The Mind of Napoleon on American Battlefields Discussion
Professor Ernest Butner (Irish)
"If you wage war, do it energetically and with severity. This is the only way to make it shorter, and consequently less inhuman." It makes little difference if war is waged against brother - against men and women who have never been seen before - against the heartland - against the cities - it must be prosecuted energetically and with severity. The great masters of military achievement all are in agreement with that. A consecutive series of great actions never is the result of chance and luck; it always is a product of planning and genius...Is it because they were lucky that great men become great? No, but being great, they have been able to master luck. What is luck? The ability to exploit accidents.
Longstreet exploited an accident at Chickamaugua. Lee exploited accidents at Second Manassas, Chancellorsville, but failed to exploit at Cold Harbor. "Hesitation is fatal; once an action is begun, it must be followed through with the utmost exertion of the will. A general's principal talent consists in knowing the mentality of the soldier and in winning his confidence."
Grant won the confidence of the Eastern Army when, after the fighting at the Wilderness he maneuvered at first toward Fredericksburg and then abruptly to the man in the field turned South! Lee hesitated little, He was frustrated by many hesitating generals during the Seven Days. Those who hesitated were removed. "When an enemy army is in flight, you must either build a golden bridge for it or stop it with a wall of steel." This is the most difficult situation a commander is faced with. Commanders from both the North and the South were criticized for both attempting the wall of steel and for also building the golden bridge. "Retreats are always disastrous. They cost more lives and material than the bloodiest battles, with this additional difference, that in a battle the enemy loses approximately as much as you, while in a retreat you lose and he does not."
"The basic principle that we must follow in directing the armies is this: that they must feed themselves on war at the expense of the enemy territory. It is axiomatic in the art of war that the side which remains behind its fortified line is always defeated." Possibly no truer words were spoken in regard to nineteenth century war.
Final thought from Napoleon: "War justifies everything!" There is no such thing as a police action. War is war. Your enemy is your enemy. He no longer is your fellow countryman, your brother, your cousin, or your father--he is your enemy. Men going to war do not believe this. Men in war despise this. Men coming from war preach this!
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