Napoleon As a Military Commander

Mar 2014
54
Paris (France)
"No other man has sacrificed so many human victims to the god of war as did Napoleon I; no other man has sowed death broadcast on such a scale; no other commander ever cared less for his soldiers than he."

Bodart, G.

Well Bodart is clearly not the more objective person…

I disgree 12,000 troops who were sent to Garrison. Almost all of Eugene Effective field force was troops who were NOT in Russia. McDonald's northern force who did not suffer so much was in Danzig, and the Southern force, also not so heavily treated was not available.

I would not call Eugene defense "effeicent". He basically retired as the Russains advanced.

Napoleon's Last Campaign in Germany (Petrie) Page 32

"With the Remains of the Guard, the I, II, II, IV and VI (Bavarian) Corps he had some 12,000 worn out troops. As the mixed divsionof MacDonald's corps and Heudelet's "Divsion de marche", the only troops still worth anything had been thrown by Murat into Danzig mthe unfortunte Viceroy would have had preactically no army at all , but for the some 10,000 men of various nationalities gathered from "regiments de marche"".

Napoleon's Last Campaign in Germany (Petrie) Page 33

" As the ruins of the infantry of the I,II, III and IV corps were unfit for employment in the field , Eugene sent them respectiveky to garrison Stettin, Kustrin, Spandau and Glogau. The "cadres" set free bythe arrangement were sent back to Erfurt for use organising new units.
Eugene nwas now left with a few of these men whom he kept back , the remains of the Guard, two fresh battalions of Young Guard called up from Settin and the :detachments de marche" already mentiined some 12,000 in all,"

Napoleon's Last Campaign in Germany (Petrie) Page 34

"Between the 20th and 25th Janurary , Grenier's divsion (18,000) reached Berlin from Italy:"
He did command more than 12,000 men as he was the effective commander of all the force in eastern Germany. And he did regroup then dispatch them. (Under some advice from Napoleon, as his correspondence alledge it, even though these advices were usually too late due to the six days delay for the mails to arrive).

Eugène’s defense is seen as one of the best defense as he managed to delay an overwhelming russian forces without loosing too much, even if, for someone not really versed in military strategy, it can be seen as "retiring as the enemy advance"... In three months, the russian advanced only 500km westward, while the three previous months, they advanced 1200km.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,759
Well Bodart is clearly not the more objective person…
in your opinion.

He did command more than 12,000 men as he was the effective commander of all the force in eastern Germany. And he did regroup then dispatch them. (Under some advice from Napoleon, as his correspondence alledge it, even though these advices were usually too late due to the six days delay for the mails to arrive).
But not more than 12,000 who escaped from Russia, which was the point I was replying to, the 12,000 troops who did return from Russia under his command were not fit for atcive service and were sent to Garrison and not part of the defense of eastern Germany,

Eugène’s defense is seen as one of the best defense as he managed to delay an overwhelming russian forces without loosing too much, even if, for someone not really versed in military strategy, it can be seen as "retiring as the enemy advance"... In three months, the russian advanced only 500km westward, while the three previous months, they advanced 1200km.
Seen by who? Abstract appeal to vague authority, you want to source this authority. If it's just your opinion say so.

Petrie certinaly had poor opinion of Eugene (Napoleon;s last campaign in germany)
"Eugene's position was a diffault one, far too diffacult for a command of his very limited capacity" (page 32)
"But Eugene was certainly not even a capable General" (page 38)

And Napoleon certainly reproached Eugene for retiring too far too quickly. (Napoleon quoted writing to Eugene in Petrie)
" If, ... instead of retiring on Frankfort , you had concentrated in fornt of Kustrin, the enemey would have thought twice before throwing anything on to the left bank/ You would have gainted at least 20 days , and given time for the Corps of Observation of the Elbe to occupy Berlin" (page 36)
"Nothing coul dbe less milityary than the course you havetaken inposting your headquarters at Schonberg in rear of Berlin.... the enemy would have had to believe you wished to fight a battle. Then he would not have passed the Oder till had assmbled 60,000 or 80,000 men with serious intention of capturing Berlin; bit was still far from being able to do that,... You could have gained twenty days, which would have been very advnateous form a political, as well as from a military pint of view .... But from the day of which your headqarters were placed Berlin it was tantamont to saying you did not which to keep that city; you have thus abdndoned an attitude which it is the art of war to know how to preserve" (page 38)

Of course any Blame was with Napoleon's in this yet another appointment of family over military experience and ability. There were experinced and capable commanders avaialble.

What are we marking on curve. If he was not well versed in military strategy it was a another poor nepotistic appointment by Napoleon (really the great meritocracy of Napoleonic legend does not stand up to exminiation of the facts the worst Neoptisimitc appiontments of the period were Napoleon's Murat, Jerome, Eugene well at least Eugene did not abandon his command like the other two) The Russians advanced at will and denied the resources of germany to Napoleon rebuilding his forces. The lack of further advance was determined by the relative weakness of Russian forces rather than any great achievement by Eugene. The tussian had pursied the Napoleon and his dsitingergrating Grand Armee 1200 werein pretty poor shape, it was the depths of winter and they were beyond their regular supply lines. While Eugene had his problems the Russians were not without theirs. It took time to get teh vacillating Frederick Willaim on side and make supply arrangements with the Prussians.
 

nuclearguy165

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
4,842
Ohio, USA
Every major power in Europe was united against him and he still continued to win major victories as late as 1815.
Dresden, Six Days, and Ligny were certainly all impressive but they were hardly major or decisive. The defeats he suffered in 1812-15, such as The Retreat, the defeats of his lieutenants in 1813, Leipzig, Laon, the coalition capture of Paris and finally Waterloo were all more important and decisive.
 
Feb 2014
1,875
Kingdom of the Netherlands
Spain is another stain on his reputation, for a whole load of different reasons political and military.

So apart from 2 huge immense catastrophic collections of blunders ...............................................................

Charlemagne too had his moments - Spain for one, Vikings for another
Spain is indeed a stain, but I wouldn't necessarily class it as a personal military stain on Napoleon. For most of that war was conducted by his Marshalate. You could of course say 'well Napoleon handpicked these marshals didn't he?' Or 'didn't he minutely try to conduct the war from Paris'? While both remarks are true they do not constitute an argument for a personal military stain. Napoleon's own intervention in Spain was solid. He reduced the British presence to nothing more than a small nuisance and managed to pacify large parts of Spain. When he left Spain due to rumours in Paris and in the east he left his marshals in quite a comfortable position. Napoleon had little control over Soult's actions in Portugal for example which would eventually lead to a second British invasion of Spain and the slow decline of French prestige and influence.
 
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Feb 2014
1,875
Kingdom of the Netherlands
Dresden, Six Days, and Ligny were certainly all impressive but they were hardly major or decisive. The defeats he suffered in 1812-15, such as The Retreat, the defeats of his lieutenants in 1813, Leipzig, Laon, the coalition capture of Paris and finally Waterloo were all more important and decisive.
You don't consider Dresden as decisive? Schwarzenberg lost about 20% of his fighting strength that day. Napoleon nog even 10%.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,759
You don't consider Dresden as decisive? Schwarzenberg lost about 20% of his fighting strength that day. Napoleon nog even 10%.
Brilliant Victory but almost meaningless in the campaign as far as effect goes, teh Aftermath very very badly handled undid any good work. Napoleon failed to follow up, a veyr lareg army some what 160,000 or so slipped away unnoticed by the French, the French prusiat goes the Wrong way again. The Large Allied army is forced to seperate and retreat down pretty bad road with many bottlenecks, with Vandamme alrady pratically across their line of retreat. It was the third rolled gold opportunity that fell to Napoleon in 1813, and by far the biggest. And he fluffed it. Badly. the Actual Battle was one of very few good moments for Napoloen in 1813. In general he was very poor. How many opportunities can one man throw away with just bad generalship?

Napoleon fails to do any reconnaice early, a veyr lareg amry just disappears, the pursiut is misdirected, Vandamme is hang out to dry, and when the Garrison is left inside Dresden, Napoleon is substainnally down out of the whole exercise.