Napoleon’s 6 Days In 1814 (5): Blueprint For Waterloo!

The 1814 campaign is in many ways similar to the 100-days/ Waterloo 1815 campaign, and in a sense a foretelling.

  • In both campaigns, Napoleon brilliantly used a central position and forced marches to surprise his enemies
  • In both campaigns, Napoleon underestimated Blücher. In 1814, he defeated Blücher and thought he would retreat to safer eastern positions. However, Marschall Vörwarts quickly reorganized his armies and to Napoleon’s surprise, moved to the west to threaten Paris again, forcing Napoleon to pursue him. At Waterloo the Prussians were an unexpected guest as well.
  • In both campaigns, Napoleon was hindered by fog of war. In the 1814 Defence of Paris campaign, after Prussian defeats, Napoleon expected Blücher to retreat more to the north-east to Fismes. Blucher in fact retreated to the north to Soissons and escaped.
  • In both campaigns, Napoleon’s failed to win decisive victories. What if Napoleon had won Waterloo? His enemies would have retreated north, reorganize and restart their march to Paris. No surrender. Blücher hated Napoleon, the British wanted him neutralized, the Russians wanted to destroy him. Same story as in 1814.
  • The 1814 campaign explains why Davout, Napoleon’s most able commander, was left behind in Paris in 1815 and not brought to Waterloo. 1814 proved that the home front was the most important for l’Empereur. In 1814, Napoleon lost his crown the moment Paris capitulated on March 31, 1814. He was outside the city and Paris was in the hands of the incapable Joseph Bonaparte who failed to organize a defense or contain anti-Bonapartist plots. Davout was able. Besides, he was loyal. In 1814 Ney disobeyed Napoleon in the end, switched affiliation to the Bourbons but in 1815 switched back to Napoleon. Better to keep flip-flopper Ney and show prince Jerome nearby than out of control.
  • The 7 March Battle of Craonne is a mini version of the Waterloo battle. The opponents are the Russians who stubbornly defend a ridge. Ney blunders and attacks without artillery support. In the meantime, Blücher considers an attack on Napoleons east flank. The Old Guard is nearby for the final smash. The outcome is different, the Prussian flank attack is canceled and the Russians retreat in good order. Craonne is a Pyrrhic victory for the French.

In other words, if you want a non-Waterloo theatre that is very much a Waterloo campaign, 1814 is a very interesting variation that can be played with smaller miniature armies from other countries. Besides, a winter wonderland wargame tabletop is great, in particular under the Christmas tree!

(courtesy of First Legion)

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