“Support or refute the argument that warfare in the Napoleonic era is fundamentally similar to warfare practiced today.”

“Support or refute theargument that warfare in the Napoleonic era is fundamentally similarto warfare practiced today.”

Maj. Joseph R. Vigueras


  1. According to historians, the present is greatly influenced by the events of the past. Some argue that the events of the past are significant in the determination of present occurrences while some say it is insignificant. While there are two factions torn along the line of whether the past is important or not, I believe that the present is swayed by the events of the past although differences are many owing to the rapid rate of social and technological development. Therefore, I am of the opinion that modern warfare has many differences from the wars of the past. In this paper, I will support my stand by comparing modern day warfare to the Napoleonic era war. These two eras of warfare differ on three major concepts total war, mobilization, and perceptions about the casualties of war. This study is important because it provides a mirror through which we can understand why our military acts the way it does through a lens of the Napoleonic war.

  2. The first notable difference between present-day war and the Napoleonic warfare is that unlike in the Napoleon’s era, the United States has no political will to stage total war. Even though the military tactics employed by Napoleon can be employed today, the concept of total war sets the Napoleonic era and modern warfare apart.

A. What is fundamentallydifferent is the ability of the United States to wage total war.

1. We have the capability towage total war, but not the political will.

2. Modern U.S. society wouldnot accept total war.

B. Many of the tactics used by Napoleon can be used today, but the costof total war is unacceptable to many country’s elites andpopulations at large.

1. Today’s practice is tofight wars with a small footprint and with minimal sacrifice of thepopulation at large.

  1. In the past, Napoleon employed Levee en Masse” to get the French people behind the war. This Decree was imposed to mobilize individuals to join the army. Modern day warfare does not employ this crude approach to recruiting service men because it is considered old-fashioned. As a matter of fact, many Americans are against mobilization.

A. Napoleon was a dictatorwho could force his will on the people

B. It is inconceivable that“En Mass”mobilization would occur today

1. The possibility ofmobilizing large sections of the population to fight a war today isnot feasible.

2. American people are against large mobilization of troops to fight awar.

3. Less than one percent ofthe 0.5 % of the population has served in the military.1

Comparedto 12 % in World War 2. 2

IV. Additionally, these twoeras differ on their perception of the injured in a combat.Napoleonic era warfare’s perceptions towards casualties differgreatly from modern views because of the following

A. U.S. Military, Governmentand Society suffer from casualty aversion

1. Desert Storm gave theAmerican people minimal casualties

2. American people have cometo expect that any conflict will have minimal casualties.

B. Napoleon had no issuesacrificing soldiers in battle

1. Napoleon’s citizenswere more accepting of high casualties

2. Napoleon’s citizens hadfew options to oppose his acceptance of high casualties

  1. Despite the fact that the military often learns from the past, I contend that many changes have occurred to a point that there are many differences than similarities between present-day warfare and the Napoleonic warfare. These two eras of warfare differ on three major concepts total war, mobilization, and perceptions about the casualties of war. Although many of the combat lessons learnt, and concepts born then still in play today, I can argue that there are more differences than similarities.

1http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/27/opinion/americans-and-their-military-drifting-apart.html?_r=0 Accessed 12 Jan 16.

2 Ibid.