The Transformation of War Wrought by the Armies of the French Revolution and Napoleon

This is the text of a paper I wrote for my undergrad that I found yesterday while looking through the folders on my computer for something else and decided I would post here.   It is not the best writing I have ever done but I like and still agree with the conclusion I came to in it.

In the years before the French Revolution, warfare in Europe was moribund at best.   The wars of the period were dynastic wars fought to maintain the traditional balance of power and were generally limited in scale and scope.   The armies of this era were professional armies with an aristocratic officer class and private soldiers drawn from the lowest segments of society and subject to brutal discipline.   Desertion and looting were rife in the pre-revolutionary or old regime army’s, which partly explains the discipline, the other part of the discipline equation was the need for soldiers to execute their battlefield actions in concert to maximize the effect of their weapons. [1]  Lastly, pre-revolutionary eighteenth century warfare was characterized by small field armies, reliance on depots for supplies, mechanistic battlefield evolutions, and wars for limited gains.

More after the Jump…The Transformation of War Wrought by the Armies of the French Revolution and Napoleon

Rome and the Battle of Cannae

One of the most talked about battles in military historical circles is the Battle of Cannae between Rome and Carthage on August 2, 216 B.C.[1] Cannae is significant because in military circles it is considered to represent the perfect battle of encirclement if not the perfect battle period.   Another that makes it so significant is that Hannibal, the Carthaginian CDR, managed to defeat a Roman force that outnumbered him while suffering relatively few casualties compared to the damage he did to the Romans.

Cannae is interesting for several reasons.   The most notable for my purposes being that the battle and the way it was fought fascinated 19th century German strategists from Moltke to Schlieffen.   Cannae was held up as the ideal battle from a planning perspective.   All commanders should aim to achieve an annihilating battle of encirclement such as that achieved by Hannibal at Cannae.   Because of this battle’s importance to 19th century German planners, it was the exemplar Schlieffen used when planning the invasion of France, I am going to discuss this battle in fairly great detail.

More after the Jump…Rome and the Battle of Cannae