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1805: Austerlitz: Napoleon And The Destruction Of The Third Coalition Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 20, 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
Good features of this book: plenty of maps to lay out the progression of events, the order of battle, an estimate of the armies' strengths, an assessment of casualties in both armies. This book is also distinguished by providing great amounts of information from the allies' perspective, rather than just from the French and Napoleonic viewpoint.
The story begins with the start of hostilities between France and her adversaries after the Treaty of Amiens in 1802, which temporarily brought peace to Europe. The volume starts off with an assessment of the strength of the various allied armies as well as the French forces and the early maneuvering of the various forces. The destruction of the incompetently led Austrain forces at Ulm are described well. The Austrian General, Mack, completely failed against Napoleon.
After that defeat, the allies began gathering their troops together to continue the struggle against the French. Russian armies began the march from the motherland. Austrian forces begin to gather. Even Prussia was willing to enter on the side of the allies, although its forces would be unable to participate at Austerlitz.
Once the allies began to gather their horde, the movement of the French and allies began to lead to battle. Both forces ended up gathering near the village of Austerlitz. Napoleon began to develop alternative strategies, contingent upon what the allies did. The prime mover of the allied strategic choices, Weyrother, conceived an attack on the French right, without assuming that Napoleon might not just sit around waiting to be attacked. Indeed, Napoleon had already thought through what he would do if such an attack took place. The logistics of the allied forces moving to the offensive were strained; communication between Austrians and Russians (calling for translation) went awry.
Napoleon launched an attack on the crucial Pratzen Heights. While the fighting was at times fierce, he had hit the Russians when they were unprepared, as they moved to attack Napoleon's right. Once he had control of the Heights, his army had cut the allied forces in two. There begin the attack on the flank and rear of the allies attacking the French right. Things fell apart rapidly. While the Russians fought well, the game was pretty much up. Some allies, such as Bagration, fought well. Others appeared to be stupefied by what was happening. One nice aspect of the concluding discussion is the rating of the various major figures on both sides. Some, like Bagration, come off very well. Others, like Buxhowden, come off badly. Overall, the French leaders appear to have done a better job. As others note, it would have been helpful if there were a bit more information on the leaders as human beings.
In the end, perhaps Napoleon's greatest triumph. This led to a peace agreement that ended to "third coalition" of allies against France.
The book is written in excruciating detail. Keeping units and leaders straight is not easy. On the other hand, the detail provides as clear a sense of this critical battle as anyone could hope for.
The battle itself is well covered off with the author detailing the movement of forces and blow by blow account of the battle. In fact the detail is such that it sometimes hard to take all in, but thankfully the author had the foresight to use maps to show the movement of forces at various places & times of battle so the reader can better visualise his narrative. Goetz also makes use of some first hand accounts that give weight to his own explaination of battle.
The author suggests that was perhaps the French tactical prowess in the field (after months of training at Camp Bologne in anticipation of the invasion of Britain)that gave the French the edge. 'This was demonstrated repeatly by the effectiveness of their musketry, their cool maneuvering under fire, effective coordination of combined arms operations and larger larger scale maneuvers, and a superb discipline produced by high morale and complete confidence in their commanders'. The French command & control system also had flexibilty enabling commanders to adapt & maneuver their forces to changing situations to acheive ultimate mission objectives (that is very similar to the German Army in the WWII in its Blitzkreig). The Russian and Austrian forces typically seemed to be locked and awaiting orders from above losing valuable time & few officers used their initiative. Having said that the Russian & Austrian forces fought hard and bravely and at times were able to throw the French back. In the end it was Napoleon's careful planning, use of detailed information about the enemy and the ability to acheive numerical superiority at a given point that led to his decisive victory.
This remains my favorite book on the battle along with Scott Bowden's book on the campaign. A must have for all Napoleonic enthusiasts.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
By Robert Goetz
Greenhill Books 2005
368 pages, 20 maps, 40 illustrations, 8...Read more