History: Actual, Fictional and Legendary discussion

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message 1: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (last edited Sep 06, 2010 06:14AM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
It is difficult to decide what to include and what to omit. Though admittedly somewhat arbitrary, the discussion will be limited to the time period of 1798-1815. This includes Napoleon's campaign in Egypt and his rise to First Consul in 1799 and ends with the Battle of Waterloo and his exile to St. Helena.

Some ideas we might discuss first are:

1. Why was Napoleon a more successful general than the other Generals of the revolutionary period?

2. How did Napoleon manage to become First Consul?

3. What was the situation in the rest of Europe when Napoleon became First Consul?

4. Why were most of the powers of Europe arrayed against France prior to Napoleon's accession to First Consul?

5. What were Napoleon's political beliefs and how did they change over time?

6. What was the long term impact of Napoleon's reign?

7. What was the long term impact of the decisions made at the Congress of Vienna in 1815.


message 2: by James (new)

James (rosiedog) | 6 comments Hey Ed, thanks for the discussion ideas. I really liked the wide-open concept for the theme too rather than one specific book. As a matter of fact I just received the Crusades book Holy Warriors from the library today.
While browsing in my favourite used book store in Victoria, Russells, I found a history...Lucia, a Venetian Life in the Age of Napoleon by Andrea Di Robilant (2007) that I am going to give a whirl.

Until later, James


message 3: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
A little pun:

-A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.


message 4: by Shomeret (new)

Shomeret | 66 comments I love puns. I will now toast Ed with a beverage made with grenadine while I nibble on a Napoleon pastry which has no connection to Napoleon.


message 5: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (last edited Sep 05, 2010 10:43PM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
Shomeret wrote: "I love puns. I will now toast Ed with a beverage made with grenadine while I nibble on a Napoleon pastry which has no connection to Napoleon."

Check your messages for a long list of puns.

Napoleons originated in Vienna, right? Napoleon did capture Vienna, twice, I believe, so there is a connection.


message 6: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
Napoleon has been described as the greatest military mind of all time. I'm not sure I agree. The Duke of Wellington(John Wellesley) was no slouch nor was Robert E. Lee. What about Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great or Rommel? Can you think of others?


message 7: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (last edited Sep 12, 2010 10:13AM) (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 310 comments Mod
Hannibal claimed (in his old age) that he himself was clearly not the greatest general in the world - Scipio Africanus was. Because he had decisively beaten Hannibal.

On this argument, Wellington was clearly superior to Napoleon.


message 8: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
Napoleon is being defeated by "Personal Favorites"!


message 9: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 310 comments Mod
Ha!


message 10: by Kendall (new)

Kendall (kendallfurlong) | 21 comments
Napoleon is being defeated by "Personal Favorites"!


What is the position of your tongue?


message 11: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
Napoleon, come out, come out wherever you are.


message 12: by Kendall (last edited Oct 20, 2010 02:57AM) (new)

Kendall (kendallfurlong) | 21 comments
On this argument, Wellington was clearly superior to Napoleon.


Wellington studied Napoleon's previous battle's and divined his likely strategy. Divide to conquer--in this case take out the Prussians first, but the Prussians wouldn't quit, regrouped, and attacked. Wellington had fortuitously spent several years in his youth roaming the battlefield, thus knew it well. He was able to take advantage of low rolling hills to troops and surprise the elite Imperial Guard, giving the Guard their first defeat. And oh yes, there was a hellish rainstorm as Napoleon was rushing to surprise Wellington before he was ready for battle. The rain delayed him and gave Wellington time to dispose his troops.

So, was Wellington the better general just because he won? Probably not. Had Napoleon engaged Wellington when he planned to and had Providence, rather than superior English tactics, not prevented it, it seems likely he would have carried the day.

There was also General Ney, who made two crippling mistakes, holding back at first, then an impetuous charge, not waiting on the foot soldiers to clean up. Ney had been one of Napoleon's ablest commanders. His performance that day is inexplicable, and cost Napoleon dearly.


message 13: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
Kendall wrote: "On this argument, Wellington was clearly superior to Napoleon.

Wellington studied Napoleon's previous battle's and divined his likely strategy. Divide to conquer--in this case take out the Prussi..."


I read somewhere that he was angry with Napoleon over some imagined slight. In the movie "Waterloo" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066549/) he is portrayed as dragging his feet on his way to the battlefield then making the classic error of sending cavalry up against the British squares.

I suspect even Wellington would, most likely, agree that Napoleon was better than he over-all but not on that one day.


message 14: by Silvana (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) Ahem, this may not be the main focus but I am curious about Nelson and his relationship with Lady Hamilton. (yeah yeah I just watched Vivien Leigh's That Hamilton Woman). It was said that she helped Nelson a couple of times in doing his job as a commander, especially when she was the wife of the British Ambassador to the Kingdom of Naples. It's always interesting to know about women's role in wars. Just sayin' ;p


message 15: by Kendall (new)

Kendall (kendallfurlong) | 21 comments
Ed wrote: I suspect even Wellington would, most likely, agree that Napoleon was better than he over-all but not on that one day.


That Napoleon was the better general overall-just not on that day, I would certainly agree, but it's not clear to me that Wellington would. We'll never know, of course, Wellington's military genius, if he indeed had it, was constrained by the English nation (already an advanced phroto-democracy whereas Napoleon had a free hand. Nevertheless, I doubt that anyone achieves the heights Wellington did without being utterly convinced of their own superiority.


message 16: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (last edited Feb 19, 2011 08:05PM) (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
Kendall wrote: "Nevertheless, I doubt that anyone achieves the heights Wellington did without being utterly convinced of their own superiority."

Wellington was a British Protestant, brought up in Ireland. I believe it is a fact that the British because of both religious and nationalistic reasons believed they were clearly superior to every other nation in the world. Wellington (Arthur Wellesley) would have been immersed in that ethic from birth. One of the little known facts about him is that he learned horsemanship in France, spoke French and to a certain extent understood the French better than most Englishmen of the time.


message 17: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
Silvana wrote: "Ahem, this may not be the main focus but I am curious about Nelson and his relationship with Lady Hamilton. (yeah yeah I just watched Vivien Leigh's That Hamilton Woman). It was said that she helpe..."

I'm convinced they were lovers and hooray for that!


message 18: by Kendall (new)

Kendall (kendallfurlong) | 21 comments
Silvana wrote: I am curious about Nelson and his relationship with Lady Hamilton. (yeah yeah I just watched Vivien Leigh's That Hamilton Woman).
Coincidently, I also just watched That Hamilton Woman (1941). I enjoyed it, but Hollywood is notorious about altering original sources for 'dramatic effect' (read 'to sell more tickets').


message 19: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
Kendall wrote: "Coincidently, I also just watched That Hamilton Woman (1941). I enjoyed it, but Hollywood is notorious about altering original sources for 'dramatic effect' (read 'to sell more tickets'). "

Don't historical fiction writers do pretty much the same thing: do the research and then write fiction around the actual events - all in the pursuit of better book sales.


message 20: by Silvana (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) :D

Btw, who's better: Nelson or Wellington?
In general, I mean, never mind their theater of operation.


message 21: by Ed, Chief Curmudgeon (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 622 comments Mod
Silvana wrote: ":D

Btw, who's better: Nelson or Wellington?
In general, I mean, never mind their theater of operation."


What tastes better an apple or an orange?


message 22: by Silvana (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) Oranges. I hate apples.

:D

I meant, them as tacticians, style of commanding, those kind of stuff, charisma, commanding attributes, respect for inferiors...surely there is at least one thing to compare???


message 23: by Deanne (last edited Feb 24, 2011 01:33PM) (new)

Deanne | 10 comments Find both Nelson and Wellington fascinating, but I'm from a Royal Navy family, I was born in Chatham where Nelson's flagship HMS Victory was built. Nelson may not have been a brilliant tactician but he was interested in the welfare of his men both as a group and on an individual basis.
He was wounded 4 times because he insisted in leading from the front, and apparantly said that the worst part about having his arm amputated was that the blade was cold.
Both men had state funerals and are buried in St Paul's cathedral Nelson in 1805 and Wellington in 1852. Nelson is in the prime position but this maybe because he got there first, and because he was laid to rest in a sarcophagus that was commisioned in 1524 for cardinal Wolsey, who fell from favour.
Nelson died at the height of his popularity, he'd just won the battle of Trafalgar and unlike Wellington never lost his popularity.
Wellington became prime minister but became very unpopular with the British population.
Nelson has his column and Trafalgar square, and there is talk of switching one public holiday in may to october, with october 21st as a possible. This was discussed before but it was decided that it would upset the French.
Wellington has an arch in Hyde Park corner, but no mention of a Waterloo day.


message 24: by Silvana (new)

Silvana (silvaubrey) Great facts, Dianne,thanks :)


message 25: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 7 comments Ed wrote: "Napoleon has been described as the greatest military mind of all time. I'm not sure I agree. The Duke of Wellington(John Wellesley) was no slouch nor was Robert E. Lee. What about Julius Caesar or ..."

I think you mean Arthur Wellesley.


message 26: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 7 comments I am interested in how Napoleon did or did not make good use of his marshals. It's almost as if he wanted them to be at odds with each other so he could control them better.


message 27: by Deanne (new)

Deanne | 10 comments There was also his disastrous invasion of Russia, lots of his men died as a result of not being properly equipped for the russian winter.


message 28: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 7 comments That's very true, but the Grande Armee was not in good shape long before the winter. The desire for a great battle led Napoleon into pushing too far into Russia without being properly prepared. He was so sure Alexander would have to negotiate.


message 29: by Kurt (new)

Kurt Burke | 5 comments Robert Goetz did a great blow by blow account in '1805: Austerlitz' of the war of the Third Coalition. Like all of us he has his favorites and tends to vilify others, but overall an excellent read. My take on Napoleon's strategic success was his ability to coordinate supply and logistics, along with the general esprit de corps developed in the Grand Armee. For both of those we need to look further into Berthier, no doubt an organizational genius. Tactically I think Napoleon understood the education and training of military officers of the time. Every commander longed for a victory that would annihilate the enemy force, something that had not been achieved for a long time. Cannae in 216BC accomplished this with a double envelopment and this was attempted repeatedly ever after. Napoleon therefor utilized an attack in force in the center, he won this way several times, notably at Austerlitz. Many give Kutuzov credit for stopping the complete destruction of the allied army, but I think really he was miffed at having had command taken away and his column was just tardy, resulting in their lucky positioning to delay Napoleon's attack. Give credit to Kutusov, though, he learned from this. in 1812 at Borodino he built a large redoubt right in the center of his position and filled it with 20lber cannon. Napoleon may have ultimately won that battle as well, but his army was wrecked in the attempt.


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