Napoleon Bonaparte: The Little Corporal

Born today: Napoleon Bonaparte
Whose war games were consummate art.
Of battles, he won quite a few--
Except in Russia* and Waterloo.

*

 

LA RAISON D'ETRE POUR LA DEBACLE?

 

"Why did Napoleon's soldiers, victorious in previous battles, falter in the Russian campaign? One of the strangest theories to be advanced can be captured by paraphrasing an old nursery rhyme: 'all for the want of a button.' Surprising as it may seem, the disintegration of Napoleon's army may be traceable to something as small as the disintegration of a button---a tin button, to be exact, the kind that fastened everything from the greatcoats of Napoleon's officers to the trousers and jackets of his foot soldiers. When temperatures drop, shiny metallic tin starts to change into a crumbly nonmetallic gray powder---still tin, but with a different structural form. Is this what happened to the tin buttons of Napoleon's army? At Borisov one observer described Napoleon's army as 'a mob of ghosts draped in women's cloaks, odd pieces of carpet or greatcoats burned full of holes.' Were Napoleon's men, as the buttons on their uniforms fell apart, so weakened by the chilling cold they could not loner function as soldiers? Did the lack of buttons mean that hands were used to hold garments together rather than carry weapons?" [from "Napoleon's Buttons: 17 Molecules That Changed History" by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson]

Filed under: history, science, war, weather

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  • This post is just superb! A most intriguing theory, too. Do you have that book?

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    Yes, I do. Must have bought it a while ago at Barnes and Noble. Its ISBN is 1-58542-331-9.

    Thanks, WG, for the positive feedback. Always nice to see your comments.

  • Maybe just that it was too cold. I suppose that the Germans had better buttons at the Battle of Stalingrad.

  • In reply to jack:

    Da.

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