Napoleon: One of the Greatest Military Minds in the History of Warfare

Topics: Napoleonic Wars, First French Empire, Alexander I of Russia Pages: 6 (2199 words) Published: March 16, 2013
IN WHAT WAYS DID NAPOLEON’S CONCEPT OF OPERATIONAL MANEUVER DIFFER FROM FREDERICK’S? Napoleon Bonaparte was an exceptional personage who made history by scoring successes in the battlefield and won many battles through his operational maneuver. Napoleon's fame as a General, and indeed his powerbase to become head of the French state, was based on a powerful and fluent campaign in Northern Italy, principally against the numerically superior Austrians. His concept involved rapid movements, surprise, isolation of enemy forces, and exploitation of enemy weaknesses among others. Napoleon’s concept of operational maneuver did not differ greatly from Frederick’s as he even personally cited Frederick the Great as one of the major sources of his strategy. His vision, self-centeredness, military genius, and application of conventional military ideas to real world situations greatly aided his victories. Napoleon, in his battles, perfected Frederick’s concepts such as the exhaustion method, use of the oblique order, exploitation of the central point, and geometric strategy which the later used in the seven (7) years’ war (1756-63). Napoleon is considered one of the greatest military minds in the history of warfare. When he launched into a long series of wars known as the “Napoleonic Wars” with Europe in 1799, he was determined to extend the territorial boundaries of France and its revolutionary borders. Historians view the “Napoleonic Wars” as a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, which had significant impact on all of Europe and revolutionised European armies. Napoleon’s road to success was charted by the supreme triumphs of Ulm and Austerlitz in 1805. These battles represented a strategic turning point for the French, and demonstrated the supreme military might of the French Empire and strategic genius of Napoleon himself. These two battles represent the climax of Napoleon’s success, and signify his continued efforts to expand his empire further into Europe. Methods of war stand on a continuum between maneuver warfare and attrition warfare. The latter focuses on achieving victory through killing or capturing an adversary while maneuver warfare advocates for recognising that all warfare involves both maneuver and attrition. Maneuver warfare advocates that strategic movement can bring about the defeat of an opposing force more efficiently than by simply contacting and destroying enemy forces until they can no longer fight. Instead, in maneuver warfare, the destruction of certain enemy targets command and control centres, logistical bases, fire support assets and is combined with isolation of enemy forces and the exploitation by movement of enemy weaknesses. Napoleon, in his concept of operational maneuver, used the combination of cavalry movement and fast infantry movement to bring about the defeat of superior forces while they were still moving to their intended place of battle. This allowed his forces to attack where and when he wanted, often giving him the advantage of terrain to disable effective movement by his enemy. He used maneuver both strategically, thus, when and where to fight and tactically, which is, how to fight the battle he chose. This tactic was similar to Frederick’s geometric strategy which focused on lines of maneuver through the study and knowledge of the terrain, and appreciation of the nature of the environment. Napoleon was also successful on the battlefield because he successfully utilized the weapons and technology of the era that helped formulate his strategy and tactics. Technology during the “Napoleonic Era” was relatively unchanged. For the infantry, their small arms, such as the musket and bayonets, changed very little. However, the artillery arms went through some major changes during Napoleon’s rise to power. Artillery pieces were now made with interchangeable parts, which were suitable for mass production; gun carriages were built to a standard...

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Richard Podruchny: The Success of Napoleon
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