strategy and tactics: Professional Armies and Napoleon

Professional Armies and Napoleon

Gustavus Aldolphus (Gustavus II), king of Sweden, and Maurice of Nassau are credited with advancing the professionalization of armies at the end of the 16th cent. By the 17th cent. these professional armies were very costly to establish and maintain, and military strategists employed a cautious approach involving minimal risk of casualties. Even so aggressive a commander as Frederick II (Frederick the Great) was inhibited by fear of a bloody defeat; nevertheless, his wars left Prussia exhausted.

It was Napoleon I who, despite his mistakes, revolutionized the strategy and tactics of his time. Aided by a mass army, he made great use of the powerful shock attack, carefully planned in advance. He also introduced the loose formation, divisional organization, and the use of mobile, long-range artillery. Clausewitz's On War (1832) was an outgrowth of his studies of Napoleonic campaigns; it demonstrated the importance of destroying the enemy on the battlefield and downplayed the importance of the geometrical organization of troops in the field. Jomini's classic Précis de l'art de la guerre (1836), also influenced by a study of Napoleon's campaigns, had a different emphasis. Jomini stressed occupation of enemy territory through carefully planned geometric maneuvers while tactically he emphasized the importance of attacking. His work was influential and was part of the strategy during the U.S. Civil War. The main line of strategic theory, however, followed Clausewitz and culminated in the work of the Prussian-German school of H. K. von Moltke and Alfred von Schlieffen.

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