Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns


 


A Few Notes on the Russian Losses at Austerlitz

By Alexander Mikaberidze

Acknowledgments[1]

The Battle of Austerlitz was a masterpiece of Napoleon’s military tactics. Despite the numerical superiority, the Allies were decisively defeated and the Third Coalition suffered a deadly blow. While the French lost some 9,000 men, the Allied army suffered around almost three times more casualties, most of them in the Russian army. Some Russian regiments suffered appalling casualties - Galicia Regiment lost 1,271 men, Butyrsk Regiment - 1,902 men, Narva Regiment –1,600 men while the Arkhangelogorod Regiment lost over 1,600 men around Kruh and Holubitz, while Old Ingermanland Regiment suffered 1,099 casualties.[2] Kutuzov claimed that during retreat the Austrian guides chose a wrong path, where the Russians were unable to move their guns and had to abandon them. Thus, the French captured the entire artillery of the 1st and 2nd Columns. Immediately after the battle, casualties seemed even much higher since hundreds of soldiers were scattered in the area and did not report to their regiments.[3] Alexander instructed Kutuzov to write two reports, one to appease the public and the other one confidential. The first report, intended for the general public, contained embellished account of the battle, where the Russian troops fought until midnight, losing 12,000 men but inflicting 18,000 casualties on the French.[4]

The official report on losses prepared on 6 January 1806 demonstrated the heavy casualties Russian army suffered at Austerlitz. According to this document, the casualties were distributed as follows: [5]

Major General Gizhitsky's Column

Regiments

Staff Officers

Ober-Officers

NCOs

Musicians

Privates

His Majesty’s Life Cuirassier

-

2

6

5

87

Kharkov Dragoons

-

2

3

-

103

Pavlograd Hussars

-

9

25

3

206

Gordeev’s Cossacks

-

-

2

-

31

Kiselev’s Cossacks

-

-

-

-

55

Malakhov’s Cossacks

-

-

-

-

4

Total

-

13

36

8

486

Lieutenant General Shepelev's Column

Regiments

Staff Officers

Ober-Officers

NCOs

Musicians

Privates

St. Petersburg Dragoons

-

2

4

1

38

Tver Dragoons

2

23

34

6

277

Mariupol Hussars

1

13

5

-

136

Melentyev Cossacks

-

-

-

-

14

Denisov’s Cossacks

-

-

-

-

4

Khanzhenkov I’s Cossacks

-

-

-

-

25

Sysoev I’s Cossacks

-

-

-

-

13

Total

3

38

43

7

507

Major General Voinov's Column

Regiments

Staff Officers

Ober-Officers

NCOs

Musicians

Privates

Chernigov Dragoons

1

2

6

3

90

Lieutenant General Miloradovich's Column

Regiments

Staff Officers

Ober-Officers

NCOs

Musicians

Privates

Isaev’s Cossacks

-

-

3

-

43

Malorossiiski Grenadiers

1

2

9

2

257

Jaroslavl Musketeers

1

3

9

8

261

Apsheron Musketeers

-

2

1

2

185

Smolensk Musketeers

-

3

12

6

220

Azov Musketeers

2

16

44

26

403

Vladimir Musketeers

-

4

11

2

219

New Ingermanland Musketeers

1

2

7

4

214

Field Artillery

-

8

9

2

85

Total

5

40

105

52

1887

Lieutenant General Dokhturov's Column

Regiments

Staff Officers

Ober-Officers

NCOs

Musicians

Privates

Kiev Grenadiers

1

3

2

-

64

Moscow Musketeers

1

5

11

6

439

Novgorod Musketeers

1

2

7

4

71

Vyatka Musketeers

1

2

2

3

215

Bryansk Musketeers

-

-

2

5

451

Narva Musketeers

6

44

100

42

1319

Butyrsk Musketeers

6

50

91

45

1614

Galitia Musketeers

4

34

65

35

1129

Artillery

-

-

8

3

113

Three companies of the 2nd Pioneer (Engineer) Regiment

-

-

4

3

113

Total

20

140

292

146

5528

Lieutenant General Count Langeron's Column

Regiments

Staff Officers

Ober-Officers

NCOs

Musicians

Privates

Phanagoria Grenadiers

1

4

7

10

555

Ryazha Musketeers

-

-

20

6

576

Perm Musketeers

6

39

75

41

1553

Kursk Musketeers

5

36

44

20

1166

6th Jagers

-

5

12

2

141

8th Jagers

-

6

17

5

127

Horse Artillery

1

1

4

-

43

Field Artillery

-

-

13

2

115

Total

13

91

192

86

4276

Lieutenant General Essen I's Column

Regiments

Staff Officers

Ober-Officers

NCOs

Musicians

Privates

Elizavetgrad Hussar Battalion

1

3

8

-

85

Lieutenant General Prince Bagration's Column

Regiments

Staff Officers

Ober-Officers

NCOs

Musicians

Privates

Elizavetgrad Hussar Battalion

1

1

4

-

30

Pskov Musketeers

-

9

28

17

482

Vyborg Musketeers

3

11

20

17

540

Arkhangelogorod Musketeers

1

14

71

37

1502

Old Ingermanland Musketeers

1

20

53

33

978

Podolsk Musketeers

1

28

22

10

181

5th Jagers

1

2

9

2

151

7th Jagers

3

21

54

13

688

Artillery

1

2

11

1

82

Total

12

108

272

130

4634

Thus, according to this official report, total Russian losses amounted to 55 staff officers, 43 ober-officers and 954 non-commissioned officers, 432 musicians and 17,493 rank-and-file. Kutuzov noted that out of the number shown in the tables 4579 men later returned to the army.

This number however does not include Russian artillery losses. Major General N.I. Bogdanov, commander of the Russian Artillery at Austerlitz submitted the following report to General Aleksey Arakcheyev 5 December 1805[6]

 

Men

Artillery

Horses

 

Present

Killed

Present

Lost

Present

Killed

Staff Officers

10

4

       

Ober-Officers

38

27

       

Rank-and-File

1976

1235

       

Guns

   

39

133

   

Caissons

   

18

100

   

Wagons

   

5

106

   

Horses

       

1545

1011

                       

Thirty-seven years after the battle, famous Russian historian Lieutenant General Alexander Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky, as he worked on the study of the 1805 Campaign, requested the Artillery Department Archive to draft a new report based on the reports of the artillery commanders. The resulting study showed the following losses:

Units

Killed, Captured, and Missing in Action

 

Officers

Privates

Guns

Caissons

Wagons

Horses

Life Guard Artillery Battalion

1

40

3

11

-

213

½ Artillery Company of the Battalion of the Imperial Militia

-

-

-

-

-

16

1st Horse Artillery Battalion: Colonel Yashvili's and Colonel Yermolov's Company

1

101

14

17

2

273

2nd Horse Regiment

1

22

-

-

-

62

3rd Artillery Regiment

Colonel Kudryavtsev’s Battery Company

-

-

9

18

-

113

Major Slizov’s Light Company

-

-

9

9

-

109

Colonel Count Syver’s Battery Company

10

519

12

12

12

152

Major Sigizmund’s Battery Company

-

-

12

12

12

121

Major Klingenberg’s Light Company

-

-

9

-

10

100

Major Yushkov’s Light Company

-

-

9

-

12

118

4th Artillery Regiment

Colonel Marten’s Battery Company

-

-

7

-

16

156

Major Vitovtov’s Light Company

-

-

10

17

-

80

Major Mitrofanov’s Light Company

-

-

12

23

-

88

Major Boguslavsky’s Battery Company

1

44

8

7

-

63

5th Artillery Regiment

Major Guine’s Light Company

-

-

12

24

-

70

Major Staden’s Light Company

10

11

10

18

-

65

Chef Battery Company

-

-

-

-

-

15

Vacant Battery Company [Batareinoi vakantnaya rota]

-

-

-

-

-

6

Colonel Golostenov’s Battery Company

-

-

-

-

-

-

Major Anzio’s Light Company

12

12

12

12

-

66

Major Stein’s Light Company

12

18

12

18

-

77

Total

48

767

160

198

64

1963

While general information on Russian losses at Austerlitz can be found in most campaign and battle studies, information on the fate of thousands of wounded and captured Russians is less discussed. Yet, the number of Russian losses cannot be complete without considering hundreds of soldiers who suffered and died for weeks after the battle. Fortunately, one document stashed in dossier No. 3117-1 of the Russian State Military Archive sheds light on this topic. In early January 1806, the Russian envoy to Vienna, Prince Sergey Dolgorukov, was instructed to inquire about the whereabouts of the Russian wounded and captured soldiers. Dolgorukov initially visited French authorities in Vienna querying them about information on the Russian prisoners, some of whom were captured after the battle when some of them “unaware of the local roads went straight to Vienna.”[7] The French military authorities soon informed him that some Russian soldiers were gathered in two detention camps at Spitz and Simmering near Vienna, where they were organized into temporary groups before being freed to return to Russia through Hungary and Moravia.[8] Dolgorukov then had discussion with Archduke Ferdinand who told him that during Austro-French negotiations French representative assured Austrian General Kollowrat that Russian soldiers in hospitals around Vienna would be returned as soon as they recovered; however, the French refused to sign any document pledging this and thus their promise initially seemed suspicious both to Russians and Austrians.

The French did not expect to face any Russians in Vienna. Yet, after the battle at Austerlitz, hundreds of Russian soldiers fled to southwest and soon reached Vienna, where they were sheltered for days by local citizens.[9] Incredibly, rumors of the French departure soon spread and Russians came out of their hideouts to openly “beg in the streets.” According to Dolgorukov, French General Andreossi was surprised to see so many Russian soldiers in the streets of Vienna and had them detained. French troops gathered over 600 Russians and had them marched off under Austrian convoy to the French occupied Saint Polten, west of Vienna. Austrian guards naturally were reluctant to deliver their former allies to their “new allies” and turned a blind eye to the Russian escape attempts. Thus, only 120 men reached St. Polten while the rest fled back to Vienna. It should be noted that Dolgorukov’s report does not mention a tragic incident at Melk, where some Russian prisoners were transported. On 13 December, about 500 prisoners were locked up in the northern tower of the local cloister while the remaining POWs were grouped around some fifty bivouac fires around it. The following day, the French discovered the bodies of 300 men in one room of the tower who died from smoke produced by the fire they made inside the room, which was not ventilated. Their bodies were transported to Winden, near Melk and buried in a common grave; in 1891, Russian government placed there a special monument in their honor.[10]

 

Inscription: “Eternal Memory of 300 Russian Soldiers Who Perished in a Foreign Land in Town of Melk in 1805 and Were Buried Here.”
Photo by Robert Ouvrard

 

“There is No Greater Love than of Those Who Sacrificed Their Souls for Their Friends. Erected on Imperial orders in 1891.”
Photo by Robert Ouvrard

 

Now back to Dolgorukov’s mission. According to the Austrian report of 24 January, 1,107 Russian soldiers were recuperating under French supervision in hospitals in Vienna and its vicinities. Dolgorukov dispatched Colonel Lanskoy to examine their conditions, who reported back that soldiers were well fed and treated. Lanskoy also told his superior that he secretly provided 96 soldiers and one officer with money and instructed them to flee to Teschen. Dolgorukov then spent several days visiting villages and towns around Austerlitz and looking for Russian wounded and stragglers. He found 3 seriously wounded Russian officers in local clergyman’s house near Brunn and asked Austrian Archduke Ferdinand to transfer them to town, where physicians could attend them. Dolgorukov then found 6 NCOs and 76 privates at Schpinhauz, while 11 NCOs and 326 privates were recuperating at Kartauz. Although all troops were well fed and treated, they lacked linen and cloth.

It seems that by early February the French already began releasing Russian prisoners of war. Dolgorukov reported that, although 373 men had already died in Brunn, 614 men already marched off in three groups back to Russia and another 118 men were preparing to return. At Olmutz, Dolgorukov was initially denied access to the Kloster Hradschin hospice but his perseverance soon paid off and he managed to visit troops there. He found 587 soldiers at local hospital, of whom 55 died but 526 were sent back to Russia; 6 more men were in the garrison hospital, with one dead, three already freed and two left behind to recuperate. In the next town of Maehrische Neustadt, Dolgorukov found only 11 men, of who 3 were still there, 3 died and 5 returned to Russia.

The hospital at Langendorf presented a different case since soldiers here were seriously ill and, according to Dolgorukov, “2/3 of local residents died of this contagious disease within one month.” Out of 196 Russian soldiers there, he found 18 soldiers “treated in the same way as Austrian patients,” 27 dead, 14 escaped and 137 freed to return to Russia. The largest number of Russian soldiers was at Troppau and Freiberg. At Troppau, 2,589 men were treated in January, but, by the time Dolgorukov reached them in early February, 281 were dead, 119 escaped earlier, 458 were still recuperating and 1,731 were sent back to Russia. The Freiberg Hospital treated 3,629 men, of whom 426 died and 2,091 returned to Russia; Dolgorukov found here 791 men still recuperating while 321 men were preparing for march back to motherland. “The best of hospitals” was in Krakow, where 1,192 soldiers were treated by 13 February 1806 and 507 of them were then returned to Russia. Some Russian officers were living in the houses of local nobility, who “took incredible care of them.” The hospital in Obraup cared for 786 men, of whom 149 were present, 189 died, 8 escaped earlier and 440 returned to Russia. Dolgorukov visited several other towns (Kremsier, Holitz, Trentschin), where he found only 14 Russian wounded, most of them returning back to Russia. He also made inquiries about any Russian soldiers in Hungarian hospitals but could not find any reliable information. Nevertheless, based on Dolgorukov’s report, it becomes clear that 11,638 wounded and sick Russian officers were treated in Austrian and French hospitals after the battle of Austerlitz. Unfortunately the number of Russian troops hiding in the vicinity of Vienna and Brunn remains unknown.

The recovered Russian soldiers were organized in groups of “at least 50 but not more than 200 men;” smaller groups were led by Russian officer and accompanied by Austrian NCO but larger groups also had Austrian junior officer assigned to them who moved ahead of them to prepare quarters and provide 2 pounds of bread and half-pound of meat per man.[11] Russian officers were actively engaged in discussions with the French to accelerate the return of prisoners. Negotiations naturally proved difficult and there were also secret attempts made to move larger groups through Austrian territories. Thus, Colonel Lanskoy secretly gathered and moved 887 men, who, according to Dolgorukov, “were wandering without purpose in Brunn.”

However, some returning prisoners faced grim prospects. On 28 March 1806, Emperor Alexander issued a decree deploring actions of some regiments and determining specific punishments for them. The imperial decree noted that some officers and rank-and-file “left the battle field without orders but were later found healthy [with the army].”[12] The Novogorod Musketeer Regiment was singled out in the decree and accused of “fleeing in the face of the enemy and so spreading confusion in the rest of the army.” Its officers were ordered to wear their swords without sword knots [temliak] while lower ranks were banned from wearing hangers [tesak]. The decree prohibited promotion of the officers listed in its annex, added five years to their service of the rank-and-file and forbade them from receiving or wearing the Order of St. Anna. The proscription list contained 90 troops in the following regiments:

Podolsk Musketeer Regiment – 3 sub-ensigns, 4 soldiers
Pskov Musketeer Regiment – 1 musician, 3 drummers, 2 flutists and 37 soldiers
New Ingermanland Musketeer Regiment – 6 soldiers
Malorossiiskii Grenadier Regiment – 1 sub-ensign, 4 NCOs and 29 soldiers.


Notes:

[1] I am thankful of David Hollins, Robert Ouvrard and Robert Goetz for their help with proper names of locations mentions in this article and details on Russian prisoners in 1805.

[2] Report on Killed and Missing in Action of 20 November [2 December], 6 January 1806, Correspondence of Kutuzov, II, 235-236. Also see Report on Artillery Losses at the Battle of Austerlitz, Ibid., 237.

[3] Kutuzov reported that 4,579 men, who were previously considered killed or missing, reported back as the army retreat. Report on Killed and Missing in Action of 20 November [2 December], 6 January 1806, Ibid., 236.

[4] Kutuzov to Alexander, 26 January 1806, Correspondence of Kutuzov, 259.

[5] ‘Vedomost ob ubitikh i bez vesti propavshih v 20 chislo noyabrya voinskikh chinakh i stroevikh loshadyakh [Report on Killed and Missing in Action of 20 November (2 December)], Kutuzov to Alexander, 6 January 1806, Documents of M.I. Kutuzov’s Headquarters, 236;

[6] Correspondence of Kutuzov, II, 239

[7] Dolgorukov to Alexander, 5 March 1806, RGVIA, op. 46, f. 946, d. 3117-1, l. 69.

[8] Latour to Dolgorukov, 6 February 1806, RGVIA, op. 46, f. 946, d. 3117-1, l. 75.

[9] Dolgorukov to Alexander, 5 March 1806, RGVIA, op. 46, f. 946, d. 3117-1, l. 69b.

[10] I am grateful of Robert Ouvrard for directing my attention to this tragic story.

[11] Dolgorukov to Alexander, 5 March 1806, RGVIA, op. 46, f. 946, d. 3117-1, l.73 b.

[12] Imperial Decree, 28 March 1806, RGVIA, op. 46, f. 946, d. 3117-1, l.81.

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: February 2006

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