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On Looting and Pillaging

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  • On Looting and Pillaging

    ‘Military discipline admits of no modifications.’-Napoleon to Jerome, 3 April 1807.

    The army must understand that discipline, wisdom, and the respect for property support its victories, that pillage and theft belong only to the cowardly, who are unworthy of remaining in the ranks…that they plot the loss of honor and that they have no goal other than to stain the laurels acquired by so much bravery and perserverence.’-Order of the Day, 11 June 1796.

    ‘Without discipline there is no victory.’-Napoleon to the Directory, 6 April 1796.

    ‘The success of an army and its well-being depend essentially upon order and discipline, which will make us loved by the people who come to greet us and with whom we share enemies.’-Order of the Day, 20 March 1799.

    ‘Pillaging destroys everything, even the army that practices it. The inhabitants leave, which has the dual drawback of turning them into irreconcilable enemies who take revenge upon the isolated soldier, and of swelling the enemy ranks in proportion to the damage that we do. This deprives us of all intelligence, so necessary for waging war, and of every means of subsistence. Peasants who come to peddle provisions are put off by the troops who stop them, pillage their wares, and beat them.’-Order of the Army, 12 December 1808.

    ‘When I arrived [in Italy in 1796] the army was injured by the bad influence of the troublemakers: it lacked bread, discipline, and subordination. I made some examples, devoted all of our means to reviving the administrative services of the army, and victory did the rest…Without bread the soldier tends to an excess of violence that makes one blush for being a man.’-Napoleon to the Directory, 24 April 1796.

    ‘We will never forget to make a disciplinary example of these soldiers who deviate from the rule of severe discipline.’-Napoleon to AM Battaglia, 10 December 1796.

    Army Order, 22 June 1812:

    ‘Each marshal or corps commander will name a provost commission composed of five officers, which will try every soldier who, following the army, is absent from his regiment without a legitimate reason and every marauder and individual caught pillaging or molesting the local inhabitants. The commission will condemn the guilty to death and will have them executed in twenty-
    We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
    Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
    To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

  • #2
    Interesting. Then one wonders what the explanation of reality was:
    1. an undeserved bad reputation of the French Napoleonic armies?
    2. a case of "don't do as I say (here), do as I do"?
    3. a distinction being drawn between pillaging (intended as the criminal action of individual soldiers or groups of soldiers, against orders) and foraging (under orders)?
    Michele

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Michele View Post
      Interesting. Then one wonders what the explanation of reality was:
      1. an undeserved bad reputation of the French Napoleonic armies?
      2. a case of "don't do as I say (here), do as I do"?
      3. a distinction being drawn between pillaging (intended as the criminal action of individual soldiers or groups of soldiers, against orders) and foraging (under orders)?

      Didn't Nappy himself do quite a bit looting? Seem to remember that he had particularly sticky hands in Italy.
      "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Surrey View Post


        Didn't Nappy himself do quite a bit looting? Seem to remember that he had particularly sticky hands in Italy.
        https://byronico.com/2013/07/14/the-...l-of-napoleon/

        "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Surrey View Post


          Didn't Nappy himself do quite a bit looting? Seem to remember that he had particularly sticky hands in Italy.
          That would be answer #2 above. if I listed it among the possibilities, there is a reason.
          Michele

          Comment


          • #6
            Pillaging, pre railroads, was virtually the only realistic way to move a mass army across country.

            the duke of Wellington, to hjs credit, recognized that the best you can do is channel it to necessities. ( for man and Horse.)
            The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Surrey View Post


              Didn't Nappy himself do quite a bit looting? Seem to remember that he had particularly sticky hands in Italy.
              That's the usual commentary on Napoleon and the first Italian campaign. However, Boycott-Brown in The Road to Rivoli provides evidence that it wasn't an accurate assessment. The principal 'looters' were the representatives of the French government in Italy and it was an activity that Napoleon attempted to curtail.
              We are not now that strength which in old days
              Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
              Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
              To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by marktwain View Post
                Pillaging, pre railroads, was virtually the only realistic way to move a mass army across country.

                the duke of Wellington, to hjs credit, recognized that the best you can do is channel it to necessities. ( for man and Horse.)
                Old Concky did more than that - he instituted a system whereby Commissary officers issued promissory notes for what was taken. These did not reflect full war time market rates and were post dated but it did mean that the peasantry could eventually redeem them and get some compensation.
                Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by marktwain View Post
                  Pillaging, pre railroads, was virtually the only realistic way to move a mass army across country.

                  the duke of Wellington, to hjs credit, recognized that the best you can do is channel it to necessities. ( for man and Horse.)
                  There is a difference between pillaging, which is unregulated, and living off the land which was, or should have been regulated.
                  We are not now that strength which in old days
                  Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
                  Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
                  To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

                  Comment

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