Supplementary Appendix: Third Coalition, Treaty of Pressburg, August-December 1805

The Third Coalition and the Treaty of Pressburg, August–December 1805 [*]

1. Mid-August 1805;
2. General troop movements; the problem of Prussian neutrality;
3. Napoleon tries to deal with Frederick William III of Prussia;
4. Coalition plans against France;
5. The special positions of Bavaria and Würtemberg;
6. September 1805; Maximilian removes to Würzburg; Austrians enter Bavaria;
7. October 1805: The disaster of General Mack;
8. Mack surrenders at Ulm, 17 October 1805;
9. The French move toward Vienna, late October, early November 1805;
10. French enter Vienna, mid-November 1805;
11. Italian Campaign, October, November 1805;
12. French continue past Vienna, late November 1805;
13. Frederick William III joins coalition, early November 1805;
14. Frederick William III hesitates;
15. Austro-Russian troop movements and regrouping;
16. Battle of Austerlitz, 2 December 1805;
17. Armistice between Napoleon and the Austrians, 6 December 1805;
18. Frederick William III forced into alliance with France, mid-December 1805;
19. Peace of Pressburg, 26 December 1805;
20. Maximilian, Elector of Bavaria, made king;
21. Bavaria loses Würzburg, gains Tyrol for defensive reasons favoring the French in Italy;
22. Ferdinand III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, compensated for his losses, acquires Würzburg;
23. Consequences of the Peace of Pressburg;
24. Consequences for Prussia and Frederick William III;
25. New declarations of war, spring 1806.


1. Mid-August 1805

Thus vanished all Napoleon’s hopes of commanding the Channel [and invading England]. Meanwhile the hostile intentions of Austria had become apparent, and Napoleon was compelled to abandon his scheme of invading England, to turn against another enemy.

Francis I., who had long been increasing his forces in Italy and Germany, formally acceded, August 9th, 1805, to the Anglo-Russian treaty of April 11th, 1805, and thus completed the formation of the Third Coalition. After some negotiation the English Cabinet had agreed to pay Austria a subsidy of three millions for the year 1805, and four millions for every subsequent year that the war might last. On August 28th appeared an ordinance putting the Austrian army on a war footing. Nevertheless Francis, who had even had the duplicity to offer his mediation with England and Russia, still continued in September 1805 to assure the French Government of his pacific intentions. The Austrian Cabinet wanted to gain time to complete their preparations; but their notes soon assumed a tone which Napoleon could only regard as a declaration of war.

2. General troop movements;
the problem of Prussian neutrality

Napoleon did not abandon all hope of the appearance of his fleet till August 28th, when, hearing that Villeneuve had put into Cadiz, and also that the Austrians were in motion, he issued orders for raising the camps upon the coast. The troops were directed towards the Rhine in four divisions, under Davoust, Soult, Lannes, and Ney, with orders to be in position between Strasburg and Mentz before the end of September 1805. At the same time the army of Holland, under Marmont, also marched towards Mentz, and that of Hanover, under Bernadotte, was put in motion; but its destination was concealed, in order to deceive the King of Prussia, in case of the failure of the negotiations which were still in progress.

The allied Powers had formed a plan to frighten the timorous Frederick William III. out of his neutrality. A Russian army was to advance to the frontiers of Prussian Poland, to force them, if necessary, and to advance through Silesia towards the Danube. Another army, composed of 45,000 English, Swedes, and Russians, was to land in Swedish Pomerania and at the mouth of the Weser River, and thence to make an irruption into Hanover. The Allies hoped that, Prussia being thus surrounded with a network of troops, Frederick William, as well from fear as from a secret sympathy with their cause, would be induced to join the Coalition.

3. Napoleon tries to deal with Frederick William III of Prussia

To oppose these designs, Napoleon, who knew that the King of Prussia had long coveted Hanover, proposed to him, through the French Ambassador, M. de la Forest, to deliver over to him that Electorate, to be incorporated in the Prussian dominions, as the price of his alliance with France. The proposition was supported by Hardenberg. To the King’s scruples at robbing the House of Brunswick Lüneburg, his relatives, Hardenberg replied, that the morality of a Sovereign resembled not that of an individual; that the operation was one calculated to place his Monarchy in the rank it ought to occupy in the world, as well as to allay the storm that menaced the Continent, and to force England to a peace. Frederick William, yielding to these arguments, notified his assent to the French proposal, but on condition that France should engage to respect the independence of Switzerland, Holland, and those States of the Italian Peninsula which belonged not to the French Empire nor to the Kingdom of Italy. Encouraged by this progress, Napoleon despatched Duroc, the Grand-Marshal of his Palace, to Berlin, to bring the negotiations to a conclusion; without, however, consenting to the conditions respecting Italy, and the Swiss and Batavian Republics.

But before Duroc could arrive the timorous Frederick William had changed his mind. The hope of preserving the peace of Europe had induced him, as much as the acquisition of Hanover, to listen to Napoleon’s offer; and meanwhile he had discovered that war was inevitable. The Allies had also worked on his fears, by representing to him the gigantic projects of ambition entertained by the French Emperor, and their representations were supported by the Queen of Prussia, as well as by the greater part of Frederick William’s Court.

After an attempt at mediation, the last decision of Frederick William was for a strict neutrality; but in this he was firm as well as sincere. The Emperor Alexander, in pursuance of the plan already mentioned, marched an army towards the Prussian frontiers; requested that it should be permitted to pass through the Prussian dominions towards the Inn River; and asked for a personal interview with Frederick William. M. Alopéus, the Emperor’s [Alexander’s] Minister at Berlin, even went so far as to name the day when the Russian troops would cross the frontiers of Prussia.

But this insult filled Frederick William with all the energy of anger, and he immediately ordered an extraordinary levy of 80,000 men. At the same time France was informed that the King of Prussia would sign an alliance with her on the slightest infraction of his neutrality by Russia; while the Emperor Alexander received a similar assurance in case of an aggression on Prussia by France. Such was the position of the Prussian Monarchy when the campaign opened on the Danube.

4. Coalition plans against France

The operations of the Coalition were conceived on an immense scale; they embraced Germany and Italy, and extended from the mouth of the Weser to the Gulf of Taranto. Austria was ready to enter upon the campaign early in September 1805. Her army in Italy, commanded by the Archduke Charles, consisted of 120,000 men; a second of 35,000, under the Archduke John, was posted in Tyrol; a third, in Germany, of about 80,000 men, was nominally commanded by the Archduke Ferdinand, a cousin of the Emperor, but in reality by General Mack. The appointment of this incompetent, but plausible person, seems to have been effected through the influence of the English Cabinet, in spite of his signal, nay almost ludicrous failure in Italy.

Mack had been condemned by the two greatest captains of the age, Bonaparte and Nelson. Mack, after his capture in Italy, had been brought to Paris, where Napoleon made his acquaintance, and pronounced him the most mediocre person he had ever known. Nelson, who saw him at Naples, had also judged and condemned him. This incompetent man was now to decide the fate of empires.

An army of Russians and Swedes was to operate in North Germany; while two Russian armies of about 60,000 men each, under the orders of Kutusoff and Buxhövden, were to march through Galicia and join Mack on the Upper Danube. Russian troops from the Ionian Islands, combined with some English detachments from Malta, were to land in the Neapolitan dominions, drive out the French, and assist the operations of the Austrians in Northern Italy.

To frustrate this plan, as well as to assume the appearance of having removed one of the obstacles to peace, and, at the same time, to be enabled to employ his troops in Southern Italy against the Archduke Charles, Napoleon concluded at Paris a convention with the Marquis de Gallo, September 21st, 1805, by which the French troops were to evacuate the Kingdom of Naples; Ferdinand IV. undertaking, on his side, to observe a strict neutrality, to repel by force any attempt to violate it, and to permit no belligerent squadron to enter his ports. This convention was very distasteful to the Court of Naples; but the dread of immediate hostilities compelled Ferdinand to ratify it.

5. The special positions of Bavaria and Würtemberg

It was of the highest importance to the success of the campaign in Germany that Austria should assure herself of the co-operation of the Electors of Bavaria, Würtemberg, and Baden. From the situation of their dominions between the contending Powers, it was impossible for those Princes to remain neutral. They were known to be inclined towards Napoleon, by whom, as we have seen, they had been highly favoured in the matter of the indemnifications [Treaty of Lunéville]; and the only method by which Austria could hope to insure their aid was to compel it by a sudden invasion.

Instead of this, the Cabinet of Vienna attempted to conciliate the employment of force with the observance of forms. On September 6th, 1805, Prince Schwarzenberg arrived in Munich with a letter from the Emperor Francis, beseeching Maximilian Joseph to unite his arms with those of Austria, and guaranteeing to him the integrity of his dominions, whatever might be the event of the war. The Elector [Maximilian], after giving a ready assent to this request, addressed on the following day a letter to the Emperor Francis, in which he stated that his son, the Electoral Prince, was in France; that he would be lost if the Bavarian troops were to march against Napoleon; and he, therefore, supplicated his Imperial Majesty to be allowed to maintain his neutrality.

In fact, however, Maximilian Joseph had already signed the preliminaries of an alliance with Napoleon, August 24th, 1805; and actuated by the fear of being crushed between two such Powers, he wrote an abject letter, September 8th, 1805, to M. Otto, the French Minister at Munich, stating what he had done, and deprecating the anger of Napoleon.

6. September 1805
Maximilian removes to Würzburg,
Austrians enter Bavaria

M. Otto, perceiving that the Elector was about to secede, hastened to the palace, and, partly by threats, partly by painting to him in vivid colours the ignominy of his situation if he remained a day longer at Munich, he, with the aid of the Minister Montgelas, persuaded Maximilian to set off with his Court that very night for Würtzburg; where he would be protected by the advancing French columns [For newspaper missives documenting events leading up to the Prince Elector’s flight, see supplementary appendix 396.1.]. The Bavarian troops, 26,000 in number, followed by forced marches. The day after the Elector’s flight, and when it was no longer possible to secure him, the Austrian army crossed the Inn River, and entered Bavaria (September 19th, 1805).

Thus deprived of the cooperation of the Bavarians, Mack should have awaited in that Electorate the arrival of the Russian army under Kutusoff, which was still at a great distance. Instead of doing so, he traversed Bavaria, entered Suabia, and took up a position on the Iller River, between Ulm and Memmingen, occupied the defiles of the Black Forest, and pushed the heads of his columns as far as Stockach; thus throwing himself into the jaws of his formidable enemy, and separating himself more and more from the Russians.

Unfortunately for Mack, Napoleon in person had undertaken the German campaign with the greater part of his forces; while the Austrian Cabinet, thinking that Italy would be the chief point of attack, had posted their best general and their largest army in that country. Napoleon, after appearing at Paris in the Senate, September 23rd, set off to join his army. He had formed a plan to surprise and overwhelm Mack on the Upper Danube, with all his forces, and to cut him off from the Russians and from Vienna. The French army destined to operate in Germany consisted of 190,000 men.

Besides the four divisions already mentioned, and those of Marmont and Bernadotte in Holland and Hanover, a seventh corps, from Brest, with the guard and reserves of cavalry, was directed on Haguenau, Strasburg, and Schlettstadt.

26 September 1805: French cross Rhine River

The success of Napoleon’s plan depended on the precision with which the movements of the different corps were executed. Davoust passed the Rhine at Mannheim, September 26th, 1805, and directed his march on Oettingen. Soult and Ney also passed the Rhine on the 26th, the first at Spires, the second at Karlsruhe, and made for Donauwörth and Dillingen. Bernadotte in Hanover, Marmont in Holland, were both to direct their march on Wurtzburg; the former by Göttingen, the latter by Utrecht and Mentz.

Thus, while Mack was expecting an attack in front, nearly the whole French army was “pivoting” on his right, and manœuvring to cross the Danube in his rear. Napoleon, to keep up his delusion, ordered a false attack in front. Lannes, with his division, and Murat, with 7,000 cavalry, having passed the Rhine, September 27th, marched straight forwards towards Reuchen and Hornberg, as if they would force the defiles of the Black Forest.

Napoleon having joined this division, October 1st, 1805, directed its march upon Stuttgardt. Here he signed a treaty of alliance with the Elector of Würtemberg, October 3rd, 1805, who agreed to furnish 8,000 men during the war. Napoleon now made some false demonstrations and manœuvres to conceal from the enemy the march of his columns upon Donauwörth. Marmont’s and Bernadotte’s divisions had already arrived at Würtzburg.

From this place the Elector of Bavaria had sent a declaration to the Emperor Francis, that he had determined to remain neutral, and that all the menaces of France should not make him abandon this unalterable resolution. Yet in less than a fortnight after these solemn assurances the Bavarians joined Bernadotte and Marmont immediately on their appearance; and on October 12, 1805, the Elector Maximilian ratified the provisional treaty with France of August 24, 1805.

7. October 1805
The disaster of General Mack

Bernadotte, by the junction of Marmont’s division and the Bavarians, finding himself at the head of 60,000 men, directed his march towards the Danube. The union of so large a force at Würtzburg should have opened Mack’s eyes; but he imagined that Bernadotte was stationed there to watch the Prussians, and he did not begin to perceive that Marshal’s real intentions till he arrived at Eichstädt and Donauwörth.

The direct road between Würtzburg and Eichstädt traverses the margraviate of Anspach, belonging to Prussia. A circuitous route might have spoilt Napoleon’s combinations, and his troops took that of Anspach at the risk of provoking the hostility of the King of Prussia by this violation of his neutrality. By the 8th of October 1805, 180,000 French had crossed the Danube at different points: Bernadotte and the Bavarians at Ingolstadt, whence he marched rapidly upon Munich; Davoust and Marmont at Neuburg; Soult, Lannes, Murat, and the Guard at Donauworth and Dillingen.

The Austrian General, Kienmayer, with 12,000 men, appointed to guard the bridges, was compelled to fly beyond the Isar River. Marmont and Soult advanced towards Augsburg; Napoleon in person, with Lannes and Murat, on Zusmarshausen. Ney, with 40,000 men, remained on the left bank of the Danube. Mack might have retreated into Tyrol and joined the army of the Archduke John; but he persisted in thinking that Napoleon was still in his front, and that Bernadotte alone had gotten into his rear. Under the influence of this idea, recalling the corps which he had posted in the Black Forest, he wheeled about, and advanced, as he supposed, against Bernadotte and Marmont.

He was soon undeceived. At Wertingen his advanced guard fell in with Murat and the French cavalry, and was completely routed; 4,000 Austrian grenadiers and all their artillery were captured (October 8th, 1805). This affair opened Mack’s eyes; but, though the road to Tyrol was still open, he persisted in remaining at Ulm. Matters growing hourly worse, he at length adopted the resolution of forcing his way towards Bohemia. With this view he endeavoured to force Ney’s positions at Günzburg and Albeck, but was repulsed with considerable loss (October 9th, 1805). Napoleon, meanwhile, investing Ulm with his centre and right, extended his left so as to cut off Mack’s retreat to Tyrol. The investment on this side was completed by the occupation of Memmingen by Soult, October 14th, 1805.

Meanwhile the Russians were approaching; their advanced guard had passed Linz, and the Archduke Charles had detached thirty-three battalions from the army of Italy to proceed to Mack’s rescue. Napoleon drew closer the blockade of Ulm. Shut up in such a town with some 60,000 men, with provisions and ammunition only for a small garrison, Mack’s position was becoming desperate. Another attempt was made to force the road to Bavaria, October 14th, 1805, when the Austrians were defeated with great loss by Ney at Elchingen. The Archduke Ferdinand, however, and Prince Schwarzenberg, succeeded in forcing a passage with upwards of 20,000 men, and gained Heidenheim.

8. Mack surrenders at Ulm, 17 October 1805

On the 15th of October 1805, Napoleon, having carried the heights which command Ulm, summoned Mack to surrender, and in an interview with Prince Lichtenstein pointed out that Mack’s position was inextricable, threatened, if forced to it, to treat the Austrian army as he had treated the garrison of Jaffa. To avoid an assault Mack capitulated on the 17th of October. Ulm, with all its magazines and artillery, was to be surrendered, the garrison were to lay down their arms as prisoners of war, if no Austrian or Russian troops should appear before midnight on the 25th of October to raise the blockade; but if they did appear, the garrison was to be permitted to join them, with all their arms, artillery, and cavalry.

Mack had obtained this respite with great difficulty, which, at least, had the advantage of detaining the French army so many days. Yet on the 19th he signed a second capitulation, without any apparent reason, by which, on the assurance of Marshal Berthier of the impossibility of his being relieved, he surrendered Ulm on the following day; stipulating, however, that Marshal Ney’s division should remain in the environs till the 25th. On the morning of October 20th 24,000 Austrians defiled before Napoleon, and laid down their arms at his feet as prisoners of war.

Among the trophies were forty colours and sixty guns. On the very day of this second capitulation, a division which had escaped from Ulm under Prince Ferdinand, pursued by Murat and Dupont, after one or two previous defeats, was surrounded near Nördlingen, and compelled to surrender at discretion by the capitulation of Trochtelfingen. The Prince, however, escaped this disaster, having pushed on into Bohemia with 2,000 horse.

9. The French move toward Vienna,
late October, early November 1805

The Russian advanced guard under Prince Bagration had effected a junction, October 16th, 1805, at Braunau with Kienmayer, who had retreated beyond the Inn River, pursued and harassed by Bernadotte and the Bavarians. But they were compelled to evacuate Braunau on the approach of the French, who, with the exception of Ney’s corps, advanced rapidly after the surrender of Ulm. Lannes occupied Braunau, October 29th, 1805; Bernadotte entered Salzburg on the 30th. On the 4th of November 1805, the French army passed the Enns. On the 5th Ney took the fort of Scharnitz, which opened the road to Innsbruck.

On the 7th an action took place at Maria Zell between the advanced guard of Davoust and the Austrians under Meerveldt; who lost 4,000 prisoners and sixteen guns. On the 9th the Russians repassed the Danube at Grein; and on the 11th an action between Marshal Mortier and Prince Kutusoff took place near Dürrenstein, a castle rendered famous by the captivity of Richard Coeur de Lion. The French general, who had only 5,000 men, cut his way through four times that number of Russians, and succeeded in reaching Davoust’a division. Kutusoff continued his retreat towards Moravia, to join the Russian corps which was coming to his aid.

10. French enter Vienna, mid-November 1805

In these disastrous circumstances, the Emperor of Austria, in order to save his capital, sent Count Giulay to Napoleon’s headquarters to inquire on what terms he would grant an armistice for the negotiation of a peace. Napoleon demanded that the Russians should return into their own country, that the Hungarian insurrection should be dissolved, and that Venice and Tyrol should be provisionally abandoned to the French. Francis refused these conditions, which were, in fact, equivalent to surrendering at discretion.

But it seems probable that the offer was made only to gain time for the advance of the Russians under Buxhövden and the completion of the Hungarian insurrection. Meanwhile the French army continued its march along the right bank of the Danube, and on the 13th of November 1805 Murat and Lannes entered Vienna without resistance. Such had been the orders of Francis, on quitting his capital a few days before to join at Brünn the Emperor Alexander, who accompanied the second Russian division: and, in fact, Vienna was not in a condition to make any defence.

11. Italian Campaign, October, November 1805

We must now turn our eyes awhile towards Italy. We have seen that the Austrians had made vast preparations in that quarter, in the anticipation that it would be the principal scene of action. But Napoleon’s movements gave quite an unexpected turn to affairs, and rendered the campaign in Italy only subsidiary to that in Germany. Masséna had at first only 30,000 men to oppose to the vast army of the Archduke Charles, and he was therefore instructed to stand on the defensive on the Adige. On the other hand, the Archduke, through Mack’s disasters, which had compelled him to detach a large force to the assistance of that general, was prevented from taking the offensive.

After the King of Naples had ratified the Treaty of Paris, Gouvion St. Cyr, who occupied the peninsula of Otranto with 25,000 men, hastened to join Masséna. But these troops had not yet come up when Masséna, whose army, by reinforcements from other quarters, now numbered near 60,000 men, and about equalled the Archduke’s, having learned the capitulation of Ulm, and foreseeing that the Archduke would fly to the defence of Vienna, impetuously attacked the Austrians in their position at Caldiero between Verona and Vicenza (October 29th). In a desperate struggle, which lasted three days, the French lost 6,000 men, were completely repulsed, abandoned the field of battle, and retreated to Verona. Yet M. Thiers and other French writers claim a brilliant victory!

The Archduke Charles was now at liberty to pursue his road into Austria, by way of Croatia; a movement, however, which could not but look like a retreat. He was pursued by the French; and a corps of 5,000 men, which he had left behind to cover his march, was compelled to capitulate at Casa Albertini, November 2nd, 1805. He summoned his brother John with his army to join him from Tyrol; the two Archdukes effected a junction near Cilli, towards the end of November, and, with their united forces, hastened to the Danube, but were too late to be present at the decisive battle. The Archduke John had also summoned Jellachich from the Vorarlberg; but that commander had been obliged to capitulate to the French.

12. French continue past Vienna, late November 1805

[Map: “Central Europe: Wars of the Third Coalition 1805–7,” Historical Atlas (New York 1923)]


The French made no halt at Vienna, but crossed the Danube, November 14, 1805, in pursuit of the Russians. . . . Murat had entered Brünn, November 18th, 1805, and Napoleon fixed his head-quarters in that town on the 20th.

At this moment the Emperors Francis and Alexander were at Olmütz. The Russian Emperor had had, a little before, an interview with Frederick William III. at Berlin, where he arrived unexpectedly, October 25th, 1805. Demonstrations of esteem and affection were lavished on both sides; the Queen, especially, was charmed by Alexander’s grace of manner and chivalrous bearing. The King of Prussia and his subjects were, at this time, filled with rage and indignation at Napoleon’s violation of the Prussian territory; a cry for war again arose at Berlin; when, suddenly, all these transports were damped by the terrible news of Mack’s capitulation.

13. Frederick William III joins coalition, early November 1805

The arrival of the Archduke Anthony, Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, October 30th, 1805, and his recital of the Austrian disasters, filled the Sovereigns with dejection. Alexander, however, persuaded Frederick William to sign a secret convention at Potsdam, November 3rd, by which he acceded to the Coalition; with the reservation, however, of making a last attempt to bring Napoleon to moderate views.

As the conditions of a general peace, based on that of Lunéville, a military frontier was to be demanded for Austria, an indemnity for the King of Sardinia, the evacuation of Holland and Switzerland, a guarantee for the independence of those two countries, and the separation of the crown of Italy from that of France. Count Haugwitz was to carry these conditions to Napoleon, and, in case of their rejection, war was to be declared, December 15th, 1805. At the same time all the Prussian forces were put upon a war footing.

By way of compensation for the French insult, one of the Prussian King’s first steps had been to forward to Alexander an authority for his troops to traverse Silesia and Lauenburg; in consequence of which 36,000 Russians had entered Silesia, while 18,000 more under Tolstoï, and 12,000 Swedes, disembarking at Stralsund, directed their march through Lauenburg upon Hanover. Of this last army, Gustavus IV. of Sweden was to have taken the command in person; and, after its union with 12,000 Hanoverians at Stade, and some British troops under Lord Cathcart, it was to have made a powerful diversion in Holland.

But that capricious Sovereign, who had called on Prussia for an explanation of her armaments, offended by an imaginary slight on the part of the Emperor of Russia, laid down the command of the combined army, and recalled his troops, already on their march for the Elbe, into Pomerania. Several weeks were lost in negotiations before the Swedes were again put in motion; and, shortly after, the battle of Austerlitz changed the policy of the various Cabinets.

Frederick William also announced to the French Government, October 14th, 1805, that henceforth he regarded himself as released from all his engagements respecting the neutrality of North Germany. He had not, however, made these efforts, though necessary for his own honour, and even safety, without asking to be compensated. In return for his eventual co-operation, he demanded that the King of England should cede to him Hanover, in exchange for the Prussian possessions in Westphalia. The English Cabinet would not accede to this demand; but promised to cede that part of the Electorate which is surrounded by the Prussian dominions, provided Prussia should make war upon France.

Even now Frederick William’s intentions were not open and sincere; and had they been so, Haugwitz was not a fit agent to carry them out. In spite of the convention, it is evident that a great latitude had been allowed to that Minister; that his pretensions were to rise or fall, according to the fortune of the French arms.

Haugwitz did not obtain an interview with Napoleon till November 28th, 1805, at his head-quarters at Brünn. The French Emperor diverted the negotiations from the main subject to collateral ones, and Haugwitz, who saw that a great battle was impending, was not unwilling to wait. Napoleon’s situation was by no means secure. He was faced by an Austro-Russian army, superior in number to his own; 45,000 English, Russians, and Swedes were assembled in North Germany; the Hungarian levy or insurrection was going on; the Archdukes, Charles and John, were advancing. Under these circumstances, Prussia really held in her hands the fate of the campaign and the destinies of Europe. Had Frederick William put his troops in motion, the allies would not have delivered the battle of Austerlitz; they would have waited till Haugwitz had discharged his mission, and have allowed time for the Prussian troops to come up.

On the night before he quitted Potsdam, Alexander, accompanied by the King and Queen of Prussia, had visited by torchlight the tomb of Frederick the Great, in the garrison-church of that place; the Sovereigns had prostrated themselves before the ashes of that illustrious warrior, and had sworn to one another an eternal friendship. But events soon showed that this romantic scene was a mere sentimental phantasmagoria, without earnestness or meaning.

14. Frederick William III hesitates

From Potsdam, Alexander flew to put himself at the head of his army at Olmütz. Here he supplicated in vain for an auxiliary corps of 10,000 Prussians; more, perhaps, with the view of irrevocably engaging Frederick William in the war, than for the actual benefit of their services. The King of Prussia could no longer hope to be sincerely pardoned by Napoleon. His only safety lay in striking a rapid blow; but when it was necessary to act his heart failed him, and his sword fell back into its scabbard. He determined to await the result of Haugwitz’s negotiations.

Thus, as a French writer has observed, in the hands of this Prince an armed mediation united all the inconveniences both of neutrality and war. Without the security of the first, or the glorious chances of the second, it menaced, without coercing, Napoleon, and deceived Austria and Russia with false hopes.

15. Austro-Russian troop movements and regrouping

The Austro-Russian army occupied a very strong position between Olmütz and Olschan. The foremost columns of the Archduke Charles had reached Weinpassing, on the road between Oedenburg and Vienna. The Russian corps of Essen and Benningsen were also coming up. The allies, therefore, had every reason to await the decision of Prussia, and to postpone a battle, till December 15th, 1805, whilst the same motives urged Napoleon to seek one.

Alexander, however, and the youthful warriors who surrounded him, trusting in their superior force, were for immediate action. Another motive was the want of magazines for the support of so large a force. Some parley took place before the battle. The Emperors of Austria and Russia sent Counts Giulay and Stadion to Napoleon’s camp, with proposals for a peace, but on conditions which the French Emperor could not listen to.

Napoleon, on his side, on the arrival of Alexander at Olmütz, twice despatched General Savary to compliment him, and to request an interview. His object was, apparently, to impress the Russians with the idea that he dreaded a battle, and thus to entice them into one. Alexander declined the proposed interview; but he sent Prince Dolgorouki, who only offended the French Emperor by his inept and arrogant pretensions.

16. Battle of Austerlitz, 2 December 1805

A feigned retreat of Napoleon’s for some miles increased the ardour of the Russians for battle. Kutusoffs plan was to turn the right of the French, in order to drive them into the mountains of Bohemia, and cut off their communications with Vienna. Napoleon immediately penetrated this design, and delivered at Austerlitz, December 2nd, 1805, a battle, which has been reckoned one of his masterpieces.

Although he had fewer men than his opponents, yet, at the decisive point, he had massed twice as many as they. The heights of Pratzen, which lay in the middle of the Austro-Russian line, were the key of their position. These he stormed and took, thus dividing the line of the allies, and separating their centre both from the right and left wings. The battle was now lost, though some detached fights ensued.

The losses of the allies have been much exaggerated by French writers, but were still very great; 12,000 men were killed or wounded, 15,000 made prisoners, and 80 guns were captured. The French loss was probably 10,000 men, though Napoleon’s bulletin stated it at only 3,900. The defeat was terrible, but with skill and courage, perhaps, not irretrievable. The formidable position which the Austro-Russians had held at Olmütz, might have been regained and defended with 50,000 men.

The Archdukes, Charles and John, were advancing with 80,000 men, who had not been beaten; they were in communication with Hungary, which was fast rising; the Archduke Ferdinand was bringing 20,000 men from Bohemia; another Russian corps was approaching, and the whole Russian Empire was behind them; 180,000 Prussians, Saxons, and Hessians were in arms, but on these it would have been imprudent to reckon. The allied Emperors and their general, Kutusoff, appear, however, to have entirely lost their heads and their courage, and gave up the game in despair.

17. Armistice between Napoleon and the Austrians, 6 December 1805

After an interview with Alexander, December 4th, 1805, Francis proceeded by appointment to the French camp. He found Napoleon at the bivouac of Saroschütz. Pointing to the nearest watch-fire, Napoleon exclaimed, “I must receive your Majesty in the only palace I have inhabited these two months.” “You make so good a use of it,” replied Francis,” that you must find it very pleasant.” The two Emperors soon came to an agreement for an armistice, which was definitively concluded, December 6th, 1805, at Austerlitz.

The French were to occupy Austria with Venice and its territory, the circle of Montabor in Bohemia, and all to the east of the road from Tabor to Linz, also a part of Moravia and the town of Pressburg in Hungary; the Russian army was to evacuate Moravia and Hungary within a fortnight, and Galicia within a month; the levies in Hungary and Bohemia were to be stopped; no foreign army was to enter the Austrian territory; negotiations for a peace were to be opened at Nikolsburg.

The day after the signature of this armistice Napoleon levied on the Austrian provinces a contribution of 100,000,000 francs. The Russians began their homeward march towards Poland. The Emperor Alexander had given no pledge as to his ulterior intentions. Napoleon, who wished to gain his friendship, not only ordered his retreat to be respected, but also sent back Prince Repnin and all the soldiers of the Imperial Guard who had been captured at Austerlitz. Alexander placed his troops in Silesia and Mecklenburg at the disposal of the King of Prussia, and released him from the engagements which he had entered into by the Convention of Potsdam.

18. Frederick William III and Prussia
forced into alliance with France,
other terms, mid-December 1805

Frederick William’s prospects began to look somewhat gloomy. When Haugwitz congratulated Napoleon on his success, the latter answered: “This compliment was meant for others, but fortune has changed the address.” He then bitterly denounced the King of Prussia’s understanding with his enemies; but ended with promising to forgive what had happened, provided Prussia would form a close alliance with France, offensive and defensive, and as a pledge of sincerity should take formal possession of Hanover. General Don, with the Hanoverian legion and some English troops, had disembarked at Stade, November 17th, 1805; some Swedish and Russian troops also subsequently passed the Elbe, and the Electorate had been restored to the possession of George III.

Haugwitz, instead of fulfilling his instructions, signed, at Schönbrunn, December 15th, 1805 — the very day on which Frederick William had promised to declare war against France if his ultimatum was refused — a convention laid before him by Napoleon, of which the principal points were, the cession to France of Neufchâtel in Switzerland, and of the remaining portion of the Duchy of Cloves; also of the Principality of Anspach to Bavaria. Prussia, in return, was to take possession of the Electorate of Hanover.

19. Peace of Pressburg, 26 December 1805

The armistice between France and Austria was soon followed by the Peace of Pressburg, signed December 26th, 1805; to which place the negotiations, if such they can be called, had been transferred. Talleyrand had followed the French army; the treaty was drawn up by him, and the Austrian plenipotentiaries had only to affix their signatures.

The Emperor Francis recognized all that Napoleon had done in Italy, and renounced the Venetian States ceded to him by the Treaties of Campo Formio and Lunéville. These were now to be united to the Kingdom of Italy. Napoleon was recognized as King of Italy; but that Kingdom was ultimately to be separated from France; though Napoleon was to name his successor. Thus the House of Austria was completely excluded from Italy, where she had ruled for centuries, and where she now possessed not even a single fief.

20. Maximilian, Elector of Bavaria, made king

The Peace included Napoleon’s allies, the Electors of Bavaria, Würtemberg, and Baden; which Princes, as we have seen, he had attached to his fortunes by giving them so large a share of the ecclesiastical spoils in the matter of the indemnifications. The title of King now assumed by the Electors of Würtemberg and Bavaria was recognized by Francis; and these two Sovereigns caused their new dignity to be proclaimed, January 1st, 1806. The Elector of Baden assumed the title of Grand Duke.

21. Bavaria loses Würzburg, gains Tyrol for defensive reasons
favoring the French in Italy

By Article VIII. Austria made considerable territorial cessions to these three Princes. Bavaria, especially, was augmented by the addition of the Vorarlberg, Tyrol, with Brixen and Trent, the Principality of Eichstädt, part of that of Passau, and several other districts. Napoleon regarded the transfer of Tyrol to Bavaria as necessary to the safety of his Italian Kingdom. The cession of these provinces was particularly grievous to the Emperor Francis. They had been the patrimony of his family from the most ancient times; from their geographical situation they were necessary to the security of his frontiers; and he now saw himself compelled to abandon them to Princes against whom he had several causes of complaint, and who had failed in their engagements towards him.

22. Ferdinand III, Grand Duke of Tuscany,
compensated for his losses, acquires Würzburg

Austria was cut off from her communications with Italy and Switzerland, and deprived of her influence in Germany; she lost a population of nearly three million souls, with a revenue of between thirteen and fourteen million florins. Salzburg was the only compensation which she received, and the hereditary right of appointing the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order. The Grand Duke Leopold [correct: Ferdinand III, Grand Duke of Tuscany], to whom Salzburg had been assigned in 1803, was compensated with the Principality of Würtzburg, with the electoral vote.

23. Consequences of the Peace of Pressburg

Such had been the wonderful effects of a campaign of two months! one of the military chefs-d’oeuvre of Napoleon, though easily achieved through the unskilfulness of the generals with whom he had to contend, the irresolution of the allies, and the sordid conduct of Prussia. But the Peace of Pressburg was too unjust and too humiliating to be lasting. A treaty exacted by force, which compromised the safety of the Austrian Monarchy, and violated the rights and constitution of the German Empire, could be regarded only as a truce, to be broken on the first favourable opportunity. The victor, by abusing his power, and exceeding the bounds of justice and moderation, was only preparing his own retribution, and arming against himself the animosity of all Europe.

Napoleon’s wonderful success had experienced only one material drawback. On October 21st, 1805, Nelson had almost annihilated, off Trafalgar, the combined French and Spanish fleets. We forbear to detail Nelson’s chase after Villeneuve, and the particulars of his greatest, but last, victory, almost too dearly purchased with his life. These events are fresh in the memory of every English reader.

It will suffice to remind him that of the combined fleet of thirty-three sail of the line, twenty were taken or destroyed by the English at Trafalgar, while four which had escaped from the action were subsequently captured by Sir Richard Strahan, November 4th, 1805. This decisive battle secured to England the sovereignty of the seas. The news of it reached Napoleon on his march to Vienna. He saw at once the whole extent of its consequences, and vented his anguish in the exclamation, “I cannot be everywhere!”

The destruction or capture of a French squadron of five vessels off St. Domingo, by Admiral Duckworth, February 6th, 1806, gave the finishing blow to the French marine. It never rose again during the war. From May, 1803, to October, 1806, the combined French and Spanish navies lost 32 ships of the line, 26 frigates, and 83 smaller ships. [ . . . ]

24. Consequences for Prussia and Frederick William III

The nature of the convention which Haugwitz had concluded at Schönbrunn with Napoleon, disclosed on that Minister’s return to Berlin, filled Frederick William III. with astonishment and grief. With his usual timid and compromising policy he laid the treaty before a Grand Council, collected all the principal objections to it in the form of an explanatory memoir, which he annexed to the act of ratification, and sent Haugwitz to Paris to defend this mutilated monument of his weakness and irresolution.

At the same time he caused his troops to enter Hanover; but hastened to inform the British Government that the occupation of the Electorate was only provisional till the general peace. He also proceeded to reduce his army to the peace establishment, either from false economy or by way of proof of his conciliating disposition; and he invited Russia and England to withdraw their troops from Hanover and Lauenburg. Never, as a French writer observes, were so many fatal errors committed in so short a time.

Napoleon kept his eyes fixed on the Prussian King. He was persuaded that Frederick William was secretly hostile to him; that he was only seeking to gain time and avoid a rupture with England. But he said nothing, deferred an interview with Haugwitz, waited till Prussia had disarmed herself; when he received the Prussian Minister, brow-beat and frightened him with one of those bursts of rage which were half real, half assumed.

A few days after Talleyrand notified to Haugwitz that the treaty of December 15th, 1805, not having been ratified within the prescribed time, must be considered as null, and laid before him for signature another and more disadvantageous one, in which no compensation was allowed to Prussia for the cession of Anspach; and, in order to involve her in a war with the English, Napoleon’s principal object, she was required to shut against them the mouths of the Weser and Elbe and all the Prussian ports, and to declare the occupation of Hanover definitive.

Haugwitz was told that if he refused to accept this treaty the French armies would immediately march into Prussia; and under this threat he signed it, February 16th, 1806. Frederick William III. ratified it, March 9th, 1806. Thus the successor of Frederick the Great had fallen all at once to the humble condition of an Elector of Brandenburg.

25. New declarations of war, spring 1806

In consequence of this treaty the King of Prussia published a fresh patent, in which he declared that having by a convention with France, and in consideration of the cession of three Provinces, obtained lawful possession of the German States of the House of Brunswick Lüneburg, belonging to France by right of conquest, he hereby took possession of them, and henceforward they were to be considered as subject to Prussia.

The Baron d’Ompteda, Minister of George III., as Elector of Hanover, at Berlin, demanded his passports, April 7th, 1806; and on the 20th the King published a manifesto reproaching Prussia with her conduct, and calling upon the Emperor and the German body for aid, as one of the States of the Empire.

At the same time an embargo was laid on Prussian vessels in British ports, and all communication with Prussia forbidden. The blockade of the Ems, Weser, Elbe, and Trave was declared (May 16th, 1806), but that of the Trave was raised a few days after in favour of Russian and Swedish commerce. On the 11th of June 1806, Great Britain declared war against Prussia. The occupation of Hanover by the Prussians also led to a declaration of war against that Power by Sweden. Gustavus IV. was a warm partisan of Great Britain; even against the desire of the British Cabinet he persisted in occupying the Duchy of Lauenburg, part of the Hanoverian dominions, after Prussia had announced her intention to take possession of them. As, however, hostilities were chiefly confined to a blockade of the Prussian ports by the Swedes, and were terminated in a few months without any event of importance, we forbear to relate them.


[*] Thomas Henry Dyer, Modern Europe, from the Fall of Constantinople to the Establishment of the German Empire A.D. 1453–1871, 2nd ed., 5 vols. (London 1877); vol. 5: From 1794 to 1871, 187–206.

Between November 1804 and April 1805 Russia, Austria, England, and Sweden formed the Third Coalition against Napoleon. The inconstancy and wavering of Friedrich Wilhelm III (here: Frederick William III) in Prussia with respect to this coalition created problems both for the coalition and, afterward, for Prussia. The ensuing war ended with the Peace of Pressburg on 26 December 1805 between France and Austria after Austrian defeats at Ulm (25 September–20 October) and Austerlitz (2 December), after which Würzburg would again change hands, prompting yet another reorganization of the university.

Concerning Caroline and Schelling’s ongoing plans, despite geopolitical and military developments, to resume their journey to Italy if possible, and the problems created by those developments (the campaign in Italy is also discussed in this present narrative), see also Dorothea Schlegel’s letter to Karoline Paulus on 13 January 1805 (letter 389a), note 9.

I have altered this present narrative for the sake of easier comprehension by

• adding biogram links to persons who have already appeared in this correspondence;
• adding the year (e.g., “1805”) to dates when not otherwise present or immediately clear;
• subdividing paragraphs into shorter sections and adding subtitles;
• adding a linked table of contents to the sections

Map: William R. Shepherd, “Germany and Italy in 1803,” Historical Atlas (New York 1923). Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott