Friday, February 18, 2011

Et Pour Le Coup De Grace

 The Secret Book was Quimby, Robert S., The Background of Napoleonic Warfare, 1957

On Thursday  Feb 17 the secret fifth book arrived. So this one took eleven days, versus the six days for the rest of the order. I was afraid to mention its name in case something went wrong, but everything went right. It was used and from a third party, and not very many available at any given time, so I wanted to be sure I secured a copy for myself before getting anyone else to think about it.

It's all right now, and so I'll even put a link toThe Background of Napoleonic Warfare: The Theory of Military Tactics in Eighteenth-Century France

There's no particular image to speak of but it's hardcover and solid, with no jacket on my used one, so simply imagine a solid green hardcover book, a little heavy for its size due to its solid construction. To me it doesn't matter that it is of such good quality because I am interested in the content, and would have been happy enough with a paperback or any other version. But it is of strong construction, anyway, and mine was priced like a paperback, so it is all to the good.

It's about an inch thick, which for readers outside the friendly confines would be 2.5 cm.

Don't ask me how cold it is in EU degrees, I have not got those memorized other than 25 is hot and 0 is cold.

This book was written by Robert S. Quimby in 1956 and published in 1957. The particular one I now have before me was an AMS Press edition, not the 1968 but the 1979. It is stamped in 1984 as having gone into the library of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, a post-graduate  school for American Generals being prepared for higher command levels.

I can also see that it was checked out by three readers over the decades, all in the 4th quarter of the years 1990, 2000 and 2001, and that the library mismarked it as 1st AMS edition, but if it was it probably wouldn't be able to talk about the 1979 second AMS edition. It is stamped WITHDRAWN, which must mean that the library removed it to make room for something else.

That works out for my benefit, and I will try to give it a good home. Perhaps the generals will read about it here and realize what they are missing. Sometimes that is all it takes, to hear someone else talking about it.  This is not a particularly easy book to find, and I have searched in libraries all over the place for it for many years, back to age 13 when I first heard about it.

In the last chapter there is some discussion of the use of tactics especially by the French in the Napoleonic wars, but the real thrust of this book is to trace the different ideas and developments, especially in the French Army, throughout the eighteenth century.

Comparison With Chandler--Complementary, and Carries It Forward For The French

The whole thing runs 385 pages of which the first 344 are the thirteen chapters of the main text. Those who have read Chandler's well-known The Art of Warfare in the Age of Marlborough (Revised Edition) will be familiar with some of the names and developments that Quimby wrote about in greater depth. The revised edition above is from 1995 and I have not seen that; I am familiar with the edition before that one. Here are a couple more Chandlers, by the way, and there are others besides these, notably the book of memoirs of participants in the War of the Spanish Succession.Military Memoirs of Marlborough's Campaigns, 1702-1712

 Marlborough as Military Commander (Spellmount Classics)BLENHEIM PREPARATION?: The British Army on the March to the Danube

Chandler was doing an overview up to 1750, all over Europe and some on the Ottomans, whereas Quimby is focussing on France and right on to the end of the century.  So Quimby's discussion culminates in the exercises at the 1778 Camp of Vaisseux and the arguments and trials of the two systems, l'ordre profond and l' ordre mince.

There the French were considering a cross-channel invasion of England, as a part of the War of American Independence, and had a large body of troops assembled near Bayeux in Normandy, so as the training advanced the generals took advantage of the opportunity to try out some of the proposed systems. Many of the people involved in the arguments were there to see it. Marshal Broglie led the ordre profond force, and had Guibert, Lueckner, Gribeauval, Rochambeau and others with him on that side.

Let's take a quick run through the chapters. Starting off he has to explain a background to his background so there's a bit on how things came to be as they were in the War of the Spanish Succession early in the 18th century. Here comes up the name Puysegur.

 Rather than explain the role of each name I'll just mention them in passing. Second chapter goes into the makers of systems, with sections on Folard, Saxe, and then Mesnil-Durand. That last one was present at the camp in 1778 and the criticisms he made, of how his ideas were practiced, are in a later chapter.

Third chapter is on tactical developments in the first half of the century, looking at what happened in the Wars of the Polish Succession, Austrian Succession, and the Seven Years War and its aftermath.

Fourth chapter is devoted to Guibert, and ideas on infantry, the other arms, and using them together in Grand Tactics. The fifth chapter discusses Bourcet, the sixth is devoted to Joly de Maizeroy, and the seventh one for a change talks about how the French received the ideas of the Prussians through Baron de Pirch after the Seven Years War.

In the eighth chapter there are 23 pages on Mesnil-Durand's new system. Next for chapter nine we witness the summer and fall of 1778 at the Camp of Vaisseux, where they take advantage of the chance to try it all out in great exercises, as long as they had 44 battalions in one place. The place was Normandy, not all that far from southern England.

Then after that the tenth chapter is on the Defense of Guibert, in the 11th chapter the controversy continues, and in the 12th chapter he examines the role of Du Teil. Finally the thirteenth chapter talks about the state of tactics after all these developments at the end of the 18th century and during the Great Wars that followed.

When I first started wanting this book at age 13 the blurbs I read about it said it was essential for Napoleonic enthusiasts to understand what came before, to see how things reached the point where they were in that period, but virtually all of it applies to the eighteenth century enthusiast as well, and actually even more so.

Inside Amazon the review  by Kevin  F. Kiley, a renowned author on artillery in his own right, gives a deeper appreciation of the Quimby book, which I have not yet had time to absorb myself in these first hours.                                                   

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A note for the Francophone readers: I understand that whenever I essay to use your language correctly that I murder it again and again, as if the first times were not painful enough. It is not my intent.

Nevertheless, I will continue to try as I have always considered it one of the most important languages in the history of man on earth, as well as today, and I only say 'one of the' because I am aware of the roles played in such a long history by others. I may be so bold as to mention  that several of your women have complimented my use of French and liked my accent. Also I once worked for a French company, and had some good successes at that time--Revillon Paris.

It does not help that I do not understand the fancy keyboard work that would at least allow for accents and diacritical marks. It is for that reason that I also use the e for the umlaut in the other languages. We are actually very lucky that I have come this far, with only a ten (point one) inch machine, which I do not fully understand.

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On used books: This Quimby to me is all the more enjoyable for having sat in the stacks of the Command and General Staff College for all these years. I actually enjoy books even more heavily used, and have developed a particular interest in the writings of previous readers which can only be found in very used books, but this one is practically pristine and has none of that. Personally I wouldn't mind if it did, but it doesn't. It's practically unused. I know everyone has not developed a taste for that sort of thing, and may be annoyed by it. Try a classic novel previously owned by a teacher, who wrote in it.

Some Related Books While We Are At It

Besides the discussions of some of the same theoreticians plus others like Santa Cruz or Montecuccoli found in Chandler's Art of War, some readers may be familiar with the American works of Brent Nosworthy, who used Quimby and other sources for his books on the development of tactics. He was a wargame designer in the golden era of SPI in the mid-to late seventies and so his observations take the wargaming community into account as he writes.

With Musket, Cannon And Sword: Battle Tactics Of Napoleon And His EnemiesThe Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the Civil War

 I would like to include some of the books by Mr Haythornethwaite here but have only found a couple of the wrong ones, not that these are bad but just not the particular ones I am thinking of right now. In fact they are quite good, as are pretty much all his books I've read. These links may also lead to something else but I'll just put them up for now without exploring since I've really got to get back to the salt mines soon for a 12-hour shift. He's done plenty more besides these, I assure you, and is really good on gathering facts. What I wanted was an Art of War in the Age of Marlborough, with a different emphasis than the Chandler work above by the same title but I can't find it right now. It seems that was current in the eighties.

Wellington's Military Machine

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  1. Wonderful story about the book, the only book I had read in your post is the wonderful Marlborough book. Stunningly good post my friend, always a joy to read.

  2. Thanks mate, I am still following through on the side effects of Ray's troll that one time specifically, having caused this order to take place, and the general run of production caused by your own 'Poll de toilette' 3 months back; before that I was blocked up and looking at your prolific postings to get things moving again.