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the French which came at last. 1803 saw the birth of the Tugendbund, that secret opposition of German nationality against French, and it was the urgent advice of Stein and Scharnhorst to the King to take advantage of Napoleon's absence in Spain, and join Austria in a thoroughly German uprising against France. The King of Prussia, however, put trust neither in his people, nor in Austria. He persisted in hoping everything from Russia, and refused to move without the assent and support of Alexander. *
In 1809, indeed, Austria was premature in either counting on popular insurrection, or royal or imperial defection. Prince Schwarzenberg at St. Petersburg pressed the Czar in vain, and told Alexander, “ If you wait and stand by to see Austria crushed once more, it will have no other resource than to throw itself altogether into the arms of France, and then where will you be?” †
The French and Austrians both took the field in April. 120,000 soldiers were with the Archduke Charles upon the Inn and the Isar. The French, he learned, were collected under two of their marshals, one at Augsburg, the other at Ratisbon. The Archduke advanced to interpose his army between them, but in the meantime Napoleon had given orders for concentrating his forces at Abendsburg, a central point between the two cities. Had the Archduke been well informed, he would have exerted himself, and probably succeeded in hindering the concentration. But, uncertain where he might find the French, his own army was scattered. Napoleon attacked one portion of it before Abendsburg on the 20th, defeated it, and drove it back upon Landshut. It proved to be the left of the Archduke's army, who had then to defend himself with his centre and right before Ratisbon. Napoleon attacked him there, that is, at the village of Eckmühl, on the 22nd, and gained a complete
Stein's Letters. VOL. V.
† Mémoires d'un Homme d'État.
CHAP. victory, driving the Austrian force into Ratisbon, from
which they soon retreated across the Danube into Bohemia. The peculiarity of this brief campaign, as disastrous, though not so dishonourable, as Ulm, was German fighting against German, a great portion of Napoleon's force consisting of Bavarians, Wurtemburgers, and others, who gallantly and mainly contributed to the defeat of the Austrians.
Pausing a moment to decide whether he should pursue the Archduke into Bohemia, or continue his march down the right bank of the Danube to Vienna, he took the latter course. By so doing he intervened between the Austrians in Bohemia and those on the Italian frontier. The Archduke John had there defeated Prince Eugène Beauharnais upon the Tagliamento, but was interrupted in his career of victory by tidings of what had occurred near Ratisbon. He hastened to the aid of his relative, but was too late even to save Vienna, before which the French soon appeared, forcing their way into the unfortified suburbs, and bombarding the inner city to compel it to surrender. Napoleon was besought not to shower his projectiles upon the Burg or Palace, where the princess Maria Louisa still remained. But though the enemy's capital was occupied, the campaign was far from terminated. The Archduke John undertook to march round through Hungary to a junction with the Archduke Charles. The Tyrolese in insurrection had swept the Bavarians from their valleys, and defied the flying divisions of the French. The Austrian commander-in-chief, with the Emperor Ferdinand, occupied the Marchfeld, a high plain, which extends from the Danube at Vienna, north into Moravia, and the difficulty for Napoleon was to cross the Danube and find footing on its northern bank to engage the enemy. .
In the previous campaign, the French succeeded in getting possession of the bridge over the Danube. But this was not to be done twice; it was now broken.
Napoleon had to replace it by bridges of boats between CHAP.
XLIII. the islands of the Danube and either shore. This was first attempted at Nussdorf, higher up the stream than Vienna, but failed. The large island of Lobau, lower down the river, was found more practicable. A boat bridge, with difficulty moored in the rapid current, connected the southern bank with the island, a lesser bridge or bridges were required to connect it with the northern bank. The greater part of the Austrian army was higher up the river, its commander expecting the army of the Archduke John. Instead of their reinforcements joining the Austrians, tidings were brought there of the French crossing the Danube on the 20th of May. The Archduke Charles instantly marched to attack them before all had passed. Not more than 30,000 French occupied the villages of Aspern and Essling, under Lannes and Massena, the garden walls and cemetery offering facilities of defence. Attacked on the 21st by far superior forces, Lannes contrived to maintain his ground in Essling, whilst Massena, after an equally stubborn resistance, was driven from Aspern. But the next morning the French had brought over a larger proportion of their army, which then numbered 60,000 or 70,000 men.
The Archduke again attacked them with from 80,000 to 100,000 men. The battle which ensued on the 22nd was perhaps the fiercest of the war. There was no maneuvring, and generalship was out of the question. It was a struggle of infantry soldiers for the two villages, and of cavalry for the ground that lay between. Through this intervening ground Napoleon indeed made one of his usual attempts to break into the enemy's centre, by directing upon it all the force that he could muster. He was at first successful, the Austrians yielding before it; but, equal to the great occasion, the Archduke Charles brought in person fresh troops to the combat, and succeeded, though not without the most arduous efforts, in arresting the
progress of the French, finally compelling them to fall back to the river. Following up their advantage, the Austrians then forced their way into Essling, which rendered it difficult for the French to return over the bridge. But some of the regiments, rallied by General Mouton, succeeded in reestablishing themselves in the streets and houses. * At the
At the very time of the great attack on the Vienna bridge, the bridge to the island of Lobau was broken by the mill boat which the Austrians had set fire to and launched down the stream. The consequence was that not only reinforcements ceased to arrive, but ammunition began to be wanting for the artillery, which henceforth feared to respond to the enemy with its usual vigour. This circumstance decided the battle of Aspern in the Archduke's favour. The French, as soon as night covered their retreat, effected it to the island of Lobau. In the last hour of removal, the knees of Marshal Lannes were shattered by a cannon ball. As a litter was borne to the bridge, Napoleon perceived it, and came to embrace his fallen lieutenant. It was not the least bitter moment of the defeat. A scene as striking was what has been called a council of war, but which consisted merely of Napoleon, seated on the southern bank of the island, in face of the broken bridge, between Massena and Berthier. Both were for withdrawing the army altogether into Vienna.
You might as well advise to withdraw it to Strasburg, was the emperor's rejoinder. For we should soon be there, and the enemy upon us.
Safety and success he saw only in audacity, and in a renewal of the attempt to cross, notwithstanding the greatness of his loss at Aspern. It was estimated at no less than from 20,000 to 30,000 men, though the French bulletins acknowledge but half as many hundred. The Austrian loss was not fewer. Both sides, however, drew to their support their remote and scattered
divisions, the French with more efficiency and success than their opponents, for the Italian army under Prince Eugène defeated the Archduke John at Raab, and effected his junction with Napoleon, whilst the Archduke John did not arrive till after the coming battle.
The chief fault in the military character of the Archduke Charles, seems to have been want of alertness. He took no advantage of his victory at Aspern to overwhelm his enemies, few and disheartened, in the island of Lobau, nor did he duly watch the movements of his subtle adversary, who, flinging suddenly several bridges of boats over the Danube, in the first days of July, passed his whole army over in one night. The Austrians had thrown up intrenchments opposite Essling and the old bridge—as if Napoleon was likely to take the same road twice. On the morning of the 5th of July, 1809, the French army was marshalled on the Marchfeld near Enzensdorf, opposite to where they had crossed.
The Austrian general was completely taken by surprise. His force was not as yet concentrated, nor could he at first muster on the field more than 70,000 or 80,000 men; the French, even when three-fourths of the army had passed, being fully equal in number. The Archduke Charles had even some difficulty to fall back in proper order to the heights of Wagram. Indeed, so direct was the retreat, that Napoleon, on the evening of the 5th, tried to carry a strong position in the Austrian centre. He suffered, however, from the heterogeneous nature of his own army. Some of the French legions fired upon the Saxons, taking them for enemies, and producing a panic and a rout.
By the morning of the 6th, each general had brought up all his forces. The Austrians' line extended along the ridge between Neusiedl and Wagram, for three leagues, the French in the plain fronting them from Aspern to Glynsendorf. The commanders had different views, the Archduke Charles meditating to direct his