In June of last year, Spike TV’s Deadliest Warrior squared off George Washington vs. Napoleon Bonaparte. For those of you who don’t follow the show, Deadliest Warrior pits warriors from different time periods by comparing their technologies, skillets, strategies, tactics & techniques. They then stuff this data into some sort of super computer which runs scenarios and spits out a ‘winner’ aka: the Deadliest Warrior. Insert re-enactors and weapons demonstrations and you have a hypothetical show that the Hypothetical Channel…er I mean History Channel…would be jealous of.
I thought the episode was fun. The weapons demonstrations were pseudo competitions between American and French rifles, sabers and cannons. The cannon demonstrations were especially fun to watch. Watching 6lb and 8lb pounders wipe out the fleshy demonstration dummies was a real eye opener. Cannons were really the ultimate weapon of the age.
The show briefly touches on strategy and tactics, but they didn’t really dig deep (it is Spike TV after all). In particular, I thought they unfairly stuck to the stereotype (and long lasting British propaganda) of Napoleon as a power hungry megalomaniac who thirsted for war and bloodshed.
The Deadliest Warrior wrapped the episode up by edging George Washington over Napoleon Bonaparte by the narrowest margin in the shows history. The episode was capped by a somewhat tacky reenactment of our first President running his sword through Napoleon. I guess as an American I am supposed to get a slight visceral thrill when that happened. Another opportunity to stick it to the frogs and their greatest figure in history I guess.
But as silly as this exercise was, it did plant into my head to put together a Twistification comparison of Washington and Napoleon. I’ll pull from some 50+ hours of David Markham’s fine Napoleon podcast as well as a few books including The Reign of Napoleon Bonaparte by Robert Asprey and Napoleon’s Road to Glory by David Markham. Admittedly my sources on Napoleon slant heavily toward the apologetic. Markam is very enthusiastic toward the positives of Napoleon’s impact on history and I find his enthusiasm infectious.
So what am I comparing? What title does this winner get? Right now I am leaning toward ‘Who is the Greatest’?
I’ll start the contest with the historical context of Napoleon’s and Washington’s lives. I feel it is important to lead with this information because there is no real way to judge the characteristics of these men until we come to terms with the similarities and differences in their circumstances.