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Frederick II ("the Great") of Prussia, "General Principles of War," 134-Page Manuscript in French (1748), issued as Confidential Instructions to his Generals in 1753 (1748/1753)

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In all the reflections that follow I presuppose that my rules for the army are the catechism, as it were, of my officers, and I will treat in this work only that which concerns the general and is greatest and most difficult about the art of war.


Chapter 1

Advantages and shortcomings of Prussian troops

Our troops demand unceasing diligence from their leader. With a constant preservation of discipline, they must be maintained with the utmost care and nourished better than perhaps all other troops in Europe.

Half of our regiments consist of native sons, half of mercenaries. The latter, whom no bond ties to the state, seek to run away at every opportunity. That is why it is very important to prevent desertion. A few of our generals believe that one man is only one man, and that the loss of a single person has no influence on the whole. That may be true of other armies, but not of the Prussian one. If an inept fellow deserts and is replaced by another fool, it matters naught. But if the troops lose a soldier who has been drilled for two years to acquire the necessary physical skills, and if he is replaced poorly or not at all, this can have dire consequences over the long run. After all, we have seen how entire regiments were brought to ruin by the negligence of officers in small matters. I myself have seen some that were quite remarkably shrunken through desertion. Such losses weaken the army; for the number always adds up to a lot. Thus, if you do not keep a handle on it, you will lose your best forces and will not be able to replace them. Although there are plenty of people in my state, I ask you whether many have the stature of our soldiers. And even if they do, are they already trained?

It is therefore a crucial obligation of every general who commands an army or a single corps to prevent desertion. This is done by:

1. not camping too close to large forests if the conditions of war do not compel one to;

2. frequently visiting the soldiers in their tents;

3. having patrols of Hussars circle the camp;

4. placing J├Ąger into the fields at night and doubling the cavalry posts in the evening, so that their chain is all the more dense;

5. not allowing people to disperse, but ordering the officers to lead them in formation to fetch straw and water;

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