Academic journal article Military Review

Moltke and the German Wars, 1864-1871

Academic journal article Military Review

Moltke and the German Wars, 1864-1871

Article excerpt

Arden Bucholz, Palgrave Publishers, NY, 2001, 240 pages, $21.95.

What do modern militaries owe to old Prussia? According to Arden Bucholz, quite a bit. However, the unhappy memories associated with two world wars have warped our view of 19th-century Prussia and its remarkable army. Our associations tend to make the Prussian army a mythological demon. Bucholz writes that only when one gets past 20th-century images of storm troopers, Nuremburg rallies, and Stukas can a modern reader fairly appreciate the Prussian army's pioneering development of modern concepts of war planning, staff organization, and operational command and control, not to mention its extraordinary battlefield performance.

Bucholz, a history professor at the State University of New York, Brockport, is well qualified to reframe our view of the Prussians. He has written extensively on German military history. To offer a fresh interpretation of the three Wars of German Unification, he layers his own research for Moltke and the German Wars, 1864-1871, on that of Gordon Craig, Michael Howard, and the eyewitness accounts of Theodor Fontane. Using concepts taken from 21st-century information and organization theory, Bucholz offers an original analysis to create a synthetic history that reemphasizes the debt that modern armies owe to the Prussians.

The connecting thread throughout Moltke and the German Wars, is the role of a most extraordinary man, Helmuth von Moltke, of whom Bucholz writes, "He is one of the first of a new breed: the modern, self-made, technically educated, professional officer." More than anything else, Bucholz's book is a biography but it is military biography superimposed on the history of a warfighting institution--the Prussian army--and on narrative accounts of Prussia' wars with Denmark (1864), Austria (1866), and France (1870-1871). And it is as a biography that this book works best, as Bucholz convinces u that Von Moltke's role in creating modern military processes has been undervalued.

Brought up in an environment that immersed him in the world of ideas Von Moltke entered a Prussian army that Gerhard yon Scharnhorst and others had turned into a true learning organization. …

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