Sunday, May 03, 2015

Strategic Situation

1815 Scenario IX from Napoleon in Europe by Eagle Games
The strategical situation facing France was indeed threatening.  In due course the Allies would mobilize btween 800,000 and one million men, and Napoleon could at best hope to muster half that figure.  Furthermore the eastern frontiers of France stretched from the North Sea to the Mediterranean, and the enemy had freedom to choose his point of assault.  This advantage was fully appreciated by the Allies, who planned to attack wit five separate armies, hoping to compel the French to disperse their small forces.  Wellington with 110,00 Allied troops was to attack from Brussels, his left covered by Field Marshal Blucher's 117,000 Prussians advancing on Namur from their base area around Liege.  At the same time, Schwartzenberg's Austrians, 210,000 strong, would attack the upper reaches of the Rhine from the Black Forest, and General Friemont with 75,000 more Austrians and Italians would advance onto the Riviera and threaten Lyons.  Last to arrive on the scene of operations, Barclay de Tolly's army of 150,000 Russians were expected to place themselves in the central Rhine area, serving as a strategic reserve or mass de manoeuvre for the other four armies.  When all these forces were assembled, a simultaneous drive on Paris and Lyons would grind down the French forces by sheer weight of numbers between converging armies.

On paper this scheme looked extremely impressive, but in late May the only Allied forces actually in the field were those of Wellington and Blucher, and it would be at least July before the Austrians reached the Rhine, while the Russians would be later still.  Time was clearly the vital factor to both sides.  In a conference with Wellington at Tirlemont on May 3, Blucher pressed for an immediate offensive by the 210,000 men already available in the Netherlands, but he was persuaded to await the arrival of his other allies.

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napolon, p. 1015

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