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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Austrians in Russia

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Austrians in Russia

Postby DaveH » October 29th, 2017, 5:43 pm

It is often forgotten that Austrian troops joined the Grande Armee in Russia in 1812. Here is a small work in German about the campaign, although I cannot comment on it as I haven't read it!

https://www.zinnfigur.com/en/Books-Medi ... chten.html
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Re: Austrians in Russia

Postby Krupica720 » October 29th, 2017, 9:54 pm

I always found it interesting that the majority of the Grande Armee was not French, can it be assumed that many of the forces annexed under the French flag fought because they believed in a cause and became loyal to Napoleon, or were they fighting as more of a mercenary? Or maybe they were so oppressed that they didn't have a decision and it was more of a life/death situation to survive?
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Re: Austrians in Russia

Postby Josh&Historyland » October 30th, 2017, 12:54 pm

Soldiers from the great ancien regime states such as Austria would be there becuase of political necessity rather than ideology. In other words the government promised to support Napoleon and sent troops. Soldiers from newly created states such as the Confederation of the Rhine, Grand Duchy of Warsaw etc and to some degree the annexed Italian states would be there for politics, in other words they were expected to contribute troops due to their client status, and ideology, as they owed their existence largely to Napoleon. There might have been some in the government's of the great powers that perhaps wished to see if curtailing the Russians might pay off and so held hands with Napoleon to see were that went, and certainly the Polish would need little incentive to go and fight the Tsar, so it depended on where you where from.
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Re: Austrians in Russia

Postby DaveH » October 31st, 2017, 9:39 pm

i doubt anyone was inspired by "liberte etc." after 20 years of war - armies do what their monarchs/leaders require, so they were just alliance or treaty contingents. Metternich was playing an interesting game - Charles had refused to take command and "washed his hands like Pilate", so Metternich put the rather political Schwarzenberg in command. The 30K Austrian contingent's infantry was all Hungarian or Galician (Polish) units as the western Empire regts were being held back if it all went wrong in Russia (although IR4 was at one point designated to go).
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Re: Austrians in Russia

Postby Senarmont198 » November 3rd, 2017, 3:26 pm

Josh,

The Austrian army's performance in Russia was arguably their best during the period. Their commander, Schwarzenberg, performed superbly and was noted by Napoleon as being trustworthy. Schwarzenberg continued to do his duty to Napoleon in Russia after he learned that Francis had entered into a secret agreement with Alexander and would send him no more reinforcements.
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Re: Austrians in Russia

Postby DaveH » November 5th, 2017, 10:21 pm

This needs a big health warning as it is a claim by Elting and I have never read the assertion in Germanic works. Schwarzenberg did get a baton from Napoleon, which is now on display in the HGM - "it is with such trinkets that men are led" as Napoleon said.
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Re: Austrians in Russia

Postby Senarmont198 » November 6th, 2017, 12:18 pm

Napoleon instituted the Legion of Honor in 1802 and it was proposed to the Council of State as an honorific order open to both French military personnel and French civilians. The term 'Legion' was a fashionable nod to the Roman Republic. One Councillor protested against such 'baubles' to Napoleon.

Napoleon replied to him: 'Baubles? It was baubles that men are led...Voltaire described soldiers as Alexanders at five sous a day. He was right. You imagine an enemy army is defeated by analysis? Never. In a republic soldiers performed great deeds largely through a sense of honor. It was the same under Louis XIV...I don't pretend that an honorific order will save the Republic, but it will help.'

Interestingly, Napoleon also awarded the Legion of Honor to deserving soldiers of his allies in the Confederation of the Rhine and the Kingdom of Italy as well as the Duchy of Warsaw.

Regarding Col Elting, he is still the English-language authority on the Grande Armee, and one who admitted his errors. For example, he produced errata for Swords a few years after it was published and it was very short-usually regarding dates, of which I recall there were only two or three. Regarding the comments on Schwarzenberg, along with the overwhelming majority of his research and writing, he is undoubtedly correct. And the place to look for the subject is on Napoleon's Correspondence. Thirty years of research went into Swords and a large portion of material had not previously been published in English.
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Re: Austrians in Russia

Postby DaveH » November 7th, 2017, 12:11 am

He didn't read German, so he had no idea about what was going on in the Austrian contingent or the Austrian government.

I am sure he didn't a lot of research, but his sources were not that good - see the staff and Bourcet threads here where the claims he and others made have been shown to be false - on French sources. I don't blame him as access to material is a lot easier now. But the world does not stand still.
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Re: Austrians in Russia

Postby Senarmont198 » November 7th, 2017, 3:43 pm

Napoleon's Correspondence is in French.

The source material for Swords is excellent. I was graciously given by Col Elting the 25 volumes of the old La Sabretache which are loaded with primary source material on the French. That was the first time any of it was used in English. And that was only part of what he used with Swords, and he corresponded with many people on the period which is noted in the latest edition of A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars.

I was also fortunate to spend many hours in the Col's study discussing the Napoleonic period, especially source material. The Col knew his business and was an excellent historian-and he had the added benefit of having taught military history at West Point for eleven years and had access to the excellent West Point Library, which is world class. Their special collection is superb and I have had the opportunity to use it.

As to languages, Col Elting corresponded in French and if he needed a translation he had access to the language department at West Point. They had, and undoubtedly still do, native speakers as instructors. For example, one of my Russian language speakers when I was there was the son of Russian refugees from the 1917 Revolution who got out.

As for the Austrians in 1812 in Russia, there is an excellent summary of their performance in Napoleon's Great Adversary by Gunther Rothenberg, 224-226. Rothenberg is still the English-language authority on the Austrian army of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period. And Professor Rothenberg could speak German.
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Re: Austrians in Russia

Postby Josh&Historyland » November 12th, 2017, 1:52 pm

Although I'm sure the Austrian performance in 1812 was excellent, can it be said to be any better than at Aspern Essling or Marengo?
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