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Old August 23rd, 2017, 11:46 AM   #1
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Compare and contrast Napoleon and Lee


I'm reading this book The myth of the lost cause : why the South fought the Civil War and why the North won / Edward H. Bonekemper, III.

In it , the author claims Lee's strategy cost unnecessarily so many lives that he was much more like a butcher than Grant and maybe the reason the CSA lost was because
of not having those soldiers available any more.

Napoleon did something like that, perhaps, and maybe even more so.
How would you compare and contrast Lee and Napoleon?
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Old August 23rd, 2017, 12:07 PM   #2

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Quote:
Originally Posted by outlier View Post
I'm reading this book The myth of the lost cause : why the South fought the Civil War and why the North won / Edward H. Bonekemper, III.

In it , the author claims Lee's strategy cost unnecessarily so many lives that he was much more like a butcher than Grant and maybe the reason the CSA lost was because
of not having those soldiers available any more.

Napoleon did something like that, perhaps, and maybe even more so.
How would you compare and contrast Lee and Napoleon?
I don't think you can compare the two. Lee was active when there was an enormous shift in weapons and tactics. Napoleon was able to learn from the lessons of the past and plan his battle accordingly.

Lee, and all the Civil war generals for that matter, had to make it up on the fly. The battle of Shiloh produced as many casualties as Waterloo.

The Civil War still had 20 more Shilohs to fight before it was ended
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Old August 23rd, 2017, 12:14 PM   #3

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I watched a lecture on Lee recently, on Cspan channel. The lecturer said that when it came to taking chances on the battle field, doing things perhaps stupidly the opponent would never expect, even Napoleon couldn't come close to Lee in this regard
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Old August 23rd, 2017, 12:40 PM   #4

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There really isn't much to compare except that both were defeated and that maybe both were aggressive commanders. Though with Lee he was both defensive and offensive. He liked making offensive campaigns but his battle tactics were both defensive and offensive.
Napoleon on the other hand was known for his maneuvers meant to isolate the enemy and picking them off with multiple attacks. Though he also employed a couple offensive corps such as at Austerlitz, then threw in another corps to exploit a gap in the enemy formation or to side swipe them while they were engaged.
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Old August 24th, 2017, 10:08 AM   #5

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They are very hard to compare due to one tactical/weaponry innovation between their respective periods: rifled musketry. If Napoleon had attempted many of his moves against troops armed that way (or, likewise, were attempted against him) then he would have probably been little more successful than Lee. Classic old Napoleonic-era 12-pounders, which were still primarily used in the Civil War, we're much less important or, especially, useful on the offensive in the Civil War than it was in the Napoleonic Wars.

Last edited by nuclearguy165; August 24th, 2017 at 10:11 AM.
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Old August 24th, 2017, 10:24 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bishop View Post
I watched a lecture on Lee recently, on Cspan channel. The lecturer said that when it came to taking chances on the battle field, doing things perhaps stupidly the opponent would never expect, even Napoleon couldn't come close to Lee in this regard
Specifically, Lee split his forces in the face of a superior force. He succeeded with a a combined flank and frontal attack at time when the Union commander was incapcitated. from a nearby cannon strike.

The victory at Chancellorsville, Va did much to create the legend of Lee's powers. In fact, it depended on the the incapcity of an already incompetent Union commander.
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Old August 24th, 2017, 11:31 AM   #7
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I despise the Confederacy and Lee did make several bad decisions that cost him alot of men(Pickett's Charge cough cough) but at the end of the day in a long war the manpower problems the Confederacy faced were inevitable seeing just how badly they were outnumbered. The south's two roads to victory were either A holding out long enough to get the Union to give up trying to conquer the South and B trying to go on the offensive/destroy the Union army and try to take Washington. Option B's chances of success were always going to get worse especially seeing their decaying situation in the West. Seeing the position the South was in, B was a much more attractive option. There's also the fact that while Lee managed to largely stymie the North in Virginia for about 3 years all the other fronts were pretty big disasters for the South and large southern victory's outside of the East like Chickamauga were the exception not the rule.

I do think it's quite possible some of Lee's credit is misplaced because he simply had a very talented group of subordinates in Jackson, Longstreet and Stuart.

Also regardless of the aggressiveness of Lee's tactics, the North not just under Grant but under their previous commanders as well usually ended up losing more men. The big exception to this was Gettysburg where the difference was largely covered by Lee's charge on Cemetary Ridge.

Last edited by EmperoroftheBavarians43; August 24th, 2017 at 11:35 AM.
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Old August 24th, 2017, 12:22 PM   #8

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Napoleon commanded his armies to more than 50 victories in a dozen offensive campaigns.

Lee accumulated zero victories in three offensive campaigns.
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Old August 24th, 2017, 02:05 PM   #9
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Napoleon commanded his armies to more than 50 victories in a dozen offensive campaigns.

Lee accumulated zero victories in three offensive campaigns.
Keep in mind for Sharpsburg, his enemy had his whole battle plan. Lee getting out of that one without his army being destroyed(thanks McCllelan) could be interpreted as a victory although I see it far more often interpreted as a Union victory.
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Old August 24th, 2017, 03:19 PM   #10

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I guess the comparison is that they both ultimately lost despite being the more talented general - but that part is merely opinion.

Napoleon is infamous for perhaps possessing a "contempt" of his men's lives. At the time of his first exile, France was very short on soldiers and relied heavily on un-trained troops. So I assume that goes with your Lee comparison.
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