Roots of Strategy: A Collection of Military Classics

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Author: Frederick II

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WHAT A GENERAL CAN EXPECT FROM THE MOVEMENTS 363 HE HAS HIS ARMY MAKE.

Let no one imagine that it is sufficient just to move an army about to make the enemy regulate himself on your movements. A general who has a too presumptuous confidence in his skill runs the risk of being grossly duped. War is not an affair of chance. A great deal of knowledge, study, and meditation is necessary to conduct it well, and when blows are planned whoever contrives them with the greatest appreciation of their consequences will have a great advantage. However, to give a few rules on such a delicate matter, I would say that in general the first of two army commanders who adopts an offensive attitude almost always reduces his rival to the defensive and makes him regulate himself on his movements.

If you were to commence the campaign first and were to make some march which indicated an extensive plan, your enemy, who would be warned to oppose it, will be obliged to adjust himself to you; but if you make a march which gives him neither suspicions nor fears, or if he should be informed that you lack the resources to execute your project, he will pay no attention to you and on his part will undertake some better considered actions which will put you in a difficult place in turn.

Your first precaution should be to control your own subsistence. If this is well arranged, you can undertake anything. The enemy likewise can be forced to make large detachments by harassing his rear with light troops, or by making demonstrations, as if you intended to make a diversion in some other province of his realm than that in which the war is being waged. Unskillful 364 generals race to the first trap set before them. This is why a great advantage is drawn from knowledge of your adversary, and when you know his intelligence and character you can use it to play on his weaknesses.

Everything which the enemy least expects will succeed the best. If he relies for security on a chain of mountains that he believes impracticable, and you pass these mountains by roads unknown to him, he is confused to start with, and if you press him he will not have time to recover from his consternation. In the same way, if he places himself behind a river to defend the crossing and you find some ford above or below on which to cross unknown to him, this surprise will derange and confuse him. I could write a lot more on this article, but what I have said should suffice and can furnish ample matter for the reflections of my readers.

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Chicago: Frederick, "Frederick the Great For His Generals: What A General Can Expect from the Movements 363 He Has His Army Make," Roots of Strategy: A Collection of Military Classics in Roots of Strategy: A Collection of Military Classics, ed. Thomas R. Phillips (Harrisburg, PA: The Military Service Publishing Company, 1940), Original Sources, accessed September 22, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CYQE7P8RUNJJ548.

MLA: Frederick. "Frederick the Great For His Generals: What A General Can Expect from the Movements 363 He Has His Army Make." Roots of Strategy: A Collection of Military Classics, in Roots of Strategy: A Collection of Military Classics, edited by Thomas R. Phillips, Harrisburg, PA, The Military Service Publishing Company, 1940, Original Sources. 22 Sep. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CYQE7P8RUNJJ548.

Harvard: Frederick, 'Frederick the Great For His Generals: What A General Can Expect from the Movements 363 He Has His Army Make' in Roots of Strategy: A Collection of Military Classics. cited in 1940, Roots of Strategy: A Collection of Military Classics, ed. , The Military Service Publishing Company, Harrisburg, PA. Original Sources, retrieved 22 September 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CYQE7P8RUNJJ548.