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5 Strategy, Operations, and Tactics in the Second Seminole War, 1835–1842 Joe Knetsch A plan of campaign should anticipate everything which the enemy can do, and contain within itself the means of thwarting him. Napoleon Bonaparte Modern military terminology has been divided into three distinct categories as a result of studying Soviet concepts immediately after the Second World War. The word strategy today consists of the decision on national goals and objectives in a war. The “operational” art concentrates on getting the army organized to achieve these broad goals and determining which forces should be used to conduct the campaign. It also includes the crucial study of the enemy ’s capabilities and how to counteract them. Logistics, in the large sense, is also included under operational art in today’s nomenclature. The tactical side of the growing equation stresses the battlefield and how to maneuver the enemy into position for attack or how to defend against an assault on your own forces. The battlefield is the total focus of the tactician, and this officer is not concerned with national goals, policy, or any of the broader operational objectives. His concern is the immediate place and time of battle.1 In the days of the Seminole Wars, the term strategy covered only the planning of the campaign against the enemy; it was essentially a paper exercise until the army took the field. Tactics begins with the details of the battle plan and ascends to the generalizations and combinations necessary to carry the army into battle. According to the master of strategy at the time of the Seminole War, Antoine Henri Jomini, strategy took into account the selection of the theater of war, the decisive points to seize, the choice of lines of defense or operation, the selections of objectives, the situation of bases of operation, depots, lines of march, and points for entrenched camps or fortification and other details of planning. Tactics, in the broadest sense, took into account the movement of armies onto the field of battle and the initial disposition of the Strategy, Operations, and Tactics in the Second Seminole War, 1835–1842 / 129 troops.2 It is the latter, Jomini’s sense of strategy and tactics, with which the following is concerned. Almost every commander of troops in the Second Seminole War grew in military stature as a result of service in the War of 1812. Winfield Scott, Alexander Macomb, Thomas Jesup, Walker Armistead, and Zachary Taylor all served with distinction in that contest. Each learned the soldier’s craft from the harsh school of experience against a determined, European-trained army. President Andrew Jackson also grew to military manhood in that war and passed much of his training on to his protégé, Richard K. Call, just as Scott did for his own student, William Jenkins Worth. The impact of this war on the thinking of these men is undeniable. Each in his own way studied the strategy and tactics of his day with special attention given to the ultimate practitioner, Napoleon Bonaparte. Combining the lessons of the war with those of Jomini, the greatest contemporary commentator on Napoleon’s campaigns, gave the essential understanding of the art of war to these distinguished gentlemen.3 There was no systematic study of guerrilla or partisan warfare available for study, thus depriving those who would meet the American masters of this type of combat on the fields in Florida and in the west. The main concern of the military leadership of the day was the potential war with Great Britain, Spain, or some other European power attempting to assert its influence in the Americas. The immediate threat to the security of the United States was from outside invasion as it had been in the War of 1812. Little thought was given to the planning for operations against the Native Americans along the vast frontier of the United States. Rumblings in Canada would soon break out into insurgency along the border and the constant movement of insurrectionist forces along the Canadian–United States border was a major concern of the army staff.4 The growing revolution in Texas was also diverting attention from any concentration on Indian removal from Florida and other parts of the South. Any potential warfare would most likely come from either Great Britain or Mexico. With the army covering the frontier in a long string of distant fortifications, little thought was given to planning for war with the dissatisfied Natives living so far from “civilization...


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