Under the Shadow of Napoleon: French Influence on the American Way of Warfare from the War of 1812 to the Outbreak of WWII

By Angevine, Robert G. | The Historian, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

Under the Shadow of Napoleon: French Influence on the American Way of Warfare from the War of 1812 to the Outbreak of WWII


Angevine, Robert G., The Historian


Under the Shadow of Napoleon: French Influence on the American Way of Warfare from the War of 1812 to the Outbreak of WWII. By Michael A. Bonura. (New York, NY: New York University Press, 2012. Pp. xi, 306. $55.00.)

In this work, the author, an active-duty army officer, has produced a wonderfully detailed intellectual history of the US Army from 1812 to 1940. He argues that throughout the period covered in the book the army organized, trained, learned, and fought according to an intellectual framework imported directly from the armies of the French Revolution. The French combat method that constituted the army's intellectual framework consisted of a dedication to offensive operations culminating in an assault, the formation of an infantry army with nonspecialized units, a linear and noncontiguous view of the battlefield, a desire to combine the effects of all the auxiliary combat arms into the main infantry battle, and the adoption of nondogmatic tactics.

Michael A. Bonura begins with a chapter describing the French combat method and its origin in the French Revolution. In the four chapters that follow, he analyzes the army's tactical and general regulations, its educational institutions, and the images of France, the French military, and especially Napoleon in US popular culture. Throughout these chapters, Bonura skillfully employs a wide range of sources, including circulation records from the West Point library, military regulations, curricula from military schools, articles from professional military journals, and popular literature, to assess the extent of French influence on American military thinking. Each chapter ends with a discussion of US participation in a major war--the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World War I--and an analysis of the role that the French combat method played in a specific battle in that war. …

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