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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Imperial Guard at Austerlitz and Jena

For all discussions relating to the campaigns of Ulm, Trafalgar, Austerlitz and the Invasion of Naples of 1805.

Imperial Guard at Austerlitz and Jena

Postby Connaught » August 31st, 2011, 7:39 pm

After a few years of peace, England, by her perfidious violation of the treaty of Amiens, brought on a war between herself and France. Napoleon, no longer shackled by divided power was now free as Caesar. His vast and restless mind could sweep the horizon of his dominions, and find nothing to interfere with his great plans. Laying his hand on the mighty empire, just passed into his keeping, he wielded it with the ease he managed a single army.
With one of the best armies that ever stood on the soil of France, possessing, at the same time, all the advantage of a long rest and thorough discipline, and the experience of veterans, he resolved to punish England for her perfidy, and teach her that while she stirred up Europe to strife and bloodshed, she too might reap the curse of war, carried to her own soil.

But while collecting his vast Flotillas and training his soldiers at Boulogne, preparatory to the invasion of her territory, he was informed that a powerful coalition was forming against him on the Continent. Sweden, Russia, Austria, and England had entered into an alliance, and even Prussia was vacillating between making common cause with the allies and remaining neutral. Called at once from his designs of invading England, the Emperor turned his eye northward, and eastward, and southward, and lo, armies in each direction were marching against him. Four hundred thousand soldiers were making ready to strike France and her territories from four different points. He at once penetrated the designs of the allied soverigns, and with that marvellous power of combination, no other chieftain has ever possessed, he marked out the plan of the entire campaign at Boulogne, predicted the movements of the allied armies, the blunders they would commit, chose his own routes, and accomplished what he proposed. Never had captain, either in ancient or modern times conceived and executed plans on such a scale. "Never indeed had a more mighty mind, possessing greater freedom of will, commanded means more prodigious to operate on such an extent of country." From Calabria to the Gulf of Finland, he had the whole Continent to look after, for he was menaced on every side.

The allies prosecuted their plans leisurely, having little fear of an army encamped on the shores of the ocean. But there was a stir in that camp which portended evil somewhere.

No one knew Napoleon's plans. France even remained in ignorance of them. The army itself was ignorant of its destination, but in twenty days, to the astonishment and consternation of Europe, its terrible standards shook along the Mayn, the Neckar, and the Rhine, and the shout of "Vive l' Empereur," rolled over the plains of Germany. This army Napoleon called the "Grand Army," a name it ever after bore; and those who saw it sweeping on, column after column of infantry, miles of artillery, long files of cavalry, and last of all the Old Guard, with the Emperor in its midst, in all 186,000 men, re-echoed the appellation "The Grand Army."

The Old Guard had left Boulogne by post. Twenty thousand carriages, loaded down with the troops were whirled away towards Germany, whither the army marched with unparalleled speed.

On the 27th of August, most of this immense force lay at Boulogne; o the 25th and 26th of September it crossed the Rhine. On the 13th of October amid a storm of snow, napoleon harangued the weary troops of Marmont, that had just arrived, and explained to this his plans, and told them he had surrounded the enemy. On the 18th, Mack agreed to surrender Ulm with an army of 80,000 men to him as prisoners of war. By the 20th he could look back on his operations and behold an army of eighty thousand men destroyed, sixty thousand of whom had been taken prisoner with two hundred pieces of cannon, and eighty stands of colors. All this had been done in twenty days, with the loss of less than two thousand men.

On the 13th of November his banners waved over the walls of Vienna. Twelve days after he reconnoitred the field of Austerlitz, and selected it at once as a battle-field where he would overthrow the combined forces of Russia and Austria, led on by their respective soverigns. With 70,000 men he had resolved not to drive back the approaching army of 90,000, but to annihilate it. He refused to take position where he could most effectually check its advance, determined to win all or lose all. Matching his single intellect in the pride of true genius, against the two emperors with their superior army, he cajoled them into a battle when they should have declined it; in order to finish the war with a "clap of thunder."
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