Radetzky: Imperial Victor and Military Genius

October 30, 2020
Radetzky: Imperial Victor and Military Genius

History remembers Wellington's defeat of Napoleon, but hasforgotten the role of Field Marshal Radetzky in the battles whichled to Napoleon's abdication and first exile in 1814. As Chief ofStaff to the Allied Coalition of 1813-1814, Field Marshal CountJoseph Radetzky von Radetz determined the shape of the mostdecisive campaigns of the Napoleonic wars by inventing the strategythat in a matter of months defeated Napoleon. Neither Russia norPrussia had been able to overcome the Corsican in battle and theforces that these powers controlled between them in 1813 were in noposition to challenge him in Europe. It took the brilliantdiplomacy of Metternich and the military genius of Radetzky toensure victory over the Emperor. In short, the Austriancontribution decisively tipped the balance against Napoleon - afact which has always been overlooked by historians. Later inRadetzky's career, in 1848 and again in 1849, it was he whodefeated a much superior army not merely to maintain the politicaland geographical integrity of the Habsburg Monarchy but therebyalmost certainly preventing a whole continent from dissolving onceagain into war and revolution as it had in 1792-1815. Yet, despitehis impressive military record, Radetzky was not simply acommander. He was also an important military thinker, who examinedall the key issues of his day - not merely strategy and tactics butalso fortifications, the role of a general staff, the role ofhorses in warfare, the need for technical corps amongst many otherissues. He was also progressive politically: he believed in movingwith the times, in constitutionalism and in popular defence and wasactive in military strategy until his retirement, at the age of 90,in 1857. Radetzky's achievements on the battlefield were of thegreatest possible significance in European history, yet today,Radetzky is almost forgotten - remembered only in the music of theRadetzky March, dedicated to him by Johann Strauss the elder. Inthis, the first biography of Radetzky in English, Alan Sked paintsa vivid picture of an exceptional, yet neglected, militarycommander in a book which will be fascinating reading forenthusiasts of military and modern European history.