JKH1232's picture


Member since 03 September 2010 | Blog

Recent Activity

Comment 07 Feb 2016

I teach military history every time someone will let me, hence the posts.  I was a little late for Murray, and saw the tail end of Millet at OSU, unfortunately, though, I did study alot with Guiilmartin.

Enjoy the game- the post isn't going anywhere.

Comment 07 Feb 2016

Well, and, in all fairness, I'm the sort of person who argues for the sake of arguing.

More concentration may have helped- I'll be honest, I've never made a mapstudy, wargame, or staff ride of the battle.  More concentration is generally better, though I'd have to look more closely at good maps to really know.  

The issues of the retreat are the interesting ones to me.  That said, neither Charles nor Jourdan have total control over their strategy- the overall direction of the war is being plotted above them, and not always very well.

Comment 07 Feb 2016

I've read that- though, I have to say, I don't agree. Jourdan was really heavily outnumbered here.  He made a lot of mistakes- but, he wasn't on the verge of victory at any point.  The only question I have is if he should have retreated into Switzerland, or not.  Napoleon has the hindsight of knowing that Zurich is the main target of the offensive, but if Charles goes in for Sedan, retreating towards the Black Forest is the right call.

Comment 07 Feb 2016

Well, it's part of the War of the 2nd Coalition- for Napoleon, these sorts of battles will lead to his coup in 1799.  He's currently in Egypt when this battle breaks out, but will be leaving soon, first for Acre, then for France- there's some more information on the end of the Egyptian Campaign in the Battle of the Nile post, since it's sort of an anticlimax.

And, in looking over that post,  I realize I've not answered your question from last week, about why the British were so successful at sea in this era.  I'll start with the short term issue- in the Napoleonic Wars, the British had serious advantages in experience up and down the ranks.  While the French retained a number of high ranking officers with experience, they lost most of their middle officer corps, petty officers and senior sailors.  While both navies had to recruit a large number of inexperienced sailors- either landsmen from shore, or sailors impressed from fishing or merchant service, without naval experience- the British had the experience and leadership to train up those sailors in the tasks needed to fight and win.  Secondly, the British blockaded the French, for the most part.  There's no single greater teacher than sea time for sailors and officers.  So, while the British are at sea, teaching men to sail and drill, the French have to muddle through in ports, without any real sea time.  Also, while at sea, the British can drill at gunnery practice and actually fire their guns, the French just kinda have to fake it.  And, again, the French don't really know what to teach, how to teach it, or how to prepare for the sea.  In most of these fights, the British sailors, junior officers, captains and admirals have months, years, or even decades of time at sea.  The French have... days.  Some Spanish sailors have months.  Some of the officers of France and Spain have years, but they're a slim minority.

In the long term- that is, from the First Anglo-Dutch War in the 1650s to Trafalgar in 1806- the British have two big advantages: geography and money, and these advantages are synergistic.  The position of the British Isles, both geographically and aeronautically, allows the British to more easily sail to, and blocakde the ports of, their rivals, the Dutch, French and Spanish, at least in the Atlantic.  The seizure of Gibraltar in the War of Spanish Succession increases this advantage.  It also puts Britain a bit closer to the trade routes into Europe, making London and Dover good stopping points for trading vessels coming from India, North America and the Baltic to trade, making them warehouses for three great trade routes.  A small tax on that trade produces a lot of money...

Geography also gives Britain another major advanage: the English Channel.  While it's known today as the World's Largest Anti-Tank Ditch, it's been a barrier for invading armies for quite some time.  This barrier allows the English/British to skimp on their army, especially after the Stuarts unite the thrones of England, Wales and Scotland.  The British army is usually so small, poorly equipped and trained that if anyone- the Spanish, French or Dutch- land an army on the English coasts, the war's over, and England loses.  The fortress situation on the British Isles is even worse- basically, there aren't any real fortresses of note in England at all.  All the money they don't spend on troops, they can spend on ships.  And ships are a capital investment- they can stick around for a long time, and they don't appear overnight.  Ships can be mothballed and brought out when needed, especially in this era.

 Conversely, their opponents are on the Continent.  They have land borders to defend, which requires an investment in fortresses.  They also have to raise large armies, in order to deal with the landward side of their wars- effectively. France, Spain and the Netherlands are fighting multifront wars, while the British aren't.  This makes spending on a navy hard to do- in fact, it speaks to just how wealthy these kingdoms are, and how well they can mobilize capital, that they can keep their army, fortresses and navy together, and be a threat to a country that doesn't really have to do one or two of the three. Not to mention that the prestige of the army in those countries draws the best leaders to the army, rather than the navy. 

As an example of this, consider the performance of the French fleet in the American War of Independence.  The British, having gone deeply into debt to pay for the Seven Years War, cut back on fleet expenditures.  Very few new ships, a lot of officers on half pay and not getting jobs, little sea time.  The French spent lavishly- new ships, more men, more sailing, more officers.  (In fact, for the most part, French ships were much better than British ships- any prize the British got, they put back into service.) The French had a lot more success against the British, until the Saintes, in that war.

Comment 31 Jan 2016
There's also the interesting issue of money. The British were heavily in debt after the Seven Years War, and cut way back on military spending as a result. The French spent a lot of money on new ships, and on getting those ships well manned. This gave the French a lot of advantages in the war.
Comment 31 Jan 2016

I think you can replace France for Napoleon- in a lot of ways, the 1700s was a struggle for world domination, which the French lost, because of their inability to defeat the British at sea.  At least, that's the argument made by Mahan, and I don't think it's too far off the mark.

Comment 25 Jan 2016

The show jumped the shark in Season 9. in the episode, Jump the Shark.  Besides, he survived all kinds of stuff.  For all we know, he's a supersoldier prototype.