Austerlitz effectively brought the Third Coalition to an end, although later there was a small side campaign against Naples, which also resulted in a decisive French victory at the Battle of Campo Tenese. On December 26 1805, Austria and France signed the Treaty of Pressburg, which took the former out of the war, reinforced the earlier treaties of Campo Formio and Lunéville, made Austria cede land to Napoleon's German allies, and imposed an indemnity of 40 million francs on the defeated Habsburgs. Russian troops were allowed to head back to home soil. Victory at Austerlitz also permitted the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine, a collection of German states intended as a buffer zone between France and the rest of Europe. In 1806, the Holy Roman Empire ceased to exist when Holy Roman Emperor Francis II kept Francis I of Austria as his only official title. These achievements, however, did not establish a lasting peace on the continent. Austerlitz had driven neither Russia nor Britain, whose armies protected Sicily from a French invasion, to settle. Meanwhile, Prussian worries about growing French influence in Central Europe sparked the War of the Fourth Coalition in 1806.
In December 1804, an Anglo-Swedish agreement led to the creation of the Third Coalition. British Prime Minister William Pitt spent 1804 and 1805 in a flurry of diplomatic activity geared towards forming a new coalition against France. Mutual suspicion between the British and the Russians eased in the face of several French political mistakes, and by April 1805 the two had signed a treaty of alliance. Having been defeated twice in recent memory by France and keen on revenge, Austria also joined the coalition a few months later.
The men at Boulogne formed the core for what Napoleon would later call La Grande Armée (English: The Great Army). At the start, this French army had about 200,000 men organized into seven corps, which were large field units containing about 36 to 40 cannon each and capable of independent action until other corps could arrive to the rescue. On top of these forces, Napoleon created a cavalry reserve of 22,000 organized into two cuirassier divisions, four mounted dragoon divisions, and two divisions of dismounted dragoons and light cavalry, all supported by 24 artillery pieces. By 1805, the Grande Armée had grown to a force of 350,000, was well equipped, well trained, and possessed a competent officer class.
Archduke Charles, brother of the Austrian Emperor, had started to reform the Austrian army in 1801 by taking away power from the Hofkriegsrat, the military-political council responsible for decision-making in the Austrian armed forces. Charles was Austria's best field commander, but he was unpopular with the royal court and lost much influence when, against his advice, Austria decided to go to war with France. Karl Mack became the new main commander in Austria's army, instituting reforms on the infantry on the eve of war that called for a regiment to be composed of four battalions of four companies rather than the older three battalions of six companies. The sudden change came with no corresponding officer training, and as a result these new units were not led as well as they could have been. Austrian cavalry forces were regarded as the best in Europe, but the detachment of many cavalry units to various infantry formations precluded the hitting power of their massed French counterparts.
In August 1805, Napoleon, Emperor of the French since May of the previous year, turned his army's sights from the English Channel to the Rhine in order to deal with the new Austrian and Russian threats. The War of the Third Coalition began with the Ulm Campaign, a series of French and Bavarian military manoeuvres and battles designed to outflank an Austrian army under General Mack.
Fatally, the Aulic Council decided to make Northern Italy the main theatre of operations for the Habsburgs. Archduke Charles was assigned 95,000 troops and directed to cross the Adige River with Mantua, Peschiera, and Milan as the initial objectives. Archduke John was given 23,000 troops and commanded to secure Tyrol while serving as a link between his brothers, Charles and Ferdinand; the latter's force of 72,000 was effectively controlled by Mack. The Austrians also detached individual corps to serve with the Swedish in Pomerania and the British in Naples, though these were designed to obfuscate the French and divert their resources.
In both the campaigns of 1796 and 1800, Napoleon had envisaged the Danube theatre as the central focus of French efforts, but in both instances the Italian theatre became the most important. The Aulic Council thought Napoleon would strike in Italy again. Napoleon had other intentions: 210,000 French troops would be launched eastwards from the camps of Boulogne and would envelop General Mack's exposed Austrian army if it kept marching towards the Black Forest. Meanwhile, Marshal Murat would conduct cavalry screens across the Black Forest to fool the Austrians into thinking that the French were advancing on a direct west-east axis. The main attack in Germany would be supported by French assaults in other theatres: Masséna would confront Charles in Italy with 50,000 men, St. Cyr would march to Naples with 20,000 men, and Brune would patrol Boulogne with 30,000 troops against a possible British invasion.
Murat and Bertrand conducted reconnaissance between the area bordering the Tyrol and the Main as Savary, chief of the planning staff, drew up detailed road surveys of the areas between the Rhine and the Danube. The left wing of the Grande Armée would move from Hanover and Utrecht to fall on Württemberg; the right and centre, troops from the Channel coast, would concentrate along the Middle Rhine around cities like Mannheim and Strasbourg. While Murat was making demonstrations across the Black Forest, other French forces would then invade the German heartland and swing towards the southeast by capturing Augsburg, a move that was supposed to isolate Mack and interrupt the Austrian lines of communication.
On September 22, Mack decided to hold the Iller line anchored on Ulm. In the last three days of September, the French began the furious marches that would find them at the Austrian rear. Mack believed that the French would not violate Prussian territory, but when he heard that Bernadotte's I Corps had marched through Prussian Ansbach, he made the critical decision to stay and defend Ulm rather than retreat to the south, which would have offered a reasonable opportunity at saving the bulk of his forces. Napoleon had little accurate information about Mack's intentions or manoeuvres; he knew that Kienmayer's Corps was sent to Ingolstadt east of the French positions, but his agents greatly exaggerated its size. On October 5, Napoleon ordered Ney to join Lannes, Soult, and Murat in concentrating and crossing the Danube at Donauwörth. The French encirclement, however, was not deep enough to prevent Kienmayer's escape: the French corps did not all arrive at the same place – they instead deployed on a long west-east axis – and the early arrival of Soult and Davout at Donauwörth incited Kienmayer to exercise caution and evasion. Napoleon gradually became more convinced that the Austrians were massed at Ulm and ordered sizeable portions of the French army to concentrate around Donauwörth; on October 6, three French infantry and cavalry corps headed to Donauwörth to seal off Mack's escape route.
Realizing the danger of his position, Mack decided to go on the offensive. On October 8, he commanded the army to concentrate around Günzburg and hoped to strike at Napoleon's lines of communication. Mack instructed Kienmayer to draw Napoleon further east towards Munich and Augsburg. Napoleon did not seriously consider the possibility that Mack would cross the Danube and move away from his central base, but he did realize that seizing the bridges at Günzburg would yield a large strategic advantage. To accomplish this objective, Napoleon sent Ney's Corps to Günzburg, completely unaware that the bulk of the Austrian army was heading to the same destination. On October 8, however, the campaign witnessed its first serious battle at Wertingen between Auffenburg's troops and those of Murat and Lannes.
For reasons not entirely clear, Mack ordered Auffenburg on October 7 to take his division of 5,000 infantry and 400 cavalry from Günzburg to Wertingen in preparation for the main Austrian advance out of Ulm. Uncertain of what to do and having little hope for reinforcements, Auffenburg was in a dangerous position. The first French forces to arrive were Murat's cavalry divisions – Klein's 1st Dragoons, Beaumont 3rd Dragoons, and Nansouty's cuirassiers. They began to assault the Austrian positions and were soon joined by Oudinot's grenadiers, who were hoping to outflank the Austrians from the north and west. Auffenburg attempted a retreat to the southwest, but he was not quick enough: the Austrians were decimated, losing nearly their entire force, 1,000 to 2,000 of which were prisoners. The Battle of Wertingen had been an easy French victory.
The actions at Wertingen convinced Mack to operate on the left bank of the Danube instead of making a direct eastwards retreat on the right bank. This would require the Austrian army to cross at Günzburg. On October 8, Ney was operating under Berthier's directions that called for a direct attack on Ulm the following day. Ney sent in Mahler's 3rd Division to capture the Günzburg bridges over the Danube. A column of this division ran into some Tyrolean jaegers and captured 200 of them, including their commander General d'Apsré, along with two cannons. The Austrians noticed these developments and reinforced their positions around Günzburg with three infantry battalions and 20 cannons. Malher's division conducted several heroic attacks against the Austrian positions, but all failed. Mack then sent in Gyulai with seven infantry battalions and fourteen cavalry squadrons to repair the destroyed bridges, but this force was charged and swept away by the delayed French 59th Infantry Regiment. Fierce fighting ensued and the French finally managed to establish a foothold on the right bank of the Danube. While the Battle of Günzburg was being fought, Ney sent General Loison's 2nd Division to capture the Danube bridges at Elchingen, which were lightly defended by the Austrians. Having lost most of the Danube bridges, Mack marched his army back to Ulm. By October 10, Ney's corps had made significant progress: Malher's division had crossed to the right bank, Loison's division held Elchingen, and Dupont's division was heading towards Ulm.
The demoralized Austrian army arrived at Ulm in the early hours of October 10. Mack was deliberating about a course of action to pursue and the Austrian army remained inactive at Ulm until the 11th. Meanwhile, Napoleon was operating under flawed assumptions: he believed the Austrians were moving to the east or southeast and that Ulm was lightly guarded. Ney sensed this misapprehension and wrote to Berthier that Ulm was, in fact, more heavily defended than the French originally thought. During this time, the Russian threat to the east began to preoccupy Napoleon so much that Murat was given command of the right wing of the army, consisting of Ney's and Lannes's corps. The French were separated in two massive rings at this point: the forces of Ney, Lannes, and Murat to the west were containing Mack while those of Soult, Davout, Bernadotte, and Marmont to the east were charged with guarding against any possible Russian and Austrian incursions. On October 11, Ney made a renewed push on Ulm; the 2nd and 3rd divisions were to march to the city along the right bank of the Danube while Dupont's division, supported by one dragoons division, was to march directly for Ulm and seize the entire city. The orders were hopeless because Ney still did not know that the entire Austrian army was stationed at Ulm.
The 32nd Infantry Regiment in Dupont's division marched from Haslach towards Ulm and ran into four Austrian regiments holding Bolfingen. The 32nd carried out several ferocious attacks, but the Austrians held firm and repulsed every single one of them. The Austrians flooded the battle with more cavalry and infantry regiments to Jungingen hoping to score a knockout blow against Ney's corps by enveloping Dupont's force. Dupont sensed what was happening and preempted the Austrians by launching a surprise attack on Jungingen that captured at least 1,000 prisoners. Renewed Austrian attacks drove these forces back to Haslach, which the French managed to hold. Dupont was eventually forced to fall back on Albeck, where he joined d'Hilliers's troops. The effects of the Battle of Haslach-Jungingen on Napoleon's plans are not fully clear, but the Emperor may have finally ascertained that the majority of the Austrian army was concentrated at Ulm. Accordingly, Napoleon sent the corps of Soult and Marmont towards the Iller, meaning he now had four infantry and one cavalry corps to deal with Mack; Davout, Bernadotte, and the Bavarians were still guarding the region around Munich. Napoleon did not intend to fight a battle across rivers and ordered his marshals to capture the important bridges around Ulm. He also began shifting his forces to the north of Ulm because he expected a battle in that region rather than an encirclement of the city itself. These dispositions and actions would lead to a confrontation at Elchingen on the 14th as Ney's forces advanced on Albeck.
At this point in the campaign, the Austrian command staff was in full confusion. Ferdinand began to openly oppose Mack's command style and decisions, charging that the latter spent his days writing contradictory orders that left the Austrian army marching back and forth. On October 13, Mack sent two columns out of Ulm in preparation for a breakout to the north: one under General Reisch headed towards Elchingen to secure the bridge there and the other under Werneck went north with most of the heavy artillery. Ney hurried his corps forward to reestablish contact with Dupont. Ney led his troops to the south of Elchingen on the right bank of the Danube and began the attack. The field to the side was a partially wooded flood plain, rising steeply to the hill town of Elchingen, which had a wide field of view. The French cleared the Austrian pickets and a regiment boldly attacked and captured the abbey at the top of the hill at bayonet point. The Austrian cavalry was also defeated and Riesch's infantry fled; Ney was given the title "Duke of Elchingen" for his impressive victory.
Other actions took place on the 14th. Murat's forces joined Dupont at Albeck just in time to drive off an Austrian attack from Werneck; together Murat and Dupont beat the Austrians to the north in the direction of Heidenheim. By night on the 14th, two French corps were stationed in the vicinity of the Austrian encampments at Michelsberg, right outside of Ulm. Mack was now in a dangerous situation: there was no longer any hope of escaping along the north bank, Marmont and the Imperial Guard were hovering at the outskirts of Ulm to the south of the river, and Soult was moving from Memmingen to prevent the Austrians escaping south to the Tyrol. Troubles continued with the Austrian command as Ferdinand overrode the objections of Mack and ordered the evacuation of all cavalry from Ulm, a total of 6,000 troopers. Murat's pursuit was so effective, however, that only eleven squadrons joined Werneck at Heidenheim. Murat continued his harassment of Werneck and forced him to surrender with 8,000 men at Trochtelfingten on October 19; Murat also took an entire Austrian field park of 500 vehicles, then swept on towards Neustadt and captured 12,000 Austrians.
Events at Ulm were now reaching a conclusion. On October 15, Ney's troops successfully charged the Michelsberg encampments and on the 16th the French began to bombard Ulm itself. Austrian morale was at a low point and Mack began to realize that there was little hope of rescue. On October 17, Napoleon's emissary, Ségur, signed a convention with Mack in which the Austrians agreed to surrender on October 25 if no aid came by that date. Gradually, however, Mack heard of the capitulations at Heidenheim and Neresheim and agreed to surrender five days before schedule on October 20. 10,000 troops from the Austrian garrison managed to escape, but the vast majority of the Austrian force marched out on the 21st and laid down their arms without incident, all with the Grande Armée drawn up in a vast semicircle observing the capitulation.
The main French fleets were at Brest in Brittany and at Toulon on the Mediterranean coast. Other ports on the French Atlantic coast contained smaller squadrons. In addition, France and Spain were allied, so the Spanish fleet based in Cádiz and Ferrol was also available.
The British possessed an experienced and well-trained corps of naval officers. By contrast, most of the best officers in the French navy had either been executed or dismissed from the service during the early part of the French Revolution. As a result, Vice-Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve was the most competent senior officer available to command Napoleon's Mediterranean fleet. However, Villeneuve had shown a distinct lack of enthusiasm to face Nelson and the Royal Navy after his defeat at the Battle of the Nile.
Napoleon's naval plan in 1805 was for the French and Spanish fleets in the Mediterranean and Cádiz to break through the blockade and combine in the West Indies. They would then return, assist the fleet in Brest to emerge from blockade, and in combination clear the English Channel of Royal Navy ships, ensuring a safe passage for the invasion barges. The plan seemed good on paper but as the war wore on, Napoleon's unfamiliarity with naval strategy and ill-advised naval commanders continued to haunt the French.
Napoleon's invasion plans for England depended entirely on having a sufficiently large number of ships of the line before Boulogne, France. This would require Villeneuve's force of 32 ships to join Vice-Admiral Ganteaume's force of 21 ships at Brest, along with a squadron of five ships under Captain Allemand, which would have given him a combined force of 58 ships of the line.
When Villeneuve set sail from Ferrol on 10 August, he was under strict orders from Napoleon to sail northward toward Brest. Instead, he worried that the British were observing his manoeuvres, so on 11 August he sailed southward towards Cádiz on the southwestern coast of Spain. With no sign of Villeneuve's fleet by 26 August, the three French army corps invasion force near Boulogne broke camp and marched to Germany, where it would become fully engaged.
The same month, Nelson returned home to England after two years of duty at sea, for some well-earned rest. He remained ashore for 25 busy days, and was warmly received by his countrymen, who were understandably nervous about a possible French invasion. Word reached England on 2 September about the combined French and Spanish fleet in the harbour of Cádiz. Nelson had to wait until 15 September before his ship HMS Victory was ready to sail.
On 15 August, Cornwallis made the fateful decision to detach 20 ships of the line from the fleet guarding the channel and to have them sail southward to engage the enemy forces in Spain. This left the channel somewhat denuded of ships, with only eleven ships of the line present. However this detached force formed the nucleus of the British fleet that would fight at Trafalgar. Initially this fleet was placed under the command of Vice-Admiral Calder, reaching Cádiz on 15 September. Nelson joined the fleet on 29 September to take command.
The British fleet used frigates to keep a constant watch on the harbour, while the main force remained out of sight west of the shore. Nelson's hope was to lure the combined Franco-Spanish force out and engage them in a "pell-mell battle". The force watching the harbour was led by Captain Blackwood, commanding HMS Euryalus. He was brought up to a strength of seven ships (five frigates and two schooners) on 8 October.
Meanwhile, Villeneuve's fleet in Cádiz was also suffering from a serious supply shortage that could not be readily rectified by the cash-strapped French. The blockades maintained by the British fleet had made it difficult for the allies to obtain stores and their ships were ill fitted. Villeneuve's ships were also more than two thousand men short of the force needed to sail. These were not the only problems faced by the Franco-Spanish fleet. The main French ships of the line had been kept in harbour for years by the British blockades with only brief sorties. The hasty voyage across the Atlantic and back used up vital supplies and was no match for the British fleet's years of experience at sea and training. The French crews contained few experienced sailors, and as most of the crew had to be taught the elements of seamanship on the few occasions when they got to sea, gunnery was neglected. Villeneuve's supply situation began to improve in October, but news of Nelson's arrival made Villeneuve reluctant to leave port. Indeed his captains had held a vote on the matter and decided to stay in the harbour.
On the 14th of September, Napoleon gave orders for the French and Spanish ships at Cadiz to put to sea at the first favourable opportunity, join seven Spanish ships of the line then at Cartagena, go to Naples, and land the soldiers they carried to reinforce his troops there, and fight a decisive action if they met a British fleet of inferior numbers.
On 18 October, Villeneuve received a letter informing him that Vice-Admiral François Rosily had arrived in Madrid with orders to take command. At the same time, he received intelligence that a detachment of six British ships had docked at Gibraltar (this was Admiral Louis's squadron). Stung by the prospect of being disgraced before the fleet, Villeneuve resolved to go to sea before his successor could reach Cadiz. Following a gale on 18 October, the fleet began a rapid scramble to set sail.
It took most of 20 October for Villeneuve to get his fleet organised, and it set sail in three columns for the Straits of Gibraltar to the south-east. That same evening, the ship Achille spotted a force of 18 British ships of the line in pursuit. The fleet began to prepare for battle and during the night they were ordered into a single line. The following day Nelson's fleet of 27 ships of the line and four frigates was spotted in pursuit from the north-west with the wind behind it. Villeneuve again ordered his fleet into three columns, but soon changed his mind and ordered a single line. The result was a sprawling, uneven formation.
The British fleet was sailing, as they would fight, under signal 72 hoisted on Nelson's flagship. At 5:40 a.m., the British were about to the north-west of Cape Trafalgar, with the Franco-Spanish fleet between the British and the Cape. At 6 a.m. that morning, Nelson gave the order to prepare for battle.
At 8 a.m., Villeneuve ordered the fleet to wear together and turn back for Cádiz. This reversed the order of the Allied line, placing the rear division under Rear-Admiral Pierre Dumanoir le Pelley in the vanguard, or "van." The wind became contrary at this point, often shifting direction. The very light wind rendered manoeuvering all but impossible for the most expert crews. The inexperienced crews had difficulty with the changing conditions, and it took nearly an hour and a half for Villeneuve's order to be completed. The French and Spanish fleet now formed an uneven, angular crescent, with the slower ships generally leeward and closer to the shore.
Villeneuve was painfully aware that the British fleet would not be content to attack him in the old-fashioned way, coming down in a parallel line and engaging from van to rear. He knew that they would endeavour to concentrate on a part of his line. But he was too conscious of the inexperience of his officers and men to consider making counter movements.
By 11 a.m. Nelson's entire fleet was visible to Villeneuve, drawn up in two parallel columns. The two fleets would be within range of each other within an hour. Villeneuve was concerned at this point about forming up a line, as his ships were unevenly spaced and in an irregular formation. The French-Spanish fleet was drawn out nearly five miles (8 km) long as Nelson's fleet approached.
As the British drew closer, they could see that the enemy was not sailing in a tight order, but rather in irregular groups. Nelson could not immediately make out the French flagship as the French and Spanish were not flying command pennants.
The six British ships dispatched earlier to Gibraltar had not returned, so Nelson would have to fight without them. He was outnumbered and outgunned, nearly 30,000 men and 2,568 guns to his 17,000 men and 2,148 guns. The Franco-Spanish fleet also had six more ships of the line, and so could more readily combine their fire. There was no way for some of Nelson's ships to avoid being "doubled on" or even "trebled on".
The battle progressed largely according to Nelson's plan. At 11:45, Nelson sent the famous flag signal, "England expects that every man will do his duty" He had instructed his signal officer, Lieutenant John Pasco, to signal to the fleet the message "England confides [i.e. is confident] that every man will do his duty." Pasco suggested to Nelson that expects be substituted for confides, since the former word was in the signal book, whereas confides would have to be spelt out letter-by-letter. Nelson agreed to the change.
His Lordship came to me on the poop, and after ordering certain signals to be made, about a quarter to noon, he said, 'Mr. Pasco, I wish to say to the fleet, ENGLAND CONFIDES THAT EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS DUTY' and he added 'You must be quick, for I have one more to make which is for close action.' I replied, 'If your Lordship will permit me to substitute the confides for expects the signal will soon be completed, because the word expects is in the vocabulary, and confides must be spelt,' His Lordship replied, in haste, and with seeming satisfaction, 'That will do, Pasco, make it directly.'
The term England was widely used at the time to refer to the United Kingdom, though the British fleet included significant contingents from Ireland, Scotland and Wales as well as England. Unlike the photographic depiction, this signal would have been shown on the mizzen mast only and would have required 12 'lifts'. The fleet was approaching the French line in two columns. Leading the windward column in Victory was Nelson, while Collingwood in Royal Sovereign led the second, leeward, column.
As the battle opened, the French and Spanish were in a ragged line headed north as the two British columns approached from the west at almost a right angle. The northern, windward column of the British fleet was headed up by Nelson's 100-gun flagship Victory. The leeward column was led by the 100-gun Royal Sovereign, the flagship of Vice-Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood. Nelson led his line into a feint toward the van of the Franco-Spanish fleet and then turned toward the actual point of attack. Collingwood altered the course of his column slightly so that the two lines converged at the line of attack.
Just before his column engaged the allied forces, Collingwood said to his officers, "Now, gentlemen, let us do something today which the world may talk of hereafter". Because the winds were very light during the battle, all the ships were moving extremely slowly, and the lead British ships were under fire from several of the enemy for almost an hour before their own guns could bear.
At noon, Villeneuve sent the signal "engage the enemy", and Fougueux fired her first trial shot at Royal Sovereign. Royal Sovereign had all sails out and, having recently had her bottom cleaned, outran the rest of the British fleet. As she approached the allied line, she came under fire from Fougueux, Indomptable, San Justo and San Leandro, before breaking the line just astern of Admiral Alava's flagship Santa Ana, into which she fired a devastating double-shotted raking broadside.
The second ship in the British lee column, Belleisle, was engaged by L'Aigle, Achille, Neptune and Fougeux; she was soon completely dismasted, unable to manoeuvre and largely unable to fight, as her sails blinded her batteries, but kept flying her flag for 45 minutes until the following British ships came to her rescue.
For 40 minutes, Victory was under fire from Héros, Santísima Trinidad, Redoutable and Neptune; although many shots went astray others killed and wounded a number of her crew and shot away her wheel, so that she had to be steered from her tiller belowdecks. Victory could not yet respond. At 12:45, Victory cut the enemy line between Villeneuve's flagship Bucentaure and Redoutable. Victory came close to the Bucentaure, firing a devastating raking broadside through her stern which killed and wounded many on her gundecks. Villeneuve thought that boarding would take place, and with the Eagle of his ship in hand, told his men: "I will throw it onto the enemy ship and we will take it back there!" However Admiral Nelson of Victory engaged the 74 gun Redoutable. Bucentaure was left to be dealt with by the next three ships of the British windward column Temeraire, Conqueror and Neptune.
A general mêlée ensued and, during that fight, Victory locked masts with the French Redoutable. The crew of the Redoutable, which included a strong infantry corps (with three captains and four lieutenants), gathered for an attempt to board and seize the Victory. A musket bullet fired from the mizzentop of the Redoutable struck Nelson in the left shoulder and passed through his body lodging in his spine. Nelson exclaimed, "They finally succeeded, I am dead." He was carried below decks and died at about 16:30, as the battle that would make him a legend was ending in favour of the British.
Victory ceased fire, the gunners having been called on the deck to fight the capture but were repelled to the below decks by French grenades. As the French were preparing to board Victory, the Temeraire, the second ship in the British windward column, approached from the starboard bow of the Redoutable and fired on the exposed French crew with a carronade, causing many casualties.
At 13:55, Captain Lucas, of the Redoutable, with 99 fit men out of 643 and severely wounded himself, was forced to surrender. The French Bucentaure was isolated by the Victory and Temeraire, and then engaged by Neptune, Leviathan and Conqueror; similarly, the Santísima Trinidad was isolated and overwhelmed without being rescued, surrendering after three hours.
As more and more British ships entered the battle, the ships of the allied centre and rear were gradually overwhelmed. The allied van, after long remaining quiescent, made a futile demonstration and then sailed away. The British took 22 vessels of the Franco-Spanish fleet and lost none. Among the taken French ships were the L'Aigle, Algésiras, Berwick, Bucentaure, Fougueux, Intrépide, Redoutable, and Swiftsure. The Spanish ships taken were Argonauta, Bahama, Monarca, Neptuno, San Agustín, San Ildefonso, San Juan Nepomuceno, Santísima Trinidad, and Santa Ana. Of these, Redoutable sank, Santísima Trinidad and Argonauta were scuttled by the British and later sank, Achille exploded, Intrépide and San Augustín burned, and Aigle, Berwick, Fougueux, and Monarca were wrecked in a gale following the battle.
As Nelson lay dying, he ordered the fleet to anchor as a storm was predicted. However, when the storm blew up many of the severely damaged ships sank or ran aground on the shoals. A few of them were recaptured by the French and Spanish prisoners overcoming the small prize crews or by ships sallying from Cádiz.
Napoleon could muster some 75,000 men and 157 guns for the impending battle, but about 7,000 troops under Davout were still far to the south in the direction of Vienna. The Allies had about 73,000 soldiers, seventy percent of them Russian, and 318 guns. On December 1, both sides occupied the main positions.
An Allied council met on December 1 to discuss proposals for the battle. Most of the Allied strategists had two fundamental ideas in mind: making contact with the enemy and securing the southern flank that led to Vienna. Although the Tsar and his immediate entourage pushed hard for a battle, Emperor Francis of Austria was in a more cautious mood, and he was seconded by Kutuzov, the main Russian commander. The pressure to fight from the Russian nobles and the Austrian commanders, however, was too strong, and the Allies adopted Austrian Chief of Staff Weyrother's plan. This called for a main drive against the French right flank, which the Allies noticed was lightly guarded, and diversionary attacks against the French left. The Allies deployed most of their troops into four columns that would attack the French right. The Russian Imperial Guard was held in reserve while Russian troops under Bagration guarded the Allied right.
Allied columns started pouring against the French right, but not at the desired speed, so the French were mostly successful in curbing the attacks. In actuality, the Allied deployments were mistaken and poorly timed: cavalry detachments under Liechtenstein on the Allied left flank had to be placed in the right flank and in the process they ran into and slowed down part of the second column of infantry that was advancing towards the French right. At the time, the planners thought this was a disaster, but later on it helped the Allies. Meanwhile, the lead elements of the second column were attacking the village of Sokolnitz, which was defended by the 26th Light Regiment and the Tirailleurs, French skirmishers. Initial Allied assaults proved unsuccessful and General Langeron ordered the bombardment of the village. This deadly barrage forced the French out, and around the same time, the third column attacked the castle of Sokolnitz. The French, however, counterattacked and regained the village, only to be thrown out again. Conflict in this area ended momentarily when Friant's division (part of III Corps) retook the village. Sokolnitz was perhaps the most fought over area in the battlefield and would change hands several times as the day progressed.
A dense fog helped to cloud the advance of St. Hilaire’s division, but as they went up the slope the legendary ‘Sun of Austerlitz’ ripped the mist apart and encouraged them forward. Russian soldiers and commanders on top of the heights were stunned to see so many French troops coming towards them. Allied commanders were now able to feed some of the delayed detachments of the fourth column into this bitter struggle. Over an hour of horrendous fighting left much of this unit decimated beyond recognition. The other men from the second column, mostly inexperienced Austrians, also participated in the struggle and swung the numbers game against one of the best fighting forces in the French army, finally forcing them to withdraw down the slopes. However, gripped by desperation, St. Hilaire's men struck hard once more and bayoneted the Allies out of the heights. To the north, General Vandamme’s division attacked an area called Staré Vinohrady and through talented skirmishing and deadly volleys broke several Allied battalions.
The battle had firmly turned to France’s favor, but there was still much fighting ahead. Napoleon ordered Bernadotte’s I Corps to support Vandamme’s left and moved his own command centre from Zuran Hill to St. Anthony’s Chapel on the Pratzen Heights. The difficult position of the Allies was confirmed by the decision to send in the Russian Imperial Guard; Grand Duke Constantine, Tsar Alexander’s brother, commanded the Guard and counterattacked in Vandamme’s section of the field, forcing a bloody effort and the loss of the only French standard in the battle (the unfortunate victim was a battalion of the 4th Line Regiment). Sensing trouble, Napoleon ordered his own heavy Guard cavalry forward. These men pulverized their Russian counterparts, but with both sides pouring in large masses of cavalry no victor was clear yet. The Russians had a numerical advantage here but fairly soon the tide swung as Drouet’s Division, the 2nd of Bernadotte’s I Corps, deployed on the flank of the action and allowed French cavalry to seek refuge behind their lines. The horse artillery of the Guard also unlimbered a deadly toll on the Russian cavalry and fusiliers. The Russians broke and many died as they were pursued by the reinvigorated French cavalry for about a quarter of a mile.
Meanwhile, the northernmost part of the battlefield was also witnessing heavy fighting. Prince Liechtenstein’s heavy cavalry began to assault Kellerman’s lighter cavalry forces after finally arriving at the correct position in the field. The fighting originally went well for the French, but Kellerman’s forces took cover behind General Caffarelli’s infantry division once it became clear Russian numbers were too great. Caffarelli’s men halted the Russian assaults and permitted Murat to send two cuirassier divisions into the fray to finish off the Russian cavalry for good. The ensuing melee was bitter and long, but the French ultimately prevailed. Lannes then led his V Corps against Bagration’s men and after hard fighting managed to drive the skilled Russian commander off the field. He wanted to pursue, but Murat, who was in control of this sector in the battlefield, was against the idea.
Napoleon’s focus now shifted towards the southern end of the battlefield where the French and the Allies were still fighting over Sokolnitz and Telnitz. In an effective double-pronged assault, St. Hilaire’s division and part of Davout’s III Corps smashed through the enemy at Sokolnitz and persuaded the commanders of the first two columns, generals Kienmayer and Langeron, to flee as fast as they could. Buxhowden, the commander of the Allied left and the man responsible for leading the attack, was completely drunk and fled as well. Kienmayer covered his withdrawal with the O’Reilly light cavalry, who gallantly managed to defeat five of six French cavalry regiments before they too had to retreat.
General panic now seized the Allied army and it abandoned the field in any and all possible directions. A famous yet frightful episode transpired during this retreat: Russian forces that had been defeated by the French right withdrew south towards Vienna via the Satschan frozen ponds. French artillery pounded towards the men, but Napoleon redirected his gunners to fire at the ice. The men drowned in the viciously cold ponds, dozens of artillery pieces going down along with them. Estimates on how many guns were captured differ; there may have been as low as 38 and as high as over 100. Sources also differ on casualties, with figures ranging from as low as 200 to as high as 2,000 dead. Because Napoleon exaggerated this incident in his report of the battle, the low numbers may be more accurate, although doubt remains as to whether they are fully correct. Many regard this incident as one of Napoleon's cruelest acts in war.
Meanwhile in Italy, a French force under St. Cyr was still manoeuvring on the frontier of the Kingdom of Naples. The French were being carefully watched by an Anglo-Russian force entrusted with defence of the kingdom. After the Battle of Austerlitz, the Russians withdrew from Italy and the British unwilling to defend Naples alone, evacuated the mainland altogether and retreated back to Sicily. Meanwhile, the French force, now stationed in Bologna was reorganised into the Army of Naples and placed under the nominal command of Napoleon's brother Joseph Bonaparte. However, the de facto commander was André Masséna, who commanded the I Corps and was entrusted with the invasion by Joseph.
Ferdinand had hoped for a repeat of the events of 1799, when a popular uprising in Calabria eventually caused the downfall of the Parthenopaean Republic, a French client state created after the Neapolitans were defeated the first time during the War of the Second Coalition. However, no such rebellion initially occurred and on 3 March, General Jean Reynier, who commanded the 10,000 strong II Corps of the Army of Naples invaded Calabria. Only a few Calabrians resisted the invading French force and the Royal Neapolitan Army was soundly defeated at the Battle of Campo Tenese on 10 March 1806. Ferdinand now had no choice but to concede the Neapolitan throne to the French. A day after Campo Tenese, Joseph was installed as the new King of Naples. By now, the last regular troops of the Neapolitan army had fled to Sicily and the French controlled the entire Italian mainland except for the fortress of Gaeta, which had been under siege since 26 February.
By July, Masséna had still failed to take Gaeta due to slow placement of the French artillery, slight reinforcements from the British by sea and a serious of successful sorties by the Neapolitan garrison against the French sappers. With only Reynier's small force in Calabria still struggling against the revolt, the British organised an expeditionary force under Sir John Stuart to prevent any potential invasion of Sicily and perhaps to trigger a full scale rebellion against the French across Italy. Although there were early successes for the British, in particular at Maida, the British failed to either reinforce Stuart's expedition or attempt to relieve the Siege of Gaeta. With the French artillery finally able to bombard the walls with their full potential, the Neapolitans eventually surrendered on 18 July, freeing Masséna's I Corps.
Masséna was now ordered south by Joseph to support Reynier's II Corps against the British and Calabrian revolt. The British were now severely outnumbered in mainland Italy, and were forced to retreat back to Sicily. However, the Calabrian insurrection was not suppressed until 1807, by which time Masséna had already requested permission to relinquish command. For the first time in the Napoleonic Wars, the French experienced a brutal guerrilla war carried on by a rebellious population. The French soon learned that the only effective way to deal with the revolt was to implement terror tactics originally employed by Reynier. The revolt in Calabria foreshadowed the same problems the French, and in particular Joseph Bonaparte, would face in Spain during the Peninsular War.
France and Austria signed a truce on December 4 and the Treaty of Pressburg 22 days later took the latter out of the war. Austria agreed to recognize French territory captured by the treaties of Campo Formio (1797) and Lunéville (1801), cede land to Bavaria, Wurttemberg, and Baden, which were Napoleon's German allies, and pay 40 million francs in war indemnities. Venice was also given to the Kingdom of Italy. It was a harsh end for Austria, but certainly not a catastrophic peace. The Russian army was allowed to withdraw to home territory and the French encamped themselves in Southern Germany. The Holy Roman Empire was also effectively wiped out, 1806 being seen as its final year. Napoleon created the Confederation of the Rhine, a string of German states meant to serve as a buffer between France and Prussia. Prussia saw these and other moves as an affront to its status as the main power of Central Europe and it went to war with France in 1806.
In Italy, the political situation would remain unchanged until 1815, with the British and Sicilian troops guarding the Bourbon King Ferdinand in Sicily and the Napoleonic King of Naples controlling the mainland. In 1808, Joachim Murat became the King of Naples, after Joseph Bonaparte became King of Spain. Murat made various attempts to cross the Strait of Sicily, which all ended in failure, despite once managing to secure a foothold in Sicily.