Thursday, October 18, 2007

Logistics Redux

The Logistic Art in the Age of Linear Warfare (as gleaned from "Supplying War" by Martin van Creveld)

Eighteenth Century Warfare was characterised by on sieges.

This was due to a number of factors operating at the time.

Firstly the standing Army; soldiers of the time were expensive to train both monetarily and in terms of time. Whether you won or lost, battle could lose you 20-30% of your troops.

In this era war was conceived of as a primarily political and economic rather than a moral or religious activity, and as such it was aimed at the attainment of concrete and limited objectives.

Unless your enemy's' will do do battle was as your own, then a strike into enemy territory was likely to fall on empty air.

The power of fortified places was very great.

Fortified places could not retreat.

On this point, it was the siege and the problem of feeding a besieging army that led to the development of the magazine system. Recognising that an army had to draw its' supplies from somewhere once it had eaten out the countryside around a fortified place, magazines came to be created near the frontiers of a state. Note that this was the problem that magazines were created to solve – it must be recognised that they could never hope to supply but a fraction of the armys' needs.

This too limited the possible duration of sieges, turning them in effect into races against time whereby the besieged could hope to outlast the ability of the besiegers to survive as they ate up the countryside – the interception and destruction of the 3000 wagons of the Olmutz Convoy compelled Frederick II to raise the Siege of Olmutz.

The armies of the time had grown to such an extent that they could no longer afford to sit still – the countryside could not support them. An army was forced to keep moving so that it could continue to keep eating; no army could ever be fed entirely from base as the quantities required for the transport systems of the time were impossible. Specifically this meant that the quantity of fodder required for the armys' horses was more than the transportation systems of the time could bear. Flour could be managed, and ammunition for the entire campaign was generally carried with the army.

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