Austerlitz has been fought once again. The anniversary of the battle of Austerlitz was 2 December and historical reenactors once again took to the battlefield to commemorate one of the most celebrated victories of Napoleon.
Emperor Napoleon’s Grand Armée fought an allied Austro-Russian army near the village of Austerlitz in Moravia (in the present-day Czech Republic) on 2 December 1805 during the War of the Third Coalition. French imperial forces had defeated an Austrian army at Ulm earlier in the year and then invaded Habsburg territories. But, the remaining Austrian forces fell back until they could link up with their Russian allies. With winter approaching, the Grand Armée was running out of time and supplies, but the Austro-Russian combined army continued to avoid battle.
On 1 December, Napoleon ordered his army to feign a retreat near Austerlitz in order to entice the Austro-Russians to advance. This ruse worked, and the Austro-Russians attacked early on the morning of 2 December, hoping to surround the ostensibly retreating French army. Napoleon waited as most of the Austro-Russian army advanced in the fog toward the French right wing, then he launched a counter-attack up the Pratzen heights. After intense fighting, the Grand Armée broke through the Russian Guard and routed the entire allied army.
Napoleon’s victory forced the Habsburgs to make peace and the Russians to retreat. Emperor Napoleon exploited his army’s victory through a massive propaganda campaign to solidify the support of his soldiers and the French public. The battle of Austerlitz and the campaign of 1805 showcased Napoleon’s military system at its most effective and has been studied by historians of war and society ever since.
For historical interpretations of Austerlitz and its significance, see the work of Gunther Rothenberg, Philip Dwyer, and Alan Forrest. For a purely narrative account of the battle, see David Chandler.
The Calgary Sun reports on the reenactment of the battle of Austerlitz. A website promotes the reenactment. Historical reenactments have become very popular activities for historical enthusiasts who like to dress in period clothing and simulate significant events and daily life.