Why are the 1809 Napoleonic campaign against Austria and its Battle of Wagram often seen as not decisive?

Jun 2018
12
Santiago del Estero - Argentina
Well after much reading i can conclude that Wagram was in fact a militarily decisive battle, because although it didn’t break the Austrian army nor its will to fight, it clearly broke it enough so as to doom it to lose the war. The evidence of this is that Charles immediately proposed an armistice whose terms were exclusively favorable to the French, and thateventually Austria signed peace terms exclusively favorable to France. This is not done by a country who thinks that still has a chance, however small, to win the war. On the contrary, it’s made by a country whose defeat is already certain (at least if she kept fighting alone, which she was doing so far). It’s similar to the Battle of Kursk in WWII: Most historians agree that after that battle, Hitler was doomed (in fact is often dubbed as the “Waterloo of Hitler”). Well he was doomed, and in that sense it was a decisive battle, yet if you see the immediate results of that decisive victory, it was clearly a pyrrhic one, with the soviets losing almost 5 times more soldiers than the Germans. Well it’s the same with Wagram: It may have been a pyrrhic victory for the French on the immediate/tactic level, but militarily decisive in the long term: It mauled the Austrians enough to condemn them to lose the war no matter how much they could have keep fighting. Again, this is the reason why Charles asked an armistice 4 days after the battle in exclusively favorable French terms, and the reason why Franz accepted so harsh peace terms exclusively favorable to the French. Charles knew that to avoid a disaster and attain the most favorable terms possible, he had to maintain its army intact to use it as a leverage in the negotiations. Basically his reasoning was: “Either we keep fighting until our army is destroyed and with it perhaps the dynasty and the whole empire, or we can make peace and preserve the army, which in itself can be used as a leverage in the negotiations, and thus save the dynasty and empire from potential calamity”. That reasoning proved a success, since Napoleon was eager to make peace, and in doing so without having annihilated the Austrian army, pressed for much milder terms, if still harsh. The reason for the protracted negotiations was because Emperor Franz hoped that the British expedition to Walcheren might divert French troops and help him continue the war, or perhaps Prussia or even Russia enter the war on his side. When the expedition failed, Prussia and Russia made clear they would not intervene, and Napoleon had crushed (or was in the process of doing so) all German revolts, he knew Austria was alone and at the mercy of Napoleon, and so signed the treaty of Schonbrunn.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,160
Sydney
I read it differently , Austria goose was cooked ,the terms were not that easy ,Austria lost territories
there was a collaboration with Napoleon since there wasn't any other option
up to sacrificing , Iphigenia like , the Emperor daughter to the Corsican monster ,
that was a bitter pill to swallow for the haughty house of Hapsburg
 
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nuclearguy165

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
4,803
Ohio, USA
I read it differently , Austria goose was cooked ,the terms were not that easy ,Austria lost territories
there was a collaboration with Napoleon since there wasn't any other option
up to sacrificing , Iphigenia like , the Emperor daughter to the Corsican monster ,
that was a bitter pill to swallow for the haughty house of Hapsburg
The terms were harsh since Austria sued for peace after realizing the war couldn’t resolve successfully for them. The battle of Wagram still resulted in close to even casualties; something like 35,000 for Napoleon’s forces and 39,000 for the Austrians. It was a defeat for the Austrians but hardly a one-sided rout or anything like that.

In other words, things were quite bad for the Hapsburgs but definitely could have been a lot worse if their army had been defeated more severely.

Wagram was decisive though in that it led to the end of the war on terms favorable to Napoleon.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,160
Sydney
I got the feeling Napoleon wanted peace to break out ,
what is the point of so many victories if the next year it's all to be done again

as the IRA said about thatcher assassination plots
she has to win every times but we have to succeed only once
 

Kotromanic

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
5,008
Iowa USA
The terms were harsh since Austria sued for peace after realizing the war couldn’t resolve successfully for them. The battle of Wagram still resulted in close to even casualties; something like 35,000 for Napoleon’s forces and 39,000 for the Austrians. It was a defeat for the Austrians but hardly a one-sided rout or anything like that.

In other words, things were quite bad for the Hapsburgs but definitely could have been a lot worse if their army had been defeated more severely.

Wagram was decisive though in that it led to the end of the war on terms favorable to Napoleon.
Wagram was a small or narrow victory judged by the outcome for the two armies. I can't understand what the meaning of a militarily decisive victory is if Wagram's outcome is militarily decisive.

The strategic outcome is not related to the military outcome.

The armistice should not be confused with the peace negotiations, and as Pugs wrote earlier the armistice wasn't offered until the armies had an engagement about one WEEK after Wagram.
 

nuclearguy165

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
4,803
Ohio, USA
Wagram was a small or narrow victory judged by the outcome for the two armies. I can't understand what the meaning of a militarily decisive victory is if Wagram's outcome is militarily decisive.

The strategic outcome is not related to the military outcome.

The armistice should not be confused with the peace negotiations, and as Pugs wrote earlier the armistice wasn't offered until the armies had an engagement about one WEEK after Wagram.
True, but one can argue that the circumstances that lead to the armistice of Znaim were caused by the Austrian retreat from Wagram. However, if you want to argue that the French occupation of Vienna and the Austrians’ lack of ability to take it back were far more important to the armistice and eventual peace than Wagram was, then I can certainly agree with that.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,627
Arch Duke Charles was pessimetic and somehwat defeatist. His defenisive and slow mindset througout the cmapaign missed chances to counter attack. His estimation of the strengths of the forces when seeking the armstice with Napoloen was not objective. Arch DUke sought and signed a armstice with Napooen that was poretty harsh armstice. This he did without reference to the Emperor his brother and court. The Terms of the armstice were somewhat harsh and totally tied the hads of the hapsbergs when it came to the actually final teraty negotiations some 3 months later. Arch Duke Chalres had repeated missed oppotunities throughteh campaign, constantly took the less bright view of situations, and PERHAPS signed an more harsh Armstice than was strictly demanded by the actual relative strengths of the powers at the time.

I''m not dusputed that the Austrians were defeated, but saying the Charles MAY have gieven away more than was justified by the actual strengtsh of the Frenchs and Austrians at the time.

The terms of the treaty don't nesscarily directly result from thee balance of strnegths at the time of the armistice, (which certainly heavily favored France)


some quotes form. (to support these contentions)

1809 Thunder On The Danube: Napoleon s Defeat of the Habsburgs, Vol. III ...
By Jack Gill



(page 269)
“Charles reported to his elder brother , the Kaiser. This 7 July missive gave full - and perhaps exaggerated - expression to the ArchDuke’s discouragement”

(page 273)
“This is understandable given that his principle aim was the preservation of hue army, but it meant he missed and perhaps did not even detect , opportunities fsuch as smashing the isolated Massena and Marmount before they could be reinforced.”

(page 286)
“In Komorn , however where Franz had taken his court, the armistice ignited a storm of indignation and vituperation when the terms became known”

(page 287)
“News of the armistice this reached Komorm at a time when discourse at court was dominated by those who favoured continuance of the war and saw Charles and his staff as defeatist and incompetent. Though Franz would grudgingly ratify the accord on 18 July as a temporary measure , he never forgave his brother”

(page 287)
“There were also, however sober personal factors/ First Charles had opposed the timing of the war from its inception, and the progress of the conflict had reinforced his belief that Napoleon would not be defeated in 1809. Second, not only was the Austrian Army reaching the end of its endurance , on a personal level Charles was physically and mentally drained by the events of the preceding seven days. All of this contributed to his gloomy conclusions: ‘Without the armistice we would have been crushed”. he was not entirely mistaken, but in this state of exhaustion and pessimism he overestimated French capabilities and underrated his own army’s resilience”
 
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nuclearguy165

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Nov 2011
4,803
Ohio, USA
Arch Duke Charles was pessimetic and somehwat defeatist. His defenisive and slow mindset througout the cmapaign missed chances to counter attack. His estimation of the strengths of the forces when seeking the armstice with Napoloen was not objective. Arch DUke sought and signed a armstice with Napooen that was poretty harsh armstice. This he did without reference to the Emperor his brother and court. The Terms of the armstice were somewhat harsh and totally tied the hads of the hapsbergs when it came to the actually final teraty negotiations some 3 months later. Arch Duke Chalres had repeated missed oppotunities throughteh campaign, constantly took the less bright view of situations, and PERHAPS signed an more harsh Armstice than was strictly demanded by the actual relative strengths of the powers at the time.

I''m not dusputed that the Austrians were defeated, but saying the Charles MAY have gieven away more than was justified by the actual strengtsh of the Frenchs and Austrians at the time.

The terms of the treaty don't nesscarily directly result from thee balance of strnegths at the time of the armistice, (which certainly heavily favored France)


some quotes form. (to support these contentions)

1809 Thunder On The Danube: Napoleon s Defeat of the Habsburgs, Vol. III ...
By Jack Gill



(page 269)
“Charles reported to his elder brother , the Kaiser. This 7 July missive gave full - and perhaps exaggerated - expression to the ArchDuke’s discouragement”

(page 273)
“This is understandable given that his principle aim was the preservation of hue army, but it meant he missed and perhaps did not even detect , opportunities fsuch as smashing the isolated Massena and Marmount before they could be reinforced.”

(page 286)
“In Komorn , however where Franz had taken his court, the armistice ignited a storm of indignation and vituperation when the terms became known”

(page 287)
“News of the armistice this reached Komorm at a time when discourse at court was dominated by those who favoured continuance of the war and saw Charles and his staff as defeatist and incompetent. Though Franz would grudgingly ratify the accord on 18 July as a temporary measure , he never forgave his brother”

(page 287)
“There were also, however sober personal factors/ First Charles had opposed the timing of the war from its inception, and the progress of the conflict had reinforced his belief that Napoleon would not be defeated in 1809. Second, not only was the Austrian Army reaching the end of its endurance , on a personal level Charles was physically and mentally drained by the events of the preceding seven days. All of this contributed to his gloomy conclusions: ‘Without the armistice we would have been crushed”. he was not entirely mistaken, but in this state of exhaustion and pessimism he overestimated French capabilities and underrated his own army’s resilience”
Some great points here, but I only take issue with what Gill said in the last paragraph, as the lines “the Austrian army was reaching the end of its endurance” and “Charles underrated his own army’s resilience” seem to be contradictory.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,627
Some great points here, but I only take issue with what Gill said in the last paragraph, as the lines “the Austrian army was reaching the end of its endurance” and “Charles underrated his own army’s resilience” seem to be contradictory.
The piont would be that Charles perception of state of the Austrian army was likely to take a somewhat underestimate, the Army reaching the end of it's endurance, but Charles view was it was at THE END of it;'s endurance, it's hard to see Charles's attitude inspring his officers and men to further efforts. It's the flip side of Napoleon's over estimating optimism (which while leads occasionally to excessive risks, at least tends to be more inspiring) but Charles was commanding the Austrian Army which perhaps wore down any optimism in his character.

Arch Duke Charles you do wonder at what point in 1812 IF in command of the Russian army he would have offered Napoleon a favorable armistice.

He was the best General the Austrians he had, and a pretty good commander, but his outlook meant he missed opportunities and was somewhat quick to offer good armistice terms. He's not your best choice for backs to tyhe wall last ditch fight.
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,160
Sydney
After Wagram what would be the point to keep fighting ,
Austria was alone and other German states were howering like vultures , happy to pick her carcass
further fighting would have utterly destroyed the Army , an important state asset , for absolutely no purpose

One fight to win or to negotiate better terms , what were the chance of that ?