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War in the Napoleonic era is fundamentally similar to warfare practiced today

War in the Napoleonic era is fundamentally similar to warfare practiced today

  1. Create a two pages argumentative essay on the following:

Support the argument that the war in the Napoleonic era was fundamentally similar to warfare

practiced today. Use evidence to justify the argument.

  1. Each major points must tie a specific innovation from the Napoleonic era with modern warfare.
  2. Keep in mind that while you can comment on the implications of the topic of your essay in relation

to the current military force, should really present a history


Essay will be evaluated on the ability to use it as a tool to inform professional judgment.

War in the Napoleonic era is fundamentally similar to warfare practiced today
Napoleonic era war and modern warfare are fundamentally similar according to my
own view. The military revolution, as many scholars will put, brought in innovations in
warfare from artillery to the general organization of the army (Parker, 2001). Revolution in
the military refers to use of technology in military systems consisting of innovative
operational concepts and organizational adaptation in a manner that changes the conduct and
features of a conflict (Guy, 2004). Many history researchers believe that, it was the revolution
that engineered modern political, cultural and government bureaucracy. It is indeed this
transformation that overtook Europe at a time when she was at the top of the globe (Moore,
2006). But amidst all, the question that remains is this: Has there been a fundamental change
in warfare or it remains the same as during the Napoleonic era in France?
Considering specific innovations, it is indeed factual that warfare has fundamentally
remained the same. The Napoleon revolution is viewed in four aspects. It encompassed
strategy, artillery, firearms and movement. For any military commander, these cannot escape
their attention. Napoleon employed strategies to defeat his opponents. He divided his army
into divisions and corps (Chandler, 2006). He aimed at destroying his enemy completely. He
employed both grand and operational strategy, where he used both political and economic
measures to wage war. He would ask his officers to use the man-oeuvre (move on the rear) to
battle and dictate how and where the battle will progress. Using this strategy, the French
army was able to gain victory by splitting the allied army. They would apply flanking and
central positioning, attacking their opponents unexpectedly (Moore, 2006). This approach
would leave the opponents with no option and Napoleon would now draw a new battle line as
he advanced his conquest and effectively leading to the surrender of the opponents’ army and
subsequent victory for him. This is actually the modern guerrilla warfare that is being waged
in many conflict areas like Syria, and civil wars in many parts of the world particularly in
Africa. Napoleon advanced his wars with the help of new artillery that had been developed
almost in every European nation. The French developed cannons and guns like the
Gribeauval guns between 1774 and 1775 (Guy, 2004). They also had pounders of within 6 to
8 inch. These two forms of artillery were Napoleon’s choice because they were lighter than
any European standard at the time. Along with artillery, the army had vast quantities of
mortar, furnace bombs, grapes and canister shots that provided substantial fire support. These
artilleries played a huge role in the war at the sea.
Most ships would contain anywhere from 50-100 cannons. For instance, in 1798,
Napoleon flagship L’orient, with 120 guns, became the most heavily armed vessel in the
world. This quick destructive artillery force enabled Napoleon to win many of his wars
(Chandler, 2006). Today many nations have built artillery and cannons that were used in the
two world wars. Many suicide bombers conveniently assembles mortars and use them to
bomb enemies and western forces in Iraq and conflict areas of the world like Somalia. Naval
ships were developed as an addition to the Napoleonic L’orient in 1798 (Guy, 2004).
The period also saw a revolution in firearms. Napoleon would equip his army with the
Musket Model, the 1777 Charleville, which was indeed a product of perfection from the older
models. His infantry was well trained to fire even three volleys a minute. They were always
armed with a pistol as the secondary weapon to their swords. Soldiers were supposed to carry
swords, bayonets and pikets in addition to their guns (Moore, 2006). Calvary, officers,

sergeants and other higher-ranking officials used swords while bayonets were equipped to the
majority of infantry soldiers. During this era, rifles were also introduced into battlefields.
They were more accurate to a maximum of 200 paces’ range (Moore, 2006). However, they
took long to load. This did not please Napoleon and he refused to use it in his army. He
settled for the speed of the musket that was good in rapid manoeuvres. However, many
nations used the rifles. For instance, the British 95 th regiment was entirely formed to use the
rifle (Guy, 2004). The Germans too incorporated the use of riffle in smaller numbers by their
companies. Therefore, this Napoleonic innovation gave birth to how early modern warfare
would be fought. Later, the British lost General Robert Ross to the American rifle fire in
1814.This shows how this Napoleonic innovation had spread across the Atlantic Ocean
(Wilhoyt, 1999). Today, the rifle with additional technological modification is used by most
of the elite forces in the world.
Napoleon’s largest advantage was in the movement of his troops. He insisted on
extreme speed when conducting the marches, movements and attacks of his army (Parker,
2001). In his own words, “Loss of time is irreparable; I may lose a battle but I should not lose
time”. A number of factors contributed to Napoleon’s ability to perform these flexible
movements. He divided his army into independent corps systems, avoided slow-moving and
lengthy supply lines (Moore, 2006). Today, to win the war, troops should feed themselves
using Napoleonic idea of constant supply line and move with speed to ambush the enemy or
get the enemy unaware. Napoleon’s army lived on supplies from the ground where they
waged war (Guy, 2004). They indeed had “A war must feed itself.” He went on to acquire
food from the surrounding environment either by paying friendly countries or simply
foraging. Napoleon had the ability to persuasively inspire his troops to victories in a big and
dominant way. This left his opponents confused and unsettled. His intricate organization of
troops and strategic co-ordination had profound success (Chandler, 2006).
Conclusively, the tactics developed in the Napoleonic era are still in much use today.
Warfare has not fundamentally changed. It is still being won through diplomacy, information,
use of artillery, organization of the troops and the flexible movement by which the troops can
move. Military strategies have been developed just like the Napoleonic time. Warzones today
are still manned with similar strategies revolutionized by Napoleon. Guerrilla tactics are
employed to win wars just as seen in the era of Napoleon. The Napoleonic era coupled with
the French revolution changed drastically how war is waged today. For once, there was a
difference in military culture that existed in Europe before and after the revolution. For
example, soldiers now live in barracks and not with the civilian population. Here, they are
provided with housing and support facilities. Military academies have been established where
soldiers are professionally trained. Today, soldiers wear uniforms to distinguish themselves
from the civilians. Military is a full-time engagement unlike before when only mercenaries
were on full engagement.



Chandler, D. (2006). The Campaigns of Napoleon. The Macmillan Company: Toronto
Guy, C. (2004). Teaching in the shadow of Military Revolution. Journal of Military History,
32(2), 1-10
Moore, R. (2006). Napoleonic Guide: Weapons of War, Infantry.
Parker, G. (2001). The Cambridge History of Warfare. New York: Cambridge University
Wilhoyt, L. (1999). Military Organization: The Change from Professional to Conscript
Armies, 19th and Early 20th Centuries (Command and General Staff College).

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