While Massna pursued the Austrians into their own lands at the close of I8o5, Italian forces under Eugene and Gouvion St Cyr (q.v.) held their ground against allied forces landed at Naples.
Disregarding the neutrality of the Germanic System, Napoleon sent a strong French corps to overrun Hanover, while he despatched General Gouvion St Cyr to occupy Taranto and other dominating positions in the south-east of the kingdom of Naples.
Cyr, who had relieved Macdonald on his extreme left, had only 17,000 men left under arms against upwards of 40,000 Russians under Witgenstein; and to the south Tschitschagov's army, being no longer detained on the Turkish frontier, peace having been made, was marching to join Tormassov about Brest-Litewski with forces which would bring the total of the two well over ioo,000 men.
Whilst waiting his return Murat was enjoined to skirmish with Kutusov, and the emperor himself worked out a scheme to assume the offensive with his whole army towards St Petersburg, calling in Victor and St Cyr on the way.
Calling up St Cyr, whom he had already warned to remain at Dresden with his command, he decides to fall back towards Erfurt, and go into winter quarters between that place and Magdeburg, pointing out that Dresden was of no use to him as a base and that if he does have a battle, he had much better have St Cyr and his men with him than at Dresden.