A Pre-professional Institution: Napoleon’s Marshalate and the Defeat of 1813
Univ. of North Texas, 2014.
Napoleon’s defeat in 1813 generates a number of explanations from historians regarding why he lost this epic campaign which ultimately resulted in France losing control over the German states. Scholars discussing the French marshalate of the Napoleonic era frequently assert that these generals could not win battles without the emperor present. Accustomed to assuming a subordinate role under Bonaparte’s direct supervision, these commanders faltered when deprived of the strong hand of the master. This thesis contributes to this historiographical argument by positing that the pre-professional nature of Napoleon’s marshalate precluded them from adapting to the evolving nature of warfare during the First French Empire. Emerging from non-military backgrounds and deriving their capabilities solely from practical experience, the marshals failed to succeed at endeavors outside of their capacity. An examination of the military administration of the Old Regime, the effects of the French Revolution on the French generalate, and the circumstances under which Bonaparte labored when creating the imperial marshalate demonstrates that issues systemic to the French high command contributed to French defeat in 1813. This thesis also provides evidence that Napoleon understood this problem and attempted to better prepare his marshals for independent command by instructing them in his way of war during the 1813 campaign.