On the eve of Austerlitz, the strategic situation was in favor of the allies in the anti-French coalition. Kutuzov, despite all the efforts of the French and the erroneous instructions of the Austrian high command, retained the army and joined up with reinforcements. Now the allies again had a powerful army. In addition, the approach of the Russian corps of General Essen, the army of Bennigsen and the Austrian army of Archdukes Charles and John from Italy and Tyrol was expected soon. Prussia, which had a strong army, was inclined to the side of Russia and Austria.
The victory of the British was of great moral importance for the coalition and of strategic military importance for England. fleet under Nelson's command over the French-Spanish fleet at Cape Trafalgar. In the depths of the sea, the French idea of invading England was destroyed. From now on and for a long time England became invulnerable to France; the strait separating the British Isles from the continent became irresistible. England finally became the "mistress of the seas", having emerged victorious from a long confrontation with other maritime powers - Spain, Holland, Denmark and France. The naval battle was regarded as the largest event of the military campaign. Nelson's victory overshadowed the defeat of Mack (Mack), Trafalgar eclipsed Ulm and the fall of Vienna. According to European newspapers of those days, after Trafalgar military happiness passed to the Allies. This turned the heads of the Russian and Austrian emperors and their advisers. They again overestimated their capabilities, underestimating the enemy.
As a result, France began to lose the information war. Napoleon clearly understood that the defeat of the French fleet had dropped the imperial standard with eagles in the eyes of the whole world. Trafalgar eclipsed Ulm, Vienna and the retreat of the Austrians from Italy. Napoleon again needed a decisive and brilliant victory that would disgrace and frighten his enemies. Therefore, Napoleon decided to lure the Russian-Austrian army and give it a general battle before the additional armies of Russians and Austrians arrived and Prussia would intervene. The French emperor led a subtle diplomatic struggle to prevent the Russians and Austrians from retreating, further intensifying and prolonging the war. In the protracted war, Russia, Austria and Britain had an advantage over France.
I must say that the cunningly wise Russian commander Kutuzov guessed the enemy’s plan. He proposed to the Russian tsar to continue the departure to the Carpathians. This solved two strategic tasks. First, the Russian troops were replenished with the contingents of Essen and Bennigsen, as well as the Austrian army of Archduke Charles. Russian-Austrian army seriously increased. Secondly, this led to an even greater stretching of the communications of the French army, even greater debilitation of the "Great Army" of Napoleon, who could not receive more reinforcements and who had to keep track of the northern and southern strategic flanks. Later, Kutuzov will brilliantly carry out this strategy during the 1812 campaign of the year.
Indeed, the French were not in the best position. Forced to scatter his troops in order to secure the rear and occupy the occupied territories, Napoleon stopped in the area of the Brunn Fortress, 70 miles from Vienna. He had only 53 thousand soldiers. The closest forces, Davout and Bernadot corps, were in the 2 — 3 transitions from Brünn; after connecting with them, Napoleon could have 75 thousand people. The "Great Army", tired of forced marches and battles, forced to protect the flanks and protect communications, was far from France, in a hostile country. Napoleon knew that Count Gaugwitz was driving to him with an ultimatum from Berlin, whose demands were unacceptable in advance for the French emperor. Prussia could at any time join the war and put in the flank and rear of the French army 180-thousand army. Therefore, it was extremely important for him that the allies did not begin to retreat again and did not prolong the war. Giving orders to Davout and Bernadot to go to him, the French commander led a diplomatic game, demonstrating hesitancy in the face of a strong enemy with all his strength. Although he himself wanted to fight opponents, but skillfully concealed his plans.
Unfortunately, Kutuzov had already decided nothing in the main apartment, the presence of Alexander I deprived the general of the real power of the commander-in-chief. At this time, court generals dominated the imperial headquarters, pushing the young king to "decisive action." They compared Alexander with Peter I and predicted the triumph of the winner. Alexander himself thirsted for military glory and the retreat did not give victory laurels. The Austrians also took decisive action. The quartermaster general of the Austrian army, Weyrother, was a supporter of "decisive action", although he was completely incomprehensible to the strategy and tactics of the French army. In the end, it all ended in disaster and a lost campaign.
Plans of the parties. Attempt to negotiate
8 (20) November 1805, on the day Napoleon entered Brunn, Kutuzov united in Visau with the first column of the corps of Count Buxgevden and marched to Olmutsu, where the rest of the corps were. All in all, there were about 27 thousand people in the Buxhevden building. 10 (22) November Kutuzov joined Olmutz, where Russian emperor Alexander and Austrian emperor Franz were already stationed. Kutuzov was appointed commander-in-chief of the Russian and Austrian forces, although in reality he did not have all the power. Prince Volkonsky became the general on duty of the army, Weyrother was the quartermaster general.
The monarchs originally planned to remain in Olmütz to rest Kutuzov’s army, wait for the arrival of the Russian guard, the corps of Essen, the troops of Bennigsen and the Archduke Charles. Archduke Karl and the Italian Army announced that on November 14 plans to connect with Archduke John, then with 80-th. army go to the Danube. Waited for good news from Prussia. Berlin was actively preparing for war with France. Home 120-th. the Prussian army had to go through Bamberg to the messages of Napoleon’s "Great Army". On the communication of Napoleon was supposed to go and auxiliary 50-thousand. case. With separate corps and reserves, the Prussian army numbered up to 240 thousand people. Only three circumstances restrained Prussia: disagreements with the British over monetary assistance; disputes over Hanover; and waiting for Napoleon’s response to Prussia’s ultimatum. At the same time, the Prussian envoy sent to Napoleon, Count Gaugwitz, had a secret order to tarry along the way in order to give the Berlin Court time to think and mobilize the army.
Alexander, wishing to defeat Napoleon, was actively preparing to continue the war. Deciding that the Russian troops in Italy from Corfu to Naples could not have a great influence on the outcome of the war, and would be more useful in the main theater, he ordered the corps to be put on ships and go from Naples to Trieste to establish contact with the Archduke Charles. At the same time, Alexander ordered the corps of Essen to speed up the march, to rush Bennigsen from Breslau to Bohemia, to join the Austrians of the Archduke Ferdinand. Rimsky-Korsakov, from the troops in the border areas, was to place the 35 battalions and 45 squadrons between Brest and Brody, so that they could go to the aid of the main forces on demand.
12 (24) of November arrived Russian Guard (8,5 thousand people) under the authority of Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich. As a result, the allied army now numbered about 85 thousand people. In addition, under the leadership of the Archduke Ferdinand in Bohemia there were about 10 thousand soldiers. The Russian-Austrian army was located in an elevated position, convenient for defense. Ahead was a river and swamps. Behind you could easily hide the reserves, then bridges were built across the river in case of departure.
Thus, the time factor was on the side of the allies. The Allied forces were approaching everywhere, putting Napoleon on the flanks. Prussia, after entering the war, could cut the message of Napoleon's "Great Army" with France. Soon, Napoleon would have to fight with forces that were incomparably superior to his army and face the threat on the flanks and in the rear.
Having taken up a defensive position east of Brunn, Napoleon, not wanting to stretch his communications any more and attack the Russians in a strong position at Olmuts, sent his representative General Savary to the Russian and Austrian monarchs with a proposal to start peace talks. Austrian Emperor Franz believed that because of its remoteness from France and the threat of war with Prussia, Napoleon would agree to an easy world for Austria. Alexander did not like it, but seeing the desire of the Austrians to begin negotiations with Napoleon, he did not interfere with them. As a result, the Austrians began negotiations with Napoleon for peace.
Emperor Alexander, seeing in Napoleon’s peace proposals a sign of his weakness, and under the influence of the advisers around him, insisted on an immediate transition to the offensive. The Austrians actively supported his desire. A shortage of food has opened up in the Olmjutsk camp. The Austrians planned to attack, and not to retreat to Moravia, therefore, they did not prepare reserves here. The guards were far away and walked slowly. The regulations of the central authorities met with sabotage by local authorities. After the Ulm disaster, Austrian society craved peace. The peasants did not want to supply the army, they fled, and the settlements in the vicinity of Olmutz were empty. It was necessary to do something so that the army was not on the verge of starvation.
Gathered a military council. Kutuzov proposed to retreat further, moving closer to reinforcements and supply bases. However, his opinion was not supported. The action plan drawn up by Weyrother, already approved by Alexander and Franz, was adopted at the military council. The latter proceeded from the idiotic assumption that Napoleon would be passive, take up defense, give the full initiative to the allies and, thus, freely let himself be broken. Once again, strategic theorists were going to attack the same rake. Weyroter's plan was to cut off the French army from Vienna with a flank march, where, according to the assumption of the allied headquarters, the enemy’s main communication, break it at Brünn and drop it towards the Bohemian mountains.
It should be noted that this decision was due to the fact that Austrian dignitaries and generals shared the general opinion that it was necessary to end the war as soon as possible in Austria. The Austrians believed that the continuation of the struggle against Napoleon on the territory of the Austrian Empire led to great losses, and even with the participation of Prussia, the war would be protracted and devastate the country. Therefore, it is necessary to make peace as soon as possible. To do this, you must enter into a decisive battle with the army of Napoleon. And in any case, Austria will win. In the camp near Olmyutz there were only 14 thousand Austrians, mostly recruits, the rest of the troops were Russian. The Austrians did not lose anything even when they were defeated. The sacrifice of several thousand recruits cost nothing. All the burden of battle fell on the Russians.
And victory and defeat led to the desired world. The victory of the allies forced Napoleon to leave Vienna and most of Austria. It was possible to begin peace negotiations or at least conclude an armistice. The defeat caused damage to the Russian army. Alexander will have to agree with the opinion of the Austrians to make peace. From the Russian side, only the cunning Kutuzov guessed both Napoleon’s desire to fight in a general battle and the maneuver of two-faced Austrians, but he was not listened to. The remaining advisers of Alexander and the generals were also eager to fight the French.
15 (27) November 1805, the Allied army left the Olmuch position and moved in five columns on the way to Brünn. 16 (28) On November, the advance guard of Bagration attacked the French in Visau. The equestrian French detachment located in Visau did not accept the battle and retreated. Only one squadron hesitated and was captured during the rapid invasion of Russian troops. Murat, located in Rauznitsa, sent help to the retreating and began to prepare for the defense. Prince Bagration was on the heels of the French, not giving them time to reorganize and prepare for defense, twice successfully attacked with cavalry. Noted on the offensive of the Russian-Austrian army, Napoleon went to the forward units, and Murat ordered not to persist in the defense of Rauznitz, to retreat.
The allied army is located near Visau, 30 versts from Brunn. A collision with the French became inevitable. At first, the Allies wanted to go the main road and attack Napoleon’s army at Brunn. But then they decided to leave the Olmücke Road and go to the left with a side march, cutting off the French army from Vienna, and approaching the army of the Archduke Charles.
Meanwhile, on November 16 a Prussian envoy arrived at Brunn with an ultimatum. Immediately accepted by Napoleon, Count Gaugwitz, did not dare to immediately present all demands and at first confined himself to general words about the need for calm in Europe and offered Prussia's mediation for general reconciliation. Napoleon, knowing about the real purpose of the Prussian envoy’s mission, did not aggravate, but said that he had no time to engage in diplomacy at the sight of the advancing Russian army. He suggested that Gaugwitz go to Vienna and begin negotiations there with Talleyrand. Thus, the threat of a rupture of France and Prussia was postponed.
Napoleon again decided to offer Alexander peace. It is worth saying that Napoleon all the time stubbornly sought to make peace with Russia. At night, he sent Savary to Wisaw, offering Alexander a personal date, stopping the fighting for a day. Alexander himself refused to direct negotiations, but sent to the headquarters of Napoleon his Adjutant General Prince P. P. Dolgorukov. 17 November Allied army continued to move. The vanguard of Bagration stood at Rausnitz, and Kinmayer stood at Austerlitz.
Napoleon received Prince Dolgorukov and talked with him intentionally carefully, modestly and peacefully. I must say that the words of Napoleon were very reasonable: “What do they want from me? For what is the emperor Alexander fighting with me? What does he require? Let him spread the borders of Russia at the expense of his neighbors, especially the Turks, then all his quarrels with France will end. ” Indeed, in this war Petersburg did not solve national problems. Russia had no fundamental contradictions with France, becoming the "cannon fodder" of England and Austria. Dolgoruky on this could only argue with general words that Alexander "armed himself for the independence of Europe." The prince said that the Russian tsar could not indifferently look at the seizure of Holland by the French, the calamity of the Sardinian king. Napoleon reasonably noted that “Russia needs to follow a completely different policy” and “think about its own benefits.”
A great actor, the French emperor played the role of a man, preoccupied with increasing difficulties and seeking a path to peace. Napoleon was restrained with the prince and pretended not to notice his swagger. Later, the French ruler noted: "This young boaster spoke to me as a Russian boyar, who was exiled to Siberia." Napoleon carried this arrogance and this arrogance. The conversation ended in nothing, but Dolgorukov, returning to the headquarters, reported to the Russian Tsar that Napoleon was most afraid of battle, he was looking for peace and did not count on his troops. According to him, despondency reigned in the French army, “one has only to go ahead and the enemies will retreat, just as they retreated from Visau. His words were believed. Once the French emperor is afraid, he must be attacked.
Napoleon among the soldiers on the eve of Austerlitz. 19th century engraving
To be continued ...