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To what extent was Napoleons generalship the main reason for his military success in Europe to 1807?

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Introduction

To what extent was Napoleon's generalship the main reason for his military success in Europe to 1807? Napoleon was one of the greatest military leaders that Europe has ever seen. His leadership of the French army saw France control most of continental Europe. Up to 1807 Napoleon was feared throughout due to his military successes. In order to establish whether the reason for his military successes was his generalship, one must also look at other reasons for his military success. Napoleon possessed many skills that assisted him in his generalship. When he came to power he reorganised the army. He divided it into corps of 25,000 to 30,000 men; each had specific roles in battle. This gave his army more flexibility, which would be a main feature in his successes. Napoleon himself controlled the whole army, and with the flexibility of his corps, meant the army was quick to respond to orders. Napoleon decided every move his army made on the battlefield. He formulated general plans of action before any battle and calculated all the chances accurately. This organisation meant Napoleon had full control of how his army fought, and because of his great military mind this led to successes. ...read more.

Middle

The mobility of his army allowed him to do this well. For example, at Ulm in 1805, having made a mistake, he improvised by making a quick decision to send marshal Murat in pursuit of the Austrians, which reduced their numbers from 70,000 to 27,000 and was key to his success there. Another aspect of his great generalship was that he played to his strengths. Napoleon never fought naval battles, as it wasn't his thing and he'd had a weak navy. Evidently Napoleon had many aspects to his generalship, which had huge impacts on his military successes up to 1807. Now it is important to look at another reason to why he was successful. The strength of the French army he inherited is another reason to why Napoleon was so successful. Napoleon was able to change the nature of warfare to 'levee on masse', since due to conscription (introduced in 1793 before Napoleon came to power) he had a huge army, which consisted of 600,000 by 1805. This was significantly larger than any other army in Europe, and was an obvious advantage for Napoleon. Napoleon could deliver huge casualties to his enemies and not have to worry about losing similar numbers himself. ...read more.

Conclusion

There failure to create a successful coalition can be seen with the Second Coalition of 1799 between Britain, Russia, Austria and the Ottoman Empire. The problem with it was that every country wanted something different from the coalition and it consisted of a series of separate alliances. It broke down as Britain and Russia fell out over Malta. However Napoleon must take some credit from the failures of coalitions due to his intervention through his policy of 'divide and rule'. This consisted of Napoleon trying to break down coalitions by dealing with each member separately. Once Britain and Russia had fallen out in the Second Coalition, it allowed Napoleon to intervene and get Russia on side. He was then able to bully Austria into signing the Peace of Luneville. So clearly the weakness of the opposition assisted Napoleon in his successes, although it must be seen that he capitalised on them brilliantly. It must be seen that the most important factor was Napoleons generalship. Although factors such as the army he inherited, and other peoples tactics assisted him. Without the weaknesses of the opposition, the army would have not enjoyed so many military successes. It was Napoleons leadership of the army that brought all the factors together and allowed him to be so successful. ...read more.

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