The importance of the post of chief of staff, especially at the army level is generally overlooked.
French General Paul Thiebault, the author of the French staff manuals of 1800 and 1813 believed that the chief of staff was/is 'the central point of the grand operations of armies.'
The premier chief of staff of the period was Alexandre Berthier and he was the first of the great chief of staff in military history.
Perhaps the following may put Berthier's job as chief of staff and Major General of the Grande Armee more in perspective and much more accurately. Of course, ingrained attitudes and one's own study and perspective are hard to influence, as you have stated many times. Anyways, here are some reliable and interesting references on Berthier:
'Quite apart form his specialist training as a topographical engineer, he had knowledge and experience of staff work and furthermore a remarkable grasp of everything to do with war. He had also, above all else, the gift of writing a complete order and transmitting it with the utmost speed and clarity...No one could have better suited General Bonaparte, who wanted a man capable of relieving him of all detailed work, to understand him instantly and to foresee what he would need.' -Thiebault, 1796
'In my campaigns Berthier was always to be found in my carriage. During the journey I used to study the plans of the situation and the reports sent in, sketch out my plans for battle from them, and arrange the necessary moves. Berthier would watch me at work, and at the first stopping-place or rest, whether it was day or night, he made out the orders and arrangements with a method and an exactness that was truly admirable. For this work he was always ready and untiring. That was Berthier's special merit. It was very great and valuable, and no one else could have replaced Berthier. -Napoleon
'to know the country thoroughly; to be able to conduct a reconnaissance with skill; to superintend the transmission of orders promptly; to lay down the most complicated movements intelligibly, but in a few words and with simplicity; these are the leading qualifications which should distinguish an officer selected for the head of the staff.' -Napoleon
'to describe [Berthier] merely as l'expediteur des ordres de 'Empereur (his own phrase to Soult) is a gross underestimate both of the man and of the organization that he controlled. The Grande Armee, after all, was the first in history to radically decentralize the conduct of operations in the field and spread them over hundreds, later even thousands, of square miles of territory. Such a method of waging war required a two-way information transmission and processing system larger and more complex than anything preciously attempted, and this system it was Berthier's responsibility to manage...When Berthier was absent, moreover, as was the case during the 1815 Waterloo campaign, the resulting muddle was monumental and led directly to the Emperor's fall.' -Martin van Creveld
'in 1796 [Berthier] produced a Document sur le Service de l'Etat Major General a l'Armee des Alpes, which he sent to Paris in the hope that it would serve as a model for other armies. Berthier's document divided the responsibilities of the General Staff into four sections, each under an adjutant general...'Though each adjutant general (there should be four assisting the chief of staff) is resonsible for one particular part of the service, he must be informed about the state of business in general. Nobody can send out anything is his own name; everything must come from the chief of staff who is the central pivot of all operations. All correspondence is addressed to him; he signs everything; in case he is absent, he will issue special orders.'' (this last quote is from Berthier's instructions which can be found in Etude sur le Service d'Etat Major by de Philip-K) -Martin van Creveld
The following refers to the 1805 Ulm Campaign: 'The march towards the area of deployment thus presented problems of coordination and supply on a gigantic scale. It speaks volumes for the efficiency of Napoleon's chief of staff, Berthier, that he could start sending out his orders [Berthier's] on 25 August and report on them to the Emperor just 24 hours later...Under Berthier's master plan, the divisions forming the cavalry corps were the first to leave the Channel coast, which some of them started doing as early as 25 August. Then followed the infantry corps of Davout, Soult, Ney, and Lannes marching along three parallel routes arranged form north to south so that only the last two had to share a road between them...Within this general framework much initiative was left to the marshals, each of whom was to send his ordonnateur and commissionaries ahead in order to make the detailed arrangements.' -Martin van Creveld
'[Berthier] was the perfect Chief of Staff. Scarcely had the supreme commander's thought been formed than Berthier had grasped it, both wholly and in its nuances.' -Georges Blond
According to Ferdinand von Funck, who 'served both against and with Napoleon' and 'knew the marshals', Berthier was an officer of 'incredible talent...hard and irascible' but 'amendable to reasonable presentations.'
Berthier and his staff planned the crossing of the Alps in 1800, the movement of the Grande Armee from the Channel and into Germany in 1805; and the unprecedented concentration for the invasion of Russia in 1812.
@Kevin F. Kiley I think you may have mistaken discourse for competition. If so, you have also misinterpreted me as your opponent. You cannot ‘win’ nor can any one ‘lose’. Any victory is illusory, and ultimately Pyrrhic. The problem is that anyone reading threads such as this will fear contributing, not wishing to be savaged for being ‘wrong’. This will drive newcomers away, therefore driving out the very lifeblood of any hobby or interest. This is providing a really weird spectacle. Namely an author systematically trying to alienate his buying public. Very Miss Favershamesque if you ask me. On social media it is good advice to stop feeding a troll and move on. In that vein, stay safe, stay well.
@Kevin F. Kiley this is what crosses the line between making an argument, and being argumentative.
I don't understand the apparent need to extol Berthier as the "best" at anything, or the preeminent chief of staff at the time with a legacy larger than life. I don't see the need to put his chubby little self up on a pedestal and then snipe at his contemporaries and later historians who failed to grasp his alleged genius. I've spent a lot of years with these people, many of whom feel like family members after all this time. But I have never made any claims about any of them that they were the best at anything. On good days they were better than many, in other occasions they needed a swift kick in the posterior. I have also never taken the words, experience, or scholarship of anyone else as gospel. That's why there are archives, historical inquiry, and independent thinking. As far as Berthier is concerned, I believe he was unusually indefatigable, possessed of a phenomenal memory, able to recall who was where, at what time, and doing--supposedly--what he had been instructed to do. Berthier could write orders, filtering Napoleon's shorthand into something most commanders could understand. So all that makes him capable. But does it make him the best chief of staff on the planet between 1800 and whenever?
I don't think so. Better than a chief clerk, though.
I can say that Berthier could often be a short-sighted prig, obviously terrified to deviate in the slightest from Napoleon's instructions, or what he thought they were, and lashing out at anyone who failed to follow the letter of the law. He also carried on a lengthy, sniping, and often pompous correspondence with those commanders who either dared to think for themselves or failed to cross a particular river at six o'clock on the dot. Lannes couldn't stand him; he called Berthier a prick, and that was the nicest thing he had to say.
So while you all debate and argue about "was he/wasn't he" and historical interpretation and the rest of those weighty subjects, I just thought I'd add our opinion on the topic.
@Kevin F. Kiley I’m an empiricist, being distrustful is in my DNA! When I was commanding my squadron, there was a notice in the armoury “In God we trust. Everyone else will sign the book!” So “In God we trust, for everyone else there are footnotes.”
Just do it then - so far in my opinion you fail.
@Kevin F. Kiley My point still stands, and I don’t retreat from it a bit. Contemporary evidence cannot be dismissed quite so easily. I don’t doubt your modern opinions are earnestly held, but that’s all they are. Put simply, you have never met or worked with Berthier, those people had. Forgive me then if I give their words more weight? Berthier is dead, as are all the commentators. I have no dog therefore in the fight of who slandered who. Why would anyone today be so vehement? It is very easy for romanticism and affection for our heroes to cloud our judgment. Just not this callsign.
A translation again, why not reading Pelet's account in original French language?
As to Six - it is better for people to look it up themselves, in case they are interested to obtain the full information, your excerpt is by far not complete, and yes, in case you read my posting, I already supplied this source.
a good extra to Six, is
see link and learn much more about Pelet on a quick glance is the
De Courcelles : Dictionnaire des Généraux Francais, several volumes, as I see available for download, volume 7, pp.322 - 330
Again an English source, about a foreign army/officer ,there is much better around in French, in case of a more detailed accounting you just have to consult Six, and you will learn much more
Six, Georges : Dictionnaire Biographique Des Généraux & Amiraux Francais De La Révolution Et De L'Empire (1792 - 1814), Tome II, K - Z
Paris 1934, re - print Paris, Gaston Saffroy 1974
pp 294 - 295
So he is well versed to make up his mind and opinion about Berthier's work, he was running a staff.
It has been demonstrated by upteen sources (including Elting - read my quote of Chuck White on this) that Berthier was a subordinated administration officer, important without any doubt, but nothing other then a chief clerk, not involved in operational planing (it would have done Boney well to give Berthier a chance on that from the beginning but his overblown ego as well as personal disorder wouldn't allow this).
'To then claim that experience of staff work in the 20th century, the age of the tank, jet fighter and nuclear warheads with it’s telegraph, radio’s and microprocessors as giving any meaningful insight to the age of the quill pen and galloping horse is stretching the credulous to breaking point. I say that as a trained staff officer with operational experience of staff work. We might as well say that being a truck driver gives you unique insight to the operation of a Napoleonic artillery train.'
I disagree. The main thrust or reason for staff work is to relieve the commander of anything not involving allowing him to command.
And if you substitute trucks for horses, computers for pen and ink (and the latter is still used), and radios for couriers, you still today strive to accomplish in the same manner the staff work of ca 1800.
I say that as a trained staff officer with operational experience of staff work in peace time and in combat. I've served on every staff level from battalion to national staffs and two joint staffs and have been a principal staff officer twice.
And the model for US chiefs of staff and how they operate can be traced to Berthier and the Napoleonic Imperial staff-in organization, functioning, and operations.
so even Pelet agrees that Berthier was only the first ADC to Boney - or as I say the chief secretary.
Something has been niggling at me about all this and so, I read some of Bourcet's Principes again. In view of the strange idea above that something unsourced should be held above sourced material, it should perhaps be noted that Hennet, while written in 1911, quotes extensively from contemporary correspondence around Bourcet and Choiseul.
Anyway, it is worth reiterating that Bourcet himself, writing in about 1775, states that Principes was written for officers, who had not served in the mountains and makes no mention of any course, let alone a college. If we look at the relevant five pages of Bourcet on the chief of staff - pp.55-60, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k86486q/f61.image there is a strange problem: Several times, Bourcet starts a paragraph with "Il doit" - he must - know the talents of his officers, be aware of the performance of the artillery and its ammunition supply, the correspondence, make reconnaissances, know the layout of villages (for billets), plus the usual things about arranging marches and camps. This is preceded by some important comments; at the top of p.56, he says "All the ideas or projects of operations, must be presented by him to the general, who must only concern himself with adjustments" - this was only happening in Austria at the time and it is often cited as Bourcet devising modern staffs. But Berthier did not do this, so there can be no line of descent from Bourcet through Berthier to Moltke or modern practice. There is an alternative, given the points above about Arvers and his agendas: In the short piece just after Bourcet's Avant-Propos, it says that Arvers has "restored the sense of certain passages, altered by omission and corruption of words". It would require seeing the original manuscript, but has Arvers added this planning role in?
Something else, which may support that thought is the allocation of jobs - the much-mentioned four departments, copied by Berthier. At the bottom of p.59, Bourcet says the CoS will need "at least" four assistants. The first is for the office - order of march and orders - the second for setting the marches off and two others for the reconnaissances. So, actually, it is only three activities and Bourcet we know is very big on reconnaissance in the mountains. Yet, who is doing the planning to be presented to the commander?