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Napoleonic Era Discuss the many wars fought around the globe around the time of Napoleon. This forum is dedicated to the memory of Ben Weider.

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Old 22 Feb 12, 18:48
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Here is some information on the Austrian officer corps taken from Gunther Rothenberg's Napoleon's Great Adversary: Archduke Charles and the Austrian Army 1792-1815. It is both enlightening and interesting from an acknowledged authority on that army:

'Excluding officers who transferred from foreign armies, the bulk of the Austrian officers received formal training. They entered the army in various ways, by direct commission, by appointment as a cadet, or, in rare cases, by promotion from the ranks. The first method was reserved to members of the imperial house or the high aristocracy. As one writer put it, 'the son of a ruling prince entered the service under different-more favorable-circumstances than an ordinary mortal. They rapidly passed through the ranks and obtained a field grade, if not a senior position, in their twenties.'
-page 28.

'...the generalcy, still aristocratic for the most part, was badly divided by feuds and personal rivalries, while army commanders, all to often selected for their connections and seniority, were physically out of shape and mentally out of date.'
-page 29.

There were a series of reforms, 'however, these changes did little to alter the marked lack of intellectual activity in the Hapsburg army. Compared to France, Prussia, even Hesse, the Habsburg officer corps showed little interest in military theories. While Daun already had called for a more professional education 'because commanders require a good head more than a strong arm and experience alone did not provide systematic knowledge,' connections still played a major role in appointments and, except for the academy graduates, the bulk of the officers were poorly educated. In 1802 one general felt it necessary to issue a plan of studies for his officers including the simplest arithmetic, because most were not academy graduates and knew very little. The Austrian officer corps at all levels showed a marked inclination to cling to the methods developed during the Prussian Wars, was to devoted to routine and to look no further than orders issued by their superiors or to the appropriate army regulations.'
'Whatever their origin or rank, officers were a world apart from the rank and file. Service in the ranks was considered neither honorable nor desirable and conditions, even by the standards of the time, poor. Discipline was harsh and most of the Articles of War recommended that the offender should be corporally or capitally punished. Pay was nominal.'
-both on page 30.

'Trained in the rigid techniques of 18th century warfare, the army would be repeatedly mauled by the more aggressive adn elastic forces of the French Revolution and Napoleon. There was nothing wrong with the Austrian rank and file, but their commanders were thinking in terms fast becoming obsolete.'
-page 38.

And, lastly:
'The Austrian command and control structure, however, was defective. Highranking officers, including corps commanders, were selected by seniority and birth rather than by merit and experience...None of these men had any experience or schooling in operating under the corps system [unlike their French counterparts who had been at least since 1800] and this increased demands on their staff. Archduke Charles later held that too much reliance had been placed on staff officers.

The staff was not capable of handling the corps system. The officers of the Quartermaster General Staff still were primarily trained in mapping, mathematical computations, horsemanship, drawing and penmanship. Many were personally brave and on paper quite capable of elaborating plans for moving troops. In the field, however, it was a different matter. The new system created much confusion and the Austrian general staff lacked a common doctrine [unlike the French equivalent which had a common doctrine since 1795 codified in Thiebault's staff manual(s)] and manuals of procedure. And this became critical when because of the small size of the permanent staff untrained officers had to be assigned for duty when the army was activated...Altogether, the official history concluded that while the absence of staffs at the division level required large corps staffs, administration in the field consumed too much valuable time.'
-pages 165-166.

I would highly recommend this excellent study as well as Lee Eysturlid's The Formative Influences, Theories, and Campaigns of the Archduke Charles of Austria which is an eye-opener and effectively demonstrates the difference between the generalship of Napoleon and Charles, Charles being a cautious commander of the 18th century type who lacked the 'killer instinct of the true independent commander.'

Other references of note are an article by Gordon Craig on the inefficiency of the Austrian staff in The Theory and Practice of War edited by Michael Howard, echoed by Rothenberg again in The Army of Francis Joseph. These three authors are/were fluent in German and used Austrian and German reference material liberally in their accounts. The studies are balanced, well-researched, and inherently fair. They are the best of the bunch in English.

The Austrian General Staff
Since there was much ‘wailing and grinding of teeth' because of my comments in a book review on the Austrian chapter in the new book Armies of the Napoleonic Wars, I found the following material from either excellent military historians (Craig and Rothenberg) or from historic personages on the general weaknesses and shortcomings of the Austrian general staff of the Napoleonic period from which I drew my conclusions for the review. I also have a copy of Horsetzky which appears to be a main reference for the Austrian staff in the subject chapter and it should also be noted that Horsetzky was used by Rothenberg as a reference for his material also.
‘In the broadest sense, a general staff has two functions: ‘first, the systematic and extensive collection in time of peace of specific information which may be important to the conduct of future operations or to proper preparation for future operations; and, second, intellectual preparation for the future conduct of operations either through systematic development of skill for the handling of contingently anticipated situations or through the elaboration of specific plans for war, or both.' The second function generally includes the training of a corps or specifically designated staff officers who can serve at army, corps, brigade, and division headquarters, and give appropriate information and advice to commanding officers. In Austria, the machinery for the accomplishment of these tasks was developed, but the results were none the less hardly impressive.'

‘As in other countries, the Austrian general staff system had its origins in the eighteenth-century Quartermaster-General's Staff, an organization charged with the totality of arrangements necessary for the quartering of troops in the field. In Maria-Theresa's time, a start was made towards widening the functions of this staff (which originally resembled an engineering corps) and adjusting them to the changing nature of war…Daun encouraged the Empress in her support of her new military schools at Wiener-Neustadt and bent his own energies towards such tasks as the improvement of cartographic work, the beginning of serious operational studies, and the introduction of yearly maneuvers for the army.'

‘The momentum which Daun gave to the development of a staff system was not maintained in the years that followed, although Joseph II showed some fleeting interest in the subject. It was not until the Archduke Charles' reforms in the years 1800-1809 that new progress was made…Charles sought to systemize officer training so that it would be continuous from the level of subaltern all the way up to the rank of general. At the same time, he set about reorganizing the Quartermaster-General's Staff by removing from it all officers who had been serving as adjutants or administrators, and converting it into a body exclusively devoted to strategic and operational duties, the preparation of technical and cartographic duties, the accumulation of intelligence about foreign armies, and other modern staff functions. This systemization was carried farther after 1809, when Radetzky was Chief of the Quartermaster-General's Staff. In 1810 this body was reorganized to provide separate sections for cartography, intelligence and communications, war archives, general staff corps (service with army and divisional commands), and service with legations and embassies abroad (the beginning of a system of military attaches).

‘All this represented progress, although no more than was being made by other states in this period. In the years after 1815, unfortunately, while other countries (especially Prussia) continued to develop the efficiency and authority of their general staffs, the reverse was true in Austria.'
‘One reason for this was that the Chief of the Quartermaster-General's Staff occupied a relatively modest position in the military hierarchy…'

‘But more important than these things was the widespread disregard of the importance of learning as a military virtue, which diminished the prestige of staff work even in the eyes of some of those who became staff officers. In 1811 Radetzky had said (with perhaps a premonition of what was to happen) that vigilance would have to be exercised lest general staff work become ‘a fertile ground for lucky mushrooms (Gluckspilze, careerists) and lest ‘a glib tongue, a good seat on a horse, and a good supply of technical terms be considered sufficient to qualify a man for staff service.' When the later Chief of the General Staff Beck was assigned as a lieutenant to the Operations Bureau of the chef of the Vienna Army Command in 1851, he found conditions that justified Radetzky's fears. With few exceptions, all of the officers on the staff were ‘happy idlers, who either had names that showed they belonged to the high nobility or possessed powerful protectors.' Among them was the son of a horse-dealer who took care of the commanding general's stable. A year later, when Beck qualified for admission to the War College, he discovered that that organization, in the very first year of its existence, was adapting itself to prevailing values. The emphasis was on rote learning, and horsemanship played an excessive role in the curriculum.'

Gordon Craig, ‘Command and Staff Problems in the Austrian Army 1740-1766' in The Theory and Practice of War, edited by Michael Howard, 54-57.
‘He was not a general in the true sense of the word, for he required guidance. But we must repeat that it is far more important than is commonly supposed for a man to be capable of being guided consistently in a given direction. This takes a firmness and certainty on the part of the one guided, which only a few men possess. If a general who is likely to become even more uncertain and end up in a position, where he can form no coherent judgment, no conviction, and therefore no decision.'
-Theodore von Bernhardi on Prince Schwarzenberg, allied commander-in-chief 1813-1814.

‘There are generals who need no advice; who judge and decide for themselves, and their staffs merely execute orders. Such generals are stars of the first magnitude, appearing only once in a century. In most cases, commanders of armies feel the need of advice. This can be given in conferences attended by large or small groups of men whose training and experience qualifies them to give expert judgment. But at the conclusion of such a conference, a single opinion should prevail to facilitate the infinitely more difficult task of deciding to execute the proposed plan. This responsibility rests solely upon the commander.'
Von Moltke the Elder, 1859

‘It has sometimes been thought that the defects of an army commander, such as inexperience, inadequate training, weakness of character, may be made good by assigning an exceptionally qualified man as chief of staff. Experience, however, has shown that these attempts invariably fail. Why the experiment has been tried so often through history calls for study.'
‘All men have some weak points and the more vigorous and brilliant a person may be, the more strongly these weak points stand out. It is highly desirable, even essential, therefore, for the more influential members of a general's staff not to be too much like the general, or the shadows will be even more distinct. Ideally, the general and his principal assistants should in a sense supplement one another. Such a mutually supplementary relationship, however, produces desirable results only when the general himself is fully qualified for his office in all professional respects. Mutual supplementation is often misinterpreted, however, to mean that a lack of some indispensable quality in the general may be compensated for by some special talents in the chief of staff. This is a dangerous error.'

‘As illustrations of complementary personalities, we usually think of Radetzky and Hess, Blucher and Gneisenau. But it should not be forgotten that Radetzky, a general in the fullest sense of the work, was over eighty years old at the time of the campaigns of 1848-1849, and hence required some support, both physical and mental. For this there could be none equal to his old confidant Hess-a noble, self-sacrificing, devoted, and modest character, thoroughly competent for this work.'

Blucher, although he was much younger and more vigorous at the time of the Wars of Liberation than Radetzky was in 1848, was of limited education; but he had great experience in war, clear insight, sound knowledge of men, great perseverance, and an iron will that could not be shaken by any difficulties. He was no mere thrusting trooper; and his deficiencies could be fully compensated for by the highly qualified and modest Gneisenau. There could be no doubt that these famous chiefs of staff could not have made full use of their brilliant qualities had they served with officers without moral authority, accessible to irresponsible and incompetent influences, instead of with highly talented generals.'

‘There are things that no one can give to the general, if he does not possess them himself. If he does not have the independence of mind to select the most appropriate course from among the many that are possible, if he lacks the firmness to carry out his decision, and under all conditions to maintain obedience and discipline in his army; then no one can help him.'
-Archduke Albert of Austria

‘Staff work proper was handled by the Quartermaster General Staff according to procedures laid down in Lacy's Generals Reglement of 1769, a compendium of standing orders, field service regulations, and staff instructions. Lacy had created a small staff corps, 30 including the director in early 1792, as well as staff troops to serve as escorts, guards, and orderlies. In peacetime the permanent staff officers were employed making surveys and collecting data on potential theaters of operations. On the approach of war a chief of the Quartermaster General Staff with the rank of Feldmarschall Leutnant, was appointed, staff officers were detailed to the various armies and additional officers ‘who know how to draw and have some command of geometry' were collected. According to the Prince de Ligne, regimental commanders all too often recommended officers ‘they want to get rid of, or the ones they wish to favor, boldly claiming that they have the necessary qualifications.' Together with the adjutant general and his assistants, the Quartermaster General Staff formed the Small General Staff of each field army.'

‘In the field the chief of staff assisted the commander in making plans, but the primary duty of staff officers was topographical reconnaissance. Maps still were scarce and none too accurate, though it does appear odd that as late as 1796 an officer had to be sent to reconnoiter the Stuttgart area, ‘as unknown to us as America,' while Bavaria, a frequent scene of Austrian operations for nearly a century, was described ‘as little known as Kamchatka.' These and other deficiencies clearly demonstrated the need for a permanent chief of the Quartermaster General Staff, but the first such was appointed only in 1801.'
Gunther Rothenberg, Napoleon's Great Adversary, 25-26.

[The Archduke Charles] could take some credit for improving the position of the General Staff. In March 1801 he requested the emperor that this organization should not be disbanded or reduced at the end of each war and that a permanent cadre of 21 staff officers-the term ‘staff officer' denoted a rank above major-be retained together with 16 captains and 12 subalterns. On 23 March, Francis appointed General Duka as ‘Quartermaster General even in peacetime' and generally approved the archduke's proposals. In his first instruction to Duka, Charles instructed him that his staff was to be engaged in making plans ‘covering long periods and entire campaigns,' and that the Chief of the Quartermaster General staff would not merely implement the commander's ideas into practice, but act as his ‘proper and well prepared advisor to examine intelligence and projects of all kinds.' At the same time, however, Charles indicated that the commander retained ultimate decision-making powers.'

‘The new arrangements remained largely on paper until 1805. Duka did work out plans for the archduke and generally supervised the operations of the staffs with the armies in Italy and Germany, but a real operational General Staff did not function until late in 1809.
Rothenberg, 91-92.

‘[For 1809] The Austrian command and control structure , however, was defective. High-ranking officers, including corps commanders, were selected by seniority and birth rather than by merit and experience. In early 1809, Archduke John handled the Army of Inner-Austria, while command of the nine corps was entrusted to two archdukes…three princes…and the remainder, except VI Corps which was led by Hiller, to members of the old high aristocracy. None of these men had any experience or schooling in operating under the corps system and this increased demands on their staff. Archduke Charles later held that too much reliance had been placed on the staff officers.'

‘The staff was not capable of handling the corps system. The officers of the Quartermaster General Staff still were primarily trained in mapping, mathematical computations, horsemanship, drawing and penmanship. Many were personally brave and on paper quite capable of elaborating plans for moving troops. In the field, however, it was a different matter. The new system created much confusion and the Austrian general staff lacked a common doctrine and manuals of procedure. And this became especially critical when because of the small size of the permanent staff untrained officers had to be assigned for duty when the army was activiated.'
‘Functions and composition of corps staffs were outlined on 6 March 1809 by General Prohoska. The chief of staff was to advise the corps commander in all matters, but clearly was to remain his subordinate. He was assisted by a number of general staff officers looking after reconnaissance, march routes, quartering, and the operations journal. In addition, the chief of staff controlled the technical corps troops, engineers, miners, and pontooneers. The other official at corps headquarters was the adjutant general responsible for internal administration and the direction of staff troops, military police, and medical services. The adjutant general also supervised discipline and strength returns. In addition, corps headquarters housed the chief of artillery, the chief surgeon, the chief commissary, and a great number of other officers and functionaries. Altogether, the official history concluded that while the absence of staffs at the division level required large corps staffs, administration in the field consumed too much valuable time.'
Rothenberg, 165-166.

‘An army order of 6 April 1809 constituted four major as well as a number of minor departments. Among the major departments, the first, the Secret Chancery, handled all correspondence with the emperor, the ministries, and with allies and enemies. In addition, it looked after promotions and disbursed secret funds. The second department, the Operations Chancery, issued orders and kept the secret operations journal, while the third department, the Detail Chancery looked after reports and returns. The curiously named Armee-Generalkommando, the fourth major department, dealt with transport, supply, pay, medical, and disciplinary matters. Other important officers and officials included the directors of artillery, engineers, and the commissary general, as well as the army minister, Count Zichy, who was supposed to assist the Generalissimus in procuring supplies. Altogether, with its subsidiary staffs, bureaus, escorts, and attached personnel, headquarters became extremely large and its movement and activities slow and often inefficient.'
Rothenberg, 166.

French staff information:

An Adjutant-Commandant (originally Adjutant-General) was a staff officer equivalent to a colonel in the line. He could be assigned as a corps and/or a division chief of staff as well as heading the staff sections in the army headquarters under Berthier. When first formed early in the Revolution, it was by law and they formed a de facto staff corps. They went into the fire when necessary.

Adjoints were staff assistants, junior staff officers. They were usually captains, but could be chefs de brigade or chefs de escadrons. They were chosed from the line and if they wished to be promoted they had to rotate back into the line to their respective regiments.

A typical corps staff would have either an adjutant-commandant or a general of brigade as a chief of staff, four adjutant commandants, one of whom was the sous-chef, five or six adjoints, the corps commander's ADCs, usually five or six, the corps artillery commander and his staff (the corps artillery commander was normally an artillery general officer) the corps engineer officer, and the normal assemblage of admin officers assigned to a corps unit.

A division would have an adjutant commandant as a chief of staff, three to five adjoints, three ADCs for the division commander.

Sincerely,
M
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Old 22 Feb 12, 18:52
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Originally Posted by Von Richter View Post
Some of the 95th wore brown trousers!
Facing a French column, I'm not surprised. Up until the moment the infantry lines started pouring three rounds a minute into it, a column fifty men wide extending as far as you could see, wasn't for the faint-hearted.
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Old 22 Feb 12, 19:21
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I was interested in this: "the documentation shown in this essay will demonstrate otherwise." So, whose essay is this?

The claims about 1800 are mythological rewriting of history by North American authors. There was no "embryonic corps system" - the word corps was used by all armies at this time to mean something larger than a division or a separate force, such as during Charles' campaigns of 1796 and 1799, which of course predate the 1800 campaign. Scharnhorst's knowledge of the French army in that campaign was as close as Charles remark that Marengo was another sign of Napoleon's brilliance - given that it was a monumental foul-up saved by Desaix's fortunate return, it demonstrates that the quoting of contemporary figures is not necessarily an accurate asessment of what happened. Indeed, lookiong at Google books, it is clear that Scharnhorst's essay was about Marengo and ran to just 7 pages. This ref http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6...ed=0CF8Q6AEwCQ would suggest that Scharnhorst's comments were based in fact on a review of a better known essay on Marengo by Bulow, but both wrote essentially about the concentration of force - indeed, one ref on Google books seems to suggest that Scharnhorst claimed N had a superiority of 2 to 1. There is universal agreement that N won his victories by local superiority, but none of this justifies the claims of Charles White.

Indeed, it is a case, just like Elting on staffs of the copying of certain claims with a bucketload of personal prejudice to produce a version of events, which doesn't actually exist in the original work, let alone the truth of the events. It is much like Kevin's own claims about Gribeauval's 1762 report and that he built/tested full size models of Austrian and prussian guns - a reading of the original text actually says nothing of the sort.

So, let's have less of the Chinese whispers and the repetition of claims - what does Scharnhorst himself actually say? And who did write that "essay"?

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Old 22 Feb 12, 19:31
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Originally Posted by the ace View Post
Facing a French column, I'm not surprised. Up until the moment the infantry lines started pouring three rounds a minute into it, a column fifty men wide extending as far as you could see, wasn't for the faint-hearted.
Well you didn't find much 'faint-heartedness' in the 95th, whoever they were up against.

Paul
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Old 22 Feb 12, 19:40
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Originally Posted by Dibble201Bty View Post
Well you didn't find much 'faint-heartedness' in the 95th, whoever they were up against.

Paul
I'm not saying you did, just that it'd give just about anyone brown trousers.
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Old 22 Feb 12, 21:00
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Kevin, I am sure the OP is quite capable of reading Rothenberg for himself. However, his opinions are 30 years out of date and much of the maerial you quote is actually taken out of context to suit the post-1870 Ruling theory that somehow the Napoleonic French were the root of all modern armies. The TMP thread shows just how superficial and prejudice-ridden (Rothenberg was a German Jew, who fought in UK and US service in WW2) that kind of opinion was. The others you quote on the staff write a few lines on the pre-1848 staff, from which it is clear they made no attempt to read up on it. Likewise, your own claims about the staff were shown up for the nonsense they are in the TMP thread - it was quite clear that you had not read the original works and your opinions should be viewed in that context.

The world has moved on, I'm afraid. Quoting third hand claims is all very interesting, but does lead to some interesting nonsense in your own output (viz the 1762 report!). As for Eysturlid, he has an interesting view, but there are a couple of fundamental errors, most importantly in Charles' dealings with the staff, which cloud the accuracy of it. It is well worth a read, if rather detailed for the casual reader. These much-repeated errors on the staff are the reason why I wrote the subject up in Armies of the Napoleonic Wars (ed. Fremont-Barnes) and no doubt why you wrote another of your reviews on it.

However, all this should show to the OP the importance of reading around the subject and not accepting some claim, just because it was in print. He should read the two Armies of the Nap Wars books to get a general handle of the whole subject before delving deeper and bear in mind that some authors have read the original material, while others have made things up or copied recent opinions.
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Old 22 Feb 12, 21:11
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I'm not saying you
I didn't for one moment think you were saying me!

Quote:
just that it'd give just about anyone brown trousers.
Would it? They didn't become the best light troops in the world by first sh themselves whenever they saw the enemy advancing; unless of course one or two had a touch of the trotts.

Paul

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Old 23 Feb 12, 08:02
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Normal service has been resumed and I'm on solid ground... 'cos we're back to talking crap! The 95th's alleged lack of bottle at Waterloo spoiled that Adkin fellow's book, right at the end for me. It kind of smacked of him trying to kid us he'd found a sensational new take on the Battle of Waterloo... all bit crap, in my 'umble opinion.

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Old 23 Feb 12, 12:23
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This may have already been stated so apologies if it has.

To me it seems that the British method of generally paying for their stuff upset the locals less than the French that simply took it. The French had superior number of forces in Spain but local partisan activity, directly resulting from reappropriation meant that these forces could rarely assemble to counter the smaller Anglo-Portuguese threat.

My knowledge of this period is thin, to say the least, so feel free to counter said comment .
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Old 23 Feb 12, 14:05
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When His Grace the Duke of Wellington advanced his Army into France after kicking the French from both Portugal and Spain, he made a point of paying for everything, and forbade looting and foraging. He knew better than most how dangerous it could be to be hated and loathed by the indigenous wotnots living behind his lines. The French did what they'd always done and terrorised, looted, robbed and abused those on their line of march...even though they were their own people.
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Old 23 Feb 12, 14:38
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Originally Posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
This may have already been stated so apologies if it has.

To me it seems that the British method of generally paying for their stuff upset the locals less than the French that simply took it. The French had superior number of forces in Spain but local partisan activity, directly resulting from reappropriation meant that these forces could rarely assemble to counter the smaller Anglo-Portuguese threat.

My knowledge of this period is thin, to say the least, so feel free to counter said comment .

To be fair that was common French practice and had served them well up till then.
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Old 23 Feb 12, 14:40
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Originally Posted by Von Richter View Post
When His Grace the Duke of Wellington advanced his Army into France after kicking the French from both Portugal and Spain, he made a point of paying for everything, and forbade looting and foraging. He knew better than most how dangerous it could be to be hated and loathed by the indigenous wotnots living behind his lines. The French did what they'd always done and terrorised, looted, robbed and abused those on their line of march...even though they were their own people.
Not just that but for a time in France when the Spanish stated causing revenge atrocities he actually sent them back and were not recalled until Toulouse
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Old 23 Feb 12, 14:45
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Originally Posted by Dibble201Bty View Post
I didn't for one moment think you were saying me!



Would it? They didn't become the best light troops in the world by first sh themselves whenever they saw the enemy advancing; unless of course one or two had a touch of the trotts.

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Old 23 Feb 12, 17:05
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Best in the world. I am sure the Americans/The Germans and Russians may disagree with you here
Those in the peninsular along with the 52nd and 43rd had no equal.

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Old 23 Feb 12, 18:10
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Originally Posted by Von Richter View Post
Normal service has been resumed and I'm on solid ground... 'cos we're back to talking crap! The 95th's alleged lack of bottle at Waterloo spoiled that Adkin fellow's book, right at the end for me. It kind of smacked of him trying to kid us he'd found a sensational new take on the Battle of Waterloo... all bit crap, in my 'umble opinion.

Don't you mean that Urban fellow ?

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