The Third Coalition


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In April 1805, the time looked perfect for the members of the Third Coalition - Britain, Austria, Russia, Sweden and some German states - to strike back at France.

The French fleet could not gain control of the English Channel and the mass of the Grande Armee was camped near Boulogne awaiting orders to invade Britain.

It was decided that a concerted invasion would put the upstart Napoleon Bonaparte in his place and so plans were made to attack Italy and Bavaria.

The only problem was that the French emperor had foreseen such attempts and had secretly moved the Grande Armee across the Rhine and then the Danube, cutting off Austria's General Karl Mack from his supply lines and forcing him to surrender his army at Ulm.

Bonaparte then set off for Vienna, where he captured the enemy capital and forced Russia's General Mikhail Kutusov into two rearguard actions at Durrenstein and Hollabrunn.

In Italy, Marshal Massena defeated Archduke Charles at Caldiero forcing him out of that country.

Meanwhile, Bonaparte proved himself the master of tactics by tempting the Russian and Austrian armies, led by their emperors, into attacking him 110 kilometres north of Vienna at Austerlitz.

Making out that his forces were weak, Bonaparte retreated before the enemy armies only to swiftly counterattack when fast-marching reinforcements arrived to help him.

The Austro-Russian army was split in two and then destroyed with a loss of 27,000 men compared with 9000 French casualties.

Austria surrendered immediately and later ceded parts of Germany and Italy to France, while the Russians retreated to their homeland.

Napoleon Bonaparte was on the verge of being master of Europe.


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