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"New Seven Years War book by Szabo?" Topic


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Stavka Inactive Member14 Jan 2008 6:31 a.m. PST

In the way of such things, and while looking for something completely unrelated I came across this book. Has anyone here heard anything about it yet?

link

de Ligne Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Jan 2008 6:43 a.m. PST

Yes, I'm reading it at the moment. Its quite detailed, it runs chronologically and there are new insights into the Austrians and Russians, particularly how political events influence the movements of their armies.

The only thing I'm not keen on is the fact that he clearly does not much respect Fred. I'm about a third through it…….so I'm not ready to make a full judgement. It's clearly not designed for the wargamer (and in that respect quite unlike Duffy or Savory)but so far its excellent as a 'general read'. The maps are all Duffy ones and he acknowledges that.

summerfield Inactive Member14 Jan 2008 6:48 a.m. PST

Certainly even a cursory reading of the history of the Seven Years War would show that. Russian occupied East Prussia for most of the war. Frederick won as many battles as he lost. He was outnumbered. Just the survival of Prussia was victory enough. The implications can be followed to the disaster in 1806. The survival of Prussia is a remarkable story.

Stephen

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Jan 2008 8:11 a.m. PST

From the publisher's promotional bit:

In the groundbreaking new work, based on a thorough re-reading of primary sources and new research of the Austrian State Archives, the author presents a scholarly but eminently readable reassessment of the continental war. He challenges the theory that Prussia won through the military skill of Frederick the Great, suggesting rather that in many ways Frederick was a liability & at best Prussia merely survived the war.

Groundbreaking? it will be interesting to see what groundbreaking stuff the author found in the archives. I would, of course, dispute the notion that Frederick was a liability. As Stephen says, "merely surviving" is a fairly good outcome and speaks well for Frederick's leadership, both militarily and politically. Merely surviving is often the factor that wins wars. Just ask Generals George Washington and Nathaneal Greene in the American Revolution.

Zagloba14 Jan 2008 8:42 a.m. PST

Amazon link for those who don't care about watercolor painting:

link

Rich

vtsaogames Inactive Member14 Jan 2008 8:44 a.m. PST

I would say Frederick was a liability in the diplomatic maneuvers before the war. Prussia was isolated on the Continent, with only England and their hired help as allies.
The early attack on Saxony, while of military value, persuaded France and Russia to join with Austria.

An ordinary general would have been crushed by the combination of Austria, Russia and France. Frederick's mighty efforts would have come to grief if the Empress Elizabeth had clung to life for a few more years.

The war aimed to dismember Prussia, or at the very least make it cough up Silesia. Since Prussia came out without losing Silesia, I'd say that was a victory, though a costly one.

Hwiccee Inactive Member14 Jan 2008 9:13 a.m. PST

I have it and have read it. It is a very interesting read and I would say long over due. Every thing in English on Frederick only ever uses pro Frederick sources and are basically very biased.

The essence of this new book is that Frederick certainly did not win the SYW. Prusian managed to survive for quite a while because of the difficulties that the anti Prusian forces had in combining but by 1761 Prussia had lost the war. It only survived then, and on other occasions, because of extreme luck and nothing at all to do with any skill of Frederick. Szabo argues that indeed Frederick was directly responsible for Prussia losing and his contribution to the war was entirely negative – i.e. his actions lessened the chances, whatever they were, of Prussia 'winning' or 'surviving' the war.

This is very much an academic book but long overdue. I would imagine that it will take a long time before it makes much impact on the wargaming world but it should do.

For example Der Alte Fritz wonders what the author has found in the archives – I would say a lot & there is a lot more to come! This is because the author has been looking at what the Austrian archives and other sources which are not 'pro Frederick'. In contrast nearly everything else in English just uses Prussian archives & pro Frederick material.

While it will also hopefully start to counter some of the really stupid ideas that many wargamers have about Frederick/Prussia, etc, at this time and mentioned in the thread.

So very recommended but aimed at the academic reader more than the gamer. It is certainly 'anti Frederick' but then all available material in English is very pro Frederick. So anything that is 'balanced' or 'neutral' is going to seem anti Frederick to most readers. Whether you believe it is really 'anti Frederick' or 'Balanced/neutral' once you cancel out the overwhelming pro Frederick stance we are all used to is a different matter.

de Ligne Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Jan 2008 9:55 a.m. PST

Good on you, Hwiccee, I agree.
As the original question asked for comments on a particular book I would have thought that the miniumum requirement for responding would be that one had actually read it!
Still, you will just have to call me old-fashioned.

vtsaogames Inactive Member14 Jan 2008 10:04 a.m. PST

You expect a TMP thread to stay focused on the original question?

DeWolfe Inactive Member14 Jan 2008 10:22 a.m. PST

Ah yes the new Seven Years War book by Szabo, let me tell you what I think…hey look! A butterfly…

vtsaogames Inactive Member14 Jan 2008 12:11 p.m. PST

LOL

Personal logo Cardinal Hawkwood Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2008 3:12 p.m. PST

everbody knows Britain won the SYW and the French lost everthing else is peripheral, but very colourful all the same

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Jan 2008 5:31 p.m. PST

Hwiccee said

Every thing in English on Frederick only ever uses pro Frederick sources and are basically very biased.

This is an untruth.

Most serious scholars/authors of SYW history rely on the archives in Vienna and Vincennes for most of their first person accounts as many of the Prussian archives were destroyed during WW2. If you doubt me, then take a look at the extensive bibliography and footnotes in any one of Christopher Duffy's books. Do the same for any other book on Frederick.

Duffy is probably the most prolific author of "English text" for SYW studies and you should know that virtually all of his work is based on research taken from the Austrian military archives in Vienna. You should also know that Duffy is very, very, very pro-Austrian and anti-Frederick in his own personal feelings. My take on the whole situation is that Duffy views Frederick as an "interesting character" whose personality and ambitions shape much of the mid 18th Century European political history, for better or for worse.

One can admire Caesar for his military prowess and power grab of the Republic, without actually liking Caesar. Or Napoleon for that matter. The same holds true for any other great captain of military history.

Szabo argues that indeed Frederick was directly responsible for Prussia losing and his contribution to the war was entirely negative – i.e. his actions lessened the chances, whatever they were, of Prussia 'winning' or 'surviving' the war.

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Szabo's assertion as stated above.

To wit: the pre-emptive invasion of Saxony secured the riches of that nation to be used to fund the war effort of Prussia and virtually guarantee that the main theatre of operations would not be conducted in the core Prussian regions of Brandenburg and Pommerania, instead, moving the war to Silesia and Saxony.

The Treaty of Westminster secured further financial aid for Prussia that aided Frederick's war effort. In fact, by the end of the war, Prussia was the only major participant that had more money in its treasury than it had at the beginning of the war. Contrast this to an Austria and a France that were eager to end the war, on unfavorable terms, because they could not endure the financial strain. It would seem that Frederick's diplomatic and political efforts gave him what he needed: survival of the Prussian state.

Frederick's Rossbach-Leuthen campaign in the winter of 1757 certainly made Prussian survival more likely. Rossbach eliminated the French as a threat to Prussia's western flank, while Leuthen gained Silesia for winter quarters for the Prussians and denied the same to the Austrians.

1758 and 1759 were disastrous years for Prussia, but they were followed up by the armed camp at Bunzelwitz, which gave the Prussian army breathing room to recoup. Austria never seriously threatened Prussia after 1760. It would seem that Frederick's decisions in 1760 had something to do with his eventual "winning by survival".

Don't be so quick to dismiss the idea that "winning equals survival" for Frederick and Prussia. For Austria, "winning" had to be the military and diplomatic defeat of Prussia and the return of its former Silesian province. These are goals that Austria failed to achieve and all that it had to show for its efforts was an empty treasury. France may have been the biggest loser, battling to a draw in western Germany so as not being able to play the Hanover Card at the eventual peace negotiations. Without Hanover, France had nothing to trade with Britain for the return of colonies in India and New France. Russia and Saxony were big losers as well, having gained nothing from their participation in the SYW.

I look forward to reading Mr. Szabo's ground breaking book. While I doubt that he has tilled much in the way of new soil, it is always interesting to read a different point of view.

Stavka Inactive Member14 Jan 2008 7:11 p.m. PST

I have always admired the Austrians for thir recovery after being left-footed by Frederick, and similarly have respected Frederick for his skill, determination and sheer luck, so I don't back any particular horse in this race.

But I have to concur that for the Austrians, the ultimate strategic goal was to bring Silesia back into the Hapsburg fold, with eradicating Hohenzollern influence being a nifty byproduct.

As they failed to accomplish this, it has always seemed to me that Prussia has a pretty good case for claiming victory, even if it did come at an exorbitant price.

Looks like a book well worth getting at any rate.

basileus66 Inactive Member14 Jan 2008 10:26 p.m. PST

Frederick was a tyrant and a bad general that stole the merits of others. I despise him almost as much as I despise Napoleon… though Old Boney was, at least as a military man, thousand times better general than Frederick. Though I must recognise that Frederick had some good point: he was master of propaganda.

Oh! By the way, Alte Fritz, I would strongly suggest you than before disagreeing with Mr Szabo you should, at least, read his research… To compare that petty Prussian king with Caesar is going a little bit too far.

Respectfully

Hwiccee Inactive Member15 Jan 2008 5:11 a.m. PST

First of all I must say I strongly agree with basileus66 on making comments when you basically have no idea what the person has said. It is as idiotic as if I said that the next post in this thread is complete rubbish and total wrong before I have even seen it.

Secondly some of the posts here clearly indicate the level of biase in English sources because they follow totally the line of Frederickan propaganda, with not even a mention of opposing views (both Prussian and Austrian).

OK on to the details – apologies here as I don't know how to do quotes. I will comment on Der Alte Fritz's post as this is the most complete but the same idea applies to other posts.

Sources: Szabo gives a list of the important sources that writers in English haven't used.

This does not generally undervalue the writings of 'good' writers in English, such as Duffy. This is because Duffy and Szabo are talking about different things generally. Duffy's books on Frederick are very much about the military details – organistion, recruitment, arms of service, etc. The Szabo book is looking very much at the big picture. So Szabo's book is a couple of levels higher than 'Frederick the Great: A Military Life' by Duffy for example.

Finally on this a piece of Frederickan propaganda or pro Frederick biased source is no more valid just because it happens to be stored in Vienna rather than Berlin.

Pre Emptive Strike/Start of the War/War Aims: Szabo argues that while the Austrians were certainly trying to form a coalition to attack Prussia, as indeed they had been doing since the end of the last war. But this was not complete and was in any case not likely to attack for a number of years so it can hardly be considered 'pre emptive'. Instead he offers evidence that the war was basically a repeat of the 1st Silesian war – a war of agression. It was designed to secure Prussia Saxony and possibly also some or of Bohemia. Frederick did this because there was no 'hostile coalition' and he hoped that diplomacy would come to his aid as in 1740.

In essence the 'sides' were not determined before Frederick attacked Saxony. So the war aims of the two sides at the start of the war were Austria survive (because there was no 'coalition' as far as they knew it was going to be a re-run of 1740 with all comers attacking them) and Prussia grab Saxony and/or Bohemia (because he knew there was no 'coalition' Frederick was hoping to spark off a 'free for all' like in 1740).

So in a way (it is complicated here and I am haven't got time to explain fully) if you are going to judge who 'won' or 'lost' the war using the criteria that applied at the start of the war. Not on what might have been Austrian war aims if they had managed to form a coalition and attacked in say 1759 or 60, nor on flucuating aims from within the war, etc.

Incidentally the book & my comments are very much focused on Prussia/Austia and I would certainly agree that Britain 'won' and France 'lost' the SYW. Although you are totally wrong about Russia and Saxony.

Treaty of Westminster/Finances: Szabo would certainly agree with you on this, or at least partly. Part of his argument is that Prussia was financially strong and that it is money, not men, that wins wars. Usually much emphasis is on the differences in population sizes which is frankly total rubbish. It is and has been for a very long time money that wins wars. If it was population then India/China could trash the USA/anyone they want at any time they want.

Szabo, like you, argues that Prussia (for various reasons) was finacially about as strong as the enemies it actually fought and maybe, as again you suggest, maybe even stronger.

So the SYW was not a war between a massively powerful Austrian coalition against a weak Prussia but a war between two roughly equal sides. The normal suggestion that Austria and friends was massively superior is like saying that India is massively militarily superior to the US nowadays – ie total rubbish.

The war should have been a fairly even affair as the two sides were roughly balanced. But at the start of the war the Prussians had the advantage because( despite the supposed need for a pre emptive strike) the Austrians were not prepared for war. What Frederick did was to wreck a good position at the start of the war and put Prussia in a position where it could have been totally defeated/occupied. He managed to do this at a time, early war, when he held the upper hand because his enemy's hadn't mobilised, etc. More on this below.

Rossbach/Leuthen: I don't have time for a blow by blow run through of the war so I will just comment on a number of the obvious points you mentioned, starting with Rossbach/Leuthen.

The first thing is that in 1757 Prussia held the military advantage and should have been fighting to make big gains and not for survival! It was only Frederick's incompetance that managed to get him into the situation where he needed to fight these kinds of battles in the first place. So holding these up as some kind of 'great' thing is hardly good. Just because he (might have – see next) managed to convert the total disaster he had created into just a disaster doesn't change the fact that he created the original disaster.

Also just because the Prussians won at Rossbach/Leuthen doesn't mean that Frederick can claim the glory, although he always did. The victory at Rossbach was Seydlitz's if it was any ones, although given the total incompetance, etc, of the opposition I think that Seydlitz would be wary of claiming much glory. While the victory at Leuthen was due to luck. Frederick's flank march was not a brilliant use off the terrain as he didn't know it would hide his army. It worked because by luck, and contary to Frederick's expectations, it did hide his movement.

"1758 and 1759 were disastrous years for Prussia" – yet for the first time in the war the two sides were roughly equal! Read the book to find out how Frederick managed to mess things up.

"Austria never seriously threatened Prussia after 1760" – The threat was so weak that in late 1761 Frederick instructed his diplomats to accept peace at any price, including losing Silesia and parts of Prussia! The Austrians and friends won the war in 1761 but pure luck rescued Frederick.

"It would seem that Frederick's decisions in 1760 had something to do with his eventual "winning by survival". – could you explain how Frederick 'decided' that the Rusian Empress would die and save him?

Frederick's bad decisions and incompetance had thrown away a good position & put Prussia into mortal peril. Pure good luck and 'acts of God' saved Prussia and unless you want to make a case that Frederick was God or something then he can claim no credit for this, although of course he did.

I haven't got time for more but I suggest you read the book. It is interesting and makes some good points which are long overdue. The whole business about Prussia being vastly outnumbered is just such obvious rubbish it is about time it was changed. It is not 'the final word' but I think the start of a more balanced look at Frederick in English. Szabo is a very well respected academic and I think that along with Duffy's work on the Austrians we will finally start to get something which is not just Frederickan propaganda.

Personal logo Cardinal Hawkwood Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2008 5:49 a.m. PST

things heating up a bit? is this board going the way of others boards? by the way it was me not DAF who made the broad statement about winners and losers and that is because I am reading 1759, a rather intersting book…..I first read Duffy back in 1976 and even then he was a bit uneasy with Frederick the person…and I came away from it thinking the Austrian army would be the one for me if I had had to choose…Brownes book on the War of the Austrian succession summed up Frederick in one rather long but illuminating paragraph as I remember…but I think "Tyrant and bad general" is a little strong, my two bobs worth..I am a Saxon man myself

anleiher Inactive Member15 Jan 2008 7:06 a.m. PST

I am finding this discussion enlightening as I have only read a few books on this period. I would like to ask a question about one aspect, Frederick's alleged tendency to "steal the glory of others". From what I have read, I have always thought more highly of Prince Henry's abilities. Is this a fair assessment or should I continue reading?

Stavka Inactive Member15 Jan 2008 7:06 a.m. PST

"things heating up a bit? is this board going the way of others boards?"

Oh lord, I hope not. That would benefit no one, and would certainly not be the outcome I had in mind when I started the thread.

Ulenspiegel Inactive Member15 Jan 2008 11:09 a.m. PST

anleiher wrote: "From what I have read, I have always thought more highly of Prince Henry's abilities. Is this a fair assessment or should I continue reading?"

Heinrich achieved with the B team of the Prussian army a lot and is often regarded as the better general and politican.

@Hwiccee
How does Szabo explain the Prussian decision to launch the war in autum 1756? IMHO it only makes sense if Fritz feared that he would be unable to achieve important goals the next spring.

you wrote: "So the SYW was not a war between a massively powerful Austrian coalition against a weak Prussia but a war between two roughly equal sides. The normal suggestion that Austria and friends was massively superior is like saying that India is massively militarily superior to the US nowadays – ie total rubbish."

Here IMHO you compare apples with oranges, the problem for the Austrian was exactly that despite of their economic resources they were not able to maintain a large army in 1761 or later and force a Prussian surrender in a war of attrition. (It was not the India in your example!.)

Ulenspiegel

CFeicht Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2008 11:59 a.m. PST

anyone want some popcorn?

Ulenspiegel Inactive Member15 Jan 2008 12:09 p.m. PST

No thank you , but I would like some chips and a good beer :-)))

sestos Inactive Member15 Jan 2008 12:24 p.m. PST

I am in the middle of reading the book at the moment and am thoroughly enjoying it. I agree that it is a much needed book, covering the entire Seven Years' War on the continent. Even the Swedish get a decent amount of coverage (and suddenly I want to play them on the tabletop).

The author seems to be consciously giving all of the powers equal coverage, especially when discussing their plans each winter. The campaigns are well described. Many of the details of Brunswick's campaigns are new to me.

He does take a few cheap shots at Frederick – emphasising his melodramatic side and the fact he is always quick to blame others for his own failures.

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Jan 2008 12:26 p.m. PST

It is pointless to debate with someone whose only reply to inconvenient facts is that they are "total rubbish". Why not respond with some data instead? I would be happy to respond to a reasoned reply. Please don't resort to hyperbole and broad brushstroke statements such as "all English text books on the SYW are biased towards Frederick" when you know that this isn't true.

***********************************

I'm not denying that Frederick made some bad decisions throughout the course of the war. He made a lot of them. I'm not disagreeing with you on that score. Equally, we should acknowledge that he also made some good decisions that mitigated some of the ones that didn't turn out so well. We should also acknowledge that his activity, judgement and (especially) his endurance were the factors that allowed the Prussian state to survive.

Are you suggesting that other Prussian generals such as Bevern, Prinz Leopold, Winterfeldt, etc would have had the moxie and fortitude to pull off the Rossbach-Leuthen victories in such a short period of time? Would any of these generals been able to keep the army together and/or put a new army back into the field after the disasters at Hochkirch/Maxen in 1758 and Kunersdorf/Paltzig in 1759? I think not.

******************************

I am also not denying that the death of the Empress of Russia in January 1761 was a fortuitous stroke of luck, but this piece of good fortune was offset by the palace coup that deposed Czar Peter III. So I guess that we are not allowed to acknowledge that Fritz experienced a considerable amount of bad luck as well. In the end, luck is what you make of it.

"Austria never seriously threatened Prussia after 1760" – The threat was so weak that in late 1761 Frederick instructed his diplomats to accept peace at any price, including losing Silesia and parts of Prussia! The Austrians and friends won the war in 1761 but pure luck rescued Frederick.

Huh???? if the threat was so weak then why would Fritz instruct his diplomats to accept peace at any price. Could you provide us with your sources for this startling news?

Might I remind you that Frederick still had to pry the Austrians out of Silesia in 1762 in order to bring the war to a conclusion. And this he was able to do with victories at Burkersdorf, Reichenbach and the recapture of Schweidnitz. He must have had some military talent to win a few battles.

********************************
I'm not even going to bother debating your silly assessments of Leuthen. Your modus operandi is to attribute all of his victories to luck and all of his defeats to incompetance. So you will never give him credit for formulating the battle plan and getting the right people in place at the right time. why not give us some examples?

As you probably are aware, Frederick knew the Leuthen terrain very well since the Prussian army conducted its peace time maneuvers on the ground. Is that luck or is it having the smarts to fight an opponent on ground of your own choosing?

You are also probably aware that Prussian speed of maneuver was one of the great tactical advantages that his army enjoyed over the Austrians and he used this and the terrain to his advantage at Leuthen. The ability to march and quickly deploy was not a matter of luck, it was do to the extensive training and practice that Frederick put his army through.

The Austrian high command thought that the Prussians were marching away from the battle to avoid a battle when they saw the Prussian columns turn right. Was it luck that the Austrians ignored all the signs that a battle was pending or stupidity? Certainly by 1757 even Charles of Lorraine was familiar with the Prussian oblique order tactics so it shouldn't have been a surprise to him.

It was more than luck that the Prussian army could move quickly and that when it deployed, it had cavalry on both flanks to protect the battle line. This was tactical doctrine in the Prussian army. You can read in the copy of the Prussian army regulations that are available on line.

It was a tactical decision to refuse the left flank and hold back Driessen's cavalry command behind one of the ridges so that they would be positioned to fall on the flank of any Austrian cavalry attack – something that Lucchesi learned to his regret.

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Jan 2008 1:16 p.m. PST

BTW: The only biased English text books on the SYW that I ever recall reading were the ones by Thomas Carlyle (pro Frederick, written in the 18th C) and Captain Lloyd (pro-Austrian). For what it is worth.

Would others like to nominate their favorite biased books here so that we can determine once and for all if ALL English text books on the SYW are biased towards Fritz?

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Jan 2008 1:20 p.m. PST

Per Seydlitz at Rossbach: I think that we have to give Frederick credit for recognizing talent in promoting Seydlitz to commander of all the Prussian cavalry, ahead of other more senior generals. Frederick was well aware of Seydlitz's talents going back to his days as an hussar officer and on through his subsequent promotion to colonel and inhaber of the CR8 cuirassier regiment. Seydlitz's handling of the cavalry at Kolin earned his promotion by Fredrick immediately after that battle. This, of course, put Seydlitz in position to perform great feats at Rossbach. One might say that Seydlitz was following the doctrine layed down by Frederick for his cavalry, that being, that the Prussian cavalry shall always attack first.

That seems like a fairly good personnel decision on Frederick's part. It wasn't all luck.

dbf167615 Jan 2008 2:36 p.m. PST

Well, if Napoleon thought Frederick was a "Great Captain," who am I to argue? The thing about historians is that they must come up with a "fresh" point of view or else they are simply rehashing the work of others. Like lawyers, historians can take the same set of facts and portray different stories to reach different conclusions. Indeed, it may be easier for the historian of the 18th century because none of the actors or contemporary writers is around to say "that's not what happened, "that was not my objective," or "that's not what I meant." Let's all read the book and then comment on the validity of Szabo's interpretations after we do so. Of course, that doesn't mean that we all have to agree with him or with each other!

Olaf 0315 Jan 2008 3:56 p.m. PST

Just wondering if anyone has seen this book in any major US stores such as Borders or Barnes and Noble? I realize you can get it from Amazon but my experience with them has not been the greatest.

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Jan 2008 4:12 p.m. PST

I've had very good results ordering from Amazon UK and getting quick delivery to the USA. I would go that route.

Personal logo Cardinal Hawkwood Supporting Member of TMP16 Jan 2008 3:03 a.m. PST

I have had very good results with Amazon US for ten years and I live in australia

ZAREMBA Inactive Member16 Jan 2008 8:44 a.m. PST

Dear friends,
Facts are facts, and sources are sources. Very different matters. The facts: Frederick´s Prussia retained Silesia and grew in power and influence. Prussia was the military reference in Europe (see Clausewitz).
Sources: How to mention historical facts, and prepare the ways to analyze them.
Again, We have to respect the opinions of others.
Thanks for your attention.

Yogah of Yag Inactive Member16 Jan 2008 11:10 a.m. PST

Carlyle's was obviously pro-Fred, but IMHO Norwood Young's was decidedly anti-Fred, not surprising considering that it came out after the carnage of the Great War. Kugler's was probably pro-Fred, (but I have only started reading it).
My 2 kreuzers. ;)

Hwiccee Inactive Member16 Jan 2008 1:25 p.m. PST

Ulenspiegel:

How does Szabo explain the Prussian decision to launch the war in autum 1756? IMHO it only makes sense if Fritz feared that he would be unable to achieve important goals the next spring.

The key thing that Szabo says is that without Frederick's attack there would not have been a 1757 campaign or indeed maybe even a war. There was no hostile coalition about to attack Prussia, although the Austrians and Russians were trying to make one. But even if this had formed without Frederick's attack, which we will never know, it would not have happened until later (58?, 59? 60?) if at all.

Frederick attacked thinking that what happened in 1740 would happen again in 1756. I don't know exactly what he expected for 1757 but presumably something like a French, Spanish and others attack on Austria. During this general attack on Austria he would grab Bohemia and anyting else he could & then drop out of the war & let Austria's other enemies keep them busy. i.e. he expected the SYW to be more or less exactly like the WAS.

Here IMHO you compare apples with oranges, the problem for the Austrian was exactly that despite of their economic resources they were not able to maintain a large army in 1761 or later and force a Prussian surrender in a war of attrition. (It was not the India in your example!.)

Well obviously there are limits to the comparison but your answer illustrates my point. The point was that when you compare the military power of one nation/side to another the size of the various populations involved is relatively unimportant, especially 250 years ago. What is important is a comparison of the economic strength of the sides/nations. The ammount of money you had was what determined army sizes in these days and is what should be used to judge advantage.

All the evidence, including that which you mention, is that the two sides were very close in economic power and therefore military power. So you have to why in what should have been a balanced war the Prussians got into so much trouble?

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Jan 2008 3:28 p.m. PST

The key thing that Szabo says is that without Frederick's attack there would not have been a 1757 campaign or indeed maybe even a war. There was no hostile coalition about to attack Prussia, although the Austrians and Russians were trying to make one. But even if this had formed without Frederick's attack, which we will never know, it would not have happened until later (58?, 59? 60?) if at all.

I agree that this is a reasonable supposition. Frederick seems to have been egged on by Winterfeldt and others in the pro-war faction over the objections of Prince Henry and the anti-war faction. It probably didn't take too much pushing to get him into the war camp. There was probably a considerable amount of hubris on Fredericks's part based on a long string of victories in the previous war and his animosity/disrespect for the Russians

I was rereading Duffy's "Military Life of Frederick the Great" last night and he does a good job of laying out the steps that led up to the war and the forming of the coalition against Prussia.

Hwiccee Inactive Member16 Jan 2008 4:20 p.m. PST

Hmmm. Well I thought long and hard about answering this. I must admit I was quite surprised by it and I certainly won't answer another rude, ill-informed missive like this again.

It is pointless to debate with someone whose only reply to inconvenient facts is that they are "total rubbish". Why not respond with some data instead?

First of all I wasn't debating, or at least I was trying not to, I was telling you (probably badly) what Szabo says.

As to 'inconvenient facts' and "total rubbish" I/Szabo was/would agree with you when said that Prussia was economically stronger and therefore militarily stronger!!! So are your original comments 'inconvenient facts' and "total rubbish"?

On "why not respond with some data?" – first I didn't think I needed to because I was agreeing with you. Secondly even if I/Szabo wasn't I don't have time to re-write the whole book for you – go and read it.

Please don't resort to hyperbole and broad brushstroke statements such as "all English text books on the SYW are biased towards Frederick" when you know that this isn't true.

I think that this is a bit rich from someone who has criticised, at length, something he hasn't even seen or read – using hyberbole and broad brushstrokes!

On your specific point – again this is a summary of what Szabo says, more accurate he criticises the sources used in English books. But also personally – how do I or you know this isn't true? This is pure 'hyperbole' and a 'broad brushstroke statement'. I can only say that it is "It is pointless to debate with someone whose only reply to inconvenient facts is that they are "total rubbish". Why not respond with some data instead?"

I'm not denying that Frederick made some bad decisions throughout the course of the war. He made a lot of them. I'm not disagreeing with you on that score. Equally, we should acknowledge that he also made some good decisions that mitigated some of the ones that didn't turn out so well. We should also acknowledge that his activity, judgement and (especially) his endurance were the factors that allowed the Prussian state to survive.

So what you are saying is that Frederick burned the house down but should be congratulated for managing to salvage something from the ashes! I think not he still burned the house down!!!

This of course also assumes that it was his activity, etc, that saved Prussia from his incompetance – Szabo says it wasn't, it was luck, allied disunity, etc.

Are you suggesting that other Prussian generals such as Bevern, Prinz Leopold, Winterfeldt, etc would have had the moxie and fortitude to pull off the Rossbach-Leuthen victories in such a short period of time? Would any of these generals been able to keep the army together and/or put a new army back into the field after the disasters at Hochkirch/Maxen in 1758 and Kunersdorf/Paltzig in 1759? I think not.

This is all very nice if you assume that Frederick was not responsible for getting Prussia into the various problems you mention (this is very much the pro Frederick line normally taken). What Szabo is saying is that Frederick threw away all Prussia's advantages and got them into this position in the first place. So Bevern, etc, would never had to have done Rossbach/Leuthen because they would not have been stupid enough to misplay a strong hand and get into this position in the first place.

I must also say that that the choice of 4 battles you mention is interesting – all of them are directly the fault of Frederick's bad decisions!

I am also not denying that the death of the Empress of Russia in January 1761 was a fortuitous stroke of luck, but this piece of good fortune was offset by the palace coup that deposed Czar Peter III. So I guess that we are not allowed to acknowledge that Fritz experienced a considerable amount of bad luck as well. In the end, luck is what you make of it.

What bad luck compares to this? The deposition of Peter III was bad luck!!!!

I am afraid this is just Deleted by Moderator to even comment on.

Huh???? if the threat was so weak then why would Fritz instruct his diplomats to accept peace at any price. Could you provide us with your sources for this startling news?

I suggest that you read your own post for the answer on this one, while you are at it you can also read what I wrote (which you obviously haven't done). My comment here was pointing out that your original comment was wrong.

You said

Austria never seriously threatened Prussia after 1760.

So all I can is "Huh???? if the threat was so weak then why would Fritz instruct his diplomats to accept peace at any price. Could you provide us with your sources for this startling news?"

I'm not even going to bother debating your silly assessments of Leuthen. Your modus operandi is to attribute all of his victories to luck and all of his defeats to incompetance. So you will never give him credit for formulating the battle plan and getting the right people in place at the right time. why not give us some examples?

I am sorry that Deleted by Moderator – THIS IS WHAT SZABO SAYS!

You ask "why not give us some examples?", to which I could say Deleted by Moderator!

Of course the real answer is because I don't have time to re-write the whole book.

For the record on Leuthen SZABO (not me!) says luck was the deciding factor because something happened (the sucessful flank attack) which he didn't know about or plan for which led to the victory. Now maybe it might have worked without this large piece of luck – I don't know and is completely up for debate.

Also for the record your statement that SZABO's (not mine!!!!) assessment of what happened at Leuthern is 'silly' shows Deleted by Moderator! You have no idea what Szabo's argument for this is, you have no idea what proof he might have – Deleted by Moderator!

I am stunned! Deleted by Moderator!

Next after this we have a long list of reasons why the victory at Leuthen wasn't luck. I am surprised that Deleted by Moderator Szabo's argument you didn't justify your Deleted by Moderator suggestion that his argument is 'silly' and wrong.

So here is your chance tell us directly why it is wrong? Obviously you must know why to have written that Szabo's (not mine!) argument is 'silly' and wrong. Deleted by Moderator After all maybe Szabo has discovered a sworn statement by Frederick on his death bed that he won by luck & you can prove this wrong? Or maybe he has some other 100% certain evidence that this is the case – that is until you counter it!

So go ahead Deleted by Moderator counter Szabo's argument?

Per Seydlitz at Rossbach: I think that we have to give Frederick credit for recognizing talent in promoting Seydlitz to commander of all the Prussian cavalry, ahead of other more senior generals. Frederick was well aware of Seydlitz's talents going back to his days as an hussar officer and on through his subsequent promotion to colonel and inhaber of the CR8 cuirassier regiment. Seydlitz's handling of the cavalry at Kolin earned his promotion by Fredrick immediately after that battle. This, of course, put Seydlitz in position to perform great feats at Rossbach. One might say that Seydlitz was following the doctrine layed down by Frederick for his cavalry, that being, that the Prussian cavalry shall always attack first.

That seems like a fairly good personnel decision on Frederick's part. It wasn't all luck.

Of course he wouldn't need good subordinates if he didn't mess up in the first place! Not that I can seriously believe that you are suggesting this as one of Frederick's 'great' achievements! If so I have about a million other candidates the 'the Great' title!!

I am sorry if I sometimes have strayed into rudeness myself here but I have tried to avoid this as much as possible in the face of the original message. I apologise for this and I hope that you (and all readers) will understand that I have restrained myself as much as possible given the rude and insulting tone of the original message.

Cyrus the Great16 Jan 2008 6:09 p.m. PST

Something bad must've spilled over from the Napoleonics Discussion Board! Zagloba, thanks for the link. I found some interesting books on the Ottoman Turks and North African warfare branching off of the Szabo link.

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Jan 2008 12:11 a.m. PST

My Dear Hwiccee,

I want to thank you for your careful and considered response to my post as well as for your offer of deification. I am sure that there are thousands of qualified candidates for the position of God, and the fact that you have chosen Der Alte Fritz as The One nearly leaves me speechless.

I am touched by your generosity. I truly am. It brings a tear to me eye.

I want you to know that I will work my hardest to be the best possible God that ever was. I will not let you down.

For My first official Act of God, I should probably do something spectacular such as ending all wars, famine and pestilence, but let Him wade into this heavy responsibility with measured thought. For many of these Acts run counter to the gift that I have given Mankind, the gift of personal will and choice between good and bad.

Thus, His first official Act of God on Our watch will be to forgive you for your blasphemy of the new God. You will find I am a kind and beneficent God with much forgiveness in My heart.

My second official Act of God will be to decree that John the OFM is the long lost Perry Triplett, and as such I shall give him the Gift of Sculpting exquisite figures that will be even better than those made by his brothers. I look forward to seeing Lee's and Tarleton's Legion figures very soon.

This is His Word.

Now then, dear Nick, there is a downside to all of this for you. As God, I am now infallible so I win all arguements…heh, there are no arguments. I'm God according to you. The second downside is that I get to choose how you get to spend eternity. That is a heavy responsibility. I suppose that I could subject you to the mundane fire and brimstone or something like that. Or, he he he, I could do something Sysiphian and lock you into a room for eternity with Frederick the Great, Napoleon and George Patton so that they can tell you how great they are until the end of time.

On reflection, dear Nick, I regret that I must decline your generous offer to be God. I don't feel up to the task and it would take me away from my family for long periods of time. I wish you luck in your search.

God Speed,

Der Alte Fritz

Ulenspiegel Inactive Member17 Jan 2008 12:33 a.m. PST

@ HWICCE

Please calm down. :-)))

The problem with your summary of Szabo's thesis is that it clearly contradicts in some important popints other sources like publications of of the German Generalstab from 1900, so from a methodological point of view it would be useful to discuss some aspects in a less emotional manner and check whether the old sources distorted facts because of national bias or whether we have a marketing decision on Szabo's side or….

One important point of methodology (you miss IMHO) is, that for a assessment of Prussian decisions in 1756 it is not relevant what the Austrians were actually planning but what the Prussians thought or had to thinkt he Austrains were planning for 1757.

It is undisputed that Fritz decision to invade Silesia 1740 was a result of his pursuit of glory (which he admitted later). In 1756 the situation was IMHO more complex and you have not answered the question yet why Fritz launched a war in autumn 1756, which was in an ear without regular winter warfare a clear disadvantage.

The problems with Fritz leadership at Leuthen are completely unclear for me. Neither the attack of the Prussian army nor the success of the Prussian cavalry were luck, the latter a clear example of much better battlefield recon., "luck" was the slow response of the Austrians after it became clear that their left wing was actually under attack and the Prussians were not avoiding a battle.

Ulenspiegel

Hwiccee Inactive Member17 Jan 2008 9:00 a.m. PST

Please calm down. :-)))

I am perfectly calm and happy to discuss this with polite people like yourself capable of a logical discussion.

The problem with your summary of Szabo's thesis is that it clearly contradicts in some important popints other sources like publications of of the German Generalstab from 1900, so from a methodological point of view it would be useful to discuss some aspects in a less emotional manner and check whether the old sources distorted facts because of national bias or whether we have a marketing decision on Szabo's side or….


Yes I agree but to do this I suspect that you (or whoever) needs to read the book. Any summary I can give you is just not going to be enough.

One important point of methodology (you miss IMHO) is, that for a assessment of Prussian decisions in 1756 it is not relevant what the Austrians were actually planning but what the Prussians thought or had to thinkt he Austrains were planning for 1757.

This is very complicated. In essence Szabo is saying that by 1756 Austria was ready to attack but needed the support of France to do this. France at this point simply had not decided what it was going to do about Austria/Prussia. It was concentrating on the colonial war with Britain that had started and saw the various diplomatic moves as a way to keep Europe quiet while they fought a colonial war against Britain.

The Prussians certainly knew that Austria was keen to fight & planned a 1757 attack (but then that was also true earlier). But also the Prussian knew they wouldn't attack without the French and that the French were undecided/not keen/had other plans.

Szabo does not discuss it but I would say from the logic of the situation and the events that really happened that realistically we are looking at a 1758 Austrian attack at the earliest. That is assuming the French agreed to the idea sometime in 1757 – they might of course not agree & so the war would not happen or be delayed more.

In any case, according to Szabo, Frederick realised that the Convention of Westminster had been a big mistake and thought that the hostilities between Britian and France heralded a new 1740 so he struck.

In essence it didn't matter what Austria was planning in 1757 (which was essentially unknowable) as the decision was not based on this but on the reading of the events happening at the time & expectation of taking advantage of these as in 1740 – i.e. it was a war of conquest and not of defence.

It is undisputed that Fritz decision to invade Silesia 1740 was a result of his pursuit of glory (which he admitted later). In 1756 the situation was IMHO more complex and you have not answered the question yet why Fritz launched a war in autumn 1756, which was in an ear without regular winter warfare a clear disadvantage.

Yes I would agree that things were more complicated and I am sure Szabo would as well. But I think that the point is that Frederick didn't realise this and thought 1756 was a re-run of 1740.

Frederick had a big ability for self delusion. He often believed that things were like he wanted them to be and not as they plainly were.

The problems with Fritz leadership at Leuthen are completely unclear for me. Neither the attack of the Prussian army nor the success of the Prussian cavalry were luck, the latter a clear example of much better battlefield recon., "luck" was the slow response of the Austrians after it became clear that their left wing was actually under attack and the Prussians were not avoiding a battle.

I will repeat that the battle was only neccessary because of the incompetance of Frederick in the first place.

Neither is it open to doubt that the Prussian army was an extremely effective fighting force and that the Austrian command (who incidentally didn't think that the Prussians were trying to avoid battle) was abysmal. Indeed given these factors it could be that the Prussians would have won Leuthen whoever was in charge.

But this does not mean that Frederick can claim credit for victory at Leuthen, according to Szabo. As Leuthen is seen as the crowning (only?) achievement of Frederick's military skill it is important to ask how much of the success was down to him.

Normally this boils down to his knowledge and use of the terrain on the battlefield to conduct a hidden march to attack the Austrian Left. But Szabo points out that Frederick was incredulous that the Austrians didn't react to his move and clearly didn't know that this march would be hidden. He conducted a series of tests after the battle to because he was so surprised about this.

So Frederick's greatest tactical achievement & the main cause for victory was not planned and was just luck. He had planned to march and attack the Austrian left but had expected this to be in plain view & the Austrian to react to it. So if his plan had worked he would have faced an Austrian army but in an infinitely better position than in the real battle.

Of course the Prussian could still have won, the military balance was probably on their side in any case. But not because of some Frederickan masterstroke.

Ulenspiegel Inactive Member17 Jan 2008 11:46 a.m. PST

HWICCEE wrote: "Indeed given these factors it could be that the Prussians would have won Leuthen whoever was in charge."

Here my problem is, that Fritz knew what was at stake (his kingdom) and carefully planned the batttle. Check his preparation the day before to improve the morale of the defeated soldiers in his army, an army which was BTW vastly outnumbered; his speech to his officers which was IMHO much more than a cheap show that would later find its place in history books.

Do you really believe most of his officers would have been able to do the same?

Ulenspiegel

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Jan 2008 1:43 p.m. PST

Hwiccee wrote:

Indeed given these factors it could be that the Prussians would have won Leuthen whoever was in charge

The historical record would seem to indicate otherwise. Of 18 battles conducted by the Prussians between 1756 and 1762, they won 9 of which Frederick was the commander for 7 of those battles. The exceptions being Reichenberg in 1757 (Bevern) and Freiburg in 1762 (Prince Henry).

Of the 9 losses, 6 of them were attributed to armies commanded by Frederick's subordinates and 3 were losses pinned on Frederick. So the numbers and probabilities suggest that armies commanded by someone other than Frederick or Prince Henry, were likely to lose.

I respectfully disagree with your speculation on this matter.

Soubise Inactive Member17 Jan 2008 8:09 p.m. PST

I am a dyed in the wool lover of the Austrians, but come on, Frederick was lucky at Leuthen? If that was luck, then I wish that some of the Austrian generals had similar luck.

I think that Robert E. Lee had the same kind of luck at Chancellorsville, as did Napoleon at Austerlitz and Hannibal at Cannae. Alas, my namesake could have used some of it at Rossbach :(

ZAREMBA Inactive Member18 Jan 2008 6:43 a.m. PST

Basileus66,
Please give us real arguments and not only moral sentences about tyrants (we are talking about 18th Century Europe, and we have to understand that time, without our "democratic" prejudices).
And what about this sentence: Frederick was a bad general -??? Please, we must burn all those books and writings from Clausewitz, Von der Goltz, Lettow, Duffy, etc… not to mention opinions from Napoleon and many others who praised Frederick´s military and political merits.
Thanks for your attention.

basileus66 Inactive Member18 Jan 2008 7:38 a.m. PST

Zaremba,

Just to mention a few: Kunersdorf, Prague, Zondorf, Gross-Jagersdorf, Kolin… Come on! Those are not battles of a genious of war! Those battles range from egregious blunders to cold blooded murder caused by a monarch with more pride than military acumen!

By the way, I am not calling Fredrick a "tyrant" compared with our present, but with his. Naturally, there existed other tyrants in his times. Some even worser. But that doesn't change that he was a tyrant.

ZAREMBA Inactive Member18 Jan 2008 8:32 a.m. PST

Basileus66,
Frederick at Gross-Jagersdorf???
At Kolin, Austrians outnumbered Prussians in +15000 men, and Frederick almost win…
Zondorf has its napoleonic equivalent in Eylau.
Prague: a prussian victory with heavy losses. You find several victories like that in Napoleonic Wars, Borodino for example…
Kunnersdorf: a successfull first phase, and a debacle later… Hannibal, Napoleon, Lee, etc, all great generals had their own failures.
About the word "tyrant", you use it in your moral opinions, but that is irrelevant in serious academic historical arguments.
I speak spanish a little, if you want to discuss using this language.
Thanks for your attention.

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP18 Jan 2008 9:38 a.m. PST

Maybe we could use the term "enlightened despot" for Frederick and other monarchs of the 18th Century rather than the word "tyrant". (I suspect that this is more of a linguistic difference since Basileus' mother language is not English – and, as he points out, the word has different conotations today versus its use in the 18th Century).

I rather doubt that the common man would notice any appreciable difference in his lot in life and his basic freedoms had he lived in France, Austria, Prussia or Spain.

von Winterfeldt18 Jan 2008 3:09 p.m. PST

I will buy the book of Szabo, sounds very interesting.
.

Personal logo Cardinal Hawkwood Supporting Member of TMP18 Jan 2008 5:44 p.m. PST

so will I

Luke Mulder Inactive Member18 Jan 2008 6:14 p.m. PST

Certainly a lot of IMHOish BTW's were made here.

NoLongerAMember Inactive Member19 Jan 2008 4:23 a.m. PST

On the question oif luck on the Battlefield I shall quote Gary Player.

'It's strange the more I practise the luckier I get.'

And the Prussian Army certainly practised a great deal…

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