Napoleon: Battle Strategies


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An overview of Napoleon's battle strategies; part of an explanation of his military success

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  • Nice presentation. You have summed up a number of important points very well.
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Napoleon: Battle Strategies

  1. 1. The Napoleonic Wars<br />Napoleon’s Battle Strategies<br />
  2. 2. Lines: Traditional<br />Progressed horizontally<br />Often broke<br />Irregular terrain<br />Difficult to manoeuvre, turn<br />Easily broken <br />Could have battalions behind them<br />Lost popularity after French successes with columns in Revolutionary Wars<br />
  3. 3. Columns<br />Simple, fast formation<br />Easier, quicker to turn<br />Held together over most terrain<br />Steadier against cavalry<br />But couldn’t break through lines<br />Deficient in firepower<br />Only front ranks could use rifles effectively<br />
  4. 4. Ordre Mixte<br />Napoleon’s strategy<br />Unorthodox<br />Mobile formations of lines and columns moving around battlefield<br />Firing at will<br />Often followed up with bayonet charge<br />Enabled quick formation of Squares<br />
  5. 5. Squares<br />Hollow or dense<br />Used against cavalry<br />If infantry was formed on 2 lines of squares and was supported by artillery “I cannot imagine what cavalry would be able to accomplish against them.”<br />General Thiebault’s Manual 1813<br />“A cavalry charge against infantry in square would be thrown back 99 times out of 100”<br />Mark Adkin<br />“Although several cavalrymen managed to break into the square, they were al bayoneted.”<br />Lines and columns: “The most welcome sight for attacking cavalry.”<br />
  6. 6. Skirmishing<br />Small groups fighting independently in minor engagements or with special objectives<br />Could be used to confuse / disguise the movement of the rest of the troops from the enemy<br />
  7. 7. Artillery 1<br />Large, heavy, clumsy<br />Once in place, stayed<br />Some technological improvements<br />Napoleon trained in horse artillery<br />Used them more than usual<br />Ensured they were state of the art<br />Thus his guns much greater flexibility<br />Many armies still used contractors to move artillery<br />Most effective over flat terrain<br />Thus traditional battle plans focusing on the need to have high ground reduced their effectiveness<br />
  8. 8. Artillery 2<br />Key problems: <br />Smoke: could be used to confuse enemy<br />Recoil: guns had to be re-positioned<br />Overall battlefield impact: terrifying<br />Noise, smell, confusion<br />At close range cause widespread injury<br />Especially horses<br />Punched through metal / armour<br />On flat terrain, artillery could halt attack<br />
  9. 9. Cavalry – Light<br />Eyes and ears of army<br />Constantly hovering in advance, on flanks<br />Prevent possibility of surprise attack<br />Would often follow up infantry<br />Also designed for pursuit<br />Napoleon relentlessly pursued fleeing enemy<br />First to do this<br />Increased enemies’ numbers of casualties<br />Napoleon’s ‘pygmy cavalry’<br />Polish small warfare light cavalry on ponies<br />Manoeuvred, deployed, charged, deployed at very fast pace<br />Incredibly skilled<br />
  10. 10. Cavalry – Heavy<br />Main role: shock tactics<br />Not so mobile BUT massive, irresistible charge<br />Main impact: morale of enemy<br />Long sabres + horseback + body armour  reach every opponent<br />Difficult to coordinate<br />Only experienced, disciplined troops maintained slower, steady pace<br />Anxiety  cavalry speeding up and breaking formation<br />
  11. 11. Lancers<br />Very difficult to master<br />Formidable opponent<br />Galloped all over battlefield<br />Cavalry fled before them at Waterloo<br />Useful in pursuit<br />Could finish off wounded without dismounting<br />Napoleon impressed by Polish lancers<br />Had 9 regiments of lancers<br />
  12. 12. Napoleon’s Tactics: Examples<br />Lure enemy into unfavourable position<br />Feign retreat<br />Let enemy have high ground<br />Napoleon an artillery officer<br />Surprise: speed and mobility of army<br />Moved his armies in small, self contained groups, a mile apart, on different roads, living off the land<br />Relentless pursuit of fleeing enemy<br />Opportunist<br />Napoleon’s plans = generalised<br />Realised importance of luck, flexibility<br />Brilliant at improvisation<br />OrdreMixte<br />