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"Could Napoleon have won the Peninsular War?" Topic

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07 Apr 2022 11:37 a.m. PST
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OldReliable186207 Apr 2022 9:13 a.m. PST

It's generally acknowledged that the 'Spanish Ulcer' played a key role in the eventual downfall of Napoleon's empire. After reading about the Peninsular War, I've been left with a question: was it possible for the Bonapartist regime in Spain to definitively win?

Considering that the anti-Bonaparte forces could rely on the support of Britain, it would always have been immensely difficult, but I can't help wondering if things would have been different had the Emperor taken a more personal interest in Spain.

Just having him send good troops with Dupont in 1808 would be helpful, or Soult occupying Cadiz in 1810 when it was virtually undefended to avoid the siege would be better for the French.

Korvessa07 Apr 2022 9:39 a.m. PST

I think he could have had he not tried to put his brother on the throne.
I am just an amature, but I think one of Napoleon's biggest problems was trying to placate too many relatives.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP07 Apr 2022 9:45 a.m. PST

Spot on for Korvessa – basically Napoleon needed a stable Spain as a southern anchor – had he decided to restore Ferdinand VII to the throne and then thrown his support behind the Spanish royalists it would have split the opposition – potentially the royalists/French on one side, the Cortes of Cádiz and the Brits on the other – and in that circumstance victory was certainly possible

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP07 Apr 2022 9:52 a.m. PST


Correlli Barnett reckons the cue for Napoleon to abandon his armies was when the campaign became unwinnable: Egypt, Spain, Russia, Belgium. In Spain he'd got to the point where he clearly wasn't going to catch Moore, so he quit, handed over to Soult and went home.

It's sometimes argued that he didn't leave Spain because he had failed, but because he had to deal with Austria. This argument would carry more weight if he had returned after dealing with Austria. In fact he never returned at all, even though between July 1809 and June 1812, he wasn't at war by land with anyone else at all.

Since nothing can seriously be considered to have been a major claim on his time or military distraction during this period, there must be some other reason why he stayed away. Given how assiduously he cultivated his legend, the obvious one is the likeliest: that if he went back, he'd lose or fail. As time went by, and even his ablest subordinates got pwned in Spain, this looks like a shrewd judgement on his part.

It would have happened because in this era you could not really bag or destroy a British army, even a beaten one, because it could simply evacuate and reinvade. Moreover, you couldn't really permanently destroy Spanish resistance either because defeating Spanish armies did not end their resistance. Neither did occupying their capital (anybody's capital, actually).

He would surely have returned if he had a coherent plan to deal with the situation. To deal with Britain and Portugal he needed command of the sea. This would have meant that no British army could have either landed, or evacuated if defeated. Torres Vedras could be outflanked, and Portugal eliminated as a potential Spanish ally or British foothold. With these two allies removed, the Spanish situation looks a lot more precarious but it's still not clear how he would force a surrender. He could reverse his appointment of his brother as king but the shock to French prestige would have encouraged similar insurrection everywhere.

My guess is he knew all that but couldn't see a way to withdraw either, so he left it to his marshals and hoped one of them would somehow solve it for him.

Michman07 Apr 2022 10:38 a.m. PST

1804 : Annex the Low Countries to the Empire. Do *not* declare the Continental System. Insure equality in taxation, military service, government benefits, etc., etc. for these and all later annexed territories. "All citizens of the Empire are equal". – propose "peace and free trade" to Britain

1805 : Campaign of 1805, then annex Austria (proper) and the Rhine Confederation statelets to the Empire : erect Hungary inclusive of the Balkans a satellite state. Add Trieste, Fiume and Istria to Italy – continue to propose "peace and free trade" to Britain

1806 : Campaign of 1806, then annex Prussia and the Westphalian statelets to the Empire : give Poland and Galicia to Russia. Declare "Italy", "Germany" and the "Netherlands" (modern Holland, Belgium and Rhineland) as national states in the Empire. Re-establish the Hanse ports a free trade city-state zones. Declare Napoléon a "constitutional emperor" as per the Cent Jours. – continue to propose "peace and free trade" to Britain

1807 : Send 50,000 to 100,000 man Austro-German expeditionary force from "new" Hungary to support the Russian Christian Crusade against Turkey. Offer Sweden to join the Empire as a "Scandanavia" nation-state to include Norway and Swedish Finland. Partition Denmark and Schleswig-Holstien between "Germany" and "Scandanavia". Give Oldenburg and Karelia to Russia. Complete pacification of Southern Italy, but do *not* occupy the Papal States, using 25,000 to 50,000 Italian and Swiss troops. Prepare mobile depots for logistical support in Iberia. – continue to propose "peace and free trade" to Britain

1808 : Obtain a Papal announcement in support of freeing Iberia from autocratic rule. Invade Iberia with up to 500,000 men (mostly French) – plan a 3-year phased campaign to allow construction of logistical support between phases. Have the Vatican organize local government in occupied territories. Insure sufficient food for the locals. Declare a "Protectorate of Christ" in the conquored territory with Papal support. Guarantee the Catholic Faith in Portuguese and Spanish territories in the New World, with 1/2 the revenues going to the Vatican. – continue to propose "peace and free trade" to Britain

…. and don't divorce Josephine – instead adopt Eugene as heir apparent.

Maybe would work, likely each step would take an additional year or two to organize administration.

Anyway – the general idea is to give lots of the East to the Russians and dont poke at British trade or colonies, while taking over most all of Europe as a group of integrated, modernizing "nations" with constitutional protections, some modest amount of elected representation and good civil administration.

42flanker07 Apr 2022 12:06 p.m. PST

Michman, thank you. I enjoyed that.

Deucey Supporting Member of TMP07 Apr 2022 12:16 p.m. PST

Summary of Michman: don't be a Napoleon.

raylev307 Apr 2022 3:47 p.m. PST

Napoleon himself had no reason to be in Spain at all. The fact is that Spain was a side show, not the main effort. That doesn't mean it wasn't a pain to France, but continental Europe was the main effort and Austria and, at times, Prussia and Russia were the main enemies.

Napoleon was correct to focus his leadership on the north and east…Britain was never going to win the war in Spain -- just tie up some sub-standard French elements.

nsolomon9907 Apr 2022 5:04 p.m. PST

Probably need to define what you mean by " … won …"? What kind of victory are we talking about?

He did in fact win many victories against the Spanish army but that didn't constitute a victory because the Spanish people were not ever going to agree to be conquered.

+1 Michman

Lilian07 Apr 2022 5:34 p.m. PST

It's generally acknowledged that the 'Spanish Ulcer' played a key role in the eventual downfall of Napoleon's empire

…in the usual anglocentric and spanish-speaking literature…

nothing more than a peripheric theater and very secondary
6 months of Russia in 1812 or Germany in 1813 played undoubtedly surely and directly more a key role in the downfall of the First Empire than 6 years of the so-called Spanish ulcer, prostate, appendicitis but as it was the only campaign were the British Redcoats had some visibility with a small expeditionary corps, obviously it is more 'bankable' than major campaigns and wars fought by the three bigger belligerents Austria Russia Prussia costing to Napoleonic France more than a medical metaphor, but not have much interest for the anglosphere
the Austrian Russian Prussian Armies were already reaching Paris or Lyon while there were still unexpelled French garrisons in Spain

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP07 Apr 2022 7:34 p.m. PST

"the Austrian Russian Prussian Armies were already reaching Paris or Lyon while there were still unexpelled French garrisons in Spain"

Yes--not to mention unexpelled garrisons in Hamburg and Danzig. Your point being, Lilian? Try totaling up the completely unnecessary cost in lives and treasure to the French empire and its satrapies of those six years, and compare it to one or two of those bigger (but much shorter) campaigns.

No, I don't think a win was possible absent a major Anglo-Spanish mistake, and considering the ones they made and still won, it would have to have been a whopper. All His Imperial Majesty could have done was cut his losses--but that would have meant admitting he made a mistake in the first place. SO much more fun to sit in Paris giving orders no one could carry out!

mildbill08 Apr 2022 4:35 a.m. PST

The reactionaries were never going to accept Napoleon. So, all he had to do is win the perpetual war against royalty.

Lilian08 Apr 2022 5:30 a.m. PST

my point is that the so-called "Napoleonic Vietnam" ulcer prostate and etc…has very very far to have importance given by the anglo-spanish propaganda and usual literature in spanish or english, that 's all, not even fixing troops as the French Army itself withdrew troops before 1812-1814 already in 1810-1811 and so certainly not expelled by the operations of the guerrillas or redcoats as usually presented if not the hierarchy of priorities where Spain appeared only very secondary, in 1814 it was rather the French Army in Cataluña who fixed Spanish Sicilian troops and Wellington was only around the Pyrénées while the others Austrian Russian Prussian Armies largely occupied Napoleonic France
Russia and Germany cost 250 000 men each in only few weeks or months, half million in 2 years, Spain cost 100 000 in 6 or 7 years

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2022 5:36 a.m. PST

His Imperial Majesty Napoleon I, Emperor of France, King of Italy, brother to the Kings of Holland, Spain and Westphalia, brother in law of the King of Naples and son in law of the Emperor of Austria has to "win the perpetual war against royalty" mildbill? I can suggest a good place for him to start.

That ship sailed in 1804, if not earlier.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2022 6:58 a.m. PST

I love the way the only theatre is somehow a secondary theatre. Pure gold.

The Austerlitz campaign was four months, the Jena campaign eight if we take it from October to July, the 1809 campaign was four months and the 1812 campaign was less than six months. The 1813-14 campaign was in effect 14 months minus a 2-month armistice. Waterloo was, in effect, a week, followed by a few months of resistance to Prussian chevauchée (punitive looting). That is barely three years of hostilities between 1803 and 1815.

The most persistent adversary of France, at war for all but four months of those three years, was Russia. Next comes Prussia (22 months) and last of the major powers, Austria (16 months).

Then you look at Spain and you find the British, Portuguese and Spanish at war for seven continuous years. At sea, Britain maintained the struggle single-handed for all 12 years.

The Anglophobic / revisionist tendency has to insist that the Peninsular and naval wars were sideshows, because otherwise, the degree of effort puts all other nations except Russia to shame. We need not confuse this perspective with rational historical analysis, however.

ConnaughtRanger08 Apr 2022 8:50 a.m. PST

These Bonaparte Fanboy threads are hugely entertaining – until some misery guts like 4th Cuirassier spoils everything by bringing fact to the party.

Whirlwind08 Apr 2022 9:10 a.m. PST

just tie up some sub-standard French elements.

I have heard this before, but it isn't really sustainable. The first French Army in Spain was definitely a hotch potch, but the French Army that Napoleon took to Spain (i.e. from August 1808 onwards) was the Grande Armee, minus Davout's Corps. All those experienced units stayed in the Peninsular – minus the Imperial Guard, and even then some IG units returned – but on the flip side the survivors of the first French Army were veterans now, thereafter and Imperial reinforcements were fairly plentiful in 1810 and 1811. It was only in 1813 when soldiers were taken from Spain to rebuild the Imperial army in Germany that there was a serious diminution in quality. If one wants to look for "sub-standard French elements", one finds them in Germany in 1809 and in 1813, far more than in Spain.

Lilian08 Apr 2022 10:06 a.m. PST

in the very secondary peripheric "Peninsular War", there were no more than 30 or 40 000 redcoats at the very best moment…fact…
when you realize or have just an idea about the strenght mobilised agaisnt France by real majors powers such as Austria and Prussia since 1792 (contrary to Great Britain) and Russia since 1799 maybe ten times more larger for each campaign or war to say it quickly, fact and fact and fact, this gives an undeniable idea about the degree of participation of these last ones and who should feel shame to ignore a such human war effort in comparison to only a 30 000men-expeditionnary corps
so nothing more than the usual anglocentric British view to rewrite the Napoleonic History in order to give importance to their own limited contribution other than in money and boats and minimize the others, as usual…
it is not new that Wellington's 30000 guys in Iberia worth better than 300 or 600 000 Austrians Russians or Prussians and maybe millions of continental people mobilised agaisnt France since 1792 when you read TMP or others english-speaking forums, nothing new under the iberian sun and the british fog unfortunately

Au pas de Charge Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2022 10:33 a.m. PST

These Bonaparte Fanboy threads are hugely entertaining – until some misery guts like 4th Cuirassier spoils everything by bringing fact to the party.

Fanboys? What is the definition of a fanboy viewed through the lenses of an ultra nationalist?

No one serious thinks the Peninsula was a major theater for Napoleon. Even Charles Esdaile, who hates Napoleon's guts (odd in and of itself) never claims it was a major theater for Napoleon. It might have been a major theater for the Portuguese, Spanish and British but not for Napoleon.

Napoleon didnt abandon campaigns except to take care of a bigger issue somewhere else. Unlike the Duke, he wore many hats and didnt have the luxury of just being a general. Thus, let's not use odd word crafting to create a warped image of what happened by saying when Napoleon left a theater to raise a new army, he was running away. There is little to suggest that Napoleon feared anything at all and, again, Esdaile admits Napoleon was perhaps the greatest warlord ever.

Until the troop draw down for the 1812 campaign, the French had Spain under control. It was only after the Russian 1812 campaign and further draw downs in 1813 that the allies in Spain could make any meaningful headway. Thus Napoleon had zero reason to return to Spain.

I think it was a mistake and that he should have returned to Spain but he didnt leave it because he saw the war as a losing proposition; that's simply 20/20 hindsight.

Additionally, the self serving but laughably flimsy notion that time at war equates to importance of that conflict falls under the category of clicking your heels together and repeating that "there is no place like home". The length of time for a campaign pales in comparison to numbers engaged and what was at stake. In fact, some very short wars have had enormous consequences. Basically, if a predetermined conclusion in search of trivia to back it up is not self serving enough, this length of time at war blither would be that practice on steroids.

The Anglophobic / revisionist tendency has to insist that the Peninsular and naval wars were sideshows, because otherwise, the degree of effort puts all other nations except Russia to shame. We need not confuse this perspective with rational historical analysis, however.

"Sideshow" would also be an exaggeration but it isn't "either, or". It was an important war as it turned out using 20/20 hindsight but it wasn't a major theater. Britain contributed a lot and over time in money, material, manpower and, yes, their hatred and fear for Napoleon which kept some of the coalitions together.

In order to have an objective view of what happened, try eliminating the moral and personal invective about Napoleon and anyone who doesn't share your point of view. If you are going to be declaring "victory" (whatever your dog in this fight is) based on someone's claim that the British won because they wore red and the French wore blue logic and clap for it because you like it, then dont be surprised if what you think is anglophobia is simply the observer finding you quaint.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2022 3:37 p.m. PST

I love how you blip out the Royal Navy, Lilian--not to mention troops paid, armed, uniformed organized and sometimes commanded by British officers. It's comparable with Marbot claiming that all those troops lost in Russia weren't really French, and so don't count.

Bill N08 Apr 2022 7:12 p.m. PST

On one thread I am accused of being an Anglophile. On the next a Napoleon fan boy. Can't we accept that it is possible that someone could take a look at the facts and timelines, and reasonably come to a conclusion contrary to your own?

I hold to the theory that the best way for Napoleon to win in the Iberian Peninsula was not to go there in the first place. Even if Spain had flipped, it was unlikely to be more than a local threat to Napoleon's realm. If Napoleon had felt the need to intervene, the smart route would have been to replace Charles with Ferdinand, declare victory and pull back across the Pyrenees. It would have risked losing Portugal, but do you really think an Anglo-Portugese force would pose a threat to southern France if it had to operate across a hostile Spain?

Something Old Reliable throws out does make for an interesting possibility. Compare the French occupation of Spain and Portugal at the start of the Peninsula War with the French occupation of Naples in 1806 and one thing becomes clear. Napoleon initially tried to pull off his takeover of Spain and Portugal on the cheap. By the time Napoleon and the Grand Army started arriving in numbers, the Spanish machinery of national resistance was already in place. So what happens if instead of trying to pull off a coup, Napoleon had opted for a more traditional campaign against the Bourbon monarchy in Spain with its traditional army?

Michman09 Apr 2022 1:00 a.m. PST

Russia was nominally French-Allied from July 1807 (Treaties of Tilsit, by which the French recognized Russian control of Oldenburg, Moldova, Wallachia in Romania, and the Białystok region in Poland) through September 1809 (Treaty of Fredrikshamn, by which Russia received Finland) and October 1809 (Treaty of Schönbrunn, by which Russia received the Ternopil' region in western Ukraine).

The Russians even mobilized 3 infantry divisions in 1809 under Prince Golitsyn to move into Poland and march (very, very sloooowly) more or less toward the Austrians. This was "more or less" because the local Russian commanders wrote to the Austrians in advance, so the Austrians could get out of their way. "De-confliction" we would call it today, I suppose.

"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer"
- Sun Zhu

dibble09 Apr 2022 2:04 a.m. PST


fact and fact and fact, this gives an undeniable idea about the degree of participation of these last ones and who should feel shame to ignore a such human war effort in comparison to only a 30 000men-expeditionnary corps

How many British troops in the Peninsula?

Britain had almost three hundred thousand men continually fighting Napoleon and his hoards from 1799 (leaving aside the 1 year Amiens gap). How many other allied countries could keep that amount in the 'field' for so long and spank the Fro…French in every major battle?

Sour grapes and the dislike of hard, chafing reality is showing through.

"Anglocentric" Is there such a thing as Francocentric? Are you coming from a 'Francocentric' position?

dibble09 Apr 2022 2:29 a.m. PST

This topic aside. Is Kevin Kiley OK? As I haven't seen any post from him lately. I do so hope he's keeping well?

Lilian09 Apr 2022 6:50 a.m. PST

Kevin is no longer member

Francocentric? As if the matter here was to be 'franconcentric' or not…no counting the fact that of course France was the central issue in the Revolutionnary Napoleonic Wars or I lost an episode

no, the main matter here is the usual anglocentric point of view wishing to minimize and devalue to not say purely erase larger partipitations of continental powers such as Austria Russia and Prussia

that I love is how the british gold that I mentionned, or the RN, or 30 000 expeditionnary soldiers in Spain or any other excuse used to serve to convert into phantom divisions the massive human war effort of the major continental powers with not a word of consideration…

according to the anglocentric navel-gazing point of view, UK should be regarded as the first power against France and Austria only the last of the minor shamefull bit players

? just shocking and the fourth dimension for me

someoneone can remember us how many British soldiers were in the continent facing the French between 1792 and 1815 and how many Austrian Russians and Prussians soldiers on the ground against the French in comparison …
in 1809 Austria directly 'at home' involved against France contrary to UK, the French came until Vienna if I remember, mobilised around 600 000 men, at the same period the British had no more than 13 to 23 000 men in Spain, 40 000 more with the landing in Walcheren

replacing this kind of massive mobilization by 7 years of peripheric secondary Penisular War just because a smaller British Portuguese force was unable to expell the French from Spain in a short campaign is something quite bizarre

so we can take the examples of many long British French Russian Dutch colonial campaigns needing more years to be achieved than shorts but massive European wars like Crimea or Italy 1859, 1870-1871 and etc to justify similar conclusion, great

ConnaughtRanger09 Apr 2022 7:11 a.m. PST

"…UK should be regarded as the first power against France…"
At last a nugget of truth emerges. With the exception of the very short-lived 'Peace of Amiens', Britain was constantly at war with France for more than 20 years. During that period, those 'great' European powers were regularly at peace with France or even fought alongside them. Several of the instances when they could actually be bothered to fight were purely the result of taking British gold. Anglophobic rather than Anglocentric would seem to be the more accurate description here.

Lilian09 Apr 2022 8:38 a.m. PST

constantly at war, really, where and how many again, for a power who pretented to be the first power against France curiously the French Armies didn't meet a lot of British battalions opposed to them in 23 years of so-called constant campaigns and wars in Europe in comparison to large Austrian Prussian ad Russian Armies…

the great Peninsular War Mother of All Battles gathered 9000 british soldiers only in 1809, 20 to 26 000 after, 30 to 37 000 c.1811-1812 to reach a peak of 46 000 not before 1813-1814
I mentionned Austria in 1809, I think a power like Russia sent probably at least around 100 000 men in 1799-1800 in Switzerland Italy Germany Netherlands, major contributions of that degree there are others between 1792-1815 agaisnt France

ConnaughtRanger09 Apr 2022 10:05 a.m. PST

"… where.."
Across the globe. Sweeping the French from the seas, taking their colonies, destroying their trade, throttling their domestic economy, bottling up their fleets to rot in harbour. Whilst at the same time consolidating their own Empire and economic might to fund a bunch of weak-willed Europeans into repeated Coalitions. Bonaparte and Hitler made the same mistake – lots of boots on the ground in Europe don't win global conflicts.

Lilian09 Apr 2022 10:16 a.m. PST

Oh I am very impressed…and, again bis ter repetita, what about the british military manpower fielded fighting against French Armies in the first to 7th coalition from 1792 to 1815 in comparison with the "shameful" others continental powers ignored by the usual insular condescension please…

Last Hussar09 Apr 2022 10:31 a.m. PST

Who paid? Who provided the money?

von Winterfeldt09 Apr 2022 10:57 a.m. PST

At least Napoléon had the impression that his main opponent was Great Britain, after failing to deliver a military blow, thanks to la Manche, and Naval defeats, he waged an economical war and in case nations did not adher to the Continental blockade they were either invaded or beat into submission and by that was dragged into a spiral of wars to the detriment of France. Without the obsession to beat Britain – Napoléon could have settled after Erfurt.

But in the end, it was a coalition which beat and destructed Napoléon – no power could take him on alone on the long run and its very own.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2022 10:58 a.m. PST

@ ConnaughtRanger

Quite. The period between 1803 and 1815 was a Franco-British war. There was some occasional, very short-lived involvement by other powers, but the point was whether the nineteenth century was going to be the British one or the French one. It wasn't ever going to be the Austrian century.

In consequence, the war wasn't over until either Britain or France was conclusively defeated. This happened in 1814 and 1815. The Napoleonic Wars did not end when Austria, Prussia, or Russia were beaten, or when Madrid was occupied. The war was only going to end when either London or Paris was occupied.

The primary theatre was the naval theatre. Britain won complete victory in this theatre by the end of 1805. No other European power made the slightest contribution to this outcome except to try to prevent it. No other European power fielded a squadron or even a single ship against the French, or won a fleet action, or even a single-ship action. Those that did make a naval contribution either did so in support of France, in which case Britain defeated them as well, or joined the British side after the French navy had been defeated.

Britain shouldered the entire burden, which took around 150,000 to 200,000 men plus the constant need for replacements. We should remember that just one 100-gun battleship such as HMS Victory fired a greater weight of metal per broadside than all the guns fielded by both sides at Austerlitz.

Completely defeated in the main theatre, Napoleon was forced into the epic error of the Continental System, an attempt to defeat a naval power without the use of naval power. This attack on Britain gave rise to his two largest and most epochal campaign failures: Spain, where he tied up a quarter of a million men and lost another quarter million, and Russia, where he suffered similar losses. Both were attempts at making his economic attack on Britain work.

Britain was at war with Napoleonic France for the entire period and mobilised, besides the field army and navy, over 200,000 militiamen. Over 110,000 of these transferred into the field army during the Napoleonic Wars. British troops were actively on campaign against French armies for seven of twelve years, often in several places at once (eg Calabria, Walcheren).

In contrast, the other European powers took the field, were speedily beaten, and then typically joined the French side. Prussia was neutral between 1803 and 1806, was a belligerent against France for eight months, was then a French ally for the next five-and-a-half years, and was a French opponent again for just fourteen months. So for the majority of hostilities, she was either a French ally or was neutral. Austria likewise was a belligerent for a total of about fourteen months, and was neutral or an ally otherwise.

Since the war was essentially France versus Britain, the main theatre was wherever this was playing out, which was the sea or by longevity the Peninsula, for most of the period the only place where Napoleon was being opposed on land. Here, Napoleon voluntarily entered an unwinnable campaign, mobilised three countries against himself and triggered (brief) hostilities with Austria in 1809 and Russian in 1812 after they had been emboldened by his strategic failure there.

Britain's population in 1805 was 15 million, compared to 25 million for Austria, 30 million for France, 36 million for Russia, etc. Given the huge British naval manpower commitment, it is clear that a defeat of Napoleon on land would require continental allies and a proportionate contribution from them. After France's loss or the commitment elsewhere of a million men in ill-fated campaigns to enforce the Continental system against Britain, these allies finally managed to defeat a mortally weakened Napoleon by 1813. With those missing million men on his side, one suspects the outcome of Leipzig might have been different.

A defeat by France of Britain was simply out of the question regardless of who his allies were or whom he beat on land, because no course of events would have enabled the occupation of London.

The idea suggested above that he could somehow have won by reinstating Ferdinand is a bit like saying Japan could have won WW2 by scuttling her own fleet. You don't win by unpicking what you started and handing the victory to your opponent.

Lilian09 Apr 2022 4:11 p.m. PST

A lot of bad faith and lack of objectivity when it is repeated endlessly for example as recurring point to dicredit the three major military contributions that Great Britain was "at war" but not the others because it happened they were in peace/truce with the French

well Andorra and Costa Rica were at war against Germany in the 20th century more than any others countries but what about their real contribution on the battlefield

the same matter here, countries like Austria Prussia or Russia were directly involved inclunding at home on their soil against the French, their mobilisation with large armies have no comparison with the minor British one – "at war" – but actually rather playing often "by delegation" than anything else thanks to these 3 countries really involved directly against France contrary to the British Army, except few landings, and these 3 countries allowing probably that Great Britain remained safe from any french invasion throughout the period to boast to be still "at war" on their uninvaded island far from the battlefields and main theathers of operations thanks to them

instead of self-satisfaction self-congratulations about the british participation, a recognition of majors contributions seems very necessary when cynically it is opposed money and gold against the degree of involvement all but shameful, of millions of men mobilised in Austria Russia and Prussia who paid them by their flesh and blood the wars against the French…

I wonder how Britain would be able to beat Napoleonic France in this so-called exclusively French-British war if Austria Russia Prussia's negligible armies as depicted here remained out the war between 1792 and 1815, Britain was unable to win a war against France without allies since the Hundred Years War

von Winterfeldt09 Apr 2022 11:07 p.m. PST

True without its Allies Britain wouldn't achieve anything, look only at the amount of German (KGL, Brunswick), Portuguese and Spanish units in Wellington's army. On the other hand states like Prussia, Austria and Russia, to name the big three – took profit from British money and supply of arms, equipment etc. – for no reasons – the wars were called coallition wars.

By the way – almost the same could be said about Napoleon's Armies, which relied more and more on Allies as well, like in Russia 1812 – about only 50 per cent were French and without his Allies Boney couldn't have invaded Russia at all, also of those 50 percent "French" quite a few were of Italian, Dutch and German origin.

Michman09 Apr 2022 11:11 p.m. PST

For me, it is the asymmetry between the war aims, capabilities and methods among the Powers that greatly enhances my interest in this period of history. I over-simplify, and wiser heads could describe the differences better than I can, but to illustrate this idea of "asymmetry" ….

on régime change
France : to protect against the return of the old monarchy
Britain : mix of reactions to the Révolution, until it turned anarchic – then hostile to a new Continental empire
Austria : hostile to the Révolution – then largely accepting of the new French autocrat
Prussia : hostile to the Révolution – then largely accepting of the new French autocrat – then deeming that autocrat a usurper
Russia : theoretically hostile to the Révolution, but largely uninvolved – then largely accepting of the new French autocrat – then deeming that autocrat an anti-christ

strategic goals
France : weaken opponents sufficiently through winning campaigns and territorial expansion to gain an acceptable peace
Britain : maintain economic leadership, protect colonial advantages
Austria : own régime preservation
Prussia : own régime preservation – then "national liberation"
Russia : territorial expansion at the eastern edges of Europe – later also revenge for being invaded

strategic advantages
France : defense of the gains of the Révolution for middle, working and peasant classes, excellent organization/administration
Britain : economic/manufacturing dominance, control of the seas
Austria : alliance building
Prussia : large German-speaking population
Russia : large population, natural resources, immense geographic depth

strategic disadvantages
France : insufficient economic strength and lack of industrialization compared to Britain
Britain : smaller population, especially lack of peasant/serf class in England
Austria : economic weakness, great diversity of peoples and government institutions
Prussia : ancien régime government through most of the period
Russia : multiple "fronts" (including Persia, the Caucasus and the Far East), very small middle class

leading operational arts
France : operational innovation, ability to win "set-piece" battles
Britain : small, highly professional, re-deployable, well-supplied tactically excellent land forces
Austria : nil
Prussia : initially nil – later large armies to wage campaigns of annihilation
Russia : initially nil – later mass armies to wage campaigns of annihilation

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2022 4:06 a.m. PST

@ von W

No real disagreement there, but the major difference between the French and British position after 1805 is that France could no longer defeat Britain, whereas the reverse was not true.

It didn't matter what continental allies Napoleon recruited thereafter, he simply wasn't going to win. Defeating Britain's land forces – in Spain or elsewhere – wasn't going to defeat Britain, not that he ever did so. The reason he never returned personally to the Peninsula was that there was no point. At best, he'd defeat a British army, which would then evacuate and reinvade behind a different flank; possibly via a different country.

This is likely the main reason there was no chance of a peace treaty between Britain and France after 1803 short of the total defeat of France. After 1803 Austria was either at peace or allied with France for 90% of the time. Britain simply didn't need to be at peace with Napoleonic France at any point, because France couldn't defeat Britain. This forced Napoleon to include every other European country in his war.

After securing command of the sea, for Britain it was then just a matter of waiting for him to make a disastrous mistake. He made it almost immediately, with the Berlin Decrees, which required that every mile of the European coastline from Murmansk to Athens be under his control so he could close it to British shipping.

He stood nil chance of maintaining any such coalition, and as we see in 1815, eventually he couldn't even maintain a pro-Napoleon coalition in France.

Instead he destroyed his armed forces by undertaking two invasions at opposite ends of Europe, in a manner whereby his numbers gained him nothing, to enforce the Continental System. In both campaigns the vast majority of his casualties weren't incurred in battle – his Russia army would have been wiped out by typhus even if he's never invaded Russia and had instead marched west to reinforce Spain…

ConnaughtRanger10 Apr 2022 6:40 a.m. PST

Those hopeless Brits – fancy lacking a peasant/serf class. No wonder they never achieved anything.

Au pas de Charge Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2022 7:30 a.m. PST

Those hopeless Brits – fancy lacking a peasant/serf class. No wonder they never achieved anything.

Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that some 16 million Britons were actually driven, by brutal evictions off of the land, below serf class and into what was known as the "criminal classes"



Lilian10 Apr 2022 7:41 a.m. PST

A major military power at war since 1792, main oponent to the French Armies
able to fulfill field armies gathering 100, 150 to 200 000 men in the various wars on multipe fronts Italy Germany Lowlands..
able to mobilise until 600 000 men in 1809

over 70 000 men sent in the heart of Europe against France its first year of participation in 1799, less than Autria but something that Great Britain never has been able to do in the previous 7 years and will never to achieve in the 14 following years
multiple theaters Switzerland Italy Naples Lowlands but also against Turkish across the Balkans until Serbia and Montenegro Persia Sweden etc…throughout the period…
400 000 regulars, 100 000 more as irregulars, 600 000 on the newly-raised militia
Russia had 1 100 000 men able to fight directly against Napoleonic France between 1799 and 1815

the British were never able to sent more than 40 000 men on the Continent throughout the period, clearly they didn't play in same league than Russia or Austria, where was the British Army when Austrian or Russian launched such strenght against the French

we are in a very-oriented wargamer forum I think that I am not at all, who can seriously sustain at it is written that Great Britain with its limited military participation on the MAIN theater of war in Europe can beat France while UK has been almost absent in main campaign and battles of giants between France Russia Austria, while only these 3 powers were able to fulfill large ground armies between 1792 and 1815 on the main theater of operations in Continental Europe

rewriting the reality by pretending that the war at sea, only concerning the english sailors the molluscs and shellfish, is a "main theater" of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Was is definitively the most ridiculous revisionism I read in my life
ignore such reality and trying to replace large armies operating on the ground by boats money and gold financial or naval support is totally incomprehensible and just a negation of the reality History and common sense

the main question is, if you wish to beat Revolutionary Napoleonic France and have a chance to do that, you would choose Russia Austria or Britain as power,
just that and let to the boatmen bankers and merchants of a peripheric island the illusion that their barges and vessels probably like the Vikings raiders can conquer France Paris or Lyon just like that by destroying the "péniches" on the Rhine Seine or the Rhône whithout any large ground Army playing in the same category as the French Army

ConnaughtRanger10 Apr 2022 7:46 a.m. PST

Not sure Mr Kiley has given up his membership. Perhaps he's just changed his log-in?

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2022 8:52 a.m. PST

His account is 'locked', I.e. posting privileges permanently revoked, but he's still a supporting member. I think you get your account locked for being persistently obnoxious?

Au pas de Charge Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2022 9:05 a.m. PST

I think you get your account locked for being persistently obnoxious?

The faulty, delusional, repetitive analyses and conclusions for Britain's "success" and Napoleon's "failure" on this forum suggest that this is not the case.

ConnaughtRanger10 Apr 2022 10:09 a.m. PST

Perhaps the definitive assessment should be left to the great 'Thief of Europe' himself. His letter to the Prince Regent described Britain as the "most powerful, the most constant, and the most generous of my enemies".

Au pas de Charge Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2022 10:46 a.m. PST

"most powerful, the most constant, and the most generous of my enemies".

I suppose Napoleon was employing flattery to get something out of that characterless, simple minded, self indulgent, inbred bag of wriggling appetites because his incarceration after Waterloo stands out as the sort of pettiness that small minded, frightened, corrupt regimes used in the days of the Tyrants.

Oddly, it seems like this vitriol for Napoleon is carried 200 years later by people with no dog in the fight. I would suggest they collaborate on a book about how naughty Napoleon was but since all 12 of the potential customers are already here fabricating conclusions to suit their own hopes and dreams it'd sit on the shelves.

von Winterfeldt10 Apr 2022 11:39 a.m. PST

Perhaps the definitive assessment should be left to the great 'Thief of Europe' himself. His letter to the Prince Regent described Britain as the "most powerful, the most constant, and the most generous of my enemies".

He would use whatever statement just to manipulate at whatever occasion it would do him any good and suit his interests.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2022 11:40 a.m. PST

@ Connaught

There is some evidence the Corsican bandit may have revised that opinion after the most generous of his enemies marooned his ass on St Helena.

Lilian10 Apr 2022 11:40 a.m. PST

Napoléon recalled also to some French generals something like there is no honour nor merit to be victorious or beaten or defeated by the British because they are not true soldiers contrary to others 3 real major military continental powers meaning that Britain remains for him all but a serious and true military oponent of the same caliber

Au pas de Charge Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2022 12:21 p.m. PST


You're taking these people too seriously. They aren't here to rationally discuss history. If you read the sort of name calling they're engaging in, it's basically a bunch hyper partisans, who have no idea how extreme they are, winding up what they think are "Napoleon fan boys" where that is defined as anyone who doesn't have a complete meltdown over how evil Napoleon was and how Britain delivered a thankless world from him. They completely ignore, or are incapable of seeing that the entire British society at the time was rotten to its core.

But, this is what happens when they refuse to absorb that there are 300,00 books on Napoleon and a couple hundred on Wellington, George III and maybe a few dozen on the Prince Regent. There might actually be more books on Beau Brummell than the Prince Regent.

It's comic and similar to if I came on here frothing at the bit about Ghengiz Khan like it all happened last week. Keep it up, it's a good demonstration of a populist approach to history.

Britain contributed to the ultimate defeat of Napoleon. It took that entire Nation 20+ years and huge expenditures to bring down one man along with 4 other major continental powers. Call him all the names you like but apparently Napoleon still terrifies Britain to this day.

Would that all the crimes of the British Empire terrorized them in the same manner.

ConnaughtRanger10 Apr 2022 1:30 p.m. PST

Lilian – I think you've made that up. And you can't spell 'calibre'.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2022 6:13 p.m. PST

I am sure Napoleon's favourite opponent was someone he was always able to beat. Someone he was never able to beat? Probably not.

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