Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Meanwhile, in the 19th century...

In addition to my Military History class, I teach two sections of our standard Freshman history course, which focuses on Revolutions.  We spend the year on two case studies: France and Russia.  We are nearing the end of our French Revolution unit.  Napoleon has become First Consul and has decisively beaten the Austrians at Marengo.  While our course focuses on the political and social reforms of the Bonapartist regime, how can I resist talking about the military side of things?

While my main seminar table has been given over to Black Hawk Down, I have set up this hypothetical Napoleonic engagement in the corner of my room.  French troops are in the foreground, Austrians in the rear.  The Austrians have gone for something out of Frederick the Great's playbook: cavalry on the flanks, with a long line of infantry with artillery interspersed among regiments for support.  A column of Landwehr marches to relieve pressure on the Austrian left.  In short, the Austrians are deliberate dupes for Napoleon.  The French have a strong center with two large assault columns formed.  Bavarian allies are on the French left (allowing me to talk about the Empire and spread of nationalism and revolutionary ideas), while a strong reserve of dragoons and cuirassiers await their chance to exploit any breakthrough.


Uh-oh!  The Bavarians got caught by cavalry in the open.  They quickly form square in response.


The Austrian line waits for the assault columns to appear.


Napoleon assembles his heavy guns into a grand battery to soften the Austrian center up.


Austrian hopes lie in their strong left, with dragoons and a small infantry division hoping to hold out until the Landwehr can provide the weight of numbers.


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