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Six Days’ Campaign, 1814

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Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher versus Napoleon Bonaparte: A strung-out Allied army under Blücher threatens Paris itself while attempting to destroy a French corps. An entire French army under Bonaparte therefore attempts to destroy an Allied army. Can Bonaparte take advantage of Blücher’s carelessness before being defeated by overwhelming odds in the theater as a whole? Includes the Battles of Champaubert, Montmirail-Chateau-Theirry and Vauchamps. Also known as the Five Days’ Campaign. Click on images below to view PowerPoint presentation. | Legend |
 
 
Hailed as one of Bonaparte’s finest campaigns, he still failed to destroy the Army of Silesia. Even had he done so, two Allied armies even larger than Blücher’s Army of Silesia – Bernadotte’s Army of the North and Schwarzenberg’s Army of Bohemia – were still converging on the relatively small Grande Armée. It appears that historians have been very sympathetic towards Bonaparte concerning this campaign because of the impossible odds he faced. Nonetheless, his performance in this campaign should be a strong piece of evidence against the argument that the aging Bonaparte lost his touch in his later campaigns. The odds and stakes had merely changed. Drastically.
 
Bonaparte utilized interior lines masterfully to defeat Blücher’s corps in detail, winning a great victory. This battle illustrates the downfall of interior lines as well; a commander operating on interior lines cannot possible annihilate an enemy force while on interior lines. In The Art of Warfare on Land, Burne is extremely critical of interior lines, arguing that decisive results are not possible:
 
Consider the action of a blacksmith hammering a red-hot horse-shoe. If he holds the shoe up in the air and hits it with the hammer, there will be no appreciable effect. To obtain this effect he must place the shoe on the anvil prior to using the hammer. It is the reciprocal action of hammer and anvil that produces a decisive result. (1947: 31-2)
 
While Burne is too critical of interior lines, suggesting Bonaparte really did not use them with success that often, he is correct in his statement regarding decisive results.
 
 
This animation very nearly killed me. Featuring twenty narrations, three pitched battles while maintaining the viewer’s consciousness to the strategic overview, the animation was the most time-consuming to date. Nonetheless, I hope it stands as the epic animation thus far.
 
A few notes are necessary for such an extensive animation. I realize the overall casualties do not add up perfectly; this is because action was not relegated to three exclusive battles and casualties were suffered in various minor engagements without name or account. Also, the strengths of commanders’ forces are estimated at times if a precise figure cannot be found. I reasoned that battles seriously affected the strengths of forces, changing the strategic situation and therefore needed to be reflected in some way even if not exact. For the sake of simplicity, the strengths of the two armies overall are not updated after each battle. 
 
This is the first animation to feature animations within animations, Quebec being the experiment, and required tough choices to be made regarding labels. I dealt with issues as they come up and decided arbitrarily, keeping in mind the concept of simplicity even if at times the result was not consistent, formulaic presentation.
 
- Jonathan Webb
 
Works Consulted

Chandler, David. The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York: MacMillan, 1966.

Esposito, Vincent J. and John Robert Elting. A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars. New York: Praeger, 1965.
 
Petre, F.L. Napoleon at Bay 1814. London: Arms & Armour, 1914.

Images
 
French soldiers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grande_Arm%C3%A9e
 
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gebhard_Leberecht_von_Bl%C3%BCcher
 
Napoleon Bonaparte: http://wil3.typepad.com/funny_pictures/2005/08/napoleon_bonapa_1.html
 
Prussian soldiers: http://www.dy.pl/Handel/index.php?manufacturers_id=8&sort=1a&page=2
 

 

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  1. 10 Comments to “Six Days’ Campaign, 1814”

  2. THIS IS THE BEST ANIMATION EVER!

    By Averroes on Jul 27, 2009 at 4:36 pm

  3. Nice, very well done.

    By Thomas Jefferson on Jul 27, 2009 at 10:24 pm

  4. Really great stuff.

    By Simon Joyner on Jul 28, 2009 at 5:50 am

  5. You do my country a great service with your, how you say, animations. I welcome you to come visit me at the champs ellyses where we shall dine on snails and speak of the corsican.

    AurResevoir

    By Francois Mitterand on Aug 4, 2009 at 1:16 am

  6. Dine on snails? I think you are forgetting who eventually triumphed in the Napoleonic wars…. And let us not forget the outcome of the Franco-Prussian conflict and WWII! Were it not for the annoying intrusion of the americans, we would have taken the field in WWI as well!

    Come to Berlin and we will dine on weinerschnitzel and sup deeply from Odin’s mead horn while debating the edicts of Klauswitz!

    ja! was nicht umbricht macht uns starker!

    By Helmut Schmidt on Aug 8, 2009 at 1:16 pm

  7. ok ok, lets just chill, napoleon and his army were probably the best during his time period, with the prussians and their men being second i would say, the germans were better during the world wars, and the franco prussian war

    By ben w. on Aug 18, 2009 at 12:25 am

  8. Very amusing posts, my fine gentlemen.
    To be honest though, the french army was superior to the german army in the medieval and napoleonic periods (in World War one it made little difference, just the amount of men you have). Otherwise it’s vice-versa, especially nowadays.
    Btw, an excellent animation. Must have required a lot of dedication and imagination. I wonder though, do you think any of the - gunpowder era - great battles of the Middle East could be a future project?

    By Tahmasp on Nov 28, 2009 at 11:36 pm

  9. My friends you have forgoten the most decisive campaign of Napoleon, some call it Napoleons ulther. This conflict consumed forces that should have bee on other front during a long period of time. The Spanish where Napoleons ulther. The Prussians had a moderate army,all thanks to Frederick the Great.
    Come to Spain’s Plaza del Sol and have some gazpacho with me.
    Jose Antonio

    By Jose Antonio on Jul 8, 2011 at 6:41 pm

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  2. Apr 29, 2012: Six days campaign
  3. Jul 6, 2013: PROJECT MONTMIRAIL | The Land of Counterpane

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