Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Battle of Ulm

‘…Meanwhile, Mack found himself, with the remains of his army, cooped up in Ulm, as Wurmser had been in Mantua. He published an order of the day, which intimated an intention to imitate the persevering defence of that heroic veteran. He forbade the word surrender to be used by any one—he announced the arrival of two powerful armies, one of Austrians, one of Russians, whose appearance would presently raise the blockade—he declared his determination to eat horse-flesh rather than listen to any terms of capitulation. This bravado appeared on the 16th October, and the conditions of surrender were subscribed by Mack on the next day, having been probably in the course of adjustment when he was making these notable professions of resistance.

The course of military misconduct which we have traced, singular as it is, might be perhaps referred to folly or incapacity on the part of Mack, though it must be owned it was of that gross kind which civilians consider as equal to fraud. But another circumstance remains to be told, which goes far to prove that this once celebrated and trusted general had ingrafted the traitor upon the fool. The terms of capitulation, as subscribed on the 17th October, bore, that there should be an armistice until 26th October at midnight; and that if, during this space, an Austrian or Russian army should appear to raise the blockade, the army at Ulm should have liberty to join them, with their arms and baggage. This stipulation allowed the Austrian soldiers some hope of relief, and in any even it was sure to interrupt the progress of Buonaparte's successes, by detaining the principal part of his army in the neighbourhood of Ulm, until the term of nine days was expired. But Mack consented to a revision of these terms, a thing which would scarcely have been proposed to a man of honour, and signed on the 19th a second capitulation, by which he consented to evacuate Ulm on the day following'; thus abridging considerably, at a crisis when every minute was precious, any advantage, direct or contingent, which the Austrians could have derived from the delay originally stipulated…’

Several events in Napoleon’s military campaigns coincide with a date of October 19th.  In 1813 that date witnessed the end of the Battle of Leipzig, which was a terrible defeat for Napoleon.  A year previous, was Napoleon retreating from Moscow.  In 1805, however, Bonaparte’s fortune was still with him, and he emerged victorious from the Battle of Ulm.

General Karl Mack, whose actions are described above in text from Walter Scott’s “The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte”, fared poorly on the battle field, and, having been given his freedom by Napoleon, was court-martialed for surrendering the Austrian army.

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