Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bonaparte Book 5. The Talented Archduke Charles

“The Earth, the heavens, the commander, and the wind…from these four elements, I can deduce the outcome of any war.”…Sun Tzu, the Art of War

Upon his accession as First Consul of France, Napoleon Bonaparte sought to better the lives of the common man and strengthen the country even further. In one instance, he gave prices for any man who could find a better way of storing food. This resulted in France’s invention of bottled foods storing picked products. In another, he decreed a better measure system, which soon became adopted by the rest of the world as the metric system. Even our ways of marching soon became the front runner of cars in the Continent running on one side of the road that was followed by all nations of the world except those under British occupation.

Because Napoleon found it inappropriate to command the troops directly as he had in the past, it would open ways to some of France’s first defeats, for the War of Second Coalition still raged over most of Europe, and Austria had found an able commander in Archduke Charles Louis John, the younger son of Holy Roman Emperor Francis II.

Now, Napoleon did not dawdle behind, but he also did not take the main stage of war against Austria and Russia, allowing Generals Ney and Messina to prove themselves on those battlefields. Instead, Napoleon himself accompanied the army led by General Berthier to Spain, but it was truly he that was in command of the expedition.

That day, he commanded General Joachim Murat to come before him and take orders to march against Sardinia with the Fifth Infantry and the Second Cavalry. Sardinia was the strongest of the Italian states. The island was not ruled by the weak Bourbons, but the House of Peidmont-Savoy, descended from the heroic Austrian general Eugene of Savoy. Murat decided to confront him with his own plans to marry Napoleon’s youngest sister Caroline.

Murat: “I intend to marry Caroline, Napoleon, and I wish to have your blessings.”

Napoleon: “Ye Gods! We are in the midst of a war here, Joachim. Would you have my sister be a widow?!”

Murat: “Would you have Josephine be a widow then, First Consul?”

Napoleon: “What nonsense is this, Murat? Why must you marry my sister? I treat you as a brother and friend enough. There is no need to seek favors in such shameless manner!”

Now, Murat was livid with anger, and I thought he would strike the First Consult. But he managed to keep his legendary temper and continue: “So did you marry Josephine because she was a Countess? Is that why you do not divorce her after her affair?!”

Napoleon: “For love, Murat! For love! Because I can not live without Josephine. It is not that I am without anger, but it is because I know I can not live without Josephine. Now, look me in the eye and tell me if you truly love Caroline and are not doing this for politics.”

Murat: “I love Caroline more than life itself.”, and he looked Napoleon in the eye with stronger determination than the man who braved the Bridge of Agricola.

Napoleon: “Very well, Murat. You have my blessings.” Then, Napoleon smiled and embraced Murat before continuing, “Now, go to Sardinia and make France and Caroline proud.”

Murat: “I promise…Brother.”

In the meantime, the Third Consul had died of cholera. The Second Consul Desauix saw that the Consulate was but a sham with all political powers solely in Napoleon’s hands, so he offered to give up his consulship in return for being a general. Much as Napoleon doubted Desauix’s generalship, he wanted to be Sole Consul of France and so accepted his resignation. Desauix then marched north to meet the English invaders at the Channel. He would prove himself an able commander beyond Napoleon’s expectations and become one of his trusted inner circle, later forcing England to sign the Treaty of Amiens which left France master of Continental Europe.

And so, as Consul Napoleon rode off to Spain, Ney and Messina led a great force out to meet the Hapsburg Archduke Charles Louis John at Zurich, Switzerland. They believed they knew the ground better than Austrians. After all, hath not Switzerland already been renamed the Helvettic Republic in their favor?

Messina did not think much of the Archduke. For all they knew, he was just another pampered prince of the storied Hapsburg clan that ruled over much of Europe like the Bourbons. Suddenly, Ney spotted a contingent of Austrian soldiers lower than the mountains where they hath encamped. Clearly, it was the foolish Archduke.


The House of Hapsburg during Napoleon’s time

Ney immediately ordered the riflers of the Third Infantry to open fire on the Austrians, but shoot as they might, the Austrians who were afar did not seem hurt or injured. Ney then ordered his scouts to examine. The scout returned with a most shocking report. They were but rough wooden sculptures designed to trick the French!!

Suddenly, the Archduke led his real army behind Ney and outflanked him. Messina tried to come to his rescue but was unsuccessful, for the Russians led by General Suvorov hath already ambushed them. In this bitter defeat, the French led by Ney and Messina were forced to relinquish Switzerland to the allies. The cunning Archduke thereby declared an end to the Helvettic Republic and annexed Switzerland as part of the Hapsburg Empire.

The shattered French Army was no longer able to defend its border. Despite the victory of Desauix over England, he was suddenly surrounded by a massive army of Austrians led by Karl Mack. Desauix fought hard, and with his uncanny ability for combat, may have won the day, but alas, the General was not so lucky.

Soon, a great army led by Archduke Charles marched northwards against him and forced him to retreat. Charles then declared the Batavian Republic of Holland nullified.

While Archduke Charles achieved victories in Holland and Switzerland, Murat forced the Sardinians to retreat from the Italian Peninsula. The Sardinians led by their king Victor Reiner I had been invading French domains in Naples, but when Murat came, he retreated to the safety of his island. Murat demanded that Sardinia surrender to the French Republic, but Reiner simply ignored him.

So Murat led a great naval and land expedition to invade Sardinia, and he bombed the island for forty days and forty nights, and many Frenchmen perished in this most bitter campaign. A friend of mine Aruso told me that the sky darkened with soot from canons of both sides, and dead corpses were floating all around the Straits of Sardinia.

But still, Reiner would not surrender. One day, a republican partisan shot the king while he was leaning out of the palace window. After his death, agents of the French stormed the palace and welcomed Murat as a liberator. Murat declared an end to the House of Piedmont-Savoy, but he could not capture its remaining heirs who would later return to Sardinia a decade later.

But in truth, Murat’s victory was an irony. For Archduke Charles, like a god of war, sped his troops down with Karl Mack and the Russians led by Suvorov following on his heels. The allies had marched over Milan and conquered all of Naples while Murat fought in Sardinia.

Murat’s army was outnumbered five to one by the Austrians, and it was annihilated. Clearly, the Pope, who saw the Holy Roman Emperor as the protector of the Catholic faith, had financially supported Archduke Charles and blessed his attempt. Thus, it was easy for the citizens of Naples and other smaller cities such as Trieste to open their gates to the Austrians, who were seen as liberators, even though they were really restoring Hapsburg yoke upon these people.

Once again, Charles declared the Revolution of France illegal and disbanded the Cisalpine and Ligurian Republics. The House of Piedmont-Savoy was restored to Sardinia, but all of them served as fiefs of the Hapsburg, much to the chagrin of the Russians. Surely, the crack was beginning to build up between the victorious allies, but Archduke Charles was clearly the man of the moment. He had defeated men who were trained by Napoleon. Now, all that remained was drawing the Consul of France into his trap, crushing him, and putting the peasants in their place.

In a period of less than a year, it seems that the great Archduke Charles Louis John had undone all that we of the French Revolution had fought for. He was the nephew of our hated Queen Marie Antoinette, and that alone was enough reason to hate him. But what good was it to hate someone and not be able to crush him? That day, I swore that if I ever caught the hero of Austria, I would skewer him on the cross like the ancient Romans had done before our time.

Meanwhile, Berthier’s…or rather Napoleon’s…army was at the Basque border of Spain gaining support from the native rebels against the Bourbon monarchs of Spain when he heard the news. He realized that Archduke Charles was still young but probably the most capable general Austria produced since Eugene of Savoy.

At this time, he spoke out loud but to himself. What he said, I wouldst never have forgotten.

“A new lion has risen in the East…One day, I must return to tame it.”

But first, we had to subdue Spain….

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