Osprey Men-at-Arms 227 : Napoleon's Sea Soldiers
Napoleon has often been considered to misunderstand the navy. Being an artillery officer, he was given to precise calculations and never quite accepted that the wind was more important to ships than his orders. His impatience at the fleet at Boulogne is famous. Much less known but just as important were his more pragmatic measures towards the fleet taken during 1800-1801. In a general reform, a mass of individuals notable for their 'crass ignorance' were kicked out of the navy and the ranks opened to anyone with decent qualifications, including former officers of the old Marine royal as well as educated and talented young men. To improve discipline, the old pre-1789 general regulations were brought back into force and new ones drafted, bringing back order and submission to central authority. The concept of having, besides the larger warships, armed small craft in 'flotillas' also evolved at this time and saw some success against the British channel fleet in August 1801, frustrating Admiral Nelson himself. To build new ships large military seaports and shipyards were set up at Cherbourg and Antwerp and vast sums of money were allocated to the navy. Thanks to Napoleon's measures, the navy emerged from chaos for the first time in over a decade. The history and uniform of Napoleon's sea soldiers is here explored by René Chartrand with numerous illustrations including eight full page colour plates by Francis Back.
- The French Navy in 1789
- Reforms in the Navy
- After Trafalgar
- The Plates