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Thread: Napoleon's Legacy

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    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Napoleon's Legacy

    There are many views on the life and deeds of Napoleon. No one can argue his military genius, but what about the other aspects of his actions in life? An enlightened or bloodthirsty despot? A brilliant or depraved genius? Good or evil? All opinions welcome.
    "Every man has his weakness. Mine was always just cigarettes."

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    Officer of Engineers
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    His regiment system is in use all the world over, including the Chinese.

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    Military Enthusiast Senior Contributor
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    What was the value of a regiment and how was it different from the contemporary times?

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    Officer of Engineers
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    The 3 attacker to 1 ratio and the training involved. You use 1 company to attack one platoon. You use one battalion to attack one company. ETC. Like Frederick the Great's innovation - he written it down and standardized it. That way you allow for greater innovation at a set company or battalion or even regimental level instead of ad-hocing 50 men or 100 men away from a greater force who did not know what to do. With his system, a company, battalion, even regiment know what to do before they even set foot onto the battlefield.

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    Military Enthusiast Senior Contributor
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    Ah so he taught and instutionalized the idea of local tactical superiority and how to set it up in a way that you can do it consistently?

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    Officer of Engineers
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    That and he created the 1st logistical train - canned food which for the 1st time in history allowed a million man army not to be dependent on the land for food. Trouble is that he under-estimated his requirements.

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    Contributor VarSity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers View Post
    That and he created the 1st logistical train - canned food which for the 1st time in history allowed a million man army not to be dependent on the land for food. Trouble is that he under-estimated his requirements.
    I was going say, wasnít the French campaign into Portugal hindered by a terrible food supply?
    I was under the impression the French army relied on scavenging and living off the land a lot.

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    Senior Contributor clackers's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironduke View Post
    There are many views on the life and deeds of Napoleon. No one can argue his military genius, but what about the other aspects of his actions in life? An enlightened or bloodthirsty despot? A brilliant or depraved genius? Good or evil? All opinions welcome.
    Of his military genius, your namesake the Duke of Wellington was apparently once asked who was the greatest general of all time, and replied with "Napoleon in this age, the past age, and any age hence" ...

    But you asked about the other aspects of his life. There are so many facets to his character that seem to defy reconcilliation. He was simultaneously:

    - an admirer of The Enlightenment and keen student of the natural sciences, but superstitious
    - a rough talking Corsican who claimed to represent the noblest aspects of French culture
    - someone who tried to break the hold of the Church over the country, but wheeled and dealed to made sure the Pope was there at his coronation
    - a defender of the Republic, who of course crowned himself Emperor
    - progressive in wanting education for all girls, but cast aside his wife when she couldn't bear him an heir
    - overhauling the entire legal system to make it more progressive, but was big on censorship and stifling political opposition
    - someone keen on unifying various states and peoples of Europe to form distinctively modern nations, but couldn't do it without ransacking them again and again

    Biographers like Paul Johnson clearly compare him to twentieth century dictators, but someone like Frank McLynn points out that by the standards of European absolute rulers of the day, he was actually a bit of a pussycat.

    He could expect a great deal of his troops and citizens but was way too soft on people he knew personally, including traitors like Talleyrand, Fouche and several of his own family. By comparison, Stalin and Mao would have had no hesitation in dealing with them and everyone connected to them!
    Last edited by clackers; 27 Nov 07, at 08:17.

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    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    I think we can say what he did was to serve his own ends.
    "Every man has his weakness. Mine was always just cigarettes."

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    Senior Contributor clackers's Avatar
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    Well, Ironduke, I think there was a lot of idealism and intentions there too, which today's apologists will overemphasize and critics will ignore ... getting towards 200 years later, there's still no consensus picture of the man!

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