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Thread: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

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    Default What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    Could have he won that battle if he had made the right decisions?

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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    Too what end? So he wins unless he wins a incredible victory and takes thousands of captives and maybe wellington. France remains exhausted and I doubt he could do much but knock out the Netherlands.
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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    In Clausewitz's analysis, borne out by later wars, France would not have been able to decisively win any wars in which the continent unites against it and then performs reasonably competently. Any single battle matters little. It's an issue of resources. It's the last chapter of On War.

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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    Quote Originally Posted by pannonian View Post
    In Clausewitz's analysis, borne out by later wars, France would not have been able to decisively win any wars in which the continent unites against it and then performs reasonably competently. Any single battle matters little. It's an issue of resources. It's the last chapter of On War.

    I suppose with a clear and utter victory and with the UK distracted by the US - maybe the general exhaustion could see a day where a Napoleon can negotiate a peace for France after. But I'm not much read (was Ney who failed or what) on the debate over what he could have should have done which general failed him... But like I said its hard to see any victory altering the strategic calculus. The German was was probably spot on.
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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394 View Post
    I suppose with a clear and utter victory and with the UK distracted by the US - maybe the general exhaustion could see a day where a Napoleon can negotiate a peace for France after. But I'm not much read (was Ney who failed or what) on the debate over what he could have should have done which general failed him... But like I said its hard to see any victory altering the strategic calculus. The German was was probably spot on.
    Clausewitz's calculations were that, in no battle in the war, did any victor have worse than 1-2 numerical odds. So if the allies could refrain from making overwhelmingly stupid mistakes, which On War aims to prevent (it's not so much a manual of how to win as how not to lose), then the numbers garnered by a combination of Prussia, Austria and Russia will steam through anything the French may put up. Don't waste your strength on side issues, except perhaps for screening the main effort. England (sic) can tie down some French forces with the threat of landings, but will not be a significant military factor. If you have 300k and the opponent can only muster 100k, then you will win, even if the French were commanded by the best of their commanders at their peak. Take the shortest route to Paris, "and we will have no more of this French nonsense".

    For all the criticism that Grouchy gets for not marching to the sound of guns, it was this that allowed him to put up some rearguard resistance that allowed much of Napoleon's defeated army to escape. Even after Waterloo, there was some suggestion of fighting another battle. But the political appetite for continued war was gone. Even from the start of the campaign, Napoleon had no chance of overall victory, and Waterloo merely demonstrated it. Britain, the Netherlands and Prussia combined to defeat the French main effort. The allies' main effort, that of Russia and Austria, were yet to reach the battlefield.

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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    Splitting Grouchy's forces. Had Grouchy been present at Waterloo, an extra 30,000 French troops would have been able to face off the Prussians.





















































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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    Given when he started people understimated him as a little chicken who just wanted some medals, pardon me the expression, and by the time of Waterloo the powers that be took him seriously to form the 7th Coalition, adding to that the losses of winter in Russia, in Strategic terms Napoleon had terrible odds, even he had won Waterloo battle.

    He would likely keep on winning battles not to re-make the initial Imperial ambitions, but rather to negociate the most favorable peace treaty for him or France. Maybe the pre-Russian invasion Grand Armeé could face the 7th coalition shoulder to shoulder, but that was not the case anymore.

    Even assuming a case where Napoleon would win 100% of the battles, there is such a thing as a military victory combined with a political defeat. France would be simply too exausted to face a united force of Prussia, Austria, UK, Russia, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Sweden all at once for plenty of more years.
    Add to that the French Royalists that would inevitably stir up confusion at home if the resources for the french military machine had been seriously depleted.
    Don't forget Napoleon had sold territory of Louisiana to get some money for his adventures already, not much land left to sell.

    Defeat would come even if it came via exaustion of his resources to keep fighting on. Sure I can be a great chess player, but if the opposing team can keep making rounds to keep me playing for 300+ hours without sleep or rest in between, I will eventually lose.
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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Wandering Storyteller View Post
    Splitting Grouchy's forces. Had Grouchy been present at Waterloo, an extra 30,000 French troops would have been able to face off the Prussians.
    Another 30k troops wouldn't have helped Napoleon's situation that much at Waterloo. What he needed was for Blucher's 100k+ troops to be kept away from the battlefield while he polished off Wellington. As such, Grouchy did the right thing in pursuing the Prussian army, as instructed by Napoleon. The failure was Grouchy's failure to keep the Prussians away, as Thielmann kept Grouchy busy while Blucher took the bulk of the Prussians to Waterloo. If Grouchy had stayed with Napoleon, Blucher would have arrived at Waterloo earlier. Once Wellington made a stand, and Blucher was determined to join him, Napoleon didn't stand much of a chance, Grouchy or no Grouchy. Realistically, what Napoleon needed to get past that campaign (until inevitable defeat at the hands of the Austro-Prusso-Russians) was for one of Wellington or Blucher to lose his nerve and break for home. Minus that, he was going to be sandwiched between two armies of equivalent size to his, and as Clausewitz later noted, you don't win when outnumbered by more than 2-1 (it would have been around 1.8-1 at Waterloo if Napoleon joined with Grouchy and Blucher joined with Wellington).

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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    While the war had been lost in 1814, taken as an individual battle Napoleon could have won Waterloo, according to himself and his opponents. I think everyone knows of Wellington's comment that "it has been a damned nice thing, the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life". Blucher AFAIK did not write an account of the battle, but I am quite ignorant of Prussian sources for the Napoleonic period.

    Without arguing the finer points its clear Napoleon expected to sweep the Anglo-Dutch aside at Belle Alliance more easily than he had the Prussians at Ligny: his preparations were slow and muddled and completely without urgency. The conduct of most of the battle was left in the hands of Ney, not the most skilled tactician and felt my many to be a shadow of the man he once was after the harrowing retreat from Moscow.

    Napoleon was a skilled propagandist and egotistical to the point of narcissism, but his surprise at his defeat at Waterloo seems consistent from the period of his abdication until his death. He blamed his generals and even his men (pretty shameful, for someone who derived his fame from his soldier's victories for so long), but IIRC also blamed himself for his lack of energy. Given his military brilliance his judgement should carry some weight, even allowing for sour grapes and self-interest.

    Wellington's dispositions and comments during the battle were those of a man hanging on for dear life with no chance of survival unless reinforced. He chose an excellent defensive position (its possible Wellington's eye for a battlefield approached that of Napoleon), placed tough units in near suicidal holding positions to limit access to his main body and attacked twice; once was a wil and undisciplined cavalry charge to staunch a deadly infantry attack, and the other was the general advance after the Middle Guard had been repulsed.

    Just a side note, the climax of the battle when the guard recoiled from the weight of British fire leading to the general collapse of French morale and the end of Napoleon is a much misrepresented point. I recall reading in several popular histories (and I think in that film with Christopher Plummer) how the Old Guard was sent to break the British, but was broken themselves.

    However in all the serious histories I find that British officers recorded they faced the Middle Guard or at best "the Imperial Guard". its a shame that idiotic mistakes are perpetuated in the histories of these famous events. Anyone else run into his sort of nonsense?
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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    While the war had been lost in 1814, taken as an individual battle Napoleon could have won Waterloo, according to himself and his opponents. I think everyone knows of Wellington's comment that "it has been a damned nice thing, the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life". Blucher AFAIK did not write an account of the battle, but I am quite ignorant of Prussian sources for the Napoleonic period.

    Without arguing the finer points its clear Napoleon expected to sweep the Anglo-Dutch aside at Belle Alliance more easily than he had the Prussians at Ligny: his preparations were slow and muddled and completely without urgency. The conduct of most of the battle was left in the hands of Ney, not the most skilled tactician and felt my many to be a shadow of the man he once was after the harrowing retreat from Moscow.

    Napoleon was a skilled propagandist and egotistical to the point of narcissism, but his surprise at his defeat at Waterloo seems consistent from the period of his abdication until his death. He blamed his generals and even his men (pretty shameful, for someone who derived his fame from his soldier's victories for so long), but IIRC also blamed himself for his lack of energy. Given his military brilliance his judgement should carry some weight, even allowing for sour grapes and self-interest.

    Wellington's dispositions and comments during the battle were those of a man hanging on for dear life with no chance of survival unless reinforced. He chose an excellent defensive position (its possible Wellington's eye for a battlefield approached that of Napoleon), placed tough units in near suicidal holding positions to limit access to his main body and attacked twice; once was a wil and undisciplined cavalry charge to staunch a deadly infantry attack, and the other was the general advance after the Middle Guard had been repulsed.

    Just a side note, the climax of the battle when the guard recoiled from the weight of British fire leading to the general collapse of French morale and the end of Napoleon is a much misrepresented point. I recall reading in several popular histories (and I think in that film with Christopher Plummer) how the Old Guard was sent to break the British, but was broken themselves.

    However in all the serious histories I find that British officers recorded they faced the Middle Guard or at best "the Imperial Guard". its a shame that idiotic mistakes are perpetuated in the histories of these famous events. Anyone else run into his sort of nonsense?
    The British didn't face the Guard until Waterloo, so all elements of the Guard were "the Imperial Guard". The eastern Allies had faced the Guard before, so they differentiate between them. It's like how Waterloo has different names depending on the perspective. Wellington chose Waterloo because it was nearby and was pronounceable by British accents. French and Prussians call it Belle Alliance after the inn that was the French base (and where Blucher eventually met Wellington). From the British side, but less easily pronounceable, you could call it Mont-St-Jean.

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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394 View Post
    I suppose with a clear and utter victory and with the UK distracted by the US - maybe the general exhaustion could see a day where a Napoleon can negotiate a peace for France after. But I'm not much read (was Ney who failed or what) on the debate over what he could have should have done which general failed him... But like I said its hard to see any victory altering the strategic calculus. The German was was probably spot on.
    The problem herein is that at least by Waterloo the UK had finished with the US and a treaty was signed. By the first time Napoleon was tossed out, the British were tired of all the 1812 BS and wanted trade legitimately reopened and hence the Treaty of Ghent. There was probably no chance of the distraction you talk about that pannonian doesn't talk about. The treaty was signed in August 1814, a few months after Napoleon's abdication, a battle happened in 1815 in New Orleans due to slow news travel when both British and American soldiers didn't know of the treaty, and was accepted by both as fog of war especially the Americans given victory. And was quickly ratified. But as I say, mostly, Britain wanted normal trade again. There was no way in February 1815 Britain was going to be distracted with America.
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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    Quote Originally Posted by pannonian View Post
    Another 30k troops wouldn't have helped Napoleon's situation that much at Waterloo. What he needed was for Blucher's 100k+ troops to be kept away from the battlefield while he polished off Wellington. As such, Grouchy did the right thing in pursuing the Prussian army, as instructed by Napoleon. The failure was Grouchy's failure to keep the Prussians away, as Thielmann kept Grouchy busy while Blucher took the bulk of the Prussians to Waterloo. If Grouchy had stayed with Napoleon, Blucher would have arrived at Waterloo earlier. Once Wellington made a stand, and Blucher was determined to join him, Napoleon didn't stand much of a chance, Grouchy or no Grouchy. Realistically, what Napoleon needed to get past that campaign (until inevitable defeat at the hands of the Austro-Prusso-Russians) was for one of Wellington or Blucher to lose his nerve and break for home. Minus that, he was going to be sandwiched between two armies of equivalent size to his, and as Clausewitz later noted, you don't win when outnumbered by more than 2-1 (it would have been around 1.8-1 at Waterloo if Napoleon joined with Grouchy and Blucher joined with Wellington).

    Napoleon's best chance -and only chance given the disparities you've described- was divide and conqueror. He could destroy any one army in the field, but not two when outnumbered 2-1. I believe Napoleon understood this predicament well, and his choices in the Waterloo campaign reflect that. He aggressively moved to destroy the Prussian army at Ligny before they could link up with Wellington, and later tried to destroy Wellington at Waterloo before the Prussians could rejoin. The overall plan was to destroy both armies before any more coalition armies could arrive. Thus avoiding another Leipzig (an attrition disaster that no amount of genius could overcome).

    Wellington once said that Napoleon was worth 40,000 men. He was a tactical genius on the battlefield, and I’m willing to grant him a chance at Waterloo if he can destroy the Prussian army at Ligny. The problem was however, Ney had blundered severely at Quatre-Bras (being trapped by a Dutch piquet brigade), which required assistance from D'Erlon. Had D’Erlon fallen on the flank of a fleeing Prussian army at Ligny instead, Napoleon could have destroyed the Prussians and would have had a 1 to 1 matchup against Wellington. With these odds, Napoleon could have foreseeably won the battle of Waterloo. In fact, I would even have given him the moral and tactical advantage.

    As far as Waterloo goes and the way it played out, Ney’s blunders again are inexcusable. Wasting away 10,000 cavalry men with zero infantry support across open and muddy terrain against infantry squares was a terrible and ridiculous blunder. Though hindsight bias suggests Ney saw a retreating allied army and wanted to engage them before they escaped, an argument could still be made that Ney should have known better (given his experience of fighting Wellington and past exposure to reverse-slope tactics). Moreover, the Old Guard lost primarily because they were outgunned and out teched. Ney again had failed to spike the English cannon’s on Wellington ridge, which made grapeshot combined with English rifles and prepared lines a losing proposition for any column advance. There would be no support either given the loss of Ney’s cavalry and reserves being pulled to stop the Prussian advance. In all, Napoleon was decisively defeated at Waterloo, though he does have a chance if he can execute more tactical control (and unity of command over subordinates) and prevent the Prussians from joining (either through destruction at Ligny, or prevented by Grouchy).

    Though I’m willing to grant Napoleon a victory at Waterloo, I don’t know enough to argue the strategic picture. His odds here truly do suck, and it appears it would be the coalition’s to lose. Napoleon’s endgame needed to be a settlement, he could no longer dictate terms or conqueror land. The only point I can bring up -again I probably don’t know any better- is that the coalition had specifically declared war on Napoleon himself (and not France). Does this casus belli leave any room for negotiation, and is it enough to prolong an allied campaign against Napoleon following defeat at Waterloo? I can’t answer this without knowing more variables – including the true outcome of Waterloo.
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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gaidin View Post
    The problem herein is that at least by Waterloo the UK had finished with the US and a treaty was signed. By the first time Napoleon was tossed out, the British were tired of all the 1812 BS and wanted trade legitimately reopened and hence the Treaty of Ghent. There was probably no chance of the distraction you talk about that pannonian doesn't talk about. The treaty was signed in August 1814, a few months after Napoleon's abdication, a battle happened in 1815 in New Orleans due to slow news travel when both British and American soldiers didn't know of the treaty, and was accepted by both as fog of war especially the Americans given victory. And was quickly ratified. But as I say, mostly, Britain wanted normal trade again. There was no way in February 1815 Britain was going to be distracted with America.
    I meant that has more speculative. Trying to find a way for even a decisive victory for nappy at Waterloo to be strategically important. But its true I kind of spaced the timeline. They were still building like madmen on the lakes as late as Jackson's victory and the British second round in the south was to regroup and attack either Georgia or Alabama as I recall. If the US manged another victory on Ontario ( comparable to Eire) before everyone got the message i'm not sure might not have spun out the same way.
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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    I don't think he could have won, not with Blucher on the way, I forget which but in one of many documentaries I remember a historian saying Napoleon seemed to have lost his tactical brilliance though I wonder if he was just trying to route Wellington before The Prussians came in, apart from attacks on Hougemont and Le Haye Sainte instead of attacking at the flanks he went right up the middle, then you have Ney wasting The French cavalry, something like 14,000 lancers.

    I would think if Napoleon had managed to reach his senses he should have tactically withdrawn to ground which would give him an advantage (Mons perhaps?) or fight a series of smaller battles and withdrawals like George Maclellan in The American Civil War Peninsula Campaign (though in that case while he won almost every fight with his vast army, he treated the actions as defeats before returning to the safety of Union naval artillery)



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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    Quote Originally Posted by Krieglord View Post
    I don't think he could have won, not with Blucher on the way, I forget which but in one of many documentaries I remember a historian saying Napoleon seemed to have lost his tactical brilliance though I wonder if he was just trying to route Wellington before The Prussians came in, apart from attacks on Hougemont and Le Haye Sainte instead of attacking at the flanks he went right up the middle, then you have Ney wasting The French cavalry, something like 14,000 lancers.

    I would think if Napoleon had managed to reach his senses he should have tactically withdrawn to ground which would give him an advantage (Mons perhaps?) or fight a series of smaller battles and withdrawals like George Maclellan in The American Civil War Peninsula Campaign (though in that case while he won almost every fight with his vast army, he treated the actions as defeats before returning to the safety of Union naval artillery)
    The Union Army would strengthen with passing time. Time was on the Coalition's side. On the French border at the time of the campaign, there were only an Anglo-Dutch army and a Prussian army. If Napoleon dithered, the Austrians and Russians will start arriving. French mobilisation was already near its limit for the 100 days. The Coalition's had barely started.

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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    I guess the question is more is there some series of victories he could have won that might have allowed a restored republic and not a restoration of the monarchy and fewer french concessions. Did Napoleon have that in him. After all the Republic made him. Could set his ego aside and save it and step aside. But as Emperor the coalition would out last an exhausted France.
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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394 View Post
    I guess the question is more is there some series of victories he could have won that might have allowed a restored republic and not a restoration of the monarchy and fewer french concessions. Did Napoleon have that in him. After all the Republic made him. Could set his ego aside and save it and step aside. But as Emperor the coalition would out last an exhausted France.
    This.

    Napoleon had played his game to its conclusion a his first abdication, and France despite the back and forth was confirmed in possession of a great deal more territory than the Bourbon Kingdom of 1789.

    In 1814 when he abdicated his Marshals kept their ranks and titles, and France kept the frontiers of 1796, that is "the Alps, the Rhine and the Pyrenees". The inclusion of Belgium in France would have been a massive gain economically and strategically. L'Empereur staked all that (and his marshals staked their heads) on a one in a million Hail Mary play, intending to beat the rest of Europe combined against him. He lost and so did France, returning to the borders of 1789.

    The campaign was lost before it began. The Big Four committed to put 200,000 men in the field each until Napoleon was defeated. The British and Prussians in the Low Countries were only half of their country's commitment, which were in the process of slowly marshalling. IIRC Spain was in for real this time, in 1814 they remained south of the Pyrenees, but in 1815 they were all in, so it was a three or four front war.

    While Waterloo was winnable it showed serious problems with the French Army had it survived. There was an incident where the reserve artillery broke under fire (unheard of in past campaigns) and the pieces had to be manned by elements of the Middle Guard. The breaking of the Middle Guard at the end of the day was a shock of colossal proportions, had it been the old Guard they may have stormed home but Wellington's defensive positions (and his unit commanders initiative in taking up flanking firing positions so finely judged) they may have shot even the Grognards to hell for the same result.

    In 1814 The Old Guard had been used to win battle after battle in the harried retreat toward Paris. Napoleon described them as a "head of Medusa", moving about the battlefield at will and carrying all before them: they had to because the quality of the grand Armee had been bled out in Russia. In 1805-1807 even his line troops performed prodigies, with the superb forced march at Austerlitz, the miraculous defence at Auerstadt and dogged survival at Eylau.

    By 1815 that brilliance was long gone, I think only the Old Guard remained at their peak.

    France's manpower was exhausted, the morale of the citizens and even the marshals was low, and two decades of war on so many fronts had weakened the country that it could no longer be the sword in Napoleon's hand.
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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    So the majority opinion seems to be trying to figure out if he could have won is like moving the deck chairs on the titanic. Strategically the war was over as soon as he failed to take the peace deal on the table after he and France showed remarkable resiliency after the defeat in Russia.
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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    @Cyclops

    I don't disagree with your main point, as there's no doubt that Napoleon's selfishness and opportunism eventually costed France dearly. However, I think you overestimate the territorial losses inflicted upon the French Kingdom after Waterloo. In 1814, the Allies may have been relatively lenient, but there was never a possibility of France maintaining her 1796 borders. They could never allow France to control the economic powerhouse of Flanders. Instead, what they proposed was the 1790 border, which essentially consisted of Savoy, Saarbrücken and the surrounding region. At least, the Bonapard dynasty recompansated for the former, thanks to the treaty of Turin.

    Regarding the 4th front, I doubt Spain's involvement would have seriously affected the outcome of the war. With the exception of a very small number of elite units, the Bourbon Army was in complete disarray and practically incapable of launching offensive operations. The war in the Pyrenees would have probably resulted into a stalemate, with commanders in either side ordering almost purely symbolic raids. After all, Ferdinand VII was hardly interested in Napoleon, as he had much bigger fish to fry. Not only was he busy trying to convince the South American and Mexican rebels to recognize his authority, but he also faced many troubles with the Cortez of Cadiz. Although many officers had adventurously abandoned their former comrades and joined the king in his effort to abolish the Constitution, the loyalty of the forces was never guaranteed. Until the Revolution of 1820, Spanish history is flooded with obscure or dangerous insurrections from Galicia to Andalusia, which could seriously threatened the Desired's throne.

    But that's just pedantry, overall I agree that France, unless a Second Miracle of the House of Bradenburg occured, was doomed, as she could not resist against the massive quantitative advantage of the coalition. Napoleon's gamble failed the moment the participants of the Congress of Vienna clarified that they would not tolerate a Bonapartist restoration.
    Last edited by Abdülmecid I; May 29, 2019 at 07:31 AM. Reason: Glitch von Glitchenburg.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: What were Napoleon's mistakes in the battle of Waterloo?

    Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
    @Cyclops

    I don't disagree with your main point, as there's no doubt that Napoleon's selfishness and opportunism eventually costed France dearly. However, I think you overestimate the territorial losses inflicted upon the French Kingdom after Waterloo. In 1814, the Allies may have been relatively lenient, but there was never a possibility of France maintaining her 1796 borders. They could never allow France to control the economic powerhouse of Flanders. Instead, what they proposed was the 1790 border, which essentially consisted of Savoy, Saarbrücken and the surrounding region. At least, the Bonapard dynasty recompansated for the former, thanks to the treaty of Turin.

    Regarding the 4th front, I doubt Spain's involvement would have seriously affected the outcome of the war. With the exception of a very small number of elite units, the Bourbon Army was in complete disarray and practically incapable of launching offensive operations. The war in the Pyrenees would have probably resulted into a stalemate, with commanders in either side ordering almost purely symbolic raids. After all, Ferdinand VII was hardly interested in Napoleon, as he had much bigger fish to fry. Not only was he busy trying to convince the South American and Mexican rebels to recognize his authority, but he also faced many troubles with the Cortez of Cadiz. Although many officers had adventurously abandoned their former comrades and joined the king in his effort to abolish the Constitution, the loyalty of the forces was never guaranteed. Until the Revolution of 1820, Spanish history is flooded with obscure or dangerous insurrections from Galicia to Andalusia, which could seriously threatened the Desired's throne.

    But that's just pedantry, overall I agree that France, unless a Second Miracle of the House of Bradenburg occured, was doomed, as she could not resist against the massive quantitative advantage of the coalition. Napoleon's gamble failed the moment the participants of the Congress of Vienna clarified that they would not tolerate a Bonapartist restoration.
    Not pedantry at all, thanks for the correction. Its good to have my ignorance corrected.

    I recently re-read Duff Coopers' masterful biography of Talleyrand, very interesting to consider a great diplomat's insights on one of the greatest. IIRC he reports that at Vienna Talleyrand was confident of making some gains beyond the borders of 1790 when the news the Ogre had returned broke, but that is quite possibly wishful thinking on both the part of the biographer and the Prince.

    It is true that Talleyrand achieved diplomatic miracles at Vienna, returning France to the table as a Power, marshalling the lesser powers to stymie the Big Four, and ultimately dividing Austria and Britain from Prussia and Russia. Maybe he still had a last miracle up his sleeve but thanks to Napoleon, it was all for naught.
    Jatte lambastes Calico Rat

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