Napoleon's Logistics; or How Napoleon Learned to Worry about Supply
AIR COMMAND AND STAFF COLL MAXWELL AFB AL MAXWELL AFB United States
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Beginning with Carl von Clausewitz, historians have been critical of Napoleon Bonaparte for what they perceived as his lack of concern over logistics throughout his career and have faulted his lack of logistical preparation for the failure of his Russia Campaign of 1812. However, examination of Napoleons military education, knowledge of current logistical practices, and his Ulm-Austerlitz and Russia campaigns reveal that he did understand the importance of logistics and that he actually developed and refined a complex logistical system throughout his military career. Specifically, Napoleon developed a new method of logistical supply by utilizing a combination of earlier practices to include Francois-Michel le Telliers magazine system, the tapes system, and the system of contribution. Furthermore, by reconsidering Napoleons Russia campaign with a better understanding of the supply methods he implemented reveals that Napoleon was aware of his supply limitations yet let his personal ambition overcome his discretion creating the tragic events of this campaign. Examining Napoleons early military education reveals that the future emperor learned about logistics by studying history and through practical military experience.