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eral Mack thought that Austrian security relied on sealing off the gaps through the mountainous Black Forest area in Southern Germany that had witnessed much fighting during the campaigns of the French Revolutionary Wars. Mack believed that there would be no action in central Germany. Mack decided to make the city of Ulm the centerpiece of his defensive strategy, which called for a containment of the French until the Russians under Kutuzov could arrive and alter the odds against Napoleon. Ulm was protected by the heavily fortified Michelsberg heights, giving Mack the impression that the city was virtually impregnable from outside attack. Fatally, the Aulic Council decided to make Northern Italy the main theater of operations for the Habsburgs. Archduke Charles was assigned 95,000 troops and directed to cross the Adige River with Mantua, Peschiera, and Milan as the initial objectives. The Austrians based an army of 72,000 men on Ulm. Nominally
commanded by Archduke Ferdinand, the army's real authority was Mack. Austrian strategy required that Archduke John with 23,000 troops secure the Tyrol and provide the link between his brother Charles's army and his cousin Ferdinand's army. The Austrians also detached individual corps to serve with the Swedish in Pomerania and the British in Naples, though these were designed to confuse the French and divert their resources. French plans and preparations Map with scattered blue lines showing the French army heading east towards Central Europe. The Russians are still moving through Eastern Europe. The French concentrated around the Rhine from early to mid-September. 210,000 troops of the Grande Armée prepared to cross into Germany and encircle the Austrians. In both the campaigns of 1796 and 1800, Napoleon had envisaged the Danube theater as the central focus of French efforts, but in both instances the Italian theater became the most important. The Aulic Council t
hought Napoleon would strike in Italy again. Napoleon had other intentions: 210,000 French troops would be launched eastwards from the camps of Boulogne and would envelop General Mack's exposed Austrian army if it kept marching towards the Black Forest. Meanwhile, Marshal Murat would conduct cavalry screens across the Black Forest to fool the Austrians into thinking that the French were advancing on a direct west-east axis. The main attack in Germany would be supported by French assa