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Seroga Inactive Member23 Jun 2012 6:16 p.m. PST

While looking at something else, I noticed that the French and Allied infantry divisions of 1812 varied quite a bit in size. Russian infantry divisions were standardized, which I would think would be more efficient for logistics, for planning, etc. Why would variation be useful? Why have divisional headquaters for as few as 6 or 9 battalions ? Why have as many as 18 or 22 battalions controlled by the same level of command?

Ignoring the old Austrian 3-lbers added as battalion guns, French and Allied infantry divisions really did not have very many guns per battalion, except in the garde (no surprise there) and some of the German-speaking divisions.

For the French, Polish and Italian army units, the average division was 15.5 battalions and 13 guns and howitzers, or less than 1 piece per battalion. For German-speaking units, the average division was 13 battalions and 19.5 guns and howitzers, or 1.5 pieces per battalion. For garde divisions, the average is 8.5 battalions with 21 guns and howitzers, a ratio of 2.5 pieces per battalion.

For comparison, the bog-standard Russian infantry division was 12 battalions and 24 or 36 guns (depending on whether you count the heavy battery), or 2 or 3 pieces per battalion.

So, why did the French field so little artillery? If 1.5-2.5 guns per battalion was good for the garde, the German-speaking units and the enemy, why not build all the divisions that way?

Following is a list of the French and Allied divisions, showing the variation.


1er division de la garde : 8 battalions, 8 guns
2e division de la garde : 10 battalions, 16 guns and howitzers
3e division de la garde : 10 battalions, 40 guns and howitzers
garde westphalienne (24e division) : 6 battalions, 20 guns and howitzers
1er division : 17 battalions, 14 guns and howitzers
2e division : 17 battalions, 14 guns and howitzers
3e division : 18 battalions, 14 guns and howitzers
4e division : 16 battalions, 14 guns and howitzers
5e division : 22 battalions, 14 guns and howitzers
6e division : 16 battalions, 14 guns and howitzers
7e division (polonais) : 16 battalions, 12 guns and howitzers
8e division : 16 battalions, 14 guns and howitzers
9e division : 16 battalions, 14 guns and howitzers
10e division : 16 battalions, 14 guns and howitzers
11e division : 18 battalions, 14 guns and howitzers
12e division : 17 battalions, 14 guns and howitzers
13e division : 16 battalions, 14 guns and howitzers
14e division : 16 battalions, 14 guns and howitzers
15e division (italien) : 16 battalions, 14 guns and howitzers
16e division (polonais) : 12 battalions, 12 guns and howitzers
17e division (polonais) : 12 battalions, 12 guns and howitzers
18e division (polonais) : 9 battalions, 12 guns and howitzers
19e division (bavarois) : 13 battalions, 28 guns and howitzers
20e division (bavarois) : 15 battalions, 28 guns and howitzers
21e division (saxon) : 9 battalions, 6 guns and howitzers
22e division (saxon) : 9 battalions, 6 guns and howitzers
23e division (westphalien) : 12 battalions, 6 guns and howitzers
25e division (wurtembergeois) : 12 battalions, 18 guns and howitzers
26e division (conféderation du Rhin) : 16 battalions, 28 guns and howitzers
27e division (prussien) : 20 battalions, 36 guns and howitzers
28e division (polonais) + légion de la Vistule : 12 battalions, 6 guns and howitzers

Aapsych2023 Jun 2012 7:11 p.m. PST

Perhaps because the French had a large centralised artillery reserve, as at Borodino, as well as corps-level artillery?

Spreewaldgurken Inactive Member23 Jun 2012 7:15 p.m. PST

The French divisions were in fact fairly standardized in size, at least at the outset of the campaign. The differences largely come when the allied states are added. Those OBs are subject to the idiosyncrasies of those armies.

This is also an Infantry thing. Napoleon was more willing, for whatever reason, to scramble up the cavalry in 1812 to get more balanced units, regardless of national origin. Thus we get cavalry corps with French, Saxon, Westphalian, Polish, Bavarian, etc., etc. regiments. But infantry corps that are more easily identifiable as "national."

TMPWargamerabbit23 Jun 2012 8:42 p.m. PST

One thing I have learned about the Napoleonic wars. There is no such thing as a "standardized" division. Even the British peninsular army had changes, additions and subtraction during a campaign.

Once you leave the opening campaign OOB, even the Russians start to have unusual divisional OOB. A quick glance at some of Nafziger's 1812 OOB lists shows divisions with only one Jaeger regt, line regiment with single battalions, depot and converged battalions.

Then we have the issues of varied battalion march strength, battery cannon organizations, detached from march garrisons, horse wastage etc. to add in some flavor.

WR

Seroga Inactive Member23 Jun 2012 9:41 p.m. PST

@Aapsych20

Actually, the Russians also had reserve artilley brigades, in addition to the 1 artillery brigade per division.

But even assuming all of the heavy companies of the divisional artillery brigades were taken into control of higher headquarters, we still have organic artillery at the ratio of 2 guns per battalion for the Russian infantry divisions, compared to less than 1 gun per battalion for the French army units.

=================================

@Oh Dear ….

Well, yea and no.
Even if we don't mix by nations in the infantry, why do we have 2 small saxon divisions of 9 battalions instead of 1 at about the semi-standard 16-18 battalions? Or 61 Polish battalions spread over 5 divisions and a "légion", as opposed to 4 divisions with the 15-16 battalions each? Or why the variation among the divisions of the Ier corps?


=================================

@TMPWargamerabbit

Changes after the campaign got going effected both sides, surely. But the question was : why start with non-standardized units?

As for the the order of battle for a particular action, you would need to know some of the details to determine where the various sub-units were.

For example, after losses through Borodino, there was consolidation in the Russian forces, to leave relatively strong units in the field and send cadres back to collect new troops from the depots. This didn't really change the divisional organization.

For another example, the 3rd Reserve Observation Army broke itself into several mixed detachments of various sizes, to cover its wide area of operations. Administrately, it kept to its more standardized regiment/division structure.

Personal logo Streitax Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2012 10:21 p.m. PST

Perhaps he concentrated his forces with his best commanders.

10th Marines Inactive Member24 Jun 2012 2:41 a.m. PST

The Russian army was artillery-heavy. There were more Russian artillery at Borodino than there were French. The question would be which was more efficiently employed and handled.

As to a 'standard' division, I don't believe you'll find one in the Grande Armee. Further, by 1812 units had grown larger. French regiments in 1812 could be as large as a division was in the Army of Italy in 1796. That's why Napoleon added the regimental cannon companies in 1811 to give the infantry regimental commanders the ability to operate independently if necessary with their own organic artillery support. According to the very competent General Merle in II Corps, the regimental cannon companies were more a nuisance than a help.

Bottom line on artillery strengths, I do believe the Grande Armee had 'enough' artillery in Russia. That was never an issue. And the French artillery organization which included both corps and army artillery reserves, worked well as it was designed to do.

Sincerely,
K

Ligniere Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Jun 2012 4:02 a.m. PST

The various allied contingents tended to have different regimental organizations, and different ratios of light and heavy [line] infantry within brigades or divisions, compared to the French brigades and divisions.

Even 'national' French infantry regiments could differ in composition. Those in I Corps tended to have five adiminstrative battalions, whilst those in II, III and IV had four, and in some cases three. Some of the recent Dutch and northern German States forces that had been absorbed into the French 'national' forces, only fielded two or three battalions. When you combine these collectively into divisions and corps, the organizations will vary wildly.

The cavalry regiments tended to be more consistent in organization, based around three or four field squadrons. The size of those squadrons could vary widely, particularly at the outset of the campaign. With French squadrons tending to be on higher establishment strengths.

10th Marines Inactive Member24 Jun 2012 7:45 a.m. PST

What is an 'administrative battalion'?

Sincerely,
K

Ligniere Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Jun 2012 8:11 a.m. PST

What is an 'administrative battalion'?

Field or war battalion.

Fredloan24 Jun 2012 8:26 a.m. PST

I notice that French allied regiments are fairly standard at 2 bns while the French national regiments were 3-4 bns sometimes 5 bns. So if they are organizing by nationality the infantry then there is the difference in division size. Artillery, well for instance the Bavarians always had a ton of guns and they kept them on the divisional level, no real reserves except the 1809 Campaign but then they were part of a reserve division.

Fredloan24 Jun 2012 8:27 a.m. PST

Ligniere said it better

Seroga Inactive Member24 Jun 2012 9:54 a.m. PST

"I do believe the Grande Armee had 'enough' artillery in Russia"
If less than 1 piece per battalion (not counting the 3-lbers) was "enough" for the Army, why was the Garde provided with 2.5 pieces per battalion? Does that mean they had more than 2.5 times "enough"?
It seems a great difference.

"The Russian army was artillery-heavy"
The Russians usually deployed 2 guns per battalion with the infantry divisions (the heavy batteries were collected by higher level formations). Does this mean, with a ratio of 2.5 pieces per battalion, that the French Garde was also "artillery-heavy"?

10th Marines Inactive Member24 Jun 2012 10:16 a.m. PST

The Imperial Guard artillery was also the army reserve artillery which was why Napoleon began building it up in 1808 with the founding of the Foot Artillery Regiment of the Imperial Guard.

French artillery was not employed to support per battalion but would support by division. Then there was the corps artillery reserve.

Sincerely,
K

12345678 Inactive Member24 Jun 2012 10:20 a.m. PST

To regard the guard artillery as only being available to support the Guard is an error; in effect, it acted as a highly proficient part of the reserve artillery which was used to add firepower in key areas. The same applies to the corps artillery and the central artillery reserve; they were employed far more actively and flexibly than the Russian reserve artillery and render man/gun ratio calculations on a divisional basis irrelevant as they allowed commanders at various levels to match the amount of artillery to the mission or threat.

Often, just counting barrels under local command is misleading.

Seroga Inactive Member24 Jun 2012 11:16 a.m. PST

I am not talking about the Garde reserve artillery. I am only talking about the artillery included in Garde infantry divisions.

1ere division d'infanterie de la Garde – général de division Delaborde
-- 8 battaillons d'infanterie
-- 4e compagnie de cannonier-conscripts de la Garde : 8x 4-lvre
2e division d'infanterie de la Garde – général de division Roguet
-- 10 battaillons d'infanterie
-- 13e compagnie du 8e régiment d'artillerie à pied : 6x 6-lvre, 2x obusier
-- 14e compagnie du 8e régiment d'artillerie à pied : 6x 6-lvre, 2x obusier
3e division d'infanterie de la Garde – général de division Curial
-- 10 battaillons d'infanterie
-- 3e compagnie de cannonier-conscripts de la Garde : 8x 4-lvre
-- 1ere compagnie d'artillerie à pied de la Garde : 6x 12-lvre, 2x obusier
-- 2e compagnie d'artillerie à pied de la Garde : 6x 12-lvre, 2x obusier
-- 3e compagnie d'artillerie à pied de la Garde : 6x 12-lvre, 2x obusier
-- 4e compagnie d'artillerie à pied de la Garde : 6x 12-lvre, 2x obusier
Total : 28 bataillons, 64 pièces d'artillerie -- 2.3 pièces/bataillon

division de cavalerie de la Garde – général de division : Walther
-- 25½ escadrons de cavalerie
-- 1ere compagnie d'artillerie à cheval de la Garde : 4x 6-lvre, 2x obusier
-- 2e compagnie d'artillerie à cheval de la Garde : 4x 6-lvre, 2x obusier
Total : 25½ escadrons, 12 pièces d'artillerie

Additionally, there was the Garde réserve d'artillerie, under the command of général de divison Sorbier
-- 3e compagnie d'artillerie à cheval de la Garde : 4x 6-lvre, 2x obusier
-- 4e compagnie d'artillerie à cheval de la Garde : 4x 6-lvre, 2x obusier
-- 5e compagnie du 1er régiment d'artillerie à cheval : sans pièces
-- 6e compagnie du 1er régiment d'artillerie à cheval : sans pièces
-- 5e compagnie d'artillerie à pied de la Garde : 6x 12-lvre, 2x obusier
-- 6e compagnie d'artillerie à pied de la Garde : 6x 12-lvre, 2x obusier
-- 15e compagnie du 8e régiment d'artillerie à pied : sans pièces
-- 15e compagnie du 8e régiment d'artillerie à pied : sans pièces
Total : 28 pièces d'artillerie

If you will say that they French could take some of the artillery included in the Garde divisions and collect them for use elsewhere – or – if you are saying that the French could take from the Garde reserve artillery and augment the artillery included in the divisons – I would not disagree.

But this is no different from the Russians, who routinely collected the heavy battery companies from the infantry divisions into "reserve" formations. And indeed they had an additional 10 reserve artillery brigades, which included 19 heavy battery companies, 18 horse companies and 4 light companies. An example of usage can be taken from the Russian 1st Corps. The organic artillery for the two included infantry divisions was 2 batttery companies and 4 light foot companies. The 1st Corps also received the 1st reserve artillery brigade of 2 heavy battery companies and 3 horse companies. However, the Corps detached 1 light company and 1 horse company to Riga and to forces covering its far left flank (and communications with the main army).
The system is almost exactly like the French, although the nomenclature (even in translation) is a bit different.

And the number of guns per bataillon is almost the same as the French Garde : something in the range of 2-3 guns/battalion depending on which pieces are included. The German-speaking French allies are also similar, something in 1.5 to 2 guns/battalion range

The question is, why would the French (and Polish and Italian) line have so many fewer, in the 1 gun/battalion range or less? If it was good enouhg for the Garde (and the enemy, and even the German-speaking Aliies), why was the higher ratio of guns not necessary for the French/Polish/Italian line?

12345678 Inactive Member24 Jun 2012 11:23 a.m. PST

The higher ratio of guns was not necessary for the French because they relied on using their corps and reserve artillery in a flexible manner to provide extra firepower at the key points, rather than either massing it in the rear or spreading it across the army. Often, the way that artillery is used is more important than a raw counting of barrels.

Seroga Inactive Member24 Jun 2012 11:44 a.m. PST

@colinjallen

Point taken. But then why the greater number in the Garde and German-sepaking Allied formations?

I have no reason to believe that the French formed artillery reserves and moved their guns around more or better than the Russians or the German-speakers. It was certainly a completely standard prectice in all armies in the period from 1810.

But let's assume that the French did have some greater degree of "flexibility". If this was true, was it some secret that they would not share with German-speaking Allies, but would share with Poles and Italians? And if there was this greater flexibility, reducing the number of guns needed, then why did the Garde have so many?

Or is the expalnation simpler?
Perhaps the French, Polish and Italian armies could be conscripted more aggressively than the German speakers. So they provided proportionately more men. While overall, the French Empire had an inability to produce enough artillery (either due to finances or production facilities or both) to make the Garde's level of artillery provisioning common to the whole army.
Just an idea.

12345678 Inactive Member24 Jun 2012 12:34 p.m. PST

Seroga,

The Polish and Italian armies, particularly the latter, were essentially extensions of the French, so it is hardly surprising that they had similar levels of artillery support, whereas the German Allies had their own organisation, training and military culture.

As to why the Guard had proportionally more guns, the Guard artillery acted as part of the army reserve artillery so having more guns per man is hardly surprising and the ratio is almost irrelevant. Even guns attached organisationally to Guard infantry divisions rarely served in direct support of "their" division but formed part of the reserve and to add their fire at key points on the battlefield.

Your point about French artillery production needs investigation as it might be a factor,

Franck Inactive Member24 Jun 2012 2:47 p.m. PST

+1 with colinjallen.

"But let's assume that the French did have some greater degree of "flexibility". If this was true, was it some secret that they would not share with German-speaking Allies, but would share with Poles and Italians?"

I think French didn't "interfere" with their allies in the way they drive their own troops on the battlefield.
Maybe it's the same with the number of battalions in these allied contingents. Saxony had to send x thousand men, but did Napoleon or the French military administration detailled that these troops should be organised in x battalions ?

I don't think we have to take this as a ratio pieces/battalion. As 10thmarines said French artillery was never used piecemeal but at divisionnal level so it may be another consideration.
About the number of guns, note that the whole 1811-1812 "French" army counted some 450 battalions. Having the same ratio than the Russians meant they should have some 1200 to 1400 guns, not counting the regimental guns (one generally calls them "battalion guns" but their real name was "artillerie regimentaire") nor the horse batteries… Hard to achieve.
According to Mikhaberidze, there are more than 600 000 "french" soldiers in Germany and Poland with over 1300 guns before the campaign. Not so bad.

Concerning the variation between the divisions, it's almost always the case in the French army.
About the Ist corps, I think it's not a surprise if Compans had 22 battalions (only 20, acc. to Fabry) to command because he was one of the most trusted men in Davout's HQ. Napoleon seemed to have him in great consideration ("un general de bataille de premier merite").
And all the divisions had been massively reinforced (with allied battalions) before the campaign. I think it is to protect lines of communications by sowing detachments and garrisons all along their way to the final battle (wich was expected well before Borodino !)

About the 61 Polish battalions you mentionned, I think it couldn't have been organised in only 4 divisions as you point. The real Polish army was the Vth corps. In this corps, each division had 12 battalions (I think the 18th left a regiment behind before the crossing of the Niemen but not sure because I can't remember where I read it) wich is the most usual number of battalions in a division before 1812.
The Vistula Legion is a very special unit that fought in Spain for years in French service and had a real esprit de corps. I think it's was not questionable to mix these troops with others.
All the other Polish troops in the army were under French pay (Thiers). It means that Grandjean's and half of Girard's men were mercenaries, organised like the French and commanded by French officiers. Grandjean's had been organised by Davout and it was primitively part of the Ist corps.

10th Marines Inactive Member24 Jun 2012 3:56 p.m. PST

There were a few basic distinctions between the Russian and French artillery arms.

First, and probably most important, the French used their artillery offensively and were not afraid to lose guns in combat if they gained an advantage from that risk. The Russian artillery arm was employed defensively on the battlefield, and the loss of guns, no matter the reason, was seen as a disgrace.

French artillery doctrine was published by du Teil in 1778 in his Usage, and that set the employment 'tone' for the French for the period. No other army had a reglement or doctrinal publication that addressed issues above the battery/company level, as du Teil's manual did.

Educationally, the French artillery schools were not only the oldest in Europe, but they were excellent in training artillery officers and Gribeauval had introduced schooling for French artillery NCOs in the 1760s. Russian artillery officers, according to both Wilson and Langeron were not well-educated, which did affect artillery employment.

The Russian artillery arm did improve greatly after the defeats in 1805 and 1807, but it did not have the organizational flexibility nor the tactical 'finesse' of the French during the period. You do see large Russian artillery concentrations (though the largest single concentration was done by the Austrians at Essling in 1809) but you see no offensive artillery operations such as those the French employed at Friedland in 1807, at Raab and Wagram in 1809, at Lutzen in 1813 or at Ligny in 1815.

Sincerely,
K

Seroga Inactive Member24 Jun 2012 5:59 p.m. PST

I see, "French is best".
I should have known. It was so foolish to think that we could have a balanced discussion.

10th Marines Inactive Member24 Jun 2012 6:34 p.m. PST

If you don't agree, then support your argument. If not, then the point is moot.

Sincerely,
K

10th Marines Inactive Member25 Jun 2012 2:34 a.m. PST

All the other Polish troops in the army were under French pay (Thiers). It means that Grandjean's and half of Girard's men were mercenaries, organised like the French and commanded by French officiers. Grandjean's had been organised by Davout and it was primitively part of the Ist corps.

Thiers is not a good, reliable source.

You consider the Polish units in French pay 'mercenaries'? What about the Poles conscripted into the Russian service? Were they mercenaries also? I don't agree that the Poles were mercenaries. They were fighting for Poland and were allies. Poland was a poor country, and they did not want to be a part of Prussia, Russia, or Austria, and they particularly did not like the Russians.

Tsar Alexander attempting to entice/force the Duchy of Warsaw to become part of Russia was a cause of the 'Second Polish War' or the Russian campaign of 1812 if you prefer.

Sincerely,
K

von Winterfeldt25 Jun 2012 2:52 a.m. PST

@Seroga
Thank you for providing all the material – a difficult question – if your infantry is down to 50 % strength after several weeks of campaigning the gun to infantry ratio would increase, for the Guard, better food, more pampered, therefore less attrition, therefore more guns to infantry ratio first case.

10th Marines Inactive Member25 Jun 2012 3:23 a.m. PST

'I have no reason to believe that the French formed artillery reserves and moved their guns around more or better than the Russians or the German-speakers. It was certainly a completely standard prectice in all armies in the period from 1810.'

This comment is the one that prompted my response regarding the major differences between the French and Russian artillery arms. The last sentence is completely inaccurate as the use of artillery reserves among the different armies was not 'standard practice' the Prussians not having an army-level artillery reserve.

Sincerely,
K

von Winterfeldt25 Jun 2012 3:29 a.m. PST

I forgot to add, the French supply system – notably food and occationally ammunition (Syria) – cannot be regarded as efficient – it collapsed already in 1812 when the Grand Armée was concentrating in Poland.

10th Marines Inactive Member25 Jun 2012 3:56 a.m. PST

Comparing the French supply system of the Revolutionary period with that of the Grande Armee is akin to comparing and lumping together apples and oranges-they weren't the same.

And the French logistical system was carefully planned for Russia and it should be noted that the initial French plan was to catch the Russian armies close to the border.

When the initial Russian plan to fight at the Drissa camp collapsed for various reasons, the Russians ran as they had no idea what to do and even got lost inside their own country. They were trying to concentrate to fight the French, but problems in the general officer ranks, highlighted by the problems Barclay was facing with his subordinates and even his staff, were harmful to Russian operations.

Sincerely,
K

12345678 Inactive Member25 Jun 2012 4:24 a.m. PST

Ah, so the Russians' failure to confirm to Napoleons' plan to destroy them
near the border resulted in the failure of Napoleon's logistics system (which had actually already failed before he entered Russia as it was impossible to supply the army properly while it was concentrating in Poland). A pity that Napoleon did not realise that the Russians might not agree to be destroyed early in the campaign;).

le Grande Quartier General Inactive Member25 Jun 2012 5:25 a.m. PST

"What a differnt world we would live in now were it not for the folly of Russia"

10th Marines Inactive Member25 Jun 2012 7:41 a.m. PST

'…Napoleons' plan to destroy them near the border resulted in the failure of Napoleon's logistics system (which had actually already failed before he entered Russia as it was impossible to supply the army properly while it was concentrating in Poland).'

Source(s) on logistics failures in Russia?

If that is so, how did the French magazines in, for example Minsk, Orsha, and Smolensk, become filled before the retreat began?

Sincerely,
K

Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP25 Jun 2012 7:45 a.m. PST

Plenty of previous sound and fury expended on the merits and demerits of the French and Russian artillery.

TMP link

TMP link

TMP link

Regards

Bandit25 Jun 2012 7:54 a.m. PST

Source(s) on logistics failures in Russia?

If that is so, how did the French magazines in, for example Minsk, Orsha, and Smolensk, become filled before the retreat began?

Kevin,

While I didn't post the note on logistics failures and I do not have page numbers, I would cite my reading of Caulaincourt (With Napoleon in Russia, primary source) and Reihn (1812: Napoleon's Russian Campaign, secondary source) as both identifying that there were problems and shortages with logistics on the way in. Arguably these may be considered unpreventable and thus while I would say there was failure within the logistics and supply of the French army I would not say logistics and supply failed outright.

I would also say that my impression from various reading is that the Russians seemed to fair worse during the first portion of the campaign and better (only comparably) than the French during the French retreat.

Cheers,

The Bandit

10th Marines Inactive Member25 Jun 2012 8:03 a.m. PST

Thanks very much, B.

I know and understand there were problems on the way in, mainly because some of the corps commanders didn't look ahead, and because of the desired battles that didn't occur.

Your references would be gratefully accepted.

Sincerely,
K

Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP25 Jun 2012 8:27 a.m. PST

On the original point, surely it is just as – or possibly more – effective to have formations of different strengths to which one can then assign separate missions, rather than to have equal formations which then must be task organized for specific missions ad hoc?

Regards

Murvihill25 Jun 2012 8:46 a.m. PST

I think the question of division size is a transportation issue, not on the field but of the garrisons. Without railroads, planes or highways you had to keep the troops where they could be easily fed and supplied, so garrisons reflected in general population density, until they went to war when they were concentrated in the combat area. But before they reached the combat area they were already supplied, oganized and trained and turning all those divisions into matching formations would have meant time spent that was better used fighting. After the railroad transportation became much simpler and you could move the supplies to where your soldiers were instead of the reverse.

12345678 Inactive Member25 Jun 2012 9:18 a.m. PST

The fact that the magazines were full and the supplies did not reach the troops in sufficient amounts is pretty clear evidence of a failure of logistics. For references as to the French logistics failure, you could look at:

Lejeune
Guillemard
Caulaincourt
Coignet
Faber Du Faur

10th Marines Inactive Member25 Jun 2012 9:35 a.m. PST

That's nice and everything, and lists references that I already have.

What would be really nice and also very 'scholarly' would be to put the references in context to your point instead of merely listing some of the references that might be of assistance on the issue of logistics.

In short, merely listing references is not helpful, especially to members who may or may not hav them. Page citations would greatly help, as would actually posting some of what the authors had to say.

Or is that asking too much?

Sincerely,
K

Bandit25 Jun 2012 9:56 a.m. PST

Kevin,

Not trying to start a fight (or join one) and I am thinking you may be reacting partly to coninjallen's "scholarly" criticism earlier which I suppose is fair, but I do wish to risk interceding at this point to say that it is a lot of effort to put forth on a message board and that is why I do not generally do it.

Just my personal view that discussions within a medium like this can be both hampered and improved by trying to take them beyond their arm-chair nature.

That said, I won't be criticizing anyone who is willing to take the time and effort to pull books off the shelf and find specific citations as I find it a welcome offering.

colinjallen,

Of those you cite I have only read Caulaincourt but I do concur with the conclusion that he expresses supply issues during the first half of the campaign were pretty pervasive, some portions of the army doing quite well (the main army, Davout's I Corps, the Guard in particular) and the wings as they moved out from the main army often finding themselves in rough spots.

On the general topic of supplies during 1812, what I have traditionally read is that the Russians were in deep crap as well but faired better during the French retreat than the French did, which doesn't say a lot beyond they were able to maintain unit cohesion (a tipping point) when the French could not.

If anyone has thoughts or information on that last point, I think it relates a bit and would be interesting to hear.

Cheers,

The Bandit

10th Marines Inactive Member25 Jun 2012 10:09 a.m. PST

B,

I would say you are correct in part. That being the case, I would also say that if a poster (or anyone else for that matter-say in a classroom discussion) who criticizes delivery of information and references, but then doesn't or won't provide references or citations themselves, tends to negate the persons argument.

I agree there were logistical problems in Russia. I don't agree that the French ignored the logistical problems they faced. That just isn't the case. And reading the references that Colinjalin listed tends to support the latter view.

As a final point, if the French logistical situation was as bad as Colinjalin states it was, the French would never have reached Moscow. Starving people can't fight.

Sincerely,
K

Bandit25 Jun 2012 10:39 a.m. PST

Kevin,

Not adopting colinjallen's position, I'll leave that to him, but taking off on your last line:

Starving people can't fight.

It is relatively common for there to be light reference to Napoleon showing that a "half-starved, unpaid rabble" can win a war (referring to Italy). Most who make that quip also admit that it is the exception and not to be expected.

I would agree the French army that got to Borodino to fight was in far better shape that what I understand it was like during Nappy's Italian Campaign. Though reading Caulaincourt, the main army was in a heck of a fix supply wise by the time it got to Moscow. Caulaincourt says (recalling from memory) that there would have been a lack of supply and shelter even had the fires and looting by Russian prisoners not occurred.

Cheers,

The Bandit

12345678 Inactive Member25 Jun 2012 11:41 a.m. PST

Bandit,

With regard to Russian supply during their "pursuit" of the Imperial, it is apparent that great efforts were made to supply the army with at least basic rations from supplies gathered in the undevastated regions to the north and south of the line of French advance and retreat, as well as pulling in supplies from more distant regions. However, even these efforts produced barely enough.

For some interesting information on this (there is not that much available) see:

Denis Davydov and Gregory Troubetzkoy, In the Service of the Tsar Against Napoleon: the Memoirs of Denis Davidov, 1806-1814 (London: Greenhill Books, 1999)

D.C.B. Lieven, "Russia and the Defeat of Napoleon (1812-14)," Kritika: Explorations in Russian & Eurasian History 7, no. 2 (May 8, 2006)

12345678 Inactive Member25 Jun 2012 11:44 a.m. PST

Kevin, where did anyone argue that: "the French ignored the logistical problems they faced."

Stop creating strawman arguments.

Oh, and if you ask for "Source(s) on logistics failures in Russia?", do not complain when you are given some.

von Winterfeldt25 Jun 2012 11:45 a.m. PST

@Bandit

I cannot agree with your statements at all, just read memoires they will tell you that a lot of units were not in the best state at Borodino, in case simply buy

Smith, Digby : Armies of 1812, you will find diagrams showing how much the Grande Armée dwindled already in the early parts of the campaign.
Davout was not better than anybody else (except of the Guard)
His corps as half strength at mid August, already at Smolensk

The Armée d'Italie in 1796 was in a much better state there it could plunder the fertile Po region.
It was also re-inforced before Bonaparte took over and won already a key battle under Scherer at Loano, neither half starved, nor a rabble but a victorious army.

Of course also the Russian Army had to suffer but my no means as to such catastrophic results as the Grande Armée.

In case you are interested, good books to start, those of Mikaberizde, he also is the editor of Russian memoires from where you can learn the Russian view.

Read Mikaberizde's Beresina, or the book of Lieven, or Morvan : Le Soldat Impérial

Bandit25 Jun 2012 3:09 p.m. PST

I cannot agree with your statements at all, just read memoires they will tell you that a lot of units were not in the best state at Borodino

I don't think you read what I wrote very accurately then…

It is relatively common for there to be light reference to Napoleon showing that a "half-starved, unpaid rabble" can win a war (referring to Italy). Most who make that quip also admit that it is the exception and not to be expected.

I didn't say that this was my view, I said that it is commonly said, if you have a copy of Quarrie's wargaming book laying around, check it out, he commented on it. Is he a primary source, heck no, he isn't even a secondary source, but again, my point was:

It is relatively common for there to be light reference to…

I also didn't say it was a point of fact, I said it was my understanding and frankly I haven't read much of anything on the Italian Campaign, I was trying to say I wasn't going to press the comparison but would grant it. Sorry I wasn't clear enough for you.

…a lot of units were not in the best state at Borodino

I didn't argue with that either. In fact I had said a bit earlier:

he expresses supply issues during the first half of the campaign were pretty pervasive

Of course also the Russian Army had to suffer but my no means as to such catastrophic results as the Grande Armée.

Really? You don't say? Cause what I said was:

On the general topic of supplies during 1812, what I have traditionally read is that the Russians were in deep crap as well but faired better during the French retreat than the French did, which doesn't say a lot beyond they were able to maintain unit cohesion (a tipping point) when the French could not.

There something you drew from that which requires you reinforce that the Russian Army was in better shape than the French? I thought I was clear, they didn't fall apart, the French did.

And back stepping a bit:

Davout was not better than anybody else (except of the Guard)
His corps as half strength at mid August, already at Smolensk

I don't even understand this statement. "Davout was not better than anyone else except the Guard?" So that would say the Guard was fairing worse than the rest of the army. Am I misunderstanding something, cause that does not make sense to me?

I wasn't meaning to argue with anyone but you seem to think I was. I'll back off if you will.

Cheers,

The Bandit

von Winterfeldt25 Jun 2012 10:34 p.m. PST

The Guard was better off than Davout's corps, that what I meant.

Bandit26 Jun 2012 6:23 a.m. PST

von Winterfeldt,

Understood and sorry I was snappy, think I am coming down with something.

Cheers,

The Bandit

10th Marines Inactive Member26 Jun 2012 6:37 a.m. PST

And yet, Davout's troops were noted at the Berezina crossing the bridges in perfect order with drums and fifes playing.

Sincerely,
K

Ligniere Sponsoring Member of TMP26 Jun 2012 6:57 a.m. PST

I just read Mikaberidze's book on the Berezina – highly recommended.
Davout's I corps at the Berezina, was probably close to 1,000 men physically under arms. I recall reading that the Guard band crossed the bridges, with witnesses astonished that they still had their instruments, when most had discarded even their weapons.
The Guard, II and IX Corps were the most numerous formations, with II and IX corps doing a majority of the fighting against Wittgenstein and Chichagov, on the east and west banks respectively.

npm

10th Marines Inactive Member26 Jun 2012 7:10 a.m. PST

Oudinot and Ney faced Tshitshagov on the west bank and Ney took over when Oudinot was wounded. Tshitshagov was simply outfought and the four Swiss regiments greatly distinguished themselves, losing 1200 of the 1500 present, but not losing an eagle and held their ground.

It was an excellently executed operation from Oudinot's deception operations around Borisov, to Eble's construction and maintenance of the two bridges, and the excellent fighting of Oudinot's, Ney's, and Victor's troops.

Paul Britten Austin's book The Great Retreat is laced with various primary accounts of the crossing and the fighting at the Berezina, which I found to be most helpful.

Agree on Mikaberidze's book, with one exception. He gives credit to Jomini for 'assisting' with the crossing, but that material comes from Jomini himself. No one else seems to have mentioned him. He did not find the ford at Studenka, Corbineau and his cavalry brigade did. And Jomini had nothing to do with the planning of the operation or building of the bridges or of selecting the sites for them. That was done by Oudinot and Eble, along with Chasseloup.

Sincerely,
K

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