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Battle of Austerlitz
Part of the War of the Third Coalition

Battle of Austerlitz, 2 December 1805, romanticized painting by French artist François Gérard, c. 1810
Date2 December 1805
Location49°07′41″N 16°45′45″E / 49.12806°N 16.76250°E / 49.12806; 16.76250
Result French victory
Dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and creation of the Confederation of the Rhine

 French Empire

Commanders and leaders
Units involved
65,000–75,000[a] 73,000–89,000[b]
Casualties and losses
  • Total: 8,852
  • 1,288 killed[6]
  • 6,991 wounded[6]
  • 573 captured[7]
  • Total: 27,000–36,000
  • 15,000–16,000 killed or wounded[7][8]
  • 12,000–20,000 captured[7][8]
Battle of Austerlitz is located in Europe
Battle of Austerlitz
Location within Europe
About OpenStreetMaps
Maps: terms of use
Battle of Wischau on 25 November 1805
Battle of Schöngrabern on 16 November 1805
Battle of Dürenstein on 11 November 1805
Battle of Mariazell on 8 November 1805
Battle of Amstetten on 5 November 1805
Battle of Lambach on 31 October 1805
Battle of Ulm from 15 to 20 October 1805
Battle of Elchingen on 14 October 1805
Battle of Memmingen on 14 October 1805
Battle of Haslach-Jungingen on 11 October 1805
Battle of Günzburg on 9 October 1805
Battle of Wertingen on 8 October 1805
Donauwörth on 7 October 1805
  current battle
  Napoleon in command
  Napoleon not in command

The Battle of Austerlitz (2 December 1805/11 Frimaire An XIV FRC), also known as the Battle of the Three Emperors, was one of the most important military engagements of the Napoleonic Wars.[9] The battle occurred near the town of Austerlitz in the Austrian Empire (now Slavkov u Brna in the Czech Republic). Around 158,000 troops were involved, of which around 24,000 were killed or wounded.[10] The battle is often cited by military historians as one of Napoleon's tactical masterpieces, in the same league as other historic engagements like Cannae or Gaugamela.[9][11][12] The military victory of Napoleon's Grande Armée at Austerlitz brought the War of the Third Coalition to an end, with the Peace of Pressburg signed by the French and Austrians later in the month.[13] These achievements did not establish a lasting peace on the continent. Austerlitz had driven neither Russia nor Britain, whose armies protected Sicily from a French invasion, to settle. Prussian resistance to the growing power of French military invasions in Central Europe led to the War of the Fourth Coalition in 1806.

After eliminating an Austrian army during the Ulm campaign, French forces seized Vienna in November 1805.[14] The Austrians avoided further conflict until the arrival of the Russians, who helped increase the allied numbers. Napoleon sent his army north in pursuit of the Allies but then ordered his forces to retreat so he could feign a grave weakness to lure the Allies into thinking that they were facing a weak army, while it was in fact formidable. Napoleon gave every indication in the days preceding the engagement that the French army was in a pitiful state, even abandoning the dominant Pratzen Heights near Austerlitz. He deployed the French army below the Pratzen Heights and weakened his right flank, enticing the Allies to launch an assault there to roll up the French line. A forced march from Vienna by Marshal Davout and his III Corps plugged the gap left by Napoleon just in time. The Allied deployment against the French right weakened the Allied centre on the Pratzen Heights, which was attacked by the IV Corps of Marshal Soult. With the Allied center demolished, the French swept through both flanks and routed the Allies, which enabled the French to capture thousands of prisoners.

The Allied disaster significantly shook the faith of Emperor Francis in the British-led war effort. France and Austria agreed to an armistice immediately, and the Treaty of Pressburg followed shortly after, on 26 December. Pressburg took Austria out of both the war and the Coalition while reinforcing the earlier treaties of Campo Formio and of Lunéville between the two powers. The treaty confirmed the Austrian loss of lands in Italy and Bavaria to France, and in Germany to Napoleon's German allies. It also imposed an indemnity of 40 million francs on the Habsburgs and allowed the fleeing Russian troops free passage through hostile territories and back to their home soil. Critically, victory at Austerlitz permitted the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine, a collection of German states intended as a buffer zone between France and the eastern powers, Austria, Prussia and Russia. The Confederation rendered the Holy Roman Empire virtually useless, so Francis dissolved the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, but remained as emperor of Austria. These achievements failed to establish a lasting peace on the continent. Prussian worries about the growing French influence in Central Europe led to the War of the Fourth Coalition in 1806.


Europe had been in turmoil since the start of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1792.[15] In 1797, after five years of war, the French Republic subdued the First Coalition, an alliance of Austria, Prussia, Great Britain, Spain, and various Italian states.[16] A Second Coalition, led by Britain, Austria and Russia, and including the Ottoman Empire, Portugal and the Kingdom of Naples,[17] was formed in 1798, but by 1801, this too had been defeated, leaving Britain the only opponent of the new French Consulate.[18] In March 1802, France and Britain agreed to end hostilities under the Treaty of Amiens.[19]

However, many problems persisted between the two sides, making implementation of the treaty increasingly difficult.[20] The British government resented having to return the Cape Colony and most of the Dutch West Indian islands to the Batavian Republic.[21][22] Napoleon was angry that British troops had not evacuated the island of Malta.[23] The tense situation only worsened when Napoleon sent an expeditionary force to crush the Haitian Revolution.[24][25] In May 1803, Britain declared war on France.[26]

Third Coalition

In December 1804, an Anglo-Swedish agreement led to the creation of the Third Coalition.[27] British Prime Minister William Pitt (the Younger) spent 1804 and 1805 in a flurry of diplomatic activity geared towards forming a new coalition against France, and by April 1805, Britain and Russia had signed an alliance.[28][c] Having been defeated twice in recent memory by France and being keen on revenge, Austria joined the Coalition a few months later.[28]


See also: Order of Battle at the Austerlitz campaign

French Imperial army

Before the formation of the Third Coalition, Napoleon had assembled an invasion force called the Armée d'Angleterre (Army of England) around six camps at Boulogne in Northern France. He intended to use this force, amounting to 150,000 men,[30] to strike at England and was so confident of success that he had commemorative medals struck to celebrate the conquest of the English.[31] Although they never invaded, Napoleon's troops received careful and invaluable training for any possible military operation. Boredom among the troops occasionally set in,[32] but Napoleon paid many visits and conducted lavish parades to boost morale.[33]

The men at Boulogne formed the core for what Napoleon would later call La Grande Armée.[34] The army was organized into seven corps, which were large field units that contained 36 to 40 cannons each and were capable of independent action until other corps could come to their aid.[35] A single corps (adequately situated in a solid defensive position) could survive at least a day without support.[36] In addition to these forces, Napoleon created a cavalry reserve of 22,000 organized into two cuirassier divisions, four mounted dragoon divisions, one division of dismounted dragoons and one of light cavalry, all supported by 24 artillery pieces.[35] By 1805, the Grande Armée had grown to a force of 350,000 men,[37] who were well equipped, well trained, and led by competent officers.[38]

Russian Imperial army

The Russian army in 1805 had many characteristics of Ancien Régime organization.[39] There was no permanent formation above the regimental level,[40] and senior officers mostly belonged to aristocratic circles.[41] The Russian infantry was considered one of the hardiest in Europe, with fine artillery crewed by experienced professional soldiers.[42]

Austrian Imperial army

Archduke Charles, brother of the Austrian Emperor, had started to reform the Austrian army in 1801 by taking away power from the Hofkriegsrat, the military-political council responsible for the armed forces.[43] Charles was Austria's most able field commander,[44] but he was unpopular at court and lost much influence when, against his advice, Austria decided to go to war with France. Karl Mack became the new main commander in Austria's army, instituting reforms on the eve of the war that called for a regiment to be composed of four battalions of four companies, rather than three battalions of six companies.[45]

Preliminary moves

Colored painting showing Napoleon receiving the surrender of General Mack, with the city of Ulm in the background.
Napoleon accepts the surrender of General Mack and the Austrian army at Ulm. Painting by Charles Thévenin

In August 1805, Napoleon, Emperor of the French since December of the previous year,[46] turned his sights from the English Channel to the Rhine to deal with the new Austrian and Russian threats.[47] On 25 September after a feverish march in great secrecy,[48] 200,000 French troops began to cross the Rhine[49] on a front of 260 km (160 mi).[50][51] Mack had gathered the greater part of the Austrian army at the fortress of Ulm in Swabia.[52]

Napoleon swung his forces southward in a wheeling movement that put the French at the Austrian rear while launching cavalry attacks through the Black Forest, which kept the Austrians at bay.[53] The Ulm Maneuver was well-executed, and on 20 October, 23,000 Austrian troops surrendered at Ulm, bringing the number of Austrian prisoners of the campaign to 60,000.[51] Although this spectacular victory was soured by the defeat of the Franco-Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar[54] the following day, French success on land continued as Vienna fell in November. The French gained 100,000 muskets, 500 cannons, and intact bridges across the Danube.[55]

Russian delays prevented them from saving the Austrian armies; the Russians withdrew to the northeast to await reinforcements and link up with surviving Austrian units.[56] Tsar Alexander I appointed general Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov commander-in-chief of the combined Russo-Austrian force.[57] On 9 September 1805, Kutuzov arrived at the battlefield, quickly contacting Francis I of Austria and his courtiers to discuss strategy and logistics. Under pressure from Kutuzov, the Austrians agreed to supply munitions and weapons promptly. Kutuzov also spotted shortcomings in the Austrian defense plan, which he called "very dogmatic". He objected to the Austrian annexation of the land recently under Napoleon's control because this would make the local people distrust the allied force.[58]

The French followed after Kutuzov but soon found themselves in a difficult position. Prussian intentions were unknown and could be hostile; the Russian and Austrian armies had converged, and French lines of communication were extremely long, requiring strong garrisons to keep them open. Napoleon realized that to capitalize on the success at Ulm, he had to force the Allies to battle and then defeat them.[59]

On the Russian side, Kutuzov also realized Napoleon needed to do battle, so instead of clinging to the "suicidal" Austrian defense plan, Kutuzov decided to retreat. He ordered Pyotr Bagration to contain the French at Vienna with 600 soldiers. He instructed Bagration to accept Murat's ceasefire proposal so the Allied Army could have more time to retreat. It was later discovered that the proposal was false and had been used to launch a surprise attack on Vienna. Nonetheless, Bagration held off the French assault for a time by negotiating an armistice with Murat, thereby providing Kutuzov time to position himself with the Russian rearguard near Hollabrunn.

Murat initially refrained from an attack, believing the entire Russian army stood before him. Napoleon soon realized Murat's mistakes and ordered him to pursue quickly, but the allied army had already retreated to Olmütz.[58] According to Kutuzov's plan, the Allies would retreat further to the Carpathian region[60] and "at Galicia, I will bury the French."[58]

Napoleon did not stay still. The French Emperor decided to set a psychological trap to lure the Allies out. Days before any fighting, Napoleon had been giving the impression that his army was weak and desired a negotiated peace.[61] About 53,000 French troops—including Soult, Lannes, and Murat's forces—were assigned to take Austerlitz and the Olmütz road, occupying the enemy's attention. The Allied forces, numbering about 89,000, seemed far superior and would be tempted to attack the outnumbered French army. However, the Allies did not know that Bernadotte, Mortier and Davout were already within supporting distance and could be called in by forced marches -- Bernadotte from Iglau, and Mortier and Davout from Vienna -- which would raise the French number to 75,000 troops.[62]

Napoleon's lure did not stop at that. On 25 November, General Savary was sent to the Allied headquarters at Olmütz to deliver Napoleon's message, expressing his desire to avoid a battle while secretly examining the Allied forces' situation. As expected, the overture was seen as a sign of weakness. When Francis I offered an armistice on the 27th, Napoleon accepted enthusiastically. On the same day, Napoleon ordered Soult to abandon both Austerlitz and the Pratzen Heights and, while doing so, to create an impression of chaos during the retreat that would induce the enemy to occupy the Heights.

The next day (28 November), the French Emperor requested a personal interview with Alexander I. He received a visit from the Tsar's most impetuous aide, Prince Peter Dolgorukov. The meeting was another part of the trap, as Napoleon intentionally expressed anxiety and hesitation to his opponents. Dolgorukov reported an additional indication of French weakness to the Tsar.[63]

The plan was successful. Many Allied officers, including the Tsar's aides and the Austrian Chief of Staff Franz von Weyrother, strongly supported an immediate attack and appeared to sway Tsar Alexander.[64] Kutuzov's plan to retreat further to the Carpathian region was rejected, and the Allied forces soon fell into Napoleon's trap.


Colored painting showing French troops lighting torches for Napoleon.
Napoleon with his troops on the eve of battle. Painting by Louis-François, Baron Lejeune

The battle began with the French army outnumbered. Napoleon had some 72,000 men and 157 guns for the impending battle, with about 7,000 troops under Davout still far to the south in the direction of Vienna.[65][66] The Allies had about 85,000 soldiers, seventy percent of them Russian, and 318 guns.[65]

At first, Napoleon was not confident of victory. In a letter written to Minister of Foreign Affairs Talleyrand, Napoleon requested Talleyrand not tell anyone about the upcoming battle because he did not want to disturb Empress Joséphine. According to Frederick C. Schneid, the French Emperor's chief worry was how he could explain to Joséphine a French defeat.[67]


The battle took place about six miles (ten kilometres) southeast of the city of Brno, between that city and Austerlitz (Czech: Slavkov u Brna) in what is now the Czech Republic. The northern part of the battlefield was dominated by the 700-foot (210-metre) Santon Hill and the 880-foot (270-meter) Žuráň Hill, both overlooking the vital Olomouc/Brno road, which was on an east–west axis. To the west of these two hills was the village of Bellowitz (Bedřichovice), and between them, the Bosenitz (Roketnice) stream went south to link up with the Goldbach (Říčka) stream, the latter flowing by the villages of Kobelnitz (Kobylnice), Sokolnitz (Sokolnice), and Telnitz (Telnice).

The centrepiece of the entire area was the Pratzen (Prace) Heights, a gently sloping hill about 35 to 40 feet (10 to 12 metres) in height. An aide noted that Napoleon repeatedly told his marshals, "Gentlemen, examine this ground carefully, it is going to be a battlefield; you will have a part to play upon it."[68]

Allied plans and dispositions

Map showing French troops concentrated to the west of the battlefield and the Allies to the east.
Allied (red) and French (blue) deployments at 1800 hours on 1 December 1805

The Allied council met on 1 December to discuss proposals for the battle. Most Allied strategists had two fundamental ideas: contacting the enemy and securing the southern flank that held the communication line to Vienna. Although the Tsar and his immediate entourage pushed hard for a battle, Emperor Francis of Austria was more cautious, and, as mentioned, he was seconded by Kutuzov, the Commander-in-chief of the Russians and the Allied troops.[2] The pressure to fight from the Russian nobles and the Austrian commanders, however, was too strong, and the Allies adopted the plan of the Austrian Chief-of-Staff, Franz von Weyrother.[2] This called for a main drive against the French right flank, which the Allies noticed was lightly guarded, and diversionary attacks against the French left. The Allies deployed most of their troops into four columns that would attack the French right. The Russian Imperial Guard was held in reserve while Russian troops under Bagration guarded the Allied right. The Russian Tsar stripped Kutuzov of his authority as Commander-in-Chief and gave it to Franz von Weyrother. In the battle, Kutuzov could only command the IV Corps of the Allied army, although he was still the nominal commander because the Tsar was afraid to take over if his favoured plan failed.[58]

French plans and dispositions

French cuirassiers taking position

Napoleon hoped that the Allied forces would attack, and to encourage them, he deliberately weakened his right flank.[69] On 28 November, Napoleon met with his marshals at Imperial Headquarters, who informed him of their qualms about the forthcoming battle. He shrugged off their suggestion of retreat.[70]

Napoleon's plan envisaged that the Allies would throw many troops to envelop his right flank to cut the French communication line from Vienna.[58] As a result, the Allies' center and left flank would be exposed and become vulnerable.[71] To encourage them to do so, Napoleon abandoned the strategic position on the Pratzen Heights, faking the weakness of his forces and his caution.[70] Meanwhile, Napoleon's main force was to be concealed in a dead ground opposite the Heights.[72] According to the plan, the French troops would attack and recapture the Pratzen Heights, then from the Heights, they would launch a decisive assault to the center of the Allied army, cripple them, and encircle them from the rear.[58][71]

If the Russian force leaves the Pratzen Heights in order to go to the right side, they will certainly be defeated.

— Napoleon

The massive thrust through the Allied centre was conducted by 16,000 troops of Soult's IV Corps. IV Corps' position was cloaked by dense mist during the early stage of the battle; in fact, how long the mist lasted was vital to Napoleon's plan: Soult's troops would become uncovered if the mist dissipated too soon, but if it lingered too long, Napoleon would be unable to determine when the Allied troops had evacuated Pratzen Heights, preventing him from timing his attack properly.[73]

Meanwhile, to support his weak right flank, Napoleon ordered Davout's III Corps to force march from Vienna and join General Legrand's men, who held the extreme southern flank that would bear the heaviest part of the Allied attack. Davout's soldiers had 48 hours to march 110 km (68 mi). Their arrival was crucial in determining the success of the French plan. Indeed, the arrangement of Napoleon on the right flank was precarious as the French had only minimal troops garrisoning there. However, Napoleon was able to use such a risky plan because Davout—the commander of III Corps—was one of Napoleon's best marshals, because the right flank's position was protected by a complicated system of streams and lakes,[58] and because the French had already settled upon a secondary line of retreat through Brunn.[74] The Imperial Guard and Bernadotte's I Corps were held in reserve while the V Corps under Lannes guarded the northern sector of the battlefield, where the new communication line was located.[58]

By 1 December 1805, the French troops had been shifted in accordance with the Allied movement southward, as Napoleon expected.[71]

Battle begins

The battle began at about 8 a.m., with the first allied lines attacking the village of Telnitz, which the 3rd Line Regiment defended. This battlefield sector witnessed heavy fighting in this early action as several ferocious Allied charges evicted the French from the town and forced them onto the other side of the Goldbach. The first men of Davout's corps arrived at this time and threw the Allies out of Telnitz before they, too, were attacked by hussars and re-abandoned the town. Additional Allied attacks out of Telnitz were checked by French artillery.[75]

Capture of a French regiment's eagle by the cavalry of the Russian guard, by Bogdan Willewalde (1884)

Allied columns started pouring against the French right, but not at the desired speed, so the French successfully curbed the attacks. The Allied deployments were mistaken and poorly timed: cavalry detachments under Liechtenstein on the Allied left flank had to be placed in the right flank, and in the process, they ran into, and slowed down, part of the second column of infantry that was advancing towards the French right.[70] At the time, the planners thought this slowing was disastrous, but later on, it helped the Allies. Meanwhile, the leading elements of the second column were attacking the village of Sokolnitz, which was defended by the 26th Light Regiment and the Tirailleurs, French skirmishers. Initial Allied assaults proved unsuccessful, and General Langeron ordered the bombardment of the village. This deadly barrage forced the French out, and at about the same time, the third column attacked the castle of Sokolnitz. The French, however, counterattacked and regained the village, only to be thrown out again. Conflict in this area ended temporarily when Friant's division (part of III Corps) retook the village. Sokolnitz was perhaps the most contested area on the battlefield and would change hands several times as the day progressed.[76]

While the Allied troops attacked the French right flank, Kutuzov's IV Corps stopped at the Pratzen Heights and stayed still. Just like Napoleon, Kutuzov realized the importance of Pratzen and decided to protect the position. But the young Tsar did not, so he ordered the IV Corps to withdraw from the Heights. This act quickly pushed the Allied army into its grave.[58]

"One sharp blow and the war is over"

Map with blue lines showing the French advance against the Allied center, symbolized with red lines.
The decisive attacks on the Allied center by St. Hilaire and Vandamme split the Allied army in two and left the French in a golden tactical position to win the battle.

At about 8:45 a.m., satisfied at the weakness in the enemy center, Napoleon asked Soult how long it would take for his men to reach the Pratzen Heights, to which the Marshal replied, "Less than twenty minutes, sire." About 15 minutes later, Napoleon ordered the attack, adding, "One sharp blow and the war is over."[77]

A dense fog helped to cloud the advance of St. Hilaire's French division, but as they ascended the slope, the legendary 'Sun of Austerlitz' ripped the mist apart and encouraged them forward.[76] Russian soldiers and commanders on top of the heights were stunned to see so many French troops coming towards them.[78] Allied commanders moved some of the delayed detachments of the fourth column into this bitter struggle. Over an hour of fighting destroyed much of this unit. The other men from the second column, primarily inexperienced Austrians, also participated in the struggle and swung the numbers against one of the best fighting forces in the French army, eventually forcing them to withdraw down the slopes. However, gripped by desperation, St. Hilaire's men struck hard again and bayoneted the Allies out of the heights. To the north, General Vandamme's division attacked an area called Staré Vinohrady ("Old Vineyards") and, through talented skirmishing and deadly volleys, broke several Allied battalions.[79]

The battle had firmly turned in France's favor, but it was far from over. Napoleon ordered Bernadotte's I Corps to support Vandamme's left and moved his command center from Žuráň Hill to St. Anthony's Chapel on the Pratzen Heights. The problematic position of the Allies was confirmed by the decision to send in the Russian Imperial Guard; Grand Duke Constantine, Tsar Alexander's brother, commanded the Guard and counterattacked in Vandamme's section of the field, forcing a bloody effort and the only loss of a French standard in the battle (a battalion of the 4th Line Regiment was defeated). Sensing trouble, Napoleon ordered his own heavy Guard cavalry forward. These men pulverized their Russian counterparts, but with both sides pouring in large masses of cavalry, no victory was clear.

The Russians had a numerical advantage, but soon the tide swung as Drouet's Division, the 2nd of Bernadotte's I Corps, deployed on the flank of the action and allowed French cavalry to seek refuge behind their lines. The horse artillery of the Guard also inflicted heavy casualties on the Russian cavalry and fusiliers. The Russians broke, and many died as they were pursued by the reinvigorated French cavalry for about a quarter of a mile.[80] Kutuzov was severely wounded, and his son-in-law, Ferdinand von Tiesenhausen, was killed.[58]


I was ... under fierce and continuous canister fire ... Many soldiers, now incessantly engaged in battle from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., had no cartridges left. I could do nothing but retreat ...

— Lieutenant General Przhebishevsky[81]
Map showing the French advance in blue lines and the defeated Allied armies in red lines, moving away (to the east) from the battlefield.
By 1400 hours, the Allied army had been dangerously separated. Napoleon now had the option to strike at one of the wings, and he chose the Allied left since other enemy sectors had already been cleared or were conducting fighting retreats.[citation needed]

Meanwhile, the northernmost part of the battlefield also witnessed heavy fighting. The Prince of Liechtenstein's heavy cavalry began to assault Kellerman's lighter cavalry forces after eventually arriving at the correct position in the field. The fighting initially went well for the French, but Kellerman's forces took cover behind General Caffarelli's infantry division once it became clear that Russian numbers were too great. Caffarelli's men halted the Russian assaults and permitted Murat to send two cuirassier divisions (one commanded by d'Hautpoul and the other one by Nansouty) into the fray to finish off the Russian cavalry for good. The ensuing mêlée was bitter and long, but the French ultimately prevailed. Lannes then led his V Corps against Bagration's men and, after hard fighting, drove the skilled Russian commander off the field. He wanted to pursue, but Murat, who was in control of this sector on the battlefield, was against the idea.[82]

Napoleon's focus shifted towards the southern end of the battlefield, where the French and the Allies were still fighting over Sokolnitz and Telnitz. In an effective double-pronged assault, St. Hilaire's division and part of Davout's III Corps smashed through the enemy at Sokolnitz, which persuaded the commanders of the first two columns, Generals Kienmayer and Langeron, to flee as fast as they could. Buxhowden, the commander of the Allied left and the man responsible for leading the attack, was completely drunk and fled as well. Kienmayer covered his withdrawal with the O'Reilly light cavalry, who managed to defeat five of six French cavalry regiments before they had to retreat.[82]

General panic seized the Allied army, and it abandoned the field in all possible directions. A famous, albeit disputed, episode occurred during this retreat: Russian forces that the French had defeated withdrew south towards Vienna via the frozen Satschan ponds. French artillery pounded towards the men, and the ice was broken due to the bombardment. The men drowned in the cold ponds, dozens of Russian artillery pieces going down with them. Estimates of how many guns were captured differ: there may have been as few as 38 or more than 100. Sources also differ about casualties, with figures ranging between 200 and 2,000 dead.[83][obsolete source] Many drowning Russians were saved by their victorious foes.[7] However, local evidence later made public suggests that Napoleon's account of the catastrophe may have been exaggerated; on his instructions, the lakes were drained a few days after the battle and the corpses of only two or three men, with some 150 horses, were found. On the other hand, Tsar Alexander I attested to the incident after the wars.[84][obsolete source]

Military and political results

Allied casualties stood at about 36,000 out of an army of 89,000, representing about 38% of their effective forces. The French were not unscathed in the battle, losing around 9,000 out of an army of 66,000, or about 13% of their forces. The Allies also lost some 180 guns and about 50 standards. The victory was met by sheer amazement and delirium in Paris, where the nation had been teetering on the brink of financial collapse just days earlier. Napoleon wrote to Josephine, "I have beaten the Austro-Russian army commanded by the two emperors. I am a little weary. ... I embrace you."[85] Napoleon's comments in this letter led to the battle's other famous designation, "Battle of the Three Emperors". However, Napoleon was mistaken as Emperor Francis of Austria was not present on the battlefield. Tsar Alexander perhaps best summed up the harsh times for the Allies by stating, "We are babies in the hands of a giant."[86] After hearing the news of Austerlitz, British Prime Minister William Pitt said of a map of Europe, "Roll up that map; it will not be wanted these ten years."[87]

France and Austria signed a truce on 4 December, and the Treaty of Pressburg 22 days later took the latter out of the war. Austria agreed to recognize French territory captured by the treaties of Campo Formio (1797) and Lunéville (1801), cede land to Bavaria, Württemberg and Baden, which were Napoleon's German allies, pay 40 million francs in war indemnities and cede Venice to the Kingdom of Italy. It was a harsh end for Austria but certainly not a catastrophic peace. The Russian army was allowed to withdraw to home territory, and the French ensconced themselves in Southern Germany. The Holy Roman Empire was extinguished, 1806 being seen as its final year. Napoleon created the Confederation of the Rhine, a string of German states meant to serve as a buffer between France and Prussia. Prussia saw these and other moves as an affront to its status as the main power of Central Europe, and it went to war with France in 1806.[citation needed]


Napoleon's words to his troops after the battle were full of praise: Soldats! Je suis content de vous (English: Soldiers! I am pleased with you).[88] The Emperor provided two million golden francs to the higher officers and 200 francs to each soldier, with large pensions for the widows of the fallen. Orphaned children were adopted by Napoleon personally and were allowed to add "Napoleon" to their baptismal and family names.[89] This battle is one of four for which Napoleon never awarded a victory title, the others being Marengo, Jena, and Friedland.[3]

In popular culture

The Battle of Austerlitz, 2 December 1805 by Joseph Swebach-Desfontaines

Artists and musicians on the side of France and her conquests expressed their sentiments in the popular and elite art of the time. Prussian music critic E. T. A. Hoffmann, in his famous review of Beethoven's 5th Symphony,

singles out for special abuse a certain Bataille des trois Empereurs, a French battle symphony by Louis Jadin celebrating Napoleon's victory at Austerlitz.[90]

Leo Tolstoy dramatized the battle as the conclusion of Book 3 and Volume 1 of War and Peace, making it a crucial moment in the lives of both Andrei Bolkonsky, who is badly wounded, and of Nikolai Rostov.[91]: 118, 152–169 

Archibald Alison in his History of Europe (1836) offers the first recorded telling of the apocryphal story that when the Allies descended the Pratzen Heights to attack Napoleon's supposedly weak flank,

The marshals who surrounded Napoleon saw the advantage, and eagerly besought him to give the signal for action; but he restrained their ardour ... "when the enemy is making a false movement we must take good care not to interrupt him."[92]

In subsequent accounts, this Napoleonic quote would undergo various changes until it became: "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."[93]

Historical views

Napoleon and Francis I after the Battle of Austerlitz

Napoleon did not succeed in defeating the Allied army as thoroughly as he wanted,[3] but historians and enthusiasts alike recognize that the original plan provided a significant victory, comparable to other great tactical battles such as Cannae.[94] Some historians suggest that Napoleon was so successful at Austerlitz that he lost touch with reality, and what used to be French foreign policy became a "personal Napoleonic one" after the battle.[95] In French history, Austerlitz is acknowledged as an impressive military victory, and in the 19th century, when fascination with the First French Empire was at its height, the battle was revered by French authors such as Victor Hugo, who wrote of the "sound of heavy cannons rolling towards Austerlitz" echoing in the "depths of [his] thoughts".[96] In the 2005 bicentennial, however, controversy erupted when neither French President Jacques Chirac nor Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin attended any functions commemorating the battle.[97] On the other hand, some residents of France's overseas departments protested against what they viewed as the "official commemoration of Napoleon", arguing that Austerlitz should not be celebrated since they believed that Napoleon committed genocide against colonial people.[97]

After the battle, Tsar Alexander I blamed Kutuzov, the Commander-in-chief of the Allied Army.[98] However, it is clear that Kutuzov planned to retreat farther to the rear, where the Allied Army had a sharp advantage in logistics. Had the Allied Army retreated further, they might have been reinforced by Archduke Charles's troops from Italy, and the Prussians might have joined the Coalition against Napoleon. A French army at the end of its supply lines, in a place that had no food supplies, might have faced a very different ending from the one they achieved at the real battle of Austerlitz.[99]

Monuments and protection of the area

Map of the landscape monument zone
Pyramid of Austerlitz near Utrecht

In the years following the battle, many memorials were set up around the affected villages to commemorate both the individual episodes of the battle and the thousands of its victims. Since 1992, the area where the Battle of Austerlitz took place has been protected by law as a landscape monument zone.[100] Its value lies in the historical peculiarities of the place, the historical connections of settlements, landscapes and terrain formations, and the overall landscape image. The area extends to 19 of today's municipalities:[100]

Near Prace is the Cairn of Peace Memorial, claimed to be the first peace memorial in Europe.[101] It was designed and built in the Art Nouveau style by Josef Fanta in 1910–1912. World War I postponed the monument's dedication until 1923.[101] It is 26 m (85 ft) high, square, with four female statues symbolizing France, Austria, Russia and Moravia. Within is a chapel with an ossuary. A nearby small museum commemorates the battle.[102] Every year, the events of the Battle of Austerlitz are commemorated in a ceremony.

Other memorials located in the monument zone include, among others:

Several monuments to the battle can be found far beyond the battle area. A notable monument is the Pyramid of Austerlitz, built by French soldiers stationed there to commemorate the 1805 campaign near Utrecht in the Netherlands.[109] In Paris, the 44-metre-high bronze Colonne Vendôme, a celebration of Napoleon, also stands on the Place Vendôme. The monument was initially called the Column of Austerlitz and, according to propaganda, was cast from the melted-down barrels of Allied guns from the Battle of Austerlitz.[110] Several other sites and public buildings commemorate the encounter in Paris, such as Pont d'Austerlitz and nearby Gare d'Austerlitz. A scene from the battle is also depicted on the bas-relief of the eastern pillar of the Arc de Triomphe and Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ French numbers at the battle vary depending on the account; 65,000-75,000 are figures often present in the literature. The discrepancy arises because about 7,000 men of Davout's III Corps were not at the battle right when it started. Including or not including these troops is a matter of preference (in this article, they will be included as separate from the 67,000 French soldiers originally on the field). David G. Chandler gives 67,000 (without Davout's III Corps).[2]
  2. ^ Allied numbers at the battle vary depending on the account; 73,000, 84,000, or 89,000 are figures often present in the literature. Andrew Uffindell claims 73,000,[3] while David G. Chandler claims 85,000.[4] Scott Bowden writes that the traditional number given for the Allies, 85,000, reflects their theoretical strength, not the true numbers on the battlefield.[5]
  3. ^ The Baltic was dominated by Russia, something Britain was not comfortable with, as it provided valuable commodities like timber, tar, and hemp, crucial supplies to the British Empire. Additionally, Britain supported the Ottoman Empire against Russian incursions towards the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, French territorial rearrangements in Germany occurred without Russian consultation, and Napoleon's annexations in the Po valley increasingly strained relations between the two.[29]


  1. ^ 37e bulletin de la Grande Armée, Schönbrunn, 26 December 1805.
  2. ^ a b c Chandler 1966, p. 416.
  3. ^ a b c Uffindell, p. 25.
  4. ^ Chandler 1966, p. 417.
  5. ^ Bowden, Scott (1997). Napoleon and Austerlitz: An Unprecedentedly Detailed Combat Study of Napoleon's Epic Ulm-Austerlitz Campaigns of 1805. Armies of the Napoleonic Wars Research Series, "The Glory Years" of 1805-1807. Vol. 1. ISBN 978-0-9626-6557-8. OCLC 37778325. OL 3987035M.
  6. ^ a b Roberts 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d Chandler 1966, p. 432.
  8. ^ a b Roberts 2014, p. 390.
  9. ^ a b "Why the Battle of Austerlitz was Napoleon's greatest triumph". History Skills. Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  10. ^ "Battle of Austerlitz | Summary & Facts | Britannica". 20 October 2023. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  11. ^ Farwell p. 64. "Austerlitz is generally regarded as one of Napoleon's tactical masterpieces and has been ranked as the equal of Arbela, Cannae, and Leuthen."
  12. ^ Dupuy p. 102 Note: Dupuy was not afraid of expressing an opinion, and he classified some of his subjects as Great Captains, such as Napoleon.
  13. ^ de Méneval 1910, pp. 233–308, Chapter V.
  14. ^ Mark, Harrison W. "Ulm Campaign". World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  15. ^ Hall & Davis 1957, p. 31.
  16. ^ Schroeder 1996, pp. 172–174.
  17. ^ Pearson 1994, p. 5.
  18. ^ Schroeder 1996, pp. 178–180, 226–228.
  19. ^ Schroeder 1996, p. 226.
  20. ^ Grainger 2004, pp. 129–130.
  21. ^ Schroeder 1996, pp. 241–243.
  22. ^ Grainger 2004, pp. 33.
  23. ^ Chandler 1966, p. 304.
  24. ^ Chandler 1966, p. 320.
  25. ^ Grainger 2004, p. 55.
  26. ^ Grainger 2004, p. 221.
  27. ^ Jorgensen 2004, pp. 25–28.
  28. ^ a b Chandler 1966, p. 331.
  29. ^ Chandler 1966, p. 328.
  30. ^ Grehan & Mace 2013, p. 17.
  31. ^ Lane-Poole 1894, p. 250.
  32. ^ Gallaher 2008, p. 122.
  33. ^ Chandler 1966, p. 323.
  34. ^ Addington 1984, p. 29.
  35. ^ a b Chandler 1966, p. 332.
  36. ^ Wood 1997, p. 16.
  37. ^ Chandler 1966, p. 333.
  38. ^ Kuehn 2015, p. 93.
  39. ^ Gerges 2016, p. 171.
  40. ^ Wasson 2014, p. 43.
  41. ^ Mikaberidze 2005, pp. xx–xxxi.
  42. ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes 2004, p. 33.
  43. ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes 2004, p. 31.
  44. ^ Uffindell, p. 155.
  45. ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes 2004, p. 32.
  46. ^ Lyons 1994, p. 113.
  47. ^ Chandler 1966, pp. 325–326.
  48. ^ Kobtzeff 2016, p. 378.
  49. ^ Cook & Paxton 1981, p. 85.
  50. ^ Brooks, p. 108.
  51. ^ a b Uffindell, p. 15.
  52. ^ Schneid 2005, pp. 113–114.
  53. ^ Gerges 2016, p. 158.
  54. ^ Tibbetts 2016, p. 420.
  55. ^ Chandler 1966, p. 407.
  56. ^ Bassett 2015, pp. 233–234.
  57. ^ Kagan 2006, p. 368.
  58. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lê Vinh Quốc, Nguyễn Thị Thư, Lê Phụng Hoàng, pp. 154–160
  59. ^ Chandler 1966, p. 409.
  60. ^ Brose, Eric Dorn. German history, 1789–1871: From the Holy Roman Empire to the Bismarckian Reich. p. 46.
  61. ^ McLynn, p. 342.
  62. ^ Chandler 1966, p. 410.
  63. ^ Chandler 1966, pp. 410–411.
  64. ^ Chandler 1966, p. 411.
  65. ^ a b Uffindell, p. 19.
  66. ^ David Nicholls, Napoleon: a biographical companion pp. 9–10.
  67. ^ Dr. Frederick C. Schneid, Napoleon's conquest of Europe: the War of the Third Coalition, p. 137
  68. ^ Chandler 1966, pp. 412–413.
  69. ^ Richard Brooks (editor), Atlas of World Military History. p. 109
  70. ^ a b c Fisher & Fremont-Barnes 2004, p. 48.
  71. ^ a b c Gregory Fremont-Barnes, Napoleon Bonaparte: leadership, strategy, conflict, p. 19
  72. ^ Chandler 1966, p. 413.
  73. ^ Gregory Fremont-Barnes (2010). Napoleon Bonaparte: leadership, strategy, conflict. Great Britain: Osprey Publishing. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-84603-458-9.
  74. ^ Chandler 1966, p. 412.
  75. ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes 2004, pp. 48–49.
  76. ^ a b Fisher & Fremont-Barnes 2004, p. 49.
  77. ^ Uffindell, p. 21.
  78. ^ Chandler 1966, p. 425.
  79. ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes 2004, pp. 49–50.
  80. ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes 2004, p. 51.
  81. ^ Grant, p. 203
  82. ^ a b Fisher & Fremont-Barnes 2004, p. 52.
  83. ^ Abbott, John S. C. (1888). "Chapter XXXL: Austerlitz". In Low, Sampson; Abbot Mead, Susan (eds.). The History of Napoleon Bonaparte. Vol. L (3rd ed.). London, United Kingdom of Great Britain: Harper & Brothers Publishers. pp. 475–486 – via Internet Archive.
  84. ^ Rose, J. Holland (1 July 1902). Poole, Reginald L. (ed.). "The Ice Incident at the Battle of Austerlitz". The English Historical Review. XVII (67). Oxford: Oxford University Press/Longmans, Green & Company, Limited/Johnson Reprint Corporation Limited: 537–538. doi:10.1093/ehr/XVII.LXVII.537. ISSN 0013-8266. JSTOR 00138266. LCCN 05040370. OCLC 474766029.
  85. ^ Chandler 1966, pp. 432–433.
  86. ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes 2004, p. 54.
  87. ^ Stanhope's Life of the Rt Hon. William Pitt (1862), vol. iv, p. 369
  88. ^ Napoleon's Proclamation following Austerlitz. Dated 3 December 1805. Translated by Markham, J. David.
  89. ^ Chandler 1966, p. 439.
  90. ^ Rumph, Stephen (Summer 1995). "A Kingdom Not of This World: The Political Context of E. T. A. Hoffmann's Beethoven Criticism". 19th-Century Music. 19 (1): 50–67. doi:10.2307/746719. JSTOR 746719.
  91. ^ Tolstoy, Leo (1949). War and Peace. Garden City: International Collectors Library.
  92. ^ Archibald Alison, History of Europe from the Commencement of the French Revolution in 1789 to the Restoration of the Bourbons in 1815, Volume 5, London: Thomas Cadell, 1836, p. 476.
  93. ^ "Quote Investigator: "Never interfere"". 6 July 2010. Archived from the original on 2 December 2022. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  94. ^ Gilbert, Adrian (2000). The Encyclopedia of Warfare: From Earliest Time to the Present Day. Taylor & Francis. p. 133. ISBN 978-1-57958-216-6.
  95. ^ McLynn, p. 350.
  96. ^ Hugo, Victor (1843) [1840]. "Regard jeté dans une mansarde". Œuvres (in French). Vol. 3. p. 51. Je ne hais pas d'entendre au fond de ma pensée / Le bruit des lourds canons roulant vers Austerlitz.
  97. ^ a b "Furore over Austerlitz ceremony". BBC News. 20 March 2006. Archived from the original on 11 January 2009.
  98. ^ Nicholls, David. Napoleon: a biographical companion. p. 138.
  99. ^ Castle, Ian; Hook, Christa. Austerlitz 1805: the fate of empires. pp. 89–90.
  100. ^ a b "Bojiště bitvy u Slavkova" (in Czech). National Heritage Institute. Retrieved 1 December 2021.
  101. ^ a b Kopecký 2006, p. 11.
  102. ^ "The Cairn of Peace Memorial". Brno Museum. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  103. ^ a b c d e Kopecký 2006, p. 178.
  104. ^ "Pomníky". Československá napoleonská společnost (in Czech). Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  105. ^ "Stará Pošta u Kovalovic". Kudy z nudy. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  106. ^ "kaple Panny Marie Sněžné". Památkový Katalog. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  107. ^ "památník bitvy u Slavkova". Památkový Katalog. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  108. ^ "zámek Slavkov". Památkový Katalog. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  109. ^ "The Pyramid of Austerlitz". Ontdek Utrecht [Discover Utrecht] (in Dutch). Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  110. ^ Chandler, David G. (1995). The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 320. ISBN 9781439131039.

General references

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  • Castle, Ian. Austerlitz 1805: The Fate of Empires. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2002. ISBN 1-84176-136-2
  • Castle, Ian. Austerlitz: Napoleon and the Eagles of Europe. Pen & Sword Books, 2005. ISBN 1-84415-171-9.
  • Chandler, D. G. (1966). The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York: Simon & Schuster. OCLC 185576578.
  • Cook, C.; Paxton, J. (1981). European Political Facts 1789–1848. London: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-34903-308-9.
  • de Méneval, Claude-François (1910). de Méneval, Napoléon Joseph Erenst; Collier, Peter Fenelon (eds.). Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte: The Court of the First Empire. Vol. II. New York: P.F. Collier & Son Publishers. ISBN 978-1355218760. OCLC 566100622. Retrieved 15 June 2021 – via Internet Archive.
  • Dupuy, Trevor N. (1990). Understanding Defeat: How to Recover from Loss in Battle to Gain Victory in War. Paragon House. ISBN 1-5577-8099-4.
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Preceded by
Battle of Schöngrabern
Napoleonic Wars
Battle of Austerlitz
Succeeded by
Siege of Gaeta (1806)