Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Tag: Napoleonic

Versatility of the Napoleonic Army Corps

May 2, 2008

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.

Covering a Withdrawal

May 1, 2008

To ensure that his brigade and its battalion rearguard were neither enveloped nor routed in withdrawing, [Prussian General] Steinmetz dispatched a fresh infantry and cavalry regiment ahead to Gosselies, thereby observing the sound principle that in rearguard actions the withdrawal of engaged units should be covered by troops already in position.

David Hamilton-Williams, Waterloo: New Perspectives, p. 159

Iron Age Logistics

March 7, 2003

As the size of armies and the scope of battles increased, ancient armies had to master the task of logistically supporting these armies in the field. The logistical feats of ancient armies were often more difficult and often achieved more proficiently than in armies of the nineteenth century [C.E.], when the railroad, mass production of weapons, standard packaging, and tinned and condensed food made the problem of supply considerably easier. The need to support armies in the field for months, sometimes years, was a function of the rise of the imperium. Armies now had to conduct combat operations over far wider areas for longer periods than ever before.

Changes in the composition of military forces also added to the logistics burden. The development of the chariot required that the Egyptian forces maintain repair depots and special mobile repair battalions to ensure that the machines remained functional on the march. The Assyrian invention of large cavalry squadrons brought into existence a special branch of the logistics train to ensure that the army could secure, breed, train, and deploy large numbers of horses to support these new forces. This special logistics branch, the musarkisus, was able to obtain and process 3,000 horses a month for the Assyrian army. It was not until the time of Napoleon that Western armies could once again equal this logistical feat. The integration of chariots with cavalry also forced the Assyrian army to become the first to learn how to sustain 2 types of transport. Advances in siegecraft required that armies transport siege towers and engines within their baggage train, and artillery, introduced under the Greeks and brought to perfection under the Romans, added yet another requirement to transport catapults and shot. The need to manufacture, issue, and repair the new iron weapons in unprecedented numbers required yet more innovations in logistics. In the Assyrian army the production and storage of weapons became a central feature of the army’s logistical structure. A single weapons room in Sargon’s palace at Dur-Sharrukin contained 200 tons of iron weapons, and similar weapons warehouses were scattered throughout the empire. Of all the achievements of the ancient armies, those in the area of logistics often remain the most unappreciated by modern military planners.

From Sumer To Rome, pp. 22-23