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Napoleon

#1
Hello all,

I wonder whether someone on here can tell me a bit about how Napoleon revolutionised warfare?

I often here he did just that, but I am unable to find any sources (at hand) that decribe how he done this.

Can any of you history buffs out there help me on this!?

Any help would be very appreciated!
 
#2
In essence, Napoleon's "Grand Tactics" were a combination of careful preparation (logistics & personnel - eg utilising the Revolutionary "levee en masse" plus popular fervour to create the first recognisibly modern mass conscript army, underpinned by common ideology/ sense of purpose; plus very good intelligence/ reconnaissance) combined with speed of advance & attack in a highly concentrated "all arms" form.

Napoleon (a gunner) was particularly adept at deploying concentrated artillery to provide close support of infantry & cavalry. His infantry, although, in the main, not particularly well trained/ disciplined in established contemporary fighting methods, were extremely flexible & often displayed a degree of initiative unusual for the time: a good example of the inherent weakness of mass conscription being turned to a tactical advantage - "every soldier carries a marshall's baton in his knapsack" etc.. As one Allied general commented: "The French infantry were very energetic; advancing in open order, they were unusually persistent, and very hard to contain - like ferrets!"

Additionally, Napoleon (and some of his generals) displayed considerable capacity for improvisation, plus more than a little tactical flair! Above all, Napoleon was a highly charismatic figure who personified for many the essence of The Revolution: "every man an emperor!".

As David Chandler (RIP) has commented: "As Clarendon said of Oliver Cromwell, Napoleon was a 'great bad man'."

See D. Chandler, "The Campaigns of Napoleon" (1967).
 
#3
In addition to Wessex_Man...

He revised the corps structure to allow more flexible and rapid deployment of his troops. Complementing this, he cut his logistical train (further speeding his movement), by having his armies forage (code for loot) their supplies whilst campaigning.

He worked with Generals and Marshalls whom he trusted (Ney, Soult), or who were the most effective (Desaix).
 
#4
Conscription....about 40.000 men were conscripted into the Army every year, and most years this just kept pace with the Armies loses in Battle.
 
#5
And yet he still got the shit kicked out of him at Waterloo,through overconfidence and,crap intelligence.

Who'd have thought he? :wink:

"When God created France,he created Paradise! When he populated it with Frenchmen,he created Hell". Albert Steptoe 1962 :lol:

RoofRat Hermes 69-72 8)
 
#6
(logistics & personnel - eg utilising the Revolutionary "levee en masse"
Thats interesting, I was always under the assumption that it was the Prussians who implemented this...But now thinking about it, it was the Prussians that established a General Staff.

My main interested in military history has been concentrated rather greatly on the Peloponnesian War and the First World War. And lets face it, anyone interested in military history ought to know about how Napoleon changed warfare!

Oh, and can anyone reccomend a good introductory book about Napoleons strategies and tactics?

Thank you :)
 
#7
I also recall reading Clavell I think, stating that Napoleon had a copy of Sun Tzu's "Art of War".

He certainly had a copy of Machiavelli's "The Prince".
 
B

Bottleosmoke

Guest
#8
The thing is. He didnt account for Maj Richard Sharpe when he was planning his strategies.
That bloke really spoiled his day...................Knew Wellington too!
 
#9
Bigdumps said:
(logistics & personnel - eg utilising the Revolutionary "levee en masse"
Thats interesting, I was always under the assumption that it was the Prussians who implemented this...But now thinking about it, it was the Prussians that established a General Staff.

My main interested in military history has been concentrated rather greatly on the Peloponnesian War and the First World War. And lets face it, anyone interested in military history ought to know about how Napoleon changed warfare!

Oh, and can anyone reccomend a good introductory book about Napoleons strategies and tactics?

Thank you :)
As indicated - "The Campaigns of Napoloen" by David Chandler.
 
#10
Napoleon did NOT revolutionise the area of Organisation, tactics, or indeed use of artillery. All were to some degree (such as his favoured 'ordre Mixed'), products of pre-revolutionary Military thinking in France and elsewhere.

The "Army Corps" had been debated and tested in exercises in the 1780's. So that there was a doctrinal framework to build a combined arms military model upon. The Levee en Masse was a response to the initial military crisis when the Revolution had nothing but manpower to pitch at the better trained (and relatively small) field armies of the First Coalition.

As to artillery. the Orders of Cannon had been modified under the Gruberval [sic] system. The use of "grand batteries" had also been debated and experimented with prior to 1789.

So it would be wrong to say that Napoleon was not a gifted. But in some measure it is wrong to assume that he was the sole root of the French 1st Empire Military system.
 
#12
Bottleosmoke said:
The thing is. He didnt account for Maj Richard Sharpe when he was planning his strategies.
That bloke really spoiled his day...................Knew Wellington too!
Ah, but Lt Col by brevet though ;)

In reference to the above post about Bonny having poor inteligence, Wellington had poor intelligence as well. It was almost an accident (so I am led to believe) that the armies stumbled across each other. And if Blucher hadnt arrived, Wellington would have lost Waterloo. As the Peer himself said 'the damn closest run thing you ever saw in your life'.
 
#13
Napoleon was a soldier's general... he was able to inspire his men in a manner many of the leaders of that era and since could only dream of doing. Unlike most of his peers, he was extremely proficient in the tasks of his subordinates from the top to the bottom. Whether it was firing a musket or registering a battery of artillery, the man would constantly prove himself the equal to his men at their job. He wasn't afraid to get dirty either... at least in his early campaigns anyway. There is a well known and verified anecdote about him hopping off his horse and helping a cannon crew unstick their limbered field piece from mud. Oh... and for the record... he wasn't short...

Of course, he also was a heartless SOB who could abandon his troops without so much as a thought (Egypt and Russia come to mind) and certainly possessed the slew of psychological problem one would expect a meglomaniac to display.

Waterloo was a nasty and vicious battle which could have gone either way. One has to wonder what the outcome would have been were Napoleon in good health and less inclined to trust his subordinates...
 
T

TheSnake

Guest
#14
duckiciao said:
Bottleosmoke said:
The thing is. He didnt account for Maj Richard Sharpe when he was planning his strategies.
That bloke really spoiled his day...................Knew Wellington too!
Ah, but Lt Col by brevet though ;)

In reference to the above post about Bonny having poor inteligence, Wellington had poor intelligence as well. It was almost an accident (so I am led to believe) that the armies stumbled across each other. And if Blucher hadnt arrived, Wellington would have lost Waterloo. As the Peer himself said 'the damn closest run thing you ever saw in your life'.
Wasn't it poor intelligence reports that made the Prussians become out of position though?
They did manage to get back in time though....just!
 
#15
Wellington had visited the area around Waterloo,years earlier and noted the salient points(no pun intended) of the battleground,so he already knew the ground he would have to fight on,and deployed his troops accordingly.

To say that the arrival of the Prussians saved his bacon,and the battle is an easy answer but,there is still a lot of speculation about what the outcome may have been had not Blucher been able to disengage from the French and get to Waterloo,try having a look at the Richard Holmes books on the two protagonists.


RoofRat
 
#16
In my view he didn't revolutionise warfare - he just did things well and took advantage of circumstances of the moment. This was on the back of a keen intelligence, a rigorous study of his profession (officers to note), a vaguely capable chief of staff and a willingness to take risks. His big advantage like Frederick the Great (whose achievements sit in the shadow of Napoleon because less is written about him) was the skill with which he was able to move his Army across Europe.
 
#17
Ref R Holmes' book on Wellington & Napoleon: it's interesting to note how much they had in common - "outsiders" in that each came from the "fringes" of their respective societies, and were not wholly accepted, at least initially, by the respective "establishments"; Napoleon a Corsican gunner; Wellington a "sprig of minor Irish nobility", and a "Sepoy general".

Each had French military schooling, and each had unusually highly developed cultural & political sensibilities - notably, for example, both were distinctly lacking in the anti-semitism so common in Europe at the time. Each was ruthless and authoritative/ charismatic, but never authoritarian. Both were suspicious of the "herd", and disliked mindless adherence to tradition/ social convention. Wellington despised team games (the famous qoutation about the playing fields of Eton being generally misunderstood - far from supporting team games, Wellington was stating that it was his decision not to run with the herd that was later to prove so decisive!), and Napoleon never willingly played them, if at all.

They even had a lover in common! Little wonder that Wellington frequently remarked on how he felt he understood Napoleon very well!
 

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