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The Art of War

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The Art of War
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Author(s): Antoine Henri Jomini
Date Published: 2010/08
Page Count: 340
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-287-1
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-288-8

War as analysed by one of Napoleon's generals

The definitive works on the real politic and the art of warfare are famous and enduring. The list of authors names whose writings on the subject are considered definitive, which includes those of Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Clausewitz and a few notable others, would be incomplete without that of the author of this book Antoine-Henri Jomini. Widely regarded as being one of the founding fathers of modern strategy, Jomini's work necessarily views the art of war principally—though not exclusively—from the perspective of the age of musket, cavalry and cannon as it applied in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. His analysis of strategy and tactics is often supported by examples of the theory in practice and, perhaps predictably, these are often illustrated by the actions of the military genius of the author's master, the Emperor Napoleon himself and the battles of the French armies of the Revolution, Consulate and First Empire. Jomini was far from a mere theorist. He joined the French army and served with distinction throughout the Napoleonic era experiencing conflict at first hand at Ulm, Jena, Eylau and other fields of conflict. Jomini's book is of course, essential reading for students of strategy and tactics generally and it is of especial interest to those who seek to understand the way warfare was waged by its foremost exponents—and by those who suffered its worst defeats—during the Napoleonic era. It is a vital handbook for military personnel, historians both academic and amateur, re-enactors and war gamers alike. Recommended. Available in hardcover with dust jacket and softcover.

In Spain I was a witness of two terrible examples of this kind. When Ney’s corps replaced Soult’s at Corunna, I had camped the companies of the artillery-train between Betanzos and Corunna, in the midst of four brigades distant from the camp from two to three leagues, and no Spanish forces had been seen within fifty miles; Soult still occupied Santiago de Compostela, the division Maurice-Mathieu was at Ferrol and Lugo, Marchand’s at Corunna and Betanzos: nevertheless, one fine night the companies of the train—men and horses—disappeared, and we were never able to discover what became of them: a solitary wounded corporal escaped to report that the peasants, led by their monks and priests, had thus made away with them. Four months afterward, Ney with a single division marched to conquer the Asturias, descending the valley of the Navia, while Kellermann debouched from Leon by the Oviedo road.<br>
A part of the corps of La Romana which was guarding the Asturias marched behind the very heights which inclose the valley of the Navia, at most but a league from our columns, without the marshal knowing a word of it: when he was entering Gijon, the army of La Romana attacked the centre of the regiments of the division Marchand, which, being scattered to guard Galicia, barely escaped, and that only by the prompt return of the marshal to Lugo. This war presented a thousand incidents as striking as this. All the gold of Mexico could not have procured reliable information for the French; what was given was but a lure to make them fall more readily into snares.<br>
No army, however disciplined, can contend successfully against such a system applied to a great nation, unless it be strong enough to hold all the essential points of the country, cover its communications, and at the same time furnish an active force sufficient to beat the enemy wherever he may present himself. If this enemy has a regular army of respectable size to be a nucleus around which to rally the people, what force will be sufficient to be superior everywhere, and to assure the safety of the long lines of communication against numerous bodies?<br>
The Peninsular War should be carefully studied, to learn all the obstacles which a general and his brave troops may encounter in the occupation or conquest of a country whose people are all in arms. What efforts of patience, courage, and resignation did it not cost the troops of Napoleon, Massena, Soult, Ney, and Suchet to sustain themselves for six years against three or four hundred thousand armed Spaniards and Portuguese supported by the regular armies of Wellington, Beresford, Blake, La Romana, Cuesta, Castaños, Reding, and Ballasteros!<br>
If success be possible in such a war, the following general course will be most likely to insure it,—viz.: make a display of a mass of troops proportioned to the obstacles and resistance likely to be encountered, calm the popular passions in every possible way, exhaust them by time and patience, display courtesy, gentleness, and severity united, and, particularly, deal justly. The examples of Henry IV. in the wars of the League, of Marshal Berwick in Catalonia, of Suchet in Aragon and Valencia, of Hoche in La Vendée, are models of their kind, which may be employed according to circumstances with equal success. The admirable order and discipline of the armies of Diebitsch and Paskevitch in the late war were also models, and were not a little conducive to the success of their enterprises.<br>
The immense obstacles encountered by an invading force in these wars have led some speculative persons to hope that there should never be any other kind, since then wars would become more rare, and, conquest being also more difficult, would be less a temptation to ambitious leaders. This reasoning is rather plausible than solid; for, to admit all its consequences, it would be necessary always to be able to induce the people to take up arms, and it would also be necessary for us to be convinced that there would be in the future no wars but those of conquest, and that all legitimate though secondary wars, which are only to maintain the political equilibrium or defend the public interests, should never occur again: otherwise, how could it be known when and how to excite the people to a national war?<br>
For example, if one hundred thousand Germans crossed the Rhine and entered France, originally with the intention of preventing the conquest of Belgium by France, and without any other ambitious project, would it be a case where the whole population—men, women, and children—of Alsace, Lorraine, Champagne, and Burgundy, should rush to arms? to make a Saragossa of every walled town, to bring about, by way of reprisals, murder, pillage, and incendiarism throughout the country? If all this be not done, and the Germans, in consequence of some success, should occupy these provinces, who can say that they might not afterward seek to appropriate a part of them, even though at first they had never contemplated it?<br>
The difficulty of answering these two questions would seem to argue in favour of national wars. But is there no means of repelling such an invasion without bringing about an uprising of the whole population and a war of extermination? Is there no mean between these contests between the people and the old regular method of war between permanent armies? Will it not be sufficient, for the efficient defence of the country, to organize a militia, or landwehr, which, uniformed and called by their governments into service, would regulate the part the people should take in the war, and place just limits to its barbarities?<br>
I answer in the affirmative; and, applying this mixed system to the cases stated above, I will guarantee that fifty thousand regular French troops, supported by the National Guards of the East, would get the better of this German army which had crossed the Vosges; for, reduced to fifty thousand men by many detachments, upon nearing the Meuse or arriving in Argonne it would have one hundred thousand men on its hands. To attain this mean, we have laid it down as a necessity that good national reserves be prepared for the army; which will be less expensive in peace and will insure the defence of the country in war. This system was used by France in 1792, imitated by Austria in 1809, and by the whole of Germany in 1813.
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