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"Why was Napoleon so Successful? " Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP24 Sep 2018 4:09 p.m. PST

Interesting…

YouTube link


Amicalement
Armand

Hector Blackwolf24 Sep 2018 4:53 p.m. PST

The video answers the question with the first line "Napoleon Bonaparte was one of the greatest commanders in military history."

It's like asking "why was Mozart so successful?"

JimSelzer Supporting Member of TMP24 Sep 2018 5:58 p.m. PST

because he was willing to see outside the box of his time

nsolomon9924 Sep 2018 6:27 p.m. PST

… hmmmm … so which flavoured popcorn will I need while I watch this fight? …

John Tyson24 Sep 2018 9:16 p.m. PST

I thought that video was very well done. Not much to disagree with in the analysis.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Sep 2018 4:17 a.m. PST

Seems to me that generations of military thinkers have been pondering that question ever since.

von Winterfeldt25 Sep 2018 5:50 a.m. PST

propaganda

he ruined his armies in 1812 and 1813 and 1814 and 1815 – what was so great about this?

in case one has to see his early successes – it is seemingly ignored that from 1812 onward he was one of the worst commanders in history.

Garryowen Supporting Member of TMP25 Sep 2018 6:14 a.m. PST

I think his problem in later years was unrealistic ambition rather than lack of military talent.

He ran circles around the allies in 1814.

Tom

Personal logo StoneMtnMinis Supporting Member of TMP25 Sep 2018 6:22 a.m. PST

Many times the quality and competence of one's opponents determines the extent of one's greatness.

Dave

andysyk25 Sep 2018 6:56 a.m. PST

Spot on StoneMtn

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP25 Sep 2018 11:35 a.m. PST

Often because the ennemy was dumb. It helps.
In Italy he had a spy in the Austrian staff.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP25 Sep 2018 11:47 a.m. PST

Glad you like it my friend!. (smile)


Amicalement
Armand

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP25 Sep 2018 11:54 a.m. PST

A very good general, who was helped in his early years by sluggish and at best avarage opponents. Also helped by the fact especially in 1805-1807 that he had the best trained soldiers, officers and generals.
It's far easier to be a military genius when you have the best soldiers, that can out march and out fight the enemy.

darthfozzywig Supporting Member of TMP25 Sep 2018 3:31 p.m. PST

Funny how the best generals seem to be up against "bad" ones. Or maybe we recall them as bad because they got beaten soundly by someone who was so good most others look poor in comparison.

A lot of "mistakes" by "bad generals" probably seemed reasonable at the time, and only get shown up to be mistakes when confronted by someone well above average.

It's worth noting that the Allies figured out how good Napoleon was and began (a) emulating him and (b) avoiding him unless with overwhelming numbers.

They weren't dumb – it just took awhile to realize he was that good and that they needed to adapt to beat him.

foxweasel26 Sep 2018 8:26 a.m. PST

If we are defining success as being exiled to islands, then he was outstanding.

coopman26 Sep 2018 8:36 a.m. PST

He outsmarted his opponents and had a masterful talent for committing his reserves where they were needed.

GreenLeader26 Sep 2018 2:52 p.m. PST

"If we are defining success as being exiled to islands, then he was outstanding"

Or failing to invade Russia.

LtJBSz Supporting Member of TMP26 Sep 2018 4:14 p.m. PST

1813 he was let down by his subordinates. 1814 was a brilliant campaign against overwhelming odds, and numbers finally prevailed. 1815 he came within a hairs breadth of winning. When combined with his earlier campaigns he could be the greatest captain of all time.

von Winterfeldt27 Sep 2018 5:00 a.m. PST

I cannot share the rose red picture about his disasters – and won't blame any subordinates, so Boney takes the credit when he is successful (with his subordinates) but then they get the blame when he isn't.

I see no brilliance in the 1814 campaign, compared to his first campaign in Italy – 1814 ends with the loss of his reign – utter and humiliating defeat, he had to dress in an Austrian generals uniform for fear getting lnyched.

Marc at work27 Sep 2018 6:00 a.m. PST

Sigh…

If only they were called the Blucher Wars :-)

foxweasel27 Sep 2018 6:19 a.m. PST

Sigh…

Well, if Blucher had been a megalomaniac who wanted to rule the world but ended up dying in defeat and exile, then no doubt they would have been called the Blucher Wars ;-)

Murvihill27 Sep 2018 3:19 p.m. PST

So, first we have to define success…
1. Stayed in power 15 years,
a. Average reign for a roman emporer was 8 years
b. Average reign of a British monarch was 30 years
c. Hitler: 12 years
d. Average reign of a Russian Czar: 14.7 years
2. Conquered Madrid to Moscow: Largest land grab in Europe between 117 AD (Roman Empire) and 1943
3. Six coalitions fought him (not sure what comparisons to make of that one)
4. Permanent changes to French society (Code Napoleon).

Can't think of anything else that would define success. Now you can argue whether he was successful or not.

foxweasel27 Sep 2018 3:32 p.m. PST

He still lost.

HappyHiker27 Sep 2018 5:06 p.m. PST

Surely the success statistic of any megalomaniac should be number of people killed in his name. Napoleon was way way behind Stalin. A better commander for sure, but no where near as good at wiping out people.

He did have a period of history named after him though, so that's not bad.

Murvihill27 Sep 2018 6:05 p.m. PST

"Surely the success statistic of any megalomaniac should be number of people killed in his name. Napoleon was way way behind Stalin. A better commander for sure, but no where near as good at wiping out people."

Napoleon: 3,250,000 to 6,500,000 or 0.23 to 0.4 percent of population
Hitler: 73,000,000 or 17.5 percent
Stalin: 20,000,000 to 30,000,000 or 11.7 to 17.6 percent
Mao: 45,000,000 or 7.3 percent
I googled the british empire but couldn't find any numbers.

GreenLeader27 Sep 2018 7:10 p.m. PST

Was the British Empire a 'megalomaniac'? Seems a very far-fetched claim.

Sho Boki28 Sep 2018 2:42 a.m. PST

Hitler: 73,000,000 or 17.5 percent
Stalin: 20,000,000 to 30,000,000 or 11.7 to 17.6 percent

I am very suspicios about that.
You switched names and numbers?

42flanker28 Sep 2018 2:45 a.m. PST

First define 'British Empire: (when was it founded and by who?…) and then clarify the categories of death that we are talking about.

If we consider conflicts that we agree involved the 'British Empire' we need to clarify which were wars of outright aggression and those which were more a case of holding onto what they had obtained through commercial enterprise and nautical endeavour (with levels of violence that have to be taken case by case; in general, arguably more than the French, less than the Spanish or Portuguese). The 13 American colonies are a case in point.

It seems that the aggressive began to outweigh the defensive roundabout the time of the first invasion of Afghanistan in 1839 and the annexation of New Zealand in 1840- (two very different sets of circumstances). In the decades that followed, the wielding of hard power as government policy became increasingly prevalent: viz the Opium Wars.

Annexation of the Punjab and the 'putting down' of Indian Mutiny may have been essentially defensive but the Zulu and Second Afghan Wars, claimed to be defensive or pre-emptive, but clearly more to do with Imperialist bullying. The date of Victoria's assumption of the title of 'Empress' in 1876 may not be entirely coincidental; nor the continuing development of steam ships and breechloading rifles.

The invasion of Egypt and the Sudan campaigns followed- the Iraq of the late C19th (See 'police actions' below). The climax of this phase was the Anglo-Boer War of 1899.

When considering 'imperial conflicts, we also need to identify what might have been called 'police actions,' and foreign military enterprises that were aimed principally at the strategic interests of European rivals, most often the French, which did not intend permanent possession, though it frequently ended up that way (Gibraltar, anyone? Guadeloupe, Trinidad, etc.). These latter might intersect with fights for the spoils of declining empires such as the Spanish, Ottoman, (and we might add the Mughal) where nature abhored a power vacuum.

When we discuss deaths do we add the involvement in the slave trade and plantation economy of the Americas? Again it's difficult to sift responsibility of the various nations involved- and of course the British can claim maxiimum credit for their role in ending the slave trade (while continuing to profit from slave labour for the next half century).

It would also be necessary to quantify responsibility for policies that might be described today as genocidal, whether incidental, due to indifference or incompetence, quite a few cases to be discussed, or deliberate, less so.

Sorry what was the question?

nsolomon9928 Sep 2018 3:52 a.m. PST

…. munch, munch …. salted caramel flavour popcorn to start with …. while you guys are getting warmed up … munch, munch …

Tango really knows how to start a party … sucker punched again! Happens every couple of months … munch …

foxweasel28 Sep 2018 4:36 a.m. PST

Yes this does seem to have followed the usual pattern, "wasn't Napoleon great" "no he was a fat loser" "those Brits are just evil"

Marc at work28 Sep 2018 5:15 a.m. PST

Yup. Always amazed how angry guys can get over wargaming. Me, I like Naps, lots of colour and spectacle on the table. Get tired of the Napoleon bashing (especially once Stalin and Hitler are brought into the discussion) – never really sure what it is supposed to do. But then I live in a country where famous names are often knocked off pedestals as we reevaluate them with today's standards. Hindsight is wonderful, but I reckon very few historical figures can really stand up to the modern spotlight. So I will stick with my colourful toys, and my pacifist personal stance (as I know from my history studies how wrong wars are).

Now where's that pop corn

NickinRI Supporting Member of TMP28 Sep 2018 6:04 a.m. PST

For those interested in whether Napoleon was a great campaign commander, you should read about his 1796-97 campaigns in Italy.

The differences in dynamism and decision making between the French and their enemies (Piedmont and Austria) is startling. Now, one could claim that all French armies were that good, but the record of his compatriots fighting may of the same forces (and possessing greater resources) in campaigns in Germany in 1796-97 and again in 1799-1800 is decidedly mixed.

Yet Napoleon far more effectively exploited those same advantages for 20 years or more. It took almost the whole of Europe, an almost unprecedented degree of diplomatic and military cooperation, and enormous societal reform (undermining the original goals of many of the monarchical states) for the rest of Europe to match him. That he failed when Europe was largely united was, perhaps, understandable.

That's my tuppence worth.

Anyway, you could always read mine and Chris' book: link

We're both wargamers and I war game this campaign with my officers to study decision making and theory (as do the Army and Marines). It still provides good practice for the maneuver arms too!
:-)

GreenLeader28 Sep 2018 7:27 a.m. PST

42Flanker

The Boer War of 1899-1902 can hardly be described as a 'war of aggression': the Boer republics started the war by invading British territory.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP28 Sep 2018 11:55 a.m. PST

"…I see no brilliance in the 1814 campaign, compared to his first campaign in Italy – 1814 ends with the loss of his reign – utter and humiliating defeat, he had to dress in an Austrian generals uniform for fear getting lnyched…."


Es ist nicht fair, was Sie sagen, mein guter Freund Von W…..(smile)


The campaign of 1814 was one of the most brilliant of Napoleon … you seem to forget that the French had to fight against an overwhelming numerical disproportion … in no other campaign an Army worn and formed by recruits maneuvered and defeated for three months a mass immense of enemies … we also know that the victory was so close that the Allied Monarchs were willing to sign a ceasefire … once again.

If it were not for that captured documentation that gave rise to Blücher's advance towards Paris … the serious errors and betrayal of Marmont, etc … most likely 1814 would have culminated with a victory of the Emperor … Pyrrhic perhaps … Returning to its natural borders too … but very close to triumph.

And about the "lynching" … you know that it depended on the transit zone of France … those same people cheered him on his return when with a handful of soldiers … and just walking … he arrived triumphant to Paris as a new Cesar….

I do not share hatreds or unconditional loves with the great figures of the past … we must try to see them in the historical context and consider them human like us … take them away or add merits to them for a personal feeling … it does not show any balance .

Amicalement
Armand

42flanker28 Sep 2018 4:36 p.m. PST

"The Boer War of 1899-1902 can hardly be described as a 'war of aggression': the Boer republics started the war by invading British territory."

Tensions had been building up for some time before that. Where would you place the British attempts at annexation of 1881 and 1896 in the progress towards war in 1899?

foxweasel28 Sep 2018 4:45 p.m. PST

All very interesting, but how successful was Napoleon during these Boar wars?

Murvihill28 Sep 2018 4:53 p.m. PST

I only brought up the British Empire because I thought someone else would.

foxweasel28 Sep 2018 5:03 p.m. PST

Ha ha, now you're that someone.

von Winterfeldt28 Sep 2018 10:28 p.m. PST

And about the "lynching" … you know that it depended on the transit zone of France … those same people cheered him on his return when with a handful of soldiers … and just walking … he arrived triumphant to Paris as a new Cesar….

no they did not – the same people would have attacked him, he avoided this area of France – not without any reason he did chose his approach to Paris.

Sorry I cannot see any brilliance in 1814 campaign, he ruined a ruined country even worse.

Marmont acted as a true Frenchman – loyal to the patrie and not loyal to a dictator who lost grip with reality.

Brechtel19829 Sep 2018 5:41 a.m. PST

Marmont acted as a true Frenchman – loyal to the patrie and not loyal to a dictator who lost grip with reality.

If you believe that treason is to be 'respected' then you are correct.

Marmont's treachery took place with Talleyrand as the orchestrator of the treason. And Marmon't troops were turned over to the allies after Napoleon's abdication in favor of his son, which the marshals supported. They were furious when they found out what Marmont had done. They did not want the Bourbons back, and the return of the Bourbons was definitely not good for France.

I would suggest a careful reread of Caulaincourt who was involved in the negotiations to have Napoleon II declared. Marmont's treason scuppered that proposal and brought back the hated Bourbons which was what Talleyrand wanted.

Marmont was not only an ingrate and a traitor, he was a mere pawn in Talleyrand's machinations to make the situation better for Talleyrand; nothing more, nothing less.

Brechtel19829 Sep 2018 6:22 a.m. PST

…it is seemingly ignored that from 1812 onward he was one of the worst commanders in history.

Napoleon's two greatest military mistakes were going into Spain and invading Russia. Spain was the actual long-term drain on the Grande Armee. Napoleon was urged in early 1813 to withdraw at least half of the veterans from Spain and to send them into Germany to immediately face the Russians and Prussians. He refused to do so which was a grave error. In doing so, he could have defeated the allies and prevented Austria from entering the war. Austria provided the needed cannon-fodder to fight the Grande Armee in Germany as the Russians and Prussians were defeated in the spring campaign and driven back to the Oder.

GreenLeader29 Sep 2018 11:25 a.m. PST

42 Flanker

The 1881 annexation was done by 25 mounted policeman, and not a shot was fired. Indeed, large numbers of the Boers welcomed the British as they were about to be over-run by the Pedi.

Though 'Pushful Joe' certainly knew about it, the 1895/6 Jameson Raid was not a British government operation. It was part of a bid by the large numbers of English speaking residents of the Transvaal to get a fair franchise – hardly an unreasonable aspiration, given that they were paying all the taxes, and were liable for Commando service.

Kruger's gaggle had been talking of building an 'Afrikaans Empire from the Zambesi to the Cape' as early as 1883. A delegation from the OFS attended secret talks in the Transvaal in 1887, with a view to persuade them to sign up to an offensive alliance against the British.

As for Napoleon's part in it all… well – I think we are indeed straying well off-topic!

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP29 Sep 2018 11:52 a.m. PST

Unfortunately my friend … I can not be more in disagreement with your historical meanings of this period.

Amicalement
Armand

42flanker29 Sep 2018 12:35 p.m. PST

(cough)Majuba

I'll get me coat.

GreenLeader29 Sep 2018 3:26 p.m. PST

Majuba happened 4 years after the annexation….

I simply used your shorthand for 'the 1881 annexation'. This was laziness on my part – sorry. The annexation actually occurred in 1877 and not a shot was fired. Indeed, the Boers in some areas pleaded with the British to annex the Transvaal to save them from the Pedi.

With the power of the Pedi, and then the Zulus, broken by the British army, Kruger et al decided they'd like to be running the show again. And by 'running the show', I mean 'enriching themselves through breath-taking corruption, practicing slavery and denying any sort of representation / basic human rights to the blacks who outnumbered them about 20-1'.

But all that (and however interesting it might be) is not especially germane to the claim that the Boer War of 1899-1902 was a 'war of aggression' by the British – it clearly wasn't: they were attacked and their territory invaded and annexed.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP30 Sep 2018 3:22 a.m. PST

The answer is very simple. France had a revolution. Most of the old regime was eliminated and with it all the old ways of thinking, tactics, strategy and thinking. His opponents kept their organization and people and attitudes and training. They were than locked into what had developed 40 years earlier with old people leading. It was then not a contest…….. A simple example is Austria declaring war and Napoleon being able to move a well trained standing army to attack them before the Austrians were ready.

Brechtel19830 Sep 2018 10:19 a.m. PST

…if Blucher had been a megalomaniac who wanted to rule the world…

Where did Napoleon ever state that he 'wanted to rule the world'?

And where is any evidence of Napoleon being a megalomaniac?

Brechtel19830 Sep 2018 10:20 a.m. PST

A simple example is Austria declaring war and Napoleon being able to move a well trained standing army to attack them before the Austrians were ready.


I'm assuming you are referring to 1805 here. What is even more amazing is the 1809 campaign when Austria attacked Bavaria (again) without a declaration of war…

foxweasel30 Sep 2018 11:09 a.m. PST

megalomaniac
[mɛɡələˈmeɪnɪak]
NOUN
a person who has an obsessive desire for power.

If the kepi fits!

He may or may not have stated he wanted to rule the world, just because it's not written in one of your books doesn't mean he didn't, impossible to prove either way. I think the evidence of him trying to conquer as many countries as he could rather speaks for itself.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP30 Sep 2018 2:45 p.m. PST

"…. I think the evidence of him trying to conquer as many countries as he could rather speaks for itself…"

Does this apply only to Napoleon? … or to any Empire? (smile)

Amicalement
Armand

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