Battle of Austerlitz
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|Battle of Austerlitz|
|Part of the War of the Third Coalition|
Napoléon at the Battle of Austerlitz, by François Gérard (Galerie des Batailles, Versailles).
|French Empire|| Russian Empire|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Napoleon I|| Alexander I|
|Casualties and losses|
1 standard lost
|15,000 dead or wounded,|
180 guns lost,
50 standards lost
The Battle of Austerlitz, also known as the Battle of the Three Emperors, was one of Napoleon's greatest victories, where the French Empire effectively crushed the Third Coalition. On 2 December 1805 (20 November Old Style, 11 Frimaire An XIV, in the French Republican Calendar), a French army, commanded by Emperor Napoleon I, decisively defeated a Russo-Austrian army, commanded by Tsar Alexander I and Holy Roman Emperor Francis II, after nearly nine hours of difficult fighting. The battle took place near Austerlitz (Slavkov u Brna) about 10 km (6 mi) south-east of Brno in Moravia, at that time in the Austrian Empire (present day Czech Republic). The battle was a tactical masterpiece of the same stature of Gaugamela and Cannae.
The French victory at Austerlitz effectively brought the Third Coalition to an end. 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 Italy and Bavaria to 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, keeping Francis I of Austria as his only official title. These achievements, however, did not establish a lasting peace on the continent. Prussian worries about growing French influence in Central Europe sparked the War of the Fourth Coalition in 1806.
Europe had been in turmoil since the start of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1792. In 1797, after five years of war, the French Republic subdued the First Coalition. A Second Coalition was formed in 1798, but by 1801, this too was defeated, leaving Britain the only opponent of the new French Consulate. In March 1802, France and Britain agreed to end hostilities under the Treaty of Amiens. For the first time in ten years, all of Europe was at peace. However, many problems persisted between the two sides, making implementation of the treaty increasingly difficult. The British government resented having to turn over most of the colonial conquests it had made since 1793. Napoleon was angry that British troops had not evacuated the island of Malta.The tense situation only worsened when Napoleon sent an expeditionary force to crush the Haitian Revolution. In May 1803, Britain declared war on France.
The Third Coalition
In December 1804, an Anglo-Swedish agreement led to the creation of the Third Coalition. British Prime Minister William Pitt spent 1804 and 1805 in a flurry of diplomatic activity geared towards forming a new coalition against France, and by April 1805, Britain and Russia had signed an alliance. Having been defeated twice in recent memory by France, and being keen on revenge, Austria joined the coalition a few months later.
French imperial army
Prior to the formation of the Third Coalition, Napoleon had assembled an invasion force, called the Armée d'Angleterre (Army of England) around six camps at Boulogne in Northern France. He intended to use this invasion force to strike at England, and was so confident of success that he had commemorative medals struck to celebrate the conquest of the English. Although they never invaded, Napoleon's troops received careful and invaluable training for any possible military operation. Boredom among the troops occasionally set in, but Napoleon paid many visits and conducted lavish parades in order to boost morale.
The men at Boulogne formed the core for what Napoleon would later call La Grande Armée. At the start, this French army had about 200,000 men organized into seven corps, which were large field units that contained 36 to 40 cannon each and were capable of independent action until other corps could come to the rescue. A single corps (properly situated in a strong defensive position) could survive at least a day without support, giving the Grande Armée countless strategic and tactical options on every campaign. On top of these forces, Napoleon created a cavalry reserve of 22,000 organized into two cuirassier divisions, four mounted dragoon divisions, one division of dismounted dragoons and one of light cavalry, all supported by 24 artillery pieces. By 1805, the Grande Armée had grown to a force of 350,000 men, who were well equipped, well trained, and led by competent officers.
Russian imperial army
The Russian army in 1805 had many characteristics of Ancien Régime organization. There was no permanent formation above the regimental level, senior officers were largely recruited from aristocratic circles (and commissions were generally sold to the highest bidder, regardless of competence), 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 maneuvers required in a battle. However, the Russians did have a fine artillery arm, manned by soldiers who regularly fought hard to prevent their pieces from falling into enemy hands.
The supply system of the Russian Imperial Army depended on the local population and Russia's Austrian allies, with seventy percent of Russian supplies being provided by Austria. Without a sturdy and organized supply system and with overextended supply lines, Russian soldiers found it difficult to maintain combat readiness and good health.
Austrian imperial army
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 infantry reforms on the eve of the 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 so well as they could have been. The Austrian cavalry was regarded as the best cavalry in Europe, but the detachment of many cavalry units to various infantry formations reduced its effectiveness against its massed French counterpart.
In August 1805, Napoleon, Emperor of the French since December of the previous year, turned his army's sights from the English Channel to the Rhine in order to deal with the new Austrian and Russian threats. On 25 September after great secrecy and feverish marching, 200,000 French troops began to cross the Rhine on a front of 260 km (160 mi). Mack had gathered the greater part of the Austrian army at the fortress of Ulm in Swabia (modern day southern Germany). Napoleon swung his forces southward and performed a wheeling movement that put the French at the Austrian rear. The Ulm Maneuver was well-executed and on 20 October Mack and 23,000 Austrian troops surrendered at Ulm, bringing the total number of Austrian prisoners in the campaign to 60,000. Although the spectacular victory was soured by the defeat of the Franco-Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar the following day, French success on land continued as Vienna fell in November, replete with 100,000 muskets, 500 cannon, and the intact bridges across the Danube.
Meanwhile, the lateness of the arrival of Russian troops prevented them from saving the Austrian field armies, so the Russians withdrew to the northeast to await reinforcements and to link up with surviving Austrian units. TsarAlexander I then appointed general Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov to the commander-in-chief of the Russian and Austrian troops. On 9 September 1805, Kutuzov arrived at the battlefield to gather information. He quickly contactedFrancis I of Austria and his courtiers to discuss planning and logistical matters. Under pressure from Kutuzov, the Austrians agreed to supply munitions and weapons in a timely and sufficient manner. Kutuzov also spotted shortcomings in the Austrian defense plan, which he called "very dogmatic". Furthermore he objected to Austrian annexation of the land recently under Napoleon's control because this would make the local people distrust the allied force. However, many of Kutuzov's proposals were rejected.
The French followed, but soon found themselves in an unenviable disposition: Prussian intentions were unknown and could be hostile, the Russian and Austrian armies now converged, and to add to Napoleon's challenges, the French lines of communication were extremely long and required strong garrisons to keep them open. Napoleon realized that the only meaningful way to capitalize on the success at Ulm was to force the Allies to battle and defeat them. On the Russian side, Commander-in-chief Kutuzov also realized that; so instead of clinging to the "suicidal" Austrian defense plan, Kutuzov decided to retreat. He ordered Pyotr Bagration to command 600 troops to contain the French at Vienna, and instructed the Allied Army to accept Murat's ceasefire proposal so that the allied army could have more time to retreat. Napoleon soon realized Murat's mistakes and ordered him to pursue quickly; however, at that time the allied army had already retreated to Olmutz. According to Kutuzov's plan, the Allies would retreat further to the Carpathian region and "at Galicia, I will bury the French.".
However, Napoleon did not stay still. The French Emperor decided to make a psychological trap in order to lure the Allies out. Days before any actual fighting, Napoleon had given the impression to the Allies that his army was in a weak state and that he desired a negotiated peace. About only 53,000 French troops - including Soult, Lannes and Murat's forces - would take possession of Austerlitz and the Olmutz road, occupying the enemy's attention. The Allied forces, numbering about 89,000, seemed to be far superior and would be tempted to attack an outnumbered French Army. However, the Allies didn't know that the reinforcements of Bernadotte, Mortier and Davout had already been within the supported distance, and could be called in need by forced marches from Iglau and Vienna respectively, raising the French forces to 75,000 troops, thus sharply reducing the inferiority in number.
Napoleon's lure did not stop at that. On November 25, general Savary was sent to the Allied headquarters at Olmutz in order to secretly examine the Allied forces' situation and deliver Napoleon's message expressing Napoleon’s desire to avoid a battle. As expected, that expression was seen as a sure sign of weakness. When Francis I offered an armistice on the 27th, Napoleon expressed great enthusiasm in accepting it. On the same day, Napoleon ordered Soult to abandon both Austerlitz and the Pratzen Heights and also create an image of chaos during the retreat; that would make the enemies occupy the Heights. The next day (November 28), the French Emperor requested a personal interview with Alexander I and received a visit from the Tsar's most impetuous aide, Count Dolgorouki. The meeting was another part of the trap as Napoleon intentionally expressed anxiousness and hesitation to his opponents, and Dolgorouki reported all of this to the Tsar as an additional indication of French weakness.
The plan was successful. Many of the Allied officers, including the Tsar's aides and the Austrian Chief of Staff Franz von Weyrother, strongly supported the idea of attacking immediately and appeared to be swaying Tsar Alexander’s opinion. Kutuzov's idea was rejected, and the Allied forces would soon fall into the trap that Napoleon had set.
Napoleon could muster some 72,000 men and 157 guns for the impending battle, although about 7,000 troops under Davout were still far to the south in the direction of Vienna. The Allies had about 85,000 soldiers, seventy percent of them Russian, and 318 guns. So, The French Army was inferior in number.
At first, Napoleon was not totally confident of his victory. In a letter written to Minister of Foreign Affairs Talleyrand, Napoleon requested Talleyrand not tell anyone about the upcoming battle because he did not want to disturb EmpressJoséphine. According to Frederick C. Schneid, the main concern of Napoleon was not the tranquility of Joséphine; the French Emperor worried more about how he could explain to Joséphine if the French Army was defeated.
The battle took place about six miles (ten kilometers) southeast of the town of Brno, between that town and Austerlitz (Czech: Slavkov u Brna) in what is now the Czech Republic. The northern part of the battlefield was dominated by the 700-foot (210-meter) Santon hill and the 880-foot (270-meter) Zuran (Žuráň) hill, both overlooking the vital Olomouc/Brno road, which was on an east/west axis. To the west of these two hills was the village of Bellowitz (Bedřichovice), and between them the Bosenitz (Roketnice) Stream went south to link up with the Goldbach (Říčka) Stream, the latter flowing astride the villages of Kobelnitz (Kobylnice), Sokolnitz (Sokolnice), and Telnitz (Telnice). The centerpiece of the entire area was the Pratzen (Prace) Heights, a gently sloping hill about 35 to 40 feet (10 to 12 meters) in height. An aide noted that Napoleon 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
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 held the communication line 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, as mentioned, he was seconded by Kutuzov, the Commander-in-chief of the Russians and the Allied troop. The pressure to fight from the Russian nobles and the Austrian commanders, however, was too strong, and the Allies adopted Austrian Chief of Staff Franz von 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. TheRussian Imperial Guard was held in reserve while Russian troops under Bagration guarded the Allied right. Furthermore, the Russian Tsar rudely stripped the authority of Commander-in-chief M. I. Kutuzov and gave it to Franz von Weyrother. In the battle Kutuzov could only command the IV Corps of the Allied army, although he was still the de jure commander because the Tsar himself was afraid of responsibility in case his favored plan failed.
French plans and dispositions
Napoleon was hoping that the Allied forces 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 who informed him of their qualms about the forthcoming battle. They even suggested a retreat, but he shrugged off their complaints.
Napoleon's plan envisioned that the Allies would throw so many troops to envelop his right flank in order to cut the French communication line from Vienna. As a result, the Allies' center and left flank would be exposed and become vulnerable. In order to encourage them to do so, Napoleon even abandoned the strategic position on the Pratzen Heights, further faking the weakness of his forces and his own nervousness. Meanwhile, Napoleon's main force was to be concealed in a dead ground opposite the Heights. According to the plan, the French troops would attack and recapture the Pratzen Heights, then from the Heights they would launch a decisive assault to the center of the Allied army, cripple them and then encircle them from the rear.
If the Russian force leaves the Pratzen Heights in order to go to the right side, they will certainly be defeated.—Napoleon
The massive thrust through the Allied center was conducted by 16,000 troops of Soult's IV Corps. IV Corps' position was cloaked by dense mist during the early stage of the battle; in fact how long the mist lasted was vital to Napoleon's plan: Soult's troops would become uncovered if the mist dissipated too soon, but if it lingered too long, Napoleon would be unable to determine when the Allied troops had evacuated Pratzen Heights, preventing him from timing his attack properly.
Meanwhile, to support his weak right flank, Napoleon ordered Davout's III Corps to force march all the way from Vienna and join General Legrand's men, who held the extreme southern flank that would bear the heaviest part of the Allied attack. Davout's soldiers had 48 hours to march 110 km (68 mi). Their arrival was crucial in determining the success of the French plan. Indeed, the arrangement of Napoleon on the right flank was very risky as the French only had minimal troops garrisoning there. However, the reason why Napoleon could use such a risky plan was because Davout - the commander of III Corps - was one of Napoleon's best Marshals; because the right flank's position was protected by a complicated system of streams and lakes; and because the French had already settled upon a secondary line of retreat through Brunn. The Imperial Guard and Bernadotte's I Corps were held in reserve while the V Corps under Lannes guarded the northern sector of the battlefield, where the new communication line was located.
By 1 December 1805, the French troops had been shifted in accordance with the Allied movement southward, as Napoleon expected.
Battle is joined
The battle began at about 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 onto 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 reabandoned the town. Additional Allied attacks out of Telnitz were checked by French artillery.
Allied columns started pouring against the French right, but not at the desired speed, so the French were mostly successful in curbing the attacks. Actually, 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 leading 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 at about 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 temporarily 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.
While the allied troops attacked the French's right flank, Kutuzov's IV Corp stopped at Pratzen height and stayed still. Just like Napoleon, Kutuzov realized the importance of Pratzen and decided to protect the position. But the young Tsar did not, so he expelled the IV Corp from Pratzen height and, so, this act quickly pushed the Allied army into her grave.
"One sharp blow and the war is over"
At about 8:45 a.m., satisfied at the weakness in the enemy center, 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 fighting destroyed much of this unit. The other men from the second column, mostly inexperienced Austrians, also participated in the struggle and swung the numbers against one of the best fighting forces in the French army, eventually 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 ("Old Vineyards") and through talented skirmishing and deadly volleys broke several Allied battalions.
The battle had firmly turned in France's favour, but it was far from over. Napoleon ordered Bernadotte's I Corps to support Vandamme's left and moved his own command center from Žuráň 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 only loss of a 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 victory 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 inflicted heavy casualties 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. The casualties of the Russians in Pratzen included Kutuzov (severely wounded) and his son-in-law Ferdinand von Tiesenhausen (KIA).
I was... under fierce and continuous canister fire... Many soldiers, now incessantly engaged in battle from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., had no cartridges left. I could do nothing but retreat...—Lieutenant General Przhebishevsky
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 eventually arriving at the correct position in the field. The fighting initially 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 (one commanded by d'Hautpoul and the other one by Nansouty) 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 columns, Generals 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 well. 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. A frightful and famous episode occurred during this retreat: Russian forces that had been defeated by the French right withdrew south towards Vienna via the Satschan frozen ponds. French artillery pounded towards the men, and the ice was broken due to the bombardment. The men drowned in the viciously cold ponds, dozens of Russian artillery pieces going down along with them. Estimates of how many guns were captured differ; there may have been as few as 38 or more than 100. Sources also differ about 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, and the Tsar tacitly accepted the account as an excuse for the catastrophic defeat, the low numbers may be more accurate. Many drowning Russians were saved by their victorious foes. However, local evidence, only later made public, suggests that Napoleon's account of the catastrophe may have been totally invented; on the emperor's instructions the lakes were drained a few days after the battle and the corpses of only two or three men, with some 150 horses, were found.
Austerlitz and the preceding campaign profoundly altered the nature of European politics. In three months, the French had occupied Vienna, destroyed two armies, and humbled the Austrian Empire. These events sharply contrast with the rigid power structures of the 18th century. Austerlitz set the stage for a near-decade of French domination of the European continent, but one of its more immediate effects was to goad Prussia into war in 1806.
Military and political results
Overall, Allied casualties stood at about 27,000 out of an army of 73,000, which was 37% of their effectives. The French lost around 9,000 out of a force of 67,000, or about 13% of effectives. The Allies also lost 180 guns and 50 standards. The great victory was met by sheer amazement and delirium in Paris, where just days earlier the nation had been teetering on the brink of financial collapse. Napoleon wrote to Josephine, "I have beaten the Austro-Russian army commanded by the two emperors. I am a little weary....I embrace you." Tsar Alexander perhaps best summed up the harsh times for the Allies by stating, "We are babies in the hands of a giant."
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 (1797) and Lunéville (1801), cede land to Bavaria,Wurttemberg, and Baden, which were Napoleon's German allies, and pay 40 million francs in war indemnities, and Venice was given to the Kingdom of Italy. 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 ensconced themselves in Southern Germany. The Holy Roman Empire was effectively wiped out, 1806 being seen as its final year. 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.
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Napoleon's words to his troops after the battle were full of praise: Soldats! Je suis content de vous (English: Soldiers! I am pleased with you). The Emperor provided two million golden francs to the higher officers and 200 francs to each soldier, with large pensions for the widows of the fallen. Orphaned children were adopted by Napoleon personally and were allowed to add "Napoleon" to their baptismal and family names. Napoleon never gave a title of nobility to any of his commanders, as was customary following a great victory. It is probable that he considered Austerlitz too much of a personal triumph to elevate anyone else significantly.
There are many stories and legends regarding events before or during the battle. In the night before the day of battle, Napoleon set out with his entourage to review the forward positions. During this tour, he was recognized by the soldiers of Vandamme's division, and fairly soon the entire army lit candles to celebrate the anniversary of his coronation. Allied soldiers and commanders looking at this believed that the French were preparing to retreat. Another story features an unfortunate French soldier running from Cossacks; apparently, the soldier climbed through a chimney trying to hide, but the Cossacks found and killed him anyway. A more humorous episode occurred between some Russian troopers looking for horse fodder from a local peasant woman. The soldiers kept yelling, Babo, ovsa ("Granny, give us oats") but the woman, who was old and probably had difficulty hearing, thought they were saying Hopsa ("Jump"), so she repeatedly jumped, to the very great frustration of the Russian soldiers. Eventually, the soldiers realized she did not understand them, pointed to the horses outside, and even started chewing to give her a clue, which she finally got, giving the soldiers the oats they wanted. Yet another story tells of French artillerymen throwing a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary into a fire for warmth and discovering that it would not burn.
War and Peace
The Battle of Austerlitz is a major event in Leo Tolstoy's novel War and Peace. As the battle is about to start, Prince Andrei, one of the main characters, thinks that the approaching "day [will] be his Toulon, or his Arcola," references to Napoleon's early victories. Andrei hopes for glory, even thinking to himself, "I shall march forward and sweep everything before me." Later in the battle, however, Andrei falls into enemy hands and even meets his hero, Napoleon. But the previous enthusiasm has been shattered; he no longer thinks much of Napoleon, "so petty did his hero with his paltry vanity and delight in victory appear, compared to that lofty, righteous and kindly sky which he had seen and comprehended." Tolstoy portrays Austerlitz as an early test for Russia, one which ended badly because the soldiers fought for irrelevant things like glory or renown rather than the higher virtues which would produce, according to Tolstoy, a victory at Borodino during the 1812 invasion.
Napoleon did not succeed in defeating the Allied army as thoroughly as he wanted, but historians and enthusiasts alike recognize that the original plan provided a significant victory. For that reason, Austerlitz is sometimes compared to other great tactical battles such as Cannae orBlenheim. Some historians suggest that Napoleon was so successful at Austerlitz that he lost touch with reality, and what used to be French foreign policy became a "personal Napoleonic one" after the battle. In French history, Austerlitz is acknowledged as an impressive military victory, and in the 19th century, when fascination with the First Empire was at its height, the battle was revered by the likes of Victor Hugo, who "in the depth of [his] thoughts" was hearing the "noise of the heavy cannon rolling towards Austerlitz". In the 2005 bicentennial, however, controversy erupted when neither French President Jacques Chirac nor Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin attended any functions commemorating the battle. On the other hand, some residents of France's overseas departments protested against what they viewed as the "official commemoration of Napoleon", arguing that Austerlitz should not be celebrated since they believed Napoleon committed genocide against colonial people.
After the battle, Tsar Alexander I laid all the blame on M. I. Kutuzov, Commander-in-chief of the Allied Army. However it is clear that Kutuzov's plan was to retreat farther to the rear where the Allied army had sharp advantage in logistics. In that case the Allied troops might have been reinforced by Archduke Charles's troops at Italy, and the Prussians might have joined the Coalition against Napoleon. A French army at the end of her supply lines, in a place which had no food supplies, would have faced a very different ending from the real battle of Austerlitz.