Louis Alexandre Berthier (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Article abstract: Military significance: Though lacking in leadership abilities, Berthier was history’s first modern staff officer. For eighteen years, his smooth, prompt, and efficient transmission of Napoleon Bonaparte’s orders greatly facilitated French military victories.
In 1770, Louis Alexandre Berthier joined the French army as a geographical engineer. In this capacity, he became a close confidant of King Louis XVI and a lieutenant colonel at the age of thirty-six. Between 1780 and 1782, Berthier served as a survey officer under the comte de Rochambeau during the American Revolution (1775-1783) and gained a reputation for efficiency. When the French Revolution (1789-1792) erupted in 1789, he was a vocal proponent, and lent his military expertise to the defense of the republic. However, as the revolution turned more radical, Berthier’s aristocratic background came under suspicion, and he was suspended from military service. In 1795, he was allowed to serve as a brigadier general in the newly formed Army of Italy. This brought him into close contact with Napoleon Bonaparte, with whom he was closely associated for the next two decades. Despite his rank, Berthier lacked talent for command, but he became renowned for his prompt and efficient staff work. Napoleon in his prime was a whirlwind of activity, but Berthier effortlessly took down his orders, dispatched them, and contributed to a smooth-working military operation....
(The entire section is 638 words.)
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