Napoleonic Warfare

G.H.L. LeMay sets the unique military features of Napoleonic France against those of the eighteenth century at large.

“At the voice of the victor of Austerlitz, the Germanic Empire fell; the Confederation of the Rhine came into being; the Kingdoms of Bavaria and Wurttemberg were created; Venice was reunited to the Iron Crown; and the whole of Italy ranged itself under the laws of its liberator.”

In these words, the inscription on the triumphal arch in the Place du Carrousel commemorates the political results of Napoleon’s campaign of 1805. Ulm and Austerlitz, achieved in little more than three months’ intensive marching and fighting, stand in vivid contrast to the protracted and inconclusive warfare of the eighteenth century. There have been few commanders more aggressive than the Duke of Marlborough, yet he was able to impose only four or five great battles upon his enemies, and not one of his ten victorious campaigns may be called decisive, except in a negative or qualified sense. In the century that separated Marlborough from Napoleon, something far-reaching had happened to the art of war, and, with it, to the practice of diplomacy.

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