Discussion:
Napoleon - different campaign of 1812
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Alex Milman
2017-07-31 20:41:54 UTC
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OTL is well-known: Nappy assembled an overwhelming military force, marched
it to Moscow, well beyond the logistical capacities of his military system
and the rest is history. Presumably he was expecting that capture of the
former capital will strike Russia "into its heart" but it is quite possible
that this was one of his post-factum justifications of his actions: it is
quite obvious that he was expecting to destroy the bulk of the Russian forces
near the border and then repeat Austrian and Prussian scenarios: government
capitulates when its army is beaten. When this did not happen (mostly thanks
to Barclay), the further actions were dictated by the same idea of defeating
opponent in a major battle (and expectation that a token event like capture
of Moscow will force Alexander's hand).

Advance toward St-Petersburg never was seriously considered, perhaps because
Nappy did not quite understand specifics of the Russian Empire (and limitations
of his own system). While Moscow was "historically important" city it was not
a capital of Russia which means that its fall meant very little as far as
governing of the Russian Empire was concerned: it was a highly bureaucratized
state and center of the bureaucracy was in St-Petersburg.

So, what would happen if Nappy marched northward? (Disclaimer: this scenario
does not look very "Napoleonic" - usually, he was concentrating on enemy's
armies not geographic points but in OTL he ended up with a "geographic"
campaign)

He has approximately 600K most of which are placed in the "center" and
can go either way. The opponents have 120 - 130K in Lithuania (1st Army under
Barclay), up to 57K in Belorussia (2nd Army under Bagration), 44 - 49K (3rd
Army under Tormasov) in Ukraine (facing Austrians, can't be moved easily),
59K on the Danube (free after conclusion of peace with the Ottomans), 31K in
Finland and 42K on Caucasus (probably can't be moved). So, at most, his troops
may face up to 270K (1st and 2nd armies, Danube Army and troops in Finland),
providing all of them managed to assemble without any significant losses (aka,
the French are completely ignoring them). It will take few months to get troops
from the Danube to the main theater (in OTL they appeared in Lithuania only
by the late fall).

So, if he marches Northward leaving 300 - 400K to guard his "right flank" (if
Nappy is "center", then the left flank does not exist :-)), he has
200 - 300K on the main direction.

While in OTL advance Eastward allowed the 1st and 2nd
Russian armies to met and keep retreating together, this is simply impossible
with Northward scenario: Barclay would have no option but to strengthen
St-Petersburg direction either with a significant part of his army (in OTL,
only a small part of it was on Polotsk-Riga directions) or with all of it (in
which case much less troops needed on French "right flank" with more on the
main direction). So, at most Napoleon is facing 160K (1st Army and the troops
from Finland) while the troops left on the "right flank" can face up to 160K
(if Tormasov totally ignores the Austrians) arriving in a piecemeal fashion
and squabbling about the leadership.

There is a single reasonably big river on the way, Daugava, which in OTL
the French bypassed on the right and after that there is very little in the
terms of the natural obstacles all the way to St-Petersburg. The distances
from Vilno (by today's roads): to Moscow - 947km, to St-Petersburg - 723km
(.76 of one to Moscow). Territory is, generally, more densely populated than
the Central Russia. There was no (AFAIK) a single wide road like Smolensk Road
used in OTL but probably enough of the smaller ones, which in Nappy's case
would be an advantage (marching along a single road caused huge problems and
losses described in numerous books).

As a result, taking St-Petersburg earlier than Moscow and with the smaller
losses from fighting and exhaustion is quite possible.

Consequences:

1st, a HUGE blow to the imperial administration: evacuation of the enormous
volumes of documentation would be technically impossible (IIRC, at some point
Alexander was scared enough to order evacuation of the leas archives but this could be just a tip of an iceberg) and there would be a need to evacuate and
place somewhere thousands of the bureaucrats as well. This would take a while
with an administrative chaos for at least few months. "Chaos" would handicap
an ability to assemble the new troops, get the revenues, etc.

2nd, severely diminished possibility to get money and supplies from Britain:
in 1812 - 14 Russia bought from Britain 225 thousands muskets, approximately
the same number as the Russian production for that time (at least 50K in 1812),
1100 tons of gunpowder (1811-13), 1000 tons of lead, and a wide variety of other
items from wool cloth to spyglasses. And a LOT of cash (the Brits had been
paying subsidies on per capita basis). St-Petersburg was the main Russian port
and with its fall and a relatively small advance northward, supplies from
Sweden and Archangelsk would be cut off as well leaving only the Southern
route via the Med and Black Sea, which would require the Ottoman agreement.

Of course, if Alexander does not freak out, victory is still a far fetched
thing but at least there is a chance of extricating French army from Russia
without catastrophic losses while causing some real damage to the Russian
ability to fight back immediately.

[To provide a balanced picture, Kutuzov did not notify the governor of Moscow
about intention to give up the city and as a result, among other things, the
whole Moscow Arsenal fall into the French hands with the thousands of muskets,
hundreds of cannons, etc. Not being lost, they could at least somewhat
compensate for the "deficit" and, without the huge OTL losses, need for the
new troops could be less pressing.]


As far as freaking out is going, while French capture of Moscow caused a big
uproar (more than "slightly" exaggerated by the post-factum patriotic
propaganda) and noticeable personal losses for the Russian nobility, the fall
of St-Petersburg would mean even bigger personal losses for the aristocracy
and "ruling bureaucracy" who lived there. Campaign in Baltic region would hit
the local nobility which was heavily engaged both in the military and
civic administration. BTW, "the fire of St-Petersburg" would be much less
likely because a much greater part of the city was built of stone and, being
both the greatest Russian port and a center of the military administration,
the city had big warehouses.

What I have no idea of is situation on the Baltic. Denmark is French ally but
OTOH Sweden is Russian ally. Was British Navy operating on Baltic Sea in 1812?
In OTL Riga got reinforcement of the small ships (cannon boats and such) from
Baltic fleet but I heard nothing about the Brits. Would the Danish fleet
(and French/German ships) be able to secure the supplies by the sea?


Would Alexander be more inclined to make peace in this scenario? Personally,
I doubt but he could find himself in a worse position than in OTL so who knows.


Not directly related WIF:

In OTL a recognized head of the "patriotic party" was Grand Duchess Catherine
Pavlovna, sister of Alexander, married at that time to the Duke of Oldenburg.
At some point, when Alexander's prestige went South (initial stage of war with
its supposedly shameful retreat) there was even a talk of overthrowing
Alexander in her favor. Notice, not in favor of Constantine: even if he was
loudly and obnoxiously "patriotic", nobody wanted him anywhere near the
throne (BTW, his patriotism was not preventing him from selling army the
sub-standard horses from his breeding farm). WIF the coup happened and Russia
is ruled by Catherine III? In OTL as Queen of Wurttemberg (2nd marriage) she
was quite impressive, in 1812 was very active both in PR campaign and in
organization of "opolchenie", in 1813 - 15 accompanied Alexander in the
military campaigns and was helping him during the Congress of Vienna.
The Horny Goat
2017-07-31 23:18:12 UTC
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Have always wondered about your "Drive on St Petersburg" scenario but
wonder - what was the naval balance of power in the Baltic in this
scenario?

Is there any possibility French troops could have been landed in the
Russian rear (possibly devoted to looting Russian supply trains)?

Was French naval command of the eastern Baltic assured? In other
words, how secure was Napoleon's line of retreat if things go
sideways?

One of the major flaws in Napoleon's OTL retreat was that he was
retreating through much the same territory his troops at looted on the
way to Moscow thus preventing "living off the land" on the way back.

In my opinion this was the main significance of Maloyaroslavets. - it
prevented the Grande Armee from choosing a different path of retreat.
Had they been able to the French would have reached the Niemen with
considerably more horses and presumably in better condition than OTL.

I do like your scenario - I'm questioning the degree to which French
naval control of the area between Riga and St Petersberg was assured.
(I don't know the answer to this question)
Alex Milman
2017-08-01 02:57:58 UTC
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Post by The Horny Goat
Have always wondered about your "Drive on St Petersburg" scenario but
wonder - what was the naval balance of power in the Baltic in this
scenario?
I already wrote that I don't know the situation beyond the obvious but
I doubt that French could move and considerable naval force (which they
did not have, to start with) all the way to the Baltics. Denmark did not
have navy capable to fight both Russian and Swedish forces (judging by
Bernadotte's operations against Norway, it could not deal with the Swedes
acting on their own). Prussia was not a naval power. It does not even look
like the Danes could oppose the British traffic through the straits. At least
during the war of 1807 - 12 (Britain & Sweden against Russia & Denmark) the
British squadron had been operating on the Baltic Sea.
Post by The Horny Goat
Is there any possibility French troops could have been landed in the
Russian rear (possibly devoted to looting Russian supply trains)?
Nope. Russians moved a squadron of the small ships for supporting Riga
from Kronstadt without any problems.
Post by The Horny Goat
Was French naval command of the eastern Baltic assured?
There was not too much of the "French naval" left even much closer to
France. How would their ships made it into the Baltic Sea in any noticeable
numbers?
Post by The Horny Goat
In other
words, how secure was Napoleon's line of retreat if things go
sideways?
It would be quite secure outside the reach of a naval artillery (aka,
few hundred meters from the coastline in the worst case scenario).
Post by The Horny Goat
One of the major flaws in Napoleon's OTL retreat was that he was
retreating through much the same territory his troops at looted on the
way to Moscow thus preventing "living off the land" on the way back.
Obviously, the retreat would be along the same roads but it would be noticeably
shorter with Riga and Tallinn serving as an intermediate bases: unlike mostly
wooden Smolensk, these cities would not be burned pretty much to the ground
by artillery fire. Plus, if you paid attention, the numbers advancing on
St-Petersburg would be noticeably lower than those of OTL marching on Moscow
with more troops being spread from Lithuania to St-Petersburg to cover the
main attack.
Post by The Horny Goat
In my opinion this was the main significance of Maloyaroslavets. - it
prevented the Grande Armee from choosing a different path of retreat.
It was explained in some details by Clausewitz that the story is just a
legend: the "different path" was just a short stretch of the New Smolensk
Road which would led to the same Smolensk Road. In other words, Nappy was
wasting time and people on a pure demonstration of his aggressiveness.
Post by The Horny Goat
Had they been able to the French would have reached the Niemen with
considerably more horses and presumably in better condition than OTL.,
Not at all, see above. Anyway, how would they preserve horses if they did
not have supply depots along (nonexistent) alternative road?
Post by The Horny Goat
I do like your scenario - I'm questioning the degree to which French
naval control of the area between Riga and St Petersberg was assured.
(I don't know the answer to this question)
No French naval control but no real ability of the opponent to hurt French
land offensive or retreat: landing few hundreds or even few thousands in the
area saturated with the French troops would be a meaningless suicide. Both
Riga and Tallinn had adequate defenses against a naval attack but could be
taken from the land with a relative ease.
t***@go.com
2017-08-01 15:44:26 UTC
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Post by Alex Milman
Post by The Horny Goat
Have always wondered about your "Drive on St Petersburg" scenario but
wonder - what was the naval balance of power in the Baltic in this
scenario?
I already wrote that I don't know the situation beyond the obvious but
I doubt that French could move and considerable naval force (which they
did not have, to start with) all the way to the Baltics. Denmark did not
have navy capable to fight both Russian and Swedish forces (judging by
Bernadotte's operations against Norway, it could not deal with the Swedes
acting on their own). Prussia was not a naval power. It does not even look
like the Danes could oppose the British traffic through the straits. At least
during the war of 1807 - 12 (Britain & Sweden against Russia & Denmark) the
British squadron had been operating on the Baltic Sea.
Post by The Horny Goat
Is there any possibility French troops could have been landed in the
Russian rear (possibly devoted to looting Russian supply trains)?
Nope. Russians moved a squadron of the small ships for supporting Riga
from Kronstadt without any problems.
Post by The Horny Goat
Was French naval command of the eastern Baltic assured?
There was not too much of the "French naval" left even much closer to
France. How would their ships made it into the Baltic Sea in any noticeable
numbers?
Post by The Horny Goat
In other
words, how secure was Napoleon's line of retreat if things go
sideways?
It would be quite secure outside the reach of a naval artillery (aka,
few hundred meters from the coastline in the worst case scenario).
Post by The Horny Goat
One of the major flaws in Napoleon's OTL retreat was that he was
retreating through much the same territory his troops at looted on the
way to Moscow thus preventing "living off the land" on the way back.
Obviously, the retreat would be along the same roads but it would be noticeably
shorter with Riga and Tallinn serving as an intermediate bases: unlike mostly
wooden Smolensk, these cities would not be burned pretty much to the ground
by artillery fire. Plus, if you paid attention, the numbers advancing on
St-Petersburg would be noticeably lower than those of OTL marching on Moscow
with more troops being spread from Lithuania to St-Petersburg to cover the
main attack.
Post by The Horny Goat
In my opinion this was the main significance of Maloyaroslavets. - it
prevented the Grande Armee from choosing a different path of retreat.
It was explained in some details by Clausewitz that the story is just a
legend: the "different path" was just a short stretch of the New Smolensk
Road which would led to the same Smolensk Road. In other words, Nappy was
wasting time and people on a pure demonstration of his aggressiveness.
Post by The Horny Goat
Had they been able to the French would have reached the Niemen with
considerably more horses and presumably in better condition than OTL.,
Not at all, see above. Anyway, how would they preserve horses if they did
not have supply depots along (nonexistent) alternative road?
Post by The Horny Goat
I do like your scenario - I'm questioning the degree to which French
naval control of the area between Riga and St Petersberg was assured.
(I don't know the answer to this question)
No French naval control but no real ability of the opponent to hurt French
land offensive or retreat: landing few hundreds or even few thousands in the
area saturated with the French troops would be a meaningless suicide. Both
Riga and Tallinn had adequate defenses against a naval attack but could be
taken from the land with a relative ease.
So. Basic question.

Why invade Russia at all.

Why not reinforce Denmark and invade Sweden?

Blockade and sink every ship on the Baltic that
tries to trade with Russia through the straights
of Denmark and close the overland route through
Sweden through warfare.

Or would Russia still ignore the 'Continental
System' and trade with the U.K. by way of the
Mediterranean anyway?

It seems to me that the 'Continental System'
was something done against the U.K.

Wikipedia gave the idea that the U.K. was
blockading France, which is an act of war
under the Geneva and Hague conventions
(which are of course later), and the best
way of dealing with it is to establish
counter-blockades where possible.

In other words, take over Gibraltar and the
Danish straights and sink any British ships
that attempt to pass.

Overall, it seems to me that Napoleon fighting
a war against Sweden with the intent of conquering
it is a winning situation with respect to
Napoleon.

If Napoleon conquers Sweden and offers Finland
as a gift to Russia for maintaining its war
against Great Britain, then he would have
achieved every stated reason for invading
Russia to begin with.

Over all, however, it doesn't look like it
turned out that way.

Basically, Russia won a war against Sweden
of its own accord and then made peace with
the U.K., although a formal peace did not
happen until after Napoleon invaded.

It looks however like Napoleon would have
had to do some severe naval warfare in the
Baltic to keep the British from destroying
supply ships for a Baltic hugging attack
on St. Petersburg.

This means a severe naval war against the
British by the French on the Baltic,
something that did not happen in our time line.

Here are some links on the subject.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continental_System

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaties_of_Tilsit

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Copenhagen_%281807%29

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copenhagenization_%28naval%29

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Russian_War_%281807%E2%80%931812%29

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finnish_War

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Swedish_War_%281810%E2%80%931812%29

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_invasion_of_Russia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Orebro
Rob
2017-08-01 23:41:42 UTC
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Post by Alex Milman
OTL is well-known: Nappy assembled an overwhelming military force, marched
it to Moscow, well beyond the logistical capacities of his military system
and the rest is history. Presumably he was expecting that capture of the
former capital will strike Russia "into its heart" but it is quite possible
that this was one of his post-factum justifications of his actions: it is
quite obvious that he was expecting to destroy the bulk of the Russian forces
near the border and then repeat Austrian and Prussian scenarios: government
capitulates when its army is beaten. When this did not happen (mostly thanks
to Barclay), the further actions were dictated by the same idea of defeating
opponent in a major battle (and expectation that a token event like capture
of Moscow will force Alexander's hand).
Advance toward St-Petersburg never was seriously considered, perhaps because
Nappy did not quite understand specifics of the Russian Empire (and limitations
of his own system). While Moscow was "historically important" city it was not
a capital of Russia which means that its fall meant very little as far as
governing of the Russian Empire was concerned: it was a highly bureaucratized
state and center of the bureaucracy was in St-Petersburg.
Dude, you totally pooh-pooh'ed this strategy when I mentioned it a few years ago.
Alex Milman
2017-08-02 18:35:14 UTC
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Post by Rob
Post by Alex Milman
OTL is well-known: Nappy assembled an overwhelming military force, marched
it to Moscow, well beyond the logistical capacities of his military system
and the rest is history. Presumably he was expecting that capture of the
former capital will strike Russia "into its heart" but it is quite possible
that this was one of his post-factum justifications of his actions: it is
quite obvious that he was expecting to destroy the bulk of the Russian forces
near the border and then repeat Austrian and Prussian scenarios: government
capitulates when its army is beaten. When this did not happen (mostly thanks
to Barclay), the further actions were dictated by the same idea of defeating
opponent in a major battle (and expectation that a token event like capture
of Moscow will force Alexander's hand).
Advance toward St-Petersburg never was seriously considered, perhaps because
Nappy did not quite understand specifics of the Russian Empire (and limitations
of his own system). While Moscow was "historically important" city it was not
a capital of Russia which means that its fall meant very little as far as
governing of the Russian Empire was concerned: it was a highly bureaucratized
state and center of the bureaucracy was in St-Petersburg.
Dude, you totally pooh-pooh'ed this strategy when I mentioned it a few years ago.
The people (and their opinions) are evolving but I'm not sure if your idea
was EXACTLY the same as mine.
Rob
2017-08-03 00:24:54 UTC
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Post by Alex Milman
Post by Rob
Post by Alex Milman
OTL is well-known: Nappy assembled an overwhelming military force, marched
it to Moscow, well beyond the logistical capacities of his military system
and the rest is history. Presumably he was expecting that capture of the
former capital will strike Russia "into its heart" but it is quite possible
that this was one of his post-factum justifications of his actions: it is
quite obvious that he was expecting to destroy the bulk of the Russian forces
near the border and then repeat Austrian and Prussian scenarios: government
capitulates when its army is beaten. When this did not happen (mostly thanks
to Barclay), the further actions were dictated by the same idea of defeating
opponent in a major battle (and expectation that a token event like capture
of Moscow will force Alexander's hand).
Advance toward St-Petersburg never was seriously considered, perhaps because
Nappy did not quite understand specifics of the Russian Empire (and limitations
of his own system). While Moscow was "historically important" city it was not
a capital of Russia which means that its fall meant very little as far as
governing of the Russian Empire was concerned: it was a highly bureaucratized
state and center of the bureaucracy was in St-Petersburg.
Dude, you totally pooh-pooh'ed this strategy when I mentioned it a few years ago.
The people (and their opinions) are evolving but I'm not sure if your idea
was EXACTLY the same as mine.
Probably was not, and yours is more detailed. I am reading with interest.
Alex Milman
2017-08-03 18:42:48 UTC
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Post by Rob
Post by Alex Milman
Post by Rob
Post by Alex Milman
OTL is well-known: Nappy assembled an overwhelming military force, marched
it to Moscow, well beyond the logistical capacities of his military system
and the rest is history. Presumably he was expecting that capture of the
former capital will strike Russia "into its heart" but it is quite possible
that this was one of his post-factum justifications of his actions: it is
quite obvious that he was expecting to destroy the bulk of the Russian forces
near the border and then repeat Austrian and Prussian scenarios: government
capitulates when its army is beaten. When this did not happen (mostly thanks
to Barclay), the further actions were dictated by the same idea of defeating
opponent in a major battle (and expectation that a token event like capture
of Moscow will force Alexander's hand).
Advance toward St-Petersburg never was seriously considered, perhaps because
Nappy did not quite understand specifics of the Russian Empire (and limitations
of his own system). While Moscow was "historically important" city it was not
a capital of Russia which means that its fall meant very little as far as
governing of the Russian Empire was concerned: it was a highly bureaucratized
state and center of the bureaucracy was in St-Petersburg.
Dude, you totally pooh-pooh'ed this strategy when I mentioned it a few years ago.
The people (and their opinions) are evolving but I'm not sure if your idea
was EXACTLY the same as mine.
Probably was not, and yours is more detailed. I am reading with interest.
You see, Rob, the whole thing about 1812 is not as much about Napoleon's
victory as about the least disastrous option.

The victory was possible, at least in theory, but it would be a subject to a
number of the mostly non-military factors like economic interests of the
Russian nobility and "Polish issue".

Politically, Napoleon hardly could gave up on Poland while for Alexander even
the Duchy of Warsaw was like a red rag for a bull (if anything, it was sending
the wrong signals to the Poles in Russia).

Russian nobility was vitally interested in the British trade (raw
products of their estates) and assassination of Paul I was a recent history.
Of course, one of the 1st things that post-Napoleonic Britain did was to
introduce the corn laws which restricted foreign imports but this was AFTER
the allies ceased to be necessary. Strictly speaking, in a long run the
continental system could benefit Russia by allowing development of the local
industries:in OTL between 1807 and 1812 there was noticeable of the textile
industries. Keeping in mind that a noticeable part of the manufacturing
facilities had been owned by the nobility (access to the cheap labor), it
could end up as beneficial even for this class but most of them had been stuck
with the "lazy" model of growing grain with the minimal expenses (aka,
minimal innovations and improvements of efficiency), cutting and selling
timber, etc. so joining the Continental System resulted in a lot of grumbling.
As long as Napoleon insisted on the System, a sustainable peace was simply
impossible.

Which leaves one more option: make further war impossible (or too costly)
for Russia thus guaranteeing at least few years of peace (in a hope that
Britain will give up). To implement this option Nappy would have (a) destroy
the bulk of the Russian army while remaining reasonably strong and (b) to hit
Russian Empire where it REALLY hurts.

In OTL he went for this option and almost succeed in destroying the Russian
armies close to the border: according to the initial plan the main (1st) army
would be locked in a fortified camp on Drissa while a much smaller 2nd army
would be acting on Napoleon's communications, an idea proposed by general von
Phull about whom even his protégé Clausewitz wrote that he was very intelligent
and well educated but completely lacked any practical knowledge. When the
Drisaa camp was abandoning and Russian armies kept retreating he kept chasing
them in a hope that sooner or later they'll be forced to defend some token
geographic point but it did not happen at Smolensk and by the time of Borodino
he had only a small fraction of his initial force on the main direction, which
made all following actions pretty much meaningless (even if his troops were in
a better shape, had more horses, etc.).

Of course, a lot was said about the wastefulness of his military system: upon
reaching Moscow he ordered raising the new troops in France but did nothing to
arrange for the better conditions for the wounded left on the road to Moscow,
assembly of the stragglers and deserters, organization of the depots in the
rear, arrangements for the orderly collection of the food and fodder, etc.
This would be something for the General Staff to do but Napoleon's General
Staff amounted mostly to Bertier with the functionality of an overpaid scribe.
So, short of ATL of "Nappy with the General Staff and without obsessions", we
can think about scenario which would not result in a spectacular disaster of
OTL 1812 and may produce SOME chance for at least a short-term (5 - 6 years)
peace with Russia (something Tilsit-like).

1st, it should NOT involve chasing the Russian armies because Nappy's army
simply was not well-suited for such a task.

2nd, it should create a situation under which continuation of war would be
very painful economically for Russian Empire and make raising the new armies
much more difficult than in OTL.

1st - Advance on St-Petersburg involves shorter distances with most
of campaign happening in more "civilized" (aka, similar to the Central Europe)
area than Central Russia. Unlike OTL, it also allows campaign on a wider
front (as opposite to the idiotic march along a single road behind the Russian
troops) with the left flank secured by the sea (no meaningful seaborne attack
on the French rear would be possible, taking into an account numbers of
the land forces involved). The "screen" on the right would be enough to deal
with whatever could be realistically brought here (see numbers in my 1st post)
and most probably commanders of the 1st & 2nd armies would be forced to
confront Napoleon either on the main direction (in which case we are talking
strictly about the 1st Army) or on the right where they'd still be outnumbered.
By the time the troops from Galicia (subject to the Austrian inactivity)
and Danube could be brought to the theater St-Petersburg is already taken
and Nappy has a freedom of moving at least some of the troops from there to
wherever is needed leaving the long marches to the opponent. As a side show,
if the French are in St-Petersburg and possibly even marching into Finland,
AND Nappy is offering return of Finland and Swedish Pomerania, the political
pressure on Bernadotte may force him to change his political associations
(of course, selling iron and timber to the Brits was vitally important for
Sweden but couldn't France buy at least some of these products? After all,
iron was needed for the military forces; BTW, the same goes for the Russian
iron and some other materials).


2nd- With all patriotic (and mostly post-factum) brouhaha about "sacred" Moscow,
it was not a capital but the fall of St-Petersburg would be a disaster on
3 accounts: (a) prestige, (b) center of the Russian bureaucracy (which would
not be easy to substitute and which would put the whole empire into an
organizational turmoil) and (c) loss of the main port (trade with Britain and
British supplies) with a reasonably easy extension to Archangelsk (either taken
or the road cut off) and control of the Swedish border (in practical terms,
only a very small part of it would really matter).

As far as raising the new troops is involved, Russia was, in general, much
less effective then France with its (theoretically) compulsory military
service: call for the new troops meant that the estate owners had to give
up certain percentage of their male serfs, which was, of course,
hurting them economically (even in 1812 some of the governorships "underperformed" in the terms of recruits raised.
Of course, in OTL the new troops had been raised in hundreds of thousands during
1812 - 14 but starting from the early 1813 there
was a follow-up of the "glory of 1812", which made the whole thing easier
politically. In this ATL the "glory" and "liberation of Europe" are absent
while ineptitude of the government is quite obvious: the enemy is just staying
there occupying capital and the Baltic provinces defeating the new armies
raised against him while the nobility is gaining nothing because most of the
trade with Britain is being cut off (IIRC, the Ottoman Empire was at that time
friendly to Napoleon which could make shipping over the Black Sea problematic).
Then, of course, comes an issue of raising the armies. The British subsidies
are not arriving (no available ports) and neither is British equipment (up to
50% of the muskets used by the Russian army in 1812 - 14, etc.) so raising and
arming the new troops is going to be a much more difficult task than in OTL.
Neither Prussians nor Austrians are going to change their position as long as
Nappy is still in Russia and his army is in a good shape and he manages to
organize its logistics on adequate level (which would be much easier than in
OTL). Of course, there are valid considerations about securing his "front"
from the Cossacks and light troops but, to be fair, most of their fame came
from the chase of the disorganized French during their retreat. They could
do scouting and even fought reasonably small numbers of a regular cavalry
(happened in the summer of 1812) but they did not represent a serious danger
for the regular troops if they were in a good shape. Neither was there enough
of them to be "everywhere".

Anyway, the bulk of Napoleon's troops is not exhausted by the long march
to nowhere the reinforcements can arrive in a meaningful fashion and if
necessary he can safely withdraw to Poland with most of his troops thus
preventing defection of Prussia and later Austria.

If Nappy manages to conduct a multi-year "occupation" campaign, Alexander's
reign could be much shorter than in OTL or there could be "2nd Tilsit".
Chances of a coup were not zero even in OTL on the earlier stages of campaign
when Alexander was blamed for ineptitude. Now, if there IS a coup, who is a
beneficiary? Formally, this should be Constantine but, with all his loud-mouth
"patriotism" he was not a popular figure: in army he was pain in the butt for
his subordinates, who just happened to be The Guards and he was too big of
an imbecile (and too similar to his father) to become a hero for the Russian
nationalists. Nicholas was only 16 years old and by 1812 had a
zero "visibility", Michael was even younger. Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna
(Duchess of Oldenburg) was intelligent and popular among the nationalists.
In the summer of 1812 she seemingly had a better grasp of the "national"
sentiment than her brother and her letters were intended to keep him on a
course. In OTL there was, for a while, an idea to put her on the throne. Of
course, the succession rules formulated by Paul I prevented females from
accessing the throne but, if push came to shove, why would the law written by
an insane emperor matter?


Of course, being on a strategic defense was not typical for Napoleon circa
1812 but we all know how well did he manage the offensive in 1812.
Rob
2017-08-06 13:39:27 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by Alex Milman
Post by Rob
Post by Alex Milman
Post by Rob
Post by Alex Milman
OTL is well-known: Nappy assembled an overwhelming military force, marched
it to Moscow, well beyond the logistical capacities of his military system
and the rest is history. Presumably he was expecting that capture of the
former capital will strike Russia "into its heart" but it is quite possible
that this was one of his post-factum justifications of his actions: it is
quite obvious that he was expecting to destroy the bulk of the Russian forces
near the border and then repeat Austrian and Prussian scenarios: government
capitulates when its army is beaten. When this did not happen (mostly thanks
to Barclay), the further actions were dictated by the same idea of defeating
opponent in a major battle (and expectation that a token event like capture
of Moscow will force Alexander's hand).
Advance toward St-Petersburg never was seriously considered, perhaps because
Nappy did not quite understand specifics of the Russian Empire (and limitations
of his own system). While Moscow was "historically important" city it was not
a capital of Russia which means that its fall meant very little as far as
governing of the Russian Empire was concerned: it was a highly bureaucratized
state and center of the bureaucracy was in St-Petersburg.
Dude, you totally pooh-pooh'ed this strategy when I mentioned it a few years ago.
The people (and their opinions) are evolving but I'm not sure if your idea
was EXACTLY the same as mine.
Probably was not, and yours is more detailed. I am reading with interest.
You see, Rob, the whole thing about 1812 is not as much about Napoleon's
victory as about the least disastrous option.
The victory was possible, at least in theory, but it would be a subject to a
number of the mostly non-military factors like economic interests of the
Russian nobility and "Polish issue".
Politically, Napoleon hardly could gave up on Poland while for Alexander even
the Duchy of Warsaw was like a red rag for a bull (if anything, it was sending
the wrong signals to the Poles in Russia).
Russian nobility was vitally interested in the British trade (raw
products of their estates) and assassination of Paul I was a recent history.
Of course, one of the 1st things that post-Napoleonic Britain did was to
introduce the corn laws which restricted foreign imports but this was AFTER
the allies ceased to be necessary. Strictly speaking, in a long run the
continental system could benefit Russia by allowing development of the local
industries:in OTL between 1807 and 1812 there was noticeable of the textile
industries. Keeping in mind that a noticeable part of the manufacturing
facilities had been owned by the nobility (access to the cheap labor), it
could end up as beneficial even for this class but most of them had been stuck
with the "lazy" model of growing grain with the minimal expenses (aka,
minimal innovations and improvements of efficiency), cutting and selling
timber, etc. so joining the Continental System resulted in a lot of grumbling.
As long as Napoleon insisted on the System, a sustainable peace was simply
impossible.
Which leaves one more option: make further war impossible (or too costly)
for Russia thus guaranteeing at least few years of peace (in a hope that
Britain will give up). To implement this option Nappy would have (a) destroy
the bulk of the Russian army while remaining reasonably strong and (b) to hit
Russian Empire where it REALLY hurts.
In OTL he went for this option and almost succeed in destroying the Russian
armies close to the border: according to the initial plan the main (1st) army
would be locked in a fortified camp on Drissa while a much smaller 2nd army
would be acting on Napoleon's communications, an idea proposed by general von
Phull about whom even his protégé Clausewitz wrote that he was very intelligent
and well educated but completely lacked any practical knowledge. When the
Drisaa camp was abandoning and Russian armies kept retreating he kept chasing
them in a hope that sooner or later they'll be forced to defend some token
geographic point but it did not happen at Smolensk and by the time of Borodino
he had only a small fraction of his initial force on the main direction, which
made all following actions pretty much meaningless (even if his troops were in
a better shape, had more horses, etc.).
Of course, a lot was said about the wastefulness of his military system: upon
reaching Moscow he ordered raising the new troops in France but did nothing to
arrange for the better conditions for the wounded left on the road to Moscow,
assembly of the stragglers and deserters, organization of the depots in the
rear, arrangements for the orderly collection of the food and fodder, etc.
This would be something for the General Staff to do but Napoleon's General
Staff amounted mostly to Bertier with the functionality of an overpaid scribe.
So, short of ATL of "Nappy with the General Staff and without obsessions", we
can think about scenario which would not result in a spectacular disaster of
OTL 1812 and may produce SOME chance for at least a short-term (5 - 6 years)
peace with Russia (something Tilsit-like).
1st, it should NOT involve chasing the Russian armies because Nappy's army
simply was not well-suited for such a task.
2nd, it should create a situation under which continuation of war would be
very painful economically for Russian Empire and make raising the new armies
much more difficult than in OTL.
1st - Advance on St-Petersburg involves shorter distances with most
of campaign happening in more "civilized" (aka, similar to the Central Europe)
area than Central Russia. Unlike OTL, it also allows campaign on a wider
front (as opposite to the idiotic march along a single road behind the Russian
troops) with the left flank secured by the sea (no meaningful seaborne attack
on the French rear would be possible, taking into an account numbers of
the land forces involved). The "screen" on the right would be enough to deal
with whatever could be realistically brought here (see numbers in my 1st post)
and most probably commanders of the 1st & 2nd armies would be forced to
confront Napoleon either on the main direction (in which case we are talking
strictly about the 1st Army) or on the right where they'd still be outnumbered.
By the time the troops from Galicia (subject to the Austrian inactivity)
and Danube could be brought to the theater St-Petersburg is already taken
and Nappy has a freedom of moving at least some of the troops from there to
wherever is needed leaving the long marches to the opponent. As a side show,
if the French are in St-Petersburg and possibly even marching into Finland,
AND Nappy is offering return of Finland and Swedish Pomerania, the political
pressure on Bernadotte may force him to change his political associations
(of course, selling iron and timber to the Brits was vitally important for
Sweden but couldn't France buy at least some of these products? After all,
iron was needed for the military forces; BTW, the same goes for the Russian
iron and some other materials).
2nd- With all patriotic (and mostly post-factum) brouhaha about "sacred" Moscow,
it was not a capital but the fall of St-Petersburg would be a disaster on
3 accounts: (a) prestige, (b) center of the Russian bureaucracy (which would
not be easy to substitute and which would put the whole empire into an
organizational turmoil) and (c) loss of the main port (trade with Britain and
British supplies) with a reasonably easy extension to Archangelsk (either taken
or the road cut off) and control of the Swedish border (in practical terms,
only a very small part of it would really matter).
As far as raising the new troops is involved, Russia was, in general, much
less effective then France with its (theoretically) compulsory military
service: call for the new troops meant that the estate owners had to give
up certain percentage of their male serfs, which was, of course,
hurting them economically (even in 1812 some of the governorships "underperformed" in the terms of recruits raised.
Of course, in OTL the new troops had been raised in hundreds of thousands during
1812 - 14 but starting from the early 1813 there
was a follow-up of the "glory of 1812", which made the whole thing easier
politically. In this ATL the "glory" and "liberation of Europe" are absent
while ineptitude of the government is quite obvious: the enemy is just staying
there occupying capital and the Baltic provinces defeating the new armies
raised against him while the nobility is gaining nothing because most of the
trade with Britain is being cut off (IIRC, the Ottoman Empire was at that time
friendly to Napoleon which could make shipping over the Black Sea problematic).
Then, of course, comes an issue of raising the armies. The British subsidies
are not arriving (no available ports) and neither is British equipment (up to
50% of the muskets used by the Russian army in 1812 - 14, etc.) so raising and
arming the new troops is going to be a much more difficult task than in OTL.
Neither Prussians nor Austrians are going to change their position as long as
Nappy is still in Russia and his army is in a good shape and he manages to
organize its logistics on adequate level (which would be much easier than in
OTL). Of course, there are valid considerations about securing his "front"
from the Cossacks and light troops but, to be fair, most of their fame came
from the chase of the disorganized French during their retreat. They could
do scouting and even fought reasonably small numbers of a regular cavalry
(happened in the summer of 1812) but they did not represent a serious danger
for the regular troops if they were in a good shape. Neither was there enough
of them to be "everywhere".
Anyway, the bulk of Napoleon's troops is not exhausted by the long march
to nowhere the reinforcements can arrive in a meaningful fashion and if
necessary he can safely withdraw to Poland with most of his troops thus
preventing defection of Prussia and later Austria.
If Nappy manages to conduct a multi-year "occupation" campaign, Alexander's
reign could be much shorter than in OTL or there could be "2nd Tilsit".
Chances of a coup were not zero even in OTL on the earlier stages of campaign
when Alexander was blamed for ineptitude. Now, if there IS a coup, who is a
beneficiary? Formally, this should be Constantine but, with all his loud-mouth
"patriotism" he was not a popular figure: in army he was pain in the butt for
his subordinates, who just happened to be The Guards and he was too big of
an imbecile (and too similar to his father) to become a hero for the Russian
nationalists. Nicholas was only 16 years old and by 1812 had a
zero "visibility", Michael was even younger. Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna
(Duchess of Oldenburg) was intelligent and popular among the nationalists.
In the summer of 1812 she seemingly had a better grasp of the "national"
sentiment than her brother and her letters were intended to keep him on a
course. In OTL there was, for a while, an idea to put her on the throne. Of
course, the succession rules formulated by Paul I prevented females from
accessing the throne but, if push came to shove, why would the law written by
an insane emperor matter?
Of course, being on a strategic defense was not typical for Napoleon circa
1812 but we all know how well did he manage the offensive in 1812.
This is a fascinating projection. You present a good case.

Another alternative with a more weakened Russia and less weakened France could be a Russo-European campaign that lasts a lot longer, that lasts WWII length.


Napoleon invaded Russia on 24 June, 1812

He lost there and after 21 months Russian armies (with Allies) seized Paris.



Perhaps in the scenario of the St. Petersburg focused campaign, the Allies, Russians included, eventually take Paris, but in 46 months, about the amount of time left in OTL between Barbarossa's launch date and VE Day?
Rob
2017-08-06 13:41:59 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by Rob
Post by Alex Milman
Post by Rob
Post by Alex Milman
Post by Rob
Post by Alex Milman
OTL is well-known: Nappy assembled an overwhelming military force, marched
it to Moscow, well beyond the logistical capacities of his military system
and the rest is history. Presumably he was expecting that capture of the
former capital will strike Russia "into its heart" but it is quite possible
that this was one of his post-factum justifications of his actions: it is
quite obvious that he was expecting to destroy the bulk of the Russian forces
near the border and then repeat Austrian and Prussian scenarios: government
capitulates when its army is beaten. When this did not happen (mostly thanks
to Barclay), the further actions were dictated by the same idea of defeating
opponent in a major battle (and expectation that a token event like capture
of Moscow will force Alexander's hand).
Advance toward St-Petersburg never was seriously considered, perhaps because
Nappy did not quite understand specifics of the Russian Empire (and limitations
of his own system). While Moscow was "historically important" city it was not
a capital of Russia which means that its fall meant very little as far as
governing of the Russian Empire was concerned: it was a highly bureaucratized
state and center of the bureaucracy was in St-Petersburg.
Dude, you totally pooh-pooh'ed this strategy when I mentioned it a few years ago.
The people (and their opinions) are evolving but I'm not sure if your idea
was EXACTLY the same as mine.
Probably was not, and yours is more detailed. I am reading with interest.
You see, Rob, the whole thing about 1812 is not as much about Napoleon's
victory as about the least disastrous option.
The victory was possible, at least in theory, but it would be a subject to a
number of the mostly non-military factors like economic interests of the
Russian nobility and "Polish issue".
Politically, Napoleon hardly could gave up on Poland while for Alexander even
the Duchy of Warsaw was like a red rag for a bull (if anything, it was sending
the wrong signals to the Poles in Russia).
Russian nobility was vitally interested in the British trade (raw
products of their estates) and assassination of Paul I was a recent history.
Of course, one of the 1st things that post-Napoleonic Britain did was to
introduce the corn laws which restricted foreign imports but this was AFTER
the allies ceased to be necessary. Strictly speaking, in a long run the
continental system could benefit Russia by allowing development of the local
industries:in OTL between 1807 and 1812 there was noticeable of the textile
industries. Keeping in mind that a noticeable part of the manufacturing
facilities had been owned by the nobility (access to the cheap labor), it
could end up as beneficial even for this class but most of them had been stuck
with the "lazy" model of growing grain with the minimal expenses (aka,
minimal innovations and improvements of efficiency), cutting and selling
timber, etc. so joining the Continental System resulted in a lot of grumbling.
As long as Napoleon insisted on the System, a sustainable peace was simply
impossible.
Which leaves one more option: make further war impossible (or too costly)
for Russia thus guaranteeing at least few years of peace (in a hope that
Britain will give up). To implement this option Nappy would have (a) destroy
the bulk of the Russian army while remaining reasonably strong and (b) to hit
Russian Empire where it REALLY hurts.
In OTL he went for this option and almost succeed in destroying the Russian
armies close to the border: according to the initial plan the main (1st) army
would be locked in a fortified camp on Drissa while a much smaller 2nd army
would be acting on Napoleon's communications, an idea proposed by general von
Phull about whom even his protégé Clausewitz wrote that he was very intelligent
and well educated but completely lacked any practical knowledge. When the
Drisaa camp was abandoning and Russian armies kept retreating he kept chasing
them in a hope that sooner or later they'll be forced to defend some token
geographic point but it did not happen at Smolensk and by the time of Borodino
he had only a small fraction of his initial force on the main direction, which
made all following actions pretty much meaningless (even if his troops were in
a better shape, had more horses, etc.).
Of course, a lot was said about the wastefulness of his military system: upon
reaching Moscow he ordered raising the new troops in France but did nothing to
arrange for the better conditions for the wounded left on the road to Moscow,
assembly of the stragglers and deserters, organization of the depots in the
rear, arrangements for the orderly collection of the food and fodder, etc.
This would be something for the General Staff to do but Napoleon's General
Staff amounted mostly to Bertier with the functionality of an overpaid scribe.
So, short of ATL of "Nappy with the General Staff and without obsessions", we
can think about scenario which would not result in a spectacular disaster of
OTL 1812 and may produce SOME chance for at least a short-term (5 - 6 years)
peace with Russia (something Tilsit-like).
1st, it should NOT involve chasing the Russian armies because Nappy's army
simply was not well-suited for such a task.
2nd, it should create a situation under which continuation of war would be
very painful economically for Russian Empire and make raising the new armies
much more difficult than in OTL.
1st - Advance on St-Petersburg involves shorter distances with most
of campaign happening in more "civilized" (aka, similar to the Central Europe)
area than Central Russia. Unlike OTL, it also allows campaign on a wider
front (as opposite to the idiotic march along a single road behind the Russian
troops) with the left flank secured by the sea (no meaningful seaborne attack
on the French rear would be possible, taking into an account numbers of
the land forces involved). The "screen" on the right would be enough to deal
with whatever could be realistically brought here (see numbers in my 1st post)
and most probably commanders of the 1st & 2nd armies would be forced to
confront Napoleon either on the main direction (in which case we are talking
strictly about the 1st Army) or on the right where they'd still be outnumbered.
By the time the troops from Galicia (subject to the Austrian inactivity)
and Danube could be brought to the theater St-Petersburg is already taken
and Nappy has a freedom of moving at least some of the troops from there to
wherever is needed leaving the long marches to the opponent. As a side show,
if the French are in St-Petersburg and possibly even marching into Finland,
AND Nappy is offering return of Finland and Swedish Pomerania, the political
pressure on Bernadotte may force him to change his political associations
(of course, selling iron and timber to the Brits was vitally important for
Sweden but couldn't France buy at least some of these products? After all,
iron was needed for the military forces; BTW, the same goes for the Russian
iron and some other materials).
2nd- With all patriotic (and mostly post-factum) brouhaha about "sacred" Moscow,
it was not a capital but the fall of St-Petersburg would be a disaster on
3 accounts: (a) prestige, (b) center of the Russian bureaucracy (which would
not be easy to substitute and which would put the whole empire into an
organizational turmoil) and (c) loss of the main port (trade with Britain and
British supplies) with a reasonably easy extension to Archangelsk (either taken
or the road cut off) and control of the Swedish border (in practical terms,
only a very small part of it would really matter).
As far as raising the new troops is involved, Russia was, in general, much
less effective then France with its (theoretically) compulsory military
service: call for the new troops meant that the estate owners had to give
up certain percentage of their male serfs, which was, of course,
hurting them economically (even in 1812 some of the governorships "underperformed" in the terms of recruits raised.
Of course, in OTL the new troops had been raised in hundreds of thousands during
1812 - 14 but starting from the early 1813 there
was a follow-up of the "glory of 1812", which made the whole thing easier
politically. In this ATL the "glory" and "liberation of Europe" are absent
while ineptitude of the government is quite obvious: the enemy is just staying
there occupying capital and the Baltic provinces defeating the new armies
raised against him while the nobility is gaining nothing because most of the
trade with Britain is being cut off (IIRC, the Ottoman Empire was at that time
friendly to Napoleon which could make shipping over the Black Sea problematic).
Then, of course, comes an issue of raising the armies. The British subsidies
are not arriving (no available ports) and neither is British equipment (up to
50% of the muskets used by the Russian army in 1812 - 14, etc.) so raising and
arming the new troops is going to be a much more difficult task than in OTL.
Neither Prussians nor Austrians are going to change their position as long as
Nappy is still in Russia and his army is in a good shape and he manages to
organize its logistics on adequate level (which would be much easier than in
OTL). Of course, there are valid considerations about securing his "front"
from the Cossacks and light troops but, to be fair, most of their fame came
from the chase of the disorganized French during their retreat. They could
do scouting and even fought reasonably small numbers of a regular cavalry
(happened in the summer of 1812) but they did not represent a serious danger
for the regular troops if they were in a good shape. Neither was there enough
of them to be "everywhere".
Anyway, the bulk of Napoleon's troops is not exhausted by the long march
to nowhere the reinforcements can arrive in a meaningful fashion and if
necessary he can safely withdraw to Poland with most of his troops thus
preventing defection of Prussia and later Austria.
If Nappy manages to conduct a multi-year "occupation" campaign, Alexander's
reign could be much shorter than in OTL or there could be "2nd Tilsit".
Chances of a coup were not zero even in OTL on the earlier stages of campaign
when Alexander was blamed for ineptitude. Now, if there IS a coup, who is a
beneficiary? Formally, this should be Constantine but, with all his loud-mouth
"patriotism" he was not a popular figure: in army he was pain in the butt for
his subordinates, who just happened to be The Guards and he was too big of
an imbecile (and too similar to his father) to become a hero for the Russian
nationalists. Nicholas was only 16 years old and by 1812 had a
zero "visibility", Michael was even younger. Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna
(Duchess of Oldenburg) was intelligent and popular among the nationalists.
In the summer of 1812 she seemingly had a better grasp of the "national"
sentiment than her brother and her letters were intended to keep him on a
course. In OTL there was, for a while, an idea to put her on the throne. Of
course, the succession rules formulated by Paul I prevented females from
accessing the throne but, if push came to shove, why would the law written by
an insane emperor matter?
Of course, being on a strategic defense was not typical for Napoleon circa
1812 but we all know how well did he manage the offensive in 1812.
This is a fascinating projection. You present a good case.
Another alternative with a more weakened Russia and less weakened France could be a Russo-European campaign that lasts a lot longer, that lasts WWII length.
Napoleon invaded Russia on 24 June, 1812
He lost there and after 21 months Russian armies (with Allies) seized Paris.
Perhaps in the scenario of the St. Petersburg focused campaign, the Allies, Russians included, eventually take Paris, but in 46 months, about the amount of time left in OTL between Barbarossa's launch date and VE Day?
46 months after June 1812 would be a reaching of Paris by April 1816. (and that's not counting a potential extension of the war with a Napoleonic 100 days revival). It changes things on all European fronts. Indeed there could be some knock-on effects to even the Anglo-American war of the time.
The Horny Goat
2017-08-06 14:24:32 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by Rob
Perhaps in the scenario of the St. Petersburg focused campaign, the Allies, Russians included, eventually take Paris, but in 46 months, about the amount of time left in OTL between Barbarossa's launch date and VE Day?
Well certainly the United States would be less motivated to make peace
when it did if Britain was still heavily involved on the continent.

The prospect of an 1815 campaign in America where they would be facing
Wellington and the entire Royal Navy (they didn't know at that point
there would be a '100 Days Campaign' when they made peace!)
would be a strong motivating factor towards Madison seeking peace.

Also, with an 1816 campaign in Europe both the US Navy and the
privateers would have had a freer hand for longer (though I would
argue the privateers were largely ineffective in the second half of
1814 in OTL)

(And I might not be here since I had two 5x great-grandfathers
fighting from Spain into France on the one hand (British) and upstate
New York (American) - so far as I know those are the last soldiers
amongst my ancestry - everybody subsequent was navy)
Alex Milman
2017-08-06 20:24:23 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by Rob
Post by Alex Milman
Post by Rob
Post by Alex Milman
Post by Rob
Post by Alex Milman
OTL is well-known: Nappy assembled an overwhelming military force, marched
it to Moscow, well beyond the logistical capacities of his military system
and the rest is history. Presumably he was expecting that capture of the
former capital will strike Russia "into its heart" but it is quite possible
that this was one of his post-factum justifications of his actions: it is
quite obvious that he was expecting to destroy the bulk of the Russian forces
near the border and then repeat Austrian and Prussian scenarios: government
capitulates when its army is beaten. When this did not happen (mostly thanks
to Barclay), the further actions were dictated by the same idea of defeating
opponent in a major battle (and expectation that a token event like capture
of Moscow will force Alexander's hand).
Advance toward St-Petersburg never was seriously considered, perhaps because
Nappy did not quite understand specifics of the Russian Empire (and limitations
of his own system). While Moscow was "historically important" city it was not
a capital of Russia which means that its fall meant very little as far as
governing of the Russian Empire was concerned: it was a highly bureaucratized
state and center of the bureaucracy was in St-Petersburg.
Dude, you totally pooh-pooh'ed this strategy when I mentioned it a few years ago.
The people (and their opinions) are evolving but I'm not sure if your idea
was EXACTLY the same as mine.
Probably was not, and yours is more detailed. I am reading with interest.
You see, Rob, the whole thing about 1812 is not as much about Napoleon's
victory as about the least disastrous option.
The victory was possible, at least in theory, but it would be a subject to a
number of the mostly non-military factors like economic interests of the
Russian nobility and "Polish issue".
Politically, Napoleon hardly could gave up on Poland while for Alexander even
the Duchy of Warsaw was like a red rag for a bull (if anything, it was sending
the wrong signals to the Poles in Russia).
Russian nobility was vitally interested in the British trade (raw
products of their estates) and assassination of Paul I was a recent history.
Of course, one of the 1st things that post-Napoleonic Britain did was to
introduce the corn laws which restricted foreign imports but this was AFTER
the allies ceased to be necessary. Strictly speaking, in a long run the
continental system could benefit Russia by allowing development of the local
industries:in OTL between 1807 and 1812 there was noticeable of the textile
industries. Keeping in mind that a noticeable part of the manufacturing
facilities had been owned by the nobility (access to the cheap labor), it
could end up as beneficial even for this class but most of them had been stuck
with the "lazy" model of growing grain with the minimal expenses (aka,
minimal innovations and improvements of efficiency), cutting and selling
timber, etc. so joining the Continental System resulted in a lot of grumbling.
As long as Napoleon insisted on the System, a sustainable peace was simply
impossible.
Which leaves one more option: make further war impossible (or too costly)
for Russia thus guaranteeing at least few years of peace (in a hope that
Britain will give up). To implement this option Nappy would have (a) destroy
the bulk of the Russian army while remaining reasonably strong and (b) to hit
Russian Empire where it REALLY hurts.
In OTL he went for this option and almost succeed in destroying the Russian
armies close to the border: according to the initial plan the main (1st) army
would be locked in a fortified camp on Drissa while a much smaller 2nd army
would be acting on Napoleon's communications, an idea proposed by general von
Phull about whom even his protégé Clausewitz wrote that he was very intelligent
and well educated but completely lacked any practical knowledge. When the
Drisaa camp was abandoning and Russian armies kept retreating he kept chasing
them in a hope that sooner or later they'll be forced to defend some token
geographic point but it did not happen at Smolensk and by the time of Borodino
he had only a small fraction of his initial force on the main direction, which
made all following actions pretty much meaningless (even if his troops were in
a better shape, had more horses, etc.).
Of course, a lot was said about the wastefulness of his military system: upon
reaching Moscow he ordered raising the new troops in France but did nothing to
arrange for the better conditions for the wounded left on the road to Moscow,
assembly of the stragglers and deserters, organization of the depots in the
rear, arrangements for the orderly collection of the food and fodder, etc.
This would be something for the General Staff to do but Napoleon's General
Staff amounted mostly to Bertier with the functionality of an overpaid scribe.
So, short of ATL of "Nappy with the General Staff and without obsessions", we
can think about scenario which would not result in a spectacular disaster of
OTL 1812 and may produce SOME chance for at least a short-term (5 - 6 years)
peace with Russia (something Tilsit-like).
1st, it should NOT involve chasing the Russian armies because Nappy's army
simply was not well-suited for such a task.
2nd, it should create a situation under which continuation of war would be
very painful economically for Russian Empire and make raising the new armies
much more difficult than in OTL.
1st - Advance on St-Petersburg involves shorter distances with most
of campaign happening in more "civilized" (aka, similar to the Central Europe)
area than Central Russia. Unlike OTL, it also allows campaign on a wider
front (as opposite to the idiotic march along a single road behind the Russian
troops) with the left flank secured by the sea (no meaningful seaborne attack
on the French rear would be possible, taking into an account numbers of
the land forces involved). The "screen" on the right would be enough to deal
with whatever could be realistically brought here (see numbers in my 1st post)
and most probably commanders of the 1st & 2nd armies would be forced to
confront Napoleon either on the main direction (in which case we are talking
strictly about the 1st Army) or on the right where they'd still be outnumbered.
By the time the troops from Galicia (subject to the Austrian inactivity)
and Danube could be brought to the theater St-Petersburg is already taken
and Nappy has a freedom of moving at least some of the troops from there to
wherever is needed leaving the long marches to the opponent. As a side show,
if the French are in St-Petersburg and possibly even marching into Finland,
AND Nappy is offering return of Finland and Swedish Pomerania, the political
pressure on Bernadotte may force him to change his political associations
(of course, selling iron and timber to the Brits was vitally important for
Sweden but couldn't France buy at least some of these products? After all,
iron was needed for the military forces; BTW, the same goes for the Russian
iron and some other materials).
2nd- With all patriotic (and mostly post-factum) brouhaha about "sacred" Moscow,
it was not a capital but the fall of St-Petersburg would be a disaster on
3 accounts: (a) prestige, (b) center of the Russian bureaucracy (which would
not be easy to substitute and which would put the whole empire into an
organizational turmoil) and (c) loss of the main port (trade with Britain and
British supplies) with a reasonably easy extension to Archangelsk (either taken
or the road cut off) and control of the Swedish border (in practical terms,
only a very small part of it would really matter).
As far as raising the new troops is involved, Russia was, in general, much
less effective then France with its (theoretically) compulsory military
service: call for the new troops meant that the estate owners had to give
up certain percentage of their male serfs, which was, of course,
hurting them economically (even in 1812 some of the governorships "underperformed" in the terms of recruits raised.
Of course, in OTL the new troops had been raised in hundreds of thousands during
1812 - 14 but starting from the early 1813 there
was a follow-up of the "glory of 1812", which made the whole thing easier
politically. In this ATL the "glory" and "liberation of Europe" are absent
while ineptitude of the government is quite obvious: the enemy is just staying
there occupying capital and the Baltic provinces defeating the new armies
raised against him while the nobility is gaining nothing because most of the
trade with Britain is being cut off (IIRC, the Ottoman Empire was at that time
friendly to Napoleon which could make shipping over the Black Sea problematic).
Then, of course, comes an issue of raising the armies. The British subsidies
are not arriving (no available ports) and neither is British equipment (up to
50% of the muskets used by the Russian army in 1812 - 14, etc.) so raising and
arming the new troops is going to be a much more difficult task than in OTL.
Neither Prussians nor Austrians are going to change their position as long as
Nappy is still in Russia and his army is in a good shape and he manages to
organize its logistics on adequate level (which would be much easier than in
OTL). Of course, there are valid considerations about securing his "front"
from the Cossacks and light troops but, to be fair, most of their fame came
from the chase of the disorganized French during their retreat. They could
do scouting and even fought reasonably small numbers of a regular cavalry
(happened in the summer of 1812) but they did not represent a serious danger
for the regular troops if they were in a good shape. Neither was there enough
of them to be "everywhere".
Anyway, the bulk of Napoleon's troops is not exhausted by the long march
to nowhere the reinforcements can arrive in a meaningful fashion and if
necessary he can safely withdraw to Poland with most of his troops thus
preventing defection of Prussia and later Austria.
If Nappy manages to conduct a multi-year "occupation" campaign, Alexander's
reign could be much shorter than in OTL or there could be "2nd Tilsit".
Chances of a coup were not zero even in OTL on the earlier stages of campaign
when Alexander was blamed for ineptitude. Now, if there IS a coup, who is a
beneficiary? Formally, this should be Constantine but, with all his loud-mouth
"patriotism" he was not a popular figure: in army he was pain in the butt for
his subordinates, who just happened to be The Guards and he was too big of
an imbecile (and too similar to his father) to become a hero for the Russian
nationalists. Nicholas was only 16 years old and by 1812 had a
zero "visibility", Michael was even younger. Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna
(Duchess of Oldenburg) was intelligent and popular among the nationalists.
In the summer of 1812 she seemingly had a better grasp of the "national"
sentiment than her brother and her letters were intended to keep him on a
course. In OTL there was, for a while, an idea to put her on the throne. Of
course, the succession rules formulated by Paul I prevented females from
accessing the throne but, if push came to shove, why would the law written by
an insane emperor matter?
Of course, being on a strategic defense was not typical for Napoleon circa
1812 but we all know how well did he manage the offensive in 1812.
This is a fascinating projection. You present a good case.
Another alternative with a more weakened Russia and less weakened France could be a Russo-European campaign that lasts a lot longer, that lasts WWII length.
On its own (even with the British money) Russia would not be able to fight an
offensive campaign against Napoleon even if there were plans to this effect
prior to 1812. While having population of approximately the same size as
France, it could not raise the same numbers of troops: France had a compulsory
military service but Russia had been mobilizing only a fraction of its
able-bodied male population.

In OTL, a disaster of 1812 emboldened Prussia and the weaknesses of the
newly-raised troops in 1813 emboldened Austria. But if there is no serious
loss in 1812, then there is no Russian "liberation" of Prussia, etc. Of course,
it may be guessed that sooner or latter one way or another the Prussians will
try to backstab Napoleon, etc. but how, when and if this would happen with
the French army being relatively intact is anybody's guess.

What is relatively easy to imagine as a by-product of this ATL is some kind of
a stalemate in which Napoleon eventually withdraws from all or most Baltic
area occupied by his forces (Alexander is not suing for peace but the area is
exhausted) but retains Lithuania (and Western Belorussia). Both sides keep
raising new contingents and there is a back and forth XIX century version of
WWI, especially if Nappy figures out a disastrous potential of the deep
invasions into Russia (of course, he has Spain to worry about but he still
has enough troops to prevent Wellington from getting out of the Peninsula).
Of course, this means that Russia (and Sweden) are getting back to their
trade with the Brits but this also means that their enthusiasm for the endless
war is gradually diminishing making it possible to start peace negotiations
providing Nappy is not trying to enforce the Continental System: he still has
an important bargaining chip, restoration of Poland (something Alexander hated
unless it was under his rule). OTOH, if Nappy eventually leaves territory of
the Russian Empire, then there is plenty of military glory to both sides.
Of course, this would leave everybody on French side with an obvious question:
what was a purpose of this war? However, I'm sure that Nappy would be able to
find some flattering (for himself) explanation (after all, he did manage to
describe Essling as French victory).
Post by Rob
Napoleon invaded Russia on 24 June, 1812
He lost there and after 21 months Russian armies (with Allies) seized Paris.
Perhaps in the scenario of the St. Petersburg focused campaign, the Allies, Russians included, eventually take Paris, but in 46 months, about the amount of time left in OTL between Barbarossa's launch date and VE Day?
I'm not sure that without a disaster comparable to OTL 1812 the coalition would
be possible, at least within the next few years. And without a coalition it is
highly unlikely that the Russians would be able to launch a successful offensive
war.

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