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Napoleon's Commanders: Volume II
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For this list I returned to the Napoleonic Wars and looked at the French commanders who get less attention than famed men such as Murat, Ney, Davout, Desaix, and Lannes. This list represents a mix of superb subordinates, talentless hacks, and the those who only had a few great moments. Due to the relative obsecurity of many of these men, this list was a lot of fun and involved many hours on the internet and most importantly in the books on this era. I hope I can draw some attention to figures such as Lasalle, Friant, Larrey, Dumas, and Moreau among others. Also, don't forget to check out the second page, where I placed some other interesting fellows, who nonetheless I could not find enough information to give them a seperate entry.

The earlier list: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/38505/napoleons-comman...
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1. Board Game: Highway to the Kremlin [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:4621]
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Jerome Bonaparte


Jerome was the youngest of the Bonaparte siblings, and after a Catholic education, attached himself to Napoleon, serving in the Consular Guard until he was humiliated in a duel with Davout's brother. He transferred to the navy to escape ridicule. While in the Caribbean he abandoned his post and took refuge in Baltimore, where in 1803 he married the witty and beautiful Elizabeth Patterson. An enraged Napoleon had Elizabeth barred from returning to Europe and when Pope Pius VII declined to annul the marriage, Napoleon did it himself. Elizabeth lived in Britain, and never saw Jerome again. Meanwhile, her husband served in the navy while Napoleon was winning Austerlitz.

By 1807 Jerome was commanding a corps. After Friedland he married Catharina of Württemberg, and was named king of Westphalia, an amalgamation of former German principalities. Always a pleasure seeker, Jerome spent vast sums on remodeling the court, and this lushness embarrassed the more Spartan Napoleon. Impressive constitutional reforms and the implementation of a parliamentary government seem to have not been due to Jerome's actions, which mostly consisted of drinking and fornicating. While he had an envied reputation as a true patron of the arts, this forced him to raise taxes, and he became a joke in his nation. In 1809 he led X Corps, but there was almost a mutiny due to his incompetence. Napoleon's faith in him had diminished an he gave Davout free reign in Westphalia. For the Russian invasion Jerome led VIII Corps, and his lethargy was one reason why the Russians escaped Napoleon's attempts to destroy their armies at the border. Jerome made it worse by refusing to take orders from Davout, and when Napoleon berated him for living like a sultan on campaign, he returned to Westphalia. In 1813 he led a spirited but foolish attempt to defend his kingdom after Leipzig. By 1814 his kingdom was no more and Napoleon refused to see him, while Louis XVIII had him exiled. In 1815 he rallied to Napoleon, who gave him a division of infantry, which he led without skill at Waterloo. Jerome lived aboard after 1815, returning to France in 1847, when he supported Napoleon III. In return, Jerome was named heir, made a marshal, and president of the senate before dying in 1860.

Joseph, Louis, and Lucien each had talents, and we can pity them for Napoleon's familial bullying. Jerome, feckless and incompetent, elicits no pity, and certainly his other brothers were vastly more talented. What can be said is that none of the brothers were particularly lucky. Interestingly, his grandson, Charles Joseph Bonaparte, served as US secretary of the Navy and Attorney General before creating the Bureau of Investigation, later to become the FBI.


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2. Board Game: The Peninsular War 1808-14 [Average Rating:5.75 Unranked]
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Joseph Bonaparte


Joseph was the eldest of the Bonaparte brothers. Trained as a lawyer, he had a strong taste for literature and Enlightenment philosophy. Joseph joined the Revolutionaries, and after service as ambassador to Parma and Rome, he married Julie Clary, although he kept mistresses. Joseph's political influence grew and he provided Napoleon with much needed support. In 1796 he secured precious supplies for Napoleon's army and in by 1799 he had won over many intellectuals to Bonaparte's cause. After Napoleon became First Consul, Joseph was involved in the treaty that ended the Quasi War with America, and the treaties of Luneville and Amiens.

Joseph served on Napoleon's staff at Austerlitz, and was then sent to Naples, where he assumed the crown in spite of a strong insurgency and the British presence in Sicily. Nevertheless, his reforms were effective and Joseph grew to love his position in Naples; it was with great reluctance that he accepted the Spanish crown. A better diplomat and lawyer than a soldier, the pressures of guerrilla warfare and Wellington's ever present army were too much, although he was popular with the Spanish middle class and his 1812 constitution was considered to be among the best of the nineteenth century. With a depleted treasury, and a kingship that was only really effective in Madrid, Joseph begged Napoleon to remove him. He never was, and his quarrel with Soult, and lack of financial acumen, only added to his woes. He was actually a solid strategist, as shown by his plans for the campaigns of 1809 and 1812, when he helped drive Wellington out of Madrid. However, on the battlefield was in capable of decisive action. His interference at Talavera cost the French a victory. Nominally in command at the disastrous Battle of Vitoria, he fled to France and was posted in Paris, where his gloomy disposition only became worse. He rallied to Napoleon in 1815, but fled France after Waterloo. He lived in England and then America, where he sired children and managed to have a lake named after himself. The main claimant to the imperial throne of France for nearly 30 years, he died happily in Italy, the land he truly loved.

Joseph was an excellent diplomat and politician. His support was key to Napoleon's rise to power, and if he had died in 1808 he would be remembered as talented. Spain was obviously above his abilities, but whether anyone could have mastered the situation is highly questionable, since Napoleon and Soult undermined his authority. Joseph gave Napoleon a warning unheeded: "Your glory will be shipwrecked in Spain. My tomb will be a monument to your lack of power to support me." Tragically, Napoleon only recognized this during his exile on St. Helena.


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3. Board Game: Napoleon in Italy [Average Rating:6.85 Unranked]
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Guillaume Brune


Brune was a lawyer's son and chose to follow his father's trade. In addition, to his studies in Paris he became a poet and political journalist and befriended the republican thinkers in the city. Naturally, he embraced the Revolution and was made a general in 1793 through his friendship with Danton, although he hated Robespierre's liberal use of the guillotine. He came to some prominence when, with Napoleon and Murat, he put down the 13 Vendémiaire Royalist uprising. When Napoleon invaded Italy, Brune served as a brigade commander and was among Bonaparte's most trusted officers. However, his stern manner and harsh discipline made him unpopular, while his reputation for plunder was considerable. He led the army that occupied Switzerland and defended Holland from a British invasion by wining the Battle of Castricum. During the 1800 Italian Campaign he won a major victory at Pozzolo, which finally forced Austria to give up the war. He failed to pacify the Vendee in spite of some successful skirmishes, and the success of his successor, Bernadotte, only deepened their mutual antipathy.

By 1804, Brune was serving successfully as diplomat to the Ottoman Empire when Napoleon named him a marshal. At this point he was on the surface one of France's brightest stars. He had won victories on his own and was a superb administrator. However, Brune was never an inspiring fellow, and he remained an out-spoken republican, which made Napoleon wary. Nonetheless, he left Brune in command of Paris in 1805, then called him up for the war with Prussia. Brune led the northern wing of the invasion and occupied Swedish Pomerania. However, his friendly discussions with King Gustav IV of Sweden raised too many flags. Napoleon removed him in 1807, in part due to shady business deals in Hamburg, and refused to put him in the field. Brune, while retaining his political ideas, declined to intrigue against Napoleon and remained in effective exile. 1815 saw him return to the colors, partially because Napoleon needed generals, but also giving Brune a command would show that Napoleon was willing to favor the republican faction. Regardless, Brune was given command of an army on the Italian border and faced the Austrians, but no large battles were fought. With Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, Brune rode to Paris to give himself up. At Avingnon he was confronted by a royalist mob which proceeded to rip his body apart and cast him the Rhone River.

Brune was the most famous victim of The White Terror, but he was not forgotten. His body was recovered and entombed a Pyramid shaped monument. This was indeed symbolic: many of Napoleon's generals retained liberal and republican sentiments and would continue to do so even after 1815. As for Brune, he was a fine general and poorly utilized by Napoleon after 1807. Men like him were needed in the secondary theaters, and I think many historians have been unkind to the reliable Brune.


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4. Board Game: Wellington's War: the Peninsular Campaign 1809-1814 [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
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Bertrand Clausel


Clausel came from humble origins and was a young revolutionary. Clausel soon distinguished himself in combat and was made a general in 1795. He fought in Italy while Napoleon was in Egypt, seeing action at the defeats at Trebbia and Novi. Disaster seemed to follow Clausel; he was sent to San Domingo during the disastrous attempt to reclaim the colony. While Napoleon was winning Jena, Clausel was commanding a division in southern Italy, where partisans and British regulars were causing the French a great deal of trouble.

Despite being part of many defeats, Clausel was able to come out with a good reputation, and after service with Marmont in Dalmatia he was sent to Portugal under Massena, where he proved to be a master of discipline and marching. At Salamanca he took over after Marmont was wounded, but by then the situation was impossible and Clausel himself was wounded. Clausel tried his best to win, and while beaten, he did succeed in avoiding a total disaster. He continued service in Spain, fighting well at Burgos and later under Soult, who treated him as his right-hand man. When the Bourbons came to power he only grudgingly accepted them. He rushed to Napoleon in 1815, commanded the Army of the Pyrenees, but after Waterloo he was bitter and rather than accept the Bourbons he went to America in the Vine and Olive Colony in Alabama. He returned in 1820, remaining an erstwhile liberal. Named a marshal for supporting Louis-Phillipe I, he was active in military affairs in Algeria, but following a defeat, he was removed from command and the subject of scorn until his death.

Clausel was skilled in discipline, marching, and battle tactics. If any general underlines the need for luck it is Clausel. His entire career was fraught with outside forces dictating his fortunes. He fought well in defeats such as Trebbia and Salamanca. In Algeria he was undone in part by government sabotage.


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5. Board Game: Jena [Average Rating:5.97 Overall Rank:8361]
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Auguste de Colbert


Colbert came from a aristocratic family of cavalry generals; all three of his brothers would command horsemen in the Napoleonic Wars. His early training was extensive, and included languages and horsemanship, both of which he showed natural skill. Colbert was too young to take part in the 1792 campaigns, but at age 16 he was a private. Soon after he was made a staff officer, serving under Grouchy and then Murat in Italy and Egypt, where he gained the recognition of Bonaparte, who gave him a combat command. For meritorious conduct at Acre, Napoleon presented Colbert with a pair of pistols. At Marengo he was again on Murat's staff, and once again he performed superbly. Colbert was apparently an easy man to like, being courteous, brave, and fiercely loyal. Sometimes cold, he became very emotional when drunk, which is probably why he stayed away from the bottle.

After good service at Ulm and Austerlitz, Colbert was sent on a hopeless diplomatic mission to Russia, but was at long last promoted to general. For the 1806 campaign Colbert was given command of a brigade of light cavalry in Ney's VI corps, where his combination of strict discipline and leadership made his unit elite. Ney soon proclaimed him to be one of the finest cavalry commanders, noting in particular that he provided accurate intelligence and was adept at stopping the enemy cavalry from penetrating his screens. At Jena he led several charges; at Friedland he was in the thick of the fighting. Colbert accompanied Ney into Spain and was in hot pursuit of John Moore's British army along the River Cua. Colbert's cavalry drove in the British lines, but Thomas Plunket, a noted marksmen of the 95th Rifles, killed Colbert at long range, and a major who tried to save him. The result was the French fell back in shock, but it is worth noting that even the British admired the gallant Colbert, and several men cried at his death.

Colbert never came to command anything more than a brigade, but his loss was universally mourned. Napoleon had already marked him for higher command, and officers from Desaix to Murat had only high praise for his actions. For the elite rifleman of the British army, it is doubtful they ever took down a more courageous or capable officer.


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6. Board Game: Napoleon on the Danube [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:4307]
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Antoine Drouot


Drout hailed from Nancy, a baker's son who at age 19 joined a Revolutionary artillery unit, quickly earning notoriety for his superb use of canon, strong religion, and modest manner, the later two being rarities in the French military. After almost constant service, including action at Fleurus and Hohenlinden, he was attached to the navy and present at Trafalgar, on board Indomptable, which actually did well in the battle only to be lost in an accident that claimed most of the crew.

In 1808 Drouot transferred to the guard artillery, and his brilliant service at Wagram marked him for promotion. The Russian Campaign only enhanced his reputation, and in spite of many strange quirks which included his preference for wearing an old artillery uniform in action, and carrying a Bible in battle. Nevertheless, his courage and modesty made him a legend with the gunners. Leipzig was to be his finest hour. His guns, placed on Gallows Heights, racked the Coalition with fire and caused Napoleon to once say "Had I possessed 30,000 artillery rounds at Leipzig today I would be master of the world." After the defeat Drouot built upon his reputation, with another fine performance at Hanau. He was governor of Elba, and assisted Napoleon in his return, although he was pessimistic about the chances of sucess. When Mortier fell ill, he was given command of the entire Imperial Guard shortly before the Waterloo Campaign. Like Soult and Ney his talents were wasted in a position he had little experience with. After the defeat, and in spite of the Bourbons desire to execute him, he turned himself over and was pardoned. However, he turned down all offers to return to the army, and died quietly in 1847.

Drouot's piety and modesty may have been rarities, but his artillery skills were part of the French military's excellence in this arm. His men loved him and Napoleon held him in the highest regard. Arguably, he only failed Napoleon at Waterloo, but here he was simply a man out of his element fighting in what was probably Napoleon's worst battlefield performance.


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7. Board Game: Waterloo: Napoleon's Last Battle [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:3720]
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Guillaume Philibert Duhesme


Coming from a wealthy family of lawyers, Duhesme gave up the family practice to raise a regiment in 1792. He earned distinction at Neerwinden and Fleurus, before serving under Kleber on the Rhine. In 1797, at Dirsheim, he rallied his troops by beating upon a drum with the pommel of his sword, which was quickly followed with a successful charge. This act made him a hero in France and buttressed an already impressive combat reputation. In 1798 he was sent to Italy and earned further distinction. In 1800 he led a corps in Italy, seizing Milan but not fighting at Marengo.

In 1805 Duhesme led a division under Massena. In 1806 he published the highly regarded Historical Essay on Light Infantry. In 1808 he was once again in corps command, this time in Spain. Among his greatest feats was the capture of Barcelona, where he persuaded the Spanish governor to admit a convoy of sick Frenchmen. When they were let inside, his grenadiers leapt from their stretchers and captured the castle. Left to hold the region, he successfully defeated a Spanish siege. However, rumors of excessive cruelty and looting hurt his reputation. Augereau, himself guilty of the same transgressions, accused Duhesme of thievery, perhaps to take suspicion away from himself. Duhesme was relieved in 1810, but by 1813 he was back in command, fighting under Victor throughout the 1814 campaign in France. When Napoleon returned Duhesme joined him, and was rewarded with command of the Young Guard. He fought superbly at Ligny, but while defending Plancenoit at Waterloo, he was mortally wounded, making him one of the last generals to die in the Napoleonic Wars.

Duhesme was a hard fighting general, and an able leader of light troops. He never directly served under Napoleon until 1814, and Duhesme instantly impressed him. This is a shame, because Duhesme had corps experience before 1805, and should have served in some corps command by 1806.


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8. Board Game: Napoleon's Italian Campaigns [Average Rating:5.06 Unranked]
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Thomas-Alexandre Dumas


A native of Saint-Domingue, Dumas was the bastard son of Alexandre-Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie, a French nobleman, and Marie-Césette Dumas, a Haitian farm manager. His father took great care of him, and brought Dumas to Paris in 1780, where he led the life of a minor noble. In 1786 his father married, and the protocols of society intervened to separate the two. Dumas joined the dragoons out of desperation. To avoid scandal with his father, he assumed his mother's name. Dumas was a tall man of imposing strength with a natural dash that impressed everyone, although like many nobles he tended to squander money.

When the Revolution offered the opportunity for advancement, and a breaking down of racial barriers, Dumas ardently embraced it. In 1789 he was posted in Villers-Cotterêts, where he met his wife. He fought under Charles Dumouriez in the 1792 campaign. By 1793 he was a general leading cavalry along the Pyrenees, then in the Vendee, and along the Alps. In 1796 he led a cavalry division in Italy under Napoleon. He won fame and was called "Black Devil" by the Austrians. At first he did not get along with Napoleon and he even cursed Berthier in a letter. His victories converted the skeptic Bonaparte into an admirer, especially after he single-handedly bested an Austrian cavalru squandron. He was a natural selection to command the cavalry in Egypt, but after the Pyramids things fell apart. Dumas became hyper critical of Napoleon, and with Kleber, he discussed mutiny. When he got sick Napoleon was quick to replace him, and ungenerously scoffed at the man he found indispensable in Italy. Dumas left for France, but his ship was forced to enter Taranto. There he was imprisoned and tortured, while the government of France made no attempt to ransom him. Released in 1800, he was partially paralyzed, blind in one eye, deaf in one ear, and physically broken. He was given no pension, partially because Napoleon still held a grudge, but also because the French were planning an expedition to retake Saint-Domingue, and racial acceptance was no longer en vogue. In 1802 his wife gave birth to Alexandre Dumas, destined to gain fame by writing The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. By 1806 the elder Dumas was dead. His posthumopus reputation grew with the fame his son, and his name was included on the Arc de Triomphe.

Dumas represents the complicated legacy of race within the Revolution. At first there were attempts to hold Saint-Domingue in place, then came the moment of liberation, followed by Napoleon's attempt to reestablish slavery. For this reason, the memory of Dumas is a subject in of itself. In 1906 a statue was raised in his honor, but the Nazis tore it down and no attempt was made to restore it. In 2009 a statue was put up, with Nicolas Sarkozy attending the ceremony. However, the statue featured broken shackles although Dumas was never a slave.


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9. Board Game: Bailen [Average Rating:7.39 Unranked]
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Pierre-Antoine Dupont


Dupont was active in the Revolutionary Wars, and his service included time in combat and staff roles, with his actions at Valmy and Menen gaining the attention of Carnot. He supported Napoleon's rise to power, and was attached to Berthier for the 1800 campaign, gaining notoriety at Pozzolo under Brune. Dupont was a hard fighting and aggressive leader, known for undertaking tough marches. However, he was also a scholar, writing poetry and in his later life translating Homer and Horace.

For the 1805 campaign Dupont was attached to Ney's VI Corps. He fought brilliantly at Haslach, defeating an Austrian force over 3 times his size by attacking the Austrians head on, and thus insuring that Mack did not escape Ulm. At Dürenstein he saved Mortier from destruction, but his battered division was shredded and he was forced to sit out Austerlitz. He returned at Friedland, where his men charged the Russian Guards and threw them back. By 1808 Dupont was seen as being among the best fighting commanders, and as his reward he was named a corps commander in Spain. At the orders of Murat, he was sent to Andalusia to quell a revolt. Although Dupont's superb battlefield reputation made him a worthy adversary, his corps was made up of raw recruits and Swiss troops who only recently had been serving the Spanish. The Swiss deserted and Dupont, wounded in battle, was forced to surrender at Bailen, partially under threat that his command would be massacred if they tried to escape. The surrender of over 17,000 French soldiers ruined the tenuous situation in Spain and made Dupont a subject of scorn. When the victory inspired more rebellions in Spain, and Austria to declare war in 1809, Bailen came to be seen as a French military disaster without equal since Rossbach. Court-martialed, imprisoned, and denied visitors, which led to rumors of his murder, the angry Dupont became a partisan for the Bourbons. He was named minister of war in 1814, but his reactionary politics made him unpopular, and after 1815 his only position was deputy for the Charente. He did write on military matters, but his treatises failed to achieve the fame of Jomini and Clausewitz.

Before Bailen Dupont had a divisional combat record equal to that of Friant and Saint-Hillaire. His fall from power is understandable, but Napoleon's rage was so incredible that any officer who survived Bailen could be the subject of his dreaded scorn. Dupont was over-aggressive, but the defection of the Swiss was perhaps the decisive stroke. Napoleon might have been wrong to punish Dupont, but he understandably wanted his officers to dread the idea of surrender.


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10. Board Game: La Bataille d'Orthez [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:3319]
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Maximilien Sebastien Foy


Foy was the son of a French army officer and and English girl. A teenager during the Revolution, he was commissioned into the artillery in 1792 and saw action at Valmy. In 1794 he critiqued the extremism of the Jacobins and almost landed in jail; his liberal leanings caused him to support the Directory, and he saw nearly continuous service under Moreau and Massena. Foy was a harsh critic of Napoleon, and in 1803 he refused a position on his staff, and while this angered Napoleon, he was impressed with Foy's honesty and military talents. Foy, while critical of the new regime, decided to stay in the service.

After service at Ulm, Foy was sent to Turkey to teach French tactics to the Turkish officers, but the murder of Sultan Selim III and the resulting political chaos ended his mission. Foy was then sent to Portugal with an artillery command, beginning his long tour of duty aganist Wellington and his proclivity for getting wounded and fighting well in the midst of many French defeats. At Vimeiro he was wounded and captured. He later fought at Corunna, and then took part in Soult's 1810 invasion of Portugal. Captured again, he was nearly executed, but managed to convince the Portuguese he was not the hated general Louis Loison. After an adventurous escape he was back in command, fighting at Porto and Bussaco, before being promoted on the spot by Napoleon after giving him a report on Massena's collapsing position in Portugal. In 1812 he commanded troops at the defeat at Salamanca, but got some revenge at Burgos, Wellington's first defeat. After the disaster at Vitoria, which he was not present at, Foy collected 20,000 troops and led them on a skillful retreat to the Pyrenees. When Soult was given command, he naturally leaned upon Foy, who fought creditably in all the final battles. At Orthez he was left for dead, but once again he survived. In 1815 he supported Napoleon's return, having no love for Louis XVIII, and once again he faced Wellington, this time at Waterloo where he suffered yet another wound. Foy was not heavily proscribed by Louis XVIII, and he joined the Chamber of Deputies in 1819, becoming an eloquent and effective leader of the liberal opposition party, so much so that Wellington remarked "Foy was a greater man in their Parliament than in war." He died in 1825 of heart failure before he could complete his acclaimed history of the Peninsular War.

Foy was a courageous officer and throughout the Peninsular War he proved his worth. The British held him in high regard, and curiously they gave Foy information on stock market performances because Foy had investments in England. Nevertheless, Foy was a life long moderate who believed that France's high point was the early days of the Revolution. While no admirer of Napoleon, he seems to have held him as the lesser of many evils. Napoleon, for his part, kept Foy active, although whether he truly marked him for promotion is up to speculation. That Foy did not lead a corps at Waterloo is yet another example of why that campaign was Napoleon at his worst.


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11. Board Game: Austerlitz: December 1805 [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Louis Friant


The son of a wax-maker, Friant served in the French army from 1781-1787, including time as a grenadier of the royal guard but he resigned. When revolution came he joined the national guard, then fought as a colonel along the German border, seeing action at Fleurus and in numerous sieges. He attained a reputation for strict discipline, hard fighting, and bravery, as evidenced by the numerous wounds he gathered. He served as a brigade commander in Napoleon's later Italian Campaigns, then fought under Desaix in Egypt. Left in Egypt, he fought well enough but was forced to surrender in 1801. Upon his return to France he served as inspector general of infantry.

In his service Friant had become friend, and then brother in law, to Davout. Thus he was posted to serve under Davout as a division commander. He turned his unit into a fighting force second to none. At Austerlitz he marched his division over 70 miles of ground in 36 hours, arriving just in time to save the right flank. Friant further built upon his fighting reputation at Auerstädt, Eyalu, Eckmuhl, Ratisbon, and Wagram. At Borodino he was severely wounded, and was unable to join the army in Moscow. When he returned, Napoleon posted him with the Old Guard, fighting from Dresden until Napoleon's abdication. Louis XVIII, wanting to win over such a tough soldier and acknowledging his former service to Louis XVI, posted him with the new Royal Guard, but Friant joined Napoleon in 1815, leading the Old Guard at Ligny and Waterloo, where he received the last of his many wounds. He retired and lived quietly to the age of 70.

Napoleon and Davout both regarded Friant as a premiere division commander, which begs the question: why was he never given a corps? Partially it was old age. By the time of Austerlitz he was 47. In addition, Friant's manner was very rough, and while popular with the men, he never felt comfortable around the Bonapartes. Also, Friant, while having a martial bearing, was not noted for his intelligence, and Davout seems to have regarded division command as the threshold of his abilities. When other great division commanders, such as Oudinot and Vandamme, failed in corps command, it must have made Napoleon pause and heed Davout's advice. Nevertheless, Friant's combat reputation had few equals in any army of the era.


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12. Board Game: La Bataille de Valmy [Average Rating:5.77 Unranked]
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Francois Christophe Kellermann


Kellermann was of Saxon descent, hailing from a family of minor nobility in Strasbourg. Apparently the French nobility saw him as more or less middle class. Thus his his rise through the ranks, despite good service in the Seven Years War, was slow. He was named a general in 1784. Kellermann enthusiastically embraced the Revolution, leading an army in Alsace, and winning the decisive, if nearly bloodless, Battle of Valmy, which saved Paris from a Prussian/Austrian army. Kellermann built a reputation as superb drillmaster and organizer, with a steady presence that inspired his troops. After ending a rebellion in Lyon, his royalist connections landed him in jail, although he was released in 1795. He led the Army of Italy but was out-maneuvered, which led to transfer to the Army of the Alps in 1796.

Kellermann entered politics in 1799 and supported Napoleon. Bonaparte, both in recognition of past services and due to his need to secure such an influential man, named Kellermann a Marshal, and made him commander of reserve formations in France. Thus it was Kellermann who typicially organized, drilled, and generally prepared Napoleon's troops for battle, and in this role he was superb. Also his son, Francois Étienne, fought throughout the wars. Kellermann supported Napoleon's removal, and did not aid him in 1815, although his son did. He served with the Liberal faction in the Chamber of Peers until his death in 1820.

While not active after 1797, Kellermann was an important part of Napoleon's war machine. While always a republican, Kellermann was also a hard realist. He supported Napoleon until it was obvious that the emperor had lost his touch. In all things, Kellermann was fair, if not brilliant.


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13. Board Game: Marengo [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:3988]
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Francois-Etienne Kellermann


The son of François Christophe de Kellermann, Francois-Etienne served in his father's hussar regiment. In 1791 he left the military for diplomatic service, but returned to serve his father from 1793-1796, when he joined Napoleon in Italy. Kellermann won Napoleon's respect, and fought in Italy after Bonaparte left for Egypt. At Marengo he led a heavy cavalry charge in support of Desaix's attack, which broke several Austrian regiments and won the day. Although Kellermann felt he did not gain enough recognition for his part, Napoleon would dismiss Kellermann's financial indiscretions and rapacious looting by reminding his critics of Marengo. It also helped that he was extremely charismatic and popular with the soldiers.

Kellermann served as one of the premier cavalry generals in the Napoleonic Wars. He led a division of light horse at Austerlitz. He commanded infantry under Junot at Vemeiro, and helped negotiate the generous surrender terms offered after that disaster. Although his looting was condemned by many, his combat record in Spain was impressive, but he retired due to poor health in 1811. By 1813 he was leading a cavalry corps in Germany. He disagreed with his father over Napoleon's return from Elba, rallying to him in the Hundred Days. His brilliant charges at Quatre Bras almost broke the Anglo-Allied lines, and at Waterloo his cavalry manged to destroy several regiments, although Ney's charges decimated his command. Heavily proscribed by the Bourbons, upon his father's death he joined the Chamber of Peers and was an active opponent of Charles X. His son, François Christophe Edmond de Kellerman, continued to serve in politics and diplomacy, but with his death the line ended.

Kellermann's charisma, bravery, and shrewd use of cavalry made him a legend in his day. He is often placed with Lasalle and Murat as among France's best leaders of horse, and in battle he never disappointed. However, he was overly protective of his reputation and a notorious looter. That such actions did not earn more censure explains how French policy made occupation and governance difficult, even if it made campaigning easier.


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14. Board Game: Les Pyramides 1798 [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:5306]
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Antoine Lasalle


Lasalle was a minor noble from Metz who served in the royalist cavalry, becoming noted as an excellent rider and fighter. He was eager when revolution swept France, and when his aristocratic origins cost him his rank, he actually seems to have welcomed the news. In the campaigns in Flanders he was named for promotion, but turned down several offers, until being made a staff officer by Kellermann in 1795. Although cultured and witty around officers, he maintained the air of a swaggering, swearing fighter around the men, and seemed to revel in sleeping with foreign women during raids and reconnaissance missions behind enemy lines. Of all his vices, drink was perhaps the worst, and to his critics he maintained that any hussar not dead before 30 was a blackguard. Under Napoleon in Italy, his actions at first exasperated the Corsican, but at Rivoli his charges were impressive and in the Pyramids he hit the rear of the Mameluke army.

Upon his return to France, Lasalle tried to settle down with a wife, but he maintained a reckless life, complete with debts and affairs. He also started the "Society of Alcoholics." By 1805 he was fighting at Austerlitz. After the great pursuit following Jena he pulled off the greatest stunt of his career, when he bluffed 10,00 Prussians into surrendering the fortress at Stettin to his 500 hussars. After this he brilliantly led a cavalry division in the Polish Campaign. Although he fought well in Spain, he seems to have seen the whole enterprise as a waste, and was happy to be attached to Massena for the Danube Campaign. He fought with customary elan at Aspern-Essling, but at Wagram he died attempting to pursue the Austrians.

Lasalle's life was an adventure; his exploits read like a Sharpe novel. Marbot was perceptive in noting that he was not a great role model, due to his erratic behavior. He was at his best on campaign, being a superb leader who could charge, pursue, and win the vital war of outposts that provides intelligence. Only Jean Curély and Colbert can compare, but neither had quite as long or impressive careers. My entry cannot do Lasalle credit; he requires books and movies, and it is too bad he has not received more attention in English accounts. He remains as an example of the pitfalls and the joys of the reckless life.


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15. Board Game: Borodino 1812 [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
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Dominique Jean Larrey


Larrey was born to middle-class parents in the Pyrenees. Although orphaned at age 13, he was apprenticed to be a doctor, working with his uncle, Alexis, and then under the great Pierre Desault. Like so many in his social class, he embraced the Revolution. He served in the army as a surgeon, first along the Rhine, then in Italy under Napoleon. It was while observing the rapid deployment of French artillery that he invented the flying ambulance, intended to quickly retrieve the wounded and bring them to field hospitals. He also favored amputation, treatment of wounds based upon seriousness, and medical care for the wounded enemy. Napoleon agreed to all of these reforms.

Larrey was named chief surgeon to the Imperial Guard for Austerlitz, and was entrusted with the medical care of high ranking generals. In spite of his sucess as surgeon, high moral character, and willingness to perform surgery himself, and not simply administer, he had rivals. Napoleon's esteem for Larrey knew no bounds, and after Larrey lost his sword at Eylau Napoleon gave him his personal sword, an occurrence never again repeated. His services at Wagram won him a barony. By 1812 Larrey was chief army surgeon, and after Borodino he worked for 24 straight hours in surgery. Although he rallied to Napoleon in 1815, his position was given to Pierre Percy. At first Larrey resigned, but he did eventually serve as chief surgeon to the guard. When Wellington saw him at work, he ordered that no one should fire upon Larrey. When captured by the Prussians, he was almost executed, but a Prussian surgeon noticed him and Blucher relented because he remembered that Larrey had previously saved his wounded son. Afterwords, Larrey served as chief surgeon to Louis-Phillipe I, although his rivals once again had him removed. He spent the remainder of his days writing medical treatises that were used well into the 20th century and translated into countless languages.

Larrey was an innovator of the highest caliber. Before him armies rarely cared for the wounded, with the Russians being the worst offenders. Larrey's reforms, while crude by today's standards, were almost revolutionary, and modern battlefield medicine essentially begins with him. While rather poor at internal military politics, and sometimes too willing to undertake surgery to the determent of his administrative responsibilities, he was a celebrated figure among the troops, particularly as he would operate on a severely wounded private before attending to a lightly wounded officer. Napoleon planned to erect a monument to him, and declared that he was "the most virtuous man that I have ever known."


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16. Board Game: Wagram [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:4924]
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Jacques Lauriston


Lauriston was a born in India in 1768 to a Scottish general in French service. Before the Revolution he was an artillery officer, and actually took classes with Napoleon when they were young cadets, making him one of Bonaparte's first acquaintances. Lauriston cautiously accepted the Revolution, and served in various staff functions in Paris, before being sent to the field in 1795. Although he resigned in 1796 for reasons unknown, Napoleon enticed him to return and at Marengo he was on Napoleon's staff.

After Marengo Lauriston headed the La Fère artillery school before taking on diplomatic duties in Denmark and Britain. For the 1805 campaign he was given a division in Italy, where he occupied Venice. In 1808 he was at the Erfrut meeting between Napoleon and Alexander I, impressing the young Tsar. After good service in Spain, Lauriston was sent to serve under Eugene in Italy, commanding a division with success at Raab. At Wagram he was given the guard artillery. Despite his good combat record, Napoleon wanted him in the diplomatic service, and sent him as his representative in Russia, but the situation had already devolved into war. Lauriston commanded a division in Russia and was sent by Napoleon to negotiate an end to the war after Moscow fell. After the disastrous retreat, Napoleon decided to give Lauriston command of V Corps. His actions at Lutzen were commendable, but at Bautzen he did not press the attack on the Spree with enough vigor. While Ney shares most of the blame, Lauriston contributed to the incomplete victory. At Leipzig he fell into the enemy's hands and embraced the Bourbons in 1814. He remained loyal in 1815, and his reward was a spot on the chamber of peers, command of the royal guard, membership in the upper nobility, and eventually a marshal's baton.

Lauriston was a gifted combat commander, although corps command seemed to be a bit above his head. As a diplomat he was respected by nearly everyone, and the failure of most of his missions had more to do with Napoleon's increasingly incompetent decisions in that regard. Lauriston was not a particularly loyal man. His ideas changed with the political wind, as he came to support numerous regimes that he simply abandoned when the time was right. This combination of opportunism and ability explains why he remained in public service almost continuously from 1786 to 1828, when he finally died.


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17. Board Game: Napoleon and the Archduke Charles: The Battle of Abensberg [Average Rating:6.00 Overall Rank:7148]
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François Lefebvre


Lefebvre was an Alsatian who served in the royal army from 1773-1789. He was a sergeant-major and friend of Michel Ordener, who later commanded units in the Imperial Guard. During the Revolutionary Wars he mostly fought under Jourdan, winning fame at Fleurus and a serious wound at Ostrach. Although a respected general, he retained his Barracks manner which made him popular with the troops. In addition, his wife was an earthy washer woman who never embraced the pomp of France after 1794, which only added to his rugged persona. By 1799 he was in charge of the Paris garrison, and when Napoleon returned from Egypt, Lefebvre was ready to arrest him. However, the Directory had snubbed Lefebvre, and Napoleon won him over. Napoleon also liked his simple and direct manner. Lefebvre was made a marshal, given a prominent role in the coronation, and remained a favorite at court.

Lefebvre was posted with the guard from 1805-1806 before being tasked with the siege of Danzig. After service in Spain, he led Bavarian troops in the 1809 Danube Campaign. At first he fought well enough, particularly at Abensberg and Eckmühl. However, when Tyrol rebelled, Lefebvre was sent to stop it, only to be beaten by Andreas Hofer at Bergisel. It did not help that his rough manners had upset his Bavarian allies. Although Hofer was later defeated by Lefebvre's friend and protege, Jean-Baptiste d'Erlon, Lefebvre was rebuked. Still a favorite with the guard, he led the Old Guard and its famous Grognards from 1812-1814. Although he supported Napoleon's abdication, and was handsomely rewarded by the Bourbons, he joined Bonaparte in 1815, but was by then seen as too old for active command. In 1819 the Bourbons gave him back his titles and he died the following year.

No one could ever claim that Lefebvre was a great general. Lacking imagination, but not courage, he was a hard fighter. Outside of Mortier, few of the Napoleonic marshals were as esteemed throughout the army, and that is a minor miracle in itself.


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18. Board Game: The 6 Days of Glory [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:3921]
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Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes


The son of a draper, Lefebvre always desired a military career. He tried to join the army three times but each time his family paid for his removal. When he joined the National Guard in 1789 his family did nothing to stop him, and after a short time out of the military, he was back in 1792 and saw extensive service in the German theater. He served as a private until promoted to lieutenant in 1797. In 1800 he was attached to Napoleon's staff and impressed the first consul; after Marengo he was promoted to captain and eventually attached to the cavalry.

Lefebvre distinguished himself at Elchingen and Austerlitz. By 1806 he was a general commanding a brigade of Bavarian cavalry with such skill that he won further promotion. The 1808 Spanish campaign brought further laurels, but in 1809 he was captured during a scrap with British horsemen on the Elsa River. This act of recklessness angered Napoleon, but in 1812 Lefebvre, with the help of his wife, escaped from British captivity and fought in Russia. He was active in the 1813 campaign, and eventually commanded the Young Guard Cavalry Division. 1814 was the high water mark of his career; Lefebvre fought in most of the campaign's battles, and when Napoleon abdicated he selected Lefebvre's elite Guards Chasseurs as his escort. Lefebvre worked to secure Bonaparte's return, and although his efforts were actually ineffective, he was rewarded with command of the light cavalry of the Old Guard, fighting at Quatre-Bras and Waterloo. Lefebvre fled France when he was marked for execution, settling in Alabama with 200 exiled Bonapartists. Together they founded the Vine and Olive Colony and the city of Demopolis in Marengo County. The colony was not a sucess, and when Napoleon died in 1821, Louis XVIII allowed Lefebvre to return. On the trip back his ship was lost off the coast of Ireland with all hands.

As a favorite of Napoleon it is surprising he was not promoted more quickly; in battle he had almost no blemishes and the action on the Elsa was certainly the exception. It is possible that Napoleon saw him as too rash, and possibly indispensable to the vaunted guard cavalry.


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19. Board Game: Coup d'etat [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:4521]
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Claude Malet and Pierre-Augustin Hulin


The lives of Malet and Hulin offer an interesting contrast, and the career of each intersected in a few dramatic days in October 1812. Malet was an aristocratic with service in the musketeers, but he embraced the Revolution in 1790. After field service he was moved to staff duties in the Army of the Alps, gaining the respect of Championnet and Massena. Hulin had joined the military at age 13, becoming a sergeant. Hulin not only embraced the Revolution, he took a leading part in storming the Bastille. He was almost executed during the terror only to survive to serve on Napoleon's staff in Italy. Here is where Malet and Hulin differed the most: Bonaparte trusted Hulin, while Malet became openly hostile to the Corsican military hero. While Hulin took part in the coup of 18 Brumaire and gained honor at Ferrara in 1800, Malet was being shelved to backwater posts.

Hulin oversaw the court-martial of duc d'Enghien and tried to prevent his execution. He then served with the Imperial Guard at Austerlitz and Jena before being made governor of Paris. Napoleon included Malet in the Légion d'honneur and appointed him to administrative duties in Italy, but Eugene had him arrested and he drifted in and out of prison and house arrest from 1807-1812. By 1812 Malet, possibly a bit deranged, concocted a plot to overthrow Napoleon. He would declare that the emperor had died in Russia and seize power, hoping to gain the allegiance of disaffected republicans such as Moreau, Truguet, and Carnot. The plan at first worked, and Malet, running around in a general's uniform with forged papers, controlled the city. Then Hulin showed up, demanded verification and was shot. Nevertheless, the plot had been exposed and a few days later Malet and most of the conspirators were tried and shot. Hulin recovered and served in his old post until Napoleon's abdication. Despised by the Bourbons, he ran to Napoleon in 1815, served as governor of Paris, was exiled after Waterloo, but returned to France and lived a quiet life in 1819.

Malet and Hulin were both loyal republicans with similar service in the early days of the revolution and on the staffs of prominent generals. However, Hulin had the fortune of earning Napoleon's trust, and while he was a relatively minor figure, in Paris there was no one more loyal to the Bonaparte dynasty. Malet became the outsider, but while Moreau turned to foreign princes and Carnot resigned, Malet became obsessed with overthrowing Napoleon. His scheme, while intelligent in targeting the weakness of the imperial scheme, was also farcical since it was based upon false pretenses. Malet never seemed to consider what would happen when Napoleon returned. Indeed, Tallyrand would succeed where Malet failed by showing far more prudence. Malet represents the weaknesses of the Napoleonic system, just as Hulin represents its surprising resilience even in the midst of disaster.


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20. Board Game: Napoleon at Bay: Defend the Gates of Paris [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:3664]
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Bon-Adrien Jeannot de Moncey


Moncey was born into a family of lawyers, but he dreamed of being a soldier. His father tried to prevent this, but in 1778 he granted Moncey his wish. During the Revolution he tendered brilliant service along the Spanish border, and his victories were integral in compelling that nation to seek peace. Although dismissed in 1799 for royalist sentiments, Napoleon brought him back in 1800, where he served ably in corps command.

Moncey was named a marshal and given duties within France, which he preformed admirably. Due to his service aganist the Spanish, he led a corps in the invasion of Spain, occupying Valencia, then serving with Napoleon at the Ebro River and in the bloody siege of Saragossa. Moncey, an honorable man who despised war without mercy, was soon sent back to France. Napoleon tried to bring him back, but he declined to take part in the Russian invasion. In 1814 he was given the national guard, and led them in the defense of Paris at Montmartre, but Marmont's betrayal sealed Napoleon's fate. He aided Ney in convincing Napoleon to abdicate, and Moncey came to admire Ney's bearing and courage. Courted by the Bourbons, he did not accompany Louis XVIII during his flight, but he refused to serve Napoleon. His neutrality, and subsequent open opposition to Ney's execution, earned him some jail time, but when Napoleonic nostalgia became en vogue Moncey was made into a moral hero for his defense of Ney. In 1840, when 85 years of age, he gave a speech at the ceremony returning Napoleon's ashes, and then declared "Now, let's go home to die." He perished in 1842, having outlived two of his three children.

Moncey's skill in administration was undeniable, and Napoleon held him in high regard. However, his willful independence, while gaining him many admirers, is the main reason he was not often employed. Few men were as consistently in and out of favor as Moncey.


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21. Board Game: Hohenlinden 1800 [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
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Jean Moreau


Moreau was slated to become a lawyer but he dreamed of a military life. When the Revolution came he led some local militia, and by 1792 he was a frontline officer under Dumouriez. Although a republican, he must have been distressed at the execution of his father and the fall of Dumouriez, but his ardent nationalism and boundless ambition kept him in the field. Carnot's recognition, the support of General Charles Pichegru, and a victory at Tourcoing won him command of one of the armies in Germany. He fought Archduke Charles, and the two, nearly equal in skill, went back and forth in their struggle for Germany. By 1797 his star was falling a bit, as his unwillinginess to reveal Pichegru's treachery made him guilty by association. He was sent to stop Suvarov's invasion of Italy, but he failed and was replaced by Joubert, only to take command after Joubert died at Novi. Moreau was again replaced, and became livid. When Napoleon came to Paris looking for allies, Moreau lended a hand and was instrumental in the coup of 18 Brumaire. Napoleon was now consul, and Moreau was back in command on the Rhine.

1800 was the pivotal year for Moreau. He invaded Germany and won a brilliant victory at Hohenlinden, which combined with Marengo, forced the Austrians to sue for peace. This alone annoyed Napoleon, who did not want to share the glory, but when Moreau's wife proceeded to befriend Napoleon's harshest critics, he became alarmed. This "Club Moreau" was more or less a hodge-podge of discontent Frenchmen. Although Moreau himself rebuffed the offers of royalists, he did contemplate becoming a dictator and restoring the republic. Napoleon had him exiled, and he settled in New Jersey. James Madison was prepared to give him command of the troops invading Canada during the War of 1812. However, Napoleon's defeat in Russia, and a request from his friend and protege Bernadotte, caused him to return to Europe, offering advice to Tsar Alexander I. He was mortally wounded at Dresden. By this time he had become gloomy, realizing that the Coalition was intent upon a Bourbon restoration, and not the return of the republic.

Moreau was not so much disloyal, as he was politically clumsy and idealistic. As a general he was well regarded, being a master of defensive maneuvers, logistics, and tactical dispositions. Of all the Revolutionary generals, he was the closest to emulating the talents of Maurice de Saxe.


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22. Board Game: Zürich 1799 [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:4089]
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Edouard Mortier


The child of a French cloth maker and his English wife, Mortier spoke fluent English and spent time in Britain. In 1791 he left his father's trade and followed his uncle into the National Guard, rising through the ranks although he turned down promotion to general in 1797. He was a protege of Massena, and preformed masterfully at Second Zurich. In 1803 he occupied Hanover. A large man, known for his restraint, Napoleon nicknamed him "the big mortar" and made him one of the original marshals.

In 1805 saw him leading VII Corps. He suffered greatly at Dürenstein, a battle so poorly handled that Napoleon began to question Mortier's competence, even if Murat shared some of the blame and Mortier's bravery and steadfastness avoided a disaster. After Austerlitz Mortier was given administrative duties in Germany, but in 1807 he regained his reputation at Friedland and the siege of Stralsund. In Spain he served ably at Ocana under Soult, and won a victory on his own at Gebora. From 1812-1814 he commanded the guard ably, from the Russian invasion until Napoleon's abdication, rendering particularly brilliant services at Krasnoi, although Kulm was the low point of his career. At first he was loyal to Louis XVIII, but the king's flight disgusted Mortier and he joined Napoleon as commander of the guard. Before Ligny he became ill and did not participate. His censure was short because the future Louis-Philippe I remembered their brief friendship in 1792. Thus Mortier served in many capacities, including ambassador and a member of the Chamber of Peers. In 1834 he was named minister of war and prime minister, but it was short lived. On July 28, 1835, he perished during an assassination attempt on King Louis-Philippe I, perpetrated by Giuseppe Marco Fieschi. Mortier was given a lavish funeral and mourned by many Frenchmen, including the king, who wept at his funeral.

Mortier was a brave and hard fighter. His command of the guard was nigh impeccable from 1812-1814, and he was particularly popular with the Young Guard, whom he directly commanded in numerous engagements. Also, Mortier's sense of honor was very high, and he refused to torch Moscow during the retreat. Napoleon, while sometimes dismissive of his mediocre intellect, was never one to doubt his loyalty and bravery. Perhaps his greatest achievement was retaining the friendship of nearly all the marshals and the respect of the British. This was no small feat.


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23. Board Game: Austerlitz: The Battle of Three Emperors, 2 December 1805 [Average Rating:6.20 Overall Rank:7281]
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Jean Rapp


A native of Colmar and the son of a janitor, he was supposed to become a Protestant minister. However, he had no preference for becoming a religious pariah, and his active and brave nature led him to military life in 1788. Rapp was only 18 when revolution rocked France. His bravery became nearly legendary and he served on the staff of Desaix. In Egypt his capture of a battery of artillery led to combat commands and high praise from Napoleon. After Desaix's death he joined Napoleon's staff, carrying out miscellaneous missions.

Like many Frenchmen, he excelled at Austerlitz, where he led a force of cavalry in crushing the Russian guard cavalry when they pierced the line. It was his ability as both staff and combat officer that led Napoleon to use him in an ad hoc way, and his collection of wounds was impressive. At Jena he was shot in his left arm for the ninth time in his life. In 1807 he was charged with administrating Danzig, although he saw service in the 1809 Danube Campaign, leading a charge at Aspern-Essling and later saving Napoleon from assassination by Friedrich Staps. However, by this time he was not entirely popular with Napoleon for condemning both the Continental System and the divorce with Josephine. However, in Russia he served on Napoleon's staff until given a division at Borodino, where he suffered four wounds. He fought in the rearguard during the retreat from Moscow until ordered to hold Danzig, which he did until November 1813. The subject of some scorn from Louis XVIII, Rapp rallied to Napoleon and was ordered to hold the Rhine frontier until Napoleon could crush the armies of Wellington and Blucher. While Napoleon was losing Waterloo, Rapp was holding the line, and even won a small battle at La Suffel. After a brief exile he returned and was embraced by the Bourbons, who named him royal treasurer in 1819. He died happily with his family, and seems to have remained a local hero in Colmar.

Rapp is the kind of staff officer generals of dream about. He was a capable of hard fighting and getting vital dispatches out. Like Henri Bertrand, he was not a great general, but a vital part of Napoleon's superb staff.


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24. Board Game: Wagram 1809 [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:5616]
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Jean Reynier


Of Swiss origin, Reynier was among the elite artillery officers of the era, and the product of France's persistent efforts to improve the artillery after a dismal showing in the Seven Years War. Reynier served as a gunner from 1792-95 before receiving a promotion to general, followed by a two year stint as Moreau's chief of staff. He accompanied Bonaparte on his Egyptian Expedition, commanding a division with skill throughout the campaign. Left in Egypt, it was here that his career entered a period of controversy. Jacques-Francois Menou, governor of Egypt after Kleber's death, accused him of treachery when the British conquered Egypt. Things did not improve when Reynier killed General Jacques Destaing in a duel.

Although considered morally repulsive, Reynier's ironclad loyalty to Napoleon, combined with his obvious military abilities, kept him employed. He served brilliantly under Massena in Italy in 1805, capturing 4,000 Austrians at Castelfranco Veneto. He led the invasion of Naples, and his high point was Campo Tenese, where he smashed a numerically superior Neopoltian army. Then the British humiliated him at Madia. Still, southern Italy was occupied and Reynier served as the country's war minister until being ordered to lead artillery in the 1809 Danube Campaign. His massed guns were integral to the victory at Wagram. In recognition he was dispatched to Spain with a corps command. In a brutal war, his methods were particularly cruel. As a commander under Massena in Portugal, he was unsatisfactory at Bussaco, and thoroughly beaten at Sabugal. 1812 saw a return to former glory, as he led the Saxons with skill in the Russian invasion. By 1813, his health was slipping and the once young energetic officer, had given way to an increasing fat middle aged man. He bungled at Großbeeren, but the collapse of his corps at Dennewitz had more to do with the actions of Oudinot and Ney. At Leipzig his once dependable Saxons deserted him. He was captured, and shortly after his release, he died.

Reynier represents the best and worst of the French officers produced by the military reforms of the Bourbons and Carnot. He was aggressive, a hard marcher, sure in attack, and a master of massing artillery. However, he was also a plunderer with loose morals and a penchant for cruelty. Furthermore, as the wars went on the constant fighting took its toll. Reynier is representative of the physical cost of seemingly endless war, and its effects upon not just soldiers and civilians, but the very generals who seem to profit from their trade.


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25. Board Game: Trafalgar [Average Rating:4.51 Unranked]
Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Pierre-Charles Villeneuve


Villeneuve was an aristocrat, whose service in the navy dated back to 1778, and included action with Suffren in the Indian Ocean. He was among the few aristocratic officers to welcome the Revolution and by 1793 he had built up an impressive web of connections, which included the still insignificant Napoleon. By 1796 he was an admiral, serving in the Ireland expedition and then the Egyptian campaign. At the Nile he survived destruction and escaped with three vessels, but his performance was rightly criticized. Nevertheless, Napoleon liked him and considered him lucky.

Villeneuve was inactive when the death of the highly esteemed Latouche-Treville, and his connections, brought him command of the Toulon fleet, detailed to force the English Channel. While skilled at fleet maneuver, Villeneuve's temper proved to be uneven. He moved from excitement to caution with each week, and eventually he condemned the plan. Nevertheless, he accomplished the first phase, the attack on the Caribbean, with skill, but upon returning to Europe he decided not to force the channel and his defeat at Cape Finisterre made matters worse. The officers had no respect for him and he was given to insulting his Spanish allies. Bottled up in Cadiz, Napoleon decided to sack him, and his last orders were for him to prepare the fleet to return to the Mediterranean. The nervous Villeneuve, his fragile pride hurt, did much more. He tried to force his way out and his fleet was destroyed at Trafalgar. Villeneuve was captured, returned to France in 1806, and died with six stab wounds to the chest. It might be suicide, but I suspect a friend or relative of the over 4,400 French and Spanish sailors he sacrificed at Trafalgar came looking for retribution.

Villeneuve's funeral matched his record: he was buried at night without military honors. In the pantheon of defeated admirals, Villeneuve is perhaps the worst. His skills at maneuver were compromised by bad nerves, over-sensitivity, false pride, and passivity. Fate and his ability to play the political game earned him high command, but it must be recalled that if he forced the channel he was not detailed to be the senior commander. In fact, the last thing Napoleon wanted him to do was fight a battle like Trafalgar.


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