"Vive l’Empereur!: The Rise and Fall of Napoleon’s Military Maxims" (Part 2 of a Series)

Beginning with the saving of The Directory on 5 October 1795 with a “whiff of grapeshot,” followed by swift tightly interwoven military and political victories, Bonaparte was taking inspiration from one of historical influences, Julius Caesar as to his ascendency and his role of governance in France. “In such a state of affairs these deliberative assemblies could no longer govern; the person of Caesar was therefore the guarantee of the supremacy of Rome in the universe, and of the security of citizens of all parties. His authority was therefore legitimate.” Much like Caesar, Bonaparte saw his role as a literal savior of France, with its fortunes being inextricably melded with his own, thus making them one in the same in his mind.Having secured his position as First Consul, Napoleon resumed his military operations in 1800 with an audacious plan to defeat the Austrians in Italy that would culminate in a French victory at Marengo on 14 June of the same year. Speed of maneuver in…

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"Vive l’Empereur!: The Rise and Fall of Napoleon’s Military Maxims" (Part 1 of a Series)

The late eighteenth and early nineteenth century bore witness to the rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) and his Military Maxims. The Corsican born, artillery trained military acolyte, experienced a meteoric rise in political and military fortunes during the tumult of the late Revolutionary period of France. His battlefield successes during the age, often against numerically larger forces, would become the basis for his methodology of warfare. This methodology, along with Napoleon’s thoughts on such matters, would coalesce and become known as his Military Maxims. The development of Napoleon’s Maxims are closely interwoven in the man himself. The earliest indications of the fire and defiance against the traditional establishments of the day, were evidenced early in his burgeoning career. Having been sent to the Royal School of Brienne at the age of nine on 23 April 1779, Napoleon struggled to fit in with the other more cultured cadets, being smaller of build, easy to anger,…

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The Weather at Eylau: Auguereau's Misery

The weather at Eylau was the most incessant and formidable of opponents for all the belligerents and its impact was significant throughout the field of battlefield. The numerous streams and ponds were so frozen, and snow covered that French artillery and troops were able to move across them thus affording additional tactical deployment opportunities that otherwise might not have been possible. These cold, frozen conditions were measured by the Imperial Guard surgeon, Dominque-Jean Larrey to that of 14° Fahrenheit the night of 7 February and again in the early morning of 8 February when it had dropped even further to 2° Fahrenheit. The artic and piercing cold greatly impacted the triage and efforts of the surgeons to treat the wounded of the battle as well. In this instance, the cold proved to be a double-edged sword. The catastrophic cold took many lives, be they French or Russian that literally froze to death, while others, such as Larrey would note, were saved by the cold. This was…

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Napoleon and Russia: Fated for War?

ABOVE: Napoleon witnessing the burning of Moscow after he and the Grande Armée finally reached the Russian capital on 14 September 1812. Russia's failure to adhere to Napoleon's Continental System made his invasion of them nearly inevitable. WikiCommons.   Napoleon generally held the whole of Russia in contempt from its highest official, Tsar Alexander I (1777-1825) down to the lowest peasant. Herein lies the rub. This disdain in many ways helped drive Napoleon to invade Russia, as he could not bear the embarrassment of them knowingly and willingly disobeying his edict as to the parameters of the Continental System. Even when presented with various reports and statements from his recalled ambassador to Russia as to their preparations, resolve, and improvements since their defeat at Friedland, Napoleon contemptuously replied “One good battle will put an end to all your friend Alexander’s excellent resolutions, and to all his fortifications built on sand.”[1]Therefore it was beyond…

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The Russian Red Line: Napoleon's Point of No Return

The geographically colossal Russian Empire was literally being starved to death by its participation in Napoleon’s Continental System. Being denied the ability to sell its grain to a much in need Great Britain, coupled with massive debts from various wars and a deeply devalued currency, the Russians under Tsar Alexander I felt that nearly the entirety of their woes stemmed from Napoleon, and they had to rectify that. Coincidently at the same time, Napoleon felt that the failure of his Continental System to strangle the economy of Great Britain and thus force them to the diplomatic table, was the fault of Russia’s and that they were not properly enforcing his edicts as to trade. Both sides began taking steps to prepare for war. Tsar Alexander I of Russia was scorned by Napoleon as a "shifty Byzantine." Having been a precarious ally of the French, Tsar Alexander soon realized that Napoleon's ambitions were not in the best interest of Russia by the time of his invasion in 1812. The…

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To the Bitter End: Who or What was Responsible for Ending the Battle of Eylau

The desperate struggle of the Battle of Preussisch-Eylau or more commonly known as the Battle of Eylau, was fought in some of the most abysmal conditions of any battle in history. The French, Russians and Prussians fought in temperatures of -10°C (14°F), up to 3 feet of snow on frozen ground with strong winds that intermittently whipped up the battlefield into near blizzard conditions throughout the entirety of the battle.[1] These conditions are critical to note, as they played a very important part of the battle for all sides, resulting in deaths through freezing as well as deaths through friendly fire and blind marching into the enemy’s guns such as what happened to the Augereau’s VIIth Corps.General Nicholas Dahlmann (1769-1807) leading a charge at the head of the Chasseurs á Cheval of the Imperial Guard on 8 February 1807. The snow and conditions as depicted in this painting, affected all of the beligerents in the battle. Painting by Victor Huen.  These horrible weather…

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Contested Rule: The Iberian Peninsula's Hostility to Napoleonic Leadership

The entire affair on the Iberian Peninsula from Spain and Portugal was expected to be of little note militarily to Napoleon. Bringing Portugal under French control due to their persistence in continuing to trade with Great Britain in 1807 violated Napoleon’s Continental System and he could not stand for this. This coupled with the royal intrigues of the Bourbon monarchy in Spain (which Napoleon detested) was an additional opportunity to rid his immediate neighbor of another potential threat and place those of his own choosing in charge of both countries. A simple matter of injecting some French muskets and bayonets would bring both countries to heel. It would be quite the contrary and would soon give Napoleon a “Spanish ulcer.” Charles IV of Spain. Charles was forced to abdicate the Spanish throne by Napoleon in 1808 who replaced him with his brother Joseph as king of Spain. There were two primary factors that contributed to the fanatical hostility of the Spanish and Portuguese people…

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"Napoleon, the Papacy and the Ideals of the Revolution: A Necessary Relationship?" by Michael G. Stroud

Napoleon was always exercising his prodigious intellect as to the myriad of challenges both to France and to himself with a keen eye towards favorable solutions. Therefore, his decision to renew or rather amend the relationship between France and the papacy provided immense opportunity for both France and Napoleon. Astutely aware of the bulk of the French peoples’ desire for their faith, Napoleon knew that “the people revere their churches, their curés, the forms of worship to which they are almost instinctively accustomed, the ceremonial which they are almost instinctively accustomed.”[1] In rebuilding the relationship with the Catholic church, Napoleon knew that this would greatly placate the majority of the French people who the vast majority were Catholic and therefore, greatly reduce internal strife and remove one more potential enemy from the chessboard of Europe. In this new relationship, Napoleon walked a fine line of appeasement between the strong-willed revolutionaries who…

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Inevitability of Doom: Napoleon's Invasion of Russia

The geographically colossal Russian Empire was literally being starved to death by its participation in Napoleon’s Continental System since its decree in 1806. Being denied the ability to sell its grain to a much in need Great Britain, coupled with massive debts from various wars and deeply devalued currency, the Russians under Tsar Alexander I felt that nearly the entirety of their woes stemmed from Napoleon, and they had to rectify that. Coincidently at the same time, Napoleon felt that the failure of his Continental System to strangle the economy of Great Britain and thus force them to the diplomatic table, was the fault of Russia’s and that they were not properly enforcing his edicts as to trade. Both sides began taking steps to prepare for war.                                                                                                   Napoleon at the Battle of Borodino. Napoleon could never completely crush the Russian army, who lured him further into Russia stretching his…

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"24 October 1648: End of The Thirty Years' War: The Peace of Westphalia is signed" by Scott Lyons

Right: Muenster, Germany: 30 April 2022. View to the room called Friedenssaal ("Peace Room"), where the Peace of Westphalia was signed. Source: War History Network license. Click to enlarge. The Peace of Westphalia is one of the most significant events in European history, marking the end of the Thirty Years' War. The two peace treaties were signed in October 1648, in the Westphalian cities of Osnabruck and Munster. These treaties ended a catastrophic period of European history that killed around eight million people, bringing peace to the Holy Roman Empire. The negotiation process was lengthy and complex, taking place in two cities because each side wanted to meet on territory under its own control. In this article, we will delve into the history of the Thirty Years' War, the circumstances surrounding the Peace of Westphalia, and its impact on modern international relations. The Thirty Years' War was a devastating conflict that lasted from 1618-1648. It was primarily fought between…

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