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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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On defense, the general’s greatest art lies in starving out his enemy. This is one means by which he puts nothing at risk but can win everything. This requires that one eliminate the play of chance as much as possible through shrewdness and agility. Hunger defeats a man far more surely than the courage of the enemy. However, since the removal of the supply train or the loss of a depot does not immediately end the war, and since only battles lead to a decision, one must employ both means to achieve one’s goal.

I content myself with devising two defensive plans according to my principles: one for Lower Silesia, the other for the Electoral March.

[ . . . ]

Far more difficult is the defense of the Electoral March, because it is an open land and because the forest bordering Saxony is equally unfavorable for camps and marching. However, I believe that one would have to act as follows.

Berlin, an open city, requires my greatest attention as the capital of the land. It lies only 12 miles from Wittenberg. I assume that the enemy’s army will assemble there. If so, the enemy could carry out three plans. One would be to march along the Elbe; however, that would be difficult for him because of Magdeburg, for one cannot leave such a place to one’s rear. Second, the enemy could come across the Oder and the new canal. In that case, however, he would leave his entire land open, and one could quickly throw him back to Saxony through a sally against Wittenberg. The third plan would be to march straight toward Berlin. The best defense would be to invade Saxony, as we did in the winter of 1745. Withdrawing behind the Spree or Havel would mean giving up the land. I would rather gather my army near Brandenburg, bring my foodstuffs to Brandenburg and Spandau, destroy all the bridges across the Havel except for those to Brandenburg and Spandau, and make a few fast marches to attack the Saxons in their own land, defeat them, and throw them on the defensive. Say what you will, but there is no other decision.

Most difficult are campaign plans by which one has to defend oneself against much stronger and mightier enemies. One must then seek one’s refuge in politics and endeavor to divide one’s enemies, or to split off one or the other through advantages bestowed upon him. In military terms one must then know how to lose at the right time (he who wants to defend everything defends nothing), one must sacrifice one province to the enemy, and in the meantime go after the others with all one’s strength, force them to battle, and use every possible means to defeat them. Then one must send detachments against the others. Such wars wreck the armies through the exertions and marches one asks of them, and if they last long, they come to an unhappy end.

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