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Berthier
01-15-2012, 03:59
Time for a new thread to keep you guys on your toes.

I'ver been brushing up on Trafalgar and can't quite make sense of the RN casualties for the lead ships.

The two columns approached in rough single file (Royal Sovereign then, Belleisle, Mars etc and Victory then Temeraire and Neptune etc) with RS under fire for 35 minutes and Victory for 25 minutes in the time it took to sail the final 3/4 mile to the Allied line. Neither leading ship was seriously impaired in sailing by this fire- Adkin (The Traflagar Companion) says this was primarily due to poor gunnery by the Allied fleet with many shots going over the ships and others into the sea. He estimates the Allied fleet fired 850 odd shots at Victory and 750 odd at RS! He also estimates 15% of these shots hit the vessels, the majority masts and rigging, with 40 hitting the hull of the Victory and 33 maybe the RS hull.

The RS apparently had triple shotted her guns prior to breaking the Allied line and Adcock states Santa Anna was "immediately crippled" as RS broke the Allied line with perhaps 14 guns disabled and "scores" of men down. He describes it as a "perfect rake" at nearly zero range. (Oh, there's that rake debate again) RS then swung round and broadsided Fougueax causing her to heel from the impact. But now for ten minutes RS was alone and unsupported against the two ships stated plus Indomptable and soon San Justo, Neptune (Fr) and San Leandro. All this lead flying around and yet her casualties for the entire battle were 47 killed and 94 wounded...Santa Ana's were 97k 141w, Fougueux 60k 75w. RS was dismasted by the time Santa Ana struck yet suffered remarkably fewer casualties despite leading the line in under fire and playing a lone hand for ten or so minutes till Belleisle arrived to help.

The first ships of the RN ships to enter the fray were "doubled" by the allied fleet early in the battle, that is, fired on by more than one ship from both sides as well as being raked. The Allied line being disorganised and effectively a double line meant any RN ships breaking through the first line were subject to attack from the starboard broadsides of the broken line and the port of the second line.

Victory's approach in the first column arrived after RS in the second column and with her wheel shot away and 40 sailors taken from other duties to to assist steering (this didn't seem to effect her performance). She'd lost a topsail mast and had various sail and rigging damage. She fired her 68lb carronade loaded with a roundshot and 500 musket balls and her double/triple shotted broadside raked the French ship Bucentaure and Adcock claims this translated to 120 shots "flung the length of the deck space" in 30 seconds and he estimates 100 casualties (not the 300 of some accounts..but again that raking debate) but she would be raked by perhaps another eight ships during the course of the battle. Now Victory emerged from this raking of the French flagship directly into the broadside of Neptune who delivered a bow rake inflicting damage but few casualties. At the same time Victory's other broadside engaged Redoutable and the two ships came together. Temeraire moved up astern of Victory and ran onto the other side of Redoutable firing a broadside that inflicted perhaps 200 more casualties (more than a rake!). All the while Victory fired double/triple shotted rounds into the French ship in a depressed elevation to avoid firing through the ship and into Temeraire. Soon the Fougueux crashed into Temeraire exposed broadside and copped a fearful broadside adding to her misery.

The casualties on the Neptune during the approach to the Allied line had been minimised by having the crew lie flat on the deck. And so the battle went on.

Casualty figures for the battle itself were around
RN 458K 1208W, with Victory (57K 102W), RS (47K 94W)

Allied fleet 2458K 2781W Redoutable (120K 130W) , Bucentaure (197K 85W), Santa Ana (97K 141W)

What is immediately obvious is the high killed to wounded of the Allies (almost 1:1) versus the RN 1:2.5, but this is due to the explosion of one of the French ships Achille (450? lost). If you remove that figure both the French and the Spanish suffered similar battle losses and killed to wounded of 1:1.4 still very high compared to the RN.

Six RN ships suffered over half of the total RN casualties and they were the first into battle. 11 RN ships were severely damaged of which seven required towing.

All very well then, but the casualties on Victory, RS and Neptune (10K 44W) Belleisle (33k 93w) Mars (29k 69w) seem so low compared to the Allies for such a hard fight early in the battle. Was the gunnery and leadership of the Allies really that bad? No wonder you guys only want to talk about 1812!

If as seems likely, the Allied fleet was that poor...there's no game to be had in this battle unless severe fudging is involved. The only way I could see to "balance" it up a bit would be to get the Allied van into the battle early (giving them a superiority in ship numbers if nothing else) instead of prancing around and watching for an hour and a half till it was too late.

Mark Barker
01-15-2012, 14:05
Time for a new thread to keep you guys on your toes.

Was the gunnery and leadership of the Allies really that bad?

Gunnery practice records from Dumanoir's division earlier that year showed initial rates of fire not that dissimilar to the RN...

Everyone forgets the environment at Trafalgar - the Combined Fleet were beam on to a huge swell from the approaching storm, a long slow roller-coaster motion that made effective gunnery in elevation (i.e. range) impossible. When the British got close in several ships took significant damage, but due to the combination of less experience (although remember that many of the Combined Fleet had been across the Atlantic and back and fought in Calder's Action !) and the problems with the weather much of the shot flew high or ploughed harmlessly into the sea.



There's no game to be had in this battle unless severe fudging is involved. The only way I could see to "balance" it up a bit would be to get the Allied van into the battle early (giving them a superiority in ship numbers if nothing else) instead of prancing around and watching for an hour and a half till it was too late.

Most wargames refights underestimate the problems that the Combined Fleet faced, therefore the British get hammered on the approach and you get the "Nelson was an idiot, or just very lucky" opinion. You call it just right, design a scenario that reflects the situation on the day and the Allied player is in for a long day ...

I wrote an article and set-up for GMT's C3i magazine on this a couple of years back.

Now, why did Dumanoir delay in doubling back ? Answer, until Nelson turned the Victory to starboard to switch the apparent direction of his attack from the van to the centre, the whole of Nelson's division was heading straight for him - not Villeneuve.

Forget the two columns picture of the attack from the school textbooks as well, Collingwood attached in an echelon (line of bearing) on a broader front.

We spent two years researching Trafalgar leading up to the 200th Anniversary and our reconstruction was published in the conference proceedings book - we even did an animation of the tracks of the various ships.

I've got my starting map of the positions on the back-up from my old computer and will post it if people are interested.

Best wishes,

Mark Barker
The Inshore Squadron

csadn
01-15-2012, 14:19
Was the gunnery and leadership of the Allies really that bad?

Yes. Yes, it was.

The "Combined Fleet" -- for it could hardly be described as "allied" in any sense -- was crippled from top to bottom. Nelson once wrote, "Ships and seamen rot in harbour"; and this defined British strategy in the period: Under no circumstances were Continental ships to be permitted to go to sea, for that was the only way to turn Men into Seamen -- constant practice in real-world conditions. By keeping the Continentals bottled up, not only were supplies prevented from getting to the ships (remember -- this is before railroads; anything really heavy or bulky had to go by ship), thus causing the ships to be in poor repair, but the men were prevented "getting their sea-legs" (overcoming seasickness caused by the pitch-and-roll of a ship at sea) as well as practicing live-fire gunnery (one wonders howmuch damage was done to Continental ships due to inexperienced crews either putting too much powder in a gun and blowing it -- and themselves -- up; or how many guns were jammed due to improper loading; or...). France, at one time, had a proper fleet; but it was seen as "a Royal affectation", and was gutted by the Revolutionaries; this destroyed the "institutional memory" of the Navy, and could not be rebuilt save by actual experience. Spain's fleet can best be summed up by a quote from Nelson, upon being told some Spanish ships were to be transferred to France: "I take it for granted not manned, as that would be the surest way to lose them" (most Spanish "naval" gunners were actually army artillerymen -- or in some cases, army *infantrymen*!).

As bad as the rank-and-file were, tho', the officers... oh sweet Christmas, the officers. The French head admiral at Trafalgar, Pierre Villeneuve, was a thoroughgoing incompetent, and possibly a coward as well (there were questions as to why his division did not engage at Abukir Bay, tho' I suspect that had as much to do with the wind than anything). The Spanish head admiral, Federico Gravina, was somewhat better, having served extensively with the British prior to Spain's changing sides in 1796 (Spain had not gutted its officer corps as France had), but was stuck with a Spanish crew. Most of the rest on both sides, tho', were nonentities -- little or no sea experience.

So: Poor officers, worse crews, in ships which were not in brilliant shape -- is it any wonder the British habitually handed the Continentals their heads?


If as seems likely, the Allied fleet was that poor...there's no game to be had in this battle unless severe fudging is involved. The only way I could see to "balance" it up a bit would be to get the Allied van into the battle early (giving them a superiority in ship numbers if nothing else) instead of prancing around and watching for an hour and a half till it was too late.

Pretty-much this -- the outcome of the naval end of the French Revolutionary/Napoleonic Wars was never in doubt (at least, not when the British could find the Continentals; read up on Nelson's campaigns, and notice how frequently he wound up dashing across hell's half-acre trying to find the enemy -- it was this dashing-about which led to his oft-cited comment re the lack of frigates in the RN). It wasn't until the War of 1812 that Britain finally faced an opposing Navy which had crews and ships which were the equal (or, as discussed elsewhere, the *superior*) of the Royal Navy.

The problem was: The British insisted on using proxies to fight their land battles -- and let's be honest: When was the last time (when was *any* time) the Germans actually won a war against an opponent of equal quality? (At about the same time as Trafalgar, another battle was fought -- Austerlitz: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Austerlitz . You figure it out.) So, that's why there's a 10-year gap between the last major naval battle of the FR/N Wars, and Boney finally being packed off to St. Helena.

(I realize this opinion won't go over well here, but: Ares should forget about _Sails of Glory_, and create a card-based FR/N *land*-combat game; at least then the fights will be marginally balanced.)

Berthier
01-15-2012, 23:15
Under no circumstances were Continental ships to be permitted to go to sea, for that was the only way to turn Men into Seamen -- constant practice in real-world conditions.

But the continental's had been to sea, the French under Villeneuve along with 6 Spanish ships had left Europe in early April and did not return till late July where they met Calder and fought an indecisive action before returning to port. How many of the crew from this voyage were at Trafalgar I cant say, but to say the whole fleet was inexpereinced is not the case particualrly with respect to the French. Certainly they were no where near as experienced as the RN but they were not complete novices either (at least with respect to the French, the Spanish crews are another matter).



France, at one time, had a proper fleet; but it was seen as "a Royal affectation", and was gutted by the Revolutionaries; this destroyed the "institutional memory" of the Navy, and could not be rebuilt save by actual experience.

True but their were still several "royalist" officers with the French colours in 1805 as some had returned from exile.


Spain's fleet can best be summed up by a quote from Nelson, upon being told some Spanish ships were to be transferred to France: "I take it for granted not manned, as that would be the surest way to lose them" (most Spanish "naval" gunners were actually army artillerymen -- or in some cases, army *infantrymen*!).

Agreed


As bad as the rank-and-file were, tho', the officers... oh sweet Christmas, the officers. The French head admiral at Trafalgar, Pierre Villeneuve, was a thoroughgoing incompetent, and possibly a coward as well (there were questions as to why his division did not engage at Abukir Bay, tho' I suspect that had as much to do with the wind than anything).

Actually a probably better Admiral had been sent to replace him but arrived too late before the fleet sailed. I doubt he would have been any keener to offer battle once he saw the condition of the Spanish fleet though!



The problem was: The British insisted on using proxies to fight their land battles -- and let's be honest: When was the last time (when was *any* time) the Germans actually won a war against an opponent of equal quality? (At about the same time as Trafalgar, another battle was fought -- Austerlitz: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Austerlitz . You figure it out.) So, that's why there's a 10-year gap between the last major naval battle of the FR/N Wars, and Boney finally being packed off to St. Helena.

Whoa where to start? The British had a small army and a world wide empire, to use subsidies to have others fight on the continent against the French makes sound sense. However from 1808-1815 they were engaged on the continent and helped the Spanish to tie down 200-300,000 French in Spain for that period.

I'm not sure I understand the meaning of the comments on the German forces since at the time such a concept didnt exist. If you refer to Prussia however, they had defeated several armies on the continent under Frederick just 50 years earlier (including the Austrians, French and Russians). Prussia also defeated Austria in 1866, France in 1870 and as Germany in 1940. Were they of equal quality? Well that only becomes evident sometimes in hindsight so I don't think the criticism is valid.



(I realize this opinion won't go over well here, but: Ares should forget about _Sails of Glory_, and create a card-based FR/N *land*-combat game; at least then the fights will be marginally balanced.)

Well that's a marketing decision! But Wooden Ships and Iron Men was a consistent good seller for Avalon Hill and GMT has had great success with their naval line, but whether Ares can duplicate the success they have had (well nexus had) with WOW/WOG is a big ask. I actually tend to agree with you but for different reasons, I think the market may not be as big as WW1/WW2 aviation but time will tell.

David Manley
01-16-2012, 05:58
The British insisted on using proxies to fight their land battles

As Dan says, where to start with this one - I'm not sure a Russian, Prussian (German) or Austrian would take kindly to the concept of being a "British proxy" during this period, any more than the US or Britain would consider themselves "Russian Proxies2 in WW2 :)


Ares should forget about _Sails of Glory_, and create a card-based FR/N *land*-combat game; at least then the fights will be marginally balanced

Thats always assuming that Andrea is developing a game that accurately models the differences between the training and experience of different nations. I suspect that, since SoG is primarily a game, that won't necessarily be the case. But then again, if it didn't accurately model thse differences it wouldn't be alone amongst AoS rules. As you say, playinga game where you are expected to lose nearly every time isn't much fun (a bit like playing an Iraqi in a GW2 game!)

Mark Barker
01-16-2012, 13:58
I actually tend to agree with you but for different reasons, I think the market may not be as big as WW1/WW2 aviation but time will tell.

Deviating from your initial (very interesting) question for a bit - I think this game will sink or swim (sorry, could not resist that :o) on the miniatures. Certainly in my circle of gamers Wings of War just came and went until those lovely WWI planes came out. Then everyone's hidden 'Snoopy vs the Red Baron' instinct kicked in and the stuff flew off the shelves.

If the game packs have enough of a "wow" factor it could attract a whole new generation of gamers into our period - no bad thing.

Any representation of the Combined Fleet as a bunch of klutzs which the Brits just had to turn up to beat is an over-simplification. There were many gutsy performances by individual ships, and check the track of the ships at Calder's Action to see that the Combined Fleet was capable of co-ordinated fleet evolutions in combat. At Trafalgar, everything was against them.

I suppose Ares could go with a land game but at 1/1200 each soldier will only measure 1.2mm so the miniatures are unlikely to be that impressive ....

Best wishes,

Mark Barker
The Inshore Squadron

csadn
01-16-2012, 15:41
But the continental's had been to sea, the French under Villeneuve along with 6 Spanish ships had left Europe in early April and did not return till late July where they met Calder and fought an indecisive action before returning to port. How many of the crew from this voyage were at Trafalgar I cant say, but to say the whole fleet was inexpereinced is not the case particualrly with respect to the French. Certainly they were no where near as experienced as the RN but they were not complete novices either (at least with respect to the French, the Spanish crews are another matter).

Simply "getting out to sea" wasn't enough -- read up on the difficulties Villeneuve had keeping the Combined Fleet coherent while crossing the Atlantic (twice!). It takes experienced hands to stay in formation, esp. as one has to signal one's maneuvers well in advance on a sailing ship (adjusting the rig takes time, and the wind ain't waitin'). Had Villeneuve (or someone else) been able to get ships to sea regularly, and been able to do proper real-world training of crews....


True but their were still several "royalist" officers with the French colours in 1805 as some had returned from exile.

Some, but not many -- and the ones they had were of dubious quality; like most fascist dictatorships, Loyalty counted for more than Competence (anyone competent to lead an army could as easily lead that army, and the people, to revolt against the Dictator).


Actually a probably better Admiral had been sent to replace him but arrived too late before the fleet sailed. I doubt he would have been any keener to offer battle once he saw the condition of the Spanish fleet though!

Probably not -- pity I can't remember the guy's name at the moment; have to look it up later.


Whoa where to start? The British had a small army and a world wide empire, to use subsidies to have others fight on the continent against the French makes sound sense.

It may have made sense to London; however, how many times did the German, Austrians, and Russians have to get their heads handed to them by the French before someone in London realized "Hey, wait a minute -- we can spend as much money on these clowns as we like, and it's going to be the equivalent of tossing gold into the North Sea for as much good as it's going to do us", and stopped relying on them?

Oh, By The Way, Gentlemen: If you don't believe the Germanic states, Austria, and so on were "British proxies" -- look up which nations did the fighting in the First, Second, and Third Coalitions; then look up who was footing the bills to get those armies into the field. Pretty-much every nation east of the Rhine was essentially a paid employee of Britain -- or, to be even less polite, Mercenaries. Note also how quickly they bent the knee to France after the obligatory shellacking handed them, despite how many of the King's shillings they took. You'll pardon me if I doubt any claims the Continentals fighting against France did so for any reason beyond Money and Opportunism.


However from 1808-1815 they were engaged on the continent and helped the Spanish to tie down 200-300,000 French in Spain for that period.

That is what I meant by "putting boots on the ground" -- when Spain switched sides (again), the British had to use British troops; their usual supply of German, Austrian, and/or Russian mercenaries were unavailable at the time. And suddenly the British are making actual permanent headway against France. Now, there's the simple fact France had been at war near-constantly between 1789 and 1808 which wasn't helping them; but the Germanics got slapped around even after this date.

Why, one asks? Simply put: Only Britain and France had Professional Armies -- men who were well-equipped, well-trained, and well-motivated. The German, Austrians, and Russians, OTOH, may have looked "pretty", but had no real interest in the game; and "Morale is to physical as three is to one", as Boney once put it.


I'm not sure I understand the meaning of the comments on the German forces since at the time such a concept didnt exist. If you refer to Prussia however, they had defeated several armies on the continent under Frederick just 50 years earlier (including the Austrians, French and Russians). Prussia also defeated Austria in 1866, France in 1870 and as Germany in 1940. Were they of equal quality? Well that only becomes evident sometimes in hindsight so I don't think the criticism is valid.

The Prussians had a talent for slapping around the minor powers surrounding them, as they finally got around to forming a Professional Army themselves (see previous remarks), whereas their opponents didn't. (France in 1870 and 1940 shared a remarkable number of features, which can be summed up in one phrase: They really weren't ready for the war forced upon them. The nation as a whole didn't want a fight; the officers were marginally competent; the troops were unmotivated; and the war-machinery only barely justified the name.) When Prussia -- and its spiritual successor, Germany -- went up against a nation which was ready for a fight (France in '14; Britain just about any time), they got their heads handed to them -- again.


Well that's a marketing decision! But Wooden Ships and Iron Men was a consistent good seller for Avalon Hill and GMT has had great success with their naval line, but whether Ares can duplicate the success they have had (well nexus had) with WOW/WOG is a big ask. I actually tend to agree with you but for different reasons, I think the market may not be as big as WW1/WW2 aviation but time will tell.

I have to be honest: I don't think _SoG_ is going to be a huge success unless the combat system makes it possible to dispose of Trafalgar in less than two hours' playing time. The modern era of gaming does not allow for games which take an entire weekend to complete.

David Manley
01-16-2012, 15:43
Good miniatures - at an acceptable price point - will make or break this game. They don't need to be great, at least not in paint job terms, but "good enough" and with enough detail and scope for those who want to tart up their models to do so. But if they are priced too high then I see rough seas ahead. The estimated price for the WGF bombers is in the 25 region and I've sensed a certain amount of reluctance to buy more than 1 or 2 on many people's part - ideally a sailing ship will be rather less than this.

Berthier
01-17-2012, 03:39
Phew, Chris your not one to hold back are you!

Agreed getting to sea was not enough, I was making the point that the French in particular were not novices had had four+ months sea time but that they still fell well below the standards of the RN. They had practised gunnery and formation sailing but they were not competent for all conditions and those at Traflgar may have been the worst possible for them.

and the ones they had were of dubious quality; like most fascist dictatorships, Loyalty counted for more than Competence (anyone competent to lead an army could as easily lead that army, and the people, to revolt against the Dictator

Sorry this is nonsense. Davout, Suchet even Eugene were fine Napoleonic commanders all with the requisite skill and competence to lead a revolt but all absolutely loyal to Napoleon. Similarly with Desaix whose talents were possibly equal or superior to Napoleons (we will never know). Even Nazi Germany had many brilliant commanders who had positions of power but were loyal (not all though) . The question of competence and loyalty are not related, not all dictators are so blind to reason that they cant differentiate and make judgements on the loyalty of a brilliant subordinate, nor do all brilliant subordinates have fundamental lack of loyalty. The loyalty and trust issues are far more complex than that as are the psyche of dictators.

With respect to the naval commanders Napoleon had to choose from Villeneuve, Rosilly (his intended replacement), Missiessy, de Medne and Ganteaume..all but the last were of noble birth. Rosilly was the son of the commander of the Brest Squadron in the 1760's had served under Suffren's but had been doing administrative work mainly for the last few years before Trafalgar. Were they a fine cohort of Admirals? Probably not since they had little opportunity to practice the art but were they incompetent? I dont believe so, i do believe that they suffered under the burden of years of defeat to their navy by the RN and that this affected their judgement.

Your argument regarding subsidies to the Coalition's of Europe seems to forget that those countries had their own agendas, not Britains. They were each of them either trying to gain or maintain territory- Russia in Poland the Baltic ports and at the expense of Turkey, Prussia at the expense of Saxony, Bavaria, Poland and the lesser German states, Austria in Italy (it's traditional fighting ground for a couple of centuries) as well as Poland (everyone wanted a piece there) etc. Britain's interest was to protect their empire, maintain naval dominance, maintain access to European markets through the lowlands and prevent any power from controlling this area. At times these agendas coincided and at others they didn't.

The countries of the coalition once defeated by Napoleon had little alternative but to bow their heads. Yet Austria was at war with france for most of the Napoleonic wars despite their drubbings and war is expensive. They were bankrupted several times and had to balance the need to maintain their great power status, defend their borders and what they perceived as their sphere of influence, keep the polyglot racial mix of their subjects united..all of these things presented a huge financial challenge. If they were to maintain a large standing army, something they needed, but could not pay them, there was a real possibility of internal problems in the Empire.

Britain's army was small and professional mostly. However it's early performance in the Wars of the Revolution (1793-94 Flanders) and Spain 1808 (Corunna) hardly covered themselves in glory. Wellington's first siege of Burgos was a disaster and the battles of Albuera and Fuentes de Onoro showed they could stand and take losses but were not significantly different from the performance of the Russian army at times. Speaking of the Russians, their army merits more credit than you give it. Composed of conscripts who served for 25 years it was constantly at war in Turkey, against Napoleon, Sweden and along it's southern boundaries for the majority of the period covered. It's officer corps made up of many non Russians (a common custom of the period) was on the whole professional, brave and loyal. The Russian born officer's may have lacked some of the education of their European compatriots but were still talented. Suvarov is widely regarded as a great commander, Barclay de Tolly (non Russian) and Bagration were again good generals but suffered from mistrust that bedeviled the russian command system as it did in Napoleon's army.

Your comments regarding the French in 1914 are also controversial. Without doubt they were highly motivated but without the BEF the French army would very likely have been defeated as it's left flank would have been turned. They were not well led in 1914 nor in 1940 but again we make these judgements in hindsight. Certainly the German generals of 1870,1914 and 1940 did not enter the respective wars believing France would just roll over due to incompetence or lack of will.

Mark Barker
01-17-2012, 15:54
I have to be honest: I don't think _SoG_ is going to be a huge success unless the combat system makes it possible to dispose of Trafalgar in less than two hours' playing time. The modern era of gaming does not allow for games which take an entire weekend to complete.

I'll leave the land discussion to others - not my field - but I think Daniel's analysis of the complexity of the European situation is sound and reflects the level of "enemy of my enemy" mutual self interest that prevailed at the time.

We in Britain have always been very suspicious of a large standing army - and the comments about its poor start in the Napoleonic Wars entirely justified.

Trafalgar in two hours is a complete impossibility for any miniatures game (allow 30 seconds per ship for moving and firing and just do the maths - 2 turns per hour is really shifting). At 1/1200 you will also need a playing table 6 metres across !

No, I see this game as being effective at the squadron level maximum...

... and if the miniatures are good enough to grab attention then it will succeed. I think Wings of War passed everyone by until those excellent WWI biplanes came out - they were very reasonably priced at the time.

Mark Barker
The Inshore Squadron

csadn
01-17-2012, 21:48
Phew, Chris your not one to hold back are you!

If you knew what my last name was, you'd probably think "Well, that explains everything".... :)


Agreed getting to sea was not enough, I was making the point that the French in particular were not novices had had four+ months sea time but that they still fell well below the standards of the RN. They had practised gunnery and formation sailing but they were not competent for all conditions and those at Traflgar may have been the worst possible for them.

Indeed -- they had four months; the British has *years*.


Sorry this is nonsense. Davout, Suchet even Eugene were fine Napoleonic commanders all with the requisite skill and competence to lead a revolt but all absolutely loyal to Napoleon. Similarly with Desaix whose talents were possibly equal or superior to Napoleons (we will never know).

Note: All those named are Army men -- Napoleon knew his Army; his Navy was as foreign to him as China would have been.

It shows in how he ran the naval aspect of his campaigns -- "I wish the ships to be here on this day; and so they shall be"; he *never* learned that ships depended on wind and tide. And when, in his eyes, the Navy failed him "again", who got blamed? Yup -- the admirals. (How else do you think Villeneuve committed suicide by stabbing himself seven times?)


Even Nazi Germany had many brilliant commanders who had positions of power but were loyal (not all though) . The question of competence and loyalty are not related, not all dictators are so blind to reason that they cant differentiate and make judgements on the loyalty of a brilliant subordinate, nor do all brilliant subordinates have fundamental lack of loyalty. The loyalty and trust issues are far more complex than that as are the psyche of dictators.

Funny you bring up Dear Old Uncle Adi and his carnival crew -- of all the people who were plotting against Adolf, who was most successful? A Navy Man -- Admiral Wilhelm Canaris. Adolf, like Napoleon, was an Army man; he knew his Army, but his Navy and Air Force were foreign entities.

The best example of dictators and pragmatism: Stalin and Zhukov. And what did Stalin do the moment the war in Europe was over? Sic Beria on Zhukov. Fortunately, Nature took out Stalin first. (And then Khruschev tried to do the same thing to Zhukov -- with similar results. >:) )


With respect to the naval commanders Napoleon had to choose from Villeneuve, Rosilly (his intended replacement), Missiessy, de Medne and Ganteaume..all but the last were of noble birth. Rosilly was the son of the commander of the Brest Squadron in the 1760's had served under Suffren's but had been doing administrative work mainly for the last few years before Trafalgar. Were they a fine cohort of Admirals? Probably not since they had little opportunity to practice the art but were they incompetent? I dont believe so, i do believe that they suffered under the burden of years of defeat to their navy by the RN and that this affected their judgement.

Being regularly defeated wouldn't have helped. But you do mention Pierre Suffren, who managed a series of no-score draws against Edward Hughes in India; so Suffren had to be doing something right (what, I have no idea; accounts report him as a bullying thug) -- and/or Hughes was screwing up.

For Good French Commanders (not extant Admirals necessarily, but people who could have been promoted), I look to Victor Lucas (_Redoutable_) and Louis Infernet (_Intrepide_); for Good Spanish Commanders, Cosme Churruca. I don't know if they could have accomplished more than the historical leaders, but they sure would have tried.


Your argument regarding subsidies to the Coalition's of Europe seems to forget that those countries had their own agendas, not Britains. They were each of them either trying to gain or maintain territory- Russia in Poland the Baltic ports and at the expense of Turkey, Prussia at the expense of Saxony, Bavaria, Poland and the lesser German states, Austria in Italy (it's traditional fighting ground for a couple of centuries) as well as Poland (everyone wanted a piece there) etc. Britain's interest was to protect their empire, maintain naval dominance, maintain access to European markets through the lowlands and prevent any power from controlling this area. At times these agendas coincided and at others they didn't.

That last statement illustrates why using them as proxies was such a Bad Idea -- as soon as the Continentals' respective agendas were no longer served by fighting for Britain, they flipped like pancakes, regardless of how much British gold they'd taken.


The countries of the coalition once defeated by Napoleon had little alternative but to bow their heads. Yet Austria was at war with france for most of the Napoleonic wars despite their drubbings and war is expensive. They were bankrupted several times and had to balance the need to maintain their great power status, defend their borders and what they perceived as their sphere of influence, keep the polyglot racial mix of their subjects united..all of these things presented a huge financial challenge. If they were to maintain a large standing army, something they needed, but could not pay them, there was a real possibility of internal problems in the Empire.

Given what eventually happened to Austria (see the WoG forum for details)....

Austria's troops were poor in all aspects: poorly-led, -trained, -equipped, and especially -motivated. Meanwhile, Austria's generals were straight feudal; they became officers by birthright, rather than demonstrating any kind of competence. With that combo, it's no wonder they kept getting pounded.


Britain's army was small and professional mostly. However it's early performance in the Wars of the Revolution (1793-94 Flanders) and Spain 1808 (Corunna) hardly covered themselves in glory. Wellington's first siege of Burgos was a disaster and the battles of Albuera and Fuentes de Onoro showed they could stand and take losses but were not significantly different from the performance of the Russian army at times.

True -- but unlike the Germanics, the British learned from their failures, and improved over time. The Germanics sucked as badly in 1815 as they did in 1798.

[QUOTE=Berthier;2822]Speaking of the Russians, their army merits more credit than you give it. Composed of conscripts who served for 25 years it was constantly at war in Turkey, against Napoleon, Sweden and along it's southern boundaries for the majority of the period covered. It's officer corps made up of many non Russians (a common custom of the period) was on the whole professional, brave and loyal. The Russian born officer's may have lacked some of the education of their European compatriots but were still talented. Suvarov is widely regarded as a great commander, Barclay de Tolly (non Russian) and Bagration were again good generals but suffered from mistrust that bedeviled the russian command system as it did in Napoleon's army.

Their greatest "success" involved running away faster than the French could chase them, and waiting for "Marshal Winter" to do his work; this is not the sign of an army which is going to win any stand-up fights. As you mention, the marshals were incapable of working together for any length of time; and were themselves being shafted by the courtiers around the Tsar/Tsarina (John Paul Jones's experiences as a Russian naval commander are appalling reading). The line troops suffered much the same problems as the Austrians and Germanics, which made matters all the worse. I suppose it's no surprise Barclay's tactics involved avoiding battle as much as possible, all factors considered.

(Side note: Suvorov made his name beating up on rebels, and the odd Ottoman force; and he died shortly after the FR/N Wars kicked off, long before 1812.)


Your comments regarding the French in 1914 are also controversial. Without doubt they were highly motivated but without the BEF the French army would very likely have been defeated as it's left flank would have been turned.

The French army had its problems. For one thing, l'affaire Dreyfus's lingering stench still hovered around; for another, the original French plan was to attack Germany, not to sit back and wait (Moltke's original war-plan accommodated this, pulling the German flank back, drawing the French in, and trying to mousetrap them similarly to 1870).


They were not well led in 1914 nor in 1940 but again we make these judgements in hindsight. Certainly the German generals of 1870,1914 and 1940 did not enter the respective wars believing France would just roll over due to incompetence or lack of will.

No -- but the Germans also believed they were God's gift to the battlefield. That level of arrogance just guarantees an ass-whipping somewhere along the line. "Whom gods destroy...."

Berthier
01-17-2012, 23:25
Some, but not many -- and the ones they had were of dubious quality; like most fascist dictatorships, Loyalty counted for more than Competence (anyone competent to lead an army could as easily lead that army, and the people, to revolt against the Dictator).

and

Note: All those named are Army men -- Napoleon knew his Army; his Navy was as foreign to him as China would have been.

It shows in how he ran the naval aspect of his campaigns -- "I wish the ships to be here on this day; and so they shall be"; he *never* learned that ships depended on wind and tide. And when, in his eyes, the Navy failed him "again", who got blamed? Yup -- the admirals. (How else do you think Villeneuve committed suicide by stabbing himself seven times?)

I had taken your comment to refer to the army thus my examples of army generals. Without doubt Napoleon completely failed to grasp the limitations of naval warfare, his plans for co-ordinated movements of fleets were laughable and in this his lack of insight, plus lack of listening to those who did understand, mimics Hitler's views. they both even stripped sailors from the fleets when manpower became a problem.

There is no doubt that a successful dictator requires pragmatism, but I don't think a comparison of "modern" world dictatorship with the early nineteenth century is particularly instructive. France, Prussia, Russia, Turkey and Austria were all in some senses totalitarian but not in the modern concept.

Suffren was undoubtedly a fine naval officer and had the advantage of campaigning at a time when the French were not blockaded consistently and did not suffer from the inferiority complex developed in the 1790's. How much each of these factors bore on his success is understandably tricky to measure. It is instructive though that he had his fleet at sea for very long periods and had presumably a "veteran" core of sailors for much of his time in the Indian ocean. I agree of the Napoleonic commanders you mentioned Lucas is a standout having trained his crew up well above many of his contemporaries. A fleet of "lucas's" may have made Trafalgar a far more interesting affair!

The problem Britain had was that it had to use proxies. It couldn't defeat Napoleon just at sea nor did it have an army large enough to defeat him on the continent without support. For all the problems of the Coalitions, needs dictated policy. If Britain had invested all of it's finances into building up a larger army rather than subsidies to European powers it would have created some interesting political and social problems at home. Another imponderable I think!

Austrian generals were, as you say, there by birth right. Their performance in the early years of war was indeed poor. They improved with time, Charles was highly talented but attempts at reform were hamstrung by his brother the Emperor who feared his success and the consistently resisted the establishment of militias to be trained and then called up as needed due to his fear of armed insurrection. It's a wonder Austria held the empire together till 1918 given the internal problems it was lumbered with (like the Hungarian parliament refusing to call up troops when needed).

The defeat of Napoleon in 1812 by general winter is a common misconception. his army was done to 100,000 by the time he entered Moscow due to the desertion, disease, some battle casualties, the need to maintain garrisons etc. the winter destroyed an army that was already destroyed. The real cold didnt hit till well into the retreat and his organised force was already down to maybe 60000 by then. The Russians on the other hand had actually "fought" a very clever campaign. They knew their troops were not as skilful as the french even if they were as solid in defence. They avoided battle until forced to, they picked off stragglers, harried and wore out the French. They had known before the invasion started this was the correct tactics to use, they were constrained by the political realities of not giving up to much without a fight. They then succeeded in conducting a campaign for 2 years outside of their borders, maintaining a very large force in western Europe and keeping it supplied with recruits. there is some really excellent accounts of the Russian side of these campaigns out now and they effectively de-bunk much of Napoleon's rubbish about the winter etc.

Suvarov did make his name against the Turks but even in his old age he was pretty feisty in the Swiss campaign (1799 I think).

Finally....I think most armies think they are god's gift!!

csadn
01-18-2012, 20:42
I had taken your comment to refer to the army thus my examples of army generals. Without doubt Napoleon completely failed to grasp the limitations of naval warfare, his plans for co-ordinated movements of fleets were laughable and in this his lack of insight, plus lack of listening to those who did understand, mimics Hitler's views. they both even stripped sailors from the fleets when manpower became a problem.

My comment was intended to refer to militaries-under-dictators generally, but with a slight emphasis on the army (as it is typically the army which is used to try to overthrow the dictator -- ships are, umm, a bit limited in where they can go, and who they can support :) ).


There is no doubt that a successful dictator requires pragmatism, but I don't think a comparison of "modern" world dictatorship with the early nineteenth century is particularly instructive. France, Prussia, Russia, Turkey and Austria were all in some senses totalitarian but not in the modern concept.

I'm not so sure -- as Blackadder once put it, "Dress it up in any amount of Pompous Verbal Diarrhea", and Dictatorship is Dictatorship: One Man, One Vote, in the most-literal sense. (No, I am not a Terry Pratchett fan.) Whether it's "the divine right of kings", or "Fuhrerprinzip", it's still one guy saying "do this", and a bunch of people under him saying, "yes, sir" (to his face; other Phrases, which cannot be repeated here, are used once out of earshot :) ).

To give an example: Look at Russia under the Tsars; then look at the Soviet Union. Hint: What's the actual different between the Ochrana and the NKVD? What actual difference is there between having to suck up to the Politburo, and having to navigate Court Intrigue?


Suffren was undoubtedly a fine naval officer and had the advantage of campaigning at a time when the French were not blockaded consistently and did not suffer from the inferiority complex developed in the 1790's. How much each of these factors bore on his success is understandably tricky to measure. It is instructive though that he had his fleet at sea for very long periods and had presumably a "veteran" core of sailors for much of his time in the Indian ocean. I agree of the Napoleonic commanders you mentioned Lucas is a standout having trained his crew up well above many of his contemporaries. A fleet of "lucas's" may have made Trafalgar a far more interesting affair!

Which leads me to wonder why Bonaparte *didn't* do just that -- if he really wanted to show his Republican credentials, put the ex-royals in command of desks, and let the new blood have their way. It will take some time to get them sorted again; but that's going to happen anyway when the loyal royalists clear out.

An example of what I'm thinking of: The Confederate States of America's Navy had a problem -- it had acquired a whole bunch of pre-war officers, all of whom were really old, demonstrably incompetent, or both; but who at the same time had the all-important Seniority, and thus had claim to all the seagoing commands. Meanwhile, the younger men had nowhere to go due to the infarction of the ranks with the old, halt, and lame. Stephen Mallory came up with a simple fix for the problem: He split the CSN into two forces, a "Regular Navy" and a "Provisional Navy". Into the Regular Navy, he placed all the men too old or too incompetent to serve; these men wound up in commands which mainly existed on paper. Into the Provisional Navy, he placed all the young men; these received all the seagoing-ship and combat-zone commands. Regular Navy men received high ranks to start with, but due to the natures of their commands, they would never see promotion; Provisional Navy men, OTOH, due to being "at the sharp end", could easily be brevetted up the ranks from initially-low ranks (assuming they demonstrated competence at the job, of course :) ). And as the old men in the Regulars retired or died, the "brevet" ranks of Provisionals could be made permanent, and the young men transferred into the Regulars; thus naturally "clearing out the deadwood". Unfortunately for them, the Confederacy didn't last long enough for the plan to bear fruit; but it was a clever, and workable, solution to the problem.

Now, picture Bonaparte doing that to his Navy -- Villeneuve and his ilk get desk jobs, while Lucas and *his* ilk get the seagoing commands. Like I said: I don't know if it would have changed the outcome of the war, but I'm pretty-sure the Royal Navy would have known it was in an actual war, instead of all this blockading BS. :)


The problem Britain had was that it had to use proxies. It couldn't defeat Napoleon just at sea nor did it have an army large enough to defeat him on the continent without support. For all the problems of the Coalitions, needs dictated policy. If Britain had invested all of it's finances into building up a larger army rather than subsidies to European powers it would have created some interesting political and social problems at home. Another imponderable I think!

Again, I'm not so sure -- if I'm Britain, and I'm spending buckets of gold on a land force, I'm going to want to make *DAMNED* sure I don't have to reboot the project every time my forces suffer a defeat. That doesn't necessarily mean making the British-army-proper larger; I'm thinking in terms of what the US is trying to do in certain parts of the world: Put down a hard core of my own troops; use those to bootstrap my local proxies up to where they won't surrender or flee the first time the fight doesn't go our way (see earlier remarks re the lack of training and motivation amongst the proxies' rank-and-file -- Napoleon is often quoted as saying, "Morale is to physical as three is to one").

As to "Britain couldn't defeat Napoleon solely by sea": It might have taken a few more decades, but the devastating effect on the Continental economy from losing all its seaborne trade to the RN -- well, the Germans, Austrians, Russians, and Scandinavians did keep coming back to British gold.... (Remember: This time predates railroads -- any bulk cargo hauling had to go by sea; which meant it risked British cutting-out operations.)


Austrian generals were, as you say, there by birth right. Their performance in the early years of war was indeed poor. They improved with time, Charles was highly talented but attempts at reform were hamstrung by his brother the Emperor who feared his success and the consistently resisted the establishment of militias to be trained and then called up as needed due to his fear of armed insurrection. It's a wonder Austria held the empire together till 1918 given the internal problems it was lumbered with (like the Hungarian parliament refusing to call up troops when needed).

Exactly -- and the Austrians were still getting slapped around as late as the battle of Leipzig. (Archduke Charles wasn't exactly a brilliant performer -- to quote George C. Scott's portrayal of Patton, "He seems more concerned with not-losing a battle than with winning it").

I have often wondered what would have happened if, after Austria's defeat in 1809 (or one of its previous surrenders), Napoleon had simply broken up the Austrians, the way he'd chopped up Spain, Portugal, and many of his previous conquests -- how might the 20th century have played out if there was no Austro-Hungarian Empire to supply an Archduke for Gavrilo Princip to murder....


The defeat of Napoleon in 1812 by general winter is a common misconception. his army was done to 100,000 by the time he entered Moscow due to the desertion, disease, some battle casualties, the need to maintain garrisons etc. the winter destroyed an army that was already destroyed. The real cold didnt hit till well into the retreat and his organised force was already down to maybe 60000 by then. The Russians on the other hand had actually "fought" a very clever campaign. They knew their troops were not as skilful as the french even if they were as solid in defence. They avoided battle until forced to, they picked off stragglers, harried and wore out the French. They had known before the invasion started this was the correct tactics to use, they were constrained by the political realities of not giving up to much without a fight. They then succeeded in conducting a campaign for 2 years outside of their borders, maintaining a very large force in western Europe and keeping it supplied with recruits. there is some really excellent accounts of the Russian side of these campaigns out now and they effectively de-bunk much of Napoleon's rubbish about the winter etc.

A bit of sarcasm on my part, there -- I do know it wasn't just the winter which defeated Napoleon. (Folks say "never get into a land war in Asia"; the same applies to Eastern Europe -- there's too much of it to try to hold on to, at least without the aid and support of the locals.) However, the campaign the Russians fought only works *because* it's Russia -- the same tactics would not work in Poland, or Germany, or France, or anywhere else in Europe; so it's only really effective on the defense, and defense does not win wars.


Finally....I think most armies think they are god's gift!!

Well, the Infantry types I talk to sure think they are.... :P

Berthier
01-19-2012, 04:55
One of the difficulties Napoleon laboured under was that his position was not as secure as many believe. Because of this he needed to court many of the power groups in France, thus his handing of some of the first Marshal's batons to members of the Ancien Regime, his softening on attitude to the Catholic Church later in his reign (he was probably a-religious but saw the benefit of appeasing those who were not ..witness his "conversion" in Egypt), his lifting restrictions on the return of emigres except for the most virulently anti-republican. This political insecurity was highlighted by the ease with which a crackpot army officer launched a coup attempt while Napoleon was in Russia. He stayed in power only be winning battles or being in Paris to combat the political factions against him, the two demands unfortunately meant he often needed to be in two places at once. These difficulties are possibly highlighted in his naval command, he clearly had little understanding of the technical issues involved, needed "recognized" naval commanders to bring some degree of validity to his navy but may not have been able to let the cream rise to the top because he wasn't there to see it and relied on the recommendations of others who probably had their own agendas.

Your illustration of the Confederate navy is interesting and I was not aware of it, but yes it sounds like an excellent solution.

Outside of Spain, I cant see where Britain could have put a hard core of troops to improve the standard of the others. It would have been politically unacceptable in the major powers which leaves Turkey (irrelevent pretty much) and Naples...and I dont think there were enough British troops under arms to make the Naples troops better!

No doubt the continental system was damaging to Europe's economy. I don't think it was a viable strategy beyond a short period, that is if it didnt work in 5 years it wasn't going to work in 10. Napoleon should have abandoned it in 1811 and might have avoided the whole mess in Russia and maintained his hold on central Europe. Napoleon didn't want to break up Austria as he needed them as a counterpoint to Russia. Prussia he didn't need and thus emasculated it after 1806 and built up Poland as another counterpoint to Russia. It is fascinating that he never feared the Austrians (whom were his most stalwart adversaries after Britain) as much as the Russians. It may be because he understood they worked on marriage, diplomacy and manipulation rather than warfare to protect and increase their dominions.

The trading space for time in Russia is the obvious strategy but dont short change their offensive campaign in western Europe through 1813-14.

csadn
01-19-2012, 15:19
One of the difficulties Napoleon laboured under was that his position was not as secure as many believe. Because of this he needed to court many of the power groups in France, thus his handing of some of the first Marshal's batons to members of the Ancien Regime, his softening on attitude to the Catholic Church later in his reign (he was probably a-religious but saw the benefit of appeasing those who were not ..witness his "conversion" in Egypt), his lifting restrictions on the return of emigres except for the most virulently anti-republican. This political insecurity was highlighted by the ease with which a crackpot army officer launched a coup attempt while Napoleon was in Russia. He stayed in power only be winning battles or being in Paris to combat the political factions against him, the two demands unfortunately meant he often needed to be in two places at once. These difficulties are possibly highlighted in his naval command, he clearly had little understanding of the technical issues involved, needed "recognized" naval commanders to bring some degree of validity to his navy but may not have been able to let the cream rise to the top because he wasn't there to see it and relied on the recommendations of others who probably had their own agendas.

Exactly -- dictators are bullies, at base level; they retain power only through intimidation. Then we hit the "dictator's conundrum": Anyone who's competent and capable enough to win battles for him will, inevitably, get ideas about "well, why shouldn't *I* be in charge?". So on the one hand the Dictator needs competent, capable men to win the war; on the other, he needs men who won't turn those same skills to removing him from power.


Your illustration of the Confederate navy is interesting and I was not aware of it, but yes it sounds like an excellent solution.

Well, it says something that the Confederacy rarely lost a naval battle due to the inadequacies of the commanders -- the problem usually was "converted tug vs. steam frigate".... :)


Outside of Spain, I cant see where Britain could have put a hard core of troops to improve the standard of the others. It would have been politically unacceptable in the major powers which leaves Turkey (irrelevent pretty much) and Naples...and I dont think there were enough British troops under arms to make the Naples troops better!

Spain was pretty-much it -- tho' I suppose British "expatriate" officers taking over Austria's army directly (much the same way a Lithuanian-raised Scot wound up running Russia's army) might have helped there. For a more-recent example, look up 211 Squadron, Mexican Air Force in WW2.


No doubt the continental system was damaging to Europe's economy. I don't think it was a viable strategy beyond a short period, that is if it didnt work in 5 years it wasn't going to work in 10. Napoleon should have abandoned it in 1811 and might have avoided the whole mess in Russia and maintained his hold on central Europe. Napoleon didn't want to break up Austria as he needed them as a counterpoint to Russia. Prussia he didn't need and thus emasculated it after 1806 and built up Poland as another counterpoint to Russia. It is fascinating that he never feared the Austrians (whom were his most stalwart adversaries after Britain) as much as the Russians. It may be because he understood they worked on marriage, diplomacy and manipulation rather than warfare to protect and increase their dominions.

I suspect he never feared the Austrians because he was forever knocking the seven bells out of them on the battlefield; the Russians did occasionally manage to win a fight -- and there were a bucketload more of them to worry about. (Were I in his place: Break up Austria, and do my best to keep the Russians on my side -- the Russians may not be any better troops, but there's a lot of them.)