Sunday, June 26, 2011

Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

The wars fought by Britain and European powers against the nationalistic and ambitious French leader Napoleon Bonaparte marked a significant change in the practice of land warfare.

Although there were few innovations in weapons design, the French employed conscription to produce huge armies, and had a flexible form of command that allowed forces to concentrate on the battlefield and achieve overwhelming superiority. The British, who were leaders of the Industrial Revolution, fielded comparatively small armies but had an industrial power base that allowed them to supply arms to many of the allies facing Napoleon. The effects of combining the mass production of weapons and the mass conscription of military-age men began a devastating, grand-scale brand of warfare, which would next be demonstrated in the American Civil War and later in the two world wars.
The critical moment in the Battle of Waterloo, when Napoleon committed the Old Guard in the last hours of 18 June 1815. Massed volley fire followed by a savage bayonet attack would break their ranks and lead to the British victory.

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