Rhine to the Danube Synopsis (1 of 2)

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<p>In the last week of September as his forces were nearing the Rhine Napoleon’s concept for the upcoming campaign finally gelled. His intelligence indicated that the Austrian forces under Mack were preparing to stand on a defensive line south of Ulm in the direction of the western end of Lake Constance and Napoleon now envisioned a massive movement that would cut Austrian forces off from their lines of retreat. On September 28 he sketched a plan that had his entire army swinging around east of Ulm with the idea of encircling and annihilating the Austrian army. Napoleon seems to have assumed that the Russian armies would not arrive before he had dealt with the Austrians. This surmise was indeed correct – the first columns of Kutuzov’s army would only arrive in Braunau on October 15 and would not be combat ready for another week. In late September, however, French intelligence of the location of the Russian forces was still fragmentary and often contradictory with some of it reporting Russian forces much closer than they actually were. Napoleon had already demonstrated his willingness to take risks in prior campaigns. We see it here in his decision to envelope the Austrian army and it would continue to characterize his decisions throughout the campaign.</p>
<p>See Kagan, Napoleon and Europe 1801-1805, 374 for a concise summary of Napoleon’s September 28 plan; and 376 for an assessment of Napoleon’s decision making.</p>

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