Supplementary Appendix: The War of 1809

The War of 1809 [*]

[1] Austrian preparations. Napoleon’s threats (1808)
[2] Austrian motives for war (late 1808, early 1809)
[3] Austria without allies. She resolves on war (early 1809)
[4] The army and the resources of France (early 1809)
[5] The Austrian army (early 1809)
[6] Austrian plan. Distribution of French forces (spring 1809)
[7] Opening movements (9–10 April 1809)
[8] The “Ratisbon campaign” (19–23 April 1809)
[9] Abensberg (19–20 April 1809)
[10] Eckmühl. Repulse of the Austrians (22 April 1809).
[11] Napoleon at Vienna (10–13 May 1809)
[12] The battle of Aspern (21–22 May 1809)
[13] Repulse of Napoleon (22 May 1809)
[14] Effect of the battle (May 1809)
[15] The battle of Wagram (4–5 July 1809)
[16] The campaign in Poland (March–July 1809)
[17] The campaign in Italy, Hungary, and Tyrol (1809)
[18] Campaign in Tyrol (May 1809)
[19] Resistance of Tyrol. The rising suppressed (May 1809–February 1810)
[20] Attempts of Schill and the Duke of Brunswick (April–September 1809)
[21] The Walcheren expedition (July–December 1809)
[22] British disaster at Walcheren (December 1809)
[23] Peace negotiations (July–October 1809)
[24] Peace of Schönbrunn (14 October 1809)

1. Austrian preparations.
Napoleon’s threats (1808)

|341| The war between Austria and Napoleon in the year 1809 was no mere fortuitous conflict. It arose almost spontaneously, as a historical necessity, out of the three hundred years’ contest between France and Austria for European supremacy. In the eighteenth century the struggle against the supremacy of Louis XIV culminated in the war of the Spanish Succession. A century later, in the war of 1809, the House of Habsburg once more gathered its forces in order to break down the tyranny of Napoleon, which weighed so heavily on central Europe. But the war of 1809 has a character of its own; it was the first time since 1792 that in any continental State the whole force of a nation was united for military ends. Bearing in mind the almost simultaneous national risings in Spain, Tyrol, and northern Germany, we may regard the years 1808 and 1809 as the starting-point of the popular reaction against the despotism of Napoleon.

The Spanish rising in 1808 gave Austria the decisive signal to take up arms, a year later, against the French Emperor. The signal came from abroad; it found the ground prepared at home. The domestic reasons for the step taken by Austria date back to the Peace of Pressburg (December 27,1805). That treaty, notwithstanding its stringent conditions, left Austria, though shorn of the prestige of a German Emperor [Franz II], a great position in the concert of the Powers. It was, in the first place, the overthrow of Prussia, but, above all, the alliance between Napoleon and the Czar, completed at the Congress of Erfurt [see Napoleon at Erfurt], which doomed Austria to political isolation, and thereby exposed her to the danger of annihilation by Napoleon whenever it should suit him to attack her. The first who fully grasped this danger was Count Stadion, the Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, a man of large views and conspicuous political ability, and an ardent patriot, who combined with great energy of character a detestation of the narrow-minded Austrian bureaucracy. It was he who, with the active support of the courageous Empress, Marie Louise Beatrix, and of Count Clemens Metternich, then Austrian ambassador in Paris, finally succeeded in urging his Imperial master to |342| the point of war. Metternich believed that the French people were tired of war, and unlikely to support Napoleon much longer; so that, in the event of a conflict, there was reason to expect a popular revolt against the Napoleonic régime. Strange to say, Metternich found some support in Talleyrand, who, behind the scenes, was indirectly encouraging Austria to fight. The decision, apart from military and financial considerations, was not an easy one for Austria, seeing that the general attitude of Europe offered no certain prospect of her finding allies in the ensuing conflict. Before, however, we describe the struggle, we must briefly consider the general political situation; for war is simply “the carrying-out of diplomacy by forcible means.”

In the spring of 1808, Napoleon’s violent and despotic interference in the internal affairs of Spain, at that time his ally, confirmed the opinion prevalent in the Court of Vienna, that the French Emperor’s lust of conquest was insatiable, and that, after the overthrow of Spain, it would be Austria’s turn. Napoleon had not been backward with unfriendly acts, and even with open threats, against that country; nor had it escaped his notice that preparations for war had been going on for some time on the Danube. According to Count Stadion’s views, it was simply a question of gaining sufficient time for the completion of military preparations, and, if possible, for a fresh coalition against France. Archduke Charles, who was superintending the reorganisation of the army, was of the same opinion, at least in principle. The memorial addressed by him to the Emperor Francis on April 14, 1808, is specially interesting. He therein solemnly adjured his Imperial brother, above all things, to introduce into the public administration a more harmonious system. Such a change, unfortunately, did not take place; but something was done to facilitate the preparations for war. Among other measures, the formation of a Landwehr [territorial militia] was ordered by the Imperial edict of June 9, 1808. In this force were enrolled all male subjects, from eighteen to twenty-five years of age, who were capable of bearing arms, and not already serving in the standing army. The edict called forth from Napoleon a more than ordinary burst of anger. On August 15, in Paris, at the reception of the diplomatic corps, there was a violent scene between him and Metternich. The Emperor tried to represent Austria as a disturber of the peace, and threatened a war of extermination if her preparations were not instantly stopped. He also referred to England as the “invisible hand ” which was pushing forward this war. As a matter of fact, since the death of [William] Pitt [1759–1806] there had been no intimate relations between London and Vienna.

In a second interview with Metternich, Napoleon endeavoured to efface the impression of his menaces by more amicable phrases; but Metternich was too experienced a diplomatist to be misled in such a way. He knew perfectly well that, between the two interviews, bad news had arrived from Portugal, where, in consequence of the landing of British troops, |343| the French under Junot were hard pressed. On the strength of this news, he sent word to Vienna that, in view of the development of affairs in the Iberian peninsula, Napoleon could certainly not be meditating any immediate attack on Austria.

2. Austrian motives for war (late 1808, early 1809)

The Congress of Erfurt, which followed on these events, helped to throw the Austrian difficulty into the background in Napoleon’s mind. Count Stadion, on the other hand, did his utmost to force the Emperor Francis to an energetic decision. He met, it is true, with opposition from most of the other ministers; and even Archduke Charles used all his influence to secure delay, urging that it was better to put off the war a little longer, until the military and internal affairs of the State should be on a more settled footing. The war party, on the other hand, could count on the support of the nation. Indeed, throughout purely Catholic Austria, recent events — the occupation of Rome by the French [2 February 1808], the seizure of the Pope [6 July 1809], and his appeal for help to Catholic Christendom — all served to increase the general detestation of Napoleon.

Early in December, 1808, councils were held in the Hofburg [in Vienna] in which Metternich’s representations turned the scale in favour of war. These representations (contained in three memorials, two of a political nature, the third headed Armée française: guerre d’Espagne), starting from the assumption that Napoleon’s supremacy was a permanent danger to the existence of Austria, led up to the conclusion that, in view of recent events in the Iberian peninsula, now or never was the moment for Austria to strike. A deep impression was made by Metternich’s calculation that, in a war with Austria, Napoleon would not have more than 206,000 men at his disposal. Stadion had arrived at similar results; he, indeed, placed the number as low as 197,000. These calculations, it may here be observed, proved later to be incorrect; the number had been underestimated. Archduke Charles considered the views of Stadion and Metternich too sanguine. He reiterated his protest against an early declaration of war, and suggested the end of March [1809] as the earliest possible date for the commencement of hostilities, if war should eventually be declared.

3. Austria without allies. She resolves on war (early 1809)

It was the object of the Court of Vienna, in the interval that remained, to seek the support of those Powers whose interests might presumably incline them to the side of Austria. But the prospect of forming a new Coalition was far from favourable. Among possible allies, the first was Great Britain, the traditional friend of Austria and the most implacable enemy of the Napoleonic system. But, as has already been stated, no close relations existed at that time between the Governments of the two countries; and even in Vienna it was admitted that, in the most favourable circumstances, the utmost that could he counted on from Great Britain was a subsidy. That she would also intervene by means of a military diversion on land (as she afterwards did at Walcheren) could not at that time be foreseen. It was after the outbreak |344| of the war that Count Starhemberg was dispatched to England by the Viennese Cabinet, to conduct negotiations which had hitherto been carried on through the Hanoverian Ministry.

There was some room for hope that Prussia would be won over. The so-called “Reformers,” who after the catastrophe of 1806 had been bent on the political, military, and social regeneration of Prussia, such men as [Karl Sigmund Franz Freiherr vom] Stein, [Gerhard von] Scharnhorst, [Neidhardt von] Gneisenau and others, backed as they were by the profound hatred of Napoleon felt by the population of northern Germany, were ardently in favour of the Austrian alliance. At the outset it seemed likely enough that Prussia would be drawn to Austria’s side. Even after Stein’s resignation, the war party in Berlin refused to acknowledge its defeat; and in January, 1809, a convention was actually concluded in Vienna by Major [Alexander Wilhelm] von der Goltz, in which it was agreed that Prussia should place 80,000 men in the field. But it did not accord with the cautious character of King Frederick William III, any more than with those formal pledges by which he had bound himself to Napoleon in the convention of September 8, 1808, to form so bold a resolution — a resolution made more difficult, it is true, by the Franco-Russian alliance. During his stay in St Petersburg in the beginning of January, 1809, he was strengthened in his tendency to remain neutral; and, in the end, he rejected all binding arrangements with the phrase: “Without Russia I cannot join you.”

That Russia should join must, to any dispassionate judge of the situation, have appeared out of the question. Her friendship with France had gained for her Finland and the reversion of the Danubian Principalities. All the same, various diplomatic attempts were made to lure the Emperor Alexander from Napoleon’s side. But in vain. On March 2, 1809, the Tsar drily informed Count [Karl Philipp] Schwarzenberg, the Austrian ambassador, that he would fulfil his obligations to France; that is to say, he would dispatch an auxiliary force to help her against Austria. Nevertheless there was still some ground for the hope that Russia would not carry military coercion too far. As for the minor Powers, Denmark was on the side of France; Sweden was occupied by the war with Russia; and the smaller German States had, through the Confederation of the Rhine, become the vassals of Napoleon and the adversaries of their former Emperor.

Thus, when on February 8, 1809, war was finally decided upon by an Imperial Council under the presidency of the Emperor, Austria found herself alone, without an ally, pitted against the most powerful State and the greatest military genius of the time. She was still alone, when on March 2 Metternich declared in the Council that the movements of the French troops in Germany, and the mobilising of the Rheinbund [Confederation of the Rhine] contingent, had compelled the Emperor Francis to place his own army on a war footing. Formal declaration of war there was none. Its place was taken by a lengthy official report, issued by the Court of Vienna and |345| widely circulated, and by a stirring proclamation, addressed to the army and the nation.

4. The army and the resources of France (1809)

France, from a military point of view, was then in the zenith of her power. By force of numbers, military capacity, admirable organisation, and masterly leadership, the French army was in the hands of Napoleon a terrific engine of war. In the winter of 1808–9, by means of a conscription relentlessly carried out, the nominal strength of this army (never actually reached) attained the number of 800,000 men. This included field-forces about 300,000 strong in Spain, 100,000 in the interior of France, 200,000 drawn entirely from the Rhenish territory on the right bank of the Rhine, and about 60,000 in Italy.

At the same time, one fact must be clearly borne in mind: that the French army of 1809, as regards both its internal cohesion and its military discipline, was not the equal of the Grand Army of 1805, which Napoleon himself described as “the best army he ever commanded.” The causes of this falling-off were various. In accordance with his widening schemes of supremacy, the Emperor was possessed by a sort of rage de nombre [obsession with numbers]; and the army, both officers and men, thus lost in quality what it gained in quantity. The financial resources of France were also so severely strained by incessant wars that the clothing, equipment, and provisioning of the troops left much to be desired; and pay was frequently in arrears. Moreover, many officers in the higher ranks of the service were beginning to be tired of war, and longed to enjoy their hard-won honours and positions in peace and quietness. Napoleon therefore was driven to economise in the once lavish items of rewards, so that his paladins might have something left to fight for.

But these defects were of but slight importance compared with the brilliant military qualities of the French army. Looking back on the overwhelming victories of the last ten years, it might well regard itself as invincible, so long as Napoleon was at its head. For pure fighting quality the infantry stood indisputably in the front rank. We shall see later what marvellous deeds were done, especially at Aspern and Essling, by the French infantry (including the German auxiliaries there engaged). In any case, the mass of the French infantry must be regarded as superior to the Austrian, and the tactical skill of its leading was most decidedly greater. The French cavalry was brave, numerous, and well-mounted; and it was commanded by a large staff of distinguished officers. Its weakness lay in the rider’s lack of care for his horse, which led to large numbers of animals dying on the march. But, as was proved by its brilliant charges at the battle of Aspern, the cavalry, when it came into action, was extremely efficient. The artillery had attained a prominent place in the French army; and Napoleon, who had himself risen from this branch of the service, knew how to handle it in a masterly fashion. In the war of 1809, the “grand battery” of Wagram became the classic instance of successful handling of large masses of field artillery.

5. The Austrian army (1809)

|346| The military resources of Austria, with a population only half as large as that of France, were very inferior to the French. According to official calculations, there were available, in the spring of 1809, 283,000 troops of the line and 310,000 of the reserve. But these numbers were never reached. The actual strength of the field army, at the outbreak of war, amounted to no more than 265,000 men, including 15,000 militia. It is true that the army had been in every respect reorganised since the catastrophe of 1805. Archduke Charles had then taken upon himself the functions of Minister of War; and to his circumspection and practical energy was mainly due the improvement in organisation and tactics that now became apparent. New service-regulations were introduced; equipment and arms were perfected. But the end chiefly aimed at was to rouse the spirit of the troops. Such words as “People,” “Freedom,” “Fatherland,” were heard for the first time in the army — words which, however, before long were again to be excluded from the language of Austrian policy. In 1809 a lofty sentiment of patriotism permeated the army, especially the German portion of it; and it was this universal enthusiasm for the fatherland which inspired its heroic conduct in the battles of Aspern and Wagram.

Among the various branches of the service, ancient tradition had allotted a leading place to the thirty-five regiments of the Imperial cavalry, which (except at Marengo) had invariably distinguished itself in war. The infantry, numbering 78 regiments and nine Jäger [riflemen] battalions, was somewhat clumsy in action, but admirable in discipline; and its grenadiers formed a picked body of troops, which remained unconquered at Aspern and Wagram. The field artillery, consisting of four regiments, was well trained, and during the campaign of 1809 superior to the French in the number of its guns.

6. Austrian plan. Distribution of French forces (1809)


The mobilisation of the Austrian army commenced in January, 1809. On February 25, 1809, the strategical concentration began. The plan of operations was to attack the French troops under the command of Davout in central Germany, together with the Rheinbund troops (in all about 230,000 strong), and to defeat them before Napoleon could bring up his reinforcements. The Austrian army in Germany was under the command of Archduke Charles, who was appointed commander-in-chief. The “army of Inner Austria,” under Archduke John, was to proceed simultaneously against the French forces in Italy and Dalmatia; while a third army, under Archduke Ferdinand, was to invade the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. In accordance with this plan of operations, Archduke Charles assembled, towards the end of March, six army corps in western Bohemia. This position was opposite to the centre of the enemy’s radius of concentration and close to northern Germany, in which a rising was expected. Two army-corps were also concentrated in Upper Austria in order to invade Bavaria on both banks of the Danube. Archduke John had orders to invade north-eastern Italy from |347| Willach-Laibach with two army-corps, and to dispatch a column to Tyrol, to form a nucleus for the expected rising in that country, which bore unwillingly the Bavarian yoke. A detachment was to advance into Dalmatia and cover the rear of Archduke John’s army. Archduke Ferdinand’s army-corps was to move from Cracow and to occupy Warsaw so as to reach, from thence, the Elbe above Breslau. Clearly, this plan of operations did not fail on the side of comprehensiveness.

On the French side, the situation did not admit of plans so definite in their aim, not only because the French army was at first strictly limited to the defensive, but because, scattered as it was over a wide extent of country, it could only proceed to the seat of war by sections. Napoleon had, it is true, completed his military preparations by the middle of January, 1809. While still in Spain, he sent orders to the princes of the Rheinbund to place their contingents on a war footing. Troops were sent from France; and the Imperial Guard was dispatched from Spain to Germany. The French troops under Davout, then dispersed over northern Germany, received orders to march into Bavaria. But these orders were insufficient to secure to the Emperor at the outbreak of war those two most important factors of success — numerical superiority and initiative. At the beginning of April, the entire force which he could dispose of at the various seats of war (exclusive of Spain) amounted to only 165,000 men (French and Rheinbund troops) in Bavaria; 18,050 (Poles) in the Grand Duchy of Wareaw; 20,000 in Saxony; 57,000 in Italy north of the Po; and 10,000 in Dalmatia. In Bavaria the French army was not only inferior in numbers to the army of Archduke Charles, and far weaker in artillery, but it was also seriously dislocated. And in Bavaria lay the crux of the whole war.

7. Opening movements (9–10 April 1809)

Archduke Charles’ original plan of operations had to be altered even before its execution began. The Archduke had meant to take the field at the end of March. But, as all the troops had not yet arrived on the scene of action, and as news had come that the French army of the Rhine was approaching Ratisbon [Regensburg], the commencement of operations was put off till the second week in April, while the main army advanced from Bohemia to the Braunau-Passau line. Here, on the evening of April 9, were finally marshalled 116,000 men, forming a front scarcely twenty-eight miles in length. Besides these, 50,000 men under General Bellegarde were at Tachau, and 10,000 under General Jellachich at Salzburg. In all, 176,000 men crossed the Bavarian frontier on April 10. The Austrian offensive found the French army of the Rhine not yet assembled. Davout was engaged in carrying out the directions sent by the Emperor from Paris to Berthier, who was then at Strassburg and was temporarily entrusted with the conduct of operations. These directions ordered a concentration upon Donauwörth. At the same date the various divisions of the French army, numbering 89,000 men, distributed in five groups, were drawn up |348| on the line Munich-Ratisbon-Würzburg (a line 112 miles in length), behind which 76,000 men lay between Augsburg and Donauwörth.


Slowness of the Austrians (13–18 1809)

Archduke Charles had meant by rapid marches to reach the Isar in the direction of Landshut, while Bellegarde was to march upon Ratisbon, and Jellachich upon Munich. It would have been quite possible for the Austrian main army to reach the Isar by April 14. Instead of this, owing to the defective arrangements of the commissariat, it advanced very slowly, and accomplished only half a normal march daily. Herein lay one of the principal causes of the later Austrian reverses. In war the most valuable of all commodities is time; and the French generals knew how to handle it so economically that by April 13 the various divisions of their army were already drawn closer together in the direction of Donauwörth. Then, all of a sudden, Berthier interfered disastrously in the course of operations, with a view to effecting a concentration at Ratisbon. A change of orders became necessary, proving the truth of the adage: “Order — counter-order — disorder.” To be sure, Berthier might have said he was only acting in obedience to Napoleon’s commands; but Napoleon did not leave Paris till April 13; and even he, at such a distance, was not in a position to make arrangements in accordance with the actual condition of things.

Consequently, when the Emperor entered Donauwörth early on April 17, he found the situation far from favourable, since the dislocation of the French forces made it possible for Archduke Charles to attack and defeat the scattered units one by one. But the Archduke, whose advanced forces had won several unimportant successes between the 11th and the 15th, had in the meanwhile become “sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought.” Although, on the 16th, he had driven the Bavarians out of Landshut, and thus possessed himself of the line of the Isar, he abandoned his design of breaking through the enemy’s front, and decided on the 18th to attack the French left wing under Davout at Ratisbon, maintaining the defensive against the Bavarians on the right.

8. The “Ratisbon campaign” (19–23 April 1809)

With the personal intervention of Napoleon the course of operations underwent a complete change. [“Reappearance of Napoleon on the Field Before Ratisbon,” in William Milligan Sloane, Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, vol. 3 (New York 1901), plate following p. 166:]


In the end, his energy succeeded in rectifying the strategic blunders of Berthier. But even here, as in the Marengo campaign, Napoleon’s merit has been much overrated. But for the remarkable tactical achievements of his marshals and the blunders of Archduke Charles, the “Ratisbon campaign” (as the military movements of April 19–23 are called) would have had a different issue. It was, above all, a serious mistake on Napoleon’s part that he miscalculated the date when hostilities were likely to commence. He did not expect them to begin till a fortnight later, and he ought to have been much earlier on the spot.

9. Abensberg (19–20 April 1809)

The Emperor had originally intended to concentrate his forces on the left bank of the Danube, at a point further to the west, between Augsburg and Ingolstadt; but, having reconnoitred the enemy’s position, |349| he decided, on April 17, to effect his junction on the left bank in the neighbourhood of Abensberg. The orders relating to this movement were conceived, it is true, in masterly fashion; but, as ought to have been foreseen, they became impracticable, in the most important details, when on the 19th the Austrian commander carried out his intention of making a determined attack, with all his available forces, on the French left wing. This wing consisted of four divisions under Davout, whom Napoleon had directed to approach the main army by marching to Neustadt in a southerly direction. Such a march, with the Danube in the rear and a vastly superior enemy in front, could only be carried out as a flank movement, one of the most difficult of all military operations. Napoleon himself would have been the first to condemn any other commander for attempting a movement so contrary to all the rules of war. Moreover, recent researches have shown that Napoleon gave this order without knowing how Davout was situated; it was, therefore, an order based on false assumptions. Davout, by means of magnificent generalship, succeeded, after a fierce battle at Haussen on April 19, in escaping the overthrow that threatened him; but this was chiefly if not entirely owing to the fact that, at the last moment, Archduke Charles failed to bring his entire force (which was far superior to Davout’s) energetically into the field.


Thus the Marshal succeeded in joining Lefebvre’s corps, which on the 19th had also fought with equal success at Abensberg against isolated detachments of the Austrian army. If the events of the 19th meant no decided victory for the French, they had great influence on the whole future course of the campaign, seeing that, from this point onwards, Napoleon altered his tactics, acting solely on the offensive, while Archduke Charles confined himself to the defensive. Now, as Moltke said, “the offensive alone is real generalship”; and this was proved by the later incidents of the campaign of 1809.

10. Eckmühl. Repulse of the Austrians (22 April 1809)

On April 20, Ratisbon, where only one French regiment was posted, fell into the hands of Count Bellegarde, who formed with his two army-corps the extreme right wing of the Austrian army, and had till now been operating by himself on the left bank of the Danube. But the possession of Ratisbon had no further influence on the course of the operations, for on the 20th Napoleon with his united forces fell upon the Austrian left wing, and in the battle of Abensberg inflicted on it a decisive defeat. The following day Napoleon pursued the battle against the Austrian left as it was retiring upon Landshut, and cut it off from the main army. Davout advanced simultaneously upon the right wing and forced it to retreat. But the decisive blow against that part of the Austrian army which was under the direct command of Archduke Charles was not struck till the battle of Eckmühl (April 22).


Here, in spite of a stubborn resistance, the Austrians were beaten; [here the end of the battle from Marie-Joseph-Louis-Adolphe Thiers, “Bataille d’Eckmül (fin de la bataille),” Collection de 350 gravures, dessins de Philippoteaux, etc. pour l’histoire du Consulat et de l’Empire, 2 vols. (Paris 1870), no. 159:]


and a general retirement along the whole line of front became inevitable. This, however, could take place only by the separation of the army into two bodies. |350| The left wing, under Hiller, disappeared in a south-easterly direction towards the Isar; while the main army under Archduke Charles, going north, attempted to gain the left bank of the Danube. This it succeeded in reaching on the 23rd by way of Ratisbon, which the French, after an obstinate defence on the part of the Austrian rear-guard, stormed on the evening of the same day.

Thus ended the five days’ campaign of Ratisbon, in which the Austrians lost nearly 40,000 men in killed, wounded, and prisoners. The Austrian army was broken up. Its condition after the defeat was such that the French Emperor had no further opposition to fear in his march on Vienna. On the morning of April 23 Archduke Charles himself wrote to his Imperial brother: “Napoleon’s position grows steadily stronger; and I shall be very lucky if, after yesterday’s defeat, I succeed in bringing the army with honor across the Danube. I have given your Majesty an accurate account of my position; and I must add that against such an enemy nothing more can be expected from what is left of this army.”

11. Napoleon at Vienna (10–13 May 1809).

As a commander-in-chief Napoleon remains to this day unequalled in the relentless following-up of victory. Ceaselessly pursuing Hiller’s division of the Austrian army, the French Emperor appeared before Vienna on May 10. Three days later he rode into the Imperial city, which had offered only a feeble show of resistance. Meanwhile, Archduke Charles, who had reassembled his army, approached the Danube from Budweis in the direction of Vienna, and about the middle of May took up his position in threatening proximity on the left bank.


His intention was to cross to the right bank, and so threaten, if possible, the French communications. This plan, however, was frustrated by Napoleon, who was firmly determined to win a decisive victory by a vigorous offensive. The battle was to be fought on the Marchfeld, where the Archduke had effected a junction with the troops under Hiller — that historic field where Rudolf of Habsburg conquered the Bohemian king Ottokar, and thereby founded the power of his House.

Napoleon’s plan of attacking Archduke Charles on the Marchfeld was bold in the extreme, because he would first have to cross the Danube, and then to fight with the river in his rear. On May 18 he had gathered together 70,000 men south-east of Vienna. Having planted himself firmly on the left bank of the Danube at Aspern and Essling, he commenced operations by transporting his army by means of four military bridges to Lobau, an island formed by one of the numerous arms of the Danube. [“Building the Bridge at the Island of Lobau,” in William Milligan Sloane, Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, vol. 3 (New York 1901), plate following p. 190:]


From Bisamberg, a hill commanding a view of the wide plain of the Marchfeld, Archduke Charles had watched the movements of the French. He quickly brought his troops into order of battle, and determined to fall with his full strength upon the feeble forces which Napoleon, who did not believe the Archduke to be so near him, had transported to the left bank of the river.


12. The battle of Aspern (21–22 May 1809)

|351| These troops did not amount to more than 17,000 infantry, with 5000 horse and 52 guns, under Marshal Bessières. Against these, about noon on Monday in Whitsun week (May 21), 80,000 infantry, 15,000 horse, and 300 guns, formed in three columns, advanced to the attack. But, in spite of all their courage, the Austrians failed to take Aspern and Essling, the two points d’appui [strategic points] of the French. Aspern was defended by Masséna with Molitor’s division, Essling by Marshal Lannes with that of Bonnet. Repeated attacks were made on these positions, only to be repulsed in every case by the indomitable defenders. [“Fighting in the Streets of Essling,” in William Milligan Sloane, Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, vol. 3 (New York 1901), plate following p. 156:]


On the other hand, the attempt made by Napoleon to break through the centre of the enemy’s line by a great cavalry charge failed signally, owing to the steadiness of the Austrian infantry. Equally unsuccessful was a second attack of the combined French cavalry, made about eight o’clock in the evening upon the Austrian horse. When it grew dusk, Aspern was only partially in possession of the Austrians, while they had been altogether unable to force an entry into Essling. Nevertheless, the Austrian army held the French (as Masséna, the defender of Aspern, expresses it in his memoirs) “closely hemmed in by a ring of fire and steel”; and during the night the battle repeatedly flared up afresh.

At 3 a.m. on the 22nd Masséna recommenced the bloody work with a vigorous and unexpected attack on the Austrians in Aspern, and drove them from this fiercely contested position. Further fighting took place at Essling, which finally remained in the hands of the French. [“Defence of the Granary at Essling,” in William Milligan Sloane, Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, vol. 3 (New York 1901), plate following p. 182:]


At seven o’clock Napoleon began to deploy the forces massed between Aspern and Essling for a combined attack. During the night fresh bodies of troops, the 2nd corps, under Lannes, the grenadier corps, under Oudinot, and the Imperial Guard, had crossed the Danube; so that in all about 55,000 men, with 8000 horse, pressed forward against the Austrian lines. Before the tremendous onset of the French, who advanced in close order with the regularity of men on parade, some of the Austrian battalions began to waver, when Archduke Charles, seizing the banner of the Zach regiment, flung himself into the fray. His heroic example inspired his troops; and the advance of the French infantry was checked. Similarly the French regiments of horse, after overthrowing the enemy’s cavalry in a magnificent charge, finally retired before the advance of the Austrian grenadiers. In the centre the battle came to a standstill.

13. Repulse of Napoleon (22 May 1809)

At nine o’clock the news reached Napoleon that the enemy had set on fire and destroyed the largest of the military bridges. This was disastrous news. It might mean the annihilation of the French army, if the Austrians succeeded in taking Aspern and Essling; for in this case the French retreat across the Danube would be seriously imperilled. A furious conflict therefore again broke out round the two villages, whose position was now marked only by heaps of smouldering ruins. The struggle for Aspern and Essling is one of the most memorable and |352 | also the most sanguinary combats in military history. At 3 p.m. the French won back Essling, which they had lost; and they held it till the end of the battle. Aspern, on the other hand, fell finally into the hands of the Austrians later in the day. But their strength also was exhausted. They were no longer able to hamper the retreat of the enemy, who, the same evening and during the following night, crossed over to the island of Lobau, after having with immense labour succeeded in restoring the bridges. The losses on both sides were enormous. The Austrians had lost from 25,000 to 26,000 men; the French from 18,000 to 20,000, the gallant Marshal Lannes being among those who perished. [“Napoleon and Marshal Lannes at Essling,” in William Milligan Sloane, Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, vol. 3 (New York 1901), plate following p. 174:]


14. Effect of the battle (May 1809)

The battle of Aspern made a powerful impression on both friend and foe. For the first time, the prize of victory had escaped the hitherto invincible Emperor. This fact remained unaltered by the boastful bulletin issued by Napoleon on May 23, in which he estimated the French losses at 4000, and declared that on May 22 he “remained master of the battlefield.” On the other hand, there is some ground for the reproach brought against Archduke Charles of having let slip the opportunity offered him by the critical position of the French army, which was forced to wait several days on the island of Lobau without food or ammunition. There is justice in this accusation as regards the afternoon of the 23rd; but afterwards there appear to have been political reasons for the delay. At the end of May the Prince of Orange made his appearance at the Archduke’s headquarters, as confidential envoy of the Prussian Court, with the promise of help from Prussia. In the beginning of June it seemed likely enough that King Frederick William III, under the pressure of the war party, would actually decide on taking part in the war. But when, at Königsberg [where the king had moved his court after Prussia’s defeat in 1806 and the French occupation of Berlin], on June 18, the Austrian ambassador, Baron Steigentesch, delivered letters to the King, both from the Emperor Francis and Archduke Charles, and endeavoured to obtain a definite engagement, the King deferred his decision in the hope that things might become clearer in the future. Steigentesch returned with his mission unaccomplished.

Between the armies a seven weeks’ armistice was arranged, which was used by both to obtain reinforcements. In the beginning of July an army of 165,000 men — partly French, partly troops of the Rhine Confederation, and including 25,000 horse — was marshalled on the island of Lobau, ready to repeat the attempt of the previous May. The French now had a numerical superiority, for Archduke Charles had but 135,000 men, including 15,000 horse, though he certainly held a strong position behind the Russbach with the Marchfeld before him. His artillery was slightly superior in numbers to the French.

15. The battle of Wagram (4–5 July 1809)


In the night of July 4–5, amid thunder and lightning and in torrents of rain, the French columns began to cross the Danube on the four bridges. [Marie-Joseph-Louis-Adolphe Thiers, “L’armée française débouchant de l’île de Lobau la veille de la bataille de Wagram,” Collection de 350 gravures, dessins de Philippoteaux, etc. pour l’histoire du Consulat et de l’Empire, 2 vols. (Paris 1870), no. 168:]


On July 5, at midday, their approach completed, they advanced in close columns from Gross-Enzersdorf against the Austrians, who at |353| seven in the evening repulsed with heavy loss an assault upon the heights of Wagram. But the real attack did not take place till the following day. Napoleon had determined to direct it against the enemy’s left wing, while the Austrian centre was to be broken simultaneously by a charge of densely-packed masses of cavalry and infantry. Archduke Charles had also decided to take the offensive, directing his main attack upon the French left, which was to be surprised at early dawn. But the order reached his generals too late; and the Archduke was obliged to change his plan. At 6 a.m. he pushed forward his centre, and fell upon the French in the village of Aderklau. The struggle for the possession of this place was bitter and prolonged, resembling that for Aspern two months before. Fortune alternated; in the end the village remained in the hands of the Austrian grenadiers under the heroic General d’Aspre. On their right wing also the Austrian columns pressed forward victoriously by Süssenbrunn and Breitenlee to the banks of the Danube. At this moment matters looked critical for the French; but the Emperor, hastening to the centre of the fight, ordered 100 guns, the historic “grand battery,” to be massed at Süssenbrunn to check the Austrian advances. [“The Battle of Wagram,” in William Milligan Sloane, Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, vol. 3 (New York 1901), plate following p. 186:]


Soon afterwards he launched against the enemy a solid column, consisting of 30,000 infantry and 6000 horse, moving in one compact mass under Macdonald’s command. Though the French eventually succeeded, with heavy loss, in attaining their object, it was not at this point that the issue was decided. This took place in another part of the field, near Markgrafen-Neusiedel, where Marshal Davout beat the enemy’s enfeebled left wing under Prince Rosenberg, rolled it up, and so tore a breach in the Austrian front. Their right wing was also forced back by Masséna at Aspern. Everywhere limited to the defensive, with no prospect of the long-expected help from Archduke John (who was to have advanced from Pressburg and fallen on the enemy’s right flank), Archduke Charles reluctantly gave, at two o’clock, the order to retreat.

Though a defeat for Austria, the battle of Wagram was one of the most brilliant feats of arms in Austrian history. The Austrian losses, in the two days’ fighting, amounted to 24,000, killed and wounded. Those of the French were estimated at 18,000. On the following day Archduke Charles drew off his army in good order in the direction of Znaym and Iglau, pursued, though but feebly, by the French.


There was some more fighting at Znaym on July 10 and 11; but an armistice on the 12th put an end to further hostilities. The Emperor Francis at first refused to sanction this; but on the 17th, at Komorn, he reluctantly consented to the ratification.


16. The campaign in Poland (March–July 1809)

We must now turn to review the course of the war elsewhere. At the outset of the struggle, Austria was compelled to reckon on a conflict not only with the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, but also with Russia, since |354| both these States were allied with France. Consequently, in March, 1809, a force of 25 battalions, 44 squadrons of cavalry, and 76 guns (30,000 men in all) were concentrated, as a 7th army-corps, in western Galicia, and placed under the command of Archduke Ferdinand. On April 15, the Archduke, from his base at Nowe-Miasto, commenced operations, aiming in the first place at the capture of Warsaw. This enterprise was open to the strategic objection that it exposed the right flank to a Russian force stationed on the Pruth; but it was not expected that this force would push forward with speed or decision. In addition to 40,000 Russians under Prince Galitzin, the Austrians had to face 17,000 Poles and 2000 Saxons, whom Prince Poniatovski had assembled near Raszyn, a day’s march south of Warsaw.


Archduke Ferdinand advanced rapidly, beat Poniatovski at Raszyn (April 19), and occupied Warsaw (April 22); the tête-du-pont [bridghead] at Praga — a suburb of Warsaw on the right bank of the Vistula — remained, however, in the hands of the Poles. Early in May Poniatovski took the offensive, and on the 5th, after a successful combat, occupied Gora, at which point the Austrians had intended to cross the Vistula. The Archduke, finding himself unable to advance further against the main Polish army, determined to make a demonstration in the direction of Thorn, in order to divert the attention of the enemy from Galicia. The plan failed, however; for Poniatovski led his troops up the Vistula, occupied Lublin (May 14) and Sandomir (May 18), and on the 20th stormed Zamosz. At the same time the Russians advanced towards Lemberg, while a strong Polish force approached Warsaw. Thus threatened on all sides, the Archduke was forced, on June 3, to evacuate the city, and to withdraw to Opatoff, in the upper valley of the Vistula. Although the Austrians made some successful raids from this point, the further advance of the Russians from Lemberg, and the presence of 25,000 Poles, strongly posted near Radom, made the Archduke’s position untenable. Early in July he fell back upon the line Viniary-Zarnoviez, but soon afterwards received orders to retire upon Olmütz by way of Cracow. On July 16 the news of the armistice of Znaym put an end to hostilities in this quarter. The Austrian Government has been blamed, with some justice, for undertaking the Polish campaign at all. The decision of the war lay, in any case, with the main army under Archduke Charles; and Poland was so far distant that events in that country could have no serious influence on the issue. On the other hand, the 30,000 men, who fought bravely but uselessly under Archduke Ferdinand, might well have turned the scale at Aspern or Wagram.

17. The campaign in Italy, Hungary, and Tyrol (1809)

Nor was this the only deficiency which stood in the way of Austrian success. It has been mentioned above that, on the afternoon of July 5, Archduke John was vainly expected on the battlefield. Till that time he had been independently conducting the operations of the army of Inner Austria, consisting of 48,000 men, 5000 horse, and 150 |355| guns, which had crossed the Italian frontier at Tarvis on April 9. On April 16, at Sacile, he came upon a Franco-Italian army of 36,000 men, led by Eugene de Beauharnais, Viceroy of Italy, and inflicted on it a decisive defeat. He followed up this blow by another at Caldiero on the 29th.


But the bad news from Germany obliged the Archduke to retire to Willach early in May. After a series of collisions, the issue of which was unfavourable to the Austrians, he had to abandon Carinthia to the Viceroy (who in the meanwhile had received considerable reinforcements), and to withdraw into Hungary. On June 7 he arrived before the fortress of Raab, followed by Eugene, who was now attempting to cover the movements of the main French army towards Hungary. In Croatia and Dalmatia also there had been fighting with Marshal Marmont’s corps, ending in the retreat of the Austrians.

On June 14 the Archduke again challenged the fortune of arms at Raab, but was beaten and obliged to retreat by way of Komorn to Pressburg, whence he was summoned to take part in the battle of Wagram. It was his own fault that he arrived too late for effectual interference. In any case, it is doubtful whether Archduke John, who could bring no more than 13,000 men into the field, would have been able to turn the tide of war at Wagram.

18. Campaign in Tyrol (May 1809)

At the beginning of the campaign, Archduke John was also commissioned to deliver Tyrol from Bavarian rule, under which it had fallen by the Peace of Pressburg. He dispatched General Chasteler with 10,000 men, who were to push forward up the valley of the Drave by way of Brixen towards the Brenner and form the nucleus of an army to assist the general rising of the loyal Tyrolese. Popular levies speedily rallied on all sides round their self-constituted leaders, attacked the feeble Bavarian garrisons, and drove them, in some cases after obstinate fighting, to leave the country. In four days the whole of northern Tyrol was freed; and the Imperial flag waved once more in Innsbruck. General Chasteler now advanced to Trient and even as far as the Lake of Garda. He was, however, compelled to hasten back again to northern Tyrol, the recovery of which had been undertaken by the Bavarian General Wrede, who invaded the country with strong forces from the north and east about the beginning of May. In spite of the heroic efforts of the Tyrolese, who in their mountain valleys fought the detested enemy with rifles, scythes, and rocks, the Bavarians made progress and occupied Innsbruck on May 22.


19. Resistance of Tyrol.
The rising suppressed (summer 1809–February 1810)

General Wrede now dispatched part of his forces to join the French main army; but he had no sooner done so, than the tocsin sounded again the call to arms. On May 29, 20,000 Tyrolese under Andreas Hofer, the innkeeper of Passeyer, and such popular leaders as Speckbacher and Peter Hasper, appeared before Innsbruck, which, after a fierce battle on the Iselberg, fell the same day into their hands. For the second time the Bavarians were compelled to evacuate Tyrol. But as the Tyrolese |356| refused to recognise the terms of the armistice of Znaym, the full weight of the French Emperor’s fury was turned against the little country, which, in its courageous loyalty, believed itself strong enough to defy even a Napoleon. From all directions strong columns pushed into the Tyrolese valleys. But everywhere they met with so obstinate a resistance that they were forced to draw back; and on August 15, after a sanguinary conflict on the Iselberg, the Tyrolese for the third time marched victoriously into Innsbruck. As “commander-in-chief in Tyrol,” Hofer now undertook not only the military but also the political direction of affairs. Europe beheld with amazement the triumphant resistance of the Tyrolese, who in very deed had proved the truth of Schiller’s words:

Unworthy is that people,
Which on its honour dares not stake its all.

Yet this heroic struggle was in the end to be crushed by sheer brute force, through the enemy’s numerical superiority. Napoleon, furious at the repeated failure of his arms, gave orders to the Viceroy of Italy to invade the country from the south, while the Bavarians poured into it from the north and east. The conflict raged with alternating fortunes in the hard-tried land, for even after the Peace of Schönbrunn (October 15) the Tyrolese did not abandon the struggle. But, when Hofer, after the so-called fourth battle on the Iselberg (November 1 and 2), was compelled to retreat, he himself bade his fellow-countrymen give up the unequal contest. Nevertheless he countermanded the order, and once more sent forth the call to arms. But to alter the fate of his country was beyond his power, although the sanguinary strife was prolonged till December [1809], incessantly renewed, like the battles in the Peninsula, with extreme bitterness on either side. At length Andreas Hofer was betrayed into the hands of the French; [Hofer’s capture, from Gottfried Wilhelm Becker, Andreas Hofer und der Freiheitskampf in Tyrol 1809: mit 24 Stahlstichen, vol. 3 (Leipzig 1841), plate following p. 192:]


and, after a trial by martial law, he was shot at Mantua, on February 21, 1810. [Ibid., plate following p. 208:]


He maintained his heroic demeanour to the last, and himself gave his executioners the word to fire. The revolt of the Tyrolese, their heroic fight for their Emperor and for the deliverance of their country, will remain for all time one of the noblest pages in modern German history.

20. Attempts of Schill and the Duke of Brunswick (April–September 1809)

The rising of Austria against Napoleon gave the signal for several efforts in Germany to shake off the French yoke. At the end of April, 1809, in Hesse, which had suffered heavily through the bad government of King Jerome, there was a general rising under the leadership of Baron von Dörnberg, a cavalry captain. It was, however, suppressed with much bloodshed. Equally unsuccessful was the attempt of some officers, formerly in the Prussian service, to surprise the fortress of Magdeburg.

More importance attaches to the enterprise of the Prussian major, Ferdinand von Schill, who already in the campaign of 1806–7 had won a |357| reputation for gallantry. On April 28, 1809, he left Berlin at the head of his regiment of Hussars, and crossed the Elbe at Wittenberg, in order to carry the insurrection into Hesse and Westphalia. On May 5 he beat the French troops who had been dispatched against him from Magdeburg; on the 15th he captured the small fortress of Domitz in Mecklenburg on the lower Elbe, meaning to move thence to Stralsund, where he intended to await the arrival of English ships. On the march thither, having meanwhile received reinforcements, including four guns, he fell (May 27) upon a body of Mecklenburg troops, which he put to flight, taking many prisoners, four standards, and two guns.


On the following day Stralsund, after a brief resistance, fell into Schill’s hands. But on May 31 some Danish and Dutch troops appeared before Stralsund and stormed it, after a fierce fight in which most of Schill’s volunteers were killed or wounded. In the mêlée Schill himself met with a soldier’s honourable death; [Illustration of Schill’s death from Carl Binder von Krieglstein, Ferdinand von Schill: Ein Lebensbild; zugleich ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der preußischen Armee (Berlin 1902), 197:]


and on September 16, eleven officers of his corps, who had been taken prisoners, were tried by martial law and shot, by Napoleon’s orders, on the ramparts of Wessel. Although this attempt was doomed to failure, it at least served to rouse the spirit of patriotism throughout the length and breadth of northern Germany, and to kindle hatred against the alien rule of the French. Round Schill and his brave band poetry and legend soon wove a web of popular glamour, which deepened the feeling of common nationality throughout Germany.

The same may be said of the heroic campaign of Duke Frederick William of Brunswick-Oels. At the outbreak of the war, he had formed a volunteer corps Bohemia; and at its head, together with some Austrian troops, he invaded Saxony. [Duke Frederick William of Brunswick-Oels calls his troops together at Zwickau (illustration from Friedrich Wilhelm Herzog von Braunschweig-Lüneburg-Oels, 2nd ed. ed. Wilhelm Görges [Braunschweig 1861], plate following p. 100)]


On June 11 they occupied Dresden, and after several successful combats, forced the Saxon and Westphalian troops under King Jerome to retreat. After the armistice of Znaym, the Duke conceived the bold plan of fighting his way to the mouth of the Weser and there taking ship to England. On July 20 he started from Greiz with 2000 men, and, repeatedly beating back the French troops, won his way to Brunswick, which he entered on July 30 [ed. note: July 31].


On the following day he and his “Black Troop” (so called from their dark uniforms) again defeated the enemy, who had pressed in hot pursuit to the very gates of his capital. Surrounded on all sides, the Duke was forced to leave Brunswick, whence he reached the lower Weser, and embarked with his men on board British ships at Elsfleth. His little troop became the nucleus of the “King’s German Legion,” which subsequently fought with much honour under Wellington in Spain.

21. The Walcheren expedition (July–December 1809)

If it was only indirectly that England thus did a service to the “good cause,” she had in the meanwhile, independently of events in Spain and Portugal, taken direct action in the war by the expedition to the island of Walcheren. In April, 1809, Count Starhemberg had been hastily sent to London as ambassador from the Austrian Court, to persuade the British Cabinet, not only to grant a subsidy, but to |358| undertake a military diversion on the German coast. After lengthy negotiations, Canning granted a monthly subsidy of £150,000. On the other hand the British Ministry declined the plan suggested by the Austrian Government for a landing at the mouth of the Weser with a view to raising an insurrection in northern Germany. They determined instead on an expedition to the Scheldt. From a military point of view this plan was certainly not a happy one; it was chiefly dictated by political and commercial considerations. The chief point with Great Britain was to render Antwerp innocuous.

The expedition did not leave the English harbours till July 28. It was in five divisions. A fleet of 38 ships of the line, 36 frigates, and a large number of gunboats, under Sir Richard Strachan, escorted the land-forces, which numbered nearly 40,000 men, under Lord Chatham, who was commander-in-chief. On July 30 the army landed on the island of Walcheren [Marie-Joseph-Louis-Adolphe Thiers, “Débarquement des Anglais dans l’ile de Walchern,” Collection de 350 gravures, dessins de Philippoteaux, etc. pour l’histoire du Consulat et de l’Empire, 2 vols. (Paris 1870), no. 178:]


on the 31st Middelburg, Vere, and Zierickzee capitulated. On August 1 General Fraser captured Fort Haake. The French squadron retired up the Scheldt to Antwerp, and found safety under the shelter of its guns. The British troops now advanced to the siege of Flushing, the most important point on Walcheren, defended by General Mounet with 5000 men. On August 2 General Hope occupied the island of South Beveland; but the attack upon Cadzand, opposite Flushing, failed. Flushing was by this time not only besieged from the land side, but bombarded by the British fleet from the sea.


Meanwhile the French had recovered from their first shock of surprise caused by the landing on Walcheren; and troops were rapidly dispatched from all directions for the defence of Antwerp and the Scheldt. Marshal Bernadotte took over the supreme command. On August 16, however, Flushing was forced to capitulate. The British forces now attempted to press on up the Scheldt; but the river was so well guarded by its forts that they could make but little way. Meanwhile the French fleet had been carried up the river beyond Antwerp, where it was out of reach; the French fortifications had, by dint of great energy, been placed in a fair condition for defence; and a large body of troops stood ready for action in the open field. The naval and military commanders on the British side were unable to agree as to the further course of operations; and the troops suffered terribly from the malarial climate of Walcheren and South Beveland. On September 2 the British ships made another attempt to sail up the Scheldt, but without success; and on September 4 South Beveland was evacuated, after a council of war (August 26) had decided that the expeditionary force under Sir Eyre Coote should concentrate on Walcheren. On Sept. 14 Lord Chatham returned to England.

22. British disaster at Walcheren (December 1809).

The French took no offensive measures, but left the destruction of the enemy to the climate and to sickness. Walcheren fever, as it was called, made terrible ravages among the British troops, so that at the end of December hardly half of this fine force (the largest that had |359| ever yet sailed from English harbours) were able to bear arms. On December 23 the remainder, after destroying the fortifications of Flushing, left Walcheren, and returned home. [Marie-Joseph-Louis-Adolphe Thiers, “Évacuation de Walcheren par les Anglais: embarquement des malades,” Collection de 350 gravures, dessins de Philippoteaux, etc. pour l’histoire du Consulat et de l’Empire, 2 vols. (Paris 1870), no. 179:]


In England there was universal indignation over the result of this expedition, which had sent so many brave soldiers to a useless death, and swallowed up a large sum of money. In Parliament fierce attacks were made upon the Government; but the commission of enquiry failed to come to any conclusion, except that there had been a want of unanimity among the commanders. Eventually the discussion led, not only to a rupture, but to a duel between Canning and Castlereagh, in consequence of which Canning resigned office.

23. Peace negotiations (July–October 1809)

During many months the peace negotiations, which had been begun at the outset of the armistice, made no progress. More than once they were on the point of being broken off; and a renewal of the war, for which the Empress Marie Louise Beatrix, Archduke John, and Count Stadion were very anxious, was expected. But presently Stadion’s influence began to pale before that of Metternich, the result being a disastrous dualism in the conduct of affairs, inasmuch as, since Wagram, Metternich had gone over to the peace party, and had ended by becoming a keen supporter of the Napoleonic system. He was upheld by Archduke Charles, who, immediately after the unfortunate issue of the Ratisbon campaign, had urged the conclusion of peace. But, after the armistice, serious differences of opinion arose between the Archduke and his Imperial brother, in consequence of which the former resigned the supreme command and retired into private life — an irreparable loss to Austria and her army.

In the last week of July the pourparlers [talks, discussions] for the peace negotiations began. These were opened at Altenburg on August 15 between Metternich, Nugent, and Champagny. But their course was anything but smooth. It was found impossible to accept in toto (on this point the Emperor Francis stood firm) the conditions of Napoleon, who demanded, in the first place, the abdication of the Emperor Francis, as well as large concessions of territory. [Marie-Joseph-Louis-Adolphe Thiers, “Conférences à Schoenbrunn pour fixer les bases du traité de paix entre la France et Autriche,” Collection de 350 gravures, dessins de Philippoteaux, etc. pour l’histoire du Consulat et de l’Empire, 2 vols. (Paris 1870), no. 184:]


In the middle of September it looked as if the Emperor of Austria had determined to continue the war, especially as a secret Prussian envoy, Colonel von dem Knesebeck, had declared the willingness of his sovereign to join Austria under certain conditions. Eventually, however, the arguments in favour of peace prevailed; and on September 25 the Emperor Francis dispatched Prince Liechtenstein with Count Bubna to Napoleon’s headquarters in Vienna, there to conclude peace. Peace was signed at Schonbrunn on October 14.


24. Peace of Schönbrunn (14 October 1809)

The Peace of Schönbrunn laid very severe conditions upon Austria. She ceded to Napoleon, for the Princes of the Confederation of the Rhine, Salzburg, Berchtesdagen, and a large part of Upper Austria; |360| to Napoleon for his own use, Austrian Frioul, Triest, with pars of Carniola, Carinthia, Croatia, and Dalmatia — which districts were immediately placed under a single government as the “Illyrian Provinces”; to Saxony, the whole of western Galicia; and part of eastern Galicia to Russia. She recognized the changes made, or to be made, in Spain, Portugal, and Italy; she adhered to the Continental System; and she paid a large indemnity in money. By a secret clause she undertook to reduce her army to 150,000 men. This treaty relegated Austria to a place among the Powers of the second rank. Her attempt to shatter Napoleon’s supremacy on the Continent had disastrously failed. Metternich henceforward took into his hands the conduct of affairs. With Stadion’s retirement Austria lost a statesman of the first class, a man whose views were in harmony with the spirit of his time, who would have guided, not only the foreign, but also the domestic, policy of the Austrian Empire into happier paths. The system which Metternich established was very different. So early as the autumn of 1809, he was already spinning the first threads of the intrigue which led to the marriage of the Archduchess Marie-Louise with Napoleon; and down to the year 1813 he steadily pursued a policy, in regard to foreign affairs, of acquiescence in the supremacy of France; while, in regard to domestic government, he from the outset displayed the reactionary tendencies which were in the end to prove disastrous to Austria.

The war of 1809, unfortunate as was its immediate issue, had one notable result. It destroyed, in the eyes of Europe, the halo of invincibility that had encircled the head of Napoleon. It marked the beginning of the national awakening, the first step towards the overthrow of Napoleon’s power.


[*] Text: Napoleon, The Cambridge Modern History, vol. 9, planned by Lord Acton, ed. A. W. Ward, G. W. Prothero, and Stanley Leathes (Cambridge 1907), 341–60. Orthography and pagination as in original. Dating added to headings to facilitate coordination with Caroline’s and others’ letters during the final year of Caroline’s life.

Maps: The Cambridge Modern History Atlas, ed. A. W. Ward, G. W. Prothero, Stanley Leathes, and E. A. Ben (London 1912) (University of Texas, Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection), including Central Europe: The Austrian War 1809; Neighborhood of Vienna. Walcheren and Antwerp: Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch (Augsburg 1795). Attribution for other illustrations are provided in the text [in brackets].

The War of 1809 was the last military development Caroline experienced during her lifetime. It affected her and Schelling’s plans and movements for the remaining months of her life and comes to expression sometimes more, sometimes less directly in her letters from 1809. Despite Austrian setbacks, this war would, moreover, and more importantly, demonstrate “to Europe that the Emperor’s [Napoleon’s] blows could be ridden and that the French armies could be subjected to attrition at such a rate that, if only the powers of Europe could combine, even Napoleon’s victories must lead to his downfall” (Michael Glover, The Napoleonic Wars: an illustrated history 1792–1815 [New York 1978], 140). The campaigns of 1809 did indeed prove to be the beginning of the end of Napoleon’s power, though Caroline did not live to see these subsequent developments despite having experienced his rise to power especially toward the end of the 1790s.

Because these developments provided the European and even local backdrop for the final year of Caroline’s life and letters, a more detailed narrative seems warranted and is provided in this supplementary appendix. See also the shorter account of the War of 1809. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott