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Franco-Austrian War of 1809 (War of the Fifth Coalition)

Franco-Austrian War of 1809 (War of the Fifth Coalition)

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Franco-Austrian War of 1809 (War of the Fifth Coalition)

IntroductionThe Austrian PlanNapoleon's PreparationsEarly Events on the DanubeNapoleon Reaches the Front: Eggmuhl & ViennaHiller's RetreatThe First Crossing of the Danube: Aspern-EsslingThe Second Crossing of the Danube: Wagram and ZnaimItaly and HungaryPolandDalmatiaPeaceBooks


The Franco-Austrian War of 1809 was part of the War of the Fifth Coalition, and was Napoleon's last successful military campaign, ending soon after his victory in the massive battle of Wagram in July 1809.

The Fifth Coalition was the smallest of the series of coalitions formed to fight Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, effectively consisting of Austrian and Britain only. The Austrian decision to go to war was based on the assumption that Prussia would probably join the war; that Russia would be at worst neutral and at best break its alliance with Napoleon; and that revolts would break out across Germany. None of these assumptions would turn out to be correct. Prussia refused to budge. The Russians sent private assurances of their sympathy with the Austrian cause, but then sent an army to the border, attempting to make some easy gains while the Austrians were distracted and forcing them to keep an army in Galicia. Although there were some outbreaks of rebellion in Germany, Napoleon could still rely on his German allies at this stage, and troops from Württemberg, Saxony and Bavaria made a major contribution to his victory.

The alliance with Britain also produced rather disappointing results for the Austrians. The main British efforts during 1809 came in the Peninsular (although with a gap between evacuation from Corunna in January and Wellington's first appearance in Portugal in the summer), where they at least pinned down a large number of French troops, and the Walcheren expedition, a disastrous attempt to occupy the Dutch island of Walcheren which didn't begin until after the battle of Wagram and that saw the British lose 4,000 men to disease. The only major direct British contribution to the Austrian war effort came in the form of money.

The War of 1809 was one of the few occasions when Napoleon did not initiate a conflict. All of the impetus towards war came from the Austrians. There had always been a war party in Austria, and the crushing defeat at Austerlitz in 1805 had only served to confirm its member's belief that Napoleon had to be defeated. Pressure from this war party combined with a more general (if inaccurate) belief that Napoleon would soon turn on Austria yet again to build up a general consensus that war was inevitable. There was a peace party, centred on Archduke Charles, the Emperor Francis's brother, and generalissimos of the Habsburg army. He was responsible for the reforms that created the much improved army of 1809, and stood firmly against any renewal of the war.

The eventual decision to go to war seems to have been inspired by Napoleon's intervention in Spain. The underhand removal of the Bourbon monarchy and its replacement by his brother Joseph outranged monarchists across Europe. The defeat of a French army at Bailen on 21 July 1808 and the British victory at Vimiero on 21 August helped to convince many of the peace party that this was indeed the right time to strike, while many of Napoleon's best troops were pinned down in Spain. This all helped to convince the Emperor that war was inevitable, and by the summer of 1808 Austria was already preparing to renew the fight. Napoleon noticed the war agitation in Austria, and responded by mobilising his German allies and delaying some troops on their way to Spain, and the crisis of 1808 passed.

The Austrian Plan

Austria began to move onto a war footing in February 1809. The official decision to go to war came on 8 February. This was followed by the recall of all soldiers on furlough on 12 February. On the same day the Emperor's brother Archduke Charles was appointed commander of all Habsburg forces, with authority over the entire military machine. Detailing timetables were issued on 15 March, and 16 March the army was ordered to prepare to concentrate and form into nine standard and two reserve corps. The great movement was to begin on 25 February. Finally on 17 February the Emperor ordered the establishment of the Freikorps, a traditional method of recruiting light troops.

The initial Austrian plan involved three separate armies. One was to invade Italy and attempt to recover the lost Habsburg possessions there. The second was to threaten the Duchy of Warsaw. The third and largest army, under the command of Archduke Charles, was to invade middle or northern Germany from Bohemia, defeat Davout's Army of the Rhine and then take up a position on the southern Rhine. What would happen after then, when Napoleon was expected to finally arrive on the scene with his main army wasn't entirely clear.

This plan didn’t survive for long. On 12-13 March a new set of orders were issued, moving the main army from Bohemia onto the Danube. The new plan was for an invasion of Bavaria, with the main army operating south of the Danube. The aim was to reach Regensberg before the French and split their army in half, allowing the Austrians to deal with each element separately. The motive for this change of plan is uncertain, but was probably due to a mix of concern for the safety of Vienna if the main army moved away too far to the north-west and reports that the French were beginning to concentrate their armies in Bavaria, further south than had been expected.

Napoleon's Preparations

One key reason for Austrian confidence was the belief that Napoleon would be tied down in Spain for some time, but on 1 January 1809 he received news of a plot against him in Paris. This forced him to leave his armies before the campaign in Spain was complete and return to Paris to deal with the threat, which came from Talleyrand and Napoleon's own chief spy Fouché. Napoleon left Valladolid on 17 January and arriving in Paris on 23 January. During this period he began to focus some of his energy on preparations for a possible war with Austria. Davout's Army of the Rhine and Viceroy Eugène's Army of Italy were both brought up to strength, while Oudinot's corps and d'Espagne's cuirassiers were ordered to move to Augsburg from bases further to the north. Warning letters were also sent to his German allies.

At the start of 1809 Napoleon's military position in Germany was almost as weak as the Austrians imagined it to be. Davout had three infantry and five cavalry divisions in central Germany and another infantry and five light cavalry divisions further to the east. Bernadotte had two divisions in the Hanseatic cities. There were also four weak divisions available in eastern France.

During February Napoleon began to move his scattered German armies closer together. He also ordered the Imperial Guard to leave Spain, and formed the four divisions in France into the nucleus of Massena's 4th Corps. In March Davout was ordered to move his main forces into a central position around Bamberg. The Saxon army was to form up around Dresden to form the left wing of Napoleon's line while Massena and Oudinot were to advance to Augsburg and Ulm. With no real idea of where the Austrians intended to strike, Napoleon had no choice other than to scatter his troops out over such a long line. One mistake was to give overall command of the forces in Germany to Berthier. An able chief of staff, he would soon prove himself unable to cope with the pressures of a semi-independent command.

On 30 March Napoleon issued a detailed set of instructions to Berthier. These instructions were based on two mistakes - first that the Austrians would attack from Bohemia, where their army had initially concentrated, and second that they would not move until mid April at the earliest. Despite these flaws this initial plan still put most of Napoleon's men in locations that allowed them to respond to the real Austrian attack on the Danube. Davout was posted at the left of the French line, at Nuremburg. Massena's corps was posted around Augsburg. The Bavarian army, which made up a corps in its own right, was further forward, on the Isar. Lannes would take command of a new corps.

Napoleon put in place two plans for initial operations. If the Austrians attacked first, then his army was to concentrate the line of the River Lech, which runs south from the Danube to Augsburg, while headquarters would be at Donauwörth. If the Austrians didn’t move until mid-April then headquarters would be further east, at Regensburg. These two alternatives would soon cause confusion. After the Austrian invasion, which came earlier than expected, Berthier managed to confuse the two sets of instructions, and ordered Davout towards Regensburg while the rest of the army formed up much further east, on the Lech.

Early Events on the Danube

The Austrians finally began their invasion of Bavaria on 10 April, crossing the River Inn, a southern tributary of the Danube that at that point marked the border between the two states. At this point the Austrians were in a much stronger position than the French and their Allies. Six Austrian corps were concentrated on the Inn, under the direct command of Archduke Charles. The only remnant of the original plan to invade central Germany from Bohemia was the presence of two more corps on the Austro-Bavaria border west of Pilsen.

The French and their Allies were rather more scattered. Nearest to the Austrians were the Bavarian troops of 7th Corps, but they were spread out with their southernmost division around Munich and their northernmost just to the south of Regensburg. Further west the French 2nd Corps was on the Lech and the 4th on the Iller. To the north of the Danube Davout's 3rd Corps was also scattered, with elements close to Bayreuth, at Nuremburg, and at Neumarkt.

Over the next few days the Austrians advanced slowly through Bavaria, while the French position slowly worsened, mainly due to the efforts of Marshal Berthier, who quickly found himself out of his depth. Misinterpreting Napoleon's orders (which arrived rather out of sequence) he ordered Davout to move to Regensburg, leaving his dangerously isolated, with most other French and Allied troops some way to the south-west and on the opposite bank of the Danube.

Fortunately for the French the Austrian army still couldn't move with any great speed. Their only real military success came at Landshut on 16 April 1809, when they defeated part of Marshal Lefebvre's Bavarian Corps. Even after their slow advance this would still give them a chance to win a major victory, but that chance would soon pass.

Napoleon Reaches the Front: Eggmuhl & Vienna

Napoleon finally reached the front on 17 April, discovering to his dismay that his armies were not where he expected. Davout's position at Regensburg particularly worried him and a series of messengers were dispatched to order Davout to bring his corps onto the southern bank of the Danube then march south-west to join the rest of the army. These messages didn't reach Davout until 18 April, and his corps didn’t begin to move until 19 April. The remaining army corps were to move east from their original starting points to move closer to Davout, and prepare for a counterattack.

Despite Napoleon's best efforts, the Austrians still had a chance to win a major victory. Charles was in the perfect position to intercept Davout and crush his corps. On the night of 18-19 April the Austrians were based around Rohr, fifteen miles to the south of Regensburg and ten miles east of Neustadt and the only other hostile troops in the immediate area, the Bavarians of Marshal Lefebvre's 7th Corps. With the troops at his disposal Charles could easily have taken on both of these corps, and his first set of orders for 19 April would have given him his chance. This involved moving his army a short distance to the north, putting him across Davout's line of march.

During the night the Austrians intercepted a message from Lefebvre to Davout, informing him that help was on its way. The Austrians took the message to mean that Davout was planning to spend 19 April around Regensburg, and Charles decided to alter his line of march. Instead of the short move north, his entire army would move north-east, then turn north to try and pin Davout against the Danube at Regensburg. Unfortunately for the Austrians Davout began to move south-west early on 19 April. When the Austrians finally made contact, it was only with the left wing of their army, and most of Davout's men had already slipped past the trap. The resulting battle of Teugn-Hausen (19 April 1809) saw Davout fight off the Austrian left, and allowed the rest of his corps to join up with the main French army.

On 20 April the initiative passed to Napoleon. The Austrians were stretched out over a wide area, with their right wing still around Hausen and their left on the Abens River. Napoleon planned to smash his way through the Austrians line on the Abens, then fan out behind them and trap what was left of their army. The only problem with his plan was that Napoleon believed the Austrian right to have been smashed on the previous day, and so his main attack on 20 April hit the Austrian left rather than its centre. Even so the resulting battle of Abensberg was a disaster for the Austrians. The French and their German allies smashed a hole in the Austrian line, forcing Hiller and the left to retreat east back towards Landshut, while Charles and the right remained static around Eggmuhl. The only Austrian success on 20 April came at Regensburg, where the small French garrison was forced to surrender, leaving the bridge over the Danube intact.

Napoleon's misjudgement continued on 21 April. Believing that the main Austrian army was retreating east, and that only a few regiments were left on their right, he left Devout in place to mop up there, and led the main part of his army east to Landshut. Here the French won another victory (battle of Landshut, 21 April 1809), but failed to trap Hiller, who was able to continue his retreat to the east.

Further north it was becoming clear that Davout was facing rather more than the three regiments Napoleon had expected. Instead Davout found himself facing the three largely intact corps of the Austrian right, under the direct command of Archduke Charles. The Austrians also had two corps on the north bank of the Danube, although Charles chose not to bring them south to his aid. On the night of 21-22 April Napoleon finally realised his mistake, and turned the main body of his army north to deal with Charles. Once again the French and their allies won a victory (battle of Eggmühl, 22 April 1809), but once again it was not quite as conclusive as Napoleon would have liked. With the bridge at Regensburg in their hands the Austrians were able to escape to the relative safety of the north bank of the river. The French caught up with the retreating Austrians on 23 April, but were unable to stop them slipping across the river. The battle of Regensburg (23 April 1809) saw the city and the bridge fall into French hands, but only after most of the Austrian army had escaped.

This ended the Bavarian phase of the war. In one week Napoleon had transformed the situation. Davout had been saved and the Austrians beaten in four separate battles. Charles's morale had suffered, and despite still having a sizable army at his disposal after the fighting at Regensburg he felt that his only option was to retreat into Bohemia.

Hiller's Retreat

While Charles manoeuvred on the north bank of the Danube, the left wing of his army, under Hiller, was in a potentially rather dangerous position, facing the main part of Napoleon's army. Hiller's conduct of the retreat was rather variable. Eventually he managed to escape with much of his army intact, but on occasions his optimism nearly caused a disaster. Every slight delay in the French advance was interpreted as a change of fortune and a chance to stand and fight.

At first Hiller was only facing a small French force under Marshal Bessières, and he even managed to inflict a defeat on this force at Newmarkt (24 April 1809). After this victory Hiller learnt of the Austrian defeats at Eggmuhl and Regensburg and retreated back behind the River Inn, into Austria.

Over the next two weeks Hiller was pursued by Napoleon and the main bulk of the French army. He received a series of orders to cross to the north bank of the Danube to join the main army, but missed a series of chances to obey those orders. An attempt to hold a bridgehead at Linz also failed.

In the aftermath of this failure Hiller had a chance to defeat the line of the River Traun, but this ended in disaster at Ebelsberg (3 May). A failure to destroy the bridge over the Traun and a lack of preparedness meant that the French were able to force the Austrians out of what should have been a strong position. Hiller was forced to retreat across the Enns, this time destroying bridges behind him. Once again the French were held up, and once again Hiller interpreted this as chance to stand and fight, this time on the Ybbs. Only after another defeat, at Blindenmarkt on 6 May, did he finally cross the Danube, on 8 May.

Before crossing the river Hiller detached some of his troops east to defend Vienna, before moving the rest of his command towards the Austrian capital along the north bank. He arrived after the start of the short siege of Vienna (10-13 May 1809) but was unable to prevent the fall of the city. A few days later the main army finally arrived opposite the city, setting the scene for the main act of the war.

The First Crossing of the Danube: Aspern-Essling

Napoleon's victories in Bavaria had not brought him the decisive battle that he had expected (and that on occasion he believed he had won). His advance on Vienna had also disappointed in that respect, and in mid May he was faced with a serious problem. Charles and the main Austrian army were probably facing him across the Danube close to Vienna, but Napoleon couldn't be sure of that, or that Charles would stand and fight. An early attempt to cross the Danube, on the same day as the surrender of Vienna, ended in failure, and Napoleon had to look for an alternative route across the river.

The chosen crossing point was to the east of Vienna, and took advantage of the presence of a large island, the Lobau, close to the northern bank of the river. At this point Napoleon's main worry was that the Austrian army might slip away into Bohemia, forcing him into a long pursuit across difficult country, and so he decided to try and 'bounce' his way across the Danube. The first French troops reached the Lobau on 19 May, and the first bridgehead on the north bank was established on 20 May. The next morning saw both Napoleon and Charles preparing to advance. Napoleon wanted to find the apparently elusive Austrians, while Charles saw a chance to win a limited victory against part of the French army.

When the Austrians finally came into sight, marching to attack Napoleon's left wing around Aspern, his first reaction was to order a retreat back onto the Lobau, but news that a broken bridge over the Danube had been fixed and that fighting had already broken out forced him to stand and fight. On the first day of the battle of Aspern-Essling (21-22 May 1809) the French successfully held their ground against Austrian attacks, and Napoleon prepared to go onto the offensive on 22 May. This attack began fairly well, but the bridges over the Danube were damaged by Austrian attacks, leaving Napoleon cut off from reinforcements or fresh supplies. By 11am it was clear that he could no longer win the battle, and his main aim was to survive until night fall.

After some hard fighting the battle came to an end after one final Austrian attack on Aspern at around 5pm. That night Napoleon's army slipped away onto the Lobau, after having suffered its first serious battlefield defeat.

The Second Crossing of the Danube: Wagram and Znaim

Napoleon responded to this defeat in two ways. The first was to prepare far more carefully for his next attempt to cross the river. The Lobau was strongly fortified, and the bridges to it were much better made and were protected by lines of pilings designed to stop the Austrians from damaging it by floating objects down the Danube. The island became a military camp, filled with every sort of supplies.

The second was to call in as many reinforcements as possible. Bernadotte's Saxon corps was already on its way, and arrived in time to take part in the entire battle. Eugène de Beauharnais also arrived in time with the Army of Italy. Marmont's Army of Dalmatia and Wrede's 2nd Bavarian Division arrived in time to take part in the second day of the battle.

The battle of Wagram (5-6 July 1809) was the largest battle yet in Napoleon's career. It really began late on 4 July when the first French troops crossed from the eastern side of the Lobau onto the north bank of the Danube. A series of prefabricated bridges were in place by the morning of 5 July and by 9am Davout, Oudinot and Massena had each crossed over with their corps. The French advanced north out of their new bridgehead, and established themselves on the Marchfeld, the large plain opposite Vienna.

At the end of this first phase of the battle the main French army was facing north towards the left wing of the Austrian army, on the Russbach Heights. Napoleon decided to launch an attack on those positions late in the day, partly to try and pin the Austrians in place and partly in an attempt to discover how strong they were. This attack failed to gain a foothold on the heights, but did come remarkably close.

On the morning of 6 July both Napoleon and Charles intended to attack their opponent's left wing. Napoleon ordered Davout to attack the eastern end of the Russbach Heights and roll up the Austrian line. Charles sent two army corps to attack the weak French left closest to the Danube. The Austrian attack started first, and caused a serious crisis for Napoleon. He responded by moving Massena's corps across the battlefield, covering that movement with a massive artillery battery. This effectively stopped the Austrian offensive.

Napoleon then began his own main attack. Davout was making steady progress on the right, and so Napoleon decided to send Macdonald to attack the Austrian centre. This attack, using 8,000 men in a massive hollow square, was an expensive failure, but by now Charles had learnt that his expected reinforcements would not arrive in time. As Davout continued to push back his left and the French attack in the centre regained momentum, Charles decided to retreat. The orders were issued at 2.30, and over the next few hours the battered Austrian army slipped away to the north.

The battle of Wagram was a clear French victory, but the Austrian army was still intact, and in the immediate aftermath of the battle Napoleon didn't know where it had gone. His response was to send several columns up some of possible routes. Massena was sent up the correct road, the highway to Znaim, but was held up by the Austrian rearguard on 9 July (combat of Hollabrunn). On the same day Marmont, who had been sent up the road to Brünn, but who had turned off to head towards Laa, ran into another part of the Austrian army (combat of Laa, 9 July 1809). Marmont misinterpreted what he was seeing, but correctly reported that the main Austrian army was at Znaim.

On 10 July Marmont reached Znaim with his Bavarian and French troops (battle of Znaim, 10-11 July 1809). At first he believed he was facing the Austrian rearguard, but after some initial successes it became clear that most of the Austrian army was in front of him, and he was lucky to hold onto his early gains. At the same time Massena was being help up again (combat of Schöngrabern)

On the next morning Massena arrived to attack the Austrian position from the south, while Napoleon joined Marmont. Massena's attack carried him across the Thaya River and close to Znaim itself before an Austrian counterattack nearly caused disaster. French cavalry restored the situation, and the French were advancing slowly across most of the battlefield when the fighting was ended by the announcement of an armistice.

Italy and Hungary

In 1805 Napoleon formed the Kingdom of Italy, ignoring previous treaty agreements. After failing to find an alternative candidate he had crowned himself as King of Italy, and appointed his son-in-law, Eugène de Beauharnais, as Viceroy. At first the kingdom consisted of the former Ligurian (Genoa) and Cisalpine (Milan, Modena) and the Venetian territories west of the Adige) Republics, but after Austerlitz the Austrians were forced to surrender parts of Venetia, Istria and Dalmatia, and the kingdom stretched across northern Italy. In 1809 the border with Austria ran along the Julian Alps.

At the start of the War of the Fifth Coalition the Army of Italy was scattered across much of north-eastern Italy in an attempt not to provoke the Austrians. Two divisions were in the far north-east, around Udine. The rest of the army was stretched out across northern Italy with the furthest elements of the army at Lake Garda.

Napoleon expected the Austrians to send 100,000 regular troops across the Alps at the start of any war, but this time they surprised him, and only sent 50,000 men in two corps, under the command of Archduke John, a younger brother of the Emperor and of Archduke Charles, the overall army commander. This meant that the Austrians would be weaker on the Italian front than Napoleon had expected, but that they would be correspondingly stronger on main Danube front.

Despite his limited number the Archduke's campaign began well. His envoys carried the declaration of war to the French outposts on 9 April, and on the following day his troops forced the French out of their most advanced posts. Eugène was forced to abandon his original plans for a stand on the Tagliamento River, and withdrew to Sacile, on the Livenza. The Austrians followed the retreating French closely, and so on 16 April, when Eugène attempted to attack what he believed to be the Austrian advance-guard, the Archduke was able to win what might have been an important victory (Battle of Sacile). Eugène was forced to retreat back to the Adige, with the Austrians following close behind.

The Austrian's promising position in Italy was undermined by news from the Danube, where Napoleon had taken command and had won a series of victories, at Abensberg (19-20 April), Landeshut (21 April), Eggmuhl (22 April) and Ratisbon (23 April). Vienna would soon fall to the French, and the Archduke was ordered to abandon his advance into Italy and pull back to the north-east. For the moment he was ordered to hold on in north-eastern Italy.

This would not prove possible. The Austrian retreat encouraged Prince Eugène and the Army of Italy. The Austrians suffered a series of minor defeats as they retreated back across Italy, before Eugène won his first major victory, on the Piave on 8 May. In the aftermath of this retreat the Archduke was forced to retreat back into the Alps, sending part of his army east towards Trieste, while he led most of it towards the north-eastern corner of modern Italy and the road towards Vienna. Eugène copied him, sending General Macdonald towards Trieste while he followed John.

Both wings of the French army won further victories, pushing the Austrians out of the mountains. Eugène prevented them from making a stand at Tarvisio (18 May), forcing the Archduke to retreat east towards back to Graz. Eugène then moved north-east through the mountains towards Napoleon at Vienna, winning a lucky victory at St. Michael on 25 May when he stumbled into an Austrian division that was moving from west-to-east across his path. Macdonald occupied Trieste, then captured 4,000 Austrians at Laybach (Ljubljana) on 22 May, before turning north towards the Archduke's new position at Graz. By the end of May the Archduke had been forced east, onto the Raab River.

Archduke John now became involved in an argument with his brother, Archduke Charles. John wanted to retain his army's independence and operate against the French to his south, thus hoping to prevent Eugène from joining with Napoleon. Charles wanted him to cross the Danube and join the main army. On 21-21 May Napoleon had suffered his first ever battlefield defeat, at Aspern-Essling, while attempting to cross the Danube. While Charles hoped that this might lead to a peace treaty, he also wanted to strengthen his army in case Napoleon attempted to cross the river for a second time. Charles won the argument, and John was ordered to march up to the city of Raab and cross the Danube. At Raab he would join up with his brother Joseph and the Hungarian Insurrection, a militia called out in emergencies.

As John moved north-east towards Raab, Eugène was moving south from Wiener Neustadt to intercept him. The Archduke escaped from this trap, but the French were close on his trail. Eugène just missed a chance to force a battle at Papa on 12 June, but this only delayed things by two days. After a skirmish on 13 June the Austrian commanders still seem to have believed that they outnumbered the French, but in fact the two armies were about the same size, each 40,000 strong. To make things worse 10,000 of the Austrian troops were the inexperienced, badly trained and badly equipped Insurrection, and 8,000 troops were posted off the battlefield! The resulting battle of Raab (14 June 1809) was another major victory for Eugène, despite some determined fighting by the Austrian infantry. The French were eventually about to outflank the Austrian left, forced the Archduke to order a retreat before he was trapped against the Little Danube. Eugène was criticised for the sluggish pursuit that allowed most of the Austrians to escape, but he had still inflicted around 10,000 casualties on the Austrians, and forced them to abandon the southern bank of the Danube.

In the aftermath of this defeat the Archduke moved up the Danube to Pressburg, where he would remain for most of the rest of the war. In contrast Eugène was able to move up towards Vienna to join the main French army, taking part in the battle of Wagram (5-6 July 1809). A few minor skirmishes took place after this, before news of the armistice ended the fighting around Pressburg.


The third most important theatre of war was in Poland. Here the French had created the Duchy of Warsaw, the first nominally independent Polish entity since the country had been partitioned out of existence in 1795. All three of the Duchy's most important neighbours (Austria, Prussia and Russia) disliked its very existence, fearing that it would act as a nucleus for a revived Polish state and would trigger revolts amongst their own Polish subjects.

The Austrian plan for the invasion of the Duchy was nothing if not ambitious. An army under Archduke Ferdinand Karl Josef d'Este was to capture Warsaw, defeat the Polish army and repartition Poland. Part would go to Prussia to bring them into the war, another part possibly to Russia to keep them out of it. While this was going on Ferdinand was to turn left and bring his army into central Germany to join the main Austrian army (this final part of the plan was abandoned after the main army moved from Bohemia onto the Danube). Ferdinand had the 30,000 men of VII Corps to achieve his aims.

He was facing a much smaller Polish army, 14,200 men under the command of Prince Joseph Poniatowski. Many of these men were inexperienced and the army itself was only a few years old. The high command was experienced - Poniatowski, Dabrowksi and Zajaczek had years of experience - but they detested each other, making cooperation very difficult.

Ferdinand opened the fighting in Poland, crossing the border at the Pilica River south of Warsaw on 15 April. Poniatowski advanced to Raszyn, where he decided to make a stand in an attempt to defend Warsaw. The resulting battle of Raszyn (19 April 1809) was effectively a draw, but the Poles suffered heavier losses than the Austrians and withdrew back to Warsaw. Ferdinand then made a critical mistake. Ignoring the part of his orders that called on him to destroy the Polish army, he instead negotiated for the peaceful occupation of Warsaw. This was agreed on 21 April. The Poles were allowed to move anything they wanted out of the city, and so by the end of 23 April their army and all of its supplies were on their way to Modlin and Serock. Ferdinand occupied Warsaw, but he agreed not to fire across the Vistula on the Polish bridgehead at Praga, while the Poles agreed not to bombard their own capital from Braga. Ferdinand's main motivation was a belief that the Prussians would accept Warsaw and enter the war, freeing him to move into Germany to face the real enemy. Instead the Prussians stayed firmly out of the war, the Austrians were forced to leave a large garrison in Warsaw, and the Poles were given time to reorganise their army.

Ferdinand's next move was to try and cross the Vistula at Gora, south of Warsaw. Work on a bridge began, but at the same time Mohr's brigade was shipped across by the end of 22 April, and had surrounded the Poles at Braga by 24 April. Mohr was now in a very dangerous position, facing Poniatowski's 14,000 men with only 5,000 men of his own, and no bridge across the Vistula. Poniatowski could see his opportunity, but didn't know that there was no bridge. On the night of 24-25 April he led about half of his army towards Mohr, fighting two separate combats at Radzymin and Grochow on 25 April. This was something of a missed chance for the Poles. Mohr suffered around 400 casualties, and was forced to retreat back towards Gora, but a more determined attack might have destroyed his brigade. As it was this Polish success, fought in clear sight of Warsaw, gave the Poles a great moral advantage as the campaign continued.

Ferdinand now decided to move his entire army across the Vistula. Mohr's brigade was temporarily moved back to the west bank of the river while work continued on the bridge. A small detachment was left on the east bank to build a bridgehead. On the Polish side Poniatowski was becoming more confident, and by 29 April he had decided on a very bold course of action. Instead of trying to defeat Ferdinand around Warsaw, he would invade East Galicia, part of the Austrian Empire gained during the Partitions of Poland. This bold offensive began with an attack on the Austrian bridgehead at Gora (3 May), which ended in a clear Polish victory. The Austrians were now trapped on the west bank of the river. Polish forces now swept across East Galicia. After a minor setback at Kock on 6 May they reached Lublin then advanced south to the River San. Another Polish column advanced along the Vistula, reaching Sandomierz, which fell on 18 May after a brief siege, while further to the east Zamosc was taken on 20 May. After these successes Poniatowski decided to pause on the San to see how events would unfold.

While the Poles were having success in Galicia, the Austrians were involved in a pointless expedition towards Thorn, north-west of Warsaw. The main bulk of his army advanced as far as Gabin, while Mohr was sent ahead to Thorn. After some initial successes on the night of 14-15 May Mohr attempted to besiege the city (14-18 May), before being recalled after news arrived of the Polish invasion of Galicia. Ferdinand attempted to restore the situation by leading most of his command south towards the main Polish army. One detachment had already been sent south in an attempt to save Sandomierz, but arrived far too late. Ferdinand's next plan involved the rapid recapture of that city, after which his army would split in two and operate on both banks of the Vistula. As the Austrians moved south fresh Polish troops appeared in the north, and on the night of 1-2 June the Austrians were forced to abandon Warsaw. By the start of June the focus of operations had moved to Sandomierz. Ferdinand and about half of his men were outside the city to the north. Most of Poniatowski's men were either inside Sandomierz, or just to the south of the city, between the San and Vistula.

Ferdinand soon had to abandon his plans to cross the Vistula to the north of Sandomierz, and instead decided to try and retake the city by crossing the river upstream and operating against the Poles between the Vistula and the San. Poniatowski retreated to the San, taking up a position at Gorzyce. On 12 June he fought a defensive battle against the Austrian advance guard, despite his army being split in half by the San. The battle ended in a draw, but the Poles were forced to withdraw to the east bank of the San. The reason for this was the disappointing behaviour of their Russian 'allies'. Officially still allied with Napoleon, the Russians eventually sent troops across the border into East Galicia, although only after the Austrians had been forced out by the Poles. One Russian division reached the San opposite Gorzyce on 11 June, but then refused to take part in the battle. This left the garrison of Sandomierz dangerously isolated. Their commander negotiated generous terms, and on 19 June the garrison marched out to rejoin the main Polish army.

The arrival of the Russians ended the most dramatic phase of the war in Poland. They had no intentions of actually fighting the Austrians, and Ferdinand did not want to provoke them, so he was unable to cross the San to attack Poniatowski. When the Russians did finally cross the San they advanced very slowly, but only after a period in which they had effectively prevented the Poles from taking any offensive actions. The end result of this was that both Ferdinand and Poniatowski crossed to the west (left) bank of the Vistula. The Austrians were now very much on the defensive, but little more fighting took place in this theatre before the news of the armistice agreed at Znaim ended the war.


Dalmatia had been in French hands since the aftermath of the battle of Austerlitz in 1805. In 1809 it was being run by Marmont, who had two infantry divisions at his disposal (Clausel and Montrichard). His orders were to join the Army of Italy as quickly as possible.

The Austrians intended to invade and reoccupy Dalmatia. This was to be achieved by General von Stoichevich, with a brigade of around 8,000 men. Marmont was able to post around 11,000 men on his northern border.

The fighting began on 26 April with an Austrian advance across the border and into the Zrmanja river valley. The Austrians had the best of the early exchanges, capturing key positions along the river and then fighting off a French counterattack. This was followed by something of a stalemate, as the Austrians remained in their new positions and the French prepared for another round of attacks.

The stalemate was broken on 16 May. Marmont concentrated most of his men against the Austrian left around Kravibrod and Mt. Kita. On 16 May (Combat of Kita) he forced the Austrians away from their positions around Mt. Kita and forced them to retreat back to Gracac, captured Stoichevich during the battle. On 17 May the Austrians held their own in fighting around Gracac, but were forced to retreat when the French threatened to outflank them. The Austrians retreated to Gospic, where once again they held their own against Marmont (combat of Gospic, 21-22 May 1809), but were once again forced to retreat, this time by a combination of near-exhaustion and orders to send two of their best battalions to reinforce another Austrian army. The retreat was less kind to the Austrians. Many of the local troops deserted as the army moved away from their home areas, and the rest of the army narrowly escaped from the French at Zutalovka (25 May 1809). In the aftermath of this fight the two armies moved off in different directions. The Austrians moved north-east and attempted to rebuild their forces, while Marmont moved west to the coast, before turning north to join with the Army of Italy. The overall success of Napoleon's plan to concentrate his forces was demonstrated on 6 July, the second day of the battle of Wagram, when the Army of Dalmatia reached the battlefield.


The road to peace began several days before the battle of Znaim. In the aftermath of his defeat at Wagram Archduke Charles had become increasingly pessimistic about the chances of his army surviving another battle, and began to press for an armistice. On 8 July the Emperor Francis decided to send General Johann, Fürst von Liechtenstein as a peace envoy to Napoleon. Early on 10 July news reached the Austrians at Znaim that Napoleon had accepted Liechtenstein's appointment. He turned over command of his troops to Schwarzenberg, and headed south towards Stockerau, where the main road south from Znaim reached the Danube. Liechtenstein's journey would be largely pointless, and he only reached Napoleon's camp on the night of 11-12 July.

At the end of 10 July Charles tried to arrange a local armistice with Marmont, using Liechtenstein's mission to justify it, but this offer was refused. On the afternoon of 11 July Napoleon decided to accept this offer. The staff officers were sent out to bring the battle to an end, and negotiations began between Berthier and Wimpffen to arrange a one-month long armistice. It was at this stage that Liechtenstein appeared. Charles accepted the armistice agreed by Wimpffen, and the military phase of the war came to an end.

The initial armistice terms were harsh, and caused a great deal of discontent in Vienna. Charles resigned on 23 July, a victim of his opponents at court who had used the armistice to turn his brother against him. Two sets of negotiations began - a formal meeting at Altenburg and more informal direct communications between the two emperors. It was this second set of negotiations that eventually led to the appointment of Liechtenstein to negotiate the peace treaty, and the eventual signing of the Peace of Schönbrunn on 14 October. This treaty saw Austria lose her remaining access to the sea, 20% of her population (3.5 millions people), limit her army to 150,000 men and agree to pay a war indemnity of 85 million gulden. The Poles gained most of Galicia, although Russia was rewarded with Tarnopol. Bavaria gained Salzburg and a number of provinces on the River Inn. Trieste was lost, as was all of Croatia and Dalmatia south of the River Save.

It is unlikely that any of the participants in the War of 1809 would have suspected that it would be Napoleon's last victorious campaign, but that would be the case. In 1810 and 1811 Napoleon had a chance to focus on the Peninsular War, but he never returned to Spain, and that war continued on, becoming a major drain on French resources. In 1812 he embarked on the disastrous invasion of Russia, which ended with the destruction of his last great army. Napoleon was able to take a large but inexperienced army into Germany for the campaign of 1813, but despite some successes that campaign ended with defeat at Leipzig, and a second major French army was destroyed. The defensive campaign of 1814 showed Napoleon almost back to his best, but despite a number of missed chances ended in defeat and abdication. Finally the famous Hundred Days of 1815 ended with defeat at Waterloo and a return to exile.


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Franco-Austrian Alliance

The Franco-Austrian Alliance was a diplomatic and military alliance between France and Austria that was first established in 1756 after the First Treaty of Versailles. It lasted for much of the remainder of the century until it was abandoned during the French Revolution.

The Alliance had its heyday during the Seven Years' War, when France and Austria joined forces to fight their mutual enemy, Prussia. Following the allies' defeat, the intimacy of the alliance weakened, and by the 1780s it had become something closer to a formality, and Austria even briefly considered the idea of entering the American War of Independence on Britain's side against France. By the time of the French Revolution, when France first declared itself a constitutional monarchy and then overthrew and executed its king, the alliance had already collapsed entirely, and Austria actively tried to restore the French monarchy by going to war with the new French Republic.


The Fourth Coalition (1806–1807) of Great Britain, Prussia, Russia, Saxony, and Sweden formed against France within months of the collapse of the previous coalition. Following his triumph at the Battle of Austerlitz and the subsequent demise of the Third Coalition, Napoleon looked forward to achieving a general peace in Europe, especially with his two main remaining antagonists, Britain and Russia. Meanwhile, he sought to isolate Prussia from the influence of these two powers by offering a tentative alliance, while also seeking to curb Prussia's political and military influence among the German states.

Despite the death of William Pitt in January 1806, Britain and the new Whig administration remained committed to checking the growing power of France. Peace overtures between the two nations early in the new year proved ineffectual due to the still unresolved issues that had led to the breakdown of the Peace of Amiens. One point of contention was the fate of Hanover, a German electorate in personal union with the British monarchy that had been occupied by France since 1803. Dispute over this state would eventually become a casus belli for both Britain and Prussia against France. This issue also dragged Sweden into the war, whose forces had been deployed there as part of the effort to liberate Hanover during the war of the previous coalition. The path to war seemed inevitable after French forces ejected the Swedish troops in April 1806.

Apart from some naval clashes and the peripheral Battle of Maida in southern Italy in July 1806 (though these actions are considered part of the tail end of the War of the Third Coalition), the main conflicts between Britain and France during the Fourth Coalition would involve no direct general military confrontation. Rather, there was an escalation in the ongoing economic warfare between the two powers. With Britain still retaining its dominance of the seas, Napoleon looked to break this dominance (after his defeat of Prussia) with his issuance of the Berlin Decree and the beginnings of his Continental System. Britain retaliated with its Orders in Council several months later. [6]

In the meantime, Russia spent most of 1806 recovering from defeats from the previous year's campaign. Napoleon had hoped to establish peace with Russia and a tentative peace treaty was signed in July 1806, but this was vetoed by Tsar Alexander I and the two powers remained at war. Though nominally an ally in the coalition, Russia remained a dormant entity for much of the year (giving virtually no military aid to Prussia in the main battles that October, as Russian armies were still mobilising). Russian forces would not fully come into play in the war until late 1806 when Napoleon entered Poland.

Finally, Prussia had remained at peace with France the previous year, though it did come close to joining the Allies in the Third Coalition. A French corps led by Marshal Bernadotte had illegally violated the neutrality of Ansbach in Prussian territory on their march to face the Austrians and Russians. Anger by Prussia at this trespass was quickly tempered by the results of Austerlitz, and a convention of continued peace with France was signed two weeks after that battle at Schönbrunn. This convention was modified in a formal treaty two months later, with one clause in effect promising to give Hanover to Prussia in exchange for Ansbach's being awarded to France's ally Bavaria. In addition, on 15 March 1806 Napoleon elevated his brother-in-law Marshal Joachim Murat to become ruler of the Grand Duchy of Berg and Cleves (acquired from Bavaria in return for its receiving Ansbach). Murat exacerbated Prussian enmity by tactlessly ejecting a Prussian garrison that was stationed in his newly acquired realm, prompting a stern rebuke from Napoleon. Relations between France and Prussia quickly soured when Prussia eventually discovered that Napoleon had secretly promised to return sovereignty of Hanover back to Britain during his abortive peace negotiations with the British. This duplicity by the French would be one of the main causes for Prussia declaring war that autumn.

Another cause was Napoleon's formation in July 1806 of the Confederation of the Rhine out of the various German states which constituted the Rhineland and other parts of western Germany. A virtual satellite of the French Empire with Napoleon as its "Protector", the Confederation was intended to act as a buffer state from any future aggressions from Austria, Russia or Prussia against France (a policy that was an heir of the French revolutionary doctrine of maintaining France's "natural frontiers"). The formation of the Confederation was the final nail in the coffin of the moribund Holy Roman Empire and subsequently its last Habsburg emperor, Francis II, changed his title to simply Francis I, Emperor of Austria. Napoleon consolidated the various smaller states of the former Holy Roman Empire which had allied with France into larger electorates, duchies and kingdoms to make the governance of non-Prussian and Austrian Germany more efficient. He also elevated the electors of the two largest Confederation states, his allies Württemberg and Bavaria, to the status of kings. The Confederation was above all a military alliance: in return for continued French protection, member states were compelled to supply France with large numbers of their own military personnel (mainly to serve as auxiliaries to the Grande Armée), as well as contribute much of the resources needed to support the French armies still occupying western and southern Germany. Understandably, Prussia was indignant at this increasing French meddling in the affairs of Germany (without its involvement or even consultation) and viewed it as a threat. Napoleon had previously attempted to ameliorate Prussian anxieties by assuring Prussia he was not adverse to its heading a North German Confederation, but his duplicity regarding Hanover dashed this. A final spark leading to war was the summary arrest and execution of German nationalist Johann Philipp Palm in August 1806 for publishing a pamphlet which strongly attacked Napoleon and the conduct of his army occupying Germany. After giving Napoleon an ultimatum on 1 October 1806, Prussia (supported by Saxony) finally decided to contend militarily with the French Emperor. [7]

Influenced by his wife Queen Louise and the war party in Berlin, in August 1806 the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm III made the decision to go to war independently of any other great power, save the distant Russia. Another course of action might have involved openly declaring war the previous year and joining Austria and Russia in the Third Coalition. In fact, the Tsar had visited the Prussian king and queen at the tomb of Frederick the Great in Potsdam that very autumn, and the monarchs secretly swore to make common cause against Napoleon. Had Prussian forces been engaged against the French in 1805, this might have contained Napoleon and prevented the eventual Allied disaster at Austerlitz. In any event, Prussia vacillated in the face of the swift French invasion of Austria and then hastily professed neutrality once the Third Coalition was crushed. When Prussia did eventually declare war against France in 1806, its main ally the Russians still remained far away remobilising. The electorate of Saxony would be Prussia's sole German ally.

Napoleon could scarcely believe Prussia would be so foolish to take him on in a straight fight with hardly any allies at hand on its side, especially since most of his Grande Armée was still in the heart of Germany close to the Prussian border. He drummed up support from his soldiers by declaring that Prussia's bellicose actions had delayed their phased withdrawal back home to France to enjoy praise for the previous year's victories. Once hostilities seemed inevitable in September 1806, Napoleon unleashed all French forces east of the Rhine, deploying the core of the Grande Armée along the frontier of southern Saxony. In a preemptive strike to catch the Prussians unaware, the Emperor had the Grande Armée march as a massive bataillon carré (battalion square) in three parallel columns through the Franconian Forest in southern Thuringia. Each corps would be in mutual supporting distance of each other, both within the column and laterally to the other columns (once through the difficult passage of the forest), thus allowing the Grand Armée to meet the enemy at any contingency. This strategy was adopted due to Napoleon's lack of intelligence regarding the Prussian main army's whereabouts and uncertainty over his enemy's puzzling manoeuvres in their march to face him. The reason for this stemmed mainly from the mutual mistrust within the Prussian high command that had resulted in division among the Prussian commanders over which plan of action for the war would be adopted. Despite the deficiency in pinpointing the main Prussian army's exact position, Napoleon correctly surmised their probable concentration in the vicinity of Erfurt and formulated a general plan of a thrust down the Saale valley, enveloping the left flank of where he believed the Prussians were located and thus cutting off their communications and line of retreat to Berlin.

In the first clash on 9 October 1806, a Prussian division was brushed aside in the Battle of Schleiz. The following day, Marshal Lannes crushed a Prussian division at Saalfeld, where the popular Prince Louis Ferdinand was killed. At the double Battle of Jena-Auerstedt on 14 October, Napoleon smashed a Prussian army led by Frederick Louis, Prince of Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen and Ernst von Rüchel at Jena, while his Marshal Louis-Nicolas Davout routed Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick's main army at Auerstedt. At Jena, Napoleon fought only a contingent of the Prussian army. At Auerstedt a single French corps defeated the bulk of the Prussian army, despite being heavily outnumbered. Victory at Auerstedt was all but secured once the Duke of Brunswick (as well as fellow commander Friedrich Wilhelm Carl von Schmettau) were mortally wounded, and the Prussian command devolved to the less able King. Matters were worsened once the vanquished remnants of the Prussian army from Jena stumbled onto the clash at Auerstedt, further plunging the Prussians' morale and triggering their precipitous retreat. For this conspicuous victory, Marshal Davout was later created the Duke of Auerstedt by Napoleon. On 17 October, Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte (redeeming himself somewhat for his inexplicable absence from either battle on the 14th) mauled Eugene Frederick Henry, Duke of Württemberg's previously untouched Reserve corps at the Battle of Halle and chased it across the Elbe River.

Some 160,000 French soldiers fought against Prussia (increasing in number as the campaign went on, with reinforcements arriving across the Wesel bridgehead from the peripheral theatre surrounding the recently formed Kingdom of Holland) advancing with such speed that Napoleon was able to destroy as an effective military force the entire quarter of a million-strong Prussian army. The Prussians sustained 65,000 casualties (including the deaths of two members of the royal family) lost a further 150,000 prisoners, over 4,000 artillery pieces, and over 100,000 muskets stockpiled in Berlin. The French suffered around 15,000 casualties for the whole campaign. Napoleon entered Berlin on 27 October 1806 and visited the tomb of Frederick the Great, telling his marshals to show their respect, saying, "If he were alive we wouldn't be here today". [8]

In total, Napoleon and the Grande Armée had taken only 19 days from the commencement of the invasion of Prussia until essentially knocking it out of the war with the capture of Berlin and the destruction of its principal armies at Jena and Auerstedt. Most of the shattered remnants of the Prussian army (and the displaced royal family) escaped to refuge in Eastern Prussia near Königsberg, eventually to link up with the approaching Russians and continue the fight. Meanwhile, Saxony was elevated to a kingdom on 11 December 1806 upon allying with France and joining the Confederation of the Rhine, thereby leaving the Allied Coalition.

In Berlin, Napoleon issued the Berlin Decree on 21 November 1806 to bring into effect the Continental System. This policy aimed to control the trade of all European countries (without consulting their governments). The ostensible goal was to weaken the British economy by closing French-controlled territory to its trade, but British merchants smuggled in many goods and the Continental System was not a powerful weapon of economic war. [9]

Towards the end of 1806, the French entered Poland and Napoleon created a new Duchy of Warsaw, to be ruled by his new ally Frederick Augustus I of Saxony. The area of the duchy had already been liberated by a popular uprising that had escalated from anti-conscription rioting. Napoleon then turned north to confront the approaching Russian armies [10] and to attempt to capture the temporary Prussian capital at Königsberg. A tactical draw at Eylau (7–8 February) forced the Russians to withdraw further north. Napoleon then routed the Russian army at Friedland (14 June). Following this defeat, Alexander sued for peace with Napoleon at Tilsit (7 July 1807).

Meanwhile, Swedish involvement was primarily concerned with protecting Swedish Pomerania. Despite being defeated at Lübeck, the Swedes successfully defended the fort of Stralsund and pushed the French forces out of Swedish Pomerania in early April, 1807. On 18 April, France and Sweden agreed to a ceasefire. However, Swedish refusal to join the Continental System led to a second invasion of Swedish Pomerania led by Marshal Brune. Stralsund fell on 24 August after a siege and the Swedish army abandoned Rügen, thus leaving France in control over Swedish Pomerania the resulting armistice, agreed by Marshal Brune and Swedish general Johan Christopher Toll, had allowed the Swedish army to withdraw with all its munitions of war.

Following the Treaties of Tilsit, Britain and Sweden remained the only two major coalition members still at war with France. Russia soon declared war against Britain and after a British attack on Copenhagen, Denmark–Norway joined the war on the side of Napoleon (Gunboat War), opening a second front against Sweden. A short British expedition under Sir John Moore was sent to Sweden (May 1808) to protect against any possible Franco-Danish invasion.

At the Congress of Erfurt (September–October 1808) Napoleon and Alexander agreed that Russia should force Sweden to join the Continental System, which led to the Finnish War of 1808–1809 (meaning Sweden played no role in the next coalition against Napoleon) and to the division of Sweden into two parts separated by the Gulf of Bothnia. The eastern part became the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland. Due to the Continental System, Britain was yet again still at war with Napoleon and was not affected by the peace treaty.

In negotiations with captured Swedes after the Battle of Lübeck, Marshal Bernadotte first came to the attention of the Swedish authorities. This would set in motion a chain of events that eventually led to him being elected heir to the Swedish throne, and later King Charles XIV John of Sweden.

As for the French, after the Treaty of Tilsit, the Empire was seemingly at its zenith. Flush with triumph and deeming France free from any immediate obligations in Central and Eastern Europe, Napoleon decided to capture the Iberian ports of Britain's long-time ally Portugal. His main aim was to close off another strip of the European coast and a major source for British trade.

On 27 October 1807, Spain's Prime Minister Manuel de Godoy signed the Treaty of Fontainebleau with France, by which in return for the alliance and passage of French armies through its realm, Spain would receive Portuguese territory. In November 1807, after the refusal of Prince Regent John of Portugal to join the Continental System, Napoleon sent an army into Spain under General Jean-Andoche Junot with the aim of invading Portugal (as well as the secret task of being the vanguard for the eventual French occupation of Spain). Napoleon soon embroiled himself and France in Spain's internal power struggles within its royal family, eventually leading to the Spanish populace turning on the French occupiers and the beginning of the Peninsular War.

1.That there is a God who transcends space and time. (I call it God for want of a name although I personally prefer the Kabbalistic term Ein Sof).

2. That it is impossible to know the nature of God. It cannot be truly defined.

3. That the universe operates according to the Laws of Physics. Life evolved through a combination of natural selection, genetic drift and other selection pressures acting on a genome whose variation arose as a consequence of mutation.

4. That God can intervene but such intervention is undetectable and does not contravene the laws of physics. God is a subtle actor who presents no evidence of understandable design.

5. That an agnostic position on a personal God makes sense.

6. That revealed religion are merely man made attempts at trying to understand God and although some carry the wisdom of earlier thought they are all inherently flawed.

7. That humans need to develop their own moral code based on reason, logic and the collective thinking of what has worked in the past.

8. That some religious customs may serve a purpose with respect to group cohesion but they need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

9. That God is a minimalist in action but not necessarily a disinterested party.

10. That the afterlife is unknowable.

11. That skepticism and the scientific method are the best tools we have in understanding the world.

War of the Fifth Coalition

The War of the Fifth Coalition was a European conflict in 1809 that was part of the Napoleonic Wars and the Coalition Wars. The main conflict took place in central Europe between the Austrian Empire of Francis I and Napoleon's French Empire. The French were supported by their client states, including the Kingdom of Italy, the Confederation of the Rhine and the Duchy of Warsaw. Austria was supported by the Fifth Coalition which included the United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain and the Kingdoms of Sardinia and Sicily, though the latter two took no part in the fighting. By the start of 1809 much of the French army was committed to the Peninsular War against Britain, Spain and Portugal. After France withdrew 108,000 soldiers from Germany, Austria attacked France to seek the recovery of territories lost in the 1803–1806 War of the Third Coalition. The Austrians hoped Prussia would support them as their former ally, but Prussia chose to remain neutral.

On 10 April 1809 Austrian forces under Archduke Charles crossed the border of Bavaria, a French client state. The French response, under Louis-Alexandre Berthier, was disorganised but order was imposed with the arrival of Napoleon on 17 April. Napoleon led an advance to Landshut, hoping to cut off the Austrian line of retreat and sweep into their rear. Charles crossed the Danube at Regensburg, which allowed him to retreat eastwards, though he failed to reach the Austrian capital, Vienna, before the French. A French assault across the Danube was repulsed on 21–22 May at the Battle of Aspern-Essling but a repeat attack was successful in July. Napoleon won a major victory at the 5–6 July Battle of Wagram, which forced the Austrians to sign the Armistice of Znaim on 12 July. Austrian invasions of the Duchy of Warsaw and Saxony (where they fought alongside the Black Brunswickers) were repulsed and they were driven out of their territories in Italy. British forces landed in Walcheren, in the French client state of Holland, but were unable to seize their objective of capturing Antwerp and were later withdrawn.

The war ended with the Treaty of Schönbrunn, which was regarded as harsh towards Austria as she lost her Mediterranean ports and 20% of her population. Despite the eventual French victory, their defeat at Aspern-Essling showed that Napoleon could be defeated on the battlefield. The war led to the Tyrolean Rebellion, the 1809 Gottscheer rebellion and rebellions in Italy which, although suppressed, foreshadowed future nationalist and anti-French risings. After Schönbrunn, Austria became a French ally and this was cemented by the marriage of Napoleon to the Austrian princess Marie Louise.


In 1809, Europe was embroiled in warfare, pitting revolutionary France against a series of coalitions in the Coalition Wars almost continuously since 1792. A brief period of peace followed the March 1802 Treaty of Amiens before British-French relations deteriorated, leading to the War of the Third Coalition in May 1803. [6] Britain was joined in their coalition by Sweden in 1804 and Russia and Austria in 1805. [7] [8] In August 1805, the 200,000-strong French Grande Armée invaded the German states, hoping to defeat Austria before Russian forces could intervene. [9] [10] The French emperor Napoleon successfully wheeled his army into the Austrian rear and defeated them at the Battle of Ulm, fought from 15 to 20 October. [10] The Austrian capital, Vienna, was captured in November and a Russo-Austrian army was decisively defeated at the 2 December Battle of Austerlitz. [11] [12] The Treaty of Pressburg, signed soon afterwards, ended Austrian participation in the war. [13]

Austerlitz incited a major shift in the European balance of power. Prussia felt threatened in the region and, alongside Russia, declared war against France in the 1806 War of the Fourth Coalition. [14] After French victories at the Battle of Jena and the Battle of Auerstadt on 14 October, France occupied the Prussian capital, Berlin. [15] France invaded Poland in November, where Russian forces were stationed, and occupied Warsaw. [16] Russian and French armies fought in February 1807 at the violent, indecisive Battle of Eylau. [17] The action in Poland culminated on 14 June 1807 when the French defeated Russia at the Battle of Friedland. [18] The resulting Treaty of Tilsit in July left France as the dominant power in Western Europe, with many client states including the Duchy of Warsaw. This weakened Prussia and allowed Russia to expand into Finland and South-Eastern Europe. [19]

Peninsular War

In 1807 France tried to force Portugal to join the Continental System, a commercial embargo against Britain. [20] [21] When the Portuguese Prince Regent, John refused to join, Napoleon sent General Junot to invade Portugal in 1807, resulting in the six year Peninsular War. The war weakened the French Empire's military, particularly after Spanish forces and civilians rebelled against France [22] after Napoleon overthrew the Spanish king. [23] After the French defeat at the Battle of Bailén, Napoleon took command of the French forces, defeating the Spanish armies before returning to France. [24] [25] Jean-de-Dieu Soult drove the British out of Spain in the Battle of Corunna in January 1809. [25]

In the beginning of 1809, the French client kingdom of Spain, ruled by Napoleon's brother Joseph Bonaparte, controlled much of Spain and northern Portugal. [26] British and Portuguese forces under Arthur Wellesley launched new offensives from Spring 1809. Spanish regular armies including those led by generals Miguel Ricardo de Álava and Joaquín Blake continued to fight and guerrilla activity in the countryside made French operations hazardous. [27] [28] A significant French presence, numbering 250,000 in June 1809, remained in the peninsula throughout the War of the Fifth Coalition. [29]

The Napoleonic occupation of France's own ally Spain persuaded many in Austria that Napoleon could not be trusted and declaring war was the only way to prevent him from destroying the Habsburg monarchy. The Spanish guerrillas inspired popular resistance against Napoleon, and the Austrians hoped that French preoccupation in Spain would make it easier to defeat France. [30]

Austria plans for war

After Austria was defeated in 1805, the nation spent three years reforming its army. [31] [32] Encouraged by the events in Spain, Austria sought another confrontation with France to avenge their defeats and regain lost territory and power. [33] [34] Austria lacked allies in central Europe Russia, her main ally in 1805, made peace with Napoleon at Tilsit and was engaged in wars with erstwhile allies like Britain in the Anglo-Russian War (1807–12), Sweden in the Finnish War and the Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish War (1806–1812). [34] France tried to reinforce their relationship with Russia through the September–October 1808 Congress of Erfurt. [35] Under the treaty Russia agreed to support France if it was attacked by Austria. [36] In early 1809, Austrian minister Johann Philipp Stadion secured Russian Tsar Alexander I's agreement that the Russians would move slowly and "avoid every collision and every act of hostility" during any advance into Austria. [37] At the same time, the French minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord secretly advised Alexander to resist France. [33] During the War of the Fifth Coalition, Russia remained neutral even though they were allied to France. [38]

Austria hoped Prussia would assist them in a war with France but a letter from Prussian minister Baron von Stein discussing the negotiations was intercepted by French agents and published in the Le Moniteur Universel on 8 September. [39] Napoleon confiscated Stein's holdings in Westphalia and pressured Frederick into dismissing him, and Stein fled into exile in Austria. [39] On the same day that Stein was compromised the Convention of Paris agreed a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Prussia, where French garrisons had been in place since the end of the War of the Fourth Coalition. The withdrawal was contingent on the payment of heavy reparations, totalling 140 million francs, over 30 months. The Prussian army was also limited in size to 42,000 men, one sixth of its pre-war total. The convention severely restricted the ability of the Prussian state to wage war. [34] [40] Despite this setback Stadion hoped Prussia would change their mind and that an Austrian advance into the French-controlled Confederation of the Rhine in Germany would lead to popular uprisings that would distract the French. [41]

France withdrew 108,000 troops from Germany, more than half their strength there, to reinforce the French armies in Spain in October 1808. This leant support to Stadion's pro-war faction at the Austrian court. Stadion recalled Klemens von Metternich, his ambassador to Paris, to convince others to support his plan and by December 1808 Emperor Francis I was persuaded to support the war. [41] Francis' support was tentative and the decision to proceed was made at an 8 February 1809 meeting that included the emperor, Archduke Charles and Stadion. The empire's poor financial situation (it could only afford to maintain its army on home soil until late Spring) lent urgency to the decision. Charles disputed the prospects for success but accepted Francis' decision to prepare for war and the army was mobilised. [42] [43]

Austria and Prussia requested that Britain fund their military campaigns and requested a British military expedition to Germany. In April 1809 the British treasury supplied £20,000 in credit to Prussia, with additional funds promised if Prussia opened hostilities with France. Austria received £250,000 in silver, with a further £1 million promised for future expenses. Britain refused to land troops in Germany but promised an expedition to the low countries and to renew their campaign in Spain. [44] After Prussia decided against war, the Fifth Coalition formally consisted of Austria, Britain, Portugal, Spain, Sicily and Sardinia, though Austria was the majority of the fighting effort. [44] [45]

Austrian army and strategy

Austria built the largest army in its nation's history, though its fighting quality was hampered by numerous factors. [31] The men were conscripted from across the Austrian Empire and included Austrians, Hungarians, Czechs, Poles, Croats and Serbs some, including the Hungarians, did not enthusiastically support their Austrian rulers. [46] Conscription focussed on the lower classes of society and the private soldiers, most of the non-commissioned officers, and many junior officers were illiterate. [47] The army was well drilled in massed column formations which were effective against cavalry but vulnerable to artillery fire, which hampered it in some battles of the campaign. [48] The regular infantry were thought too slow-witted to be trained in skirmishing this role had traditionally been filled by grenzer light infantry units, but their quality declined since the potential conflicts with the Ottoman Empire ended. The deficiency was only partly remedied by recently created volunteer jäger units. [49]

The Austrian militia, the Landwehr, were intended as a home defence force but were moved to serve with the field army. The force was equipped with second rate weapons, were poorly trained, and forbidden to accept officers from the landowning classes, leading to poor leadership. They were used later in the war as cannon fodder to divert French fire. [50] The Austrian cavalry was of reasonably good quality, though in 1809 it was hampered by large numbers of its horses being only partly trained. [51] The artillery was not as dynamic as in some contemporary armies, being placed under infantry commanders in the field and lacking proper horse artillery to manoeuvre quickly. [52] The Austrian army was supposed to be supplied by a large wagon train, which restricted its manoeuvrability. [48] Its senior officers were appointed based on aristocratic backgrounds and seniority, rather than ability this led to elderly generals – the average being 63. The field commander, Archduke Charles, was unable to dismiss any of his commanders. He favoured doctrine over flexibility and expected his generals to follow a guide he had published in 1806. [53]

Charles and the Aulic Council were divided on the best strategy for the coming war, Charles favoured an offensive launched from Bohemia where there was a concentration of Austrian forces and an attack could quickly isolate the French in northern Germany. The Aulic Council disagreed because the Danube River would split the forces of Charles and his brother Archduke Johann of Austria. They suggested that the main attack should be launched south of the Danube to maintain safer communications with Vienna. [54] In the end the Council prevailed but the disagreement delayed the Austrian preparations by a month. The Austrian plan called for the I Corps under Heinrich Graf von Bellegarde, consisting of 38,000 troops, and the II Corps of 20,000 troops under Johann Kollowrat, to attack Regensburg (Ratisbon) from the Bohemian mountains by way of Cham. The Austrian center and reserve, comprising 66,000 men of Hohenzollern's III Corps, Rosenberg's IV Corps, and Lichtenstein's I Reserve Corps, would advance on the same objective through Scharding. The left wing, made up of the V Corps of Archduke Louis, Hiller's VI Corps, and Kienmayer's II Reserve Corps, a total of 61,000 men, would move toward Landshut and guard the army's flank. [55] Two other theatres would be opened in Poland and Italy. Historian Steven Englund considers that Austria "might well have won the campaign" if the nation had focused on Germany. [31]

French preparations

The French army mostly consisted of veterans of Napoleon's earlier campaigns, though recent conscripts formed large parts of some units, negatively affecting their fighting ability. The army was enthusiastic and keen to fight well under Napoleon's direct leadership. [56] Napoleon was not certain about Austrian planning and intentions. He returned to Paris from his campaigns in Spain in winter 1808–09 and instructed the main French field commander in southern Germany, Louis Alexandre Berthier, on planned deployments and concentrations for this likely new second front. His rough ideas about the possible upcoming campaign included the decision to make the Danube valley the main theatre of operations, as he had done in 1805, and to stop Austrian forces that might invade northern Italy by positioning some of his own forces under the command of Eugène de Beauharnais and Auguste Marmont. [57] Faulty intelligence gave Napoleon the impression that the main Austrian attack would come north of the Danube. [58] On 30 March, he wrote a letter to Berthier explaining his intention to mass 140,000 troops in the vicinity of Regensburg (Ratisbon), far to the north of where the Austrians were planning to make their attack. [59] It was expected that this redeployment would take until mid-April to accomplish and Napoleon instructed Berthier that if the attack came before 15 April he was to fall back towards the Lech. [60]

Austria-Bavaria front

Austria strikes first

The first indication of an Austrian attack was a formal note sent by Archduke Charles to French Marsal François Joseph Lefebvre on 9 April. It stated that Charles had orders from Francis to invade Bavaria, a French client state under Maximilian I. [60] In the early morning of 10 April, leading elements of the Austrian army crossed the Inn River into Bavaria there was no formal declaration of war. Bad roads and freezing rain slowed the Austrian advance in the first week, but the opposing Bavarian forces of Lefebvre's corps gradually retreated. Davout's III Corps withdrew westerwards towards Ingolstadt, anticipating orders to concentrate with other French forces. The Austrian attack had occurred about a week before Napoleon anticipated, disrupting French plans. Napoleon ordered that an Austrian attack before 15 April should be met by a general French concentration around Donauwörth and Augsburg in the west, but his orders arrived fragmented and out of sequence and were poorly interpreted by Berthier who was more accustomed to staff duties than field command. Berthier focussed on an ambiguous sentence that called for Davout to station his III Corps around Regensburg "whatever happens" it is likely that Napoleon intended this to apply only if the Austrians attacked after 15 April. On 14 April Berthier ordered Davout's corps, together with those of Lefebvre and Oudinot, to march to Regensburg which Davout had recently vacated. [61]

The marching and countermarching left the Grande Armée d'Allemagne with its two wings separated by 75 miles (121 km) and joined by a thin cordon of Bavarian troops. [62] On the same day the Austrian advance guard had beaten the Bavarians near Landshut and secured a good crossing place over the Isar by evening. Charles planned to destroy Davout's and Lefebvre's isolated corps in a double-pincer manoeuvre. Napoleon arrived in Donauwörth on 17 April and took command from Berthier. When Napoleon realised that many of the Austrian forces had crossed the Isar and were marching towards the Danube, he insisted that the entire French army deploy behind the Ilm River in a bataillon carré in 48 hours. His orders were unrealistic because he underestimated the number of Austrian troops that were heading for Davout Napoleon believed Charles only had a single corps over the Isar, but the Austrians had five corps moving towards Regensburg, totalling 80,000 men. [63]

Landshut Maneuver

Davout anticipated facing overwhelming forces and withdrew most of his forces, leaving 2,000 men from Regensburg. [64] The northbound Austrian columns in the Kelheim–Abbach zone encountered four columns of Davout's men heading west towards Neustadt in the early hours of 19 April. The Austrian attacks were slow, uncoordinated, and easily repulsed by the experienced French III Corps. Napoleon knew there was fighting in Davout's sector and devised a new strategy to defeat the Austrians: while the Austrians attacked to the north, André Masséna's corps, augmented by Oudinot's forces, would strike southeast towards Freising and Landshut in hopes of threatening the Austrian flank and relieving the pressure on Davout. [65] Napoleon intended the corps of Davout and Lefebvre to pin the Austrians while his other forces swept into the Austrian rear. [66]

The central Austrian V Corps were defeated in the Battle of Abensberg, allowing the French to advance. Napoleon was working under false assumptions that made his goals difficult to achieve. [67] Massena's advance to Landshut required too much time, permitting Hiller to escape south over the Isar. The Danube bridge, which provided easy access to Regensburg, and the east bank had not been demolished. This allowed Austrians to cross the river and stopped France from destroying the forces. On 20 April, the Austrians had suffered 10,000 casualties, lost 30 guns, 600 caissons, and 7,000 other vehicles, but were still a potent fighting force. [68] With the main French army near Landshut, if Charles had attacked Davout he could have destroyed his corps and fallen on the rear of Napoleon's force. He retained the bridge at Regensburg and the road to Straubing and Vienna as an avenue of retreat. [69]

On 21 April, Napoleon received a dispatch from Davout that spoke of the Battle of Teugen-Hausen. Davout held his ground although Napoleon sent reinforcements, about 36,000 French troops had to fight 75,000 Austrians. [70] When Napoleon learned that Charles was not withdrawing to the east, he realigned the Grande Armée's axis in an operation later called the Landshut Maneuver. All of the French forces, except 20,000 troops under Jean-Baptiste Bessières that were chasing Hiller, attacked Eckmühl to trap the Austrians and relieve their beleaguered comrades. [71] On 22 April, Charles left 40,000 troops under Rosenburg and Hohenzollern to attack Davout and Lefebvre while detaching two corps under Kollowrat and Lichtenstein to march for Abbach and gain undisputed control of the river bank. [71] Napoleon arrived at 1:30 pm while the battle continued. Davout ordered an attack along the entire line despite numerical inferiority the 10th Light Infantry Regiment successfully stormed the village of Leuchling and captured the woods of Unter-Leuchling with heavy casualties. [72] Recognising the threat posed by Napoleon's forces on his left flank, Charles ordered a withdrawal towards Regensburg, granting the field to France. [73] [74]

Napoleon sent Massena to occupy Straubing as he thought the Austrians might retreat along that route. Charles moved his men across the Danube at Regensburg, leaving 6,000 in the fortress to block a pursuit. Lacking time for a siege, Napoleon ordered Marshal Jean Lannes to storm the walls, succeeding at his second attempt and capturing the town by 5 pm in the Battle of Ratisbon. With the Austrian army safely in Bohemia, Napoleon marched towards Vienna. [75] Hiller fought a series of delaying actions, attempting to buy time for the defence of Vienna. After a short fight at Wels on 2 May, Hiller gathered 40,000 troops at the bridge in Ebersberg. Massena launched a costly frontal at the Battle of Ebersberg and captured the position on 3 May, with Hiller withdrawing along the Danube. Charles attempted to move his army to defend Vienna but was outpaced by Napoleon who captured the city on 13 May. The garrison withdrew north of the Danube and destroyed the bridges behind them. [76]


On 16 May and 17, the main Austrian army under Charles arrived in the Marchfeld, a plain northeast of Vienna just across the Danube that served as a training ground for Austrian military forces. Charles kept most of his forces several miles away from the riverbank, hoping to concentrate them at the point where Napoleon decided to cross. On the 20th, Charles learned from his observers on the Bissam hill that the French were building a bridge at Kaiser-Ebersdorf, [77] just southwest of the Lobau island, that led to the Marchfeld. On 21 May, Charles concluded that the French were crossing at Kaiser-Ebersdorf and ordered a general advance for 98,000 troops and the accompanying 292 guns, organized into five columns. [78] The French bridgehead rested on two villages: Aspern to the west and Essling to the east. Napoleon did not expect to encounter opposition, and the bridges linking the French troops at Aspern-Essling to Lobau were not protected with palisades, making them vulnerable to Austrian barges that had been set ablaze. [79]

The Battle of Aspern-Essling started at 2:30 pm on 21 May. The initial attacks were made by the first three columns on Aspern and the Gemeinde Au woods but were poorly coordinated and failed. Later assaults succeeded in taking and holding the western portion of the village. The Austrians did not attack Essling until 6 pm because the fourth and fifth columns had longer marching routes. [79] The French successfully repulsed the attacks against Essling throughout the day. Fighting commenced by 3 am on 22 May, and four hours later the French had captured Aspern again. Napoleon had 71,000 men and 152 guns on the other side of the river, but the French were still outnumbered. [80] Napoleon launched a massive assault against the Austrian center designed to give enough time for the III Corps to cross and secure a victory. Lannes advanced with three infantry divisions and travelled for a mile before the Austrians, inspired by the personal presence of Charles who rallied the Zach Infantry Regiment, opened a heavy fire on the French that caused the latter to fall back. [81] At 9 am, the French bridge broke again. Charles launched another massive assault an hour later and captured Aspern for the final time, but struggled to capture Essling. A few hours later, the Austrians returned and took all of Essling except the staunchly defended granary. Napoleon ordered the Imperial Guard under Jean Rapp, to support a withdrawal from the granary. Rapp disobeyed his orders and led a bayonet charge that drove the Austrians from Essling, for which he was later commended by Napoleon. [82] [83] Napoleon realised his bridgehead was untenable and ordered a withdrawal, giving command to Lannes. Lannes was struck by a cannonball and mortally wounded. The French withdrew to Lobau by nightfall, pulling their pontoons bridge in behind them. [84] Charles had inflicted the first major defeat in Napoleon's military career and caused the first fatality among his marshals, but his exhausted army could not pursue the French. [84] [85]


After the defeat at Aspern-Essling, Napoleon took more than six weeks to plan and prepare contingencies before making another attempt at crossing the Danube. The French brought more troops, more guns, and instituted better defensive measures to ensure the success of the next crossing. From 30 June to the early days of July, the French recrossed the Danube, with more than 188,000 troops marching across the Marchfeld towards the Austrians. [86] Immediate resistance to the French advance was restricted to the outpost divisions of Nordmann and Johann von Klenau the main Habsburg army was stationed five miles (8 km) away, centered on the village of Wagram. [87] Napoleon ordered a general advance at noon on 5 July an early attack by Massena on the left flank captured Leopold and Süssenbrunn but the French were held off elsewhere by a strong Austrian defence. [88]

For 6 July, Charles planned a double-envelopment that required a quick march from the forces of his brother John, who was a few kilometers east of the battlefield. Napoleon's plan envisaged an envelopment of the Austrian left with Davout's III Corps while the rest of the army pinned the Austrian forces. Klenau's VI Corps, supported by Kollowrat's III Corps, started the battle on the second day at 4 am with a crushing assault against the French left, forcing the latter to abandon both Aspern and Essling. Meanwhile, Bernadotte had unilaterally ordered his troops out of the central village of Aderklaa, citing heavy artillery shelling, and compromised the French position. [89] Napoleon was livid and sent two divisions of Massena's corps supported by cavalry to regain the critical village. After difficult fighting in the first phase, Massena sent in Molitor's reserve division, which slowly captured Aderklaa back for the French, only to lose it again following fierce Austrian bombardments and counterattacks. To delay the Austrian army for Davout's materializing assault, Napoleon sent 4,000 cuirassiers under Nansouty against the Austrian lines. [90] To dissuade the Austrians from attacking, Napoleon formed a 112-gun grand battery in the center of his lines. [91] [92] As Davout's men were progressing against the Austrian left, Napoleon formed the three small divisions of MacDonald into a hollow, oblong shape that marched against the Austrian center. The lumbering phalanx was devastated by Austrian artillery but managed to break through the Austrian forces. With the Austrians at Wagram weakened by the need to reinforce their left against Davout, Oudinot was able to capture the village and split the Austrian army. Upon learning that his brother's forces would not arrive until the evening, Charles ordered a withdrawal at 2.30 pm. The Austrians withdrew in good order, the main army westwards and the left-wing to the north. [93]

The French suffered heavy losses, around 32,000 men, with their commanders particularly affected as around 40 French generals were killed and wounded Austrian losses stood at around 35,000. Fighting was renewed at Znaim on 10–11 July. On 12 July, Charles signed the Armistice of Znaim, which led to lengthy peace negotiations between Napoleon and Metternich. [94]

Other theatres

Italian front

In Italy, Archduke John battled Napoleon's stepson Eugène. The Austrians defended against several bungled French assaults at the Battle of Sacile in April, causing Eugène to fall back on Verona and the Adige River. [95] Eugène was able to concentrate his forces while John detached troops to support Charles. [96] John won victory at the 30 April Battle of Caldiero but was forced to retreat due to Eugène's increasing superiority and the movements on the Austria-Bavaria front. John was defeated in the 8 May Battle of Piave River and forced out of Italy. [97] Eugène detached MacDonald to pursue John and joined Napoleon at Vienna with the rest of his army. [96]

In the Dalmatian Campaign, Marmont, under the nominal command of Eugène, was fighting against an Austrian invasion led by General Stoichewich. Marmont launched a counteroffensive in the mountains on 30 April, but this was repulsed by the Grenzer troops. [98] Further attacks in May led to a series of victories against a dispersed Austrian force. [99] [100] By the end of the month Marmont was able to march with the bulk of his troops to join the emperor at Vienna. [101] [102]

Failed British feint operation

In July 1809 the British launched the Walcheren Campaign in the Netherlands to relieve the pressure on the Austrians and to weaken French naval power. [103] [104] The plan was to land a force at Walcheren and advance along the Western Scheldt to the harbour of Antwerp, a French naval base. [105] The Royal Navy's patrols into the Western Scheldt and a dockyard strike at Antwerp alerted the French to the area's vulnerability and efforts were made to improve the defences and reinforce its garrisons. [106] John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham's force of over 39,000, a larger army than that serving in the Iberian Peninsula and the largest British Expeditionary Force of the Napoleonic Wars, landed at Walcheren on 30 July. [2] [103] The expedition was not capable of landing sufficient troops on the southern side of the Western Scheldt to capture the reinforced garrison at Cadzand due to a lack of boats. An advance on Antwerp depended on the capture of Flushing on the northern shore to allow the passage of Royal Navy vessels up the Western Scheldt. [107] It took until 13 August for siege batteries to be set up and Flushing did not surrender until 16 August. [108] The British forces had meanwhile been suffering from "Walcheren Fever", thought to be a combination of Malaria and Typhus, and lost 4,000 men to the disease during the campaign. [109] [103] By comparison only 106 men were killed in action. [110] By 24 August Chatham had decided that the fever had reduced his force too much and the defences of Antwerp were too strong to assault. The campaign ended without the British achieving their main objective of weakening France's naval power. [110] [111] The first British troops were withdrawn on 7 September, though a disease-ravaged garrison was maintained until 9 December. [112] The failure of the campaign led to the resignation of the British prime minister, the Duke of Portland, and his replacement by Spencer Perceval. [110]

Austro-Polish War

Austria invaded the Duchy of Warsaw with initial success. Poniatowski defeated the Austrians in the Battle of Raszyn on 19 April. This prevented Austrian forces from crossing the Vistula river and forced the Austrians to retreat from occupied Warsaw. The Poles went on to invade Galicia, with some success, but the offensive quickly stalled with heavy casualties. The Austrians also won a few battles but were hampered by Russian troops whose intentions were unclear and did not allow them to advance. [113]

After the Austrian invasion of the Duchy of Warsaw, Russia reluctantly entered the war against Austria to fulfil their treaty of alliance with France. The Russian army, under the command of General Sergei Golitsyn, crossed into Galicia on 3 June 1809. Golitsyin advanced as slowly as possible, with instructions to avoid any major confrontation with the Austrians. There were minor skirmishes between the Russian and Austrian troops, with minimal losses. The Austrian and Russian commanders were in frequent correspondence and shared some operational intelligence. A courteous letter sent by a Russian divisional commander, General Andrey Gorchakov, to Archduke Ferdinand was intercepted by the Poles, who sent an original to Emperor Napoleon and a copy to Tsar Alexander, resulting in Gorchakov's removal from command by Alexander. There were constant disagreements between Golitsyn and Poniatowski, with whom the Russians were supposed to cooperate in Galicia. As a result of the Treaty of Schönbrunn, Russia received the Galician district of Tarnopol. [114]

Naval battles between Britain and France

Since the Napoleonic War started, British fleets launched numerous attacks on French fleets, ports, or colonies and British and French navies continued their fighting in 1809. Britain overwhelmed France in the Atlantic after the French defeat at Trafalgar Campaign and Atlantic campaign of 1806, and remnants of French fleet was stationed at bases in Bay of Biscay. [115] French colonies on the Caribbean and the Atlantic provided shelters and could be major threats to the British fleet. [116] [117] The French Atlantic Fleet was blockaded in Brest by a British force under James Gambier but the French were keen to intervene in the Caribbean following the British invasion of Martinique in January 1809. [118] A storm in February scattered Gambier's fleet and allowed the French, under Jean-Baptiste Philibert Willaumez, to put to sea and move to anchor in the Basque Roads. [119] On 23 February three French frigates attempting to join the main fleet were damaged in the Battle of Les Sables-d'Olonne. [120] A stalemate ensued with the French anchored under the guns of coastal batteries but blockaded by the British. [121] Willaumez was replaced by Zacharie Allemand on 16 March, who consolidated the anchorage defences. [122] The British Admiralty sent Captain Lord Cochrane to lead an attack on the French. [123] Cochrane's 11 April assault with fireships caused panic in the French fleet and many vessels ran aground. Gambier failed to capitalise on the situation by sending in the main British fleet, though Cochrane's smaller force destroyed a number of vessels over the following days. [124] The action confined the French fleet to its anchorage and allowed the British and Spanish to displace the French from Haiti that year and an invasion of Guadeloupe in early 1810. [125]

Rebellions against French rule

Italian rebellions

Archduke John issued proclamations in April 1809 calling on the population of Veneto to rise up against the French for the sake of Italian nationalism. A portion of the population of Venice, including many criminals, rose up and took over public buildings, destroying taxation and conscription records. The revolt continued after the withdrawal of Austrian forces in May, spreading to the rest of Veneto. The rebels were inspired by the Tyrolean Rebellion. The French garrison and militia were unable to contain the rebels and they were unplacated by the abolition of French taxes on flour, meat and wine. [126] Many towns in Veneto came under rebel control and rebels entered Emilia-Romagna where Bologna was threatened and Ferrara was sieged for ten days. The rebellion ended in November 1809 and Napoleon reacted strongly: 4,000 troops were sent to Bologna from Naples and 675 citizens arrested, of whom 150 were killed. In the mountains and marshes of the region, some rebels remained and acted as brigands until the end of French occupation. [127]

Rebellion in Tyrol

In Tyrol, Andreas Hofer led a rebellion against Bavarian rule and French domination that resulted in early isolated victories in the first Battles of Bergisel. [128] Hofer freed the Tyrol of Bavarian occupation by late August but on 29 September an Italian force under Luigi Gaspare Peyri captured Trento, though they could advance no further. The next month, with troops made available after the Treaty of Schönbrunn, a Bavarian force under Jean-Baptiste Drouet, Comte d'Erlon travelled to end the rebellion. Supported by Franco-Italian forces, a three-pronged attack occupied the region with 45,000 troops by early November. [129] Hofer went into hiding but was betrayed by one of his men in January 1810 and executed by the French. [128]

Gottscheer rebellion

One of the counties ceded to France was Gottschee (in modern-day Slovenia), which was to form part of the Illyrian Provinces. [130] The ethnic German population, the Gottscheers, led by Johann Erker, rebelled against the French garrison,. Rebels were quickly defeated and the French intended to burn down the city of Gottschee. After petitions from local clergy this was not carried out, but the city was looted for a period of three days from 16 October. [131]

Black Brunswickers

The Duchy of Brunswick had been incorporated in to the French client state of the Kingdom of Westphalia but its duke, Frederick William, sided with the Austrians in 1809. His force of a few thousand volunteer Brunswickers fought alongside Austrian troops under General Kienmayer in Saxony, a French client state led by Frederick Augustus I. They were successful, defeating a corps under the command of Junot at the Battle of Gefrees. After taking the Saxon capital, Dresden, and pushing back an army under the command of Napoleon's brother, Jérôme Bonaparte, the Austrians were effectively in control of all of Saxony. By this time, the main Austrian force had already been defeated at Wagram and the armistice of Znaim had been agreed. [132] The Duke of Brunswick refused to be bound by the armistice and led his corps on a fighting march right across Germany to the mouth of the River Weser, from where they sailed to England and entered British service. [133]


After the main Austrian force was defeated at Wagram, the nation's forces collapsed, according to historian Charles Esdaile, and Francis was forced to sue for peace. [103] Englund attributes the end to "diplomatic considerations" and believes that Austria could have continued to fight. [134] The Treaty of Schönbrunn, signed on 14 October 1809, imposed a heavy political toll on the Austrians. Metternich and Charles succeeded in negotiating lighter terms in return for Austrian co-operation and most of the hereditary Habsburg territories were preserved. [135] The lands given to the French were significant and included Carinthia, Carniola, and the Adriatic ports, removing Austria's access to the Mediterranean. Galicia was given to the Duchy of Warsaw. The lands of the short-lived Duchy of Salzburg, acquired by Austria as territorial compensation for losses on the Adriatic Coast and the loss of Tyrol in the Peace of Pressburg, were transferred to Bavaria. Russia was ceded the district of Tarnopol. Austria lost over three million subjects, about 20% of the kingdom's total population. Emperor Francis agreed to pay an indemnity equivalent to almost 85 million francs, gave recognition to Napoleon's brother Joseph as the King of Spain, and reaffirmed the exclusion of British trade from his remaining dominions. [135] [136] After the Austrian defeat, Napoleon married the daughter of Emperor Francis, Marie Louise. [137] Napoleon hoped the marriage would cement a Franco-Austrian alliance and provide legitimacy to his regime. The alliance gave Austria respite from war with France, which it had pursued on and off for ten years, and restored her status as a great European power marital ties did not prevent Francis from declaring war on France in 1813. [138]

The impact of the conflict was not all positive from the French perspective. The revolts in Tyrol and the Kingdom of Westphalia during the conflict were an indication that there was discontent over French rule among the German population. Just a few days before the conclusion of the Treaty of Schönbrunn, an 18-year-old German named Friedrich Staps approached Napoleon during an army review and attempted to stab the emperor, but he was intercepted by General Rapp. The emerging forces of German nationalism were strongly rooted by this time, and the War of the Fifth Coalition nurtured their development. [139] In 1813, during the War of the Sixth Coalition, there were anti-French risings and spontaneous guerrilla activity, though whether this was fuelled by pan-German nationalism or patriotism for the old order is debated by historians a united Germany did not come about until 1871. [140]

The war undermined French military superiority and the Napoleonic image. The Battle of Aspern-Essling was the first major defeat in Napoleon's career and was warmly greeted by much of Europe. The Austrians had shown that strategic insight and tactical ability were no longer a French monopoly. [141] The decline in the tactical skill of the French infantry led to increasingly heavy columns of foot soldiers eschewing manoeuvres and relying on sheer weight of numbers to break through, a development best emphasized by MacDonald's attack at Wagram. [141] The Grande Armée lost its qualitative edge partly because raw conscripts replaced many of the veterans of Austerlitz and Jena, eroding tactical flexibility. Napoleon's armies were increasingly composed of non-French contingents, undermining morale. Although Napoleon's manoeuvers were successful, as evidenced by overturning the awful initial French position, the growing size of his armies made military strategies more difficult to manage. The scale of warfare grew too large for Napoleon to fully manage, which became evident during the next Napoleonic war, the French invasion of Russia in 1812. [142]

Englund describes the war as "the first modern war" for the use of "symmetrical conscript armies of singularly large size," that were divided into corps and commanded decentralized in theatres. He concludes that "it was a war of magnitude and maneuver more than before and the decisive factor was attrition more than dramatic one-(or two-)day pitched battles." [73]


Europe had been embroiled in warfare, pitting revolutionary France against a series of coalitions, nearly continuously since 1792. After five years of war, the French Republic subdued the First Coalition in 1797. A Second Coalition was formed in 1798, only to be defeated. In March 1802, France (now under Napoleon, as First Consul) and Great Britain, its one remaining enemy, agreed to end hostilities under the Treaty of Amiens. For the first time in ten years, all of Europe was at peace. However, many disagreements between the two sides remained unresolved, and implementing the agreements they had reached at Amiens seemed to be a growing challenge. Britain resented having to turn over all of its colonial conquests since 1793 when France was permitted to retain most of its conquered territory in Europe. France, meanwhile, was upset that British troops had not evacuated the island of Malta. [ 6 ] In May 1803, Britain declared war on France.

Third Coalition (1804–1805)

With the resumption of hostilities, Napoleon (proclaimed Emperor in 1804) planned an invasion of England, spending the better part of the next two years (1803–05) on this objective. In December 1804, an Anglo-Swedish agreement led to the creation of the Third Coalition. British Prime Minister William Pitt spent 1804 and 1805 in a flurry of diplomatic activity geared towards forming a new coalition against France and neutralising the threat of invasion. Mutual suspicion between the British and the Russians eased in the face of several French political mistakes, and by April 1805, the two had signed a treaty of alliance. [ 7 ] Alarmed by Napoleon's consolidation of northern Italy into a kingdom under his rule, and keen on revenge for having been defeated twice in recent memory by France, Austria would join the coalition a few months later. [ 8 ]

In August 1805, the French Grande Armée invaded the German states in hopes of knocking Austria out of the war before Russian forces could intervene. On 25 September, after great secrecy and feverish marching, 200,000 [ 9 ] French troops began to cross the Rhine on a front of 160 miles (260 km). [ 10 ] Mack had gathered the greater part of the Austrian army at the fortress of Ulm in Bavaria. Napoleon hoped to swing his forces northward and perform a wheeling movement that would find the French at the Austrian rear. The Ulm Maneuver was well executed, and on 20 October Mack and 23,000 Austrian troops surrendered at Ulm, bringing the total number of Austrian prisoners in the campaign to 60,000. [ 10 ] The French captured Vienna in November and went on to inflict a decisive defeat on a Russo-Austrian army at Austerlitz in early December. Austerlitz led to the expulsion of Russian troops from Central Europe and the humiliation of Austria, which signed the Treaty of Pressburg on 26 December.

Fourth Coalition (1806–1807)

Austerlitz incited a major shift in the European balance of power. Prussia felt threatened about her security in the region and, alongside Russia, went to war with France as part of the Fourth Coalition in 1806. One hundred and eighty thousand French troops invaded Prussia in the fall of 1806 through the Thuringian Forest, unaware of where the Prussians were, and hugged the right bank of the Saale River and the left of the Elster. [ 11 ] The decisive actions took place on 14 October: with an army of 90,000, Napoleon crushed Hohenlohe at Jena, but Davout, commander of the III Corps, outdid everyone when his 27,000 troops held off and defeated the 63,000 Prussians under Brunswick and King Frederick William III at the Battle of Auerstadt. [ 12 ] A vigorous French pursuit through Northern Germany finished off the remnants of the Prussian army. The French then invaded Poland, which had been partitioned among Prussia, Austria, and Russia in 1795, to meet the Russian forces that had not been able to save Prussia.

The Russian and French armies met in February 1807 at the savage and indecisive Battle of Eylau, which left behind between 30,000–50,000 casualties. Napoleon regrouped his forces after the battle and continued to pursue the Russians in upcoming months. The action in Poland finally culminated on 14 June 1807, when the French mauled their Russian opponents at the Battle of Friedland. The resulting Treaty of Tilsit in July ended two years of bloodshed and left France as the dominant power on the European continent. It also severely weakened Prussia and formed a Franco-Russian axis designed to resolve disputes among European nations.

French in Iberia (1807–1809)

After the War of the Oranges, Portugal adopted a double policy. On the one hand John, Prince of Brazil, as regent of Portugal, signed the Treaty of Badajoz with France and Spain by which he assumed the duty to close the ports to British trade. On the other hand, not wanting to breach the Treaty of Windsor (1386) with Portugal's oldest ally, Britain, he allowed for such trade to continue and maintained secret diplomatic relations with them. However, after the Franco-Spanish defeat in the Battle of Trafalgar, John grew bold and officially resumed diplomatic and trade relations with Britain.

Discontent with this change of policy of the Portuguese government, Napoleon send an army to invade Portugal. On 17 October 1807, 24,000 [ 13 ] French troops under General Junot crossed the Pyrenees with Spanish cooperation and headed towards Portugal to enforce Napoleon's Continental System. This was the first step in what would become the six-year-long Peninsular War, a struggle that sapped much of the French Empire's strength. Throughout the winter of 1808, French agents became increasingly involved in Spanish internal affairs, attempting to incite discord between members of the Spanish royal family. On 16 February 1808, secret French machinations finally materialised when Napoleon announced that he would intervene to mediate between the rival political factions in the Spanish royal family. [ 14 ] Marshal Murat led 120,000 troops into Spain and the French arrived in Madrid on 24 March, [ 15 ] where wild riots against the occupation erupted a few weeks later. The resistance to French aggression soon spread throughout the country. The shocking French defeat at the Battle of Bailén in July gave hope to Napoleon's enemies and partly persuaded the French emperor to intervene in person. A new French army commanded by Napoleon crossed the Ebro in autumn and dealt blow after blow to the opposing Spanish forces. Napoleon entered Madrid on 4 December with 80,000 troops. [ 16 ] He then unleashed his troops against Moore's British forces. The British were swiftly driven to the coast, and, after a last stand at the Battle of Corunna in January 1809, withdrew from the Iberian Peninsula entirely.

Austria stands alone

Austria sought another confrontation with France to avenge the recent defeats, and the developments in Spain only encouraged its attitudes. Austria could not count on Russian support because the latter was at war with Britain, Sweden (which meant Austria could not count on Swedish support either), and the Ottoman Empire in 1809. Frederick William III of Prussia initially promised to help Austria, but reneged before conflict began. [ 17 ] The British had been at war with the French Empire for six years. A report from the Austrian finance minister suggested that the treasury would run out of money by mid-1809 if the large army that the Austrians had formed since the Third Coalition remained mobilised. [ 17 ] Although Charles warned that the Austrians were not ready for another showdown with Napoleon, a stance that landed him amidst the so-called "peace party", he did not want to see the army demobilised. [ 17 ] On 8 February 1809, the advocates for war finally succeeded when the Imperial Government secretly decided to make war against France.

Austrian reforms

Austerlitz and the subsequent Treaty of Pressburg in 1805 indicated that the Austrian army needed reform. Napoleon had offered Charles the Austrian throne after Austerlitz, an act that aroused deep suspicion from Charles' brother, Austrian emperor Francis II. Even though Charles was allowed to spearhead the reforms of the Austrian army, Francis kept the Hofkriegsrat (Aulic Council), a military advisory board, to oversee the activities of Charles as supreme commander. [ 18 ]

In 1806, Charles issued a new guide for army and unit tactics. The main tactical innovation was the concept of the "mass", an anti-cavalry formation created by closing up the spacing between ranks. [ 18 ] However, Austrian commanders disliked the innovation and rarely used it unless directly supervised by Charles. [ 18 ] Following the failures at Ulm and Austerlitz, the Austrians went back to using the six-companies-per-battalion model, abandoning the four-company-per-battalion that had been introduced by Mack on the eve of war in 1805. [ 18 ] Problems persisted despite the reforms. The Austrians lacked the number of skirmishers to successfully contend with their French counterparts, the cavalry was often sprinkled into individual units throughout the army, preventing the shock and hitting power evident in the French system, and even though Charles imitated the French corps command structure, leaders in the Austrian military establishment were often wary of taking the initiative, relying heavily on written orders and drawn-out planning before they formed a decision. [ 19 ]

Another reform was that Austria, having lost many officers, veteran and elite troops, and regulars, and unable to call on allies, embraced the Levée en masse used earlier by the French. By this time, the French were moving from the Levée en masse, in favour of forming a regular army based on a core of battle-hardened and elite veterans. In a strange reversal of the earlier Napoleonic Wars, where Frenchmen with little experience and often pressed into service fought against the professional Austrian army, a massive amount of Austrian conscripts, with no experience and only basic training and equipment would be sent into the field against a highly trained, campaign-hardened, and well-equipped French Grande Armée.

Austrian preparations

Charles and the Aulic Council were divided about the strategy with which to attack the French. Charles wanted a major thrust from Bohemia designed to isolate the French forces in northern Germany and lead to a rapid decision. [ 20 ] The greater part of the Austrian army was already concentrated there, so it seemed like a natural operation. [ 20 ] The Aulic Council disagreed on account of the Danube River splitting the forces of Charles and his brother John. [ 20 ] They instead suggested that the main attack should be launched south of the Danube so as to maintain safer communications with Vienna. [ 20 ] In the end, they had their way, but not before precious time had been lost. The Austrian plan called for the Bohemian corps, the I under Bellegarde, consisting of 38,000 troops, and the II of 20,000 troops under Kollowrat, to attack Regensburg (Ratisbon) from the Bohemian mountains by way of Cham, the Austrian center and reserve, comprising 66,000 men of Hohenzollern's III, Rosenberg's IV, and Lichtenstein's I Reserve Corps, to advance on the same objective through Scharding, and the left wing, made up of the V of Archduke Louis, Hiller's VI, and Kienmayer's II Reserve Corps, a total of 61,000 men, to move forward toward Landshut and guard the flank. [ 21 ]

French preparations

Napoleon was not entirely certain about Austrian planning and intentions. He was in Paris at the time and was instructing the main French field commander in southern Germany, Berthier, on deployments and concentrations. His rough ideas about the possible upcoming campaign included the decision to make the Danube valley the main theatre of operations, as he had done in 1805, and to tie down any Austrian forces that might invade northern Italy by positioning some of his own forces that would be commanded by Eugène and Marmont. [ 22 ] Faulty intelligence gave Napoleon the impression that the main Austrian attack would come north of the Danube. [ 23 ] On 30 March, he wrote a letter to Berthier explaining his intention to mass around 140,000 troops in the vicinity of Regensburg, far to the north of where the Austrians were planning to make their attack. [ 22 ] These misconceptions about Austrian thinking left the French army poorly deployed when hostilities commenced.

Napoleon's Defeat of the Habsburgs

On April 10th, 1809, while Napoleon was occupied in Western Europe with the Peninsular War, the Austrian Empire launched a surprise attack that sparked the War of the Fifth Coalition. Though France would ultimately win the conflict, it would be Napoleon’s last victorious war. Even then, the margin of French superiority was decreasing. Archduke Charles, the best of the Habsburg commanders, led a reformed Austrian Army that was arguably the best ever fielded by the Danubian Monarchy.

Though caught off guard, the French Emperor reversed a dire strategic situation with stunning blows that he called his 'most brilliant and most skillful maneuvers'. Following a breathless pursuit down the Danube valley, Napoleon occupied the palaces of the Habsburgs for the second time in four years. He would win many battles in his future campaigns, but never again would one of Europe's great powers lie broken at his feet.

In Thunder on the Danube, historian John H. Gill tackles the political background of the war, including the motivations behind the Austrian offensive. Gill also demonstrates that 1809 was both a high point of the First Empire as well as a watershed, for Napoleon's armies were declining in quality and he was beginning to display the corrosive flaws that contributed to his downfall five years later. His opponents, on the other hand, were improving.


Philipp von Stadion and the war party

In contrast to Prussia with the Prussian reforms , there was no comprehensive state reform in Austria after the defeat of 1805 in the Third Coalition War . With Johann Philipp von Stadion , a supporter of the war party gained decisive influence on politics. At the insistence of Archduke Karl , he had been appointed Foreign Minister after the Peace of Pressburg . Stadion was actually conservative and deeply rooted in the tradition of the Old Kingdom . Nevertheless, he included national slogans in his utterances. His aim was to make up for defeat in a new war. He hoped that the other German countries would join Austria in a war. As a result, the German states ruled by Napoleon were to be liberated and a new empire created on the basis of a renewed corporate order. Stadion wanted to beat the opponent with its own weapons and relied on the "Austrian nation", without it being clear what exactly was meant by this and how it behaved towards Germany. Nevertheless, many of the stadium ’s statements took Austria as the spearhead of the German nation against Napoleon. The stadium received journalistic support in particular from Friedrich Gentz . He was temporarily employed in the State Chancellery and remained a propagandist for a liberation struggle against Napoleon even after the war. Another important employee of the stadium was his brother Friedrich Lothar von Stadion .

Policy of Adjustment and Army Reform

In view of the French superiority, Stadion was initially forced to adopt a policy of adjustment. He decided to make army reform and rearmament a top priority. Archduke Karl took on this task in particular. In addition, all other reform efforts were postponed. In any case, these did not have the depth and scope of the reforms in the Confederation of the Rhine or the Prussian reforms.

The army reform included the establishment of a landwehr on a provincial basis from 1806 . Archduke Johann propagated the national idea and became the organizer of the Landwehr. However, the success of the Landwehr was not the same in all parts of the empire. The Poles in Galicia were considered friendly to the French. The reaction in Bohemia was restrained and the Hungarian part of the empire completely rejected the Landwehr. This therefore played a role above all in the German-speaking parts of the empire. There were also considerable reservations in the military. Nevertheless, Austria had actually introduced compulsory military service with the Landwehr even before Prussia .

The army reform and the new Landwehr resulted in the government having a potentially strong army made up of defense forces and field troops at the beginning of 1809. However, the war began before these mobilization options were practically fully available. The Austrian troops were when the war began from the field army of 300,000 men. 136,000 reserve troops were still available . There were also 20,000 recruits approved by Hungarians. About 300,000 men were available for the Landwehr and the Hungarian insurrection .

Decision to go to war

On the diplomatic stage, the government sought an alliance with Great Britain, Prussia and Russia . However, Stadion was forced to strike out early and without a broad alliance. The fact that Austria's public finances were facing bankruptcy after the wars of the last few decades and due to the intensified arms policy played a role . This forced the war to start in 1809. The reorganization of the army was not yet complete. The new land defense units were poorly trained and inadequately armed. The possible allies showed little inclination to assist Austria effectively. A plan to unleash an anti-Napoleonic uprising in northern Germany became known in France and Napoleon forced the release of Freiherr vom Stein . Thus the Prussian war party was weakened and Friedrich Wilhelm III. stuck to the policy of neutrality.

The prerequisites for a successful war rested on the hope that Napoleon and his troops would be bound in Spain. There was also hope in Austria that there would be opposition from within France to Napoleon. There was a chance if the French troops and those of the Confederation of the Rhine in southern Germany could be defeated as quickly as possible before Napoleon and his main army could appear on the scene. These successes were to lead to revolts against Napoleon in the occupied territories and to the entry of other states into the war.

The Austrian ambassador in Paris, Klemens Wenzel Lothar von Metternich , leaned towards the war party. This was supported by the Empress Maria Ludowika and Archduke Johann. Archduke Karl, on the other hand, was rather skeptical about military strength despite the reforms. In February 1809 the leaders of the monarchy decided to go to war. Apart from Great Britain and Sweden, Austria had no allies. Russia officially allied itself with France in the Peace of Tilsit in 1807 and secretly with France in the 1808 alliance treaty of Erfurt . Ultimately, the political assessment of the situation was based on a complete misjudgment of Napoleon's weakness.

Austrian Order of Battle [ edit | edit source ]

On 5 July 1809, the Austrian forces operating in Poland numbered 18,700 infantry, 2,400 cavalry, and 66 artillery pieces. The total of 23,200 troops were organized into 26 infantry battalions and 28 squadrons in 4 cavalry regiments. The order of battle is listed below. Γ]

  • Artillery Reserve: Commander unknown
    • Two 12-pdr position batteries (12 guns)
    • 6-pdr position battery (6 guns)
    • 3-pdr cavalry battery (6 guns)
    • Divisional Artillery: 3-pdr cavalry battery (6 guns)
    • Brigade: General-Major Kelgrer Δ]
      • 1st WallachianGrenz Infantry Regiment # 16 (2 battalions)
      • Vukassovich Infantry Regiment # 48 (3 battalions)
      • 2nd Wallachian Grenz Infantry Regiment # 17 (2 battalions)
      • Szekler Grenz Hussar Regiment # 11 (8 squadrons)
      • 1st Szekler Grenz Infantry Regiment # 14 (2 battalions)
      • 2nd Szekler Grenz Infantry Regiment # 15 (2 battalions)
      • 3-pdr brigade battery (8 guns)
      • Divisional Artillery: 6-pdr position battery (6 guns)
      • Brigade: General-Major Karl Leopold Civalart d'Happoncourt
        • Davidovich Infantry Regiment # 34 (3 battalions)
        • Weidenfeld Infantry Regiment # 37 (3 battalions)
        • 6-pdr brigade battery (8 guns)
        • De Ligne Infantry Regiment # 30 (3 battalions)
        • Strauch Infantry Regiment # 24 (3 battalions)
        • Kottulinsky Infantry Regiment # 41 (3 battalions)
        • 6-pdr brigade battery (8 guns)
        • Divisional Artillery: 6-pdr cavalry battery (6 guns)
        • Brigade: Commander unknown
          • Palatinal Hussar Regiment # 12 (8 squadrons)
          • Somariva Cuirassier Regiment # 5 (6 squadrons)
          • Lothringen Cuirassier Regiment # 7 (6 squadrons)

          Franco-Austrian War of 1809 (War of the Fifth Coalition) - History

          From Book 1: This history of the 1809 Franco-Austrian War presents an in-depth chronicle Napoleon&rsquos last great victory.

          On April 10th, 1809, while Napoleon was occupied in Western Europe with the Peninsular War, the Austrian Empire launched a surprise attack that sparked the War of the Fifth Coalition. Though France would ultimately win the conflict, it would be Napoleon&rsquos last victorious war. Even then, the margin of French superiority was decreasing. Archduke Charles, the best of the Habsburg commanders, led a reformed Austrian Army that was arguably the best ever fielded by the Danubian Monarchy.

          Though caught off guard, the French Emperor reversed a dire strategic situation with stunning blows that he called his &aposmost brilliant and most skillful maneuvers&apos. Following a breathless pursuit down the Danube valley, Napoleon occupied the palaces of the Habsburgs for the second time in four years. He would win many battles in his future campaigns, but never again would one of Europe&aposs great powers lie broken at his feet.

          In Thunder on the Danube, historian John H. Gill tackles the political background of the war, including the motivations behind the Austrian offensive. Gill also demonstrates that 1809 was both a high point of the First Empire as well as a watershed, for Napoleon&aposs armies were declining in quality and he was beginning to display the corrosive flaws that contributed to his downfall five years later. His opponents, on the other hand, were improving.

          In the second volume of this epic work, John H. Gill traces Napoleon’s progress as he sought to complete his victory over the Habsburgs. The war had erupted on April 10th with Austria’s invasion of Germany and Italy. After just two weeks, Napoleon had battered the Habsburg Archduke Charles in a series of bruising defeats.

          This volume begins with Napoleon astride the Danube at Regensburg. He faced a critical strategic choice – whether to pursue the injured Austrian main army into Bohemia or march directly for Vienna, the seat of Habsburg power.

          After electing to target Vienna, his troops defeated the Austrians in the brutal Battle of Ebelsberg, allowing him to enter the city on May 13th. However on the far side of the Danube, he then suffered a dramatic loss at the grueling, two-day Battle of Aspern. While his Danube forces recovered from this setback, the Emperor cleared trouble from his strategic flanks.

          Gill describes in vivid detail the hopeful Habsburg invasion of Italy, led by the 27-year-old Archduke Johann, and the fierce French counter-offensive under Napoleon’s stepson, Eugene de Beauharnais (also aged 27). In a series of encounters across Italy, de Beauharnais rebounded from initial defeat to advance triumphantly into Austrian territory, shattering and scattering Johann’s army. In the wake of Aspern, while the Austrians vacillated, Napoleon gathered every man, horse and gun around Vienna, setting the stage for the gigantic spectacle of the Battle of Wagram, the final chapter in the story of the 1809 war.

          Watch the video: Η φράση του Ανδρέα Παπανδρέου που έμεινε στην ιστορία (August 2022).