Military Maxims of Napoleon
This page is devoted to the military maxims of Napoleon.
- Maxim I. The frontiers of states are either large rivers, or chains
of mountains, or deserts. Of all these obstacles to the march of an army, the
most difficult to overcome is the desert; mountains come next, and broad rivers
occupy the third place.
- Maxim II. In forming the plan of a campaign, it is requisite to
foresee everything the enemy may do, and to be prepared with the necessary
means to counteract it. Plans of campaign may be modified, ad infinitum,
according to circumstances -- the genius of the general, the character of the
troops, and the topography of the theater of action.
- Maxim III. An army which undertakes the conquest of a country has
its two wings resting either upon neutral territories, or upon great natural
obstacles, such as rivers or chains of mountains. It happens in some cases that
only one wing is so supported, and in others that both are exposed.
- Maxim IV. When the conquest of a country is undertaken by two or
three armies, which have each their separate line of operation, until they
arrive at a point fixed upon for their concentration, it should be laid down as
a principle, that the union of these different corps should never take place
near the enemy: because the enemy, in uniting his forces, may not only prevent
this junction, but may beat the armies in detail.
- Maxim V. All wars should be governed by certain priniciples, for
every war should have a definite object, and be conducted according to the
rules of art. (A war should only be undertaken with forces proportioned to the
obstacles to be overcome.)
- Maxim VI. At the commencement of a campaign, to advance or not to
advance is a matter for grave consideration; but when once the offensive has
been assumed, it must be sustained to the last extremity. However skillful the
maneuvers in a retreat, it will always weaken the morale of an army, because in
losing the chances of success these last are transferred to the enemy. Besides,
retreats always cost more men and materiel than the most bloody engagements;
with this difference, that in a battle the enemy's loss is nearly equal to your
own--whereas in a retreat the loss is on your side only.
- Maxim VII. An army should be ready every day, every night and at all
times of the day and night, to oppose all the resistance of which it is
capable. With this view, the soldier should always be furnished completely with
arms and ammunition; the infantry should never be without its artillery, its
cavalry, and its generals; and the different divisions of the army should be
constantly in a state to support, to be supported, and to protect itself.
The troops, whether halted, or encamped, or on the march, should be always in
favorable positions, possessing the essentials required for a field of battle;
for example, the flanks should be well covered, and all the artillery so placed
as to have free range, and to play with the greatest advantage. When an army is
in column of march, it should have advanced guards and flanking parties, to
examine well the country in front, to the right, and to the left, and always at
such distance as to enable the main body to deploy into position.
- Maxim VIII. A general-in-chief should ask himself frequently in the
day, "What should I do if the enemy's army appeared now in my front, or on
my right, or my left?" If he have any difficulty in answering these
questions, his position is bad, and he should seek to remedy it.
- Maxim IX. The strength of an army, like the power in mechanics, is
estimated by multiplying the mass by the rapidity; a rapid march augments the
morale of an army, and increases its means of victory. Press on!
- Maxim X. When an army is inferior in number, inferior in cavalry,
and in artillery, it is essential to avoid a general action. The first
deficiency should be supplied by rapidity of movement; the want of artillery,
by the nature of the maneuvers; and the inferiority in cavalry, by the choice
of positions. In such circumstances the morale of the soldier does much.
- Maxim XI. To direct operations with lines far removed from each
other, and without communications, is to commit a fault which always gives
birth to a second. The detached column has only its orders for the first day.
Its operations on the following day depend upon what may have happened to the
main body. Thus this column either loses time upon emergency, in waiting for
orders, or it will act without them, and at hazard. Let it therefore be held as
a principle, that an army should always keep its columns so united as to
prevent the enemy from passing between them with impunity. Whenever, for
particular reasons, this principle is departed from, the detached corps should
be independent in their operations. They should move toward a point fixed upon
for their future junction. They should advance without hesitating, and without
waiting for fresh orders; and every precaution should be taken to prevent an
attack upon them in detail.
- Maxim XII. An army ought to have only one line of operation. This
should be preserved with care, and never abandoned but in the last extremity.
- Maxim XIII. The distances permitted between corps of an army upon
the march must be governed by the localities, by circumstances, and by the
object in view.
- Maxim XIV. Among mountains, a great number of positions are always
to be found very strong in themselves, and which it is dangerous to attack. The
character of this mode of warfare consists in occupying camps on the flanks or
in the rear of the enemy, leaving him only the alternative of abandoning his
position without fighting, to take up another in the rear, or to descend from
it in order to attack you. In mountain warfare, the assailant has always the
disadvantage; even in offensive warfare in the open field, the great secret
consists in defensive combats, and in obliging the enemy to attack.
- Maxim XV. The first consideration with a general who offers battle
should be the glory and honor of his arms; the safety and preservation of his
men is only the second; but it is in the enterprise and courage resulting from
the former that the latter will most assuredly be found. In a retreat, besides
the honor of the army, the loss of life is often greater than in two battles.
For this reason, we should never despair while brave men are to be found with
their colors. It is by this means we obtain victory, and deserve to obtain it.
- Maxim XVI. It is an approved maxim in war, never to do what the
enemy wishes you to do, for this reason alone, that he desires it. A field of
battle, therefore, which he has previously studied and reconnoitered, should be
avoided, and double care should be taken where he has had time to fortify and
entrench. One consequence deducible from this principle is, never to attack a
position in front which you can gain by turning.
- Maxim XVII. In a war of march and maneuver, if you would avoid a
battle with a superior army, it is necessary to entrench every night, and
occupy a good defensive position. Those natural positions which are ordinarily
met with are not sufficient to protect an army against superior numbers without
recourse to art.
- Maxim XVIII. A general of ordinary talent occupying a bad position,
and surprised by a superior force, seeks his safety in retreat; but a great
captain supplies all deficiencies by his courage, and marches boldly to meet
the attack. By this means he disconcerts his adversary; and if the latter shows
any irresolution in his movements, a skillful leader, profiting by his
indecision, may even hope for victory, or at least employ the day in
maneuvering -- at night he entrenches himself, or falls back to a better
position. By this determined conduct he maintains the honor of his arms, the
first essential to all military superiority.
- Maxim XIX. The transition from the defensive to the offensive is one
of the most delicate operations in war.
- Maxim XX. It may be laid down as a principle, that the line of
operation should not be abandoned; but it is one of the most skillful maneuvers
in war, to know how to change it, when circumstances authorize or render this
necessary. An army which changes skillfully its line of operation deceives the
enemy, who becomes ignorant where to look for its rear, or upon what weak
points it is assailable.
- Maxim XXI. When a army carries with it a battering train, or large
convoys of sick and wounded, it cannot march by too short a line upon its
- Maxim XXII. The art of encamping in position is the same as taking
up the line in order of battle in this position. To this end, the artillery
should be advantageously placed, ground should be selected which is not
commanded or liable to be turned, and, as far as possible, the guns should
cover and command the surrounding country.
- Maxim XXIII. When you are occupying a position which the enemy
threatens to surround, collect all your force immediately, and menace him with
an offensive movement. By this maneuver you will prevent him from detaching and
annoying your flanks, in case you should judge it necessary to retire.
- Maxim XXIV. Never lose sight of this maxim, that you should
establish your cantonments at the most distant and best protected point from
the enemy, especially where a surprise is possible. By this means you will have
time to unite all your forces before he can attack you.
- Maxim XXV. When two armies are in order of battle, and one has to
retire over a bridge, while the other has the circumference of the circle open,
all the advantages are in favor of the latter. It is then a general should show
boldness, strike a decided blow, and maneuver upon the flank of his enemy. The
victory is in his hands.
- Maxim XXVI. It is contrary to all true principle to make corps,
which have no communication with each other, act separately against a central
force whose communications are cut off.
- Maxim XXVII. When an army is driven from a first position, the
retreating columns should rally always sufficiently in the rear, to prevent any
interruption from the enemy. The greatest disaster that can happen is when the
columns are attacked in detail, and before their junction.
- Maxim XXVIII. No force should be detached on the eve of a battle,
because affairs may change during the night, either by the reteat of the enemy,
or by the arrival of large reinforcements to enable him to resume the
offensive, and counteract your previous arrangements.
- Maxim XXIX. When you have resolved to fight a battle, collect your
whole force. Dispense with nothing. A single battalion sometimes decides the
- Maxim XXX. Nothing is so rash or so contrary to principle as to make
a flank march before an army in position, especially when this army occupies
heights at the foot of which you are forced to defile.
- Maxim XXXI. When you determine to risk a battle, reserve to yourself
every possible chance of success, more particularly if you have to deal with an
adversary of superior talent; for if you are beaten, even in the midst of your
magazines and your communications, woe to the vanquished!
- Maxim XXXII. The duty of an advanced guard does not consist of
advancing or retiring, but in maneuvering. An advanced guard should be composed
of light cavalry, supported by a reserve of heavy cavalry, and by battalions of
infantry, supported also by artillery. An advanced guard should consist of
picked troops, and the general officers, officers and men should be selected
for their respective capabilities and knowledge. A corps deficient in
instruction is only an embarrassment to an advanced guard.
- Maxim XXXIII. It is contrary to the usages of war to allow parks or
batteries of artillery to enter a defile, unless you hold the other extremity.
In case of retreat, the guns will embarrass your movements, and be lost. They
should be left in position under a sufficient escort, until you are master of
- Maxim XXXIV. It should be laid down as a principle, never to have
intervals by which the enemy can penetrate between corps formed in order of
battle, unless it be to draw him into a snare.
- Maxim XXXV. Encampments of the same army should always be formed so
as to protect each other.
- Maxim XXXVI. When the enemy's army is covered by a river, upon which
he holds several tetes de pont, do not attack in front. This would divide your
force and expose you to be turned. Approach the river in echelon of columns, in
such a manner that the leading column shall be the only one the enemy can
attack, without offering you his flank. In the meantime, let your light troops
occupy the bank, and when you have decided on the point of passage, rush upon
it and fling across your bridge. Observe that the point of passage should be
always at a distance from the leading echelon, in order to deceive the enemy.
- Maxim XXXVII. From the moment you are master of a position which
commands the opposite bank, facilities are acquired for effecting the passage
of the river; above all, if this position is sufficiently extensive to place
upon it artillery in force. This advantage is diminished if the river is more
than three hundred toises (or six hundred yards) in breadth, because the
distance being out of the range of grape, it is easy for the troops which
defend the passage to line the bank and get under cover. Hence it follows that
if the grenadiers, ordered to pass the river for the protection of the bridge,
should reach the other side, they would be destroyed by the fire of the enemy;
because his batteries, placed at the distance of two hundred toises from the
landing, are capable of a most destructive effect, although removed above five
hundred toises from the batteries of the crossing force. Thus the advantage of
the artillery would be exclusively his. For the same reason, the passage is
impracticable, unless you succeed in surprising the enemy, and are protected by
an intermediate island, or unless you are able to take advantage of an angle in
the river, to establish a cross-fire upon his works. In this case the island or
angle forms a natural tete de pont, and gives the advantage in artillery to the
attacking army. When a river is less than sixty toises (or one hundred and
twenty yards) in breadth, and you have a post upon the other side, the troops
which are thrown across derive such advantages from the protection of your
artillery, that, however small the angle may be, it is impossible for the enemy
to prevent the establishment of a bridge. In this case, the most skillful
generals, when they have discovered the project of their adversary, and brought
their own army to the point of crossing, usually content themselves with
opposing the passage of the bridge, by forming a semicircle round its
extremity, as round the opening of a defile, and removing to the distance of
three or four hundred toises from the fire of the opposite side.
- Maxim XXXVIII. It is difficult to prevent an enemy supplied with
pontoons from crossing a river. When the object of an army which defends the
passage is to cover a siege, the moment the general has ascertained his
inability to oppose the passage, he should take measures to arrive before the
enemy, at an intemediate position between the river he defends and the place he
desires to cover.
- Maxim XXXIX. In the campaign of 1645, Turenne was attacked with his
army before Philipsburg by a very superior force. There was no bridge here over
the Rhine, but he took advantage of the ground between the river and the place
to establish his camp. This should serve as a lesson to engineer officers, not
merely in the construction of fortresses, but of "tetes de pont". A
space should always be left between the fortress and the river, where an army
may form and rally without being obliged to throw itself into the place, and
thereby compromise its security. An army retiring upon Mayence before a
pursuing enemy, is necessarly compromised; for this reason, because it requires
more than a day to pass the bridge, and because the lines of Cassel are too
confined to admit an army to remain there without being blocked up. Two hundred
toises should have been left between that place and the Rhine. It is essential
that all "tetes de pont" before great rivers should be constructed
upon this principle; otherwise they will prove a very inefficient assistance to
protect the passage of a retreating army. "Tetes de pont", as laid
down in our schools, are of use only for small rivers, the passage of which is
- Maxim XL. Fortresses are equally useful in offensive and defensive
warfare. It is true they will not in themselves arrest an army, but they are an
excellant means of retarding, embarrassing, weakening, and annoying a victorius
- Maxim XLI. There are only two ways of insuring the success of a
siege. The first, to begin by beating the enemy's army employed to cover the
place, forcing it out of the field, and throwing its remains beyond some great
natural obstacle, such as a chain of mountains, or large river. Having
accomplished this object, an army of observation should be placed behind the
natural obstacle, until the trenches are finished and the place taken.
But if it be desired to take the place in presence of a relieving army, without
risking a battle, then the whole materiel and equipment for a siege are
necessary to begin with, together with ammunition and provisions for the
presumed period of its duration, and also lines of contravallation and
circumvallation, aided by all the localities of heights, woods, marshes, and
Having no longer occasion to keep up communications with your depots, it is now
only requiste to hold in check the relieving army. For this purpose, an army of
observation should be formed, whose business it is never to lose sight of that
of the enemy, and which, while it effectively bars all access to the place, has
always time enough to arrive upon his flanks or rear in case he should attempt
to steal a march.
It is to be remembered, too, that by profiting judiciously by the lines of
contravallation, a portion of the beseiging army will always be available in
giving battle to the approaching enemy.
Upon the same general principle, when a place is to be besieged in presence of
an enemy's army, it is necessary to cover the siege by lines of
If the besieging force is of numerical strength enough (after leaving a corps
before the place four times the amount of the garrison) to cope with the
relieving army, it may remove more than one day's march from the place; but if
it be inferior in numbers after providing for the siege as above stated, it
should remain only a short day's march from the spot, in order to fall back
upon its lines, if necessary, or receive succor in case of attack.
If the investing corps and army of observation are only equal when united to
the relieving force, the besieging army should remain entire within, or near
its lines, and push the works and the siege with the greatest activity.
- Maxim XLII. Feuquiere says that "we should never wait for the
enemy in the lines of circumvallation, but we should go out and attack
him." He is in error. There is no authority in war without exception; and
it would be dangerous to proscribe the principle of awaiting the enemy within
the lines of circumvallation.
- Maxim XLIII. Those who proscribe lines of circumvallation, and all
the assistance which the science of the engineer can afford, deprive themselves
gratuitously of an auxillary which is never injurious, almost always useful,
and often indispensable. It must be admitted at the same time, that the
principles of field-fortification require improvement. This important branch of
the art of war has made no progress since the time of the ancients. It is even
inferior at this day to what it was two thousand years ago. Engineer officers
should be encouraged in bringing this branch of their art to perfection, and in
placing it upon a level with the rest.
- Maxim XLIV. If circumstances prevent a sufficient garrison being
left to defend a fortified town which contains a hospital and magazines, at
least every means should be employed to secure the citadel against a coup de
- Maxim XLV. A fortified place can only protect the garrison and
detain the enemy for a certain time. When this time has elapsed, and the
defenses of the place are destroyed, the garrison should lay down its arms. All
civilized nations are agreed on this point, and there never has been an
argument except with reference to the greater or less degree of defense which a
governor is bound to make before he capitulates. At the same time, there are
generals--Villars among the number--who are of opinion that a governor should
never surrender, but that in the last extremity he should blow up the
fortifications, and take advantage of the night to cut his way through the
besieging army. Where he is unable to blow up the fortifications, he may always
retire, they say, with his garrison, and save the men.
Officers who have adopted this line of conduct have often brought off
three-fourths of their garrison.
- Maxim XLVI. The keys of a fortress are well worth the retirement of
the garrison, when it is resolved to yield only on those conditions. On this
principle it is always wiser to grant an honorable capitulation to a garrison
which has made a vigorous resistance, than to risk an assault.
- Maxim XLVII. Infantry, cavalry, and artillery are nothing without
each other; therefore they should always be so disposed in cantonments as to
assist each other in case of surprise.
- Maxim XLVIII. The formation of infantry in line should be always in
two ranks, because the length of the musket only admits of an effective fire in
this formation. The discharge of the third rank is not only uncertain, but
frequently dangerous to the ranks in its front. In drawing up infantry in two
ranks, there should be a supernumerary behind every fourth of fifth file. A
reserve should likewise be placed twenty-five paces in rear of each flank.
- Maxim XLIX. The practice of mixing small bodies of infantry and
cavalry together is a bad one, and attended with many inconveniences. The
cavalry loses its power of action. It becomes fettered in all its movements.
Its energy is destroyed; even the infantry itself is compromised, for on the
first movement of the cavalry its left without support. The best mode of
protecting cavalry is to cover its flank.
- Maxim L. Charges of cavalry are equally useful at the beginning, the
middle, and the end of a battle. They should be made always, if possible, on
the flanks of the infantry, especially when the latter is engaged in front.
- Maxim LI. It is the buisness of cavalry to follow up the victory,
and to prevent the beaten enemy from rallying.
- Maxim LII. Artillery is more essential to cavalry than to infantry,
because cavalry has no fire for its defense, but depends upon the saber. It is
to remedy this deficiency that recourse has been had to horse-artillery.
Cavalry, therefore, should never be without cannon,whether when attacking,
rallying, or in position.
- Maxim LIII. In march, or in position, the greater part of the
artillery should be with the divisions of infantry and cavalry. The rest should
be in reserve. Each gun should have with it three hundred rounds, without
including the limber. This is about the complement for two battles.
- Maxim LIV. Artillery should always be placed in the most
advantageous positions, and as far in front of the line of cavalry and infantry
as possible, without compromising the safety of the guns.
Field batteries should command the whole country round from the level of the
platform. They should on no account be masked on the right and left, but have
free range in every direction.
- Maxim LV. A general should never put his army into cantonments when
he has the means of collecting supplies of forage and provisions, and of thus
providing for the wants of the soldier in the field.
- Maxim LVI. A good general, a well-organized system, good
instructions, and severe discipline, aided by effective establishments, will
always make good troops, independently of the cause for which they fight.
At the same time, a love of country, a spirit of enthusiasm, a sense of
national honor, and fanaticism will operate upon young soldiers with advantage.
- Maxim LVII. When a nation is without establishments and a military
system, it is very difficult to organize an army.
- Maxim LVIII. The first qualification of a soldier is fortitude under
fatigue and privation. Courage is only the second; hardship, poverty, and want
are the best school for the soldier.
- Maxim LIX. There are five things the soldier should never be
without--his musket, his ammunition, his knapsack, his provisions (for at least
four days), and his entrenching tool. The knapsack may be reduced to the
smallest size possible, if it be thought proper, but the soldier should always
have it with him.
- Maxim LX. Every means should be taken to attach the soldier to his
colors. This is best accomplished by showing consideration and respect to the
old soldier. His pay likewise should increase with his length of service. It is
the height of injustice not to pay a veteran more than a recruit.
- Maxim LXI. It is not set speeches at the moment of battle that
render soldiers brave. The veteran scarcely listens to them, and the recruit
forgets them at the first discharge. If discourses and harangues are useful, it
is during the campaign; to do away with unfavorable impressions, to correct
false reports, to keep alive a proper spirit in the camp, and to furnish
materials and amusement for the bivouac. All printed orders of the day should
keep in view these objects.
- Maxim LXII. Tents are unfavorable to health. The soldier is best
when he bivouacs, because he sleeps with his feet to the fire, which speedily
dries the ground on which he lies. A few planks, or a little straw, shelter him
from the wind.
On the other hand, tents are necessary for the superior officers, who have to
write and to consult their maps. Tents should therefore be issued to these,
with directions to them never to sleep in a house. Tents are always objects of
observation to the enemy's staff. They afford information in regard to your
numbers and the ground you occupy, while an army bivouacking in two or three
lines is only distinguishable from afar by the smoke which mingles with the
clouds. It is impossible to count the number of the fires.
- Maxim LXIII. All the information obtained from prisoners should be
received with caution, and estimated at its real value. A soldier seldom see
anything beyond his company; and an officer can afford intelligence of little
more than the position and movements of the division to which his regiment
belongs. On this account the general of an army should never depend upon the
information derived from prisoners, unless it agrees with the reports received
from the advanced guards, in reference to the position, etc., of the enemy.
- Maxim LXIV. Nothing is so important in war as an undivided command;
for this reason, when war is carried on against a single power, there should be
only one army, acting upon one base, and conducted by one chief.
- Maxim LXV. The same consequences which have uniformly attended long
discussions and councils of war will follow at all times. They will terminate
in the adoption of the worst course, which in war is always the most timid, or,
if you will, the most prudent. The only true wisdom in a general is determined
- Maxim LXVI. In war the general alone can judge of certain
arrangements. It depends on him alone to conquer difficulties by his own
superior talents and resolution.
- Maxim LXVII. To authorize generals or other officers to lay down
their arms in virtue of a particular capitulation, under any other
circumstances than when they are composing the garrison of a fortress, affords
a dangerous latitude. It is destructive of all military character in a nation
to open such a door to the cowardly, the weak, or even to the misdirected
brave. Great extremities require extraordinary resolution. The more obstinate
the resistance of an army, the greater the chances of assistance or of
How many seeming impossibilities have been accomplished by men whose only
resolve was death!
- Maxim LXVIII. There is no security for any sovereign, for any
nation, or for any general, if officers are permitted to capitulate in the open
field, and to lay down their arms in virtue of conditions favorable to the
contracting party, but contrary to the interests of the army at large. To
withdraw from danger, and thereby to involve their comrades in greater peril,
is the height of cowardice. Such, conduct should be proscribed, declared
infamous, and made punishable with death. All generals, officers, and soldiers
who capitulate in battle to save their own lives should be decimated.
He who gives the order and those who obey are alike traitors, and deserve
- Maxim LXIX. Their is but one honorable mode of becoming prisioner of
war. That is, by being taken separately; by which is meant, by being cut off
entirely, and when we can on longer make use of our arms. In this case, there
can be no conditions, for honor can impose none. We yield to an irresistible
- Maxim LXX. The conduct of a general in a conquered country is full
of difficulties. If severe, he irritates and increases the number of his
enemies. If lenient, he gives birth to expectations which only render the
abuses and vexations inseparable from war the more intolerable. A victorious
general must know how to employ severity, justness, and mildness by turns, if
he would allay sedition or prevent it.
- Maxim LXXI. Nothing can excuse a general who takes advantage of the
knowledge acquired in the service of his country, to deliver up her frontier
and her towns to foreginers. This is a crime reprobated by every principle of
religion, morality, and honor.
- Maxim LXXII. A general-in-chief has no right to shelter his mistakes
in war under cover of his sovereign, or of a minister, when these are both
distant from the scene of operation, and must consequently be either ill
informed or wholly ignorant of the actual state of things.
Hence it follows, that every general is culpable who undertakes the execution
of a plan which he considers faulty. It is his duty to represent his reasons,
to insist upon a change of plan--in short, to give in his resignation rather
than allow himself to be made the instrument of his army's ruin. Every
general-in-chief who fights a battle in consequence of superior orders, with
the certainty of losing it, is equally blamable.
In this last-mentioned case, the general ought to refuse obedience; because a
blind obedience is due only to a military command given by a superior present
on the spot at the moment of action. Being in possession of the real state of
things, the superior has it then in his power to afford the necessary
explainations to the person who executes his orders.
But supposing a general-in-chief to receive a positive order from his
sovereign, directing him to fight a battle, with the further injunction, to
yield to his adversary, and allow himself to be defeated -- ought he to obey
it? No. If the general should be able to comprehend the meaning or utility of
such an order, he should execute it; otherwise, he should refuse to obey it.
- Maxim LXXIII. The first qualification in a general-in-chief is a
cool head -- that is, a head which receives just impressions, and estimates
things and objects at their real value. He must not allow himself to be elated
by good news, or depressed by bad.
The impressions he receives either successively or simultaneously in the course
of the day should be so classed as to take up only the exact place in his mind
which they deserve to occupy; since it is upon a just comparison and
consideration of the weight due to different impressions that the power of
reasoning and of right judgment depends.
Some men are so physically and morally constituted as to see everything through
a highly colored medium. They raise up a picture in the mind on every slight
occasion, and give to every trivial occurrence a dramatic interest. But
whatever knowledge, or talent, or courage, or other good qualities such men may
possess, Nature has not formed them for the command of armies, or the direction
of great military operations.
- Maxim LXXIV. The leading qualifications which should distinguish an
officer selected for the head of the staff are, to know the country thoroughy;
to be able to conduct a reconnoissance with skill; to superintend the
transmission of orders promptly; to lay down the most complicated movements
intelligibly, but in a few words, and with simplicity.
- Maxim LXXV. The commandant of artillery should understand well the
general principles of each branch of the service, since he is called upon to
supply arms and ammunition to the different corps of which it is composed. His
correspondence with the commanding officers of artillery at the advanced posts
should put him in possession of all the movements of the army, and the
disposition and management of the great park of artillery should depend upon
- Maxim LXXVI. The qualities which distinguish a good general of
advanced posts are: to reconnoiter accurately defiles and fords of every
description; to provide guides that may be depended on; to interrogate the cure
and postmaster; to establish rapidly a good understanding with the inhabitants;
to send out spies; to intercept public and private letters; to translate and
analyze their contents; in a word, to be able to answer every question of the
general-in-chief when he arrives with the whole army.
- Maxim LXXVII. General-in-chief must be guided by their own
experience, or their genius. Tactics, evolutions, the duties and knowledge of
an engineer or artillery officer, may be learned in treatises, but the science
of strategy is only to be acquired by experience, and by studying the campaigns
of all the great captains.
Gustavus Adolphus, Turenne, and Frederick, as well as Alexander, Hannibal, and
Caesar have all acted upon the same principles. These have been -- to keep
their forces united; to leave no weak part unguarded; to seize with rapidity on
Such as the principles which lead to victory, and which, by inspiring terror at
the reputation of your arms, will at once maintain fidelity and secure
- Maxim LXXVIII. Peruse again and again the campaigns of Alexander,
Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus Adolphus, Turenne, Engene, and Frederick. Model
yourself upon them. This is the only means of becoming a great captain, and of
acquiring the secret of the art of war. Your own genius will be enlightened and
improved by this study, and you will learn to reject all maxiums foreign to the
principles of these great commanders.
|Note: The source of the above maxims are Napoleon's Maxims of
War. With notes by General Burnod. Translated from French by Lieut.General
Sir G.C. D'Aguilar, C.B., and published by David McKay of Philadelphia in 1902.
1 Napoleon's Maxims has been brought to you by
Military/Info Publishing (Home page).
Military/Info Publishing specializes in the last 200 years of historical
military technology. We are sort of the lost and found department
of military manuals and articles on the web.
3. Now in business
for 17 years, on the web for 12, adding around
50 items a month our lists.
4. Military/Info Publishing has over 11,000 other manuals, articles, and books
for sale. Organized into over 200 subject heading (Subject