The Battle of Three Emperors – Austerlitz

Austerlitz would forever be known as one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s tactical masterpiece. The battle is sometimes called the battle of three emperors because of the presence of Napoleon, Francis I of Austria, and Alexander I of Russia on the field. The battle took place near the village of Austerlitz (now Slavkov in the Czech Republic) on the 2nd of December 1805 between a French army of 68,000 and Austro-Russian army of nearly 90,000.

Napoleon after capturing the capital of Austria, Vienna, was fearful that the Austrian and Russian army (which was still intact) would join forces with the Prussians. This move would severely tip the scales against the French emperor. Therefore Napoleon decided to engage the combine Austro-Russian army before it was too late.

Days before the first shot was fired, Napoleon sought to give the Allies the impression that his army was in a weak state and that he wanted to negotiate peace. In reality, Napoleon was as eager as ever to fight and was hoping the Austro-Russian force would attack thus spoiling their strategic position. In line with this, Napoleon intentionally weakened his right flank.

Napoleon’s plan was for the Austro-Russian force to take the bait and attack his right flank with overwhelming force that would weaken their center position. Should Napoleon’s plan work, a counter stroke to the Austro-Russian force would break their formations and cause a rout.

Napoleon could have wept for joy when the Austro-Russian force attacked his right flank as he thought they would. Around 8:45 AM, Napoleon launch his attack on the Austro-Russian center and was famous for saying, “one sharp blow and the war is over.” Indeed this proved true and the battle was over in favour of the French. French casualties stood at 9,000 men while the Austro-Russian force lost 25,000 men.

As the Russian army retreated over the frozen ponds in the south, Napoleon ordered his the French artillery to fire at the ice. The Russians drowned in the icy ponds with dozens of their artillery pieces for company. This is commonly known as Napoleon’s cruelest act of war.

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