Strategy & Tactics Quarterly Napoleon’s Art of Battle

Strategy & Tactics Quarterly
Issue #17

Napoleon’s Art of Battle

By Chris Perello

The process of raising and maintaining armies was standardized across Europe by the time of the French Revolution, resulting in forces that were comparable in most respects. France deployed the largest and best, the product of the largest accessible population on the continent, the wealth to arm it, and, after the Revolution, the will to employ it. Napoleon inherited this army, along with an efficient administration and organization, from which he wrung the maximum advantages to support his growing ambition.

RECRUITMENT

Universal military service was not a new idea in 1793 when the French instituted the levée en masse. Most polities had long recognized both the need and the right to force their populations into military service in time of need. They equally recognized that the bulk of the population was engaged in pursuits—particularly agriculture—vital to the survival of the polity and to the tax base from which it derived its revenue. Large scale conscription of any duration would destroy the economic underpinning of the realm.

Conscription was carried out using the civilian administrative apparatus for each district, canton, region, or province. The standard age of eligibility was 20. All men were theoretically liable, though exemptions were widely granted for wealth or influence or skills. The final selection, if not filled by a volunteer, could be made by lottery—used by Sweden—or a decision of the local administrators. The hiring of a substitute was not unknown. Those inducted would serve a specified term, from as little as one year to an entire lifetime in the Russian army before 1793.

Read more in STQ17

Strategy & Tactics Quarterly, Issue #17 available!

Napoleon’s Art of Battle: System or Genius? The rise of Napoleon Bonaparte to the French throne stemmed from a series of battlefield victories over the armies of every European dynasty. Those battles were sought by Napoleon after careful planning and maneuver to give him the edge on the contested field. This work examines the nature of that process, both in the weeks and days leading to the collision and the hours during which it was brought to fulfillment.

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