Napoleon Series Archive 2009

Re: ADCs
In Response To: Re: ADCs ()


Thank you for your insightful comments, particularly your point that there is no
one-size-fits definition of an ADC’s duties and some of the reasons that is so.

I would think that those ADC’s chosen “for having real soldiering skills and a
lively intelligence ... were expected to thoroughly understand the
administration of the type of unit under command and the how information
was to be collated at their level of command”, the ones you called “experienced officers” were the ones serving high ranking generals. However,
my Lieutenant was in his teens and fits the second category you mentioned:
“Some generals took on a certain number of aides as a favour to friends
or benefactors. These young men often lacked experience and were of
questionable use other than whatever pride and determination they might

You also offered:
“At the other end you have brigade commanders in all armies who were entitled to one or two aides and staff personnel. These individuals were selected for
knowledge, experience and aptitude - not dancing skills or knowing how
to find a chef”

From Rory Muir’s ‘Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon’, page 170:
“They did anything ad everything fro their general from writing messages and carrying orders, to leading the dance at a ball or acting as an interpreter.

This from Howie Muir, Napoleon Series, Saturday, 31 March 2007:
“ADC's duties would largely consist of accompanying his chief when he went out, copying letters, talking pleasantly to the person the General didn't want to talk to, making excuses when the boss had a hangover or was busy, passing the port after dinner, leading the dance at the local assembly. In other words, being pleasant young obliging company who could be asked to fetch and carry, but would also make a good impression in the local society (whether civil or military).

I added the business about the chef because my Lieutenant’s journal speaks of involvement in troubles with his general’s unhappy chef.

You wrote: “I have to admit that I didn't like your definition at all. Here's my
breakdown of major issues I have with it:
"An Aide-de-Camp was a General?s personal aide " - OK, but it connotes
personal service. Aides worked as staff officers (and I am presuming you
have little idea yet about how much work that entailed), couriers and
took on assignments as order. These assignments might range from leading
a patrol to auditing records in a unit to liaising with other commands”.

My Lieutenant may well have audited unit records (thanks for that one) and liaised with other commands but never led any patrols thus I am more interested in non-combat duties

Your wrote: “"who did all required in his general?s name" - Not quite. To do
something in person's name means that you can speak on behalf of that
person and make decisions. This might have been true of some aides
(think of Colonel Gordon on behalf of Wellington or one of Napoleon's
General Aides-de-Camp. Some wet nosed lieutenant would NOT be able to
act in a general's name”.

You added: "An ADC was considered a trusted member of a general?s military
?family?" - I think you have borrowed this phrase from somewhere, but
cannot place it at this moment.

From ‘donaldwilliambrown‘, Napoleon Series, Sunday, 1 April 2007: “as part of the general's military 'family' I suspect part of their role was to provide company & a sounding board to their lord & master. It was not officially part of their duties but it was not uncommon that they spoke another language or two & provided translation when necessary”.

You doubt that translation is a social skill:
"Social skills, including translation, were considered desirable skills
for an ADC to have and hone." - Since when is translation a social
Wikipedia: “Social skills are a group of skills which a social animal uses to interact and communicate with others. These skills can be used to affect status in the social structure and for many other motivations. Social rules and relations are created, communicated, and changed in verbal and nonverbal ways creating social complexity useful in identifying outsiders and intelligent breeding partners. The process of learning these skills is called socialization”. .

Another source for my somewhat misinformed description of an ADC’s non-combat duties:
Caroline Miley: March, 2007: “They were the general's "eyes and ears", he could confide sensitive information to them, if necessary they could assume command at various levels, especially in an emergency”.

You wrote:
"and his statements or commands were to be taken with the same level of
seriousness as those of the ADC?s general?s" - No, most emphatically so,
in almost all cases”.

Howie Muir, Napoleon Series, Saturday, 31 March 2007: “An aide-de-camp was a personal appointment, and privilege of the choice lay with the general officer; after all, it is the general who has to live with the choice. Being a personal appointment, the use of an adc was largely a matter of personal style for the employing general. And as trust matured between the two men, the adc could be relied upon more and more to exercise a degree of discretion, speak more authoritatively with his general's voice, and have his observations provide trusted input for the employing general.“

All of the above supports your statement that there is no one-size-fits definition of a
British subaltern’s ADC duties but does not necessarily support an assertion that my attempted short definition was completely inaccurate as you seemed to think. However, I must admit that it certainly needs more work.

My monograph is not a novel.

It would seem that an ADC’s duties depended a great deal on on his commander’s rank, duty and preferences.


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Modern Day ADCs in the U.S. Army
Re: Modern Day ADCs in the U.S. Army