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Old November 27th, 2012, 10:23 PM   #1

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The Napoleonic wars caused an unprecedented focus on a combined arms approach to warfare. I think that France certainly had the best combination of various arms and leadership. Their land battle record stands for itself. Britain seems to have had a decisive edge in naval warfare. Anyways, assign each of the following categories to the nation that you think had the best troops for this category. This focuses on quality, not quantity.

1. Elite Infantry (Grenadiers)
2. Heavy Cavalry (including dragoons, curassiers, etc.)
3. Land Artillery (cannons, gun-howitzers, howitzers, and mortars)
4. Skirmishers
5. Light Infantry
6. Light Cavalry (including uhlans, hussars, etc.)
7. Line Infantry
8. Ships of the Line (gun crews, sailors, and leadership)
9. Ships of the Line (construction)
10. Officers
11. Generals
12. Other?

My Opinions:
1. France had the best elite infantry of the Napoleonic wars, namely the Middle Guard. The Old Guard were generally considered more prestigious, but these men were literally older than their Middle Guard counterparts and not as physically fit. The French imperial guard in general was probably the best collection of elite soldiers in the world. However, Russia's Semenovski Guard and Preobrozhenski Guard are a very close rival of the French Guard. French infantry feared the Russian grenadiers, and even at the battle of Austerlitz, where the Russian army was badly defeated, the Russian guard's survivors described Frances's line infantry as melting away before them like snow. Napoleon was impressed by Russian soldiers. Russian grenadiers were chosen from the tallest of the men in Russia and were considered the tallest soldiers in Europe (I believe the average height was 6' 8").

2. Again, I would give this to France. Their Carabiniers a Cheval and Grenadiers a Cheval were both considered some of the best heavy cavalry in Europe.

3. Either France or Russia would claim the best artillery. Napoleon was extremely fond of his artillery and stated that artillery wins wars. He even had artillery as part of his Old Guard. However, Russian artillery was not to be trifled with either. The gun-howitzer unicorns, among other things, were a serious menace and no other nation had an equivalent artillery piece. Russian artillery was also endowed with suicidal bravery. In many cases, it was the Russian artillery that was last to retreat and prevent the destruction of the army.

4. It seems Britain or Austria had the best skirmishers/snipers. The British skirmishers at Waterloo performed their part very well. However, the Austrian Windbusche (air rifle) snipers were armed with the most potent weapons in Europe at the time. Had they been able to manufacture it in large enough quantities to give to their line infantry, they would have been unopposed. The rifle made no noise other than a clap and had no muzzle flash or gunpowder. Napoleon ordered that any "assassin" caught with a wind rifle was to be executed rather than kept as a prisoner of war.

5. I do not feel I am sufficiently informed to assess light infantry. I know that Russian jaegers were exceptionally brave and would often initiate melee. However, this is hardly the job of light infantry... Knowing Russia's supply problems, the jaegers were probably armed with obsolete rifles anyways.

6. Russia's Cossack auxiliaries were considered by Napoleon himself to be the best light cavalry in all of Europe.

7. Britain had the best line infantry. In a time during which gunpowder was more valuable to most countries than lives, Britain was very lucky to be able to train its troops to use live ammunition for practice. Russian soldiers would only be allowed to fire two shots (if at all) before being sent to the front lines. Britain was the only nation with enough money to soldiers ration to train its military to fire before shipping them off.

8. Britain had the best crew and naval leadership during the Napoleonic wars. Trafalgar, The Battle of the Nile, you name it... This is due in part to Britain's heavy focus on the navy (as an Island nation without an amazing land army, Britain relied on the navy for defense), Britain's practice of hiring actual sailors to man these ships, and Britain's tendency to use live ammunition firing exercises. Their ships could fire slightly faster than those of other nations (NOT two to one though). Most other navies used impressed (drafted) civilians for their crews.

9. Ironically, the French always had superior ship designs to those of England. France would always develop a new design of ship and then Britain and the other nations would copy it. Spain had a tendency to build huge ships, such as the Santisima Trinidad, the most armed ship in the world (144 guns compared to HMS Victory's 104).
*The Santisima Trinidad was not the largest ship of the time period. French 120 guns ships of the line were larger. This is due to the fact that the Santisima Trinidad was originally designed as a 110 gun ship of the line, and the fourth gundeck was added later. However, it was the most heavily armed and also the only ship that had 4 gundecks. Ever. The British steered clear of boarding the Santisima during Trafalgar until it was completely incapacitated.

10. I don't know.

11. The truth is every nation had brilliant generals at one time or another. Napoleon was clearly the best one (goes without saying), but generals such as Wellington, Archduke Charles, and Suvorov were also not far behind. Suvorov was one of the several generals who had never lost a battle (he fought about 95) and became one of the few people to ever be appointed to the status of generalissimo in Russia.

Last edited by Ceasar; November 27th, 2012 at 11:03 PM.
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Old November 27th, 2012, 11:04 PM   #2

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Good topic!

I'll be back tomorrow to answer it when I have a little more time. Cheers
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Old November 27th, 2012, 11:07 PM   #3
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Great Topic!!!
Sorry I don't know about it more.
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Old November 27th, 2012, 11:52 PM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ceasar View Post
The Napoleonic wars caused an unprecedented focus on a combined arms approach to warfare. I think that France certainly had the best combination of various arms and leadership. Their land battle record stands for itself. Britain seems to have had a decisive edge in naval warfare. Anyways, assign each of the following categories to the nation that you think had the best troops for this category. This focuses on quality, not quantity.

11. Generals
While Napoleon carries a great reputation as a battlefield commander, like many other great commanders, even one, considered by many to be one of the greatest battlefield commanders ever, had his faults.

Napoleon's chiefly comes from the fact that he assumed the role of Emperor of the French, which essentially put him at the center of France's overall strategy. This would include measures that went beyond merely the military but into politics and economics.

On the battlefield, Napoleon had no real equal. He came relatively close to winning at Waterloo, if not for the timely arrival of the Prussians. And many still consider Austerlitz to be Napoleon's most brilliant battle.

However, Napoleon continuously under estimated Europe's resistence to change. Austria, Prussia, and Russia were all extremely conservative and authoritarian monarchies which didn't want Napoleon's "liberal" authorian monarchy bringing various aspects of the French Revolution into their lands. As such, these three states formed the corps of various coalitions designed to defeat Napoleon. And even Britain, the most liberal state in Europe prior to the French Revolution was hesitent about the consequences of a French Revolutionary and then Napoleonic victory. Some was the memory of the beheading of their own king, and some was probably a response to the chaos that the French Revolution produced that ultimately allowed Napoleon to take power. The British thus prefered to restore the Bourbons, because the Bourbons were the "French they knew." And it would be the British that would engineer and fund every coalition aimed against Napoleon. This combined with Napoleon's ambition to carry the French Revolution beyond France helped to keep Europe in a constant state of war for nearly 15 years. Politically at some point, Napoleon should have realized, "I'll never have peace with the Austrians, Prussians, and Russians so long as the Duchy of Warsaw exists, and so long as French troops are there to protected it...", "I'll never have peace with the Austrians and Prussians so long as they aren't allowed to squabble over who will control Germany...", and finally, "I'll never have peace with Britain so long as Prussia, Austria, and Russia are willing to fight for them."

At some point, it would have been wiser for Napoleon to "retreat" accept that he would only be able to rule France, Belgium, and Holland, keep his alliance with Spain... Austria, Russia, and Prussia would divide up Poland to do as they wished with the Poles, and the Austrians and Prussians would then have ability to claim leadership over the German states. Without its continental allies, Britain would ultimately have to accept peace because it didn't have the army to confront Napoleon directly. But this never happened, and with the Austrians, Prussians, and Russians periodically joining coalitions against Napoleon, the British were able to wear France down in these constant wars to the point when in 1815, the French Army was a shadow of what it had been in 1806.

In addition, his economic system, the Continental System, failed miserably. While if the European states actively participated in buying French/German/Italian goods over Britain's it could work... the problem in that is that France, the German states (including Austria and Prussia), and others couldn't match British quality goods and effectiveness in trade. This made many countries break with the Continental System. Portugal never accepted it. Russia "accepted" it at first, but by 1812, it was clear that Russia was trading with Britain in secret. These actions spurned Napoleon on to the Peninsula Campaign in Spain and the Invasion of Russia. And while again, Napoleon won victories on the battlefield, the vastness and winter of Russia broke his army's numbers, which by the end of the campaign would result in most of the nations of Europe except for Britain jumping what remained of Napoleon's army as it retreated from Russia. The British, meanwhile joined with Spanish guerillas that would ultimately push the French out of Spain. In this the failure of the Continental System secured his exile to Elba.

Napoleon was a great general on the battlefield, but overall with regard to the other aspects that Napoleon had to manage as a Head of State, he was a failure.

In this Napoleon is very much like Lee, Rommel, Mainstien, Guderian and many other great generals from the losing sides of great wars. His tactics and battlefield skill was unsurpassed, but overall strategic and political skill in international affairs was very much lacking.
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Old November 28th, 2012, 12:02 AM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam-Nary View Post
While Napoleon carries a great reputation as a battlefield commander, like many other great commanders, even one, considered by many to be one of the greatest battlefield commanders ever, had his faults.

Napoleon's chiefly comes from the fact that he assumed the role of Emperor of the French, which essentially put him at the center of France's overall strategy. This would include measures that went beyond merely the military but into politics and economics.

On the battlefield, Napoleon had no real equal. He came relatively close to winning at Waterloo, if not for the timely arrival of the Prussians. And many still consider Austerlitz to be Napoleon's most brilliant battle.

However, Napoleon continuously under estimated Europe's resistence to change. Austria, Prussia, and Russia were all extremely conservative and authoritarian monarchies which didn't want Napoleon's "liberal" authorian monarchy bringing various aspects of the French Revolution into their lands. As such, these three states formed the corps of various coalitions designed to defeat Napoleon. And even Britain, the most liberal state in Europe prior to the French Revolution was hesitent about the consequences of a French Revolutionary and then Napoleonic victory. Some was the memory of the beheading of their own king, and some was probably a response to the chaos that the French Revolution produced that ultimately allowed Napoleon to take power. The British thus prefered to restore the Bourbons, because the Bourbons were the "French they knew." And it would be the British that would engineer and fund every coalition aimed against Napoleon. This combined with Napoleon's ambition to carry the French Revolution beyond France helped to keep Europe in a constant state of war for nearly 15 years. Politically at some point, Napoleon should have realized, "I'll never have peace with the Austrians, Prussians, and Russians so long as the Duchy of Warsaw exists, and so long as French troops are there to protected it...", "I'll never have peace with the Austrians and Prussians so long as they aren't allowed to squabble over who will control Germany...", and finally, "I'll never have peace with Britain so long as Prussia, Austria, and Russia are willing to fight for them."

At some point, it would have been wiser for Napoleon to "retreat" accept that he would only be able to rule France, Belgium, and Holland, keep his alliance with Spain... Austria, Russia, and Prussia would divide up Poland to do as they wished with the Poles, and the Austrians and Prussians would then have ability to claim leadership over the German states. Without its continental allies, Britain would ultimately have to accept peace because it didn't have the army to confront Napoleon directly. But this never happened, and with the Austrians, Prussians, and Russians periodically joining coalitions against Napoleon, the British were able to wear France down in these constant wars to the point when in 1815, the French Army was a shadow of what it had been in 1806.

In addition, his economic system, the Continental System, failed miserably. While if the European states actively participated in buying French/German/Italian goods over Britain's it could work... the problem in that is that France, the German states (including Austria and Prussia), and others couldn't match British quality goods and effectiveness in trade. This made many countries break with the Continental System. Portugal never accepted it. Russia "accepted" it at first, but by 1812, it was clear that Russia was trading with Britain in secret. These actions spurned Napoleon on to the Peninsula Campaign in Spain and the Invasion of Russia. And while again, Napoleon won victories on the battlefield, the vastness and winter of Russia broke his army's numbers, which by the end of the campaign would result in most of the nations of Europe except for Britain jumping what remained of Napoleon's army as it retreated from Russia. The British, meanwhile joined with Spanish guerillas that would ultimately push the French out of Spain. In this the failure of the Continental System secured his exile to Elba.

Napoleon was a great general on the battlefield, but overall with regard to the other aspects that Napoleon had to manage as a Head of State, he was a failure.

In this Napoleon is very much like Lee, Rommel, Mainstien, Guderian and many other great generals from the losing sides of great wars. His tactics and battlefield skill was unsurpassed, but overall strategic and political skill in international affairs was very much lacking.

Nought wrong with Napoleon as a general, but i am far from convinced by his understudies. Form the little i know the likes of Soult, Grouchey and Ney leave much to be desired, although Bernadotte seems to have been OK. If you make war on 5 countries at once, it really is advisable to have more than one top rated commander.
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Old November 28th, 2012, 02:26 AM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ceasar View Post

1. Elite Infantry (Grenadiers)
I will give this to the French, because of the Guard, but the British Grenadiers are not far behind.


Quote:
2. Heavy Cavalry (including dragoons, curassiers, etc.)
French.

Quote:
3. Land Artillery (cannons, gun-howitzers, howitzers, and mortars)
French.

Quote:
4. Skirmishers
British. 95th Rifles and the KGL proved themselves time after time. Crauford was a sinister man, but he was a very effective tactician. His death was a sad loss to Wellington. Austrian Grunzers and German Jagers were also effective.


Quote:
5. Light Infantry
Skirmishers are essentially light infantry, no?


Quote:
6. Light Cavalry (including uhlans, hussars, etc.)
By Proxy, the French. The Polish Lancers and Uhlans who servd Napoleon, were brilliant. Most notable battle being:
Battle_of_Somosierra Battle_of_Somosierra


Note: I think the British had effective cavalry, when they were able to maintain their discipline. Stapleton Cotton and more importantly, Henry Paget were very effective commanders. The best British cavalry officer was probably John le Marchant. Very very skilled indeed, and an excellent intellectual theorist. His death was a major major blow to the effectiveness of the cavalry in the peninsular. Two notable battles for the man included
Villagarcia Villagarcia
and Salamanca.

So in essence, I think the British cavalry (heavy and light), like the Household guard, Scots Greys and then the Inniskilling Dragoons were all more than a match for the French, when they were disciplined. Though, ill-discipline seems to be a feature of cavalry throughout the ages, just like with infantry.

So based on the record of the Polish Lancers, I will give it to the French, just.

Cossacks for the Russians were also effective, but these may fit under elite. I would also mention the Austrian cavalry, inparticular the Hungarian Hussars, who were very effective, but inferior to the French when they engaged in combat, imo.

Quote:
Chlapowski* wrote, "The enemy [Hungarian hussars] had charged us 3 or 4 times during this engagement. Some of them would break into our ranks, many passed right through and circled back to regain their lines, and after charge they ended in complete disorganization. The French, on the other hand, although they also lost formation after a charge, kept together far more and every time were quicker to regain order. ... although the Hungarians drove home their attacks with determination, they were harder to reform into some sort of order. The French, on the other hand, knew that their own horses lacked the Austrians' speed and endurance, and would launch their attacks from closer range and so retained formation right to the end of the charge, and regained it more quickly afterwards. ... I, too, was wounded on the leg above the ankle by a Hungarian that day, but his sword twisted in his hand and the wound was not deep. But it was quite a blow and I felt it for many years - Chlapowski, - p 68.

Source: http://napoleonistyka.atspace.com/Austrian_cavalry.htm
* Dezydery Chlapowski was a Polish, old Guards cavalry officer.


Quote:
7. Line Infantry
British. Effectively commanded, they were superior to the French columns when they used the mass firepower and timing to halt the momentum of the columns. Wellington proved this time after time, but so did others, like John Moore and Ralph Abercromby.


Quote:
8. Ships of the Line (gun crews, sailors, and leadership)
British, decisively. Took on almost every major navy during the the duration of the war and defeated them all.


Quote:
9. Ships of the Line (construction)
I would say the Spanish. They built some magnificent ships, the Santisima Trinidad being a fine example.

Quote:
10. Officers
This is a very tough one. All nations involved had decent officers. I would have to mull over this.

Quote:
11. Generals
Again a tough one, But I would probably be inclined to give thi to the French, because of the amount of successful marshals Napoleon had under his command.

Last edited by Mangekyou; November 28th, 2012 at 02:50 AM.
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Old November 28th, 2012, 05:15 AM   #7

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1.Grenadiers.France
French imperial guard.Very close russian imperial guard.French due to better combat experience/junior leadership and superior bayonet fighting training.

2.Heavy cavalry.France
Imperial heavy horse guard grenadiers.Undefeated unit.
For general heavy cavalry usually the french cuirassiers .Better leadership and organization.More trained for massed shock action.
Close are russian cuirassiers and saxon garde du corps.

3.Artillery.France.
Guard artillery best single unit.
Undoubtedly france.In the later stages of the war,french artillery single handedly won battles.Better organization system,better training,professional gunners,lighter designs superior officers and commander a master of artillery tactics.Second russian artillery ,but quite far behind.

Skirmishers/light infantry. Britain/france

For single unit.British rifles.
On a mass scale french voltigeurs.Swarms of revolutionary republican skirmishers were the The terror of europe.

Light cavalry.Poland/austria/russia

Polish lancers/ hungarian hussars/cossacks
Difficult to seperate really.I'd give a slight edge to polish lancers.

Line infantry.Britain.

Superior fire training.Excellent use of terrain.

Naval crews.Britain by a mile.

Naval ships.Britain.

Officers.French.Mainly due to meritocratic system.And combat exp.

Generals.French.Again same reason.
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Old November 28th, 2012, 05:55 AM   #8

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Originally Posted by funakison View Post
Nought wrong with Napoleon as a general, but i am far from convinced by his understudies. Form the little i know the likes of Soult, Grouchey and Ney leave much to be desired, although Bernadotte seems to have been OK. If you make war on 5 countries at once, it really is advisable to have more than one top rated commander.
He did. You neglected the best of the best: Davout and Lannes. Also Massena and Suchet. He had several other marshalls who were much better than the ones you chose to list as examples.
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Old November 28th, 2012, 07:59 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ceasar View Post
The Napoleonic wars caused an unprecedented focus on a combined arms approach to warfare. I think that France certainly had the best combination of various arms and leadership. Their land battle record stands for itself. Britain seems to have had a decisive edge in naval warfare. Anyways, assign each of the following categories to the nation that you think had the best troops for this category. This focuses on quality, not quantity.

1. Elite Infantry (Grenadiers)
French Old Guard. Even though the Old Guard didn't fight much, when it came they were simply irresistible, except when surrounded by enemies like at Waterloo.

Quote:
2. Heavy Cavalry (including dragoons, curassiers, etc.)
French Dragons of the Imperial Guard - also known as Emperess Dragons.
They were amazing during the Berezina cross.

Quote:
3. Land Artillery (cannons, gun-howitzers, howitzers, and mortars)
French grande batterie. Better officers and servants than any other nation.

Quote:
4. Skirmishers
Here I'm less sure, I only know that dutch skirmishers have been instrumental at Waterloo and that english ones were also terrific.
Also if we consider insurgents as a form of skirmishers then I would add spanish insurgents.

Quote:
5. Light Infantry
Not sure to understand here, for me light infantry purpose was basically to be skirmishers.

Quote:
6. Light Cavalry (including uhlans, hussars, etc.)
Don Cossacks - can you imagine those guys went camping on the Champs-Elysees after crossing the Alps ?!

Quote:
7. Line Infantry
British !

Quote:
8. Ships of the Line (gun crews, sailors, and leadership)
British of course...

Quote:
9. Ships of the Line (construction)
I've no idea...

Quote:
10. Officers
Frenchs at the beginning of the Napoelonic wars. They came from being basic soldiers that stepped up, had a recent and big - and victorious ! - experience against all types of european armies following the wars of the Revolution, while in other armies these were rather nobles buying a rank.

Starting from 1813, Prussians officers - and Prussian army in general - became as good or even better.

Quote:
11. Generals
Russians were really good, I would probably put them on top, even though some french Marshalls were excellent - Davout especially can be considered maybe as the best general overall, Lannes was amazing but died, guys like Murat and Ney were rather leaders than real generals - but as many other french generals were crap, I keep Russians as they are globally more reliable.
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Old November 28th, 2012, 08:19 AM   #10

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Originally Posted by Rongo View Post
He did. You neglected the best of the best: Davout and Lannes. Also Massena and Suchet. He had several other marshalls who were much better than the ones you chose to list as examples.

I am embarrased to admit i havent heard of any of them.
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