Posts Tagged ‘December 2’

Your RDA of Military Genius

Posted in General, On This Day on December 2nd, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – 4 Comments

December 2, 1805:  The French Get a Name for a Train Station

A congratulatory hug to any French friends (Catherine Deneuve and Marion Cotillard –if only they would let me) on the anniversary of Austerlitz.

Napoleon considered it his greatest victory; it certainly was his most obnoxious one.

To put it in Jeopardy terms, Napoleon allowed Russia and Austria to pick the categories AND ring in first. And he still smashed them.

Napoleon was inviting and begging the Russians and Austrians to attack; in fact, he seduced them. The French line had initially been situated on a plateau, an excellent defensive position that deterred the Austrians and the more competent Russian officers. So the accommodating Corsican withdrew his forces from the plateau. His enemies gratefully occupied the heights and advanced their lines.

Of course, the Austrians and Russians might have been a little wary about Napoleon’s gift. The eastern side of the plateau formed a formidable defense; however, the west side had the kind of gentle, charming slope that is advertised in real estate brochures. The French had little difficulty charging up the plateau, pushing the Russians and Austrians off the heights. Having smashed the center of the Allied line and regained the heights, the French were then very unkind to the exposed Russian left flank; it was driven into a lake.

The Russians and Austrians lost 27,000 men–one third of their army–at Austerlitz. The Emperor of Austria wrote his wife, “things did not go well today.”

Leo Tolstoy was a little more descriptive. His account of Austerlitz in “War and Peace” was probably longer than the battle.

Here is my abridged translation:

Prince Bolkonsky and Count Bezukhov were so preoccupied in a discussion of life, the soul and agricultural management that they had not noticed that their regiments had been massacred.

A furious General Kutuzov rode up to his esoteric officers and shrieked, “Why didn’t your troops occupy the defensive positions?”

Bezukhov waxed, “The Russian soul longs for suffering as a means of redemption. We gave the orders but those sturdy pure peasants stood in a stoic resignation.”

The exasperated commander asked, “Did you give the orders in Russian?”

Prince Bolkonsky shrugged, “Pourquoi?”