Papers: Frederick Ii of Prussia and Oblique Formation

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Frederick II, King of Prussia from 1740-1786, was more commonly known as Frederick the Great for a good reason-he doubled the size of Prussia and brought prosperity and enlightenment during his reign. At the age of thirty-five in 1747, he wrote The Instructions of Frederick the Great for is His Generals. This manuscript was of such military importance that its distribution was limited to fifty officers, who were ordered not to take it with him in the field and its contents be memorized. Napoleon considered him one of the greatest generals of all time, and ranked his audacity above all others. Frederick effectively ruled and led Prussia as both sovereign and military leader during the tumultuous European wars of the eighteenth century BCE, to include the Seven Years War.
Frederick’s foreign policy, contrary to Machiavelli’s “reason of state” doctrine, believed law and ethics in international relations should be based on neither the interest of the ruler nor those of his people. Instead, it should be fundamentally consistent, subject to rational calculation and governed by principles that could be learned and applied. It is his definition of statecraft that influenced his military tactics and strategies on obtaining short, decisive wars in the importance of mobility, oblique formation, and concentration of force.
The Battle of Leuthen (1757) is a remarkable example of Prussian mobility. Through strict drill and discipline, it allowed the Prussian army to move about the battlefield in twice the speed than its European counterparts. The simple implementation of soldiers carrying their weapons and supplies along with the creation of the standard size iron ramrod, which replaced the nonstandard wooden model, decreased the size of the armies’ baggage train and doubled the rate of musket fire. The battle was victorious causing the Austrian Army to lose 27,000 men versus Prussian 6,000 loss which enabled the annexation of Silesia. Another area of mobility focus was in the eighteenth century’s artillery movement; it was a nightmare because they had trouble keeping up with the other troops, and if their gun and wagon teams broke into a gallop, they left their marching gun detachment behind. Frederick looked to the writings of Maurice, count de Saxe, French general and military theorist, who advocated the used of a sixteen pounder cannon rather than a twenty-four pounder cannon, on the grounds that their effect was much the same but they were much more mobile.1
In the Battle of Mollwitz (10 April 1741-First Silesian War) Frederick focused on the placement of artillery to increase the battlefield momentum. He placed the heavier pieces of artillery in front of infantry’s center and then distributed his lighter pieces along the line. This set up did not work because he was unable to maneuver the heavy guns in response to events; therefore, realizing in the Battle of Kesselsdorf (Second Silesian War) it would be advantageous to have twenty-four pounder cannons artillery on the flanks and twelve-pounder cannons be scattered among the regiments as reinforcements. The simple notion of adding the cannonballs on the artillery carriage not only make supplies accessible during battle, but again decreased the size of the baggage train. The creation of the horse artillery (1757-58) gave the artillery the mobility to match the fastest arm in the field. Its purpose was to act as a mobile reserve, reacting to the flow of the battle, rather than as artillery support for the cavalry, although it could provide this if required.
Frederick’s second contribution to the art of warfare was his oblique order formation, which was designed to overcome forces of superior power. The purpose of the oblique formation in his Instructions was, “...keep the enemy occupied. This throws them back on the defensive” and eventually lead to…