Europe nursed bitter memories of the severe depredations carried out by French armies in the Spanish Netherlands and of the bombardment of Luxembourg during the War of the Reunions (1683-1684). Great and lesser powers alike did not accept as more than temporary the peace with Louis XIV agreed at Ratisbon in 1684. However, no plans were afoot to reverse these French gains. Austria and its south German allies were preoccupied with an ongoing war with the Ottoman Empire, while the Netherlands and north German states fixed their attention on a building succession crisis in England, where a new Catholic king, James II, was at odds with a restless Protestant people. In 1686 representatives of Austria, Spain, and Sweden met with those from several minor German powers, including Bavaria and the Palatinate, in the Imperial city of Augsburg. They agreed to a vague defensive alliance, the League of Augsburg, against further French aggression in Germany. The Germans were frightened by Louis’ longstanding policy of expansion along his Rhine frontier, and his disrespect for the legal and religious rights of free Imperial cities guaranteed by France in the Peace of Westphalia (1648).
Austria in Revolt and Aftermath I
Heavily defeated in 1805 and subjected to a diet of constant humiliation thereafter, Austria had until 1808 maintained a low profile. Under the leadership of the Archduke Charles, the army was strengthened through military reforms, but Charles himself believed that Vienna should cut its losses in Germany and Italy, abandon all notion of fighting Napoleon, and seek compensation in the Balkans. As for Emperor Francis – since 6 August 1806 Francis I of Austria rather than Francis II of the now defunct Holy Roman Empire – he remained as cautious as ever, all the more so as Russia now appeared as a potential enemy. For a time, a consensus even emerged that Austria should seek an alliance with Napoleon. But it soon became clear that the emperor was simply not interested in such a deal.
The Nine Years’ War, 1688-97 Part II
The opening land campaign of the war began with predictable sieges of key Rhine fortresses and punitive quartering of French troops that advanced against German lands and towns. The garrison defending Philippsburg resisted for a month, from September 27-October 30, in face of 30,000 enemy and the master of 17th-century siegecraft, Vauban. The fortress at Mainz fell thereafter. As had been done for the first time during the War of the Reunions, once again the French employed bombardment of fortified towns which would not yield as a tactic of terror and as a substitute for full siege. And yet again, French troops carried out the devastation of the Palatinate and scorched all other parts of Germany they reached.
Austria in Revolt and Aftermath II
The Austrian collapse was not quite the end of the story, even if what remained made depressing reading for Napoleon’s opponents. By the time of the battle of Wagram, Sweden was effectively out of the war: following a series of reverses, on 13 March Gustav IV had been overthrown by an aristocratic faction sickened by what they saw as the king’s mismanagement of the war effort and determined to put an end to enlightened absolutism and restore Sweden’s traditional alliance with France. As for the British, 1809 was marked by an episode that was virtually epic in its futility. Driven not so much by a desire to aid Austria as one to strike a further blow against French naval power and undo the damage to its prestige incurred by what appeared to have been its failure in Spain, the Portland administration decided to land a large army at the mouth of the Scheldt and seize Antwerp.
Battle of Di Goito, 30 May 1848
In support of Italy’s rising against Austria, King Charles Albert of Sardinia took command of the Allied forces and at Goito, on the Mincio east of Mantua, he defeated the Austrians under Marshal Josef Radetzky. While the Austrians were driven back across the Adige, they were victorious a few weeks later at Santa Lucia and in every other battle of the war (10 April 1848).
The princes of Parma and Modena succumbed to revolutionary threats and joined their states with Piedmont, which now included Lombardy. Tuscany remained aloof, but committed to the war. The initial support from Pope Pius IX and Ferdinand II waned through April. Pius IX tried to appease the population of Rome, but did not want to commit his forces to war against Austria. He ordered Durando not to advance beyond the Po River. The general argued with the Pontiff, and crossed the river into Venetia, seeking to separate Radetzky from Venice. Papal forces fanned out through Venetia. Guglielmo Pepe’s large Neapolitan army never made it across the Po. Despite the granting of a constitution, republican revolutionaries attempted a coup against Ferdinand II. The plot was crushed and the king abrogated the constitution. He then ordered Pepe to return to Naples. The old general refused, but much of his army deserted him. When Pepe finally reached the Po, he had no more than 2,000 men under his command. He joined his paltry forces with the Tuscan division observing Mantua.
Assault on Rome, June 30 1849
Pius IX became Pope in 1846. He began his reign by an attempt to introduce reforms into his government, and took measures to establish a system of popular representation. The overthrow of Louis Philippe, in France, in 1848, excited the hopes of the revolutionary party throughout Italy, and the pope hesitated to grant the full measure of popular privileges demanded by his subjects. The character of Pius IX has been variously estimated. It passed through more than one phase; and, while retaining certain leading qualities throughout, it was wanting in consistency. The abrupt change in his policy after 1848 gave the impression that Pius IX was a Liberal before, and a reactionary after, that date. It may be doubted whether he was ever by conviction either the one or the other. He had the obstinacy of a weak man. A man of sentiment rather than of fact, he moved in a world of signs and wonders: his credulity was abnormal, and his piety, sincere as it was, stood in no relation to the mind or facts of his time. He magnified his office; and, regarding opposition to his will as the unpardonable.
After Agincourt I
The chivalry of the Black Prince was not for King Henry. That night his high-ranking prisoners had to wait on him at table. The troops took another hopeful look at the French casualties still lying all over the field; anyone who was rich and could walk was rounded up, but the poor and the badly wounded had their throats slit. Next day, laden with plunder from the corpses, the English recommenced their march to Calais, dragging 1,500 prisoners along with them. The rain began again. Wetter and hungrier than ever, the little army reached Calais on 29 October. Here, although the King was fêted rapturously, his men were hardly treated as conquering heroes. Some were even refused entry, while the Calais people charged them such exorbitant prices for food and drink that they were soon cheated out of their loot and rich captives. (Henry kept the great prisoners for himself—he wanted every penny of their ransoms.)
After Agincourt II
Horrified by the English advance, Duke John of Burgundy tried to negotiate with the Armagnacs who had the Dauphin under their thumb. Although the Burgundians had captured Paris in 1418 after an uprising in which their supporters had killed thousands of Armagnacs, a preliminary meeting at Corbeille in the summer of 1419 between Duke John and the Dauphin and his Armagnac advisers seemed to establish a measure of agreement.
Kutuzov takes Command Part I
In the nineteen days between the evacuation of Smolensk and the battle of Borodino Barclay’s popularity reached its lowest point among the troops. The soldiers had been told they would bury Napoleon on the river Dvina and then that they would fight to the death first for Vitebsk and then for Smolensk. Each promise had been broken and the hated retreat had continued. After Smolensk the same pattern continued, with the soldiers first being ordered to dig fortifications on a chosen battlefield and then retreating yet again when either Barclay or Bagration considered the position unsuitable. They nicknamed their commander-in-chief ‘Nothing but Chatter’ (Boltai da Tol’ko) as a pun on Barclay de Tolly. The historian of the Chevaliers Gardes wrote that Barclay misunderstood the nature of the Russian soldier, who would have accepted the unvarnished truth but grumbled at broken promises. The comment is probably true but glosses over the fact that Kutuzov subsequently spoke and acted in a fashion very similar to Barclay.
Kutuzov takes Command Part III
As Ermolov and Kutaisov were riding past the Raevsky Redoubt on their way to Second Army they saw the Russian troops in the neighbourhood in full flight. It was crucial for the Russians to counter-attack immediately before the enemy could consolidate its hold on the redoubt.
Aleksei Ermolov was just the right man for such an emergency. He immediately took command of the troops which remained in his vicinity and led them in a successful counter-attack. When Ermolov’s men – mostly from the Ufa Regiment of Dokhturov’s Sixth Corps – fought their way back into the redoubt they found other units from Sixth Corps, led by Barclay’s aide-de-camp Vladimir Löwenstern, storming into the position from the other side of the hill. Meanwhile Ivan Paskevich had rallied the remnants of his own 26th Division and advanced in support of Löwenstern and Ermolov to the left of the redoubt. The Russian counter-attack succeeded because the Russian officers on the spot acted immediately, resolutely and on their own initiative, without waiting for orders. In addition, General Morand’s division, which had spearheaded the assault, had moved ahead of Eugène de Beauharnais’s other divisions and was isolated.59 For the Russians the most important casualty of the counter-attack was Aleksandr Kutaisov, who was killed in the retaking of the redoubt.