Archduke Charles .vs. Wellington

Archduke Charles .vs. Wellington


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I know this thread has been dead for a while (yeah, I do have a bad habit of "zombie" posting), but I have recently done some reading on the Archduke's exploits, and while I don't think he was QUITE as good as the "Iron Duke," I think he is certainly worthy of comparison and perhaps on the same level as well.

Why do I think this? Simple; 1796 German campaign, which is often unfairly over-shadowed by (but almost as skillfully conducted as) Napoleon's Italian campaign that took place at the exact same time. Here, he was out-numbered, and faced by two different French armies (as Napoleon often was in Italy as well), led by Generals Jourdan and Moreau, respectively, both of whom were definitely abler than any of Napoleon's opponents in Italy. Charles went for Jourdan, defeated him in two separate engagements ( at Amberg and Wurzburg, respectively), both of which were won due to superb battlefield maneuvering. This pushed Jourdan back to the Rhine, and although Moreau was victorious against a separate Austrian army at Friedburg, Jourdan's defeat forced Moreau to retreat as well (due to the compromising gap now created between their armies). Moreau returned after re-organizing soon after, and again, defeated a separate Austrian covering force at Biberach. Hearing of this set-back, Charles quickly marched against Moreau, the latter fell back, and Charles caught up with him, defeated him at Emmendingen, and soon after beat him again at Schliengen. Charles pursued Moreau back to the Rhine, where the latter pressed for an armistice, which Charles favored, but which the Austrian government foolishly rejected. This excellent campaign of the Archduke put a temporary check to Napoleon's onslaught in Italy, preventing him from marching across the Alps and into Austria itself, since he had depended on the cooperation of Moreau in so doing. Bonus points? He was even younger than Napoleon.

He later conducted an able retreat before Napoleon after that general's victory at Rivoli (and the subsequent surrender of Mantua).

He later scored a few nice successes in 1799, in Italy and Switzerland (one of which was against Massena, another excellent commander).

In later years, it can probably be argued that he lacked the energy and skill which he had shown in the past, but he was still quite able, and his re-organization of the Austrian army as well as his victory against Napoleon himself at Aspern-Essling ( even if he certainly can be justifiably criticized for not following it up) do him great credit.

So I think, judging from many of the posts here, that the Archduke is quite underrated, and that he can fairly be ranked at the same level as Wellington.

No problem, I have a bad habit of zombie posting myself! :zany:

Interesting comparison between the two and I thank you for it. Quite a good read. :cool:
 
The Archduke's victory seems to be worth more since it was during Napoleon's prime, not long after Austerlitz. By the time of Waterloo they were already familiar with his strategies (the reason for Blucher's forced march, an attempt of the usual strategy of defeat in detail).
 
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Viperlord

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Aug 2010
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I wouldn't say it was worth more. The battle went against Napoleon, and could have cost him dearly, but it was not decisive in any way, and this is largely because Charles did nothing to follow it up. Nuclearguy made an excellent post, showing that Charles was indeed a highly able general, but against Napoleon, he proved overcautious.
 
From what I can tell there was a river in between. Attempting to cross seems likely to have produced the battle in reverse, especially with the (then) battle weary troops.
 

Viperlord

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Charles didn't even have to risk a single infantryman in order to obstruct Napoleon. He could have simply bombarded the island of Lobau with artillery, or more daringly, assaulted it, as it was vulnerable following the battle, and thus secure his position. After the battle, Charles actually pulled back, and seemed content to merely watch Napoleon while he waited for Archduke John. For a entire month, he simply did nothing of consequence.
 
I don't believes artillery bombardment alone won battles in that era, and Napoleon was an artillery expert too. Also watching the moves of the most dangerous French army seems sensible to me, or should he have gone chasing some other.
 

Viperlord

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I don't believes artillery bombardment alone won battles in that era, and Napoleon was an artillery expert too. Also watching the moves of the most dangerous French army seems sensible to me, or should he have gone chasing some other.
Following the battle, much of Napoleon's army was vulnerable near Lobau. Artillery could certainly have done some serious damage. For over a month after the battle, Charles sat there and watched Napoleon grow stronger, while elements of Napoleon's army defeated Archduke John elsewhere. In fact, he didn't even do a very good job of watching Napoleon; he got so distracted with relatively distant concerns, that he was caught completely off guard by Napoleon's second crossing, leading to Charles' decisive defeat at Wagram. Chandler's classic work on Napoleon notes that Charles' failure to exploit his victory was nearly as astonishing as the way Napoleon handled this stage of the campaign.
 
I'm sorry but this is just the Archduke being outgeneraled in the grand strategy subsequent to the battle to me. The only valid strategy I can see is somehow cutting the communication across the Danube, but I suppose the Austrians didn't have the fleet for that.
 

Rongo

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Dec 2011
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From what I can tell there was a river in between. Attempting to cross seems likely to have produced the battle in reverse, especially with the (then) battle weary troops.
It's interesting that you acknowledge that the Danube was a big enough obstacle to prevent Charles from attacking, but you don't acknowledge that the Danube was a big enough obstacle to play a major role in Napoleon's defeat when Napoleon attacked. It was the same river for both of them - a river that Wellington didn't have to help him.
 
Well obviously both generals chose the ground to make their stand. As far as I can tell the stand by the river was deliberate. I don't think Wellington had far to go to reach the Rhine, if he had preferred that. Instead he chose elevated ground.
 

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