The Rise of Napoleon

Some Of the features Of modern warfare ere already present in Frederick the Greatest day-?standing professional armies, an educated officer corps, modern ranks, and standardized regimental formations funded by the bureaucratic state. By 181 5 many other organizational features had been developed for western European armies that made them essentially similar in function and concept to armies today. Most of the major organizational features of modern armies had emerged by 1815. Few have emerged since.

Let us consider what these amazing, rapidly evolved changes were. The French Revolution, 1789-?91, transformed armies room being dynastic, private armies, as they had been in Frederick’s day, to being national, public armies. All French regiments ceased to be the private property of monarchs and regimental colonels and became the property of the nation. All citizens were eligible for all ranks in careers open to talent. All funds, orders, and regulations were now to come from the people’s elected representatives and from them only.

In sum, the army no longer served the king; it served the nation. The impact of these changes was colossal. Since the army now served the nation, unprecedented resources, funds, and troops lowed reliably into the army. Moreover, soldiers at all levels considered the army as their own and were more loyal to it. Ideological loyalties to the nation and to the army that served it, almost nonexistent in Frederick’s day, were suddenly heightened. Democracy was the ultimate force multiplier.

With a new abundance of resources, forces grew rapidly, from 1 80,000 troops in the Bourbon armies of 1 789 to over a million by 1794. The fabulous new resources not only permitted a fabulous new organization; they absolutely required it. How were the nation’s leaders to efficiently deploy-?and apply-?over one million troops dispersed in theaters hundreds of miles apart? It was a question that had never been asked before because such resources had never existed before. It was not a hypothetical question; the survival Of the French nation urgently depended on its leaders finding an answer.

The answer, needless to say-?an answer that is still very much with us-?was modern strategic organization: a system that was fully nationally funded, that enjoyed multilevel staffing and planning, and in which many specialized agencies were coordinated to serve one shared national purpose. In sum, this was a system that depended on centralized command and decentralized execution. The French Revolution invented modern strategic organization. What does this mean? In Frederick’s army fifteen regiments lined up abreast, commanded by the monarch.

The regiment (or sometimes one of the two fire battalions that composed a regiment) was the only maneuver unit. There was no military organization except regimental organization (and, of course, some provisions made in the royal state to accommodate regimental organization). All this changed rapidly between 1789 and 1804. New standard formations emerged above the regiment: brigade, H AURA_87 division, corps, army. Each of these echelons had its own commander and staff and all the diverse resources needed for its mission.

The corps contained all three arms and, although now a standard formation, was fairly similar in both size and composition to one of Frederick’s ad hoc field armies. Multilevel staffing, plus self-sufficiency, plus loyal personnel at all levels profoundly increased the possibilities for command and control. Napoleon’s intention, expressed in a few words, would now mobile a corps of 30,000 roofs, working in autonomous and complex ways at several levels and relying on their own best judgment and experience for the common strategic purpose.

The upshot was that Napoleon could control seven corps on the field more easily than Frederick could control one. Napoleon, invading Russia in 1812, added one more echelon, the army group, whereby one commander controlled a half million troops. Formations of this scale would only rarely be exceeded in modern times. When they have been exceeded, in Russia in 1941 to 1 945 for example, this has happened through each side merely adding an echelon or two, but still relying on essentially the same Napoleonic principles of self-sufficient, multi-echelon organization.

Mufti-echelon strategic organization, something we take for granted in modern armies, emerged rapidly between 1789 and 1815. In its basic concept at least modern military organization has not changed much. Some other major institutional innovations were adopted by modern ground forces between 1815 and 1 914, namely the general staff, the hierarchy of professional military schools, and the short-service rotational training army. These remarkable inventions, too, first were developed between 1 789 and 181 5, not by the French but by the Prussian army as it tried to cope with the enormity of the French challenge.

Basic modern military organization at the company level and above was invented between 1 789 and 1815 and has not changed fundamentally since. In the history of modern war, modern strategic organization has spread steadily since 181 5, first among the Western powers, and eventually among scores of non-Western powers around the world. Almost all of the basic methods resorted to in this proliferation were already understood and employed in Napoleonic warfare by 1 81 5, however.

There have been several revolutions in technology and tactics since 1815, and these will no doubt continue, but even these enormous tactical changes seem not to have affected the basic principles of military organization much, especially at company level and above. Since 1 81 5 there has been an abundant dissemination and refinement of the principles of modern military organization, but it is difficult to find any truly new principle that has emerged since 1815.

In any case the new F-ranch military organization of the sass, new in its lattice purpose and new in its fundamental structure, that came out of the French Revolution offered Napoleon a superb instrument. Prior to 1 812 strategically organized national armies gave Napoleon a decisive advantage over his adversaries because his adversaries did not have such an army. Napoleon used this lever to the maximum to impose his will on other powers from 1 805 to 1812.

His diplomacy, which required absolute compliance, was enforced by armies that achieved quick, overwhelming victories at Austerity (against Austria and Russia, 1805), at Jean, (against Prussia, 1806), and at Fairyland (against Russia, 1807). Napoleon was an effective operator of the new strategic force, adept at motivating both individuals and units, at deploying his forces, and at logistical support. He was probably the model for Classicist’s military “genius. ” Unique possession of a categorically superior force allowed Napoleon to impose a startlingly dynamic new diplomacy, albeit only for a few years. Napoleon had lost his decisive advantage by 1813 because his adversaries had begun using the same methods Napoleon had taught them in the hardest of schools. ) Let us consider what the new ways meant at lower levels f implementation. In fact, the new kind of force would make for more effective performance at every level. For strategic approach, Napoleon was able to use the battalion care’, a formation whereby different corps moved forward abreast along parallel HARRY-88 roads flung across a 120-mile front. Foes could not easily maneuver out of the way of this advancing Emilee front.

This system allowed Napoleon to do something F-redbrick’s armies could never do-?to force engagement. Once in the vicinity of the opposing force, Napoleon used the principle of concentration and mass to overwhelm his adversary. The essence Of this method was to use the bulk of his own force to destroy isolated parts of the enemy force before they could unite. This required superior mobility and agility, which, of course, Napoleon had. Napoleon’s skill at this aspect of warfare was probably unmatched while he was at his height. We will examine the classical principles of Napoleonic warfare more systematically in a subsequent lesson on the Napoleonic theorist Antoine De Join. ) Once battle was engaged, Napoleon had the benefit of two new tactical formations developed by revolutionary armies in 1792 to 1794. One of these was the use of skirmishers. A company of troops would be deployed forward to fire individually from cover on the formed-up enemy line. In the revolutionary armies, any troops could be trusted to do this. In Frederic? Armies, infantry asked to do this would often go to ground or abscond. The other revolutionary formation Napoleon incorporated was the assault column. Revolutionary armies, short on training but long on manpower, assaulted in a mass formation rather than in line. Napoleon retained this assault column capability and often used it to advantage. Napoleon, once engaged, liked to extend his lines until the enemy had all his assets engaged. Then Napoleon would attack a flank, forcing his adversary to thin his line somewhere to assemble the force needed to repel the flank attack.

Napoleon would then drive a he’. Y force, the force De rupture, through the part of the enemy line that had been thinned, which was usually the part of the line closest to the attacked flank. Napoleon, an artillerist and a master of combined arms, also used sequenced attacks by different arms to break a line. He attacked with heavy cavalry, compelling the enemy to draw is line into squares. Once this was done, Napoleon would pull the cavalry back and send artillery or infantry forward to pound the compact formations with fire.

The squares then had to open back out into line to bring their full firepower to bear on the advancing Napoleonic artillery or infantry. Napoleon repeated this exercise until a gap appeared in the enemy line, which prompted him to dispatch, again, the force De rupture. Use of combined arms in this aggressive way, using closely sequenced attacks, was new on the Napoleonic battlefield, and prior to 1813 only Napoleon’s armies could execute such attacks. Napoleonic methods represented the ultimate development of musket-line warfare. The use of loyal national armies gave Napoleon important logistical advantages over his adversaries.

Four hundred officers on the staff of Napoleon’s Grandee Arme guaranteed that the distribution of supplies was well organized. Also important, however, was the fact that patriotic troops and officers were willing to live lean and did not need much supply. In the still dynastic armies of his adversaries, both aristocratic officers and mercenary troops were reluctant to campaign thou the comforts of abundant supply. Moreover, Napoleon’s patriotic troops could live off the land. They could be trusted to disperse, forage, and return to their regiments.

Dynastic troops were generally not allowed to disperse and forage because often they did not return. This meant Napoleon could always move faster than his enemies. He could catch them and threaten to cut their lines without worrying too much about their threatening his. In the strategic approach, the operational approach, the engagement, and even in logistics, Napoleon’s officers developed dynamic new methods that kook advantage of the opportunities offered by the amazing new force that was at their disposal, new methods that gave them a decisive advantage over their adversaries.

The new force and the new methods are the subject of this lesson. Both may be seen at their best in the most famous of Napoleon’s victories, Austerity. HARRY-89 We cannot successfully study the phenomenon of Napoleonic warfare without also devoting some attention to Napoleon as an individual person. Napoleon was born in 1769 in Corsica. His father was a notary and minor noble in the capital city of Acacia. In 1 779, Napoleon began study at the royal litany academy in Brine, and in 1 784 transferred to the Cole Military in Paris.

He graduated a year early because his father had died and his family urgently needed his lieutenants pay, meager though it was. As an artillery officer, Napoleon served 1788-1789 as the captain of the experimental company of the Artillery School in Exxon. Napoleon read voraciously at this time about politics, history, warfare, and much else, in the well-stocked library of the Artillery’ School. Later in life Napoleon said, “there was nothing knew at the end that I did not know at the beginning.

Napoleon was sympathetic to the Revolution when it broke out in 1789 and spent time on leave in Acacia trying to gain support for the Revolution locally. In July 1793, Napoleon joined the French force investing Talon, a port city in revolt and allied with the English. Napoleon, as the artillery commander of this force, seized Fort Gillette, which allowed control of the harbors entrance by artillery, forcing the English to withdraw and the city to capitulate.