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Ancestral Voices: The Influence of the Ancients on the Military Thought of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
Donald A. Neill
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoilseething, As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing, A mighty mountainmomently was forced; Amidwhose swift half-intermittedburst Hugefragmentsvaulted like reboundinghail . .. And 'mid this tumult Kublaheard fromfar Ancestralvoices prophesyingwar! -Samuel TaylorColeridge, KublaKhan
The Renaissance Revisited seething," the Renaissance resonated across Europe from the rise of Petrarch in the mid-fourteenth century, to the Enlightenment of the itself, like Coleridge's metaphorical mountain, eighteenth-imposing all aspects of religious, social, scientific, political, and philosophiupon cal thought, and scattering fragments of long-forgotten wisdom about like "rebounding hail." In many ways, the period represented a coming of age: a waxing dissatisfaction with the patronizing Christian interpretation of man as inherently sinful and the world as a wheel of pain for the unrighteous; the slow growth of the sense of human "self," of a destiny not foreordained; and a new appreciation of the intrinsic worth of Man. Novelist Jostein Gaarder summarizes the intellectual revolution of the era: "Throughout the whole medieval period, the point of departure had always been God. The humanists of the Renaissance took as their point of departure man himself."'
1. Jostein Gaarder,Sophie's World (Sofies verden), trans. Paulette Moller (New York:Berkley Publishing Corp., 1996), 200.
The Journal of Military History 62 (July 1998): 487-520 ? Society for Military History
FROM the chasm of the Dark and Middle Ages "with ceaseless turmoil
A. DONALD NEILL Barbara Tuchman further eulogizes that: the secularism of the era, noting
Under its impulse the individual found in himself, rather than in God, the designer and captain of his fate. Hiis needs, his ambitions and desires, his pleasures and possessions, his mind, his art, his power, his glory, were the house of life. His earthly passage was no longer, as in the medieval concept, a weary exile on the way to the
spiritualdestiny of his soul1.2 Art and music, philosophy and government, science and warfare underwent a gradual but profound transformation. Man, grown weary of the Tantalan quest for salvation, had decided to supplement it with the pursuit of knowledge, discovery, and wealth-all expressions of a graduially emerging individualism. It is generally accepted that scripts faithfully preserved by the Christian monasteries, supplemented by knowledge retrieved from the exotic hinterlands of Palestine, Egypt, and Persia, and in many cases expanded upon by the considerable scientific accomplishments of the Muslim Moors, served to kindle the intellectual conflagrations of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and led eventually to the voyages of discovery, the development of the printing press, the Protestant secession, the explosion of the humanist arts and, in the Enlightenment, to the "Age of Reason." Revealed knowledge lay therefore at the heart of all contemporary scientific, philosophical, and artistic endeavour, the rediscovery of the wisdom of Athens and Rome serving as the fundament upon wvhich Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Galileo, and Copernicus stood to achieve the pinnacle of their respective arts and sciences. The explosion of the humanist ideal was effected by myriad developments, discoveries, and re-discoveries during the fifteenth century: the invention of printing immensely extended the access to knowledge and ideas; advances in science enlarged understanding of the
universe and in appliedscience suppliednew techniques;new methods of capitalist financing stimulated production; new techniques of navigation and shipbuilding enlarged trade and the geographical horizon; newly centralized power absorbed from the declining medieval communes was at the disposal of the monarchies and the growing nationalism of the past century gave it impetus; discovery of the New World and circumnavigation of the globe opened unlimited visions.3 Increasing populations added to the tax base, which made more funding available for voyages of discovery, which in turn opened up new vistas 2. BarbaraW. Tuchman, The March of Folly from Troy to Vietnam (New York: Ballantine Books, 1984), 52. 3. Ibid., 57-58.
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and kings as a means of generating income. to whom God had at that time vouchsafed it. Citing "the Ancients" as a source of inspiration offered many an easy escape from accusations of heresy. if it came not from God. which in turn poured more capital into the national economies. George Dyer has argued that 4. erroneous. merely "picked up" where their ancient forebears had left off centuries before. Galileo. and thus we can assume that the Church would have been less uncomfortable with emerging wisdom if an "Ancient" origin could be plausibly claimed. we are led to assume. The contemporary Roman Church held as one of its central tenets that nothing could be created or destroyed save by the hand of God.. and kings of Europe. MILITARY HISTORY * 489 . would exceed by an order of magnitude. The "rebirth" paradigm Analyses of the Dark and Middle Ages suffer from a regrettable dearth of reliable historical record. by two orders.. and thus knowledge. and the scions of Gutenberg turned to the ancient scholars. science historian James Burke has suggested. must therefore have come from someone in the past . Henry V led ten thousand men to Agincourt in 1415. and Napoleon. which facilitated the vast increase in the size of armies necessitated by the tactical and technological pressures of the era. poets. hence the problem with analyses of the intellectual impact (or lack thereof) of this period on the Renaissance. Aristotelian model of the universe. The growing availability of ancient wisdom is assumed to have sparked an intellectual revolution. The "rebirth paradigm" carries over into the study of military history and conventional explanations for the military reforms of the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries.Ancestral Voices for trade and exploitation. This newfound wealth and scientific wherewithal led to the increasing availability of monies disbursable upon military pursuits. This thesis is central to conventional interpretations of the history of the Renaissance. so that what had previously been unobtainable at any price gradually came within the reach of the slowly expanding literate class. from the discarded clothing of victims of the Black Death which struck Europe in the midfourteenth century. and the soldiers. are alleged to have exhausted quickly the supply of printable contemporary wisdom. scientists. brought condemnation (and house arrest) upon himself by refuting the accepted. in point of fact. a "horde" which Turenne. Paper produced. Gutenberg's press multiplied by ten thousand times the number of books available in Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. two centuries later. soldiers. A glut of rag paper4 and the ability to print books much more rapidly than even the most ardent monastic copyist. at his pinnacle.
Erasmus. . 5. 55. usually claimed that two of the most important military reformersof the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. 1988).were consciously influenced in the making of their armies by what they had learnt about the RomanLegionfrom Caesar'sGallic War.7 And yet we must question the validity of the "rebirth paradigm. have witnessed what may not improperly be called a military revolution.." Michael Roberts. Homer.6 Henry Guerlac goes even further in his support of the influence of the Ancients. or even the "Frogs" of Aristophanes underlie the later accomplishments of Giordano Bruno... the historical works of Thucydides. Aristotle. Michael Roberts. John Keegan. and Thomas More? Did the military adaptations of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries mimic the scientific and cultural leaps through which Copernicus and Titian added the methods of their antecedents to the fruits of their own genius? Or was the gradual resurgence of large. The Military Revolution."8 Keegan expands on this theme in the opening discussion to his case studies in The Face of Battle: 6. . and Galen." PeterParet. seems to .1986). 4. 490 * THE JOURNAL OF 7. in his view. the scientific efforts of Pythagoras.War(London: BodleyHead..: 8. Gustavus Adolphus. The Face of Battle (London: Penguin Books. Archimedes. HenryGuerlac. Spinoza.and the most Le popularbook of the century. The in PrincetonUniversity Press. and Pliny. Henri de Rohan's Parfait capitaine. NEILL "What the European states were really doing in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was reinventing the infantry armies of classical antiquity. standing. 71-72." To what degree did the resurrected philosophical works of Socrates. N. 62. Cervantes. Virgil. 1560-1660 (Belfast: Queen's University Press.1986). Martin Luther. and Seneca.J. "Vauban: Impactof Scienceon War. Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age (Princeton. argues that "this period .DONALD A.ed. professional infantry armies attributable to some other outgrowth of the Renaissance and Enlightenment not directly related to restored historical knowledge? Some authors disagree with the "rebirth paradigm. Julius Caesar. Vegetius and Frontinus were deemed indispensable. 1956). Galileo Galilei.. Plato."5 while John Keegan notes that It is . throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Antiquity was still the great teacher in all that concerned the broaderaspects of militarytheory and the secrets of militarygenius. in his short treatise on warfare between 1560 and 1660. GwynDyer. was an adaptationof Caesar'sGallic Wars. the military treatises of Xenophon. Rabelais. .Maurice of Nassau and GustavusAdolphus. and Flavius Vegetius.
a late Romanauthor. worked. Comte de Saxe (1696-1750). built. 9. their tools. whether conventional wisdom is correct in asserting that the military thought as expressed through the works of these gentlemen is attributable primarily to their study of the ancients (in particular. MILITARY HISTORY * 491 . Military Revolution. 1494-1529] came to the conclusion. Face of Battle. that "the influence of classical history and literature was mainly academic. after reviewingwhat authorsthe Condottierimight have studied. Vegetius's De Rei Militarii). "the product of military logic"10 rather than the echo of ancestral voices emphasizing the military wisdom of a bygone age."9 A question therefore lies before us: Were the military theorists of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment moved to flights of genius by their times.and eighteenth-century France. and wrote. and their fellows-or by the example and intellectual birthright of their ancient forebears? The problem The temporal context of the following examination. Keegan. 19.Ancestral Voices A great deal of controversyhas flowedroundthe issue of exactly how influentialclassicalwriterswere on Renaissancemilitaryaffairs. Taylor[in TheArt of Warfarein Italy. fought. But F. I shall address the subject in two phases: first. the individuals. accompanied by an analysis of the probable nonderivative sources of their concepts. and the question. a more in-depth look at the principal themes of the military literary works in question. Roberts. 61-62. a broad-brush examination of the military mechanism of the Roman Empire through the eyes of the theoretician and historian Vegetius. 10.Vegetius. followed by a brief survey of the evolution of warfare from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance to the European Enlightenment. I hope that this methodology will demonstrate that the military achievements of seventeenth.and eighteenth-century France were only superficially attributable to the works of the ancients. therefore. Sebastien le Prestre de Vauban (1633-1707) and Hermann Maurice.is known to have been widely read. Emphasis added. is seventeenth. ars bellicus. or rather to the realities of the temporal context in which they lived. L. and that the contributions thereunto of Vauban and Saxe were. We view the warfareof the Renaissance through the academic medium of contemporaryhistorians and teachers and are consequently apt to form an exaggeratedopinion of the effect of theoretical writingson militaryoperations. second. the domain. as Roberts suggests.
47. The Art of War.C. 488.. trans. men of the greatest experience in military affairs say that the infantry is good for little or nothing .. over a nine-year period from 58 to 50 B.C. Niccol6 Machiavelli. Until the defeat and destruction of Carthage in 146 B. and twice invaded Britain. Ellis Farneworth (New York: DaCapo Press. Through the centuries of Mycenaean. 69-72. Cosimo: Which method of arming would you recommend. Between the destruction of Babylon in 689 B. Craig. conquered the entirety of modern France.you shall find. arguably each of Rome's wars was a war for national survival. each of Rome's wars was a battle against imperial entropy and the encroachment of chaos from beyond the frontiers of empire. Belgium. Henry V12 Virgil recounts in vivid prose the founding of Rome by the defeated exiles of Troy. then once having achieved the maximum extent of its empire. -Shakespeare. Act IV. J.. ed. the Romans fought more than a hundred major wars.. and battles-in excess of ten for every century of her existence.D. Athenian. from that date forward to the early Christian era. 492 * THE JOURNALOF .. if this is true.DONALD A. 12. describes this campaign and offers considerable insight into Caesar's military thought. the citizens of the Italian peninsula remained relatively inward-looking. . a war of expansion. 100-44 B. without the principles adopted from the ancients. the German or the Ancient Romanone? Fabrizio:The Roman. 1965).without a doubt. and-if only peripherally-his considerable political acumen. -Machiavelli. Kee11.). that there is no tidin dle-taddlenor pibble-pabble Pompey'scamp . and Switzerland. seized parts of Germany and Holland. each was. .C. I warrantyou. The first is Julius Caesar (c. It was only a century after the death of Alexander that the denizens of Rome arose in might and began the struggle to carve out an empire. William Shakespeare. The Life of King Henry the Fifth. Scene I.. De Bello Gallico.. and the fall of Rome itself in 476 A. 1993). in W. with few exceptions. His best-known work. Shakespeare: Complete Works (London: Magpie Books. Two authors of vastly different backgrounds and eras recommend themselves to this study.. campaigns. concepts of leadership. Rome may have been ineluctably destined for dissolution. the general and statesman who. and Hellenistic Greece. Arte della Guerrall If you wouldtake the pains but to examine the wars of PomFluellen: pey the Great.C. and from thence to its fall. NEILL The Mirror of Memory Fabrizio: . It has been postulated by authors as temporally disparate as Edward Gibbon and Paul Kennedy that empires intrinsically lack stability and are capable only of expansion or contraction.
in his preface to Vegetius. A theoretician and historian rather than a soldier. and all of the myriad other results of this event. the Iberian peninsula. For this reason. 1488. the rise of Islam. with the declaration Civis Romanus sum. 1530). 13. the 13. and in 285. Flavius Vegetius Renatus. had only two hundred years of existence left to it..Ancestral Voices gan notes the study's wide availability throughout Europe during the Renaissance: Although Caesar'sCommentaries [De Bello Gallico and De Bello Civili] had only recently been rediscovered. MILITARY HISTORY * 493 . the downfall of Rome had already been foreshadowed in the degeneration of its once near-invincible armies. Caracalla. the intellectual heritage of Byzantium. 15. Keegan.15 An empire that had subjugated the Egyptians and the Greeks and occupied the biblical lands. trans. 112. Eight years later. the empire was sundered into its Eastern and Western halves. only four decades after its millennial anniversary. 14.D. Phillips. German.13 The second author. conferred Roman citizenship upon every free-born subject within the empire. ed.given the subsequent sack and fall of Rome. wrote De Rei Militarii in the failing years of the empire that Caesar had helped to build. this time permanently. they had achieved a wide popularityin fifteenth-centuryItaly and were being translated into other European languages by the beginning of the sixteenth (French. Arguably. Although it would be reunited in the early fourth century by Constantine.. the division of Empire was one of the most significant developments in Western history. -Flavius VegetiusRenatus14 In 212 A. John Clark (Harrisburg. the Goths invaded Asia Minor and occupied the Balkan peninsula.Pa.exact observanceof discipline in theircamps and unweariedcultivationof the other artsof war. Vegetius The Romansowed the conquest of the worldto no other cause than continual militarytraining. we will concentrate on Vegetius the theorist rather than on Caesar the general in this present work. The Military Institutions of the Romans (De Rei Militarii). and the northern reaches of the Gauls and the Celts. Although two centuries is today considered a relatively long period in the life of a state. 1944). and is a description of the military machine of the Roman Empire rather than a campaign chronology. Thomas R.: Military Service Publishing Co. it would fragment again in 340. his work is of greater significance to this present study because it spells out his vision of the Roman army at the height of its power half a millennium before his own birth. English.Face of Battle.1507. 62.
The legions that Caesar employed to great effect in the conquest and garrisoning of Gaul represented the apex of Roman republican military evolution: citizen infantry. 16."16 The absorption of barbarian troops. 494 * THE JOURNAL OF . led inevitably to an increase both in the amount of territory to be garrisoned and the variety of subject peoples that were available to serve as auxiliaries. 2. it is generally accepted that his practical military experience. Vegetius's work appears to have been a textbook example of advice which came too late to be of any use. Although the details of his life are obscure. whose flights of javelins and follow-up attacks with the short sword had rarely failed to break the lines of less disciplined troops. and equipped by Roman citizens. Of even greater consequence was the increase in relative numbers of light. albeit in the civilian rather than military sphere. was at best limited. and the fatal arrogance of imperialism. and Phillips suggests that by the time Vegetius put pen to parchment. unarmoured. and Celts. however. do not tell the whole story of the evolution of the legions from infantry to cavalry. however. "the decay of the Roman armies had progressed too far to be arrested by [a] plea for a return to the virtues of discipline and courage of the ancients. Iberians. Conventional wisdom and historical record alike suggest that the requirement for additional soldiery coincided both with the growing availability of "barbarian" troops and the waxing desire of the Roman citizenry to enjoy the fruits of their struggles for empire. Military Institutions. his works consist largely of the collected arguments of historians and other military theorists rather than his own observations. trained. DONALD NEILL slow but implacable advance of the eastern barbarian nations. The stolid line of disciplined. Writing apparently for the eyes of the emperor Valentinian (371-392) in much the same fashion that Machiavelli produced The Prince for his prospective Medici patron. Phillips in Vegetius. and led by long-service veterans. a trend that was even more pronounced in the "allied" legions. By the third and fourth centuries. was no more. who is believed to have lived and produced his prescriptive manual during the final quarter of the fourth century. stirrupless cavalry and the decline in infantry of all sorts.A. and the supposed unwillingness of the Roman citizenry to defend what they had won. recruited. The end result of these trends was a gradual increase in the percentage of foreign troops within even the Roman national legions relative to the numbers of citizen infantry. if indeed he had any at all. Vegetius appears to have been a Roman of relatively significant rank. such as Gauls. each possessing their own peculiar military attributes. This was the Rome of Vegetius. trained infantrymen. The vast expansion of the empire.
the legions could in fact have been salvaged. and to his credit.but for various minor purposes-to garrisontowns or operate in mountainous countries. The day of infantry had in fact gone by in southern Europe. convinced the emperors that the solidity of the line of heavy infantry armed only with the pilum and the gladius was no longer sufficient to meet the surging cavalry attacks of the barbarians. The catastrophic defeat of Valens by the Visigoths at Adrianople (378). For both of these. Victor Davis Hanson describes. until then.Y. N. the worst reverse suffered by a Roman army since Cannae. and maxims were. C. W.18 while at the same time critically weakening the one arm of the legions in which. 10. until in the time of Vegetius it is arguable whether. Vegetius's chief contentions. and the Huns' invasion of Europe (360) and Russia (376). He had little of the latter. it was necessary to go beyond the Roman citizenry. This was accomplished-but only at the cost of the infantry that had been the backbone of the legions. the Persians.they continued to exist. in The Western Way of War:Infantry Battle in Classical Greece (New York:Knopf. the fundamentally dichotomous nature of oriental (slashing) and occidental (shock) warfare during the classical Greek period. ed. Romanand barbarianalike threw their vigourinto the organizationof their cavalry. 18. representative more of common sense and historical argument than actual military experience.Ancestral Voices horsemen were slashing at the edges of the empire: the Goths along the shores of the Black Sea (257) and throughout Greece (268). who had comparatively little experience with either the horse or the bow. MILITARY HISTORY * 495 . Rome adopted the cavalry and missile-launching capabilities of her enemies. employing mercenaries rather than cultivating the "cavalry nation" that the Huns. arguments. Rome had been unsurpassed. the Marcomanni in Bohemia (270). 17. not as the core and strength of the army. but was well acquainted with the former two. the victory of the Persians in Armenia (350). and later the Mongols were to display.17 In short. The result was a series of defeats that gradually ate away the territory and strength of the empire. but without the solid skill base thereof. 1990). he was apparently able to draw on and synthesize the writings of his predecessors in order to distill an appreciable quantity of useful advice. The solution chosen was the incorporation of greater numbers of cavalry troops and longer-range missile weapons within the legions. in hindsight. 1989). Oman. John H. C. 300).:Cornell University Press. Beeler (Ithaca. as Phillips suggested. Oman notes that by the early fifth century. the Goths. The Art of War in the Middle Ages. the rise of the individual German kingdoms (c.
The cavalry lesson was not lost on the European successors to Rome. Warfare devolved even further from the dissolute practices of the later Romans and the disorganized raiding of the eastern European and Asiatic horsemen into a contest involving two distinct 19.20 antedating by two centuries the accomplishments of Vauban and Saxe. and later plate armor. Ibid. never existed save as the Platonic ideal of his imagination. Vegetius's advice. to be followed rapidly by printings in Cologne. His works have been lauded by Montecuccoli (1609-1680) and the Austrian Field Marshal Prince de Ligne (1735-1814). it must be borne in mind that the tactical methodology of the legion-armed as it was with javelin and short sword and offering shock through steadiness rather than firepower-differs vastly from that forced upon European warfare by the appearance of the firelock.DONALD A. 1. 496 * THE JOURNAL OF . however. and over the next half-century. it has been suggested. 20. the invention of the stirrup. readily available to the military thinkers of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. carried the tome with him to the Holy Land. and Richard Coeur de Lion (1157-1199)-who. The cavalry interregnum The gradual paring away of the Western Roman Empire by the Franks. in the manner translated by the American military during the Second World War."19according to Phillips. Phillips in Vegetius.. perhaps. 1. and Rome. certainly seem applicable to modern warfare.. chain.D. Henry II of England (1133-1189). who describes the publishing history of the work. Paris. He notes that approximately 150 manuscript editions date from the tenth to the fifteenth centuries. therefore. about 837 A. "A manuscript by Vegetius was listed in the will of Count Everard de Frejus. and Visigoths that culminated in the fall of Rome in 476 has been credited largely to the superiority of the light barbarian cavalry over the inept auxiliary cavalry and debased light infantry of the later Roman Empire. The first printed English edition was produced by Caxton in 1489. It is reputed to have been influential in the campaigns of the Count of Anjou (1092-1143). describes a legion that did not exist in his time and which. NEILL I __ Vegetius's manual. the improved breeding of large. and that the first printed edition appeared in Utrecht in 1473. theories. This critical difference will be discussed at greater length further along in this paper. and. heavy horses. Military Institutions. the development of scale. and maxims were. Huns. and the emergence of the feudal system of governance (which concentrated limited capital in the hands of scattered warlords and kings) led to the development of the armored class of elite warrior. However.
The first of these was his relative vulnerability while on foot. As the peasant infantry of the time was. and trained serf-based infantry. prospects of ransom-unwilling to engage the infantry. when the mounted horseman was gradually unseated by a combination of factors. while prone and helpless. the source of his mobility and striking power. well-trained. But the most significant threat to the armored knight was the reintroduction of disciplined. He was further vulnerable to the emerging power of gunpowder arms which. honour. although it did retain a hallowed place in the tilting contests of European monarchs well into the six- MILITARY HISTORY * 497 . and the dreadfully effective Swiss pike and halberd-all of which were designed to keep the knight at a distance and dismount him from his horse. and. either preceded or followed by a selective melee between the mounted heavy cavalrymen. and the exquisitely equipped. although expensive. to penetrate his armor with relative ease. generally incapable of harming the heavily armored cavalryman. be easily overwhelmed and dispatched by an unencumbered peasant armed with a dagger-the fate of the bulk of the dismounted French knights at Agincourt (1415). fauchard. guisarme. the two-handed sword and battle-axe) served. the knight had become vulnerable to close-range fire from the Welsh longbow and the crossbow-the latter a weapon which. battles tended to consist of a prolonged fight between the ill-equipped serfs. through leverage and the reduction in cross-section of the cutting or penetrating edge of the weapon. if isolated from his fellows. although finicky and expensive like the crossbow. a man wearing some seventy pounds of armor. Although proof against the lighter missile weapons encountered during the various crusades (light javelins and even light composite bows). were also easy (if unsafe) to operate. This state of affairs persisted from the time of Charlemagne well into the terminal decades of the Hundred Years' War (1337-1457). formed infantry armed with a variety of polemounted weapons such as the bill.Ancestral Voices (and grossly mismatched) groups: the poorly armed. and aloof noble cavalry. to puncture even the heaviest and most expensive plated armour of the era. bec-de-corbin. equipped with heavy muscle-powered weapons and possessed of extremely restricted vision and breathing arrangements could. and possessed the added quality of a noisy and violent discharge. without a twenty-to-one advantage. and the cavalryman-for reasons of prestige. required little training to operate and which could easily transfix an armored man at a range in excess of one hundred meters. lochaber axe. equipped. The same weapons (and to a lesser extent. Once the vulnerability of the armored man to "stand-off" infantry weapons such as the pike and the halberd had been demonstrated repeatedly in battle. and perhaps most importantly. armor began gradually to disappear from the field.
24. for a brief time. sheer bloodthirstiness. and "moral guilt. however. Wise. the pike or halberd once thrust into his willing hands. Military Revolution. but with precision and professional deliberation. Art of War." 21. the phalanx reemerged as a dominant formation for infantry. 22. Rinehart and Winston. Through the fourteenth. Oman. It should be noted.22 Infantry renascent Interestingly. 73-74. ferocity in the defence of their homelands. and early sixteenth centuries. 1979)." the Swiss closely mimicked the action and capabilities of the Roman legions. armored horseman-the "flower of chivalry"-was due less to the quirky. Richard A. expensive. and the defensive value of the pike. and pursuit force.. that ultimately cost the legions their superiority as heavy infantry. the halberd complemented the pike and. Men in Arms (New York:Holt. and unreliable hand-gun than to the offensive value of the "can-opener" halberd. 92-95. Preston and Sydney F.A. Oman in Art of War in the Middle Ages draws a pointed comparison between the soldiery of Imperial Rome and Renaissance Switzerland. Roberts. that the Swiss pikemen did retain the helmet and cuirass. Oman's comparison lays little emphasis upon the rigorous training and fierce discipline of the legions. in their e'lan. 23. As Roberts notes. 80. as previously noted. 6. 498 * THE JOURNAL OF . Vegetius argues.23 Oman suggests that. reconnaissance element. cavalry was once again relegated to the support role it had played in the Greek and early Roman armies: messenger. DONALD NEILL early twentieth century)."21 The demise of the mounted. suggesting instead that the "free herdsman of the Alps" was something of a natural soldier who. Finally. "The pike was 'queen of the battlefield'. fifteenth. itself fell victim to the concentration of manpower that gave it both its relative invulnerability to cavalry and its massed ability to inflict "shock. cruelty in the conquest of foreigners. the millennial ascendancy of cavalry was broken. After contending that there are but two means of vanquishing any particular foe-either through shock corps-a-corps or missile fire-and offering the Swiss pikeman and the English and Welsh long bowman as the respective medieval epitomes of these two methods. Ibid. However. He further credits their tactical mobility and speed of movement on the march to their rejection of encumbering armor24-the same decision. was capable of falling on the foe not only with gusto. the pike phalanx. Deprived of its invulnerability and shock value.
The linear system and the battalion's lack of an all-round defence capability made the infantry particularly vulnerable to cavalry attacks on its flanks. 91. 1991). For the first time. Roberts's inference that the pike-and-arquebus combination immediately obviated cavalry is somewhat exaggerated. in fact. more than two hundred years were required to effectively relegate cavalry to a secondary role on the battlefield. and that the growing proportion of musketeers to pikemen led equally to the growing recognition of the offensive capability of such formations. Unable with a pike-musket phalanx to effectively exploit a penetration or pursue a broken enemy. the latter by Gustavus and Maurice) and the widening distribution of the arquebus soon reversed the resurrection of the pike phalanx. there being no more appropriate target for the wildly inaccurate early field artillery and largebore hand-guns than an enormous block of tightly-packed soldiery.. and did in fact coincide with the slow and gradual disappearance of the heavily armored knight. Martin van Creveld. the need to coordinate the fire of the arquebusiers led to linear rather than phalanx-like formations." MILITARY HISTORY * 499 . Technology and War from 2000 B. 25.Ancestral Voices The development and employment first of siege and then of fieldtransportable artillery (the former by Charles VIII. The introduction of first the arquebus and then the matchlock musket into the pike formations was a slow and gradual one... And. were able to conduct offensive operations against other. Van Creveld states that "It was with artillery that the French finally blasted the Swiss phalanx from the battlefield at Marignano in 1515. however.25 Infantry began to adapt to the increasing prevalence of gunpowder on the field of battle. menacing approach of a forest of eighteen-foot pikes. Jones argues that the waning need for a stand-off weapon to compete with the knight's lance led to a gradual decrease in the length of the pike. like most military institutions. the knight's actual disappearance only occurred long after he had been rendered militarily irrelevant by the polearm. and the linear pike-and-arquebus formations soon proved to be relatively immobile and difficult to manoeuvre on the the traditional four-sided Swiss pike battlefield and tended-unlike squares-to offer vulnerable flanks to slashing attacks by emerging sword-and-pistol cavalry. armed with a combination of the arquebus for firepower and the pike for defence. the Europeanshad at last reached the identical tactical situation as the Alexandrianand Roman armiieshad. infantry bodies. However. and the steadiness of the soldiers in the face both of fire and the disciplined. to the Present (New York:Free Press. What then began to determine the difference between victory and defeat was the skill and speed of the arquebusier in reloading and discharging his weapon.C. similarly armed bodies-an innovation briefly epitomized by the Spanish tercio.
249. in effect. Archer Jones.27 Creveld in Technology and War agrees. more convincingly. serve as his own pikeman. The first was accomplished by the elimination of the pike and its replacement first by the plug. by increasing the rate of fire. and attributes the prolonged importance of cavalry to the "intrinsic weapon-system advantage" of pistol and sabre over pike and musket. and the questionable shock effect of sabre. The Art of War in the Western World (New York:Oxford University Press. and the third. they lacked the level of articulationthat had often enabled Romanheavy infantryto manoeuvreso as to present a front to heavy cavalry. and later by the socket. War Through the Ages. the second-training and discipline-rapidly took on paramount importance as it became apparent that victory in a contest between close-ordered troops exchanging volley fire would go to the side which maintained its discipline and regularity of fire the longest: Battlelosses were bound to be severe when soldiers advancedshoulder to shoulder. Only an iron discipline could nerve men to keep on reloadingand firingwhile they stood firmamid the heaped-up bodies of writhing or motionless comrades. and suggests that 26. the musketeers could not protect themselves against shock action by sabre-armedcavalry. and by increasing the shock effect of musketry. which enabled each musket-armed soldier to. (New York:Harperand Brothers. 500 * THE JOURNAL OF .over lance-armed cavalry. 27. 1960). the second. He then argues.DONALD NEILL A. a less-than-convincing argument given the difficulty of reloading a pistol on horseback. Only years of drill could school them to close up their tattered ranks and march forwardwith the bayonet at that slow and solemn pace of eighty steps a minute. thus simultaneously increasing both the firepower and the defensive capability of the battalion.halting at the word of command to trade volleys at distances suited to duelling pistols. Of these innovations. Lynn Montross.26 Jones further argues that the conscious and somewhat slavish adoption of Roman tactical methodology by Gustavus Adolphus and Maurice of Nassau in the early seventeenth century contributed heavily to this lack of adaptability. Increasing the cumulative firepower of an infantry body of the era could be accomplished in three ways: by increasing the proportion of muskets to pikes. by the practice of firing in controlled volleys. 336. by incessant training and harsh discipline. an invention attributed to Vauban. bayonet. By comparison with the Romans. 3d ed. unlike Roman heavy infantry. 1987). that what turned the tide in favour of the infantry was the invention of the bayonet.
Technology and War. . the military thought of the French Enlightenment. Fortuitously. This required great concentration and a wall-like steadfastness under fire. based on Romanmodels. 29. Second. the improvements in artillery in the fifteenth century. 7. The next section will. and drill. Aelian. and slow rate of fire of the musket. field artillery. Giving Fire The militaryrevolutionof early modern Europepossessed a number of separate facets. drew some degree of inspiration from Roman writings. both qualitativeand quantitative. a model for such training and discipline was readily available in the works of Vegetius and other historians of Imperial Rome. eventually transformed fortressdesign. 10. complexities of loading. the increasingreliance on firepower in battle.29 It is readily apparent that Maurice and his contemporaries. and strict discipline imposed by the musket would have led to the types of formations and operations that Vegetius recommended even had he not written his book.. Roberts. Military Revolution..or musketeers-led not only to the eclipse of cavalryby infantryin most armies.. training. order of battle. Creveld. qualitiesthat took years of trainingand a ferocious discipline to inculcate. First. discipline. or actually furnished. Roberts argues that in attempting to find a solution to the problem and promise of the musket. and Leo VI .Ancestral Voices conditions pertainingto both safety and effectivenessdemandedthat [gunpowder]weapons be used in a precisely coordinated fashion.. in examining the contributions of Saxe and Vauban to the military art. 94. The question of the "rebirth" of infantry in the Renaissance therefore leads us to wonder whether the need for drill. Maurice[of Nassau]and his cousins. MILITARY HISTORY * 501 .whether with archers. attempt to determine whether ancient writings merely complemented. to say nothing of safety considerations-put a premium on high states of training and ruthless discipline. but to 28. inspiredby a study of Vegetius. attempted to return to Roman models in regardto size of units. as well as those both antedating (Machiavelli) and following (Saxe) their military heyday. [and of noted that] the sergeant-major Maurice'sarmy [had to] be capable of executing a great number of intricate parade-groundevolutions.28 This tactic of massing fires-imposed by the inherent inaccuracies.
the advantage they confer to the side which possesses them has historically been less than the difference between the relative capabilities of two armies (including the relative talents of two commanders). the cranequin. Emphasis added. Despite the fact that the longbow. and resulted. the continual evolution of military technologies notwithstanding. 1500-1800 (New York:Cambridge University Press. rather than nullifying each other.The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West. establish a modus vivendi-for lack of a better term-and result in a wavelike transformation of the battlefield. Henry V31 The foregoing citation from Parker's Military Revolution demonstrates his agreement with the proposition that tactical innovations flow from technological developments rather than the reverse. Act III. This would seem to indicate that. As Creveld suggests. each of these weapon systems possessed inadequacies that ensured that armor would not be instantly swept from the battlefield. Chorus. And down goes all before him! -Shakespeare.32 30. but would in fact endure centuries after the introduction of weapons capable of defeating it. NEILL new tactical arrangements that maximized the opportunities of giving fire.31 The "devilish cannon" And the nimble gunner with linstock now the devilish cannon touches. 32. in genuinely impressive technical solutions to the nettlesome problem of armor-plating a flexible human body. by the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. 97. 31. Frederick II (like countless other successful generals) almost certainly owed his successes more to his tactical innovations than to any minute differences between the personal firearms borne by his soldiers and those borne by the enemy. This competition led through the early and high Middle Ages to a gradual increase in both the thickness of personal armor protection and the amount of body surface protected. 1988). Geoffrey Parker. Henry V. Creveld.or windlass-operated crossbow.DONALD A. While the general thrust of this essay thus far accords with this sentiment. 24. and eventually the hand-gun were capable of penetrating this armor protection. 480. 502 * THE JOURNAL OF . The best illustration of this principle is the ages-old dialectic between warhead and armor. displaying "troughs" and "crests" as tactics and technologies alternately gain and relinquish momentary advantage. Technologyand War. it seems likely on closer examination that the flux and flow of military thinking vis-a-vis technical innovation is less a one-way street than a Marxian thesis-antithesis-synthesis interaction in which competing doctrines and technologies. Shakespeare.
sarcastically remarkingthat they were useful mainly for terrorizingpeasants. as Gat notes. This necessitated a broadening of 33. related effect as well. contemporary accounts thereof make no mention of their use in action. The invulnerable fortress So twice five miles of fertile ground Withwalls and towers were girdledround. Although both the French and English possessed cannon at Agincourt. The vast expense of the casting and boring processes necessary to the production of great guns virtually ensured that the creation of an artillery arm would be a military option open only to the monarch of a large and wealthy state. the Spanish arquebusiersinflictedon the Swiss infantryits second great defeat at the Battle of Bicocca (1522). the ease with which the high. Azar Gat. KublaKhan Fortressesare the buttressesof the crown. And only a year after Machiavellidismissed the significance of the new arquebuses. over the period beginning with Henry V's 1415 siege of Harfleur and carrying through to Vauban's day. in combination with light field guns. 1989). Machiavelli even argues against them in his Discourses. had eliminated the Swiss pike phalanx from the battlefield bore simultaneous witness to the rapid expansion of gunpowder artillery. First.33 The gradual rise in proportion of muskets over polearms during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that. 5. The Origins of Military Thought from the Enlightenment to Clausewitz (Oxford: Clarendon Press. and six years prior to the appearance of Arte della Guerra. -Montecuccoli With the introduction of heavy cannon. And yet that same year. and led eventually (albeit indirectly) to the consolidation of the European absolute monarchies. MILITARY HISTORY * 503 . stating that they were inconsequential and ineffective on the battlefield. the gradual transformation of the fortified place.Ancestral Voices The introduction of firearms into general use was neither sudden nor did it have an immediately tumultuous effect upon the battlefield. the fortress had to be capable of mounting heavy guns. narrow curtain walls of medieval castles were battered apart by flat-trajectory cannon prompted. It had another. the guns of Francis I broke the dreadfulSwiss infantryon the battlefield of Marignano(1515). a number of requisite architectural adaptations rapidly became apparent. -Coleridge. This fact in turn ensured that the larger monarchies would have at their disposal the means of reducing the fortified places of the smaller. or walled city. whether field redoubt. military garrison.
as well as a thickening of support members to withstand the weight of cannon and absorb the shock of recoil. wood-faced earthen walls were often capable of withstanding thousands of impacts while retaining their defensive properties. parallel rather than perpendicular to the ranks of an assaulting formation. Guerlac in Paret. heavier works. where only a few dozen or hundred strikes by the immense stone and iron balls of siege guns were necessary to reduce a stone wall to rubble. the fortress had to be strengthened against gunfire. DONALD NEILL the tops of walls and towers to hold carriages and permit recoil and the loading of the guns. and other supporting structures. This led to a broadening and general flattening of towers."34 These sieges required the employment of thousands of infantrymen for circumvallation and contravallation of the besieged stronghold. it was observed that. The gradual combination of these innovations-broader. and the redesign of fortresses to allow flank shots and converging fire-over a period spanning two centuries gradually increased the defensibility of fortresses to the point where their capture either by storm or siege became a particularly thorny proposition. the substitution of packed earth and wood for stone. This suggested the adoption of earthen ramparts rather than stone machilocation.A. the reduction in height of gun towers. The third element was the relatively flat trajectory of cannon and musket shot over ranges of less than two to three hundred meters. thickly banked. The new forms of fortress construction often baffled medieval 34. Finally. Makers of Modern Strategy. as well as for the occasional frontal charge to test the mettle of its defenders. which had a tendency to shatter and produce unpleasant shrapnel-like effects. of grazing and ricochet fire. as well as the vast thickening of their walls. 504 * THE JOURNAL OF . as Guerlac points out. During the wars of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. warfare often appears to us as nothing but an interminable succession of sieges. was that by "the late seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth century. pilasters. it was necessary to ensure that the front of each gun position could be covered by mutually supporting fire from other gun and musket embrasures. The result. This also resulted in a relative lowering of the walls of fortresses. particularly after the adoption of grape and canister shot and the introduction. the latter would sweep the earth before it and therefore would be more likely to cause casualties among assaulting infantry. flatter. an innovation which further reduced the profile of the structure and made it even less vulnerable to enemy siege guns. and engendered the construction of a long. gently sloping plain or glacis around the fortress. Second. 73. also by Vauban. offering no cover to an advancing force. in order to take advantage of enfilade fire. Where a cannon ball shot from a high tower would have a greater range than one shot from ground level.
trans. 1983). Act III. and later Marshal of France-would capture the imagination and the heart of Louis XIV.. 481. Sun Tzu.. with him.. Lionel Giles (New York: Dell Publishing. Henry V.. Fluellen: ."35 The supremacy of the fortified place was symptomatic of the aforementioned eternal struggle between warhead and armor.. but was not to last. than is a puppy dog . foot-soldier. both by providing a cost-effective solution to the problem of siege warfare. is altogether directed by an Irishman . and canister at ranges of up to five hundred yards rendered the glacis an extremely unhealthy place for an assaulting force. a Frenchman of humble originspeasant. and. Fluellen: Captain Jamy is a marvellous falorous gentleman. in fact. look you. Shakespeare. became one which the trench fighters of the First World War would later come to ponder and which. Vauban Gower: The Duke of Gloucester.. Chapter III. Gower: Here 'a comes. James Clavell. broad-based ramparts of packed earth. lieutenant of infantry. -Shakespeare. that is certain. and then firing the supports was less than effective against thick. grape.. and of great expedition and knowledge in th'aunchient wars . as the process of tunnelling under walls. by continuing until his dying day to contribute to the intricacies of the problem itself. and still closer in the addition of impeding or canalizing obstacles served to break up the momentum of an attack and render the attackers even more vulnerable to the fire of the defenders. The Art of War. to whom the order of the siege is given. would be a major spur to the development of the tankhow to cross the "last three hundred yards" in the face of massed gunfire. the volley fire of musketeers would be added to that of the gunners. Within one hundred yards of the fortress.Ancestral Voices mining techniques. then. in the disciplines of the pristine wars of the Romans. by Cheshu. a solid footnote to Sun Tzu's admonition that "the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities. ed. and the Scots captain. MILITARY HISTORY * 505 . shoring with wooden beams. The cost in human life of this type of operation was such that it tended to rapidly deplete both the manpower and the morale of the assaulting army. 72-91. and the groundsweeping effect of round-shot. The tactical problem for the attacker. Henry V36 35. 37. Captain Jamy. he has no more directions in the true disciplines of the wars. Scene II.. he will maintain his argument as well as any military man in the world. of the Roman disciplines. paradoxically. In the late seventeenth century.
Sebastien le Prestre de Vauban wrote little in the way of elaborate treatises. and through his impressive array of architectural achievements. so oriented as to prevent the enemy from enfilading them. along with additional battery positions to bring the siege artillery even closer to the besieged fortress to pound the defending batteries further.DONALD A. utterly certain. additional approaches would be constructed to a third parallel. complete with ramparts. most impressive. or "parallel" (so known because of its orientation relative to the exterior works of the fortress) just beyond the maximum effective range of its guns. His technical accomplishments were. would be constructed to enable his siege guns to engage the fortress. From the third parallel. another on the defence of fortresses. notably with his patron. Louis XIV. he produced only a single treatise on siege craft. 506 * THE JOURNAL OF ." Vauban's siege technique was slow. tunnels would be dug and the outer works and ramparts prepared for demolition with explosive charges. and attempt to disable its guns. however. The method began with the circumvallation and contravallation of the fortress in order both to cut off the defenders from outside aid and to protect his own forces from counterattack. are only cosmetic. Caesar'slegions built the standard rampartedwall with wooden palisade and circumferential towers. and parsimonious of human life-the latter characteristic endearing him to his strangely humanist patron and his soldiers alike. The two systems of fortification and siege were predicated on unique tactical principles derived from entirely different weapon systems. NEILL Unlike either Vegetius or Saxe. and from which evolved his method of operation known as the "scientific siege" and characterized by his system of "triple parallels. generally well within enemy cannon and musket range. At a given distance. and supplies. battery positions. sweep its ramparts. It should be noted that the apparent similarities between Vauban's techniques of circumvallation and contravallation. and a short paper on mining operations. a second parallel would be constructed to permit the horizontal movement of troops. In all this time. both of whom penned explicit volumes on the conduct of war as they saw it. all of which were brilliantly successful. instead expressing his military thought through two media: his extensive correspondence with a variety of personalities. Vauban'sdefensive works consisted of trenches. redoubts. for instance. Alesia. while from the approaches. and those employed by Caesar at. over the thirty-year period of his professional activity. de Vauban. From the second parallel. he personally designed a great number of new fortresses and oversaw the improvement. guns. and batteries. deliberate. in three volumes entitled Oisivetes de M. At 37. in line with his theories of fortification. of literally thousands of others. He then sapped forward in a number of "zigzag" approach trenches.37 He then constructed a long trench. His collected writings were in fact only published between 1842 and 1845. He conducted nearly fifty sieges throughout this period.
The surrender convention therefore avoided undue unpleasantness for the attacker. the commander of the fortress would generally accept an offer of terms. batteries. In order to accomplish this. and arson. generally at a grave cost in human life despite the weeks of pounding by the besieger's batteries. to the evolution of a surrender convention. The inexorable nature of his siege methodology led. His methods of fortification centred upon the ballistic characteristics of heavy cannon and the matchlock musket. and from that the length of time it would generally take to construct the parallels. and was usually accorded the right of departure bearing arms. and the defended. if this was refused. It was for this reason-their expected casualty rate-that the assaulting battalions generally received the wry nickname of "ForlornHopes. Vauban boasted that he could calculate to the hour when an enemy fortress would fall. This spectacle became so commonplace during the years of Vauban's ascendancy that picnic parties of French nobles often turned out to witness the departure of the vanquished force. and since the maximum range of the enemy cannon could be measured. fortress commanders generally surrendered before the final assault because victorious troops who had been forced to attack a welldefended fortress and suffer hideous losses in so doing were unlikely thereafter to be well disposed towards the defenders and the local populace. and their commanders less likely to prohibit or prevent acts of rapine. rebuilt walled cities. and gunnery to the science of fortification. the besieged force was generally offered the opportunity to surrender. for having turned his understanding of geometry. the mines would be detonated and the assaulting parties would charge across the demolished ramparts and into the fortress. certain in the guarantee that the population he had defended would be spared. he improved walls and ramparts and invented numerous types of outworks (the ravelin. murder." MILITARY HISTORY * 507 . This convention was less the result of nobility and altruism than common sense. the demi-lune and the "covered way" among them) designed to enable the 38. Over his career he built small but impregnable redoubts. architecture. once the third parallel had been constructed and the mines charged. and reinforce this at close range with interlocking musket trajectories designed to inflict further damage on a force that actually managed to approach the walls. Vauban is best known. interestingly. His aim was to encircle the defended locality with an interlocking web of relatively flat cannon trajectories out to maximum effective range. the defender.38 As it was possible to calculate the rate of digging of which the work parties were capable. and constructed defensible harbor sites. fortified large cities. and mines. with drums beating and colours flying. pillage.Ancestral Voices this point. approaches. however. redesigned fortresses.
1975). 1997). 508 * THE JOURNAL OF . known otherwise as the "German method. but not both-through the invention of the socket bayonet. transforming their role from an arcane art into a military science. 55-59. which allowed the soldier to do both simultaneously and. 20 September 1692.40 One equally significant outcome of his siege methodology was the "professionalization" of the military engineers." in the early nineteenth century. Also noted by Grant in his The Twelve Caesars (New York:Charles Scribner's. The Army of the Caesars (New York: Charles Scribner's. He attempted to perfect a method for recruiting troops as a precursor to national conscription. an important innovation in an era when the pay of soldiers was a chancy thing. 1974). and Augustus's avoidance of similar catastrophes within the legions through the implementation of a reliable pay system. in much the same fashion as Gustavus and Maurice had "professionalized" the artillery. he had become a strong advocate of the replacement of the matchlock musket by the flintlock (the wheel-lock never having gained wide distribution due to expense of construction. His defensive methodology remained unchallenged until the development of internal ricochet fire. This latter was a surprising failing. ed. and he made inroads towards developing a workable pay system. in Louise Dechane. This point was also underscored by John English in Marching Through Chaos: The Descent of Armies (New York:Praeger. By the turn of the eighteenth century. La correspondance de Vauban relative au Canada (Ottawa: Ministere des affaires culturelles. defenders of the fortress to achieve interlocking arcs of enfilade fire while remaining behind the overlapping fire of mutually supporting positions. complexity. a policy for which Saxe would later express considerable support. "Vaubanian" fortresses began to spring up elsewhere on the Continent. Michael Grant. and even appeared as far away as North America and India.39 His contributions to the arts of siege and fortification reversed themselves once again in his later years. In a letter written at Quebec. 40.. 60-61. 14. 1968). incidentally. Montross notes that Vauban was responsible for the organization of "the first engineering corps of uniformed soldiers whose operations were combined 39.DONALD NEILL A. He resolved the problem of the plug bayonet-which gave the infantryman the unpalatable choice of being able to either fire or repel a charge. His achievements in this regard were exceptional and received international acclaim. given the extensive incidences of mutinies by unpaid troops during the Thirty and Eighty Years' Wars. completely obviated the pike. and cost of maintenance) in order to increase the reliability of the primary infantry weapon system. Even Governor Frontenac of Quebec consulted Vauban on the plans for the fortification of that city.
by simply taking strategic choke points with mechanical precision and on a predictable time-line. and costly movement by road of large bodies of troops. has suggested that the latter may have drawn certain of his principles from Blaise de Pagan (1604-1665) and the main ideas from Lesfortifications du comte de Pagan (1645). Vauban slowly drew back from his plans to create an enormous and complex network of strategic fortresses across the French countryside and began instead to advocate the creation of camps retranches to fill the interstices between the existing fortifications. Guerlac. This may have been the result of a number of influential factors. it should facilitate attack into enemy territory. Makers of Modemrn Strategy. provide a base for offensive action. and spent the majority of the latter half of his career seeking to redesign France's strategic defences along the lines of this philosophy. 339. and from Maigret. and second. whose Treatise on Preserving the Security of States by Means of Fortresses suggests a number of important characteristics of strategic defences. Vauban's method enabled the monarchy to avoid exhausting. all of which can or should control key routes into the kingdom. War through the Ages. most of which for reasons of transportation lay along important river routes. This policy must have appealed greatly to Louis XIV. should never be designed solely for defence. serve as a refuge for the local populace. who by all accounts was possessed of a pragmatic as well as frugal turn of mind. Although it is unlikely that he was familiar with Sun Tzu's aforementioned admonition regarding the folly of attacking fortified places.Ancestral Voices with those of other arms" in the conduct of the scientific siege. offer a fortified seaport for trade or reinforcement. Vauban's strategic outlook was similarly portrayed in his treatise on fortress defence. Near the end of his career. time-consuming. which stated that a defensive network should offer two fundamental characteristics: first. despite his liking both for Vauban and his strate41. One was likely the enormous cost of building large and complicated citadels. which were grounded in the growing effectiveness of cannon in both the offence and the defence. and supply the sovereign with a place to store treasure. Fortresses.42 Of these. Guerlac in Paret. 87. he insisted. control important internal communications lines. in his review of Vauban's military contributions.41 His methodology had an additional and historically significant strategic impact. stand as a frontier city. which. dominate bridgeheads on great rivers. by concentrating on the taking of fortresses. MILITARY HISTORY * 509 . Vauban agreed explicitly with the first and fourth roles. 42. Vauban's career is a curious admixture of innovations proving the ancient Chinese strategist both right and wrong. Montross. it should close to the enemy all points of entry into the kingdom.
Pa. the infantry-cavalry ratio had increased to five to one. 90.: TelegraphPress. It is in any case reminiscent of a Japanese adage dating from the early Tokugawa Shogunate. -Maurice De Saxe44 In the late sixteenth century. Marshal Hermann Maurice de Saxe. A century later. although there is no evidence in Vauban's work to support such an allegation. and ed." Saxe I am not particularlywise. and another. trans. Vauban gradually turned his attention back to improving the effectiveness of the individual soldier. and either location would be able to meet the strategic requirements of denying entry and supporting offensive action.. the camps retranches philosophy came to resemble closely the ancient Roman practice of the construction. to whose effectiveness he had made so many contributions. the ratio of infantry to cavalry in the French Army was approximately two to one. Finally. An infantry regiment manning an "entrenched camp" could offer as significant a pause to an attacker as a regiment manning a vastly more expensive fortified citadel. was led gradually to lay more emphasis upon armies and less upon fortification".43 that. 1944). the vast increase in the proportion of infantry in the French army as a result of Vauban's infantry-intensive methodologies. NEILL gic aspirations. toward the close of his career. 89. 510 * THE JOURNAL OF . This evolution was a reflection of many variables peculiar to the times. by the legions. Ibid. His latter-day strategic evolution towards advocacy of the entrenched camp over the citadel may have been rooted in his origins as a common musketeer. They have fortified places at enormous expense and have not made them any stronger.DONALD A. This may be additional support for the notion that an idea that continues to make military sense will be perpetuated regardless of who originates it. must have begun to concern Louis. a defended locality for choke points. the "entrenched camp" idea may also reflect Vauban's slow disillusionment with fortification and his growing belief in the importance of the individual infantryman. of simple fortified camps along their lines of march to serve as way-stations. not the least of which were the aforementioned decline in the dominance of the battlefield by 43. to the effect that "the soldier is the castle. immediately following the heyday of Vauban and just preceding that of Saxe. 44. Thomas R. Ironically. having invented the key to unlock fortresses. Guerlac suggests this evolution may have been a sign that the "great engineer. and a place of refuge in the event of a reverse. Phillips (Harrisburg. but the great reputationsof Vaubanand Coehorn do not overwhelmme. Reveries on the Art of War.
and depending for the strengthening of his defences on the rapid construction of mutually supporting field fortifications and hasty obstacles to reinforce his infantry formations.Ancestral Voices the horseman. His successor in the title of Grand Marshal would prove his superior as well.45 At the turn of the seventeenth century. An assiduous student of the writings of both the Romans and his more immediate predecessors (he cites Montecuccoli extensively in his Reveries sur l'Art de la Guerre). the unsuitability of firearms to the cavalier (it being difficult."46 Where Vauban concentrated his intellectual efforts on rendering cities impregnable and then proving that they were not. his patron.' It is only on the battlefield that he is great. He reached his peak of military glory between 1745 and 1748. and a SergeantMajor General of the Infantry." Louis. Brussels."47 45. Montross. immobile fortifications. only captains. 47. Maurice de Saxe was arguably one of the most successful generals of the era of musketry. which had for most of Vauban's career been the dominant form of combat. preferring the rapid movement of infantry and cavalry in the offence. eulogized his lack of character with the phrase "The only pleasure he takes in the society of women can be summed up in the word 'debauchery. and the infantry-intensive nature of the scientific siege. Saxe disdained heavy. now. a Lieutenant-General of the Cavalry. was more complimentary. to reload a wheel-lock pistol on the back of a trotting destrier). in England at least. as well as the one most certain of outcome and least expensive in personnel. Saxe. Turenne had been the undisputed master of the arms of France. War through the Ages. recently been cemented to reflect otherwise. and Fontenoy. as Montross puts it. 46. Saxe was of the opinion that harsh training and iron discipline were of greater value than firepower or numbers and would remain for the foreseeable future the decisive factor in battle. two equally memorable epitaphs were uttered by the nobility of France: Madame de Pompadour. mistress of King Louis XV. Reveries. the latter reportedly through a feat of personal physical courage that won even the grudging admiration of his enemies-all of these victories accomplished. had become of paramount importance to the metier of the general-although rank nomenclature had. "with an indolent ease. MILITARY HISTORY * 511 . and Maastricht and won the battles of Lauffeld. if not impossible. When he died in 1750 at fifty-four years of age. The command structure of the English military had since the 1660s included a Captain-Generalof the Army. 3-4 and 10 respectively. 380. upon learning of the loss of Saxe. the latter half of the War of the Austrian Succession. Rocroi. during which period he captured Ghent. Mastery of the infantry. long a subordinate arm. he is reported to have lamented "I have no generals. he was certainly one of the most ambitious and flamboyant.
" in effect a gunpowder analogue for the ballista. Reveries. Saxe further advocated the reintroduction of the half-pike (thirteen feet in length. Of particular note is the paragraph he devotes to inspecting the baggage of his troops for accumulated bric-a-brac: "It is necessary from time to time to inspect the baggage and force them to throw away useless items." (Saxe. and Saxeunlike Vegetius-includes important insights and anecdotes which could only have been gained through extensive experience in long military campaigns. 49. His work and Vegetius's diverge in two significant areas: Saxe's includes gunpowder rather than muscle as the primary engine of destruction in war. He advocates the introduction of an effective breech-loading musket (more 48. he proposes that the troops should be accompanied by wagons loaded with tools and materials for the quick construction of field fortifications. as Saxe continually credits the Romans and their assiduous historians for the source material underlying his tactical innovations. where Vegetius was a theoretician and historian with little or no military experience. 11. Saxe refers to the use of a siege train of heavy cannon (presumably twenty-four-pounders). Reveries. which would be advanced by the third and fourth ranks in order to allow the first and second to load and fire in relative safety. This is not surprising. 62-63). The poor horse has to carry everything.DONALD A.49 In the same chapter. and employs such terms as "cohorts" to describe his short battalions. One can hardly imagine all the trash they carry with them year after year.48 A reader familiar with Vegetius who peruses Saxe's Reveries will be immediately struck by the similarities in structure. phrasing and tactical methodology between the two books. precisely as Vegetius suggests the legion would have done. I have frequently done it. as opposed to the eighteen-foot Swiss pike) to the soldier's basic load. 512 * THE JOURNAL OF . there is an important difference between the two men. He even goes so far as to suggest a redesign of the French Army along the lines of the legion. Where Vegetius detailed an inventory of fifty-five ballistae and ten onagri as support weapons for the legion. writing about events and soldiers that antedated him by half a millennium. and proposes the invention of what he terms an amusette. 38. NEILL While Saxe relied heavily on the writings of Vegetius. It is no exaggeration to say that I have filled twenty wagons with rubbish which I have found in the review of a single regiment. Such an observation could only have been made by an experienced campaigner. Saxe was an experienced combat veteran who. a heavy breech-loading musket mounted on a swivel and drawn by horses-"an accompanying gun for the infantry. had been a soldier for all of the twenty-three years since he had first fought under Prince Eugene at Malplaquet in 1709. by the time he penned his Reveries. Saxe. drawn by oxen rather than horses (as Vegetius's onagri are drawn by oxen rather than horses).
He even calls the ancients to witness in this argument: "The prodigious success which the Romans always gained with small armies against multitudes of barbarians can be attributed to nothing but the excellent composition of their troops. and. pike." goes to extreme lengths to carry his theorizing into adapting the cohort. and neither has anyone else. in the chapter entitled "Formation of the Legion. and the latter. organizing him into small. and heavier skirmishing troops. and the division of cavalry between the true light cavalry reconnaissance and pursuit troops. with this statement. whom he terms "dragoons.Ancestral Voices than a century before one was to become available). insisting rather that each marksman should be free to fire at will). unwieldy phalanges. to enable both the infantry and the cavalry to carry out a bayonet or sabre charge in good order and without losing cohesion. but to the excellence of their training and the rigidity of their discipline. "AndI have never seen. and encouraging him with personal leadership and example. veteran soldiers. It is then that men are killed. of which there was none. Saxe. 33. Interestingly. Reveries. and older. more lightly-armed men. providing him with music while marching or at labour. Saxe considered himself the intellectual successor to the Roman historians. ardent proponent of elan. musket. He further invokes Roman wisdom in dressing and feeding the soldier. whose role is to act as skirmishers (although he does not go so far as to call them velites). conditioning him through constant physical exercise. flexible groups rather than large. but hastens to argue that the musket is less significant on the battlefield than might be expected. maniple. and shield. He even divides his infantry into the younger. Saxe. and legion formations to firearms and the half-pike. in 50."51but hastens to add that this was due not to their ethnic homogeneity. MILITARY HISTORY * 513 . 19-20. he repudiated volley fire. whom he equips with armor. and it is the victorious who do the killing. recruiting and paying him. Only a lead-from-the-frontgeneral could make such an assertion. He admits that the principal difference between his theoretical army and that of his Roman antecedents is gunpowder. Saxe departs radically therefrom where his own tactical experience so dictates. proves himself one of the intellectual forebears of the Baron de Jomini. Reveries. 51. asserting that vastly more casualties are caused by the firing." Saxe. I believe. and sword-strikes which follow the sundering of the enemy's ranks than by the opening musket volleys." As slavishly as he follows the work of Vegetius (and at times it appears he was writing with a quill in one hand and a copy of De Rei Militarii in the other). a single discharge [volley] do enough violence to keep the [charging] troops from continuing forward and avenging themselves with bayonet and shot at close quarters. bayonetting.50 He states instead that drill and discipline are more fundamental than firepower: the former to enable the infantry to fire as rapidly and accurately as possible (interestingly.
is of sufficient venerability that it is unlikely to be resolved here. and for which scattered records today exist. and cannon.DONALD NEILL A. Instead. the strengths of materials. or facilitate the handling of large bodies of men and animals-principles and concepts which antedate the Romans by millennia. he suggests that each soldier receive a military identification mark on his right hand. 514 * THE JOURNAL OF . who was lucky enough to spend some weeks teaching Yugoslavmilitia the elements of Napoleonicdrill for a film enactment of Warand Peace. Finally. This argument. describing (if rather sketchily) the military campaigns of Sargon the Great. Saxe offers a number of maxims regarding the use of terrain. In short. interlocking and overlapping arcs of fire for musketry. and the proper design and spacing of redoubts to reinforce infantry positions with fire while leaving open gaps for operations by cavalry. Vegetius. Saxe has adopted from Vegetius only those elements of Roman military theory which either ease the administrative pressure of supporting a large army in the field. given the conventional wisdom favoring the former viewpoint. the battles of the Egyptians against the Hyksos. topography. Keegan. also prescribed the "military mark"-although he would have applied it with a branding iron. offers a powerful anecdote on the origins and purpose of specialized infantry drill: Christopher Duffy. and a host of other variables. perhaps indicating a timelessness based less on the alleged brilliance of the military thinkers of Imperial Rome than on physical necessity imposed by the capabilities and limitations of the human form. for example. of course. The same principles are in use today. inscribed with Indian ink. the chariotfight at Megiddo. described to me the thrill of comprehension he experienced in failing to manoeuvre his troops successfully across country "inline" and of the comparativeease with which he managedit "in column. Vegetius. 17-18. for making use of open ground or obstacles. that capabilities determine operational methodology. governing the "chicken-and-egg" question of whether tactics determine capabilities or vice-versa. his amusette. Military Institutions. patterns of weather. the diurnal character of homo sapiens. However. close resemblance to the veteran triarii of Vegetius. and the biblical campaigns recounted by General Yadin. and does not specify which of the recruit's hands was to be marked."thus provingto his own satisfactionthat 52.52 But what is significant in Saxe's blatant imitation of Vegetius's writings is that while Saxe advocated copying the latter's formations and ideas in exquisite detail. and for maximizing the power of cavalry and infantry. and agriculture. it is appropriate to assemble arguments supporting the latter-to wit. he pointedly ignored Vegetius's tactics. There is no mention by Saxe of anything even remotely resembling Vegetius's "'seven formations" for attack and defence.
but because the method itself is founded upon something deeper and more durable that is relatively resistant to changes in technology? Saxe is an excellent illustration of this notion. Keegan. A half-century after his death. and yet the combined arms operations of infantry and cavalry operate in a similar fashion on the march. although Vegetius's men were equipped with javelins. and long-range anti-armor missiles. and Saxe by more than two hundred. simply because his writings differ so little from Vegetius's own work. and siege cannon. ballistae. is it absurd to postulate that similarities between their operations and our own are due less to slavish plagiarism of their writings than to the fact that what worked for them. and a mixed infantry-cavalry rearguard. Vegetius antedates us by more than fifteen hundred years. not because we have consciously imitated their methods. regardless of changes in military technology. consists of a mixed infantry/cavalry vanguard led by a reconnaissance element consisting of light cavalry. If there is a common thread of ideas linking us to our ancestors. and our own with main battle tanks. Face of Battle. he would have seen the power and rate of fire of musketry amplified to the point where his arguments in favour of the pike and the bayonet charge would have been obviated. and light cavalry. training. and discipline that would never be possible even in France under an absolute monarchy.53 Napoleon's use of the column for movement across broken country echoes the practice of the Roman legion as described by Vegetius. had he lived another hundred years (or even fifty). as described in Book Three of De Rei Militarii. skirmishers. the former diverges from the latter only in Saxe's requirement that the elements he adapts from his predecessors be applicable to a battlefield ruled by gunpowder. and Vegetius even notes that the most experienced soldiers should be placed in the rearguard so as to be able to react promptly to any enemy attack. sabres. and for the implementation of a system of conscription. short swords. by-and-large also works for us. Emphasis added. followed by the main body of the infantry. Saxe's with muskets.Ancestral Voices Napoleonpreferredthe latter formationto the formernot because it more effectively harnessed the revolutionaryfervour of his troops (the traditional "glamorous"explanation) but because anything more complicated was simply impracticable. the greatest of French despot-generals 53. and pioneers. he was arguing for the reintroduction of a weapon which had already been swept from the battlefield. infantry fighting vehicles. This is precisely the same combined arms march formation used in modern mechanized armies. 32-33. MILITARY HISTORY * 515 . The whole is surrounded by a cavalry-based flank guard. It is unfortunate that Saxe wrote when he did. In proposing a return to the pike. The march formation of the army (one or two legions plus auxiliaries). the baggage train.
unpaid. not because of their hoary intellectual credentials. was describing in De Rei Militarii not the military institutions of which he may have had personal knowledge. one must first be prepared to acknowledge the weaknesses of the source materials at hand. There is none of the reasoned objectivity displayed by Thucydides. and congratulate ourselves on our originality. Vauban left a vast array of correspondence but only limited descriptions of his theories and principles. a military neophyte. DONALD NEILL would continue to accomplish tactical miracles even after the exquisitely trained Grande Armee had been decimated and replaced by a vast army of poorly trained. it is incumbent upon the reader. Saxe advocated the resurrection and employment on the battlefield of only those elements gleaned from the ancients which were applicable to the wars of eighteenth-century France. wrote his little book "in a fever" over a period of thirteen nights. Caesar.A. who had equal access to 516 * THE JOURNAL OF . and Saxe. cynical analysis of Machiavelli in any of the works in question. and ignored those which were not-and for this we accuse him of deriving his excellence from his antecedents. the simple. it must also be acknowledged that he only did so where the adoption of Roman formations and tactics complemented. In short. This point is more telling when we consider that Vauban. His achievements are perhaps the most eloquent refutation possible of Saxe's advocacy of the theoretical Roman model he attempted to adapt from Vegetius. the first deduction which may be drawn from the foregoing discussion is that technological change had a considerable influence on the battlefield following the Renaissance. We attempt the same today. by his own admission. as it is upon the researcher. While this is not necessarily a crippling factor in this present study. used column formations and other concepts theoretically derivable from the ancients because they worked. a consummate politician. the epitome of the rational soldier. Napoleon. the formations and tactics dictated by the weaponry in use in France in the early seventeenth century. to carefully consider the source when evaluating its import. While it may be stated with some certainty that Saxe in his Reveries attempted to follow Vegetius as closely as possible. or at least did not interfere with. Vegetius. and even goes so far as to caution the reader against taking him too seriously. almost point-form notations of Sun Tzu. Conclusion: Through a Glass Darkly As a caveat to this discussion. poorly disciplined. wrote his works for political purposes to enhance his own stature at home. but those of a half-millennium earlier and of which his knowledge was apocryphal at best. and ill-equipped troops fired by revolutionary fervour and little else. or the astute. poorly fed. This said.
not to absorb the repeated strikes of hundred-pound stone balls hurled with terrific force on a flat trajectory."54The argument that all things Roman were adopted for reasons of fashion rather than because they made any particular military sense is a telling one. nobody really knew what a legion was like. "By the end of the eighteenth century. The passion for all things Roman extended from the arts to political life. but that also. or his architectural accomplishments. A second point which merits attention is the intellectual frenzy of the times.. built his palisades to repel hordes of spear. in a further discourse. 63. Caesar. and the military sphere as well. as the siege warfare of the Romans would have been entirely unsuited to similar activity in the era of gunpowder. goes on to accuse the imitators of Rome of slavishly implementing ideas which they little understood. science.and axe-wielding Gauls. the Neo-Classical revival had made fashionable an outward assumption of Roman symbols..g. both in the offence and the defence.Ancestral Voices the works of the ancients. The siege techniques of Vauban. his siege techniques. in the areas of training. in the areas of fortification. fickle and individual in their behaviourthan Caesar lets on. siege warfare. then Mauriceand Gus54. MILITARY HISTORY * 517 . During the Renaissance and for three centuries thereafter. Keegan.. Modern classical scholars. familiarity with the works of the ancients was "chic" in much the same sense that the ability to discuss art and theatre is today considered essential for the socially aspiring. and no one in ancient Rome had made a credible attempt at describing them in intimate detail. to express an attitude which was already internalized. were dictated entirely by the ballistic characteristics of large. made no reference to them either in his theoretical developments. history. because comprehensive explanations thereof were simply not available. Ibid. the employment of cavalry.and small-bore guns. Mauriceof Nassau and Gustavus Adolphus may have believed that. and the importance of dispersion on the battlefield). If this is so. As Keegan notes. time and effort. their writings had little or no impact where their principles were no longer relevant (e. that the influence of the ancients held sway only where their principles were complemented by the new realities of gunpowder combat (e. they could recreate armies in the image Caesar had revealed to them. given money. suspect that they were far more complex. discipline. It may therefore be fair to deduce first.g. thus any resemblance they bear to the siege techniques of the Romans is at most coincidental. because no one at the time of the Enlightenment had ever seen or fought in one. for example. drill). increasinglyinclined to fret at the lack of real understandingof the inner life of the Legions which the Ancients have left them.
Aspirants to Roman glory. 67-68. there is no doubt that Frederickthe Great'sobliqueorderowed more to his reading about the exploits of the ancient Theban general Epaminondas [at Leuctra]than to any minute differences that may have existed between the muskets employedby his troops and those of his enemies. even Napoleon's cuirassiers wore helmets resembling those of the legions. And yet the passion for vanished Rome persisted. 518 * THE JOURNAL OF . This is. objectiveknowledgehas ever been given the monumental. we should recall the argument presented above to the effect that. Technology and War. the military "Romanophiles" of the Enlightenment were following a model for a military force that may never have existed in reality. to the effect that "the introduction of geometric fortifications.97. in point of fact. Ibid. Had Frederick's troops been equipped with the assegai. or those of his opponent with breechloading rifles. it is also an argument in favor of the present thesis in the sense that the influence of the ancients only makes itself felt with significance when all other factors have been rendered equal. and which in any case was so poorly described in the available literature as to raise considerable doubt about the veracity of accounts of its miraculous performance on the field of battle. Creveld.55 In short. This is not to suggest that I am in agreement with the comments of Sir Roger Williams in his Briefe discourse of Warre (1590). but the substance escaped them. marmoreal. as Creveld notes. both an argument in favour of the influence of the ancients and an argument against it. tavus were chasing a chimera. and of the firearms 55. in their passion to imitate that which had been recently rediscovered. This may be due to the fact that no reliable account of the "substance" of the legions has ever been found to exist. This is akin to attempting to build a Model "T" Ford with no other knowledge of the vehicle than a black-and-white photograph. 56.56 However. it is doubtful whether the tactical precepts of Epaminondas (or anyone else) would have led to victory. As a third point.. the difference between the two has invariably been less than the difference between the soldierly qualities of the opposed forces and the tactical capabilities of their respective commanders. in the wave-like fluctuation of ascendancy between technology and tactics in continental warfare. they had succeeded in capturing the form of their model.almost monolithicuniformityof character which classical writers conventionallyascribe to the Legions. and his troops-in conscious mimicry of the glories of empire-bore the Roman Eagle with their regimental colors.DONALD NEILL A. Certainly no military institution of which we have detailed.
254. but it is unlikely he consciously intended it to be so. The new-found power of the foot soldier. the infantry demonstrated a dominance of the battlefield that had been conceived with the rout of the French at Agincourt."57 Far from it. fought and wrote. and which would later be epitomized by the Prussians under Frederick II. He may have been gratifiedto learn fromone of the humanists in his entouragethat his tactics resembledthose of Caesar in Gaul. and today. revolutionized warfare to such an extent that nothing valuable [is] to be learned from past precept. The study of the wars of Vauban and Saxe is the study of infantry reborn-the retaking of the battlefield by the arm which had unwillingly. or from the circumstances in which they operate and to which they react. MilitaryInnovation. Military Thought. improved by the Swiss. Quotedin Keegan. 62. infantry would continue to have a disproportionate impact on the battlefield. It is. and which always involve interpretation.58 Michael Mallet more accurately summarizes the influence of the ancients than does the bulk of conventional wisdom: The fifteenth-centurycaptain learnt the art of war as an apprentice to an established condottiere. Gat.6. the individual infantryman is arguably even more effective against the armored cavalryman than the bowbending peasant who so humbled the French nobility in October 1415. Quotedin Parker. mastered by the French. and weigh the evidence of our predecessors within the context of the times in which they lived. Face of Battle. Militarytheory is not a general body of knowledge to be discovered and elaborated. It would remain essentially unchallenged until the first ominous appearance of the tank during the twilight of the First World War. ceded it to cavalry with the collapse of Rome. Even then and thereafter. Azar Gat argues this point well in the conclusion to his volume: what people think cannot be separated from the question of how they think.Ancestral Voices that made them necessary. MILITARY HISTORY * 519 . a reign of more than five hundred years. conferred in equal parts by the military potency of gunpowder and the training and discipline that had been the hallmark not only of the Romans but of nearly every successful mil57. 59.but is comprised of changing conwhich are developed in response to varyingchalceptual frameworks lenges. It was not a study of the Romanrepublican army which produced a revived interest in infantry but the practicalnecessities of fifteenth-centurywarfare.59 Throughout Saxe's days of glory during the War of the Austrian Succession. not from books. necessary to measure that which we wish to adopt against the yardstick of contemporary utility. in an era of man-portable "brilliant" antiarmor weapons. 58. however. perhaps accidentally.
would serve him well through the wars. however valid. can never be considered other than according to our own interpretation of their utility to the world we know.DONALD A. NEILL itary force since the fall of Jericho. simple evolutionary adaptation-than to some sudden and thunderous change attributable to the rediscovery of the military genius of the ancients. 520 * . In light of the history of European conflict between the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the absolute monarchies. misfortunes. it would seem that the military developments of the Enlightenment were more the result of the normal course of military innovation and counter-innovation-in short. and military innovations that lay ahead. it is that the "rebirth paradigm" is convincing only if one accepts the hypothesis of military revolution over that of military evolution. If there is a lesson to be drawn from this analysis. and is convincing evidence to support the assertion that the lessons of history.