Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer


Versatility of the Napoleonic Army Corps

Among the reforms of the army begun before the [French] Revolution was the development of the corps d’armée. Napoleon saw the value of this reform, adopting and developing it into what has been called his secret weapon. The Napoleonic army corps was a well-balanced unit comprising all arms: infantry, cavalry and artillery, with attached engineers, auxiliary trains and a headquarters staff. The corps was in effect an army in miniature, although its size, anywhere from 5,000 to 40,000 men, could rival that of many 18th-century armies. The corps would be made up of a number of infantry and cavalry divisions, each of two or more brigades with attached artillery. As Napoleon’s corps structured army went into battle against a traditionally organized enemy force, each of his corps, being a complete fighting force, could go into action without delay as soon as it arrived on the field. When [Marshal Louis-Nicolas] Davout, one of the pre-eminent corps commander of the period, brought his men by an epic forced march directly into the fray at Austerlitz, he undoubtedly stopped the great Russian envelopment of the French right which would have threatened to cut across Napoleon’s line of communication and make his position untenable. The size of a corps could vary and would depend on several factors, such as its particular task and the ability of its commanding general. To his step-son, Eugéne de Beauharnais, Napoleon in 1809 commented, ‘…a corps of 25,000-30,000 men can be left on its own. Well handled it can fight or alternatively avoid action…an opponent cannot force it to accept an engagement, but if it chooses to do so it can fight alone for a long time.

David Hamilton-Williams, Waterloo: New Perspectives, p. 115

Emphasis mine.

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