How Much Do You Know About the Military Strategy of Napoleon?

MILITARY

By: J. Scott Wilson

6 Min Quiz

Image: Prince Corsica

About This Quiz

In modern times, we often accuse aggressive people of short stature as having a “Napoleon complex.” As with so many misconceptions, Napoleon Bonaparte was by no means short (he was 5’7 and totally average height for his era) and he was no mindless loose cannon, either. He was, instead, one of the finest military leaders of all-time, and his intelligence, boldness, and ruthlessness devastated one enemy after another. In this quiz, what do you know about the strategies and tactics of Napoleon?

Napoleon grew to adulthood in time for the French Revolution, in which his people cast off the monarchy and embraced the concepts of liberty and individualism. He served in the army, demonstrating such exceptional leadership that he was soon climbing the ranks. Within no time at all, he was a general. What do you know about the tactics that made him so successful in combat?

Within years, Napoleon was ordered to command large groups of soldiers who set out to attack France’s enemies. At war, the young general found himself opposite much more seasoned commanders – and he defeated them. Do you know how this inexperienced genius blasted experienced generals into shameful defeat?

Napoleon’s long-term strategies also served him well. He understood that he had to divide and conquer his many European enemies, lest he find himself at their mercy. Take our Napoleonic warfare quiz now! Maybe you’ll lay waste to your foes … or perhaps you’ll be exiled to die in the middle of nowhere!

Napoleon Bonaparte was a brilliant military leader of which country?

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, no other man on Earth had the battlefield savvy of Napoleon. His startlingly rapid rise in the French military eventually made him Emperor of France.

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How old was Napoleon when he first became a general?

Sure, it was a different time, when people had to grow up fast. But even in those days it was incredible that Napoleon became a general at the young age of 24. He was just that good.

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A series of ____ tried to unseat Napoleon as Emperor of France.

Other European nations were, for obvious reasons, not fond of Napoleon and his land grabs throughout the continent. A series of coalitions tried -- and failed -- to throw Napoleon out of power. Napoleon's battlefield savvy was one reason he held onto power for so long.

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What was one way Napoleon managed to thwart the coalitions that gathered against him?

Napoleon's vast network of spies relayed information about troop movements. Using this superior intelliegence, he often stayed one (or multiple) steps ahead of enemy commanders.

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What element did Napoleon stress with his troops?

Napoleon emphasized fast troop movements, which often left his foes in the dust. With their disciplined speed, his armies could quickly alter their formations or geographical location in ways that left enemies totally confused.

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What was one way Napoleon made his army faster than those of his enemies?

In an era when bigger armies were a trend, Napoleon shrank the size of his units, breaking them into smaller groups. They were still fully capable armies, but they were faster than ever before.

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Napoleon tried to maneuver his forces so that they were never more than ____ from each other.

If you were a French soldier under Napoleon, you learned to march like a speed demon. The great commander organized his forces so that they were never more than a 24-hour march from each other. That way, reinforcements were always at hand.

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What was a characteristic of Napoleon's small army units?

In an era when big armies relied on centralized command, Napoleon's smaller groups were more decentralized. These corps could make their own decisions based on the rapidly changing circumstances of the battlfield.

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How did Napoleon deploy artillery in battles?

Because he stressed mobility, Napoleon used a variety of artillery gun sizes instead of just massive cannons. Smaller guns made it easier for units to quicky change their positions.

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True or false, did Napoleon use a draft for the first time in modern military history?

With so many nations aligned against him, Napoleon needed men, and a lot of them. He employed the first draft in modern military history in order to gather more troops for battle.

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Napoleon had an exceptional grasp of which subject?

Napoleon was a math whiz, in part because he spent so much time calculating artillery attacks. His artillery prowess was one reason his men were so successful in battle.

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What was one way that Napoleon motivated his troops?

Napoleon called upon his troops' notions of honor, and he praised common soldiers as if he truly valued their contributions. It's no wonder that men were willing to die for their emperor.

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How did Napoleon feed his troops?

Napoleon's men ate what they could find in the immediate vicinity. This was an important shift in thinking, because it meant the men spent less time dragging along heavy supplies during their campaigns.

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How did the scale of warfare change with Napoleon's strategies?

Napoleon's big ambitions meant he needed a lot of men … and his enemies followed suit. Wars got much bigger in scale, and more men died as a result.

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How did the French military industry change during Napoleon's reign?

Before Napoleon, French weapons makers slowly churned out guns. By the time Napoleon's reign ended, the country could make millions of guns per year, a factor that made the French army all the deadlier.

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During battles, Napoleon's men were often told to _____.

Napoleon was ruthless. He instructed his men to utterly destroy the enemy whenever possible, and in doing so, they ruined the ability of opponents to wage future warfare.

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Napoleon earned which nickname during his reign?

He was "“Little Corporal," which was a term of endearment, not derision. Napoleon's men appreciated his hands-on leadership and his acknowledgment of their sacrifices … so they often fought harder than their opponents.

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What did Napoleon's men do during a "Manoeuvre De Derrière"?

One of Napoleon's tactics was the "Manoeuvre De Derrière," in which his men attacked the rear lines of the enemy. In doing so, they cut supply and communication lines.

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In the heat of close-quarters battle, Napoleon often stressed the use of which weapon?

In the days before long-range rifles, smoothbore muskets were often inaccurate and slow to reload. Napoleon's men often charged their enemies with bayonets fixed, overrunning their lines.

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What was one major advantage that Napoleon's men had during his reign?

In the wake of the French Revolution, nationalist pride was all the rage. Many of Napoleon's men weren't unwilling zombies -- they were highly-motivated and extremely loyal, and those factors were evident on the battlefield.

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How did Napoleon's small units fare when they encountered rugged terrain?

Large armies tend to break formation when they encounter rough ground. Napoleon's smaller groups, however, were much more capable of traversing difficult terrain in just about any conditions.

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In battle, Napoleon's men often fought _____.

To keep order in the ranks under heavy fire, Napoleon often arranged his men shoulder to shoulder. This maximized the firepower of every volley and made the men feel less vulnerable when they had no cover.

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Why did Napoleon often seek flat ground when he knew artillery would be a major battle factor?

Cannons were typically fired nearly parallel to the ground, and the shells would bounce and roll through enemy formations. Napoleon sought flat ground so that his big guns would cause big carnage.

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Under Napoleon, French armies were adept at "l'ordre mixte," which meant what?

The concept of "l'ordre mixte," or mixed order, was a primary tactic of French forces. Napoleon's men blended both column and line formations -- a mixed order -- to penetrate enemy lines and then reinforce those gains.

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Under Napoleon, what was the purpose of light infantry?

Unlike regular troops, who fought shoulder to shoulder, light infantry used some hit-and-run tactics, hiding behind obstacles and generally harassing the enemy. In the meantime, regular troops would conduct their clever manuevers.

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The great leader once said, "____ force rather than numbers decides victory."

He knew that moral (or psychological) force was critical. Napoleon's mental ploys kept his men motivated to fight instead of retreating in fear and a sense of self-preservation.

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Unlike many commanders, how did Napoleon order his men to shoot?

It was common for commanders of the day to call out each volley. Napoleon, on the other hand, often let his men fire at will, a fact that altered the way his units engaged their foes.

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How many battles did Napoleon lose?

The "Little Corporal" was not invincible. He did lose five battles during his time in power. But he won more than 40 battles, often due to his amazing tactics and strategies.

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The Duke of Wellington once said that Napoleon's leadership in battle was worth about _____ troops.

The Duke of Wellington was sold on Napoleon's battlefield brilliance. He said that Napoleon's leadershp in battle was worth about 40,000 armed troops.

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How did Napoleon's men negate the effectiveness of cavalry charges?

Cavalry troops could smash columns and lines. But when they tried to break French square formations, they were trapped -- and then bayoneted to death.

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