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Alexandru H.

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Funny. So Bernadotte was nationalist and you hold this against him? What's up with your conservativeness, Alexandru? :p
I'm only a nationalist when it serves my conservative purposes. Bernadotte had that "Death to Kings" inscription, therefore he was a commie, therefore I'm against him :p

But let's not call Bernadotte a nationalist. He was French and betrayed his country.
 
Aug 3, 2005
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I'm only a nationalist when it serves my conservative purposes. Bernadotte had that "Death to Kings" inscription, therefore he was a commie, therefore I'm against him :p

But let's not call Bernadotte a nationalist. He was French and betrayed his country.
Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte may have been a Frenchman of dubious loyalty. Karl XIV Johan was Swedish, with an unblemished record.:D

He might not have spoken a word of the language and his service to the nation might not just include getting Sweden out of the Napoleonic wars in one piece, but also being a total patsy, and completely taken for a ride by the quite clever liberal opposition in the 1830's-40's.:D
 
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I resent Bernadotte because of Napoleon alone. He had the misfortune of being way too obsessed about his family. A lion on the battlefield, he became a pawn in the circle of his "loved" ones. He gave them kingdoms, principalities, titles, money... and it wasn't enough. Josephine was a bitch, Marie-Louise the same. The only decent people in that family were his son (who died as a prisoner) and Pauline.
I fear we are badly OT by now (apologies, we should perhaps take this elsewhere), but Bernadotte most certainly wasn't family to Napoléon, even in an extended sense.:)

He was a political rival, and possibly also a rival in personal life, marrying Napoléons former fiancée for sure. But Napoléons disgust over the man seems to have started with Bernadotte's position in the Brumaire-coup.

Everyone, Napoléon included, knew full-well Bernadotte was neither loyal or thankful towards him. As then Minister of War Bernadotte could have been the general to off the republic at that time, at least in its present form, but then on a Jacobin mandate (including support from Napoléon's Jacobin brothers apparently). But for some reason Bernadotte asked for better authorisation, better legitimacy, before moving against the state, something Napoléon simply regarded as being soft in the head. ("Constitutions are written by great men" or somesuch was iirc Napoléon's comment to scrapping the present one.)

Bernadotte would have had a wild, and exalted, ride in any kind of French state beside Napoléon's as well, and knew it. With Napoléon taking power, he found himself subordinate to his rival. Obviously both men knew the score, and resented the other.

Otoh, it has been said that the quality of a man can be measured by his enemies.;
 

Alexandru H.

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I fear we are badly OT by now (apologies, we should perhaps take this elsewhere), but Bernadotte most certainly wasn't family to Napoléon, even in an extended sense.:)

He was a political rival, and possibly also a rival in personal life, marrying Napoléons former fiancée for sure. But Napoléons disgust over the man seems to have started with Bernadotte's position in the Brumaire-coup.

Everyone, Napoléon included, knew full-well Bernadotte was neither loyal or thankful towards him. As then Minister of War Bernadotte could have been the general to off the republic at that time, at least in its present form, but then on a Jacobin mandate (including support from Napoléon's Jacobin brothers apparently). But for some reason Bernadotte asked for better authorisation, better legitimacy, before moving against the state, something Napoléon simply regarded as being soft in the head. ("Constitutions are written by great men" or somesuch was iirc Napoléon's comment to scrapping the present one.)

Bernadotte would have had a wild, and exalted, ride in any kind of French state beside Napoléon's as well, and knew it. With Napoléon taking power, he found himself subordinate to his rival. Obviously both men knew the score, and resented the other.

Otoh, it has been said that the quality of a man can be measured by his enemies.;
The sister of his wife was married to Joseph, the patriarch of the family. As Corsican laws go, Bernadotte was in the "second circle" of the Bonaparte family. It's one of the reasons Bernadotte was not forbidden to join the Swedish Royal Family: if Napoleon had given Murat a southern kingdom, surely Bernadotte couldn't have been denied of the northern counterpart. Also do remember the countless times Napoleon rewarded women that merely gave him attention when he was younger: Desiree was his first great love and any kind of "hatred" he would have felt for Bernadotte would have been melted by the sight of his wife.

Also, you seem to ignore the countless times Bernadotte was simply "forgiven" by Napoleon. Some of those actions are clearly not linked to a simple Emperor-Marshal kind of relationship. Bernadotte was family. Even at Jena.

One thing I don't understand: why everyone keeps defending Bernadotte on the grounds of his successful reign in Sweden. I could care less about what the man did after 1815: but from 1812 to 1815 the man was a double-faced traitor, that sold out the country that made him rich, famous, successful and royal. He is a French Benedict Arnold.
 

KevinG

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One thing I don't understand: why everyone keeps defending Bernadotte on the grounds of his successful reign in Sweden. I could care less about what the man did after 1815: but from 1812 to 1815 the man was a double-faced traitor, that sold out the country that made him rich, famous, successful and royal. He is a French Benedict Arnold.
Maybe because he was a Swedish King and allying with Napoleon at the time would have been suicide? You said earlier he was a moron and a horrible diplomat for not allying with France... how exactly is saving his new country a bad thing? Would you rather he drag Sweden into the ground to fulfill some stupid and worthless oath to Napoleon? Honor and loyalty have no place in international diplomacy.
 

Alexandru H.

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Maybe because he was a Swedish King and allying with Napoleon at the time would have been suicide? You said earlier he was a moron and a horrible diplomat for not allying with France... how exactly is saving his new country a bad thing? Would you rather he drag Sweden into the ground to fulfill some stupid and worthless oath to Napoleon? Honor and loyalty have no place in international diplomacy.
:confused: Don't put words into my mouth! I did not say he was a horrible diplomat and certainly I did not bash him for working for the interests of Sweden.

What am I saying is what Napoleon was saying: fine, you're now king of Sweden. Should you forget about your homeland and just ally with Russia, the same nation that took from you only a few years ago Finland? He was lucky: the Allies didn't care about Sweden so much as to take Bernadotte out. Murat did the same thing and he was evacuated from his Neapolitan kingdom and later on killed. So it's not about good diplomacy, but about luck.

But let me doubt about his diplomatic skills, now that you mentioned them. In 1812 only a nutcase would have foreseen the fall of Napoleon. The fact that Bernadotte didn't use the invasion to take out Finland and becoming dangerous for Sankt Petersburg, the fact that he gladly joined the Allies in 1813, is not a case of great diplomacy, but of pure hatred towards Napoleon. The sign of mediocrity.
 

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Not according to the list. A great general is usually the one that kills the most soldiers in fair combat. Starving an enemy takes a different kind of skill.
No, if you're playing it fair you're doing it wrong.
 

DSMyers1

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No, a great general is the one who defeats the enemy. If it's in combat, it's generally a bad thing (it means more of your men are dying) if you can do it by starving the enemy out, SO much better.
Not according to the list. A great general is usually the one that kills the most soldiers in fair combat. Starving an enemy takes a different kind of skill.
The list is supposed to be governed by the first maxim, that which Arilou expounded, similar to the principles of Sun Tzu. It is just so hard to properly weight and balance the historical biases and evaluation of generals!

If the list gives the appearance that the principle described by Alexandru is that which is followed, the list needs revision!
 

KevinG

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The list is supposed to be governed by the first maxim, that which Arilou expounded, similar to the principles of Sun Tzu. It is just so hard to properly weight and balance the historical biases and evaluation of generals!

If the list gives the appearance that the principle described by Alexandru is that which is followed, the list needs revision!
Plenty of the generals listed here had several advantages over their enemies. Maybe not in manpower (although some generals like Napoleon did enjoy numerical superiority in many battles). Most battles in history are not fought between two completely even armies under even terrain and with equal logistics. The entire point of warfare is to use every trick you can think of so that you don't have to fight "fair".
 

Alexandru H.

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The list is supposed to be governed by the first maxim, that which Arilou expounded, similar to the principles of Sun Tzu. It is just so hard to properly weight and balance the historical biases and evaluation of generals!

If the list gives the appearance that the principle described by Alexandru is that which is followed, the list needs revision!
You're wrong.

Say you have to write a paper. Your professor shall grade the skill you've shown in writing it. But you don't write the paper, you have a genie friend that just materializes it on your professor's desk. How is the professor capable of determining your talent and skill if your paper lacks them?

My point is that the general outcome is barely interesting in determining a general's skills. If it were, we'd only have mediocre generals, that won their only battle; we wouldn't have Hannibal, Napoleon or Robert E. Lee. Forcing an enemy to surrender without fighting depends way too much on external factors: your adversary's incompetence, the way his supply lines are positioned etc. For me, a great general is the one that is placed in a box along an army of equal size and who manages to defeat it on the battlefield.

And an even better example: in the War of the Fourth Coalition, who do you think was the better general? Davout, that scored an impressive victory at Auerstadt, or Ney, who managed to make the fortress of Magdeburg, boasting 24,000 soldiers, to surrender without a fight?
 
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But let me doubt about his diplomatic skills, now that you mentioned them. In 1812 only a nutcase would have foreseen the fall of Napoleon. The fact that Bernadotte didn't use the invasion to take out Finland and becoming dangerous for Sankt Petersburg, the fact that he gladly joined the Allies in 1813, is not a case of great diplomacy, but of pure hatred towards Napoleon. The sign of mediocrity.
Bollocks.:)

If Sweden goes a rematch against Russia at that time, Russia brings in the UK against Sweden. If the UK had moved against Sweden, it would have been economically dead in ver short order, even if not directly invaded by it, which might have happened as well.

France and Napoléon was already toast at the time, it was only a matter of time, and Bernadotte knew it. It was all just politics.
 
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The sister of his wife was married to Joseph, the patriarch of the family. As Corsican laws go, Bernadotte was in the "second circle" of the Bonaparte family. It's one of the reasons Bernadotte was not forbidden to join the Swedish Royal Family: if Napoleon had given Murat a southern kingdom, surely Bernadotte couldn't have been denied of the northern counterpart. Also do remember the countless times Napoleon rewarded women that merely gave him attention when he was younger: Desiree was his first great love and any kind of "hatred" he would have felt for Bernadotte would have been melted by the sight of his wife.
Well, doesn't that just makes Napoléon the fool, unable to think outside his tribal Corsican box? And being unpardonably sentimental too boot?

But I strongly doubt either was the case. Not least because Napoléon clearly made his older brother subservient to himself and ran the family, and because Bernadotte clearly ignored the political musings of his very pro-Napoléon wife in Paris, and good thing that was too.
 

Alexandru H.

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Well, doesn't that just makes Napoléon the fool, unable to think outside his tribal Corsican box? And being unpardonably sentimental too boot?

But I strongly doubt either was the case. Not least because Napoléon clearly made his older brother subservient to himself and ran the family, and because Bernadotte clearly ignored the political musings of his very pro-Napoléon wife in Paris, and good thing that was too.
You're a Bernadotte fanboy.:wacko: It's easy to be for or against Napoleon, but praising Bernadotte for treason? That's very... swedish of you. :p

Bernadotte was pure lucky. As I said, his status in the eyes of the Allies was the same as Murat's: Napoleonic Marshals placed on thrones with Napoleon's blessing. But while Murat participated in the 1812 invasion, Bernadotte didn't. Does this make him a genius, for somehow predicting Napoleon's fall? Of course not, since his decision was basically decided by his personal relationship with the Emperor.

I don't call Bernadotte an incompetent. He was one of the better Napoleonic marshals (of course, not in the same league with Davout, Lannes or Massena) and he was clearly one of the smartest. Looking at the way his political philosophy changed over time (from a rabid Jacobine to an ultra-conservative, from a republican to a monarchist), I suppose someone could call him "Talleyrand, the Soldier". I wouldn't. Since you're dissing Napoleon for caring too much about his clan and the personal relationship with his family (that led in many ways to his downfall), why wouldn't we diss Bernadotte for following personal vendettas and not political realism? Just because he got lucky (if Napoleon would have obtained a beneficial peace in 1812, Bernadotte would have had to go barefooted all the way to Paris in order to excuse himself) doesn't make him a political genius.
 

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For reference, here are the criteria theoretically used by this list:

Evaluation of Generals

These are the primary facets to consider in evaluating generals’ skills:
1. Individual battlefield inspirational leadership—leadership of the soldier
a. Exemplary work/Personal bravery
b. Motivation
c. Discipline
d. Equipment (and hence innovation in equipment)
e. Logistics (small scale)​
2. Tactical mastery—gaining success on the battlefield
a. Maneuver
b. Anticipation
c. Timing
d. Deception of intentions
e. Organization of army
f. Selection of ground for battle
g. Disposition of troops
h. Reconnaissance
i. Evaluating options
j. Audacity at proper times
k. Understanding the enemy​
2.5. (Less important) Siege mastery—gaining success in sieges
a. Logistics
b. Engineering
c. Timing
d. Intelligence gathering
e. Motivation of troops​
3. Strategic mastery—gaining success in campaign through maneuver or battle
a. Logistics
b. Maneuver on large scale
c. Understanding opportunities
d. Diplomacy with allied armies/generals
e. Forcing battle when necessary
f. Obtaining results from victories in battles
g. Limiting fallout from defeats in battles
h. Choosing when to siege and when to bypass strong points
i. Large-scale organization of army(s)
j. Audacity at proper times
k. Evaluating the enemy’s options
l. Defense—fortifications​
4. Grand strategic mastery—gaining victory/the ends desired through the military campaigns (political victory/conquest)
a. Diplomacy with allies and foes
b. Intelligence gathering
c. Understanding when to go to war
d. Playing off rivalries
e. Properly using strategic victories
f. Choosing proper goals for campaigns
g. Peace negotiations
h. Pacification of inhabitants conquered​

All of these must be considered in relation to:
1. The relative strength of each side in each of these 4 facets
2. The skill of opponents
3. The economy with which victory in each of these 4 facets was one (in money, destruction of property, and manpower).
4. Where the general was limited by influences out of his control (for instance, many generals had no opportunity to exhibit facet #4, grand strategy).
5. Where generals were stabbed in the back/not supported by their own nations—see Barca, Hannibal.
6. Whether the methods in which victories were gained were innovative or common practice (a small influence, but perhaps should be considered).
7. The time scale of victories​
What is a general supposed to do? What ever is necessary to bring victory to his side. What does that mean? It depends on the circumstances. Some generals had control of the grand strategy, the overall conduct of the struggle; some did not. Tactics is a small and overrated part of the realm of generalship. The greatest general would win the war with a minimum of fighting... the bad general could fight and win battles, but fighting at the wrong time and place and handling diplomacy wrong would undermine the war--see Pyrrhus. I'm talking the theories espoused by Sun Tzu to a large extent here; I feel they are a good benchmark for generalship. I'm not just looking at battlefield leadership by any stretch, or even just campaign strategy.
 
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You're a Bernadotte fanboy.:wacko: It's easy to be for or against Napoleon, but praising Bernadotte for treason? That's very... swedish of you. :p
No at all. He ended his life as paranoid old dinosaur, holed up in the Royal Castle in Stockholm, afraid too sleep, lest the good Swedes would rise up an slit his throat. That was one of his great services to Sweden; becoming so out of touch with the realities of liberal political reform, he effectively shot himself in the foot all the time trying to stop it. (There is a tragicomic legal affair where Bernadotte using his royal power tried to intimidate the free press by having a death sentence passed over one of the writers. Of course, everyone knew he was bluffing, the writer himself stood up in court demanding to be executed, completely fearless, since everyone knew Bernadotte wouldn't have the balls, and if he did, he would have lost.)

He's a bit of a laughing stock, as soon as he tried to take on domestic Swedish politics. He a single attempt to address the House of Commons in Swedish, a language he did not understand. So the colloquial Swedish was written in French ortography, and then Bernadotte read the damn thing. While he knew what the speech was about, he had no idea exactly what he was saying, or how to say it. When he was finished, the chairman stood up and thanked his majesty for the nice speech, of which clearly no one had understood a word. And that was the beginning and end of Bernadotte's ambitions as king to perhaps directly influence politics through speech-making. Pretty pathetic for a man who in his native France was known for his fiery speeches and ability to sway people.

But he did what was politically sensible for Sweden in the Napoleonic wars, since he did understand the foreign policy issues.

I'm just riling you up here, since you are so disproportionally vehement in your condemnation of Bermadotte. And, frankly, seem downright sentimental about the whole thing.;)
 
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Since you're dissing Napoleon for caring too much about his clan and the personal relationship with his family (that led in many ways to his downfall), why wouldn't we diss Bernadotte for following personal vendettas and not political realism? Just because he got lucky (if Napoleon would have obtained a beneficial peace in 1812, Bernadotte would have had to go barefooted all the way to Paris in order to excuse himself) doesn't make him a political genius.
But I'm not!:)

I might however be dissing an interpretation of Napoléon, which seems to call in question whether he was even able to think outside the framework of Corsican family politics, specifically with regards to Bernadotte.

Essentially you seem to end up saying Napoléon couldn't think about a political and military rival, who was Minister of War at the time Napoléon was in Egypt, didn't support his Brumaire coup, and could have either fought Napoléon over it, or even tried to make it himself, outside the scope of "family"? That's odd, to my mind.

Then again, I've seen people who have claimed that a lot of the Napoleonic wars should be interpreted within the framework of a Corsican family feud between the Buonaparte family and the Pozzo di Borgo. Oh, and incidentally, the Pozzo di Borgos won that one.:D

As for Bernadotte's political realism, it was of the kind that he knew full well, that his personal future depended on having Sweden end up on the winning side in the Napoleonic wars, and that required not ending up in conflict with Russia and the UK. Not much luck involved in making that (rather obvious) call. You're the one imputing some kind of more nefarious and personal motives (sentimentality, again, it would seem) to Bernadotte. I don't think he would have been anything but the most loyal monarch in Europe to Napoléon, had said monsieur looked like the winning ticket. But, well, by the time Berndaotte got to Sweden, it was pretty obvious he was going down.

But as Berndaotte apparently put it to one French interlocutor:
"The King of Prussia, and the Emperor of Austria call me 'Brother', but I am only one defeat away from not being able to find a man in Europe willing to lend me six francs."

Pretty clear-sighted about his personal prospects I'd say.:)
 

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And an even better example: in the War of the Fourth Coalition, who do you think was the better general? Davout, that scored an impressive victory at Auerstadt, or Ney, who managed to make the fortress of Magdeburg, boasting 24,000 soldiers, to surrender without a fight?
Clausewritz would say Davout, but Sun Tzu would say Ney. That's an eternal debate.
 

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Clausewritz would say Davout, but Sun Tzu would say Ney. That's an eternal debate.
I certainly say Ney, in that example. He removed 24,000 from the opponent's strength, obtained a strong fortress, all at the loss of no men. Suppose he had stormed the fortress and forced it to surrender, killing or capturing all, at the loss of a mere 500 men... wouldn't that be worse than what actually happened? That is the statistician/engineer/economist in me speaking. It sure looks like simple algebra to me! It is the false desire for (and valuation) of the glory of battle that mars a correct evaluation of such a case.... In sports, it is why a home-run hitter is valued more than he actually produces in wins, or a scorer in basketball higher than he actually is worth to the team. Usually glory and the desire for it struggles against actual efficient victory.
 

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You're wrong.

Say you have to write a paper. Your professor shall grade the skill you've shown in writing it. But you don't write the paper, you have a genie friend that just materializes it on your professor's desk. How is the professor capable of determining your talent and skill if your paper lacks them?

My point is that the general outcome is barely interesting in determining a general's skills. If it were, we'd only have mediocre generals, that won their only battle; we wouldn't have Hannibal, Napoleon or Robert E. Lee. Forcing an enemy to surrender without fighting depends way too much on external factors: your adversary's incompetence, the way his supply lines are positioned etc. For me, a great general is the one that is placed in a box along an army of equal size and who manages to defeat it on the battlefield.

And an even better example: in the War of the Fourth Coalition, who do you think was the better general? Davout, that scored an impressive victory at Auerstadt, or Ney, who managed to make the fortress of Magdeburg, boasting 24,000 soldiers, to surrender without a fight?
Agreed. For a 'Top 100 General' it should be those who actually have hard campaign experience, not just those hippies who outsmart their opponents into not having to fight ;)
 

DSMyers1

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Agreed. For a 'Top 100 General' it should be those who actually have hard campaign experience, not just those hippies who outsmart their opponents into not having to fight ;)
Heh... to be top 100, it takes a lot more than just campaign experience or outsmarting opponents. That said, it is still better to win a campaign through outsmarting your opponent than by fighting 5 battles and losing 10% of your army! The objective is to win the war, not collect tactical victories (="Glory"). Alexandru's definition of a general seems rather limited.