Napoleon was a great emperor of France with novel military strategies and tactics that enabled him to conquer his enemies and neighboring empires in a bid to expand his territory. His determination to win battles came from his confession that “there is no man more pusillanimous than I when I am planning a campaign.
I purposely exaggerate all the dangers and all the calamities that the circumstances make possible…I am like an unmarried girl laboring with child” (Nafziger 1989, 23). He derived his military strategies and tactics from inherent fears that kept him on toes due to the imminent battles that revolved in the neighboring empires. The fears of losing a battle were constantly haunting him and this prompted him to draw novel strategies and tactics to overcome his enemies.
During the great battle of Borodino when he attacked Russia, he demonstrated his military potential and ability to conquer ferocious enemies despite their military prowess. Critical analysis of Napoleon’s strategies and tactics show that his military approach to the decisive Russian battle was quite effective and is still invaluable in contemporary warfare.
Although Napoleon exercised his military powers during the early 19th century, his strategies and tactics are still applicable in the 21st century. According to Nafziger, “…his campaigns formed the basis of military education throughout the western world and a lot of military thinking is still influenced by the great Frenchman” (1989, 26). Since his military strategies and tactics have stood the test of time, which is about two centuries now, and can still prove to be invaluable in this era of great technology, then it shows that his military skills were and still are quite effective. The effectiveness of military strategies and tactics depends on the ability of military commander to mobilize his armies and resources effectively.
Napoleon applied time and space as the components of logistics that are necessary to win a decisive battle when he invaded Russia in 1812. By 1812, Napoleon had led France to become a mighty empire in Europe and he boasted the great achievement that he had made. Given the military status of the French Empire, Napoleon was poised to invade and conquer the independent states of Europe.
To achieve his mission, “he managed to destroy the unity of purpose which had fed the coalitions against France for so long, as Austria, Russia and Prussia were now ready to fight each other as well as to fight France” (Tarle & Viktorovich 1979, 356). Napoleon knew that the unity of independent European states threatened and would eventually ruin his powerful empire and there would be no legacy left for him and his successor, so he had to destroy their unity before conquering Russia individually. Therefore, he employed the tactic of dividing and conquering. The unique strategy that Napoleon employed as a military commander is the use of military professionalism.
Many of his successors regard Napoleon as premier general who conceptualized new strategies and tactics in terms of structure and composition of strong armies; impregnable in the face of threatening enemies. “Napoleon embodied the idea of the professional military leader, not gaining his position through familial or political connection, but earning it by distinguishing himself in combat” (Hoffman 2005, 122). In his military professionalism, Napoleon took two years in making logistical planning to invade Russia, for he realized that decisive battles demanded proper logistics. Due to his logistical approach to battles, many generals have appreciated his approach and have applied his strategies and tactics, which have proved to give consistent successes in various wars. His presence during war made great difference, as he was indispensable in mobilization of resources and troops. Since Napoleon harbored many fears concerning his great empire, which he had managed to hold together through immense challenges, he wanted to guard it jealously without overlooking any possible threats albeit negligible. Napoleon argues that, “…when I am planning a campaign, I purposely exaggerate all the danger and all calamities that circumstances make possible” (Olszewski 2005, 32).
This strategy gave him the advantage in case the potential threat of the enemy was underestimated. During the Russia invasion, Napoleon never at any instance overlooked or underestimated the battle and consequences that arose, for in his logistical skills, he provided for the worst-case scenarios that were bound to occur in decisive battles like Russia invasion that cost the lives of many soldiers. Primary strategy of Napoleon was to identify the enemy. Identifying the location, composition, and structure of the enemies highlighted any possible threats and imminent calamities, which were very critical in determining whether to go ahead with the battle or not. If the battle was inevitable, then effective strategies and tactics were necessary to combat the enemy. Hardeman (2006) notes that, “when facing a foe superior in numbers, the strategy of the central position was employed to split the enemy into separate parts, each of which could then be eliminated in turn by adroit maneuvering…” (175).
With this strategy, though overwhelmed by the Russian armies, Napoleon armies managed to kill more of them as compared to their armies who died in the decisive battle. In this case, central position strategy proved useful in combating armies who were mightier while incurring minimal losses and injuries. Napoleon also utilized the strategy of Battalion Square and the tactic of outflanking his enemies. The Battalion Square consisted of an advance guard, which was to identify the enemy, right and left wings who acted as combating troops that marched within the range where they could offer emergency support to both advancing and reserved troops.
At the rear end of the advancing army was a reserved troop, which provided extra support in case the advance troop retreated. Rainey argues that, “Napoleon could use a mere part of his force to tie down and occupy the attention of one enemy, then rapidly move his remaining forces to build up a local superiority against his enemies” (2006, 158). When Napoleon had built local superiority, he employed the tactic of flanking to combat the Russian armies who were too strong for him to conquer, but at least he demonstrated artful military combat.
Despite the astounding defeat that Napoleon met during his war against Russia, he demonstrated logistical strategies and tactics that many generals consider artful and worth acquiring in the current generation. Napoleon left military legacy as his successors credit him a military genius who made great impact in military reforms and shaped the approaches of decisive battles. His strategies and tactics still echo through 21st century since military academies recognize and approve them as effective and worth learning.
Although Napoleon armies terribly suffered after invading Russia, this does not mean that their strategies were ineffective; only that the Russian armies were many, organized, and smarter.
Hardeman, Richard. “General Logistics Paradigm: A study of the Logistics O Alexander, Napoleon and Sherman.” Air Force Logistics Management Agency 26, no. 13 (2006): 120-125.
Compares and contrasts logistical strategies and tactics, which great men like Napoleon, Alexander and Sherman employed in their military leadership to conquer battles. It underscores the fact that military logistics forms the central part of effective strategies in decisive battles. Hoffman, Smith. “Logistics of Waging War.
” American Military Logistics Journal 12, no. 4 (2005): 172-189. Emphasizes the importance of military professionalism by applying logistical planning and consultation, in order to accommodate varied ideas that are paramount in assessing looming threats and dangers. Napoleon demonstrated professionalism in his logistical planning to invade Russia. Nafziger, George. Napoleon’s Strategy and Tactics. Ancient Military Journal 58, no.
6 (1989): 17-31. Describes Napoleon strategies and tactics such as divisive diplomacy, military professionalism, logistics, structuring, and composition of the advancing armies. His strategies and tactics enabled him to survive annihilation during the Russian Invasion. Olszewski, Zbigniew. “The Battle of Borodino, 1812.” Napoleon Military Conquest 16, no.
9 (2005): 24-47. Portrays Napoleon’s insecure and unassuming character for he never overlooked or underestimated the danger an enemy poses to his empire. It further outlines causes and subsequent implications of the Russia invasion by Napoleon. Rainey, James. Old Lessons New Thoughts.
New York: DIANE Publishing, 2006. Explains how old strategies and tactics can be applied into the contemporary world. It also confirms that old lessons of Napoleon strategies and tactics are still invaluable in the current warfare. Tarle, Eugene, and Viktorovich Evgenil.
Napoleon’s Invasion of Russia, 1812. New York: Octagon Books, 1979. Analyses strategies and tactics that Napoleon used to invade Russian and gives the strengths and weaknesses that led to eventual defeat of the Napoleon armies.