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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

The Battle of Krasnoi and the legacy of Ney.

For all discussions relating to the coalition campaign of 1812-1814 that led to the defeat of France and Napoleon's exile to Elba.

Re: The Battle of Krasnoi and the legacy of Ney.

Postby Senarmont198 » December 19th, 2017, 11:48 am

Back to Eugene and his assumption of command in early 1813. Murat, appointed by Napoleon as commander, deserted and went back to Naples. Berthier stepped in and persuaded Eugene to take over, which he did. That stopped the bickering among the marshals as Eugene outranked them, as he was a Prince as well as a Viceroy of a kingdom. This may have been Eugene's best hour in a career filled with them from 1809 onwards. Berthier then sent correspondence to Napoleon urging him to immediately confirm Eugene in the posting, which he did.

Regarding 1809 and the blame that Berthier gets for the staff mess in Germany at the beginning of 1809, that was Napoleon's fault, not Berthier's. Berthier was never the commander of the Army of Germany. He was major general and chief of staff as he usually was. Napoleon tried to command from Paris, which obviously didn't work. He corresponded with Berthier by both courier and telegraph, and the orders did not arrive in sequence, and that caused the confusion in the staff. Berthier finally bluntly informed Napoleon that his presence would be greatly appreciated.

Berthier had commanded the Armee de la Reserve in 1800 initially, getting it organized, supplied, and over the Alps after which Napoleon arrived. Berthier was the one indispensable marshal, the perfect chief of staff for Napoleon's way of waging war. His absence in 1815 was a major cause of the defeat in Belgium, and Napoleon later said as much. Berthier was the premier chief of staff of his day, superior to anyone else in any army, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau included. He had organized the French staff system that later developed and that staff was responsible for considerable planning and execution after Napoleon gave the initial orders. It was Berthier and the staff that planned and executed the 1805 from the Channel to the Rhine, and the unprecedented concentration for the invasion of Russia. Some of that can be found in Brandt's memoir, as his unit moved from Spain to Poland for that concentration.

Berthier's reputation has suffered because of Jomin's hatred of him (and Jomini himself was a failure as a corps chief of staff and proved to be an incompetent military governor in 1812) and too many authors have followed that lead without actually researching Berthier and his myriad contributions to staff organization and planning, usually because of a lack of knowledge and understanding of what a chief of staff actually does or is supposed to do. In the current US Army official publication for staff organization and planning, the outlined duties of a chief of staff mirror what Berthier did and accomplished.
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