By Alan Forrest
Among the outbreak of conflict with Austria in 1792 and Napoleon's ultimate debacle in 1814, France remained virtually continously at battle, recruiting within the approach a few to 3 million frenchmen--a point of recruitment unknown to past generations and greatly resented as an assault at the liberties of rural groups. Forrest demanding situations the thought of a kingdom heroically dashing to hands through reading the big charges of desertion and avoidance of provider in addition to their results on French society--on army campaigns and the morale of armies, on political opinion at domestic, at the social textile of neighborhood villages, and at the Napoleonic dream of bringing a few coherent and centralized nation.
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Additional info for Conscripts and Deserters: The Army and French Society During the Revolution and Empire
The cities of Paris and Lyon, it is true, still made more than a token effort. The departments of the Seine and the Rhone still responded to the nation's call to arms with, respectively, 620 and 277 volunteers. But only one other department, the Calvados, provided more than 100 volunteers, and only a handful of areas, generally the stalwarts of the eastern frontier, exceeded 50. In striking contrast were the thirty-six departments that offered 4 or fewer volunteers to the nation, including sixteen that did not produce a single soldier.
The Republic shared the dislike felt by many of its citizens for any form of recruitment that smacked of compulsion, of bureaucratic selection, of the abuses associated in the public mind with the old milice. 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.
From 1806 gardes nationales in turn found themselves drafted into the army, first on coastguard duty, later to defend France's frontiers against invasion. Each successive measure played its part in the government's campaign to organize manpower in such a way that it could at short notice send as many men as possible to fight a war that was extending into an increasing number of fresh theaters. Napoleon's regime was increasingly geared to achieving military success whatever the social cost, and the priorities of the state are well reflected in the steady stream of legislation amending and tightening the government's control of the conscription process.