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The Battle of Krasnoi and the legacy of Ney.

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The Battle of Krasnoi and the legacy of Ney.

Postby Josh&Historyland » December 16th, 2017, 2:26 pm

Perhaps like many out there used to the (unavoidable) potted history's accompanying the lives of the Marshal's in most books about Napoleon's campaigns, I was until recently under the impression that Marshal Ney received his epithet, Bravest of the Brave, for his entire service with the rearguard in Russia. Last Frenchman out and all that.

Last year while casually scanning the course of the Battle of Krasnoi, I came to the conclusion that I was in error. Not that Ney doesn't deserve the praise for his dogged devotion to duty, but that the legend seems to derive from a specific incident, that being on the last day of the Battle of Krasnoi, Ney marching down the Moscow/Smolensk road found his path blocked by General Miloradovich on the 18th of November, and the mass of the Russian army that had occupied Krasnoi in the wake of the French retreat.

What followed seems to be very in keeping with Ney's style of generalship. Turning down an offer to capitulate was a move many commanders could not have made. Although he could not have surrendered III Corps with honour intact, and still maintain his reputation after the war without a show of fight, his attempt to actually break Miloradovich ended in a disaster that hindsight seems to suggest was the height of folly.

Apparently turning down another offer to surrender his Corps, now cut off, reduced, all but surrounded and burdened with stragglers, he once more refused the summons and made, I think, a two day march to rejoin Napoleon via circuitous route around the Russian army with predictably bad casualties so that by the time he did arrive, he had less than 1,000 men still with their regiments, and the rest a sizeable mob with little organisation.

I gather this incident to be the cause of the lavishing of praise on Ney for his bravery, perhaps using Ney's dedication and courage as the hatstand on which to hang French honour? My sketch is not authoritative, and I won't argue with those who know better, but I'd like to know if others agree that this was when Ney's legend was born.

Josh.
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Re: The Battle of Krasnoi and the legacy of Ney.

Postby Senarmont198 » December 16th, 2017, 9:57 pm

Don't forget that Eugene went to get him and his corps and brought them in. It is usual that Eugene's contributions from 1809 onwards are usually overlooked. He is probably the most underrated general of the period. His overall view was that 'Glory costs too much.'
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Re: The Battle of Krasnoi and the legacy of Ney.

Postby Josh&Historyland » December 16th, 2017, 10:40 pm

I must admit to being quite uniformed on the campaign, though I believe Uffindel had a chapter on Eugene in "Great Generals" & reported that he took command after Napoleon & Murat decamped. Which would put him on par with Ney in my opinion & certainly more successful in that Ney essentially lost his Corps in the incident in question. Would you agree Ney's epithet came from the march from Krasnoi?
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Re: The Battle of Krasnoi and the legacy of Ney.

Postby DaveH » December 17th, 2017, 5:18 pm

In this period, the actual epithet was coined by Desaix for Lannes.
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Re: The Battle of Krasnoi and the legacy of Ney.

Postby Josh&Historyland » December 17th, 2017, 8:18 pm

Was it indeed?
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Re: The Battle of Krasnoi and the legacy of Ney.

Postby Senarmont198 » December 17th, 2017, 8:55 pm

The 'title' was shared by both officers.

Desaix met Lannes in Italy in 1797.

The description read 'Bravest of the brave, young, well-made, features not particularly handsome, seamed with scars, elegant.'

Napoleon said of Lannes after he was mortally wounded at Essling: 'He was a swordsman when I found him, and a paladin when I lost him.'

Lannes was a much better commander than Ney and I would submit that Ney became a legend because he was judicially murdered by the Bourbons in 1815.
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Re: The Battle of Krasnoi and the legacy of Ney.

Postby Digby » December 18th, 2017, 12:23 am

When I studied the Napoleonic era years ago I came to admire Eugene, and wish I knew more about his exploits.

I was also (am still am) a great fan of Marshal Ney but I struggle to name a battle that he won when in independent command. Which is why I am always in disbelief that Napoleon give him command of the left wing in 1815.
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Re: The Battle of Krasnoi and the legacy of Ney.

Postby Josh&Historyland » December 18th, 2017, 2:28 pm

Ney was very popular with the troops, and Napoleon needed men they trusted to command them. The armee du Nord had a really big treason complex regarding their senior officers.

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Re: The Battle of Krasnoi and the legacy of Ney.

Postby Senarmont198 » December 18th, 2017, 3:49 pm

Only with those, such as Ney, who had taken an oath to the king. And Ney had been part of the marshals' mutiny in 1814.

It's really too bad that Ney went north with the Armee du Nord in 1815.
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Re: The Battle of Krasnoi and the legacy of Ney.

Postby Josh&Historyland » December 18th, 2017, 9:21 pm

Ney was actually one of the more trusted commanders present, which says allot.
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