La Grande Armée

Jun 2006
309
Virginia, United States
#1
It was one of the greatest armies that ever marched, and for years it took Europe by storm. They won at Ulm, Austerlitz, Jena, Auerstadt, Friedland, Somosierra, Wagram, Borodino, Dresden, and at a ton of other battlefields. Wikipedia has excellent coverage of this ferocious fighting machine, with everything from descriptions of the various units to the illustrious and decade-long history receiving ample attention. I encourage all to check it out.

[ame]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Grande_Armee[/ame]
 
#2
I have to say that it is very commendable for Napolean that he was able to field such a large army. It's not every day that an Emperor can conquer a land and then build an army out of its soldiers. Usually, they hate the conqueror for a while and don't want to join their armies. They usually fight at least a bit, but it seems here that they were willing to fight. Maybe it was because they were all going to fight Russia and especially Poland, they wanted to get some revenge against Russia because the borders were always changing. Eh?
 
Jun 2006
309
Virginia, United States
#3
Motivations for joining varied widely. As you mentioned, some did so voluntarily, but many were obviously forced into service. Napoleon's armies featured French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, and German troops, among many others, that did not really have a grudge against any other particular nation or ethnicity. The best soldiers in the Grand Army were obviously the French, but they were closely followed by the Italians, who did not really have any powerful focus or objective equivalent to the Polish against the Russians.
 
Jun 2006
309
Virginia, United States
#4
Time to bring this thread up with some pictures!



Banner of the 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment of Napoleon's Grenadier Guards from 1804.



Grognard of the Old Guard in 1813



Horse Grenadiers of the Guard riding in review, by Rousellot.



Le Chasseur de la Garde (Chasseur of the guard, often mistranslated as The Charging Chasseur), 1812 by Géricault.



Banner of the Grenadier A Pied regiment, c. 1812, showing their battle honors.



Polish Lancers of the Guard on parade.
 

Belisarius

Forum Staff
Jun 2006
10,359
U.K.
#7
UberCryxic said:
It was one of the greatest armies that ever marched, and for years it took Europe by storm. They won at Ulm, Austerlitz, Jena, Auerstadt, Friedland, Somosierra, Wagram, Borodino, Dresden, and at a ton of other battlefields. Wikipedia has excellent coverage of this ferocious fighting machine, with everything from descriptions of the various units to the illustrious and decade-long history receiving ample attention. I encourage all to check it out.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Grande_Armee
I was going to quibble that the Grande Armee was only "formidable" from about 1805 to 1807, and then declined, but I note you've already had that argument elsewhere. :wink:
 
Jun 2006
309
Virginia, United States
#8
Haha!

That argument specifically concerned the vaguely defined "glory years," not whether the army remained formidable (of course it did, at least until 1812, although obviously they never retained or equalled their performances from 1805 to 1807). Tactically speaking, they retained a marked superiority until 1812. After that, battles developed more like slugfests than anything else, colorful language aside....
 

Belisarius

Forum Staff
Jun 2006
10,359
U.K.
#9
UberCryxic said:
Haha!

That argument specifically concerned the vaguely defined "glory years," not whether the army remained formidable (of course it did, at least until 1812, although obviously they never retained or equalled their performances from 1805 to 1807). Tactically speaking, they retained a marked superiority until 1812. After that, battles developed more like slugfests than anything else, colorful language aside....
Maybe after 1812, Napoleon's enemies finaly got to grips with how to deal with him. The British only ever fought him twice, but they were generally tactically superior to the French army throughout the period.
 
Jun 2006
309
Virginia, United States
#10
Belisarius said:
UberCryxic said:
Haha!

That argument specifically concerned the vaguely defined "glory years," not whether the army remained formidable (of course it did, at least until 1812, although obviously they never retained or equalled their performances from 1805 to 1807). Tactically speaking, they retained a marked superiority until 1812. After that, battles developed more like slugfests than anything else, colorful language aside....
Maybe after 1812, Napoleon's enemies finaly got to grips with how to deal with him. The British only ever fought him twice, but they were generally tactically superior to the French army throughout the period.
Not from 1805 to 1807 (certainly not), and also not in the late years of the Revolution. British triumphs in Iberia were due as much to the tough strategic situation the French were in (having to fight the British, Spanish guerrillas, and Spanish regular armies) as to tactical innovations. I also really doubt the British were tactically superior to the main body regiments of the Grand Army from 1805-1809 (and maybe even 1812). The 10th Legere and the 57th Ligne proved why they were among the best units in the world at Wagram, nearly winning the battle in the first few hours before the attack petered out. French skirmishing and volley exchanges around the Gemeinde Au woods at Aspern also proved they still had a marked superiority over their opponents.

"Maybe after 1812, Napoleon's enemies finaly got to grips with how to deal with him."

The classic explanation for his defeat is copied from Clausewitz: numbers. He was simply too heavily outnumbered in the 1813 German Campaign. Historians have since gone on to talk about how the Allies adopted to Napoleonic strategy (ie. Trachenburg Plan) quite successfully, but the prime reason for his defeat still remains numbers, especially at Leipzig, when both sides were almost dead even in tactical competence.
 

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