The Present Theory of War and Its Utility

Preface to Summary of the Art of War

by

Baron Antoine-Henri de Jomini


The Present Theory of War and Its Utility
Preface to Summary of the Art of War
by
Baron Antoine-Henri de Jomini
(c.1838)

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Jomini is generally seen as Clausewitz's most influential competitor as a military theorist. This essay is reproduced (with minor changes) from the 1854 American translation of Jomini's The Art of War, trans. Major O.F. Winship and Lieut. E.E. McLean (New York: Putnam, 1854). It is a somewhat clumsy translation and a bit difficult to read, which is of course why it has been entirely superseded by the better 1862 Mendell/Craighill translation. Unfortunately, the latter translation omits this revealing essay on the state of military theory as Jomini perceived it around 1838. A close reading of this essay will reveal both overt sneers at Clausewitz and many adaptations to the arguments made in On War.

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The summary of the art of war, which I submit to the public, was written originally for the instruction of an august prince, and in view of the numerous additions which I have just made to it, I flatter myself that it will be worthy of its destination. To the end of causing its object to be better appreciated, I believe it my duty to precede it by a few lines upon the present state of the theory of war. I shall be forced to speak a little of myself and my works; I hope I shall be pardoned for it, for it would have been difficult to explain what I think of this theory, and the part which I may have had in it, without saying how I have conceived it myself.

As I have said in my chapter of principles, published by itself in 1807, the art of war has existed in all time, and strategy especially was the same under Caesar as under Napoleon. But the art, confined to the understanding of great captain, existed in no written treatise. The books all gave but fragments of systems, born of imagination of their authors, and containing ordinarily details the most minute (not to say the most puerile) upon the most accessory points of tactics, the only part of war, perhaps, which it is possible to subject to fixed rules.

Among the moderns, Feuquieres, 1 Folard and Puységur had opened the quarry: the first by very interesting, critical and dogmatical accounts; the second by his commentaries upon Polybius and his treatise upon the column; the third by a work which was, I believe, the first logistic essay, and one of the first applications of the oblique order of the ancients.

But those writers had not penetrated very far into the mine which they wished to explore, and in order to form a just idea of the state of the art in the middle of the 18th century, it is necessary to read what Marshal Saxe wrote in the preface to his Reveries.

"War," said he, "is a science shrouded in darkness, in the midst of which we do not move with an assured step; routine and prejudices are its basis, a natural consequence of ignorance.

"All sciences have principles, war alone has yet none; the great captains who have written do not give us any; one must be profound to comprehend them.

"Gustavus Adolphus has created a method, but it was soon deviated from, because it was learned by routine. There are then nothing but usages, the principles of which are unknown to us."

This was written about the time when Frederick the Great gave a preview of the Seven Years War by his victories of Hohenfriedberg, of Soor, &c. And the good Marshal Saxe, instead of piercing those obscurities of which he complained with so much justice, contented himself with writing systems for clothing soldiers in woolen blouses, for forming them upon four ranks, two of which to be armed with pikes; finally for proposing small field pieces which he named amusettes, and which truly merited that title on account of the humorous images with which they were surrounded.

At the end of the Seven Years War, some good works appeared; Frederick himself, not content with being a great king, a great captain, a great philosopher and great historian, made himself also a didactic author by his instructions to his generals. Guichard, Turpin, Maizeroy, Menil-Durand, sustained controversies upon the tactics of the ancients as well as upon that of their own time, and gave some interesting treatises upon those matters. Turpin commented on Montecuculi and Vegetius; the Marquis de Silva in Piedmont, Santa Cruz in Spain, had also discussed some parts with success; finally d'Escremeville sketched a history of the art, which was not devoid of merit. But all that by no means dissipated the darkness of which the conqueror of Fontenoy complained.

A little later came Grimoard, Guibert and Lloyd: the first two caused progress to be made in the tactics of battles and in la logistique. 2 This latter raised in his interesting memoirs important questions of strategy, which he unfortunately left buried in a labyrinth of minute details on the tactics of formation, and upon the philosophy of war. But although that author has resolved none of those questions in manner to make of them a connected system, it is necessary to render him the justice to say that he first pointed out the good route. However, his narrative of the Seven Years War, of which he finished but two campaigns, was more instructive (for me, at least) than all he had written dogmatically.

Germany produced, in this interval between the Seven Years War and that of the Revolution, a multitude of writings, more or less extensive, on different secondary branches of the art, which they illumined with a faint light. Thielke and Faesch published in Saxony, the one, fragments upon castramentation, the attack of camps and positions, the other a collection of maxims upon the accessory parts of the operations of war. Scharnhorst did as much in Hanover; Warnery published in Prussia a pretty good work on the cavalry; Baron Holzendorf another on the tactics of manoeuvres. Count Kevenhuller gave maxims upon field warfare and upon that of sieges. But nothing of all this gave a satisfactory idea of the elevated branches of the science.

Finally even Mirabeau who, having returned from Berlin, published an enormous volume upon the Prussian tactics, an arid repetition of the regulation for platoon and line evolutions to which some had the simplicity to attribute the greater part of the successes of Frederick! If such books have been able to contribute to the propagation of this error, it must be owned however that they contributed also to perfecting the regulations of 1791 on manoeuvres, the only result which it was possible to expect from them.

Such was the art of war at the commencement of the 19th century, when Porbeck, Venturini and Bhlow published some pamphlets on the first campaigns of the Revolution. The latter especially made a certain sensation in Europe by his Spirit of the System of Modern Warfare, the work of a man of genius, but which was merely sketched, and which added nothing to the first notions given by Lloyd. At the same time appeared also in Germany, under modest title of an introduction to the study of the military art, a valuable work by M. de Laroche-Aymon, veritable encyclopedia for all the branches of the art, strategy excepted,` which is there scarcely indicated; but despite this omission. it is none the less one of the most complete and recommendable of the classic works.

I was not yet acquainted with the last two books, when, after having quitted the Helvetic service as chief of battalion, I sought to instruct myself by reading, with avidity, all those controversies which had agitated the military world in the last half of the 18th century; commencing with Puységur, finishing with Menil-Durand and Guibert, and finding everywhere only systems more or less complete of the tactics of battles, which could give but an imperfect idea of war, because they all contradicted each other in a deplorable manner.

I fell back then, upon works of military history in order to seek, in the combinations of the great captains, a solution which those systems of the writers did not give me. Already had the narratives of Frederick the Great commenced to initiate me in the secret which had caused him to gain the miraculous victory of Leuthen (Lissa). I perceived that this secret consisted in the very simple manoeuvre of carrying the bulk of his forces upon a single wing of the hostile army; and Lloyd soon came to fortify me in this conviction. I found again, afterwards, the same cause in the first successes of Napoleon in Italy, which gave me the idea that by applying, through strategy, to the whole chess-table of a war (a tout l'échiquier d'une guerre), this same principle which Frederick had applied to battles, we should have the key to all the science of war.

I could not doubt this truth in reading again, subsequently, the campaigns of Turenne, of Marlborough, of Eugene of Savoy, and in comparing them with those of Frederick, which Tempelhoff had just published with details so full of interest, although somewhat heavy and by far too much repeated. I comprehended then that Marshal de Saxe had been quite right in saying that in 1750 there were no principles laid down upon the art of war, but that many of his readers had also very badly interpreted his preface in concluding therefrom that he had thought that those principles did not exist.

Convinced that I had seized the true point of view under which it was necessary to regard the theory of war in order to discover its veritable rules, and to quit the always so uncertain field of personal systems, I set myself to the work with all the ardor of a neophyte.

I wrote in the course of the year 1803, a volume which I presented, at first, to M. d'Oubril, Secretary of the Russian legation at Paris, then to Marshal Ney. But the strategic work of Bhlow, and the historical narrative of Lloyd, translated by Roux-Fazillac, having then fallen into my hands determined me to follow another plan. My first essay was a didactic treatise upon the orders of battle, strategic marches and lines of operations; it was arid from its nature and quite interspersed with historical citations which, grouped by species, had the inconvenience of presenting together, in the same chapter, events often separated by a whole century; Lloyd especially convinced me that the critical and argumentative relation of the whole of a war had the advantage of preserving connection and unity in the recital and in the events, without detriment to the exposition of maxims, since a series of ten campaigns is amply sufficient for presenting the application of all the possible maxims of war. I burned then my first work, and re-commenced, with the project of giving the sequel of the seven years war which Lloyd had not finished. This mode suited me all the better, as I was but twenty-four years old and had but little experience, whilst I was about to attack many prejudices and great reputations somewhat usurped, so that there was necessary to me the powerful support of the events which I should allow to speak, as it were, for themselves. I resolved then upon this last plan, which appeared moreover, more suitable to all classes of readers. Doubtless a didactic treatise would have been preferable, either for a public course, or for retracing with more ensemble the combinations of the science somewhat scattered in the narration of those campaigns; but, as for myself, I confess I have profited much more from the attentive reading of a discussed campaign, than from all the dogmatic works put together; and my book, published in 1805, was designed for officers of a superior grade, and not for schoolboys. The war with Austria supervening the same year, did not permit me to give the work all the care desirable, and I was able to execute but a part of my project.

Some years afterwards, the Arch Duke [Charles of Austria] gave an introduction to his fine work by a folio volume on grand warfare, in which the genius of the master already showed itself. About the same time appeared a small pamphlet on strategy by Major Wagner, then in the service of Austria; this essay, full of wise views, promised that the author would one day give something more complete, which has been realized quite recently. In Prussia, General Scharnhorst commenced also to sound those questions with success.

Finally, ten years after my first treatise on grand operations, appeared the important work of the Arch Duke Charles, which united the two kinds, didactic and historic; this prince having at first given a small volume of strategic maxims, then four volumes of critical history on the campaigns of 1796 and 1799, for developing their practical application. This work, which does as much honor to the illustrious prince as the battles which he has gained, put the complement to the basis of the strategic science, of which Lloyd and Bhlow had first raised the veil, and of which I had indicated the first principles in 1805, in a chapter upon lines of operations, and in 1807, in a chapter upon the fundamental principles of the art of war, printed by itself at Glogau in Silesia.

The fall of Napoleon, by giving up many studious officers to the leisures of peace, became the signal for the apparition of a host of military writings of all kinds. General Rogniat gave matter for controversy in wishing to bring back the system of the legions, or of the divisions of the republic, and in attacking the somewhat adventurous system of Napoleon. Germany was especially fertile in dogmatic works; Xilander in Bavaria, Theobald and Muller of Whrttemberg, Wagner, Decker, Hoyer and Valintini in Prussia, published different books, which presented substantially but the repetition of the maxims of the Arch Duke Charles and mine, with other developments of application.

Although several of these authors have combatted my chapter on central lines of operations with more subtlety than real success, and others have been, at times, too precise in their calculations, we could not refuse to their writings the testimonials of esteem which they merit, for they all contain more or less excellent views.

In Russia, General Okounief treated of the important article of the combined or partial employment of the three arms, which makes the basis of the theory of combats, and rendered thereby a real service to young officers.

In France, Gay-Vernon, Jacquinot de Presle and Roquancourt, published courses which were not wanting in merit.

Under these circumstances, I was assured by my own experience, that there was wanting, to my first treatise, a collection of maxims like that which preceded the work of the Arch Duke; which induced me to publish, in 1829, the first sketch of this analytical compendium, adding to it two interesting articles upon the military policy of States.

I profited of this occasion to defend the principles of my chapter on lines of operations, which several writers had badly comprehended, and this polemic brought about at least more rational definitions, at the same time maintaining the real advantages of central operations.

A year after the publication of this analytical table, the Prussian General Clausewitz died, leaving to his widow the care of publishing posthumous works which were presented as unfinished sketches. This work made a great sensation in Germany, and for my part I regret that it was written before the author was acquainted with my summary of the Art of War, persuaded that he would have rendered to it some justice.

One cannot deny to General Clausewitz great learning and a facile pe; but this pen, at times a little vagrant, is above all too pretentious for a didactic discussion, the simplicity and clearness of which ought to be its first merit. Besides that, the author shows himself by far too skeptical in point of military science; his first volume is but a declamation against all theory of war, whilst the two succeeding volumes, full of theoretic maxims, proves that the author believes in the efficacy of his own doctrines, if he does not believe in those of others.

As for myself, I own that I have been able to find in this learned labyrinth but a small number of luminous ideas and remarkable articles; and far from having shared the skepticism of the author, no work would have contributed more than his to make me feel the necessity and utility of good theories, if I had ever been able to call them in question; it is important simply to agree well as to the limits which ought to be assigned them in order not to fall into a pedantry worse than ignorance; 3 it is necessary above all to distinguish the difference which exists between a theory of principles and a theory of systems.

It will be objected perhaps that, in the greater part of the articles of this summary, I myself acknowledge that there are few absolute rules to give on the divers subjects of which they treat; I agree in good faith to this truth, but is that saying there is no theory? If, out of forty-five articles, some have ten positive maxims, others one or two only, are not 150 or 200 rules sufficient to form a respectable body of strategic or tactical doctrines? And if to those you add the multitude of precepts which suffer more or less exceptions, will you not have more dogmas than necessary for fixing your opinions upon all the operations of war?

At the same epoch when Clausewitz seemed thus to apply himself to sapping the basis of the science, a work of a totally opposite nature appeared in France, that of the Marquis de Ternay, a French emigre in the service of England. This book is without contradiction, the most complete that exists on the tactics of battles, and if it falls sometimes into an excess contrary to that of the Prussian general, by prescribing, in doctrines details of execution often impracticable in war, he cannot be denied a truly remarkable merit, and one of the first grades among tacticians.

I have made mention in this sketch only of general treatises, and not of particular works on the special arms. The books of Montalembert, of Saint-Paul, Bousmard, of Carnot, of Aster, and of Blesson, have caused progress to be made in the art of sieges and of fortification. The writings of Laroche-Aymon, Muller and Bismark, have also thrown light upon many questions regarding the cavalry. In a journal with which, unfortunately, I was not acquainted until six years after its publication, the latter has believed it his duty to attack me and my works, because I had said, on the faith of an illustrious general, that the Prussians had reproached him with having copied, in his last pamphlet, the unpublished instructions of the government to its generals of cavalry. In censuring my works, General Bismark has availed himself of his rights, not only in virtue of his claim to reprisals, but because every book is made to be judged and controverted. Meanwhile, instead of replying to the reproach, and of giving utterance to a single grievance, he has found it more simple to retaliate by injuries, to which a military man will never reply in books, which should have another object than collecting personalities. Those who shall compare the present notice with the ridiculous pretensions which General B-------- imputes to me, will judge between us.

It is extraordinary enough to accuse me of having said that the art of war did not exist before me, when in the chapter of Principles, published in 1807, of which I have before spoken, and which had a certain success in the military world, the first phrase commenced with these words: "the art of war has existed from time immemorial." What I have said is that there were no books which proclaimed the existence of general principles, and made the application of them through strategy to all the combinations of the theater of war: I have said that I was the first to attempt that demonstration, which others improved ten years after me, without, however, it being yet complete. Those who would deny this truth would not be candid.

As for the rest, I have never soiled my pen by attacking personally studious men who devote themselves to science, and if I have not shared their dogmas, I have expressed as much with moderation and impartiality: it were to be desired that it should ever be thus. Let us return to our subject.

The artillery, since Gribeauval and d'Urtubie has had its Aide-Memoire, and a mass of particular works, in the number of which are distinguished those of Decker, Paixhans, Dedon, Hoyer, Ravichio and Bouvroy. The discussions of several authors, among others those of the Marquis de Chambray and of General Okounieff upon the fire of infantry. Finally, the dissertations of a host of officer, recorded in the interesting military journals of Vienna, of Berlin, of Munich, of Stutgard and of Paris, have contributed also to the successive progress of the parts which they have discussed.

Some essays have been attempted towards a history of the art, from the ancients down to our time. Tranchant Laverne has done so with spirit and sagacity, but incompletely. Cario Nisas, too verbose with regard to the ancients, mediocre for the epoch from the revival to that of the Seven Years War, has completely failed on the modern system. Roquancourt has treated the same subjects with more success. The Prussian Major Ciriaci and his continuator have done still better. Finally, Captain Blanch, a Neapolitan officer, has made an interesting analysis of the different periods of the art as written and practiced.

After this long list of modern writers, it will be judged that Marshal de Saxe, if he were to return among us, would be much surprised at the present wealth of our military literature, and would no longer complain of the darkness which shrouds the science. Henceforth good books will not be wanting to those who shall wish to study, for at this day we have principles, whereas, they had in the 18th century only methods and systems.

Meanwhile, it must be owned, to render theory as complete as possible, there is an important work wanting, which, according to all appearances, will be wanting yet a long time; it is a thoroughly profound examination of the four different systems followed within a century past: that of the Seven Years War; that of the first campaigns of the Revolution; that of the grand invasions of Napoleon; finally, that of Wellington. From this investigation it would be necessary to deduce a mixed system, proper for regular wars, which should participate of the methods of Frederick and of those of Napoleon; or, more properly speaking, it would be necessary to develop a double system for ordinary wars of power against power, and for grand invasions. I have sketched a view of this important labor, in article 24, chapter III: but as the subject would require whole volumes, I have been obliged to limit myself to indicating the task to him who should have the courage and the leisure to accomplish it well, and who should at the same time be fortunate enough to find the justification of those mixed doctrines in new events which should serve him as tests.

In the meantime, I will terminate this rapid sketch by a profession of faith upon the polemics of which this compendium and my first treatise have been the subject. In weighing all that has been said for or against, in comparing the immense progress made in the science for the last thirty years, with the incredulity of M. Clausewitz, I believe I am correct in concluding that the ensemble of my principles and of the maxims which are derived from them, has been badly comprehended by several writers; that some have made the most erroneous application of them; that others have drawn from them exaggerated consequences which have never been able to enter my head, for a general officer, after having assisted in a dozen campaigns, ought to know that war is a great drama, in which a thousand physical or moral causes operate more or less powerfully, and which cannot be reduced to mathematical calculations.

But, I ought equally to avow without circumlocution, that twenty years of experience have but fortified me in the following convictions:

"There exists a small number of fundamental principles of war, which could not be deviated from without danger, and the application of which, on the contrary, has been in almost all time crowned with success.

"The maxims of application which are derived from those principles are also small in number, and if they are found sometimes modified according to circumstances, they can nevertheless serve in general as a compass to the chief of an army to guide him in the task, always difficult and complicated, of conducting grand operations in the midst of the noise and tumult of combats.

"Natural genius will doubtless know how, by happy inspirations, to apply principles as well as the best studied theory could do it; but a simple theory, disengaged from all pedantry, ascending to causes without giving absolute systems, based in a word upon a few fundamental maxims, will often supply genius, and will even serve to extend its development by augmenting its confidence in its own inspirations.

"Of all theories on the art of war, the only reasonable one is that which, founded upon the study of military history, admits a certain number of regulating principles, but leaves to natural genius the greatest part in the general conduct of a war without trammeling it with exclusive rules.

"On the contrary, nothing is better calculated to kill natural genius and to cause error to triumph, than those pedantic theories, based upon the false idea that war is a positive science, all the operations of which can be reduced to infallible calculations.

"Finally, the metaphysical and skeptical works of a few writers will not succeed, either, in causing it to be believed that there exists no rule for war, for their writings prove absolutely nothing against maxims supported upon the most brilliant modern feats of arms, and justified by the reasoning even of those who believe they are combatting them."

I hope, that after these avowals, I could not be accused of wishing to make of this art a mechanism of determined wheelworks, nor of pretending on the contrary that the reading of a single chapter of principles is able to give, all at once, the talent of conducting an army. In all the arts, as in all the situations of life, knowledge and skill are two altogether different things, and if one often succeed through the latter alone, it is never but the union of the two that constitutes a superior man and assures complete success. Meanwhile, in order not to be accused of pedantry, I hasten to avow that, by knowledge, I do not mean a vast erudition; it is not the question to know a great deal but to know well; to know especially what relates to the mission appointed us.

I pray that my readers, well penetrated with these truths, may receive with kindness this new summary, which may now, I believe, be offered as the book most suitable for the instruction of a prince or statesman.

I have not thought it my duty to make mention, in the above notice, of the military historical works which have signalized our epoch, because they do not in reality enter into the subject which I have to treat. However, as those of our epoch have also contributed to the progress of the science, in seeking to explain causes of success, I shall be permitted to say a few words on them.

Purely military history is of a thankless and difficult kind, for, in order to be useful to men of the art, it requires details not less dry than minute, but necessary in order to cause positions and movements to be judged accurately. Therefore, until the imperfect sketch of the Seven Years War which Lloyd has given, none of the military writers had come out of the beaten track of official narratives or of panegyrics more or less fatiguing.

The military historians of the 18th century who had held the first rank were, Dumont, Quincy, Bourcet, Pezay, Grimoard, Retzow and Tempelhoff; the latter especially had made of it a kind of school, although his work is a little overcharged with the details of marches and encampments: details very good, without doubt, for fields of combat, but very useless in the history of a whole war, since they are represented almost every day under the same form.

Purely military history has furnished, in France as in Germany, writings so numerous since 1792, that their nomenclature alone would form a pamphlet. I shall, nevertheless, signalize here the first campaigns of the Revolution by Grimoard; those of General Gravert; the memoirs of Suchet and of Saint-Cyr; the fragments of Gourgaud and of Montholon; the great enterprise of victories and conquests under the direction of General Beauvais; the valuable collection of battles of by Colonel Wagner and that of Major Kaussler; the Spanish War by Napier; that of Egypt by Reynier; the campaigns of Suvaroff by Laverne; the partial narratives of Stutterhein and of Labaume. 4

History at once political and military offers more attractions, but is also much more difficult to treat and does not accord easily with didactic species; for, in order not to destroy its narration, one should suppress precisely all those details which make the merit of a military narrative.

Until the fall of Napoleon, politico-military history had had for many centuries but a single remarkable work; that of Frederick the Great, entitled History of my time. 5 This species, which demands at the same time an elegant style and a vast and profound knowledge of history and politics, requires also a military genius sufficient for judging events accurately. It would be necessary to describe the relations or the interests of states like Ancillon, and recount battles like Napoleon or Frederick, to produce a chef-d'oeuvre of this kind. If we still await his chef-d'oeuvre, it must be owned that some good works have appeared within the last thirty years; in this number we must put the war in Spain of Foy; the summary of military events of Mathieu H. Dumas, and the manuscripts of Fain; although the second is wanting in firm points of view, and the last sins through too much partiality. Afterwards come the works of M. Ségur the younger, a writer full of genius and of wise views, who has proved to us, by the history of Charles VIII, that with a little more nature in his style he might bear away from his predecessors the historic palm of the great age which yet awaits its Polybius. In the third rank we shall place the histories of Toulongeon and of Servan. 6

Finally, there is a third kind, that of critical history, applied to the principles of the art, and more especially designed to develop the relations of events with those principles. FeuquiPres and Lloyd had indicated the road without having had many imitators until the Revolution. This last species, less brilliant in its forms, is for that perhaps only the more useful in its results, especially where criticism is not pushed to that rigor which would often render it false and unjust.

Within the last twenty years, this half didactic, half critical history has made more progress than the others, or at least it has been cultivated with more success, and has produced incontestable results. The campaigns published by the Arch-Duke Charles, those anonymous ones of General Muffling, the partial relations of Generals Pelet, Boutourlin, Clausewitz, 7 [This endnote remarks directly on Clausewitz.] Okounieff, Valentini, Ruhle; those of Messrs. de Laborde, Koch, de Chambrai, Napier; finally, the fragments published by Messrs. Wagner and Scheel, in the interesting journals of Berlin and Vienna, have all more or less assisted in the development of the science of war. Perhaps I may be permitted also to claim a small part in this result in favor of my long critical and military history of the wars of the Revolution, and of the other historical works which I have published, for, written especially to prove the permanent triumph of the application of principles, those works have never failed to bring all the facts to this dominant point of view, and in this respect at least, they have had some success; I invoke in support of this assertion, the spicy critical analysis of the war of the Spanish Succession, given by Captain Dumesnil.

Thanks to this concurrence of didactic works and of critical history, the teaching of the science is no longer so difficult, and the professors who would be embarrassed at this day, in making good courses with a thousand examples to support them, would be sad professors. It must not be concluded, however, that the art has arrived at that point that it cannot make another step towards perfection. There is nothing perfect under the sun!!! And if a committee were assembled under the presidency of the Arch Duke Charles or Wellington, composed of all the strategic and tactical notabilities of the age, together with the most skillful generals of engineers and artillery, this committee could not yet succeed in making a perfect, absolute and immutable theory on all the branches of war, especially on tactics!

Notes to Jomini, "Notice on the Present Theory of War, and of its Utility."

For a rather negative treatment, read John R. Elting, "Jomini: Disciple of Napoleon?" in Military Affairs, Spring 1964, 17-26. A more neutral treatment can be found in John Shy's, "Jomini," in Peter Paret, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age. The remaining notes are from the original.

1. Feuquieres was not sufficiently appreciated by his contemporaries, at least as a writer; he had the instinct of strategy as Folard, that of tactics, and Puységur that of la logistique.

2. Guibert, in an excellent chapter upon marches, touches upon strategy, but he did not realize what this chapter promised.

3. An ignorant man, endowed with a natural genius, can do great things; but the same man stuffed with false doctrines studied at school with pedantic systems, will do nothing good unless he forget what he had learned.

4. We might cite yet the interesting narratives of Saintine, of Mortonval of Lapenne Lenoble Lafaille, as well as those of the Prussian Major Spahl upon Catalonia, of Baron Volderndorf on the campaigns of the Bavarians, and a host of other writings of the same nature.

5. Several political historians, like Ancillon, Segur the elder, Karamsin, Guichardin, Archenholz, Schiller Daru, Michaud and Salvandy have recounted also with talent many operations of war, but they cannot be counted in the number of military writers.

6. I do not speak of the political and military life of Napoleon recounted by himself because it has been said that I was the author of it; with regard to those of Norvins and of Tibaudeau, they are not military.

7. The works of Clausewitz have been incontestably useful, although it is often less by the ideas of the author, than by the contrary ideas to which he gives birth. They would have been more useful still, if a pretentious and pedantic style did not frequently render them unintelligible. But if as a didactic author, he has raised more doubts than he has discovered truths, as a critical historian, he has been an unscrupulous plagiarist, pillaging his predecessors, copying their reflections, and saying evil afterwards of their works, after having travestied them under other forms. Those who shall have read my campaign of 1799, published ten years before his, will not deny my assertion, for there is not one of my reflections which he has not repeated.

END

 

 

Jomini on Certain Types of War

Excerpted from
The Art of War

by
Antoine-Henri Jomini


G. H. Mendell and W. P. Craighill, trs.
(Philadelphia: Lippicott, 1892), pp. 25-38

Wars of Opinion.

Although wars of opinion, national wars, and civil wars are sometimes confounded, they differ enough to require separate notice.

Wars of opinion may be intestine, both intestine and foreign, and, lastly, (which, however, is rare,) they may be foreign or exterior without being intestine or civil.

Wars of opinion between two states belong also to the class of' wars of intervention; for they result either from doctrines which one party desires to propagate among its neighbors, or from dogmas which it desires to crush,-in both cases leading to intervention. Although originating in religious or political dogmas, these wars are most deplorable; for, like national wars, they enlist the worst passions, and become vindictive, cruel, and terrible.

The wars of Islamism, the Crusades, the Thirty Years' War, the wars of the League, present nearly the same characteristics. Often religion is the pretext to obtain political power, and the war is not really one of' dogmas. The successors of Mohammed eared more to extend their empire than to preach the Koran, and Philip II, bigot as he was, did not sustain the League in France for the purpose of advancing the Roman Church. We agree with M. Ancelot that Louis IX, when he went on a crusade in Egypt, thought more of the commerce of the Indies than of gaining possession of the Holy Sepulcher.

The dogma sometimes is not only a pretext, but is a powerful ally; for it excites the ardor of the people, and also creates a party For instance, the Swedes in the Thirty Years' War, and Philip II in France, hail allies in the country more powerful than their armies It may, however, happen, as in the Crusades and the wars of Islamism, that the dogma for which the war is waged, instead of friends, finds only bitter enemies in the country invaded; and then the contest becomes fearful.

The chances of support and resistance in wars of political opinions are about equal. It may be recollected how in 1792 associations of fanatics thought it possible to propagate throughout Europe the famous declaration of the rights of man, and how governments became justly alarmed, and rushed to arms probably with the intention of only forcing the lava of this volcano back into its crater and there extinguishing it. The means were not fortunate; for war and aggression are inappropriate measures for arresting an evil which lies wholly in the human passions, excited in a temporary paroxysm, of less duration as it is the more violent. Time is the true remedy for all bad passions and for all anarchical doctrines. A civilized nation may bear the yoke of a factious and unrestrained multitude for a short interval; but these storms soon pass away, and reason resumes her sway. To attempt to restrain such a mob by a foreign force is to attempt to restrain the explosion of a mine when the powder has already been ignited: it is far better to await the explosion and afterward fill up the crater than to try to prevent it and to perish in the attempt

After a profound study of the Revolution, I am convinced that, if the Girondists and National Assembly had not been threatened by foreign armaments, they would never have dared to lay their sacrilegious hands upon the feeble but venerable head of Louis XVI. The Girondists would never have been crushed by the Mountain but for the reverses of Dumouriez and the threats of invasion. And if they had been permitted to clash and quarrel with each other to their hearts' content, it is probable that, instead of giving place to the terrible Convention, the Assembly would slowly have returned to the restoration of good, temperate, monarchical doctrines, in accordance with the necessities and the immemorial traditions of the French.

In a military view these wars are fearful, since the invading force not only is met by the armies of the enemy, but is exposed to the attacks of an exasperated people. It may be said that the violence of one party will necessarily create support for the invaders by the formation of another and opposite one; but, if the exasperated party possesses all the public resources, the armies, the forts, the arsenals, and if it is supported by a large majority of the people, of what avail will be the support of the faction which possesses no such means ? What service did one hundred thousand Vendeans and one hundred thousand Federalists do for the coalition in 1793?

History contains but a single example of a struggle like that of the Revolution; and it appears to clearly demonstrate the danger of attacking an intensely-excited nation. However the bad management of the military operations was one cause of the unexpected result, and before deducing any certain maxims from this war, we should ascertain what would have been the result if after the flight of Dumouriez, instead of destroying and capturing fortresses, the allies had informed the commanders of those fortresses that they contemplated no wrong to France, to her forts or her brave armies, and had marched on Paris with two hundred thousand men. They might have restored the monarchy; and, again, they might never have returned, at least without the protection of an equal force on their retreat to the Rhine. It is difficult to decide this, since the experiment was never made, and as all would have depended upon the course of the French nation and the army. The problem thus presents two equally grave solutions. The campaign of 1793 gave one; whether the other might have been obtained, it is difficult to say. Experiment alone could have determined it.

The military precepts for such wars are nearly the same as for national wars, differing, however, in a vital point. In national wars the country should be occupied and subjugated, the fortified places besieged and reduced, and the armies destroyed; whereas in wars of opinion it is of less importance to subjugate the country; here great efforts should be made to gain the end speedily, without delaying for details, care being constantly taken to avoid any acts which might alarm the nation for its independence or the integrity of its territory.

The war in Spain in 1823 is an example which may be cited in favor of this Course in opposition to that of the Revolution. It is true that the conditions were slightly different for the French army of 1792 was made up of more solid elements than that of the Radicals of the Isla de Leon. The war of the Revolution was at once a war of opinion, a national war, and a civil war,-while, if the first war in Spain in 1808 was thoroughly a national war, that of 1823 was a partial struggle of opinions without the element of nationality; and hence the enormous difference in the results.

Moreover, the expedition of the Duke of Angoulême was well carried out. Instead of attacking fortresses, he acted in conformity to the above-mentioned precepts. Pushing on rapidly to the Ebro, he there divided his forces, to seize, at their sources, all the elements of strength of their enemies,- which they could safely do, since they were sustained by a majority of the inhabitants. If he had followed the instructions of the Ministry, to proceed methodically to the conquest of the country and the reduction of the fortresses between the Pyrenees and the Ebro, in order to provide a base of operations, he would perhaps have failed in his mission, or at least made the war a long and bloody one, by exciting the national spirit by an occupation of the country similar to that of 1807.

Emboldened by the hearty welcome of the people, he comprehended that it was a political operation rather than a military one, and that it behooved him to consummate it rapidly. His conduct, so different from that of the allies in 1793, deserves careful attention from all charged with similar missions. In three months the army was under the walls of Cadiz.

If the events now transpiring in the Peninsula prove that statesmanship was not able to profit by success in order to found a suitable and solid order of things, the fault was neither in the army nor in its commanders, but in the Spanish government, which, yielding to the counsel of violent reactionaries, was unable to rise to the height of its mission. The arbiter between two great hostile interests, Ferdinand blindly threw himself into the arms of the party which professed a deep veneration for the throne, but which intended to use the royal authority for the furtherance of its own ends, regardless of consequences. The nation remained divided in two hostile camps, which it would not have been impossible to calm and reconcile in time. These camps came anew into collision, as I predicted in Verona in 1823,-a striking lesson, by which no one is disposed to profit in that beautiful and unhappy land, although history is not wanting in examples to prove that violent reactions, any more than revolutions, are not elements with which to construct and consolidate. May God grant that from this frightful conflict may emerge a strong and respected monarchy, equally separated from all factions, and based upon a disciplined army as well as upon the general interests of the country,-a monarchy capable of rallying to its support this incomprehensible Spanish nation, which, with merits not less extraordinary than its faults, was always a problem for those who were in the best position to know it.

National Wars.

National wars, to which we have referred in speaking of those of invasion, are the most formidable of all. This name can only be applied to such as are waged against a united people, or a great majority of them, filled with a noble ardor and determined to sustain their independence: then every step is disputed, the army holds only its camp-ground, its supplies can only be obtained at the point of the sword, and its convoys are everywhere threatened or captured.

The spectacle of a spontaneous uprising of a nation is rarely seen; and, though there be in it something grand and noble which commands our admiration, the consequences are so terrible that, for the sake of humanity, we ought to hope never to see it. This uprising must not be confounded with a national defense in accordance with the institutions of the state and directed by the government.

This uprising may be produced by the most opposite causes. The serfs may rise in a body at the call of the government, and their masters, fleeted by a noble love of their sovereign and country, may set them the example and take the command of them; and, similarly, a fanatical people may arm under the appeal of its priests; or a people enthusiastic in its political opinions, or animated by a sacred love of its institutions, may rush to meet the enemy in defense of all it holds most dear.

The control of the sea is of much importance in the results of a national invasion. If the people possess a long stretch of coast, and are masters of the sea or in alliance with a power which controls it, their power of resistance is quintupled, not only on account of the facility of feeding the insurrection and of alarming the enemy on all the points he may occupy, but still more by the difficulties which will be thrown in the way of his procuring supplies by the sea.

The nature of the country may be such as to contribute to the facility of a national defense. In mountainous counties the people are always most formidable; next to these are countries covered with extensive forests.

The resistance of the Swiss to Austria and to the Duke of Burgundy, that of the Catalans in 1712 and in 1809, the difficulties encountered by the Russians in the subjugation of the tribes of the Caucasus, and, finally, the reiterated efforts of the Tyrolese, clearly demonstrate that the inhabitants of mountainous regions have always resisted for a longer time than those of the plains,-which is due as much to the difference in character and customs as to the difference in the natural features of the countries.

Defiles and large forests, as well as rocky regions, favor this kind of defense; and the Bocage of La Vendée, so justly celebrated, proves that any country, even if it be only traversed by large hedges and ditches or canals, admits of a formidable defense.

The difficulties in the path of an army in wars of opinions, as well as in national wars, are very great, and render the mission of the general conducting them very difficult. The events just mentioned, the contest of the Netherlands with Philip II. and that of the Americans with the English, furnish evident proofs of this; but the much more extraordinary struggle of La Vendée with the victorious Republic, those of Spain, Portugal, and the Tyrol against Napoleon, and, finally, those of the Morea against the Turks, and of Navarre against the armies of Queen Christina, are still more striking illustrations.

The difficulties are particularly great when the people are supported by a considerable nucleus of disciplined troops. The invader has only an army: his adversaries have an army, and a people wholly or almost wholly in arms, and making means of resistance out of every thing, each individual of whom conspires against the common enemy; even the noncombatants have an interest in his ruin and accelerate it by every means in their power. He holds scarcely any ground but that upon which he encamps; outside the limits of his camp every thing is hostile and multiplies a thousandfold the difficulties he meets at every step.

These obstacles become almost insurmountable when the country is difficult. Each armed inhabitant knows the smallest paths and their connections; he finds everywhere a relative or friend who aids him; the commanders also know the country, and, learning immediately the slightest movement on the part of the invader, can adopt the best measures to defeat his projects; while the latter, without information of their movements, and not in a condition to send out detachments to gain it, having no resource but in his bayonets, and certain safety only in the concentration of his columns, is like a blind man: his combinations are failures; and when, after the most carefully-concerted movements and the most rapid and fatiguing marches, he thinks he is about to accomplish his aim and deal a terrible blow, he finds no signs of the enemy but his campfires: so that while, like Don Quixote, he is attacking windmills, his adversary is on his line of communications, destroys the detachments left to guard it, surprises his convoys, his depots, and carries on a war so disastrous for the invader that he must inevitably yield after a time.

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, March and'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. 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 center 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.

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 ?

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, Ceding, and Ballasteros!

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 resist ante 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.

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? 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 string 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 ? The difficulty of answering these two questions would seem to argue in favor 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 defense 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?

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 defense 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.

I sum up this discussion by asserting that, without being a utopian philanthropist, or a condottieri, a person may desire that wars of extermination may be banished from the code of nations, and that the defenses of nations by disciplined militia, with the aid of good political alliances, may be sufficient to insure their independence.

As a soldier, preferring loyal and chivalrous warfare to organized assassination, if it be necessary to make a choice, I acknowledge that ma prejudices are in favor of the good old times when the French and English Guards courteously invited each other to fire first,-as at Fontenoy,-preferring -them to the frightful epoch when priests, women, and children throughout Spain plotted the murder of isolated soldiers.

Civil Wars, and Wars of Religion.

Intestine wars, when not connected with a foreign quarrel. are generally the result of a conflict of opinions, of political or religious sectarianism. In the Middle Ages they were more frequently the collisions of feudal parties. Religious wars are above all the most deplorable.

We can understand how a government may find it necessary to use force against its own subjects in order to crush out factions which would weaken the authority of the throne and the national strength; but that it should murder its citizens to compel them to say their prayers in French or Latin, or to recognize the supremacy of a foreign pontiff, is difficult of conception. Never was a king more to be pitied than Louis XIV., who persecuted a million of industrious Protestants, who had put upon the throne his own Protestant ancestor. Wars of fanaticism are horrible when mingled with exterior wars, and they are also frightful when they are family quarrels. The history of France in the times of the League should be an eternal lesson for nations and kings. It is difficult to believe that a people so noble and chivalrous in the time of Francis I. should in twenty years have fallen into so deplorable a state of brutality.

To give maxims in such wars would be absurd. There is one rule upon which all thoughtful men will be agreed: that is, to unite the two parties or sects to drive the foreigners from the soil, and afterward to reconcile by treaty the conflicting claims or rights. Indeed, the intervention of a third power in a religious dispute can only be with ambitious views.

Governments may in good faith intervene to prevent the spreading of a political disease whose principles threaten social order; and, although these fears are generally exaggerated and are often mere pretexts, it is possible that a state may believe its own institutions menaced. But in religious disputes this is never the case; and Philip II. could have had no other object in interfering in the affairs of the League than to subject France to his influence, or to dismember it.

Double Wars and the Danger of Undertaking Two Wars at Once.

The celebrated maxim of the Romans, not to undertake two great wars at the same time, is so well known and so well appreciated as to spare the necessity of demonstrating its wisdom.

A government may be compelled to maintain a war against two neighboring states; but it will be extremely unfortunate if it does not find an ally to come to its aid, with a view to its own safety and the maintenance of the political equilibrium. It will seldom be the case that the nations allied against it will have the same interest in the war and will enter into it with all their resources; and, if one is only an auxiliary, it will be an ordinary war.

Louis XIV, Frederick the Great, the Emperor Alexander, and Napoleon, sustained gigantic struggles against united Europe. When such contests arise from voluntary aggressions, they are proof of a capital error on the part of the state which invites them; but if they arise from imperious and inevitable circumstances, they must be met by seeking alliances, or by opposing such means of resistance as shall establish something like equality between the strength of the parties.

The great coalition against Louis XIV., nominal arising from his designs on Spain, had its real origin in previous aggressions which had alarmed his neighbors. To the combined forces of Europe he could only oppose the faithful alliance of the Elector of Bavaria, and the more equivocal one of the Duke of Savoy, who, indeed, was not slow in adding to the number of his enemies. Frederick, with only the aid of the subsidies of England, and fifty thousand auxiliaries from six different states, sustained a war against the three most powerful monarchies of Europe: the division and folly of his Opponents were his best friends.

Both these wars, as well as that sustained by Alexander in 1812, it was almost impossible to avoid.

France had the whole of Europe on its hands in 1793, in consequence of the extravagant provocations of the Jacobins, and the utopian ideas of the Girondists, who boasted that with the support of the English fleets they would defy all the kings in the world. The result of these absurd calculations was a frightful upheaval of Europe, from which France miraculously escaped. ^

Napoleon is, to a certain degree, the only modern sovereign who has voluntarily at the same time undertaken two, and even three, formidable wars, with Spain, with England, and with Russia; but in the last case he expected the aid of Austria and Prussia, to say nothing of that of Turkey and Sweden, upon which he counted with too much certainty; so that the enterprise was not so adventurous on his part as has been generally supposed.

It will be observed that there is a great distinction between a war made against a single state which is aided by a third acting as an auxiliary, and two wars conducted at the same time against two powerful nations in opposite quarters, who employ all their forces and resources. For instance, the double contest of Napoleon in 1809 against Austria and Spain aided by England was a very different affair from a contest with Austria assisted by an auxiliary force of a given strength. These latter contests belong to ordinary wars.

It follows, then, in general, that double wars should be avoided if possible, and, if cause of war be given by two states, it is more prudent to dissimulate or neglect the wrongs suffered from one of them, until a proper opportunity for redressing them shall arrive. The rule, however, is not without exception: the respective forces, the localities, the possibility of finding allies to restore, in a measure, equality of strength between the parties, are circumstances which will influence a government so threatened. We now have fulfilled our task, in noting both the danger and the means of remedying it.

End