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Forging Napoleon's Grande Arme

Forging Napoleon's Grande Arme: Motivation, Military Culture, and Masculinity in the French Army, 1800-1808

Michael J. Hughes
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Forging Napoleon's Grande Arme
    Book Description:

    The men who fought in Napoleon's Grande Armee built a new empire that changed the world. Remarkably, the same men raised arms during the French Revolution for liberte, egalite, and fraternite. In just over a decade, these freedom fighters, who had once struggled to overthrow tyrants, rallied to the side of a man who wanted to dominate Europe. What was behind this drastic change of heart?In this ground-breaking study, Michael J. Hughes shows how Napoleonic military culture shaped the motivation of Napoleon's soldiers. Relying on extensive archival research and blending cultural and military history, Hughes demonstrates that the Napoleonic regime incorporated elements from both the Old Regime and French Revolutionary military culture to craft a new military culture, characterized by loyalty to both Napoleon and the preservation of French hegemony in Europe. Underscoring this new, hybrid military culture were five sources of motivation: honor, patriotism, a martial and virile masculinity, devotion to Napoleon, and coercion.Forging Napoleon's Grande Armeevividly illustrates how this many-pronged culture gave Napoleon's soldiers reasons to fight.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-0827-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Military Culture and Motivation in the Armies of Napoleon
    (pp. 1-16)

    François-Joseph Zickel served as a cavalry officer in the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte, and his long military career spanned the entire period of the Napoleonic wars. Zickel was born the son of a soldier, and from a young age he eagerly desired to follow in his father’s footsteps. In the heady days of 1791, as Revolutionary France prepared its defenses, he enlisted in one of the new local guard units that were formed to supplement the regiments of the former Royal army. With popular support for the Revolution still in the ascendant, men from all over France volunteered for military...

  5. 1 From the Coasts of the Ocean to the Snows of Poland: The Grande Armée and Napoleonic Military Culture
    (pp. 17-50)

    After weeks of marching across France, the soldiers of the Grande Armée finally discovered the task that lay ahead. As the army’s formations advanced into Germany, they received a proclamation from Napoleon. Issued on September 29, 1805, it announced, “Soldiers, the War of the Third Coalition has begun. The Austrian Army has passed the Inn [River], violated treaties, attacked and driven our ally from his capital.” In response, the proclamation declared, the Grande Armée would fight to assure the independence of Germany, aid the allies of France, and destroy the “new league which the hatred and gold of England had...

  6. 2 Honneur, Gloire, et Patrie: Honor in Napoleon’s Legions
    (pp. 51-78)

    It was a glorious day. Napoleon Bonaparte, the newly proclaimed emperor of France, stood upon a raised platform dressed in the blue-coated uniform of a colonel of foot grenadiers in the Imperial Guard. He gazed out over the densely packed ranks of approximately eighty thousand soldiers from the Army of the Coasts of the Ocean formed into an enormous semicircle. The sun gleamed off polished musket barrels and picked out silver and gold braiding on officers’ epaulettes and hats. The infantry presented a sturdy mass of blue and white, and the cavalry, especially the hussars with their exotic uniforms, added...

  7. 3 Imperial Virtue: The Evolution of French Patriotism
    (pp. 79-107)

    After the triumphant conclusion of the War of the Third Coalition, Napoleon wished to offer his latter-day legions bread and circuses. On December 27, 1805, he announced to the Grande Armée that he would reward its soldiers with victory celebrations “in the first days of May at Paris.”¹ This news generated an enthusiastic response among the troops. Lieutenant Barbara excitedly wrote to his father, “In a few days we are leaving for France. The Emperor already left. His address to the army said that on the first of May the entire army is to be present at Paris to celebrate...

  8. 4 Napoleon’s Manhood: Sex and Martial Masculinity in the French Army
    (pp. 108-135)

    The military celebrations of 1807 and 1808 presented more than a vision of the French nation to the soldiers of the Empire. During the festivals for the Grande Armée, the Imperial government organized a series of banquets in Paris in which the Caveau moderne performed for its officers. The Caveau was a well-known organization dedicated to singing and drinking, and it celebrated the achievements of Napoleon’s victorious soldiers with numerous songs. Although the members of the group wrote these songs, they were composed at the request of the emperor himself.¹ They were also probably distributed during the festivities in Paris,...

  9. 5 Clothing the New Emperor: Creating the Cult of Napoleon
    (pp. 136-161)

    After the Peace of Tilsit, Marshal Soult’s IV Corps occupied Prussia in order to ensure that it paid an enormous war indemnity that Napoleon imposed upon the unfortunate monarchy. Even though Soult’s troops resided on foreign soil, they continued to celebrate the festivals of Imperial France. In 1808, two divisions of IV Corps that were camped near the city of Stettin observed the fête of Napoleon by participating in a ceremony in which they marched past a monument that they had constructed. It was an earthen mound in the shape of a spire topped by an altar. The altar itself...

  10. 6 The Emperor’s Grognards: The Officer Corps
    (pp. 163-191)

    Thegrognardsof the First Empire, much like their famous leader, earned the rare honor of becoming a legend in their own lifetimes. Napoleon himself apparently invented the nickname“grognards”during the campaigns in Poland in 1807.¹ The grenadiers of the Imperial Guard complained so much about the miserable conditions that they encountered fighting the Russians that he started to refer to them, not without affection, as“grognards.”The sobriquet, which meant “grumblers” or “complainers,” stuck. Auguste Raffet later immortalized the hard-bitten nature of the emperor’s guardsmen in the famous 1836 lithograph Ils grognaient et le suivaient toujours . It...

  11. 7 Devoted Soldiers and Reluctant Conquerors: The Rank and File
    (pp. 192-220)

    Nicolas Bognier was “a grognard in spite of himself.”¹ He was drafted in 1806, incorporated into the 26 th regiment of light infantry, and served in the French army until the spring of 1814. He possessed thegrognard’spropensity to complain, but the letters that he wrote to his brother displayed none of the patriotism, honor, bellicosity, and emperor worship that appeared in the writings of French officers. Indeed, Bognier represented the antithesis of the ideal Napoleonic soldier. He showed an intense dislike for the military, asserting, “It is a poor career, that of the soldier.”² The fearful Bognier also...

  12. Conclusion: Vive l’Empereur! Sustaining Motivation in the Armies of Napoleon, 1803-1808
    (pp. 221-228)

    Systems of military motivation depend on forms of compliance to encourage or compel soldiers to perform the tasks assigned to them. The three main types are coercive, remunerative, and normative.¹ Coercive compliance relies on strict discipline, punishment, and the threat of punishment to force soldiers to fulfill their military duties. Remunerative models employ material rewards such as pay, plunder, and promotions to persuade them to risk life and limb. Normative systems, on the other hand, are the most complex, for they rely on psychological, emotional, and symbolic factors to induce troops to fight and engage in other behaviors essential for...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 229-264)
  14. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 265-278)
  15. Index
    (pp. 279-284)
  16. About the Authors
    (pp. 285-285)