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I, Clausewitz : A Would-be Conqueror's Diary
Neither holy nor Roman nor an Emperor
Quick list of the most interesting entries... 
20th-Sep-2012 05:08 am
French dragoon
I'm getting a bit tired of bumping the recap post, so I'll just make a new one here.


All important posts of a military nature in my journal have been grouped together under a single Memories category; I'm fully aware, however, that not all of those posts would be of great interest to casual browsers, and many of them are protected posts that are not available for everyone to see. In view of these circumstances I have created two specific categories, named respectively Tactics and Army-building, containing entries calculated to be of greatest utility for general readers, particularly those with little or no prior knowledge of military history. These two categories contain only public entries everyone can see and comment upon. As is to be expected, while the entries are mostly of a general nature, they also sometimes contain specific hints and tips for utilizing the contents in fiction writing.

There is also a similar collection of essays in the category Political Worldbuilding. It mostly contains entries with a less overtly military content, although there's a significant overlap with the two other categories. The category of Swordsmanship contains posts about swords and swordsmanship, some of which do not fit with the larger scope of the military and political discussions in the abovementioned categories. Meanwhile, the category of Single Combat is fairly self-descriptive--it contains entries that deal mostly with the arts of single combat or few against few, the difference with Swordsmanship being that the subjects of its entries are not restricted to the use of swords.

All five categories are updated from time to time with new essays, articles, or plain silly musings. There is no particular rhyme or reason to the schedule, though--I update when the whim strikes me or when somebody requests a rundown on a particular subject.


I think seven posts from the abovementioned categories are worth mentioning for their generalized and introductory nature, which makes them the most accessible to general readers:

Definitions of Strategy and Tactics addresses a common stumbling block for writers wishing to address the subject of warfare in their works--namely, the difference between strategy and tactics.

The Fantasy Armies Rant is a point-by-point examination of some possibilities fantasy writers would be well advised to observe in building the armies of their fantasy worlds, written in the familiar style of limyaael's fantasy rants. It has a sequel that delves deeper into the subject of military organizational practices. Despite the presence of the word "fantasy" in their titles, I think most of the points in these rants also apply in a more general sense to just about any fictional army.

The Rant on Battles takes a detailed look at several concerns pertaining to the representation of battles in fiction, especially on why people choose to engage (or not to engage) in battles.

Formations 101 is fairly self-descriptive; it introduces basic tactical formations of pre-20th century warfare, and points out why the study of formations as static entities is useless without an inquiry into the ways these formations actually maneuver, transform, and develop into attacks and defenses during the course of a tactical encounter.

The principles of Mass, Economy of Force, and Maneuver explained in simple terms. With pictures. These principles are further elaborated through a practical application of them in this battle report.

On the difference between "wings" and "flanks"--or maybe I should have titled it "the left wing is not the left flank."

Brilliant generals don't have to personally invent every single bit of strategy and tactics they use. Do they?


I've also set up a thesaurus of military terms for the use of speculative fiction writers--mostly fantasy, though some SF term will probably creep in every now and then. On a somewhat tangential note, doc_lemming has also set up a fantasy thesaurus of a more general (i.e. not specifically military) nature.


If you're wondering about whether I've covered a particular military/political worldbuilding subject or not in my posts, feel free to ask about it by commenting in whichever post you think is the most appropriate. I also accept request to treat with subjects that I haven't written about. Keep in mind, however, that I reserve the right to determine if and when I would overcome my habitual laziness for long enough to handle any of the incoming requests. ;P


(I'm going to bump this entry back up frequently, if not always regularly. It is backdated, though, so have no fears of sudden intrusions upon your f-page by "that damned page" cropping up again and again and again.)
Comments 
25th-Jan-2010 06:54 pm (UTC)
You could always date your recap post to a far distant future date, and thus it will always appear on top. :)
25th-Jan-2010 07:23 pm (UTC)
I prefer to have the real most recent post on top, however. It saves time for me when I want to see whether the journal has been properly updated and I'm too lazy to scroll down past the (admittedly long) recap post.
29th-Oct-2010 02:56 am (UTC)
Hey, I just wanted to thank you for all of this. I'm a history student currently putting together a D&D game based around warfare. Knowing that my academics frequently creep into my gaming style, and I typically do a great deal of research before running a campaign, one of my players linked me to your posts here. I have found them immensely helpful. You've been looking at many of the same things I've thought over (areal warfare in fantasy settings, whether cavalry actually contacted resolute infantry, and other such things) and given me more ideas, sources, and information. Thank you.
29th-Oct-2010 12:55 pm (UTC)
Always glad to know that the stuff here has been useful in some way.
9th-Jun-2012 10:04 pm (UTC)
I love LotR and medieval/fantasy fiction but I've never seen battle tactics described so well with easy to understand diagrams until today. You medieval/fantasy styled choice of words and grammar structure, as well as your (obviously) interesting informative content make your posts such a pleasure to read!

I was wondering, how many formations does an army usually plan per battle? If they plan more than one formation, how does each person know when and which formation to assemble into?
15th-Jun-2012 03:42 pm (UTC)
It varies depending on the amount of prior training that the army has been able to put its soldiers through. For example, an army composed of several independent contingents probably wouldn't be able to do much more than deploy in line and advance straight ahead (although some of its individual components might have been capable of executing more complex evolutions), while an army that has trained and drilled together for a considerable amount of time before it sets out on campaign tends to be able to manoeuvre much more smoothly, sometimes without even having to adopt any pre-set formations (just look at the fluidity of Napoleon's Grande Armee in 1806 or so--the army had been performing large-scale exercises for months, preparing for the invasion of England, before it was diverted to crush the Prussians and Austrians).
15th-Jun-2012 04:40 pm (UTC)
That's very fascinating! Thank you for the reply!

If you don't mind, could you tell me where to find old detailed battle records where you could see how fluid the Grande Armee's manoeuvres and formations were? I didn't know records of that much detail existed! (If that is indeed what you were implying.)

In large-scale manoeuvres of well trained armies, do the men automatically know which formation to carry out or do they move according to the commands of a general? When the general gives out an order, how do men standing 800 meters away hear his orders? Does the general fight in battle or does he stand on a high vantage point where he can oversee the entire battle and give orders when neccessary?
15th-Jun-2012 06:48 pm (UTC)
If you don't mind, could you tell me where to find old detailed battle records where you could see how fluid the Grande Armee's manoeuvres and formations were? I didn't know records of that much detail existed! (If that is indeed what you were implying.)

Oh well. I was expecting the Wikipedia article on Jena-Auerstadt to point the way to more references. I guess Elting's Swords Around A Throne or the Napoleonistyka website might give you the level of detail you need.


In large-scale manoeuvres of well trained armies, do the men automatically know which formation to carry out or do they move according to the commands of a general?

Again, it depends on the army (and the enemy!), but if the army had performed large-scale exercises or peacetime manoeuvres before then they probably would have rehearsed a number of default formations, and in an actual battle the general would call for the army to deploy in one of these pre-rehearsed configurations. Once the units/contingents began to march out to engage the enemy, though, things will get a bit messy even in the best-drilled armies. The difference lies in how well the sub-groups could reassert some sort of order among themselves under the stress of combat.


When the general gives out an order, how do men standing 800 meters away hear his orders?

They don't. In large armies there'd inevitably be a large number of subordinate commanders. Sometimes the generals would send messengers to these subordinate commanders, who would then pass it down to their subordinates and so on until it reached a level where the order could finally be delivered to the men by voice, visual signals (usually banner movements), or musical instruments. In other cases the subordinates were trusted to act on their own initiative as long as they didn't veer too far away from the basic idea of the original plan.

I'm not sure I can really describe the process without a hands-on demonstration, but there goes.


Does the general fight in battle or does he stand on a high vantage point where he can oversee the entire battle and give orders when neccessary?

Once again, it varies. For example, Julius Caesar is known to have done both--sometimes he watched from a hill, sometimes he went ahead among his troops to inspire them (especially when he didn't need to oversee any particularly complex plans), sometimes he took a middle ground by getting close to the front under strong escort but not actually engaging in the fighting. The actual practice on the ground depends on both the military customs in force and the general's own personality.
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