DESERTING THE HABSBURG ARMS FOR THE WHITE EAGLE. A STUDY OF THE ATTITUDES OF ETHNIC POLES IN THE OFFICER AND CADET CORPS OF THE AUSTRIAN ARMY DURING THE NAPOLEONIC WARS
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In the last quarter of the 18th century and during the Napoleonic Wars the Austrian army had at least 400 officers and about 80 cadets of Polish nationality. They came almost exclusively from noble families in the southern parts of Poland which had been incorporated into the Austrian Empire. In 1806-1807, after the creation of Polish units under Napoleon and then the formation of an armed force of the Duchy of Warsaw, some of the serving officers and cadets resigned their commissions to join the new Polish military. A fresh wave of resignations followed in 1809-1810, after Austria's loss of Western Galicia. In all, the army of the Duchy of Warsaw attracted about 50 former Austrian officers and cadets. Three of them became generals, the rest were offered middle and lower-rank positions in the corps. Their decisions to join the Polish army were prompted partly by a revival of Polish patriotism and pressures exerted by the Polish public opinion, partly by hopes of speedy promotion. The officers who had begun their career under the Habsburg arms seemed to have been attracted most by the cavalry regiments formed in 1809; they also played a major role in the army of the Duchy of Warsaw during the campaigns of 1812 and 1813. Their contribution should not, however, obscure the fact that the majority of ethnic Poles in the Austrian officer corps did not respond to the call from Warsaw and remained loyal to the Habsburg monarchy.
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