An account of Napoleon's most accomplished victory by an Austrian officer.
The Battle of Austerlitz, fought on the 2nd of December 1805, was one of the most significant victories for Napoleon Bonaparte and the First Empire of the French during the War of the Third Coalition. Indeed, the conflict brought about the end of the war, but also the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine. The defeated Austrian and Russian armies were commanded by their emperors which led to the engagement being known as, 'The Battle of the Three Emperors'. This unique Leonaur edition, containing four accounts of the battle, principally features the account of the Austrian Major-General (later Lieutenant-General) Karl Wilhelm von Stutterheim. This contribution to our knowledge of the battle is particularly important to modern students of Napoleonic warfare, because Stutterheim's account comes from one who took part in the battle and so offers a rarely considered perspective from the Austrian camp. In fact, this version of events became considered as the official Austrian version of the Battle of Austerlitz. Stutterheim committed suicide in 1811 aged just 41 years. Essential though it is, Stutterheim's work was possibly too small to be readily republished alone so it was been supported here to by two other accounts of the engagement to give it context, together with a personal account from the French Army by Baron Lejeune. This edition contains maps and illustrations which were not present in any of the original editions.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
After a hazy, misty daybreak, the sun at last arose with uncommon brilliancy, so bright in fact that “the sun of Austerlitz” afterwards fell into a proverb with the French soldiery, who hailed similar dawns with exultation and as a sure omen of victory. The emperor said, as he passed in front of several regiments:
Soldiers, we must finish this campaign by a thunderbolt which shall confound the pride of our enemies.
Immediately they raised their hats on the bayonets’ points and cries of, “Live the Emperor!” formed the actual signal for battle. A moment afterwards the horizon cleared up and as the sun darted forth its glistening rays the cannonading was heard at the extremity of the right line. The great Battle of Austerlitz had begun.
At the opening of the engagement, Kutusoff, the Russian general-in-chief, fell into a snare laid for him by Napoleon, and sent a large division of his army to turn the right of the French. His troops, detached tor this purpose, met with unexpected resistance from Davoust, and were held in check. Napoleon at once seized the opportunity given him by the enemy in leaving a deep gap in their line, and upon that space Soult forthwith poured a force which entirely cut oil all communication between the Russian centre and left.
The Czar quickly perceived the fatal consequences of the movement, and ordered his guards to rush to the eminence called the hill of Pratzen, where the encounter was taking place, and beat back Soult. The Russians succeeded in driving the French before them, when Napoleon ordered Bessières to their rescue with the Imperial Guards. The Russians had become somewhat disordered from the impatience of their temporary victory, and although they resisted Bessières sternly, they were finally broken and fled. The regiment of the Grand Duke Constantine, who gallantly led the Russians, was now annihilated and the duke only escaped by the fleetness of his horse.
The French centre now advanced, and the charges of Murat’s cavalry were most decisive, while the left wing, under the command of Lannes, marched forward, en echelons, by regiments, in the same manner as if they had been exercising by divisions. A tremendous cannonade then took place along the whole line; two hundred and three pieces of cannon, and nearly two hundred thousand men, being engaged, so that it was indeed a giant combat. Success could not be doubtful: in a moment the Russians were all but routed, their colonel, artillery, standards and everything being already captured. At 1 o’clock the victory was decided; it had never been doubtful for a moment; and not a man of the reserves was required.
From the heights of Austerlitz, the Emperors of Russia and Austria beheld the total ruin of their centre as they had already of their left. The right wing only remained unbroken, it having contested well the impetuous charge of Lannes; but Napoleon could now gather round them on all sides, and, his artillery plunging incessant fire on them from the heights, they at length found it impossible to hold their ground and were driven from position to position. They were at last forced down into a hollow where some frozen lakes offered them the only means of escape from the closing cannonade. As they did so the French broke the ice about them by a storm of shot from 200 heavy cannon, and nearly 2,000 men died on the spot, some swept away by artillery, but the greater part being drowned beneath the broken ice.
The cries of the dying Russians, as they sank beneath the waters, were drowned, however, by the victorious shouts of the French, who were pursuing the scattering remnants of the enemy in every direction. In the bulletin of the engagement Napoleon compared the scene to that at Aboukir, “when the sea was covered with turbans.”