The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

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The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Chuckman » Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:13 pm

The Napoleonic Wars have always been my favourite era to game in and read about. I used to game the Battle of Waterloo especially. Reading about it however, you realize that playing the Battle of Waterloo is like playing the battle for Berlin in WW2. Napoleon had absolutely no chance of winning the campaign. Yes, he could have beat the British, possibly even driven the Prussians off, but of his original 125 000 man army, how many would have still been effective, 80 000? There were two more armies coming, composed of Prussians, Austrians and Russians totalling 450 000 men. Much worse odds than Leipzig. And I am sure that even if routed, the British and Prussians would have still had effectives left to merge with the coming forces.

I have always thought the Battle of Leipzig as the real point of no return. The point where Napoleon could have still won.

Or possibly Borodino, if he would have sent in the Guard could he have broken the Russians? They were beaten but not routing. Or would the Russians even if beaten, have continued their strategy of retreating right past Moscow?

Or perhaps the real turning point to the Napoleonic Wars was invading Russia in the first place. Napoleon should have just consolidated his power, left a large army sitting near the border of Russia and leave them be. Maybe the Napoleonic Wars were unwinnable for him as soon as he invaded Russia.

What do you think?
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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Lord Desaix » Sun Jan 29, 2012 4:21 pm

I think that the turning point was when he dismissed Metternich's proposal after Bautzen of a peace coupled with France moving back to its natural borders. Last chance to avoid an "all against Nap" war that signed his defeat at Lipsy, a battle he could never win.

Borodino full victory would had been a phyrric victory since overall strategy of progressive retreat was already decided. Like in WWII Russia had huge space where to withdraw and huige resources to fight with.

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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Lord Fullin » Sun Jan 29, 2012 5:17 pm

Spain , for the fall of the prestige of the army and their Marshals.
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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Chuckman » Sun Jan 29, 2012 6:58 pm

I wonder if he had succeeded in destroying the Prussian and Russian armies that had routed at Bautzen if that would have changed the Leipzig campaign outcome.

Spain was definitely a huge blow to French prestige. Maybe he should have turned the Grande Armee again into Spain to drive out the British. Though the Peninsular war seemed unwinnable for him. Maybe he should have just pulled out of Spain altogether.

Funny that Hitler and Napoleon both made the exact same mistake in WW2, voluntarily bogging down the bulk of their armies in Russia and starting a second war front. Sending their troops into the largest, and one of the coldest countries in the world unprepared for winter.

I think that if Napoleon ever did cross the channel that England would have become another Spain. Scotland and Ireland would be happy to liberated, but England itself may have been hard to quell.
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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Lord Fullin » Sun Jan 29, 2012 9:45 pm

Chuckman wrote:I wonder if he had succeeded in destroying the Prussian and Russian armies that had routed at Bautzen if that would have changed the Leipzig campaign outcome.

Spain was definitely a huge blow to French prestige. Maybe he should have turned the Grande Armee again into Spain to drive out the British. Though the Peninsular war seemed unwinnable for him. Maybe he should have just pulled out of Spain altogether.

Funny that Hitler and Napoleon both made the exact same mistake in WW2, voluntarily bogging down the bulk of their armies in Russia and starting a second war front. Sending their troops into the largest, and one of the coldest countries in the world unprepared for winter.

I think that if Napoleon ever did cross the channel that England would have become another Spain. Scotland and Ireland would be happy to liberated, but England itself may have been hard to quell.


I dont think so...the British rescue the Spaniards.
Who would have rescued the Brits?
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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Chuckman » Sun Jan 29, 2012 10:06 pm

I am not saying they could have shaken off a French occupation, just that it may have been a difficult country to occupy. Especially because of the separation from mainland France, the only thing that stopped Napoleon from invading in the first place. I think that the geography and the Brits themselves may not have been easily held (uprisings like in Madrid for example).
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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Jakob » Thu Feb 02, 2012 9:48 am

I think Napoleon's biggest gaff was not necessarily any military campaign or defeat, but it lay in diplomacy. Even though it took 20 years for nearly all of Europe to agree to fight France all at once. Napoleon really never had a solid ally on the continent to use his diplomatic weight against. The biggest of all of these would probably be Austria. While initially they weren't successful in keeping Napoleon off from Vienna, Napoleon was on a constant game of cat and mouse with them, and because of their huge expansive territory and massive army, Napoleon really couldn't muster enough forces for...well anywhere. Unlike previous European conflicts, France was really the only large player on its side, while everyone else was either ambivalently neutral or down right hostile. France didn't have the luxury of having the Hapsburgs as allies, as she did in the Seven Years war.

My two schillings worth...

BTW, I'm moving this topic, belongs more in the Napoleonic War section. If you gents don't mind...

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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby druid » Thu Feb 02, 2012 12:33 pm

The sea war..

the simple failure to control the english channel long enough to invade and remove britain from it's meddling in european affairs..

with britain's money out of the equation, all would have been possible for napoleon
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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby GoldSabre » Thu Feb 02, 2012 7:01 pm

Analogous of all Roman and both World Wars, I'd think. Fighting wars on extreme west and east. Simple overextention of empire. Ya think invading Russia was def a dumb move?
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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Chuckman » Thu Feb 02, 2012 11:37 pm

He definitely did make a lot of diplomatic mistakes, he tried hard to make peace with the Austrians, but they remained his biggest enemy in the field.

Of course we all know that invading Russia was a bad idea, but was his overall defeat inevitable as soon as he invaded? At what point did things become unwinnable? Perhaps as was stated above, when he failed to agree with Metternich's proposal. That is, if the allies would all to agree to that peace agreement.

Maybe if he left Russia right after Borodino defeat could have been avoided...
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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Lord Bloody Bill » Fri Feb 03, 2012 2:22 am

I would say as soon as Napoleon created the continental system he was done. From that point on he created more trouble then he could handle.

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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Lord Fullin » Fri Feb 03, 2012 4:39 pm

Jakob wrote:I think Napoleon's biggest gaff was not necessarily any military campaign or defeat, but it lay in diplomacy. Even though it took 20 years for nearly all of Europe to agree to fight France all at once. Napoleon really never had a solid ally on the continent to use his diplomatic weight against. The biggest of all of these would probably be Austria. While initially they weren't successful in keeping Napoleon off from Vienna, Napoleon was on a constant game of cat and mouse with them, and because of their huge expansive territory and massive army, Napoleon really couldn't muster enough forces for...well anywhere. Unlike previous European conflicts, France was really the only large player on its side, while everyone else was either ambivalently neutral or down right hostile. France didn't have the luxury of having the Hapsburgs as allies, as she did in the Seven Years war.

My two schillings worth...

BTW, I'm moving this topic, belongs more in the Napoleonic War section. If you gents don't mind...



Very Good point...very difficult for us Generals to analyse the matter from this viewpoint.
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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Chuckman » Fri Feb 03, 2012 11:25 pm

So true!
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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby sifis171 » Sat Feb 04, 2012 3:32 am

Even if he had destroyed the russian army
i don't think he would be able to withstand
the partizan warfare that inevitably would come.
If things were bad in spain imagine a hostile population
5-10 times larger(I don't know the exact number)
in a territory 10 times that of spain.

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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Chuckman » Sat Feb 04, 2012 2:23 pm

World Population: Major Countries 1810

Austria 19,000,000
Denmark 2,400,000
France 38,000,000 (another source said 31 000 000)
Holland 1,880,000
Italy 6,400,000
Ottoman Empire 21,000,000
Portugal 2,000,000
Prussia 5,000,000 (9 000 000 before being occupied and losing territories)
Russia 41,300,000
Spain 10,000,000
Sweden 2,000,000
Switzerland 2,000,000
United Kingdom 12,000,000
United States 5,250,000
Bavaria 3 000 000
Minor German States Between 1 and 2 million each
Canada 500 000 (an estimate since sources say the US was as much bigger than as now)

The above list is a little different than another list I was just looking at, I have also added the German states based on the other list.

Yes, I think the geography, population size and distance from France would have made Russia difficult for France to occupy. He probably would have forced peace terms in France's favour, like with Austria, and maybe a territory or two near Poland.

Given the Russians strategy, it was probably a campaign he could never have won. Still, I wonder what would have happened if he had sent in the guard at Borodino, and also enveloped the Russian left. If he had smashed the army badly enough, would they have considered peace?
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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Jakob » Sat Feb 04, 2012 9:28 pm

Chuckman wrote:
Given the Russians strategy, it was probably a campaign he could never have won. Still, I wonder what would have happened if he had sent in the guard at Borodino, and also enveloped the Russian left. If he had smashed the army badly enough, would they have considered peace?


No, because the Czar was in St. Petersburg, the political capital of Russia at the time. As well as Platov remain in Napoleon's rear, effectively tying him down to the battlefield. Also, had Kutuzov's army had be completely destroyed and Moscow captured, the Russians had already (even before Borodino) drafted a huge amount of reinforcements in the north, drawing the Russian army to its peak strength in 1812. (A couple thousand shy of a million men). So peace was the last thing on the Czar's mind I'd warrant...even if the guard destroyed and captured Kutuzov and his army.

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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Chuckman » Sat Feb 04, 2012 10:32 pm

I do not think that is the correct number of Russian troops. Here is a link to wikipedia. It says the totals involved were as follows;
450 000 French and allies (May)
198 000 Russian regulars (June) plus 290 000; conscripts, militia and cossacks; militarily the Russians were very outlclassed. (total of 488 000 but vs the very professional Grande Armee). The Russian regulars and guard were very good, but in both cases probably not as good as the French.

I think the million man army you are referring to was the combined might of almost all of Europe vs Napoleon at Leipzig.

I do not know if it would have mattered if he crushed them at Borodino, you could be right. But until winter, attrition and disease killed the French they could not hope to beat him in the field. (the entire Russian guard and most regulars were at Borodino, it would have hurt them a lot)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_invasion_of_Russia
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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Jakob » Sat Feb 04, 2012 10:48 pm

Actually what it says:
By this point [after Borodino] the Russians had managed to draft large numbers of reinforcements into the army bringing total Russian land forces to their peak strength in 1812 of 904,000 with perhaps 100,000 in the vicinity of Moscow — the remnants of Kutuzov's army from Borodino partially reinforced.


Aaaaaand:
The Russian regulars and guard were very good, but in both cases probably not as good as the French.


You base this on what?

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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Chuckman » Sun Feb 05, 2012 3:09 am

Sorry about that, you are correct, I did not see that figure. I was on my way out to dinner with my wife and skimmed the article. That number would not have been guard or line, it would have been more conscripts, militia, cossacks and armed peasantry. They used some of these at Leipzig, they were armed with bows, not muskets (which actually would probably be about as effective if they were trained).

The Russian army had a high prestige, especially the guard, and most of the line units and all of the guard were at Borodino. It would be hard to do much with just 800 000 peasants, militia and recruits as an army.

The Grande Armee before its destruction in Russia is widely recognized as being the best army in the Napoleonic period. Most importantly, they had more combat experience than anyone, but they were generally better lead and organized. Up until Russia, who usually beat who in the Napoleonic Wars? I have not counted battles, but there are much more French victories up until the disastorous Russian campaign.

The Russian guard from everything I have read was excellent. Just my opinion that I say the French were probably better, because they would have had more combat experience, and more line troops to choose guard from. I know other nations also had excellent guard units, but they were much fewer in number than the French and Russians, so it is hard to compare. French and Russians had an army corps of guard each, Prussia a couple of regiments and a couple of horse, Britain a few battalions and several horse, Austria did not really have them (grenadiers were elite). How do the stats in NTW compare?
Last edited by Chuckman on Sun Feb 05, 2012 3:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Chuckman » Sun Feb 05, 2012 3:28 pm

I was thinking more on the "whose guard and line were better" idea. We of course can't say with certainty but in terms of whose guard was better the recruitment process I think was huge.

French Guard Recruitment (pre Russia)
had to have served in many campaigns (10 years service)
were line soldiers who were chosen by officers
had to meet height requirements
http://napoleonistyka.atspace.com/IMPER ... ntry_1.htm

Russian Guard Recruitment
You had to be tall and fit (at recruitment)
http://napoleonistyka.atspace.com/Russian_guard.htm

One force were made up of proven soldiers, the other of tall fit men. Both forces would have had tonnes of unit pride because they were guard. Both forces were given the best supplies and equipment. Both were well proven in the field. Guard units in all nations would have drilled more often, creating more discipline under fire (less panic, movements more smoothly and rapidly carried out)

In terms of cavalry;
"The undefeated: Old Guard Horse Grenadiers (right) and the Old Guard Lancers (left). The two cavalry regiments were never defeated by enemy's cavalry in combat." (from site listed below)
I would say the best heavy and light cav of the Napoleonic Wars; and they fought against many other guard cav (including Russian Guard Cav)
http://napoleonistyka.atspace.com/Polis ... ncers.html

The Old Guard was never defeated either (unless you want to call fighting to the death being defeated), it was the middle guard who attacked the British lines at Waterloo, and they were probably mostly newly put into the guard... the old guard remained in reserve. The middle guard routed, the old guard that did not leave the field with Napoleon stood and died to protect the French retreat, after being reduced in number too few to form a square, formed a triangle, then bayonet charged the enemy around them in all directions. Russian Guard foot also protected retreats at Borodino and Austerlitz. People were scared of the French Guard for a reason. I think they were the best troops in Europe.

So what would make a good napoleonic soldier?
-being in lots of combat and campaigns; troops become used to fighting, less scared, more endurance, more disciplined under fire; French had the most of anyone
-espirt de corps; belief in your leader, belief in the invincibility of your army; again French more than anyone
-troop adaptability; French were good in defence and attack, Russians were too, Prussians and British not as good in attack (according to many sources); french troops probably best of all, they had more experience (again, not afer Russian campaign)
-upward mobility of being able to be recruited into guard (officer mobility too) would have made all soldiers feel valued and have army pride in the French army
-Corps system experts; The French created the Army Corps system and were masters at it; army organization; French was the best
-Against the French was supply and equipment,; many if not most armies were usually better equipped and supplied. (though arguably their foraging tactics balanced this out)

And with regards to Borodino...
"Although the Battle of Borodino can be seen as a victory for Napoleon, some scholars and contemporaries described Borodino as a Pyrrhic victory.[84] Russian historian Oleg Sokolov agrees that Borodino ultimately constituted a Pyrrhic victory for the French, which would ultimately cost Napoleon the war and his crown, although at the time none of this was apparent to either side. Sokolov adds that the decision to not commit the Guard saved the Russians from an Austerlitz-style defeat and quotes Marshal Laurent de Gouvion Saint-Cyr, one of Napoleon's finest strategists, who analysed the battle and concluded that an intervention of the Guard would have torn the Russian army to pieces and allowed Napoleon to safely follow his plans to take winter quarters in Moscow and resume his successful campaign in spring or offer the Tsar acceptable peace terms."[61]Sokolov, p. 454-455

So in other words; if Naploeon would have commited the Guard he could have captured Moscow before it was evacuated, wintered there, and then continued in the spring (with only recruits and militia to stop him since the main Russian army would have been destroyed)
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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Jakob » Sun Feb 05, 2012 9:30 pm

We'll hint on the guards bit later, in fact I may create a new thread for it to keep this one clean. :wink:

So in other words; if Naploeon would have commited the Guard he could have captured Moscow before it was evacuated, wintered there, and then continued in the spring (with only recruits and militia to stop him since the main Russian army would have been destroyed)



Two things though: Firstly, even if he did smash the rest of Kutuzov's army, he still had Platov in his back, making it impossible to move up without being constantly harrassed. He would have to destroy Platov and his cavalry in order to make it to Moscow unharassed. Time was not on his side. Either way, he wouldn't have made it to Moscow on time...Rostopchin had ordered the burning of the city well in advance of Napoleon's entry.

Secondly: The problem was that he couldn't have wintered in Moscow anyway. According to custom at the time, vanquished cities were obligated to provide for the occupying troops. This never happened at Moscow. The Russians had already basically denied the French any sort of fodder to sustain themselves before their entry. So had Napoleon had wintered there, his army would have just shriveled up to nothing, and the Russians could have used bábushkas to defeat the French with out much difficulty.

Also keep in mind that though Kutuzov was not completely destroyed, his army was basically out of action for some time. Though the Russian guards took heavy casualties at the delaying actions at Borodino, they were not completely destroyed. However, they did not participate actively in the next battles during Napoleon's retreat. So had they have been wiped out previously, it wouldn't have mattered anyway. It was these "green" troops that defeated Napoleon at places like Krasnoi, Maloyaroslavets, and Berezina on his retreat back.

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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Chuckman » Sun Feb 05, 2012 10:35 pm

All good points, and I do not entirely disagree with them.

Moscow had not yet been evacuated, and that is how he could have wintered there. The Russians continued to have a strong rearguard, the rearguard that was not smashed by the Imperial Guard. Also 1/3 of the 280 000 population was still in Moscow when Napoleon got there. There was a week betwen Borodino and his arriving at Moscow. The delaying actions by the Russians at Borodino cost him taking the city quickly enough.

"Both Armies began to move and rebuild. The Russian retreat was significant for two reasons; firstly, the move was to the south and not the east; secondly, the Russians immediately began operations that would continue to deplete the French forces. Platov, commanding the rear guard on the 8th of September, offered such strong resistance that Napoleon remained on the Borodino field.[50] On the 9th of September Miloradovitch assumed command of the rear guard adding his forces to the formation. Another battle was given throwing back French forces at Semolino causing 2,000 losses on both sides, however some 10,000 wounded would be left behind by the Russian Army.[51] The French Army began to move out on Sept. 10th with the still ill Napoleon not leaving until the 12th. Some 18,000 men were ordered in from as Smolensk, and Marshal Victor's corps supplied another 25,000.[52] Miloradovich would not give up his rear guard duties until the 14th allowing much of Moscow to be deserted, and retreated under a truce at last.[53]

The Russian guard continued to exist, and most of the troops that would have been line and guard at Leipzig I am sure were the ones that left Borodino beaten but mostly intact. Burned is also not the same as beng stripped of all food. If he had seized the city fast enough, his men would surely have begun stockpiling the food that was there.

Plus, only 3/4 of the city was burned;
As General de Marbot reasoned,

"It is often claimed that the fire of Moscow… was the principal cause of the failure of the 1812 campaign. This assertion seems to me to be contestable. To begin with, the destruction of Moscow was not so complete that there did not remain enough houses, palaces, churches and barracks to accommodate the entire army [for a whole month]."

Yes, it was mostly cossacks with some regulars mixed in that harassed him. But his army was broken and fleeing the entire way. If he had enough for his soldiers to eat in Moscow it may not have happened.

I don't think that it would have forced a peace, just that it mght have. Or at least I would like to believe that it might have. The possibility that he could have seized Moscow before it was deserted might have changed the campaign outcome.
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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Sir Arthur Wellesley » Fri Mar 09, 2012 7:05 pm

My 2 cents regarding the Russian campaign:

I feel that one of Napoleons biggest mistakes was simply staying in Moscow for too long. As Jakob has pointed out it was not a viable place for the army to winter. Though Kutusovs army was initially in no state to put pressure on Napoleon following Borodino, he situated what was left of his forces in an excellent position to the south of Moscow inbetween two roads leading up from major munitions industrial areas. From this point he was able to reinforce and replenish his army. Along with numerous other Russian forces gathering in the area harassing French units and impeding foragers, wintering in Moscow would of made that city the grave of the Grande Armee. French forces would gradually weaken as the Russians got stronger and personally I don't see even Napoleon getting out of that scrape.

If Napoleon had left Moscow much sooner rather than waiting in vain for the Czar to make peace he not only of would of got his army out before the worst of the weather crippled it, but also Russian forces would not have concentrated in sufficient numbers to hinder his retreat as effectively as they did. Even when the Grande Armee was on the retreat, Kutusov with the bulk of the forces was still very nervous about commiting his forces to battle and it was the other Russian commanders (Miloradovich and Platov initially, Wittgenstein and Chichagov catching up around the Berezina) who pressed on the Grande Armee as it fled Moscow.

If Napoleon had got his army back in good condition to Vilna he could of claimed victory of a sorts. French forces had invaded Russia, captured several major cities including the capital and defeated the main Russian army, Napoleons propaganda machine could surely make good use of this, but only if his army was still well intact. Following this he could of declared the liberation of Russias Polish and Lithuanian subjects and consolidated them into one or two allied Kingdoms. The creation of such states would not only have created a strong buffer between Russia and the rest of the Empire, but would also of been a visable demonstration of a major gain from the conflict.

Napoleon went about the whole campaign pretty badly, showing little of his genius of earlier years at this most critical time. At the core of this was his mixed feelings towards the Czar and his failure to define a specific goal for the campaign. Napoleon really had not wanted to topple the Czar, he had not even wanted to go to war. He had assembled the massive army on Russias border in the hope of intimidating the Czar into opening negotiations where he could attempt a "second Tilset" and come to a new understanding with Russia. When he realized war was inevitable and he embarked on the campaign he had hoped to quickly smash the Russian army and bring Alexander to the negotiating table. The constant withdrawals of the Russian armies both confused and infuriated him and drew him deeper into Russia in his desperation to achieve a decisive victory.

Napoleon had essentially lost the war before he embarked upon it. He had gathering a huge force, facing off against a behemoth of an opponent, he should have based his war plans on a TOTAL war basis. Instead his reluctance to completely topple the Russian state meant that he aimed only to defeat Russias army, which resulted in being drawn towards disaster. Adam Zamoyski makes a compelling argument in his book 1812 on a number of measures Napoleon could have taken to massively increase his chances of success in the Russian campaign:

1. Encourage Sweden to join in on the invasion. Sweden, at this point ruled by the Ex-French Marshal Bernadotte, had recently lost Finland in a war against Russia. Had Napoleon contacted Bernadotte in advance he likely could have gained Swedish support. Unfortunately Napoleon being Napoleon he blundered diplomatically. Seeing Swedish Pommerania as a conduit for British smuggling Napoleon had rashly occupied the territories. This had outraged Bernadotte. Also, Napoleon, hoping to avoid war with Russia had not initially contacted Sweden. By the time he saw war was inevitable and tried to make an offer to return Pommerania and bring Sweden into the war, Bernadotte had already met with Alexander, and had seen eye to eye on many issues, along with an offer of Danish Norway in exchange for recognition of Russian Finland.

2. Same thing with the Ottoman Empire. Initially unwilling to bring total war upon Russia Napoleon had not attempted to encourage offensives on the Ottoman front. By the time he had send a diplomatic mission, the Sultan had already signed a peace treaty with Russia.

3. Declare the creation of the Kingdom of Poland/Lithuania. Poland and Lithuania had only been absorbed into the Russian Empire relatively recently. There was a great deal of clamour from Polish and Lithuanian nobles for an independant state, and the nucleus of such a state already existed as the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. Upon invading Russia Napoleon had met with large numbers of Polish and Lithuanian nobles. However, his talk regarding the creation of an indepedent state was vague and non-commital which discouraged many nobles who had begun to see Napoleon as simply exploiting the Poles through hopes of further independence. As a result no declaration of independence was made, and though Napoleon attempted to raise new forces from these territories, it came to very little. IIRC Zamoyski gives the figure of the "Lithuanian army" raised at about 12000 men.

4. Declare the emancipation of the serfs. Doing so could of had many positive benefits for the French in the campaign. Not long before there had been a serious serf uprising in Russia. Memories of this were still fresh in many peoples minds. If the French, with their revolutionary ideals had declared that they intended to bring these liberties to the serfs of Russia, it may well have increased popular support for the campaign. Of course it is difficult to assess the potential of such a proclamation, but it was certainly another step Napoleon could of taken to give himself another edge.


Now, in relation to the thread topic! ^^

I feel the turning point was both a combination of the Spanish and Russian fronts. Had the Russian front not materialized, the Peninsular War would eventually have been won by France. Had the Peninsular War not occured, Napoleon would have been able to recover from a disaster of the same scale as occured in Russia. He would of been in a much stronger position come the battle for Germany.

A lot of people like to portray the Peninsular War as a "Secondary theatre" in general, but such a label does no justice to the scale of the conflict and its importance in the power struggles of the time. This is a conflict that went on from 1808-1814, six years of warfare. SIX years. Thats as long as the Second World War. During these six years the French poured hundreds of thousands of troops into the peninsular. Thousands of veteran troops fought and died in Spain and Portugal. Many of Napoleons best marshals were committed for long periods. Where as in all Napoleons previous wars he had won decisive battles, imposed a favourable peace treaty, and filled his treasury with the payments made by the defeated, Spain would be a completely different story. There was no decisive battle to end the war. There was no peace treaty which enriched France ready for its next venture. The satellite state created was utterly ineffectual militarily, desertion from its armed forces being on a particularly large scale, and was unable to operate an effective administration. Spain was a constant leak and drain on money, supplies, manpower and officers for six years. As well as constituting a massive drain on physical resources, the Spanish campaign was a massive propaganda boost and encouragement for enemies of Napoleon throughout the world. It encouraged the Czar to stiffen his resolve against Napoleon, resulting in his determined stance during the Russian campaign. The Peninsular war was also a big propaganda boost for the British, who could now effect a greater moral high ground by going to the assistance of a country being subjected to French invasion.

I think the wall of text is getting too big so i'll stop now ^^
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Lord Bloody Bill
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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Lord Bloody Bill » Fri Mar 09, 2012 7:36 pm

What was the one leading factor to the war with Russia? It was Napoleons Continental system!

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Re: The Real Turning Point in the Napoleonic Wars?

Postby Chuckman » Fri Mar 09, 2012 10:14 pm

As of 1811 Napoleon had 355 000 troops in the Peninsula, making it close to the same as the Russian campaign in terms of numbers (450 000 in Russia). It is hard to call it a secondary theatre both in terms of men involved and resources. It was almost as important as Russia. The armies in the Peninsula were spread out over a large area, so the battles because of this were smaller, but there were many of them.

What made the Russian invasion so much more important in the course of the war was the huge loss of all of Napoleon's troops; virtually all of his best cavalry, guard and line. The quality of troops which remained in Spain were mostly conscripts. Losing his entire Spanish army would have also been catastrophic, but would have still left him with most of his best troops. Either scenario would have resulted in a Liepzig type ending. One of the main reasons Wellington beat them so easily time after time in the Peninsula was that he was facing the worst French troops with the best British; even his Portuguese allies were quite good (not all, they varied in quality).

Napoleon definitely stayed in Moscow too long and arrived there too late by dallying after Borodino. Hard to say how much provisions would have been there if he had made a push for Moscow sooner after Borodino.

Bringing Sweden in may have helped change the course of the war for him. I am sure that they would have easily been convinced.

His biggest problem was always diplomacy (as mentioned; the continental system). He could have maintained his empire easily if he had not been so heavy handed, and if he had made more efforts for peace and alliances.
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