The New International Encyclopædia/Austerlitz

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AUSTERLITZ, ous′tẽr-lē̇ts (‘the east town on the Littawa;’ from Ger. Ost, East). A small town in Moravia, about 12 miles east-southeast of the town of Brünn (Map: Austria, E 2). It stands on the Littawa, and has a population of 4000. Austerlitz is celebrated as the place where Napoleon I. defeated the combined forces of Austria and Russia, under the command of their emperors (December 2, 1805). The capitulation of the Austrian General Mack at Ulm on October 17, 1805, had been followed by the French occupation of Vienna on November 14; but though Napoleon held the capital of the enemy, his forces were inferior to the allied army of Austrians and Russians under Kutusoff and Prince Lichtenstein, which was assembled around Olmütz, and threatened a junction with another army under the Austrian archdukes and a force from Prussia. Napoleon determined to strike at the Allies before the expected junction could be effected. He moved northward from Vienna, and at Austerlitz came in touch with the Allies, who had advanced to meet him. The latter, who numbered some 84,000 men opposed to the 70,000 French, attacked in five columns, aimed in oblique order against the French right, the intention of the Allies being to concentrate on that wing, outflank the enemy, and cut off their communication with Vienna. Napoleon, who perceived this purpose, conceived the bold design of permitting the enemy to gain a temporary success over his right wing, allowing him in turn to concentrate his forces against their weakened centre, and, having broken that, to take them in the rear. The plan was admirably executed. At 8 o'clock on the morning of December 2, the left wing of the Allies, consisting of three Russian columns, advanced across a country of frozen marshes, assailed Davout, who held the fords of the Goldbach, forced the passage of that stream, and compelled the French to retreat for some distance; with the aid of reinforcements, however, Davout was able to hold his own, as indeed Napoleon had planned. Meanwhile, heavy masses of French under Soult had been hurled against the centre of the Allies, comprising the fourth Russian column, under Kutusoff; and after a sanguinary conflict the latter was overwhelmed. Lannes, too, on the left of the French, succeeded in driving back the allied right under Bagration. The victorious French troops were then swung upon the rear of the left of the Allies, and of the unhappy three columns the third was entirely crushed, while the others were shattered into fragments. The battle became a rout, and as the remnants of the Allies fled across the river the French artillery broke the ice and thousands of fugitives were drowned. The Allies lost 35,000 men in killed, wounded, and prisoners, while the French loss was only 7800. As a result of the battle, Austria was forced to sign the Treaty of Pressburg on December 26, 1805. In the military career of Napoleon no other event, probably, stands out so brilliantly as Austerlitz, because of his numerical inferiority, the audacity of his plan, the precision with which it was executed, and the completeness of the victory. The glory of Austerlitz—spoken of, sometimes, as the battle of the three emperors, from the presence of the Russian and Austrian emperors in the field—made even the disaster at Trafalgar seem of little consequence.