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Military History Word of the Day: Enfilade

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From a letter by Private Mathew A. Dunn of Company C, 33rd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, to his wife shortly after the Battle of Peachtree Creek.

“Our Reg. suffered worse than any other, being on the flank and was exposed to an enfilading fire. We lost our Col. He charged waving his Sword until he fell.”

Battle of Peachtree Creek
Source: Wikipedia Commons

The following are definitions from several sources.

en·fi·lade
(ěn’fə-lād’, -läd’)
n.

  1. Gunfire directed along the length of a target, such as a column of troops.
  2. A target vulnerable to sweeping gunfire.

tr.v. en·fi·lad·ed, en·fi·lad·ing, en·fi·lades

To rake with gunfire.

[French, series, string, row, from enfiler, to string together, run through, from Old French : en-, in, on; see en-1 + fil, thread (from Latin fīlum; see gwhī- in Indo-European roots).]
Source: enfilade. Dictionary.com. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/enfilade [accessed: July 06, 2008].
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enfilade

1706, from F. enfilade, from O.Fr. enfiler “to thread (a needle) on a string, pierce from end to end,” from en- “put on” + fil “thread.” Used of rows of apartments and lines of trees before modern military sense came to predominate.

Source: enfilade. Dictionary.com. Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/enfilade [accessed: July 06, 2008].
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Enfilade

En`fi*lade”\ (?; 277), n. [F., fr. enfiler to thread, go through a street or square, rake with shot; pref. en- (L. in) + fil thread. 1. A line or straight passage, or the position of that which lies in a straight line. [R.] 2. (Mil.) A firing in the direction of the length of a trench, or a line of parapet or troops, etc.; a raking fire.

Source: enfilade. Dictionary.com. Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. MICRA, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/enfilade [accessed: July 06, 2008]

The Online Library of Liberty

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Always in search of primary sources relevant to military history, I wanted to pass along the following find.
The Online Library of Liberty is a free access website maintained by the Liberty Fund, Inc.

Library of Liberty

The Liberty Fund Library provides online resources in multiple categories including philosophy, art, economics, war and peace and much, much more. It provides both a forum and the library of resources. Both are excellent. It also has robust search capabilities.

Of particular interest for the study of military thought is a full version of many of Machiavelli’s (below) writings made available in English here. [See a good biography of Niccola Machiavelli here.]

Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli

This allows students to view directly not only Machiavelli’s Art of War (here), but also his more famous work, The Prince and Discourses on Livy. Versions are available for download in multiple formats including: html, pdf and ebook formats.

Also available on the site – in the category of war and peace – are: The Works of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington’s final address, Thomas Hobbs’ translation of Thucydides’ The History of the Peloponnesian Wars (Vol. 1 and 2), Rousseau and many more. The site provides an outstanding overview of history and thought with access to hundreds of other primary works.

I’ll be enthusiastically adding to my links.

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Military history word of the day: élan

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A favorite word of mine, élan, is used in discussion of the way soldiers carry themselves. Here is an example:

They distinguished themselves by behaving with aggressiveness, courage and élan, albeit being at times difficult to restrain.

The good folks at Princeton provide the following definition:

élan

noun
1. a feeling of strong eagerness (usually in favor of a person or cause); “they were imbued with a revolutionary ardor”; “he felt a kind of religious zeal” [syn: ardor]
2. distinctive and stylish elegance; “he wooed her with the confident dash of a cavalry officer” [syn: dash]
3. enthusiastic and assured vigor and liveliness; “a performance of great elan and sophistication”

The origins of the word élan are provided from Online Etymology Dictionary as follows:

élan
1877, from Fr. élan, from élancer “to rush, dart,” from O.Fr. elancer, from e- “out” + lancer “to throw a lance,” from L.L. lanceare, from L. lancea “lance.”

Sources:
elan. Dictionary.com. WordNet® 3.0. Princeton University. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/elan (accessed: June 08, 2008).
elan. Dictionary.com. Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/elan (accessed: June 08, 2008).

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Military History Book of Interest: Napoleon on the Art of War

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Napoleon on the Art of War

Bonaparte, Napoleon. Napoleon on the Art of War. trans. and ed by Jay Luvaas. New York: Touchstone, 1999.

Jay Luvaas has pulled together in a single work what Napoleon never set to paper – a cohesive, single treatise on his philosophy of war. Luvaas, a respected military historian, accomplished this by reviewing, organizing, translating and editing Napoleon’s writings over the course of his life including much of his correspondence. He has organized the book into a series of essays so that it is structured not unlike the work of other military theorists. It begins with Napoleon’s views on creating a fighting force and preparations for war. This is followed by his thoughts on military education – an area about which Napoleon was passionate – particularly as related to the study of “great captains” of history: Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus Adolphus, Turenne and Frederick the Great.. A section on “combat in arms” reveals Napoleon’s brilliance in changing up formations utilizing the men, animals and weaponry at hand. “Generalship and the art of command,” army organization, strategy, fortification, the army in the field, and the operational art are also examined through Napoleon’s writings with additional historical references as well as reference to correspondence written about major Napoleonic campaigns. This book is instructive to the study of military philosophers and military thought in that it provides insight into one of the most influential militarists in history. Military thought leaders such as Clausewitz and Jomini were contemporaries of Napoleon and highly influenced themselves by strategizing to fight with or against him. The book fills a rather noticeable gap and would be an excellent addition to any examination of military philosophers and strategists.

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Stewards of Civil War Railroads – Part III

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This post completes the series, Stewards of Civil War Railroads. Read Part I here and Part II here.

Group of the Construction Corps U.S. Military Railroads with working tools, etc., Chattanooga, Tennessee

Above: Group of the Construction Corps U.S. Mil. R. Rds., with working tools, etc., Chattanooga, Tennessee
Courtesy of Library of Congress: LC-USZ62-62364

Millett and Maslowski posit that President Abraham Lincoln did not have Jefferson Davis’ sensitivity about government interference with railroads. The evidence supports the point and also suggests that Davis’ hands-off approach expanded to other areas under his purview including signals and communications. Whether he was afflicted with chronic indecisiveness or was bowing to the perceived whims of a public unreceptive to “big government” is open for discussion but as in many things, the truth probably lies somewhere in between. Regardless, it is clear that rational military considerations were not the sole concern in shaping the South’s military policies and programs. Had they been so, military needs would have received higher priority and the events of the war may have flowed differently.

Above: Lincoln and McClellan

The impact of the decision making processes in the Lincoln and Davis administrations and the respective Congresses as regards those issues impacting the military is indeed a fascinating one and worthy of continued analysis and review. Clearly the social, economic, and political nuances of the North versus the South had much to do with the directions taken within each section. But one is left to wonder whether the leadership qualities of Lincoln and Davis, including the ability to be decisive, allowed the North to more frequently follow a path guided by rational military reason.

The engine

Above: The engine “Firefly” on a trestle of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.
 

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Wig-Wags Military History Blog Widget

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Here’s an idea! Like the wig-wags military history blog and want a widget to show the lastest posts and associated pictures? I’ve created one for you over a widgetbox.com. You can choose the color and size, whether you want just headlines or headlines and story clips, and whether you’d like pictures to show.

Here’s where you can get it and a preview…   http://www.widgetbox.com/widget/wig-wags

Wig Wags Widget

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Mahan's Elementary Treatise

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Dennis MahanWOW! I am absolutely engrossed in Edward Hagerman’s The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare: Ideas, Organization, and Field Command. So much to say about Dennis Mahan (right) who I wrote about briefly here in my series on Jomini on the Nature of War (Part VII – Jomini’s Impact on Civil War Leadership). The National Park Service has a good bio on Mahan here.

I was very pleased to find online Mahan’s Elementary Treatise on Advance-Guard, Out-Post, and Detachment Service of Troops (1847) which Hagerman references in detail. This text was developed by Mahan for West Point and is considered the first tactics and strategy text created for the United States. I’ll add this to my primary sources links on Wig-Wags.

I can tell already that I’ll have many terms to add to the terms  page. More to come of the French connection.
 

Dennis Mahan Treastise

New Page – "the wars"

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I’ve added a new page to wig-wags titled, “the wars” which you can access here or on the sidebar any time. I am in the third week of a core course, “Studies in U.S. Military History” (see “The Courses here for more detail on this an other courses I’m taking at the American Military University). I am convinced that there has been mention of at least 20 – 30 “wars” so far in this class. I’m losing track. So as has been my practice on wigwags, I’m creating a page to log information I want to collect for reference, add to as I find more information, and be able to jump to quickly. I should have started this page with the first chapter read in the course!

I’ll begin with a chronicle of America’s wars. I will add to it as I discover and have time to post. I may also create sub-pages to dive into each war in more detail. I have a bit of catching up to do so won’t start “at the beginning” but rather where I am in my reading (War of 1812). But I’ll eventually get them all filled in. If interested, please come back from time-to-time to that page as I’ll hope to update regularly.

As always, I’ll try to make the page as visually interesting as possible.

Battle between the frigates HMS Shannon and USS Chesapeake off Boston during the War of 1812; detail of a lithograph by J.C. Schetky.

Photo: Battle between the frigates HMS Shannon and USS Chesapeake off Boston during the War of 1812; detail of a lithograph by J.C. Schetky.

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Military History Phrase of the Day: A Pyrrhic Victory

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I ran across the phrase “A Pyrrhic Victory” this evening in reference to the Battle of Guilford Courthouse (teachers, see great lesson plan on this battle here) where Nathaniel Greene and Lt. General Charles, Earl Cornwallis clashed in one of the most important battles of the American Revolution.

Charles, Earl Cornwallis (pictured below, see bio here)

Cornwallis

Nathaniel Greene (pictured below, see bio here)

Charles Willson Peale painted a portrait of General Greene from life in 1783, which was then copied several times by C.W. Peale and his son, Rembrandt Peale.

“The armies met at Guilford Courthouse in a furious battle in which the British won a Pyrrhic victory. Cornwallis’s losses were so severe that he moved to Wilmington to recuperate and be resupplied by sea.”[i]

According to the good folks at dictionary.com,

Pyrrhic victory\PIR-ik\, noun:
A victory achieved at great or excessive cost; a ruinous victory.

A Pyrrhic victory is so called after the Greek king Pyrrhus, who, after suffering heavy losses in defeating the Romans in 279 B.C., said to those sent to congratulate him, “Another such victory over the Romans and we are undone.” [ii]

Pyrrhus of Epirus.

Pyrrhus of Epirus

I am quite sure that a number of hard fought American Civil War battles had Pyrrhic victories.

[Note that the papers of Nathaniel Greene are available here.]

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[i] Allan R. Millett and Peter Maslowski, For the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States of America, (New York: The Free Press, 1994), 76.
[ii] Pyrrhus defined. http://dictionary.reference.com/wordoftheday/archive/2003/07/16.html
Photo source for Pyrrhus, Cornwallis, and Nathaniel Greene: Wikicommons, public domain.

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A People's Army

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I am heavily into reading A People’s Army: Massachusetts Soldiers & Society in the Seven Years’ War by Fred Anderson (pictured right) this week. Professor Anderson (Ph.D., Harvard University) teaches history at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The book won the following distinctions according to the publisher, University of North Carolina Press: Winner of the 1982 Jamestown Prize in Early American History, Institute of Early American History and Culture
Winner of the 1987 Distinguished Book Award, Society of Colonial Wars

Massachusetts Soldiers and Society in the Seven Years' War

A People’s Army
Massachusetts Soldiers and Society in the Seven Years’ War

by Fred Anderson
292 pp., 6 x 9, 31 tables, 3 maps, 2 figs., appends., notes, index
$19.95 paper
ISBN 978-0-8078-4576-9
Published September 1996

It is part of a series published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia, a very fine organization affiliated with The College William and Mary and Colonial Williamsburg

Interestingly, I found a study guide for the book for one of Mark Grimsley’s United States Military History courses at Ohio State University (Autumn 2003) here. If you follow the links to the syllabus, there is a nicely done reading list for topics around American Military History as well. Professor Grimsley blogs, of course, over at Blog Them Out for the Stone Age and Civil Warriors.

OK I’m obviously procrastinating from my reading…. back to the books and my coffee…

Ahem.

Citizen-Soldiers versus Professional Military

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Lion Gardiner in Pequot War by Charles Stanley Reinhart (from watercolor previously at the Manor House in Gardiner Island from a July 2007 exhibit by the East Hampton Historical Society on Gardiners Island. Photo by poster in July 2007. Public Domain. Wiki Commons

We’ve been discussing an interesting question in class this week. Allan R. Millett and Peter Maslowski, in their book For The Common Defense: A Military History of the United States of America, suggest that “six major themes place United States military history within the broad context of American history.” [i] One of these is that “American defense policy has traditionally been built upon pluralistic military institutions, most noticeably a mixed force of professionals and citizen-soldiers.”[ii] Our challenge this week was to make an argument for whether there was evidence of this pluralism in our readings this week about military engagements between American colonists and native Americans.

I contend that there was evidence of a mixed force of professionals and citizen-soldiers early in the history of the North American colonies assuming that the definition of professional soldier is considered to be some what literal, that is militarists who were paid for their services. While a professional army is no doubt intended to mean a paid standing army (with benefit of better training and supply), it is possible to see the impact of those recruited and, in some way, paid for their military expertise before the nation of the United States was formed.

Photo courtesy of The WEYANOKE Association: telling our own story

 

Millett and Maslowski refer in some detail to the existence of militia in the English colonies. Not only do they label it “the colonists’ most revered military institution,” but they also posit that militias were the “most important response to the dangerous military realities.”[iii] Colonists knew prior to leaving for the new continent that they were “on their own” for defense against dangers they might encounter, whether from indigenous people or rival Europeans. They also had some forewarning of what those dangers would be (I’ll leave that for a later post) from previous encounters between Europeans and Indians. So they came prepared to defend themselves both with recruited military experts and a resolve to fight as citizen-soldiers.

The precepts of militias?

  • All able-bodied men within a certain age range were, by obligation, members.
  • Training took place during regularly scheduled musters.
  • Men brought their own weapons (pikes, muskets, swords).
  • Rank was typically determined by class.
  • Most men served close to home, etc. When larger engagements were afoot, men would be recruited (effectively by draft) from the local militias to participate in expeditions.
  • A tie was evident between soldiering and the Christian traditions of most of the colonists. Sermons were given during musters and before major engagements.[iv]

On the topic of professional soldiers, Millett and Maslowski allude to the colonists’ recruitment of experienced men to provide military leadership and training to the colonists. [v] I would argue that it was these men who formed the beginnings of a “professional military cadre” in the New World. Granted, they were not professionals hired and maintained by a single cohesive American nation, but they were, non-the-less, the “go to” people for colonial military leadership, especially when novice leaders proved ineffective.

Dr. Guy ChetGuy Chet (see his vitae here) in his book Conquering the American Wilderness: The Triumph of European Warfare in the Colonial Northeast,” indicates that not only were professional leaders hired but some rank and file soldiers were as well. Chet tells of a small army led by John Underhill. “This ‘army’ —130 men in all— included forty burgher guards (professional Dutch soldiers), thirty-five Englishmen (under Lieutenant George Baxter), and Sergeant-Major Underhill’s company.”[vi] It is the forty burgher guards I find most interesting for this discussion. [Note: The English settlers of Greenwich had been under Dutch jurisdiction since 1642.]

The Triumph of European Warfare in the Colonial Northeast

All of that said, Chet also suggests that close examination of colonial commanders (after the 1650s) taken in aggregate, “indicates that this was a society of military novices, plagued by astonishing carelessness and neglect in military matters and undermined by its own ad hoc approach to military affairs.” [vii] He attributes the winning of King Phillip’s War to a campaign of attrition rather than through a succession of tactical victories. Prior to 1650, the better trained professional militarists recruited by the colonists to aid them, were still in place.

Among the lessons learned during the colonial Indian Wars was that a combination of a professional army and a militia had its merits. According to Chet, the tactical ineffectiveness of colonial forces in the King Philip’s War led colonial officials to seek a closer military cooperation with imperial administrators and professional British troops. [viii] This love-hate relationship with the idea of a professional, standing military no doubt helped to shape the pluralistic military tradition in America.

© 2008 L. Rene Tyree
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[i] Allan R. Millett, Peter Maslowski, For the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States of America (New York: The Free Press, 1994), xii.
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ibid., 1-2.
[vi] Ibid., 1-19.
[v] Guy Chet, Conquering the American Wilderness: The Triumph of European Warfare in the Colonial Northeast [book on-line], Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003, accessed 13 April 2008, available from Questia, http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=105219966; Internet.
[vii] Ibid, 28.
[viii] Ibid., 144.

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Military History Word of the Day – Trainbands

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Reading For the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States of America about military activity in America between 1607 – 1689, I ran across the word “trainbands.” Authors Allan R. Millett and Peter Maslowski suggest that colonists brought with them “religious attitudes, economic views, political thoughts, and military ideals and institutions grounded in English history.”[i] This included all things military and “the colonists’ most revered military institution (the militia) and their most cherished military tradtion (fear of a standing army) both came from England.” [ii]

The adoption of the Elizabethan militia concept in the colonies was crucial to their survival. The basic tactical unit in all the colonies was the company or “trainband.” American Heritage Dictionary defines trainband as follows:

train·band (trān’bānd’)
n. A company of trained militia in England or America from the 16th to the 18th century.
[Contraction of trained band]

I have added as a new word to “the terms” page here.

[Photo credit: http://home.att.net/~Hillgartner/Pages/TillHist.htm
trainband. Dictionary.com. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/trainband (accessed: April 09, 2008).
[i] Allan R. Millett, Peter Maslowski, For the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States of America (New York: The Free Press, 1994), 4.
[ii] Ibid.

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And so the reading begins… in earnest

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Historiography is a wrap. The new class, Studies in U.S. Military History, started yesterday. There was a slight change in texts. For the Korean War, Roy E. Appleman’s East of Chosin: Entrapment and Breakout in Korea, 1950  will be used rather than the one I mentioned earlier.

East of Chosin

I also picked up a book on the recommended reading list, One Hundred Years of Sea Power: The U.S. Navy, 1890 – 1990  by George W. Baer. I’ve added both to my virtual bookshelves here.

The U. S. Navy, 1890-1990

The class will be a challenging one. Thirteen books will be required reading as noted in my last post here. The pace will be more than one book per week in addition to writing assignments. Best get to it!

First up – jumping into Millett and Maslowski’s For the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States of America – which will be the primary text for the course. Just a chapter this week dealing with the period between 1607 and 1689.

For the Common Defense

Second – reading in its entirety Jill Lepore’s The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity which was winner of the Bancroft Prize in 1999.

King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity

Military History Word of the Day – "Castrametation"

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Prospect Hill, Virginia. Camp of the 13th Regiment New York Cavalry. (”Seymour Light”)

Photo: Prospect Hill, Virginia. Camp of the 13th Regiment New York Cavalry. (“Seymour Light”)
[Library of Congress, CALL NUMBER: LC-B817- 7218]

While researching the influence of Jomini on the conduct of the American Civil War, I ran across an article by James L. Morrison, Jr., (Professor, History, Emeritus, York College of Pennsylvania) titled, “Educating the Civil War Generals: West Point, 1833 - 1861″ which appeared in Military Affairs. He outlines the curriculum for students who would have made up a large part of the war’s leadership. It was heavily skewed toward science and engineering. But the courses on the study of the science of war included the following topics: 

  • “army organization
  • order of battle
  • castrametation [misspelled in the text as castramentation]
  • reconnaissance
  • outpost duties
  • attack and defense, and
  • the principles of strategy.”[i]

Castrametation caught my eye. Webster provides some insight into the origins of the word.

“\Cas`tra*me*ta”tion\, n. [F. castram['e]tation, fr. L. castra camp + metari to measure off, fr. meta limit.] (Mil.) The art or act of encamping; the making or laying out of a camp.Read this book” [ii]

A Military Dictionary and Gazetteer (first published in 1881 under title: A military and naval encyclopedia and available on Google Books here), puts a slightly different spin on it with the following definition:

“Castrametation. Is the art of laying out camps, and of placing the troops so that the different arms of the service shall afford support to each other in the best manner.”[iii]

I have added as a new word to “the terms” page here.
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[i] James L. Morrison, Jr., “Educating the Civil War Generals: West Point, 1833 – 1861,” Military Affairs, Vol. 38, No. 3. (Oct., 1974), pp. 109.
[ii] Castrametation. Dictionary.com. Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. MICRA, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Castrametation (accessed: March 23, 2008).
[iii] Thomas Wilhelm, Military Art and Science, (L. R. Hamersly & co.: 1881) http://books.google.com/books?id=GHcrAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA95&lpg=PA95&dq=what+is+the+history+of+the+word+castrametation%3F&source=web&ots=vnQF5eKGfo&sig=evmHB_wX1onpWxy-eQ9bsZHkZFc&hl=en (accessed online March 21, 2008).

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Jomini on the Nature of War – Part III – The Founder of Modern Strategy

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This post continues from Jomini on the Nature of War: Part I Introduction here and Part II The Burgeoning Military Theorist here. Please note links in blue lead to additional information on those topics.

Baron Antoine-Henri de Jomini, who was a product of the Napoleonic era, attempted to make warfare “scientific.”[i] According to Shy, this led him to reduce the study of war “…to a preoccupation with ‘strategy’ – a set of prescriptive techniques for military analysis and planning that has continued to dominate thinking on the subject.”[ii]

“…His general approach to the problem of war, abstracting it from its political and social context, emphasizing decision-making rules and operations results, turning warfare into a huge game of chess, has been surprisingly durable. Jomini more than Clausewitz, deserves the dubious title of founder of modern strategy.”[iii]

The core of Jomini’s theory of warfare, which he set down as a young man in 1803, was that:Jomini

  • “strategy is the key to warfare
  •  all strategy is controlled by invariable scientific principles
  •  these principles prescribe offensive action to mass forces against weaker enemy forces at some decisive point in strategy is to lead to victory.”[iv]

What is a decisive point?

One whose attack or capture would imperil or seriously weaken the enemy.[v] 

More in next post….

[i, ii, iii, iv, v] John Shy, “Jomini,” in Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, ed. Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), 144 – 146.

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