Has any country in the world ever assembled a more talented military high command than the French did in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars?

Mar 2016
1,106
Australia
#1
The more I read about how brilliant many of the generals of this era were, the more I'm starting to believe this. I'm sure that if it wasn't for Napoleon's reputation towering above everyone else's at the time, more of his marshals would be remembered as great generals in their own right, and not just great subordinates to an even greater commander.
 
Likes: Futurist

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,051
#3
The more I read about how brilliant many of the generals of this era were,.
There were not many brilliant generals just a very small number, birllant , is pushing it a gretaer number of good commanders. The French were better lead, though to some extent it was exceptionally poor leadership of some other nations, more there leadership falling to a new low. The ruthless replacement of commanders during the revolution, promoted a generation of aggressive, risk takers with eye to personal gain. The extreme age of Austrian and Prussian commanders was notable. The biggest difference was agression and embracing of new ideas which had been around the french army for some time. Numbers certialy helped and generally favoured the French, the revolutionary army in particular was built on large numerical advantages.

Doctrinem, Orgainistion, Numbers, Incompdenece, Divided Coalitions were all factors as well.


the more I'm starting to believe this. I'm sure that if it wasn't for Napoleon's reputation towering above everyone else's at the time
repurtation. actuall talent is another thing entirely.


more of his marshals would be remembered as great generals in their own right, and not just great subordinates to an even greater commander
Many of them had serious short comings as well.
 
Nov 2010
7,580
Cornwall
#4
The more I read about how brilliant many of the generals of this era were, the more I'm starting to believe this. I'm sure that if it wasn't for Napoleon's reputation towering above everyone else's at the time, more of his marshals would be remembered as great generals in their own right, and not just great subordinates to an even greater commander.
Most of them would never have been Marshals. Partly because there wouldn't be so many wars and partly because Napoleon's choices were part political, part family and spurious


Most of his marshals could not lead campaigns independently.
.
Indeed - for the sake of discussion maybe:

Davout, Soult, Suchet, Massena (Lannes?)
 
Feb 2016
4,342
Japan
#6
Davout certainly.
Lannes possibly.

But the rest were not that special. Certainly not brilliant and beneath the Wellingtons and Suvarovs.

Bernadotte was probably one of the strongest.
Bertier was a first rate administrator and logistician but fairly average field commander.
Grouchy was an excellent cavalry commander. Possible promoted too high.
Ney has his moments, but his fair share of blunders.
Murat should never have been put in charge of anything higher than a division.
Massena and Soult knew their business but were found wanting in independent commands.

The rest were pretty average. Did well with Napoleon, less so alone. Several were clearly out of their depth as corps commanders.
 
Likes: macon
Jul 2018
497
Hong Kong
#8
How about the Prussian "Waterloo Four Generals" (Zieten, Pirch, Thleimann, Bulow) ?
How about the Prussian "Four Great Staff-Officer" (Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Muffling, Grolman) ?
How about the other Prussian general worthy for mention such as Yorck and Kleist ?

They were certainly as great as many brilliant French generals and officers in comparison, just overshadowed by the prestigious Napoleonic Empire which always made us feel that the French commanders / officers looked more able than the coalition counterpart, though this is very true in the Order of the AD 1806 Jena-Auerstadt Campaign — numerous "outdated" and "incompetent" generals were easily outclassed by numerous more energetic and experienced French generals (Bernadotted was not in the list, though, his critical mistake almost costed a French defeat at Auerstadt — luckily there was a top-class general Davout and his equally awesome three divisional commanders Morant, Friant, Gudin in charge).
 
Sep 2013
411
France
#9
They were so brilliant they led France to utter defeat.
Which war are you talking about ? 1st coalition ? 2nd ? Thrird? Fourth ?
Taking Moscow would not have been possible with incompetent generals... And until Waterloo I tend to think that the most famous are well beyond average. Even Soult, who failed against Wellington, can hardly be considered as an incompetent general. So to speak about Ney, Davout, Lannes, Desaix as bad generals because Napoleon refuse to make peace after the russian retreat...
I tend to think that more than their talent, it's often their personality that helped make them famous... this, and of course the fact that they take part in one of the biggest military epopee of all time. Just think about Murat and such young and flamboyant generals...
 

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