Did Napoleon Bonaparte have any chance to keep his throne in the AD 1814 Allied Invasion of France ?

Jul 2018
496
Hong Kong
#21
Argument #2 : The strategic divergence and weaknesses of the coalition army — the "over-cautious" Schwarzenberg VS the "reckless" Blucher

It was inevitable that the Coalition army had great divergence in military planning due to different interests and consideration of each power. Although Bernadotte's Nordarmee was one of the three major armies in the Allied invasion of France, yet he had little interest on launching the deep offensive into France aiming to seize Paris (he had shifted his major interest to annexation of Norway instead). So virtually, only Blucher's Schlesische Armee (initially approx. 60,000-strong) and Schwarzenberg's Hauptarmee (initially approx. 200,000-strong) played a key role in the offensive thursting towards Paris. Yet they had different viewpoint about the strategy they should adopt.

Schwarzenberg complied to the instruction prescribed by Metternich, planned to preserve the Austrian troops' strength by minimizing the casualties avoiding costly battles as much as possible (the Austrian army composed 3 of 6 corps of the Hauptarmee, roughly counted for 50% of total army) in order to ensuring the Habsburg Empire's ability to defend its interest in post-war Europe. He adopted the prudent strategy : After capturing the Langres Plateau, spreading out troops in different columns instead of concentrating for an immediate thrust towards Paris. By this way, he could control the wide sector of territories with many vital arteries under his grasp, preventing the traffic congestion that would hinder his army's march while greatly relieving the huge logistical pressure sustaining his gigantic 200,000-strong army ; on the other hand, he sent out large detachments to besiege and blockade a cluster of French fortresses at its eastern border for securing the line of communication. Such cautious, steady offensive not only would avoid any unnecessarily and prematurely costly battle with Napoleon's main force, but also cemented his line of communication with the rear as well as Blucher's army at the north. (even Napoleon attempted a bold, single-pronged thrusting manuoever struck on the flank and rear of Hauptarmee, sufficient troops could be gathered for obstructing Napoleon's swift offensive for a while since Schwarzenberg's detachments were stretching out in wide sector covering many key points around, buying time for the rest of the army to be concentrated for halting Napoleon's unremitting attack)

But the rash, battle-hardened "Forward Marshal" Blucher did not prefer such an over-cautious strategy. He loved quick strike aiming for immediate thrust towards Paris. And he believed that Schwarzenberg's huge army would efficiently protected his rear, enabling him to deploy everything of his force for the westward offensive. Unfortunately, Schwarzenberg's unbelievably slowness ruined his fancy. Schwarzenberg had no intention to wage the large-scale, decisive offensive in short-term, a contrast with Blucher's reckless advance.

Schwarzenberg's extreme carefulness, compound with Blucher's foolhardiness, greatly offset the Allied numerical advantage. Their incompatibility in advancing speed entailed the dangerously widening gap at the midst of two armies, offering Napoleon's perfect opportunity to conduct his typical move of manouever sur les derrieres (manoeuver to the enemy rear) for cutting the line of communication between the armies of Blucher and Schwarzenberg ; with astonishing speed and occupying "central position", Napoleon was able to overtake and smash any single isolated, over-stretched army in consecution, thus seizing the strategic initiative by mobility and rapidity. The incapability of the Allied army's coordination allowed Napoleon to take advantage of the counterpart's vulnerability and launch pre-emptive strikes for many times, turning the initially disadvantageous position into stalemale with a series of glaring tactical successes at Champaubert, Montmirail, Chateau-Thierry, Vauchamps, Mormant, Montereau in February 1814 and of driving Blucher away in early March 1814, just like holding the superior enemy force on his palm by forcing the latter react to his moves.

Gneisenau complained about Schwarzenberg's ponderous advance :

"We are still waging the war too much systematically."

Whereas, Schwarzenberg complained about the recklessness of the Schlesische Armee's advance :

“Blucher, and even more so Gneisenau….thrust on Paris with such a great and quite childish rage, and they trampled on all the rules of war. They run madly to Brienne without covering the highroad from Chalons to Nancy with a considerable crops. With worrying about their rear and flanks, they made plans only for fine parties in the Palais Royal, which is ridiculous at such an important moment.”

Blucher army's rash advances twice exposed himself to the wrath of Napoleon and thus suffered heavy defeats in two thrusting offensives onto Paris, his loss was especially much heavier in the Six Days' Campaign (10-15th February 1814).

However, Schwarzenberg's military talent was no much better. He was lack of military experience. Prior to his taking command of the Hauptarmee, he only had four-and-a-half months' experience of active command. His elevation to the commander-in-chief of the Coalition army was the result of political concession between the Allied states and trust from the Habsburg key figures Emperor Franz and Metternich, rather than his outstanding military command. Out of question, Schwarzenberg fought on the behalf of Habsburg, certainly would not wish the Austrian army suffering heavy casualties in the campaign. Therefore, he consistently adopted the slow-marching prudent approach, effectively rendering Napoleon much precious time for rallying and concentrating his troops to execute a string of offensive with momentum of mobility and rapidity. This was how Schwarzenberg's caution forging great advantage for Napoleon.

Napoleon's possible victory formula : military victory --> a bargain on negotiation table --> diplomatic success ?

All sorts of Allied army's deficiencies and weaknesses created much military advantage for Napoleon to re-negotiate with the Coalition powers. Schwarzenberg even once considered making peace in February 1814. Even on 15th March 1814 by which Napoleon's situation had deteriorated, Oberst-leutnant Clausewitz who accompanied the Nordarmee as an officer confided in a letter to his wife :

"Only Blucher’s bold courage and luck still leave a faint glimmer of hope….I am now very doubtful about the complete overthrow of Bonaparte. It is most probable that a peace will soon be made with him.”

This letter shed light to reality : the Allied generals might be not as confident as their overwhelmingly numerical advantage over counterparts, and were probably lack of confidence to the ultimate victory against Napoleon, revealing the "forlorn hope" of Napoleon that could change the tide. Yet regrettably Napoleon failed to achieve any decisive victory over the Hauptarmee, which was the real core of the Coalition army. Had he succeeded to do so, he might be able to deliver a crushing psychological blow upon the Coalition army and thus effectively shakened the Allied army's morale and determination. This was exactly why Napoleon failed to transform his brilliant victories on the battlefield into diplomatic success. His triumph of smashing the Schlesische Armee had inadequate impact to actually exerting tremendous pressure upon the Coalition monarchs, generals and statesmen to change their mind. Once Napoleon succeeded to reach the peace agreement with Habsburg, then the other Allied powers would be surely astounded with their confidence plummeted, questioning the possibility of the overthrown of Napoleon with much reduced available military power, triggering the further and larger internal discord and divergence among the Allied powers. Perhaps Napoleon would be able to survive the AD 1814 crisis in this scenario.

~ Next time, I'll analyze the Allied army's inefficient joint command structure ~
 
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pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
8,515
#22
Blucher army's rash advances twice exposed himself to the wrath of Napoleon and thus suffered heavy defeats in two thrusting offensives onto Paris, his loss was especially much heavier in the Six Days' Campaign (10-15th February 1814).
Blucher's Losses were completely replaced within a week. The "heavy losses" were totally ineffectual in changing the campaign.
 
#23
No I don't believe he could at all.

When you suffer not just the loss of a war but a war encapsulating the whole of a continent you immediately for the good of France to not risk occupation is to cede to the demands of your opponents.

There is more at stake here than Napoleon.

Firstly Napoleon was demanded to abdicate by the European powers because he represents a resistance and military hope for the French that they couldn't allow to act as a instigation for further war.
Second the people of France and the elite class would of had enough of Napoleon at this point so far as in his support base would of fallen through.

France needed peace to recover, Napoleon continuing would of been a threat to that recovery due to continued European aggression.
It was better to make peace and move on, not to mention Napoleon wasn't a rightful heir or king of France.
 
Jul 2018
496
Hong Kong
#25
Napoleon had to go because no-one trusted him. Put simply, take Napoleon out of the equation and you remove France as a potential military threat for the forseeable future. For as long as he was in charge, the rest of Europe had to be prepared to go to war at a moment's notice.
You're right. If it was Bernadotte rather than Napoleon took power in France in AD 1799, Europe would be surely exempted from numerous devastating wars in 1800s and 1810s.

Napoleon deserved his downfall. His way of European domination was ambitious to extremity.
On the contrary, I appeciate more about Karl Johann XIV (Bernadotte)'s "way of moderation".
The Swedes really chose a great monarch who could represent their welfare.

The Duke of Wellington ever commented : Bernadotte placed the national interest and honor over his personal interest, whereas Napoleon did the opposite. Not sure in what extent was this a fair evaluation.
 
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Feb 2016
4,227
Japan
#26
Bernadotte - proved to be a very intelligent and pragmatic King. Supporting Napoleon would have ended badly for Sweden with an Anglo-Russian naval blockade, invasion and eventual dismemberment. Staying neutral would have been a missed opportunity.

The Swedish army, while brave, was small and some what oldfashioned in appearance and drill. Of the allies it was the weakest militarily, it was best suited to small scale operations. Bernadotte was very frugal with the lives of his Swedish troops... some of his officers had to beg him to let them attack at Leipzig after watching Austrians, Russians and Prussians die while they wait.

He clearly put Sweden first, as was right as he was their king now, but this draws the ire of Boneys fan club.
 
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Jul 2018
496
Hong Kong
#28
Grotesquely, the Japanese Wikipedia's article about Bernadotte was far much detailed than the English one. I am translating now (from his career of becoming the crown prince to his death).

Poor Bernadotte, just at the first month he took the rein of Swedish affairs in AD 1810, Napoleon already "ordered" him to carry out continental blockade policy and declare war on Britain, acting like Sweden was his "vassal state" - feel like the God testing him whether was he truly qualified as a monarch.
 
May 2018
614
Michigan
#29
(b) Politics - no one could acceptt Napoleon remaining,.

As long as political will held , Napoleon was gone.
This is the major sticking point: the circumstances to which Europe would have accepted a Napoleonic regime as part of the "balance of power" would be extremely limited, particularly after Leipzig and Vitoria. If the Allies had not won at Vitoria, circumstances could have potentially been different by the time of Leipzig a few months later. But all of Europe was as set against Napoleon and the French Empire as much (if not more) as another group of Allies 130 years later would demand total victory to avoid the propagation of another "stab in the back" legend. They had already resisted Napoleon/the French Republic for over 20 years at this point, even after a few "Cannae" like losses to Napoleon.
 
May 2018
614
Michigan
#30
Bernadotte - proved to be a very intelligent and pragmatic King. Supporting Napoleon would have ended badly for Sweden with an Anglo-Russian naval blockade, invasion and eventual dismemberment. Staying neutral would have been a missed opportunity.

The Swedish army, while brave, was small and some what oldfashioned in appearance and drill. Of the allies it was the weakest militarily, it was best suited to small scale operations. Bernadotte was very frugal with the lives of his Swedish troops... some of his officers had to beg him to let them attack at Leipzig after watching Austrians, Russians and Prussians die while they wait.

He clearly put Sweden first, as was right as he was their king now, but this draws the ire of Boneys fan club.
Why does this draw the ire of Boney's fan club? Bonaparte formally relieved Bernadette of his duties/obligations to France, and when Napoleon tried to get Bernadette to agree to "never take up arms against France", Bernadette refused. But Napoleon still signed/agreed to Bernadette no longer having a "loyalty oath" to France, even without agreeing to "never take up arms against France." Given that Napoleon himself relieved Bernadette of any obligation of loyalty, its is difficult to justify Bernadette's actions as treason, or disloyalty to Napoleon. It would be like if Wellington discharged a soldier from his army, but then flogged him for not reporting to morning formation.

I think what the Boney fan club is more angry about is Bernadette's "questionable" conduct during Austerlitz.
 
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