By Alan Forrest
Among the outbreak of struggle with Austria in 1792 and Napoleon's ultimate debacle in 1814, France remained nearly continously at struggle, recruiting within the procedure a few to 3 million frenchmen--a point of recruitment unknown to prior generations and extensively resented as an assault at the liberties of rural groups. Forrest demanding situations the inspiration of a kingdom heroically dashing to fingers via reading the big charges of desertion and avoidance of provider in addition to their outcomes on French society--on army campaigns and the morale of armies, on political opinion at domestic, at the social cloth of neighborhood villages, and at the Napoleonic dream of bringing a few coherent and centralized country.
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Additional resources for Conscripts and Deserters: The Army and French Society During the Revolution and Empire
Communes expressed deep shock when they learned that they were obliged to fill their quotas even when volunteers failed to materialize, that they might have to resort to some form of direct nomination or election, for the belief was widespread that the introduction of any form of compulsion would turn public opinion against soldiering and kill such patriotic feeling as remained. The idea of drawing lots, protested the Breton town of Ploermel, aroused a particular sense of repugnance among people who had only recently thrown off the chains of the Ancien Regime (28).
By the last years of the Empire there were few illusions. Even Napoleon himself seemed to realize the full extent of the change in attitude that had taken place, and despite the quite remarkable rapport that he was able to establish with those serving in his name, he seemed almost to share it. Manpower, after all, was a commodity like any other, especially in wartime, and Napoleon's comments on his needs and his losses can seem shockingly callous. In 1805, after annexing Liguria, he wrote in outraged tones to the new governor, rebuking him for thinking of delaying or reducing the incidence of recruitment in his territory.
The recruitment had produced problems of noncooperation, but these tended to be regionalized; more generally the difficulties encountered stemmed from administrative confusion, inexperience, and the failure of the government to explain the law to its officials. In the Vosges, for instance, where there was scarcely a flicker of revolt, legal exemptions took a heavy toll of the manpower due to the armies, since many of those recruited worked in arms factories, foundries, forges, and ironworks (66).