Austerlitz, 2 December, 1805: a timeline

Period : Directory / 1st Empire
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This timeline forms part of our close-up on: the battle of Austerlitz.

August 1805
9 August (21 Thermidor)
After negociations with British diplomats, Austria secretly signed its agreement to join the ‘Third Coalition’ with Britain and Russia (soon to be joined by the Kingdom of Naples and Sweden) against France and her coalition, comprising Spain, the Netherlands, the tiny principality of Piombino, Bavaria, Baden, Württemberg and Hesse-Darmstad.

26 August (8 Fructidor)
Napoleon set about striking the Boulogne camp and sending his 200,000 troops towards Austria. The day before he had signed an alliance with Bavaria. On 29 August, Napoleon gave the order for the troops to march: the Grande Armée was born! On the following day, Masséna replaced Jourdan at the head of the Armée d’Italie.

End of August
Napoleon mapped out his campaign plan (dictated to Daru on circa 28 August) and organised the army into 7 corps, or “torrents” as he called them: the 1st corps was commanded by Bernadotte, the 2nd by Marmont, the 3rd by Davout, the 4th by Soult, the 5th by Lannes, the 6th by Ney, and the 7th by Augereau.

September 1805
3 September (16 Fructidor)
Napoleon returned to Malmaison after having spent the whole of the month of August at the Boulogne camp. On the following day, he held a council of ministers at Saint-Cloud.

5 September (18 Fructidor)
Napoleon signed an alliance with Württemberg

9 September (22 Fructidor)
Napoleon re-introduced the Gregorian calendar starting from 1 January, 1806 – the Republican calendar was to be phased out on 31 December 1805

10 September (23 Fructidor)
The Austrians began hostilities by invading Bavaria

11 September (24 Fructidor)
The Kingdom of Naples joined the Anglo-Austro-Russian coalition

In September
The world of finance in France was hit by a serious crisis, brought about by the Merchants united scandal (the ‘scandale des Négociants réunis’)

23 September (1er Vendémiaire, An XIV)
Napoleon came to Paris for the day in order to organise who would wield power in his absence: the different responsibilities were shared out between Cambacérès, archchancellor, and Joseph Bonaparte, Grand Elector, but Napoleon nevertheless intended to run affairs from his headquarters.

24 September (2 Vendémiaire)
Napoleon left Saint-Cloud in the middle of the night to join the Grande Armée. Reaching La Ferté-sous-Jouarre on 24, he continued to  Bar-le-Duc and Nancy on 25, he reached Strasbourg on 26 September (4 Vendémiaire) towards the end of the afternoon. He remained there until 1 October (9 Vendémiaire).

27 September (5 Vendémiaire)
Haviong crossed the Rhine, all French troops were ready to attack. This position had been reached remarkably quickly by means of forced marches; for example, Murat‘s men covered 390 kilometres from 25 September to 1 October!

28 September (6 Vendémiaire)
The admiral Villeneuve received a dispatch from Napoleon, dated the 20th, ordering him to lead the combined (French and Spanish) fleet out of port and to head for Naples (where Gouvion Saint-Cyr was preparing to face off a force 30,000 Anglo-Russians) and to disrupt the British fleet on the way. Convinced that Villeneuve would not obey his orders, Napoleon had already set up Villenueve’s replacement in the shape of Admiral Rosily (appointed 17 September). However, on 2 October (10 Vendémiaire), Villeneuve was ready to set sail.

October 1805
1 October (9 Vendémiaire)
Napoleon left Strasbourg at 3pm and journeyed to Ettlingen. That evening he was to receive the Duc de Bade there.

2 October (10 Vendémiaire)
The emperor headed for Ludwigsburg and there moved into the Elector of Württemberg’s palace

5 October (13 Vendémiaire)
Napoleon signed a treaty of alliance with the Frederick, Elector of Württemberg: the presence of Ney’s troops at the gates of Stuttgart had forced Frederick to reconsider his desire to remain neutral in the conflict between Napoleon and the Third Coalition.

6 October (14 Vendémiaire)
Napoleon arrived in Nordlingen and reconnoitred Donauwerth where he hoped to have the rest of the Grande Armée cross the Danube, a manoeuvre planned for the following day

8 October (16 Vendémiaire)
Murat and Lannes won a fine victory at the Wertingen, taking more than 2,000 Austrian , including the commander, general Auffenberg.

9 October (17 Vendémiaire)
Victory for Ney and the 5th corps at Günzburg; more than 1,000 Austrian were taken prisoner. On the same day, Soult and the 4th corps entered Augsburg.

10 October (18 Vendémiaire)
Napoleon arrived in Augsburg, where he stayed until the 12th

13 October (21 Vendémiaire)
Bernadotte and the 1st corps entered Munich, whilst Soult reached Memmingen

13 October au soir (21 Vendémiaire)
General Mack (1752-1828) and his troops found themselves totally surrounded in Ulm, all lines of communication cut

14 October (22 Vendémiaire)
Napoleon, brilliantly supported by the corps of Ney and Lannes, was victorious at Elchingen, forcing Mack’s Austrian forces to retire to Ulm

14 October in the evening (22 Vendémiaire)
Despairing at Mack’s lack of action, Feldmareschal Schwarzenberg and the archduke Ferdinand left Ulm, escaping with 6,000 cavalrymen. They managed to join up with Russian forces before Austerlitz.

15 October (23 Vendémiaire)
Ney and Lannes took up positions on the Michelsberg heights, dominating Ulm

16 October (24 Vendémiaire)
Napoleon offers Mack the chance of capitulating

17 October (25 Vendémiaire)
Talleyrand showed to Napoleon his concept for a European equilibrium, which included a treaty of peace which was ‘gentle’ on Austria, in order to be better able to counter the threat from Prussia and Russia. This was however rejected out of hand by Napoleon.

18 October (26 Vendémiaire)
On the Italian front, Masséna entered Verona whilst Gouvion Saint-Cyr took the port of the pontifical town, Ancôna

19 October (27 Vendémiaire)
Mack capitulated. On the following day, surrendering Austrian troops (25 000 men with 60 cannon) filed before Napoleon.

21 October (29 Vendémiaire)
The combined fleet of France and Spain was beaten by the British fleet off Cape Trafalgar. Lord Nelson, commander in chief of the British fleet, died of his wounds during the battle.

November 1805
3 November (12 Brumaire)
The Potsdam Treaty of alliance between Russia and Prussia was signed, Prussia thereby entering the Third Coalition (albeit timidly). Lannes and Murat were victorious at Ebersberg

7 November (16 Brumaire)
Ney took Innsbruck

10-11 November (19-20 Brumaire)
Action at Dürrenstein. Kutusov‘s Russians driven back by Mortier

14 November (23 Brumaire)
Napoleon entered Vienna and established his headquarters at Schönbrunn

15 November (24 Brumaire)
Even though beaten by Murat at Hollabrunn, Bagration nevertheless managed to slow up the French forces sufficiently to allow Kutusov and his men to escape.

17 November (26 Brumaire)
Napoleon at Znaïm learned of the disaster at Trafalgar

19 November (28 Brumaire)
Landing of Russo-British forces in the Kingdom of Naples

20 November (29 Brumaire)
The emperor established his headquarters at Brünn. The following day he reconnoitred what was to be the battlefield of Austerlitz.

28 November (7 Frimaire)
Gouvion-Saint-Cyr defeated the Prince de Rohan and his troops at Castelfranco in the Veneto (on 26 December 1805, as a result of the Treaty of Presbourg, this region was to be annexed to the Kingdom of Italy).

29 November (8 Frimaire)
The allies establish their forces around Austerlitz

December 1805
1-2 December (10-11 Frimaire)
Crushing victory for Napoleon at Austerlitz

The allied troops led by Kienmayer attacked the troops of Colonel Schobert of the 3 de Ligne and the Tirailleurs du Po firmly lodged in the village of Telnitz. Even though much greater in numbers, the attackers could not dislodge the tenaciously resisting French.

Buxhöwden started moving his troops down from the Pratzen heights to support the attack Telnitz. Allied commander Langeron also left the heights to attack the nearby village of Sokolnitz.

Noticing as the morning mist cleared that the allies had significantly weakened the centre on the Pratzen heights in order to support the attacks upon Telnitz and Sokolnitz, Napoleon sent Soult to take the heights; he completed his mission in a mere half-an-hour.

In attempt to make up for the mistake of abandoning the Pratzen Heights, Kutuzov launched all his troops (including the imperial Russian guard) in an attempt to retake the plateau. At the same time, Bagration (to Kutusov’s right) performed an orderly retreat under pressure from Lannes and Murat. At the same time, the French imperial guard moved to bring support to Soult on the Pratzen Heights.

After violent cavalry engagements, Kutusov ordered a retreat towards Austerlitz, a movement which turned into general flight in the afternoon.

Circa 1pm
Caught between Soult and Davout, the Austro-Russian left wing was forced flee over the frozen marshes east of Telnitz

6 December (15 Frimaire)
Armistice signed between France and Austria

10 December (19 Frimaire)
The Elector of Bavaria took the title of king which had been had offered to him by Napoleon

11 December (20 Frimaire)
The Elector of Württemberg also became king. The Elector of Baden refused the title, preferring that of Grand Duke instead of Margrave

15 December (24 Frimaire)
Signing of the Franco-Prussian treaty of alliance
A decree signed at Schönbrunn created three educational institutions for the daughters of members of the Légion d’honneur

26 December (5 Nivôse)
Treaty of Presbourg betwen France and Austria

28 December (7 Nivôse)
Napoleon left Schönbrunn to return to France

30 December (9 Nivôse)
After a proposition from the Tribunat, Napoleon accepted the title « Napoleon the Great » (Napoléon le Grand)

31 December (10 Nivôse)
Napoleon arrived in Munich. The Republican calendar disappears.

Peter Hicks

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