Archduke Charles .vs. Wellington

Archduke Charles .vs. Wellington


  • Total voters
    66

Rongo

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
5,683
Ohio
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.
... and he won. A decisive victory that sent Napoleon into exile. Charles won, but it wasn't decisive, with the result that Napoleon himself scored the decisive victory a few weeks later at Wagram. A victory that forced Austria to cede Croatia, Carniola, Trieste, Carinthia and Galicia and pay 100 million Francs in indemnity.
 
May 2010
18
My impression is that the French rearguard action contributed to the lack of a decisive result. Apparently it was so intense that Marshal Lannes was hors de combat. I don't think the same can be said for Ney's actions at Waterloo (and Ney by then had defected to the monarchists once, so his undivided enthusianism for the cause at that stage seems in doubt). It still appears to me the other victory was more valuable since it was against Napoleon at his peak.
 

Rongo

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
5,683
Ohio
My impression is that the French rearguard action contributed to the lack of a decisive result. Apparently it was so intense that Marshal Lannes was hors de combat. I don't think the same can be said for Ney's actions at Waterloo (and Ney by then had defected to the monarchists once, so his undivided enthusianism for the cause at that stage seems in doubt).
Lannes was injured 13 times in the Napoleonic Wars, so there's nothing unusual about the fact that he was injured at Essling. It just so happened that this injury killed him.

It still appears to me the other victory was more valuable since it was against Napoleon at his peak.
We will have to agree to disagree then. In my opinion an enormously decisive victory against a French army that wasn't at its peak is far more valuable than a half-victory followed by a disastrous defeat against a French army at its peak. Napoleon certainly believed he could win with the troops he led in both cases. But in only one case was he right.
 
Oct 2013
32
United States
Hello all, I have no idea how old this post is, because I didn't bother to look. But I am going to reopen this thread a bit if you all don't mind. I am not the most read of folks when it comes to military history. But, I want to say this. One, it is absolutely a valid point that your typical British account of the Duke of Wellington is far too glowing. He was an excellent (operationalist) as you all call it. Marching and moving in an intelligent fashion, and setting himself up for victory. His tactics were good enough given this ability to overcome his foes, and I do believe he was superior to the Archduke. That being said, I have often heard advanced the idea that he was better than Napoléon. That seems a touch ridiculous in my mind, his defeat of Napoléon at Waterloo was not particularly remarkable largely because Napoléon was the one with the short hand in this scenario. He had only been back in France for nearly a hundred days, and was forced to leave his best commander Davout behind in Paris. At the same time he was fighting with an army cobbled together from scraps. Despite all this it was Napoléon who had set up the battle to be the way that HE wanted it to be, namely against a divided Prussian British Force. If it weren't for some blunders by Napoléons marshalls and perhaps by Napoléon himself, there would have been no Waterloo. The fact of the matter is, in this discussion Napoléon comes up a great deal. And the argument seems to be more about him, than it is about the Duke, or Archduke. There is a decided bias in English speaking countries against this great man, but the reality is, the bias ought to be revealed for what it is, smoking mirrors. Let me put this to rest by stating very simply I believe that Napoléon was the true GOAT of this conversation, and even in defeat he is the center of gravity
.
 

Edric Streona

Ad Honorem
Feb 2016
4,531
Japan
Wellington, his peninsular campaign was brilliant. Always out numbered and under supplies, yet kept his army in the field and won victory after victory. Kept the Spainish on his side by not plundering the land as the French had done.
While always outnumbered IN THEATRE he would often gain superiority in numbers for his battles. Particularly after 1810.
 

Edric Streona

Ad Honorem
Feb 2016
4,531
Japan
Hello all, I have no idea how old this post is, because I didn't bother to look. But I am going to reopen this thread a bit if you all don't mind. I am not the most read of folks when it comes to military history. But, I want to say this. One, it is absolutely a valid point that your typical British account of the Duke of Wellington is far too glowing. He was an excellent (operationalist) as you all call it. Marching and moving in an intelligent fashion, and setting himself up for victory. His tactics were good enough given this ability to overcome his foes, and I do believe he was superior to the Archduke. That being said, I have often heard advanced the idea that he was better than Napoléon. That seems a touch ridiculous in my mind, his defeat of Napoléon at Waterloo was not particularly remarkable largely because Napoléon was the one with the short hand in this scenario. He had only been back in France for nearly a hundred days, and was forced to leave his best commander Davout behind in Paris. At the same time he was fighting with an army cobbled together from scraps. Despite all this it was Napoléon who had set up the battle to be the way that HE wanted it to be, namely against a divided Prussian British Force. If it weren't for some blunders by Napoléons marshalls and perhaps by Napoléon himself, there would have been no Waterloo. The fact of the matter is, in this discussion Napoléon comes up a great deal. And the argument seems to be more about him, than it is about the Duke, or Archduke. There is a decided bias in English speaking countries against this great man, but the reality is, the bias ought to be revealed for what it is, smoking mirrors. Let me put this to rest by stating very simply I believe that Napoléon was the true GOAT of this conversation, and even in defeat he is the center of gravity
.
Wellington was also saddled with inexperienced troops both British and continental, and saddled with the Prince of Orange a very mediocre and inexperienced commander.
Some of his best troops (his Nassau troops for exanple) and his his few veteran Dutch has been fighting for the enemy 2-3 years ago.

The 100 days saw both Wellington and Napoleon and Blucher being sloppy.
But Napoleon made more mistakes than either Wellington or Blucher.

Is he over trumped in Britain. Hardly. In British military history only Marlborough beats him maybe. With Slim and Cromwell a little behind.
But every country over plays their own.

Andrew Jackson ... very mediocre but rated as some kind of legend. Washington... Routinely beaten but consistently voted as a "great American General" in US polls.

Wellington never lost a field battle, beat every single French general sent against him.... Jourdan, Victor, Massena, Ney, Soult.... In no way are these poor generals. He was, widely admitted in British military history, very poor at seige work and seiges provide his worst moments. Burgos, 1st and 2nd Badajoz. Even his victories in seige are brutal. Wellington was skilled in Attack and defense.

Archduke Charles was also an excellent commander both Wellington and him had a very good eye for terrain. He had to contend with Napoleon, true and he had to command an army that was larger but most of his victories were against the same commanders as Wellington. Jourdan, Massena.

Who was better. I'll go for Wellington. Both are great. But Wellingtons record stands up better to me.
 

nuclearguy165

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
4,847
Ohio, USA
Wellington was also saddled with inexperienced troops both British and continental, and saddled with the Prince of Orange a very mediocre and inexperienced commander.
Some of his best troops (his Nassau troops for exanple) and his his few veteran Dutch has been fighting for the enemy 2-3 years ago.

The 100 days saw both Wellington and Napoleon and Blucher being sloppy.
But Napoleon made more mistakes than either Wellington or Blucher.

Is he over trumped in Britain. Hardly. In British military history only Marlborough beats him maybe. With Slim and Cromwell a little behind.
But every country over plays their own.

Andrew Jackson ... very mediocre but rated as some kind of legend. Washington... Routinely beaten but consistently voted as a "great American General" in US polls.

Wellington never lost a field battle, beat every single French general sent against him.... Jourdan, Victor, Massena, Ney, Soult.... In no way are these poor generals. He was, widely admitted in British military history, very poor at seige work and seiges provide his worst moments. Burgos, 1st and 2nd Badajoz. Even his victories in seige are brutal. Wellington was skilled in Attack and defense.

Archduke Charles was also an excellent commander both Wellington and him had a very good eye for terrain. He had to contend with Napoleon, true and he had to command an army that was larger but most of his victories were against the same commanders as Wellington. Jourdan, Massena.

Who was better. I'll go for Wellington. Both are great. But Wellingtons record stands up better to me.

I don't think Jackson did anything that rates him as a 'great' commander, but I do think he was a highly competent commander, better than average.. Washington was certainly no great, or even particularly good, tactician, but he was a very good strategist and arguably a great leader. I'm not sure if any other American commander would have succeeded as well in some of the circumstances he found himself in, not as far as battles go, but as far as morale and 'maintenance of the cause' go.
 
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Lord Oda Nobunaga

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
5,649
Ontario, Canada
This is such a difficult comparison because the two were so damn similar in their approach.
Both liked to maneuver until they had an advantage but where as Charles would at least take the offensive Wellington seemed very hesitant to take on an operational and strategic attack and when he took the tactical offensive it was when he had an advantage. Wellington seemed to have the default of taking the defensive position on strong ground. Charles would maneuver until he had a position of strength relative to his opponent's position (that is outstretched lines, flanking etc) or at least with the better ground.
Though in 1794 he took on the offensive against Jourdan in northern Germany, routing him and then against Moreau in southern Germany forcing that general to retreat. In 1799 he took the offensive against Jourdan in Switzerland and defeated but did not destroy Jourdan forcing him to retreat.

Charles von Osterreich-Teschen on the other hand was more of an all rounder having taken the defensive or easily switching to an offense and vice versa. During his campaigns he seems to have gone on the offensive more often than not except in the cases of Italy 1797 and Italy 1805. During the 1809 campaign he started offensively, his attack halted and was pushed all the way back to Vienna by Napoleon's offensive. he then saw an opportunity and attacked Napoleon's position at Aspern-Essling as the Emperor tried to cross a branch of the Danube. However much later he again took on a defensive stance on the Wagram plains in front of Vienna and played it safe but was defeated and lost Vienna after a grind. He retreated towards Hungary staying on the defensive and seemingly without hope of victory a peace was made.
However Charles certainly comes off better than the previous Austrian commanders' blunders as he did not overstretch himself in his attack on Germany that year as Mack had done and he chose to hold Vienna and keep this central hub open for his army with some success (at least until his defeat at Wagram) unlike the massive withdrawal of the Russia and Austrian armies to Moravia in 1805.

The major difference I see is their ability to lead large operations and large amounts of troops which I see Archduke Charles as having the advantage here.
 
Last edited:
May 2018
935
Michigan
Fighting with a numerical advantage is not something to be looked down upon. We should ask why did that general have a numerical advantage? Sheer luck? Strong home support? Or because of sound strategic thinking that allows a general to arrive with greater force at a decisive point.

Total French forces in Spain always outnumbered Wellington, something on the order of 300,000 to (at best, by 1813) 80,000. That Wellington often outnumbered his opponents in such circumstances is a credit to Wellington and the Spanish Guerrillas who helped tie down thousands of French troops throughout Spain. A very rough comparison could be made with Jackson's Valley campaign or Scipio's Spanish campaign. In both cases, Jackson and Scipio were outnumbered in the theater of operations, but managed to defeat their opponents in detail.

As for Wellington not fighting very good French Marshals, I would advise checking again. He faced some bad ones (Jourdan, Marmont) but also some of the best: Andre Massina, who nearly beat the undefeated Suvurov early in the French Revolutionary Wars. Soult was a brilliant general, although his skills as a staff officer were lacking.

I find it funny that Napoleon fans often try to claim that Wellington wasn't actually a good general. Well, Napoleon's own marshals would disagree: prior to Waterloo, Soult, Ney and likely a few others warned Napoleon not to underestimate Wellington, or British troops holding a defensive position. Napoleon basically told them they were stupid because "he beat the lot of you in Spain" (or something to that effect), giving Soult and Ney one of the biggest "I told you so" moments in history.