Napoleon As a Military Commander

Feb 2019
846
Serbia
I'm aware there have been similar threads before but I want to see what people think now.

What is your assesment of Napoleon as a military commander? This includes his military campaigns, battles, army organisation, strategy, treatment of his men etc. Furhtermore, what do you think were his greatest and worst performances.
 
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May 2018
856
Michigan
I like the caveat in this thread "as a military commander."

As a military commander, Napoleon was among the best, but not as good as many believe. He made two massive strategic blunders in Spain and Russia, but won some resounding tactical victories and campaigns.

As a military commander, i'd give him an A-. As a human being, C+. As a national leader/emperor...lets just say he dropped that class by failing to attend.
 
Mar 2018
786
UK
What is your assesment of Napoleon as a military commander? This includes his military campaigns, battles, army organisation, strategy, treatment of his men etc. Furhtermore, what do you think were his greatest and worst performances.
As a military commander as you defined it, one of the all time greats. Possibly the greatest, to the extent that comparisons between widely different periods are meaningful. Deciding to attack Iberia/Russia is IMO a Political mistake that he made as Emperor, not a military one he made as a Commander. Of course, the dividing line is rather subjective on this.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,477
One of the most sucessful commanders of all time, he had great strengths but also great weaknesses. Often unobjective seeingtings as he wanted things to be, and making decsions on the bais of ego than objetcive military need, his weaknesses were much less apparent in his early career where his armies were much better the the opposition, with some very good sub commanders, and he egnerally out numbered the opposition. If that context his optimism tended to pay off. IN his later career when he was under pressure his flaws were more apparant and costly.

Tactics - (? C?) Very little evidence that he ever took effective tactical control of a battle. Napoloen come in as an Amry commander without any real experince leading troops in battle, not a battalion, a regiment, a brigade or division. He had very effetcive and experinced divsion commanders from the start. He seems to have been happy enough to run batttles form the rear, dealing in broad strokes leaving the divsion commanders to run their own show.

Strategy - (C) Not a strong piont, whenever the campaign was not just two armies rushing towards each other he struggled to be effective. His strategic judgement was highly questionable as he tended to be unobjective.

Logistsics. - (D) just poor. Motsly as a matter of ploicy, that pushing men and troops could lead to short term success. Successful in short campaigns in central Europe. pretty awful outside that context. Never seemed to graped the importance.

Operational Maneuver - (A+) Great Strength, Napoleon understood the implications of the Corps/Division system and how that could be used in opertaions. This is the core of most of his sucess and improtance.

Organization - (A) Great Strength - a great ability to organize things, not flawless asteh acavlry corps in Russia shows.

Man management (Generals) - (D) promoted Generals on family relations and favoruitism, leaidng to poor commanders in vital roles, tolerated repeated poor performance, encouraged sqaubbling and never defined clear chain of command leading to confusion and lack of clear authority.

Man Management (Troops) - (A) one of the great manipulators of his men's morale. He knew how to motivate the troops. They generally loved him.

Care of Troops - Poor. (E) uncaring.
 
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Sep 2015
363
The Eastern Hinterlands
I'm aware there have been similar threads before but I want to see what people think now.

What is your assesment of Napoleon as a military commander? This includes his military campaigns, battles, army organisation, strategy, treatment of his men etc. Furhtermore, what do you think were his greatest and worst performances.
Definitely one of the greatest, arguably the greatest. It's amazing that a commander with such grievous losses could still be considered among the best. He was that great.

He was a groundbreaker in that he was far ahead of the other military leaders of the time in waging war. Not so much an innovator but someone who jumpstarted the art of war to the extent that his opponents had to learn from him and ally with each other in order to defeat him.

I'd say his greatest accomplishment was the Austerlitz campaign, it truly is brilliant and a pinnacle in military history. For me his biggest blunder military and political wise was his refusal to concede his empire in the days leading to Waterloo when the allies graciously offered him France and freedom in exchange for his empire. His pigheaded refusal and determination to fight on led to his doom.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,477
Definitely one of the greatest, arguably the greatest. It's amazing that a commander with such grievous losses could still be considered among the best. He was that great.

He was a groundbreaker in that he was far ahead of the other military leaders of the time in waging war. Not so much an innovator but someone who jumpstarted the art of war to the extent that his opponents had to learn from him and ally with each other in order to defeat him.

I'd say his greatest accomplishment was the Austerlitz campaign, it truly is brilliant and a pinnacle in military history. For me his biggest blunder military and political wise was his refusal to concede his empire in the days leading to Waterloo when the allies graciously offered him France and freedom in exchange for his empire. His pigheaded refusal and determination to fight on led to his doom.
The Allies did not offer Napoloen France and Freedom in the days leading to Waterloo.

There was a offer along those lines in 1813.
 
Mar 2014
43
Paris (France)
Tactics - (? C?) Very little evidence that he ever took effective tactical control of a battle. Napoloen come in as an Amry commander without any real experince leading troops in battle, not a battalion, a regiment, a brigade or division. He had very effetcive and experinced divsion commanders from the start. He seems to have been happy enough to run batttles form the rear, dealing in broad strokes leaving the divsion commanders to run their own show.
I think you are quite unfair with this judgment : during the siege of toulon, he took a bayonet hit in the thigh. During the battle of Arcole, he almost drowned and he took a bullet at Ratisbonne.

Logistsics. - (D) just poor. Motsly as a matter of ploicy, that pushing men and troops could lead to short term success. Successful in short campaigns in central Europe. pretty awful outside that context. Never seemed to graped the importance.
On the contrary, he was quite in advance on this subject on comparison with his pairs : he took great efforts to have sufficient ammunition, wine, horses, etc. I can’t remember a battle where his troops were out of ammo while his opponent were not, and if it happenned, it was rare.

Care of Troops - Poor. (E) uncaring.
Given the epoch, I don’t see why you think that. He was seen crying after a lot of battlefield. And his medical staff took care of allys and foes in the same way. He did make some frontal charges on some occasion, but it was not the norm.
 
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Oct 2017
110
South Australia
As a military commander, i'd give him an A-. As a human being, C+. As a national leader/emperor...lets just say he dropped that class by failing to attend.
Id switch human being and leader/emperor.

It depends on whether we are judging his leadership on how skilled he was as a political leader in terms of building a strong nation, or on how well he treated his people.

In terms of skill, he was actually highly proficient - introduced the Napoleonic Code (which influences law to this day), created a meritocracy to replace the aristocracy, promoted the ideals of the Revolution - so in that respect Id give him an A.

But in terms of how well he treated his people, he was obviously somewhat tyrannical, restricting the press etc., so he probably gets a D grade there.

However, I'd file his tyranny under the heading of what he was like as a human being to distinguish between these categories of skill and fairness as a leader.
Obviously when you take into consideration both his tyranny and disagreeable personality, he would definitely get a fail grade as a human being.