Napoleon's Military Successes (1799-1807)


Nature of French Army + reforms during Fr. Rev.

Rev. forced Fr. army to change way they fought.

Rev. kicked out/executed nobility. Leading to gaps in army.

Resulting in opportunities for soldiers to be promoted on merit. Meritocracy. Gave Fr. army an edge over their enemies- as enemies still had aristocracy as commanding officers.

Levée en masse. Mass conscription- was introduced in 1793- by Carnot

So Napoleon had lots of men to command when he came to power.

Although still outnumbered sometimes; e.g Austerlitz 1805.

Standardisation of Artillery. Gribeauval reformed Fr. artillery in 1790's.

Made artillery more organised. Easier to move on + off battlefield.

Napoleon then harnessed this- taking advantage + was able to barrage enemy with artillery before a charge from main body of army.

As artillery shocked + wavered enemy troops. E.g Friedland 1807.

Tactical changes; e.g use of infantry columns to attack.

Use of 'mixed order' formations, introduced by Guibert; used by Napoleon- Link to weaknesses of allies; who hadn't developed their structure. Helped breat Prussia at Jena.

Living off the land- enabled Fr. army to move quicker. Gathered supplies on the move. Melted down metal into ammuniton. Fast marches.

Use of skirmishers- light infantry, spread out in front of columns- took out other armies' important figures.

However: Napoleon merely utilised these reforms- so he cannot be given the full credit for their success. 

Nature of French army + impact of reforms made by Napoleon

Minor tactical changes were made.

Use of divisional squares at Battle of Pyramids in 1798. (before 1799)

Napoleon- very conservative- not an innovator.

Developed Corps system. Gave Fr. flexibility to win twin battles of Jena-Auerstadt. 

Corps= mini-armies. Designed to hold off a much larger force. Were in effect a small army.

Introduced Marshalate from 1804. 18 top generals made Marshals, more made later on.

"In every soldier's knapsack is a Marshals baton." Encouraging idea of meritocracy.

E.g of Marshals= Ney, (bravest of the brave) Murat was main cavalry commander and Davout was probably best general. Davout not given credit by Napoleon for Fr. victory at Auerstadt in 1806 vs Prussia.

Any soldier could be a Marshal if good enough. Tactical of Napoleon. Supporting meritocracy.

Introduced Imperial Guard from 1804. Acted as a role model for rest of the army. Served as an elite body of troops to…


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