The Age of Warriors, 1791
The outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 led to rising tensions in Europe and finally to war in 1792. This sparked a series of wars that endured for nearly a quarter of a century, before Napoleon was defeated in 1815. A great many generals took part in these wars, most of whom were – and remain—obscure. But a few are better known, either for their brilliance on the battlefield, or their ineptitude. One interesting aspect of the wars was the age of the generals.
|Age of the More Notable Generals of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars in 1791|
|Alvintzy ||Austria ||66|
|Augereau ||France ||34|
|Bagratian ||Russia ||26|
|Barclay de Tolly ||Russia ||30|
|Beresford ||Britain ||27|
|Bernadotte ||France ||28|
|Berthier ||France ||38|
|Bertrand ||France ||18|
|Bessieres ||France ||23|
|Blake ||Britain ||32|
|Blucher ||Prussia ||49|
|Brune ||France ||28|
|Brunswick ||Prussia ||57|
|Charles ||Austria ||21|
|Davout ||France ||21|
|Desaix ||France ||23|
|Grouchy ||France ||25|
|Hill ||Britain ||19|
|Hoche ||France ||24|
|Jourdan ||France ||30|
|Kellerman pere ||France ||57|
|Kleber ||France ||39|
|Kutusov ||Russia ||57|
|Lannes ||France ||23|
|Lefevre ||France ||36|
|MacDonald ||France ||26|
|Marmont ||France ||17|
|Massena ||France ||35|
|Moncey ||France ||37|
|Moore ||Britain ||31|
|Moreau ||France ||29|
|Mouton ||France ||24|
|Murat ||France ||25|
|Napoleon ||France ||22|
|Ney ||France ||23|
|Oudinot ||France ||24|
|Perignon ||France ||38|
|Pichegru ||France ||31|
|Poniatowski ||France/Poland ||29|
|Schwartzenberg ||Austria ||21|
|Serurier ||France ||49|
|Soult ||France ||23|
|St. Cyr ||France ||28|
|Suchet ||France ||21|
|Suvarov ||Russia ||62|
|Victor ||France ||27|
|Wellington ||Britain ||23|
|Wurmser ||Austria ||67|
As a result of the “Terror,” the French began the wars with a lot of younger commanders, since they’d fired or executed most of the older guys who didn’t flee. Many of these younger guys never became particularly famous, being killed or executed pretty quickly. On the other hand, the higher ranking officers of most other European armies had actually seen little service as senior commanders. The last general European war had actually ended in 1763, and thus many of the men in high command by the outbreak of the world war of 1792-1815 were pretty much as green as the young fellows the French sent into action.
The Great Naval Arms Race, 1880-1914
In 1880 the Royal Navy reigned supreme on the seas, with more warships than any three of the lesser powers together. By 1914 it was still the greatest navy in the world, but no longer maintained the predominant position which it had possessed for generations.
|Warship Tonnage, 1880-1914|
|Austria-Hungary ||60 ||66 ||87 ||210 ||372|
|Britain ||650 ||679 ||1,065 ||2,174|| 2,250|
|France ||271 ||319 ||500 ||725|| 900|
|Germany ||88 ||190 ||285 ||964|| 1,305|
|Italy ||100 ||242 ||245 ||327|| 498|
|Japan ||15 ||41 ||187 ||496|| 700|
|Russia ||200 ||180 ||383 || 401|| 679|
|United States ||169 ||200 ||333 || 824|| 985|
|Note: Figures are in thousands of tons. The 1880 tonnage given for the U.S. is misleading, as it includes large numbers of Civil War monitors of dubious military value.|
The critical factor in the diminution of Britain’s overwhelming lead in maritime power in this period was not so much the result of her traditional competitors – France and Russia –investing more heavily in their navies as in the entry into the naval big leagues of several powers – Japan, the U.S., and particularly Germany– hitherto of minor consequence. Indeed, more than any other factor it was the German decision to build a high sea fleet that sparked the great naval arms race of the early twentieth century. It also was a major factor in leading Britain to mend its fences with France and abandoned its traditional policy of no permanent continental ties, and thus in turn was of enormous consequence for German chances against France in 1914. Oddly, by then the Germans had actually abandoned their effort to compete with the Royal Navy.
Gonzalo de Cordoba the Younger Has a Bad Afternoon
Don Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba was a descendent of El Gran Capitan, who had led the armies of Ferdinand and Isabel to numerous victories against the Moors and French, helping to secure Granada and Naples for the Spanish crown. Born late in the sixteenth century, like his great ancestor, the younger Gonzalo also served in the Spanish Army for many years, with great energy and some success, though little distinction, particularly during the early part of the Thirty Years’ War. Perhaps the most interesting moment in the younger Gonzalo’s military career occurred at the Battle of Wimpfen (May 6, 1622), against the Duke of Baden.
In the course of the battle, Cordoba observed that two enemy cavalry squadrons were dangerously exposed. He concluded that a cuirassier charge might be just the thing to rout these troops and carry the day. Putting himself at the head of 22 squadrons, Gonzalo ordered the charge, and put spurs to horse with his troopers thundering behind.
Unfortunately, just as they were about to plunge into the enemy lines, Gonzalo’s gallant troopers decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and drew off. As he was out in front of his brave cuirassiers , Gonzalo failed to notice their pusillanimity, and so plunged on single-handedly into the enemy ranks.
Seeing the lone horsemen approaching, the German troopers gallantly opened their ranks to let him pass (well, actually they were “advancing to the rear” as well). So none of the enemy chose to engage Gonzalo as he rode through their ranks. One did, however, approach close enough to reach out and snatch a gold chain from Gonzalo’s uniform.
Despite this dual humiliation, Cordoba did go on to win the battle, one of several to his credit, though never enough to compensate for his failures.