Napoleon Series Archive 2009

Re: SÚnarmont at Friedland
In Response To: Re: SÚnarmont at Friedland ()

Kevin,

No, I don't see the contemporary evidence. Becke is not contemporary, nor does he say that SÚnarmont developed a doctrine, nor that Senarmont was the first - at least, I can't find where he does.

It is possible I've misunderstood the thrust of your argument, which I've taken to be that SÚnarmont created and exhibited at Friedland a novel offensive handling of artillery that then entered the French lexicon to be emulated by later artillerists.

It is certainly a perspective that a number of historians appear to share.

Is this perspective actually justified? If I have understood your thesis, I accept that superficial consultation of the empirical evidence seems to support it (Ocana, Wagram, SÚnarmont's attempt at Talavera, Lutzen), but I haven't encountered (perhaps you have) any specific evidence that makes clear contemporary recognition of this as a new tactic, or contemporary evidence that connects SÚnarmont's exhibition of a new tactical tool to its inclusion in the proverbial box.

That doesn't mean that the doctrine has to be written down, by any means. After all, where was French artillery drill for companies written down for most of the war?

From my perspective, it seems even more likely that SÚnarmont grasped what was available, and pushed new tools to a greater distance. As you say, massing of guns was not new, aggressive use of artillery was not new (e.g., battalion guns, horse artillery), I suspect even some massing with aggressive use was probably not new (how many horse companies does it take to constitute "massed"). A new conceptual mobility had been conferred upon the period with the development of tactical units of artillery that previous wars had lacked, and these faciliated control and mobility. SÚnarmont put these to use to solve an immediate tactical problem, and then went and got more as the first lot proved to be inadequate to the task. It does not appear to have been a tactical resolution upon which he had deliberated beforehand. Did this operation become a tactical doctrine? Unclear to me. Did later gunners implement a doctrine, or emulate a successful operation, or simply develop a very similar resolution to a similar tactical problem? I don't know.

My suspicion that SÚnarmont's accomplishment was less of a doctrinal invention, and more of a logical development of the tools' potential is reinforced by the British artillery charge at Talavera. I think it unlikely that British artillery field officers there had studied SÚnarmont's action at Friedland two years earlier, or sought to emulate the fellow who was quite literally across the olive orchards from them, yet Lt-Col. Robe gathered three brigades of artillery together (18 pieces of ordnance) and conducted a veritable artillery charge with them, a counter-attack against Laval's division, and appears to have been witheringly successful. Robe didn't have as good a press agent as SÚnarmont :o)

But I suspect the solution arose from resolving a roughly similar tactical problem with similar tools to hand. In other words, there are moments and circumstances, in which artillery, if suitably organized to facilitate control and mobility, and if courageously and thoughtfully led, could be applied by any nation to aggressively solve a tactical problem. But that didn't make the solution a tactical doctrine, consciously grasped by colleagues...did it?

I'm trying simply to see if later historians are guilty of a little ill-considered hype, instead of a deeper examination of the dynamics at play.

Regards - Howie

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Dix ans de mes souvenirs militaires, de 1805-1815.
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SÚnarmont at Friedland: New Doctrine?
changing the universal sentiment ...
Changing the universal sentiment: did it? How?
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General Ruty
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Senarmont and change *LINK*
The Camp At Boulogne.