The Reality of War HTML version

Great books, the masterpieces of the special branch of knowledge with which they
deal, are often very big books; and busy men, who have not unlimited time for
reading, find it helpful to have some one who will give the m a general summary of a
famous writer's teaching, and point out the most important passages in which the
author himself embodies the very essence of his argument.
This is what Major Murray has done for the most important work on war that was
ever written. He does not give a mere dry summary of its contents. He sets forth, in
language so plain that even the civilian reader or the youngest
soldier can read it with interest, the essence of the teaching of Clausewitz, and he
embodies in his book the most striking passages of the original work. He adds to
each section of his subject some useful criticisms, and at the end of the book he sums
up the effect of recent changes on the practice of war.
The book is a popular manual of the realities of war, which shou ld be read not only
by soldiers, but by every one who takes an intelligent interest in the great events of
our time.
As to the practical value of the writings of Clausewitz, it may be well to quote here
the words of Mr. Spenser Wilkinson, the Professor of Military History at Oxford,
from his introduction to the original edition of Major Murray's work:
"Clausewitz was a Prussian officer who first saw fighting as a boy in 1793,
and whose experience of war lasted until 1815, when the great war ended. He wa s
then thirty-five and spent the next fifteen years in trying to clear his mind on the
subject of war, which he did by writing a number of military histories and a
systematic treatise 'On War.' At the age of fifty he tied his manuscripts into a parcel,
hoping to work at them again on the conclusion of the duties for which he was
ordered from home. A little more than a year later he died at Breslau of cholera, and
the papers, to which he had never put the finishing touch, were afterwards
published by his widow.
"Part of the value of his work is due to the exceptional opportunities which he
enjoyed. When the war of 1806 began he had long been the personal adjutant of one
of the Prussian princes, and an intimate friend of Scharnhorst, who was
probably the greatest of Napoleon's contemporaries. In the period of reorganization
which followed the Peace of Tilsit he made the acquaintance of Gneisenau, and of
almost all the officers who made their mark in the subsequent wars of liberation.
During the years of preparation he was Scharnhorst's assistant, first in the Ministry
of War and then on the General Staff. During the campaign of 1812 he served with
the Russian army as a staff officer. Thus his experience during the four years of the
Wars of Liberation was that of one who was continually behind the scenes, always in
touch with the Governments and Generals, and therefore better able than any one
not so favourably placed to see everything in its proper perspective, and to follow