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"To stay or to search for reinforcement." Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse08 Aug 2011 5:02 p.m. PST

After the serious defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, he had tried to asembly his forces in vain, so he decided to run to Paris (leaving the task of asembly the French Army to Soult, Really and others)to search for reinforcements and to give battle again near Laon.
About that we can read on Houssaye account:
"It had been said that Napoleon "abandoned" his Army, as he had done in Egypt and Russia but Alas!. Napoleon had no Army left. Of Grouchy he knew nothing. He was supposed to be in great peril with Vandamme's and Gerard's Corps. Of the 74.000 combatants of Waterloo, probably 45.000 had retired safe and sound and had recrossed the Sambre, but more than three-fourths of this number were still scattered between Cambrai and Rocroi, straggling along the roads, singly or in smaill groups, bivouacking in the woods, taking refuge with the peasants, etc. On June 20th at the time Napoleon left Laon for Paris, there were 2.600 soldiers asembled at Philippeville and about 6.000 at Avesnes. THIS was the entire Army Napoleon left…"

First, it would be a interesting wargame about Napoleon asemblyng his forces at Laon and fighting against advance guard of Blūcher Army.?

Second, in your opinion, would be better to Napoleon to stay with his troops and continue fighting (waiting for Grouchy Army also)than run to Paris to consolide his political power?.
If he won a cuple of victories, who in Paris could made a stand against him?

Thanks in advance for your guidance.


50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick08 Aug 2011 5:43 p.m. PST

I suspect that the Parisians knew that the Austrians and Russians were on their way.

Fonzie08 Aug 2011 7:03 p.m. PST

It was over and he knew it. He did the right thing by stepping down.

Edwulf08 Aug 2011 7:12 p.m. PST

Well he messed up coming back in the first place. What's a couple of hundred more dead on top of his recent butchers bill. Didn't he have an army watching northern Italy somewhere?

Fonzie08 Aug 2011 9:42 p.m. PST

He had several armees d'observation and the Armee du Nord was still a force to be reckoned with under Davout, but in the end he could not win anymore. He was not the Napoleon of 1805 anymore.

Femeng209 Aug 2011 3:45 a.m. PST

Napoleon knew he could only rule as long as he brought victory. No victory, no empire. So he had to run to the British again. They were they only ones (including French) he knew would not kill him.

Edwulf09 Aug 2011 5:45 a.m. PST

Didn't fighting linger on until September? So there must have been a fair few troops willing to fight for him.

10th Marines11 Aug 2011 6:11 a.m. PST

Grouchy brought in 25,000 undefeated troops. Soult rallied about 30,000 from Nord.

Davout ended up having 117,000 in and around Paris and outnumbered Wellingtonn and Blucher separately and I would submit he was a better general than both.

The second abdication is an interesting event. Getting to Paris, Napoleon was urged by Davout, Carnot, and Lucien to dissolve the Chambers (the National Legislature) and continue the war. Fouche agains betrayed Napoleon and France, turning the Chambers against Napoleon, using Lafayette as a concenient catspaw in the process (Lafayette was used as a tool by Fouche and Talleyrand and then cast aside).

Force was all that remained, and even Davout advised against the use of force as the moment had passed, thanks to Fouche and Lafayette. He was urged by others to loose the Paris mob, fanatically loyal to Napoleon, on the Chambers, but Napoleon refused as it was dishonorable and he stated that 'I have not come back from Elba to have Paris run with blood.'

Napoleon again abdicated, but there was still considerable fighting in the environs of Paris. Suchet defeated Frimont along the Piedmontese border; Lecourbe expertly delayed Colloredo; Rapp perfomed his delay mission against Schwarzenberg expertly, Schwarzneberg having crossed the Rhine from 23-26 June. Lamarque had pacified the Vendee. Fouche worked hard to sabotage Davout's and Carnot's efforst at further resistance. Blucher was repulsed attempting to 'ascertain' how Paris was defended, and the cavalry brigade he dispatched to raid towards Versailles was intercepted and defeated by Exelmans.

An armistice was concluded on 4 July, and Louis, whom Wellington had brought back to Paris, disbanded the French army and France was thoroughly himiliated and plundered.


Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse11 Aug 2011 11:34 a.m. PST

Dear Kevin, many thanks for your explanations which are correct imho.
Do you consider that Napoleon could win if he remain at Laon or at least fought a retreat battle untill he unit with Grouchy?.


1234567811 Aug 2011 1:04 p.m. PST

Napoleon could not "win" in a strategic sense; he might have inflicted some reverses on the Anglo-Allied and Prussian armies but any sort of real victory was beyond what remained of the Imperial army. One also has to factor Napoleon himself into this; in 1815 he was a mere shadow of his former self and I suspect that he was no longer capable of the mental and physical activity what was required to turn the tide of the campaign.

Even if he had some success, the armies marching on France were so massive and so determined to get rid of him, that there is no way that Napoloen could have survived for very long.


reds2111 Aug 2011 2:36 p.m. PST

In the excellent Napoleonic Options – Alternative Decisions of the napoleonic wars (ed Johnathon North)the final chapter has an alternative ending to the waterloo campaign written by the wonderful John Elting. At Quatre Bras at nightfall on 18th june the arrival 7th infantry div, which did not take part in the days fighting, rouses the seemingly defeated Napoleon. He organises a defence, rallies his retreating troops inspring them as only he can, creates alarms and excursions which confuse tired prussians and sends orders to his marsahlls. Soult reverted to his old "iron hand" expertise in getting a defeated army ready to fight again. Grouchy on 19th june defeated Thielmann and marched to join the emperor now located between Frasnes and Charleroi. Elting has wellington say "he has humbugged me again" as his dispirited army retreats to brussels. Tallyrand in Vienna again does an about turn to rejoin Napoleon, the austrians decide to wait and see what happens next with the possibility of the emperor remembering who is his son in law. Lafayette responds to Davout's summons and Fouche is shot trying to flee Paris in disguise. A well written and well observed few pages from Colonel Elting.

1234567811 Aug 2011 11:04 p.m. PST

…….and a complete fantasy which completely ignores the state of the army and of Napoleon.

reds2112 Aug 2011 2:14 a.m. PST

Colin is that not the whole basis of "what ifs"?

1234567812 Aug 2011 2:57 a.m. PST

reds, it can be, but they should really be based on something reasonably possible.

WillieB Supporting Member of TMP12 Aug 2011 3:42 a.m. PST

Colin, Napoleon Bonaparte could have called up almost 2 MILLION reservists and conscripts in 1815. Admittedly these would have been in the main raw recruits, but then again that was also the case in 1792/3.

1234567812 Aug 2011 4:40 a.m. PST

Willie, "could have" being the key term there. Over what time scale, and how many would have rallied to the cause after a major defeat? Remember that most of the population of France, while not exactly enamoured of Louis, were not thrilled by the thought of continued war.

Politically, and probably militarily, Napoleon was finished after Waterloo. I would go so far as to argue that the whole escapade was finished once the Allies refused to accept him as the ruler of France on his return from Elba. Napoleon needed peace to consolidate his grip on France; for very good reasons, the Allies would never allow him that peace. Paradoxically, while needing peace, he also needed war to pay for the army and his plans; the Napoleonic state was a classic example of a robber baron state that needed to steal from other nations, and to an extent, from its own people, in order to survive.

WillieB Supporting Member of TMP12 Aug 2011 5:05 a.m. PST

You're probably right Colin, but I have absolutely no way of gauging how 'popular' a continuing war would be with the population. If they would have known or even guessed the humiliating terms afterwards, I'm not so sure anymore.

Popularity is a very fickle thing. While I don't want to equate it with literal support, sometimes it will produce very odd and even funny results.

Take the 'Centre des Visiteurs' in Waterloo for example.
Literally hundreds of busts of Mr Bonaparte on sale, not a single one of Wellesly or Blucher. And that is in Belgium, a country ' at war' with the Napoleon at the time. ;-)

1234567812 Aug 2011 5:22 a.m. PST

Willie, one way of attempting to measure the popularity is to look at how furloughed soldiers responded. Even the arch-Bonapartist Houssaye states that many of them resisted returning to arms and this is supported by many official reports of the time. As to the terms, they are somewhat irrelevant as, once Napoleon had admitted that it was over, there was nothing that anyone could do to prevent Louis returning and the imposition of the peace. Based on reading reports of the time, my view is that the French were very divided on how to view Napoleon's return. A minority were enthusiastic, many more were ambivalent as long as the "blood tax" did not return, and another minority were violently opposed. Most people just wanted to get on with their lives without their sons being dragged off to die in yet another battle.

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