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"The Lion’s Last Roar: Marshal Michel Ney" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP15 Sep 2020 9:18 p.m. PST

"Napoléon Bonaparte called him "a lion" and amid an army of heroes singled him out as "the bravest of the brave." One of his fellow French marshals perhaps said it best: "We are soldiers, but Ney is a knight." Marshal Michel Ney exemplified all these characteristics, and so it was in 1815 he abandoned titles, lands and family to fight once more at the side of Napoléon in defense of France in the final campaign of the Napoleonic wars.

Ney joined the French army as a 19-year-old private. He displayed such daring and skill during the wars of the French Revolution that he rose meteorically in rank, becoming a general at age 27 and a marshal of France at 35. Tall, muscular and possessed of great courage, Ney always gravitated to the hottest part of the battlefield, often fighting more like a captain than a marshal. "He had only to give an order for you to feel brave," an aide recalled. "Ney's genius only awakened in the face of the enemy and at the great voice of the guns. Even under grapeshot his laughter and pleasantries seemed to defy the death all around him." The troops idolized Ney and nicknamed him le Rougeaud ("the Ruddy"), because his complexion turned deep red in the heat of battle…"
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Personal logo SHaT1984 Supporting Member of TMP15 Sep 2020 10:27 p.m. PST

>>because his complexion turned deep red in the heat of battle…"

I've only ever read, it was because of his red hair… so there ya go…

42flanker16 Sep 2020 2:07 a.m. PST

so it was in 1815 he abandoned titles, lands and family to fight once more at the side of Napoléon in defense of France

Who could not be a fan of Ney, but it might be argued his decision was a little more complicated than that?

Robert le Diable16 Sep 2020 2:12 a.m. PST

I suppose Ney would have had a fairly pale complexion, characteristic of people with "red" hair, any flushing from exertion and excitement being particularly evident. Only ever encountered that explanation here, too, and think the "redhead" explanation more plausible (though not at all incompatible). Quite a fast-paced article, worth the reading. Thanks, Armand.

42flanker16 Sep 2020 2:38 a.m. PST

"Even at this late hour Napoléon committed just four battalions of Imperial Guard grenadiers, rather than the entire reserve. Ney led them forward as the spearhead of some 15,000 attacking troops, but it was a futile gesture. They were met by more than 20,000 British infantrymen concealed in the wheat fields"

'Robert B. Bruce is a former professor of military history at the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College. A noted authority on the French army, he is a fellow of the International Napoleonic Society.'

Reading on, I have to say, I am not sure I find these two passages entirely compatible.

Agreed on 'le rougeau'. Of course, as a redhead, in addition he may well have also burnt easily in the sun.

Handlebarbleep16 Sep 2020 6:48 a.m. PST


Here! Here!

As an article for general comsumption it reads relatively well, however, as the cognoscenti knows, many of those Grenadiers were Chasseurs….

I also find that estimates of mid-battle strengths after considerable periods of casualty taking then being rounded off to the nearest thousand of questionable value and not really worth arguing over. I was never a big fan of musket counting anyway as larger bodies often seem to run away from smaller ones if the circumstances are right.

Never thought of putting the defeat at Waterloo down to insufficient sunblock though.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2020 11:56 a.m. PST

There are a few things that should be mentioned:

-The title 'Bravest of the Brave' is one he shared with Lannes. Desaix described Lannes in that way in Italy in 1796-1797.

-Ney was also referred to as 'Red Michael.'

-None of Napoleon's marshals were 'marshals of France.' They were 'marshals of the Empire.'

-A definite case can be made that Ney was not 'one of Napoleon's best marshals.'

-Regarding 1813, Ney failed both on the Berlin front and at Bautzen as he commanded units out of his expertise. He was best with a command of no more than 10,000 men.

-Grouchy's command in 1815 at least initially, was the Cavalry Reserve. He was in that billet at Ligny.

-The author uses the term 'mounted cuirassiers.' I don't believe there were any other type in the Grande Armee.

-Five Old Guard battalions conducted the final attack at Waterloo. They were a combination of both grenadiers and chasseurs. And they did not attack en masse but as single battalions, with the exception of two that linked up during the advance. Instead of one action, there were four separate, smaller actions where the Guard battalions were defeated.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP16 Sep 2020 12:03 p.m. PST

Merci pour l'explication mon bon ami Robert … je suis entièrement d'accord avec vous … et je suis content que vous ayez apprécié …


42flanker17 Sep 2020 4:35 a.m. PST

"Never thought of putting the defeat at Waterloo down to insufficient sunblock though."

I doubt the good Marshal was hydrating sufficiently, either.

Notwithstanding, I am fairly sure that there weren't 2000 Guardsmen concealed in whatever wheat was left upright, let alone 20,000. I leave it to others to comment on the number of attacking troops in the final French attack.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP17 Sep 2020 4:46 a.m. PST

Too much movie and not enough research.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP17 Sep 2020 12:12 p.m. PST



138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP17 Sep 2020 12:58 p.m. PST

'Bravest of the Brave' and argument can be made for 'Thickest of the Thick.'

Handlebarbleep17 Sep 2020 1:54 p.m. PST


If a British author had omitted the contribution of van de Smissen's guns or Chasse's Division they would have been accused of being part of a conspiracy. The article continually uses British when it would be more accurate to say Allied. But to paraphrase another thread, it's only wrong when British authors do it!

42flanker17 Sep 2020 2:04 p.m. PST

No, it's wrong all the way down. Along with the turtles.

Personal logo SHaT1984 Supporting Member of TMP17 Sep 2020 4:26 p.m. PST

Gingas always get a hard time!
Over a decade ago I helped mentor a young lady who'd been harrassed all her life for being a genetic redhead (and the only in her family), so much so she had manifest anxiety and dyed her hair jet black to avoid the ongoing abuse of/ amusement to others.

>>argument can be made for 'Thickest of the Thick.'<<
I doubt any such description applies to one who can articulate Napoleonic manoeuvres in writing and spirit such as he did.

- d

42flanker17 Sep 2020 5:18 p.m. PST

This 'ginger' thing is new-ish. Late C20th or so. It never was an issue when I was growing up or later. Redheads had a certain glamour.

Robert le Diable17 Sep 2020 9:50 p.m. PST

Never considered this matter at all until now ( eventually, all hair is grey…), but there's been a long tradition – dating to at least the late eighteenth century – of representing Shakespeare's Shylock as having red hair, so there must have been some negative associations to this hair colouring, at least in England.
"Thread-Drift" or what?

Handlebarbleep18 Sep 2020 12:08 a.m. PST


As long as the collars and cuffs matssshhh

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP18 Sep 2020 1:07 a.m. PST

@ 42flanker

Agreed on that. I never heard of anyone taking the p155 out of people with red hair until, as you say, maybe 25 years ago. It is mostly directed against males, too. Males are ginger, females are redheads and often sought after.

I know of two historical precedents for this. One is that Judas Iscariot was supposed to have been a redhead. The other is that in, oh, Tudor times anyway, red hair was thought to be result of a woman conceiving during her period. So Elizabethan kids would point at the ginger-haired kid and snigger about "what your mum got up to".

Someone once suggested to me that people started doing this as it become beyond the pale to take the p155 out of people over their race. The timing fits. Red haired people can't be accused of being a race.

Personal logo SHaT1984 Supporting Member of TMP18 Sep 2020 3:09 a.m. PST

Sorry I get the impression we may be similar ages, but I've seen it all my life here in the colonies.
Maybe the home country has matured a bit faster than us colonials.

Nevertheless, it was heard from migrants as much as anyone else.
Yes 'popularised' last 2 decades because of Pr. Harry in part, but has always been around IMHE.

OTOH, I'd take a Ney or Davout over a MAssena any day …

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP18 Sep 2020 5:14 a.m. PST

Massena is one of the masters, Ney is not. Ney was a competent tactician when he kept his head.

And he made a major error in judgment by employing Jomini as chief of staff in 1813 after Jomini proved his incompetence as a military governor in Russia.

Davout, Suchet, St Cyr, Lannes, and Soult were also the masters, Davout probably the best of the lot.

But the only indispensable marshal was Berthier…

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP18 Sep 2020 10:12 a.m. PST

Davout, Suchet, St Cyr, Lannes, and Soult were also the masters, Davout probably the best of the lot.

But the only indispensable marshal was Berthier…

I would agree with Kevin with one comment, Suchet wasn't a "team player" in Spain. When asked for assistance, more than once he turned the request. Funnily enough the only Marshall of the Empire who was willing to come to the aid of his fellows in Spain was the Duke of Ragusa.

Murvihill18 Sep 2020 11:05 a.m. PST

Wasn't Suchet the only marshal to earn his baton in Spain?

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP18 Sep 2020 11:48 a.m. PST

Agree with Kevin too…


von Winterfeldt18 Sep 2020 1:19 p.m. PST

Ney was more than a lion, read this, what he wrote for his officers.

Military Studies
by duc d'Elchingen Michel Ney, Abraham James, Michel Ney


Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP18 Sep 2020 5:08 p.m. PST

I have a lot of time for Ney. Brave as a lion, and almost as smart.

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