Jomini

Intro

Antoine-Henri, Baron Jomini (6 March 1779 – 24 March 1869), a Swiss officer who served as a general in the French and later in the Russian army. He was one of the most celebrated writers on the Napoleonic art of war.

His influence is just as large Clausewitz. All the senior generals of the American Civil War, who had attended West Point, knew about Jomini and his ideas.

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Jomini

Jomini was born into an “old Swiss family” of Italian descent. As a young man in 1796 he went to work in Paris.

In 1798, He returned to Switzerland to become a business man. In 1802, he began writing on military subjects. His first book on military theory: Traité des grandes operations militaires (Treatise on Major Military Operations) was a success.

Michel Ney, one of Napoleon’s top generals, read the book in 1803 and subsidized its publication. In 1804, he joined the French Army and fought at Austerlitz, and in the Prussian and Peninsula campaigns.

He took part in the 1812 invasion of Russia. He joined the Russian army in late 1813, and stayed until 1828.

He produced 27 volumes of work before his death in 1869.

Writings

The principle of war called “maneuver” comes directly from Jomini. He listed four rules for strategy and started each rule with the word “maneuver”:

  1. Maneuver to bring the major part of your forces to bear upon the enemy’s decisive area and communication without endangering your own forces.
  2. Maneuver to bring your major forces against only part of your enemy’s force.
  3. Maneuver to bring your major forces to bear upon the decisive area of the battlefield or the enemy’s lines.
  4. Maneuver to bring your mass to bear swiftly and decisively upon the enemy.

Chess and Checkers

Jomini viewed the battlefield like a chess game. If you can control three sides of the box (the battlefield) you will maneuver your enemy into submission.

A knock down shooting match in wars of attrition like the American Civil War or World War I was like a checkers game. The ideas is that you blast away until you eliminate the enemy, there is not much maneuver. In checkers you kill everyone off.

In chess a good player using maneuver can control the three sides of the box can win without killing off his own or opponents’ pieces. Clearly, chess is a smarter and better way to fight.

Units were seen as pieces to be moved with their actions planned in advanced and placed on the board so that each movement can be predicted well ahead of the next move.

The battlefield was a big chess board where the mission was to push the enemy to a fixed position and continue to apply pressure. This was done in hopes of winning the battle without having to fight. A war to end all wars, like Sherman’s march to the sea.

He recommended ignoring minor objectives in favor of applying massive force at one point to break the enemy. That point could be geographical – a river or a road- or it could be related to the specific maneuver of the enemy.

The decisive point can be political- a capital, such as Baghdad- or it could be a supply area, that if captured can critically damage the enemy’s ability to fight.

Jomini’s methods were aimed at quick, conclusive results.

Historical Example

The final victory of the American Revolutionary Army at Yorktown illustrates Jomini’s maneuver concept. George Washington did have to kill off the British Army General Cornwallis’ army in a frontal attack.

Cornwallis had to surrender. Like the checkmate in chess, Washington’s army and the French fleet controlled all sides of the box. With nowhere to go the British had to surrender.

Influence

Jomini’s military writings are frequently analyzed. He took a didactic, prescriptive approach, reflected in a detailed vocabulary of geometric terms such as bases, strategic lines, and key points.

He saw warfare almost as an intellectual systemic approach. His operational prescription was fundamentally simple: put superior combat power at the decisive point.

Theory

In Jomini’s day warfare was linear. National armies applied linear tactics to create the greatest volley of fire in a given area. Jomini was not concerned with guerilla warfare like Napoleon faced in the Peninsular War (1808-1814).

Similarities in military ideas to Clausewitz

Both Clausewitz and Jomini had many of the same themes. Their ideas stem from three sources. First to common historical interests in the campaigns of Frederick the Great. Second, their long, personal experiences in the Napoleonic Wars. Third, they read each other’s books.

Integration of Clausewitz and Jomini into American military thought took place after the War of 1812. The establishment of the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY in 1802 and the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD in 1845 helped to institutionalize the professional training of military leaders, much like the Germans.

The adoption of Clausewitz and Jomini theory by the American Army led to the nine principles of war.

Jomini’s concepts are an early longhand version of the US Army’s principles of war. They appeared for decades in FM 100-5, Operations. (The formulation based on single words- mass, offensive, security – J. F. C. Fuller first used in the 1920s.) They appear today in ADRP 3-0, Unified Land Operations. The expectation is for US Army planners and operators to know them and use them.

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