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"British Empire vs One Man: Napoleon" Topic


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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian02 Apr 2018 11:58 a.m. PST

In my recent book review – TMP link – I was struck by the author's presentation of the war as being between the British Empire (a structure of bureaucracies) and Napoleon (one impetuous man).

Isn't this an artifact of 19th Century propaganda, an effort to delegitimize Napoleon's government?

The author presents British strategy as coming from the admiralty or Horse Guards or some government entity, as if there is no politician anywhere directing anything.

And on the other hand, Napoleon is presented as making almost every decision in person, at one point mentioning how Napoleon scraped together reinforcements at the Spanish border (did the author really mean that Napoleon went to the border to organize a few thousand men? like the energizer bunny of France). And Napoleon is described in disparaging, personal terms (i.e., impetuous).

I'm not saying that Napoleon wasn't deeply involved in the governing of his Empire. I'm just saying that a 21st Century history should be fair in its presentation of the two nations.

Brechtel19802 Apr 2018 12:29 p.m. PST

I would recommend The War in the Mediterranean 1803-1810 by Piers Mackesey.

The allies made it a point in their propaganda in 1813-1814 that they were not waging war against the French people, but only against Napoleon.

That 'inaccuracy' was made evident by the conduct of the allied troops in France during that campaign in 1814.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP02 Apr 2018 1:19 p.m. PST

The conduct of the French army outside of France prior to 1814 was of course beyond approach.
As I fully expect you to copiously document from your massive library.

foxweasel02 Apr 2018 1:52 p.m. PST

I eagerly await this thread turning into another 5 page epic about just how evil the allies (especially the British) were.

Navy Fower Wun Seven Inactive Member02 Apr 2018 2:18 p.m. PST

I suspect you, Sir, have been less than 'fair' in your summary of the author's position.

If one was to rephrase the summary more objectively, as between a state ruled by one man's elective dictatorship, and a state ruled by an oligarchy, then yes I think that at one level, that's a pretty fair assessment of the rivalry between the two.

Personally, I prefer the meme of a maritime based power fighting a land based power. Of course maritime powers tend to be ruled pluralistically, whereas land powers autocratically, so it kind of links up!

As for 'legitimacy', I will simply observe that this was the constant rallying cry of all the coalition powers. To be a credible banner for so long, it must have at least had some grain of truth to it, else, over such a long period of time, it would have been ridiculed to the point of being a liability. Ergo, Napoleon's legitimacy was viewed as at least questionable by a significant proportion of opinion at the time…

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP03 Apr 2018 1:52 a.m. PST

It may have been presented as being a war against Napoleon at the time.

In reality, the British government's foreign policy was just a continuation of what had gone before.

For Centuries the principal aim of British foreign policy was to prevent the European hegemony of any one European power. To this end, the British government attempted to build alliances against whichever state was most powerful.

At various times this happened against Spain, France, and Germany.

This policy only really came to an end post-WW2 with the advent of the Cold War and the era of the Superpower.

Even then, it has been argued that Britain's entry into the Common Market (as it was back then) was driven by a continuation of this same, ancient policy. Which is why the British Establishment is so annoyed about Brexit. It throws a massive spanner in the works!

Gwydion03 Apr 2018 3:01 a.m. PST

I am at a loss to understand what 'fairness' has to do with it.

A history is not (or should not be) a piece of journalism where 'balance' is required in every utterance. The balance should come in the research and appreciation of sources and presentation of that evidence.

When conclusions have to be drawn, if the man was impetuous or arrogant or hubristic then the historian is honour bound to say so.

This should not be a polemic of course, that defeats the objectivity required, but if the objective analysis clearly points to character defects, so be it.

The British government was a complex melange of personal rivalries, constitutional tensions and financial concerns outwith the scope of the book. There are books that detail those imperfect policy making methods. They are rightly critical, but they are dealing with a different subject.

The benefit, and the downfall of being a totalitarian dictator is; you get to make the decisions and fall by them.

Benito Champley03 Apr 2018 4:24 a.m. PST

Louis XVIII was the legitimate ruler of France, General Buonaparte was the usurper.. If you are playing the silly game of fairness. In my not so humble opinion, the Continental system and the occupation of the Low Countries did for the Corsican. If he had been cleverer on these two points I think there would have been grounds for a compromise with The Greatest Power on Earth…

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP03 Apr 2018 5:22 a.m. PST

It should not be forgotten that Napoleon had more than a few supporters within Great Britain and Ireland including many inside the Parliamentary opposition. Hence, the British opposition to him was far from universal.

(Is the Editor worried about the Dawghouse falling into disuse?)

Personal logo Unlucky General Supporting Member of TMP03 Apr 2018 10:43 a.m. PST

As an non-English observer there is a common blind spot with many English historians (amateurs as well as academics) on Napoleon and the French more generally. Probably more so amongst European historians but I'd need translations for them. Of course this is not universal. I was listening to a commentator just the other day claim Napoleon should have been tried for war crimes. Perhaps so. The problems I face is that the balance is rarely struck by observations of 'others' with that of 'our' own behaviors. Was the tyranny of Napoleon any worse than the tyranny of other powers or rulers at the time? I don't see it. He was certainly the pee-eminent figure of his age and we all still play 'Napoleonic' wargames in a period of military history identified through his influence. It was the last and biggest struggle between the British and the French which had been going on since the Normans took the English throne after 1066 so when people want to look for narrowly defined causes of blame for this war or that it seems a bit of a nonsense to me – they were going to have at it over some cause like they always had.

Personal logo Unlucky General Supporting Member of TMP03 Apr 2018 10:45 a.m. PST

Oh and yes, they focus their angst and still do against a representative figure. We still hear it today – the war against Hitler or the Nazis, Saddam Hussein .. take your pick. We don't blame a people – apparently we are all sheep easily misled.

Brian Smaller03 Apr 2018 3:32 p.m. PST

@Unlucky General

Kind of like something my Italian mother once said. "We were all fascists until things started going badly, then we were all anti-fascists"

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP03 Apr 2018 4:59 p.m. PST

I was listening to a commentator just the other day claim Napoleon should have been tried for war crimes.

As a former lawyer, I have tried – many times – to explain to people on here (one or two in particular) that (a) a "war crime" is a modern concept that has no real application prior to the Hague Conventions* (forerunners of the Geneva protocols) of 1899 and 1907, and (b) that you cannot apply law retrospectively.

[* The Hague Conventions were based largely on the Lieber Code issued by Lincoln in 1863 to control the conduct of Union forces in the ACW, but was a unilateral declaration.]

Internationally, prior to the two HCs (a third was planned for 1914, but was postponed), there was only a notion of "victors' justice" (ie punish the losers) and "civilised" or "uncivilised" behaviour (based largely on European laws of chivalry).

MaggieC70 Supporting Member of TMP03 Apr 2018 5:27 p.m. PST

Indeed L18 was the legitimate Bourbon heir to the throne, as was Charles II the legitimate Stuart heir. Both of them parked their royal posteriors on thrones after the executions of legitimate monarchs and the "usurping" of power by a couple of outliers.

"The Greatest Power on Earth?" A matter of opinion, I think.

Personal logo Unlucky General Supporting Member of TMP03 Apr 2018 8:47 p.m. PST

Apologies to absolutely everyone. I described Napoleon as 'pee-eminent'. Bloody inadequate spell checker. I would never call anyone 'pee-eminent' … it's unhygienic.

Personal logo 22ndFoot Supporting Member of TMP04 Apr 2018 5:43 a.m. PST

Supercilius,

Your analysis id correct but your (b) must be qualified, at least in the UK, as the War Crimes Act 1991 confers jurisdiction on courts in the United Kingdom to try people for war crimes committed in Nazi Germany or German-occupied territory during the Second World War by people who were not British citizens at the time, but have since become British citizens or residents. The Act was therefore troublesome from a constitutional point of view and rejected by the House of Lords. This meant that to pass it the Parliament Acts had to be invoked – only the fourth time since 1911 and the first since 1949 – and it was therefore passed by the House of Commons only.

Jon

von Winterfeldt04 Apr 2018 10:37 a.m. PST

well – I agree with the author, Boney was an absolute ruler disregarding laws, at least till 1815.

He should be on trial of betraying France on the same conditions as he treated decent citizens like Moreau or Dupont

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP04 Apr 2018 1:00 p.m. PST

Jon – Thank you, I wasn't aware of that.

Drocton05 Apr 2018 5:35 a.m. PST

Supercilius,

we could discuss the thing for ages, but basically I think we can agree that even if there was no written international law there were generally shared conventions developed in centuries of warfare. And sometimes they are extremely counterintuitive for us modern folks.
Emptying the pockets of your dead officer was perfectly acceptable behaviour on a field of battle, for instance.
And so was bombing cities to burn them down.
So you're perfectly right in claiming that our standards don't apply; if Napoleon did bad things by our standards think about Arthur Wellsley, first man in history to bomb a town with rockets: Copenaghen, a neutral capital whose fault was that it wanted to stay neutral. Now what about that, you enemies of the Emperor!

von Winterfeldt05 Apr 2018 8:30 a.m. PST

I wonder if the Hanseatic cities and other countries, who did not harm Boney whatsoever, apart from some smuggling, would have prefered an rocket attack by the Brits or being invaded and gobbled to become members of the despised empire of Bounaparte?

Drocton05 Apr 2018 9:34 a.m. PST

I wonder if the Hanseatic cities and other countries, who did not harm Boney whatsoever, apart from some smuggling, would have prefered an rocket attack by the Brits or being invaded and gobbled to become members of the despised empire of Bounaparte?

Well, I believe it would have mostly depended on whether your house was situated in Copenaghen center or in the periphery/other areas of the country : )

dibble05 Apr 2018 2:12 p.m. PST

Drocton

think about Arthur Wellsley, first man in history to bomb a town with rockets: Copenaghen…


But the Duke was not the commander-in-chief at Copenhagen. Perhaps you could post a source that shows it was Wellesley who ordered the bombardment.

Paul :)

Drocton05 Apr 2018 3:15 p.m. PST

Dibble,

sorry I've struggled hard to get the source but I can't find it. I will try to reconstruct from memory. W. was assigned rocket units for the Waterloo campaign and he didn't like it, he would have preferred longbowmen and he said something like: "rockets are only useful for burning cities and I'm not planning to burn any city" (implied: I've done that before). So even if he wasn't officially in charge at Copenaghen, he certainly partecipated and learned a lesson there. Rockets burn cities. And forts.

"And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there."

Gwydion05 Apr 2018 4:17 p.m. PST

Wellesley was a major general.
It was the navy that bombarded Copenhagen.
Congreve in his diary said that he fired 300 rockets at Copenhagen. His unit was in three sloops. Hard to see what Wellesley had to do with it apart from observing it.

Brechtel19805 Apr 2018 4:52 p.m. PST

if Napoleon did bad things by our standards think about Arthur Wellsley, first man in history to bomb a town with rockets: Copenaghen, a neutral capital whose fault was that it wanted to stay neutral.

Wellesley wasn't in command at Copenhagen, General Cathcart was and the bombardment plan belonged to LtCol Murray, not to Wellesley.

The withdrawal to Torres Vedras, however, was Wellington's plan and the result of that operation was the death of at least 40,000 Portuguese civilians of starvation and disease in the vicinity of Lisbon.

That operation impressed Napoleon but when he was advised to do something similar in Saxony in 1813 he refused, as he believed it dishonorable to do that to an ally.

Brechtel19805 Apr 2018 7:06 p.m. PST

It was the navy that bombarded Copenhagen.
Congreve in his diary said that he fired 300 rockets at Copenhagen. His unit was in three sloops.

The 1807 British bombardment of Copenhagen was done by the British siege artillery and rockets, not by the Royal Navy. Copenhagen was put under siege by the British Army and it was they who conducted the bombardment of the city to force its surrender.

Brechtel19805 Apr 2018 7:08 p.m. PST

Rockets burn cities. And forts.
"And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there."

The British bombardment of Fort McHenry at Baltimore was conducted by the Royal Navy. That bombardment failed as the fort withstood the bombardment and the Royal Navy withdrew. The fort did not burn.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 4:49 a.m. PST

…if Napoleon did bad things by our standards think about Arthur Wellsley, first man in history to bomb a town with rockets…

Well, apart from the Chinese, the Monogls, the Koreans and the Indians – then yes, the very first man in history!

Gazzola06 Apr 2018 8:46 a.m. PST

Drocton

From my research into the attack against Copenhagen, the Duke of Wellington (plain Wellesley then) was against the bombardment and preferred to starve the defenders out instead, but that would take too much time so the decision was made to bombard the city and therefore the civilian areas, rather than attempt to assault or breach the walls. The aim was too terrify everyone into 'persuading' the Danish military to surrender, which worked, eventually.

However, in terms of burning places and even hanging people, Wellington did that in India and also threatened to do so to the French in 1814.

Gwydion06 Apr 2018 9:44 a.m. PST

The 1807 British bombardment of Copenhagen was done by the British siege artillery and rockets, not by the Royal Navy. Copenhagen was put under siege by the British Army and it was they who conducted the bombardment of the city to force its surrender.

Oh, I was relying in part on 'Artillery of the Napoleonic Wars Vol II' by Kevin Kiley where you say 'the Congreve heavy naval rockets were far more dangerous' and reference (note 23) Elting Swords Around A Throne p.488 where he says 'in 1807 they [naval rockets] contributed mightily to the conflagration of Copenhagen'.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP06 Apr 2018 11:27 a.m. PST

And we all know that Elting is NEVER wrong, don't we?

And of course the thing Gazzola omits to mention is that he used capital punishment on his own men if they stepped out of line, as well.

dibble07 Apr 2018 1:24 a.m. PST

Gazzola

However, in terms of burning places and even hanging people, Wellington did that in India and also threatened to do so to the French in 1814.

Would you like to expand on that? Like if he just randomly took people off the street and hanged them for the fun of it. Or did he only hang those who looked at him wrong?

Drocton! Have you found anything pertaining the rocket bombardment of Copenhagen yet?

Paul :)

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP07 Apr 2018 4:14 a.m. PST

Gwydion. Are you saying that Brechtel198 is calling Kevin Kiley's book inaccurate?

Brechtel19807 Apr 2018 4:33 a.m. PST

Oh, I was relying in part on 'Artillery of the Napoleonic Wars Vol II' by Kevin Kiley where you say 'the Congreve heavy naval rockets were far more dangerous' and reference (note 23) Elting Swords Around A Throne p.488 where he says 'in 1807 they [naval rockets] contributed mightily to the conflagration of Copenhagen'.

Nothing like taking something out of context. The heavy naval rockets were much more accurate and reliable than the lighter rockets used by the Royal Artillery and the Royal Marine Artillery.

And the 300 rockets fired into Copenhagen in 1807 did contribute to the destructive fires that destroyed and damaged a large part of the city.

If you don't care for Col Elting's summary, then I would suggest taking a look at Details of the Rocket System by Congreve which was also used as a reference.

And there are eyewitness accounts of the lighter rockets being inaccurate as well as having a tendency to boomerang on their crews. The larger naval rockets didn't have that problem.

Brechtel19807 Apr 2018 4:36 a.m. PST

And we all know that Elting is NEVER wrong, don't we?

No one has ever made that claim, in fact I have stated on more than one occasion that all authors make mistakes and that Col Elting posted the errata for Swords that he found after publication.

Another strawman argument?

Brechtel19807 Apr 2018 4:38 a.m. PST

Are you saying that Brechtel198 is calling Kevin Kiley's book inaccurate?

Incredible. Complete nonsense, but still incredible.

Brechtel19807 Apr 2018 6:11 a.m. PST

There was one British rocket troop in Belgium in 1815. The commander of the troop was Captain EC Whinyates and the troop was present at both Quatre Bras and Waterloo.

Wellington did not care for rockets-what he wanted was the troop's horses for his conventional artillery units. However, when the troop arrived he ordered Whinyates to turn in his rockets and to replace them with field pieces.

Wellington was informed that the ordered action would 'break the troop commander's heart.' Wellington snapped back 'Damn his heart; let my order be obeyed.'

Whinyates dutifully took the ordered field pieces, but he kept his rockets also, despite Wellington's order.

In addition to Congreve's Details of the Rocket System, Donald Graves' The Rockets' Red Glare and Frank Winter's The First Golden Age of Rocketry are also very helpful.

Gwydion07 Apr 2018 7:54 a.m. PST

Nothing like taking something out of context.
Agreed. We were talking about the bombardment of Copenhagen which the navy carried out along with the army; remember all those bomb vessels?

The heavy naval rockets were much more accurate and reliable than the lighter rockets used by the Royal Artillery and the Royal Marine Artillery.
-ish. See below.

And the 300 rockets fired into Copenhagen in 1807 did contribute to the destructive fires that destroyed and damaged a large part of the city.

No quibble here

If you don't care for Col Elting's summary, then I would suggest taking a look at Details of the Rocket System by Congreve which was also used as a reference.

Love Elting's summary

And there are eyewitness accounts of the lighter rockets being inaccurate as well as having a tendency to boomerang on their crews. The larger naval rockets didn't have that problem.


So Elting was wrong when he said 'they [the naval rockets] were used against enemy coastal defenses, missions that demanded no more accuracy than the ability to hit a whole city'?
They may not have boomeranged but as you say 'The accuracy of the naval rockets was "good" if the target was "a whole city"; otherwise you might miss the target completely.

Brechtel19807 Apr 2018 11:50 a.m. PST

You forgot to list the page number from Artillery II-it's Page 122.

Regarding the siege of Copenhagen in 1807, the British invasion fleet did not conduct the bombardment with the exception of some of the rockets. The vast majority of the bombardment was conducted from the British siege lines and the siege artillery consisted of 40 mortars and 10 howitzers of varying calibers along with 30 24-pounder siege guns. These were emplaced in the British batteries along the western perimeter of the Danish capital. Some rocket fire was conducted from the British siege lines. The bombardment was a land, and not a naval effort.

The British bomb vessels were largely kept in check by the Danish gunboats.

Col Elting was not wrong, as the rockets were an area weapon and were used against a city, which was a hard target to miss.

Again, I have not seen any examples of the large naval rockets boomeranging. That was a disadvantage of the smaller rockets used by the Royal Horse Artillery and the Royal Marine Artillery.

Gazzola07 Apr 2018 3:01 p.m. PST

Supercilious Maximus

In relation to my post about Wellington, are you saying it does not matter what he does to other people and their properties because the nice man punishes his own men. LOL

Gazzola07 Apr 2018 4:16 p.m. PST

dibble

I have no idea if Wellington hung people for fun, so it is quite an absurd question to ask. Unlike some people, I would not attempt to explain how certain historical characters think.

But in terms of him actually hanging people, he admits and records that himself on more than one occasion.

Arthur Wellesley to Colonel Sartorius, 18th September, 1800:
'There is a fellow, by the name of Mousa, at Tellicherry, who supplies the Rajah with rice to my certain knowledge. A hint might be given to him that I am in the habit of hanging those whom I find living under the protection of the Company and dealing treacherously towards their interests: that I spare neither rank nor riches; but that, on the contrary, I punish severely those who, by their example, create the evils for which the unfortunate people suffer.' (Supplementary Despatches and Memoranda of Field Marshal Arthur Duke of Wellington, India 1797-1805, Volume 2, pages 167-168)

Additional for Captain Campbell, 74th Regiment, 27th August, 1800'
'There is a place called Ey Goor, at the distance of about four or five cos from Munserabad, which is the residence of the Rajah. You will be pleased to destroy it, and hang all persons either in it or Munserabad that you may find in arms.' (Supplementary Despatches and memoranda of Field Marshall Arthur Duke of Wellington, India 1797-1805, Volume 1, page 297)

The next two are Instructions to Lieutenant-Colonel Tolfrey, 22nd March, 1800:
'You will be joined at Ooscotta by the infantry above mentioned, to be encamped at Ey Goor: you will burn that place, and you will hang all the people that you may find in arms, or that you may have reason to know have been so.

On arriving at Ooscotta you will issue a proclamation, which will be dispersed for you by the Rajah's servants, inviting all peaceable inhabitants to remain in their villages, and stating it to be your intention to burn all villages which you may find deserted, and to hang all people that may be taken in arms. (Supplementary Despatches and memoranda of Field Marshal Arthur Duke of Wellington, India 1797-1805, Volume 1, pages 486-487)

To Lieutenant-Colonel Montresor, 4th May, 1800:
'It is very desirable that wherever you find a village deserted you should burn it, and wherever you find a man in arms he should be put to death. For this my public instructions will be sufficient authority, and at present there is no other mode of making an impression. In destroying Arrekeery it will be desirable to open the jungle as much as possible, and burn every habitation which it contains. I understand that the jungle is not large, and your encamping in the neighbourhood of it might give you an opportunity and leisure to destroy the post entirely.' (Supplementary Despatches and Memoranda of Field Marshal Arthur Duke of Wellington, India 1797-1805, Volume I, page 557)

To Marshal Beresford, 28th January, 1814:
'You may also give the person you will send to understand, that if I have further reason to complain of these or any other villages, I will act towards them as the French did towards the towns and villages in Spain and Portugal; that is, I will totally destroy them, and hang up all the people belonging to them that I shall find.' (The Dispatches of Field Marshal The Duke of Wellington by Colonel Gurwood, Volume 7, page 289)

The above order by Wellington is commented upon by Napier:
'A sullen obedience followed this correspondence for the moment; but the plundering system was soon renewed, and the inhabitants of Bidarry as well as those of the Val de Baygorry were provoked to action. Wellington, incensed by their activity, then issued a proclamation calling upon them to take arms openly and join Soult or stay peacefully at home, declaring he would otherwise burn their villages and hang all the inhabitants. Thus, notwithstanding the outcries against the French for this system of repressing the partida warfare in Spain, it was considered by the English general justifiable and necessary.' (History of the War in the Peninsula and in the South of France, by Major-general Sir W.F.P. Napier, Volume VI, page 8)

I think these all suggest that Wellington can be pretty ruthless when he wants to be. Whether he saw such orders as fun I can't really say. However, it is clear that when Wellington and the British are about, one should not dare leave the village deserted. LOL

Gazzola07 Apr 2018 4:57 p.m. PST

Drocton

'Bombs, grenades and incendiary rockets rained down on the city for three consecutive nights. The latter, the 'Congreve rockets', named for their inventor, William Congreve, who instructed the soldiers how to fire them, created the greatest consternation, Their screaming flight also contributed to their alarming effect. The rockets were new and unfamiliar and could, in Peymann's words, be considered as 'weapons that are not usually used by refined [ie: civilised] nations'. Historian Arnold D. Harvey has calculated that this was one of the most intensive bombardments before 1914, and that three times as much gunpowder was used as at the Battle of Waterloo.' (Experiences of War and Nationality in Denmark and Norway, 1807-1815 by Rasmus Glenthoj and Morten Nordhagen Ottosen, 2014, page 42)

The rockets were certainly part of the British terror bombardment which, along with the massive shelling, helped cause the fires to become uncontrollable and frighten the civilians into 'persuading' the Danish military to surrender.

'During this space the fires continued to rage with much fury in Copenhagen, nor had the battle in point of warmness abated. Amongst our Bombs, the Vesuvius was generally noticed as being particularly active and expeditious in firing, and her shells were thought to exceed in height those of the other vessels, however this idea must I think be merely hypothetical. The reflection of the flames from the mortars on the sky resembled lightning, the night being unusually dark. (2)

'During the night, the army had thrown 2,000 shells into the town.' (3)

The Copenhagen Expedition 1807, a Thesis by A.N. Ryan, 1951. Sources listed bottom of page 159:
(2) N.R.S Naval Miscellany, volume III, pa 40. The Bombardment of Copenhagen, 1807, Journal of Charles Chambers.
(3) P.R.O ADM 50.49. Gambier's Journal. September 3, 1807

dibble07 Apr 2018 7:32 p.m. PST

Thanks for contextualising Wellington's orders to the readers of the thread.

So much better than just posting:

"However, in terms of burning places and even hanging people, Wellington did that in India and also threatened to do so to the French in 1814"

Which made it seem that he did such things on a whim.

But then, when Southern France was invaded, the Duke issued his draconian orders to hang any soldier or cashier any officer caught pillaging, raping, stealing or damaging civilian property or committing violence on the people. Which was rather different where the French were concerned.

In the Peninsula itself, it's well documented that civilians were shot, nailed to doors, bayoneted etc by soldiers and property destroyed for not giving up their food, wine and riches without any redress or discipline meted out to them by anyone in authority or the French command. If an officer or other rank in the allied army were caught doing such things, it could be curtains for the perpetrator. That pillaging and rape occurred where the allies were concerned, and indeed officers were known to turn a blind eye or partake at times, it was not tolerated under military law and enforcement was used to deter it from happening. But as with life in the civilian world, though there are/were laws and enforcement, people still commit crime across its spectrum but at least they are/were punished if caught. The French soldier on the other hand, ran an almost zero chance of having his collar felt, even when they pillaged their country folk on their way to the Peninsula, let alone in the Peninsula itself and when they retreated into France, where they kept to form.

As for Napier's quote, The Duke was clear that if 'you' are a civilian and do civil things like do your normal day-to-day living, you will be protected under the laws laid down. if you choose to take up arms, you are free to join the ranks of Marshal Soult. But if you attempt to covertly bear arms against the Allies and you are caught, you will be hanged under the same laws and rules of war. if a Soldier could be hanged or punished for killing or attempting to murder a civilian, then it follows that a civilian be hanged or punished for killing or attempting to kill, a soldier.

Anyway! The Duke and his army's conduct pertaining the people of Southern France was both honourable and successful. That of Soult and his army on the other hand, was not good at all.

Paul :)

Gwydion09 Apr 2018 6:57 a.m. PST

Gwydion

It was the navy that bombarded Copenhagen.

Brechtel

The 1807 British bombardment of Copenhagen was done by the British siege artillery and rockets, not by the Royal Navy. Copenhagen was put under siege by the British Army and it was they who conducted the bombardment of the city to force its surrender.

Looks like we were both wrong.grin
Joint op.
I should certainly have thought about this for a second before posting an off the cuff comment – you?

Brechtel19809 Apr 2018 7:22 a.m. PST

The army was in charge of the bombardment and that is detailed very well in Thomas Munch-Peterson's Defying Napoleon.

With the exception of some of the rocket fire, all of the bombardment was conducted by the British army from the siege lines.

The Danes had fortified the harbor and its entrances since 1801 and the Royal Navy could not get its ships close to the city to conduct a bombardment.

Another reference that does mention Copenhagen in 1807 is Mark Thompson's Wellington's Engineers.

The entire operation was a joint one as the Royal Navy had to be employed to get the land forces to Denmark.

And if you look at a schematic of the siege, it is easy to see where the bombardment was conducted and by whom-it wasn't by sea.

Gwydion09 Apr 2018 9:10 a.m. PST

So to sum up
You claim

'There was no naval bombardment'

Yet you now concede naval rockets were fired.

You continue to claim the bomb vessels did not fire.

despite the evidence of the Vesuvius above –

and see The Naval History of Great Britain, from the declaration of War by France in 1793 to the Accession of George IV Vol 4 pp 200-212 by William James 1902 (orig pub 1837). which mentions the bomb vessels firing at the city.

It was certainly difficult to get close enough to fire but the combats between the Danish brigs and gun boats and the British small vessels show it was not impossible and the decisions to bombard were taken by Cathcart and Dampier together.

Brechtel19809 Apr 2018 5:54 p.m. PST

Copenhagen isn't on pages 200-212 in Volume IV. It is on pages 284-293:

link

James' account does mention some fire from British bomb vessels but also notes that the overwhelming majority of the bombardment was undertaken by the army, not the Royal Navy. That fact is not in dispute.

And the British admiral in command was Gambier, not Dampier.

Gazzola10 Apr 2018 10:54 a.m. PST

Gwydion

It seems the Danes had learnt from the previous action in 1801, in terms of defence against attack from the sea but did not take into account that another attack may include a large land force, as in 1807.

'Excluding the ordnance kept in reserve, Cathcart carried out the bombardment with the forty mortars and ten howitzers of different kinds along with thirty 24-pound cannon actually mounted on batteries that ringed the western perimeter of Copenhagen. The flat-trajectory artillery closest to the city was mainly used to engage the Danish guns on the ramparts and prepare the ground for storming the city, if that should prove necessary. The remainder was held further back and carried out the actual bombardment by lobbing shells into Copenhagen itself. Gambier sent in his bomb-vessels to add weight to the onslaught, but they were kept in check by the Danish gunboats and the bombardment was overwhelmingly a land-based operation.' (Defying Napoleon by Thomas Munch-Petersen, 2007, pages 200- 201)

'The British fleet was kept at a suitable distance from the city by Commodore Steen Bille's efficient gunboats, which inflicted considerable losses on the British to the noisy rapture of the many Copenhageners following the battles from the harbour.' (Experiences of War and Nationality in Denmark and Norway, 1807-1815 by Rasmus Glenthoj & Morten Nordhagen Ottoen, 2014, page 41)

Gwydion13 Apr 2018 9:29 a.m. PST

Re 'G'ambier vice 'D'ampier – Ah me! Mea culpa! Mea Maxima culpa! laugh

At least I didn't pay to have the proof reading be so bad.grin

As for the pagination of the reference – you are wrong.
You are looking at the 1837 edition – I specifically said the 1902 edition – see above.

picture

Gazzola – See your reference re the Vesuvius above. The Danes may like to think their gunships were prefect but it seems they were not.

Brechtel19813 Apr 2018 11:32 a.m. PST

Whether or not HMS Vesuvius was engaged at Copenhagen, the overwhelming majority of the bombardment of that city was done by the British Army, not the Royal Navy.

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