Insights, Notes & Quotes from
"The Campaigns of Napoleon"



"His powers were his own, but circumstances rendered them effective." Hudson, a historian commenting on Napoleon

"All that is to happen is written down. Our hour is marked and we cannot prolong it a minute longer than fate has predestined." --Napoleon

· His great skill: Translating (War) Theory into Activity.
Napoleon was a Man of Action... not necessarily Original. He borrowed from history.
He was "a developer and perfecter of the ideas of others." (p. 135)

· He drew his major ideas from books.
"I have fought sixty battles and I have learned nothing which I did not know at the beginning."
"Read and meditate upon the wars of the great captains. This is the only means of learning the art of war."

Importance of Speed
· Seize the initiative & Keep it at all costs.
· The Objective: Swift destruction of the enemy's will to resist.

Importance of Planning
· Napoleon was "extremely thorough in his planning. Very little was left to chance.
· Yet, at the same time, he recognized Chance as a variable and believed
every plan should allow a period of time to remedy or exploit the unpredictable.

Importance of Time
· The loss of time (in war) is irreparable.
· Strategy is the art of making use of time & space. However, "space we can recover, time never."
· "I may lose a battle but I shall never lose a minute."

Importance of Moral Force
· The Moral is to the Physical as three is to one.
· Moral force, rather than numbers, decides victory.

Two Main Qualities of a Soldier
· "If courage is the first characteristic of a soldier, perseverance is the second."


Background
While reading Grant Wins the War, a book about the battle of Vicksburg by James R. Arnold, I learned that while this specific campaign was a masterful in both its design and implementation, Grant's other campaigns never really demonstrated the same caliber of genius as this singular period of his career. On the other hand, according to the introduction to this book, the battles of Napoleon consistently rose above the expected, and for more than 20 years Napoleon showed genius and skill as a general on the field of battle.

Most of us remember Napoleon only for Waterloo. Few Americans realize that Napolean was the most written about human being of the nineteenth century, with more than 100,000 books devoted to analysis of the man, his actions, his ideas and his life.

The preceding are a few of the notes I assembled based on a cursory reading of The Campaigns of Napoleon.

 



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