Military and naval combat in the 1700’s, the era that came to be dominated by King Frederick II of Prussia (or Frederick the Great, 1712-1786), saw changes in the style, organization, tactics, and strategy of engagement.
Military and naval combat in the 1700’s, the era that came to be dominated by King Frederick II of Prussia (or Frederick the Great, 1712-1786), saw changes in the style, organization, tactics, and strategy of engagement. These modifications were, in part, political and economic, according to needs of the states in question, but they were also taught by generals in the field or by independent military reformers who sought to contribute their observations and experience.
Between 1667 and 1713, King Louis
More than forty years of war, however, had seriously undermined the strength and financial stability of most European governments. As a result, these nations had trouble operating at prewar budgetary levels and were unable to field armies that were equipped and trained as they had been during the late 1600’s.
The passing of the best generals of the early eighteenth century influenced European states to curtail their aggressive policies. European rulers lacked sufficient finances to fund costly wars and were hesitant to trust poorly equipped armies to leaders with limited experience. In the Seven Years’ War
France’s military humiliation by Prussia, coupled with its financial distress and with absolutism’s inability to function properly under the regimes of Louis
Warfare in the age of Louis XIV had been a product of the 1600’s. Professional soldiers and sailors sought to disengage, rather than to engage. To fight meant to risk both reputation and army. To win without fighting, commanders largely ignored mobility and methodically maneuvered for the best position. Battle was offered only when the advantage was theirs and pursuit, in the event of victory, was generally refused as an unnecessary risk. Further, to buttress this basically defensive posture, the Dutch, the Austrians, and the French built massive interlocking fortresses and supply depots that were designed to protect the frontier and either to slow or to halt an advancing enemy. It was an age in which Sébastien Le Prestre de
King Frederick the Great reviews his troops.
Still, not everyone conformed to the expected defensive norm. Austrian general Eugène of
It remained for the young king of Prussia, Frederick II, to undercut the doctrine of defense, impressing all of Europe with his concept of movement and
The duke of Marlborough leads his troops during the Battle of Blenheim (1704).
Of all weaponry, artillery displayed the most noticeable improvements. At the beginning of the century,
Change, however, followed the War of the Spanish Succession. Jean de
Uniforms, standard by 1700, changed little until the French Revolution of 1789, but armor was almost totally discarded. Only in the heavy cavalry, and especially among the French, was armor retained. Deflective chest plates were worn on the front and the back, but they were unable to withstand direct musket fire. Regimentals remained much the same until the
Austrian soldiers captured at the Battle of Hohenfriedberg (1745) are marched past an army of the Quadruple Alliance.
Over the course of the century, organizational change brought larger armies, smaller but better-armed
King of Prussia Frederick II made masterful use of the oblique attack at the Battle of Leuthen in 1757.
Due, in part, to the rise of
While armies were increasing in numbers and units were being independently deployed,
A new formation, the
The art of war evolved over the course of the eighteenth century. Tactics were no longer a matter of preserving an army, preparing and fighting a set battle, or using fortresses in order to remain on the defensive. By 1795 armies were expected, whenever possible, to seize and hold the offensive and to avoid sieges and fortresses. According to Napoleon, the best form of defense was
The best accounts of the eighteenth century are to be found in the memoirs, papers, and instructions of the chief soldiers of the era. Sébastien Le Prestre de
Almond, Mark. “Frederick the Great and the Era of Limited War.” In Revolution: Five Hundred Years of Struggle for Change. New York: De Agostini, 1996. Brauer, Jurgen, and Hubert van Tuyll. “The 1700’s: Marlborough, de Saxe, and Frederick the Great.” In Castles, Battles, and Bombs: How Economics Explains Military History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. Chandler, David. The Art of Warfare in the Age of Marlborough. London: Oxford University Press, 1976. Duffy, Christopher. The Military Life of Frederick the Great. New York: Atheneum, 1985. Dupuy, Trevor. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography. New York: HarperCollins, 1992. Dwyer, Philip G., ed. The Rise of Prussia, 1700-1830. New York: Longman, 2000. Luvaas, Jay, ed. Frederick the Great on the Art of War. New York: Da Capo Press, 1999. Millar, Simon. Zorndorf, 1758: Frederick Faces Holy Mother Russia. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2005. Pois, Robert A., and Philip Langer. “Frederick the Great at Kunersdorf, August 12, 1759.” In Command Failure in War: Psychology and Leadership. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004. Schieder, Theodor. Frederick the Great. Translated by Sabina Berkeley and H. M. Scott. New York: Longman, 2000. Showalter, Dennis. The Wars of Frederick the Great. New York: Longman, 1996. Szabo, Franz A. J. The Seven Years’ War in Europe, 1756-1763. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2008. Thackeray, Frank, and John Findling. Events That Changed the World in the Eighteenth Century. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998. Weigley, Russell Frank. “The Battles of Frederick the Great.” In The Age of Battles: The Quest for Decisive Warfare from Breitenfeld to Waterloo. 1991. Reprint. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004. Barry Lyndon. Feature film. Warner Bros., 1975. Last of the Mohicans. Feature film. Morgan Creek Productions, 1992. The War That Made America: The Story of the French and Indian War. Documentary. Public Broadcasting Service, 2006.
European Wars of Religion
The Era of Gustavus Adolphus
The Era of Napoleon Bonaparte
The Crimean War
The American Civil War