Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Amateur vs. Professional.

This is coolbert:

From the comments of Fabius. Bert replies:

"General U. Grant was a professional, West Point Class of 1843. Served in the Mex-Am war. Hence had both training and experience by the time of Vicksburg."

"Napoleon graduated from the elite Ecole Royale Militaire in 1785 and was then commissioned as a 2nd LT."

When we speak of amateurs and professionals in the military sphere, we have to be careful when contrasting moderns with those of prior centuries.

Ever since the advent of black-powder warfare [1500’s], the Italian condotierri, etc., THERE HAS been a professional soldiery class!! Even before that too! Soldiers-of-fortune, knights-in-armor, etc.

"bred to arms from their infancy, were acquainted with no other art, and pursued war for emolument, or to confer honor upon themselves."


The phenomenon of the “scientific officer” is something that did not become vogue until the beginning of the nineteenth century [1800]? A person with a FORMAL education in military matters. BUT, AT THE TIME AN EDUCATION THAT QUALIFIED ONE PRIMARILY FOR QUARTERMASTER DUTIES!!

[Command and General Staff school, War College, etc., are very recent concepts.]

Young men, quite often of noble birth, seeking a career as a professional soldier prior to say the year 1800 would basically APPRENTICE THEMSELVES AS TRAINEES! First learn command at the most basic level, graduating upwards to higher levels of command, serving under older, more experienced men, learning the skills of strategy, the operational art, tactics, etc., from proven general officers of skill and ability. EDUCATION IN THE FORMAL SENSE WAS NOT DEEMED NECESSARY OR EVEN APPROPRIATE, EVEN FOR YOUNG NOBLEMEN!!

[Operational art, the maneuvering of large units to achieve victory, would NOT have been a termed used by those from centuries ago!! I am not sure what term would have used to describe the concept.]

"operational art

(DOD) The application of creative imagination by commanders and staffs - supported by their skill, knowledge, and experience - to design strategies, campaigns, and major operations and organize and employ military forces. Operational art integrates ends, ways, and means across the levels of war."

Military cadets too of an earlier period [Napoleon, Grant, etc.] while having received a general military education, WOULD NOT have been trained in strategy, the operational art, tactics, etc.

Napoleon was a professional soldier, but PRIOR TO HIS FIRST ITALIAN CAMPAIGN [1796], had NOT commanded in combat at a high echelon NOR had the training for same. NAPOLEON [26 years old at the time] WAS AN AMATEUR AT BEING A PROFESSIONAL!! Does that make sense? The French Army under Napoleon WAS ABLE to defeat enemy forces commanded by much older and experienced men with relative ease, in a manner that amazed, astonished AND troubled the PROFESSIONALS of the time!!

[was it Napoleon that Eisenhower was thinking of when he made the statement attributed to him!!?? Ike was the single best authority in the U.S. Army on the campaigns of Napoleon. It would be interesting to know the context of that quote.]

Nathan Bedford Forrest from the American Civil War is a much better example of an amateur at war who excels over the professionals! The eminent writer and historian Shelby Foote rates Forrest as one of the two geniuses to emerge from the War Between the States [Lincoln being the other one!]. Forrest first desired to obtain a commission in the Confederate Army, but was denied. NOT deterred, he enlisted as a private and by numerous demonstrations of ability, bravery, etc., became a general officer and a commander of Confederate cavalry greatly feared and respected by his Union foes!!

"Forrest had no prior formalized military training or experience. He applied himself diligently to learn. With strong leadership abilities and apparently an intuition for successful tactics, Forrest soon became an exemplary officer."

A total amateur without training, experience, or education as a military man who did excel.

As for Vo Nguyen Giap, is there any doubt that HE IS an amateur who beat professionals??!! Educated himself by reading Sun Tzu and delving into the campaigns of NAPOLEON!!?? Is that all that there is to it??!!



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