History of War

BATTLE OF WAGRAM

EASTERN AUSTRIA 5-6 JULY 1809

Shells from French guns screamed over the heads of the Austrian cannoneers and musketeers and slammed into the village of Wagram on the evening of 5 July 1809. Yellow and orange flames licked skyward as the buildings caught fire. When the French guns fell silent, Saxon troops of Emperor Napoleon’s Grande Armée splashed through the Russbach stream and climbed the slopes leading towards the Austrian position. As the Saxons reached the first line of the Austrian army, they fired crashing volleys that drove the first line back against the second line.

“NAPOLEON’S SAXON TROOPS HAD NEARLY SUCCEEDED IN PIERCING THE AUSTRIAN LINE ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE BATTLE OF WAGRAM”

The Saxons fought their way into Wagram, but their progress was soon halted by a wall of Austrian fire. When Saxon reinforcements arrived, they mistakenly fired into the back of their comrades. Fired on from the front by enemies and the rear by friends, the Saxons in the village broke under the strain. They did not stop until they ran headlong into the bayonets of the French Imperial Guard who formed up to halt the Saxon flight.

Napoleon’s Saxon troops had nearly succeeded in piercing the Austrian line on the first day of the Battle of Wagram. But after they retreated, the French emperor had nothing to show for four hours of fighting that ended at around 11pm. Napoleon and his worthy foe, Archduke Charles, both drafted orders for morning attacks.

“THE BATTLE OF ASPERN-ESSLING MARKED THE FIRST TIME THAT NAPOLEON WAS DEFEATED IN A PITCHED BATTLE”

Austrians thirst for revenge

Four years after Napoleon’s great victories over the Austrians at Ulm and an Austro-Russian army at Austerlitz in 1805, the Austrians seethed with hatred for the French. They resented having lost Venetia, Istria and Dalmatia to Napoleon through the Treaty of Pressburg. The Austrians also resented the replacement of the Austrian-controlled Holy Roman Empire with the French-controlled Confederation of the Rhine.

The Austrians took heart when the Spanish revolted against the occupying French army in 1808, and when French forces suffered several defeats in battle to both Spanish and Anglo-Portuguese forces.

As the Austrians geared up to go to war again with Napoleon, they sought aid from their

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