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"1805 - Napoleonic Strategy Question" Topic

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Whirlwind25 Mar 2020 10:15 a.m. PST

What strategy do you think Mack should have pursued in 1805?
And what do you think is the final date that Mack could have successfully evaded Napoleon's movements?

Attalus I25 Mar 2020 10:35 a.m. PST

I believe the Aulic council originally advised Mack to slowly withdraw from the frontier until he joined with the Russians, while maintaining contact with AD John's army in the Tyrol. This sounds better than what Mack did historically.

von Winterfeldt25 Mar 2020 10:51 a.m. PST

He had several chances, the left bank of the Danube was almost not guarded, only Ney was there and he thwarted thrusts in that direction and of course the excellent Dupont at Hasslach Wertingen.

Best strategy against Boney, withdrawing and wait till the usual supply situation and weather wittles down his forces, concentrate with the Russians, don't accept Austerlitz follow the advise of Kutusov, concentrate all units, wait for Prussia to enter the war and then roll back.

HappyHussar Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2020 1:47 p.m. PST

Yes, advance guard near Ulm with cavalry patrols sent out to the west and northwest to keep an eye out for the French army. Keep the main army further back north of Augsburg. Fall back on Munich and the Russians and defend along the wonderful river barrier that Napoleon would have to traverse.

Robert le Diable25 Mar 2020 2:10 p.m. PST

@von W., while agreeing that the concentration of force mentioned would indeed be good in principle, I wonder about the waiting for Prussia (definitely) to enter a war against N. That is, even accepting that all the Monarchies had good reason to fear the new French Empire, was there in 1805 any specific indication that Prussia would move against it? I ask not in disagreement, simply in order to learn more of policy.

von Winterfeldt25 Mar 2020 2:42 p.m. PST

I was under the impression that all this was under the way, for that reason Boney was luring the Allies into the trap at Austerlitz, or better luring them into a premature battle, I must read on this on my all time favourite Béraud.

Robert le Diable25 Mar 2020 7:18 p.m. PST

I take it that, "all this was under way" means there was already a plan agreed that not just Austria and Russia, but these two powers and also Prussia, would all declare war on France (as in previous Coalitions)? I had thought that Prussia only declared war in 1806, perhaps having hoped that France would have been defeated – at no cost to Prussia – by the armies of Austria and Russia. However, more recent research may have found proof of such a "triple alliance" (with British £££).

Of course, "Prussia", "Austria" and so on are just conventional terms; as a German writer remarked, forests in Germany don't have any argument with mountains in France.

von Winterfeldt25 Mar 2020 11:54 p.m. PST

I checked Béraud on the quick, there was a secret treaty between Prussia and Russian already in early November 1805.

In case the Allied Army would have retreated to the east, they could have joined the 80,000 of Archeduke Charles and Johann, then place an ultimatum, in case re jected, Prussia invades Bavaria and advances to the Danube to cut the line of communications.

Robert le Diable26 Mar 2020 9:36 a.m. PST

Thanks for responding, von W; I'm guessing that this is all part of the discussions around the Treaty of Potsdam, which I had naively taken at "face value" (that is, Prussia as what is sometimes called an "honest broker" in negotiations between France and Russia). It makes good sense – from the position of the Ancien Regime – to try to delay Napoleon with negotiation in order to mobilise more fully. I wouldn't be surprised if Tallyrand were already betraying Napoleon (just an aside, not too serious).

By November, Dupont and then Ney had already checked Mack, so Prussia would indeed by that time have been committed to moving against the French lines of communication &c. (Hence the necessity of securing a quick victory, as also noted above).

von Winterfeldt26 Mar 2020 10:20 a.m. PST

the treaty as by such was effective – I would have to check in detail in early November.

When Napoleon had concentrated his crops "around" Vienna and when they then advanced into the Austerlitz area, the Allies don't accept battle retreat to the east, Boney has to follow and then the Prussians attack Bavaria, not good for Boney.

Robert le Diable26 Mar 2020 2:07 p.m. PST

The broad outline would be commendably simple, if it could have been done. Interesting that successful counters to Napoleon so often involved retreating.

Stoppage27 Mar 2020 4:44 a.m. PST

successful counters to Napoleon so often involved retreating

Perhaps only realistic option to allied mouse versus "pouncing cats" battalion carre operations system.

Robert le Diable28 Mar 2020 12:26 p.m. PST

Not arguing, Stoppage, just adding that this arrangement (for want of a better word) isn't as evident in the 1805 Campaign as it certainly is in the beginning of the 1806. Additionally – in the context of methods of countering N – it would surely have taken some time for the Battalion Carree system to be analysed.
Bearing in mind the line, "you can't run for ever", the aggressive strategy of marching on a capital and forcing a major engagement in its defence does, to some extent, allow an invader to predict an enemy's response much like a Chess player knowing that an attack on the King will, to some extent, force an opponent's hand. Just thinking. Good Luck.

von Winterfeldt28 Mar 2020 1:58 p.m. PST

true but then when an enemy reacts differently, your strategy crumbles to dust, see Russia 1812 – or British Army which could always escape by the sea.

Robert le Diable28 Mar 2020 6:19 p.m. PST

Yes, the 1812 case of Russia "changing the rules" is the inescapable example when considering the strategy of threatening a capital (didn't want to introduce a digression away from the 1805 question). Just to mention that the thought about "retreating before N" also suggests the Trachenberg Plan, of some years later admittedly. Interesting discussion.

SHaT198429 Mar 2020 1:13 p.m. PST

>>Not arguing, Stoppage, just adding that this arrangement (for want of a better word) isn't as evident in the 1805 Campaign as it certainly is in the beginning of the 1806.

No 'strategy' existed at all. The allies were corrupt politicians and autocrats who traded each other off in secret all the time.

The only 'successes' of the [early] allied coalitions were taken by commanders of the field armies, the saving of mens lives by avoiding those horrid French tactics and/ or envelopments such as Ulm.

The allies leadership (sic) allowed their abhorrence of Napoleon the usurper (doing what they secretly always dreamed of but could never countenance) to colour their actions and secret manifestos- as much against their own (ie Germanic sub-groups) as against the French nation itself.


Robert le Diable29 Mar 2020 4:07 p.m. PST

In trying to be brief I became obscure, which I've just realised. The "arrangement" I meant was the "battalion carree" pattern adopted in the French Army, hence my ref to the 1806/"Jena-Auerstadt" campaign. No disagreement here about the nature of the Aristos and other ruling elites. It's a side-track, but an interesting one, to notice how the concept of Nationalism was used, encouraged and suppressed at different times during this period. I think Canning or Sheridan on the situation in Spain, in speeches in Westminster, particularly revealing. But, a different issue.

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