Friday, August 17, 2012

1805: Austerlitz by Robert Goetz

I recently completed a new book on an old topic that I very much enjoyed.  1805: Austerlitz by Robert Goetz.  Greenhill Books of London, 2005.  ISBN 1-85367-644-6.

At 306 pages of text, pictures and maps plus the appendices, it is a serious read.  Being a strong Napoleonic history aficionado, I jumped at it as soon as I saw the detailed maps and order of battle. 

Over the last 200 years a great deal has been written about the destruction of the Third Coalition, much of it contradictory or at least in disagreement on details.  Mr. Goetz has taken the trouble to go through and analyze the various accounts to arrive at a "most likely" conclusion.  Since it is backed up with evidence, it has high credibility with me.  The maps are particularly interesting because in most cases you can follow the path of a battalion or regiment throughout the battle.  This is no mean accomplishment on his part. 

While the battle is usually looked upon as a foregone conclusion, much like Trafalgar, but Mr. Goetz shows how hard the Russians and Austrians fought, giving them full credit for individual courage and skill.  Where he concludes the battle was won was in the planning rooms and in the minds of key leaders who did or did not react to the changing tempo of the battle.  A fair conclusion in my humble opinion. 

On the downside, if you do not have an abiding passion for things Napoleonic or of Austerlitz, it will be a dry read.  Though it is full of anecdotes from memoirs and such, the style of delivery isn't as exciting as the battle itself.  The wealth of data, which I ate up with gusto, may well put off other readers. 

In the end I learned a great deal about the battle that I only had a vague idea about before and have a renewed interest in gaming some elements of the battle, particularly the northern sector between Lannes and Bagration.  A chance to pit two charismatic leaders against each other.  Of course, the fact that I participated in the 200th anniversary reenactment just enhances my interest.

Serious work on snow and ice

Definitely canister range

The Santon

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