Napoleon Military Success

Extrodinarily successful up to 1807


Military Success upto 1807

1796-1797 and 1800- Northern Italy (esp Marengo)

December 1805- Austerlitz (his greatest battle)

October 1806- Jena and Auerstadt vs Prussia

1807- Friedland vs Russia

July 1808- Bailen vs Southern Spain (first defeat in Napoleonic era)

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Most of the surrounding countries to France were reluctant to ally with each other- easy for Napoleon to fight each seperatley.

1805- Austria and Russia but Prussia didnt join.

Britain was untrustworthy in eyes of European allies.

The quality of the opposing generals was based on birth and age, so often much older and used to warfare where reluctance to fight as danger of losing men.

Psychologically many were defeated before battle due to Napoleon's sheer presence- propaganda skills. Wellington: "Napoleon is worth 40,000 men"

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Military inheritance and Revolutionary era

Reforms of ancien regime and French Revolution meant Napoleon tok over powerful military position.


  • Guibert- speed and attack
  • Gribeauval and Du Teil- artillery
  • De Broglie- divisional system


  • Levee en masse, Nation in Arms and Loi Lourdan - conscription in 1798 mean French much larger than opponents.
  • Espirit de Corps- professional pride very important
  • Removal of top layer enabled outstanding young commanders to rise to top. (Napoleon's marshalls- Davout, Soult, Murat)
  • Amalgame-mixed order, skirmishers in operation in 1790's.
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Napoleon's own contribution

Speed and mobility using Corps system- aim to force major battle

Heavily reliant on two decisive tactics:

  • Manoeuvre sur la derriere - took advantage of topographical features, used in 30 out of 50 battles
  • Central Position - used if opponents were larger

Artillery bombardment and clever use of skirmishers eg Jena

Ruler of France and army so able to direct all resources  of state and conquered territories to war effort. Clever use of propaganda to unite country

Chrisma - mixture of fact and fiction

Knowledge of Opposition whereabouts - aided by skill of chief assistant Berthier and expert assessment of lie of land

Ability to react to changes in circumstances

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