The Art Of Warfare In The 17Th — страница 2

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top. If the center remains strong and sure, the system works, but if it becomes weak and uncertain, the entire structure crashes. In mid-18th century Prussia, however, circumstances compelled Fredrick the Great to try a new and aggressive approach and to break through the accepted military pattern of the day. Confronted at the outset of the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) by a coalition of Austria, France, Russia, Sweden, and Saxony, Frederick found himself virtually surrounded. His task was to devise a strategy to defend his territory and not to dissipate his outnumbered troops. The strategy he evolved did not follow set rules or recipes. In his planning Frederick capitalized on two valuable assets; his army, a superior and highly disciplined instrument of war, and a central

position. He sought always to keep the initiative, to attack first one enemy and then another, to assemble at decisive points a force superior to that of his foe, and to avoid long, drawn-out wars. Using his central position to concentrate against individual armies of the enemy before others could reinforce them, he developed the classical “strategy of interior lines.” But even Frederick, the statesman-warrior, could not entirely escape the conditions imposed by the warfare of his times. He could not expose his costly armies to the risk of destruction and bloody decision by battle. His battles were not those of annihilation. In the end his wars were decided by reasons of state, and those wars left his nation exhausted. The age that immediately followed Frederick chose to

imitate his caution rather than his aim. Military theory was characterized by ideas of victory without battle, maneuvering for position, and a system of lines and angles of operation. Geometric concepts and cunning tricks and artifices replaced the aim to destroy enemies. Great emphasis was put on terrain and the occupation of key geographic points. The 18th century, it must be remembered, was the era of enlightenment, and warfare conformed to the spirit of the age. Strategy, like all warfare, became “mathematical” and “scientific.” Theorists optimistically maintained that a general who knew mathematics and topography could direct campaigns with geometric precision and win wars without even fighting. But the new mode of warfare ushered in by the French Revolution and the

Napoleonic era was soon to challenge these optimistic assumptions. I enjoyed this book thoroughly, it not only gave an insight into warfare of those times, but also revealed the impact they place upon us even today. The thing, or person that was forged in my mind, was the genius of Gustavus Adolphus. Like many ideas of men ahead of their times, his ideas and theories were scoffed at by the military leaders of his time, unbeknownst to them that his tactics would influence military tactics.