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Why was France able to emerge victorious against so many foreign enemies in the years 1794 97? Free essay! Download now

Home > A Level > History > Why was France able to emerge victorious against so many foreign enemies in the years 1794 97?

Why was France able to emerge victorious against so many foreign enemies in the years 1794 97?

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Downloads to date: N/A | Words: 1200 | Submitted: 11-May-2009
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Why was France able to emerge victorious against so many foreign enemies in the years 1794 97?


Carnot, the distinguished general, made the first key changes which would lead to the victories against the foreign enemies. The creation and victories of the French Revolutionary Army were largely due to his powers of organization and enforcing discipline. Carnot became known as the ‘Organizer of Victory’ showing his heavy influence. It was Carnot who responded to the increased threat from the First Coalition in 1793 by drafting the necessary decree as a call for an entirely new concept – ‘A Nation at War’. This resulted in producing a vast army of professionals and citizens.

The army’s unprecedented size was due to mass conscription organised by Lazare Carnot. From August 1793, France became the first country in Europe to attempt national conscription known as the levée en masse. The levée en masse also set up sate factories for arms and ammunition. Church bells and religious vessels were melted down to provide raw materials and the government assumed control of foreign trade and shipping. The efforts of every citizen were deemed important. Woman and children were required to make uniforms and encourage the young to fight. This was truly a Nation at war. This gave them an instant advantage to the republican armies as they could deploy more manpower than the aristocratic states could and had good supplies. The men directly called to arms were limited to those without immediate dependants, but France had the largest population in Europe at the time and could therefore sustain years of warfare. Another point is that more men could be conscripted as the population increased as neighbouring states were annexed and satellite states were used. Cleverly conscripts would have a few months training and then be mixed with veterans to enable them to learn more effectively from the more experienced. Mass conscription is a very significant point in why the Revolutionary army was so successful in the campaigns.

Another reason for the Revolutionary army’s advantage over their enemies was that they were very motivated. Contrary to old-fashioned mercenary armies, the Revolutionary army were all Frenchmen fighting for a united cause, for the liberties they had under the revolution. Carnot did not just introduce conscription to the army but changed the whole organisation and running of the army. Small changes in tactics and weaponry proved effective against the foreign armies who used old methods. For example the Prussians persisted in deploying infantry in long lines, with each line firing according to strict order. This relied heavily on frontal assaults on open ground and had difficulty in manoeuvring quickly if the lines were attacked from the rear or the flanks. The French army preferred to use a mixed order, in which they could use lines, columns or files enabling them to move around the battle field much faster. Shock tactics were also used. Mass bayonet charges followed by the cavalry became their trade mark. Carnot also structured the way the army moved by creating the Corps d’Armiée. They would move in separated parts instead as one body. By being spread-out meant the groups could re-enforce one another. They were also not tied down to the slow moving supply wagons as they simply requisitioned food as they moved. The army’s main aim was to always be on the offensive so they were able to gain resources for the war effort. Tactics and impressive performance in battle in comparison to their enemies was a reason for the military victories of France.

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