November 29, 2006 cameron

#14 – The Sun of Austerlitz

The Battle of Austerlitz (also known as the Battle of the Three Emperors) was a major engagement in the Napoleonic Wars during the War of the Third Coalition. It was fought on December 2, 1805 about four miles (6.4 km) east of the modern Czech town of Brno, then part of the Austrian Empire. The conflict involved forces of the recently formed First French Empire against the armies of the Russian Empire and the Austrian Empire. After nearly nine hours of fighting, the French troops, commanded by Emperor Napoleon I, managed to score a decisive victory over the Russo-Austrian army, commanded by Czar Alexander I. Despite difficult fighting in many sectors, the battle is often regarded as a tactical masterpiece.

Austerlitz effectively brought the Third Coalition to an end.

Read more about the Battle of Austerlitz on Wikipedia

Here’s the entire text of the famous Bulletin issues by Napoleon Bonaparte on the day after the battle, which you can find in David’s book “Imperial Glory” (link below):

Headquarters at Austerlitz
3 December 1805

Soldiers! I am pleased with you. On the day of Austerlitz, you have justified what I expected from your intrepidity. You have decorated your eagles with an immortal glory. In less than four hours an army of 100,000 men, commanded by the Emperors of Russia and Austria, has been cut down or dispersed. Those who escaped your iron have drowned in the lakes. Forty flags, the standards of the Russian Imperial Guard, 120 pieces of cannon, twenty generals and more than 30,000 prisoners are the results of this day, to be celebrated forever. That infantry, so vaunted, and superior to you in numbers, could not resist your impact, and henceforth you have no rivals to fear. Thus, in two months the third coalition is conquered and dissolved. Peace can no longer be at a great distance; but, as I promised to my people before crossing the Rhine, I will only make a peace that gives you some guarantees and assures some recompenses to our allies. Soldiers! When the French people placed the Imperial Crown on my head, I entrusted you to keep it always in a high state of glory, which alone could give it value in my eyes; but at that moment our enemies thought to destroy and demean it; and that Iron crown, which was gained by the blood of so many Frenchmen, they would have compelled me to place on the head of our cruelest enemies; an extravagant and foolish proposal, which you have ruined and confounded the very day of the anniversary of your Emperor’s coronation. You have taught them that it is easier for them to defy us and to threaten us than to vanquish us. Soldiers! When everything necessary to the happiness and prosperity of our country will have been achieved, I will lead you back to France. There you will be the objects of my most tender solicitudes. My people will see you again with joy, and it will be enough for you to say: “I was at the battle of Austerlitz,” for them to reply, “There is a brave man!”

Napoleon Bonaparte

David asked me bring to your attention a History Channel DVD that has a segment on Austerlitz. He was one of the featured historians. It also has Caesar’s campaign in Gaul, and he was one of the featured historians on that segment as well.

Don’t forget – we really value your feedback and comments and would love to have you participate in the conversation.


Comments (15)

  1. Kaboth

    Great podcast as always guys. You mentioned in passing the alledged genocide of Colonials committed by Napoleon but didn’t really go into detail. I assume you were referring to the allegations in the recent book “Le Crimes De Napoleon” which states that during a resistance by black slaves on one of France’s islands Napoleon authorized that Black civiliants be loaded into ship hulls where sulphur was burnt, effectively gasing the people to death. The book says this was Hitler’s inspiration for gassing the jews. I’m not sure about hard evidence behind any of this, it could just be more sensationalist stories. The book did get significant press coverage. The book also regards the breaking of the ice at Austerlitz as a war crime. Just wondering what you all thought of these allegations?

  2. A fine show on Austerlitz, gentlemen.

    Thank you for offering visual resources in this post. David Markham does a fine job of describing the tactics out loud, but the maps are great to see.

    Literary notes: I’m fond of the Austerlitz scenes in War and Peace. Anthony Burgess has a nice version of it in his Napoleon Symphony (what do you two think of that novel?).

  3. Khaldum1

    I would like to commend both commentators for an excellent show on Austerlitz. Although, I (ADMITEDLY QUITE UNFAIRLY) caught a slight mistake. It was Holy Roman Empero Francis II and Francis I of Austria. I’d also take the opportunity to note that if one can place an undiluted black mark on Napoleon’s career and world altering and positive achievements, it is on his treatment of the slaves of St. Domingue. Turning back on earlier support for the slave rebellion, Napoleon brutally reintroduced slavery. On this issue, history and the conscience of moral men must stand squarely against the otherwise great Emperor.

    Having said that, the sulphur story is highly unlikely, since slaves would have been a valuable commodity and, therefore, subject to economic pressures against their wholesale destruction. Napoleon must be condemned on Haiti, but it is also clear that his decision to re-establish slavery was a cold and calculated economic decision. This very reason and the consequential economic calculations argue against the genocide story.

    Finally, Napoleon and Hitler had nothing in common, outside of both acting on the European stage. There are oceans in the vast and unbridgeable differences between the two. For the most part, Napoleon, whatever his flaws, lifted men to a better world, excersing privileged genius along with some arrogance to sweep away the darkness of the ancien regime. Hitler was an unmitigated horror for mankind, whose venom and evil permeated a desperate period of mankind’s journey.

  4. J. David Markham

    I agree that the sulphur story is very unlikely, and I don’t think that breaking the ice at Austerlitz would even remotly quality as a war crime. Retreating soldiers are always fair game. They could have thrown up their hands in surrender, but didn’t.

    As to Hitler and Napoleon, don’t even get me started. Those comparisons really make my blood boil!!

    In a few days, my new website should be up:

    Best to all,


  5. Gregory Gietzen

    I just wanted to drop a note expressing my appreciation for your podcast. I’m not up to Austerlitz just yet (I’m still back in Thermidor/whiff of grapeshot), but I’ve really been enjoying the ride.

  6. frans

    hello guys,

    i enjoy your show very much. it’s very interesting and also fun to listen to! i have one comment for improvement and that is that i would like some more information on strategy and tactics of napoleons campaigns and battles. keep it up!

    frans, from holland

  7. John G

    Hi Cameron and David

    Congratulations on another wonderful episode. I always look forward to the next episode and it is never a let down. I do like the conversational styleyou use in presenting each episode, which David referred to. It was a very good point. I have listened to audio tapes on history in the past and they are usually quite dry and maintaining concentration on the topic can be a chore. The way you guys present the information makes it very easy to follow and very interesting.

    I also loved the maps you placed on your website, as it made it easy to follow how the battle of Austerlitz unfolded.

  8. Thanks for the feedback everyone! I’m really pleased that you are enjoying the show. For many years I enjoyed Napoleon’s story in solitude. It’s a joy for me to be able to discuss him with as eminent scholar as David and an even greater joy to be able to share those discussions with you.

  9. J. David Markham

    As always, my friends, I second Cameron in his appreciation of your comments and your willingness to listen. Its a great experience for me, made all the moreso by your kind and thoughtful comments.

    Have a great holiday season!


  10. Bob

    I’m usually not one to reply on a blog but that was a great post on Napoleon Bonaparte. My family actually owns an original shield and swords that were owned by Napoleon himself. I made a short video on my site.

  11. Johan

    I have recently found this podcast and have been geeking out on Napoleon now for a couple of days now. As I’m listening and very much enjoying your wonderful show, I am finding Napoleon in a whole new light. I also just noticed my iCal is saying the 26 of December and I realize that today is Mr. Markham’s Birthday (what a coincidence, I just had to drop a line). So I thought I would extend my congratulations all the way from Sweden and kudos for a very entertaining show to both David and Cameron.

    • Cameron

      Thanks Johan! Great to hear from Sweden. We’ve mentioned the Napoleonic connection a few times during the series.

  12. Jayne

    Hi, thanks again for a great podcast 🙂 One question, you said that the Russian prince managed to out maneuver the French troop during his retreat. Could you expand on that? I find it very interesting. Thanks again!

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