Subterfuge

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Napoleon was always a master of subterfuge. He used diversions in his grand tactics and ruses in his daily activities to confound his opponents. Below are two examples of this. The first is a simple letter to a subordinate and the second is an excerpt from the Memoirs of Baron Lejeune where General Dejean relates Napoleon's explanation to him on such things.


Headquarters, Cairo, 16th August 1799

TO GENERAL SONGIS

You should know beforehand that, in yesterday's orders, the commander-in-chief has put down the grant for army uniforms at double the amount actually issued. This is for public consumption, to make them think in Europe that our effectives are twice what they really are. Warn the battalions concerned not to count upon more than half their allocations.

[CORRESP., v. 4361.]

From the Memoirs of Baron Lejeune, approximately March 1812

In the report I drew up on this occasion I included the complaint made to me by several officers in command of the recruits sent to them being too weak for service. I also spoke of the serious inconvenience which resulted from this weakness to General Dejean, who had just organised a corps of cavalry 40,000 strong, and he transmitted to me the verbal reply the Emperor had made to a protest from him on the same subject: 'When I came back from Alsace after organizing the cavalry,' said the General to me, 'I complained to the Emperor that one-third of the horses bought were not strong enough to carry their riders, and that half the men newly levied were too weak to wield a sword. "But for your Majesty's precise orders to the contrary," I added, "I should have sent them back to the depots." "You would have done very wrong if you had," replied the Emperor. "When I mount 40,000 men, I know well enough that I cannot expect to have that number of good horsemen, but I affect the morale of the enemy, whose spies hear it said and read in the newspapers that my cavalry is 40,000 strong. As the numbers pass from mouth to mouth they grow rather than decrease, and the 40,000 cavalry are supposed to be all of the same seasoned valor as the rest on my regiments have the character of being; so that when the campaign opens my army will be preceded by a rumor which will give a moral strength making up for the absence of the real forces I have been unable to procure". Dejean was struck with fresh admiration for the man of genius who could thus turn everything to account, and who was quite unmoved by considerations which would have completely upset any plans but his own.