Karl Mack von Leiberich (1752-1828), Austrian general

One of the most famous Austrian Generals and largely responsible for the state of the Austrian Army during the Austerlitz campaign, Karl Mack has a less than glowing reputation. Mack was a commoner who was ennobled for bravery having been born to an undistinguished Protestant family in Franconia on 25 August 1752. Mack was lucky enough to be taken under the wing of Field Marshal Lacy who did much to further Mack's career. By the 1790s Mack had entered the nobility and had a reputation as an excellent staff officer after service against the Turks. Shortly after serving in Flanders he brought out his Instructionspuncte Fur Generals in 1794 which put forward his ideas and promoted the idea of taking the offensive and brought Mack considerable attention. After such a promising start Mack's career started to decline rapidly. He was appointed Commander in Chief of the Neapolitan Army in 1797, capturing Rome in November 1798 only to have to flee his own troops who mutinied. He then was captured by the French only to escape by breaking his parole in 1800. Mack then went into semi retirement in Bohemia only to resurface 5 years later. Ludwig Cobenzl an Austrian cabinet minister decided to use Mack to support his own warlike schemes, encouraging Mack to write an overly optimistic report on the state of the Austrian Army in April 1805. Politically this was well received and Mack was appointed Generalquartiermeister (equivalent to chief of staff) by the end of the month. Archduke Charles now left with little real power over the military complained that Mack was insane but Cobenzl still saw him as useful and supported Mack politically.

As well as the estimate of Austrian military power being widely inaccurate Mack decided to impose drastic changes on the organisation of the Austrian Army just before the 1805 campaign. In themselves the changes were not too bad but to do so just before a major campaign was foolish and just caused confusion. Mack was in command on the Danube but completely out classed by Napoleon he surrendered an almost intact Austrian Army at Ulm in 1805 with very little resistance, much to the disgust of Austria's allies. Condemned to death for what was seen by many to be a cowardly act he was instead imprisoned and eventually pardoned by was never again to hold a command. Karl Mack is best summed up by Horatio Nelson's quote about him, "Let not General Mack be employed; for I knew him at Naples to be a rascal, a scoundrel, and a coward"

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How to cite this article: Dugdale-Pointon, T. (18 January 2001), Mack, Karl, von Leiberich, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_mack.html

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