Gotta a great response from Scott Bowden including information about a forthcoming Napoleonic Wars book;
Hi Geraint, thanks for your post and kind words. I am returning soon to the Napoleonic world, as there are currently three projects in various stages of completion. The first to appear will probably be my decades-long investigation into ALL of Napoleon's Imperial armies of the Hundred Days epoch. It is a fascinating story that is long overdue for an in-depth English language study and analysis. I believe that the entire, very complex story involving the myriad of aspects in the formation of the French armies of this period is something that needs to be fully told. As of this moment, I imagine that this title should appear by late 2022, as the images, color maps and color diagrams are currently being collected and/or in the process of development.
With regards who was better---Davout or Wellington? I consider both to be generals of the first class. Therefore, if the forces were as they were in 1815, then Davout would have an edge insofar as quality of army (Nord) is concerned. But then there are unknowns, such as mistakes by staff and field subordinates, plus more...and it is ALWAYS more difficult with offensive operations than it is conducting defensive operations. Having said all that, I think that Davout, seconded by able subordinates such as Grouchy, Vandamme, Gerard, Kellermann and others, would have been very, very difficult to beat.
@tomholmberg On this thread- or a new one?
If there's been a post on this board which less deserves 70 responses I'd like to know. 🤐
Hard pounding, gentlemen. Let us see who will pound the longest.
It’s sadly a function of having my neurotype that I have to continually apologise to my abusers. And suffer begrudging and disingenuous apologies in return, as somehow I’m responsible for their level of ignorance. Genuinely though, thank you for your response. It is the first step on the road to building a better relationship, and I’m very grateful for that. We might not always agree, but the warmth and support on my part is constant. We have a shared passion, and I believe that makes us kindred spirits. For those of us on the spectrum there is no hidden meaning in what we say. We are very analytical but we are not hardwired to read your intent either. We largely neither offer, nor get, sarcasm. It’s unintelligible to us. To us the world is a logical and ‘normal’ from our perspective. The wider world is filled with a confusing array of people and social interactions that sometimes, try as we might, we just don’t ‘get’. There are some excellent websites explaining neurodiversity and I commend them to you and all fellow forumites. It is only through education and awareness that we can build the tolerant, welcoming and diverse community through which we can indulge our shared passion for history.
Far from it @tomholmberg “I guess in this thread secondary sources don't matter” Secondary sources and good historical enquiry will be very welcomed by me. Thirdary, Forthary, Fifthary…n..thary repetition of the same old long debunked myths are less welcome.
With respect @Geraint Thatcher I said nothing of the sort. @Kevin F. Kiley said “@Geraint Thatcher Well done finding this correspondence.” Now, a long standing opposition to the use of Wikis and scathing comments about the lack of editorial policy has led me to be amazed at this volte face, so I simply asked “@Kevin F. Kiley but isn’t it on the unreliable Wikipedia?” I first read the text of these letters over four decades ago, and have seen them often since, in various forms and media. I neither challenged the veracity or relevance of them in any way. Just the rehabilitation of Wiki.
There was fighting https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterloo_campaign:_Waterloo_to_Paris_(25_June_%E2%80%93_1_July)
In some respects, comprehensively defeating the French army in the field but allowing it to retreat had it’s political advantage for the allies. Annihilating it would have scattered trouble causers and ne’er do wells throughout France. Having negotiated the fall of Paris, allowing what was left of the army to retreat behind the Loire made sense. All the rotten apples could be kept in one barrel.
“If it was a total collapse, then where were the eagles that should have been captured in a situation of that type?” The real answer? Hidden in the darkness. Wrapped in black crepe. Snapped off staffs and concealed inside clothing. With one or two exceptions, they were not being defended by or fought over by anyone. They had largely been spirited away in this ‘sea of fugitives’ By the way, I’m not using British or Prussian sources for the rout, but the French themselves. The works by Andrew W Field and Paul L Dawson are instructive. Much of the army of the Loire were not Waterloo veterans, consolidated units being fleshed out with those from the depots. Likewise much, if not all, of the post Waterloo fighting was done by troops that were not there. As to the 1st Grenadiers leaving the field in good order, well, if you spend all day sat in reserve…. It’s fair comment that the sanguinary nature of the battle and the amount of marching undertaken by the allies hampered the follow up. It allowed the rout to be stabilised into a retreat instead of it’s conversion into an annihilation.
Yes, there was. And Davout's command after Waterloo, before retiring behind the Loire, numbered 117,000. As Napoleon had already abdicated, however, he saw no point in continuing which was probably a mistake.
“Comparing commanders of different nationalities and armies is one of the interesting historical exercises and can be beneficial to both readers and historians.” @Kevin F. Kiley I respectfully disagree. Commanders and their armies are integrated systems. Analysing them separately is at best an exercise in the analyst’s opinion, depending on the analyst’s insight. At worst, it devolves into an infantile game of enthusiast’s Top Trumps. There is plenty of evidence that the quality of the Armée du Nord in 1815 was much more varied than some works (particularly Swords) would suggest. The extensive and meticulous studies by Paul L Dawson are instructive. Morale was much more brittle. Evidence? The total collapse at and after Waterloo. If that could (and did) occur in the inspirational presence of Napoleon himself, what price Davout? I don’t regard ‘alternative history’, diverting as it is, as real history. It’s historical fiction. In my very humble opinion these arguments are merely fantasy football league or football manager games. It has a similar nodding acquaintance with real historical enquiry as they do to real football coaching. The real historical enquiry is the nature of period generalship and the systems of command. Systemic comparisons are very valid. Ultimately though, generalship is the ability to use what is to hand, in the terrain you find yourself and under the political direction or expediency you have been given. When you appreciate the variables, the dangers of equivalent comparison is self-evident. I fear that debating this will reveal more about the personal opinions of the than it will about the generals, or their generalship. Personally, I set zero store by these theoretical A vs B or top 10 list type posts. A lighthearted playground game, and no more. Of course, others are perfectly entitled to engage but I’m sure you will forgive me if I decline.
I figured you'd hear from the Bowden-bashers.