Famous Battles in History Napoleon and the Battle of Austerlitz

About the famous Battle of Austerlitz between the French armies of Napoleon and the rest of Europe.



Great Britain enticed Russia and Austria into the Third Coalition against Napoleon Bonaparte in 1805. Napoleon ordered the 200,000 French soldiers stationed along the English Channel to do an about-face and marched them to Austria. In a spectacular campaign, Napoleon captured 30,000 Austrians at Ulm without fighting a major battle, and then sped on to capture Vienna.

Knowing the Austrians had reinforcements coming and that Prussia might join the Allies at any time, Napoleon tricked Czar Alexander I of Russia and Emperor Francis II of Austria into a premature battle. Napoleon made peace offers and retreated, luring the combined Austro-Russian army to Austerlitz (in modern Czechoslovakia), a locale Napoleon had meticulously studied beforehand.

On Dec. 2, the two armies faced each other, with 70,000 French on the west bank of the Goldbach Brook and 85,000 Austrians and Russians on the east bank. The Russians sent 40,000 men in a predawn attack against the French south wing. In the dark, these soldiers tramped through marshes and swamps, losing contact with the main army and barely finding the French.

Napoleon had expected this attack and had massed his army in the center. At 8:00 A.M., the French stormed the Austro-Russian center on the Pratzen Plateau. About then, Napoleon--in a joyful mood because it was the anniversary of his coronation--saw the sun breaking out of the low clouds. He hailed this brilliant "sun of Austerlitz" as a good omen. By 10:00 A.M., the French had pierced the Austro-Russian center, even though the Allies had poured in all their reserves.

Napoleon followed with an attack on the north flank and a counterattack on the south flank. The Allies' wings reeled back toward their center, which had already collapsed. The Austro-Russian army was defeated on all fronts. The French had suffered 9,000 casualties, the Austrians and Russians 15,000, with another 11,000 captured.

Within 24 hours the Austrians sued for peace, while the Russians hastily returned home. Napoleon had crushed the Third Coalition, with only England remaining undefeated. Austerlitz brought Napoleon Bonaparte to the pinnacle of his career.

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