Military Theory Research Paper

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Military Theory: Jomini on Napoleon

The objective of this study is to use the Campaign of 1813 culminating in the battle of Leipzig and to identify and analyze both the critical points and decisive points that Antoine-Henri Jomini in his 'Principles of War' would have listed in relation to proper time and sufficient force and identify how many would be applied both positively and negatively to Napoleon's maneuvering and engaging.

Napoleon's Focus

The focus of Napoleon in the Campaign of 1813 was to launch such a mass attack on the enemy that they would be overcome and decimated. However, as this study will demonstrate, Napoleon missed chances to do just that and his poor planning and improper timing resulted in the losses of many thousands of lives that did not have to be lost. According to Jomini, the art of war is comprised by six specific parts including: (1) statesmanship in its relation to war; (2) strategy, or the art of properly directing masses upon the theater of war, either for defense or invasion; (3) grand tactics; (4) logistics, or the art of moving armies; (5) engineering -- the attack and defense of fortification; and (6) minor tactics. (Mendell and Craighill, 2007)

Fundamental Principles of War

Jomini is reported to have proposed one "fundamental principles of war" that governed all wartime operations. The principle includes four maxims that military commanders must follow according to Jomini and includes: (1) To throw by strategic movements the mass of an army, successively, upon the decisive points of a theatre of war, and also upon the communications of the enemy as much as possible without compromising one's own; (2) To maneuver to engage fractions of the hostile army with the bulk of one's forces; (3) On the battle-field, to throw the mass of the forces upon the decisive point, or upon that portion of the hostile line which it is of the first importance to overthrow; (4) To so arrange that these masses shall not only be thrown upon the decisive point, but that they shall engage at the proper times and with energy. (Nomura, 2012)

These maxims, on the face of it appear very simple and obvious and Jomini admitted the same however in anticipation of the possible criticism that could be launched Jomnini made it clear that success in war is dependent upon the manner and skill with which the solid principles of war are applied. Three of the four maxims mention specifically 'decisive points' indicating the great importance that was placed upon the concept by Jomini. Jomini's taxonomy of significant points in Article XIX of the Art of War relate to how the options should be evaluated by a military commander on the battlefield and the strategic points and lines that the commander is concerned with which are reported to "vary in nature and importance, depending o the circumstances of the conflict." (Nomura, 2012)

Three Primary Types of Points

Jomini states that there are three primary types of points that are of concern to the commander: (1) geographical strategic points, significant due to their physical location; (2) strategic points of maneuver, evolves as the troop maneuvers the battlefield; and (3) decisive strategic points, described by Jomini as those "whose importance is constant and immense." (Nomura, 2012) Nomura (2012) states that the emphasis of Jomini was on "lines of defense, operational fronts, and well-located fortresses…." (2012)

Two Types of Decisive Points

Decisive points were broken down by Jomini into two types: (1) decisive geographic points (or lines); and (2) decisive points of maneuver. It could be argued that Jomini "unnecessarily added layers of complexity to his taxonomy of decisive points, given that he had already conceptualized geographic strategic points and strategic points of maneuver." (Nomura, 2012) The addition of the term decisive to each of these, in the words of Nomura (2012) "might seem superfluous."

In contrasting between the concepts of decisive and non-decisive, Lyons and Leipzig are used as examples of points that "could be either depending upon circumstances. Jomini characterized Lyons as an "important strategic point," since it formed the nexus of control of the Rhone and Saone valleys, as well as the "center of communication between France and Italy." Similar to Lyons, Leipsic was also considered an important strategic point, given its position as the bridge of all communications in Northern Germany. However, Jomini argued that these two points were not necessarily decisive "unless well fortified [sic] or possessing an extended camp with tetes de pont." (Nomura, 2012) Decisive points of maneuver were characterized by Jomini as "circumstantial, relative to troop position on both sides." (Nomura, 2012)

The decisive points of maneuver then are As for decisive on the flank of the enemy upon which, if his opponent operates, he can more easily cut him off from his base and supporting forces without being exposed to the same danger." (Nomura, 2012) Therefore, Jomini related that the decisive point is that which "implies the immediate presence of troops or military fortifications." (Nomura, 2012)

Levels of War

There are reported in the work of Shoffner (2002) to be levels of war including the following stated levels:

(1) Strategic Level of War. The strategic level is that level at which a nation, often as one of a group of nations, determines national and multinational security objectives and guidance and develops and uses national resources to accomplish them;

(2) Operational Level of War. The operational level of war is the level at which campaigns and major operations are conducted and sustained to accomplish strategic objectives within theaters or areas of operations. It links the tactical employment of forces to strategic objectives; and (3) Tactical Level of War. Tactics is the employment of units in combat. It includes the ordered arrangement and maneuver of units in relation to each other, the terrain, and the enemy to translate potential combat power into victorious battles and engagements. (Schoffner, 2002)

Shoffner (2002) writes that there are specific types of operations in war including the following types of operations:

(1) Decisive Operations. Decisive operations are those that directly accomplish the task assigned by the higher headquarters. Decisive operations conclusively determine the outcome of major operations, battles, and engagements. There is only one decisive operation for any major operation, battle, or engagement for any given echelon. The decisive operation may include multiple actions conducted simultaneously throughout the area of operation. Commanders weight the decisive operation by economizing on combat power allocated to shaping operations;

(2) Shaping Operations. Shaping operations at any echelon create and preserve conditions for the success of the decisive operation. Shaping operations include lethal and nonlethal activities conducted throughout the area of operations. They support the decisive operation by affecting enemy capabilities and forces or by influencing the opposing commander's decisions. Shaping operations use all the elements of combat power to neutralize or reduce enemy capabilities. They may occur before, concurrently with, or after beginning of the decisive operation. They may involve any combination of forces and occur throughout the area of operation; and (3) Sustaining Operations. Sustaining operations are operations at any echelon that enable shaping and decisive operations by providing combat service support (CSS), rear area and base security, movement control, terrain management, and infrastructure development. (Shoffner, 2002)

Campaign of 1813

For the campaign that Napoleon contemplated in Germany, an entirely new army was required. It is related on that there was nothing left on the right wing, but "Raynier's weak corps" and on the left wing there were only "one weak corps of 7000 or 8000 men." (Shoffner, 2002) There were only 2281 of the original 66.345 officers and men remaining in Davout's corps. Of the 50,000 men of the Guard, it is reported that "only 500 [were] fit for service, and 800 sick and cripples, of whom 200 were permanently disabled by amputations necessitated by frostbites or wounds." (Shoffner, 2002) The Campaign of 1813 began with a total of 656,000.

On the 29th, there were reported to be two small fights and Napoleon had not yet assembled all of his troops as the allied troops were still moving toward his location. Napoleon had 145,000 men on location and it is reported that he had "as usual now, somewhat underestimated the enemy's forces, they certainly had not above two-thirds of that number." (Shoffner, 2002) Something decisive is reported as having been "the utmost importance to Napoleon…" (Shoffner, 2002) Napoleon believed the allies to be "scattered from Dessau to Zwickau with their main body about Altenburg." (Shoffner, 2002) Should Napoleon delay his decisive movements,

"the enemy, recognizing his vast numerical superiority, might lose heart and slip away across the Elbe again, to lead him away on a long stern chase in which, with his weakness in cavalry, he would be powerless to force a decision. Once the enemy realized fully that his object was to pass round their right and force them to a battle with reversed front, they would take fright and retreat. After all, the four divisions which were spread along the…

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