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  • Marshal Ney the traitor?

    For years now, I can't seem to shake off the suspicion that Marshal Ney was not truly a loyal Bonapartist during the 'Hundred days'. Sure, some say he was shellshocked from the past campaigns...but had he not been enjoying life and resting ever since Napoleon's abdication in April 1814? After 10 months I'm sure he must have recuperated at least a little - and I'm sure he had seen as many horrors of war as other of his colleagues of the marshalate.

    A few things just keep on stinking concerning Marshal Ney as the campaign of 1815 is played in front of us:

    1. Why was he at the front only in the afternoon of the 15th?
    2. General Bourmont ran over to the Prussians on the morning of the 15th - If I recall correctly he had recently been a general of Marshal Ney.
    3. Marshal Ney supposedly met Napoleon and had a late supper with him on the evening of the 15th/morning of the 16th - did he really? There is no trustworthy mention of this?
    4. It seems that Ney never really grasped the situation concerning Quatre Bras: he just kept on delaying eventhough he had been ordered to take possession of it a number of times - on purpose?
    5. Time and time again he kept on calling for Erlon's corps to come and join him at Quatre Bras on the 16th, causing Erlon to turn away from Ligny and finally doing nothing at all that day. Maybe more Napoleon's fault, but odd that Ney has something to do with it.
    6. Ney remained completely inactive for the greater part of the 17th - wonder why? And you could say "Well, they were tired they had fought the day before..." I would answer "it wasn't the first time soldiers fought a battle for two consequetive days".
    7. Everything Ney did (or did not do) at Waterloo... - we could expect a Marshal of France to perform better , no? And we can forgive one blunder...but so many?
    8. After Waterloo he is the only Marshal to be shot - why he?
    9. Did he not promise to bring Napoleon back "in an Iron cage"?

    In Russia he was the 'Bravest of the Brave' in Belgium he was the 'Lamest of the Lame' IMO

    Kind regards, Stratego
    Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.- Napoleon

    It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.- Herman Melville

    Aut viam inveniam aut faciam

    BORG

  • #2
    Ney was not a marshal of France, but a marshal of the Empire. There is a difference.

    Bourmont was not assigned to Ney, he was a division commander in Gerard's IV Corps. Gerard was at Ligny on 16 June, not Quatre Bras and then was assigned to Grouchy to pursue the Prussians.

    Regarding Bourmont, Davout, the Minister of War, did not want to employ him. Napoleon didn't either, but Ney, Gerard, and Lobau had 'vouched for his fidelity.' Bourmont deserted to the Prussians on 15 June. Blucher reportedly remarked in 'an adjective-studded' assertion that an offspring of a female dog was always the offspring of a female dog.'

    Ney was 'invited' to join Nord only on 11 June 'if he wanted to see the first battles.'

    He was shot because he didn't get out of Paris soon enough even though he had been warned that he was proscribed. Labedoyere was also shot, mainly because he had verbally told off the Chambers for their terrible treatment of Ney. Lavallette was also caught and condemned, but got out and went north.
    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


    • #3
      The only time Marshal Ney was 'Lamest of the Lame' was in not legging it from Paris when he had the chance to.

      The long toll of the brave
      Is not lost in darkness
      Over the fruitful earth
      And athwart the seas
      Hath passed the light of noble deeds
      Unquenchable forever.

      Comment


      • #4
        Agree completely. Well said.

        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


        • #5
          Originally posted by Stratego View Post
          For years now, I can't seem to shake off the suspicion that Marshal Ney was not truly a loyal Bonapartist during the 'Hundred days'. Sure, some say he was shellshocked from the past campaigns...but had he not been enjoying life and resting ever since Napoleon's abdication in April 1814? After 10 months I'm sure he must have recuperated at least a little - and I'm sure he had seen as many horrors of war as other of his colleagues of the marshalate.
          A remarkably ill informed view of stress induced disorders.
          1. They can persist for a life time so 10 months rest is irrelevant
          2. They do not always manifest them selves immediately and can pop up months or even years later - so ditto
          3. Not everyone who is exposed to "the horrors of war" develop them and those that do can show very different degrees and effects - so comparison with his colleagues is irrelevant
          4. Even with modern knowledge it is near impossible to predict who will or will not develop symptoms - so ditto
          5. They are not simply the product of seeing horrors they can be induced by the stress of having operated in stressful conditions - such as being a Marshal taking life and death decisions
          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


          • #6
            Yep, that's the path my cogitating's taken me on theses days. All the 'star players' had spent most of their adult lives on the Stern Fields of Mars...

            "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!"



            The long toll of the brave
            Is not lost in darkness
            Over the fruitful earth
            And athwart the seas
            Hath passed the light of noble deeds
            Unquenchable forever.

            Comment


            • #7
              There is a theory that the human mind has a limited decision taking capacity and taking too many decisions in a given time frame reduced ones quality of decision making. It doesn't matter if the decisions are trivial or major each one reduces the overall capacity - the brain's mechanism doesn't 'know' if they are important or trivial. One proponent of this theory was Montgomery who deliberately eliminated as many trivial decisions from his daily itinerary as possible by having a strict routine thus always going to bed at exactly the same time, eating the same things also at the same time etc. Of course the fact that he may well have been a high functioning Asperger may have aided this. He also handed off many decisions to his staff. [I'm basing this on a post graduate level lecture on Monty's command methods Prof John Buckley gave a couple of months ago].

              The theory has been tested after the war in a series of experiments in which subjects were asked to complete a series of questions requiring decisions. One group had to negotiate many simple decisions in the course of this ( did they want a drink? tea or coffee? milk and sugar? - which table did they want to sit at? - use a pen or a pencil? what did they want to choose for lunch? and so on and so forth. The other group were shown straight to a table and given the question list and a pencil. The second group's scores were consistently higher.

              It has been suggested that a long period of intensive decision making may have a long term effect on one's decision making capability and this might explain why so many brilliant young generals, businessmen, politicians etc become burnt out cases in later life. Ney was a man who was notorious for taking a completely hands on approach and not really using his staff!
              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


              • #8
                Originally posted by MarkV View Post

                A remarkably ill informed view of stress induced disorders.
                1. They can persist for a life time so 10 months rest is irrelevant
                2. They do not always manifest them selves immediately and can pop up months or even years later - so ditto
                3. Not everyone who is exposed to "the horrors of war" develop them and those that do can show very different degrees and effects - so comparison with his colleagues is irrelevant
                4. Even with modern knowledge it is near impossible to predict who will or will not develop symptoms - so ditto
                5. They are not simply the product of seeing horrors they can be induced by the stress of having operated in stressful conditions - such as being a Marshal taking life and death decisions
                Excellent. Indeed you are right - this just confirms my suspicion: he was absolutely not up to the task and did more wrong than good. But I guess it was Nappy's decision and problem...
                Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.- Napoleon

                It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.- Herman Melville

                Aut viam inveniam aut faciam

                BORG

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by MarkV View Post
                  There is a theory that the human mind has a limited decision taking capacity and taking too many decisions in a given time frame reduced ones quality of decision making. It doesn't matter if the decisions are trivial or major each one reduces the overall capacity - the brain's mechanism doesn't 'know' if they are important or trivial. One proponent of this theory was Montgomery who deliberately eliminated as many trivial decisions from his daily itinerary as possible by having a strict routine thus always going to bed at exactly the same time, eating the same things also at the same time etc. Of course the fact that he may well have been a high functioning Asperger may have aided this. He also handed off many decisions to his staff. [I'm basing this on a post graduate level lecture on Monty's command methods Prof John Buckley gave a couple of months ago].

                  The theory has been tested after the war in a series of experiments in which subjects were asked to complete a series of questions requiring decisions. One group had to negotiate many simple decisions in the course of this ( did they want a drink? tea or coffee? milk and sugar? - which table did they want to sit at? - use a pen or a pencil? what did they want to choose for lunch? and so on and so forth. The other group were shown straight to a table and given the question list and a pencil. The second group's scores were consistently higher.

                  It has been suggested that a long period of intensive decision making may have a long term effect on one's decision making capability and this might explain why so many brilliant young generals, businessmen, politicians etc become burnt out cases in later life. Ney was a man who was notorious for taking a completely hands on approach and not really using his staff!
                  Excellence Kudos to both you and Stratego....it is also possible that Michel Ney suffered a stroke during the retreat from Russia. He was in his forties, and the retreat was a brutal affair, to at the least.
                  Ney had also sworn an oath of loyalty to the bourbon King, at a time when one's oath carried a lot of weight. That may have been weighing heavily on his mind.

                  Hubert Essame agrees on Montgomery.
                  The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by marktwain View Post

                    Excellence Kudos to both you and Stratego....it is also possible that Michel Ney suffered a stroke during the retreat from Russia. He was in his forties, and the retreat was a brutal affair, to at the least.
                    Ney had also sworn an oath of loyalty to the bourbon King, at a time when one's oath carried a lot of weight. That may have been weighing heavily on his mind.

                    Hubert Essame agrees on Montgomery.
                    And Napoleon bugged out and left much of the heavy lifting in the retreat to Ney

                    General Henri Bonnal head of the École Supérieure de Guerre attempted to do some psychoanalysis of the Waterloo campaign in 1909 and 1911 but I guess that psychoanalysis was not a core competency of French (or indeed any other nationalities) generals in them days.
                    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


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MarkV View Post

                      And Napoleon bugged out and left much of the heavy lifting in the retreat to Ney

                      General Henri Bonnal head of the École Supérieure de Guerre attempted to do some psychoanalysis of the Waterloo campaign in 1909 and 1911 but I guess that psychoanalysis was not a core competency of French (or indeed any other nationalities) generals in them days.
                      The 'heavy lifting' was done by Soult and Grouchy, not Ney.

                      Perhaps you could explain how Napoleon 'bugged out'?
                      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


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by MarkV View Post
                        There is a theory that the human mind has a limited decision taking capacity and taking too many decisions in a given time frame reduced ones quality of decision making. It doesn't matter if the decisions are trivial or major each one reduces the overall capacity - the brain's mechanism doesn't 'know' if they are important or trivial. One proponent of this theory was Montgomery who deliberately eliminated as many trivial decisions from his daily itinerary as possible by having a strict routine thus always going to bed at exactly the same time, eating the same things also at the same time etc.
                        There have been proponents of the 'theory' since time immemorial. It's why officers have batmen and commanders have staff.
                        Montgomery, if anything, was just better at it, as he was in most things.



                        As for Ney, he was known as the Bravest of the Brave not the Brainiest of the Brainy.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Lannes also held the honorific 'Bravest of the Brave' and he earned his much earlier than Ney did.

                          It was noted by some of Napoleon's more critical subordinates that Ney was at his best with a command of about 10,000 men which turned out, unfortunately, to be true in 1813 and 1815, especially at Bautzen in 1813.

                          He was at his best as either a rear guard commander or in a savage tactical brawl. He was far from the best of the marshalate. Massena, Davout, Suchet, St Cyr, Lannes, and Soult were much abler corps commanders and knew how to take care of themselves on independent missions. Ney also made the grave error of having Jomini as a chief of staff, especially in 1813. Jomini was a failure as a chief of staff as well as a military governor.
                          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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