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"A bit harsh on the Austrians" Topic

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1,257 hits since 31 Dec 2018
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Last Hussar31 Dec 2018 8:12 a.m. PST

Trying out FoGN, subbing in Union and Confederates, opponent said

"No one ever said 'Oh no, its the Austrians'. Russians on the border, Prussians on the border, British on the border, but the French never worried about Austrians on their border."
Poor Austrians.

Aethelflaeda was framed31 Dec 2018 9:09 a.m. PST

Unless the border was in Italy.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP31 Dec 2018 9:23 a.m. PST

I think the Ottomans might have a different view!

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP31 Dec 2018 11:21 a.m. PST

I've read that one reason Napoleon "hurried" his "100 Days" campaign was to beat the British and Prussians before the Austrians and Russians got fully mobilized and committed against eastern France.


coopman31 Dec 2018 11:22 a.m. PST

Maybe so, but they kept bouncing back to fight Napoleon again and again.

Mike the Analyst31 Dec 2018 11:47 a.m. PST

With British subsidies

John Edmundson31 Dec 2018 1:14 p.m. PST

"It is evident you were not at Wagram." Napoleon

42flanker Supporting Member of TMP31 Dec 2018 2:53 p.m. PST

Subsidies may have been the fuel but the Austrians had charge of the motor.

bobspruster31 Dec 2018 4:24 p.m. PST

England shall resist Napoleon down to the last Austrian.

martinwilliams31 Dec 2018 5:20 p.m. PST

And in fogN the Austrians do just fine! Slow moving, limited skirmishing, poor commanders but a points system that gives you enough of them to be a chance in any fight. My favourite rules set and my favourite Napoleonic army.


Nine pound round31 Dec 2018 6:50 p.m. PST

Give them some credit: the only army that took the field more frequently than the Austrians was the French. And it certainly would do neither Napoleon or his troops any credit to suggest that they were poor soldiers. On the contrary- part of the reason why the story of the first Italian campaign is so compelling is the tenacity of the Austrians: they were a tough opponent, and a consistent one- which told against them at times, particularly as the wars ground on. I think their troop and leader quality are often underrated by various rules, as a means of tilting the board toward historical outcomes- which is fine, but does both the Austrians and Napoleon a kind of injustice, since it allows players to produce Napoleon's results without his genius.

As for generals – is there another reigning house (Bonaparte excepted) which produced a soldier as good as Archduke Charles in that era- even with the almost unbelievable handicap of epilepsy?

Last Hussar31 Dec 2018 7:10 p.m. PST

It was said during a game autopsy. I wouldn't treat it as his forensic take on history!

To answer the last sentence above – Wellington! But that STILL isn't the point. Its up there with all those 'French surrender' idiocies.

Nine pound round31 Dec 2018 7:56 p.m. PST

No- a reigning house- the son of the king, not just an aristocrat. In that crowd, Charles was the standout (although not, I think, as able a general as Wellington).

martinwilliams31 Dec 2018 11:42 p.m. PST

Perhaps not as able but I'm not sure Wellington ever faced the challenges Charles did either (eg the full French Army at the absolute height of its powers with no mountains to hide behind or boats to hop back on)


ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2019 12:29 a.m. PST

Yes, that is a bit harsh. Aethelflaeda mentioned Italy; fair to say the Directory was more than a little concerned about Austrians there in 1796, and again there as well as in Switzerland and Germany in 1799.

As for Archduke Charles: he may well have been the best Austria had to offer, and he may well have done good things later, but his performance in 1799 was lamentably bad.


Bloody Big BATTLES!

martinwilliams02 Jan 2019 12:41 a.m. PST

Lamentably bad in 1799? Didn't he win a series of battles that year against Jourdan? I thought the disaster came at second Zurich after he had left things under Korsakov's command (now there's a general who should have been shot!)


ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2019 12:47 a.m. PST

Yes, Charles beat Jourdan's much smaller army. Charles then wasted weeks and months failing to follow up his victories and exploit the Austrians' great preponderance of force; making a risible attempt to cross the Aare (some 30,000+ men thwarted by a couple of hundred Swiss jaegers – it reads like a badly designed wargame scenario); leaving Korsakov in the lurch and setting up the disaster at second Zurich; and alienating Suvorov to the point that the Russian army quit the campaign and the coalition collapsed.

I take all this from Clausewitz's history of the campaign; I believe Jomini is kinder to Charles.


Sparta03 Jan 2019 8:23 a.m. PST

Charles was a very cautious general – it is sad there is no good modern histories of the 96, 99 and 1800 campaigns in germany apart from Arnolds short piece on Hohenlinden.

martinwilliams03 Jan 2019 7:22 p.m. PST

In his defence he was ordered to leave Korsakov and they were hardly in the 'lurch' with a decent defensive position, comprable numbers to the French and help on the way from Suvarov. If Korsakov hadn't been so useless things could have panned out very differently.


freecloud04 Jan 2019 12:29 a.m. PST

So much this: "I think their troop and leader quality are often underrated by various rules, as a means of tilting the board toward historical outcomes…..a kind of injustice, since it allows players to produce Napoleon's results without his genius."

I don't think many gamers (and rules writers and historians for that matter) grasp the huge re-organisation of the Austrian army 1806-1809, turned it into a force capable of besting the French.

Also, Charles was the first general to beat Napoleon in a major battle, and he did it to the French army at the top of its game. After Aspern Essling, Napoleon was never the same, winning mainly pyrrhic victories and increasingly losing battles.

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2019 5:48 a.m. PST

I claim no expertise on Archduke Charles nor on most of his campaigns. I just happen to have read Clausewitz's history of the 1799 campaign recently, in which he is caustic about Charles's performance. Anything I say about Charles therefore needs to be discounted somewhat because (a) it is only that from that one source with an axe to grind against Jomini, and (b) I may have misremembered (eg that comically abortive river crossing may have been on the Limmat, not the Aare) and (c) it obviously does not deny Charles's later achievements or resulting claims to greatness.

All that said, my overwhelming impression from Clausewitz is that Charles was, as Sparta says above, very cautious – indeed often indecisive, dilatory, half-hearted; and that he dissipated the Austrians' substantial advantage in numbers, detaching too much of his force for various pointless tasks through excessive caution. This seems to me to have been true in 1799, at least, and to have been a major reason for the failure of the campaign and for the collapse of the coalition.

Perhaps we might simply say, just as Napoleon's later campaigns were not as stellar as his earlier ones (as freecloud notes above), Charles's early campaigns did not all measure up to his later ones.


Bloody Big BATTLES!

freecloud04 Jan 2019 6:41 a.m. PST

I recall reading somewhere that Austrian (Habsburg) strategy was to not lose badly, rather than win expensively an army in being always giving some leverage in keeping Habsburg bums on thrones.

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2019 9:09 a.m. PST

PS Martin, re Korsakov: Suvorov complains that the Archduke had been holding the Zurich position with 60,000 Austrians and then K was expected to hold the same position with 20,000 Russians. The actual numbers may have differed somewhat, but certainly K's force was significantly smaller than Charles's. Granted, Charles was ordered to leave the position. But if K's force was deemed sufficient to hold it, why didn't Charles do more to attack previously with his much stronger force? Which brings us back to his excessive caution.

(Same caveats apply as above, namely that I claim no great authority on this and don't necessarily know what I'm talking about!)


martinwilliams05 Jan 2019 11:13 p.m. PST

Korsakov only complained after the fact, repeatedly claiming that every Russian was worth several Austrians, right up to the moment he got his arse handed to him!


ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP06 Jan 2019 3:33 a.m. PST

I'm certainly not defending Korsakov. I'm saying Charles should have beaten Massena long before Korsakov arrived. Just as with Napoleon, we should not uncritically hail Charles as consistently great when he wasn't.


Inhaber Jerry06 Jan 2019 3:42 a.m. PST

See K. A Roider, Baron Thugut and Austria's response to the French Revolution; Michael Hochedlinger, Austria's Wars of Emergence, 1683-1797 and Paul W. Schroeder, The Collapse of the Second Coalition (Journal).

Academic historians have answered these questions, or at least provided a reasonable interpretation that explains problems between Russia, Austria and Britian before 1805.

Though expensive (if not part of Faculty) they are worth more than 100 of the quasi-history some publishing company's sell.

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