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JKH1232


Member since 03 September 2010 | Blog

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Comment 19 Jun 2016

Whose?  British?  Spanish?  Portuguese?  Who was stupid enough to leave there warships there after the British Navy had fled?

The ships and cannon were Spanish, but the muskets and powder were largely British.  Actually, the British had stockpiled materiel all over northern Spain and Portugal- the French captured similar amounts of arms and powder after taking Corunna, and even more after taking Porto.  My understanding is that the ships were barely crewed, if at all, at this point, though.  A lot of these captures helps explain the poor supply of arms and cartridges in the Spanish army, too.

Seriously, wasn't there any French commander who figured an attack directly on the Spanish (rather than between the Spanish and British) was far more likely to succeed, whatever the strength of defensive position might have been.  I mean, a Spanish division fled when their own artillery loosed a volley

 Well, between the olive groves, walls and the town itself, the whole area was largely impenetrable to mass formations- look at Leval's attack.  He's so cut off from the rest of the army, he loses track of what time it is, where he is, and where he's going.  And that's just at the outskirts of the area.  I think any attack against that position would break down in disorder pretty quickly if any of the Spanish managed to hold together for long- I don't think I can risk it in the case where I need a decision today- not to mention, even if I break the Spanish army, I don't have enough force to pin Wellesley down to keep him from getting off the field in good order.  Now I have to retreat under pressure from the British to Toledo, who can link up with another Spanish army and make us do it all again.  I don't think Jourdan can be blamed for going the way he did- but, trying for the Spanish would be a higher risk, higher reward idea.  If it pays off, it pays- if it doesn't, you'll be in a lot of trouble really fast.

That said, there's a published Talavera scenario for Sam Mustafa's really good Grande Armee game.  It would be an interesting gambit to try when I get the table time.

Comment 14 Jun 2016

 Well, there are a lot of ways to answer that question, so, let me take a stab at a few of them.

The most basic answer is, "Not too much."  Most professional officers- ones that would have had extensive military educations before the wars- would have studied Wagram and it's surrounding campaign (Landshut, Aspern Essling) as part of their education, either directly, or indirectly, though the works of du Picq, Jomini and Clausewitz.  Even today, at West Point, the mandatory military history class starts no later than Napoleon, and would include a discussion of Wagram.

However, if we expand beyond this, we can see, in Wagram, the development of something that will be very important in fighting those wars: military command organization and structure.  Both armies in this battle- for the second time in history- use the Corps d' Armee system developed by the French earlier in the Napoleonic Era.  The Corps d'Armee system is a way of overcoming one of the biggest obstacles in army command before the Napoleonic era: human cognition.  Most successful armies- from the Romans to NATO- use a unit of 700-1200 men as their basic unit of maneuver.  Average commanders can juggle between 20 and 30 of these units at once, practiced ones might handle 40, geniuses 50.  In fact, a lot of military genius in history can be attributed to a general who can just handle more units in his head at once.  For this reason, you'll see most field armies, before the Napoleonic era, clustering in size from between 20,000 men and 50,000 men.  It's just the size of an atmy one man, with a small staff, can keep track of easily.

If the army gets bigger than that, before this era, there are a couple of common solutions.  One is that the commander just ignores part of the army.  He takes charge of whatever his head can handle, and that force is going to be the main attack, or defense, or flanking manuever, or whatever.  Everyone else just kinda fights what's in front of them, unless and until the chief moved his attention in that direction.  The second possibility requires a good and trustworthy subordinate or series of subordinates- one is not particularly common, more than one is vanishingly rare.  This subordinate can be trusted with part of the army, and given part of the plan to deal with.  The commander doesn't deal with those units, he just tells his subordinate what to do with them, and trusts that subordinate, absent orders, to do what seems best.  Count Tilly often relied on Pappenheim for this sort of work, and gave him part of the army in most battles to fight.  Frederick the Great gave Sedylitz command of the cavalry, and, when he needed cavalry, just told Sedllytz to deal with it.

The thing about all of this is that it's ad hoc.  There's no permanent structure to it.  If you have a wing commander like Pappenheim, you just say, "These are your guys, this is what I need you to do, I'm going to do this."  Even in a more permanent position like Sedlytz's, you're still just giving him whatever cavalry is around.  If it's not there, he doesn't get it.  However, the Corps d'Armee system makes this whole thing permanent.  Each corps is, effectively, a small army, with infantry, artillery and cavalry.  It's about 15,000 to 20,000 men in size- easy to deal with for most commanders. (You'll notice that Napoleon gives his better commanders, like Davout, Murat and Massena, much larger corps and often treats them like the old wing commanders- glomming more troops into them as the battle demands, rather than sending independent corps with less capable commanders.)  They're trusted with more independent action and authority, within the overall battle plan.  This means that the army commander doesn't really need to spend a lot of brain power managing the units in the corps, he just needs to manage the corps, and their coordination.  This makes it possible for one commander, with an appropriately sized staff, manage millions of men along an entire front, rather than just 50,000 men in a couple of square miles. Without this system, you can't run industrial sized armies.

Another major impact this era, though, not this battle, would have on those wars is the role this era played in the unification of Germany and the rise of nationalism.  Another thing that kept down army sizes before this era was the system of army recruitment.  Let's take Austria as an example, since, for this campaign, Charles began using the new system to put together a larger army.  Before this campaign, the Austrians relied on their nobility (including, in large part, the Hapsburg family itself) to raise an army.  Nobles pledged to raise regiments for the Emperor's service, putting up all the money for the uniforms, gear and so forth, with pay covered by the Emperor.  In return, these nobles got to name the officers in the regiment.  (That's really a big deal.) The nobles also had to recruit soldiers.  Before the Napoleonic era, the pitch focused on a few things: material advantages (Mostly steady pay, mostly steady food and cool clothes), respect, adventure, and the fact that girls like guys in uniform.  Sometimes, during war, they might throw in a pitch about duty to your king, or, in a religious war, defense of your religion as a reason for joining up.  If they got desperate enough, they would put up a bounty bonus.  These recruiters typically targeted peasants- a good third son of a farmer wasn't going to inherit much, might not have good marriage prospects, but was well fed and strong from all the work around the farm- or journeymen artisans who didn't have good prospects for scaring up the capital to open up their own shop and were looking for a change.  For officers, duty to the king and the chance for social advancement got plenty of officers for you.  If you needed more men, gaols were full of people who just might sign up for a chance to skip a flogging or the noose, but you don't want too many of those guys.  The same with landless laborers- they weren't trustworthy, and tended to be smaller because of malnutrition.

To put together a bigger army, you need to tap into more people.  Material concerns won't get your middle class into the army- they're fine.  And, since they can't advance into the officer's ranks, why would they sign up?  A smaller scale of the same issue applies to the laborers in cities and the countryside and the growing working class, too.  How do you get them to sign up?  You appeal to nationalism.  You don't ask them to fight out of duty to the king, that won't sway them.  You get them to fight for Austria (Or France, or whatever.)  This appeal fills a lot of new regiments that Charles can use, even if they aren't quite professional soldiers.

This appeal to nationalism is pretty strong in the German States, who have to face French occupation.  The Confederation of the Rhine and Prussia, particularly outside the nobility, suffer quite a bit from the occupation, and opposition to it serves as a rallying cry against the French.  However, to defeat the French takes more than just the small populations of these principalities- it would take every German working together to do it.  After the Napoleonic Wars, you see a rise in interest in a unified Germany- an urge that's suppressed by guys like Metternich after the war.  However, the roots of eventual German unification are set in this era. (Also Italian unification, for that matter.)

Comment 14 Jun 2016

The general consensus is that it's a few things overall.  One, the quality of troops in the Grande Armee is on the decline.  One of the hallmarks of the early French Revolutionary armies was a reliance on mass and heavy firepower, since they didn't have much in the way of training.  The veterans of those battles are starting to leave the army- we're almost ten years from Marengo at this point.  The soldiers that were willing to renlist in 1804 are less likely to do so in 1809- and the ones that are are increasingly becoming casualties as well.  (Keep in mind that the casualty rates for Aspern-Essling and Wagram are in the 20%-30% range, which is way up from earlier battles.)  Napoleon is also increasingly relying on non-French troops from Germany, Italy and Poland. These troops don't have the battle tempered leadership, training standards or motivation of the French.  

Second, he's not facing second-rate generals anymore.  Charles is almost his equal, in terms of strategy, army organization and leadership.  Wellington's in Spain, Kutusov and de Tolly are in Russia, and Blucher and Gnesineau are taking over in Prussia.  These generals have studied the French system, have copied the good parts, and understand what's coming.  It's harder to surprise them, take advantage of any systematic weakness or mismatches in their operational and tactical system, or just flat outsmart them.  

Third, the quality of subordinate generals in the French army are on the decline as well.  The 1809 campaign costs Napoleon Lannes and Bernadotte,  Soult is in Spain, Napoleon will fire Massena in 1810.  Murat is the King of Naples, and has divided responsibilities.  Not that there aren't good commanders in the Grande Armee going forward- Murat will be in Russia, Davout will serve on until the end, Ney isn't too bad and so forth, but there are fewer commanders Napoleon can trust with fancy stuff going forward.

Comment 07 Jun 2016

Every quiz I've ever given online was given with the assumption that students would use their materials.  The questions were written with that in mind, and also I used strict time limits to try to discourage relying on outside material (I don't know if it worked.) 

Of course, that was in a survey class.  I have no idea why professionals who will need this information at their fingertips would even want to cheat.

Comment 05 Jun 2016
I'm glad you like them. At least it's not like trying to decide why Daun or Frederick won a battle against the other. The answer is, usually, "they were just better enough." Honestly, it's too bad Charled retired after Wagram- I would have been curious to see the trilogy.
Comment 05 Jun 2016
That is a bit of a tough question. Obviously, Napoleon painted himself into a corner here by not crossing the Danube earlier. However, there's not much stopping Charles contesting the crossing anywhere, and fighting near Vienna is better than duking it out in the Sudetenland or similar areas in Bohemia. Still, thd Danube Crossing is an issue for Napoleon. All in all, though, this is a battle Charles wins in my book. It's.not a perfect battle, but he does a lot right. He manuevers his forces with speed, lets Napoleon get established but not across before attacking, and keeps hitting the bridges. He doesn't let changed fluster him, and he isn't intimidated, even with a largely conscript army.
Comment 01 Jun 2016

Hardly.  He's standing upright, he can hold a gun.  Keep in mind, he was driving a car.

I'm willing to bet that the defense will argue Hayes believed that Smith was going into his car to get a gun.  You don't have to be sober to shoot at people, just capable of holding a gun.

Comment 29 May 2016

As in receiving gold, silver, and other produce from its colonies?  Spain didn't create anything for export, did it?

Well, that and being able to trade with the Dutch or Americans. The Dutch would be less helpful in terms of trade in this era, but the Americans would trade with anyone- unless the British were blockading the ports. But, the lack of treasure fleets were a major issue, too.  Spain's export economy was quite poor- it had a long standing policy in the 1500 and 1600s of just buying everything they needed with treasure fleet money, which made its manufacturing base fairly poor, and Toledo iron and steel were less valuable than they had been in previous centuries.

 Did the guerillas ever attempt to attack French units or loot their supply trains in the Pyrenees, given the history of a thousand years earlier?

I'd have to check, to be honest, but I suspect the answer is "Not all that often." Those areas were pretty close to a variety of French fortresses, and were the main French supply route. It probably would not have been a sustainable effort until late in the war.  

Was Disney's unit a Mickey Mouse outfit?

Nah, that's the US Army's Criminal Investigation Laboratory.