Napoleon Series Archive 2003

Re: Hohenlinden
In Response To: Re: Hohenlinden ()

Wasn't Marengo a surprise to Napoleon where Napoleon's somewhat haphazard and careless dispositions were made up for by the combat leadership of such subordinates as Lannes, Victor, Kellerman, and Desaix? I'm not sure Napoleon exerted much direct influence over the course the battle took as he was reduced to mainly reacting to various crises as they came up.

Additionally, wasn't Napoleon surprised by the advancing Austrians? He didn't have any plan of maneuver and didn't employ any effective reconnaissance. The surprise Austrian advance accordingly forced him to retire.

Napoleon had no idea where the Austrians were, scattered his forces and basically "bumbled stumbled and fell" into Marengo, despite his later empty claims to have planned it all along as a modern-day Cannae.

Napoleon had his spin doctors working on the story of Marengo for years, while the opposite spin has been applied to Hohenlinden. The one a great victory by a great general, the other an accident by a hack. But both seem to me to be unexpected battles where the commander placed his army in a position to come in contact with the enemy, the enemy advanced unexpectedly, the French reacted to the surprise effectively and through a combination of effective subordinate initiative and some very tough fighting the French prevailed. I don't see a decisive role played by the hand of the commander in either battle except in approving a decisive movement by a subordinate who unexpectedly happened to be in the right place at the right time. And in both cases subordinate initiative played a crucial role, no matter how much Napoleon might have tried to take credit for ordering Kellerman's charge.

Moreau has as much right to credit for the victory at Hohenlinden as Napoleon for the victory at Marengo. Any general in any battle owes victory to good work by subordinates, without it they wouldn't win - there might not even be a battle. If the battle occurs in conditions where direct control of separate columns is impossible, that doesn't mean that the ultimate responsibility doesn't belong to the commander, win or lose. Certainly the positioning of the columns is the result of maneuvers ordered by the commander prior to the battle. Napoleon gets credit for this, why not Moreau? I can't think of any battles of any size where the commander wasn't relying on subordinates to direct activities outside of his immediate control subject to general guidelines by the commander.

The characterization of the commander sitting around picking his nose, being totally clueless as to what is going on and leaving decisions to his subordinates is a common one when someone is doing a hatchet job. Thiebault says the same thing about both Soult and St. Hilaire's activities at Austerlitz and I don't know anyone outside of Bowden that believes Thiebault's assertion that Soult and St. Hilaire were incompetent. Personally I don't rate Moreau that highly as a general - he was plainly cautious and conservative, and his operations in 1796 showed a lack of understanding of the big picture. But I haven't seen any firm evidence that he wasn't a competent professional - surviving the wars of the revolution, not to mention advancing, required at least that. he had the respect of both St. Cyr and Desaix who served under him for years. I regard claims of Moreau's incompetence as being highly questionable at best and very likely to result more from subsequent events than by what occurred at the time. Overrated perhaps, but Moreau was the victor of Hohenlinden.

Regards,

Robert Goetz

Messages In This Thread

Hohenlinden
Re: Hohenlinden
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Differences
Re: Differences
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Re: Sharing with the troops
Egypt and Russia
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Orders to kill Napoleon??
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Re: Egypt and Russia
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Re: Napoleon and Ferdinand
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Opinions Everywhere You Turn
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Perhaps it is better ...?
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So, we are both in agreement with John!
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Re: Egypt and Russia
Re: Egypt and Russia
Re: Sharing with the troops
Try Gambetta
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Re: Try Gambetta
Re: Differences
Re: Differences
Re: Hohenlinden