Karl Mack von Leiberich
Karl Mack von Leiberich, Freiherr
Baron is a title of nobility. The word baron comes from Old French baron, itself from Old High German and Latin baro meaning " man, warrior"; it merged with cognate Old English beorn meaning "nobleman"...

 (25 August 1752 – 22 December 1828) was an Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

n soldier. He is best remembered as the commander of the Austrian forces that capitulated to Napoleon's
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 Grande Armée in the Battle of Ulm
Battle of Ulm
The Battle of Ulm was a series of minor skirmishes at the end of Napoleon Bonaparte's Ulm Campaign, culminating in the surrender of an entire Austrian army near Ulm in Württemberg....

 in 1805. Historians of the late 20th century widely agree that he was among the poorest of the commanders of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 or the Austrian Empire
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

. Mack makes a brief appearance as a character in book one of Tolstoy
Tolstoy, or Tolstoi is a prominent family of Russian nobility, descending from Andrey Kharitonovich Tolstoy who served under Vasily II of Moscow...

's War and Peace
War and Peace
War and Peace is a novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, first published in 1869. The work is epic in scale and is regarded as one of the most important works of world literature...


Early career

Karl Leiberich was born at Nennslingen
Nennslingen is a municipality in the Weißenburg-Gunzenhausen district, in Bavaria, Germany....

, in Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

. In 1770 he joined an Austrian cavalry regiment, in which his uncle, Leiberich, was a squadron commander, becoming an officer seven years later. During the brief War of the Bavarian Succession he was selected for service on the staff of Count Kinsky
The Kinsky family of the Counts and later Princes was one of the oldest and most illustrious families originating from Bohemia...

, under whom, and subsequently under the commander-in-chief Field Marshal Count Lacy, he did excellent work. He was promoted first lieutenant in 1778, and captain on the quartermaster-general's staff in 1783. Count Lacy, then the foremost soldier of the Austrian army, had the highest opinion of his young assistant. In 1785 Mack married Katherine Gabrieul, and was ennobled under the name of Mack von Leiberich.

In the Turkish War he was employed on the headquarter staff, becoming in 1788 major and personal aide-de-camp to the emperor, Joseph II
Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor
Joseph II was Holy Roman Emperor from 1765 to 1790 and ruler of the Habsburg lands from 1780 to 1790. He was the eldest son of Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Francis I...

 and in 1789 was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He distinguished himself in the storming of Belgrade
Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. According to official results of Census 2011, the city has a population of 1,639,121. It is one of the 15 largest cities in Europe...

 in 1789. Shortly after this, disagreements between Mack and Ernst Gideon Freiherr von Laudon
Ernst Gideon Freiherr von Laudon
Baron Ernst Gideon von Laudon Baron Ernst Gideon von Laudon Baron Ernst Gideon von Laudon (German: Ernst Gideon Freiherr von Laudon (originally Laudohn or Loudon) (Tootzen, now Latvia, February 2, 1717 – July 14, 1790 in Nový Jičín, now Czech Republic) was an Austrian field marshal, one of the most...

, now commander-in-chief, led to the former demanding a court-martial; Mack left the front but received a colonelcy (1789) and the Order of Maria Theresa
Military Order of Maria Theresa
The Military Order of Maria Theresa was an Order of the Austro-Hungarian Empire founded on June 18, 1757, the day of the Battle of Kolin, by the Empress...

. In 1790 Loudon and Mack, reconciled, were again on the field together. During these campaigns Mack received a severe head injury from which he never fully recovered. In 1793 he was made quartermaster-general (chief of staff) to Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg, commanding in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 and he enhanced his reputation by the ensuing campaign. The young Archduke Charles of Austria, who won his own first laurels in the action of March 1, 1793, wrote after the battle, "Above all we have to thank Colonel Mack for these successes."

French Revolutionary Wars

Mack distinguished himself again on the field of Neerwinden
Battle of Neerwinden (1793)
The Battle of Neerwinden took place on near the village of Neerwinden in present-day Belgium between the Austrians under Prince Josias of Coburg and the French under General Dumouriez...

 and had a leading part in the negotiations between Coburg and Dumouriez
Charles François Dumouriez
Charles-François du Périer Dumouriez was a French general during the French Revolutionary Wars. He shared the victory at Valmy with General François Christophe Kellermann, but later deserted the Revolutionary Army and became a royalist intriguer during the reign of Napoleon.-Early life:Dumouriez...

. He continued to serve as quartermaster-general, and was now made titular chief (Inhaber) of a cuirassier
Cuirassiers were mounted cavalry soldiers equipped with armour and firearms, first appearing in late 15th-century Europe. They were the successors of the medieval armoured knights...

 regiment. He received a wound at Famars, but in 1794 was once more engaged in active service, having at last been made a major-general. But the failure of the coalition allies, due though it was to political and military factors and ideas, over which Mack had no control, was ascribed to him, as their successes of March–April 1793 had been, and he subsequently fell into disfavour in military circles. The Emperor, now Francis II
Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor
Francis II was the last Holy Roman Emperor, ruling from 1792 until 6 August 1806, when he dissolved the Empire after the disastrous defeat of the Third Coalition by Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz...

, remained his supporter and in 1797 Mack was promoted lieutenant-marshal, and in the following year he accepted, at the personal request of the emperor, the command of the Neapolitan army. He could do nothing with the unpromising material of his new command against the French revolutionary troops, and before long, being in actual danger of being murdered by his men, he took refuge in the French camp. Initially, he was promised a free pass to his own country, but Napoleon ordered that he should be sent to France as a prisoner of war.

War of the Third Coalition

Two years later he escaped from Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 in disguise. There were allegations that he broke his parole
Parole may have different meanings depending on the field and judiciary system. All of the meanings originated from the French parole . Following its use in late-resurrected Anglo-French chivalric practice, the term became associated with the release of prisoners based on prisoners giving their...

, a severe allegation that reflected on his honor as a gentleman and an officer. He was not employed for some years, but in 1804, when the war party in the Austrian court needed a general to oppose the peace policy of the Archduke Charles, Mack was made quartermaster-general of the army, with instructions to prepare for a war with France. He did all that was possible within the available time to reform the army, and on the opening of the war of 1805 he became quartermaster-general to the titular commander-in-chief in Germany, the Archduke Ferdinand Karl Joseph of Austria-Este
Archduke Ferdinand Karl Joseph of Austria-Este
Archduke Ferdinand Karl Joseph of Austria-Este was the third son of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Este and of his wife Princess Maria Beatrice Ricciarda d'Este, last member and heiress of the house of Este. For much of the Napoleonic Wars he was in command of the Austrian army.Ferdinand was born...

, who was himself inexperienced in military command. Consequently, Mack held the real responsible commander of the army that opposed Napoleon in Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

, but his position was ill-defined and his authority treated with minimal respect by the other general officers. Furthermore, the restructuring of the Habsburg military had been incomplete; Mack chose to initiate some of Charles' innovations, while ignoring others. His own insecurities and vagaries did not encourage the confidence of the staff; in the campaigning that led up to the Battle of Ulm
Battle of Ulm
The Battle of Ulm was a series of minor skirmishes at the end of Napoleon Bonaparte's Ulm Campaign, culminating in the surrender of an entire Austrian army near Ulm in Württemberg....

, Mack's frequent reversals of Viennese policy, and even his own decisions, further undermined an already fragile command structure. At Ulm in October 1805, he surrendered the entire army to Napoleon. A few of his officers, including Prince von Schwarzenberg
- People :* House of Schwarzenberg, Frankish and Bohemian aristocratic family which was first mentioned in 1172** Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg , Field Marshal in Austrian service during the Napoleonic Wars...

, broke through the French defenses in a massed cavalry charge and escaped, but most of the Austrian high command was captured with the 100,000 man army. The general officers received a parole that required them to abstain from combat with France, removing the bulk of Habsburg commanders from the possibility of service in the upcoming campaign of the Upper Danube.

After Austerlitz
Battle of Austerlitz
The Battle of Austerlitz, also known as the Battle of the Three Emperors, was one of Napoleon's greatest victories, where the French Empire effectively crushed the Third Coalition...

, Mack was convicted of cowardice by a courts-martial. He was deprived of his rank, his regiment, and his honors, chiefly the Order of Maria Theresa, and imprisoned for two years. Upon his release in 1808, he lived in relative obscurity until 1819, when the ultimate victory of the allies had obliterated the memory of earlier disasters, he was, at the request of Prince Schwarzenberg, reinstated in the army as lieutenant-marshal and a member of the Order of Maria Theresa.

Further reading

  • C. A. Schweigerd: Oesterreichs Helden und Heerführer von Maximilian I. bis auf die neueste Zeit in Biographien und Charakterskizzen .... Vienna, 1854
  • Constantin von Wurzbach
    Constantin von Wurzbach
    Constantin Wurzbach Ritter von Tannenberg was an Austrian biographer.-Biography:...

    : Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich. Vienna 1856 - 1891.
  • Johann Ritter von Rittersberg: Biographien der ausgezeichnetesten Feldherren der k.k. oesterreichischen Armee. Prague, 1828
  • The Historisches Taschenbuch (a yearbook founded by Friedrich von Raumer
    Friedrich Ludwig Georg von Raumer
    Friedrich Ludwig Georg von Raumer was a German historian. He was the first scientific historian to popularize history in German. He traveled extensively and served in German legislative bodies.-Biography:...

    ) for 1873 contains a vindication of Mack.
  • A short critical memoir will be found in Streffleur (i.e., Österreichische Militärische Zeitschrift) for January 1907.
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