Napoleon Series Archive 2009

Re: Forthcoming Book
In Response To: Re: Forthcoming Book ()

As the translator, I feel qualified to respond to this. Since you unfortunately cannot have read it yet, I can assure you that I did not miss the word sailors - (I would be interested to hear why you assume I would) - though I prefer the word seamen in this case, though I will give you their interchangeability.

The second footnote on the opening page of the translation reads as follows:

" Translator’s note: Although the word Marins translates to ‘seamen’ rather than ‘marines’, the usual translation of the title of this corps elsewhere in Napoleonic literature has been Marines. In order to avoid a descent into argument over semantic trivia, I have elected to maintain the French title of this unit throughout this translation."

Which just about describes my thoughts on the subject, notwithstanding your long and interesting peroration on the question of esprit and Napoleon's attitude thereto much further down this thread, Kevin. While I agree about the importance of military ethos (indeed, I am in the throes of completing a long article focusing on the subject as it relates to military training in NATO today and am preparing for a trip to Afghanistan in December when the question of the importance of ethos and identity in multinational operations will be high on the agenda of my discussions with local commanders), I still believe strongly that we view Napoleon's motivation and activities too much through the lens of two hundred years of hindsight.

While I agree that hindsight is only of any value if you make use of it, I can't help wondering why we continually try to relate Napoleon's actions to the modern military environment. Yes - he formed a Guard, he was concerned about morale, esprit de corps and all those wonderful, intangible things that inspire men and make armed forces work more effectively. My point is not to counter that - it is that he was also constrained by the enormous requirements he had for manpower to use whatever was available. The existence of all those semi-skilled sailors with nowhere to go must have shone like a beacon in the night for him. So - does he give them fancy titles to preserve their self-respect and motivation - sure. Does he put them to work exclusively on matters that their so-called (and too highly vaunted, in my view) skills would suit them to? No. Is bridge-building a skill? The design and understanding of the constraints of bridge building certainly are - but then that was done by the engineers and the officers - not the crews themselves. The actual construction of bridges - the hammering of nails, humping of bales and toting of barges - was done by the PBI - no matter whether his unit was from the infanterie de ligne, the Garde, the équipages de la flotte or the gardiens des bordels Parisiens.

The fundamental point is how they were used. I am fully prepared to understand that they were used in specialist roles in some places - but you cannot simply ignore the Peninsula experience because it doesn't fit the theory. The simple fact of the matter is that some 500 Marins de la Garde, for example, were used as infantry throughout the Bailen campaign. And mighty proud they were of the fact too.

Were they sailors with muskets? Were they marines? Were they pontonniers by any other name? If it matters (which it doesn't) the answer is no - they were men - just men - and assets to be used in support of Imperial design.

Bottom line - Napoleon is the ultimate exploiter - that is part of the multifarious levels of genius the man had. He came, he saw, he emptied the boats and made use of the contents. QED

Tim

Messages In This Thread

Forthcoming Book
Mémoires du capitaine de frégate Pierre Baste
Re: Forthcoming Book
Peut-être a-t-il s'est trompé ...?
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Marins, Marines, Matelots, et bric a brac...
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Forthcoming Book: Soldats ou Matelots?
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Russian unicorns
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Observations upon Russian Ordnance
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Russian ammunition and caissons
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Thank you for the clarification
Unicorns vs howitzers
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Quotes
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Memoirs
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L 'Armee Russe sous le Tsar Alexandre I 1805-15.
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DDS Napoleonic Artillery
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Let's not get ahead of ourselves
Of Possible Interest.
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Operation of Guns
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The spelling should have been 'Adye' throughout.
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The spelling should have been 'Adye'
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Willett - two 't's.
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Some Familliia Adye Stuff.
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Russian artillery officers
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Of Possible Interest.
ADMIN! Re: Of Possible Interest - use caution
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Russian guns in French service????
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Armies of 1812
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Horses, Artillery, Resupply, and Logistics
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AnXI Howitzer Carriage
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Jack of all trades?
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Very nice - thank you :-)
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Very kind - thank you :-) *NM*
Shako
Many thanks: is the peak detachable?
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Re: Forthcoming Book: Soldats ou Matelots?
The point is: they were Soldats not Matelots :-) *NM*
Matelots and Soldats...
Marins, Matelots et Soldats....
Re: Forthcoming Book: Soldats ou Matelots?