Steven D. Fratt

in Military History

ISBN: 9780199791279
Published online February 2012 | | DOI:

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The study of tactics over time poses some problems for the researcher. In the original Greek and Latin, taktika/tactica meant the arranging of forces in an order of battle prior to the actual fighting. Generals knew they would lose control of their forces once the battle began, so it was crucial to arrange them and embed in them any stratagems that might catch the enemy by surprise (such as the Athenians at Marathon). The Macedonians and Romans developed armies with more tactical flexibility, so for them tactics was more than just arranging an order of battle. Tactics also entailed the maneuvering of forces during the battle, so battle handling of troops could be added to the definition. Tactical manuals of instruction were manuals of arms and small unit drill books. Until the late 20th century, most tactical studies emphasized the science of orders of battle and simply compared static, tactical arrangements of opponents as complete analysis. Ardant du Picq is one of the first tacticians to understand the study of tactics as a dynamic, moving reality in combat driven by morale. His studies provided a paradigm-changing model for tactical studies, followed by Griffith and Keegan in the 20th century. Tactical manuals now emphasized small unit combat in battle. This bibliography will include works that focus on orders of battle and those that emphasize maneuver in combat. Other problems set before us include the battle effects of technically augmented weapons and the enormous impact of huge centralized states on the size of armies in the field. Once large armies on the battlefield could no longer be seen by their generals and weapons ranges reached beyond practical sight, “grand tactics” was born—the science and art of maneuvering armies on the battlefield, but also beyond the sight of commanding generals. The introduction of the corps system during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars created the “operational” level of military art and science as a separate study apart from tactics. As the operations (bringing separate parts of the army to the battlefield) had a new profound impact on the tactical disposition of the battle, the lines between “tactics” and “operations” began to blur. In the 21st century, tactics is about the platoon in battle, backed by available operational/strategic-level firepower. Militarily speaking, the Platonic “great chain of being” has become an Aristotelian reality in tactical combat.

Article.  13695 words. 

Subjects: Military History ; Pre-20th Century Warfare ; First World War ; Second World War ; Post-WW2 Military History

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