This is the Russian official history of the 1805 campaign that culminated in the Battle of Austerlitz. As someone who struggles with foreign languages, I am always grateful to those who translate these valuable works. In this case, Peter Phillips. This is a straightforward translation, although there is an introduction by Alexander Mikaberidze. Incidentally, I am eagerly awaiting the delivery of his new biography of Kutuzov.
It was written in 1844 by Alexander Ivanovich Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky. He was present at Borodino, so he was a contemporary of the main characters in the story. Interestingly, he added Mikhailovsky to his name because he was imprisoned after being mistaken for another Danilevsky, who criticised the Tsar. As official histories go, this is a relatively concise description of events.
The upside of official histories is that the author can access all documentation. The downside is that they can brush over embarrassing details and, in this case, include obsequious brown-nosing of the Emperor. For example, I was interested to see how he treated Tsar Alexander's overruling of Kutuzov at Austerlitz. He goes for a later quote by the Tsar, 'On the Austerlitz Campaign I was young and inexperienced. Kutuzov told me that we needed to operate differently, but he should have been more persistent in his opinions.' This has to be the weakest of excuses from an autocrat!
As for the narrative, we get an introduction to the causes of the war and Alexander's decision to support the Austrians. This became much more difficult after the disaster at Ulm, which forced Kutuzov to engage in a fighting retreat back to Austerlitz. The subsidiary campaigns in Italy, Hanover and the Tyrol all get some coverage. Although the treatment of Lacy's Italian campaign is pretty sparse.
This book will not be for everyone. However, it does add to our understanding of the campaign if read in context, and I have found the translations of other Russian campaign histories very helpful. Particularly those covering the Russo-Turkish wars.
I have been painting Russian infantry of the 1806 campaign this week, so this was a good choice of reading.
|The first batch of musketeers of the Kolyvan Regiment. From the Brigade Games range in 28mm.