The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H103: The Professionals

The 18th Century saw the perfection of the concept of the professional army. From the point of view of the monarch they were a great asset to the kingdom –ensuring protection from enemies from within as well as without the crown’s borders. The professional army had numerous positive attributes. It also had limitations. Both its attributes and its limitations directly effectived how the Kingdoms and Empires of the 18th Century waged wars. What were those effects?

Today the Western military forces, including the U.S. Army, are considered the finest professional military forces ever produced. As a professional military force, what attributes, both positive and negative, does the U.S. military, and the army in particular share with the professional forces of Frederick the Great’s Prussia?

Do the professional attributes of the U.S. military effect how the U.S. military wages war in a way similiar to the professionals effect on war in 18th Century? If so, how?


September 6, 2016 - Posted by | H100, military history, Professional Military Education | , , ,


  1. Today’s modern army reflects some of the attributes that Frederick the Great instilled in his Prussian forces. Mainly, Frederick the Great recognized the importance of drill and training within his ranks and instituted rigorous drilling for his forces in order to forge units composed of many men, but with a single purpose of mind during combat. Frederick’s early campaigns seemed to stress offensive action and initiative, which resembles the mantra and objective of land forces today. Ultimately though, Frederick’s strategy regressed to accept the stagnant state of offensive strategy and decisive battles during his day.

    Despite some similarities, Frederick was constrained by the dynastic political and social systems of his day. While he seemed to intuitively understand the limitations of armed forces under dynastic rule (the dangers of empowering forces for social changes) he remained powerless to comprehensively change warfare without risking the very social and government system that allowed him to thrive. Consequently, there are important differences in the attributes of his forces and today’s forces. The French Revolution, which Frederick failed to predict, set the conditions for modern state led armies which increased the role between the governed and the government. Under this system, more forces were able to be mobilized and service in the armed forces for patriotic reasons flourished to a much greater extent than service during Frederick’s time (Frederick was loathe to conscript Prussian forces, relying instead on foreigners when possible).

    While Frederick the Great instituted many changes in warfare that seemed to suggest and usher in the modern era, ultimately the social and political forces that shaped the French Revolution proved more important in shaping today’s modern state-led armies.

    Comment by Scott Harr | September 6, 2016

  2. An interesting comparison can be drawn between the armies of Frederick the Great and those of the United States. One example is that Frederick believed that a defined balance between the classes must be maintained. According to him, peasants were too ignorant to become officers therefore those roles were reserved for the aristocracy. If we look closely at how the U.S. military is structured today, agree or not, we have adopted a smilier philosophy. Enlisted personnel may join and serve in the military freely, but they may not enter the officer ranks without completing a formal university education. This can be viewed as the modern day “balance between the classes.” Going a step further, one could also argue that the incentive for many enlisted personnel to join today’s military is the promise of a fully funded formal university education. Indirectly, the chance to ascend to a higher class is being incentivized in exchange for a period of faithful obedience. While this may not be the sole driving factor behind many enlistments, it is still an interesting variable to consider.

    Discipline is also one of the defining attributes shared between Frederick’s and the U.S. military. While Frederick preferred to enforce discipline through threat of punishment and increased oversight, his goal of an army with a single mind and will was sound. While Frederick may have discounted honoring his military, in the U.S. military, there is an added factor of honor that inspires many to willingly serve today. Arguably, the honor shared by those serving in the U.S. military today is what sets them apart from every other professional military in the world. Even though today’s U.S. military may be a far-cry from what was intended by the founding fathers of this nation, given its striking resemblance to the King’s armies of the past, there is no question that it is one of the most professional militaries ever to exist.

    Comment by Justin Reddick | September 10, 2016

  3. The 18th Century brought about advancements in military weaponry, an ambition still prevalent in the modern military of the United States. 18th Century military tactics provide a hallmark in conventional military modern warfare. However, the United States military wages war in two distinct ways different from war in the 18th Century. Sustainment and Rules of Engagement (ROE) stand as the two primary differences in war / conflict today versus war in the 18th Century.

    Sustainment is not a new topic within warfare, but it is arguably a more highlighted field in modern warfare. During the 18th Century, a military force sustained itself by the surrounding area the formation occupied. The Thirty Years War is an example of a long-waged war that relied heavily upon the local surroundings to sustain the occupying military force. Today, the United States military plans sustainment operations during phase zero and phase one prior to phase two of shaping operations and phase three of offensive operations. Today’s military understands that in order to win a war / conflict the force must sustain operations for an extended period of time.

    ROE demonstrates a new element within war/conflict different from battles fought in the 18th Century. The battle of Dungan’s Hill in 1647 highlights a relatively small battle, but a fight that had no agreed upon ROE. Over 3000 deaths occurred during the battle, and while the skirmish was small in scale it led to political repercussions.

    Sustainment and ROE stand as two examples within current warfare that differs from warfare fought in the 18th century. The Thirty Years War and the battle of Dungan’s Hill might have had completely different outcomes considering the two modern day principals. However, critiques can always argue a what if, or outcome predictability. The lesson is not what if arguments, but learning from history to adapt in future warfare.

    Comment by Eric E. Kelly | September 13, 2016

  4. There were several memorable quotes from this week’s reading. I found this quote from Napoleon particularly interesting: “one bad general would be better than two good ones” (dealing with a divided command). Makers of modern strategy p132.

    Comment by adamjbushey | September 14, 2016

  5. The standing professional Army that fell directly under the command of a King had a major limitation in 18th Century France: it could not be used for domestic issues. Prior mercenary armies would attack and kill anyone if the price was right, but professional armies made up of Frenchmen were not so easily coerced into battle in the event that they were asked to quell any sort of French uprising. Napoleon capitalized on this notion, and convinced the French people the enemy was not (at the time) outside the borders of the country, rather it was the king himself. Now, amassing an experienced and professional army to topple the king and seize control of THEIR country was an extremely viable option. Though, this did not eliminate the potential for a future resistance to orders. Therefore, a second effort was to make the State be the central, controlling factor. Everything the French did from that point was for the benefit of France and if there were to be people who rose up against the State, utilizing the Army to quell said uprising is more justified.

    Comment by Pete Farese | September 15, 2016

  6. I found it interesting that our reading stated that military strategies often lag behind contemporary realities. The early years of Napoleon did not follow this theory for he developed strategies that succeeded. As time evolved and conditions changed, often in response to his own actions, he needed to change and did not. Due to this, by the end of his reign, he too is said to lag behind the realities of his time. Peter Paret p 140

    Comment by adamjbushey | September 19, 2016

  7. I found the H105 reading quote about how depots and castles were of decreasing importance during the Napoleon era particularly interesting. Armies of the past needed them for logistical operations. Napoleon didn’t need it since he used the land and plunder for his logistical needs. That change allowed him to redefine how battles would be conducted.

    Comment by adamjbushey | September 22, 2016

  8. In H106 we had an interesting discussion about US/Napoleon relations in the early 1800s. I found it interesting that although President Thomas Jefferson distrusted Napoleon, he still saw a good deal for America with the Louisiana purchase and gave Napoleon a cash payment at a time when Napoleon needed it to raise his army.

    Comment by adamjbushey | September 28, 2016

  9. The 18th Century saw the perfection of the concept of the professional army. The professional army had numerous positive attributes like that this army is ready, well trained, has some tactics so it didn’t depend on the strong people who use a big quantity of resources. It also had limitations because of not all of this professional army from the same country. Both its attributes and its limitations directly affected. The Kingdoms and Empires of the 18th Century waged wars to get more authority or more expanded piece of the land, they used the name of the god to lunch all of these wars they used the church as a key to enter the war, some with the church and the other against, but the real reasons for the war were searching for money and resources. that affect the environment and life, and make the loyalty very high price product that also very hard to get, all of that increase the effect of the political game to trap the opponents and the tool was always the military force.
    Today, the U.S. Army is considered the best professional military forces in the earth who share many ideas with the professional forces of Frederick the Great’s Prussia. A good example of the punishment system is very high in the military court, also the US military force does not consist of origin American with % 100.
    The last question, from my opinion, there is no one accurate answer. there are two big party, the first party thinks that the U.S. military wages war in a way similar to the professional’s effect on war in 18th Century, and they that when the consider the result of the American war in the Arab Gulf, Afghanistan, or Iraq that the result there are many of the American investments there which did not exist before these wars; there are a lot of American base in this area which also was not an acceptable idea( for the native people of this area) before. there are a lot of resource in this area of land and US now control it. The second party says that this is not right the US did that because of the name of democracy and freedom. The first party responds to them by saying that exactly what was on war in 18th Century but by different names. From my opinion, there should be a third party who thinks that there is a part of everything that is similar but for sure they are not the same.

    Comment by mohamedmillataryleader | November 3, 2016

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