1. Austrian Empire and Army.
2. Rank and File.
. . Erzherzog Karl von Österreich
. . Karl Philipp Fürst zu Schwarzenberg
. . Joseph, Graf Radetzky de Radetz
The Austrian Empire and Army.
On picture: Emperor of Austria
The Austrian Empire.
Bohemia (cities: Prague, Pilsen) was the foundation of the economic power of the Austrian monarchy and provided the most direct access to central Europe. Bohemia's history was punctuated by the violent episodes of the armed Hussite heresy. (ext.link) Under the rule of Maria Theresa Bohemia contributed 31.9 % in taxes, Lower and Upper Austria 21.5 %, Hungary 17.3 %, Moravia 11.8 %, Styria 6.6 % etc.
The Serbs and Croats were considered as frank men, "doughty fighters" and heavy drinkers. "The ordinary Croats did not strive for rank or status, but were typically tall and strong folk who showed 'astonishing courage in the face of hunger and thirst, frost and heat, and the greatest physicall suffering, even under the knife of the surgeon. Death holds no terror for them. In their homelands everything reminded the stranger that 'you are in a colony of soldiers ... Croatian loyalty was legendary ... And yet, if the Croats detected or imagined a breach of faith on the part of the authorities, they resorted to something potentially much more dangerous, namely defying their officers and making off homewards, by force if necesarry, and regardless of the stage of the campaign or the presence of the enemy." (Duffy - "Instrument of War" Vol I, p 312-13)
The Poles and Ukrainians were seen as drinkers and idle men. The Poles were unwilling to fight for the Austrian monarch. "After the battle of Dresden 3,000 Austrian deserters of Polish nationality were taken prisoner into the [Poniatowski's VIII] corps; 30 to each company. " (Digby-Smith, - p 316)
The Hungarians enjoyed great reputation as horsemen and fighters. The Romanians were short, robust, revengeful and cruel. The Germans and Czechs were described as being too fat and slow but clean and educated.
Below is population of Austria and other European countries:
"The Austrian army has many points of resemblance to the British army. In both there are many nationalities mixed together, though each regiment, generally, belongs to one nation only. The Highland Gael, the Welshman, the Irishman, and the Englishman, scarcely vary more than the German, the Italian, the Croat, and the Magyar (Hungarian)... In either, the tactical forms have retained a deal of the ancient line-formations, and adopted, in a limited degree only, the use of columns and skirmishing." ("The Armies of Europe" in Putnam's Monthly, No. XXXII, published in 1855)
Austria vs France
In the wake of these defeats, the Emperor appointed a new foreign minister, Clemens von Metternich, who sought reconciliation with France. He accomplished this by arranging a marriage between Emperor's daughter, Marie Louise (ext.link) and Napoleon, who was eager for the prestige of marriage into one of the principal dynasties of Europe and the creation of an heir. Austria was forced to side with Napoleon in the Russian campaign of 1812, but in 1813 it again joined the coalition against Napoleon; an Austrian general, Prince von Schwarzenberg, headed the allied forces. The Congress of Vienna (1814-15) did not restore to Austria its former possessions in the Netherlands and in Baden but awarded it Lombardy, Venetia, Istria, and Dalmatia. As the leading power of both the German Confederation and the Holly Alliance, Austria under the ministry of Metternich dominated European politics.
The Austrian Soldiers.
On picture: Battle of Leipzig - Austrian 20th and 24th Infantry Regiment (Hungarians) attack the Dölitz Chateau defended by Polish and French troops. The attackers are led by Colonel von Reissenfels. Collection A. Pigeard
In 1771 in Austria was introduced a general conscription but exemptions were granted to several towns and provinces. The areas under conscription were divided into regimental districts ('German' infantry regiments). Hungary, Netherlands and northern Italy, as well nobles and officials were all excluded from military service. Some of the areas (Tirol, northern Italy, Netherlands) relied on free recruiting while others (Hungary) filled the ranks by local officials according to quotas imposed by the Hungarian Diet and on volunteers.
The troops were well supplied although sometimes men lacked shoes, gaiters (only in 1796 lacked 49.014 pairs), muskets, ammunition and uniforms. The British supplied the Austrains with these items on several occassions. Brutality and harsh discipline in the army were condemned by Archduke Charles.
Before 1805 the term of service was reduced to 10 years in the infantry, 12 in the cavalry and 14 years in the artillery and engineers. The hussar regiments had no problems with keeping their strength, as there were many volunteers in Hungary who joyfully joined their favorite and traditional arm.
The Austrian soldiers were considered as patient, well-disciplined, and ... sober (except Poles, Hungarians, Croats and Serbs ;-). The Austrian soldiers were also considered as slow and heavy. But their biggest weakness was multinationality.
Austrian Empress Maria Theresa (ext.link) opened military academies in 1752. Sons of serving officers and state officials, minor nobility and commoners entered these schools in their teens. The artillerymen were trained in the Artillery Corps School in Bohemia and in the Bombardier Corps formed by Kinsky (director of artillery). Sir T. Graham wrote with some exaggeration that "interest and intrigue were the main avenues of promotion". Actualy the officers could enter the army in three different ways:
Austrian officers received formal training. Those who came from aristocracy passed faster through the ranks than those who came from lower social classes. The cadets were taught by sergeants and they were the most numerous group among officers. Majors and higher ranks in infantry and cavalry were promoted by the Emperor himself. General of artillery handled the promotions in artillery. Promotions in Grenzer (border) regiments depended on Supreme War Council Hofkriegsrath
The senior officers revealed obsessive concern with trivia like the regimental bands played in proper intervals. They spent a lot of time banqueting instead of studying and training the troops. Majority of officers were Germans, Czechs and Hungarians. But there were also French, Poles, Croats, Swedes, Irish and English. This multinationality of the officer corps was not something strengthening their army.
This is what Rothenberg has to say about the Austrian senior and staff officers.
"The staff was not capable of handling the corps system. The officers of the Quartermaster General Staff were still primarily trained in mapping, mathematical computations, horsemanship, drawing and penmanship. Many were personally brave and on paper quite capable of elaborating plans for moving troops. In the field, however, it was a different matter. The new system created much confusion and the Austrian general staff lacked a common doctrine and manuals of procedure. And this became especially critical when because of the small size of the permanent staff untrained officers had to be assigned for duty when the army was activated." (Rothenberg -
"Napoleon's Great Adversary")
Austrian Generals and Fieldmarshals.
In 1792 Austrian army had 356 generals (incl. 13 fieldmarshals). The generals were old (63-years old on average) and mostly aristocrats selected for their connections, often divided by personal rivalries and ego, babblers and intriguers. Two army commanders were archdukes (Charles and John). Majority of the nine corps were led by aristocrats, 2 by archdukes (Ferdinand and Ludwig) and 3 by princes (Rosenberg, Liechtenstein, Hohenzollern).
Only few generals were commoners (Mack, Hiller).
Casualties among the generals were far below those suffered by the French generals and even below the Russian and Prussian casualties. The Austrian generals conducted a defensive war and were overly concerned with lines of communications (Cattle depots were maintained by every Austrian army.) Archduke Charles wrote that the generals "are a weakness in our army." Majority of the Austrian commanders preferred not to face Napoleon directly.
Although at Aspern-Essling archduke Charles won over Napoleon, some of his generals still showed inability to coordinatethe the attacks of various brigades and divisions. It robbed the Austrian rank and file of greater success they deserved. There were also cases of poor communication. For example on July 4th 1809 the Emperor of Austria and his brother Archduke Charles were on Bisamberg and watched the first French columns marching on the bridges across Danube River. The field telegraph transmitted the important news to Charles' staff but the Austrian troops never received this alert.
Ranks of generals and fieldmarshals:
It was the highest rank in the Austrian army in 1809,
an ancient title resurrected specifically for Archduke Charles.
Otherwise the highest rank was Feldmarschall.
The ablest were Archduke Charles, Schwarzenberg and Radetzky. But some were idiots. The Austrian generals' failure in 1805 to destroy the Tabor Bridges at Vienna angered their Allies, Russians. It occurred at a point in the campaign when Kutuzov had placed the mighty Danube River between his exhausted army and Napoleon's Grand Armee. The old Austrian commander, Auersperg, was duped by the French, who captured the bridge. It forced the Russian army to rapid retreat.
The bridge was captured through trickery, with no loss of life. The Russians could hardly believe at the idiocy of Austrian general.
Erzherzog Karl von Österreich (Archduke Charles)
Charles (1771-1847) was brother of Emperor Francis II. Despite his epilepsy, he was the ablest Austrian commander in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. His youth was spent in Tuscany, at Vienna and in the Austrian Netherlands, where he began his career of military service. He commanded a brigade at Jemappes, and in the campaign of 1793 distinguished himself at the action of Aldenhoven and the battle of Neerwinden. Charles won at Jemappes (1792) and Neerwinden (1793), and lost at Wattignies (1793) and Fleurus (1794).
Having rapidly risen to command in south Germany, in 1796 the young Charles had managed to divide and then defeat two French armies, Jourdan's and Moreau's, which had penetrated deep into Germany, driving them back across the Rhine River. Widely acclaimed as the "Saviour of Germany", and the following year he was appointed to stabilize the southern front where the army of young Bonaparte was moving into Styria to menace Vienna. (Rothenberg - "The Emperor's Last Victory" pp 33-34) Liddell Hart (ext.link) wrote:
Wellington thought Charles to be the best among all Allied commanders.
Charles won numerous battles, defeting such excellent commanders like Massena and Napoleon.
His defeats were rare, and despite the fact that the Austrian soldiers were not famous for their bravery and tenacity. In 1793 the French invaded Holland, but were routed by the Austrians at Neerwinden. The victory that the Austrians owed largely to its advance-guard commander, the Archduke Charles. Below is a list of battles lost and won by Charles:
Charles' favorite tactics in battle was extending the battle line and outflanking the enemy. It did not work against Napoleon but was enough to defeat other French generals. Wheter in attack or defense his divisions were to form in 2 lines and reserves. Charles preffered a line or column against infantry and battalion and division masses (instead of hollow squares) against cavalry.
As strategist he overestimated his enemy and hesitated to take all the risk. Caution and the importance of strategic points and not the destruction of enemy's army were the chief features of his system. Often his plans were "overly detailed." He strictly enjoined his infantrymen to refrain from long-range fire. In 1809 Charles published a manual "The Fundamentals of the Higher Art of War for the Generals of the Austrian Army". In essence it continued with the essentially defensive strategic culture of the Austrian army. (Rothenberg - "The Emperor's Last Victory" p 42)
Archduke Charles was not only excellent commander but also a good organizer and reformer. Since the disaster of 1805 the army had undergone many changes under Archduke Charles. Charles was a modest man, he even refused to allow a statue to be erected in his honor.
Karl Philipp Fürst zu Schwarzenberg
Schwarzenberg was a Viennese nobleman, commissioned into the Austrian Army in 1788. He fought in 1789 under Lacy and Loudon against the Turks, distinguished himself by his bravery, and became major in 1792. In the French campaign of 1793 he served in the advanced guard of the army commanded by Prince Josias of Coburg. In 1794 at Cateau Cambresis his impetuous charge at the head of his regiment broke a whole corps of the French, killed and wounded 3.000 men, and brought off 32 of the enemy's guns. Schwarzenberg was immediately decorated with the cross of the Maria Theresa order.
After taking part in the battles of Amberg and in 1796 at Würzburg (ext.link) he was raised to the rank of major-general, and in 1799 he was promoted lieutenant field marshal. At the defeat of Hohenlinden in 1800 his promptitude and courage saved the right wing of the Austrian army from destruction, and he was afterwards entrusted by the archduke Charles with the command of the rearguard. In the war of 1805 he held command of a division under Mack, and when Ulm was surrounded by Napoleon in October he was one of the brave band of cavalry, under the archduke Ferdinand, which cut its way through the hostile lines. In the same year he was made a commander of the order of Maria Theresa and in 1809 he received the Golden Fleece.
In 1810 Schwarzenberg was made ambassador to France. Napoleon held him in great esteem, and it was at his request that the prince took command of the Austrian auxiliary corps in the Russian campaign of 1812. When in 1813 Austria joined the allies against Napoleon, Schwarzenberg was the senior general of the coalition. He commanded at Leipzig and in 1814 entered Paris at the head of the multi-national force. He wrote of his multinational command: "It really is inhuman what I have to tolerate and put up with, surrounded as I am by weaklings, fools of all kinds, eccentric project-makers, intriguers, blockheads, gossips, fault-finders. Mor ethan once I have felt in danger of being overwhelmed ... The Tsar is good but weak; the King [of Prussia] is a rough, coarse, unfeeling fellow who to me is as loathsome as the poor, brave Prussians are pleasant and estimable." Schwarzenberg was again in command of Austrian forces en route for France when fighting ended in 1815, he retired in 1817.
As tactician Schwarzenberg preffered masses against cavalry and columns for infantry. Colonel Elting (USA) described him as "tactically timid and clumsy... In 1813-1815, felt personally inferior to Napoleon; consequently overcautious."
During campaign in 1814 Schwarzenberg overestimated the enemy's strength, and hesitated issuing 3 different orders for his army in one day and then alter the 3rd on the following day. Schwarzenberg had failed to crush the French army at Arcis-sur-Aube where he had only dared to attack when Napoleon began to retreat. Frustrated Russian monarch told him: "you always see double when you are near the enemy." The Tsar of Russia, Alexander I, and Prussian commander Blucher, were annoyed by Schwarzenberg's slowness of movements.
Schwarzenberg had a great political tact: he was able to command a multinational army with 3 monarchs present in his headquarters ! American historians Esposito and Elting characterized Schwarzenberg as "Intelectually active; letters show sense of humor ... High order of personal bravery... Considerable diplomatic ability, which sometimes declined into cheap trickery, as in his actions following S.Cyr's surrender at Dresden."
Joseph, Graf Radetzky de Radetz
Radetzky was born at Trzebnitz in Bohemia in 1766. Orphaned at an early age, he was educated by his grandfather, and after the count's death, at the Maria Theresa academy at Vienna. Then he joined the army as a cadet in 1785. Next year he became an officer, and in 1787 a first lieutenant in a cuirassier regiment. He served in the Turkish War, and in the Low Countries during the Revolutionary War. In 1795 Radetzky fought on the Rhine. Next year he served with Beaulieu against Napoleon in Italy, and inwardly rebelled at the indecisive "cordon" system of warfare which his first chief, Lacy, had instituted and other Austrian generals only too faithfully imitated. In 1805, with the rank of major general, he was given a command in Italy. In 1809 Radetzky fought against the French at Wagram, and in 1809 became chief of the general staff.
From 1809 to 1812, as chief of the general staff, Radetzky was active in the reorganization of the army and its tactical system, but, unable to carry out the reforms he desired owing to the opposition of the Treasury, he resigned the post. Radetzky performed well as field commander. For example at Wagram and during the retreat he skillfully commanded the rearguard many times letting Rosenberg's corps escaped distruction against prevailing odds. During the retreat he sklillfully fought a delaying action at Staatz.
In 1811 Radetzky was a member of the Hofkriegrat (Military Administrative Department) in Vienna and proposed that the chief-of-staff’s managerial and supervisory role should be prioritised, taking charge of all staff officers and the various branches, each of which was directed by its own head of department. According to Radetzky the chief-of-staff was also supervise all the troops and their activities and became de-facto the commander-in-chief’s right hand man.
In 1813 Radetzky was Schwarzenberg's chief-of-staff, and as such had considerable influence on the councils of the Allied sovereigns and generals. In 1813 he stated, in essence that Napoleon had repeatedly proven to the Allies that he could maneuver his forces and bring superior forces against them. Radetzky advocated that Napoleon's manner of conducting war should not be theirs. "Napoleon should seek battles and Allies should evade them." This strategy brought fruits.
Radetzky was a very active physically man. He had the attribute, not very common among Austrian generals, of being idolized by his troops, to whom he was affectionately known as Vater Radetzky (Father Radetzky). Johann Strauss (the elder) composed the famous 'Radetzky March' (ext.link) in his honor. His personality was inspiring and his courage was conspicuous; at Fleurus he had led a party of cavalry through the French lines to discover the fate of Charleroi. At Valeggio on the Mincio, with a few hussars, he rescued Beaulieu from the midst of the enemy.
Sources and Links.
Bowden, Tarbox - "Armies on the Danube 1809" 1981
Duffy - "The Army of Maria Theresa" 1977
Duffy - "Instrument of War" Vol 1
Hollins - "Marengo"
Hollins - "Austrian Grenadiers"
Maude - "The Ulm Campaign 1805"
Nafziger - "Napoleon at Leipzig"
Arnold - "Napoleon Conquers Austria"
Regele - "Feldmarshall Radetzky. Leben, Leistung, Erbe." 1957
Rothenberg - "Napoleon's Great Adversaries: The Archduke Charles."
Major Semek - "Die Artillerie im Jahre 1809" published in 1904
Österreichs Bundesheer (official website)
flags from warflag.com
Napoleon, His Army and Enemies