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Evolution of warfare

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  • Evolution of warfare

    I am particularly interested in the evolution of warfare from pre-Napoleonic times up through the American Civil War.

    As I understand it, warfare in Europe pre-Napoleon was characterized by:
    - Smaller, expensive, professional armies
    - Slow moving armies
    - Clumsy and large supply lines
    - Campaigns of maneuver instead of battle
    - Fought like a chess match for a checkmate position, whereabouts the loser would just call it quits. Minimal casualties.
    - Limited goals, no idealistic motives.

    Changes brought about by Napoleon, or during his time, which precluded French victories (pre-Wagram):
    - Larger, citizen armies
    - Divisions and then corps to handle the larger army size
    - Living off the land and less use of supply lines
    - Battles/campaigns of annihilation rather than pure maneuver.
    - Idealistic zeal with much expanded goals

    Changes after Wagram (when Europe caught up with French):
    - Huge armies which required supply lines rather than living off land.
    - Massive artillery firepower
    - More emphasis on entrenchment
    - Resilient armies because of size/corps structure
    - War of attrition

    American Civil War:
    - Advances in technology (rifle, railroad, telegram)
    - Increased entrenchment
    - War of attrition
    - "Total war" on enemy's homeland
    - Unconditional demands

    Really, what I'm interested in is how the Civil War is perceived by many as the first "modern war," but how really modern war began at Wagram. Large, resilient armies, massive firepower, entrenchment, war of attrition, etc. The only thing new in the Civil War was the technology, but I have seen studies that show even with rifles the average engagement distance in the Civil War was the same as during Napoleonic Wars.

    So, what are your thoughts on the evolution of warfare? How did Napoleon change war, how did war change during Napoleon's time, and how do those changes compare to the ACW?

  • #2
    Any input?


    • #3
      Your summary leaves very little to add - you could pass an exam on that

      As to how it compares to the ACW, I'd say that's very much a matter of perspective.

      Here in europe the latter Napoleonic wars *are* regarded as the first modern wars and ACW as a logical evolution, probably WWI as an end point.

      Manoeuvring becoming ever more irrelevant in the face of increasing firepower and expendable manpower - only to change again with the advance of motorization and airpower.

      Needless to say I'm far from an expert -

      Last edited by Snowygerry; 09 Apr 10, 02:54.
      Lambert of Montaigu - Crusader.

      Bolgios - Mercenary Game.


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