d174. A window of opportunity?
“If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door.”
“Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them
William Arthur Ward
“If a window of opportunity appears, don't pull down the shade.”
“Click here for a potential once in a lifetime opportunity! Thank you for entering the Russian roulette tournament.”
“Когда в товарищах согласья нет, на лад их дело не пойдет и выйдет из него не дело, только мука”
“I don't believe anyone. I only believe that all people are scoundrels!”
The decision-makers in Vienna and Berlin had been engaged in the secret discussions regarding a joined plan of actions for the the future war, which was a rather difficult task because there was no complete certainty about the potential opponents and, as a result, a scope of the future operations and desirable goals.
On the Prussian
side the King’s choice of a general planner was General Phull, of the General Staff. “He was a very intelligent and educated person, but did not have any practical knowledge. He has long led such a closed mental life that he knew absolutely nothing about the world of everyday phenomena”
 and as a result had reputation of a leading military theoretic. Which does not imply that his ideas had been inevitably bad, just that they were not necessarily applicable to the specific circumstances. 
It was expected that the Prussian commander-in-chief will be an elderly Duke of Brunswick but he was going to be accompanied by the King with a staff of his choice, a perspective which he actually enjoyed “because he could submit his decision to superior authority, and as he feared that the modesty of the King would prevent him from taking hold of affairs to the extent that the Duke himself wished, he considered the staff of the King almost as a lover's magnet.”
 Then, the main Prussian army of 14 divisions had
to be split based upon the personality issues:
- Principal army led by the Duke (with the King & Co attached) - 6 divisions located in Western Prussia
- Silesian army - 5 divisions under command of Prince Hohenloe. He had already commanded a corps in 1792-3-4; he commenced to be more highly considered in the Prussian army than the Duke was, as he was ten or twelve years younger and more energetic. It was not believed possible to deny him the command of a suitable army, under the supreme authority of the Duke, but an army almost as large as a principal army. Needless to say that he was planning to be as independent as. possible.
- Ruchel’s corps - 3 divisions located in Eastern Prussia.
In total, on a planned main theater Prussia was committing 120 - 130,000.
Plus, there were approximately 20,000 on the Saxon border and similar number on a border with Swedish Pomerania.
On the Austrian
side the main planner was, inevitably, general Weyrother who, with the support of Archduke John, preserved his reputation of a great planner intact after the Hohenlinden and even was appointed military adviser to the new Foreign Minister, Graf Ludwig von Cobenzl
in the negotiations following the Armistice of Steyr
, which led to the Peace of Lunéville
in 1801. Of course, his plans had to fit within framework of a general strategy envisioned by Archduke Charles but so far both of them were seemingly in synch on a “cautiously aggressive” approach favored by Charles.
The Austrian forces of 210,000 had been placed on a front of approximately 600 km long, a new Austrian - Polish and, on South-Eastern flank, Austrian-Russian border. Due to not quite clear political situation with the Ottomans and France, 50,000 more had been held spread from Italy to Salzburg. Austria built the largest army in its nation's history, though its fighting quality was hampered by numerous factors. The men were conscripted from across the Austrian Empire and included Austrians, Hungarians, Czechs, Poles, Croats and Serbs; some, including the Hungarians, did not enthusiastically support their Austrian rulers. Conscription focussed on the lower classes of society and the private soldiers, most of the non-commissioned officers, and many junior officers were illiterate. The army was well drilled in massed column formations
which were effective against cavalry but vulnerable to artillery fire. The regular infantry were thought too slow-witted to be trained in skirmishing; this role had traditionally been filled by grenzer
light infantry units, but their quality declined since the potential conflicts with the Ottoman Empire ended. The deficiency was only partly remedied by recently created volunteer jäger
units. The Austrian cavalry was of reasonably good quality, though it was hampered by large numbers of its horses being only partly trained. The artillery was not dynamic, being placed under infantry commanders in the field and lacking proper horse artillery
to manoeuvre quickly. The Austrian army was supposed to be supplied by a large wagon train, which restricted its manoeuvrability. Its senior officers were appointed based on aristocratic backgrounds and seniority, rather than ability; this led to elderly generals – the average being 63 and the young Archdukes placed in command well above their qualifications. The field commander, Archduke Charles, was unable to dismiss any of his commanders. He favoured doctrine over flexibility and expected his generals to follow a guide he had published couple years earlier. The field army was divided into 8 corps units, each having between 20 and 35,000. The right flank, two corps under command of Prince Schwarzenberg (40,000) were assigned a passive role of protecting the main force from a potential Russian attack. Which left 170,000 on a main direction.
As far as the military activities were involved, no special arrangements about cooperation had been made. The Prussians had to advance on the left and Austrians on the right and in each specific case when a close cooperation is needed, the issues will be resolved by the commanders of a spot with one of a senior rank taking charge.
General plan regarding division of the Polish
territory looked as following:
- Prussia is getting Plock and all territories west of it and Vistula and North of the Pilica River, including Warsaw (with Praga).
- Austria is getting the rest of Cracow vojevodship, the vojevodships of Sandomir, Lublin, Belz and what’s left of Chelm and Wolyn.
Then, depending upon the list of opponents, Prussia was planning to get Danzig, Stralsund and whatever else it manages to grab from Sweden (if it enters the war) and/or a piece of Saxony (if it enters a war). In the case of the acquisitions Austria may compensate itself with the further acquisitions in Poland.
The timing was seemingly
favoring the Austrians and Prussians:
- In Ottoman Empire there was an ongoing Serbian revolt, formally in support of the Sultan Selim III against the renegade janissary but by 1805 the victorious Serbs established a government and parliament that returned the land to the people, abolished forced labor, and reduced taxes. So far Selim did not decide if the Serbian autonomy should be recognized or crashed but a major Ottoman operation on the Balkans was not too probable unless the Sultan decides to acknowledge their autonomy and use them against Austria.
- The French Republic did not make any explicitly hostile moves but a recent appointment of general Massena Inspector-General of the Southern Departments looked suspicious regardless the official explanation that the famous general was simply sent to keep troops of the region in a descent shape.
- British government so far was showing no interest whatsoever to the Polish affairs so there was no hope of getting a subsidy but, OTOH, there was no reason to expect any kind of a hostile action.
- Frrederick, Prince Regent of Denmark, kept telling everybody willing to listen about the Danish neutrality.
Which left two big question marks:
- Paul of Russia
- Gustav III of Sweden.
It was reasonable to assume that on his own Gustav is not going to interfere into the war, which would limit a scope of the Prussian ambition but, OTOH, make partition a sure thing. So the key factor was Paul and the latest news were that he is dying from getting a severe cold. Finally, in March 1805 the couriers from Moscow brought dispatches informing the courts of Vienna and Berlin that the Emperor Paul died to be succeeded by his son Alexander, 25 years old.
“As for Grand Duke Alexander Pavlovich, he is charming: angelic character, courtesy, meekness and evenness in character do not change for a minute.” 
By reputation he was a nice young man, eager to make a good impression on everybody, seemingly indecisive and definitely not having his father’s strict notions regarding the moral obligations, sanctity of the treaties and other chivalric notions about which he was noticed making cautious jokes during his father’s reign.
When approached by the ambassadors, he flatly refused to discuss any political issues until the year of mourning is over. Chancellor Count Alexander Vorontsov died soon after Emperor Paul and the Foreign Minister, Count Nicholas Rumiantsev, restricted himself to reference to the monarch’s will and to a casual remark that Russia does not have any binding obligations toward Poland. To the questions regarding concentration of the Russian troops in Ukraine he pleaded a complete ignorance on the issues military. Fieldmarshal Mikhail Kamensky, the highest-ranking Russian general who, in his 67, was a little bit peculiar in his behavior  but still accepted at court and respected as a surviving relic of the old glorious times, assured an Austrian diplomat that there is a possibility of providing the fellow-Orthodox Serbs and that general Bonaparte will be a logical choice because he knows everything about “these Turks”. After which he switched to one of his endless stories about his service with the late Suvorov and his vis-a-vis beat a hastily retreat wondering if fieldmarshal told the truth or is simply in one of his “peculiar” periods. Anyway, with Alexander was clearly indecisive, it looked like there was a window of opportunity, which may close within few months turning an easy military walk into a serious bloody war. All relevant information was duly and hastily reported to Vienna and Berlin and two squeaky and cumbersome military machines started moving.
Well, probably the diplomats in question (and a considerable part of the Russian Court) would be very surprised if somebody told them that a new emperor is a cold-blooded manipulating bastard who found that a charming appearance is a very convenient facade, especially in the foreign and military affairs. For the last few years he was appointed by his father to serve in the military reform commission of general Bonaparte so by 1805 two of them had a perfect understanding of each other and if Alexander trusted someone, this person was general Bonaparte because Russia was his only chance for a great career.
Of course, Alexander did not have any intention to give Austria and Prussia a free hand in Poland. Not too much because he truly believed in a sanctity of the treaties but because this move would be clearly detrimental to the Russian reputation (and power). Well, and because starting reign with a successful European
war will be good for his own reputation as well. During a secret meeting of Alexander, Bonaparte, Barclay (recently promoted to the lieutenant general and made Minister of War) and Count Rumyantsev (to get international perspective) it was decided to keep Russian position unknown for as long as possible allowing Austria and Prussia to stick their necks as far as possible to simplify Russian and Swedish operations. Few recent years made Bonaparte a firm believer in a Russian soldier and the field kitchens and he never had any doubts about his own talents.
Gustav III was secretly informed about the plan and so far limited himself to strengthening defenses of the critical ports. Of course, the plan was more than a little bit cynical because it involved occupation of a big part of Poland by the enemy’s forces but who was going to care and why? The important thing would be let Poniatowski know in the last moment that his best strategy is going to be a retreat North enticing the invaders to follow. Well, and taking Frederick August with him to prevent an early capitulation.
Sultan Selim was promised a serious help with his military reforms (and mediation with the Serbs) and, to improve his personal security, Russian squadron led by “Ushak Pasha” arrived at Constantinople greeted by the Ottoman sailors and making the ill-advised moves by the Janissary and Ulema much less likely.
The Consulate had nothing against a friendly neutrality and giving Massena an important appointment on his native South was a good idea on more than one account, including being a legitimate way to provide him with an extra salary without it looking as a surrender to his never-ending complaints about shortage of money.
 When there is no agreement among the comrades, their business will not go smoothly and nothing will come out of it, only aggravation.
 In OTL his plan for the Russian army in 1812 would led to the speedy and complete annihilation of the Russian armies but, in general,
an idea of hitting at Napoleon’s communications was good and to a certain degree was implemented during the second part of 1812 campaign.
 Princess Gagarina in a letter to her husband.
 As in OTL