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No Sun of Austerlitz

By Scott Palter

 

© Final Sword Productions 2009

 

 

 

Our timeline has Austerlitz as the jewel in Napoleonís long list of victories. Yet the entire campaign [and indeed the linked campaign of 06-07 against Prussia and Russia] were a string of low probability contingent happenings. I will take one of those below to show how different it all could have been.

By late September of 1805 Russia and Prussia were on the verge of war. What saved it was Napoleon having Bernadotte and Marmont violate Prussian neutrality at Ansbach. The road was a short cut and it did turn the Austrian line south of the Danube but it was scarcely necessary as Napoleonís later limited use of these corps showed. So presume Napoleon listens to his Foreign Minister Talleyrand and his envoy in Berlin Duroc. The two French corps march between Ansbach and Bayreuth instead of across Ansbach. They arrive a few days later and a few tens of kilometers further east.

None of this changes the Ulm campaign. That disaster was baked in from the initial Austrian deployments and the disjunction between the Austrian and Russian war plans. However a Russo-Prussian war changes everything. Prussia did not want to fight Russia but was determined to preserve their neutrality.

In turn the Russian Czar had ordered an invasion if Prussia did not grant his army transit rights across Silesia to Moravia. To the degree this had ANY logic, the idea was that faced with a Russian war Prussia would give in and join the Third Coalition. In fact while Prussia feared a Russian war and feared even more to be at war with the UK [thus destroying her trade and finances] the stubborn if not very bright Prussian King was determined to fight to preserve his neutrality come what may.

There is a tendency to regard the Prussian army of this period as inept. This is mostly based on the 1806 campaign [they fought FAR better in the 06-07 winter campaign]. It is true they were an old style army but so to a great degree were the Austrians and Russians. It is also true that the higher commanders were not the best and the OODA loop (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OODA_Loop) was slow [although again not much worse than the Russians and no worse than the Austrians Ė everyone was slower than the French in this period]. However they were more than good enough to fight other old style armies.

So by accident Prussia finds itself at war with the Third Coalition. There is little doubt the Russians could have pushed the Prussians out of Warsaw and back into Silesia. The Russian problems start there. See 1806-07 for how many fortified cities the Prussians had in Silesia, the Prussias, Poland and Posen. See the same campaign for how inept the Russian logistics were once beyond their magazines. Essentially the Russians come up short and tied down on numerous sieges.

In reverse there is nothing to stop the Prussians from occupying Bohemia and Moravia neither of which was defended at this point [Austrian mobilization had not presumed war with Prussia and had counted on a stream of Russian reinforcements covering Bohemia as they marched southwest from Poland. They could also have occupied Hanover as the French left. Between those two pickups they could extort enough funds to stay in the field. It would not be pretty but Fredrick the Great had done so in worse financial and logistical straits.

This is turn leaves Napoleon after he takes Vienna with no threat of a major Austro-Russian army in Bohemia-Moravia or an even larger Prussian army hanging over his shoulder to the north. He has time to chase Archduke Charles back from the Hungarian border. Charles would have had a lot of space to retreat in Hungary but not the supplies to keep an army in the field east or south of Budapest. So the pre-Christmas battle of 1805 sees Napoleon smash the last major Hapsburg army and occupy Budapest.

Charles was not the sort to do a forlorn hope semi-guerilla. So he surrenders his army. That leaves only Archduke Ferdinand with some cavalry and Polish-Moravian militia operating vaguely in concert with the Russians from the last major Austrian depots at Krakow. Napoleon gets the full resources of the former Hapsburg Empire to sustain his own forces over the winter as he shuttles them corps by corps up from the south to aid the Prussians. So the 1806 campaign season sees the main Prussian Army and Napoleon at the head of the Grand Army confronting the Czar and say fifteen thousand Austrians. The Russians have taken a few fortresses [we will say Konigsberg, Danzig and Posen but really any three will do]. They will be half starved and badly outnumbered. All the British will be sending is money not troops. One good defeat will send Czar Alexander running for the Vistula and eager to make a deal.

In OTL Napoleonís two peaces with the Hapsburgs while harsh left them intact. Prussia was essentially carved into pieces with the small rump under a French garrison. Let us reverse this. Prussia gets Saxony, Bohemia, Moravia, Hanover [including the Hanse ports], and Courland-Lithuania. It signs a permanent alliance with France. The rest of Germany forms a Confederation of the Rhine under Napoleonís Ďprotectorshipí. The Hapsburg Emperor abdicates with a division of his territory as follows. Charles becomes King of Hungary again with a forced alliance with Napoleon. Tyrol goes to Bavaria. Venice, Illyria, Istria, Carinthinia, the Military Border, Croatia and Slavonia go to the Kingdom of Italy. A Duchy of Krakow is set up under Napoleonís brother Jerome to provide a French garrison to watch Charles. Upper and Lower Austria including Salzburg are given to the Archduchess Maria as dowry for her marriage to Napoleon as soon as his divorce is final [this moves the marriage up by three years and definitely changes the terms].

The final pill is that at Napoleonís orders Charles takes Walachia, Moldavia, Bessarabia, Dobrujia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Turks. This ties down Hungary for three years of war. It bankrupts them and gives them lands whose possession make a new Russian alliance impossible. So having swallowed the poison pill Charles has no choice but to support his sisterís new husband forever. This means Austrian troops will be on call when Spain goes sour in 1807.

In a large sense the major Napoleonic Wars end here. Napoleon will never be able to build a fleet to destroy the RN. In reverse the British can annoy him in Iberia but without large continental powers to threaten war in the east the whale cannot defeat the lion. So let us presume a peace in 1811. Britain gets a rump Portugal, Cadiz, the Balearics and Sicily. Russia nurses its grievances while fighting the Turks at intervals in the Caucuses. Napoleon rules until 1840, dieing peacefully in his sleep at Versailles. Europe unites over a century earlier. I admit the odds are long but once you avoid the Ansbach mistake all of this is possible.

Suggested reading: Fredrick Kaganís ĎThe End of the Old Orderí which sketches the bulk of the diplomatic background for the war I propose. The peace is mine but it is in large measure just a reverse of what actually happened.

 

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