With a Sword in One Hand & Jomini in the Other: The Problem of Military Thought in the Civil War North

With a Sword in One Hand & Jomini in the Other: The Problem of Military Thought in the Civil War North

With a Sword in One Hand & Jomini in the Other: The Problem of Military Thought in the Civil War North

With a Sword in One Hand & Jomini in the Other: The Problem of Military Thought in the Civil War North

Synopsis

When the Civil War began, Northern soldiers and civilians alike sought a framework to help make sense of the chaos that confronted them. Many turned first to the classic European military texts from the Napoleonic era, especially Antoine Henri Jomini's Summary of the Art of War. As Carol Reardon shows, Jomini's work was only one voice in what ultimately became a lively and contentious national discourse about how the North should conduct war at a time when warfare itself was rapidly changing. She argues that the absence of a strong intellectual foundation for the conduct of war at its start--or, indeed, any consensus on the need for such a foundation--ultimately contributed to the length and cost of the conflict.
Reardon examines the great profusion of new or newly translated military texts of the Civil War years, intended to fill that intellectual void, and draws as well on the views of the soldiers and civilians who turned t them in the search for a winning strategy. In examining how debates over principles of military thought entered into the question of qualifications of officers entrusted to command the armies of Northern citizen soldiers, she explores the limitations of nineteenth-century military thought in dealing with the human elements of combat.

Excerpt

“It has been said with good reason that many a Civil War general went into battle with a sword in one hand and Jomini’s Summary of the Art of War in the other,” wrote Marine Corps Brigadier General J. D. Hittle in 1947. the subject of his observation, Swiss-born soldier and writer Antoine-Henri Jomini, enjoyed a lengthy literary career that spanned the first two-thirds of the nineteenth century. During that time, he became one of the most prolific and insightful chroniclers and analysts of the great campaigns of Frederick the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, and other major military figures of the previous two centuries. He remains far more famous, however, for his efforts to formulate a “scientific” approach to the art of war through the deduction and application of immutable principles that guide an army’s conduct on campaign and in battle. Jomini’s substantial literary outpouring fully established him in European military circles as one of his generation’s foremost authorities on war. His legacy in the United States, however, rests more specifically on the linkage of his ideas to the military conduct of the great sectional conflict of 1861–65

Antoine-Henri Jomini’s rise to prominence had not come easily. Born on 5 March 1779 in the French-speaking Swiss canton of Vaud, he exhibited very early in life a passion for military affairs. His middle-class parents disapproved of his intention to make the army his career, so, after he briefly served in the Swiss armed forces, they sent him to Paris, where he obtained positions in banking and brokerage establishments. Attracted by Napoleon’s battlefield successes, however, Jomini sought a military position and accepted the only one that he—as a foreigner—could find: a logistics assignment. the routine of his duties did not fully occupy his time, his mind, or his dreams of glory, so Jomini immersed himself in the study of great campaigns and the most influential works of military literature produced over the previous two centuries. Inspired by the power of the ideas with which he engaged—and confident enough to believe that he could improve upon them—he soon took up his own pen. A Treatise on Grand Operations, published in 1804 with the benefit of the patronage of Marshal Michel Ney, centered on Frederick the Great’s campaigns in the Seven Years’ War. Highly impressed, Ney soon found a place for . . .

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