The Fifth Coalition
Guides to Battlefields
of Danube Campaign
Still smarting from its earlier defeats at the hands of
Napoleon Bonaparte, Austria
was always keen to have another crack at the French.
Army reforms gave its military confidence in being able
to tackle the French army and it was just a matter of biding
time until the opportunity arose.
chance came in April 1809 when Vienna, and its coalition
partner Britain, decided to take advantage of Bonaparte's
preoccupation with matters in the Peninsular
War by striking at Bavaria, France's key ally in Germany.
John led an Austrian army into Italy, brushing off Eugene
de Beauharnais' forces at Sacie, while Archduke
Charles fell upon the unsuspecting French who had been
poorly placed by the out-of-his-depth Marshal
completely on the back foot, the French were in dire trouble
when help came in the form of the emperor himself.
quickly united his soldiers and immediately threw them into
an offensive against the strung out and confident Austrians.
lightning crossing of the Danube smashed into Charles' men
at Abensberg and split
the Austrians in two. Each wing of the retreating army fell
back but were pursued vigourously by the French and two
further battles, at Landshut
and Eckmuhl, again ended
in defeat for the Austrians.
capturing Ratisbon, Bonaparte moved into the enemy capital
of Vienna eager to track down Charles' army and destroy
after the way the campaign had swung, Bonaparte decided
to cross the flooding Danube at Aspern-Essling,
but that cockiness and poor scouting sent a large portion
of his force headlong into the entire Austrian army.
bridge connecting his forces continually was broken - by
raging waters or objects sent down by the Austrians - and
the vanguard was trapped.
for Bonaparte, he had two top marshals in the forms of Jean
Lannes and Andre Massena
leading the isolated men, who soon established solid defensive
positions in the villages of Aspern and Essling. The trick
was, however, to get them back across the river.
achieved it after two days of hard fighting but lost his
friend Lannes, an irreplaceable marshal, and some 21,000
men. The Austrians suffered 23,000 casualties but had put
a large dent in the myth of Bonaparte's invincibility.
chastened, the French emperor ensured his next crossing
of the Danube was carried with proper care and he fell upon
the Austrians at Wagram.
two days, he inflicted 40,000 casualties upon his enemies
and forced Austria to sue for peace, agreeing to give up
large territories and join the Continental System of trade