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Under the Shadow of Napoleon

French Influence on the American Way of Warfare from Independence to the Eve of World War II

By Michael Bonura

Publication Year: 2012

The way an army thinks about and understands warfare has a tremendous impact on its organization, training, and operations. The central ideas of that understanding form a nation’s way of warfare that influences decisions on and off the battlefield. From the disasters of the War of 1812, Winfield Scott ensured that America adopted a series of ideas formed in the crucible of the Wars of the French Revolution and epitomized by Napoleon. Reflecting American cultural changes, these French ideas dominated American warfare on the battlefields of the Mexican-American War, the American Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World War I. America remained committed to these ideas until cultural pressures and the successes of German Blitzkrieg from 1939 – 1940 led George C. Marshall to orchestrate the adoption of a different understanding of warfare. Michael A. Bonura examines concrete battlefield tactics, army regulations, and theoretical works on war as they were presented in American army education manuals, professional journals, and the popular press, to demonstrate that as a cultural construction, warfare and ways of warfare can be transnational and influence other nations

Published by: NYU Press


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Ttle Page, Copyright Page

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p. vii

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x

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p. xi

Many individuals and institutions helped in writing this book, and I am deeply indebted to all of them. I would like to thank Dr. Donald D. Horward for introducing me to the Napoleonic era and mentoring me as a Napoleonic historian. I would also like to thank Dr. Fritz Davis for becoming my major professor and seeing...

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pp. 1-10

Since the 1960s, Americans’ attitudes toward France have involved a wide array of emotions, from suspicion to anger and even, at times, betrayal. France’s withdrawal from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s integrated military command in 1966 and its refusal to allow American military aircraft to enter...

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1 A French Way of Warfare

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pp. 11-40

Thus the day passed away: the French stood immovable, Kellermann having taken also a more advantageous position. Our people were withdrawn out of the fire, and it was exactly as if nothing had taken place. The greatest consternation was diffused among the army. That very morning...

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2 Bringing French Warfare to America, 1814–1848

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pp. 41-92

The American Revolution left the military tradition of the fledgling republic with a variety of European influences. The colonial wars of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries made Americans intimately familiar with British warfare, including tactics, discipline, administration, and organization. Additionally, the frontier...

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3 American Adaptation of French Warfare, 1848–1865

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pp. 93-132

With a string of successes for the U.S. Army in Mexico, the fundamental elements of the French combat method remained at the center of the army’s intellectual framework of the battlefield. However, changes in technology led to a reevaluation of the American system of tactics and general regulations in the 1850s. The War Department...

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4 German Professionalism and American Warfare, 1865–1899

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pp. 133-172

If continuity characterized the period from 1814 to 1865, the rest of the nineteenth century was a period of change for American warfare and was inspired not by French culture but by German culture and institutions. German innovation in industry, science, and education made a great impression on American society, which...

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5 American Warfare in the Progressive Era, 1899–1918

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pp. 173-212

If German cultural and military influence transformed the army and its institutions leading up to the Spanish-American War, the Progressive Era completed the transition to a professional army. Progressives believed in the importance of education, and this encouraged the continued improvement of West Point and the Fort Leavenworth...

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6 The End of French Influence on American Warfare, 1918–1941

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pp. 213-256

Although the officer corps as a whole considered the army’s intellectual framework of the battlefield based on the fundamental elements of the French combat method validated in WWI, the experiences of the war led to a period of experimentation. WWI was in effect an anomaly, and while the French combat method provided...

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pp. 257-262

The intellectual development of the American army from the War of 1812 through the beginning of WWII followed the general outline of Kuhn’s scientific revolution. In the period from the American Revolution through the War of 1812, no clear consensus existed among the armies of the United States concerning tactics...


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pp. 263-296


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p. 297

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About the Author

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pp. 320-320

Michael A. Bonura is a major in the U.S. Army stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, as part of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Test Division. A 1997 graduate of the United States Military Academy, he served in armor...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814723173
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814709429
Print-ISBN-10: 0814709427

Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 793357521
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Under the Shadow of Napoleon

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Subject Headings

  • Military art and science -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Military art and science -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Military art and science -- France -- History -- 18th century.
  • United States -- History, Military -- 19th century
  • United States -- History, Military -- 20th century.
  • France -- History -- Revolution, 1789-1799 -- Influence.
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