Clausewitz: A Biography (Anglais) Broché – 25 janvier 1970
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|Broché, 25 janvier 1970||
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Clausewitz saw first-hand the castastrophe of his country. Prussia had done relatively little in the earlier wars of the French Revolution. By staying neutral Prussia should have observed and studied the new systems of warfare that were being developed by France and Napolean. Instead a rigid adherence to the older theories of Frederick The Great were maintained, forgetting the fact that the great King himself would have adapted to circumstances. The Prussian army of 1806 has been described by some as a museum piece.
When Napolean finally turned against Prussia that year Clausewitz would see first-hand how ill prepared his nation was. Present at Jena-Auerstadt, he witnessed how incapable the Prussian army was against the new flexible tactics and formations of the French. Resounding defeat brought his spirits low, and even though personally he did well, this biography shows that Clausewitz was of a brooding and withdrawn nature. He became obsessed with revenge against Napolean. Soon he fell in with the influential reformers of the Prussian army. Gneisenau, Schernhorst and Stein all knew Clasewitz well, and he became one of those men behind the scenes working with these great people.
This biography brings all these famous people who interracted with Clausewitz to life, and shows what exciting and difficult times he lived in. As Prussia slowly rebuilt after the crushing defeat of 1806 Clasuewitz became increasingly desperate to see his nation take the field again against Napolean. Prussia's king, the conservetive Friedrich William III had other notions. While desiring to ride his kingdom of French domination, the king did not wish to change his government. Aware that the army desperately needed reforms, he resisted the ideas of Clauswitz and others who wanted a greater citizen invovlement in Prussia's military. To the King such ideas were dangerous to the Hohenzollern monarchy which relied upon the time honored principles of central rule. Clausewitz and the reform group were desperate to implement these changes. Only by mobilizing the general populace could Prussia ever hope to ride itself of Napolean.
As the years passed and opportunities came and went, the vacillating Prussian king grew ever more resistant to change. When Napolean demanded a Prussian contingent for his invasion of Russia in 1812, the king meekly consented. The reformers were outraged. Disqusted, Clausewitz quite the Prussain service, much to the kings annoyance, and sort employment with Russia. Here he was in an excellent position to analyize the 1812 invasion. Clausewitz observations on the strategies, the Tsar, and the feuding Russian generals and staff provide for much fascinating reading. Present at Borodino he participted in some of the horrific fighting of that great battle.
Later he followed the French retreat and would suffer great personal hardships from the Russian winter. His services were instrumental in bringing York's Prussian coprs over to the Russian side in the treaty of Tauroggen, which again almost went against his king's wishes. Reluctantly, the Prussian king would throw his lot in with the Russians against Napolean, but he never quite forgot Clausewitz's impertinance! Clauswitz would partake of the campaigns of 1813-14, and would take a major part in the Waterloo campaign of 1815.
This biography proivides a fascinating look at a very complex individual. It also shows a Prussian/German perspective of the Napoleonic wars not often seen in English. This is a very readable and exciting work. The author really gets into the people and times, and he provides first-rate descriptions of many great battles of the period. We find interesting portraits of all the famous personages in Prussian at the time, including Friedrich William III, Blucher, York, Schonhorst and Gnesenau. The author concludes with a summation of Clausewitz famous work "Vom Kreig" - "On War", used by political theorists to this day. A first-rate and highly readable biography of a fascinating time in German history. Should be in every Napoleonic library.
One of the reasons for the limited availability of biographies is the limited availability of sources. In his discussion of sources, Parkinson notes that personal information on Clausewitz is limited to the letters he wrote to his wife, and to a lesser extent to his friends and mentors Gneisenau and Scharnhorst. What this means is the much of the information on Clausewitz is inferred or drawn from secondary sources such as books on the Prussian reforms and/or reformists of the period; a movement in which Clausewitz was involved.
This is why my rating is 4 stars; not through any fault of the author's, but because the lack of primary sources does not allow a full exploration of Clausewitz as a person or his role in the Prussian and Russian armies. Unfortunately this means the book often tells Clausewitz' story via a military history of the battles in which Clausewitz is involved; the author adds as much as he can, when the information is available, as to where Clausewitz was, and his role, in a given battle, but in many cases this means one is reading another straight forward history of a given campaign or battle.
Having said that, this does allow a perspective on Clausewitz and his writings. Just knowing about his involvement in specific battles against the French in the Revolutionary Wars, Jena-Auerstadt, Napoleon's Russian Campaign, and the Waterloo Campaign allow some understanding into his thinking.
The bottom line is that this book must be read by someone who is interested in Clausewitz' writings. It adds substance to Clausewitz the man and not just the philosopher on war.
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