Napoleon as a General: Command from the Battlefield to Grand Strategy

Overview

'In war, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns. Thus it may be known that the leader of armies is the arbiter of the people's fate, the man on whom it depends whether the nation shall be in peace or peril...' (Sun Tzu The Art of War). We speak of Caesar who conquered Gaul, not the legions; MacArthur who landed at Inchon, not the Marines - and we speak of Napoleon, one of history's most successful generals. Major General Jonathon Riley is supremely well qualified to write on Napoleon's generalship and has written an informed and

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Overview

'In war, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns. Thus it may be known that the leader of armies is the arbiter of the people's fate, the man on whom it depends whether the nation shall be in peace or peril...' (Sun Tzu The Art of War). We speak of Caesar who conquered Gaul, not the legions; MacArthur who landed at Inchon, not the Marines - and we speak of Napoleon, one of history's most successful generals. Major General Jonathon Riley is supremely well qualified to write on Napoleon's generalship and has written an informed and insightful account. He opens with a short treatise on generalship in order to define Napoleon's achievement before moving on to the man himself. He examines Napoleon as a strategist; as a coalition commander; Napoleon's campaigns and Napoleon on the battlefield. Areas often ignored in the context of pre-industrial warfare - logistics and counter-insurgency - are also examined. Riley proceeds to three specific case studies beginning with Napoleon's first essay in generalship and the conquest of Piedmont; Napoleon at the height of his powers at the conquest of Prussia, to Napoleon's final defeats and the Battle of the Nations in 1813.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

As stated in its introduction, this book is neither a biography nor a chronological history of Napoléon. It is an insightful treatise on the emperor's generalship, written by an officer in the British army. Major General Riley (Senior British Military Advisor, United States Central Command; Napoleon and the World War, 1813) opens with an essay on generalship, setting the parameters for Napoléon's achievement and goes on, in successive chapters, to discuss him as a strategist, coalition general, operational commander, and battlefield commander. There follow two chapters on counter-insurgency and logistics, areas that are very often ignored in these studies. Three case studies follow: Napoléon's first campaign in Italy, the conquest of Prussia in 1806, and the Battle of the Nations in 1813. All provide good discussion of Napoléon at those three stages in his career. The final chapter discusses Napoléon's personal qualities as a general and his legacy. The author's assessment is fairly objective: in summary, that Napoléon was an innovative general and the best in the field until the attrition of over a decade of conflict caught up with him. Recommended.
—David Lee Poremba

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781847251800
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 2/28/2008
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.51 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathon Riley was appointed as Director General and Master of the Armouries in June 2009. Before that he held military commands on operations in the Balkans as a battalion and brigade commander, in Sierra Leone as Joint Task Force Commander, in Iraq as Divisional Commander, and in Afghanistan as Deputy Commander of all NATO forces. He has an MA and a PhD in history and has published eight books including Napoleon as a General (Continuum 2007)

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 : Generalship

Chapter 2 : Napoleon as Strategist

Chapter 3 : Napoleon as Coalition General

Chapter 4 : Campaigning - Napoleon and Operational Art

Chapter 5 : Napoleon on the Battlefield

Chapter 6 : Counter-Insurgency and Rear Area Security

Chapter 7 : Logistics, Pillage and Plunder

Chapter 8 : Exporting Revolution 1793-1797 - Napoleon's First Essay in Generalship

Chapter 9 : Conquest of Prussia 1806 - Napoleon at the Height of his Powers

Chapter 10 : From the Congress of Prague to the Battle of the Nations 1813 - The Beginning of the End Chapter 11 : Conclusions

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 3, 2011

    Lack of first-hand insight

    The author states that another book on Napoleon is a must since only academics have written studies of Napoleon. As an officer in the British Army supposedly he can provide an insight of a veteran commander. The book is expensive for its size, and one is still recommended to David G. Chandler's The Campaign's of Napoleon or John C. Elting's Swords around a Throne. Stereotypical of most British historians it claims there is not much to Nap for every victory he had an equal defeat e.g. won at Leutzen lost at Bautzen. His strategy was not modified the old quote that "the fr. are attacking in the usual way," to which Wellington replies "We shall beat them in the usual way." Napoleon never taught his Marchals the Art of War and relied on perfect timing of spread-out forces of his 'wheeling manoeuvre', resulting in Ney not showing up in time for a flanking atk at Bautzen. Also that Nap rarely fought armies that out-numbered him, as though his ability to manoeuvre to advantage was a bad thing, or fought aging general i.e. easy opponents. The ultimate proof of N.'s inability was that he never beat Wellington.

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