Antoine Henri Jomini (1779-1869) – Brief Profile & History

For more than two generations following the Napoleonic Wars of the early nineteenth century, military leaders and students around the world studied the works of Antoine Jomini as the Bible of modern warfare. Jomini’s writings reduced the conduct of war to a few guiding principles, foremost of which was that armies should strike enemy weak points in mass to quickly achieve victory. Generals on both sides of the American Civil War and European leaders in the various conflicts of the mid-nineteenth century carried Jomini’s Summary of the Art of Warfare as their primary guide to conducting large-scale operadons.

Jomini began his life as the son of the mayor of Payerne, Switzerland, on March 6, 1779. After briefly clerking in a bank, Jo¬mini joined the French-sponsored Swiss army at age nineteen and earned the command of a brigade two years later. Jomini proved to be a great student of the military and almost immediately began publishing thick volumes of his thoughts and discoveries. His First four books, published in 1804-1805, so impressed French marshal Michel Ney that he asked the young author to join his staff as an aide-de-camp during the Austerlitz campaign in late 1805.

Napoleon I, also impressed with his writings, promoted him to colonel in 1805, after which Jomini joined the emperor’s general staff during the war against Prussia in 1806 and served in the Batdes of Jena and at Eyulaus, earning the Legion of Honor.
Jomini joined the Spanish campaign of 1808-1809, where, despite a personality conflict with Ney, he became the marshal’s Chief of Staff. Jomini and Ney’s relationship ranged from mutual admiration to open hostility, peaking with Jomini’s threatening to resign and join the Russian army. Napoleon intervened and promoted Jomini, allowing him to continue to assist Ney and simultaneously accept a commission as a general in the military force of Russia’s Alexander I.

Jomini served as a general in both armies until 1814, when Napoleon’s chief of staff, Louis Alexandre Berthier, blocked his promotion to general of division by having him arrested on a charge of being tardy in submitting a report. Although the charges were minor, Berthiec’s resentment of the vain, pompous Jomini was not. Unwilling to work with Berthier, Jomini deserted the French army and joined Alexander I, who promoted him to lieu¬tenant general and consulted with him in his role as aide and adviser for the next two years. Jomini refused, however, to join directly in Russia’s subsequent combat against France and, following the Battle of Waterloo, lobbied unsuccessfully to stop the execution of Ney by the French monarchy.

Many of Jomini’s old French comrades criticized him for supporting the Russians, while others expressed their displeasure with his support of Ney. Napoleon, however, communicating from his St. Helena exile, expressed his forgiveness for Jomini, excusing his actions because of his Swiss, rather than French, ancestry.

Following Waterloo, Jomini continued his writings in semi- retirement until 1823, when the czar recalled him to Russia and promoted him to full general. For the next ten years Jomini organized the Russian military staff college, tutored Nicholas, the future czar, and briefly served in the 1828 war against the Turks at the siege of Varna. In 1829, Jomini retired from the Russian army and, except for returning to advise the czar during the Crimean War from 1853 to 1856, lived the remainder of his life in Brussels, continuing to record his concepts of warfare. He died there on March 22, 1869, at age ninety—the undisputed expert of the period in the art of war.

During his long life, Jomini published more than thirty books on the history and theory of warfare. His works included studies of FREDERICK THE GREAT, the French Revolution, the Seven Years’ War, and the life of Napoleon, but his 1838 Summary of the Art of War was by far the most influential. Shortly after its publication, the book became the principal text at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point as well as at other military institutions. Around the world, military leaders, who honored Napoleon for his methods of conducting war, were convinced that the Swiss officer Jo¬mini had provided the secrets to the French emperor’s success.

jomini’s writings are verbose and difficult to summarize. Depending on the intent, readers can use the same texts to prove or disprove opposing points. Still, Jomini produced the first popular writings that attempted to analyze Napoleon’s art of war in a systematic manner. In addition to theory, he defined such concepts as tactics and strategy in a manner still accepted today. Other terms recorded and defined by Jomini included “theater of conflict,” the borders or boundaries of the conflict, and “lines of direction,” the focus of approach and attack.

In Summary of the Art of War, Jomini emphasized that “infantry is undoubtedly the most important arm” but added that foot sol¬diers must receive support from properly coordinated artillery, cavalry, and logistics. He emphasized the importance of soldier morale and a “national spirit” supporting the field army.

At the heart of Jomini’s concepts of the art of war lay a strictly regimented system of plans and actions for various situations and terrain. Each revolved around a series of plans to amass friendly forces and vigorously attack the enemy’s weak points, penetrating their lines and then exploiting the advantage with a follow-on. Although thorough reading of his works reveals that Jomini was more flexible than he usually receives credit for, more recent students of the art of war criticize his restricted plans containing geo¬metric formations and absolute rules—doctrines which did not foresee the invention of long-range, accurate, rapid-fire rifles that could concentrate massive fire.

During his life, Jomini enjoyed the adulation as the premier author of military concepts. His terminology of warfare has survived long after his basic tenets of the conduct of combat have been mostly forgotten. Interestingly, his replacement as the leading theorist of warfare shared the times with Jomini and many of the same experiences. KARL VON CLAUSEWITZ , like Jomini, left his own Prussian army to serve briefly with the Russians. Both Clausewitz and Jomini participated in several of the same campaigns, and, of course, both wrote of their interpretations of war.

Jomini produced the first widely read books on the concepts of warfare, but in the late nineteenth century, military students began turning to the more profound, philosophical writings of Clausewitz. Although their conclusions are similar, those of the less rigid Clausewitz have become the preferred doctrine for commanders seeking flexibility in warfare. Both Clausewitz and SUN TZU rank ahead on this listing because of their lengthier and more current influence.