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Subject: Jomini's Art of War
Godofgamblers    7/15/2009 3:33:08 AM
I recently stumbled upon this work on the net. You can read the book online here: h*tp://www.gutenberg.org/files/13549/13549-h/13549-h.htm#ARTICLE_XVI It is a great primer for understanding Napoleonic war. I have never really understood the secrets to Napoleon's success; perhaps this book will enlighten me.
 
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gf0012-aust       7/15/2009 11:17:57 PM
One question though: how do you explain the victories of the French then. If the Redcoats had the best discipline, the best firerate, how is it that they and the Prussians and every other army in Europe was defeated by Napoleon often using raw conscripts. After the Russian campaign his army was made up of almost entirely raw recruits and Poles.... yet he still won consistently.....!

I think you need to look at Napoleon as pre-Peninsular War and post-Peninsular War
 
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WarNerd       7/16/2009 4:37:35 AM

I see. But if you are first to the battlefield, wouldn't it make sense to dig in? I'm also thinking of cannonballs which did horrific damage when they careened thru lines of troops. Having the men in trenches would negate cannonballs completely!

Muzzle loading rifles cannot be reloaded when lying down, so your trenches would have to be at least 4 feet deep, probably 6 feet or more and 4' to 6' wide to accommodate 2 ranks and a firing step.  Thats a lot of earth to move on short notice.
 
Now the cannon balls are ideally, depending on the range, either skipping along the ground or rolling on the ground, so they may well fall in a wide trench anyhow.
 
Lastly, you have immobilized yourself.  Most commanders confronted by an entrenched force in the open would deploy units to keep you pinned in place and send their cavalry and light infantry around your flanks to hit you from behind.  The solution of course is an all around defense, but this only gets you surrounded and besieged.  Armies 'in the field' during that period survived by foraging for food and were seldom more than a couple days away from starvation, so getting surrounded and besieged in the field is a recipe for total defeat.
 
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Godofgamblers       7/16/2009 5:38:56 AM



I see. But if you are first to the battlefield, wouldn't it make sense to dig in? I'm also thinking of cannonballs which did horrific damage when they careened thru lines of troops. Having the men in trenches would negate cannonballs completely!




Muzzle loading rifles cannot be reloaded when lying down, so your trenches would have to be at least 4 feet deep, probably 6 feet or more and 4' to 6' wide to accommodate 2 ranks and a firing step.  Thats a lot of earth to move on short notice.

 

Now the cannon balls are ideally, depending on the range, either skipping along the ground or rolling on the ground, so they may well fall in a wide trench anyhow.

 

Lastly, you have immobilized yourself.  Most commanders confronted by an entrenched force in the open would deploy units to keep you pinned in place and send their cavalry and light infantry around your flanks to hit you from behind.  The solution of course is an all around defense, but this only gets you surrounded and besieged.  Armies 'in the field' during that period survived by foraging for food and were seldom more than a couple days away from starvation, so getting surrounded and besieged in the field is a recipe for total defeat.


That makes sense.
hard to imagine the horror of being a soldier at that time. Even in ancient times you had a shield to protect you; in the Napoleonic age you have no armor, no shield, you are standing completely unprotected facing guns, swords and cannons.... must have taken great courage.
 
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prometheus    GoG   7/16/2009 6:05:07 AM
I think you have to look at the peninsular war and then ask yourself how many times the British army was beaten from the field by a french force in open combat - the answer is, they weren't. That the war was as prolonged as it was can be put down to the vast numerical superiority of the French armies (plural) over the 40-60,000 troops that wellington had at any given time.
 
After Wellington beat a numerically superior (2:1) french force at Talavera, Wellington was forced back over the portuguese border by the strategic threat of Marshal soult who was baring down on the British supply lines with the Spanish armies unable to stop him.
 
Later, after denying Massena at the lines of Torres Vedras, he chased the French out of portugal and after beating Massena's last thrust at fuentes de Onoros, he took the two spanish fortresses at Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz. After that he went on and beat the French at Salamanca (the famous French quote being that he 'beat 40,000 men in 40 minutes') but was again forced back to the portuguese border when his attempted siege of san sebastien over ran it's time limit with larger French field armies converging on him.
 
Finally, in 1813, Wellington crossed the border again and during the Vitoria campaign absolutely routed the French armies, who's next stand wouldn't be until the pyranees. Simply put, the British never lost in open combat to the French in the peninsular war, although they were nearly cut up badly under Beresford's command. the combinaion of British musket drill and wellington's leadership proved superior to all French forces he met.
 
On the subject of the greenjackets, yes they were massively important. It gave the British both a huge numerical advantage and a qualitative edge over the french voltiguers. The riflemen were adept at killing officers and NCOs, undermining French unit cohesion - the French took a long time to learn the lesson, only deploying significantly more skirmishers at Waterloo.
 
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prometheus    I made a mistake...   7/16/2009 8:24:15 AM
It was the seige of Burgos that Wellington was compelled to abandon, not San sebastien....
 
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Tancred    long reply to everyone   7/16/2009 10:34:41 AM

And from the top

Jomini is much more important in teaching ACW generals than in explaining the Napoleonic wars. Added to that the Mexican war practice.

Napoleonic armies did engage in trench warfare but were more mobile operationally ? ACW armies tend to be more tied to rail or river/sea supply lines (cos they had them). An entrenched army is a thing to send a couple of Corps to outflank then you can then fight a maneuver battle (as in the great entrenched camp the Russians got maneuvered out of in 1812), or besiege rather than assault, but at for example Borodino, Leipzig, Dresden and I think Vitoria there were fieldworks. There are also a lot of fortresses in most of the European theatres. The big entrenchment is of course the lines of Torres Vedras but also Cadiz and Walcheren.

I also think that there may be a geographic one ? the US was much more wooded that most the  Napoleonic battlefields so a shallow trench and big breastwork is feasible whereas in more settled areas in Europe a trench is a 5 foot deep ditch which takes a while to build. And a technological one ? ACW troops had more spades and picks  available to the infantry. No idea why but they did.

Don?t overate the rifled musket in the ACW ? see Griffith and Nostworthy, - most were not used much above 200m and then by snipers. Tactical practice generally seems to be very similar to Napoleonic wars, or less given the terrain. Effective range for canister is ~600m (spherical case/shrapnel is I think closer to 1200m and round 1500m with ricochet so infantry in trenches unless below ground would get blown away. A good battery could burst fire 3 rounds per minute.

Start doing the maths on the comparable effect of artillery and muskets on the battlefield and you see why Napoleon liked lots of cannon in masses and why both a thin line and advanced skirmishers (preferably with rifles) become very important.

If you are in trenches you don?t need mortars ? one howitzer per battery will do the job.

The chief metric for a Napoleonic army absolutely NOT rate of fire. It is fire discipline. Oman was wrong.

From Frederick the Great?s experiments at 50 paces 50% of a battalion volley will hit a battalion sized target. At 75 paces 25% and at a hundred you miss. It takes about 20 seconds to reload a musket in a hurry and they have horrible misfire rates that become truly madly horrible if you mess up a step.  Like Herald says a running (or quick marching) man can cover more than 50 paces in 20 secs. If you fire at range the other guy will close with loaded muskets to a range that they will become devastating before you can reload and you know it (and normally ran away from the French column that is attacking you). If on the other hand the fire is held as you approach 50 paces  the 50/50 chance of getting shot tends to cause panic and then when it comes the disruption caused often means that the firer can reload and deliver a volley before you then charge with bayonet ? about 10 paces before the attacker ran off.

At least that?s what Bugeaud?s description of being in a French column attacking a British line says happens.

Where you get two standing lines that take the first volley, you get a slugfest that goes on for a long while. That?s quite common when the brits are not involved with both sides flinching just beyond the 50 pace mark.

My reading of Bugeaud is that the thickness of the brit skirmish line, and the smoke, as well as hiding the main line tended to draw  the French into the close zone before they had realized it.Takes a good colonel in the line though.

French cavalry Vs Brits ? very limited exposure. The French in Spain had arguably second rate cavalry and not the best battlefield cav. and in Spain not a massive superiority on the battlefield. I think apart from Fuentes they were tactically insignificant, and at Waterloo badly misused, but Waterloo is in many ways an exception. Off the battlefield the Brit cavalry did quite well and not just the KGL ? who were magnificent.

Brit Artillery ? probably were more significant than most histories tell certainly they get more of mention from the French than the Brit diarists..

Best general officer of the ACW ? Lee, Grant, Farragut or Foote ? Jackson in the Valley is a gem but after than he is one of Lee?s Corps commanders and would need to be judged alongside other subordinates with limited missions so compare with Longstreet, McPherson, Sherman, Stuart, Thomas (and when someone gets back at me about his brilliance at 2nd Bull Run please explain the Seven days.) Forrest I would discount ? brilliant raider and division commander but not an army commander, never got promoted.

For two contentious ones to compare with Jackson in the Valley? Kirby Smith in the invasion of Kentucky and Rosecrans 63 campaign up to but not including Ch

 
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stbretnco       7/16/2009 8:24:33 PM
If you're interested in Napoleon, might I recommend "The Campaigns of Napoleon" by Chandler ?
 
Actually, I might did it back out and start reading it so I can refresh my memory.
 
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Godofgamblers       7/17/2009 7:11:58 AM

If you're interested in Napoleon, might I recommend "The Campaigns of Napoleon" by Chandler ?

 

Actually, I might did it back out and start reading it so I can refresh my memory.



Thanks buddy. Will look into it.
 
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stbretnco    GoG   7/17/2009 8:03:14 AM
And the amazing thing is that you understood what I typed before I had any coffee.
 
One of the main contributions to the of Napoleon was that he emphasized maneuver and communications between the elements of his armies. He constantly moved his enemies into positions which were advantageous to him, and never in his successes did he commit to a battle on ground of the enemy's choosing. It sounds trite now, but European war prior to Napoleon was slightly deficient in strategic maneuver.
 
He had an amazing skill for playing bureaucracies.....while this is completely unrelated to his warfighting, you have to admire a soldier who spent 3 of his first 5 year in uniform on paid leave. 
 
He was also a great motivator, and understood the character of his troops very well. (One of the wargames  I used to play based on Waterloo had a separate piece for Napoleon, and on the reverse side of the marker it stated "merde".......and had an overall negative effect on the army, moreso than any other Marshal or General)
 
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stbretnco    Edit....   7/17/2009 8:04:25 AM
One of the main contributions of Napoleon was that he emphasized maneuver and communications between the elements of his armies.
 
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