French Revolutionary Army


by Bill Peterson

How does one define the Napoleonic Era? Sometimes, we seem to think the nations and armies we study sprang to life in 1805, from nothing. If one viewed history only through currently-available Talonsoft and HPS wargames, Europe was created in 1809!

To understand an era, one must try to see it through the eyes of the people who lived it. What were their formative experiences? Why did they believe what they believed?

The two chief iconic figures of the Napoleonic Era, Napoleone Buonaparte and Arthur Wellesley, were both born in 1769. They turned 20 in 1789, the year of the French Revolution; their entire adult lives were consumed with the ensuing convulsions. Blücher was then a 47-year-old Lieutenant-Colonel in Prussia's Black Hussars; Kutusov, 44, was leading Jägers against the Turks; the Archduke Charles was turning 18. All these, and practically every actor in the Napoleonic epic, were profoundly marked by the years 1789-1805.

My own interest in the Revolutionary back-story of the Napoleonic Era has been stimulated by my current project, translating Chuquet's Les Guerres de la Révolution, Volume II: Valmy for the Nafziger Collection. One of the central figures encountered in that work is Dumouriez, the hero (with Kellermann) of Valmy, savior of the Revolution, and a towering personality every bit as ruthless and ambitious as Bonaparte. A fascinating alternate-history exercise is to consider what might have occurred had Dumouriez not fallen out of political favor after the Battle of Neerwinden and turned traitor to save his neck: We could well be studying the campaigns of the Dumouriez Era.

Learn about Dumouriez in Meet the Leaders, sing Revolutionary songs from The NWC Songbook, and admire the images of battles and uniforms from the 1790's.

Aux armes, citoyens!

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