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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-Thierry and Vauchamps. Also known as the Five Days’ Campaign.
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 perhaps 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 probably 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. It is the experience and knowledge gained creating this animation that allowed me to create the masterpiece Waterloo animation.
– Jonathan Webb
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.
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
Map of Europe: http://www.owasso.k12.ok.us/webpages/gyankey/regadvhandouts.cfm?subpage=313703
Map of the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_map_projections
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
If you enjoyed the Six Days’ Campaign 1814 battle animation, you may also enjoy these other battle animations:
Thank you for visiting The Art of Battle: Animated Battle Maps.