- Hardcover: 407 pages
- Publisher: Atheneum; 1st American ed edition (1986)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0689115482
- ISBN-13: 978-0689115486
- Package Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,347,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The military life of Frederick the Great Hardcover – 1986
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From Publishers Weekly
"Battles determine the destiny of states," wrote Frederick the Great (17121786). In this lucid, authoritative biography, Duffy, a senior lecturer at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, England, traces Frederick's rise from romantic Prussian prince and officer to leader of armies whose battlefield brilliance marked the transition from medieval to modern warfare. A contradictory figure ("a cynical exponent of power-politics, a prince of the Enlightenment, and a lover of the arts"), Frederick achieved renown throughout Europe during the brutal Silesian Wars and Seven Years War, in which he relied on artillery, battle-ready infantries, and the strategies of diversion to win victories. A well-researched life of a military genius. Photos. January 16
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
This useful treatise by a respected English military historian is a particularly satisfying reiteration of the military career of Prussia's great soldier-king. Duffy examines Frederick's strategic problems and tactical innovations in minute detail, fully capturing his fascinating blend of romanticism and cold-eyed military pragmatism. The technical discussions are lucid and aided by a praiseworthy selection of maps. This makes a brilliant supplement to the standard biographies, but because little attention is given to the other phases of Frederick's personal and professional life, it does not replace them. Recommended for academic and large public libraries. Raymond L. Puffer, U.S. Air Force History Prog., Los Angeles
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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The author Duffy does an admirable job of sticking to his topic of a strictly military account. Unlike many modern biographers, he resists the impulse to place Old Fritz on the therapist's couch, and relates background information about Frederick's upbringing and family relationships only insofar as they relate to the building of the Prussian army and Frederick's development as a soldier. He mentions his stern upbringing and attempts to rebel against his father, and his possibly unconsummated marriage. Duffy does not, however, engage in speculation about Frederick's sexual proclivities or lack thereof.
Duffy demonstrates Frederick's on-the-job training as a general after inheriting a small but well trained and disciplined army from his father. The battles in the First Silesian War were won by steadfast infantry, despite wavering cavalry. But Frederick improves the cavalry, and by the battle of Hohenfriedburg in the Second Silesian War, it is cavalry that carries the day for Frederick and wins him a reputation throughout Europe for his martial prowess.
It is in the Seven Years War that we see the fullest flowering of Frederick's generalship. He does suffer setbacks, most notably early on at Kolin, in June of 1757. He then demonstrates one of his remarkable skills as a general: that of quickly rebuilding a damaged army. He does so in time to deal his enemies perhaps the most memorable one-two punch in the history of warfare: the defeat first of the French at Rossbach on November 5, 1757 and then the Austrians at Leuthen exactly one month later.
For all his reputation as an "enlightened" monarch, with his francophilia, flute playing, poetry writing and correspondence with the luminary Voltaire, Duffy's Frederick emerges as first and foremost a soldier. He may well have been an Enlightenment paragon but his raison d'etre was war, and his most influential contribution to history was the aggrandizement of Prussia by a little bit of administration and diplomacy but mostly by the force of arms. He was never more at home than when on campaign, in his simple blue coat, sharing the perils and privations of his men. His presence with his army and his Spartan ways and simple appearance stood in stark contrast to the pomp of other European monarchs.
In terms of speed and maneuver, skillful interaction of the separate arms of infantry, cavalry and artillery, oblique order, flanking marches and creative use of terrain, Frederick was forward looking and his body of work presages that of Napoleon. However, in terms of command and control, officer training and rank-and-file troop demographics, Old Fritz is securely ensconced in the early modern period: his officer corps being open to only those of noble birth, and the ranks filled with peasantry, foreign mercenaries or impressed former enemies. Ultimately, Duffy leaves us convinced that given the societal and technological strictures of his time, it is unlikely that anyone could have surpassed Frederick as a general. Not until the upheavals starting in France in 1789 and the subsequent "nation in arms" would an army as formidable as Frederick's take the field.
While Fred's life is sketched out here, this is primarily a military biography. Those seeking more on his life should look elsewhere, although it can be fairly argued that Frederick's wars were essentially his life for the most part. Duffy provides discussion of the decisions Frederick took in his campaigns and battles. The chapter on the 7 Years War is extremely detailed and long. For some reason he did not break this down into individual chapters and preferred one long narrative. The same for the 1st and 2nd Silesian Wars of the 1740s. Frederick's genius was in his ability to seize the moment and throw everything into all out attack. It worked more often than not. He won roughly half of the 16 or so battles he fought during his extended career.Spectacular success at Rossbach and Leuthen was often equally balanced by horrific losses at Kolin and Kundersdorf.
Over time Frederick learned to temper his aggressive tactics with more thoughtful use of troops. His later battles in 1761-62 employ careful pinpoint tactics of attack with sophisticated coordination of infantry and artillery. In this way Frederick prefigures later 19th century warfare to a large extant, although he tends to be known less for these innovations. He would also develop notable skills in positional defense employing terrain, redoubts and fortified camps.
His earlier campaigns in the 1740s achieved notable victories without the huge bloodletting seen later in the 7 years War. The science of war advanced during these years and the Austrains became skilled in the art of defense with strong use of artillery. Frederick never really countered the Austrian use of Croats and Grenzers as raiders and skirmishers either. This was a failing that he would later try to address with middling success.
Frederick's last campaign in 1778, the almost forgotten War of Bavarian Succession tends to get glossed over in many biographies. It was not a high point in his military career. In fact, Duffy argues that the army used then was of Frederick's creation and was inferior in quality to his father's army. That army was the one that bore the brunt of his military campaigns. This is an interesting observation that Duffy makes implying Frederick's inability to perfect the instrument his father had created earlier in the 1700s. Frederick was not willing to throw his army at the Austrains with the same recklessness he had often done in the past. As a result the Campaign was inconclusive with the army suffering heavily from desertion and associated attrition.
Duffy concludes his fine study of Frederick with a general summation of his military career and contributions to the art of war. This is a seminal work and deserves to be in the library of any serious student of Frederick's Wars and Campaigns.