08/08/2022 at 22:29 #176714
Allies-1805 And the Bizarre Myth about Dates!
A bizarre historical myth about Napoleon’s victory at Ulm, 1805, based upon the use of dates between the Allies (Austria/ Russia) and the latters use of the ‘old’ Julian Calendar.
No, let’s not call it the ‘Battle of Ulm’ either! There WAS a series of combats when surrounding it, bit no one ‘battle’. Those combats were close enough to the confined Austrian force that a capitulation was eventually forthcoming.
This isolated page of factoids and sources explains all: http://dcjack.org/kagan%20on%20ulm.html
You can’t believe everything you read, nor everything you find on the Internet, even when found in responsible sources. Here’s a remarkable example of a historical myth that will likely be impossible ever to stamp out.
In 1805, Austria, Russia, Sweden, and a number of minor states launched the war of the “Third Coalition” against Napoleon’s France. In September, an Austrian army invaded Bavaria, an ally of France, and marched without significant resistance to the German city of Ulm, on the Danube. There they stopped,…
Well, perhaps. I hadn’t seen any specific discussion on this matter so took it ‘as read’ as we say.
Why did I pick this up? Doing some research on the commanders under Mack, so Battle of Schöngrabern :-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Sch%C3%B6ngrabern
To quote from the article above-
The myth is this: that they were simply confused by dates, due to the conflict between different calendars in use at the time, and the Russians were supposed to be at Ulm alongside the Austrians. Here, from Napoleonic Wars: Battle of Austerlitz:
“But where were the Russians? In a staggering display of administrative ineptitude, the Allied staffs had failed to recognize that while the Austrians followed the Gregorian calendar, the Russians still employed the older Julian calendar. In 1805 the difference was 12 days. So while the Austrians expected the Russian army to arrive on October 20, the Russians did not expect to join the Austrians until November 1.”
That explanation for the Russians arriving too late to help the Austrians is certainly pleasing, in its elementary simplicity. And yet, to believe it, one has to imagine that the Austrian and Russian military leaders were astoundingly foolish. How could they not be acutely aware of the difference in calendars, given their regular meetings and discussions, in Vienna and St. Petersburg? The problem of differing calendars must have come up myriad times during their war planning. It’s not credible that they would suddenly fail to remember the difference at the crucial moment.
Frederick W. Kagan covers this in exhaustive detail in his definitive work on the campaign of 1805, The End of the Old Order: Napoleon and Europe, 1801-1805.
The book referenced to Kagan gets a going over and generally was read as a well detailled dissertation- without the copious Fren/ N. bias usually offered. ‘Best book for 1805’… from 2012.
-If you want a lot of detail, then the additional book is Kagan ‘end of the old empire’ – unfairly overlooked by pretty much everyone on this site, its an great narrative of the campaign.
-And the overall history of the campaign itself more than makes up for any criticisms of Kagan’s conclusions about the options on the day itself.
I don’t think I have seen a book which better covers the build up to 1805, nor one which covers so much valuable information about Ulm and the manoevering before Austerlitz itself.
-The daily orders, which Kagan recounts to give his narrative of the Ulm campaign clearly demonstrate that the French had no idea of where Mack was.
Equally, Kagan recounts reports which give a good indication of the decisions Mack was making which lead him to stay put.
Its a far cry for the traditional ‘Austrian clumsy command structure meets omnipotent Napoleon’, rabbit in the headlights analysis which we had to accept thirty years ago.
-It starts out with simple, clear exposition of the dilemmas facing the major Allied players, but as it goes on and on, it becomes increasingly obvious that the “simple, clear” is a distillation of Kagan’s take, and that the same standards are not being applied to Napoleon. When he started moving from the diplomacy to the war plans, I find myself increasingly encountering “That’s not true!” moments.
In a moment of ‘check the data’, Mr. McKay emailed the author of said book:-
Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2008
From: “Fred Kagan”
Subject: RE: Battle of Ulm
To: “Jack McKay”
Dear Mr. McKay,
I’m happy to have an opportunity to think about 1805, thank you! I thought I had addressed that issue in a footnote, but perhaps not.
It is a myth. I have seen with my own eyes the march-plans the Austrian general staff developed showing where the Russian forces would be on each day–and using the right calendar. And I have seen no evidence whatever in the voluminous correspondence between the Russians and the Austrians and within the Austrian army and court that anyone was confused about this. It is a bizarre myth, particularly considering that Russian and Austrian armies had been fighting in close proximity for many years both against France and against Turkey, and all Russian correspondence directed to non-Russian recipients carried both dates as a matter of course.
I think that there is a contemporaneous French source that mentions this, and, of course, David Chandler picked it up in his Campaigns of Napoleon. But it is entirely without foundation.
So, it’s “a bizarre myth”, “entirely without foundation”. But will this truth ever catch up to, and overcome, that appealingly simple tale of calendar confusion?
[Added emphasis mine_dw].
So there you have it. Whether ‘English’ translations, interpretations, or subtle inspired ‘deviation from the truth’ who knows where ‘the myth’ came from?
Certainly it hasn’t received widespread coverage, but this appears another book [can I say I’m not often a fan of US authorship] that I may have to get.
Regards davew_09/08/2022 at 08:51 #176722Not Connard SageParticipant
Granted that, where were the Russians? Or did Mack think he could defeat an army twice the size of his own without them?
Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.09/08/2022 at 10:33 #176739General SladeParticipant
I ought to be able to answer that question because I have read Kagan’s book and it is very good. Unfortunately, I read it fifteen years ago and the memory is not what it might be. From what I recall Mack was inept but he received precious little support from leading elements in the Austrian high command because they thought he was a bit common and so wanted to see him fail. Plus, Archduke Charles was going round telling everyone ‘we’re all doomed’, which can’t have done much for morale. Then, that Napoleon chap moved much faster than anyone expected – so it wasn’t so much that the Russians turned up late as the French turned up early.
At least, that’s how I remember it – which might not be how it happened.09/08/2022 at 10:57 #176740
Hi guys, given that unexpected events always happen- we are left wondering where such an ‘excuse’ has arisen in ‘English only’ it seems. I would think Dave Hollins also could have crossed over archival material as he was deeply involved in Austrian K-K research.
cheers, dave09/08/2022 at 15:34 #176742Guy FarrishParticipant
I wonder how widespread this myth is?
It’s certainly in Chandler (1966), as a short footnote on p.383.
The first book I read of the Austerlitz campaign was Duffy (1977) and he makes a passing reference to the different calendars not improving relations (p.29) but doesn’t blame the mismatch in arrival times of the Russians and Austrians.
Ian Castle’s ‘Austerlitz: Napoleon and the Eagles of Europe’ (2005) specifically mentions and refutes it, note 2 Ch4.
Robert Goetz similarly rejects it in ‘1805: Austerlitz: Napoleon and the Destruction of the Third Coalition’ (2005).
I know I’ve read other books and articles on the Austerlitz campaign over the years but I can’t say this idea has made much of an impression on me. Alexander’s overenthusiastic amateur ideas of moving Russian armies about, messing Kutuzov around and Austrian class ridden bickering and inability to work out what was actually happening (with friend and foe alike) as opposed to what they wanted to happen have left more of an impression on me than calendars.
Maybe that’s just me?
(Mack thought he was facing about 80,000 at most, according to Duffy – more fingers for generals required?)09/08/2022 at 19:15 #176750
I wonder how widespread this myth is? It’s certainly in Chandler (1966)… Ian Castle’s ‘Austerlitz: Napoleon and the Eagles of Europe’ (2005) specifically mentions and refutes it,…
Alexander’s overenthusiastic amateur ideas of moving Russian armies about, messing Kutuzov around and Austrian class ridden bickering and inability to work out what was actually happening (with friend and foe alike) as opposed to what they wanted to happen have left more of an impression on me than calendars. Maybe that’s just me? (Mack thought he was facing about 80,000 at most, according to Duffy – more fingers for generals required?)
Thanks Guy for your thoughts and due diligence.
Well the fact that so many address it means it is in the ‘historical conscience’ and still gets air time I read elsewhere. And those troll-like Russian sites that sift information from all over repeat it so it affects the ground base of readers.
I don’t have Castle at all so hadn’t seen that analysis.
I 100% agree with your synopsis of the ‘Allied’ effort- the pure double-dealing of all [self interested] parties added to the longevity of N. accomplishments. His own of course sped his downfall.
I’ve had to educate my own cadre on the ‘better’ quality of ‘allied soldiers’ than we’ve believed from summary judgements ‘a la orspreyz’ etc. and the greater impact of political nepotism and interference of commanders, which of course isn’t that translatable to satisfactory gaming tables.
regards dave26/01/2023 at 20:22 #182687Buck SurduParticipant
I found this discussion interesting. I have not read the Kagan book, but I may look for a copy. I have always been interested in finding wargamer-level data on the various small engagements around Ulm. Does this book have enough detail to put some of these engagements on the table? I am really enjoying playing games with just a division or so on a side, and I am thinking some of those fights around Ulm might work.26/01/2023 at 20:34 #182688General SladeParticipant
I don’t think the Kagan book is what you are looking for. I don’t have the book in front of me but from memory it deals with the diplomatic and strategic aspects of the conflict rather than the tactical. I think it is well worth a read but I don’t think it will provide any inspiration for creating wargame scenarios at the divisional level.
Then again, it has been a long time since I read it, so hopefully someone who has read it more recently can confirm or deny this.
Stephen27/01/2023 at 10:26 #182705HeroyParticipant
“all Russian correspondence directed to non-Russian recipients carried both dates as a matter of course.”
Absolutely true. You can see countless examples in the 7 volumes of primary sources published in:
Отечественная война и русское общество1812-1912
Историческая комиссiя учебнаго отдѣла
М.: Издательство «Товарищество И[вана] Д[митрiевича] Сытина и К°», 1912
“wargamer-level data on the various small engagements around Ulm”
Perhaps Robert Goetz’s “1805 Austerlitz: Napoleon and the Destruction of the Third Coalition” (2005) would fit your request : it is in English, is quite well-researched and is generally available. I just looked on Amazon (no endorsement intended) and the Kindle edition is $2.99 and used hardcovers start at $2.14.
“it wasn’t so much that the Russians turned up late as the French turned up early.”
Yes, and the Austrians foolishly failed to concentrate their forces and link up with the Russians, but instead gave battle with fragments of their army. Kutuzov’s Russians moved further and faster than the French, by the way – but the Ftench started 2 weeks earlier.
● June 1805 – Kutuzov’s “army of Podolia” of 57,000 men, is ordered to mobilize and concemtrate in west Ukraine at Radzyvylov (90 km east of Lvov) and Gusyatin (180 km east of Lvov). The second Russian army intended for western Europe, von Buxhöwden’s “army of Volhynia” (48,000 men), is concentrated at Brest-Litovsk and Ustilug on the old Polish border.
● 28 July – The Anglo-Russian Alliance is ratified.
● August – Kutuzov is ordered to just west of Lviv, near the Austrian border.
● 9 August – Austria joins the Alliance.
● 25 August – Bavaria joins the French.
● 27 August – Napoléon orders the French forces facing England to begin their march southeast towards Austria.
● 8 September – Austrian troops invade Bavaria.
● 10 September – Kutuzov is ordered west : Lviv, Krakow, Katowice, Brno, Znaim, Linz to Braunau (~1,050 km total)
● 24 September – The French army crosses the Rhine – Kutuzov’s lead elements are between Katowice and Brno, ~950 km away to the east.
● 9 October – Ulm is cut off by the French – Kutuzov’s lead elements enter Braunau, 275 km to the east of Ulm, having averaged ~35 km/day (~22 miles/day) for 30 days marching
● 20 October – Ulm capitulates.
See : https://runivers.ru/lib/book8034/457996/27/01/2023 at 20:09 #182722Buck SurduParticipant
Thanks for the book recommendation.27/01/2023 at 22:27 #182727
In a staggering display of administrative ineptitude,
Yes they are good… and thanks again Alexandre for the synopsis that is so [completely] missing from texts.! Bravo!
Now the wiki should say “In a staggering display of administrative ineptitude,” this wiki contains a falsehood perpetrated by poor research of the originators books/ articles.
… but unless one of us does it, it probably never will! I’ve not been brave enough to go that far given the push back in the ‘fraternity’ against such ‘radicalism’ as challenging the status quo.
[can you tell I’m starting to feel better..?]
( I’ve also just put in a search request via my fav book pimp – https://www.paulmeekins.co.uk/ ). *Another edit to avoid my brackets being read as code;/code.09/03/2023 at 23:52 #184099AdmiralHawkeParticipant
I have not read the Kagan book, but I may look for a copy. I have always been interested in finding wargamer-level data on the various small engagements around Ulm. Does this book have enough detail to put some of these engagements on the table? I am really enjoying playing games with just a division or so on a side, and I am thinking some of those fights around Ulm might work.
General Slade is right. Kagan’s book is not the book you are looking for. I bought it a few years ago hoping that it was perhaps an 1805 equivalent of John H. Gill’s 1809 histories, but was disappointed in that respect. As General Slade says, Kagan does indeed deal primarily with the diplomatic and strategic aspects of the war, not the tactical or operational.
Of the six battles fought before Austerlitz:
- Kagan covers most in two or three pages.
- There are no orders of battle.
- There are maps of the first four (Wertingen, Gunzberg, Haslach-Juningen and Elchingen), but these do not name the units and appear to be based on the more detailed maps by Krauss.
- Not a single Austrian regiment is mentioned by name.
- Only Durrenstein or Durnstein is covered at any length, over 10 pages and a map.
- Of Schöngrabern, Kagan writes: “The Battle of Schöngrabern cannot be reconstructed in any detail”. That is probably fair.
Heroy is right that Robert Goetz’s Austerlitz book is superb, but unfortunately he doesn’t cover the battles of the Ulm campaign (and, sadly, never seems to have written any other books).
If you have not come across it already, you will enjoy Jeff Berry’s Obscure Battles blog: http://obscurebattles.blogspot.com/p/battles-by-year.html. He has detailed narratives and orders of battle for five of the six battles (all except Schöngrabern). I think one of his main sources may have been Scott Bowden’s Napoleon and Austerlitz, which may be the book you want.10/03/2023 at 20:11 #184123
Thanks AdmiralH for the expanded info.
IDK if the poster of request will acknowledge, but it does appear the book is still of interest to me. I don’t need the battles or OB based on:-
1 the largely unchanged OB anyway during the campaign,
2 various battles are detailled in other places
3 Yes ObscureBattles is in my highlights posts and
4 Yes OB from Bowdens book is useful, some assumptions I believe but the expense is great for what you can find on line.
The text is somewhat sycophantic Nap-hugging that no longer appeals to me. Besides, the editing with tiny maps-indecipherable, and poor small line illustrations (ie cheap) don’t add to the charisma expected.
His plain information Waterloo book was immensely better IMO…
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