August 12, 2016

Let's go with "Beast"

I wondered which Marshal the people in the know (by which I mean random posters on Napoleonic forums) think was the best.  After a meticulous search of the Internets, here is who Marshal 'mavens' pick as the most excellent...oh Lord...

This is not as close as it looks because posts about Davout usually begin with "obviously", while posts about Ney tend to be more equivocal (e.g., "Ney was best when serving under Napoleon, but worst when he was out on his own").  Yeah, I'm gonna say Davout's the guy here...the Marshal who lost his first battle after Waterloo, during the last ditch defense of Paris against the Allied forces.

One reason Davout faced such overwhelming odds at Auerstedt was that Bernadotte failed to support him.  Davout proposed a simple solution:  a duel to the death.  (The plan did not come to fruition due to the intervention of The Emperor.  Bernadotte was later sent home in disgrace for retreating without orders at Wagram.  He found redemption and fulfillment late in life by becoming King of Sweden.)

What you hear repeatedly about Davout is that he was basically Spock, completely logical in all his combinations, always seeing deeper than his opponent, always anticipating every possible turn of events.  He was not popular, did not try to be.  According to this Masters Thesis prepared for the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in 1994, "he spent less time talking about his reputation, and more time earning it."  Also,
[Montgomery] observed that a battle is really a contest between the wills of the two commanders.  If the will of one commander fails then his opponent is bound to win.
And the will of every general who faced Davout during the reign of Bonaparte...failed.  So, yeah, "Beast" would be fine.

Interesting conception, but it is flawed.  You, and all you care for, will be destroyed.


Post a Comment

<< Home