CAMPAIGNS OF 1805

ULM, TRAFALGAR, AUSTERLITZ

The following is the excerpt from the above book.


The Main Allied Thrust

After a long and fruitless cannonade, Langeron's three regiments captured Sokolnitz at 9:00 a.m., and General Muller, belonging to the third column, who was severely wounded chased the French out of the castle and beyond Sokolnitz. The two columns, in passing through the village, at that time enveloped in a thick fog, crossed each other, from which cause they were thrown into confusion. At about this period a serious battle was commencing on the Pratzen plateau.

Legrand, attacked by the 2nd and 3rd Russian columns, was compelled to evacuate Sokolnitz and to retire to the heights in rear of it. The Russians were already gaining ground on the right bank of the Goldbach brook, and Davout, fearing lest the French line might be severed, directed Friant to concentrate his three brigades and fall on the enemy as they emerged from Sokolnitz and tried to form on the heights. Friant sent the 48th regiment against Sokolnitz, supporting it with the 111th and Kister's brigade. The Russians were overthrown and driven back through the village, which, with six guns and two flags, remained in possession of the French. These latter, however, could not so easily shake off their adversaries; the Russians returned to the attack with fresh troops, and all the efforts of Friant's soldiers could not prevail. The 111th, who held the left of the village, were driven back, and Lochet, with the 48th on the right side, had to sustain a terrible contest in the streets, in the houses, in the barns, for three-quarters of an hour. Friant came to his assistance with Kister's brigade, drove the Russians back for a moment, and occupied the village with the 15th Light Infantry. Still he was not able to effect much; after a most vigorous resistance this regiment, as well as the 33rd, had to give way. After capturing and losing the village several times, Lochet was driven back by the Russians step by step beyond the Goldbach.

By ten o'clock Davout held a position with his right in rear of the pond of Ottmarau and the left extending in the direction of Sokolnitz castle. Przvbyszewsky had taken ten battalions of his column across to the right bank of the Goldbach in front of Davout's left ; the other seven battalions remained on the left bank of the brook and constituted a reserve. Another of his battalions, which had been routed in an engagement with La Vasseur, rejoined him about this time. At ten, Langeron attacked Davout's left wing. Had the Russians advanced with energy and united the three columns of their left wing in one body, the manoeuvre would have menaced Napoleon's rear, and more than probably it would have stayed Soult's advance up the Pratzen heights. Davout, who fully recognized all the importance of the task assigned to him, was resolved to do everything in his power to avert the danger, and as a first step he concentrated the whole of his forces on his left.

The 2nd and 3rd Russian columns extended along a row of ponds, and when about to attack were thrown into disorder by the fire of Davout's batteries, which bad been skillfully posted. They managed to recover their array, but the artillery soon opened a deadly fire on them and cast them into confusion. Davout succeeded in retaking Sokolnitz castle, but could not hold it on account of the numerical majority of the enemy. At eleven o'clock he abandoned Sokolnitz, but managed to make his position good on the line of ponds and hills of the Goldbach.

The three Russian columns of the left wing numbered 38,00 men and 4,000 horses; these troops were for three hours held at bay by 10,000 men and 2,500 horses under Davout. The marshal was enjoined to keep on the defensive, as the Emperor did no imagine that with his scanty forces he would ever remain victorious. His struggle had been continuous and terrific. But Buxhowden's utter want of enterprise was inexplicable, for had he pressed vigorously on Davout when that marshal withdrew from Telnitz and took all his troops from the right to reinforce his left, not with standing all his determination, Davout would not have been able to make head against the allies. Buxhowden lay inert waiting until Langeron and Przybyszewsky, had fought out their fight with the French, whereas he should have complied with his orders and pushed forward determinately towards Turas.

Round Telnitz and Sokolnitz the combat continued the greatest part of the day. At these points the opposing forces were very unequal in numbers. Still, nothing would equal the tenacity with which the French disputed their ground. The allies who had clumsily crowded considerable forces in the bottom of Telnitz and in the swampy valley bordering on the pools of Satschan and Monitz, did not know how to employ them.


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