Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bonaparte Book 8. Nations for Sale

“Diplomacy is simply war by other means.”…Napoleon Bonaparte

For the first time, Napoleon, Emperor of France, had more friends than enemies. The count of Baden would normally have bowed down to the combined wills of Austria and Prussia with regards to his choice of heirs, but he saw a new protector and ally in Napoleon. Soon, other city states that chafed under Austrian autocracy like Württemberg and Bavaria formed an alliance with him too. By virtue of their friendship, the last Bourbon king, Charles of Spain, came to his aid. All was set, except for one minor, teeny, weenie problem mentioned by that most annoying man.

Thomas Jefferson of America doubled his territory by buying Louisiana from Napoleon.

Montague, Finance Minister of France, told the Emperor bluntly that after two massive wars France simply could not fund a third. “We would need at least a million francs to do so,” Montague told his sire. Napoleon was annoyed. “Yes, money was needed,” he understood, “So go find it. Sell something. You are the man of money. Is this not your job?”

Montague: “Whom shall we sell to on such notice? Britain, the richest nation in the world, is our sworn enemy, and so is Austria! You simply make too many enemies, your Majesty.”

Napoleon: “Umm…what of Louisiana? We can not defend that territory in the New World if Jefferson attacks us now. As Sun Tzu always said, ‘The astute general does not divide his army on many fronts.’”

Montague was dumbfounded, “But surely Your Majesty jests. Louisiana is an area bigger than France itself.”

Napoleon: “I never jest in matters of war, Dear Minister. See to it that Jefferson buys Louisiana. My price is 1 million francs. Know once we defeat the Third Coalition, the world will be ours, I can have Louisiana back any time.”

And so, Montague sailed to Washington DC to meet the newly minted President of the United States in an effort to sell Louisiana. It was the biggest distressed selling of all times.

I was not there with Montague in Washington that day, but stories of his conversation with President Jefferson became stuff of general knowledge in Paris soon after.

Jefferson: “You would SELL me the Louisiana territory for an amount of one million francs!”

Montague: “Yes, I do not question the words of Emperor Napoleon, my President. It’s take it or leave it.”

Jefferson: “It is a vast sum of money, but worthy of a territory the size of the United States itself. You have my word, Mr. Minister. We shall deliver one million francs for this deed before you set sail.”

And so in one fell swoop and with no bloodshed, President Jefferson purchased a piece of land larger than the United States, while France gained the funds it needed to fight the Third Coalition.

And so with the means to do combat from the Americans, Napoleon marched forward against the Prussian forces at Jena. The Prussians felt that they had studied well from their hero Frederick II the Great in the time gone by and had fought against Kellermann (and later slew him), so they were confident of defeating Napoleon. Some of them said Napoleon was not half the general Kellermann was…Oh, how wrong they were!

But Napoleon had another predicament. He could not simply defeat Prussia. He had to annihilate them with minimal cost to France. Otherwise, the Austrians led by Karl Mack could come forth and obliterate him in later combat. So at Jena, he insisted that the German allies marched forward, while the Spanish allies kept the Austrians at bay at Marengo for the meantime.

The Bavarians and the counts of Baden and Wurtemburg fought against the Prussians at Eylau and Jena, but they felt they were no match against Prussia, foremost of the German states. As the Bavarians retreated, the Hessians (Redcoat soldiers hired by the British to assist Prussia) cut them down further. Soon, it was clear that the field would belong to the Third Coaltion.

Out of nowhere, Napoleon and Murat (now king of Milan) sprang a trap on the Prussians. The Second Cavalry of France cut the Prussians from behind, while the Fifth Infantry made short work of the surprised Hessians and their few British commanders. Napoleon charged in shouting his great war cry, “Victory for France and Bavaria!” In that day, I was a Major with the Fifth Infantry, and I was not sure if I saw Napoleon or Mars, the god of war, but that was how glorious he seemed.

Murat cut through the Prussian lines and shouted, “Let terror strike! By Charlemagne and Napoleon!”, and it was as though the Prussians saw the Devil Lucifer himself, and fear struck their heart. For battle against Murat and Napoleon was not for the faint of heart, and to face both in combat would make even the bravest soldiers cringe in fear. Frederick III, a descendant of the great king Frederick II, ordered a retreat.

Napoleon looked at him and could only say, “Greatness is not hereditary, Murat. Train your sons well.” With the help of the Bavarians, Murat pursued Frederick into the depths of Prussia. Finally, Frederick sued for truce and ceded Silesia to France, even offering his alliance to Napoleon. In this manner did Prussia, foremost of the German states in his grandfather’s time, slunk away shamelessly from Napoleon’s combat. Now, it was time for us to put the Austrians in their place again. To Marengo!

At Marengo, Napoleon realized that his Spanish allies were really poor fighters. Karl Mack was a veteran general of Austria renowned for his intellect and seniority. When Archduke Charles failed to defeat Napoleon, he reprimanded the Archduke for his inexperience, and the Emperor Francis gave command of the Austrian army to him. Mack followed iron discipline that was instilled since the time of Eugene of Savoy. The tacky army led by King Charles of Spain was easily defeated and beaten back. Just then, Karl Mack paused, for Napoleon had won the victory of Jena and rejoined with his Spanish allies in Marengo.

In that battle, Archduke Charles accompanied Karl Mack as his second-in-command despite his greater intellect. “Are you afraid?” the Archduke asked.

“Certainly not, your Excellency,” Mack replied, “I live and breathe the campaign. I have more experience than any man, even this Napoleon of yours. Hath I led the campaign at Austerlitz, his Majesty would never have been humiliated thus!”

“Very well,” Archduke Charles replied boringly. Mack was a favorite of his father and close friend of his brother, the heir Joseph. Hence, he had nothing to fear from the young though talented Archduke.

Suddenly, a scout came to warn Mack. “Lord Generale, the French led by Desauix and Lannes have outflanked us and cut our supplies.”

“Here we go again,” the Archduke said, “Told you not to underestimate Napoleon, General. His strength lies in the ungodly speed with which he strikes.”

But Mack would not be cowered by the Archduke, “Peace, your Excellency!” he said annoyed. “I know how to deal with him. We must pursue him and free our supplies.”

So the Austrians pursued the French, but by then, they had disappeared with their supplies. Napoleon wiped out any Austrian troop in the main stronghold that Mack left behind. After five outflanking moves, the Austrian troops were decimated. Mack knew he was no match for Napoleon…and probably not even for the Archduke. His defeat at Marengo was pretty much complete.

The word Marengo means deep red that is the color of blood, and in truth, the field was strewn with Austrian dead. The emergence of the French forces hath turned the tide for their Spanish allies. Swallowing the pride in his intellect and “theories” as Archduke Charles mocked him, Mack walked forward to Napoleon with his sword in hand.

Mack: “Please accept my sword, Emperor Napoleon, for you are the better man.”

Napoleon knew this was but a truce, but his German allies needed a victory, and he needed to turn north to face the British. And so he agreed to accept Mack’s sword and once again allow the destroyed Austrian army to retreat in disgrace.

No comments:

Post a Comment