemy at Caldiero, taking 12,000 prisoners, and pursued the routed forces across Venice and Friuli as they retreated to their native countries.

Early on 30 October, despite the immense superiority of enemy forces, Massena attacked the bulk of the Austrian army commanded by Archduke Charles at Caldiero. After a fierce and indecisive battle that raged all day, the Austrians were finally forced to retreat as night fell leaving 3,000 dead or wounded and 12,000 prisoners behind them. Relentlessly pursued by the French army, the Austrians were driven through Venetia out of Italy back to their homeland.

 

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Masséna (1758-1817) was one of Napoleon’s most brilliant and talented marshals.  Born in Nice, he joined the army in 1775. He was promoted general in 1793 and created marshal in 1804. In 1805, as Commander-in-Chief of the French army of Italy totalling 50,000 men, he was to win a decisive victory at the battle of Caldiero on 30 October 1805, where he defeated the bulk of the Austrian troops commanded by Archduke Charles. Unfortunately, his victory was soon to be eclipsed by the glory of Austerlitz which took place little more that a month later. He was later to be created Duke of Rivoli in 1808, and Prince of Essling in 1810.  Napoleon described him as "Uncommonly brave and remarkably tenacious, the greater the peril, the more his talents increased and, if defeated he was always ready to start again just as if he had been victorious".

In the abbey at Elchingen, where he had made his headquarters, the Emperor was filled with compassion for his adversary’s unfortunate position and granted him an interview during which he extended his respects and sympathy. According to General Mack himself, Napoleon said to him:

"Leave for Vienna. I empower you to say to Emperor Francis that I wish only for peace, and that I am very vexed that it has been interrupted. I wish to reach an agreement with him, and on very fair terms. I shall negotiate with Russia also, as you desire. Let me know what both powers propose; I am eager to know. I intend to make sacrifices. I tell you once again and authorize you to say to your emperor (and he again told me very clearly what I relate above) that he just has to send you or Count Cobenzl or someone else, and a Russian plenipotentiary, to negotiate with me."

Mack amplified this revealing testimony to the Emperor’s desire for peace by saying:

"Everything that I have written, I can swear to on my word of honour."

 These were the only terms that the victor imposed upon the vanquished.

Once again, everything could be have been halted, but Mr. Pitt had made his payments.

Therefore, the Austrian and Russian soldiers, and of course the French for good measure, would have to slaughter each other for the greater profit of the English merchants. 

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